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ISSN 2069-5616

www.nazar-look.com


Nazar Look

Nazar Look Attitude and culture magazine of Crimean Tatars in Dobruja Tomrîğa Kîrîm Tatarlarîñ turuş-mamuriyet meğmuwasî Sene/Year: 5, Yarîyîl/Semester: 2/2015, Sayî/Issue: 45

Kóstenğe / ConstanŃa, Romania

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Nazar Look

ISSN: 2069-5616 www.nazar-look.com nazar.look@mail.com Constanta, Romania

ON THE COVER: BAŞ KABÎMÎZDA:

FOUNDER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF BAŞ-NAŞIR Taner Murat EDITORS NAŞIRLER Elif Abdul Jason Stocks COMPUTER GRAPHICS SAYAR SÎZGAĞÎSÎ Hakaan Kalila (Hakan Calila)

Copyright reverts back to contributors upon publication. The full issue is available for viewing online from the Nazar - Look website. For submission guidelines and further information, please stop by www.nazar-look.com

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Nazar Look Íşíndekíler / Contents

Íşíndekíler / Contents

Ahmet Yalçınkaya ..................................... 4

Dick Bentley............................................56

turkey...................................................... 4

massachusetts, usa ................................. 56

Gün Batarken Akdeniz‘de Bir Akşam ......... 4 An Evening at Sunset on the Mediterranean ........................................................... 5 Özleminden Ölsem ................................. 6 If I Would Die of Missing You .................. 6 Özlemin Yetişir Gel Diyemem................... 7 Longing For You Suffices I Cannot Say Come ................................................... 7 Tom Sheehan ............................................ 8

Flesh Fiction ........................................ 56 Christie-Luke Jones ................................57

massachusetts, usa ................................... 8 The Bill Collector.................................... 8 The Last of the Roses............................12 Shag DeBrillen, Brickie...........................14 The Ghosts at Horseshoe Creek..............20 Milan Carl Liskart, Coalman ....................24 The Concord Roadman’s Last Call ...........29 Melissa Parietti ....................................... 38

england, uk ............................................ 57 Flight Of The Untethered Balloon ........... 57 1616................................................... 58 Sheikha A. ...............................................61

pakistan ................................................. 61 Be Still, My Spirit.................................. 61 Show .................................................. 62 My Lips Part ........................................ 63 Peacemaker......................................... 64 nv baker ..................................................65

colorado, usa.......................................... 65 Lint..................................................... 65 The Drunken Dewgrass of Joey Thumbsucker....................................... 70 JD DeHart................................................84

new york, usa..........................................38

tennessee, usa........................................ 84

Love in Eastern European Languages ......38 Mates ..................................................39 Ute Carson .............................................. 40

What Happened ................................... 84 Carl Scharwath .......................................85

texas, usa ...............................................40

Ingenue .............................................. 85 Chimera .............................................. 86 Transfigured........................................ 86 Axis .................................................... 87 A Poem Never Read ............................. 87 Ram Krishna Singh..................................88

In My End Is My Beginning ....................40 Before the Traces Are Lost.....................41 In Search of My Father .........................42 Vladimir Nicolas...................................... 45

quebec, canada .......................................45 Do Not Listen to the Wind......................45 Katherine Givens .................................... 46

new jersey, usa .......................................46 Sculpting Love......................................46 A Victor’s Ballad....................................47 Love Between Two................................48 Unstoppable.........................................49 The Victor’s Patience .............................50 Lana Bella ............................................... 51

nha trang, vietnam...................................51

florida, usa ............................................. 85

jharkhand, india ...................................... 88 God Too Dozes .................................... 88 John Richmond .......................................89

new york, usa ......................................... 89 The Permissioner’s Binders.................... 89 Thom Young............................................92

texas, usa............................................... 92 Her..................................................... 92 Them.................................................. 93 Old Glory............................................. 94

Adagio.................................................51 The Elusive Mermaid .............................52 Vichyssoise...........................................53 Migraine ..............................................54 Rabbit Ears ..........................................55

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Nazar Look Ahmet Yalçınkaya turkey

Ahmet Yalçınkaya turkey

Gün Batarken Akdeniz‘de Bir Akşam mor hayallerden tuval yapmış gökyüzü demek biliyor ki benim kaybolan dalga ve biliyor saçlarıyla şehri kamçılayan biri var burada akşamlarda ve bir çift mavi atlastan kopan muazzam fırtına estikçe çıldırıyor Akdeniz olan oluyor yüreğime bir güzelin karşı konulmaz rüzgarıyla üşüyor yüreğim ve düşlerim üşüyor Akdeniz değil sadece kendini savuran burada her şey çılgındır öteden beri aynı fırtına gelir bulur kalbi bir okla delinen ne varsa her yandan kuşatır serin bir öpüşle denizi deli bir tay gibi kıyılarına çarpar Antalya ‘nın saten örtüsünü kaldırarak engin suların sarmalar seni, beni, hepimizi elimle geri getiririm mecburen gidenleri kesiverir yolları o gelip sonra bir ışık hüzmesiyle büyülenmiş gibi seyreder Akdeniz sırılsıklam ve çaresiz mavi gözlerle tutup çalar o yürekleri, söker göklerden tunç ufukları yanık sesiyle ve akıp tüm rüzgarlar toplanır gözlerinde her şey mavidir şimdi, her şey tek renk tek resim var hangi yöne baksam, gün batarken Akdeniz ‘de bu defa tunç değil mavi yeri göğü birleştiren ahenk, yakınlar mı çok derin ben mi yaşlandım yoksa… gün batarken zaman durdu bir akşam

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Nazar Look Ahmet YalçĹnkaya turkey

An Evening at Sunset on the Mediterranean sky had made a canvas of purple dreams so it knows then that I am the missing wave and knows there is someone whipping the city with her hair here in the evenings and an enormous storm broken up from a pair of blue satin the Mediterranean goes mad as it wildly breezes what happens is happening to my heart with irresistible wind of a beauty freeze my dreams and my heart freezes not only the Mediterranean is it winnowing itself everything is crazy here all along, all the way the same storm finds anything with hearts bored by an arrow surrounds the sea on all hands with a chilly kiss swashing on the beach of Antalya like a madding foal taking away the satin cover of head waters wraps me up, you, all of us, and this I bring back perforce by my hands the ones gone away then it comes and cuts all the ways with a light beam the Mediterranean watches magically head over heels in love and so helpless, steals those hearts with blue eyes rips off the bronze horizons with its touching voice and all the winds are gathered flowingly in its eyes everything is blue now, everything unicolor there is a unique picture to which direction I may look, at sunset on the Mediterranean this time the harmony is blue but not bronze, being a far set harmony connecting earth and sky as we took, is then the neighborhood so deep or did I grow old‌ time stopped in an evening at sunset Translated by: A. Edip Yazar

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Nazar Look Ahmet Yalçınkaya turkey

Özleminden Ölsem Koltuğumda hâlâ o güzel kokun, Sesin yankılanır küçük salonda. Farkında değilim varın ve yokun; Sanki hâlâ kolum senin kolunda. Balkondaki sensin… Hayal mi yoksa, Odada dolaşan bedenin sır mı? Hâlâ kapın açık, kalbin açıksa… Ölsem özleminden ruhun acır mı?

If I Would Die of Missing You Your beautiful scent is still on my armchair, your voice echoes in the small living room. I am not aware of being or of not being; as if my arm is still on your arm so soon… It’s you at balcony... or is it a dream, is your body walking in the room, secret? If your door is open, your heart still open... When I die missing you would your soul regret? Translated by: A. Edip Yazar

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Nazar Look Ahmet Yalçınkaya turkey

Özlemin Yetişir Gel Diyemem sana gel diyemem sen gibiyken gel diyemem uzak iklimlerden çağırmam seni korkular öncesinde beni bulursan eğer bülbülsüz bahçelerde kaçarım / olur ya gülsüz yakalarsın yaralarsın belki de / açılırım artık denizlere enginlere bakmam / olur ya gemim sana koşar sana gelirim uzak iklimlere /

Longing For You Suffices I Cannot Say Come I cannot say come to you I cannot call you while I am like you I do not call you from climates far away before fears if you would find me in gardens without nightingales I run away / may be you catch me without roses maybe you wound me / I stand out to sea at that, it is the way I do not look at the deep / may be my ship rushes to you I come to you to climates far away / Translated by: Richard Mildstone

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Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

The Bill Collector It was to be an eventful day, that hot August Saturday in 1936 in Saugus, Massachusetts. Furniture was coming. The front room of our third floor apartment was dance hall bare, as my mother had said many times, and it had been that way for months, a raw corridor in itself. Every so often I’d catch her standing at its door or in the middle of that pound of silence (her favorite reference to it), looking as if one of her children were missing. Tall, strong across shoulder, dark haired and dark eyed, lovely white complexion she said was a toast to Roscommon’s clear air, where her father was born. She was not one for using many gestures to express herself. Only if you stared hard, would you see a firmness tighten on her jaw, set her lips; mind made up, deed to be done. She was impervious to a host of things that bogged down or disrupted less a soul, especially in those difficult times. My father worked only partial hours in a factory, coming home tired and his feet hurting, three children always reaching for mostly what wasn’t there. My mother reacted indignantly and impetuously to her own highheeled steps across the bare floor. That too-silent room, that useless cubicle, was full of echoes of all kinds, needing only to be triggered. And it was her heel clicks coming most alive of all, each one unique, a message being sent one letter at a time. She would stop part way across that passage on her way to peer out the front window, look over her shoulder, and set her chin. A singular muscle would tense beneath the skin of her jaw. One would think she was being followed and had vowed to lose herself in silence. My tall, lovely, 8

warm, obstinate mother was usually without gestures, featured in a black and white movie, suddenly silent without her footsteps. Late at night there had been arguments about furniture, oh arguments indeed, the very need of it in the first place, an extravagance, its less than full time utility, we don’t live in a barn. I heard about the almost inexhaustible supply of handmade doilies my Grandmother had crocheted for what seemed a hundred years gathering only the dust of history in old hat boxes. She rarely raised her voice. The smooth and rhythmic engine of her purring came through the other five rooms as if she were keeping her speed steadily at five miles an hour. To a word she was intractable. After much argument and setting stands a fourstar general would have been proud of, and subsequent searches across a wide boundary of opportunities, she had found one Simon Westman. He was a man who was willing to arrange delivery of five pieces upon the promise of $2.15 being placed in his hands each Saturday morning thereafter, until paid off could be noted in his little black book. So Simon came that hot August Saturday morning in 1936. And Simon spoke, loud enough for the neighborhood to get acquainted with the business tenor of his harsh voice. He was a crier reaching up and past his own tier, laddering himself no less, and forever the salesman. “Up with it, boys,” he said, “to the third floor, and don’t hurt a curl of its luxury!” Upward he pointed, Hannibal at the foot of the Alps, ready for the snowy terrors and what lay beyond. Then, hands on his hips, head wagging like the lead bitch at a dog show, his voice went magisterial, dictatorial, more European than other


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa possibilities. Vestiges of Carthage and Waterloo were locked into it. He shaped himself up for our neighborhood gawkers, a grand host of window hanger-outers, lace curtain parters with faces held back. Deep in their souls they envied my mother’s delivery. Their silence was akin to applause, almost luxurious in those harsh Thirties hanging over us. They had been there in such grip forever, every last one of them, and were still trapped in that time and in that mind set. Simon had stepped out of his dark green Graham, pulled up tightly behind the canvas covered truck, all 5’ 4” of him. He wore a wide-brimmed felt hat, stiff collar, dark suit appearing to have faint orange stripes still in residence. His goggle- or pop-eyed stare almost hurt me. Pain sat on his puffy red cheeks as though six decades earlier an exuberant midwife had squeezed it permanently into place. Stepping down from the running board, holding tightly to a door handle of the dark Graham for support, he could have been a valet exiting a Pullman belonging to the Czar. Or he could have been the Czar himself. *** His compatriots were a diverse pair, oddest imaginable book ends in freighting. One, the larger of the two, was a bloated giant. He’d be, I thought, the mucker as anyone would have said, a miner, a lifter, a hunkin’ stevie from the docks of Charlestown. His back was thick enough for toting an oaken ice box. He would most likely be voiceless, a mute acceptor of direction, of order, a pure piece worker whose every dollar earned, you could bet, would be quaffed off before nightfall. The other was a coin of the obverse side, company clerk-ish (as in military). Small, thin, clean shaven, given to hand pointing, head nodding, minor grunts, he was a peacock of the first order. A bowler sat his head cocked at an angle, a precipitous angle, a daring angle. A scrawny green feather was etched to it as wayward and worn as an afterthought. His grin would come back to me years later as Barry

Fitzgerald plotted his moves in The Quiet Man, his lips smacking at taste, at connivance. The hunkie lifted, the clerk pointed, Simon watched, his arms folded across his chest. The puffy new sofa, two large red-and-blue easy chairs, a coffee table and an end table made their way up three flights to our bare dance hall. My mother, an absolute magician who could put a supper meal on the table from an empty larder, produced a dark red rug from her bedroom closet. None of us had seen it before, and it was Asian for sure. The age old, elegant and delicate doilies came out of their long darkness. Her room shone; she shone; and Simon parted company with the dire challenge, “I’ll be back next Saturday morning for the first payment.” Nodding at his crew, he said, “That’s it, boys. Off we go.” The puffy eyes, the orange-striped suit, the corporal-ish man went out the door and down the stairs. For the best part of a year Simon came on Saturday mornings, the Graham his advance calling card as it rolled into the Square below us. My mother would sigh almost inaudibly, set her chin in her way, and reach into an oatmeal box where she kept her change. Never once did she pay Simon his $2.15 with anything but coin, never a bill changing hands. If there was a message to her accounting, it never found Simon, never fazed him, and the creditable entry would be posted in his little book, which we all dreamed about reading someday. For a while I might even have been obsessed with whatever its contents revealed; it was almost an adversary. Simon was a challenge, though, and took noting. He never sweat, never cursed a late entry, never came up the three flights without pausing a half dozen times on the stairs and lower levels. He’d smile at my mother, look in at the front room, nod his appreciation, accept her coin, make the

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Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa entry in his little book. All the while his gray-white eyeballs protruded out of their sockets. They’d have made drill sergeants uncomfortable. Once, in a cold and extremely raw January, he did not appear for three weeks and I suggested that he might have died and our payments would be done. My mother shook her head lightly. I wasn’t sure if she were saying, “It’s not in our luck”, or “Don’t bring pain on anybody.” But, eventually, there was the Graham and Simon and the pauses on the stairs of his mountain climbing and the coin exchange and the book entry, as if nothing ever in life were going to change. Simon, thus, was a certainty in our life, a piece of clock work. And the year moved on in its way, languid, hot and then cool, dry and then wet, seasons unfolding and fulfilling their prophecies and predictions. Time tumbled all around me (my pants one day going from knickers to long in one sweet afternoon I’ll remember forever), and Simon came and Simon said and Simon went. Then, miraculously, a shift came, slowly, surely, in the way I looked at him, how I felt about him. Most likely that may be traced to what my mother said one day when I stood quickly at the kitchen window at the sight of the Graham driving into the square. It was like a ship hitting our small island, coming to take our stores away. Perhaps dislike or distaste or discomfort rode freely on my face. “Be careful how you remember Simon.” Her voice was low, carrying no inflection, no tone to be deciphered. She was, acutely, a judge at warning, at guidance. “I found him, he didn’t find me.” I began to look at him in different lights, eventually as a survivor. He was a little man who kept at his practice, who plied his way and his wares, who climbed slowly to face my mother each Saturday, not an easy task in itself, without many failures. He was a man who did not sweat, who was never wrinkled, who kept his car immaculate, who never looked at his watch. The time came when I did not notice his eyes, forgot 10

their awful prominence, did not pay them any mind. He survived because he was constant, and I began to appreciate that. Survival, and much of its lessons, had been thrown at my feet a few years earlier, before we had moved from cluttered Charlestown. Home there was at the very beginning of Bunker Hill Avenue adjacent to Chelsea Street and the Navy Yard where my father spent his last days in the Marine Corps. Simon and I then had something in common, and my mother had linked the two of us. It was like accepting, grudgingly, the new kid in class who really wasn’t a bad kid after all. And that moment of revelation and acceptance passed as quick as a shot. One day there’s Simon, and the next Saturday there’s a lanky, bony, thin-faced, tightlysuited replacement. He held Simon’s book in one hand and the other hand out for his $2.15 plus $.10 for any late payment in the future. My mother lifted her eyebrow, the left one, the most expressive one, at that dictum. Simon had died of a heart attack and here was his nephew taking over his rounds. Into my young life serious change had been incorporated. Two weeks later it happened. After pounding on our apartment door, making all kinds of noises down in his throat as though he were gargling with acid, the long, lanky, tight-suited collector of sorts introduced his foot between the door and the stout jamb. My mother had told him she had no money for him that day. He yelled, without any trace of accent, “I know you’ve got money. Simon said you always paid him and you’re going to pay me. I’m not coming around this hole for nothing, you can bet on that! This whole place smells to high heaven, here and every apartment in this whole stretch of blocks! Now give me my money!” On the front porch, looking down over the peaceful square, no help anywhere in sight, my survival training kicked into high gear. I began to tug feverishly at each and every baluster of the


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa porch railing looking for a loose weapon. My hands were stiff and hard and pulsing with righteousness. No baluster came free at such tugging. My mother had begun screaming for him to leave, obviously pushing desperately at the other side of the door, holding the fort high on the third floor. I took one more look down to the street before I knew I’d have to catapult weaponless onto his back in the next few seconds. Suddenly, below me at street level, squat as a beetle, black canvas top beginning to shred but still showing remnants of its original luster, came a car. Against the curb bumped my uncle Owen’s long-hooded Packard, and my father stepping out of it. “Dad!” I yelled, putting panic in my voice with my most calculated manner, setting off the alarm of alarms, “Some guy’s got his foot in the door and mom’s crying.” You know what irony is, don’t you, full-fledged irony? Well, I saw it unfold right before my eyes, irony and the lesson of sweetest justice. Lanky’s foot was still in the door and my mother was still pushing on the other side. He heard the roars of a lion three floors below him and those fearful and heavy feet on the stairs, and the pounding and the roaring ascending as if from the pit of hell itself. And he can’t get his foot out from that improvident vise because my strong, broadshouldered and home-protecting mother holds firm to her station. Oh, he struggled then, did Lanky. He shoved on the door, kicked with his other foot, banged the oak footer, tossed his head this way and that like a stallion under harness. His shoulders shook and convulsed and the threads of his suit threatened to burst, and his throat finally cleared of all debris. “Let go, damn you, you absolute bitch you! Let

go!” The lion is closer, the sounds are hell themselves and suddenly, in a movie, in a closeup film, there’s this madman rising from the bowels of the earth and a final roar exits from the heart of Vesuvius. “Let go, Helen!” yelled my father, his hands reaching steeled and awful as talons, his eyes full of what I’d never seen once in my life. A wild energy pulsed about him more terrible than electricity. Like a snap, quick as thought, down three flights of stairs went Lanky, pummeled every step of the way. He bounced pillar to post to baluster to the final newel on the ground floor. His bone and flesh touched every tread, a ball, a toy, a stick kicked on a wayward walk. The cop on the beat rushed over and stepped aside as my father ushered Lanky to his car. Propping him behind the wheel, he put his finger under his nose and said, low and mean, more of Vesuvius rising again, “Don’t come back!” He turned the ignition key, slammed the heel of his hand on the floor starter tucked against the seat, and pointed out of town. Lanky never came back, and dozen years ago, when my mother was within a day of her death, she placed in my hands my father’s metal box whose contents I had never seen. In it I found his Marine Corps discharge creased together in grayyellow folds. There was a Corps commendation in the neatest script you can imagine, two Nicaraguan Service Medals circa Chesty Puller, and a faded post card from Captain James Devereux (later at Wake Island). The card simply said, “Jim, do you remember the night Atlanta got treed?” There was a note from the first grade teacher in Charlestown, Miss Finn, begging my mother that we not move away until she had taught all the Sheehans. Lastly, it too fading away, was Simon Westman’s little book, Lanky’s loss no doubt, with nine blank spaces yet to be marked for coin. ***

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Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

The Last of the Roses That morning I was a thorn between two roses. My wife Kay sent me out to water the flowers along the front and the driveway side of the house, and my mother, just now marking her first year as a widow and not yet a pest by visiting too often, coming for the day. It was a Saturday, a lazy day off and I wanted to fool around for a while before the day got going. “Not before your mother gets here,” Kay said, blue eyes talking too. “She’ll take one look at me and know what we’ve been up to. She’s always known.” She said it the way some women let a secret trickle and go on about its way as if they’ve not let it go at all. The faint smile rode her cheeks, the corners of her mouth, lit her eyes with promise for later. She added, “It wouldn’t be fair to her. She’s only 48 years old and she’s not dating yet.” I got a smooch in and she burned me by leaning into me in the same tumultuous and provocative way she had learned as a fifteen year older on our third date. With me that experience would carry her forever. Anyway, it had only been a couple of hours since she burned me all over. What the hell, it was Saturday and Kay was not yet round, the promise of roundness not yet showing in her frame, the puma of her being easy and agile in the kitchen where her moves were unavoidably attractive. She cupped me on parting, her mouth ajar. I went outside to survey a different landscape. There, in the midst of barren green leaves, in the huddle of briars and brambles of both my rose bushes trussed against the house, in the remnants that August usually leaves for deserted and desecrated rose bushes, flaunted a single rose, like a tile from a resurrected Machiavellian mosaic, 12

Overnight, from a secret source, hardly anemic in color, bred and bled, perhaps a hybrid within time or beset with passion, I swore it had bloomed and lit up under cover of darkness. This marked a ritual I was never privy to no matter how hard or long I tried, patience no matter, or an accountable torch. The crop of outstanding American Reds had earlier leaped in late May or June’s first week and the last one of them, limping, maimed and wounded from a war of heat, wilting the way some seniors walk the walk, and supposedly the last one, had disappeared by early August; summer cut to the quick. Roses, to the initiate, are signposts forever. In the start of May they had rouged up, roseate, primrose, and suddenly, after one full weekend of rain and a succeeding burst of heat and solar touch, had turned Adrianople red. God, I loved that smash of brilliance, and, against the white house I had painted myself only a while ago, they gelled like some runaway blood had found the stopgap, had congealed their smashing redness. Somewhere in that spread of summer I rocked with pleasure a number of times, knew pride for a bit, measured my watering can’s faithful efforts. I’d not let that rose go onto its unavoidable destiny. I knew, at first thought, I’d pluck it, bring it inside, put it in a glass for Kay to look at for a day or two, to measure how much I loved her. I reached into the bush for it. A poem of sorts found me muttering. Oh, I would slake a thirst with this one rose, slip it from the vine, give it to my Kay, go wispy-eyed with it to her, a gift from Mother Nature herself, past preening, secluded, granting the last favor from a summer’s faithful watering of her bushes. It was a remnant of the first order, a flamboyant remnant, and I would score Kay’s kitchen with the late blossom. In my hand I could measure how August carnage had done its work again; the roses, once so radiantly red between pairs of front windows, leaping out


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa past glass prisms, had died, had vanished, had been vanquished by incessant heat. For all of June they had thrilled me and an occasional walker who noted their florescence, the antics of their immediate spread, the prismatic dependence on rain and sun the way grand alliances sally forth in a burst worthy of celebration’s gunfire. I casually remembered how in latest July, in one weekend of revolt, the change had begun, a change in shade, a wimping of a petal now and then, a complete fadeout from a rose near the bottom of one tendril, as if an animal had watered there. That revolt went on until all had been overcome. I stood with the rose in my hand, and a shadow in the window saying Kay was behind the glass sharing my love. I could taste her. Morning had not let go its root. I can smell now at this recall the air that was about me at the moment; density of past roses, new cut of grass, a maple tree’s sweetness hanging over me, my wife’s oh so wanton residue. Contentment came. Life swinging its easy way with me. I had my treasures.

seeing me with the rose, deciding like old times it was hers. Her face, so recently tired for long stretches, glowed with pleasure as she looked at me and my tribute. On a number of occasions she had said in warm demand to my father, another rose grower, “Save the last rose for me.” In turn I had done the same thing for her for a few years. Then Kay, one night in my junior year of high school, had pressed herself against me. I looked up at the window. The shadow moved. The window flew up as my mother stepped out of the car. Kay leaned out quickly beside one bush and said in high animation, “He’s got the last rose for you, Carol. The last one on the bush. Isn’t he the sweetheart.” For all I care, Kay can get round anytime she wants to; she doesn’t have to be the puma her whole life. But I’ll bet she makes a run for it. I have heard old men say the scent of a rose, like its vision, moves mountains, prompts pumas.

*** A soft plushing of tires caught my ear and my mother came swinging her car into the driveway,

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Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

Shag DeBrillen, Brickie (or The Usual Flat-out Failure at Most Things Unexceptional) As Shag DeBrillen was about to turn the corner in the suburban area where he lived, he spotted a lone car a short ways down the town road. He whistled and told himself it was an Impala, an oldie, an olden golden, a gem of an antique. With the six ports in the rear end looking like gun ports on a fighter aircraft, he affirmed it was a ’63. The car was parked at a siding and the driver, leaning out the window, was talking to a young girl of ten or so that Shag assumed was on her way to school. He wondered if he was looking at an illusion of sorts, not thinking he was really seeing what he was seeing; there was too much nothing around the scene. An old car, a young girl, not much else to look at, or take your eye to the quick. Sometimes what you see is not what you see. It was early October and school year had recently started. Soon, he thought, the leaves would begin to change color, the big silver maple directly across from him soaking up the early sunlight, the threat of change poised and real in its broad cast of leaves. The nights would come cooler in a matter of a week or so, the year looking at its cold ending. The front of his old Pontiac, a ’76 Bonneville, with the Indian head yet proudly mounted by his own hand on the hood, nosed out into the cross road. Shag DeBrillen knew another minor accident would probably finish off the car. He’d had enough of them, he recalled quickly, a few snickers mixed in with the recollections. So the car was driven gingerly, as Stockwell his plumber buddy had noted: “Hey, man, ole Shag drives the bucket like it was Aunt Mindy’s sewing machine, I swear to God.” Shag had a piece of sheet metal and an old wire coat hanger wrapped around the muffler. Each day he’d tighten up the coat hanger or add a new one, wary of the cops who had warned him about excess noise, Trupote being the nastiest about it, a smartass rookie to begin with. Tenuous at best, a front end rocker arm sent tremors that were known in his hands and arms at each turn on the road. The amount of oil usually burning now in 14

the old engine, he surmised hurriedly on numerous occasions, would float a rowboat. Besides, the exhaust smell was real and dark. Unreliable was the word consciously coming into his vocabulary, working its way in on a daily basis. At 168,000 miles the old sedan was counting the miles as well as the days. It was just about good enough to get him to the next wall he was working on. One more solid day’s work in the offing; another brick, another tier, another wall. Suddenly, up there ahead of him, a hand snaked out of the Impala and snatched the young girl, perhaps ten years old he said again to himself, into the car. Shag sat straighter in his seat, quickly upright and his foot locked onto the brake pedal. Blond tresses, bleached from constant sun, fell over his forehead the hot summer had painted a dark tan. He felt as inert as a concrete block. Something almost physical caught in his throat, caught and grabbed on harsh as fishing barbs. For a fraction of a moment he thought he would choke. Mary Gibbons, now mysteriously gone these many years, leaped into his mind. Once more he saw her pretty face ringed with dark curls in the seat right beside him in the Mrs. Stone’s third grade class. She’d been pretty as a picture. Once her slip had shown as white as snow. That glimpse was more than half his lifetime earlier. A breathtaking dizziness flooded his head and his hands froze on the wheel. From that last day going home from school, not a soul had seen pretty Mary Gibbons. Twenty years of nothing. The Impala, in a surging motion, took off down the town road, dust lifting behind it in a minor contrail. The rear ports, like a logo or a full name across the back of the vehicle, kept saying

Chevie. Shag DeBrillen earlier in age had blown about all his schooling and then his one attempt at a G.E.D. Plain and simple it came up for him... books and numbers had little place in his life. He was a brickie; of that he was absolutely positive. His hands told him where he belonged. That perfect line necessary on a wall was scored into his eyes. It had been there since the day Marsellaise, the old neighborhood mason, had shown him eighty years’ worth of tricks of the trade.


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa “Illusion is important to a mason,” Marsellaise had said. “Make it work for you. Then do your thing.” Shag took that release all the way, figuring he already had a head start on things; he had worn his hair the way he wanted to, ever since his father had beaten him for not wearing it the way “grown and proud men do.” Shag knew brick laying and cars and little else. Now decisions came abruptly at him, the kind he felt he was not capable of making. In a kind of desperation, he began to talk to himself. At least the sound was there: There’s no illusion here. No second sighting down the line of a wall, no chance to reset a stone or brick in an otherwise perfect wall. Can’t use a piece of string for this. The gas pedal kicked at his tromped foot. Perhaps I can get the number on the registration plate. It’s all I can hope to do; there’d be no way this old junk can catch that other car. The engine coughed and kicked and sounded just like old Marsellaise the day he died at the end of a long wall, a day’s work done, a lifetime of work done. It had been ten minutes before the work day was supposed to be over when the old gent kicked over, true to the bitter end. In the rearview mirror he saw the plume of black exhaust flowing out behind him. Momentarily he smelled the exhaust, and then discounted it. The picture of the girl’s mother came to him, cleaning the kitchen from the breakfast meal, probably a yellow apron about her waist like his mother used to wear, yellow as the morning sun in the early slant or a whistling canary, planning lunch or the evening meal, pleasant time on hand. Oh, damn, this can be the worst of days for her and she has no idea yet. No idea! The engine snorted and kicked back again at his pedal foot. The smell of oil was heavier, the wake of exhaust as wide as the road behind him. In the back seat his trowels rattled against one another and one clinked against the hammer head, sounding out the single tick of a clock. An empty plastic bucket fell off the seat. If there’s a car behind me, I can’t see it. Maybe a cop’s back there. I damn sure wish a cop was there. I need a cop. I need a cop. What the hell can I do in this claptrap! Goddamn it! He stepped on the gas again. The car shook again. Down the road ahead of him the Impala was pulling away. A half mile down the road a yellow Bluebird school bus had a side red

octagonal flag flung out at its pick-up stop. Two or three cars were stopped coming from the other direction. One was a pick-up truck. I wonder if it could be Stockwell on his way to work. I hope so. That Dodge of his can do a 100 if he wanted it to. The abductor’s Impala slowed and stopped and Shag crept up behind it and got the number on the plate. 781-Q77. That’s easy, he said to himself. He wrote the number boldly on his arm with his stubby work pencil. The figures were scrawling and uneven but fully legible. On a second thought he wrote the number on his jeans. The pencil felt as though it was cutting into the skin of his thigh. Shag spoke aloud; I should get out of the car and approach the other car, rip open the door, get the guy out before he could take off. But the guy will see me and take off. I’ll lose time. I’ve got to be smart about this. Here I am, a goddamn brickie. What the hell can I do? I need a cop. Ain’t that a laugh. He could hear the echo of his voice, helpless and languid, distant as a star. Once when he was sick he had felt like this. Never had he begged for anything, not when sick, not even for his G.E.D. I need a cop. I need a cop. He looked behind him, back down the road, the exhaust fumes momentarily thinned out and the air clearer. Nothing was in sight behind him. Nothing as far back as he could see. The red arm on the bus folded and a Buick came past the bus from the other way. The Impala snaked slowly out over the double line and dipped back as the pick-up came abreast of the bus. It was not Stockwell’s truck, but it was a speedy new Dodge Ram 2500. It came beside Shag. Its engine roared and then flew past him. In front, the Impala slipped around the bus and headed down the road. Shag could not see the girl moving in the car. Oh, damn, he said. The sound of his voice was fainter, receding with his hope. Marsellaise’s voice came in a rugged whisper. Illusion, it said. Illusion. That old man was still trying to teach him something, Marsellaise being noisy again. The police car came out of a side road and headed toward him. Marsellaise was still talking to him, now noisy and incoherently it seemed, a mesh of gibberish and accent from an old man long gone. The white and blue said it was a state police cruiser, one man behind the wheel. Shag shook his head, trying to shake off the voice, the sense of illusion still at him, the loudness. He was trying to concentrate on something. It was 15


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa difficult, the damn voice of the old mason refusing to let go. Pretense, Illusion, it kept saying. What was Marsellaise at? Where was his voice coming from? This blue and white car was real, wasn’t it? Shag leaned over the wheel, faked inertness, lack of attention, yet kept the Bonneville straddling the double traffic lines. The shadow of the cruiser slipped beside him with a roar. The squeal of brakes came from behind. Shag leaned on the gas pedal. The old bucket had some life in it yet, something beside the guttural grunts. But not enough. Moments later the cruiser roared up behind him. Ahead the Impala was moving off as small as the head of a pencil. Shag came to an abrupt stop. He leaped from the Bonneville as the trooper came out of the cruiser directly behind him. Shag waved his arms, tried to scream, his blond curls shaking all over, the tanned face red with excitement. The eyes were popping in his face like glazed saucers. Desperate breath rushed into and filled his throat. Words tried to claw their way through, almost scratching his throat. He looked like an actor in serious trouble, on stage, forgetting his lines, the audience on the edge of their seats. Then he pointed up the road, out of town. “That Impala, plate number 781-Q77. The driver grabbed a little girl back there.” God, he was coherent! The trooper smiled and said, “This your car? You Shag DeBrillen? You old Trupote’s favorite driver in these parts? I haven’t seen one of these things since my Uncle Henry was around.” His hand was on the fender of the Bonneville. “Man, I heard all about you. Tru says he can hear you coming before he sees you. That a fact?” “Listen, that ’63 Impala driver grabbed a little girl back there about a mile. Yanked her right into the car. You gotta do something about it.” “I don’t gotta do anything about nothing! Old Trupote said you had a hundred stories. This another one? A new one?” The trooper cocked his head, noting that he was tuning in the loud muffler. A smile crossed his face. Shag heard Marsellaise’s voice coming from behind his car. Illusion, it said. Illusion. Lie, it also said. Lie like hell or force the issue.

“It’s gonna be your ass, not mine, when I tell this story.” “Don’t threaten me! You got a rep, that’s for sure. I heard about the time the pawn shop was ripped off and you gave the locals a plate number because you saw something. Cops chased an old teacher of yours almost to the New York border. Scared the damn hell out of her and she said you were paying her back for something she’d done to you years ago.” Shag came back quickly. “That was an old maid busybody who manufactured that. I gave a number and the dispatcher screwed it up. In this case, it’s the little girl who’s threatened.” He pointed down the road out of town. “A couple of more miles, out of the lake region, and they’ll get away. That’s when your ass will be in a wringer.” The trooper smiled. “I don’t take to threats. Trupote said you had a talent for this stuff. Could lie like a trooper.” He smiled at his own words. “Play the game for all it’s worth.” “Well, think about her mother sitting home and you’re sitting here shaking your dick at the side of the road ‘cause you caught a guy with a loud muffler and her little girl is grabbed by some guy and making it out of town right about now.” He again pointed out of town, the small pencil dot of an Impala barely visible at a big curve in the road as it began a sweep around Lake Chagmond. With no expression on the trooper’s face, Marsellaise’s voice came back. Lie like hell, it said.

Lie like hell because she’s worth it, that little girl. And her mother putting around the kitchen right about now, dumb as she’ll ever get. The old vision came back. Marsellaise was scribing a line with a string, pegging it. At one point he put stress on the string; “Right about here. Here’s where you do a little double dip, an eye catcher. This grabs their eye, right here. You know you can’t make a wall that looks straight without them saying their piece about it. Here’s where you lie like hell.” He had snapped the string. Shag was thinking in Marsellaise’s words: “Make a good excuse for this and you’re home free with the whole thing.” So Shag said, “What’s your name, officer?” He put a smirk on his face. “You want my badge number too, wise guy. 6-72, and remember it.” His rancor was still riding

16


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa the air when Marsellaise took the opportunity to come back. The trooper put his thumb behind the badge and nearly popped it into Shag’s face. “67-2!” The smirk was returned wholesale with the gesture. “I think you’ll find out sooner than later, my friend, that when you’re talking to the police you better drop the wise-ass stuff. It’ll do you better in the long run.”

The car, said Marsellaise. The car. The car. Then it came heavy. The cruiser. Damn it, Shag, the cruiser. Then he punctuated his words. Illusion, he said, his voice suddenly softer, testing him, cajoling. It’s our only chance! To Shag, the our was all inclusive. It meant the little girl, her mother and father, perhaps siblings, 6-7-2 with the smirk still on his face, Marsellaise, and of course, the Pariah, the loser, Shag himself caught up again. Life will never change, he thought. I might have thought I’ve been shortchanged forever, but now’s not the time. A tree caught in the morning sun almost blazed up on the side of the road as the sun smashed into it. Summer was gone. Fall was here. Winter was coming. Loneliness, terror of the worst sort, could be coming to a mother behind him, toward the center of town. Down the road Shag looked, out of town. And the telltale dot of the Impala was gone. Panic reared its ugly head, and then backed off as he tried to visualize the map of the area. What side roads there were. What was the nearest intersection for the Impala to find flight? Who patrolled out there if it wasn’t this obnoxious son of a bitch? The whole string of summer cottages along the one side of the lake snaked into his mind. They’d all be shut up now, the summer traipsed away and gone, nobody around. Time was running as fast as the Impala. Shag felt the now-or-never crunch pounding down on top of him. It was worth it all, even what he could see coming at him, as clear as he could ever see anything… and the mother in her apron, in her kitchen, oblivious to all of it. He tried to keep the little girl’s fate out of his mind. Tried not to see her in some helpless position, some animal of a man hovering over her. The shock went through his body, snapped into the back of his head… he swore he could hear Mary Gibbon’s laughter, see her face once more, the brown hair, the red lips, the big eyes. Perhaps he heard her cry out, an endless plaintive cry that would last forever. He shivered and caught himself at the edge of something new. Marsellaise was as near as ever,

that good old son of a bitch brickie not letting go, not leaving him. Coyly Shag said, “I thought you were getting a flat tire when I saw you coming,” thinking, If he’s as stupid as he looks, I’ll have a chance.

6-7-2 looked at the street side of his cruiser, bending over, being sure. One hand touched the rear tire as though he didn’t believe his own eyes. The other hand was on his holster, as if he were still in class at the academy and being put to a test. The tire was okay. He walked to the back of the car and bent to look at the other rear tire. That’s when Shag heard Marsellaise as if he were standing just behind him, sharing the same shadow.

Now! the single word was like a roar. It hit Shag between the eyes like a baseball bat in the hands of the Red Sox rightfielder Trot Nixon or the big guy David Papi Ortiz, world champs, the two of them.

Now! Swearing the whole world could hear the longdead mason, he leaped at the car, praying not to stumble, not to screw up again, not to fail miserably at perhaps the only good thing he might ever do in his whole life. Pulling the door open, he jumped into the cruiser, snapped the door lock down and jammed the engine into Drive. The gears ground harsh as an old cement mixer, then caught, meshed, brought a sudden speed to the take-off. With a roar the cruiser leaped off the shoulder, spent rubber leaving smoke, and rocketed down the road. 6-7-2 leaped, cursed, and went for his gun. From behind him and from the other direction, cars were coming. He holstered his weapon. The portable radio came off his hip. He yelled into it. Other than being a brickie, Shag knew he could drive. He’d been driving, whether anyone liked it or not, since he was eleven, more than once at the wheel of a “borrowed” car… his father’s, his Uncle Harry’s, Bert Wills’ who lived next door and always left the keys in the car after a night on the town. Good old Bert never missed the car on a dozen occasions. The last ride was the best, the cop’s chasing Shag over half the town, and he slipped out of Bert’s car and into the house 17


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa without anybody the wiser. Ten minutes later he saw Bert, shaking his head, yelling, being hauled off by the cops. Shag had laughed himself to sleep.

the Impala, all six of them blinking at him at the same time. He was dead sure about it, and the vehicle was parked between the two small buildings, and partly under a small clutch of trees.

The cruiser was now doing about 80 miles an hour as Shag began the loop about the lake. The lake surface, off to his left, through trees, cottages, cabanas, was a silver blue, catching a piece of the morning sky in it. Yet it was a cool blue, making his fingers feel icy. Another shiver came to him as he thought of the coming winter on an open staging, the unset bricks piled at hand on the staging, the wind blowing out of the northeast, some arrogant son of a bitch of a boss yelling up from a heated truck cab down below. The sun poked fingers through decorative camp trees, in gaps between the cottages and cabanas, and spread itself in the maple treetops off to his right, color catching as if being crayoned in at the same moment.

Shag braked down, went by the two cabins less than a hundred feet off the road. Don’t squeal the brakes, he told himself. Easy does it. Leave the cruiser here in the middle of the road. If 6-7-2 has made contact, someone’ll be here soon enough.

In the straightaway, as the curve about the lake was left behind, there appeared no pencil-dotted Impala ahead of him. Christ, he could be gone forever… and the kid with him. Shag tromped on the accelerator and felt his back punch against the seat. He’d get this son of a bitch car up to a 100 if he could. If the Impala got to the turnpike they’d have a cold shot in hell of finding it, and the kid with it. Even then the old mason wasn’t letting go. Shag heard Illusion again, Marsellaise’s voice coming as if from the back seat, another unauthorized passenger. The radio popped alive. “Unauthorized driver at the wheel of a stolen state police car, westbound out of Saxon on the lake road. Driver is dangerous. Post blockade short of the turnpike exit. Trooper afoot at the Hanscombe Road intersection. Needs assistance.” Hell, they’d be on him in minutes, the Impala probably going right on by them, the little girl maybe knocked unconscious in the back seat. He tromped harder on the accelerator. And then, his heart near pounding in his chest, pressure building in his head, his hand now sweaty instead of cold, he caught sight of a glare of light between two small and obviously empty cabins on the edge of the lake. It was like a barrel of a rifle from a distant point and John Wayne or James Arness picking it out of a vast expanse of otherwise darkness. It was the six rear ports of 18

He climbed out of the cruiser, after setting the emergency brake, leaving the keys in the ignition switch, the engine running. Behind a clutch of brush and small trees, he picked up a half dozen stones and made an arrow in front of the cruiser, pointing back to the Impala. Doubt hit him. He knew it was a coveryour-ass gesture. It made him sick about himself. He slipped down into the brush. His heart came pounding again, his hands cold in return, then hot in a hurry. He neared the Impala. Silence sat on the lake, now bluer and brighter, and in the air. There were no cries. No strange sounds. No struggle evident to his senses, but an overwhelming strangeness crowding him. He was feeling hatred for something part human, an ogre, a monster, a child-thief. Bile suddenly loaded his throat with a sour burning. His hand closed on a rock of good size. His huge brickie’s hand closed down on it as if it were a baseball in the hand of Curt Schilling or Pedro Martinez. Two fingers curled tightly about the rock. He had to stop whatever was in process right now. Get him out in the open. He’d take his chances with him, the driver, the abductor, that rotten son of a bitch. The unknowing mother in her yellow apron in her quiet kitchen came back to him. The helpless girl leaped into his mind, her hands reaching for her mother. For her father. For him. The bile loaded itself again. He gagged and recovered. In one swift move, standing upright about thirty feet from the nearest cabin, he fired the rock at the single window facing him. He missed the window by a foot, but the rock rattled loud as a gunshot against the side of the cabin. Sounds came to him from the interior of the cabin. A sudden noise of banging objects. The scream of a little girl. The sounds of quick bedlam. Back over his shoulder he heard sirens screaming across the lake as if a police speedboat were approaching. They were coming from the turnpike end of the road, he was sure, all out to help a brother officer.


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

Then, as Shag turned back, a single male, tall, moving quickly, made his way out of the cabin. He limped. He had a beard. His jacket was blue and worn. Even with the limp he moved rapidly, perhaps desperately. There was another scream from inside. Shag’s heart pounded as the man raced to the Impala. Shag threw another rock. This one smashed against the rear window of the Impala and shattered it. The man heard the sirens. Seeing Shag, he jumped into the car and the car shook as the ignition caught in a roar. Sand and debris rose by the rear wheels as he backed the car. Shag hurled another rock, smashing against the side of the Impala. The engine died, coughed, started again. The sirens were closer. The car coughed and gagged and coughed anew. Then the engine caught again. The Impala swung toward the road as two police cruisers, one a state vehicle, the other a town police car, came to a stop beside the cruiser stranded in the middle of the road. Two uniforms leaped out. Shag screamed, “Stop him. He’s the one who grabbed the girl. She’s in the cabin.” He raced to the cabin as the two more police cars converged on the Impala caught on an embankment on its underside, the wheels spinning harmlessly, the old engine letting go its final cries.

unmade bed. She screamed once more, shook all over, and then her mouth and lips were caught in a sudden silence. He held his huge and ungainly hand out, and said, easily, softly, all the kindness in his voice he could muster. “Your mother sent me.” Outside there was as single shot. A voice screamed, “Halt.” “They got him,” Shag said. “They got him.” The brickie put his arms tenderly around the little girl, and her arms came around him. She had dark hair and big eyes. Tears flowed from those eyes. Could be that in the classroom a boy next to her stole quick glances at her all the time. Shag thought all that was coming to him would be worth all of this, this one sweetness in his whole life. He could picture the girl’s mother, in her canary yellow apron, in her quiet kitchen, looking out the window, admiring the leaves that were changing colors at a rapid pace the way paint brushes break loose on their own from a simple dictum Mother Nature tosses into the mix, winter down the road a ways yet. As far as she was concerned, this far in the new day, nothing but winter was coming her way, nothing at all out of the ordinary. ***

Shag DeBrillen, quicker than he’d ever been, ran to the cabin and found the girl crouched on an

19


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

The Ghosts at Horseshoe Creek A soft, steady breeze, with no puff to it, lifted over the edge of Horseshoe Creek and carried with it the sooty odor of a dead fire, a dank, drifting smell that came like the death of an animal a man has long known, perhaps a favorite horse, like a black stallion unseen at night but a dark star in the sunlight. Another person might say the odor was of an old market in a corner of town or an old home left to rot in the wake of a hundred battles that raged around it, the inhabitants, a man and his whole family, gone to dust in one of those fierce battles, so that their essence alone remained of them. One could almost see the house as it stood decorated with gardens, pet animals, and lusty children bouncing with life. Yet the odor, despite various images passersby would have, remained the cold, dank ashes of a fire long gone into night’s realm, thus it came back each and every nightfall thereafter. The posse, halted on the bank of Horseshoe Creek and about to put down for the night after a long and fruitless chase, was headed by the oldest sheriff in the territory, Clayton Chalmers, former cavalry sergeant in the Great War. Chalmers had been here before, at Horseshoe Creek in the Arizona Territory. This was where he had seen the ghosts before. And he knew he’d see them again. They would not let him go. He could not hide from them. For so long he had carried images, visions, slices of reality so thin they could slip into a tent at night, into any livery stable where men may bed down when on the move, or in a man’s barn conscripted for use by a legal demand such as a posse, sneak into the back of the head as though a silent stiletto of thought had punctured any organ of the body and ended up where it was destined. He had known such intrusions, such interruptions, such unchallenged enemies for all his post-war days. He’d not tell anybody about these incursions, letting a single, trustworthy fiber of his body stand up every now and then and perform a kind of dislocation, re-location, or bodily departure by his own force of will. They might not work, such efforts, when night set camp in the back of his mind, and old terrors made way in a hurry. It would often take all of his character to fight back. “Even then” he’d say, “foreign spirits came and went at will.” There 20

were times he would not say the word ‘ghost’ for fear he’d call one of the devils of combat down upon the posse. And Chalmers carried about with him the constant realization that he’d never get rid of the ghosts that hounded him until he joined them, until he was back in the ranks once more, where he belonged. The fear was of its own growth in those words, smelled and touched and known at the back of the neck the way an Indian could introduce himself at the edge of dawn, and the spirit of the mountains was in his feet, and in his hands. Forever he thought he could run; he was a rider, born to the horse from his first days. “Jump on a horse and go,” his father said, about escaping the grips that sudden memory snaps on a man as sure as manacles. “Jump on your horse, ride him into the ground,” the ‘him’ being the intruder in a man’s psyche. It was the getaway serving a man for a spell … but not forever. “A trooper is a trooper, and a cavalryman is a cavalryman, and that’s forever,” he’d once heard Major General George Meade say just before the battle of Gettysburg. That was back on May 1, 1863, but the words hung on like an orator’s legacy. Chalmers felt them every time he climbed into his saddle, every time he thought of Culp’s Hill and other sites he’d ranged with his horse in the midst of carnage and interminable death. Death, in his experience, had come flooding across the land, like rivers run loose of banks, like rivers sent on a swollen rampage from cloudbursts. Death, he had known, had been so unselective in such cases, swooping all in its way, sucking blood up like a vacuum was in operation and then only to let it seep into the land, just as the final measure is dust unto dust and dirt unto dirt, blood is new water on the earth. That death in war took cowards and heroes in its quick run, its swoop of lives no matter how such lives had been conducted. All this garbage of war he’d carried in some kind of satchel, some saddlebag with or without a handle or a strap or the thinnest length of leather to keep it in tow; it was strange at first, the catch of names he’d garnered, the names seemed born of war, names he had found strange and concocted, or weary or full of signals as they came back to him in a litany of errors … Billy Lanyard getting blown up, Paul Trigger serving the endless and deadly accurate sniper at Gettysburg, Paul Cannon hurled aloft by a canon’s


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa reach, the Kentuckian Terror who carried the moniker of Billy Minie, and George Musket from high Ozarks, and Reginald Sword III from Boston’s Harvard College unaware for all his smarts that he was toting his means of death. What makes up a ghost? he’d often wondered, and wondered yet. Now, on this day, his posse was hunting for two killers who had escaped from an iron prison transfer wagon on the way to the penitentiary at Yuma, killing the driver and two escort riders at a rest stop. The escapees shot the wagon horses and rode off on the two escorts’ horses, taking all weapons, ammunition, canteens, and a small amount of travel food. One posse member, Chuck Twohig, set about to make a night fire when the odor of old, wet ashes assailed him on the gentle breeze. He yelled to Sheriff Chalmers standing a ways off at the edge of the creek, “Hey, Sheriff, can you smell that old fire, like it’s out there in the middle of the creek and getting whipped up again after it’s been doused out?”

He’d continue to try to bring it more into the open. He added as if he was a narrator, “The Apaches, it’s said, left out two bottles of whiskey the night guards found and drank off. They fell asleep on their rounds and the Apaches walked in and killed every man in the troop after they had doused the campfire with water and moved in the darkness like a cougar or a puma on the kill. It was retaliation for the massacre of Apaches in Pinals in June of 1870. Lots of Apache women and children killed in that merciless raid. A terrible thing, a stain on the army forever and on those who ordered it done. I’ve smelt the ashes from that fire for at least half a dozen years. It’s there, ripe as melons in the garden, every time I come by.” He didn’t add anything else of what he knew. “What happened to them guards, Sheriff?” Twohig said. The ghost had retreated, and he preferred not to mention such a ludicrous vision. “Oh, they were the first ones to get their throats cut and then they were scalped.” Chalmers spoke in a distant tone, as if his words were being measured, a fine being levied, a judgment being passed.

Twohig did not say that he had seen a soldier walking toward him, on the water, and who suddenly disappeared. He thought better of looking foolish in front of one of the most respected sheriffs in the west, though Chalmers’ association with Horseshoe Creek was well-known in the territory.

“Then the Apaches got everybody else?” Twohig was intrigued by the sheriff’s tone, and aware that he was himself smack in the middle of something he had seen and could not believe. If it was happening to the sheriff, again, for everybody knew his history, it was not going to happen to him.

Nor did Chalmers say that he had also seen the ghost soldier, once a friend, once a comrade, looking as he had before death came to him, a private in the ranks. Chalmers wondered if that old friend had been one of the two night guards of the fateful patrol, for he once liked his whiskey hard and often at the end of every hard ride or campaign. More than once that man’s voice had come to him in the night, as he rode alone out on the grass or on a mountain trail, “Why didn’t you duck that drunk’s bullet, Clay? You could have been with us, right here with us, Clay.” Over the rim of his canteen cup he had looked as he offered that marked invitation.

“Yup, sure as you’re sitting there ready to light that new fire, Chuck, they got the whole company.” It was not as if he had said, “They got all of them but me.” He had not brought that fully loaded into his mind as yet.

Instead of not contributing on the spot more mystery to Horseshoe Creek, Chalmers tendered a warning, “Don’t you worry about that smell, Chuck, because it’s not going away. It’s been smelling the place up since the raid near here when the troop was camped out.”

“You got a real nice way of upsetting someone, Sheriff. Might play hell with a night’s sleep … if we’re still here come morning, full morning.” Twohig looked out across the creek, checking if the mysterious soldier had reappeared. He saw nothing. “It sure did that to the troop,” Chalmers said, as he rolled over on his blanket, thinking back to the night he fell off his horse, a stray bullet in his shoulder from a drunken cowboy celebrating the end of a long drive. He never made the patrol to Horseshoe Creek with his company. But he remembered the name of the drunk who was wild-shooting after a night on the town: Victor Rangely, dead of hanging in the territory two 21


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa years earlier than this night, his body hanging for three days or so on the stout limb of a tree outside Williamsville, the vultures venturing to his eyes, his tongue, his extremities. Two army scouts buried him, taking his weapons and a private paper of a sort off his person before covering him up. It was the piece of paper that identified him, and Chalmers had no feeling when he heard of the man’s death by hanging. “Things happen,” he said to himself, “when you least expect them and they may not be your fault.” He had fought the sense of guilt for years, and again this night it rolled over him in waves, the way grass bends in a strong wind, ever rolling, ever bending to another will, another power. Memory, he reflected, has its good parts and its bad parts. It was still fact that he’d stiffen straight up with pride and nostalgia at the first note of special bugle calls. Reveille and Call to Colors and Last Call snuck down inside him each time and burst within, carrying a host of images that held on with a kind of desperation, as if he had not chosen the right path in life, as if a power bigger than him was measuring distance, time, achievement. It was as much haunt as it was memory. Rangely, dead or alive, was a bad part of his memory, and here again, on the edge of Horseshoe Creek, the whole fiasco called again in a new haunting. The odor of the ashes lingered all the hours of the night and offered up a final taste when they departed in the morning. In that long ago a young recruit had come to his bunk where he was recovering, saying he had orders to bring him to the troop commander. “Sarge, you better come quick. The Captain’s real nervous. I think something bad’s happened to the company. I thought he was going to pull my arm out of its socket, he’s so upset. Better hurry, Sarge, ‘cause I don’t know what’s bothering him so much.” “You’re a lucky man, Sergeant,” the captain told Chalmers. “The only man left alive in your company, so I am transferring you to another company in another post. I am afraid that his incident will never leave you and I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. That night you were shot, you could have spun the other way. It’s hard to say, ’But better safe alive than dead with comrades.’ The weight promises to be fearsome. I do not envy you.”

22

Only for one year did he last in the new situation, then got his discharge and turned to law where he established a reputation for fairness, perseverance and behavior that bordered on the most dangerous, as though he placed little value on his own life. People of all walks knew it was a consequence of his being the only “survivor” of his company, long since dubbed “The Lost Company B,” the original one. That, of course, is hard to carry about in one person’s saddlebag. And here on this ghostly night he found himself once more at the site of one of the two most ignominious losses in western military annals. Custer, being present at Bull Run, and Chalmers not being present when Company B was massacred to the man, and thereby thrusting each incident into a sad story of its own, each with its own touch of irony: Custer could not carry his own story about, but Chalmers could, a man of the law caught up in fate as twisted as it can get. Unable to sleep well the whole night, Chalmers shrugged his shoulders in the pre-dawn flush of life and caught the acrid smoke of the old, dead fire. It was a statement about the dangers of not being alert in the ranks at all times. He rolled over in his blanket to listen to the sounds that came on the early air. An owl thumped its wings as it set about catching a meal. A tethered horse’s nicker seemed an answer to a distant wolf’s cry for mate or dominion. A tin coffee pot touched a stone as the coffee started its own aroma run into day. He thought it best not to forget what was about him, this second life he’d been given, a life saved at the hands of a drunk. Fate has its own ways, he believed, and there’s never any arguing with the manner or method of fate’s choices, though cry you might, or go sleepless amid the dark and portentous images that never let go. Suddenly, one of the night guards cried out, “Hey, Sheriff, there’s one a them killers walking in here with no weapon. His hands are raised over his head, but I don’t trust him one bit.” There was a pause in the dramatic announcement, and then the guard said, “You want me to shoot him, Sheriff? I’d do it in a second.” Chalmers heard the killer screaming about ghosts, and he yelled out, “Don’t shoot him. Don’t shoot him. I have to talk to him. Don’t shoot him.” He was out of his blanket, gun in hand and facing the killer, who was still blubbering and acting like


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa he had seen death itself. His eyes, caught in the light of the fire, glowed red and awful as if he indeed had seen death on the prowl. “What is it, man?” Chalmers said, thrusting his gun into his belt. “What have you seen?” He stood beside the killer, now reduced to a mere shadow of a man, and saw how tremors ripped through his body, and how fear was a loose and live thing on his skin. “I saw them, Sheriff, the whole gang of them, down there at the bend of the creek, yellin’ and screamin’’ at me, sayin’ it was my turn, sayin’ it was somebody else’s turn, too. They’re all in them uniforms of theirs, that blue and yeller ones, and you can’t touch nary a one of them ‘cause they won’t let you. They keep siftin’ away like they was clouds.” “Who else were they talking about?” Chalmers said, and Twohig, off to one side, realized he had seen something out on the creek, and the sheriff would not laugh at him if he told him. Not like some other posse members would laugh, carrying the whole story back to town, laughing all the way.

The escaped killer, his hands still over his head, still shaking because of what he had seen, what he had heard on the creek, said, “They was talkin’ about you, Sheriff. Said so right out. Called you Sergeant Chalmers like it was your name all the time and they was waitin’ for you.” The escaped killer didn’t know how much truth he had uttered in his reply to the sheriff. He only saw what he felt himself, an unknown knowledge come into his consciousness, come home, like a lost dogie home from the scrub. Neither the killer nor the sheriff, the one-time sergeant of lost Company B, saw the second escaped killer, never aware of any ghosts but aware of the posse leader that had hounded him and his pard for such a long time, kneel beside a log, lay his rifle over a protruding but broken limb, and take deadly aim at the sheriff. He squeezed off the fateful shot that was a long time on its way. Behind him, at a bend of Horseshoe Creek, lost Company B scattered and disappeared forever, all the ranks accounted for, the muster complete. ***

23


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

sung song slipping from those happy confines, or

Milan Carl Liskart, Coalman

a sudden twist of laughter gay as ribbons. In one quick year, ending on a cold and dark

When the bounteous and splendidly round Kamilla

October evening, lights steady and blazing in all

Liskart died her husband dove into a clumsy

rooms of their house, Kamilla’s laughter and

silence. Without his wife, five years dead, and

roundness and the sure net of her apron left him.

then with his son suddenly off to World War II

Such a tragedy was not unknown to me, having

out in the vast Pacific noise, our coalman Milan

lost my beloved grandfather John Igoe but

Carl Liskart began plowing through his days as if

months earlier. I looked at our coalman with a

he were unconscious or barely breathing, coal

different eye from the day of her death, the lonely

delivery becoming, as if it were, his life.

perception of sharing in command. There had come to me a sense of measurement, and a

A quiet man to begin with, he brought any and all

sense of contrast. It was more than the beginning

trappings with him into that studied silence.

of manhood, which had been announced at about

Nothing but labor marked his days; he carried

that same time with physical changes and other

pain neither upon his brow nor spread on his

valid pronouncements.

sleeve bold as insignia of rank. Darkness just letting go, tonnage loaded and on the road, he

Thenceforward, dawn to dusk for sure, Milan

could have said to the rising sun he had beaten

smelled of coal, a thick, acidic rankness that

out of bed, “Hello, angry dish! You here again late

identified him in the doorway, even at a chance

as usual? What’s in the pipeline today for me?”

encounter on the walk or at the roadside.

The day’s route and schedule with no degree of

Kerosene, it seemed, rode him its liquid finery, or

effort

reformed

the crudest of oil with tinplate knowledge in it.

continuously at the back of his mind. There were

Never was he as clean as leaded glass or pewter

times, as evidenced on occasion, that he lost the

work or an amalgam solder, anything token of a

whole plan of the day; but hard work endured for

craft or brought by keenness. Often I thought he

him and proved itself endless.

must have slept at night in a mine, right down

must

have

formed

and

where the air is thin and ferric and smothered Meanwhile, in his neighborhood, the old-timers

with its quality of gas, or in some colliery

spoke of the couple that for long years had

counterpart. He smelled like the coal bins I know

searched out the mushrooms on the tall elm trees

fifty years later as remnants of that time, or old

of the Cliftondale Square, Milan knocking the

lanterns railroad men used to stop traffic with and

white knobs from their high gardens with his long

which I occasionally find these days useless in old

telescopic pole, Kamilla catching them in the

barns, or those round black-bomb lanterns that

basket of her apron. The old ones, in hushed

town workers, the endless diggers of earth and

whispers, told of the union, how they whistled

roads, set aside to mark off new trenches for

and sang at their Sunday work, God sitting

water pipes right along the line of traffic. There

himself on a high limb for the advance of their

comes, replete and terribly savory of nostalgia,

prayers. Sunday evenings, they reflected, there

the gray image of his dead-gray mackintosh

were services of mushrooms and red wine on the

standing like a sentinel on our front steps as he

Liskart’s screened porch, now and then a low-

but steps away plied basket atop basket to the

24


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa coal bin in the cellar. Determined, rodent busy, he

forehead was broad as a brick above thick brows,

went at his work.

and his black hair was sent straight back to his neck by comb or hand. Every day he carried coal

Coal, those calamitous and combative years, was

in a basket down into dark coal bins and I’d swear

$12-14 a ton, anthracite with red or blue spots

he only smiled at the drop of the final basket, that

that today’s TV commercials would make merry

minute reprieve. The last basket dumped in our

music about, and knuckle hard. Soft coal was

cellar achieved but a slight nod. The evening sun

cheaper, but came dustier, burned faster, and

would daily mark his return from labors, the Reo

needed more tending. Milan Carl Liskart, who

chugging at its gait down the street close to the

lived on the edge of the great Rumney Marsh in

marsh, Milan parking in the driveway of his small

the sight of the General Electric’s huge Riverworks

house sided by reeds, his rushing to the mailbox

Plant and the Atlantic’s edge, had one truck (a

to check on letters from his son. On some days

cumbersome Reo seemingly of one speed forward

there’d be a small eruption of jubilation, and he’d

and one sense of duty) and delivered the kind of

delay his retreat, pour a glass of whiskey into a

coal the customer wanted. Milan and the Reo

glass on his porch, sit into the soft evening in his

were a decided pair.

old Morris chair and read for hours. We never knew what his son had written, the letters being,

Sometimes at our house, just outside Saugus

beside his wife Kamilla, the most prized and most

Center on the North Shore above Boston, we had

secretive

thing

Milan

Liskart

ever

knew.

to get the cheaper soft coal due to financial calls; father, his own military tours done, was a guard

My grandfather, one of the few men I had seen

at the General Electric Company; mother, a

head to head with Milan, obviously having some

sweeper there before and after meals and wash

agreements in life, some related memories, or

done and hung on the line; older brother Jim, off

some aspect of their existence they shared or had

in the explosive Pacific, his onionskin letters

kinship with. It was my grandfather who said that

passed like diamonds between us in the kitchen.

Milan most likely had his share of peace while he

The winter of 1944 scratched the pocketbook

drove the cumbersome Reo, that driving the

deeply. Our lives were scratched too. The

monster was a palliative to his troubled silence,

scratches and scars were all around us. Now and

allowing him a rare respite in his labored days.

then the blood oozed free or gushed loose.

“No one knows what cooks in that man’s mind,

Incidents in Europe and North Africa and the

more than the black spirit of silence, while he

southern Pacific islands of madness converged

runs through the town from dark to dark and

like instant phantoms on our street, often in

being black himself.”

ghostly collision, a boy’s face somehow rampant on the air. Now and then the morning came

It was on holidays or Sundays, when there was

greeted with a mother’s scream. A few of those

no mail delivery, he’d sit an hour or two in the

days were so quiet we were afraid to breathe, to

White Eagle Café, a Polish weekend stronghold,

set a bubble adrift.

sipping on strong whiskey, sitting among other quiet old Polish friends all measuring out the

I can see him now, Milan Liskart, arms huge as

hours, the days, now and then a lifetime.

timbers, Atlas shoulders, and blue shirtsleeves gone black where they rolled on his forearms.

Which partially explains why Milan, on another

Rugged big teeth, worthy of new apples or tough

Sunday afternoon, the winds from the great north

steak, gleamed whiter on his darker face, his

as robust as they had been all that season, came 25


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa to the White Eagle and his friends later than he

tough places already.” He shook his head and

usually came on a Sunday. He said he’d had a

added, “Probably that and then some.”

soak for hours in the tub reading the latest letter, had fallen asleep and the letter, free of his hand

Old Kowszolski put in his piece: “He brought Joey

and consciousness, sank at length to the bottom

Tighe out of the warehouse in Malden, didn’t he?

of the tub. It was no longer legible. The image

Word has it it was one of the bad ones, bouncing

rocked his solid frame.

through the walls and getting on top of them in the ceiling spaces before it blew. Chief sees

“By God, Milan,” Pordgorski said, trying and

Tighe’s buddy come out alone, almost melted

failing to divert the shock, “but Kiska carried his

they say, and the chief goes in for Tighe. Has him

eighty-two years one too many. Old bozo lived

over his shoulder when he comes out. Jeezus, he

past one boy and one daughter, and that’s the

met the lion a couple of times that day, how he

hell of it, getting on like that, two going in a

lost the hair on the back of his head, fire must

matter of months, like there’s no sense in praying

have been right behind him crawling up his ass.”

for else wise.” “Take a man like that to do it,” Petras said, ”The thing is we don’t know what he knew,” Milan

“carrying the pup out of the flames, but worse, I

might have said if he had anything to say,

think, knocking on a door like he does, holding

thinking about the man thinking about his dying.

death in his hands, kind of like the other way

Some people said Milan’s eyes, from that day on,

around.” They were all looking in the bar mirror

were like marbles the kids played with on the

at themselves, measuring manhood one would

school grounds.

figure. “We all know the measure of a man,” Petras added, “and some don’t add up like some

It was later at the White Eagle Café, cold spells

do.”

leaping down from Montreal in waves, the short days still getting longer for him, that Milan first

Later Eagle told my grandfather about it. Much

heard about the fire chief’s new task in life. It was

later when stuff had gone down. “Milan only

a Sunday afternoon, church done, dinner done,

listened when they talked about the chief walking

the old work warriors tossing down some hard

up someone’s walk, the telegram in his hand like

stuff, wind talking at the windows and an

an odd glove,” Eagle said. “Never said a word, did

occasional utterance at the door. Milan was with

he. The others had no boys out there, not like

Kowszolski and Pordgorski and Petras at the bar,

Milan, Adam off in that hard part of the world.

as old Eagle said, “Say, Milan, hear yet about

Man has little to say, even under a few stiff ones,

Chief Milbern knocking on doors around town?

like he’s someplace else not here in town.”

Knocked on Sev Matrick’s door he did and had the telegram in his hand saying young Sev was lost at

Stories, of course, bounced around about him.

sea from off his ship. I remember that little shit,

When Taggart died and the wife and the kids

oh what a one he was, sneaking around for a

were hard up he staked them to a winter of coal.

beer all the time with his tongue hanging out a

Never said a word about it, but the word got

yard long, had a way with the girls, was a spitfire

around. Though Mel Timmons tried shaking him

to say the least. Like the old man. Seems nobody

down for price break, Milan said he’d stop his

in the town wanted the job of delivering those

regular deliveries, him not making that much to

sad words, so Milbern took it on. Be a man of his

begin with.

size take to do it, seeing he’s been in two, three 26


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa smoothness, the pants crease like an iron seam. The coal man, it seemed, knew little of nor cared

The yellow-signal telegram was grasped in one

much for the passage of time, nor frivolities of

hand. A neighbor, through a kitchen window,

meaningless intent. No sense of time passing

caught his breath seeing the yellow missive in the

proved invasive. Only the mail did that… it gave

chief’s hand; his own two sons were out there in

him age... it gave him matter…it gave him the

that calamitous madness of the Pacific islands,

avowed sense of maturity… and it gave him

whole chains of islands now coming up daily in

silence, like an after-chew, a gum-liner, a bubble

the newspaper headlines.

in the cheek, the way some men seek solace in a chew.

It was January of 1944... it was cold…things had popped up and off around the world with

Yet it was said his son Adam, Adam the football

frightening and horrific reality; Millions of pounds

player “as tough as nails” they said, Adam the

of bombs had been dropped on Berlin, Germany

hockey player who skated with the wind, who

early in the month practically obliterating three

wrote no soft letters but real letters… foxhole

aircraft plants, the Russians had a bit later

letters, letters of the last lament, letters that

crossed the Polish border, Monte Casino was

finally owed up to the pain he had known. Adam,

attacked, in a surprise move our troops had made

who knew of death… had seen his mother shrink

the invasion at Anzio, 60 miles behind enemy

away and his father dive into silence…had been

lines, and out there in that mad Pacific where my

there at the hospital when his father had seen the

brother Jim was, Adam Liskart’s outfit leaped

doctor walking down the hall toward them, his

ashore in the Marshall Islands/Kwajalein Islands

eyes buried in his face, his hands limp and

(where my brother, it turned out, had ferried

senseless against his side, useless signposts

some of the Marines ashore, perhaps him having

telling the whole freighted story.

given Adam the last ride of his life). At that time word was passed around the world about

So that was all in the making, all the stage set,

Japanese atrocities heaved upon survivors in the

the character and characters in place, the sun

Philippine

coming down and a stiff wind coming right out of

Corregidor and Bataan.

Islands,

the

Death

March

from

the Northeast and across the marsh reeds and dikes as if it had no home of its own, a wild

It must be assumed that Milan knew all this, that

January at its chill when Chief Milbern stepped

he would read of it, hear it on the radio, hear the

out of his old Packard coupe, the big black

gospel of it at the White Eagle… indeed some of

behemoth with the futuristic chrome grille and the

the members had been in Europe after their

hood as long as a canal, and started the walk up

emigration, during World War I. They had known

the long driveway to Milan Liskart’s side door. The

the gas, the shells, the stench of death, the

huge and cumbersome Reo sat off to the side of

trenches of blood where all truth drowned in

the driveway abutting the marsh, a monolithic

misery.

and staid testament to its owner, the silent Milan Carl Liskart.

It all gathered for him in the neatly uniformed man walking up his driveway on a bitterly cold

The chief looked nervous, though his white,

January evening, a yellow missive in his hand.

black-visored hat was perched in place with aplomb, impeccably clean white gloves sat his

Milan leaned at the garage, came away with a

hands, and his uniform pressed into an ebon

deep, pear-shaped coal shovel in his hands. Over 27


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa his head he waved it, that clumsy shovel, adroitly

the man chasing him; the wide, brick-shaped

and menacingly at Chief Milbern. “Don’t you

brow, the caverned eyes, the broad middle

goddamn come on my property, you son of a

European nose, the ledge of chin, the darkness

bitch!” He roared, he raced at Chief Milbern, the

that there abided.

shovel still swinging wildly overhead, his voice at a lion’s roar that the chief, even in his tough

He prayed the coalman would not catch him. He

outings of meeting the lion, had not heard such a

did not.

lion before, had not met him. He decided not to do so at that miraculous moment, the deadly,

A week later, the world still topsy-turvy, the

easily-wielded shovel a sure weapon above the

Pacific war spreading like wildfire, Chief Milbern,

coalman’s head, a weapon of sure destruction,

out of uniform, slipped into the White Eagle late

thicker than fire and heavier, but less liquid than

on a Sunday afternoon. He sat on a bar stool

fire and less insinuous, bearing the kind of pain

nearest the door and ordered a glass of whiskey.

fire might not have in its bowels.

From a group of men, from the midst of Kowszolski and Pordgorski and Petras and Eagle

Yellow light spilled from the Liskart house and

himself, Milan Carl Liskart excused himself, placed

from neighbors’s houses. Two corner street lights

his drink on the bar and walked, sad-faced,

glowed a soft war-time yellow. The early stars

shamefaced, hand out to the fire chief who slid

were open and lit. A crescent moon lay out over

off his seat and stood at a kind of attention, his

the marsh like a sliver of light, like a distant flame

face lit with signal.

of a struck match. Remnant ice, sprawled over flat lawns and tangled in reeds from an earlier

They are both gone now, long gone, Milan Carl

storm, caught a variety of light, yellow, near-

Liskart and Chief Milbern, and Adam Liskart has

silver, hushed golden, fading to a strange

been at sea all these years, more than a half

opaqueness. Glitter gathered and departed from

century’s worth, floating there in memory forever.

the chief’s vision, from the corners of his eyes.

Every now and then I bring him back to Stackpole

Peripheral glitter. Come and gone glitter that

Field, the rushing fullback, the young bruiser so

could have been yard markers. Once a track star

hard to tackle, so hard to bring down, see him

in high school, he called upon the old drive and

still driving forward with the ball, that great

the old measures to hasten himself down the

forearm shiver and lethal straight arm his ultimate

middle of the street, called on adrenalin’s rush he

weapons. And see his father, the dark coalman,

had known in more than a few fires with the lion,

sitting

and felt the anguish and pain chasing him down

understanding the game but noting the bravery

the middle of Saugus Avenue that skirted the

and relentless motions of his son.

off

in

a

far

corner,

marsh and the southern slopes of Baker Hill. He tried to remember the face of the boy he had seen rushing the football at Stackpole Field. He could not find that face. But he knew the face of

28

***

never

fully


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

Brooksby had asked him if he was sent west by

The Concord Roadman’s Last Call

the coach and wagon company. “I’m the lead man for Abbot-Downing and you might say that two ways.” The chuckle was on his face. Here

Silence but moments earlier had entered the

was a man that Brooksby got to like right away. A

room like an invisible cloud, and Palmer Brooksby

man with a sense of humor. He didn’t realize how

looked again at the young gunman in the corner

far a laugh would go, even for a man wearing a

of the saloon, Bridgie Alcott, a nice enough kid

mask.

with two pistols in hand, a wild and demonic look on his face, and one man dead at his feet.

He’d be glad to see him anytime.

In the middle of turmoil and gunfire, the barkeep

Now here was another time for need. Brooksby

and owner of Land’s End Saloon, Brooksby, saw

measured again the two-gun man in the corner,

the familiar silhouette fall from outside against

Bridgie Alcott, as the kid he was; big enough to

the large window of the saloon, and knew it was

play the game, big enough to call out a cheat, but

The Roadman, the way his odd hat was worn

too young to die. His name was Bridge Alcott, so

tipped at an angle, the broadness of the

recently on a pony, as new as a kid without

shoulders wide as the backside of an ox, and the

parents, the handles broken for good.

twin holsters sitting at his beltline as custodians in the dark. Brooksby’s nerves calmed quickly at the

He hoped The Concord Roadman would help and

sight and what it triggered for him, and his hand,

he surveyed again the scene in his saloon and all

once reaching for a pistol under the bar, was

the patrons he could call by name, each one of

drawn back.

them; he’d borrowed from some of them in the beginning, lent money to some of them when he

The Roadman was coming to the rescue.

was

well-established

and

growing,

the

connections solid for the most part, and that The Roadman had made several recent and

included the owner of the stage and freight line

auspicious appearances in or near Tabor Falls,

and half a mountain off to the north, his diggings

surprising road brigands, sending them off to jail,

still good in two mines.

advising everybody, especially the coach and freight line owners that they ought to invest in

Cards were scattered on the floor, a whole deck’s

better equipment, coaches and wagons made in

worth, and currency of an unknown amount was

Concord, New Hampshire, “not the junk wagons

scattered too. Several drinks from the action table

you’re using now, old limbs ready to fall apart on

were spilled in the mix, forming dark puddles on

these western roads. When all my prisoners come

the floor, and a whiskey bottle, now empty, had

into town, make sure they’re hooked to a good

rolled into one corner. A half-eaten sandwich,

Concord-made wagon or coach. It’ll be good for

thick as a man’s arm, had fallen apart where it

the soul.”

lay. Four stout chairs were tumbled on their sides, one of them with two broken legs.

It was like a headline for the town without a newspaper, but with an advertisement section.

The dead man’s out-stretched hand held a single card visible to every eye: the ace of spades, black as death itself, still the extra card in the deck, still 29


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa the cause of death. His other hand, but moments earlier, had been emptied of a hastily drawn, and

The appearance of the new force of justice, not

hastily lost, small derringer a lady might carry, or

connected with the local sheriff, did not appear to

a card cheat. The first shot from Alcott knocked

be a community vigilante effort. For most of

the small weapon from his hand, the second shot

Tabor Falls it just meant plain old plains justice

found his heart.

arriving in a new form, an invisible badge incidental, wanted posters useless, and warrants

Brooksby, afraid that more gunfire would ensue,

forgotten and reduced to mere pieces of foolscap.

did not want another dead man in his place, and

Justice was justice in any manner it might come

very carefully, with his outstretched hands, slowly

to Tabor Falls.

signaled all the customers to sit down slowly as a group, to make no obvious and disturbing moves,

And it was here with a sense of humor in the

and with shushing lips signaled for them not to

whole matter, the way those robbers and

issue any sounds if at all possible.

brigands out on the trail were caught in the act and also reduced to the lowest level of criminals

The dead man, who Brooksby now knew as a

… brought to justice by the victims in many cases.

cheater, had gone for his gun when he was

The tables turned. The humor was seen by

challenged. The second ace of spades from the

everybody connected in any way.

deck, face up in his other hand, was a confirming statement.

Brooksby, caught up in the act, envisioning some extra publicity, had set up a contest to name a

Brooksby, hoping The Concord Roadman would

new drink, “a top shelf drink in the honor of The

enter the room and hold the reins again, saw all

Roadman, a drink to top off a good night or say

Tabor Falls’ local history pass through his mind in

hello to a better night.”

a flash, The Roadman the center of it all. It made no difference that The Roadman wore a Tabor Falls, Nevada, where a river cut the town in

mask, gave no name, asked for no credit, walked

two, sat at the foot of the Rockies, and was a

away and said he would not be far away from any

small but growing town. It had been the object of

new incident, as though he was turned onto

numerous robberies and murders of stage and

outlaws’ thinking, knew of their planned moves,

freight drivers and a few passengers in a year of

knew their capabilities, and set forth his own

unending fear. It was suspected from the outset

outcomes … justice on his terms.

that two gangs were vying for some kind of control of the town and the local area, but were

The old and uncomfortable stagecoach in the

not part of a concerted effort. And when a man

initial incident had been halted by a pile of rocks

and wife, coming from Texas to take care of some

in the road, and all hands were quickly under

grandchildren, were killed as they exited a

pointed guns from three men on horseback, the

stagecoach at a wayside robbery after they

guns waved back and forth as if any stupid or

caught up to it in a quick fashion, a new and

accidental move would set of a barrage of

unnamed force of law and justice appeared in the

gunfire. Wearing full-face masks, the hold-up men

town. And began a new war on crime.

demanded all valuables be placed in a bag thrust into a window of the coach, and told the driver to

He had immediately identified himself as The Roadman, a good guy in a bad guy mask. 30

toss down all bags secured on the top of the


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa wagon. The ones in the rear boot were pulled

He’s out to Thornton’s about them guns that got

onto the ground and kicked open.

stolen. Told Harry down the store he’d be back ‘fore supper. He ain’t showed yet.”

In the midst of the robbery, a shot rang out and one robber, hit in the leg but still in the saddle,

The driver and his shotgun rider delivered the two

raced off on his horse. The two men, examining

prisoners to the jail and Brooksby, with no official

the packages on the ground, stood to face

around, locked them in a cell. One of the men,

another masked man holding a rifle on them, his

the manacles still in place, and easily the surliest

hands as steady as his voice as he spoke slowly

and meanest of the two, told Brooksby, “Get

and convincingly, “One move and you’re dead,”

these damned things off’n me and when the boss

the edge of his threat sharp as a razor blade. The

hears what happened to us, he’ll tear this town

new masked man manacled the two robbers, tied

apart more than he intended.”

them onto their horses, hitched the horses to the rear of the coach and told the driver to take them

The second prisoner kicked the mouthy partner,

into town and deliver them to the sheriff.

as if to say “Keep your damned mouth shut, big mouth.”

“Tell the sheriff The Roadman caught these two in the hold-up, a third man was shot in the leg,

Brooksby took careful note of those words and

just where I wanted to hit him, and I’ll bring him

studied the face of the one who spoke them. He’d

to town after I track him down.”

make sure the sheriff heard about the incident.

“Yes, sir,” said the driver. “Can I tell him who The

The mouthy prisoner, the biggest of the two, said,

Roadman is?” He smiled as he asked.

“Oh, shut up, Duke. They ain’t got the slightest idea what lays ahead of ‘em here. They ain’t

“No, you can’t,” came the answer, “but say they

gettin’ too much from me, that’s for sure. And

better get new stagecoaches and wagons. The

you kick me again like that, better sleep with one

ones you folks use are nothing more than balky

eye open. I don’t like that stuff.” The fire was in

tree limbs knocked together by a lumberjack.

his eyes.

They ought to know better than that. The best they

can

get

come

from

Concord,

New

Hampshire. I can guarantee delivery.”

With

help

of

armed

townsmen,

Brooksby

separated the two and put the quiet one in a cell across from his partner. As he closed the door on

No more was said.

the kicker, Brooksby said, “’Member me when the time comes.” He whispered it so the man’s

The stagecoach came into Tabor Falls, the two

partner wouldn’t hear him.

prisoners tightly in place, their horses hitched to the rear of the coach with nowhere else to go,

The two prisoners were waiting on the sheriff

and the driver yelling for the sheriff. The binds on

who showed amazement when he finally arrived.

the robbers were obvious to all onlookers, including Brooksby. He was called from the saloon

Only a week later, as if in retribution for the

by a passerby yelling out, “Hey, Palmer, get out

robbery of the stagecoach that was totally

here and take a look at this. We got jail company

disrupted, another robbery was in progress on the

comin’ into town and no deputy on the job.” As

north road, the other road into town. This time a

an explanation, he added, “And no sheriff either.

freighter and his shotgun rider were ordered off 31


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa their wagon, boots and weapons taken from

whoever the hell he is.” His following laughter,

them, and ordered to walk back to town. Two

and that of his young son, ran its contagion

masked men stayed mounted during the robbery,

through people gathered on the street as if they

one of the men keeping close scrutiny on the

were watching a carnival act put on especially for

surrounding area. He never saw a masked man

their enjoyment.

step from behind a large rock, rifle at an aim, and shoot the pistol out of his hand. The second

Another man, bravely louder than he had ever

robber fled down the trail as bullets flew

spoken before, finding himself in the middle of a

intentionally and harmlessly over his head.

quiet miracle in a once-nasty town, said, hopefully but with a little jest in it, “Next thing we know,

As in the previous blunted hold-up, the captured

The Roadman will be giving any reward money to

robber, hand bloody but empty, was manacled,

the good citizens in town, sharing all his good

tied on his horse, the horse hitched to the back of

will, and I’ll help him any way I can.” He hooked

the freighter’s wagon, and the freighter instructed

his thumbs under his bright red suspenders in a

to take the prisoner back to town. “Take him to

clownish act that drew more laughter. “Good

Sheriff Cargon and tell him I’ll get the other man

feelings,” as a wise man would say, “beget good

to him in time.”

feelings.”

“Are you The Roadman?” the freighter said.

All these recent events passed through Palmer Brooksby as he saw the wild-eyed Bridgie Alcott

“I have no other name at the time,” The

in the corner of his saloon, one man quite dead

Roadman answered, seemed to think his answer

and still at his feet, raise both guns, ready to

over and continued, “except he can call me The

shoot.

Concord Roadman.” Brooksby didn’t know who the young man was It drew a smile from the freighter. “That’s what

going to shoot. He didn’t know much about him,

Dutch said you’d say. He’s my brother. Was drivin’

except he had lost his folks way off in a corner of

the stage last week. He ain’t forgot how you

the range, that he was too young to die, had the

handled them gents. Real fine.” A small but

guts to call a professional card player a cheat at

satisfying laugh came from him, and he said,

his own game, back it up with a quick shot when

“Now I got my turn to tell him my story.” He

the cheat pulled a hidden gun to action, and

laughed again.

continue to stand his ground … though there appeared to be something new coming from him.

When the freight wagon came into Tabor Falls, toting another highway bandit along behind it, he

When the door swung open and The Concord

appeared docile and childish-looking in his binds.

Roadman, mask and all, including the odd hat,

Laughter began on the main street of the town.

stood in the entrance, Bridge Alcott spun around, and The Concord Roadman called his name.

“Look there, Mark,” one man on the boardwalk

“Bridgie,” he said loudly, and it was so clearly full

said to his son, “and see what happens to thieves

of familiarity that Brooksby was instantly alerted

in Tabor Falls. This is now the best town in the

to an unknown hidden connection.

territory bar none. Here’s the only place where thieves get delivered to jail free of charge, and all

Alcott turned, guns raised and ready to shoot,

of it is compliments of The Concord Roadman,

and The Concord Roadman repeated the name.

32


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa “Bridgie,” and added, “put down the guns. No

The Concord Roadman walked toward Alcott, his

more

hands extended with nothing in them but

shooting,

Bridgie.”

The

words

were

condescending yet demanding attention to what

acceptance.

Brooksby had already determined to be an

home.”

“C’mon, Bridgie, let’s take you

unknown connection. Alcott, dumbfounded, said, “Nobody’s there. Brooksby thought it sounded like an adult talking

They’re all gone. Is it really you?” He lowered his

to a child, and visions filled his mind so quickly he

guns, and then placed them back in their holsters.

couldn’t pin one down. But he was sure there was

Looking down at the dead man again, he said,

a connection; the possibilities ran quick as an

“He cheated. He drew on me.”

arrow: an older brother, an uncle, a grandfather, a dear and long friend of the Alcott family talking

The Concord Roadman had his arms around the

to one of its youngsters in trouble.

stunned killer. They walked out of the Land’s End Saloon in quiet Tabor Falls, scene of another

Bridge Alcott, already dumbfounded by his actions

death, but this one was not mourned.

in the most immediate minutes, looked up to see who had used his name in a familiar manner, a

With the contest over for naming the top–shelf-

familiar tone, but wearing a mask. The expression

drink, and the winner declared as “The Concord

crossing his face was all quizzical; no recognition

Roadman’s Secret (because nobody but the

leaped at him. He waved both guns again, unsure

barkeep knows what’s in it),” Brooksby enjoyed

of himself, the situation.

immense popularity and good business. He regaled in telling Roadman tales time and time

“It’s me, Bridgie, but don’t say my name. There’s

again and again to any and all who would listen.

no need for anybody to know my name.” “It was uncanny the way The Concord Roadman Then The Concord Roadman looked at Brooksby

went about getting folks out of tight situations, all

as if he was the most logical man to ask his

under some outlaws’ guns, of course, and his own

question. “Was it self-defense? Did the man

guns brought into play. It was as though he could

cheat? Did he draw his weapon first? Do we need

read their minds of where and when they’d try to

a trial in this matter?”

rob somebody. Some said it was a spy in their midst spilling the beans or maybe one of the gang

Brooksby, nodding, looking around the room at all

with an unconscious mouth, but we knew there

the faces, said, “Yes, the man was a cheat.

were two gangs and he’d have to be a member of

There’s the extra ace in his hand. And he drew

both gangs in such a case, and that didn’t fly with

first, a sneaky little gun up his sleeve, maybe

us.”

where the ace was all the time, too. It was selfdefense all the way and everybody in this room

He’d stop now and then, especially with a great

will say so.” He looked around the room again

crowd on hand, like he was on stage, a real

and said, “Isn’t that right with all of you? Self-

showman, and say to his assistant barkeep, “Give

defense all the way.”

that gent down there, the one who bought that last round for his two pals, one of those Concord

A murmuring assent filled the room. No one

Roadman Secrets, for one big favorite deserves

spoke otherwise.

the other.”

33


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa There’d be a round of applause and cheering at

and I’d like to dump some of mine on you right

such times and then Brooksby would get back on

now.’

track again. He’d jump in with a quick start: “He didn’t stop every one, of course, The Roadman,

“One of them getting hung swore at him and

but he got enough of them bad dudes and would

laughed, and the boy who was to become The

have them strung out behind a wagon or a coach

Concord Roadman, replied, ‘You and all your kind

and the laugh’d be on them and we got the

will have the last laugh, and I’ll do my best to see

biggest kick out of seeing who looked most

that it gets dumped on you, in public, with

foolish among the outlaws. I tell you, that’s the

everybody laughing at you and your kind.’”

high point of embarrassment with some folks, getting dragged in like that, and right to jail.

All like he had just given a toast to an idea

That’s the joyous part of it, don’t you see, the

springing right then from his mind.

best part, because we had no lynching here in Tabor Falls, not a one. Never was an outlaw

“Like I tell you, he continued his relentless assault

strung up by his neck off the livery barn like it

on road agents, robbers, killers, housebreakers

was in some towns, his horse slapped on the

and other criminals, often catching them in the

rump and him on the rope trying to get his last

act, and when that was accomplished, he’d make

breath. It was all like a dream for us as a town

sure the criminals were embarrassed to all hell

and like a nightmare for the outlaws who kept

and back, like we’ve seen here in town so many

losing gang members right and left. And another

times I lost count.”

thing about it that got spun loose is that nobody knew where the gang hid out up in the Rockies,

Brooksby’s voice would change at that point,

but it really didn’t matter. We didn’t have to send

which said something else was coming along.

the sheriff and some posse up there looking for them and getting shot up ‘cause all we had to do

“Of course, as time went by, as it comes to all of

was sit back and wait for them to come down and

us, there came the night of last call at Land’s End,

start up some outlaw business and there’d be The

right here in front of you, right there at that

Concord Roadman sitting and waiting on them

spot,” and he’d point to one spot at the end of

like he was the devil himself at the ugly gates.”

the bar where a balcony threw down an overhead shadow on the corner of the bar. His finger

“We all thought it was over when The Concord

pointed steadily at the one spot, his mouth

Roadman came home to his family, not one of the

hanging open, his facial expression hanging in

sons or one of the brothers, but a cousin, we had

one place, as if sorrow had settled within him,

heard, who had been raised by the Alcotts when

and suspense would sit in the room like doom

his own parents were killed by road agents. He

was afoot.

was here a few years as a youngster getting along okay and word finally came that the ones

“There was noise and commotion, and Bridge

who killed his folks had been captured and he

Alcott was in the middle of it again, yelling at

went to see them get hung. It was a good ways

nobody in particular, and The Concord Roadman

down the river, at Pressburn Hill where he was

came in before any shots were fired, and he

born, and he said, just before they got hung, ‘It

walked right to that spot there, and a shot was

isn’t enough and you should be treated worse

suddenly fired from the door, and The Roadman

than hanging, because I believe the bad soul has

went down. Bridge screamed, ‘He’s dead,’ as he

to hurt. You have to share some of the misery

leaned over him, and two of his ranch hands and

34


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa the doc and the undertaker took him out and we

whole town just hootin’ and hollerin’ on the side

buried him the next day. All the sign on his grave

of the road as they were trundled off to jail and

ever said is, ‘Here lies The Concord Roadman who

the trial waitin’ on ‘em.”

had a drink named for him.’ You see, that was part of his humor at getting back at the outlaws,

Brooksby never told any of his customers, or

to leave the laugh hanging right above his grave.”

anybody else, for years on end, about the plan he had hatched up with several people, and, as

And every once in a while, when traffic in the

requested by The Concord Roadman, one that

Land’s End Saloon had filled every seat and the

was to take place at Land’s End Saloon.

string at the bar was continuous, Brooksby would yell out to his barkeeps, “Set up the house, boys,

And down river at Pressburn Hill, the real

a Roadman drink for every customer, in his

Roadman went on with his life as one of the

memory.”

cousins of Bridge Alcott, with an empty coffin in his grave for well onto 50 years.

And

there’d

be

jostling

and

laughing

and

uproarious memories spun out from the good

Every once in a while during those long years, a

days of The Concord Roadman’s work, laughter

townsman would re-paint the marker on the

coming so heavy it was like making him live

grave, laughing when he was done with the

again. Most of the customers could remember at

wording, knowing a laugh was good enough for

least an outlaw or two trussed to the wagon or

ever, but he’d never know the truth of the matter.

coach made all the way back in Concord, New Hampshire that they had tried to rob, “and the

***

35


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

A Collection of Friends Thomas Sheehan

A Collection of Friends offers nostalgia and impressions that give loving tribute to people who have passed through the life of author Tom Sheehan. He illuminates his own time from his Depression-era childhood to manhood, describing, with astonishing clarity, a deep and abiding respect for his Grandfather Johnny Igoe, who instilled in him the writing muse. Sheehan also tells of the heartbreaking sacrifices made by comrades in war and peace, and infuses this entire book with warm memories of his beloved hometown of Saugus, Massachusetts. The prolific Tom Sheehan, author of Vigilantes East and The Westering, is a 28-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize for short story excellence. His tales and poems appear by the hundreds on the World Wide Web.

REVIEW: Tom Sheehan, a 28-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is comfortable writing in several different genres and makes it a point to create each and every day. He’s authored the novels Vigilantes East, Death for the Phantom Receiver, Murder at the Forum (an NHL novel of Bruins-Canadiens long rivalry), Death of a Lottery Foe, Death by

36

Punishment, and An Accountable Death, all available as eBooks. His short story works number A Collection of Friends, From the Quickening, In the Garden of Long Shadows, Epic Cures, and Brief Cases, Short Spans in all of which he manages to uncannily include a very special character, his hometown of Saugus, Massachusetts. The Westering, an eBook, was nominated for a National Book Award. Sheehan’s poetic ruminations are Ah, Devon Unbowed, The Saugus Book, This Rare Earth & Other Flights, Reflections from Vinegar Hill and the eBook Korean Echoes, nominated for a Distinguished Military Award. Cross Trails, coming soon, is his third book of western short stories from Pocol Press, the others being The Nations and Where Skies Grow Wide. Other recognition comes from two Best of the Net Awards for 2015 (KYSO Flash and Right Hand Pointing) and short story awards in 2013 and 2014 from Nazar Look, which also issued his collection, Six Guns, Inc., 2015. A Collection of Friends ISBN: 978 -1 -929763-17-7 6 x 9 inches 260 pages $17.95 / $24.95 CAN $8.95 Kindle on Amazon Softcover All rights reserved. ORDERING INFORMATION Fill out and send this form with check or money order for $17.95 plus $4.00 shipping and handling to: Pocol Press 6023 Pocol Drive Clifton, VA 20124 703-8305862 www.pocolpress.com info@pocolpress.com Also available by credit card on Pocol Press website. Name_________________________ Street_________________________ City___________________________ State_______________Zip_________ Qty_____Amt. Enclosed___________


Nazar Look Tom Sheehan massachusetts, usa

37


Nazar Look Melissa Parietti new york, usa

Melissa Parietti new york, usa

Love in Eastern European Languages Albanian: Dashuri Armenian: Sirel Lithuanian: Meile Latvian: Milestiba Polish: Milosc Russian: Lyubov Ukranian: Lyubov Czech: Lyubov Belarusian: Kachannie Hungarian: Szerelem Romanian: Dragoste Croatian: Lyubov Serbian: Lyubov Slovenian: Ljubezen Bosian: Lyubov Estonian: Armastus Macedonian: Sakam Georgian: Miquars Azeri: Sevgi Kazakh: Maxabbat Uzbek: Sevgi Sovak: Milovat Bulgarian: Obicham

38


Nazar Look Melissa Parietti new york, usa

Mates We shed our shells so we could slide into one another’s selves.

Your body near your boat same ship, different Captain. The channels slosh, waves toss – Here comes the storm, my friends.

Be ready braced. Here, prepared for all the rain and the wind Neptune may throw at thee.

39


Nazar Look Ute Carson texas, usa

Ute Carson texas, usa

In My End Is My Beginning I have travelled the world and felt at home in many places. But when I stood on the wide steps of my grandparents’ former home in pre-war Pomerania I trembled with recognition and recollection. This old villa had somehow seeped into my bloodstream. Memories flooded in, childhood stories came alive, my hair was seaweed-silky, and my skin amber-tanned. I was born here in 1940 before the Soviet army came through. Only the cathedral and a few neighborhoods survived the war.

I will die and be buried in a faraway country among people I love now. But perhaps from time to time my soul may wing its way back to the Pomeranian sand dunes to frolic among the whitecaps of the blue Baltic Sea where my journey began.

40


Nazar Look Ute Carson texas, usa

Before the Traces Are Lost Each family needs a historian who records the individual stories, complete with beginnings and endings, then connects these separate lives like links in a chain, held together by others.

41


Nazar Look Ute Carson texas, usa

In Search of My Father I sit cross-legged on a sheepskin rug in front of a glowing fire. A days-long snow storm affects the reflective mood of my present search. A finely bound leather photo album rests on my lap, its pages well thumbed through, its pictures yellowed. But I can make out what my mother, Gerda, has written in her loopy hand under a photo taken the morning after my parents’ wedding. “That’s how it began.” She has underlined BEGAN. My parents had snapped pictures of each other in their sun-flooded hotel room in Southern Silesia, their unmade bed in plain view. My mother is fixing a bra strap and smiling coyly, unaware of the many hardships she would soon have to endure. My father, Gert, is grinning from ear to ear, his head confidently tossed back and holding a white undershirt in front of his privates. I was conceived during that brief golden October honeymoon and was born the following July. My father was killed two weeks before my arrival, shortly after Germany’s invasion of France in 1940. My mother survived into old age. Where does one look for one’s dead father? I delved into stories of family and friends, studied this treasured family album, read my father’s diary that miraculously survived, and tried to get my mother to share her memories. The earliest account comes from my grandmother, Anne. “The umbilical cord was so tough the midwife had difficulty severing it,” she told me and “thus I believe our close bond was formed.” Gert also seems to have imbibed Grandmother’s Anne’s passion for classical literature with his mother’s milk. She recited ballads from memory to him throughout his childhood. All his short life my father was enamored with Schiller. Had he lived he planned to study the works of the great 18th century German writers at a university.

42

I pressed my grandmother for stories and she cobbled together a complex picture of her first-born. “As a child your father had a temper and when he became impatient toys would fly through the air like missiles. But he also had a caring side. After overhearing an adult conversation about his beloved aunt who had fallen on hard times, he secreted part of his weekly allowance onto her nightstand.” As my grandmother called up these memories, tears welled up in her eyes. “My heart is heavy when I talk about your father. The terrible waste of his young life. He was endowed with so many talents. What he could have given to the youth of today!” From his lawyer father, Karl, Gert learned the art of debating. During a hike along the Baltic coast one summer with a high school friend, he wrote in his diary, “Franz and I argued incessantly about politics. I said as crude as Hitler is, he’s bound to fail. Franz is not so sure.” Although their political opinions were often naïve they both lamented the Versailles Treaty and hoped for a revival of national German pride. And they had joined the youth movement with its credo of a return to nature. A strange mixture slumbered in my father’s admiration for the classics and his nostalgia for the German romantics. Joseph Eichendorf’s yearning, dreamy poems were among his favorites. My father’s love for his parents is evident in his diary entries. “My parents’ care for me and my siblings is unwavering. They are devoted to making our growing up years happy ones.” There was laughter, games, and sports. Grandfather Karl was an avid chess player who engaged all his children. Until the outbreak of World War II, the home was a lively haven for family, friends and strangers. Franz recalled, “The door to Gert’s house was always open to us and we eagerly walked in.” He went on, “Gert had a magic about him. He led the high school debate team with ease and confidence, and without a hint of arrogance.”


Nazar Look Ute Carson texas, usa My father seemed to have known the Baltic Coast like his own room at home. He had listened to the sea’s boisterous roars and calm murmurs, inhaled the seaweed-scented air, felt the warm sun rippling over his muscles. He had climbed up and down the sand dunes and waded through the many inlets and rivulets around little islands, abloom in spring, butterflies everywhere. The pages in his diary are sparsely filled but they tell about his connection with nature. “The waves wash gently against the beach and the ocean looks like rippled fabric reflecting a blue sky. I inhale the scent of the ocean unspoiled by humans.” On a visit to my birthplace on the Baltic Coast forty years later, I caught a whiff of the acidic odor from the iodine in the water and felt that I was breathing in my father’s world. My father records two special discoveries from his sojourns with Franz, a jewel and a dead bird. All her life my mother would cling to the rare aquamarine shard of amber in the shape of a large teardrop which my father had found and given to her as an engagement present. When you held this fossilized jewel up in natural sunlight the transparent color would turn deep blue, and display the outline of a petrified leaf at its center. A mysterious glow enveloped the stone. “History is embedded in amber,” my father wrote. “And our personal life is enshrined in this gift from the Baltic Sea.” The second discovery he described this way: “I saw several of my favorite birds, seagulls looping over the dunes in a love dance, wings meeting over their backs. They squawked loudly. Then I stumbled in the sand upon a fallen comrade, grey with black markings on head and wings. When I picked up the lifeless body I noticed a red spot on its beak. It was the sign of a mother bird. I took it home to be preserved by the taxidermist in town.” When I was a toddler the stuffed seagull hung over my crib, its bony claws clutching a leafless branch that was festooned to the wall. Sometimes my grandparents would dangle a piece of chocolate from the bird’s beak. I remember reaching up to its breast, stroking the fluff, the so-soft down.

Like his beloved seagulls, my father lived in both kingdoms, the air and the sea. He was skilled at sailing the family sailboat. He built his own glider, and received his glider pilot license when he was eighteen. “Now I can swim and fly,” he proudly recorded in his diary. The last entry in his dairy is written a few weeks before he was drafted and just before my parents’ short engagement. It is about my mother whom he had first met at a party for graduating nurses from the Potsdam hospital on the outskirts of Berlin. “I’ve got her…I think she’s mine!” Numerous exclamation marks run across the page! My parents were married in a hurry before my father’s departure. He was whisked off to France where he spent a few days luxuriating in Paris. By then he knew of the pregnancy and bought my mother an emerald ring with splinters of diamonds surrounding the precious stone. He mailed the ring from Paris along with an enthusiastic note, “This is for our daughter. I know it will be a girl. Should I be wrong (which I doubt) I will make up for the ring and build a glider with our son.” He guessed right, and I am here as proof. My father’s regiment was dispatched to the battlefront near Verdun. Shortly thereafter, France surrendered. He was giddy upon hearing the news and confided to Franz his hope that he might be able to return to the Baltic Coast in time for my impending birth. But fate was capricious. Maybe my father had a premonition. He had scribbled a sentence on the back of an envelope addressed to my mother which Franz later found in his shirt pocket. It read, “Don’t cry if our days turn dark. Know that they have been. That memory will sustain us.” It was Franz who brought the news of my father’s death. “We were bivouacked in an abandoned farmhouse. After hearing of France’s surrender, we let our guard down and decided to celebrate. Our entire platoon was in a festive mood. There was food stocked in the kitchen of the old farmhouse but not as much liquor in the cupboards as we had hoped. So Gert and I 43


Nazar Look Ute Carson texas, usa decided to venture down the lane to a house that looked unoccupied. Maybe some lovely French wine would be waiting for us there. As we traipsed through tall weeds and grass not mowed for many moons we laughed at everything and nothing, so great was our relief that the capitulation had been so swift in coming. Everything was eerily quiet when we entered the house. As we had expected, there was no one in sight. Happening upon the cellar steps, we thought that’s where the wine would be! Gert descended first, I stumbled after him on the rickety wooden staircase. It was pitch dark. Suddenly I heard a shot. A soldier scrambled out of hiding and up the steps in my direction. I shot him point blank with my revolver. Gert was sprawled at the foot of the stairs, bleeding profusely. As his breathing ebbed, he said calmly and clearly, ‘I was so very happy.’ He died in my arms.” On a warm summer afternoon last year I walked down the dusty French country road where my father’s grave is barely visible among the high grasses of the meadow. An apple orchard borders his resting place and the wooden cross, hastily erected by Franz, is weather-worn and worm-eaten and tips sideways but still marks the spot, a place so far away from his beloved homeland. What would my relationship with my father have been like had he lived? Would he have helped me through my many teenage troubles? How would he have seen me? What had I and my children and grandchildren inherited from him? I have my mother’s robin-egg blue eyes and straight straw-blond hair. My father’s eyes were hazelnut brown, his hair was wavy and dark, his skin olive-tanned. Mine is sun-bleached white. My mother and I look Nordic, my father central European. He was of average height but as he confided in his diary, “I wish that I was tall like my mother.” His father was rather short. In the

44

few pictures I have of my father he stands a head above my mother. His posture is confident, his hands, strong with nimble looking fingers, gesticulate easily. His eyes seem to twinkle. He must have been a bit vain because he posed in his uniform for an oil portrait. “It looks fetching,” he wrote about his military attire. My mother was by nature warm and lighthearted. Her lifelong struggle with depression was surely prompted by the loss, in quick succession, of her young husband, her two brothers and her Pomeranian homeland. Until her death, my mother placed a rose near my father’s framed picture on his birthday. But she had difficulty talking about him. When I asked questions, she said little more than that he had a great jest for life, before dissolving into prolonged weeping. I couldn’t fully imagine my mother’s sorrow until I had a baby of my own. How could joy and sadness exist side by side? Because my mother was in mourning I was two weeks overdue and had to be induced. Maybe I sensed that the world might not be a welcoming place. But following my birth I became my mother’s sole comfort. “You are the most precious thing I have left from your father.” Now, with our grandchildren frolicking around us, I feel their hair, gaze at the color of their eyes, and I glimpse my father in their posture, their gestures. I smile when they trample on their building blocks. I watch them fondly as they pick flowers for me, and am amused when they quarrel over some triviality. But mostly I hear them echoing my father’s note to Franz on that long-ago summer hike, “The air is for adventure, the sea for dreaming.” And I say to my children and grandchildren, “It’s time we returned to the Baltic Coast. Who wants to go?” ***


Nazar Look Vladimir Nicolas quebec, canada

Vladimir Nicolas quebec, canada

Do Not Listen to the Wind In the countryside, the wind surrounds us. I take your hands, but your eyes have rain. I do not know your tears are of joy or sadness. The wind blows, telling me that you are not mine.

I do not listen and continue walking beside you. A girl like you is hard to find in that world. I do not listen to the wind that you are not my fate. In that world, there is no happiness like you.

Maybe the wind tells you I am not your love song. The wind carries our hidden pain and our wrongs. You hold my second hand to give me belief in you. The wind is angry, but you are my moon and I’m the sun for you. From now, nothing can tear down our love, caring and strong.

45


Nazar Look Katherine Givens new jersey, usa

Katherine Givens new jersey, usa Katherine Givens write whenever she has a chance. After breakfast, between breaks, before she sleeps. Her crazed writing habits have led to publication in numerous print and online magazines, including WestWard Quarterly, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Copperfield Review, Nazar Look, and From the Depths.

Sculpting Love Curves perfect As I glide my hands Along flesh so smooth, But I am not touched in return. I press my lips Against cold perfection, But I feel no response. I want, I pine, For lust’s warmth, But inside this body Is a heart not beating In answer to my own. I think I am in love With marble and stone, Like poor Pygmalion Before me.

46


Nazar Look Katherine Givens new jersey, usa

A Victor’s Ballad ENEMY— She wilts into drama, Dwells in a fool’s den. Her voice harmonizes In a choir of the insane. She feasts on pills To force a joy From the numbness Called her emotion. She raves, she wales, She stamps, Someone please see This beast’s tail. OH, and the horns jutting From her dark mane.

VICTOR— In grace I glide Through her barren cries Into the cove Where I seek solitude Hidden from view. Quiet, save the rhythm of water. Dim, save the peeking sun. Within my earthy cocoon, I thrive on the separation, But if the she-devil decides on war, I’ll emerge from my cove And dash to her fool’s den For a duel in which I Am her nightmare.

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Nazar Look Katherine Givens new jersey, usa

Love Between Two Sensual, passionate, A union, a chance, A risk, a constant, An understanding, A song without melody, A mystery without answer, A torrent into the unknown, An awakening of fire, A poet’s dream, A marvel above the seven wonders, A gift, never a prize, An affair in the wondrous, An escape from longing, A voyage for an elusive specter, Hopeless if not returned, life if handed, Measured with smiles and sighs, Unbound by flesh, enwrapped In two souls, A lasting echo in a hollow cavern, A thousand fluttering wings Through the body, Color in every moment, Vibrations from the beating heart, Our path to immortality, Wisdom found in another, Redemption from ourselves, A tale written by two.

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Nazar Look Katherine Givens new jersey, usa

Unstoppable Stormy, fierce, Unbroken, Untamed, Freedom unraveled, Shackles fallen, A rebel unchained, A savage alive in the soul, A heretic wading through norms, Weeps embers, Laughs melodies, Speaks faith, Defies those who trespass hope, Rested in challenge, dressed in scars, Deaf to blowhards, blind to cynics, Abandoned to the clouds, Awake in the drowning, Blossoms with own beat, Answers to wildfire, Never looks to mirrors, Free to seize from a dreamcatcher, Builds castles in the night, Rome in the day, Rises from the crypts of the past, Climbs to the skies in unseen shoes, Remembers the taste of ash, forever Evades the smoke.

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Nazar Look Katherine Givens new jersey, usa

The Victor’s Patience Spurned fools run into warfare With daggers shown, While a tactician plots By the threshold of patience. For who dies a quicker death? The hothead? Or the one who waited For the chance to whip Opponents into defeat? So in this lesson, heed The quiet one Who watches, observes, Plots with a furrowed brow. She means to attack, And she will win.

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Nazar Look Lana Bella nha trang, vietnam

Lana Bella nha trang, vietnam Lana Bella has published work with over one hundred journals, including a chapbook with Crisis Chronicles Press (Spring 2016), Aurorean Poetry, Chiron Review, Literary Orphans, Poetry Salzburg Review, elsewhere, among others. She divides her time between the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a wife of a talking-wonder novelist, and a mom of two far-too-cleverfrolicsome imps. https://www.facebook.com/niaallanpoe

Adagio There is a girl who steals away with the glow from the moon. Air churns desperately in the shadow, wingless things span across the lawn coursing beneath the enthroned adagio. She coasts her arms pulsing of fireflies, as thin hips sway against melodies unfurling in homespun cacophony, tinged with starless sky. Her dress is silent stirring the wet grass, cotton hems tease the pneumatic grip of the night soil. But like a recluse the dance is a lonely one, solitude bars witnesses to her flawless rhythms and the magic that flirts her hallowed skin. Yet, this quiet plan, though set all wrong, moves her from black to white, lets her see beyond the compass of sight: clear and omnipresent. And that sometimes she even let slip from memory that she is born blind. (previously published with Fishfood Magazine)

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Nazar Look Lana Bella nha trang, vietnam

The Elusive Mermaid Secrets in their tiny boxes, dreams sleep in glass, occasionally you fish them out to swim among the ordinary stones, hoping to catch a glance of her floating hair and beryl-colored scaled fins. Before sleep, you walk on coral reefs of deep orange, emerging through murmuring inlet where current is heavily stocked with fish. Any moment the skies may darken and the sea spews billows in great ascent, and through the narrow slit of the mist she may rise, when the open earth, rumbling air, and sheer stone walls of spray collide. She may walk to shore, peeling free the briny coat, flesh molds over bone, the moon churns gold on her tresses. Then how will you explain the way your thoughts slide beneath the half-light and the ghosts of bird rasp your voice in pained cackle--when the head knows not what the heart speculates. You will need to speak the language of the sea, of a midnight's wail that breathes beneath the underbelly of the words, one part air, the other part earth. And maybe, just maybe, as her limbs morph back under the waves, memory will carry the part of speech where delicate shift in barometer will remind her of your refrained whisper, and somewhere in the midst of liquid depths, the tracing of your vanishing leaves itself on lime-rich shales. (previously published with QLRS Singapore)

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Nazar Look Lana Bella nha trang, vietnam

Vichyssoise you'll forget the dorsal fins of leaves, but remember pale strands of sunrise tearing through a bead of dew which poises just so at the turn of her lips,

where the light flows serenely about her like a fish glides edgewise in the mellow pond, your black mouth gives flight to garbled songs, seeking water for thirst,

as you enter a sanctuary landscape of milk and honey, your tongue sips vichyssoise from her cupped hands, tasting the emergence of a question mark at the dip of her flesh,

so you tilt your head, working loose the tiny grains caught between your teeth, with small effort you gently fan away a mime's melodies, your lips on a curve, and it's because of her.

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Nazar Look Lana Bella nha trang, vietnam

Migraine My migraine presents itself as an old woman, with heavily wrinkled face, traveling in a taxi. Fever of a century and a half old settles on her eyelids, jockeys over the haggard face. Handkerchief white as the snowflakes peeking out from her deep dress' pocket, soaks in crusty flesh. With the wind snakes through the half-rolled window and the sun a brilliant streams of gold, prickly thoughts spill across the left temple. Leaving scribbles in stark spool of light. When the wheels pull to a stop at the curb, she lets the words trickle down the wet sidewalk. Drain away into a strung elegy of incoherence. Its supple spine caresses the end of her linen on the way down, spilling of pity and sulfur air. Wagging its autumn tail on the skirt of her bent torso, a silenced nerve center of ghosts. Turning from voices and echoes she rarely infers that are flecked with ill-mercy, she scours with alarm the spewing clumsiness on spent legs. Held on ambiguous sensations of conflicting senses and scenery. Hunting down release. Hunting for vacancy. Suspends between sky and dust. And she, a speck of grain dangling on the theft of wit. Limbs numbed and dragging, cradling madness in her bone. (previously published with Subterranean Poetry)

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Nazar Look Lana Bella nha trang, vietnam

Rabbit Ears The rabbit ears of earth become audible, it is the receiving, the receiving that wakes up the sleeping roots and the foresight of light-one senses a nearing of vibrations that are a trace fainter than cracked clay, but dark, and loose like seedlings, which quivers over tall blades of grass, forcing blooms to breathe out from their hermitage-nearby, a trail of fire-ants moves frenziedly through pockets of dirt, struggling to keep steady an assembly line, as they tunnel beneath the soil whose dry mouth lays agape.

What meteoric are universal rhythms and close-up view as life turns the lenses of curiosity on itself. And this understanding, however brimful and brief, is fragile as it falls apart with the wings of dust.

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Nazar Look Dick Bentley massachusetts, usa

Dick Bentley massachusetts, usa Dick Bentley’s books, Post-Freudian Dreaming and A General Theory of Desire, are available from Amazon. He has published fiction and poetry in the United States and abroad. He served on the Board of the Modern Poetry Association (now the Poetry Foundation) and won the Paris Review/Paris Writers Workshop International Fiction Award. His story, “Promised Land,” was selected for “Best Fiction & Nonfiction of 2012” in the Lukather-Garson anthology. His third book, All Rise, came out in early 2014.

Laura, says she understands. Then the

Flesh Fiction

three of us become friends as we attend panel

The National Conference on Self

discussions,

presentations,

and

power-point

breakout

sessions.

Esteem is having its annual convention at

Laura sweetly forgives me for staring at

the Des Moines Civic Center. I see a

her all the time.

woman who looks almost exactly like an older version of Nora, my first great, deep love. I was seventeen, and back then we sometimes referred to kissing as “making out” or “petting” or “necking.” Nora and I must have been necking because one time I bit her neck --- an enthusiastic accident. I apologized, but I did not see much of her again.

The conference is over; it’s time to leave. We stand in front of the busses, waving goodbye. Some of us are hugging, and I can’t decide whether to kiss Laura on the cheek or on the lips. I decide the cheek, but that side of her face seems to be strangely paralyzed. Maybe it’s just due to aging but then, as my lips brush her cheek, I notice her neck, I notice the scar.

Now the woman at the conference has my attention. I stare at her as we circle the salad bar. My eyes follow her as she

climbs

the

steps

to

the

hotel’s

mezzanine. I think she is beginning to

She starts to step onto the bus. Then she turns, leans over and says she thought she knew me from somewhere before. “But you weren’t that creep, thank

notice how I gape, how I gaze, how I watch

her

wherever

she

goes.

Embarrassed, I ask a friend from my Breakout Group to speak to the woman and explain, feeling I should keep my distance. The friends.

56

two

The

women

woman,

become

whose

good

name

is

God.” ***


Nazar Look Christie-Luke Jones england, uk

Christie-Luke Jones england, uk Christie-Luke Jones is a poet, actor, screenwriter and philanthropist originally from Oxfordshire, England. Christie-Luke’s writing is strongly influenced by the Gallic blood that courses through his veins, as well as his interest in the more macabre aspects of the human condition.

www.christielukejones.com

Flight Of The Untethered Balloon Awake from slumber, son of Terra. Pull back the shades and gaze upon the vast, artless oceans, Where form and faith and fear and folly, Lay slain by inky nothingness. Phosphorescent bastards of a benign Aztec god, Weigh heavy on idle pupils. Lifeless imitations of a distant Heimat. Intrepid explorer, cartographer of the stars, Basking in the glory of silent applause. How insignificant you seem, On that sprawling midnight canvas, How muted your refrain in the sweeping symphony of the void. Go back to sleep, last-born of Gaia. For the dawn chorus will never come.

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Nazar Look Christie-Luke Jones england, uk

undulating sound wave, and he thought from

1616

time to time that he could hear the clouds singing. A rich, beautiful hymn, lilting back and 1616 gazed out into the abyss as he did

forth against his dark cocoon.

every morning. At least he assumed it was morning; time was a relic that his mind insisted on clinging onto, a fence to keep things from escaping. How do those little albino cave fish know when to wake up, he thought to himself, when they've no eyes to witness the rising and setting of the sun? He'd never pondered the little cave fish in his previous life; in fact he'd scarcely acknowledged their existence. Now he wondered if his own body was as shiny and white as theirs was, ground down and polished

This feels good, he thought to himself. With each passing cloud, the vista of his former life became more and more obscured. Nerves died and certain parts of his brain switched off altogether. Transitory blackout, he reminded himself. But where had he learned that phrase? For the life of him he did not know. Not that it bothered him much; it was hard to feel frustrated or confused these days, hard to feel anything beyond good.

by the dark mass that clung to his every

He had taken to examining each cave

contour. He had started to doubt whether his

fish that passed by in minute detail. This process

eyes even worked anymore. Had they become

took

translucent and decorative like the cave fish's?

application he became more and more adept at

Two fully-furnished flats but without heating or

it. It felt good to look at their stubby little tail

running water.

fins, their pulsing little gills, their vacant eyes.

He had grown to embrace the void. It felt good to flee the reality of his own reflection. It's hard to be angry here. The floating

a

while

to

perfect,

but

with

each

Did they know he was there, watching them? In many ways he hoped that they didn't; this act of voyeurism felt rather good.

sensation he got from being robbed of his sight

Suddenly the fish seemed larger, as if

calmed him, lulled him into a state of quiet

somehow they had drifted into his proximity,

inertia. His mind turned to trivial things, like the

wherever that happened to be. Maybe they do

little cave fish, and clouds. Big, white, fluffy

know that I'm watching them, he thought,

clouds, drifting lazily across a warm blue sky.

maybe they can see me despite their lifeless

The fish and the clouds mingled with the dark in

little eyes. Instinct told him to reach out and

a sort of wallpaper pattern, covering his mind's

touch

eye completely. He had been unable to move for

disparate and un-shoal-like as they were, but

as long as he could remember, but it didn't

the sheer weight and scale of the abyss

bother him. If I move, he considered, I may fall

prevented him from doing so, shielded him from

and lose the fish and the clouds forever. So he

the pitfalls of old.

didn't move, and it felt good.

the

closest

member of

the

shoal,

The boldest of the cave fish was now so

Today, as far as he could tell, was just

close he could see right through the milky eyes

like any other day. Little white fish lounging on

and into the inner-workings beneath. Little folds

big white clouds, dotted about on a big azure

of skin and tubes of blackish blood flapping and

conveyor belt. No reason to be angry. The scene

pulsing like the insides of a pocket watch. Just

drifted in and out of his dark world like a slow,

like the clouds rolling languidly across the blue

58


Nazar Look Christie-Luke Jones england, uk quilt, it was a rather hypnotic sight. This is

sentence. As he tried to look away, to find a

good, he thought. This is good.

nice fluffy cloud to focus on, he saw it.

Eventually his new friend grew tired of

At first he didn't recognise it. Didn't

his company and glided listlessly into the

want to recognise it. Squinting back at him, in

background, coming to rest above a particularly

the little black mirrors hovering above, was his

downy cloud. However it was not long before

reflection. Searing pain shot through him as he

another of the cave fish ventured toward the

traced the deep fissures carved into that

void, apparently spurred on by the intrepidness

tortured face. Tufts of lank, lifeless hair clung on

of his cohort. This is good, he said to himself, no

in vain atop a knotted brow, empty graves stood

reason to get angry.

where optimistic eyes once shone.

The now steady stream of comings and

The uncomfortable heat had risen so

goings soon began to peel away at the once

that he felt as if he were inside a pressure

impenetrable dark. Little pockets of blue sky

cooker. He wanted the fish that had so wantonly

started to creep across the black lawn, like the

lit the touch paper to pay for what it had done.

distant, undiscovered edges of a globe suddenly

He wanted it to suffer. Dearly.

being mapped out. The little white denizens of the clouds were quick to populate these new frontiers, swarming in what seemed like everincreasing numbers until the piercing blue was shrouded in a writhing fog.

His ravaged face writhed and seethed above him, like a wild animal making one last futile stand against its hunters. He wanted so badly to rip out his accuser's beady little eyes, tear them from their sockets and fling them at

He was at once acutely aware that these curious creatures could in fact see. Gone were the misty bulbs that had once sat asymmetrically atop their little heads, replaced by twitching black marbles that seemed to reflect the dark light of the abyss.

the sneering jury beyond. But his arms were pinned, lost somewhere in the unfeeling black. They

were

smirking

now,

those

sanctimonious little pricks. Floating there in their neat little rows, peering down at him from their big fluffy pedestals. How I'd love to choke them

His lonely enclave suddenly felt very

to death with their own fucking fins, he thought,

oppressive, like being jolted awake on a busy

and as he did so he glimpsed a demented grin in

train. He wished the horde of bodies above him

the monochrome mirror. Shame and self-

would draw back a little, give him some

loathing rose like bile in his throat, an ugly soul

breathing room. An uncomfortable heat had

to match his ugly face.

replaced the sterile, cooling breeze he had grown accustomed to, and in the dwindling dark he imagined sweat trickling from his temples.

He thrashed his head from side to side, desperate to distance himself from the harsh reality staring back at him. Some of the fish

The millions of sharp little eyes were

were drawing back now; others darted around

now all trained in his direction. They were

skittishly in the background. The bold fish stood

judging him. The bold fish that had been first to

its ground, fixing the mirror on him like a child

approach

torturing an ant with a magnifying glass.

him

before

was

now

darting

menacingly in his direction. The prosecution drew close; its stubby little tail fins now seemed thick and vascular, pointing at him as if to pass

With a muted cry, as if he were deep underwater, all feeling flooded back into his long-dead torso. The sensation of the hairs standing to attention on his chest thrilled him, 59


Nazar Look Christie-Luke Jones england, uk forced a mutated laugh from his narrow lips. All

Six grisly doppelgangers goaded him to strike

but one of his spectators had retreated to a safe

first, spit leaping forth from their rabid mouths.

distance; all but one had lost their nerve. He raised his left arm now, as if in triumph, skin tautening over bone as he squeezed the final breath from an invisible foe. A desperate roar erupted from deep within him, as terrifying as it was pitiful, an oral death throw that seemed to spread alarm through the ranks of onlookers. The bold fish, along with two visibly shaken subordinates, now formed a wall in front of him.

60

A piercing wail rent the air as he made a final lunge for his tormentors, but a pale fin met with his temple and he was gone. Perpetual blackout. ***


Nazar Look Sheikha A. pakistan

Sheikha A. pakistan Sheikha A. is originally from Pakistan, raised in United Arab Emirates. She has authored Spaced [Hammer and Anvil Books, 2013] and has had her work featured in innumerable publications, print, online and anthologies such as Rose Red Review, FIVE Poetry Magazine, Aquill Relle, The Cherry Muse, The Bactrian Room, Mad Swirl, Mediterranean Poetry, Silver Birch Press, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Right Hand Pointing, East Jasmine Review, Knot Magazine, Poetry Pacific and many more. With a degree in marketing and work experience in various sections of administration, she has also always been an avid writer of poetry. She hasn’t won any awards for her writing but is glad her work has been published in places with wide readership. She is currently editing poetry for eFiction India.

Be Still, My Spirit Be still, my spirit, as you watch the world move to the tunes of an autumn proclaiming dominance by casting the sky golden and sharpening drifts of winds that cause leaves to weaken from their base, but float elegantly like a ballerina’s last dance at a stage of seasons. The soils have become warm as the crisping breeze carves gently a boat shaped hollow for the leaves to fall into, promising re-growth by the next turn of a miracle called spring. Be still, your turn isn’t today or this round of season; you must wait till time unfreezes the lock to your prison.

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Nazar Look Sheikha A. pakistan

Show Dubious is your monotony, your wreaked melee has settled like thin films of dust on mahogany, though not camouflaged, the contrasts apparent through intensities of display – whilst you had breathed fire from nostrils of your piety, the prostrates below undeterred bore scars of worship on their knees and foreheads; the shoulders of man, burdens of beasts, sleep of wake. Spurious is your placidness, your serums of compassion is bitter like medicine ground from leaves of apathy, though not sweetened, the arak promises to heal when applied to severed hopes and foetal dreams – of eyes in anguish, tongues in recitation, soul in death. Inexistent is my entity, yet I roam your offered body in a journey sought for kindness and humility, a tumbler of fresh spring water, honey and milk, a platter of your sweetest dates – this for which I walk on scorching soils, under a punishing sun, resilient at heart. Let me not be called the deprived, but the tested; your arms that shade from furies raged. Let me know of the oracle, debacle and miracle, show me my body beaten but undefeated from sorrows. I will on shambled kindness like a seed in the soil for its first rain.

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Nazar Look Sheikha A. pakistan

My Lips Part My lips part with that of the horizon’s opening to breathe into the sting grainy air, a sigh, for I haven’t spoken my thoughts without a brief escape before I dissipate into the depths of your beleaguering oceans; see me turn crimson from holding so long these thoughts unuttered in divine withdrawal to your chaste outlines for fear of blemish across you, o’ sky. See me turn a dying brown whilst swallowing thoughts behind pursed lips as the moon saunters up casting quickly the cloak of humility to hide away the tiny dots of wavering scarlet, staining across the cheeks of you o’ bashful sky. My lips part and close with that of the horizon’s; in those fleeting seconds I imagined at having confessed the real truth behind a night’s sky…

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Nazar Look Sheikha A. pakistan

Peacemaker The swarm had risen in sensory coordination except it wasn’t night, they flickered like a thousand floating lights – picturesque – nothing beneath the swamp moved – the swarm was a harmless texture, the eyes on them didn’t generate nor did their teeth seek, they simply hung like a plume of premonition, like the solidarity in subdued currents, the night’s falling transcendence; the edges of stars extending like claws, the light aging like the incognito years catching up every passing moment, the air divvying, wrung of ectoplasmic rainbows, the swarm rising like a tower, the swamp beneath cavernous.

64


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa

nv baker colorado, usa

nv baker is a short story author, poet, and graduate of UC Denver in the summa cum laude tradition. His scribbles are inspired by the resulting confusion of existing as a stymie tethered between the imagined and the rendered. nv baker was recently selected for The Missing Slate’s Author of the Month. Look for his work in Weber: The Contemporary West, The Missing Slate, The Crab Creek Review, The Roanoke Review, Sheepshead Review,Straylight Magazine, Nazar Look, and Peaches Lit Mag. nbakerv@gmail.com twitter.com/nv_baker

Lint My hands were the thing. I could feel hot electricity in the bones of my knuckles. My pinkies were raw. The rest of my fingers felt like stoney promontories, immune to things. The pack felt weightless. My ears were covered and my toes, lots of socks. Boots were

larded with saddle soap. Everything felt like it could go. But my hands, shoved in my jacket, were hyperaware. When they started dying it was time to listen. I could have turned back then, to that nice clutch of lights behind me. The truck illuminated the snow well before I heard its rattling. It was a dually diesel, full-cab, forest-green and scum-reefed with ice, especially thick around the wells. It passed by 65


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa me, spewing slush, the swaddled sound of crunching snow, stopped in the middle of the road. Twenty or so feet ahead. The brake lights made red twinkles on the powder and the pristine snow outside of the warm radius looked a halfdrowned blue. The truck had an upper rack of fog lamps, but they weren’t on. The exhaust was camouflaged puffs for the sheeting snow--a retro television with a bad station. Along side of the truck, I stopped walking and looked at it. My gaze was apathetic, I think. The windows were tinted or the interior was dark. Either way I couldn’t see inside. I stood a handful of purposeful yards off the road, oatmeal flakes hitting my upturned cheeks. The window slid down partway into the door. I saw brown hair and a half face that was underbelly color from the glowing dashboard instruments. Hey. Fucko. I didn’t say anything. You want in? You just gonna stare me down? I blinked some. It was the “Fucko.” It made it all difference. I detached from the pack. I felt its weight then, in my arms. Like another person on my back. I pulled back for momentum and arced it up into the bed. The bag made a nice bit of noise as it came down. Now my lower back felt it, uncoiling sorely in the absence. The door cracked opened. He had leaned over to open it from the inside. I pulled the door edge all the way and had my boot on the foot rail when he told me. You wanna brush off the weather? The dually had those All-Terrain tires with the deep tread. You gonna pull off the road? No. So he idled in the middle there and I brushed myself off. Snow came off of my hat and shoulders. The icecrust was hoary and paned, broken only around the wrinkles and bends of me. I beat at myself for a minute to knock the bigger chunks loose. I was still beating when he told me. Alright. C’mon. We drove for awhile. We were high up there. It felt like a flight simulator with all that land moving beneath us but no real movement in the gut. His radio had all sorts of lights but there was no sound from the speakers. He had the heat 66

on high. I took my hat off. The gloves too. They went in my jacket pocket. He turned the heater lower after a minute. He wasn’t one of those. He wasn’t a mountain do-gooder suspiciously doing well for himself despite the crutch of a good heart. He had all the gear, piles of North Face and Sierra and Mountain Hardware and thick woolens in the back seat. He could have been a testing himself. Or he might have a lot of keys in his pocket. He saw me looking back there and he caught my eye. He grinned. Your bag’ll be fine. We knew that I didn’t need to know that. He watched the road like everything else, brown eyes just barely flickering. On the road, off the road. Just like he watched me. It was a birdy kind of attention he paid to things. It was the eyes. Like nystagmus. A friend of mine had nystagmus. The condition got worse when he drank. We tried out together and stayed on the ground. We drove like that for a while. He kept his lights low to avoid that vanishing-point of pelting snow. You have a gun? Or a sticking knife? A baton? Something. You got something. Somewhere close. Don’t you? Just in case? He grinned at me. He giggled like a kid. Yes. When he pulled up the top of the middle console his eyes stayed on the road and the edges of the road. It was an unopened pint of Chivas. He cracked it and tug a slug. He held it up to me. I took a slug too. I took a large slug, but I tried to do it slowly and quickly at the same time so I wouldn’t make too many glugs and seem rude. My lips were still thick and some of the liquor went down my beard and onto my jacket. I wiped at it. He put the bottle between his legs. What are you doing up here? I cut roads. For the oil. Yes. They cut roads this late? I gotta make some places. Weather doesn’t really matter when it comes to these types of things. Neither do hours. They just need bodies on the ground to make it work. To make it turn?


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa He glanced at me. Then back. Maybe he was offended about the Chivas. I had displaced a lot. I couldn’t tell. Yeah. To make it turn. We went on and the snow was getting thicker. The road was distinguishable from the side only because of the height of the accumulation on the outskirts. He had to go slow. Or he chose to go slow. Maybe. I looked at him again. He face was smooth and assured with nice angles. Wiry and dexterous arms popped out of his fleece sleeves. His eyes were tired, but not sad. Relaxed. Fortified, maybe. What about you? I’m always going somewhere, Man. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a long walk though. Maybe 25 miles. That’s what the GPS lady says. It always is a ways. I was born on my feet, you get me? Yeah. Yes. But it’s late. You could have stayed. Baliers’s the town ahead. It’s smaller. Why didn’t you stay back there for the night? You mean in the shelter. Yes. I mean in the shelter.

I snuggled two in my lips, lit them both, handed him one. He took it. He cracked his window. It took me a minute to find the button. There were a lot of buttons. I cracked mine. I was getting a little rattled. It started with the bottle. Then the cigarette. No one shares from me. It doesn’t smell like cigarettes in here. It’s one of their trucks. They have people who detail them. We went on and the snow kept coming. He had this patience. He took a slug and the bottle moved real slow. I took one. My lips were doing better. So was I. I had been dry since right after I had lunch at the A-framed church all made of logs. It had had a red, pro-panelled roof. It smelled of linseed oil. Potted meat sandwiches on Rainbow. I was feeling sweaty so I unzipped my jacket. The speedometer bounced between 10 and 15. Why did you call me fucko? Hmmmm. Was that a bother? It wasn’t a grin. His teeth opened a little and the tip of his tongue rested in them. It was amusement, maybe.

I don’t like shelters.

No.

They’re warm.

I call everyone fucko.

I’ve been treated a lot of different ways in my life. I don’t like shelters. They’ll throw you the minute you want to talk to them like you ain’t broke. Broke? Yeah. Like not special. Not touched. Maybe you don’t need a diaper to sleep in. They don’t like you if there ain’t nothing wrong. Hmmmmm. He hadn’t grinned since I had mentioned his weapons. I had thought of him as the kind that grinned for punctuation or inflection. I felt weird now. Like maybe I wasn’t there. Like one of those phantom accident-people. Do you mind if I smoke? I’ll be quick. No. I mean sure. He reached down to the door pocket while I was searching my pockets for a few loose snipes I had. He pulled up something red and white. Winstons. He popped the top of the pack on his knee until a few of the butts protruded. He offered them my way. Light me one. Please.

Not how I usually get approached. Not by someone offering me anything. I’m not offering you anything. That’s what I mean. Why pick me up? Everyone has a reason when they pick me up. You were there. He saw something or felt something on the road that I didn’t. He eased off the gas. We’re going to have to stop for a minute. Put your gloves on. He got bundled, all his gear fit him tightly. Like it was made for his specifications. It all had these red logos on it. No names, just a logo like an old RKO radio tower. I thought that maybe he experienced life like everything was his size. That didn’t make it less hard, maybe. Just his size. It’s the hill. And the grade. We’re slipping. We were out. We laid the chains on the snow in front of each of the tires. I guided him where to brake with my open hands. He landed the tires on top. I clicked the little buckles that ran on the sides of the tire chains. The chain was 67


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa a thick gauge. The road was sided by many trees. They were thick too, like you couldn’t see through them. And their branches leaned with snow all into the other ones. It was really nice. Clear, even though there was the snow coming hard. When I was up inside we took some quick hits and killed the bottle. I blew on my hands and he turned up the heat. He threw the bottle out the window and we stayed stopped in the middle of the road. He grinned at me once when he offered a cigarette. It’s good to see you waking up. I thought you were dozing there for a minute. Can’t have a dozy driver. We’re almost to the top, I think. I think I have another bottle in the blue bag behind my seat. It should be in the seat pocket. It was there. I handed it over to him. He cracked it and we went on. It was really coming down on us now. Have you married? Sure. Once. Can I ask you how it was? It was young. I don’t remember it much. We were apart a lot. I remember I didn’t like it at the end. Hmm. I was asked to be married. Yeah. Recently. With a girl? Yeah. Yes. Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me, with that. Some of my friends, good friends, just bums who got it into themselves to crawl up on each other. I’d have never known if I hadn’t seen it for myself. It’s fine. Hmmm. Yeah. Ain’t you supposed to ask? Yeah. I know. How is she? She’s quiet. She’s stout. You mean fat? No. Not at all fat. Strong. You love her? I think I’d be alright without her. She know that? I think she’d be alright too.

68

It’ll show on you both real quick. One way or another. What do you mean? Nothing. What’s to mean? So he put it in gear and we rode on and he watched the road. I could feel the chains, it wasn’t so smooth with the chains. But it gripped. We took some slugs. Smoked on some cigarettes. Crawled along. I liked the kid. He made me nervy, but I liked him. If he hadn’t come along, I wouldn’t have made it. I wouldn’t have even made it half-way backwards if I had it in me to try. I don’t know how we got there, but suddenly we were there. It was a spot, the top of the hill. It opened up. There were these huge pines with thick trunks and some distorted skeletal branches on each one. I thought of the elephant man. I had seen the documentary. If I squinted I could see an ominous switchback that went down a long ways into the diffused glow of a town. The wind was pelting us real good with snow, and it would get real bad for a minute and everything would white out. He stopped there. And looked down, peering strangely over the dash. It was a panorama. It was like the snow was formed of severed powerlines. The large wisps stuck together in neurotic cords that whipped and jerked in the sky and beat down in the valley. The trees up here were sparse, but they were gigantic and made breaks of the snow clouds that seemed competing for the peak. I’m due for a piss. Can I grab another smoke? Yes. He got out. I took another hit from where he had left it in the console. I lit my cigarette. I got down too. That kind of trust always ended badly. When he was done he walked right out to the cornice. I went over there by him. I didn’t go as far as he was. My cigarette was having trouble. I took quick inhales and was trying to shield it with my palm so I didn’t really notice it happen. And in the wind, I didn’t hear it much. I just looked up when I saw the movement on my peripheries. And there it was. A broken tree on top of the kid, like it hadn’t ever been anywhere else. The tree was thick and I couldn’t move it. The kid wasn’t talking but his eyes were open. He kept looking at me and then behind me. Back and


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa forth. The trunk was on his gut. He had this branch that was spilling red. It jabbed him right into the collar. Just below the collar. His mouth was bubbling life like there was some internal pressure escaping. There was no way. No time and no way. I knew that. I like to think he knew that. Who knew what he knew? I went back to the truck. I opened the driver’s door. This event was one of those miracles. Like being molested. Or a robbery. Or AIDS. Or a war. Or that submerged root or rock catching at your foot just perfect as the water jumped above your head. You think to yourself later, just how could I have been there. Right there. With all these strange combinations whirling around me. I should have played the lotto that year. You dwell on it. Sometimes you forget, but it comes up again. Your whole life. Or what was left of it. But that was your miracle, like it or not, and nothing that conclusive would happen to you again. It hit you stampede-on, that one time, and that was it. They rest of it was relegated to a reflection. Not even enough for a movie jacket, really.

He wasn’t going to last long. I knew that. Not long enough for anything. But it might seem long to him. I hoped it was a gun he had. I don’t think I had it in me to get into him with a knife or beat his skull. It was in the door. Right by where he kept the cigarettes. I took a slug. I took that whole thing. The kid owed me. He wouldn’t know it much. He was one of those. And then I shook my head in the aftertaste of the alcohol. And the world came back. The kid and I were coming over the pass, coming down the other side. I had a low cigarette between my fingers. The cherry burned at them. It all came rushing. I always knew what was real when I departed from what wasn’t. But there was doom in the influence those slips had, and my hands shook when I came back as though I was again clenching a rattling force, barely containing it. The hands were always the thing. The thing you had to watch. It just happened like that. I tossed my cigarette out the crack in the window and we went on until we got to the town, neither of us talking except in short draws. *** (First published by The Missing Slate)

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Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa

Their eyes met and held. They listened to

The Drunken Dewgrass of Joey Thumbsucker

make sure they hadn't woken their mother into her hangover. But there were no other sounds after the bottle. Silence, a house sated on timid

The two children sit in the living room of the rent-controlled apartment, hemmed in by the din of a mess.

silence. A half hour later, safely on the couch, Joey's sister looks up at him with expectant eyes.

There's the tanned-parchment sheen on

Joey had seen a cow’s eyes once on a field trip to

the walls and ceiling, an inheritance of cigarettes;

the 4-H center. That's what her eyes remind him

the air is stagnate, tinged with stale beer-sweat,

of. Brown, bulging, idly wandering orbs that were

clumped cat litter and ammonia; bottomfat lager

slow to move and seemed to suck in the whole

bottles, mired ashtrays, and Southern Comfort

world in panorama but were unable to cough

miniatures bristle out of open surfaces; trash is

much back out.

diffusing out of a cracked plastic can; small cockroaches sheepishly scan in parties.

Angel is tiny for her three and a half years. Joey knows it. When he and his mother

They sit on the purple threadbare of a

would pick her up from daycare, Joey noticed that

sofa, soundlessly bent over a blue-bound book.

every other child was bigger than she, taller and

The edges of the cover are well loved. It is "The

thicker, especially around the wrists and neck.

Boy Who Came Up Quietly."

Even the ones that were younger.

Little Joey's cheeks undulate. He suckles

Her look not enough, Angel tugs at the

his left thumb (the right has a shape that doesn't

bicep of Joey's right arm, which ends in a hand he

settle

searching

has tucked into the front of his undies. She still

unconsciously for imaginary sustenance. His

hasn't learned to talk well. The daycare aides

eyelids are drawn and he pays no attention to the

have become nervous about her speech and

book in his lap, a child on the nod of a lactating

sometimes talk to his mother about special

breast. Shouldered up against him is his younger

programs and options she won't afford. The nurse

sister, Angel. Her attention on the book is rapt.

likes to use words like Speech Therapy, as though

into

his

mouth

properly),

This morning, as was their daily habit on the weekends, they crept out their bed and stole

applying a panacea. Uncupping his hand from the tighty-

a

whities, Joey turns the page for his sister--his

communication of posture and facial expressions

thumb never leaving his mouth. It's the last page.

only. Joey held the corner edge of a small

Joey knows that Angel is hungry, that she will be

polyester blanket that may have been white and

getting angry soon, that once she got angry she

made the first break out of the small room they

could scream and her face would take on a blue

shared. His sister held another corner of the

hue. He pulls the pages back to the beginning of

blanket, followed wherever he tugged.

the book for her and upsets himself from the

into

the

living

The

little

area.

The

convoy

journey

knocked

was

over

an

groove of the couch.

abandoned bottle halfway through their dumb

An almost-stray Tom, black with white

trek. They stopped, holding their breath as the

veins, wiry and manged by battle and disease,

Corona clattered, rolled and rested, pooling its

sits heel-slouched on the grimy linoleum of the

foamy bile in citrine glugs.

kitchen. Hearing Joey, Tom meows out a sound

70


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa unique to the world of lungs and vocal cords. It

mornings, dry-heaving soulbits into the white

resembles a knocking engine and bad brakes.

bowl.

"Breeeroew." The cat food dish is empty and shiny.

He knocks in hesitation, remembering a time he opened the door to find his mother awkwardly bent forward over the counter, white

As Joey opens the frigerator door, Tom is

nightgown pulled up over hollow buttocks. A man

at his legs, rubbing and purring ferociously--feed

he recognized but never really knew was behind

me, and love me, but that order therein.

her, pants at his ankles, dirty, stubby fingers

Joey kicks him aside. Tom makes a wide circle, stands back on his haunches, crusty eyes wide, the chapped tips of ears erect, nostrils pulsing as Joey opens the door. The fridge is empty, a lone Domino's box with marinara-stained crumbs the only inhabitant other that the condiments.

pulling hard brown nipples hanging out the front of the nightie, hips thrusting into hers. His mother had laughed through his name, as if he had done something amusing. "Joey." Akin to a mutated tripod, balanced between

sink

counter,

the

man's

encased

Joey climbs the counter, searches the

member, and her one foot planted on the ground,

upper cupboards for bread, thinking to coat it

Joey’s mother shook precariously and kicked the

with dregs from the ketchup or mustard bottle.

door closed with her other foot.

The cupboards are bare aside from a round pad of wire brillo, some tin foil, and a half-used box of baking soda. Joey has never seen his mother bake.

There is no answer now, so he opens the door. All he finds is a glass plate on the counter. On the plate, a naked razor blade and a dollar bill that has been rolled into a tight cylinder.

On the other side of the partition counter, Angel begins her low-bellied whines.

Joey sucks at his thumb for a moment. Then he checks behind the shower curtain, the

Joey licks his fingers and runs them the

inside of the closet, underneath the piles of

length of the pizza box. The crumbs are cool and

clothes. His mother could be fun like that, but it

hard in his mouth.

was usually in the evenings. She would disappear for a time and then jump out of nowhere, grabbing him underneath his armpits, swing him around in arcing circles, giggling. It could be fun. Joey walks back to the living room. He

Joey twists the knob of his mother's bedroom door. He keeps it turned as he opens it. When he woke his mother gradually, and quietly, it seemed her leftover spirits were more pleased. He peeks on a bedroom that is a habit of dirty clothes and mussed sheets. His mother is

stamps heavily. "C'mon, Snot Puppy, she's somewhere around." Angel nods back dumbly. She stops whining.

not there. Joey releases the tension on the door handle. He checks the bathroom, the cleanest room in the house. His mother is there some

71


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa The children walk out of the front door

well, dry out," achieve a roster of C's, avoid

bleary-eyed and bed-headed. Each wear long tee-

academic suspension. It was Joey's polyp, but he

shirts, the hems hanging knee-mark of their

was in the middle and couldn't see it.

naked legs, and new socks. The socks are handed out by a state-run school program for the indigent. The nurse, Jonie, upacks large boxes in her office. Socks for the year, coats and boots in the winter. Holey and frayed at the edges, the shirts are hand-downs from their mother.

Joey scratches his hands through his greasy hair and looks about. It is crisp and tungsten-azure outside, the glow of morning still a budding dream of the east. A few birds chat, a reminder on the sun that it is wanted to absolve Autumn of her night chills.

The sidewalk outside of their front door is cold on their feet and runs down the entire face of the beige-bricked building. Spaced at twenty foot intervals, brown steel doors marked the abodes of different residents. Fifteen doors per floor. Three floors up. An open staircase in the

The children walk the sidewalk, Joey clutching the blanket edge in his right hand. Angel follows three feet behind, towed by the opposite corner balled in her frail palm. She has her book tucked under her arm. Joey takes a few steps, pops his thumb

middle. That was Greg House. Joey and his sister lived on the bottom floor. "On the leftist corner if your face the building." That's how Joey would tell strangers

into his mouth. The digit had been sore lately, something about it made raw and hurtful when he sucked, as though a frayed cuticle being pulled up from the fingernail. It was irritating and he suckled gently, but suckled just the same.

about it. And the people who Joey told about the building (like the recess monitor, Miss Roybal, who had flowing brunette hair, red lipstick, and full breasts, who made Joey feel this lightness

"Joey‌Joey, what are you doing? Kinda chilly." It was Gee Gees' voice and it came from behind him.

between his ears) would smile, the covers of their

Gee Gee Dannonbomb was a third-floor

lips turned up, hiding. Miss Roybal held pity

neighbor and often let the children stay with her

because she had graduated. She knew that The

when Joey couldn't find his mother, when his

Greg House itself was a Section 8. Families could

mother was hours late coming back from the

stay while they obtained degrees from the local

grocery. Gee Gee always returned him and Angel

University. But the graduation rate from the

home with strict words and threats of calling child

inhabitants of The Greg was almost non-existent

services in-hand for Joey's mother. In her heart,

except for the healthcare field. Usually women.

Gee Gee would never do it. She was too well-

Women who were malleable to fun in their youth,

meaning to make a difference, and the other

but had hardened to a beautiful sturdiness in

children on the premises all suffered their own

tempered age. There weren’t many.

particulars of poverty. There was no place for her

Everyone else compiled student loans that they had no ability or intention of paying back and made their presence an irritating blight

to start, except in the wispy illusions of the intent. Toy intentions which floundered on being borne out, quickly capsizing to the choppy waters.

on the area. The school checks would come

Gee Gee radiated a sort of destitute

beginning of the semester, gone about halfway

pride. She weighed herself against the other

through, with over-grown students trying to "live

residents and was in The Greg because she was

72


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa mentally ill in the legal sense, although still

Joey's mother picked words she thought

considered able enough to take care of herself.

were interesting or quirky or adorable or mean.

These two factors had merited her a disability

When she first heard them they would bubble out

check, housing, and a slew of scholarships. She

of her. Then she tired of them and moved on.

achieved a 4.0 GPA in Anthropology--a fact that she pointed to so often that Joey knew it, if not what it meant. And every time, after finding sanctuary and food at Gee Gee's, Joey would get the belt. Sometimes bad enough that it made it hard to walk for a dizzy spell. Not to mention sitting at his

month

it

had

been

"bloke."

Sometimes, "cheeky bloke." After the incident, Joey was kept out of school a week because the belt buckle had caught his cheek and busted it. Joey looks back at Gee Gee and shrugs. She is covering the distance between them, a

desk. After-belting, the classroom sweltered. Joey would try to lean back on his desk to take the pressure off his ass, but the belt had usually made its way up his back as he struggled to get loose,

That

and his

mother's

aim was shotgun

accurate. There was nothing to do but endure the slow burn for days afterwards, the salty sweat on his buttocks and back making trails of embers. "Told you, stay in the house," his mother would say. The last time Gee Gee had brought him and his sister back, Joey's mother had jumped on her, blacking her eye and rooting out hair. Joey remembered Gee Gee crying as she crawled the threshold of their front door to escape. His mother's angry laugh projected proudly through the portal, before she slammed the door. His mother's laugh spoke more honestly

loaded laundry basket in her hands, pink house slippers padding in dull succession, unshaven legs parting pink bathrobe in soft schwiffs. Gee Gee's red hair moved with her pace. Her small, low potbelly, the only ounce of fat on her, tumorously led the way. "Gunna 'hatch da sumriz," Joey replies. He moves to escape Gee Gee's trajectory. And she is on them, setting the laundry basket on the ground and turning him around from the shoulder. The back of her hand touching his cheek where he still has the webbed-shaped scar from the buckle. Her hand moves lower, gently pulling his thumb out of his mouth by the wrist. The edges of her eyes settle into wellestablished wrinkles of concern. "My god, look at your thumb. Look at it. You're six?"

than anything, and that laugh could come in

Joey doesn’t look, nods carefully.

many forms. Pride or embarrassment. Joy or

"And six-year olds shouldn't be sucking

rage. Sorrow or fatigue. But, as if to mock the

their thumbs, Joey." She says it like a knot

deep lines in her face, it was always beautiful in a

untangled in a shoelace.

way that made people smile and forgive, like she was a wishing well for once coughing pennies back up. "Always on me, when her bloat beats her

"We're gonna watch the sun rise." Angel looks back and forth between them, her brow furrowed. Then to the ground.

barren ass on the regular. Bitch makes no sense."

Gee Gee gestures eastward with her free

Joey's mom had told him. Then she laughed,

hand. The tip of the orb is making its appearance

selling it, and got the belt.

above the horizonline.

73


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa Joey sneaks a glance downward at his fat

muscle and vein in her jaw and throat, preventing

digit. He sees the large blister that has formed on

breath, stuck there until she suddenly sucks it

the very tip. It is an awkward bump with a thin,

back into her, swallowing hard. And she rasps

clammy membrane that makes it look like a

outward, the object gone.

cartoon thumb recently smashed by a hammer. Only the bump is pale, not pulsating or red.

The scene reminded Joey of getting the wind knocked out of him when he miscalculated a

Joey jerks his wrist from her grasp.

jump off the swing set--when he could inhale as

"You're not supposed to talk to me. Mom said. She's there," he says, eyes pointing at the front door of his apartment, a handful of yards away.

much as he wanted, but not exhale except in tiny, painful explosions that never seemed enough to expel the amount of air he was taking in. Then Gee Gee is crying, but only tears.

Gee Gee flashes an animal gaze. Then it softens. "Oh, Joey‌ Joey, we both know that's not true. Why don't you and Angel come upstairs? We can have the spread." Gee Gee's "spread" is Roman Noodles. After the water is heated they crush up pork rinds and Doritos into the styrofoam cup. Then Tabasco on top.

Quiet tears, before she turns heel and walks. Schwiff, schwiff, schwiff. Joey thinks that she might have vomited. He's glad she didn't. She might have exploded, no where for the bile to go but back in. Her steps echo up the metal stairwell and Joey grins. These taller people were the same as he was, and could be handled just like he or the

Joey wants to go but his cheek won't let him.

other children in the schoolyard. Find what makes them different and push hard. With words. The greater the difference, the harder they fell. He

"You’re barren bitch. Get with go. Maybe he can fix you."

knew about that. The children at his kindergarten always made him keenly aware of his habit with

They are hesitant words. Words from his

his thumb. Even the teacher, Mr. Tortiese, would

mother. Joey doesn't comprehend but sees the

call him a baby when he was caught sucking his

effect.

thumb during lessons, followed by laughter Gee Gee tries to pick up the basket and

classroom deep.

drops it, the popping tendons of her arms

But Joey had found a way to paint his

seeming to give. She picks it up again and walks

armor vocally. Or with a shrug. Ignore the

senselessly away from the children, back from

teacher, don't let it affect him. Tell the fat kids

where she had come.

about their weight, the bats about their glasses,

After a few steps, she hesitates and turns back as if to say something. To yank a nail that had a moment ago no purchase. Her face is flushed. It looks like she is trying to cry, but not with tears. As if she is trying to expel some physical

object

through

her

mouth.

As

if

something is stuck in her throat sideways and won't come out. It just bulges outward from each 74

the small ones about how easy it would be to damage them, the blacks and hispanics about color. It was about letting people know their places, and the timid stayed down, making up the earth that the rest of the children played upon, pulverized by a savage approval system that was all instinct and guts.


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa A tall feeling glowing inside him, Joey

smoke cigarettes and joints with the derelicts.

tugs at the blanket and moves on, his Angel

Maybe a pull or two off a bottle, wiping the

behind.

mouth beforehand with the bottom of their shirts. Drunks and addicts were the native species here, the students safe and sometimes eager to study and theorize about them from the calm waters of Darwinian ships. A toe dipped in communal

the waters, a quick swim, a jaunt on the shores of

laundry room and stay for a time, enjoying the

the hinterlands, then back home, full-sailed, with

captured warmth of the industrial-sized machines.

small, cheap tales they wove into abstract

Sometimes his mother or Gee Gee's bloke could

academic truths about the world of the oddly and,

be found sleeping on the folding table, but usually

by implication, less evolved. Afterwards they

in the winter mornings. Then they walk the

would

stairwell and wet their socks on the still dewy

understood the subsurface. But their teeth were

grass of the small park that fronts the apartment.

far too white and shone out the lie to any

It's a park where budding teenagers congregate,

professor or friend who had spent any real time in

sitting on the duff of the evergreens to drink and

the dark.

The

children

search

the

smoke dope pilfered from their parents or bought from friends. They search around the back of The Greg where the people who have cars park (Joey's mother did not), and finally the sidewalk around the Comet, a University building..

talk

amongst

each

other

like

they

Looking down curiously from the utmost step, Joey and his sister see something. The sun is up now, still smothering the warmer days of Autumn with her full bosom and the children are getting hot. Every time the pair

Joey knew about the less-used side

stopped Angel would whine and tug in unison

entrance of the Comet. It was a basement

with her half of the blanket. But she didn't whine

entrance which had two opposite sets of stairs

at this stop, just stared with calm curiosity at the

that descended down below the surface of the

shape slumped at the bottom of the stairs.

sidewalk and met in the middle at a door. It was

Curiosity for her was rare.

the band's entrance, where students could carry their instruments through (everyone seemed to specialize in drums) without disturbing any events that found entry from the main doors.

The shape is Gee Gee's bloke, Richard (Joey calls him The Honkey Tonk Man, although he looks more like a disgruntled bear or mountain hermit than a honkey tonk). Richard wears a

The Comet was a place where he had

long-sleeved red flannel despite the heat, jeans

found his mother on other excursions. Her and

that hold more grime than he does, and stringy,

her friends would smoke and drink in the

grey-brown hair pops out of the sweat-crusted

marsupial space, safely out of view of the staring,

sides of his Miller Lite hat.

undilated world.

Joey knows that Richard has his own

The pleasant young students who resided

trailer somewhere off of Story Lake, on the other

in the dormitory or as roomied renters would

side of town, that Gee Gee's apartment was

sheepishly step around such gatherings. None of

strictly off limits as a sanctuary of any sort when

the proper students lived at The Greg, nor would

Richard was around. Not because Gee Gee

they usually cause problems by alerting the

worried for the childrens' safety, but was rather

University's

security.

Sometimes

they would 75


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa obsessed with the presence of a man usually

pragmatism of a dream. When he looks back up

absent.

at the children, there is suspicion in his tired grin. Richard has his knees in his chest, his ass

"She send you scouting, that it? Her

on the concrete, his back to the wall. He hugs at

brave little elves." Another choked laugh, but

his knees with his arms and makes a loose locket

without a soul.

of his fingers. His head is down in the cavity

"Now, Thir."

made by his limbs. A putrid odor wafts up into Joey's nostrils--it’s acrid. It’s puke in the corner.

Joey snatches his thumb out, not really

Beside the man is an empty bottle of Lord Calvert.

aware that it had been there in the first place.

On an instinct, the kind that comes suddenly when being furtively observed and draws the nape hairs, Richard raises his head and looks up at the children. Joey reads anger in those eyes, the kind

Joey was a wunderchild of instinct when it came to dealing with drunks, and he understood how quickly gravity could reverse itself, either way. Finding the right words and affect was crucial. Many times it was the difference between a light belt and an unrelenting one.

of anger that might have been a last stand of

"No, Sir."

some sort--that tired willingness, even desire, to have the world come to a head, welcoming the

Joey tries to shrug apathetically, but the

teeth and jaws that would tear a man numb and

hook of honesty that pulls his thoughts results in

finally take him under. Richard believed that if he

a stammer.

fought back at the world, gouged into it as hard

"I mean, yes, we seen Gee, but we're not

as he could, that bitch would reciprocate tenfold

scouting. Really. Just looking for mom, you know?

and make his passage beneath that much

You seen her?"

quicker, leaving the world a bit cleaner. And for

"She say anything about me?"

all purposes, both physical and emotional, Gee

"Mom? No. She never talks about you. Or

Gee was his world, and exactly who he expected to follow and find him. She always did.

Gee Gee."

Once he sees the children, Richard feels a

"Nice piece of ass, that mother. Always

dull disappointment that it isn't Gee Gee, even a

someone's mother, at my age. Well, not always, I

betrayal of an ethereal sort, and his gaze quiets

s’pose. Some bitches can't breed. Like Gee."

until he is looking back at Angel with kind amusement.

Joey feels his face flush, remembers walking into the bathroom on his mother and

"God save the children," he mutters,

Richard. He knows vaguely that that there is

almost to himself. His open hand makes a

some obligation to anger, but all he really feels is

lopsided salute on his brow, the holes of his

incomprehensible embarrassment. Like when he

yellow and brown teeth flashing, "The world is

tries to use the open urinals around older boys.

lined with daggers, but covered by dirt. For the

Joey turns and pulls Angel along behind

love of Christ, walk carefully. You'll get heavier

him, walking fast, leaving The Honkey Tonk Man's

with the years."

crackles. He doesn't feel the tension on the

Then Richard puts his head back into his

blanket dissipate, but he hears Angel's bobbing,

knees and cackles hoarsely. The wisdom of a

air-raid wails. Joey turns and sees his sister

drunken ogre, infallible but fleeting, as if the

twenty

feet

behind

him,

eyes

and mouth

cavernous. It seems to Joey that her face is 76


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa peeling back from her skeleton, starting at the

beeps and the smell of sterility. His mantra,

orifices. The book lies in an open-faced heap on

handed down from his mother, was to, "Take care

the

of Angel." Any failure to do so was met with the

ground

beside

her

and

tears

make

crisscrossing splotches of her dirty cheeks.

belt. But the belt, at first his primary reason,

Joey reacts and runs back to her, his fragile Angel. He feels a widening in his throat, a tension at the corners or his eyes, mucus wanting to leak down his nostrils, a watery feeling in his belly. For a moment he wants to cry with her, to sit and hug her, screaming in unison until they fell asleep. But he can't.

didn't enter into the equation nowadays. He had to do it. There was no one else. That was all. It was how it made sense to him, and when she hurt, he hurt. In a way he felt, just like his with his mother, that Angel's ability to hurt him was a sign of love. That's how Joey understood it. And as the gathering water threatens to pinch out of his every blink, Joey smoothes down Angel's hair,

About a year ago, there was a community game of touch football at The Greg. Children and

wipes her cheeks, covers her ears and makes soothing sounds.

adults alike. The adults cracked a beer-keg of Bud Light. The barbeque grills tossed up white smoke clouds in shapes of cotton candy. The children

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm here. It's okay. I’m ahead of myself."

and adults shrieked and played football with reddened

barbeque-fingers

underneath

the

He hugs her tight, muffling her squeaks into his chest until she quiets.

darkening afternoon sky. Joey had been told by his mother to stay in the house and take care of his sister. Then his mother left with her friends. They were all laughing as Joey watched the door closed. After a safe amount of time had passed, enough so that he was sure his mother was gone, Joey had gone out to play with the other children. An hour or two later he had returned to find his sister blue with the effort of her screams. It reminded Joey of Violet in Willy Wonka. Angel lay on the middle of the kitchen floor, her mouth and eyes stretched out but lacking in ability to produce any sound. Tom was rubbing up against her, again and again, trying to comfort the girl. "Meow, burreow." His mother had named her Angel because she almost didn't survive birth or the immediate thereafter. Angel was hospital-bound for the better part of a year, a premature bun, with all the trappings of an alcohol-soaked fermentation.

"Hey there‌c'mon, stop it. Stop it, Snot Puppy." She is sniffling when he pulls back and he bunches up the lower portion of his shirt to wipe her nose and lips. Her eyes and mouth are aquiver, threats to regress. "It's okay." Joey smiles, controlling his own features to remain calm. He wanted desperately to put his thumb in his mouth. Dealing with Angel was similar to dealing with his mother or Richard: it was of dire importance how he composed his affect. The easiness had to be there, so did the honesty, so did the pretense that he wasn't afraid, that no insanity was present, that insanity never existed in any form in his reality, that getting beaten wasn't a possibility, that it had never happened prior, that hunger was something foreign and only imagined and that Angel's shackled weight wasn't a burden. Joey had to believe it. Or they would all see their way right through him and then belt at his ghost, the thin

For Joey, the memory after her birth is

part of himself that he had no right to. Everyone

blinking lights, a small plastic bubble, tubes and

was okay, and they were all having a grand ol' 77


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa time. Only it wasn't, and he wasn't, and he was

the shoulders. Joey remembers crying in the back

tired, and those facts sired an urge to chew his

office, begging the police officers not to take him

thumb down to the bone.

to jail.

He picks up her book, still grinning like the event is a kind of joke. "Let's go get some candy, Snot Puppy. How would a little Snot Puppy like some candy?"

The fluorescent-lit room had smelled of accumulated dust, making Joey's every breath heavy. There was no ventilation and every surface was sticky-damp, not letting the slightest touch go easily.

She flashes a hesitant smile, quickly put back into the deck, and nods.

At first they had had fun with him, each taking a turn. "You're a criminal now." "A lifer. Know what that means?" "You mother will cry and cry."

They walk up the street and cut through the loose board in someone's back yard. Joey remembers when the owner’s used to chase him

"You'll rot in a small room, behind bars, handcuffed, Kid. You know what rot means?"

and the other children off, screaming about

"You know what jail means?"

private properties.

"He'll find out."

"I know your parents. They'll be hearing from me. Get. Little rats. That's all you. Rodents."

They slapped their hands emphatically on the laminated desk between each statement until

A pug-faced woman with a mole above

finally Joey did crack a wellspring, telling them

her upper lip and an old, hoary man that limped

about his sister, how she needed him, how his

with his left leg were the residents. Eventually the

mother would kill him with the belt. By the end of

two adults had to relent due to the constant

his catharsis, the officers and owner were toilet-

onslaught, too poor to afford a sturdier fence, and

flushed with the shame of their authority, its

the children prying back freshly nailed boards.

limitations, its collatoral, and Joey was flailing on

This crossing, as usual, was uneventful.

the dirty linoleum, shrieking like his sister might have in a hunger fit. The owner and officers had picked him up off of the floor, held his arms, legs, and even his head, worried that the boy would cause himself

The store that Joey and Angel stand in

harm.

front of is small and shambling. Joey is peeking

"Cool it, Kid. Cool down. It's alright."

around the corner of the front window. There's a police cruiser parked out front, which makes him nervous.

"Yeah, stop it. We're only joshing with you. Damn. I said to hold his head. He'll hurt his neck."

Since he had been caught stealing a few months ago, Joey had been avoiding the place. The owner had called the cops on him for a Milky Way he had neglected to pay for. He was almost out the door when the owner had grabbed him by 78

Out of desperation, they agreed that they wouldn't tell his mother so long as he didn't come back. The younger cop had spoken to him.


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa "It'll be alright, Snot Puppy. Look, here you go, our secret. Just don't come back, eh?"

shoulder blades, and sits down, beginning to suckle his thumb.

And then the cop had laid the illicit Milky

Certainly they were waiting for him, the

Way on the desk in front of Joey with a wink,

officers from before, just waiting for him to mess

after tearing it open for him--the sugary and sure

up. And this time, there would be only darkness

way to close a child's artery valves.

in their eyes as they handcuffed him, leaving his

The term the officer used had a soothing quality on Joey. It reminded him of when his

thumb inaccessible, leaving his sister alone in the apartment.

mother would call Angel her "Freaky Little

Squelching his eyes shut, Joey bends

Monkey." Words like that meant everything was

inward to the sensation of contracting and

alright--that an apology of a weird nature had

relaxing that comes from his mouth and cascades

been uttered in the subtext. Snot Puppy was his

warm, fresh saliva past his windpipe and lungs

magic word, and he stopped the wild jerking of

into his belly. He is a complete circuit, a starved

his limbs and gave the after-sobs their time to

snake

alleviate.

simultaneously, he feels the blister on his thumb

As Joey was internally refortifying himself, the three adults focused on their shoes and the floor,

happily

devouring

its

tail.

Then,

burst pain and hears Angel's shrieking whines from above him.

the posters about discrimination and

Of its own accord, his stinging thumb

worker's rights. Joey finally found his center and

abandons his mouth and his hand strikes out

gave the younger officer a tight, toothless smile,

toward his sister's abdomen. Joey watches his

because he was afraid they might hear the

sister double over, book forgotten to gravity,

pulsing of his ruddy heart if he cracked his lips,

palms holding the ground. She keeps this pose

and because if he didn't smile with his fear, he

struck for a moment, then raises her bulbous

might cry with it. He was ready to go home.

head and bovine eyes to consider Joey. Finally,

It was enough, and they ushered him out the door of the office, through an aisle whose shelves were more empty than full, and out the door into the light, chocolate getting sticky in his hand.

she sits down beside him, quietly, no longer crying, and puts her head against his shoulder. Joey thinks offhandedly that perhaps he has helped her find her place. "Sorry," she says, "Sorry. S’kay.” It is an awkward set of sounds and the first Joey has heard her speak today. Angel smooths his hair tufts behind his

Looking into the store now, Joey didn't recognize the man behind the counter--it wasn't

ears with awkward hands. “S’kay, Joey.”

the owner. And shade the glass as he might with a Captain's salute, Joey couldn't see the officers' faces because they were further in the back behind the coffee dispenser. Joey pushes Angel back around the side

The officers Joey doesn't recognize give

of the building roughly, his hand between her

him a glance as the bell rings and he enters. The 79


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa clerk keeps on texting. Joey looks through the

The clerk dips a pinky finger into his

shiny marvels of the candy aisle. He keeps his

mouth, ignoring Joey, then rubs it around the

motions obvious and wide, sure that one of the

dust before putting it back in his mouth.

three, or the owner from the back, will suddenly lay a hand on his shoulder. Joey hears a question resounding in his mind. "You aren't trying to steal any candy, are you?" He feels guiltier and more afraid than the day he was actually stealing. But, despite the warmth on his brow and neck, nothing interrupts his browsing.

He says around a strange grin, "Where'd you get. Hold on. Just a minute." Joey watches the man circumvent the counter and walk to where the cops are standing. This is all wrong, Joey knows. Maybe the clerk recognized him. Maybe the owner had told him about Joey. Joey feels a shaking in his knees, the sudden urge to sit. Maybe he should leave. Take the candy bar and go. He somehow knows

After deciding a King-sized Twix might

that that would be wrong, akin to stealing

hold enough for him to have a portion, Joey

because the transaction still wasn't complete. So

heads to the counter and displays the candy, held

he just watches the clerk and the cops talk,

up in one hand with the dollar. His other hand is

everyone's face suddenly serious, everyone's

up as well, open-faced.

voice hushed, eyes going back and forth between

The clerk looks up from his phone and

each other and Joey.

nods. He has a pierced septum and stretched earlobes. "Buck’two on it." Fingers of the hand not

Then the three step around the coffee dispenser and approach down the aisle. One of the cops starts speaking.

holding the phone dance around the register.

"Hey there, what's your name?"

Joey drops the rolled dollar he took from

The tone is jovial, calm.

the bathroom at home on the counter.

"Where’d you get that dollar, Bud?"

The clerk opens the register, drops his phone on the counter, and retrieves a few copper coins from the Leave-A-Penny tray. "Got you." The clerk unfurls the bill. Small white powder flakes and pebbles

Joey sees the adults impassively walking towards him as if the maw of that back-office door sauntering up. And as Joey darts to the entrance,

routine and really looks at something. First at the dust, then at Joey, then back at the dust. A cloud of concern overcasts his face. Joey knows this look. "What? I'm not doing anything. See. I'm paying. I'm not a thief. What do you want?"

80

it open painfully with his

he is out in the sunshine, candy bar in hand, the door closing behind him.

drop from the bill and dust the counter. The clerk blinks and, for the first time, breaks his dazed

slams

shoulder, he hears the officers' stride break. But

A glance over his shoulder as he rounds the store's corner, Joey sees one officer getting into the car, the other giving pursuit, one hand on his hat, the other on the hilt on his bouncing pistol. "Stop, we just need to talk to you. You aren't in trouble. Really. Don't run. Dammit, Kid. Don't run."


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa Joey finds his Angel blessedly ready, book in armpit, blanket in hand. He grabs his corner. "You know how we like to run in the park. See who can get home first? Can we do that now? Can we run home? Now. Right now. Are you ready?"

Angel and Joey get to the corner of The Comet and are passing by the basement entrance when the cruiser bounces up on the sidewalk, cutting them off. The two officers are out of the car the on the heels of the stop. The children are hemmed in, as the officers stand in the narrow space between the cruiser and the railing of The

Angel smiles as if involved in a devious

Comet's marsupium.

game, and nods. She did like to run. One of the few

things

she

did

with a semblance of

coordination. And they are off, attached like an umbilical cord with the blanket, the sounds of the officer's shoes plodding along the concrete behind

The officer's look stoic, but their tones remain gentle. One, the one who didn't give chase, bends down, his knees giving off small pops as he crouches to eye level.

them.

"Stop. Just stop. Look, you're not in The cop chases down the sidewalk, into

someone's front yard, past the woman with the mole on her face, who is watering her parched

trouble. I just need to know some things. Okay, then. Where'd you get the dollar. I just need to know who gave it you. Was it your dad's?"

flowers, and into the backyard. The woman

Joey looks around, past the officers, and

screams murders and rapes as each whisk by her.

then backwards at his sister. Angel is smiling,

Then she is quiet. The officer speaks back to her.

breathless

"Calm down, ma'am. Chirst, just some kids."

from

running,

absorbed

by

the

strangely dressed blue men, their utility belts, their hats. Behind her is the only means of escape, but Joey realizes the futility of running

“I know what they are.”

when the officers are so close. He looks the man

The man is already out of breath when he

in the eye and shakes his head.

has to stop as the children scuttle through the

"Your brother? A friend?"

missing board. He tries to get through twice before he gives up, the open slat to small. On the last attempt through, he gets stuck and has to

"It's mine. I found it. I wasn't stealing. I paid for my candy."

wiggle himself backwards. He gives a long sigh,

"Yeah, that's right. That's right. You're

half embarrassment, half to catch up on his lost

one of the good guys. Why did you run? Cops are

breath, then the officer is on his shoulder radio.

here to help you."

"Pick me up at the corner. House with the

"I'm not a thief."

large lady in her moo-moo. Screaming. Watering the garden. Might have stopped watering. She's got a mole on her face. Directly behind the store." Then, to himself, "Stupid shits. Leashes fer ‘em. Every damn one. Permits."

"That’s right, not a thief. A good guy. Right? You gonna help us? Because you're a good guy." The other cop chimes in. "Where’d you find it?" Joey hesitates. "Hey, we already said, you aren't in any trouble." 81


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa "It's my mom's. But you can't tell her that I took it. She'll belt on me." "Well, Bud, we're going to have to talk to your mother. Just a small talk. Between us grown ups. Where is she now? Where do you live?

"Where’s the residence? We found them unsupervised. Had a bill with residue on it. This is serious. We will pursue child neglect and/or endangerment charges if we can’t find the mother immediately. If we can talk to her…well that's for her to say. Maybe it's a misunderstanding."

"Is there a problem officers?"

Richard lets out a chuckle.

It's Richard's voice. He is staggering up the last few steps of the basement’s entrance stairs, the bottom of his shirt smudged with vomit. He staggers around the children and stands between them and the cops. The one who was kneeling suddenly stands erect. Each of the officers finger the weapons on their hips, back and forth between pepper spray and taserbutts.

"And/or, huh? That serious? Yeah, that sounds like her. Good woman, but part-time cracky. Those are the fun ones. The part-timers. They don't get all giddy when the hit that glass dick, y'know. No peeking through the windows. Almost no paranoia. The get all sexual, and dancey, and happy. Likes for me to go down on her. That sorta stuff."

"No need for that, " Richard says, "I know these kids. I just want to know, what's the rumpus?"

Richard steps towards the officers. As he takes his first step the two men expand, planting their feet, spacing out their shoulders and arms.

"You know where they live? Where’s the

"Sir, stay where you are."

mother? Maybe the father?" The tone is now stately, cold, and without a hint of what might happen next. Diplomacy, maybe followed by disciple. Perhaps the other way around. But the subtle preparation for either is there, just underneath the scanning, flickering pace of the eyes, the hardening of the jaws.

"Alright Capt’n Crappy, you won't get no trouble from me. I'm the upright type. See, she lives right over there." Richard points behind them. "If you want I'll take you right to her. She's gonna love this. You got her elves. She might not want 'em back at this point. Shit, they might not want to go back. But I'll show you."

Richard holds his hands up in the air, which seems to relax the blue-suited men, Joey notices.

The officers bend their heads to look where Richard is pointing. Richard bunches his right hand into a fist and clocks one in the back of

"Sure I do. Close, personal-like friend of

the head. The other turns to see Richard lunge at

mine. Not much to be said for the father. Don't

him, backing him up onto the hood of the cruiser.

think she even knows who he is. But why you messing my boy here? What'd he do? Aren't you supposed to talk to them when a parent is around and such?" "You're drunk.

You don't want this

trouble. Us neither. Keep your movements real slow for me. Richard shakes his raised hands further up in a slow fanning pattern and wiggles his fingers to show that he is already there. 82

“Go, Joey. Take Angel. It’s all good. We’re gonna discuss some things. Work it out and such." And then Richard’s voice is all grunts and effort. Joey sees flailing limbs as the officers wrestle with Richard, trying to ground him. Then he tugs on the blanket and runs behind the cop car and around it with his Angel in tow.


Nazar Look nv baker colorado, usa "Stop resisting." "I'm not resisting. This is the laundry cycle. Feel it? You're--"

Joey howls as well, full of fear and relief, suddenly aware that he and his world are simply sounds. Kindred sounds. The sound of world and the boy is not a quiet sound, but the roar of

And Joey hears a sound behind him

rushing water being pulled precipitously down by

similar to something heard in a pillow fight, and

gravity, crashing into itself at what is the top and

Richard is quiet.

bottom.

Through the parking lot the children run, back to The Greg. Angel howls with glee, the book dropping without notice on the blacktop.

***

83


Nazar Look JD DeHart tennessee, usa

JD DeHart tennessee, usa JD DeHart is a writer and teacher. He has recently been nominated for Best of the Net, and his chapbook, The Truth About Snails, is available on Amazon.

What Happened So this is what happened a familiar rhapsody begins of rumor and swirl and mix, a rain storm of elocution. So this is the way it went down, they say, but if you listen closely, you will catch the lingering threads of myth and tall tale couched among their soft words, comfortable azure oxen of half-truth, blended over time and across the space of many mouths.

84


Nazar Look Carl Scharwath florida, usa

Carl Scharwath florida, usa

Carl Scharwath's work has appeared internationally with over eighty publications selecting his poetry, short stories, essays or art photography. He won the National Poetry Contest award on behalf of Writers One Flight Up. His first poetry book “Journey To Become Forgotten� was published by Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Ingenue The night is sodden Humming faces dance About the flowers. Rain tiny tomb Stones beneath The spirits. Restlessness in Their hibernation Something is missing. Unsnarled loneliness Without a regret Say goodbye.

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Nazar Look Carl Scharwath florida, usa

Chimera The sun cambered through the haze upon a lonely sentinel. Speechless propaganda, begotten sexless rapture, as the days begin and end with the phantasm of uninvited ghosts.

Transfigured Fatalistic clouds storm the soul. Attitude destruction drowns the weak. Azure remembrance of blossoming youth. Denial strengthens a new awakening.

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Nazar Look Carl Scharwath florida, usa

Axis The passion shall escape While the past, Flickering hungry Is Bleached invisible. You gaze at The unfeigned light Walking out determined From the world. Knowing how it feels To be broken And have a black hole On your time-line.

A Poem Never Read My words Composed and forgotten. Created like A dewdrop That vanishes In the primordial Morning Sunshine. Evolving into The loudest silence Never heard.

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Nazar Look Ram Krishna Singh jharkhand, india

Ram Krishna Singh jharkhand, india

God Too Dozes It was too late I realized long after his passing I still prayed for my father God didn't answer my prayers had become mechanical like sex ejaculation without orgasm and pilled sleep. The itch prevails. The tags in the mind don't respond absent memories confused faith: forgetting faster than remembering in moments of lapse God too dozes

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Nazar Look John Richmond new york, usa

John Richmond new york, usa John Richmond has “wandered” parts of North America for a good portion of his life. These “wanderings” have taken him from a city on the Great Lakes to a small fishing village (population 400) and then on to a bigger city on the Great Lakes- Chicago- then, eventually, New York City. Since then, John Richmond has made his way to a small upstate New York town and has sequestered himself in his office where he divides his time between writing and discussing the state of the world with his coonhound buddy- Roma. Recently, he has appeared in Lavender Wolves, Indiana Voice Journal, Nazar-Look (Romania), Fuck Fiction, The Greensilk Journal, The Corner Club Press, The Tower Journal, Stone Path Review, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Rogue Particles Magazine, From the Depths, Flash Frontier (N. Z.), The Birmingham Arts Journal, riverbabble (2), The Writing Disorder, Lalitamba, Poetic Diversity, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Embodied Effigies, ken*again (2), Black & White, SNReview, The Round, The Potomac, Syndic Literary Journal, Ygdrasil (Canada), Slow Trains, Forge Journal, and is forthcoming in The Other Stories.

Oh, to be sure, everyone retained

The Permissioner’s Binders

the

same

basic,

original

philosophical

rights- “…life, liberty and the pursuit of Things had changed. changed for the better?

Had they

happiness…”- but beyond that, everything

Maybe, but who

that was tangible and real was in the

knew- who could even remember.

The

only thing that they did know for certain was that the “aged-ones” told storiesmaybe they were even tales- of a time when a Permissioner was never needed and the Binders never existed.

But, that

was then, and this is now. So, how did it happen, who is the Permissioner and what is in the Binders?

that led to a new social contract that was forged over, through and as a result of years

of

human

and

cyber

uncertainty- and terror; a new way of “managing” society with a new philosophy that

believed that

rights- human

and

otherwise- were a function of time, place and circumstance.

aided in his duties by the Binders. Many believed that the mid-twentyfirst-century was the turning point, but the antecedents of the change- the turn- were occurring years before. It’s just that 2053 was the year that a critical mass of governments finally said their equivalents of- “enough is enough.”

It was an “evolution” of sorts; one

long

hands of the Permissioner, and he was

It was a combination of terrorism, social media activism- run amok- and the Hacker Revolution that resulted in a worldwide state of anarchy.

Put differently,

people and places were blowing up, cybersecurity

as

nonexistent

regards

ALL

(everyone

data became

had

access

to

everything) and social media chaos- and the masses it could summon- turned every aspect of governmental functioning- from 89


Nazar Look John Richmond new york, usa the local school board to the affairs of

Permissioner’s responsibility to review any

state- into a world of perpetual gridlock to

request by those living in his Zone of

the point of absolute dysfunctionality. The

Authority for travel permission to another

aspects of the problems were universally

Zone.

the same- as was the response- differing

authorized the compilation of individual

only as a result of local nuances.

Binders on everyone in the Permissioner’s

The

phenomenon

of

human

terrorism was addressed by the Zoning Laws Act (ZLA) of 2048 which created 10k-

Zone.

the

PAPBA,

further,

Finally, the Act provided for the

establishment

of

a

repository

for

the

Binders.

6 square mile- Zones in which one lived and worked and recreated.

Second,

The Binders were comprehensive.

No one was

They included everything there was to

allowed to exit their Zone without explicit

know about the individual in question.

written-

permission.

Further, the Act required that the Binders

Those who violated the ZLA were punished

were all “hard copies”- literally binders-

by the loss of their job, their housing, their

that were durable, resilient and impervious

food

to attack, cyber or otherwise.

and

and

documented-

education

subsidies

and

a

minimum of twenty years in prison.

Obviously, it took some time to

Social media fell under the purview

establish,

demarcate

and

electronically

of the Social Media National Defense Act

secure the Zones. It took even more time

(SMNDA) of 2050 which- among other

to collect the individual data and assemble

things- limited social media access to only

the Binders. The enormity of these tasks

one employment related page while other

resulted in a series of multiple “start-

feeds- not to exceed five- were restricted

dates,” those points in time when parts of

to

what would ultimately be the entire system

bona

fide

members

of

a

citizen’s

immediate family.

would be functional- and permission would

Finally, the Hacker Revolution- and the

repercussions

technologically

of

everything

accessible-

to

being

Of

course,

once

a

Zone

was

the

“operational,” near-to-endless speculation

Internet Access Control Act (IACA) of

ensued. There were questions like- “Who

2051. The IACA limited Internet access to

is the Permissioner?”

only

Binders kept?”

pre-approved

led

be required.

educational

and

entertainment websites. Yet,

as

regards

“Where are the

“Is the repository in the

Zone?” personal

These

were,

obviously,

good,

information- of all and any sort- there was

natural and logical questions.

still a need to have some sort of repository

practical, yet, for all intents and purposes,

of data and someone to manage- and

they were- and always would be- simply

oversee- both the data and the repository.

rhetorical.

This led to the Permissioner and the

They were

For you see, no one ever met or

Permissioner’s Binder Act (PAPBA) of 2053.

came before the Permissioner.

In essence, the PAPBA established the

never saw anyone- and, no one ever saw

Office

him- though each Permissioner dealt with

of

the

Permissioner

compilation of the Binders. 90

and

the

It was the

hundreds of people each day.

No, he

Besides,


Nazar Look John Richmond new york, usa once you were standing there- before the

everyone’s lives?

Permissioner’s Zone Coordinator- with your

most definite and emphatic- YES!

transit request papers firmly in hand, it would

have

been

highly-

near-to-

bordering-on-transit-request-denied-

To a person, it was a

But, more importantly, did these measures- did what the Permissioner and the Binders represented- finally impose-

unlikely to inquire about anything- let alone the Permissioner. Still, in the Zones, curiosity- and rumors- were rampant.

It

was, necessarily, of the word-of-mouth

for lack of a kinder, more democratic word, a control and stability and a predictable functionality to the world?

Oh, yes,

indeed.

variety- and especially guarded- but it was Actually, the bulk of the population-

pervasive.

after the revolts and disclosures and the Some people didn’t believe that the Permissioner- or the Binders- existed at all.

They questioned the requirement of

Zone Transfer Permits, but at the same time, no one took it upon themselves to put their belief to the test.

terrorismworth

found

the

it

“comforting”-

inconveniences

and

well the

sacrifices- to know- and maybe more so importantly, believe- that everything and anything that there was to know about them was safe and secure- and accessible

Others believed that there was a

to only one set of eyes- the Permissioner’s-

Permissioner and that there were Binders,

in their very own, individual- and private-

but

Binder.

that

they

subterranean

were

vault

housed

somewhere

in in

a the

Zone.

It

was

in

this

way,

after

the

passage of a few generations that the Then,

opinion

that

there

was

believed

the

that

majority

all

of

the

world

of

the

revolutionaries,

hackers, and terrorists

protesters, slid into

Permissioners and the Binder Repositories

history; a dimming of a phase that had

were situated- located- deep in a cavern in

brought adjustments and had created- a

a remote mountain range.

new and different kind of existence- the

Was it mysterious?

Yes.

Was it

world as they know it today.

sometimes a burden and an hassle to have to get a permit to travel?

Yes.

Did it

***

require some “advanced planning” so as to coordinate everything?

Yes.

Did it feel

like

was

controlling

the

government

91


Nazar Look Thom Young texas, usa

Thom Young texas, usa

Thom Young is a writer from Texas. His work has been in The Commonline Journal, 3am magazine, Word Riot, 48th Street Press, and many other places. A 2008 Million Writers Award nominee for his story Perico.

Her I feel her in the places that I go the dark hallways and the quiet church the past and the future I feel her in the places that I go in the hospital the dead breeding the dead but her love remains but it's all in my head again. again. and again.

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Nazar Look Thom Young texas, usa

Them we're not alone I see them they're walking the streets and at jobs and in cars and arguing over the most mundane shit over the mortgage over the baby's breath death floral arrangements whether the bride should stand here or there they kill themselves slowly and I stand above them on metal clouds this is funny I say.

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Nazar Look Thom Young texas, usa

Old Glory we're not alone there are aliens with moon bases and ancient pyramids in a vacuum because that's what the universe is no chance and no wind. but you saw Old Glory waving as Neil danced his small steps for man while the women never got mentioned again. there's a chance they're lying to us but I wonder what comes on channel 5 tonight?

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Nazar Look

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Nazar Look 45  
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