Tag Archives: Short Story

The Loop

Daniel was told by a psychiatrist
that there were past lives,
well…
the psychiatrist crossed his arms.
It’s more like a library of other lives
that one
if bored enough,
could pain themselves into seeing.

Black spaces
summoned into light with a dog whistle.
It must be pushed through a canal
or blown like air into the bottom of a flume.
Worlds within worlds,
hearts within hearts.
He imagined in this space he used to be a viking.
Or an alien.
Although in reality, he knew it didn’t work like that.
He couldn’t get the fantasies off his mind
as he stared out his apartment window
at five in the morning,
drinking coffee since two-thirty.
He looked at his neighbors window.
Watching the strip of light
beneath a bedroom door.

Daniel was told
by a stub-fingered card counter
that he met in Salinas,
that he could get there,
if he stayed up for three days
and opened all the doors and windows
and ate particular seeds.
He was not allowed to roast them.
Or drink more then one glass of water a day.
So that’s what Daniel did.
This is what he saw.
.
Green-gray sky
dirt road kicking red dust.
Lloyd’s olive work pants layered in soot and ash,
worn Atlas gloves in the back pocket.
They talked about who they used to love.
The conversation was very short.
Dawn in a white dress,
walking barefoot,
beside Lloyd back to their house.
Her thumb carried her open-toed shoes
that she slung over her shoulder.
Dawn swayed back and forth on the road.
The hills collapsed and rose near the horizon.
They were not rolling,
They inhaled and exhaled,
breathing body of Atlas,
ruddy lungs of under,
a place Daniel would say,
and did say
“you could walk all over,
or stay still,
and have the same experience.”
Lloyd pulled a cigarette from his ear
and cupped his hands as he lit a match.
The fire brightened his face.
He continued talking.
After thirty seconds,
Dawn stopped listening to Lloyd’s joke-chatter
the words Daniel could hear but not make out,
but he could tell it was nervous chatter,
based on the way Dawn looked more at the trees
and the queer tone of sky,
the lips of heaven.
She asked him to stop talking.
Because she had stopped moving.
And he had walked ahead.
And she reached for Lloyd’s wrist.
And he turned his wide body around.
She wanted to tell Lloyd a story.
It was time to match the blueprint
against something other than structured chaos,
too familiar with the way,
that someone lost in the forest
continues to make the four wrong turns,
stuck in a self-imposed circle,
damned to the loop.
The story involved choices.
Best described as a lack of choice.
And more like
“Well, shit just happens.”
The story was about no choices
in that, let us say
that a train on a lay of track
has a choice.
It can continue.
It can return,
step-by-step,
rail-by-rail
or
it can stop and rust.
A story told in the middle,
like the one Dawn (finally) tells,
as Lloyd pinches his tongue
and they walk
in the way and the waiting,
a world and a blade of grass
sitting between them.
Same thing.
A story, a device to suggest another story.
The narrow choices of the train
swallowing coal and cinder like Dimetapp.
.
“They had dated for a year but never slept together.
Well, they slept in the same bed.
But, you know.
He had…drug-store problems, I think he felt
something…small, I guess,
like in the shadow of his brother.
Ovid.
His brother’s name was Ovid.
Ricky was, like, a simpler name.
I dunno.”
Dawn laughed at herself.
“Ricky is an alright name.”
She stopped walking and softly kicked at a pebble
that limped along the space between the grass and the road.
A sad pebble.
It plopped in the ditch water,
and Lloyd,
realized there was a ditch there,
and tossed his loose smoke there,
spitting tobacco from his lips.
“It’s hard to say what happened
though none of our friends…
and then before it made sense,
she had fallen down the stairwell.
It sounded awful.
I was asleep on the couch.
It was that abode house…
you remember it, I bet.
You were there, I think.
The one on Anodyne St.”
Lloyd nodded.
Lloyd didn’t remember the house.
“The house with the really hard couch, it was like,
a wicker basket.
The stairs were hard but sort of like clay.”
There was an emphasis and her Texas twang sat up on clay.
“She made like, a soft thud.
I looked a the step later.
There was a dent.
..
But, I guess it could’ve been damaged from before.
Oz thought she was dead.
She was sprawled out,
she didn’t even react,
that girl,
she was like perfectly still.
I can’t believe I don’t remember her name.
Ricky stepped over her to get to the car.
There was a cab outside,
to take them to the airport.
They had a flight that day!
Oh my god, I remember now.
God.
He was high.
He was always…high.
It goes without saying, I guess…
those times…
I guess if he weren’t high.
He just wouldn’t be Ricky.
..
..
I don’t think he thought,
but I don’t think it would’ve been any different,
if he knew we were awake.”
Lloyd heard a frog hiccup.
He wanted to go find it and say hello,
but he could tell Ovid about it when they got back inside.
“Oz and I tried to go back to sleep.
He did.
…I couldn’t.
…She snapped clean to while I stood…
it was just like she just…
and Ricky…
I asked her if she was flying or if Ricky was just going alo…
they were both…
his cab was gone…
no waiting…
she made me promise I would
teach English in Taiwan.
She gripped my wrist
and she moved in to kiss me…
and…she nearly was gonna miss her flight…
and…I got her in a cab
and…she mouthed “Taiwan” to me as it sped off.”
..
“But you weren’t there, Lloyd, were you?
I thought you were Oz.
…a cab came back,
It was Ricky.
He was the one that missed his flight.
He had left maybe an hour before her.
He saw through security, and something happened.
Something always happened.
Or, I guess the right things just never happened.
She ended up boarding before he did.
He just laughed and said it was “bullshit,
that shit just happened.”
and
“Fuck that”.
And Ricky said he walked out of the airport.
And hailed a cab.
And as the family in his cab got out,
paying the cabby,
Ricky vomited on the child.”
.
They went inside the house.
Ovid wasn’t home, but Lloyd would remember
to talk about the frog tomorrow.
Notes in the blueprints
a ledger of a past,
here in the sequestered,
sleeping among the horses in the stable.
Their house with no doors
wind of the deflating hills
moving through the house like an outlaw.
Gin poured into plastic cups,
that neither of them drank,
silent on the elevator,
sitting out on the villa,
red clay birthing
a simple name without words.
Dreams revealing the nature of their loops.
They took their four turns
while looking at each other on the villa
and Lloyd said
that in his last life, he dreamed he was a cartographer.

Advertisements

Horace Was a Girl

(Note: This was written for my sister on her most recent birthday. Some good people (women-folk) are apparently working on an illustrated version of this story. If it meets the light of day, How Far is Ohio will let you know. Enjoy the story.)
1.

Horace was a wiener dog. The other dogs made fun of Horace because her name was a boy’s.

She was pretty though – as far as dogs go. Nobody cared though, because of her name. They heard her name, and she disappeared.

Horace never understood why her parents named her Horace. She told herself if she ever figured out where they were, she would ask them. Horace was probably homeless but since she never remembered where she slept, or the patterns of her movements, no one could say for sure.

At the dog school, nobody acted like she existed. If she was late to class, or attempted to answer a question, it was like she was a ghost.

Her homework (when she pulled it from the teacher’s trash can) always got good marks, because once the teacher read her name, she cringed and marked the paper as quickly as possible, closing her eyes and slash red marker gibberish on her homework, an A+ scrawled at the top.

Since Horace was horrendously stupid, this was how she passed each grade. This was also how Horace remained so horrendously stupid.

One day she found her mother. This was a good thing.  Unfortunately her mother was remarkably stupid as well, as most wiener dogs are. So it went.

When she was two (fourteen in dog years), Horace grew a pair of wings. They were white, and thick, naturally strong, billowing out with brilliantly white feathers. They were like the wings of a swan.

Horace was at first mystified by the presence of the feathery materials among the usual auburn sheath of hair on her bed. Had she been sleeping beside an ostrich? A seagull? She did not know. After the first five minutes of each morning, she forgot about the presence of the feathers.

Nobody at the dog school said anything about her gorgeous wings, because they despised her so much. Her mother did not say anything. Her mother figured it was best to not make waves. Weiner dogs are short. So it went.

One day, Horace was shopping with her mother at the local dog mall. One of the many vagrant tabbies (the cat homelessness issue becoming a growing thorn) went to approach Horace and her mother for change to score cat nip when the cat noticed Horace’s wings.

“Young lady.”

Horace looked back and forth, confused to be addressed, but more confused to be accurately addressed as a young lady.

“Yes you,” the cat, who was named Arnold, said to Horace.

“What, what is it? Do you want my money?” Horace replied. She noticed her mother had disappeared, abandoning her once again.

“Your wings. They’re absolutely filthy.”

“What wings?”

Arnold swatted at the (admittedly) filthy wings with his own filthy paw. Cats typically criticize the very things they should be criticized for. Cats are hypocrites. And bad with money. So it went.

“The ones growing out of your sides you silly girl.” Arnold said.

“What wings? This isn’t funny.”

Arnold realized that this wasn’t an ordinary stupid dog. This dog was exceptionally stupid. Arnold applied his scuzzy mitt to Horace’s long jaw and gently tilted her head to each of her side.

“Do you see your wings?”

“I saw something. Were they brown?”

“No. Lord no.”

Arnold repeated the process with Horace. Horace had finally noticed her wings! She became very excited and ran in a series of small circles and barked. She did not know she had wings. It was exciting. This was new.

Horace extended her wings, moving them in the air, brushing them against the ground.

“I have wings!” Horace exclaimed.

“Yes, yes you do young lady.”

“Oh my! Do you think I can fly?”

“I gather that there could be a chance.”

“So I can fly!” she yelped with excitement.

“Well…maybe, but you’re awful short.”

“Wow! Have you seen my mother? She will be excited too, to know that I can fly” Horace asked.

“She went inside the mall.”

“OK! Thanks!” Horace said and turned towards the entrance, excited to show her mother her new wings, which were not new at all, which were actually quite tattered and old looking.

“Wait,” Arnold said, rubbing his dirty paws against his dirty t-shirt.

“What is it Wing-Shower?”

“Do you spare any change?” Arnold asked.

“I am sure a change will come, Wing-Shower.”
And then she left, promptly forgetting she had wings.

2.

The dog school was in a brick building. Naturally, all of the entrances were dog doors. It was a two-room school house. One room was for what they considered the “normal” dogs which was the room for Horace and her class. The other room was for the “irregular” dogs, but no dogs went in there, and the teacher sat in the room each day, each and every day and waited for a dog to come in. No irregular dogs came. She figured a dog would come eventually. None ever did. The teacher just watched the door and thought of nothing everyday between eight and five. Thinking of nothing didn’t bother her. Time passed rather quickly as the years went on. She took lunch with the other teacher each day.When the two teachers talked shop, the irregular dog teacher made up dogs and dog anecdotes about her ficticous class to make it seem like she had a class. The irregular dog teachera greed with the sentiments and observations of the regular dog teacher so she wouldn’t catch onto the fact that she really wasn’t a teacher. She was just a dog sitting in a room waiting for irregular dogs to come in. She liked that life.

And besides, it would’ve made for an awkward conversation if anyone ever figured it out. Nobody did. The irregular dog teacher was happy.

In the normal dog classroom nearly all of the dogs had a desk, except for Horace, and a one-legged whippet named Diego who continued to fall over whenever a small gust of wind came through  the classroom. Some industrious dogs fashioned a cardboard box to support Diego. He couldn’t see the blackboard and failed out of school. Nobody knows what happened to Diego.

Anyway, since Horace didn’t have a desk, as she was too short for her stubby arms and legs to use the provided chair. Other short dogs could use the chair. The wiener dog had no use for a chair.

The shortest one  was a foot tall. Horce couldn’t even see the top of the tallest one, which was three feet, and reserved for danes and wolf hounds, due to the limited flexibility of her neck. Horace did her work from the floor and held her pencil in her mouth because her arms were too short for her to write. She concocted a scheme where she held paper with her paws while she wrote with the pencil in  her mouth. Her scribblings were illegible, but it made no difference because her teacher didn’t read her homework anyway. The whole system was very inefficient. It went on like this.

Horace’s mother had disappeared again. Horace hadn’t noticed. One day the phone rang.

Horace managed to kick the phone off the receiver and yell at the phone. She didn’t have the physical abilities to lean over to hear the receiver. It was her mother. She was calling to tell Horace she had no idea where she was. Horace couldn’t hang up the phone so she didn’t get anymore phone calls. This was the same day that Horace figured out that her house was actually two overturned wheelbarrows leaning against one another. She was proud to have figured this out. Horace had heard of wheelbarrows before.

One day, the school went on a field trip to the ocean, and Horace snuck onto the bus. The other dogs were learning about sand, and the art of fetching on a beach, and nobody noticed or cared when Horace wandered off down the beach on her own, as everyone despised her. As she walked down the beach, a tennis ball fell in front of her. She looked at it for a moment and then began barking at the ocean, which she had understood had thrown the ball at her.

Once she got tired of barking, Horace noticed that she was hearing a distinct, squeaky voice coming from the water. There was a dolphin standing a few feet away from her.

“A little help, young lady?”

“With what?”

“Why, that yellow ball that fell in front of you. Would you be kind enough to toss it my way?”

The dolphin knew that Horace was not well-equipped. The dolphin knew this in advance. The dolphin knew the ball would fall in front of Horace. The dolphin knew all that was to pass between him and Horace. The dolphin knew the future, and was wise enough to know he could not change it. Things go the way they go.

Horace picked up the ball with her mouth and tossed it towards the dolphin.

“What is your name, miss?” asked the dolphin, fully aware that her name was Horace.

“Uhm….my name?” Horace could not remember her name. It had been ages since anyone had asked.

“Take your time.” said the dolphin. Dolphins are exceedingly patient. They also smell wonderful.

Eventually Horace remembered her name and told the dolphin.

“That is an odd name for a girl dog.” said the dolphin, feigning surprise. Dolphins are the only species that can pretend to be sincere sincerely. Again, the way of the dolphin.

“Yes, the other dogs all hate me.”

“That is too bad. Dogs are stupid you know.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh nothing. Just a buzz in the air I think.”

“Oh.”

“Yes.”

“Well what is your name?” Horace asked.

“My name is Luke.”

“What a nice name.”

“Yes, I think it suits me.”

The bus made a honk, and the other dogs moved back towards it. Horace figured out that the bus would be leaving without her. She was surprised that she had comprehended something so quickly. It was as if being near the dolphin made her smarter.

“I need to be going. It was nice to meet you.”

“Yes, and you as well.”

Horace began to walk away.

“Horace. Come back for a moment.”

“Yes?”

“I think you should come back here tomorrow. I will teach you. I don’t think that school is helping you.”

“But how will I know how to get back?”

“Remember which way the bus turns on the way back, and make the opposite route to get back here.”

“Okay.”

Luke remembered what would happen in the future and added a note to Horace.

“Oh and Horace, for the love of Christmas, you need to write it down.”

“I will.”

Horace left. Luke giggled at the thought of Horace writing with her mouth. Luke could not help it. He did not feel bad because he knew it would happen.

3.

Horace wrote down the turns the bus made and where just as Luke instructed. Horace felt she was getting smarter even just on the ride home.

The next when she made her way back to the beach, she found she had remembered most of the street names, and some of the turns without looking at her chicken-scratch directions.

Horace walked out on the sand to the shoreline. Her short legs sunk into the sand with her steps, spooning sand into her mouth.

“Luke!” She called.

There was no response. She resumed spitting the sand out of her mouth. Twenty minutes later, as Luke knew, a dolphin emerged from the water and came towards the shore.

“Luke!” Horace called, having spotted a dolphin. The dolphin came closer to her.

“Yes? Do I know you?” The dolphin asked.

“Aren’t you Luke?”

The dolphin certainly did resemble Luke.

“Yeah, I’m Luke, what do you want about it?”

This dolphin was surly. He looked up and down the length of the beach, like Horace was wasting his time. This dolphin seemed like he would even fight Horace, if the circumstances came down to it. Horace started to shake.

“Aren’t you my dolphin friend? I….I….I’m looking for my friend Luke.  It’s me, Horace.”

She started to tear up. Horace had realized on the trip there that Luke was her only friend. This thought at once overwhelmed her, because she had realized she had been alive for so long (which wasn’t so long) without knowing she didn’t have any friends.

“Oh. You want Luke. I’ll go get him.” said the other dolphin Luke.

“What? I thought you said,”

But before he could explain, he was gone. Within thirty seconds, another dolphin emerged from the ocean. He looked practically identical to the previous dolphin. If Horace was capable at that point to getting suspicious, she would have gotten suspicious. But, so it went.

“Hi, Luke!”

“Hi, Horace!”

“Luke, was that your brother?”

“Who? Oh, Luke?”

“Yeah, the other dolphin I just talked to.”

“No, that’s just Luke. He’s friends with my friend Luke.”

“What?”

Luke remembered that Horace wasn’t the shiniest spoon.

“Oh. Don’t you know the story?” Luke knew that Horace did not know the story.

“No.”

“Well, I’ll tell you. Sit down.”

Horace was already sitting down in the sand because her legs were so short. She looked apodal. She shrugged at Luke.

“Well, the King Dolphin, Luke, that is, to his friends, realized that all of the dolphins looked alike. Strikingly alike even. The similarity in the dolphins, at least the ones in his kingdom, made such an impression on him that he decided to commemorate it. So he concluded that since all of the dolphins look the same, that we should all have the same names too, to make things simpler.”

Horace didn’t understand any of this.

“Every dolphin is named Luke.”

Horace understood then.

“So the King Dolphin changed his name to Luke as well.” Luke said.

“Why Luke?” Horace asked.

“Why not Luke?”

“I think it’s a good name.” Horace stated.

“It is a good name.” Luke said. It certainly was a good name.

“How do you tell each other apart then if you all have the same name?”

“Oh, it’s really easy. We know who we all are. There’s not too many of us.”

“How many?”

“Seventeen thousand six-hundred and twelve.”

“Oh my. That’s a lot.”

“Oh it’s not too bad. I only know maybe sixteen thousand of them.”

Luke was lying here to protect Horace’s feelings. In fact, Luke knew all of the dolphins intimately. He knew he would know all of the dolphins intimately. He also knew he could overwhelm Horace with his knowledge, as he would do it later in life. So it went.

“You dolphins are pretty smart. Do you think you can teach me things? My teachers ignore me or burn my homework and start screaming  in front of the other dogs.”

“Hmm, I’d have to talk to Luke, Luke and Luke to arrange something but I imagine we could tutor you. You don’t have gills do you?”

“I don’t think  I do.”

“That may hamper things. I’ll talk to Luke and see if he will ask Luke to outfit Luke and I with something that can get us on shore.”

Luke knew that was impossible but found himself saying the words anyway. His life was rife with contradictions such as these. Luke tried not to think about it too much, because the last time he did he fell down and hit his head and woke up in an alley, and a cat using a wheelbarrow had to take him back to the ocean. The cat said his name was Arnold. He was very dirty and smelled like tuna, which disturbed Luke greatly.

“I’d like to learn more.”

Luke paused and looked at her wings. They were looking weak and frail. He remembered that Horace had no clue she had wings.

“Horace, you need to strengthen your wings. That will be your first homework assignment.”

“I don’t have wings! That’s silly.” She said.

“Yes you do. Just think about it for ten seconds.”

Horace thought about it for ten seconds. It was ten times longer than she thought of anything else.

“Oh my Christmas! I do have wings.”

“Yes. You need to make them stronger. Wings are like a garden – a muscle. You need to make them stronger.”

Dolphins have no concept of agriculture. They also have no concept of combustion or atmospheric pressure. Nobody is perfect. Dolphins are pretty close.

Horace went home, and was surprised to see her mother. She waved at Horace like she had never left. Horace ran around the yard, flapping her white wings. She got very tired very quickly. But she came back out each day and worked a little harder, and was able to exercise a little longer. Pretty soon her wings became very strong.

She returned to the beach to show her friend Luke how strong she had become. She didn’t even need to look at the roads on this trip, or think about the turns.

Luke was waiting for her beside the shoreline.

“How’d you know I was coming Luke?” she asked.

“Luke told me, he saw you crossing the river.”

“Dolphins hang out in rivers?”

“We have agents.”

“Oh. Cool.”

“How are your wings?”

Horace showed him how strong her wings had become. He told her to try to fly, and explained how fast she would need to run. Luke had forgotten that he would later learn that her legs were too short for to gain ample velocity in order to fly, no matter how high of a dune she had leapt. Unfortunately, Luke remembered this useful tidbit after twelve failed attempts and a number of bruises.

“I don’t think you can fly.”

Horace began sobbing uncontrollably. She had invested so much time in improving her wings. And although she did not know that she could fly with her wings until Luke explained it to her at the beach that day, she became emotionally attached to that idea very quickly. The memory of dogs. So it went.

She continued to sob and flail and scream and began trotting into the water, which Luke heavily protested, but Horace did not hear, even with her huge, floppy wiener dog ears, and she ran into the water. She began swimming with an inherent violence, an extreme flail and found herself far, far away from the shore. Horace began to get weak. She could not see Luke. She went under the water.

As Horace slipped farther under water, she was met by Luke, who was smiling with a purpose, grinning ecstatically. Horace began to panic. Luke held her still with his fins. Horace found she was able to breathe.

It turned out she had gills after all.

Horace and Luke were married. They had their first child, Luke, the following year.

And that is the story of the how the first winged dolphin came to be.

THE END

The Question

My father, his mouth, agape, his jaw slack, is just as spry as the day I met him. Which was about a week ago. Over the phone. This is the first time I’ve laid  eyes on him. His head looks like an aged pear, weathered and bruised,and topped with occasional tufts of brown locks, mostly above his forehead and below his nose. A bit of bloody steak, hoisted upon his tongue, the vessel of flavor towards the edge, there’s bits of lettuce and bristle stuck between his teeth, augmenting the whole view, it looks like the ivy at Wrigley. He closes his lips, filled with divots and drags, and presses his gum’s upon the inside of his lip, pushing each pinch and pouch upon the surface of his tongue, he is extracting every bit of flavor from the cow, as if he went into the kill-floor himself.  He smiles in there as he approaches the cow, like it was his own cow, Bessie, cherished, and relishing when the blood met his gloved fingers. That is how my father eats steak.

His nose stands like a monolith, a mecca for all the other facial features to pray towards. His beady eyes are distanced by this protruding and unfortunate of features, he looks like a toucan mixed with a vulture, thin, bulbous and harvesting. His other features aren’t quite so large, maybe their normalcy exaggerates the nose. I think it’s because his hair looks like hair, his ears look like ears, and his chin is  non-descript, plain and ending.

His eyes aren’t  unique, but merely provide his face with a deepening quality. They exude complete patience and control. Anything unplanned or unexpected couldn’t startle them, much less make them blink. He must’ve been a terror on the courtroom.  Which would explain the size and quality of his house. His garage is about the size of my condo.  And I can’t tell if that is a compliment or an insult yet.

Personally, I haven’t seen anyone age, so I’m not quite sure where he’s at in the process, and whether or not this is good or bad, for someone nearly seventy years old. He pushes his plate and napkin aside, and waves for his  servant, a slim and immediate man who also has a protruding bulge himself, his streak emerges from the middle of his back rather than the middle of his face, and he is a hunchback by any classical or realistic definition. I’ve made a note not to stare at his severe kyphosis.

Vlash functions as a victim of his body, a concept his master could never quite understand. From this first encounter I have come to believe that he actively commands and dictates with his inner voice the actions of each his organs, that they consult with some small place in his brain, I guess you could call it a liaison, regarding whether it is acceptable to secrete this fluid, or mingle with this blood pathogen or germ or whatever it is that moves around in our organs. They are truly his, and not just a part of him. But now, he may be yielding this control, because his body seems to be catching up with the indeterminable distance set by his age. He has graying, but not thinning hair. He sometimes complains about certain joints or organs that are giving him trouble, often preceded with an empathetic expletive. He uses a cane, but this is uncommon, and private and painful, and only among those we would classify as his “Circle of Trust.” I’m not sure if I am one of these people yet. The cane is more of a rumor than a fact to me right now, I spotted it in the back of the closet, I only knew to look for it due to information from secretive and confidential telephone conversations with his butler, who is very polite and of Nordic heritage and surprising with his ease to share usually secretive information. Expectations only lead to confusion, the ancestor of disappointment.

His age is merely a number, an illusion, an impression. Just as his skin is just an appearance, an illusion, an impression. His skin is only skin.  I  base on facts on an appearance, an illusion, impressions. Not as a summation of these points and spots, but a collection dispersed,  gullible and pining for more.

“What was it that you wanted to see me about?”

“I wanted to ask you why you left my mother and I.”

“I didn’t.” His tone quickly decimates the poignancy of my question. I’ve been waiting twenty years to confront him, to exploit the melodrama, like a scene in some very meaningful film I’ve been watching in my head, and then tells me straight-away it didn’t happen. The nerve of some people.

“But you were with my mother, I know you are my biological father, I have the paperwork…”

“Your mother insinuated that our cohabitation was equivalent to a life-long commitment. If I gave your mother a quarter, she would insinuate that I would bankroll every endeavor she could imagine for the rest of her life. I left. People leave.”

“But why did you leave us?”

“Well technically….Adam,”

“Andrew.”

“Right, sorry Andrew. Right Andy, like I was going to say, technically, I didn’t leave you. I didn’t know you existed, or were going to exist, based on your definition of the start of life. Either way, I was clueless. You aren’t a bastard, so you can get over that little identity crisis straightaway. If I knew you were going to come, I would’ve stayed. Simple as that. I’m a lawyer, not a monster Adam.”

“Andy. I mean, Andrew.”

“Right, Andy.”

“Well my mother always told me that you knew about me, and that you just didn’t care.”

“That’s terrible. Why would she say a thing like that. Why didn’t she lie to you?”

“I don’t…”

“It seems like she’s taking some undue anger out on you, that was reserved for me. She made you think there was some reason for a father to hate his own child. Why wouldn’t she just have told you I didn’t exist for awhile until you were old enough to handle it, instead of training you to hate me? Your mother was a terrible parent if this was the kind of parenting she did.” He started coughing and pulled a cigarette out of the pack. He offered me one. I waved the offer away.

“So, why are you here again?”

“Well, I mostly came to confront you.”

“That was baseless. And not to mention dumb. What was your game plan after that?”

“I didn’t really have one. I was going to play it by ear.” He had me there. He justly rolled his eyes and snapped his neck beck and exhaled a cloud of smoke.

“Your mother should’ve taught you better. Always have a plan.”

“That’s the sort of thing I imagined my father would’ve taught me. Where were you by the way. You did know about me didn’t you?”

“I did know of the concept of you. But frankly, I didn’t believe it. When your mother called to tell me about you…shit, what was it… seven years after you were born, she had to remind me of who she was. And that was a bad start. How could she adequately convince me that I was the father of this imaginary child if I had to be reminded just of who the mother was. She wasn’t the only Helen you know. She had to think of something specific to remind me of which one she was. And not very many women have two birthmarks there.”

“You can stop there with that.”

“Oh, sorry. Anyway. I didn’t believe. What would take seven years to stop this phone call, you know what I mean? If she really wanted me to be a part of your life, she could’ve called when she found out, could’ve called when she gave birth, could’ve called before your first birthday, could’ve called before you become fully conscious of who you were and figured out that not everyone just had a mom. I mean, really. Seven fucking years. After I gathered it was her, I figured she was trying to gouge me for more money, a pursuit of hers from the start. I don’t think she even liked me that much, I think she just liked my cars and my clothes, but not me. That’s why we fought. Because she didn’t love me. Why do you think it took so long for her to remind me of just who she was. So I left. It was nothing personal.”

“I never thought of it that way.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to.”

We caught up. He isn’t the devil my mother portrayed him to be, or at least she exaggerated the parts that were vulnerable. My mother wasted her talents, because she had a way of accentuating the bad and cutting out the good. If she had her values straight she could’ve been an accomplished artist. He walked me through his house, the hallways had various pictures of his past, him standing in front of fighter planes chomping on a cigar, him sitting on the edge of battleships, pictures of him taking pictures and smiling, young  and strong, vibrant with taut skin. Pictures of him on boats, in deserts, standing in front of important looking buildings posing with important looking people, important looking smiles impressed upon their faces. There is a picture of him with a president, but I’m not sure which one.

I was compelled to ask his age, but I figured that wasn’t a good decision, especially on a first date. The way I see it his age is merely a number, an illusion, an impression. A spot, a point woven into his definition. Just as his skin, or his occupation is just an appearance, an illusion, an impression. Another point or spot in that thickening weave. His skin is only skin, something I could destroy or mix with something else, like any other chemical property. However, I am a member of the unfortunate ones who tend to base judgment on an appearance, on illusion, on impressions. Worse yet these appearances are not summation of these points and spots, but more like a collection of the appearances, like the coins in your pockets with a total you’re entirely unsure of. They are dispersed and intangible, lined up in a single file, one after the other like pieces in a jumbled alphabet asking for their name, and gullible, pining for more.

We made plans to have some sort of father son outing and he handed me his phone number, folded on a small slip of yellow paper. “Burn it right after you memorize,” he whispered to me. Later on, I would discover that he had begun to believe, with little reason, that he was a former man of espionage, a figure of great political intrigue. A spy. That everything he was doing was of great value to some faceless communist or anarchist, that his home phone number, which was listed in the phone book, was sensitive material. He was wrong. He was a lifetime upper-middle class lawyer, who was briefly an upper-upper class lawyer,  who spent his life and career in the Midwestern United States. I guess gullible is a family thing.

Ladders

I asked our supervisor if Jake and I could climb onto the roof of a building and fix a vent that got damaged during the storm. Our supervisor asked us why. I mentioned that it was on the list. Our supervisor asked where it was. I gave him a letter of the alphabet. Our supervisor nodded and seemed to meditate on this concept of a building with a problem that we could potentially fix. Our supervisor gave us the okay. Jake and I began to collect the tools we would need, I directed Jake to retrieve a ladder for the expedition.

“A ladder? Whatdaya need a ladder for?” Our supervisor asked us.

“To get onto the roof,” I replied somewhat confused, and discouraged about the point of our previous conversation. What did he think we were talking about?Our supervisor pressed further.

“Well, if you are going to go onto the roof you need to be harnessed in somehow.”

“Into what?”

“The building.”

“We won’t fall.” We weren’t planning on it, and this point seemed obvious. I was watching the redundancies crawl out of my mouth. We had been on the roof before. For the same thing. Just the other day.

“It’s just the code for the state, you being state employees.”

“Technically we are student employeees, who pay state union dues, for absolutely no benefits. We have our own code. We are rogue.” I do not believe my supervisor understands sarcasm or has heard the words before.

“No. You do what I say. If you’re going onto the roof, you need to be harnessed in.” Now I haven’t seen a pair of harnesses to compliment our rickety unstable death machine of a ladder, so I simply gave up.

“Where are the harnesses then?” I coyly asked my supervisor.

“Well I don’t know.”

“Well, if you find them, Jake and I will climb back onto the roof and fix the vent. Until then, you can tell the residents that they can cope with the smell of shit.” The vent was for the bathroom. Jake and I decided to do something else, so we packed up our tools and left. This is what happened after that.

My supervisor approached our boss. He inquired into the potential localities of harnessing equipment, to compliment our rotting, collapsing, death machine of a ladder. Our boss asked why. The supervisor explained the need to fix a vent of some sort on a building that began with a number. Our boss seemed confused and disoriented. Our supervisor repeated the question, but position the question simpler terms.

“Are our employees, I mean, student-workers allowed climb onto the roofs of buildings?”

A flash went over the listless desert that was his mind. He knew he had an answer, but it was not clear what it was.

“I’ll have to get back to you.”

The boss decided to get in touch with the director of his department. He was a strong, brash and intelligent man. He felt confident he would the answer to this stirring of questions. The boss craned his long neck into the directors office.

“Is it safe for people to go onto rooves?”

“Well that depends,” the director answered. The director then went into a litany of details and dependencies for a multitude of situations. He asked him when the last time it rained, how often it rained, which side of the roof it was on – the side that gets more sun or the side that gets more shade, how high up the roof was, what the roof was made of, the mood of the person or persons climbing onto the roof, the mood of the person or persons holding onto the ladder for the person or persons climbing, what time of day the climbing would happen at, whether or not the person or persons holding or climbing the ladder had known the pleasure of vaginal intercourse within the previous twenty days as to avoid the potentially fatal distraction an attractive member of the opposite sex could have on their focus, whether or not they were wearing gloves, the amounts in their bank account, whether or not they were idiots and  a list of potential climbers and holders, their sex and age, their weight and height divided by each other, multiplied by their intelligence quota, divided by their blood pressure and the smallest digit the numerals birthday added together becomes, divided by three, for fun. Little to say this went over the boss’s head. A nervous fearful look leaped from the boss’s eyes and the tiniest shake rang on his neck.

The director sighed deeply, in awe of the appalling, and exponentially growing ineptitude of his staff. How much longer  could he bear the toll of incompetence at such a magnitude? This feeling resembled the color gray.

The director dismissed the boss, and quickly compiled a mental list of potential colleagues he could discuss this problem with. The director contacted the dean of the school, a bald graying  man, on this maddening philosophical query. On the first call the director reached the dean’s machine. He hung up, went down to the vending machine, mashed his finger into the buttons for yogurt pretzels, fished them out from the machine and returned to his office. The director picked up the phone and dialed it again. He reached the machine. The director decided to walk down the hall to the deans office.

He found the door slightly ajar. The director knocked on the door, cleared his throat and announced himself. He could see the deans office was dark and the blinds were drawn. The director began to ask for the dean”Mr. Joh…” but he was cut short by the shrieks of what sounded to be a guinea pig being tortured by a toothpick. The director was startled at first, but then sighed at his lack of foresight. The dean is extremely neurotic. As well as superstitious. As well as mildly autistic. He never answered the phone, looked anyone in the eye, or participated in any conversation that one could say resembled a civilized sort. He often shrieked and lifted his shirt and began to rub his nipples until he became aroused.  It was amazing that he had climbed as far as he had. But considering the schools reputation, it is only amazing that he didn’t reach this level sooner. This is mostly because he posses incredible skills when it comes to shepherding budgets and dealing with middle management, as mildly autistic people often are.

The director poked his way into the office.

“Stay out of my bubble!” the dean hissed at the general direction of the director. The director nodded and sat down in the deans chair, looking him straight in the eye as he remained curled in a ball underneath his desk, holding a flashlight and a set of batteries close to his heart. There were metal soldiers scattered underneath the desk as well as bubble gum wrappers and condoms removed from their wrappers, unused, a few with chewed gum inside. There was also a large amount of torn wrapping paper scattered about the room, likely from Christmas, though this was months ago. The dean was gaunt, shirtless and unshaven. There was a layer of drool decorating his lower lip. The director posed his question.

“Greggy, is it okay if the kiddies climb up ladders even if the roofs are wet?”

Greggy contemplated this question for a brief moment, his eyes looked way-wards to the floor.

“No,” he coughed. He began to snarl at the carpet. He began to shout from below his desk, “NO! NO! NO! GET NANCY! NO! NO!”

The director stood up from the chair bowed with his hat, and stepped out of the room leaving the door slightly ajar, just as he found it, stopping by the deans secretaries desk, where a woman named Nancy often sat.  Nancy went into the deans office, fed him her breast-milk and promised to attend to the situation. The dean cooed and nodded in peace as he fell into his usual afternoon nap in her arms. She was able to move him gently back underneath his desk without waking or startling him, in the office with the blinds drawn and the lights dimmed, She went back to her desk, lifted the phone and dialed the governors office, the situation still unresolved.

Christine Gregoire answered the phone herself. Her office had been stripped of all amenities. Her staff had been let go entirely, and not due to incompetence, but due to insufficient funds in the budget. She was haggard and dishelved, pale and blotchy. The wallpaper had been removed, the carpet torn out, and she had been left with a creaky wooden chair with  bad legs, and a desk from a kindergarten class removed from a school that had been shutdown during her administration. Sbe kicked a rat away from her foot as she said hello to Nancy.

“And how is our dear friend Greggy?…Yes?….Oh, dear…What’s that you say?….Well I can see your concern….Has his diaper been changed recently, maybe that is why he is so upset today?….Oh you checked…Well how much would it cost to get them on the roof?….Nothing?….How much are we paying them?….I see. Can we pay them less?….Oh, that’s the least? I didn’t know it was that much….So why are you calling me? This situation seems to have nothing to do with money….I see…..Well if we put them up there and they fall off, that could cost the state some money god forbid, and the boys could even get hurt….Well this one is going to have to go up higher than me. Sorry Nancy. I’ll have to get back to you…Let Greggy know that he is still up for that promotion to be the Secretary of Finance…. Great Nancy….KBuhBye!”

The governor slumped in her chair. She looked down with fear at the speed-dial extension that she would need to press soon.

“Fuck! Fuck!” She muttered. “I don’t want to have to talk to that callous blood sucking no good son of a bitch!” She took a deep breath and thought it over. He would be much more upset if she took the private jet to see him in person. But this situation was urgent, and it wasn’t the situation that mattered, but how her response was viewed by her peers. Shit, wouldn’t the world be better without all these assholes fucking shit up?

The governor summoned her mindlinking abilities, confidently massaging her temples with her creaky, wrinkled index fingers to increase focus. She hummed with much cadence, waited for him to answer her mindlink request. Then, as if it happened suddenly, she sensed a presence. She hoped it wasn’t that asshat Harry Reid again, busting in on her mindlinking. That was beginning to get on her frail, cuntlike nerves. But the presence, the presence! She could hear his voice, as if in a distant desert, catching her request, and answering it with his bellowing baritone, his assured tone, those novel mannerisms.

Barack Obama was responding to Christine Gregoires mindlink request.

“Chris.”

“President Obama…sir.”

“The fuck do you want? I am a busy man.”

“I had a question.”

“No shit, I hope you weren’t mindlinking to flirt with me again. That shit is shameful…you’re better than that Chris.”

“I know Mr. President…I know.” He could hear the shudder of shame in her mindlink voice.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“The fuck you mindlinking me for? I am trying to pick out a dog here, and I can only mindlink for so long without Michelle getting suspicous. Strong women can sense mindlinking. That and fear. Shit. You got me rambling. THE FUCK YOU WANT GIRL?”

“I had a question.”

“You a fucking broken record, Chris. Ask it already.”

“Is it okay for these two white kids in Washington to climb onto a wet roof to fix something. I am against, because it involves spending money, but I’d figure I should run it by you.”

“Your indecisive middle of the fence response may be the best thing about you. We have this system, appiont and vote for these leaders so they can fucking ask their boss what to do. Everyone in this system acts like their fifteen on their first day of their job. “Let me ask my boss.” Fuck. What do you do? What do we do? Do you think these crackers are going to break their necks on this wet roof.”

“If their hand eye coordination is accurate as the covert sleep tests show…They will certainly meet their doom.”

“I know I am going to sound like a hypocrite here for a second, but I am going to have ask my boss if it’s cool if these kids die so they can fix whatever the fuck needs to be fixed. What was it again?”

“I think there may be a baby kitten stuck on the roof.”

“Shit. I’ll call him right away. Hit you back in a minute Chris.”

“Thanks Mr. President.”

“Go fuck yourself.”

The mindlink session ended. The Obama clan decided on a short haired Lasso Apso that they decided should be named Trixie. They all returned to the White House, under the guard of the Secret Service, enjoyed a supper of roasted duck and lima beans. Barack and Michelle enjoyed some whisky, and slow danced to a Neil Diamond recordin their bedroom before taking a shower together, their ritual before retiring for the evening. They both lumbered into the bed, with teeth freshly brushed. The President was about to drift into a most patient and delicate slumber, when the days previous mindlink session came to the forefront of his thoughts. “Fuckin bitch,” he muttered under his breath. He climbed out of bed, careful not to wake Michelle and put on his bathrobe. He walked down the halls, with a lit cigarette dangling from his ears. He approached the portrait of Abraham Lincoln that hangs in the West Wing. He checked either side of the hall. Nobody watching. His eyes met those of his ancestor, and they both began to glow red, a fiery red, and the painting began to rumble to the left, creating the opening to the secret passageway. The President climbed inside.
He took the lantern off the mount next to the entrance, lit it with his still burning cigarette, and mashed it on the ground with his bare foot. He followed the caverns path until he found the ladder. The President tossed the lantern to the bottom of the crevasse, then leaped off himself, falling fifty feet before he met the murky pool below, enveloping himself underneath the water. He was at the John F. Kennedy Secret Fountain. He emerged from the water and shook himself dry. He strolled up the steel enforced door. He pressed his face into the retinal scanner. He entered the detoxification and sterilization chamber. Gasses and liquids encompassed his body. He emerged from the mist nude, and walked up to the end of the cavern. There hung a big white telephone with one looming button sitting at its center. The President took a deep breath and picked up the receiver, and mashed the button. It rang six times before it was answered.

A booming voice, deeper than the confines of sound itself emerged from the earpiece.

“Mr. President?”

“Yes God….It is me.”

“I told you I don’t exist.”

Chapter Two

I had a hangover when I saw the birds. In a flurry, their movements blossomed above a cascade of cars belting northbound. There were two flocks. They approached and admired each other, seeming to bow almost, a mutuality recognized, and the pair began this festive dance, the one group swayed and mixed with the second group, they bulged and proceeded to collaborate, birds from the first mixed into the second, then they split, then reformed under new factions, only to recalibrate, to sway and turn as a unit and mash quick and elegant back into one, to collide in a periscope of nature, a silent paradox that split upward, that split in half, that stood as simple and transparent as sheared paper against the horizon , that fluttered in diagonals and deft shifts, sublime movement appearing at once dark as it dove against the cliff face and bright as the fever of an autumn sun as it climbed upwards, altogether gallant and lifeless, two identical forms merging and deviating back into two different yet identical forms again, they spread apart a final time only to be reunited, as one true flock, that flys under some autonomous principal, to some imbued forever distant destination, answering only to their flock, to their deathless drone, as they moved past the view of my windshield.

I looked back on the highway, the other cars breezed past my peripheral view, silent and choiceless, I can’t hear them, they can’t hear me, I can’t hear their nature, they cannot allow for the possibility that their ramifications to be true, that their force is a tangible entity, that they themselves must reckon with.  The speed, the noise, the numbers, the danger, the blurring of steel into gargantuan bullets, falsely silent within the confines, the stereos as antiseptic, all this, all that this is, is impeded upon. You don’t notice when things drip past the point of no return, when there is no hope, but despair isn’t an option, since obliviousness has taken hold, since you’re at the helm, after so much time, chaos and disintegration unwillingly becomes the norm. And it takes an explosive event to knock you back to the ground. It always come as a surprise when it happens, surely unbelievable, but in the afterglow it becomes more comprehensibly right, accurate, needed even. But everything is so damn wonderful before this happens.

I keep on learning the same thing over and over again, only in a different tone, with a different name. I don’t know if that it makes it more true, or me more incapable of changing anything. Maybe this is a universal truth that bears repeating, that bears to be stamped down into permanence. I get discouraged too easily, I guess. So I paid my bills off, unplugged the phone, picked up my mail and left town for a couple of days.


Chapter Five

I get lost in thought. Sometimes my wind wanders to different places during conversation, that curious child manifesting itself in my mind. I miss crucial points of stories. I don’t listen when someone tells the punchline on a joke. I’ll forget when we were lost in each others eyes. I won’t remember your name; My attention follows strange cars and recall plots of movies I had long convinced myself I had forgotten, like a child discovering the toy lodged in the current of chaos that lives under his bed. Only sometimes though.

On this particular morning of question, a cloudless morning in the midst of an endurable summer, I was lost in thought again. My internal dialogue was plowing through concepts and motor functions like Paul Bunyan encapsulated in Styrofoam- I was bursting with ideas. I had convinced myself I was capable of doing something I completely wasn’t; I thought I could imagine what I was going to say to a strangers on based exclusively on what they had said to me, when something truly absurd had happened.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. I turned my head back towards his litter box and continued to scoop his leavings. I assumed it was another of those strangers voices, that my mental reality was blending with my sensory. This wouldn’t be the first time. Or the last.

But then I heard it again. I fell back and let my bony ass hit the ground, and looked at him intently.  His eyes responded with their deep wide knowing, an immediate recognition and acceptance of the things I just couldn’t accept or even recognize. He was deaf and incapable of communicating, but he was emotionally light years ahead of me. I reached out to pick him up, but he scampered off into the bedroom, and paused in the center of the room, and looked back at me, and darted under the bed, his safe spot. That was the only time he ever didn’t let me pick him up. It was also the only time he ever ran away from me. He has virtually no fear or people. I am convinced that he is convinced he is one of us. In every department, he behaves the opposite that a normal cat would. And right then, I understood that there was no reason for this recent piece of unbelievable information to be any different than that.

A talking cat seemed perfectly possible to me then, but for some reason I didn’t want to believe it. Because believing that meant believing everything else I never could believe. It meant there was a camouflaged door between wonder and reality, that there is a shapeless unexplainable entity choosing who this happens to and who bears witness. It meant that all the studying economy, politics and science that I spent my formative years “understanding” were immediately proved false and disregarded. I wasn’t ready to have my existence thus far undoubtedly proved as a meaningless waste. It was too much to handle while I was scooping out his shit for him.

Then in the hall I clearly heard him announce “Daddy, I’m hungry!” and I winced when I should have been grateful for the blessing I had received.

Some things just don’t change because you want them to.