Thursday, July 27, 2006

Issue No. 6, God

Issue No. 6, God - God Drinks Deeply by J. Willie Garvoille

[“In the beginning the unuttered Word, and a great stillness
within God, and the Void within God and unabridged by Time…”]

As God drinks deeply the green wine of empty space,
it occurs to him! That Word he’s been trying to trace
with a timid finger upon the glass of a nonextant place:


After cringing low from the voice of such thunder,
(for suddenly there is Low, High, Up, Under!)
God opens a wounded ear, and listens with wonder

at the result of his sudden falling-out with Silence…
God discerns the constant drone of a stellar ocean
and the consummate whine of its little atoms:

“Shush, now!”

He murmurs, but there’s no nod or abeyance
in the whirs of what have recently leapt into motion…
There’s no way out, no-how! He let’s slip! Galaxies

of shattered glass outrace the beck of His fingertip!
There’s no calling back the explosive expletive “now!”
And now, daily, we pluck at the shards of existence…

And if we (you or I) come to truly understand God,
we feel that first blush of His shame when He,
inadvertently, sends things away from Him!

And heaven’s ruins rain down about us…
And so, daily, we pluck at the shards of existence.

I think a timid God best,
not the brazen ones who howl for good and evil,
as if there were rough herds of light and dark beasts
confronting each other on opposite banks of a river—
Snarls cris-cross the water, “Thou shalt not drink here!”

I think a God far better that drinks such divisive rivers dry!
And then shows us two sides of the same leaf blowing by!

I think a timid God best, that One whose long silence
is misunderstood, that One who from the final distance
comes at last to simply apologize for existence…

“So, really, how was it?” He’ll say.
“oh, it was a blast!” I’ll say, with an accusatory smile,
“but You’ve still got a lot to learn about Beginnings!”

“Why, you, you…” He’ll stammer, and the stars will glimmer…
“Ho! You are the most impudent! Rudest!
yet truest of all My Imaginings!”

and then I’ll (suddenly disembodied)—umh, hmmh, what will I’ll?
Oh yes—I’ll remind Him again as I pass by, gathering break-neck
speed toward the nearest cluster of stars…

Mind you! Try again! but think before You speak and before You
Think, drink more, and deeply! One day, You’ll get it right!

[“In the beginning was Touch,
and the all-encompassing press
of space that was not yet fleshed.
And God felt the need for Otherness”]

…or some-such!

Issue No. 6, God - The Incredible Nothing by Ben Tuttle

Issue No. 6, God - A Visit from God to His Caricaturists

I had never seen my father with any wisp of stubble until the day he was arrested. Truly, he was baby-faced and so in my mind he was baby-spirited. Events seemed to understand this conception and when guilt was laid, so was a thin layer of manhood. The facts of the arrest are hazy to me now and I was so young when it happened, I doubt they were clear to me then. I do remember seeing my father in the back of a Rock-O-La Café with a girl I recognized from school. I saw him slap her and kick her to the ground. She looked pregnant. I suppose the charges could have been statutory rape, or refusal to pay, or battery. My mother shed no light on the subject. On the day he was arrested, she gathered her things and, to put it politely, absented herself.

The nuns at St. Regis School stepped in to support me. St. Regis was my school and my father’s alma mater so the nuns knew us well enough to put us both up. I was given a cot in my classroom on the south wing and my father a cage on the north wing, where he was to await the trial. I lived there for some time, alone and with my classmates, until, after much deliberation, the nuns decided I should be brought to the north wing to talk with my father; I suppose so that he might be reminded of the life he forsook, or that his son’s love for him might bring about a confession and from me a forgiving.

On the morning of a grey first of the month, I was dressed in a grey morning suit and taken by the nuns out of my classroom home. Each of the twenty or so nuns had a hand on my shoulder as they walked me down the school halls. Not a word was exchanged, but a low mumble mingling with the footsteps seemed to convey something between them. I think it was the mumbles and not the footsteps that were carrying them, and when we passed the gym and the mumbles stopped, so too did the nuns. They very firmly pulled me back into their arms and when I looked up I could see they were all staring intently before them, a sort of afraid. A few of the nuns actually collapsed into the arms of their fellow nuns, who all the while stared down the hall.

A sphere of fog appeared in front of us. It looked like a thought bubble with those cute, rounded edges and it grew to a little three-foot cloud that hovered above the ground. Another cloudy mass appeared inside the bubble, this one taking an almost human shape, with pudgy globules of clouds for legs and arms and a head. Two white circles popped up inside the head and another white circle beneath them. The figure looked familiar and not a little funny, like a depressed Michelin Man. The shape spoke.


I was braced further into the nun’s chests. The two white circles were pushed down to angry slits by a cloudy brow above them. The third white circle got real wide and shouted again with a bassy, booming voice.

“This is what you think I look like?! How dare you?! I look ridiculous – stupid!” The little guy shook his arms and jumped up and down in his bubble. “No! No! No! No! No! I hate you!”

The cloud shriveled up and the shape disappeared. Running, the nuns took me back to my classroom. They took turns with rulers and textbooks smacking me over the head.

“Blasphemy!” they rang. “Blasphemy!”

The nun’s official excuse for kicking me out of St. Regis was that my early four o’clock shadow was upsetting the other children, but I believe it was my encounter with God that got me kicked out, and more their fear of another run-in than my alleged blasphemy. I was handed over to a twenty-something nanny living with her parents in the country and I was actually treated quite nicely there. The nanny’s mother gave wet kisses and made gooey cookies. The nanny sometimes blindfolded me and took me in her father’s pick-up to a surprise fun spot, like Discovery Zone. It was very comfortable being with her and when I found out she received her degree from a university called bible school, I thought I could trust her to know the meaning of my encounter.

“I had a vision of God and He told me He hated me,” I said.

My nanny, trained to appreciate visions of God, had a hard time telling me it was just a dream. She had a hard time telling me anything at all.

“It isn’t certain,” I continued, struck by a new detail, “that, since the God I saw had no pupils, He was even addressing me. Couldn’t He have been shouting at the nuns?”

“Well,” my nanny eventually came up with, “God loves all children.”

Hmmm. I tried to think about that one. I suppose He does.

Issue No. 6, God - A Simple Recant (Sighting the Borealis) by J. Willie Garvoille

Despite all past railings, O Lord, I grant
Thy atmospheric play still holds great cant
in the yet un-felled regions of My Soul…
I, who’ve seen Thy lightning blast trees whole!

Is it You? or I? who seeks the grail of control?!
Yet when You cast the aurora from either Pole,
it’s I who falters, looking up, at first askant,
then I who delights in such heavenly rant!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Issue No. 5, Eros

Issue No. 5, Eros - The Erotics of Lansing Potter

Lansing Potter, wunderkind, visited a bookstore between Park and Lexington Avenues every time he went into the city. The bookstore housed a revolving rack of erotic paperbacks, and it was the purpose of each of Lansing’s visits to purchase such a paperback for the train ride home. Not only did the book pass the time of the train ride more efficiently than a copy of The New York Times, for example, but it sparked in Lansing the charge he needed to sense more fully the erotic element of life. Lansing transformed the secret rush and palpitation induced by the material into an overwhelming awareness of the secret rushes and palpitations already existing in the world.

The mechanics of sexuality that lay on the bottom of his erotic texts Lansing appreciated no more than the biblical exegete does the sand. Sex, to Lansing, was at best a poor metaphor for something entirely else. The fact that most of the people around him – his family, classmates, and clergy – saw sex as the worthiest of endeavors, Lansing considered no more than an unnatural aberration. He thought those people deluded into sex by Madison Avenue and Freud, believing with all his fervent not only that the prefixes affixed to sexuality were false and imprisoning, but that sexuality itself was false and imprisoning. How many lives would be saved, he thought, if girls didn’t lose sleep to force a fantasy and boys didn’t strain to peek at fashion magazines?

The issue for Lansing was expressly political. He rehearsed his speech: “Libido is a handy tool for the people on top to maneuver the people on bottom. Make a person want something and you’ll make them feel inadequate; make them feel inadequate and you can make them do anything you want. You can kill them.” There is another hand, however, and it holds fast to erotica. Lansing held fast to it.

Lansing felt and divorced from sex the divine love that people attribute to it. He skimmed the love-excitement from his books, put it in himself, and saw it in every bend of light and approaching figure. Unlike his forebears, Lansing would have given all his skin, not just his foreskin, for a hint of foresight into forces seen. For the colors about Lansing bled when he looked at them, the din had a melody, and the Earth’s center of gravity was his own when he read those books. Sex was a metaphor for everything else and if he experienced the metaphor on paper then he could experience its transubstantiate in reality – a warm, melting reality whose only purpose was to hold Lansing close and kiss him till he died.

The excitement dulls. Eventually, sex is just a billboard again and a billboard just a rectangle again. Lansing rode the train back into the city and bought another book.

Issue No. 5, Eros - The Christian and the Beautiful Woman

Basket and blanket in hand, Lady Speed-Stick strolled the pebbled back alleys to market every morn, her eyes arched for transsexual wolves – she was nobody’s hoodwink. She was, rather, an upstanding young member of the plutocratic nubility. None drew attention in the market like Lady Speed-Stick drew attention – she painted it. But Lady Speed-Stick, pretty as she was, was never very happy because no one ever thought she was witty. She went to market to show off her bons mots but all anyone saw were her powdered, bouffant breasts, vibrating like obese hummingbirds as her miniature high heels found each cobblestone’s crack. So when she came across Herr Bull-Weevil, a strange, new man, preaching on a soapbox in the center of the market one morning, she thought to herself, here’s a man obviously uninterested in appearance, let’s see if he really does prize the Good Word over the likes of looks.

“You’re new here,” she said, interrupting Herr Bull-Weevil’s speech.

The Christian faith hardens the heart against the poorer aspects of life. Christians are taught invisible beauty so as to make it easy to build houses for the visibly ugly. But what then should a Christian do, standing next to T and A, put face to face with a piece of lost paradise? Herr Bull-Weevil encountered exactly that question as he watched Lady Speed-Stick approaching his soapbox. He was transfixed. But he eyed the Lady suspiciously, unsure of where to attribute his transfixion. Was she God’s behemoth to Job? Or was she the garter in the garden?

“I’ve come with my wife as a missionary,” he said. “I’m here to spread the good word.”

“Is that right?” she said with a glint.

Herr Bull-Weevil decided she was the magical behemoth after all. “You look very beautiful today, my lady,” he said.

“Ah, but whoever stopped to ask beauty if it was happy?”

Lady Speed-Stick went about feeling peaches for firmness at a neighboring produce stand. Herr Bull-Weevil followed her.

“Well, I meant to say – ”

“Thank you, kind man. It’s those cappuccino baths.”

Herr Bull-Weevil stopped, stunned. “Cappuccino baths? Really? But that’s so decadent!”

Lady Speed-Stick sighed and rolled her eyes. “Don’t be simple. I meant half-foam.”

“What? Oh. Right. Cappuccino baths. How lovely.”

“Good day, sir.”

And with that, Lady Speed-Stick was gone, leaving Herr Bull-Weevil covered from head to toe in nonplus. He spent the rest of that day and well into its evening – at his wife’s irritation – beating himself over the head for so stupidly misinterpreting such a beautiful woman. How condescending I have been! he thought as he flagellated. To think a woman depraved just because she’s beautiful, and to accuse her of debauchery when she was only being witty! Lord, I am witless in thine eyes! Tomorrow I will tell her how funny she is!

Back at the castle, Lady Speed-Stick was undergoing a similar change of heart. You know, it’s not a bad idea, she thought as she disrobed, even if he didn’t get it. It was terribly condescending of me to think him a simpleton just because he’s a Christian. I will tell him tomorrow how funny he was, for wit can only be witty if taken literally.

Lady Speed-Stick rang the chef and ordered five-dozen cappuccinos. She waited on the toilet as the chef poured first the espresso and then the steamed milk into the tub.

“Chef,” she asked, “why are they called cappuccinos?”

“From the Capuchins. The monks,” said the chef. “They wore golden robes.”

“Monks?” said Lady Speed-Stick, surprised.

She lowered herself into her new bath one toe at a time, all the while thinking about the Christian. I’ll prove to him I’m not just a stupid, rich girl with a one-track mind, I’ll show him I have a spiritual side -- monks took my bath! Once submerged, she leaned her head back, opened her legs, and prayed.

“Oh, Mr. Preacher, Mr. Preacher!” Lady Speed-Stick called to Herr Bull-Weevil.

“Why, good morning, my lady,” said Herr Bull-Weevil. “Don’t you look – I mean, are you feeling happy today, my lady?”

“Quite. Thank you for asking,” she said. “But how do I look?”

“My lady, your curves are my hors d’oeuvres.”

“You’re so witty, Mr. Preacher.”

Herr Bull-Weevil blushed. “How did you get to be so beautiful?” he asked.

“I’ll tell you. Last night, I took a cappuccino bath.”

“Ah, my lady, it is you who is witty. That really is a very funny little joke. Half-foam! I told my wife your joke and we laughed all night!”

“No, no, I actually…you see, the monks…” Lady Speed-Stick suddenly found herself unable to explain her midnight baptism. Herr Bull-Weevil’s compliment of her wit took her completely off guard. A twit she’s been called, but never a wit.

“Do you really think I’m funny?” she asked.

“Yes, you’re very funny.”

“Yes,” said Lady Speed-Stick, as she fell asleep that night, “I’m very funny,” and she slid into her boiling, five hundred-shot cappuccino bath as if it were the strong, forgiving arms of Him.

Herr Bull-Weevil fell asleep at the same time thinking much the same thing. “I’m funny,” he said, and he gripped his wife’s waist as if it were Her.

Issue No. 5, Eros - Figurinas

Issue No. 5, Eros - Lover's Lane

Lovers the looks of which could have been culled from teenage television laid up in the backseat of a family sedan nearing the more dangerous ridges of lover’s lane. “I don’t care if it does have green hair,” said the girl half to the boy. “I don’t care if it is limpwristed or even limbless. I don’t care if it’s disfigured or lopsided or hunchbacked or if its genitals have been ripped to shreds. If it’s blind, deaf, autistic, if it’s schizophrenic, if it has gills – I want it. If it’s yours, I want it.” The lovers made a pact that night and under latent boulders and the light of a new moon they consummated it. The usual time later a miserable child built much to the rhetorical specifications spoken the night of its conception was given to the persevering lovers, too in love with each other.

Issue No. 5, Eros - Pretty Girl and her Homely Friend

Homely Friend: I was at the mall yesterday and I was coming down the escalator and some guy riding up the escalator next to me looked right at me and said, “You’re ugly.”

Pretty Girl: That is so rude.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Issue No. 4, The Neighborhood

Issue No. 4, The Neighborhood - The Escape Artist

Issue No. 4, The Neighborhood - Icks and the Condo Bird

The garage door opened, revealing Icks to the neighborhood at large – sullen, sunken, prematurely hunchbacked, prematurely mustached, a knee-length t-shirt featuring the Pillsbury Doughboy over his left breast. He was the deepest shade of white when he stepped out onto his parents’ driveway and a giant, crimson blemish on the asphalt when he left it. The sun was unkind to Icks. A fly flew into his eye.

Gwynne revealed herself out of her second story window.

“Hello, young man!” she called to Icks, as if ecstatically expecting him to climb up her hair, although what hair she had was no longer golden. “I’m on the phone,” she said. “Go ‘head and wait on the back patio. I’ll be down shortly.”

He sneered.

Neighborhood bylaws prohibited over-indulgent gardening, but Gwynne was wise enough to let loose beneath a trellis. Every conceivable genus of vegetation and vegetation-accessory cascaded in topiarian overtures from Gwynnevere’s home. Icks watched a sparrow catch a glimpse of its reflection in a birdbath and fall in.

“Baby doll, baby doll, Lord, am I glad you came. My back has nearly done me in.” Gwynne stepped out onto the patio carrying two tall glasses of sweet tea.

“You look thirsty,” she said. Icks did not reach for a glass. Gwynne set them on the table.

“Now it really was fortuity I saw your mother in the grocery store the other day and she was telling me how terribly out of work you were when I was just about to tell her how terribly overgrown my - ”

“I’m not out of work,” said Icks.

“Well, not no more you ain’t. I was - ”

“I don’t want a job. Divine seers are respected for their poverty.”

“Divine what?”

“My ambition keeps me up at night.”

“Well good, that’s what I like to see in a hedge clipper. Let me show you around.”

Icks followed Gwynne to all the foliage that needed whacking. She explained her designs and he picked his nose with his upper lip and mumbled things like “the sin of work” and “special dispensation” and “vitamin D allergy.” She asked him his price. He said, “thirty dollars an hour.”

Icks did not leave his house for a week after meeting with Gwynne and when he did, it was only at the behest of his father’s foot. He would trip his way down to Gwynne’s house and clock a few minutes here and there, mostly by sitting idly in the shade and counting ants. His first paycheck impressed him, though, and he started to spend more time with the ants. Having already made crystal clear his anathema to working, he didn’t mind at all if Gwynne caught him relaxing.

He spotted an even shadier spot under the drain spout one day
and moved to sit down. Something unexpected, however, entered his rear end. He jumped back and saw the ribbed tail of a rubber rattlesnake poised in the air. All the blood in his body fell to his toenails and once he could remember his name, he ran as fast as he could to Gwynne’s front door.

“Well, hey there little man - ”

“Sshh! Don’t be alarmed. It can smell alarm. Be still. Get a gun. There is an enormous snake in your backyard!”

Gwynne whispered back, “What kinda snake?”

“Sshh. It’s enormous, black, coiled to strike, and mean-looking!”

Gwynne laughed and hugged Icks.

“That’s a decoy, you dope!”

“A what?”

“For the birds! It keeps the birds away! It ain’t real!”

“The birds!” said Icks. “You’ve got bird feeders and bird baths and bird houses on every square inch of this property!”

Gwynne wiped her eyes and smiled warmly at Icks.

“You really are the most adorable, unsuspecting little boy,” she said. “It’s for the condo birds.”

Icks paused a bit to make sure he heard correctly. “What the hell is a condo bird?” he asked.

Gwynne’s smile waned and her eyelids lowered.

“You mean to tell me you ain’t never heard of a condo bird? Are you pulling my chain?” she said.

Icks tried again to understand. “Birds... that live in... what?”

“Condo birds!” she said. “Like condors, but big as condos. Condomaximum!”

“You’re insane!"

“Oh, don’t be silly,” said Gwynne. “They just did a whole spread on the things.”

Gwynne flipped through her collection of National Geographic.

“Doggonit, you’ll just have to trust me,” she said. “Magnificent creatures. One-ton feathers and claws that fell bridges. Violent, beautiful animals that would love to snatch up my garden, to say nothing of my pergola, if it weren’t for me knowing their little secret. Turns out the darn things are as scared as they are proud and nothing spooks ’em more than a forked tongue. Put it in last Tuesday.”

Icks had long decided to ignore Gwynne and focus instead on his still-shaking knees and clammy palms.

“Listen, Gwine,” he said, “if you don’t remove that snake from your garden, I will never come back here again. You’ll have to let your hedges take over your house or throw out your back trying to stop them.”

“I appreciate your phobia, young man,” said Gwynne, “but you understand the snake is fake, don’t you? I can’t go inviting no condo birds to my house. I’d rather have unruly siding than be snatched up in the jaws of one those monsters. I’m grateful for the work you’ve done so far, though. How much do I owe you?”

“But – wait – you’re firing me? – But I need more money!”

Icks was caught on his bluff and hung over its side. He tried a different approach and collapsed onto the carpet, grabbing his legs.

“Call 911!” he shouted. “It got me! That damned snake got me in the leg! You fire me and I’ll sue! I’m dying! Dying, and I don’t even own my own dishes!”

Gwynne sighed. “Well, all right. But this old prune wants to see some pruning.”

Icks was chopping away without a snake in sight, rubber or otherwise. The money from his last paycheck went towards an electric fan that hung off a visor, a Mach-3 razor he used to remove his mustache, and a smaller Doughboy t-shirt. He looked sharp and felt it, too. He was even warming up to the work. Icks had never before realized how satisfying a slick blade of steel felt in one’s hand. He lopped the green off Gwynnevere’s home without dropping the slightest morsel of mercy, intending to prove to vegetarians just how blind they really were by slicing a plant so cruelly he would force its leafy friends to cry.

He saw Gwynne through her kitchen window washing dishes and he waved his clippers in the air, calling her name with a victorious girth in his chest. The side of the house was darkened by a long shadow. Gwynne dropped a plate. A condo bird took Icks by the neck. Gwynne watched, hand over mouth, as Icks was flown into the sun.

Issue No. 4, The Neighborhood - A Peripheral Idyll

Issue No. 4, The Neighborhood - Neighborhoods

Naked and broken, the boy stumbled into a neighbor’s backyard. Silhouetted by the moon, he stood at the rim of a koi pond and urinated, his weight on one leg and his hand on his hip. He dribbled off and continued his escape. “I will never see daddy again.”


Summer in the Glenwood Hills development, Allison looks both ways then slides into the sewer. She flips a switch and dozens of lamps light consecutively above the corridors. The water over the floor is frozen and smooth. Allison puts on her pink skates and glides away.


Matthew stands on a chair in front of the refrigerator and steals thirty sticks of butter. He sits at the breakfast nook table and removes the wrappers. With a butter knife, he cuts the sticks to varying lengths. He places the now hundred-some butters on end, arranging each one very carefully at random until a cityscape is formed. He hears the garage door open and runs upstairs. The metropolis is left with his parents.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Issue No. 3, Sight

Issue No. 3, Sight - Girl with the Mirror

Issue No. 3, Sight - Witnesseth

“…Is that? …Was that the beep? …I don’t know if that was the beep. …It could have been a plate I just dropped. …No, I’m going to continue as if that were the beep. I’m calling in regards to the flyer you posted for witnesses at the corner of North Elm and Cone Boulevard. I witnessed something there. Perhaps I’ve seen what you’re looking for. The name’s Brumschitz. I was driving – now hold on a minute, seeing as though I’m a witness, I’ll probably need some form of protection. Scratch Brumschitz. The name’s Tankersley. I was driving back from the video store about noonish on – oh, to lend some credibility, I was working. I’m a biographer and looking for a subject, sometimes renting a video gets me over the hump days. I was driving back from the video store with both volumes of Redenbacher: A Salute to a Rebel, really putting the pedal to the metal so I could get home and watch the videos before my nap, when I got stuck behind one of those student driver cars. Either they’re supposed to drive thirty miles below the limit or this one should have been driving the short car. I was going five, eight miles tops, for crying out loud! Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not normally one to pass anyone, there’s enough speeds on this earth for everyone to be comfortable without having to be shown up, but dear God I wanted to pass that brat! I wanted to pass her then turn around and pass her again. I wanted to circle her molasses over and over until I drove her off the road! And I would have if it weren’t for the funeral procession coming down the other lane. A rich stiff too, the procession was ten miles long and all Hummers. So I sat behind the learning disability, passing the time by praying she wouldn’t make my turn. Of course she did. Just before I signaled left, she signaled left and we swung together onto North Elm over the course of eighteen traffic light switches. I tried desperately to appease the honkers by raising my shoulders and pointing to the student but it only made them angrier and they really didn’t get less angry when I showed them my bitten, middle cuticles. By then, I thought I was going to follow the delinquent right into my garage and live with her, slowly, for the rest of my life, but something totally unexpected happened. Just after the turn onto North Elm, she turned into St. Pius. Albeit as if she were accelerating by drooling on the pedal, but turned she did, and into a church. Why a church? There was no parking lot there big enough to practice in. And, as far as I knew, driving instructors were affiliated with the public schools, not churches. I craned my neck as I passed and saw an eight-year-old girl – I swear to God, they don’t make pubescents that small – step out of the car and walk towards the church doors, and I saw no evidence of an instructor accompanying her. Waiting at the red down the street, I couldn’t shake the confounding notion of a child learning to drive and then stopping at a church. I was sitting there not shaking the notion when the light turned green. I got halfway into the intersection and stopped. I was arrested. A little movie flickered on in my brain and forced me to watch. I saw the girl walking down the church aisles. The church was empty, just the girl walking down the church aisles as slowly as she drove. I saw her reach the platform and stand beside the altar. Then she dropped. Or she danced. She danced in the second it took her to drop to the ground. A Subaru caved in my back door and spun me around. I was spinning, glimpsing some foggy connection between slowness and God that made it finally seem like” – BEEP.

Issue No. 3, Sight - Blinders

Issue No. 3, Sight - The Peeper--A Screenplay

1. Exterior. Neighborhood. Twilight. A young man, TOM, walks with his MOM around a suburban neighborhood. A woman, JUDITH, approaches them, walking in the opposite direction.
MOM: Judith!
Judith walks past them.
MOM: Judith, hey!
Judith stops and turns.
MOM: Judith, this is my son, Tom.
JUDITH: Hello, Tom.
MOM: Everything settled in yet?
JUDITH: We’re getting there.
MOM: I’ll stop by soon and lend a hand.
JUDITH: That’d be great. Nice meeting you Tom, have a good night.
Judith walks away and Tom and his mom continue walking.
TOM: Who was that?
MOM: Judith. She moved in next door. Did your father tell you about the peeper?
TOM: The who?
MOM: He didn’t tell you? There was a notice up in the post office listing where all the sex offenders in the county live and at the top of the list was our neighborhood. Child pornography.
TOM: That’s awesome!
MOM: It’s scary.
TOM: It’s just what this neighborhood needs, some drama. Did it say which house?
MOM: No.
TOM: Wow.
Tom lags behind, looking into the windows of the houses around him.

2. Exterior. Front lawn. Day. Under the slow oscillations of a sprinkler, a little boy is kicking a soccer ball on his knee. Tom walks by on the sidewalk. He looks back at the boy. He looks at the houses. He smiles.

3. Interior. Bathroom. Day. Tom is undressing next to a window with the blinds down. The shower is running. He slides the clear shower door open. He moves to step into the shower but stops and looks at the window. He smiles. He opens the blinds then enters the shower. He lathers. He looks out the window and drops to the shower floor. He continues to lather from there.

4. Exterior. Sidewalk. Day. Judith stands outside of her house holding a rake. She stares off without blinking, her mouth open.

5. Interior. Dining room. Night. Tom’s mom and DAD sit at the dining room table eating dinner. Tom enters with a plate.
TOM: Some woman stared at me showering today.
MOM: No one can see into your bathroom.
TOM: She was holding a rake.
MOM: Where was she?
TOM: Right next door, on the sidewalk.
MOM: So it was Judith?
TOM: That woman I met?
MOM: I’ve seen her staring into space before.
TOM: Sure, now. She’s stunned by my beauty.

6. Exterior. Front lawn. Day. The little boy is kicking his soccer ball under the sprinklers.

7. Exterior. Day. Judith’s face, staring, not blinking. Her mouth is open.

8. Exterior. Side of house. Day. Tom can be seen undressing in his bathroom window. He looks out the window. He closes the blinds.

9. Interior. Day. MAN’s haggard face behind binoculars.

Issue No. 3, Sight - Percept

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Issue No. 2, Marriage

Issue No. 2, Marriage - My Misto

I have trouble falling asleep at night. My wife always suggests warm milk, but I can’t stand the taste of cold milk. And milk looks unnatural in a saucepan, all stretched out. You add to that the chilling image of my mother’s nipple and the fact is I just don’t like warm milk.

But I was in Starbucks the other day with my wife and I was feeling a little exploratory. For the first time I noticed all the foreign-looking names up there on the beverage board. I asked a few questions and had the nice, smiling young lady at the register go through the words with me, explaining the differences between espresso and coffee and steamed milk and scalded milk. The people in line behind me must have been very annoyed. I know my wife was. She hates it when I – what does she say? – “Put your hands in your pockets and raise your chin up like you’re the hot crap who knows everybody.”

I asked about the drink at the bottom. “That’s a Café Au Lait, sir,” said the nice, smiling young lady. I laughed. I turned to my wife and put my arm up like a matador. I yelled, “Olay!” and she rolled her eyes like she wouldn’t mind being run through with a sword. The girl laughed. I kept it up, “You guys are serving body lotion now? What is this, Starbucks Bath and Beyond?” “You’re funny, mister. It’s scalded milk and coffee at a one to one ratio,” she said. “It’s very popular at a café in New Orleans called the Café du Monde. But they brew the coffee with chicory root. We don’t have any of that, so I could put in some cinnamon for you.”

I pulled my chin up a little more. “Is that so?” The young woman leaned in real close over the register. Her hair fell over her eyes and I could see a bit of her boobies hanging out of her apron. She practically whispered to me, “It’s also called a misto.”

It seemed a very awkward situation indeed and I needed to get out of it. “Oh, I dunno, I can’t drink all that caffeine. I’d never get to sleep. I’ll tell you what, though. I’ll go home and think it over.” She looked surprised and asked me if I wasn’t going to get anything. “No, no, just browsing today.” As my wife huffed her way to the car, I stopped to fill out a customer survey card. Under service I checked “Legendary.”

Driving to the grocery store after Starbucks, I felt I had to defend myself. “She didn’t say ‘mistress,’ she said, ‘misto’!” “Of course she didn’t say ‘mistress’!” my wife shot back, “You’re the one who doesn’t know what decaf is!” It was then the epiphany struck. “Eureka! Misto!” I undid my pants. If ever I have something to remember, an errand to run or a message to give, I’ll reach down under my gut and undo my belt buckle. This way, when someone tells me my epidermis is showing, that errand will float up to the top of my brain, I’ll pull up my pants, and go deliver that message.

I was whistling while I walked down the you-grind-coffee bean aisle with my customary gallon of cereal skim. I take it upon myself to say “Hello” to those I pass in grocery aisles. I was about to greet this one woman and the cutie-patootie in her cart when she screamed and I fell flat on my face with my pants around my ankles. Ah yes! I remembered: put one and one together! I could use the warm milk to get me to sleep but I wouldn’t have to taste it because of the coffee and the coffee wouldn’t keep me up because it would be decaf! I picked up some instant and, although I didn’t want to keep my wife waiting any longer in the car, I just had to get some sugarless whipped cream to go with.

I spent all evening in anticipation of bedtime. When the clock struck eight and my missus had disrobed, by God the milk was on the stove. And once milk and coffee began to steam, away I went dripping the milk into the java, watching each strand and rivulet creep down my glass, stirring until a milky way could spin without me. I have to tell you, it smelled fantastic--and so completely new. I took the mug up to bed with me and got all under the covers with it. The first few sips were strange, but halfway in I couldn’t remember what I was drinking, it tasted so good. I know it’s just milk and coffee, but it came off as chocolate. I thought to myself: “I wonder what chicory root is,” and, “Do we have any cinnamon?” “No!” said the other side of the bed, “be quiet!” “But it’s my misto, it’s so…” And I fell totally asleep.

The next morning, I woke up earlier than I ever have, but rested. The gentle misto that lulled my lids shut turned my sleep into espresso--packed, locked, and shot through with steam. Downstairs, I found the sun in places I didn’t know it knew, coming in through the patio doors and onto the kitchen table. I was sitting there looking at the spotlit bowl of fruit when I noticed a sort of round hollowness in my chest, like my torso was an empty jug, and for some reason the feeling made me want to wrap my arms around the table and pull it into me. It would have been impossible then, but the challenge would be even more gratifying, I thought, if the table were bigger. I pulled out the extension my wife was always nagging me to put in so we could have more guests over (don’t ask me who). I opened up the tops, slid in the spare. “Well, that’s different.” I breathed in like I was hugging the table.

Issue No. 2, Marriage - Husband & Wife

Issue No. 2, Marriage - Saturday with the Nibbs

Saturday morning, Mr. Nibbs was in his armchair gathering information. Not a wise man, Mr. Nibbs, but nevertheless a man who knew a great deal of information. Most people, including the wise, are content not to know most things. They do not know, say, the physical stats of every unborn child born in the last quarter century, or which relics were ransacked in the second tier of the Christian Crusades; and their not knowing does not impede them from enjoying the basic pleasures of life--say, a bleedless-gum tooth-brushing session. Untrue for Mr. Nibbs. He knew what happened if it happened.

Mrs. Nibbs was returning home from the mall that same Saturday morning. The mall is an unhappy place for Mrs. Nibbs. It seems that no matter what length she goes to prevent a shoelace or a dress hem from entering the gears of the escalator, something creeps in and ruins her day. For Saturday’s outing she took the extra measure of buying Velcro shoes and that seemed to do the trick. She even ran up the escalator, showing no consideration to the women and children who happened to be in her way since, as she reasoned, the less time spent on the infernal invention the less chance there was for embarrassment. But she ran up the down escalator. Once she reconciled the disparity between the distance of her object and the exhaustion of her legs, she simply stopped, filled her face with blood, and rode down.

Mr. and Mrs. Nibbs took a walk together in the afternoon, after Mrs. Nibbs had calmed down over an Edy’s lunch and Mr. Nibbs had finished the Britannica B’s. Mr. Nibbs had heard of a lodge a couple of local beavers were building and since he had spent much of the morning admiring the crepuscular habits of the aquatic mammals, he decided that Saturday was as good a day as any to walk with the wife down to the lake and see the new digs. “It’s very impressive,” said Mrs. Nibbs. “Fine craftsmanship,” said Mr. Nibbs, “although two more weeks of fine craftsmanship and there won’t be any forest around here, just a big beaver mansion.” “Is that so bad? I’m happy for them.”

Looking over the lodge, both Nibbs were filled with images of beaver china and beaver furniture, both entertained the desire to attend a beaver luncheon at the beaver home, though both were too embarrassed to admit it to one another. They walked silently back to their own home where it was already getting to be time to tidy up the kitchen and read the Evening Post, to prepare dinner.

Issue No. 2, Marriage - Wedding Vows

Issue No. 1, School Boys

Issue No. 1, School Boys - The Matinee Idol

It’s not my fault I was named Tina. Don’t blame me for Tina. I’m flat-chested, I have thin lips, and I’m brunette. To you, I can be Edith.

My parents have men over ripping up the carpet in my bedroom and putting in hardwood floors. It’s about time, I’ve begged for this for months. It’s my Christmas present. It’s June. My parents have rented me an apartment to stay in until my room is put back together. They’ll call when I can come back.

There’s a high school nearby, thank God it’s not the one I graduated from, and I run a good racket picking kids up from the cafeteria and taking them out to eat. I park in a lot next to the school’s. I lean against my car and wait. Kids come running out of the cafeteria ducking down low with a jacket thrown over their heads. They pay and we go to Hardee’s.

It used to be three or four kids a day, groups and double dates. But it’s gotten to be just this one kid, Jeffrey. “I’m running out of quarters, I can’t pay you today,” Jeffrey says. “You have a cafeteria,” and I lean intimidating. “Pleeease!” It’s those eyes. I take him to Hardee’s.

Things loosen up when he doesn’t have to pay me. He starts getting personal. “Is Edith your real name?” he asks me. “Yes. Is Jeffrey your real name?” “No.” He asks if I like going to the movies in the daytime. I tell him I only ever matinee. I shouldn’t have been that honest. Our relationship moves swiftly out of Hardee’s and I say goodbye to afternoon daylight for the summer.

The call comes. The floors are in. “Mom, Dad – Jeffrey will be enjoying the floors with me.” Jeffrey takes quickly to his new bedroom, sliding wall to wall in his stocking feet as I move in my books.

Jeffrey and I mosey downstairs Christmas mid-Day. There is nothing under the tree. “We gave you hardwood floors!” is the rent’s sorry defense. “So?!” “You said it was your Christmas present!” The camel is on the floor but no amount of writhing will fix his back. I turn to Jeffrey to escape whatever the next straw will break. “Jeffrey, do you know what an Amtrak is?”

Jeffrey gets the upper berth and I the lower. New Year’s Eve there’s a party in the dining car. Jeffrey has been promising to kill the lights at midnight and murder Mrs. Pearl. She and her husband, that’s Mr. Pearl, are spending their eighth honeymoon slowly crossing the country, the same way Jeffrey and I are spending our young adulthood. They stay in the compartment next to ours and keep us up every night shouting gin rummy scores and reminiscing very loudly.

Jeffrey conspires, “I’ll pull her skirt down and empty a bottle of aspirin up her” – “She’ll scream!” I reason. “I’ll whisper in her ear, ‘Don’t scream.’”

The lights do go out at midnight and it’s true, I never see Mrs. Pearl again. But Jeffrey never says anything. I think he’s disappointed there’s no investigation, no detective, and Mr. Pearl doesn’t stop reminiscing at the top of his lungs. I learn these sorts of dis-appointments really wreck Jeffrey. “It can’t all be matinee,” I reason again. Luckily, the coast comes and wipes away the train melee.

I’ve never been to the West and neither has Jeffrey, but he seems to know exactly what to do. He opens a briefcase, one he’s never opened before and that I’ve always been a little curious about. It’s full of movie magazines, Flick and My Idol.

Jeffrey gets us an apartment with a sea view. It’s carpeted. “Are you going to audition?” I ask Jeffrey. “No.” There’s even more need on the coast to fight the gentleman’s club connotations of my name with heavy scarves and trench coats. All the kids at the local high schools already have cars and already go out to lunch. There’s not a lot for me to do.

Jeffrey should be bored, too, but he’s not. After one unemployed month, the drive wells up inside him and he takes a bus to the offices of My Idol. He walks straight into the studio and sets himself in front of a fan. The issue devoted to Jeffrey’s face is framed and displayed above our fireplace.

Issue No. 1, School Boys - The Conquistador

H. Xerxes-Heidegger conquered Asia Minor with an understated glance. Everything he ever did was to achieve a royal boredom. “Build me a palace!” he shouted to native peasants. “And one with mirrored floors and freshly-scented towels at that!” The palace was built and a lounging decade later he considered city drainage.

Neil’s history teacher splayed his hairy hands on Neil’s desk and leaned in close to his face. “What did I just say?” said the teacher. “Xerxes…royal boredom…freshly-scented towels?” was Neil’s unfortunate reply.

Out on the streets again. It’s only so many times a week you can get kicked out of school before believing you’re the savior. Neil was stomping down his old Main Street grounds and into the usual haunts for the eighth time that week. He ordered a mocha with an understated glance.

No such luck. Fictional conquistador Neil was not. He gave it the necessary words and was whisked to sugary caffeine intellect. “Perhaps the disgust,” he thought to himself, “I see in other people is better left in dreams. Would I day more easy if I didn’t project ugly?”

The thought could not pass unnapkined. A woman in front of him, a woman glamorously concerned with each part of her appearance save for her prosaic tomboy haircut, was blotting a napkin over her frappe lips. Neil snatched it out from under her. “Better you dribble!” He rolled ballpoint on napkin: “Would I day more easy” - the napkin tore. “Mother!”

A boy the girls think is delicate and shy and caring and horse-hung behind that apron approached Neil’s table. “That woman there,” Apron Boy gestured to Frappe Lips, “asked me to ask you to leave.”

Out on the streets again. Something Neil had heard of from family and flyers flew past him, one of those “critical mass” bicycle gangs. Most were a wash of neon and thigh, but lagging behind like a lonely hippo befriending gazelles was one cyclist pulling a two-wheeled canopied carriage. Neil thought fast, jumped inside it.

The cyclist didn’t seem to notice the extra weight, which was great because Neil nearly sat on the cyclist’s two year old. “Hello. Sorry about that. Are you related to the driver?” “Gaflgglbph.” Neil’s knees were encroaching on his eye sockets, but still he kept up the small talk. “Do you know where we’re going?” “Mucktkklbush.”

With the caffeine and the newfound friend, the potential for mind-gorging conversation was high, but like H. Xerxes-Heidegger, all moved to ennui; the plastic flap of window beckoned, conversation aside and harmless staring instead. He followed the mass deep into the South.

Two or three ugly things passed by, but Neil remembered the intent of the torn napkin: “Perhaps the disgust, etc.” And when the gang stopped to eat in Atlanta and they found poor Neil copping a ride and they called the police to drive him away, Neil thought twice before throwing the two year-old over a bridge. He thought twice, then threw the two year-old over a bridge.

There was more harmless window-gazing on the police ride home. Neil was learning to be happy.

Issue No. 1, School Boys - The Island of the Midwest

Noah had a creationist science teacher hell-bent on deposing coastal idolatry. Each hour was a pulpit plea for disbelief in retreating icecaps and stem cells and peace in the Mideast. Nevertheless, the creationist science teacher spent one period insisting on the evolutionary purpose of body hair to protect salient features of anatomy. He pointed to the brain and the eyebrows and the feet of Hobbits as examples. He might have pointed to the pubics as well. The teacher was an activist lawyer during the summer and it was his great ambition to rid the world of pornography via subpoena. Nether-hair, he believed, was pushed out from skin to underwear by the hand of God in order to obscure what a lens could otherwise record.

Doubt grows on the young in follicle form. The students did not ask how hair could possibly stand up against a well-heaved rock. Nor did they point out that their creationist science teacher, with his ever-widening monastic cap, doubtless had little left to protect. But Noah, at the hirsute age of fifteen, had his intelligence armed to the death with doubt. He would not be captured by the cannibals inhabiting the island of ignorance that is the Midwest. He marched right up to his public school library that day and asked for a book on Global Warming. Had he arrived five minutes later, the book would have been thrown out with the others deemed illegible by the state. The plump librarian at the helm fished the book out of a box marked “Science” and Noah took it back to the farm.

He spent the weekend in the field curled up on freshly baled hay reading the new book. If he had read it indoors his mother would have seen and thrown it into the fire. She was not an angrily religious woman, but she knew Noah’s sensitive imagination could be easily inspired to turn against him. But was what happened in the field Noah’s creation? Looking up from his book with furry, furrowed brows, he could swear he smelt saline in the air. Though there were plenty of decaying field mice around, what he heard was not the call of a vulture. He squinted looking up and saw a seagull struggling to catch a thermal.