Dec 5, 2014

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Santos

Private Antanna stood in the heat, squinted at his Lieutenant. He held one arm over a sweating brow, an odd salute against the broiling sun. The other arm hugged thin stocks of rolled butcher paper tight to his chest.
“Pardon?”
“Cemetery of the world,” Lieutenant Dorta repeated. He was looking at his men moving about down the long alleyway.
“It’s what the merchant captains call us… this place. The cemetery of the world.”
Antanna glanced down the alley, turned and uneasily surveyed the surface of the wall behind him as if it were a leached and neglected tombstone.
“But we aren’t dead, are we Private,” Dorta continued. “We are alive and well, with work to do.”

He flicked ash from his cigarillo, watched as his soldiers worked their way along the street toward Easter Square, the heart of the city. A musty odor of decay reeked from the dirty gutters. Further down a small group of men lolled near a doorway. Some leaned precariously as if they were drunk. Some sat on the curb, elbows on knees, feverish, their heads hung low. A brown man with a swollen purple neck stared at the white sky. A harsh coughed escaped his throat. Soldiers weaved through them, kicked and prodded with their muskets, covered their mouths as they ordered them to move out of the street. The sick men rose, faded through the doorways, loose like ghosts.

The soldiers continued on, carrying pails of paste and flashing their knives. They tore at the plaster walls, scraping and grunting, ripping ragged bulletin-sized handbills from the blistered surface. One of the men unrolled a sheet of butcher paper as another, wielding a thick brush, slathered paste over the wall surface. Together they slapped the rolled propaganda over top, smoothing it roughly with their palms. The announcement was one of many government notices, a minutia of distraction meant to consume the public’s interest: ship arrivals, slave auctions, merchant goods and fresh produce, the church’s mission, official pronouncements, dates and times for entertainments.

Lieutenant Dorta studied the wall behind Antanna. Near the bottom, the partial words flared through the mulched paper, as if rats had torn and scratched their way to it, eager to reveal the past notification hidden there. Dorta knew the bulletin well. The word, partially showing read – Santos – and the warning words obscured before it – A peste em.

P L A G U E I N S A N T O S

Dorta pushed a boot through the mush of paper and debris, absently toed the dry rat droppings. He dropped his cigarillo, still burning, then followed his men down the alley.
“Alive and well we are,” he muttered. “For now.”

Feb 24, 2014

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Corn Porn (Uncle Pete Goes A’ Ploughin’with Another Consentin’ Adult)

Somewheres’ in the middle of eastern Nebraska, the sun was beating off a tractor, sittin’ in the middle of a bare naked field. Two figures were relaxin’ side by side on the tractor bed they’d been pullin’. When the sun saw what they was doin’, it slipped behind a sexy cloud and turned a blind eye.

Uncle Pete had been surveyin’ the lay of the land and now he wanted to sample an ample sample. His thick meaty hand reached over and slowly began unbuttoning Sally-Ellen’s checkered shirt.
“These melons look as ripe as Ben Peckeran’s last year’s summer squash crop,” Uncle Pete said, givin’ the heavy gourds a tender squeeze. His thumb toggled a succulent nipple that looked like something from Fred Greely’s early grape yield over in Wheatland.
“Firm as a pencil eraser,” he murmured to no one in particular.
Sally-Ellen didn’t jump like a Jackrabbit or nothin’, just let Uncle Pete grope around a bit, like he was shoppin’ about at the Farmers Market over there in Chesterton on Saturday mornings.
“Uncle Pete,” Sally-Ellen said. ““I like farmin’. It’s just the best. Must be that musty smell of nature.”
“Sure do,” Uncle Pete said, gently takin’ Sally-Ellen’s hand and placing it on his suddenly sprouted corncob that had appeared out of nowhere, like tall corn in the fertile summer heat, right after a rainy season.
“Do you enjoy cream corn?” Uncle Pete said to Sally-Ellen, unbucklin’ her handmade corn belt and slidin’ two fingers, stocky and bulbous like knuckled zucchini, down towards her moist feathered furrow, as deep and dark as Roscoe Snapp’s drip-irrigation well over on the south side of the community.
Sally-Ellen didn’t answer, only blinked about in the warm blue yonder, her hand moving up and down the corncob like a one-handed milkin’ of Clara Bell’s dairy cow.
“You enjoy farmin’ too, don’t ya Uncle Pete,” Sally-Ellen said finally, her look as far away as Hugo Anderson’s wheat silo three miles off County Road 6.
“Yup, I sure do,” Uncle Pete said, feelin’ a little lightheaded. “I’m a seed farmer darlin’. Always have been, always will be. Now, I think that’s about enough pullin’ for today.”
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Vole Lux

Man, I’m stoked. The anticipation is driving me nuts. There’s a buzz pinging around the auditorium - the rumor of Vole Lux showing up. Ha, ya’ right, Vole Lux, like she has time to revisit her old high school for a lame reunion. Shit, her Scanda/Japana tour starts in two days. Man, if I had the bucks I’d be in both places pronto!

We used to call her ‘Vole the Mole’ because she was like this timid rodent, all mousy looking with small yellow teeth. We didn’t even know what vole meant. I guess we did some mean things in high school back then but that was all… you know… well everybody was a dick. I autographed her yearbook on a dare from my buds, like they thought I didn’t have the balls. I remember she flinched when I approached, like I was going to punch her or something. I acted all nice, put on my best serious face. Her yearbook was empty from what I saw and I scribbled something like: Come out of that hole, Vole the Mole and face your ugly future!
And brother, I guess she did. Look at her now.

Man, her music kicks ass! ‘Mole’s Sunlight’ is an awesome album - should be Record of the Year in my book. And ‘Bonfire Grizzly’ just rips it up! And ‘I Shit in Your Barbeque’, oh God, don’t get me started; it’s a classic. You know, I’d like to think I had something to do with her success. Maybe she took my scribble to heart; I mean her music reeks balls of the ugly in this old world! Man, I hope she shows. Maybe she can autograph something for me like I did for her. She can write anything she wants, anywhere on my body. That’d be awesome. I mean it. Anywhere she wants. Anywhere man.

Dec 15, 2013

I Suspect...

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Colonel Mustard

He is quite the confident one, the tall gentleman in uniform, preening like a rare exotic bird in front of the vestibule mirror. A white linen glove brushes lint from the left breast pocket, glides lightly over gold and silver medals. They sparkle flat dead weight on his chest. He’s appears to be reminiscing in an old memory - of the Academy perhaps - playing to the young cadets hovering about, listening to a sharp wit.
Sharp… yes.
I see how he pulls and twirls the right side of his thin mustache, shapes it into a fine black stiletto point, a dagger’s point… perhaps like the one concealed in the right breast pocket, right next to a cold-blooded heart. This isn’t a game, Colonel Mustard. You act as if nothing has happened to your dear friend Mr. Boddy in the other room who lies helpless to the neat and precise insert that has severed the top of his spine.


Mrs. Peacock

Mrs. Peacock, the woman in the living room, reminds me of the Singer Sargent painting, Madame X, a thin woman with alabaster skin set in a sleek black dress. The dress moves in a flowing rhythm on her wiry dancer’s body. She doesn’t appear particularly weak by any means.
Two young officers bob about and two-step around her, cough up irrelevant questions. There’s a seductive crinkle around her eyes when she smiles; it’s both charming and irresistible. Her eyes focus on the mouths of the young detectives when she speaks, leaving them flustered and tongue-tied.
Tied… yes, that’s the issue here, isn’t it?
Mr. Boddy was found with a thin rope encircling his mottled blue neck. Mrs. Peacock is from old money - New Hampshire, if I’m not mistaken. I’ve come to learn her investment portfolio is tied up with the victim’s investments and all of Mr. Boddy’s investments have mysteriously disappeared.


Professor Plum

The dimly lit library reveals Professor Plum. His name underscores the short round silhouette that shadows against a large stained glass window. I understand he and Mr. Boddy attended high school together, stayed in touch over the years. The guise of melancholy cloaks the professor; his distant gaze betrays something perhaps deeper than disbelief over the death of a friend. I observe his movements about the room, the gentle trace of fingertips over the books lining the shelves, his hand caressing a decorative artifact, an exotic pipe of some sort. As I pass, he draws his hand quickly away. A blow to the head most certainly influenced the demise of Mr. Boddy though a specific weapon has yet to be determined. Be careful Professor. You might just give yourself away.


Mr. Green

Hmm… the chauffeur did it; it was Mr. Green. The chauffeur is always the guilty one in the movies. Easy if it were true but it’s not that simple.
I’ve noticed he has a slight twitch. It’s a triple blink of his eyes and accentuates when asked if the garage can be examined. The blow to Mr. Boddy’s head was made with a blunt instrument - a wrench perhaps… or a pipe. Mr. Green said the garage was broken into last week; equipment is missing, several expensive tools taken. Strangely, no police report was taken. Mr. Green didn’t think it was worth causing a stir. Wouldn’t want Mr. Boddy finding out now would we… or did he find out? I know money is an issue for Mr. Green with back alimony payments and a knack for slow-footed ponies. It’s best to keep an eye on Mr. Green.


Miss Scarlet

Miss Scarlet, Mr. Boddy’s personal assistant, is at her writing desk drawing on a cigarette. She appears to be cool and calm, hiding her emotions behind a veil of smoke but she is rather transparent and I can see why; all her assets sit upfront, on full display. I’m sure Mr. Boddy took full advantage, fooled her with false intentions, and then shot down any hope for a future by cruelly and publicly taking up with Mrs. Peacock.
There’s a small hole below Mr. Boddy’s left armpit, a bullet hole from a small caliber pistol, a direct hit to the heart to match a broken one I’d say.


Mrs. White

The police mill about and try to keep everyone separated so as not to contaminate the crime scene. There are too many suspects, too many wounds; they haven’t a clue. I’ve been eavesdropping on the various conversations. A policeman told the detective in charge something about the guests: not one has asked how Mr. Boddy died.
Only I know that.
Jerome Boddy was a vicious and uncaring man. On his way to his ill-earned success, he destroyed many people – hurt many of those here at the dinner party with that devouring nature and sad to say, I believe he enjoyed it.
It appears some of those he hurt stumbled upon him in the billiard room, and each - in their own way - took the opportunity to privately express their contempt. I mean, what was the harm - Jerome Boddy was already dead.

I am the only one here who is not a suspect. My name is Harriet White. I was Mr. Boddy’s housekeeper several years back. I was something he couldn’t have, couldn’t own, and with that, he decided to hurt me too, in the worst way. I suppose it was too much for his cold heart to take, to see me again standing there in the billiard room, in the very room where he murdered me.

Nov 15, 2013

Adaptation

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It was a show of solidarity I suppose, back when we didn’t even know what the word meant.

In the summer of ’62, my sister Hanna fell and cut her knee on a metal tent peg. All morning long, my sisters and I had chased around the oversized tent our Uncle Remee had raised behind our house, a canvas monstrosity that served as his current place of business for secretive dealings. The ‘sugar shack’ he liked to call it. Hanna had tripped the rope and sliced her right knee at that soft spot just below the cap. Against the backdrop of Hanna’s hollering and wailing to holy hell, Becca and I, slow as molasses, carted her up to the house using a wide piece of cardboard we’d found next to the shack; I remember Becca telling her to hush down, to not make it worse by drawing unwanted attention. The only attention I was sure about was the switch whipping our mother was going to hand out for being so careless, playing where we shouldn’t have around Uncle Remee’s private endeavors.

But the whipping never came, not even a yelling spell. All mother gave us was a disengaged stare. It was a defeated expression, a look that settled on her face with a simple ease and even more troubling, remained there.

Sam McCall, a part-time nurse at the sawmill, came and sewed Hannah’s knee up, bent and bandaged it in a thick white cotton triangle. Hanna was told to stay in bed for two weeks, her leg padded and angled in the shape of the number four. Becca and I stayed with her, fetching cold lemonade and cucumber sandwiches while Hanna cried and moaned in our oversized bed, complained over and over how much the stitching itched throughout the heat of day and night and the time in between. There was only one spindle chair in our room and we sat and took turns reading stories, at times standing, propping our backs up against a wall when our butts got sore from sitting, shifting from one bent leg to the other, strangely mimicking Hanna’s bedridden appearance. At night, we’d sleep in our usual spots on the edge of the bed - Becca on the left, me on the right with Hanna in the middle as before the accident. In low candlelight, we’d whisper up tall tales and take turns stroking her hair until she fell off to sleep. Late one night, I awoke to see mother leaning in on the door jam, cigarette dangling lazily from her thin fingers, smoke drifting out the door and escaping down the dark hall. She stayed quiet, only stared at us as if revisiting lost time in her own dreamscape and sadness. ”Take care of your sisters,” was the last thing I heard her murmur before I fell back to sleep.

Our mother vanished the day Sam McCall came back to recheck Hanna’s stitching. No note, no nothing except Uncle Remee’s reassuring rant that she needed some time to get things together and how we’d have to fend for ourselves for a while which we’d done half our lives anyway. Uncle Remee kind of disappeared too, spending most of his time in his sugar shack, making occasional short runs into town or longer ones down to the valley.

By the fall, Hanna’s knee had healed up nicely. Becca and I made sure she exercised the knee, our confederation of three squatting and preening like pretty ballerinas flexing our knees in tandem and giggling at our awkwardness until we hurt. In quieter moments, we’d wonder to what place our mother had flown off to and when if ever, we might follow.