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 PRI/M
INTERNATIONAL
■■"■ e S:
SPRING   1 999
Contemporary
writing
FROM
Canada
and
AROUND
THE
WORLD
37:3  INTERNATIONAL  INTERNATIONAL
Editors
Jeremiah Aherne
Natalie D. Meisner
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Kimberly O'Donnell PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four times
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Contents Copyright © 1999 PRISM international for the authors.
'The Beyond" (Dasjenseits) from Bin ichschon? Copyright© 1994 by Diogenes
Verlag, Zurich. Translation Copyright © 1998 Gustav A. Richar.
Cover illustration: Tram Chim #1, by Kate Collie.
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Our gratitude to Dean Shirley S. Neuman and the Dean of Arts' Office at the
University of British Columbia.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council ($16,000)
and the Government of British Columbia through the Ministry of Small
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Thank you to our donors, Cherie and Julian B. Smith, and to the RE. Fund.
Publications Mail Registration No. 08867. April 1999.
The Canada Council     Le Conseil des Arts
for the arts     du canada
since 1957    depuis 1957 Contents
Vol. 37, No. 3 Spring 1999
Fiction
Tim Fitts
Stephanie Moore
Doris Dorrie
translated from the German
by Gustav A. Richar
Darryl Whetter
Tenaya Darlington
Cellan Jay
Mark Farrell
Daniel Tobin
Micheline Maylor
Anna Amatuzio
Jill MacLean
Catherine Moss
Kyoung-Hoon Shin
chele thorsen
Deanna Yonge
Will Hope-Ross
Toads and Squirrels   17
Show and Tell on You Time   29
The Beyond   42
Profanity Issues, —S.   56
Rearranging Iowa   78
Poetry
Sick Seven Days at Nuevo Amenecer   7
Call Home   8
Bastille Day, Prague 1998   9
Professor and Daughter in March   11
Doogie-Woggie's Sandy Claws   13
Weather Reports   14
Bricolage for a Southern Pizzeria   15
The Art of Rolling  27
The Sources of Country Music   28
Driving in Winter, After the Accident  35
That First Year   36
Septic Storm  39
Hallstat  41
Uncle Tom Thompson   52
Mak-Soon Kim  54
virus nights  73
Marrying Rufus   74
Blizzard   89
The Bubble Car   91
Contributors   93  Cellan Jay two poems
Sick Seven Days at Nuevo
Amenecer
I sit in the shade, my back against pillows,
listening to the scritch scritch of brooms
and the mild soapy sound of water
being wrung out into a bucket
as the two chicas go about their cleaning,
bare feet slapping on the paving stones.
A yellow bird flutes
from the top of the aguacate tree.
Hot fingers press down upon my eyelids,
when I shut my eyes I float weightless
in a column of rosy light.
All the other guests wonder about me,
they drift toward and away from me on waves
of concern. I watch the bougainvillaea bloom
the afternoon away while the girls
cross back and forth in front of me
carrying their piles of sweet-smelling towels.
They have the cleanest hair.
I want to inhale lungfuls of them
and their towels but my breath hurts,
my chest is littered with broken glass.
My voice is hung up on hooks, like a carcass.
Everything I used to say is dead. Call Home
I call home, back to flus and bare hedges,
people hurrying home in the dark,
their footsteps squeaking in the blue snow.
"Dad!" I shout, my voice powered by
the sun's engine; in its hot blast
my father coughs gently, his voice wavers
on the word where, then cuts out,
lost at sea.
Through dirty panes of glass I see the
sun go down in a brief red spectacle
on which I turn my back to mouth the shapes
of Spanish words I studied only yesterday:
no para sigua for favor, no cuelge
and like the pro she is the chica at the desk
reels in my father's voice and here he is,
clear as air, saying how the birds in his backyard
are growing fat on seeds and suet he provides.
I am young and beautiful, waiters love me
and traffic obeys me, I am fed on fruit and shrimp
so I yell, "Send money, Dad," and faintly hear
the clink of ice in my father's glass of scotch
and those dark birds shivering in his backyard. Mark Farrell three poems
Bastille Day, Prague 1998
5:40 a.m.—
I close, gently, the door
separating
the kitchen from
her slumber—
so that she will not be disturbed
by this morning's industry,
which is
two small eggs boiling in a small black pot
She will be angry this morning
as she is
every morning
and today, with the way I feel,
it may even make me angry
but I hope not
because the days are very long
when you wake at this hour—
and why would I want
all those hours
occupied by only
my proud love for her?
and with tea and pen and sitting
I remember
hitching the roads of Vermont
in breakfast-time—
Huge Robert-Frost-Pancakes,
Whole Wheat Toast and Jam, Maple
Syrup, Three Fried Eggs and Black
Coffee
all
brought
by a beaming freckled daughter
of these ski lodge mountains— but this is none of that—
it is something more petite
it has to be, being Europe
(Shhhh, but it's two small eggs in a small black pot)
and what else is it?
I guess it's the lost poem—
all that's left is the title:
"Her Balcony"
but how I loved losing it and
losing it so completely in
her arms, her hair,
her, oh,
(stirring)
(she is waking)
sleep, a torn fabric now
and
oh her eyes! her eyes
are boiling:
The eggs! I forgot the eggs!
10 Professor and Daughter in
March
Her seventeen is not the seventeen I was,
not by any means,
her seventeen is not even
the seventeen our oldest was,
So yesterday, balmy Sunday,
was happiness for me—
doing something at least seeming seventeen
building the biggest barest snowman possible
the new snow,
the last snow,
and next door's six-year-old
throwing a huge, running snowball
but missing us and
hitting our home
Up with her boy
I can hear her bed's
moaning springs,
another glass of sherry wishes that I couldn't hear
and I no longer read,
drinking,
She is so old at so young
why
The snowball streaked against our house
is thick juice from my grey-haired skull
cracked
She would be red,
bloody, pulsating—
no, yes,
whatever,
11 she is not as old as I.
For I really am snow
melting
Joyous Day!
Oh deaf
blind Snowman,
trickle back
let me hear her tragic smile
anew
Damn you.
12 Doggie-Woggie's Sandy Claws
we knock against the mirror—
only then to remember why it is
we're forever hearing barking in our ears
—that it's us—
Domesticated too.
And then down on the beach,
sand between our toes,
a stick gets thrown
and we follow it—to fetch—telling ourselves we're doing it
because it's summer and we're having fun
—rethrown—
even into the water after it—
—SPLASH—
—goddamn it—and panting into the Atlantic cold—
oh, we could continue,
couldn't we?
—right out to the everlasting sea—
but we don't—we find ourselves instead—
on shore
—shaking ourselves—
and rubbing the wet off into the sand
—CLICK—
Muzzle snapped back on
—heading for home—
(oh, but I have a dare for you
—just try to take my food away—
oh, I dare, truly dare you
—just try it—)
13 Daniel Tobin two poems
Weather Reports
1. A Red Leaf in Fall
Rivering over the lawn
memos of the earth's hiatus.
A house on a lot on a street—
a woman planting bulbs, her husband
scraping paint from a hull
of weathered clapboards.
Now, in the chill gust, a boy
with his toy recorder, its
broken note almost buoyant.
2. After
Now trees are bare
from night's big wind,
leaves chasing leaves,
Dante's lovers
spurred by lust—no,
some cling solely
to the lawn like
shivering hands.
Tomorrow: snow.
14 Bricolage for a Southern
Pizzeria (Anna's, No.5)
Low-hung lights in
the empty room.
Outside a feast
of magnolia blooms.
n.
Through the door:
pepper, basil,
oregano, the spice
of broken English.
Today's Special—
Two Slices and a Coke
on the full moon
of a paper plate.
In the back the old man
waves at the screen,
turns down the volume
on the TV news.
My waitress giggles
iii.       taking my order,
her hair black
as a crow's wing.
Through the kitchen's
double doors
a symphony
of pans crashing.
15 16
III.
IV.
In the middle of my slice
I found myself
gazing into the black hole
of an olive's eye.
Sound of small paws
at work underground,
my teeth scraping
meat from the pit.
Guinea T's, my father
called them, the sleeveless
space filling as he spread
his arms through the hoops.
What I like about the cash
register: no blips, no beeps,
just ca-ching, that note
hovering on a tuning fork.
Behind the counter the crank
of gaping ovens,
the old man's hands
bathed in white flour.
The Tiber, The Po, The James.
At rest on a stool
legs, the owner,
her veins blue rivers. Tim Fitts
Toads and Squirrels
Still hog-tied, lying on his side, the best Digger could do was attempt to talk to Monica, but with his mouth still gagged, his speech
sounded no more and no less than semi-desperate grunts, until he
gave up and watched, thinking that somehow watching and trying to
communicate with his eyes would be better than shutting them and attempting to look away.
Monica, with the blue bandana still in her mouth, was bleeding worse
than Digger. Still tied to the tree with the rope the three men had brought
along, wrapped tight around her chest, under her armpits and above
her breasts, she shared the same predicament.
So they watched each other and waited for morning, sharing the
mutual assumption that the park rangers would be making their rounds
at the campsites that far out along the river and the mutual fear that they
would not.
Digger had shown Monica how to bait the hook. They used the
nightcrawlers they had caught in the woods the night before, she, holding the flashlight, and he pouncing upon the worm before it slipped back
into the earth. Sticking the worm presumably through the head, he told
her that worms had nine hearts, and she said that she knew, but that it
was eight hearts, and then they each proceeded to tell the other instances from eighth and ninth grade biology classes where the exact
number of worm hearts stuck in their minds as they wrapped the rest of
the worm's body around the hook. Digger clamped three weights a foot
above the hook to the ten-pound test nylon line, and he suggested that
they skip the bobbers and just let the bait ride the bottom and wait for
the poles to bend.
"Bobbers are fun," Monica said.
"Bobbers are fun, you're right. However, the hitch here is that we don't
have any bobbers. Bobbers are fun, but they're not a necessity."
"Let's go get some bobbers."
"Well, the thing is that we don't really need them. Bobbers can be problematic if not used the right way."
"I didn't realize that," she said in an I-know-you're-bullshitting-but-ril-let-
17 you-get-away-with-it tone of voice.
'The problem with bobbers are, well there really are about a million
problems with bobbers," he said. 'The first, and main problem with using bobbers, is the tendency to forget all about the hook and the worm
and the line and of course, the fish—arguably the most important part
here—and waste your time concentrating on the bobber, when the
bobber really has nothing to do with it at all except to tell you when the
fish has taken the bait."
"I thought that was the point," Monica said.
"It is the point, but if the fish has the bait, the rod is still going to bend, but
when the bobber goes down, it's never a sure thing that the fish is hooked."
"I thought you were supposed to hit it or something when the bobber
started to bob."
"You are."
"When I used to fish with my dad, every time the bobber went down, I
remember, he'd yell, 'hit it! hit it! hit that S.O.B.'"
"Right. That's true. But did you ever get it when you hit it?"
"No."
"See. That's my point. Hitting it never works unless like you're some
kind of pro or something. Hitting it never works."
"So why did he tell me to hit it?"
"Because," Digger said, tapping her on the shoulder sarcastically, as if
imparting wisdom upon her he was a good father, "he told you how to do
things the right way for people who are good, not necessarily the most
effective way for people like us, who suck. So now I'm telling you a different
way, the way people do it who aren't very good, but still enjoy it, right?"
"Right," she said, taking his finger, and pushing it back towards him, then
taking his opposite shoulder and pulling him in for a light kiss on the chin.
"See, the fish can play around with it, nibble and crap, but we don't know
squat about how to snag it or anything, we're looking for sure things. We
want that motherfucker to be stuck for good. And if you jerk it around too
much, if the bobber gets dunked by a wake or something, you panic and
pull, and the next thing you know, when you reel it in, the little bastard's off
the hook."
"Where does it go?" Monica said with a fake frown.
"I don't know, but that's a whole 'nother subject. That's a whole different thing. Some people think it goes into a different dimension, but
others like myself know better. People like me know what happens to
the worms."
'What?" she said.
"Nothing."
"C'mon." She pulled his arm in again so his face was close to hers.
"Okay," he said, moving closer when he said, "U-F-O's," emphasiz-
18 ing each letter, and then he kissed her on the forehead. He walked to
the cooler and took out a can of beer, opening it, sipping, then setting it
down. "Another thing with bobbers is that we don't, or at least I don't
necessarily want to think about the fish the whole time. I mean, I don't
care what we pull in. It would be nice to pull in a bunch, but not so nice
that I want to think about it so much. That way, anything we catch is a
bonus. I mean, let's face it. If you're really counting on a decent catch,
you do research. You buy the goddamn almanac, you utilize the time
while eating dinner at a crappy sandwich shop in the middle of nowhere
like yesterday. You have been thinking way ahead. If we had expected
to really pull in, we would have left a gigantic tip on that filthy countertop,
then gotten up a good conversation with the locals in the joint about
fishing, then maybe bought a round of drinks or something for the work
folk and wait for one of them to lead us to the hot spots and kick-ass
fishing holes. But this way, you see, we're not expecting anything. Zero
is good for us, and any catch is pure gravy. See?"
"Okay."
They stood on a part of the shore where the land jutted up and flat, like
a soft earth plateau with a ten-foot steep drop to the water like a mini-cliff
overhanging the lake portion of the river, which spread out a half-mile or so
in width. The lake was dark, and looked deep. Upstream, the water ran clear
from the natural springs. Turtles and gar swam through the seaweed twenty
feet down as visible as if they swam directly under a sheet of glass, but in
the lake, the water steeped in Cypress roots, turning the water a deep
amber. Digger cast the lines forty-five degrees apart from each other so
they wouldn't tangle when they moved in the current. After securing the
poles to stand on their own in the ground, just off the rock platform, and
letting out some slack, he climbed down the shoreline with his hands on
the sharp inclination behind him, like a crab walking to the water, and
scooped a coffee can full of water to wash the worm filth from their hands
before eating lunch.
"Hey," she called down to him. 'Why don't you swim around down there
to make sure there isn't anything in the water so we can jump off of here?"
"Like alligators?"
"Like rocks, or tree stumps. Make sure it's deep enough."
"You think there's anything?"
"You should just do it. Don't you remember all of those public service
commercials they used to show in the summer?"
"No."
"Well they used to have them. I saw a movie in elementary school about
a woman who broke her neck diving into the water and learned how to paint
with her mouth."
"No kidding."
19 "Yeah. They were beautiful pictures."
'That's incredible."
"It was incredible."
"So should I bother checking it out or not?"
"Funny."
So he took his shoes off, and stepped into the water expecting soft
earth a foot or so beneath the surface, but it gave way to a complete drop,
instantaneously submerging him fully into the water, and for a moment,
as the water rushed into his nostrils and eyes, he thought of the 60
Minutes episode where they showed how a couple high school students
had been infected by an amoebae that had swum into their ears and
caused them to fall into a coma days later. He couldn't remember if they
had died or not, but it didn't seem like it made any difference after that.
This was their first camping trip together. They had driven up from
Tampa to where a lake opened up on the Withlacoochee River, about an
hour up 1-75 and fifteen minutes down a side dirt road. He knew the areas
around the Withlacoochee, where he had spent time in summer camp and
had gone fishing with his friends' families and water-skiing with youth
groups in high school. He knew of regular camping sites further down the
dirt road, but camping around port o' potties, stationary grills, designated
campsites and fire sites and public showers didn't make sense.
When they had first begun seeing each other, Digger had taken special care to establish which activities constituted dates. After it had begun to become a steady thing, and they began to do things like kiss upon
seeing each other, as well as establishing the understanding that they
called each other before going to sleep if they hadn't spoken throughout the day. Also, unless specified, Saturday nights were spent at his or
her house, until they had taken to adopting each other's friends together,
which, at that point, their dates ceased and had become a different thing.
They became friends. The pressure was off (a defining moment came
at a party where Monica was the first to inform Digger of Ranch dressing on his chin, and rather than feeling the flush of embarrassment, he
felt relief at the fact that it was only she who had seen it). They began
crafting their outings as if they were preparing memories to recall over
dinner parties, to their future children, over future anniversaries and
ultimately, memories they could recreate after their marriage would
begin to stale, if, in fact, they would eventually decide to get married.
This was an unspoken thing between them, but it was mutual. Did couples create memories as they went along, contriving each tale, or was it
more proper to let life create memories naturally? Neither suspected it
hurt much either way, but this notion added zeal during the drive out to the
campsite. Each looked forward to mishaps such as finally getting all the
corners to the tent hammered down next to the fire site, only to find that a
20 rock or stump jutted up in the middle of the canvas bottom, causing them
to take the tent down and either move the tent or find a different campsite altogether. Digger privately hoped for rain and a leak in the tent to
force them to make do with the situation so they could laugh later.
Whether he would handle the situation with the same optimism was
impossible to tell, but as long as they laughed later, it would be a matter
of very little consequence. Digger hoped to either light the fire with a
single match or to not get the goddamn thing lit at all. He hoped to feast
on mounds of fish, or to resort to cold ravioli and macaroni and cheese.
He hoped to scare her with pressing the necessity to hang the food
from trees in case bears decided to explore the campsite, and in a way
he hoped for bears to come and take the food, leaving them alone to
heighten the experience. Their dates, which had once been elevated to
establish a relationship and secure sex, had developed into crafting dates
to add depth to the relationship. Ultimately, he hoped for complete success or complete failure in each endeavour, to appear the genius or the
dunce, hoping that she would find each result equally endearing, but
avoiding mediocrity like the plague.
It was this optimism that added to the charm the previous day when
they stopped at a sandwich shop/gas station and got glasses of Coke
without ice, yellow lettuce on the BLT's, decent white bread, but a mayo
with a disturbing and unidentifiable funk (They were starved. They
choked down the sandwiches, but the optimism stopped at the mayo.
He couldn't conjure up a way to romantically reminisce botulism or salmonella) . They followed up the sandwiches and bags of chips with slices
of apple pie that they had actually seen the waitress in the kitchen removing from individually sealed packages despite the pie with one slice
missing, under glass on the countertop (Digger speculated on whether
the pie under glass was real or not, comparing it to the plastic sushi that
often sits in windows of Japanese restaurants).
While they waited for the fishing poles to bend, he went off into the
woods looking for more kindling while she watched the poles, and after
gathering an armload of twigs and small sticks, he stacked them like a
teepee, so the airflow would allow the flames enough oxygen to flame up,
without smothering or burning too fast. He went back to find medium sized
sticks to set up around the kindling, then stacked the quarter-cord of wood
they had loaded into the trunk before leaving, next to the fire site, where
he had surrounded with football sized stones he had found the afternoon
before alongside the shore further down the river. When he returned to
the cliff, Monica had reeled in a catfish, held it between its sharp fins and
taken the hook from its mouth, then put it on a stringer for him to set back
in the water below. She lay down on a towel several feet from the edge
while Digger put another worm on the hook, then cast it into the river. By
21 the time camp was set up, they had hauled in a half-dozen catfish before
they stopped biting, and they spread out a sleeping bag on the surface
of the rock, opened a couple more beers and lay down in the mid-afternoon sun.
"I thought fish don't bite in the afternoon," she said.
"I didn't think so either."
"Then why did we bother fishing in the afternoon?"
"In case something like this happened," he said, taking in half of his
Bud Lite. "See, you never know."
"Be careful not to drink too much. You'll get dehydrated."
"No way."
"Yes way."
"You only get dehydrated when you stop drinking. That's the trick. As
long as you keep drinking, you stay hydrated."
Monica wore a black, two piece bathing suit, and when she turned over
on her stomach, Digger climbed behind her, undoing the string, cupping
her breasts as she lifted her chest off the ground. He kissed the back of
her neck and bit her ear, then she turned over, underneath him, and they
stopped the progression as he buried his face into the little cubby between
her shoulder blade and neck, and he lay there, as if he were going to fall
asleep, while she put her arm around him, patting slowly on his back. He
stood up, got another beer from the cooler and said, "Hey Monica, there's
people out there," pointing to three people on the opposite shore, one
looking through binoculars. "They're watching us." She stood up, and he
waved. They waved back, one passing the binoculars to the next.
"How long do you think they've been there?" Monica said with her arms
covering her breasts.
"I don't know," Digger said. "Not long," putting his arm around her waist,
standing behind her. He slipped his hands under her arms, and she leaned
her head back as he kissed her neck, then with her head still back, she
dropped her arms, and reached behind her, fumbling with his button and
zipper until his shorts fell around his ankles, and then, in the same motion,
he pulled down the bottom of her bathing suit while she stepped out, and
when he looked up at the three onlookers, the binoculars were down, all
three were pointing their direction.
He fingered her while they rotated binoculars, then she blew him. They
then jumped off the cliff into the water below, where they ignored the
onlookers, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. "Do you think they
know what's going on?" she said, nodding her head towards the opposite
shore.
"I think they've got a pretty good idea."
Digger swam under the surface towards the shore, just down stream
from the steep shoreline by their campsite, then took the stringer of cat-
22 fish from the water, setting the catfish next to the fire site. The people
on the other side of the shore were gone.
"You have to skin them alive," Digger said, putting the pliers in his
mouth while holding a catfish with the palm over the head, and his fingers wrapped snugly around the pointed fins, careful to keep from getting stuck. He sliced the fish down the sides of its gills. Then he handed
the knife to Monica, saying with the pliers still in his mouth, muffling the
words, "Hold the knife, please" as if she would have had no idea what he
had said. He then pulled the skin that had been slit and peeled back the
skin, which stretched back like a rubber coating. The fish flipped wildly,
but couldn't shake the grip Digger had on the head and fins.
"That's disgusting," she said.
"It's not that disgusting," he said. "It's pretty clean." And it was clean. The
fish barely bled at all, and when he was finished skinning it, in three easy
peels, he slit the abdomen open, and holding the knife with his ring and
pinky finger, he inserted his birdie and index finger into the open slit and
pulled out the guts, tossing the entrails into the water. He then scraped the
cavity clean with the knife—the fish still flipping—he set the fish down on
the wooden block they had brought for cleaning fish, with his palm on the
back of the knife, the fin between his index and birdie finger and the blade
set snug behind the dorsal fin, then pressed quickly, separating the head in
one motion, then digging in to cut the bottom layer of skin. "See? Now we
can put this baby right on the fire." The head, on the wooden block continued to gasp.
"He's trying to breathe," she said.
"He breathes through his gills," he pointed to the separated body. "It's
just nerves."
"That's cruel," she said.
"It's not that cruel," Digger said. "They've got an entirely different nervous system. They don't feel pain. They know when something is wrong,
but they don't feel pain like we feel pain."
"How do you know?"
"I don't know, but I'm guessing. I mean, I've heard that, and it makes
sense. Their brain is like a tiny little glob, and all it does is take care of their
motor functions. It makes the little bastard swim, eat crap off the bottom
and to flip when it's in danger, and to pull when ifs getting tugged, and thaf s
about it."
"But that fish looks like he's hurting."
"Look, his brain is practically nothing." Digger then proceeded to cut
open the fish's head, and twisted the knife, splitting the head open. Digging
around, he scooped out a tiny little glob of fish brain, and he took it out and
wiped it on his finger, showing it to her, "See? A tiny little brain."
"Next time don't skin it alive," she said.
23 "You have to."
"You don't have to."
"Yes I do. Otherwise you can get one of those bastard fins stuck in
your hand, and then you won't have any question about pain. Those little
fuckers hurt."
"I don't want you to do it that way."
The next fish he chopped its head off with the hatchet, and then skinned
it, tearing at the meat, mangling the body in the process, but not so much
to the point where they had to throw it away. After several more fish
cleaned in the same process, they were prepared as well as the first
fish, and when he was done, they set all of the bodies in a bucket of ice
water from the cooler, and next to the wooden block sat six gasping
heads of catfish, which they threw, one by one, into the tea-stained water.
"This is actually the first time I've fished since middle school because of
this issue," he said.
"What issue?"
"The cruelty thing."
"You were more cruel to fish than skinning them alive?"
"Sure. I lived in Alabama when I was in middle school."
'What did you do?"
"Not much."
"So why was it so cruel."
"Let's just say it had plenty to do with firecrackers, golf clubs and seeing
how far we could cast out the little fish that were still hooked to the line."
"That's awful."
"It was awful. We were mean little bastards."
"But now you can fish again."
"I guess so. That was when I thought they felt the same as people. Now
I know."
"So you did it when you thought they felt like humans?"
"I guess so."
Monica looked at him in a way that he wasn't sure if her disgust was
genuine or not, but he assumed it was.
"Middle school kids do mean things. Of course, you have to remember
that this is when you don't really know what you're doing. I mean, you don't
have really any concept of pain or suffering or any kind of bullshit like that."
He didn't tell her about the toads and squirrels. In the sixth grade, a friend
of his got a chemistry set for Christmas. His friend's father was a scientist
at UAB, and when they visited his father's office one day, they scored all
kinds of test tubes and syringes and scientific trinkets. After mixing a couple of random chemicals together one day, the addition of a third chemical
turned the solution a brilliant cobalt blue. They caught some toads in his
24 back yard, and being tired of nailing their arms and legs to a board and
cutting them down the middle to watch their guts work, they decided to
inject them with the new solution. They shot several up with 10 cc's of
this solution, and instantly, the toads froze, then performed startling appendage twitches and died in horrific poses. They promptly named the
solution (having yet to develop any sense of subtlety "Blue Death." One
afternoon they discovered a squirrel who had been partially run over
by a car, consequently dragging itself across the road by its front legs.
They upped the dosage by 20 cc's and found similar results (It wasn't
until years later that it had dawned on Digger that 10 cc's to a toad, and
likewise, 30 cc's to a squirrel (already traumatized) were comparable to
injecting a human with a bucket of "Blue Death," and that the result
would have probably been very similar with saline solution). These studies, however, Digger found ultimately unproductive to share with Monica.
They battered the fish in aTupperware bowl—a mix of bread crumbs,
salt, pepper, milk and eggs. After wrapping the two of the fish in tin foil, then
throwing them into the coals, they stuck two of the fish on sticks, leaning
them above the fire, and the last one they tried to filet, but the meat had
torn up in the process.
By the time they had eaten the fish it was night, and they kept the fire
going, adding on pieces of wood at a high rate to build a bed of coals underneath that would last throughout the evening. The bed of coals shone
bright orange, and the flames in the coals wove and shimmered, and after
they finished bottles and cans of beer, they dropped them in between the
logs, watching them melt.
In the middle of the night, or near thereof, they heard a bear enter their
camp. Waking up, they whispered in each other's ear that they'd taken all
the precautions—hanging food from trees and what not—and in reality,
there was nothing really whatsoever to worry about, unless it was an alligator. What did you do about an alligator? In the Boy Scouts, Digger had
learned to jump to the side of alligators and run their directions, because
even though gators can outrun racehorses in the first fifty feet, they can't
turn around worth shit. But what did you do in a sleeping bag, besides hope
it helps you survive the death roll? Then they heard voices asking whomever it was inside the tent to come out and give them a hand with a flat tire.
While Monica was tied to the tree, files and files of possibilities went
through Digger's mind. Was it the bastards on the other side of the river?
He had heard of instances where escapees from the penitentiaries in
the centre of the state would get side tracked after a breakout and stop
in the surrounding national parks to tie women to trees and rape them
for a while before cutting their throats from ear to ear.
25 Digger knew that it was his idea to camp alongside the river rather
than around the rest of the campsites, and while they looked at each
other with both mouths gagged, he tried not to communicate this thought
with his eyes.
Unable to figure out a function for screaming, Digger only tried to
keep quiet and wait for it to pass. Wait for it to pass,' he thought, 'wait
for it to pass,' but he was unsure how, in the future, he could deal with
this fright. He remembered watching the Nature Channel once, when
there had been a fight between two tortoises, and the first part often
took hours, with both reptiles using a hook-like appendage stemming
from the underside of the front of the shell to flip the other with slow,
steady moves. The winner always walked away totally unharmed, and
the loser stayed totally unharmed as well, but baked, belly-up in the desert
sun. He remembered this, and how for hours after watching the program, he had wondered what the losing tortoise did in the situation. He
wondered what possible scenario could lead to its escape, and each time,
after mulling it over, he realized what the tortoise did: Nothing.
26 Micheline May I or
The Art of Rolling
We sat on the goosebumped asphalt
in front of your mom's house, air syrup
thick with cricket sounds and giggles.
The sky, clear black as obsidian beads
and streetlights winked at our guilt.
It took us years to light the newspaper
twirled into cigarette shapes, stones
digging into our soft butts hard as cherry
pits. The inky night burned slow,
ethereal floating embers. We blew
the ashes with breath not used for inhaling
and tumbled with them down the hill.
Our dizzy laughter wisped like smoke,
the letters curled and swirling.
27 Anna Amatuzio
The Sources of Country Music
In Nashville's Metropolitan Airport, we folded
Benton's hootenanny in half, tearing it so that
each of us received a dancing couple.
On my railroad rides into town, I press my
paperback's bookmark against my ear. Its
laminated trio of bonneted women sing.
When you call, I wonder about
your banjoist, fiddler and guitarist.
In what key are they tuning?
All the steam, you reply, locomotive and ferry,
makes strings fat, fingers ready to pluck,
whatever selections my ladies request.
28 Stephanie Moore
Show and Tell on You Time
1. First Period: Search and Seizure.
Good morning Teacher.
Good morning class.
Forget the lunch box. Forget the milk and cookies. Forget the apple.
The last time little Jane Blue Eyes gave him a fat juicy Red Delicious, it was
so spiked with Viagra he flew the flag for two days. The Principal faxed,
"Get it down." As if he could.
Now the little monster's back at the turnstile.
With his wand, Teacher goes over her twice.
On the screen there's something curled in her napkin, maybe a little
third grade nuclear device, a chemmo bomb, a dose of phosgene—that
sweet smell of fresh mown hay, it's heaven—then you die in your mucus.
That's a choking agent children. It fills the lungs with body fluids. Or maybe
it's that blister gas her father's so crazy about.
That's a real time out.
"Now I'm mad. Now I'm really mad. I told you three times already: no
blister gas, no blister gas," Teacher says. "Is it?"
Jane shakes her head no.
"Better be telling me the truth Miss."
"lam."
Teacher writes on the board: /. The container may be: A. Missile B.
Shell C. 'Vector" (indent) 1. Rat 2. Bug.
'What's in there, Jane?"
Jane smiles. Won that point fair and square, she cuts that infected rat
loose and it's anybody's game.
Remember her nerve gassing 3rd period soccer? Bruno Bosher faking
a fit, clawing his desk, then he dies? Traded Jane his gas mask for a pipe
bomb, doggie-do for brains.
Now that was a lawsuit.
2. Period Two: Questions and Answers.
Two Bullets: (indent) 1. Light and fast 2. Heavy and slow.
Which one has more killing power?
"Here, here and here," Teacher jabs Jason with a pointer in his arm,
29 then his kidneys. "The Bullet enters and exits, how many layers is that?
Dick?"
'Teacher," Jane jumps up. 'That would be three. Three."
'What about bones?" says Dick.
"That's the rub." Teacher purses his lips. "The obstructions."
Dickie writes in his binder: "I know a girl / I'd shoot her in the head /
Shoot her in the head / Shoot her in the head /1 know a girl / She'll be
better off dead / Better off dead this morning." He rips out the page, folds
it into a plane and launches it at Robbie.
Robbie, audio visual, projects the famous "Computer Man" on the screen.
"The US M-16 rifle uses a teensy-weensy bullet (55 grains) moving
super fast (3,400 feet per second). Have you got the picture class? Small,
fast-fast. So what does fast-fast do when it enters the body? Dick?"
Jane shouts out, "End over end Teacher. Hurtyou, bad."
They're something else, those girls. Overachievers, every last one of
them. An American hits with a bat, alright? He taught them that much. Be
yourself, damn it.
Be an original.
He wouldn't see it coming, not until it was too late.
3. Third period: The bell rings.
Girls against the boys, the game they want to play.
Recess! Dickie's hiding under the table with the boys, driving nails in a
severed table leg, wrapping the head with steel wire, that's a nasty looking
club.
On the other side of the room, over by the sink, Lucy swings her Swiss
morning star mace, a studded steel ball dangling like a tether ball from a
steel rod. Dickie never lifts his head over the chairs when he hears that
clank, not after last time.
Too quiet. Water drips. The big clock ticks. What are they up to?
The boys start to rustle.
'Times," yells Jane. The girls aren't ready. Just because Dick the dork's
got his father's stiletto, they're supposed to lose their heads, I don't think
so moron idiot heads.
Jane has a Daisho, the "large-small," pair of Samurai swords, she's
strong, maybe she can cut off Dick's head. That'd be awesome, even
his scrawny ear would be awesome, with the diamond stud, that earring's rad. Only problem, her lame mother would, like, totally kill
her if she got blood on her dress. Again.
The diversionaries, Anabel and Jane, slip out beneath the water
table under the barricade of pet cages. Problem: if they kill Dick's
bunny, no hostages. The bunny's hopping so hard in her cage she
30 knocks herself out. Poor Fluffy.
"OmiGod," whispers Anabel. They've crawled into the box of fist weapons without even meaning to. How's that for good karma? Anabel slips on
the knuckle dusters (scratch their eyes out) and Jane dibs the tiger's claws.
Flat on their bellies, the girls squirm back behind the bookcases to the
girls fort.
"Red Rover, Red Rover, send Dickie on over." The bell rings. Saved by
the bell.
4. Fourth period: Show and Tell on You Time.
Anything you say will be used against you later.
"Your name?"
Dickie's tied to a chair with a frayed jump rope, Jane's circling him.
Teacher outlines on the board: /. Defenses: (indent) A. Lack of evil
intent B. Alibi C. Improper identification.
Jane shoves Dick in his chair. Kids face him, faces tilted up, hands in
their lap, expectant.
Anabel hands him her cell phone.
Teacher writes: 77. Don't phone home.
'Who stole my barbed wire Dickface?" asks Jane.
"Dunno."
"Yeah right."
Teacher writes a word on the board in yellow chalk, and underlines it:
III. CONSEQUENCES.
'Was it Teacher?" Jane asks.
Indents: 1. Don't talk 2. Don't talk 3. Don't talk.
"Nothing to say." Jane slaps him.
TV. When they beat you, lie down. Curl knees to your chest.
"Where's the gun?"
Don't look at it, don't look at it, if you don't look at it they might not notice.
His SIG Sauer pistol's stashed in his fanny pack. Hell, it blew away a
fourth grader in the cafeteria, it, like, dropped him in his Jello. That's
playground protection. That's stopping power.
V. No one is prohibited from possessing legal firearms.
Jane takes his piece, his play dough, his peanut butter Saltines, his red
and white Lego truck and places it in an envelope, hands it to Anabel.
Anabel sticks out her grape gum tongue, runs it over the flap and seals it.
Throwing the book at him.
Jane rips his NRAcap from his head. "Strip," she says.
She hands him the lice soap, so that's the way it's going to be—the
cloakroom.
VI. Inside, don't brag about getting out, no one wants to hear it.
31 5. Lunch hour: Gag me.
The main problem is pain.
Teacher writes on the board before the bell rings: I. Equipment: A.
Canisters that explode B. Canisters that bounce around (watch out children) C. Canisters that emit clouds of psychedelic gas.
Isn't that special?
Time to play outside. Outside it's okay to run around and use loud voices.
Outside if everybody wants the same swing, we take turns. We jump, skip,
ride, slide. We hide. We chase. We play with toys.
A US M-16 Al Rifle, 700-950 a minute, tarted up with stickers, that'd
take out the whole playground. The girls traded a computer for one. Jane
packs the firepower in her cello case.
The AK-47 Soviet assault rifle, gas operated, rate of fire 600 RPM, 30
round magazine, it's the best the boys can do for now, but they won't get
delivery until Friday.
Now the girls say they're playing a concert on the lawn, for the whole
school.
"Those aren't the girls I know," says Teacher. "The girls I know believe
in fair play."
"God Teacher," says Jane.'We're just trying to be nice."
"She's lying," yells Dick from the closet.
'Won't be your best friend," whispers Jane at the door.
"Kill you when I get outta here."
Teacher ushers the kids out onto blacktop in twos. Back in the room he
lets Dick out of the closet, Dick pulls on his Gap jeans, his T-shirt, puts
down his jacket and flips it over his head. "One, two, three." Grabs his spare
tool from his cubby. Small. Light. Cool to the sense of touch. Completely
concealable: backpack, lunch box, binder! Beretta: when you're serious
about school spirit.
Teacher writes: II. A bullet must penetrate some obstacle: A. Handball
wall B. Tether ball pole C. Basketball back board D. Yard monitor E.
Lunch box F Back pack, thermos, teddy bear, etc. etc. (indent) In such
cases a fully jacketed military bullet is preferable.
Outside on the lawn when the boys are seated, teacher rolls a canister
through the grass and down the first row of seats. It totters and stops. Stops
and emits one single puff of smoke. Teacher runs like hell to the observation tower and holds up a sign.
If the patient vomits constantly, get to the aid station immediately. Ruptured intestines?
Dick pulls his gas mask on in one swift movement, hooking it on his
occipital and sliding it over his head. This gas stuff's getting old, Teacher's losing his edge. Last Tuesday he demonstrates an antipersonnel
32 grenade, blows three fingers, his wedding ring rolls down the drain.
Sucker had a diamond in it.
DUH Teacher.
5. Final Period: First Aid Station.
Sometimes there is an accident.
Anabel's pouring cranberry juice on the concrete.
Teacher writes on the board: I. Depending on size and weight, a child
can lose up to two cups of blood safely.
"I say it's a quart," says Anabel.
'Teacher." Dick points at Cherry. "Jane's on the stretcher again...not
fair, she's faking it." Standing over Jane he says, "You're gonna get it."
"Is that the way we talk to someone in shock?" asks Teacher. "No. Not
on my playground. Now. If s Jane's day and you know it. On your birthday,
you want to go in the ambulance, sever a limb, pepper the play ground, what
do we say then? Dick?"
Dick shakes his head.
"We say yes. You know it. Now sir: Jane's in shock, what are we going to
do about it?"
Dick pulls out his Beretta and points it at the stretcher, two brooms
shoved through the inside out arms of Jerry and Sam's jackets.
"Excuse me young man,' says Teacher. "That better have a big fat license."
Teacher's toying with something in his pocket, not another damn grenade. Dick shoves his rod back in his fanny pack and picks up an end of the
broom,
"You're a good boy Dick," says Teacher. "I know that. Some days we just
need to hide our feelings behind a weapon." Teacher walks to the blackboard.
U. Is her heart beating?
"Anabel be the medic. Stop the bleeding."
Tourniquets, now that's a boy's game. Reginald pushes Anabel out of
the way, rips off his T-shirt and wraps it around Jane's arm, sticks a pencil
through it and keeps twisting until the bleeding stops.
Back on the playground, Bobbie and the boys drop Leslie from the slide,
Leslie's the brittle type and wouldn't you know it? The old broken bone
protruding from the skin trick.
"You broke it boys, you fix it."
"Boys?" Where does Teacher get off with that boys crap? Time to give
Teacher a lesson.
III. Puncture wounds (indent) 1. Stiletto: a stabbing weapon. No
cutting edge.
33 Teacher didn't know Dick could throw his stiletto that hard. How about
that aim?
Jane can't touch Dick for eyes out, true she got a gold star for her sniper
thing, but for eyes out that would be Dick, wouldn't it?
Still, she's got head wrapping down pat. She's a damn miracle rising out
of that stretcher, a hog for extra credit, the way she wraps that Kling band
aid like nobody's business. In red flow tip pen, right above Teacher's socket
she draws an eye and writes the word OUT. She does a little heart with a
daisy chain on the tail cause that's her handle.
She writes on the board, her own Band-Aid fluttering in yellow chalk
dust:
(Underline) IV. If infection develops the patient must be seen by a
doctor.
"Isn't that right, Teacher?"
The bell rings.
Time to get on the bus. Go home.
Goodbye eye. Goodbye Teacher. Goodbye Jane. Goodbye Dick.
Jane helps Teacher. Jane is nice. Teacher is nice. Watch out Teacher.
Sometimes there is an accident.
V. The chest wall penetrated by some object, such as a knife, a bullet, or
shrapnel.
34 Jill MacLean two poems
Driving in Winter, After the
Accident
blood
of a
wounded
deer
red dirt
on the white shoulder
of the road
wing
of a
dead
crow
tattered
fragment
of a tire
there is a thin skin
over artery, nerve and bone
the irrevocable
always happens now
it will take years for
the similes of healing:
that clod of earth
is like the body of a raccoon
that body of a raccoon
is like a clod of earth
35 That First Year
as the school bus waits,
her brother
walks alone down the lane
two butterflies
paler than the yellow hawkweed
dance up and up into the dying elm
the orchard is spattered red
tide and wind are siblings of the bay
maple leaves twist both faces to the sun
remembering how last night's darkness
painted the grass white between the graves
I need a stone in place
before the snow
for fear of losing her
it's been warm for three days
the morning mist is pallid:
snow rising from its place of rest
trees stand like a row of monks
their praise as cool as indrawn breath;
from suppliant branches the birds,
exuberant, herald this false spring,
so gentle, so riddled with deceit
36 her brother
never mentions her name,
doubling the absence
of a presence so strong
we still don't
eat at a table
set for two
last summer's weeds
keep watch
by the ice-fed river
birchbark
is the smooth white
of old bone
and everywhere the skin
splits open on the bud
snowdrops, green-
speared, hurl their
fragrance through the air
among the dusty catkins
the song sparrow
practices his yes
37 her brother and I
pay attention
to the tense of verbs...
"would have been"
for eighteenth birthday
high school graduation
we're caught in conditionality
meadorue, forget-me-nots, bleeding heart's pink and white lockets
foxgloves that cure the heart, monkshood that poisons it
aromatic bee balm, a month of day lilies
snow-in-summer, pearly everlasting
an avalanche of roses
eleven months
since I've seen her
and in the cemetery
at dusk
in the quietest of visions
I see women in worn brown robes
and blue shawls: mourners,
tenders of graves, they keep
a courteous distance
they've wandered
through the damp grass
from an orchard
of unripe apples, which,
in some way
not yet divined,
I'm to bring to fruition
38 Catherine Moss two poems
Septic Storm
in a cold fever
of rain
with thunder tumbling
the long bone of night
you get up
leave your man still
sleeping   stretched
out   arm flung beside your pillow
he is fasting and
too vulnerable to love
you watch
the crabapple's black
leafed branches shudder
in amber rain
falling
straight as cedar pencils
all night
you have dreamed of blood
green gowns
catheter bags full
as udders and cloudy
with infection
ligaments of lightning
tart and appleflesh white
galvanize the neighbour's gutters
ache your teeth
you sit   blanket wrapped
39 in the kitchen waiting
for the pallid night
sky to change
at last   urine yellow
the sun fingers a space
in the blue spruce
and gloss drips
down veins and midribs
of empty leaves
you know the stillness
wakes the man
his arm needled
and weary from hunting
the night
an empty bed
your body
40 Hallstat
(Note view of glacier capped Dachstein. 11th. century Michaelskapelle
lies in a tiny hillside cemetery above the black lake.)
beyond immaculate
headstones   red begonias   votive lamps
the chapel
houses a thicket of bones
sorted anatomically
femur   tibia   radius   ulna
the skulls piled
lettered with name and life-span
painted with a cap of roses
an ivy wreath
nothing but a cross
earth worn globes and frames
dredged from soil
too steep   too precious
for departed flesh
to occupy for long
this charnel house displays
a redemption from the grave
the frugal necessity
of mountain
living
41 Doris Dorrie
translated from the German by Gustav A. Richar
The Beyond
Listen, Iris says and, giggling, reads to me from the newspaper: She
wrapped up her husband's severed penis, got into her car, drove aimlessly around until she finally threw the package into afield where, a
few hours later, it was found by a search party, was brought to the hospital
and reconnected. According to a spokesperson of the clinic all functions have
been restored; a brilliant surgical performance and a first in the annals of
medicine.
Keep still, I say, or else I'll cut something off you too.
Iris is splitting her sides with laughter. While waiting for her to stop, I
play with the scissors. Iris' hair is as fine as chick-down. In some places one
already sees bare spots because she had hit on the idea for her perm,
which gives her a somewhat frightened expression, as if every baby hair of
hers doubled up with fear at the sight of this world.
I can imagine men don't find the story that funny, I say.
Iris laughs all the more. I snip fine hairs off the nape of her neck.
I ask myself how did she do it. It's really rather difficult. It says here with
a kitchen knife, but no kitchen knife I know is that sharp.
Please, Iris.
Besides, he must have lain on his side otherwise one can't really get to it
Iris, not another word.
She seeks my eyes in her blotchy bathroom mirror. Her face is creased
as if she had just got out of bed.
Hey, Elke, do laugh again, she says and takes my hand, life goes on.
I smile so she is satisfied.
Don't move, I say.
A woman with scissors in her hand will never starve, my mother used to tell
us daughters time and again. In fact I did become a hairdresser, though I
have always hated to touch the hair of strangers. Since Veit isn't here
anymore, I have to cut hair again to survive. Today I put in an extra shift
in order to talk to him. Mrs. Mischek takes two hundred and fifty marks
for a seance. That's more than three haircuts. I got the tip about Mrs.
Mischek from old Mrs. Bosinger in our building, who receives messages through Mrs. Mischek from her mother, who died forty years
42 ago. The older one gets, the more one becomes a baby again, Mrs.
Bosinger tells me, one wants to get back in mother's arm.
When are you finished? calls Lars, Iris' friend, I've to go to the john.
He enters the bathroom, a big, tall man in a checkered flannel shirt. He
looks like one who would drive a bulldozer or fell trees, yet he composes
jingles for advertisements and soundtracks for computer games. Most of
the time he sits in front of the TV waiting for an inspiration and lives off the
money that Iris earns as a teacher.
Iris covers her head with a towel.
Not finished yet, she says. Here, read that. She hands Lars the article
she has just read to me.
We both watch his face as he reads. He makes a painful grimace and
hands back the newspaper.
You probably think it's very funny, you silly geese, he says, I can imagine
how terribly funny you think that is. Get out!
Obediently we go outside and wait until he has finished.
The hallway is dark and crammed with lopsided shelves, boxes, an old
cabinet. A surfboard hangs high above our heads.
Iris is lifting the towel. She sighs. It drives me crazy when he's at home
all day, she whispers. She looks at me. I envy you, you know.
Me? I say unbelievingly. Why should anyone envy me?
At least you really loved each other, Iris whispers in the dark hallway.
I wave my little hand mirror professionally behind her head. Iris turns to
and fro, smiles, nods, but I see that she is disappointed. Almost all women
are disappointed afterwards. Each one believes in becoming a totally different person, a being that she finally can love unconditionally. Then, in the
end, she is still the same, her hair just a bit shorter.
I sweep Iris' face with a soft brush to rid her of tiny fine hairs. She
shakes herself like a dog.
How much do I owe you? she says formally and gets up. I remove the
wrap from her.
Eighty, I say with a clear, strong voice.
Oh, Iris says, you have become expensive.
Life too.
We look at each other; our eyes become narrow.
Will you have another coffee? Iris says.
If I accept, the eighty marks will be easier on her, then she has the
feeling she is paying a friend.
I nod. With pleasure.
Hm, says Lars when Iris walks into the living room and shows him her new
haircut.
43 What do you mean, 'hm'?
No different from before, Lars says and turns back to the TV.
Iris rolls her eyes. We sit down side-by-side on the worn-out couch. The
coffee tastes bitter—the milk hardly whitens it, it's that strong. I will be
shaking with excitement when I'm at Mrs. Mischek's.
Lars watches a video recording of Bet you... A man with a walrus moustache and gloomy eyes has a bet that he can undress his wife, an inconspicuous person in a green trench coat, with a power-shovel. The man is
nervous. His performance was postponed several times because he got
nosebleeds from excitement. He climbs onto his monstrous orange-red
power-shovel, starts the engine, his wife positions herself with an extremely
serious and slightly frightened expression below the shovel's boom; he
moves the large grab above her, picks with it the hat from her head, pulls
off her shawl, then coat, blouse, and skirt. Once he hits her shoulder with
the grab; the wife does not bat an eyelid, although that must have been
extremely painful. In the end she stands there dressed in a transparent
margarine-yellow slip; her underwear shows through; her stomach is plainly
visible, her big breasts, the tires around her waist. She stands there, cold,
and pitiful to look at; her husband has won the bet; he has in fact undressed
his wife with the excavator within a few minutes; he climbs proudly from
his excavator; applause. Finally someone takes pity on the woman and
brings her her coat. Her husband walks toward her; they embrace; they
seem to be happy.
I imagine them practising in a barn at night in a totally quiet, dark
village.
Why didn't she at least wear a black slip? says Iris.
She's a dead loss, Lars says.
Of course, Iris says and brushes over her new haircut, black would have
looked better in any case.
But she was funnier this way.
Voyeur, Iris says bitingly.
Lars turns slowly toward her.
You look like a chicken taking flight, he says, grinning.
I still have an hour till my appointment with Mrs. Mischek and I go to a
cafe in the modern apartment complex where she lives. It's warm in the
autumn sun; white-covered tables are standing outside; a little water fountain is gurgling.
I sit down and close my eyes. Immediately the well-known pain of memory
flows through my veins like a green-metallic fluid. I can feel it on my tongue;
it tastes remotely of blood.
I open my eyes. A man with grey hair, grey stubble, and a no-longer-
young, but boyish-looking, tanned face has taken a seat at the next table.
44 He is wearing khaki pants and a red shirt, socks and—unfortunately—
sandals. The sandals disappoint me. I can't stand men who wear sandals. Yet they are rumoured to be good lovers and dependable husbands,
a customer of mine who works as a saleswoman in a shoe store told me
recently. Men in running shoes, however, are fickle and unimaginative
in bed. Veit was the opposite.
Today for once I am wearing the spike-heeled shoes of bright-red suede
which I once bought for him; he liked me in spike-heeled shoes, especially
red ones; he called them fuck-me-shoes. Now I wear them only when I feel
particularly disheartened. They force me to walk upright and face life.
The man orders. Naturally the waitress went immediately to him, although I was here first.
He runs his fingers through his hair, leans back, grins at the waitress, a
pale, slim girl with short red hair. She is still smiling when she turns toward
me, then her smile disappears as if it has been snuffed out; absent-
mindedly she takes my order.
The man removes a pack of cigarettes from his pants pocket, shakes the
pack; it is empty. He crumples it, yawns with wide-open mouth, rubs his
hands over his chest. His movements remind me of a big dog.
I like him. For a long time I have not liked a man as much as I like him.
Except for the sandals. But I decide to ignore them. I would go with this
man. Yes, really.
Surprised, I smile in his direction, but he takes no notice of me. I lean
back with an abrupt movement so that my leather jacket creaks, toss the
hair from my face with an exaggerated gesture. He doesn't react.
His coffee arrives. Again he smiles broadly at the waitress, tells her
something; she pulls a packet of cigarettes from under her apron and gives
him one cigarette.
Without a word she sets my coffee in front of me. When she has disappeared inside the cafe, I take the teaspoon from the saucer and drop it.
He turns his head. I smile at him briefly before I bend down to pick up
the spoon. When I surface again, he has taken a newspaper from a neighbouring table, leafs through the paper, begins to read.
I don't know how many women apart from me find men who read
newspapers particularly attractive, but I like the peculiar absorption that
overcomes them, that rapture in their faces when they read the sports
section.
Suddenly he begins to laugh. His white teeth sparkle. He leans back and
laughs and laughs.
I thought men in general don't find the story at all funny, I say.
He turns toward me, surprised. I make a gesture as if I would cut off my
finger.
Perhaps I'm a masochist, he says and looks me over. He has gentle
45 brown eyes. He rubs his hand over his stubble. And you, do you find it
funny?
Actually, no, I say.
Well, everyone finds something else funny.
Hm, I nod. What is there to reply? Our barely-started conversation
threatens to dry up.
Finns would probably laugh themselves silly, he says.
Finns?
He shrugs. Finns are crazy. Gloomy and brutal. But they laugh a lot,
especially in winter when they're all drunk.
I smile, say nothing, am no longer certain if I really like him. He moves
his chair a little toward me. There's a Finnish fairy tale of a farmer and the
devil's son—I didn't know the devil has a son.
In Finland he has one.
Are you a Finn?
No, do I look like one?
I hesitate because one must hesitate here, because it's the opening
moment when he begins to flirt with me.
Most Finns are quite ugly, I say.
This you should shout from the rooftops. He laughs with wide-open
mouth.
What happened with the devil's son and the farmer?
Oh, yes, he says and leans forward. Would you really like to hear the
story?
A rhetorical question. I nod.
Again he rubs both hands over his chest. A farmer is frying a sausage in
the middle of the forest, he begins, when the hungry son of the devil walks
by and asks Where did you get the sausage? That's no sausage, the farmer
says, I have cut off my own and am frying it now.
I don't turn a hair.
May I taste? says the devil's son. The farmer gives him a piece; the
devil's son likes it, so he cuts off his own. After that he doesn't feel well at
all. Crying, he limps home and tells his father what has happened. The
farmer runs home, says to his wife who was just baking bread, take off your
clothes.
He takes a tiny pause. I put on a poker face and show no reaction.
The farmer puts on his wife's skirts, he continues, and stands at the
oven; his wife in his pants lies down in their bed. A few minutes later the
devil arrives. Where is your husband? he says to the woman at the oven.
In bed, she murmurs. The devil runs into the bedroom and rips the
pants off the man who lies in bed. By God, he says, he has really done it.
Did it hurt? The farmer or rather his wife shakes her head. The devil
runs home where his son is still howling in pain and hits him. Don't
46 make such a fuss, he says.
Expectantly, he looks at me.
Hm, I say.
Not funny? he says with a feigned sad expression.
I guess, I say, if I were to live in darkness for half a year, I would find that
funny at some time too.
He tilts his head and screws up his eyes a little.
What's the matter?
Oh, he says slowly, I'm asking myself what I would think of a complete
stranger who would tell me such a story.
What would you think of him?
Not a great deal, he says, really not a great deal, that's for certain.
I know it is a trick, but I still like him. That's the first time since Veit's
death that I still like a man after five minutes. I feel how I am turning shy; at
the same time I am stretching my naked legs with the red spike-heeled
shoes in his direction.
And now I would like to scrounge a cigarette from you, he says.
I don't smoke.
Too bad, he says, grinning and stretching.
We arrive at a point from where we can't move on if I don't take the
initiative. I believe I have some change, I say.
Oh no, he says, I don't buy cigarettes anymore, otherwise I'd chainsmoke again; I scrounge only and hope for my moral inhibition level.
That doesn't seem to be very high, I say drawling slightly.
And? he says promptly and flashes his eyes.
Smilingly I lift my brows and withstand his look.
From the corner of my eye I see a slim woman with medium-length
grey-blonde hair walking toward his table.
He turns away from me and stretches his hand toward her. She puts her
hand into his, but he shakes his head, drops her hand, keeps his one
outstretched until she understands and removes a pack of cigarettes from
her purse and lays it in his hand. He lights one; the woman sits down, kisses
him on the cheek; he lets it happen.
He does not look at me; he does not look at her; he takes up the newspaper and reads on. For that I detest him.
The woman looks around, holds her chin in her hands. The wedding
ring on her finger sparkles in the sun. She looks older than he, but they are
probably the same age. What appears attractive in his face signals the
beginning decline in hers. A certain tiredness around her eyes, a telling
flabbiness other neck, her cheeks, a disappearance of contours that not
even the most expensive cream, the most refreshing sleep can arrest
anymore. She appears terribly vulnerable.
She tugs at his shirt sleeve. He does not look up. She says something
47 in a language that I cannot understand. He does not listen. She talks on
in this language that sounds a bit like the Pig Latin we invented as children. Many Us and As and Is. It is Finnish, no doubt. The woman falls
silent. He does not look up. She lights a cigarette and presses her lips
together. She stares blankly into the distance and blows the smoke slowly
out through her nose.
Mrs. Mischek opens the door, beaming. Greetings from Grandma, she
trumpets and drags me into her tiny apartment. It smells faintly of cabbage.
Your grandma was on my tape and she sends her best wishes, Mrs.
Mischek calls in high spirits and scrutinizes me curiously. She is small and
in her late fifties; she wears an op-art caftan from the seventies that makes
one slightly dizzy if one looks at it for too long; she has tied her brown hair
in a pony tail. Take off your things, take off your things!
I'd rather keep on my leather jacket, without it I feel so vulnerable.
Energetic like a rubber ball she bounces ahead into her living room. An
old-fashioned cassette recorder—with it Mrs. Mischek apparently receives voices from the beyond—stands on the dining table.
Don't be shy, she says and presses me into a chair. Heavy gold-rimmed
glasses hang around her neck; she puts them on and peers at me with her
small green eyes.
You made the appointment with me last week and that same night the
first messages arrived.
On your tape recorder, I say to say something.
So many messages, she says without paying attention to me, the beyond has so much to tell you.
I smile politely.
The beyond is funny, Mrs. Mischek says, a cheerful, fascinating world.
You can believe me. She jumps up and stretches her arms into the air.
Children, live! our friends in the beyond call to us. You are a guest on this
world for only five minutes. True or not?
She looks at me expectantly. Yes, I murmur and secretly curse old Mrs.
Bosinger. Mrs. Mischek is crazy, of course. She sits down again. Only now
do I see the picture of the Madonna above her head on the wall. We can
trust our friends from the beyond, Mrs. Mischek says, they protect us,
nobody is alone. When I drive on the freeway, I say, I now watch carefully for radar traps, and when the lights on the instrument panel begin
flashing like crazy, I know to drive slower past the radar speed check.
She stretches her hand toward mine, but lets it come to rest on the lace
tablecloth, a few centimetres from my hand.
You don't believe one word, she says surprisingly quietly. That happens
to everyone in the beginning. I didn't believe it either, and already she is
beaming again. When I was twelve years old, they got in touch with me
48 the first time. Irmi, you'll go to Paris, you'll meet an older man and return home in a white sports car, they said. My father locked me in the
basement for two days to drive that rubbish from my mind. In 1954 I
went to Paris, met my George, and at twenty-four I arrived with him in a
white Karman Ghia at my parents' door—So there. High-spirited, she
shakes her pony tail like a bucking horse. Well. And now to you.
She pulls an exercise book from under the recorder and opens it.
Greetings from Grandma, she reads slowly like a first-grader, take care
of your cervical vertebrae. And become quieter. Not so nervous.
She looks up and shifts her golden glasses. Does that say anything to
you?
I shrug and look furtively at my watch. True or not? insists Mrs. Mischek.
Yes, I say, it's true. Who doesn't have problems in the neck, who isn't
nervous?
Mrs. Mischek reads on. Seize the opportunity in spring. It's worth your
while. Changes in May.
Two hundred and fifty marks for that rubbish, I moan inwardly, a whole
day I worked for that.
Now comes something strange, something I don't quite understand,
Mrs. Mischek says, I don't speak any English. Only French, but that fluently. Oh la la, I tell you. The caller did not identify himself. But a male voice.
I straighten slightly. My leather jacket gives off a little squeak. Mrs.
Mischek watches me carefully.
The message says: I em krasy, krasy for filing. Or something like that.
I'm crazy, crazy for feeling, Patsy Cline, I stutter and feel how I pale; my
bones become butter. Mrs. Mischek smiles triumphantly.
Veit loved old country music—Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, but especially Patsy Cline. He drove me crazy, as he listened from morning to
night to her melancholy songs of lost lovers and squandered life. What do
you get when you listen to Patsy Cline played backwards? You get back
your fellow, your children, your car, and the mortgage of your house is
already paid too. I smile and at the same time I miss Veit with the impact of
a falling pear that hits me in the middle of my chest. I double up with pain.
What did I tell you, Mrs. Mischek trumpets and leans again over her
exercise book. Water warm, no fear, she reads.
The water was warm, the ocean, where he drowned, I whisper.
She shuts her exercise-book and grins happily. You see, you see.
He didn't say more?
More? Indignantly she shakes her ponytail. Most people don't get any
message what-so-ever for months, years. Not a word.
Could I perhaps hear him once? I point at the cassette recorder.
You wouldn't understand him, you need many years of training for that,
Mrs. Mischek says.
49 Please. Now I am stretching my hand toward hers on the blue exercise book. She pulls slightly away. Please, I plead.
She raises her brows and puts the cassette recorder on her lap. She
plays the tape forwards and backwards at top speed; it's rustling, scratching, whistling. There, she says, smiling delightedly, there, very clearly:
water warm, no fear.
I didn't understand anything.
Water warm, no fear, repeats Mrs. Mischek, water warm, no fear. Water
warm, no fear.
I hear nothing but tape noise.
Water warm, no fear; water warm, no fear, Mrs. Mischek babbles like a
wound-up doll.
Stop it! I shout.
Mrs. Mischek puts the cassette recorder back on the table.
No wailing here, she says businesslike before I can even begin. The
beyond doesn't give us any reason for wailing. Everyone is protected; everyone is escorted.
She gets up. I put two hundred and fifty marks on the table.
Mrs. Mischek skips ahead of me to the door.
Call me again, she says, beaming, and be careful with your vertebrae.
The trees pose quietly and unmoving along the street. People continue
their lives. Dogs lift their legs just like before. My dented, sticker-covered
car still stands in the parking lot that is reserved for customers of a bank.
I stagger toward it and only after I get into the car, do I see that a dark-
green BMW has placed itself behind me. An elderly couple is sitting in it. I
get out, keep the car door open with my knee and gesticulate. Could you be
so kind and move over?
A bald man in a loden jacket grows from the BMW like in a cartoon; he
rises to his full height and buttons up his jacket.
Mutely he points to the sign which states that only customers of the
bank can park here.
Yes, I call, shrug apologetically, I know.
The man makes no move to drive his car away. He rocks a little on his
toes and stares at me meaningfully.
You can have my parking space now, I offer, just let me drive out.
He shakes his head.
May I ask why not?
So you will learn once and for all, he says slowly.
I sigh. Are you a self-appointed police officer?
Don't start with that.
Impatiently I bang my hand on my car roof.
Now, please, just let me drive away peacefully, I say, and even smile.
50 He shakes his head.
I got it once and for all. I will never ever park here again, I call angrily,
of what concern is it to you anyway?
That's not the question.
What is it then?
That you, too, have to obey generally accepted rules.
I slam my car door shut and walk slowly toward him. The clouds reflect
in the fender of his highly polished car. A woman with backcombed hair
and white-painted face leans from her car door.
Don't get carried away! she calls to the man in the loden jacket.
What do you want? I say very quietly. Come on, tell me. What do you
really want? What's your problem?
He looks hatefully at me. I'm fed up that people like you toy with us
whenever they like.
Just look at you! the woman calls from inside the car.
I feel how I begin to simmer. Not boiling, just simmering.
Only in Germany, I murmur.
Did I hear right? he shouts hysterically.
It's always the same, scolds his wife, if nothing else comes into your
mind you lament about Germany.
Only in this damn country do other people mind how one parks! I shout
so that my voice breaks. All my anger, all my hate against this world shoots
into my head like a flash. How one parks, how one looks, how one thinks—
nothing but little watch dogs! Don't you have any other problems? Is it too
boring for you at home alone with your wife?
Don't get personal. You impertinent so-and-so, the man yells, his head
crimson with rage. Only because we are so tolerant with people like you—
Scum! scolds his wife.
Fascist! I roar.
I'll sue you! he shrieks and walks threateningly toward me. I won't stand
for that!
I take a few steps backwards, but he doesn't put me to flight. With a
tremendous leap I didn't believe my body capable of, I jump onto his car
hood. Vaguely I see the pale, startled face of his wife through the tinted
windshield. She opens her mouth wide.
Watch me, I shout, watch me so you have something you can sue me for.
Like a lunatic I stamp with my spike-heeled shoes all over the hood so that
it soon looks as if a salvo from a machine gun had hit it. And another hole
and another hole and another hole. I turn round, jump, stamp on the car like
in a techno-dance; I throw back my head, angry tears run over my cheeks
the sky is white and empty above me.
Veit, I call, damn it, come back!
51 Kyoung-Hoon Shin two poems
Uncle Tom Thompson
Wasn't any sudden illness
or crescendo of a cough
that started some years ago.
We encircle him, the three of us.
If we had joined hands, wouldn't have been nothing
to stop me from laughing hysterical.
"Peaceful" is how Father would come to remember it.
Everything I know about him coming after.
He for sure hated pictures. Me the album maker in the family always
fighting to put a frame around him. He was never rude when I woke him
from a nap with a shutter-click or the time he climbed the ladder to fix
the roof and found my good-eye trained on his floating head.
Asked him about it one time. Said he didn't like the idea on account of
being tricked into being someone else. I have whole albums full of shots:
cut off at the shoulders; backs of head; blurred fingers moving up; a
speck standing by the lake; hammering; sanding; eating a sandwich one-
handed, his eyes unfocused on a point outside the lens border.
The only picture he stood still for was the one with me. Father handled
my camera like it got hot and cold on him and all he needed was a safe
place to hold it. He said "smile" and we did. Awful really. My pigeon toes
converging like magnets, my dress drained of colour; Uncle Tom all made
up in his suit, an upturned crease where a cigarette would be on any
other day.
52 Our first Christmas together he let me in on his special project for Mak-
Soon: a cutting board with legs that could roll and lock. Him talking all the
way through it... Got to sand it as thick as the meat of my forearm.
Here... Should stand right up to where my right leg stops. On the inside... Anything more than my pointing finger for the grooves would be too
much. See?
Never saw him measure anything with what looked like a ruler. Mak-
Soon, by way of explaining, told me that "he know his body like a woman
know her body." Vintage Mak-Soon is what I'd come to call it.
Christmas morning he wheels this thing out. Mak-Soon nods. Says
"thank you" in perfect English. Uncle Tom swearing, leaving the room.
A couple of days later when she was cleaning some fish on it he stormed
in with his saw and cut the cutting board legs down to ankle high. Fish,
knife, blood all flying. Mak-Soon crying, hugging him to bone. Thank you.
Thank you. Uncle Tom's eyebrows full of wood dust. His grin just as full.
Fuckers! You're all against me! Goddamn fuckers! Is what he's saying
now, Father laying his arm across his chest, beads of sweat bubbling up
across Uncle Tom's forehead, his lips so dry they buckle into ridges,
locking together perfect when his mouth is closed like fingers in a prayer
fist.
Four minutes later he tells us that his mind is crazy,
filled with his dying.
Says sorry. Says he loves us all very much. Says he'll be O.K.
Pauses long enough to ask me:
What the Hell so funny girl?
In-between.
53 Mak-Soon Kim
I come to the point where our yard ends,
the cliff's edge a visible boundary of rock and dirt, spaces
filled by rising sound.
I see the boundaries I couldn't then:
your hand stretched out across my back
a foot from touching;
the words you'd fire quickly,
as if against your will,
my name most times,
and other cautions.
The day my calf was thicker than your whole hand could circle
these warnings eased out of your mouth,
were offered while hanging laundry
unseparated from the clothes pins in your teeth
your clean wet palms—
Uncle building stairs only the second time my leg split open.
Sometimes we'd work our way down the hill as if spilled water,
struggling to find the easiest path,
reaching the shore to see the sounds
of our sleeping.
Only then would you speak to me of a past,
your face becoming unwrinkled,
ironed out by the sudden horizon
and your carefully broken English.
Kim Mak-Soon. I think about your name often these days. So comfortably strange when I heard it the first time, as if its meaning would come if
I had only long enough to wait.
It didn't.
54 Eight years old I resorted to saying it out loud over and over again:
Kim Mak-Soon Kim MakSoon
KimMakSoonKimMakSoonKimMakSoon...a. trick I learned to beat the
sense out of words that I wanted to torture. Unravel. Unmake. It was a
matter of survival. Mine. If I said it fast enough, I could claim it:
Come back soon. (A hollow and temporary victory really.)
At twelve and a half I went the other way. Drew it out slowly like two old
lovers undressing each other in the dark...waiting for any sign of recognition before it entered me.
Kim Mak-Soon. It refused to stick and melt with its sound. A smooth rock
disguised as hard candy. My lips pursed as I let my tongue roll it around
my mouth.
55 Darryl Whetter
Profanity Issues,—S.
Russell Metz stands in front of a large, half-empty bookcase, barely
aware of the index finger he draws back and forth between dry lips.
Liquor boxes full of books swell and groan at his feet. He reaches
into a purple box of Crown Royal and pulls out three paperbacks. The squat
books rest against one hip as he traces the other hand over frayed spines
and the half-full shelves. He doesn't look away, let alone move, until the
phone's third ring.
"Mr. Metz, it's Principal Wellsley, I'm afraid we've got a problem with
Spenser—"
"Is Spenser hurt?"
"No, no, he's fine. It's profanity Mr. Metz."
Russell's shoulders lower with relaxation. He resumes unpacking as he
listens.
"Spenser has profanity issues."
"Really, I've always found old Sir Edmund above board on that sort of
thing." Russell presses a finger into the spine of the Spenser volume he
shelved just minutes ago.
"I've taken time out, Mr. Metz, to phone you about your son. He's been
swearing again."
"I see. The F-word? That sort of problem?"
"Exactly."
"Say it or write it?"
"He was overheard using the word freely in the playground."
"I've endeavoured to promote oral culture."
"Mr. Metz, I'm aware of Spenser's current challenges at home—"
'Technically that's Dr. Metz."
"I'm aware of Spenser's home situation. When could you get away from
work?"
"Name a time."
The phone is tossed aside into a deep, yellow couch. Russell crosses
back to the bookshelves, dropping the three books face-up in the middle of
an empty shelf.
Spenser should arrive shortly. Russell steps away to brush his teeth.
Bags of food need to be opened. Vegetables washed and cut. He exits
without looking at a single photograph.
56 "Hey Dad, Home," Spenser hollers, shutting the apartment door behind him.
Russell doesn't mention the shouting. Spenser still announces himself
as if he were entering the William Street house, calling to a father off in an
upstairs bathtub or a mother at the basement workbench.
"So, the mail?" Spenser asks.
"No contracts from Harvard, no big bills."
"You really apply to Harvard?"
"No, no positions. Not a one. And you, my guy, want to talk about school?"
"Understaffed. Lacks resources and clear direction. Short-sighted—"
"Okay my little parrot. Nice work. How about you and school, today?"
"Fuck," Spenser confesses melodramatically, whispering it hoarsely from
the back of his throat and spreading his hands like an impeached but resolute politician.
"You see the inconveniences here?"
"I yam what I yam," Spenser replies, aping a Popeye he's never seen.
"Marks aren't slipping?"
"Ahh, my friend, gravity weakens in the stratosphere," Spenser retorts in his best cartoon deadpan.
"Fix your brain a drink? Milk straight up, cookies on the side?"
"Coke?"
"C'mon, I got a reputation."
"Milk me. Can I go on-line?"
"Sure, I've had my phone excitement for the day. Print my Outreach
stuff while you're at it."
Russell reaches into the fridge to the chaotic squeals of a modem making
its connection. Sounds reminiscent of sirens chasing a horny pig emit from
the long, divided room that is both Spenser's bedroom and Russell's office.
An old, nicked pocket door stands freely at one-third down the length of the
room. The scratched brown expanse stays erect with two, thick, eight-inch
ropes running the remaining space between dusty door-top and freshly
painted ceiling. A widely-striped, double-sided purple and green cloth hangs
to fill the distance between wooden door and pale wall. Russell pushes aside
the bright, satiny flap to hand Spenser a plate and glass.
Returning to stove and sink, Russell stems spinach and pierces sausages. Hydrates a pilaf and sets out glasses, plates.
Kim and Russell had various problems. Young marriage, early child. Russell
finishing his Ph.D., Kim articling, then jockeying for junior partner or at
least a corner office. Infant Spenser was bounced on knees over briefs and
essays, passed off between court appearances and night classes. They'd
survived the transition from idealists in wool and denim to young profes-
57 sionals with palpitating hearts and no sleep. Sure, they no longer tore
open packages of rubber kitchen gloves and brought each other off standing in front of the sink, fingers and skin squeaking delight, but they were
a team, united, protean. They were Spencer's.
"Let's be clear, here, Dr. Metz," Principal Wellsley begins as Russell settles
into a brown chair, "Spenser's profanity is an issue of policy, not ideology."
"Nice, dispense with the big issues right off the top," Russell quips
with his eyebrows raised, knowing he sounds a little too muck like a
Robin Williams-George Castanza blend.
"Spenser breaks the rules. And corrupts younger children while doing
it"
'Whoa, whoa, whoa, my son isn't pushing dope, he's speaking."
"Cursing."
"Exercising freedom."
"Encouraging rudeness, insolence—"
"Free thinking, articulation, self-empowerment—"
"Disorder, disobedience—"
"Nazi," Russell sums up.
'What?"
"It's where this stichomythia is going. Censorship vs. Freedom, sooner
or later one of us is going to throw in the big wild card. You want to control
speech, thought, beliefs. I could say you're a Nazi. You, on the other
hand, will tell me that my freedom spreads hatred, fuck is not far from
nigger, I'm pro-hate, ergo Nazi."
"I can't believe what I'm hearing."
"Sorry. Stichomythia—ping-pong dialogue." Russell demonstratively
flutters one hand back and forth between them.
"Mr. Metz," Wellsley tries until Russell's eyebrows and finger tips
shoot up prohibitively. "Metz!" Wellsley snaps back anew, flaring a red
vein on the side of his forehead and exhaling forcibly, "Let's refocus."
Russell knows Principal Wellsley to be a devout Christian, a white-haired
man with cheap slacks and too rectangular shoes, a finger-on-the-but-
ton-of-school-prayer kind of guy who smells like the interior of his large
car. The strong afternoon sun marks out the ghost of a cross on his
cream-coloured wall. The shiny silhouette of glossier paint is unmistakable. The surrounding, faded cream admits these walls were once hung
with Christian faith.
Russell leans forward and softens his voice. 'Tell me how it's wrong."
Exasperated, Wellsley reaches for a red file folder at his elbow, Once-
opened, Russell can clearly read Profanity down its tab. Each inside face is
covered with overlapping 3x5, lined, yellow Post-Its. These thin, yellow
shingles are layered with Wellsley's slightly maniacal handwriting. Wellsley
58 slides his fingers through the dense collection of yellow, peeling one up
and passing it delicately across his desk.
I know what you are, you're a fucking cunt-licker.
—Tom Protter, age 6, Ms. Langman's class
October 4th, 1997
Russell calms a little with the note in hand, notices for the first time the
little ship's steering wheel clock and pen set on the desk, the framed portrait of Wellsley and his sizeable brood. His wife wears large, red beads for
earrings and smiles widely in an oatmeal bear and snowflake sweater.
'This," Russell sums up while waving the note, "this is a problem of
disrespect, not diction."
Wellsley's thumb and forefingers are already poised under a corner of
their next exhibit. He stares into Russell's eyes and rips a note free from
the others, passing it over with a smug set to his sizeable jaw.
"You're not going to shock me," Russell states, exchanging notes.
Suck my shithole.
—Mike Strachen, age 11, Mr. Brander's class
April 17, 1996
"Little Mike has a gift. No, stop," Russell says with a palm outstretched
towards Wellsley's next specimen. 'We're not here to discuss Mike Strachen
or young Tommy. These are examples of children being confrontational or
verbally abusive, that's not Spenser."
"Foul language is foul language."
"And circular logic is circular logic. Lef s not exchange tautologies, hmm?"
"I'd hoped you were here to help Spenser."
"Help him to what?"
"Clean up his language."
"Principal Wellsley, life is sometimes filthy, so is language. Spenser articulating himself is some of the best help Spenser can get."
"For his parents' divorce you mean?"
Russell's tongue darts to his lips. "Free your mind, Mr. Wellsley," he
replies, rising, "and the rest will follow."
Russell hasn't stormed out of a principal's office in fifteen years.
Jerking open the rear door to his apartment, Russell lays his toffee-
coloured leather briefcase aside and heads for the other door, the door
with the mail slot. Russell now lives in the penumbra between the crushing work of his recently completed Ph.D. and the uncertainty of job interviews. He's hunted possible positions, queried department heads,
59 and smothered the world with his curriculum vitae and what must surely
be glowing letters of recommendation. Scraping together a living by
coaching writing skills, Russell hangs on the mail every day, waiting
hopefully for each new week, dreading the occasional holiday Monday.
Working from home, Russell can now recognise the size of an envelope
from its sound dropping through the slot and hitting the floor. The deep,
plangent splash of a 9 x 11, the quick plink of the Business Envelope.
Russell stands over the pile of today's mail, pausing for just a second
like a ten-year-old selecting the first bite of Halloween candy. Crouching, Russell sorts, rises and turns back into the room with one fluid motion. University of British Columbia. Small envelope, heavens. The large
ones return your CV
Already seated by the phone, Russell confirms his hunch before speed-
dialing a number.
"Kim, two minutes."
"Yeah, shoot."
"Could we switch weeks end of next month? You know there's only one
reason I'd ask, interview with UBC."
'Vancouver, eh?"
"Last time I checked."
"Lotus Land." Vancouver, she continues entirely with intonation, 3500
kilometres apart. Vancouver, prohibitive rents and less cash to fly.
Ten years into a ten-year plan. Russell is a mess. His research was
strong. His teaching effective. He should feel poised, the tenure-track
job he has prepared himself for tirelessly will now cut him to pieces. For
a time it was easier not knowing where they would settle. Kingston for
the Ph.D. and then... The perfect scapegoat for never planting a garden,
digging a composite heap, or bringing a dog home from the pound.
Bouregois purchases like nicer laundry hampers or a new garbage can
were more easily put off. And yeah, without a doubt it'd be a sacrifice for
Kim to switch firms and cities. Russell felt guilty and tender.
But Kim anchored. The discussions about her not wanting to leave and
he having to move began trailing off or stopping short. Issues came up.
Russell's extra fifteen pounds were called into question. His income was
often clarified. Why have another child when they couldn't afford private
school for Spenser? Thirty suddenly felt like the fulcrum of life and talk
only accomplished so much. Once post-structurally aware, each of them
had now fully discovered the indisputability of their feelings for Spense.
Here it was, love so simple. She could piss him off, he could disappoint
her, as did the boy, but each of them would always forgive Spenser. They
agreed to joint custody without the drain of a trial.
Russell tries correcting assignments. Nothing helps. Not a pint of stout.
Not Nina Simone's buttery vocals. The sentence fragments, subject-verb
60 disagreements and split infinitives stab and taunt. The pattern of
Wellsley's insipid necktie recurs behind Russell's eyes. A paint-gloss
cross flickers on the wall. Tapping his computer awake he reaches for
the local fax directory. The screen lights up.
Russell A. Metz, Ph.D.
1-149 Collingwood St., Kingston ON K7L 3B5
ph. /fax (613) 548-3805
Dear Kingston,
All choice of words is slang. It marks a class...
And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets.
—George Eliot
As soon as you deal with sex explicitly, you are forced
to choose between the language of the nursery, the
gutter and the anatomy class.
—C.S. Lewis
My son's school principal is punishing him for swearing. Darling
C.S. Lewis (who gave us the
Narnia stories) is right, of course,
subjects often demand a specific
discourse. Our so-called 'swear'
words serve many subjects with an
elasticity, brevity or humour otherwise unmatched in our lexicon.
To pretend, as the self-righteous
do and will, that language should
be prohibited is to deny not only
self-expression and linguistic flourish, but also class. Forbid swearing and we forbid the speech of labour, often in its most demanding
and isolated forms. To ask a soldier, forester or miner to express
him/herself without swearing is to
beg a lie, a counterfeit, to turn our
back on reality for the sake of an
absurd and affected delicacy of the
ears. Principals and school boards
continue to punish 'swearing' while
wondering why their schools have
racial problems.
The profane Big Seven (fAck,
sh!t, c*ck, cAnt, @ss, b@stard,
b!tch) represent an entirely white,
Anglo-Saxon, Protestant set of prohibitions. Words evolve from other
words. In the case of the Big
Seven, we encounter words artificially freezing them, preserving
their locality and halting their inevitable globalization. The three big
contenders for the origin of our
fKck, the Latin futuere ('to strike'),
the German ficken ('to strike') and
the Old Norse fukja ('to drive'),
61 The Kingston Whig Standard, A  17
seem, I admit, in little evidence in
our homes, schoolyards, locker-
rooms and factories. The continued prohibition oifhck, however,
is a self-evident reminder of just
who populates our ruling class.
When our principals forbid words,
they forbid cultures. Canada is an
independent nation, "strong and
free." Why, then, do we continue
Medieval, Anglo-Saxon prohibitions on language simply because
it was done in the past? How have
oppression, denial, disingenuous-
ness, omission and naivete become values we want to spend
huge sums of money impressing
upon our children?
We might laugh at past absurdities such as Dr. J. S. Farmer's lawsuit with his own publishers to
print certain words in his turn-of-
the-century A Dictionary of Slang.
Those of us who are fully evolved
share a chuckle over Thomas
Bowdler's 1818 The Family Shakespeare in which "those words and
expressions are omitted which
cannot with propriety be read
aloud in a family." The omission of
fAck from Harold Wentworth and
Stuart Berg flexner's 1963 Dictionary of American Slang, however,
so laughably fails its assignment
we are forced to admit the folly of
quarantining a few words.
Discouraging self- expression
in our children for the sake of the
status-quo, regardless of the absurdity of its premises or the seriousness of their consequences,
constitutes a much clearer example of the propaganda and censorship we overpay journalists to uncover on Parliment Hill and state
capitals around the world. Our radios and newspapers overflow with
rants about the dishonesty of today's leaders yet our school principals forbid expression and demand a blind adherence to unjustifiable rules. The Red Book is full
of sh!t and we all bought it.
Schoolyard profanity does, I
admit, surround schoolyard problems such as aggression, racism,
and sexism, but these are deeper
problems of hatred, not diction.
Why are we so afraid of context?
Let's stop teaching a fraction of the
language and blindly, destructively,
prohibiting its remainder. Jonathan
Swift reminds us that "oaths are
the children of fashion." Let's
teach our children a little fashion
sense.
—Russell Metz, Ph.D.
62 "What are you thinking?" Kim demands, thrusting the open newspaper at Russell as she brushes past into the apartment.
"Morning Kim, you look great."
"Yeah, it's my fucking fashion sense. What are you doing?"
"Making a point. And coffee, want some?"
"No, you're not. Yes. Little milk."
"I haven't forgotten."
Kim sprawls into a kitchen chair, tucking a foot under the opposite thigh.
The briskness of her pin-striped jacket and short skirt is slightly undercut
by flamboyant, frilly cuffs. Kicking off the other shoe, Kim makes no attempt to disguise her survey of the kitchen.
"Is it worth it, really worth it Russell?" she asks, taking an offered cup in
both hands. "Oh, rent's not bad, I'll be fine for—"
"Stop...Think you can give me a kiss without going to pieces?"
"Depends. Tongue?"
"Bastard."
She closes her eyes as they kiss dryly on the lips.
"He's thirteen. Things are going to really start for him soon. Think of
the stigma—parents, other teachers. I don't know whether your little rant
will get him beat up by the school thugs or martyred."
"Hey, c'mon," Russell tries, encircling her forearm with his hand. "Thugs
don't read."
"This isn't a clever sophomore prank," Kim replies, jerking her arm free
and nodding again at the newspaper. "This could catch up with him."
"Going to lawyer lunches and lawyer parties you must occasionally meet
someone with a passing interest in justice."
"Don't start.. .Yeah, Russell, you're right. You really are. His principal's a
prick in polyester and a few intelligent readers will agree with you. But I just
don't want Spense pre-judged. Oh, Spenser Metz-Holbrook, trouble."
"So he should plea-bargain. Do the time—"
"It's not Milhaven."
"It's not right."
"Ifs public school."
Russell's smile drops. "I'm sure fuck is equally forbidden at Middle Lake."
'Touche. I should go. I thought I was coming over to shove the paper
down your throat. I'm sorry, Russ, you are right, but only the lonely and the
strong like trouble."
Early next morning Russell sits at the computer, glancing over the UBC
English Department web site, searching out the publications of each faculty member. As Dr. Olde himself suggests in... I know I'm not alone in
the belief that.... The slowly changing web pages give him plenty of opportunity to glance up at a framed photograph of he and Kim seated
63 together in an Adirondack chair. Wrapping him from behind with both
arms and feet, Kim smiles at the camera while pulling Russell's ear with
her teeth. He just can't be single again, his dating skills are all pre-VCR.
The front door opens. A familiar weight drops to the floor. "Spense?"
Russell yells towards the entrance-way. 'That's the one."
"You feeling okay?" Russell asks, stepping out of the office.
"Fine."
"And you're here because...?"
"Suspended." Spenser turns to the kitchen, practising that adolescent male gait and grimace of perpetual hunger.
'Whoa, hold the team," Russell stops Spenser with a hand to his chest,
"I'd like to hear what happened."
"I don't think Wellsley found your editorial very enlightening."
"You didn't do anything, there were no other—"
"Called down to his office first thing this morning. Tour behaviour, as
bad as it is, has come under renewed attention. This behaviour will not be
valorized.'"
"What the!? I'll impale him. Valorized? Tin-eared fuck, I'll burn him at
the stake. Spense, this isn't you, not anymore, your Principal's got problems he's taking out on you. I won't let him."
Russell paces the kitchen, absently rubbing his unshaven whiskers.
"Shut down the computer for me," Russell requests while darting into
his room to change.
"You going down to put him right?"
The bathroom sink is filled.
"Plan on being back this afternoon."
"Aww, my soaps."
"He sees me now," Russell declares, barging towards the desk of the principal's flustered secretary.
"And you are...?"
"Loud and mean, Russell Metz, father of Spenser Metz-Holbrook. You'll
find him at the end of your List of the Gratuitously Punished."
"I'm afraid Principal Wellsley's in a meeting."
"Interrupt him. This is an emergency.
"He's with someone from The Board."
"Not anymore."
The secretary glances nervously at the principal's closed door.
Russell crosses to the door and raises his knuckles to knock. Glancing
back he quickly asks, 'Which one of us introduces me?"
"Principal Wellsley," she says into a speaker-phone, "I'm sorry to interrupt but Dr. Metz is here with an emergency."
"I'm coming out," a warbly voice replies.
64 Russell retreats just a few inches from the door.
Wellsley tries to slip out casually, a pharmacist's palm already raised
at Metz. Wellsley has that pale, corpulent flesh which looks simultaneously antiseptic and germ-ridden.
"Spenser is coming back this afternoon," Russell fires first, "I'm not here
to debate the lunacy, the cruelty, of this suspension. Minimize your losses
and take him back."
"Dr. Metz, this decision has been made."
"Hostile nations don't have to meet to remake it. Understand me clearly,
Wellsley, I'm warning you, don't punish me through my son."
"The School didn't renew attention to Spenser's behaviour but The School
has to deal with the example it sets. Your belligerent tone—"
"I'm done talking. One last chance. He comes back at noon, or no amount
of bake sales and Christmas pageants will save you from my exposure."
The School will not be threatened."
"A silent death it is then."
"City Editor, please." Russell darts about checking rooms and chairs.
Spenser's curious face cranes up above the yellow edge of the couch.
"Front seat," Russell hisses pleadingly, pointing towards the garage. "Yeah,
hi, Russell Metz, you carried my Letter to the Editor this morning."
"The swearing guy, right."
Spenser trails back and forth from the car with sheets of Bristol board, a
small plastic bag and a yard stick.
"You got it. Well the plot's thickened. My son's now suspended, without
having done anything else. I met with the principal. It's clear this is a hostage thing."
"That's too bad."
"Don't lose your perfectly healthy liver over it. I'm going to picket the
school. 'University Instructor Lobbies for Swearing.' Need I mention
my photogenicity?... I'll be there in an hour." Hanging up, Russell dives
into the fridge.
"You're going to picket the school?" Spenser asks from the kitchen
doorway.
"They'll be phoning Slick Willie for damage control."
"So I'm not going back for one?" Spenser asks, nodding at a pale blue
kitchen clock.
"Afraid you're warming the bench for now. It'll be open arms tomorrow.
Getting bored?"
"Just mildly. Why don't I come with you?"
"I don't want anyone blaming you. We can't have you walking around as
the poster boy for corrupt youth."
"Oh I get it, one of those all-right-for-you-not-all-right-for-me deals."
65 "Spense, I'm expendable here... Besides, think of the women I'll be
attracting."
"Yeah, the trailer parks are already going wild with panting."
"Panting? What have you been reading?"
"Free your mind."
"Lunch then sign. I'm on a tight schedule."
sh!t
c*ck
free
cAnt
your
b!tch
mind
b@stard
@ss
"Nice work my boy," Russell muses, turning the sign approvingly from side
to side.
"I was just labour. Ifs design I want," Spense laments, fluttering the
end of a paintbrush against his chin.
"You'll grow into it. Okay, have you seen my Walkman and tell me the
batteries work."
"Easy, you're not out the door yet. What are you gonna wear?"
"Good point. I'm already cast as the raging anarchist."
"Jeans out."
"A suit'd be just too weird, might as well top myself off with a bowler
hat."
"You're rationalizing your way to khakis and a jacket aren't you?"
"Read me like a book."
Minutes later Russell pats down various pockets en route to the door.
"Hey, you're forgetting the, the pieasa..." Spenser trails off, one hand
buried behind his back.
"Piece de resistance."
"That's the one," Spenser finishes, handing his father a dotted bow tie.
"Now go get 'em, my day's all downhill from here."
Bow-tied and ready, Russell lofts his sign and heads for the door, singing
one from the good old days:
Raise tuition, not a chance?
Let's burn a car, like they do in France!
"Hey Russ, you know I'm at Mom's for dinner, right?"
"Oh yeah," Russell affirms, reassuringly tapping an index finger against
his temple before pulling the door shut.
66 The Walkman is invaluable. CBC omelet recipes save Russell from the
sound of the laughter he can see in the faces of tittering children. Another set of classroom curtains is drawn shut.
Having avoided the school parking lot, Russell has circumvented
Wellsley's first cheap shot. No tow truck will mar Metz's glory. Strutting as
he is, directly in front of the main doors, Russell knows the police are a
possibility. It's a waiting game. Once the newspaper shows up, Russell
will gladly step off school property and wave his sign from the sidewalk.
The protest doesn't matter without a good photo. / am mediated, therefore I am. Surely he'll get a warning before being charged with trespassing. One call to his lawyer. How romantic.
How did people in the sixties survive the boredom of protesting? Oh
yeah.
Profanity grows heavy on his shoulder. The weather is persistently updated.
A parting curtain catches Russell's eye. Faded, gold cloth is temporarily
parted to reveal pale, pudgy arms sliding a sheet of Bristol-board between
curtain and window.
'Wellsley!"
A stubby thumb presses tape to the top of the sign, sealing it to the
glass.
+    ONE
MORE
DAY
Prick! Russell exhales vehemently.
Thankfully a Chevette pulls into the lot and parks in a restricted zone.
Russell pockets his headphones.
"You Metz?" a tall man asks, stepping from the Chevette and unfurling a
sprawling, active-wear jacket.
"You the cavalry?" Russell mimes photo-taking with his free hand.
"Just let me get my bugle."
"Look behind your left shoulder. That sign, there's our shot."
"One more day of what?" the photographer asks, reaching back into his
tiny, beige car for gear.
"My son got suspended for saying fuck. I argued freedom of speech,
added a little protest, now the principal's taking hostages, extending my
son's punishment because I'm here."
"Mmmm."
Russell does the full parade. Sign held high. One side, then the other.
With flagpole in background. Beside the school sign which proclaims:
tn
Band sweatshirts going fast!!!
67 "Okay," the photographer yells out facelessly, "Couple more in front
of the principal's office. Perfect, keep looking above my shoulder. Do
Not Move. Beautiful. Okay." His face finally emerges from behind the
camera. Crossing to Russell he lowers his voice. "Look behind you, our
last little session here prompted the removal of his sign. I got One More
Day getting swiped away behind your shoulder. Listen, you get your
boy down here tomorrow and they turn him away, that'll go national."
Russell's eyes narrow. "You sneak too much porn as a kid?"
Russell waits outside his old front door. A tall, broad silhouette grows larger
in the stained glass window he used to adore. Sounds of television spill out
as Duncan opens the door.
"Evening sir, spare a small boy?"
"Yeah, sure thing Geraldo. Spense!" Duncan yells, exiting, "Friend of
yours."
Rapid footfalls grow louder then halt as Spenser slides into the
entranceway.
"Howdy Guvnor."
"Hey hero, you're on TV."
"Rains it pours. Listen, I wanted to tell you before your mom's shrieks
spill the beans. I'm really sorry Spense but I think Wellsley has suspended
you for another day."
"You think?"
"He did, I'm just not sure if he'll stick to it. I feel terribly that he's
hurting you to get at me. He's wrong, several times over. I give up now he'll
go on thinking he's right. Phone me any time tonight or early tomorrow
morning if you want me to change my mind, but unless you say no, I'm
going back there tomorrow."
"No explanation?"
"The coward taped a sign up in his office window. A newspaper photographer got the whole thing."
"I didn't seen it on TV."
"Imagine that. Makes you wonder whether it really happened."
"Well, you look good."
"Yeah, the bow tie?"
"Buy a TV and find out,"
"Nice try. I better talk to your mom. I love you kid. I...I wantyou treated
well."
"They call you a single father."
"That's nothing, you should hear what I get in the faculty lounge these
days."
"How do they find this stuff out?"
"Bribe the neighbours. I guess. You and me could egg Mrs. Rhodes'
68 house next time you're over."
"It's cheap, telling everybody your problems."
"Yeah Spense, it is."
"Later." Spenser shuffles out, calling, "Hey Mom, you got a potential
client here."
Kim strides into the entranceway.
"Oh, The Fugitive. Giving up academe for a shot at the Dini Petty show?"
"Justice, remember?"
"She's blind, not deaf. Nobody likes the c-word."
"There was a time..."
Kim draws the entrance-way door shut behind her.
"I can only be so patient Russell."
'Wellsley's going to lose this, he's hanging himself."
"And Spenser along with him... We're slipping out early tomorrow
afternoon, taking Spense to Montreal."
"Glad I could provide the long weekend."
"He needs stimulation."
"Hey, watch the potty-mouth."
"Look, Wellsley's a joke," Kim implores, "The whole school's rotten, we
know that."
"I'm getting interviews. I'll have money."
"Think so? After this?"
"We call it classroom energy."
'What's the UBC position?"
'Tenure-track."
"Jesus."
'There'll be others."
"You haven't lugged that brain of yours around all these years to teach at
Mosquito College."
"I could get by here."
"I don't think thirty years of you tying to teach Shakespeare to RMC
cadets and retirees is a model-father lifestyle either. You'd live off martinis."
"And Spenser would be in private school."
"He could be there now. Dune's offered to pick up more of the mortgage, the fees won't kill us."
"How scorching, your second husband will own our house so your flaky
first husband's son can have an education."
"He thought you might not like it."
"Oh, no, ifs particularly nice when Satan leans in to light his cigarettes
off my shoulder."
"Dune's also willing to cover your half of the payments until you can
pay him back."
69 "Great. I either have to admit he's a decent man or convince you he's
doing it just to get into your pants."
"You mean up my skirt."
"Damn it, Kim."
"Yeah, well, that bow tie."
The waiting photographers, reporters and television crew are not the problem. Police at the gates are really no surprise. Condemning parents on the
sidewalk are to be expected. But the Men's Movement is a nightmare. A
thin soldier in fatigues and a beret keeps his small moustache level with the
horizon, picketing like clockwork beside an overweight, unshaven man
with granny glasses and extra copies of The International Socialist Worker
under his flabby arm. The male population of the food court at a one-storey
mall has been conscripted to Russell's cause. Ajowly man with stringy hair
marches about in track pants and a shiny, nylon jacket, broadcasting chronic
unemployment and deluded rage with his sign Gov't Hates Men. A fourth
man appears dusty and misused, one of the walking wounded whose
hair seems to have always been grey and whose faded, green work pants
and plaid shirts have become a layer of his skin. He nods once at Russell.
A sign rests against his shoulder asking What Did I Do?
Russell steps among them, praying the soldier doesn't salute and dreading a small round of applause.
"Morning fellas. Obviously I don't want to infringe on anyone's freedom
of speech, but I have to be honest. Your sign," Russell says, inclining his
forehead at Track Pants, "Is counterproductive. It debases what we're trying to say here."
Naturally the soldier keeps quiet. The Socialist mumbles agreement.
The Wounded Worker lights a thin, half-smoked cigarette.
"Open your eyes—" Track Pants starts stammering.
'We have," Russell interrupts, "And we've seen the press and we want to
be taken seriously. The impact of a sign like yours has its place, in front of a
courtroom for example, but here, in front of a school, we don't want to
seem too—partisan, strident, vitrirolic—extreme."
"You got cunt on your sign!"
"Ye-ss, but people have seen my article, they know where I'm coming
from."
"Reprinted again this morning," the Socialist chimes in. Russell spreads
a hand in silent illustration.
"As if I'm marching without a sign," Track Pants states unilaterally.
'Well..."
"You gonna try and tell me I don't have a right to be here?"
"Wait," the Socialist leaps to action, digging through the pockets of
his army jacket and offering up a large, black marker. Track Pants rests
70 his trotting high-cut shoes for a minute, lowering the sign and resting it
against his doughy stomach.
Each of them stare at the words and letters.
"Don't hate men?" the Socialist suggests.
Don't hate men it is.
Russell begins his stroll, savouring his first free steps before they lock
into an awkward ellipsis of affected solidarity and physical space. His earphones are his only escape. Russell goes live with Zintar Surge.
All afternoon, Wellsley's window shows only curtains.
The television crew returns. Russell slips off his earphones to catch
angry, custody, and men floating from the commentator's lips.
Around two-thirty, Russell spots a familiar Accura coming to a halt beyond the gates. Spenser steps out of the back seat. They cross to one
another, meeting just beyond the gates.
"Duncan need directions to Montreal?" Russell tries.
"Bagel money... You and the Good 01 Boys here are all over TV."
"Can I spin or what?"
"Great job, yeah... When you done?"
'When he caves."
One of Spenser's small, soft hands reaches for Russell's sleeve.
"I think you should stop."
'We're coming in on the kill."
Russell's hand encircles Spenser's raised forearm. Spenser does the
same, locking them like kinder gypsies.
"You've got an interview—"
"It won't matter."
'Wellsley's not going to change—"
"He'll have to—"
"You look like one of them." Spenser blurts out, jutting his chin at the
motley lobby.
"Sure, ifs your call." Russell lowers the sign from his shoulder, switching
hands to rest it like a walking stick. He circles the now free elbow in the air
to stretch out his neck. "Risking a pinched nerve anyway."
"I just want it to go away Dad."
"I understand, really. You could ask your mother about my over-enthusiasm."
"I'm bored. And if s just awkward."
"Hey," Russell sums up, playing a few punches at Spenser's chest,
"say no more, say no more. Well," he continues, looking up at the waiting car, "Mon Ryal. Tell your mom to pick me up some beer."
"Do I get a carrying fee?"
"Parasite."
71 "I'll see you." Spenser trots to the car. 'Wednesday," he calls back,
head momentarily turned.
Russell winks back at him, tapping his index finger reassuringly against
a temple.
Russell contemplates lighting his answering machine on fire. Two messages are waiting.
"Hi, this is Lara Miller, I'm with CBC's This Morning—"
Russell punches the Forward key.
"Hey Dad, do me a favour," Spenser's voice crackles from a cell phone,
"put your sign up on my wall. The good side..." An engine roars past
audibly. "Smell ya later."
The machine clicks off.
72 chele thorsen
virus nights
plugging my ears, you open my lips and whisper one word into my mouth,
grammar explodes, tracing itself far far down into the depths of me. your
hot air and the cure, the word locked in my body, unknown, undiagnosed,
you begin me, overindulge me with syllables of pleasure, it's good, it's good.
somewhere, car doors open, pills are swallowed, not here, in me everything is unseamed, but a word is stitched inward, you are an arena of gestures and skin, a minor sun. paradise for mirrors, giddy and silent, my
fingers scatter south, feed on motors and light, i feel a bell inside you, stalk
its ringing, enter its monologue with my tongue, lick its colours, swallow
mouthfuls of reds, frost, jerk my head to the side when your stars shoot in
all directions, we weave inside each other as in traffic, lifting stomachs,
raise hairs, we set each other off, our mouths crammed, the whole city
perspiring, we're forgetting our barriers, symptoms, tomorrow's horizon,
hooked, we widen the fields of play, your mouth taking me in, zigs, zags,
you navigate the side streets, wade through hot water, our wings wetten
and we're falling, the oxygen from our hips crackles, we're trying to escape
the narration, we enter each other, orgiastic, it's good, it's good, noisily, we
stir, we grab, we suppress, we treat, we disguise, we forbid, we deserve,
everything decomposes and, skin to skin, we, with a new dexterity, decode
the rush and the wait, lying atop one another, we break police line-ups,
chocolate, with the slightest brush of our lips, the word locked in. it's good,
it's good.
73 Deanna Yonge
Marrying Rufus
(William) Rufus Borden (1832-1902), bachelor, loner, poet, farmer.
Former owner of this house on Pauper Street, King's County, Nova
Scotia. House dismantled in New England roundabout 1760, shipped
up the coast and reassembled beam by beam.
marry. Nautical. To join (two ropes) end to end by interweaving their
strands.
1. Newlyweds, 1864
potato fields in flower
and fog, riding in off the water
under a yolk of sun
tending orange
it's one o'clock
and light
enough
to make eyes stream
on the line a load of whites
snapping—almost with malice
in the west wind steady
these past ten thousand years
the sour smell of bleach
a guilty pleasure in my nose
sweet, as manure
gasoline
on my fingertips
the stain of garlic, onions
invisible but there
memories of your skin
stretched white
across your ribs
when the soup is done
I'll call you in
74 2. The Knot, 1899
underbelly of the basin
at low tide, oil spilt
endlessly
in hills and valleys
its deepest
desires exposed
memories of
a purpler time
returning shad a promise
more dependable than marriage
if I could follow you
as water does the moon
further in a few hours
than we have ever been
from this unkempt orchard
each other
a wonder how colour
accumulates with volume
the basin filling in blue
as we speak
blood trickling cold
in my veins sometimes
when you wander off
muttering in rhymes
last of the blueberries
wrinkling in a bowl
huddled together
like worries
fresh liver on a plate
our supper, red onions, beets
and hope trust fear
a bruised love waiting
75 Mother warned me,
but I wanted you, Rufus
the sheen
of your hair in the sun
every notch of your spine
now hush, lean over
one more rinse and this
black mane will shine
76 3. You Made Your Bed, 1954
that'll be him there now
barreling down Clark's Lane
F-O-R-D
spelled out in white
along the tired blue tailgate
and me at the table, thinking
what did I do
to deserve this life
coffee cold in my cup
and a doodle pad
lines faint
as expectation in my veins
jot baby
10 lbs flour
bugs hitting
the windshield like rain
low sky a wound
thinning high into pink
scratch blood
in a sinkful of water
my whole maiden name
in the margin, a large X
through this, sky rinsing
to snow-shadow blue
morning crawling out of bed
over South Mountain
and scenes of supper last night
big as movies in my eyes
some slight by Jim Brown
our neighbour, and me
too slow to slander
my own wife
77 Tenaya Darlington
Rearranging Iowa
In his rear view mirror, Coop could see his daughter Geraldine filing
her nails in the back seat. She was lying down, her high heeled sandals crossed on the ceiling, her toes painted silver. Coop rested a
hand on his tool-belt to keep it from rattling beside him. He'd hurried
home from waterproofing a chimney in time to drive Geraldine to her
mother's house in Des Moines. Geraldine's mother—Coop's ex-wife—
had met "someone". She had invited Geraldine to dinner to meet him,
but Coop knew what she really wanted was a second opinion.
In the passenger seat, Coop's mother beamed, fully exposing her new
set of teeth. She was delighted to be along for the drive even though Coop
had done his best to discourage her. "This is going to be short and sweet,"
Coop had told her. "I'm just dropping Geraldine off at Annie's and coming
straight home." It wasn't easy to put off his mother, not when she lived
right across the street. She had been waiting for Coop at her front window,
watching through binoculars. The minute the garage door went up, she
came sauntering across the street in her pink housecoat, a chartreuse
Christmas brooch at her neck.
Coop took a deep breath and tried to collect himself as the car hummed.
In the fields along the highway, all the corn had been cut The stalks slumped
against one another, callous-yellow. "Dad, close the window. My hair!"
Geraldine called from the back. She looked up from her emery board,
glowering at him, then sat upright to adjust her tank top.
Coop rolled the window halfway up. Geraldine clicked her tongue
and put her hands on the back of her French twist as if this were a tornado drill. "Put it up, Dad!"
Coop's mother rifled through her handbag, then passed a plastic rain
bonnet over the headrest. Geraldine gave it a look of horror. "Dad!" she
said sharply. The wisps she had carefully curled at her temples blew around
like windmills.
"Relax," Coop told her. "The air conditioner is broken. We're not all going
to suffocate in here because of your hairdo."
Coop's mother rotated in her seat and smiled back at Geraldine, her own
hair afine tribute to the invention of the accordion rain bonnet. Coop thought
his mother's careful, white, 'do looked like something tourists brought
back from Florida. Once a week, each seashell-like curl got combed out
78 and shellacked over a beautician's index finger.
Geraldine fussed. In the rear view, Coop watched her spread the
bonnet open across her bare knees. His mother, Ruth, who had lost
most of the hearing in her left ear, flashed Coop a satisfied smile the
way she always did when she felt she had done something to improve
their lives.
'Turn on the radio," Geraldine said after a time. "I'm going nuts in here."
Coop pointed to Ruth who had her eyes closed.
"Oh she can't hear." Geraldine lurched over the seat.
Coop seized her wrist, and Geraldine fell back with a huff, tightening her
mouth into a line of thin glitter. She was like her mother, Annie. When
Annie got mad, her face dramatized every thought. Coop always thought
she would have been a great actress for the silent pictures; she didn't need
a word to speak her mind.
Just as Coop was veering around a station wagon, Geraldine made another grab for the dial. A fuzzy voice screamed through the squeal of
guitars. In the passenger seat, Ruth started and fussed to turn off her
hearing aid.
"That's it," Coop said, slowing the car to the shoulder.
Geraldine yanked open the door and stepped out onto the gravel into
the dizzying sound of traffic. Coop sat still for a second, tapping his thumb
on the steering wheel, then got out. Geraldine was already teetering down
the median, her head high, her arms swaying vigorously, the rain bonnet
filling with air like a light-weight motorcycle helmet.
Coop caught up with her and reached for her arm, but she spun around
before he could say anything. "I'm sick of being treated like a child." She
stomped her foot and turned to continue walking. Coop followed and tried
to put his arm around her, but she pulled away. "Geraldine, listen."
Geraldine's mouth twisted for hissing, but then she stopped, stepped
back. Her steely gaze washed over his body. "Dad?" The corners of her lips
turned up. Slowly, she began to shake her head. 'What are you wearing?"
Coop tried to ignore the question by looking back at the car to see if his
mother was alright. Over his lunch hour, he had driven to the mall and
bought a running suit off a mannequin in a sports store window. He had
been in the mood to splurge, and the suit had leapt out at him with its black
and neon swatches of colour. In the dressing room, he had decided that
the suit made him look like an Olympian. The puffy fabric gave him the
appearance of shapeliness beneath its nylon contours, hiding the pounds
he had put on in the months since his divorce.
"You look like a mall walker," Geraldine scoffed. She held his gaze a
moment longer, then pulled at the hem of her miniskirt and brushed past.
Before she reached the car, she undid the rain bonnet and let it go. It landed
on the ground and blew across the dry grass, crinkly and beige, like the
79 shell of a giant locust.
Coop had never really seen Annie's new place. He always dropped
Geraldine off at the end of the block, four houses down from Annie's small
one-story. Once when he couldn't sleep, he had started for her house in
his bath robe, but he'd turned around. Annie didn't want to see him. She
needed time, she said, time to get used to her new life before she dealt with
her old one. It didn't quite make sense to Coop; they hadn't even been
divorced six months and she was settling down again, hooking up with
some guy she'd met through a singles' night at the grocery.
"The men start in housewares," Annie had explained on the phone.
'The women start in produce. By the time you hit nuts and spices—"
her voice trailed off. Coop could just imagine. Incidentally, Annie had
met Luke in seafood. "We got into this long conversation about bouillabaisse," Annie had giggled, reminiscing. Coop didn't even know what
that was, but he could just imagine her, all dressed up, gesticulating in
front of the lobster tanks.
Coop understood the need to be with someone; it was strange to be
alone again, especially since he and Annie had married in their teens, neither of them much older than Geraldine. Still, he had hoped they might
work things out. Even in the therapist's office when Annie had brought up
divorce, Coop had felt that somehow it would be temporary. Annie had
smiled and put her hand over his, as if her palm still offered some sort of
shelter. Now, whenever Coop went on the occasional date, he felt like he
was in high school again, trying to impress women with cologne and a clean
car. It always hit him later: he was an adult He had a teenage daughter of his
own; he had his mother to worry about. When he came home, the smell of
Geraldine's perfume would still be lingering in the hallway. Her bedroom
lights and radio would still be on. Sometimes there would be a beer or two
missing from the door of the fridge. He would loosen his tie, sit for a long
time in the dark, staring at his mother's house.
Before the car came to a complete halt along the curb, Geraldine pushed
the back door open and started down the walk towards Annie's house.
She'd unpinned her hair, letting it fall in crisp J's about her shoulders. Her
long legs worked a gangly rhythm beneath her short skirt. She reminded
Coop of a deer.
"See you up at ten," Coop called after her. Then he turned in his seat.
"I'm just going to wait a minute," he said to his mother. "Make sure someone's home."
His mother was engrossed in two large trees full of birds just across the
street. She lifted her purse onto her lap and pulled out her binoculars. In
the time it took to focus, a swarm of fat grackles flew up, circled overhead,
and returned to the very same limbs.
Coop drummed his fingers on the dash and watched Geraldine swing
80 her purse casually over her shoulder and look up at the sky. The car
purred—a 79 blue Nova Coop had bought in the spring after Annie took
the pick-up. The previous owners had been in their seventies. There
were bumper stickers on the back: Old Fart and We're spending our
children's inheritance. Coop hadn't bothered to scrape them off, but the
thought of them now made him bristle. He hated everything about the
car, right down to the colour—a pale, metallic blue that made him think
of Annie's eyes. No wonder Geraldine did not want him dropping her off
at school anymore. He was sure Annie's new flame did not drive an old,
blue car.
"Look at those owls," Coop's mother exclaimed. She was leaning forward, her elbows resting unsteadily on her knees. "I'm going to get out and
have me a look," she said, and before Coop could protest, she was out of
the car and in someone's side yard, gawking up at the trees.
"Not now, Mother. Those are just crows," Coop called, leaning across
the seat. But she seemed not to hear. The sky was just beginning to
colour, and the birds had begun to squawk as if a motion picture were
about to begin. Behind the trees, the sun was small and pale like the
lens at the back of a movie theatre.
Coop watched as a new yellow Thunderbird cruised past, the paint job
spotless and slick as yolk. He could feel his mouth water. The brake lights
flickered, and the car turned into a driveway a few houses down. Coop
squinted, and then saw Geraldine step back off Annie's stairs to wave. A
short guy with shoulder-length hair and sunglasses stepped out. Coop's
heart skidded between beats. He was shorter than Geraldine and there
was a kind of bounce to his walk, like he was some sort of male cheerleader.
"He's a guidance counsellor," Annie had said. "He really likes kids." Coop
felt the backs of his legs tighten against the seat.
"Get in the car, Mother," Coop whispered, sliding across the upholstery
and motioning wildly to Ruth through the open door.
Ruth was standing with her white shoes a few inches apart, her purse in
the crook other arm. Both hands were wrapped around the binoculars and
she was dead set on the tree. Coop snapped his fingers, but she made no
move.
"Have you ever seen one close up?" she asked, suddenly, dropping the
binoculars just slightly and turning to look at Coop.
'Would you please get in the car. We're going to embarrass Geraldine."
Coop's mother gave him a confused look and did a forty-five degree
turn, then raised up her binoculars to look straight over at Luke.
Coop put his forehead against the steering wheel. With a quick attempt
at regaining composure, he turned the car off and stepped out, careful not
to slam the door behind him. All he had to do was turn his mother around,
get her quietly into the car, and drive off before anyone saw them.
81 The jacket of Coop's new running suit filled with wind. He felt like a
moving target, such bright neon stripes. Had he been out of his mind?
'Time to go." Coop took his mother's elbow.
"What?" she dropped her binoculars and felt frantically about her ear,
but there was nothing to turn on. The little flesh-coloured kidney-bean
that sat snugly above her lobe was gone. "Rats," she said.
His mother began to use the toe of her shoe to separate the grass
blades. "I must have dropped it out here," she said, giving Coop a childish
look, her blue eyes watery, her lips drawn.
"Shit." Coop felt his pulse quicken. His forehead was starting to sweat.
He glanced toward the end of the block where Luke and Geraldine were
standing near the Thunderbird, talking. Then he dropped quickly to his
knees, his hands scrambling about the ground, fumbling over acorns and
small stones.
"Get down," he said to his mother, motioning with his hands. He felt like
a character from the spy novels he read before bed. Sometimes when he
was working on gutters, he spied in people's windows. It was amazing what
people did when they were alone in a room. Once he'd watched a man in a
law office practice frowns and smiles in front of a mirror. Another time, he'd
seen a woman carry on a conversation with two apples that were propped
up on pillows.
The birds stopped squawking, and in a few minutes, Coop heard
Geraldine's voice. "Dad?" Her voice strained from down the block.
Coop felt the hairs on his back prickle. He pretended not to hear, too
absorbed in his search.
"Dad?" Geraldine called again, this time more clearly. When Coop looked
up, he saw Geraldine and Luke cutting across the lawns. Geraldine's
arms were doubled over her stomach in the crisp evening air. Luke's
hands were in the pockets of his khaki shorts, and he had slid his mirrored shades up onto his head. He looked like a fly.
There was nothing for Coop to do but dust off his hands and stand up.
"Grandma's just lost her hearing aid," he explained, gracefully trying to
hike up the back of his pants. He could feel the blood rushing to his head,
his face swelling.
'We're just in time to help then." Luke flashed Coop an orthodontic grin
and extended a hairless hand. "I'm Lucas Mausberg. Ifs nice to finally meet
you."
"Likewise," Coop said. His voice came out huskier than he intended.
Luke was so short that Coop found himself staring at the mirrored shades
instead of Luke's real eyes which were tiny and brown and too far down on
his face.
"And you must be Ruth," Luke said, giving her two thumbs up.
Coop's mother stood there dumbly, holding her binoculars against
82 her chest.
"I saw you looking around with those binoculars. I thought maybe there
was an eclipse or something." Luke let out a one-syllable laugh and looked
from Coop to Geraldine.
Coop closed his eyes for a second. Hadn't he known this would happen?
"Grandma's husband was an ornithologist," Geraldine was quick to explain. "She takes her binoculars everywhere, even to church."
Coop felt a rush of gratitude. He looked over at Geraldine. She smiled
back and moved a strand of hair behind her ear.
'Well, there's no time like the present," Luke said. Coop could hear the
forced cheer in his voice. Luke gave them all a smile and got down on his
knees, combing the blades with his long fingers.
Coop could not move. He knew he should help search, but he could not
take his hands out of his pockets or even lean over to feign looking. He
couldn't get air. His face was full of heat and his arms were bulging with it. It
was the new nylon running suit; it didn't breathe. He felt like he was at some
higher altitude, the air thin, like Saran Wrap over each swallow. He watched
his mother weave through the grass, sputtering to herself. Geraldine was
stooped over, holding her hair back, using the toe of her sandal to fan
across the grass. Meanwhile, Annie's probably-future husband was down
on his knees.
"Ah, this must be it." Luke stood up and produced a moon-shaped object
the colour of a Band-Aid.
Ruth stepped forward, her palm extended as if she were about to receive a wafer.
Luke brushed off his knees which were tan and also hairless. He's
probably a biker, Coop thought—one of those annoying guys who was
always zipping around cars at intersections.
"Mom must be waiting for us," Geraldine said, looking sheepishly at
Coop, then turning to Luke.
"Yeah, she said something about making onion rings."
Coop jangled his car keys and rocked back on his heels as they waved,
starting down the block. He wasn't sure if Luke had brought up the onion
rings as a jab, but even if he hadn't intended it as such, Coop felt the sting.
He could just see Annie standing at the fry-daddy, her hair tied back, the
grease shield in hand. She'd be wearing footies, and when Luke and
Geraldine walked in, she'd spin around on the linoleum with a plate of
steaming, brown bracelets.
The three of them would sit around laughing, greasy-lipped, licking their
thumbs. Annie would say, "So, you met Coop out there. What did you think
of him?" Luke would look up at the chandelier Coop had made for Annie out
of mufflers in shop class. He would grin and shrug, then rephrase his
answer in the form of a question, the way counsellors always did: "Does
83 it really matter?" he would ask, or "Should I have an opinion?"
In the air, Coop thought he could smell onions as he drove away. He
veered around the corner and pulled into an empty lot behind an elementary school. His arms felt too loose to hold the steering wheel. He
was feverish. So that was Luke. That was the man Annie had trailed to
the shrimp cooler. Coop stopped the car beside a row of sumac bushes
and rolled down all the windows before thrusting himself into the backseat. He left the keys in the ignition for the radio. Otherwise, his mother
might start to worry and have one of her heart palpitations. The music
would soothe.
Ruth leaned over the seat and patted at her white curls. Coop felt her
hand jiggle his knee. "I think you look real nice in that suit you got on," she
said. "It reminds me when you used to play soccer."
Coop put his hand over his eyes and tried to focus on the dim light
coming through his fingers.
"I bet that young fellow back there with the long hair is a soccer player,"
his mother said, giving a matter-of-fact nod. "Just flip on the TV. All those
soccer players nowadays look like girls." Coop could hear the indignation in
her voice.
"Who was that anyway?" she asked after a moment.
Coop parted his fingers and looked at his mother's face against the gray
upholstery. "That was Luke, Ma. Annie's new boyfriend."
"Do I know Annie?" His mother cocked her white curls to the side. The
way the light was coming in through the window, Coop could see the outline of her head through her hair. It looked like she was wearing a swim cap
with a cloud attached to it, and when Coop met her eyes, he could see a
recognizable sheen that had started to settle over her face recently whenever she got confused. She had called his house twice this week looking for
Annie, wondering if Annie was coming over for a perm, wondering if Annie
wanted to watch "Golden Girls".
"You know Annie," Coop said. "She was my wife for fifteen years."
"The blonde?"
"That's Geraldine. Mom, Annie's my wife. My ex-wife."
Ruth turned back to face the windshield.
Coop sat up. "Come on, Ma. You remember Annie."
His mother's shoulders sagged. She was studying the hem of her dress.
Coop leaned over the seat and put a hand on her thin shoulder. "Okay, Ma.
This is Annie: brown hair, kinda fluffy. She's really skinny, has green eyes,
likes John Denver. Remember?" Coop's hands flew up as he tried to conjure more adjectives.
His mother looked out the window, thumbing the strap on her white
purse. "How can you just forget?" Coop's fist landed so heavily upon her
headrest, his mother jumped.
84 "Don't yell at me. I'm not deaf." She tucked her hands between her
knees and looked down at her shoes.
"I just don't get it." Coop flopped back against the seat and ran his fingers
along the tubing of the upholstery. "I spend months trying to forget her—
changing the whole bedroom around, taking down all the dried flowers
she put everywhere, removing all the ashtrays—I find her sock behind
the bed and I'm done for. My whole day is ruined by a sock."
His mother fidgeted in the front seat. On the radio, Fleetwood Mac sang,
You make loving fun. Coop took a deep breath and looked out at the playground along the side of the building. That's where he'd met Annie. At the
teeter-totters. Of course, they weren't still around; all the old equipment
had been replaced by a giant wooden play centre with tires and steering
wheels and look-out towers. The teeter-totters. He should have known.
"You're lucky, Ma. I wish I were you." Coop nodded to himself. 'The
more I try to forget, the more I remember."
Coop stepped out of the back seat and slid behind the wheel. He still felt
stomach-sick. He felt the way he had when Annie had uncapped her pen
and held it out to him in the therapist's office. Let's do this like adults, she'd
said, smiling amid the throw pillows. He'd signed the papers without looking and had stood up to leave so fast he knocked over the counsellor's
can of Sprite. Once out of doors, he'd begun running. Tools fell out of his
pocket—pens, pencils—he didn't stop to pick them up. He ran straight
to the water tower.
Height put everything in perspective. Ifs why he'd become a roofer.
When he'd stood along the metal railing of the water tower—that great
globe looming behind him like a blue moon—he'd felt higher than all of
Iowa. Everything seemed manageable. The world below was nothing but
tiny moving parts, small enough to rearrange. Trees looked like club-sandwich toothpicks. Station wagons moved like sesame seeds. You could obliterate a person by holding up your thumb.
Coop backed out of the lot. The sky was blue-gray, the clouds feathery.
The edge of the sun hung at the horizon's edge, mostly gone. Coop drove
with his teeth locked, his arms hyper-extended against the wheel. It was
one of those cool-edged Friday nights when all the teenagers amassed
from the surrounding towns in their low riders and monster trucks. Soon
the back seats would be full of permed hair, open windows emitting thumps
of music, license plates illuminated, running boards shimmering with pink
neon lights. From above, it would look like Vegas. Coop recalled those
glorious nights only too well, he and Annie glued to one another behind the
wheel.
His mother snored lightly in the passenger seat, her head tilted back
against the headrest, her mouth open like a baby bird. Coop waited for the
light to change and looked down at his new suit, his thighs ribbed in
85 black and yellow like a super hero. He put on his turn signal and started
back across town.
Coop shut the car door softly so as not to waken his mother and began
approaching the house. It was almost dark now. There were fireflies
near Annie's doorway, swarming the thick bushes. A light was on in the
kitchen, but he couldn't see anyone inside. Coop stood on the sidewalk
for what must have been five minutes before he stepped onto the lawn.
Next to the front door, there was a trellis made of iron curlicues that
led up to the overhang. It was almost too simple. His pants made a shushing sound as he crossed to it and took hold of the wrought-iron, checking for stability. He climbed it quickly and hoisted himself up onto the
roof. The asphalt fibreglass based shingles were still hot from the sun,
like the top of a cooling casserole. He stood there with his hands in his
pockets for a moment, inhaling the night air. The moon hung low over
the roofs in the distance.
The pitch was low; it was more like a wheelchair ramp than a roof.
Coop bent down and inspected the workmanship, a habit of his whenever he was on any new surface. He was good at being able to look at a
roof and guess its pitch, the number of shingles it would take to cover it.
This was a small roof, only mildly slanted and made of the lightest kind
of three-tab shingles. It would be due for a new roof in the next several
summers. There were already a few bare patches where shingles had
blown off in a storm, and others appeared to be curling under, warping
and cracking around the edges.
Off to one side, there was a chimney. Coop padded over to it, careful not
to make any noise. He inspected the flashing, feeling around for cracked,
worn metal and deteriorating roofing cement. Under his fingers, he felt the
loose nails. Maybe Annie would recommend his services to her landlord;
he imagined himself ripping off the shingles, standing above Annie's bedroom with a tear-off shovel. He envisioned himself digging too deeply,
going through the roof with the shovel tip so that he saw down into Annie's
life, saw her moving around down there like someone in a movie set. He
thought he could hear laughter beneath his feet.
Coop sat back against the chimney, picking at a shingle with his thumbnail until it cracked in his palm. Luke's T-Bird was in the drive, the paint
aglow from the streetlight two houses down. He could make the car disappear by holding up a piece of the ragged shingle, like fitting a puzzle piece
over a gap in the dark.
Heat lightning flashed in the distance, not a crag in the sky but the kind
that looked like the screen of a distant drive-in. Coop tossed the shingle to
the ground and tilted his head back to look at the sky. He breathed deeply.
It felt good to be off the ground. If only Annie's house were several
86 stories higher, then he would have the distance he needed not to care.
He was still too close. It wasn't like being up on the water tower where
everything was reduced to millimetres. Up that high, close to passing
planes, he had felt he could live without anyone, even Annie, maybe
even Geraldine; they seemed to drop right out of the picture. Here, trees
and cars were only diminished enough to be a little depressing. There
were other houses, taller houses, and telephone wires that still towered
over him. Even the sky seemed to be pressing down, holding things in
place.
Carefully, quietly, Coop got to his feet. Suddenly he wasn't sure why
he was there. What had he expected to gain by driving back to Annie's
and standing on her roof? It didn't make him feel anymore on top of
things than before. He laced his fingers behind his head and looked at
the moon which was nothing more than a fracture. It was strange how
you could look at a sliver of light and make yourself believe there was
nothing more to it, even when—night after night, year after year—you
saw it grow full again.
The marriage counsellor had told Annie that people separated not
because they didn't want to be near each other, but because they ceased
to fully see all the sides of one another. It was like forgetting about the
dark side of the moon. You began to see what you wanted to see, even
when you knew there were other sides hidden in shadow. The thought
made Coop feel extremely sad. It made him think back to when
Geraldine was little and he had taken her out for long drives at night
after he and Annie had been fighting. He'd carried Geraldine out to the
car in her pajamas and covered her up with a blanket in the back seat.
As long as the engine crooned, she slept peacefully, but if he so much as
tapped the brake she began to moan. Coop had driven the back roads,
barefoot and in his boxers, until the sun came up. He'd waited for the
first clamor of birds, watching the first light bounce off the silos.
"Coop," came a voice from the ground. "Coop." It sounded urgent. Down
in the yard, his mother was standing in her light pink dress, her binoculars
around her neck. She was looking up at him, her hand on her forehead.
"Coop," she called again, giving a little wave.
Coop put a finger to his lips, but that didn't stop her. She pointed back at
him. "Coop, you'll never guess what!"
He could feel his stomach rising through his blood, his face getting hot.
Nervous, he considered jumping directly into the evergreen bushes to
save time, to make a quick get-away. "I'll be right down," he said through
clenched teeth, standing at the edge of the gutter. "Go back to the car," he
motioned.
She was still pointing. 'Tour suit," she said. "It glows!" Her voice was
filled with delight.
87 Coop looked down. The outline of his arms and legs flashed. There
were stripes along his elbows and across his shins. His mother was
right; the yellow swatches on his new suit were not only glow-in-the-
dark, they were banded with reflector tape. Why hadn't they told him in
the store?
His mother clapped her hands together. 'Tou look like a bee up there,
Coop," she said. Her pleasant laughter filled the air. 'Tou look like you could
fly right up into the night."
Below, Coop heard the door slam. "Hey, Ruth, is that you?" Annie
called.
Coop shook his head. His front flickered, the swatches moonish.
His mother fumbled with the binoculars around her neck and lifted
the strap over her own luminous hair.
"Is Dad up on the roof?" he heard Geraldine call, the front door slamming.
The group of them stepped back, Annie in the middle. She looked different Her hair was shorter now, curling up in a froth around her ears, and her
face seemed thinner, longer, like a spoon. Geraldine stood close to her,
wearing a sweater now and a pair of Annie's sweat pants. In the dark, he
could not see her make-up, and her face seemed serene, her eyes dark and
large as she peered up in wonderment, her mouth a little open.
His mother swayed slowly in her house coat, as if she were very amused.
The streetlights lit the three of them from behind as they passed the
binoculars back and forth, saying things he could not hear, hands over their
brows and down again as they turned to speak to one another.
Coop stepped slowly to the edge of the roof, the tips of his sneakers in
line with the gutter. No one said anything for a moment. They stood in a
line, their bodies touching. An earring, a watch face glinted back at him.
"Aren't you going to come down?" Geraldine called up finally, her voice
ringing with concern.
Coop felt very far away from them, like an aerial photographer, like a
satellite. He could only see parts of their bodies in the shadows. They said
words he couldn't catch. He had the urge to be among them. He wanted to
be close enough to see all the minute details of their faces, lines and pores
and specks like distant cities.
88 Will Hope-RoSS two poems
Blizzard
And seeing it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell to sleep
—T.S. Eliot
a lousy dime,
lousy dime
traitor for two-bits
Kid (who knows)
the latch and key bit
wherein
a living room
coils a brother
tin-foiling antennae
barefoot,
black and white tiles
all paused
waiting for sinister-station-identification
through mauled halls
his shadows bruising bleach
then a cranked-up high window
scours white downy flakes,
grandpa's been scalped
and when Daddy's all-gone
and Mom's caught on
the highway in a wrecked mess
he goes creeping,
the kid with the keys
that sick stair trip
rattle-tap-trap
jeans too big in the crotch
like backwards on his head
89 a ste (e)p ladder
leads where?
to wound-up demons
heating water
their silent gas
all running-blur
his nose wavers
rolling eyes into head
the attic magazine's
pink pictures,
could be anyone's,
bottom drawers
beside these
rot worse ones
the ones with the hooded nooses
whited out bodies in the middles,
the first page warning:
"this book will scare the hell out of you!"
that particular book was wrong
snow is filling the chimney
something is seriously
backing up here
we're higher now
all the way up here say
with the white-wash down below
(quieting down now)
with the drifted-in
white stucco roof
one'd be hard pressed to notice
such
a small
thing
gone wrong
90 The Bubble Car
HE took me on a trip
(once)
big train
big Calgary to bigger Vancouver
him refereeing his things
the oldest son
in tow
"long tunnels," he said,
"there it is kid, all the way to the west coast!"
what Dad?
the tunnel?
I told him I saw Sasquatch
0 did)
up in the bubble car
bald conversation
him slouched,
somehow exhausted
me be-wilder-nessed
then the flinch of blue to bluer
that blur when no-one is exactly tired
time to see the Rockies
cease to desist
"things live here"
"uh huh"
"Lions don't seem to have much offense"
"what Dad?"
"say pardon"
"pardon?"
91 bluer cat-scratch headrests
cold hum
CPR on a rusty haul
"we'll stay up all night"
"yah sure"
7:00 a.m.s and maybes
maybe its just me tonight after all,
him snoring
me trying to figure out what fathers dream:
sliding on artificial turf-board room floors
his thin hair resents my age
I see his skull get X-rayed
by the big-sky glass
(I'm in on the wrong end of the aquarium)
train grinds to a scheduled stop
vein in his head bulges before he even wakes up
the vein that announces that we've just pulled into General Cursing:
'What are those fucking assholes doing now?"
lumbering convicts and trail
"them gaps the Japs built," he says
I don't say anything this time,
I'm just rolling
into Vancouver
a destination
a place to take off our luggage
92 Contributors
Anna Amatuzio is a graduate of Brooklyn College and the Pratt Institute. She attends workshops at the Writer's Voice at the 63rd Street
YMCA. She is gratified that PRISM responded positively to 'The Sources
of Country Music" which evolved from a visit to the Music City.
Kate Collie has been exhibiting nationally and internationally since 1979.
In her paintings, she uses layers of information and pictorial elements
to inspire viewers to reconsider power structures and customary divisions between more or less important groups. Collie seeks to promote
the sense of shared identity will all beings that she sees as crucial to
sustainable living on the planet. She can be contacted by e-mail at
kcollie@interchange.ubc.ca or by writing to: 803 - 2233 Allison Rd. Vancouver, BC V6T 1T7 Canada.
Tenaya Darlington received her MFA from Indiana University in 1997.
Her fiction has appeared in Scribner's Best of the Fiction Workshops for
1998, Hawaii Review, Mid-American Review, Hayden's Ferry and forthcoming in American Literary Review. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin,
with a husband and a finch.
Doris Dorrie has written and directed seven feature films and twenty-
five documentaries. She is a five-time winner of the German National
Film Award. In 1986, she won the Charlie Chaplin Award for Best Comedy. She is the author of seven collections of short stories.
Mark Farrell is a writer originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, who
has been living and working in the Czech Republic for over five years.
He has been published in Canadian, US, and British journals such as
The Fiddlehead, The Antigonish Review, Whetstone, Staple, Magma, The
Alleghery Review, and Passion. He has work forthcoming in The New
Quarterly, Dandelion, InCognito, and paperplates.
Tim Fitts is a Floridian writer, currently living in the DC area. He has
recently completed a collection of short stories and is working on a novel.
This is his first appearance in PRISM.
Will Hope-Ross is a poet, screen-writer and ESL teacher originally from
Calgary. He has lived and worked in the Czech Republic for five years
and has now (reputedly) moved to Yemen.
93 Cellan Jay's poems have recently appeared or will soon appear in The
New Quarterly, Grain, The Dalhousie Review, and The Fiddlehead. She
works in Toronto with immigrant women in an employment skills training program. She is currently seeking a publisher for her poetry manuscript.
Jill MacLean lives in Halifax. Recently she added a degree in Theological Studies to her background in science. She is looking forward to publication of her poems in upcoming issues of The Fiddlehead and The
Antigonish Review.
Micheline Maylor will be pursuing a MA in Creative Writing in the UK
commencing in October. She currently lives in Calgary and is the President and Editor of Grove Magazine for the Arts. Her work will be seen in
upcoming journals of ORBIS, ARIEL, Dandelion, Windsor Review, and
The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature.
Stephanie Moore, the 1997 recipient of the Marin Arts Council Fiction
Grant, has stories in South Carolina Review, Florida Review, Writer's
Voice, and Sou'wester. Stories are forthcoming in Pacific Coast Journal,
and BBR (UK). A ballroom dancer by profession, she writes on her
houseboat, stranded in an ocean of pickleweed. "Show and Tell on You
Time" is from her collection in progress, man-eater.
Catherine Moss lives in Calgary and loves to travel whenever she has
the opportunity. Her work has been published in various magazines including CV2, The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly, Other Voices, Whetstone, and Windsor Review. Her poetry and short stories have been aired
on CBC Radio's Alberta Anthology.
Gustav A. Richar has published essays and short stories in numerous
Canadian and US literary magazines. His short story collection, Cloud
Lake, was published by Colombo & Comp. Other stories by Dbrrie will
appear shortly in Alaska Quarterly and Southern Humanities. He lives
with his wife at a remote lake north of Pointe au Baril, Ontario.
Kyoung-Hoon Shin was born in Seoul, Korea, and came to Canada at
the age of three. His poetry has appeared in Grain, Perhaps?, and Dandelion. "Uncle Tom Thompson" and "Mak-Soon Kim" are poems from a
larger work-in-progress entitled The Last Girl.
chele thorsen is a 26-year-old poet currently dividing her time between
Vancouver Island and San Francisco, "viris nights" is her first erotic piece,
94 in which she reformulates the body as a source of pleasure and reconciliation despite being a site of chronic illness.
Daniel Tobin grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and presently teaches
at Carthage College and at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
His work has appeared in many journals, such as The Paris Review,
Ploughshares, Poetry, PRISM, and The Tampa Review. He was awarded
The Discovery/ The Nation Award in 1995, and in 1996 he received a
Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
His book of poems, Where the World is Made, won the 1998 Bakeless
Prize.
Darryl Whetter has presented papers on contemporary literature in
Canada, the US, and France. Recent fiction appears in Coming Attractions 98 and Exile, and is forthcoming in the final issue of Dandelion. His
novel-in-progress, No Friend of Time, is definitely not Y2K compliant.
Deanna Yonge grew up in southwestern Ontario and now lives near
Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Her poetry has appeared recently in Pottersfield
Portfolio, is forthcoming in Descant, and placed second in the 1998 National Poetry Contest. Her first full-length manuscript, Red Sky Journal,
is seeking a publisher.
T
Inaugural Award for Literary Non-fiction
announces its
$1500 Annual Prize
for the best piece of literary non-fiction
Maximum 25 pages per piece, typed and double-spaced. All work
must be previously unpublished. Entry fee: $20 plus $5 for each
additional manuscript; this includes a one-year subscription to PRISM
international. All Non-Canadian residents, please pay in U.S. dollars.
Contest Deadline: September 30th, 1999
Mail entries to: PRISM international Non-fiction Contest
Buch E462 -1866 Main Mall, UBC
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1 CANADA
For more information, send a SASE to the above address, or e-mail us at
prism@unixg.ubc.ca or visit our website at www.arts.ubc.ca/prism
95 Creative Writing M.F.A. at U.B.C.
to
The University of British Columbia offers a Master of Fine Arts
degree in Creative Writing. Students choose three genres to
work in from a wide range of courses, including: Poetry, Novel/
Novella, Short Fiction, Stage Play, Screen & TV Play, Writing
for Children, Non-Fiction and Translation. A course in
Managing, Editing and Producing a Small Magazine is also
offered. All instruction is in small workshop format or tutorial.
The thesis consists of imaginative writing. The Creative Writing
Program also offers a Diploma Program in Applied Creative
Non-Fiction.
\
For further information, please write:
Faculty
Sue-Ann Alderson
Keith Maillard
George McWhirter
Jerry Newman
Linda Svendsen
Peggy Thompson
Bryan Wade
r^i
Creative Writing Program
University of British Columbia
Buchanan E462-1866 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6T IZl
Or check out our web-site at:
www.arts.ubc.ca/crwr  $4.5D
/asf of fhe blueberries
wrinkling in a bowl
huddled together
like worries
— Deanna Yonge, Page 75
Anna Amatuzio
j Tenaya Darlington
1
Dorris Dorrie
Mark Farrell
Tim Fitts
Will Hope-Ross
Ceilan Jay
Jill MacLean
Micheline Maylor
Stephanie Moore
Catherine Moss
Kyoung-Hoon Shin
chele thorsen
Daniel Tobin
Darryl Whetter
Deanna Yonge
'   ./:^-;:s:e:,.;::^^/';-^.e|''t^r:;:
PRI/M   INTERNATIONAL
FICTIDN                           DRAMA
POETRY      TRANSLATION
CREATIVE   NON-FICTION
ISSN  DD32.B79D
Cover Art: Tram Chim #7 by Kate Collie

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