a novel excerpt by Jeffrey Allen Walker
([email]jallenwalker [at] netscape [dot] net[/email])

Please let this be the last day. Let me get hit by a bus or shot or vaporized. Just don’t let me have to come back here again. When I was a planner in Minneapolis I wrote a couple of articles that were published in some trade magazines and had a few guest columnist pieces in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, we called it the Strib. I never complained about seeing my name in print, but I wanted more. I wanted to write a great novel that criticized the American way of life and moral system. But in order to write, I had to understand. What better way to understand than to participate? But being an active member cuts down on writing time. It’s a very mild catch-22. No bloodshed. Nobody’s feet get cold. Nobody’s guts spill out. As a result of internal debate between going out to experience and staying in to write, I did nothing except write a few guest columnist pieces for the Strib. No great novel, no critical acclaim.

I spent a lot of time in my new apartment on State Road doing nothing. Sometimes I wrote letters I never meant to send. Sometimes I began writing stories about my friends. Mostly I thought.

My apartment was quite charming for the decor I chose. I brought my guitar and milk crates which held the archaeological treasures of my college years. My parents gave me the guitar when I was seventeen. I salvaged the milk crates from the basement of my home. They were the only effects preserved from my marriage. I sold all the furniture and paintings and appliances and donated the casual clothes. I kept pictures of Dayona and our children, but I hardly looked at them anymore. I viewed their leaving as a chance for me to start over again. I kept the milk crates and the albums and books because they were points of light along the path of my life.

Everybody walks a path and when we get lost we look behind us and see those shiny rocks that glimmer like little lights along the path we walked. Sometimes we retrace our steps to a place that is familiar and comfortable and create another path. Sometimes we just turn around and keep trudging through. I wasn’t particularly happy with the course my life took my last few years of college or after I moved to Minneapolis. I felt I sold myself short on the entertainment and austere aspects of life. I devoted my prime party years to getting the good job, making the good money and having the nice stuff. So I back stepped and made a new path.

In between my graduation and marrying Dayona I forgot about the time in life that’s meant for screwing around. Just hanging out and looking at sunsets and drinking beer and maybe going to work with a hangover. I had a kick-ass stereo system hooked up to a 46″ television that I watched on my gorgeous teal, tope and mauve sectional couch which I placed under my modern Scandinavian design floor lamp which was right beside some painting by a funky up-and-coming artist I don’t remember. Everything in my first apartment in Minneapolis was smooth. Simple lines, soft, pastel colors. Like a scene from Miami Vice. All the latest and hippest CDs and albums (before albums disappeared and made a small comeback). I was ghetto-city highbrow. But I never just sat around with friends and listened to records. Everything was important.

The colonial house Dayona and I shared on Dupont South was equally impressive. Large picture windows. A bay window in the master bedroom. Lots of closet space. A skylight in the attic. Bright yellow and burnt orange walls. A big house with a front porch. Every room was big. Dayona loved it. I loved it. We loved it in every room the first week after we moved in. We made the walls sweat.

My current digs were a little more common. Two 10′ x 10′ bedrooms. A 12′ by 14′ living room. The bathroom may have been 4′ x 5′. The bathtub big enough for one. It was situated in a small complex of eight-unit apartment buildings just south of I-480 in Parma. From my living room window I saw the neon pink glow of a furniture store sign. When the noise from the street calmed down enough I could hear the attendant at the gas station tell customers their pumps were ready to use. Go ahead, pump three. Everything was the common color of the middle-class apartment. The walls were eggshell. The hollow particle board door was eggshell. The trim was eggshell. The carpet was renter-brown. I could hear the buses squeal to a stop in front of my new home. Home? This wasn’t my home. This was where I stayed. I felt more at home crashed on the couch of a stranger’s apartment after a big college party.

The few things I did buy didn’t make it feel much like home. Plates, silverware, a small floor lamp for the living room and a futon to sleep on. That was it. No fancy paintings, no expansive music collection. I was mostly devoting myself to becoming a better version of what I was before. I often sat in front of the window and watched the traffic zip by. I bought a small TV after the second week so I wouldn’t miss Homicide. But most nights I preferred to watch traffic rather than television. I became bored with the selection of comedy shows and dramas. Bullshit dramas that purported to be realistic but couldn’t say fuck or shit. Why go for reality on television? Isn’t it supposed to be an escape? I worked with a Sipowicz-like guy in Minneapolis. I dated a Roseanne-like girl in college. I wanted something to take me away. I watched Homicide because after reading the book I was fascinated by the characters and the setting. I also liked it because there weren’t any pretty-boys or supermodels in the cast. I almost moved to Baltimore because of that show.

Sometimes I found myself awake at four in the morning. On those occasions when it was impossible to return to sleep I sat by the front window and wondered where everyone was going at such late hours. I tried to imagine their lives. Were they going to work? Were they returning from a lover’s bed? Which ones were running from the law? Which ones were running from bad memories? I watched the early drivers gently swerve down the road. I watched the six-in-the-morning crowd struggle their way to soccer practices and store openings and shift changes.

In the morning darkness the street was black except where decorated by the white dashed lines and the yellow stripes that divided the center lane. It almost seemed to glow a florescent gold under the amber streetlights. On this morning I awoke early and stayed in front of the window while time crashed into itself causing the past and future to merge for what seemed like hours. With my eyes closed I watched the sky turn from its silent blue into rose into mauve into day-blue. I felt the first rays of the sun caress my face and I dreamed I was whole again. I dreamed my boys were tugging on my pant legs and wanting to do pull-ups on my arms. I felt Dayona’s breath on the back of my neck. I could smell her perfume. I could hear her describe true happiness. Jordan and Lewis spoke to me, Lewis was speaking! He told me he loved me and couldn’t wait to hold my hand and wrestle with me like Jordan could. My family danced and played with me. They comforted me against the harsh winds of reality. I could feel the light brush of Dayona’s hand on my cheek wiping away my tears.

I opened my eyes and stared into forever. In this world, I hoped one of those cars whizzing past my small, typical apartment would sound like her car. I listened, hoping that one of the people departing the bus would have her laugh. But nobody laughed when getting off the bus. The only voices were the gas station attendants’ and they didn’t laugh.

It had been over a month and I still hadn’t hung anything on the walls. No artwork whatsoever. Not even a poster of my favorite athlete. My bright orange and red milk crates were the only furniture in the living room. I sat on the floor and used them for a table when I ate and for a desk when I wrote. The television sat on another stack of crates. There was one column by the window facing the street. That was it. A stark, empty apartment lived in by a man who wanted to recreate his past. I put a small photograph of Dayona and the boys on the refrigerator.

I had hundreds of pictures of the three and four of us, but this picture, taken the first day that Lewis was home from the hospital, captured everything that was right with my life. Jordan, excited over this wrinkled creature that looked distantly familiar, held his brother’s hands in between his lips. It was very hot that day so Jordan had decided he wanted to be topless. His bone thin arms and huge head glistened with summer sweat as he stared at this new…thing…with total fascination. Dayona was wearing a loose-fitting tank top so she could easily feed Lewis. Her breasts were looking damn good. Her shoulders and arms were well defined. Her hair was cut short and framed her face with flat baby-hair curls. Lewis had finished feeding a few minutes earlier and let out a huge milk-free burp. Jordan was surprised at the volume coming from such a small toy. Dayona’s family was visiting and her brother was lucky enough to catch the four of us in a moment of pure hysteria. Dayona: mouth open wide, eyes shut tight, anybody looking at the picture can virtually hear the laughter; Lewis: happy old man face after releasing the pressure in his belly; Jordan: glistening chocolate-brown alien eating his brother’s hands with a look of disgusted wonder. Me: nibbling on Dayona’s ear. It was the first picture of my family. Of Dayona’s family. Of Jordan’s family. Of Lewis’ family.

If I had one thousand pictures before Lewis was born, and one thousand pictures after Lewis was born, none of them could compare to the first picture of the four of us in our home. To look at my place one would think I had been single all my life. No one would have thought I produced anything as wonderful as one little man or inspired a woman to dream beyond her boundaries.


a novel excerpt by Aidan Baker
([email]aidanbaker [at] hotmail [dot] com[/email])

My CD collection is like a calendar of boyfriends. It’s not very extensive, my CD collection — ergo, my love life, obviously, hasn’t been very extensive…

Every time I go over to my CD holder to put some music on, I’m confronted by this array of albums, songs, digitized sounds, that are, yes, mine, but all reminiscent of some man, some boy who used to be part of my life. Not even boyfriends, lovers, in some cases — just some guy I had a crush on.

I remember reading something recently about the brain and smell: When your brain records a smell, it records everything else along with it — a record of your surroundings, your actions, your companions. When you smell that smell again, whatever that smell may be, all the other recorded information comes flooding back along with the olfactory memory. I think it’s the same with aural memories. With music.

I’ve been listening to the radio mostly, lately. Talk radio.

Leaving work this evening I felt…I don’t know…blah. My feet ached, my head ached — not quite a headache; more a sort of sitting-there-behind-my-eyes pain, too unassertive to decide whether it was going to be a full-fledged headache or not.

Work and been…work…what else…

The apartment is empty, of course, when I return — how could I expect it to be otherwise? It’s just sometimes I find myself imagining there’ll be someone there waiting for me, some surprise…a fairy fucking godmother…

In the doorway I kick off my shoes, let my bag drop, regardless of breakables, toss of my jacket — actually strip right down to just underwear, right there in the hallway, leave my clothes in a heap on the floor. I wander into the kitchen and peer into the fridge hoping something demanding to be eaten will leap out at me. Nothing does, but I remove a bowl of leftover pasta salad because I should really have some nourishment. As an afterthought, I grab a half-empty — or half-full, depending — bottle of wine. Wander into the living room; flop onto couch; fork food into mouth; chew mechanically; difficulty swallowing; wash down lump of food with wine…

I need some company, some sound in the silent apartment, some music. Sitting there on the couch, the dish of pasta cold against my bare skin, I stare across the room at my CD rack. I want some music but I’m incapable of choosing something, choosing anything. Stases.

Sometimes it seems that I don’t really own any CD simply because I like the music. Simply for me. Demographically, I suppose I should listen to Sarah McLachlan or The Cranberries — ‘alt-fem-rock,’ or however you want to categorize it (because everything needs categorization…) — but I’m not too fond of that kind of music. It may be partially due to an old boyfriend of mine, Aaron, who was so scathing of that kind of music. He called it ‘gen-x-adult-contemporary,’ which always seemed like an oxymoron to me. Because I can never think of gen-x-ers as adults in the first place…

Maybe I should give up on music all together.

Maybe I should sit here nearly naked in the dark and get drunk(er) on wine.

Maybe I should

But they’re not all unpleasant, musical memories. Sometimes it’s nice to revel in nostalgia (sometimes). To put on U2 and remember David…or Led Zeppelin and Andy…or…

Ronny was a tech-student. I wasn’t. It was like Romeo & Juliet. Except he probably had no idea who Romeo and Juliet were. He was beautiful. He reminded me of James Dean, except Ronny really did fit the bill of rebel-without-a-clue. He always talked about buying a motorcycle — once he was old enough to get his license, once he had enough money…It would’ve been the crowning touch for his image. I wonder if he ever managed to get one. He’s probably unhappily married now, with a brood of dirty little kids giving him as much hell as he gave his folks. Doubt he remembers me. The relationship, such as it was, didn’t last very long. A month, maybe. Which, for fifteen, is long enough, I suppose.

His hands always smelt of metals, of machines, of time spent handling drill-presses and grease-guns in the technical wing of the school. The only class we had together was gym — and even then we weren’t really together since it wasn’t co-ed. I’d watch him from our side of the gymnasium as he sweated through a game of floor hockey or dodge ball or whatever. He never looked at me. Or never let on he was looking at me. Because he must have at some point, looked at me, to have realized I existed…

Other than that one hour, we never saw each other during the day. We didn’t spend our lunchhours together. I suppose because we were both a little embarrassed of each other. Of course, our respective circles of friends knew about us, but it just wasn’t’ comfortable, me hanging out with his buddies, or him with my girlfriends. I mean, they were all tech-heads and we were, well, nerds, basically.

At the end of the day, I’d wait for him at the doors of the tech-wing, standing there with my knapsack loaded with books and homework, and he’d come sauntering along empty-handed in his tight, grubby jeans and faded t-shirt and he was just so gorgeous.

“Hey, babe,” he’d grunt and I’d immediately go all gushy inside. He was so guttural. “You coming over today?” he’d ask, snaking an arm around me.

“No, I can’t today,” I’d squeak. “I’ve got music lessons.”

“Shitty,” he’d mutter and nuzzle my neck and I’d get all hot and bothered, his sweet breath melting against my skin, and my music lesson would be absolute torture because I’d still be feeling his soft breath against my neck while trying to get the accidentals correct in a descending melodic minor scale or something and my teacher would get all annoyed because I wasn’t concentrating…


“I don’t have to be home till dinner.”

“Cool. C’mon,” and he’d wrap his calloused fingers around my sweaty hand and lead me breathless back to his house. His dad was hardly ever around and his mother seemed to work constantly. His younger sisters he’d just scowl at and tell them not to bug us lest he decapitate their barbie dolls. We’d go down to his room in the basement and make out while Metallica blasted from his dinky tape player. He made a tape for me of his favourite tunes, which I wore out listening to after he dumped me. In a fit of nostalgia, several years later, I gave in and bought one of their albums.

Metallica formed in 1981 in San Francisco and released their first album, Kill ‘Em All, in 1983. The album revolutionized heavy metal, paring away the sonic clich�s, focusing on velocity and power, giving birth to ‘speed metal’: really fast guitar and drums, jarring stop/starts, rapid time changes. Rhythm over melody. Good music for venting aggression. Perfect for adolescents…

Metallica have achieved mainstream commercial success in recent years — not without alienating much of their established fanbase — having pursued a more ‘alternative’ direction in both their music and their image (they cut off all their hair (long locks being Samsonesquely prized in the metal scene) and pierced their lips and various other body parts). I doubt Ronny would still like them. I remember him saying they’d lost it after their original bass player, Cliff Burton, died in 1986 in a bus crash while they were on tour in Sweden. Ronny never thought much of Burton’s replacement, Jason Newstead.

There were several Metallica posters, all pre-Newstead, on Ronny’s walls. This was the extent of the decoration in his bedroom. The dirty clothes, clean clothes, car magazines, music magazines, dishes, half-buried school books, and other unidentifiable debris layering the floor could hardly be considered decoration. There was only a single, small window looking out onto the alleyway between his and the neighbour’s house. It was always dim in his bedroom. It smelled of boy.

While James Hetfield howled through ‘Blitzkrieg’ or ‘Am I Evil’, Ronny and I would make out until our lips were bruised and tender and our necks were red and inflamed with hickeys. I let Ronny go so far as to removed my shirt and bra — he liked sucking my nipples; I got hickeys there, too — and I let him touch me through my pants, but it never went any further than that. I’m not entirely sure what it was held me back. We were only fifteen. He never really pressured me, though, which, particularly in retrospect, puzzles me. Maybe Ronny was as virginal, as nervous about it, as I was. However much he tried to project otherwise. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t let him, make him go further…

Why do people feel the need to screw to soft, gentle music? Make-out music? Why is Barry White so successful? I lost my virginity to Miles Davis and, sure, his music can be pretty intense, but sometimes I wish I’d lost my virginity to something like Metallica.

Of course, I mean I lost my virginity when a Miles Davis album was playing.

A friend of mine once told me about someone she knew who lost her virginity, in the back of a van, to the singer of the thrash metal band Dirty Rotten Imbeciles. I suppose it’s not something she’s likely to forget…

Mark was a jazz fan. He liked to think he was a jazz musician too — he played the alto saxophone — but he wasn’t really that good. Competent, but competency doesn’t get you far in the jazz-world. I guess he was aware of it and compensated by garnering all the jazz trivia he could. He could name any song from the first few notes, tell you who was playing what, when and where and by whom it was recorded, and pretty much anything else you could think to ask about a tune, including what the musicians had for lunch after the session.

I thought Mark was cool. Very jazzy-cool, cool-jazz. His passion intrigued me. I met him in first-year university when I was desperately trying to lose my virginity. I don’t know quite how I ended up escaping high school intact — my inexperience nagged at me. I know some people think all a woman has to do is bend over to find someone to fuck her, but there has to be something there, some attraction, some connection.

We were in a jazz history course together. I don’t know why Mark was taking a jazz history course since he already knew everything. We listened to Thelonious Monk one day. He hadn’t exactly been well-received by the class, most of the class cringing and covering their ears.

When the class ended and people started filtering out, griping about how awful Monk’s music was, Mark stayed sitting, watching the other students leave with an expression of disbelief, perhaps even horror, on his face.

“What’s wrong with all these people?” he asked, as he got to his feet, shaking his head. Presumably the query was rhetorical, but I replied anyway;

“It is pretty discordant.”

“But that’s the beauty of his music. His melodic, his rhythmic discordance.”

“Rhythmic discordance?”

“Yeah. That’s how I think of it. Rhythmic discordance. And then there’s the whole issue as to whether he’s doing it intentionally. Or can he not help playing out of time? He’s fascinating. Why can’t they see that?”

He picked up speed as we left the classroom, ranting and gesticulating as we strolled through the halls of the music building. He despaired at peoples’ closed minds and how nobody really listened to music anymore.

Outside, on the steps, he paused and asked me, as if just suddenly realizing I might have an opinion; “What did you think of Monk?”

“I liked him,” I answered quickly.

Mark smiled, as if in relief.

I added; “But then I know next to nothing about jazz.”

He took the bait: “Well, let me teach you.”

He did teach me. How to distinguish styles, recognize players, tell whether something was improvised, tell whether someone was playing a fleugelhorn or a trumpet…Reams of trivia. I could name, for instance, all the players on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderly (alto sax), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Wyn Kelly (piano), Bill Evans (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and James Cobb(drums)), the so-called definitive album of the ‘cool jazz’ genre, which was playing when I finally managed to get Mark interested in what I had to offer that a stereo system couldn’t.

I guess I got a little fixated with Mark, fixated with the idea that he’d be ‘the one’. I certainly liked him and I think he did like me. We had good conversations and enjoyed doing things together — except sex; there just wasn’t really any physical chemistry between us. I guess I wasn’t what he wanted. Maybe he didn’t find me sexually attractive. Maybe he didn’t find girls sexually attractive — in which case, I might’ve turned him off women completely.

Not that I raped him. I wouldn’t be capable of it — physically or mentally. But I guess I did force him into something he didn’t really want to do. And once in, I think he just wanted to get out, so the whole experience was over before I knew it — before I could get anything out of it besides discomfort. He came — he did ejaculate — inside me, that I know, even if only because the condom was full of semen when he pulled it off. And once he had it off, he got his clothes on and was out of my room pretty quickly.

You’d think I wouldn’t be able to stand listening to Miles anymore.

Formed in 1980 in Amsterdam by two ex-pat Brits, Edward Ka-Spel and Phil Knights (aka ‘The Silver Man’), this prolific, variously membered ensemble produces spacey, gloomy, psychedelic pop music with a classical sensibility, a convoluted mythology, found-sound sampling, and stylistic hybridization and experimentation. Ka-Spel’s lyrics — focused on doom, gloom, violence, apocalypse — are poetic, disturbing, surreal.

The Pink Dots were one of Aaron’s favourite groups. He gave me The Golden Age for my birthday — that album specifically because there’s a song on it called ‘Lisa’s Separation’:

“She covered up the mirror, hid his photo in the drawer. The sketches that he made for her were ripped up and rolling across the floor. All memories and promises and plans they’d made were scratched or burned as Lisa laid her head down for the night. There’s no escape, there’s no remission…”*

Lyrically, The Golden Age is something of a concept drama about a psychopath stalking his former lover, a model or an actress who taunts him: “she teases from the T.V. — spreads her legs in magazines. She steams his collar, she dust his shelf, she cuts his hair. She’s never there…” (from the song ‘Maniac’). It’s an interesting album, quite creepy, eerie…

Aaron used to write poems that he said were about me. He fancied himself a ‘conceptual artist’. I’m not entirely sure what he meant by that. He did a little bit of everything; some writing, some painting, some music. I met him in a Russian Literature class. “The Russians have soul,” he said. “Everyone else is just so full of shit.” My father loathed him — not that he said so, in so many words — it was the lack of words that really indicated his dislike. I took Aaron home for Thanksgiving one year, I’m not entirely sure why; to prove I could snare an interesting man? He wasn’t of course the ideal nice young man that my mother was always inquiring after.

I did like him. I’d be kidding myself if I said it was really, truly, true love. I think. The sex was good; we did it at the drop of a hat. Picking his brain was fruitful, if only because he’d come up with something so skewed it could almost be considered profound.

“You need to broaden your cultural horizons,” he told me, on my birthday, as I tore the wrapping paper from The Golden Age.

“Thank you,” I said, in all sincerity, slipping off my chair and onto his lap.

“Hang on; there’s more,” and he produced an envelope within which I found tickets to a Pink Dots’ show.

The concert was unlike anything I’d ever been to before. I felt so conspicuously normal; normal clothes, normal hair, normal self…I don’t know if I’d ever seen so many different colours of hair before. The Dots attracted a diverse crowd. There were a few people dressed like me, who could have passed for normal (and they didn’t seem too worried about fitting in). The majority seemed to be gothic types; dyed black hair, billowy black clothes, white pancake makeup — vampire chic — though within that majority, was a minority of people dressed pretty much the same, only colourful; Aaron referred to them as ‘fairy-goths’. I noticed his eyes kept straying to one such woman with rainbow coloured dreadlocks — she was encased in skin-tight leather, nothing left to the imagination, curves accentuated, flaunted…

The opening act was a sword-swallower. He started with a couple small knives — held for him by a lithe, be-pierced, bejewelled assistant — and progressed through to a blade that must have been three feet in length. It seemed to me that I could almost see the shape of it within him, the imprint of it through his bare torso. I remember wanting to touch him, trace that sword shape through his skin, see if I could feel the metal within.

For his finale, he swallowed a light-sabre — a device he had rigged up to glow like the swords in Star Wars: The club lights dimmed and the shaft cast a neon blue light across the faces of the crowd, the sweaty skin of the sword-swallower…I hoped, as the man leaned back his head and the tip of the sabre disappeared into his mouth, that it would light him up from the inside — like fingers in a flashlight — blue glowing through his torso…his flesh…but it didn’t…the club just went dark…

Aaron and I made plans for when we finished school. We were to graduate at the same time. I was going to do a couple more courses afterwards, business courses, to supplement my Liberal Arts degree, and go about securing myself a job. He was going out west for a summer job, then planned to come back east and be creative, do his art. He said he wanted to be with me, he wanted us to be together. I guess I wanted it too.

Graduation came and went and we had a bittersweet evening of goodbyes and tender sex, then he went out west. I never heard from him since.

*Play It Again Sam Records USA/Wax Trax Records, Chicago, IL: 1988.

Statue Of Liberty

a storella by Jerry Vilhotti
([email]vilhotti [at] peoplepc [dot] com[/email])

“Why Biagi? Where do you go?” his wife said totally confused by his behavior since his father died.

He couldn’t say. In his mind as vivid as the color of her blue eyes, he could see himself again crossing the German school yard, where no longer a kindergarten existed, shooting from the hip and behind the wall of his aim staggered a “nazi” clutching at his throat as if a raw clam were crawling up through his mouth.

“B”, as his close friends called him, took up his jacket as if it were a rifle and left. He was all ready late for his date which was his seventh in just two weeks. He had a lot of catching up to do since his long walk from Northern Africa to Germany.

“Biagi could I …” his father began to say but stopped seeing his son’s eyes like the black steel of a gun barrel looking through him unlike his own eyes that were puffed up and blotched with red from his constant crying over his wife’s death whom he had often told smilingly: “Just going out for some strange piece of ass!” …. He tried again only this time looking down, “Would it be OK If I came to live with your family. I’ll sleep in the cellar. Your dear mother’s ghost haunts me in the old house.”

B looked at this old man nearing retirement – this viscous man who had tied him and his younger brother to pipes deep underneath their South Bronx tenement after beating them with a strap – and then let them remain bound in the dark cellar occupied by rats walking in the night.

His father’s bald head glistened just like the church dome in the small Italian town they had captured. He looked at him with deep contempt; recalling after a compassionate neighbor had called the cops their beatings did not stop as the cops winking and whispering told the beater that to keep shit off the streets were making their jobs easier and making all the “big sirs” happy the streets were clean.

He looked into his father’s beady eyes that would get smaller and smaller the more he drank and said: “Only our dog sleeps in the cellar!” ….

B drove carefully through the Burywater slum in a town where many crosses stood atop churches like middle fingers jabbing the sky with all its discrimination and hate for foreigners and all the other “different people” wondering what had all his fighting been about and then he castigated himself for having said those biting words to his father. Couldn’t a simple no have been enough? he thought and then he spoke aloud to the windshield words he should have used instead : “Papa, we can’t have you stay with us. There’s just enough room for my wife and our two kids.” Then taking a turn by “Deadmanslake” seeing the dark waters made him remember all the hours of darkness in a cellar and he shouted: “No! No, I’m worried you’ll try to get my American-Polish wife again – like you tried when I was over there fighting for the big lady chained in the harbor! Remember Papa how you and Mama got that citation from the president telling all about my bravery and two wounds and the two purple hearts I earned for a country that taught me to be a good citizen and just enough to hold a gun? Remember how Mama would go every day to the Red Cross trying to find out where I was for three months and they told her for a small donation they would try to find out from the president who took over for FDR why I was missing and instead that guy was planning on sending more sacrificial lambs to some place called Korea in the near future and instead of going with Mama you sneaked of to go see Dora and asked her if you could drink up all her body juices. She threw up as she was throwing you out of our place. Do You remember?” ….

B gripped the steering wheel tighter as he could see himself ripping the cross from the young German girl’s neck and then spitting in her face – that could have been his father’s face.

Biagi stopped the car; opened the door nonchalantly; making it obvious he was looking at the woman’s gorgeous legs. She jumped in; folded herself into the seat as she gave him a pretty smile. He kissed her face that could have been his wife’s ….

Looking for Glass

Dad told me once that when he and Mom went hunting for fire agates
With their rock hound friends, Mom would not hunt with the rest,
But would walk alone beside the old dirt roads,
Looking for bits of old glass.
I asked him why she did this and he said he didn’t know.

At first I thought that he did not care about it,
But then I saw that he still keeps a bucketful of her old glass,
purple with with age and sun.

I think she looked for glass because she loves us.

It is her mystery.

Now she is ripe with love and mystery and sleep,
Beyond passion.
Look around you at the family; she loves us and affirms us still.

God made her sweet,
Plumbed for children,
Tough and fibrous, watchful of her family,
Which wings around her now like birds
Flocking in unison at her command,
Obedient, tranquil, charmed.

We revel in the wake of her passing
Because she loves us in her sleep,
Because God made her that way.

(March 27, 2001)

As Nero Played The Fiddle

Hysteria. The head has become so steeped in sickness and depravity that it now feasts on the tender, manicured hands that were once used to hold itself up with. This masochistic cannibal is none other than the conservative and charming town of Naperville IL. Metaphorically, much like the urban legend of a young boy who upon rousing after a nights slumber discovers a tiny boil on his neck, as the day progresses the ‘tiny’ boil advances in growth to become a seething, tawny cyst. When the slightest pressure is applied, the fetid contents bursts to the surface to reveal hundreds of pulsating suckling arachnids pouring out of the gaping wound. That’s right, the seemingly flawless pearl among oysters, the ‘Gold Coast’ without the coast, was torn asunder by the writhing inner turmoil of several occurrences, in two months time.

A $90,000 bank heist, a brutal slaying of a disabled mother; a child buried on his seventeenth birthday due to an apparent overdose; a police officer discharges the contents of his fire arm into the center of his head; mother sedates and suffocates her three children; fifth former employee at near dormant Amoco plant dies of brain cancer. These events, if viewed over a five year span, would be no less horrific, but possibly more consumer friendly, more digestible. Your run-of-the-mill SUV navigator is overwhelmed with the complexity of these trespasses into their Faberge egg-like utopia. Much to our misfortune, the chances that a polite FBI agent with slick black hair will pull up on a Harley praising our local diner’s coffee and delectable cherry pie�all the while dreaming of a bow legged dwarf sporting a red tux who enunciate words like he has a mouth filled moist peat moss�has grown slim to none. Still the public needs a rationalized martyr to heave their emotional stones at. The effigies the media are offering, if any, are the mindlessly reiterated bastard offspring of some foul drunken Spock and Freudian copulation. For some in this drive-thru culture these bad seed and postpartum justifications are feasible. Still, close inspection on both individual and a broad sequential scale warrants further speculation that a far more sinister nature lies beneath the pale, livid surface.

For some time the common optimistic and social lethargy inducing phallic has been that children are the ‘Hope of the Future’. This has almost become the self-imposing cliche of the last decade in this century. These futile ignorant ‘opti-mystics’ never entertain the possible scenario that unravels before them at an alarming rate. The youth of Naperville have, over the past five years, under gone a truly consternatious metamorphosis. The adolescences have amassed into hoards of heathenish Philistines with fiber optic IVs and accomplish nothing more than acts of pillaging, massacring, and senseless procreation. In comparison, their cranial capacity is sub-par even to the most asinine mongoloid. Adjoined to their mass ingestion of whatever squalid bathtub pharmaceutical they can get their deviant hands on, they are utterly drained of any instilled morality and social decency.

No less than two years after Naperville is hailed by numerous forms of the mass media as the “greatest place in the United States to raise a child” does the sugar coating crumble and the decayed cavity of reality occupy its place. Shortly after these accolades are betrothed, the ‘ideal’ children venture outside their Eden-like playpens to make daily Meccas to Cicero Av. and other such tributaries. There the ‘well adjusted’ babes develop an insatiable lust for heroin and its ugly stepsister, crack. The ‘child friendly’ town’s solution? To run a week long, hard-hitting expose in the Naperville Sun on degenerate teen junkies from the suburbs surrounding Naperville. Having thought this placebo cured the plague the expose is praised. Thereupon, little less than a month later, a child was nestled beneath six feet of soil on his seventeenth birthday, due to an apparent overdose. This in fact was not the direct cause of death, the heroin he snorted late at night a few days before his funeral had been cut with powder Clorox bleach, causing his heart to explode.

A few days prior to this ‘mishap’, a disabled, middle-aged woman is brutally murdered and is left in her bathtub. The culprits? Three eighteen year olds, two male, one female. The female was the expired’s trusted caretaker. While two of the associates ransacked the meager living quarters, one of them brutishly torqued the handicapped woman’s cranium back forth until her brittle upper vertebra shattered. During the groups’ appearance in court to enter a feeble plea of not guilty to the charge of premeditated first degree murder, the demented girl looked only once, to give a wide tooth grin at her parents.

In the following week a gang of eight youths stage a bank heist, under the nurturing guidance of a pathetic swindler who is employed with these Tarintino refuse. The young entrepreneurs make off with $90,000 and proceed to spend it on inane tripe such as jewelry and electronics, a shimmering reflection on the spending pattern of their adult contemporaries. It would seem in the past two months that Naperville has broadened its child life cycle adaptability. Not only is this a great town to raise the little hyper-capitalist portages, now it’s also a delightful place to bury and incarcerate them as well. My how we’ve grown!

To think that it is merely the refuse permeated drainage ditch of youth that pollutes the pristine lagoon waters of Naperville is to peer through the identical cataracts that the local news suffers from. The previously stated youth affliction, no matter how deprave, is merely a canker sore on a leprosy-ravaged body. There are countless volumes of preordained justifications that rape the child of self-accountability and the parent of responsibility. Such is not the case with the carnage that sodomized their most trusted staple citizens.

On a chilly March afternoon a house wife and mother sits in the kitchen of her attractive Victorian home methodically mixing several doses of heavy tranquilizers for various over the counter drugs. The precision gained from being employed by Edward’s hospital as a nurse aids her in the task. This Sunday school teacher administered the dosages to two of the three children. Each one she calmly laid in their bed to sleep. Then her soft, tender hands cut the flow of oxygen to their young, pink lungs. One hand pinched the small button nose restricting its function, the other, placed firmly over the delicate lips so that she felt the hot breath of life slip through her maternal fingers one last time. When the third child returns home from school, she sees in her motherly wisdom, that his life too, is not worth the energy it takes to live it. All three children lay lifeless and blue in each of their rooms as this giver and revoker of life attempts to drain her crimson fluid out of boorish holes in her arms. Then, a MOMENT OF CLARITY, her life is now worth living! This powerful deduction of destiny seemingly manifests itself while she lies half-conscious, caked in the half-dried pool of blood. Strength is mustered up to phone police and her life is saved thanks to the help of modern medicine. While residing in the hospital that she once deployed life saving measures, her former fellow co-workers have to draw straws to decide who would treat this new angel of death. Meanwhile, a city frantically searches for rationalization, or justification for this A.C. Wells’ like story. The best the towns’ people can muster is that a belated case of postpartum syndrome reared its horned head. The novelty sweeps through the town more rapidly than the terror of the actual deed. Soon most of the city alternates shifts of macabre milling in front of the police tape with flowers waiting for the CBS news team to appear.

The day prior to the mother/nurse/Sunday schoolteacher’s brain producing or not producing enough of a certain chemical causing a praying mantis like backlash, a guardian of truth and justice resolved he could no longer protect his body and soul against tyranny of his mind. The day this conclusion is deduced, he enters a forest preserve and with his police issue fire arm, the Naperville officer uses the lead projectiles to displace the contents of his skull onto the snow laden forest floor. He leaves behind no written confession of inner guilt, no evidence that is admissible, not even a warrant-worthy inkling of probable cause. He exits instead, a happy family, as the highest decorated officer on the elite Naperville police force and head of crime investigation unit. Opposed to the long and vapid out cry over the children’s slaughter, the public is given few details and fewer reasons. The local media left this conundrum of self desolation on the cutting room floor for half page photos of children staring at three white, haphazardly assembled ply wood crosses placed in front of the morbid, Victorian home. The rest of the montage consisted of inane quotations from the readily available, and publicity ravenous village idiots. A man, who felt his life of protecting and serving was not fulfilling, and his daily walk was not important enough to be missed, was swept under the carpet by these he protected.

This accursed city of fast food ideals and microwave morals demands ratiocination to be dictated quickly and in bite-sized morsels. They need to be able to expel all incomprehensible horror with a brisk swipe of psychology buzzword and a reaffirming and self-empowering quip from their Chicken Soup for the Soul library. They need to construct a protective layer between them and the atrocities at hand. This makes evil a debunkable term, individual and conceivable only under certain pretext, thus becoming easily avoidable. Much like trying to access the seas’ one creature at a time.

The thought that these incidents could be some sort of karmic recoil is so grossly self incriminating and cumbersome that it is quickly dismissed as to not disrupt the ‘ego’ barrier. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “He who defecates upon his doorstep is soon to step in it.” The retrospective glance quickly reveals that there are quite a few injustices waiting in the cosmic wings. Over the past forty years, farmers have been forced off their land by the spread of the festering plague of suburban excess and the rabid dollar nipping closely at its heels. After the astro-turf is laid, the feverish need for convenience sets in so the virus infects the last few farms as to establish strip malls were fresh food may be shipped in from other states. Prior to the dust bowel survivors there were the Native Americans. They are considered the single largest blasphemy in American, as well as suburban mentality. The abstract concept of working with the land is one that seems to go against the entire North American theology. Up until the semi-recent present, nature was our stepping stone, a wild and mindless prairie beast who need to be broken and bit placed in its mouth. Then, once the land has been spayed, what of these sun worshipping pagans? The feckless few that remained after prairie genocide are pushed into separate plots of unworkable tundra and demeaned to the point of rejecting their proud heritage and ingesting hair spray for its intoxicating properties. The cultural sympathizers in Naperville concur that naming the plush neighborhoods they congregate in after the defiled tribes is the best tribute they can bestow. Second best in fact, the always liberal people of Naperville reward them the utmost honor of having high school athletic teams named after a derogatory jeer.

The preeminent consternation of the latte-consuming public is that there is no grandiose elucidation, karmic or otherwise. The notion that pure evil exists in that farthest folds of our gray matter, and the ability to act upon its wickedness lurks in the eclipses of our souls, is most haunting of all. No matter how pious an individual, the spiritual-batter for evil lies in each of us. No matter how many garages, no matter how many zeros behind the paycheck, no matter how many degrees, when it comes to the recesses of evil, we are all on a level playing field, and that concept frightens the city of Naperville the most.

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