Dream Song

November 17, 2012 § 2 Comments

Can a person go insane from an earache and a few mad cats? What about LUST? I wish I had mouths all up and down my arms, so I could go out bare-armed like Paula Broadwell and have everyone run away in terror. Zombie Apocalypse it’s not, but enough for a Friday night. Though I couldn’t be any scarier than that ruffled dress Paula wore on Jon Stewart that made her look like Big Bird’s bridesmaid in mourning.

A friend said that in this era anyone having an affair, especially at that level, can’t use email or cell phones. But there are lots of ways they could have passed messages on the Internet, not even employing the fancy encryption/tech stuff. No, I won’t tell you. I may be involved with a CIA agent someday. I’d be the one asking about undetectable assassination methods, not what happened in fucking Bengazi.

Four people died! That’s what happened. John McCain should be serving soup to the even-more-elderly in an area nursing home, the sort of volunteer who never leaves and the staff say, after while, “We’re not really sure if he’s a patient here…but as long as we tape his mouth shut every morning, he’s fine.”

No comment on the gifts gaffe. I have Romnesia. I have a crush on Susan Rice, as well as my continuing crush on Chris Matthews. My husband is in love with his guitar. He doesn’t hear me when I speak. I don’t hear him when I’m reading. He’s an A plus husband, but we need to get out more. Sometimes, we’re too bored to eat.

I have stories I need to commit to paper, or its facsimile. Yet I hesitate. Writing my memoir, in the 1990s, I cried for two straight years. I’ve already put in my tears for this decade. I’m tired of feeling like a woman after a back-alley face-lift. I want some of those millions wasted on the election. “Will you give if you win the lottery?” asked the woman from the LGBT organization after I explained all my charity monies had gone to Sandy victims lately. “Absolutely,” I said. “Even if I win the $ 5,000 Better Homes and Gardens sweepstakes.”

I have a sparkling resume, for a writer. If you’re desperate, they’ll smell it on you, Lisa said. But I’m far from desperate. I didn’t end anyone and hack her body up and hide the pieces. I may talk too much. I apologized to my husband recently for my shitty mood and bad manners. He laughed darkly. “If you could get to me, you’d have been dead a long time ago…”

Murder is the lowest expression of imagination, although joking about it isn’t. Trolling for sweepstakes is the next lowest. The epistolary erotic novel is enjoying a renaissance. I want to laugh while I write.

Lola still attacks like a kamikaze fighter. Mouchette vanishes under the bed at the slightest excuse. Charles keeps me locked in the bedroom all day and night so Mouchette won’t be lonely, while he stays in the living room with Lola. Fitzroy goes back and forth as he pleases. He tests the water level in his bowl with his paw before drinking, contaminating it for everyone. The kitty litter is so close to my bed now, I can hear them peeing. It’s oddly intimate, like the sister who leaves the bathroom door open.

My new favorite poet

Dear Reader

You have forgotten it all.
You have forgotten your name,
where you lived, who you
loved, why.
I am simply
your nurse, terse and unlovely
I point to things
and remind you what they are:
chair, book, daughter, soup.

And when we are alone
I tell you what lies
in each direction: This way
is death, and this way, after
a longer walk, is death,
and that way is death but you
won’t see it
until it is right
in front of you.

Once after
your niece had been to visit you
and I said something about
how you must love her
or she must love you
or something useless like that,
you gripped my forearm
in your terrible swift hand
and said, she is
everything—you gave
me a shake—everything
to me.
And then you fell
back into the well. Deep
in the well of everything. And I
stand at the edge and call:
chair, book, daughter, soup.

–Rita Mae Reese

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Death Benefits 2: A Fictional Fraction

February 29, 2012 § 7 Comments

(For something completely different, check out my posts at wwword.com)

I was angry. He’d done it again, the fat bastard, gotten under my sensitive-girl skin. I didn’t tell anyone. I drank gin and smoked blunts, popped Christine’s cancers meds—he’d kept them after her death, tucked between the dog’s heartworm pills and the Viagra—and minced freeze-dried white mice in the Cuisinart. My cat Fitzroy had been feeling poorly since Charles’ territorial Lola had ripped off one ear and half his tail. (I have the ear. I’ve pressed it between the pages of The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath. Mouchette has the tail and she’s not giving it back.)

Then the woman next door told us about Pocahontas—everyone’s favorite neighborhood five-year-old, sent to her room for a nap and not seen again. Immediately I thought of snakes. I’d been reading about the African pythons in the Everglades, released as pets, breeding, destroying the native population of rabbits, foxes, even deer. The so-called experts said they were no threat to humans, but any fool knows that if one food source disappears, predators will seek another. Bears prowl towns in the Northwest, sometimes coming right into the kitchen, polishing off half a dozen cooling Thanksgiving pies. Why would you expect more discretion from a snake?

The police were out in force, as well as volunteer search teams made up of college-age surfer dudes and tiny Jewish widows, with the occasional adult male not yet on a sex-offender list. The cops had the whole amber alert thing going on, and salacious newscasters in the 95 IQ range gloated, tossing possibilities back and forth.  They dragged out the old stories, the Megans and Jessicas, mutilation and shallow graves, botched investigations. There was the usual speculation that the father had done it—whatever ‘it’ was—and his shamefaced alibi of being shacked up with the Norwegian nanny in a motel in Boca (the couple next door affirming that the squealing and smacking had gone on unabated for 14 hours, the man stumbling out only once to urinate, drunk, in the parking lot while mumbling incoherently on his Blackberry) only made certain elements more certain he was the culprit.

Poca was an only child, silver-blond and green-eyed, her parents recent transplants from California or New Jersey. The father bought distressed properties for an investment firm in Lithuania, rumored to be funded by the North Koreans. Poca’s mother didn’t work, at least not at anything anyone had ever heard of.

The little girl was fond of sneaking out of the house, cutting through the back yards of the rococo beachfront McMansions and playing by herself at the edge of the water. She liked the waves curling over her raspberry-painted toes and she collected shells and rocks, which her mother returned to the beach every night.  There were some who said they’d seen her mother slip out of her human skin and frolic in the waves as something else—they could never say what—but Poca’s mother had the kind of beauty that does things to the imagination. So nobody believed them but me.  I knew what she turned into, and I knew Poca hadn’t inherited the ability, although the next daughter would, the one the father kept squandering in the nanny due to his growing fear of his uncanny wife.

Even so, there was a contingent of women on the beach, deeply tanned, tough as boots, looking murderously at the ocean. They were discussing how long it would take to gather the whole wet mess and fling it back like a blanket, exposing all the crimes and bodies. I could have told them not to bother. Poca never went in the water by herself. She’d been knocked over by waves more than once. I’d seen her skirting the lacy froth, moving unerringly back and forth, letting it slither between her toes but never reach past her slim ankles. So Charles and I dug out the vintage cattle prod we’d bought at a local yard sale for $8 and went hunting African python.

First we fed the cats and warned them not to open the door, not to anyone. Lola was on the kitchen table pawing a pack of matches, Mouchette sleeping on my discarded bra, and Fitzroy in the bathroom, looking for answers.

We walked through the fragrant Florida night, all the outdoor lighting making the square lawns fluorescent green. The gay couple down the street still had Santa and his reindeer up, though it was the end of February. “My brother died on this date in 1965,” I said, and Charles squeezed my hand. “His face was gone. It was a boy named Richard Mischia who killed him.”

“Are you supposed to name names?” my husband murmured. “You promised this would be fiction.”

“I’ll do whatever I please. Everyone else does.”

We looked under bushes. We looked up the trees. I played my recording of pitiful animal noises. We looked in the parked cars.

“Let’s try the beach,” Charles said. “The ladies have gone home now.”

They were gone, but the moon was up, swaggeringly full in the Southern sky. “Fuck you, you evil bitch,” I shouted. “You never gave me anything I wanted, you promised everything and it was all lies!”

“Darling,” said Charles. “I love you in the moonlight. You look like a maidenly maenad, a sweet soul scorched to sorcery by a demon debutante’s wonky curling iron.”

“How come you never said things like that in the ‘90’s?”

“You weren’t writing my dialogue in the 90’s.”

“I did too write it. You just wouldn’t speak it.”

He sighed. “I feel sorry for a lot of things I did and didn’t do in the 90’s.”

“Well, I feel like I should have died before I was born! My insides are stuck on the outside!”

“You’re special that way. How would you write poetry otherwise?”

“I hate the whole world.”

“As you should, but we’ve got a problem here. Pocahontas…”

I knew. Pocahontas was human, but only just. Her father’s selfish genes had given her the potential for rapine and murder, the despoilment of the planet and wholesale corporate fraud. She had that as well as her mother’s connection to the Old Ones. This was serious business, and I was stupidly hung up on the last sarcastic email from a man whose pet name for me used to be Botticelli Girl, now morphed to Backstop.

It’s not difficult to find a murdering snake when you’re in touch with your own self-loathing. When you follow it faithfully—what a masochistic mutt I am, falling for the same old tricks; my gruesome empathy as Dr. Guss called it, my grubby, gimcrack, groveling heart—your inner GPS finds the hiding place of nightmare. For those whose mission it is seek out monsters, it’s considered a bankable talent.

The beach was empty but for the crabs strung out across the sand, waiting for the sea-turtle eggs to hatch. They made me so mad, but what sense did my outrage make? I’ve spent more time eating crustaceans than any of these small creatures had spent being alive. There’s a reason most beings have opted against big brains. All they do is make you want impossible things, like life without death and romance without dishonor.

The python was barely hidden in the grass at the crest of the dunes, lolling in the moonlight, body grotesquely swollen. It was patterned chocolate brown and harvest gold, two man-lengths long, plus some. Charles had the prod ready, but I stopped him.

“What if she’s still alive?”

“Inside a python?”

“Her mother is magic. She may have survived. Perhaps we should stun the snake and then slit open its belly.”

But the cattle prod was a wicked instrument, and we weren’t sure how to only stun. The man who sold it to us said he’d killed a dog with it, the neighbor’s dog that was chained up and barked all day long. “Got that little turd machine right in the balls. He rolled over and died sweet as could be. Made my whole weekend.” We stood in the grass debating. The moon poured her stolen light on the sleeping serpent whose middle part was stretched in the shape of a little girl, down to the barrette in her hair and the straps on her maryjanes. Finally we decided we couldn’t risk it, and Charles went off to get a hatchet.

I stood guard. Never had I regretted more throwing away my red gun, my haunted .22 with the whisky voice. When I’d tossed her off the bridge, she’d laughed, as only a ghost in a body of fatal metal can do. “Trying to be a good girl again?” she’d asked, refusing to sink until she’d had her say. “Caretaking, nice-making. You should have shot them and been done with it.”

But then I’d be in jail, I thought, and unable to rescue Pocahontas. That was the most important thing. The fate of Florida depended on it. So I watched and waited, and it seemed to me that the child inside the snake was shifting the way a person does as she begins to wake. “Hurry, Charles,” I whispered. “Hurry up before it’s too late.” I saw her eyes open; I saw her tears. You’ll say I couldn’t have—not under the skin of a python—but I once saw a fetus in a plastic bag inside the toe of a day trader’s python boot in the Spanish bar on 10th Street. I mean, I think I did. That was in October of ’08. The world was imploding.

I did, I did see the fetus, and I saw Poca’s tears. I saw her lips move.

Later, I found out Charles had been dragooned into a search team. Nobody had believed his story about a 13-foot snake stretched around the shape of a five-year-old girl. They’d gotten him in their SUV, then gunned it in the wrong direction, certain the child was being held captive in the low-rent part of town, if not by a black or Hispanic man, by some white-trash meth-snorting tattooed piece of puke on a stick.

I should have gone back myself for a hatchet, a knife, an ice pick. Charles had the beach key, but I could have gone through the backyards like Poca. I knew the way. Instead I sat through the interminable smug ecstasy of the moon intoning all the poetry lovesick idiots had written for her. “The moon, too, abuses her subjects / But in the daytime she is ridiculous,” I riposted.

She’s dead, said the night with a thousand sighs, and it’s true that Sylvia is dead, her voice stilled by oven gas and love gone wrong. Was Poca also dead, child named for the princess of the unspoiled wilderness, the one who was taken by the white men swarming ashore like serpents? She gave one a clutch of babies, that original Poca, each twist of her DNA an instrument of retribution.

The python had her eyes. It woke up and looked at me, and it was both snake and the woman the girl might have become, beautiful and blessed and brave, now wholly incorporated into the reptile evil. I thought about grabbing it by the tail and running into the sea. Poca’s mother’s people might have saved us then, but probably not. Even in Florida, the sea grows cold deep down.

The snake spoke to me for a long time with its yellow gaze, and when it was satisfied I understood slithered away, making show-offy  Mobius strip curves in the sand so nobody looking could say what had been there. What it told me, you won’t believe. Why is it always like this? So many will die.

The Death Panel

August 16, 2009 § Leave a comment

jwdiehlHawaiiHawaiian Cemetery, J.W. Diehl

Sit down, dear lady, sit down.

You have trouble sitting? How old are you?

That is very, very old.

You’re older than Nancy Pelosi! Doesn’t that make you feel old? Do you have many cats? A car that makes funny noises, but only you hear them? Do your grandchildren walk right through you at family functions, tangling up  your nerves like wet spaghetti?

I see. You’ve never had children, and you’re retired, no pets. You don’t drive. You wouldn’t need much in the grave now, would you? We can spare a blanket. They have pills so that you won’t notice when the dirt is piled on top. Only two, though, we need to save some for the other septuagenarians. 70 is the new 99! Yes, we can!

You don’t have to worry about your mortgage anymore, or all those jury duty notices you stuck in the kitchen drawer. The plots are free. Isn’t it something that a sprained ankle can get you so much? Used to be an ace bandage, five minutes with the doctor: now you get personal, red-carpet service and a gently used pine coffin! Complete with the latest issue of The New York Times! Some call us socialists, but we like to think we’re being neighborly. Soon you’ll have Internet access and cable.

You’d prefer to not to be connected after death? You don’t want to hear Keith and Rachel, dear little Anderson? You don’t want to tweet all your demented, frail, wobbly, healthcare-gobbling sexagenarian friends?

America needs more like you. Michelle and I are going to pray you get on the waiting list for Heaven. Every year, they take a few who haven’t been to Harvard, according to Rahm. No, I don’t know what happens to Jews after death. Nobody does, not even Jews. That’s why they’re so active all the time.

And yes—since you ask—it’s true Rahm said Satan has a Sarah Palin pinup calendar. But don’t make too much out of that. I think they’re actually going to put her in Limbo with all the unbaptized babies. Just for laughs, you know. God has a wicked sense of humor. Rahm told me—well, never mind. Goodnight, dear lady, goodnight, goodnight.

Bullet Fever

May 1, 2009 § Leave a comment


Tamas Dezso for The New York Times, Mangalista pigs

Do you think it would help if President Obama announced we have a pandemic in this country, killing thousands, including an inordinate number of children, that everyone is at risk, especially in crowded public places?

He could call it Bullet Fever.

The next time someone glares at you or your kid for sneezing without a hankie remind then it’s your 2nd amendment right. Disease has traditionally been a weapon of war, from besieged townsfolk catapulting corpses over the walls at the enemy to the Japanese carrying out (very successful) plague experiments in China during WWII to all the nefarious games going on today.

I think a sick kid falls under the definition of a well-armed militia as much as a psychotic college student with an assault rifle.

In fact, there’s no evidence at all that this flu wasn’t created in a U.S. lab to be used against…well, whomever, let’s decide that later… and escaped on the person of a Mexican janitor who was then righteously fired to cut costs, gave up on the American Dream, and went home.

But the important thing is we’re all entitled to our deadly diseases, and though you shouldn’t infect someone on purpose unless they sneeze first or are part of an invading enemy force, accidents happen.

A well-prepared individual purchases the flu in a sealed pouch with a spray nozzle, from a reputable dealer, and carries it along with his level 4 contamination mask whenever he ventures into dangerous territory: work, school, trains and buses, the mall and all fast food outlets.

It’s common courtesy to leave it at home when dining with the in-laws, important clients and the President.

Twitter me a Tweet, Boz

March 31, 2009 § Leave a comment

Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell walking up the High Street, Edinburgh, from a print by Thomas Rowlandson, 1786. "Mr Johnson and I walked Arm in Arm up the High Street to my House in James Court; it was a dusky night; I could not prevent his being assailed by the Evening effluvia of Edinburgh." As we marched along he grumbled in my ear "I smell you in the dark."

Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell walking up the High Street, Edinburgh, from a print by Thomas Rowlandson, 1786. "Mr Johnson and I walked Arm in Arm up the High Street to my House in James Court; it was a dusky night; I could not prevent his being assailed by the Evening effluvia of Edinburgh." As we marched along he grumbled in my ear "I smell you in the dark."

I read that celebrities are now hiring people to ghostwrite their twitter entries. I don’t mean ‘now hiring’ as in send in your resume. I’m sure they have the requisite flunkies on hand, or if they didn’t before the Times piece, they do now. Young assistant or actual freelance writer composes, publicist OKs, star is informed of what he/she said if it has any likelihood of ever being quoted, and all the little people realize that access to the real private lives of the famous is not in fact available at the click of a mouse. You still have to put the hours in. Stalking is not a lazy man’s art.

Social networks are for our own grubby networking (and fun, yes, that too) and I’m not expecting to network with movie stars or Barack Obama. I know I’m the perfect person to help him with the new book; he may be a fantastic writer but he’s kind of busy these days. I could bring that rare “I’m not a speechwriter” quality to the manuscript, but I doubt Twitter will land me an interview. Maybe if I saved one of his kids from drowning? Oh yeah, they already have people for that. And it’s too late to become a dog psychic. That’s the sort of business you have to start when people are itching to get rid of their cash and the dog won’t eat it.

The Times quoted 50 Cent’s twitter (something he actually said in an interview; his assistant plucked it for a tweet): “My ambition leads me through a tunnel that never ends.”

We could all use that sentiment, and that sentence, with a little tweaking.

“My sex addiction leads me through strange vaginas that never end.”

“My nostalgia leads me through a fictitious youth that never returns.”

“My mother-in-law leads me through a wilderness of stories that never discover their point though they do grow fainter when I leave the room.”

“My blogging leads me into digressions where I have to confess a lot more than I might otherwise in order to make the entry flow, so if I mention you and you don’t like it, send me a rewrite and I’ll consider it.”*

  • This is not a paid position.

I find I journalize too tediously. Let me try to abbreviate.

~James Boswell

I read the news today, oh boy…

March 10, 2009 § 1 Comment

Warthog. n.(wôrthôg, -hg) 1. A wild African hog with two tusks and warty excresences on its face. 2. A person who always eats the best bits. 3. Inspiration for name of school in famous children's story  (slang) Banker

Warthog. n.(wôrthôg, -hg) 1. A wild African hog with two protruding tusks and warty excrescences on its face. 2. A person who always eats the best bits. 3. Inspiration for name of school in famous children's story 4. (slang) Banker

From The New York Times, March 10, 2009, explaining the huge jump in the stock market this morning, “That hint of hope came in the form of a memorandum from the chief executive of Citigroup, Vikram S. Pandit, saying that the bank had turned a profit in the first two months of the year, and that its quarterly performance to date, before taxes and special items, was the best since the third quarter of 2007.

Mr. Pandit gave no indication of how much special items, like write-downs or credit losses, would be…”

Does anyone else feel the slightest twinge of mistrust? This nugget of questionable news made bank stocks rise in the double digits. A sweet profit for somebody. Think of the possibilities for a person with advance notice of this memo. Think of the temptation to write it.

Think of all the money people will lose when the market changes its mind tomorrow or Friday.

***

In its weekly grammar column, The Times castigates itself for its cornucopia of errors, having apparently decided this approach is cheaper than hiring more copyeditors. Today’s column concerned metaphor abuse, citing a sentence that contained this specimen “…a stew of programs, some with warts and all.”

I find that strangely evocative. Is it really an error? I’m sure I’ve had warts in my stew. Middle School cafeteria, maybe? Not that I’m complaining. Pretty soon we’ll look back on these days nostalgically. The few ancients will tell stories: “Once upon a time, children, you could still get warts. Real warts, served up hot in a stew. You can’t imagine how tasty they were: chewy, protein-rich, and no two exactly alike…

“But never mind; dirt’s good enough for us. We can live on dirt thanks to our genetic modifications derived from stem-cell research. Of all nations, America produced the most aborted fetuses in the early part of this century, giving us an unbeatable technological edge, and ending the old argument about whether sex is good for anything. It’s a shame we had to let it go.

“Now, children, what your older siblings told you that made you cry and have nightmares is in fact true—if a 2009-era person saw you, he’d crush you underfoot or spray you with nasty chemicals. But they were primitives, greedy, stupid and mindlessly destructive. They didn’t understand the elegant efficiency of the human-insect hybrid with built-in wifi capability, access to communal memory farms and daily upgrades. They didn’t even appreciate wart stew, for god’s sake; I used to have to tell my husband it was chipped beef. Beef? T bones on the grill, filet mignon with béarnaise? Forget about it. Eat your dirt.”

The Apparition of those Faces in the Crowd

February 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

facebook-blogIt appears that Facebook has let go its claim to own my stuff forever, even if I quit, but as I understand it, the corporation still owns it now. And, as has been pointed out, even if they ‘erase’ the file when I exit (Can I bear to? How much in life must I renounce? ), there will always be copies. A few months ago, I was irritated that none of my friends were posting status updates that were the slightest bit interesting—nor were they responding to mine—so I said, “Margaret is trying to figure out how to dispose of the body of the man she just killed.” I expected comment. Questions. Advice. Maybe even concern that it was my own body my ghost was tasked with cleaning up before it could join the party in Hell with all the cool suicided poets and how does a ghost do that? I haven’t the faintest idea. If I were in that situation of course I would ask my friends on Facebook. Nobody said a word. They weren’t amused; they had compelling real lives; whatever. I added more friends. In actuality, there was no body (my apartment is very small, and I’m completely sure of that) so it’s unlikely I’ll be framed for murder. But what if I’m nominated to a Cabinet post someday? Wouldn’t the murky circumstances around the ‘confession’ torpedo me instantly? But wait. I don’t want a Cabinet post. I’d be the first to swear that I am utterly unqualified, unless Obama decides we need a Secretary of Imaginary  Friends—in which case my murder rep would still be iffy, but I could probably explain it to House Republicans, who are well versed in creative lying, and who understand the need to do anything to get attention. They’d also be pleased that I’d require such a small budget. A token salary—100 k would do fine—and I’d create a portfolio of imaginary friends for any citizen who asked. The actual chat would be outsourced to Africa where for pennies an hour farmers, truckdrivers, unhappy wives and lonely young men would study the specs and write charming, nonsensical, and smart-assed notes on their complimentary cellphones; English speakers would be paid a bit better to translate. Update The Wall Street Journal reports some Christian parents are considering giving up Facebook for Lent! How can they do that?  These are people who used to think it was silly kid stuff but now check in 20 times a day. They’ll be so lonely.  The article says of one penitent, “She’s also joined an online quitting-Facebook-for-Lent support group. (Since the group is hosted on Facebook, none of the members — in theory, at least — will be logging on to comfort one another during their days of trial.)” Prayer won’t help these people. Not this year. Jesus, my angel sources tell me, was summoned by Obama for advice on the economic meltdown but Tim Geithner rejected his idea to raze the banks and re-institute barter. I think the discord upset the Stock Market, but it’s hard to tell what ails that delicate beast. It blowth where it listeth. These days our Savior is occupying himself being the ‘mutual friend’ linking Malia, Stevie Wonder, the goddess Athena (now reincarnated as a 13 year old Pakistani boy) and me. I have to say, the Son of God has access to some awesome video.

Petals on a Wet, Black Bough

—Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro”

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