Posts Tagged 'fiction'

Water sound water

Standing in the shower and the pipes are clanking and singing. I think there is a plumber in my garage, banging his wrench against the hot water heater. I think there is a criminal hiding in the crawl space, tapping at the brass piping with his keys, trying to frighten me out.
Standing in the shower I can’t stand all these stranger noises. Children crying, cats coughing, the shimmering sound of lizards running through dry grass.
I can’t stand these stranger noises in my home’s old plumbing. I get out of the shower, dress and go to Walgreens, where I buy a waterproof hanging shower audio system with mp3 capability and I hang it on the soap rack and crank it up.
The throat singers shuffling on the mp3 are deep as a broken water main. The clicking African women are knocking on my door. The rhythmic thrust of Spanish dance spills hot water from an overflowing bucket.
I am wishing for deafness, I think I am wishing for deafness. Deafness or just simple silence. Maybe there is silence somewhere in the world still, just like there may be a place without light in this world still. There is mua, absence of light and sound, somewhere, maybe in the dark of the ocean, where the far off drum of plumbing and the streaming red tail lights are out of range. Only the distance vibration, the hum of earth itself.
Standing in the shower, time to sing the morning shower song. Deciding to decode the sounds. Drip drip drip, rain and the end of drought. Swish swish swish, the tail of a brown trout in a clear green stream. Rushsssh, the falling of water over some high cliff into the white foam.
After I won the lottery, I had the best time ever. I had all the dry erase boards and dry erase markers I could ever want. I had a house on the beach. I had a piano. I’m still having the best time ever, except for this thing with the plumbing and the sounds, the lights, the jumping of grasshoppers, the pop of frogs.
I won the lottery and then all things were possible, all possible things were possible, and then everything got so big, so bright. White boards, running water, running cars, runways and airports and I went traveling. In Barcelona, I decide that water is okay, water is good. There is no criminal intent in water, no malice. I have an affair with a Spaniard whose name I can’t pronounce, so I only call him God oh God. It’s a good affair, and the water is okay now, the sounds are okay and the waves even, the waves at the ocean are inviting, cool blue white Mediterranean sighs.
It’s hard to have things, to have things, and hard not to have things, not to have things. I go back then, to my house with its old plumbing, its sinister flow, and I paint it, every room, the colors of water. The oily iridescence of gulf coast water, the angry blue of deep sea, the muddy green of old shallow rivers, the bright peaceful blue of a lake in British Columbia. Once it is painted, I leave again, to Peru, where I feel light headed and the pyramids are so big, so big, and I take a room on the second floor at the back of a bar where the open sign flashes on and off on and off all day and the flashing light covers the sound of beach, of wind, of toilets and sinks. I stay there for three weeks, watching the open sign blink its indifference at me, and when I go back home again, my water colored house is perfect, blue green white shiny perfect.

Felipe II

Felipe II was the finest creator and destroyer of roadside attractions ever seen along Route 66 back in the day. Or roadside distractions, as he liked to call them.  Felipe had quick and changeable interests. The plastic reproduction of the redwood forest in Chloride, Arizona held his interest until it was two-thirds completed, and now it lies, a city of cracked and petrified plastic wood, with bumper stickers fading on the date shake shack – from the gulfstream waters to the Chloride forest – and the exit itself is a cluster of broken asphalt, a closed, possessive world. Felipe never looked back, it was said. Rumor had it there was no Felipe I, that’s what they said.

Felipe II wore a quirky wood band around his head, giving him the look of a suffering Christ with the figure of a Bob’s Big Boy. He did not tolerate philosophical discussions, but he did love time and the road itself.

“The older I become,” he told me the day we met – the only time we met – “the more connections I can make between time, experience and place.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Nothing, what the hell do you think I mean?” He said, and pulled out his map of California. Death Valley – good place for a dinosaur museum and ice skating rink. The Thing – it is whatever you want it to be. Wherever you want it to be. The roadside fruit stands, the tarantula meandering across the yellow lines, the shimmering road itself. That was time. I think that was time. To Felipe. Every crack in the road, every fissure, was another idea, another tumbleweed, another billboard. Every 100 miles a sign said “next gas 100 miles, stop here!” and we did. We bought copper bracelets and moccasins, postcards and ashtrays, plastic fish skeleton combs, mirrors with dead city logos embossed on the back.

Felipe II died in Flagstaff in 1982. His body was taken by Mexican bandits and laid out on the top of a flat red butte, and there he rejoined the earth, turning slowly into Felipe jerky, lines of his life spreading out on the hot surface, still visible even 30 years later. A faint tracing, like an old town, you can see it still, if you can find the way up.


Six fingers

I’m a nice girl from a good fucking home, excuse me. I’ve taught exercise classes since my sophomore year at Kent State. Pilates, spin, kick-boxing. Finally got my degree in exercise physiology and worked in a physical therapy clinic for a year. I quit the clinic to teach pole dancing at a very goddamn nice club not too far from my mother’s house. Pole dancing was new to Shaker Heights, but I told mother not to worry, it’s not a strip club, it’s just another way of staying in shape. She wasn’t too sure, still pushing me to get married and stop working, but I did eventually convince her to come to class and was surprised by how much she loved it. Mom clinging and grinding up and down that pole did something to our relationship, opened us up, once I got over my own embarrassment. She took to it easily.

One day after class she brought up my sixth finger. I shitfuck don’t have a sixth finger any more, had it removed surgically in fifth grade, just a little scar. She said, “Did you notice, that girl at the striped purple pole by the window? She’s got six fingers too, just like you.” I actually hadn’t noticed, but I did next time she came to class. Her name was Dierdre, and she was apparently yet another sister.

I remember the first time I met one of my siblings, wondering how many there were. The things my mother kept hidden from me were doled out in tiny little stages, first the notice that I’d hellfire been adopted, then gradually that I had a brother, then two, then some sisters, until finally I came to understand that I had at least a baseball team worth of siblings, and most if not all of them lived in Shaker Heights and all of them had or were born with six fingers, shithead fuckinghell. Dierdre was a nice girl, mild and easygoing. No cursing from her, she’s not a Tourette’s attraction like I am, just that extra finger, waving at me, saying look, we have a shared secret, don’t we?


(This is a fictional memoir, also written in 15 minutes.)



“Tell me why you feel guilty.”

That’s how he started our interview.

“Pardon?” I asked.

“Tell me why you feel guilty.”

And such is the nature of this economy that I, fresh bachelor’s degree in hand, attempted to tell him why I feel guilty. Guilty.

“Are you an only child?” he asked next.

“I’m not a child,” I said. He laughed, and pushed his chair back. He handed me his bag and asked me to take it down to baggage check for American Airlines at the Albuquerque Sunport. The attendant at baggage claim would be waiting for it, he said. He shook my hand. Payment when I get back, he said.

I don’t feel guilty. Just stupid, and fearless, and excited. Even as I carried it from short term parking to baggage check, tucked snugly against my chest, I could feel the weight of it pressing against me. Heavy as sand.

I’ll tell you why I feel guilty, but not today. I am one of many daughters in my family, too many daughters, they always said. Raise girls, dad said, but not too many. Once raised, you have to train them.

You might say I am an example of good training gone wrong. It’s been two weeks now. As I stand here on this narrow path that leads up to the lighthouse, I can see the sea strain to climb up on the land. The salt wind burns cold and hot against my face. If those are tears, they are not mine. I do not feel guilty.


Jupiter Flintlock

Jupiter Flintlock stood in the stockade, stoic as always. It was not his first time. He’d been broken and humiliated so many times in that stockade, it was just like any other day, far as he was concerned. There was a certain belief among the founding fathers that Jupiter’s mind was not quite right, that Jupiter’s failure to whimper or drool was a sign of an essential moral failure. For every chicken Jupiter plucked, it was back to the stockade. For every pint of beer he pilfered, it was back to the stockade. He’d taken his vow of silent suffering as a child, during the years when bamboo was used to whip little sinners into submission. With every blow, with every welt, he brought himself steady into another world. A world of spinning rings, a world of tigers, a world of ravens cawing and nasturtiums blooming. His bloody legs were thin as grasshoppers; the small animals who scampered past did not see a man or a boy. Only a quiet creature, like them, holding still as he could as the blows came down. Silence became Flintlock’s fame, his number one foolishness and strength. The boy is father to the man, he said to himself later, much later, when the stockade had burned to the ground.

The name of this piece is Susy made me write about sex

 Today is the day we discuss dental floss, sex and volunteerism. Pay attention; your licensure depends on your correct response to the quiz which follows this three hour training.

In front of you, you will find a small bag. Pick the bag up and open its contents onto the table. Very good. Read, follow the instructions, then wait.

If you are having sex while thinking about your hair thinning, the hole in your underwear, or the box of chocolates that you stashed in the back of the laundry room to keep your partner from devouring it before you get even a single piece, this could be a sign of pending or actual sexual discontent. Try this simple exercise: stand in the middle of the room, alone, mostly naked and say to yourself loudly and firmly: “Sex. Sex and more sex. Sex and sex again. Different sex, changing sex, kinky sex, decorator sex,“  If, while standing there saying sex and so on, you suddenly think about cleaning products, lists, email, dental floss, licensure and volunteering, stop stop stop. Shake your head three times like a golden retriever coming out of a cold lake.  Now smile and stick your hands down your pants, if you are wearing any. Remember, you are completely alone. No one is going to see you or hear you. Shake your hips. Does your underwear fit? Are you easily distracted? Does anyone in your household leave the toilet seat up in spite of 30 years of reminders? Stop stop stop. Okay. Take the underwear off. They are too big anyway. Put on something more comfortable. A pair of socks, say, and nothing else. Stand in your living room wearing nothing but a pair of socks and say to yourself “Sex. Sex and more sex. Sex and kinky sex. Sex and deviant sex. Sex and law breaking. Sex and jaw breakers. Sex and sucking. Sex and red hots. Sex and sex and sex.” Okay. Now think about the lawnmower, the weed whacker, the rust stains in your bathtub, the continuously whining dog standing just outside the door. Stop stop stop.

Put your clothes back on and go scrub the bathroom, brush and floss your teeth and make some phone calls about volunteering and renewing your license. Leave the toilet seat up as a protest. See if anybody cares. Get some freezer burned pistachio ice cream out of the fridge and eat it in front of the whining dog standing at the window. Think about your budget. Think about your garden. Think about the roses, the rose hips leaning heavily against the window. Think about the grapes hanging full and ripe, think about the sweet pears and the sparrows rustling in their late afternoon dust bath. Think about the dark fertile earth, think about the warm smells of fruit, herb and flower rising and mingling in the afternoon breeze. Think about the sweet sleepy sounds of animals in the quiet heat of the day. Think about lying down, just for a minute. Think about listening. Listen. Smell. Look. Touch.

Zuzu asks why

Anne flew up like a rocket. She smacked Morgan on the head and then threw herself down on the sofa, where she cried and wiggled and writhed until she fell asleep mid sob.

When she woke in the morning, she asked herself a few stern questions. Here are some examples of the questions she asked:

                “Why would anyone make fun of another person’s hair?”

                “How can one stay sad in such an interesting world?”

                “Where is a bus stop from here?”

                “What is that woman’s name?”

She let a few minutes pass before she answered herself. Here are her answers:

                “Because of terrible personal insecurity.”

                “Sadness is one of the interesting things about the world, although not perhaps every day.”

                “The bus stop is directly out the front door and two houses down.”

                And “Her name is Morgan.”

Anne got up off the sofa, brushed her bright red hair with her pale chapped hands, washed her face in cold water, and left. She caught the 42 bus two houses down and got home by 7 a.m., only 14 minutes after leaving Morgan’s apartment.  She called her mother’s nursing home, giving her real name this time. She assumed that Morgan’s name was Morgan, but it did occur to her some time later that this was perhaps naïve on her part.

                “Why does anyone use a false name?” Zuzu asked herself as she sat on hold, waiting for the morning nurse to transfer her call down the hall to the room where her mother sat up, singing songs to the stuffed animals and dusty silk plants. As she waited, she imagined her mother in her lavendar polyester day robe, cooing and patting her hands together, singing her motherly song.

                “Because all things great are wound up with all things little?” she answered herself, with a question mark. She sat on hold for another 2 minutes and then hung up. She changed into her rhinestone sneakers and her green paisley slicker and went out again. Shopping. With her friend Lilly. They looked at vintage dresses and lampshades and chunky plastic beads from that era when nothing could be bought from China for love or money. Standing at the sale rack on the sidewalk, she clasped her hands and looked at the dresses. All in tiny sizes with waists like Lilly’s thighs. She looked at Lilly and turned pale with pity.

                “Anne?” said Lilly, pulling out a yellow nylon cardigan with curlicue embroidery in a brightly constrasting grass green.  Zuzu did not respond.

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