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You cannot see these words. Or if you can, they are like heat waves on the straight flat Highway 15 to Freer, TX. Or like a pit of rattlesnakes, moving sand. So many rattles out of sight in sleeping bags, deep fat fryers, men's skin. These words move through the podunk towns in anticipation not of being seen, but of seeing. The Dairy Queens whirl by like deer blinds and the butterflies splatter earthy on the windshield. You imagine these words out in the sun too long, buying a rattle and eating it. You want to see these words? Here.
I am dead. In this picture I am sitting in a window sill four stories up watching the largest illuminated parade in the United States. I do not know whose picture it is. In my house I walk the large, saltillo tile floors in rubber soled slippers. In the sinister eyes of my daughter I am tyrannically aloof. I am buried in light. My daughter took this picture. I drink icy Pacifico by the cases, chilled in an enormous blue cooler with wheels. I am never quite dead. 100 words ago, I lost myself to the exacting science of loneliness.
Ye dun mussed up agen, he told her through his teeth. Betsy Dose cut his head off with the ceremonial ivory handled kukri she smuggled back from Lisne, Nepal near the front. I'm a Maoist guerilla, dickhead, she said. Ye cain't tawk te me thet way no mo. The bubbling head asked, Jest bury me with ma boots. I'll bury ye with one. And the other I'm gunna eat, as guerillas are wont to do. What's the cause, Betty? Yer the cause and I'm the effort. I am sorry I cut off yer head though. Don' mention it beautiful. Awwww.
La cucaracha has eaten my last pair of underwear. I'll find him and eat him in a taco of asbestos. Don't try to stop me, I bleed lime Jello, exude confidence.
I tried to stop him from bathing in my toilet by using the blue flush sanitizers. Now there are blue footprints (he wears a size 9 Nike) across my off-white carpet. I'm going to poison him.
Damn it if I'm not sick as hell. I must have gotten the cockroach dust too close to the A/C vent. I've been breathing it for days and vomiting blood. Lime Jello stains.
She always manages to laugh when they fight. Not even laugh, but cachinnate (that laugh, he believes, best reserved for a lively, alcoholic party or for the Three Stooges).
They fight about children again. She guffaws as he tries to convince her of their miracle.
They go from drooling to saying, Mama, he says, making a ball of his fist, enunciating. She chortles.
He knows she is not convinced, they have had this debate a hundred times. She's laughed a hundred times and he believes that the birth control pills are affecting her adversely and tells her so.
Cinco de Mayo
It's about Mayonnaise. It's about roasted corn and sun. It's about 50% of San Antonio beer intake being Bud Light. It's about my fiancé leaving me because 50% of my intake is Bud Light. At least drink some Shiner, she told me a day ago and now I'm drinking Tecate. Just to spite her. To spite me. Just to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
Then, a couple of weeks later I got sick. The flu, 24 hours. I dreamed about her. She was soaking in a bath of beer, none of what you would think and she drowned.
Pinche Güerro Takes a Dive.
After watching the Three Stooges decimate themselves, Pinche opened the door for a walk. Stepping off into the evening, he missed the first stair and busted his nose open on the sidewalk a foot below the door. Rising, his hands up to his nose, blood spraying from between his fingers when he coughed, Pinche tripped on the bottom stair and fell into the sanguine rose bushes. Immediately he entangled himself. His shirt ripped off while he slid through the brambles. As he reached into his pocket for his keys, he heard the neighbor’s doberman bark.
At the laundrymat again. My clothes divvied up across the entirety: three parts. I check them constantly to make sure that no one has stolen my wife-beaters or poured red dye into the machines (it doesn't matter which machine). Every time is the same: suds, white blur, swish, suds…
After I take in a pint with a few friends, a few pints, I take myself home and lose myself in a sauna of words. Words not as oppressive as I would have liked, but sweaty. I clean myself with my sandy tongue and crash into the brambles of sleep. Around.
She left me again. In this dark, dirty house. Again. It's not that she doesn't bring me food. It's not that I go hungry. It's just… (She opens the door. Hello.) She never
with anything. The smell, mildewed coffee, and the mass my daughter climbs over: bags of bones, brown paper towels, my diapers. Communion. A pair of dentures bit me last night and now I wait for dinner in a pile of worn toothbrushes. Light flashes when she comes in and when she leaves she has to slide down a mound of empty TV dinner containers. I disappear.
This dry spell—could be the television or this depression or the telephone ringing. Inane conversation.
This city electrified or dismissed simply by the bounce of a ball, a bad call.
It's not ever really about the birds and the bees, but about lockjaw and hemorrhoids, Socrates said.
WWII, toughman, PGA, Witchblade. Girls in bikinis and boxing gloves. Mist. Man Show. Army.
Wish there wasn't so much clarity here, so much white space.
My brother, he says finally, does not respect me. He doesn't understand the meaning of metonym.
But then again, Shaq says, Neither do I. I never do.
He and his wife of seven years, Gracie Hanneford, a solo horse riding act with the Gorman Brothers Circus, performed mad sexual acts in the house of mirrors (closed for renovations) at Coney Island one afternoon when the fairgrounds caught fire, burning the mirrors to liquid, making the recovery of their bodies difficult (someone knew they were there, had given them the keys), but the FDNY pulled the intertwined bodies of the circus freak and his wife of seven years from the smoldering mirror after which they appeared in a glass case at Coney Island when the circus came in.
I don't know, she said.
You don't know? He said. How could you not? We've been together now for three years.
I lost it about two weeks ago. She ran her hands through her hair and licked her bottom lip.
That recently? You've got to be kidding. We were good up until that recently? He paced from the bar and his Dos XX to the couch. The hard plastic heels of his slippers made tiny, almost inaudible clicks on the tile.
I must have just put it down for a minute and then forgotten where I put it, she said.
It's a day, he told her as he looked out the window distorted by rain, for doing nothing. For watching the boob and drinking beer.
She looked up from her book, her nipples hard in the cold morning air sweeping through the window he had cracked before the sun arose.
For watching a movie. For a complete passive work over. He turned from the window, the aqua wife-beater stretched tight along his stomach.
She didn't look up from her book in the muddy morning.
, the book cover said.
What do you say we patch things up?
I'm married soon. It's not the fibrillations of my deboned heart or acid influx that leaks up into my throat when I lay down wide-eyed at night so much as it is her oval and chiseled face.
Not so much that every dog has its day, but that every day has me flitting through it.
My feet are always hot.
I will live with her randomly and constantly, but the ceremony is revolting and punctilious. Ceremony always is.
The attention of doe-eyed onlookers, ahhhing, actually giving a shit makes my heart beat cold, stumble, for several hours I am dead.
He looked at her legs and then the Great Dane standing next to them and checked his mail.
Excuse me, she said.
He looked up continuing to shift the mail in his hand as if to look preoccupied, but instead looking robotic. He considered a proposition, the dog tucked safely in another room. Her amber skirt slipping off her hips and tangling around her breasts and neck.
The dog cocked its head and she raised an eyebrow.
Yes, he said. Shuffle shuffle.
Your pants. They're around your ankles. You imagine the breeze?
He said, No thought from the waist down.
Yesterday, only a single blank page amongst the other leaves to designate yesterday. Filmy beer along my skin, rising from my pores, befuddling my mind. I am the insistent phoenix that eats air. I am the salvation and I am the life. I am the light and the truth. I am hung over, my mind steel wool.
Yesterday, a blur of sleep and half-drunkenness without words. I am a dictionary for believers and nonbelievers. I rule the earth. My kidney throbs. My spirit is caught in an enormous baby-leaved oak. I dream of the ocean and all my mistakes.
"Is this the Radiology department," a piercing voice over the phone.
Why is it almost all young women who take medical classes about radiology? Is it that persistent need to see through people? Take them at less than they are? or more? Transparencies of bone and sinew. Or that super despotic power that they so desire, emotional x-ray? How many ways can you say no and mean it? Perhaps it is more violent, more passive aggressive. I shot a man's pelvis full of radiation at work today. He broke his hip, probably chasing after his secretary.
"No," I say.
During Shostakovich's Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 107, a string on Julie Albers', the visiting cellist's, cello snaps and hits her in the eye as, at that exact second, the Concertmaster chair violinist, Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio, stabs the Associate Concertmaster, Ertan Torgul, in the temple with her bow. The conductor, William Eddins, is not prepared, his arms poised, he brings his fist down into Allyson Dawkins', the principal viola player's, crown and sighs. The inconsolable silence is interrupted only by a stifled sneeze and a cough.
Gesundheit, someone says near the back of the theater.
The rope went slack. The conversation slacked. My dick slacked and she smacked me for the reference to my genitalia. Later that evening, she cut me some slack and let me watch the T.V. for a couple of hours before tying me back up in bed.
We went to watch a movie. She said if I made any noise, It would all be over for me. That's how I ended up in the closet. She's a piece of work. These words pounding away at my skull like ball bearings, trying to get into my ears. My mind went slack.
This upending feeling of impossibility. The late afternoon as forbidding as a woman's glare. And as lonely.
The slight angle of the sun elongating the light waves, making the tree canopies dark green, impenetrable.
My underwear is on backwards when I get to the grocery store, though I know I put them on the right way not an hour ago.
The bruised, but not broken evening yawns and stretches itself across windows and eyes. Insinuates itself in murder and rape.
Several hungover days ago I lost all sense. Not a lick left. My underwear is on backwards right now. Really.
He was winning the slot machine competition with only a few minutes left. The clicks of one-armed bandits, striped of all arms. Up easily several hundred dollars. The machine popping, binging, clicking, flashing, clanging (Hurrah, look at him go, he'll dry the place out). Each time: a row of homogenous fruit.
A voice from the people. His new wife parting the shimmering crowd. Against the ropes, Eddy, Eddy, look at this. She thrust her flip-flopped foot under the rope and spread her toes. Eddy thought two things at once, she's painted her toenails pink and they look like green beans.
He listened to the aquatic "The Shoes of the Fisherman's Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers" and thought of his father. Sniffle. But crying upon this scene, the music. Like cherry lipstick on a black and white photograph. A man at a table, silhouette against the fire sobbing or eating caldo de pescado after a good day with the sea. Through the window, the sun swallows the horizon and chokes on the evening. The father at the sullen table somehow wishing for more. "How Could You Do This to Me," washing the picture entirely away. Son, wife, father, story gone.
In the Vermillion Parish Public Library, the man with toilet paper in his ears, irate about biblical science, released an exaltation of larks from his overcoat. They flurried around the floor and landed on the book shelves. Their feathers ruffled in the swampy humidity and the building began to smell of bird shit.
This is a library, the librarian hissed.
All the better, the man said, for the airy thoughts of birds.
The birds' thoughts arouse in song creeping through the books, blanking the pages.
Get out, the librarian cried.
The man left with his exaltation and toilet paper.
She spent the time drinking instead of painting and instead of painting feeling guilty. But Blanca knew she was right in not caring so much as to make anyone else ask questions. In knowing that she would have her own work turned into the Shakespeare class (101 or 102). In knowing that she could always get fucked up. Who did they think she was?
I'm no fuck' ho, she said through the bedroom window.
Later, she came out and found Jacob on the porch swing and said, You all right? Mama's just crazy.
She ruffled his hair and went in.
They drove along streets named, Magnolia, Mistletoe, Mulberry, looking for apartments. A man ran out onto Huisache. They struck him going 20 mph.
Shit, Randy said foot on the brakes. What the hell are we going to do?
Sinkin-Amor opened her door and said, Let's make sure he's dead.
Randy glanced at the speedometer, then over at her. He leaned across the seat and said, You mean
Whatever, she said and bent down putting her fingers against the man's neck.
The front lawn of the wood trimmed A-frame German house from which the man had emerged remained flush.
Scatman's teeth hurt this morning. He rolled out of bed foggy headed and thought, I must have been eating some heavy shit last night. Bebopping to the bathroom to take a crap, he saw resting next to his bookcase, a big toe.
Some really heavy shit, Scat man said and picked up the toe for a closer look. The first thing he noticed was the hairlessness and after rolling it over between his fingers, that the prints were burned off.
Scatman considered the possibilities, scratched his head and inserted the lump of plastic into his ass, foregoing the morning crap.
Underwater love, he called her because she used blue lipstick. When they slept she gurgled. Gwendolyn had no nostrils.
Bill, on the other hand, had three nipples, one just under his armpit.
Gwendolyn and Bill ate at nice seafood restaurants, where he called her his underwater love.
Gwendolyn despised being called anything but Gwendolyn and told Bill this one night before they went to bed.
Bill slept that night and then next, but on the third he could not sleep, instead he listened to the quiet gurgling escaping the sheets.
At the zoo he fell asleep in the aquarium, blue.
Tossing out books like teeth. Sugary words. Romance. This being so tired an emotional exhaustion. All I can think to see are title pages, recto, verso, ISBN numbers and small print.
Behind my closed door the sleepy allure of the television. Even the syncopated rhythm of beeped out swear words lulling me. More soothing than the occasional burst of softly clicking keys: my fingers tossing out words like teeth. Bitter and brittle.
I hope that my bed will not disappoint. That I will see only the back of my eyelids blink and close.
My dreams tossed out, frail as syllables.
Once, before we kept track of time, a damselfly came across a sleeping Bottle Imp in his gravy-filled boat which floated down the river between the reedy banks and the needle like damselfly sewed the Bottle Imp's lips together before he awoke, but when he (Bottle Imps and their emotional impotence are always male) did awake, he cursed the damselfly with his fingers, damning it to fornicate forever in the shape of a heart, empty, hollow as the bottle in which the imps of the Bottle Imp order reside. Hence the silence of Bottle Imps and the embarrassment of Damselflies.
The Djinni revolt.
Djinnis, infamous for their fear of crossing water, were being smuggled wholesale from Mexico, across the Juarez/El Paso border. Someone on foot with an oil lamp in these times of violence and drugs? Pass. A semi-truck full of oil lamps is a different matter and when this one was stopped rubbing occurred and the instant a sleeve brushed up against a lamp out came the Djinni. The back of the semi filled with pastels and smoke. The border guards, INS, DEA thought thoughts fit only for heavily trafficked boarders which sent the Djinnis off one by one.
Flash. Chalk marks on the tile. Flash. The man finds in his bathtub a yellow rubber duck lined with grayish filth. Next to the duck, the last of the receding tub water. Reflected in the puddle, on the side of the duck, Frigate Brainville. Flash. The edge of the tub: a nickel-sized divot in the porcelain, over it a white triangle of plastic, the numbers cheap restaurants give out. On the sink, another plastic marker and a shotgun cartridge. Flash. Holes. Gray matter on the shower curtain.
The detective scratches her head with a pen and says, "Let's get started."
The Tip Jar