I fill my lungs with flavored nicotine and imagine them turning brown and black inside my body – fleshy and soft and shit-brown. I am not good at fantasizing beautiful things. “Someone in my class says there’s going to be a curfew.”
She realizes her mind trying to shut River out for weeks now. When he comes up in conversation between friends or strangers, she abstains from saying anything. When talking, she has been enjoying just looking off in her hands. She remembers going to the grocery store earlier in the day, not wanting to buy anything for either of them. They both sink into the hot tub, the milky light, the rising steam.
The Kid had probably not heard him; that’s what had happened. The Omniscient Audience would have seen that, it was so obvious. Still, either way, there was no way of avoiding the clear fact that neither the Omniscient Audience nor the universe itself was prepared to offer him any further reassurances about his future tonight.
I don’t have the strength to do it on my own. I can feel the fever still cloning to my skin; a legatious turbulence is running in circles through my bowels. Just then, all of a sudden, as I’m watching the ray of sunlight fill with dust floating warm in its luminous bowels, Jefe shouts up at me from below, in the bookstore, like he’s got a bullhorn attached to the back of his neck.
Bud was surprised she was talking to him though he realized she had waited until the other men had left. Bud looked her over as he knew the other men had done too. She shifted her weight in a way Bud had learned women did when watched by men. She wore shorts that must have been jeans once: tight and patched. Her shirt had dried sweat stains and a ripped handkerchief hung out of her back pocket. It did appear she had slept outside.
Some muffled auditory convulsion comes from the adjacent window, shades drawn shut and Christmas lights lit up just to ignore the summer. I look up at the horizon overlooking the fire escape – the jagged, continuous line I’ve known since I was young, towers reaching upwards and towards the ocean just to prove that it’s a city. Dusk bathes this infant sky in pixels of dark pink and grey.
So I can't drink, and we both know why. I get too crazy. I can't talk to you anymore, and we both know why. And I can't hurt myself, I can't keep hurting myself in the usual ways, that's what you and everyone and the doctors say. So what am I left with? You're asking me to just sit here, just stew in this reality, rot and fester until I'm gamey and ugly and I decompose into nothing. What am I left with? You said I could pick my poison. So I picked.
Our young man would often spend his nights at their house. Claire would cook them dinner, and Antonio would regale them with tales of his job as a Bank of America clerk on Main street downtown. Oh, the characters he met there! He told of all types, all kinds of people in financial straights, making odd requests, and asking him why they didn’t carry lollipops in the foyer.
To the chair, lodged infected in our bloodstream, we have placed fear and reverence and yes, we have put love there, too. Slash the seat and let the dust fly up. Recognize that in loving the chair, we have reveled in nostalgia. Pull the teeth from our asses and know that most of the teeth are our own. Offer up the chair to the fire and do not put it out at the curb for another family to absorb into their household.
He was setting their plates now. He was asking her what she wanted to eat first but she couldn’t answer. There were so many choices and she was so far away now, in another town, in another universe where there was no her. Only him and Stacy and the entire lifetime she thought only she could give him now.
We use worms, maggots, hoppers, and minnows. We use corn, dough, salmon egg, and pork rind. We use our hands. You can’t waste time out here because there’s no time on the water. When we get back to shore, everything will be in its same old place. It always is.
And despite his advanced age—or perhaps because of it—Lew keeps himself together, is still quite groomed, shaves every morning, naturally tall, hunkering over others in a leather bomber jacket that in all eras had the impeccable attribute of looking out-of-date.
I had been here before – in this ‘Mecca’ of Calcutta’s street food as Shankar, my chaperon from the Embassy, puts it. Nice man, Shankar. Seems to have an intuitive sense of when he’s needed and for how long, knows exactly where he belongs in the scheme of things. He’s got everything sorted – notes, maps, my travel itinerary, the ballroom in a posh club booked to host a reception for the winners, a day trip to Tagore’s school in Shantiniketan squeezed in between.
Most nights his work is a refuge. But sometimes Ray meets it with fury. Hauls the enemy garbage, accuses the dustpan. Punishes the sinks, toilets, the endless reeking urinals. He relives the day’s earlier confusion: Delia, hurling a vase with his priced-to-clear bouquet. Chrysanthemums, it turns out, she expressly hates. Delia, playing every guy at the bar while Ray sits, fuming. Who’s keeping her company while he empties the bins?
But wasn’t that the problem before she died? Was there any say in the hands that closed on her throat, the knife or the gun, the knuckles on her skull? The girl wants to drift away from these tiresome questions, leave her body to the officials, the coroner, the inquest. Her body still is speaking, still has more stories to tell, but she no longer has any say in which stories get told.
“Alright! Man! There is a solution right? That’s my point, that’s why I went back history lane, there’s a solution--” Roland took out a business card and a pamphlet from his bag and passed them to the man. “Take those, read the pamphlet, read it carefully, then you can call and let’s discuss how you can join the movement to change the country.”
There weren’t many cages in Chicago. All the courts were open air and surrounded by trees. The high schoolers played on Lake Shore Drive, closer to the beach, where the girls hung out. Cages were a New York thing. Grandma thought cages made us look like animals. Jackson Park had a cage next to the golf course. We had the courts to ourselves. Jonah brought his five-year-old brother. Paul sat on the concrete with a beer. He patted the ground for Jonah’s little brother to take a seat.
My mother designed my costume at her nursing home three weeks before Safari Night, and it took her all that time to do the intricate detailing on the removable snout. Yet, best costume went to the guy with an elephant mask tied to his belt. The trunk fell just past his knees. Women leashed him around by it all evening, which most people found hilarious.
We would have said it better. We would have said that it brought all of us an uncertain peace, the world being massaged into submission. We would have said it was hopeful somehow, a restlessness dulling our surroundings, giving us passage to a shaky dwelling we knew so little of.
What was family, even?  What were friends?  Their names, so close together?  Moths battered the windowpanes.  They clung to each other.  They smelled of each other.  They wore each other’s shirts, each other’s hair bands, each other’s earrings.  It was all mixed up, mishmashed.  It was what they wanted, and how they liked it.  The light shifted and changed.
An inhale does nothing, an exhale spills one grain, two, three grains, four. Spills grain by grain until she is all spread. A light starts to break and there is no breathing body. Now the morning, the combine brushed out for dust, the engine roils, the men work, the men cut. Lizzie stands a stalk among sisters, waiting to be harvested.
She hadn’t asked for a child, started in some nameless town on straw and a face never remembered. The weight of the new thing got in the way. It tried to fix her to a single roof, a roof at all. She had no songs to sing, no lulling to calm the approach of dark. But she had not meant to leave her child. She merely continued moving and did not realize the weight was gone until her footsteps back to it had blown away. I am not a mother, she had said, and her dreams drained back into night.
It was bad timing, and not only because they were in the middle of Sally the bichon-poo’s fur-lathering process. As it so happened, she was having a deeply insensible summer. There was something the matter with her nerves. She felt nothing: not within, and not without, not even when she sawed the bread knife back and forth across her thumb until the skin was filed open to a glistening red smile.
I don’t remember their fights from my youth, only their aftermaths. That day I sat between them, the pew hard against my back, the air heavy, the atmosphere Baptist. When we all stood for the closing hymn, Dad’s mouth never shaped the words. He stood tight-lipped and stoic, his hand a weight that never left my shoulder. I caught Mom looking at him once, holding her stomach, like she was protecting something.
I see the neighbor on his balcony mulling over existence almost every time I go into the backyard. But from my spot down there behind a fence he can’t see me. They told us as kids that if you can see the audience, the audience can see you. But maybe that isn’t always the case. I could call out, but he looks like he won’t hear another voice. I wave when I feel sure he can sense my presence. He doesn’t wave.
Now that I have my phone back I check my email for what must be the seven hundredth time that day. Still nothing from Severino di Negro’s guy. Few things bother me more than people who don’t respond to email. I’m sure he hasn’t even told his boss about my idea or else he’d be all over this. I decide to swallow my pride—once again—and send the assistant another email.
I’m sniffing and sniffing and my keen senses are closing in on…I’m not sure what. It’s just like when Dad took me to a bento joint in Los Feliz and said, “Zelda, here’s one that will stump you” and let me sip his tea. Anyway, I know I know that odor, but I’m distracted because the caryatid feeds me a chunk of her quiche (bacon!) and begins to tell Dad her story. Corn!
When it was hot where you lived things boiled into you like a hatred for the sun or the constant need to be surrounded by air or water. I found myself doing things to combat the weather like for example coming out of the hotel shower on that first day and standing in the middle of the room breathing in and out, letting my body dry itself.
Oh, Valencia, Michelle mourned. Michelle was a poet, a writer, the author of a small book published by a small press that revealed family secrets, exposed her love life, and glamorized her recreational drug intake. Her love life and recreational drug intake had been performed up and down Valencia Street, the main drag of San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, once Irish, then Mexican, later invaded by a tribe bound not by ethnicity but by other things—desire, art, sex, poverty, politics.
Jim works in roofing and is missing digits on both hands. He strips down, and bends over the soft edge of the La-Z-Boy. He points to a long metal panel on the coffee table, stamped on one side with a seal that says “Val-U Homes”. I imagine the metal edge grazing his fingers, blood leaching into his work jeans. Pam positions herself in front of Jim. I grip the metal with both hands and hit his bare ass with the panel.
Alex had a nasty habit of twirling her hair, twisting it into beetle-dense knots, and tearing out the entire cluster. It always amazed her that her scalp never bled from this nervous ritual. She figured there was not much blood between her skin and her skull in the first place, and imagined what a fat scalp would feel like, if its spongey loam would burst with blood at the slightest hair tug. This was arguably the skinniest part of the body, an area that would remain skinny regardless of global tumescence.
His parents built the cottage out here on the fork so they could use it for vacations. It was small and they painted it all white, on the inside and the outside. They built shelves and filled them with things they found on the beach: seashells and dead starfish, a rusted anchor, and sea glass. When I first arrived, Sidney tried to tell me about everything they’d collected, but I didn’t care then, and I didn’t want to know.
They both went inside and busied themselves for the rest of evening. The next day, Pamir picked up Adam from school and told him they would spend the afternoon indoors again. He left Adam in his room to play with his toys while he worked on the latest zombie episode. Afterwards, he went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. He was standing at the sink when he heard Adam’s voice.
Almost the end of our first day out and no one’s looking for us, far as we know. If we ever went to school or went into town more than once a month or were allowed past The Fence, someone may have noticed. Keeping us anonymous might be the one gift Pa ever gave anyone. Nobody’s looking or wondering where we’ve gone. Instead we’re driving West until we hit ocean. From there we think of something.
Paul unwrapped the leather package and there was a small, .22 caliber pistol inside. It had a bright sheen of oil on the blued steel frame and barrel and wood grips with bee caricatures carved in them. Margot sat next to Paul and watched him dismantle the little pistol down to its tiniest parts that looked like little black bones on top of the oiled leather wrap that he laid flat on the kitchen table.
I’ve disembodied a couple of heads of hair and they live in the back of my skull just above my neck. One of the heads of hair belongs to a woman I saw working at a Japanese restaurant. The hair was fine and wavy and parted in the center. The other belongs to a girl I had a class with in college. She wore a navy blue knit cap and when she pulled it off, her hair would stand on end with static until she smoothed it down with her bony hands.
She fed him coffee and studied him as he sipped. Nothing seemed to have sprouted in the night, but she couldn’t be sure. The seeds could have aimed themselves inward, rooting in the drums of his ears and pushing deeper still. He was slower to respond, as if sounds were dampened, distant.
Out where we’re from, anything unpredictable is female. Countries, weather, the sea. “She’s gonna be some hot,” Henry would say when we climbed aboard in the wee hours. Or “some windy,” or some variant thereof. The ocean was supposed to teach us about these feminine fluctuations, though we were both girls already and I considered myself pretty steadfast. Shoshanna not so much, but then again, she was braver than me.
You try not to think too much, about anything. When you have an itch, you scratch it and marvel at the fact that you’re still feeling things like itches or soreness or numbness. Sometimes you wake up after your arm’s been dangling off the edge of your bed and you concentrate on each passing moment as feeling creeps back into you. The panic’s gone, or maybe it’s just hiding; you’re alive, so that means it must be alive, too, somewhere. But you feel empty, like a house evicted overnight.
Michelle and I made our way side by side, with my hand in her back pocket and her arm around my shoulders, like she was a high school quarterback and I was her wannabe prom date. She was my protector, regardless. We stepped lazily, our feet flopping and our heads bouncing. She had called me an hour earlier and asked if I wanted to go for a walk. I had said yes.
"I think that's when She noticed I was there, watching. She motioned for me to come closer. I waded ankle-deep in the water until I saw what She wanted to me to witness. There was a tiny jellyfish struggling to crawl out of Her vagina, and She was cutting off its umbilical cord with a pair of scissors."
An ambulance siren moans. Red beams zigzag across the walls of my room, like I’m back at one of the dances my high school used to put on. The ones my mother warned me I’d get pregnant for going to. Now that I am probably carrying Gary’s baby, it seems safe to say that nobody is getting pregnant at those dances.
When I saw him lying spread out in a private citizen’s driveway on my arrival to the scene there was a part of me that wanted to cry, if only because I remembered how 15 had nearly already eaten its feet to the bone back when I’d collared him two years earlier in a failed attempt to extricate himself from one of our research traps, in which it was possible he'd squirmed for up to two full days.
Has the city changed? She doesn’t know. It feels the same: grey. It was so long ago. She’d only been here for less than eight months, cloistered away on the university campus. And she’d been tunnel-visioned, seeing only him, and herself in relation to him, and the two of them together, or the void left when they were apart. Everything else had been wallpaper.
David lives in the park. His friends call him Dave, but I call him David. Every morning, before my sleeping cheating husband wakes up, I make a cup of coffee, stare in the mirror for far too long, searching for some sign of me. Then, I run. I run on the jogging path around the park, across from the apartment. The apartment is not my home. It’s the place that we moved after we lost the baby. Lost is the wrong word, we didn’t misplace him.
Marla had a taste for practical jokes. She dug through her crafts closet to find a tube of acrylic, its colour reminiscent of dried blood. She squeezed a blob onto the end of her finger and wrote I AM DEAD onto a plain sheet of paper. She then took a pen and scrawled underneath: Please keep the children out as the shock of seeing me may cause permanent scarring. She taped the confession to the outside of her bedroom door.
Torontonians haven’t changed all that much. They are still too busy to meet you until four months from now, and then they will also cancel when that meeting arrives. They still talk about diversity but rarely become friends with people who are not exactly like them. They still aren’t interested in anywhere that isn’t Toronto.
He might compel an artist to produce a work of art under his name, by bribery or force, but he lacked the ability to create a work of art himself. He could not paint anything that a gallery of repute would willfully exhibit. Only under threat of torture would a critic with integrity declare his writing to have merit. He could not sing. He could not cook. He could not sew.
The sharp smell of bleach fills Lise’s room at The Pines Care Center, though there are undertones of hair in need of washing, and the cafeteria down the hall. The cooking aromas here are nothing like the chicken broth and browning onion smell of Lise’s kitchen, but even those would be hard for Sophie to bear right now. She would like to open a window for some fresh air, but she doesn’t want to let go of Lise’s hand, to disturb her.
We are minutes from Boca Chica, and the change in pressure as we slope downward becomes a knife in my ears. I writhe in my seat, and just when the stabbing sensation has crescendoed to the point that I am ready to jam a sharpened pencil in my head, we touch ground in Las Americas International Airport. I blink into the sunlight and palm trees as the plane jerks forward, brakes howling.
I fill my lungs with flavored nicotine and imagine them turning brown and black inside my body – fleshy and soft and shit-brown. I am not good at fantasizing beautiful things. “Someone in my class says there’s going to be a curfew.”
She realizes her mind trying to shut River out for weeks now. When he comes up in conversation between friends or strangers, she abstains from saying anything. When talking, she has been enjoying just looking off in her hands. She remembers going to the grocery store earlier in the day, not wanting to buy anything for either of them. They both sink into the hot tub, the milky light, the rising steam.
The Kid had probably not heard him; that’s what had happened. The Omniscient Audience would have seen that, it was so obvious. Still, either way, there was no way of avoiding the clear fact that neither the Omniscient Audience nor the universe itself was prepared to offer him any further reassurances about his future tonight.
I don’t have the strength to do it on my own. I can feel the fever still cloning to my skin; a legatious turbulence is running in circles through my bowels. Just then, all of a sudden, as I’m watching the ray of sunlight fill with dust floating warm in its luminous bowels, Jefe shouts up at me from below, in the bookstore, like he’s got a bullhorn attached to the back of his neck.
Bud was surprised she was talking to him though he realized she had waited until the other men had left. Bud looked her over as he knew the other men had done too. She shifted her weight in a way Bud had learned women did when watched by men. She wore shorts that must have been jeans once: tight and patched. Her shirt had dried sweat stains and a ripped handkerchief hung out of her back pocket. It did appear she had slept outside.
Some muffled auditory convulsion comes from the adjacent window, shades drawn shut and Christmas lights lit up just to ignore the summer. I look up at the horizon overlooking the fire escape – the jagged, continuous line I’ve known since I was young, towers reaching upwards and towards the ocean just to prove that it’s a city. Dusk bathes this infant sky in pixels of dark pink and grey.
So I can't drink, and we both know why. I get too crazy. I can't talk to you anymore, and we both know why. And I can't hurt myself, I can't keep hurting myself in the usual ways, that's what you and everyone and the doctors say. So what am I left with? You're asking me to just sit here, just stew in this reality, rot and fester until I'm gamey and ugly and I decompose into nothing. What am I left with? You said I could pick my poison. So I picked.
Our young man would often spend his nights at their house. Claire would cook them dinner, and Antonio would regale them with tales of his job as a Bank of America clerk on Main street downtown. Oh, the characters he met there! He told of all types, all kinds of people in financial straights, making odd requests, and asking him why they didn’t carry lollipops in the foyer.
To the chair, lodged infected in our bloodstream, we have placed fear and reverence and yes, we have put love there, too. Slash the seat and let the dust fly up. Recognize that in loving the chair, we have reveled in nostalgia. Pull the teeth from our asses and know that most of the teeth are our own. Offer up the chair to the fire and do not put it out at the curb for another family to absorb into their household.
He was setting their plates now. He was asking her what she wanted to eat first but she couldn’t answer. There were so many choices and she was so far away now, in another town, in another universe where there was no her. Only him and Stacy and the entire lifetime she thought only she could give him now.
We use worms, maggots, hoppers, and minnows. We use corn, dough, salmon egg, and pork rind. We use our hands. You can’t waste time out here because there’s no time on the water. When we get back to shore, everything will be in its same old place. It always is.
And despite his advanced age—or perhaps because of it—Lew keeps himself together, is still quite groomed, shaves every morning, naturally tall, hunkering over others in a leather bomber jacket that in all eras had the impeccable attribute of looking out-of-date.
I had been here before – in this ‘Mecca’ of Calcutta’s street food as Shankar, my chaperon from the Embassy, puts it. Nice man, Shankar. Seems to have an intuitive sense of when he’s needed and for how long, knows exactly where he belongs in the scheme of things. He’s got everything sorted – notes, maps, my travel itinerary, the ballroom in a posh club booked to host a reception for the winners, a day trip to Tagore’s school in Shantiniketan squeezed in between.
Most nights his work is a refuge. But sometimes Ray meets it with fury. Hauls the enemy garbage, accuses the dustpan. Punishes the sinks, toilets, the endless reeking urinals. He relives the day’s earlier confusion: Delia, hurling a vase with his priced-to-clear bouquet. Chrysanthemums, it turns out, she expressly hates. Delia, playing every guy at the bar while Ray sits, fuming. Who’s keeping her company while he empties the bins?
But wasn’t that the problem before she died? Was there any say in the hands that closed on her throat, the knife or the gun, the knuckles on her skull? The girl wants to drift away from these tiresome questions, leave her body to the officials, the coroner, the inquest. Her body still is speaking, still has more stories to tell, but she no longer has any say in which stories get told.
“Alright! Man! There is a solution right? That’s my point, that’s why I went back history lane, there’s a solution--” Roland took out a business card and a pamphlet from his bag and passed them to the man. “Take those, read the pamphlet, read it carefully, then you can call and let’s discuss how you can join the movement to change the country.”
There weren’t many cages in Chicago. All the courts were open air and surrounded by trees. The high schoolers played on Lake Shore Drive, closer to the beach, where the girls hung out. Cages were a New York thing. Grandma thought cages made us look like animals. Jackson Park had a cage next to the golf course. We had the courts to ourselves. Jonah brought his five-year-old brother. Paul sat on the concrete with a beer. He patted the ground for Jonah’s little brother to take a seat.
My mother designed my costume at her nursing home three weeks before Safari Night, and it took her all that time to do the intricate detailing on the removable snout. Yet, best costume went to the guy with an elephant mask tied to his belt. The trunk fell just past his knees. Women leashed him around by it all evening, which most people found hilarious.
We would have said it better. We would have said that it brought all of us an uncertain peace, the world being massaged into submission. We would have said it was hopeful somehow, a restlessness dulling our surroundings, giving us passage to a shaky dwelling we knew so little of.
What was family, even?  What were friends?  Their names, so close together?  Moths battered the windowpanes.  They clung to each other.  They smelled of each other.  They wore each other’s shirts, each other’s hair bands, each other’s earrings.  It was all mixed up, mishmashed.  It was what they wanted, and how they liked it.  The light shifted and changed.
An inhale does nothing, an exhale spills one grain, two, three grains, four. Spills grain by grain until she is all spread. A light starts to break and there is no breathing body. Now the morning, the combine brushed out for dust, the engine roils, the men work, the men cut. Lizzie stands a stalk among sisters, waiting to be harvested.
She hadn’t asked for a child, started in some nameless town on straw and a face never remembered. The weight of the new thing got in the way. It tried to fix her to a single roof, a roof at all. She had no songs to sing, no lulling to calm the approach of dark. But she had not meant to leave her child. She merely continued moving and did not realize the weight was gone until her footsteps back to it had blown away. I am not a mother, she had said, and her dreams drained back into night.
It was bad timing, and not only because they were in the middle of Sally the bichon-poo’s fur-lathering process. As it so happened, she was having a deeply insensible summer. There was something the matter with her nerves. She felt nothing: not within, and not without, not even when she sawed the bread knife back and forth across her thumb until the skin was filed open to a glistening red smile.
I don’t remember their fights from my youth, only their aftermaths. That day I sat between them, the pew hard against my back, the air heavy, the atmosphere Baptist. When we all stood for the closing hymn, Dad’s mouth never shaped the words. He stood tight-lipped and stoic, his hand a weight that never left my shoulder. I caught Mom looking at him once, holding her stomach, like she was protecting something.