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Embodied Effigies, a creative nonfiction literary magazine, publishes truth in all forms. The magazine proudly gathers work from around the world, thanks to the curiosity, interest, and sharing of our contributors. Information regarding future issues, submission guidelines, and featured writing of Embodied Effigies can be found at: http://effigiesmag.com Please email us with any questions or comments at: embodied.effigies@gmail.com

Copyright Š 2014 Embodied Effigies, John Carter, and Catherine Roberts. All rights revert to author after publication. The views and opinions expressed by authors featured in Embodied Effigies do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the editors. Publication of Embodied Effigies is made possible by the out-of-pocket, not-our-day-job workings of John Carter and Catherine Roberts. We would also like to extend our unending thanks to everyone who made this issue possible: our contributors, our advisors, our families, our friends—Thank you.


Embodied Effigies Masthead Managing Co-Editors John Carter Catherine Roberts

John Car

John Carter is a 2013 graduate of Ball State University, where he earned

his B.A. in English: Creative Writing. Native to the cornfields of East-Central Indiana, his work focuses on matters of family, farming, and the issues of Place that surround them. His most recent chapbook, At the Edge of the Fence, was completed in 2013, and his work can also be found in Volumes One and Two of The Ball State Writers’ Community Chapbook Series. A more extensive list of his writing blood, sweat, and tears can be found on his website—jekcarter.com

Catherine

Catherine Roberts holds a BA in English: Creative Writing from Ball

State University and is currently pursuing her MFA degree in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Ashland University. She works part-time in her hometown’s library and balances family, school, and writing during the rest of the day. Her work has appeared in The Prompt. Her current projects include continuing work with form and experimentation as well as a renewed focus on language and detail.


Table of C Table of Contents

Five Short Talks on Booksellers

01

Moneta Goldsmith

Not Your Grandpappy’s War Story

13

Torri Mallery

Battle of Wits

25

Claudia Geagan

Murder at Home

35

Sleep

39

William Pomeroy

William Alton


Goldsmith

November 2013


Five Short Talks on Booksellers Moneta Goldsmith

I. Anonymous asks: what is your opinion of booksellers? The earliest Assassins belonged to a small tribe descended from a region on the outskirts of ancient Phoenicia. Their central doctrine seems to have held that in order to gain entry to Paradise, a member of this tribe had to murder someone from a religion outside his own. The greater the distance of this assassination, the greater the glory in this world and the next. It is in this way, Montaigne tells us, that Count Raymond of Tripoli was brutally killed with a butter knife in the center of town while waiting in line for a cannoli. Of course, traces of these practices can still be found today. I am told, for instance, there is a bookshop in the center of Scotland with a volume that contains nothing but blank pages; and if a reader opens this volume to one of its pages at exactly three o’clock in the afternoon, he will die. There are more obvious examples as well. Why else would so many spiders build cobwebs so close to hornet’s nests, or on the branches of poison willows, or just outside the bedroom window of a young man who dreams each night of Super Soakers filled with insecticide for the express purposes of entomological holocausts? It’s true, the manual of death has changed very little since the time of the first Assassins. Although there are a few exceptions. I’m told, for instance, there are whole ant colonies who willfully court parasites that give off nauseating aromas; and that these aromas can sometimes drive entire hoards of ants so wild with longing that they will Embodied Effigies | 1


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smother one another with their own limbs and antennae-cords, and even sacrifice their own children in the hopes of falling once more under its highly addictive spell. Such is the unfortunate drawback of being born into the most socialized tribe of insect. Today, too, there are full-time readers and writers of novels who plant themselves in the center of coffeehouses or behind rickety podiums of occasional bookshops, where the smell of printer’s ink is enough to ruin the scent of garlic in a home-cooked meal, where young men can be seen pulling on their beards as they stare off into the middle distance—as if ready to bury their heads in their hands to cry—deluding themselves they’re being noticed, all the while hoping not to be. This latest change in the Doctrine of Death, the change in the clausefrom-within, may well derive from some of the assassination techniques developed in ancient Rome. Surely, Brutus deserves some credit for this, personalizing his betrayal, brutally stabbing Caesar as he did inside the Theater of Pompeii—right in the small of his own backyard. But this historic event is not in fact where we borrow the term ‘assassination’, a distinction belonging, by the way, to the Assassins of ancient Phoenicia (despite the traditional line you’ll hear from so many waylaid historians). This is, on the other hand, where we derive the word ‘brutality’, coinciding as it did with the appearance of the very first bookshops in history, which quietly opened their doors for business that day on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. And that is all that I have to say on the subject of booksellers. Mahalo. II. Another Somewhat Extraneous Discourse on Booksellers In The Confessions of St. Augustine the author claims that perhaps his greatest lesson came from seeing someone read a book to himself in silence rather than aloud, thereby marking the first time in recorded history a fool moved his lips to the words on a page, his 2 | Embodied Effigies


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wrinkly eyes suiting themselves to his body. Before the invention of books, it is true that the Greeks and the Romans believed intelligence was located somewhere between the heart and the ‘voicebox’ rather than in the brain which is silent. It is by this very same notion that entire breeds of booksellers today are so anti-intellectual that they refuse to fall in love. I happen to have known a great deal of booksellers in my time, so I feel I should say a few words on the subject before nodding off drunk into the angelic night. Listen. Hang up your hat in the halfway house, here is the secret about booksellers: They have lost faith in their own words. Take a close look, and you will notice that the vast majority of booksellers are in fact little more than a walking poesy of other people’s flowers, a swarthy collection of other people’s quotations passed down from on high—from other sager booksellers—which they then use to commit spontaneous acts of education on unsuspecting patrons, and whatever other idiot Bedouins fated to find shelter among the shelves of their dreary shop on a Sunday afternoon. Over in merry old England, many booksellers treat books like Lords, knowing their titles and therefore feeling themselves acquainted. It is no coincidence that the word for book in French carries the promise of de-live-ry—with all the smarmy anonymity that no doubt accompanies the Franco-European post; that in today’s parlance the German ‘buch-handler’ evokes a certain pleasure to the touch, loosely translated as that ‘swarthy old man behind a mahogany desk who fondles’. In English too, no thanks to the patois of American film-noir, is just as often associated with crime and punishment: To book someone is to toss them in the slammer, and to throw the proverbial book at someone’s head is to rebel quietly against the centralized power so many booksellers hold over the rest of us, in their collective raid on the inarticulate. In the early days after Gutenberg, more than one owner of a signifiEmbodied Effigies | 3


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cant private library made it known that no printed book would ever be in it. These are precisely the same people today who—Augustine knew first-hand—who love without any words, hatching revolutions in the basement of the ivory tower, plotting our future out of their own undifferentiated facts (i.e. praising Mussolini for the fact that his trains were always on time, forgiving Castro for his job improving public health and education, Stalin for reaching the people to read and write in farmhand, Hitler for bringing Weimar out of its economic quagmire). They are the self-same people as well who can be sometimes be observed parading about the streets with a goofy grin on their face like a balloon on a string, sporting their customary muffeta or else a wellknit burnoose or, perhaps less and less common, a pair of open toe sandals, blithely kicked up on their mahogany desk in a spirit of defiance—or cultural authority abuse, depending on which side of the desk you’re on. These are the very same men who squeeze from the wrong end on a tube of toothpaste or who need lines on a notepad. Such egregious displays of gustatory-olfactory exhibitionism as these are not only designed to rankle genuinely enthusiastic bibliophiles the whole world over; they are meant to mask the fact that most booksellers’ internal chakric machines have long broken down, something believed to account for the way these miserable creatures shoot off dagger upon dagger of other people’s words which only point back—in truth—to their own flinty little hearts. Add all this to the fact that most bookshops today look like war bunkers and smell like luxurious water closets, and it is little wonder booksellers no longer know how to love. In any case, managers and booklovers beware! There are as many booksellers today as there are wheat-ears in a mummy’s tomb; there is enough dust in their lungs to be scattered by the four winds of Heaven. And I have no idea what these last phrases mean, but I stumbled upon them a few moments ago in an rare text about the first booksellers of ancient Rome who ostensibly began their sad underprivileged lives as slaves (this was considered the Golden Age of 4 | Embodied Effigies


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booksellers), later turned scribes, and eventually became as precious and indispensable as cooks or scullions. Which is to say that there are far, far too many booksellers. Which is to say they must be eliminated. Mahalo. III. The Disenchantress: A Spontaneous Act of Education Regarding Booksellers How should she not be there? –the long desired, the disenchantress, leaving alone the desolate heart with bitter ease. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Duino Elegies” I was listening to this story about meteors the other night on the radio. Meteors, it turns out, are distinct from asteroids in that they are “seldom any larger than the size of a plump grape or a dried up raisin, and while asteroids are frequently concentrated from the remains of a planet that fell apart, a meteor can originate from the disintegration of a comet instead.” Well, I turned off the radio when I heard that, because I don’t much care about science – mostly because I don’t understand it, or else because I once got a ‘C’ on a test in elementary school for leaving out Pluto among the list of planets in our solar system. Sometime back when science announced that Pluto was no longer a planet is about the time I stopped believing in science. So I turned off the radio, like I said, and I started to read about the French Existentialist Albert Camus instead. Camus, it turns out, believed that our behavior should be guided exclusively by “those three or four times in your life when your heart opened up” – before a Stranger, say, or else, as he so tenderly puts it, before the “benign indifference of the entire universe,” which may or may not be the same thing, he doesn’t say. Well anyway, I don’t much like for people to tell me what to do with my heart. So I closed that book up too, and I started to read a biography of French novelist Marie-Henri Embodied Effigies | 5


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Beyle, aka Stendhal, instead. Stendhal, it turns out, despised wit and cleverness and the salons of 19th century Paris, although if he was not able to speak with some very clever people in the evening-times, he was “utterly asphyxiated to the point of death.” The kind of death, says Stendhal [I’m still basically quoting here] that “one might find in a pillow-fight gone radically wrong.” Well, I don’t much care about cleverness all that much, especially when it’s somebody else’s; and I don’t much care for it when writers tell me about their writing processes either—which always feels like a cheap and dirty little paradox to me like bombing for the sake of world peace or like, say, having sex in support of virginity-awareness. So I closed that book up also, and I dashed off to visit the nearest bookshop, of all places, to have a look at the bookseller I guess, or to talk to a stranger maybe. Sometimes I get so couped up I feel as though I can hardly breathe. Well anyway, this bookseller, it turns out, didn’t much care for cleverness anymore than I did, probably because she had so much of it, and after I told her how eloquent I thought she was, how she was the kind of eloquent stranger you might meet, say, three or four times in your life if you’re lucky, she told me everything out of her mouth was in fact “complete and utter horseshit,” and I’d “do much better to stick to the books”; and those were in fact her words, which reminded me of Montaigne for some reason, and how he once said he’d sooner save his books from a burning building than he would his own children; and another time, when he said that if someone were to ever submit his private thoughts to the eyes of the law, he would surely be hanged ten times a day, maybe more. Well anyway, I’m not one to dance on somebody else’s funeral. So I left the bookshop, and it might sound strange to you, but I saw the image of that girl from the bookshop everywhere on my way home, an image of the perfect stranger, you might say; and so as I walked along the street outside of that little bookshop I loosened my collar a little and I looked up to the stars—you remember to do that sort of thing when you can breathe again—and I remember thinking how remarkable it is that something as small as a grape can sometimes light up the whole sky. 6 | Embodied Effigies


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IV. Mnemonic Mind Melt: Some Things I Learned Today from My Local Bookshop Burning Man is sometimes known as the Slut Olympics. ‘Twentysomethings’ are little more than the actualization of the dreams of past ‘twentysomethings’. George Orwell coined the phrase ‘Cold War’ in 1945, in an essay. Many people believe that one’s facial direction really takes off beyond one’s control around age 17, although this can sometimes occur a great deal later. A group of people in the Czech Republic has formed an organization that sets elaborate obstacles for and unique challenges involving masturbation. The group calls themselves Masturbation and its Discontents: ‘MAID’ for short. At a diplomatic meeting today John Kerry refused requests to take questions in French. There are speculations that he may have forgotten how. The opposite of an entrepreneur is an anti-preneur. Not the kind of person we can expect to hear from very often. The first person to gain public recognition from MAID was a man from the English chapter who successfully masturbated while reciting John Milton’s poem ‘Il Penseroso’. He achieved climax during the line ‘While the bee with honied thigh’. During the 1950s especially, the resort known as Acapulco has long been frequented by Hollywood movie stars, who needed to fly under the radar a while. The resort has long been considered safe from Embodied Effigies | 7


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Mexican crime and corruption. Until yesterday morning. It is better to mull over knotty problems at one’s desk than to do nothing at the beach, according to studies. The underground cult MAID gained universal traction after a racecar driver died attempting to masturbate during a race. It is believed that the racecar driver achieved climax moments before his death. After the racecar incident, MAID’s group skydiving challenge was duly canceled, presumably due to the recent casualties that the organization has suffered. A Sparkleponie is the term for somebody at Burning Man who has very little to offer in the way of basic survival skills, but makes up for it by being naked pretty much all the time. A stone beneath one’s feet is not a valid object of observation. Or is it? Here are some books I stole today from the ‘Friends of the Library Bookstore’: Hay Fever by Noel Coward The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard The Boom Boom Room by David Rabe Laughing Wild & Two Other Plays by Christopher Durang There may be one or two others, which I can’t remember now.* When I went back to buy a book that I saw in the window the woman behind the counter offered to hold my bag, the one with all the other stolen books inside of it. The word humble comes from the Latin word humilis, meaning 8 | Embodied Effigies


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small, low, or close to the earth. The price tag was missing on the book I wanted, so the woman behind the counter charged me $1. It was a rare First Edition of The Lover by Marguerite Duras.* Tomorrow I hope to return to this bookshop, allowing myself more than five minutes of shopping time. I wonder if I am supposed to be embarrassed to be alive. ~November whatever, evening *This particular edition of The Lover by M. Duras sells for upwards of $100 on Amazon.com. *All book titles have been changed for the purposes and glibness of this poem. *No books mentioned in this poem were abused or mistreated, without their express content. V. One Final Spontaneous Act of Education Regarding Booksellers If you look through the window of Alias bookshop at twilight—when the shopkeepers collect their wares to make their way home, not long before the clock has begun to strike the hour of pure sorrow–you will see a woman sitting behind a very old and very sad desk that is made of wood. You will see straight away that this woman is young and comfortable, that she is like a honeybee drunk with honey that is perched on a cluster of fruit. If she happens to be a redheaded bee – and hopefully she is, my pale and intrepid reader—go right inside that shop and tell her that her skin looks like what the wind makes with illuminated leaves. Tell her that she has a voice like a bird, a heart like a house, that her eyes are what gemologists groan about in their dreams, that her hair soothes you with a cold delicacy normally reserved for simple organic compounds. When she speaks, cast your sad nets on her oceanic eyes. Tell her to Embodied Effigies | 9


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be quiet. Her voice will grow thin and cracked as the tracks of gulls on the shore. When she speaks, if she speaks, stop her. Tell her that her breath is for Sparrows to wander in, that her back is spied by expert architects for future waterfalls. Tell her you want to clasp her in your arms the way the ivy clasps the walls outside the bookshop—the way her words climb all over you, as me, from a long way off. Go and tell her all this, pale and intrepid reader, before making your final purchases. Go and tell her with great care and tenderness, as if these words were more hers than mine. Go and tell her from you, as me, and then go and find your own redheaded bee, drunk with honey, perched on a cluster of fruit. This one is spoken for in a headful of ways. Go on. Go and tell her all this right now. I’ll wait.

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orri Mallery December 2013


Not Your Grandpappy’s War Story Torri Mallery

During the Civil War, Union General William T. Sherman once said that war is hell. While this has been true for many members of the armed forces, this isn’t the case for all of us. However, the idea that most people have in their minds whenever they hear that someone is a veteran is an image of blood, guts, gore, and glory. They picture bullets flying and IEDs exploding. Taliban screaming and AK-47s protruding from the windows of earthen huts with the smell of burning garbage and exhaust fumes lurking in the air. They visualize the veteran in full battle rattle; helmet, bullet proof vest, and a black, shiny M16A4 rifle gripped between two gloved hands. Most people expect veterans to validate this image when they ask them to share their war story, but not every veteran goes through the unspeakable hell that General Sherman was referring to. I was deployed to Kuwait from the fall of 2011 to the fall of 2012. While this country is considered a combat zone, it’s honestly nothing of the sort. I was stationed there with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 728th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. I was tasked out as the driver for the Command Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted member of the battalion. We had originally been training for a deployment to Iraq, but our mission had quickly changed once we had reached the Middle East. Instead we were ordered to remain in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait to assist with the drawdown out of Iraq. During this deployment the most hellish thing that I experienced was the monotony. The only danger I faced was the Kuwaiti drivers, but even then, they were only dangerous because of their stupidity, not because they had terroristic intentions. My life during my deployment pretty much ran like a sitcom, some days a little Embodied Effigies | 13


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more dramatic than others, but it was a deployment nonetheless. My company may not be full of the heroes that everyone imagines, but we still did our part while we were there. We still took the time out of our lives to leave our families and support our country where we were needed. Not every Soldier, Marine, Airman, or Sailor experiences the “Call of Duty” tour that many people seem to imagine. Maybe someday people will start to realize this and be a little better at hiding their disappointment the next time they ask me to share my “war story.” “You were a driver over there!? God bless you, sweetie. Oh, that must have been so dangerous! What was it like?” My black 2011 Chevy Tahoe barely glistens in the desert sun as I approach it. I washed the vehicle yesterday, but it’s impossible to tell. A layer of dust already settled on it overnight. I grumble under my breath as I pull a terry cloth from the trunk and start to gently wipe down the exterior. I gave up on trying to keep it looking pristine a while ago, but right now it looks exceptionally bad. “You ready, Corporal Ghaner?” I hear an old crackling voice say from behind me. It’s the Command Sergeant Major. He hops into the passenger seat, maintaining his rigid posture. His cold blue eyes and thin lips express no emotion. “Yes, Sergeant Major!” I respond loudly. I toss the towel back into the trunk and hop into the driver’s seat. It’s Thursday, the day I have to take the Command Sergeant Major out on his battle circulation rounds. We go around to all of the bases where the companies under our command are operating and check in on them. This event usually takes us all day because the camps are scattered throughout the dessert. To be honest, the CSM and I have ulterior motives for these long drives though. There’s an Auntie Anne’s on Camp Virginia two hours away, and it’s always worth every minute of the drive. As we head toward the gates to get off-post, we’re stopped by a gate guard dressed in khaki from head to toe, holding an M16. The unpleasant heat of the desert hits my face as I roll down my window. “Morning, how’s it going?” he greets us. “Fine, thanks,” I say as I hand him our registration for him to 14 | Embodied Effigies


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scan into the system before we leave. “Do you have a weapon?” the gate guard asks. “Yes,” I answer and point to the 9 millimeter pistol strapped around my leg. I have to carry a weapon with me whenever I go offpost, although I’ve never had to use it, and I don’t think I ever will. “Ammo and communication?” the gate guard continues with his questions. “Yes, sir,” I respond while holding up my magazine and the ancient Nokia cellphone I had been given to report our movement back to headquarters. “Alright, you have a nice day now, Sergeant Major. Corporal,” the gate guard waves us on through. Once we’re far enough off post, I step on the accelerator. The CSM doesn’t like to waste any time. I look at the speedometer as we’re racing past the vehicles in the lanes beside us. It always takes me a minute to figure out how fast we’re going because the speedometer is measured in kilometers. I finally come to the conclusion that we’re cruising along at a cool 110MPH. We drive past the occasional camel carcass and stare at the remnants of automobile accidents that line either side of the road. “That’s a new one,” the CSM says as he points to a white Toyota pick-up truck along the roadside. Half of the paint had been burned off of it when it must have gone up in flames after it had crashed. “Yeah, I don’t remember seeing that one before,” I say as I crank up the volume to the Judas Priest CD that the Sergeant Major brought with him for the drive. His emotionless face finally breaks into a smile. “You must not have had much to eat? Look at you! You’re wasting away! They don’t have very good conditions for you guys over there, do they?” “And the soup du jour is—minestrone!” Specialist Tarantella proudly reads off the lunch menu. It’s 1000hrs and he’s right on the dot. Menu reading is a daily ritual in the Tactical Operations Center, the office where myself and about twenty or so other soldiers work, including all the big-wigs. SPC Tarantella always does a great job reading off the menu with his animated voice, however, we’re all Embodied Effigies | 15


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disappointed with the news. “Are you fucking kidding me? Minestrone again?” old Captain Madary groans from his computer. I see his hands fly up in disgust. His face begins to blend in with his red hair from his exasperation. The rest of the TOC joins in with the grumbling. “Same shit every day.” “Everything tastes the same! The chicken tastes like the beef, the beef tastes like the fish, the fish tastes like the chicken. I might actually start eating salad.” “This place actually makes me miss my wife’s cooking.” “Hey, Ghaner, wanna make some chi-chi?” I hear Sergeant First Class Rose’s voice say. I spin around in my swivel chair only to see his black hair poking out from the top of his mini-cubicle. “Sure. I can go for anything but DFAC food right now,” I answer back. I’ve actually been burn out on the dining facility food for a few months and Rose has been talking about making this chi-chi stuff for a while. He works at a high security prison back home and says that the inmates make it from the scraps they can manage to sneak in from the cafeteria. “What are you planning on putting in it?” I ask him. “Well the inmates put all kinds of shit in there, but we’ll have to see what we can find in the cabinet,” he gets up from his desk and walks over to a tall wooden cabinet at the other corner of the room where we store all the food and supplies from care packages that are sent to us. “Score! We have summer sausage!” he exclaims after rummaging around for a few seconds. “Nice-uhhh!” Tarantella congratulates Rose on his find. “We’ll throw some of this old Ramen in here and some of these cheese puffs. That should do the trick,” Rose brings the handful of provisions back to his desk. “Ya know, I think onions would go pretty great with this,” I say to him. “Ghaner, I think that sounds like a lovely idea. We’ll run over to the DFAC real quick and grab some onions from the salad bar,” Rose replies. Moments later we head out the door of the tent, putting on 16 | Embodied Effigies


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our patrol caps as we step outside. The sun reflects off the sand so brightly it burns my eyes. I can feel a layer of dust collecting on my skin like the dust on a chalkboard. It has to be at least 120 plus degrees today. The chow hall is right across from our tent, so we don’t have far to walk in the heat. Our boots crunch over the gravel surrounding the DFAC. I see one of the civilian contractors heading in the same direction. He’s an elderly man, a little on the shorter side, with a bad dye job wearing a pink button-up and a pair of khakis. He also has on a brown jacket, and in this godforsaken heat one can only wonder why. “Hey! Hey, that’s him! It’s Pockets McGoo! Get ‘em!” Rose takes off in a sprint toward the door. We see this man every day in the chow hall hoarding as much food as he can into his little brown jacket. His pockets are always bulging with packets of oatmeal, hot chocolate, and miscellaneous fruits by time he leaves. Thus the name Pockets McGoo. McGoo freezes in place like a deer in headlights when he sees Rose rushing toward the door, and then he takes off, his little old body hunching over as he beelines it to the entrance. Rose chases him all the way up the ramp that leads to the entryway of the chow hall. McGoo rushes through the door, slamming it in Rose’s face. Rose turns around, “That fucker really takes his food seriously, doesn’t he?!” We laugh and walk into the DFAC, our eyes taking a minute to adjust from walking out of the bright desert sun. Once we finally find what we need for the chi-chi, we head back over to the TOC. “Awesome. This is definitely going to be a good batch,” Rose says as he drops chunks of summer sausage into a trash bag with powdered cheese puffs, onions, and a packet of Ramen. He pours in a pot of hot water. “The inmates usually cook this shit in the toilet in their cell, but we’re a little more civilized than that,” Rose says as he twists the garbage bag full of chi-chi shut and wraps it in his military issued fleece. We let it sit for a while so the hot water can soak into the noodles. Minutes later the whole office is crowded around his desk with Styrofoam cups and plastic spoons. Embodied Effigies | 17


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“Hey, this shit ain’t bad!” Captain Madary says as he slurps from his cup. “You guys are disgusting. I can’t believe you’re eating out of a garbage bag,” McFadden says, watching us from his little cubicle in the corner. “Hey, man. It beats that nasty ass chow any day of the week,” Rose replies. “You all must have been in pretty awesome shape after all that training you did over there! Must have been hard work lugging all that gear around all the time.” I look out over the concrete t-walls that line the base. All I can see is the desolate wasteland surrounding us. The sky is a hazy gray from the dust and pollution that hovers above me, leaving a chalky taste in my mouth as I breathe. “I wonder if anyone is going to pass today,” I think to myself as I walk over to the running track across from my barracks. The unit is giving another remedial physical fitness test, which a large portion of the company has been consistently failing. The PT test consists of completing two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a two mile run. We have quite the collection of overweight smokers and lanky troops, so it isn’t surprising that we have so many failures. Yesterday I had decided to wake up early this morning to go the running portion of the PT test to show some support. I shouldn’t say that I was going to support a ‘run,’ though. Most of the people taking the test have been given a “doctor’s excuse” for one reason or another, which gave them permission to walk for two and a half miles instead of running. As I walked between the concrete barriers that separated the black top of the running track from the road, I noticed a crowd of about twenty people from the 728th huddled together near a set of aluminum bleachers. They’re all dressed in their physical fitness uniforms. I can see the reflective ARMY stamped across the front of their gray t-shirts shining in the dreary sunlight as I approach them. “Hey, do we got time for a smoke break before we jump into this shit?” I hear one of the guys from the crowd say. 18 | Embodied Effigies


Not Your Grandpappy’s

It’s Specialist Pancoast, affectionately known in the unit as Pound Cake. His PT shirt is almost stretched to the breaking point from the bulge of his stomach while the elastic of his pants digs into his love handles. “No, we’re starting now,” I hear Sergeant First Class McFadden’s irritated voice say. Unlike the majority of the company, he’s tall and muscular, towering over the rest of us at six foot three. He’s standing off to the side of the group with a black stop watch in his hand and the physical training regulations binder tucked under his arm. The cover of the binder proudly displays a picture of white haired SFC Lehman, one of the remedial test takers, two-fisting a pack of Twinkies. How fitting, I think to myself. SFC McFadden opens the binder and reads off the regulations to the run and asks if anyone has any questions. No one says anything; they’ve heard this speech a thousand times. “Okay! Everybody line up!” SFC McFadden yells as they all grumble and move into position. “Get ready…on your mark, get set, GO!” The remedial PTers take off like a herd of racing turtles. Five minutes later I see Pound Cake getting ready to complete his first lap. He’s walking at brisk pace that looks as though it may be causing a bit of chaffing. SFC McFadden is standing next to me watching him too, and says, “You know, it’s funny. Here comes Pound Cake walking the track, limping like a beat dog, but just last week I watched him play one hell of a mean game of volleyball. Spiking the ball like Michael Jordan making a slam dunk and moving around faster than Pockets McGoo running toward the chow hall. It’s amazing how that profile he has for his knees only seems to come up on the day of a PT test.” I laugh. “You guys must have been so busy. Never having any time to take out of your day for yourself. It must have been rough?” I’m bored out of my mind. I’m tired and my uniform feels like it’s suffocating me. I’m glad I don’t have to wear all my gear every day, but a jacket, pants, and boots are still a little too much in this heat. I’ve been in the office for the past three hours staring at a blank Embodied Effigies | 19


Mallery

screen when suddenly an email pops up. It’s from Major Mauser, the battalion’s Security and Plans Operations Officer and third in command of the battalion. He’s in his mid-forties and has a schnoz like Gonzo from The Muppets. The email reads: From: MAJ MAUSER, CHRISTOPHER MIL USA USAR USARCENT 1ST TSC Cc: Golloza, Michael; McFadden, Shawn; Nauman, Travis; Rose, Lloyd; Santiago, Jennifer; Tarantella, Vincent… Subject: Yo-yo Social You are being invited to the club which we do not speak of. We will be meeting my office in 10 mikes. Bring your own yo-yo. Remember, the first rule of the club is that we don’t talk about the club. You never saw this message, and you’ll deny it if anyone asks. I look around the tent to see if anyone else had gotten the message. My eyes meet Tarantella’s and then McFadden’s. McFadden nods and throws me a transparent blue yo-yo. We wait patiently. A few weeks ago we had received a shipment of care packages and one of them was full of yo-yos. MAJ Mauser was ecstatic. He would come out into the middle of the TOC throughout the day and swing his yo-yo around, walking the dog like a pro and whipping up an Eiffel Tower. We all decided to join in on the fun and the TOC became yo-yo central. Some of the tight-asses decided this wasn’t acceptable behavior in the TOC, so we were told it was prohibited. MAJ Mauser retaliated by developing the “Club Which We Do Not Speak of.” He started sending out weekly emails, inviting a select few of us into his office where we could all yo-yo in peace. Ten minutes have passed, so we walk back to Mauser’s office and knock on the door. As it opens we’re greeted by his nasally voice, “Hey! Come on in!” Six of us crowd into his office and take out our yo-yos. We 20 | Embodied Effigies


Not Your Grandpappy’s

yo-yo silently for a few minutes until I start to laugh from the stupidity of the situation. “I can’t believe we’re all back here playing with these yo-yos,” I say as my finger starts to turn purple from the string cutting off my circulation. “Shut up, Ghaner. Someone might hear you,” Specialist Galloza hisses at me while he fumbles around with his yo-yo. I bite my lip to hold back a laugh. We continue to yo-yo in silence. War generally has a frontline and a rear echelon that supports it, but when people hear the term “veteran,” they visualize the frontlines. Fact is, most of us are in the rear supporting the guys kicking in the doors. A less than action-packed year in Kuwait may not sound like much, but that was still a year of sacrifice for all of us. We missed birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and funerals. Some of us missed watching our children grow another year older. We missed out on the laughs we could have shared with our loved ones, and we missed the chance to be the shoulder for them to cry on. There were days I just wanted to come home and be able to drive wherever I wanted without having gate guards ask me for an off-post memo. I missed wearing my own clothes and not wearing a stuffy uniform. I got homesick for the first time in my life while I was there, but none of this amounts to what the men and women in combat arms roles go through. We’ve all heard the phrase “all gave some and some gave all,” and this is entirely true. Every man and woman in uniform has made a sacrifice in one way or another, but this doesn’t seem to resonate with everyone, including some veterans. I’ve met many people in uniform who feel like haven’t done enough for their country because they haven’t been down range. They want to be the hero that everyone wants to hear about. In my experience, it’s usually the young men in uniform who will volunteer to put themselves in the face of danger in order to get this kind of recognition. But what happens if they don’t come back? Was it worth it for the story? Anyone of us in the military has taken an oath to fight and die for our country, but we shouldn’t feel pressured to put ourselves Embodied Effigies | 21


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in this position solely for the purpose of having something “exciting” to talk about. I will be deploying again sometime in the near future, and it’s still up in the air about exactly where I’m going, but I know this much is true. No matter what people expect to hear from me whenever they find out that I’m a veteran, I hope I never get the chance to tell them the story they want to hear.

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dia Geagan January 2014

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Battle of Wits Claudia Geagan

It was November 28, 1997, the day after Thanksgiving, and the guy had a gun. The scene could have been painted by Edward Hopper. The flat faces of the Chicago warehouses-turned-condos jutting up from the edges of the sidewalks. Here and there, pale light seeping around drawn blinds, the shadowed figure of a man walking past a faded red Honda. Isolated in the dome light of that car, our family of four: my husband Dennis, who I’d met in 1983 at the apogee of my onedivorcee crusade to be independent of any man; my son, Bob; his girlfriend, Amy; and me. Bob nosed the Honda into the only parking spot on Peoria, directly across from his condo. Dennis stepped onto the sidewalk and pulled open the back door on the passenger side to help me out. A man’s voice shouted. Dennis swiveled on his heel and growled “N-n-o.” I wiggled myself out of Bob’s backseat, hampered by a short tight skirt and three-inch heels, and was shocked to see that the shadowed figure had doubled back and was pointing a gun at Dennis. “I told you,” the guy said, “get back in the car.” “And I told you, we’re - Not - getting - Back - in the Car.” Dennis jabbed his left pointer finger at the gunman’s chest and with the other hand slammed the car door behind me. Getting no cooperation by holding the gun on Dennis, the gunman pointed it at my chest. “Give me your money or I’ll blow her head off.” I stopped moving. In 1962, when I was a new freshman at the University of Southern California, our campus safety instructors told us to Embodied Effigies | 25


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cooperate with robbers, even rapists. “If you fight you could get hurt or killed.” Days later I caught a young teen boy stealing my bicycle, grabbed the handlebars and kept the bike. In 1966, alone in a furnished apartment with my infant daughter, I heard the front door rattle at 3:00 am. I bounded out of bed and threw my shoulder into the door, and the guy ran off. In 1980, in New York City, in Penn Station, I bolted after a purse-snatcher, caught him in the crowded terminal, punched him in the arm and kept my purse. For much of the early 1980’s, at 9:00 pm, I walked across Thirty-fourth Street from Herald Square to Penn Station, alone, carrying my purse under my coat, wearing running shoes and a don’t mess with me attitude. Nobody did. That night in Chicago, it was like somebody pushed my pause button. I stood, weight on my toes, wondering what would happen next. Somewhere in my post-war childhood I saw Edvard Munch’s The Scream and believed that the woman was trying to scream, but couldn’t. When my sixth grade art teacher gave us chalk and wet paper, I drew a black cat’s head with terrified eyes and an oval mouth, its green tongue thrust out, a desperate, mute cat-head being sucked into a swirl of fading color. The teacher entered it in a contest and it won, perhaps because it expressed such helpless terror. It comes to mind as I try to describe how I felt that night. It wasn’t fear of death. Death was merely disappointing. It wasn’t fear of pain. I knew that if that gun went off six feet from me I’d never know it. I was petrified because I had no idea what to do. By the time I realized there was a situation, Dennis had taken control of it, and I felt like the cat-head, helpless. Our gunman was between eighteen and thirty, black, with a round head like a small, squat pumpkin. He stood about 5’10”. I can estimate his height because the gun in his outstretched hand was pointed at the center of my chest and in those heels, I was 5’11”. Did he have a hat? What color was his jacket? I never noticed. What I saw was the end of the gun—black or dark gray with a bluish sheen, rectangular—about an inch high, a round hole in the center big enough to obscure the man behind it. The only other thing I saw was in my imagination—skinny, 26 | Embodied Effigies


Battle of Wits

Nordstrom’s-dressed me with a salad plate sized hole in my chest, dark blood oozing from underneath my body onto the sidewalk. Dennis tells me, “The hole in your chest would have been small. The big hole would have been in your back.” I wanted a serious conversation with my husband, not quibbles about the size of the hole in my chest. In re-telling the incident over the years, Dennis had concocted a glib story involving a standoff between a bad guy armed with a gun and a good guy armed with a brain. The hero saved his frozen wife and clueless kids, then twirled his smoking brain around his finger, holstered it back in his head and sauntered away. “In the battle of wits,” Dennis says, “the guy was unarmed.” What galls me about Dennis’s story is the frozen wife, the damsel-in-distress who needed a white knight to save her. I remember another time where I really did act. As a freshman in college, the lecture about cooperating with rapists ringing in my ears, a cute upperclassman asked me to a walkin movie. On the way home, he pulled onto a dark street behind the Shrine Auditorium, shut off the car and started pressing hard kisses against my mouth. Then he grabbed my breasts. “Don’t,” I said. He shoved his weight against me, forcing me against the passenger door, then pushed his hand under my skirt, yanking at my underwear. I considered grabbing the door handle and jumping out. I knew the general direction of the dorm but would be running through what was, at the time, a dangerous part of the city. I figured that if I could convince him I really didn’t want him, he’d quit. He pushed me so hard into the door that the handle stabbed a bloody gash in my back. “Get–Off–of–Me.” In those days, cars had bench seats with the gearshift on the steering column. I twisted to kick and landed flat on my back. It was a stupid move, because now he was on top, my head wedged under the armrest. Breathing was difficult and I feared suffocating, but I clenched my legs and my mouth. If he wanted sex he’d have to know it was rape. Suddenly, he sat up, pumped the gas pedal and started the car. I hugged the passenger door, but my fear drained away. What was wrong with a cute guy like him? Embodied Effigies | 27


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“Why do you want to have sex with somebody who doesn’t want to have sex with you?” I asked. “You’d be surprised how much I get that way.” I told Dennis, “I want to write about the night in Chicago, because I want to deal with the difference between your reaction and mine. How’d you decide what to do?” “Combination of adrenalin and common sense. Lots of scenarios went through my head.” “What were they?” Dennis poured himself a glass of pinot noir, ambled to our screened-in porch and settled into the wicker couch. I followed with a legal pad. “It was a kidnapping. He could have just taken the car. We were already out. I figured if we got in the car, he’d get in the back seat with you and Amy and force us to drive to his neighborhood, somewhere safe for him. We’d be robbed and killed, maybe tortured, maybe worse. On the street, where we were . . . what was the street Bob lived on?” “Peoria.” “Right. On Peoria there were people living in all those condos above us. It’s a busy street. That White Hen around the corner was a cop hang out. I figured if we stayed on the street, somebody would come by, maybe a cop. I even thought that if the guy did get in the car, if Bob would just drive around the corner, I might be able to grab the wheel and crash us into a cop car.” In the seconds it took me to climb out of the backseat, Dennis had imagined the scenarios, assessed his resources and decided to fight. “What made you think you should be the one to take him on?” “I’m a male. I’m the oldest. I thought about how the kids had most of their lives ahead of them.” Did Dennis think males were more capable or more expendable, or was he taught this was a man’s job? Dennis had three brothers, a mountain of a father who ran security for one of GM’s assembly plants, and a friary full of Franciscans to educate and coach him. If I’d been brought up with strategic thinking and competitive sports 28 | Embodied Effigies


Battle of Wits

would I still have stood there glancing from Dennis to the criminal? Maybe. A 2009 study published in Science Daily found that “while viewing negative images,” and I assure you a gun in your face is a negative image, men exhibited more “activation [than women] in the left insula which . . . generates subjective feelings that can bring about actions.” Interesting, but I don’t believe that we were simply living up to our biology. Dennis continued his story. “We weren’t going anywhere with him. I thought it was my night to die, and if I was going to die, I wasn’t going to die begging.” Wasn’t going to die begging. If Dennis was going to be murdered, he intended to have a say in where and how. The criminal with the gun could destroy his body, but not his manhood. Dennis said, “When I slammed the car door I thought the last thing I’d see in this life was the flash from the muzzle. When I didn’t see it, I knew everything had changed. I could see it in the guy’s face. He didn’t have a Plan B.” That was the moment the pumpkin head pointed the gun at me and demanded Dennis’s money. “Where was your wallet? Inside breast pocket?” I asked, wondering if the guy let him reach inside his coat. I couldn’t remember. “I warned him, ‘I have to go into my pocket.’ First I pulled the cash out of the money clip and handed it to him. I only had twenty bucks.” Dennis reminded me that our gun-toting friend looked clean and healthy, wasn’t slurring his words like a drunk or acting jittery like a junkie. “The guy was rational. That gave me a big advantage. He knew he couldn’t stand there all night.” Dennis sipped his wine and waited for my pen to catch up before he went on. “Then the guy said, ‘Gimme your wallet,’ and I told him, ‘You got the cash. I don’t know why you want the credit cards because the minute you leave here, I’ll cancel every one of them.’” At that point, I remember Dennis lecturing the guy, “You’re no good at this,” he said. “You could get a real job.” Dennis continued, “I was trying to waste time, hoping somebody would come along. I kept thinking, he doesn’t want to fire that gun because somebody will hear it. The guy was beginning to look nervous. This wasn’t working out for him.” Embodied Effigies | 29


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I scratched across the yellow pad, trying to get Dennis’s exact words, but I heard his voice and thought, “You were convincing yourself that the guy was rational, and you told him he was leaving without shooting you.” On that Chicago sidewalk, my eyes flickered from the gun to Dennis and back, wondering what to do, but I knew what to do: don’t interfere. Had I done anything, I’d have been competing with Dennis, and he wasn’t the enemy. When Dennis and I first dated in 1983, not only did he shower me with theater tickets and upscale restaurants, but he wanted to open doors, unload the groceries and fetch the car if it was raining. It was like having an entire Boy Scout troop show up at once. I protested that I was strong and wouldn’t melt, but when he made my questionably-parked-and-subsequently-impounded car magically reappear, the I-can-do-it-myself divorcee began to melt indeed. I still wandered Manhattan alone after dark, but where Dennis could take care of me, more and more I let him, though not without worrying what that meant. Dennis went on with his story. “Then I told him, ‘O.K. That’s all you’re getting. We’re leaving.’” I remember Dennis barking those words. The guy looked astounded as though Dennis weren’t being fair with him. I took one step toward Dennis and away from the gunman. “Gimme her purse,” the guy said and waved the gun at my purse. I paused, waiting for instructions from Dennis, who grabbed my upper arm and propelled me into the street. “I was counting my steps,” Dennis said. “I figured if we got thirty feet away, his chances of hitting us got slim.” The pumpkin head yelled at my son, “Gimme the keys.” I turned to see Bob and Amy still standing on the street side of the car. I didn’t have a plan but it was tough to desert my son. Bob tossed the keys onto the driver’s seat. “Keep moving.” Dennis dragged me onto the sidewalk in front of the door to Bob’s building. Abruptly, the gunman turned and ran north up Peoria. Dennis sprinted after him like a rabbit in tassel loafers, but couldn’t catch up. Just seconds too late, the help Dennis had hoped for, Bob’s 30 | Embodied Effigies


Battle of Wits

neighbor Fred and his German Shepherd Thor, rounded the corner from the south end of the block. Fred and Thor ushered me into the condo lobby. Bob and Amy ran off toward of the White Hen in search of a cop. Turns out, there were no cops at the White Hen, but the clerk dialed 911. A squad car showed up because of the gun, and the cops and the kids rode around for a while—no one. Dennis and I returned to the Midland Hotel, walked through the Art Deco lobby as though nothing had happened, but I shook all night. When Dennis finished his story, I said, “You saved my life.” I hated admitting that, and in all those years, I probably hadn’t. Then more like a question to myself, not as though I would have fainted without him, I said, “I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t there.” “You would have gotten back in the car when the guy told you to.” “I don’t think so,” I said. *** Years ago on a gloomy street, my family and I might have been killed. In the face of that threat, Dennis relied on himself, and I relied on Dennis. I’m grateful that he was there, though not proud of my dependence, which makes me determined to see similarities between Dennis’s reaction in Chicago and mine in a car at the edge of South Central Los Angeles. Each of us believed there was no one else to rely on. Each of us assessed the situation and made a split second decision to resist. If we went down, we’d go down fighting, not begging. We kept thinking positive thoughts: Dennis that someone would come along or the gunman would run out of guts, and me that the boy would realize I wasn’t going to give in. Seems peculiar to me, but we each found the mental time to be frustrated by the stupid choices made by our attackers—seemingly healthy and intelligent, well-groomed men who could have earned the car or the money or the status or the sex that they wanted. After we thought the danger had passed, all we felt was outrage. Without Dennis, would I find the courage and skills to Embodied Effigies | 31


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protect myself or have I gone soft under the umbrella of his protection? In Chicago, Dennis’s growl was visceral, atavistic. Confronted with danger, his eyes narrowed to threat and his hackles rose. I could not have reacted that way. He thinks that protecting me is his job, the male’s job. For years, he and I have been a team, with two careers and overlapping responsibilities, and we’ve become interdependent. My Me-Against-the-World act left the stage years ago. If I had to face a would-be robber, carjacker, or kidnapper on my own, my reaction would depend on the circumstances. I have no choice but to believe that in a battle of wits, I’d be armed.

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m Pomeroy February 2014


Murder at Home William Pomeroy

On a cold, lifeless morning in January I stared out my kitchen window, eyes glazed, toward a monstrous house built cheaply on a lot which, according to our deed, could never be developed. Quietly I stirred coffee (a nineteen-year-old already addicted), having found its power badly needed in the daylight between sleepless nights. Every noise was shrill: rattling spoons, opening cabinets. Breathing heavily, my exhales fell into void. —Eventually I glimpsed my burden. Cleaning brushes the day before, my new boss had approached me. “We’re going into a house where a murder happened.” I swallowed bitter grounds, pulling into White Cove: a development oddly suited for what “happened.” —Rows of pre-fabricated, twostory homes equi-distant, all beige with a two-car garage. Like untested cadets in formation, their surety felt contrived. As Sherlock Holmes knew the moor concealed evil, I reasoned this picket fence etiquette guarded itself—until after the crime. Having kept their distance, neighbors would say, “I can’t believe they did this.” Yet for some events, there is no preparing. I could not fathom what lay beyond their door. But with measured pace, I crossed the yard. My breath clung in pockets to motionless air. Ron opened the door. His blonde hair, sweat-laden and disheveled, formed sharp contrast, along with square, decidedly German features, to bright red suspenders and paint-splattered white t-shirt. With a look of slight relief, in a tone of pained kindness, he said: “Good morning, Will.” —I knew it would be the last “good” moment. Inside the place seemed at first ordinary. Had I awaited not signs of murder—based on experience—I might have allowed Embodied Effigies | 35


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myself, at intervals, to pretend nothing was wrong. Instead each glance brought perceptible tremor. The moment would come, a sight where hope dissolved: evil brandishing itself beyond repulse. Until then all seemed frozen: colder, even, than outside. The living room and kitchen were adjoined: their main room a giant, dimly-lit square that brown carpet incased, and near this drastic change from rest to vigor stood four burly, dark, thick-bearded men with tools spread upon a drop cloth. Intensely they regarded me, producing accidental but malicious silence. A poker-like suspension when the cards flip, before a group to frequent a saloon. Ron told me I would “cut around” the hallway, outlining its edges for a coat of primer. —This sounded normal. I left footprints on shampooed carpet, brush and gallon pail in hand, eyes patrolling wall contours. The chill had trammeled my nose, but still I noticed acrid cleanser. At the end was a master bedroom. Just before, a section covered already in blotches of primer. —About to ask if Ron wanted a second coat, I overheard: “He shot her in the bedroom with a 12-gauge. Close range. In her stomach. Turned it on himself in the hallway.” So it was not Ron who applied the primer. I studied those jagged circles, rapt but feeling hollow and nauseous. I could not agree with him saying: “The fire department did a nice job.” Behind the paint, black clots of shattered viscera tauntingly peered. They had attempted to whitewash his brain discharge without first scrubbing clustered lumps, evening the surface. In shock my brain ran wild. I could not slow the onslaught. —A woman who closely resembled my mother scrambling into the bedroom. Rushing after her a man visible only from behind. —Facing him, eyes wide in terror, hands raised protectively; her guttural, animalistic scream reserved for death. —The shotgun driving her backward, stomach ripped open, onto the bed. —Her husban fleeing the room; then, after crushing remembrance, pelting the wall with his brains. 36 | Embodied Effigies


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In the bedroom there was nothing to suggest foul play—but absence of feeling. All had been removed: walls, floors and windows empty. There was only the stench of delusive cleaning. A large section of floor had been cut and replaced with cheap, blonde, un-stained panels. This at least had been efficiently handled, but where had they moved boards soaked in blood? Something about this absence—caused by the violence surrounding—felt worse than its signs more direct. Left before as stubborn residue, life itself had disappeared. Their room was a carcass, an emblem of death. Like a realm beyond this world, its nullity trapped my breathing. When Ron entered, I realized a long time had passed. I stood there, pallid and shaking, my paint in hand and brush un-dipped. He stared concernedly then asked, with forced sympathy, “Why don’t you run and get us some coffee?” I discerned his meaning, since Ron knew my past. He would call when the job ended. Until then I needed repair—to hide my bleeding. I had not recovered. One never does. People think we can adjust. They are wrong as usual. New cuts re-open old wounds. It only gets harder. We are infected by attempts to heal.

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illiam Alton March 2014


Sleep William Alton

Sometimes I sleep in the bushes, rain dribbling through the leaves and flowers, thin streams and cold dots of water. The ground goes all muddy and soft. I curl into a tight ball and barely dip into dreams. I wake to the sound of footsteps coming close, the rustling of the bushes in the wind. I wake to silence in the middle of the night. Beer helps. If I get drunk enough, I can slip into complete darkness and not worry about getting rolled or chased out by security. Sometimes I sleep on the sidewalks downtown. It’s not really sleep. There are too many people downtown. There’s too much noise. There are cops who come and chase me away. I’ve been known to sleep in alleyways under cardboard shelters, behind Dumpsters. Alleys are safer than sidewalks. Not many people come into alleys. Only workers taking out the trash and other homeless people looking for someplace to get away from the scornful eyes of people whose luck is better than ours. Bridges are good too. You can crawl into little spaces and curl up. They’re noisy though. Traffic screams right over your head. Trucks come with their growling engines. Little cars whistle on the wet asphalt. Sometimes I make enough money hustling and rent a motel room. I sit on the bed and watch television. I shower and wash my clothes. I drink beer and fix. I nod, and nodding, the hours pass. I work the corners only when I have to. I get my dope two, three times a week and make it last as long as I can. I hate hustling. I hate the taste of it, the fear of being arrested, though going to jail wouldn’t be bad. At least it would be dry and there’d be food, a warm bed to sleep in. But jail scares me. I’ve heard too many stories about the place to make not going there a priority. I’d rather live my life cold and hungry than give up my freedom. Embodied Effigies | 39


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Sometimes, Julie and I work the streets together. She’s the one who got me into this business anyway. We were young. I was thirteen. She was twelve. Men liked us a lot. We’d pull four or five tricks a night, score our fix and sleep in the motel that rented to minors without I.D. Julie usually finished before me. More men liked the little girls than the little boys. Still we were usually done by midnight. We’d fix and sleep and the next day do it all over again. Sometimes we sleep at friends’ places. Jerry lives with his mom in an apartment in Kirkland. He likes to party and his mom is gone a lot so we go out to his place and smoke weed, do our heroin, drink beer and sleep on his floor. Once Jerry’s mom comes home in the little hours of the morning and finds a bunch of us sprawled around her living room and she loses it. She screams and throws things and we all scramble out of her way. She threatens to call the cops if we don’t get the hell out of her apartment. Julie and I make it out first since we were dressed and ready for anything. We rush into our shoes and beat feet. The buses are slow this time of the morning so we hang out at the stop, waiting. It’s cold and rainy and neither of us have a jacket. We left them in Jerry’s apartment without thinking, but there’s no way we’re going back, not with the crazy woman there. We’ll go to a shelter later and get new ones. Shelters always have coats and blankets. They have food and sometimes they have a roof to sleep under if you get there early enough. I hate sleeping in the shelters. They’re set up dorm style with rows of cots in one big room. People snore and fart all night and I’m a light sleeper. I wake to every noise unless I’m fixed. Heroin allows me to sleep through just about anything. Sleeping with heroin is the best sleep I can find. It shuts out the world and nothing bothers me. I can sleep on the street in the rain when I have my heroin. All I need is a blanket. Heroin doesn’t keep the cold out. It’s easier to sleep when it’s warm and dry. Julie and I make it to the motel we always stay at and pool our money. We have enough for a couple of days, but we’re running low on dope. No one’s up this time of day, so we go to our motel and check in. We get to our room and do up the last bit of heroin and shower in hot water. She leans her head against my chest. I wrap my arms around her. The water pounds our flesh and turns it red. 40 | Embodied Effigies


Sleep

We’re comfortable here. We’re safe. We sleep away the day. Come night, we’re on the street again, hustling and scoring our next fix. It’s a cycle. I hate it, but what else am I supposed to do?

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ors’ Notes Contributors’ Notes

William Alton was born November 5, 1969 and started writing in the eighties while incarcerated in a psychiatric prison. Since then his work has appeared in Main Channel Voices, World Audience, and Breadcrumb Scabs, among others. In 2010, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has published one book, titled Heroes of Silence. He earned both his BA and MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. You can find him at williamlalton.com. Claudia Geagan has a BA in English and an MS in Finance. After a career in financial services in New York and Detroit, she now lives and writes on a mountainside in South Carolina. Her work has been featured in The Louisville Review, Persimmon Tree, Hippocampus Magazine, and The Lindenwood Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Moneta Goldsmith is a writer, teacher, and former poetry editor of The Northridge Review. His works have appeared both online and in print in the following magazines: Sparkle & Blink, Whole Beast Rag, Watershed Review, East Jasmine Review, among others. Portions of “Five Short Talks on Booksellers” previously appeared in frankmatter magazine. Torri Mallery, 23, is an undergraduate student at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania majoring in Secondary Education with a concentration in English and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. She has been a member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard since 2008, and continues to serve with her unit located in Spring City, Pennsylvania. Once she graduates in 2015, she intends to pursue a career teaching in an urban city school district. 42 | Embodied Effigies


William Pomeroy lives with his wife in Greenwich Village and teaches English in Harlem. He taught Ethics and Poetry in a medium-security prison while completing his Philosophy degree. His work has been featured in Ontologica, Art Times, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Glide Magazine, Brooklyn Exposed, and Maryland Hunting Quarterly. Murder At Home is the beginning of a memoir he is writing on a series of traumatic events (arson, wrongful arrest, robbery, home invasion, criminal court proceedings) he experienced as an eighteen-year-old. He appreciates you reading it.

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Profile for Embodied Effigies

Embodied Effigies Issue 3point5  

A half-issue! Catch up on the Featured Writing of Winter 2013/2014 with this special author-centric edition of Embodied Effigies.

Embodied Effigies Issue 3point5  

A half-issue! Catch up on the Featured Writing of Winter 2013/2014 with this special author-centric edition of Embodied Effigies.

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