Monday, August 15, 2011
Sailors And Cloth:
Small creative designs,
Saint Bartholomew playing with a razor
And no damn skin,
Toying with brown shiny wings,
Bending the day into a sort of pen,
Mixing paint in old silver socks and green baggies,
These are all roofs,
Powdered fast red coats of paint,
Wainscoting, waistcoats, workshops,
Poorly-made excuses repeated indefinitely.
This is bloody and the truth,
The release I sought was one of disease.
I sat beside Hugh and said:
Grease ‘em up you goofy shit,
You are right, nothing is crazy.
If a day cannot pen even weak love,
How can it quest,
How can it pursue entire Sundays,
When the distant clangs throw it off the course,
And harsh words streak down phone lines,
Telling us about roofs
And red coats of paint.
It is all so harsh and unhappy
And bloody and the truth.
ADAM & EVE
They crawled up
into the darkness,
the first of many,
all of creation
like a poem
that was accepted,
but never run.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
We apologize for our absence... we are listening to everything you send us. Things have been busy around 'the office' so we have had little time to concentrate on Lo-Fi. Please accept our apologies and understand that we will be back soon. You are our greatest influence. Please don't abandon us.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Today we have a story from Adam Moorad called The Wanna-Be-Singer-Songwriter. It's a quick little tale about romance on the road. Check it out!
On the side of the road the Wanna-Be-Singer-Songwriter felt like it was Christmas. He pointed to his license and told her his picture was taken a long time ago. She stood there behind her badge. Cars passed. It was dark outside. She handed the license back. She smiled and said her shift was about over.
She said she was against marriage. She twirled the straw in her margarita. The Wanna-Be-Singer-Songwriter agreed under the assumption that it was what she wanted to hear and she said that was good. Marriage is forever, he said.
A waiter ran by with is arms full of hot plates and she said that someone must be hungry.
They ate their dinner prepared by people who were working the country illegally. She looked the other way. The Wanna-Be-Singer-Songwriter said he used to be in love with a Hispanic girl. She got quiet then asked him how long ago that was. A long, long time ago, he said. Do you still love her? she asked. He said it wasn't real love, that he was young then and is older now.
The waiter wore a button-down shirt and toreador slacks. He spoke broken English and asked if they would like to have another pitcher. Beads of sweat rolled down his cheeks as if he had just eaten and mouthful of tamales. He left. The Wanna-Be-Singer-Songwriter looked at her face. He made an expression and she laughed.
She covered her mouth as she laughed and he told her she covered her mouth. He asked her what was so funny. She was more talkative that before and was getting drunk. He pinched her arm and said she cleans-up well. She said the same and said she was getting tired. The Wanna-Be-Singer-Songwriter asked her if he could write a song about her and if he could put her name in it.
A real song? she said. She said she thought that was just a line he likes to use to get out of speeding tickets.
He said she was right, that he always did. He said she had him figured out. He asked her if she was mad. But can I? he asked. I only will if you let me, he said.
She said it was fine and brushed the bangs from her forehead. The Wanna-Be-Singer-Songwriter said it will be a song about a policewoman and he'll play it for her on the guitar. So you can play guitar, she said. A little, he said. Is that your job? she asked. Sort of, he said. She said that she works for the city with a radar gun, that she writes speeding tickets to people who look less cute. He looked at her. She laughed and covered her mouth. And they rode in her squad car to his apartment.
And they made it. The Wanna-be-Singer-Songwriter asked her if she had ever been to the rodeo. She said no and she asked if he had a song about that too. He said something like that.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Christian Ward brings us today a poem called Floods. Enjoy the wonderful imagery and wordplay.
The streets have become flooded
with our childhood dreams.
Puddles blend into
astronauts, paving slabs, firemen.
Artists wash the pavements
in a sea of colour.
Our adult selves, thin as spindles,
watch from behind netted curtains,
holding each other as the houses
slowly move towards an ocean
of someone else’s making, bodiesquivering like fish desperate for water.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
“I gave my kid AIDS,” Mike says. Sitting alone in his pick-up outside the health clinic, he says, “Not even born yet and I killed it.”
He looks at the creased photograph of Kaycee wedged beside the speedometer and twists his wedding ring around on his finger. He grips the steering wheel with both hands and the shaking moves up into his forearms. A few thick raindrops pop the windshield, leaving puckered shadows on his face that slide down in dark streaks.
Closing his eyes, he leans his head back and squeezes the wheel. He swallows over and over against the nausea in his throat.
Last night, Mike wasn’t sick. Not that he knew of. He’d have been hard pressed to tell you what HIV or AIDS even stood for. He knew people got it and that they died, but he never knew any of them. Those people, they were a world away, on the other side of CNN best he could tell. Last night, what Mike was, was thinking about his new job on Monday. He was thinking about the camping trip this weekend with the guys. Tossing and rolling, he draped his arm over his wife, who’d taken a home pregnancy test earlier in the week that came back positive.
He’d never even heard of antiretroviral therapy or CD4 cell depletion. PNAP or contact retracing.
With the rain starting to click faster on the hood, Mike looks in the seat at the yellow folder filled with information—contact numbers and Websites. Support groups and financial assistance forms. Fifteen minutes ago, he’d gotten the first lesson in a class that would last the rest of his life.
“Positive,” the health counselor told him, her eyes the wide type that say things without saying them. She’d said more, but what he heard loudest was that one word.
And she was going on about a drug treatment called HAART. About behavior modification. But this lady across the desk saying something about the prolonged suppression of viremia, she was wrong. He didn’t get tested for this. People who hear the things he was hearing, they got tested because they were worried. They suspected. He just needed blood work for his new job as cook at Azia’s Gourmet.
Mike smiled, closed one eye, and said, “My name is Michael Ahrens.” Leaning forward, angling his head to see the file, he said, “A-H-R-E-N-S. Ahrens.”
And this counselor, she kept staring at him, those wide eyes not blinking. Tiny vessels webbed pink over the whites. After a few seconds, his hands started to tremor.
Looking out the office window, through the half-drawn blinds, Mike could see his truck parked outside. See the camping gear piled in the seat—his sleeping bag. A duffel bag with a couple changes of clothes and a water cooler icing down a case of beer. Behind that, the road dipping and twisting out of town to where the campsite was. Storm clouds were sliding and clawing over each other.
“Mr. Ahrens,” the counselor said, “I need you to tell me about your wife.”
And Mike looked at her. His mouth went gummy, and he started swallowing in tiny bursts. His skin pricked and shifted. Lost connection with his insides.
He opened his mouth. His voice broke and the counselor looked down and blinked. “No,” he said, no breath. Chin twitching. “I’m Michael Ahrens.” He rubbed his face hard. “I can’t have AIDS—”
“You don’t have AIDS, Michael,” she said. “You’re HIV positive—”
“It’s wrong,” he said. His voice high, he said, “I want another test.” He said, “I don’t use needles.” His hands palmed out mime-style, he said, “I only had sex twice before Kaycee.”
And yes, he knows it only takes once, but he used protection.
And yes, he knows condoms aren’t a hundred percent, but Jesus….
The counselor, she said, “I know this is difficult.” Crossing hand over fist on the desk, she said, “But it’s important we find out where you contracted the virus.”
Contracted the virus, Mike repeats, almost laughing. His eyes quick-blinking and snapping around the room.
The counselor said, “Could Kaycee have been infected before?”
“Not possible,” he said. “I was her first.”
Soft and serious, her eyes fixed on him again, the counselor told him, if that’s the case, they should assume it was contracted through one of the previous partners. She said they’d have to be contacted and informed of the situation. “They could be spreading it unknowingly to others,” she said.
Bouncing his knee, Mike’s face started to hurt.
The counselor thumbed through his paperwork and said, “Says you don’t have children—”
And Mike slowly leaned back, mouth wide, eyes wider. He put his hands over his face and pushed hard. Thought: if you’re gonna cry, this is the place. Now’s the time. And he did.
The counselor dropped the folder back on the desk.
After a minute, his hands still covering his face, he finally caught his breath and his shoulders stopped twitching.
Outside his hands, the counselor said, “How far along is she?”
He bit down hard, his teeth rubbing, jaw popping. Two positives in one goddamn week. The best news followed by the worst. Watch your step, son, he could hear his father telling him, walking through a wheat field when Mike was a boy. He’d said the same thing when Mike got his first car. When he went to college. Whatever you do, just watch your step.
Opening his eyes, Mike could see his wedding ring, enough light catching it in the dark of his cupped hands. He slid them away. “Six weeks,” he said.
The counselor opened a yellow folder and placed a stack of pamphlets and papers inside. She told him he should be aware that HIV can be vertically transmitted. That, being so early in the pregnancy, a lot of mothers choose not to have the baby under these circumstances.
And she told him more.
As if he could really hear it.
Something about being required by law to inform his wife and previous partners. About PNAP and CNAP—Partner/Contact Notification Assistance Programs—as an alternate method of doing so. “If you’d rather not tell them yourself,” she said.
God closes one door, He opens a window to jump out of.
She talked about more treatments. About support groups. Before he left, she said, “Michael, we’re way beyond where we were fifteen years ago. It’s incurable, but it’s highly treatable.” Standing, handing him the yellow folder, she said, “I’ve seen people live healthy and happy lives for several years.” Her eyes bulging, she said, “HIV is not a death sentence.”
Mike took the folder and left, keeping his head down as he passed through the waiting room. She’s wrong, he thought, and everything she told him was just a fancy way of saying, “The End.”
Because it is a death sentence. A murderer gets the death penalty, he may sit on death row for ten years, but everyday’s a countdown to the chair.
Still sitting in his truck, the rain sweeping hard against the side of the door, Mike stares at the window of the office he’d been in. Wondering if that lady, her eyes wide and white and unblinking, was in there right now, telling someone else what she’d told him. That you’re living with this disease, not dying from it. He palms his throat and cups a hand to his mouth. Cracks the window, letting the rain slip through on his face.
It’s funny, but the moment you hear the news, you can feel it. The disease, you can actually feel it running through your veins.
Watch your step, his dad’s saying.
On the dashboard, his cell phone lights up and vibrates in a half-circle. The screen says SHAWN and Mike’s stomach cramps. He lets the ringing stop, and a couple seconds later, it buzzes again. “Hello,” he says, his fingers blurry.
On the other end, there’s loud voices and blaring music. “Mikey!” Shawn says. They’re at the campsite. They’re drinking.
“Yeah,” Mike says, but his voice shakes.
“Where you at?” Shawn says.
Mike says he’s on his way.
“You finished?” Shawn says, and another voice gets close to the phone and screams: “So’s your dick gonna fall off or what?” then pulls away, laughing.
Mike pulls the phone from his ear and puts a palm to his forehead.
He can feel a cough coming. He feels the fever and nausea.
He tries to fake a laugh.
On the other end, the guys are still laughing. “Your brother-in-law,” Shawn says. He says, “He says to get your ass down here and help us with this beer.”
Mike doesn’t answer. Hangs up and switches the phone off. His brother-in-law, Kris. His best friend since grade school and Kaycee’s older brother. Mike looks at the office window again and thinks about walking back in. Asking how you tell your best friend you killed his little sister. Will PCRAP handle that for you, or do you just go up and say, Sorry? Just: Oops!
He puts his finger to the window and traces a worm of rain down the glass. There’s no way to hide this. Some secrets closets can’t hold.
Starting the truck and throwing it into drive, he pulls onto the highway headed toward the camp, thinking about taking the wrong step and falling straight the fuck through.
Mike turns onto the dirt road leading back to the campsite. He sees the bonfire glow above the trees. He’s been killing beers the whole ride out, and twice he missed the turn. Thinking about Kaycee’s face, about the shock she’s in for, he drove five miles past each time. Somewhere along the way, it got dark and the rain stopped.
He lets the truck creep in low and turns the headlights off, in case he decides to turn around and run. Let the doctor’s handle it all. Just escape and pretend none of this ever happened.
Cut his losses.
Getting closer, he hears the muffled music and stops, throwing it into park. How do you do this? How do you go up and fake it, pretend you’re not dying right under the skin? How can you face them? Face Kris?
Mike and Kris, they go back. Summer camp and peewee football. Puberty and girls. And if there’s one thing about Kris, it’s that he always got the girls. In high school, he averaged more leg a week than Mike had dates in a semester.
But he’s never had an STD in his life. No scares. No knock-on-woods.
Now, Mike can just see it. When it all comes out, it’s what you’d expect, best friends or not. Bang a thousand girls and dodge the bullets, that’s fine. Sleep with two and get the wrong one, you’re a dirty piece of shit. And look what you’ve done to his sister. To her baby.
He balls his fist tight until his hand loses color. It starts to vibrate, and he slams it into the roof of the cab. He does it again and again, until his wrist buckles and jams. Until dust and chipped foam drop down into his hair and in the back of his shirt. He looks at his knuckles, the skin flaked and peeled back. Blood forms and pools up. Slides over the side.
There it is, he thinks. All mixed in. Get to know it like the back of your hand.
Mike wipes his hand on his pants and slides the yellow folder under the seat. He grabs a beer out of the ice cooler and kills it in a few swallows. Tossing the bottle out the window, he throws the truck in drive and pulls forward, around the trees toward the fire.
“Bout fucking time,” Shawn says, walking up with a couple of beers in each hand. His hair and clothes soaked, a large mound of mud caked around his feet, he says, “What’d you, get lost?”
Kris is holding a stick jabbed through a hot dog in the fire, turning it over every few seconds. Parked behind him, his new RV, the front door standing open. Music blares from somewhere inside.
Holding out a bottle, Shawn says, “Cerveza?” Mike gets out of the truck, bubbles it empty. Squinting, Shawn says, “What’d you do to your hand?” He reaches for it and Mike pulls away.
“Don’t,” he says.
Kris walks up in nothing but a pair of cut-off shorts. He’s choking a large bottle of vodka. Taking a drink, he looks back at the camper and says, “So bro, there she is.” He says, “You like?”
Mike nods and tries to smile.
Slurring, Kris says, “Well, mi casa su casa.” He takes another drink and says, “Unless you fuck mi casa up, then it’s su ass.” He throws an arm around Mike’s shoulders and says, “Glad you made it.”
Mike pulls away. Grabs his cooler and walks toward the camp, the guys following.
Kris’ stick is still in the fire, and when he picks it up the hot dog is crusty black and flaming. “Glad the chef’s here,” he says. “I’m hungrier than a motherfucker.”
Shawn sits by the fire while Kris gives Mike a tour of the camper. Mike doesn’t talk, keeping his bloody hand in his pocket.
Outside, Mike opens another beer, kills it, and Shawn says, “You came to goddamn drink.”
Mike sits down and hiccups. Inside, Kris spins the dial on the radio, finds “Take On Me” by Aha and comes out laughing. “Remember this shit?” he says, stumbling. Dancing. He squats beside Mike, singing the high-notes into his bottle.
Mike reaches out and takes the liquor from Kris. And he keeps drinking, taking large swigs of vodka. Chasing it with full beers in a couple swallows. He tries to picture the alcohol mixing with the virus in his blood. Two poisons in battle.
Lightning whitens a thick cloud, and thunder grumbles.
Kris and Shawn, they eat burnt marshmallows and drink and talk. Mike sits there, hands on his knees, head down, smiling and nodding whenever they look at him. Answering whenever they ask. Pretending to be there. To be alive.
Kris talks about this girl, Mitzi, he fucked three times last Saturday. How she sings Madonna songs when she comes. How she’d do anything, and he means anything, after a four-pack of wine coolers.
Shawn says he wants to fuck Keira Knightley and Asia Argento. He says, “Till my dick falls off.” He says, “And Jessica Alba, Jesus Christ!”
Kris says he’d fuck anyone in Hollywood. “Even Kathy Bates.”
Mike gags and belches. He says, “That all you guys talk about? Who you’d bang and how?” Taking a long shot of Vodka, it runs over the corners of his mouth in a frown. “Fuck’s sake,” he says.
Kris says, “Dude, the fuck’s wrong with you?” Laughing, Shawn says, “Old lady ain’t pregnant a week, already got your balls in vice grips.”
Mike looks at Shawn and thinks of slamming his fist into his face like he did the truck. He thinks about mixing a little blood with both of them, level the playing field. Then they can sit around and talk about fucking girls all night. See if that heightens the conversation.
Instead, he gets up and staggers to the camper bathroom. He washes his hands, red then pink in the sink, and cups water on his face. Looks at himself in the mirror. His eyes are mapped red with lines and he sucks his cheeks in. Like death’s supposed to look, he thinks.
He slips his cell phone out of his pocket, turns it on, and calls Kaycee. After a few rings, the voice mail picks up. It beeps and he says, “Hey. It’s me.” Still staring at himself in the mirror, he says, “Just calling to say I love you…”
His voice lowers and breaks. His chin tremors and his face goes tight.
Slurring, he says, “…I’m so sorry.” He says, “I swear I didn’t know.” He hangs up and turns the phone off again.
Going back out, he takes another shot. Then another.
And Shawn’s going to a party next Friday.
And Kris has another date.
They’re gonna do some fishing. They ought to buy a boat. They all should start a business, a restaurant.
Always talking. As if Mike could hear them.
Mike looks at Kris, bites until his jaw knots and pops, and takes a drink. Right now, he hates him. This lottery winner of life. This prick who walks through rainstorms missing Every. Single. Drop.
Mike looks away, thinks of Kaycee. Reading baby books and telling friends the good news. Getting wet when she’s not even in the storm.
Watching her steps while she’s being stepped on.
Thing is, he knew something like this would happen. Since he was a kid, he could see God pissing all over his life. Whether it was a loss of faith or a faith in loss, the world was just so goddamn predictable.
Staring at the flames, his eyes half-open, Mike says, “I got AIDS,” but it’s under his breath, and they don’t hear him. Rain begins to click on the camper roof and hiss in the fire, sending up mouse-tails of smoke.
And they should all take a road trip. Maybe Vegas or Miami. Just get away for a while. Do a little scuba diving. A little gambling. A little jet skiing.
Mike cocks the vodka bottle over his head and shatters it in the fire, the flames sounding like a box being stomped. The momentum sends him face-first to the muddy ground. And he starts to vomit.
Kris and Shawn jump back, saying, “The fuck?” Saying, “You’re acting like a dick.”
Mike’s stomach pushes hard up under his ribcage. It’s loud and violent, and he can’t get his breath. His eyes bubbled in tears, it keeps coming up. On another day, it’d be the alcohol. But now, he knows what it is.
And this is everyday.
He finishes. Coughs and spits. Shawn and Kris are standing over him, backlit by the fire into silhouettes. Trying to get up, he tips forward, his hand slipping through the vomit. It covers his fingers. His wedding ring.
The silhouettes reach down, trying to help Mike up, and with his forearm he shoves them back.
“No,” he says. “Get back, you stupid fucks.” He says, “Don’t touch it. You fucking stupid?” He gets to a knee, twists, and drops down on his ass and elbow.
Kris and Shawn, they look at each other, at Mike, writhing on the ground.
“Just don’t fucking touch it’s all!” Mike says, and his voice cracks. Starting to cry, he says, “You’re so fucking stupid! How could you be so stupid? How?” He lowers his head, puts his hand to his face, and screams, “How could you be so stupid?”
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Again, the telephone in the kitchen rang, and this time Rudge answered it in time. "Hello."
"Hello. This is Libby Mathabane. I don't know if you remember me or not but your sister introduced us at the Greek festival last spring."
"Oh, right," he lied.
"Anyway, what I called about is your pickup truck. I'm on my way to your cabin to claim it and I was wondering if you need my address to send me the title or is it inside the truck?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, lady," he said in bewilderment. "My truck isn't for sale."
"I know that. I understood you were giving it away."
"Come again?" he blurted.
"That's what you said in your ad."
"The one in the Courier this morning."
"I didn't place any ad there."
"Well, someone did," she said as she looked again at the "Open House" ad in the paper that she had circled with a red pen. "It says you have been forced to sell your cabin and all your possessions there, including the pickup, are free for the taking."
"That's preposterous. I'm not selling my cabin."
"Well, that's what it says."
"I can't believe it."
"If I were you, I'd get out there as soon as you can before everything's gone."
He did not reply, he was so stunned by what he had just been told by the woman.
"And I'd call the sheriff's office too."
"Yeah, I'll do that."
"Whoever did this to you ought to go to jail."
For a long moment, after hanging up the phone, Rudge just stared out the window as if in a trance then he grabbed his keys from the breakfast counter and rushed out the door to his car. Usually it took him a good forty-five minutes to drive to his cabin but he hoped he could make much better time this morning. He had to, he realized, or else scarcely anything would be left when he got there.
"Damn it!" he screamed, racing past a slow moving panel truck. "Damn it ... damn it ... damn it!"
He just could not believe this was really happening to him, thought he was caught up in some weird dream until one of his back tires clipped a curb and he bit the tip of his tongue. His mouth suddenly felt on fire. He wished he could stop to get a drink of water but he didn't have the time and pressed his foot down on the accelerator pedal.
About half a mile from his cabin, heading in the opposite direction, was a grungy station wagon with a mattress strapped across the roof. Immediately he wondered if it belonged to him but knew there was no way of telling so he kept on driving. When he got to his place he saw several cars parked outside of it and a man and a woman coming out the front door, their arms stacked with dishes and lamps and silverware.
"You can't take those things!" he shouted as he stormed out of his car. "They're mine!"
The couple ignored him and continued on to their SUV.
Quickly they put the items inside the trunk then turned and headed back to the cabin.
"This is my property and I want you to leave now!" he screamed, striding after them.
Another guy, breathing heavily, then staggered out the front door, cradling a coffee table in his bulging arms.
"What the hell do you think you"re doing?" he demanded.
The guy, puzzled, stared at him but did not say a word.
"This is my house. You can't come in here and take my things."
"The ad in the paper said I can," he snorted, staggering past the incredulous Rudge.
"It's not my ad," he snapped, grabbing one of the table legs. "Now put this back where you found it."
"The hell I will. The ad said whatever is here is free for whoever wants it and I want this table."
Rudge, seething, struggled to pull the table out of the guy's arms but it wouldn't budge despite how hard he pulled. Then, all of a sudden, the guy let go of it and spun around and clipped him across the side of the head with the back of his hand. He went down at once, groaning in pain, and the guy then picked up the table. He reached out for it again but the guy kicked away his hand.
"You want something you get it yourself, buddy. You don't take what I've got."
Dozens of people were still rummaging through the cabin, despite Rudge's frantic demands that they leave, when a deputy from the sheriff's office pulled up in his cruiser a little after nine o'clock. At once, Rudge introduced himself as the owner of the property, and though he didn't have his deed with him, he did have a photograph of himself standing in front of the cabin with two of his nephews last winter. He also told him he was the one who called his office for help. Deputy Bolton wasn't sure whether to believe him but decided not to allow anyone to remove anymore items from the cabin until someone with more authority could examine the deed. A few people protested his decision, showing the "Open House" ad to him, but all complied with it if somewhat reluctantly.
"So how do you figure something like this could have happened?" the deputy wondered as he wound a spool of security tape around the cabin.
"I've no idea. All I know is, I sure as hell didn't invite people to come here and take whatever they damn well please."
"You figure this was some kind of prank?"
"I just don't know."
"If it was, it was a mean one all right," he said, continuing to string the tape. "They clean you out pretty good?"
"I haven't had a chance to figure out what all was taken, but I suspect it's a fair amount," he said disconsolately. "I just can't believe no one would stop after I told them who I was and what they were doing was stealing."
Turning his head aside, the deputy spit out a stream of tobacco juice. "If folks think they can get something for nothing, they're going to take it even if they don't need it."
Rudge, devastated, stared blankly at an overturned lantern that the deputy had prevented some agitated woman from hauling away in her car.
"What you should do now, sir, is make as complete a list as you can of all the things that were taken from you. You never know, but we might be able to recover some of them. And you should also make a list of anyone you can think of who might be behind this."
"I can't believe anyone I know would've done this to me."
"Well, sir, you'd be surprised what so-called friends can do sometimes."
Though it took a while, Rudge was able to provide the sheriff's office with a fairly complete inventory of all the items taken from his cabin, but he had a hard time thinking of anyone who could have placed the "Open House" ad in the paper. Deputy Bolton was convinced that a hoax as malicious as this was done by someone Rudge knew in retaliation for something he did to the person.
"You cross some folks badly enough you're likely to be crossed yourself," the deputy told him just before he left the cabin.
Rudge was fifty-five years old so he had some strenuous relations with more than a few people in his life but he could not imagine he had offended any of them so gravely that they were willing to commit a crime to get back at him. As a result, when he gave Deputy Bolton the list of missing items, he did not include a list of possible suspects.
"You're sure you can't think of a single person who might have done this to you?"
"Not yet, but I'm still giving it some thought."
"Well, you keep thinking, sir, because I'm sure someone who knows you caused you all this grief."
He did come up with two possible suspects but he didn't mention them to the deputy because he thought he should speak with them before he got them involved in the investigation. One was an old flame, Charla Cummings, who became so furious when she discovered he was seeing someone else while he was living with her that she cut up half a dozen of his dress shirts and spread them across the hood of his car. Another possible suspect was a neighbor he had wrongly accused of stealing library books. He bought a couple of atlases from Crocker at a yard sale and noticed library stamps on them and notified the director of the local branch and, sure enough, the books were listed as missing. His neighbor, however, had proof that he purchased them from someone else so he apologized profusely for his mistake but Crocker never forgave him for accusing him of the crime.
The first one he telephoned was Charla, late one night after one too many beers. He had not spoken to her in a couple of months when she asked him to return the key to her apartment.
"Hello, kiddo. This is Harvey."
"What do you want?" she asked coolly.
"I called to see if you heard about what happened at my cabin over the weekend."
"Why do you think I'd be interested anymore in anything having to do with you, Harvey?"
Quickly he told her about the spurious newspaper ad and all the people who responded to it and took things from his place.
"So am I suppose to feel sorry for you? Is that why you called so you can have a shoulder to cry on?"
He took a deep breath. "No, not at all. I was just wondering if you might have left something in the cabin the last time you were there because, if you did, someone probably has it now."
"You must have me confused with some of your other lady friends because I was there only once, if you remember, and that was six or seven months ago."
"What you're really calling for is to find out if I'm the person who placed the ad," she said after a lengthy pause. "That's right, isn't it?"
"It did cross my mind."
"You bastard. You really think I'd risk going to jail to get back at you? If you do, you're wrong because I put you out of my thoughts a long time ago."
"I thought I should ask," he replied meekly.
"You did, did you? Well, as far as I'm concerned, you deserve every bad thing that happens to you. And, believe me, if I'd known about the ad, I would've been at your cabin taking everything I could get my hands on."
*Rudge had intended to call Crocker right after he spoke with Charla, but his conversation with her was so withering he decided to put it off until the following evening. Then he put it off to later in the week because he wasn't in the mood to listen to someone else denounce him. Curiously, the longer he took to call Crocker, the more people he thought of who had enough of a grudge against him to place the "Open House" ad. He was surprised. Only a few days ago he could not think of one person who might have done it now he had come up with several candidates. The thought of calling each of them mortified him yet he knew he had to unless he chose to give the names to Deputy Bolton to call. Then, of course, they would detest him more than ever he knew.
Before he got around to calling someone other than Charla, however, he was notified by the deputy early one morning that the people who perpetrated the hoax had been arrested in a neighboring county. A man and a woman were caught trying to sell three stolen bicycles, one of which belonged to Rudge, over the internet.
"It turns out they've placed ads like this before to cover up their theft. Their name is Rockove. You know them?"
"Well, I sure was wrong. I really thought the ad was placed by someone you knew because of something you had done. Revenge is the usual motive in pranks of this kind."
He sighed, cradling the telephone against his left shoulder. "I don't know anyone by the name of Rockove."
The deputy chuckled nervously. "If it's any consolation to you, it's nice to know that you haven't crossed anyone enough to cause them to pull a stunt like this against you."
He did not reply, wondering if that was really the case. He had rankled a lot more people than he had ever imagined until Deputy Bolton asked him to compile a list of possible suspects. He may not have committed crimes against them but he certainly had hurt them. Probably each one could have placed the bogus ad, might even place another one some day.
The deputy, before hanging up, said he hoped Rudge would be able to recover some of his possessions but now Rudge didn't much care if he recovered anything. Maybe he deserved what happened to him, just as Charla claimed.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Today we have a great story about the life of a young rapper by Nick Sansone. Engine engine number nine, on the NY transit line...
By Nick Sansone
In high school I had a friend who wanted to be a rapper. We were seniors, both of us still reasonably unacquainted with failure and therefore capable of pursuing our fantasies with conviction. PlayStation being my lone passion at the time, I hoped to be a video game designer.
My friend was good at what he did. In our junior year he won second place in the battle of the bands contest put on each Fall by area schools. He finished behind a four-person punk ensemble whose vocalist sang through his nose, and who (badly) incorporated the harmonica into the act, really stretching the limits of the term “punk music” in a very offensive fashion, at least to me. The following year my friend placed first. He beat out several other gifted musicians and about a dozen more tone-deaf dilettantes. For his victory he received a two-hundred dollar gift certificate to a music supply chain, which he used to buy the cheapest wireless microphone they had in stock, and then he pocketed the difference, spending the rest, as best as I could tell, on weed.
Rightly he felt encouraged by his success. He applied to several music colleges, most of them up north, with the vague idea that he would go there under the auspices of training for the trade of, say, a sound engineer, and instead wow his classmates with his lyrical prowess and become somehow famous. I thought this was a bad plan, but I kept it to myself. I had learned over the course of our friendship to let his schemes play out to their natural conclusions. (Around this same time I sent in applications to several two-year tech schools that offered degrees in video game design.)
Towards the end of senior year my friend turned eighteen, now old enough to compete in a freestyle contest held each Wednesday night at a club downtown. He entered several weeks in a row. Each Thursday morning in class I could tell how he fared the previous night; he was lethargic and gloomy, and he kept his head planted on his desk for most of first and second period.
Up until that time he called himself D-Light. He had performed under that name in the battle of the bands, and he sketched out elaborate logos in a composition book during fifth period geometry, using the public-school-property protractors to draw intricate and flawless lines. He said he was deciding which one he wanted to be on the cover of his first CD.
However, after his consecutive defeats, my friend thought he should change his name. During his matches, he told me, his opponents used it against him, calling him things like “Sunny D-Light” and “D-Slight” and “D-Light-in-the-loafers” (a withering line, he said, that his opponent managed to rhyme with chauffeur). He needed a handle less open to ridicule.
“How about ‘orange’?” I suggested at lunch one day, probably thinking about a glass of Sunny Delight. “That word doesn’t rhyme with anything.”
“What?” my friend said. He looked betrayed, as though he felt I didn’t understand, or care about, the seriousness of his dilemma. “How exactly could I use that word in my name and not have it sound completely stupid?”
I knew little about rap—in fact I still know little about it; ska and punk was always more my scene—but I did understand the importance of a persona. (The lead singer of The Dead Kennedys would not be nearly as memorable if his stage name wasn’t “Jello Biafra.”) I apologized. Then, trying to be supportive, I said: “I always liked your old name. It suits you.”
“Makes me sound like a pussy.”
We were both silent for a while.
“Nothing rhymes with ‘silver,’ either,” I said eventually. “Or ‘nostril.’”
The next several weeks my friend skipped the club competition. He deliberated a succession of aliases—all of which were better than my suggestions—and he practiced in front of his mirror, trying out new lines with each new name, noting his favorites in the same composition book that bore the endless incarnations of his fantasized album covers. And at school, during lunch, out by the benches in the courtyard, he tried out those lines on other kids who liked to perform for the attention of girls. Many of these kids were the same ones my friend whipped at the battle of the bands the past two years.
Shortly thereafter my friend and I got responses back from the colleges to which we had applied. I was rejected from my top schools because of poor math scores (I had yet to learn that algebra figured heavily into video game design, or technical design of any sort for that matter). I was, however, accepted into one program in digital arts that was run out of a local theme park, and the admissions adviser promised that my low scores would not be a huge hurdle because they taught remedial courses and provided tutorials to help me catch up. “Just make sure your tuition is paid,” the adviser had advised. My friend, he was more successful, but equally dissatisfied. He was offered a seventy-five percent scholarship to a university in the state capital, but was unanimously rejected from his top choices as well. I tried to console him. “It’s cold in the north east, anyways,” I said.
It was then that he told me he intended to go to New York. He assured me that that was where all the industry bigwigs were. Maybe he would try out for MTV or something. Normally I would have ignored his plans and waited for reality to sink in, but I found this to be a dangerously boneheaded move. “Does your mom know? Because I bet she’d smack you if she heard you were turning down free money.”
“I’m an adult,” he said. “Besides, I got a savings. I need to be where I can get exposure.”
The next time my friend entered the nightclub’s freestyle competition I had also turned eighteen. It was just after graduation; we were both preparing for after summer, me for the little technical school located at the theme park, and my friend for New York, where he had a cousin who would let him stay at his place until he got settled. In order to be encouraging, and with the half-formed idea I could talk him out of going up north, I accompanied him to the club. I could see he was nervous. He gestured wildly as he drove, and his voice quavered, his words piling up in miniature collisions as he spoke. Though, even had I been less deductive, I would have caught on to his nerves by the time he dry-heaved in an alley a block from the club.
“Every time I do that,” he said.
“You should stop.”
The bouncer stamped our hands with a big X so that the bartender would know not to serve us alcohol. He collected my ten-dollar cover charge (my friend got in for free since he was in the competition), and we went inside, walking towards the dazzling array of strobe and laser lights. The bass from the massive speakers compressed my chest and obliterated all other sounds. Women in skimpy outfits gyrated with each other on raised platforms. My friend went backstage, and I staked out a spot in a booth with a good view, of the stage not the platforms.
That night I smoked heavily from a pack of six-dollar cigarettes I purchased at the bar. I was excited to be old enough to do it in public without the fear of the police showing up and messing with me. My friend was in the third pair of first round competition, going against a man probably twice his age, a gigantic Puerto Rican who called himself Big Z; “like snooze, right?” my friend asked when the emcee pointed the microphone at him. The crowd oohed, Big Z scoffed, and the tightness in my stomach relented for the moment.
My friend went first, and, while I thought he performed masterfully, delivering several cutting shots about his opponent’s weight and speculated incapacity to view or reach his penis, Big Z, when it was his turn, mowed down my friend in a merciless assault of rhymed insults. I winced. The emcee solicited the audience for applause to determine the winner. It was not even close. I could hear my own voice above the polite applause from the others in the audience, and the lack of support soon cowed me into silence.
“You kicked ass tonight,” I said when he joined me in the booth after twenty or so minutes. I gave him a cigarette. “Fuck what these idiots think.” I swept my hand towards the people in the club.
“Thanks,” he said. His voice sounded small and broken. It was then I attributed his delay to crying. On stage the emcee was reintroducing the first-round winners before commencing with the second part of the competition. “I got stomped.”
“You have all summer to—” I said, then hesitated, unsure how to complete the thought.
“Not all summer,” he said. “I leave for New York in a couple of weeks.”
“You still plan on going?”
My friend was quiet.
We left the club before the final round, though Big Z made it in the top two, and I pointed this out to my friend in a misguided effort to cheer him up—no shame in being beaten by the best, or some such platitude.
“There’s always shame in being beaten,” he said.
We hung out together a few more times over the next couple of weeks, played some gratuitously violent video games and smoked weed. After that I didn’t hear from him, and I didn’t bother to call. I assumed he was in New York.
In August I started the two-year technical school and stayed enrolled just long enough that I was unable to get a refund when I dropped out, having discovered that design was all math, and way over my head. The following semester I matriculated to the local community college to see if I could find a career more suited to my skills, whatever those were.
A few months into my first semester at the community college I got a letter from my friend—an actual, physical one—and enclosed inside was a flier for his first show. He had scored an (unpaid) gig at some small venue as an opening act with a couple of people he had formed a group with. The return address was to his campus mailbox at the state university.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Today we have a poem from a first time contributor to any literary magazine, Matthew Amos, about someone who is not at their best.
Chris had asked her if he “should stay over”
She told him it upset her that he asked if he “should”
like he was obligated to
She was trying to lie as still as possible
every movement of her body she could feel herself shifting
between her legs
it made her shudder uncontrollably
to vomit out her organs
to heave and heave
until all of her insides came out
She felt tainted,
inside and out,
like a glass of water invaded by a few drops of black dye
the darkness twisting and spreading throughout her
its long fingers stretching to tickle her in a torturous sensuality
She sat up straight
kicked off her covers then curled her head into her knees
and wrapped her arms around her legs
She wanted to do something
anything but lie there in her bed, helpless
Sarah thought about turning on the tv, but didn’t
She grabbed her jeans out of their crumpled heap on the foot of her bed
covering her legs sheltered them for a second