A Magazine of Literature and Whatnot www.OnomatopoeiaMagazine.com
2… “The Playground” From the novel Between Two Brothers By Christopher Johnson
9… Beggars would ride. By Jara Jones
5… I care who’s here By Marta Pelrine-Bacon
12… Playboy, August 1978 By Jara Jones
14… between the clouds By Marta Pelrine-Bacon
6… Swizzle Stick By Daddio Mick 10… The Writer Abideth Adam Bertocci, author of ‚Two Gentlemen of Lebowski‛ Interviewed by Bobby D. Lux 13… Directing a Monkey An Essay By Chris Kent 15… The Man I Knew Non Fiction By Sarah E. Lowe 17… Beige By Gregory Cohen
Onomatopoeia Magazine is published quarterly in March, June, September, and December. For information regarding submissions, please visit our website at www.onomatopoeiamagazine.com. All stories, art, poetry, and basically anything that’s published either for download, online, or print belong to their individual creators. The contributors to the magazine retain all rights to their work. For any questions, inquiries, feedback, or advertising, email email@example.com. Cover design and layout by Bobby D. Lux
16… lucky day By Anthony Liccione
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR I suppose that one of the "perks" of starting a magazine is that you get to pen the letter from the chief to announce each issue. It’s a treasured place in the publishing world, though perhaps not so much in online publishing (damn Luddites). It’s a place where the Editor-In-Chief can wax poetic on whatever subject they deem fit for press. Unfortunately, I've long suspected that these letters are often skipped over like they're those full-page articles/really a paid advertisement (you're not fooling anyone!) because really, who cares what the Editor-In-Chief has to say? I don't. We get it – the magazine is good, you worked really hard on it, and the writers are the most talented collection since that one time Twain, Joyce, Tolstoy, Wilde, and Melville stayed up late one night at a coffeehouse to chat about the things they like to jot down. With that floating the back of my mind, I would like to welcome you to the premiere issue of Onomatopoeia Magazine. Since this is the premiere issue, allow me to explain the thinking that pushed me towards this venture: why not?! Of course, with that out of the way, my next task was to come up with a name, and Onomatopoeia was the first thing that popped in my head. I’m a firm believer that, in writing, as well as in life, the first idea that makes room for itself is the best. Onomatopoeia is literary term that has to do with words that imitate sounds, so we’ve got the whole pretentious literary thing going on, but the final selling point for me, the moment when I knew this would be called Onomatopoeia and nothing else was when my 10th grade creative writing students told me that Onomatopoeia was a cool word. That’s it. Because when fifteen year olds think something is cool, you’ve clearly touched a nerve. Cheers, Bobby D. Lux PS – The magazine is really good. For what it’s worth, I worked really hard on this, and, in all sincerity, I’m very proud to print the work of the writers and artists in this debut issue. See you in June.
‚His eyes were shut tight as he felt Karl’s next kicks attempt to pierce his soft flesh, but suddenly, they stopped. And he heard a sound like… cheering?‛
"The Playground" from Between Two Brothers A novel excerpt by Christopher Johnson ‚Leave him alone!‛ young Brooklyn shouted, his voice cutting across the entire field. The ring of fourth graders stood still, silenced by that act that falls between stupidity and bravery. ‚What did you say?‛ Karl asked. Karl was in his second year of fourth grade, and was taller and older than most of his contemporaries. Mere moments before, Karl had been administering a beat-down for the record books. His diminutive sidekick, Arturo, stood by him as always. The two boys had chosen that day to take out their frustration and boredom (which, they felt, they could not otherwise express) on James, a boy whose shyness was often mistaken for arrogance and snobbery. Karl and Arturo had circled him in, starting the session off with a classic maneuver: Karl pushed James backward over Arturo’s outstretched leg. The instant James hit the ground, a crowd of nine-year-olds began to form. James scrambled to his feet and tried to run, but Arturo pushed him back towards Karl, who socked him in the gut. When he doubled over, Karl punched him in the face, sending him crashing back down to the ground. On his back, James’ flailing arms did nothing to protect him from the blows that Karl landed again and again, to the face, to the stomach, the upper arms, the chin. Brooklyn had been a part of this congregation of spectators, close enough to see the fear and pain streak James’ face, but not close enough to do anything about it. His mind had been wholly distracted on this Friday afternoon by thoughts of rented video games for his Nintendo, Little Caesars pizzas, and late night television – the stuff of dream weekends. He barely even knew this boy, having only seen him a few times in passing at P.E. or during lunch. But after his eyes connected with James’, all those other images vanished. He stepped into the circle, legs shaking so badly he could hardly stand, and took a deep breath. He had to be sure he’d be heard. ‚Leave him alone!‛ young Brooklyn shouted. Stunned, Karl froze, his fist inches away from landing yet another blow to his victim’s blood-swelled cheek. His reanimation came quickly though, as Arturo nudged him out of his trance. Karl stood and walked right over to Brooklyn, whose entrance into the circle had been dramatized by everyone else’s stepping back. 2 – Onomatopoeia Magazine
‚What did you say?‛ Karl asked. Fear wafted off Brooklyn’s body like heat waves from sun-drenched concrete. Tears had already begun to form and stored themselves behind his eyes. He knew what was coming. ‚I said leave him<‛ Before he could finish his words, Karl let fly a right hook. Brooklyn watched the world flip over as he toppled to the ground. Karl snarled at him, and kicked him hard in the stomach. This no longer had anything to do with James. This was about power, about reputation, and about setting an example. But, to Brooklyn’s surprise, it was over before it had really begun. His eyes were shut tight as he felt Karl’s next kicks attempt to pierce his soft flesh, but suddenly, they stopped. And he heard a sound like< cheering?... coming from the bystanders. He heard one voice, in particular, above the rest: ‚So you like to kick people while they’re down, huh?‛ Brooklyn sat bolt upright, his eyes wide open with amazement and disbelief, but they confirmed for him what he’d suspected: Derrick had come to his rescue. Brooklyn’s thirteen-year-old brother Derrick held Arturo by the arm, tossing him about like so much garbage, while landing several kicks to Karl’s midsection and legs. Derrick stood like a god among men, towering six inches above the rabble, his pubescent body already showing an inclination towards tone and definition. Wrath contorted the boy’s face, and for a flickering moment, Brooklyn could not recognize his brother inside this angel of vengeance. The spell was soon broken, as teachers came streaming in from all directions, alerted, of all things, by the crowd’s cheering at the sight of their most hated bully getting taken down by a middle-schooler. A balding, gray-pantsed man grabbed Derrick from behind and hefted him from the scene. Different teachers attended to Karl, Arturo, and James respectively. ‚You stay the hell away from my brother!‛ Derrick shouted as he was dragged away from the already dissipating crowd. ‚Are you alright?‛ a soothing voice asked. Brooklyn’s attention was wrenched from his brother, struggling against his detainer. Ms. Jackson, Brooklyn’s teacher, looked down on him. ‚Yes,‛ he managed, still a little shocked, his lip bleeding.
bleeding. ‚Come on,‛ she said, helping him to his feet and leading him toward the nurse’s office. Derrick and Brooklyn sat together in a small room. Two empty chairs rested on either side of them. The door stood at their backs, the owner of the office on the other side. A cluttered desk rose from the floor, centered in the room’s perfect square. Brooklyn imagined this as the place to which all men who wore ties with short sleeved shirts retreated. The room lay silent. The beating of his own heart threatened to drive him mad, so instead he concentrated on the in and out of his brother’s excited breathing. A jolt of pain reminded Brooklyn that he’d just been in a fight. A fight that, for his part, he’d come out the worse. He looked over to the boy sitting next to him: Derrick had saved him. He’d come from nowhere, swooped in, and saved him. No, he hadn’t really come from nowhere. Derrick often rode his bike over to Brooklyn’s school after his last period, and they would ride home together. Somehow this fact had escaped Brooklyn. He’d been as surprised as everyone else at Derrick’s arrival. His mind questioned, for a just a moment, how fair it was to sick a thirteenyear-old on elementary school kids, but he pushed the thought away. Derrick had done right by his baby brother, and therefore had done right. Brooklyn knew he’d never need friends again. He had a brother willing to go to war for him without hesitation. But guilt, like a hollowing in his chest, threatened to shatter Brooklyn from the inside. His foolishness had landed Derrick in that position; if he hadn’t felt the need to play hero, his brother wouldn’t have had to play savior. Derrick was most certainly in trouble, and Brooklyn would have done anything to change the course that lay ahead of them. Locked in wordless communication, Derrick began to smile. His gaze narrowed though, aiming at his brother’s neck. Brooklyn followed the line of sight with his hand. The skin there had grown course like sandpaper in a snake-like arch creeping toward his cheek. Brooklyn was allergic to grass. Where his bare skin came into contact with the growth for too long, a rash developed; red, rigid patches of skin. The allergy wasn’t serious, and could be easily treated, but it served as an embarrassment all the same, and Brooklyn knew he’d have to wear this mark as a reminder that Karl had beaten him up for the next week. Derrick playfully punched Brooklyn in the arm, nodding his approval for what Brooklyn had done. Both boys laughed softly for only a moment, Brooklyn wincing at the pain in his rapidly blackening eye, before returning to their taciturn contemplation of what the rest of the day might hold for
them. 3 – Onomatopoeia Magazine
them. The door to the office swung open. With the door at his back, Brooklyn could only make out the quick creaking of the hinges and the sudden change in the atmosphere. He didn’t dare turn around. He didn’t need to. He knew who was about to walk in. The gray-pantsed man, Vice Principal Sanderson, walked in first, and came around to sit behind the desk, facing the boys. He said nothing, but made a gesture with his hands toward the two empty chairs on either side of them. Brooklyn could almost hear his brother’s breath catching as a tall, thin black man took the seat next to him. It was their father, Mr. Raines. At 40, his thick black beard was just starting to speckle with gray; the light catching the random gray hair only served to compound the look of sternness on his face. On Brooklyn’s right sat his mother, whose hair was pulled back into a single, large ponytail. Mrs. Raines wore very little makeup, not that she was at all in need of it. She wore a mixed and jumbled expression, at once showing deep concern for Brooklyn, anger and disappointment at Derrick, and a motherly protection for both boys as they sat opposed to the vice principal. Ms. Jackson was the last to enter the room, and took a chair off to the side of Mrs. Raines that Brooklyn hadn’t noticed before. Ms. Jackson was a young, new-ish teacher with a slight frame but very caring eyes. ‚Thank you for coming, Mr. and Mrs. Raines. I’m sorry we have to meet under these circumstances<‛ Mr. Sanderson began, before being cut off. ‚I don’t understand why Brooklyn is in trouble too,‛ Mrs. Raines said. ‚You told me that other little boy hit him first.‛ ‚He’s not in trouble, Mrs. Raines. He simply insisted on waiting in here with his brother,‛ Ms. Jackson offered. This seemed to ease her considerably. She put her arm around Brooklyn and drew him in close, as close as the armed chairs would allow. ‚We have a very serious situation here,‛ Mr. Sanderson began again. ‚Derrick was attacking nine-year-old students. He’s much older than them, so you see the problem here.‛ Mr. Sanderson cocked his head to one side as he searched Mr. Raines’s expression. The boys’ father appeared completely unmoved by the statement. ‚Karl’s not nine, he’s ten! He failed<‛ Brooklyn began, but his mother tapped him twice on the shoulder, silencing him instantly. He looked up at her cautiously before falling back into his seat. ‚Yes, Karl is ten. You are correct, Brooklyn. The point is, Derrick is a middle school student, and had no business on our campus in the first place. Karl and Arturo’s parents are very upset. They said they would press charges if appropriate disciplinary action wasn’t taken.
Now, I’m going to recommend a two-week suspension.…”
Now, I’m going to recommend a two-week suspension.<‛ ‚No!‛ Brooklyn began, but his mother hissed him silent again. ‚...and a written apology from Derrick to both boys. I should warn you, though, that the parents may request an apology from the two of you as well,‛ he said, shooting glances between both parents. ‚But that’s not fair!‛ Brooklyn said, jumping out of his seat. ‚Brooklyn!‛ his mother whisper-shouted. ‚No,‛ he responded in unprecedented defiance. ‚Derrick saved me! He shouldn’t be punished! Karl and Arturo were beating up on James and nobody would help him, not even the teachers, so I tried to help James and Karl just started beating me up instead and nobody would help me either and Derrick finally came in and saved me and James and beat up Karl and Arturo because they were beating us up first! It isn’t fair!‛ Tears streamed down Brooklyn’s face. He’d been stomping and pointing to such a degree that he transfixed every eye in the room, including Derrick’s, who up to that point had been as blank and emotionless as his father. Brooklyn knew he’d spoken out of turn and disobeyed his mother, but his heart was breaking at the thought that, here he was again, watching someone get beat up while no one lifted a finger to help. ‚Brooklyn, sit down,‛ Mr. Raines said calmly. Brooklyn turned, tear-stained, to face his father. His expression was softer now, but only by the tiniest degree. Brooklyn obeyed his father and took his seat. Derrick still had not broken his stare. ‚First of all, Mr. Sanderson, I am insulted that you would suggest I apologize to the parents of a boy who attacked my son, regardless of whatever other factors might be at play. Secondly, you don’t have the authority to suspend Derrick, and should you make that ‘recommendation’ to anyone, I will file a grievance against you with your principal, the county school board, and the state board of education.‛ It was now Mr. Raines who commanded the room’s attention. Mr. Sanderson was shaken by the direct threat, but he held his composure. ‚Now, you may inform Karl and Arturo’s parents that they may press charges if they like,‛ Mr. Raines continued, ‚but do remind them that their children attacked Brooklyn and his friend James first, and I will not hesitate to counter-sue on that very point, as well as sue you personally for the obviously abysmal response time you and your faculty and staff had to this whole incident. There should never have even been a fight for Derrick to break up.‛ Mr. Raines stood up from his chair
with measured force and glanced down at the boys, who took their cue to follow. Mr. Raines remained stern, and the boys were awash in awe, but Mrs. Raines bore a grin. She deliberately rose from her chair, smoothed her hair (which didn’t need it), and cocked her head at Mr. Sanderson matter-of-factly. She was the first to turn to leave. As she did so, she touched Ms. Jackson’s hand, giving her a thankful expression for taking care of Brooklyn after the fact. Mrs. Raines pointed towards the door, and Brooklyn and Derrick took their cue again to make their exit. Just before she’d cleared the doorway, Mr. Raines, who was following his wife out, turned again to Mr. Sanderson. ‚And since it is within your authority, I expect to learn on Monday morning that both Karl and Arturo have been suspended from this campus for a period of no less than two weeks. Good afternoon, Mr. Sanderson.‛ ‚Good, uh, afternoon<‛ Mr. Sanderson said to Mr. Raines’ back. The Raines family loaded themselves into their Jeep Cherokee. Brooklyn and his brother sat in the back seat in silence, but their facial expressions showed that they were bursting at the seams with excitement. Getting into a fight, not getting in trouble for it, and seeing their father in action had been a thrill they were barely able to handle. ‚Derrick,‛ Mr. Raines called from the front seat. He stared at Derrick through the rearview mirror, and Derrick met his eye. ‚Fighting is wrong, son, and fighting people smaller and weaker than you is especially wrong. I am ashamed and embarrassed to have been called out to your brother’s school for this.‛ His words fell hard and iced the blood of both boys who, despite their bruising, had been feeling invincible. ‚Terrance,‛ Mrs. Raines said, touching her husband’s leg. ‚I know you did what you did to protect your brother,‛ Mr. Raines continued, with a slightly dulled edge, ‚and I am proud of you for that. We are family, and family must look out for each other. But you cannot use that as an excuse to get into yet another fight. This behavior will stop. I will not tolerate it in my house.‛ Derrick’s head slumped to his chest, heavy with shame. The blow was especially strong coming on the heels of the vindication he received in Mr. Sanderson’s office. The tension and silence swelling within the car pressed hard against Brooklyn’s chest. His breaths were quick and shallow in conjunction with his racing heartbeat. He had certainly witnessed his father angrier, but Terrance Raines was never more striking than when he stopped talking, lending immeasurable gravity to whatever was last said. Guilt settled into Brooklyn’s mind again. Derrick had gotten into plenty of trouble on his own. But
with measured force and glanced down at the boys, took their cue to follow.SPRING Mr. Raines 4who – Onomatopoeia Magazine 2010 remained stern, and the boys were awash in awe, but Mrs.
this time, this was his fault, Brooklyn’s fault. And it had done something to their father; perhaps, pushed him too far?
this time, this was his fault, Brooklyn’s fault. And it had done something to their father; perhaps, pushed him too far? Brooklyn tried to meet his brother’s eyes. They were still the same, still wild with youth and a kind of innocence, but they were changing. Hardening. Brooklyn was watching a wall being built, though he had no idea of it. He pained for the boy in the seat next to him, feeling that despite his best efforts, he’d still let him down. Derrick looked over at Brooklyn, able to read people with a greater accuracy than his brother, and through his own clog of emotions, managed, for Brooklyn’s sake, a thin smile. Christopher Johnson is an LA transplant/Florida native who prefers hurricanes to earthquakes 10:1. He graduated from Duke and USC, and currently works in Student Affairs at Cal State LA, but only until he becomes rich and famous. Christopher enjoys food (like, a lot), a well-crafted turn of phrase, and all things green. © 2010 Christopher Johnson, All Rights Reserved
Onomatopoeia Magazine wants you! Your submissions for the SUMMER 2010 issue that is. We’re looking for short stories, poems, reviews, interviews, one act plays, novel excerpts, photography, graphic design, humor, skits, and whatever else strikes you (and hopefully us) as interesting. Here’s the best part, we’ll even pay you too! It’s not going to be much, but it’ll be something.
Email submissions to (attachments are fine): firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for SUMMER 2010 is mid-May.
I care who's here by Marta Pelrine-Bacon
© 2010 Marta Pelrine-Bacon, All Rights Reserved 5 – Onomatopoeia Magazine
‚He opened the door and stepped through it, halted, stepped back inside, keeping his eyes nailed to the pile of clothes and the dangling ribbon. Starved of hope for so long, Nick decided to fall in love.‛
Swizzle Stick by Daddio Mick
Nick did not believe in beautiful, brilliant women. He dated beautiful women, and he dated brilliant women, but never in his life had he dated a beautiful, brilliant woman. He grouped them with mermaids, fairies, and angels – except, he allowed for the possibility of angels, since so many other people seemed to believe in them. Nick kept his eyes open, though. He loved women. People called him Swizzle Stick Nick because he always held one between his lips to see how long he could go without chewing on it. His record was three hours, but they only lasted one on the average. Swizzle sticks cost less than cigarettes, and they lasted longer. He never went anywhere without a fistful of them. ‚Hey, Swistic!‛ Nick looked up from wiping the bar. ‚I’m Nick,‛ he said. ‚Sure, I know who you are, Swistic. Say, could I get a beer?‛ He turned to the taps with a sigh. ‚Thanks, Swiz.‛ The incessant nickname caused him much irritation. He couldn’t keep his dates from hearing it, and they couldn’t keep from saying it. More and more he bit his swizzle sticks, and the more sticks he went through, the more appropriate the name seemed. Nick felt sure he’d never be Nick again. Then, one day, an acquaintance introduced him to three attractive women: a pretty blonde, a beautiful brunette, and an exquisite redhead. Three times his acquaintance introduced him by name, as though the second two hadn't heard. His grimace bent more crooked with each reiteration. At the third mention of ‚Swizzle Stick Nick,‛ Nick stared into the deep green eyes of the redhead, drew the stick from his lips, and said: ‚I’m just Nick.‛ Then he snapped the plastic stick in his hand, and smiled at them. ‚Well, what do you know?‛ said the acquaintance. ‚No more of those, I guess,‛ said the blonde. ‚Hum -- dramatic,‛ said the brunette. ‚Your hand is bleeding,‛ said the redhead. A stream of blood tickled the underside of his palm eeee 6 – Onomatopoeia Magazine
and dropped off his wrist. He smiled, excused himself, and got a bandage for his finger. For weeks the bandage served to remind people he would not let anyone call him Swizzle Stick, anymore, though he went on keeping them between his teeth. The bandage also served to keep his finger together, because for two weeks the wound kept open. It stung him when he handled lemon slices, and ebbed sometimes when he curled his finger too far. After a month he saw a doctor. The doctor proclaimed him healthy, though, and he had to go around with a bandaged finger until it closed. The cut stayed open. It bled a little when he became agitated, and he would have to change the bandage. He noticed a pale band around his finger where the bandage kept the sun off. The pale band recorded how long he had not healed. It irritated him. Then he met a woman named Paula, and she had an affect on his blood pressure. That bothered him, too. The night he first saw her, he felt sure the ceiling fans had stopped turning. ‚Bar’s closed,‛ he said, watching her stand from her seat across the room. Paula glided across the floor with legs like scissors in blue jeans, and Nick forgot to look busy as he watched her. Her swishing ponytail hypnotized him as she passed. He bit hard on the swizzle stick in his mouth, threw it aside, and took up another without taking his eyes away. He felt heat coming off her from over the bar, saw an aura, a shimmer around her like the mirage that coats a summer highway. He followed her to the glass door to lock it, watched her step down the stairs. A woman that beautiful had to have a mind like a concrete tennis ball – everything he knew about girls depended on it – but he clenched his fists and prayed for a sign, anyway, any small signal to show someone brilliant and creative lived inside that gorgeous person. Nick laughed at himself as she made slow progress down the steps to the landing. She’d had a lot to drink. Then she reached the landing, and something magical happened. Paula slipped off one shoe, then the other. Her eeeeeeee
pointed feet looked tender on the concrete. She tossed her walnut hair free from its ribbon, draping the blue stripe over the banister. Nick saw the veil of her tresses shining a deep rust color in the fluorescent light and inhaled. She grasped her shirt at the bottom and pulled it over her head, dropping it to the landing. Then, she unclasped her belt and stepped out of those wonderful jeans, proceeding down the stairs in nothing but lace, lipstick, and a bit of eye shadow. Nick staggered. Her single action insulted every American convention governing a woman’s behavior. Sure, she was drunk. But she had managed to do the most interesting thing he’d ever seen a woman do. He pawed the glass like he could beckon her back that way. He opened the door and stepped through it, halted, stepped back inside, keeping his eyes nailed to the pile of clothes and the dangling ribbon. Starved of hope for so long, Nick decided to fall in love. He found her clothing still there after closing up the bar. He hoped she’d come back for it, and, two days later, she did. Nick and Paula dated often. When he saw her, the cut throbbed under its bandage. He hated the feeling. His heart would hasten when he held her hand, and the blood in his veins backed up against the bandage like a clogged waterway. The pressure made his finger pulse and beat, which caused him to feel the thumping tension up the inside of his arm and into his chest. Then Nick would look down and see a brown splotch deepening on the bandage and giggle, shrug, and shake it off. She would smile at him and touch his arm, and start the whole mess over again. One day, Paula stayed at the bar while Nick closed up. When he was almost done, she crawled over the bar and pinned him to the liquor shelves with her boot on his chest, which she rocked back and forth like a lumberjack freeing a hatchet. She unbuttoned her shirt. Nick reached up and felt her ankle. His eyes locked onto hers and tried to take in all he saw. He made a conscious effort to remember the night forever. Then he saw his bandage glistening red, felt the pounding in his finger, up his arm, and into his chest. He saw a wet, ruby smudge on her skin, glanced at the ceiling, and passed out. Nick dreamed. He walked through tall grass in warm sun and looked for someone. He had an appointment. The sensation of checking a watch ticked in him. He appeared at a pond with pussy willows on its banks and lily pads floating on its mirror surface. A waterfall poured into the pond, and a woman bathed in it. White robes clung to her skin, and fair hair traced her neck, shoulders, and decollate. She saw Nick and smiled. 7 – Onomatopoeia Magazine
She didn’t mind he’d come late. He walked into the pond and thought it warm. He found the pond shallow and waded to her, his fingers trailing wakes in the water. The waterfall plunged and rolled in amber strings and streams of shining gold. Nick tasted it and laughed. It was honey. The woman embraced him, and he kissed her, bringing her to the mossy, slippery ground beneath the falls. The honey rose as they made love, and it covered them both before Nick woke up. Paula thought Nick’s blackout cute. She trilled and chuckled when she told the story to her friends, told how she pegged her lover to the bottles of whiskey and vodka and gin, took off her shirt and caused him to swoon, caused him such anxiety, in fact, that Swizzle Stick blacked right out. He casually failed to mention how uncomfortable the sight of blood and the sensation of it pulsing in his finger made him. Nick could not escape the image of the woman under the honey falls. It caused him guilt, and he drew his eyebrows together and massaged his temples when he thought of her if Paula was around. Time passed. The cut stayed open. He tried ointments, salves, pastes, oils, and jellies, but nothing kept it shut but the bandage. He saw another doctor, and this one indulged Nick’s fantasies by listening with the patience of a wellpaid man and prescribed a tube of antibacterial gel. Nick forewent the gel. Considering herself the cause of Nick’s having passed out, Paula felt very attractive. She dressed more and more provocatively for him, covering her racy outfits with overcoats while on the street. In time, the overcoats became stifling and she stopped wearing them. Nick noticed. His face reddened when she tickled his forearm with her nails, and he smiled and shuddered when she slid her foot up his leg at restaurants. It wasn’t long before Nick passed out again, the bandage saturated and scarlet. He met the blonde woman at the pond beside the pussy willows, and made love to her again under the honey falls. He reveled in the warm, sticky weight of it coating them like a living quilt, and he noticed the blinding white sun made shining patterns of light on their bodies; they flickered as though they were on fire. Paula worried at first, but she grew to like it after doctors convinced her of Nick’s health. She enjoyed taking care of him during his spells, during which she held his head in her lap and marveled at the smile on his lips. Nick never smiled like that. He always came around with a sweet sigh and a sparkling look at her that first lifted his eyebrows, then relaxed to show the eee
notch in his front tooth, a detail most people never noticed. She teased him at first, stroking him in secret at the market or at movies, but stopped her teasing as he passed out more and more often. The more he passed out, the sexier she felt, and the sexier she felt, the sexier she dressed for him. Paula began to receive attention from men the way streets receive cars. It turned Paula on. When Nick and Paula went home, she would come on to him, and he would pass out. Paula held Nick’s head in her lap and petted him while he made love to the girl in the honey falls. Paula’s ego inflated, and she smirked and grinned everywhere she went. Nick smirked, too, but for different reasons. Paula teased Nick, Nick passed out, Nick made love to the girl in the honey, over and over like this until Nick thought of her at all moments of every day. Paula faded from his view. Her dresses looked uniform to him, and he failed to notice other men staring at her. Then, one day, her hands came from behind him and stroked his chest, and Nick felt nothing. His pulse neither quickened nor intensified, and the bandage on his finger stayed dry. Paula shrank away. Nick went for a walk. After two weeks he wanted to see the girl in the honey more than anything, but Paula’s caresses moved nothing inside him. Paula noticed and tried harder, but the more she attempted to seduce him, the less attractive she became. Nick broke a sweat worrying about how he could see his lover again. Unable to excite himself over Paula, the woman who lived in the honey falls receded from him like a star in the dawning sun. Unsatisfied with his inability to love her, Paula chose one of her throng of admirers and left Nick. Nick retaliated with apathy. He ignored the blitzkrieg of messages on his answering service, presuming that at least one would be her. When depression settled on him like mist, nobody thought Paula the cause of it, though she trailed men like the leader of a marathon. Nick made a conscious decision to feel nothing. For the first time in weeks, he wondered if his finger would ever heal. One rainy night, Nick served a handful of diehard regulars. One of them asked why he wasn’t married. ‚Women have a mind of their own,‛ Nick said. ‚Well, wouldn’t you want a girl to?‛ said the guy. ‚Sure, I would. It’s just I got no handle on them. No handle on getting a girl, no handle on keeping her. Even if I want to break up, they run off before I can throw them over.‛ His wound pulsed, but just enough to remind him of the woman in the honey falls. He sneered, scoffed, and stuck a swizzle stick between his teeth without realizing he had. The patrons said nothing of it. 8 – Onomatopoeia Magazine
he had. The patrons said nothing of it. For no apparent reason, he began answering to Swizzle Stick as though Nick had never lived. People who knew him a little loved to introduce him to their friends. People who knew him well saw his slouched shoulders and drooping mouth and pretended to know why he chewed on those sticks like gum, though he never had before. He sneered at pretty girls, and sometimes grinned at their boyfriends like he knew something. The bandage reminded him of the girl in the honey, and he tired of it. It disappeared from his finger. Weeks had gone since last he felt faint from it. The wound still broke his skin, but looked neither red nor inflamed. In three days a scab formed. In a week, the cut had gone. Swizzle Stick Nick cried the night the scab fell off. He considered slicing himself again, snapped three swizzle sticks in the process of trying, and felt stupid and demoralized in the end. Sadness wrapped him up. He called in sick to work, but returned the next day. Few patrons came, and Nick spent a full hour staring at a velvet painting of Raquel Welch in a leopard-print bikini that hung on the wall. Raquel had nothing on the girl in the honey falls. He saw the girl shining and sticky, sitting at the bank of the pond among the pussy willows with sun glinting off her auric hair and smiling. She stood and went to him. He remembered the feel of her fingertips across his stomach and down his chin. She excited him more than any woman he knew, more than any woman he had ever known, Nick decided. He had an affair with her all afternoon. By the end of his shift, he started keeping track of how much gnawing he did on his swizzle sticks again. He went through three that afternoon. He became known for his cold shoulder toward women as much as for the sticks. Some called him a misogynist, and others said he’d been hurt by someone long ago. Legends gestated. Because of his famous disregard of females, it caused a stir about town and shocked many patrons when a homely-looking woman and her indeterminate date went home separately, broke up right there at the bar on account of Swizzle Stick Nick. ‚What would you like, Johnson?‛ said the woman. She had a voice like a religious greeting card. ‚Oh, I’ll have the special.‛ said her pedestrian date. ‚No special,‛ said Nick. ‚Yes? Oh, then I’ll have what she’s having.‛ Nick looked at her. Her eyebrows sat on her forehead like caterpillars.
‚Johnson’s indecisive,‛ said the woman. Nick made a spectacular display of disinterest, and the woman frowned. ‚Excuse me,‛ she said as though affronted. ‚I’ll have a diet cola with a splash of rum.‛ Nick’s lips parted. His nostril twitched. ‚Rum and diet. Sure thing.‛ ‚No,‛ she said. ‚A diet cola - with a splash of rum.‛ Nick’s teeth crunched on the plastic stick between them. He kept his eyes on her as he combined the ingredients, setting two rum and diets before her. ‚Oh,‛ said Johnson, ‚I didn’t want that.‛ Nick looked straight ahead. She looked at him. Johnson repeated himself, adding a small ‚huh‛ at the end as if to say, I won’t drink that for anything in the world. Nick took the stick from his mouth and held it vertically between his eyes a moment. Then he flicked his wrist and sent it spinning, end over end into Johnson’s broad forehead where it bounced and rattled insignificantly to the floor. Johnson blinked twice and stared at the bar. The woman laughed at him. Johnson left alone. Nick poured the two cocktails into a large glass with a grimace, and gave it to the hackneyed woman. He had two shots with her, himself, after which she seemed tolerable. He spent the afternoon belittling the successful romances of others, and she found him charming. When his shift ended Nick stayed and drank with her, as eeeeee by Jara Jones
his shift ended Nick stayed and drank with her, as people fired worried looks at them in anticipation that Nick would do something awful. When she brushed her fingers along his leg, a gleam entered his face and lodged behind his eyes, as though the world was contained there and he had the best seat in the house. They went home together. Nick and the inelaborate woman had a long and fulfilling romance, and when they bedded, Nick kept the woman from the honey falls in his imagination like a candle in a lamp. The throbbing feeling came back in his arm, this time without the bleeding, and Nick felt capable of truly loving once more. His partner knew he loved her, Nick thought, and whenever anyone questioned his intentions, Nick would glimpse the flaxen woman in the honey falls, shining with sunlight on her head and on her breasts, waiting for him to wade through the pussy willows to her and slide with her beneath the surface of the pond. Then he would throw his swizzle stick away, spit, and take up another one. Daddio Mick is also BothEyesShut, author of the popular new weblog, "In a Real World, This Would Be Happening"at botheyesshut.wordpress.com. He was born in Huntington Beach, CA and is currently writing his fifth novel. He lives in Long Beach. © 2010 Daddio Mick, All Rights Reserved
Beggars would ride.
Beggars would ride outside my window. Twilight brought the clutch of hooves spiriting forth - bone to cobblestones, muscles to earth. They rode without warning. One minute, the city would crackle with the festival of cell phone noise and radio station waves. In the next minute, sound became frightened of its own shadow, hiding in the cool, leafy mulberry trees. I knew I was intruding, watching them race while the moon pursed her lips and stared. I was a child. A rather nervous one. I could never surrender to the lie sleep promised me. But the beggars! Their eyes - flecked with danger, open and alert. Each rider tore through the dark, mouth wide open in a voiceless shout. Teeth, curved like knives. They rode -only for one another. When the dark grew tired of the earth, the beggars returned to their alleys and tunnels and benches, and slept the way a coffin sleeps, safe and tight. In the morning, they were like old paperback novels lined with mud. Guilt pressed its hands over my throat, and I fought the urge to shout and run mad into the streets, singing their singular lives. Another night. Another beggar's ride. And for me, another sleepless wish. Jara Jones is the sort of chap who'd stab you in the throat. With a paper clip, and a little determination. Or maybe he'll make you some pancakes. Hard to say, really. He thinks good poems should be like hand grenades: brutish, violent, and quick. © 2010 Jara Jones, All Rights Reserved 9 – Onomatopoeia Magazine
‚Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the history of pretty much anything ever, but he also just loved a good dick joke.‛
The Writer Abideth Adam Bertocci, author of ‚Two Gentlemen of Lebowski‛ as Interviewed by Bobby D. Lux
A skill required to survive the doldrums of the ever-unchanging world of the desk job is the ability to find things on the Internet to amuse yourself. So if I have to choose between work and Hey, check out this link, it’s hilarious, I choose the link every time, no questions asked. Some days, it’s a picture of a normally cute cat making a disturbing or condescending face. Other days, you find your entertainment in a re-imagined version of Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie with Glen Danzig singing backup. And then there’s other days when you strike pure gold. One morning, just like that, I stumbled onto Two Gentlemen of Lebowski by Adam Bertocci. For the next hour I was absolutely tickled (which is a phrase I’ve never used before) as Bertocci seamlessly weaved the language of Shakespeare into the adventures of everyone’s favorite cinematic Dude and his best bowling partner who also was a dabbler in pacifism (not in ‘Nam, of course). As it turns out, I’m not alone in my admiration for Bertocci’s script. The script flew across the Internet with the speed of Epic Beard Man and since the following interview was conducted (late January), Bertocci has been busy as the subject of international press, meeting with agents, looking at potential book deals, and even visiting rehearsals as several theatre companies are now mounting productions of his script. Can you talk about how this idea came forth and how you developed the script? The idea initially came about as a funny idea about a line or two--real famous lines, like "You're out of your element" and "The Dude abides," translated into codShakespearean. At the time, it was just a throwaway joke. The idea to actually do the script came about a month later; I was in the process of sending out query letters around the movie industry, to generate interest in one of my screenplays, and I was frustrated at the rather low number of reads I was getting. For some reason I got it into my head that actually following through on that silly idea of mine would make an effective publicity stunt. I guess I figured that every group of friends has at least one person who just really loves ‚The Big Lebowski‛, and that would help it spread. I developed the script very linearly, starting with the character list and plowing my way straight through. Honestly, if I hadn't confirmed that the name Walter existed in Shakespeare's day (it's even in his work) the whole project might have died before the first scene.
and ends with direct address, a prologue and ends with an epilogue--a common enough feature in Shakespeare, and the source of some of the most famous moments (‚Romeo and Juliet‛, Rosaline's goodbye in ‚As You Like It‛, Puck wrappin' things up for us in ‚Midsummer‛). So that was a good early encouragement for me. Beyond that, there are two things that stood out for me. Firstly, the importance of language. The language of ‚The Big Lebowski‛ is extraordinarily precise, with every "fuck," every "man" carefully planned in the Coens' script. Furthermore, just as Shakespeare created many of the words and phrases we use today, the ‚Lebowski‛ characters create and propagate language as well, and they all end up quoting each other with the same regularity that we quote the Bard. Secondly, the mix of high and low culture. Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the history of pretty much anything ever, but he also just loved a good dick joke. Lebowski is an art film from the Oscar-winning Coen brothers, but it's also a crazy romp about a stoner and the scraps he gets into with his bowling buddies.
On the surface, it seems that The Big Lebowski is an unlikely as choice as any for this type of adaptation, but as you read it, the story has many of the qualities of a work of Shakespeare – mistaken identity, deception, a Player Queen (and Karl Hungus) and so on. Was there any part that stuck out to you as especially Shakespearean in The Big Lebowski? For me, the obvious element was the fact that it begins and ends with direct address, a prologue and ends with an epilogue--a common enough feature in Shakespeare, 10 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010 and the source of some of the most famous moments
You have an excellent command of Shakespearean language. Can you talk about the actual writing process once you decided to write this? How quickly were you able to adapt the dialogue? The first draft was basically banged out in a weekend... a very intense weekend, to be fair. And that was basically a simple translation of the shooting script into a lazy Elizabethan, laying down the foundations. Maybe it was just easier to develop the work as a Shakespearean piece, get the good stuff in, once I had
Maybe it was just easier to develop the work as a Shakespearean piece, get the good stuff in, once I had it all 'translated.' What elements of the film were easiest to adapt and which the more difficult? By far the most difficult element was the profanity. "Zounds" just doesn't have the impact it used to, and there's really no way to get around the fact that a movie with a "fuck" count of 260 is going to need some attention paid to the four-letter words. Everyone's favorite trivia tidbit from "Two Gentlemen" is that the hardest thing to write by far was Walter's outburst to Larry. What am I supposed to do with "Do you see what happens, Larry, when you fuck a stranger in the ass?" Shakespeare himself couldn't improve on that, and I think I spent longer on that one page than the whole act that surrounded it. From a more technical perspective, anything involving telephones and answering machines and such was a bit of a pain. Of course, I guess Shakespeare would complain about how his plays suffered under today's technology. The ending of "Romeo and Juliet" would be tough to put together in the age of cell phones. It's funny but people don't tend to ask me which part was the easiest. I dunno, it was either moving along at a brisk little clip, or it wasn't, y'know? I think the bits with the Knave and Maude were the easiest... simple twoperson dialogue, not too much information to get across, and they came late enough in the movie that I'd been working for a while and was used to the process. Whatâ€™s your favorite part of Two Gentlemen of Lebowski? What is your favorite line? For favorite part, I'd have to say the closing. Partially because it's one of my favorite parts of the movie, it just feels so warm and comforting... but partially because I just think the translation all came together there. It's one of the few parts of the play I have memorized, and when I was revising, I'd smile every time I got there. I have a certain amount of affection for the closing of "Midsummer", which I crib the opening lines of the ending from. It has the same feel as the end of "Lebowski", a friendly goodbye before the magic ends for the evening. I don't think I have a favorite individual line. It's probably a tie between all the sexual ones. Shakespeare just loved a sly reference to the vagina. Sex, sex, sex, that's all the kids think about these days. Your script went viral almost immediately after you posted it. How did it spread so quickly, and how has your writing career benefited from the attention? I've done my best to track the 2010 spread via a 11 â€“ Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING timeline on the Web site, but the short answer is, it
your writing career benefited from the attention? I've done my best to track the spread via a timeline on the Web site, but the short answer is, it came in three steps. First, it took off on the Something Awful forums, where I'm a member--they've been great to me. Second, it hit Twitter, and got to someone called Drew Olanoff... I actually have no idea who he is, but he's apparently very big on Twitter. From him, it got to Alyssa Milano. And as Alyssa Milano Tweets, so Tweets the nation. My writing career has benefited, but not in the way I was planning for. Somehow I ended up a produced playwright and an author with an agent. But I did this project to try and raise my profile as a screenwriter, and that corner of the world hasn't really responded yet. I'm hoping that once the play actually opens, or the book comes out (if it does get published), I'll be able to leverage it into something else. I never really saw myself as a playwright, so I'm not sure what I'll do with that cluster of buzz. But I do enjoy writing prose and nonfiction, and so maybe this whole 'book' thing could work out for me. Why do you think The Big Lebowski has developed such a rabid following over the past decade? How many times have you seen the film? I can't speak for everyone, but what I think makes it work so well and helped it build this cult audience is the way it creates these little patterns. It's an intricate little puzzle box, the film, and you learn more about it every time you watch it; you notice how this connects to that, how this character is quoting that character. There's always something new to find in a classic. I'm about to shock the world and say that I haven't actually seen the film all that much. Maybe fifteen times (and three of those times were after initiating this project). By normal moviegoer standards, maybe that's a lot, but by "Lebowski" fan standards, it's nothing. It's a film I'm very fond of, obviously, and a film I've enjoyed studying and reading about; it's a film that rewards that level of scholarship. But it's not one of the films I'd consider myself an expert on, nor one of my very favorites or anything like that. I guess in a weird way that explains why I knew the film was rife for a Shakespearean conversion. It wasn't something I was doing as a conscious, I-must-honor-thisfilm tribute to "The Big Lebowski." I was serving the words on paper, not my own feelings for the movie; I'm able to view the movie with enough closeness to love it and yet with enough distance to bring some new perspective to it. What are some of your other projects youâ€™re working on? Talk about your other creative interests and pursuits. Right now I have one film on the tail end of its
on? Talk about your other creative interests and pursuits. Right now I have one film on the tail end of its festival run, a profanity-saturated monologue about the life and times of James K. Polk, and that's gonna hit the Internet in February. That's my tenth short film for the festival circuit. I'm planning to shoot number eleven this year, a romantic comedy, if I can find the time. I am continuing to plug my feature film screenplays to Hollywood. This largely takes the form of writing letters and crossing my fingers that someone will decide they wish to read the script. Ironically, the blowup surrounding "Two Gentlemen" has sort of sidetracked me from all the things of my own that I was hoping to call attention to. I think it's very important to always have something new in the pipeline, to always be working on something, and I confess sometimes I've been guilty of shirking that because of this hoopla. Are there plans for any more Shakespearean takes on other classic cult films? Lord, no. I'm not terribly certain the world needs another one of these, even if I could recapture lightning in a bottle. A lot of this project came to me in a flash of insight. But even if I was able to do as good a job on another movie as I hope I did on "Lebowski," I don't think it'd go viral or provide the same boost to my life. I think people would just smile and move on. You can't force these things. With that said, I know which films I'd do next if someone held a gun to my head and said 'do one'. But I think I'll keep that to myself. My little private joke. They are, however, cult films, approaching classic status, so you hit the nail on the head there. (I'm a bit of a stick in the mud about the word "classic." You gotta be real old to get that word.) How much fun was it to write this? Great fun. Look, the only reason to do any project is because it's fun. That goes double for fan projects. I think readers, especially Shakespeare buffs, can tell from the writing that I was having a high old time. If I wasn't taking joy in the mashup process, you'd have known. My father sort of hit the nail on the head: the reason this project caught on with so many people was because it was supremely pointless, an enterprise taken on for pure love and pure amusement with no guaranteed reward.
I pity the poor bastard who tries to do any similar project and doesn't enjoy it. I really do. For more information on Adam Bertocci and his endeavors, including Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, visit www.runleiarun.com. To stay up to date on all things Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, join the fan page at: www.facebook.com/twogentlemenoflebowski. Bobby D. Lux is the founder of Onomatopoeia Magazine and resides somewhere in Southern California. His work has been featured in several magazines and anthologies, most recently FLYMF’s Greatest Hits. Sometimes an actor and sometimes a creative writing teacher, he justifies not updating his blog, www.bobbyswritingschool.com, because he’s busy working on a novel. © 2010 Bobby D. Lux, All Rights Reserved
Playboy, August 1978 by Jara Jones Your eyes don't first discover the man on the cover. He's just a pair of white tuxedo pant legs a woman uses to wrap her frame in place. He could be a pole, or a wall. Inside, in the magazine that aroused the erotic cells exactly thirty years ago, (the small and quiet history of your birth) there is that palpable sentiment of desire, the yearning to fill one's belly with the hot and soothing liquor of culture. Men chew a wide, fantastic grin offering Camel cigarettes, mug at the camera as their adjust their mirrors in their contoured Datsun compact car. Showing off their lime green life vests as they test out jet skis for a photo shoot, or standing awkwardly in brown chino pants, it's clear they are serious about leisure. A Sears and Roebuck gray corduroy jacket hangs off the shoulder of a blond, bearded male, a jacket just like the one your father wore, after the Navy and before the soft gestures that led to your life. The collar resembles a wing of some large, clumsy bird, and the breast pockets are fastened with simple brass rivets. More than the models, with their flat eyes, their acres of curly, resplendent pubic ferns, and their ripe, tanned fleshshapes, you longed for that jacket. You aspired for that artifact, that costume, that hairstyle or talisman that could give you a backstage pass into adult sophistication. © 2010 Jara Jones, All Rights Reserved
I pity the poor bastard who tries to do any similar project and doesn't enjoy it. I really do. 12 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010
‚There’s only so many times a person can say ‘there are no small parts, only small actors,’ before you stop believing it yourself. I mean, is Romeo and Juliet still heart wrenching without the Nurse?‛
Directing a Monkey by Christopher Kent I am a teacher. No, that's not right. I facilitate learning. I prefer the longer expression because it makes me feel elevated into a position of greater good, like the garbage man who considers himself a waste management engineer. Still, to say that I actually facilitate anything is a bit of a stretch as the dictionary definition for facilitate is "to make easier," and there is nothing that I have made any easier for the students in my classes. I am a drama teacher, and my primary function is to direct a gaggle of sixth graders in a forty-five-minute play, three times a year. Body armor was not included with my contract. As an English literature major, I have no prior experience directing anyone anywhere other than to the first-floor bathroom (down the stairs, to the right, second door on your left). Still, the job was mine the minute I mentioned I had been in a play my freshman year of college. To my boss, head of an independent middle school and part-time professional lacrosse referee, this meant I was an expert in drama and all things related. "Want to make an extra three grand?" he had asked as I mulled the paperwork to be a seventh grade science teacher's assistant. The fact that I live in Orange County and my rent was past due played no part in my decision. It was all about the children. On paper, my job seems simple. Direct. That's not to say I don't try to pass on any knowledge. I start each trimester by discussing the origins of theater, the difference between acting and pretending, and then touch on theories of method acting, character study and intentions. Quickly, however, my efforts are boiled down to sputtering words like "cross," "enter," and "upstage," while pointing in a general direction. I look forward to the day these skills will serve me well as a traffic guard. Out of all my students, Dylan is the least responsive to my pointing. Partially because he sees it as a sign of my superiority, but more so because Dylan doesn't like his role in the upcoming play. Dylan is cast as a monkey. Although the play is set in the Amazon jungle, and therefore the likelihood of one or more characters being monkeys is greater than in, say, "My Fair Lady," Dylan is still displeased. I had to create his role because there are twenty-six students in the class but only twenty characters in the script. Therefore, his lines are scribbled poor handwriting on the sides of illegally Xeroxed 13in– Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010
twenty-six students in the class but only twenty characters in the script. Therefore, his lines are scribbled in poor handwriting on the sides of illegally Xeroxed pages. He takes his displeasure out on me by walking bow-legged and spinning his arms like a helicopter, while monotonously saying "ooo... ooo." It's the most pathetic monkey anyone has ever seen. It's not that Dylan doesn't understand how to act like a monkey. No, I have seen him portray a sensationally true-to-life chimpanzee after class. However, Dylan responds to his anger at receiving a "supporting role," in the same passive aggressive manner I respond to wanting my girlfriend to iron my shirt: feigning incompetence. ‚I should be Archie. I’m way better than Ryan. He walks funny. I think he has a brain disease.‛ For six weeks, I’ve heard every reason why I should have cast Dylan in a larger role. ‚Besides, monkeys are stupid. I don’t even have real lines.‛ There’s only so many times a person can say ‚there are no small parts, only small actors,‛ before you stop believing it yourself. I mean, is Romeo and Juliet still heart wrenching without the Nurse? No, but you need Romeo. And is Stanley, the waiter, as important as Willy in Death of a Salesman? If your name is in the title, shouldn’t that make your part more influential than those that have non-Equity actors playing them? Let alone parts that are penciled in? Still, I tell Dylan that without the monkey, the jungle setting would seem fake and therefore the whole reality of the play rests on his convincing portrayal. ‚Dylan,‛ I say in a voice my mother would use while trying to explain why the red candlesticks were off limits, ‚the point of this class is exposure to theater, to learn how to be a good cast member. Support your peers.‛ He gives me a puzzled look before returning to his monkey impersonation. This one looks more like a wounded pterodactyl. All I can do is shake my head and move on. The performance is eight hours away. Twenty minutes before show time, I run into Dylan’s sister and she tells me he spent the whole afternoon watching TV and eating chocolate bars. I take a Lamazesized breath and prepare for questions from the Dean about why the monkey in the play looked like a decomposing scarecrow. Then I catch Dylan out of the
-sized breath and prepare for questions from the Dean about why the monkey in the play looked like a decomposing scarecrow. Then I catch Dylan out of the corner of my eye. He’s standing next to Ryan, the lead of the play, who is visibly shaking. I look closely for any sharp weapons that might be tucked in Dylan's pants. Then I see Dylan put his arm around Ryan and can barely make out the words he tries to whisper in his ear. ‚Don’t be nervous,‛ he says, with what could be a smile. ‚We’re here to make you look good.‛
Ryan takes a deep sigh and smiles. I watch as the two walk backstage. I loosen my tie and take a drink from a near empty water bottle. The house lights dim. The curtain opens. I am a teacher. Chris Kent is a playwright, director, and actor. He earned his Masters of Professional Writing degree from USC and currently teaches theater at Vistamar School in El Segundo, CA. Chris is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and the founder of the Black Wing Theater Company which produced Isaac and Ishmael, his first original play, in the Fall of 2008. © 2010 Chris Kent, All Rights Reserved
between the clouds by Marta Pelrine-Bacon
Marta was born in Florida before Disney got there. She left for up north before she got stuck. She joined the Peace Corps before settling. And she got to Austin before it was too late. Now she writes stories to cut into pieces and put into art. She’s an artist, writer, and a mom. She can be found at www.mylakebelle.com. © 2010 Marta Pelrine-Bacon, All Rights Reserved
14 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010
‚As she rolled away, he said one day he was going to take a shotgun and blow her away. ‘I’ll blow her away and get out of this place. One of these days.’‛
The Man I Knew by Sarah E. Lowe
When I was little, my grandfather slept a lot and talked very little. His stomach rose and fell like a great breathing hill held down by thick black suspenders. His head was bald even then, his gray eyes small inside horn-rimmed glasses. When my grandpa smiled, which was more frequently than one might have imagined, he revealed the rotten mouth of an Appalachian man proud to still have his own teeth. A framed picture of him with a Hawaiian hula dancer sat on the mantle ever since I could remember. He’d pick it up and kiss her if he knew I was watching, teasing me that he was going to run off and leave grandma one day. ‚Gonna run off with my little Hi-waiian gal,‛ he’d say, dusting off the place below the frame. ‚One of these days.‛ I explored his world with care—his bathroom that smelled like Selsun Blue and his workbench in the garage covered in cardboard, grease, and Juicy Fruit wrappers. He gave names to the daddy long-legs and liked canning tomaters in mid-summer. He was happiest watching Hee Haw or buying me cigarette-flavored donuts from his favorite diner. He paused for ages before taking a picture and never said much of anything. ‚Your grandpa loves you,‛ my grandma would say with hands on her hips and sorrow in her eyes. There was a ‚but‛ to that statement that I was too young to understand. When she died, we had to put him in a home. His mind had started to slip along with his bladder control. On our first visit we found that he’d resurrected my grandmother in his mind. She took the form of a wheelchair-bound woman who looked nothing like my grandma except for the expression of loathing she got when she looked at my grandpa. ‚Now Edna,‛ he’d said, ‚Sarah’s here to see you,‛ as if my name would soften the molten rock surrounding her heart. And if it would have been my grandma, it would’ve. ‚Sarah.‛ The woman put her thumb to her nose, wiggled her fingers and let her tongue fly out like a stream of water from a hose. As she rolled away, he said one day he was going to take a shotgun and blow her away. ‚I’ll blow her away and get out of this place. One of these days.‛
15 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010
My uncle hoisted grandpa up the stairs and into the kitchen one Thanksgiving afternoon. ‚Thought the old man could use some holiday cheer,‛ he laughed, sitting him down at the kids’ table. I don’t know that grandpa remembered my name. If he did, he didn’t say it. I placed mashed potatoes on his hairy tongue and watched it swirl around in the too-soft pinkness of his open mouth. My uncles poured whiskey into his coffee and everyone had a good laugh, except my mother. As we drove down the gravel roads that night and back onto the highway, my mother told me about hearing my grandmother scream at night. She stopped at a red light in the center of three cornfields and a Texaco gas station. ‚He was a mean drunk.‛ Christmas Day came and went. We watched the evening news with my uncles then drove out to see grandpa at half past 7. He sat at a card table alone with some breaded turkey cutlets and a dish of red Jell-O. ‚Do you want us to feed you?‛ my mom asked. ‚No.‛ His breath was staccato, and his lips chapped. My mom and I got to talking about the latest Oprah show since talking to grandpa was like talking to a cat. His eyes moved, but who knew if he was actually thinking anything at all? Then he spoke. ‚I’m going to be seeing y’all again real soon,‛ he said almost cheerfully. He shifted in his seat revealing the top of his Depends. ‚Oh yeah?‛ my mom said. ‚Yea.‛ The fluorescent light above us flickered. ‚Why’s that?‛ she asked, looking at him but smiling like this was our private joke. He blinked and his eyes steadied. We both suddenly knew that he was really there. ‚David’s going to come pick me up for Christmas supper.‛ He coughed without covering his mouth. ‚In a couple of days or so, I believe.‛ My mother flinched as if a window had dropped on her fingers. Her eyes fixed on his fingernails, always dirty as a younger man and now clean crescent moons. He yawned and folded his hands over his belly.
‚I suppose we’ll see you then,‛ she said. ‚One of these days.‛ And the next time I saw him, my mother wasn’t with me, nor my grandmother or anyone else. My mom called to say he was about to pass. ‚If you want to go, you’d better go,‛ she said. So I went. He slept in his bed half propped up in a gray sweatsuit. A glass of milk sat beside him going sour in the sun. I kissed his face, and his eyebrows rose. So I kissed him some more, and a watery smile came but he didn’t stir. I wondered if he was dreaming of me as a tiny round-faced girl, or if behind those crinkled eyelids he was making love to his little Hawaiian gal. I kissed him all the same. And I sat for hours, or maybe just twenty minutes, while my boyfriend waited in the car. I gave him what I could only give him, the only thing he ever wanted. I gave him silence, peace, from the world he never loved. The nurse opened the door and I jumped. She banged an empty water jug all along the wall. ‚Jack,‛ she shouted, ‚your granddaughter is here.‛ I grabbed my purse and stared at his face. ‚Jack, wake up!‛ she yelled. I stood, sliding around the edge of the bed, and walked to the door. ‚Don’t leave, honey,‛ she said, tearing the packaging off of a needle. ‚He’ll want to know you’re here.‛ I shook my head and backed away maybe as his gray eyes were opening. ‚Jack!‛ she barked. And then I was gone. And shortly thereafter he was gone. In that sundrenched moment, I think I may have finally understood. Aloha, grandpa. Goodbye. Sarah E. Lowe is a writer and producer living in Los Angeles. She writes for the blog WhisperedBetweenWomen.com and is currently working on her second novel. © 2010 Sarah E. Lowe, All Rights Reserved
lucky day by Anthony Liccione on the way to work caught up in a late state-of-emergency traffic, I saw a man running through the grey morning downtown, a briefcase under one arm, while using a newspaper umbrella to cover his head, from the kneecaps down below he was drenched with water, hopping over puddles and crushing flowers with the speed of his heel in a single-bound, when suddenly, in fate thunder sounding as THOUhe met the finger of God, blazing white flash cutting through the sky, pointing him out and striking like the last bowling pin standing, poor guy I thought, lucky bastard he was, and I having a chance to even see this magnificent once-in-a-life-time event take place, right before me, just like that, it flashed through my mind, the twenty-six million jackpot lottery ticket in my visor, awaiting to be drawn and claimed, maybe it is my lucky day or maybe, looking on from the smoke-hole of his body, perhaps it could have just as well been the Devil having that old familiar twitch in his middle finger. Anthony lives in Texas with his two children. His poems have appeared in several print and online journals, and he has four collections of poetry books. © 2010 Anthony Liccione, All Rights Reserved
16 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010
‚’You do not wish freedom. You fill your life with obligations and appointments. You live from a calendar and communicate at a distance. You are far freer here. What is it that is truly lacking?’‛
Beige by Gregory Cohen The hands of the clock hadn’t moved in days. 7:36. Couldn’t even tell if it was a.m. or p.m. No windows available to check the sun (or moon, for that matter). The door was locked; the walls were thick and soundproof. The sound through the tiny speakers inset neatly into the corners of the room was constant: the supposedly soothing rush of waves lapping against some nameless and, probably, non-existent beach. Harold was in a timeless void, comfortable but lost, utterly adrift and with no answers. He looked around at the room, seemingly for the thousandth time since he became aware of his surroundings. The room as twelve by fourteen feet (he’d paced it off enough times to be fairly certain of the accurate measurements). The carpet was the color of sandstone, a Berber weave. He knew Berber; he’d ordered enough of it for his clients. In the center of the room stood the bed, queen-size, covered in a tan comforter with enough pillows to fill a sultan’s harem. The walls were empty of decoration except for the natural colored grass-cloth covering them from floor to ceiling. In the corner of the room stood a small square refrigerator filled with all sorts of edibles. The refrigerator was taupe. The edibles actually had color. The refrigerator was nicely stocked. If Harold had been hungry at all, he wouldn’t have wanted for anything. All of his favorite foods were present. But Harold wasn’t hungry; Harold didn’t have any appetite at all. Next to the refrigerator stood a water cooler, the large up-ended bottle resting on top three-quarters full. This water cooler was the object in the room that worried Harold most of all. Because, although Harold wasn’t hungry, he was thirsty and he had been drinking regularly, greedily even; but the level of the water hadn’t changed. Not a fraction of an inch. Harold was sure of this. On his second day here (at least what had felt like his second day), Harold had marked the level of the water on the outside of the bottle. He had used his own blood to do it, ripping at the cuticle on his thumb until the blood welled around his nail and smearing a line along the waterline. Now, on what had to be at least his sixth day, after drinking quarts, if not gallons of water, the cool liquid inside the bottle still reached that dried smear of blood.
17 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010
Harold’s eyes drifted from what he had begun to think of as the refreshment counter over the bare walls, to the drab bed, and eventually rested on the two doors that led from his room. One led to his bathroom, ultimately normal in its contents: a sink, a toilet, a shower stall, a towel rack, and a collection of unlabeled bottles and boxes holding shampoo; toothpaste and toothbrush; shaving cream, an old-fashioned razor and after shave lotion; deodorant; a hair brush. Everything in the bathroom was a light unmemorable tan color. The other door was locked. Harold had no idea where that led. It had never been used. No one had ever come through it and Harold was certainly not being allowed to go out. Harold was a prisoner in a world of beige simplicity. This, of course, was a terrible thing; but there were worse things. For instance, Harold had no idea why he was being imprisoned or how he had become so. He had gone to sleep one night in his own apartment, having come home late from a party being thrown by a friend of a client of whom he had only recently been hired. He had fallen into bed, his bed, exhausted from working the room and happy to be back in his own domain, and awakened the next day (or the next minute perhaps; he really had no way of knowing) in ‚The World of the Bland.‛ And, as terrifying and unbalancing as the entire experience had been, he fully believed that that overall ‚beige-ness‛ was the worst part of it. After all, Harold had always lived his life flamboyantly. He had to. As the foremost Interior Designer to the wealthy and the ultra-wealthy, he was required to live to his own creative standards; and, as he lived alone, he could do just that, allowing his apartment to reflect his inner extremism. Not one wall of his 2000 square foot loft was painted the same color; they all screamed with passionate boldness. His home was a work of art and he the focal point of all that explosive energy. All of the people who visited his home commented on how well it focused the meaning of Harold’s life back on himself. Of course, the people who visited his home were there to experience it. Harold only invited prospective clients home. If he was to socialize, it was in public; after all, socializing was a waste of time unless he was able to be seen. His was a controlled environment, exuberant
and bold in its appearance, but, like the valuable piece of art that it was, not meant to be touched or altered by anyone but himself.
and bold in its appearance, but, like the valuable piece of art that it was, not meant to be touched or altered by anyone but himself. Harold sat on the edge of the bed, smothered by the non-creativity surrounding him and wracked his mind to try to discover how he had come to this place, who had brought him here, what they wanted, and just how he would find a way to return to the world in which he belonged. ‚Hello? Hello! Listen to me, damn, it!‛ Harold shouted from the center of the room, as he had been doing repeatedly since he’d discovered his imprisonment. He didn’t move to a wall or the door, just sat on the bed and shouted aimlessly. After all, he had no idea where the door led, if anywhere at all and he had no way of knowing what waited on the other side of the walls; why waste the energy to move toward them when he could sit in the center and yell for help in comfort? Anyway, his cry for help wasn’t going to get a response. He knew this already. He was shouting out of habit, for lack of anything else to do. The total lack of input was really starting to get on Harold’s nerves. He was a man who thrived on stimuli. From the moment he entered his apartment, he had arranged to have his senses automatically bombarded. Responding to the motion of his front door opening, a very sensitive motion detector would bring his sound system to life, blaring an endless stream of hard rock and rap music out of the 32 speakers hidden tastefully throughout his loft. The recessed minispot lights he had artfully dispersed throughout his living space would shine on a myriad of moving sculpture and reflective surfaces, casting floating beams of light and color over every surface in the vast space. His phone would invariably be ringing upon his entrance and would repeatedly break the monotony of his time alone; he was a very busy man and his expertise was essential to the happy lives of all of his clients. Harold spent most of his time at home on the phone, answering minor decorating questions – ‚Harold, should the painting hang over the sofa or should the sofa face it?‛ – making appointments, or quoting prices for a personal one-on-one visit. But, here, in this sensuous wasteland, there was nothing but the even lighting, the beige surroundings, and the endless synthesized waves. The waves stopped. Harold sat and listened to the total silence for several minutes before he could be absolutely sure. The waves had been so incessant that it was difficult for him to be positive that they had ceased; he could almost continue to hear them inside his head. But after careful examination of the speakers, actually climbing on top of the refrigerator to place his ear against one of them, he
concluded that the repetitious lapping had come to an end. So, the question that now occurred to him was< why? Had someone stopped the recording in response to his shout or had the CD finally come to its end? Somehow, it didn’t feel random. Harold didn’t think the sound had ceased because of some technical error. It had seemed to go quiet for a purpose. He sat atop the refrigerator, all senses attuned to whatever might happen, and waited in anticipation. Nothing happened. No new sound effect replaced the waves. The lighting remained constant. The color scheme, of course, was untouched. All that was new was the silence, and it was absolute. Harold had a moment of panic as he pondered the possibility that the waves had not ended, but that, instead, he had gone deaf. Of course, he could hear himself breathing, but wasn’t it possible to ‚feel‛ sound through your body without actually hearing it as it entered your ears? Harold leapt off the refrigerator, landing silently on the tightly wove carpet. Running to the door, he pounded on the solid surface with his open palm. He didn’t expect anyone to answer his call; he only wanted to hear the pounding noise for himself. He was rewarded with the deep, hollow, thump each time his hand struck the door. ‚Thank God,‛ he mumbled to himself and his voice sounded incredibly loud in the lifeless air. It also sounded very, very frightened. Harold wasn’t used to that sound. He had always considered himself ultra-confident, able to handle any situation and handle it with style. It was one of his greatest business assets. Harold was able to sell a decorating concept, no matter how outlandish, to even the most conservative client. He believed in his talent; he was solid on the image of Harold Parmer, Design Genius. He absolutely knew that no one could surpass his creativity and imagination. He had often exclaimed to prospective clients, ‚Give me a room<any room< and I’ll turn it into a masterpiece.‛ ‚That’s correct, Harold.‛ The voice came from the speakers and caught Harold completely off guard. It was uninflected, asexual, ageless. Had Harold been required to describe it, his normally extensive mastery of the English language would have failed him. He would have simply described it as ‚a voice.‛ ‚Who are you?‛ Harold directed the question in a vaguely upward direction, not sure how his voice might be transmitted to the speaker. No response. Harold turned to the door and shouted, ‚Hello. Who are you? You can’t pretend you’re not here anymore. Once you’ve spoken, you’ve given yourself away. Now
concluded that the repetitious lapping had come to an end. So, the question that now occurred to him 18 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010 was…why? Had someone stopped the recording in
give me some answers.”
give me some answers.‛ ‚How dare you assume that you can command us?‛ Was there a touch of emotion in the voice now? Had Harold managed to push some buttons or was he only hearing a tone in the voice he would expect to hear in his own? He had never before doubted his own senses, but there was a quality in the voice that was so generic, so neutral<so beige, Harold thought to himself< that it defied full comprehension. However, whether there was annoyance in the voice or not, Harold thought it prudent to err on the side of safety. ‚I’m sorry,‛ he said quietly, moving guardedly to the bed and sitting, ‚I didn’t mean to sound demanding. I’m frightened and confused and I would like whatever answers you’d be willing to supply.‛ For a moment, Harold feared that the conversation was finished. He sat in the middle of the room, waiting for a response from the voice; and the wait stretched on and on. Harold didn’t want to speak too soon or say the wrong thing, if the voice was simply considering a response; so he sat and waited< in silence and neutrality and blandness< and lost track of time. It was when he next heard the voice that he realized he’d lost more than just a few minutes of time. ‚Who we are is not important, Harold.‛ It was as if the conversation hadn’t paused, but Harold could tell by the sour taste in his mouth and by the beard stubble growing on his chin that he had had to have been asleep for at least several hours. ‚Take care of your physical needs, Harold, and we will give you the essential answers.‛ Harold waited for more, but nothing followed. He weighed his options and decided that the wise course of action would be to follow instructions, at least as far as he was able. Keep his captors happy and gather what information he could. He moved to the bathroom, urinated, washed his hands, brushed his teeth. He considered shaving, but didn’t feel the need at the moment, so he dried his hands and face and re-entered the bedroom. ‚I’m ready for answers now,‛ Harold announced to the air. He was amazed at how calm and normal his voice sounded. ‚No, you’re not. All of your physical needs, Harold. You must eat.‛ ‚I’m not hungry.‛ ‚Yes, you are.‛ Harold moved to the refrigerator and opened the door to inspect the contents. Although he had glanced through them before, it had been more of an exercise in acquainting himself with his surroundings. Now he truly inspected the contents. He still didn’t feel particularly
hungry, but he had to admit that the idea of tasting something did make his mouth fill with saliva. He 19 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010 sat on the floor, his eyes level with the interior of
hungry, but he had to admit that the idea of tasting something did make his mouth fill with saliva. He sat on the floor, his eyes level with the interior of the refrigerator and began to work through the food products inside. Apples, nectarines, grapes, oranges, carrots, celery, sliced green and red peppers, a tub of ranch dressing, cheese slices, crackers, luncheon meats, a jug of apple juice, a carton of milk – nothing that required preparation< a world of finger-foods. Placing a grape in his mouth as he continued to inspect the food, he was surprised at the hunger that the sweet fruit encouraged in him. He quickly polished off the bunch of grapes, tossing the naked stems aside and began to consume tiny sandwiches made from salami and cheese folded between saltines. Drinking the apple juice directly out of the jug, his hands worked feverishly dipping hunks of vegetables into the dressing and shoveling the entire mess into his already filled mouth. Harold continued gorging himself until the refrigerator was nearly empty and he found himself surrounded by peels and cores and crumbs of every sort. At last, he sat back against the bed, his head leaning against the footboard and breathed as deeply as his swollen abdomen would allow. ‚Now we are ready to receive your questions, Harold.‛ Harold started. He had totally forgotten about this unseen presence. He had been totally absorbed by his feeding frenzy and now he needed to regroup quickly before his captors changed their mind about continuing their dialogue. ‚Who are you?‛ Harold managed to croak, working at a slice of apple peel trapped between two of his molars. ‚We are we.‛ ‚That’s not an answer. You promised me answers.‛ ‚Wrong, Harold. It is true we promised answers and an answer is what we have provided. We cannot promise that we can deliver understanding.‛ ‚Where am I?‛ ‚You are in a room.‛ So, this was how they were going to play it. So be it. Harold always prided himself at being good at word games. ‚Where is the room?‛ ‚It is here, of course.‛ Harold was beginning to feel frustrated. He needed some cold, hard facts. ‚What time is it?‛ ‚Time is relative.‛ ‚What time is it in this room?‛ ‚7:36. We have provided a time-keeping appliance, a clock. Why waste a question like that?‛ ‚Because the clock doesn’t move. It doesn’t change. It always says 7:36.‛ ‚And the assumption is that the clock is incorrect?‛
‚Well, it can’t always be 7:36, for God’s sake!‛ Harold shouted. Silence. Stretching on as Harold counted off the seconds< and watched the clock stand still< as he sat on the floor of this colorless room in the middle of here< with his keepers watching stoically from somewhere beyond< as they waited, patiently, for him to regain his calm. ‚I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted,‛ Harold carefully kept his voice even and relaxed. ‚Continue with the questioning.‛ Harold relaxed. He was beginning to learn the rules and, as long as he knew the rules, he was confident he could make this conversation work for himself. ‚How long have I been here?‛ ‚An answer to this question is not required. That is why the clock has been provided.‛ ‚But the clock doesn’t move.‛ ‚Exactly.‛ Did Harold perceive a note of satisfaction in the voice? There was no modulation, so how could he possibly recognize any sort of emotion in it? He had to be interpreting the changes in vocal patterns himself, forcing a humanness to the voice that was missing in reality. ‚All right, then,‛ Harold stood and began to pace. Pacing always helped him organize his thoughts, ‚Why am I being kept here?‛ ‚So that we can learn.‛ ‚What could you possibly want to learn about me?‛ ‚The term – ‘we’ – is not exclusive to us. You are a part of ‘we’ as well.‛ Harold thought about that statement. He wanted to learn what was happening to him, surely; but is that what the voice meant. The riddles were troubling, but he felt he was getting somewhere. ‚If I teach you what you want to know, will I be allowed to leave?‛ ‚If we learn what is necessary, release will be allowed.‛ ‚Alright, what is it that ‚we‛ wish to know?‛ There was a pause. Harold began to worry. Did the voice understand sarcasm? Was his last response perceived as hostile? Did they decide that the conversation was over? But before he had a chance to apologize again, the voice reappeared. ‚We have attempted to provide you with everything necessary for your comfort and well-being. What have we missed?‛ ‚Freedom, for one thing.‛ ‚You do not wish freedom. You fill your life with obligations and appointments. You live from a calendar and communicate at a distance. You are far freer here. What is it that is truly lacking?‛
‚Companionship.‛ ‚You do not want companionship. Perhaps you want the opportunity for companionship, but you have had that for many years and have not taken advantage of it. You live alone, you work alone; when you come into contact with others, the relationship is fleeting and unsatisfactory. You have never felt the need for true intimacy beyond that which you can provide yourself.‛ Harold sat on the bed and listened to the voice calmly disassemble his reasons for being allowed to leave. ‚We tire of these superficial attempts at self-assessment. Think carefully about your next answer, for if we find it unsatisfactory, our conversation is at an end.‛ Harold fought to control his panic. He simply had to continue the dialogue. It was his only hope for freedom. He knew he had the answer; he understood what this existence was inhibiting. But he had to make the answer truthful and complete. He sat and thought and the voice was silent and patient. Finally, Harold stood. He composed himself and faced the wall; he had long ago decided that the direction in which he spoke made little difference. ‚I need to create.‛ ‚Creation is not being hindered. We have, in fact, given you the perfect canvas.‛ Harold looked around at the blank walls, the bland carpet, the monotone furnishings of the room surrounding him. ‚Is that what this is all about? Is this a test to see what I can bring to the room? Have I been put here to test my creativity?‛ ‚You may create if you wish. You are the one that said it was your need; it makes no difference to anyone else. But if it is the inability to create that keeps you from happiness, we only wish to assure you that we will not stand in your way.‛ So, that is the key, Harold thought to himself, a surge of energy coursing through his body. This is like some freakish game show – put an artist in a blank room, and let him create art from whatever he can find. Well, if anyone can win this little contest, he sighed with relief, it was he. He scanned the room quickly, looking for something, anything he could use as an artistic medium. The room was bare, of course, except for the furnishings. The refrigerator had been thoroughly emptied, thanks to Harold himself, and the few items remaining from his meal lay scattered and useless along the floor. A thought popped into his head< the bathroom. Of course, there were several items in there that could substitute as paint. He dashed inside, quickly focusing on the toothpaste; even the tube looked like the varied tubes
20 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010
of acrylics he often used in his decorating adventures. He squeezed a dab onto his finger and stared listlessly at it. Harold was a man who worked
of acrylics he often used in his decorating adventures. He squeezed a dab onto his finger and stared listlessly at it. Harold was a man who worked with color, vivid hues that shocked the senses; this glob of paste coating his finger was not even brilliant white. Damn it, he would’ve even settled for that damn Crest baby blue. This paste was actually cream colored. Harold experimentally slid his finger along the wall; the toothpaste all but disappeared into the grass-cloth. Tossing the toothpaste tube onto the floor, Harold poured the shampoo onto his hand. It looked like a puddle of water in his palm, utterly colorless, as were the shaving cream and aftershave lotion as well. ‚What do you want from me?‛ Harold collapsed to the floor, crying to the featureless ceiling, ‚I am a manipulator of color. How am I supposed to create without color?‛ Laughter echoed off the bare walls in the bathroom and Harold, crawling along the tightly woven carpet, pulled himself out of the bathroom to find out what the hell was so damn funny. ‚It is amazing, Harold,‛ the voice spoke condescendingly to the exhausted wreck leaning weakly beside the bed, ‚how a supposedly creative individual such as yourself has such an overpowering lack of imagination. You need color? Are you so desperate for external stimulus that you fail to see the incredible capacity for blinding beauty within yourself? Don’t you see, Harold? All the colors you could ever require are inside of you, if you only looked deep enough and allowed yourself to truly see.‛ And the laughter came again, fading away quickly leaving the man alone again. He had failed, Harold realized. He had failed the test and now he would remain a prisoner in this horrible beige room for all eternity. eeeee
21 – Onomatopoeia Magazine SPRING 2010
Staring at the appalling taupe walls and the sand colored floor and the tan furniture until his mind snapped and he ceased to be himself and then, maybe then, he would be lucky enough to see the clock tick over to 7:37 before he lost his sanity completely. Tears were streaming down Harold’s face as he thought about his captors. They were so superior, spewing all that cliché crap about the colors being inside. Who did they think he was? Some little idealistic child? Believing that all the wonders of the world live solely in the mind? He wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand, clear tears, by the way. He brushed his sleeve against his running nose, ridding his lip of the snot, once again clear, that had been gathering there. No colors. Nothing had color, no color outside or in, as far as he was concerned. And his eyes fell on the water-cooler and Harold began to laugh. Now, there was color, the one bit of color in this whole bland horrible existence. Maybe they had been right after all; he rolled on the floor in near hysterics. The only color in this entire room had indeed originated from inside himself – a bright smear of red marking the waterline on a clear plastic bottle. Harold’s tears and laughter provided a constant underscoring now, but he was unaware of them as he looked over his shoulder at the bathroom counter, dripping with liquids and creams and lotions, all colorless and drying to a film around the gleaming razor lying next to the sink. A razor blade. The perfect paintbrush. Harold crawled to the bathroom to begin redecorating. Gregory Cohen is a Southern California writer, actor, and director. He fills his daylight hours teaching young people the wonders of Water Conservation and Recycling, substitute teaching, and running his on-going acting workshop in Orange. During the summers, he is the Theatre Department Head at Camp Laurel in Readfield, Maine. He lives in beautiful Orange County with his wife, Kysa, and their two loving, yet demanding Welsh Corgis, Phoebe and Bethy. You can follow his exploits at www.gregorycohen.tv. © 2010 Gregory Cohen, All Rights Reserved