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She Hates Numbers

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Lilies of the Field, a short story

illustration lilies of the field

Lilies of the Field, a short story

Harry: Boy With Car

In the picture, Harry leaned back on his car, his arms crossed over his chest, tautly, the muscles bulging underneath his white T-shirt. He wore sunglasses and his hair was blown back off his forehead, as if from great speed. The car was a ‘57 Chevrolet, bright blue, brand new. He’d just left his mother’s house to live with a girlfriend, not Joanna — he didn’t meet Joanna for another 10 years. For a long time, he subsisted off a series of dead-end jobs and girlfriends while masquerading as a college student. The women he lived with all had a few things in common: uneducated but bright, a love of dogs, and perky telephone voices. They leaned against him in the front seat when he drove fast and their hair whipped his forehead. He was confident in those days, nothing had ever broken him. He had not yet been given the gift of suffering.

Joanna: The Queen of Grief

Joanna, in a state of grief and intoxication, returning from her grandmother’s funeral, sat in an automatic photo booth in Atlanta, eyes closed, lips pursed, head tilted back, her skin glowing white, her face blurred, too high to be captured on film. She met Harry in the local airport when she got home. He was intoxicated also, and was leaving to report to the Marines. She gave him her address and phone number and one of the blurry photos. He kept the picture in his wallet and called her every day, collect, from boot camp. She lay awake all night thinking about him, reciting romantic poetry into a tape recorder, then sent him the tape. She was disappointed in love before, but only by herself. She was cold and polite while others were warm and fumbling. How did one love another, anyway? She was, at heart, a hermit, but too much of a coward to live as one. It made for a tumultuous love life.

If Wishes Were Fishes

Harry sat in profile on the edge of a riverbank, his hair dripping forward over his forehead, his shoulders hunched, wearing red bathing trunks, and his black boots lying on his crumpled clothing. He refused to look at the camera. A pale straw hat had fallen off his head and lay directly behind him. The day was bright and clear. He was home from the Marines after 8 weeks, having been excused on medical grounds. He phoned Joanna upon his return. He lived in his car until he moved in with her. Harry said he despised her money and wished she were penniless. Secretly, he realized it didn’t hurt that all the bills were paid regardless of what else was happening. He took to collecting glass paperweights, and Joanna bought one for him everywhere she went. Gradually, Harry started to acquire her taste in champagne.

Woman with Drugs

Joanna stood on a wolf skin rug over a floral Persian carpet, in front of a lace curtain. Her dress reached the floor, white, with puffed sleeves, taken in at the waist by a narrow belt with a small bow. She held a sprig of marijuana in her left hand. Her hair was dark red, her lips painted scarlet. Her skin was only slightly darker than her dress and the curtain. Flowers were scattered in front of her feet on the wolf-fur. Harry was behind the lens, mocking the Impressionists. He admitted to himself for the first time that he was glad Joanna had money, though he would still love her if she were penniless.   He was the opposite of a snob — he made Joanna feel guilty that her family had taken advantage of his by accumulating more than they’d needed. The shadow of her money hung over them like a disused, rotting gallows.

Drawing the Line

Harry and Joanna were dancing. He had his arm tightly about her waist. She wore a red hat and looked away from him, over her right shoulder at the ground. He asked her to marry him, and she refused. He kept asking, and in a year she got pregnant and said yes. She didn’t believe in abortion. He began to ask her to put some part of her assets in his name, for the child’s sake. She refused. He accused her of frivolous spending and waste. She took an extended trip across the country with the baby, leaving Harry at home to care for the dogs. While she was gone, he brought a prostitute home and lived with her for a week. The prostitute wore all of Joanna’s lingerie and jewelry, but Harry didn’t let her sleep in their bed. When Joanna returned, Harry had drunk half a bottle of whiskey and vomited on the kitchen floor.


Joanna stood in the yard wearing a blue silk windbreaker. It was bitter cold and windy. Her hair obscured her eyes. Both she and Harry felt like he was taking her picture for a “wanted” poster. The baby screamed while Harry took the photos. In the beginning, Harry had wanted Joanna to make him feel real, rooted, and loved, to have all the accoutrements of material wealth without having to actually acquire them himself. To acquire material wealth, oneself, was such a tiresome prospect. After all, thought Harry, Joanna did not have to acquire it herself, she got it from her family. Now he’d be satisfied if she paid him with a bit of kind attention. She waited patiently for him to commit adultery, not knowing about last year’s whore. Meanwhile, their life in bed had dwindled down to almost nothing. Partly due to his drinking, partly due to her disinterest.


Harry sat on a kitchen chair, elbows on his knees, and hands under his chin. He tried to look cute. Joanna pointed the camera at him and smiled, hoping to hide her inner revulsion. The problem was, they never fought about anything specific — they just fought. She wanted Harry to want her in a way better than the way in which she wanted him. A needier, nobler way of wanting — something that would take the whole heart, not just a sad, tacky corner of it, the way she felt wanting Harry occupied hers. Unfortunately, Harry didn’t seem capable of neediness and nobility, no more capable than she. How much money would Harry want, she wondered? She had an appointment with a lawyer in the morning. Joanna had been lonely when they met. If she expected comfort from Harry, she did not get it. It was too bad about the child, it was always too bad about that.


Filed under divorce, fiction, mama, marriage, relationships, short stories

The Elephant In The Room, an essay

illustration the elephant in the room

The Elephant In The Room, an essay

The American “Tea Party” is a radical, far-right organization which stands for nothing less than  rolling the evolution of contemporary civilization back by one, or two, or even three or four hundred years – back to a time when only rich, white, men governed society, and, preferably, rich, white, men governing that society in as “selective” a group as possible.  Monarchy – in extreme cases, even Feudalism — is, to Tea Partiers, the “good old days,” which they would like to see “restored.”  A potent ingredient to the Tea Party hallucination is “private enterprise,” a Holy Grail represented by entities like General Electric.  The United States of America is home to 13 of the 20 largest “transnational” corporations on the globe.  Multinational corporations are far more powerful than any prior tyrannical force in history.

Thus, the Tea Party explains, poor people are poor because they are stupid and/or lazy, and therefore “deserve” to be poor.  Rich people are rich because they are smart and/or hardworking, and therefore “deserve” to be rich.  The passage of inherited wealth from the elite class to its offspring must be protected because it is “deserved” by the offspring of such smart and/or hardworking people.  There is, of course, the mythology that every so often, one of the poor will find their way into the ranks of the rich, and one of the rich will find themselves thrown down into the ranks of the poor.

The history of the present multinational corporation is — much like the history of King George III of Great Britain (as observed by Thomas Jefferson) — “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having, in direct object, the establishment of an absolute tyranny[.]”  This is precisely the moment the United States of America has reached; will we, as a people, do the work of rebuilding our troubled, restless, suffering nation?  Will we stop our own decades-long moral, structural, and economic demolition at the hands of a regressive, elitist, antidemocratic, power elite?   Will we abdicate our own social responsibility and continue to allow “too big to fail” multinational corporations to do irrevocable harm to us and the rest of the human beings on this planet?  Will we become, in reality, merely the Corporate States of Amerka?

Mass cultural hypnosis and mass public disinformation is essential to root out the harmful weeds of “equality,” “democracy,” “fairness,” and “justice.”  Dumbing down the population by a few decades of underfunding public schools is a prerequisite to the suitability of hypnosis and disinformation; as is a very carefully planned, gradual, economic destruction of the unpredictable, possibly dangerous, middle classes (who often demand treatment inconvenient to the ruling elite, and unlike the lower “wage slave” classes, actually have some power with which to back up their demands).  It is important to deprive the middle classes of adequate education and economic security with such a gradual, gentle, patient hand that the tightening of that “hangman’s noose” goes unnoticed until it is secure and inescapable.

Most important, however, is the control of the one branch of American government which is practically impervious to democratic principles or controls:  the federal judiciary.  Since federal jurists are appointed for life, popular opinion and social movements have little to no effect on the judicial branch, unlike the executive and legislative branches, where at least the fiction of “responsibility to the electorate” must be maintained in order to perpetuate the critically important elements of mass cultural hypnosis and disinformation.

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Searching for Dreams in Little Havana, a short story/novel excerpt

illustration searching for dreams in little havana

Searching for Dreams in Little Havana, a short story

Karen knows it’s a bad sign when she sits wondering whether the man she’s crazy in love with is a liar, or a fool, or both. Fuck first, talk later, yes, that approach seems outdated, rather quaint. Impatience has always been her biggest problem. The way this one calls women bitches, it’s like a warning beacon, but she’s not listening because she already thinks she loves him.

Karen wants this man. Or rather, she wants something, and she is trying to figure out if it is him. She orders a latte made with chocolate milk, lights another cigarette. The waiter serving her is thin to the point of illness — his sharp elbows have worn holes in the sleeves of his chambray blouse. The waiter looks nothing like the man she thinks she wants. She wonders if the waiter wants anyone, right now.

“Can I get you anything else?” he, the waiter, asks.

“An audience with the Pope?” she says. “Eternal life, maybe?” She is only partly kidding. She has had her past lives examined under hypnosis. She remembers being locked in a tomb in France. She did not care for it.

The waiter laughs and shakes his head. He flees from her the way young waiters always flee from her — looking back over his shoulder, tossing his hair out of his eyes, knees trembling like a young mule deer’s.


Karen calls Edward, the man she thinks she wants, from her office. While the phone is ringing, her assistant comes to the doorway. She holds a sheaf of papers which Karen knows is the monthly billing.

“Go away,” Karen says to her, smiling. This is the way she talks to all her employees — imperious jokes, self-mocking but at the same time crushing and heavy with the power she refrains always from using.

“Hello,” says Edward.

“What are you doing?” Karen asks.

“Paying bills,” he says.

“Can I come over?”

“Right now?”

“I told you I was impatient. I’m tired of dictating.”

“I need to dust off,” he says. “Shower, change.”

“Twenty minutes?” she says.

“Make it forty,” he says.

Before she gets out of the office, her ex-husband calls. Donald is furious, he is always furious, it is the reason they are no longer married. Donald has forgotten how to have fun. Either he has forgotten, or he never knew. He is a very practical person, he runs a tidy house, a neat garden, a solid social life. Karen is no longer sure what drew her to him in the first place. She tries to remember, often when she lies down to sleep she thinks of what it was like to live with him — the predictable days, the fully planned weekends. He never kissed or bit her in the throes of passion, merely covered his face with his hands, as though trying to block her out. He never talks about religion, nor politics, nor his health.

“Where have you been?” her ex-husband says. “You missed Sara’s school open house. I tried calling you all day. Didn’t your secretary tell you?”

“I had an emergency to attend to,” she says. “One of my clients was stranded in Baltimore.”

“Well, there’s always a reason,” he says. “There’s always a reason for the way you neglect your personal life.”

“I guess that’s why you divorced me,” she says. Karen remembers the day she told him she didn’t want to stay married to him — he threw his shoes at her , but they landed in the kitchen sink, splattering her with soapy water. She can have no doubts.

She kept waiting for Donald to have an affair, so she wouldn’t have to. But he was lazy, he put aside passion and loveliness and focused only on money. He could make a lot of it, it was his best talent.


At thirty-five, Karen gets carded one last time for cigarettes, tells the clerk she’s really old, takes off her sunglasses to show him her crow’s feet. Later, her man Edward says with heat, oh, he wanted you. She laughs nervously. No man is able to endure her — it comes from how her father left, how he wanted to stab her when she was born, how her secret heart is looking for some man to make up for that, to endure every hateful thing she can say but never leave.

Most of her adult life has been spent sleeping, so when Karen develops insomnia, she assumes it’s her own fault, always having been a slugabed. She has the blues every day even before she gets up. Life is both too full and too empty to tolerate. Like a snake, she holds everything in fierce embrace, she has loved it all so much, it is dead. She has slept enough, she decides, she’ll make the best of these wakeful hours. She takes up needlepoint, cross-stitch, knitting and crochet, and soon her living room is filled with her creations. Still, she misses her dreams.

Karen goes to a shop in Little Havana, searching for some harmless herbal remedy, something almost, but not quite, a placebo. She’s a firm believer in the power of the mind over the body. Witchcraft is another thing entirely, so when the pale shop-woman draws back a beaded curtain and motions her in to the back room, which smells of burnt sugar, she hesitates. She takes in the woman’s hairy upper lip, her gold canine tooth, her precisely lined red lips, her sexy upper arms — decides it’s worth a try.

Hirsuteness notwithstanding, the pale woman is abnormally beautiful, the kind of beauty women admire and men find frightening — hard, pristine, with sharp angles everywhere. This lady’s nose is a work of art, of architecture, of poetry. All Karen wants is to close her eyes and dream of this moment, twist it into a candy fluff to sustain her through the miserable waking hours.

It’s her desperation, Karen guesses, which has aroused the shop-woman’s sixth sense, a sympathy so strong her pale hands shake as they hold the tangle of beads behind her. Karen blinks back tears, surprised. The bottle the woman chooses is purple, with a gold foil label. Imported from Cuba, it reads. Cuban witchcraft — Castro hasn’t killed every colonial superstition, evidently.

And the voice in Karen’s head says: do what you must, and break your heart down even farther, you haven’t touched the depths yet, of where I will take you. And you will weep for your own folly, and still not be satisfied. You ask for sleep. What can you live without most easily? What can you give up, forever?


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Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

illustration heavenly dances heavenly intimacies

Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

“Isn’t there any heaven where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves?”

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

How can I be “dead” to any of the men I once loved?  They are not “dead” to me.  Not even H.  How can I be “dead” to H.?  They — even H. — are each as alive as when I was with them; as alive as the first time they touched me, whether tentatively or with confidence; whether softly or roughly; whether with passion or mere lust.  It is shocking and appalling how H. lurched so radically to the right after 9/11.  He began that journey to the Tea-Party-Mad-Hatter-Neocon-Bill-Buckley-Wall-Street-Apologist-Fringe-Brainless-Faux-News-Right when Ronald Reagan was shot; I was with him the very night it happened.  We had a short affair, right then, because we started thinking the end of the world had arrived and we decided, like the crazy college students we were, to get married to celebrate our courage in the face of chaos!  I realized very early on (but still way too late!) I was embarrassed to be seen in public with him.  Did you ever start seeing, and marry someone whom you later realized you were embarrassed to be seen with?  Perhaps the person in question was “dorky,” “geeky,” dressed “badly,” or had questionable “taste.”  H. readily admits he was a “dork” in high school.  He was on the debate team; need I say more?  When you can’t bear to be seen in your lover’s/spouse’s/significant other’s/partner’s company, things usually don’t work out.

Still, I put in ten dutiful years, trying to make amends for my mistake in marrying H.  The second he started making the big bucks, he dumped me.  He left me for my best friend!  I guess I deserved it, not taking control of my own life & filing for divorce two weeks after we married.  And I guess I deserved how my ex-best-friend S. ruined me, as she subsequently did.  She was in charge of the whole group we had socialized with:  dictating how everyone in our “circle” should think, speak, act, or react.  H. was dead wrong about most everything, but, to his credit, he was dead right about her.  At the time I thought him merely woman-hating, but I see now, even though he did hate women, there was something more than simply being a “woman” he hated about her.  He was covering up the fact he loved her by pretending to hate her.  Now, I have no desire to see her, not ever again.  She is definitely “dead” to me.  Yes, I understand intellectually, a living death (call it shunning) can happen to anyone.

The upshot of all this boring history?  I’ve been waiting for something a long time.  I can’t blame anyone but myself for my unhappiness, not anymore.  There is something dispirited inside me, something empty, drained, and beaten — something sick, something tired, something that has surrendered.  I gave up, when?  When my first ex-husband arbitrarily said no to children, breaking his solemn vow.  When I realized I couldn’t find happiness outside myself — not with an old love, not with a new love, not with any of my subsequent husbands, my friends, my eventual children, or my family.  Yes, to casual acquaintances and virtual strangers I am “happy, happier than I’ve ever been.”  And it’s true!  I’ve never been this happy, this contented, in my life.  Yes, there are still problems.  My oldest son is still half the world away, fighting an endless war on behalf of my “country.”  My youngest son still has an ignorant, racist, rabidly conservative father.  I am getting old.  My face is melting.  My neck is turning into a wattle.  I am drooping.

Still, I cannot imagine any of them, the men I have loved or made love to, being dead to me the way my former best friend, S., is dead to me.  Yet that is how they must feel about me, the way I feel about her.  Wanting her removed from my memories.  Wanting never to have met her.  Not missing anything about her.  She wants to see me, I heard from a mutual friend I still speak to.  I don’t want to see her, or even see the mutual friend.  I don’t even want to get as close as that!  Because of reasons.  Top secret, NSA, DOD, CIA, FBI, SEC, IRS, FDLE, GPD, ACSO reasons!  No further comment!

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Disgusting “Dynasty Trust”

Dynasty trust

DISGUSTING!!!!!  Why do people think this way?  I condemn this trust to HELL!!!  In a handbasket!!!

“The Dynasty Trust is an excellent tax planning vehicle as it permanently removes significant assets and the future appreciation on those assets from the transfer tax system. If no one “owns” these assets in the future, they will not be part of anyone’s taxable estate. In addition, the Dynasty Trust is an excellent asset protection vehicle. With no owner’s of the assets, creditors cannot make successful claims against the assets in these trusts, allowing them to be preserved, even against liability claims against the trust’s beneficiaries.

The trust is initially created for “primary beneficiaries” who are the Grantor’s children. They are given a limited power of appointment over the trust property in favor of their descendants. If this power is not exercised, the trust property passes to the descendants of the Grantor’s children, and so on. The trustee has discretion to pay a beneficiary income and principal from the trust, but is under no obligation to distribute any property at any time.

The trust is sensitive to the possible generation-skipping tax issues that can arise in this type of trust. (Section 3.1B). The trustee is given broad investment discretion. (Sections 3.1A and 3.3)

Since the trust is intended to last a very long time, the initial trustee is not likely to outlive the trust. Circumstances unforeseen at the inception of the trust may very well occur. For these reasons, the trust (section 4.5) appoints a “trust protector” – a person or institution to serve as the trust’s “watchdog” over what may need to be changed, amended, removed, etc. as time goes on.

Article 10 is also worth noting. The Grantor should consider how he/she may want to define such basic terms as “spouse” and “child”, given the potential long-term of the trust and evolving issues of social change, genetic engineering, etc. One can consider a “traditional” definition here, or allowance of either present or possible future definitions to be included in the trust.


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a big fat A-hole

a big fat A-hole

leslie moreland gaines, “documentary filmmaker,” con man, artistic failure, hypocrite, and all around evil son of a bitch


April 24, 2014 · 11:16 am

hypocrisy in america

hypocrisy the american way

There is an interesting case which was argued in front of the Supremes on January 14th:  a Wyoming man is suing to prevent the Forest Service from building a rails-to-trails trail section, 28 miles in length, on his land.

The man’s parents were “granted” the land by the federal government in 1976, subject to the federal government’s previous grant of a right of way for a railroad, which in fact operated on the property from 1904 to 2003.

The man’s lawyers argue — so very poignantly! — that even money isn’t enough to compensate the man for his loss:  “Just compensation, however, is cold comfort for having to endure the disruption and inconvenience of having essentially a ‘linear park’ on one’s property:  [I]t appears beyond cavil that use of these easements for a recreational trail – for walking, hiking, biking, picnicking, Frisbee playing, with newly-added tarmac pavement, park benches, occasional billboards, and fences to enclose the trail way – is not the same use made by a railroad, involving tracks, depots, and the running of trains.”

In a newspaper interview, one of the lawyers calls the federal rails-to-trails program “a massive land grab.”  Hmmm.

Let me get this straight.  The land in question was granted to the family by the federal government, which had already granted a railroad company a right of way, which railroad tracks operated actively across the property for about 100 years.  Now the family doesn’t want the feds to make a rails-to-trails segment on their land.

So, there’s this “non-profit foundation” involved in the case.  RIGHT!  Nonprofit sounds good, right?  WRONG!

Their statement about their “tax-exempt” purpose states:  “NARPO is a non-profit, tax exempt foundation dedicated to principles that private property ownership must be maintained in the hands of citizens and not the government. NARPO’s major goal is to assist property owners in maintaining their complete land ownership and resisting government confiscation. We hope to keep you up to date on the latest court cases and federal and state law changes that effect the property rights of reversionary property owners to railroad rights-of-way.”

SO, when people were homesteaded property by the federal government, AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RESERVED RIGHTS OF WAY ACROSS THAT VERY SAME HOMESTEADED PROPERTY, THEIR DESCENDANTS, who profited and prospered by the federal government’s actions in “homesteading” property to their ancestors in order to “encourage the development of this nation,”  SHOULDN’T BE MADE TO HONOR THOSE RIGHTS OF WAY?  Oh, I see!  You got the land from your government, your government told you it was maintaining some rights over that land, but now, when the government wants to USE those rights, you don’t want to let it!

Oh, this seems legit.

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i wrote nancy pelosi the correct answer to the question about abortion

illustration nancy pelosiillustration kermit gosnell

Yet more hoopla (from the French, houp-là, interjection, first known use: 1877) for the radical, extremist right to mentally masturbate itself with (an activity also in the “news” the same extremists have so much fun ejaculating all over the rest of us normals): a reporter asked Nancy Pelosi, “What is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks and aborting her moments before birth?”

Nancy Pelosi answered: “You obviously have an agenda. You’re not interested in having an answer.”

This was her error, and unfortunately has added even more fuel to a fire that should never have started to begin with. We reasonable, normal people need to start taking every opportunity to throw the water of common sense and reason over this extremist conflagration. I believe she should have answered the question this way: “Legal abortion in this country is by definition a medical procedure; a standardized series of actions, carefully dictated by medical textbooks and undertaken in a sterile environment, resulting in the termination of a woman’s unwanted pregnancy. You may not like it, you may not approve of it, but the practice of medicine is solely between a doctor and a patient and that relationship is privileged under every legal tradition currently existing in the United States of America; outsiders to that doctor/patient relationship need not apply for admission; it will never be granted. What criminal Defendant Gosnell did is, by stark and obvious contrast, not a medical procedure in any way, shape or form; rather, it is a random, bizarre, and dangerous series of actions which are not found in any medical text ever written in the history of the medical profession. If you are too uneducated or too biased to be able to understand the vast gulf between safe, legal, medical abortion and Gosnell’s illegal, nonmedical, chaotic actions, you need to go back to school and retake all the journalism courses you obviously slept through; so for the sake of your beloved country, stop engaging in ridiculous sensationalism simply for the sake of gaining publicity, get off the merry-go-round of insanity you have been placed upon by the radical, extreme right, and please stop soiling the reputation of honest journalism, one of the noblest professions ever invented.”

“He started out as a good practice doctor but eventually just became a money-generating machine,” [one of the citizens sitting on Gosnell’s trial jury] said. Money is usually at the root of most illegal conduct. Money or mental illness, or both.

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made in heaven, a short story (originally published in exquisite corpse)

illustration made in heaven sheet

Made in Heaven

(originally published in Exquisite Corpse)


The Test

He believes in eugenics — his line was bred for sad brown eyes turned down on the outer corners.  He feels his Self slipping away, somehow.  The Self he was creating — he did it, he was tied to a woman, a woman who didn’t really want him, a woman who flailed at being tied to men like an unbroken yearling colt flails at the lead chain.  He fell in love with her watching her walk in the grass at the side of the road — bare arms, long brown dress, square brown handbag, pale white skin, waist-length brown hair.  He’d had ten cups of coffee pulling an all-nighter to teach his first medieval history class.  His role:  the nervous young professor.  He stopped to give her a ride — his first day on the job, he didn’t want to fail some test, by not stopping, and then she was just like some wild horse, he knew he had to marry her to keep the other predators at bay, they’d have chewed through her throat in a heartbeat.  He’d never seen eyes like hers.  Unattainable.  One morning, he woke up, he was married.

The Question

Sometimes he thought the way his wife acted in public was like doing a strip-tease inside the Dome of the Rock — asking for it; bad stuff going down out there, he said in his mind over and over whenever she started up, giving people looks of… what was it, exactly? Then one day, driving to work, dawn breaking, coffee clutched in hand, he watched a flock of birds pass by, bits of black looking like a school of fish coursing through the sky.  Landing on a new-mown field, the birds hopped among the grain stubble, picking up leavings.  His wife with her unsatisfiable longings was like that, a ballet too graceful to be endured.  How was he going to stay?  How was he going to leave?  He goes to the office and tries not to think about it, but it’s there every second, floating in the air in front of everything he tries to focus on, like text on an invisible TelePrompTer.  It wouldn’t matter — his wife could run off with the car, all the money, his heart — still he’d never stop asking her to come back.

The Wish

His newly-adopted hometown was full of squares and smiles:  people walking by, talking and laughing to the air.  For years, his wife had this best friend who always thought she, the friend, was dying.  Sometimes his wife got irritated with her best friend’s fear and wished the woman would get it over with already.  She’d been dying for over 10 years now.  Except one time, after his wife hung up on her friend disgusted by her seeming hypochondria, the friend actually ended up in the hospital with a heart attack.  His wife told him God was teaching her not to make wishes.  That night, she sat nude in front of the closet-door mirror bawling like she’d just gotten a bad haircut.  Which she had, at her own hand.  Hacked her hair off with kitchen shears like an insane nun taking her final vows.

The Need

Long ago, his wife says, she lived in a warmer climate.  Her first love was a coconut palm, phallic and bristly.  Round brown fruits.  She scaled the tree again and again, could never make it all the way to the top.  She got a crush on every boy that talked to her that year.  She quit reading the Bible when she got to Job — after her own father lost his two sons in separate car accidents, he just lay down on the couch and died, for which she never forgave him.  Maybe it was the fact her father willed himself to die, left her on her own too young — maybe that, and the two dead brothers, made her feel like any man was better than none.

The Surprise

A spade is a spade.  Death and time are as big as the universe.  Even your wife’s dying friend can be deceptively spry, hale and affectionate; she can give bear hugs.  The dying friend can move to Lulu, Florida, after she gets out of the hospital for what she doesn’t know will be the last time.  The sky over her can be blood blue with thin white clouds like cobwebs.  A dying woman’s dentures can deteriorate — first a missing eyetooth, then going brown in front in weird streaks.  Evidence of her inner corruption.  Even a dying woman can be financially abusive.  His wife always handed over his money like Kleenex to people with pathetic sob stories; whether they were dying or not, she’d have bankrupted him if he allowed it.  Surprise!  His wife’s so-called dying friend can actually die.  His wife cried and cried, even though she told him only yesterday she was afraid her friend only wanted her money.

The Rule

Yet, that impulsive woman he married, she got pregnant the first night, the condom slipped off and was found wadded up next to her cervix — she baked and baked, after she lost that baby.  Even the day of the miscarriage, her favorite Dixie Lily flour was soft and cool and white on the table, her nimble hands unevenly pigmented, strong and capable, dusted with the white powder, holding a green-handled rolling pin.  She was like a horse trainer, she’d never hit you with her hands, only with something held in them, usually a hairbrush, the bristly side.  She wanted you to obey, but not to fear.

The Nudity

Die, black smile — his wife was like any ordinary woman you fall in love with on the side of the road, touching her own lips, feeling her own breath.  She was not comfortable with him.  She was not comfortable belonging to any man.  She lost another man’s baby the year before she married.  Now she is fighting depression off with a big stick.  In his favorite picture of her, his wife’s flesh looks so soft as to be eminently pierceable by the polar bear tusks in the head she’s leaning on.  Sometimes she’d cry hard and couldn’t get out of bed, other times she was just plain hard and he couldn’t get through to her heart — like she was compensating for the too-naked times, by not allowing touch.

The Drug

They vacationed incessantly — Omega at the desert — she wore a backless sundress, and all her spinal knobs were visible to the casual observer.  She was verging on plump when he met her, then she became lean, tireless and angular.  He doesn’t care either way — he knows she’s no good for him but he can’t give her up.  Maybe it’s that he’s never had lovemaking that good with anybody but her.  An hour in bed makes up for the days of misery trying to live with the rest of her.  He understands now how addicts can keep shooting up, even when they know it’s killing them.

The Problem

At a frown from him, at the slightest disappointment seen or unseen, she’d bolt; he wouldn’t see her for days.  Then he felt as hollow as an abandoned house, weathered gray clapboard siding, rusty tin roof, part of the roof gone so you see the rafters underneath.  He took long walks early in the morning trying not to think about her; he saw a rising flock of birds, confetti against gray-blue.  He was walking through flatness, brown plains, splashes of green, a dull sky, murky at the horizon.  A grain elevator through the mist, far-off, looks small like a toy.  Is he a toy, for her?  He buys a cup of coffee at Love’s Truck Stop on Fountain Rd.

The Fear

Her name, he sees it written everywhere — on a metal tower with guy wires, the upper half of the tower obscured by clouds.  He sees her name on maps, even at City Hall on a quick stop in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, for coffee and smokes.  Diana, the huntress — but she can’t bring herself to butcher her kills.  She leaves them to rot.  Or maybe she stores the carcasses in some psychic smokehouse, preserving them within herself for some imaginary future famine.  As if she’ll ever be alone, as if she’ll ever lose her gift for making others feel sorry for her, sorry enough that they pick her up hitchhiking and end up married.

The Disease

Heat and a white smile — he visited another sick friend, imagining making love to Diana in a hospital bed.  What would it be like, to care for her until death?  Would it make him forgive her at last?  Would she be able to forgive herself?  Diamond logic cuts through psychological scar tissue, removing old growths, old infections, but then comes pain, bleeding, and the collapse of drained and emptied dreams.  When he aches for her, but in the same moment rejoices in her absence, assault-eating seems like his only option.  He sits in front of the sports games on TV, bags of snacks next to him.  The cat sleeps on his feet.  It doesn’t matter who is playing, he always roots for the underdog.

The Conundrum

Before she came back after their first separation, he decided that the flat glare of the sun loved him more than any woman he’d ever known — he wasn’t even surprised when he read in the newspaper how two thugs beat a gay college student, tied him to a fence and left him for dead.  She is ill, mentally, spiritually; he knows this but something equally twisted in him needs to be around that illness, in order to feel himself healthy.  Who, then, is the worse off?

The Return

She came back to him over and over, and every time she was hard at her music again, trying to get perfect that rhythm only she could hear; practicing, pure mindless female energy — dressing up in fur and spangles, frothy material, fancy.  When she got like that, you could tell she wanted to persuade some mysterious Somebody to do a secret Something for her.  She wanted to tempt, to bewitch.  He let her practice her music on him, he took it into himself, her beauty, her nature, her vengeance.

The Desire

He had pity — she was piteous — her legs moving like a deer’s, then wrapped around his waist — thin, delicate, poised for fleeing.  Once she told him she loved to feel womanly, but the only way she could achieve that was to see herself as physically, mentally and spiritually complementary to whatever man she was with.  She could then mold herself to accommodate his subtle shape the way the space between her legs accommodated him, and the womanly experience came to her through that forming, that clinging.  Yin/yang, two halves of a sphere, with herself having structure only when against the man’s half.  And sooner or later, she always stopped assuming that complementary shape, as soon as she started seeing things in a man’s shape she didn’t want to cling to — what man doesn’t have weaknesses — and that left her feeling like a neutered being, not male, not female.  Barely alive.

The Change

A spade is to be pitied for having to bury a woman like her, he thought upon waking early one morning to stare at her sleeping face, drained of pain and fear, sweet as a baby’s — but the light was all wrong for this time of morning, damn that daylight savings time.  Change, he hated any kind of change.  She should stay in one place; there can be no love without commitment and full knowledge.  Yet even regarding her deep within the throes of her struggle, primed with the proper amount of pity, he felt their beauty together, as a couple, was almost equal to infinity — but then again, mating cockroaches could fly toward the light too.

The Ultimatum

One day when she said, “Let me out of the damned car, now,” he stopped, let her go — thought “finis.”  She ran toward an idle hay baler & mountains of mown hay in a field; after that, she ran through a field of milo.  Then came a sheet of rain.  While he waited for her to return, he picked handfuls of yellow flowers beside the brown stubble.  She was his ultimate fantasy — her hooded eyes, high cheekbones, firm jaw, and full lips.  Gleaming brown hair.  He said to her the next morning, grinning like a chimp, “I live for simple things now:  coffee and a cigarette in the morning, beer and a cigarette at night.  That’s my life.”

The Petition

Scent-paths are the most primal in the brain — one day he read about how, in the next state, a cyanide suicide’s body gave off fumes and made nine others ill.  His wife’s baby breath slowly turned into dragon breath.  A crazy tarot card reader told him seven was the optimal number for a point of view, whatever that meant — then during the month of July, his own mother walked the Great Wall of China, worrying about his pending divorce.

The Secret

Money could always make her come back — who was it that wrote, “Wealth is power?”  King Cotton.  After all, his family had bales of cotton the size of railroad cars, covered with blue or yellow plastic.  Chicken houses the size of football fields.  Tractor-trailer cars stacked with white chickens, still alive.  Numerous Arkansas mountain shanties.  On one particular tract of farmland, there was pampas grass and a rotting tin-roofed general store.  Not to mention abandoned buildings, too numerous to count.

The Charade

He felt his smiles turning into complex equations, numbers, letters, factors squared.  Also that July, his wife fell madly in love with Puerto Rican twins.  She sat in the college Spanish lab for hours, trying to acquire the accent of a native speaker.  Later, she asked him to take her in for an abortion.  Him, a male, like a wide column of stationary air before her warm front, her hurricane eye — she left him wishing he were a virile but tender auto mechanic instead of a college history teacher.

The Truth

Dig up the heart that was properly buried and leave it defenseless again — in a dream the next night, baby fists flailed against him, their full force like the blow of colliding with large bumblebees.  Heavy but miniature.  His wife, woozy with painkillers, crawled into bed beside him, woke him up, told him how in college a virgin boyfriend of hers, frustrated because she wouldn’t sleep with him, punched a brick wall, injuring his fist.  Crooked paths lead to God — his wife then told him how it was with the elder Puerto Rican twin, Emilio, that she first stayed awake all night long, so hungry, but then he pissed her off with his blond boyfriend:  using her as a cover so nobody would know he went both ways.

The Aftermath

The sun’s light always reminded him of diamonds — his favorite teacher once told him, “Don’t waste your gifts.”  He was too much in love with the teacher to ask what gifts she meant.  Now he thought he knew.  The sun ate his heart anyway, it didn’t care about his promises — he was bereft beyond bereft when his wife left him for the last time.  All his friends and acquaintances told him how he’d be better off.  He was, and yet he wasn’t.  Everything he has dreamt since then, since she was gone, was in black and white — he wanted to hear the white noises of the wind, he wanted to fly down the tunnels of green, he wanted the warm salt water to gently burn his eyes clean, he wanted all his enemies dead, he wanted the memories removed.

The Legacy

His wife loved white sheets — they made love that last time in a bed so white it looked like barely repressed violence.  In the center of all that pain, something brought them both rising smiles — together, they were convulsed by spasms of laughter, uncontrollable as an orgasm.  It seemed like laughing at a funeral — insane but maybe the sanest response of all.  She gave him one lasting gift, his black smile at infinity… infectious.  Even as he walked around, zombie-like, memories of the failed marriage ringing in his skull like aftershock of a car crash, total strangers started propositioning him out of the blue.  Male and female.

The Effort

The heart, it seems, can expand, then collapse, both to an infinite factor.  He noticed, one day at lunch downtown, lots of little people he’d never seen before.  Or maybe he saw before, but he didn’t notice.  Had she left him that ability as well?  Fat, strangely shaped people, people who looked mentally disabled, odd angles of eyebrow, odd expressions of puzzlement.  Then, he noticed a very pretty woman in a garden-print shift & orange straw hat, no makeup on except blood-red lipstick.  She could be his wife’s twin.  She ordered grilled turkey & Havarti with cucumbers.  Unlike his departed wife, she was apparently an effortless mother; her child was immaculate, dressed in hand-sewn clothes.  If she ever left her husband, the world outside might swallow her whole — but he’d do his best to convince her she had to — for both of them — at least try.


Filed under short stories