TABLE OF CONTENTS Lou Gaglia, Letters From A Young Poet … 4 Adam Johnson, The Flight Attendant … 20 Max Keanu, The Moonbow … 42 Mike Sauve, The Contagious Relief … 64
Lou Gaglia teaches in upstate New York. His work has appeared or will appear soon in Blueline, Prick of the Spindle, JMWW, Rose & Thorn Journal, Stymie, Stirring, FRiGG, Foliate Oak, and others.
Letters From a Young Poet
Aug. 8, Rome, Italy Dear Jeanette, Isn’t this neat, my writing “Rome, Italy” on the top of the page like this? Yes, I am in Rome, and I am roaming around lost because that stupid Father Kevin gave me bum directions. I’m supposed to find a convent and a person named Suare Maura. I don’t know where this place is or what the hell a Suare is anyway, or how to spell it. Pretty soon I’ll need to find a person to ask directions because it’s hot and I’m still carrying my backpack. The problem is I don’t talk Italian except in curses. Maybe I’ll ask a policeman. * It’s later. I’m sitting next to the Trevi Fountain. It’s too hot here. More than on Long Island, I don’t care what you say. I’m carrying a bottle of water around because that’s what everyone else does as they walk. I keep going in circles, so I need a rest. But this water tastes pretty good. It’s Italian water that you can’t find in Deer Park, except maybe at Bruno’s deli on the corner. * I finally found Suare Maura and the convent. A policeman showed me the way. Turns out I’d passed it a million times today. I’m pretty beat. In fact, I’m so tired I’ve even stopped caring for now about you going off bowling with Al two weeks ago, breaking up with me by bowling instead of saying something face to face like a regular person would. -5-
Still, I am writing to you, and I don’t even know why. Maybe because I have to tell you some last words, even if it’s from a great distance. That reminds me. I took my two weeks off from the toy store and came here not just to get away from you and stupid Deer Park. I came to write some poems and think about stuff. So maybe I will write a poem now. Maybe a poem about…you…and Al…bowling… Right now I couldn’t write about anything else because I can’t think about anything else. You broke my heart, you know that? You and Al can go to hell. Especially Al. Not you as much. But still you. Aug. 9, Rome, Italy Dear Jeanette, I’m sitting on a bench in some park, lost in Rome again. Not as lost as yesterday, but still lost. At least I’m not lugging that backpack. I just ordered pizza from a guy in a vending truck. He does nothing but sing and bang on his pizza pans and other pots. It’s a bunch of different Italian songs. He has pop eyes. I didn’t need to speak Italian to him. He knew just what I wanted when I held up one finger and pointed to a slice. Would you believe the pizza here in Italy is not like Deer Park pizza? They’re small, round individual slices and taste pretty good. I just started a poem about the pizza guy, but I can’t get it how I want it. Here it is so far.
“Pizza Man” Oh pizza man You, with your popping eyes And your round pizza and your cheerful songs Banging your pots Your pizza is the best Oh, where do you get your bread With which to make your slices And do you by chance Serve Italian ices? That’s all I’ve got so far. I’m going to try to find the convent again and take a nap. I hope the place didn’t move to the other side of the city somehow, because I need sleep. I think I got jet lag. By the way, I forgot to mention that Suare Maura, who I met last night, is a lady, some kind of nun, not a guy like I figured she would be. She did have a little mustache, and just for a second she caught me looking at it (I could tell), but a mustache doesn’t make a lady into a guy. Maybe I can write about Suare Maura after my nap, if I can find the place again first. * I still haven’t found the damn convent. Keep going in circles. Do you know that the Italian men here in Rome whistle at the girls and say lousy things to them like there’s no tomorrow? They don’t even do -7-
that in Deer Park. Not exactly. They just grunt, maybe. I know I couldn’t whistle and make comments like that to women. That’s not right. But look who I’m writing to about what’s right. * I’m in a restaurant and think I know where the convent is now. I can’t believe I got lost twice in two days. Anyway, it’s past the Roman Coliseum, which I’m sick of passing. I ordered some spaghetti, which was served to me as linguini, and a whole pitcher of a drink. I think it’s beer but it doesn’t taste like it. * I thought I was going to fall in the Tiber River on the way back here to the convent because I couldn’t walk straight. First they gave me a whole pitcher when all I ordered was one beer. Then they didn’t tell me the tip was in the bill, so I paid two tips. I only figured it out in the middle of a stagger. I was so mad I yelled out, cursing like a madman toward the Coliseum. I guess it looked like I was screaming at the ruins, and people passing the other way were looking at me. Bunch of lousy busybodies. Hell with them. And the hell with you too, Jeanette, and tell Al the hell with him too. Two stinkers you are. Four including those thieving waiters at the restaurant. Tomorrow I’m going to throw these letters in the Tiber River because I don’t know what the hell I’m writing to you for, you traitor. P.S. A rooster here woke me up at 4 a.m. last night. If it wakes me -8-
up again tonight I’m going to find him (or her). Aug. 10, Rome, Italy Jeannette, I am on fire with my poetry writing. After the rooster woke me up I wrote a poem about him called “Elegy to a Rooster”. But then after Suare Maura gave me some coffee and cookies (she’s not evil like I thought she was at first), I sat down and wrote a bunch of other poems. One is called “Suare Maura”. Another one is called “My Flat Feet”. The creative juices are flowing now that I’m in Italy and away from all the ignorant people in Deer Park. I don’t mean you, really, but Al for sure. Well, maybe you too. Here’s another poem before I go get lost in Rome again. “Ignorant Al” Ignorant Al Has stolen my gal She had a heart of gold But now it is sold She can keep him As far as I’m concerned And both of them to hell Can go, and be burned.
Aug. 11, Milan, Italy Hey Jeanette, I have one of those train passes, by the way, that takes me anywhere I want to go in Europe, but I am only going as far as Zurich where my plane will take me home in a few more days. Milan is a dark place. Everything shuts down between twelve and two, and even after that I could hardly find a place open to get something to eat or drink. Finally I walked into a place on a narrow stone road. There was an Italian girl there, and I guess her mother was there. They were both nice. I looked around and finally found water and some bread. Then the girl looked at me and said, “Basta?” I said, “Yeah, uh, basta.” And she laughed. What a smile and what eyes she has. Better than any eyes or smile I’ve ever seen in Deer Park. Half of the girls in Deer Park are so covered in make-up anyway that you’d need to use a pick to get at their regular faces. This girl has no makeup. Just beautiful skin and eyes. I bet she wouldn’t bowl with Al if someone paid her 100 lire. “Girl in Milan” What beautiful eyes you have And what a sore spot I got For a sweetie with a smile such as yours In a store I can easily spot From the street -10-
And so, Sweet May I see you again real soon ‘Cause if I don’t I’ll have to go back to stupid Deer Park And howl at the moon As you can see, Jeanette, this is not no ordinary girl, but a nice one. I’ll go back in the morning. Maybe she’ll come back to Deer Park with me. Or else I’ll stay in Milan. And be her slave. And live upstairs and slice bread all day and write poems to her. August 12, a train on the way to Florence Dear Woe is Me, My heart is broke, but it is no fault of the Milan girl, who wasn’t there when I went back for breakfast. The whole store was closed down. I kept going back until after two and then at four, but the place stayed closed. Maybe I’ll send her my poems. But right now I’m sitting on the train to Florence with a broken heart. I stuffed all of the letters to Jeanette into my backpack, under my dirty socks, then wrote a fantasy poem called “Catapulting Jeanette into Deep Space.” But that didn’t even cheer me up. All I could think of was the Milan girl -- probably hiding from me today, with those store gates down. So I’m stuck with myself now. -11-
August 13, Venice Dear Myself, I lasted two hours in Florence. Couldn’t find a place to stay. Well, I did, but it was so noisy right outside my window, and all I wanted to do was sleep. So I went to the train station and waited around for the next train to Venice. It wasn’t until two in the morning, so I sat eating a candy bar out of a machine and reading USA Today, which I found a copy of. Now I’m in a little hotel room, and very sleepy. I tried to sleep on the train but I was so scared someone would come in and steal my bag that I laid on it. It has my passport and plane ticket in it. And I’m running out of money. I didn’t bring as much as I should have. Venice looked nice from the train when I first saw it, though. Wished it wasn’t just me seeing it, though. Jeanette could have been with me here instead of over there bowling with Al in Deer Park. I wouldn’t even mind living here except I can’t speak Italian and don’t know what job I would have. But maybe I could at least write my poems and try to sell them. All I’ve got at home is the job stocking shelves over there. Big whoop. * The maid just tried to beat my door down. I fell asleep and kept hearing knocking but I didn’t think it was at my door. Then I got up and opened it. It was the maid, all mad because she had to change the -12-
sheets. I guess I went up too early. “Maid in Venice” Oh maid in Venice, you are too mad For no reason Over sheets If you were a guy I would’ve cracked you over the head With your cleaning fluid can And sent you sprawling Onto your can And mopped you Right out the door, far away from me So I could sleep in peace Don’t you see August 14, Zurich, Switzerland Dear Me, On the way to Zurich today I watched the Switzerland countryside. It was the most beautiful grass and trees and mountains I’ve ever seen. Little cottages, too. A beautiful girl on the train was sticking her head out of the train window and smiling as she looked at the hills. I could see her gorgeous blue eyes even from where I sat half a car away. Wow. Just wow. And she knew just when to pull her head -13-
back into the train just before the train reached a tunnel. I know if I stuck my own head out the window, even if the coast was perfectly clear, somehow a tunnel would appear and my head wouldn’t be attached now as I write this, and my hand would be flopping around useless and unable to hold a pen. Some more poems I wrote on the train today were “Girl Stickin’ Her Head Out the Window on the Way to Zurich”; “Deer Park Is No Switzerland”; “Jeanette and Al In Hell”; “Basta? Yeah, Basta!”; and “The Conductor”. “The Conductor” The conductor of the train is always on the move Even when people are noisy his stony face won’t crack a groove A bomb could detonate right next to his head And he wouldn’t even know that he was suddenly dead He punches his tickets all day and makes the most of it Be damned if I know how he stands it not to sit * It is later now. I tried to catch up and say hello to the Zurich girl, but she slipped away into the crowd somewhere. Maybe she was an angel. It started pouring rain when I got to the station, so no one went -14-
outside yet, just waited inside or under the overhangs. I stood and watched people running in from the rain, laughing and smiling, all huddled next to each other, and I started smiling, too. And then I was laughing with them even though no one was next to me. Then I felt lonesome. Not for Jeanette. I’m not lonesome for her at all any more. Not for the toy store where I work either, or the crowd at the bowling alley, or any of my high school or other friends, or any other part of my life except for what’s missing from it. I stood there smiling with all those strangers, missing everything in life except for what was in it. * I’m in the hotel now and only have about twenty dollars and change left on me, including my plane ticket. Three days to go. On the way here I stood at a bus stop and talked a little to a Japanese girl and her family. They were very nice. They were on their way out to dinner. I asked them if I could come too but they said no, very politely and shyly. Not mean. Not like Jeanette would have, like “Get lost, Creep!” Not like that. No, they just smiled and shook their heads and said it was nice to meet me but they’d already made reservations. Just a very nice polite way of telling me to get lost. “Japanese Family Saying No To Me at a Bus Stop In Zurich” They didn’t bow low They didn’t say no They didn’t say “Go!” -15-
They just smiled real slow They said sorry but we have to go Nice to’ve met you, don’t you know August 16, Zurich I bought peanut butter and crackers from the supermarket today, the cheapest food I could find. Maybe it will last me until tomorrow when I leave. I still need money to call someone to pick me up at the airport. Maybe Uncle Tommy. Lucky I can eat for free on the plane. I think. I walked all over Zurich and then went into a restaurant and ordered some coffee. They wanted to charge me five dollars for one cup. I told them I didn’t want it after all because it was too much, but the guy behind the bar said to pay up anyway. I got mad and said no way, it’s too much, and started to leave. Then a guy near the door got up from a table and spun me around to go back and get my coffee and pay up. I got madder and started to walk to the door, but he came after me. That’s when I got really nervous and pushed at him, and then he slugged me, hard, in the face. Right between the eye and my nose, on the side. Two other guys came and pushed me out the door. I kept feeling my face all the way back to the hotel, but I realized I didn’t have to pay after all, so I was laughing about it – but still wanting to cry at the same time. When I got to the hotel the girl at the desk (another beauty!) was very concerned and took me to the back of -16-
the hotel restaurant and put a frozen bag of mixed vegetables on it. She said it always did the trick and should make the black eye go away in about three or four weeks. I told her what happened and she gave me a cup of coffee on the house, and then one to go. The free coffee, not having to pay the five bucks, and her pretty eyes were worth the slug in the face. Made me look tough, too, after I got to look in the mirror upstairs. If anyone asks me at home how I got it, I’ll tell them I fell out of the plane. August 17, Zurich I wrote a few more poems last night. They are called “My Black Eye”; “My Dime Sized Bald Spot”; “Al Walks into the Wrong Alley” (narrative poem); and “The Girl with the Frozen Mixed Vegetables” (love poem). Same day (see above) Airport---Zurich My last morning in Italy and Switzerland… I said bye to the girl at the desk and vowed to return next year without a black eye and show her all my poems. She said it would be wonderful to see them. I kind of backed away from her, smiling as I left, not wanting her to get a peek at my new bald spot and change her mind about me. Anyway, I’m only twenty-five, so it will probably grow back by next year. Could be a jet lag side effect or something. I took the long walk to the airport and bought two candy bars to -17-
last me the wait. I’m lucky I didn’t pay for that coffee because I have only five bucks left, not to mention a black eye, a two-timing exgirlfriend back home, and a tiny little bald spot that had better not get any bigger. I have to go back to work in two days, too, back to that boring toy store serving customers for eight hours. So life pretty much stinks. But I got to write some poems. And I think I’m getting better at it. And I met some nice people, especially those girls in Milan and Zurich and Zurich and Zurich. And maybe someday I’ll not be missing so many things that I might not do, and so many people I might never meet. Like now.
Adam Johnson grew up in North Carolina, attended colleges in Oregon and Minnesota, and now lives in Massachusetts.
The Flight Attendant -20-
He met the flight attendant during an unusual event, an event that took place on the runway of the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport at 3 in the morning, on the same day that would later feature him accidentally blowing up her airplane in mid-air. The unusual event preceding the explosion was a party, a celebration of sorts in which a large crowd of airport personnel partook, in which champagne flowed and overflowed its flutes, and in which the strange object of celebration was never far from anyone’s mind. That object was a Departure Gate whose looming presence over the runway was still a novelty; and so, the majority of revelers crowded around this new vessel of passage from plane to port, enjoying and welcoming its existence, raising their glasses to it. Gate B3 had been an expensive project and had occasioned debate, opposition having arisen on the grounds that it was unnecessary, too expensive, not well thought out. The trouble, as George saw it, was an unreal, inexplicable level of fervor enshrouding the Gate as a concept from the moment it had even become a concept, a fervor that persevered all through the Gate’s construction for which the present dead-of-the-night celebration struck in his ears as a clumsy, anti-climactic gong of consummation. If anything, the party seemed unreal to him, not in the sense of it being “surreal,” but rather lacking in sincerity and full of pretense. The trouble now, as the party and B3-related reverence teemed all around him, was that his own involvement in the B3 “movement” had been significant. He had -21-
publicly championed the idea and, some may have said, originated the idea. He found himself scratching his head and nervously chuckling as his brethren in the cause nodded at, shouted at, sang at him with tremendous approval over their bubbling glasses. He knew that Sabrina Nacreous was scorning him back in the air traffic control room, and for good reason. In his efforts to garner support for the new Gate he had broken down the barriers between Federal and Airline employees, creating a hodge-podge alliance, a colorful array of disorganization. Sabrina, an expert in matters of organization, was especially opposed to the merger. “That barrier was not meant to be broken,” she said underneath an arched eyebrow, “now that you’ve done it, I hope you’re pleased with yourself!” He was not pleased with himself tonight and the only thing he could do about it was remain vague and uncommitted. He may have seen a hint of salvation in the flight attendant’s Delta uniform, an opportunity to at least subject himself to the consequences of Federal’s marriage to Commercial, in short, to hit on this attractive Delta employee, to experience just how disastrous such a merger could be. His first comment was appropriately directed toward her airline. “Delta, right,” she responded as with a sense of the comical, “I transferred over to Delta a few months ago. I assume you know how embattled we are as an airline? That’s why you mention my uniform?” “I love Delta,” he said, “tremendously.”
“You’re not supposed to show that kind of bias, are you?” she gestured to his FAA badge, enlarging on his own consciousness of the divide between Federal and Airline personnel. “As you can see,” gesturing to Gate B3, “things are rapidly changing around here.” “I know that sometimes change is necessary,” she replied, “but it nonetheless makes me nervous! And this seems to mean that me being nervous is necessary! Ahhh!” This cathartic little yell did little to settle her and she began to fidget around uncomfortably. If the whole setting and celebration had been making George a bit embarrassed, this woman’s sudden advent onto the scene now gave him a feeling as though he was physically on the verge of coming apart, a sensation dire enough to rid him of embarrassment. For his own salvation from the fresh feeling he had to develop an idea about her. This woman, he thought, was a nervous case, a self-consciousness case, maybe even a manic depressive who happened to know how to work her disorder into professionalism of the highest quality. He had encountered those kinds of flight attendants, people who were so pleasant on the job that you had to think there was something wrong behind it all. “At least your job is stable,” he suggested a little bit desperately, “I mean, that can’t have changed much. How do you like the job?” “Oh,” she said, coming back to earth and brightening up, “it’s great! There’s a lot of skill involved in serving soft drinks and smiling -23-
at people in just the right way. It’s fundamental and challenging. I want to challenge myself in life. That’s why I gave up flying.” “You used to be a pilot?” he asked, becoming more bewildered. “Piloting is overrated,” she nodded, “I realized that the whole thing – the high salary, everyone thinking you’re so great for flying a plane – it’s just an illusion. My true calling is as a flight attendant. I don’t want to be detached from the passengers, all alone in the cockpit with a boring co-pilot. I want to be in the midst of the passenger experience.” In spite of or because of the messed up logic he found that the attitude made her sexy, contributed more layers to the pre-existing sexiness he already connected in his mind with her occupation. The woman herself was short, thin, and turbulently good-looking. Her eyes looked out at him as though from deep gray clouds that could easily shift tones from dreary to violent and stormy. “What is your name?” he asked even though he had already seen it on the Delta wings pinned over her left breast. “Beverly,” she said, in a warm, professional voice. Her volubility, her odd mood swings, evident after only minutes of conversation, made his next inquiry after her phone number feel like a bomb thrown wildly into the air as he asked it of her, and he felt an impulse to take cover as from the anticipated explosion. But she gave him the number with the same serenity with which she would
have poured a cranberry vodka for a first class customer. Then she asked him what he did for a living, nodding again at his FAA badge. “I’m an Air Traffic Controller,” he said. “Air Traffic Controller,” she repeated with some excitement, “I should have known. You have the voice for it. And you keep surveying the crowd, even while you’re talking to me, as though you’re trying to make sure no two people bump into each other.” The stress of the Air Traffic Controller’s job, the awesome responsibility of thousands of lives passing in and out of your hands every day tended to make the people he worked with a little crazy. Especially among people within the airline industry he was selfconscious about his occupation’s terrible reputation. Air Traffic Controllers traditionally did not do well with dating or relationships. Beverly showed no sign or intent of moving away from him in light of his revelation, nor had she been showing any particular interest in the rest of the social gathering. “Do you know any of these people?” he asked, drawing attention away from himself. “Yeah, I know pretty much everyone here, except for you,” she said, “I went to high school with Jim Grendley and Tim Smith over there. When I was a pilot I flew with just about everyone you see here. Oh, and over there, Melinda and Rachel, we were in the same sorority at UNCC. I also went to ATC school with Sabrina Nacreous.”
“You went to pilot school and ATC school?” George asked, “Were you ever an air-traffic controller?” “No,” she replied, “I dropped out pretty soon. I found the work to be too abstract, and I guess I just stopped caring. Also, after a while every hour spent in Oklahoma City starts to feel like an insult, although I’m not sure I can explain that.” “You know,” said George, now more at ease about his job and background, “the FAA Academy is now fully equipped with Retribution Showers, for students like you who feel that the hours in Oklahoma City are piling up like insults. Sabrina invented them – she’s handy with Time Inventions. You jump in the Shower and hit the switch. The shower literally hurls insults back at the hours already passed right in front of your eyes. They have them in the rec rooms now. You come out of the shower feeling good as new.” “Between you and me,” she whispered, “I think I am the inspiration behind the Retribution Showers. Sabrina watched me drop out of ATC school and realized that she needed to do something, specifically something about the insult of time passing by, not just in Oklahoma City but in general, in life.” “Did she tell you that?” “No, she actually doesn’t speak to me anymore.” “Why?” Beverly shrugged, becoming gloomy, “Sabrina and I used to be close friends. Up until shortly after I stopped being a pilot. It’s hard -26-
to tell why someone suddenly stops liking you for no reason. I figure it must be something about me that I’m not aware of.” “If you like,” he offered, “I can do some investigating for you.” “That is quite all right,” she said, brightening up again, “as much as I love mysteries! I would much rather put my past behind me and focus on the future.” It seemed there was something further that she wanted to tell him, a way she looked at him as though applying, with her ocular powers, a set of measurements. The sun was coming up and the party for Gate B3 would soon have to disperse. “You will call me, won’t you?” she asked, now picking up her bags, “I need to report to my plane.” It was as though she all of a sudden was not counting on seeing him again. This particular attitude, it seemed to George, had nothing to do with a fear of him not desiring and intending to see her again, but with a foreboding, perhaps even a certainty, that something else would get in the way, an unforeseen glitch in travel or communication. Back in the air traffic control room he drank coffee while guiding the morning’s first flights out of the Charlotte skyways. He guided planes in an orderly fashion, and was in a brilliant state of focus. During moments of light air traffic he let himself wonder what might be the reason for Sabrina Nacreous’s disapproval of Beverly Grayson. The red-haired Facility Manager happened to be calling shots for Ted’s -27-
sector, as Ted was out with pneumonia this week, and he periodically glanced over at her as at an exotic vessel of disapproval, while communicating with his cadre of pilots. He thought about her even as he relayed instructions. “Delta 345 expedite left turn maintain thirty-three hundred increase to 210 knots Northwest 324 increase altitude to 4,000 at twofour-niner, United 231, we’ll have to shove you in between Delta and Alaska, but make it quick, increase to 310 knots maintaining 4,000, USAir 324 expedite left turn at zero-eight-seven to avert disaster at your 10 o'clock, my fault about that, just caught it, USAir 324 please confirm that you are still alive? USAir 324 please confirm that you are still alive? Whew, thanks USAir 324, now it seems I’ve just steered you in the wrong dir – USAir 324 Expedite sharp left at zero-twothree!!! Oh holy Jesus!” The whole team stood over him now, eyes glued to the radars, which displayed USAir 324 and Delta 324 virtually on top of one another with Northwest and United Flights headed rapidly toward them, the situation showing potential for an unheard of 4-way mid-air collision. In a deft swoop, Sabrina took hold of George by the collar, applied a light slap to his face, and flung him out of the way after taking his headset. She uttered the following instructions. “Delta 324 how many souls on board?” The reply, barely audible among sounds of chaos, screaming, agony, the bursting of various materials, animate and inanimate, into -28-
flames, came back from a pilot who himself seemed to be in the midst of spontaneously combusting. “One hundred and seventy five souls on board.” Remaining calm, Sabrina continued, “Delta 324, expedite time reversal to 600 seconds, maintaining 4,000 and increasing speed to 800 knots until time reversal is complete, then decelerate to 230 knots and make a left turn at two-four-eight.” The explosion in the sky had been terrible and marvelous, but the sight of its reversal would have been even more amazing had anyone been there to see it. Debris both human and mechanical, already descending from the flaming event of the collision, ascended back to the event. The expanse of flame and smoke collapsed upon itself, windows reformed, soft drinks long spilled on the carpet returned to their cups, tray tables returned to their horizontal positions, gourmet pretzels returned to their packages, and human beings became, once again, human beings with little or no adjustments. There were exceptions however, as no time-reversal operation is ever performed without slight alterations in the previous arrangement of things. But we will not bother ourselves about the minor changes, simple matters of bags changing colors, Pepsi becoming Sprite, married women forgetting their vows, etc. The terrible change, the all-too terrible change, occurred not upon but far below the plane.
“What the fuck just happened?” Jack Reeder shouted the question amidst some drool, “Delta to Air Traffic Control Charlotte, anyone want to tell me what the fuck just happened?” The transmission came through to Sabrina who, as soon as she recognized the voice, cringed. “Jack,” she faltered, “I didn’t realize that we were messing with Delta.” “ ‘Didn’t realize that she was messing with Delta,’” he considered, “because, after all, everybody messes with Delta!” “Jack,” said Sabrina softly, “I know this must be hard for you.” “No, this is not personal. This is hard on Delta, not on me. Not on me!” his voice was choking up. “I thought you were going to change!” Like any other FAA employee, Sabrina had assured Jack Reeder, Delta’s foremost airline dispatcher, that she would try to stop messing with Delta, even that she would try her hardest to stop messing with Delta. It’s just that it was so easy and so enticing to mess with that airline. “She does another fucking time-reversal!” Reeder now in a hysterical falsetto voice, “she’s a magician isn’t she folks?” “Calm down,” Sabrina, more in control of herself, especially by contrast. “Everybody’s got to mess with Delta, don’t they?” he continued, “What is it about Delta? I want to know what it is about Delta.” -30-
Pausing, Sabrina then ventured, “Maybe it’s because they charge $5 for headsets.” “That is admittedly stupid of us,” returned a chastened Reeder, “but . . . all right, I guess you win this one.” With a clean, conciliatory click he disconnected. Hours later they filled out a mountain of paperwork related to the catastrophe and its undoing. The paperwork being routine, and George and Sabrina being the only two working on it in an appropriately sequestered corner of the room, he asked her if she knew a Beverly Grayson. They worked through preliminaries – Sabrina having ascertained that she did know Beverly Grayson – and arrived at a point where he revealed that he found her interesting and mysterious. “Oh, no,” Sabrina shook her head, “not that mysterious. Bev is a tragic character.” “How so?” “I can’t tell you.” “What is she, like, crazy? “There you go. Mystery solved.” “Tell me – how is she crazy?” “Always depressed,” said Sabrina simply. “But . . . aren’t you always depressed?” The comment was valid. Sabrina was a low-spirited woman when she was not in front of the radar screen or ordering people to go -31-
on their break. It was something about the job. You were so hyper aware during your shifts that it sucked all the life out of you. “Sometimes I am happy,” Sabrina challenged in her dejected monotone, and then stopped as in the midst of trying to overcome a too-intimidating scarcity of evidence to support her claim. But then her thought took a different turn: “You know,” she said, “every time I mess with Delta, no matter how fun it is, I lose part of myself, as though my own happiness was on board the exploded aircraft. I may be able to reverse the explosion, but I do so at the expense of my happiness. My happiness never survives the reformation.” She let out a long and involved yawn, and added at its tail-end, “There’s just something about Delta.” “Bev said that you two used to be friends?” he prodded on, stoking Sabrina’s quickly smoldering embers. “Oh!” she gasped, “I don’t want to talk about that.” “Too complicated?” “Yep.” “So you aren’t friends anymore? You aren’t –” “Ahhh!!” she interrupted, not at all intelligibly. “What do you mean?” he asked, now aghast. Her expletive had hit him in a terrible spot . An interesting change, no less terrible to him, had softened Sabrina’s features. She looked frail, resigned, and in a word, frightened. -32-
“I know that you know that I know,” she whispered, unsettling him even more. He cast about for something to say, some further question, some step forward. But every option threatened to backslide and send him reeling back in humiliation. Finally he realized that waiting would be the best, safest option. So he waited for her to continue, in a span of time that was really no more than a few seconds. “. . . that you’re not good enough for her!” she finished. “Not good enough for a depressed, low-self esteem flight attendant who dropped out of ATC school?” he asked. She sensed his proud incredulity and relapsed back into her languid monotone. “It may not make sense,” she said, “but I guarantee, knowing what I know about her: that’s the way she feels about you. It’s how she feels about everyone!” The plane, Delta 324, came into his radar screen and into his headset. The voice was different, a woman’s. “Delta 324 to Charlotte ground control requesting permission to land,” came Bev Greyson’s voice, a voice he somehow recognized. “Delta 324,” he began, “verify visual contact at your two o clock.” “Just give us a runway George,” – she recognized his voice too “I have all traffic in view.” “May I ask what happened to the actual pilot?” he ventured, “you know, the one that’s supposed to be flying this plane?” -33-
“I took over for him after you exploded our plane,” replied Bev. “Fair enough, “ said George coloring (how did she know it had been he?), “well, it’s not as good as serving soft drinks and smiling, is it? You probably miss the passenger experience.” “The truth is,” she replied after what sounded like a sigh, “this is what I’ve always wanted. I was only pretending with the flight attendant job.” His heart sank a bit. What was she then, some kind of phony? Someone so desperate to have people like her that she would pretend to be dedicated to the profession of flight attendant, just for the image? He felt disgusted. Only now did he realize how much hope he had put into Bev Grayson, how strongly he had felt about their connection on the runway. He began to give her directions to the runway farthest away from B3, where they had met, when she interrupted him. “Just a second, George, I have to make a funny comment over the PA, I just had the best idea!” she giddily informed him, and there was a pause that lasted about thirty seconds before she contacted him again. “All right now let’s get this plane landed. This has been the best flight ever! I’ve gotten so many laughs!” “So that’s why you like being a pilot?” he snorted the question. “Just so you can make people laugh?” “No, George, you don’t have it right at all.”
This information did not come from Bev Grayson’s voice, but from Sabrina, who stood behind him. She gestured toward the radar screen and waited for him to give Bev her final landing instructions. When he had guided her safely onto a runway he turned to Sabrina again. She took a seat next to him. Her middle-aged face was worn, with shadows playing over it, highlighted by reflections from the radar blips. “Bev Grayson,” she began, “gave up piloting so she could be closer to the passenger experience. So she could be a flight attendant. At the time I felt sympathy for her. I thought that the move signaled a lack of self-esteem, some personal crisis, depression, whatever you want to call it. Our friendship became very close. I played the supporting role. I took her out to dinner, called her, got her out of her house. I encouraged her to go after the flight attendant calling! All the time I felt sorry for her. Until one night when her real design became clear: she only wanted to be a flight attendant so she could learn enough about human nature – particularly passenger nature – to enable her to return to the cockpit one day with the ability to make funny comments over the PA. The profession of flight attendant was nothing more to her than comedy school. She revealed all of this to me one night when we were both very drunk. She meant well. I had been messing with Delta a lot that day, and was feeling low. She thought that her “revelation” would cheer me up. But it didn’t. It made me think of her as a terrible snob. All this time she had been -35-
taking my pity, feeding off of it, on what turned out to be a false pretense, the pretense that she thought she was “not good enough” to be a pilot. She knew she was good enough, and she knew that being a flight attendant would make her even better, a humorous pilot, which, in the airline industry at least, is the zenith of existence.” Sabrina’s somewhat bitter account was basically true, although perhaps not fair enough to Bev’s motives. George, who was starting to feel he had a mind similar to Bev’s, began to infer the story from Bev’s perspective. Her immersion in the passenger experience side of things had a practical greatness buried underneath its surface.. She would serve soft drinks and demonstrate safety features, as well as her natural personal charms, for as long as it took for the right feeling of mastery to emerge. Then, and only then, would she return to the cockpit, flip on the switch connecting her voice to the passenger cabin, and really begin to entertain. These days in the airline industry a new trend was emerging in piloting, an abusive trend of disrespect and negligence toward one’s passengers, abuse whose only outlet was expression over the PA. Bev had spoken with pilots from this school, pilots who contended that the less you respected your passengers, the less you knew about them, the better you were at entertaining them. This idea had first tempted her when, as flight attendant, she developed a relationship (by necessity a short one) with one of her male passengers, and discovered that as her feelings blossomed for him so too did her anxiety. The entirety of -36-
their courtship occurred during a two-hour delay one night after the passengers had boarded the aircraft, due to a violent storm sweeping through the east coast. The fullness of her connectedness with this particular passenger (remembered only as “19A”) blatantly interfered with the cool detachment required for entertaining. Yes, this had been the point of her experiment all along, to experience before redetaching, to feel anxiety, trepidation, lust, fear, hatred, longing, confusion. But would the build-up of human sympathy ultimately destroy her ability, once back in the cockpit, to deliver? The dread had welled up in her throat as she climaxed with passenger 19A in the lavatory just moments after takeoff. 19A had pinned her against the folding bathroom door that they could not seem to lock all the way, as the light kept flickering on and off with each new door disturbance. Reaching their own private final destination together, pleasure quaking through her body, she smothered herself in 19A’s shoulder and despaired. This tiny alcove of pleasure and impulse was as far from where she wanted to be as was practically possible on board an aircraft. “So it was all a ruse?” he wondered at, marveled at, the performance, after Sabrina had finished her account. “I am afraid so, George,” Sabrina patted him on the shoulder. The room felt unusually clustered, hot, and small. He felt as though he’d been in it for weeks instead of hours, and that Sabrina was sitting too close. There were ten or so other controllers focusing on -37-
their screens and filling the room with their computational murmuring, a series of numbers and turns, and more numbers, like airborne germs threatening to infect him. The sight of their faces – in addition to his fear of the number-germs – disgusted him in a different way, for their lack of beauty, for their coarse familiarity. He knew them too well and wanted someone new and strange to enter the room and give it some fresh air. The distinguished personage who did enter the room was neither new nor strange. He was Tim Gunderson, the Airport Manager, and he had sad news. Just a day after Gate B3’s arrival in the world, another Gate, Gate D8, had passed away. Tonight a funeral would be held out on the runway. “We’ve gotten a priest to come by at 3 am,” Gunderson explained, “I know this is short notice, but I hope you will all be able to make it to this sad event.” D8 had died of negligence and decrepitude, a spontaneous, silent agreement having arisen amongst all airport personnel to make absolutely no use of this tragic point of embarkation. In the days before its death it had become cluttered with the forgotten belongings of airport employees who were now using it as a personal storage space. It had been in observed decline well before anyone had even proposed Gate B3 as a concept, and B3’s opponents had cited the embarrassing failure of D8 as evidence that the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport was experiencing not a shortage, but a surplus of
Gates. On the other hand, B3’s champions were as oblivious to D8 as they were enraptured with B3. Bev was at the funeral, now donning a Delta pilot’s uniform and conversing easily with the other pilots. Even though she was from Delta, no one was messing with her. Any distaste for her too-familiar Charlottean peers was now eclipsed by the solemn event of the funeral. A man from Northwest Airlines, who had some particularly fond memories involving Gate D8, delivered a speech in which anecdotes humorous and aggrieved mingled in a perfectly touching counterpoint. The speech raised questions about the Gate’s soul, whether or not a Gate could have a soul, since it did not possess flesh or brains or express desires. “We revere our Gates,” said the man, “because they do have souls! Gate D8 carried with it the net soul of all passing travelers. We feel its death because parts of ourselves have died along with it. These Gates, here at the Charlotte Douglass International Airport, are sanctuaries! It is our responsibility to guard and respect sanctuaries! Not neglect them. Gate D8 should never have died! We all know it should never have died! We all know . . .” He left off here, trembling with emotion, his composure in need of restoration. Already those proponents of B3 felt an influx of culpability within their hearts, a dim knowledge that B3 had not, strictly speaking, been all that necessary. George felt especially guilty, having passionately believed in B3 while forgetting all about D8, even -39-
â€“ yes, he had to admit this â€“ steering newly arrived planes away from D8 out of a resentment that he could not yet understand, much less explain. It was a callousness he had never even suspected within himself. Bev had been embracing some old college friends and now was looking in his direction. She had taken her hat off, and her dark blonde hair fell luxuriously over her shoulders. Tears lingered in her gray eyes, suspended in their roundness. At this moment of contact he felt that there was no longer a limit to her mystery. Her beauty had burst its chambers, so to speak, quietly, silently, secretly â€“ it would never return, it would never fall back upon itself as all of those Delta explosions had, there being no reversal for this type of expansion, infinitely more subtle, more peaceful, and more painful.
Max Keanu is a long time resident of Hawaii. Max began writing in 2007 after a back injury immobilized him for many months. He is presently working on his third novel and tuning up dozens of short stories and poems for publication. As a professional musician on the classical guitar, Max performed at many hotels, restaurants, concerts, parties and wedding venues. Max has a degree in computer science from the University of Hawaii and is married to a teacher, well known for her ceramic art.
Vampire Miles Todd emerged from Jacques French Restaurant, leaped high over the meter-high white picket perimeter fence, and then slid into the Frenchman's Red Porsche RS Carrera convertible, a fluid slow motion movie trailer come to life. He turned over the ignition, revved the engine to high RPM, and then maneuvered adroitly out of the tight parking space in seconds. To better see his quarry, Bernie jumped up on the hood of a perfectly restored old gold and crimson 1963 Studebaker Avanti, keeping one eye on Miles, one eye out for the police, watching the Porsche speed away up Lahainaluna Road, while looking around in vain for a taxi. Finding a free taxi during this Halloween parade madness would be a real stroke of luck... that damned vampire in a red Porsche... catch that Vampire. He silently swore in exasperation, realizing Miles Todd had once again eluded capture, and time was now of the essence to prevent more murders this Halloween night. His Zorro costume, now soaked with perspiration in the eighty percent humidity and ninety degrees of eveningâ€™s oppressive heat, clung to him like plastic wrap stretched head to toe. Feeling utterly stupid atop the sports car, realizing that his thigh high black leather flamenco tap boots dented the roof almost beyond repair, he jumped from the roof of the classic car to the hood, further damaging the vintage car. He chastised the private investigator within for not avenging Winifred Pornwadee, the victimized beautiful Bangladeshi heiress presumptive that Miles Todd had robbed, abused, violated... -43-
and then he failed to protect her husband, Nattapong Pornwadee. "Hernie Vins! Ernie! Hernie Vins!" Bernie Blevins heard a muffled voice yell from afar. He turned quickly, hand to hat brim, shielding his eyes from the ghastly overhead mercury vapor streetlights, his long silken Zorro cape billowing high mid-turn, his fencing sword's tip audibly scraping a deep ‘C’ into the vintage car’s hood. Again, his high black leather metal-tapped boot heels ground into the car’s custom lacquered and hand polished finish, while his other booted foot stepped on the windshield wiper, snapping it off. The loud voice drew closer and closer, still muffled, a grizzled, gruff voice that seemed to emanate from a big pink-costumed pig sitting shotgun in an old, rusted, fire-engine-red Cadillac convertible. The plumpish, pouting pig waved frantically at Bernie with its cloven hooves, its massive pig's head listing to one side, as if too heavy a burden for the bearer. The gray donkey from the movie Shrek was driving and in the back of the classic Caddy convertible were two women in risqué black fur catsuits, their arms over the other’s shoulders, kissing and licking each other’s kitty made-up faces and erect furry cat ears. "Eats me orass all!" The portly pink pig yelled repeatedly. Bernie had no idea who was yelling at him from within the pig head. All he heard was, "Eats orass all". Bernie figured the boisterous costumed pig-man was swearing at him for standing on and damaging -44-
his Avanti. He jumped from the car’s now dented hood to the still sweltering, soft, mushy asphalt pavement, expecting a confrontation to follow. The man slowly pulled off the pig mask, shook his long black hair back, his drenching sweat flying over the others in the Caddy, smiling insanely at Bernie as if he were a long-lost friend or distant relative. Both of the women in the back immediately sprung forward and began licking the man's face and neck. "Back off pussies!" the bearded man yelled to the corybantic cat women in his heavy Auzzie accent. "Tiffy, your friggin' whiskers went up my nose again. Hey Blevins! Bernie Blevins! I’m Miles Todd’s neighbor, remember me? It’s me Horace Hall? It’s Horace Hall! I caught you trespassing on my property, remember? Nearly shot you dead. Was wondering what happened to you? I was keeping an eye on Miles for you until I was friggin’ arrested. That bastard Miles alleged I molested my three daughters, my own daughters! Showed my wife some faked up Photo-shopped pics. She kicked me out of the house, unleashed her feral lawyer on me with a restraining order. I'd like to kill that son of a bitch Miles. Have you seen him?" "Seen him! “ Bernie replied, wondering what else could possibly go wrong this hallowed eve. The last man on earth he wanted to encounter was ex- paparazzi and boorish leech extraordinaire, Horace Hall. “I was just chasing him down the street trying to apprehend him. He turned, up at the intersection, headed towards the north of the island, towards Honokowai. He's a wanted man — murder, robbery, -45-
among other changes — stolen diamonds worth hundreds of millions of dollars on him, has The Thatcher Head in his possession. As we speak he is zeroing in to commit a murder, and then afterwards escape to the South Seas in Roger McCray’s stolen yacht." "Eh Zorro, did you whistle for your horse, eh Zorro, eh?” One of the cat women said in Canadian. "I think she means, where’s your car, Zorro?” Horace said, now fighting the clamoring Canadian cat-women from climbing and clawing their way into the front seat in aggressive, anxious, and amorous licking and pawing kitty-play. “Eh Zorro, tell me, what was Zorro’s horsey’s name, eh?” One of the inebriated Canadian pussies asked. "Hop in, man, we’ll go a-huntin’ for Miles, capture that mongrel bastard, destroy that malignant soul of his. We'll help you track down that charlatan; beat the crapola out of that limy bastard, right Donkey? Hang, draw and quarter the brigand Miles Todd! I’ll get the scoop; I’ll get the pics! Inquiring minds must know about this mountebank!" Horace exclaimed in drunken exuberance, mistakenly putting the pig's head front to back, then mumbling, "Levins ere pays god ney. In at ight Ernie? "Oh, we love piggy. Yes we do! Piggy, piggy. Oink! Oink!" The Canadian girls sang in unison, as they rolled back, enmeshed in each other’s furry arms, into the plush cream-colored leather back seat, shrieking with loud hysterical laughter, obviously drunk out of their -46-
minds, yelling repeatedly in singsong verse, “What was Zorro’s horsey’s name, eh?” "Okay gents, ladies; help me run down Miles. My employer’s offering a ten-thousand dollar reward for his arrest, conviction and the return of The Thatcher Head. A quick hundred bucks if you help me out now," Bernie said, cautious of the two cats in the backseat laughing, scratching at each other, licking each other’s faces and continually pawing at both of the men in the front seat. Bernie carefully maneuvered into the backseat of the convertible, while the cat women cozied, plucked at his Zorro mask with their ferocious little fake fangs, licked both sides of his sunburned, sweaty face, while fiddling and diddling with his “Z” embroidered white silk ascot. Bottles of Absinth, Absolute Vodka and Bushmill’s Whiskey littered the backseat and floor of the Caddy, while a joint (a real bomber) wafted up thick gray, swirling and pungent smoke from one of the pussy’s paws. The gregarious grimalkins continued bellowing out, “What was Zorro’s horsey’s name, eh?” in accentuated beatnik kittycant, West Side Storyian dance moves and pizzicato finger snapping. "Wha, wha... What's he driving?" the stuttering driving donkey asked Blevins. "Porsche Carrera, red convertible," Bernie said, fighting off renewed and mockingly ferocious advances from the drunken, full moon possessed and purring pussies. "Fa, fa... Fucking great! A 1971 Caddy on its la, la... Last legs -47-
trying to run down a Porsche, you got to be sh, sh... Shitting me," Donkey said, in sputtering, spitting exasperation. Beneath the black mask, Bernie’s eyes bugged out in bewilderment, "No! No donkey, the other way, goes the other way, turn left! You turned the wrong way donkey! Miles went north, towards Ka'anapali. He’s going to the Kahuna Condos past Ka'anapali, he fully intends to murder the famous movie producer, Sennett McCray," Bernie yelled, as the donkey, who now, with hoof to the metal, powered the gunboat Caddy around the throngs of costumed Halloween pedestrian traffic towards the old Pioneer Sugar Mill. “Ool it, ooro!" Horace said, from under the pig’s head. “Cool it, Zorro," Horace repeated, lifting the pig head. As soon as he lifted the pig head, the cat women lunged at him again, oscillating tongues out, claws ready, eager to lick and lovingly gnaw at him. The pig head fell back on his head as he fought them off, while both pussies yelled, “But we love you piggy!” "Hain't hunny heeny hore heila... Ain’t funny anymore Sheila," Horace repeated, again lifting the mask, then physically pushed the two she-cats back on Bernie, commanding,” Sit, pussies!" Pussy Sheila sat back smiling, crazed drunk, wide-eyed stoned, unscrewed a fresh bottle of chilled vodka from a cooler, took a long swig, purred loudly, her long red sensuous tongue fluttering wildly, while emitting a high pitched wail; her siren scream. She put the bottle to her girlfriend's mouth, held it vertical, poured a grand cascade of -48-
clear liquid, spilling most as the other pussy guzzled ravenously, gurgling with laughter, bubbling up her abandoned joy of life and then licking her vodka-foamed, red-painted lips, long glued on whiskers and moist paws in drunken long-tongued delight. "Yeah, we're going the right way, mate. I see what you’re doing donkey. Good goddamned idea, for a dumb jackass! Head 'em off at the friggin' pass, hooray for you donkey!" Horace the piggy yelled over the screaming, shrieking, laughing, wailing pussies and over the sounds of the approaching ear-splitting, horn-blowing convoy of five, thirty-ton sugar cane haulers coming directly at them from the opposite direction an approaching sugary sirocco of annihilation. "Holy shit on a collision course! Good friggin’ defensive driving, buddy! Donkey, my man, a.k.a., Jungle Jimmy Johansson, ah, Bernie J.J.J. here, ‘he knows Lahaina like the back of my paw', hoof, what is a friggin’ pig’s foot called anyway? Don't worry, Bernie, mate, we’re going the wrong way to the left, which is right, right? To end up going to the right, which would be another right, right Jimmy?" Horace said, assuring Bernie with a smiling wink and a nod as they sped by the behemoth rigs, inches from the massive tractor-trailers, plunging blind through thick swirling clouds of fine red volcanic dust and sickening-sweet molasses smell. "Right on, righty-righty, mate. Soon the, the... Cane road runs pa, pa... Parallel to the main high wa, wa... Way up above on the cin, cin... Cinder cone volcano. We ca, ca... Can make time twice as fast when -49-
tra, tra... Traffic is baa, baa, bad... Bad like now." Jungle Jimmy said, words jerking forth, consonants stumbling awkwardly as he maneuvered his maladroit mouth and the monstrous Caddy along the worn dusty cane field roads, through the decrepit old sugar cane processing plant, to finally emerge free and clear on a straightrunning, improved but potholed, weathered and worn private one-way cane road. Bernie now had a view of the highway skirting the West Maui coastline highway below and hopefully of the relentless, costumed vampire Miles Todd, out for his final revenge, to vent the tainted blood, on a schlock movie producer’s shallow soul. “This is really exciting for me Zorro, honey-bun. A real masked man, with a British accent ta boot, eh. Clad in shiny kinky black leather vest, eh, a fancy-dancy long whippy-whip, glistening sheathed sword, wickedly high Argentine leather boots, facing cane haulers on a one-way road, going friggin’ a hundred miles an hour, with crazy spazmo Donkey Jimmy drivin’. Makes me so hot Zorro, so horny for you, Zorro, baby," Pussy Sheila confessed to Bernie, an inch from his face, her furry paw (complete with claws) kneading and needing his crotch. She was in a deep purr, pheromones energized top and bottom, aggressively resuming her femme-feline lick-fest, smothering Bernie with kisses, rough licks from distended, lingering-long tongue, her probing fickle-tickle whiskers titillating and igniting burning, desiring Bernie beyond measure. She let out a loud, tongue-fluttering holler, one of those distinct wailing, warbling, woops – one of those patriotic -50-
ejaculations that Arab women let loose at barbaric group stoning of infidels, adulteress’ or other Islamic nan-com-poops. A truly deafening howl left Bernie’s chewed ear ringing. Jungle Jimmy took the cane road with total abandon, hooting, neighing and slapping the outside of the Caddy door with both of his plastic furry hooves, nearly tipping the humongous boat-like caddy more than once, driving hard and deep into the dusty, mucky, muddy turns like a prohibition bootlegger out-running and out-gunning an imaginary Johnny Law. In the Caddy’s backseat Zorro and the pussies got tossed about, back and forth, thrown side to side as the pursuit went on mile after mile along the dangerous dirt road. Horace nearly fell over the side as he persisted in standing, yelling commands to the donkey, inebriated beyond hope, clapping his hooves together, spurring donkey on, a commanding Animal Farm tyrant, a General Napoleon, pigheadedly prodding donkey on in his rootin’ tootin’, nasally Australian accent. The full moon popped through the clouds to create one of those rare nights in Hawaii when the moonlight is almost as bright as daylight. Colors become almost discernible, a thousand varied shades of gray existed; one could almost read a book, or a Bible, or a witches’ tome of maleficium by the light of the Halloween moon’s seductive brightness. Overhead, gigantic white-reflecting cumulus clouds floated in the pacified trade winds, forming, reforming repeatedly in the rays of -51-
tonight’s magnificent moonlight. The moon behind the accumulating clouds illuminating fleeting hide-and-seek fanciful cloud dragons, darkness silhouetted breathing animal forms and fluffed-up billowy monsters on this once a year batophobic, Gorgonian night. The donkey jammed on the brakes, turned the steering wheel hard left, spinning the car so it was traveling laterally, slipping sideways, tipping, tipping, almost tipping over completely, righting itself to a dead stop. The heavy boat of a car slammed into a single metal cable strung across the road. The cable snapped with a twanging sound, a boinging whiplash ripped the night air, the right side of the caddy taking the brunt of the cable whipping, leaving a nasty carlength gash on the right side. A large red STOP sign landed with a cutting crash on the windshield, shattering it completely, leaving a sharp-toothed windshield hanging halfway into the front seat of the car. “Didn’t see it." Jungle Jimmy yelled, breathing hard, stutter gone. "It’s this fucking donkey mask. Faken Donkeeeeee!" Jimmy yelled a drunken donkey roar, tearing off the donkey head, flinging it into the back seat. One of the pussies put it on, dry humping Bernie’s leg mercilessly, tongue a flutter, eyes wild through the openings of the donkey mask. Big Jungle Jimmy bolted out of the car, his long donkey tail dragging in the thick red lava mud, screaming, “My sweet fucking Caddy. My darling sweetheart. She ain't insured. Jesus Christ on a -52-
shit-stick,” he cried, slowly appraising the damage, sinking to his knees, crying out a string of perfectly enunciated swear words and well-articulated slobbering sobs. “Stop sign Jimmy. You should ‘a seen it." Sheila said, master of the obvious. "You should ‘a stopped. Jimmy stops stuttering when he gets really mad, Zorro." "Jimmy, get in, cool down. Get this tank moving again. I'll pay damages. The damage's done, the cable is down. Move on! Hop to it. Miles Todd, I need to stop him from murdering a man! It’s a matter of life and death. Here’s five hundred dollars," Bernie said, realizing the Caddy and this crew of derelict exiled Auzzie islanders was his only chance to catch Miles now. He tried to give Jimmy five hundred dollar bills, but Horace snatched it with lightning-fast piggy paws. “We'll help Blevins, Jimmy. I’ll hold the money. Get back into this heap of crap Caddy and drive Jimmy. Drive!" Horace dictated, standing up again in the front seat of the Caddy, assuming command and tucking the bills away in a secret pocket of his pudgy pink pig suit. Horace tore at the broken windshield (as Donkey fired up the V-8 Caddy), tore at it until it loosened completely, snapping sharp metal resounding, spinning the broken out windshield frame around three times, letting it fly off into the tall sugar cane grass. "Whoo-hoo! Now, drive Jimmy, drive! Drive Jimmy, drive!" Horace yelled. “Drive Jimmy, drive! Drive Jimmy, drive!” the two cat women -53-
sang repeatedly to the tune of Lou Reed’s version of Ride Sally Ride. "Drive Jimmy, drive! Drive Jimmy, ride! It's not your time, you'll get a contusion, ooohhh, isn't it nice, when you find your heart is made out of ice, Jimmy, I guess you’ll need spice, to speed up this Caddy device, oh, daddy! Drive Jimmy, drive,” they bellowed at the top of their voices, rocking and rolling, slamming back and forth, banging Bernie about like two slaphappy linebackers on a winnin’ streak. Jimmy put the gas-guzzler in drive, pounded down on the gas pedal, the Caddy responding with a gravity defying thrust forward, once again in hot pursuit of the bastard blond vampire in the red Porsche. “Of course you know mate, if they strung a cable across one part of the cane road... then somewhere up near the Sugar Cane Train station... well, they’ve probably got another one strung across the road," Horace warned Bernie, slurring his words, grappling with what sounded to him like an astonishing train of thought, his eyes possessing that look of asinine drunken revelation garnered from the less than profound depth from the mind of a simpleton. “We’ll deal with that problem when we come to it. The traffic below is barely moving because of the Fright Night in Lahaina carnival and the drunk driver road blocks," Bernie told him, while formulating his next move. He knew Miles was going to the Kahuna condominium to murder Sennett McCray in cold blood, thereby destroying every iota of evidence linking him to The Thatcher Head, in short, getting away -54-
with multiple murders and a multimillion dollar diamond heist. Then Bernie saw appear as if by magic, a curved streak of gradient awesomeness, a white to black rainbow that appeared, as if conjured by Merlin or Maui the demigod himself, an other-worldly phantasm in the sky above the two distant neighbor islands of Molokai and Lanai. Within the twenty-mile arc of the moonbow’s display was an angry sea, white-capped foaming wind line, a sudden stormy turbulence running for miles on a distinct and moonlit horizon rip tide. Dozens of yachts, pleasure boats and dinner cruise boats now tossed about in the approaching mini-tempest and turbulent cloudburst off the north end of the Lahaina Roadstead. “Fierce storm approaching. The reason the traffic’s moving so slow is that friggin’, totally awesome, incredibly bitchin', mega-licious moonbow. Every tourist on Maui is stopping, slowing traffic to get a photo of that moonbow. Man, in all my years living here... that is the most spectacular thing I've ever seen. A night rainbow over the Pacific Ocean, makes you almost cry seein’ something that. It’s like God made that moonbow especially for Halloween," Horace said, enraptured, his eyes filled with emotions and tears, glazed over, transfixed on the ephemeral, on the once-in-a-lifetime white rainbow phenomenon. “It’s like God made that moonbow especially for Halloween,” Horace repeated. Jimmy slowed the Caddy, also in awe, eyes akimbo, starring at the magnificent moonbow, mouth agog, drooling; a penitent soul, -55-
humbled by Mother Nature, repeatedly saying short prayers to the patron saint of donkeys, whoever he or she might be. "Tha, tha... That would imply that gaw, gaw... God believed in Halloween," Donkey said. "Shut the fuck up, donkey," Horace shouted into the mysteriously bright night. He stood erect on the front seat, bracing himself forward on the broken out windshield frame. "Of course God believes in Halloween. Halloween is the devil’s night, so if the devil exists on one night of the year, god exists on every other night. " “And day too. And forever and ever and, and a zil, zil ... Zillion years more!” Donkey added. “Gentlemen, the devil is but a fallen archangel, but more importantly, Miles is getting away... can we....” Bernie said, slipping Horace another hundred dollar bill. “Drive Jimmy, drive!” Horace shouted as the choir of fluffy furred drunks renewed their boisterous singing, “Drive Jimmy, drive! Drive Jimmy, drive!” Bernie could not believe his ears, his eyes. He had the a strange revelation that he had died and gone to an Australian-Canadian version of a hell on earth, a down-under Twilight Zone episode gone terribly wrong, a mind-warping teleportation to the existential tundra of Alabama, a bit player of Dukes of Hazard’s theatre in the round. Before him, he saw his life as but a stage, with an ontological argument in bantering stupidity between a drunk and totally out of his -56-
mind Auzzie man dressed as a pig, arguing with a stuttering fool Auzzie dressed as a donkey. Both now standing up in the speeding Caddy, butts perched precariously against the plush old leather seat, shouting epistemological snippets concerning God's existence, the shock-absorber-less boat of a Caddy bouncing, buffeting that hard road, going eighty-hundred miles an hour towards this Sabbatâ€™s oblivion, while chasing a mass murdering devil vampire, an infamous jewel thief, for a fabricated ten thousand dollar reward. But even stranger still, far more surreal than Bernie thought possible... on the right side of the cane haul road, chugging towards them in the opposite direction he heard the tintinnabulations of the approaching Sugar Cane Train. Whoo - Whoo! Hoards of anachronistic and mysteriously Halloween-costumed Oriental tourists hung out the open sides of the festive red and green railroad cars, all clicking their cameras, all plastered with holiday bliss smiles and spirits on their faces, all waving robot-like in group happiness conformity. They sang along with a onearmed hook-handed Hawaiian pirate in a peacock featheredfestooned Caribbean three-cornered cap, a pirated amalgam: Hawaiian, yodeler, singer-out-of-key, his false hooked hand, happily strumming away on a scratched up ukulele, his yodeling nobility projected on large screens in each of the railroad car. Meanwhile, not far below on the snarled highway, the coked out, crazed blond Vampire, the real lunatic in a stolen Porsche, forged -57-
ahead with his diabolical plans of murder, mischief and mayhem. Returning to the reality of the moment, the twin pussies next to Bernie bellowed louder and rocked to their own version of Drive, Jimmy Drive, joined now by an out of key, animated and atrocious, two partharmony of pig and donkey. Bernie laughed, resigned to his destined fate, then joined in, “All you want to do is ride around, Drive Jimmy Drive; All you want to do is drive around, Drive, Jimmy, drive. One of these early mornings, I'm gonna be wiping your weeping eyes." He sang, his unmusical voice a quacking rasp, wondering if he had somehow slipped between the cracks in this Dantesque tropical paradise on earth. To be condemned by fate to an iterating limbo of idiocy? On the other hand, perhaps he was actually dead, doomed to the hell of no possible escape, in the devil’s Caddy of no return... with a gaggle of exiled costumed misfits from the former British Empire to keep him company for eternity? Crazed Kitty Kat Tiffy, head buried deep in Bernie’s lap, fumbling with, but successfully unzipping Bernie’s fly, mumbled, “I think I remember Zorro’s horsey’s name!” “There’s the red Porsche." Bernie shouted, ignoring Tiffy as best he could, concentrating on the matter at hand, feeling his private eye persona, the private dick in him rise again. Below on the overcrowded highway the red Porsche sat idling, an impatient and raving, coked out Miles Todd fumed, insistently honking his horn along with the rest of the born, bred, and annoyed -58-
population of local folks for whom paradise was just a daily commute. The tourist cars moved at a snail’s pace after the magnificent moonbow deteriorated into a treacherous, gigantic mid-channel squall. Miles’s long blond hair had escaped his demonic headdress and was flying in every possible direction in the trade winds. He waved his fists high in the air, shouting at the drivers behind him, beside him and in front of him, a mad malevolent murderous mime, mimicking Mephistopheles. Bernie could only hope that Miles, The Thatcher Head, the thousands of precious diamonds, and of course, the key to it all; that old 1941 Patek Philippe wristwatch, would not escape him again with Miles this close, nearly in his grasp. “Maybe I should run down there and jump in his car." Horace said. “Punch that bugger in the kisser. I see the headline now: Unknown pink pig pugilist punches vampire punk in the kisser, and then runs away really, really fast. Hey, I’m no journalist. He’d learn his lesson. Nothin’ worse than a scum bag like Miles talking behind your back, telling brazen lies to steal your wife away and tryin’ to ruin a perfectly good marriage." “Miles is guilty of much worse Porky; he’s wanted for some vicious, heinous murders,” Bernie added, oddly smiling while saying this, brushing Tiff’s furry, erect and seemingly excited kitty ears. “You mean he really is a vampire?” Sheila asked, coming up for air, her whiskers drooping heavily with saliva and lust. “Hit the brakes! Donkey! Hit the brakes, cable up ahead!" Horace -59-
shouted. The donkey applied the brakes full force, again swerving on the dirt road, but this time stopping only inches from the cable. Horace flew out of the Caddy, over the broken windshield frame, over the hood, tumbling head over heels into the tall cane grass, finally coming to a stop, a soppy wet pink pig, supine in a muddy irrigation ditch. “You almost bought me a new car Zorro," the donkey yelled. "You’re definitely going to be paying some hospital bills for Horace, masked man." “Gees, Zorro, I could have bitten off your little horsey right off, stopping like that,” Tiffy mumbled. “If you’re going to catch the evil Miles, now’s your chance, Zorro. And don't forget what you owe us." Horace shouted from the ditch. “Ten thousand big ones, split four ways! That’s three thousand each, masked man.” “Here’s the address where I ‘m staying." Bernie wrote the address down, tossed it and his business card at the donkey with two more hundred dollar bills. "That should see you until I can get back to you. Meet me later tonight at Don Ho’s Mexican Cantina.” “Here you're gon, gon... Gonna need this." Jimmy said, tossing Bernie a flashlight. "I want that ba, ba... Back Zorro." The cat women walked an unnerved, limping Horace back to the idling Caddy. His pink pig now costume covered in thick red mud, his screwy curlicue tail now soaked, unfurled and dragging low, and the -60-
pig head lost forever to the flowing water to the maze of sugar cane irrigation ditches. Cued up hoards of Chinese and Japanese tourist, waiting to board the Sugar Cane Train nearby, saw the Caddy come roaring and abrupt stop in a cloud of red lava dirt dust. Their ever-ready cameras snapping away at what many thought a Hollywood action scene enacted by oddly dressed Manga cartoon characters and being filmed by an invisible film crew. "Sueeeee. I smell bad! Get the Sham Wow! Looks like I was wallowing in pig shit, but that was one da kine ride, Jungle Jimmy dude, one hell of a chase!" Horace exclaimed, watching Bernie descend the gravelly lava-rock cinder cone volcano, slipping, sliding and ripping his Zorro suit to shreds on the Lantana and Kiawe bushes. Finally, on the busy road, with fencing sword drawn, Bernie fenced off, foiled with, and leapt over car after car on the Honoapilini Highway, as he closed in on an unsuspecting Miles Todd and the stolen red Porsche. Unfortunately, after a heroic and gallant leap on the back of the Porsche, Miles recognized his cloaked and masked foe and then accelerated like a bat out of hell. Bernie tumbled back, his long black silk cloak snagging the sports car’s back bumper, dragging him, ass down, sparks flying from the metal-tapped boots, last seen going towards the high cliffs above Kapalua. “Zorro’s horses name was Tornado. Now I remember! I -61-
remember! Zorro’s horse’s name was Tornado.” Pussy Sheila yelled out, stunned by her Orphic revelation. “No, it was Phantom,” Pussy Tiffy countered, passionately. “Tornado!" “Phantom!” “Tornado!” “Phantom!” When the cat-fight broke out, the milling Chinese and Japanese tourist swarmed around them in droves, cheering one pussy or the other on, the knowledgeable placing small bets, others baiting the action by throwing money and jeering to fan the flames of the provoked pussies. However, most watching were now thoroughly convinced America was still one big staged, salable and silly reality TV show.
Mike Sauve has written non-fiction for The National Post, The Toronto International Film Festival Group, Exclaim Magazine and other publications. His online fiction has appeared everywhere from Feathertale, Frost Writing, and Rivets to university journals of moderate renown. Stories have also appeared in print in M-Brane, Black and White Journal, Palimpsest 2010, and elsewhere.
The Contagious Relief -64-
When the local baseball team’s pitching staff struck out nine on a Friday night, everyone got free pizza at participating retailers. Most retailers were loathe to participate. I found the pizza in question unpalatable, but was collecting mine as a matter of principal. Otherwise, the indignity of all those fools desecrating the old ball game with their insipid pizza-cheering was more than I could stand. My roommate Jack set out with me to procure this pizza, but we decided he’d wait in the dog park so Sally could get some exercise. It’s great having a gay roommate. It provides credibility with the endlessly striving hipster girls. I was not that masculine and couldn’t win at that game. I didn’t know a workout routine. If I was by chance in some hotel gym I would just idiotically lift a dumb-bell like it was 1940 or something. I might as well have been tossing a medicine ball with Jack Lalane. Better to tell girls, “I’m not concerned with fulfilling gender roles or afflicted with the homophobic mania affecting most of the straight males you know. I care not for their pretension to the masculine.” Combined with a healthy appetite for women, this confluence of factors acts as a vortex of fauxhomosexual appeal. The women feel somehow gay and once removed. They had to heat the pizza for 30 seconds. The functionary insisted it was the law. I promised to heat it at home, but my word was worth nothing to them. I slunk out of the place feeling defeated and saw Jack walking up the street with the dog. “What if I’d jumped on the streetcar?” I scolded. “I would have missed you, so what? She was trying to get out. She missed you. Plus there were some weird people in there.” -65-
“There are weird people everywhere. Look.” The street life was lively. There was a balmy breeze, a wild colour to the sky — the 6:58 time. A big-boned “tough-mama” was chatting up a crummy old white businessman. Her shorts were scandalously high. I wondered about the common ground. The conversation appeared to hold some meaning for both parties. An offensive homeless jerk who always requests “two dollars for cigarettes” — imagine, two dollars! — was on the curb with some longboarders in expensive urban fashions who were bro-hugging him. “Those boys are really slumming huh?”said Jack as we entered the park. I lifted the heavy iron gate and took stock of the fenced-in dog park’s occupants. Two of the four people were creepy, subnormal adults; the other two were teenagers wearing matching green. They all seemed giddy with perhaps familial love. Jack followed as I walked briskly to the lone bench. I might talk to a good looking person in the dog park if I’m in the right mood, but most of the time it’s best to stick to yourself. The chatter is always inane: what kind is it, how old, stupid comments about dog behaviour. Talk to someone once to be polite and you become their bosom buddy till the eschatological endtime. People are so desperate for human contact; they need to cultivate more significant pursuits in life, stop watching so many commercials, someone should tell them. “What kind is it?” the man yelled with a lot of bass in his voice, “Jack Russel mix?” a breed that bares not even a minor resemblance to Sally. -66-
“No,” I said too severely, and named the actual breed of Affen Pinscher. I have to repeat this every single time someone asks. These inquirers could not process the sounds. “Half a pincher?” “An Afghan Pinscher?” I hated them. I hated repeating myself. I can never modulate my voice properly; it’s either inaudible mumbling or vicious yelling. Speak too low and it fills people with anger. “What?” they demand. They see it as an indictment of their hearing. There is a deficit of sympathy for a lowtalking man. Speak too loud and you are seen as a dangerous freak. “What?” he yelled back. “Affen Pinscher!!” We sat and tried to ignore the people as they guffawed over our dog’s cute face. The green teens were both male. One was obese and effeminate with a tight pony tail like Lorenzo Lamas. The other was strapping, closing in on 200 pounds, looking every bit the high school athlete, yet with a loser-quality that suggested he wasn’t cut from the right psychological cloth for any varsity squad. He came close and looked into my eyes with an intensity that made me uncomfortable. Maybe the man was his father and my harsh response was an affront on their collective honour. A stern look is ever-present in my eyes, so I kept it there and glared right back. The more effeminate boy rifled questions regarding the dog’s breed and age at us. I let old effervescent Jack field these because it would be impossible for the contempt not to register in my voice. For reasons known only to him, the landscape architect had adorned the otherwise elegant fenced-in area with two Day-Glo green nine-foot dog -67-
statues. The taller Adonis-boy started climbing one of the statues clumsily. “What is this, retard night?” I asked Jack under my breath. “Don’t be so mean,” he said. “It’s funny.” The boy straddled the dog statue in a suggestive manner, “Look I’m riding the dog!” He wanted our attention, but I would not look in his direction. Somehow he balanced near the top of the statue where it was all round-edges. He looked like Jimmy Superfly Snuka. His head was at least 15 feet from the ground. He jumped several feet through the air, and landed into an army roll right in front of us, spraying a gritty cloud of dust into my eyes. Jack cringed as his pristine Dolce and Gabana t-shirt was sullied irreparably. The boy strutted away, turned, and then said real innocent, “Aww, I’m sorry. Did that freak you out a little bit?” I didn’t like the last part, a little bit. It was patronizing. “No it’s fine,” I said like an exasperated elementary school teacher at the end of his rope. The boy walked off. The fat little queen looked embarrassed. The older woman approached. She vomited up the same saccharine affections. She directed her many questions to the dog, who doesn’t speak English, so we were forced to answer. “Oh thank you, thank you,” she responded. The athletic boy hopped the fence into the big dog section, stirring up another massive dust cloud. A dog park crowd is mostly brittle old people, elegant queers, and haughty girls. None of these demographics were impressed by these manic acts. The older woman made a weak attempt to chastise the boy and then went back to complimenting Sally’s expressive -68-
face. Sally likes anyone so she lapped up the affection. I looked to the exit and heard Jack’s voice in my head telepathically, a disturbing first in our relationship. We got up to leave and the woman grabbed Jack by the arm, “It’s such a sweet dog!” she had tears in her eyes. “Yes, we love her,” he said, trying to inject some normalcy. “Awwwww, are you leaving?” implored the fat kid. I noticed a purplish hue to the west. There was a small fire in the distance. There had been a lot of fires and explosions recently. A waffle house just last month, a bike store before that... criminal activity wasn’t suspected. I took a deep breath and felt a tingle in my chest. It felt good to be away from the freaks. We walked around the greenhouse and there was The Black Buddhist. It may be kind of racist to call him this, but he is black as night, and The Black Buddhist has a slick alliterative quality I’ve always liked, as well as a fitting iconic prestige. This guy is a real Zen master, just sits meditating or doing his tai-chi, never too up or down, always on the same even-keel. I always look forward to seeing The Black Buddhist’s shiny bald head. It makes me feel like part of some wisdom network. I was glad not to be at some big box store or overpriced sports bar. I liked the Listerine drunks, predictably happy in morning, scared and desperate by night. I liked the occasional anger of the crack buyers, the long-con of the panhandlers, the gorgeous girls who came and went. Once a gorgeous girl wore a shirt that said, “Love for sale, $1000” and all the old junkies thought maybe it was for real. “But why here in our park?” they wondered. I looked again at the purple sky and felt real sentimental, a word I typically use pejoratively. -69-
“Something’s going down now, Jack,” said The Black Buddhist. We had passed this guy at least 500 times and he always bowed down in his Zen peacefulness, but had never said a word until then. I didn’t think he was addressing Jack by name; he was using “Jack” like you’d say, “pal,” or “man.” “What’s that?” “Look,” he pointed to the easternmost section of the large park, where a drunkard and a twitchy old addict were making jubilant, clumsy romance. “Good Lord almighty,” I said. “Can I give you a hug?” The Black Buddhist asked. Jack looked concerned and we started to walk towards our apartment. The Black Buddhist jogged up to us... “Please, we’ve seen each other every day for years and never said one word, it’s time to connect!” “I think I’m good for the time being,” Jack said with his perfect sarcastic grace. A few benches down we saw two familiar bums, always drunk and bellowing by this time of night. Now they looked adoring like Greek philosophers stroking each other’s scraggy old beards. “What the fuck’s going on?” Jack asked. I shrugged. There were two rats in a large cylindrical garbage can, scurrying back and forth. No matter how dexterous their awful fingers, they could not escape. I considered the horror of them being dumped into the trash compactor, all their little bones smashed up. I could have just reached in and helped them out. Surely, someone would do this if a dog were trapped in a garbage can — oh sentient rat, to be crushed because I -70-
wouldn’t lift you. “Should we lift those rats out of that can?” I asked Jack. “No, we should not. That’s really stupid.” “I don’t know let’s get back to the apartment, eat this mothershittin’ pizza.” He laughed. Back in our apartment I cut the slice down the middle and switched on the news. Another explosion—an entire block up in smoke including some pharmaceutical labs at the university, a Shopper’s Drug Mart, and an underground drum and bass club. I felt that rush of exhilaration in my chest again. “I’m so happy we got this pizza. I mean, think of all the free things you can get if you just try.” I felt an intense affection for Jack. I wrapped my arms around him in a warm hug. We’d lived together for years without any line-crossing affection, but now that seemed so dumb. He looked at me with a cocked eyebrow. “What are you doing?” he said, laughing uncomfortably and standing. Every day around 7:20 pm the sun filters through a series of high-rise buildings, creating a blinding laser that shines in hazardously.. “Fuck, sun laser!” Jack said, laughing as the sun laser scorched his retina. I shielded my eyes from the sun laser. All the hug-based tension had disappeared. “Obviously this is weird. I just feel like I want the contact.... maybe the Buddhist guy was onto something. I mean why shouldn’t we be able to hug each other?” “What’s going on,” Jack said, moving away from me. “I’m starting to -71-
feel really good too...” By the next morning complex patterns had emerged. The same images from the past, manifested through new modes of seeing. Every old perception came to me, and became extinct while I was dreaming. It had been an important dream involving all old friends, enemies, hatreds and joys. I felt like a new man. The dog stood on the radiator, barking out the window at the purple-green morning sky. There was an empty-armed confusion once I got my bearings — Jack already out the door, all the blankets on the floor. The carpet was stained with last night’s stale beer (mine) and premium vodka (Jack’s), stinking like something had happened.
Published on Apr 4, 2011