Archive for the 'relationships' Category

Harry is not quite right


I suppose you could say, in a manner of speaking, that it all started with the tupperware parties. That was in our June Cleaver days, you know, you’re too young of course but I’m pretty sure you and Harry watched the reruns when you were little. Remember Harry at those tupperware parties – I think when they first started he was so little he could sit in the cake holder. I remember putting frosting on him one night, what a cute baby he was. Well, house and home was everything to everyone in those days. Sometimes I look back on it and think what in God’s name came over us all? It was like a collective insanity – you know, and then there was that backlash and everyone was taking LSD and singing and traveling around the country in bright orange camper vans. Those were cute; Harry got one in the 90s for nostalgia I suppose and fixed it up like he was going to a Brady Bunch reunion or something. Anyway, the tupperware. I got to saving just about everything in those tupperwares, and we have a basement with a wet bar, a game area and a lot of storage just in case of Armageddon, you know, all packed with water, canned goods, medicines, the kind of thing you might need just in case. I don’t like to be predicting doom all the time, you know, so I did grow tomatoes and keep up with things, kept the house up to date. I remember hanging a shower curtain in the 80s that was just covered with sea creatures: seahorses, clam shells, dolphins, starfish. Very pretty, as I recall. Things were complicated just then, what with the Cold War and the man with the shoe who kept pounding. I think his face was red, but our TV was black and white, so I may be misremembering. So I started collecting all sorts of things other than food and water and storing them in the shelves in the basement. Salt, aspirin, bandaids, socks. Things I could imagine us needing in case of nuclear disaster or a change in the divine plan. These were difficult times, and there were serial murders, and the president seemed to be having some kind of mental problem. So I started thinking a little more broadly. Like wondering what we might need if one of our own, or a neighbor down there with us, got a little disturbed. I picked up a few books on psychiatry and hid these in three inch deep rectangular tupperware behind the dryer, in case I needed to look up some kind of psychosis. The kids wanted some science projects, so we collected burrs and feathers, baking soda, vinegar, and safety pins. Then I thought arsenic might come in handy, a few knives for skinning small animals in case we needed them. I had a hard time remembering the name of that drug that smells like almonds, or was it like cordite? Eventually I bought a book on Poisons and Poisoning. It’s a big basement, generally speaking, but still I couldn’t help imagine being listened to, followed through the low halls under the stairwells that led to the semi-hidden rooms where the weapons were kept. Sometimes I heard their voices, you remember, Harry, don’t you? Sometimes I forget that Harry isn’t here now. Remember when he spoke in his own defense? I was so proud of him. He learned a lot in that library. Law, chemistry, psychology, the history of death. He started painting about three years ago. I haven’t seen him since I fell last year. Those stairs are pretty steep for a woman my age. But he still sends me cards once in awhile. You’ve been keeping the crawl spaces clean and clear of spiders and roaches, I know, and I do thank you for that. So does Harry. Shall we have a glass of wine now, or is it too soon, what do you think?


20 minutes, long list of collectively generated words. Silly, innit?


Is dad ready to start dating again?

“I’m going to resist the cow,” he said.

“Please do,” she said.

“Cholesterol, I mean,” he said.

“Yes, I knew that,” she said.

He put down the menu and excused himself.  He was sweating like a pig.

“Feel like I’m having a hot flash,” he said out loud to himself.  And realized immediately that he was not alone. Pretended not to notice, just shook it and zipped up without looking at the man standing next to him. Shit. Ok. Back at it. He washed his hands, cold water on his face.

“So, Evelyn,” he tried when he got back to the table. “Have you decided what you want?”

She looked at him. Eyes cool greyish green, a nice color. A little protruberant, a little fishy. fisheye Those silvery little fish that disappear when they turn — just little bulging eyes floating in vitreous fluid.

He was starting to sweat again. Grasping for topic control. Something to talk about. He brought out everything — TV, sports, animals. He was choking on his lasagna. Why did he get lasagna? Nothing like sweating and bloating to make a good blind date.

man in spaceHe closed his eyes and pictured himself escaping to another planet. Then another, and another. Careening through the void until he came to one with no mating rituals, no expectations, just rut and run, a little wholesome in-and-out between entities with no sweat glands.
Evelyn said something about her cat. He noticed her pin — a turquoise horseshoe.

“That’s unusual,” he said, pointing. She put her hand on the pin.

“My father goes to the races,” she said. He had no idea what that meant. He stopped talking.

She said, “Well, I guess I’d better get going angry kittybefore my kitty goes hungry.”

“I hope your kitty starves,” he said. Nervous paralysis finally shaken loose in a moment of free-floating hostility. Shit. I said that out loud, he thought.

He looked at the man in the table next to theirs. He thought it was probably the man from the restroom. He coughed.

“Well then,” he said. “Ready to go?”


Benevolent dictator

Mermaid“What I’ve always wanted,” Liz says for the 1200th time, “is to be the benevolent dictator of the world.” She pulls on her cigarette and blows a blue haze into the smoky room.

In the hallway, the aquarium shines green, bubbles rhythmically. The Siamese fighting fish flash orange sidewalls as they turn in peacetime synchronicity. The dining room is filled with antique wooden carousel horses, in various stages of restoration. Masks of animals, griffins, Victorian children and other grotesqueries line the walls. There is a smell: paint thinner, smoke, wine, melted wax, feathers.

“You, for example,” she leers at Cassius. “All alone, you are small change. But as my consort, I could give you so much. Generosity is cheap when you’ve got it all.” She lights another off the butt of the last, and Cassius pours her more white wine, carefully wiping the spigot when he is finished.

Cassius sits in the living room on the edge of the sofa, drinking a little, watching TV. On the big screen, Tom Waits flirts with a waitress at a Denny’s in Lompoc, but gives it a rest when she says her name is Bruce. He looks drunkenly at her mouth, watching the glitter of a pierced tongue as she reels off the day’s specials.


“I think I’d better go,” Waits mumbles and leaves. He drives home to his walk-up in this roach motel city, still beautiful even mid-winter. He makes himself a sandwich, peanut butter with marshmallow crème and sings to himself, “Tom Waits for no man, Tom Waits la la la,” but his tongue is stuck to the roof of his mouth. He twists open a diet Tab and flops into his rattan papasan chair.

He sets the Tab on his stomach, holds the remote in his left hand and turns on his 12” Sony. The remote only works for channel three and channel seven. He switches from clips of the moonwalk in 1969 to a scene in a coffee shop in Hyde Park, where a foppish young man and a girl in green leather are earnestly discussing Art.  One Giant Step for Mankind, then a close-up of the girl’s hand on the rim of the cup, the young man’s face watching her hand, her voice saying sweetly that it is all wrong, he thinking if only I were benevolent dictator of the world, how different this would be. I would dress you in silk made of pussywillows, you would see my third eye and how it watches, watches you and your polished index finger rolling on the rim of this coffee shop china. Suddenly, an omnibus passes the window of the shop, and when it has gone, so has the young couple. 

orbitingOn channel three, a younger Tom Brokaw is interviewing John Glenn, sitting behind a mahogany desk. He taps his fingers slowly, deliberately, before answering each question.  

 “What is it like to be a hero? It is as good as peanut butter on the roof of my mouth, as sweet as my wife singing in the shower while I sleep late. It is a fine as raw silk, as frightening as animals crashing through the underbrush, as ordinary as graham crackers, more inevitable, more stringent, more impossible than being benevolent dictator of the world or running for office after orbiting the earth.”

“I wish I was a monkey eating cheeseburgers with my girl,” Tom Waits sings to his flat Tab. He throws it away, opens a Pyramid Pale and settles back down. The girl in green leather, who has since married, walks through the gray streets of London in boots, her face blank. The foppish young man wears crushed velvet and writes sonnets to her might-have-been. Tom Waits belches, scratches, falls asleep.

Cassius fills another glass of wine and hands it to Liz. She rolls her finger around the rim. “You could have been my own dictator, you know,” Cassius says late that evening, as he takes a smoking cigarette from her sleeping hand. Iphigenia He looks around the room, at her griffins and masks, her carousel horses half stripped and half stained. Like me, he thinks. He leaves quietly, the door open for air behind him, drives to the airport and catches a plane to Hawaii.

Six months later he is tanned and fat, drinking Wahinis on the beach with Tom Waits, who never did get over the waitress named Bruce, the tattoo on her hand, the suggestion of moustache, the curve of his/her hip. 

“I am so fucking lost,” Waits hums to himself with no tune in particular, but it rumbles in his chest, which is warm from the sun, cool from the drink. “What the hell,” he thinks. He puts the parasol behind his ear and dances, dances, feeling the wind in the grass skirt lifting the hair on his skinny legs. They light a bonfire as the sun goes down. He and Cassius sing holy holy to the Hawaiian gods of mirth, until only the burning embers are left.

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October 2019
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