The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
The Wanderer VOLUME: 3 - ISSUE: 2 - JUNE/JULY - 2018
Columns: Letter from London: John Looker 09 The Wanderer - Andrew Fleck 02 Book review: The Golden House / Salman Rushdie / Shane Joseph 40 One Act Play: Ryan Curcio 13 Poetry: Damian Lanahan-Kalish 23 Daniel Paul Marshall 27 Katarina Saric 33 Gerard Sarnat 67 Fiction: Doug Hawley 43 Suzanne Dottino 47 Illustrations by Alex Nodopka-nabokov
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Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, follows an eclectic bunch of pilgrims on route to Canterbury Cathedral in the fourteenth century and recounts the tales they tell on the way. Nowadays Canterbury is known as the spiritual capital of – well, if not of England, then of the Anglican Church, and in Chaucer’s day was the most important Catholic cathedral in England, but that is not why the pilgrims (‘palmers’ in the contemporary parlance) are going there, rather: ...from every shires end Of Engelond to Cauntebury they wende, The holy blissful martyr for to seke The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
4 That hem hath holpenwhan that they were sick. (From every shire’s end of England to Canterbury they go, to seek the holy blissful martyr that has helped them when they were sick.)
The martyr in question was Saint Thomas Becket, archbishop under Henry II, who, during a great power struggle between the king and the church back in the twelfth century, was slain in the grounds of the cathedral by knights who had heard the king rant ‘Who will rid me of this troublesome prelate?’, or Norman French words to that effect, and – we can’t be sure about this – either misinterpreted his meaning, or interpreted it exactly right. Soon after his death, a great cult arose around Becket, who was duly sainted, and the king had to perform a grovelling act of penance, on his knees in the mud by the Cathedral. The story of Becket’s death is told in T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, rather beautifully, although ambivalently, for Eliot was an Anglican who sympathized with the Plantagenet king’s cause, if not The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
5 his methods, but Becket’s story is only ever glanced at in The Canterbury Tales, first because everybody in his time would have known it, and second because the pilgrimage was really only a kind of plot device – in 14th Century England it was the most conceivable reason a host of different people would come together and share their stories. Indeed, if you come to The Canterbury Tales looking for religious instruction – well, you will find it in there somewhere, but you will have to sift through a wealth of profane, sometimes near-obscene, material to get there, from Arthurian Legend and Greek mythology to bawdy tales and toilet humour. Chaucer was devout enough, but interested in all of humanity, and wise enough to know that, even on the route to a holy site, religion may not be foremost on everybody’s mind. Indeed, as another poet hinted, all sorts could happen on the way to or from a holy site: As you came from the holy land Of Walsinghame, Met you not with my true love By the way you came? How shall I know your true love, That have met many one As I went to the holy land, That have come, that have gone?
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
6 So starts the simple, pretty and bleak lyrical ballad of Sir Walter Raleigh, in which he goes on to sing of the passing of youth and the fickleness of young love. It is intriguing that Raleigh sets the poem on the pilgrimage route to England’s greatest Marian shrine, Walsingham Abbey in Norfolk, for by his era this was part of a past from which England had been decisively cut off. By the Elizabethan age in which Raleigh thrived that once commonplace activity was nigh on treasonous. Walsingham Abbey, once thronged with pilgrims there to see its replica of the Holy House, was closed for business and already falling into ruin, but its fall was less than half a century gone, and there were plenty who still rued its decline. A contemporary poem: Bitter, bitter, O ,to behold The grass to grow Where the walls of Walsingham So stately did show The above lines are from a poem lamenting the ruin Walsingham Abbey following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII. England is scattered with such monuments to the age of the medieval monasteries that came so abruptly to an end, when the king and his counsellors, having broken with Rome, far more than his forebear Henry II had ever dreamed of,connived to put church property into the hands of their allies. These grand skeletal structures, sometimes blackened by soot, more often sinking into the grass, are popular sites for tourists or for pre-wedding shoots – young couples pout and simper to the camera where once the walls of Walsingham, Whitby and Fountains Abbey so stately did show. The poet is anonymous, but is thought to have been the Earl of Arundel, who converted to Catholicism in the Reign of Elizabeth I and wasted away in the Tower of London, put there on some never-proven treason charge. There are few poems in the Elizabethan era regretting the Catholicism of the recent past, perhaps precisely because expressing such sentiments could be viewed as treasonous. (An odd and slightly creepy coincidence: the man who led the investigations that led to the earl’s imprisonment went by the name of Sir Francis Walsingham.) The historian Eamon Duffy, among others, has The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
7 picked up the subtlest of allusions to the dissolution of the monasteries in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, where he describes “Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang”, which alludes to the great chantries in the abbeys, where monks once sang for the souls of the dead (William Byrdwas, by the way, the foremost songwriter of his age, and a known Catholic). It may have been inspired by lines in the Walsingham poem, too: Owls do shriek where the sweetest hymns Lately were sung Toads and serpents hold their dens, Where the palmers did throng. But Shakespeare did not write about the monasteries: their skeletal frames merely serve as the vehicle of a metaphor – he is actually describing his aging body as he tries to woo a younger lover. Written two centuries after Raleigh, Shakespeare and Arundel’s, the most well-known English poem involving an abbey is William Wordsworth’s Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, but the poet, sitting enjoying the woods and hills, the memory of his last visit there, and various sublime thoughts, seems barely to notice the abbey itself, or to consider its history. He compensates for this somewhat in a later poem, The White Doe of Rylstone, which tells the story of the devastating defeat of one great northern family in the Rising of the North of 1569, a rather desperate and ill-conceived plot to return England to Catholicism by toppling Elizabeth and put the Mary Queen of Scots on the throne, and of a mysterious white doe that walks through a ruined abbey: Here walks amid the mournful waste Of prostrate altars, shrines defaced, And floors encumbered with rich show Of fret-work imagery laid low; Paces softly, or makes halt, By fractured cell, or tomb, or vault; By plate of monumental brass Dim-gleaming among weeds and grass Though it was not among his best-known, Wordsworth conThe Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
8 sidered The White Doe of Rylstone one of his best works, and indeed, it includes some lines of great beauty – as with those quoted above, which describe quite poignantly how the abbeys may have looked after their despoliation. The poem’s feeling, however, is the gentle, perhaps pleasurable, melancholy of an antiquarian: Wordsworth was no Catholic revivalist, rather he enjoyed the traces, bleak as they may be, of England’s medieval past, the same way he and his fellow romantics would enjoy the memory of Ancient Greece or Arthurian legend. Later in the nineteenth century, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, though never finished, a short verse drama based on the life of Saint Winifred, a 7th century Welsh saint, a noblewoman who, the legend goes was beheaded by a prince after refusing to marry him, but who miraculously retuned to life and became a great abbess. Hopkins was inspired by visits to Saint Winifred’s Well in Wales, and of course Hopkins, being a devout Catholic, really did hope for a return of the days of saints, pilgrims and holy wells to Britain. In the drama, Winifred’s uncle Bueno, after avenging her death and witnessing her resurrection, talks of how the well he stands by will become a great pilgrimage site: Here to this holy well shall pilgrimages be, And not from purple Wales only, nor from elmy England, But from beyond the seas, Erin, France and Flanders, everywhere, Pilgrims, still pilgrims, more pilgrims still more poor pilgrims And though this is the voice of a seventh century Welsh prince foretelling the great popularity of his niece’s holy site, this is also the voice of Hopkins, in the19th century, hoping for a rebirth of English and Welsh Catholicism: The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
9 As sure as what is most sure, sure as that spring primroses Shall new-dapple next year, sure as tomorrow morning, Amongst come-back again things, things with a revival, things with a recovery, Thy name
And Hopkins got his wish, or partially so, for among the day-trippers and selfie-takers at Winifred’s Well, Lindisfarne, Tintern Abbey and Canterbury a steady trickle of new pilgrims come. Credits The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ed. Jill Mann, Penguin, London 2005 You may find Duffy’s analysis of Shakespeare’s sonnet in Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition, Eamon Duffy, Bloomsbury, London 2012 Walter Raleigh’s As you came from the holy land, and the anonymous Walsingham lament are both from The New Oxford Book of Sixteenth centuryVerse, ed. Emrys Jones, OUP, Oxford, 1991 The Major works, Gerard Manley Hopkins, OUP, Oxford, 2002 (Copyright – The Society of Jesus) Wordsworth’s long poem doesn’t make many anthologies – you can find it on the Internet!
Andrew Fleck, who has been a secondary school teacher, proofreader and EFL teacher, among other things, writes on poetry and history at https://thepeeltower.wordpress.com The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
Letter from London - 17 from John Looker
Poetry can be a voyage of discovery, can’t it? You might remember the special edition of The Wagon devoted to African poetry. Recently I borrowed from the library the Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry and found that it opened my eyes and my ears to a continent that I have not yet visited. The book is in English, either because the poems were written in that language or because they’re there in translation – from French, Portuguese, indigenous languages and so on. There’s always a problem with poetry in translation so I found myself concentrating on those items written from the outset in English and of course there were many of these. One of the poets I looked out for was the Nigerian writer and The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
11 Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka. One of his I found especially moving: ‘Death in the Dawn’ from 1967. These lines seemed to me to be magical: Traveller, you must set out At dawn. And wipe your feet upon The dog-nose wetness of the earth. They speak to men and women anywhere and at all times and with a wholly unexpected image that is exactly right. The subject of setting out on a journey or a quest is one that speaks to me particularly because I am slowly completing a second volume of my own poems on just this underlying theme. Another Nigerian, the younger writer Ben Okri, caught my attention with a poem entitled ‘On Edge of Time Future’. This line was just one of several that distilled the essence: everywhere stagger victims of rigged elections So powerfully put and in today’s world of fake news a message that could come from many countries around the world. I have to say however that the reader of the Penguin Book of Modern African poetry is left with a strong impression of political conflict, repression and protest. Sadly this confirms impressions given by news reports of the continent over many years. I had expected political poetry from South Africa, given the tumultuous struggles of that country in recent times, and I have to acknowledge my own country’s role. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
12 Among other, the book included works from the prize-winning writer Mongane Wally Serote – naturally so given his significant status, his imprisonment for nine months without trial in 1970, his long years of exile in Botswana and England and eventually his position as the ANC Head of Arts and Culture. Similarly, from Kenya, there were poems by Maina wa Kinyatti – remarkably understated poems I thought given his six years in prison there. The introduction to the book spoke of conditions in prison ‘of which his poems offer only a glimpse’. One illustration of this came from his restrained and allusive poem ‘The Bride’ with its nighttime scene in prison. It is both touching and disturbing and talks to us not only about injustice and suffering but about the human spirit and the enduring presence of love: The couple in love Strange love But from what human depths was it born? There were poems from Uganda – especially by Okot p’Bitek that, I learnt had enormous influence throughout Africa writing ‘vigorous and direct poetry’; Poems from as far apart as Senegal and Malawi and of course, from the Congo and other Francophone nations and elsewhere. Politics are far from the only theme. Daily life and love and death are as handsomely represented as one would wish. I was impressed by a subtle poem called ‘A Leopard Lives in a Muu Tree’ by Jonathan Kariara of Kenya in which an ageing man frets over his declining strength as he surveys his household: The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
13 The upright post at the gate has fallen My women are frisky The leopard arches over my homestead Eats my lambs Resuscitating himself. That caused me some wry amusement, as an ageing man myself now, but it is also very touching. Are there poems by women, though? Yes, but not so many. The editors recognise this and I detected an implied promise to do better in future editions. Here, however, are a few lines from a beautiful piece from Stella Chipasula entitled ‘I’m My Own Mother Now’, also a reflection upon ageing: But, mother, I am mothering you now; new generations pass through my blood, and I bear you proudly on my back where you are no longer a question. Stella Chipasula I understand lives in the USA (with her husband the writer Frank Chipasula) but comes from Zambia. Looking her up on the internet I find that she is the editor of the Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry. There is evidently much more to be discovered. * John Looker lives with his wife in Surrey, south-east England. His first
collection of poetry, The Human Hive, was published in 2015 by Bennison Books and was selected by the Poetry Library for the UK’s national collection. His poems have appeared in print and in online journals, on local radio and in two anthologies: When Time and Space Conspire, an anthology commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Austin International Poetry Festival, and Indra’s Net, an international collection published by Bennison Books in aid of the Book Bus charity. His blog, Poetry from John Looker, is at https://johnstevensjs.wordpress.com The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
One Act Play
Cast: AUSTIN—26 year old, heroin addict. He plays the organ at his local church, and is a fry cook at a nearby diner called Ma’s. DELIA—Austin’s 31 year old, on-again off-again girlfriend. FATHER STANIEL—47 year old Priest at Austin’s church. MARY—33 year old Manager at the restaurant Austin works for, Ma’s Diner. Setting—Xenia, Ohio Year—1995 Scene 1 Enter a room littered with dirty articles of clothing which span most of the floor space. There is a poster of Mozart hung above an organ, peeling from the wall. A man with matted brown hair is slumped on the organ— elbows, arms, and head are resting on the keys, and the organ drones on in discordant confusion. The man is passed out, and a greasy rocks glass sits next to him on the bench. Next to the glass is a syringe, used. A woman walks into the room with puffy cheeks and fresh tears streaming. DELIA: Get up! The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
15 AUSTIN: Mnnhmmm. DELIA: Get up, you fucking junky degenerate! AUSTIN: [rubs his crusty eyelids.] Hmmm…What? DELIA: You sober yet? We have to talk. AUSTIN: I…was just working…on…my piece. What’s going on baby? DELIA: Well, I don’t know. You shoot up, drink yourself silly, and pass out before eight every night. What’s worse is that you conk out during your performances at church, and the deacons need to drag you to the back and throw holy water in your face. Oh, I’m sorry. Did you mean what’s going on right now? I’m throwing you out. Get the hell out of my house. Now. AUSTIN: Delia, I’m…just collecting…myself here. Why are you doing this? I’m just…in a bad way. I can fix this. I’m just…sick, ya know. Please, I can get better. I can be better. Just…let me work on it. DELIA: Oh man, this doesn’t sound familiar to you? You said this last month, and in January, December, November, and October. I don’t care what you do to yourself anymore, but you need to leave or I’m calling the cops. Get your stu—what am I saying, you don’t really have anything, except for your rags and junk. JUST GO! I’m not going to put the past on replay with you anymore. I want you the fuck out of my house. Now. AUSTIN: [tears fall steadily from his eyes like blinding precipitation] Where will I go? What…I mean, please? Please don’t give up? Give me another… [he attempts to go in for a hug, but she presses her palms against his bony shoulders and shoves him away.] DELIA: If you aren’t out in ten minutes, I will be on the phone with the police. You need help Austin. Lots. Help I can’t offer, and won’t even try. I hope you find something, some way that can cure you. I don’t want you dead, but I don’t want you here, either. Go. [He sits up now, grabs a few shirts, three pairs of underwear, and some socks from off the floor. He reaches for his syringe, checks his corduroy pockets to see if he has a bit of smack left, and exits the room with his left The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
16 hand covering his eyes. When he leaves, Delia begins to tear up again.] AUSTIN: [returns, standing with his hand gripping the right side of the door frame] I’m sorry I’ve been this way. It’s all I know. DELIA: [wipes her eyes with her shirt sleeve, and points toward the door] Get out Austin [He walks off and, all at once, she crashes to the floor, sobbing.] Curtain
Scene Two Shift over to a municipal church balcony. Austin is seated at the organ— layers of sound hum soft and hang on the air like helium. His eyebrows form a tight v-shape; he is intensely focused, possessed even. He smiles as his forefinger lets the last key rise and settles into its original position. AUSTIN: [reaches into his pocket for a baggy filled with brown powder] Well, I suppose I’ve earned this now. [He breaks out a spoon, puts some of the powder substance on it, pours a few drops of water on the powder, lights under the spoon until the powder and water effervesce—it almost bubbles over. He sets the spoon down gently, ties a rubber hose around the bony crease of his arm and, reaching into his denim jacket, front pocket for his syringe, draws up the murky brown liquid sitting in the depression of the spoon, then sticks the needle into an aquamarine vein. He removes the hose, and looks blissfully sedated. He walks down the steps and lies down on one of the front pews, needle still in hand.] FATHER STANIEL: [looks at Austin pityingly. He grabs the calf of Austin’s left leg and shakes him awake. Quietly] My son…My son. [a little louder.] Austin! AUSTIN: [in a daze, rolls over and hits his forehead on the backing of the pew.] Hmmmnnnuhhhh, what? FATHER STANIEL: You fell asleep my son. You’re in the church. AUSTIN: Oh. What? FATHER STANIEL: I heard you playing the organ earlier from below the balcony. It was lovely. I was captivated, as I’m sure the Lord was. Was that your piece for our Easter morning Mass? The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
17 [notices the needle loosely held in Austin’s right hand.] AUSTIN: [rubs his eyes with dry knuckles] Part of it. I’ve been writing a lot the past few nights. That’s why I fell asleep, Father. I’m sincerely sorry for that. FATHER STANIEL: I will take no apologies for that. However, I will say that it’s going to be awfully difficult for you to get through the Mass if your head is in a false Heaven the whole time. AUSTIN: [his features tighten, and his face burns crimson] I’ll be fine. Don’t you worry about me. I’ve heard just about as much as I can take this morning about my “choices.” FATHER STANIEL: I meant no offense, son. We—I mean the community—have been worried about you. I cannot fib about that. You have been…a bit absent lately. AUSTIN: [laughs] Oh, that’s it, huh? I’m just a goddamn ghost haunting this town, a sleepy ghost with no direction to go. So I just wander until I get to the center of some fucking pile of trash? Fuck you, Father. FATHER STANIEL: Now there is no need for that detestable language in God’s house, my son. It is my understanding that you and Delia have…had some trouble of late. Would you care to perhaps talk about that? AUSTIN: No, actually. No, I wouldn’t like to talk about my failing relationship, thanks. You’re feeling awful nosey today, aren’t you Father? FATHER STANIEL: Not nosey, just curious and genuinely concerned. It seems that you are letting a liquid snake through your veins because it eases your immediate troubles. This divides you from the one you truly love. AUSTIN: You’re preaching up the wrong junk tree, preacher. Reed said it best: “Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life.” FATHER STANIEL: I just fret you are spinning out of control, my son. You may wake up one day behind bars, and with no one to bail you out. You could even, Heaven forbid, wither away and dissolve into this mortal coil before your time. You need to truly consider what it is that you are doing to yourself. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
18 AUSTIN: I’ll spin and shoot up whenever I damn well please, and screw the rest of you who think you can decide my future for me. I AM IN CHARGE OF ME! [stands and walks briskly toward the vestibule.] FATHER STANIEL: My son! [AUSTIN disappears behind the stained glass window of the double doors.] Curtain Scene Three Austin is walking on the sidewalk in the center of town. It is a chilly day for spring, and he notices Delia across the street in front of the pharmacy. He can see her breath as she turns one way, then another, preparing to cross the road. He stops and waits for her to close the distance between them. AUSTIN: Delia, hi! [ignores him, walking right on by] Delia. HI! [He follows up behind her.] DELIA: [turns] Step away from me, now. I swear to God, I’ll pepper spray you! AUSTIN: [his head shrinks into his shoulders] I just wan—I just wanted…to apologize, again. … for everything. I’ve put you through a special kind of hell, and I want to do anything I can to make things right, return to where we were. DELIA: [laughs.] Return? To what, you falling asleep in your bodily fluids, and nearly choking on your vomit? I think I’m good. AUSTIN: I meant, before I got…sick. DELIA: [she looks remorseful] Believe me Austin, I’d love to go back to those greener pastures with you—those days where we would just drive around with no destination in mind—but we’ve traveled far from those peaceful days. AUSTIN: I’m…working on it [DELIA looks down at his left pocket; she notices the corner of a baggy sticking out of the pocket.] DELIA: Yeah, I can see you’re working real hard. You pick up where you left off last night? Goodbye Austin. I hope you find a way out of this prison you’ve built around yourself. Oh, and don’t bother The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
19 trying to sneak back into the house tonight—I called a locksmith to come and change the locks this afternoon [she walks off, leaving AUSTIN by himself to stand near the inactive street. Austin turns in the opposite direction. He is not far from his workplace—Ma’s diner. As he nears the restaurant, a man in vaudevillian dress and pantomime makeup stands juggling pears in front of the doors of this greasy spoon. A woman with oily, black hair shoos him away with a comically oversized broom.] AUSTIN: Hey, Mary. MARY: Hey, you come to do some work for me for a change? AUSTIN: You know I’m not scheduled for today. I just come to see if maybe I can get a meal on the house. I’ll pay my bill once next week’s check is in. MARY: You already down to a zero balance with this week’s? AUSTIN: I’ve had…financial commitments. MARY: I’m sure you have. Come in, we’ll fix ya a plate. Country fried steak, is it? AUSTIN: That’ll do just fine, thanks. I need to hit the head to a take care of a leak first, though. MARY: I’ll meet you by the counter and then we can talk about things not relating to urination. [AUSTIN checks the one person bathroom door, and finds it’s unlocked. He turns the knob, squeezes in, and shuts it promptly. He locks it and immediately begins preparing himself another shot. After the heroin courses through his veins, he sits up against the blue, tiled wall. Some time passes, and Austin is awakened by the sound of fierce knocking on the door.] AUSTIN: [he stands, drowsily.] Comin’! MARY: What’s going on, man? It’s been near a half-hour. You performing a colonoscopy on yourself in here? AUSTIN: [mumbling] I just…woah. Hahaha … that’s good. I feel fine. I feel…just fine. I’m ready to eat some of that grub now. MARY: [looks him up and down, skeptical] You sure you’re all right? AUSTIN: Yeah, yeah, took care of business in there. I’m good to go. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
20 MARY: [they move over to the counter, AUSTIN walks sluggishly behind her] You can sit wherever. Your food might be a bit cold. Take a bite and let me know if it needs to be warmed. AUSTIN: [smiles like a Cro-Magnon might, drools a bit, and the saliva pools on the counter. He takes up his fork and cuts off a piece of chicken] Mmmmm…mmmmm…mmmmmm! You’ve outdone yourself this time Maaaarrry! MARY: Glad you like it [phone rings] Oh, I need to go take that. I shouldn’t be long. [AUSTIN looks back, sees an elderly couple behind him and smiles at them. He turns around and looks on the brink of passing out. In fact, he begins dozing in his seat, then slowly his head dips lower and lower until his cheek rests in the gravy drenching the chicken.] MARY: [reentering the room—she cannot see AUSTIN yet] That was Bill. What a dick, going on about our low sales again, as if we can compete with the chains around her—Austin, what the hell?! [she sees his face submerged in the gravy now, and begins shaking his shoulder until he starts to come back to some semblance of life.] AUSTIN: Huh? Where are—what? MARY: You’ve gotta go, dude. You’re weirding out the clientele. Beat it, man. AUSTIN: But…but I didn’t finish my food yet. MARY: [hands him the plate, and a fresh napkin] Take it to-go. You’re all fucked up, kid. [AUSTIN takes the plate, confused] And Austin … AUSTIN: Yeah? MARY: Don’t bother coming back here until you’ve cleaned up a bit. I can’t have that shit here in my place of business. I like you, so I don’t mind givin’ ya another chance, but for the love of God, get your act together, man. [AUSTIN turns around, ashamed. He walks toward the door and a bell tinkles as he opens it to exit. Other people in the restaurant roll their eyes and return to their midday meals.] Curtain The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
21 Scene Four AUSTIN is back at the church. No one is there as it is one-thirty in the morning, according to the analog clock hanging on the western wall. He has just left the bathroom where he was hiding, following the exodus of midnight Mass attendees. He’s moving around the aisles, wired. He reaches into his empty right pocket, realizing that he does not have any more heroin, then reaches into the other and finds no money in it. He starts up the steps toward the organ. He begins practicing his piece aggressively— he is agitated from the junk sickness. He plays until daybreak; the piece actually reaches a level of cohesion, fluidity. As the light pours through the stained glass windows lining the side wall of the cathedral, AUSTIN smiles, although he looks green from illness, and perspiration is visible on his face. He stops playing. It is now just about 6 A.M. on Easter Sunday and people start shuffling into the church—it’s time for the early Mass. FATHER STANIEL is reading over his sermon notes as he walks in. He notices AUSTIN above and smiles at him. FATHER STANIEL: Hello, my son. I’m glad you could make it. AUSTIN: I have…nothing…else [some tears crawl out from his downcast eyes.] FATHER STANIEL: Are you prepared to play? AUSTIN: [wipes away the moisture] Yes, and it’ll surprise you to hear that I’m in my right mind. FATHER STANIEL: We all just want to see the best you up there. AUSTIN: Well, it’s me up here, but I’m not feeling my best [he stands on tippy toes and spots DELIA taking a seat in the back by herself.] FATHER STANIEL: Grace under pressure, I think some might say. I’ll go and get us started. [adjusts the microphone on the podium] A Happy Easter Morning to all who made it today. I am grateful for the chance to spend this glorious day of our Lord with each and every one of you. This is, of course, a special day of remembrance for the resurrection of Christ, but also a day where we get to hear an original piece of music from our organist, Austin. I know we’re starting Mass a little unconventionally, but he’s worked The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
22 real hard on honing this thing into workable form, so if you’ll devote your full attention to his playing, we’d be greatly appreciative. Without further adieu, here it is. [Austin is sweating a lake’s worth of body liquid, but tries to remain composed. He sits up straight, closes his eyes, and breathes through his nostrils. He hits the first note and falls into a fantastic, sleepless dream as he plays. Each high hum from the organ’s keys rises up to the highest arch of the cathedral, then crashes down when the notes become lower in tonality. He spreads the varying pitches through the room like a fog that’s alive—you can tell his piece is communicating something, because Delia is crying, along with some other women in the church crowd. Smiles spread across the faces of other churchgoers as his hands rise from the keys for the last time. They stand in unison and applaud. AUSTIN stands and smiles and waves his hand in appreciation. Then he runs to the bathroom and shoves his head under the lid of the toilet to throw up. He returns to listen to the rest of FATHER STANIEL’S sermon. Mass ends and people approach AUSTIN to compliment him on his performance. He walks straight past them over to where DELIA stands in the corner.] DELIA: That was really…great, Austin. Very moving. AUSTIN: I’m glad you enjoyed it. You weren’t far from my thoughts when I was putting it together. You actually were…the driving force. DELIA: [blushes a little] I’m touched. I’m also glad to see you sober. I can tell, because your skin is the color of skim milk. Hey, would you want to…maybe…come over for a cup of coffee? It’d be nice to talk things over—see what your plan is, going forward. AUSTIN: [looks into her eyes, his eyes round, tired, and sad. He looks down at her right hand; it holds a shiny, silver key between the forefinger and thumb] No. DELIA: Wait…what? Are you serious? AUSTIN: Yes. Coffee and your company aren’t going to be enough for me. I have a problem, Delia. I need professional help, help you can’t offer me. I’m going to rehab. DELIA: But I can keep you off it, you don’t need to go away. AUSTIN: Yes I do. I can’t kick this thing cold turkey. I need The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
23 to go to the Library and look up some places nearby that can take me in [leans in and kisses her lips. Her eyes are still open from the apparent suddenness of his decision.] Goodbye Delia, I hope you’ll still be around when I’m back. Heroin runs my life, but I want to run away from it because I love you too much. So much so, that I need to do this the right way. I need to blot this poison out of my vocab for good. [AUSTIN passes through the vestibule and opens the door, revealing the blinding sunshine from outside. DELIA stands alone with voices buzzing all around her. She looks at the ground, stupefied. She looks around, frenzied, and walks over to the altar. She lights a candle and prays for some time. She walks over to the confession booth, once the church clears out.] DELIA: [sitting inside the booth now, crying] Father, it has been seven years since my last confession. I’ve come to you today to talk about my relationship. I have…encouraged my boyfriend to improve his mental health, but I have not truly believed in him, myself. He is sick, Father. Very sick. I think he might die, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. Not sure I’ll…care if he does [her small mouth twists into a bitter frown. She looks straight through the screen directly at Father Staniel’s side profile, visibly fighting back more tears] He is going to use again, isn’t he? FATHER STANIEL: [sighs] We have to…we have to pray to God, he doesn’t [he opens the viewing slot with a swish, and pats her right hand which still holds the key.] Curtain End
Ryan Curcio is a student at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain Connecticut. He studies English and is a Writing Minor. He is a contributing writer for Trill! Mag, an alternative pop-culture magazine. He is spending the summer interning for the New Britain Herald. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
Who Was I? Was I your child left to die? Or was I like your stomach or your liver? One of those things you don’t like to talk about, but you can’t live without Or was I just one of those things that happens Like eating breakfast in the morning Or the first person you kissed
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
Some days Like today Everybody’s hungry Everyone keeps saying “I can’t believe I’m still hungry” “Didn’t I just eat?” Everywhere I go people are still hungry They can’t seem to get enough to eat Some days Like yesterday People go about their day-to-day lives with a look of raw hunger They can’t get enough food to feel satisfied And on those days Like yesterday I feel happy
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
Why We Drink and What Happens when We do The Last Strong Man in America I saw the last strong man in America riding the bus downtown Wearing clothes of his home country Speaking Spanish and reading English I saw the last strong man in America in a bar room Drinking whiskey Trying to forget all the weak men Who keep telling him he’s in love I saw the last strong man in America playing in a rock band Trying not to look at the girls who want to play ping-pong with his testicles I saw him washed up and dry With microscopes for eyes Buttons for nipples Carrying rocks and drinking wine Selling Cuban cigars to the Russians
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
Morning hits us with the force of an arrow Deep and bleeding We feel like punching the air, pulling things apart These cold clumsy days that turn into nights Somehow deep in our hearts we know We never asked for this
Honey Honey is sticky like the arms of a lover Deep in sex That’s why we call each other honey
Damian Lanahan-Kalish has been many things in his life: an actor, a cook, a conceptual artist, a music promoter, an internet censor and, most famously, a person who writes on t-shirts with a sharpie. All this time he’s also been writing poetry at a very slow pace. Currently he is pursuing a doctoral degree in Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He is still writing poetry inconsistently The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
29 ∞ Thel dams the tears with chewing gum & as the whimpering subsides |jots down a list of roborant plants & weeds |puts a dating profile up on OK Cupid. Long ago |she was the prodigal of innocence.
∞ To freeze a moment those bucolic views — wrapped up in my anamnesis— of field & farm in my hometown & consider they’re nothing more than corrugated roofs | lifeless green tarmac | obliged to house populations of insect & bird who stabilize the rungs of life | on the mend in-perpetuity— we’re all responsible for the silence. The whole is less than the sum of its part : mull over this…the land is ecosystem if whole | one mass under whole | buteach part is itself an ecosystem at different scales : a palm full of soil has as many microbes as people on Earth—something is lost in the reduction to whole. i’m thinking poems with too much theme around the waist & minus turn of phrase. We toggle the horizon of scale effortlessly with the precise drag of a cursor from the infinitesimal to the macro-cosmic —think Matryoska with eyes in the back of her heads. We exist imminently between 2 scales. The turn of early |holographic light |the land | with the sound of its own voice in its head |lends a hand to our line of vision & tries to pull us past convenience. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
Soft spoken Pippa isn’t skipping |ankle in a cast |a dislocated jaw |skew-whiff when looked at second-hand in the mirror —her eyes swollen from long bouts of sob & dab— she misses childhood. CFCs piggy back on motes of pollen & cause their sinuses to bung with dusty mucus |to bodge a thumb up a nostril |itch the noxious | & break down air’s obstructions. Prolapsed vegetation & carcasses return their packed energies & final shrieks in the productive form of coal |oil & gas —the dead tapped back to life with a frack or pick.We bared our teeth to Pan & he scarpered |no hoof prints | nor lone jawline left in an apple | his forest-critters in a panic —why aren’t we meeting their anxieties? Pan is a god to terrify & follow : he has the talent to crush life into fuel. Darkness where it stands |is so much darker in the society of artificial light. There is technique in superficial light —only the natural forms in its absence. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
∞ The common man | his impaired hearing | corrected | listens but | all the poets have gone deaf : they jabbed their fingers too far down their “lug ‘ols” & caused a tympanic membrane perforation. The Man of Answers docks in a vessel of digital envelopes| armed with his Book of Parodies | a charitableaid to boost our insights into the daedal mechanics & combustion of Contemporary verse gone awry. Listen! “You can hear his cells dying.” The wind has switched the direction of the chequered flag. “We’re nostalgic| we want the myth of simpler times to return— when all you had to keep you up at night was the threat of fascist dictatorship & A-bombs or whether to continue purchasing | the readymade cake mixture cuzit’zcheatin’ if ’n you ownly ‘av to add 100ml of water i don’ feel like a real woman.” —DIRECTION FOR USE: tip sachet into bowl | add 100 ml of milk or water & a large egg | whisk the mixture until smooth then pourinto a grease proof cake tin | bake for 20 mins at 200ºC | & [be]cool for 5 mins—
31 ∞ He spoke at length |dunking his fibrillose sentences in phlegm | retting the syllables— “we. are. the. ap.er.ture. through. which. the. cos.mos. test.i.fies. it.self.”—his overbite like the bonnet of a car commanding him to conceal his intent as subtly as acrostic poetry: “ev.er.y. scrap. of. da.ta. we. mine. will. be. add.ed. to. our. en.gine. so’s. one. day. there’ll. be. anac.tion.a.bly. per.fect. search.” The audiences’ ear ‘ols turned to anuses & farted back what their autonomous brains convert to 140 characters (gigabytes) of ordure |& though |presentably one body |they struggled to look each other square in the eye |so shared among the audience were permanent marker pens| & each drew emoji on their palms to discuss at length with their own hands what they inferred from the presentation | until all in a muddle | as if misdiagnosed with an ailment only other people |in magazines or on Opray Winfrey | otherwise in foreign countries with capital cities they don’t know | get — “you. can’t. spell. im.med.i.ate.ly with.out. med.i.a.” Forgetting time |which took wing | even with a horologist in the theatre | no one turned their attention to the digital clock above the door |nor noted how symbolic a horologist in their midst was. Uneasily the inalienable zoetrope of collective decision making crept in a factor— “you. know. the. sort. of. things. : mi.nor. var.i.a.tions. mak.ing. way. for. the. E.leu.si.an. mi.nor.i.ty. of. brain.i.acs. with. hoods. &. dong.les.” Everyone still talking with their palms & never landing on the thumb that the speaker is one of them brainiacs : asheep in wolf ’s clothing.
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
32 ∞ Tank tracks mark-out worry-lines in the wet mud | the eons of rain striations in rock— tour buses | rental cars | tanks| jeeps | one after the other | past following present on its way to peek at the future | true realism can only entertain itself ahead of time. Sun light & explosions | the casserole of groups & organs | soldiers pinned down | tourists flirt & stretch— babbling gunfire-tunes. Selfies capture a back-dropped soldier in agony | face stretched like tree roots. The land shares memories with the present. Recovery fire from behind the coffee shop | 2 fingers of nausea bodged down their gullets hoicking up their small ration of rice & ethanol tapped with mountain water. NK soldiers on the bridge | a girl with an ice cream —if you ask the Americans |they’ll give you chocolate & bubblegum —they’re pouring out the monastery | shooting monks as they flee | who drape over wall & stairs: convolvulus | flesh like persimmon botched open by the finger nails of bayonets — soldiers dry mouthed & stunned by the enemies brutality | cutting monks’ throats from ear to ear: hiking routes highlighted in red felt ——then tossing them into the stream laced with blood & dead leaves. Tourists hem the mountain’s foot | a siege— SK troops have no time to siege | low on ammo & food. Selenian faces eclipsed by trampled balloons pop— gunfire tcktcktcktck, fireworks. Dark circles | kohl | the lack of sleep: too much office time —we’re here to let off steam & watch the leaves turn red —autumn turns up early this far north & all the while masters sip coffee or green tea in the shade of parasols — a bullet lodged in a beer can | ring/pin snapped hiss thentcktcktcktck| a tree takes hits | sap mourns out & jetted beer fizz mixed with blood | a ferrule barrel popping off M1 carbine rounds pock mark the monastery & school | like thumb prints in bean paste | blood painted window— the rictus scale of laughter from boozy tables The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
33 then a soldier riddled with bullets | blood dribbling | soy sauce down chins a weak breath snagged on a twig | a paper fan resists the palialia of groaning winds stretch marked out the north blowing litter —we need to get up to Chong peak! Troops scatter from tossed grenades | mud & stone a soda fountain | parasols— the ruffle of boots above foxholes — artillery hammering young men’s temples | they tick —time to get moving| the façades of the mountain blown to bits | a boy doing his best to whistle a tune with shells drooping out the apex of their parabola— sisters down slides | waterfalls & fists banging tables | a child’s rattle. A synchronization of flushing toilets | waterfalls | streams | booze | colon | gut. Pale anachronism | the ghost of an old man who died a boy. Construction work rickshaw grates on metal piping | war noise —the brutal disproportion | chunks of men atomized. Malaysian girls running to buy tickets for the cable car & Chinese men drinking energy punch | smoke while chewing gum A sister raises her father’s umbrella to shoot her brother | a teenager with a rifle falls to his knees with an umph. Too drunk to walk to their motel | too drunk to make love. Someone trips on a stone | a mine— a stew of limbs & soil patters down on patio umbrellas pitched outside restaurants where people’s patois fills the late air | eating bibimbap&haemuljeon & washing it down with makgeolli— rain? Young girls fondle petals in their soft hands eager to pick & pin them on their lapels : what the dead push up. Daniel Paul Marshall runs a guesthouse he built, on the island of Jeju. His poems can be found at FourTiesLitReview, The Contemporary Haibun Online, The High Window, Isacoustic & forthcoming at Riggwelter Press & Picaroon Poetry. His first chapbook, a collaboration with the poet Robert Okaji, is out October, from Dink Press. He is assistant-editor of Tim Miller’s Underfoot Poetry. His website is danielpaulmarshall.com. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
When the sea spits out the last bones of the domesticated fossils I will be sitting on the beach plucking stones from stones like a postcard girl in that cliche stuck
When stretched under the bark her womb is torn up by her sons and the fear has gone from woman mother life I will collect the hem of the pleated dress and will sew in a new heart to suit a solemn affair as sewed on this face and this picture sick from anemia -
I need air
the cast of mining shaft is recast in the last cycle of alchemy dried out tears from the cradle The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
and unavoidably dreamy in white with that lovelock over the brow smoothed down I will pose in the glory of innocence of the new birth while, actually, I would want to scream and destroy the frame -
I need air
under Heraclesâ€™ stairways the Greek tragedians who glorified patricide rape of mother earth woman justified it as ignorance dead is my shame and no-one came to its burial it went straight to spam The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
When she gets up and streches dusty raped ragged scratched earth mother woman in the last cry of epic finale who stays breathless When father and brother and friend are gone I will come back to that old place of ours under the Iron bridge I will cut out from cement the names long engraved take them away to Africa I will become the hollow ring of time
â€œ100 Years with Aleksandra Kollontaiâ€? But I only wanted to protect and defend you to bury every remembrance of painful embryo and woe of social wrong trenches and weeded roofs I wanted to prick your eyes with a golden hook so you see to act as your speed bump that whore at the corner of the street an orphan a patient a widow a saint a sinner a boxing bag a spittoon so you feel better to drop off to the size of a bean
a verse that closes the circle away from the land of our ancestors
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
grey afternoon with no whiff to be the voice of the first bugle and that grind-stoned sabre from the hook and the rake to unbury from the cradle to the grave each and every sore pestiferous and to be the first to lie in it by choice
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
THE THIRD TANGO
From the handful of ash I would have risen for you
My daughter is playing on the square with the city band a contraption which stands for a classical piano synthesizer it is called-abusively says my dad who is horribly unnerved by noise synthesized time unites all the sound and sense and I still somehow hope that it will unite all the old Slavs he kept beseeching god that she not be like me--a naked whim not to stitch for score She plays the waltz from the First Echelon of a Soviet film I’ve never managed to see but I do remember some of the remakes local allusions to the theme Komsomolets on for the steppes of Qazaqstan on to get rich overnight I didn’t have to see well, haven’t I seen the one the Kopaonik excursion the years in which rock’n’roll died and there was no one to drive with me on the midnight train when drunk I shed my hymen with the first machinist man from the discotheque in an unease
if you could only pardon my extended hand
less I’d be the only chaste
For you I wanted to clench my teeth to stretch you in the body of a timid runt and back to break so I can prove how much I love you with deeds not platitudes To break all of your windows and your bogus nails displays and the windshields to drag you by your locks onto the waves of a new revolution a new word to make up for it and not be left high and dry on a ripped off declaration on consumer basket with flour and oil on an auction sale on a doormat at the Delta exit on a bag of soup a sack of grits To be your Lupa to mother for you Romulus and Remus should we build on those forums our world new and brave so that upstream rushes all that still can breathe free and out of the groove and forever against the disgrace of us all
before the certificate of graduated maturity and to be continued some domesticated and already famed bone-breakers -- who translate every imported idea unspeakably literally -The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
40 pulled the first guns against real bullets of some who had but billiard cues.
There is again a fault in the brain and the conk broke before it flowered our shortened graduation excursion through our shortened land No one danced with me the graduation dance for there were thirty two of us skirts at that language school My daughter is playing the first tango from the Echelon she really stamps on it with her left foot yet still in the drained land I am dancing to her earthquake on my own course and I know already that it has never been for nothing that is not me she that she will pay them my debt
Katarina Saric hails from Cetinje, Montenegro E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
reviewed by Shane Joseph This was one of my more enjoyable Rushdie books, similar to Shame that I read years ago, where the pomposity of narration, the digressions into classical mythology, the literary allusions—Rushdie hallmarks—were kept to a minimum while the author focussed on a rollicking good story and the central question: Can Good and Evil reside in us? The denizens of House of Golden reminded me of the Trump family (I’m sure Rushdie didn’t mean it, did he?) on the inside; the Joker who wins the US election in 2016 is Trump on the outside (I think Rushdie definitely meant this one, including labelling Hillary as Batwoman). DC Comics’ Gotham and Metropolis both reside in New York City. The narrator, Rene, is a budding screenplay writer, and so the story is a combination of movie scenes, monologue, dialogue (with and without quotes), first person and third person narration, all wonderfully woven and easy to comprehend, making me now question the traditional form of the novel that we learned in The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
writing school. We pan in and out of scenes as if we are wielding a movie camera: Bombay is initially “the city whose name can’t be mentioned” until we zoom into the Taj Mahal Hotel; Nero Golden, the patriarch, a throwback to a Roman emperor and now exiled in an upscale neighbourhood of New York City’s Greenwich Village, pans into an Indian billionaire who made his money in construction, hobnobbed with Bollywood starlets and laundered money for the mob. Nero’s dysfunctional adult sons (living at home with Daddy) embody all that’s wrong in America: Petya is a ADHD affected video game designer, Apu is a doomed artist living the hedonistic lifestyle, and Dionysius is gender confused and suicidal. Enter the young Russian femme fetale, Vasilia, determined to score a son off Nero, by hook, crook or proxy, and the connection with America’s First Family is complete. I learned a lot about the movies in this book, for Rene is unable to restrain himself from bringing half a dozen movie metaphors into each scene. And The Golden House itself reminds me of The Great Gatsby crossed with The Rise & Fall of the Roman Empire. Rushdie’s insightful and inciting observations on contemporary society filter unabashedly through his characters: a) The big bucks are in fantasy and non-fiction (when it came to films and literature). b) “Post-factual” = “mass market and information age troll-generated.” c) The reality-check for the immigrant is “the day when he accepts that the idea of return is an illusion.” d) “Guilty secrets make paranoids of us all” (with apologies to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, of course). e) “Faith dies when you are praying and suddenly realize that no one is listening.” f) Another way of looking at the elites, hated by Trump supporters: “Knowledge is not power, knowledge is beauty.” g) Identyism is the legacy of the Joker, and the reclamation of America from its super-villain is now the focus, arming oneself with love and humanity for weapons. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
43 Rushdie’s penchant for irony is abundant: Nero the money launderer, the dhobi, receives a pile of dirty Indian clothes on his doorstep one day, heralding his doom; the construction industry that made Nero is also the one contributing to his downfall; Apu goes to India to exorcise his mother’s ghost, only to become one himself; Rene attains stardom with his film on the Goldens only to lose the people he values most in life. Like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, Rene, is both observer and participant in the Golden tragedy. The story line is more movie than novel, including the dramatic ending where the principle characters get their just deserts while others suffer random deaths at the hands of the likes of active shooters and platform pushers. I thought the obvious foreshadowing that bordered on Bollywood could have been toned down, though. The House of Golden collapses just like Emperor Nero’s did (even fiddle music is heard during the inferno, but is not confirmed!) and I wondered whether this was Rushdie’s warning to The House of Trump? One can’t help but feel sorry for Nero Golden: for all the wealth and hubris he amassed, he also paid dearly for these transient, material gains during his life. He may have been a bastard, but he was a bastard with conscience—good and evil did reside within him, and within most of the principal actors.
Shane Joseph is a novelist, blogger, reviewer, short story writer, and publisher living in Canada. For details, visit his website at www.shanejoseph.com The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
As a young boy, I was moved from the bedroom that I inhabited with my older sister to the room in the attic that my father had finished. I continually imagined monsters coming up the stairs to get me because of my isolation. As I got a little older, the monsters left me alone. As I went through school, I was on cruise control. Good grades, a sequence of girlfriends, nothing serious, but very satisfying. After I got my Master Of Fine Arts, specializing in illustrating, I got a job at Quantum Comics. I advanced quickly and after a year I had my own comic, Universal Journey. Luck, bad or good, sent me to an exhibit at our art museum “Art In Speculative Fiction” featuring historic and current paintings and art from or inspired by science fiction. I literally bumped into a beautiful woman at the exit to the museum coffee shop. After exchanging “excuse me” and checking for injuries, we started to discuss the art. Megan worked at a local gallery and had read classic science fiction for years – H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne. She also knew many overlooked female writers. All I had known much about up to that point was the famous, local writer Ursula LeGuin. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
45 I’d like to give the details about our courtship, but those details are too painful now. All you need to know is that we were married two months after meeting. Married life was bliss after years of casual dating. Without trying, we split up chores equitably and with two good incomes, money was no problem. Two years later, I was thinking that with our stability, it was time to start a family. My parents were definitely thinking that it was time. The day before I was going to start Megan thinking along the same lines, she called me from work. “Duke, I’ve tried to think of how to do this and there is no good way. I’m in love with Santos from our gallery. I hope that we can have an amicable break. If we can’t, I’ll just get the divorce on my own.” I dropped the phone and felt sick. I don’t remember the rest of the call except that I begged and cried to no avail. When she called after another week, I had painfully accepted reality and agreed to divorce. The night after the divorce was final; I had the first nightmare since I had been in grade school, or at least the first one that I could remember. It was sufficiently vivid that I recognized the male as some combination of Satan and Santos, and the woman was a caricature of Megan. It looked like the illustration from a lurid science fiction pulp magazine except that it was exaggerated anatomically and X-rated. As the two of them went about their antics, they seemed to be looking and laughing at me. Santos’ appearance as Satan was easy to explain. Santos was quite muscular; reddish skinned and had a widow’s peak. For a couple of weeks I had variations on the original dream. During that time, I finished the latest issue of “Universal Journey”. An hour after I sent out the draft, my boss came into my office, and not for the reason that I expected. “Duke, this is your best work ever. I’m sorry about your divorce, but if I thought that it would work for me … .” He stopped, obviously embarrassed about what he almost said. “What I mean is I’m proud of what you turned in after your recent setback.” As my first dream series seemed to know that its effect was The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
46 weakening, I started dreaming about an Alien movie kind of monster. That eventually turned into an Alien / Predator / King Kong tag team production. I began to incorporate variations of my dreams into my comics. Was the tortured artist cliché working for me? My sales went into the millions of issues, and I was rewarded with six figure bonuses. My success led to national and international appearances at both comic and science fiction conventions. After the fact, I’m ashamed of my behavior with the groupies that I ran into, but at the time I loved the attention. At least there were no diseases or pregnancies. My vivid dreams gave me plenty to work with. Typically a series would run for a few weeks and then change. Life was looking good again. I tried not to gloat when I heard that Santos and Megan had broken up and that mutual friends said she’d been asking about me. I had started to date Sally by that time. She was a local biologist who had been helping me research crypto-biology. Seven months into my ascension into the gods of comics and three months after meeting Sally, I had a completely different dream. A guy in a purple pants suit with elk antlers and clown shoes was the “monster”. Dream me started to chuckle, which led to great guffaws. For the first time a “monster” addressed me. “So you think this is funny?” Dream me could talk. “Well yeah, you aren’t scary at all. I’ve been introduced to some great scares in my dreams, but you aren’t one of them.” “Well what should you expect? After all, I’m a manifestation of your fears, anxiety and pain. In short, I am you. Now where are your fear, anxiety and pain? Gone. I’m not even bringing up my scare fatigue. I’ve had a lot of fun, but maybe you are about to go through a second divorce. I think that it is over between us.” I’d had it with monsters; particularly a poorly dressed uppity one. “Suits me just fine.” Without my nightmares Sally took up with a long haired moThe Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
47 torcycle riding painter and I was demoted at work. I felt miserable without an idea how to recoup my nightmares. Nightmares were my edge. Drinking is starting to look like a good option. *** I thought that was the end of a sad story. After a couple of weeks, I got an idea – maybe I could induce nightmares with food or drink. After a lot of experimentation and vomiting, I found that jalapeno / chocolate / Tabasco pizza with a glass of Thunderbird just before bed did the trick without killing me. New and better nightmares are back; the very attractive, single CEO Joan promoted me back to my former position, and suggested suggestively that we talk over the future of Universal Comics over drinks. I’m so happy to be scared at night over giant rabbits with guns, sharks with flamethrowers and things there are no words to describe. Back on top, baby.
Doug Hawley is a former actuary and mathematician. He currently lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon, USA with editor Sharon and cat Kitzhaber. His website has more personal information and writing details. https://sites.google.com/site/aberrantword/ The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
When Dr. Aurelio-Garcia-Fusco received word from his Auntie in Cuba that his mother had died, he called the director at the Mission Barrio Adento clinic to say he would not be in for work that day, “Who told you?” the suddenly alert director demanded. The panic in the director’s voice was all that the young doctor needed to know that the information about his mother should have gone through the director first, and not his Auntie. Someone had screwed up. There it was; just one month of working in Venezuela under Cuba’s Doctors for Oil program and the doctor was handed, not that he needed it, another reason to abandon his post. “Some secretary,“ the doctor said, trying to sound casual, his mind racing to the consequential lies he would have to tell in order to cover up the one he just told. “That’s not –“ the exhausted director, also Cuban, paused. “Not protocol. What was her name?” The doctor remained silent. For all he knew his phone was tapped. Be careful whom you talk to. His colleague Javier Luis had told him that they’re monitoring us. A local family had invited Javier to a chicken dinner, and one minute later he received a text telling him he would need permission to go. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
1 The doctor could hear the clamor of metal trays, cries from family members and fits of exasperation from patients in the clinic who’d been waiting to be seen, probably for days, in the overcrowded, understaffed and un-air-conditioned clinic. “We need you in the clinic today, “ the director, now, all business, said finally. “We’ll see you at nine.” Just as the doctor was about to hang up, the director added, as if it were some consolation, which it was, “You can take the Sunday at the end of the month off, to mourn your mother”. Oriana’s cheap gold lamé dress red high heels and yellow fishnet stockings from last night’s romp were strewn about the doctor’s room. She lay face down on his bed snoring loudly. After just a month of paying to be with her, the doctor had done an unusual thing, he trusted her. “Up, up!” Dr. Fusco said, gently hitting the bottoms of her feet. “What? No. It’s too early,” she moaned. “C’mon, gotta go, “ he said from the bathroom. “Let me stay,” she said yawning. Her white teeth and green eyes shone even brighter against her caramel skin. Venezuelan women were less dreary than those in Cuba, but he still had to be careful. Fleeing the country and finding salvation in the United States was going to require his utmost clarity and he didn’t want to blow it because of his weakness for fractured women. “Please,” she whimpered. Nothing here to steal, he thought as he waved 8,000 Bolivars across her eyes before placing them on the night table. “Leave the keys with the shopkeeper next door,” he said. He traced his finger across her large lips, “His name is Jorge”. Two years earlier, on the morning of December 11, Aurelio Fusco awoke in the medical student dormitory in Havana eager to attend the lectures. The building, a former Naval academy stood on a stone cliff in overlooking the ocean. He ate his breakfast in the cafeteria with the other idealistic students. He dunked his tostada in The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
50 the café con leche and thought how his motivations had changed. Initially he had wanted to save lives and earn more money to help his mother mostly, and stay in Cuba. He had believed all the boasting the school had done about the good work Cuba and by extension, he, would be doing by leaving Cuba to help the victims of the Ebola virus in Africa, the survivors of mudslides in Honduras, and the hurricanes in Haiti. Outside, the sky was baby blue, a thin wispy cloud stretched across the horizon. He waited for an opening in the traffic in the main highway that separated the school from the Malecon by the Caribbean. He leaned against a wall to light a cigarette, taking it all in. A red ball rolled past him and into the busy traffic, followed by a blur of a girl laughing hysterically. The doctor’s hand instinctively grabbed her neck, it was as thin as a twig - he could have easily snapped it clean; he yanked her back to the sidewalk. Her laughter turned to tears, kicks, and punches; a reaction more likely from the shock of having been pulled with such force than with not having gotten her way, or maybe she was just crazy. “Hush,” he said softly, trying to soothe the tiny beast. “It’s mine,” she yelled. With her free hand, she scratched his arms, neck, and face. He clutched her pencil-thin waist torso, careful not to crack her ribs. He pinned her arms behind her back, her legs swung wildly. From the color of her school uniform, he surmised she was either eight or nine-years-old. Eventually, her bony body relaxed. Her wails turned to short abrupt sniffles. Just as he thought she was calm enough to reason with, she sunk her teeth with surgical precision into a tendon on his wrist. He stepped back in shock, drew his wrist close to his body, and off she went, screaming into the traffic. When he told his mother that story, she said he was always like that. He couldn’t help himself. That if it weren’t for him, where would they all be? Protective of the crazy ones was what she was talking about. They both knew that if it weren’t for the doctor’s parttime position at the school’s Pharmacia, and his deft hand at stealing Oxy without anyone noticing, his mother would be sent to die from hunger and cold in one of Cuba’s “Psychiatric Hospitals”. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
51 “I’m changing, Mama,” he said as he handed her a glass of water to swallow her pills. When her warm brown eyes glazed, he kissed her on her forehead and left feeling good knowing she would be pain-free for at least the rest of the day. Dr. Fusco lived in one of Venezuelan’s more depraved cities, a 90-minute bus ride to work, in a neighborhood where people competed with the dogs for food. Emaciated women in colorful scarves sat outside their tin-roofed, plywood- walled two-room shacks they shared with their family of five. Others dug through piles of garbage for scraps of food. The doctor pushed his entire body weight against the barrage of bodies on the bus to jockey himself closer to the door. He needed space to think. If his Auntie hadn’t called him when were they going to tell him about his mother? Were they even going to tell him at all? What else were they withholding? Everything they did was calculated to remind him he was their slave. Then again, why should he be shocked? Cuba’s Oil for Doctors program had turned out to be one big trick as well. The disillusionment began the moment he and his classmates arrived in Venezuela. They waited for two days in the airport to be picked up. They slept on chairs, in waiting rooms and were shuffled from terminal to terminal. The Cuban recruiters told them how great it was going to be in Venezuela; about all the things they would be able to buy and at how grateful the Venezuelan people were that they were coming. Then, the shock of reality set in. The Venezuelans resented their presence. His salary was 60 dollars a month, not even for food or transportation, let alone a phone call home to his mother. The slap in the face came when he learned from his supervisors that Venezuela was paying $7,000 for his services. If he didn’t perform illegal abortions in the back of the grocery store in his neighborhood, he would have been sleeping three to a room and starving. How would he afford Oriana? Being leased to a foreign government was modern day slavery. It took him less than a month of working in Venezuela to forThe Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
52 mulate a plan of escape - a bus to Colombia was his first idea. He had heard that the flight to America from there was less expensive than if he went to Ecuador. His research on what to do after that was ongoing. Once he was set up in another country he’d figure out a way for his mother join him. It was the least he could do. Six months earlier, Oriana walked hand-in-hand with her four-year-old daughter, CoCo, and her two-year-old son, Arthur, to church as trucks filled with avocados, mangos and oranges drove past. One driver, drunk, swerved into them, killing her children instantly. A year before that, a fire started by junkies had swept through her entire neighborhood, leaving her homeless. She moved into the Black Table brothel in Puerto Cabesto. She kept her room neat and tidy. Pictures of her children rested on her night table. Red satin pillows shaped like lips hung on her walls. Benefits of her trade were stacked at the foot of her bed: bags of rice, flour, sugar and cooking oil -- products that other Venezuelans had to line up for hours to buy at regulated prices in the shops- if they could find them at all. She stretched out on her bed, the biggest piece of furniture in her room at the brothel, closed her eyes and thought about the Cuban. At first, he wanted her just once a week for an hour, and then for an entire afternoon that included walking to the beach, sharing a guanabana juice and pork Arepa. Lately, he’d paid for her to spend the entire night on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, without fail for the past six months. She looked at herself in the mirror and thought, watch yourself, Oriana, don’t fall for the doctor, don’t fall or anyone. The arrival of a Liberian-flagged freighter with Ukrainian, Arab and Filipino sailors spelled one thing -- dollars. She had to keep her mind off the Cuban. She put on her tousled platinum blonde wig, anything to stand out from the other girls, and besides that the sailors loved it. She’d been called names like Dolly Parton, Marilyn Monroe, and Farrah Fawcett. They could call her what they wanted, she didn’t care that they saw someone else when they looked at her. They didn’t want to know who she was, what she thought, how The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
53 she felt anyway. The distance she created between who she was and whom they imagined her to be was why she lasted as long as she had. Three years was a long time. Oriana protected her face. She wore it empty for them to dream on. The meaner ones projected their fantasies of fucking their mothers, daughters, sisters, or nieces. The greedy ones were lost in the unobtainable: fast cars, mansions, gold this, gold that. The shy and lonely ones were the worst; they asked for permission to do what they were going to do anyway regardless of what she said. Then they apologized. The nasty ones beat her. It didn’t matter. In the end, they were all the same. Eventually, they awoke and saw her for real, and were reminded of where they were, and then they grunted and rolled over. As they slept she stole from them whatever she knew she could get away with. She slipped into her pink metallic dress, the one with the shiny white belt that she cinched at her waist. She looked approvingly at herself in the mirror. Her doctor would also approve and would want to take her, over and over again on the bed. When Dr. Fusco undressed her on their first time away from the brothel, he ran his tongue down her bare shoulder. “Tell me, how does it work?” She wasn’t sure what to make of his direct line of questioning. “Let’s talk about what you want me to do for you today,” she said in her studied playful voice. “I’m really curious,” he says insistently. She looks away, skeptically. “It excites me,” he said as he picked her up and held her in the air, like a kid. She wrapped her legs around his waist and clung tightly. He pressed himself against her, their bare bodies swaying. From over his shoulder, she looked at his room, at the neat way he folded his green, blood- spattered doctor scrubs, at his desk, with his pen and notepad filled with handwritten lists and notes placed just so. She believed that the same way you could tell everything you needed to know about a person by the shoes they wore was also true about a person’s The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
54 handwriting. The doctors’ was ordered, determined, and elegant. “I help the sailors to book rooms, find taxis, and -” she paused. “And?” “And, for my services, I charge them in dollars – then I pay the hotels and taxis and restaurants in BolÍvars.” “You moonlight as a currency trader!” he said with delight gently laying her on his bed, stroking her hair, deep in thought about how much more to her there than he had imagined. They lay entwined. Shrieks of laughter and pings of tin drums from the outside pierced the oppressive silence of his room. He put his face close to hers. “I have to go,” she said. He looked at her perplexed. “If you want me to stay longer-“ “Oh!” he said uncomfortably. “Of course.” He took his wallet out and handed her a wad of Bolivars. An awkward silence ensued. “Tell me everything about these boats.” He said finally. “A handful of dollars and the Ferryman will let you go wherever you want.“ she said, bored of the topic. “Does the Ferryman check who goes on and off?” “Don’t you listen?” He paused. “How many, dollars?” he said. “Shut up about the boats,” she said. “Kiss me.” A month later Oriana walked home from her third trick of the day. Her long shiny black hair tied tight in a high ponytail. Wearing flat silver sandals that laced up all the way to her knees, like a Grecian, ripped red shorts that felt tight around her swollen stomach. On top, she wore a red midriff with cheap gold chains for buttons. She turned right onto a narrow street to avoid having to walk across the plaza in the blaring sun. She left the I Heart Miami visor she had stolen from the backpack of an American student traveling through Venezuela hoping to improve his Spanish. He talked non-stop, hoping she might correct him? She never listened anyway, not to any of them. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
55 Sunglasses alone weren’t enough for the days’ bright sun, especially with her sensitive green eyes. But retrieving the visor would have meant circling back to the greasy, greedy face of her last trick. He’d misinterpret her return, and use it against her, she wasn’t sure how, but that’s how things went when she didn’t follow the rules; go – do what they want– get their money – leave. Circling back wasn’t worth it. She walked quickly past an unruly crowd gathering near an abandoned storefront desperate for a false rumor to be true that there was bread to buy. She weaved in and out of a group of children kicking a ball made of masking tape, watermelon rinds, and egg cartons. Tucked in her bra was a small wad of dollars from her morning work, more than enough to get her a bowl of Tripe soup and a platter of rice and beans from the kitchen of her friend Marielena. She veered left onto a narrow cobblestone road, shaded from the sun by crumbling plaster buildings, and up a hill, thinking about the Cuban. It was Wednesday and he hadn’t contacted her yet to make a date. Had he moved on to another girl? Good. Who cared? If he were out of her life then she wouldn’t need to think about him anymore. Let the Cuban go. Who needed him anyway? She considered her mother who had died from a stray bullet while hanging laundry. The only person her mother loved was her daughter and look where that got her. Who knew what could happen in life. Maybe the Cuban was screwing some girl right now. Maybe he would be waiting for her when she got to the brothel, begging to see her. A sharp jab in the base of her spine jolted her to the present. “Move, and I’ll kill you,” a man’s deep voice said. “My cell is in my bag,” she said reflexively; she always carried two cell phones. Everyone knew the rules; you leave your house, you get robbed. Oriana kept her second phone in a pouch on the inside of the legs of her shorts impossible to find if you didn’t know where to look. “Do it,” the man said. A kid, not much taller than Oriana, wearing a black scarf The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
56 across his nose and mouth came out of the doorway to her left, holding up a pair of scissors. She’d heard about these mafias, or ‘piranhas’ as they were also called, who cut girls hair and sold it to salons to make wigs and extensions from Yaraina, a girl in the brothel. Yaraina was fifteen years old, her long, brown hair that she parted in the middle and which practically draped her entire five-foot-one frame, had been hacked off in a doorway near the train station. She came back to the brothel cowering in a scarf. She looked smaller and older. Worse, without her biggest asset, bigger even than her age, she lost customers. The demand for real hair was more profitable than cell phones. Sure, there were announcements asking the police to act against the thieves, but that only made the bribes higher. Besides, it wasn’t a crime to steal hair. Had Yaraina been stabbed, beaten or raped while they stole her hair that might have counted as something. Might. The unspoken rule was to keep silent. No one wanted to be teased or humiliated more than they already were. Yaraina’s hair had grown since then but the long line of men shortened. She never left her room without a hat or a scarf. Oriana cursed herself for not going back to the fat man for her visor. She was going to pay for her laziness. With a gun at her throat, she had to think fast. “I’ll give you something better,“ Oriana said. His grip around her waist tightened. The pain was so acute she knew, for a fact now, it was from what was growing inside of her. “Dollars. Over 15. I have it.” She said. A pack of rowdy teenagers on bicycles appeared at the top of the hill. The leader, a tall boy, shirtless, picked up a pebble and threw it down at the man with the gun. Others in the pack laughed and joined in, taunting the robbers with pebbles, none hitting Oriana. The man pushed Oriana deeper into the doorway, out of the boys’ view, the tip of his gun pressed against her throat. “My bra, “she managed to say. He slid his hand down her shirt, feeling around clumsily until he found what he wanted. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
57 The stream of heckling boys on bicycles rode past. With the boys out of the way, he pressed the gun to her temple. She thought of her children, Co-Co and Arthur, of joining them, she wanted to feel relieved but somehow dying wasn’t an option. Not now. Not with the doctor in her life. “Do it, “ he said. In three sharp motions, the kid yanked her ponytail and snipped. In an instant, they were both gone. She fell to the pavement, her back against the cool plaster wall. “Shit. Shit. Shit,” she said. She patted the back of her head. Hair that would have normally cascaded on her shoulders hung impotently above her ears. A kid from the pack rode past, tossing her a stick of gum in a silver wrapper. She picked herself up and stood, dizzy and nauseous, leveling her gaze at the horizon. She wrapped her arms around her waist. Why hadn’t she been more careful? She thought she had been, very careful, actually. She wished they had killed her. She hated herself for caring more about the life growing inside of her than for her own. At four in the morning, the doctor was approaching his fourteenth hour of work at the Abento clinic; he was tired. Thankfully, no young mother was ready to give birth to her fifth, sixth or seventh child. Abortions were illegal in Venezuela, but it was more the women didn’t have any other choice but to be a mother. They couldn’t get an education; they couldn’t get jobs. Those who went the abortion route risked their lives taking over the counter drugs or performing them on themselves. In that sense, the doctor felt like he was helping them. He offered abortions for a nominal fee during his off hours. Women in Cuba didn’t want to have children, not right away. Babies cost money. Cuban women were waiting longer and longer. He had heard that the population was diminishing. They wanted careers, an education, and freedom. Abortions in Cuba were as common as prescribing antibiotics, no stigma; it was another form of birth control. If the Venezuelans officials found out he performed abortions they would hold him up The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
58 as an example. They’d put him in jail and after that, most likely he’d never be heard or seen from again. The doctor stepped out of the clinic and sat in a folding chair under the roof made from a corrugated piece of tin. He lit a cigarette. His mind lost in thoughts of his mother. Where was she buried? Were her last thoughts about him? Did she suffer? He shouldn’t have left her. His colleague from the academy, Jose Cabrera, stood behind the screen door. “We’re not getting paid for this overtime,” the doctor said. “When have we ever?” Jose said, extending his hand out for a light. “I can’t take this,” the doctor said. “What do they expect us to do?” “What choice do we have?” Jose said as he lit a cigarette. “It’s slavery.” “Ok.” Jose said evenly. “Remember what happened to Juan Temprano“ Jose said then paused, waiting until he had the doctor’s full attention. “He thought he’d go straight to the U.S. Embassy and submit an application for a visa under CMPPP, right?” “And?” “Within days, he receives the visa and a sealed envelope to give immigration officials once he arrived in the United States.” “See. It’s easy!” “Not finished, brother,” Jose said smiling. “It all started to unravel when he admitted he works with us, at a clinic. Venezuelan officials called him a “traitor” and ordered him into a security office at the airport, where another official took away his ticket, ripped up his passport and threatened to deport him back home.” “Yeah, well. Juan is a dumb ass.” The doctor said. “Doctor! Doctor!” a patient from inside the clinic screamed. Jose rose, dropped his cigarette on the pavement and put it out with his foot. He paused by the door. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
59 “Be careful, Aurelio.” The doctor’s first thought when he awoke to fists pounding on his door was thank god Oriana hadn’t spent the night with him. It would be bad for him to be found with a Venezuelan prostitute, but worse for her to be found with the doctor. He fumbled in the dark looking for the light switch. He flipped it on and off. Blackouts happened all the time during the day; it hadn’t occurred to him they occurred at night as well; or did they turn the electricity off at night deliberately? He covered his naked body with his scrubs then opened the door. Three men wearing olive-colored uniforms stood in the doorframe. That was all he remembered before a sack covered his head and a blunt object whacked the back of his head. The doctor’s body collapsed into the arms of the soldiers. Two of them held the doctor up, his feet dragging, in the narrow hallway. The third directed them out to the street where a car was waiting. The doctor came to in an air-conditioned car, pure and crisp. He couldn’t believe the smell– real leather. The ride was so silent and smooth he wasn’t sure they were actually moving. “Where am I?” he asked. The officer on his right knocked on the glass partition that separated the back from the front seat. “Keep him covered.” Without any landmarks, he couldn’t gage where he was or how long it was before the car finally came to a stop. The window lowered and a blast of hot humid air infiltrated the cool air-conditioning. After an exchange of whispers, he heard the sound of a metal gate unlocking. The car drove steadily uphill. He had heard about the wealthy Venezuelans and their golf courses, country clubs and hilltop mansions owned by drug dealers, diplomats, and corrupt government officials. He was eager to get a glimpse into that world regardless of what his future as a captive held. The car door opened and he was escorted out. He recognized The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
60 the feel of the cloth “shoes” on his feet. They were the kind he wore in the operating room in Cuba, another lifetime ago. Inside the house, his feet sunk into a thick soft carpet. “Wait here,” a guard said. Moments later he was escorted this time judging by the grip, two women, and up a long staircase. At the top, a hand pressed firmly into his lower back and prodded down a long hallway then through a doorway. Once inside, the sack on his head was removed. It took him a moment to adjust to the strange light in the large octagonal shaped room, decorated with heavy mahogany furniture, and ornately patterned rugs scattered on the dark wood floor. In the center of the room was a bed. Above the bed, an old-fashioned standing lamp formed a halo of amber light around what was actually two divans’ pushed together. Lying under the bloodied white sheets, draped over the bed, was a terrifyingly thin white woman – hugely pregnant, drenched in sweat, writhing in pain. Her red hair splayed wildly across her blue face. Without permission, he walked confidently to the bed and knelt beside her. “How long has she been like this?” Immediately, clean surgical instruments on a silver tray were set down on a night table. Anything was obtainable in Venezuela if you had money. Housekeepers on either side of him soaked his hands in soapy warm water. Three men whose voices the recognized as the ones in the car with him stood in front of the tall windows with the guns poised. Standing in front of a large wooden desk, three Venezuelan officials whispered reassuringly it seemed, to a tall, fat Caucasian man, American most likely, wearing khaki pants and a white linen shirt. He had a patch over his left eye and a white cowboy hat on his fat head and walked with a swagger around the desk with his Venezuelan entourage in tow. The power in the room generated from and to him. A sleazy looking Venezuelan official acted as his mouthpiece. The pregnant girl couldn’t have been more than fifteen-yearsold. Who was she? What was her story? What had this blue-eyed Caucasian girl The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
61 gotten herself mixed up in? At the height of her fever, her eyes opened wide, she clutched the doctor’s arm with a strength that startled and impressed him. With her mouth wide and round like an O and in a low and gravelly voice, as if possessed, she intoned. “Get out.” The doctor injected the girl with a painkiller. She was no good to him, to anyone in that state. The girl’s rigid and taught body relaxed like a piece of silk. As the doctor examined her he wondered which man in the room claimed her and what was their relationship? Daughter? Lover? Prostitute? Why had they gone to so much trouble to bring him there and why all the secrecy? There were hospitals for the wealthy. Had they known about his performing abortions all along? Clearly, it was too late to abort. That truly would be murder. Or is that what they wanted? Between her fever and the narrowness of her pelvis, the doctor could tell that either the baby or she was going to live, but not both. Regardless, the fault would be on him. Someone needed to be the scapegoat. The sleazy official looked directly at the doctor. “Save the baby,” he said. He leaned in closer to the doctor. “The girl,” the doctor said. The official waved his hand, indicating but not implicating that it would make no difference if she died. Twenty-two hours of non-stop pushing and prying and still no child. The girl’s grip on the doctor never ceased. She wouldn’t let go; he couldn’t leave her, he didn’t want to leave her, not even to use the bathroom. He felt for her, this girl whose life, based on the distance the American kept from her, and his lack of warmth, was worth no more to them than a piece of garbage. What did she represent? Whose mistake was she that they wanted to just cover up. Having stood by her side for so long, he felt as if they alone were on a raft in the ocean, abandoned by all. She looked up at him, with her watery blue eyes, pleadingly; to save her or let her die, he couldn’t tell. The constant murmuring and arguing in the shadows had to be continually subdued to hold the fat man with the patch back. The The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
62 doctor pieced together that he was an American businessman whose business in Venezuela was oil. His relationship with the girl was still unclear. Her father? Was the child his? The doctor couldn’t tell. What the doctor did know was exactly how much his own life was worth: 100,000 gallons of oil a day. That was the amount the Cuban government sold him for. If he failed at whatever they expected him to do and then he suddenly disappeared, no one would know, or for that matter, care. Aside from his Auntie he had no family left in Cuba. His colleagues might wonder about him, but most likely they’d be too afraid to investigate. Oriana figured into his calculations. She would miss him, he concluded, or was it his dollars she’d miss more; he was too tired to decide. As the day wore on so did the tension. The man with the patch’s impatience caused the whole room to be on guard. “Get rid of him.” The man with the patch said in a twang the doctor recognized from having watching reruns of “Dallas,” with his mother as Southern. “I don’t like him. Get rid of him. Bring me someone else. Let’s get this done.” The doctor avoided all eye contact. He overheard the official whose voice the doctor recognized as the one having sat the front seat of the car, whispering to the man with the eye patch. He’s the best. Give it time. Twenty-seven hours later, a four-pound brown skinned boy was born. The girl, thoroughly traumatized, and perhaps to the doctor’s happiness only, was still alive. The doctor was handed a glass of whiskey. The man with the patch slapped him on his back. The sleazy Venezuelan official cut-in, he directed the American away from the doctor. “Let’s toast,” he said to his entourage. Sunlight crept in from under the heavy draperies. It was the morning of the third day of no sleep and yet the doctor didn’t feel tired. Amazing the alertness and longevity that adrenaline can produce. He had been a witness to medical miracles before but this felt like something different. He thought of his mother, to the time well before her illness had taken the best of her, when he had unmerciThe Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
63 fully scorned her for trying to buoy his spirits when he came home from school feeling hopeless. His lack of athleticism, and his glasses had made him a prime target for the bullies. He could still hear the distinct pitch of his mother’s passionate voice as she wailed from behind his bedroom door, “Wait for the miracle, Aurelio.” For all her distorted thinking and misdirected infatuations, largely due to the Roman Catholic church, she could, at times be so prescient. Even two years ago he would have argued with his mother that the only kind of miracles that exist in this world were medical. And even those, if you analyzed them seriously, were the result of hard facts. But there, in a darkened room overlooking the Caribbean Ocean, surrounded of strangers, a new mother so worn out that if he hadn’t taken her pulse, he would have taken for dead, a screaming baby in the arms of a housekeeper, men holding rifles in one hand and toasting each other with champagne with the other, he wished his mother had been alive so he could tell her he was sorry and that she was right. Miracles do exist. For the first time since the phone call from his Auntie, he cried. With no recollection of how he got there, the doctor awoke in his narrow bed, his body and breath heavy with fatigue. Except for the large bump on the back of his head and the scent of the girl on his skin, he had no proof of where he had been, who he had seen or what he had just done. A text from the director of the clinic appeared on his phone letting him know that he was to come in to the clinic at noon. The doctor tossed his phone across his bed. Their timing was impeccable. He looked around his room for a hidden camera, a microphone. Ten minutes later, a knock on his door. Oriana? The knocking stopped. He walked hesitantly to the door and opened it slowly. No one was there. Just as he was about to close it, he noticed a large wooden crate. He looked down the up and down the hall for the messenger but whoever had brought it was gone. He put the crate on his bed. Inside the box was a white cowboy hat. Below that was a pair of cowboy boots – his size – with spurs. On the bottom layer of the box was a thick leather belt studded with rhinestones, a package of The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
64 “Texas’s Best,” smoked turkey, and eight bottles of Ranch Dressing. He fell back on his pillow. May 1st, he decided. No matter what it took, in four weeks, he was going to abandon his post and get on a boat to Ecuador or Colombia, or wherever, and from there, he’d figure it out. She’s not for sale, the doctor told the Ferryman, a junkie-thin man who stood propped on a leg that the doctor surmised was a prosthetic. The doctor couldn’t take his eyes off the Ferryman’s pockmarked face or the thousands of small skulls he had tattooed on his baldhead. “This is only enough for one, you want to bring her, and you have to pay for her,” the Ferryman said smugly, a cigarette dangling from his toothless mouth. “Don’t bullshit me, that’s what we agreed,” the doctor said, holding Oriana tight trying to edge past him. “Let’s go.” The Ferryman lifted his heavy leg, adhering his foot against the wall of the gangplank, like a gate, effectively blocking them from the entrance. “You or her, not both.” The Ferryman said defiantly. “Move it. Go or get off,” people in the line behind them yelled. “Go,” Oriana said dramatically. Weakly. He knew what would happen to her if he left her. She’d end up at some shitty clinic maybe even the very one he was abandoning, brutally beaten, or found dead. She’d be buried in a pit, or underneath a pile of garbage. A prostitute’s life was worth even less than his. “Go!” she said, releasing herself from his grip. Her martyrdom touched him, he wanted to shake her and tell her she was worth more. She wrapped her arms around him, repeating, “I’m so sorry.” An officer from the Venezuelan police wedged them apart. “Dr. Fusco?” the officer demanded. The doctor looked at him, stupefied. How had they found him? Oriana turned away. She slid by the Ferryman, handing him a wad of cash that he stuffed swiftly into his hollow leg. Their act was so polished it looked choreographed; the Ferryman handed Oriana a wad of bills that she grabbed and The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
65 stuffed in her shorts and walked away, her tears long gone. Like a rapid change in the weather she went from ailing girlfriend to aging grifter. How had he not seen it; Oriana had been at that same location and in that same situation with many doctors before him, doctors wanting to pay their way out of her country. And how many others scumbags, besides the junkie, were involved, waiting for their cut? How could he have been so naïve? He trusted her. Her blatant betrayal hurt and embarrassed him. He wanted to punch her, strangle her, but the crowd behind him pushed him forward and away from her. “You are a traitor to your country,” the officer said, holding his cell phone up and taking a photo of the doctor. “Try this again, and you’ll never leave.” The official grabbed his arm and forced him off the line towards a car. The doctor looked back at the Ferryman. “Fuck you,” he said. “And your country.” “We don’t have a country,” the Ferryman said, smiling. * Stories began to circulate throughout the brothel and the clinic, all attached to the doctors name; stories that grew more detailed and elaborate as the days past. Some stories said he was helped to get to Colombia by Coyotes, carrying drugs and even submitting himself to prostitution. Sometimes he was the villain in the story, sometimes he was the victim and sometimes he was the hero. The doctor flitted across the collective imagination like a ghost. The doctor rests his head on the steering wheel of his Honda waiting for the traffic on Loop 360 to let up. He puts the air-conditioning and the music up higher to cover up the honking. It’s the end of his last day at the rehab where the meth heads twitched, bit their lips and begged for cash. He distributed condoms to sixteen year olds, and took blood. Basically work the paid nurses didn’t want to do. Stripped of his Cuban medical license he had worked so hard to get, he was starting from scratch. With his Associates degree, he could now look for work as a technician in a hospital. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
66 Once off the highway he drives well over the 50-mile speed limit and slows down when he arrives at the gate. The guard waves to him, and the gate is lifted. He drives less than 20 miles an hour in the quiet cul-de sac, passing landscapers planting flowers, children playing catch on their front yards, girls selling lemonade. In America everyone minds his or her own business. He pulls into the driveway and like magic one of the four garage doors raises. He gathers his books and walks on the slate pathway, past the above ground swimming pool to backyard, Bar-B-Que thick in the air. A small boy climbs the multi-colored plastic jungle gym. “Look at me,” the boy yells. The doctor stops, he wants to say something but smiles instead. The boy does a summersault. “See!” the boy says. The doctor pats the boy on his back. A thin woman with red-hair that she wears in a single braid down her back, barefoot and in a white sundress opens the sliding glass door of the house. Once she catches sight of the doctor her face radiates, she puts her hands on her hips in mock exasperation. Probably, imitating some actress in one of the sitcoms that she watches all day; every day. She performs raggedy looking cartwheels across the lawn. “You’re late!” She says with a crazy shrill, waving him towards the long picnic table decorated in red, white and blue. Silver balloons with “Happy Graduation!” written on them floats above the table. She darts past him. “Catch me if you can,” she says playfully. The doctor stands motionless. The girl races back, and leaps on him, clinging to him with her arms and legs, like a monkey, smothering him with loud kiss-like noises. A traumatized girl trapped in an adult’s body is a new kind of crazy, but crazy is crazy. At the table pouring lemonade from a glass pitcher is the tall fat man with the patch and white cowboy hat. Next to him sits his fat tanned wife and their fat friends, with tousled hair, double chins and garish lipstick and who talk and talk and talk in long drawls, about nothing. The doctor often wondered what kind of deal had been struck to get him there, how much money or oil or both had been The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
67 paid by the girl’s father to bring him out of Venezuela to America. Why had God placed him in that car that night? Who was he? What was he? What would his mother have to say about this new life? No one spoke Spanish, or even tried to learn it. She’d be lonely. When would he be free from being bought and sold? He didn’t know where he belonged only that it was somewhere else. He spent most of his ‘free time” trying to figure out who he was and where he belonged. He was glad his mother would never know how her son had turned out.
Suzanne Dottino is an author and playwright living in New York City. Her interviews, fiction and, reviews have been published in KGBbarLit.com, Heeb.com The American, The Brooklyn Rail, JMWW, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art and many others. Her plays have been published by SamuelFrench.com, St. Petersburg Review, Springhouse Journal, IndeTheatreNow.com. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
Gerard Sarnat Illustrations by Alex Nodopaka-nabokov
Newfangled glue traps are easy as pie but slow as molasses. I don’t mind much for big vicious rats ifquicksand holds ‘em particularly should my PC wife not look next to her barelytouched yummy melted grilled cheese sandwich just tossed in the garbage.
1. TECHNOLOGYOSO i. H. SapiensRodentia Woodside fur family forest home, we simply pass through compared to rodents who live here. Devicesof my youth were a bit tricky to set but lightning work didn’t-know-how-what-the-hell-hit-you cute little field mouses. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
280 N into Silicon Valley before San Francisco, morning commute stalled at Alpine Rd off-ramp east down toward Stanford, platinum Tesla smartly zips across to get back on just past the traffic jam; I can’t help sexist cringing a woman out-foxed me -- until realizing that in fact it’s a self-driving car.
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iv. Matrix riddled by riddles but bolstered by expressed or silent kindnesses belief isn’t truth Jabberwocky not nonsense as plexus drifts toward sense and humans need contact with the void: toasty in a blizzard in my humble opinion, we can’t see but seem to feel familiar breaths cum groping voices.
iii. Pie-eyed Detox MSM surfeit with chatter -- glories of marijuana for whatever ails us including consensual sex + mui important that you must grok enuf sleep – which converge to create magical dreams if & where I do not wear socks. The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
v.Internet haiku Will our global brain congeal one planetary wide organism?
Gerard Sarnat won the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, has been nominated for Pushcarts and authored four collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting The Ice King (2016) which included work published by Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Johns Hopkins etc,. For Huffington Post/other reviews, readings, publications, interviews; visit GerardSarnat.com The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018 The Wagon Magazine - June / July- 2018
[Online radio silence for the next 72 hours and counting.]
Jim: Kind of you to ask. Speaking as a Vietnam vet, things are seriously FUBAR. 17 dead neighbors less than 1/4 mile to the east. 20+ more missing, several acquaintances/friends. Military everywhere, dog teams searching a sea of muck. 100 major residences vanished down once golden mountains. No power, no gas, no water. Just got Internet. Everything from San Ysidro Ranch down to Biltmore basically gone. Montecito on total lockdown, no ingress, no egress. 101 N/S closed for 30 miles. Supermarket shelves emptying quickly (no trucks). Whatever you see on the news...it’s much, much worse. Best description of the scene: a WWI battlefield…
I read after recent conflagrations, torrential rains are whipsawing the area with mudslides.
Jerry: Moving on, what’s happened up the coast ninety minutes or so in Santa Barbara County*?
Joan: I was only kidding about scheduling the Class of ‘63’s fifty-fifth high school reunion there. Sand in my shoes, warm in the day and COLD cuddling cute boys around campfires at night!! S and S serves the public now, but was the privately run club on the old Marion Davies property. I loved her in Ever Since Eve. She was the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, the yellow journalist who put her in his movies. There was gossip about Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane – maybe the greatest flick of all time. That she was title character’s second wife—an untalented singer whom he tries to promote. You know, I tried to make it in Hollywood, ended up never marrying myself.
John: Please consider another house maybe in Beverly Hills or Brentwood rather than the beach. Successful in electrical engineering, I really don’t want to go back where I have zilch nostalgia. In retrospect I resent having zero friends among the hot chicks or cool surfer dudes.
Joan: …Tees is next door to Santa Monica’s Sand and Sea where we had our Senior Ditch Day!
“The medium is the message,” Marshall McLuhan, 1964, writing about “hot” and “cool” media
2. Trouble in Paradise: Beverly Hills High School Class Of ’63 Listserv Snippet