after Mark Morris
The cowboy necropolis is floodless; it extends night in long-dead, swing bands over an AM radio seeping deep into west Texas. A series of calls from payphones, blowjobs behind horse trailers. Quick! How many motel chains can you name in one breath? Count them out like playing cards. It’s a tired movie—strung on past four o’clock, the test patterns whistling you to sleep in a half-empty motel along a county highway. Your body whistles, too—but for corn chips and the channel that tunes in halfway through the dial, some documentary of cemeteries beaded along the highway you’ll travel the day after tomorrow. The list of payphone numbers buzzes in your shirt pocket. That buzz ignores every lick of jazz that’s ever been blown in the Territory. It trumpets a dead man’s breath. A dirge blown to revelry. You take off the carnation red shirt that a real cowboy wouldn’t be caught dead in. The apocalyptic numbers. You call them one by one—bars, whorehouses, broken phones outside 7-11’s. The inevitable answer, the man’s voice in love with the distance on the other end of the line. Dead talk. A voice that says it knows you. There’s snow in the panhandle—at least, so you’ve heard—and a dead man was buried in your best chaps. Wish him, “Good luck!” No empire has ended any other way.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
She likes to listen to slow, sexy songs and imagine herself dancing. Maybe for a crowd or maybe not. She would be in a spot-lit bar – no. In a pool of moonlight in a bedroom, a half-dressed man reclining on the bed, watching her drop articles of clothing to the floor. My God, she will think, my God. How did I arrive here?
Out her window she sees stars, or maybe hundreds of faraway people smoking cigarettes in the dark. There is no way to decipher extinguished light from light yet to be extinguished. She closes the curtains. She is in her underwear and a K-mart t-shirt and her thighs have stretch marks and little red dots. She tries to reach a bottle of lotion without unfolding her legs from beneath her, but it is too far away. Her fingers stroke the air.
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?
The bus was stale with strangers and their air. There was the heat-wavy highway 5, dry cheap hills, slaughterhouse stink so thick it stung the nostrils. The man next to me grinned, sans front tooth, beanie pulled down to his eyes. He asked was this my first Greyhound ride. I told him yes, about the snowboarding trip gone awry, my friend with his broken collarbone and half his spleen gone in a Tahoe hospital, his mom’s crumpled Honda I’d now spend my summer working off.
The man told me not to work for no chumps. He hit my arm like a brother or a bro. Don’t be nobody’s bitch, boy. He spit tobacco juice into a Pepsi can. He called himself a drifter slash artist. I sat up straighter, showed him my sketches. You got it all wrong, he said. All straight lines and shadows – where’re the demons? He slept, he snored.
My stop came an hour later. He pulled his beanie off and the tattoo-green letters LSD gleamed from his forehead. I remember the knife of feeling as I waved goodbye and smiled away my shock. When I met my mother in the parking lot she was crying.
Short Dark Oracles
I don't want any breakfast. I’m still constipated from yesterday. There is no room. I'll drink two or three cups of coffee later. I put a dollop of vanilla ice cream in my coffee. That gives my day a real boost. I will hang out with my son. He will call me Pink Power Ranger. He will call me Mary Jane. He will call me Gwen. He will call me Mommy. We might dance and celebrate life right along with Richard Simmons. Perhaps we will venture outside to investigate the mud puddle. Maybe I'll sit in a chair in the carport while my son draws spider brains with sidewalk chalk. My husband will call me on his lunch break and on his drive home from work. His calls usually go straight to voice mail. The friendly student loan people will call two or three times. I am most popular with them.
I eat the orange yogurt super fast so my tongue won't know what it's tasting. I put in the bargain exercise dvd and hula hoop for half an hour. I ignore the texts from Jaci asking me to meet her at the fetish boutique (black leather chokers are half off today only!). When the UPS guy knocks on the door I open the door wearing something more substantial than a leopard print bra and thong. Tomorrow I will conquer the haunted potty and suicide oven.
Oh sure yeah of course he was fucking adorable in his retro princess skates and pigtail braids, scrawny arms decked out in temporary tattoo sleeves, two sizes too small cartoon kitty shorts. All the perverts would dream up songs that would never sell.
His father blames me for the speech impediment, the weird moments of awkward fumbling clarity from the boy's lollipop sucking mouth.
"Mommy? Is it okay if instead of playing rugby or chess I twirl fire batons and stand on ponies?"
"You can do whatever the fuck you want, Harry. This is Texas."
My husband the ball swinging cowboy takes to town in his dragon flame retard truck, looking for sensible pussy and the usual tonics that will help him forget the whole goddamn lifestyle for at least five or six hours.
A Sport and a Pastime
This place, Pure Heart, stood tucked away on a tiny street in this sleeping town. i found it by accident. The owner who introduced himself as "Master" looked Indian, but was really Japanese. His wife, cute, mixed drinks as he chopped vegetables. They had an assistant, Mayumi, who I immediately took a liking to. I wanted to know her story and would. I drank beer there three times a week and Master always overcharged me. He never kept a bill, but always seemed to guess at the price of my evening. Sometimes one beer would be 4,000 yen. "Table charge," he would say, and smile. I never complained. He treated me right while I was there. Most of the time I was his only customer. I wanted to see Mayumi as much as I could, every night of the week if possible. It was getting that bad. Master would listen to anything I said and nod and nod. He would talk on in Japanese and I would feign understanding. We got along that way, smiling, talking, laughing and misunderstanding but never admitting. "9,000 yen." "Two beers?" "Hai."
In the Blind
We grew up in the same development. A kind of faze-one-model-home-on-the-corner–still-under-constructions-going–to-be-a-neighborhood –someday, kind of place. We’d ride our bikes through half built homes and fly off mounds of dirt left by powerful hydraulic earthmovers. We’d crash, all the time, just smash into shit with our bodies; trees, hills, and each other. Every night we’d head home bloody and scratched, home to our folks, who were fuming mad about the carnage we’d drag into their new house just before supper. Muddy footprints on the new kitchen floors, earth and dirt fell from our clothes as we were stripped naked and stampeded to the shower. They’d soak us in stinging peroxide, twisting and turning the cotton as if that pain was a punishment, like we weren’t just throwing rocks at each other, as hard as we could; or playing Star Wars with metal rods and two by fours. They’d yell and scream and try to talk sense into us, but it was no use. We bonded as a family of our own, crazy as hell, afraid of nothing.
Thomas E. Kennedy
The doctor told him the figure-eight configuration on his nose was cancer. “Sonofabitch,” he said. “Italy,” Ruby said, by way of making things better. The sun as enemy was a concept to get used to. Ruby worshiped it. Dave bitched about tourist in pastels, but envied them their cluelessness in their too white sneakers. Ruby lived life allegro. Wanted the full experience of a Mediterranean summer. They stayed in an old villa. Chipped paint on the walls, oversized works of art in gold, baroque frames. “So Italian,” she said. She booked various activities for them to participate in. They went to a farm where they picked vegetables. “Goddamn sun,” he said fingering what used to be a distinct patrician nose. “Such a great Italian hobby!” she said, with her back to him where freckles broke out like little burnished pennies. She turned toward him in the carrot patch. He saw the sheen of sweat dotting the downy hair on her upper lip. She pointed to the first she would pick. She tugged on the green, feathery vegetation. It came out looking wan and thin as a pencil. Her bottom lip curled. He felt cold. Took it as a sign.