Shadows cackled on the wall of the cell and I huddled the best I could in my bunk and blankets as I awoke in prison, in some abyss, wrong as it seemed even to me; fearful, confused.
My second thought was of hell, a place dark and quiet with an occasional flickering television.
I stood, stalked around the cell--pacing, gasping, thinking, mumbling, speaking, weeping, crying, standing, sitting, trying, brooding, whimpering, lavishly flashing, teeth-gnashing, hammering, stammering, shivering, giving ground to shadows, breathing, dying, frying, freezing, lying to myself, sighing, timing, and setting and casting and catching and forgetting. For all this I had one realization: the cell was strange to me, entirely so, and I had no use for it.
I crept when they let me out. Thought I was doing my best to blend into the scenery and not draw unwanted attention. I did well at it, at least that was my impression of my own actions.
The same time, I was ready to kill a motherfucker because I wanted some answers, and I would do whatever it took to get them.
I decided on a motel as I came outside it in a cheap taxi, the kind that is actually a van on its last legs. I put my two bags on the bed of the room; slammed the door and made it to the cab before it left me, and soon came to a bar.
There was a woman there who bought me a drink and had the favor returned. Eventually I kissed her and tousled her blonde hair. She came back to the motel with me.
I wasn't sure of anything.
I had flagrant and detailed memories far prior to waking up in prison. But there was a serious black hole as to the time I spent getting there. I remembered getting thrown out of my house, staunchly walking away. That hadn't been good as things absolutely never are.
I remembered losing my job and roaming the streets.
I remembered an ether trip--and then there was blackness. That must have been it, but even that I couldn't be sure of.
I trudged on; into a park even as the snow fell the next day.
I looked at a playground nearby, walked a hundred, a thousand leagues or more. In that moment I dealt with the greatest of regrets. A wife and kids in the toilet, ether swirling around the rims, loss of memories and lost minds. Moreover, I took all of it in stride...
I struck my way through a gray morning atmosphere some days later, walking up the street, and eventually I decided to flag down a sympathetic cabbie --though I had no money.
Once he found me, I for some reason felt more sure of things. It seemed that in the gray of the week or month or however long it had been the cabbie was a suitable guide. Like a sheperd finding a lost member of his flock.
Before getting in, I stood and looked across an ocean of rubies and diamonds and this compelled me to tell the cabbie to wait. He did, and the aforementioned ocean did glimmer at the two of us--and I took pity on the cabbie as it changed him as a man, and I wished suddenly that I could go through like changes--knowing all the while, of course, that to change a man like me, a man so lost and foolish and clueless, was simply not possible.
I took good stock of my surroundings and told the cabbie to drive. He asked where and I reminded him, or at least that's what I thought I was doing, that it didn't matter. I had every intention of paying him, but it didn't work out as the continual non-reality of my empty pockets surfaced and re-surfaced, and I was thrown out somewhere downtown.
I started smoking, chain-smoking, as a habit suddenly when I saw a cigarette machine weeks later. I wanted to use the machine. As I lighted a cigarette, smoked it, purchased another and smoked it, a line from Kerouac's On The Road occurred to me; something about "only the mad" being for him; and I was as comforted then, nictoine buzzing my brain, as I was when I had first read it. And the lively feeling was bright and spastic and gave me the urge to jog somewhere, anywhere, to roam and never strive for the so-called stability of bourgeois existence again. Kerouac's words and cigarette smoke clung to me like mud from a swamp might.
I went back to the motel where I was still staying. I don't remember how I kept paying for it, or even if they ever charged me. I don't actually remember if it was even a motel.
Hours later, I found myself sitting atop the table in the room's kitchenette, writing on a tablet. It felt as if I had come awake again, like the time in prison, and I didn't know what or why I was writing.
But it felt good. Extremely good.
I've lived the sort of life where many times I have been forced to see myself simply as the protagonist in some great, unheard-of, worthless, unpublished, half-baked novel.
A short one, I see now as lights flash outside and the corpse of the woman from the bar comes to light, but a worthwhile one nevertheless.
BIO: P. H. Madore has never been to prison that you can prove. He HAS been published in a bunch of places recently, including insolent rudder, Yankee Pot Roast, the Lampshade, and more. Bother him at http://phmadore.net
¶ 1:11 PM3 comments
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
GODDESS DANCING :: Theresa Cecilia Garcia
In the middle of NYC, abstract letters were dancing on red brick walls, white starched, among rainbow-colored laundry on thin beams of line held firmly in place with wooden clips, waving with the warm breeze.
My body jogs repeatedly about the perimeter of the neighborhood for hours at a time and I run as far and as fast as I can. Sometimes it seems like I'm going to fall off the edge of my world into a pool of deep thought, drowning, until someone walks by and finds the remains of my body, blood spurting viciously from all orifices. Stream lining through my fingers, down my legs and I scream a silent scream and I smile and hide behind it. Hurt yourself on the outside, kill yourself on the inside.
He told me he loved me. That he would never do anything to hurt me. But down came the rain and the darkness swallowed the sun's rays and I reincarnated.
Have you ever looked into someone's eyes and seen death? It's a strange death because life has not killed the soul nor has love. It's the death of a silent wound. Unrevealing yet immense and as you stare into those eyes the feeling of pain estranged from the world but in our midst miraculous, inviolable like a flower unfolding, exquisite martyrdom holds your gaze.
In a split second of fury and inattention, a horrendous inhuman roar exploded through my head and I was taken back. "I have to ask, are you wet? Because I'm getting hard just looking at you." Forced smile, "What?" Uncomfortable, "No, not at all." "Hmmmmmmm not wet yet? Can I help?" His facade of civility snapped as he lashed out and jerked me by the hair so hard all I could see was stars. I screamed and fought, bit into his hand and drew blood as he dragged my head toward him, his hot breath on my face. "Don't be so puritanical and do not call for there's nobody here. Do not shout, do not ask or beg for there is nobody, there is nobody."
Vomiting on the edge of the sidewalk. Release me. Midnight. Two ambulances silently flashing their lights. One on the left the other on the right. My legs were vibrating. I'm stagnate, standing at the red light and both ambulances pass through it with ease. And I don't know who I am.
BIO: Theresa Cecilia Garcia is a free spirit and a former elementary school teacher turned writer. She is an active member of www.zoetrope.com and has been published in numerous ezines.
¶ 12:52 PM3 comments
Monday, March 06, 2006
AND COUNTING :: Mark Budman
100 seconds. All your life you dream of free flight, but the weight in your chest holds you down.
80 seconds. A flight attendant finally falls. You don't know how she managed to remain standing for so long with her hands tied behind her back. Her skirt rides up; her thighs are skinny. Blood flows down her chin from the deep cut on her cheek. You want to pray, but you forgot the words. You want to cry, but you have no tears. You want to be tiny, like a fly. Or maybe big, like a fire-breathing monster.
60 seconds. The plane rattles. The pilot is an amateur, after all. The overhead compartments spill canvas bags and crocodile briefcases. A man across the aisle clutches his chest. A boy behind you says, "Mommy, mommy what does Allah mean?"
40 seconds. A woman next to you screams. She can't help it. You feel the air sucked out of your ears.
20 seconds. You hug her and whisper, "Don't cry, angel. We are immortal." She sobs on your shoulder.
0 seconds. The weight is gone. You are reaching for the sun; you no longer need to blink. Finally, you are in free flight.
The night is long. The road unspools before you like dark ribbon. There is no hurry. There is time to say all that needs to be said and do all that needs to be done.
Tell me your story.
I'm here with you, but you don't know it. You feel me like a discordant lullaby, as distant and persistent as the wax paper moon stuck to your windshield. I'm not going anywhere. I won't go anywhere.
Tell me your story. Sing it. Whisper it. Shout it.
It doesn't have to be perfect. I crave the imperfect. Tell me what's buried there under the refuse-- the booze, the pills, the condoms, and all the other souvenirs of the misbegotten piled against a truth so ugly it's beautiful, but it hurts, it fucking hurts so much.
Tell me. Make it hurt.
I want to crawl into your junk heap soul, burrow like a maggot through the vomit, rotten TV guides and bad checks. When I get to the core of you, I will feed, nourish myself on what ruined you, what made you fit for this world and unfit for me and my night. I will never leave you.
BIO: Cami Park's work can be found in publications such as Smokelong Quarterly, Outsider Ink, No Tell Motel, Opium Magazine, Forklift, Ohio, and Ghoti Magazine.
Ah, fuck. Nothing new, but it is like a lump in my chest. It is the beast. When he wakes, he bangs around to let me know he is still there.
The hurt, the hello.
I would like to let him out, at least at night. No. That is a mistake, to say "to let" or "I would like". He calls the shots.
I shouldn't complain though. It is only through our pain that we can sometimes be reminded that we are alive.
Berlin suits me.
With shorter hair my hat is now ill fitting.
The bar where I opened the letter. You are pregnant and the bartender, the other one, Sandra, still ignores me.
There is no sign, no name. It suits me.
Did I write you congratulations or did I get right to the meat of the matter?
No name suits me. Call me Berlin.
Well, in any case, congratulations. Did I tell you about Marlene Dietrich? It's not really her, I just call her that. Every one is eventually re-christened by me.
We talk. Out of boredom we fucked.
It started with a song.
We were at opposite ends of the bar. No one else was around. Music was playing. Radio crackling like the rebellion of a dying fire.
She just stared at me, not in the blatantly hostile way I sometimes encountered though. With the right song and another drink one of us is going to spill out, I had thought. Risking exile, I went behind the bar and changed the station. I wanted a soundtrack that goes with a movie about a man trying to forget.
I am such a liar.
I wanted something to prod me into action.
She had a good twenty years on me. Which was good, it meant we wouldn't have to spend the whole night sitting at the bar, small talk, playing coy.
Still, I didn't mind a little bit of chat.
Marlene lived above a cobbler who closed too early and she hadn't seen in years.
We had some more drinks.
I didn't know her and could be completely honest. It was refreshing. She returned the favor. For Marlene there is nothing more, all tomorrows lie dead in the street
I was in the middle of finding out how much ink a year without you translated into.
All tomorrows lie dead in the street, but even in death rituals and habits must remain.
She wouldn't mind listening to the Blue Note she saw poking out of the top of my bag. She pointed with her chin.
"Mmm... die gut musik".
Her elevator had pretty brass grillwork on the small door which was tarnished to a Degas green.
She brushed her teeth. I sat on the end of the bed. She kept the light on, I liked that.
Her stockings clung tightly to her legs and I watched her try to roll them down slowly without losing any of the eroticism.
We had forgotten to put the record on. I had been careful not to put my bag near any heater though.
She pointed to one meaty thigh on which the inside a blurred tattoo of a phonograph could be seen.
Boris placed his hand on her back, assuring her it was okay to enter the cave. She felt him reach up and run his hands along the stone wall. She jumped as she heard a click.
“What was that?” she asked.
“Hmm?” he said.
Another click and the cave filled with warm light.
Boris motioned for her to sit on one of two large rocks that were positioned in the center of the low-ceilinged cave.
She did as she was told.
His voice came through the familiar sludge of his throat, though this time, the growl was gone. She listened closely and thought she heard tenderness.
“I want to say I’m sorry,” he shut his eyes, seeming to squeeze back tears. She could not and she started to cry. A slight trickle at first, but the fear and the shock at seeing her dad in such a vulnerable place turned to heaving sobs in fractions of a second.
“Please don’t cry, Tam. I’m trying to say I love you.”
She barely heard him.
“Listen to me. Listen.”
She tried really hard to stop crying.
“Tam, you are almost a woman. Are you listening, Tamella? You are twelve years old and almost a woman now. I’m trying to say that I’m sorry and that I love you. I want you to be a woman now. I am an old man, Tamella, and I can’t be responsible for a young woman.”
Tam blinked, squinting at Boris. She could barely hear him. He was whispering and not making any sense.
He cleared his throat and continued. “It is time, Tamella. Time for you to grow up. Are you listening?”
“I can’t take care of you anymore and you need to learn how to rely on yourself. I am going to leave you here, Tam. I am going to leave you here in this cave. There are two ways out. One is through the front entrance, where we came in. Are you listening?”
Tam was dizzy, her ears ringing. Her mouth was dry. She coughed and dry-heaved, missing what Boris was saying.
“…through the back all the way to the house. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she lied. Her voice like glass in the quiet cave.
Boris nodded and got up. He leaned over and gently wiped her face.
“I trust that you will find your way home,” he smiled. “That’s my big girl.”
Tam was frozen. Her tears were gone. She struggled to hear what he was saying. She saw him moving, saw his hand reach out for her shoulder, watched his lips move. But she couldn’t comprehend what he was saying.
And then he was gone.
And she was alone. And in the dark. There was light earlier, she was sure of it. But no more. The light was gone and her father was gone and she was alone in the dark. But she didn’t cry. She just sat.
She was a woman now. That’s what he’d said. She was a woman and she could take care of herself. She could take care of herself on a rock, in a cave, in the dark, in the middle of the night on her twelfth birthday. She could take care of herself, because Boris trusted her. And he loved her. He even said so.
She got up off the rock and started to walk towards the entrance. Her shoes began to stick in the mud on the floor. She stretched out her arms, feeling for the wall. All she felt was cool air. She concentrated on the slurping of her feet and tried not to panic.
She walked and walked and never found the opening. Never touched a wall. She turned around to find the rock. She walked straight back the way she’d come, but couldn’t find the rock either. She twirled in the middle of the cave, desperate to find the way out.
Even though it was dark, she closed her eyes. She took off her shoes and felt the mud squish between her toes. She held her arms straight out. Leaned her head back. And begin to spin.
She spun and spun and didn’t quit until she fell in the mud, landing in a clump. She rolled onto her back and extended her arms and legs like the Vitruvian Man. She closed her eyes and concentrated.
She jumped up and ran as fast as she could, certain she’d found the way out. She held her arms straight out to the sides and ran in the mud. She felt the coolness of stone on her left hand and realized she’d found a wall. A wall! She’d find her way out for sure.
She clung to the wall and continued to run. Her breathing was short and shallow. Her heart beat wildly. Her lungs burned, as did the muscles in her legs. She ran blind in the dark, listening to the mud under her feet and her father’s words looping through her head.
You’re a woman now. You’re a woman. I love you. I am sorry.
She was so dizzy and couldn’t catch her breath. She needed to stop, to rest. How long had she been running? It was a small cave. She’d seen it when she came in. She’d been running for hours, she was sure of it. Running lost, thirsty, cramping. But not scared.
She was almost a woman.
She didn’t even realize she was on the ground when she fell. Her brain was swimming. Her leg felt hot, she reached down and it was wet. She was covered in wet. Mud she guessed. But her leg hurt. And now she was a woman. Boris trusted her. She was his big girl.
She closed her eyes and saw her dead mother’s face. She was smiling and she wore a bright red rose tucked over her left ear. She pulled out the flower and handed it to Tam. Tam took it and held it close to her nose, inhaling deeply, trying to pull her mother’s soul in through her nostrils.
“Tamella. My daughter. My love,” her mother said. The words tickled as they coursed through her ears.
Her mother scooped her up and carried her in her arms. “Let’s go home.”
Tam flew with her mother through the cave, turning left and then right, Tam clinging to her mother’s chest, savoring the smell of fresh roses.
Her mother carried her straight up to her room and laid her down on the bed. She pulled the covers up over Tam and smoothed down her hair.
Tam started to talk, but her mother shushed her, placing a bony finger to Tam’s lips.
It started with the drapes. Or the 'curtains' as my mother would say. I thought I could put it out and I tried but it got too big, too fast, and it took over everything. I watched the couch burn like it was made of plastic. I watched the table and our books go up in flames. It was hot and humid and smoky and it looked so bad and so awful. I got scared. I ran out into the garage, but then I remembered that you would have tried to save me. I know you would. So I went back in.
I ran up the stairs. I ran through fire for you, just like some dumb country song. But it was too late. When I got to your room and looked through the smoke your bed was in flames. I wonder if you screamed and I didn't hear you. Oh, God. The black shape of you on the bed. And the melting of everything. Your hand lying perfectly still like nothing had happened. And your face.
Email submissions to: velvetgarrote AT yahoo DOT com
We pay $5 (via PayPal) upon publication.
We prefer you provide your own artwork, but it's not required.
All work must be your own. You must own all rights.
Other than that, there are no rules.