The Weekenders Magazine ISSUE #6 John Dorsey Kevin Ridgeway Bud Smith James Sanchez James Lawless Marilyn Monroe Jeff Graessley Erik Peterson Sparkplug Chatty Owl April Salzano Simon Molloy Jackie Baird Kent L Johnson A.J. Huffman Anthony Ward Brad Middleton Barbara Moore
CONTENTS POETRY: 3
To Me by Jeff Graessley: 4 We Howl by Jeff Graessley: 5 Because: by Jeff Graessley: 7 Virtually Yours by Erik Peterson: 9 On the Beach at Dawn by Barbara Moore: 10 On Wearing Underwear… by Sparkplug O’Shea: 11 Hill Ave Poem 2003 by John Dorsey: 12 Sunrise in Japan by Chatty Owl: 14 Just Another Day by Chatty Owl: 16 Calm Monday by Chatty Owl: 18 Getting Ready by Kevin Ridgeway: 19 Sing us a Song by Kevin Ridgeway: 20 Eyeless Smile by April Salzano: 22 Rage by Simon Molloy: 23 Kindness by Jackie Baird: 25 Untitled by James Sanchez: 26 Nightscape by A.J. Huffman: 27 The Eager Sanction by Anthony Ward: 29 Allen Ginsberg in Atlantis by Eric G. Muller: 30 Whiskey-Girl by Neil Ellman: 31 The Spelunker by Sy Roth: 33
The Lonely Funeral… by Matthew Guerruckey: 35 Words Raining Down by Bradford Middleton: 43 Junior by John Powers: 46 Hanging Around by Kent L Johnson: 49 Bums Hang Out by James Lawless: 55 The Lemur and the Thief by Bud Smith: 57
SUPPORT THE WEEKENDERS: 82
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR We all share the same struggle. This beautiful, marvelous struggle. We all want the same thing. We all have the same dreams, the same passions—however slightly different they may be. One day, reader, we will beat all of the obstacles we face. Everything that is in our way—we will crash right through them. We will defy the odds. We will make our mothers proud. The American Dream is what writing is all about, really. Maybe you think it’s something different, but for me, writing is the act of communicating your philosophies and emotions to the world, and then having the world react to it, and then enjoying the fruits of your labor. The thing that’s different, with literature, is the fact that these “fruits” might not always be money, fame, or fortune. Oftentimes, our “fruits” are people. Other writers, readers, lovers of words. We share our struggle with these people, and we learn to love through this one shared passion. Through this one shared struggle, we create family. Community. Together, we are unstoppable. Together, we are rich. Together, we are famous. We have created something that is unmatchable, and what my hope is, is that we will continue to build off of what we’ve started. A lot of literary journals shut down after a few months, or a few years. They get what they needed to get out of the scene, and then they’re gone. No real community was made. With us, though—we’ve got your back. Because we know what it’s like. Enjoy the issue, reader. Sincerely, Ryan Swofford, Editor The Weekenders Magazine
Jeff Graessley sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only a companion through burned nights driving high along dust-storm debris, a swirl in the gutters, as we move along, touching as lovers with desire fringing intention, like a bed skirt, my hands run up her with familiarity. she kisses my neck at stop lights, while people walk under umbrellas blocking out the beginning rain, shinning in the acid glow of the streetlamps, and I stare rationalizing the downpour, hoping the next time I look into her eyes Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll see in her what she sees in me, even though it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t work that way, ever, she treats me better than any of the others, so I keep trying.
WE HOWL Jeff Graessley
we howl finding bobby pins a year later cleaning out a desk that stops us, cold, identifying the twisted bends in the metal, as a floodgate of memory breaks in each groove. we howl silently in our hearts when new lovers demand tender affection in the quiet moments at an early hour, and only through closed eyes can we force it. we howl not seeing the fire ignition switch in them, and movement becomes automatic words like something recorded interaction without passion tasteless, like base chemistry, and we're supposed to love this person? we howl as pride falls a dethroned lion bested by a cub, our fingers betray dial a number from memory 5
and with rage our hearts pour out every clichĂŠd love analogy, begging them to please come home, but they won't, vying for small talk, and the conversation ends soon after when just hearing their voice invites the tears. we howl slamming phones down, throwing sheets and prayer over us, begging this pain away.
BECAUSE: Jeff Graessley
Black and white patrol cars carry Cowboy Ideology hidden in shotgun shells, they burn government funded oil, like breath into the lungs of a middle eastern demon named, Conquer a crazed superpower effect on the mind, they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think about, maintaining their presence like a venue of vultures. hiding in numbers, engines always burning they represent a set of laws established by elected officials who carry the country like pallbearers making that slow walk down the green hill of AMERICA with its beautiful thoughts of FREEDOM and OPPORTUNITY rotting in a rectangle box, specifically the psyche of the first responding officer in Palm Desert, at a suicide house on a nondescript night full of mental earthquakes and a young child crying not understanding 7
how a home can grow so cold. And other officers can go on smiling through Cowboy Ideology pretending they protect a populace, rather than enforce the law of some elected official.
VIRTUALLY YOURS Erik Peterson
We used to talk In bits and bytes No words spoken As fingers typed Eyes laid only On photographs No smiling faces No sudden laughs So close were we Yet oceans away Our binary world A coded display Ones and zeros Our I love yous And In the end Our goodbyes too
ON THE BEACH AT DAWN Barbara Moore lying next to you your hip at my hip, our eyes look up. colors burst untamed— nature’s pyrotechnics, morning’s nasturtiums. our mouths fall open. my fingers find your fingers. we laugh and swallow flame.
ON WEARING UNDERWEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER TWO YEARS Sparkplug O'Shea
Pulling the corduroy pants up over the underpants feels like doing the same thing twice Even after I wasn't homeless anymore the idea of underwear—it just seemed so superfluous Humans didn't always do this, not before marketing made it an absolute necessity Going to the bathroom for the first time since getting dressed this morning I chuckle a bit at the surprise as I push my pants down and my thumbs catch in the underpants— suddenly remembering, “Oh yeah, that.”
HILL AVE POEM 2003 John Dorsey
that first winter in toledo tim dropped wings at a chicken shack for 7 bucks an hour and i walked to the local diner every morning counting out loose change for stamps to mail out poems we lived on ramen microwave popcorn and tylenol pm that his girlfriend stole from the sam's club where she had worked part-time for more than a decade i was dating a high school girl who would bring me chocolate cake and stolen oranges and the writing had never been better one night tim decided we needed money and let some dude he met on the internet suck his dick for 40 bucks while i waited at the bar down the street he came back looking haggard ordered a shot of rye and dropped all of the cash on 12
snack cakes and cheap beer just to feel warm inside and from the window i watched the moon disappear and made snow angels out of stale pretzels and waited for last call
SUNRISE IN JAPAN Chatty Owl
I had to change my name, because my face didn't fit your hands as it used to and when you kissed me, there were no sparks to prove, that we are in love. I like the thought of you (un)dressed on my bed, but it's not easy for me to hang my clothes on your peg of honesty, so I just throw them on the floor the same place, where you used to tell me, how you enjoy the smell of my just-washed hair. You write prose about your past and I (un)write poems about the future, because I don't have one. I want to stare at your face all three hundred minutes and no breaks, but I still won't be able to see past that mask of yours and guess the name of your first girlfriend. Sometimes I drag my nails across walls and floorboards trying to find that perfect word to describe how much I want to hate you, but it takes three seconds to find a web of words to express the emotion I have 14
for your blue eyes, that are not blue after-all. Creative monsters live in walls of my bedroom, but only on those days, when you've slept in my bed and left socks on the stairs like a reminder, that you will crawl back inside my mind again. Like a snake in the grass. Like my hand in your pants. I wear a shirt with no bra and I drink coffee with no sugar, but I cover my eyes in front of strangers and I disguise whiskey in my coffee, when the clock strikes 7 in the morning, because this is the time, when people have lunch in Japan and I like eating in good company. With strangers. You told me to quit lying, but I never even tried doing it, so don't patronize me about things I have not intended to do, until you offered and I slipped.
JUST ANOTHER DAY Chatty Owl
Waiting for seasons to change is as much fun as getting your hair stroked by your own hand it's never as pleasing, unless somebody else does it. Naked trees are not the same as naked bodies, but it's all porn to me, because I don't believe in covering up feelings that I don't have for you. There is no shame in wanting to forget your name, but it is unfortunate to realize that I already don't remember it. (Or maybe I never even knew it?) just like you never knew how much I despise flowers in fields and pots and vases, but I smile every time you attempt to pick them for me, because that's how much I don't care to be truthful to you. "It's not fair", I hear you think and I have only one answer to this "you'll get used to it". You and me never in love. 16
We learned the words of it, but not the language and when you looked me in the eyes with that adorable look that whispered how you feel, I revealed the biggest secret it's not love, my dear. It's just another day.
CALM MONDAY Chatty Owl I make you believe that I'm an open book by making you read me backwards like a cryptic countdown. But you already know the culminating end will be those peaceful, well-known words of "once upon a time..." Hard covers are lying about how tough I am and how well I bluff looking right at your face, but we both can't hide the attraction, that's measured in two-tone poker chips and rigid paper money, hidden in the scent of those old books. So don't ask me why I continue drinking coffee I'm just hoping to find you at the bottom of my cup.
GETTING READY Kevin Ridgeway drops and ointment to prevent a corneal transplant the gook and saline solution run from her eyes beneath the lampâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s light the white smears against her elbows to prevent bruising the smell of Liz Taylor White Diamonds permeate her air she struggles into the car, out the door to go on an over-the-counter medicine shopping spree
SING US A SONG Kevin Ridgeway I am pissing against a broken urinal cake splattering the front of my jeans an oversized man with a SpongeBob backpack and bulging eyes is whistling and mumbling to himself as a shorter man in a smock zips up his pants and tells him to quiet down “Sing us a song! Sing us a song!” the man child chirps and he begins to whistle he walks over to me and stares at my penis and yells “sing us a song!” before the other man drags him
away and out the door I smoke two cigarettes after this, grateful for my foolish life.
EYELESS SMILE April Salzano One eye’s false lashes curve like the closing side in a set of parenthesis on a truck stop bathroom floor. The implied eye in an eyeless smile winks at me as I squat to pee, careful not to let my thighs touch the toilet. I have to wonder if there is someone wandering around, heading west on the interstate wearing only a partial lash set. I can’t imagine these things come off easily, or by accident. Maybe she meant to remove both, intending to flush their spidery legs before climbing into a trucker’s cab to give a five dollar blow job, but could not force herself to pick this one up off the tile floor that could so easily be contaminated with the germs of someone’s urine.
RAGE Simon Molloy Blood boiling anger turning inside, peaceful tranquility no longer abides. Aggression and energy seething within, internally picturing soul tarnished sin. Screaming in thought and shouting a name, life has moved on no longer the same. Saving the madness for nights all alone, trusting my hand to not pick up the phone. This is reality granted with glee, thinking my heart will never be free. All that I am battered and flayed, wishing the past could maybe have stayed.
Strength I do find in friendships brand new, ridding the beast of damaged accrued. Words whispered softly to calm and assure, reviving the heart with love strong and pure. This is my life now with peace broken through, rage dissipated all thanks to you.
KINDNESS Jackie Baird Into the world cruel and dark A light shall shine on And the tears shall be gone For kindness sings like the sound of the lark Beautiful and pure For with kindness one may endure For it is the cure
UNTITLED James Sanchez She smells of ash Mountains across time Guardians of syrupy secrets Kisses underneath mamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quilt The family bible trembling on the high bookshelf Dusted prayers collected across despair Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t touch me there He had softer fingers Malleable digits Curved just right Cascades of guilt Skeletons spinning bottles in closets Your turn fetish Conceal yourself Cloak of wheedles Overcoat of faux smiles The maggots eat slowly Full of ache Each bite Seismic up the spine like smoke signals from a wounded tribesman.
NIGHTSCAPE: SEQUENCE LOG 001 A.J. Huffman I run from you. As days tangle my hair and yeas rush my lips with their thick bile. You chase me, pushing me farther down the road that is never a road, it is a prison filled with icons, mawing, iridescent claws searing me. Your darts prod me forward, filling me with vile belief until I am numb again and can no longer feel the jagged earth grappling my ankles. I look back to see a sea of scarlet sewage tracking me. Blood and your words flood me into nothing. I tumble through a giant mouth that purges me in guilt. Staring at meâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; you, my perfect angel, untouched by the sludge seeping from my throat and hands. You offer your hand. Its touch, flaming the filth of my skin, forces me back again. Still you reach for me. And I believe in the savior of that immaculate palm. I follow its light through my blindness, seeing only you. Then it is gone. Your hand closes the light, plunging me into a black thicker than night. I twirl in foolish circles, 27
a never-ending band binding my waist, searching for your foraging fingers. I pray for unconsciousness. Instead your hands open to me again. For one blinding instant you flash repeatedly through my mind. And I feel your fierce touch once more before you push me into your cavern of hysterical nothing.
THE EAGER SANCTION Anthony Ward
Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m the salt of the earth who likes to rub it in, Who doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mind turning to liquid, Pickling my brainPreserved in memories, Lifting my spirits as I down them, Drinking my health at my own expense Until I end up, smashed, on the rocks, Venting my lungs into fiery faces All inflamed with amethyst hue, Eyes violet as the claret pours down my neck, Unable to stand myself, Wishing I had the bottle to get back to my feat. These dried out days eroded by watery weeks, Making months seem mountainous. Climbing the walls to get over myself.
ALLEN GINSBERG IN ATLANTIS Eric G. Muller
Await you hero-head of the Beat-butt age … chair still empty, table covered in saffron silk, chimes, cymbals and red-box-incense, dancing Shiva, books, piled papers – circled by the low throat-hum of Moloch’s sentinels, black devouring boxes to amplify your howl against the mind which made them master. Heard you, American mantra man, feet lifting, shifting, to the tidal drifting of your pulsing heart; pounding, pouncing, down, up and around; holy spray spewing from your fleshy lips. And what you stood for you still are: a Blakian hobo-homo-mystic-man – ah, men! – How you mad-milked the mythic harmonium, plastered with memento stickers from Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue Tour, getting the jiving mob to chant along to the lamb-soft strain of ... all the hills echoed And all the hills echoed And all the hills echoed And all the hills echoed And all the hills echoed And all the hills …
WHISKEY-GIRL Neil Ellman I The way a man loves a woman or another man the way the stars tremor deliriously even when eyes are closed the way a Dragon Fruit flowers only at night the way you are you and I am me I crave your taste and remember your scent even when you are gone and I am spent.
II You and I have known the highs and lows pf reckless, mindless love and danced unclothed with lampshades on our heads knowing that it was almost wrong the things we did when in each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s arms.
III There were others, of course, spirits of another kind: bourbon, rum, absinthe (women, too) making my heart grow fonder but only you could quench my thirst.
THE SPELUNKER Sy Roth He waddles into the room. They all watch his camelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s walk in their desert. Heads swing like pendulums as he wends his way their way. He spelunkles their cave, lower jaw fixed in a smiling pout. Ill-fitting teeth make a bat-clacking cha-cha as he moves. Brillo-tufted chin jerkily moves in synch with them. A toupee rests on his head like a beret on a bowling ball, gray hair matted, weighted-stiff with muck sponged from the air around him. This day he changed his shirt, a sere cloth of indistinguishable design. Pearly-white skin peeps through a four-inch rent where he clutches his pouch but fails to cover a droopy breast. He unearths a seat, hidden beneath a pile of jackets, people on either side leaning Towers of Pisa. He mines his pouch as their lemon-sucking faces glower, and removes a sleeve of Saltine crackers. gnaws at one daintily, pinky in the air. Crumbs soon litter the table. He mumbles garbled non-sequiturs at the world around him. Teeth and tongue conspire to splinter it with his presence, then sighs as the Towers work to ignore him.
THE LONELY FUNERAL OF ARTURO GOMEZ Matthew Guerruckey
It was a small Catholic church, which meant it was still the largest structure on the block. The gray brick exterior was thrown into a deep shade by the yellowing ash trees staggered around the lawn. That shade lent an almost medieval dankness to the inside. No sunlight shone through the calcified stained glass windows. The church demanded brooding reflection of its parishioners. Jerry tugged at his cuff links as he walked through the double doors leading into the nave. He scanned the pews where the other mourners sat, and counted five other people. He must be early. Punctuality was his curseâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;one thing he'd never shared with Arturo. But then, he'd never had much in common with Arturo at all. The only thing he could be sure of was that if the roles were reversed Arturo wouldn't be at his funeral, much less there a full twenty minutes early. He scanned the pews to find the best place to sit. A bowedover old man in a wheelchair sat beside the first row. His assistant, a chubby asian girl not far into her twenties, sat beside him scrolling through her Facebook feed. The only other person in the front rows was a puffy man in a seersucker jacket with two cigars poking out of the pocket. A blonde woman in her forties but dressed for her twenties sat in the middle row. She had on a bright, clingy red dress. Two men sat toward the back rows, apart from each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;one of them in a tracksuit, the other in a faded sweater and ripped blue jeans. Guys like Arturo don't get a big send-off, Jerry told himself. He picked up an order of service from the short stack of them placed on a small table behind the back pew. It was a one-page, one-side flyer. It featured Arturo's full name, which he had never known was Arturo Montoya Danilo Manuel Gomez, and his date of birth and death. Quick mental math revealed that Arturo had died at 64, which would have meant he was in his mid-forties the last time that Jerry had seen him. 35
Jerry walked into the aisle to select a seat (maybe by the blonde, he thought). As he walked he made incidental eyecontact with the priest at front, a man with a long, worried face. The priest took it as a signal and made a straight line for Jerry. Before Jerry could sit he was standing beside him with his hand extended. "Good afternoon to you, sir," the priest said in a soft voice. Are you a family member to the departed?" "No," Jerry said, "I'm not. I worked with him about twenty years ago." "Ah, yes, well that must have been when he worked at the docks?" "No, I'm afraid not. We workedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;" "Oh! Don't tell me," the priest said. He reached underneath his robe and took out a pair of small, round glasses from his pants pocket to scan the obituary listed on the order of service. "Then, when he was in the merchant marines? Did you serve with him there?" "No, sorry. Nothing so exciting. We worked together at the phone company." The priest frowned as he reviewed the paper in his hand. "Hmm. Nothing about the phone company here." "Well, I doubt it merited a mention. He was only there for a year." "But you stayed in touch afterward?" "Not really, fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;" "Oh, it's not 'father', not quite yet. I'm just a deacon." "Oh, sure. Well, anyway, there are a few old-timers that still work there, and one of them is a woman who scans the obituaries every day. She told us all about it. In fact, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d hoped there might be a few other people from my office here, but I guess not." "Yes, well, this appears to be it. Say, is there anything at all that you can tell me about Mr. Gomez's character? I've put together a sermon that I hope will be an adequate tribute, but it's just so hard to sum up the life of a man into a five-minute speech. Then, add the difficulty that I didn't really know Mr. Gomez personally." "You didn't know him at all?" 36
"Well, that is to say, our head priest, Father Shapiro, he knew him quite well, but at the last minute he dropped out for, uh, unspecified reasons. So I've soldiered on here as best I can with the information I've been able to gather. "The other mourners, I'm afraid, have not been as forthcoming." The deacon added as the old man in the wheelchair struggled with a load of mucus in his throat. "Well, Arturo was sort of a difficult man to know," Jerry said. "Could I call on you to say a few words when the time comes?" "I'm sorry?" "Please, just a few words. I'm very afraid that no one else is going to say anything. I think that would be just terrible, don't you?" "Well, I—" "Wonderful. I do appreciate your offer." "But—" But the man was gone, heading swiftly up the aisle to arrange his books in preparation for the service. Jerry sighed and took his seat at last. Organ music announced the beginning of the service. The mourners looked at each other, unsure whether to rise or stay seated. Two of the men elected to stand, while the others stayed in place. Jerry stood, then thought better of it, then saw the man next to him rise and felt he should, too. He bobbed up and down three times before deciding on an odd in-between position that seemed to be paying nobody any respect, especially his own dignity. The deacon approached the podium and motioned the mourners to be seated. Then he walked over to a boom-box which stood on a stool by the casket and hit a button. The music was silenced. "Ladies and gentlemen, children of God, we gather today to pay our respects to our dear friend, Arturo Gomez. He was a kind man ...” "Huh!" said the blonde. “... A man whose very nature was to give of himself. His many long years as a sailor in the merchant marines bear 37
testament to his adventurous spirit and his days as a bill collector speak volumes of the patience and resilience of this remarkable soul. One that God has now called back unto his kingdom." The old man in front hacked a long, dry cough that whined down like a struggling car engine. The deacon shuffled his notes and cleared his throat. "In, uh, times like this," he continued, "one turns to the solace of the scriptures, as we may imagine that Arturo himself did in the last moments of his life, through his valiant battle with the cancer which ultimately claimed his life. There as he lay in his hospital bed, perhaps he thought back to the words of the psalms that read, 'this God is our God forever and ever, he will be our guide even to the end'. "That, of course, is the promise of eternal reward for all who walk the path of the Lord in truth. So, like Arturo here, as we walk the road of life we shall be comforted and look to the light that calls us homeward." Here he stopped and shuffled inside the podium, pulling out a CD. "And now, in accordance with Arturo's own wishes, we will play a musical selection. This will be the song, uh, 'Twilight Zone' by the band Golden Earring. It says here that it is seven minutes and fifty-nine seconds long, and I urge you to use that time to reflect on the man that Arturo was, what he meant to you, and how fragile, truly, all life is." The deacon walked over to the boom-box. He opened the CD case, carefully carrying the CD at its edges between his thumb and forefinger until he placed it in its cradle. He scanned the back of the CD case for the correct track and skipped ahead on the digital readout until he found the right number. He pressed play and the eerie intro began. The deacon walked to a chair on the far side of the stage and sat tapping his feet. The man in the tracksuit struggled to his feet with an audible "fuck this shit" and walked toward the casket. He stood looking at Arturo's corpse for a moment, then began to cross himself, then stopped. He turned to the figure of Christ on the crucifix and finished the motion before turning on his heels to walk up the aisle and out of the church. 38
The blonde twirled a loop of hair around her fingers. The old man nodded off, drooping at an almost ninety-degree angle, until his aide reached an arm across his chest to push him back. As the song's end refrain began the deacon left his seat and walked to the back where Jerry sat. He leaned over him and said, "I'm very sorry, sir, that I didn't catch your name." "It's Jerry Barnes, but Iâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;" "Jerry, I do appreciate you agreeing to this. The song's very nearly over, and then we'll bring you up." He turned to leave, but Jerry tugged on his robe. "Listen," Jerry said, "I'm not very good at public speaking." The deacon looked at the tiny, bored crowd. "I'm not really sure this qualifies. Just a minuteâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;it would be greatly appreciated, thank you." Then he disappeared down the aisle. The deacon turned off the music (but not before the next track began) and returned to the podium. "Okay, now we'd like to invite Jerry Barnes, one of Arturo's very dearest friends, as I understand, up to say a few words. Jerry, please come up." Jerry stood and exited the pew. Every remaining mourner turned to glare at him, trying to discern what type of man could be so loathsome that Arturo would consider him his dearest friend. Eyes narrowed. Brows furrowed. Jerry wasn't Catholic, but he crossed himself all the same as he walked toward the pulpit. As he neared the casket he glanced in and got a good look at Arturo for the first time in two decades. His face was bloated and sagging, and much redder than heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d remembered. He had no way of knowing if that was part of the embalming process or if he had just expanded with age and sickness. Jerry took the deacon's place behind the podium. "Thank you," he said with a trace of acid in his voice. "I'm here today to, uh, say a few words about Arturo Gomez." He looked at the crowd and was surprised to find them all focused on him--the first time that every eye had been trained at the same thing since the service had started. They were looking to him for something that would justify their own presence there. "Arturo was a good guy," Jerry lied. "We only worked together for a short time, and I haven't seen him in twenty years. Maybe more." 39
The excitement faded. The old man's aide went back to her phone, the blonde rummaged through her purse. "I remember that he really used to love the Cubs. Um. And he loved rock music, as I guess we all saw just a minute ago. He collected guns, I think. No. Swords? Knives. He was, uh ...â&#x20AC;? He stared out at the dead faces before him and the bloated face in the box. The face, more that he looked at it, didn't seem like Arturo at all. It seemed waxy and plain. Blank like a Lego man. His face seemed more like a drawing in a textbook meant to describe a cross-section of mankind than any one specific man. He wondered what that individuality had been and where it had gone. "This man," he began, still searching for humanity in that flat, reddened corpse, "This man ... owes me fifty fucking dollars." The old man in the wheelchair laughed. "Yeah," Jerry continued, "Arturo borrowed fifty bucks from me in 1993, to bet against the Sox when they played the Blue Jays. He said he changed his mind and bet Chicago, but I knew damn well he'd bet Toronto. Everybody knew. And I had to walk around for weeks with everyone we worked with knowing that I'd been suckered by this guy." He looked at the coffin again, and Arturo's face began to take on some of its old life. He could picture it in motionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the darting eyeballs, the animated eyebrows, the drooping jowls waggling underneath. "I guess I'm not getting that money back now. Maybe that's the only reason I'm here. Because he owed me. "Jesus, Arturo," he addressed the body directly, "you were a real prick." He turned back to the crowd, which had given him their full attention. He went on. "I don't think I've ever known anybody as frustrating as this man here. He was obnoxious, he was loud. He farted through every lunch break I had for twelve fucking months. I haven't even thought about him in the twenty years since he quit. I don't even know why I'm here. Maybe that's not fair to Arturo or fair to
all of you and your grief—but looking out at you I don't sense any real loss or remorse." A few of the remaining men crossed their arms. The deacon gave him a 'where are you going with this?' face. "And what's worse, I don't even know anything about this poor bastard. Not really. If I were to describe Arturo to you I'd say he was a squat, ugly little man who always smelled like onions. Who never had a kind word to say. Who always acted like every little slight against him was the end of the world. I never saw Arturo happy for one moment. The only time I ever heard him laugh was when somebody got hurt or fired. Oh my God, and that laugh—do you remember it? It sounded like he was putting metal through a blender. I mean, let's face it, if I had to paint Arturo I'd toss a glob of shit at the canvas and call it a day." The crowd laughed. Even the deacon stifled a tittering chortle. Jerry scanned the room and found attentive eyes and full smiles. He looked back at Arturo's face. It seemed like he could make out, for the first time, the frown lines that had settled in around his mouth. The embalmers hadn't been able to rob him of that trademark entirely. "But still," Jerry said, looking at the face, "here he is. This is the most quiet I've ever seen him, and now he'll never get to be that jumpy spark-plug again. Whatever we thought of Arturo— and it wasn't much—what are we to do with that? Someday soon we'll all be trading places with him, though I hope to God they get my face a little more natural than that, Jesus. And someday people will be standing in the place that I'm standing saying something about each one of us. We can hope that we'll have been better to those people than Arturo was to us, but would that make them any more honest? It might be more likely to make them lie, to only talk about the great things we did, whatever they were. Then we might never end up with a true picture of what kind of people we were. I don't want that. I would want to know. If I were an old, cranky, joyless troll like Arturo here, I'd hope that people would say it." As his fellow mourners looked down in introspection Jerry walked over to the casket. He gripped the lid and said, softer
than anyone could hear, said "rest in peace". Then he turned to face the crowd again. "Listen, we have a chance here to really tell the world who this man was, now that he's gone. So let's everyone come up here and give a true history of Arturo Gomez. How you loved him, how you hated him, how he fucked you over. Because no matter who he was or what he did, he deserves the truth. And, one by one, they all did. The man in the seersucker jacket was Arturo's bookie (who assured Jerry that he didn't have his fifty bucks). He spoke of Arturo's gruff voice, of desperate bets and late-night phone calls. The blonde, it turned out, was an escort who had become his favorite. She spoke of a grunting pigman who always hopped off of her when he was done like Neil Armstrong bouncing around the moon. "Boy, you know, he looked like a shaved grizzly naked, but you'd have thought he was George Clooney by the way he pranced around." The old man wheeled himself to the front and spoke of a neighbor who never once turned off his television set, and of the terrible silence of the past few nights. For over two hours they talked, and shared, and laughed. As they left they filed past his casket and each gave him an affectionate smileâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the escort even planted a wet, red kiss that would remain on his forehead for all of eternity. They exited the church as a group, but split apart to go back to their own separate lives. The world that greeted them outside felt so much smaller than it ever had before.
WORDS RAINING DOWN Bradford Middleton
Jack was on his way to university when it began to rain. It didn’t really bother Jack as he was sat on the bus deeply engrossed in yet another book, a particularly strange book by a famous American junkie which they were to discuss in class that afternoon. As he looked out the window though trying to understand what exactly he had just read he realized that this rain wasn’t like any normal rain. It seemed to be raining letters, or in some cases whole words, and numbers. As he turned his attention back to the book he noticed that a word he had just read – ‘drugs’ ironically enough – had come from the sky and landed right on top of a guy stood on a street corner. The guy really looked familiar, maybe it was the guy who had sold him a huge quantity of ketamine at the weekend but as Jack had taken it all he couldn’t be sure of that. As a couple of police officers, taking shelter in a shop entrance to avoid any injury from the words that were raining down, realized that maybe they should go and investigate the guy who’d just been almost decapitated by the word ‘drugs’ the words ‘I can feel the heat closing in’ appeared from the sky and nailed the first police office right in the head. Jack began to think about the phrases he had seen falling from the sky, they had all seemed familiar and the fact it was simply raining words and numbers in the first place struck Jack as being something which could only be explained by one thing but it was such a bizarre and weird theory that had lead him to reach this conclusion he didn’t really want to think about it. As he got off the bus and took shelter the rain began to dissipate and after smoking a roll-up it was safe to venture out from under cover and into the ordeal that was bound to be his first class of the week. He arrived at class and there was a lot of talk amongst the group but Jack’s mind was still struggling to come to terms with the theory that was now taking over his mind.
‘Could it be that all those words were from the novel he had been reading?’ It would have been very odd indeed but then Jack heard a fellow class-mate recounting a similar type experience. “What’s that you’re saying Alan?” “Well just that it’s a bit weird ya know? This day and this book and suddenly strange things start to happen? It just really falls together doesn’t it? You know he had some pretty interesting theories of his own about the power of words.” At that point one of the administrative people came into the classroom and everyone went quiet. It was rare to see any of those people outside of their offices so everyone knew that something had happened. It was at that moment that Jack thought the face he had seen hanging around on the street on his way onto campus that was decapitated by the words ‘drugs’ was possibly his teacher. The administrator apologized to all the class and told them the entire lecture would be re-arranged with a teaching assistant for later that afternoon. As the class shuffled out of the room they each gave their mobile phone number to the administrator who told them that they would receive a text as soon as he had got in touch with the replacement. Before wandering off to the library Jack decided to ask the administrator what had become of their lecturer only to be told that the academic was at a very important conference and it was such short-notice that he had no time to tell anyone. Jack didn’t believe a word of it as he stepped out into the outdoor again looking nervously at the sky for the odd stray word or number falling from that direction. At the top of the stairs that lead up to the entrance of the library building Jack decided he’d smoke another roll-up as he may lose himself inside the library for a while. One of the problems of being a literary student was that whenever he went into the library there was always lots of stuff for him to devour. Today he thought he would do some digging on these theories that his class-mate was talking about and went off to the well read area of literature at the back of the second floor. As he smoked the roll-up it started to spit with rain again, just letters and the occasional number this time and no full words. It looked weird and made Jack want to find out what it was his class-mate was talking about. 44
After an hour he received the text telling him the lecture had been re-organized for 4pm that afternoon and Jack, looking up at a nearby clock, noticed he still had almost an hour before then and that maybe, just so he could try and get his head round what he had just read, he could go smoke a joint over by the lake that dominated the north-eastern quarter of the campus. He decided it was best he hung back and stayed under the protective cover of the trees that surrounded the lake. Knowing it would only take him ten minutes to get to class he rolled quite a strong joint and his mind began thinking about all he had managed to read in the previous hour in the library. ‘That junkie sure is a strange guy but this book intrigues me like no other. All this talk of the power of the word and the only way we can negate it is to rub it out? Very odd indeed’ he concluded after smoking the joint and watch as stray letters and numbers occasionally hit the surface of the lake as the drizzle continued. As he got back to class it was immediately apparent that half of his fellow students hadn’t bothered to hang around for the re-arranged lecture and as the teaching assistant walked in it really started to pour with rain outside. “WORDS RAINING DOWN” fell from the sky in the biggest boldest font he had seen yet and suddenly the class was all asking questions of the over-whelmed teaching assistant. He began to tell stories of the writers’ life and how his theories had been developed and then he dropped the bombshell that every time they had this book on the curriculum for the last few years similar things had happened with the weather but unlike this year previous episodes hadn’t resulted in any fatalities. Jack knew at least one person had died as surely the ‘drugs’ had killed that person he saw out on the street that morning but was it possible that that person was their lecturer? It would be highly ironic if the person who died was the one person who could possibly explain what it was that had happened that day.
JUNIOR John Powers Once in Senhor do Bomfin, Tim, Nick, Blake and I arrived at a Kindergarten. Small in stature, the building was plain. It had cinder block walls that were painted light blue. The ceilings were white. The floors were all unpainted. There was a ten foot wall surrounding the entire building. The wall was topped with broken glass bottles, a kind of low-key barbed wire. It formed a courtyard area around the two story complex. There were spots of well-groomed grass in the front of the building: play areas for the kids. The group of Brazilians we were with had rented out the kindergarten for the entirety of the weekend as lodging. We piled out of the bus and into the front gate. I was drunk and felt a hot pressure under my skin from the Catuaba. I couldn’t understand what the Brazilians were saying but I could tell that many of them were slurring their words. “Loco.” Okay, I understood that. I guess somebody is crazy… going to the nuthouse. “Puta.” Okay, got it. Somebody is a slut. Going to the sluthouse. Let me take out my slut-compass, to give her directions. An 18 year old girl in front of the rear of the bus slapped the hand of a twenty-something Brazilian as it slipped from her back to her buttocks. She had on a light blue spaghetti-strap top and cut off jean shorts that could only slightly be called more than a thong. I caught the word “bunda,” come out of her mouth. Bunda… I would ask Tim about this word. I followed Tim into the building. A group of eight Brazilians came in with us. We put down out bedding (beach towels) in the
first room on the left. I was sleeping between Nick and Tim. Blake was directly across from us, sleeping under the window. Junior was on one side of him and four Brazilian girls were on the other side of him. Blake was a human firewall between Junior and some highly illegal porno. At least, it was illegal in the US. Junior looked like someone that had been molested as a child and was on the precipice of returning the favor. He was squat, insecure, and if he had lost his virginity it was because a hooker was nice to him. I didn’t want to sleep by him. Junior promptly pointed out to us that we were sleeping in the same room as four hot sixteen year old Brazilian girls. He didn’t know that they all spoke English. “Hey guys! These girls are so hot. Tim, you should heet that! I’m going to get with one of them.” Tim looked at him and shook his head. Junior was optimistic. Optimistic like those cosmonauts Moscow Mission Control never heard from again. Mission success… not probable. Tim was on the rebound from a tornado of a relationship. He and his ex had broken up several weeks before we all arrived in Salvador. However, they had made the mistake of staying friends: close friends. So, in spite of all female kind’s uncontrollable attraction to Tim, he just wanted to hang out with the boys. Boys he had only known for a week. Next, myself, Tim, Nick, Blake, and Junior took a tour of the kindergarten turned University of Debauchery. Tenth grade through graduate levels were all housed in an open-air two story with no glass in the windows or screens. There was one bathroom on the first floor and three outdoor showers on the second level. The backyard had a barbecue area with a table and three chairs. There was a chest-high refrigerator on the patio, just inside from the barbecue patio. It seemed like the entire building was set up for this dualistic party-business setup: except
for the single bathroom. There were over forty people in our group. I thought to myself: Did anybody pack a toilet plunger in their bag? This is going to get messy. When we returned to the tenth grade/university foreign exchange student classroom Junior walked over to talk to the sixteen year olds. We all watched him work his magic. In the middle of some melodic gibberish he put his hand on the waist of the girl he was talking to. Her mouth became crooked and her lips pursed. Her eyes opened into saucers. I imagined she had witnessed Carmen Miranda turn into the Man-Bear-Pig. Junior was now Carmen-Bear-Pig. Her friend, in an orange spaghettistrap top and jean shorts slapped away Juniorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s meaty, short fingers. They all turned around in that instant into a girl-huddle. It was a well-honed movement for Brazilian women. The girls looked like Roman Legionnaires locking shields. The protective barrier was formed and Junior had to employ his fat fingers to some other task. He returned to his bag to get his things ready for the night to come.
HANGING AROUND Kent L Johnson She walks up to us, askin' for a light. Greg couldn't get his lighter out fast enough. I watch her as she inhales. The tip of her cigarette bursts first into flame, then settles into an orange ember. It wasn't the flame that intrigued me, it's beyond the flame; her lips pucker around the white filter and she sucks in, her cheeks implode for a moment, then a puff of smoke rolls from the side of the cigarette. She pulls it off her lips and smiles. Seductive, if you got a dirty mind. I do. "Thanks," she says to Greg, "I owe you one." "Maybe, we can get together later? Talk?" Greg's got his eye on her. I catch her glancing at the ring on his finger. She doesn't seem bothered. She looks at me and smiles, before answering him. "Want my number?" "Sure," he says. "How about a drink later this evening?" "I'm a workin' girl," she says, drawing on the cigarette and exhaling soft gray smoke out her nose. "My payin' job's during the evening." She winks at him. "Give me a call. Maybe we can work something out." She hands him a card. It's got a number on it, but she's crossed a couple out and wrote new above in her own hand. "See ya, and thanks for the light." She turns and walks away. Greg and me, we're sittin' and watchin' her walk down the pathway in the park. She's wearin' tight black low cut jeans. Got some bling on the pockets. The pants are so low cut 'n' tight, she got some hip muffin-top comin' over the sides, even though she's slim. Low cut short blouse that shows her belly and her boobs if
she leans the right way. She's wearin' a black bra, with a black lace undershirt that clings to her belly. Neither of us says anything as we watch her walk. She glances back our direction and gives us a smile. She's out of hearing range and Greg looks at me and shakes his arm fast for a few seconds, leaving his wrist limp, in that universal gesture of 'Oh My God'. "Oh man. What do you think about that?" "I think she's an alien," I say. "Alien? "Yeah." "What makes you think that?" "One, she's damn good looking and she stopped to talk to us. That's so strange, it's out of this world." "Strange, yeah, but not entirely unheard of. I may be a bit out of sorts, but you're in good shape. Why wouldn't she stop?" Greg says to me. "It just doesn't happen. Two, she leaned over to tie her shoe and I had my eye on her ass. Didn't see no butt crack peekin' out. With those jeans, it should a been showin'. She's an alien." "Oh come on," Greg says. "You so use to seein' fat ass gals that you think someone with a small butt is an alien? You nut's man. I can imagine what that looks like from across town." His eyes look away from me and into the sky. "Nice." "So you gonna call her?" "I just might." "What do you think she charges?" I sit back on the park bench and feel the sunlight hit my face. It's warm and feels good. The park has an odor of cut grass and I hear kids playin' in the distance. "Charges? What are you talkin' about?" "She's a hooker, Greg. Pretty obvious."
"Not obvious to me," he says. "So you tellin' me, if she's not an alien, she's got to be a hooker for talkin' to us?" "Just sayin." "Man, you're one cynical bastard. What's wrong with us?" "You didn't see how she was starin' at your wedding ring?" "No." "By the way. When are you goin' to get back with Kath?" "I'm not sure I'm getting back. I might just find me a nice gal that appreciates me for me, like that cute one that just left." "Keep dreamin'." A bird lands on the lawn in front of us. He's cockin' his head from side to side, listening for worms, I guess. The bird hops a few steps, then listens some more. A kid on a bicycle rides by and scares it. It takes flight. I'm wonderin' about Greg and his ol' lady. They seemed so happy that first year they were married. "So tell me again, why you and Kath split up?" I ask Greg. "You're still doin' counseling?" "Yeah, we're still doin' counseling, but I don't see no good comin' from that so far, 'cept some rich bitch counselor getting richer." Greg extends his hands out in front of him and flexes his muscles. I hear his arm bones crack. He rests his hands on his lap. "Kath says she can't handle me watchin' sports with Lance and Norm couple a times a week. Thinks I should be home with her all the time." "You watch at your house? Or Lance's?" "No, we watch down at Pat's. It's a nice place, they got good beer, and cheap, on a game night." "I like Pat's too, but it is a bar. Sometimes you can get carried away with a bit too much good beer and liquor." I'm thinkin' of the times I wandered home from Pat's, not ever remembering I left 'till I put the key in my apartment door. Good beer and ale, maybe a shot of Irish Whiskey, next thing you know...you wake up the next morning not knowing how you got 51
home; or worse yet, you wake up with someone the next morning and not even remember what the two of you did. What a waste. "Maybe I get carried away sometimes. Fact is, when we were seein' each other, she'd go out with me to these things too. Now it's like she never did any of that stuff." Greg looked frustrated. "You got a kid now. Things change for some," I tell him. "Yeah." Greg sits silent for a moment, staring straight ahead. Greg was tall and lanky back when we were in school; a baseball playin' son of a bitch. Now he's startin' to sport a beer belly, his face looks older and you can see the stress he feels in his expression. He and Kath married a few years back. Kid came along about two years later. He's a regular workin' class stiff now, his fate kind of sealed by choices maybe he didn't understand. I don't know. A lot a shit happens to folk as they go through life. I hear the sound of sirens from the streets outside the park. Sounds like an ambulance, maybe a cop. It distracts me from my thoughts. I watch two kids playing Frisbee off in the distance, a dog running between them each time the disk is thrown. Third Saturday of every month, the VFW puts on a great breakfast for cheap. I saw Greg at one a few years back, and we became reacquainted since school. We come to the park after breakfast if the weather is good and talk: Greg, Kath and the kid. Last few months it's just been Greg. "I got to get rollin'," Greg tells me. "Since I been livin' back home with my folks, they started to give me chores again. See you next month." I watch him walk a short way before I get up and head home in the opposite direction.
The sky is overcast but it's not cold. Greg and I are walkin' into the park, towards the bench we normally sit at. "You were right." "Huh?" "She was a hooker." "You called her?" "I had to know...was it business or did she see something more?" "It was business, I take?" "You know, we go through life, none of us prepared, as I see it. Then we get into things, marriage, a kid, and a job. All of a sudden, those three things that seemed so independent, are now the same...tied to each other in a circle, like a rope looped into a noose." "A little dramatic, don't you think, Greg?" "Not really. I got a wife and kid and it's my responsibility to make sure they are provided for, so I gotta have a job. The noose is around my neck and if I stumble, we all three get hurt." We sit down at our usual park bench. I see kids playing soccer off in the distance. Today, the air smells moist. I hear birds fighting in the trees. A girl on roller blades whizzes by on the paved path, her hair bounces off her shoulders. "The more I thought about it, after I learned she was a prostitute, the more difficult it became. She didn't want me for me, but for money. I probably shouldn't have thought about it. Why the fuck do I have to have a conscience?" "It's good that some people do, Greg." "Yeah, but you know, I talked to her on the phone for a long time. She's like ten units from getting her degree in Sociology. Wants to be a school counselor. I don't know, maybe we could have hit it off." "No shit?"
"She turns tricks, cause it pays the bills, and doesn't take a lot of time. She doesn't have any hang-up about sex for money. No guilt. She likes to pick her people though, since random guys can be scary. Married men are her best picks. Married men are lookin' for an ideal that she can cater to. That's why she kinda chose me over you. I got the ring." Greg held his hand in the air, displaying his gold band. "So what was it? Did guilt get the better of you?" "Yeah, I mean, I made a commitment to Kath. I got a kid. And here I am talking about paying a girl to get my rocks off one time, breaking my commitment. I went into counseling with a new attitude. Me and Kath, gonna get back together next week and try it again." "I'm happy for you Greg." I smile at him, then turn back and watch the kids playing off in the distance. "Can I ask you something?â&#x20AC;? "Shoot." "If you still got her number, could you pass it this way? She sounds way more interesting today than when we met."
BUMS HANG OUT James Lawless I'm on an Italian subway; it's clambering away on its way to Milan. There's a Philippine lady speaking loud Italian into one cell phone while she holds another in her other hand. I'm sitting across from her watching and listening to this comedy. She's speaking so loud I have no trouble hearing her conversation over the din of the subway. The passengers on the right and left of her are also speaking on cell phones. Then a cell phone rings, one of those loud rings like a home phone makes. Who could this be? It rings again. A man sitting on the corner seat by the subway door fiddles with a green canvas bag looped over his shoulder. But it can't be him; he's a bum. Bums don't have cell phones. The bum catches me observing him. He tilts his head up quickly in my direction as to say, “What are you looking at me for?” "I was wondering whose loud phone that is." The phone rings again, and the man sitting next to the bum answers it. The mystery is solved. The bum pulls a half liter can of beer out of his bag and holds it in my direction. I mistakenly say, "No thanks". The bum laughs out loud and shakes his head as if to say, “I wasn't offering it to you. I was just showing you why I was going into my bag.” Then he holds the fingers of his right hand together and shakes them at me. I read this gesture to say, “So you think I'm crazy.” I smile and shrug at him. My eyes say, “Of course you're not crazy.” He smiles back, and, then, with a straight face, raises his head in my direction asking a question in body language.
I tighten my forehead as to say, “I don't understand your question.” He points in the direction the subway is headed and raises his head again in an inquiring way. I say, "I'm getting out in Loreto and then I'm changing trains for Duomo.” "I'm staying on this one to Central Station," he says. I nod at him understandingly and think: that makes sense; that's where the bums hang out.
THE LEMUR AND THE THIEF Bud Smith
All his life, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been a thief. It was all he knew. He could expertly pick any lock, snake between the sensors of security systems, slip through an army of guards, undetected. But, he was getting old and less nimble, on some days needing a cane for his leg. He knew it was only a matter of time before they caught him. But, objects had a hold over him. Under the cover of darkness he stole shimmering jewels, masterful works of art, invaluable artifacts from ancient ages. Then, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d limp home, securing his winnings in a large house on the edge of the dark woods. The thief loved animals almost as much as he loved stealing. One morning, he went to the zoo and spent some time watching the spotted leopards pace back and forth in their steel cages. He watched the tuxedoed penguins dive into their cool pool. He studied the black bears snoozing on a flat rock outside their fabricated cement cave. But, the thief was most interested in the monkey room. He stood in there looking in wonder at them. They leapt from tree to tree and reminded him of himself in his youth. He smiled broadly. Off to the side was an even smaller room full of ringtail lemurs. He got quite a kick out of them. He studied the plaque explaining all about their diets, disposition and natural environment: the rain-forests of Madagascar. Before he could even explain it, the thief was jimmying the lock, taking a baby lemur out of its cage. It crawled under his armpit into the warmth there.
As he left, the remaining lemurs were bouncing around, screaming in shrill horror and pounding on the bars. They wanted to come too. The thief trained the lemur. He taught it everything he knew about stealing. The lemur was quite a natural at it. Quick hands. Leaping around like lightning. Scaling drain pipes, coming through heating ducks and ventilation shafts. The jewels were more abundant than ever. The paintings. The sculptures. Valuable coins and stamps. Ceremonial items from secret crypts forgotten beneath the surface of the earth and housed on display at mammoth commercial museums. The two of them were inseparable. Most of the time the lemur sat on the thief's shoulder. Its ringed tail curled loosely around the thief's neck, as if it were a fuzzy striped necklace. The thief was pleased as he filled up his house near the dark woods. The lemur was rewarded well for his part in the burglaries with blackberries and cashews. The thief taught it about laser alarms. He showed it a complex blueprint of the inside of a sophisticated bank vault. The lemur just chirped woefully. "What? What's the problem, Lemur?" the thief said, impatiently. Already it seemed that his pet was getting tired of the game that they were playing at night. That was unacceptable. "Look, it's simple … this will be the last job. We'll go somewhere nice. After that, we’ll retire. You'd like that." That bank had a very curious thing in its vault. One of the world’s rarest jewels: a glimmering green gem that was so large that the lemur would barely be able to lift it. The thief watched nervously from the shadows, and when the lemur came out of the bank with the massive gem, the thief exhaled a sigh of relief. “Alexandrite,” he cooed. He took the gem from the animal, cradled it like a baby. The lemur shuffled around dissatisfied with his treatment. 58
The bank wasn't the last job of course. There were other jobs. There would always be more. Even the lemur knew that. Still, they kept stealing. At first, togetherâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;then after sometime, the man didn't even have to get involved anymore, he just send the lemur. This bothered the lemur and a cold distance grew between the two of them. One day the thief came into the kitchen and found that the lemur was eating his chocolate chip cookies. The thief, like all thieves, was very possessive by nature and scolded the lemur and took the cookies away. This angered the lemur even more, only added to his feeling of resentment towards the thief. The next day, the thief noticed that some gold doubloons were missing. He went to the jungle conservatory where the lemur lived, wasn't surprised to see it playing with some of the coins. He thought he had to make an example to the animal of why it shouldn't mess with his things, so he snatched the coins away, scolded it even harsher, threatening the lemur with the back of his hand, a sharp diamond ring on each fingerâ&#x20AC;Ś This sent the lemur into a frenzy and almost caused his razor teeth and claws to be used on the thief. Instead, cooler heads prevailed and the lemur went out the window, made his new home in the trees in the dark woods. After that, little by little, things disappeared from the thief's house. He was powerless to stop it. He would come home from a stroll in the park or a chess game at the library and find more of his winnings gone. Fearful, he went immediately to his safe, checked to see if the Alexandrite remained. It always was. Everything else, the lemur cleared from the house.
The thief was greatly troubled by this, but what could he do? He was forced to stay home and guard his possessions at all times. He sat by the widow looking out at the trees in the woods watching for the lemur. It was a clever animal. It could get in and out of the house so quickly and it could take whatever it wanted, no matter what precautions the thief took to stop it. Oh, the precautions were maddening. Attack dogs. Alarm systems. Motion detectors. Traps. Traps. More traps. The lemur slipped through all of that. It had been taught too well. Now the thief himself was a like an animal in the zoo, locked in his own home. Things kept disappearing. One by one. The thief blinked, the couch vanished. The thief yawned, the book case of rare hand scribed texts vanished. Poof. The thief broke down, sprawled on the marble floor, he wept. All that was left was the safe and the massive gem. Also, some dust bunnies. The lemur even took the window panes out, so that the rain washed in. It was thunderstorm season. The storms swept inside. The clouds burst. The electricity lit up the dark woods and made midnight seem briefly like mid day. The thief lay on his side, gazing through the shell of his empty house. A feeling began to creep over him that he would not have suspected. He felt very peaceful. His mind was clear. The thief looked all around him; there wasn't anything to distract him. For the first time in a long time, he thought about his own life and what it meant and what he could do with it. The thief let out a sigh of relief.
He went out in the rain to the drugstore and he bought himself a fancy notebook and an expensive pen. He came back to his house, sat Indian style on the cold marble floor. He had decided to make a list of what he was going to do with his life. He realized that he didn't want to be a thief anymore. That was number one on his list. There were many things on his list. With each addition, his heart lifted. Halfway through his list he got, went in the kitchen to get a drink of water from the tap. When he came back, his fancy notebook and the expensive pen were gone. The man sat down on the empty floor, cleared his mind and closed his eyes. For two days, the man stared up at the ceiling. He dreamt occasionally, of lucid, beautiful things. On the third day, he went to the safe and took out the shimmering green gem and set it on the floor. He kneeled down in front of it and watched the way that the light made it glow. Then, he spun the gem as if it was a top and watched it twirl at an incredible speed. It appeared as if it was gonna lift off and float through the air of the house. The man whistled and the Lemur appeared down the hallway. The thief pointed at the gem. The lemur sat and watched the gem spin and so did the man. When it wobbled and lost speed and toppled, the man motioned to it. The lemur walked to the gem, picked it up. It stood there for a moment, set it back down. Then, hopped up the man's arm. Sat on peacefully his shoulder. They left together on a plane the following day for Madagascar. The man was done being a thief; he wanted to
bring the lemur back into the rain forest, where he imagined it would be happier. There in the trees on the edge of the ocean, the man found himself a clear area and he built a hut. After that the only thing the man ever stole was fish from the sea. The only thing the lemur ever stole was ripe fruit hanging from the trees. They shared.
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