Harpooned harlequins cascade like dominoes in the limelight trick of light down on the piccadilly row of southern Santa Monaco and the bow rips and the cow tips and the fringes of a mad mind unfold like warped bric-a-brac on a magic store shelf in Sicily comatose gold rope lassoed by Cowboy Bill and his mad life in the little trailer on the back lot where he does blow off a red wine clown’s nose down in Soho bungalow with the beat dime trap on the boulevard walk, full of chalk, yellow bordered hearts melting under a midday red hot sun eye …
Is there another day of fire in the head and a late night walk to cold bed, fissures in the heartbeat, sizzles in the car seat, dreams unfurled like muskrat love, calliope shit storms down in the Hollyblue burial bomb out shelters, the bookworm’s house in the woods, a tree within a tree, stairways and passageways, piano notes fall like rain and mediaeval Japanese ambient ethereal music plays among the boughs that astrophysical babies of earthquake origin break.
Tick-tock midnight train, blue coconut warbles in the brain, unchecked fantasies of the lame, Thanksgiving stuffing stuffed with ordinary grievances. Yellow pencils, plastic lunchboxes, glossy red jackets, blonde, flippant hair flipping in the wind. King Kong plays with himself at the Brooklyn Zoo. Housewives, hosewives, stovepipes, faint at the wonder of it all. Blouses stained, washed in rain…
A sonic boom in meticulous soul.
Go now and greet Greedo. The credo. Greed is good. Wonder and splendor is bad like sticky rice. Ideas ache. Fleas bake. Cookies in a plastic oven. Love of a lifetime sells for a dime out there beneath the glow of another swamp gas local event. Nine chives and a quick goodbye. Words lack meaning now, like a time bomb ripping through space.
There’s an icy house upside down in winter terrain. The ice is so cold it’s green. The windows are frosted over like foam insulation, the people inside like tumbling dice in their died stance. Too late to save anyone now. What is this freezing ache inside? The fire in my brain at the mercy of a bellows, oxygen in, oxygen out, a fingernail scratch on the cortex in Cortez, Colorado, the western sky and a homemade pie, pine nuts in Paris, coffee huts in Belarus, breast plates for Zeus, juice, something’s loose, in my head.
Stormtroopers marching, rebels barking, a bottle of Jawa juice smashed against the hard edge of the third moon, a crescendo tone, a christening boom, the ship in my head pulls away from the shore and simply drifts on the waters of space.
Midnight moon plus 33 is the title of his latest thought. A man named Lance Birmingham and nearing the end of the road sits in a chair near an open window and listens to the rain and the emperor sighs of summer cicadas. Someone’s playing Monopoly out on the lighted screened-in porch across the way. He can see how it juts out the end of the neighbor’s house that sits too close by.
Three kids in pajamas. They can’t sit still. He can hear their bare feet slap against the plank flooring when they run around. Who runs around when they play Monopoly? Maybe not kids—preteens, full teens, adults who act like children. What’s the difference, he wonders. Unlike him, they have all the time in the world. Or do they? What about a lightning strike, or what if an alligator gets up in the yard and sucks one into its powerful jaws during a lightning bug hunt.
He can hear their squeals, laughter, taunts upon one another that float out through the thin mosquito netting in the window frames. One of them just landed on Park Place and it’s breaking them to pieces. A girl complains loudly of going bankrupt. Maybe she’ll jump off the ledge of a tall building. But then again, maybe she’ll just go to bed, wake up in the morning and go to school. But then again, maybe she’ll get gunned down in the cafeteria just as she’s about to dig into her fruit cup. Where are the peaches for justice?
The tumbling dice scurry like mice and helicopters now fill the air above our playgrounds.
You bastards don’t want to save anything. You just want to corrupt your own corruption. Those were Lance Birmingham’s last thoughts as he crawled into bed and turned off the lamp on the table beside him. Click. Quiet. Dark. Mostly dark save for the glow coming from his harmonious calliope fortune machine that sat atop a well-polished dresser of deep-veined oak.
The very first thing Lance Birmingham would do every morning is go to the harmonious calliope fortune machine and pull out the white slip of paper from the dispenser and read it. Sometimes it gave medical annotations, like it did yesterday when it spit out: Your heart will not stop today. Good. Other days the little white slip of paper will show something completely random and mostly of little concern. Like the day it coughed up: There will be no newspaper on the front walk today because the industry as a whole is collapsing.But so what? Just get on your computer, Lance. The entire world exists in an electrified vapor.
Yes, the harmonious calliope fortune machine knew his name somehow even though he had never programmed it to do so.
“Well, someone did,” he told his invisible wife. Well, she wasn’t really invisible. He spoke to her picture. He carried it with him all around the house. It was in a silver frame, and she had the prettiest smile. He missed her.
On the most recent of his days, Lance Birmingham shuffles out the front door and looks around the yard. It’s about 6:30 in the morning and the day is just beginning to yawn and the grass is wet with dew. No newspaper once again even though the harmonious calliope fortune machine said nothing about it this time. He forgot what it had said. He tries to remember but it just isn’t getting through the thick walls of his corroding brain.
He goes inside to make himself a cup of coffee. He sits at the table in the mostly quiet kitchen and waits. The sound of the coffee maker dribbling the juice of the gods into a red cup is the exception to the silence. The cup had belonged to his wife. It has her name on it: Monika. He gets up, retrieves the cup, and sits back down. He drops in some artificial sweetener and a couple glops of flavored creamer. An egg yolk-colored glow fills the room as the sunlight outside stands taller, a nuclear soldier. He takes a sip of the coffee. Now it is very quiet.
He notices the slip of paper from the harmonious calliope fortune machine. He must have set it down on the kitchen table in his aimless wandering to get to the morning newspaper that never came. He picks it up with a shaking hand and looks at it. It’s blank. No words at all, just an empty white space. He hears a whisper fall upon his ear. He suddenly turns around and sees his wife standing there. It’s Monika, young and golden. She smiles and holds out her arms. She isn’t inside a picture anymore.
Tarnished and solitary microscope the gods to the bone the rubbermaid ache getting more desperate every day darkened spirits grow more onyx with each ocean passing of the sun there is no carnival high-beam in my life only shadows coaxing another sparse scream when I walk through the wooded lands clutch the trees and their dirty hands the reeds like spears, like knives a natural morsel of Easter Jesus candy cutting the jugular jamboree in the egg garden the neon blood spills silently onto the plastic grass the bees and the flies and the gnats gather for a swim they don’t recognize that the moon’s fluids are completely full of marshmallow burns of the oblong and stretched native aliens and Earth leaves them rancid and shaky someday any day every day, all the way flipping through the advanced-tech screen washing away locked-down dreams with laser beams and rabbit feet to just dream inside a dream where reality oozes through so sparkly distorted yet so real and prophetic the greasy heat like silver fast-food cell the hotness of commerce rising off the souls of the unblessed the air of a constant panic what does waking and moving mean anything, or delicious delusions again sleep baby your pumped-up dreams pay at the pump baby dream of sleep broken down bag of checkers and bones paralyzing love attacks, hybrid kisses a swift kick to gravity and we all fall home no rhyme or reason remains I am sparklers in heat a hose without a hand a car driven by someone sleeping a pounding at the door that will never be heard lost and cast away on sand island at sea like a dime store comic book dug out of an attic blow off the dust wipe the cover clean what does it mean merely trapezoidal trash lonely counsel with the wind by an open window the bees curve and dive they make life, they churn spice honey drips down broken wings tears caress the memories of a painful way pain inside out like custard mirrors lavish buckets of discontent the meat of a green cactus with flowered eyes pierced by the thorn of the sun god begging big blossoms to bloom and then they are done one last flaccid cough of color and a gentle float to the earth to disappear to turn to dust or rust or unwilling lust to be trampled by a new life maybe not so nice carrots or cartoons negative nothing a laugh negative nothing on a salad ranch nothing for miles and miles means anything close to porch kisses pressing to this hollow can this rusting skin this decades-old man of aluminum foil stretched thin and stuffed full of it in a nation that loves to hate in a world longing to dance and escape in a universe of grapefruit and stars memorizing every tick of time there ever was.
It was more than just a scoff scraping against his half beating heart like Flintstone flint on steel. It was an incantation of dehumanization. There they were, down in the incandescent valley of the broken, the spires of architects piercing the yellow cast, two cups of cooling coffee on a table at a red booth by a big window looking out upon the stepless street of shapes moving toward the bridge that crosses over to another place and time. The people there just floated.
Slowly he breathes. Her eyes are gazing down toward hell as she thinks, a glossy fingernail of race car red rhythmically tapping against the rim of her cup stained with the same mouth of scathing rebuke. “I don’t even know what to say,” she finally said, looking at him with those candle flame-colored eyes. “What were you thinking?”
There was a globule of chattering that floated in the air. Someone cackled like a witch. Everything suddenly seemed louder. Everything hurt more and more and more. “You don’t understand psychological torture, that’s all,” he said to her.
“You never make any sense,” she replied. “I can’t take it anymore. I need something better… Someone better. Someone who doesn’t shoplift.”
A city bus paused on the street outside the window. It looked like a white whale splattered with nonsense advertising. He sarcastically thought, I’m surprised humans haven’t come to that: Billboards stapled to wild animals… Imagine the revenue we could generate from a safari!!
He watched with painful disinterest as people got off, people got on. The bus lurched off, leaving a cloud of prosperity in its wake. He could almost taste the diesel in the next sip of his coffee. “It wasn’t shoplifting… I was making a statement.”
She parted her full mouth in disbelief. “A statement? What statement? Hey world, look at me. I’m an idiot.“
“That Capitalism is a prison for most of us. Everyone should have access to the same basic necessities of life… For free. It’s called sharing with and helping your fellow man for the good of all people. Not just for the good of the rich and the elite.”
“That’s not the way the world works, Lant. It just isn’t. You’ll just have to accept it and live with it like the rest of us.”
Lant started to imitate a sheep. “Baaaaa, Baaaaa.”
“Are you seriously doing that right now… In public?”
“Yes, Grace. I am.” Again, he made the sheep noise, but this time much louder. “Baaaaa! Baaaaa!”
Her eyes widened and she clenched her jaw. “Stop it!” she hissed through an exuberant whisper. “People are starting to stare at us.”
“So,” Lant said, and he lifted his cup of coffee to his mouth and took a sip. “I don’t care what other people think.”
“Well, I do!”
Lant chuckled, and then started imitating a cat. “Meowww, Meowww.”
“You have some serious problems… And you wonder why I’m breaking up with you.”
“Really, Grace? The reason you’re breaking up with me is to be with that beach bum boyfriend of yours.”
“He’s far from a bum,” Grace let it be known. “He’s an architect… A very rich and handsome architect. He lives in Malibu. The view of the ocean is orgasmic.”
Lant made a mocking noise and turned away to look out the window and dream of a better world.
“I’m sorry,” Grace began. “What is it you do again? Hmm. Let me think… Oh yeah. You work at a convenience store.”
Lant turned back to look at her as if she had eaten his first born. If he had a first born. “It’s not just any convenience store… It’s Pump n’ Jump.”
Grace laughed out loud, the force of it tossing her 90s Laura Dern hair into the diner’s butter-laden air. “Pump a Lump is more like it.”
“You’re just jealous,” Lant said to her.
The shadowy waitress brought the check and Grace dug in her purse for some cash and threw it down on top of the small rectangular shaped piece of paper colored light green and white with red numbers printed on it. “I’ll take care of this. Because, well, you know. You make like six dollars an hour.”
Lant soured. “I’ll have you know I’ll be eligible for a substantial increase in a year.”
Grace laughed again and started to work herself out of the booth. “Right.” She stood, slung her purse over her shoulder and looked down at him one last time. “Well, I guess this is it,” she rattled like a snake with a six-shooter for a tail. “Goodbye, Lant. It’s been… It hasn’t been much at all.”
He watched her as she left the diner and stood outside on the sidewalk. She had her cell phone against the side of her head now and was smiling and laughing while she spoke with gusto. The Saint of Everything on the other end was just leaving his office in downtown Los Angeles. It would be a while. The traffic. The congestion. All that battered heart failure leeching out of the asphalt. Grace and her Ken doll architect were planning to rendezvous at their favorite hotel for lava-like hot love… Island lava. Spewing lava. Lava that burned. And when done they would bask in the afterglow of the incandescent valley and reality would be selfish and all nonsense to them.
Lant enjoyed the view through the diner window as she balanced herself on the curb. She wasn’t paying attention to anything, he thought. And he knew something bad would come to her, and he almost felt sad. His eyes narrowed as she stepped into the busy street to get to her car parked on the opposite curb. Then Lant heard the screech, the thud, the screams… And for a moment he saw Grace floating in the air like some broken angel across the pale of the City of Angels, the coffin keepers of the incandescent valley ready and waiting with the padded lids wide open and singing welcoming hymns of a spiraled Heaven.
But that I’ll just mess up my own heart and mind with memories that aren’t even mine.
Because I’m a train with several wings.
And the stops we make are to all sorts of different places at the same time.
The steam stack release like time machine clouds… Puffing.
The whistle long and guttural and hopeful.
People pattering about on the platforms in clothes appropriate for the various times.
But I have no idea where to get off or if I even can.
I’m somehow glued to the seat like in a dream.
All I can do is look out the window and scream.
But then I settle into the movement, a verdant massage.
Like somewhere in Italy, the sky is hot, the clouds are sweating, the blue is melting.
My guts are wallowing in upended nerves, I need to catch my breath for just a moment.
The conductor walks by and hands me a package wrapped in yellow.
He tells me not to open it until I get to my final destination.
“In case it’s a bomb,” he bends and whispers. He straightens up and reaches into his pocket and pulls something out. “Peanuts?” he asks.
“If only there were an ocean,” I answer. “I’m afraid of choking.”
He takes offense, snaps his heels together and walks off. I can hear his voice in the narrow distance trail off. “Peanuts…”
I look out the window to remind myself I’m on a train and not an airplane, but then that’s where I am wrong. The meadows of white clouds below my feet correct my thinking, my dreaming, my pure reality.
I look down into my lap and I am still holding the package wrapped in yellow. I don’t care what he said, and I open it anyways. The sound of ripping paper wrestles some others from sleep. Some moan and groan and look around. There’s a small box beneath the paper. I hold it to my ear, and I can hear something skittering about and breathing.
I open the box and a yellow canary flies out. It flutters all about the cabin. It bumps into people’s heads, chirps, and claws. Other passengers are flailing their arms and hands and teeth. One man tried to swallow it. Another man was screaming and tried to open the emergency exit door. Because of a bird? A canary? What a fool, I thought. And yet another man had to punch him in the face to knock him out and tame his irrational outburst.
Then the turbulence came as we were descending into… Denver, I suppose. The Rocky Mountains can be a bit rocky. The toasted landscape below is topped with a tab of buttered pollution. It grossly melts. The skyscrapers poke through it all.
I get that weird feeling in my stomach as we quickly come down, the ground is rushing by, the wheels hit and there’s that momentary rough nudge. The voice of the pilot comes on over the sound system. Most of the time, you can never understand a damn word they say. But this time it was clear. “Nailed it!” she said. The other passengers laughed and cheered. Had we been in some sort of danger? I wondered to myself. I guess it didn’t matter anymore.
Inside the terminal of Denver International, I was the only one remaining at the luggage carousel. I watched it go around and around and around. There were no more bags. They finally shut it down. A man came along. His head was down, and he was sweeping the floor. Then all the lights went out and it was very quiet. I ignited the flashlight on my cell phone and began to walk. My footsteps fell heavy and loud on the tiled floor. I was always the last one to depart.
There is this guy see who lives upstairs from me he’s the weird upstairs walking guy walks and walks but he never says hi – until today he looked disheveled and bruised hair all a muss toting a bank bag full of money and I’m wondering what all the walking is for floor to floor he walks and walks till a quarter to four
Is he shooting darts or is he shooting junk is he hiding a decapitated head in a hand-carved wooden trunk has he stashed away the body of Cinderella takes her out in the deep of night combs her brittle golden locks until she looks just right props her up on the couch beside him as they munch popcorn and watch “I am Sam …”
Or maybe he’s a Buddhist with incense and candles and lots and lots of fluffy pillows he kneels on his straw mat and bows to the sun or to the moon or to the neighbor beating his dog and grandma with a pinecone and a bat
I always see him solo never with a mate and I wonder what his story is what is his twisted tale of fate how old is he how much does he weigh does he believe in Jesus or follow his own way what does he think about when he drives to Albuquerque does he play a Steinway or toot on a green bottle flute enticing the charms to rise from the ashes buried in his carpet does he drink white wine or red what does it mean when he screams like that is it merely bad dreams or frustration bubbling to the surface in the form of dragon fizz and warm oil
Does he watch Regis and Oprah and maybe Dr. Phil or does he watch the motion on the ocean three vodkas and three pills is he a menace to society or one of the popes does he smoke razor blades or psychedelic dope is he a war veteran or a homosexual does he eat pot pies or filet mignon is he French or is he Irish does he have nightmares or fairy tale dreams does he have children or maybe a wife has he attempted suicide with a rusty fruit knife has he called on Allah to save this bloody world or does he sit back and sip martinis whilst smoking Izmir Stingers not really giving a damn about his brain anymore
All this I wonder but don’t really care I wish he would just stop walking and leave me to my Russian bear the one that looks me in the mirror and says… Please don’t stare.
Welcome the pilgrims with a pellet gun and a kiss. Hannah cut her finger with a pair of scissors whilst she creates a paper turkey from a paper plate and construction paper the colors of autumn dust. See the missiles rain from the sky each tattooed with a patriotic emblem stating “Goodbye…” Hannah pastes her paper turkey on her bedroom mirror animated and alive it wiggles its plastic eyes. Hannah crawls beneath the covers on the eve of holiday glee, see her dream of firestorms and bullets and starving on TV. See the maestro carve the cooked bird, the steam from the flesh rises above the well-adorned table, leaves a mist on the lip prints stuck to the goblets of wine. Hannah stares out the picture window as the chaos of family voices clutter her mind. She sees the soldiers all falling down in a line, gassed by children coughing up the poisons as they simply attempt to make paper turkeys with scissors and glue and not a clue from their forefathers how to breathe with peace.
Hannah stares at the Baptists marching in one by one, pale and whiskered faces, crowns of cowboy hats and blindness pouring from their souls, and as Hannah passes the plate, she spits in it, futility running from her mouth, the scent of heaven polished in her hair, she looks up at Christ and wonders if they’ll nail her up there. Hannah crouches down low and slips out the row, whispers to her mom “I have to go to the bathroom …” She breaks out the doors to greet the steely blue sky, the wind whipping curled leaves choking the streets, the semi-truck scatters them like a hurricane as it rumbles right on by, and Hannah walked on down the road. To the school where they teach the blind children. Such a huge, enormous house of sooted up brick and brawl, long luscious hills of grass rolling and rolling on down, paths of gray serpentine their way across the landscape and the clouds. Hannah climbs over the black iron fence, rips her dress on a spike, tumbles to a patch of moss and rock. She lifts herself up, wipes herself off, and comes face to face with a blind boy staring at nothing but dark empty space. “Hello,” she says so politely. “My name is Hannah, and I just ran away from God.” The little blind boy smiles at the sound of her voice. Reaches out his hands to touch her. Feels the fringes of her dress. The softness of her arm right where it comes out of her sleeve. “I’m blind, but I can see you,” he says to her. “I’m blind but I can feel you,” he mentions to her. And he reaches out and kisses her wind-chapped hand.
The little blind boy took her down to the boiler room. He led the way by touch. It was dark and cold and smelled so old. Hannah crinkled her nose and coughed. “What are we doing here?” she asked. “Nothing … I’m blind. Just stay close to me.” Hannah found a book tucked beneath a red blanket in the corner. “What is this?” she asked as she stuck the stuff out in front of her. “I don’t know, I can’t see… See…” and he felt around like a blind boy imitating a blind man lost in the confines of his own darkened theater. “I’ll read to you,” Hannah said. And she led him close to the wall, beneath a slit of window against the ground. And they sat side by side, their backs pressed against the stone of the wall. Hannah flipped pages and read the words aloud. And with a final breath upon the final page, she read: The End. And the missiles came streaking across the sky making the end a sarcastic reality.
Hannah stared at the paper turkey pressed against her mirror. The dust was falling from her hair. The dried blood flaked from her mouth. Her once pretty dress torn worse and soiled now. She walked out into the hallway. Dimly lit and smoky. She turned the corner. Entered the dining room. Saw the pillars of stone bones propped in their chairs. Bony fingers clutching chipped goblets of blood. A hole in the window. Operating a view to the burning scene. The head of the blind boy spun like a record amongst the claws of the mangrove cathedrals floating through the world. She touched her mouth to feel her breath. The eye of the needle had been fed. She was alive, but the world was dead.
Independent content creator, author, former print and digital journalist, and trying really hard to be a diligent husband. I am the publisher and editor of Cereal After Sex, an eccentric online journal/magazine focused on social commentary and fiction with an unpredictable edge. I reside in Tennessee, US.
An online journal of fiction, essays, and social commentary.