Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oranges for three loves (a fable masquerading as a poem)


To steal away three oranges for love he was
instructed by long-ago’s cackling voices, but over time
words once sharply plucked and sealed in the wide mouth
of his boyish memory have grown up vague and bushy.

So, this night he picks to stalk the storybook rows
of stubby trees that squat smack in the middle of a maze
unknown but tender hands have pulled straight to hide
riddles in their patchwork of endlessly seamed sameness.

Aided by a sickle moon’s pointed glances, he hastily
harvests the wages of three waxy fruit and plops
his juicy hopes sweetly into a leather pouch, as loosed
the feather-leafed branches snap back skyward.


Home on the next morning’s edge, first love he sights.
She has a narrow white face and blush-dabbed features
below a tall swab of swirled scarlet hair that wags
a bobbed tongue’s tale as she comes bouncing into view.

Striped dawn glows, and tickled he, perhaps too eagerly,
reaches into his bag with the lust of hurried hands.
An orange, yet under-ripe and unready, he blurts out to her
as a wholly careless, green-topped, and unpeeled gift.

She takes it and rolls it through her nest of slender tips.
The thumbs inspecting its sadly misshaped bits find
the bumps and crevices around a knobby stem are proof
of a worthless fruit. Dropping it, she walks on, nose up-turned.


Twelve days left to his less-than-virtuous devices,
he fusses over the second orange. His nails dig in
to screw-cut peel its thick rind. He picks off odd
pieces of pith and smooths its newly gleaming surface.

These would-be idol hours spent preening could
pay off when another amour falls as an acid-yellow
figment. She floats down to him from the distant hilltops
with a floppy mop of golden curls and a broad pink brow.

Pristine fruit on palm extended, he waits his worth,
while the citrusy flesh, exposed to a mid-day sun,
shrivels brown and collapses into a pulpy mess. When
she passes, it draws a mere wave and topples easily.


As the shadows of a jagged-tooth fencepost lengthen
a sudden and thoughtless appetite grows in him.
He grabs the third orange and gobbles it all down
but a lone slick seed that sticks in his deflated cheek.

Bewitched from the seemed break in magic’s promise,
he makes this kernel an offering to devouring soils
and lays his hard head upon the single-seeded bed
where he’ll drowse rocked by soft-chirped serenades.

Then, a quake and a tree sprout. Spreading branches
lift him up among the strangely branded fruit
that an orange-tongued fairy nibbles as she tosses
green locks and smiles at him with her hazelly gaze.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

diary of a heretic, chapter 8

to begin at the beginning, click here

by kathleen maher

pictures by rhoda penmarq

8) Our Impoverished Souls

By now the lunch crowd’s descending. (You’d be surprised how many people want custard-filled coffee cake for lunch, even though we offer three kinds of sandwiches.) I double-check the alley to see if the beverage truck’s coming when I’m seized by the ethereal shivers that have been visiting me several times a day, on and off, for weeks.
Every hair on my body stands on end and I float back inside with the sense that if I wanted to, I could rise off the floor. I think I can see every molecule in the room: they look like infinitesimal, incandescent sailboats.

Carlos taps me on the shoulder. “Don’t go too far, man, you might not get back.”
A line unfurls in my mind: Everything that happens has already happened. From the front comes giggling. Four college girls accompany a rotund character in cape and beret, whose sex I can’t tell at first. I look carefully, and decide the person’s a he.

The group, tittering, moves to a big table, where they order éclairs and double lattes. The androgynous person brandishes a black cigarette in a shiny gold holder.
I clear my throat. Press my palms together. “I’m afraid there’s no smoking.”
“No need to soil yourself. I only pretend to smoke.”

Two more sets of customers enter and seat themselves. I pour water and retreat to the counter, where I get the lattes going, set the paper doilies on the plates, and begin reaching for the éclairs. Whereupon Carlos’s maddening breath once again fills my ear. “Juice man’s here,” he whispers. Like it’s a big secret. He takes the tongs from me and I stand watching mindlessly as he lays down the last éclair and slyly licks each of his long, sugary fingers. To punctuate the gesture, he grins and looks away.
I glimpse his profile—catch and really register it for possibly the first time. There’s something naked about it. His eyelids have no lashes. In this light, from this angle, his skin wears a greenish undertone. Is it the light? A new hair dye? And then: Why didn’t I see it before? No wonder his face looks strangely lizardlike. He’s shaved off his mustache! But, there he goes, zigzagging from table to table.

Carlos the gila monster, the chameleon, serves the students first, then scurries around, filling orders. I ought to be grateful. Carlos is eagerly, efficiently, helping me out. Mr. Raging Superiority is pouring coffee, wiping away crumbs. He’s laying out napkins and dispensing miniature jugs of cream for god’s sake! Is this going to be a regular thing?
Until the New C. of C., Carlos was always the genius and I was the dullard with purse strings. He’s ridiculed and berated me for twelve years straight because he’s a fabulously gifted baker and he knows it. People come from all over for Carlos’s creations. Newspapers and magazines semi-annually pronounce his pastry the best in Chicagoland and invite local celebrities to write about their favorites.

So I’ve always put up with a lot of shit from him. But only in the last two weeks has he taken to sidling up to me, casually massaging my shoulders, and whispering, “Relax.” His shoulder or forearm is constantly grazing mine. His finger runs along the underside of my arm, and over my chest, under my chin. Twice today, Carlos has placed his firm, dexterous hand at my hip!

His heat and energy make me drool. It’s all I can do not to curse and shake my fist. Someone’s yelling, “Yo, Malcolm!” from the kitchen when Carlos puts his cold-blooded lips again to my ear. “What did I tell you? Juice man’s here.”
Bald Paul from Mystic is leaning against the pie shelves, smoking a cigarette like a horn player off his jazz muse, though I happen to know his talents are driving a truck, lifting weights, and believing it’s only a matter of time until he wins the lottery. Hairless except for a priapic little black “soul patch” between his mouth and chin, his presence alone embarrasses me.

I point to the no smoking poster, and he shrugs. My juice, my coolers, sparkling water, a whole week’s worth of milk, cream, and butter are stacked by the walk-in fridge. I glance at the stuff and move fingers in an attempt to look like speed counting. Then I sign the receipt.
Back at the front tables, the thespians are eating their gooey éclairs and holding—that is, looking at—the fliers I’d buried in the supply closet, back behind the paper towels, as soon as I’d realized that Six Ways to Overcome Loneliness was really a pitiful concept.

Take-out customers and those waiting for tables are also holding the fliers, as Carlos announces to the room at large that the six ways of loneliness derive from six levels. “Loneliness,” he intones, “is the starting point for any and all spiritual awareness.”

“Hear, hear,” says the person in the cape. Jumping to his feet, raising his cup, he says, “To our impoverished souls! May they grow fat. May they grow bold.”

I hurry over to a front table where the dry cleaner from across the street and Stanley, the pharmacist who works next door, sit looking incredulous.
“What is this?” Stanley asks, a flier in hand.
The dry cleaner, whose name I don’t know because unlike R.Ph. Stanley Larson he doesn’t wear a name plate, winks. “Getting in on the next big thing, are you?”
Shaking my head, I get them sandwiches. How did Carlos dig up and distribute the fliers so fast?

When I return, the dry cleaner wants to know where I am on the six levels to awareness. Four? Five? And are there points in between?
Fool that I am, I say, “Yes, there are points in between.”
“So right now, you’re trying to surpass what? Four? Four and half?”
“It’s hard to say.”
“Of course. I shouldn’t have asked.”
For a second, I wonder if he’s making fun of me but when he and Stanley leave, they both ask for fliers to post and hand out in their stores. Apparently, the brilliant Carlos is brilliantly selling his scheme.

chapters 9 and 10

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 39: Squitters

Click here to go to our previous episode; new arrivals may go here to return to the beginning of that world-famed wag Larry Winchester’s sprawling epic of a novel (a Quinn-Martin/Larry Winchester™ co-production).

It’s been a bleak September day in 1969. Our heroes Harvey, Dick and Daphne went off on a horseback ride whose highlight was the violent death of a local family of two-bit redneck perckerwoods. They are being followed by the sinister Europeans Hans and Marlene, who in turn are being shadowed by the government agents (and fellow guests at the Johnstone Ranch) Mr. Philips and Mr. Adams. Hope, the teenage daughter of the blustering rancher Big Jake Johnstone, has had some sort of breakdown, and the local physician, the drug-addicted Doc Goldwasser, had been called out to treat her. In a foul cave in the hills the motorcycle gangster Moloch smokes opium, plotting foul play.

Meanwhile Enid, the local café proprietor and sculptress, mulls it all over...

Enid lay propped up in her big brass bed, resting, smoking a joint and sipping from a mug of milky honeyed tea.

The phone rang and she picked it up. It was Squitters and he sounded fairly sober.

Enid had finally realized -- in large part thanks to Derek Squitters, the raffish young Englishman now staying out at the Johnstone Ranch -- that like the vast majority of American artsy or intellectual women she had long been a pathetic pushover for all sorts of dodgy men whose sole recommendation was a foreign accent.

She had met Squitters during her last trip to Europe, in November of ‘68. She’d gotten really high with some friends one night in London, they all went to catch the Pretty Things at the Marquee, and someone introduced her to Derek Squitters, wearing a purple velvet cape and a red silk blouse, leather pants and jackboots, and dispensing cocaine from a gold death’s-head locket hanging from his scrawny neck on a silky gold chain.

The next thing she knew she was in an affair if you could call it that with Squitters, who was the leader of this group called the Measles, which had started out as a rough and ready rhythm-and-blues band but had now gone psychedelic along with everyone else (their most recent album being an opera entitled
Seven Gates into the Tortured Mind of Mr. Piddlewiddie, yielding the hits “Foghorns and Fiddlesticks” and “Your Face is a Universe”). It had all been slightly flattering at first because he was only twenty-three and kind of cute in a skinny English crooked-teeth sort of way, and he had tons of money and his pick of any number of needle-thin models and actresses, but he said he liked her because she was “a fuckin’ woman”. Of course like every other Englishman of her experience he was lousy in bed and he usually had bad breath and B.O., but there were perks: the limousines, the champagne, the celebrities and nightclubs and drugs. It was okay for a lark.

One night she played him a tape she had made of some Mescalero chants, and he had been “fuckin’ freaked’ by it -- he was tripping at the time (he was usually tripping) -- and he said he wanted to come to New Mexico and record and “get high with the fuckin’ Indians, man; they know where it’s at”. She had dismissed this remark as readily as she dismissed 90% of what he said.

When she went home a couple of weeks after meeting him she was glad to get away from him. He wasn’t a bad kid, he was just young and stupid and not really very interesting, and she realized she had once again succumbed to the Foreign Accent Syndrome, combined with a healthy dose of the Celebrity/Rich Dude Syndrome. She thought about all this on the flight back. She was getting too old to waste her time on boring men. She resolved that the next man she had a real affair with would not be a bore. She thought about it some more and finally resolved also that he could not be a jerk, either.

She was not all that sure she would ever find a man who was neither a bore nor a jerk.

Maybe she was setting her sights too high.

Anyway, it had been almost a year since the Squitters affair, ten non-boring and artistically-fulfilling celibate months when, wouldn’t you know it, who phones from New York a few days ago and says he’s on his way but Derek. Says he’s missed her and really wants to see her and he wants to “’ang wif the Indians”.

She made it clear that he couldn’t stay with her and that he definitely couldn’t have sex with her, but since he seemed bound and determined to come she arranged for him to stay at the Johnstone dude ranch. She really didn’t want him all over her with his gamy leather pants and his creepy silk shirts and his oily spotty skin and the Chanel #5 he splashed under his bleedin’ armpits.

He had shown up the night before last (helicoptered in from Albuquerque), and she had been civil; they had a nice late dinner in her apartment above the coffee shop and she let him know again in no uncertain terms that their affair was over. He accepted her declaration with a little bit more aplomb than her vanity liked; the little bastard knew there were plenty more where she came from. He then proceeded to get absolutely shit-faced drunk.

She drove him out to the Johnstone place. He had never learned how to drive, claiming wisely that if he did he would only wreak havoc on himself and others.

When they got to the ranch he made one more sloppy attempt to “’ave a bit of a shag for old time’s sake”, and she shoved him out of the truck. He curled up in the dirt and went to sleep. She got out, went to the back of the truck and got out his stuff: an alligator suitcase, a trunk of recording equipment, his guitar. She laid it all next to his snoring body and went up to the house and rang the bell. Chang the houseboy came to the door, and Enid left the rest to him.

Enid had set it up for Squitters to take part in an Apache peyote ceremony out at the reservation later tonight, and she agreed to drive him out there, which was why she was lying in bed and resting now. He was calling now to invite her to come out early for a barbecue at Big Jake’s; they could eat supper and then afterwards head out to the reservation.

“I hate Big Jake,” she said.

“Fuck ‘im,” said Derek. “Ya gotta come out any’ow, why not get a free meal and some booze. Besides, there’s all sorts of weird people ‘ere. You’ll dig it.”

Enid had to admit she was intrigued. Everyone at the coffee shop had been talking about this odd assortment of people staying out at Jake’s. What the hell. She told Derek she would be there.

(To be continued.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010


by human being
illustrations by rhoda penmarq

first of five parts

i turned
the path turned too

each person i meet along the path
is part of me
long lost

the only obstacle in my path is

i go on... and on
if i stop
i'll get lost

the river watches me
passing by

on the road
some may rob me
they are losers

on the road
some may compete with me
they are loners

on the road
some may kill me
they will die

they can steal my shoes
but not my steps

they can cut off my legs
but not my will to walk

part two

Sunday, August 22, 2010

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 38: Manhattans

(Go here to read our previous episode; click here to return to the beginning of our Pabst Blue Ribbon Award-winning serialization of the legendary Larry Winchester’s unexpurgated masterpiece.)*

The place: Big Jake Johnstone’s ranch, several miles outside of the town of Disdain, New Mexico. The time: an afternoon in early September, 1969.

(This episode rated R for "restricted plot development".)

*("Not only the only American film-maker whose name can justifiably be mentioned in the same breath with Bergman, Fellini and Renoir, but perhaps the only American novelist who could equitably tipple a cocktail with the likes of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Dickens and Cervantes." -- Harold Bloom)

Big Jake was mixing up a batch of Four Roses Manhattans in a stainless steel shaker that had the Playboy Bunny embossed on it.

“What a very cunning cocktail shaker you have, Big Jake,” said Daphne.

She lay sprawled out on a faded old floral print sofa with yellowed lace anti-macassars here in Jake’s large and somewhat grandmotherly living room. Dick sat in a naugahyde adjustable reclining chair with a lever that didn’t quite work. The chair seemed to want to sit either bolt upright or straight back. He had opted for the bolt upright position.

“Ain’t it nice?” said Jake. “Got it at the gift shop at that Playboy Club up in Chicago. “Y’know that Hugh Hefner feller’s a personal acquaintance of mine.”

“Really, how exciting for you,” said Daphne. She was smoking a cigarette in her holder, and she tapped the ash into a blue cut-glass ashtray balanced on her belly. “I’ll bet you’re quite the hit with all those little bunnies of his.”

Big Jake halted in mid-shake.

“Miz Daphne, there ain’t a one of them bunnies I seen up there can hold a candle to you in the female pulchritude department and that’s the God’s honest truth. You like a cherry in your Manhattan?”

“Two please.”

“Cherry, Mr. Smith?”

Dick was smoking also, one of Jake’s Marlboros.

“Mr. Smith?’

“Yes, Jake?”

“I say you want a cherry in your Manhattan?”

“Oh. Twist of lemon peel for me, Jake, please.”

“That is within the range of my capability, sir.”

Dick and Daphne were still in their dusty riding clothes. Big Jake wore a silk smoking jacket in a paisley design, a scarlet silk ascot around his massive neck, and a bright white Mexican ranchero shirt embroidered in garnet and gold. White silk bell-bottoms and red velvet slippers completed his ensemble. A Double Corona Cuban lay smoking in the Playboy Club ashtray on the drinks cart.

Sticking the thick tip of his tongue out of the corner of his mouth in concentration Jake raised up the completed cocktails, one in each of his enormous hands, and then he walked very carefully over to Daphne. His hand trembled as he handed Daphne her cocktail.

“Thank you, Big Jake.”

“You’re very welcome, ma’am.”

Jake lumbered over to Dick with his cocktail, spilling only a few drops on the priceless Persian rug.

Dick rose slightly in his seat and took the drink.

“Thanks, Jake.”

“My pleasure, Mr. Smith.”

Jake went back and got his own drink and his cigar, then he went and sat himself down in the sturdy-looking red leather easy-chair at the foot of the sofa, his lower torso sinking down nearly a foot into its plush seat cushion as both he and the chair emitted a brief whinnying chorus of wheezings.

Jake raised his glass in toast, despite the fact that Dick and Daphne had already sampled their own drinks.

“To friendship,” he suggested.

Dick was staring off into space, Daphne was massaging one of her bare feet, so Jake went ahead and tasted his drink alone.

“So, Miz Daphne,” Jake ventured again, speaking a bit louder, “lost your boots in the quicksand?”

“What? Yes. What a bother.”

“Well you gonna have to let me get you a pair of genuine handmade Mexican boots. Gila monster skin. As a gift.”

“If you can find a pair to fit these big feet of mine.”

“You got lovely feet, Miz Daphne.”

“They’re enormous.”

“Well, they ain’t small exactly -- what size are they anyway if ya don’t mind my asking.”

“Can I just write it down?”

“Think you might could take a man’s size 8?

“Well I might just possibly squeeze into them.”

“Esmeralda!” Jake bellowed, and after a long moment or two the little maid came in slowly from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron and blowing smoke out of the corner of her mouth. “Esmeralda, go on up to Little Jake’s room and bring down them boots I got him his last birthday. Por favor, if you please.”

The maid made a clicking sound with her tongue and went off up the great curving staircase, speaking Spanish under her breath.

“'Little Jake?'” asked Daphne.

“Damn fool pipsqueak son o’ mine. Went off to live in one of them hippie communes and didn’t take nothin’ but his blue jeans and his guitar. Said he didn’t want nothin’ from me so fuck him, pardon my French. Got a beautiful pair of boots he never even took out of the box. He’d rather wear sneakers,” he said with contempt, “or run around barefoot like some God damn greaser or Injun.”

“I can’t imagine why he’d want to leave a nice place like this,” said Daphne.

“Weak blood,” said Big Jake. “His mother is -- ain’t a neither one of you’s of Spanish descent, are ya?”

“Good heavens no,” said Daphne.

“Mexican his mother is,” said Jake. “I was young, and foolish. Thought I knew everything. And she was damn good lookin’ and, you know --” He raised up his turned-in splayed meaty paws and bounced an imaginary pair of bowling-ball sized breasts. “Biggest mistake I ever made. Made me bring up the kids -- you all ain’t Roman Catholic, are ya?”

“Good Lord no,” said Daphne, although in fact both she and Dick had been raised at least nominally Catholic.

“Thank God for that. She made me bring up the kids Catholic, and I ain’t a prejudiced man but I don’t trust the Catholics and I don’t trust the Jews. It’s white people like you two good people and me what built this damn land o’ liberty and if we don’t watch our step it’s gonna be overrun by the Catholic Church and the Jews and the damn Black Panthers and Black Muslims and the Communists and the Ayrabs and the Mafia and the Mex-- oh, hey there, Esmeralda.”

The maid had quietly come back down the stairs during Jake’s discourse. She handed him a white cardboard box.

“Mr. Little Jake’s botas,” she said.

“Thank ya, darlin’.”

She went away and Big Jake took the lid off the box. He opened the tissue paper and took out two incredibly garish cowboy boots with pointed silver toes. The boots fairly glowed in the late-afternoon light.

“Whatcha thank?”

Neither Dick nor Daphne said anything.

"Miz Daphne?'

"Yes, Jake."

"I say whatcha thank?"

"What do I thank?"

"Whatcha thank about the boots."

“Oh, what do I think. About the boots. I think they're just marvelous, Big Jake,” said Daphne. "Marvelous."

“Lemme help ya on with ‘em.”

He heaved himself up with the boots, went down on one knee at Daphne’s feet and reverently began to slip one boot onto her right foot.

Dick was paying attention to none of this, sitting in his uncomfortable chair sipping his drink and smoking, staring at nothing on this earth.

“So where is this wife of yours?” asked Daphne.

Big Jake popped the heel of the boot with the heel of his hand and the boot slid neatly onto Daphne’s foot.

“Run off with a damn priest,” said Big Jake.

“Oh dear, how horrible for you.”

“Good riddance to bad Mex rubbish I say. How’s that feel? Wiggle your toes around in there.”

“Feels fine. A little loose even.”

“Don’t want ‘em too tight. Pair o’ thick socks, they should do fine.” He picked up the other boot and buffed it with his sleeve. “Whatcha thank, Mr. Smith? Mr. Smith, Dick --”

“Dick, darling,” said Daphne.


“Big Jake asked you what you think?”

“About what?”

“About the lovely boots he’s given me.”

“Oh, they’re -- uh -- nice, uh, really nice,” said Dick.

“They’re a little bit big for me, but I’ll wear them with a pair of nice thick socks.”

“That’s swell,” said Dick. “Say, Jake, you don’t have a radio you could lend us, do you?”

“Radio. Don’t listen to the radio much myself. ‘Course there’s one in the Victrola console over there.”

A Jackie Gleason instrumental album had been playing all through this on the old hi-fi set.

“Nothing smaller we could keep in our room?” asked Dick.

“Thank, I mean I think, I think Little Jake left one in his room. I’ll have Esmeralda dig it out for ya.”

“Thanks, Jake --”

Doc Goldwasser came in from the front hallway just then and stood there with his homburg on his head and his black bag in his hand.

“Doctor!” called Jake. “Come on in.” Jake stood up, still holding the left-foot boot. “You want a drink, Doc?”

“No thanks, Jake.”

The doctor took his hat off, and put it on the old coat tree, the one that was made out of antelope horns.

“Want you to meet some guests o’ mine. Doctor Goldwasser, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

The Doc came forward, and Dick stood up and shook his hand.

“Please to meet you, sir,” said Dick.

“Yeah, you, too,” said the Doc.

Daphne waved to the Doc, he waved back at her. Dick sat down again.

“Have a drink, Doc,” said Big Jake.

“I thought Hope was sick,” said the Doc.

“Well, she was, Doc, she was,” said Jake.

“Then I’d better go have a look at her.”

“Well, thing is, she’s restin’ now, Doc.”

“Jesus Christ, Jake, you wake me up out of a sound sleep, I drive all the way out here --”

“Now don’t get your dander up, Doc, I’ll pay you for the visit --”

Suddenly the Doc sat down on the sofa. He put his case on the floor and it fell over.

“You all right, Doc?” asked Jake.

“Fuck,” said the Doc. His face had gone pale.

“It’s your head, ain’t it,” said Jake.

“Fuck,” said the Doc.

Everyone looked at him. He took a deep breath, then reached into his inside breast pocket, took out a small brown bottle. He unscrewed the cap and took a gulp. He waited a couple of seconds then took another gulp. He sat there holding the bottle in one hand and the cap in the other. The Jackie Gleason music played.

“You better now, Doc?”

The doctor waited a couple of seconds, then screwed the cap back on the bottle.

“War wound,” said Jake to Dick and Daphne both. “Got a piece of Kraut shrapnel stuck in his skull.” The Doc took another big breath and then finally put the little bottle away. “Look, Doc,” said Jake, “stick around to supper. We’re havin’ Saturday night barbecue. When Hope wakes up you can take a little look at her maybe. I’ll pay ya for your time and give you a good meal on top of it. Put a little meat on your bones.”

“All right,” said the Doc. He looked like it really didn’t matter to him either way right now. He sat back with his eyes half closed.

“What seems to be the matter with Hope?” asked Daphne.

“She’s nervous,” said Jake.

He came over, knelt down again and started to put the other boot on Daphne's foot.

“She’s a very beautiful girl,” said Daphne.

“Yes she is, but she’s nervous. She, uh, she recently had, uh, whatcha might call an, um, an ‘attack’. Yeah. Reason why she’s here at home now instead of startin’ out at Vassar like she should be doin’.”

“What kind of an attack?” asked Daphne.

Big Jake glanced over at the Doc, who remained impassive, taking out his cigarettes and lighter.

“Well,” said Jake, “she climbed up onto the roof of the house buck naked and speaking in tongues to the sky.”

“Oh,” said Daphne.

“I blame it on the nuns at that convent school she went to,” said Jake. “Fillin’ her head with religious hysteria, priest talk. I ain’t against religion, I’m a religious man myself in my own way, but what’s it gonna do to a child kneelin’ prayin’ to some half-naked longhaired bearded whupped man nailed to a cross or to some graven image of some woman with her heart showin’ out of her chest all bleedin’ with thorns wrapped around it, now what’s that gonna do to a child?”

Big Jake looked at each of them in turn, gripping Daphne’s foot in the boot.

“Don’t look at me, I’m a damn kike,” drawled the Doc.

“How about a drink, Doc? Got a shaker of Manhattans all made up.”

“Glass of cold water’d be nice, Jake.”

Jake patted Daphne’s booted foot one last time and hefted himself up.

“Sure thing, Doc. By the way,” he said, looking from Daphne to Dick, “Esmeralda found Hope in your-all’s room. Hope she didn’t upset nothin’.”

“In our room,” said Daphne.

“Yeah,” said Jake. “She was on your bed.”

“On our bed? What was she doing?”

“Well -- she was laughin’. And cryin’.”

“Oh dear.”

“Yeah. Wouldn’t stop. And she had her pants all pulled down.”


“I blame it on them nuns and priests.”

“How about that water, Jake,” said the Doc.

(Continued here.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

diary of a heretic, chapters 5, 6 and 7

to begin at the beginning, click here

by kathleen maher

pictures by rhoda penmarq

5) The Problem Was Wholly My Own

Neither Carlos nor anyone else has asked why I’m calling the group “The New College of Complexes.” They think it’s because these days everything is new. New Mind. New Men. New Women. New Life abounding... But there was an old College of Complexes.
More than ten years ago it disbanded when its meeting place was demolished by bulldozers.
And each of its members mysteriously surrendered to whatever individual fate he or she had been valiantly staving off.

 Either that or they bribed the manager at the McDonald’s across the street to tell me so, so as to get rid of me.

Not that I’d been hanging around the first C-of-C all that much. In two years I attended six of their meetings, and only then in response to their bold-faced motto: Everybody Welcome. 
The group impressed me as genuine seeker-martyrs, a type I respected then—and now—more than anything.

In those days, before leaving my apartment, I bathed, shaved, and followed a rigorous series of self-designed mental exercises to rid myself of odiousness. When that didn’t work, I’d pretended that Colin had not died—he was never even in danger and the whole incident was a nightmare my subconscious had unrolled to protect me from the shame when he left me for the bass player across the hall: A stretch, on many levels, the most significant that Colin and I were mates for life. We believed that and professed our commitment a lot. Anyway, whenever I attended an old C of C meeting, I sat strictly in the back and watched.

So why would I wonder if they bribed the counterman at McDonald’s? Well, for one thing, motto or no motto, the old group was very big on spiritual quid pro quo: you were only as holy as you were poor; enlightenment demanded destitution.

With no exceptions for anyone owning a profitable coffee and pastry shop (which my parents “invested in” as soon as I dropped out of Northwestern, after Colin’s death.)
I tried to explain myself to the old C. of C-ers. Owning a shop, I said, was not venal in and of itself. I nourished people. For free if need be. And of course they were welcome anytime, gratis.
“At a cappuccino place in the suburbs?” asked Hugo, a true seeker-martyr.

“Yes,” I said, “but not a far suburb.”
Hugo shook his head. “I just don’t think so.”
For a second there I suspected him of bias against suburbanites: that is, a soulless, careless class desperately grasping for whatever’s most conventional. And if anything, with our driveways and vinyl siding, we deliberately set out to quash transcendence. But then I realized the problem was wholly my own. If the old C. of C-ers sweetened their lives with small fictions, so do we all. Really, my problem was how ardently I wanted to be one of them; how desperately I admired them; and that I failed to become intimate with them.

6) Next

* Everyone Has Something To Hide.
* Everyone Wants More.
* Is Prayer Addicting?
* Six Ways To Overcome Loneliness.
That last one sounds good for the second meeting: Six Ways to Overcome Loneliness. But what if that topic mostly attracts a bunch of singles despairing over the big date they can’t get. Then what?

7) Perfect Waste

All week I’ve jumped up and down, thinking, “The first New C. of C. meeting was perfect, it was perfect!”
Then this afternoon, driving west on Armitage, I got distracted and skipped a beat and the next thing I knew, doubt crept in, changing the refrain to: “How do you know it was perfect? What if it wasn’t?” In front of me was a low-riding station wagon with half a jacket hanging from the trunk. One sleeve was dragging on the ground and the back kept filling with air, forming half a torso and then deflating as the car slowed down. Was the first meeting of the New College of Complexes really perfect? Or really a waste? This billowing worry thrummed through me: perfect, waste; perfect, waste. . . *

Louie Duvall swore on his mother’s grave that the business with my flour, mealy moths two weeks in a row, was an honest mistake. He threw an arm around me and slipped me an uncovered CD. “All original, man.” Louie by night is a blues singer. He yelled into an intercom and a muscle-bound teenager dollied in three 50-pound bags. Louie slit each bag and we leaned over the stuff together to make sure it wasn’t infested. Louie’s tiny teeth gleamed and the edges of his round little stick-out ears turned translucent. The teenager loaded the bags in my car.

Louie pumped my hand and slapped my back and said my next two orders were on the house. The whole visit took less than ten minutes. Driving back, though, I had to roll down the windows. An intense flowery fragrance enveloped me. Louie must wear an intense cologne. Because even after work, after a bowl of chili, an orange, and two light beers, I was still conscious of his scent. And then twice last night as I started to drift off, my body twitched awake, my heart pounding a sudden alarm at the smell of a young girl in bed with me. 

chapter 8

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

we live in the subway...

by human being

illustrations by rhoda penmarq

we live in the subway
at different stations
no one ever leaves here
we just live our life!

sisyphus rolls his boulder
from one station to the other
nobody gives him a hand
no one has got a hand in this land

we do not shake hands here
we just shake our heads as we walk
thoughts can't climb the stairs
dialogs are run over by trains

we all run
to take a trip
to take a sit
to take a nap

to dream of the land above
that we are not allowed to visit
they are busy there
they are busy cleaning the land from bodies and trees

they want the land bodiless
they want the land treeless
they say bodies and trees make it priceless
and they laugh

no one cares about the meaning of words in this land
we just hear the words
we hear them laughing
we hear them cleaning the land

we hear the bodies and the trees that are cleaned
the subway is full of voices and sounds
but nobody listens
joshua bell's violin is begging for hearing ears

nobody lends him even a pierced ear
no one has got an ear in this land
fear has got the upper hand
courage is lost in the maze of knowledge

minds do not find each other
they masturbate in their interior monologs
poetry is raped by busy nets
stories are stillborn

we live in the subway
at different stations
no one ever leaves here
we just live our life

............................................ like a dry leaf in the wind