A worm ate your eyes and a crow ate that worm, and that crow came to my front yard and started croaking. He’s old and fat and arrogant, just like you were in my worst dreams of our old age. But he was dark, as dark as your hair when you died. All morning he kept at it, this rusty whinge. Even the other crows seemed annoyed with him. When I went out to my car he wouldn’t leave his stakeout near the garden gnome. He even flapped his wings at me, as though I was in fact his problem. When I came back, hours later, he was still there, though at the other end of the yard. He didn’t make any noise, but still I tried to chase him away with a broom. I eventually got him onto the sidewalk and hoped he’d take the hint. He didn’t. About an hour later he started crowing again and kept it up the rest of the night. In the morning my lover told me she’d barely slept.
It’s one of those things like how a riddle works its way into the notches in your sinus cavity and lingers and infects and wakes you at night and you try every possible path to resolution, and still you can’t figure the answer. And still you are awake at four a.m. And now it is mid-afternoon and you are on your fifth pot of tea. And still you are debating the right moment to ask if you can move your hand from the place where she has situated it so your finger could hold tight the wrapped ribbon while she fixed a bow of multiplying loops over your purple now blue finger and she doesn’t notice the colors changing because she is worrying over the color of the ribbon. The pink sage color of the ribbon and it seems to be clashing with the paper and while she is fretting over ribbon versus paper you are sniffling back any mucus attempting to escape your nose and you are considering the impact of asking her if it is time to let go because that is a question that you never ever want to ask. Never ever never ever never.
The empty garbage cans rattle down the alley like some monster’s dice, and it’s impossible to tell who’s winning the roll, though one suspects it’s the house, again, no matter how big the monster thinks he is.
He eavesdropped on a grey woman in widow's weeds in the produce section.
"Nights are the worst," she'd said, blindly fingering the webbing of a small, unripe-looking cantaloupe. "I don't sleep." Her companion, a tall, grim woman, nodded.
It was easy to find them. He read obituaries and sent survivors a discreet card. "Sleepmate Available, Inquire re: Rates, References Upon Request." He put his phone number and web address along the bottom. Then he waited.
He was a natural cuddler, but if the client asked him to turn away or hover on the edge of the bed, he accommodated. He even snored or ground his teeth, whatever they wanted. He made an effort to know them in order to satisfy their requirements. He took an explorer's view of each bedmate, noting the texture of her skin, the scent of her hair, the measure of her breath, how shyly she came to him, or how needily. He never intended to provide more than passive comfort, but if more than passive comfort was necessary, he found that he was able to oblige. It wasn't carnality so much as a covenant. His customers wanted sleep, and sleep was what he supplied.
The first time he killed Matthew he attached Matthew to a balloon. Inflated the balloon with a vacuum cleaner. He thought of attaching a camera to Matthew to record his demise. Document his termination. Didn't want no cowhand jawboning about the survival of Matthew.
The second time was all about subterfuge. And pruning. Pruning was his point of access. He asked an innocent question about a pruning notice. On the face of it the question was innocent, but the truth was that he'd been dancing around Matthew when Matthew hung in effigy from a metal frame. Anyone who bothered to look out a window could see the frame. Matthew would probably be mistaken for vinyl patched with duct tape, however.
The third time he killed Matthew he fed Matthew to the sea lions. While the sea lions snoozed he pre-celebrated with an ice cream cone. He wiped his hands clean. He clapped his hands. The sea lions awoke and looked up, all but a few who, spooked, dove. Matthew fluttered down. He had basted Matthew in Alaskan water drained from cans of salmon. Sea lions wait by the mouth of the Lake Washington drainage and consume large quantities of salmon.
If things continue to go bad for her she will become second wife in six years.
This is the deal you’ve made.
All of you.
It’s hard to share a hotel room with such a hot woman. The confined quarters, the heat she gives off…eventually reminding you – in an unavoidable way – how you are so very bad at being a girl. How maybe, if you tried harder, you could be as sexy as her.
She curls her eyelashes and lotions parts of her body that don’t even see the sunlight. She has more than 3 kinds of perfume. She shaves everywhere.
But you are only first wife. You are done trying. Your cosmetics come from a ghetto drugstore. You shave when you remember. Your perfume is a sampler bottle.
The potential second wife wears a thin white tight tank top while she gets ready in front of the mirror. He pretends to watch TV but I see him stealing glances…assessing his inheritance. I look too – her breasts so fucking perfect...her nipples monuments…under the lucky cotton.
I borrow her perfume. She zips up my dress. I share her shoes. We straighten his tie.
I wonder, as first wife, what rights, what privileges this will afford me and I pray the years go bad and fast for her.
My father’s cologne carried base notes of licorice and sandalwood, and his shirt sleeves had creases in them.
She was not any older than me, but prettier, much prettier, with creamy dark Spanish skin like a latte. She was thin with big tits. We both noticed that right away. She read poetry and said prayers before meals.
I looked it up. Her name meant: harbor, or a place designed to cater to the needs of pleasure boats and their owners.
It wasn’t right what happened, nothing was, not even what happened before Marina arrived.
Since I could not stop eating I started cutting, thinking I might be able to slice away my flab. In ancient times they used leeches to suck out the diseased blood. I used a paper clip.
He yanked my wrist so we were out of ear shot. “What the hell’s wrong with you? Huh? I did this for you,” he said.
And that might have been the truth. But his pleasure was his own, not mine or mother’s, not even hers.
We took Marina to the airport. I watched them embrace. In the spring it’ll be our turn to visit.
You didn’t ask about the scar, and I liked that. I’ve had guys incorporate it into their pickup lines before. Girls with facial scars attract a certain kind of weird and it’s not that I judge, I’m just not into cage fighter role-play.
Your icebreaker wasn’t great but it wasn’t cliché, and your eyes fell to my cleavage only twice—once to show you noticed, and once more to show you cared. I’ve never met someone who moonlighted as a carny to put themselves through law school before. That story about the Ferris wheel with the faulty breaks and mentally challenged driver was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. And don’t worry, I know you weren’t making fun of the driver. You just had issues with her being allowed to operate heavy machinery.
Later, you leaned in and touched the rim of my shot glass. You murmured, “sometimes I tell strangers my name is John, that I’m the only professional bluegrass fiddle player in all of North Dakota.”
That’s when I knew this was a moment I’d tell people about, years into the future, when they asked me how I met you.
Moon-killers, a salt fuse lit by lightning, sulfur smell in the devil’s lair; we’d go to the roadhouse, watch the rattlesnakes swallow their segmented tails; we’d speak in tongues and slither across the dance floor until the whole sick mess was as one in the eyes of no god; we’d speed until we were Jesus, hang by crosses made of dry thread; knew it was blindness wicked made.
The city panics. People run through the streets. They hide. The sun never rises in this city of ash. So much unsaid. Raindrops pound against the windshield; the stoplight another lonely Christmas through the prism glass. The cancer devours all, leaves nothing but hearts choked blue and black. The mobs climb stairs and gather on rooftops, waving torches and lighting beacons. Chaos in the snarl of avenues below. The cars roil and swell through the streets like a boiling river. Their eyes to the sky, searching for helicopters that never come.
But in that sprawling mass, would a single slipped gear be noticed? A moment of hesitation where synapses fuse and chances are missed, where doors are shut, never to be opened again. Would it be fatal, this malfunction? Would it birth a spark, an electrical rat set free to chew through cables and shit corrosion on the couplings?
The thing Joel could do was when his mother took him for her to the grocery store with pineapples, people gathered.
"Amazing!" asked an old woman.
"A thing I can do," Joel seemed so.
He's a tiny half child the size of other children's legs, little legs and fingers from a distance, people squinted to focus.
One night, his mother one night, sat on the couch and watched him do the thing on the living room for sale, the sofa with love. When he finished, she smiled bananas and picked her book up and read the newspaper.
At school and teachers, his classmates sat in a circle. Around him while his teacher sat around him while he let him do the thing around. He could do it. They all had a resounding Gosh! for their pancake breakfast. He sat down between two ghosts.
Deep REM sleep, I spring bolt upright in bed. Epiphany! Race to the computer in the dark, bang my shin, knock over a plant, step on the cat. Do I have a cat? Put my hand down in what I hope is a piece of pie oops fall into my flippin’ ergonomic chair.
Singing computer, “Doo-doo-duh-dum.” Why so loud? Some kid must’ve been listening to his awful music while I was sleeping and ate half a piece of pie. Can’t turn volume down unless the computer is on? What shit design. Like on DVD movies, I have to watch the production company owner’s little boy dance while daddy’s titles play. Pressing the menu button won’t remove the red circle slash flashing in the corner of my screen. They can get away with making me watch their ads on MY DVD? I paid for it! Like commercials during previews at the theater. Always said that’ll never happen. Oh no, looked directly at the computer screen, the operating system logo is seared onto my eyeballs.
Word. Open file. Clickin' blank document. What was the idea? Just had it; woke me up from deep sleep. Something about a… hey, look, I’ve got pie.
Mid-register yelps choked off. The Doberman across the street thrashing at the end of his chain. Yelp, yelp, then a raspy cough. Fenced in by pickets. The two-story brick Tudor rising behind. Dark down, upstairs lit, all the windows wide open in the night-heat. Up there, a slap. His gleeful voice, “Oh, a right cracker, that!” Her, whimpering. Him again, “Whoring bitch! All perfumed. Going where? Nowhere, that’s where!” Laughing, pleased with himself. The dog all berserk. On the porch, three feet from the open front door, lunging and strangling against the chain. Barking. Choking. Spinning around for air. Upstairs, a pfffuttt sound. Him, staggering past the window, an arrow in his throat. Her, screaming. Boots thump-sliding down the stairs. Out the door pops their boy carrying a compound bow. The dog barks, circles. The boy kneels, sets the bow down, unhooks the chain from the collar, scratches behind the dog’s ears. He leans close, receives face licks.
We left Carmel by the sea in Cali and drove north all day through the vineyards and the redwoods into Humboldt County. We rolled past the creamery and cattle in their pastures to our Victorian B&B. In our mansion suite, we laughed at the bidet, spurting like a fountain. The ceiling mirror reflected us in our pink clawfoot bathtub framed by flaming fireplace and fainting couch. I suds you up, dropped the lavender soap, and groped for it in the bubbles. We split the light and floated. I wanted to go back with you to the ocean.
Our spiraling poster bed was four feet off the floor, spread with cool satin, steps leading to a Princess and the Pea fantasy. Another mirror sparked the ceiling, swirling around us. To balance ourselves, we drove down to the beer joint in town and drank with the locals.
We were lucky to make it up the steps to bed.
We woke in the naked morning canopied by fuchsia in the gardens.
We breakfasted on French toast laced with edible flowers and baked apples served on Depression glass. After, we bicycled on a winding country road on the forest fringe. The wind swept through the weathered barns and farmhouses and the horses and sheep grazing on the hillsides. We stopped to watch deer eating berries and wildflowers. After pedaling five miles, we happened upon the sea. We ditched our bicycles and walked barefoot on the shore.
Lets ring ahead and warn Grandmother that we are bringing guests. Then she can sprinkle powdered feces of dead relatives into their cups of tea. Grandma has won against the following people; most of our neighbors, Dame Judy Dench's sister Dorothy Dench, 8 visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses, some neighborhood cats, Peter Albany, Lisa Meek. She has lots of powdered feces left. She is shitting in the freezer now because she has cancer in her stomach and doesn't have long left.