Excerpts from Vol. 1, No. 2
September 14, 2013 Leave a comment
After a Sermon at the Church of Infinite Confusion (poem)
He has the blunt, hard knuckles of a streetfighter. Hairy in multiple ways, he wears a brown serviceman’s shirt with the name Cal embroidered across a patch on the left breast. He raises his fist at me.
“I’m gonna knock your teeth in, bud.”
Summer heat like hellfire swoons across the oil-soaked concrete of the service station, and relentless blasts of it roll over us in waves as we stand in front of the little clerk’s counter. It’s a backroad, backcountry, and Plummer’s Sup and Pump crouches in the shade of a fleshy green hill. I haven’t had water for hours. My mouth tastes like that grime-caked nickel Jason Crabtree found on the floor of the bus and dared me to lick when we were in fifth grade. Twenty years ago? Why can’t I remember how old I am?
No one had much of a problem with Crazy Dan. He kept mainly to himself. He lived in a tiny 80-year-old house next to an even smaller shack on a lot surrounded by walnut trees. No one knew exactly where he came from, who his parents were, or if he had always been crazy. He collected disability checks twice a month from the government—but physically he was fine. He looked as though he’d always been in his thirties; his hair and face he kept trimmed enough to not attract attention; he always wore a bright red windbreaker, no matter the weather. He drove a 2-stroke 50cc Honda motor scooter, even though no one else did anymore. Everyone talked about him and loved him as they would love the town drunk, but no one really knew much about him. The only other thing they really knew was that he filmed everything he could with a handheld camcorder— anything and everything, the most mundane things. No one could understand it—that’s why he was Crazy Dan.
He was in bed with his woman but he was awakened by something else some creature between him and his lover.
He could tell without opening his eyes that it was still dark but dawn was near.
He heard his woman snoring and he kept his eyes closed and rolled over to get back to sleep.
The creature rolled up against Woodchuck and threw out an only slightly muffled elbow.
Woodchuck winced and looked next to him but saw nothing only his woman’s stomach protruding.
His gaze seemed to wake her.
She turned toward him.
That’s right she said.
Woodchuck stood up in a field in the sun on a spring day.
By a tree at the end of a stone wall sat a human boy with his gun who might or might not have been a good shot.
Woodchuck remained still.
It would take some skill to hit the brown animal at such distance and the boy knew hunting safety knew not to risk a bad shot knew not to trust the safety switch on his gun that remained switched on to prevent accidental release.
The boy it was plain to see was bored.
He raised and aimed his gun and put it down again.
He looked up at clouds.
They always said of him at home that he walked around with his head in the sky.
She drove, not too fast, never over the speed limit but not too slowly either—the important thing was not to attract attention. She had the car radio on to the new album the Beatles had just put out, Revolver. The DJ was playing it all the way
through with interruptions for acne medication, shampoo and beer commercials. She would have liked to turn it up to help her stay awake, but if she did, he might wake up. In the backseat, the man was still sleeping, occasionally moaning or
cursing or grunting. It was better when he was asleep. Awake, he made her nervous.
No one ever knew why José Antonio came to La Cantina.
La Cantina was not its official name, it was just what the place was known for, the only cantina as far as a man could drive in one day.
José Antonio himself knew why he had come here. His work in the city had not been undistinguished or unrewarded, he had just tired of unnecessary words.
Yes, that was it. He was tired of the Tower of Babel. It had been time to rest his ears, his tongue, and so he had moved to a place where words were few and far between.
José Antonio had traveled as far as you could without leaving Mexico and arrived at a spot the frequent fliers on Aeromexico seldom saw: the US/Mexico border, a spot where what little crossing there was was usually done under cover of night.
Nicole Louise Reid
She appeared one morning from nothing. We looked at our boy, eating oatmeal in his chair. Tall for the booster’s four inches. Day was in his hair like glow, like fluff of weeds to blow. Our boy.
He looked at her, too. So we knew we were not drunk or stoned or made loopy with dreaming.
We said, “Hello” and moved nearer.
She was a baby. The light of morning showed just how bald she was. Nothing like our son. She wore a pink dress. The kind babies wore when one of us was a girl and had dolls and called them babies, bought them real Pampers and Gerber bottles to suck. It was soft pink with smocking across her chest. An appliquéd squirrel and tree, small at the hemline splayed out across her fat ankles.
The men lined up for their pictures before they died. It was an orderly, single-file queue snaking through the trench, no pushing or shoving, none of that childhood hokum, because, after all, they were Englishman. Each held a letter addressed to
his mum or sweetheart, brother or father, mostly commenting on the poorness of the weather or the morale of the men or even razzing the queer ways of the French, but they didn’t have any words for what was really going on. How could you remember all of this and put it down on paper? When their turn arrived, they handed the letter to me, the Yank, and I raised my camera, the indestructible Miss Constance, then fired. The pose never changed—head tilted a smidge left, eyes wide—the same picture over and over again like a broken projector. You went through that death line enough times it became rote. Still, if I could go back, if I could somehow re-enter the mind of my younger self, I’d have kept those photos,
every last one of them, and I’d have put them all together in a book without a title because no pithy phrase, no publisher’s cliché could sum up those stares.