48. Telling

I’ve ducked a peach; I’ve sung the story.

I want to tell you. I mustn’t tell you, even though I believe you would understand that it would only be me telling you. Telling you. Whispers crawling through my brains like tiny horses through pasta, I got to wondering if the horses are always like that, or if this is a special case.

If I tell you, it changes everything. I like how things are, but I like how they could be just as absolutely well. I don’t like how things might be if you didn’t understand that it was only me telling you. Telling you throbs like an artery. Telling you sings like wind. Telling you breathes deeply of the spring air in the early morning. Telling you takes the afternoon off and washes the car.

Telling you like a lie or a secret. Telling you like a swan gliding through the shallows of the pond in the park. Telling you like a confession, waiting to see what penance will be offered. Telling you like roses tell the air of their presence, so that when you’re walking down the sidewalk, you can smell the roses before you see them. Telling you like you’d tell someone a celebrity has died: resignation and interest and loss and sordid pleasure all squished up in a meatball of distant dying. Telling you like you’d tell someone about a dream you had that they were in: careful not to say the wrong thing, careful not to give the wrong impression.

Thinking back on other times in my life, I notice a trend of the world not ending. Yet telling you brings me into the tawdry boudoir of fear, where there are no pajamas.

My entire life has been leading up to this. I was born to tell you here, in this room, with its pentagonal windows draped in fine linen. I was born to tell you now, at this time, using the air I just inhaled to power my recitation.

I will not tell you, because of harm. Because of the things they showed me when I was in the special school. Because I don’t want to detain you from whatever it is you’re doing. Because I’ve never met you. Because you don’t exist. Because I don’t exist. Because there is no sun. Because there are no potato chips. Because swimming here weeps a custard of foam into the sky.

I like that you were there to spark the urge to tell you. I like that I was there to take up that spark and hold it in my hands until I was burned away to ash.

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47. Mayo Shavings

I took your poison. I ate your biscuits. Mine was the tribulation of the denim saw-blade. Mine the unfurled majesty of this kick in the crotch. I spit at your train droppings. I claw out my eyes as a gesture of contempt. I know that I will have the last laugh, except that you’ll laugh after I have it. Or so I imagine.

Why won’t you be nice to me? Won’t you please like me? I never wronged you, never lipped you, never gathered you into a pile for the derision of flea collars. Wasps are feasting on my brains, wondering. What could I have done to earn your favor? Mine was the least cooked of deals. You ripped my life away from me, but not because you wanted it.

I swim in garbage, floating detritus of a Machiavellian glove attendant, and oh, the parties that ensue! It’s a real elbow-rubbing kind of thing, and I am topical celebrities lined up in a row like cornstalks, planted. Planted. Can I get you a drink? An hors d’oeuvre, perhaps? Your picture on the wall, painted by the Italian masters? What do I have to do in this sweaty vise of a grizzled mystery to get a decent fucking beer?

With this brain, I am. With this brain, I rebuild the ashes of resurrected charlatans. With this brain, I toil under the sun of a thousand clawing indignities. With this brain, I cannot forget. With this brain, I shoot hamsters with a gumball machine and grind their pestilential little skeletons into a powdery substance that is used in the finest beauty creams, the hundreds-of-dollars-for-a-dinky-little-jar kind. With this brain, I will engage you for a time, and perhaps get you to do favors for me. With this brain, I cannot fly. With this brain, I am imprisoned, fastened, carried, butchered, held, forgotten, licked, hung.

When did I ever get the notion that I could be like you? How did you convince me that being like you was what I wanted? I’m biting concrete slabs over here, and you’re asking me where I got my sweater. There’s a disconnect. I must try to leave behind my pleasant notions of a life untroubled. I clutch at them as though they were a teddy bear.

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46. It’s Not About Kidneys

We ate lunch at a cafe. I ordered from the menu, and he had brought his own food in the brown paper sack of fate. It was time for an adventure. Or possibly a romance. Perhaps both.

There is no polite way to ask someone to accompany you to a public restroom stall, so I didn’t bother to try. I took his hand, stood up. He waited. “Come,” I said. He did.

Later, in the hotel room, I contemplated our pairing. He had the body of an Adonis, and I had the body of a patent lawyer.

We took off our armor without speaking, stacking the plates on the bed. It seemed like a silly place to put them, since I assumed we were going to be using the bed in a very short while. Perhaps the clanking clatter as they were pushed out of the way is what we were looking for. Or perhaps not. When we were naked, he fixed me with an intense stare. There was no shame. We knew what was going to happen. He turned his back to me and leaned against the wall, waiting. He was mind-shatteringly attractive. We did it. We took turns. It was good. We did eventually get around to using the bed, and the plates of armor did indeed clatter and mix as they were swept aside.

Afterwards, we sat against the wall side by side as I discussed the fermented intricacies of patent law in a dull monotone until he dropped off. Then I stole his kidneys and left him in a bathtub full of urban legends. The sweet smell of purposeful illusion stayed with me for weeks after.

While it was happening, it seemed timeless. I had no idea how it was going to end. It wasn’t until a long time after that I realized it sort of didn’t matter how it ended. In many ways, the moment is all, and the moment is moving. Sometimes, I hold onto the rope and try to stop it or at least slow it down. I am always unsuccessful, and I walk away with bleeding palms. Other times, as with the Adonis, I hold onto the rope and go water skiing.

I didn’t really steal his kidneys.

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45. The Goatherd

The winds of change whisper as they pass me and press me. I clear my throat, and they take notice of me as if for the first time. I snap my fingers, and they rush to fix me a breakfast of waffles and hope. Who am I to send away such a breakfast, or its bringers?

I am not the one who sat down at this table. That one was arrogant, weak, childish, stubborn, terrified. This one is all of those things and more: respectful, restless, restive, ruminating, rheumatic.

We are, all of us, goatherds to the flock of time; we lead only with the permission of those we deem our charge. And so I chew my waffles and wash them down with hope and goat’s milk.

I am waiting for a better morning. What is the nature of my waiting? If I withhold myself from the current daybreak, saving myself for another, what does it mean? What have I refused to surrender? Why are the waffles and hope of change insufficient to impel my commitment?

The hardest questions are the ones that are painful to ignore. Often these are the simplest questions. To ignore them, we must also learn to ignore pain. So when the winds ask me, as they set the plate before me, what I am waiting for, I knit my brows and look away.

With this work, I hope to have myself a scarf and stocking cap by winter.

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44. Face

Last Wednesday, I decided it was about time I got rid of my face and replaced it with something more appropriate. Once the idea entered my head, I got right to work making it happen.

I started by first removing my old face. Using my eyelids as a starting point, I methodically peeled all the skin off the front of my skull. I know it sounds horrifying, but it was actually not particularly unpleasant. It was not unlike peeling off a scab: a little bit ouchy, but for the most part it was a satisfying experience, although fairly tedious and time-consuming. I left the old skin pieces in a bowl on the kitchen table.

With no skin on my face, I felt all cold and stingy, so I decided to do something temporary while I was getting my new face together. Aluminum foil was the obvious choice. Soon I looked like someone participating in a low-budget science fiction television show, but at least I had some protection from the elements.

With my makeshift face in place, I put on my magical sneakers and walked down to the park, where I knew some face bushes to grow. I didn’t remember exactly where they were, so it took me a little while before I found them over by one of the picnic tables.

I was in luck, for there were several ripe faces to choose from. Incidentally, the ripening process of the fruit of the face bush is really fascinating. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime.

I spent about half an hour deciding which face to pick. I had it narrowed down to two pretty quickly, but making the final choice was agonizing. And, as it turned out, completely unnecessary. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Once I had made my choice, I pulled the aluminum foil away and tossed it aside. I planned to pick it up when I was finished. Then I removed the chosen face gently and carefully from the bush and pressed it into place. I was pretty happy at that moment.

But suddenly, I heard the skin of my new face give out a whistling hiss, and my heart sank as I realized what it meant. I had accidentally taken a face from an exploding face bush, which is a rare and deadly subspecies of the face bush. Virtually undetectable from the benign variety, a face from an exploding face bush explodes when put on.

Which is exactly what my new face did. My new face that I had spent so much time selecting. You can’t imagine what it’s like to have your face explode. I died pretty quickly. My only real regret, aside from picking the wrong face bush, was that I didn’t place my makeshift aluminum foil face in an appropriate receptacle prior to expiring.

You can’t win ’em all.

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43. Silly

I had no idea it would be like this. If I had known, I wouldn’t have answered the advert. I wouldn’t have clenched my fist in a wodge of your hair and pulled your head back to sink my teeth into your throat. I didn’t know you would take things so seriously. I didn’t know how deeply I would come to care. Here at the now, when it is all nearly over, amidst the rubble of a city and a hundred thousand souls, smelling the smoke that wafts through the breeze, I begin to wonder if it was worth it. I won’t have long to ponder. I know that the missiles are on their way. I face the direction I believe they’ll come from.

Making love to you was like setting myself on fire. I remember you looked at me, dark eyes blazing and lancing into my own, as you said “Yes,” and then, “There,” and then, “Now.” Everything after was little more than a drawn-out letdown. But there were moments in the beginning when I thought I was going to self-immolate.

Sometimes I look through the paper to see if there are any articles about you. Sometimes there are. I scan them with a smirking, sneering sort of contempt for the author, who cannot hope to frame you in their mind like I can.

I remember you told me that you could make me bleed like nothing else could, the blood welling up through the skin and seeping out of my pores with no wound inflicted. I was the rotting fruit that shows a lush and pristine exterior but sits in a pool of its own putrescence. At the time, I didn’t give you the credit you perhaps deserved, and I’m not about to give you the satisfaction at this late hour.

I honor you. I acknowledge you. I hate you. I fear you. You make me sick. You make me want to die. I can’t live without you. You are the tension that winds my watch, the floating cigar butt in my mocha latte, the steel-jawed trap that snaps my wrist. I open your car door when we go out. I will never hurt you. How could I?

The missiles are drawing nearer, and I imagine I can see the approaching specks. Soon enough, I can make them out for certain. I glance at my watch, wanting for some perverse reason to know what time the end is to come. My watch has stopped. I frown, perplexed, and look back up at the approaching missiles. They turn into a basket of kittens which lands at my feet with a gentle plop, and I feel silly.

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42. The Groodle Bird

Far out along the reaches of the Thornswale Marsh, there lives a solitary groodle bird. As is the manner of the groodle bird, he makes his home, a high tower, out of twigs, moss, and reeds. What makes this particular groodle bird noteworthy is that his tower is over a thousand feet tall, looming over the marshes and visible from several miles in all directions. Tourists come and take photographs of themselves and their friends next to the groodle bird’s tower. Occasionally, the groodle bird shits on one or more sightseers. To be shat upon by the groodle bird of the tower of Thornswale Marsh is considered a great omen of good fortune. In fact, there are some who make the journey for the sole purpose of being shat upon. These hopeful souls are always dissappointed, for the groodle bird shits like a thief in the night. Only the unsuspecting are honored.

I myself was wandering the far reaches of the Thornswale Marsh, not far from the groodle bird’s tower, when I happened upon the groodle bird himself. He was sitting off to the side of the path I had been following for several miles. He nodded to me as I drew near. Evening shadows were falling.

“Hello,” said the groodle bird when I came within earshot.

“Hello,” I said.

“Got a smoke?”

“Sure.” I pulled out an unfiltered Garvshlogger and handed it over.

The groodle bird ate the cigarette with a snap of its beak. “Thanks, mack,” he said. Then he trotted along the path to build up speed, spread his great wings, and soared aloft.

Frankly, I was disappointed. There were many questions I would have liked to have asked the solitary groodle bird of Thornswale Marsh, and I had completely blown what would probably be my only chance to ask them. With a sigh, I stuck a Garvshlogger of my own between my lips and lit it. I walked pensively on through the marshes in the deepening night, wondering where the path would lead.

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41. The Upstairs Room

In my upstairs room, Matilda, Heather, Sara, and Gertrude are still bleeding the monkey.

I go to church in my upstairs room. I do not go to church in my upstairs room.

In my upstairs room, your soured entitlement is murdering a prostitute. Later, my upstairs room will be haunted by the ghost of a murdered prostitute.

In my upstairs room, a family of squirrels has made a nest. They promised to leave the rest of the house alone if I ceded the upstairs room to them. They go in and out by teleporting. How can we be safe from teleporting squirrels?

In my upstairs room, there is a three-legged stool with a seat covered in zebra hide and legs that are the severed legs of one or more zebras.

In my upstairs room, there is a used guitar store. I browse there occasionally, but I never buy anything. The proprietor doesn’t seem to mind.

On the wall of the room at the top of the stairs, there is a formal portrait of someone. I can’t tell who it is because the face has been burned away by the caustic gaze of the Lord God Almighty.

In the room upstairs, my socks float in a big aquarium filled with a solution of urine and cat’s vomit.

The indigenous peoples of prehistoric Bolivia are not in my upstairs room.

My upstairs room contains a one-fourth size replica of Guam. I like Guam.

Whenever I have a nasty thought, a mouse dies in my upstairs room. My upstairs room contains many such mice, who die for my enthusiastic sin.

I have a garage. I keep my cars in it, along with the lawn mower and other relics of a life I once aspired to. Above the garage, my upstairs room churns and giggles like an ice cream maker.

I have a job to do in my upstairs room, but I’m not allowed to do it. It needs doing, but only by someone else. There are no volunteers.

There is no end to my upstairs room. There is, instead, a fleeting

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40. Shitting Maggots

I’m shitting maggots.

I can feel them, wriggling away in my colon, until that polite and insistent pressure indicates that I should find a toilet. And then they burst forth, plishing into the water as a particulate mass. I can feel them moving as they pass the rim of that taut portal.

Still, I can think of worse ways to spend the afternoon. Working a nine-to-five, for example. Or having my teeth ground down with a pumice stone wielded by a cheerleader. But maybe that’s just me.

I don’t want you to hate me. I want a banana split. I don’t want there to be fingers growing out of my eye sockets. I want to hear sweet promises whispered to me in the night. I don’t want a bowl of jello. I want there to be a healthful, constructive end to this dark madness. I don’t want to crack my teeth gnawing on the bones of faith. I want to flush away the squirming, tangled mass of corrupt potential that issues forth from me in a nightmare of tactility.

I want you to help me. You might not help me. I’ll fight so you don’t want to, and I’ll fight so you can’t. When next I snack, it’s likely as not I’ll have fly eggs. There is a certain noble inevitability to it all that makes me sexier. I will win the hearts of that fascinated percentage. I will search for peace in the compelling interplays that ensue. I may or may not find it.

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39. Minibus

I am standing on the ground. I have interposed my feet between the surface of the planet and my face, and through the use of an intricate system of fluids and sensory apparatuses, I am holding my head in a place where I can smell both the ground and the sky.

The planet rotates, but imperceptibly to me, so I do not fall. The planet hurtles in its mad career about the sun, but I am unconcerned as rays from that self-same ball of radioactive fire warm the skin of my face even as the breeze moves my hair around and plucks at my clothing.

The ecosystem is a lover as selfish and peremptory as it is considerate and yielding. There is coitus everywhere, and we partake unconsciously and joyfully. Amid this colossal, splendid, immaculate fuck, the muscles in my abdomen circulate air through the spongy bags in my chest.

The time is right now, and it is correct. Magic will happen.

If I hold my head just so, and stand on this very spot here, and snap my fingers three times in a rhythm dictated by the needs of entropy, I will turn into a ’63 VW minibus. Hippies will come. They will be pure, idealized examples of their culture, couth and sophisticated. “Far out,” they’ll say, and climb inside me. The keys will be in me, of course, and they will use me to drive cross-country and tour some of the more popular American national parks, including, of course, Yellowstone.

The Earth moves; I hold it away with my feet, standing, while yonder the sun burns. I wait for the moment when I will turn into a minibus. Everything is the way it is supposed to be.

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