Crack the Spine
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Issue 103 February 19, 2014 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2014 by Crack the Spine This issue is sponsored byâ€Ś
Cover Art by Keith Moul Keith's poems and photos appear widely. Three recently published books include: T"he Grammar of Mind" from Blue & Yellow Dog; "Beautiful Agitation" from Red Ochre Press; and "Reconsidered Light," a collection of poems written to accompany Keith's photos, from Broken Publications
Val Dering Rojas With Miniature House
Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller Myra’s Channel
Mureall Hébert Shadow Box: A Ghazal
Chad Meadows Trivia Barker Can’t Lose
Stacy Rollins Teeth
Lee-Ann Liles Shhhhhh!!!
Joseph Farley History The Fall
Richard Mark Glover Do You Think I Talk Funny?
Val Dering Rojas With Miniature House
Not because she wanted to abandon this domesticity or even because she crafted snapped twigs into tiny fuses. Not because she had been hiding them under her mattress for months: these minute peelings of bark and sorrow. Or how many days smoke could be seen through the keyhole. First she was paper, once wood. Then wood, once tree. The tree, hewn box which holds her. She might have been anything. Like tinder, fuel, kindling. Or one timbered beam: sudden sky, heavenly opening. She was that, or she was the timbrel of the entire house, collapsing. It could have been the curtains crafted from cut snow: lace-paper flakes the color of curdled cream. In the kitchen, a table strewn with stationery, pen. It could have been that sheâ€™s written an argument for longevity, tissue-thin. Perfume your head. Bake diminutive cakes. Put on your death-dress, and go on living. Or that she fed the fire. And that the fire fed on itself. Windows concave: an inhale. Then convex. One long breath-puff, and breaks. Each room, a little container: flint, steel, small spark. This bonfire in darkness and just enough to torch the quarreling trees and ruined light.
Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller Myra’s Channel Myra
stood by her bedside
table, staring at the LadyMate in her hand. She was thinking about what the tabloids would say, what they’d write about Myra, some nutty gal named Myra, and what the people who read the tabloids would say, and then that night what they’d dream about. She thought about Rex and if he’d even remember the color of her eyes. If she canceled, did they wipe him or keep him somewhere on disk? She had to get to work if she was going to go to work. If she wasn’t, she had all the time in the world. Same old, same old. She was up at 7:10 a.m., rushed into the kitchen, filled the pot with rusty tap water, stopped to catch her breath. She glanced at her watch. Twenty minutes before she had to be out the door. She shoved an eggy-pop in the micro, spooned three spoonfuls into the coffee filter. The dream
ran through her head like roaches. Horrible dream. Her UniQard didn’t work. She had been out shopping on a rainy day, and suddenly it wouldn’t credit, it wouldn’t debit, it wouldn’t give cash. She tried it on shop doors, the turnstile of the subway, a toilet stall. She stuck it in the slot of her PalmPal, which informed her that she was Dr. Mike Tuck, dentist, born August 18, 1998 in Portland, ME. Myra didn’t exist. A dream, a dream, she kept repeating. Too close to reality. Nothing worked any more. She halfbelieved her cousin Booboo, this conspiracy nut who claimed it was a plot by the Chinese or the Arabs or whoever really controlled the country to drive us all nuts so we’d kill ourselves, and that’d bring down health care costs. But she couldn’t bring herself to believe that people were smart enough to pull it off. The bosses and big
shots she’d seen were all too stupid. They were geniuses of stupid. They’d win a Nobel Prize. She took out the eggy-pop: still clammy. She tossed it in the trash and poured a cup of watery coffee. Couldn’t cut it too close: last week she was five minutes late and they docked her an hour. But last night she’d been too tired to tune in to Myra’s Channel, so she had to take at least a couple of minutes now to catch up on the story of her life. She knew she was addicted. She’d read an article about “Vidiction,” they called it. She had a hard time reading, but sometimes she tried. The article said they put images on the personal channels, without your knowing it, to make the adrenalin spurt. Maybe the quick sight of a grinning face at the window while Rex was doing it to you, or a spider on his eyelid, and that made the
adrenalin spurt. Made it more addictive. Still, she wasn’t as bad as Clarisse, who subscribed to the War Channel, paid an extra premium to get the close-ups, and kept a basin by the Vid in case they made her sick. She was spending four hours every night in heavy combat after a day of bagging groceries, but she felt it was a nice escape. Most of her friends subscribed to the War Channel because they felt they should stay up on current events and it was a lot easier than reading about it. Most people she knew had a hard time reading. Even college professors had a hard time reading now, the scientists said. Something the microwaves did, but nobody could prove it, and even if they did, people would have a hard time reading about it. Was there time? Just barely. She found her purse on the counter, fumbled for her UniQard, swiped it through the Vid slot. Her hands were shaking. Was that the adrenalin? Maybe just fear. Whatever you
did with your UniQard got stored somewhere. But they didn’t have time to snoop on everybody, so if you minded your own business you had no problem. In the long run, it made you feel safer. They’d caught a lot of terrorists. They were catching more and more. Seemed to be a real growth industry. The UniQard didn’t work. She swiped it through the slot again, then banged the screen. A flicker. It worked. Sometimes just a little brute force was all it took, like with children. She remembered Sammy and Candice. Gone. Life was better now, she told herself. Better without Sonny and the kids. Better without the everywhere-shitting dog. Better without coming home from a day’s work to cook and pick up toys and undershirts. Better standing at the brink of suicide. She had to be grateful to AA for persuading her to put her life in the hands of a Higher Power. It helped some to be able to blame it all on God. She just wished God could
take her shift at the hospital once in a while. One of the AA group — Ariel, the skinny, stringy-haired blonde with the big butt — was heavily into bourbon and yoga, and her theory was that we were really God’s dream. Myra was going to say that whoever’s dreaming this shitty world must have had a pretty bad day. But she didn’t say it. At least He wasn’t dreaming her having a butt like Ariel’s. Though maybe that theory wasn’t so farfetched. If she could flick the Vid and watch herself getting fucked at any hour of the day, who was to say if it’s Myra or Comcast or God trotting off to her ten-hour day dumping bed pans? It ought to be God. Wasn’t it Him that invented diarrhea? She punched the remote, perched on the edge of the kitchen stool, waited the long five seconds for the screen to glow. Damn, someday she might save enough to get the kind Sherry had, where it came on the second you punched it. This Vid still took five seconds, and
no 3-D, so no wonder she sat there in a wasteland of emptiness. Here was the Other Myra. A frozen image, waiting for instructions. Maybe blonde today — no, redhead. Myra clicked the remote. What to wear? She clicked SURPRISE ME. A nice sweater & slacks, warm tans and reds, a little blue, a kind of Mexican pattern on the sweater. Wish I really had that. Look a little thin today? Makeup? Never mind, I’ve only got ten minutes. Make it happen. She clicked NOW. Other Myra walked by the pond on her estate, contemplating the flowers. Soft music somewhere, strings. She heard children laughing on the distant veranda, and their nanny scolding goodnaturedly. She smiled in the warmth of it all. The Myra in the kitchen — Kitchen Myra, she’d named herself — smiled too. Other Myra sat in the lounge chair by the reflecting pool and started to write in her pinktinted calf-skin journal, took a sip of cappuccino, looked up at the slow ballet of the clouds in
the tremulous sky. The day spread its blessings before her. From between the muskscented pages, she slipped out a folded note, glanced at it — she knew it by heart — and pressed it to her opulent bosom. Kitchen Myra grimaced. Other Myra was always pressing things to her opulent bosom. It was getting a bit tiresome. Other Myra suddenly turned. At the gate, Rex stood watching her like a raptor. Last month he had come to service the septic tank, and they’d caught each other’s eyes. Next day he’d written her a cryptic note: Yes? Since then the septic tank had needed constant attention. Kitchen Myra had usually watched these episodes of her life with divided attention while she was on the phone to the phone company or cleaning ants out of the toaster, but it wasn’t that hard to multitask. The writers — computers actually — were programmed to make things pretty obvious: they must know their consumers were watching while cooking dinner, changing diapers, or holding ice
to their facial bruises. Now he was here. With only five minutes to spare. Kitchen Myra glanced at her watch. Did she have time to let it play out? Sometimes, in a hurry, she’d jump out of the plot line by hitting IMAGINE, which took her into Myra’s imagination, which jumped you straight into the sex. But they always did it with bluish light, soft and slow-motion to show that it wasn’t real, and that was too much like Sonny on weed. Rex stood, a square-jawed erection, by the gate. She knew what would happen if she let it. By now the program — interactive with her choices, her interrupts, her punching LESS or MORE — knew her well enough to go directly to some fairly kinky stuff. But not that kinky at $14.95 a month. They played it so you got a clear idea of what Rex was about to do, then he’d change his mind, but you figured he’d probably do it for another ten bucks a month. That must be part of the addiction. Never give a sucker full value, because
when she sees she’s being teased and short-changed and cheated, she’ll get that one extra spurt of adrenalin that finally brings her to $49.95. That was the level of Sensyu-matic Gold. No bounds to fantasy, and state-of-the-art electrodes to feel every vivid sensation. It didn’t work for everyone, of course. There were the usual heart attacks and epileptic seizures, and some users felt an uncontrollable urge to shit, but most people had no problems, according to the ads. When Myra had mentioned it at work, Clarisse said, “For chrissake, just get a vibrator!” But she missed the whole point. Life isn’t something you take in your own hands. It’s something that’s done to you. Rex swaggered toward her, unbuttoning his shirt, letting his left hand fingers casually brush the ripe bulge in his chinos. She rose, trembling, her lips opening, her eyes wet with fear and longing. Her hands slid beneath her silk blouse to tweak her tingling nipples— No! Idiot! Stop it! What’s the
point of waltzing some hairy stud down the garden path at 7:28 a.m. when she had exactly two minutes to get out the door? She hit the FRY button, and Rex sizzled into nirvana or limbo or wherever dumb fantasies went when they went on hold. Yesterday at work, Rex had said something dirty to her. The real Rex, the personnel director, a big, bulgy, baby-faced guy in his fifties. Tyrannosaurus Rex, they called him. She’d thought about filing a complaint, but that’d be a major hassle, and either he’d lose his job or she’d lose hers. Actually, she really liked him when he wasn’t being an asshole, and that’s why she’d named her fantasy hero Rex. The comparison was so ludicrous that it made her laugh. Maybe that’s why she did it. She could tell herself that she paid $14.95 a month not because she was a lonely, pathetic, lovestarved bitch but because she just needed a laugh. But she wasn’t laughing. Myra stood watching Other Myra staring toward the open garden gate. If only Rex would
come. She clicked MYSELF, and Other Myra’s hand moved downward across the silk. She clicked BLITZ, and a black leather glove, knuckle studs gleaming, clamped over Other Myra’s scream. She clicked IMAGINE, and a foggy blue Myra was floating underwater as Rex’s tongue lapped her into rapture. She heard the bark of the neighbor’s dog, and somewhere a toilet flush. Myra clicked Myra off. Where did she go? Sure, it was all simulation, electrons or quarks or whatever. But somehow she felt those people had souls. When she was little, she’d gone to Sunday School, and Mrs. Bursted told her that her dog didn’t have a soul. Only people had souls, and that’s why it was okay when her daddy put Ragsie to sleep. After that, she hated Sunday School. What if Myra got put to sleep? Whichever Myra, Kitchen Myra or Other Myra, would it matter? If Other Myra didn’t have a soul, who was to say that this one did? She paid $14.95 a month — actual money — to
keep Other Myra alive, but who knows what Other Myra was paying to keep her alive? To keep her crying about her kids. To keep her scrubbing the backsides of dying old men. To keep her wondering if the lump she felt in her breast was just her imagination. To keep her longing for a touch of the real Rex’s clammy sausage hands. To keep her dreamless, longing for dreams. If Kitchen Myra wasn’t there, where would Other Myra go? To work. She glanced at her watch, took a last chug of her cold, acrid coffee, started to cry. Sobs racked her as she put on her coat, checked her purse for bus tokens, found her keys, stared in frantic, frozen rage at the blank screen, went to the door, then stopped. She was forgetting something. What was it? Oh yeh. Completely forgot it yesterday, and scared to death all day. She hurried back to her bedside table, picked up the LadyMate, stuck it in her purse, started toward the door. The sobs were dry now, almost
dead. She knew she was going to be late again. They’d dock her, and she’d have her first demerit. All because that goddamned Other Myra wanted to be fucked at 7:30 in the morning. Myra — the one standing at the table in her kitchen, staring into blankness — took out the LadyMate, released the safety catch, put the snug barrel to her face, against her upper lip. It was cold against the skin and smelt like a doctor. She held it there, breathless, and felt a sharp urge to urinate. After a moment, she snapped the safety catch, put it in her handbag, decided she didn’t need the bathroom, and went out the door. Walking to the bus stop, she felt a youthful spring in her legs and remembered that Ariel said to start every day with a smile, so she smiled all the way to the corner. She wasn’t so bad off, she told herself. The LadyMate would always be there, if needed, like a plane ticket to Paris in the back of the bottom drawer. She had the basics of life. She had a job. She had the
LadyMate. And, as long as she could pay the premium, she had Rex.
Mureall Hébert Shadow Box: A Ghazal “Tattoos and Body Piercings” read the neon sign on the wall. Her shadow ducked and trembled, a quivering line on the wall. When the Earth’s plates converged, time held its breath—for a second. Then the grandfather clock stumbled, smearing eight and nine on the wall. The phone call arrived during dinner. Fate’s message wrapped inside a gasp, a broken glass, and a splatter of wine on the wall. The garden lay overgrown. Weeds choked the gutters. The deck sagged. Birds, flying overhead, dropped gum wrappers and twine on the wall. Twenty red lights, six jammed lanes, and two cups of coffee later, he shuffled to his cubicle and hung his spine on the wall. Dust mites littered the living room, except for the mantle which held a shiny urn and two tapered candles: a shrine on the wall. Stop, drop, and roll isn’t always the best exit plan so she buried her pennies and planted a climbing vine on the wall. Right before he took that nasty spill (he was pushed, rumors claim,) Humpty-Dumpty (a spy, by accounts) looked divine on the wall. She wore coral in her hair, bright as the sea, and the waves flowing through her veins made her spirit shine on the wall.
Chad Meadows Trivia Barker Can’t Lose I’m
addicted to game-shows.
One of the first
things to pop into my head every morning is me standing face-to-face on a stage with Bob Barker, the fucking Elvis Presley of game show hosts. Every day I hear good ol’ Bob telling me to spay and neuter something or another in one ear and good ol’ Mom whispering to me how much, “Bob’s gonna love you” in the other. I have spent my entire life learning the answers to questions that are completely useless in the real world. These answers only mean something in a world where promotional consideration is paid for by HASBRO: THERE’S LEAD IN THE TOYS. Where answering the kindergarten level question, “This virus is named after the Ebola River valley in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” entitles me to glamorous vacations that are advertised on giant cardboard cutouts with a model wearing an evening gown. Just so you know, “The Ebola Virus” As a kid I‘d wake to the sounds of game show music and hear the announcers calling out the title of the show, “THE PYRAMID. THE PASSWORD. TIC TAC DOUGH.” I would grab a bowl of SUGAR TIME cereal: sweetened with whole cubes of sugar. It’s so good; you’ll go crazy and plant myself on the scratchy red and orange and black speckled shag carpet. The morning was a world of magic, fabulous prizes and opportunity. I would
sit there with my mother while she wrote her weekly correspondence to Bob Barker. Letters that she’d spray with floral perfume. Letters that had a picture of me inside. I’d eat cereal until I got to the bottom of the box and pull out the plastic piece of shit toy that was inside. My mother would sit on the couch half passed out by from finding her own prize at the bottom of a bottle of Anderson Scotch Whiskey: Enjoy it with your cigarettes. Once she told me, “I am going to teach you to be the most well known person ever. You may get old and die but they are going to talk about you on a game show. You’re gonna be worth a million dollars. You are going to be the answer the million-dollar question. The bonus question. ” She also told me that we’d all grow up as one big happy family. Me, her and good ol’ Bob. So not only was she insane but she was also a liar. Or maybe he was the liar. One way or the other, he’s gonna know who I am. When I meet him I’m going to offer my left hand to him to shake. Just like Bob Barker did to my father years ago on the day of the famous ‘Massengil incident’.
My mother was so excited to be there at the Price is Right studio. She had hoped and prayed that Rod Roddy would call her name. When they said
his name, my Dad looked angry and my Mom looked disappointed. I thought it was exciting. I could feel electricity on the chair. My dad stood up and walked down the aisle. He didn’t run. He stomped his feet. He walked like he would walk when he had to go to the can. Like it was a chore. He had to price a fabulous product. “HOW MUCH DOES THIS PRODUCT COST?” The lovely spokes model picked up the large red box to reveal a smaller box with a smiling lady on the front that looked eerily similar to my mother. Let’s play the Family Feud! Reasons to hang your head in shame. Top three answers on the board: Asshole Dad. Drunk Mom. Massengil game show incident. “Massengil? Mary Jo! How much does your douche cost?” the asshole dad says to the audience. My mother retreated under her seat so low that her shame sucked me down onto the floor with her. It was the first time I ever saw women’s underwear. There was complete silence. Not even Bob Barker could think of anything clever to say.
how a feminine deodorant product for
lady’s private parts is one of the reasons why I ended up here at a bar playing some low rent version of quizzo with a host named Johnny Good Times. A fat fuck of a host who can’t help but fellate his microphone after every question. He swallows it and asks, “Animal Husbandry is the
practice of doing what?” If there were a category for best blank stare then these four idiots sitting next to me would be tied for grand champion. “Breeding livestock.” I answer. Before Johnny WhatEver tells me that I’m right I say to the rest of the contestants, “If I wanted to play with myself I would do it while watching Wheel of Fortune. Promotional Consideration is paid for today by Anderson Whisky: It tastes like shit. I stopped off here at this quizzo for dummies to get my juices flowing for my appearance later tonight on The Genius Gauntlet hosted by game show legend Bob Barker. One of the most stressful but orgasmic experiences of an info junkie’s life. The most difficult game show ever conceived. Hours and hours of intense questions and answers. This show makes Jeopardy look like Press Your Luck- stupid and made for babies to entertain themselves. The line in Vegas is that the finals will come down to me and the Russian. He’s my nemesis. The Russian follows me around like the clap to local quizzo nights, trivia times or what-ever-the-fuck you want to call them. We trade victories-he usually cheats or I let him win. The Russian is the closest thing to a rival that I have. He’s always my second. My runner-up. He pushes me. He makes me better at what I do. He a necessary evil. He’s the closest thing to a friend that I have. Right now, at this Kindergarten Quizzo Time he’s just standing in the back scouting me, not participating. He’s saving his jib for the Gauntlet. So in his honor, I order a strong
Black Russian on the rocks from the bartender as the glow of white ivory piano keys nestled between the botoxed lips of the Russian catches my eye. I send the bar girl over to him with a White Russian just to be a dick. He’s lactose intolerant. I hate him and every day I hope for his death but right now, if my plan is going to work, I need him now more than ever. Johnny Bang Bang over enunciates the last word of the question, “JACKSON.” I slam my hand down on my buzzer and on the bar, the force vibrating my glass sending premium Russian vodka hopping up into the air in a tight drop then diving back down. “William Harding Jackson. Deputy Director of the CIA in the 1950’s.” I scream my answer out. “Can you guys hear the questions? You’re not answering any of them,” I say looking down the line at the morons with the collective IQ of 88, still nursing their beers. Right before the lightning round begins, we’re on another commercial break. I walk down the bar to congratulate two of the contestants for making it as far as they did. They’ve been eliminated and will get a nice consolation prize from one of the sponsors today: Wisk. Ring around the collar? Yes. The unmistakable odor of guilt? No. Johnny Blah Blah kicks off the lightning round and I make it a point to let everybody in this room know who the real threat is. If good ol’ Bob could see me now he’d know who to watch out for. I fire off my answers, rat-a-tat, like a machine gun, “Don
Pardo- the voice of the Price is Right from 1956 until 1963. Sunscreen. Beach Towels. The Declaration of Independence. Gary Coleman. Potato Soup. The Chinese. Hamburger Helper. Pantaloons.” The answers come out of me like reflex. A reflex that makes me want to win fabulous prizes. Possibly a new car. Makes me want to be the answer to the million-dollar question. A subject on Jeopardy. A reflex that wants people to say my name in the form of a question. “Who is Trivia Barker?” I am going to dominate the Genius Gauntlet and stand face to face with the angel of death. Nose to nose with the man who ruined my life. A reflex that wants to hurt him like he hurt me.
My Mom had watched the Price is Right program every day since 1972, the year I was born. Once I started to talk back to her she would tell me, “Trivia. I’m wet for Bob Barker.” I would ask her what that meant. Then she would say, “That’s exactly why I named you Trivia. You always need to know the answer.” After the Massengil incident she had to remove the Price is Right from the daily line-up. My father was insistent on it and he had conjured up some crazy idea that Mary Jo, my mom, had an affair with Bob Barker in early 1972. Maybe conjured up some crazy idea is not an entirely accurate statement; my mom who was really drunk on
Anderson’s Whisky had told him that she had an affair with Bob Barker around early 1972. Whether it is true or not is still unclear. Turns out my mother was crazy.
After dominating the competition at quizzo, I hop in a cab and tell the driver to drop me off at 50thstreet and Wolfberry Ave. She turns to me and says, “The convention center, right?” That’s when I notice that she looks and awful lot like my mother. Immediately, I started to resent her and blame her for everything that has gone wrong in my life. Richard Dawson, host of the Family Feud says, “Name something you should blame your mother for? Top four answers on the board: Vegetable aversion. Fear of clowns. No social skills. An obsession with useless information. Isn’t that what we all do on some level or at some time? We blame our mother. The drug addict says, “I smoke crack. My mother didn’t hold me enough.” The fatty says, “I eat too much food because my mother left me alone at a Woolworths snack bar”, or “I gamble and I have a thing for fetish pornography because my mother produced sour breast milk,” the overall degenerate says. If you pull my string I’m going to say, “I get beat up because my mother was a drunk who lived in a fantasy world and fed me a diet of sugary cereals and game shows.” “Yeah” I say, “the convention center. I’m a contestant on the Genius Gauntlet. I’m going to
win.” “Funny, you’re my third fare to that Price is Right thingy today. I dropped a Russian guy off about ten minutes ago. He told me the same thing”, she says “What… that I was going to win?” I say. My blood was boiling at the mere mention on the Russian but at the same time I was glad that he was getting there ahead of me. If my plan was going to work he needed to be there first. Gives him plenty of time to rub people the wrong way. “No, he said HE was going to win… not you,” she says. This broad had no idea what she was saying or what I was capable of doing. “So, Bob Barker, huh? I loved him on the Price is Right.” “Look lady… The Price is fucking Right? The Price is Right is for morons! A show where all you need is a willing idiot to come on down and make a fool of themselves. A hard on and great big boob….” “I’m sorry sir. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’ll just drive”, she says. “The Price is Right is a cattle call. A show where they just grab some random asshole out of the audience to price douche and laundry detergent; they just look for a specific type of person. Some bozo that will line up for hours in advance to wait in the hot sun, eating bugs and rotten tomatoes for the chance of winning a plethora of taxable prizes. Gay, Asian, elderly, grizzled. All types. The obsessed woman and her mad at the world husband. Rip Torn. Betty White.
Clint Eastwood. The little boy wearing the t-shirt that says I’m going to kiss Bob Barker because that is what little boys do to their father. The woman with the boobs so large that it is almost guaranteed that when she runs down the aisle one of them will flop out. And trust me, she will run down the aisle when they call her name and one of them will flop out…”, I say thinking about how my mom would practice in front of the mirror, bouncing up and down making sure one of her boobs popped out. It didn’t bother me to watch it because it was part of my school assignment.
didn’t go to regular school.
My mom called
where I attended “real school”. I attended the university of CBS or ABC or NBC depending on the time of the day. I stayed home and took copious notes while my teacher, Monty Hall, would ask me to pick a numbered curtain. If I passed the test the curtain would open to models standing next to speedboats and cookware. If I failed then I could have a donkey wearing a cowboy hat or a monkey playing the kazoo. I watched movies all day. We had boxes of videotapes with game shows on them. My mother would tape hour after hour of game shows. When we would sit outside in the yard she would bring her cassette tape player and we would listen to audiotapes of the videotapes that she had just made. Instead of telling me a story before I went to bed she would run through a list of facts and pieces of information. She wrote all of them down in a little red notebook that had a
fire truck on the front. That notebook sat by my bed every night until my father set it on fire; the bed, not the notebook. At age six I told the checkout girl at the grocery store that the first televised game show was SPELLING BEE and it aired in 1938. I let the bag boy know that Jack Barry’s real name was Jack Barasch. At the doctor’s office, I would recite facts about the Vietnam War. I would spell the word vagina and penis and would explain how they worked and I would provide references to them in popular culture. Contrary to what my father said about me game shows weren’t rotting my brain; they were forming my worldview- a model in an evening gown and some idiot standing next to me in the showcase showdown.
The cab driver dropped me off fifteen or so blocks from the convention center. Most people are in a hurry to get away from me. There’s nothing around except a 23-hour Laundromat, being guarded by a dog with three legs; what appears to be a cardboard house; a bodega sponsored by Blanco Brand Condoms: Can’t make you look better but can keep you from getting Aids; and a bar. I think it was a pirate bar because the sign kept flashing AR AR AR. Walking there gives me plenty of time to thinkrefine, craft, and plot points on a Plinko board. I think of the Russian who will most assuredly be pitted against me-for the drama of the TV audience of course. I think of where he fits into all
of this. How torn I am that he will forever be linked to me when this is all over. I think of how many times at our weekly quiz nights or our regional quiz off’s that I have felt slighted by his knowledge that was paid for by College: It’s where rich people go to play and poor people go into debt. His victories are trophies of opulence. My knowledge was paid for by fire. My victories are scars and pain. His victories are fluffy things and roses. My father always called me the “son of a bitch and Bob Barker” and my mother never denied either. Now with both of them gone I can answer the question on my own. Waiting to go into the Genius Gauntlet hosted by Bob Barker, with the herd of eventual losers, I think about watching game shows on televisionalone in my house, naked on the couch, shoving corn chips into my mouth; I think about cutting the head off of the fat balding man from Idaho who can’t seem to remember that the first toilet ever seen on television was on "Leave It to Beaver”. I lock eyes with the Russian, who towers over everyone in the crowd. I blow him a kiss and he catches it in his hand and then throws me a middle finger in return. If I didn’t need him so much in my life, I would walk over there and stab him in the stomach and watch him bleed out while eating a bucket of Poppin Fresh Popcorn: Share some with your best enemy. In the crowd of victims I see signs that say: Come on Down: to Oklahoma! Or RSTLME loves Pat Sajak! They dot the skyline like tiny skyscrapers. I see one
that says, I want to fist Howie Mandel. He’s not even on a game show. What happened to the Ken Jennings, Michael Larson, the legends of the business? I am not one of these people. I can’t believe that these are the type of people that my mother raised me to be associated with. I hate her and understand why my father called me a fag every time he caught me in my bedroom looking at pictures of game show hosts. If I had a sign, it would read: I’m going to kill Bob Barker.
My dad would slink through the door once the evening news was coming on. By this time my mother had sobered up and was usually in the kitchen making some sort of slop out of a box. Swanson: Not Real Food. MMMM! My dad looked a little like a sloth. He had a very small head and tiny eyes. He carried a big hump on his back and his body hair was so course that it would poke through the tiny holes in his undershirt. He would usually come home defeated, deflated and embarrassed at his miserable existence. Or he would come home hungry, angry and ready for a fight. Most nights I would simply turn off the TV and open up the crossword puzzles. The word jumbles. The multiple-choice simple tests. I would fill them out with crayon and drown in the sounds of my dad sobbing or yelling or laughing at Archie Bunker. All of those things sound alike to a kid. I would sink under the waves of my mom singing, her incessant rambling and her complete denial of the world that she and I shared. It was as
father bled to death. Reason: Excessive bludgeoning to the head. In his wallet were photos of him, a woman that looked eerily similar to my mother and a boy that looked he loved the Cleveland Browns. My father’s existence had been reduced to a reason. A reason why he left us that night to go to the tracks. A reason why my mother hated him. A reason why she got sick in the head. A reason why she drank. A reason why she loved Bob Barker. I don’t know if I knew what I was doing at the time but now I think that I was saving my father. And my mother. Leaving myself to dangle in the wind, alone, priced right.
In the lobby of the convention center an episode of Family Feud hosted at the time by Ray Combs plays on an enormous television screen. I watch the old man in the Fast Money round on the TV screen think about turkey. Ray asks him, “Name something you would take to the beach” The old man, smiling knowing he’s about to win a lot of money says, “Turkey.” This old man wants to take turkey to the beach. I watch his family on the same TV screen think about how things would have been different if he would have died. The host is probably thinking about how things would be different if he died. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: Ray Combs, host of the Family Feud from 1988 to 1994 hung himself in a closet in a psych ward. I think about how things were different when
I started taping The Price is Right for her every day while she was at “work”. “Work” was the act of making the trek to Bob’s mansion in the hills and camping out for hours waiting to see if he got her letters. There were times after she’d come home when she’d watch the tapes and I would look into her glassed over eyes and I could tell that she had just won the BRAND NEW CAR provided by: ANDERSONS SCOTCH WHISKY: CREEPING DEATH. CREEPING DELICIOUS. She’d tell me with slurred speech how she would one day, “run down that aisle. Let one of my boobs flop out.” She hated the Barker Beauties. She’d scream at the TV at Bob when the allegations of sexual harassment came out from Diane. She was devastated. Her life crumbled into tiny little price tags and Lose-a-Turn spins on the wheel. She would disappear for days at a time. Then she would come home and lock herself in her room. The only sound sliding out through the walls was the sound of the Big Wheel spinning in a loop. Some nights, all I would hear is the familiar disgusted voice of my father-his one moment in the spotlight- with the audience laughing and him saying, “Mary Jo. How much does your douche cost?” She would play that part of the episode over and over and over. “Mary Jo. How much does your douche cost?” “Mary Jo. How much does your douche cost?” “Mary Jo. How much does your douche cost?”
Then she would be gone again. When I got the call from the cops I was almost surprised that I did not answer in the form of a question. She was found outside of Hollywood. About an hour drive from our house on a secluded driveway. There was a heavenly gate that led up a hillside to a beautiful house. The kind of home that they might give away if you answered twenty questions in twenty seconds. The foliage was splendid. The trees strong and masculine. Strong enough to hold up the body of a ninety-pound woman, hanging by her neck, swaying in the breeze. The cops said that she had left a note. It was addressed to Bob Barker. It read: Bob, I have known how much Borax cost since the days I laid eyes on you. I have spun the wheel at your feet until my heart hurts. I can no longer live without you. I told him he was your son but that wasn’t true. If you meet him tell him I said that. Plinko. The cops said Bob Barker wasn’t even there. I don’t think that’s true. I think that he saw my mother there every day eating bologna sandwiches, scrawling this note in a mixture blue pen and bird poop and blood. He chose not to talk to her. I think he recognized her from the Massengil incident. When my father embarrassed her on national television. I think he saw her at the studio audience tapings out front trying to get back in, and he intentionally never picked her. I think he saw her T-Shirt that read: I want to
mother your children Bob Barker and willingly chose to ignore her. Everyone that I had is gone because of him. I never had a chance to really get to know them. He took everything from me and didn’t even know it. He ruined my life.
The producers of the Genius Gauntlet are smart enough to know that good television is about drama. It’s about holding off until you can’t hold it anymore and then blowing all over the place. But there also needs to be some comedic relief. Something light. Knowing that they will eliminate the fruitcakes in Round one. What that means is that more than likely I will first be facing the seven year-old boy, the guy dressed up like a vagina, three clowns and the girl dressed like a penis. Those of us who did well on our preliminary exams will not compete against one another until the audience is in place and the real show begins. The producers will keep me from the Russian until the audience is at a fever pitch. By that time he will have cemented his status as villain and I will be the hero in this drama. I see him backstage as I am going out for the first round and say, “Good luck out there in the kiddie pool.” I know now why they call Russians ‘REDS’ because his face turns beet red and he stutters, trying hard to think of something clever to say. Instead he just spits in my face. Here are the rules: Ten contestants on stage at a time. A question will be asked. Hit your buzzer if you know the answer. If you answer correctly,
you stay. If you miss, you leave. Question One: The category is American Presidents. Who was the 23rd president of the United States of America? I hit my buzzer before the host-in-training even got the words good ol’ US of A out of his lip glossed mouth. “Here’s a tip, dummies. He already told you the category was about presidents. As soon as he says 23 then you know that it’s, drum roll… Benjamin Harrison.” I say. I decide to answer every question until they send me straight through to the next round. “Neuro-Transmitters. Pete Rose. Jolt Cola. Peru. Tempeh. Andre The Giant. War of 1812. Syphilis. Benjamin Franklin. Uranus. Cellular respiration.” Backstage, I watch the Russian destroy his questions in his broken English accent. He insults the other players calling them “panties” and “fackers”. He makes little children cry and pee their pants. Everything he touches seems to wilt like rotten fruit. It’s all gold for me because by the time he and I do our dance together in front of Bob and his beauties the millions at home will have done most of the work for me; they’re going to hate him as much as I do. Little do these people know that I am a shadow looming over the sky like a plague of locusts. I am the buzzing hum of death. The coming tornado of destruction to their dream of internet fame and search engine celebrity. I will be immortalized. I will be the answer to the final question of the show. Saying my name will be followed by
balloons, confetti, overwhelming joy and congratulations or by the heavy weight of failure dragging down the spirit of the person that thought they knew it all. My name will bring about celebrations. My name will drive people to suicide. My name will be worth a million dollars to someone with 30 seconds left on the clock.
my mother died or should I say was
murdered by Bob Barker, I would come home from picking up my disability check or meeting with my case worker to get my food stamps and pound through hours of videotapes of game shows. I would read the dictionary or the encyclopedia. I carried my Sony Walkman with me everywhere. I listen to old tapes of the soft sane voice of my mother telling me the answer to questions like: Who was the 17th president of the United States? Who wrote the script for the first episode of Guiding Light? How do you make cherries jubilee? I would listen to her in my ear. I re-trace the steps she made to and from Bob’s mansion on the hill--his respite from his life of celebrity and power. I sift through his trash, look in his window, try and catch a glimpse of him. Try and see what my mother saw in him and in me. Contestants of the Genius Gauntlet stay at the luxurious Excelsior Motel and Motor Lodge. Come get good and sick. I find myself living in a shit bag rat infested motel and motor lodge with off colored bedspreads; scratchy carpeting that seems to
carry a sheen of grease in the fibers; and curious lack of Gideon Bibles down the road from the TV studio. I need to prepare for my destiny. My mouth has a canker sore from drinking out of dirty cups. My teeth are going to fall out from using DENTAL BRITE brand tooth whiteners. For a smile as bright as Betty White, use DENTAL BRITE. I have my weapons, my TV’s, VCRs, tape players & speakers. I have my videotapes, audiotapes, cereal, a variety of pajamas, notebooks filled with my mother’s handwriting, old photo albums, self-tanner. I have hair gel. The kind that leaves your hair encased in a hard shell, impenetrable. I liken it to Magic Shell. I listen to my mother’s voice telling me the answers to all of the questions that I have ever heard. Where do babies come from? In what country is the leaning tower of Pisa located? What is a baby kangaroo called? All of the questions that I asked as a child she had written down, she had recorded and archived. In this dirty room filled with spin again after buy a vowel after bonus round of chances to achieve the American Dream I encase myself in a glass bubble of television signals and audio cues and microwave dinners. I hear the familiar words BRAND NEW CAR being played forward and reverse. I recite history lessons, the periodic table of elements, and a list of Oscar winners from 1962. Best picture nominees, Grammy winners, recipes for pound cake, engine parts, items in a grocery store. All at once the
voices, the images, the words, the sounds, the announcers, the hosts, converge into one picture. One image. One answer. My mother sits on that dirty hotel room bed, her neck flopping back and forth. My father, torn and mangled, sits on the other side of the bed. They pull back the covers and tuck me in, snuggly soundly. They turn off the televisions, the audiotapes, the puzzle books. They open the doors, the windows, let in the outside world. We go on vacations, play catch, watch funny movies and cartoons. We stay in one place and listen to music and make popcorn. We tell each other little things. We are happy. I tell them that soon I will let them go. What they represent will be over. They will no longer be trivia questions to me. I will kill what ruined my life. Not because I want to. I have to in order to be free. I have one more question to answer and that is how do I let go?
the TV studio, we’ve been forced to stop
production while the producers deal with a death threat. Security is herding the contestants into lines and groups. There are reporters and camera crews. Chopper 10 from Action 12 news is hovering, buzzing. There are body searches and checkpoints. Like Baghdad but with Orange Glo brand self tanner: It’s so orange it glows. Bob Barker, the host of this show, received a mysterious videotape in his dressing room with the words PLAY ME taped to it. When the tape starts we see Bob’s arch nemesis, Pat Sajak and his
sidekick Vanna White turning letters on a board that reveal the answer to the puzzle category: WARNINGS. A jittery, Vanna turns the letters as they light up and spell out the phrase: I AM GOING TO KILL YOU ON TV GOOD OL’ BOB BARKER. Not the most proper or subtle way to express your intentions but I must say that whoever made this shit was a genius. One of most beloved shows on television, Wheel of Fortune. A show watched by everyone’s grandmother and grandfather turned into death vessel. The author of this little love note edited together various episodes of Wheel of Fortune using clips where the lovely and ageless Vanna White revealed the appropriate letters. Then they used screen shots of the clips and created an animated movie. A beautiful method for delivering a horrific message. I can only imagine Bob as he watched the tape; he probably took a shot or two of scotch, applied his ORANGE GLO brand Self-Tanner-for when the sun is eclipsed behind the clouds, and marched out on that stage to do this show like John Fucking Wayne. When the red light comes back on, I blitz through the first set of questions. “Tapioca. Franz Ferdinand. Cumin. Ocular Cavity. Cotton candy.” It’s hot under the lights. I worry that my sweat is showing through the armpits of my white sports coat. That my orange skin paint is staining my bleached white teeth. Before the next round begins, I swallow the microphone and say, “Bob. Before we go on, I’d love to say hello to my friend,
he’s Russian, so I won’t even try to pronounce his name”, I wait for the laugh track to die down. “I just want to wish him luck. He’s a contestant in the other brackets and he’s struggling. He and I go way back. Anyway, good luck buddy.” Round two: “Pork chops. Anal warts.” As the answers roll off of my brain and out of my mouth, I look over and see the Russian thrashing around backstage like a bull ready to explode out of the gate because some asshole cowboy keeps poking him with a cattle prod. Round three: “34,609. ARRID X-TRA DRY.” Round four: “Dinah Shore. Lesbian.” The semi final round. There are four of us remaining. I am about to take down a 13-year-old boy. Cut him off at the knees. Ruin him. He had lost his 2nd round but received a free pass when he cried to the judges telling then what an honor it was to be beaten by some as skilled as the Russian player. The judges fell for it. Fuck this kid. “The answer is Sherman Helmsley, Bob.” “You are right.” He says back. All I do is smile and nod but what that smile and nod says is “You’re goddamned right I am right you mother fucker.” Now it’s on to the Russian. The Russian, holds the second record for most consecutive trivia questions answered at Thursday Night Trivia Time. A local competition that he and I attend every Thursday. He is my shadow. My runner up. Always behind me trying to get in front. Here are the rules: Final round 2 questions
each. If tie we go to sudden victory. Most points wins. I looked deep into the Russian’s one brown eye and one blue eye. His breath smells like smoked potatoes. He opens his mouth and Ivan Drago, the villain from the final satisfactory movie of the Rocky franchise played by Dolph Lundgren comes out, “I shud to shave my heed befure I distroy you. So you cun see my mind mawscles flixing.” I have to admit that this was a nice touch on his part. He is nothing short of a brilliant showman. Bob reads the first question. I hit my buzzer. “Applesauce.” The crowd erupts. He reads the second question. I hit my buzzer. “Author Ken Bingham.” A collective sigh of relief from the crowd. Question number three comes out like a bullet. The Russian spits in my eye and answers correctly. Question four and the Russian beats me to the buzzer. The crowd lets out a deep sigh. We go to commercial. Promotional consideration paid for by the following: Starbucks… You know what, fuck you. Bob stalls before reading the final question. He takes a minute to remind us to spay and neuter our parents. I’ve often wondered why he has such a small and thin microphone. It is not until I am up close to him that I realize that he has very small and thin hands. The microphone is used to make his hands look larger than they actually are. “Okay gentlemen, this is it. Whoever answers this question will go on to the bonus round of the Genius Gauntlet. The final question. And I’ll tell
you he was a friend of mine… that is until he never paid back that 20 bucks he owed me…” I’ll tell you that Bob Barker was a real pro. He knew how to cut the tension like nobody in the business. “…Who was the host of the $25,000 pyramid from the years 1974 to 1979?” My hand hits the buzzer. In order to really milk the moment, I look over at the Russian and I smile. My teeth stained with orange streaks from the self tanner that has run down my face and into my mouth. I Iook over at my best friend in the whole world who I hate and want to die violently and whisper to him, “Bill Cullen.” Knowing I answered correctly and feeling the same feeling that he feels every time he and I go head to head, the Russian pushes his chair over, stomps around on the stage and explodes in a rage. I look at him and I slowly flip my middle finger up at him and make it move back and forth. In mass the crowd roars, bleating like sheep. Like a hungry bear, the Russian lunges at me like I have a pork chop around my neck. He tries to put his hands around my throat. I lean in real close so he can reach around and grab my neck. Squeeze real tight. As he pulls me close to him, I whisper in his ear, “I sent the tape. I’m going to kill Bob Barker. There’s nothing you can do about it. Try and stop me.” He lets go and backs up away from me as Security rushes him and takes him down. They wrestle him to the ground and twist his arm
behind his back. Applause. The producers of the show must be lapping this up. My plot to kill Bob Barker is in the hands of the chaos. Chaos is the nature of man.
Round: I’m seated face to face with the
angel of death. My father, he was an absent asshole. He deserved to root for the Cleveland Browns. He deserved to have his head bashed in by a Hammerhead brand hammer: Beats harder than he does. My mother was a lunatic. What kind of a mother sits around all day every day and watches game shows? She was as absent as he was. She didn’t raise me. He didn’t raise me. Wink Martindale raised me. Bob Eubanks. The Secret Square. Richard Dawson. Bob Fucking Barker. All my mother wanted was a BRAND NEW CAR. A NEW SET OF DISHES. A TRIP TO PUERTO RICO. CAMPING GEAR. She wanted her life to be decided with the spin of a wheel. She wanted a world where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. All of this can be yours if you can determine the price of this box of DARCO CHLORINE BLEACH. When you should probably just throw it away…DARCO. That is why I have to kill him. Because of what he represents. Bob Barker is to game shows what God is to religion. Final question: Where is the entrance to the exit? Right here. The entrance to the exit is at this moment. Right here.
began with my breath before I
inhaled and headed over towards Bob Barker’s outstretched left hand. I knew that the left hand would be extended as he holds his signature skinny microphone with his right hand. The music blared loudly throughout the auditorium. The crowd stood up and applauded. They cheered for me. A wall of confetti slowly trickled down from the ceiling. Everything was happening quickly. The Russian was rushing the stage screaming something that no one could make out. I was standing next to Bob Barker. In the midst of chaos the nature of man emerged. My hand slipped forward towards Bob Barker, behind the wall of confetti, behind the false life of the lights and stage behind the reality of products and commercials, I quickly stole the life from the stage. As quietly as we had been escorted out of the auditorium on the day that my father asked my mother how much her Massengil costs, I took the life of Bob Barker while the Russian lunged for us both in a fit of panic and chaos trying to prevent the inevitable. As the wall of party favors and balloons slowly floated away the stage was dead. Bob Barker lay lifeless on the ground. The Russian, struggling with the security guards. Screaming out again. “I did not do it!” It twas heem! It twas heem!” I had sent the death threat to the producers. I knew that they would make a big deal out of it. They were looking for someone to catch. Security was poised, ready to strike. Ready when the Russian jumped on stage. I had told the Russian
that I sent the tape because I knew he would try to stop me so he could say he beat me. He wanted to be number one so badly that he didnâ€™t realize that I had him right where I wanted him. His desire for victory had secured his place in Trivial Pursuit editions throughout the rest of time. The celebration, the chaos of the moment. The nature of man would allow me the distraction I needed to cement my place in history. Even though he didnâ€™t do it, the Russian will always be the answer to the final question: Who killed Bob Barker? The hard one, the answer to the bonus round, the million-dollar question will always be my name. Who won the Genius Gauntlet the night Bob Barker was killed on national television? Trivia Barker.
Stacy Rollins Teeth My teeth are falling apart. After braces come off, nightmares of peeling enamel are common. Slumber parties told me so, in the late mornings over cold pizza on somebody’s trampoline. It’s like that, but in slow-mo: incisors shrink and fade at the edges, dentin gets naked, white tiles become see-through. Sometimes I think it’s because I am see-through that I dreamed this fate alive. As above, so in my mouth. Nerves on full display, feeling too much so I might be felt. My coats are threadbare, too. Aren’t clothes shavers supposed to keep them looking like new? Somebody turned fifteen; we finished their pizza. In the bathroom, I ground Ultra Brite in circles on my orthodontist’s masterpiece. Heavy-handed striving to better my best for the world: it laughs at me in the mirror after decades of effort with a vagrant’s whisky breath. This is my will to flash beauty upon beauty that overexposed the whole picture. This is purification left alone at the sink, running white to clear to ghost— drained of surface as if to reveal a brighter soul.
Lee-Ann Liles Shhhhhh!!! I often think of having the quiet life where everything in the world operates under a hushed spirit. This is a vision that befalls most people at some point in their existence, typically later in life. Someone once told me the ‘quiet’ and the ‘mundane’ make for good stories. People want to have a window into the daily lives of their neighbors and friends only because someone else always had it worse off. People want to know what other people are doing and writing is a way for me to create realistic stories and make readers feel normal about who they are. Everyone has a story to tell and life is full of experiences that take us places, that sometimes, we don’t wish to go. Quiet and mundane for me would mean the uneventful everyday life: No conflict with neighbors, meaningful interactions, no complexity and noise, just serenity and bliss. I frequently alter the
environment in my apartment to suit myself by simply turning on Internet Radio on my Apple TV, which makes the difference in firewalling an argument that is ensuing next door, “Stop lying, Jason. Why are you always lying?” Shuffle. BOOM. Crash. I’m floating to the sounds of Kenny G’s Saxophone or Billie Holiday’s sad sappy tunes, mood altering, rapturous and divergent. I’m a lounge music freak as of late. I’ve become magnetized by the vocals of Eartha Kitt and Josephine Baker in their Parisian renditions of C’est Si Bon, both syrupy, liberating and reverberating throughout the room. I can go back as far and Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s “St. James Infirmary” remembering of a weathered Phonograph my grandmother once owned before it was taken from her, by her shifty friend Elsa who pilfered anything that was not tied down, even her husband.
Imagine, music is the only noise we can stomach. Without the rhythmic representations found in music, there is nothing else that is acceptable. No sound as fluid and redeeming. Music is even found in the rhythmic tone of someone speaking. My ears have become sensitive to nonmelodious messages and if I am listening to someone speaking on the television and their voice emits a monotonous message, that’s cause to switch the channel. There’s something about the uniform tone and makes my teeth hurt, a strange sensation I just can’t describe. Don’t get me wrong, I once partied like there was no other prospect in this world. It is a rite of passage for a youth to exert their independence in this way and shows of perversion and loss of self-control are a way to prove to the world that we need to be locked in our boxes for just a while longer. We’re just not sensible enough to show our
face to the world, just yet. At one point in my life, I relished the loud, boisterous crowd who were expectant of these juvenile antics, the ones that egged on the showboat behavior. I can speak (with chagrin) of sprinting from bars shoeless which earned me the nickname, ‘Cinderella’, so I understand how to adapt to someone who continually yells in conversation, because they have spent an excessive length of time in boisterous settings, like bars. Bars, the place where everyone is talking and no-one is listening. Eric hollars a greeting from across a sea of bobbing heads, launching into the beginnings of a conversation mid-way between the crowd and the door. I have not heard nor understood the topic, let alone the content of what he is ranting about and he continues on, aloof to the degree of attention I am giving him. This would not be a bona fide conversation as the root of the word conversation, ‘con’ means ‘with’. I quietly step away from Eric, The Self-talker
as I am no longer a necessity to this conversation’s forward momentum. Nowadays I am quite intolerant. I recently discovered that period of my life was over when I was seeking assistance from my local grocer about my interest in Organic Maple Syrup when three girls in their early 20’s drifted towards the service counter, bantering like livestock, ever so ignorant of other customers around them. I held my head, not just because of the volume but also the subject matter, someone’s private enterprise, a topic that I shouldn’t have been privy to. Since when had I become so susceptible to noise? Since when had I become so sensitive to subject matter? That’s what happens when you work in a quiet, studio setting. You can’t handle the noise anymore, I told myself. You’re spending too much time alone. Maybe, I was just getting old. Older. That was about right. I HAD spent too much time in the very concentrative airs of art studios and museums and I was drawn
to places that demonstrated the mark of quaint and serene. Even the steady drip of the faucet was overbearing and I was shutting the bathroom door at night. It was like drum which seemed to pull back, then morph into a monstrous bass. I envisioned the entire bathtub was a drum with a gaping mouth. I am not able to deal with sudden and immediate noise, like the kind that springs on you like cat from a bush. I am alerted to and fixated on every door that slammed and every siren screaming 20 miles away. It is like a disease. Canttakenoiseuous. Extremely deadly and everyone else was immune, yet I was contaminating myself. And I had lied, just there. Again. I wasn’t spending too much time alone, it is my job to have quiet. I am a Librarian. There I said it. Or might I feel better about calling myself an Information Profession, since I am dealing with digital information management more than physical collections. I adore my job, but the majority
of the time I find myself whispering our library hours into the phone with a cupped hand or mouthing instructions to the student assistants. Signing might be advantageous here. We could have duality in how we communicate and could yell from across the room (with our hands). I would liken this condition to an aversion to noise, something in the Sensory Deprivation family. Sensory Deprivation is like being locked in a sealed box for days and day, having no sensual contact with the outside world. In this environment, your senses run wild on their own, because they are not being stimulated and you start to see things like that giant pink bunny with the deranged grin you tried to hide in the back of the wardrobe as a child, or hear the voice of your first grade teacher berating your impervious math-defect and even feel miniature snakes wriggling on your skin. This would be like being locked away in a cave for 20 years, only having the ability to feel and
smell your way around to the point where you are almost legally blind and then one day, someone rolls the stone away, thinking it will be thoughtful to give you something you hadn’t had in so long and it paralyses you. The colors are almost deafening and the birds chirping in the trees are like a Sonic Boom and are nothing like the small insects in the cave that barely squeak, and you immediately hate that person for rolling away the stone and granting you a wish that you never really wanted. Whenever I leave the Library back door for the “REAL’ world, I am knocked back by a plethora of feedback from the environment. I wouldn’t want to change a thing about what I do, but I am now the polar opposite of my father who declared that he had been going deaf since his thirties when he worked for BELCO (Bermuda Electric Light Company) and had to fix the turbines that emitted a loud rupturous hum, which vibrated every building within a ten mile radius. It drove me mad trying
to have a normal conversation with my father, who seemed to look through me instead of at me whenever I was speaking. “Any high pitched tones like women’s voices, I can’t quite make out what their saying,” he would tell me. I just thought it was an excuse to play deaf when my mother or myself were talking to him. My father has no recognition of how blaringly loud the TV is when he watches it. He’ll park himself in his special chair and watch the late-night programming, while everyone else has gone to bed and God have mercy on the sorry sap that turns on the television the next day; they are knocked right out of their shoes only to discover that my father has left the volume at maximum capacity. His senses are quite muted and he knows his limits, so my father lets me test the milk in the morning, so that he won’t pour cottage cheese into his freshly brewed coffee. I could go into that rant about his taste buds, but that’s another story altogether. While my
senses are overtly heightened while my father’s are unrecoverably stifled, making the environment a very strange place to dwell in. My small academic library is a dream job, the type of job that is mistaken for work. A group of freshmen who should be studying for their finals become a little intense, and intermittent bursts of conversation are coming from the far corner of the group tables. I peer around the door of the office to see a small group, completely void of study, having a rousing conversation about an uploaded U-Tube video. “Ssssssshhhhhh!” I hiss at them from my office door aligning my body with the doorframe so they won’t see anyone there. The fact that there is no way of telling who is doing the shushing makes me feel better about doing it, because I do not like the act of ‘shushing’ in the library albeit ‘very necessary’. To me shushing screams librarian stereotyping all over again, at a time when Librarians have been working desperately to change
how they are perceived. Tattooed, punked out, a second job at the Hospital, completing a second Masters, singing in the Jazz Lounge after hours, speaking three languages, with a degree is space aeronautics,that’s who we are. We have come so far. I am a minimalist who thrives under the quaint and serene. I am a minimalist in conversation, intensity, and sometimes action, but I can be passionate for all the right reasons. My sound bar might never recover from what has arrived with age, maturity and a workplace setting untainted by the noise of the world, but from the words of Shakespeare in As You Like It, “I like this place and could willing waste time in it,” and I might just stay a while.
Joseph Farley History
The dead stacked up like so many cans stored in the pantry for winter nights. Too cold. Too cold. This world goes on. Leaving its refuse along the road, marking the progress of the civilized.
Joseph Farley The Fall
The penalty for stumbling blind your chosen path is to fall much further and faster than you would think possible for men gifted with wings stolen from angels.
Richard Mark Glover Do You Think I Talk Funny? People say his speech was the result of too much
“Where you from?” Benji asked.
cocaine. But Benji Soto never used coke. Spacey, funny, odd even, his dark penetrating eyes and lanky disconnected legs – like a black and white Picasso, valeting up and down the highway late at night, five wrist watches, Manson blasting through buds, conjuring chapters of his manifesto that took in time warps and Tensegrity. He loved the color blue and hung shades of it throughout the mud-plastered walls of his adobe, indigo on canvas, acrylic - never pure enough, and, as it turned out, his fascination with indoles, that mystical molecular plant structure that only those willing to sacrifice mainstream mental health would administer daily, as he did, stirred his curiosity most often to the dead in the near-by desert, as if answers smote from calcified bones.
“L.A.” she said, pulling slightly on her ear lobe. “What do you do here?”
“Why did your friend die?” She asked. “Worms,” Benji said. He preferred short answers. She studied him, the stranger, the Athenian Stranger, Heraclitus the man, bringing rural fact to life, the story of a cave, shadows, enlightenment. A local, she thought, is he kidding? “Imperial will return,” Benji said. “Space Time portal. Silver City, I suspect.” She laughed.
Benji looked at the woman from L.A., the sunglasses, the big white clean teeth. “Mortician,” he said and put out his hand, “John Box.” She shook his hand slowly. “No you’re not.” “You’re right, bu-bu busted,” he said. “I’m a plumber. Plumb this pipe, pl-pl-plumb that pipe. Seems to never end.” “Plumbing or pipes or what?” She asked. “Or what,” he said looking at her with dark eyes. A menacing blue mole quartered his left cheek. He sprinkled salt on his tilapia-on-a-stick then leaned against the Mud Shark food van crunching the fish between his teeth. A grackle pitched from an elm and a siren wailed from the highway. She pulled out a deck of gum from her vest pocket. “I have a proposal,” she said unfurling Cinnabar Red, “Drive me around, show me the sights.” A freight train rumbled by rattling the ground.
Richard Mark Glover
“What do you do, exactly?” He asked as the tail end
Do You Think I Talk Funny?
of the train passed the Chamberlain Building.
“The transport was phenomenal,” she said.
“I’m a filmmaker,” she said.
He said, “Afterwards we stole some purses, torched a cat. Went to Effie’s and bought some chch-chocolate milk.”
Benji said, “Castenada women, that’s why you’re here, right? Dude loved sculpture. Donald Judd. Marfa Lights. Of course they came here. It took LAPD wh-wh-what twenty years?”
“’We,’ you mean you and your friend?” “Right. Beginning of our work.”
She watched him now as he wadded up the waxy paper, and broke the fish stick into halves neatly packaging the components between his thumb and forefinger.
“Work?” She asked.
“The three missing women of Carlos Castenada’s cult?” She asked.
His mouth twitched. “The new version.” A quick smile flashed. “Erased our personal histories. I stabbed my father. Imperial didn’t have the guts. May I tell you something? Have you ever stopped the world?”
“Not a cult,” he said. “Sure I’ll show you around. My wheels or yours?” She shrugged. “Let’s take mine if you don’t mind an old truck,” he fixated momentarily on her mouth.
“Requiems. Conducting the souls,” he said. “Were you part of Tensegrity?”She asked.
“You stabbed your father?” “Yes.”
“Perfect,” she said.
“What’s your name?” He asked.
“I just told you.” Benji pushed his hand through his long black hair.
“Kubrick, Leslie Kubrick” “Related to Stanley?”
She studied the alleged plumber. He zipped his blue jacket.
“My father,” she said.
He looked at her, then pointed to his truck.
“Really.” Benji said. “Really, wasn’t he…?”
“Do you think I talk funny?” He asked as he slipped behind the wheel.
“No, you watched the wrong movie,” she said. “’A Clockwork Orange’ will tell you everything.” “Great movie, formative,” Benji said. “I threw myself into it.”
She stared into the windshield. “I should get back to the hotel.” He started the truck then leaned across, penned
her with one arm then slammed her door with the other. She felt muscles and goose bumps. He ran the stop sign and raced over the hill past the turn out with the trash can.
“No,” Benji said.
“Where are we going?” She demanded.
“Who else is in the collection?” She asked. “You’re friend Imperial?”
Benji pulled a baggie from his pants and fingered a musty mass into his mouth. “Peyote,” he mumbled, then he pointed in the distance. “The separate reality.” “What?” She asked. “The bones are power,” he said. “You’re a bit mysterious,” she said. “You think?” “I think you’re driving too fast” she said. “Journey to Ixtlan,” he said. “Another book of fiction,” she said. “It’s na-na-not fiction.” Benji squeezed the steering wheel. Teardrop tattoos swelled between his knuckles. “Is that a wrist watch?” She nodded at the small box on the seat. “Don’t you have enough already?” “Number six,” he said. “Balance.” She pushed a finger across her eyebrow. “The bones, they’re your father’s?”
“Does she have a speech impediment?” She asked. “Yes.”
“Yes.” “No stutter?” She asked. “No.” “I don’t stutter,” she said. “No you don’t,” he said. An empty meds bottle rolled across the dashboard as they went around a corner and fell at her feet. “Castenada wouldn’t have let me in, you know – no infirmaries. Outer ring maybe, but na-na-now I’m Don Juan.” She watched the ground whirl past and then looked out over the plateau of cactus as the truck streamed into the strange new realm, the distant mountains shimmering, the sky an endless blue, the blue of another world. “Castenada died of cancer,” she said. The truck crested a hill and began the descent into a valley. “Are you ready to see the bones?” He asked.
“How long were you in prison?” She asked.
“You stabbed your mother too?”
“It’s the disappearances. That’s why you’re here, right?” He asked.
“How long?” She asked. “I did seven,” He looked straight ahead. “Because you stabbed your father?” She asked. “You’re asking the wrong questions.” He turned the radio on then off. “I’m not a bad specimen. Don’t you th-th-think? Calendar model in Dallas once, watches. They loved my wrists, my hands, my long slender fingers. It’s just the…” He pointed to his mouth.
Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller share 52 years as mates and professional theatre-makers, playing well over 3,000 shows throughout the USA in theatres, schools, community centers, prisons, churches, living rooms, in a rock concert between Chuck Berry and Little Richard, and among the women's lingerie of a department store. Their 60+ plays have been produced Off-Broadway and on major regional stages as well as by their own ensemble The Independent Eye, and they have collaborated with many other theatres in creating original work. They are twice recipients of writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and have produced several series for public radio. They are now focused on writing prose fiction as well as a 15-month project staging Shakespeare's KING LEAR as a duo house-concert show with puppets. Their memoir "Co-Creation: Fifty Years in the Making" iss available from their website. Joseph Farley Joseph Farley edited Axe Factory from 1986 to 2010. His books and chapbooks include "Suckers," "For the Birds," "Longing for the Mother Tongue," "Waltz of the Meatballs," "Her Eyes," and "Crow of Night." His work has appeared recently in Danse Macabre, Concrete Meat Sheets, Thunder Sandwich, Horror Sleaze Trash, US 1 Worksheets, Verse Wisconsion, Visions and Voices, Whole Beast Rag, and other places. Richard Mark Glover Richard Mark Glover has published short stories with Oyster Boy Review, Oracle, Weird Year, Sinister Tales, Canary, and won the 2004 Eugene Walters Short Story Award. His journalism has appeared in the San Antonio Express News, West Hawaii Today, Ke Ola and the Big Bend Sentinel where he won the 2010 Texas Press Association Best Feature Award, medium size weekly.
Mureall Hébert Mureall Hébert’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Stone Crowns Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, >kill author, Short, Fast, and Deadly, Soundings Review, Bacopa Literary Review, The Citron Review, and StereoOpticon. She’s an MFA graduate from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Mureall lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three kids, and an assortment of furry animals. Lee-Ann Liles Lee-Ann Liles is a native of Bermuda with her B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame in Maryland and her M.L.I.S. from San Jose State University. She has published a number of essays, stories, poetry and articles and her writing has appeared in Poetry Motel, The Bermuda Anthology of Poetry I & II, Caketrain, Talking River Review, Conte Online, The Call Number, Precipice, The Nashwaak Review, Damozel and Bottom of the World Magazine. Chad Meadows Chad is a fiction writer who writes out of the state of New Jersey and panic. He's just like every other writer... trying to get noticed and pursuing an MFA degree. He is attending Fairleigh Dickinson University and was awarded their Director's Award for Fiction in 2011. He has had 2 short stories ("Rubber Cement" and "The Problem with Odam Schweda") appear in 2 issues of the Squawk Back Literary journal, so his publishing resume is pretty thin at this point. He has had a little difficulty so far finding places to take his work but so did Kurt Vonnegut and he turned out OK. Keith Moul Keith's poems and photos appear widely. Three recently published books include: T"he Grammar of Mind" from Blue & Yellow Dog; "Beautiful Agitation" from Red Ochre Press; and "Reconsidered Light," a collection of poems written to accompany Keith's photos, from Broken Publications. Val Dering Rojas Val Dering Rojas is a Los Angeles based poet and artist. Her poetry and short fiction has been included in Dogzplot, A Handful of Dust and Right Hand Pointing among others. Her chapbook "Ten," is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press, Spring, 2014.
Stacy Rollins Stacy Rollins is a writer, visual artist, singer, Tarot reader, and fitness enthusiast who lives in Park Slope’s historic district in Brooklyn, NY. Her first complete sentence (spoken at nine months of age) was, “I’ll get you.” It has served as a guiding principle ever since. She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing at FSU and has authored two books, "Truer Faults" and "Learning to Read." Her other crowning achievements include designing her own religion, “Stanism,” while in law school, and also dropping out of law school. Her recent work has appeared in Atticus Review, Everyday Genius, Diversion Press, Garbanzo, and Black Heart Magazine.
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