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Spittoon

Volume Two Issue One Every US Spring 2012

www.spittoonmag.com ISSN 2166-0840


Fiction Editor Matt VanderMeulen

Poetry Editor Kristin Abraham

Creative Nonfiction Editor Berly Fields

Cover art by Justin Fields. Every, US (1029, 840), Mixed media on paper. Approx. 55” x 30”.


Table of Contents

D. Harlan Wilson

fiction

Interregnum

1

Parker Tettleton

poetry

Tumbler

4

DJ Swykert

nonfiction

Felonies and Misdemeanors

5

Special Section: Featuring Memoir by Sarah Paige Ryan memoir

16

Glamour

17

An Interview with the Author

19

Danielle Pafunda

poetry

Selections from The Book of Scab

21

Lilian Oben

fiction

Rock and a Hard Place

24

Matthew Lykins

nonfiction

Lists

27

Alexandra Kontes

fiction

Perhaps You Didn’t Realize

36

Tim Kahl

poetry

Stigmergy

38

Petur H. K.

nonfiction

(A Moment of Being)

40

Michele N. Harmeling poetry

Learning to Swim

44

Nels Hanson

Ride Away

45

fiction

Special Section: Featuring Art by Justin Fields

Jessica Guzman

63

mixed media

IMPORTANT PERSON

64

mixed media

CHIMP, TUSSLE

65

mixed media

CHIMP, SAW

66

mixed media

CHILDREN PLAYING SOCCER

67

mixed media

SELF-PORTRAIT RIDING BYCICLE #2

68

nonfiction

Fillings

69


Jamie Grefe

fiction

The Rain Will Swallow the Blood

75

Peter Ferrarone

nonfiction

Just Passing Through

77

Brian Alan Ellis

fiction

Ideas for a One Act Clown-and-Poet Play

80

Nancy Devine

fiction

Line

91

Kristina Marie

poetry

Footnotes to a History of Nightingales 93

Chelsey Clammer

nonfiction

Grasp

94

Seth Berg

poetry

Constructing a Proper Torch

100

David Baratier

poetry

Ode to the most fantastically intelligent 1st poetry readers ever

102

Contributors

103


Spittoon 2.1

Interregnum D. Harlan Wilson

Conrad Pillson sits across a patina-marked softwood table from Dr. Noel D‟Souza, Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Biophysics at Harvard University. Swollen silver microphones hang before their masks on wires that rise into a distant ceiling. The studio is dark and still and silent. “Your field of study is in membrane-bound DNA transport machines involved in antibiotic resistance,” intones Pillson, plasticine lips grazing against the metal pores. “Based on the aforementioned study, how do you account for the recent upsurge in technologically prejudiced onanism, particularly among a demographic prone to pathological violence and the unscripted trading of hostages for lethal doses of strontium-90?” Dr. D‟Souza clears his throat. A bit loudly. “Excuse me, Neal.” “Noel.” He clears his throat again, softer this time. It feels uncomfortable. He clears it again. Louder. “Excuse me.” Something‟s wrong. He clears his throat again. Something‟s stuck in it. He clears the throat. Clears it. There‟s something in there. “Ahem.” Honk. He clears his throat, sharply, then clears it again, drawing it out like the inhalation of a mauled accordion. “My forgiveness, Neal.” “Noel.” He clears his throat . . . He can‟t unstick what‟s stuck in it. He grips his knees and opens his mouth and makes an obscene “Arrrrghtqft%$@#” noise. “Uht-hum. Hrrrrmf.” Clearing his throat again, he clears his throat again. “I‟m sorry.” Clears the throat. He clutches and rattles his neck. He wraps his Adam‟s apple with his knuckles. He attempts to squeeze the obstruction from the flesh tunnel. A blood vessel pops on his lower left eyebag, producing a purple splotch. He lets go of

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himself. Harrumph. He tries to apologize again and his throat clears itself, punctuated like a hiccup. He becomes angry. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem, ahem. He‟s doing it now. He‟s in control. Listeners detect the return of self-governance and emit sighs of belief. He clears his throat proudly, but not disdainfully, and the meaning of existence reveals itself to him like a bogie in the sky. He clears his throat as if to acknowledge the knowledge. He repeats the gesture and mimics the repetition. God enters his pores and exits his esophagus. With a single blink of an eye, he splits atoms, impales bulls, and renders the history of social institutions and cultural formations null and void. He knows every word Shakespeare wrote, by rote, from beginning to end (including sonnets). He rolls across the earth like a tsunami of magma. But there is a clog. The clog continues to be a very real and unsolved menace. He clears his throat. “Sorry, Neal.” He clears it again. Again. “Sorry.” “Dr. D‟Souza?” interjects Pillson. In the long wake of innumerable failed efforts to stop clearing his throat and respond to the question put to him by his esteemed interlocutor during which he prompts Pillson to keep a canny finger on the “fuck button” so that what spans the wavelengths consists of martial bleeps woven into the fabric of vulgar human static, Dr. D‟Souza retreats into a figurative closet and wonders what to do. “Excuse me,” he says. Sweating now. He clears his throat. Sweat rings expanding from the armpits, sweat beads running down the forehead and cheeks. He clears his throat. A polite harrumph. “Doctor?” interjects Pillson. He realizes that in fact the universe is merely a collection of idiots that on occasion shine like particles of fertilizer buried in shag carpet. The same goes for human beings as it does for gas giants and stardust. Various overlap theories float to the surface like unmanned buoys. Alienation is hardly a permanent state of affairs. Manque-à-être. It doesn‟t get any simpler. Hysterical discourses react to precarious elisions with a de facto metalanguage that surprises and in some cases bewilders and perturbs even the most progressive situationists, crouching behind unassuming pieces of art deco furniture like parasitic vipers on the cusp of milking sustenance from the stores of fat junglefowl. We claw for eternity and culminate in barbarity, entelechy, misery. A film of loose sand flows across the surface of the dunes like a paranormal entity, singular and catastrophic. Then stasis. Then static—a staccato of alien raindrops detonating against asphalt and tundra. Stig D‟Harlequin, a Scandanavian provocateur, screwtape, and jack-of-all-tristes, catches wind of the incident and promotes himself to Grand Titan of Barn Burning and Libertine Sexuality. In no time at all he has usurped God‟s authority and throne and revised 2


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the universe in the effigy of his own Perfect Me, flaming livestock darting for the closest body of water. “Hold the beaker over the Bunsen burner until it explodes,” he orders a Chemistry student from Forest Hills Junior High School in Ada Township, MI, circa 1967. The butterfly effect that ensues vis-à-vis D‟Harlequin‟s divine intervention enacts the premature collision of an endgame and an extinction event circa 2306, at which point I inject the venom of my selfhood into the whaleflesh . . . Acoustic parabolas on the outskirts. No dialectic. Nobody can distinguish me from that which I am becoming. This culmination supersedes the prologue. Again I return to my breathing instrument only to be deflected, cast into a spacetime continuum beyond performativity and bar fights and blistering sublimations of loneliness and alienation. The final stage of grief is apathy. To transcend apathy, one loiters on Mediterranean Avenue for an indiscriminate length of time, waiting for the sun. I feel its hot karma on a molecular level as an unspeakable gnosis infiltrates the hallways of my body via sundry open “wounds” or “mouths” or “black holes” or “familial lacks.” Unfortunate elisions may result from ultraviolent interstitial scenarios that wreck the mind of artists, scientists, filmosophers, shiteaters. Operation Hickory Dickory Dock is in effect. Colonized from the inside, a body of evidence purchases an espresso and shoots the barista in the face. A lazy bullet drags skull and brain tissue out the back door like a dead pet on a leash, producing a mild cacophony from the peanut gallery. Memories of Myrtle Beach—the soft hotel, the neon oasis, a blue van with a slashed tire, crab legs rotting in the surf . . . It was a long ride home. The limo driver veered off the road in Ashville and sunk into a molten aftermath. I lingered in the back seat, contemplating the nature of ultraviolence in tandem with “city-life” as represented by Wordsworth and Simmel. Die Großstadt. Luckily the limo had been stocked with plenty of shitwater; drowning had never been such an agreeable experience, and as the gridlines of existence fold into a terminal slot, the chamber depressurizes and we feel the force of twenty-thousand turbines revving like cyclones across the naked badlands of Pangea . . . I. He. Dr. D‟Souza wets his lips and clears his throat. But there is clearly nothing in his throat . . . “ . . . That was Dr. Noel D‟Souza, ladies and gentlemen. Dr. D‟Souza. Thank you, and we look forward to . . .” When truth collides with history, axioms flow into the dark places…I meet a Polish man wearing a gray flat cap. We discuss the logic of systems. An orderly pushes a diseased woman by them on a hospital bed; wide, frightened eyes gleam within pale, leathery wrinkles. Squeak of loose wheels. Several onlookers expect one if not all of the wheels to fall off, destabilizing the patient. But the action continues to unfold without incident. An overnight nurse faints. Then the orderly turns a corner and Dr. D‟Souza, at last, commences CPR on the chest plate of mankind. It can end no other way. 3


Spittoon 2.1

Tumbler Parker Tettleton

I erase sober, re-wrap a football next to rubbers K stocked up on at Kroger. Knocking doors is a fortune cookie worth fuck-all. Iâ€&#x;m not having sex to night-light Minnesota; semicolons arenâ€&#x;t virgins I sleep with on internet paper.

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Spittoon 2.1

Felonies and Misdemeanors DJ Swykert

Houghton County Jail, Michigan August, 2006 In space the expansion of the universe exceeds the speed of light. In a jail cell the speed of light slows, time ages, deteriorates slowly to a crawl, the expansion ceases to exist within the confines of this steel and cement manifold. With the addition of me the cell is full. A thin, older, balding man in the corner bunk is sick and gagging. One of the other jailbirds says his name is Labonte and he‟s been sick since lunch, which he was unable to eat because of the gagging. I‟m not too keen being locked up in the same cell with him, but you don't get to reserve rooms in the Houghton County Hilton. You get what they give you and at least I‟m not sleeping on the floor, which is even harder than my bunk. The up side of the cell being full reminds me of what Merkel, my lawyer, told me: sometimes when it gets overcrowded the jail will ask the court to suspend some of the sentences in favor of probation for those not incarcerated for serious or violent crimes. I sit down on my bunk with hope of an early release. LaBonte, besides his physical problems, is a bit mental. He‟s here because he got pissed off at a neighbor and poured something in the engine block of the neighbor's lawn tractor that caused the engine to seize up. I have no idea if they are going to prosecute this sick old buzzard or not. At promptly four o'clock dinner is served. It consists of a lukewarm pot pie that is crushed and most of it is stuck to the bottom an ancient melamine plate. There is also a bologna and cheese sandwich with mustard. The bologna has no taste. Someone says it‟s turkey bologna. It must have come from a plastic turkey, uh... forget that, plastic would taste better than this sticky piece of snouts and udders they call bologna. There are a few pieces of lettuce with some watery French dressing on it and three chocolate chip cookies. You get to flush your dinner down with a glass of room temperature Lafite Rothschild vintage 1957 red Kool Aid. LaBonte begins some very serious gagging at the table and is hacking and spitting all over his plate of food. It‟s impossible for him to swallow any of the stuff. I‟m having the same trouble, can‟t force myself to eat this stuff, and don't.

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About seven p.m. one of the guards and a trustee come by and they take orders for items available from the jail commissary. I order a couple of bags of Tostitos, three Hershey bars, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a bag of instant coffee. We have no way of heating any water for it, so you make it at a tepid temperature from the hot water faucet above the toilet. You also have to buy a cup to make it in, it‟s not supplied. The cup is plastic, nothing glass or metal is allowed. “Does that phone on the wall work?” I ask the guard. “It does if you buy a phone card. You get ten minutes for five bucks,” he answers. “I had a phone card in my wallet when I checked in. Virge put my wallet with my watch and ring. Could you get the card for me?” “It won‟t work. You have to use one of ours.” I give him a wry look. “That doesn‟t seem right.” He just shrugs. “That‟s just how it is.” This irritates me, the arrogance; the lack of fairness in an institution that has put me here because they didn‟t think I was treating the rest of society fairly. But I‟m a short-timer; all I want is to get out. I don‟t argue with the guard, who seems pleasant, just a man with a job. “Give me five of them.” He looks at me a little incredulous, but hands me the phone cards along with my snacks and coffee and I put them in my tote and slide it under my bunk. I think about making a call to Sarah, but decide I‟ll wait until tomorrow. I want to think on things, what I want to say to her about our future. As much as I‟ve studied the cosmology of the universe, the future and the past, how everything came to be and where it might be going, seldom have I ever concerned myself much with my own future, or past. I am different since Sarah. She has made a difference in me. I believe that‟s what love is: when you meet someone who creates change in you, is able to alter what you believed unalterable, unchangeable. After dinner I sit on my bunk, which is right in front of the toilet and the stinkiest bunk in the cell, for the obvious reason. Two guards open the door and enter. LaBonte has been bonded out by his daughter, he is leaving. In spite of any germs that remain, his bunk is in a much better location than mine, so I move across the cell. This leaves five of us. I sit on my new and improved bunk with my cellmates. There is no conversation. We all look out into the middle of the cell, observing one another from the corner of our eyes. I break the silence. “Jack Joseph, DUI.” 6


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“Dean Goudge, fucked,” Goudge says, which extracts a snicker from a young dark haired man in one of the two premier bunks that are along the wall with bars and an even better view of the TV out in the hall. “Derrick, fucked.” “Fucked,” the youthful skinhead on the bunk in front of me says. We all laugh, except for the big Indian out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo‟s Nest sitting on the bunk in front of Derrick‟s. He didn‟t laugh, said nothing; just smiled showing his bad teeth. He is the scariest looking of my cellmates, a large bearded man who has a distant look in his eyes. Even when he looks at you it‟s as if he doesn‟t see you, as if he can‟t focus. “What are you guys here for?” I ask no one in particular, but looking at Derrick, who appeared the most friendly, and normal. “Embezzling from Walmart,” Derrick answers. “How‟d you manage that?” Derrick shrugs, “Wasn‟t hard. When I worked a night shift I‟d just wander over to the checkout counters and open a drawer and take some. I only did it for about a month. When they questioned me I confessed. I told them I took it.” “That was stupid,” the young skinhead says. “Unless they caught you with your hand in the drawer they couldn‟t prove it.” “Yeah, I know. They asked me and it just popped out. I felt guilty about it.” “That‟s because you‟re an honest man,” I say. “You‟re a man in the can,” the skinhead says, laughing at his attempt at humor. “You fucked yourself. You could be waiting on the outside to go to trial. Your attorney could postpone, you could be old before you ever get convicted, if you get convicted. All you had to do was keep your mouth shut. Make them prove it.” “Fuck you, Phil. If you‟re so smart why are you in here? I don‟t have any money for a lawyer. If I had any money I‟d have bonded out.” Phil sits up straight and cracks his knuckles. “I‟m waiting to be sentenced. I‟m trying to get in touch with my brother out west. He‟ll bail me out, and when he does I‟m gonna bail. I‟m gonna go back out west with him. How much time did you get?” 7


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Derrick shakes his head. “I don‟t know. I‟m waiting for sentencing, too. So is Jim,” he says, looking towards the big man with the beard in the bunk next to him. Jim just smiles with his green teeth, says nothing. I look at Jim. “What are you in for?” He looks at me, without malice, with that kind of silly look of someone who doesn‟t know what to say, or what he should say. “They said I attacked two cops with my knife.” I can‟t help but stare at this large man, this huge disheveled beast of a man. “You aren‟t sure if you attacked them?” “I was drunk. I don‟t remember. I only sort of recall being out on this deck behind a house and a couple of men came with guns pulled. They tell me I jumped up and pulled my knife out. But all I remember is waking up in the jail. If they say I attacked them I probably did.” To describe Jim as beautiful would be illogical. But there is no relationship between logic and beauty. Beauty is as uncertain as the flight of an electron leaving its atom, unrelated and unlike any other matter or element. I watch Jim moving his hands as he talks, expressing himself in an effective but ungainly manner. There‟s gentleness in his movements that are paradoxical to his looks. “Do you have a lawyer?” “No, I plead guilty.” “How long have you been here?” “He was here when I got here,” Phil says. “And I‟ve been here about six weeks. He‟s gonna get big time. He‟s a mental. He shouldn‟t be out walking around.” Jim looks at Phil with his blank eyes. “I‟m not like you, Phil. I have love in my heart.” “Yeah, and shit in your head.” Jim stares at Phil for a moment. I‟m wondering what‟s about to happen. The lizard in my primal brain has me on alert for a battle, or to hide. But Jim doesn‟t attack Phil. He simply lies down on his bunk and rolls over and faces the bars, where he can‟t see Phil. I am right. Jim Walters is a beautiful person.

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*** That evening, when the “store” comes around with the trustee, I buy ten phone cards. Derrick, who has a wife and a young kid, has no money, can‟t call her. I give a couple of them to Derrick, and Goudge, who I have a vested interest in helping get out of here. I don‟t want him causing trouble in our cell that might extend the sentences of any of us, but me in particular. And he has a better bunk, with a good view of the TV screen. There are no newspapers or magazines. There is no entertainment beyond the TV in the hall you watch through the bars. Bunks with a good viewing area, where you can lay back and watch the TV, are at a premium. The jail is Capitalistic, the phone cards are just one example. I asked if I could bring my electric razor--no, not allowed. Yet they will give me a straight razor every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to use. They won't allow an electric razor, not even a battery operated one, yet they give me a razor I could slit my throat with three times a week. I asked if I could bring some of my books in here, I like to keep up on the world, my universe. The answer was no, no books of my own, unless I donate them to the jail permanently. But they will allow me to select paperbacks off a library cart they push around. I can read about rape and serial killing, but I can't have a book about cosmology. I guess the universe is a dangerous idea. Every other day the trustee comes by with cleaning supplies and a garbage bag. You throw all your wrappers and trash in the bag. They give you a sponge mop and a little cleaner and a rag to wipe down the cell with. You do it yourself, the jail provides no services whatsoever beyond guards to kick your ass. There is no debate over who‟s going to clean our cell. Derrick does it. He says he‟d rather mop the floor and clean the toilet than just lie on his bunk doing nothing. He‟s an industrious person, just a little criminal. Like everyone in jail he has his story. Derrick and his wife had found an old duplex they wanted buy. They could live in the upstairs and fix up the downstairs to rent out, which would help make the payment. They needed a three thousand dollar deposit to close the deal. Derrick asked his grandmother to loan him the down payment, to which she agreed. The bank set up a closing date to complete the sale. Meanwhile, his father looked at the duplex and then advised his grandmother not to loan Derrick the money. His grandmother changed her mind and nixed the deal. Derrick claims this put him into such a funk he began drinking and taking drugs, which ultimately led to stealing the money from Walmart. I feel for him, but I don‟t know if it isn‟t just his excuse to use and abuse. That‟s how we are, exceptionally clever at finding excuses to justify our behavior. Everyone in here has his story: me, Derrick, Phil--everybody but Jim Walters who hides in his pineapple beneath the sea. But he‟s crazy. Or is that just his story? 9


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It‟s a weird little society in here. The people who actually do the work: bring our food, wash dishes, do our laundry, run the portable commissary, don't get paid. The only ones who get paid are the ones who do nothing but watch us. Which they do, the cell has a camera they stare at. We are their little TV program. I wonder why the trustees work for nothing. They work long hours, from breakfast until the commissary closes around eight or nine pm. It seems like they would want to just sit in their cells. Capitalism seems to work that way as well, very often those who do the least get paid the most. The one kind of person you'll never find in here is a rich one, guilty or otherwise. People with money don't do jail, not this kind of jail. This is no Club Med. Nobody comes in and clips your toenails or styles your hair. You can't have a watch: or a radio, ring, notebook, ink pen, sweater, shoes, toiletries, nothing except your orange jumpsuit and sandals and what they will sell you from their store, which is everything they won‟t let you bring in for yourself. Both Derrick and Phil will be sentenced the end of this month. Derrick was convicted of embezzling over two thousand dollars. He could get a year tacked onto the time he‟s already served, which is pushing three months already. He has a young wife, a little girl, and they‟re running out of money to live on. He has no money in his account here to even buy a phone card so he can call and try and comfort her. She's getting desperate, and worrying, which is why I gave him some of my phone cards. I try to give him a little optimism. "It's your first offense, Derrick. I know this woman who embezzled six thousand bucks and she got a year, but did no jail, just probation and wore a tether. It may work out better than you think. You've already served three months. The judge may think that's enough." Derrick looks down at the table, "Yeah, but I have something else on my sheet.” "What else?" "I hollowed out a few cigarettes and replaced the tobacco with weed, and then put them in my socks. I figured they‟d be like money in here. I could trade them for stuff off the commissary cart with guys in the cell. I didn‟t have any money I could bring. I gave all I had to my wife to pay our bills while I‟m locked up." "Okay, so you had some dope in your sock when you turned yourself in, and that wasn't very cool. I‟m sure they didn‟t like it. But it doesn‟t make you a smuggler." "It was that fucking Virge, she's a man-hating bitch. They never make you take your socks off. I've been here before, which is why I hid them in there. But when she gave me the sandals she told me to take off my shoes, and when I pulled the one shoe off the dope popped out of my sock right in front of her. And was she pissed." 10


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“How pissed was she?” I ask. "Enough she throws me in a solitary cell and calls the prosecutor's office. He decides, besides the embezzlement, to charge me with trying to smuggle drugs into a penal institution, which is another felony, gives him plenty of leverage to get me to plead guilty. I spent the first two weeks here in solitary while they decide exactly how bad they want to fuck me. Eventually they offered to drop the charge if I would plead guilty to the embezzlement and not go to trial. My lawyer said I'd better take it, it's not going to get any better, and if they convict me of both of them I'm going to Marquette for at least five. I can't do five years. I don't know if I can keep things together another week," he says. I can tell he's on the edge, running out of hope. There‟s no substance to hope, it‟s undetectable in the human body, yet necessary. Without it nothing else matters much, not food, drink, women, nothing. "It's still only one offense, they dropped the other charge," I tell him. "I know. But the judge knows all about me trying to bring the dope in here. And Virge has probably talked to him about it, making sure he doesn't forget it even if the charge was dropped. Because of her he might max me out at sentencing and I'm fucked if I go to prison. I'll lose everything. I love my wife and she doesn‟t deserve to be in this mess. I'm the one that was doing the drugs and drinking, and fucked everything up. If she left me I wouldn't blame her. But I don't know what I'd do." “You can‟t let it get to you, Derrick. Just keep doing what you‟re doing--stay positive and telling her you love her. That‟s all you can do, man. Keep the faith.” I try reinforcing him with a little hope. He needs it. I‟ve always thought the best attributes you can have are empathy and compassion. If you have these, and feel them passionately enough they direct your life, then you‟re a good person. I‟m beginning to feel like one. There‟s another thing I‟m feeling good about--doping and drinking. The xanax and valium I got from Rosemary helped me come down from alcohol, and being locked up in here I‟ve quit the pills. I‟m as clean as I‟ve been since junior high. And it feels good. I‟m feeling good without being high. I‟m feeling high on life and my relationship with Sarah. Maybe I‟m kidding myself. Or perhaps love has the power to create miracles. Perhaps it will help Derrick. Just as Derrick is about to say something, Karpinen, one of the trustees, leans against the bars and whispers. "Did one of you guys forget to turn in a spoon?” We are required to scrape our plates and utensils into the toilet before the trustee stops by with the cart to collect them. Maybe Goudge copped a spoon. This is bad. If one of these assholes took it, and they extend my sentence, I’ll be going to Marquette for murder. 11


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We all look around the cell, under our bunks, by the toilet, in the shower, but to no avail, no spoon. "Nope, nothing here," Derrick says. "Well, I remember counting five when I picked up the dishes a few minutes ago,” Karpinen says. “But the guard insists we‟re one short. I'm going to check with the other cells. Maybe a different cell shorted me,” he says, then heads down the hallway. We all look at each other. "What the fuck would I want a spoon for? You guys aren't going to rob me and I'm not going to break out of here with two weeks to go," I say. A few minutes later Karpinen returns. "If you guys have anything in the cell you don't want found, better get rid of it now. They're gonna shake down the whole jail." Now this aggravates me and I'm beginning to worry. What if one of these fuckers does have the spoon and the guards find it? Or they find something else they shouldn't have in here, like some dope. I don't want to go down with them. I'm not the captain of this ship. I'm getting in one of the life boats and I don't give a fuck about the rest of these guys at this point, they can all drown. What was that I said about empathy and compassion? At this moment, fuck it. I don't want to spend one more minute in this place that I don't have to. I'm being the good Buddhist my Sarah asked me to be, and if one these guys screws things up for me... In a few minutes a couple of the guards come and march all of us down the hall to another cell. Then, one by one they strip search us. Cavity QED (cavity quantum electrodynamics) begins to take on a new meaning once again, because it's my cavity, not an atom‟s, or somebody else‟s. After the cavity searches they leave us together in the cell, which is meant for only a couple of people, so it‟s crowded. I begin to empathize with sardines. While we wait the guards walk back and go through our cell and our personal items. In about a half an hour they return and escort us back, apparently satisfied we don't have the spoon. I've seen The Caine Mutiny, where Captain Queeg rolls these little steel balls in his hand as he talks, tells the crew he's going to find out who ate the strawberries no matter what it takes. Rick begins to look a whole lot like Queeg, Humphrey Bogart, standing in front of the crew. When we enter the cell the place is a mess. They pulled our bedding apart and tossed it on top of our bunks. They ransacked the totes we keep our few personal items in and have strewn the stuff all over the floor. They confiscated a few things, some old newspapers they found and some small empty potato chip bags we keep in case we want to store a sandwich. I feel like people who come home and find their house ransacked by a burglar. I‟m beginning to understand why my cell mates hate 12


Spittoon 2.1 Swykert, Felonies and Misdemeanors

the guards, hate everyone that has anything to do with them being here, staying here. “They like to fuck with us,” Phil says. "There probably never was a missing spoon." The shakedown goes on throughout the jail, cell by cell. I never hear if they find the missing spoon, or if there even was a missing spoon. It pisses me off, but I breathe a sigh of relief. *** Late last night they brought in a new prisoner. He‟s a big guy, lean and hard, and has a long, narrow beard like the Amish wear, maybe even longer. His hair is cut very short, military style, and he wears round wire rimmed glasses. He doesn't say anything, just picks up his breakfast at the door and goes back to his bunk to eat. Phil breaks the silence. “I‟m Phil, this is Derrick and Jack,” he says, pointing at me. “That‟s Jim over there on the bunk.” “John Deaton,” the big guy answers. “What are you in for?” Phil asks. Deaton must have been hungry, his cereal is already finished. "I was drunk, got busted for assault and battery. I was sentenced to ninety days. I was here for sixty and then they told me I could serve the last thirty up at the Phoenix House doing in-patient therapy and I would be released from there." “Why are you back here?” Phil asks. Deaton rolls his eyes and says, "I was at Phoenix for twenty-eight days and then they threw me out, said I was practicing Satanism." I guess I can disregard the idea he might be Amish. "You've only got two days left to do here and then you'll be released?" He shakes his head, gets up and puts his bowl on the ledge where the trustee picks it up and sits down at the table with us. "No, they said since I fucked up at the Phoenix House I've got to do the whole thirty over again. Hey, fuck 'em, I don't care what they do to me." All tough guys say that. But none of them mean it, not even the toughest. Only the mentals and psychos really mean it. I get the feeling Deaton isn't crazy, and that he isn't a bad guy at all. "Exactly what does practicing Satanism mean?" I ask.

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Spittoon 2.1 Swykert, Felonies and Misdemeanors

"I was just doodling. A counselor looks over my shoulder and says I‟m drawing pentagrams and they‟re the work of the devil and I'd better knock it off. I told him to fuck off--it‟s my paper and pencil." It sounds a bit weird, but like Alcoholics Anonymous, the Phoenix House is a Christian founded organization. I shake my head and say nothing. "The jail said I might be able to do the thirty up at the work camp. So I may only be here a day or two." I look at the tee shirt he‟s wearing. It says: “Help local search and rescue--get lost.” I read it and break out laughing. Deaton looks down at his tee shirt and smiles, “I work as a volunteer, Search and Rescue. We help law enforcement when someone goes missing--lost kids, campers, Alzheimer patients--stuff like that.” “Seems like you‟d have an in with the police?” “I know a few of them, but I‟m not a cop. I messed up a guy pretty bad. They couldn‟t just look the other way.” I was curious, but didn‟t want to be too nosy. But information truly does empower you; especially in a cell with five other guys you don‟t know who are unpredictable and don‟t always do the right thing. “He must have been really bad news.” “He wouldn‟t get out of my pickup so I dragged him out. I was on my way home from the bar. I‟d had plenty to drink and was roasting a fat one in my pickup, listening to some tunes and just cruising home. I see this guy hitching on the side of the road and pick him up. I drive for a while and then he asks me for some dope. I offer to sell him an eighth, but he says he has no money, just give him some or he‟ll kick my ass.” I look at Deaton. “Man, what an asshole.” “The fucking guy was stoned and I‟m drunk, and tired, and want to get home. I don‟t want trouble, but this dude really pisses me off. I just lose it. I stopped the truck right there on the highway and told him to get the fuck out. He tells me to go fuck myself and starts rummaging through my glove box. I walk around the truck and pull him out by his hair. As he‟s falling to the ground I nail him good a couple of times. I don‟t want him getting back up. While all this is going on a fucking county car comes by and busts me.” 14


Spittoon 2.1 Swykert, Felonies and Misdemeanors

“Is the other dude here at the jail?” Phil asks. “Maybe you can find out who he is and do some payback.” Deaton walks over and sits at the table with Phil, Derrick and me. “No, they didn‟t even fucking arrest him. He wasn‟t driving. The fucker wasn‟t even fighting. He threatens to kick my ass and he couldn‟t knock a sick whore off a bar stool. I end up being the only one charged with anything.” “I‟d find him when I got out and fuck him up good,” Phil says. Deaton shakes his head. “I already smacked him. That‟s enough. I just want out of here. And I don‟t want to be coming back.” I‟m with Deaton. I don‟t give a fuck about any of these guys, or listening to their bullshit, pounding their chests like chimpanzees. I just want out of here. I‟m getting very bored with jail. I need stimulation, I need to get back to cooking; making love, all the things in life that make me feel alive. You can waste your life, or you can do something with it. There are no other choices. I‟ve made some risky decisions with mine. I don‟t wish to grow old with regret over what I haven't tried. What‟s the difference if you try something and it kills you, or you die in your rocking chair wishing you had tried it? Either way you end up dead. “I‟m with you, man--all I want is out of here. This is all temporary. The only way it becomes permanent is we let it get to us and end up in here forever. That‟d be like non-existence, which is the only thing in life that‟s permanent,” kind of pops out of my mouth. Deaton smirks and says, “That‟s pretty cool. Yeah, everything is only temporary. If you don‟t like something just stick around, it‟ll change.” I nod my head. “True enough. Nobody else says anything. They just listen to me and Deaton talk. Jim never got off of his bunk, or took his eyes off of Sponge Bob on the TV.

15


Spittoon 2.1 Ryan, Glamour

Special Section:

Featuring Memoir by Sarah Paige Ryan & An Interview with the Author

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Spittoon 2.1 Ryan, Glamour

Glamour from Solar-Powered Sex Machine: A Memoir

Sarah Paige Ryan

Harriet and I were both bookworms. We read anything with hidden worlds, magical animals, or plucky heroines. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, The Dragonriders of Pern. These were the stories we whispered about in our sleeping bags at night, worlds where orphan girls and fearless women find love and recognition through their heroic deeds and artistic talents. But we were thirteen years old, too old to talk about fairies and dragons without blushing. When our moms sent us to Minnesota to spend a week with a bachelor aunt, we went looking for a new form of entertainment, and we found it in the back of a guest closet—a boxful of Glamour magazines from the eighties. When I opened Glamour, I inhaled the scent of sex, power, and submission for the first time. The working woman‟s power clothes—stirrup pants, giant belted sweaters, spiked heels, shoulder pads, and suits with miniskirts—barely disguised the sexual predator within, and the aerobic queens in their leg warmers, headbands, and ripped sweatshirts were in training for—what else could it be?—the bedroom. All those bare shoulders and pouting lips pulsed with the Flashdance tag line: “Take your passion and make it happen.” Glamour cast a spell on me. Harriet and I lay side by side on the unmade bed and put our honors reading skills to work, scouring the magazines for any mention of sex. I would grab a magazine from the box, flip through the dusty pages until a keyword—bedroom, candles, orgasm—leapt out at me, dog-ear the page and keep going. Once I had assessed how many articles in the issue referred to sex, I went back and read every one, and then exchanged copies with Harriet. Some of the magazines had been read in the bathtub, and their pages dried together in wavy clumps, but we peeled them apart slowly and patiently so we wouldn‟t miss anything. We didn‟t talk much. If an issue was good (and most of them were), we simply said, “You won‟t believe this.” We pretended to be disgusted, but we were mesmerized. I thought fantasies involved dragons and fairies, but in Glamour a fantasy was a series of questions: Do you want to be tied up? Do you want to be in control? Do you like carpenters or lawyers? Doctors or nurses? Good guys or bad? Would you do it on a desk? In a plane? Or a squad car? What do you dream about that you can‟t tell your boyfriend?

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Spittoon 2.1 Ryan, Glamour

By the time Harriet‟s aunt came home to make dinner, I was hot down there, and I didn‟t know what to do about it. We were mute at the dinner table. The next morning, as soon as the aunt left, we returned to the stockpile. In a sexual health column, I discovered a new word: masturbate. After describing her first “accidental orgasm” (thanks to waves and a beach toy), the writer gave explicit instructions on how to experiment. She recommended tensing the thighs and gyrating on one hand, so I tried it that night in the bathroom, holding my breath until I nearly passed out.

18


Spittoon 2.1

Interview with Sarah Paige Ryan Spittoon creative nonfiction editor, Berly Fields, had the pleasure of quizzing Sarah Paige Ryan, the badass, self-published author of Solar-Powered Sex Machine: A Memoir. For the full effect, Berly highly recommends that you visit view Sarah‟s “Funky Little Book Trailer” before reading the interview. Q. What advice do you have for someone who is interested in self-publishing a book? A. Assuming you‟ve already written the book, ask yourself in a haughty, disapproving tone why in the world in you‟d want to self-publish. If the answer is money or fame, laugh hysterically. But if you answer that you‟re interested in learning about publishing, or you‟re happy with connecting with any number of readers, no matter how small, or you‟re completely committed to seeing this book published and you‟ve exhausted all other options, than you‟re on the right track. Seek out as much information as you can about the process, and prepare to be completely overwhelmed by the number of options and choices. I found the blogs and newsletters of Jane Friedman, Brooke Warner, Seth Godin, and Joel Friedlander both inspiring and informative. Regional independent publishing associations like CIPA offer classes on everything from editing and design to marketing and distribution. There are so many steps to publishing a book you can be proud of that I recommend planning out your process very carefully, giving yourself at least a year to do it right, and developing a budget that lets you hire professionals when appropriate. Q. What has been the most interesting part about learning how to self-publish a book? A. As an aspiring novelist, I never wanted to create a platform or push myself out into the public, but this process has convinced me that the old dream of the author writing quietly in solitude is, for most of us, dead. A writer has to be willing to market herself, to engage with social networks, to build communities around writing and ideas. It‟s tough because a writer‟s first job is always the writing, but just like doctors and lawyers and builders have to do many things, so do writers. Marketing, publicity, self-promotion, networking—I‟m not good at any of these tasks, but I‟m learning about them and trying to get better. It‟s given me a lot of appreciation for what a traditional publishing house does (or doesn‟t do!) for an author, and it‟s made me feel very empowered and excited about continuing to indie publish. 19


Spittoon 2.1 Ryan, Interview

Q. What has been the trickiest part of publishing Solar-Powered Sex Machine? A. The biggest hurdle for a self-published book is distribution. Currently, SolarPowered Sex Machine is only available as an e-book even though I originally planned on publishing it as a paperback, too. The cost of a small print run is pretty reasonable, but then you have to figure out how to get those books into the hands of readers and into bookstores (and bookstores typically don‟t want to work with indie authors). POD is one way of avoiding a big investment in a print run and having boxes of books in your basement, but then you probably aren‟t investing in marketing the book. There are distributors who specialize in indie publishers, but the book has to meet their criteria regarding marketability, so that‟s another hurdle. I‟m still figuring out the next step for SPSM, but it looks like I‟m going to launch a Kickstarter project this summer to help print and sell a paperback. Q. Tell me about the name of your publishing company, "Honey Badger Books." A. Honey badgers are ornery, indestructible creatures that aren‟t intimidated by animals that are bigger, more powerful, or more venomous. Indie publishers have to be honey badgers. They can‟t give a damn about all the voices telling them it‟s too risky or it‟s a bad idea. Before I chose to self-publish, I had a New York agent and I talked to editors about the book. They said they loved it, but it wasn‟t marketable because I‟m not a celebrity and my story is not about abuse, addiction, or any other tale of woe. I accepted that judgment for a long time before I decided to challenge it. I believe there are women who want to read coming-of-age stories that are funny and relatable. I believe in my voice, and I believe in the voices of other writers who have something to say that does not fit the vision of mainstream publishing. Q. Your book is dedicated to your daughter, Wynona. Tell me, how old will she be when you let her read it? A. We read it every night before she goes to bed. Kidding. She can read it whenever she wants to. If she‟s like most kids, she won‟t want to know that much about her parents until she‟s all grown up, but I hope we can have a pretty open, accepting, and responsible conversation about sexuality and identity, with or without my memoir. Q. Where can readers go to read the rest of the ebook?

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Spittoon 2.1 Ryan, Interview

A. You can buy the ebook from Amazon.

21


Spittoon 2.1

Selections from The Book of Scab Danielle Pafunda

Dear Mom and Dad, I‟m just like a kitten, like a ballerina kitten, like a kitten ballerina swan queen, like a princess, like one of you, like my breath stinks, like I went to bed with a baba full of bourbon milk and Xanax, like I look like you no matter how many times I scratch up my face, like I got your face on my face. Like I‟m going to be as fat as you someday. As white as you, I‟m never going to get out of this sleek white luxury sedan with the trunk full of bodies and hoaxes. Like I‟m never ever ever ever going to get drunk again. Get laid. Get my legs open on the back seat of this car, it‟s idling, it‟s sprawled in the yard, there‟s a blue tarp leaking off it into the yard. The yard‟s frozen. There‟s trash of the worst kind, things that were once in the body, things that were once under the hood. Even though you‟re so fucking rich. I saw a kitten a couple yards away. I‟ll never have a kitten again. I won‟t hold something soft and deformed as a kitten. Or touch it. I tape up my hands before bed. I don‟t actually sleep, but I get in the bed and I lie perfectly still like an ape in ice Your Ugly Little, Scab

22


Spittoon 2.1 Pafunda, from The Book of Scab

Dear Mom and Dad, What has become of these exquisite boys? They have their arms slung round each other‟s necks, and are singing something from the worm radio. They‟re each over six feet tall. I feed one of them a bruised apple from the bottom of my bag and he claims it gives him an erotic convulsion. Another one rubs his hands up my thigh and begs me to be more A-list. There‟s a third one, swaddled. A fourth one with his spine sewn down. More. They‟re drinking beer with red food dye in it, and when they vomit, slick little disks of dye will spill out across the tile floor. They‟re eating every sack in the pantry and playing a video game about true love. They sleep on couches in each other‟s bedrooms and give each other a yum just to see and become morose when it‟s nothing new or wonderful. They pay me five dollars to lick a girlfriend‟s face, and five dollars more to steamroll her. One of them pays me five dollars to stop. We hike through the deadghostcorpsetown woods to the convenience store where I buy a candy bar and a wind-up plastic mouth from a vending machine. Like the mouth, I‟m a mouth on legs, and like the mouth I‟m chattering. I bandage my face, I wrap my shirt around my face, I dump out one of the boys‟ backpacks on the linoleum floor and jam my head deep inside, and the clerk asks to see proof. One of the boys cuffs me on the back until I comply. I‟m concave, just as you made me, all the skin and none of the substance. Between my ribs there are failings, and in my lungs there is a swollen crown of pollen spurs. It‟s the only thing natural about me. I cough, and my bad taste wheezes out. I cough and suddenly there‟s a tongue in my mouth not my own, a legion of tongues, a rotation of sour tongues. I mean, it‟s Saturday, it‟s the summer, everything ripe‟s fallen off trees and rotted already, all the dogs are drunk, all the boys blow smoke at the dogs, the kittens brain-damaged from falls, the vinyl tearing off the car seats stuck to thighs in the uncompromising heat, the radio shorting out and strung together with aluminum foil weeping all over itself, I‟m on the roof of the car now, swallowing, waiting for the show to start, plucking gravel out of my knees, Your Ugly Little, Scab

23


Spittoon 2.1 Pafunda, from The Book of Scab

Dear Mom and Dad, When they find my ant-laced ear in the field, stay out of the grid. The roar of heaven in my wind-swept ear, my ear partial to the ground, my ear that heard every last, but can‟t tell you a single thing. Stay back. Cast your noir shadow on the stairs as you climb, or shiver your pistol a toy of a thing uncanny in its potential. Make a work of sipping your coffee, make a work of straightening your hemline. When I‟m playing a decade under my age. When I‟m as close as heaven to the bare behind of my protector, when he‟s knocked backward, when he‟s tumbling over me I‟m an ill-placed dog, when he‟s dead at my feet, when the curtain collapses on us Your Ugly Little, Scab

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Spittoon 2.1

Rock and a Hard Place Lilian Oben

Story in their circles went that no one drove past those hills in their right minds. The car shell was all that showed of the last time someone tried to prove them fools: blood rust caked into old white paint, a funny sort of algae; needle grassweed reaching through the holes like arms through a sweater; tires missing, though one still held on, attached by a corroded nut, rubber part gashed by sharp claws; side mirrors and other beautification pieces gone, robbed in the night; gaping gut where engine once stood now disembowled and left to nest stray night creatures. How it came to be that lions took over those plainy hills no one knew, just that one day one rabid beast came stalking through, and the next seemed a pride appeared, yellowed sinewy masses canvassing the ground, dusty scrawny malnourished things, no visible relation to their storied cousins, forcing the town's inhabitants further and further afield, their abodes now nothing more than misery backyards for frequent violent deaths. Viewed from some angle, one could mistake the giant cats for large hyenas, they hardly resembled their regal species. Fluidy eyes swung back and forth, plowing the landscape for their next meal. Waist high on a man, the brittle weeds formed a desert plains curtain tall and thick enough to hide the beasts, rendering them invisible to passersby until too late. Took no time before all knew to avoid the place and soon most didnâ€&#x;t venture even remotely close, carried their business as far afield as they could, did not rise too early or linger too late, made sure doors were bolted, windows barred lest one of the lions wandered off their hills, found their way into their backyards. The few that had need to drove past at a scared curve, bending away from the hill where their neighboring predators roamed. One day, was said someone spied a lone woman staggering towards the plains, some say lost, others say drunk or some other mental affliction affecting her faculties. More than likely, just some late night woman, blinded by the light of day. By some saving grace, seemed she turned away from the rising hill path, took instead a wide circumference way, giving the lair a wide berth. And none too soon: many heard it later whispered that the particular day had seen hunger turn the lions mad, would have eaten one of their own had it come to that. The driver of the now shelled car had not been so lucky. A speedy brand new Japanese coupe in its heyday, the ferrous cave and its overgrown innards now sat askew on a bouldery ledge, grisly proof for those who doubted the truth of the 25


Spittoon 2.1 Oben, A Rock and a Hard Place

legend. Every now and then, a night creature scuttled out from under the rusty hood, its eyes red in the dark in search of food. Or, as was more often the case, a vulture swooped down from the sky and in one lightening stroke picked up a nestled young so fast, the mother creature could do nothing else but look upward, dazed, its warm body drawing closer to shield the remaining brood. So it went, the motor car and its cocky driver had raced up the hill one scorching weekday afternoon, slicing through the grassy path like a tiny rocket ship. Its fresh new metallic white coat caught the sun rays and threw them back up like a thumbed nose, sending beams of hot silver up and outward, blinding passersby. Music blared from the inside and, had anyone cared to look, what they would have seen was the driverâ€&#x;s race-car thin form; free of safety belt restraint, he moved in the car's bucket seats to the manic beat of his radio, eyes shielded from sun by dark sunglasses, thin, gold-ringed fingers tapping the wheel. It had been one of those heady Friday afternoons where a body could be forgiven for believing him or herself invincible, and the driver was no exception. Driving hard and fast, accelerating higher and higher into the uncharted unknown, the car stereo music lulling him miles away, his mind no doubt already saw deep into the weekend. Looking ahead to a place nowhere near the perilous terrain that threw up dust clouds around his spinning wheels, nor to the road that lay steadily narrowing, that driver saw and heard nothing. Meanwhile, his way rose plum into the crevice of danger hill, slopes and slants jutting forth on either side. Wasnâ€&#x;t until he plowed forth and the path turned sharply into a narrower dirt road and his front left wheel shimmied right off from a volcanic-sized pot hole that he noticed his sunlight blocked, a half a dozen yellow fire gazes piercing into his tint screens. Then the oil slick of his neck hair stood on end, froze the way down his spine. On the other side, seemed the same vehicle burst through the long bleached grass, an unexpected meteor bouncing a jolty gig down the rest of road, music blasting louder. At first glance, seemed all was right, driver with the windows down, same smug look on his face and a lopsided grin, jauntily carried away in his foreign automobile. Only on closer inspection did the fresh red flash wet and gleaming on the white body paint, streaking down in dark streams, and could be seen that wasnâ€&#x;t a smug look at all but a face clear gashed open, hundreds of shards of broken glass piercing the sheets of torn, red-slick skin like a weird sort of jewelry. Both eyes and other signs of facial features clear gone now, just flesh caverns; red plateaued top of his head where heavy canine jaws had clean bit through; skull and upper cranium starkly visible, a halved grapefruit; and suddenly the smug look made sense. Was 26


Spittoon 2.1 Oben, A Rock and a Hard Place

no smile at all, but a death grimace, the heart already stopped, body just waiting to catch up. Then the vehicle hit a rock, spun itself suddenly, the driver thrown forward bolt upright then slumped, letting lose the jug head of blood left to do nothing else but pour out and down. The beasts would come down for the rest of him soon enough, sure enough. The blood trail assured that fact, just as soon as they were through working on whatever part of their human meal it was that lay clenched in their hungry jaws. No mistaking it, those mountain lions had found themselves a home amongst the far-flung hill folk and it was up to the rest of them--the dwindling number of haphazard neighbors-- to figure out what meant the most to them: to stay and hold on to the homes and lives they had known all these years, or to make a move for someplace else. Seemed one hell of a rock and a hard place to be, yet harder still, for some.

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Spittoon 2.1

Lists Matthew Lykins

My wife and I went to see David Sedaris read in Dayton about two years back, and on the way out, we ran into Ms. Wilson, my elementary school guidance counselor. She still held the same job, it turned out, so I figured, even hoped, that after twentyfive-years of kids after me as well as the ten or fifteen before I went to Northmoor Elementary, she would have no clue as to who I even was. She'd probably remember Emily, I thought, whose parents taught in the same district and had just recently retired, but I wouldn't have to submit to the small talk. No such luck. “Matt Lykins! I can't believe it!” I had to introduce my wife. “When Matt was in fourth grade,” she told Emily, “he always carried a little notebook around to write all of the things he had to do that day. Isn't that the funniest thing?” Her tone was nostalgic, gentle, teasing—the kind of thing one hears from an aunt or older cousin at a family reunion (“...and when I turned around, there he was, holding a pile of his own shit! The things kids do...”). But did I detect? Why, yes I did—the telltale whisper of concern. The hope that whatever happened to be fucking me up in fourth grade was made shut of and done with. Em nudged me and giggled. I pulled the little Moleskin I always keep with me out of my jacket pocket. “Oh,” she said, “well I guess you‟re still really organized!” She looked for an escape, found it, and exited stage right, into the evening. A reasonable assumption: it's remarkably easy to impress your fourth grade guidance counselor. How hard it can it be? “Hey, I'm not a meth addict...anymore!” or “I'm only mildly interested in foot-fetish pornography!” or “I've never made two cats fight to the death in a steel-ply garbage bag!” Another reasonable assumption: there are only two or three things that bestow a deeper feeling of failure than that of disappointing your elementary school guidance counselor.

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Spittoon 2.1 Lykins, Lists

All of the above can be summarized as a slightly exaggerated but emotionally true way to introduce the fact that I make a shit-ton of lists1. When I was twenty-three, I spent three months in an Obsessive-Compulsive stupor. It wasn't the first time, but it was the first time my wife had a chance to see my craziness in all its glory. I'd spent a good deal of my early life in the same panicked daze, but my parents2 had never sought out the help of doctors or professionals. My wife had no such illusions. I'm sure she watched what I was and realized that, a year-and-a-half into our relationship, there was no fucking way she could spend her life with such a fucking nut job. Romantic love, unlike familial love to a great extent, has limits, as well as a clearly defined exit strategy, and those limits were what she ran into and used to get me right in the head. The less I write about my escapades in the world of OCD the better; it's a particularly grueling hobbyhorse for the reader or listener. I would watch my parents' eyes glazed over as I, in that particular state that only a fanatic or a teenager is unaware of3, rehashed every tick and quiver that might mean that I was an irredeemable human being. To unpack things quickly, as a thumbnail, I will say only that I went to my physician, was prescribed a particularly unpleasant and effective anti-anxiety medicine4, and went through two or three months of therapy that were completely worthless in that the only thing my young wife and I could afford at the time was an hour a week with a doctoral student at the local university. I remember that I was particularly unnerved when the PhD candidate mentioned that the sessions would be taped far classroom use, as teaching tools. I'm sure I'd signed off on it, but in 1 I should say now that I originally conceived of this essay as a list. It seemed cute. But I happen to be a teacher, and it seemed like the kind of thing that a teacher would do to impress the reader with his cuteness, so then it seemed glib. Then it seemed needlessly stupid, if not redundant. What is writing, in general, if not a list? 2 And I should say now that I don't blame them at all. Perhaps saying even that much looks disingenuous but it's the truth. They come from a time and a culture that distrusts psychiatrists and embraces prayer. They did everything they could, including spending a large portion of their free time listening to my increasingly unhinged fantasies. It's not like they didn't do anything. I have children now and I know a good part of your day is spent worrying about your kids and explaining and rationalizing away their eccentricities. You do what you can, and hope they turn out all right. I'm all right now, sort of. 3 I was both. 4 Heartburn, insomnia, excessive sweating, and the almost narcoleptic quality it endowed me with when mixed even slightly with alcohol (despite my doctor's reassurance that mixing the pills with booze would have no ill effects) was only the beginning. Quick tip: never tell an ObsessiveCompulsive that anything they are ingesting will lead to impotence. Even if one's chemical make-up makes such a thing impossible, it will lead to impotence.

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practice I felt violated. I kept trying to work my full name into the session in an attempt to null the tapes since they revealed my identity, but she finally told me that it didn't really matter. I quit shortly thereafter. Regardless, I've been relatively free of the kinds of crippling fugues OCD wrought on the early parts of my life. However, I see it every day, specifically in my maniacal need to record every task that needs to be completed for the day, and the equally dutiful line-item veto I exact as each task is crossed off. When I moved out of the apartment I lived in through my sophomore year of college, I flipped up the mattress and found over a hundred magazine inserts scribbled with everything from names of bands, movies, and books to grocery lists to financial information I needed to give the bursar to chores as complicated as lighting the pilot light on the water heater and as simple as taking out the garbage. When I finally went to sleep, I‟d look at what I‟d done that day and then slip the insert behind me, into the crack between the wall and the mattress. I see now that it was a kind of ritual, as clear in its implications as crossing an item off the list is, though I suspect that laziness had something to do with it as well. Everybody makes lists, of course; it‟s entirely possible that you‟ve made a list today, even probable. Judging from the local Super Wal-Mart, people are, for the most part, as obsessed with list making as I am. The stationery section is awash with all sorts of memo books, scratch pads, and Post-it notes, baring the visages of popular television or cartoon characters5, motivational quotes from everyone from the Dalai Lama to Homer Simpson, or the standard, generic pictures of flowers or groceries, accentuated by idiomatic and typographical variations on the words “To Do”. In addition, almost every popular magazine, at this point, is list-based or contains a list somewhere in its pages. Whether it‟s the “Most Fascinating People” or the yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily top ten of whatever the hell is important that year, month, week, or day, it‟s obvious that we, as humans, love to itemize and fetishize everything we can. Lists provoke conversation and argument, and introduce us to new things, seemingly without patronizing us. The thing is, they totally DO patronize, but by consigning each new thing a value in terms of their position on an arbitrary list, it gives us, the patronized, a chance to argue back and therefore feel as if we are contributing to the conversation. Critical works and journalism, stuff that actually investigate an event or piece of social/political/intellectual/cultural significance do much the same thing, but the depth they provide are, in many ways, anathema to our sensibilities. If one movie critic ranks The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, and Precious one, two and three on a list, we as a reader can fill in the blanks 5

For some reason, it seems that listmaking Ohioans are particularly taken with The Office and Winnie the Pooh, which seems both disturbing and entirely expected at the same time.

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with our own prejudices6; however, if that same critic writes a well-considered essay about how the strengths of The Hurt Locker—its tension, repetitive style, controlled but distinctively handheld camera work—mirror but do not transcend the dialectic treatment of inner-city life versus phantasmagorical (albeit naïve) of Precious‟s fantasies, and how both are indicative of our current social and cultural epoch7, we are forced to consider perspective and not just a point of view, which is harder, if only marginally. Long story short: lists prey on our prejudices but provide pathways to new experiences; commentary provides perspective but narrow one‟s focus. Both, it can be argued, simultaneously broaden our worldview but condense our experience. Consider the box score for a baseball game. I would contend that this is the most elegant and concise summary of an event ever conceived, and like all lists it provides a curt, digested summary of life lived, without all of the contradictions, emotions, and bits-n‟-bobs of humanity that make life worth living. Like all lists, it is the peruser that gives power to the information and brings to bare all they know. Lists don‟t tell us how to think, they tell us what to think, which is a big difference, and therefore give us as many questions as they do answers—not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, we probably just like lists because they‟re shorter and faster to get through. I enjoy reading lists every bit as much as I am compelled to make them, for and despite all of the reasons listed above. I was especially taken, as a child (and like most children it seems) with The Guinness Book of World Records, though I was less concerned with the grotesque, which is why I think many of my friends enjoyed looking at it, than with the chance to try and stump the book. I would imagine the most unreasonable record one could conceive of, then see if Guinness mentioned it. More often than not, they did not (who would admit that they masturbated more in one month or week or day or hour than anyone who ever lived? Who would be the poor schmo Guinness sent to confirm the report?). I see now that I was just trying to come up with a competing list. I was, in a very real way, attempting to define what the word “normal” meant in relation to my own proclivities8.

6

Very often, that prejudice is “Fuck you, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is better than all three!” I teach high school. 7 Admission: I don‟t know what any of that means; I just threw a lot of critical buzzwords at both movies. I haven‟t even seen Precious and I was drunk when I saw The Hurt Locker. Transformers was really fucking cool, though. 8 Not a whole hell of a lot, it seems.

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Another book I went back to, a lot, was The Book of Lists9, which I found on my mother‟s bookshelf (how‟s that for the power of genetics?). It was basically fetish porn, and perfect for the bathroom. My favorite lists included, but were not limited to: “Famous World Figures Who Reportedly Died During Sex”, “Most Popular Sexual Positions”, and “Most Desirable Women, by Decade.”10 I think I still have that book, actually, and could probably hold it by the covers, pages down, and see that those three particular lists are clearly delineated by a more discernible gap between the pages they appear on. They‟re the same spine-stressed apertures that exist between pages twenty-six and twenty-seven of every copy of The Godfather ever published, and for the same reasons. I used to make lists of the year‟s top movies, albums, books, and television shows, until I realized that no one else cared. It‟s basically the same epiphany every graduate student should have unless they are happy with being the least-liked person in the room: if everyone in the room is asleep except you, you‟re the one who made them so. Not to mention that the phrase “I‟ve made a list, do you want to see it?” hasn‟t worked since Moses, and even then I bet the Israelites weren‟t overly enthusiastic. A person‟s interest in a list is probably in direct proportion to the list maker‟s authority (or the publication that list maker happens to work for), so mine were interesting only to me. It didn‟t stop me from showing them to people though, and it took a while before I realized that the expressions people made upon hearing of my plan for a lively debate-style evening were not that of interest but placation. The same expression one wears when observing the futile attempts of friends to make their kid do some cute trick11. The same expression I saw from Ms. Wilson. Of course, Nick Hornby has covered much of the same self-involved, male, ineffectual, navel-gazing material in books like High Fidelity, so there‟s not a whole lot else to say about those kind of lists (we‟ll call them “lists-that-show-how-youwaste-your-life lists”) except to say that I don‟t make them anymore, because with three kids I don‟t have as much time to read, watch, or listen to anything like I used to12, and because I am doing my best to act like a normal human and not a pathetic, overweening hipster. The lists that I make now are almost exclusively about what I have to do that day, week, month, or year. They are boring, endless, and almost identical from one 9

Big fucking surprise. I imagine you‟ve sensed a theme. I was twelve. 11 Never in the history of mankind has a child performed correctly in this situation. I‟ve been on both sides—frustrated ringleader and bored audience member. 12 My wife would disagree vehemently with this statement. 10

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small notebook to another. I feel, in a very real way, that they define everything that is good and bad about me as a teacher, father, and husband. Here is a sample entry from Monday, August 30th: School: -Deliver TEA Contracts -Email Lane Library -Observe Shannon 3rd Period -PRIDE Meeting 3PM -Grade Home: Make Lunches, Straighten, Dishwasher, Exercise, Feed Cat Here is a sample entry from Thursday November 4th: -Make Copies -Grade -Observe Shannon -TEA Meeting Home: Exercise, Straighten, Dishwasher, Make Lunches, Trash A few things to point out here: first, Shannon is a student teacher and I‟m her supervisor. I am not watching her for the sake of watching her, which would be weird. That said, if I did engage in such pursuits, I would probably still have to write them down. Second, our cat ran away between August and November. It lives with neighbors now; oddly, we‟ve never approached the neighbors to retrieve our cat nor have they approached us to return it. I‟ve never heard of such a thing before, and yet I‟m not bothered in the least about the arrangement. Strange. Third, and what I really want to talk about, is this: notice that with the exception of “trash” I do the exact same things at home. I picked two random days. The stuff I do on those two days is the stuff I do every day. I still have to write it down. If I don‟t write it down, it does not exist, will not get done, and the zombies will win. I‟d argue that the items I do for school are, if I were ever to codify and graph them, very similar from week to week and year-to-year as well. Not surprising--we‟re all hamsters on the wheel, though why I still feel the need to jot down my very entrenched routine is a mystery perhaps only eclipsed by imagining that I will learn more about myself if I turn it into a spreadsheet. In a recent blog post for the New York Times, John Allen Paulos strives to find the difference between stories and statistics and understand the human need to have both.13 I have little to zero opinion on what he uncovered, mainly because it‟s not

13

I‟m sure I‟ve irredeemably misread Paulos.

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really applicable to this essay; however, he mentions a statistician‟s tool that I find interesting: A drily named distinction from formal statistics is relevant: we‟re said to commit a Type I error when we observe something that is not really there and a Type II error when we fail to observe something that is there. There is no way to always avoid both types, and we have different error thresholds in different endeavors, but the type of error people feel more comfortable may be telling (John Allen Paulos). The insight interests me not so much as a statistician but as an obsessive individual. I am terrified that I might “fail to observe something that is there.” I am a walking, talking Type II error, or at least I live in mortal fear of becoming one, and so I force myself to document, from the reams of data that are thrown into my path in a given day—life, not to put too fine a point in it—a system that lets me establish and understand the mean, mode, and standard deviation of everyday existence. When I am given instructions, whether in person, by phone, or on email, I must write down the task in the small notebook I carry with me. If I‟m at school I also put it on my computer calendar in case I‟m attacked by a bear and lose my small notebook. If for some reason I am without my small notebook14 I actually write a list of things to write a list about when I locate my small notebook. I am simultaneously the most and least effective person I know, I guess, and yet I rarely, if ever, forget to do things15. There have been times when I‟ve been asked to do a favor for a colleague—pick up dinner, cover a class, talk to an administrator—and I‟ve written down who, where, and when in my notebook. I‟d like to point out that this is exactly what we instruct our students to do to make them more organized. But when I do it, the colleague more often than not looks at me like I‟ve just told them I have the clap. “What, you need to write that down?” “It‟s not you, it‟s me,” is usually what I say back, but it is them. What they‟re implying is that I think so little of them that I need a written reminder in order to help them with something. I can see that, but in fact my need to write it down is just the opposite. I‟m writing it down because I care enough to not forget. I hate when people tell me they‟ll remember something. They won‟t. This is a supercilious 14 15

Which hardly ever happens unless I‟m in the shower. My wife would disagree vehemently with this statement.

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and superior attitude, I‟ll admit, but I‟ve been screwed too many times by too many people with too many tasks and not enough sense to organize them in the most basic organizational format ever conceived by animal, man, or god16. Caring means being there for them, and doing things for them. By extension, caring for yourself means being there for you, and doing things for yourself. You take care of your business, because your business touches upon, affects, and helps the business of others; you help with the business of others because there will be a time when you might need their help to take care of your own. Both are so obviously important that they seem silly to even write down. This is fundamental, golden-rule shit. And yet, and yet…I can‟t neglect to mention the corn of the entire issue: a list maker is by nature a fetishist, and a fetishist is only in it for himself. We, and I mean list-makers, have what seems to me to be a compunction or even talent or hell, just say it: obsession with compartmentalization. We analyze and reduce a task to its constituent parts. The plan is the payday. We‟re the same ones who are giddy during the strategy sessions in Iron Eagle but bored with the climax. We love to start a project, but we‟re pissed when we have to sweat balls to actually implement it. Conversely, we love to cross shit off. We love when it‟s done. The middle part, the actual doing-it part, sucks. However, the most important and most damaging part of a list-maker‟s life is that the act of writing down events takes all manner of import away from the event except the completion of the event. In other words, I reduce my relationships to a list of “shit-to-do.” It can get bad. This weekend, I plan on taking my kids to see a movie. I am not looking forward to spending time with them. I am looking forward to crossing the event off the list. My kids have, in effect, become “shit-to-do.” Cooking dinner is just “shit-to do.” Cuddling with my wife is “shit-to-do.” Thanksgiving is now “shit-to-do.” By reducing life to a series of events, I am refusing, in essence, to live a life. My wife insistently reasserts the need to take life as it comes, and I am frustrated by her concerns and criticism about how I live, mostly because she‟s right. I do everything I need to do to be a good person, except feel anything about it except 16

After re-reading the previous sentence it is obvious that I‟m kind of a prick about this, but seriously, how hard is it to write something down? Put it in your phone or Blackberry; write it on a cocktail napkin. Hell, write it on your cock, but take at least three seconds to note that what I need is even marginally important to you, even and especially if it‟s not. It‟s called recognizing the basic humanity of the creature standing next to you.

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relief at ticking off responsibilities as they come down the pike. I am, in essence, recording the seconds ticking away until I die. I can‟t stop though, because I have to know what will happen. There is the old joke: “Q: How do you make God laugh? A: Make a plan.” If that is indeed true, then He has been laughing his ass off at me for decades, and I can‟t stop writing lists long enough to care. As a child, my family took two two-week vacations. Like many families, we went to the beach, though rarely; it happened, but more often than not with grandparents in tow. Our extended, nuclear-family-style vacations were more like long museum tours. We took in most of the historic portions of the East Coast, for example, and on that particular trip my mother took it upon herself to plan out the entire itinerary in advance—what hotels when, what campsites, what landmarks, all put in a Filofax calendar. I imagine that it was a lot of work, but as far as I can remember the entire trip was an absolute joy. We had a goal, an itinerary, a time limit. It was bliss. Boston for two days, DC for three, Cooperstown for six hours— all written down, never deviated from. The next extended vacation we look was also to the East Coast, but south, rather than north. We would cut through Pennsylvania like we did before, but instead of heading up towards Maine, we would drive south to Savannah, taking in Civil War battlefields, Colonial Williamsburg, etc. My mother‟s main goal was to have a general direction, and follow it. We would stop when we wanted, go where the wind blew. It was a fucking disaster. We eventually found ourselves in a fleabag motel outside of Chesapeake Bay, my sisters and I screaming at each other and our parents, my parents screaming back at us. I‟m not sure there was any reason for the Cassavetes-like scenario except for the sheer exhaustion choice brought to our tidy, well-planned family. We were incapable of existing together, it turned out, longer than three hours with no set agenda, no common goal. We chucked the whole idea of freedom and went to the beach, where my Dad broke the bank and got us a suite. We watched the fireworks that evening over Chesapeake Bay, satisfied that we would be here for three days, that the chaos was over and order restored. We knew where we were and where we were going— nowhere. Hallelujah.

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Perhaps You Didn’t Realize Alexandra Kontes

If there was one thing Henry really disliked about his wife, it was the way she removed her glass eyes in public. On their first date, she had ordered her salad: Italian dressing, no tomatoes, heavy on the mushrooms. And when it arrived, she had looked up at him and said, "Watch this!" Then, using a slight pinching motion, she had popped out her right eyeball, and placed it in her salad. Sweat began pouring down Henry's face as she waved frantically and called, "Waiter, waiter!" Heads turned and conversation stopped. The waiter rushed over, and blanched when he saw an eye glaring up at him from its bed of iceberg and frisĂŠe. "Perhaps you didn't realize," she said to the bewildered boy as he apologized profusely, and took away the offending greens. She had laughed all the way home, and against his better judgment, he had asked her out for coffee, on the one condition that she not remove her eyeballs at anytime during their day together. But it was no use. She popped them out at the bank, the laundromat, the library. When she got tired of popping out her right eye, she popped out the left one instead. Those glass eyes were her crutch, her joke, her magic wand, and he could either accept it, or move on. And he accepted it, and married her, and learned to appreciate the reactions that the eye-removal elicited. Sometimes he even chuckled, and once or twice he'd been jealous, wishing that he too could pop out one or both of his eyes on a whim. But then one day, she left both of her eyes and her cane at home, when she hopped on the bus to go to work. Henry called her an hour later to say that he had found one of the eyes under the bed, and another mixed in with the dog chow. "Isn't that odd," she said, a little too happily, and hung up on him. At 7:00 that night, he came home from work, and didn't find her in the living room, listening to A Prairie Home Companion and singing along with the guest musicians. He called her name, and heard a slight scraping sound coming from upstairs. He opened the bedroom door and saw Erin standing naked on a step stool, clutching a fistful of magic markers. Streaks of orange, green, red and yellow covered the walls and the ceiling. He stared at her. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Look at the colors!" she exclaimed. "Red, green, yellow. I can see them, Henry!" And then she began to cry.

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Spittoon 2.1 Kontes, Perhaps You Didn’t Realize

The next day, she called in sick from work. She insisted that he leave her alone. When Henry came home that night, she was curled up in a ball on the bed. He brought her some tea. She did not drink it. On Thursday, when Henry woke up, his wife was not in bed beside him. He put on his slippers and headed downstairs. He heard a car starting outside and opened the door. Erin sat in the driver's seat of their Corvette with the top down and the windows open. She honked the horn, and yelled, "Yoo hoo! Henry, we're late!" Henry walked over to the car, opened the passenger's side door, and got in beside her. “It‟s time to put these in,” he said softly. He pulled the two glass eyes out of his shirt pocket. "I don't want to, Henry," she said. "Look how green the leaves are!" "Please, Sweetheart" he said. She slipped the eyes into their sockets. It didn't matter which one went where. "Now I can't see the colors, Henry." "But your eyes are a beautiful blue," he said.

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Stigmergy Tim Kahl

A worker places a fecal pellet at some particular spot. Its location, shape, and odor determine what should be done next: the verb needs no supervisor. The noun makes mechanical contact with the verb and recruits it in a tandem running. The noun and verb antennate. The noun will scout ahead and intuit its next place, and the verb will follow with my urging it into the world to become something that has really happened, a history like when you added to the wiki without any idea what you were going to say, just bang, bang, bang — a verbicide: PVC pipe frame, blue tarp, shopping cart, rope, sleeping bag, plastic chair, split logs, little yellow raincoat, cardboard floor, backpack, Labrador, coffee can pot, bike with Safeway bags, barrel fire, American flag on a branch in the wind. In a world running out of room for wild things, the tent city accumulates like a cold front, its abstract form is trapped in the freeze-frame of my gestalt. The lost action appears later on video, the one with the dead verb carried to the litter dump where they rest with the other defeated enemies of nouns, with the meconia, with the pile of predicate waste. I sync up my life to the rate of excavation. Undirected steps. The new tents go up, thrown into relation with the previous ones; thus, I verbigerate: the open source is a loose mess of impulse. The open source is a loose mess of impulse. The open source is a loose mess of impulse that a homeless worker can exploit. The verbs repeatedly chase after the nouns in their white tents where a place is held for someone who wears a little yellow raincoat. Right now, reader, you may be trapped by these piecemeal scraps of text, but what is greater insult is this text has been dropped by my unrelenting 39


Spittoon 2.1 Kahl, Stigmergy

anus. A worker may let it rest with you, dear reader, decide later to cement it to the maturing nest in the ever-thickening present — each anal drop adding shape to your brood chamber.

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( A Moment of Being ) Petur H. K.

On the day my grandfather died, I became my father‟s soul for a moment. I remember it like a child remembers next year‟s Christmas gifts, or like I remember love before it was a thing, or like I remember sand between my toes when I‟m standing on the bed. I remember it through a pane of glass, framed by the frontdoor. The memory is stuck, immutable. It is a picture, a mirage of a mirage stitched into my brain, a tableau of nothing but periphery. But alive, and in colour. Mostly green and brown. Coffeebeanbrown. * * * I was outside, playing on the huge rock in the backyard. I was a kid; I was a king. My father called at me from the door, the backdoor which was the front door, the only door, interrupted me on my mountain. He made me lose my imaginary crown. It went tumbling down the slope, landed in the tall, green grass. Sunk in the green. Back then we only had a manual mower. It was a monster. Fiery orange. A steel broom with a dragon‟s face and a crusher‟s teeth. Dad hated it. Mom never got near it. I both feared and admired it. But Dad always fought with it anyhow, wrestled it into every corner and every nook of our backyard — back when he was still Superman. He hadn‟t this summer, though. The crown was gone. I pretended to watch it, theatrically, from the apex of my domain, somehow peering through the green quagmire. Then I jumped off and darted inside, racing against myself. A still river of pebbles and moss ran between our backyard and the stairs up to our house. Den Grå Gletsjer. The Grey Glacier. I often tried to leap across it and onto the platform of the stairs in one leap. Over the years, those short years which feel more like a dream than dreams do, it had cost my mom and dad a lot of money in band-aids and hospital-trips.

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Spittoon 2.1 Petur H.K., (A Moment of Being)

I loved Hornblower as a kid. They said so much of his sweat and blood was in the wood that the ship and he were practically one, symbiotic. I liked to think that about me and those stairs. I didn‟t care they were made out of concrete. Leaping this time, though, I made it. It was a first. My father would probably have smiled. Maybe he did — I never noticed; I was too busy punching my fist into the air, challenging the sky, the world, God. Dad still stood in the doorway when my high cooled down. He wasn‟t smiling or had his arms above his head like me. But he was looking at the sky. Into it. Through it. After a while, he stepped halfway out onto the stairs and put his hand on my shoulder. I can still smell the dark-brown, the coffeebeanbrown hairs on his hand, the sweat and paint they‟d sucked over the years imbedded into the fibres, part of his DNA. But only a small part, a footnote. He was a painter, an artist incognito, and far too bright for it. Still is. He‟d painted our house — and basically all other houses on the Faroe Islands. Twice. * * * We didn‟t really have a front yard. We had a parking-lot, space enough for three medium-sized cars and a hundred toy ones, in front of our house. Our old house. It‟s still there, still all pebbles, still constantly ebbing out into nowhere, spilling over the road. The road‟s the same, too. New holes and new patches, but the same. He led me inside by the shoulder, through the front door into the hallway. It wasn‟t brown. It still isn‟t. But that‟s how I remember it: coffeebeanbrown. My mom was there, too. She muttered something about my woolly hat. She didn‟t know it was a crown, or that it had drowned in the marshes at the foot of my mountain. Dad said he‟d been on the phone. I remember noticing it in his hand, a wireless, white, even though we didn‟t have a wireless back then, even though it‟s never been white. And then it happened. My father‟s soul detached from his body for a moment, for a moment of a moment, hovered like a fourth dimension phantom against the stairway banister upstairs. And a piece of mine got sucked into it. Or sucked itself

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Spittoon 2.1 Petur H.K., (A Moment of Being)

into it. Like water into a sponge or wine into a napkin. Like the squares of a chessboard melting into each other, white into black, black into white. I heard my father tell me, and through the eyes of the phantom I see my father tell me, still, over and over. But I can‟t remember the words, can‟t visualize his lips moving. I‟ve tried. I‟ve tried. I‟ve tried so often that, ultimately, I manufactured my own words. * * * Farfar means grandfather. My father‟s father. Cut the word in half and you‟ve got „father‟. Looking back on that day, I‟ve often wondered what that would make me. If you cut the word in half again. * * * I remember how I responded — the mourning of a kid, a king. It was encompassed by a single word. “Okay.” And then I raced back out again. Our front door was brown. That‟s a fact. It‟s also still there. Same colour, too. That is where the phantom hovers, in an unseen doorway. But not that doorway, the brown one. Invisible, it leans up against the stairway that lead upstairs, on the opposite side of the hallway, looking out into the hallway and out through the front door and past the concrete stairs and over the Gletsjer and the tall grass marshes and up the mountain, and at me. Into me. Through me. My crown in my pant pocket, green, lucid straws dangling from it. * * * It took me a while to notice how the paint on the walls of all the houses seemed to fade after that day. How the houses on the other side of the fjord fell in with the road and the rocky, basaltic landscape behind them. How it all looked like our front yard, spilled over the world and the atmosphere, ebbing out into nothing nowhere. The phantom‟s still there, in the unseen doorway, stuck in time and place and colour, oblivious of everything but that moment. Even the front yard; the front yard‟s not a phantom — it‟s a fact. The while was a long while, actually. Really long. Sometimes I picture it as the opposite of the phantom. A motnahp. But that‟s never made any sense. Still doesn‟t.

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* * * A few summers ago, we painted the house again. But by then we‟d long since moved out and it had become my uncle‟s. We paint it for your lazy uncle, Dad had said. I wasn‟t; I doubt he was either. We painted it fiery yellow and green, like it used to be. Coffeebeangreen.

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Learning to Swim Michele N. Harmeling

When I say that my first kiss was with a river-rat boy in the off-limits coat closet of a one-room schoolhouse, I do not mean that the coat closet itself was forbidden; I do not mean that this boy skipped school every day to run his flat-bottomed skiff to the fishing grounds, no. What I mean is that this boy had the eyes of an eddy turbine-churned by the freeze and spectacle of glaciers. What I mean is that this boy had slicked-back black hair, so that as he bent his head to lay his mouth to my ear, we were both dense and salted-sea weightless, a girl being swum out into the surf on the smooth, oiled back of an otter.

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Ride Away Nels Hanson

Little of all we value here/ Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year/ Without feeling and looking queer— Hiram the murdered Widow’s Son wrapped in linen and laid in clean cypress. Christian Rosenkreuz intact a hundred years in the castle tomb that smelled of roses. MCMXXCIV—1984— read the medal on the dusty ribs of Nostradamus. Or Daniel Rhodes, asleep in his pasture mausoleum west of Lemoore. The light in one long shaft like a spear fell through the blasted door, striking the six-sided window of the coffin’s lid. Smiling, Baylor threw down the sledgehammer and approached the rescuer of the Donner Party— Something bright, scalding, hit my face and I opened my eyes. Sol Invictus! The sky was a gold maple leaf, darkly veined, translucent. A shadowed, gold cluster of grapes hung below it. I smelled the damp ground with its scent of fresh coffee. Had it rained and ruined the raisins? My right hand was clenched, full of dirt. My mouth was dry. A Cabalist could make a man out of dirt, recite the alphabet of the 221 Gates above the Golem‟s clay figure, over each different organ and limb, then mark the word “Emet,” “Truth,” on his forehead. To kill him, cross out the “E,” leave “Met,” “Death.” “Golem” meant “shapeless clod,” not “monster.” The Golem couldn‟t speak but only rang the bells and swept the stone floor of the synagogue. In the daytime, the rabbi Juda Loew ben Bezabel slipped a magic tablet under its tongue and the Golem awoke. 46


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The tablet drew energy from the stars and one sunset Bezabel forgot to remove it and the Golem went mad, knocking people down, flailing its arms and crashing into things as it ran wildly through the streets, until the rabbi caught up and took out the tablet and the Golem collapsed. All that was left was a little clay doll. “Delmus,” I said, that was my name. I could speak. If I wanted to, I could stand and walk to the house. Angles awake! But I was tired— Like Edgar Cayce, The Sleeping Prophet, I must have dozed off with a book under my head, “The Kabala For Beginners.” The Earth had been like a down pillow—had I dreamed of Naomi, Brawley‟s widow?—but now there was a U-shaped ache at the back of my neck, as if I rested on a rusty horseshoe. Ghostshoe. “This is my lost shoe, when I was the knight‟s horse—” said one Cathar to another, lifting the rusty iron from the pothole, in one of my dusty books in the barn. I was lying inside the dark, light-shafted tunnel of a vine row. Why? As a boy I‟d hidden here from my mother, pretending I was a miner underground. The hanging grapes were clustered emeralds. No, there were no vines then, here cows had plodded and grazed, brown horses run and lost their shoes. Antelope. The hungry bear came down from the mountains and ate the raisins, walking up one vine row and down another . . . . Before Kate was born, before I was married, Kyla and I lay on a blanket, the wind jostling the leaves of the young grape shoots as I held her under the grainy stars that blinked and changed to white birds. I closed my burning eyes and it was October, the harvest was over. We had got the raisins in before the rain— Walking the ridge along the Sierra foothills above Reedley and Dinuba I watched the tin roofs of the packing sheds shine in the sun and felt the golden foxtails that 47


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pricked like arrows at my calves, piercing my Levis and clinging to my wool socks just above my dead father‟s boot tops. I entered a grove of orange trees below Three Rivers, the yellow autumn light falling warmly on the shoulders of my flannel shirt. Now I heard the roar of the Kaweah cascading down its steep channel from the Big Trees. Sequoia. And a sound from a long time ago, stone hitting against stone. The orange trees shifted into oaks as an Indian maiden ground acorns into flour in the hollow of the granite bank. It was before the white men came and felled the oak forest that reached from Acacia to the Coast Range, raped the women, killed the men. Slaughtered all the game, the pronghorn antelope and Tule elk. The raven-haired girl in shell-beaded deerskin hesitated at a stellar jay‟s sudden cry, smiling up into a beam of morning light slanting against the jeweled rushing water. Her black hair shone. “Naomi?” “Make love to me, Delmus. For Brawley—” I heard birds singing, mourning doves. They were cooing, 40 years ago outside my second-story window in the Veterans Hospital in Fresno when my arm was burned from Brawley‟s bomber. Soon they‟d be jittery and spooked, dove season started next week. What was today? Were the pickers here? No, it was August, the harvest hadn‟t even started, I remembered, staring at the illuminated leaf. The Armenians picked the grape leaves to wrap spiced meat in. What was it called? I didn‟t know any more. Each spring the Armenian priests, in long black robes like dresses, strange hats and long beards, blessed the crop. Dolma. 48


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Cars were honking out on the road. It was Sunday! Earlier, I‟d heard church bells ringing in Lemas. I‟d thought it was a funeral. I‟d almost slept through my own party! Today was the day I would butcher the hog. Today everything would crowd too close and large, the knife longer than my father‟s two-man saw, the hog taller than the barn. I touched my face. I hadn‟t shaved. Where was my knife? Like Rip Van Winkle, my world very clear and interesting, like some wonderful movie, using my hands, ducking my head, ready to swing onto Ride Away and win the Raisin Day Race before Pearl Harbor, I was up, the empty bottle rolling from my chest. Too bad, I should‟ve saved it for the party. I was striding down the vine row, through the ankle-deep cultivated Earth, cutting a wake in the ocean of green vines, the leafy waves head-high, big as trees—it was true, there were walnut saplings sprouted from nuts dropped by crows flying from Mrs. Watkins‟ grove, and Johnson grass, got to get after it! Now I was out of the vineyard—row 43, which added up to 7, the number on the yellow Zero‟s tail over Nagoya, the one that killed poor Brawley and left Naomi a widow. I crossed the wet lawn, past the elm where the owl lived, and the house, a shiny cord dangling from the upstairs window—last night Dolly, Kyla‟s long-lost mother, lowered the bottle of Wild Turkey on the cord, after I heard the night hunters shooting rabbits with a machine gun and I tripped, the Early Times floating from my hand . . . . I was entering the catalpa‟s flowering shade past the grinder—where was my father‟s knife I‟d sharpened on my grandfather‟s sandstone wheel?—then again the barnyard‟s sparkling, complicated sand. In a speckled burst, a dozen white pigeons rushed from the loft at the sharp report of a car door slamming. Traffic jam!

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All honking, arms waving, whistling, men driving pickups and cars, even a tractor, rolled up the drive. Here came Briggs with the empty raisin bins for the harvest, at last. I stood against the barn‟s peeling wall, like a man in front of a firing squad. Last smoke. I didn‟t wave or return the shouts of my arriving friends. I was silent, counting to myself, backward from ten. Bombs away! With quick sure strides I marched to the center of the barnyard, into the storm. First a parking attendant at a high school football game—both arms out, hands holding flashlights, turning like wheels, here, next to the peach tree! Then a cop, my outstretched hand palm up, stationary, only four fingers moving back and forth, in unison, just so. A toreador, a sword hidden in my cape, a shiny grill close, like horns, over there, if you please. Now, taking long smooth sidesteps, eyes almost shut, I was Fred Astaire embracing Ginger Rogers. Dana Andrews in “A Walk in the Sun,” motioning my platoon to charge the milkhouse—“Nobody dies!” Knees bent, one hand behind my head, I was Betty Grable, my picture nailed to a pole in the barn. A boxer, peek-a-boo style, Floyd Patterson feinting, now I reeled from Ingmar Johansson‟s knockout punch in the corner, next to the ‟72 Mercury. Then with earmuffs, windblown, I jerked flags on a carrier‟s deck. One here, one there, head unturning, straight ahead, a good soldier. “Hey!” “Delmus!” “Round ‟em up, roll ‟em out, Rawhide!”

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On a horse, giving the signal to head for Abilene. Rowdy Yates, the ramrod, played by Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry the renegade cop who aimed the cocked .44 Magnum with the ten-inch barrel—“ „Make my day,‟ as my pal Ronnie Reagan likes to quote me.” I directed the cars into tightly packed lines. All engines off. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Exhausted, I leaned against a blue fender. “Man, that was wonderful, Delmus, that was really good!” It was Will Otis. He got out of his car, stooping for his fallen hat. Oops. “I‟ve got to have a drink on that.” “Me too,” said Earl Green, running up, “that was great!” “Try this,” said Bud Walters, in slacks and white shirt, home from church. “I‟ve got more in the trunk.” Wine in the cellar, my father used to say to Endicott Lowell during Prohibition, when Endicott came to take the old horses to the glue factory in Merced. “Got insurance? “Naw, goin‟ naked.” “Elmer!” “Jack!” “Broke as a wheel.” “Flat as a tire.” “Tired as a whore.” “It‟s murder!” “A hundred dollars a ton?” “Hog feed.”

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“Cow feed, raisins make the milk sweet.” “Goddamn rain!” “Just like gambling.” “Better go to Reno.” “Sin Capital of the World.” “Did it rain last night?” I asked. “Edgar!” “Willie!” “Son of a gun!” Gresham, Lancaster, Boyle— No, they weren‟t here, they were dead, 40 years ago, all burned up when the Beau Geste exploded over Nagoya. The three went back, the way they were before, Murphy, Green, Silva. Three Stooges. How many men had I invited? It was like a baseball team, Tinkers-to-Evers-toChance. They were all around me, talking, gesturing, elbows lifted, hands scratching. Smoking, picking noses, laughing, eating an apple, hats on, hats off, shaking hands, pounding backs. “Who‟s the cowboy?” Now someone was running, waving a rope. “Can‟t catch the hog that way.” “Not without a horse.” Before the beer and salad and cake were brought out, put on the table in the barn, before— “Suzuki!” 52


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“No wonder they lost the war.” “I was in the 442nd, the Purple Heart Battalion,” Suzuki said, he wasn‟t the one with the lariat. “Where the hell were you?” It was fun, most of it was. I looked up, trying to gauge the time. It was afternoon— no, that was east. I lifted my wrist, forgetting I never wore a watch. But someone grabbed my bad arm, holding it up. “Champ! Delmus is the champ!” It was Markezian, smoking a cigar. I shook him off. Who‟d invited him? I didn‟t like anybody touching me there, except Kyla. The Evangeline, Brawley‟s plane, blew up when I missed the Zero and the hot engine part broke and branded my arm: 5789662301. But there was another man once, a stranger passing through Lemas, he‟d had a heart attack. At the hospital Kyla lifted his hand to put in the I.V. and saw the numbers in green ink tattooed on his wrist. Mr. Rosenbloom. “Bus kidnap yesterday.” “Son of a bitch.” Already we were running late. It was four o‟clock. We had to hurry, we couldn‟t waste time. —No, it was early. And look at them! Before the beer and salad and cake—now Bill Woody and Bud, Bud‟s arm was in a sling, came running from the house, their arms full, Bud stopping to drink a beer and nearly losing the cake! But before the frame for the winch was rigged—but now Briggs was barking orders like a captain in the Sea Bees, six men had the A‟s halfway up. The hog was still alive. No gunsmoke. The men stood in a circle, passing a bottle. The first, second? Where was Will? They shook their heads, laughing, urging me to direct traffic again. 53


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How had I done it? The barnyard looked like a used car lot. The chrome was too bright. I blinked. Hickham Field. Nagoya. I shook my head, staring down at the dirt that wouldn‟t stand still. I felt things were tilted, sliding down a funnel. “We got work to do.” But I glanced up, catching Bill Woody‟s eye. I let my head begin to sway, pulled by a slender strain of music only I could hear. Madame Butterfly. Any second I might sing like an opera star, or back-pedal, then turn, for a long fly ball, like Dimagg. Marilyn. Or sing “Mona Lisa” like Nat King Cole. I‟d pitch a no-hitter, strike them all out with fastballs, high and hard, no curves. “Rommel, count your men!” Then dance alone again, like Zorba— “Do it!” “Encore!” “He looks like Jack Lemmon.” “I got a rifle,” Bill Woody said. “Is it okay if I do the shooting, Delmus?” John Wayne in “The Searchers” shot the dead Comanche brave in the eyes, so he‟d wander blind forever through the Spirit World, after the mad bull ran across the prairie with the ravished girl‟s dress on its horns— Yesterday Mrs. Watkins‟ Dobermans had Kate‟s dress. “Now I can‟t use the clothesline,” Kyla said as she stood beside the grinder and I sharpened the knife. “The bulls are out, Endicott!” my dad shouted as the Brahmas with chili powder under their tails charged Endicott Lowell, the black rodeo clown in the Clovis arena . . . I blinked, coughing, then straightened the brim of my ten-gallon sweat-stained wrangler‟s Stetson bought for a dollar at trail‟s end a year ago August in Wichita: “Sho‟ Billie, if yu thank yu cud hit‟em.”

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Somebody slapped me on the back, hard, stuck the bottle in my face. Johnny Walker. Like Scotch from the Officers‟ Club on Tinian, the night before the raid on Nagoya . . . They were laughing, even Bill Woody, who pretended he had a limp as he struggled toward his car. “Hey, Chester!” someone yelled. “Mr. Dillon, Mr. Dillon!” Woody called back over his shoulder, waving his arms helplessly down the main street of Dodge as he hurried to the Long Branch to tell the Marshal, Kitty and the Doc . . . . “„Gunsmoke,‟” someone said. Then Woody was back, holding up the short rifle. A carbine. Its silver bolt and trigger gleamed for a second like Oswald‟s Italian gun. “Let me see that thing,” Lang said. “I got to test it first. Give me a shell.” “It‟s loaded,” Woody said. Lang put the rifle to his shoulder, without aiming he fired, shot a coffee can off a vineyard end post, the echo of the shot crashing. Kate‟s horse neighed. “Hey, be careful there,” I said. “You‟ll hit one of the pickers.” “Seems good to me. Earl better try.” “No, don‟t give it to him—” “Yeah, give it here! These things are tricky.” Earl stumbled, falling into Lang. “Shoot! Shoot!” “Shut up!” “Earl?” Very carefully, taking his time, Earl shot the barn. 55


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“Missed the pig.” “Give it here.” “No, Red‟s first.” The bottle and the rifle raced around the circle. Shots rang, like cannon gun fire from a Zero. “Careful, you almost hit Briggs—” “Shit, he‟s wearing armor. Look at his belly. We ought to butcher him!” The bulls are out, Endicott! The phone rang, between shots, from the house. “The horse, watch the horse!” “I can shoot the hog from here.” The phone rang. Everyone had fired, everything was shot—the barn, the cloud, the walnut tree, the trash can by the peach tree, everything except the hog and the horse and the house, and the old dinner bell in the Hollywood plum. Now Aaron Winters was here, wearing the wide straw hat! He couldn‟t drive, I hadn‟t seen him for a year, he‟d grown thinner, his face looked pale. Never the same after Larry Jones‟ death, all the old water diviners dying out— No, I saw him yesterday. Oil lease. Was I supposed to pick him up? “Let Aaron try.” “Turn around, Delmus.” I turned, Aaron rested the rifle barrel on my shoulder. Bang!

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My bad ear rang. The rusted weathervane spun past all points, twirling on its pole, off, skating halfway down the barn‟s rusted tin roof. “Delmus?” “Wife‟s calling.” Kyla stood at the porch door. Kate ran away. Mother‟s dead. Aaron can‟t come, heart attack. No, Aaron was here, I gripped Aaron‟s thin shoulder. “It‟s Baylor!” Kyla called. “Screw him!” I yelled, turning back to my friends. They were giggling. “Give it here,” I said, “let me shoot.” But it was quiet. I waited, looked from face to face. Earl looked away, Bud too. They were embarrassed, sad. Something was wrong. “Delmus?” I looked back at the house. Kyla was still there, on the porch steps. “Baylor‟s coming over.” We‟re coming over, and we won‟t be back, till it‟s over over there. Blackjack Pershing. Pine Tree Division. Private First Class Endicott Lowell. I waved across the lot of parked cars. “I‟ll handle it.” Baylor said Kyla‟s mother— Dolly—used to be a prostitute, he was going to write a story for the paper— Kyla went back into the house. “What time is it?” I asked. “No more shooting.” “No, put the gun away.” 57


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“Woody? Goddamn you!” “Earl started it—” An engine roared, like an airplane‟s. A white pickup backed out. “Who‟s that?” I asked. “Suzuki‟s leaving.” “You hurt his feelings.” “He‟ll be right back. Water‟s running.” It was late, I was right. The sun was almost straight up. Lunchtime. Someone ate an egg. Under my heel a beer can crunched as I shifted my weight. But it wasn‟t late, was it? Daylight Savings. “What time is it?” I asked again. “Ten.” “It‟s early,” Lang said. “Did it sprinkle last night?” “No, heavy dew.” The crowd seemed suddenly smaller, people were missing. Who? Polar explorers kept counting each other before they went snow-blind, sure there was always one more but when they turned he was gone. I wanted things to continue, not the shooting, that was all through, it was done. But whatever we did next could be just as wild and funny, like we were kids again, we could be anybody we wanted. “Of all the words of tongue or pen,/ None is sadder than „what might have been,‟” said Vin Skully, the announcer who did the Dodger games. “I guess we better get the hog,” said Earl, who had shot the barn. He wiped his red face with a blue bandanna.

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“Yeah, let‟s get ‟er,” said Bill Woody. He had his gun back. “Before these guys shoot all my shells.” “Sure, Woody, you better count ‟em all out. How many did you bring?” “Here, let me pay you. How much a shell? Cash, or will you take a check? Son of a bitch.” But Woody wasn‟t mad, he was smiling. Now he asked, I knew a split second before Woody said it: “Delmus, could I have the antlers?” “Woody!” “Crazy!” I felt a spike of joy run up my spine like lightning striking a vineyard post and racing down the wire, splitting each grape stump instantly in half. I laughed, yelling with everyone else, as I laughed listening to the laughter. It was almost as good as before. I clapped Bill Woody on the back, gave his neck a squeeze, as we started toward the pen. Aaron was behind us. “You‟re like your dad,” Aaron was saying in the worn familiar voice like smooth saddle leather I had heard all of my life. “You remind me of Walt. One Christmas he rode up and down the road with a jug of raisin whiskey, flagging down cars and wagons, making each one stop and take a drink before he‟d let them pass.” I could see it, the horse rearing as he held the liquor high. How angry my mother Florence had been! But now I recalled something else, something sad. I could see it too, more clearly than I heard my mother yelling, “Walter Orion Rhodes!” I waited for Aaron to come up beside me, to the fence where the hog stood eagerly, oblivious of its fate. “Remember the sorrel mare? The carful of Baptists?”

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Aaron nodded. “Ride Away.” The yellow finish tape, the silver loving cup of roses. “They were going 70 when they hit her. A big Packard. Dad had whistled to her, she‟d started running from way out in the pasture, from behind Raymond‟s house. They kept going. After church they showed up and offered to pay fifty dollars. The fender was smashed, blood all over the front of the car.” “It was awful,” Aaron said. A man on a horse stopped traffic to give free drinks at Christmas during Prohibition, on Sunday a speeding car of Christians ran down a horse named Ride Away and rushed on to church not to miss communion— I rested my hand on the top slat of the fence. The pen‟s planks made sideways prison bars. Out of Kate‟s children‟s book the hog needed Charlotte the Spider to weave the words “Some Pig” in her web. I didn‟t want to kill the pig with the wide black and white stripes. I didn‟t want to kill anything, ever again. Or drink. I wanted to talk to Aaron about finding oil, when everyone had left. “Good lookin‟ hog.” “She‟s a beauty.” “Bacon and eggs.” “Pork chops.” “You can‟t eat it, Khan.” “I‟m a Sikh, Markezian, not a goddamn Hindu.” The pig looked up hopefully, its head thrown back, black eyes glancing quickly from side to side with the rising and falling talk. It was happy, expectant, with alert pointed ears and standing bristles on its muzzle. All the men were here, their hands holding food. Earl Green threw some beer on its dirty pink nose, it lapped the foam with its big tongue. Will dropped a boiled egg in the dirt, then a pink watermelon rind.

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“Eat up,” said Will. “Damn, they‟re nasty things, aren‟t they?” Markezian said. “Here, try this.” He held out his cigar, hot ash forward. “No,” I said. The pig sniffed and then licked it, pulled back with a little sneeze, shaking its heavy head in a shiver. Its eyes opened wider, red. “Cut it out, Markezian,” I said. “I mean it.” I‟d beat his ass. “No harm done, just playing,” Markezian lifted his empty hands. “Jesus.” Now the pig ate an apple core. It was excited, all the white fingers full of cake and eggs. It raised its head, its flat nose curling back and forth, waiting. And what will become of him, Nostradamus? A wolf will eat him. There was no way out. The pig was doomed. This was the last pig I was ever going to buy. I wasn‟t going to eat meat anymore. No more parties. Straight and narrow. I read too much. “It‟ll go 900, 1,000.” “More than that, Red.” “Wanna bet?” “Damned right.” “Someone hold the money.” “Scale?” “Right here, brought it with me.” “I beat you last year.” Woody slipped in a new shell, with a quick flick of his wrist closed the bolt. “Knife,” I said.

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“I‟ve got it,” said Bud. “Found it in the barn when I took in the food. Why all the books? Careful, it‟s sharp. I nearly cut myself.” Woody aimed over the fence. “Wait,” I said, “let us get in.” I put my boot on the fence‟s middle slat. “Get in there, Earl.” “You too, Bud.” “No, he‟s all dressed up.” “Going to a dance?” “He‟s got a broken arm.” “Briggs?” “No, I set up the derrick.” Aaron started to climb the fence. “No, Aaron, Lang‟ll help. Get in here, Lang,” I said. “Will?” “He‟s off taking a leak.” “Yeah, water‟s running.” “Earl?” “Sure thing, Delmus.” I stood to the side with the bucket and knife. Lang and Earl, Earl was drunk, he‟d come drunk, stood just the other side, ready to grab the pig. “Give Earl the bucket.” I handed it to him, over the pig‟s back. The pig was still chewing a long bunch of juicy grapes, its nose up by the fence. “Okay, Bill,” I said.

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Woody aimed over the fence, the pig losing yellow grapes as it tried to lick the end of the gun. Shoot it in the air, Endicott said, never shoot a gun level with the ground. On the picnic blanket he handed me his black powder Colt revolver, before the second show when the mad bulls came running. “Put your nose down, damn you—someone give it something to eat,” Woody said. “I want to shoot it in the forehead, right between the eyes. Isn‟t that right, Delmus?” “Yeah,” I said, “that‟s right.” Jesus learned to bring the kundalini—the Snake— from the loins up through the different chakras to the heart and the head, to the Eighth Chakra, The Third Eye, the History Channel said. “Get it over with.” I braced myself for the blast, for the pig to stagger. I‟d slit its throat. Baylor was too late, he wouldn‟t be here to see it, only the body. Every year Baylor got the heart. I gripped the sharpened knife. But Woody didn‟t fire. Someone was yelling. I looked up. “Horse! Road! Silva‟s man!” Kate‟s horse was out, with white socks and blaze rearing now among the parked cars. The men had stopped, turned from the pig. They began to run. “Delmus,” Aaron said. “Better get your lasso.” I dropped the knife, took a step and in Walter Rhodes‟ Justin boots vaulted the fence, running to the barn to grab the old circle of rope to save Ride Away—

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Special Section: Featuring Art by Justin Fields

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IMPORTANT PERSON Mixed media on canvas. Approx. 35” x 50”. 65


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CHIMP, TUSSLE (14, 21) Mixed media on paper. Approx. 34” x 60”. 66


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CHIMP, SAW (14, 3) Mixed media on canvas. Approx. 48” x 60”. 67


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CHILDREN PLAYING SOCCER Mixed media on paper. Approx. 40” x 24”. 68


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SELF-PORTRAIT RIDING BICYCLE #2 Mixed media on paper. Approx. 55” x 30”. 69


Spittoon 2.1

Fillings Jessica Guzman

I lost a tooth when I was six years old. I prodded it with my tongue all day at school, steady like a rower. To and fro. Chewing was only plausible on the opposite side of the mouth. Juice was allowed in raindrops, to moisten and cool, but never to disrupt the traffic of my tongue as I planned the toothâ€&#x;s arrival. One half dropped down, making a hole I could feel with my fingertips, and I spun the tooth with my thumb and middle finger like a screw. It popped out looking like a chip off of a holiday mint. I pushed it under my pillow, forgetting the envelope I was told to always put them in. The next morning, I pulled out a quarter from the toothâ€&#x;s resting place. I stared at it until I memorized every yellow smudge and green line of dirt. My tongue grazed the empty space in my mouth as I told my mother what the toothfairy brought me. Bring it when we go to the laundromat, she said. Can I put it in the washer? I said. No, you can put my quarters in the washers. But you can put your quarter in the new game they set up, she said. Take your hands out of your mouth and get your brother. The laundromat smelled like linen and floor wax, soft breezes from the open doors occasionally cracking the damp air. In the far-left corner I saw Pac-Man. The plastic on the front and sides of the arcade machine had faded to a soft black, but the metal plates and posters showing the protagonist chomping up cherries were bright. The yellow glowed like a beacon. My tongue rubbed against my gums, amoebic, the tip filling the hole in my top row of teeth. I tried to flatten the hanging flaps that had replaced my tooth. Mi hija, leave that spot alone. I drew the quarter out of my pocket and approached the machine like it was the sun. I slipped the coin into the slot. The ghosts caught me quickly at first, but by my last life I had learned when to run. As my right fingers directed the joystick, my left crawled slowly behind my lips. They studied the void like a blind man reading braille. My forefinger counted the ridges on the top of my mouth. My thumb and

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middle finger pulled gently on the hanging flaps of gum. When I looked clearly at the game, I had lost my last life to the blue ghost, Inky. My brother, four years older than me, laughed. If you promise not to suck, I‟ll let you have one of my quarters, he said. ***

Nice accident: I lost six pounds in the last two months. I don‟t always cry when I lose things. *** It is always four in the morning when I notice your fingernails perfectly aligned with the bathroom light, conveniently elegant. Some nights their tips are more gray than white, more clear than the bulb that begs them to shine. But they are always as naked as stars. I wonder if they choose to be a uniform length and size, if they grow in studied increments. Maybe I see little difference between them because I am not watching with astronomer‟s eyes. I am not noticing the constellations they form on my right thigh, the way they shape themselves like bows and lightning bolts ready to strike. I don‟t measure their ridges like the surfaces of meteors. I don‟t check their cuticles for life. Before I rise to turn the bathroom light off, your body twitches, hand jerking to the side—fingernails ceasing to shine the way stars disappear in the sky. I wonder how long I‟ve been staring at lost stars. *** I lost my virginity to my high school sweetheart. My co-worker, a women‟s rights marcher from the sixties, told me was sex was like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” when you found the right man. It takes time to recognize kaleidoscope eyes. Hot is needed to recognize cold. *** I knew I had lost him when he called me that November night from jail, having violated probation for a second time. His voice sounded like tracing paper. He could have been scared or high, and I‟m angry that all I had to go on is a recording of his name. My cell phone doesn‟t allow me to accept the call.

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When people say they didn‟t know their brother/uncle/mother had a problem, I am confused. I have known my brother is a drug addict for years. I tossed used syringes from his bedroom in the trash. I flushed pills down the toilet. Checking into recovery was not an option he would consider, and it was easier to raid his closet. People go to jail if they break the law. I‟m thankful for the legal system, although it‟s not always just. Some nights I‟m happy to think of him sitting in a cell, completely sober. I daydream of the release, his body over the urges. I imagine his mind as a crow, flying over the streets of his misdeeds in apprehension, never landing in the fields where it has been shot. *** Your sweat smells like ice melting at the foot of the San Juan mountains, remnants of an avalanche. It is the crisp Colorado air. It pervades my nose the way peppermint gum invades my purse after long walks in the summer sun. I catch the glacial scent on my chest and shoulders, aware of the light reflecting off your skin like droplets of snow melting in the spring. You say the cold is not unforgiving, and I remember stirring mint chocolate chip ice cream into soup as a child, testing the temperature with the back of my spoon. My nose was fascinated by the receding cold. The smell burst as the ice cream rained into the bowl, syncretizing with the July air. I snuck into the refrigerator twice for extra helpings. In forty-five minutes I was vomiting green swirls. Two hours later, I was sneaking more ice cream. Sweet teeth disappear. Sometime between my mother dropping me off at the mall and lying sweat-drenched on your couch in February, I lost the urge to eat snow, to feel the cold filter through each nostril like a ghost. After dinner I reach for rum or espresso, while you stand in front of the freezer debating between chocolate chunk and banana split. *** I fancy moments of loss as exchanges. Three times a year I choose a different compartment in my home to reevaluate, usually the closet. I pull out every pair of shoes and pants I own and line them up like soldiers in my living room, drafted. Jeans that cannot be buttoned are tossed into the trash. I replace their spot in the closet with a pair from the dresser that has proved worthy. I replace the spot in the dresser with a book that won‟t fit in the bookshelf, leaving no empty spaces. Many losses we incur cannot be helped. When we gain too much weight, we lose our old clothes whether we keep them or not. Exchanges fill the void. As baby teeth fall 72


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out, adult teeth move in. We ignore the fact that we lost a part of ourselves when it‟s replaced. *** You sit in front of the computer playing fighting games, one leg dangling over the side of the armchair. What would I place in that armchair if I lost you? A blanket woven from the fur of alpacas. The stuffed Inky I won at the fair. Another man, a blond, so he wouldn‟t remind me of you. Would it be enough? Maybe you‟re already gone, like starlight, and all that I see is a phantom of the legacy of your brightness shooting through my living room. *** On drunken nights, when I‟ve burned a pack of cigarettes, I picture Pac-Man as a beacon of our hearts rambunctious beating. *** The suppressive league of palm trees painted outside my window like a tourist attraction reminded me that every day there was brown or green. People dream of living where they vacation. I thought of my uncle‟s two-story house on Long Island, the beach-water frigid, snow frosting the roof, autumn leaves littering the pavement like spilled watercolors. My mother would talk about the city while she made dinner, about living in the Bronx and working in Queens. The city fostered her and my grandparents when they came to this country. It was nothing like Port Charlotte, where the people and streets bothered you like ingrown hairs. My mother loved the seasons. Her island blood evaporated, turning her into a Cuban that hated the heat. She prayed every Christmas for the snow that couldn‟t travel so far south (But they say it did once, in ’66). She collected twigs from the backyard and built fake fireplaces in the living room, sure that in a few years she would be stoking a real fireplace in a big house up north. Sometimes she would bring home a set of dishes or a pretty vase she found on sale, wrapping them up in a bigger box and storing them in the garage for the “new house”. She was always looking for a way out of that town, a way out of the paycheck-to-paycheck existence. She graduated from high school when she was sixteen and won a scholarship to NYU. My grandmother refused to sign the paperwork. I promised my mother when I was twelve that I would go to college and earn the degree she had lost. I would live in a two-story house and never be late on the payments.

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I was excited about decorating. I wanted my own room to paint purple and gold like Mardi Gras. A beige grocery bag rested under my bed, filled with beads I had begged my mother to buy me at the flea market when I was seven. I collected green thumbtacks to hold them on the wall. I picked out pictures of myself and a few friends and imagined the letters I would write them about a new town, a new middle school, new weather. My grandparents built the house where I grew up in the early eighties, imagining themselves living out their retirement in the quiet Florida town where the cold couldn‟t rattle their bones. They died ten years apart. Our stay with them was meant to be temporary, a loading dock to keep our bodies, but my mother couldn‟t leave my grandfather. My parents told me the house was in foreclosure when I was nineteen. The phrases floated through the air like jellyfish crashing into each other, tentacles propelled through the ocean. The bank didn‟t seize it until I was twenty-two and living in Tampa. I visited only twice in the year before I lost it. My family was renting a house from a snowbird on the opposite side of town, fitting comfortably with the drop in numbers. From the first day they told me it was going to be taken to three weeks after it was gone for good, I didn‟t cry. I never missed the rat-colored carpet in the family room or the shit-brown toilet in the second bathroom. Sometimes I thought about the cactus my grandmother planted in the front yard, but it had died years earlier from chaotic uprooting caused by Hurricane Charley. Three weeks later, the tears came. The house in the town I escaped had been taken. The world runs on bartering, and sometimes I have to sell things I don‟t want to lose. There is no choice, we all need something to sell. I didn‟t mind moving away from the house I grew up in, but I didn‟t want to lose it. I wanted the choice. *** The vein behind my left knee is yellow. I notice as I lean back, checking the ground where I‟m sure I‟ve just lost an earring. Children run through the fairgrounds hand in hand with corndogs, leaving behind them clouds of mustard gas. Dirt and flowerdust blow into my ears like secrets. My fingers smooth the grains like an archeologist, searching for the silver glint of human intervention. They begin to blend into the earth, taking on the color and texture of ground maize, and I can see how we have corn in our DNA.

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My friends are anxious to ride the Ferris wheel, the one you can see from the parking lot, the one that is held together by steel and zip-ties. I follow them to the Midway, leaving the earring to squirm in the Earthâ€&#x;s intestines.

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The Rain Will Swallow the Blood Jamie Grefe

It happens again. Her tears fill the field with blood and wet patches of light. She leaks blood and watches it run through the wheat, seep into the soil. This, this field, has become another bed and she stands in a puddle dripping and drying and trembling in the light. In his pocket is a small bottle, a small bottle of old tears, wet like light. He looks through the bottle and sees it swirl. He turns down a grass path and walks toward his field. In the late morning he harvests the tears and waits for the wet heat to make rain. He empties the bottle of tears in his hand and casts droplets to the wheat. He waits for the rain. As the pink of dusk rises he plants the hearts in the field. He clears away weeds and cares for the wheat. She swallows her tears and clenches her heart as she digs a hole in her head with her fingers. She reaches inside the hole, past the skull, and feels the pink dusk cool her brain. She wants the rain to fill the hole. He follows the field to her home, his hands clenching heartstrings, bundles and bundles of damp wheat. Her house is a wooden house, built of trees from the woods. His naked feet walk across the grass to the porch of her house. He opens the door and enters. Outside, he hears the morning light. She floats past his house and returns to his only field. It is a lonely field. Her tears gently flood the field and her hands, sweaty and wet with blood, dig up the harvested hearts through the wheat in the light. She throws the hearts to the air and hears them smack the ground like wet lips. The blood in the soil wells up and rises until her feet and then her ankles and then her knees are submerged in a pool of blackening blood. Her house is filled with light. He fills her house with hearts and wheat and strings up tears to the walls with pins. This time, he wants her to see his heart. He walks back through the woods to the path to his field. In his pocket is the heart that he forgot to give. It is a forgotten heart. He touches the heart and feels a sound in the wind. It is the sound of her blood. She floats in the flooded field with blood flowing from her mouth and from the hole in her head. Blood rises and rises in the shape of a pillar. She struggles to swim but 76


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chokes on the blood. It tastes of sour rust in her mouth. She cries out to the light for his help. She wants to swim to the light. He listens for words. He hears her tears and the blood through the woods. Her tears have dampened the grass under his feet. He sees his field and sees his field overflowing with so much thick blood. Her tiny body floats upon the blood. He runs to the edge and dives in and swims up through the black pillar as the blood becomes light. She opens her mouth for help and blood pours into her mouth. She opens her mouth hoping the tears become hearts and the blood becomes wheat. But the tears remain tears and the blood is still blood. She closes her mouth and starts to sink. She sinks like a wet rock. Her body is limp and light in the black. The hole in her head is filled with blood. Her brain touches blood. All around her is red and the red is blood. She is the ice in this glass of blood. She feels the touch of his hand through the wet dark. He pushes through the black and holds her head above the blood so it touches the light. She feels the hole in her head open and she opens her mouth. He struggles for something, motions to her mouth and feeds her his forgotten heart which he pulls from his pocket. She receives his heart and feels the gift of light, of his touch in the blood. She becomes the light of the sky. She wants to sing but his heart is stuck in her throat. He opens her mouth with his hands and dives down her throat past the tears and the blood. There...there in her chest is a hole in her heart that is feeding the blood. He removes his forgotten heart from her throat and pushes it deep into her chest. Inside her, he feels calm. The two hearts together make the shape of a perfect paper heart, the kind she used to cut and shape with scissors in school. He sees the blood begin to merge and flow through the hearts. He hears her breathe air and her breath is soft and slow. He looks up with strength. From inside her mouth, he can see the light, can see the rain as it forms in the clouds in the sky. The rain will swallow the blood, he thinks. The rain will swallow the blood and that will be all, he thinks. The rain will swallow the blood. The rain will swallow the blood.

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Just Passing Through Peter Ferrarone

The man at the front desk, whose face I can‟t remember now, asks for One Thousand Kenyan Shillings. “Wow,” I think to myself, and then hand over a crisp ten dollar bill that I was safeguarding in the corner fold of my wallet, for just an occasion. The man looks me in the eyes, and then scans my white skin. Finally, he nods and takes the money, as if stamping my forehead with an American flag. “Welcome to Nairobi‟s International Youth Hostel,” he says. I follow him up the steps to the dorm room. He gives me a white towel, and a key, and then departs. My roommate is a thirty year old American backpacker named Dan, who has short cropped hair and a body that leaves you believing he‟s seen nothing but the road for a long, long time. As he begins to unpack his pop-up mosquito net from a small red nylon bag, the electricity goes off in the building. Like most of East Africa, Kenya‟s not immune to the rampant corruption that leaves one part of the nation in the dark almost every night. My roommate flicks on a small head lamp, and immediately, his mosquito net bursts out of the bag with an enormous „pop,‟ waking up a few of our roommates. The heat of the Kenyan air engulfs me, and I feel tired. “Try not to do too much in a single day,” Dan tells me, before he zips himself in to his bag. I throw a bed sheet over my head and go to sleep. In the morning, after a breakfast of smashed eggs and toast, I sling my backpack over my shoulder and head for the nearest bus stop. „Matatu‟ is a Swahili word for something close to a minibus in America. I board this small white vehicle and make my way down the isle, crashing and bumping into passengers with my oversized bag. After making it to my seat, I watch as stop after stop flies past. No one asks me for money. The closed mouth attendant only casually glances my way. I could do with a little extra money, I think. But then, like some persistent fly buzzing past my ear in the middle of the night, I hear a faint clink, clink, clink. I look to my left; I look to my right. Slowly I let my attention drift to the attendant. Clink, clink, clink. With his right hand, he dexterously rolls the change around the palm of his hand. Immediately, my neighbor recognizes the confusion in my eyes. “When you hear that……..” she says, and then mimes the necessary action. Putting her right hand into her back pocket, she feels around a bit, then brings it back, now occupied with Eighty Kenyan Shillings. Together we walk to the front, to pay our money. ***

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Back at the hostel that night, I find Dan eating a mango at the desk next to his bed. I tell him about my fears. For months, people warn me. “Be careful in Kenya,” they say. A Ugandan friend tells me that I‟ll come back crying, after I lose everything. Her basic premise is that all Kenyans are thieves. Mathematically, I figure, that just cannot be true. An American friend back home emails me, frantically describing her horror story involving a week in Nairobi gone tragically wrong. I laugh these off initially, but somewhere, deep down, a little bit of unease lodges itself in my brain. Dan laughs. “But you know it‟s not really like that, if you‟re careful.” I nod my head. He jumps into his net. I fall asleep. There I am, back at the border crossing between Uganda and Kenya. The scene plays out exactly as my friends predict, like the crescendo of a horror movie. Immediately when I get off the bus, two men run up to me. The first man pushes his face so close to mine that I feel the spittle hit my beard when he screams at me, “Do you need Kenyan shillings?” The other one, less aggressive but still in lingering in my periphery, mumbles something about helping me get a visa. They instruct me to follow them down an alley, where we can strike a deal. “No,” I say, even before I smell the alcohol. I run back to the big group of fellow travelers, who wander off without me. *** I walk down River Street, a major thoroughfare winding it‟s way through the beating heart of Nairobi. Tall sky scrapers pierce the atmosphere far above, and thousands of pedestrians complete a delicate minuet below, weaving and spinning between an army of buses and lone motorcycle taxis. The people, with their metropolitan ease and confidence, clutch newspapers in their hands: the East African and New vision, amongst others. Some are students running to class. Others are business people and executives on their way to meetings. No one pays attention to me, or my back pack, or my white skin. I just fade in to the scenery in this modern city, on this mundane Tuesday morning. But when I ask for directions to the conference center, they gladly help. A few blocks ahead, the Kenyatta International Conference Center looms, eclipsing every other building. For four American dollars, I ride the elevator up to a viewpoint on the very top floor. Next to the helipad but before the safety rail, I look out on Nairobi‟s skyline. To the left, there are apartments for the super rich. I change my view slightly. There is the zoo, a few museums, and an amusement park. This city is beautiful, clean and safe. I don‟t care what my friends say. I walk past the grassy Uhuru Park, where people sun bath and children play in the pond. Just the other night, I sat in traffic, parallel to the park, for three hours. “Oh how nice it would be to swim in the pond,” I thought to myself. But today, I discover

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the truth. I wouldn‟t swim in that dirty water if my life depended on it. I guess that‟s why they have the paddle boats. I need to buy a wooden cross. It‟s the only thing I just can‟t leave Nairobi without. After a couple of minutes investigating, I cross the busy street. The Massai Market is famous for jacking up prices on whites, but I don‟t know that. Once I enter under the big metal gates, four men appear out of nowhere, each one promising to procure my desired item, if I only follow them. And in Nairobi, especially as a white man, you have to bargain. “Four thousand,” I say confidently, holding a beautiful wooden crucifix. He shakes his head severely. “Five,” I say. “Look at the wood,” I plead, “it‟s thin. There‟s no hole for a nail to go through. It‟s just not worth nine.” We settle on six thousand. I retreat back, working my way through rows of items spread out on carpets: small ebony elephants and Ankole Cow tusks made into large bugles. There are books, and CD‟s and stacked piles of clothes. Thinking I came out victorious, I look behind me for confirmation. Congratulating each other, the salesmen smile and count their money. Back at the hostel, the man at the desk instructs me to follow him to the back. He reaches up to a wooden cubby hole and brings down a map, which is all rolled up and covered in dust. He spreads it out on the desk, gently, giving me a look that I understand as “pay attention now.” I see Nairobi in the center, bordered by Uganda and it‟s massive Lake Victoria, where I was last month. To the other side of Kenya is Tanzania, with it‟s massive volcanic mountain range and towering Mount Kilimanjaro. I was there too. The man slowly runs his hand over the map to smooth out the wrinkles. So you‟re here to stay?” he inquires. “Just passing through,” I whisper. “You‟re one of us,” he states with some finality. I look at him and smile. We‟re in agreement on that one.

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Ideas for a One Act Clown-and-Poet Play Brian Alan Ellis

Setting: A bar. Think Tennessee Williams. Think Bogart. Think jazz music; Tom Waits, maybe; country and western. A young man, The Poet, sits chain smoking cigarettes, nursing a beer; he is soft spoken, bothered, broken hearted, all that. To his left, an older man, The Clown, haggard, gravelly voiced, drunk and hung over at the same time (scotch) (or whiskey), costume and face paint in disarray, chewing a cigar; he sometimes pauses to exhale quivering rings of smoke from his mouth—for atmosphere. Ambiance. The Poet says, “I‟ve got dead friends… dead family and dead lovers spilling out of my closet… all tangled up in one another… like concentration camp victims steamrolled into a shallow ditch.” The Clown says, “You Jewish or somethin‟?” The Poet, annoyed: “No. It‟s a metaphor.” Then he says, “I try stuffing them all back in my closet… like they‟re dirty, flaccid piles of fleshy laundry. But it‟s no use; they won‟t budge. So I call out to God. To come clean up His mess, you know?” The Clown: “Yeah? And what‟d He have to say?” The Poet: “He didn‟t answer back.” The Clown: “Yeah, well…” Pause. The Poet, lighting a cigarette: “So, uh… what is it you do?” The Clown, raising his glass: “I drink!” The Poet: “You look more the circus type.” The Clown: “Had to give it up. Worst fuckin‟ time of my life. They don‟t call it a circus for nothin‟—fuckin‟ freak show, kid. Barnum and Bailey can suck my fat cock.” Pause. “I do children‟s parties, now. Mostly.” Then he says, “The pay sucks. The parents suck. The kids are all right—usually. Beats the damn circus, though. That‟s for fuck-sakes sure.” 81


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The Poet: “Personally, I think wearing a getup like yours and entertaining kids for a living is all right—much more commendable than those suit-and-tie deadbeats you see everywhere. At least you guys admit to being silly.” The Clown, sourly: “Yeah, well… you work in an office or somethin‟—deadbeat?” The Poet: “No. Delivery driver.” The Clown: “Yeah? You don‟t look the type.” The Poet: “Every morning I get out of bed. I drive to work. I clock in. I get shit from the boss, usually for being late. Then I load and unload heavy boxes of cold dead meat so that it can later be cut up and packaged and priced and purchased by fat people who have more credit, more food stamps, more brat children, and more bad health than they have actual money.” Pause. “It sickens me.” The Clown: “Ah, the terrible things they make good men do for a buck. But that‟s the American way: supply and demand.” The Poet, matter-of-factly: “The American way sickens me.” The Clown: “I know, kid… I—” The Poet: “Sickens me.” The Clown, aside: “Ah Christ…” Long pause. The Poet: “You know… it must be nice. It must feel really nice to be missed by someone. I mean really missed… like the person who misses you can hardly get through life without you being there.” The Clown: “Whenever I get lonely… all I gotta do is jerk off, and the longing I felt just minutes prior to ejaculating goes away. Poof. Who could ever miss someone like that?” The Poet: “I don‟t know.” Pause. “Poof.” The Clown: “Man, I got it lucky. Some peoples‟ sadness is so great that most of ‟em can‟t even get it up half the time. But me, I can still pack some heat—believe it. Sadness is nothin‟ once you get used to it a little.”

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The Poet: “Well, I‟ve been kind of seeing someone. She‟s out somewhere. Don‟t know where. I think the only reason she‟s with me is because the guy she was with before me—a bartender, mind you—stopped giving her free drinks.” Then he says, “Jesus! She really likes to drink. Just not with me. She doesn‟t like drinking with me because I try real hard to keep her in line. She doesn‟t like that. I don‟t mean to be a saint or a hard-ass or anything like that, but my woman, she… she gets nutty sometimes. Like the other night. She was so drunk that she passed out on some railroad tracks. She‟s lucky I found her when I did, because right after I had gotten her off the tracks, a train swept by.” The Clown: “Maybe you shoulda let the train have ‟er.” The Clown and The Poet turn to each other. They start laughing. They laugh and laugh. The Poet, gathering himself, says, “She‟s real funny. Man, I joke around, you know, but it hurts… it hurts like a Buick… lodged into my heart.” Pause. “Love is funny like that. I love her, but I can‟t tell her how I really feel. See, she told me she once dumped some poor schmuck after he‟d confessed his undying love to her.” Pause. “You have to play it cool. Can‟t let your feelings show too much. Then you‟re in big trouble. Then you‟re done for.” Pause. “But the jealousy just eats you up inside… drives you crazy. And it makes you real nosy, too… to the point where you have to know everything about your woman‟s past… all her ex-lovers… what the two of them used to talk about in bed… And you get real suspicious of all these guys you‟ve never even met before… and not just about sex and things like that… over stupid shit, too… like wondering if you‟re woman had a better time grocery shopping with a particular ex than she does with you… You know you‟re in trouble when the thought of your woman and one of her ex-boys grocery shopping puts a hole in your gut.” The Clown: “Christ, kid…” The Poet: “Sorry. You probably have your own life-wrecker to worry about, huh?” The Clown: “Me? Hell no, I can‟t get no girl.” The Poet: “Why‟s that? Ladies don‟t like getting fucked by clowns?” The Clown: “I must be too real, too human, too honest, too… somethin‟. I don‟t put on no show, don‟t play the angles… don‟t do none of that. I ain‟t very compromising either. Must be too damn negative, not cute and cuddly enough… Women, they want liars, fakes, people to say nice things to ‟em all the time—especially when what they‟re doin‟ ain‟t very nice, you know? They feed off constant affection. They 83


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want doors opened, gifts given… I mean, how can I get a girl? I can barely keep friends. People are always walkin‟ in and outta my life, kid. It happens so fast ‟n‟ sudden that my head fuckin‟ spins!” The Poet: “It‟s as though truthfulness and integrity will bring you nothing but loneliness and ridicule.” The Clown: “Luckily, those are the things I find most solace in. That… and drinkin‟, of course…” Pause. “But listen, kid, the romantic emptiness comes and goes, just like everything else. Women, they think of themselves as flowers; they gotta be handled wit‟ tender love ‟n‟ care, at all times. It‟s draining.” Pause. “Lovers, man, they make the best actors. You ever notice how liars and phonies have the most of everything? The most friends, the most women, the most money, the most… A goddamn conspiracy is what it is…” The Poet: “At least you have your self-respect.” The Clown: “Rot. Sometimes I wonder if this so-called self-respect is even worth a damn—„Congratulations! You are alone with your self-respect!‟ Ha! My self-respect don‟t pay me, feed me, hold me, suck my cock, kiss me goodnight… as far as I‟m concerned, my self-respect can fuck all!” Pause. “But everyone suffers, man. There ain‟t no everlasting happiness anywhere, regardless of what some‟ll tell you. Happiness is Life‟s biggest cock tease. Hell is here—always—and it‟s quite capable of takin‟ different shapes at different times. Hell is there. It‟s there, man! Even the ones who appear the most content have it: the mailman… a cop… the little brat sellin‟ Girl Scout cookies door to door… that old fuck bagging your groceries… even the one servin‟ us our drinks… Hell just gnaws bit by bit round the edges of everything noble.” Pause. The Poet: “I carry my own personal Hell around with me. At work, in the shower, waiting in line somewhere, my Hell sits comfortably in my head, running the same horror show again and again. Like… like terror cerebellum…” The Clown: “…like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.” The Poet: “Exactly!” Pause. “Great movie, by the way…” The Clown: “Bet your ass it is.” Long pause.

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The Poet: “I wonder… why others aren‟t as bothered about the bullshit as I am. Maybe they are—in fact, I know they are—but they‟re real pro at hiding it, you know? Sometimes I just want to scream my blues… real loud… from the top of my lungs… so that every man, woman and child can hear it. If I did that, though, people would just tease me—really scowl and hiss: „What‟s wrong with that guy, huh? Doesn‟t he know he should learn to keep his goddamn mouth shut!?‟ They want us all to bury our thoughts… like a parent would a dead child.” The Clown: “They already got us. Since birth. No sense in whinin‟ about things, I guess. Gotta save that breath of yours; could be your last. Who knows? My advice: keep drinkin‟.” The Poet: “That‟s the thing! They‟re always saying to me, „Well, it‟s just that you whine and bicker too much. You hate on everything. Maybe you‟d feel better if you didn‟t go to the bars so much; made a good friend; courted women that weren‟t whores deep down; didn‟t read the books you read; didn‟t think or feel anything real.‟ And as much as I hate everything, I still have compassion for it. I‟ve got compassion, damn it! I care. If I didn‟t, I probably wouldn‟t be let down so much. I mean, I‟d rather be loved than hated… but I‟d rather be hated than ignored. Hate is vital. And so is love. And what‟s the point of living life if you don‟t complain about it… if you don‟t question it?” The Clown: “My motto: Drink life, forget life.” The Poet: “It takes a lot to forget.” The Clown, raising his glass: “That‟s all right. There‟s enough drink to go round. Cheers!” They drink. Long pause. The Poet, drunkenly slurring: “You ever think about suicide?” The Clown: “Only when I‟m not drinkin‟.” The Poet: “Well, I think about it even when I am drinking. I think about it always. And the older I get, and the more things I go through, suicide seems more and more like a good idea… like a warm friend, perhaps. Take today. On my way home from work, driving down the same drab and unfulfilling streets I drive down every day— just driving and driving and driving—you know what I did? I‟ll tell you what I did. I came a split second close to pur—purpos—purp—crashing my car into a tree… on purpose.” Pause. “It‟s true. I remember—I remember sizing up each tree, mathe— mathe—mathematically calculating which of them—judging by speed, size, and 85


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positioning of impact—would most likely be the one to do me in.” The Clown: “What stopped you, kid?” The Poet, after thinking about it: “I was thirsty. So I came here.” The Clown breaks into a fit of laughter, sometimes pausing to retch into a handkerchief. He says, “That‟s what I like to hear. Drinkin‟s better than crashin‟ your car into some poor bastard‟s shrubbery any damn day… You‟re all right, kid. A little fucked up… but ain‟t we all?” The Poet puts his head down on the bar. The Clown: “Ah Christ! You know what you lack?” The Poet, muffled: “A will to live? A gun?” The Clown: “A gun? No, man! You lack music. Listen, I‟m gonna get up… and I‟m gonna go over to that jukebox over there and put on a record. Then we gonna dance!” The Poet, lifting his head, hiccupping: “What would someone say—if they walked in and saw me—dancing with some—inebriated clown?” The Clown: “To hell wit‟ what they‟d say!” He stands, stumbles towards the jukebox, bumping into tables and chairs on his way there, and pulls an endless string of tattered bills from his sleeve. “Why is it, kid, that whenever you want to play a jukebox or pinball machine, your money‟s all fucked up?” The Poet, still hiccupping: “Maybe it‟s always that way and you just—noticed it now.” The Clown: “Bullshit! My money‟s always clean. Can‟t say the same ‟bout the women I been with, but…” He flattens a bill against his forehead and then feeds it to the jukebox. “Swan Lake” begins playing. “Okay, kid, get over here. Let‟s dance!” The Poet ignores him. The Clown: “Aw, come on, kid! Don‟t you know there‟s a rule in life sayin‟ that if a clown asks you to dance, you can‟t turn ‟im down?” The Poet: “I‟ve never—heard that—rule.”

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The Clown: “Why, sure you have… it‟s in the fuckin‟ rulebook!” He goes over and yanks The Poet off his stool. “Dancing‟ll cure them hee-cups of yours…” Both men are soon dancing to Tchaikovsky, waltzing and swaying and sometimes jitterbugging beneath the glowing beer lights. Song ends. The Clown and The Poet walk back towards the bar. The Clown, lighting the Poet‟s cigarette: “See! That was fun, wasn‟t it?” The Poet, somberly: “Yeah. Real shits and giggles.” The Clown: “You feel better now?” The Poet, after thinking about it: “No, not really.” The Clown staggers, clutching his chest. He says, “Oh! Oh! You just broke my fuckin‟ heart, kid! You know it‟s a sin to break a clown‟s heart like that, don‟t cha? Oh! The pain! Oh! Call someone… a coroner…” He looks to the heavens, crosses his chest. “This is it… here I come… Oh!” The Poet: “It was fine. Really. I just have a lot on my mind.” The Clown: “Those in my field make their livin‟ by cheerin‟ people up. If I don‟t accomplish that with you then I‟m a bad clown… and I just can‟t live with that, no, sir… So what is it, kid? What‟s the problem?” The Poet: “It‟s just that… at night… I dread being alone at my apartment.” The Clown: “Why‟s that? Scared of the dark, kid?” The Poet: “Lately… I get these headaches… this loud roaring in my ears. I call it the Black Train. I figure if something has been with you long enough, you should call it something.” The Clown: “Well, I got a goiter on my ass. It‟s been there awhile. Maybe I‟ll name it Elise!” The Poet: “Every night… the Black Train comes… slamming into the silence of the empty apartment, into my skull…” Cue dramatic music. “All I hear is that roar…” Cue sounds of a train. “…its laughter—its laughter laughing at me, for being trapped, caught like a gutted fish frying on some poor son-of-a-bitch‟s backyard grill… a sad, thirsty flower-like fish burning in its own sordid matter, its own 87


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juices… And there‟s no escape from that… for anything aged in grief. I am as good as done for. All that I have left now is the Black Train… as it pulls me towards an exit—the only real exit—the one-word exit… spelled out in lustrous white letters… a word ending in H, starting with a D…” Music and sounds fade. The Clown: “Duluth?” The Poet: “Close… but it‟s not Duluth.” The Clown, staring ahead euphorically: “Ah! I get it now…” The Poet: “Yup…” Long pause. “Say, you ever read Sartre?” The Clown: “A what?” The Poet: “Sartre.” The Clown: “That some Bible story… or somethin‟?” The Poet, sarcastically: “Yeah, uh, Sartre 3:16…” Then he says, “No, man! Sartre. The French philosopher?” The Clown shrugs. The Poet: “Well, he had this really great quote. He said, „Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.‟” The Clown: “Sounds like this Sartre fella wasn‟t much of a drinker, was he? No matter.” Pause. “So, uh, kid… you some scholar or somethin‟?” The Poet: “No. I never went to college… if that‟s what you mean. But I read books. I write a little, too.” The Clown: “No shit?” He turns to all the empty stools at the bar and says, “Hey, we got ourselves a real Hemingway wit‟ us tonight!” He laughs. The Poet, annoyed: “Very funny.” The Clown: “Ohhhh… don‟t be so sore, kid. I was only bustin‟ on you. Relax. We all got our crutches… no better or worse than anyone else… So, uh, what is it you write?” 88


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The Poet: “Poetry.” The Clown, laughing so hard he nearly falls from his stool: “Poetry!? About what? The beautiful ocean? Pushin‟ up daisies and shit?” He again retches into a handkerchief. The Poet: “No, no, it‟s not like that. I don‟t go in for any of that crap. I write from the gut. I write about real people, real lives. You laugh, but anyone can write poetry. Even you, clown, can be a great poet.” The Clown: “Ah, rot! I ain‟t no poet, kid. Ain‟t nothin‟ poetic ‟bout me… except for maybe my beer shits.” The Poet: “Bet I can prove you wrong.” The Clown turns to the empty stools and says, “You believe this guy?” The Poet: “Let‟s try it… I‟ll say a line, and then you come up with one of your own. Just say the first thing that comes to you.” He thinks. “All right,” he says. “Depression creeps in—” He notices that The Clown is sleeping, or at least feigning sleep, and he shakes him awake. He says, “Hey! This will be good for you. You might learn something.” The Clown, yawning: “All right, all right… okay… umm, umm… depression creeps in… depression, depression, depression… umm… depression creeps in… like… like… a dame through an open window?” The Poet: “No. That‟s no good.” He thinks. “Let‟s start with this: „The clown doesn‟t write poetry… he writes screams from smoke-filled lungs…‟” The Clown, thinking: “…He writes… umm… He writes shattered glass from empty bottles thrown against a wall…” The Poet: “…He writes Valentine‟s Day cards for the lonely…” The Clown: “…tombstone inscriptions for unmarked graves…” The Poet: “…sad country songs for those who don‟t know how to write sad country songs…” The Clown: “…He writes…” The Poet: “…He writes wet dreams for insomniacs…” 89


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The Clown: “…symphonies of razor-torn mornings where drunken daisies shoot come on passing pretties…” He smiles, is pleased with himself. The Poet, having looked to The Clown in disbelief: “…He writes of belligerent gods stuffed full of beauty and bile…” The Clown: “…the roar of caged lions…” The Poet: “…the memoirs of killers… The Clown: “…manifestations of the maddened…” The Poet: “…He writes the moon for help…” The Clown: “…the Devil for a loan…” The Poet: “…an ocean where even sharks can drown…” The Clown: “…Throw in prescriptions for suicidal urges…” The Poet: “…advice columns…” The Clown: “…coroner reports… obituaries…” The Poet: “…bounced checks…” The Clown, emphatically: “…But no, that motherfucker does not write poetry!” The Poet begins whistling and clapping. The Clown thanks him and then bows to an invisible audience. The Poet: “Shit, you‟re some poet after all!” He raises his glass. “To poetry!” The Clown says, “Hang on,” and turns his back to The Poet. The Poet: “What are you doing?” The Clown: “I‟m making something, hold your tits…” The Poet waits. The Clown: “Okay!” He turns back around and presents The Poet with a balloon shaped as a fish. “Couldn‟t make a damn train…” 90


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The Poet: “To my buddy, the poet!” He again raises his glass. The Clown, doing the same: “Ah, hell… I‟m a real fuckin‟ poet, ain‟t I, kid?” They clink glasses. They drink. The Clown farts. He and The Poet laugh and laugh until the last-call light begins flickering. Both men are then gripped by a familiar, nail-biting tension. Something like fear. Curtain.

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Line Nancy Devine

Sun is slickest close to the water, near the young wild rice and cattails colored like worry. Tommy‟s to blame, unctuous, oily, tanned, so dripping with himself some of it spills into the river where I wish the sun wouldn‟t drink. And he‟s been around so much lately. “I don‟t want him coming here so often; he‟s slimy,” I say to my brother Jonah. We‟re at the river‟s edge; Tommy hasn‟t arrived yet. “I‟ve known him since junior high; you‟re telling me nothing I don‟t already know,” Jonah says as he puts a piece of bread in our minnow trap, a rectangular mesh box a bit bigger than a toaster. He closes the trap, ties one end of a yellow rope to it and the other to rotting aspen stump on the shore. When he eases the trap in---past rocks smoothed by the washin wash-out of the river---there‟s no splash. “I don‟t care.” “I heard you, Rachel. He‟s my friend; he gets to fish this.” Jonah heads up the bank past a lady-slipper I‟ve tried not to mow. It blooms a hot pink gullet to trap insects and white, wing-like petals. He stops to run his hand along a white pine‟s bough as though it will give milk. Our father planted it 15 years ago with just a spade to dig and an old paint bucket he dipped into the river for watering. Now we‟ve got an auger for our tractor and a pump house with all manner of hoses extending out from it to tend to trees we‟ve planted. Tommy says it‟s “a jumbo hookah for pines, makes „em grow high.” One night at the river he‟s quick to add, “I prefer the beauty of the Zigzag paper crackling in my hand.” I‟m there to check the minnow trap. When I pull in the yellow rope, there‟s no resistance, and I drag in a frayed, cut end, nothing attached. “God. The fourth one this summer.” Tommy‟s line is out, the end of his rod curling slightly, a hand about to wave goodbye. He‟s got a stringer of fish in the water near his feet, walleye every so often 92


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trying to shake loose. “What‟s wrong, Rachel?” he asks. He stares at his fishing pole as if it‟s a divining rod tilting toward treasure. “Someone took our minnow trap. Again.” “People are thieves and cheats and scoundrels,” Tommy says. “I prefer fish. Sure they‟re wily; they want to take what‟s on the hook and swim off. But it‟s fair. I try to get them. They try to get me.” And now, what I learned last week from my father troubles me. Tommy was in jail for arson a while back; his wife left him, and his kids “hate his guts.” It seems my brother is his only friend. “I got extra minnows at the bait shop. Get your rod and fish with me?” Tommy says. He begins to reel in whatever‟s on his line for now.

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Footnotes to a History of Nightingales Kristina Marie Darling

______________________________________________________ Meaning the darkest feathers, which appeared in tufts along its magnificently white throat. 1.

She caught the bird as the light began to fade. The most ominous song rising from its little golden cage. 2.

"I had only begun to discover the inner workings of the bird's inscrutable music. Now the delicate feathers crushed beneath my feet." 3.

4.

Intention. 1. A hidden plan, desire, or inclination. †2. A specific purpose, which has not been fully realized.

A little-known French film, in which the heroine makes her living by keeping nightingales. Although often aggrandized, this choice of profession foreshadows her retreat into hermetic solitude. 5.

She thought of the bird as an emblem for her beloved's absence. Its dirty feathers and dark music where his white notebooks had been. 6.

In the work of many Romantic poets, particularly Keats, the nightingale represented both desire and mortality. 7.

"It was then I began to realize the wicked nature of the beloved. His leather notebook contained the most elaborate diagrams. Within each nightingale, an empty space where the heart once was." 8.

9.

Its feathers were said to house the most intricate machine.

As she ascended the trellis outside of his window, the music began again. Every note seemed to herald a lengthy solitude. 10.

Although its latch had been fastened, the cage held only an unfinished nest. A silence where the bird's strange music had been. 11.

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Grasp Chelsey Clammer

Today I am leaning over to kiss my father's forehead, and I can't remember having ever kissed his forehead before. As he lies on the hospital bed filled with death, I realize this might, in fact, be the only time my lips have touched his forehead. We just didn't love like that. I have flitting memories of cupping his face in my hands as he holds my child self in his arms. This image is probably recreated from an old picture, one Iâ€&#x;ll see again at his funeral in a few days. In the picture, I'm looking at him, my hands clutching his stubbly cheeks, and his head is turned toward the camera. Dad, look at me, I appear to grasp, to gasp. He never does. *** Earlier Today It is 8 o' clock on Sunday morning and my mother is in a small waiting room with a nun. My mother is not religious, but she lets the nun tell her about God and letting go and acceptance while she waits for me to arrive. The nun's words fill the room as my mother's eyes swell with tears. The room is meant to be a quiet place. A place to think, to breathe, to mourn. A place to brace the living body against news of the dead. Four walls, three chairs, a ghost somewhere down the hall. An hour before this, my mother stood staring at the muddy footprints the paramedics dragged into her house as they assessed the condition of my father's gray body. It was minutes after that when they rushed back out with a thumbs-up and a heartbeat. As my mother followed them out the door and to the hospital, she paused at the $1.50 in dimes carefully counted out on my father's dresser. She wondered what they meant. In an hour, she will be in a small room with a nun and thinking about this. An hour after that, I will join my mother in the small room and emerge from it a few moments later to go kiss my father's forehead for the first time. *** My Beginning of Today I am on a ten mile run at 6 o'clock on Sunday morning. I am running in dirty clothes because I was not able to do laundry. The smell of my new sweat mixes in the humid air with the smell of my old sweat. But there is plenty of space for the clothes to air out. The country roads in small-town Texas sprawl out around farms and creeks, providing endless trails of pavement on which to train for a marathon. As I run, I quiz myself on the medical terms that will be on my final Biology exam 95


Spittoon 2.1 Clammer, Grasp

the following day. I am at the end of the fall semester of my senior year of college, and am cramming for five exams. So I run and I think and I breathe while I can. The whole time I am running, I feel the fullness of the clouds hovering above me, and wonder when they will no longer be able to contain themselves, to hold back the heavy water. As the pressure overhead increases, I take my last steps toward the start and finish line of my parked truck. The drops start to plunk. When I drive back home, the plunking turns to streams. Thick pools of water falling from the sky, battering down on my windshield with a beat too fast to be rhythmically steady. I arrive in front of my house, and am gathering my things from the truck, preparing to make a dash for the front door when my mother calls from across town. Her voice sounds tiny, as if she was sitting in a very small room. She calls to say she found my father this morning crumpled next to his dresser. He was almost dead, but he is in the hospital now and still alive. She called the paramedics, she says. They got a heartbeat, she says. She tells me she is waiting in the hospital in a small room. A nurse has just ushered her into the small room from the general waiting area. I tell her I will be there soon. We hang up. Seconds later, before I am able to leave my dry truck and duck into the deluge, she calls back. I answer the phone and can hear thick pools of water falling from her eyes, streaming down too quickly to steady her nonrhythmic gasps. Shortly after, there will be a nun talking about acceptance, and my mother will be thinking about dimes. *** Today It is raining when I hear my mother sob for the first time. *** His Beginning of Today It‟s 6 o'clock on Sunday monring and the clouds are about to burst with water. My father is in his bedroom, deciding if he has enough change to buy the Sunday paper. Or perhaps he‟s deciding if he even has a desire to buy it. It's November 14, 2004 and the cost of the Sunday edition of The Austin-American Statesmen is $1.50. Every Sunday my father drives to the gas station down the street and buys the paper. I don't think he ever reads all of it, probably just the sports section, but this has become his habit. He is a man of habits. Drinking, smoking, overworking, watching football on Sundays, buying the Sunday paper. He has routines in which he is stuck. He is a stuck man. Perhaps out of habit, he counts the $1.50 in dimes on his dresser. Perhaps. Before he is able to do anything with the change—to continue to stare at it, or to possibly put it to use—he will collapse, and the paramedics will have to rush in to start his heart again. This is when the rain in the clouds starts to become impatient. This is soon before my mother follows the emergency vehicle to 96


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the hospital, where she is instructed to stay in the waiting area. This is an hour before a nurse will usher her into a small room, and my mother will be glad to be leaving the hectic waiting area bursting with other people's impatient and pressing problems. It is for the brief moment she is alone in this small room that my mother calls me and relates the events of her morning. I found him on the floor next to his dresser, she says. He was crumpled and gray, she says. They were able to start his heart again. She does not mention the dimes, perhaps she has yet to understand the weight of their meaning. Should I have even called the paramedics? Fifteen dimes sat unassuming on the dark wooden dresser. What if he wanted to die? She understands why the dimes were there. She does not want to think about it, think about at what point it was this morning when his hand collapsed, when his hand stopped hovering above the dimes, deciding. What if he was trying to kill himself? It is now that she can no longer try to grasp the meaning of the dimes. Did he give up or did life give up on him? Was it worth it to keep him alive? She asks this un-askable question as I assure her it was the right decision. Of course, I think, he wanted to live. I think. I think about this as my mother hangs up the phone, as a nun enters the small room. *** Last Night My mother returns to her house late Saturday night. She has been in Houston for three days with my older sister. She returns to a disaster of a house. Dirty dishes not in neat piles, but strewn across the couch, tables, chairs, the floor, a windowsill, the crusty counters. Dishes everywhere but the sink. There is also shit—literal shit—covering the floors of the bathroom. My mother‟s mind explodes with anger and confusion. She storms her way down the dark hallway and into my father‟s bedroom. He is slouched in the bed, glasses crooked and missing both lenses. 97


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Jeff, what happened? He is a body slouching. The dog chewed by glasses. He slurs, thinking she is talking about him, his eyes and not the wrecked house. I can’t see. He is still wearing the destroyed frames, most likely out of habit. You’re drunk. This, an obvious statement, a statement that carries the weight of an accusation. A recovering alcoholic should not be drinking. She had trusted he would stay sober for the three days she was gone. My mother screams her frustration at him. My father screams his frustration at life. He has been stumbling around the house drunk and blind for three days. He is about to lose his job, again. He threatens suicide, again. Outside, the clouds start to swirl and swell. A whorl of activity in the starless night sky. It is supposed to rain heavily the next morning. My mother continues screaming at him, instructing him to go to sleep, to let the vodka seep out of his system. In the morning he will have to decide to stay home and stay sober, or leave. My father goes to sleep drunk and distracted, wondering if he has enough change to buy the Sunday paper. *** His Yesterday Afternoon There is shit on the bathroom floor. He cannot see if this is dog shit or his shit. His dog, after all, chewed his glasses, making it hard for him to distinguish between human and animal. He, in a way, feels like an animal. A desperate animal. Or, he feels nothing. Perhaps he is too drunk to know he has feelings. He does not know how long he has been in this house alone. Has his wife been gone one day or three? Is she coming home tonight or tomorrow? Or maybe she has left for good. He cannot remember. What he knows is that he cannot see, that there is a foul smell coming from the bathroom—from the whole house actually—and the amount of vodka he has drunk has left him immobile. He wants to die, but cannot move in order to do anything about it. So he sits with chewed up glasses smashed desperately the bridge of his nose, sits in his bed, sits watching the Saturday afternoon light as it slurs its way across his walls, across the furniture in his room, across his tall wooden dresser, across the screen of his TV. He thinks he hears a truck drive by. *** 98


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My Yesterday Afternoon I drive by my parent‟s house Saturday afternoon. I need to do laundry. I‟m running ten miles the next morning, even though it‟s supposed to rain. It's a necessary run both for my marathon training, and to clear my head before I cram for my fall final exams. But I have no clean running clothes, and I don't have my own washer and dryer. It has been a week since I did laundry at their house. As I pull up, I see my father‟s car parked in the driveway. The last time I saw him, briefly saw him as I waited for my clothes to dry, we had a fight. A fight over the fact that he offered me ice cream. I am vegan. The question of ice cream, the question of putting something in my body full of animal byproduct becomes another piece of proof he is a father uninterested in his daughter. Proof he does not know who I am. Proof I have never been able to grasp his attention. The ice cream incident was last Saturday, the last time I did laundry. Now, as I sit in my truck in front of the house, I remember that a few days ago my mother left for Houston to be with my sister. My father has been alone in the house for three days. I decide I do not want to deal with my father alone. I suspect he has started drinking, again. Not wanting to know what he has been doing alone in the house for the past three days, not wanting to have another fight, I turn my truck around and go back to my own home. I decide that tomorrow morning I will just have to run the ten miles in dirty clothes. I laugh at the thought of the rain washing them clean. *** Last Week I am at my parent‟s house doing laundry. I am in my childhood room, sitting at the small desk, trying to concentrate on my notes for the final Biology exam of the semester. The test is a week from now. I am on the brink of cramming, trying to gain control of the workload that will only increase in the next week. My father disrupts my concentration as he knocks on the door. Chels, you want some ice cream? His hands hold the Sunday newspaper he exchanged fifteen dimes for earlier that morning at the gas station down the street. I am annoyed by his question. Dad, I'm vegan. I say that but think this: And if you were a better father, you would know this about me. He must sense my thoughts. We fight. I do not talk to him as I finish my laundry and furiously drive my truck full of notes, textbooks, and now-clean clothes back to 99


Spittoon 2.1 Clammer, Grasp

my own house. I drive off angry, enraged at the father I do not have, the father I wish I would never see again, the father who has never been there, been there to see me. The next time I see my father, I will be kissing his forehead, too late to try to grasp his attention for the first time, for one last time.

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Constructing a Proper Torch Seth Berg

Douse the head of a cat tail into a soapy mixture of Dawn brand dish detergent and gasoline; reinforce the stem with a steel rod or femur; set the head ablaze; open your face to the air. When paper cranes spill from your mouth, remember to light the dark, sew feathers to your fingertips. When the cranes, spilling and multiplying, request grain and berries, snacks of rodents and amphibians, tell them that hunger is an essential component of flight.

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When, from the ground, they are unable to ascend, lend them your stitched fingertips and take to the sky on fire.

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Ode to the most fantastically intelligent 1st poetry readers ever

David Baratier

You. You there. You have probably read some real dumb shit recently and are real happy this is not printed in 16 point Sand font, with illustrations of kitties and smiley faces on extra thin paper. I was thinking of you, of how much paper cuts burn, of how pissed off I became from reading sameness, poems about the moon, cicadas and hyacinths. How all those dark days, heavenly lives, earthly souls, and enslaved freedoms couldn‟t dampen our reading fires. And those pseudo experimentalists trying to make their word spacings have import with lexicon they found in their first dictionary. But you and I, we‟re smarter than that, quite brilliant actually, and we know stink when we smell it. David Baratier won‟t force you to read this whole collection, you know what‟s good, pass it upward. David Baratier won‟t make you brew him coffee. David Baratier won‟t ever sign and include a half naked 8 by 10 glossy unless you ask.

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Contributors

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Spittoon 2.1 Contributors

D. Harlan Wilson is an award-winning novelist, literary critic, editor, and English prof. Visit him online at www.dharlanwilson.com and dharlanwilson.blogspot.com. Parker Tettleton’s work is featured in and / or forthcoming from Gargoyle, elimae, > kill author, Mud Luscious, and PANK, among others. His chapbook SAME OPPOSITE is available from Thunderclap! Press. Find more work and information here. DJ Swykert's short fiction and poetry has appeared in The Detroit News: Alpha Beat Press, Scissors and Spackle, Barbaric Yawp and Bull: Men's Fiction. He is currently signed with LifeTime Media in NYC for two novels. Danielle Pafunda is author of Iatrogenic: Their Testimonies (Noemi Press), My Zorba (Bloof Books), Pretty Young Thing (Soft Skull Press), and the forthcoming Manhater (Dusie Press Books). She‟s a contributor to the art/lit/crit blog Montevidayo, and an assistant professor of gender & women‟s studies and English at the University of Wyoming. Lilian Oben's work has appeared in literary publications and e-zines such as Symmetry Pebbles, Survivor's Review, Some Ways to Disappear and Pyrta Journal, among others. Matthew Lykins is a high school teacher and writer from Oxford, Ohio. He lives with his wife, Emily, and their three children, and is currently at work on a novel. For more information, please visit his blog, 50percentfinished.wordpress.com , or his novel-in-progress: 50percentfinished.tumblr.com. Alexandra N. Kontes’ work has appeared in kill author and Flywheel Magazine, among others. Please see http://www.esmeraldasnest.com. Tim Kahl [http://www.timkahl.com] is the author of Possessing Yourself (Word Tech, 200), and The Century of Travel (Word Tech, forthcoming, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, The Journal, and many other journals. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song [http://www.cladesong.com]. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.

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Petur HK has such a magnificently peculiar name that there doesn‟t exist in the Universe the keyboard that can type it correctly. On top of that, he recently moved from the Faroe Islands—the one place where people actually knew of it—to Denmark, all for the sake of higher education. He was born with one foot in either country, and as such, with neither on the ground. Finally, some of his fiction has recently appeared in The Eunoia Review. Michele N. Harmeling is a graduate of Eastern Washington University‟s MFACreative Writing program. Her poetry has been published in such journals as the Alaska Quarterly Review, Juked, Reed Magazine, and The Adirondack Review. She is the recipient of the 2009 Joy Bale Boone Poetry Prize and the 2009 Whiskey Island Poetry Prize. Find out more at http://mharmeling.blogspot.com or contact her at mharmeling@gmail.com. Nels Hanson’s fiction received the San Francisco Foundation‟s James D. Phelan Award. His stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Texas Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review, Montreal Review, and other journals. Jessica Guzman lives in Tampa Bay. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in SHAMPOO, Cybersoleil A Literary Journal, Sleet Magazine, and Barely South Review. Jamie Grefe lives and works in Beijing, China. He is an insatiable coffee addict and his written work appears online. He can be reached at jamie.grefe@gmail.com. Peter Ferrarone lives in rural Orange, MA, and enjoys writing about his travel experiences, among other subjects. Contact him at peter.ferrarone@gmail.com. Brian Allan Ellis lives in Tallahassee, Florida. His fiction has appeared in Skive, Zygote in my Coffee, Monkey Bicycle, The Splinter Generation, Flashquake, Epiphany, Underground Voices, Glossolalia, DAP, The Single Hound, Conte, The Fine Line, Fiction Fix, Curbside Quotidian and NAP, as well as in the anthology The Incredible Shrinking Story (Fast Forward Press). He also sings for the ExBoogeymen, and waits patiently for Better Off Dead to receive the Criterion treatment. www.brianalanellis.tumblr.com

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Nancy Devine teaches high school English in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where she lives. She co-directs the Red River Valley Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project. Her poetry, short fiction and essays have appeared in online and print journals. Visit her blog at http://nancydevine.blogspot.com. Kristina Marie Darling is the author of three full-length collections of poetry: Night Songs (Gold Wake Press, 2010), Compendium (Cow Heavy Books, 2011), and The Body is a Little Gilded Cage: A Story in Letters & Fragments (Gold Wake Press, 2011). Her fourth book, Melancholia (An Essay), is forthcoming from Ravenna Press in 2012. Kristina is currently working toward a doctorate in Poetics at SUNY-Buffalo. Visit her online at http://kristinamariedarling.com. Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women's Studies from Loyola University Chicago. Her writing has appeared in a number of print and online publications, including “Windy City Times,” www.feministing.com, and Make/shift magazine. Chelsey is currently working on a collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body, as well as a guide for trauma survivors through a 12-Step program. Seth Berg is addicted to hot sauce and building nifty sculptures and loving on his family which includes Oak, Ash, and Icarus. His poems are widely published and his first book, Muted Lines from Someone Else’s Memory, was winner of Dark Sky Magazine’s 2009 book contest. Read more here: http://darkskymagazine.com/books/seth-berg-muted-lines/. David Baratier has seven chapbooks, mild superpowers, and a book of creative non-fiction In It What’s in It (Spuyten Duyvil). Anthology appearances include American Poetry: the Next Generation, (Carnegie Mellon); Bigger Than They Appear, Accents Publishing; andRed, White & Blues (Univ of Iowa). A lifelong vegetarian and editor of Pavement Saw Press, he lives over an hour from the nearest mall. editor@pavementsaw.org.

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Spittoon 2.1  

Spittoon is a quarterly, independent literary zine dedicated to the publication of quality contemporary and experimental poetry, creative no...

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