welcome to volume 75 (October 2009) of
down in the dirt
internet issn 1554-9666
(for the print issn 1554-9623)
Alexandira Rand, Editor
http://scars.tv - click on down in the dirt
In the past month, four women had been raped early in the morning in Central Park. In each case, the rapist attacked the victim while she was jogging. After overpowering and almost killing her, he carried the unconscious woman deeper into the park and raped her. He left her alive for the shrinks and docs to cure her traumatized psyche and body.
The police warned female joggers to run in groups. Yet the statuesque blonde chose to jog alone just before dawn on this August day. It was still dark but the sun would rise in ten minutes.
After jogging for five minutes, she heard the sounds of another jogger behind her. Glancing back, she saw him rushing toward her. Suddenly, she ran off.
He chased her for miles and eventually, he reached and grabbed her, struggling with her as a golden sun rose above the park. But he could not overpower her or hurt her. The gorgeous blonde was strong and lethal. She mounted him and pinned him to the ground.
“Are you a cop, babe? Gonna arrest me?”
She punched him in the face.
“No. I ain’t no cop. But let’s see what kinda man you are.”
“You mean...? You wanna do it?”
She started to rise and so did he. Then she punched him hard.
“Don’t move or I’ll hurt you bad.”
The blonde rose and began to strip into her bikini underwear and bra. The man who had chased her gazed at her with much lust but he did not move. Soon, she was wearing only a bra, bikini panties, and a holster taped to her chest.
“You got a gun in there?”
“Gonna shoot me if I don’t measure up?”
Grinning sardonically, she took off her panties.
Looking up at the beauty queen, he screamed: “Hey, you ain’t no...!”
The blonde shot him in the face three times. Then she spoke to the corpse.
“I ain’t no man. Yeah, it’s true. And you ain’t no man either. A real man don’t rape. But you raped my baby sister. And now, you’re dead meat, rapist. Rot in Hell!”
And he-she sauntered off, feeling omnipotent after killing his sister’s predator. But later, he would visit his sister in the hospital. And he would remember how helpless he was in an unjust universe. Yes, he would look at her battered face and remember...
Mel Waldman, Ph. D.
Dr. Mel Waldman is a licensed New York State psychologist and a candidate in Psychoanalysis at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies (CMPS). He is also a poet, writer, artist, and singer/songwriter. After 9/11, he wrote 4 songs, including “Our Song,” which addresses the tragedy. His stories have appeared in numerous literary reviews and commercial magazines including HAPPY, SWEET ANNIE PRESS, POETICA, CHILDREN, CHURCHES AND DADDIES and DOWN IN THE DIRT (SCARS PUBLICATIONS), PBW, NEW THOUGHT JOURNAL, THE BROOKLYN LITERARY REVIEW, HARDBOILED, HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, ESPIONAGE, and THE SAINT. He is a past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis and was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature. Periodically, he has given poetry and prose readings and has appeared on national T.V. and cable T.V. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, American Mensa, Ltd., and the American Psychological Association. He is currently working on a mystery novel inspired by Freud’s case studies. Who Killed the Heartbreak Kid?, a mystery novel, was published by iUniverse in February 2006. It can be purchased at www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/, www.bn.com, at Amazon.com, and other online bookstores or through local bookstores. Some of his poems have appeared online in THE JERUSALEM POST. Dark Soul of the Millennium, a collection of plays and poetry, was published by World Audience, Inc. in January 2007. It can be purchased at www.worldaudience.org, www.bn.com, at Amazon.com, and other online bookstores or through local bookstores. A 7-volume short story collection was published by World Audience, Inc. in May 2007 and can also be purchased online at the above-mentioned sites. I AM A JEW, a book in which Dr. Waldman examines his Jewish identity through memoir, essays, short stories, poetry, and plays, was published by World Audience, Inc. in January 2008.
The Whole Argument For Fighting A War In Iraq
Bill, the painter says to me, “Been doing this for umpteen yrs. and I am not tired of it. At all. I like the aroma. Kind of buzzes me. And I like making things pretty.” I whisper, “That last phrase bothers me. I don’t see painting as pretty.” Bill laughs right out loud into my face like I am some kind of dolt, “Is Picasso pretty? Van Gogh? How about Da Vinci?” I gain some composure, although part of me wants to punch this guy in his fat belly, and answer, “Shit, man, those are fucking painters. What hell are you?” Now, I know I fucked up. This guy is painting the inside of our house. Delicate work. Work my wife contracted without getting another estimates just because she knew someone at work who knew someone who said this guy is good. Real good. Part of me, the brain part, is off in the hinterlands thinking I have now lost my wife, that she is going to divorce me and that her lawyer is going to figure out a way to take all my money. Not just half. But every penny. And that I am going to end up in Hough in Cleveland, OH begging for a job as a pusher to make ends meet in my new, blue-collar life.
Then, Bill pushes me back into reality, “Got a cup of coffee? Nearby?” Sad possibilities erased, I say, “Hell yes, Bill. Here you go. By the way, glad you’re happy using your art to help with this old house. It needs a good going over. The trim too. My wife picked some good colors. Man, the older I get the more I am color blind.” Bill giggles, “Me too.” Of course, again, I am afraid. I am thinking in my odd head, our painter is fucking color blind.
Nancy calls on the cell, says, “Hon, is our painter there?” I say yes, and that everything is fine. She sounds assured and hangs up. Little does she know about truths. I think, isn’t that the way of all women with the men they pick to live with for the rest of their lives. Yes this is a declarative statement. And it is beyond truth, lingering in the essence that is holiness.
Neighbor comes over. She just got divorced. Wants to know if we have a good decorator. I say yes. And here is his card. And thanks for coming over but I’m busy, you know, with the dishes, and moving furniture, and putting down old bed sheets, and answering the phone and wrestling with dumb stories about dumb things that happen in a man’s life that don’t mean a damn thing to the world or why we are still at war way over in the Middle East.
Daniel Gallik has had poetry & short stories published by Hawaii Review, A.I.M., PARABOLA, NIMROD, LIMESTONE (U. of Kentucky), THE HIRAM POETRY REVIEW, AURA (University of Alabama) & WHISKEY ISLAND (Cleveland State University). His first novel, A Story Of Dumb Fate is available at publishamerica.com. LINN’S POEMS will be put out in 2008 by deepcleveland.com
Our covers are thrown
Your breath with mine
Only and once
Chris Hicks Brief bio
Chris is based just outside of Washington D.C. In addition to his poetry Chris also writes comic books, fiction and pr material for music groups. Published stories include “The Nankeen Dress” Crossroads. Greenbelt Writers Group, “What If There Was No God” Charnel House. Broken Voice Comics. He is also currently playing bass for the bands Audio Terror Regime and Blair Bush. Audio Terror Regime had music featured in a GEICO Racing commercial and will be a featured act on the show Local Showcase TV.
And The Forest Will Grow
Louis Christian either had tons of friends or an army of enemies who needed to see he was dead with their own eyes because the main room of the Johnson and Murphy Funeral Home was filled to capacity. There were so many teary eyes, it was nearly impossible to find an empty folding chair anywhere near tonight’s special guest. I arrived early, so luckily I was able to land some real estate towards the back of the room. Otherwise I’d have to hug one of the walls and be forced to make inane conversation with some boring stranger.
I couldn’t tell you if Louis Christian was young or old, if he was handsome or if he was a total train wreck. He could’ve been cardboard-thin or a bloated whale with high blood pressure and lungs covered in tar. I couldn’t tell you what celebrity he resembled and I had no idea whether or not he sported a full head of hair. He could’ve been the guy at the deli who always screwed up my order for all I knew.
Not that I cared anyway. I couldn’t see the coffin from my seat and I had zero desire to wait on the line that wrapped around the room to check out the display. Louis Christian, I came, but chances are I wasn’t going to pay my last respects tonight. Or at least to pretend to pay my last respects.
I had been to hundreds of wakes and it was always the same. Whether it was businessmen in designer suits cocking off against each other, or the black sheep sitting alone in thrift store polyester who couldn’t wait to rush home and jerk off thinking about his older sister, I’ve seen it all. Whether it was the widow faking tears to be the star of the show, or the gold-digging, trophy wife pretending that she wasn’t fucking the estate attorney, trust me, I’d been there and done that.
I’d seen hundreds of corpses, hundreds of faces caked with powder, their cheeks flushed up with rose blush, hundreds of conservative-blue dresses, hundreds of families fighting over who was going to front the bill to tack more reward points onto their credit card. I’d been a member of a hundred different audiences, every one of them prison-full of insecure jerkoffs shoving their perfectly pressed suits and their hundred dollar hairdos in everyone’s face; relatives who couldn’t remember each other’s names forcing the same fake hugs; everyone smiling and sighing at the designated times; pretending to listen to the same speech by the same priest about how the deceased “was a kind man,” or “a loving husband” or “a caring father.” The only thing more overpowering than the flowers and aftershave was the stink of dishonesty.
I’d mourned for overweight insurance salesmen who choked on pizza crust. I’d mourned for prom kings who drunk drove their sports cars off of overpasses. The fireman who burnt to a crisp trying to pull a four year old out of a burning crack den. He was last week. The teacher who caught a stray bullet trying to break up a gang-fight in the cafeteria. That was two Mondays ago. Did you read that story in the paper about single father of three who was crushed by a forklift? I saw him sent off one month ago tonight.
I’d mourned for grandmas with bodies hollowed out from cancer. I’d mourned for small business owners, doctors, charity workers and dog walkers. I’d mourned for hundreds of decent, honest people, who worked hard their whole lives. The type of people that had armies of loved ones lining up to say goodbye. Death will always be the ultimate popularity contest.
Saturday night? I’d love to, but I have Dave Anderson’s wake.
Of course not everyone lived the life of sainthood purity. I’d mourned for martyrs, but I’d also worked wakes for people who had more than a few undesirable jobs on their resumes. The Johnson and Murphy Funeral Home was a business and didn’t discriminate. Some of the guests of honor were child molesters or date rapists. Some were men who beat their wives and they still packed the house. Who the corpse was in life didn’t matter, what mattered was who was paying for the after-dinner. Whether you were a saint or a sinner, once you were in the box, you were nothing more than a cheap Thanksgiving centerpiece. You were a penciled in box on someone’s day planner.
I leaned back and rested my hands in my lap. The metal folding chair squeaked and dug uncomfortably into my back every time I switched positions. Next to me a middle-aged couple argued over who was going to pick up the dry-cleaning tomorrow. They were talking through their teeth. They couldn’t be more blatantly miserable.
The air conditioner only blasted for ten minutes at a time. When it wasn’t on, the air quickly turned stale and if you were sitting in the back, away from the flowers and perfumed-bathed corpse, you would literally choke on the stench of deodorant. It was torture, but if you wanted to remain inconspicuous and didn’t want to draw attention, you had to sit as far away from the main attraction as possible.
I rubbed away the thin line of sweat on my forehead with my sleeve and scanned the room till I found my mark.
Jonathan was standing against the back wall punching numbers into his cell phone. He shifted his weight on his back foot and shoved his hands into his pleated dress pants. The cuffs over his polished Italian shoes were both folded in perfectly proportioned rectangles. His watch rattled on his wrist as he adjusted the knot of his tie. His discomfort was so obvious he might as well have it pinned to the sleeve of his starched shirt.
His eyes wandered the room for a distraction until they met mine. I arched my eyebrows and smiled. He smiled back and nervously jangled the keys in his sports jacket pocket. I motioned to the empty seat next to me and he clumsily sat down. He stunk like a locker room, the scent of ball sweat and old socks.
“It’s such a shame,” I started, “Dying so young. My name’s Rich, by the way. I feel like such a stranger here. I never realized how many people Louis touched.”
“You shouldn’t feel like a stranger. It’s mostly family here. I’m Jonathan.”
“Pleased to meet you, Jonathan” I said, shaking his clammy hand. “How do you know the deceased?”
“He’s my second cousin. Well, he was anyway.”
“My condolences for your loss.”
“No need. I barely knew him. I’m here for family obligations. You know how it is. Miss one wake or christening and you’re on the shit list.”
“So this whole room is your family?”
“Basically. There are a few people I’ve never seen before, but I’ll be having Christmas dinner with most of this crowd next month.”
“What’s that like? Having such a large family?”
“It has its perks. Like if I ever need something like a mechanic or a lawyer, chances are I’m related to one. It’s comforting to know you’re always taken care of.”
“You’re so lucky. I never had much of a family.”
“You’re not related to Louis at all? I was going to say I don’t recall seeing you at any of our fun family functions.”
“Nope. Not related. I know Louis from work.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know much about Louis. He could’ve been a heart surgeon for all I know. What do you do? A heart surgeon’s assistant?”
“Unfortunately not,” I laughed. “I’d have a much more expensive suit. No, my job doesn’t save lives, but it’s still rather exciting. I work with people.”
“Like customer service?”
“Something like that.”
“You don’t seem like one of those types who sits in a cubicle all day, wearing a headset.”
“I’m glad you think so. I always picture an over-weight bored housewife from the Midwest with a number-one Mom coffee mug on her desk having those types of jobs.”
“And a bunch of photos of her ugly family taped to the corner of her monitor.”
“I work in the stock market,” he said. He stroked his chin and tried to appear like he wasn’t trying to impress me, like he was only making innocent conversation and not trying to get in my pants.
“That’s interesting,” I said, playing along.
“I know. I was lying.”
Ten minutes later, Jonathan was on his knees, giving me sloppy head in the men’s room stall. I tugged ferociously at his Manhattan-salon haircut. I threw my head back and moaned, anything to sell the performance. If I caught him glancing up, I immediately rolled my eyes ecstatically.
His teeth grazed the side of my cock as he bobbed. He was devoid of any sort of rhythm and I had to shove down on the top of his head to direct him. I closed my eyes and thought about car crashes and gang rapes, nine-inch black dildos, electric shock treatments- anything to get me through this amateur blowjob.
I counted to five hundred and then decided it was time for the finale. I tapped him on the shoulder and he looked up at me, panting and out of breath. He let go of my piece and I finished over the toilet bowl. I’d done this so many times I could probably snap my fingers and make myself come. Without any lust, sex was really nothing more than getting from point A to point B.
Jonathan stood and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. He fisted a handful of his pants and grunted a celebratory grunt. His face shined with that smirk a four year old wears when he shits himself.
“That was intense,” he huffed.
We stepped out of the stall and he rinsed under the faucet. I adjusted my collar in the mirror and tucked in my shirt. Jonathan swirled a mouthful and spit it down the drain. He pulled a plastic comb from his back pocket and fixed the part on the left side of his head.
“I usually don’t do this,” he confessed, “I hope you don’t get the wrong idea about me. I’m not gay if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“I wasn’t and I honestly don’t care.”
“I mean it. I’m not gay.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not either. This had nothing to do with sexual orientation.”
“Cool, as long as we’re clear on that.”
“This was just one of those things.” Jonathan squirted gel into his hands and molded his hair back into place. A checkerboard of acne covered his forehead. He covered it with uneven bangs. “A spur of the moment occurrence. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Nothing at all.”
“I’ve slept with tons of chicks. All tens. You wouldn’t believe the trim I’ve ran through.”
“Since we’re confiding in each other, can I tell you something?”
“I guess.” Jonathan shrugged. His reflection rolled his eyes. “Wait,” he spit, his tone filling abruptly with hostility. “If you tell me you have an STD, I’m going to smash your face in.”
“No, nothing like that.”
“That’s a relief. I almost lost it there.”
“No, I should be clean. You don’t have too worry about that. What I wanted to tell you is that I lied to you. I’ve never worked with Louis Christian.”
“I’ve never met the guy. I couldn’t even pick him out of a lineup.”
“So what are you doing here?”
“How much?” I asked his reflection.
“What do you mean, ‘How much?’ This was fun, but now you’re starting to get a little creepy.”
“I’m serious. How much?”
“You’re gonna pay me?” he laughed, “I’m flattered. I know I’m good, but I’m not that good.”
“No, you’re misunderstanding. I mean how much was that worth to you?”
“O.k. Now you’re totally weirding me out. Are you sick in the head or something?”
“Sick? Sick would be blowing a stranger in a funeral home men’s room while my entire family’s mourning a few feet away. But that’s my opinion. Maybe you have a different definition about what’s sick.”
“I think I should leave.”
I stood firmly in his way and blocked the doorway. Jonathan nervously laughed and tried to pass. I grabbed the elbows of his sports coat and forced him against the countertop. He squirmed and I shoved my knee below his crotch, holding him in place. He was more solid than me and much stronger, but I had an advantage. I was the predator and I didn’t give a fuck.
“In the future you probably should choose your partners more carefully,” I warned. “Now since you refuse to negotiate a fair price, I’m going to ask nicely, please hand over your wallet.”
“You’re mugging me?”
“No, I’m not a thief. I’m a salesman and this is a simple transaction. You’re buying something from me. You’re buying my silence. You’re going to give me whatever money you have, and I’m going to keep my mouth shut about our little liaison in here.”
“Yeah, right. Who are you going to tell?”
“Everyone out there. Your hysterical Aunt Shelia. Your favorite Uncle Tony. Mommy and daddy and all your little nieces and nephews. They’re all going to find out that you’re a depraved cocksucker who sucked dick at his second cousin’s funeral.”
“They’ll never believe you.”
“It doesn’t matter. Once I plant the seed, you’d be amazed how quick the forest will grow. In ten minutes that room will be wild with redwoods. I’ll turn this place into the fucking Amazon.”
“I dare you. You’re out of your mind if you think I’m going to fall for this.”
“You don’t have to trust me. In fact, trust is what threw you into this mess in the first place. You don’t have to trust me, but you do have to listen. Think about the situation for a minute. Think about it real clearly. But make up your mind fast. My patience is thinner than an AIDS patient.”
“That will cost extra.” I loosened my grip and touched the corner of his eye. I traced the forming tear in a line down his cheek. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back out there to pay my last respects to the departed. Your wallet, please.”
“This is a joke, right?”
“A joke? Damn, you figured it out. Smile, you’re on candid fucking camera. Now you should probably stop wasting time. The longer we stay in here, the easier it will be to spread my story. Do you think mom and dad are wondering where you are yet? How long till they send out a search party? If you think they’re not out there wondering where you are and checking your family gathering time card you’re more naîve than I thought.”
Jonathan started to cry. If it was an attempt to win my sympathy, to tug on my heartstrings, he was out of luck. We’d already come this far. Jesus Christ himself wouldn’t be able to change my mind.
A pit viper doesn’t care if you help the homeless. It doesn’t care if you call your mother on her birthday. It doesn’t care if you volunteer to build hospitals in Africa or if you read to cripples. You could be the Queen of fucking England, if you enter its lair, you’re gonna get bit.
I held out my hand. I could see his brain working, punching numbers, and gauging the odds. His face flush with fear, he finally realized he was in the presence of a monster, something that he never crossed paths with during his sheltered life. I could hear the piss trickling down his pant’s leg.
“Would you rather I take it from you?”
I grabbed the collar of his dress shirt and pulled, snapping the top two buttons. They rattled on the floor by our feet. He looked one last time in my eyes and saw something that would haunt him the rest of his life. Not sure what that something was, but it was enough. Jonathan pulled out his wallet and emptied it into my palm.
Three hundred and forty-seven dollars and a gram of blow. Not bad for a Tuesday night.
“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you,” I said. “Since you have such a large family, I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
In the main room, the crowd was starting to thin, but it didn’t matter. If I wanted to take my turn standing in front of the coffin, pretending to pray or say some rehearsed kind words; I would only have to wait behind a handful of people. But I didn’t. Next door, in the smaller, but no less full room, people were lining up to pay their last respects to George Reynolds, a high school guidance counselor. The crowd would be mostly teachers and principals, and would hopefully include a few who didn’t have tenure yet and couldn’t handle a career scandal.
I stepped into the room and searched for my next mark.
Rich Mallery stays pale in the summer, prefers pencils to pens and is easily distracted by ice storms. He refuses to look both ways before he crosses the street, colors outside the lines and dreams about living in a post-apocalyptic world. He writes every free second he has. He writes on walls, the stack of bills on his dresser, his arms- anything that has room for words. Although he deeply loves the city of New York where he’s from, if the boroughs started burning, he wouldn’t stop dancing.
regarding our flesh
Everybody has them
Any they fly
Through the air
And television sets
And into the mind
And sit there
And rot there
And never switch off
Because it is in your flesh now, you see
Because it’s in your bones
Because it is you
it’s not you it’s me
There’s glass on the floor
And delicate conversations
And eggshells are everywhere
In this damned place
And even though I know
Those things my mind
Has picked up
And latched on to
And used to make
A composite of what’s
Really going on
I still watch
For the eggshells
For the glass
For the conversations
Mary Bernadette Pfeifer
A pale ghostly figure gazed into the sinking sun. His eyes, scared blue ice rimed in midnight. His lips purple. His blood frozen. White icy skin covered his skeletal body. He searched the dome above him, waiting for an answer. His heart burned. His heart rhythm, the only thing which gave him life, longed to be pulled away with the sun. He closed his eyes, and temporarily disappeared from his surroundings. Was he finally let free? Such thoughts to himself filled him partially with a false sense of recovery. He felt lifted as the wind wound up his long tangled black hair and let it fall around his white, sin shadowed face. His wanton and careless life had left him forsaken and unwanted, even by himself. As he looked up to the dome, the sky watched him also, knowing the importance of who it watched. For it knew this to be Romeo, The Wanderer’s son.
This ghost-man fell to the ground, taking in his breath. His breath was shallow and pounding. Exhausted by his long journey, he fell into a disillusioned state of mind. His thoughts tripped over themselves. He was no more than a shadow. He had scattered himself into too many places, and these pieces were kept well by no one who held them. There were consequences. It was fate by his own hands. There he laid in a disrupted rest on the grass until nightfall, staring out into what only he could see. He then at last fell into slumber. When he awoke to the suns calling, the dreaded beams seeping in under his then half closed eyes, he feigned that he could hear the most beautiful voice of a maiden or wood nymph. This brought he to his feet, but soon he concluded that it must have been brought within a dream. After completely regaining his consciousness he became quite aware that there was no one else around for many miles in any direction. His stance then straight. His tall slender body cast a long shadow towards the west. Still half unaware, he glanced about to recover where he’d placed the black leather pouch which contained his few kept belongings. Taking it up from beside a moss infested rock, he stepped on towards the dense collection of trees a few miles off from him towards the north. His mind held a map to this whole country, and he knew this place to be the forest of Lacrian.
He, after a while’s walk, sat at a creak which he came upon. Looking down into the water, he washed his face. His dark hair fell over his features. It was raven in color, and reaching on past his shoulders. From his families, it was like his mothers. Tired, ringed eyes starred back at him. He began to wonder on where she might be. Whether she were alive or gone. Her parents passing had come above her while she herself was still a young child, and so she had turned to magic as her refuge. She grew into a majestic dark enchantress. Romeo was born with magic in his blood, and now he still harvests it in his veins. The pale hue of it infests his skin and darkens the depth of his eyes. He paused. His thoughts began to drift back to the melody he’d heard before. It went on and on in his mind as if known always by his heart. He began to voice it, at first very quietly, and then gradually he worked his way up to a full voice. His tone was dark and deep, touched with a sonorous echo of sorrow. Another voice joined his. It was the enchanting, melodic utterance thought up before. He ran to where he felt it came from, but as he did this, it ones again vanished, and he felt more alone then ever he had before that point. While the voice was merged with his, he had felt as if their souls had combined to one. As she left him, he felt that she had taken a piece of himself with her. Desperately he tried to recall the song once more, hoping that the dream would return. But, try as he may, he could not remember one word, nor one note of the melody. He fell to the ground in grief wishing that he had no heart. He felt he could not handle the torment it caused him. He felt that his love belonged to something which did not exists, and that now no solace could be brought to him. Some time passed, and up he was walking again, hopeless and confused. After a while’s distance he came upon a girl weeping, seated on a rock before him. The skin of her small, fair body was smooth and ivory. Her hair was sun’s fire and her eyes a dark opal. To Romeo she looked like a spirit. “Why here, a dropped angel finds reason to cry?” He asked. His deep voice and unexpected appearance had frightened her. She looked up to him. The sun was behind his person, and his shadow was cast over her face. “I am alone, and the one left to my family. Neither was I meant to have survived this lone way. The flames spread, planted for us all in consumption abroad.” She answered incoherently by sorrow. “So you are not quite spirit then?” he thought out loud, “You are not who I seek -but still- what is your name?” “Aerial” She answered obediently. “To what age do your years number?” “Eighteen.” An age close by months to the same as he, yet starvation had stunted her small Celtic size making her much younger in appearance. She shyly looked up to him with her dark, translucent eyes searching his face. She then collapsed worn and exhausted. For all that he could tell, she had not eaten in many days. He lifted her up, carrying her in his arms. It was best that she be taken to the town he was destined for also. Her small size made her light and easy to carry. Her smooth fingers clung to his shoulders, and her long sunlit auburn hair fell down over his, creating a contrast between the dark and light. As night became nearer, he laid her down to rest on a grass patch, covering her with his own blanket. He found no sleep for himself that night.
Aerial awoke to the sound of a crackling camp fire. There sat Romeo, staring with a searching into the flames, fascinated by what he knew to contain danger. The blue/black star infested sky was a fitting background. He seemed to not exists in this part of the world, he seemed to feel above and beyond it. She heard beasts of the night howling and scratching in the background. The smoke of the fire seemed to turn into spirits which drifted up and around into the night. Romeo stood in the mince of all of this as if he were removed from himself. He began to sway his body from side to side. He was singing something in a whisper. From what she could hear of it, it made no sense to a logical mind, and yet it was calming and pleasant to hear. She was at first instinctively frighted by all of this, but soon she drifted back to dreams, too distant herself to reflect on him. When she woke in the morning, Romeo gave her some little food to eat, without words. She wondered at him. He then sat, resting his back against a tree and counting the leaves that had fallen from above. He watched her. At last looking down, he spoke “Now tell me, where have you come out from?” She started blank at him for a moment, perhaps because of his odd manner for her, or possibly it had been out of a wonder that this shadowed man had taken such an interest in things which should mean nothing to him. “Loreal. Within a cottage staked to a farm there are times were once pleased. Myself and my mother had still retained a property after my father’s passing had occured, until a fire had insinuated it’s grounds. This case had come through no accidental cause. The towns people wished for us death. They were afraid lest my mother’s poison would pass on to me. Ever since my father’s dimiseal, she would stalk the grave yard and call for him. She turned ghostly and pale. Her veins were chilled and her blood was frozen. They warned each other that she had become possessed by the dead grave dwellers. Every night she would leave to sneak away to her husbands grave and press her head into the ground where his heart lie. On one such a night, she was late coming back, and so I left to find her. Not recovering her in her common place, I returned to our dwelling only to find it infested with flames. She was dead with it. I, knowing it meant to be for me also, fled to Lacrian and left them to assume that I had perished.” All this she spoke with no inflection of emotion within. She was drained of all. He watched her, and she turned away. They walked on a while more that day, silently. As night fell, Romeo once again left her to her sleep. He watched her for a while, and then stepped to the edge of a ridge where he himself fell into a prism of dreams as the last fading colors of sun stretched across his mind. As his conciseness began to fade, he heard the melodic voice once more. He soon, however, became too drowsy to contemplate it further, and gave up his thoughts to rest. As he slept he had this dream...
He saw himself, his body, motionless and pale. His face showed no emotion. His eyes showed no light. And yet, he felt separate from himself, looking on. His body staid in its place. It gave no breath. It showed no movement. It was like a dead and lifeless corps standing upright in front of him. Suddenly, his lifeless spirit came out from him, a ghastly thing. It came out of his corps and moved to where the on looking him was standing. It frightened him, because in it he knew that he could see his own features showing through the twisted and misshapen form made grotesque by his sins. This horrible creature, worthy of hell, he knew only too well to be his soul. On it floated, very rapidly, and then passing through him, sounded a most unearthly cry that shuddered through his every vein and bone. He felt a cold and haunted feeling as if he’d been taken away with it, as it wandered on past him. In to the depths of the abyss.
His second dream was of this.....
He saw a beautiful and fair woman. Her face held a stern and grave expression. One brought on by only age and abundant wisdom. Her hair was a rich flame. Her eyes, black and deep. She spoke to him in a smooth, low, harmonic voice, “You were conceived by magic, and by this magic many have past away. You were born of an enchantress named Vanora, and your father was created from the shadow of the one she loved. This shadow has swept over many hearts, and destroyed much love. But, in your veins you carry the blood of two fathers, that of the shadow which has created a body around it, and that of the person who’s shadow was stolen. In all of your life this far, you have chosen only the darker’s path. You must step away before you become entangeled in his trance. The person who is the shadow body is the dark warrior, Donavanjal. And, he who he was taken from is my son the lonely wanderer, and former royal prince, Dorian. Through your shadow father many have died, and through their deaths many have become shadows in their hearts. You have followed in many of his ways, even if through only carelessness. For this reason, you will be haunted until expiation is designed.
Here he awoke, much shaken by his dreams. His heartbeat was rapid, and his body, damp with sweat. It was dark, close to midnight. The moon, a disk of silver, shown brightly high in the sky. The wind was cold, but still his blood boiled within. He looked around himself frightened by his own presence. He breathed in deeply and fell to the ground in prayer. Lower he sunk until he was level with the weeds and grass, his face moist with tears mingled in sweat. There he lied in contemplation of himself until the sun began to rise in the sky. Never before had he had such a longing for what he never knew. Never before did he fully realize himself. All his life he’d awaited death not fully realizing the depth of his grave. His, he felt, was a far worse demise then any he knew before. Much time passed as he wept, and as it went on, sun rays began seeping in under his half shaded eyes. He looked up. The sun was just beginning to stretch its beams across its awakening world, just as he felt now that he must grope throughout his darkness depths, and grasp for the awakening of his stride. With a since of forged heroism, he promised to repair his decline. He rose, towards the sun, back towards were Aerial was lying. She was asleep. He knelt on the grass near to her, leaning over to wake her. He paused for a moment, reaching out to pull back her long sun fire hair which veiled the features of her child like, heart formed face. At this she awoke, apparently frightened by his being so close. She backed away. Romeo’s heart stung, and reminded him of his self created aversion. He paused. “Come up, if we start now we can reach Dregh before another fortnight passes.” She rose at his words. Later within the same day this began to happen in turns. “You have not told me who you are.” “I am called Romeo, the wanderer’s son.” “Where are you from?” “Nowhere that is one place.” “Where are you headed for?” “Nowhere that is of one place” “Have you no home?” “No.” “Nor any wishes for one?.” He temporarily stopped in his walk and turned to her. “You’ve questioned much.” She walked on, pretending not to notice that he’d stopped. He ran up to follow. “Where do you plan to go after we reach Dregh?” It was his turn to pry into her. “Nowhere that I am positioned for.” “So we are both certain of nothing. That one thing we’ll have in common.” “That little.” He watched her trying to think of an opening for conversation. She searched her mind for things to say, and only brought up blanks. He looked down to her with his eyes glistened, and she turned away not understanding his glance, but wishing to still reflect on it in her mind for a while. “Look, to the setting sun?” He looked down to her as she said this. The combination of color and shadows washed across her face. He smiled. She was ecstatic to see him looking down to her. Too happy, she felt, she cared too much. That night when they set up camp, she had trouble finding rest. There was a twinge in her heart that she’d never known before. Aching that she feared would never cease. He walked over to her. Her pain longed for him. “So you have found no sleep either?” He said. “My mind is too busy with thought.” “Mine also. I hope that your rest turns well.” She looked down, afraid lest she show too much of her heart. He looked to her ones more, searching her face for some sort of response to his longing’s question, but she was facing away. Was this his unspoken answer? He rose, and took rest away off. Far enough away to escape the draw of her presence. Two more days were spent in such ways as these, and as promised, Romeo’s nights were haunted by the visions of the woman dreamt up before. On the third day they reached sight of their longed for station in the distance. Romeo’s hope sank a bit at the thought that this now may be the parting of himself and his heart. It would still be another day’s journey before they reached there destined place. He hoped for the strength to overcome his fears and voice himself before it came time for them to separate. There she walked on, not two steps from him, unaware of what he felt. Her small feet floated across the ground as if she were a spirit. Her clothes were worn and torn, her hair was unbraided and unruled. It fell all about her, the ends of it kissing at her knees. But still, to him, she was more than any princess or queen. Radiantly she shone, though unkept and set apart from her proper place. His thoughts drifted within. She looked to him when she felt he could not see. The closer he stood, the more elated her pain. The farther he stepped away, the stronger her wish to follow. There was no solace for him now. All felt lost. Her affliction granted her no peace.
They traveled much that day. At a break for food, Romeo stepped off to contemplate. His mind was released into an apparition. There, in front of him, she appeared once more. “Why do you chase me Morrigan?” he spoke, “Why do you follow at my heels, awaken my dreams with dreams, and surmount my fate with your choices. Are there not others like me?” “No, not of your father’s blood.” “And is there none other still?” “Still none other.” “What is your desire than?” “My wish is your good will. Which, as of yet, has not been obtained.” “What do you want of me, directly?” “Your father, Dorian, is my son. I have clothed myself in his fathers wife. I have carried him, as her. His father, the great (over many times) grandson of Cuchuliann, distantly. Cuchuliann, who is the son of Sualtan, the spiritual son of Lugh. His blood ran in the veins of your grandfather, who much resembled him. The blood in your veins which is my concern.” “But he is only half my father, I was born of the shadow.” “And the shadow was born of him.” Her speech snapped like lightning voicing itself, than she fell to rain. “She is not real.” “Who do you speak of?” “Aerial.” “She is alive.” “No, no longer does she live. What you fervor is a dream. Her expiration was before she had come to your side. It is a ghost that has touched near you.” “No!” “It is your lonely heart which creates her rhythm. It is your own breath which you hear as hers. “ “No!” He sank. “She has opened herself, and let her spirit fly. As it came to be, she had loved you still. Her song she leaves in you. She would wish to steal away to follow, though I have taken her from you. Her place is not to be with you.” “Why do you leave me left alone, Morrigan. Why do you steal all that I have? I am not well left on my own. With her you have taken my heart. This thing... hers to have.” “Silence. It is only I who pull her away.” Romeo wept, sighing “Will she visit me? May she conquer my dreams.” “Also know this, I have taken her to a place of light. A place where no shadow may enter. Be it made sure that no shadow remains in you at death if you wish to see her again.” At these words he was once again left alone. When he rose, he walked back to no one.
It was one of those days when the air outside is so thick and heavy that one could feel it against the skin - a cold dampness that presses against the body, filling the insides with a coldness where the rain had failed to reach. She walked through such a day, through the gray air and white mist, on a Sunday morning that frowned down upon the mundane inhabitants of a little, typical suburb.
It wasn’t long before she reached the front door and stepped in from the dampness of the weather into a house that was ripe in its normality - a house that really could have been anybody’s house. It was a house that could have been her house, or perhaps her friend’s house, or a neighbor’s house. But it was her parents’ house that she stood in now - with the typical whitewashed walls decorated with a few photos, a few paintings here and there - with the sofas and the TV set in the family room, and a kitchen that was simply decorated with patterned wallpaper and a throw-rug. Not to say that it wasn’t cozy or that it was an uncomfortably bare house. No. It was the ideal, American home that everyone dreamed of having. It was the home that she had, the home that her friends had. It was the home that everybody had. And that was good. She liked this house. Really, she did.
But it was a house that her parents no longer needed. Her father had been living alone in it for the past five years and now he no longer needed it either. His funeral three days ago had been an uneventful thing - with the usual flowers, the caterers, the prayers, and the priest. She remembered seeing them close the casket - the way they had lowered the lid over what was inside, fastening the securely so that no one would ever again peer within, making it so that everything that once was will one day be forgotten into a convenient oblivion - a darkness obscuring his memory just as it was and will forever be obscuring the remnants of his body. She had watched as they closed the casket and made him disappear.
She walked up the flight of stairs that led into the cold, cramped space of the attic - a dusty place with the rusty smell of faded memories. It all got into her lungs and made it hard to breathe so that she staggered to the window coughing. She had to struggle to break the window free of its staleness before lifting it open to let in the cold freshness of the damp air outside and only then could she inhale deeply and feel comfortable enough to look around.
There were the typical things found in the typical attic - old furniture, dresses, suits, boxes - all covered beneath a thin layer of dust. She walked over to a pile of photo albums and began looking through the yellowed pages. For awhile, she stared at those images of people who no longer existed - her eyes lingering particularly on a young image of herself. She used to be a vibrant young girl with a head filled with wonderful dreams. For a moment, she paused there and wondered what had happened to that girl.
She turned and took off her coat, hanging it on an old rack before kneeling down in front of a worn and heavy chest on the floor. It looked familiar - and then, memories began slowly to fade into her mind. It was the chest she used for the storage of many of her personal possessions throughout her childhood, an old thing that she had used ever since she was in elementary school. Gradually, she had used it less and less until she married, moved away, and had kids - then she stopped using it at all.
Blowing off the dust, she worked at the locks before the chest’s lid finally heaved opened. Then she reached inside and pulled out one of the books - a thin, blue-gray volume with the big bold letters spelling “BACH” on the front cover. It was one of her old piano books - she used to be quite the pianist. She was an especially proficient Bach player. But the last time she played was long ago. She didn’t take lessons anymore after high school - they were too expensive for her parents to pay on top of her college education. Music was more about helping her get into college than about helping her to enrich her life, anyway. So after high school, she seldom played anymore and after awhile, she didn’t play at all. She opened the book and looked at the notes. She’d be lucky now if she could even manage to hammer out the first line. It used to be so easy for her.
She put the book back in the chest and rummaged through the other contents. She came across an old picture that she drew when she was in elementary school. The paper was old now, and felt as though it might crumble in her hands at any instant. She turned and held it up to the shaft of light that broke in through the windows. The crayon colors were faded but she could still make out the childish picture. It was a picture of herself as an artist, grown-up, wearing a white smock and holding a scribbled paint pallet. That little Crayola figure of her was bearing a big smile and standing outside of a black-outlined house on crayon-green grass with a dandelion sun hanging in the corner of the picture. It was such an idyllic picture that brought her to smile. She remembered how she had loved art - wanted to be an artist for the longest time.
She remembered how she used to tour museums in those early years of her life. She would walk though the galleries, envisioning her paintings on the walls. She had developed a love for Impressionism in her early years of high school and had dreamed of someday creating her own Impressionistic style - a style that might be seen in museums someday. But it was a day that never came. She used to play around with colors and paints on canvas in her spare time - bring her imagination to life there within her paintings, giving her dreams form and color upon canvas - but as she grew older, spare time began to run out; and as the years went by, she painted less and less, until she didn’t paint anymore. Now there remained only these sketches - she pulled out a few yellowed and wrinkled sheets of paper - drawings she had made in high school of ideas for paintings she hoped she might one day paint. But through the years that followed, painting didn’t make it very high on her long list of priorities. There was always something else that was more important and had to be done. And so painting became something that she seldom, and then never, came to do anymore.
Besides, painting pictures wasn’t practical - it wasn’t going to put bread on the table, her parents had said to her when she was in high school. Painting could be a good hobby, her parents told her - something to do in her spare time. And as for school, there never really was much chance to do art in school once the serious academics got under way. So she had done what was told to her by all the adults - her parents and teachers and counselors - and concentrated on math and the sciences. She got straight As, went to a good college, graduated to pull in a hefty salary every month - and now she wondered if she could draw anymore. She put the pictures back in the chest. As she did, her hand brushed across another book. She pulled it out and flipped through the pages, tilting it so that the faint light struck across the written words.
It was one of her diary books she kept in high school. She didn’t have time to keep diaries anymore. She bent towards the light and briefly read the page she had flipped to. It was about the greatest love she had known in her life - a young boy named Erik whom she thought she would marry. He was a wild boy with wild hopes and wild dreams – who liked parties and having fun, who didn’t obtain the best of grades, but did enough to pass. He had hopes of seeing the world, traveling and becoming a nature photographer. His hopes were wonderful – and his life, a unique adventure. In many ways, he was perfect only to her - and she had loved him with all her heart.
But if she married Erik, her parents said, it would be a marriage built on hopeless hopes. Erik wasn’t good for her, and they all knew what was best. They wanted her to have a safe and stable home in a stable neighborhood with a stable man who had a stable job - a safe and stable future. It would have been an impractical marriage with Erik. So she never saw Erik again after high school. It wasn’t what she wanted. It was just the way things turned out.
Later on, she had met James in college. He was the perfect student with perfect manners. He was the perfect gentleman who became the perfect doctor - and her parents had all said he would be good for her. And so she had married James. She didn’t hate James - she just didn’t love him the way she had loved Erik. But now, with James, she had her stable home with her own stable family - she had the perfect house with the perfect husband, two perfect kids, and a steady, well-paying job. It was the American dream she lived now - a dream that her neighbors lived as well, and the neighbor of her neighbors, and the neighbors after that. It was what was best.
She looked at that page of her high school handwriting - a page of her diary that bemoaned the loss of Erik. Clipped to the back of the page was a brittle photo - Erik’s senior picture. She looked at it now - worn and faded, eaten by dust and decay - and as she knelt there, with the rain still pattering outside the open window, she tried to remember what it was like to be with the young man in the photo. The pages had wept, despairing the loss of “a presence that had lent meaning to my own.” She tried to remember. She looked at the picture for a while, but she couldn’t recall the feeling. Only a faint hint of emotion flittered past her mind for an instant - and then it was gone. She read the page over once more, but could not bring herself to sympathize with the sad girl who had written that page more than twenty years before. She sat there and wondered what feeling it was which could have caused that young girl to write such sadness upon the tear-stained page. Again, she looked at the faded photo and tried to remember Erik. But the young boy shown in that image seemed far and distant to her. They had been from far and separate worlds, and she wondered how, once, she could have felt so close to him. Perhaps, she was just young and foolish.
She closed the book and put it back into the chest alongside her drawings and piano books. She was to go back on the job tomorrow, continue on her life as a pharmacist the way her parents had always dreamed. It was what was best. A brief thought fluttered across her mind - what if she had become an artist, what if she had married Erik? Then she would not have the typical, ordinary, safe and secure life that she had now. She would not have this normal life. She would not have this dream that everyone else dreamed. A sadness touched her then that she could not quite understand.
Sighing, she touched the chest and lowered the lid over what was inside, fastening it securely so that no one would ever again peer inside, making it so that everything that once was would one day be forgotten again into a convenient oblivion - a darkness to obscure memories and dreams, just as it obscured the contents which held them so potently within. She stood up and walked towards the window. A light drizzle came in and hit her lightly upon the face before she struggled with the window and shut it once more. Walking past her coat, she took it off the rack and draped it over her shoulders. As she turned, her gaze fell upon the photo album that still lay open, and for a moment, her eyes lingered there upon the rusted image of a faded girl. The sadness touched her again and she reached over and closed the album.
Her steps took her down the flight of stairs and she walked out into the falling rain.
God is Evil
Surrounded by woods, Chad held the knife to his veins and watched his face sparkle off the shiny blade. Against his wrists, he rubbed the edge like his chin, thoughtfully. Only animals should die in trees, away from anywhere, but Chad didn’t live like a human anymore. Dropped from school, Chad drove his throaty motorcycle through the hallways, skidded tiles with knobby rubber, and broke a library window with the handlebars. They would stay eternally, the black marks, like Chad in the woods.
Resentful, his family wanted no part of him anymore. Actually, they jailed him recently when he hurled a tumbler at his mom for her protests against the motorcycle, and bubbly liquid stung her eyes. Coffee scarred her lined face. Like always, Chad had tried to hurt nobody; it just happened somehow.
Chad lost his job when he spat on pizza meant for his girlfriend. She broke off their relationship like a fisherman jabbing heartlessly into the body to empty innards and roast the flesh. Any sixteen-year-old boy would jump between silky sheets that smelled like flowers if the young woman untied her blouse, jiggled her voluptuous breasts until the boy couldn’t breathe anymore, and finally, pulled her jeans to her knees, slowly, seductively, with the male looking at the slippery black hairs below. It would happen to any youthful male who lived with a well-built body inside a nearly empty town ninety miles from anywhere. Yet, his girlfriend had protested, and broke off their relationship. Thus, he spat on her pizza, and never baked another.
Chad sat inside the woods, thumbing the knife. Life should end, because it had already, with no love interest, the town small and angry, and parents who told him to find God or suffer for eternity without them. Without school, he would never land a quality job, never attend college, and never live like every youth should. His parents wouldn’t pay for higher education anymore either.
When he finished his beer, he walked around the muddy field located between thick trees. With knife to wrist, he couldn’t yet, and didn’t, until God told him to join eternity. Mostly, he doubted God lived beyond this world. Why would God tear his life apart? Nobody who truly loved him would. Why would his family? They shouldn’t, yet did anyway.
He heard a shriek. Startled, he tossed the knife and looked around. He trotted cautiously behind fluffy branches, until finally, Chad found a person in darkness, arms splayed, to hold anyone nearby. Chad walked to the person, said, “I should leave, and you with me.” On the last word, two wiry hands held Chad, pinning his body to the mud. The boy wiggled, leaped, but couldn’t break off the attack. Quickly, the bony hands sunk into sixteen-year-old eyeballs. They yanked the body below the heavy mud, where black smoke wafted through his nostrils, blowing his bloody eyes apart, and billowed from his mouth like fiery words spoken to his girlfriend. When Chad breathed, he inhaled sulfur and ashes. Then the world blackened.
Thirty minutes later, a body moved inside the field. Lifting his body to his feet, Chad looked at the person who had held him down. It looked like a raggedy tree, with spindly branches, bark imprinted into the trunk like an ugly face, and sap that oozed like blood off a body. With relief, Chad walked to his house, through the lengthy woods, vowing to find another girlfriend. Many young women would love a beefy male inside their fluffy blankets. Like anyone, he wanted frequently to touch lovely women and their lacey pillows. He would take the GED test, and find a local community college. Maybe he could escape the lonely town after all. Without a look back, he forgot where he had thrown the knife, but he wouldn’t need it anymore anyhow.
Telescope, art by Peter Schwartz
Information on the Artist Peter Schwartz
After years of writing and painting, Peter Schwartz has moved to another medium: photography. In the past his work’s been featured in many prestigious print and online journals including: Existere, Failbetter, Hobart, International Poetry Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Reed, and Willard & Maple. Doing interviews, collaborating with other artists, and pushing the borders of creativity, his mission is to broaden the ways the world sees art. Visit his online gallery at: www.sitrahahra.com.
Your cheatin’ Heart Attack
Wake up, George! Wake up, God damn it! C’mon, wake up, don’t die on me now! Fuck! GEORGE, WAKE UP, YOU ROTTEN ASSHOLE!
First you slept with that God-awful Hanley woman. After that it was Deanna Smears, the town’s No. 1 harlot. Here lately it’s been Leslie Carlton. Okay, she at least manages to maintain a fairly classy reputation in spite of her sexual peccadilloes, which, from what I’ve heard, straddle both sides of the fence, if you know what I mean.
I’m classy, too, George. I think you finally came to your senses on that point. But if you think you’re going to die of a heart attack our first night back together, you’ve got another think coming.
Christ Almighty, from what I’ve been hearing, it sounds like you’ve spent most of the last eighteen months having sex with other women. You ought to be in terrific shape!
George, George, for Christ’s sake, wake up, wake up, C’MON!
Where are the damn paramedics when you need them?
This isn’t fair. It isn’t fair at all. I worked hard to get you back. A lot of women in my position would have said to hell with you. But I was willing to turn the other cheek. And now — now — this!
I know men sometimes stray. It’s in their nature, I guess. I tried to be a forgiving sort, tried to keep us together. Who wants to go through the hassle of a fuckin’ divorce? We can patch things up. So don’t check out on me now, blast it! Not after what you told me.
I took a night class on oral sex offered at the college. We had to suck on chilled cucumbers, for God’s sake! And I paid a pole dancer slash stripper to teach me a lot of her tricks. Then, just today, I went out and bought this sleazy black lingerie outfit and got myself all decked out for you. Garters! High heels! Skimpy panties and bra! I could tell by the hungry leer that appeared on your face when you first walked in the door that I’d played my cards right. Well, if wearing this getup and behaving like a whore is what it takes to win you back from Leslie Carlton, then that’s what I’ll do.
Why didn’t you tell me black lingerie was your preference for a woman in bed? Your thing! I had to find out about it through a third party. Gawd! Can you possibly imagine my embarrassment? I could feel myself turning redder than the beets at the Ralph’s store where I heard it.
And speaking of feeling myself, I even took a masturbation course — “to make friends with, and become more comfortable with,” my own body, as the instructor put it. And now I definitely am friends with my body. I am! More than ever! As comfy as a cow in a pasture! I mean, look at me in these garters. I could tell you were turned on by the way they make my exposed thighs bulge out in an even shapelier manner. And big, solid tits. These puppies will barely stay confined. Why you ever ran away from this juicy package is hard for me to fathom. Hell, I like myself so much dressed this way that I was almost ready to use some self-pleasure techniques I learned. But I knew you were coming by, so I managed to restrain myself.
Ooh! Restraining myself. Now there’s one I forgot: I engaged in some bondage sessions with a dominatrix. Imagine that — a real-life dominatrix right here in town! Eventually tonight I was going to break out the handcuffs and the ball and gag. Just think, George, five feet ten inches of scantily clad, squirming female flesh helplessly bound and cruelly silenced for you to torment.
Yes, George, I’ve been a busy girl, a very busy girl. And it’s all been for you. For us! So wake up, George, for crying out loud, oh, please, George, please wake up and tell me where you hid that FUCKING LOTTERY TICKET!
You can’t die now, George; not after teasing me with a big surprise like that. You’re right, it’ll help reunite us. Without a doubt! Two hundred and forty million dollars would reunite anybody. But, listen, the ticket is not in your pants pocket, because I already looked. You must have been confused. Or do you mean another pair of pants somewhere else?
I checked, and the ticket isn’t in your wallet, either. Is it in your truck? In a safe-deposit box?
Finally! The paramedics.
Gentlemen! Thank God you’re here. Come in, please come in. Hurry! It’s my husband — he’s in the bedroom. I think he’s had a heart attack.
Medications? Well, I don’t know of any, but I haven’t been living with him for more than a year. He used to take an Anacin every morning; that’s all I can remember. See, we’ve had some — some marital difficulties. He’s been sleeping elsewhere, if you know what I mean. Darn it, tonight was when we were gonna see if we could make a go of it all over again! I took a bunch of sex classes and cooked him his favorite meal this evening, chicken and dumplings, and I bought this real slutty-looking lingerie garb and wore it the entire time to turn him on and — and — what?
Oh, my God, yes, this slutty outfit! I’m sorry, in all the excitement I forgot to throw on a robe or something. I — I — please, don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t make a habit of dressing up in stuff like this and parading around in front of strange men. I — oh, shit, I’m so embarrassed!
What about George? Is he — is he — ? His age? Um, he’s forty-two — no, forty-three years old, his last birthday would’ve been two months ago, in August. He’s forty-three, and I’m thirty-six.
What was he doing? Well, obviously, he was in bed, we were in bed, and I was on top of him. We were kissing, and he was — he was feeling me up and getting pretty hot and bothered, and he whispered in my ear that he had a big surprise for me, and I thought, you know, he was just talking dirty or something, because I could feel how swollen he’d become inside his boxers. And then he told me what it was, what the big surprise was, but — but — and then this happened. He groaned real loudly, and the sweat on his body seemed to get awfully cold, and his eyes bulged out for a few seconds, and he suddenly lost consciousness. That was about twenty minutes ago. I think he stopped breathing, too. I tried pounding on his chest to revive him, but it didn’t help.
Yes, I realize this is the kind of situation in which a person would be better off knowing CPR. But I don’t know CPR, so I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Should you be focused on my lack of CPR knowledge at this moment, or should you be trying to save my husband? I realize they’re working on him, but what are you doing? You’re just standing there talking to me and gawking at my big tits.
No, George doesn’t have a history of heart attacks. No congenital defects. Doesn’t smoke or do drugs, drinks a beer once in a while... He’s always been as healthy as a horse. He works construction, and as you can see, he uses his muscles a great deal. Look at that physique! He looks like he ought to live to be a hundred. You can understand why other women were attracted to him.
What’s wrong? You’re — you’re stopping...
He’s dead? You’re pronouncing him dead? I don’t believe it. Are you serious? My forty-three-year-old, looks-like-Superman husband is dead? How can that be? Are you sure you did everything you could? Oh...oh — !
Hello, Leslie? Leslie Carlton? This is Jackie Walker. I was reminded that I wanted to call you when I read that story in today’s paper about you purchasing the winning lottery ticket. Congratulations! Two hundred and forty mil! Wow! That’ll pay for a few collagen treatments, huh?
No, listen, look — look, I realize my husband was a very handsome man, and you weren’t the only woman he slept with after he and I started having troubles, believe you me. So I, I don’t hold a thing against you, and I wanted you to know that. After all, we shop at the same supermarket, we see each other at the post office or the movie theater every now and then... I just don’t want there to be this thing between us, you know what I mean?
Good! Good! Well, listen, I feel a whole lot better just hearing you say that. I’m willing to let bygones be bygones. But I do have two questions.
First, I’ve been rounding up George’s things to auction off, and I noticed some of his clothes are missing. Did he happen to leave any pants over at your place? No? I mean, you were the last woman he fooled around with, so I just thought, you know... All right, if you say so. Maybe he threw them out.
Second, I’ve heard stories about you. And frankly, I’ve experienced an awakening of my own in the past year. You know what I’m talking about? Are we on the same wavelength here? I could introduce you to a dominatrix who would really rock your world. And I was wondering... You think the two of us might get together some night? Go out on the town? I mean, c’mon, we’d just be two single girls, roughly the same age, out for an evening of dancing and fun. And afterward...afterward... Well, I recently bought this black lingerie outfit. I look fabulous in it. It’s to die for.
When Jeremy Lisner opened the door to his office Monday morning, he saw a stuffed giraffe in his chair, listening to his voicemail. The giraffe stood about three feet tall, with large plastic eyes, soft fur all over its body, and little nubs on its head. Around its neck, it wore a blue striped tie, Jeremy’s emergency tie that he kept in the office for coffee accidents. A quick scan of the room from the doorway made Jeremy realize that the giraffe wasn’t the only thing that was different: some of his files had been stacked neatly, when he had left them open on Friday. He’d worked late, trying to get some understanding of the new processing proposal in front of him. When he finally went home, he left it open to remember where he’d left off. Someone must have tided and lost his place in the process. His pen jar had been moved as well and his family Christmas picture was face down on his desk.
Jeremy closed the door and strode down the hall to his assistant’s office. Mel was a little woman who managed to get all of her work done on time despite only turning her computer on once a week. She said it was too complicated and distracting. As Jeremy walked up, she closed a small brown ledger and blinked slowly. “I didn’t expect to see you up here, sir.”
Jeremy leaned on her desk. “Mel, why is there a giraffe in my office?”
“Sir, aren’t they expecting you downstairs?” she said quietly.
“I don’t think so. What’s downstairs?”
“Mr. Lisner, please.” Mel smiled sadly. “Don’t joke with me now. I don’t like it either, but you can’t fight management. Go on downstairs. I’m sure you’ll want to get settled into your new office.”
“Wait a minute,” said Jeremy. “My new office? Mel, what the hell are you talking about?”
“Don’t cuss, sir.”
“Sorry. But seriously, what is this all about? And does this have something to do with the giraffe?”
Mel pulled open a desk drawer and rifled through some hanging folders. “This was all discussed at the meeting on Friday.”
“I worked through it. That processing proposal, you know.”
“I do know. But I wish you’d attended.” She pulled out a crisp sheet of paper with tiny print on it. “Mr. Palowski said it was mandatory.” She handed it to Jeremy.
“I know.” Jeremy took the paper from her and skimmed it. .
“It concerned all of us.”
“I’m sure. Wait a minute,” he read a line over again. “This says I’m being reassigned.”
Mel nodded. “Along with everyone else on that list, sir.”
“So I’m fired.” Jeremy hung his head.
“Oh, no Mr. Lisner,” Mel replied quickly. “Just reassigned. The company still wants to keep you on, just in a different place.”
Jeremy sat on a bare corner of Mel’s desk, staring blankly at the paper. “I didn’t know.”
“We had a meeting. Will you please stand up?”
Jeremy didn’t move. The paper hung limply in his hand as he tried to process what had just happened. “I wasn’t expecting this at all.”
“Sir, will you please get off of my desk?” Jeremy slid to his feet. Mel bit her lip before she continued. “I’m sorry. I really am. I enjoyed working with you and I’m not sure why it’s changed. But this is the way it is now. And as you can see, your position has already been filled.”
“Wait, it has?” Jeremy frowned. “By who?”
“Sir, please. Don’t make this any harder than it already is.”
An image of the giraffe wearing his tie flashed through Jeremy’s mind. “You can’t mean that damn giraffe.”
“Please don’t cuss, sir.” There wasn’t a shred of a smile on Mel’s face.
Jeremy stared at her. “You’re serious.”
“Quite serious, sir. He’s your replacement.”
“Mel,” Jeremy spoke slowly. “It’s a giraffe.”
“Now Mr. Lisner, try not to be judgmental.” She gave him a soft smile. “Mr. Jacobs from HR said he has a very impressive resume.”
“And I suppose you’re going to tell me it has stellar references.”
Jeremy shook his head again. “No. This just can’t be happening.”
“Mr. Lisner, I’m very sorry.”
“Mel, stop for a minute and listen to yourself. You’re telling me I’ve been replaced by a giraffe.”
“Be reasonable. It wasn’t my choice.”
“And how exactly did they interview the damn thing?” Jeremy started pacing briskly.
“Mel, it’s not even alive. It’s a stuffed animal!”
She stood up from her wooden chair. “Now that’s just not fair. He may not be the same as you and me, but he has excellent social skills. Mr. Jacobs was very impressed with him, so much so that he thinks he’ll do a better job than you. I’m sorry sir, but that’s final.”
Jeremy growled, “Mel, I’m going to go back into my office. I’m going to pick up that little toy and I’m going to throw it out the window. And once it hits the ground I’m going to close the window, get some coffee, and forget all of this ever happened.”
“Mr. Lisner,” Mel said sharply. “Don’t you lay one hand on him. He’s an employee, just like you, and I won’t see you in jail on assault charges because you can’t handle a little reorganization in the company.”
“Mel, this can’t be happening.”
“I’m afraid it is, Mr. Lisner.”
They stared at each other for a long, hard minute. Jeremy searched Mel’s face over and over to find the joke, the catch, something. But she was resolute, honest as ever, and had never lied to him in four years of employment. “Mel,” he said softly. “You’re really telling the truth, aren’t you?”
She nodded. “I always have, sir.”
“This is madness. You know that.”
“Please don’t be bitter. You haven’t been fired, merely given a different job description.” Mel looked at the abandoned ledger on her desk. “I’m afraid I need to get back to work. Have you collected your things?”
Jeremy, dizzied and dazed, replied, “No, not yet.”
“Well, you probably should.” Mel reseated herself and pulled the ledger to her. “I’m sure they’re expecting you downstairs.”
Jeremy nodded and headed back to his office. He wasn’t sure how any of this could have happened or that it really was happening at all. But when he opened the door to the office, the giraffe was there, in Jeremy’s tie, staring at the computer screen.
“I must be out of my mind,” Jeremy muttered. He cleared his throat and addressed the giraffe. “Don’t mind me,” he said. “I’ll be out of your way in a minute.” Without waiting for a reply, Jeremy entered and walked to the walls. He took down his diploma and a painting of the Ohio River. As he circled the room, collecting a paperweight here and a small bowling trophy there, he searched for some kind of recording device or a hidden camera or a man who would leap out and tell him it was all a joke, but everything was mundane as could be. Jeremy made his way over to the desk for the last of his things, the picture of his family, still face down, and his tie, still around the giraffe’s neck. As he picked up the picture, he glanced at the monitor. This week’s financial report was up on the screen. In the midst of the newly organized files, the giraffe looked like it was already settled in. It had a peaceful look in its plastic eyes.
Everyone seemed to be taking the situation seriously. Jeremy shook his head. He couldn’t think of anything else to try or do other than to treat it as though it really was happening. He said, “You have my tie.”
The giraffe did not respond. Feeling rather foolish, Jeremy raised his voice. “Hey, giraffe, you have my tie.” Silence. He wasn’t sure what to do next. “I’d like it back before I go.” He considered taking the tie, but had the feeling he was indeed on camera and that security would arrest him for manhandling an employee. Jeremy adjusted the bric-a-brac in his arms. “Look, I know this is your office now, but that’s my tie. It’s one of my favorites, too.” He paused to let the giraffe reply, but it didn’t react at all. “And I’m sure you have ties of your own. You can give mine back, right?”
The giraffe continued to ignore him.
“Okay, this isn’t funny,” he raised his voice so whatever hidden recorder could hear him. “Can we just start the day? Whoever pulled this, it was funny for two minutes.” He felt like he was talking to some naughty two-year-old. “But now we need to be serious. Just come out where I can see you and get this damn thing out of my office.”
Jeremy searched around the office again, looking for someone to emerge and tell him it was all a game, but nothing happened. After a few minutes, he sighed deeply and turned back to the giraffe. “So you’re here to stay.” The giraffe said nothing, but Jeremy could feel how smug it was. “Fine. You’re here. Enjoy the office. But give me back my damn tie.” The giraffe would not acknowledge him, pouring all of its attention into the financial report.
“Goddamnit, Giraffe,” snapped Jeremy. “That’s my tie and I’m not leaving without it. You’ve got ten seconds to give it back to me or I’ll take it back. And that won’t be pleasant.” He shifted the weight in his arms. “Ten. Nine.”
The giraffe, completely unphased by the threat, refused to look at Jeremy.
“Eight.” Jeremy could feel the arrogance spilling out of the rotten little animal. He stared at the spots on the giraffe’s back and thought about what would come next.
“Seven.” He’d tear the legs off of it and gut it.
“Six.” He’d use the pelt to make a muff for his wife and turn its head into an insulator for his coffee mug.
“Five. Four.” The nerve of that worthless piece of fluff.
“Three. Two. One.” Jeremy glared at the giraffe. All in one day it had taken his job, his office, and even his tie. And he wasn’t going to get any of them back.
“Fine, you piece of shit. Fine.” He clutched his load tighter to his chest. “This isn’t worth it. I’m not going to jail just because of you. You’re not worth it. And I don’t even like that tie. Keep the damn thing.”
He stomped to the door and paused, struggling to open it with a maneuvered free hand. Just before closing it behind him, he looked one more time at the contented giraffe in his chair. “You’re an asshole, you know that, Giraffe? You’re a real asshole.”
When I was in the sixth grade my father took me to a surplus store
“You need bigger-sized boots every year” he said
“This year I’m going to buy you a pair that’ll last”
I tried on size seven boots and they fit snugly on my feet
“No! You’re going to have a larger pair and grow into them.”
He plopped down a pair of size 13 brown
Sorel boots in front of me
The wool lining felt roomy
That winter I tried them but they were exhausting to walk in for more than a minute.
“Just put on a few pairs of socks on and strap bungee cords around the outside.”
I wore them with bungee cords to school for one day and was laughed at
I boxed up the boots and thought “I’ll know I’m grown up when these fit.”
I forgot about the box of boots and twenty years passed until I rediscovered them.
I tried the boots on again.
They were still a little too big.
My dad and I hadn’t talked to each other in over a decade
I thought about calling him
Telling him the boots were still too big but the urge to call soon passed
I know I have some growing to do yet.
Just Another Cassandra
Poet, Priestess, Prophetess, Whore
all in a day’s work for a woman
who in the end is just another Cassandra.
Just another pretty face
with a voice that can’t help but tell the truth
about you and him and her and them and us.
Who can’t escape the truth of herself.
Once upon a time
all of those old vices were something sacred.
Now sacred is trying to convince ourselves we’re gods
by collecting disciples into our temples.
Poets are scorned as blowhards
Priestess’ are just high maintenance
Prophetess’ are just bitches to be slapped down.
Whores are just another place to hang your hat.
All cursed like Cassandra, by the new god Society.
one woman who saw the fall of a city.
There are so many more of us with eyes to see,
how great then, is the fall to come?
Which of us will die on the walls in battle,
which of us will ride away with the invaders
which of us will gouge out her eyes,
rip out her throat,
to keep from screaming aloud the dark we see building?
Each of us fighting our own little battles,
teaching our daughters to bear the curse.
Not realizing we are apprenticing them to our trades.
Poets, priestesses, prophetesses, whores...
just a few more Cassandras.
Ready for sacrifice on the next generations altar.
Rebecca Lowry Bio
I am a mother...
I have a beautiful daughter who breaks my heart and saves my life on a moment by moment basis.
I am now or have been a poet, priestess, singer, wife, whore, businesswoman, critic, drone, friend, companion and lover.
I have given up on trying to be anything less than what I am...
Life is a performance art... “and all the world a stage” as Shakespeare would say. The cast that has filled the play of my life to date has been brilliant and despicable by turns... but all the lines and mistakes have been my own and in the end I will be able to stand by what I have done and whom I have chosen to act with.
Besides... who doesn’t love a dark comedy?
It was one crappy afternoon when Danny died.
The streets of Chinatown stank like shit,
and the heat had already melted candles
and made the tap water taste like piss.
We were coming back from I don’t know where
when we got to the house and saw the ambulance
and the little crowd of curious Chinese
and the gurney with Danny there white and limp.
The EMT pumped a plastic bottle of air
into his face, mouth and nose sucked
by the rubber mask of the respirator. I could tell
by the lazy way he pumped that it was all over.
And by how they loaded Danny into the back of the truck
the way DPW guys stow their shovels for the day,
then mope over to the cab doors and hoist
their beefy selves onto the bench seat and head back to the yard.
The crowd stared, thinking in Chinese, as the driver
cranked the engine to life with his cargo in back,
then let out the emergency brake, put it in drive
and rolled off to the hospital a block away.
It was one crappy afternoon when Danny died,
died after only snorting a few lines of fine brown shit
his friends got off the street nearby from the hustlers
who chanted “You straight?” in my face day after day.
He died right there on the same spot where, a year later,
Chris would lie choking on his own memories
like he was gargling broken glass, only a few years
older than Danny’s nineteen, after doing a couple lines of the same shit.
“He’s dead, he’s dead!” Jess screamed as she banged on my door
one sunny afternoon. I jumped up, ran downstairs, my head
a hand-held video camera jogging with drama, the scene
a boy in a white t-shirt as cold and grey as meat.
His face was smooth, his eyes white, his lips
blue like a swimmer’s too long in surf.
As I stared stupid at his gargling, and the EMT’s burst in,
pushing me away and putting that same plastic bottle on his face.
It worked this time, and he jerked back to this world
where, once, he found himself in jail with a kid who said,
“I know you. You sold me my first bag,” as the kid did his day
before arraignment on a charge of possession, Class A.
It was a crappy day when Danny died.
This time I saved the ventilation tube they shoved
down Chris’s throat, brought it back to my place,
and washed it off in the sink as a memento mori.
It sat there on the bookshelf for a year until I heard
he was back on the shit again, so I rode my bike
out to the bar where he was and bought him a beer and said,
“Here’s the thing that makes you different from Danny.”
At first he didn’t know what it was, sipped his beer, then looked
straight forward into the mirror behind the bottles.
I threw it in the trash can by the door where
greasy paper plates of pizza crusts
gathered flies from the street, and sunlight
bled through the windows the bugs left footprints on.
We gulped our beers and watched the game.
“Don’t worry, Chris,” I said. “It was just junk.”
Bio Note (04/08/09)
Andrew Spano teaches English, communication, and education at Northeastern University and The College of Westchester. He is a New York City Teaching Fellow. His poetry, essays and journalism articles have been printed in dozens of magazines, newspapers and journals. He is a graduate of the University of Vermont and Norwich University and is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland and New York City. He lives in Brooklyn.
C. M. Humphries
“It’s a message in a bottle,” Alyssa said as she shook a bottle full of sand.
“No, it’s definitely not,” Craig responded, his eyes squinting as they struggled to make out the finer details of the bottle and its contents. “It’s either a dumb hour glass or a souvenir bottle, the ones they sell in tourist shops.”
Alyssa placed the bottle between her left arm and side, snug underneath her armpit, and sprinted off towards a small cabin that sat at the top of a hill. Craig chased after her as she headed away from the ocean. He kicked sand into the air with ever step he took. His calf muscles grew sore as he scaled slanted sand dunes. No matter how fast he ran or how much effort he put out into catching her, Craig could not keep up with his younger sister.
“Wait up!” Craig yelled, though he was losing his breath. He started to clamp his chest as he began to scuttle.
At the sight of Craig taking small strides and clutching his chest, Alyssa began to panic and slow down. She took a few glances behind her and discovered Craig was falling behind. Before, there was a distance between the two of them, but now Craig was acting like a prisoner strapped down with ankle weights and shackles. Craig became petrified and fell to the sandy ground.
“Craig!” Alyssa screamed as she darted back towards the ocean. Her face felt hot from mixed emotions; the tears that she began to cry felt like sulfuric acid running down her cheeks. “Craig! Oh my god, Craig! No!”
She slid beside her brother like a runner to home base. She placed the bottle down on the beach and struggled to reach underneath Craig and flip him over. She knew CPR would be wise to perform while waiting for help.
“Don’t die on me, Craig. Don’t die on me,” Alyssa repeated as she readied resuscitation.
As her hands were about to slam down on Craig’s chest, a smile spread across his face. “Ha-ha,” Craig said as he swiped the bottle from his sister. He stood up and then loped towards the cabin.
To his surprise, Alyssa was much faster than he fathomed. Slam! Craig could hear the sound of his sister tackling him down echo over the beachfront. For a minute, Craig thought he could taste blood.
Alyssa snatched the bottle and looked into it. “What?” she muttered as the contents of the bottle began to change. Instead of small grains of sand sitting at the bottom of the bottle, a playground began to form. Emerging from the limited amount of sand: monkey bars, a swing set, a seesaw.
“What is it doing?” Craig asked. His eyes opened wide as his mind succumbed to bedazzlement.
Alyssa’s look of confusion contorted until it developed into a beautiful expression of joy. A smile. She said, “I was thinking about this last night—how much I wanted to play at the playground.”
“Who’s your buddy?” Craig had to ask after seeing a granular version of his sister hanging around a boy her same age.
“I don’t know.” And Alyssa knew that was the truth as she scratched the back of her head.
“Maybe it’s because you don’t have any friends,” Craig said, tormenting his sister as she snagged the bottle. He looked into and once again, the sand changed. The playground became a couple of cars on a straight, which looked like Hot Wheels. “Huh, I told Dad I wanted cars for my birthday.”
“It shows what you want,” Alyssa said as she watched Craig’s thoughts being portrayed in a sand bottle. She could even see little people driving the cars around, which turned the pretend city into a living one. People roamed the streets. Stores changed their door signs to OPEN.
Alyssa and Craig took a deeper look into the bottle. “Look, it’s me!” Alyssa said, thrilled to death by the sight of her driving a car.
“It’s just pretend,” Craig replied. He became short on breath, but tried to hide it.
The sand lookalike of Alyssa revved the play car’s engine until the real Alyssa and Craig both though they could hear it over the sound of seagulls and the ocean waves smashing against the rocky cliffs down the shoreline.
She sped down the roads like a pubescent high school boy trying to prove his masculinity. Then, a small boy stepped in front of the car, and before the sand-made Alyssa could slam on the brakes, it was too late. Blood splattered across the pavement. Alyssa jogged away from her car and towards the body. She screamed at the sight of the body. Who was the passerby? It went without saying.
Alyssa dropped the bottle and turned to her brother, who had fallen to the ground, clutching his chest.
There’s No Ghoul like An Old Ghoul
Every time I dig up a coffin, I swear to myself it’ll be the last time.
But I am a ghoul, and I can’t get enough of dead flesh. I keep coming back for more.
My appetite always leads me to the graveyard, where I can enjoy my meals. I have to be cautious not to let the caretaker see me, though, because I don’t want to get caught.
I died many years ago, yet I look quite good. I guess this is because I don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs. I don’t want to harm myself by indulging in those unhealthy habits.
I hope that no one comes to this cemetery at night to visit a grave. If they see me eating a corpse, I’ll be dead meat.
I try not to make a pig out of myself, so I only eat corpses occasionally. Some cadavers are so fat, they take an entire week to finish. I know it’s an atrocity, but I must satisfy my hunger.
I never belch after I eat. That would be bad manners, wouldn’t it?
I tried to eat dead animals for a while. But for some reason, I prefer human flesh.
On rainy nights, exhuming a body gets very messy. When I finish digging, there’s soil all over me. To get what I want, I have to get dirty. But it’s well worth it.
I eat women instead of men. They are much easier to chew than the muscular male corpses.
I never seem to get fat. This isn’t surprising; have you ever seen an obese ghoul in a horror movie?
I once found a dead man who was killed in a car accident. I almost threw up. He was a gruesome sight.
I wonder if corpses would taste better cooked. I’ll have to try it someday.
I feel bad for the families of the people I eat. It’s revolting for them to see their relatives become a meal for a hungry ghoul. I can’t blame them for feeling revulsion.
I know that God must despise me, too. My horrid deeds must be considered heinous. At least I say grace before I start to eat.
Sometimes I open a casket only to find a skeleton. I sure can’t eat something like that.
I’m not choosy about my cuisine; I consume people of all races, sizes, and ages.
Another advantage of being a ghoul is that I don’t have to pay for my supper. Everything I eat comes free of charge.
The mosquitoes are a problem for me. They eat me alive at night. I hate those suckers so much, I actually holler at them.
When I was alive, I relished gourmet food, so it amazes me that I now enjoy decaying flesh.
I have to spit out roaches and worms that are inside the bodies I eat. I may like flesh, but I simply abhor the taste of insects.
It’s odd that I don’t dislike the flavor of embalming fluid. I can swallow it without getting nauseated.
I don’t need a fork and knife to eat people. I just bite into them and chew.
I don’t brush my teeth after meals, either. If I’m careful, no one will ever see me, so it doesn’t matter if I have a rotten smile.
Thank goodness I never get indigestion. I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on any antacid.
I don’t need condiments like ketchup or mustard to enhance the flavor of flesh. I don’t use salt, either, because it’s bad for my blood pressure.
I suppose being a ghoul is better than being a murderer, a thief, or a rapist. I could be a far worse person than I am.
This morning, a litterbug threw a newspaper on the ground outside the graveyard. I went and picked it up. On the front page, I read that the police would be patrolling the cemetery at night to prevent any future grave robbing and cannibalism from taking place in it.
Aghast, I realized that I could no longer get my meals there. What was I going to do?
* * *
I want to tell you about my new job. I’m an attendant at the city morgue. It doesn’t pay too well, but it does have one fringe benefit I couldn’t live without.
The Lucky Mailman
The mailman slowly drove along Mammon Avenue, appreciating the silence of the hour. The neighborhood was usually bustling with activity, but not today. There were no barking dogs, no cars, no laughing children on the lawns. All was quiet. Just how the mailman liked it to be. And the light! Almost makes you think it’s daytime, am I right?”
Perhaps it’s the weather, thought the mailman as he tried to explain the uncommon serenity of the neighborhood. He looked up at the sky. No sun—only clouds. The sky forecasted rain, and the mailman was not fond of rain. He drove faster.
But at the end of Mammon Avenue, the mailman was forced to stop. In the middle of the road stood an old man in a long, gray coat, looking up at the sky in fascination. He squinted and blinked rapidly, as if he were staring directly at the sun. His mouth was half-open, half-grinning. With one hand, he shielded his eyes in a permanent soldier’s salute; with the other, he pointed towards the sky.
Why the sky was so fascinating, the mailman didn’t know. He followed the old man’s stare up into the sky, only to find it riddled with clouds. Rainclouds. Damn, he thought. Better finish my route before I get wet. Better get that man off the road, for both our sakes.
The mailman got out of his truck and confronted the old man.
“Sir,” he said. “Sir, I’m sorry for bothering you, but you’re blocking the road, and I really want to get home before the storm hits. And I’ll bet you do too.”
The old man just smiled.
“No,” he said. “I’m fine right where I am. Nice night it is. Nice moon out today. Bright. Haven’t seen one like this in thirty years. Thirty years.
The mailman scratched his head in confusion. It was daytime. There was no moon.
“Sir,” the mailman continued, “I think you’re mistaken. All I see is clouds, clouds, and more clouds. If you stay outside much longer, you’ll—”
“You know what, boy? You’re right. Clouds, clouds, and more clouds. Rain, rain, and more rain. That’s all we ever get here. Nice to have a change, eh? There’s a nice, full moon out today for once. It’s like the gods are giving us a day of mercy, showing us the light, you know what I mean? I almost want to jump up and touch it. You ever get that feeling? Like the moon’s so bright it’s like a light bulb and you just want to go up there and see it for yourself? Yeah, that’s how I feel right now. Like I want to become an astronaut. Like that Neil Armstrong guy. An astronaut.”
The old man jumped and stretched his hands towards the sky to show the mailman what he meant. But as he approached the ground from the zenith of his jump, precarious equilibrium gave way to brief chaos as an item modestly slipped out of his pocket. It tumbled towards the asphalt, doing somersaults and half twists and curls as it fell—falling, falling, falling until finally it reached its destination with an obnoxious Clunk! on the road. The old man didn’t notice. But the mailman did.
If the item had been worthless, the mailman might have gone out of his way to stoop down and retrieve the item for the old man. He might have said, “You’ve dropped something,” and he might have presented the item to the old man as a gift of kindness, and he might have felt that his altruistic action helped humanity make a step towards its ultimate goals of justice and righteousness. But of course, when the cause is great enough and when the opportunities are perfect, self-interest comes out of hiding and performs a coup d’état on one’s moral fortress, shooting justice and righteousness in the process, and leaving one with the idea that “No matter what, I have to protect myself and only myself, and if I harm others in the process, so be it,” with the cruel irony being that the very mechanism one uses to protect oneself—Greed—is the very thing one needs protection from in the end.
The item was not worthless. It was a gold watch.
A gold watch, the mailman thought. A thousand dollars at least. Go for it. Go for the jackpot.
The mailman looked up at the old man, who was still staring at the sky.
“Damn, that moon is bright,” the old man said.
Just grab it and go, the mailman thought. Easy. Grab it and go.
“Wow kiddo, look at that. It’s as bright as a supernova up there. The moon is lighting up that sky mighty quick,” the old man continued.
Take the watch and leave, now! thought the mailman. Take it, take it, take it!
“Oh, man! Do you see that? See how bright it’s getting? Soak in the light, boy, just soak in the light!”
The mailman made up his mind. With a quick motion, the mailman grabbed the gold watch off of the road and stuffed it into his pocket. As he ran back towards his mail truck, he heard the old man yelling behind him, “Too bright! Too bright! It’s blinding! Too bright!” and the rain came down in torrents. The mailman got into his truck, turned around, and drove away, as the rain pounded against the windows with a fierceness that accompanies only the most violent storms.
Greed is like a vine. It attaches. It grows. And so it’s no wonder that when the mailman returned to the end of Mammon Avenue the next day to find the same old man with another gold watch hanging loosely from his pocket, the mailman stole it again. And again the next day. And again the next. It became a routine. After four weeks, the mailman had stolen at least $20,000 worth in gold watches.
The mailman stopped going to work. He stayed in his room for days on end, calculating how many gold watches it would take to buy a mansion, or a new car, or a boat. Or all three. Papers lay scattered all over his floor, with figures about inflation and taxes and the value of gold. Ironically, his wealth prevented him from leading a rich life; he only ever left his house to steal more gold watches. He was the richest ascetic who ever lived.
Then the mailman was fired from his job.
His appetite for gold watches increased tenfold; he was now dependent on them. Oh yes, he was hungry for them. But was he consuming them, or were they consuming him?
Then came Monday.
The mailman drove along Mammon Avenue in his own car, this time wearing a gold watch. Not a busy day today, he thought. Nobody outside except for two children, singing as they ran around their lawn. He could not hear the song. He drove on.
As he drove closer to the singing children, he could make out the tune and the words. It was familiar:
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.
He kept driving. The song the children were singing was clearly audible now. The mailman hummed along.
How will we build it up,
Build it up, build it up
How will we build it up,
My fair lady?
He was reaching the end of Mammon Avenue now. Only a little while longer until he could receive his gold watch. Just a couple more houses down.
Build it up with silver and gold,
Silver and gold, silver and gold,
Build it up with silver and gold,
My fair lady.
Just around the bend now, he thought. Just around the bend.
Silver and gold won’t hold it up,
Hold it up, hold it up,
Silver and gold won’t hold it up,
My fair lady!
The mailman reached the end of Mammon Avenue.. He could think of nothing else, and so that’s what he did. His hands shook on the wheel, and he constantly looked out the windows, looking for the old man. He drove in a loop, passing through Mammon Avenue many times, each time half-expecting to see the old man again with that shiny, gold watch; that precious, treasured gem; that beautiful, beloved, worship-worthy tick-tock timepiece twenty-four-karat worth-a-king’s-ransom lifeline damn-I-need-it-now gold watch! But the old man never showed up.
The old man was nowhere in sight.
No old man, no gold watch.
The mailman was confused. Maybe he was a little early. He looked down at his watch. Nope, just on time, he thought. Three o’clock.
What now? Drive, he thought. Just drive
“Damn it!” shouted the mailman after his sixth time passing through Mammon Avenue. “There is no sense in this world, there is no sense in this world...”
After two and a half hours, the mailman stopped driving. It was going nowhere. Instead, he went to the end of Mammon Avenue and sat down in the middle of the road. If the old man were to come back at all, he would show up there. Now it was just waiting. Waiting for that old man to come back with that gold watch in his pocket, carrying the mailman’s life in tow.
Stupid, stupid, stupid old man, he thought. Why would he do this to me? Why would he lead me on like a dog on a leash, a strangling, stifling, suffocating leash? Is that all I am? A damn dog? Bastard! Damned bastard! Ha, look at that stupid mailman, the old man was probably thinking, taking my watches so he can feed himself! Ha ha! Funny joke, old man! What has society come to now, survival of the fittest? Eat-or-be-eaten? A damn food chain?
He looked up at the sky. Some of his thoughts found their way into words, and he started addressing the gods.
“Is this your idea of retribution? Is this what I get for just trying to survive? Then damn your twisted ideas of morals, damn them to hell! You think that this is justice? Destroying hope—that’s justice?”
He spit up into the air. He was yelling now.
“That’s what I think of you, and all your self-righteousness, and all your ideas of good and morals and duty! You know what you are? Traitors to mankind! Damned spies and traitors! I’ve got you all figured out, right? Blown your cover? Strike me down, I dare you, strike me down and let everyone see who you really are! Strike me down, you cowards! STRIKE ME DOWN!”
And then the moon came out. It was brighter than it ever had been for years, and it illuminated every object within the mailman’s visible range. The moonlight shimmered on his golden watch, splaying light outwards at every angle.
“Aha! The moon! How ironic! The one day that the damned old man doesn’t show, a real moon is out! Tease me some more, gods, tease me some more!”
He jumped up towards the sky, attempting to grab the moon and smash it to the ground. In the process, the gold watch that had been hanging loosely from his wrist fell to the ground. He didn’t notice, and he continued his rant against the moon.
“I’ll get you, if it’s the last thing I do! I’ll catch you and crush you and send you into the sun!”
A police car came down the road on its daily route. The car stopped just short of the mailman, not able to move past him. A young policeman stepped out of the car, with the intention of moving the mailman to the side of the road.
“Could you move over?” he asked. “The road here is as narrow as hell, and I can’t get by with you in the middle of the road like that.”
“Damn, man!” the mailman responded. “Can’t you see that I’m busy? Damned moon—taking up all that space in the sky! Leave some for the rest of us!”
The policeman was understandably confused.
“What? I just want you to—”
The policeman curtailed his response as something caught his eye. The gold watch, illuminated by the moonlight, rested on the road. The policeman looked around, and, seeing nobody, quickly snatched the gold watch from the ground, put it in his pocket, and drove away, the moon casting a glow over Mammon Avenue with an uncommon brilliancy.
Letter to Amundson About Letting Go
Dear Jim: I learned the hard way I’m not good
at letting go of anything. I figured out something
very important about myself during my ordeal
with surgery and cancer. I’m not the kind of guy
who lets go of anything. They gave me a 40%
chance of coming out of the operation alive!
(It seems that fifty years of smoking cigarettes
and eating bacon for breakfast every morning
weren’t among my best options.) My doctor
recommended I consult with a specialist on death
and dying and plan my funeral. (Not my idea
of great lunch conversation.) The specialist was
spooky. She told me to go around sticking
the names of people on things I should give away
and to create situations in which I could
give my friends permission to tell me goodbye.
Right! Like I felt well enough to do all that crap.
Besides, I like my stuff, my friends and my life.
If I can’t stay here to enjoy them - then it’s my
plan to take them with me. Isn’t that what
quantum physics is all about? Hell, I think karma
and grace have been telling us that same story
for thousands of years. Believing we can either
get into heaven or reincarnate is another way
of saying how much we have enjoyed living this
life. I don’t think it’s a good idea to give any
of that away. I plan to lug all the reasons I love
my stuff and friends right to the passageway
of transition. Who knows, maybe all those
quantum folks are right - maybe I can take it all
with me. And if I can’t? Well, who’s to tell?
Fredrick Zydek Bio (05/05/09)
Fredrick Zydek is the author of eight collections of poetry. T’Kopechuck: the Buckley Poems is forthcoming from Winthrop Press later this year. Formerly a professor of creative writing and theology at the University of Nebraska and later at the College of Saint Mary, he is now a gentleman farmer when he isn’t writing. He is the editor for Lone Willow Press. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Cimmaron Review, The Hollins Critic, New England Review, Nimrod, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Yankee, and others. He is the recipient of the Hart Crane Poetry Award, the Sarah Foley O’Loughlen Literary Award and others.
Carol Ann Raftery
She did what he wanted. He judges her. He alludes to what she meant to him. The word is nothing. She lies in the coffin he built for her. God, why have you forsaken her? Why have you abandoned her? She forgives. She forgives him, and reaches for him, and he takes her forgiveness. It means nothing to him. He throws her forgiveness upon the wind. He throws her back into the earth. Kicks her and claws her, laughs at her, spits upon her. Each time she tries to rise, he lands another blow upon her heart. The heart shatters. The tears come. There is no one to see, no one to care, no kind words, no arms to comfort her. She wraps her own arms around herself. She seeks refuge in an empty shell. Her heart is not only broken, it is missing. The tormented heart has flown to heaven to find refuge with the angels. Yet the tears still come, washing over her. In torrents, in waves. While she sits below, in hell, with no one but herself. She is alone. She is damaged. She is broken. She is nothing.
Brenda Kay Ledford
The smile does not leave you.
Your black eyes still sparkle.
It is your past that fades.
You forget gardening,
the feel of dirt sifting
through your fingers,
picking vine-ripe tomatoes,
gathering peaches in your apron
and making a pie for supper.
You forget kneading dough,
the smell of biscuits baking
in the oven, drinking ice-cold
water gushing from the spring
at Shewbird Mountain.
You clap your hands,
sing hymns when the church
comes to the Care Center.
You gaze at Uncle Bill
who slips you candy bars,
and cannot remember his name.
I’d arrive at 11:00 p.m.
with a book
settle in and make the rounds
surveying retarded babies in cribs
some with hair lips
no one bothered to repair
because they were expected to die
I was twenty
oblivious to the finer points of death
yet still I wondered
the grotesque: excuses for God’s mistakes
bodies with souls
the night was silent
only stars, the moon
the scent of pine in autumn’s first touch of coolness.
I think her name was Shelly.
The Following Is The Written Confession Of,
Albert Hampton III.
It Was Found In A Safe Deposit Box
In The Bank Of Arizona
One Week After His Death.
Although I am a few months past my 79th birthday, it was not until the resent weeks I felt my mind wandering away from me. They say the average male life expectancy is only 80 or 90 years, so I think it best I get this out of me before it is too late. I have managed to beat the mind warp of Alzheimer᾿s for this long, but soon it will consume me just as it had my Mother and Father. I may never have to deal with the dementia before my final day, and I could take this with me to my grave, but somehow I don᾿t think that would be fair.
I was a well respected man in my time, have been to this day, and am not sorry to have that come to an end. The statute of limitations may protect me should I choose to release this now, but it is something I am not willing to risk. After my passing this will be found in my safe deposit box along with all things connected to my last will and testament. As I said before, it᾿s only fair.
I should not be allowed to keep my respect in death. I was a monster. I am a monster. And, I am sorry.
To my darling Andrea. I beg you, never stop loving me.
It was shortly after the birth of my second son that I began visiting prostitutes. I was not proud of myself, but a man has urges. My wife᾿s sexual drive had dwindled down to nothing, and I saw no change in the future. I was wrong. I thought the two of us would never embrace each other again the way we had when we created our first two children together. It was stupid of me to think that way, I know that now. But that changes nothing.
I thought I was smart in the beginning. Never taking a mistress, and only giving into my sin once a week. Faking extra work at the warehouse, setting up the surveillance system to record images of select areas so I could sneak into the back lot unseen started after the first week. Procuring street girls from different areas each week and never repeating an encounter inside of a month᾿s time to keep myself from being known as a regular came after the third.
Everything I did worked out fine for the first few months. Around the third month is when things changed for me. The ratio of suitable girls died down. Although there were enough for me to keep my rotation moving, some of the girls available to fill the open slots were deemed unsuitable. Even for a monster like me.
I found myself traveling beyond the state line to find new women. It lasted only two months because it became too risky. Although I protected my self from disease, that does not mean what I was doing was safe. Not by anyone᾿s standards. I found myself taking women to truck stops, hotels, dark alleys, and once behind a dumpster that belonged to a convenience store. The travel was also a risk. My wife may have one day noticed the extra mileage on my car, or extra gas usage.
She never did, but she could have.
If not for these things, I may have never met her. I could have avoided everything, including the years of sleepless nights and dreams of constant rain.
No. That is untrue. I can not try to blame anything that happened on anyone except myself. To call what happened an action of circumstance, fate, coincidence, misadventure, bad luck, or anything else, is to lie to no one but myself. That is unnecessary, and foolish, therefore I refuse to do so. The lying comes to an end today.
I spent a week away from my indulgences, but still continued the farce of late night work after realizing that out of state, was out of the question. I thought, at the time, that by taking a week off I could train myself to indulge in smaller quantities. Wean myself away from my problem. It would give me a better alibi should I need one, and give me a healthier variety of women.
It was a ridicules logic, yet somehow still sound.
That week I drove by some of the usual pick up spots, and found that I had three women to choose from on my next outing. In my mind, I had already chosen the girl, and I would pick her up on the following Thursday.
This never happened. Although the girl I had pre-selected was available, I found myself driving past her that rainy Thursday. There was a new girl in the area.
One I had never seen.
One I could never imagine falling into that kind of lifestyle.
One of such beauty she had no business being there. And in that moment, I had to have her.
Because I was not recognized as a regular, there were no territorial arguments over the new girl obtaining me as a costumer. She saw me pull my car up to the curb where she was standing under an awning, and knew why I was there. As she approached, I was so stunned by her beauty that I made no protest to her following action. The image of her curves through my rain soaked windows was nothing in comparison to the one beside me when she got into my car.
For a prostitute to enter a Jon᾿s vehicle without some sort of exchange is nearly unheard of. But that is what she did. And I could find no words to argue.
I drove away.
We spoke of price, and request, and she seemed to handle the negotiations as a natural. By my experience, she was very professional. With few words spoken, we both understood that the place was behind a warehouse, the act was sex, and the price was fifty dollars.
I was very excited.
Noticing my state, the girl giggled. I had no problem with her laughter. Like the rest of her, it was wonderful.
We made small talk. As often as I could I stole glances at her body. She was perhaps five feet tall, slender, white, supple, and dripping wet. Her skin tight tee-shirt was transparent, and the bra beneath it as well. I was pretending not to notice these things when she commented on my wedding ring. She said I was a kind looking man, and polite as well. She said a man like me should be at home with his wife.
What she said was not to be taken as an insult. I know that. Her tone had been polite, and she only meant to point out that a man such as myself should be content with his home life, and that in itself drove me to the edge.
We had been pulling behind the warehouse at that particular moment, and it was too late for me to turn back. The sound of her innocence, her honesty, drove me mad. I had never been that turned on in my existence, and have not been since.
Her eyes met mine and she saw the animal inside of me. I had yet to approach her, but she had already begun her protest. She said she had changed her mind, and was sorry. She said she could walk back to her spot. She said the rain didn᾿t bother her, and a man like me should go home. At those words, I lunged forward.
She screamed and pleaded. I told her not to worry, I would be finished quick, and even pay her double. My pants were open, my underwear down. I reached for her panties beneath her denim skirt and that᾿s when she blurted out her age.
She was crying, and she spoke quickly. I heard none of what she had to say until much later. She said she had just turned sixteen. She ran away from home, and had been making her way to Vegas by giving truck drivers and random motorists blow jobs and nothing more. She had never had sex before, not for a ride, not even for cash, and she only agreed to my offer because I looked kind. She said she wanted someone like myself to turn her into a professional before Vegas, but had now changed her mind and wanted out of the deal. At that, my arousal doubled.
She fought hard at first. I was simply too strong for her. In the confines of my car I was able to pin her elbows with my own so she was never able to lay a hand on me. I curled both hands around her neck, and managed to thrust my penis through her underwear in my excitement. It took several thrusts to break the material of her panties, and I had finished once before ever having entered her, but still I continued until I reached a second climax. By that time, as short as it was, she was already dead.
I believe it was shock that killed her, not strangulation. I also believe that she could have still been alive, or at least within the range of rescue, before I began the disposal. I may have been able to revive her had I tried. I may have crushed her wind pipe beyond repair.
Some things will never be known.
I panicked. There was an instant before I finished when I knew she was dead, and that᾿s what brought on my finale. I sat up and turned my body away, weeping hysterically. I cannot say for sure how much time passed, but eventually I was able to look back at the crime I had committed. Seeing her lifeless body, blood and semen running from her crotch down the seat and onto the carpet below, threw my body into a twist from my insides out. I managed to open my door before the vomiting began, but once it started it was hard to stop. I fell out of my car and into the rain in the process. My pants and underwear had come down to my ankles, and as I tried to stand they tripped me. I fell into my diluted puddle of bile and stayed there for a while, still weeping.
I wish I could say falling into my own mess was a justified punishment, but nothing can absolve me from my following actions, as well as those that came before.
I managed to get to my feet and dress myself. I stood there for a while in the rain, contemplating my next actions. I had to close the door of my car when I realized the dome light was on, illuminating my crime.
A great deal of solutions poured through my mind in those moments, but only one of them stuck. The thought of calling the authorities came and went like a flash of lightning. Burying the corpse would be to easily traced. Large bodies of water were few and far between in my area. It seemed like the only logical option for me was to burn the body.
My warehouse was well equipped for the job. It may still be, but I have not paid it a visit in many years. Once I was able to retire, finding excuses to stay away were very easy to come by.
Although many would disbelieve the fact that a stone countertop business is ideal for body disposal, I can tell you different. Wet saws, grinders, torches for building a-frames, chemicals that burn just as hot as the flames that await me in damnation, slabs of stone that can withstand intense temperatures, industrial drainage, and traces of blood all over from work related accidents. The solution to my escaping prosecution was owned, and run, by me.
I had no need to turn of the security system. I knew every nook and cranny that the cameras covered, and avoided them appropriately. There was a single angle that caught shadows and light from the fire, but I doctored them with single frame pictures the following day and that was that. My office was equipped with a roll out bed, shower, a refrigerator with snacks and booze, change of clothes, and completely independent from the security system.
My alibi was simple. I spent the night in my office after a long night of paperwork. I looked ill the following day due to ιtoo many drinks while I workedι, which is also why I stayed at the office. ᾸDrinking and driving in the rain is hazardous,Ᾱ I said on the following day.
In the far right corner of the building, one of the exhaust fans had been broken when my foreman crashed into it with our forklift. The fans are four by four, and start at the ground. This one was still intact, but the frame had separated from the building. I moved it aside, and brought the body in through there.
I had parked my car beside the fan, and used the girl᾿s shirt to clean her and the seat before bringing her out of the rain. Inside, I hoisted her onto my shoulder, and brought her to the wet saw table.
The saw hung from a boom arm, and at the time was manually operated. The table itself had a swivel beneath it to achieve specific angles for cutting, so I moved it aside to expose the drain.
Hanging the girl by her ankles was not easy, but in my younger years, not impossible either. I hung her from the saw arm, and then opened her veins. I left her to hang and bleed while I made other preparations.
Later, if any investigator came along with chemicals and lights like on television, I would tell them the tale of Bruce Campbell loosing an entire hand to that saw not six months prior.
While she bled, I constructed a stone table using scrap slabs and a few a-frames. I drilled a hole in the table᾿s center because I did not know what would happen to her fat or other bodily fluids during the burning. It was a good call on my part. I set the table up beside one of the exhaust fans, and managed to run it without turning on all the electricity to the building. The localized supply of power was also enough for a hand held grinder.
I returned to the wet saw, to see if her blood was drained.
Seeing her pale, bloodless body hanging from the saw arm, did something to me. How I could ever be turned on by something that gruesome is beyond me, but it happened. I turned my back on the dead girl, and masturbated.
After hosing down the wet saw area, I brought her body to the stone table, and turned it to ashes. I had to relight the fire several times, but after several hours, she was gone.
I had set our clothing atop the fire, and had to grind her bones in the nude. I was erect while I worked, but did not indulge again.
I collected the zippers and buttons from the leftovers, and threw them away along with her personal belongings (not many) later that week by wrapping them in a fast food bag, and tossing them into the waste bin outside of the restaurant.
After collecting the ashes and bone dust in a spare bucket, I went to work scraping the fat residue from the table.
I had another spare bucket beneath the hole in the stone table, and it had collected some evidence. It did not fill the bucket, but what had fallen in was a mixture of hot liquid, ash, and unidentifiable chunks of the girl.
I cleaned the stone table as best I could, but could not hide the fact that it had been used to burn something for a long period of time. I broke it into tiny pieces, and added it to the scrap pile that was ready to be removed the following day. The ashes and bone went into random places in the dust pile that was also to be removed on the same day.
All that remained was a shower, and the bucket from beneath the table. I disposed of the buckets content the only way I knew how.
I have never been able to eat chili since.
After putting everything back in its place, I went to my office, showered, wept, and had a few drinks before finally falling asleep.
I dreamt of a world of rain. It is the only nightmare I have ever had that can be connected to that night. The water in the streets collects and flows. The news shows unstoppable rain storms all over the world with no sign of coming to an end. It᾿s such a beautiful nightmare. I don᾿t know if it will ever stop raining.
No one ever came looking for the girl. I could have buried her out back, and none would have been the wiser. I could have buried her out back, and left something for her family to morn.
I think her name was Shelly.
what is veganism?
A vegan (VEE-gun) is someone who does not consume any animal products. While vegetarians avoid flesh foods, vegans dont consume dairy or egg products, as well as animal products in clothing and other sources.
This cruelty-free lifestyle provides many benefits, to animals, the environment and to ourselves. The meat and dairy industry abuses billions of animals. Animal agriculture takes an enormous toll on the land. Consumtion of animal products has been linked to heart disease, colon and breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and a host of other conditions.
so what is vegan action?
We can succeed in shifting agriculture away from factory farming, saving millions, or even billions of chickens, cows, pigs, sheep turkeys and other animals from cruelty.
We can free up land to restore to wilderness, pollute less water and air, reduce topsoil reosion, and prevent desertification.
We can improve the health and happiness of millions by preventing numerous occurrences od breast and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and heart attacks, among other major health problems.
A vegan, cruelty-free lifestyle may be the most important step a person can take towards creatin a more just and compassionate society. Contact us for membership information, t-shirt sales or donations.
po box 4353, berkeley, ca 94707-0353
MIT Vegetarian Support Group (VSG)
* To show the MIT Food Service that there is a large community of vegetarians at MIT (and other health-conscious people) whom they are alienating with current menus, and to give positive suggestions for change.
* To exchange recipes and names of Boston area veg restaurants
* To provide a resource to people seeking communal vegetarian cooking
* To provide an option for vegetarian freshmen
We also have a discussion group for all issues related to vegetarianism, which currently has about 150 members, many of whom are outside the Boston area. The group is focusing more toward outreach and evolving from what it has been in years past. We welcome new members, as well as the opportunity to inform people about the benefits of vegetarianism, to our health, the environment, animal welfare, and a variety of other issues.
The Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology
The Solar Energy Research & Education Foundation (SEREF), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., established on Earth Day 1993 the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST) as its central project. CRESTs three principal projects are to provide:
* on-site training and education workshops on the sustainable development interconnections of energy, economics and environment;
* on-line distance learning/training resources on CRESTs SOLSTICE computer, available from 144 countries through email and the Internet;
* on-disc training and educational resources through the use of interactive multimedia applications on CD-ROM computer discs - showcasing current achievements and future opportunities in sustainable energy development.
The CREST staff also does on the road presentations, demonstrations, and workshops showcasing its activities and available resources.
For More Information Please Contact: Deborah Anderson
firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 289-0061
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