On a dizzy-high Interstate ramp—elevated to clear two lower ramps lying far below, which, in the smoky Dusk looked special-effects-real, efficiently channeling traffic North and South like God’s working will—our sleek Sedan approached Mall steadily from West. With nothing above us but Up, we feared. The road banked steeply right. We steered into the crowded parking lot like an airplane landing from the most final of Finals. The Vehicle shuttered to a halt; our frequent nipples blanched ::: we had arrived ::: “Malls,” a brand new Mall! “Store” was confined to a low hill, a plateau-like wide space with lots of scoured grey dirt, sculpted tracks and other evidence of spent Energy. Discarded sandwich wrappers vied for space with fallen filthy nipple shields. My despicable Companion and I had sulked hours and needed now to spit.
My despicable Companion backed into a spot lubricated by the last undamaged, flickering lamp, leaning queerly Northward. Men and women milled about, idle, pouty-nippled, swaggering, like pre-programmed Potential awaiting plode. Children, oblivious to their surroundings, skipped and laughed and giggled and smiled and raced around screaming, tormenting with un-expended sweat, unconsciously deploring their nipple lack, endangering their chances for post-pubescent integration.
We emerged Vehicle glaring at each other over flaking, corrugated roof, our Cupid-bow lips moved agilely over noiseless words of contempt. Our slackened nipples said it all. We walked slowly around “Store” perimeter, casual like but alert, like alike studiously suspicious sentries.
It started the night when my friend Allie had a stand-up gig at a place called Go Laugh It Off. I tagged along because I had nothing better to do, and it was more of a bar than a comedy venue in that Go Laugh It Off made most of its revenue selling cheap wine to its lineup of comedians every night than by selling tickets to an audience. Anyway, there we were, comedians and their wayward friends, drunk after the show in the lobby, some of us passing joints, others sipping warm champagne, when it was decided that instead of bar-hopping we would stay right where we were. I thought this was a fine plan. I got in trouble when I mixed my drinking establishments.
A portable karaoke machine was sent for then, and I went in search of the restroom to see if my eyeliner was spilling my secrets already. On my way to the restroom, which was behind the stage, I passed a brooding, pierced type sitting stage right in a black beanie and full-blown Technicolor sleeves of images that belong better on murals than on both his arms. He was pounding a hand drum with his palm. His face was Zen and handsome. You know him already.
We’re in the kitchen, my friend and I,
finishing dinner, drinking wine.
She peels the label,
long messy shreds of paper,
wads it into little tiny clumps.
I take the bottle away,
ask again “What’s going on?”
Louder, like maybe she didn’t hear me
the first time. She runs her fingers
through her hair, barely there.
“It’s back,” she says.
I sit, stunned. Then hand her the bottle,
which makes us laugh.
And it feels good, this laughing.
One moment suspended,
a moon hovering above us.
I ask about chemo,
and she says, “No.”
I drove to the liquor store in the bright red Ford Ranger that I used for work, covered in all the dents and scrapes that I was responsible for. I wasn’t very good at my job, and given how torturous the experience had been when my father taught me how to drive, having already parted ways so many years before, the idea that I would now be working for him in a role that required precisely the skills that eluded me seemed the cruelest twist of the knife. As if I needed another chance, with every dent I inflicted, to make him ashamed of me, the son who could have been nothing but a failure to him. That to maintain my bohemian dreams, the price I would pay would be to see him staring at me not knowing if it were his glass eye or not. The same look he gave me when I saw him after my mother had told him that my wife and I had split, so long after it had happened.
“And it’s what—permanent?”
“I think so, yeah.”
It was the closest we had ever got to really talking about anything and my skin burned. How could I talk about it with him? How could I talk to him anymore than I could tell Danielle that I couldn’t have a baby with her?
“Just the Lion Red?” the man at the liquor store said.
1. Never let them see you bleed.
2. Everyone wants what they can’t have.
3. Sometimes the best way to get what you want is to ignore it.
4. No one wants to feel like they’ve lost something.
5. No matter what someone says, what they’re really saying is “Do you find me worthwhile?”
6. Women give as good as they get.
7. Nice people can be brushed aside, but someone will always sleep with an asshole.
8. Height, athleticism, beauty, intelligence, wit, humor, financial wealth, style, (etc.) are not mathematical formulas.
9. Flirting should always have an edge.
10. It will go to shit.
She led the boy to acquiesce to a break-up while standing in line for a motion picture. Which motion picture? The knowledge has flown. She remembers the boy as a curiosity, in the way that she might recall a well-meant gift. She remembers his face. Its hope. Its fleshiness. Had they quarreled?
Well it’s a bit odd to write this stuff rather than to talk to you about it, but if that’s what you’d rather then that’s what’s happening.
I talked to Emma about how things were while I was over there between us. She had a lot to say on the matter that I won’t repeat here, but she did push me to ask you one question. I’m going to ask it even though I feel like it is the same question that I’ve already asked, because I suppose in my mind at the moment it’s probably the most pertinent question that we – or at least I – have.
But before I do I’d like to say that in spite of everything, I had a good time when I saw you; I saw potential for our relationship to change and grow with better communication, and above all else I want to make this work with you. I understand if you don’t anymore and want to give up on us, but I hope that you will give us that chance to see if we can fix things, because after everything we’ve been through I feel like we at least owe it that – a proper, honest chance.
I wasn’t a picky eater as a child, so I’m not thrilled when Charlie comes over every other weekend and refuses to eat things I wish he would, like the eggplant parmesan I cooked tonight. It’s practically lasagna, right? He loves lasagna.
“I’ll fry you some turkey dogs if you at least try the cauliflower.”
His face twists in melodramatic horror. The kid could have acted for D.W. Griffith.
“Ghost broccoli? Gross!”
Kathryn finishes tossing the salad. We’ve only been seeing each other for six weeks, and this is her first time with my nine-year-old son. Kathryn’s wonderful, and I want her to feel the same about me. Parenting like a stand-up comic dealing with a heckler isn’t my best strategy.
She sets the tongs in the bowl and picks up her wine glass by the stem. I always notice how a person holds a wine glass. I don’t judge; I notice.
This is a list
of pieces from Ingrid,
whose head was found
toothless and bleeding
in a ditch in the shore,
by a rock near the sea.
by froth of the ocean.
A ring finger,
close to a clearing,
“She won’t stop referring to you as my roommate.”
Sandy adjusted her purple headband until it rested evenly upon her dusty, short-cropped hair. There was a long silence in the room as she scrutinized herself in the mirror and picked at a tiny piece of dry skin that hung from the tip of her nose. Mariah admired the shape of Sandy’s pea-sized nose and the way it pointed up at attention like a tiny soldier. It was one of the first things she noticed about her. “It’s as if we never even had the conversation,” said Sandy, who had stopped fidgeting. She looked herself over and sighed, as she often did in front of the mirror. “I shouldn’t have told her over the phone. I should have waited.”
Mariah watched Sandy helplessly, the way only a lover can watch her beloved when she’s been inundated with troubles that are out of her control. Sandy began to fiddle with the straps of her long dress. It was dark blue with a simple floral pattern. The ends of it danced around Sandy’s ankles as she moved. Mariah thought Sandy looked out of place in that dress. She was used to seeing her girlfriend lying on their couch in pajama pants and a t-shirt or out in the world in a collared shirt and a pair of slacks. Sandy liked to present herself to the world as a customary professional, with folded arms and a stern but genuine smile. Mariah decided to cherish the dress while she could. Although it looked foreign on Sandy’s body, it characterized innocence in her which Mariah had only become acquainted with after several months of sharing space with her, after the emotional barriers that Sandy had spent years surrounding herself with finally broke down and the two of them found themselves next to each other in bed.
Ross was the type of guy one hoped never to run into at the grocery store because of his big, fat mouth. Really, he was not that fat; instead I would have characterized him as tall and hefty, like the magnolia tree he cut down in his side yard, only without the possibility of blossom. Back then he was just my neighbor, father to twin teenagers Allison and Ralph, and the wood shop teacher at the local high school, which might have led you to believe he kept up his property by painting the shutters, polishing the porch railings, or building birdhouses complete with turrets, terraces, and a colonnade.
With the exception of the hand towels, Edith and Mark’s mom kept a neat house. Every Sunday, she’d crouch down and slide ratty bath towels around the just mopped wood floors, dewey and smelling of fresh pine. She’d scrape Mark’s salty and crusted remains from the corner behind the toilet with steel wool. Emptying the trash, she’d find the cigarette butts he tried burning us with wadded up in toilet paper.
It was a fine restaurant. It had two levels and a cellar which held over three thousand bottles of wine. It was dim and waiters brought flashlights with menus. An older man and a younger man talked across the small table from one another over a bottle of red wine. They were celebrating.
“I’m proud of you, son.”
“It went quick!”
“One week and you’ll be a graduate!”
The younger man was twenty-one years old. He had studied hard at university. He studied economics. He finished his thesis and the hard work was completed. He had pushed the boulder to the top of the pass and was watching it roll down the other side.
“Have some more wine,” the older man said as he poured the Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon first into the young man’s glass, and then into his own twisting his wrist at the end of the pour like any fine sommelier. They still had half a bottle. The older man was wearing a suit that he had worn to work that day. Grey houndstooth. He wore it casually as evening wear since he had taken the Ferragamo tie off and folded it in his front pocket over his heart.
Mickey Dykstra is an addict, not a murderer. The plan was never for old lady Duerson to die, or even to get hurt. She was supposed to be at the Senior Center food pantry collecting the weekly free groceries she could easily afford to buy herself. The last thing Mickey expected was for her to come home so early. No, not true—the last thing he expected was for a sweet, stupid grandma to not only have a .38, or whatever the hell it was, but to pull it from a kitchen drawer like it was a cheese grater and try to go Dirty Harry on his ass. If her reflexes weren’t ossified by fifty years of Pall Malls and Southern Comfort the slug might have torn through his throat instead of hers. But a pop of adrenaline at the sight of that gat flashed out his fist like some badass ninja’s. She shot herself and crumpled to the scabby linoleum, blood spurting from her carotid artery like some snuff money shot.
She lies in a heap beneath a grinning Garfield clock that’s four minutes fast.