With a pinch of Lavender

Lightning Bugs

November 21, 2008
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When the child is filled with darkness, the lamps are too yellow, the couch is too brown, the carpet is dry and cracks under the child’s elbows. The sister of the child has her braids fraying in the middle. The knitting basket is full of sea mines, and the yellow glow of the ceiling light is puckered with the lightning bugs trapped inside for years. The turntable scratches over the warps. The piano in the corner bares its teeth, parted and widened, its feet hovering above the carpet. The layers of old wallpaper peer out where they meet the ceiling, whitecapped by putty and paint. The child’s skin is pink and raw from leaning against the carpet, and sings throbbing. The television is too loud, the colors jump at him. The child pulls himself on his elbows back towards the wall, away from the television and the piano. He inches towards the tiled bathroom, the tiles that are wet in the summer. His singing skin cooled, condensation on his hairs.

* * *

In the summer, the child’s family visits his cousins’ house, the one with the horses. The field out back is overgrown and full of horse droppings and blackberries. Paul and Dad pick blackberries and hand them to the child, and he fills his mouth and covers his face. He picks with both hands, ripe, overripe, green. Some leaves gum to his sticky fingers.

The grass is itchy against the child’s knees where his galoshes don’t meet his swim trunks. Dad tells Paul to look at something, and he holds out his hand and pops it in his mouth. Paul stares at the child as his eyes widen. Dad asks what the matter is, but Paul doesn’t open his mouth, can’t, won’t. He puffs out his cheeks and looks from the child to Dad, hoping they know what to do.

The slimy back of the frog touches the roof of his mouth, quietly waiting to be let go. The child could feel the little feet on his tongue. Dad laughs and tells Paul to spit. The little frog hops away quickly. He doesn’t stop spitting all the way home.

* * *

The child becomes used to being one of sleep’s discards. Tired of lying in bed, pretending the basement is not an ancient Native American burial ground, dug up so that the foundation could be poured. Pretending no one will grab him coming back from the bathroom to punish him for dishonoring their land. Pretending the waterfall into the window from that storm was just a freak of nature, and not a warning. The child turns a few lights on in the living room. The spiders, poisonous ones, crawl out from behind the television, and the thriller mystery novel Dad bought for plane rides has odd legs smooshed into unnatural positions on the back. The green goo from the big white spiders coats the wall and the book, like alien blood smear. The child doesn’t mind the little brown hairy ones, but the big white ones are unreasonable, always appearing in the middle of the day or the middle of the night.

At 1:30 am he has to kill two spiders. By three, there is another. The sticky trap behind the television is full of the hairy brown ones, most still twitching. He pretends that he is not living in a grave basement, and there are no angry spiders behind the television, in the laundry room, under the bookshelf, in the bathroom, under his bed with the hunter green comforter. Pretends there aren’t spider leaders planning their attack while he sleeps. Pretends the sticky pads will hold them, and that angry and deformed spiders are not coming for him. The child wonders how mad the dead Indians are compared to the sticky spiders.

* * *

Sometimes in the summer, his friend’s family visits. Dad makes a fire in the pit near the apple trees. The child and his friend light sparklers, and catch lightening bugs, and sleep in the yard. He and his friend dig for clay and make mud pots to sell, and wash their arms in the stream. They put green felt hats on and shoot twig arrows from bows made of sticks and rubber bands. They are both Robin Hood, and pick up apples under the trees, and eat them next to the stream, in the shade. They bite ants, and suck out their insides. The red ones are salty, the black ones are sweet. They spit the empty bodies back onto the ant hill, and pour baking soda and vinegar on them. It’s an experiment. When Dad goes inside, they spray WD40 on bigger ant hills, and watch them writhe before lighting the grease on fire.

The friend and the child paint the lilac trees with mud, to protect them from the sun. The trees turn white, and when it rains, only one side stays muddy. When it is time to go, they tell the parents that they are stuck together, and need medical experiments to take them apart. The friend gives back the green cape, and they separate which mud pot was made by whom. They stick together as the friend gets into the car. He gives the friend a collectable card that will be worth a lot if he keeps it in its sleeve. The car is on the road, and in the driveway the child finds the plastic eggs they caught the fireflies in that rattle like rice when he picks them up.

* * *

Just because he finds something, doesn’t make it his. Dad found the cat under his truck, the cat stayed with them for a year, and then the cat was gone. He still finds orange hairs everywhere even though they moved away. The cat had kittens once, when they thought the cat was a boy. Dad gave the kittens to a man who had a farm. Sometimes Dad hears crazy stories about the kittens, how they killed a wild hare together, or scare the horses. The cat’s probably hiding under someone else’s truck, or part of some orange owl coughings, like the ones the child had to dissect in third grade when he found a shrew skull. That wasn’t his either – it was the shrew’s, and then the owl borrowed it, and then he found it. He wanted to take it home with him, but it wasn’t his to keep, and Mrs. Greene said he had to leave it with the rest of the owl coughings on the paper towels – the brown ones that never got his hands dry – public school towels.

* * *

The child develops a coping mechanism called “the desert lizard” wherein he blends in with the environment until attacked, and leaves a piece of him behind for escape. Desert lizards are the same color as desert rocks and stay very still. They blink sometimes, but they become part of the rock. If a bird can see them, the lizard gets ready to run, but lets go of its tail if that means not being eaten. He lets go of his argument if someone gets mad, and smiles and pretends he never cared about anything. If the bird gets the tail, it leaves the lizard alone. When he gives them a concession, they leave him alone until the next time they get hungry for his surrender. They swallow his defeat like a tail, and break it down, making it part of them, adding it to all the other conceded arguments they’ve won, building themselves into a desert bird out of his lizard tails.

After a few arguments, their nose forms into a hooked beak and the feathers sprout out of their forearms. Their brow becomes a V, their mouth points downward, their bones hollow, and their toes become scaly and crooked. Soon, instead of yelling, they screech so that it can echo in canyons, off of the rocks he blends into, and up to the sun they can’t fly to. The child’s tail has no time to grow back, and they peck at his oozing stump, until they swallow him whole, his padded fingers sticking to the side of their beak. And they fly home, taking him with them to feed to their hook beaked chicks on the side of a canyon, in a nest built of the rocks he now hides under.

* * *

In the house the child used to live in, there were streams and a pond that filled itself in. He puts a plank over the stream, and calls it a bridge, and covers it with mud, so it is stronger. A piece of drift wood is his oar, and his fishing spear. He pretends there are fish in the stream, and brings home minnows he caught in the ocean, and puts them in the pond, so they can grow big. The pond will be full of fish, and he and Dad can catch them in their backyard. The minnows disappear under last years’ leaves. The child uses his driftwood to clear out the leaves, making the pond harder to see through. The minnows try to jump out of the pond, their silver sides through the murk. The fish, pushed back into the pond, stick their heads out of the brown water. He picks one up, sucking for air, and pokes its gills, covered in the mud. His dirty finger tries to squeeze some of the mud out, rinses the minnow off. He puts the minnow back into the pond, with its family; he figures swimming with their heads out of the water is a way of getting to know each other. He can hear it when their little lips smack together as they talk to each other. They turn brown as they smack their tails on the water, turning sideways, trying to unclog their gills. The child stirs the water, and they hide under the leaves, and know they are hibernating for next spring.

* * *

The child lives in a lighthouse seven miles outside the city. He reads a story about a little girl who lived in a lighthouse and wanted a garden, but it was so rocky, nothing would grow. So every spring she would buy new soil for her garden that would wash away in the winter swells. He wonders if he could plant a garden here, rocky on the cliff over the ocean. He decides to start with some window boxes.

Every night, in his lighthouse, he goes upstairs – he calls it the crow’s nest – to light the lamp. Tiny swallows live up there, but at night they sleep. The child wonders if swallows could cast bird shadows on the fall clouds outside if they woke up. He sits downstairs looking at the clouds for bird shadows. Dad goes into the city for oil for the lamp to refill the reservoir. He goes to a maritime shop, but sometimes they don’t have oil, so he has to buy it in a candle store. It doesn’t have the smoke or the smell. The child wonders how they get the oil out of the goose. He could have some geese, and squeeze the oil out of them like row from a fish, all pink and full of miniature clear globes that break under a fingernail with the tiniest pop.

* * *

The child brings food under the trees, and climbs into their branches. He pees around his fort, so the wolves will know it’s his. There are wolves in the woods, even if Dad says they’re deer, he hears them sometimes. The wolves know the fort is his, and stay in the woods, but he can hear them running on the brown pine needles and old twigs. They splash across the stream higher up. He hears them licking the water. He could catch one, and have it live with him in the fort. The wolf would be wild, but it would scare other things away from the fort.

The child wishes there was a willow tree, so he could swing from the vines, but there isn’t, so he ties ropes to the old apple trees. Sometimes he falls when the rope is wet. He puts metal bowls of fruit in the stream, and calls it a refrigerator. When it starts to rain, he pulls a tarp over a tree, and under a rock. He sits in the blue tarp, listening to the tapping. There is old glass in the leaves, and he hides it again. Sometimes he finds brown glass, but sometimes it’s green.

When he finds glass at the ocean, it’s smoother, and doesn’t have the raised letters. It’s frosty, and salty. At the ocean, he sits in warm tidal pools, and climbs the rocks, navigating the barnacles. Schools of tiny fish form a silver cloud, sprinting from his hands in odd directions until reforming their cloud. The child holds drift logs together for a raft, and paddles it out to where the cement docks end, and Dad tells him to come back.

He finds clusters of mussels and wants to take them home to cook, but can’t pry them from each other, pruning fingers tearing on the rims. Mussel shells become spades, and cups, and knives, and swords. His fingers bleed on razor clams. He banks the tidal pools with sand, the sand fleas hopping on his arms, tiny bites mixing with the itch of the salt water drying. He sits in the pools while Dad talks to the harbor master. Swimming alone is how children get pulled out to sea, where he would drift on his back farther and farther out, and sharks would teach him to breathe underwater. They would tell him to kill big fish with his teeth, and to dart quickly, and his eyes would move farther to the sides of his head, with his nose wide to smell blood in the water. That’s what happens to children at sea, and no one knows they’re children anymore.

The child sits waist deep in the pools, and sings to periwinkles until the tops of the masts are orange, and it is time to go. His hair holds the sand close to his scalp, which will stay for two weeks, sometimes three, and his pillow will smell like the ocean.


Crow Finished

November 10, 2008
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I asked my mother to dream about swans, and in the morning she would tell me about how beautiful they were. I told my mother about my dreams in the morning at breakfast. The dreams would be dreams until I made them stories at the end. I made my dreams about dancing in ballrooms, but I never dreamed about ballrooms. I usually dreamed about a mummy coming out of my radiator. My mother told me that if I couldn’t sleep, I could have worry dolls under my pillow. I had four, and they lived in an earrings box. I could feel the lump under my pillow, which made me a princess. My brother had worry dolls, but they lived in his nightstand.

If I grew corn on a deserted island, I would make smoke signals, the way my mother told me, with blankets over the fire up down hold hold up down up. I would wait for responses – I would wait with my corn, holding my blankets – my red, purple and blue blankets. My mother told me that special flowers were for the blue – and collected berries were for the red and purple. She told me a story about how crow brought the fire to earth, how beautiful crow was with his colors, and how the bringing of the fire covered his colors with soot. We drew pictures of crow with his colors and covered them in black crayon, so we could scratch the wax away, showing little lines of color underneath, like crow’s feathers in the sunshine. My mother told me that crow had a beautiful singing voice, but the smoke from the fire hurt his voice, all he could say was “caw.”

I wonder if crow would come to my corn and take and eat it. I told my mother that crow brought me corn, and I ate it. But I was very small. I wonder if crow would bring me anything. My mother told me that crow was the messenger between the human beings and the sky. My mother told me about his fire, and how it scattered seeds that made the blue flowers. My mother told me that the blue flowers were from a sacrifice of a doll with two jay feathers, and after it was burned, there were blue flowers everywhere, and there wasn’t any more drought. My mother told me the drought was ended with fire, because that is the way all droughts end. I wonder if crow would see my signals I made with his fire, in the corn he gave me. Up down hold hold up down up.

In the fall, the hills were black where the blueberries caught fire. My mother told me that blueberries can’t grow unless they are burned every two or three years. But every blueberry field owner had a different year to burn. One hill didn’t grow well at all, it was burned every year. The best blueberries were on a mountain, and my father and his family would climb the mountain every year, and wouldn’t leave until they filled their buckets. My grandmother fell off the mountain with her bucket. She rolled until she got to the bottom. My father and his family ran down the mountain, and she was waiting for them. My grandmother picked up her bucket and went home to pick the leaves and twigs out of all the blueberries. I tried to see my grandmother falling down a mountain, but I’d only seen her in a pink kitchen. My grandmother was very small, and I didn’t know that it was because she was Irish. I wonder if I’d be taller than her today. She was so small, in a cornfield, she would get very lost.

I got lost in the corn, because I was very small. I practiced in real mazes, but in real mazes there are footprints. There aren’t any footprints in corn, but there are hoof prints. I think we gave the corn to deer, he didn’t take it from us. We spent the summer tilling the field, and sowing the seeds. In the morning, I got up very early, and could see deer eating the corn and peas and beans. Deer could see me, but I didn’t bother him. My mother told me deer came at night too. My father built a scarecrow out of an old pair of pants and shirts. Crow sat on it and ate peas. My father shot his gun in the air to scare deer away, but deer came back. In the fall, we found three ears of corn left, deer had eaten some, but left those for us. My mother didn’t till the field, but made a tiny garden just for me and my brother to eat from. We could play outside, and eat tiny carrots, because we didn’t give them time to grow.

Dark pink ribbon was special. My mother only had a little bit, and I tied dried grass from our old house in it. When I picked it, I was Cinderella, because I had a blue dress on. I wanted to remember our old house when we moved, and I tried to fill my suitcase with grass from the yard, but my mother told me I shouldn’t. I started filling it when my mother told me we might move. I told my mother that I wanted to move, and I started packing the yard. When we got to the new house, I could take the yard out of my tiny suitcase, and it would be the same.

It snowed a lot the first winter in the new house. I didn’t live on a mountain anymore. The snow near the ocean was fat and sticky. It snowed to my waist. My mother told me it only snows that much every five years. I knew when I was nine it would snow deep again. We walked through the apple orchard next door. The snow was in the wind, so the neighbors couldn’t see us. The trees were old, I don’t think they had apples anymore. We had our scarves wrapped around our faces, my mother, my brother and me. We just wanted to see the apple trees. We had to walk through our part of the woods, where there was less snow, and I could still see the pine needles. I wonder if we ever met our neighbors with the apple orchard. My mother told me if I was in the woods, not to let the neighbors see me.

I tried to disappear when I was in the woods. My mother told me about Geronimo, how he was a medicine man who could disappear. He would escape the cavalry by disappearing, or by bringing the dust storms around his people. I saw a picture of Geronimo, with his rifle. My mother told me he became a great warrior because soldiers came and killed the women and children in his village. He wasn’t a warrior before. My mother told me it was proven that he was magic. His people stayed away from the cavalry for longer than any one thought they could, and the cavalry thought he was magic too. My mother told me that Geronimo knew first president Roosevelt, the one with the mustache. The cavalry didn’t catch Geronimo until he was very old, and they made him live in Oklahoma. After he surrendered, his hair was short. I asked my mother why he always looked angry, and she said that it took a long time to take a picture, he had to be serious. My mother told me that Geronimo wasn’t a chief, but he still had to lead. I tried to disappear in the woods, but Geronimo disappeared in a cave.

I didn’t have a cave, but we had a bat house. It was so they wouldn’t live in our barn. My mother told me woodpecker. She told me that my father was feeding the animals when woodpecker started looking for grubs in the roof of our barn. Woodpecker couldn’t peck through tin, but he didn’t know that. My father thought that someone was shooting at him and ran out of the barn. When he saw that there was no one there, he went back in. Woodpecker tried a second time to get grubs out of our roof, and a second time, my father thought someone was shooting at him. My mother told me that my father never ran as fast in his life. When he saw that it was woodpecker, my father went inside to get his gun, but woodpecker flew to a tree, and hid in the leaves. Owl is smarter than woodpecker, but I never get to see owl. My mother didn’t have any stories about owl, because owl is so quiet, and wise that she doesn’t get into trouble like the rest of the animals. I wanted to be like owl, but I was more like woodpecker. My cousin told me that when I was very small I would breathe in the middle of words, because I would forget. Owl wouldn’t forget.

Before summer started, my mother would tell us that it was hooky day, and we would go to the secret beach, and swim in the ocean. It was so cold that our bones hurt, but we wouldn’t forget the cold. Every time we went swimming for the rest of the year, the water was warm. There were tidal pools full in the rocks that were bath water warm. We sang to the periwinkles, asking them to come out. My mother would take our dog behind the beach by the crabapple trees, so no one could see her. It was our secret beach, so our dog was allowed. The secret beach was hidden behind the harbor master’s office and a marine salvage shop. There were no other people but us. My mother braided tall grass together to make crowns for us. Me and my brother would harvest the seaweed so we could sell it. We tried eating it, but it was salty and slimy. When we waded into the water, my brother would try to catch the minnows, but they were fast. My brother and me would go home and eat sardines and pretend we caught them. They were never as good as the fish we really caught. My father knew how to clean a fish with two rocks. I saw him using a Swiss army knife when I was disappearing in the woods. My brother and me caught our fish in the morning and had them for breakfast.

I dreamed about eating fish, in the winter, when the ice wasn’t thick enough to sit on. My mother told me that my father drove his jeep across ice that wasn’t thick enough, and it cracked behind him. If he had turned the wheel, his jeep would have sunk. I dreamed about our car rolling backwards up hills, down icy mountains, and across lakes that weren’t thick enough to sit on. My mother told me in the dreams to be patient, like a little doll. But I didn’t know how to be patient in a rolling car when my car seat was unbuckled. Crow would sit on the telephone lines and yell at me as I rolled past. I always woke up right before our neighbor saved us.

I told my mother about my dreams, and she said that maybe I was afraid of moving to our new house. I told my mother I wasn’t afraid of moving, because I wanted to live near the ocean, and pick blueberries. My mother would ask me what kind of story I wanted her to tell me. My father sold windows and doors, and I would ask my mother to tell me a story about windows. My mother would tell me about windows, and I would dream about flying.

Sea Bugs

October 31, 2008
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When I was a little geuhl, my fathah’d tell me I’d be a great lobstah fishamin. We’d be in thuh Marinah’s dinah’n he’d say when I got oldah, he’d take me on his boat, thuh Marie, named aftah my muthah. N he says when I get married, I’d name my boat aftah my wife. But I nevah thought a geuhl’d evah fit a boat. My muthah fit thuh boat. She was wicked lahge.

My fathah taught me tuh fish when I was only yeigh high. Yuh don’t know jack ‘till yu’ve bin on a boat in eight fuht swells. He puht me in chahge of wipin’ thuh winduh, yuh know, so he could see. N, yuh luhn nawt tuh stand in thuh wrong place pretty fahst. When yuh on thuh boat, and he tells yuh nawt to stand theyah, yuh don’t stand theyah. N if yuh stand theyah, yuh gonna get hit. And yuh know that yuh gonna get hit, cus he told yuh nawt to stand theyah. Theyahs so many things cin go wrong on a boat. Yuh could getcha leg in thuh winch rope, yuh could fall ovah boahd, n then yuh could git thuh hypo-theh-mia, yuh could getcha fingahs stuck in thuh pot, yuh could cutcha self when yuh ment tuh cut a line. N then yuh really up shit’s creek, cus yuh in thuh middle of thuh friggin ocean, no-body cept thuh radio cin help yuh out theyah, nossah. N thuh friggin coast gahd, theyah nevah wheah yuh want em, theyah always out savin some drownin’ puppy, oah some tourist couple, thought they’d rent a boat fah a weekind, end up floatin’ next tuh sum bouy, cus they thought “auto” meant auto poilit. Yessah, thaht’s nawt what auto means, nossah.

My lobstah boat, she’s a real beaut, Muthah thought I should name heuh aftah somethin impotahnt, yuh know, like my daughtah oah somethin, but I decided to name heuh aftah my fathah’s boat, so she’s thuh Marie II, fuh my muthah. Heuh name was Marie. My daughtah’s Meagan, Muthah thought that was pretty, heuh aunt was named Meagan. My Meagan, she’s somethin special though. She’s intah raisin chickens, and we go to thuh fayahs in thuh summah, n she wins prizes fuh them. Ouah back yahd looks like a friggin zoo, we got chickens everywheah, but we gotta keep m seprit, othahwise they fight I guess. Meagan, she’s got white ones, n black ones, and she keeps m real clean, feeds m, makes shuh they got watah, n don’t fight too much. Muthah says Meagan’s gonna be a vetruhnarin.

I’m nawt too shuh bout that, cus fishin aint what it used tuh be. Nossah. Thuh prices dropped this yeeah, so lostah’s only two dollahs a pound. Eauhliah this very summah, it was seven dollahs a pound. I’m thinkin bout pullin my pots till next yeeah, maybe thuh prices’ll be bettah then. Lots of my friends already done it, pulled theyah traps, done fuh thuh wintah. Plummah’s got a wife wuhks down at thuh Mic Mac genral stoah, yuh know, next tuh thuh campground. Sometimes Muthah n me bring thuh campah down theyah durrin thuh summah. They got a great setup theyah, they got lectricty, so yuh campah gits thuh powah. Yuh cin watch jepahdy in thuh woods, it’s a great setup, yessah.

But I’m ramblin agin. Anyhow, what me n Plummah figuh, if I go out a few moah times this yeeah, I might be able tuh skip thuh rest of this yeeah, yuh know, if I git a big nuff pot. Them viromentlists say weah ovah fishin thuh lobstah n thuh shrimp, so theyah tryin tuh git thuh govemint tuh step in n tell us howtah do ouah jobs. Does that sound fayah tuh you? Nossah, that’s whut I says. In my fathah’s day, nobody gave im that kind uh shit, he says so himself. Thuh problem is that thuh price fuh thuh gas is so friggin high that it costs moah to just go out, thin it does tuh sell thuh friggin things. Yuh gotta figuh in thuh gas foah thuh boat, powrin thuh winches, cus yuh can’t do that buy hand no moah, thuh bait, yuh have to buy frum thuh fishstick compnies, n then thuh retuhn trip back tuh habah, which is a summbitch, cus thuh lobstahs weigh a ton, if yuh got a good catch, n that means moah gas. So if it costs me a few hundred dollahs, and I git lessn that foah my catch, that don’t make no sense. Nossah.

But Plummah, he’s my deckhand, even though he’s oldah thin duht, he says hi’ll help me out. His fathah was a lobstahmin too, so he’s gabbin up thuh old timahs, findin out wheah thuh best places ah to drop ouah pots. Them old timahs, they know a thingah two, yuh know them old guys that looks like theyah a hundrid, but theyah sixty. Anyways so we says to m, we says, “Ifn yuh feel like makin a few dollahs, we could use suhm new spots to drop ouah pots.” N thuh old timahs, theyah just lienin up tuh tell us theyah most precious secret fishin spots. N Plummah, he’s got a cassette playah, just recohdin everythin them old timah’s is sayin. N me, I’m just sittin pretty, talkin tuh a few uf m.

Reminds me uf when my fathah used tuh talk with thuh old timahs when he was bout my age, n I couldn’t a bin moah thun nine, bout yeigh high, sittin theyah, listnin t’evrythin, N theyahd have a coupla beeahs, speshly f theyahd be stayin in that week-end. Now, thuh old timahs is askin me, “You John Milek’s boy? I knew yuh when yuhwer only bout yeigh high. How ah yuh doin these days? Yuh know, I usedtuh know youah muthah, God blessah. N Youah fathah, he used to fish with some of thuh boys n me. I heuhd yoowas lookin fra new fishin ground. I got just thuh spot.”

What none of thuh old timahs new was thet they all had thuh same secret fishin spot. So me n Plummah, we figahs that’s thuh ticket, so we git thuh pots ready, n pack up all ouah geah, n git the bait. Muthah hates it when I go out, thuh bait stinks up thuh garage, n that’s next tuh thuh house, so she’s nevah too happy bout that. But so me n Plummah, we gotta git thuh boat all checked out n so fohth, cus ouah inspecshon stickah got woahn out. So we drive down tah Bangoah, that’s Bangoah, nawt Bangah. N it’s a friggin pain in my ass tuh get thuh boat all thuh way down theyah, but Plummah’s got some buddies who wasn’t doin nawthin, n they helped git thuh Marie II onto heuh trailah.

So Plummah, he don’t talk too much, we’s sittin in my truck, n we figah, it’s nawt too fah’ve a drive, maybe we stop at thuh Wendy’s on thuh way back. So we get theyah, thuh boat just baily passes inspecshon, just baily. But it does, n we head back tuh Lincolnville. But we’s really lucky, yessah, if we hadn’t gone out tuh Bangoah, we woulda died, shuh’s I’m standin heah now. Yessah. One uh them freak stohms come outa thuh noath, came down, hit thuh hahbah pretty damn hahd, n my boat, she don’t do too well in nasty stohms like that. She’s one a them secondhand jobs. But it’s faily bad on thuh roads too, so weah swehvin, n we got thuh boat on thuh trailah, n that’s nawt doin so well, n we figah, if we stop at thuh dinah ovah theyah, we get a nice suppah, n ride thuh stohm out that way. Well, Plummah, he thinks it’s a good plan, so we stop. I tell yah, we had a great spread theyah. But so we get back tuh thuh hahbah, n it’s wicked bad. So instead, we put thuh boat in Plummah’s yahd, cus his wife’s nawt comin back foh a few days, n we go have a beeah with some a them old timahs.

That next day, we git up wicked eauhly, n we git all ouah shit togethah, n head outa thuh hahbah. Thuh day aftah a stohm, that’s a good day tuh fish. So Plummah’s makin shoah we headin twahds that secret fishin ground that them old timah’s told us bout. So we get theayah, n I shit you nawt, theyah was lobstahs friggin everywheyah. So we drop ouah pots theyah, n sit back n wait fah them. So we decided tuh have a couple a beeahs, n we git tuh gabbin n whatnawt. N so we figah, if we come back tommorrah, theyah’d be moahn a scrid a lobstahs, maybe we’d git a ton. So we head back tuh hahbah, n wouldn’t yuh know it, I stand in thuh wrong spot, n wouldn’t yuh know it, I fall ovahboahd. So there I is, bobbin in thuh watah, n Plummah, he don’t know how tuh tuhn thuh boat around. So he keeps tryin to tuhn thuh boat round, so he can get me outa the watah, but he’s gettin fathah n fathah out, n I’m nawt goin nowheah. N I’m thinkin, maybe this is impotahnt, since this was thuh thing my fathah told me nawt tuh do, I did it, n now I’m right wheah he said I’d be. So I says tuh myself, I says “Cahl, yuh knew yuh wasn’t sposed tuh be theyah, n now look wheah yuh ah.” So Plummah finally gits thuh boat goin in thuh right di-recshon, n he pulls me outa the watah just as fast as he could. So I’m back in thuh boat, n I figah, I’m a real lobstahmin now.

When I told my fathah bout it, he says tuh me, “Yuh’ah real lobstahmin now.” N I says to him “That’s what I thought.” N he says, “ Yuh stayed out theyah long nuff tuh show yuh ahnt afraid of low prices, oah a little cold watah.” N thuh old timahs said that was true, so I buhleived m, yessah.

My fathah always stahted out most of ‘is stories bout when he was bout yeigh high, he’d always staht it out with “When I was a little geuhl…” n his fathah’d staht his stories out thuh same way “When I was a little geuhl…” n I stahted my stories like that with Meagan, n heuh eyes’d git wicked wide, n she’d ask me at thuh end’f thuh story “where you really a little geuhl?” n I’d haveta say no deah, I wasn’t a little geuhl. But heuh grandfathah’d nevah say he wasn’t a little geuhl when he was young, bout yeigh high.


October 27, 2008
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I grew corn on a deserted island to make smoke signals, the way my mother told me the human beings did it, with blankets over the fire up down hold hold up down up. I waited for responses — I waited with my corn, holding my blankets– my red, purple and blue blankets. My mother told me the human beings grew special flowers for the blue — and collected berries for the red and purple. She told me a story about how crow brought the fire to earth, how beautiful crow was with his colors, and how the bringing of the fire covered his colors with soot. We drew pictures of crow with his colors and covered them in black crayon, so we could scratch the wax away, showing little lines of color underneath, like crow’s feathers in the sunshine.

I wondered if crow would come to my corn and take and eat it. I told my mother that crow brought me corn, and I ate it. But I was very small, and it was poison, and she made me get sick. I told her that it was crow, but she was scared. I wonder if crow will bring me anything. My mother told me that crow was the messenger between the human beings and the great spirit. My mother told me about his fire, and how it scattered seeds that made the blue flowers. My mother told me that the blue flowers were from a sacrifice of a doll with two jay feathers, and after it was burned, there were blue flowers everywhere, and there wasn’t any more drought. My mother told me the drought was ended with fire, because that is the way all droughts end. I wonder if crow saw my signals I made with his fire. Up down hold hold up down up.


October 9, 2008
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“The special today is salmon in a buttery dill sauce with caramelized beets and rice.”
“I’ll have the lamb.”

“I guess I’ll have… the chicken.”

Greta pirouetted to the kitchen. Jan didn’t like her. He told her to get her shit and go back out. She sipped a coke crouching under the counter. Then she was up, prancing back to table five to refill their waters. Greta poured into the glasses while turning the pitcher, so the ice didn’t splash into the glass and get her shirt wet. She smiled her stage smile and stepped to table seven asking how the food was. Then backstage to the kitchen to retie her apron and check her lipstick. Her bun was tight, her shoes were clean. Jan, the evil overlord gloomed under the lights and over the grill. Greta dinged the bell for fun, and backed through the doors with soups for table six.

* * *

Cecile and Abner Stoddard sat next to the window. Cecile checked herself in the reflection of the nighttime windowpane. Abner put his reading glasses on, cleaned them, re put them on, raised his eyebrows. Cecile looked around. Two people had tuna, one had salmon, three people had chicken, two were obviously vegetarians, and one had the beef. A smiling waitress came to their table and wrote her name in red and purple crayon on their white paper tablecloth. “Greta.” Cecile didn’t see the point. Waitresses were actually paid to remember which tables they were serving. Unless Greta was showing the other waitresses not to poach her tips. She thought about asking the man with the beef if it was any good, but you really weren’t supposed to eat beef anymore. Or pork. Or bacon. Which is part of pork, but should really be given its own subgroup. She’d ask Abner what he was having. She’d get the chicken.

* * *

Jan yelled at the dishwashing kid. The dishwashing kid, whose name been could have Josh, but who Jan thought looked dead, and thought of him Osiris, was using too much soap, and not scrubbing hard enough.

“Do you see this? I don’t think you see this. This is shit, and it is stuck to everything that you said you washed. You can smell the shit on the plates you washed. Smell it! Use the other side of the freaking sponge, and scrub until your arm is like the nose of the sphinx! Gone!” Jan used a hammer to crush the steak. He liked using the hammer. He called her Freyja. For he was Thor, come back to bring vengeance with his hammer. He had to start small, of course, with the dead cows. Dead fucking cows. After the hammering, there was marinating in salty fluids, to burn the wounds, and make the blood mix with the teriyaki sauce. He remembered that Rodger the snake told the manager to make Jan wear a beard net. Jan glared at Rodger. Osiris didn’t duck. The teriyaki sauce was terrible, and made Osiris salty and sticky.

“Damnit, don’t you know they come here to eat my beard?” Rodger crawled out the trash door. His beard was divine. Freyja wanted more vengeance.

* * *

Cecile knew the food was going to be late. Greta refilled four glasses, and took the order of two more tables. Her chicken would be cold. Mother always warned about cold dinners. It had been twenty one minutes since they ordered. Abner took his glasses off and looked at his tip calculator. What a silly thing to do before the check gets here. There were five people with chicken now, and two with beef, yet somehow, she still had no dinner. Abner knew he wasn’t supposed to eat fatty foods, but fish didn’t count. She thought that it was probably because fish ate healthy, so they’re healthy to eat. Eskimos were probably healthy, because they ate the good kind of fat. Unless seals are the bad kind. “Abner, are Eskimos terribly healthy?”

“Sure.” Abner kept fiddling with the calculator.

She wasn’t sure if you were supposed to call them Eskimos anymore. Eskimos didn’t have to worry about cold dinners. She wondered if her mother knew that Eskimos had only cold dinners. Two more vegetarians. The woman with the beef didn’t look very happy with it. Cecile wondered if Eskimos ate beef. The cows would get very cold.

* * *

Greta had sprite on her hands. It sparkled in the overhead lights, shining next to the floating ice cubes. Greta needed a shinier, sparklier set of makeup. Her forehead was smooth and reflective. That’s how they knew she was a dancer, her forehead. You can’t dance if you have bangs or acne. She put the drinks on table nine, the old couple looked so grateful that she had come. But they didn’t tip well, so Greta glissaded to table six, where the couple ordered more than one course.

“How was the soup?”

“It was excellent, thanks for recommending it.” The woman seemed to mean it too, extra tip.

Backstage for more sodas for table seven. The kid who washed the dishes was bent over the plates, almost like a grand plié. The dishwashing kid should know better than to move in on her act. On her way to refill the soda glasses she pinched his elbow. The dishwashing kid stopped scrubbing and looked at her. He looked lifeless. Maybe it was because he was always in Jan’s kitchen. Greta refilled the soda, and gave the dishwashing kid a stern look on her way to the stage.

* * *

Jan was Zeus. Jan called on Rodger, his smaller version of Bacchus for his wine. The Valkyries demanded time and food. Could they not see that he was of need of wine? He sent them from him, lest they taste the wrath of his Egyptian plagues. One of the Valkyries had chosen the dishwashing kid for the Elysian Fields, he saw it, she chose him, she pinched him. He was to be a hero forever, and what was Jan to do? He was to rule over the skies and land from his mountain in the clouds. When he struck the dishwashing kid down, he had become Osiris. Not knowing of his own deathly divinity, he had continued with what he had been doing in life, until now, until he had been chosen. But the bardos had not been said. He was to remain in the murky underworld! Cerberus would never let him pass! Jan’s vengeance was dealt. His Bacchus said something about the manager coming. And he knew that it was true; Baba Yaga was on her way.

* * *

The other waitress was trying to get Greta’s tips, she knew it. Greta put the chicken and fish down with a smile, and a quick turn of the head towards the door before turning her body. That way, she wouldn’t run into anyone. That’s why she had the bun, she would never have to clean someone’s food out of her hair at the end of the night, unlike The other waitress, who could never be as graceful as Greta. The other waitress wrote her name on tables with two crayons, when she only needed one. Greta thought that was crass, so she started using three. She Grand Pas’d to her other tables, and back to the kitchen. Barbara the manager was already in there, talking to the wait staff and sampling off the line, a fry, a pickle. Jan almost looked, scared. Greta wanted to laugh. The dishwashing kid obviously snuck out for a minute. She hoped Barbara would see through the little bastard, the faker, the bad impression of Baryshnikov. Greta smiled and re readjusted her apron.

* * *

Cecile wasn’t sure about the chicken. It had blonde hairs on it. Abner ate his fish, picking out the tiny bones every few minutes, raising his eyebrows, and putting the bones in a small pile on the side of his plate. A different waitress asked if their meal was good, but she didn’t stay long. Cecile was going to ask how long ago the chicken was made, and why there were hairs. But the new waitress smiled and smiled, and didn’t seem to listen. Cecile wondered if the staff knew what they were doing, or were just doling out salmonella all willy-nilly. Because that’s how you get salmonella, from cold chicken. Cecile wondered if they knew that you were supposed to have chicken and pork and beef separated. She always separated her meats. You can’t just take chances like that. Abner found another four bones, he found fifteen in all. She wondered if the staff knew about the dangers of swallowing bones. Cecile didn’t want to finish her chicken, but if she didn’t, then the other patrons would want to know why she didn’t finish it, and then she’d have to tell them about the salmonella, and then there would be chaos. You see, she’d say, there is salmonella on my chicken. I do not wish to finish this chicken. And then she’d reassure the other patrons, but if you have beef or vegetables, you’re going to be fine. But if she did get salmonella, and then what would happen to her? Something to do with her spleen. “Abner, what does your spleen do?”

“Makes blood.” Abner said around another fish bone. Sixteen.

* * *

Baba Yaga wouldn’t leave. Her house was clucking for her, but her flying mortar wouldn’t get out of the kitchen. Jan knew she’d curse his beard, he knew it. But that was where his power lay, in his big blonde beard. The bits of food only told a better story of the beard, like the eggs for his trip to raise Helios, and the bones from the puny chickens he feasted on with Loki that afternoon, before the Valkyries came back. She would soon taste the watery trident of Poseidon. Jan stabbed the fish with his trident. Her chicken house was no match for his all powerful trident, able to stir the seas, and send lightning bolts from the ocean’s floor. Osiris was gone a long time, which he should tell someone, but to speak in Baba Yaga’s presence was too dangerous, she may take his voice, and then how would he and his dragon king get back to Xuanpu? Jan needed Osiris to come back, so that he may gloat over his vengeance on him, in the form of his teriyaki stained shirt. Vengeance for Poseidon was as salty as the rock salt, in the sauce, which was from the ocean, land of Poseidon.

* * *

Greta saut de chat’ed to the ladies room. It was empty, giving her time to look at herself in the lights, instead of crouching in a stall with a compact. Her shirt had bits of rice stuck to it, and her black pants had gravy around the ankle. Her apron was still perfect, she smoothed it again, re retying it.

The old woman with the chicken kept asking something about hair. Greta smiled and stroked her bun again. Something clanged backstage, and she dessus’d and petit saut’ed back to the kitchen.

* * *

Cecile knew that Abner didn’t want her bothering anyone, but someone really needed to know about the salmonella, and the hair in her chicken. She decided that instead of waiting around for someone, since the space cadet waitress was of no help, she’d tell someone else. Cecile picked up her pocketbook, and found the kitchen. A cadaverous teenager covered in dried sauce was going in the same door.

“Can you help me? I need to tell someone about the hair in my chicken.”

“Um, I guess so, but you better not tell the chef, he gets pretty mad.”

“Well, who should I tell?”

“I’ll get someone, the manager should be around somewhere.”

“Thank you. Here’s a nickel.”

Cecile waited for a few minutes, and decided to go into the kitchen herself. She knew it was dangerous, but she had already been exposed to the salmonella, and the hair.

* * *

Osiris was back. Jan needed Baba Yaga to see how he had smote the lord of the underworld. But Osiris was talking to Baba Yaga! He was whispering, ah, because he had grown wise in the afterlife, he had learned that the witch cannot steal a whisper. Baba Yaga then turned on Jan, the god king Jove. She was going to curse his beard! He could hear her say the word, he could see her mouth it, Beeeaarrddd. How could Osiris have done this? Undead or no, he had to be smited again. The poker for the pizza oven was two inches to his right. Jove doused it in alcohol, and lit it. The flaming sword of the archangel Michael appeared in Jan’s hands, and he sought his vengeance on the evil lord of the underworld, Osiris, and the witch of the forest, Baba Yaga. He brought the sword down on the undead king god, who fell to the ground in terror. Baba Yaga, fled to her chicken footed house. The Valkyries were stopped, crouched under the counter. They finally had seen his fury. An old woman with a pocketbook full of nickels stepped over the dishwashing kid and said something about Odin’s beard. Odin, the high god of everything stood over his people as the king he was. The dishwashing kid, his true form finally showing, had received a burn on his shirt shoulder. He was now worthy. But the gasping would have to go. Heroes don’t lie on the floor twitching. A Valkyrie, the one with the tight knot of hair pinched the dishwashing kid again. Jan now agreed with her decision. Osiris, formerly known as the Dishwashing kid, was ready for Valhalla.

The Amazing Poulayterani

September 17, 2008
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* * *

“I don’t really have anything to say about my summer break Miss Junston.”

“You must have done something.” She crinkled her face, little pieces of her dry forehead floating towards the desk.

“Me and my family went to the fair last week.” Johnny licked his finger. Definitely ink.

“That’s something.” She wasn’t impressed. He saw her lips tighten her smile, like when his father used a screwdriver on his mother’s birdhouses.

“It doesn’t count. Everyone went to the fair…but I did go to my cousin’s house and we played with his pet shark. His shark is named Cody and we fed him huge fish, and it got the tank all bloody.” Johnny looked around the room, Freddie tried to look bored, but Johnny could tell he was impressed like the rest of the class. Miss Junston blinked a couple of times. George nudged him. “Yeah, you totally have to meet my cousin; he’s got a tiger too.”

* * *

Johnny’s mother walked him to his trumpet lessons after school. He took the trumpet in band class, but his mother wanted him extra good. On Fridays, he went to Mr. Dunlap’s, and learn reverie, and camp town ladies, and Mr. Dunlap would watch the metronome, until five thirty, when Johnny’s mother came back for him. Johnny liked the trumpet, because it made him think of Africa. He saw an elephant once, and every time he blew his trumpet, he thought about lots of elephants, all walking around in the desert. Johnny was tiny when he saw the elephant; his mother framed the picture she bought for five dollars. Johnny liked to think that the elephant would remember him too, since they have good memory. The elephant probably smelled like Africa. Africa smelled dusty.

* * *

“Johnny, come get this bag of grain down for Mr. Parker.”

“Right away Mr. Comstock.” Johnny felt his starched shirt crinkle under the weight of the grain. His mother put his clean collars out for him before he left for work on Saturdays, but today was too much starch, and his bowtie choked him. The burlap was rough against Johnny’s face, and he tried not to sneeze from alfalfa particles wafting up his nose. He knew that the proper way to hold the sack was over his shoulder, but it worked better when he held the bag to his chest and crab walked to Mr. Parker’s cart. While Mr. Comstock told Mr. Parker about the new folks who moved to Maple, Johnny took a handful of grain to Mr. Parker’s horse, Elsie. Her tongue was warmer than her lips, with white in the corners of her big mouth. Johnny knew that Mr. Parker wouldn’t mind Elsie having just a nibble. He patted her nose, and since Mr. Comstock had started in on the new county fire house, Johnny figured he had time to give Elsie a little water too.

* * *

Uncle Kenneth took the photograph. Johnny didn’t want to sit still. The new uniform, all green and woolen, was itchy. Uncle Kenneth didn’t photograph anything below Johnny’s chest, but Johnny wished he had, because of how fine the rest of his uniform fit him. In the photograph, Johnny looked stern. Johnny’s father said that he looked just the same when he was in uniform. Something about it. Johnny thought that maybe his puttees were too tight. His mother was cooking the casserole, for the grange hall pot luck, and when she was finished, they would all walk over.

* * *

“Monsieur, Ho-ow mu-uch? Uh… Com…Combien? Monsieur, combien? Seize? Seize…seize… Oh, sixteen. Bon… Bon. Sam, you have got to see this! This man, he made this. Merci monsieur.”

“What in the hell is it?” Sam turned the thing over

“I’m not sure what it was originally, but doesn’t it look like an evil swan person?” Johnny touched one of the feathers, which fell off.

“An evil swan person that died screaming.” Sam handed the thing back.

“I’m just wondering how he did it. It looks pretty damn real.” It looked like the head of a monkey, but Johnny wasn’t sure. The monkey head, if that’s what it was, had it’s mouth open, most of it’s teeth gone. Then, from the supposed monkey neck, there was a convergence of fur and feathers. The swan body, like the rest of the godless creature, was fairly well preserved. Johnny found barely any stitches on the beast.

* * *

“Is anyone in here?”

“Yes sir, how may I help you?” Johnny hopped to the counter, balancing himself with both hands.

“You make all these?” The man looked up the nose of the deer above him on the wall.

“Most of them. I shot that buck myself last winter. Ten points.” Johnny wondered if there was anything interesting inside the deer’s nose.

“This is an interesting piece. How did you come by this?” The man scowled at the evil swan person.

“Well that I picked up during the war. It’s not for sale.”

“How about fifty dollars? Would it be for sale then?”

* * *

Johnny hopped out to the street. He knew the fall air was supposed to smell crisp, but the formaldehyde of the shop was still in his nose.

“Come tonight to the circus! See the amazing pinhead twins from Brazil! A lost civilization in your very town! See the blue people of British Kolombeea, a phenomenon not yet understood by modern science! The lion tamer! The tattooed woman of the Far East! Come and see the man whose skin is the product of his mother being frightened by an alligator, and his sister with her crocodile skin! And the most amazing of all, the gooseman, a strange and unholy union of a goose and man, found in the far off country of Kammeroon! We’re here for the week! Two dollar admission!”

* * *

“You’re going to have to run that by me again…Jack.” The manager scratched his beard.

“I’m just saying, I heard that the monkey from you show died from drunkenness, and I would like to buy it from you.” Johnny tapped his apron.

“You want to pay me for a dead monkey?” The manager squinched his eye. “What are you going to do with it? Voodoo? Because I don’t condone none of that voodoo majumbo.”

“No, I don’t do voodoo. Actually, if you have any other animals you need to get rid of; I’m willing to pay a great deal.” Johnny smoothed his mustache.

“Peoples can do what they please, but none of that heesty jeesty business.”

* * *

“Hey Johnny, did you buy a horse?”

“Oh, yeah, I figured it’d be easier getting around this way, haul things.” Johnny hopped down next to Elsie. “And since Mr. Parker didn’t need her anymore…you know.”

“Is it sick?” Mr. Comstock looked sideways at Elsie.

“ No, why’d you say that?” Johnny hopped to stand between Elsie and Mr. Comstock.

“You’ve got a…bandage over her forehead. You sure she’s all right?”

“Oh yeah, right as rain. She just…grazed a branch a few days ago. You know how it is… you put blinders on them and they’re practically sightless.” Johnny giggled.

“Well, it’s nice to see you both. Bye Elsie!” Mr. Comstock patted her head and went into the drugstore. Johnny checked under the bandage to make sure Mr. Comstock hadn’t disrupted anything.

* * *

“Come to Johnny Poulayterani’s amazing show of horrors! From all across the globe, wonders you’ve never before faced! See the human skeleton, five feet tall and fifty pounds! See the fairy woman of the Ukraine, just a foot and a half tall, dainty as lace! Johnny’s unicorn Elsie will be on display! A normal horse for years, until a horn grew out of her head! See the amazing mermaid of the Antarctic! Not the beautiful woman you expected, a hairy lady with the tail of a fish, carefully preserved for thousands of years in the ice, just three feet long! See them all! We have the werewolf family of Oodon Moo! The rubber man whose skin stretches over his head! We have the elephant headed tiger from deep within the African jungles! You’re going to have to see it yourself for just five dollars! See the Bearded lady, married to the trout skinned man! See the oldest woman alive, 130 years old, John Adams’ cook! See the extinct race of Fish monkey’s, part fish, part monkey!One night only!”


September 11, 2008
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In the stories, the sailors were supposed to be sucked down, ship and all. A Bishop from Sweden showed the ship as tiny, because the Moskstraumen had pulled it so far down. But nearby, the other ships are being eaten by giant monsters. The Bishop said that the Moskstraumen must have been stronger than even Odysseus’ Charybdis.

Norway was dangerous to sail near, since both Moskstraumen and Saltstraumen live there. The Bishop also painted a fat and fuzzy sea creature, probably fat because he just ate a bunch of ships. But it isn’t safe on land either, since there are lakes filled with monsters, and giant bales of fish on the beaches, still wet and gopping, gopping, gopping at the air. And the Devil lives in Norway, and he sweeps with a fire broom, in the empty streets on Sunday. And the only people who are safe are in a tiny canoe, not even heading for the mainland. And off the coast of an island, Huck Finn’s raft is going down, but there’s no monster. And the Devil lives in the manors and the houses, and makes a racket on weekend mornings, and paints the forts red, because he’s the devil. And Nessie has a cousin, but they can’t talk to each other because they’re landlocked, and speak different languages. And the people think it’s fun to fish in the Saltstraumen, because the fish avoid it, and they get to see their lures go down down down, and then they tug tug tug and the fish think that they’re stupid. But in the end the fish get stacked on top of each other, and they gopp, gopp, gopp, and they wonder how stupid they had to be. But old Huck fin’s not going down just yet, he’s using his lures, and he’s catching himself a sea monster. And the Devil is dancing near the Moskstraumen, and the sailors are going down, down, down, and they’re wondering how stupid they had to be. And Charybdis is embarrassed, since some foreigner showed her up. And Odysseus is wondering how many men he didn’t lose to Norway. And the Bishop is from Sweden, and the sailors are wondering why a Bishop is painting on a boat. And he’s not even blessing the mainland, because the Devil goes down down down to Norway on the weekends, and paints Nessie’s cousin red. And the fish need to be salted, even though they lived in the ocean, near Saltstraumen, which has extra salt. And the bales have neighbors, and the people who live near the beach live with the smell and the Devil. And the Bishop goes back to Sweden, and the Carta Marina has pictures of the monsters from Norway as they eat the boats, and the Moskstraumen makes the ships so tiny.

Mr. K

September 11, 2008
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Armadillo. I’m an armadillo.”

“I’ll be the zookeeper. Doo dee doo… Hello Mr. Armadillo, isn’t it a beautiful morning?”

“Um, Yes… Mrs. Zookeeper…”

“Doo dee doo… You must be hungry! Here’s your breakfast!”

“Yay! Ants!”

“Freeze! It’s a petting zoo! La la la, Ooh, an armadillo, I think I’ll pet you!”

“Uh, the Armadillo – I mean, I’m rabid!”

“Oh no! We’re going to have to put him down! Where’s my shotgun? BAM!”

“End scene. Very good everyone! Becky, I love how you picked up on the zoo angle, and Adriane, even though your part came in in the end, it was a nice way to include yourself. Andersen, you started out really well, but you seemed really quick to end the scene. Also, you looked, for lack of a better word, scared. And it’s really interesting the animal you picked, because an armadillo has a coat of armor. Does this have any significance to you?” Mrs Pottington adjusted her decorative glasses.

“Um, not really. It was just the first thing I thought of.”

“Well… that’s good. Very good Andersen. Can everyone give Andersen a hand for following his impulse? Give him a hand.” Mrs Pottington jingled her bracelets. Andersen thought that she might be an applause whore.

* * *

Andersen watched the monitor. He watched the heart continue to beat, and the patient continue to not die. Tony watched the needles on the paper show the patient’s brain being alive. Andersen watched Tony eat thirteen doughnuts in two hours.

“Hey, do you think, maybe, I could…you know…go to the bathroom?” the patient asked the camera.

“Yes, yes you can.” Tony said into the microphone. Andersen looked at the screen as Tony pulled electrodes and wires off the patient, they were told his name was Mr. K. The mouse was sticky from the jelly doughnuts, and the glazed ones, and the chocolate ones. The monitor told Andersen that Mr. K was dead, so he turned off the alarm. He saw Tony stick his tongue out at the camera, holding all of the wires until Mr. K came back from the men’s room.

Andersen wondered what the real doctors did with all of the ‘data.’ It just looked like heartbeats, all of the tests looked like heartbeats. He thought about a patient complaining of four or five hearts. He frequently thought about becoming an EKG technician. It would be fast paced, people might become injured or die…

“Pee is totally contagious. Can you manage the ‘control room’?”

“Sure. Just make sure no one dies?”

“Yeah… I’ll be right back.”

Andersen tossed Tony’s doughnut box. The smell of the sweet mixed with his chicken broth.

“Hey…hello? So, um… can I have a glass of water or something? I’m sorry to bother you but…”

“Yeah, um… I can get you…that…water…just hold on…” Andersen waited for Tony to come back. Mr. K stared at the camera. Tony was totally not peeing. “Ok, so, I’m coming in…” Andersen got out two dollars for the soda machine, got the water and twenty-five cents back, which was a complete rip off.


“Dude, thanks… can you bring it over to me?”

“Right, wires.” Andersen left the door open a little, so he could see into the dark room besides the tiny lights off the clips.

“Have you ever had to wear these nightgowns? I’m supposed to sleep, in this, with ten thousand electrodes all over my body.”

“That sucks.”

“It does! Yeah, oh, and they give me Ritalin, which keeps me from sleeping.”

“How does that…work?”

“I’m a narcoleptic, so, Ritalin keeps you from falling asleep randomly, but also makes food suck. So I get hungry and sleepy, only really late.”

“It’s really late now, are you hungry?”

“Starving, but I don’t think I’m allowed to eat during the test.”

“I have some soup.”


* * *

“End scene. Tiffany, I liked the character you came up with, the vegetarian butcher was a nice angle. And Fiona, I think you deserve a hand for your frog’s legs bit, that was a nice way to ad lib. Everyone give Fiona a hand. Andersen, you did some really great work. You took a scene about a scientist in the arctic, and introduced a narcoleptic on Ritalin. Where did that come from?”

“Uh … It was just the first thing I thought of.”

    December 2018
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