The Bicycle Review
Issue # 10
15 February, 2011
Art by Jeff Kappel. Photography by Wat Viset
All images copyright 2011 by Kappel and Viset.
Bicycle Review # 10
Greetings, cycle-ists. Let me just say this is an 'ell of an ishoo. I'm kind of blown away by it myself. There's just too much good stuff in here for me to single out any one thing without feeling like I'm neglecting the rest of it.
In other news, Bicycle Review has a new base of operations. I am now publishing out of Tucson, AZ. Before you get too worried about me being lynched or something, you should gnow that Tucson is the University town here, and about twenty times more liberal than the rest of the state.
Los Angeles will always be home to me, but I do have to question what's going on there these days. Neighborhoods like Echo Park, Silverlake, Highland Park, and Downtown, which artists moved into and made something happen in are now being priced out of the reach of those same artists. It's getting to be as expensive as New York or San Francisco. Some of you might find it funny: the idea of L.A. "selling out", but the city is such a diverse place, which has so much more to it than Hollywood, the West Side, and the Valley: the L.A. you see on T.V.
...Actually, most of the time when you see New York on T.V., it's really the historic district in Downtown L.A., mixed in with some Manhattan skyline shots, but we won't get into that.
Without further adieu, here's B.R. # 10
Share the Road,
J de Salvo
A Soldier, a Soldier!
Tabby dumps a bowl of oatmeal over her cat’s head. It slinks under the table and makes disgusting wet noises. Her sisters keep their faces to each other. Tabby lifts the cat up by its armpits and hits it over the head with a wooden spoon. Her sisters howl with laughter.
“Poor puss,” the blonde sister says. She picks the cat up and licks him clean in minutes.
Tabby smiles and says something about murder that makes them all sigh at her irrepressible youth.
The wood near her house hides many small things, but Tabby can never find them. Once she saw a dead cat. It was orange and enormous with bloat. She pierced its belly and let the stink stream out.
Between breakfast and lunch she naps. Keeping a baby’s schedule makes her feel secure. Tabby dreams that a homeless person turns into a rag that she uses to dust the legs of the dining room table. The dust clings to her like dough.
Lunchtime means foraging because no one is there. Tabby and the cat climb the counters and lick the bottom of the sugar canister. They go outside and cry piteously into the sky, then adopt a positive attitude and share a field mouse. The blood on Tabby’s mouth is the same color as her mouth. She and the cat curl up together under a tree, and Tabby wishes for a fairy tale, like snowmen shaped exactly like people or a boyfriend who’s just gone off to war. The afternoon is so long.
At dinner there is conversation:
“[Something is happening at] the bank.”
“I ate a raw mouse because no one was home.”
“Oh, Tabby,” the blonde sister says. “You’re supposed to go to school!”
“[Something is worrying me in our] bank account.”
“I’m feeding the cat human hair!”
At night Tabby goes out alone, dressed as a grown-up, with glassless spectacles and a bow tie. She wanders the sidewalks, looking for an ill-lit patch of concrete that might be a spot of blood. She lures the street people from their trash cans and sings nursery rhymes with rude word substitutions. Together they amble, taking in the starlight, wondering where the next booby trap will be.
She convinces them to lie on the train tracks, pretend to be pennies. She abandons them to their fate. No one makes a fuss about this. Not even the mayor. Not even her sisters.
Gamboling and cavorting, Tabby shuffles down the street, now a horsie, now a boy, until something stops her.
Tabby looks up and sees a handsome man blocking the moon. His coppery hair sticks to his face with sweat. She trusts him immediately. He seems like a man who feels no pain. He is not the devil. She can clearly see his toes in his sandals.
His mouth flickers open, and a bar of curved silver plops out and tangs against the railroad track. When he laughs he opens his mouth wide enough for her to see empty space and a stumpy struggling protrusion at the back of his throat. He stoops to snatch up the still bouncing hunk of metal, replaces it in his mouth, and speaks quite clearly:
“Do you know what accomplice means?”
Tabby nods because she pretends to know everything. He grasps her by her bow tie and pulls her face close to his. His breath smells like cat ash. She thanks her lucky stars for rubber elastic and thinks about the burn the tie cuts into her skin and whether or not it will make a scar. Tabby wants scars and scars and scars.
“Your brain isn’t formed,” the man says. “You’re like an animal. Let’s build some realistic-looking snowmen, dress them in clothes we steal from sleeping hoboes, and then shoot them with my real life guns.”
Tabby enthusiastically nods. Something about him makes her want to stay quiet. Perhaps it is that he pays attention to her.
They follow his plan to the letter, leaving in their wake a dozen naked transients, shivering in their alcoholic lethargy, too hazy to cover themselves with newsletter—“actually doing them a favor,” the man who is not the devil says, “because they’ll be arrested for exposing themselves and get to spend another night in a warm place. Or they’ll die, which is okay, too. Because of the better place.”
Tabby nods again, although she thinks the better place business is nothing but a load. Nobody comes when the sound of their gunshots ricochet off of surfaces, multiplying and forming soothing cadences in her mind. This is the sound of morning drills. This is the sound of a trumpet’s keys being depressed without any breath.
She and the man wander till dawn, kicking a can and looking at the moon. He walks her to her front door and pats her on the head to wish her a good day. The blonde sister scoops her off the welcome mat, eyeing the back that belongs to the man who is not the devil.
“I see you netted yourself a soldier,” she says. “Good work. Now Papa won’t have to worry about paying for your secretarial school.”
The assignment of soldier’s girl affords Tabby more freedom and respect. Her allowance is increased. She spends its entirety on crème horns from the German bakery. She and the cat gorge on them deep in the woods, stroking each others’ bellies after their indulgence, vomiting pale streams into root systems.
All is well.
The man who is not the devil peeks from behind a tree and then is upon them. He snaps the cat’s neck so gracefully it seems like the right thing to do. “Jealousy is a weak man’s vice,” he says. He just doesn’t like cats. Tabby nods. He draws his arm back like he is about to punch her in the face, and then he laughs.
“You’re my hometown girl,” he says. “Can you get pregnant yet?”
Tabby nods, even though she was under the impression that any female can have a baby at any time; there just has to be the ceremony with the white dress. Her sisters are very excited about the white dresses of their future. The man who is not the devil makes a face like he has eaten something out of the garbage, and spits: “Come on, it’s time to up the stakes.”
The man pulls Tabby by her pigtail down the street. She glances up at her house to see if anyone has noticed. Her blonde sister waves cheerfully. They are going to his house, he says. His mother has been driving him up the wall. Tabby giggles, thinking of the man in a miniature motorized vehicle, resisting gravity.
“You’re laughing at me,” the man says, and removes his heavy silver tongue from his mouth. He takes aim and hits her five times, once on each cheek, once on each calf, once on the top of her head. Tabby collapses. She feels something like slowness, her brain’s processes chugging along through something like porridge, or old age. Her mouth tastes salty.
Then she is lying on a rug in a house that smells like cat ash, and she is covered with sticky, brown dryness. A woman’s mouth is in front of her eyes. The open mouth has bugs inside of it; Tabby can see movement, and she knows it is bugs. She opens and closes her own mouth many times to chew up any bugs that might be in there, but there aren’t any. The woman has blonde hair like Tabby’s sister.
“You’re my mother now,” says the man with the silver tongue who is not the devil. He puts an apron on her. “Skillet’s in the kitchen.” He grabs the woman with the bugs in her mouth by the ankles and drags her to the edge of the woods. Her head moves from side to side, gathering dirt.
Tabby watches him from the kitchen window and thinks. She remembers the cat she used to play with during the day, how they would hunt and gather, like primitive beings, and how happy she was during that time. She remembers the feeling of the cat’s fur, and how, even when it got in her mouth, it was nice to have it near her. She thinks about the hoboes, and how most of them had interesting things to say before they jumped in front of the train. She thinks about her sisters and how they have hopes that she will be a soldier’s girl, but now he it would seem that he is her son, and she has never had a son before, and she does not know how to cook bacon, even though she knows where it comes from.
The skillets are too heavy for her to lift, and the man who is not the devil is fading now, fading into the recesses of his overstuffed recliner at the edge of the woods, just his fingers and toes poking out, taunting her with their fleshy vulnerability.
For dinner Tabby scrounges as she always did, and the man is not dissatisfied with voles and poison ivy, scrambled. His silver tongue cannot bubble. She finds a watermelon on a neighbor’s doorstep and slides it under her shirt dress, hurries it to her new home.
Her sisters have not been to visit. They do not wish to interrupt the honeymoon.
She serves the pulp of the melon to the man, spooning great pink piles into his slack mouth. The seeds she keeps for herself, gnawing off the first, black layer until a pale sliver emerges, which she swallows.
The next morning, the man who is not the devil rips out his silver tongue and raps it against her small swollen gut. It makes a hollow twang. The man laughs aloud, and insists that she stretch out over his lap, so that he might flick and beat on her to make music.
Tabby wonders at her ability to be an instrument.
He falls asleep eventually, thick drool slicking down his tongue. Tabby untangles herself from his arms, and sets off to her family home, dressed in her glassless glasses frames, her floppy polka-dotted bow tie. No one is there, but a new cat lives in the lower cupboard. She scoops him up for a cuddle and a thump, and the two head out to the woods, searching for something that they’ll know when they find.
They do what they do, and they fall asleep sweetly, entangled.
Her eyes open; the cat is up a tree, and the man who is not the devil says it is time. He strops his razor, slits open the front of her dress, and Tabby stares in wonder at her green and darker green-striped belly. It strains. The man draws a careful line with his razor, and Tabby leaks something that is not quite blood. She drains until her gut deflates, the liquid running and gathering in a trough filled with stones. Losing consciousness, the last thing she sees is the cat hissing, its mouth shaped like a heart.
When she awakes back at her new home, Tabby has a cat skeleton wrapped in a soaked bundle of rags that is her baby. She must not set it on fire. It cries all the time, eerie, plaintive moans with no spirit behind them. When she gives up and feeds it gruel made from dirt and cream, it quiets briefly, throws its spine around until she drops it, and skitters to a corner, where it deposits a small, neat pine cone that it struggles to cover with dust. Tabby prefers her cats furry.
The cat skeleton will rubs against her calves. No matter what she feeds it, it makes pine cones. Soon the pine cones take up the whole corner, and the cat relieves itself in the center of the rug. Tabby begins to use them.
She knits a sweater from pine cones. It abrades her skin pleasingly. The cat longs to groom her; she can tell. It doesn’t have any eyes or tongue, but it can still look at her. A sort of calm has settled over Tabby, with her new house and wardrobe of pine cones. Everything is a little bit sharp. She must be very careful.
The man who is not the devil spends all his time in a lean-to just on the perimeter of the woods. He brews moonshine in a still covered with oak branches, sipping from a ladle, vomiting a moat that only he can cross.
Tabby makes a pine cone hat for herself, and a pine cone gun for her skeleton cat. It has a tiny trigger, perfect for a bone to pull.
Tabby’s blonde sister comes to visit, bearing a variety of jams and jellies. Tabby dips pine cones in the jams and offers them to her sister, whose tongue is lithe enough to extract the sweetness without sustaining injury. The blonde sister approves of the man who is not the devil’s lean-to.
“A soldier needs a place to go and think,” she says.
The skeleton cat leaps up into the blonde sister’s lap. She pets him absent-mindedly. He rattles his bones to simulate a purring sound.
“You are well-suited to being a soldier’s girl,” she says. “A soldier, a soldier!” Then she clasps her hands together so tightly her fingertips turn white. Her eyes fill with tears.
“Old maid,” Tabby says. The sister catches her tongue on the spike of a pine cone. Blood bubbles, then disappears. The man who is not the devil vomits audibly, from just within the forest. Tabby throws a pine cone at her sister’s head.
“Oh, Tabby,” the blonde sister says. “Nothing can change you.”
“That’s right,” Tabby says, and she and the cat leave the house, leave the sister, and enter the forest.
The cat begins to dig. He digs and digs and digs until looking into the ground feels like looking into the dark, for Tabby. Tabby wants him to pull the trigger on the pine cone gun, just to see what will happen. He obliges, from deep in the hole, and, from deep in the hole shoots a sprout, growing rapidly and rapidly. Tabby grabs hold, wrapping her arms and legs and mouth around the shooting sprout, and soon she is far up in the air.
She can see everything: her sister striking a match inside her small home, the man who is not the devil licking his palms as he sits in the lean-to, cats with fur frolicking deep within the forest, her house where she was born. The blaze looks small and not at all hot from her perch. The blonde sister’s hair catches. The blonde sister’s face catches.
Tabby looks down at her leg, where the skeleton cat clings and chomps her calf flesh through to the bone. As he eats her flesh, it fills his belly, visibly. After it fills his belly, tiny flesh pads appear on his toes. Soon her flesh becomes his flesh, and her leg is bone, bone, nothing but bone.
The soldier, the soldier: He doesn’t move. He just takes it all in, dips a ladle in the still, sips and slurps and belches, his heart content.
Copyright 2011 by Sarah Eaton
The filmic hero
I saw a good movie on American football.
There was a guy who finished in wheel chair.
There were many heroes with broad smiles throughout the movie. They made the audience feel real good.
And this particular guy took part in his team’s victorious joy. He took great pride in the final crescendo of general happiness.
The screenwriter in my head stopped to ask:
What will happen to this heroic guy in the sequel?
Will he be equally victorious every day?
Maybe walking to the solemn music in the background?
Copyright 2011 by Alan Pejkovic
with the foothills to the west and the plains to the east, profigliano and bitterman settled their quarrel. mademoiselle longmont was the spoils, each wrangler drunkenly infatuated with the theatre songstress. opium gypsies, blacksmiths, and coffin carpenters fenced the manure stagnant sty. their civilized posteriors staring down, profigliano and bitterman stepped ten paces and drew. bitterman drew first, but magnificently profigliano fired quicker, six-shooting lead into the belly of bitterman. while blowing chivalrous kisses to the mademoiselle, profigliano was daggered in the back by schwartz, the hotel eldorado bellhop. with the foothills to the west and the plains to the east, the opium gypsies, blacksmiths, coffin carpenters, and mademoiselle longmont turned their cheeks with the setting sun.
Copyright 2011 by Lawrence Gladeview
Hugo’s Audio Transcript:
It’s nighttime and the machine is warming up. There was a light snow in the afternoon that will have packed up against the top of the generators. The air feels just full enough to carry moisture, though the clouds are often below us. Casey still sits in the lab watching the monitors or listening to the radio, but I’ve run the simulations—it can’t go well. My name is Hugo. If you’re hearing this, we avoided catastrophe, at least globally. My audio records are backed up to an offsite location in Peru by satellite if you need hard copies when our station is destroyed.
A railed outcropping of rock near the main lab hangs over a sheer face and you can see across the drop to the next peak where it slopes and the trees grow covered in snow. Sometimes I plant my feet and lean out over the hand rail until I see only the drop—white spreading everywhere with scattered black shadows like starlight. The drop keeps going but I can’t see where it ends and I wonder, out there, under the snow, are the frozen atoms and planets slowly rotating?
Steam lifts from the generators. The snow will melt away into rising vapors that climb above both the ground and sparse firs, carried elsewhere on the wind. Away from our hot machines, in the dark, under a cold moon, water vapors will condense like binary neutrons too close in orbit. Amid the collapsing rotations, connecting and giving birth to an empyrean release that imparts life to galaxies, so too the clouds again become snow: always the same with different faces. The clouds climb down following the mountain’s contours and I wonder, now aloud, that you can’t have just one molecule and call it wet.
It frustrates me not to know what will come. All the math and analysis in the world won’t describe how badly this experiment will subvert our existence. Like anything you can’t touch, we can never get close to numbers, understand them, examine their insides. There are no insides to numbers. And when you can’t touch or see or have any meaningful contact, you are relegated to only descriptions and physical accommodations. The problem is that numbers tell you very little without exterior context. People have become numbers—not solely to me. We circle each other lambently and move on our own trajectories. There is a density separating people—a density of such palpable boundaries as to be set adrift only by the closest of lovers. And only with solar densities can new existences form and the love described is then exothermic and self-sustaining.
Casey is an exceptional scientist—prodigious in her technical insight. But I’ve always felt she lacks affect in her work, as though the empty space between her fingertips is opaque and the nerves have nothing from which to distinguish. Each morning she habitually prepares her coffee to exacting specifications. She doesn’t look as she measures precise beverage ingredients, instead scanning the kitchen’s monitors for analyzed data, news feeds, net posts, then drinking her coffee with a loud fast sloshing, sucking the information in. Her work ethic’s rigidity is unabated. She performs every task with great care: calibrating sensors or melting snow from the observatory’s low outer casing and sponging up the excess moisture. And what is wetness but how one molecule regards the many others, and in turn how it is regarded without pause for brief elastic collisions.
No cities perch so near, so close to the atmosphere’s end, capping the loneliness of space. I lament the moon and its recurrent cadence; it follows us as we swing around, jetting forward, industrially outward. It must envy our satellites, coming from the ground and returning and touching. Things in orbit never touch, and we are all in orbit, tangential past the apogee. Infinite numbers press between every number creating the myriad gaps. It is only sometimes, with luck and chaos, that any two people can graze against and float on, together but still distinct. And the moon, it must envy the sun—producing the reflected halogen of midnight, producing heavy atoms of the heart. Fusion must be unconditional love. If I were to simply fall into the sun my eternal peace would be nutrient—my H-O-C upgraded to gold, or uranium if our heaven were bigger.
We’ve walked similar ground before, ascending the mountain with our palms stretching up and ahead. The heels of our feet lift as our soles press perpendicular to the incline, toes curling down like the cleats that lock our step. And we look towards the future, careless of our footing, but all we’ve ever seen are the frost bitten, sun burnt backs of our hands. Technology knows neither good nor bad, no fruits consumed save raw amperage giving faces both gladsome and wroth. The bombs didn’t drop themselves and fission was always too hot to touch. Fission tears apart, breaks a sacred bond, and so much energy releases from the smallest nuclear snap. No, we dropped the bombs and discovered a pathway to heaven, bricked and mortared with the so many thousand lives. Now, Casey and I have found the elevator.
Here at the top near the small observatory, just before night, you can see the closest peak and some few dark triangles sawing the horizon, tearing at the day until it’s bloody, until the warmth is scalped, until all the religious lights of our divested eyes pierce out the darkness in select and great detail. And always, the stark, unmanned observatory gouges unabashedly deeper into the vacuum, craving a more intimate flux across the spinning chasms. Now, in the darkness of early morning, I see nothing of Earth but my hands lit by the moon. I take into my eyes the few packets of light sent from the million stars. I can’t see them, but the trees below me grow white and cold. Labyrinthine snowflakes press together and cover the pine’s fir—itself an intricate green and brown crosshatch that I can never discern as I observe from this side of the snow. And up here the snow never melts.
Transcript audio log and interpretives from intercept sweep coordinates 11F24.2AC1.C681.9 through 1DF24.8137.EC1F.0 Analysis performed in native dialect. Numerics: hexadecimal. See Appendix B for translation and relative location. Attached: Audio transcripts (2)
Subject of Study: Hugo
Interpretives by: Technician C
Grade: Sweep Analysis; E|10;
Statement of Purpose:
The purpose of these interpretives is two-fold: to formulate an accurate portrayal of experience derived from the subject’s sample analysis, and to examine the effects of delayed reintegration on an inert persona (see Lab 2).
From readings and analysis we see that the subject’s planet’s rotation abruptly stopped. Given inertia, most masses continued forward at relatively 5DC feet per second (see Appendix C for measurement units, conversion, and associated research) in a southeastern direction. The subject, Hugo, was propelled forward from a sufficient height as to surpass escape velocity. Fragments of a toe have gone unaccounted for, but I speculate were lost at the atmospheric stage (see Appendix E). Friction-heat from dense collisions with the outer gasses—and the collisions themselves—rendered Hugo an atomized mist of particles jetting out through the boundaries of sound and gravity. Then the toe presumably fell back to the shifted earth.
Methods & Materials:
Datum relevant to the subject’s interstellar period was provided by Instructor 1 for interpretation. Hugo’s audio transmission was obtained from library archives. Transcript from Sweep 2E7.3A was obtained from the global archives. All methods of interpretives are standard as per manual 5: “for a single sentience, even no longer functioning, experience derives from relative points of scale”; the largest being his cloud-form mass, the smallest being wave vibrations. Through mean value analysis of these experiences, I will comprise a consensus on the experience of Hugo defunct.
Beyond his former horizon the mass called Hugo skimmed the black of space like flotsam on placid water. Sporadic aspects of his body formed rudimentary molecules, each particular atom unaware of their overall movement. When an electron or atom was plucked from Hugo by space dust, the imbalance localized and corrected either by the adhesion of dust residue, or a nimble restructuring.
A star gurgling bright orange crowned after millennia and Hugo—slowly—acknowledged the radiation and searing gravity. A bantam meteor drawn supplicant by the star crossed the still expanse and crept toward the fusion. The star burned a red heat onto the rock which pierced the center of our subject, tearing at the innermost of his atomized organs. Pushed by the meteor through to his other side, remnants of Hugo’s cardiac muscle pulsed with increasing gravity in procession towards the sun’s molten surface of ribboning flares and welcoming love.
Interpretives Subset 1—Into the Sun
Hot surface gasses envelope the meteor and the bits of Hugo begin their pilgrimage inward with ribbons for halos in every outward direction. Particles that have like charges repel. Towards the center, where it is hot, Hugo is entirely hydrogen now, moving too fast for the electromagnetic barrier to subsist and once close enough, attraction approaches the infinite. Not until contact, however, does the strong nuclear force take hold and the energy seems limitless. So many trillions of times over this contact happens; hydrogen hits hydrogen and finally there is connection, and fuel and sun. The particles transmute into the consciousness of helium—within it the trinity. Hugo in the sun is helium and the sun is dense. Two helium yield an unstable beryllium that could easily revert, but it is so dense, so fast and thermonuclear, the helium cannot help but fuse again as three, thus yielding carbon and Hugo is remade. The fusion is still faster, hotter: oxygen, and Hugo is reborn in the golden heavy swells of heaven.
Meanwhile, and previously, solar winds irradiated his brow as his main journey brooked. Hugo furnishes intriguing research for us. His aspects and aural samplings were projected on felicitous paths and provide us with ample data. Much of Hugo’s exodus occurred as inertial stasis. Without surroundings, speed is meaningless; at great distances insignificant but effectuating. Hugo no longer had the means to move, but he persisted.
Inevitably everything continues to exist in one or many forms. Everything is space for a time and then different space for a different time. Hugo has remained intact and unable to reintegrate for a longer duration than he might normally have experienced. We can’t know what he was but for his transmitted recordings. Not what brought him there or his people to that point. We can’t trace back the various experiences of his protons et al. as conclusively as desired, even given our libraries on their species. Nor can we know what Hugo will one day constitute, integral again to different futures and states of latitude.
All that Hugo can say has traveled with him. Already Hugo has given all he might conceive or be able to part with. Still, that which remained of Hugo continued past nebulas explicated by their clusters of fusion contained in fragile spheres of energy. All the particles fusing and rupturing for that molten starlight evolved in the primordial gut of suns. Hugo slid by the thick gravitation’s attractive forces. Maybe in some other time more parts of Hugo will light up in the brilliant centers of massive gougings of nuclear transmutation. The sun will go nova and Hugo will become heavy metals and planets. Maybe parts of Hugo will again partake in new sentience. All significance arises in density—the equations seem to demand it. Out in the void he remained himself a while longer because his path continued unobstructed, and it’s difficult to alter one’s self by sheer will when no thing, by itself, has a will. Hugo—a cloud of gas and red or blue or tallow depending on the light—drifted undisturbed by our intake fields with all the physical requisites of sentience held in the particulate torrent passing through our radial sweeps. After analysis he was collected and stored.
Once beyond the reach of his planet’s sun, Hugo’s colors became inert in the blackness of space with no one to see. Light meant nothing more to Hugo. His constituent parts contracted during travel and inconsequential electrons went awry, pulled by passing flecks or subtle radiation. Occasional waves swept by and a small meteor ruptured Hugo’s mass, removing a portion. The trajectory of meteor X-2F.1E7C9 has been confirmed as epoching into the sun (see Appendix 4). The aspects of Hugo, after our mass-substance analysis, showed a head-to-(missing)-toe structure, with his bits in relative order and the noted portion of missing pulmonary valve. The vacuum of space was not always clear or consistent. On occasion distant forces uniformly pulled Hugo from his prior course. Nothing loomed close enough to have great affect in the short term. Any influence does, in the long term, prove far reaching. His dotted mass trekked alone but always affected by the infinite horizons.
Transcript of Hugo’s aural playback
Transcript from Sweep 2E7.3A (see Appendix A for discussion of correlation)
Translated for homogeny
This is KXXR 192.A68.1DB.100.EE Coming to you from Mt. Hiei, broadcasting around the world on the nets and in live illicit analog from Hiroshima to Kokura to Nagasaki. It’s twelve noon and we’re back for our second hour with the Boogeyman.
BA: My jittering hoards: Have the twinkle stars of all the buildings’ flashes sated you? Are you overcome by information elapsing through your ears with the thick mousse of a key lime pie? At the end of the day do you feel like the old mag train to work has shot through your gray and pink stomach pulling everything important along with it hovering over the tracks except, except for your entrails hanging down scraping the clean metal and you feel a certain nightly emptiness? This is 1A11E and I’m Boogeyman Amanojak.
I regret to say we’ll have our weekly listener movie review. I’ll probably mute my headphones and go for a smoke, but you lovely listeners, have at it! If I seem in a foul mood, I am. My poor hedgehog, Ms. Wiggles, offed herself last night. She climbed high on the book shelf, perusing my dad’s old Murakami, and it must have scared her. She tucked and rolled right off the top shelf and missed the couch. Silence for the last ten minutes of the show out of respect for Ms. Wiggles. I expect you to acknowledge it as well. My poor Wiggy has left me hollow after the train. For the next half an hour my loyal flock will comfort me. How does my sonic congregation deal with ripe lives?
First we have one of the show’s favorites, Casey in the snowy mountains. Casey hun, my most esteemed goddess of celestial wisdom, how do you, with so little oxygen, stay buoyant in these lonely times? Do you float? Are you my Yuki-onna?
C: Hale Boogeyman, from on high. Sorry I haven’t called in for a time, but I promise I’ve been listening. I’m so sorry about your hedgehog. My work keeps me focused away from emotional aspects, especially since we’ve gotten so busy.
BA: That sounds so cold.
C: We keep the heaters running inside. Hugo and the nets give me enough contact.
BA: And Hugo, how’s he holding up?
C: He’s fine, wandering around muttering as usual. I’ve got the machine almost powered up and about to start running our next set of tests. He’s upset and convinced it won’t go well but I crunched the numbers plenty of times and don’t see a problem. We both agree we’ll get a reaction though, finally.
BA: I’ve done a little reading on your background so I can guess it’s energy related. Science bores me to the present state of Ms. Wiggles, however, so I didn’t read much. Surely we have a few sun worshippers in aural attendance though. So Casey, can you tell us more about your experiment?
C: I would if I could Amanojak, but we’re still classified.
BA: I suppose that doesn’t really help me then with the hedgehog issue.
C: When I came up to the mountain for our tests I had to leave two ferrets with my aunt. I get to see them on the web cam when she calls up. Again, probably doesn’t help, but I still missed them. Throwing myself into my work really helped.
BA: My poor auntie’s dead, too—like Ms. Wiggles—and I’m sure they’re getting to know each other real well, but my web cam is only sat linked. No way can I connect to the dead. They just don’t make a dish for it—I checked. But with so many people still living, way too many people it’s starting to seem, surely I don’t have to look to the afterlife for answers.
C: Honestly, I’d buy a new hedgehog and let it engross me. If you got it as a baby it would be just too adorable.
BA: Not a bad idea, but you must know I disdain leaving my fortress, walking shoulders pressed above old torn shoes with holes for the big toes to breath and all the chatter like a throaty wail in a distant room. Trash greases the concrete and pavement with weeds browning through the many cracks. I have to walk past all those people vying for my every moment and then moving on, with me to get a hedgehog or anywhere. I ask you Casey and listeners around the world: with all the myriad bodies currently bunched up tightly in great sinuous bundles of cities and towns and superhighways, why is it so hard to really know a person, and not have them carry by like passing leaves, faceless but for what we show the sun?
C: Yeah, I’d probably have the hedgehog delivered.
Copyright 2011 by Patrick Donovan
First Sunday of the Month
I could never imagine my boyfriend’s body in my mouth, much less Christ’s. An usher ushered crackers—those pseudo Communion wafers—to me, and in my hands, the Communion tray expanded into a silver urn that held Christ’s arms. Held His Legs. Held traces of His head. Which cracker did I choose? Choosy, my fingers lingered over a minaret of shoulder bone, then an elbow, but to the side, a slice of Saltine. I smiled because I recognized the shrouded keratin of my Lord. Crowding my tongue with Christ, I waited. After a few minutes, I pinched out a wet strand of hair and bookmarked “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in the hymnal, my fingers leaving bloody trails on the page.
Copyright 2011 by Dani Jimenez
Unfog this borealis of view
that grins & horrors on my pillow
how crows thunder over worms…
elapsing null eyes
that lift and scan
drooping as they cling
about tall grass.
Alive with din,
‘twas then her voice
never met again.
To stem such strain and ache
against the sinking sad sun,
where drearisome hounds howl
And beckon the orb of night,
falling like rusty nightmares along
The knees of time,
resting at the feet of her
austere foggy landscape.
Where hummingbirds sat and
sparrows once brought song...
Oh, how presently
cold & curious, nevermore
Copyright 2011 by Ray Groves
Man Before 30
I don't want to hear
no more whimpers
or outbursts of fear.
I just want the monotone
of a week's worth of facts
crumpled into a sturdy paragraph
I want all the obituaries
from all the world
and parse each life
into one compound sentence.
And when you finally want me to die,
I'll tell you everything
anyone ever needs to know:
Unknown poets die every day.
Copyright 2011 by Jason Huskey
It all started with a quote from an old high school acquaintance on Facebook. One of those people who friended me that, truthfully, I can’t really remember. As I wasted my time scrolling through mundane posts, I drew a kind of foggy blank with some, most likely, hallucinated mannerisms, sort of an approximation of the phantom who cheerily quipped: "In the depths of winter I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible summer,” Albert Camus.
I don’t know what the weather is like back home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but today it is gloomy in Nashville, more than gloomy. It has anthropomorphized into a nasty, cutting relative you just wish would go home. We have had no sun, maybe one partly cloudy day in five weeks. Other places are receiving record snowfalls, but we remain torpid gray, alternating flurries and sleet. If it snows, it happens at night, so that by the next morning it is sleeting and the snow quickly retreats into nasty, dirty bundles deposited at the corners of the street.
May I tell you a little bit about myself? My company did away with my office so I work from home. My job is boring. You would be weary just to hear me recant its description. It is one of those jobs that need a ton of explanation just to inform the listener of my vocation. This is futility because by time I am through with my lengthy, technical depictions my listener is either indifferent or has a blank, glazed look on their face. I haven’t been out of my pajamas in weeks. I have two and a half inches of gray streaks transitioning into sad, faded locks that had once been a gleaming color labeled “Foxy,” packaged in a box adorned with a woman tossing voluptuous, ginger tresses. I could go on and on, but let this last description suffice. I left home today with greasy hair pulled tight to my head in a clip reminiscent of a giant spider, pajamas with a hole under the arm wrapped in a Snuggie bound (already loathing myself) for Hardees’s for a Thick Burger, giant onion rings and a large Coke. I drove around town eating my fine meal, and then across town to a drive-thru convenience store where I purchased a bag of Chips Ahoy. Most of cookies accumulated as crumbs in my lap, or stuck between my teeth. The ones that escaped raced like runaway slaves to my hips.
I haven’t always been this way. I used to go to Macy’s and have a personal shopper clothe me. I had a French manicure on fake nails. I’ve had liposuction and there may still be a little Botox losing strength in my face. Nutrisystem is still being delivered to my door. I still cared.
I did this for a man. I met him on plentoffish.com. I enjoyed his company and attention while it lasted. Later it seemed that I had snagged a not-so-great catch from polluted seas and apparently, he was a serial monogamist sex addict. I was enthralled with the newness of the experience, not the actual experience. In reality, he was very indecisive, insecure, watched me the whole time during sex. He forced his penis down my throat so hard I imagined my colon would march right up my digestive tract and slap him right out of my mouth. For our six month anniversary, he gave me sapphire earrings and then wanted me to go out to a fancy restaurant with no panties on under my new dress with his sperm running down my legs. Maybe he was like a lion marking his territory. In reality, it’s not that big of a loss.
That is my trouble now; nothing seems to be a loss. When you lose the ability to hope or dream, it is a type of death. I wondered if I was a misanthrope who likely suffered from undiagnosed autism or Asperger’s disease. At parties and gatherings, I always seem to be situated between two conversations, never catching enough of any of them to participate. I am always anxious and uncomfortable in those settings. I have retreated to my home. The only calls I get are wrong numbers and telemarketers. I really don’t like anybody or anything anymore.
My mood could indicate that I have surrendered. Perhaps it could mean something more, an end of vanity, a beginning of reason, and a gateway to wisdom. I doubted those theories, though appealing, as I drove on, disgusted with the cookie crumbs that settled in colonies along the frontier of my Snuggie. The houses I passed seemed to creak with rheumatism brought on by the cold. Yesterday the wind had been fierce, but today the air hung heavy and wet as if it was indifferent too. I thought about the Camus quote. I could not imagine an invincible summer residing within me. I burst out laughing.
To my great amazement, a hole appeared in the clouds as a searchlight of sun blinded me at the red light, like it was a sign! Holy shit, could this be a Saul cruising down the Damascus Parkway moments? Did I have anything really to lose by just rolling with this? Just look at me; I think not. I reminded myself that it is so easy to say no to living. My spirits had not been lifted this high in months. I felt like the sun had given me an adjustment from a cosmic chiropractor.
I decided to take a different route home that wound around by the river. When I reached the bridge I saw the most beautiful chalk drawing. I recognized the artist from an article I had read in one of those folksy features in the Sunday paper. A thriving tent city by the river was about to be cleared away to make way for a new development, the sort of cheesy affair that is so popular today, the convoluted, model village with quaint shoppes and sidewalks that meander in wavy lines like a drunkard laid them out. The homeless population was being told they must relocate to a shelter. The artist was a homeless man who, despite being very gifted, believed he was a dog. He refused to eat any of the sandwiches passed out by the Christ the Rock Baptist Ministry. Finally one of the exasperated good souls brought him a new packet of chalk and a bag of Old Roy dog food from Wal-Mart. It was the only gift he would receive. He became known as Old Roy because he ate dog food. He never spoke, but would bark and howl at the moon.
I pulled over. Most of the men around the small fire were dead-eyed. But Old Roy’s burned icily blue with a raw intensity. He looked biblical, with a matted beard and long hair reminiscent of the wilderness version of Jesus or John when he was noshing on locusts. His body was slight but muscular. It seemed a shame for someone so gifted to be denied a real chance to develop his talent. I lowered the window and called his name.
“He don’t talk to no one, Miss,” said one of the more observant homeless crew.
I realized I had to think like Roy if I was going to reach him. I opened the door of the passenger side and spied an onion ring on the floor mat that had escaped my mouth during my recent feeding frenzy. I held it up between my fingers and whistled while patting the seat. To my great amazement Old Roy bounded into my car and snatched the onion ring. He began sniffing and licking up the Chips Ahoy crumbs. I closed the door not really knowing what I should do next. I drove away slightly panicked, progressing to majorly panicked. I have forgotten how to behave with people. Then it hit me, he is a dog. I am just rescuing a stray dog, a dog that makes nice art. I’ll take him home, buy him some paint, and treat him like a pet just like when I inherited Mr. Pickles, my mother’s miniature Dachshund, when she went to the nursing home. The odor in the car was overwhelmingly foul. I fought the urge to retch. I let down the window and Roy happily stuck his head out as I drove down the I-65.
I realized that I would have to wash Old Roy sooner rather than later. In a perfect world I would have established some trust first, delaying actions that might terrify him until he was familiar with me and his new surroundings. There was a large whirlpool into which he must be coaxed. The whirlpool had never seen any use in my history with this current residence. The unused behemoth basin is flanked by a large expanse of windows that seem to be de rigueur for my neighborhood here in the cul-de-sac. How could I begin to describe how much I detested this neighborhood? I was surrounded by cookie cutter mini-mansions and neighbors, the “Perfects,” with their 2.5 children, usually named Chase and Morgan or some other contrivance that sounded like a banking or brokerage firm. Their days were filled with Suzuki lessons, ballet classes and Peewee soccer games. The moms drove minivans in their tennis or workout clothes, the children were still young enough to be adorable and the fathers have just bought their first sports cars. I had came to the door smoking a cigarette when little Barclay from next door rung to deliver my Girl Scout cookies. She looked absolutely stunned and I realized she had probably never seen anyone smoking before. Life was still perfect in her world. It’s funny to think of myself marooned here, granted this house in the divorce decree just before the housing bubble burst. I was the hidden sore on an otherwise perfect body.
I don’t know what the neighbors saw from behind their custom plantation shutters as I pulled the Land Rover into my driveway with Roy hanging from the window barking at squirrels. I didn’t dare open his door until I had safely pulled into the garage. Even though it was a three car garage, it wouldn’t take long for the stench to build. I cracked one of the doors slightly and went to the master bath to prepare.
I heard snorts and scratching as I approached the garage again. I opened the door to find Roy had overturned the garbage. He was in the throes of shredding a load of papers destined for recycling that I had been too lazy to carry to the curb. I screamed for him stop, but he continued, undisturbed. I finally recovered my wits. “Bad dog,” I yelled. Roy retreated sheepishly into a corner. I called for him but he would not come. I went inside and got a couple of belts and after wrestling with Roy, I got one around his waist and looped the other belt around it until I formed a primitive leash and I began to tug. These were fashionable relics from my old life, defiantly not meant for dragging beasts down hallways. At this rate I would never get him into the bathroom.
I went to the computer to see if I could find some help online. I surmised from several sites and the Dog Whisperer that I would have to coax good behavior rather than react negatively to bad behavior. I didn’t have any dog treats, so I used a bag of gingersnaps. Maybe Roy would not notice the difference, after all, he did eat the onion ring.
I tugged Roy to the first gingersnap and drug him to the next. Roy gave me a coy smile as he approached third and followed the trail to master bathroom. He placed the pile of collected cookies at the edge of the tub and undressed and climbed into the awaiting water. He looked pretty content there.
“Water dog, huh Roy?” I tried to hide my embarrassment, thinking dog, dog, pet dog, and so I gathered up his clothing and made for the washer before the stench overtook the whole house.
I had rummaged through my bathroom drawers and found an unopened gift basket with an array of Moonlight Magnolia, scented bath products. Were you ever the recipient of gifts that just reeked of loved ones not having the first clue as to who you were? I was a tomboy and never used prissy magnolia, scented soap. I had three or four unopened Enya CDs. My sister used to complain that I only played music that no one else could listen to like punk and jazz. I don’t know how the logic trajectory meanders from Mingus to the soft, ethereal waters of Enya’s shore. I presumed Enya and soap and lotion are the default gift purchases when you are irresolute. In any event, I cracked open that bad boy and started washing Roy.
Roy seemed to luxuriate in the bath water, shocking after the scene in the garage and the tug of war toward the bathroom. I was genuinely grateful for the foaming bath crystals and the conditioning shampoo. Roy loved me massaging his head with the shampoo. He tilted his head and licked my hand. We advanced further into the treasure trove of the basket to the sugar scrub and its enclosed loofa and the final coup d’état, the Conditioning Hair Repair. I drained the water and sprayed Roy a couple of times along with the bathtub which was heavily soiled and no longer virginal. I held up a towel for Roy, covering my face in the process, but immediately he had began running around the bathroom shaking, snorting and rolling on the bathmats, then he tore down the down the hall barking.
The first few weeks with Roy, as with any pet, were quite an adjustment. I really wasn’t used to any routine. After a few accidents in the house, I learned to read Roy’s restless pacing and circling as a signal to let him out. I kept to a schedule of regular meal, potty and sleep times. The first few nights I tried to station Roy in the guest bedroom. My resolve to keep him there waned as he plaintively whined, broke into incessant barking, mournful howls and relentless scratching outside my locked bedroom door. At 3:30 a.m. on the third morning I opened the door, not caring if I was raped or murdered as long as there would be rest at the end of the experience. My fears were unfounded, and Roy dove under my bed. The huge, tall carved four poster was a hand-me-down from my grandfather, who was the ambassador to Venezuela, a beautiful remnant from our gracious past, and perhaps the only diplomatic thing about me. I handed Roy the extra pillow from the empty side of the bed and the unused duvet folded at the foot of the bed.
Once we were entrenched in our routine, I went to the Artist Pad and with the assistance of the lavender-headed clerk, purchased an array of brushes, drawings pads, pastels and oils. I converted the unused bonus room above the garage into Roy’s studio. It was adjacent to my own office so that I could keep an eye on him. Roy was amazingly prolific. He churned out one beautiful painting after another. Stylistically his work seemed deceptively primitive, almost like it had been drawn by an exquisitely accomplished Aborigine. Roy’s lines were bold and deft. I wondered how and when he began painting.
I should tell you that even though Roy never spoke, he would exhibit normal human behavior in certain instances. Most of the time, he conducted his actions in such a canine manner that I would forget that he really was a man. He wriggled on the carpet on his back waiting for me to scratch his belly. He would deposit a tennis ball at my feet for me to throw. But then, he would stick his hand out for a cigarette from time to time. He helped himself to a single malt scotch from the bar after he retired from painting and had washed his hands and brushes. He had very refined table manners, and refused to eat from the dog bowl after the first couple of weeks. To my great dismay, he declined to use the toilet and open doors. I had to install a doggie door and a very tall privacy fence in the back yard so that he could conduct his business. The first week he was here, my next door neighbor, Nancy Collins, stomped over, ranting that her church study group, the Bible Babes, had seen him lift a leg and spray a tree. I told her that he was from New Guinea, and my ministry, “If you only knew what this poor man has lived through and how long it took him to get to this country. They don’t have toilets there!” I yelled at her until tears puddled in her eyes and then I slammed the door. He would chase Powderpuff, their cat, until the terrified creature scrambled back over the fence trailing its tail the size of a serving of cotton candy. Nancy was godly enough to overlook these disturbing occurrences, but even I was disconcerted when Roy followed me and sniffed my butt.
I grew to enjoy Roy’s company after my initial anxiety passed. I acclimated my schedule to his. He required a lot of extra work and attention from me, but I concluded it was a healthy lifestyle adaptation. Though I grew irritated with him frequently, I knew I was happier than I had been in years. As with any pet he lowered my blood-pressure and gave my hitherto pathetic life meaning and focus. Roy became my pet.
Roy was an enigma without resolution. He refused to speak except in the form of barking. If he divulged any of the fragments of his life to me, it was usually in his artwork. After I remarked that his last painting was so smart and sophisticated, I said, Roy your instincts as an artist are so perfect. Surely you had training. How did you start painting? Roy formed the word Exeter on the canvas and then proceeded to paint over it.
“Exeter, the shi shi prep school?” Roy nodded. “Jesus, Roy, if you went to a posh school like Exeter, what were you doing living in that tent city by the river?” Roy put his brush in turpentine and wiped his hands on his towel. He retreated from the room with his head hung and a defeated posture. I was stunned. I ran down the hall after him and found him curled under my bed. I put my hand under the bed and pet Roy. He winced as if I had struck him.
“Roy, I am truly sorry. I didn’t mean to be so insensitive. You are my only friend in this world. Please know that I didn’t mean to upset you.” I felt Roy nuzzle my hand and lick it a few times. I left the room. As naïve as it sounds, this was the first time I had really wondered who this man was. I considered him my pet. I had a pet that created beautiful things. I considered him crazy and incapacitated, perhaps like myself, unable to mingle in the world but smart and productive all the same.
Roy usually wakes up before me. He has started making the coffee. I ascertained he found my coffee weak and puny from the disdainful faces he made. I found the addition of shade grown organic Ethiopian coffee on the grocery list held by the magnet on the refrigerator. I guess the man who used to eat Wal-Mart dog food expected me to shop at Whole Foods now. Even though I will come downstairs to find my new Vanity Fair completely shredded or one of my Crocs chewed in half, he deigned to insinuate my coffee is not fit for human consumption. I was taking orders from a man who stood at the base of the backyard trees barking incessantly at squirrels if I left him out too long.
This morning he wasn’t sitting at the table reading as usual. His copy of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice lay face down on the table. He had left me cranberry/orange scone (another of his requests) and some fruit on a plate. I showered and dressed, wondering where Roy was. I assumed he was in the studio but none of his implements were on the table yet. I started to search the entire house and yard to no avail. I felt panicked. I finally went into the garage as a last resort. My heart sank. The car was gone. I stumbled back into the house in a somnambulistic state. In the mud room, the contents of my purse were strewn on the counter. My wallet was gone.
I can’t remember the last time someone had the power to hurt me. I know it sounds ironic considering the dissipated state into which my life had lapsed, but I felt so ashamed. I collapsed at the kitchen table. I looked out the bay window at Spring in full force. The trees had started to leaf and pink, yellow and white blooms dotted the perimeter of the yard. My eye rested on the brilliant emerald of the new grass. I saw a man-sized pile of shit nearby and started to sob.
I curled up under the giant bed and smelled the pillow that had touched Roy’s head. I realized that this might be the last time I smelled Roy’s particular aroma of soap, grass and oil paint. Carved vines and flora snaked the mammoth mahogany posts of the colonial relic. I stared at the dirty baseboards and the developer’s choice of beige paint. The beige walls seemed to herald the misery and bland life that would once again be mine. I ran my hand along the off-white carpet as if reaching out to pet Roy. I encountered my possessions: socks with holes, bent eye glasses and my underwear. He had started to grab my underwear when I showered and had run around the house growling with them in his mouth. I looked at the beyond-faded, threadbare, cotton panties. Who wore wretched drawers like these? Jesus, even a homeless man couldn’t handle living with me.
I drifted into a miserable sleep too incapacitated to even get a drink, my usual remedy. Before Roy, there were way too many wine bottles tinkling in the trash. Even sleep was no escape. It hurt to breathe. I felt like a homicide had taken place.
I woke to loud barking. I felt so disoriented, like I had a hangover. Roy was pawing at the leg that protruded from under the bed. “Roy, you’re going to wake the dead. Stop barking…” My head throbbed from all the crying. Roy continued to bark at full throttle, by the door. I had no option other than to grab my Kleenex box and follow him.
His enthusiasm waned when he had seen my face and guessed the reason for my tears. He held up a finger as if to say wait a moment. He poured me a glass of wine. As I drank, he hugged me and kissed the top of my head. Roy proudly brought out bags from the garage, lots of them.
How did this dog man go shopping? Had he driven to the mall and entered Banana Republic, barking until the clerk retrieved the sweater off the mannequin? Had he dug through a pile of lingerie with his paws, slinging garments every which way, gathered a bunch of panties in his mouth and then deposited them at the cash register? Most bewildering was the bag that contained hair coloring, makeup, nail polish and a host of grooming products which required me to read instructions in order to determine their uses. Roy barked loudly for me to help him take the bags to the bathroom. I grabbed the ibuprofen bottle and swallowed several. This was not tiptoeing into the water, but diving in and being swept along with the fast moving current.
My dear readers, guess what day this was? Easter, day of resurrection. I was shaving my legs for the first time… in I didn’t know when. I watched from the Palladian fenestrations that flanked the mammoth whirlpool as Roy dug a hole the size of a Volkswagen in the backyard. Just as I took care of Roy’s nasty clothing while he was safely ensconced in the tub our very first night together, he filled the crater with my holey PJs, Snuggies, Crocs, and ratty underwear. Oh, Christ, did he just dump out my Cheetos?
I had to admit that I felt a lot better about myself after I gave up all the processed food and started wearing actual clothes, bright colored garments with zippers instead of elastic waistbands. Roy prepared our meals and his culinary instincts were as acute as his artistic ones. He growled at me if I tried to sneak more than a handful of cigarettes a day. He slapped my hand with his strong paw when I poured my fourth wine of the evening. Roy pissed me off at every turn, but even if I was in a constant state of vexation, I knew that I felt better than I had in years. The most intolerable illustration was his attempts to block my path of flight when he put on the Pilates DVD. The only time my dog allowed me back into sweatpants was when he coerced me to do Yoga Booty Ballet.
Roy had assembled quite a mass of artwork. I photographed his portfolio and started shopping galleries for a showing. I located a hip new gallery that seemed to be the epicenter of the current New York art scene, Atelier Annie. Annie Sternbach must have catapulted herself from her Chelsea Gallery to Nashville. She arrived breathless on our doorstep in record time. About all I could say as I greeted her for the first time was come in and excuse me. Roy was chasing Powderpuff again. The poor cat raced across the yard with Roy in hot pursuit, barking like banshee. Powderpuff lived up to her name as her fur bristled to the size of an electrocuted Pomeranian by the time she scrambled up a tree. Roy continued barking, and I tried to pull him back. I screamed at Roy, tugged at his clothing, and finally had to alpha roll him to the ground with my teeth at his throat.
“Roy, we have company!” I growled. The New Yorker viewed the spectacle with an urbane air of insouciance as if to say, hey, I’ve seen worse on my block. Annie didn’t exactly add a modicum of normalcy to the scene in the backyard. She wore a skintight black patent-leather flight suit. She had on incredibly tall clear acrylic platform sandals and her feet appeared to have been dipped in gold paint. Jet black hair swooped severely to one side of her head and her visible ear was covered in a mélange of gold jewelry, almost tribal in manner. “Roy, it is so incredible to meet you.” Annie said batting her inch long fake black eyelashes with a coy smile on fire engine, red lips. Roy was unimpressed. He spied his squeaking ducky toy across the lawn and trotted away from our conversation.
Annie arranged everything. The gallery organized a heavily publicized show. One disconcerting caveat was that Annie wanted us there for the opening night. My fears were assuaged as Roy boarded the plane, picked up our luggage at the carousel, and walked outside LaGuardia to hail a cab. Annie booked us in a chic boutique hotel with blazing red lacquer walls adorned with scary black, dancing shadow puppet figures on the walls. The was no check-in desk in sight, but rather a line of grim people in severe black suits standing behind glowing pink balls. The effect was sort of Khmer Rouge meets The Wizard of Oz. Annie met us shortly thereafter and took us shopping so that we might look presentable.
She arranged a personal shopper for Roy and took care of me herself. After I repeatedly asked Annie to “take it down a notch” as she veered toward clown clothes, we eventually found a nice black dress that pleased us both. I hate to brag, but I was shocked at the image that reflected in the mirrored triptych. Roy’s persistence in denying me wine and Twinkies along with the Booty Bootcamp workout videos had paid off. I had lost a lot of weight. My narcissistic admiration came to screeching halt as I heard the shrieking voice of the horrified sales clerk screaming at Annie. Annie tried to soothe him as he ranted. I fled to see what all the commotion was about.
“He pissed in the dressing room,” the irate, red-faced man bellowed. The beautiful salesman’s otherwise perfectly chiseled looks and flawless grooming had been thrown into utter disarray after encountering Roy. His expensive tie hung crookedly and wayward locks defied hair gel and hung stiffly in his face. “He ruined an Armani jacket. I told him to get out. Now he is hunkered down growling in a corner. He snapped at me when I tried to remove him. I want him OUT OF HERE!” The indignant, haughty man pointed a stern finger in the direction of the exit. He was stiff, but still visibly shaking.
“I am sorry. He’s not house broken. I forgot to walk him before we got here…” I ran towards Roy as Annie assured the man that Roy was a most prestigious individual, as if that explained everything, and that she planned to cover all damages.
Roy looked at me sad eyed and hung his head in the dressing room. He knew he had been a very bad dog. I furiously marched him out of the store. I pleaded with Roy in the cab, trying to impress upon him the dangers of misbehaving in New York. “We’ll be home tomorrow. You can’t pee on the street. Pee in toilet, pee in the shower, for fuck’s sake even pee on the hotel room floor. I’m sure rock stars have done that before. Just don’t get arrested. I don’t want you to end up in Belleview. Twenty-four hours, Roy.”
Annie delivered the packages to our room. She remained as imperturbable as ever, as if this was just a day in the life in her business. I supposed she dealt with all manner of crazy artists to whom misconduct came naturally. She left us to get presentable, and then fetched us in a limousine.
I hastily downed a couple of glasses of champagne as soon as we entered the reception. Roy was bored and sat in a corner on the floor, his own drink in hand, only slightly sniffing the butts of the patrons that passed by. I assumed the gallery had divulged Roy’s singular choice of lifestyle in his bio, since several guests wore dog collars. Annie introduced me to so many people, some dressed flamboyantly, but most dour and pale-faced, more closely resembling Moirae just back from snipping someone’s thread of life rather than art lovers. I was impressed to observe Annie in her element. Sales were brisk.
Once the gallery got busy, I had a chance to stroll the floor. Roy’s work looked stunning in this special place, not just stacked and leaning against the bonus room walls, but framed, highlighted with special spotlights. The colors of his landscapes were luminous in the light of the gallery, leaves and the rivers glowing like outlined jewels. I swelled with pride that I had made this happen. This could be the biggest accomplishment in my self-centered, pathetic life. I gazed at the faces of the normally lugubrious New Yorkers, registering surprise and delight as Roy’s brushstrokes spoke to them too.
“This picture is enchanting,” said a man strolling up to my side. “However, I think the ones that are my favorites are the ones he painted of you.”
“Yes, the ones in large room at the back of the gallery.”
I escaped from his side to the back room of the gallery. The walls were covered in great canvases of my countenance. My features looked like they had been carved from a woodcut and filled with stained glass coloring. My eyes filled with tears. I had no idea that these paintings existed.
“He wanted to surprise you,” Annie said as she came to my side and put her arm around me. “I have someone I want you to meet, Gloria Cornelius Gates, a major contributor to the Museum of Modern Art. She would like to see Roy’s work placed there. Can you fetch Roy to come meet her?”
Roy’s face broke into a wry smile when I approached. “Bad dog, Roy! Hiding those canvases from me all this time.” I pulled Roy up from the gallery floor by the hand and hugged him. He licked my forehead. “We have to meet someone Annie deems important. Let’s amble on over there and get it over with.”
I spied Gloria Gates chatting with Annie across the room. She was an imposing blond, with her hair piled high, and dressed to the teeth in what I am sure was a couture ensemble, discreetly shimmering with a neckline ringed in exotic feathers. When we got close enough for Annie to wave us over, I heard a low pitched growl emanating from deep in Roy’s throat. I had heard that growl before, it was the precursor typically heard when Roy spied Powderpuff encroaching on our lawn. I lunged to impede Roy, but he was already beyond my grasp in full chase mode, barking at the top of his lungs, and aimed straight for Gloria Gates. When at last Ms Gates realized she was the object of his furor, she scurried to flee. Her high heels were no match for Roy’s flat-footed speed and he quickly overcame her, knocked her to the floor and attacked her neck. I imagined Roy severing her jugular vein, as he growled, she screeched and feathers flew. Annie and I too ran in the direction of the mayhem, afraid Roy was going for the kill, but it was the feathers he wanted. He ripped the collar from the poor woman’s dress and disappeared.
Naturally, we left. I was furious and snatched the feathers from Roy’s mouth, throwing them out of the taxi window. I fumed all the way back to the hotel room. “I thought you had killed her, Roy,” I said as we arrived, opening a vodka from the mini bar, and flopping on the bed. “You should have seen her face. I have never seen anyone that petrified, the look of abject terror in her eyes. Shit, Roy…” I replayed the scene in my head once more and saw the poor socialite scrambling like the squirrels or Powderpuff, her torn frock in disarray as she sprawled on the floor, arms frantically flailing. “Shit…” Her screams and pleas for someone to call a dogcatcher or Animal Control. “Shit…” I dropped back on the bed and burst out laughing. “That’s certainly an evening no one’s gonna forget.” Roy came closer to me with a big shit-eating grin on his face. He shook his head.
“I love the paintings you did of me.” Roy leaned in over me, stopped for a second, stared, and then he kissed me. I always assumed it would be doggy-style, but Roy grabbed my legs and pulled me to the edge of the bed, threw my legs over his shoulders and we ignited like an explosion at a fertilizer factory.
The incident made all the papers. I was afraid Annie would be mortified, but she remained unflappable and said there is no such thing as bad press. Roy became the darling of the New York art scene, the New York Times Magazine did an enormous spread. His real name was Carter Woods Brighton, IV and he grew up in a swank suburb of Chicago. The family made their money in real estate. The story described him as a hybrid visual and performance artist. The whole dog act was just another way he expressed himself as an artist. Somehow, I felt a little betrayed. I had assumed that Roy was just as crazy as me. It pained me to think that I would never hear the sound of his voice. I knew there would be so many moments I would miss, a greeting of good morning, the telling of jokes and the words I love you, uttered when the need was dire. I teetered on the tightrope of reality, but gradually came to treasure the authenticity of our love, and knew that giving in to fantasy would only cause me to topple in my steps along the line. I concluded you can’t have everything. And so we left Mini-mansion Acres and The Perfects. After the show, we found a villa in the Caribbean.
We live by the green sea at the end of a dirt road protected and uncorrupted. Roy doesn’t have to be confined anymore, although he strays from time to time. The island is a small place, so the locals bring him back to me, his ecstatic face beaming through the wind as he grins on return in a jeep or pickup. When I am not too busy with the children, I make jewelry. I have quite a backlog of orders. I adopted three Haitian children. I was a little squeamish at the thought of combining our respective gene pools. No telling what kind of combustible incarnation that might be. We have a social anthropologist from Miami who lives in the guest house to study the dog language that Roy and the children speak. I know some people think it is warped, our family. I was tired of denying myself the basic rights of a human being, the ability to love, be loved and children. I’ll leave that quandary for the philosophers to quibble over.
It is Sunday, and I walk home with the kids from the rock Anglican mission church in town. I still have the sound of church bells ringing in my head. I stand in front of the kitchen window surveying the scene. The anthropologist quietly broods under a sea grape when he isn’t actively working. He obsesses about the girlfriend that deserted him last month. His mood and face turns dark in the shade of the tree. Bright, lime-colored chameleons sun themselves along the railing of the terrace and fuchsia bougainvillea waves in the sea breeze like flamingos in flight. I see Roy slowly cast his line as he reef-fishes at the far end of the bay. The water shimmers whitely at the reef, but straight ahead of my post at the kitchen window, it glows, first in turquoise, then emerald, luminous at this time of day. Our oldest has on goggles and breaks the shimmering aqua as he dives for rings just past the point where the surf breaks near the shore. My middle child sits at a table playing patty-cake with the baby and the rhythmic claps measure out the meter of the verse. I start to hum Shall We Gather at the River, recalling the beautiful, small voices of the children’s choir as they sang at this morning’s service:
Soon we'll reach the shining river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace
Yes, we'll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
Copyright 2011 by Andrea Broxton
desire, i am done with you-
you bring me close to death.
Copyright 2011 by Aine Herlihy
in the loading dock refuse room
Copyright 2011 by Lawrence Gladeview
Bark Birth, Bark Baby
The countless layers
In one instant
A thousand seconds pass
And it withers
Was ever there
In the first place
Just a hole
In the bark
Smeared with moisture
Soon to dry
Soon to be forgotten
Copyright 2011 by Giorgia Sage
SOMETHING IS HAPPENING----ISN’T IT MR. JONES . . .
Things are happening to Mr. Trueheart Jones,
yesterday his neighbor, Amin, reported him to the State
for watering his victory garden two days in a row.
This week he traded his 57 Mercedes coupe in
under the new junker redemption program & received
a $4,500 credit on a light, tight Fiat-green driving machine.
His structural analysis company was moved to China.
The new job Tsar ordered him on a permanent leave of absence.
Fluent in Mandarin, a Chinese graduate of MIT took his place.
Since he was unable to make the $5,000 monthly mortgage,
his 700,000 dollar house crashed and was valued at $250,000.
Mr. Trueheart Jones had no choice but to go bankrupt.
He is assigned by the judicial Court Tsar to work for the State.
There he collects leaves from all State parks & is designing a
smokeless leaf furnace to drive the turbines of the State windmills.
At his State mandatory medical examination it is discovered
he has cancer of the liver---the State medical transplant Tsar
determines as a leaf collector he does not qualify for a transplant.
The State confiscated his Fiat & his other assets
to pay for his permanent assignment to the
State Hospice for the indigent---where every Sat. afternoon
in good weather---his wheelchair is rolled out
to a spot above the Speedway---
where Mr. Jones is allowed to drool under the sun.
Copyright 2011 by Steve De France
Lot’s Wife in Fabulous Las Vegas
This is what she thinks when she sees the Strip for the first time: The flames that ate her home in Sodom are still brighter than the lights flaunted here. And the buildings might eclipse the Tower of Babel but she knows that’s not the real Eiffel Tower. Really, of all places, what did Lot want in Vegas?
Her daughters leave to their Luxor chambers, and Lot sallies to a burlesque show with the angels. Lot’s wife means to buy key chains for Aunt Sarah and Uncle Abraham, postcards of people to crop into the family scrapbook, but then she hears the sound of slots and is swept into the game room.
So many. So many machines. So many machines to choose from. She pulls her leather pouch open. Her fingers slip from the sweat of the journey. From the months masturbating because Lot slept between the angels to protect them from sin, those holy creatures. She creeps a penny into the dark slot, then feeds it another. Is there any more? She freezes before the machines.
Her daughters don’t dally. With lavender-scented pillows and fertile ovaries, they wait and pour scotch for Lot. They close the blinds, but leave the lamps flaming.
Copyright 2011 by Dani Jimenez
any flame of transcendental truth
abate the shadows
your fellow travelers
of finding beauty
in pure yellow
or the simple vibrations
it's a spider november
walled up tight
here in this house
your own two hands.
Copyright 2011 by Justin Hyde
The coffee was cold. One side of the table was littered with letters meticulously torn from the folded newspaper. In the midst of the abecedarian jumble was the word 'labyrinth' in the past tense—'labyrinthed.'
Both bald heads reflected the overdone fluorescent lighting. The younger wore glasses without frames, while the other, his eyes squeezed into slits when looking down at his notebook, should have.
"It's not a word, you know, but I think it should be,” said the younger one. “To labyrinth—to arrange things in a spatiotemporal puzzle so that others must figure out or stumble on the hidden meaning. Labyrinth, labyrinthine, maybe labyrinthinely, as in 'He labyrinthinely constructed an alternative scenario—"
The older one wrote the word 'labyrinthed' and underlined it with two strokes. Looking up, his eyelids opened, and he nodded for the other to continue.
"In high school we mooned and lettered. My parents radioed and telephoned. In grammar school we bused and rocketed, and now we google, so why not labyrinth? English is a bastard language—etymologically deficient—so what do I care about linguistic niceties?"
"And do you feel that other people understand you?" answered the older.
"Do you?" asked the one behind the glasses.
"Do you want me to understand you—I mean, what would you like me to know about you?" answered the older, his eyelids rolled down again, as he readied to make notes.
"This is what I mean. Being labyrinthed. That's what's happening to me. Don't you understand?"
"I'd like to understand. Can you tell me what you're feeling, right now, for example?"
"Did you know that in one of the uncivilized regions of equatorial Tlӧn they don't even have the concept of person? No way to distinguish between you and me or me now and me five years ago. It’s fascinating but I can't really imagine it for more than a few minutes at a time. It's like I'm programmed to see the world one way. Do you know what I mean?
"And how does that make you feel?"
"That's an irritating habit you have, you know?"
"Could you describe what it is that you find irritating?"
"When you describe someone—like me, for example, in your notebooks—would you say that you understand me?"
"Well, there are important differences. Description is just part of understanding. There's also causality."
"I suppose, yes, identity is fundamental."
"So, if you got that wrong, you'd have everything wrong, right?"
"Uh, let's get back to ... what are you're feeling? Could you describe that for me?
"That’s not the question you should be asking. It doesn’t matter what I feel. Don’t you get it? What matters is that I’m not your patient. Your patient is gone. Meanwhile, you and I have been labyrinthed—swallowed up by something that paradigms and languages what is still incomprehensible to us. I can’t make it any more clear.”
“Hmm. It may be frustrating trying to explain, but don’t give up,” said the older man as he closed the notebook. “I think we made some real progress today, so how about we pick up here next week?”
Copyright 2011 by Peter McMillan
In my hair
in my hair,
one hundred thousand smoky breaths,
one hundred thousand little deaths,
the dress form a witness I don’t even mind.
This, that special poetic betrayal,
poet’s models should have standard contracts.
I’ll know the house by the attic window,
you’ll know the lines by the attic window.
I’ll know the lines by the midnight fall,
you’ll know the house. You’ll know it all.
And white duvets, the mornings of girls,
the basement door that’s always locked,
the daylight search for things underneath
and balmy questing, beaming gaps
of purposeful thought will be found out,
a futurist pedestrian for reference’s sake
Copyright 2011 by Schlomo Steel
even the dullest phony
and duplicitous peacock
has a flame
of original truth
behind the veneer.
no matter how palsied
it can be gleaned
if only by accident.
for giving them
time of day.
Copyright 2011 by Justin Hyde
Short for Richard
The blender splits ice and protein powder. A lumberjack toiling in the kitchen. With this mixture, I suppress my hunger for Richard with whipped cream or Richard over crackers with sheets of cheese. If only I hadn’t yearned—I wouldn’t have had you dip Richard in honey straight from the comb so you could later jam him into my womb. Richard wouldn’t have fallen in love with the hive’s queen bee, and they wouldn’t have tangoed over sunflowers. But I yearned, and you dipped, and Richard fell, and they tangoed. Now I’m stuck with breakfast shakes, untangling what’s natural from the artificial flavors.
Copyright 2011 by Dani Jimenez
bICYCLE rEVIEW IS EDITED AND CURATED BY j dE sALVO, WITH PRO/E-MOTIONAL ASSISTANCE FROM jOHN dOMINI AND jEFFREY cYPHERS wRIGHT.