Posts Tagged 'mayhem'

October 12th, poolside

Three months ago who would have thought that I would be here? The stars are shining on me. The stars are shining on my clean body, floating white and naked in a perfectly heated pool in the moonlight in October. October is grand, isn’t it? Is there any place in the world where October is not the gods’ favorite month?

Zuzu is eating olives and writing letters in permanent marker on 14×22” white boards. She writes letters to each of her old friends, and those lovers whose names she can remember and whose addresses she’s managed to find on-line or through other means. The olives are briny and fat. The French doors open to the pool, which is filled with filtered salt water. Warm and buoyant.

As she finishes each letter, she signs her name in red and black Sharpee. Zuzu de Graib. She gives herself various titles. Esquire, Lady, Mrs., Dr., Junior, Ph.D., Ph.Z. Doctor of Zuzulogy –  she laughs and sucks on a pit, a dark black kalamata pit, the kind that makes the underside of her feet itch, they are so strong.

Zuzu is the happiest person in her family, happy in her home, happy in her mind, happy in the astrological benediction that brought her here. Tile, sand, water, fish, mango, pineapple, light sheer curtains switching in the open doors. That smell, what is that smell? Frangipane?

She writes frangipane down on a dry erase board and puts it with the others. In all of her life, she never imagined she’d have all the dry erase boards she could ever want, and a place to keep them, where she could write words to be erased, and words to be kept. This is Zuzu’s first and only real home.

Don’t take anything personally


Just because I didn’t return your phone calls, don’t take it personally. I know my call is important to you, so I will stay on the line and be served by the first available representative, and if I hang up before my important call is answered by you, dear first available, don’t take it personally.

Don’t take it personally. I’ve cancelled many appointments, returned many plates of pasta, rejected many offers of marriage, I’ve even discontinued my membership in more than one gym. Don’t take anything personally, it’s only natural that not all magazine subscriptions will be renewed in perpetuity. Like an eternal flame at a contract cemetery, there will come a time when eternity is cancelled, when the flame is snuffed, when remembrance fades in the gradual way of worn silk, disintegrating plastic, faded photos on cracked gray stone.

I know my call is important to you, and I will stay on the line until you answer; I will put you on redial for as long as it takes; I will renew my connection with you from here until the hereafter. Don’t take anything personally. It’s as natural as an invasive vine, creeping onto the headstones, the marble slabs, the infant’s crèche in the moss-bound north. It is the inevitability, the gradual erosion of stone, the reclamation of body and earth by heavy, wet green ferns.

Even here, don’t take anything personally. Even the high dry wind carries every ash away, in the four directions and more.


I come from the island country of Concatenation. The commonwealth of Concatenation was named by the state poets and accountants who were held responsible for balancing the books, booking the best artists, poets and musicians; and the doctors, who raised the technology of health care to a single point of light. Every citizen of Concatenation was entitled to unlimited hair removal, dermabrasion and cold laser therapy. They were uniformly smooth, soft and silky to the touch, but unfortunately utterly unable to tolerate touch of any kind, and so the pedestal was actually invented in the commonwealth of Concatenation, a little known fact that has nonetheless shaped the past and future of the Catenates who first migrated to the island in 1846 from a small atoll on a deep current that passes Concatenation during times of climate change.

There was a heavy wind that day, I remember distinctly, with a sunset that was mango colored and shot with clouds. There was a ringing in my head, and a sense of warning, as of shipwreck, the shipwreck that is in the bones of all natives of Concatenation, the one that brought us here, and threw us away, stranded, on foreign soil.

Standing on the prow of a sailing ship is a young boy, or a young girl, no one ever knows in these stories, but whoever or whatever he is, he stands tall and looks far as the ship tosses. Only the very young can be tossed like this without severing an artery or rupturing a disc, and so we know that the young boy or girl is rubbery and ripe for the hard action of adventure. The slim bare feet are dirty, the kerchief ties the tangled brown hair back and away from the face, which is both brown and mischievous. This child, regardless of age, stature or gender, has been traveling like Pan on the seven seas, and here has come to the island of Concatenation, where the adventure changes suddenly from swashbuckling and overt to spicy, mysterious, and internal. I saw the child there, hanging onto the ropes, nearly falling into the wash, and I saw my future. Pulling against my mother’s skirts, I tugged away, away from her brush and her braiding, away from the skin, hair and nail care that made up my predicted path, and ran into the foaming waters at the edge of the sea on the island of concatenation, where I heard the sea birds ringing in the changing of the season, tintinabulating, sang the birds. And so what, you may ask? That was the first day of my life as a pirate, is what I say back to you, the me who is little and wild and still hairy as might be. Saved.


Then all hell breaks loose. My front tooth is chipped as I am thrown forward and against the ceiling. The windows break. Something is wrong with gravity, and with the street itself, buckling and kicking, a wild horse, an avalanche, a flood, an earthquake.

Every disaster movie ever made is dancing like sugar plums in my head. I’m waiting for ancient indian burial grounds to vomit their dead, I’m waiting for giant dancing spiders to descend, grinning, to snap me in half with monstrous jaws. I’m waiting for tsunamis, one after the other, to smack against this inland city like concrete, a wall of water harder than diamonds. This is about the right time to reconsider religion, or whiskey, or all the incredible sex I might have missed, or the books I might have written. Instead, I had been sitting up in my bed in my flannel nightgown, with a cup of chamomile tea and a Lilian Braun mystery. The disappointment I feel in myself at this apocalyptic moment is hard to describe. I wish I’d been doing something else. Something mysterious, deep, sensual, creative. I’m tossing around like a rag doll still, looking out the window as the city collapses and debris begins to fly. I am waiting for a white rabbit, waiting for a waistcoat, waiting for the fall to come to an end. When it does, I am returned to gravity with a thud and there is, suddenly, an absolute silence.

Summer vacation

wooden crate

I lived for a time in a solid wooden box. Not cardboard, you can’t live in cardboard for long; first rain takes you out, puts you back in shelter.

I believe in shelter. I believe in shelter like I never believed in some other things. Once, when I was little, I lived in a doll house behind a big old palace, or mansion I guess it might have been. In Texas. The folks who lived in that mansion were almost never there; they lived in Connecticut most of the time is what I heard from Elba, who washed their clothes and put food out for the stray cats in the neighborhood (pretty good food, it was, and with cloth napkins, sometimes). I slept in that doll house, belonged to these folks little girls, only like I said they were never there anyway and I guess the people who kept the place up while they were gone didn’t much mind me for a certain length of time. I stayed there one entire summer. It was small for a real house, but real big for a doll house. There was a kitchen that actually worked, only it was short, like for kids about 7 years old or so, with a sink and a little fridge. No stove, but I did find cigarettes and matches in the little bitty roll-top desk in the living room. There was a velvet sofa in there, too, almost big enough for me at the beginning of the summer but I had a growing spell and had to switch to the little bedroom with the two twin beds. I had one big summer of pretend. I pretended I was Goldilocks. I pretended I lived in the Magic Kingdom. I pretended I was a fireman. I pretended I was flying through space in a rocket ship. I found a telescope one evening in the gardens near the house and looked through it on a clear night and I saw shooting stars and I imagined myself up there in the constellations riding a horse with magnificent wings. This was maybe my best summer ever in my entire growing up years. There was a little bitty library in that small house, too, and since I like to read I found myself curled up on that velvet sofa or stretched out on those twin beds with the chenille bedspreads reading all night.

In the daytime, when there were people around, I headed on into town and went to the full size library, where they didn’t have snacks lying around or anything like a little privacy, but they did have air conditioning, which was new in Texas at that time and most welcome by just about everyone. Back then all the older ladies still carried their fans with them everyway, and every one of them smelled like lavendar sachet and talcum. Old ladies always made me sneeze, and I can barely think of them even now without the end of my nose twitching reflexively. In those days, librarians were strict about silence, and about not folding the pages of the book back. I knew how to follow the rules, even back then, and how to break them without getting too lost from my own sense of what was right and what was wrong.

At the end of the summer, I came home to the doll house one evening and found that it had been visited. There were piles of toys stacked against the wall in the little living room, most of them with their price tags still on. There was this one toy donkey, about 3 foot high, almost big enough to ride on, and if you pulled his tail and let go, he made a big hee-haw sound and his ears wiggled. That was one expensive donkey. I looked around – didn’t seem like anyone had noticed my stuff, it wasn’t touched at all. So I gathered it up and put it back in the pillow case I’d been carrying it in before I stopped here, and I left. I found a bag out by the back porch where the cats eat, with peanut butter sandwiches, some fritos, and a few apples, and I took those with me. Cats don’t really like peanut butter, anyway, I said to myself.

stuffed donkey

Zola runs

After one hour. One hour. Not a talkative child, not really, but after one hour of riding in the high nest of a truly big semi cab, the girl starts to talk to the man behind the wheel. Ever been behind the wheel? Lot  of things to hear, and that high seat, looking out over the great highways, it’s a map, it’s a history. That driver, old-ish at 50 from driving hundred of thousands of miles, he’s like the pope, or a grand wizard, looking down on people like ants, and the girl is an ant. The man behind the wheel starts feeling himself to be a spiritual advisor. Life is the road. The road is life. He says stuff like that. So she starts to talk, and he listens in his big head Wizard of Oz way until he realizes no, this kid and her kid, that he picked up on a black road in a deep night, they’d really need to be far away from here.

This is where not too much can be said, or folks who are still here might suffer, might find sudden bad luck visited upon then. Even still, even now we can say that the girl brought her belly and her secrets with her on the road between Abilene and Padre, thanks to the big rig driver who was not the wizard of Oz, who set her off a little bit away from where she’d been going, back toward family who were willing not just to hide but to twist her secrets to keep the family looking right into the eyes of God.

Here is where time challenges some of what we know, because the woman, the child, the birth, the release of life into the open space – they push us uncomfortably toward the primitive, the unsanitary.

Pirate’s confession


I hereby confess to a long-standing aversion to the specifics of religious texts of all manner and make and creed. I hereby confess. It has been 18 months since my last confession, I must admit. I must admit and I will take notes and I will make witness to that which I perceive and conceive to be the ultimate, penultimate or third to the penultimate sacrfiicial lamb.

I like lamb, Rainbow says. Rainbow is a flippant gypsy, a hippie’s grandchick living in a blanket tent, a yurt, among the coyotes and meth dealers in the way back beyond El Rito, where every little trailer house has a meth lab. I have a golden lab, myself, a golden lab and a monkey, who came to me through monkey rescue, a facility that collects, captures and rehabilitates monkeys who have been led down the garden path, who have been stimulated beyond their monkey mind’s capacity.

Rainbow is Rainbow’s name, not a name she blended for herself while tripping on ecstasy and dropping out of the BFA program at her little private college. Rainbow’s parents are Lisa and Don, and they did tune in and drop out and then drop back in again like they all did, and they did, and they did, and I thank you. This is an anthropological fact, a history of American family life from the very beginning. Handed down in old journals, in trunks and satchels, some thin faded handwriting sitting in a trunk in an attic until one day it is not.

I fold my clothes neatly and pack them in a trunk that will be stored belowdeck. The journey will take almost twelve months. Not that I knew that, not really. Just to take my trousseau, the pillow cases, the napkins, the tablecloths, the little fine handkerchiefs. And by the time we got there, I admit I was a bit ruined. That is what happened. Too long at sea. Looking out at the waves, rolling, diving, the heads of seals or were they sea women, mer-maids, bobbing along with us sometimes for days at a time. I heard them calling, half seal, half woman, and I wanted to jump in. I’ve written my family, whether they will ever get it or not I do not know, to tell them.

After the ship docked in Newfoundland, I was to join my husband to be, and we were to build and farm and bear children. And I knew long before we landed that I would not be there, just a trunk with linens and a note to Mr. Joseph Nugent, the man I’d contracted to marry. Thanks for the passage, mate, I said, and I tipped my hat to him as I slipped past, dressed as a boy, and off into my future on the high seas, the low life, the adventures only afforded those with the right appendages. I’d had my lessons, well and good, in the hold, in the corners when noone was looking, and I knew just how it might be done.

Good idea, teaching women to read. Glad someone thought of it. When we first set sail, I knew nothing but needlepoint and looking down, biting on my lips to make them red and appealing. Needlepoint’s got nothing on sailor’s knots, though, and I took to that as needlework with a purpose. To make a rope that would take me either to freedom, or the gallows. All the same to me, by then.

A ship is a small thing on a big ocean. Even the largest of vessels cannot but take on water, and the pitching is something that cannot be easily described. I’ve held tight to ropes that swung me high and crashed me down in rains so heavy that I could see nothing but water, the pitching sea, the occasional blast and blind attack of lightning, thunder and wind so hard I was practically deaf with it. Holding on, like a monkey, desperate, small and light, until suddenly it seemed, the storm had passed and we found ourselves, on deck, below, anywhere and everywhere, soaked and covered with bruises. Alive and free. That’s what did it for me. Alive and free, like any free man, taking the air deep into my lungs. Decided then and there, I am no sacrificial lamb. And that is my confession, in this year of our lord 1853, March 18, as the spring winds begin to blow.

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