She likes writers. Fucks them exclusively, but refuses to read their stories. Attaches laminated pictures of penises short-to-long to her keychain and thumbs through them like a flip book at parties. Drinks beer through a straw from a Dunkin Donuts mug while she drives. Begs me to shorten her T-shirts with my woefully dull switchblade, then barks unconventional curses when she puts them on: Too short, grassy knoll fucker! Breaks into my bedroom and steals cigarettes while I sleep. When I catch her, I raise a hand as if to slap her face, but I never do. Never could. She kicks me, barefoot, somehow hurts my leg more than she hurts her toes. Calls me brother like she’s spitting on the floor. Takes her pilfered cigarettes and leaves, stomping heels like a tantrum-gripped two-year-old. She won’t allow me to call her sister again until it’s time for me to collect her half of the rent. Then she’ll want me to hum it, sing it, burn it into my chest with a Zippo-flamed coat hanger and trade shirts for skins so her overnight friends can touch and experience our bond. But she won’t pay her share of the rent. Never does.
firstname.lastname@example.org I am a Knife
Drunk-gutted, eating a pear with their eyes closed, they begin to make a list of the things that frighten them. They begin with: long, broken-paved roads lit only by streetlamps, the light at the end flickering on, off, on. Cars left running with the driver’s side door open but nobody’s there, nobody’s in them. Non-microwaveable bowls. Nylon-polyster blends. Birds with teeth. Scandinavia.
And what about glued-down nickels, or public transportation tokens from other states. Babies dressed as fruit, hell, babies in general. They continue: What if the dog learns to speak and he tells us he’s disappointed in us? We could’ve done so much more. We could’ve gone to graduate school. I mean My God, he’s seen us naked, he’s seen what we eat for breakfast. Sometimes it’s cake.
They vow to never see a frightening thing. They board up the doors and paint the windows. Pull their own teeth so they won’t have to look at a skeleton. The world must be knowable, they tell one another. Out goes the television, the microwave, the electric toothbrush.
She becomes convinced he has feline eyes.
“Cats,” she reminds him. “Cats are on the list.”
Something has to go.
It's daybreak and we're just outside of Memphis. The baby's breathing is like raspy road noise. Oncoming headlights pierce the fog and spread like spilled milk on the wet windshield. You stir in your seat, fighting a nightmare or reality. You told me he wasn't mine and I wanted to believe you, to be free from it all. But you called last night, needing a ride to Saint Jude's, and I knew you had lied. Steel girders carry us over the Mississippi, taillights flash red and traffic stops. We are caught between two states and the currents churn in the murky waters beneath us. Trucks and cars idle; exhaust is pumped into the fog and wraps us in toxic fumes. He coughs. I turn to check on him. From here, we'll have to crawl forward.
http://www.pennstewart.info/ A Gate at the Stairs
You listened to too much Eric Clapton. When you walked in the door, I'd hear the opening chords of “Layla” and while you were talking to me, telling me things, I could hear the whole song in my head. All five hundred minutes of it, you asshole. (But I did like that time we got drunk and you walked me back to my apartment. The slip of moon, uphill sidewalks, black-green grass, more sidewalks; a million moth army, more crickets, streetlights. All the girls at my place were playing strip poker and I was glad I wore my pretty bra because I am not very good.)
Allow me this. Eventually you are going to have to deal with the fact that you've been born. But don't worry. Tonight I'm not drunk. I don't drink anymore but I do miss the feeling of closing my eyes and falling back – of loosening my tie. If I wore a tie.
Come on. I am a lioness on a big, hot rock. I told you that.
leesacrosssmith.com Fast Machine
At 3:14 PM a 911 call was received by operator #07, with an unspecified emergency reported near mile marker 47 on county road 18. When officer Conrad arrived at the scene he encountered the two witnesses, Mrs. Brady (398-56-7894), and Ms. Hutchins (345-72-9087), at the roadside above the river. They directed him down a trail to where they said they had been walking their dogs when they encountered a man screaming and attempting to climb the riverbank with some sort of object protruding from his anus. Upon approaching the river officer Conrad heard a moaning sound, and followed this until he encountered the victim, Mr. Steinbrenner (387-12-3975), who was lying on his side just above the waterline, his pants down around his knees and his body mostly covered in mud, sobbing uncontrollably. The object Brady and Hutchins had reported appeared to officer Conrad to be a landing net (the type used for trout fishing), the handle of which was apparently inside Mr. Steinbrenner’s abdomen, and the rounder part of which was still visible to the exterior of his rear. Officer Conrad radioed for EMT/Ambulance response and then proceeded to make verbal contact with the victim. Upon being asked if he could remember what had happened Mr. Steinbrenner responded “That God damned guide did this to me!”, but further communication was unintelligible due to the sobbing. Officer Conrad waited for EMT until they arrived, at 3:47, before walking up-river to continue the investigation. Approximately 550 meters upstream from the victim’s location he encountered the suspect, Mr. Jameson (387-62-5772), standing in the river beside an anchored wooden boat which was on fire. Upon being approached Mr. Jameson offered officer Conrad a drink from the bottle of whiskey he held in his left hand, which officer Conrad declined. Mr. Jameson then began pouring the whiskey onto the burning boat. As he did this officer Conrad approached him, physically restrained him, handcuffed him, Mirandized him, and placed him in custody; then radioed for fire department support to deal with the burning boat. Mr. Jameson declined to respond to the Miranda confirmation of understanding question, ignoring officer Conrad and instead singing loudly, (something about not knowing where the river “goes”, or where it had “been”) which he kept up throughout the ride back to headquarters.
www.justanotherdayinpatagonia.com Population 485
She liked to tell how she was wearing an Alice blue dress when she met my father, a man with thick scars of loss. I imagined her an angry Alice in Wonderland, her short dress, with an incongruous short white apron. No, no she said, not that Alice. She was my father’s sea siren, his savior. They were now two. I am blue, I said. They scolded such indulgence; see the world full of need? She with her sly blue eyes, narrowed into derision. I fingered the little blue mark on my thigh, where she jammed a number two pencil, said, he’s mine now. Be kind, he said, no matter. He fingered the piece of lead I’d carry deep in the flesh, reaping hatred into muscle memory, dared me to come to him. In the mirror, I held my breath. A bluish tint bloomed on bloated lips. I thought it could be that easy. She stood behind me. She looked lovely in blue. The dress would be mine in due time. I would wear it when I was bold enough to steal something that should never belong to me in the first place. I’d make my father proud.
www.sempresicilia.wordpress.com Disparate Pathos
A storm on her birthday knocked the power out. The room was still bright, fifty candles lit her cake.
Their three grown kids were home for the weekend. She kept their bedrooms as they’d always been.
Her husband jumped back like so much candlelight blinded him. The kids laughed, dutifully.
He was still handsome, at the peak of his pay. She looked okay, by candlelight, with her facelift.
Did you make a wish honey? She did not say, but wished for time to stop.
Wishing was done with, her flames would go out. Her looks would pass. Her parents, too. Her calling as a mother, and her husband’s reliable hard cock. Jobs, health, friends, spouse. Then she would shit the bed.
Dear God, please stop time. She blew out the candles in several breaths.
All was dark and still, until a lightning bolt left the storm to crash in through the big bay window and
firestorm the family into the wall.
Splat. Like Goddamned grilled cheese.
They swayed in a last dance, waved their arms and moaned, but soon went cold and dead.
Burned in bas relief, a Pompeii pyrograph. Faces: four from The Scream, One Mona Lisa.