Uncle Elliot learned to speak with food. He brought pies, casseroles, quiches, elaborate desserts and layered salads, even old forgotten dishes he read about in old books. The quiet man once brought a full meal that would have been the menu on the Titanic, another that King Tut would have had on a birthday, another the menu eaten by the riders of the first luxury train, yet another the last meal of the man famous for eating at the end of the 19th century who is now forgotten like so much past in present.
He looked at the very old cat as it came close to him and could almost see cityscapes in its skeletal maze under its dark fur, see the shadows of late winter days in the fur, something of rivers in its slow steady walk with bad paws. He pet the cat behind its ears and saw it had little fangs like an adorable bat. The cat rested her tired head on his outstretched fingers, teeth in but he did not care and she fell asleep. The late day light and her curling into his armpit made her for a time look like she had become a kitten once again. He slowly pet her neck and back, a kind of soft covered architecture like dirigibles or bridges as the tired cat slept heartily on his slightly faded green sweater. A meteor could very well strike the earth outside and Thomas would not move from here, not one single inch.
The texts and automated calls came at 3 A.M. Something odd and quite alarming was happening. Ethan was jarred awake from a serene dream about waterfalls and a mountain top cabin. The dream was so ornate and so real that it lingered for a bit as he read the words, a bit of water seeming to crest into froth in the corners of his room then away.
The parking lot seems endless. It is as if a mountain had been tattooed awkwardly with lines and stains and images of cars in rows. I am 17. This, to the best of my knowledge, is college. High school has thudded , middle school has imploded, elementary has long sutured away. It is an unusually warm day and the sky is exhaust. My 1968 mustang has a cracked engine block, leaking radiator, painted over turn signals, an almost lightning shaped tear in the back seat, a boat horn in the trunk, a bent fender, a gas gauge that does not work making shaking the car the way to guess by slosh how far to go and last of all the passenger window is held up by two bricks and a sprinkler head. It has made it to this first day of class and perhaps that is a good sign.
It is late at night right now. It is cold and a storm is nearing the coast. It is mid January. The orange groves of my youth are long gone. The air is crisp and the rains that should come originated near Japan a week ago then rode a roller coaster across the Pacific north into the chill of Alaska to dive down toward this coast. It will then move east and bring big floods to the midwest they say. It is to die along the Rockies and reform hurling Gulf of Mexico water to flood Kansas down to north Texas. The flood may pull loose like a rotten tooth my Grandmother’s grave on that former farm, wash clean that spot I may have seen voices fall from so much night sky. Stupid storm might eclipse nothings like me or the bastard might just fail grandly like some big farce of false promise in this time of drought. I may run out and scream and curse at the rain if my legs will let me later tonight.
JH: What made you want to become a writer?
AN: I have always been writing. Since I was like 4 years old I have always been making up songs or writing poems and stories and putting on shows for people or imaginary friends. When I was a baby my parents put a video camera in my bedroom for an afternoon and called the video ‘Allie takes a nap.’ It’s basically an hour of me mugging for the camera and walking around in my crib and singing to myself.
I don’t think it’s something I ever really decided to do, I’ve just been doing it. Something like ten years ago I started to take this shit a bit more seriously and got more involved in getting my work published and doing readings, but honestly it all feels like a compulsion. I wrote about this feeling of being compelled to write a while ago on htmlgiant and someone commented saying ‘you’re not a writer, you have an addiction.’ And that’s chill and all. Not everyone can be like me.
She has the chair kicked out from under her, the wood cracking a bit into splinters as the ferocious kick hits the weak point in the center of the leg sending Mary hurtling from her handiwork, spiraling backwards, her arms flailing, her hair spidering out in all directions, her mouth wide open, her eyes gleaming with fear and dismay and then in a second she hits the factory floor. She only wanted to do what was right. She just wanted to be Rosy the Riveter like so many other mothers, sisters, aunt etc of the time. She instead is spit on daily, slapped twice and now for the third time kicked out of her chair in Los Angeles with the arm band she was made to wear identifying her as Italian, enemy, other. A single long tear already is coalescing slow and slimy as she falls.
The cloud formed upside down, rising, roiling, raging almost into a thunderstorm anvil, lightning almost sure to vein the edges and shoot ‘bolt from the blue” far from the rising storm. It was as though hail would soon roar and crash , shattering on impact, gales born from the belly of the rapidly growing cloud, floods to rush garbage cans as suburban absurd boat races.
It was milk.
The cloud was growing upside down.
In a pool.
The pilot thinks for a moment high in the sky as an engine sputters of where he might land, of how perhaps it might be in a field near cows and a river, how it might be into a city almost to be lost in the hum of traffic and commerce, perhaps onto a family settling to a dinner at the table.
The sky is a cruel pristine blue. The few high clouds waft above him like serene atmospheric jellyfish.
facebook has oddly frozen
for a moment right now..
a crystalline quiet in the machine and hive.
……something poignant almost arises from this…
.something of our lives touching corners …..
something of peace amongst the darkness in the world….
.something abloom of the importance of community…
of commonality and difference …
a gentle quiet as though a thousand windows opened briefly to a shared sliver of moon ….
now it moves again.
He had that dream again. The one with that road, that hill, that intersection never born of the dust and pollen of the real world. The dream with that sense, that gut rumbling dread and that hum of unease , that dream with the car that never has the same driver, never the same interior, never the same engine sound, but 20 years of it navigating those damn hills, stopping at that intersection of pure impasse.
The dream was one of those odd places in sleep, some odd neural drain pipe mold collection, he had a few such places imagined that his dreams sutured to. One was an impossible university campus that had the greenest hills, most gorgeous Spanish style roofed buildings, a cafeteria always open partially inside a giant redwood tree and a dorm he shared with the ghosts of past. Another was a humble 50’s home with a perpetually flooded front yard he for 20 years had toured with a dull, droning real estate agent and his best friend. Another was a thousand odd variations of his parents house sold long ago; it at times had hidden rooms in walls and tenants in rooms inside the aging, dull stairs, at times it had a glimmering impossible view of ocean from the San Fernando valley. Other times it sank into that ocean, eaten as though waves were foamed with teeth and tide was a bored potent mouth.
It looked like something fallen from a charcoal sketch in an abstract art class but it was much more. The lines were thick and dark and somewhat askew. The forest was thick around it, unyiedingly so, embracingly so. The cold thin river ran from the higher hills past oblivious in the way space and form can be over the years. There were people in there.
The snows of 30 winters had covered this place and 30 thaws. The great quakes of past decades and years had surely flattened the shacks before, the permutations past of sticks and rocks out so far from the cities and even towns small and isolated. At that point far in the past they just walked away, shed the things the rest of us know like an itchy old skin to molt. This was the rumor anyway, the odd often disputed rumor that only persevered as there never were bodies, a return or the grave.
Jim got into his car and was going to finally read that letter. It was the odd one that snuck in somehow.
He had a collection of old letters and oddball books. The letters were ones he found in trash cans, in abandoned houses, hidden in books at yard sales. Some were yellowed and worn, some so torn up and water damaged as to be almost unreadable as though individual words for some forgotten years floated in mold and blur and filth. Others were antiseptically pristine as though just finished and floated through some benign, dull wound and tear in space and time.
The balloons had begun to wither and shrivel over the television like a physical manifestation of a curdled wish. The shiny metallic things with inspirational phrases like “here’s to remission!” and “hope springs eternal!” were now illegible between the faux metallic folds as the orbs shrank toward an inevitable death to gravity and loss of gas. The banner on the wall with a similar phrase had cobwebs on a corner and sagged in the middle more noticeably. Hope had always been an abstract concept, but these cousins of birthday cakes and new years party hats never quite held it in their ballast or belly but the bright colors and thought behind had for a time lit the room like a shard cut as from a high floating ball of cheese as sun brought cheer in.
The odd feeling again. So strange. A kind of erasure. A kind of forgetting.
He checked his twitter and there it was again. He was in a hurry and that storm was supposed to hit soon according to the app on his smart phone. He had posted his walk path and now his check in at the place for a quick lunch. He had taken 10 pics of his sushi and 4 after edits in those apps had been keepers and were sure to get comments on Instagram like a mold growing in a petri dish. He had put up on you tube 3 videos of his walk and some cool buildings he passed and a cloud. He made a vine of the wacky man in the park too and it was up now. He had tweeted along the way his thoughts on his new shoes and that crazy celebrity story. He at lunch and at the last few blocks posted a few choice zingers on Facebook and chuckled at that one pun he made. The yelp review he just made had those best sushi pics and he really felt he nailed the essence of what makes a good wasabi in just the right amount of words. He had podcasted about his tea and a quick sort of interview with a waiter. He had calculated his calories and posted it in those 4 groups to share.
He was puzzled and asked Siri a series of questions hoping to nail the answer to no avail. He Googled and posted a yahoo question just out of frustration. He got no results. He paid and left to walk back to work and the sky had begun to darken. The tiny cloud had grown to a thunderstorm ahead of the cold front still an hour to the west (the weather channel on the go app clearly showed this…he checked). The thunderstorm however was not predicted, was not previously charted or graphed or shown as data. It also had grown too large to photograph, just a grid space of city and slate gray. It didn’t matter the angle. His twitter had not gained any reshares or comments, the pain was almost a physical , tangible, visceral ache.
The Small Things
by Jeremy Hight
He turned the knob and flipped the switch and the thing that had sat there for decades in his grandfather’s garage like a curious jukebox eaten by a phone booth shuddered, light flickered and flashed, numbers spun on antiquated dials, Joey even thought he saw smoke make a little cloud for a bit. It was oddly alive in the way machines can be, dormancy over, it actually was doing something.
Joey was sure the thing was a prop from an old film, collected parts of many more likely. It had seen rains and droughts, bird droppings, spider colonies coming and going over the years, tarps gone bad by age but there it was , glowing, humming, almost seeming alive. Joey had seen the old films of the world’s fair robot that smoked cigarettes by remote control, of the future telephones that you could see yourself and who you were talking to. The smoking robot was mostly the old smoke and mirrors, human controls. The new phones had failed because they were too expensive and who wanted to show off that surprise vesuvius new nose zit or rush out the shower to a call from a boss or nun?
He was tired of the rain. It seemed endless. The rain was legion, it was a seeping mass on every little detail of even the most random place. He hated the droplets, the rivulets, the way it bent light like drunk lazy prisms. Most of all he hated the smell. How can something opaque smell so bad sometimes? Rain was this giant entity almost like it was alive and stretched across all. He cursed it under his breath, dreamed of fighting it with fists.
The city was also alive with spider veins of light, pulsing, moving along skins of wall and roof like a great weary spider. The signs for too many tiny shops beat against each other, the lettering slithering as far as one could see. He saw this too in dreams, but it was vines, kudzu, snakes, lava that was alive somehow but of a hushed spatial venom, of something portenous he sensed but had no clue of.
He was a police officer who dreamed of unicorns. He was in his early 30’s, some would even call him handsome if he ever smiled. He never did.
The young man stood in the parking lot of the mall solitary like a lone tree in a forest, like a blade of grass through cement. An odd older man met with him. The man’s hair was a fright of white in all directions, a storm of chaos and white. The older man spoke of storms and light, of past and present tied together by fire and garbage, by an act of forgetting made by something from the sky. He was clearly madness in a jumpsuit.
The young man listened politely in the odd painted geometry of an empty parking lot. He adored the old man for his bottled madness in those gentle eyes, in a kind of suburban boredom snake bite antidote in those crooked yellowing teeth, those odd strung words hanging in the stale summer air like astronauts high above the earth. The suburb may have once been a utopic vision dreamt of fusing a 3 headed beast of farm, city and something skinned of lawns, tiny parks and street signs between, a lava molten notion at the end of that long horrid war but it died house by house, street by street. This town to the young man was clearly its grave and his street that last clutching , grasping spasm of an idea mutated into a dullness: ash in the mouth, guano in the eyes.
The older man was an almost mythical figure with all of his claims of bringing things back from the dead and the past. He had a gentle face with kind eyes and beard and hair white like a gentle snowfall in the hilltop of his forehead. He had retreated, the stories said, to an isolated island deep in the tropics. To some this reeked of some sort of twisted cliché of drunk aging writers going to die, of painters boating away from somewhere in Europe to paint local women and sleep in the sun between tropical showers in stinky shorts.
He had a compound. He had lots of food. He wanted people to come from the mainland. The call came in a series of at first cryptic then telemarketing cheesy emails. He made claims like a snake oil salesman selling hair tonics and magic pills. He used a lot of buzzwords. He challenged two scientists to come. They did. One brought his kids. The single scientist arrived in all black with shirt open revealing the hairless chest of a shaved rodent. He was arrogance in glasses and hair gel. The other scientist was apple pie sliced bread 50’s father archetype in a hat and knew this. His son was a precocious boy with a bowl cut. His daughter was a bit shy and wary of it all.
The compound was said to have magic, to have defeated time and death. The lush greenery was at once tropical and an almost physical portent of some sort of complexity to come. The jeeps were oddly decorated like it was a Disney theme park of death and ressurection meets Fantasy Island. The single scientist in his sweaty black shirt half expected roller coasters. The dad scientist suddenly had craving for cotton candy and waiting in long lines and had no idea why. The thoughts passed like errant ghosts, like fast low clouds in a tropical afternoon sky.
The cult leaderish older man had two assistants. One seemed to always have a cigarette hanging almost glued on his lower lip. His glasses never fogged in the humidity, almost the only miracle so far in the compound. He was a ball of nervous energy in a buttoned up shirt. The other was a rotund sweaty man who looked a lot like a character on an 80’s sitcom. He was one of those people who radiated disconnect and something haunting them like ghost to graveyard.
The tour of the compound the next day was of walls and towers and electric gates and heat. The sun was beating down on the absurd jeeps as they rode for miles across a redundant landscape of trees and overgrowth. Black shirt scientist found it all darkly amusing. Dad scientist enjoyed the break from work and the chance to see his female friend scientist who was smiles and big hair. She was to some his girlfriend but in the compound she was more his friend there also by odd email invitation. Dark shirt scientist was a chaos theory expert, something that soon would surely limit his job options but it sounded amazing in the time and matched his hair somehow.
Loud noises. Rumbling. Shaking.
Something was happening in the compound.
Rattling. Loud noises. Lizards ran fast to the south in the open field as the family relaxed in a tree. Something large was coming. Something was heading their way. Something seemed to sneeze in the daughter’s face. A tall ghost? She wanted to go home. Dad smiled like he did when he did not know what to say. This was often.
The rotund man was siphoning money from the compound. He knew there was something to sell about it all. Snake oil after all. No honor among thieves etc.. He headed out in a great rain and crashed his jeep. He fell down a hill. He already had contacted people off the island. It all soon would unravel with or without him.
He was death now here.
Scream. Panic. Something was attacking the compound.
The hanging cigarette man showed no emotion (or gravity with that tiny forest fire on his lip..). He knew something was deeply wrong. The old man assured all was well as any cult leader would…as the captain of a doomed ship would say as he saw his oversight was the iceberg.
The scientists and kids left. There was something here, sure..but it was not right. Maybe the sneeze was the dead back to life. Maybe the birds flew from the past brought back from some sort of dulled edge 20th century alchemy but it was like the chaos theory books littering the far off office desk of black shirt scientist guy…..irregular patterns….errant data..something within the quiet face of mathematics, science and a seed broken open at high temperature. The island would shrink away in the distance. Tbe old man was either a charlatan or what the snake oil salesmen of yore only daydreamed of…..the hand on the rod of nature bending it with his will.
The money making scheme was rotten inside . The rotund man tried to bleed this directly and in his greed and haste crashed. The old man had ghosts to haunt him now..of conscience be it from the dead or just the dishonesty of a corporation made on the shaky architecture of over-promising future and past.
He was the ghost again..all alone surrounded by the absurd garish jeeps and electric fence.
an ambient work came on the radio…driving my dying old car up the crest of the hill that at one time led seemingly to nowhere…then to a job in polyester bell bottoms manning a cash register at magic mountain..then cal arts as a dream and one wild party…then as a student…….then this night….3 days after my mom passed on after so many years bedridden and unable to speak…….a kind of water began to pour…..floods and dams failing …..something inside eroding in the spaces and analog pads…….it felt for a second as though my car was to fly away deconstructed and winged away….every bit of geometry…every screw and material…..to just become a swarm and things in exploded view like the books of planes……..and she was gone……..and she was free from this…..and a horn honked…..a car passed……
.and it was as though there was no earth at all for a few seconds….no need ..no gravity…and no weight…..she was at peace now