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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dirty Laundry

     "There was a time when darkies ran free.  They thought they ran the world!"  William's grandfather interrupted himself by coughing loudly into his own soup.  "But things changed.  Those darkies know their place these days."  The old man dribbled food onto a white plastic bib.  It had a picture of a rooster on it.
     "They sure do, sir."  William took a damp rag and rubbed spit from the old man's chin.  Martin, the large black orderly in charge of the senior's ward walked over.
     "Is everything all right over here Will?"  he asked.
     "He's just a little excited today.  That's all."  William responded watching for a reaction from the old man.  Martin nodded and smiled and went to check on another family.
    William's grandfather leaned in close to William's ear after Martin had gone.  "And that one's the worst of the lot."  The harsh wet whisper made William jump and he scratched himself on the old man's stubble.
    "Of course he is Grandpa."  William agreed to prevent an argument.  "It's time for bed."
    William wheeled his grandfather back to the small room where the old man slept.  He carried him into the bathroom and removed the old man's soiled shirt and pants.  An embarrassingly full adult diaper was peeled away and discarded.  A warm wet towel wiped a wrinkled grandfather clean before William rediapered him for bed.
     "All your PJ's are dirty Grandpa, you'll have to sleep in your robe tonight."
     "Dirty!" the old man spat, "You get that darkie in here and you thrash him.  He's been sneaking in here, making things dirty.  No good, lazy...He should be doing the washing.  He's been slacking in his duties!"
     "Don't worry Grandpa, I'll take care of it."  William carried his withered patriarch to bed, settled him, and tucked him in.  Then he gathered all the soiled garments he could find, wrapped them together in a stained bedsheet, and went to find Martin.
     "Martin?"  William found him in the TV lounge.  "I need the key to the laundry room.  My grandfather..."
     "No problem Will."  Martin unclipped a key from an impressive array attached to a large key ring hooked onto his belt.  "Just find me when you're done.  How's the old man holding up?"
   "He's alright.  He just forgets himself sometimes."  William shifted the dirty weight in his arms to accept the key.  "Some of what he says...He forgets where he is."
     "That's all right Will.  We'll take care of him."
     "Thanks."  William slipped the key into his pocket.  He had much to do before the old man woke up.

Sitting With Artaud


Mask makers taking from the dreamworlds dancing sideways slipping through doorways, wearing keys on our faces we sit with Artaud after the asylum his thoughts I could just kill you -as matter of fact as his reflection- worn like a mask itself.
Shatter the masks? How cruel this man is. These masks open doors. So many worlds and he is left with only one, his own. His keys are shattered. Foolish, foolish, masks do not disguise. They open the outside from the inside. Shatter the masks, the mad king roars, show me show me show me who you are. We wear the masks we make to open doors to worlds we want to take from. Foolish king, foolish fool. Ah but not so foolish as we when we forget to remove our masks and we outgrow them become infected and pus-filled caricatures with swollen fake faces. The key no longer fits. The door is closed behind us.
I could just murder you - as matter of fact as his reflection in our eyes. energy unwasted
I will save you from your self-made chains instead if you swear it swear it swear it never to return. The dead are in the ashes 
so leave them there. Dead things only make dead things.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Autumn Reflection. AM 2002

     It's a beautiful day and I'm late again.  Coffee, a cigarette, the cool autumn breeze.  The warm sunshine, falling leaves, and a flock of geese tell me it's all right.
     I've got time for another one.  I'm here on the stairs and on my own.  In love with everything and everything is all right.
     Dry leaves are piled up on the bottom step.  The parking lot is full.  The bright sun hangs lower in the sky today.  The cooling breeze chills my back, my hands, and dries the ink in my pen.  Everything is all right.
   I cast my eyes to the urban prairie horizon almost beyond the reach of sight.  I see your laughing eyes smiling back at me.  My time is my own.  I make this day for myself and share it with you.  A lady in a long green coat and carrying a brown cane carefully climbs the concrete stairs.  "It's okay." she says and opens the door for herself.
     A light breeze plays in the scattered brown leaves.  A church bell rings.  It is 10:30 am.  Almost time, almost time.
     The leaves fall one at a time.  Soon the elm tree will be winter-naked, its wrinkly bark skin bare to the coming snow and cold.
Photo Credit: Tina Chakraborty, 2002.

Silent Man's Highway

Red ember twilight,
too bright to sleep.
Remembering...

The silent man's highway
rolls on.  Engine exhaust, black tar,
orange lines.  Red ember
tail-lights shrink in the distance.
This is the road of the Silent Man.
Distances and divides.
Two lanes of roaring traffic,
recorded on black strips across the land.
Horizon to horizon he spreads his hands,
steps onto the gravel shoulder,
and walks on.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to School

     Vic Abrams casually strolled up and down the orderly rows of his new classroom.  As he passed each desk he tapped on it in a rhythm, one-two, one-two-three.  It looked like a ritual, the final preparation for this year's batch of eager students.  Then the bell rang, the students filed in and they took their seats.  In their final year they knew the routine.
     Internalization of institutional norms, Vic observed with a frown.
     He closed the door and waited for the young men and women to settle down.  When this didn't happen  he began speaking anyway.
     "Good morning class."  the words were quiet, the tone forced others to listen. "Welcome to another year, your final year, before... graduation and whatever you choose comes next for your self."  A mix of boos, cheers, and adolescent indifference answered.
     "Since I am new here let me introduce myself.  My name is Mr. Abrams.  Some people call me Vic."
     "Victim!!"  was shouted from the back of the class.  Some students laughed, some looked uncomfortable.
     Vic smiled at this early test of his authority.  "But of course you will call me Mr. Abrams and the first thing you will notice is that I am not like other teachers."  His words were clear and precise.  He spoke like he expected you to listen.  He had thin brown hair and wore a beige suit.  Sitting on the corner of his desk at the front of the room with his arms crossed who was Mr. Abrams trying to fool?  He was exactly like every other teacher.
     "Let me assure you boys and girls, I am quite different." He leapt to his feet and rushed to the door, "Now the first order of business, is everybody here?"
     "I'm not!"
     "Me neither!"
     "I wish I wasn't!"
     "Shut up you guys!  Mr. Abrams how do we know who's supposed to be here?  It's just the first day and you're the teacher."
     "Very true."  Vic replied from the hallway.  There were no stragglers at the lockers, no-one looking lost or in need of an invitation so he jumped back into the room and did a head count.  Every seat had a student, all thirty-five.
     "All present and accounted for!  Let's begin."  With careful solemnity he removed a large silver key from around his neck  He kissed it once with reverence and locked the classroom door.
     "Wierdo!"
     "Hey, why are we locked in?"
     "We aren't locked in dear boy.  They are locked out!"  Mr. Abrams seemed a little too excited.
     "Who?"
     "Them, the Others, those who would interrupt and defile the learning process."  Mr Abrams spoke in a hushed voice and moved like a furtive animal.
     "Wierdo..."  It was whispered now.  Mr. Abrams had crossed the line from strangely entertaining to potentially dangerous.  People were feeling off-balance.
     Ignoring the students' discomfort Vic strode across the room and fiddled with the blinds, eventually opening them through trial and error.  They covered large north-facing windows which didn't get much light.  This was probably the first time anyone had been able to look out of them.
     "If we could all turn 90 degrees to the left and now who can tell me what they see?"  Vic was excited and speaking like he was out of breath.
     "The wall."
     "Some windows."
     "I can only see the ceiling."  In the rear of the classroom a student reclined at a near impossible angle in his stiff plastic chair.
     Self-assertion through intentional non-conformity.  Vic chuckled.
     "Wait a minute." he spoke quickly and poked and twisted the temperature controls on the heater to his right.  "Now tell me."
     Light flared outside the windows, yellow intensity flooded the room, and the wall fell away.  Nobody moved, nobody blinked, and nobody screamed because everybody was holding their breath.  This was Vic's favourite part.  He closed his eyes and listened  for the gasps that came as lungs restarted.  Eventually a chair scraped on the floor as someone stood up.  Then another, and another, until everyone was on their feet.  Squinting and reaching forward, they shuffled uncertainly towards the wide open space.  One by one they entered the heart of the light and vanished.
     However, this year there was an exception.  Again from the back of the class, "What the...!"
     "Yes?  What's your name?"  Vic blinked.  He was surprised.
     "Simon...and um, where?  Where does that go?"
     "Oh, I see Simon.  Well it goes Out There."  Surprise changed to bemusement.  Young Simon seemed to be a clever one.
     "Uh-hunh? Out...there?"  Simon was still in doubt,  "What class is this supposed to be anyways?"
     "Does it really matter?"  Vic responded with a laugh.
     "I...no...I guess not."  Simon was being won over.  "Then is this like a field trip?"
     "Yes indeed.  It could be.  A field trip."
     "So then is this class like, over?"
     "It will be when you get back."
     "Back from where?"
     "From There."
     "Then what?"
     "Then you go to your next class."  Mr. Abrams made perfect sense.  Reassured now, Simon moved to join his classmates in the light.  Vic smiled as curiosity overcame caution and skepticism but Simon found one more question.
     "Mr. Abrams?"
     "Yes Simon."  Vic was patient.  He knew Simon would go.
     "Has anyone ever come back?"
     "Whenever they want to."
     "Yeah but...has anyone ever wanted to?"
     Vic sighed.  Simon needed something more by way of an explanation.  "That is Truth, and Beauty, and Justice Out There Simon.  This classroom, the whole school, is just another cave.  I suspect if someone did return it would be to kill me.   Does that answer your question?"
     "Kinda.  I suppose." then Simon said, "Mr. Abrams?  I think you're going to be one of my favourite teachers this year.  I'll try not to kill you when I get back."
     "I'd certainly appreciate that Simon."  Vic Abrams spoke to the silence after the boy had finally gone.  He had a feeling this was going to be an extraordinarily good year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Getting Better

     The weather changed quickly.  The boat capsized.  Three men drowned.  No-one mourned.  They were not good people.  It was not a good boat.  It was not good weather.  The dream ended and the boy awoke.  "You will never be a man!"  yelled his mother, "Because men are evil and drunk and stupid!"  He wanted to say, "But I will be a man.  I have no choice.  Why will you hate me when I grow up?"
     He knew the answer.  No matter how good, sober, kind, or smart he was now, these things would change. He would change and become someone his mother had to hate.  Experience taught her what men were.  Maybe she forgot they started as little boys afraid someone important would hate them for who they were, who they had no choice to be.
     It had been a month and the dream hadn't changed.  No bodies were found, just a boat full of empty beer cans and coolers and fishing tackle.  He could pretend his father, his uncle, and his brother would still come home.  They were staying late at the bar again spending all the money, and in the morning they would be back passed out and stinking on the living room couch and floor. 
     The biggest difference so far had been groceries.  They had them.  There were three meals in a day, with different food each time.  Not macaroni three times a day but crunchy cereal and milk, then pastrami sandwiches, and finally spaghetti with a meat sauce.  Life was quieter and everybody's feelings were hurt but no-one talked about how life was getting better.
     He only cried once, on the day the search ended.  Burning tears and gasping sobs were masked and washed away in the shower.  Afterwards he felt drained of any feelings good or bad.  For now the cool emotional numbness was an improvement and he enjoyed the unfillable emptiness keeping the world at bay.  Soon though he would start seeing the ghosts and his detachment would begin to harden into a shell keeping the world out but trapping him alone with the past.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Aldous and Francis

     Aldous was always covered in crumbs and lint, or fluff, or bits of string, or dust or dandruff.  He had long ceased brushing away the detritus that clung to him like iron filings on a magnet.  In contrast his fraternal twin Francis suffered from a fastidiousness that verged on effete.  Francis picked and brushed and preened with expert hands.  Through constant obsessive effort he maintained a large wardrobe of black jeans and itchy turtleneck sweaters.
     Mary, their mother, loved her boys deeply and as equally as she could but against her will it was Francis who pulled harder on her affections.  Aldous was a fussy mother's worst nightmare.  No amount of spit and polish could banish the blob of mustard that alternated between corners of his mouth and occasionally his eyebrow.  As a grown man with a full beard and mustache Mary couldn't even look at him.  Thank God  for neat, trim, clean-shaven Francis.
     He could calm and soothe her every neurosis related to cleanliness just by entering a room.  It was like he was statically charged in reverse.  Cat hair, dust motes, and dirt visible or otherwise seem to flee before his tidy aura.  Stains dragged into the house by clumsy witless Aldous removed themselves from carpets, drapes, and upholstery whenever Francis was near.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lunch Break

     Lizbette prided herself on utilizing her 45 minute lunch break to its fullest potential every day.  She sat on the cool concrete bench in the center of the park opposite her accountancy firm contemplating the duck pond and crunching on a rice cake.  Her thoughts drifted serenely as the plump waterfowl dabbled and dove as if they were entertaining her.  She thought of order and chaos and how somebody should tell those peacefully disorganized ducks to line up and swim in an orderly fashion.  They reminded her of children in a playground.  Grubby little humans in need of a stern talking to, a face-wipe, and some rules.  Not like numbers.  Those things knew their place values.  She chuckled at her own little joke.
     No.  Numbers were too easy.  They did what she told them to, they always lined up.  What Lizbette craved was an outlet and a challenge.  She liked yelling and stomping; shushing others and telling people what to do; making them line up and walk instead of run.  She imagined steamrolling little dreams under the inevitable force of reason and immovable objective realism.  "It is no difficulty to bring order to order, but order to chaos that is the eternal struggle."  She waxed philosophical under her breath.  Then suddenly, with the crisp final bite of the rice cake an epiphany.  "I should have been a school teacher!"
     Startled ducks quacked in alarm and dismay.  Some even took flight, albeit briefly, at their lone audience member's uncharacteristic expostulation.  They waggled their tails and dipped their heads at the unexpected rudeness, then returned to their ballet firm in the knowledge the show must go on.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Barney

     Barney pretended surprise when Candace shyly revealed her glass eye.  "I hadn't noticed."  He boldly lied.  In fact the eye had initially drawn him to her.  Even now at the heady apex of a three-week whirlwind of innocent hand-holding romance it remained the focus of his hidden carnal agenda.

She Sits

She sits in her cool dark basement,
Patiently counting the cats on the walls,
and stubbornly resists the madman who calls.
She persists while he insists
that she and the cats,
aren't really there at all.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sunday Morning Waffles - The Reprise - A Stream of Consciousness Conversation

What time is it?
I don't know
It's time to get up.
No it isn't.
Come on, I'm hungry.
I'm tired.
Dad!!
The kid's are up.  The sun is up.  Make some breakfast.
You make breakfast!
Daaad!  Make breakfast!!
Fine.  Do you want cereal?
Waffles!  Waffles!  Waffles!
Do we have bacon?
Bacon!  Bacon!  Bacon!
I think so.  You'll have to check.
Why don't you check!?
Dad!  Don't be grouchy!
Fine.  Help me up and go to the kitchen.

We need a measuring cup...that's a drinking cup, we need a measuring cup...No a measuring...I'll get it.  This is a measuring cup.  Get the bowl.  The plastic one.  Good, now hold it.
I wanted to!
You get the flour.
I wanted to get the flour!
Fine, you take the bowl, and you get the flour.  Don't spill it.  Careful, grab it by the...no don't!...Get the broom.  How much is left?  Let me see...There's enough, we only need two cups.
Can I scoop it?
I'll do it.
Why can't I?
You're holding the bowl.  How about I scoop and you pour it in?
But I wanted to do that!
You pour the first cup, and you can pour the second.  One...Two...Good...Now sweep up the floor please...The floor...I'll do it.  Get the salt.  Stop! Don't pour it in, we only need half a teaspoon.  And a teaspoon and a half of baking powder.  No not baking soda, the powder...in the can not the carton.  Good.
What's it taste like.
Like powder.
Can I try some?
Uh...Sure.
Hey! Don't let her eat that!
It tastes funny.
Oh yeah?
Did you find the bacon yet?
I haven't even looked, we just started.  Okay 2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and now 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
I'll get it!
No don't!  The lid's not...on...Sweep it up please.  There should be enough left in the jar.  Fill up the teaspoon.  Good, now put it in.
I wanted to do that!
You dumped most of the cinnamon on the floor!  Clean it up.
Mom!
Your Dad said clean it up.  I don't think we have any bacon.  Do we have sausages?
I don't know.  Can you get a cup of water and a cup of milk and pour them in?  I need a big spoon.
I have to wash my hands.
Fine, can you do it after you clean the floor?
Sure.
I'm still holding the bowl!
Good, give it here.  Get two eggs, the whisk, and another bowl.
Here's the water and the milk.
Good, pour it in.  Carefully, not on my...It's ok just a little spilled.  Stir the rest in until everything is smooth.
Dad how do I do the eggs?
Crack them on the bowl.  Now pull out the shells... We need to separate the yolks.  Like this.
Ewww!!!
Look Dad, I'm stirring!
Good, now stir in these yolks.
Ewww!!!
Take a fork and whip the egg whites until they're stiff.
Ha, ha.  You said stiff.
Not funny girls.  Stir a little more slowly, don't spill.
Are the sausages ready?
What sausages dear?
I asked you for sausages.
You what?  When?...I didn't...I think we have some bacon, just wait.  Is the dog outside?
Yes, he's barking.
Let him in please.
My arm hurts.
I'll finish the egg whites, you get a teaspoon of vanilla and two teaspoons of apple sauce.
Okay now what?
Put them in.
Why do we use applesauce?
It replaces the oil.
Why?
It just does.
The dog's barking at the neighbors.
Then let him in!  Can you get the bacon out of the fridge?
Fine.  Come.  Inside.  Now.  Come, come on...he's not coming.
Come!  Inside!  Now!  Good boy.
I think I'll shower.
Good idea, pass me the frying pan, I found the bacon.  How many pieces?
3!
6!
5!
All of it!
Two each then.  The egg whites are done, fold them in and take out the waffle iron.  I'll do the bacon.
I want to!
Okay just lay them out in the pan and use the spatter shield.  Turn the element to medium.
Can I watch T.V.?
What?  Who?  You?  Yeah, go ahead.
Yea!
I'm helping you Dad!
That's great, thank-you.  Is the waffle iron hot?
I need to plug it in.
Fine do that.  Can you set the table too please?
Can I watch T.V.?
Sure.  Tell your mother I'm making coffee.  Do you want syrup or jam or what for the waffles?
Sure
All of them?
Sure
Butter and syrup then. Okay get out of here I'll let you know when everything's done.
Is it ready yet?
I thought you were showering?
I was, I am, I mean...I'm going to.  How come no-one's helping you?
They did.  How come you're not showering?
Fine I'm going.  Give me a kiss.
Is breakfast ready?
It's just started cooking.  Why aren't you two watching T.V.?
There's nothing on.
Yeah, nothing.
Set the table then.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shadow

Don't think the shadow is empty,
or that it's just a shell.
It is a clever decoy,
Luring us to hell.

Welcome to the new land,
A place to make your stand,
Lost along the way,
The pathway home.

No-one will follow here,
This is a new breed of fear,
Unfamiliar screams,
We hear them come.

Stand up straight and stand up tall,
Face your last chance to fall,
Sometime soon,
Before the dawn of something new.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hungry Smiling Fish

Barracuda, you have sharp, sharp teeth,
Lurk in murky waters just slightly underneath,
Unsuspecting swimmers' toes,
As you purposely prepare for a phalangee feast.