Astoria Blvd to Manhattan

Here I attempt to write a story before entering the tunnel:

There was quiet, and then there was quiet. He knew something was not right by the way even the wind ceased to whisper, sucked away by some unseen force lurking in the darkness. He shifted uneasily in his seat, moving his weight from one ass cheek to the other, alternating as soon as one became numb. His shoes had been discarded after so many days of trudging along the creek bed. They had become hopelessly soaked and caked with mud, and he had placed them neatly on a rock when he decided they were more hindrance than help. Now, as he rocked in his seat and strained to hear anything, he nervously dug his toes deep into the soil.

Tunnel not quite approaching; I’ve bored myself.

36 Ave to Manhattan

Short story before I hit the tunnel:

He was abused. A poor boy with nothing to his name but a rotten banana and the clothes he wore. His flatmates had asked him—well, flatmates only because they allowed him to stay in their home indefinitely—but in any case, his flatmates asked him constantly why he never did anything with that banana. It’d been healthy once, flush and firm, ripe and ready. Yes. It had been healthy once. He could have made good use of it before it turned foul and mushy. Put it in a blender, made a smoothie. Stuck it in the oven, baked a pie. Instead he let it flop around in its rotten state. One flatmate suggested he freeze it and throw it at a bum, although this didn’t make much sense to the poor boy. His other flatmates had laughed at the proposal.

Tunnel approaching.

The Little One edit

This is an edit of a story I wrote back in 2010/2011. The original is posted here.

***

         A forest, permeated by a soft mist. Soft rays of light shine through a mixed canopy of conifers and deciduous trees. Ferns grow quietly on the floor, capturing moisture that wipes off on any creature that passes, while beneath the ferns moss is seen slowly crawling up trunks and across logs and stones. A small brook splashes gently through the grass and ferns, in which is concealed a wealth of life. The forest is a canvas of greens, browns, and ever so light shades of blue. The air is still, allowing for the mist to settle in stasis. The only sounds heard are those of the little one, flittering playfully through the peaceful woods. It flies alone, but not in heart. It is keeping company to a quiet being who finds delicate paths through the pristine landscape. Naked in spirit and body, little matters in its life. There are only its senses, fluidly feeding the surroundings to a limitless power, desperately at work.
         While the being follows the little one it is not a chase. An infatuation attracts one to the other, one born of dreams and fantasy, of an idealization that is only entirely real in the confines of the beings brow. While the being is enthralled in this ethereal power, its magic and its beauty are not all consuming; curiosity and yearning drive the being forward as well. It is a desire for a soft touch, a sweet song, a fleeting glance, and because of this the being follows the little one. But the little one is youthful and never ceases to move, so the little one is trailed loosely through the woods.
         How many moons and how many suns these two must have witnessed. They both seem secure in their footing, their shared knowledge of these woods seemingly infinite. But for all they have in common, the little one is painfully distant to the being. The quiet sadness that emanates from the beings breast quickly makes its way to every limb, seeping into every pore, although the being is too controlled to allow such pain to elicit more than a desiring sigh, no matter how tumultuous the storm within may brew. What holds this storm back is an insurmountable obstacle, a mountain of confusion and circumstance. The being can only wish for an answer or a response, some telltale behavior that will let the rains and winds free.
         There is a moment within the calm of the woods where the being stops, gazes quietly as a soft wind wrestles a few leaves loose from their majestic perches, watching them gently glide down towards the moist earth, swaying back and forth through the now dissipating mist. The being then shifts its gaze skyward, its eyes following the rays of light projected through the mist. On high a figure circles patiently, observing, calling. All of the sudden its expanse closes, forming a bullet that begins to plummet, faster and faster. The being freezes, a pounding sensation swelling in its firm cavity. Then with a great swiftness the being takes flight, racing through the forest and silently calling for the little one.
         The once serene woods spring to life, lashing out at the being as if to slow it down, as if calling to the being and saying, such is life, take no haste, it will only cause you harm. The slender limbs of the trees whip forward into the being’s path, lashing at its tender flesh. New hues are seen: shades of purple and black, dots and streams of red. But the being pays no attention. It has only one focus, though no amount of racing seems to close the gap. And then there suddenly is a deathly silence. The being stops crisply as the muted air begins to suffocate its senses. Standing tall, the being is no longer aware of anything. There is no straining of senses, simply a dazed state of helplessness.
         The being is brought back as the air begins to thin and the soft breeze once again awakens. Before the being can be seen a clearing, its entrance framed by the trunks of two great oaks and around which life begins to stir, picking at the tender soil and playing on the branches. In the field a steady stream of light washes the tall grasses as they sway in the wind. Specks of pollen shower down on the stems and alight on fine razors.
         The playing creatures part to form a path as the being slowly steps forward. Stopping at the rim of the field, the wind takes haste and the grasses murmur in protest, their swaying turning to a dance, calm at first, but progressively more frantic. Arms outstretched, they fling themselves in every which direction, then pulse forward, as if beckoning to the being, pleading for salvation. The wind in turn begins to twirl more violently and the stems yell in frustration. The dance, now more chaotic, continues to beckon to the being, still standing firm at the edge of the clearing. So it moves forward, stretching out to caress the hopeless dancers in their now mangled fury.
         The wind, sensing its presence, shifts to a mad path of confrontations and racing, tearing the dancers from the earth and flinging them on high. The air is now full of screaming and begging, the lifeless stems catapulted into the obscurity of the surrounding woods. The being knows not what to do, frozen as it is in the center of the clearing, surrounded by the confusion and carnage. Finally, as if frustrated by the beings inaction, the wind in its mighty fury, gathers its strength and plunges headlong into the beings chest, sending its mass straight back to earth.
         Then there is only silence.

         The warm rays have now dissipated beyond the horizon. The being, still lying, listens as the sounds of the dark work their way through the landscape, not knowing what to do. A memory full of yearning and dreams flashes before its eyes, the little one flittering back and forth, yet there are no tears to shed, though its body begs that they be released. The pain feels insurmountable and the being has no desire to move because of it. But after some time it is no longer possible to simply lie in a state of abjection. It must plant its feet firmly on the ground, hold its brow high. The being arises, carefully dusting its weary limbs and taking the first few steps forward, quietly enveloping its pain in the deepest recesses of its psyche. And with that, its shadow slowly melds into the darkness of the forest.

The Little One

This is a short story I wrote back in 2010/2011. It was conceived as a love story, in the manner that a poet conceives of a love poem, but it morphed into an experiment where I attempted to avoid gender and proper nouns. I posted an edit here, incorporating what I’ve learned as an MFA student.

***

         A forest, permeated by a soft mist. Soft rays of light shine through a mixed canopy of conifers and deciduous trees. Ferns grow quietly on the floor, capturing moister that is then wiped off on any passing creature, while moss is seen crawling slowly up trunks and across logs and stones. A small brook splashes gently through the grass and ferns, in which is concealed a wealth of life. The forest is a canvas of greens, browns, and ever so light shades of blue. The air is still, allowing for the mist to settle in stasis. The only sounds heard are those of the little one, flittering playfully through the peaceful woods. It flies alone, but not in heart. It is keeping company to a quiet being who carefully finds delicate paths through the pristine landscape. Naked in spirit and body, little matters in this reality. There are only the senses fluidly feeding the surroundings to a limitless power, desperately at work.
         While the being follows the little one, it is not a chase. An infatuation attracts one to the other. This is an infatuation born of dreams and fantasy, of an idealization that is only entirely real in the limitless confines of the beings brow. A love born on natures back, but moved forward on the winds of change, the being is enthralled in this ethereal power. Its magic and its beauty are not all consuming; curiosity and yearning drive the being forward. It is a desire for a soft touch, a sweet song, a fleeting glance. The being follows the little one. But the little one is youthful and never ceases to move. So in a calm quiet the little one is trailed loosely through the woods.
         How many moons and how many suns these two must have witnessed. They both seem secure in their footing, their shared knowledge of these woods seemingly infinite. But as much as they might have in common, the little one is painfully distant to the being. The quiet sadness that emanates from the beings breast quickly makes its way to every limb, seeping into every pore and resting on its shoulders. The being is too controlled to allow such pain to elicit more than a desiring sigh, yet internally the storm seems to brew. This storm is neither violent or unpredictable but lovely and peaceful. It is a storm full of dreams and passion. Yet that storm seems to be held at bay by an insurmountable obstacle, a mountain of confusion and circumstance. If only there were an answer or a response, some telltale behavior that would let the rains and the winds free. There is no such revelation.
         There is a moment within the calm of the woods where the being stops. Looking forward, then back, and then to the sides, the being gazes quietly as a soft wind wrestles a few leaves loose from their majestic perches. They gently glide down towards the moist earth, swaying back and forth through the mist that is now dissipating in the warming air. The being’s gaze shifts skyward as the leaves sway to the earth, its eyes following the rays of light projected through the mist. On high a figure circles patiently, observing and calling. All of the sudden its expanse quickly closes, forming a bullet that begins to plummet, faster and faster. The being freezes, a pounding sensation swelling in its firm cavity. Then with a great swiftness the being takes flight, racing through the forest silently calling for the little one. Where has the little one flown too? Why had the being stopped to gaze, to feel? Now a grave danger sped towards the earth and the little one was desperately vulnerable.
         The once serene woods spring to life, lashing out at the being as if to slow it down, as if calling to the being and saying, “such is life, take no haste. It will only cause you harm.” The slender limbs of the trees whip forward into the beings path, lashing at the tender flesh. New hues are seen; shades of purple and black, dots and streams of red. But the being pays no attention to the clawing of the woods or the birth of new colors. There is only one focus, yet no amount of racing seems to close the gap. And then there is a deathly silence. The being crisply stops as the muted air begins to suffocate its senses. Standing tall, the being is not aware of anything. There is no straining of senses, simply a dazed state of helplessness. As the air begins to thin and the soft breeze awakens once again, the being is brought back. Looking forward there can be seen a clearing framed by the trunks of two great oaks. Around the feet of these two oaks life begins to stir again, picking at the tender soil and playing on the branches. In the field a steady stream of light washes the tall grasses as they sway in the wind. Specks of pollen shower down on the stems and alight on fine razors. It is as if nothing occurred.
         As the being slowly steps forward the playing creatures part to form a path. Stopping at the rim of the field, the wind takes haste and the grasses murmur in protest. Their swaying turns to a dance, calm at first but progressively more frantic. Arms outstretched they fling themselves in every which direction, then pulsing forward, beckoning the being towards them as if pleading for salvation. The wind begins to twirl in consent and the stems yell in frustration. The dance, ever more chaotic, continues to beckon to the being, still standing firm at the edge of the clearing. So the being moves forward, stretching out to caress the hopeless dancers in their now mangled fury. The wind, sensing its presence, shifts to a mad path of confrontations and racing, tearing the dancers from the earth and flinging them on high. The air is now full of screaming and begging, the lifeless stems catapulted into the obscurity of the surrounding woods. The being knows not what to do, frozen as it is in the center of the clearing, surrounded by the confusion and carnage of life. Finally, as if frustrated by the beings inaction, the wind in its mighty fury gathers its strength and plunges headlong into the beings chest, sending its mass straight back to earth. And like that, silence.
         The warm rays have now dissipated beyond a firm horizon. The being, still laying, listens as the sounds of the dark work their way through the landscape. Lying catatonic, it again knows not what to do. A memory full of yearning and dreams flashes before its eyes, the little one flittering back and forth. There are no tears to shed, yet its entire body begs that they be released. The pain feels insurmountable and the being has no desire to move because of it. But after some time, it is no longer possible to simply lie in a state of abjection. Feet must be planted firmly on the ground, brows must be held high and facing forward, bodies must move. And so the being arises, carefully dusting its weary limbs and taking the first few steps forward. Life is not new, nor is it the same anymore. It simply is. The being, knowing this, takes its pain and quietly envelopes it in the deepest recesses of its psyche. And with that, its shadow slowly melds into the darkness of the forest.

The Estranged Mrs. Pollock edit

This is an edit of the original Estranged Mrs. Pollock, incorporating some of the lessons I’ve learned during my first year as an MFA student.

***

         The knife never left her hand as she traced with it through the air. It was her tool of choice when creating what was, admittedly, an odd sort of art. While she had understood art as being a means of starting a dialogue on the world between the creator and the witnesser, she found that hers was mostly a private matter, and its expression was not meant to create discourse but to create a life force. She wanted more than just the spectacle of the exhibition, the sort of contrivance that tapped into the “decency” of like-minded people. She wanted fear, for only through its use as an ink, and by splattering it across the great canvas of the world, did she truly feel capable of expressing what it was she that felt.
         This “paint” was of course difficult to come by unless one had an unwilling—and unknowing—subject. For her, this meant luring men with the promise of a quick and intimate liaison. Her current guest, whom she had acquired in this manner, had allowed himself to be tied to the vertical board beside her easel under the assumption that he was sating an obscure, personal fetish of hers. But now he was quite scared, as the knife she held had little purpose in normal sexual encounters, or at least that was generally the understanding. He tried to object to her knifed presence but was unable to release more than a muffled croak from his gagged mouth. She smiled in response, but never said a word.
         Striding forward she began by swishing the knife before her, like a serpent dancing to a piper. She watched his eyes intently as they bulged to enormous proportions, jabbing quickly when the blade was close enough to just caress his body. As he squirmed against the ties she pulled back and with one, grand movement of her body slashed violently and elegantly through the air around him, careful not to actually cut him. It was in this moment that she could first feel her art coming to fruition, the fear being tangible enough for her to plunge head first into.
         If she were to be asked, she might say she could see the fear. She believed that the trademark of a good artist was the ability to feel beyond the senses, to see what others could not see, and thereby translate the foreign, and perhaps incomprehensible, into something consumable as a human being. While she did not have an audience, per se, she knew that she was releasing something unique into the world, adding to a vast worldly experience that was only perceptible in small bits. This was how she wished to express herself. It was not for her, or for him, or for anyone else. It was for the world.
         Her guest, shaking violently in his ties, continued to stare at her with wide eyes. How grotesque this all must have appeared to him, this constant toying and prodding. He must have concluded that she had some deep perversion, a base desire to exert control over a man in his last moments. Of course she had no desire to see his blood. Her art was born of fear, and a dead man, no matter how fearful he once was, was useless to her. She could not help but smile at the thought of his naïveté, and of how men were all the same in their understanding of emotions and women. They were superficial creatures, easy to manipulate and to entertain, this perhaps being why she always chose them over women.
         She stood back momentarily, attempting to envelop herself in his fear and, mentally retracing the movements of her arms and the knife, trying to feel the invisible wake those movements left in the air. She pictured how her movements painted invisible lines and arcs, each one displacing her subject’s fear like blood bursting from an artery. It was this unseen ripping and splattering that she imagined truly breathed life into the world and added to its richness.
         A quiet sob brought her attention back to the man. Once again she thrust herself into her steady cadence, lifting her arms and the knife skywards, then slowly snaking them through the air in a downward motion. She began to weave a figure eight but quickly changed to a less structured movement. What she needed, what she wanted, was something newer, something more naturalistic in occurrence, and so what followed was more haphazard. The knife, rising once again, moved freely, making grand arcs and sharp turns, tearing through the fear-riddled air. It sashayed and pirouetted, twisting along its longitudinal axis and flying lazily too and fro. The man squirmed and squealed through it all, his only focus being the knife and its cutting properties rather than the movements.
         The confluence of her sublime gestures and the man’s emotions excited her. She imagined that without her movements her art was lacking in existential merit. Indeed, it was through her displacement of the fear that she saw her truth conveyed to the world. Otherwise the fear would stagnate, as would her art, making her as central to the process as her muse. Feeling her chest swell with pride, she once again strode forth and resumed her work.
         This time she stood on her toes, and letting her arms—and the knife—dangle loosely at her side, she twirled about herself gleefully, becoming a vortex that caught his fear and spiraled it to the heavens. Her hands rose gradually until they were finally at their apex, and then with a brisk hop she landed firmly in a powerful half-squat. She followed this by heaving forward with a yell, one met with a muffled yelp from her guest. Needling the air with her knife she thrust her arms out behind herself and, with one final gasp, allowed her entire body to fall backwards to the ground. There she remained, feeling her art swirl about her with each breath she took.
         It was done, and she knew that from there she could take her leave. She sat up and looked at the terrified man before her, studying his forcibly arrayed body as it quivered helplessly. She would leave him as he was, to be found by someone else and with the hope that he might do her work justice once he was free, conveying to the world the great masterpiece that she had created. She would not truly know what her art would effect, but she knew that in some small way it would live on.

Monkey King, Trophy King

Before you read please watch this 2 minute video of Aguirre (audio appears out of sync because the film was originally shot in English and then later dubbed into German). Take him in. His speech is NOT italicized in my piece.

This is an exercise where I bring together two film characters from different fictive universes. Take your time while reading. Follow the pace of the text. There are no mistakes in the text, grammatically or otherwise. Start the music when you begin reading. The music itself is central to the film Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

At this point Aguirre, a volatile character, has led his Spanish expedition to ruin. The jungle has consumed his party, gnawing away at them with arrows and madness. Yet Aguirre is not alone. There is a second character, a predatory being, present yet barely visible.


Popol Vuh – Aguirre I (L’Acrima di Rei)

Monkey King, Trophy King

	Aguirre.

			Aguirre.

	I
		am Aguirre.

			My land speaks to me.

				Calls for me.

				Calls my name.

	Aguirre.

			Aguirre.

	I hear!

	I hear.	
		See the land before,
				how the river opens to the sea.

		This is where I set sail,
						men.
		This
			is where I take hold.

	I
	     take
                     hold.

	I
		take hold.

	Hold.

	I hold now!

	This land,
			this tree
			this soil

		My Kingdom will be vast, and I
							will rule.

	I
		will rule.

	I
		will rule.

	Free from the spineless,
			the meek,

		You cowards.
		You
			cowards.

	Refuse of my world.

	Spineless.
			Aguirre.

			Aguirre.

	I shall rule with my daughter,
				her hand supple yet,
				her face an angelic pale.

		Purified in the waters of this fall,
			cleansed.
			By my hand and my power.
			Mine.

	Aguirre.

		Aguirre.

			Mine.

	What demon are you!
			You who haunts me.
			You who moves as the wind.

	I hear you cackle, I see your eyes.

		Infernos in the dense of this jungle.
		Eyes into the pits of Hell.

	Are you my wrath delivered?
	Are you my strength?

	Strength.

	I
		Strength.

	I
		am the great destroyer.
					I
						am the Wrath of God.

		All will know my name
					and I will rule this Kingdom.

		Above the Crown.
		Beyond her life.

					Great treachery.
					Great
							treachery.

	Wrath
			of god.

	Wrath of
			god.

	I
		am the Wrath of God.

	I am
		Aguirre.

		Spineless
				I hold.

		Aguirre,
			Youre it.

Battlefield Delirium

Written October 2002, minor edits for spelling only. I’m thinking of doing a rewrite for fun.

***

Billy jolted in bed as he awoke from his nightmare. He was running through a field with some other men, while wild bullets flew around him. He had seen a man, a little older than he, running beside him fall with red paint on his chest, or was it blood. He looked familiar, but he wasn’t able to see who it was, he didn’t really care either. The dream reminded him of the war that was going on, the same war that had robbed his brother Fred from him. As far as he knew, Fred was still alive, fighting somewhere against the Japanese. He didn’t care much though, he only hoped that he would get back soon so he wouldn’t have so many chores.

The reason Billy didn’t care much about Fred was simply because Fred wasn’t that nice. He had bullied him around a lot, especially when he was with his friends. Most of these incidents occurred when he was partying, and was usually drunk at those times. So life with Fred was hard but at the same time easier, easier in the sense that he had less chores.

Fred was a tall man, his skin tanned by countless hours of working on the farm. He had brown hair, which was now a buzz cut; well, that was how he had it the last time Billy saw him. He had been a pretty good student, although his grades were not outstanding. He hadn’t really planned to go to college; he just wanted to join the army and party on his vacations.

Billy wasn’t that much different, only that his grades were excellent and that he was not that tanned yet. He was more the nature type, hanging out with his buddies in the woods. He had always been very obedient and took his work seriously. But like most other kids, he wanted to fight for his country, but his parents did not allow him because they needed him on the farm.

Billy yawned. It was quiet, too quiet. Why was it so quiet? Mornings in rural Georgia were never this quiet. His parents would usually wake him up around this time to help with the chores, but no one had. Wait, what day was it? It was Sunday right? Yeah, they must be at church, but why would they leave him? Oh God! He was supposed to be signing up for the Army.

It was the middle of June of 1942 and the war hadn’t ended yet. His older brother was fighting somewhere in the Asian Theater. He grabbed his overalls, and boots and darted out of his bedroom. He flew down the stairs, almost falling. He was nervous, he didn’t know what would happen to him fighting for his country. Although he disliked his brother Fred, he hoped that they would be together. He also hoped that he could also be with some of his friends. Most of his friends had already joined and now his parents finally allowed him to join.

When he reached the kitchen, he found it empty, there wasn’t even food on the table, nothing. Where was Muffin? She was always around looking for something to eat. Stupid cat, she was too fat and lazy to go outside, so she had to be around somewhere. He sighed, opened the fridge and looked in. Empty. Nothing in the cupboards either, that was odd. He moaned. He was hungry, but he was going to have to go without food. If you were late to sign up, there would be a long line.

As he stepped out of the door, a small breeze brushed his face. His dream seemed to come back to him, but this time it was a little different. He found himself crouching in a dense jungle. Sweat was dripping all over his body; he was trying to quiet his loud breathing. He stood up to see what was going on, but couldn’t see much. It was very hot even though the sun barely passed through the foliage of the tropical trees. Right as he sighed with relief, a barrage of bullets whizzed by his head. Lunging to the ground, he finally came back to his senses. That was very odd he though, as a chill rand down his spine. Pushing the dream away, he got up and walked out briskly to the old family Ford that he had inherited. He took the key out his pocket and tried to turn the car on, but it didn’t start. He punched the dashboard and tried again, but to no avail. He sat there for a few minutes, thinking what he was going to do. He wasn’t going to waste his time with this, so he opened the door and began to run up the driveway.

He raced past rows of oaks and pines then took a short cut to the main road, maybe he could hitch a ride. He looped up just in time to see a parrot fly directly of him, then disappear into a palm tree. He stopped, a palm tree? He looked again, but there was no palm tree, there also was no parrot. He shook it off and continued running.

When he got to a hill, his swift run became a jog. This wasn’t normal, he had run up this hill plenty of times, and he could have done it at least twenty times a day, non-stop. His jog became a slow walk, and then he fell to the ground, why was he so tired?

As he lay there, he felt the ground start to shake. His heart began to pound, was it an earthquake? You usually don’t get earthquakes in this part of Georgia. He looked up the hill, and to his horror, he saw a huge tank roll over the rim, the red sun blazing forth from it, with a few American flags under it.

He gasped, what was going on?! A tank in his property? Suddenly his surroundings changed, the oaks and pines became tropical trees, the bush’s leaves became wide and elongated. He glanced at the tank, a stout man stood from a hole in the tank, with a machine gun in his hands. His face went pale as his eyes locked with the man’s. There was a short rattle.

The effects of battlefield delirium.

I Write Like…

Back in 2012, in the days of my not-so-distant infancy, I happened upon a website called I Write Like that “analyzed” writing and determined which famous author it most closely resembled. Obviously, being an exceptional and exquisite writer of immeasurable intellect and culture, I decided to analyze something of my own, perfunctorily written for this most momentous of occasions. It went thusly:

I am a heavy hippopotamus basking in the afterglow of a raunchy orgy. Oh how gloriously satisfied I feel, how deeply in love I now am. With whom, I cannot say for there were far too many other revelers present. I suppose the heifer with the great behind was my favorite, but I cannot truthfully say. All in all it was a great spectacle that I am now entranced with; the mass of hard bodies frothing at their orifices with the fecundity of a spring morning. I will return to the memory of that wonderful time when I am seeking refuge from the assaults of reality.

Well if I dare say so myself… what glorious writing! Never had such perfection been achieved in the literary arts, nor since! Writing this beautiful could only come from the mind of a genius, a pained creative soul whose only means of escape was through the meticulous interweaving of language and imagery. This was truly a masterpiece for the ages, a work to be remembered and revered by all who came after.

Yet despite all of this you know what that damned website told me? That I wrote like H. G. Wells.

Mr. Pete – a true story

Mr. Pete had a friend in Washington Square Park. His friend’s name was Shorty, although I’m pretty sure the fleshy projections from Shorty’s underside were tits, not tumors as I had originally thought. But it didn’t really matter. Mr. Pete gave me a walnut which I in turn gave to Shorty, and I felt honored by it all.

Shorty was nice, as was Mr. Pete. A congenial fellow is an appropriate description of him. He told me he was ninety to which I responded with, “You don’t look ninety,” because that was the truth. At most I would have taken him for seventy. He explained that the trick was regular exercise, a balanced diet (to include garlic), and the use of an electric shaver as it “stimulated the facial muscles and combated the drying effects of aging.”

“We’ll that’s good,” I said, “I use an electrical shaver now so I guess I’ve got a head start.”

Mr. Pete seemed uninterested and changed the subject.

He liked to talk, there was no doubt about it. As a painter selling his art in front of his studio, back in his seventies I think he said, he would talk to the passing dogs rather than their owners.

“Where is your ball, pooch?” he’d ask. “You better get your owner to buy you a ball.”

Then Mr. Pete would let them walk away.

He remembered the first time he saw a dog with a ball. It was a Dachshund, and boy was it proud. Mr. Pete took a moment from his story to demonstrate the happy gait of that little Dachshund.

“Boy, was that the most proud little dog I’d ever seen, hopping along with a tennis ball too big in its mouth. But that was its ball, and it was happy.”

I smiled at Mr. Pete and we fell silent for a moment.

“I suppose there’s something to learn from him,” I said, “taking joy in the simplest of things.”

And I meant it. Mr. Pete had enlightened me. He seemed disinterested.

I asked Mr. Pete about his art and he produced a fat envelope containing many photographs. They were pretty paintings, mostly of animals, and they made me think of Rousseau.

I liked one painting in particular, a depiction of a fair skinned girl with red hair looking in the mirror. I like paintings of the human form.

“I really like this one,” I said, to which Mr. Pete gave me a broad smile.

“Ass Cheeks Aimee!” he said excitedly, and I laughed. “She’s just come out of the shower you see, and she’s hot. That seat she’s sitting on is red velvet and she’s rubbing herself on it.”

I looked at the painting again. I had only seen a girl admiring herself in the mirror, but I liked Mr. Pete’s story better.

“Is Aimee someone you knew?” I asked. Mr. Pete didn’t respond.

Mr. Pete spoke disparagingly of the French art gallery on Bleecker Street. It was all abstract art, he said, art they were trying to sell for two-hundred bucks apiece. He thought abstract art was shit.

“I’m trying to get the elderly home over there to display my art,” he said. I made mental note to check for his exhibit. I wanted to buy Ass Cheeks Aimee.

Mr. Pete had done many things in his lifetime so he listed them off to me: an artillery man in the Army where he saw action in Europe; drilling for oil as an engineer; a science and math teacher to high school students. He had even been a brass instrument musician and played under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. The name meant nothing to me but I gathered that this was someone important.

“Let me tell you a story,” he began. “You see, Leo was unhappy with the way this piece was sounding, so he told me to supplement the bass section. But the bass section was only this one old guy, this Australian, and this poor old guy was incredibly hurt. He didn’t understand why Leo demanded I play along to his part.”

Mr. Pete looked solemnly out at the park.

“We’ll I found out later that the poor old guy threw away his instrument after that performance and never played again. He was so depressed that he died that way.”

We shared a moment of silence.

“You see that’s the tragedy of ego,” he continued. “Leo was so caught up in himself that he failed to realize how he affected others. We all looked up to him, and by not giving this poor guy an explanation, by not telling him that all he wanted was a more powerful bass section, this poor old guy gave up and died.”

I didn’t know what to say to Mr. Pete. I sat and thought of myself and felt a sense of guilt flow over me. Mr. Pete didn’t know it, but he’d enlightened me.

We sat silently, longer than one would normally allow. Finally Mr. Pete pointed to Pigeon Man across the way, feeding a flock of excited pigeons and surrounded by pretty young women.

“That guy’s a bum,” he said, “I don’t know how he isn’t covered in pigeon shit.”

I laughed in agreement. Pigeon Man did look like a bum, and I couldn’t understand how he wasn’t covered in pigeon shit, either.

Mr. Pete sighed and began packing his things.

“Well it’s been nice talking,” he said.

“I’m sure we’ll see each other again,” I responded as we shook hands.

So left Mr. Pete. Father of two daughters and friend to a squirrel. An old fashioned man who believed in hard work and doing as your told. I watched Mr. Pete walk away, slightly relieved, slightly sad, but better off than I was before.

Image

The Estranged Mrs. Pollock

I posted an edited version of this story, which incorporates some of the lessons I’ve learned as a graduate student.

***

         The knife never left her hand as she traced with it through the air. She considered herself an artist, although the final product was not tangible but emotional. It was a odd sort of art, to be sure, and she herself had difficulties defining in what way it was such. Art, as she saw it, was traditionally viewed as a means of communication, an opportunity to connect as a human being. Through this kind of art the creator could express ones emotions and conceptions in the hopes of being either validated or rejected. Art, in such a traditional sense, was a dialogue on the world between the creator and the witnesser.
         Yet her art was mostly a private matter and its expression was not meant to create dialogue but to create life. She wanted something more than just a spectacle, the sort of contrivance that tapped into the “decency” of like-minded people. She wanted fear, for life to her was not present in the happy moments of comfort but in the absolute hopelessness of death. She wanted to paint life, using the fear in her subjects as the inks and splattering it across the great canvas that she and everyone else swam in daily.
         The source of her art today was much like those from the past. She had only known him for an odd month, but his eagerness to please her had made convincing him to be tied down easy. She had even managed to get him tied to the vertical board beside her easel, the easel itself being nothing but a prop. He was quite scared as a knife had little purpose in normal sexual encounters, or at least that was generally the understanding. He would try and object to her knifed advances but was unable to release more than a few muffled croaks out of his gagged mouth. She would smile in response, but would never say anything. His desperation was good, exactly what she needed.
         Striding forward she would first swish the knife back and forth, like a serpent dancing to a piper. She would watch his eyes intently as they bulged to enormous proportions, and then she would jab quickly when she was close enough for the blade to just caress his body. As he squirmed against the ties she would pull back and with one, grand movement of her body slash violently and elegantly through the air around him, careful never to actually cut him. It was in those moments that she would feel her art come to fruition, the fear being tangible enough for her to plunge head first into its depths.
         The fear. She might even say she could see it. The trademark of a good artist, and she knew this, was the ability to feel beyond the senses. Artists saw what others could not see. That was another hallmark of art; the translation of the foreign and perhaps incomprehensible into something consumable as a human being. And although she did not have an audience, per se, she knew that she was releasing something unique into the world, adding to a vast and rich worldly experience that was only perceivable in small bites. Her addition would be another butterfly causing a ripple that ultimately affected other aspects of the world. That was how she wished to express herself. It was not for her, or for him or for anyone else. It was for the world.
         Her guest, shaking violently in his ties, stared at her, wide-eyed. How grotesque this all must have appeared to him, this constant toying and prodding, the feigning on his life. He must have concluded she had some deep perversion, a base desire to exert control over man in his perceived last moments. Of course she had no desire to see his blood. That was not her art. Her art was through fear, and a dead man, no matter how fearful he once was, was utterly useless to her. She could not help but smile at the thought of his naïveté. Men were all the same in their understanding of emotions and women. They were superficial creatures, easy to manipulate and to entertain. Perhaps that was why she always chose them. After all, a man without his control was a man deboned.
         She stood back momentarily, attempting to envelop herself in his fear. She mentally retraced the movements of her arms and the knife, trying to feel the ephemeral wake those movements left in the air, picturing how they painted invisible lines and arcs. It made her think of Pollock, and that thought made her feel good. That outburst of emotion was what she imagined truly breathed life into the world, adding to its richness. A quiet sob brought her attention back to the man. He was still afraid, still not understanding that his life would not end that day. Consoling him was out of the question as that would ruin her work, she needed him the way he was. And if his trembling body was any clue she would have quite a bit of material to work with for the time being.
         Once again she thrust herself into her steady cadence, lifting her arms and the knife skywards, then slowly snaking them through the air and towards the ground. It felt right. She then waved a figure eight in front of her but quickly changed to a less structured movement. Such forms were too artificial, too laden with history and civilization. What she needed was something newer, something more naturalistic in occurrence. The product that followed was more haphazard. The knife, rising once again, moved freely, making grand arcs and sharp turns, tearing through the fear riddled air. It sashayed and pirouetted, twisting along its longitudinal axis and flying lazily too and fro. All through these movements the man squirmed and squealed. His only focus was the knife and its cutting properties, not the movements.
         Movement was as much a part of her art as was fear. That was what her art was; the confluence of her sublime gestures and the man’s emotions. Without her movements she imagined her art was lacking in existential merit. Indeed, it was through the fear’s displacement that she saw her truth conveyed to the world. Without her gestures, the fear would stagnate. She truly was as central to the process as was her muse. Feeling her chest swell with pride she once again strode forth and resumed her work.
         This time she stood on her toes and letting her arms, and the knife, dangle loosely at her side she twirled about herself gleefully. She was a vortex of life, catching his fear and spiraling it to the heavens. Her arms lifted gradually until they were finally at their apex, and then with a brisk hop landed firmly in a powerful half-squat. She then heaved forward with a yell, one that was met with a muffled yelp by her guest. He was afraid as ever. Needling the air with her knife she then thrust her arms out behind herself, and with one final gasp allowed her entire body to fall backwards to the ground. There she lay breathing heavily, feeling her art swirl about her.
         It was done, and she knew that from there she could take her leave. She sat up and looked at the terrified man before her, studying his forcibly arrayed body as it quivered helplessly. He looked so pitiful now, and that amused her. He would be left there to be found by some other person. It was her hope that he might do her work justice once he was free, conveying to the world the great masterwork that she had created. She would not truly know what her art would have affected. That was beyond the scope of her perception. But she knew that in some small way her art would live on.

Passenger

For the Intermittent Writer

333sound

Short books about albums. Published by Bloomsbury.

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