Fiction — February 26, 2019 18:01 — 0 Comments

Poems & Short Stories: Telenova, Thinking Twice, Sarah, Hubcaps Were Shiny, Indiana, The Women With No Legs, Fart Date, Plans For The Night, In Need Of Help, Famous Magazine, Memory


Telenova has lied to me. She smiles while she would have me believe in love. She has sent me notes to tell me how she likes my stride, how I walk across a room like an elephant. She has spent the night. I have found a hair of hers on my jacket more than once. She has borrowed my books and taken my magazines. She says she is in love with poetry but I have never seen her write. She keeps a trunk locked in her small apartment and I have never seen inside. Telenova. She has only one name. She looks into shop windows and I imagine she is dreaming of stealing. Such a difference her little green eyes make. She told me the story of a toad. How a cat leapt from the bushes, caught the amphibian. She saw its eyes go big and then swallowed up. She smiles while she tells me this. Everything is untrue, she assures me. This is the love she brings. Her sister, whom I have only met once, is Carissa. She burns her eyebrows. Calls it Punk and tells me to leave. The television on. I saw my reflection in a picture of the father hanging on the wall. I was defeated.



Thinking Twice

            By now she had seen the letter the army’d sent home. She had just gotten home too. It had been years since I’d seen her. I was on my way back, but I stopped to catch my breath.

I was drunk, though underage. The blonde waitress making the rounds asked if I wanted another drink. I said yes. I couldn’t say no to her. She smiled. I lit a cigarette and the band started to play again.

My eyes drifted over the clientele drinking at the bar. There were only a handful of men, though it was ladies’ night. The blonde waitress was getting a lot of attention from the men at the bar. I heard her tell the bartender she didn’t need this job.

When the music was over I left. New York, in December, is cold at night. I needed more than the uniform I was wearing. I stuffed my hands inside my pockets and walked, watching my breath leave me.

“Fuck it,” I said to myself as I lit and inhaled a cigarette. I’ve been talking more and more to myself recently. Isolation stems from a true love of yourself, I think. It’s not that I hate everything else, really. It’s more like I’m disappointed.

When I was younger I used to watch my father. He sat in his brown, faded armchair with a beer and a pack of cigarettes, staring and smoking at the television. If my mother was lucky the Mets would win. I thought he understood what he was doing. I thought he calculated his choices, weighed his options, and did his best. I figured out later that he’d already given up. He just hadn’t admitted it.

People have to believe in themselves. It’s all they have. So they make beliefs, and stick to them, because change is so fucking sad and difficult. And then they argue for what they’ve decided, defending themselves: sometimes killing others.

My father used to yell at her during the games. “Michelle! Get your ass in here. Heat me up something in that oven,” he used to say.

“Hurry the fuck up.”

When she wasn’t home he just stared at the TV. His ashes would fall on the rug. If I was home, I’d watch him from behind the wall. If he saw a woman on the screen, he’d take a sip. If he saw a new car, he’d take a sip. He kept a cooler of beer at his feet all weekend.

Sometimes she felt sad she couldn’t help him. She cried for him, and loved him for a long time. Now, I wonder how she let it get like that to begin with. How her life led her to him.

“Fuck it,” I said again, stumbling down the sidewalk. My head was cold and I had no hat. My military haircut provided no warmth either.

Being dishonorably discharged isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. If you’re smart, the army isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds either. If you’re smart, there are no pushups. If you’re too smart, though, they put you in the room. The room is all Scotch-Taped eyelid shit. There are rumors about the room. I acted just smart enough to stay out.

I got the boot because I was always stoned. I told them I wasn’t a quitter. I thought they’d like that. The reason they didn’t kick me out sooner was because I was so damn good at my job. I worked with computers and cracked codes. I’d been there for eighteen months and they had me working with their top equipment.

The military loved me. I thought it might straighten me out. When they discharged me, my commander tried to swear me to secrecy.

“This is Top Secret Shit, Chambliss,” he said. “Don’t run your mouth about it to anyone. You understand that, boy?” He called me boy because he thought it would scare me more. My commander, two months earlier beamed, saying, “I was going to have a great career here with the military.” That was before he found out I smoked. I used a carved-out apple from the dining hall. I told him it was all natural. He said he didn’t fucking care. At the time I wondered if he was talking about me.

After a few more blocks I came to Central Park. It seemed deeper than usual, expanding as I looked in. I lit a cigarette, and decided to go in. I’ve started to realize I am just one person in some long-standing chain. We’re still trying to figure ourselves out. I don’t know how that’s supposed to make us feel. But I want out. I’m time-claustrophobic. I feel like I’m suffocating while battling this clock that will never stop. It welcomed me once, but now it welcomes in others, some twenty years later. I feel forgotten and it makes it hard to breathe.

In the park I couldn’t stop thinking about her. My mother is small and scared of life, though she’s rather driven. My father, much larger, convinced her that we needed a gun in the house for protection, and before she could think twice he had a new revolver in their bedside table. I don’t think she ever felt safe sleeping in the same room with it.

One day he came at her with a baseball bat. I think it was sometime in September, because the playoffs were on. He’d gotten too comfortable. Violence had kept her psychologically alert. Her lawyer called it self defense. The judge gave her five years in a low-security female prison. She served two.

The park was tremendously empty. I could only see outlines of landscape from the moonlight. I felt like I was in a painting. A blurred character in the left corner gazing out at rocks, trees, and an empty sky.

“What do you think that guy’s thinking?” some student might ask, seeing my picture.

“I think he’s thinking about life,” another would say, “What’s out there, you know?” And then they’d write a C+ paper on me and go out drinking.

I was getting tired. I thought about lying back and falling asleep on a park bench. But it was too cold, and I didn’t have any of my things. They were being sent via ship from my old base. I decided to leave the park and its trees and walk home.

The streets were empty on my walk back. There were a few cabs making rounds, and though I was tired and out of cigarettes, I decided to walk the rest of the way. I thought about when I was much younger. My father used to drink on Fridays after work and come home late. Every time I wished he’d behave himself. Every time, I was let down.

I thought about the bar he went to after work. I thought how the people there were probably often glad to see him. He might have even bought a round for them. He had memories with them. And then after a few laughs, he went home to do his business with her. She must have seemed like an actress on the stage to him, having no life outside his direction. Willing to do anything to keep his dreams going, reaffirming the choices he’d made before, again. She may have let him go that far by staying there and making him feel valuable.

“Fuck it.” I walked the last block to my apartment building. Outside, I took a deep breath. This was the first time I’d been home in two years. It felt impossible that she’d even be there.




I saw a bird in the grass
small and brown
its round body partially hidden in the long blades

around its throat was a ring of purple dried blood
and its yellow beak was open and a black tongue
hung out

one of its wings was broken and all the brown feathers had been torn off
the other wing was folded closely to its body

the feet were untouched

it was in the middle of the front yard, which was very small, about the size of a
Volkswagen with just the grass, and a single dogwood

I wanted to name her Sarah after an ex-girlfriend I’d

and so I picked up Sarah and wrapped her in the newspaper
and put her under the tree in the corner where no one would see her.



Hubcaps Were Shiny

            There was a knock on my door, which woke me. I took my time answering; putting on clothes. I walked to the door. On the other side a man stood, holding a letter.

“Mr. Chievers?”


“Mr. Chievers, I have a letter from Manhattan Hospital. It’s addressed to you. Urgent, it says.”

“Thank you.” I waved, turning around and closing the door. I don’t enjoy people, and don’t keep a phone. There is little worse than a ringing telephone.

The letter was from a hospital. My brother had been admitted there several months ago with cancer. It was in his skin and spreading.


Eric Chievers- 

                        Your number is unlisted, we tried to call. Your brother, David, has taken a severe turn for the worse. He requests that you come visit him before his time is gone.


                                                                        Our best,

                                                                        Dr. Anderson, MD

                                                                        Manhattan Hospital


I thought that I should shower before I left. And find my vodka. The train into the city is better with liquor.

After my shower, I dressed. Fresh t-shirt, gray socks, faded green pants. I tied the laces of my boots and put on a hooded sweatshirt. I looked around the room: wallet, keys, cigarettes, lighter. Finally, I poured what was left of Schlott’s Vodka into an empty water bottle and left.

The air outside was crisp. I went into a convenience store and bought a Royal Crown cola. Despite the poster, I didn’t feel like a king. I walked to the train station smoking a cigarette. I thought about David. He is five years older than me, and my only brother. We used to have sock wars in the hallways when we were much younger. He taught me how to play, and let me win sometimes. When our father went out looking for us, Dave used to tell me to hide. I hid in the shoe-closet for hours. He would come back bruised. He made sure I stayed safe. It got worse when he went to college. I had to stay away from the house. “Sleepovers,” my friends’ parents were nice. Dave never forgot my birthday though. Once he sent me a wrapped Campbell’s Soup box, with a digital watch hidden inside. The note said: Did you really think that I’d just get you soup? Happy Birthday. Love, Dave. I got to the station.

At the ticket window sat a slender, brown haired black woman with beautiful eyes. She smiled as she cocked her head to the left.

“May I help you?” I thought for a second she might really be able to.

I bought a round-trip ticket to New York. And thanked her. I wanted to thank her for my fantasy, as well. The train was rolling into the station as she handed me my change. I got in.

I took the first open seat I saw. Across the aisle two Asian girls sat down. They looked like students. One was tall and slender with waste-length brown hair. The other was shorter, fatter, and wouldn’t shut up.

“I hate the city.” The short girl snorted.


“It’s too big, too crowded, too loud, too… everything. You know?” She counted these off with her fingertips. She said it as if she were right. As if something could be too everything.

Fear is easy. My brother used to tell me that people were scared of themselves. That since they see all of their own mistakes, they’re paranoid that they’ll keep making more and everyone will notice them. That everyone tends to just give up themselves to fit in. That’s why they all end up wearing the same clothes. Why all the music on the radio sounds the same. He said that those people don’t challenge anything. They don’t grow. He told me people feared change, and they hate those that defy insecurities.

“I don’t know. I mean it does have everything.” The taller one said.

“Yeah, I mean, I could like it if I had to. It’s just, I don’t know.”

“Yeah.” The tall one reiterated. “I love it. It’s so much fun.”

“Yeah, I mean I guess I like the city. Like for special days, maybe. I just don’t want to get mugged shopping around stores. We aren’t gonna get mugged, are we?”

She acted as if she was hot stuff.

I stopped listening. I decided to take out my bottles. Dave and I used to play cards with the neighbors in the summers. We stayed up till three, drinking and listening to The Rolling Stones. Sometimes I would write lines about it, and leave the papers out for him to read.

When our parents divorced he went with dad and I went with mom. He felt bad for our old man. Dave got skin-cancer less than a month after the divorce, around the time dad’s liver failed. No one knew why. Mom stays at home all the time now. And I’m at school, trying to learn something. I think his body finally gave in when dad died. He was so used to the abuse—I didn’t want to see him like that. He must’ve never felt right without it. I’ll never know for sure why he went with dad. I think he thought he could help him. Deep down, Dave loved him. I wanted to be different. So we parted ways.

I could feel the tracks below our car, and the humming sound they made was soothing. The vodka was cool and so was the soda. When I drink I like to swish the booze around in my mouth before I swallow. It kind of burns. I can feel tiny little sores in my mouth, from where a potato chip cut the gums on the way down, or where I bit my cheek. The vodka mixes with the wounds and creates something new. It takes me away from the fat Asian girl across from me, away from cancer.

I saw a car from my window. It was this long, stretched car. Yellow. I could see the driver and the passenger. An old couple. A man and a woman. Their hubcaps were shinny, and all four windows were rolled up. In the back there was a For Sale sign; one of the black and red signs you can pick up at a hardware store cheap.

I wondered why they were selling the car. The man looked proud to be driving in it. It was big, and old. The woman looked comfortable too, but quiet. This car could have been their pride and joy, the one thing left after the kids had moved out, and the dog passed. But it was for sale. Available to anyone. Maybe they needed the money. Maybe they had three more cars at home, and this one was the least precious. No, they seemed happy in it; it was theirs. But now it could be mine. I could take it for the right price.

I took another sip from the bottle. I began to feel better. Things seemed to matter less. It’s what alcohol is best at. We were pulling into Newark, one stop from New York City. I capped my bottles. I closed my eyes, and rested my head against the wall of the train. I tried to block out the conversations across from me. I tried to block out everything just for a moment. I started thinking about a girl I used to be with. She was everything to me. She dated my best friend for two years before I swept her off her feet (that’s what I like to think). She’s visiting him at his school now though. What the fuck am I supposed to think about that? I mean, she still calls me. She still says she loves me. But she’s down there with him. I spent months with her getting her through her pain of him. Her pain of their break-up. Her pain with the way he never let her come out to parties. And now that she’s through that. Through her pain. She went back to see him. They’re friends now. I wish I could tell her he used to cheat on her. She has no idea. He used to get his dick sucked by some skinny white girl in his dorm while they were still together. She’d kill me if she found that out. How could you have kept this from me? She’d probably yell. But she’s happy now right? Oblivious of cold truth. And I’m the dick for getting mad at her. I do my best to find humor in that.

Ten minutes went by, and I heard the train slow to a stop. New York, Penn Station, New York. The conductor regurgitated through the inter-com. I got up and stepped off the train. There were possibilities ahead of me. Cities have that advantage, and the fat girl had no idea about it. She did her best to stay inside the soap bubble she’d created. She made me want to see Dave.

We stopped talking to one another after our parents divorced. I couldn’t understand why he went with dad. He drifted away from me, trying to help our father, forgetting about himself. I tried to find his logic, but couldn’t, and drifted away myself.

Penn Station is big, and full of people. My eyes moved as I walked through the tunnels to all the gorgeous women. New York is full of women. They have tight expensive jeans, brown leather coats, boots, and this walk. It might not even be a walk. Bounce and glide. Bounce and glide. The stone tiles in the station echo. You can hear heals hit with each step. Even New York’s finest take a few moments to stop and tip their hats, “Hello.”

Who are these people? As a kid I revered them. Thinking I would never be able to be as competent as them. As beautiful as them. As talented as them. Then I started learning. I began to realize that some of these people are barely conscious of themselves. Most have no idea what they like. Most follow orders. Most are scared. The underbelly is just as important as the clothes.

I left the station and walked to the street. I tried to hail a cab, but as soon as my arm went up a whistle blew. A man in a uniform looked at me, blew his whistle again, and motioned for me to get in a line. I looked around. He was talking to me. I got into line. I’ve learned to hate uniforms.

I eventually got a taxi. I told the driver to take me to “Manhattan Hospital.”

“Manhattan Hospital?” The driver repeated.


“Somebody sick?”

“My brother. He has cancer.”

“May God bless him,” he said.

I didn’t understand why he’d care. “Thanks.”

The drive was quick, the driver knew how to weave. Every time I get into a cab I think about this joke of Jerry Seinfeld’s,

When you’re in a cab you find yourself looking out the window and saying, “I sure wouldn’t be doing this in my car.” Meanwhile the guy has your life in his hands, and its all one big joke.

But sitting back as he maneuvered, I felt more relaxed. The city flew by like a grey sheet. I imagined telling Dave about it. But he’d probably say, “If you think about it, man, ease isn’t that good. You gotta look out for the hard things, the challenges.” I’m not sure if he ever relaxed.

The driver let me off. The hospital doors were huge, and made of glass. The inside of the building was clean. Everything was buffed and smelled like lemons. I approached the front desk: a big brown slab of table set off to the left just before the elevators.

“Hello, I’m looking for David Chievers’ room.”

“Okay, and who are you?” the female candystriper said.

“I’m his brother. A doctor sent me a letter… I’m supposed to be here today.”

“He’s in room 114, on the first floor. Take a right there, and it’s the third door on your left.”

The halls were very clean too. They were black marble with little lines of green swirling through them. The doors lined the walls like an office building, and on each door was a place for the patient’s chart. Everything in order. When I opened the door, there was David in his bed. Dying. A nurse was just leaving. She gave me a smile, and touched my shoulder. The chart she clutched covered her chest and neck.

I went to David. I touched his forehead, he had a fever. His head was turned to the other side, but when he felt me he looked over. I was so sad.

“Eric.” David struggled a bit. “You got the letter.” He smiled.

“Yes, this morning. How do you feel?” I said, not taking my eyes off him.

“I’ve missed you, Eric.” He paused. “Bring me anything good?”

“No. I didn’t.” I was really sorry I hadn’t.

“Are you still writing?” he asked me.

“A little bit. Nothing great.”

“Who says?”

“Dave, the letter said things have gotten worse.”

“Sit down, I feel alright now.”

I took a step closer. “I’m sorry I haven’t been more in touch Dave. I was stupid.”


“For everything. I’ve wasted all this time. With nothing. I didn’t even bring you anything.”

“It’s alright, Eric. I’ve been gone too, there’s still time.”




the Wabash car crash killed us a hard ass
took all his hard cash and left his carcass in the car ash

the lily toad monster has no imposter nor any lost art of
what it takes to chomp off the want of more of that sort of mortician

skeleton key Ms. Daisy and figure me fingerling potato thing
knew once the director of the specter of the hector of love and aiming

the girl in Wabash who started the car crash that killed yadda yadda
and the bank foreclosed on our homes and we have no where to go

left a body by the lily and saw the ill effect of the monster affects
couldn’t help but laugh at the craft and the size of her heart

lost the ring lost the sing lost the intricate identity of the
wing upon which some witch spelled our fierce clinging

count to three as you count on me Daisy and drink away the
hazy lazy mazy crazy descriptions that come these days too easy

the Wabash car crash killed us a hard ass and we know now how
to harvest



The Women With No Legs

So my buddy found this girl. She only had one leg. She was beautiful everywhere else, big breasts in her dresses like held breaths, big dark eyes like eclipsed suns, smooth brown skin like hazelnut chocolate spread. But she was missing this left leg. He told me he’d never had a better sex life. He took her in his master bed, in the backseat of his Ford, even once in the mall bathroom after sharing an Annie’s sugar pretzel. He told me that her not having that leg was the best thing to ever happen to him. “There’s so much more room to maneuver,” he said. Don’t you care about the crutches, her stump staring back, or how it looks? I asked him. “Not one bit,” he said. “There’s all that extra space!”

Well eventually it ended with her. He was a banker and she said he worked too much. His love for her one legged body wasn’t enough and she hopped off.

But he’d tasted the fruit and wanted it again. He trolled hospitals for women with one leg. “But every time I see one,” he explained one night in his apartment over a beer, “I became bored. I am beginning to think. …I want a woman with no legs.” My friend, the banker, has always been ambitious. “It’s perfect!” he said. “I will find the most beautiful legless woman. She will never leave me and there will be even more room!”

He found her a couple weeks later after researching news articles concerning women in severe car accidents. He flew to Panama City one Sunday and met the woman he’d read about. She was poor but very attractive in the face, arms, torso; a thin girl with straight black hair. She had no legs at all. He paid her medical bills in full on the spot. He brought her back home immediately.

She rolled around in a wheelchair. He had to have tables made to accommodate her, he had to install railings in the bathroom for the tub and toilet. “I don’t care,” he said to me on the street one Saturday. “You should see what it looks like. When I have her on the bed lying on her back I can go in at any angle! Or her on top, her body there riding mine!”

“Yeah, but don’t her arms get in the way?” I asked as a joke.

“Hmm,” was all he said.



Fart Date

There is this little Jazz club around the block from my apartment. Musicians play there, improvising, swinging, hootin’ and hollerin’, creating a pleasant environment. And since I live nearby, and since I love drinking and since I appreciate the music, I became a regular. When you’re a regular of a bar, you get to know the people working there. They learn what you like to drink, they see your face and get to know your smile. You become acquainted.

Working at this Jazz club was a beautiful waitress (the plot thickens). She had smooth hazelnut skin, long curly hair and a body that seemed to boom louder than any kick drum on the planet. Bracelets jangled on her wrists, she wore gold around her neck and one got the impression she woke up early to apply her makeup precisely and tirelessly.

She was the type of girl one had fantasies about. The type of girl I had fantasies about.

For some reason, I always thought she was out of my league. I wouldn’t make regular eye contact with her, I didn’t chat her up, because, well, I didn’t want her to think I was hitting on her, because I thought I had no chance. Because she was the type EVERYONE hit on. But she was always in the corner of my eye.

One winter evening, to my surprise, she and a few other people who worked at the Jazz club came into the bar where I worked. It was their co-worker’s sendoff party. He was leaving Seattle, leaving the Jazz club, for a job as a photographer in San Francisco. The group came in, sat around one of our wood tables and ordered a couple rounds of beer. I served them, made eye contact with her, smiled, even bought her a round of pale ales. When they got the bill, they paid, and they walked out. She walked out with them, but less than a minute later, she came back inside and walked up to me.

“We’re going to another bar on 43rd,” she said. “You should come by after your shift.”

“I think I can do that,” I said with the smoothest tone of voice I could muster.

She held up her hand as if she wanted me to high-five, to seal the deal. I did and our hands touched and she held on to mine. Lingering. Then she turned and walked out. Her kick-drum body going boom, bada-boom. Somehow, just like that, I had a date for the late night.

I met them at the bar around midnight. I sat next to her. I love playing this game: the we-are-interested-but-let’s-pretend-not-to-be-interested-for-as-long-as-possible-until-the-very-end-of-the-night game. Side by side, our legs almost touched but never did. The tension between our knees excruciatingly sexual.

At the end of the evening she offered to drop the guy moving to San Francisco off at his apartment. She also offered to drop me off at my apartment. He lived further away but she – tah dah! – decided to drop him off first. When we got back to my place, she parked. “Want to come in?” I asked. She nodded.

I opened the door, turned the lights on, then put my arms around her. I couldn’t believe I was kissing her. I couldn’t believe she let me lay her on my bed. I couldn’t believe she let me take her dark nylons off. I couldn’t believe we were having sex!

But then she started farting. Uncontrollably. It was as if she didn’t even hear it. Had no idea the sounds coming from her ass. But they were clear as day to me. With each move, she would answer with a loud fart. I had no idea what to do so I just kept at it!

When we were finished, she sat up, letting out another fart as she rose from the bed, said nothing, and went to the bathroom to, I can only assume, freshen up. When she came back, naked and beautiful in the dim light of the bathroom, she got in bed. She left at about seven in the morning, kissing me once before going.

She quit working at the Jazz club not long after and for some reason – perhaps some weird Pavlovian fart response – I deleted her number from my phone. We had our one night, it would stay at that. Last I heard, she was selling jewelry in a shopping mall on commission, this beautiful waitress who farted during sex.



Plans for the Night

Before anything else take off the ring. Put it in the back of a drawer, behind the Gideon’s Bible, where no one will see it. Rub your finger for about three minutes to get the ring lines off. So that you believe it, repeat over and over you’re single, a bachelor, a divorcé. Believe it like you believe your name is Ed. Wear socks that have not been mended, single men do not sew up holes. Make sure nothing you wear smells of her. Buy condoms, have one in your wallet. Take out the picture of you and her at the carnival, put that inside the bible. Do not look at the picture, do not miss her. Go to the computer and make sure your email is password protected, drunk women love to explore the internet. Do not let her see another woman’s name. Call downstairs. If a woman named Jane calls, tell the man to explain to her you are out in a meeting, that it will take all night, that you said sorry. The concierge must be used to men hiding from their wives. Delete her calls from your cellphone, as a matter of fact, password protect your cellphone too. Don’t even let her see it. When she gets to the room after dinner take her to the bed, sit down, put your hands on her hips and tell her she smells like flowers, Jane said that was irresistible. Prepare yourself, when you meet tonight for dinner across the street, when she asks you about having been married, tell her it has been a difficult year with a lot of drastic changes, that it was hard getting over it, but you’re glad you went through with it. Pour some more red wine in her crystal glass. If she smiles, if she touches your left hand, she is yours for the night.



In Need of Help

As a rule you must never offend a nice man; you must always smell nice, as if you have just come from the shower having washed your hair in flower shampoo and covered your body in soap. When you finish washing put on lotion, he will appreciate that; as a rule, keep plenty of lotion on you, in your purse, on your dresser, but never in your coat, that is how they are ruined. Tell the man he looks handsome, comment on his shoes if they look nice and do not comment if they do not. Wear your hair up if it has rained and down if there is no humidity. A man likes to see bounce in his girl’s hair. Do not talk about money, men do not like to hear about that. Wait to see if he talks about it, a good man will bring it up subtly and you will know what he means, let him tell you. When he tells a joke, smile, do not laugh a manish laugh like I have heard you do before out back with your dogs. When you smile do not show your teeth, instead show the fullness of your mouth, put on red lipstick, he will notice that. When you go to dinner sit straight, do not put your elbows on the table. Use the correct fork for your salad, the correct knife for your fish. Do not finish your salad, leave some for him to know you are not a glutton. Do not act like a dog. If he invites you for coffee afterward, have a cup if he has one, but do not finish yours, just sip it slowly, leave at least half. He will think you are not the pig that I have seen you be. If he invites you over say yes if you like him, say no if you do not. You will like him if he is dressed well, if his shoes are clean, if his hair is neat and he can talk about the world, business, international affairs. If he invites you up to his apartment do not take off your shoes. Men like to see their girls in heels. Put your purse on the table to one side, seem comfortable, do not seem uncomfortable, comment on his rug if it is nice. If he touches your arm, let him. If he kisses you, kiss him back. You like him, don’t you? If he puts on music say that you like it, even if you do not. Do not judge the man too quickly, men are full of surprises. If he asks you to bed, accept only if you think he likes you, not if he only wants you for one night. But you will not be the girl men want only for one night, no. If he really likes you, he will tell you you are beautiful. Act as if you have never heard it said so well before, men like that. When you are finished, glide your nails over his chest and do not say anything. Kiss his cheek, let him touch you, do not be afraid, if he has had you and wants you again, that is a good thing. Do you understand? Now go wash, he will be here soon.


Famous Magazine

He worked at a famous magazine. It published short stories and poetry and cartoons and interviews and articles about writing and had a well-known city in its title. The magazine, though, financially, was failing. But it’s an institution, Gerald Swath shouted at a higher-up in an office. An institution that no one reads, replied the higher-up.

At home, Swath stared at his computer. The cursor blinked back at him. He thought of a panda bear as he sipped a Pilsner. He wanted to write the essay that would stop the world in its tracks. The essay that everyone would talk about that next morning. He typed into the computer, “The panda that could not eat anything.” And a picture of a panda appeared on the screen, strangely. He slid his fingers across the screen as if he could touch it but the picture was fluffy and so, curiously, he did touch it. He pulled a small panda from the screen and placed it on the floor and it ran away behind his garbage can.

Swath spent the night trying to coax the tiny panda out from behind the garbage can but to no avail. The thing shook like a Chihuahua. He ended up just putting a few Triscuits there for the panda to eat, in case it was really starving, and he went to his bedroom to think and rest a little. The following day at the office he decided it best not to mention the panda to anyone. During the regular Tuesday meeting, writers pitched ideas for the next issue. At lunch they ordered lunch and for the rest of the afternoon Swath tried to figure out how to help the failing magazine that had been – and still was, as far he was concerned – an institution.

At home, the panda had gotten into the trash. It had, apparently, climbed up to the top and its weight, slight as it was, had toppled the trashcan. Plastic Whole Foods containers, two brown apple cores and a handful of tissues strewn out on the kitchen tile. The creature was in the sink when Swath got home, licking at the faucet like a cat trying to get at the water. Shit, Swath thought, he’d forgotten to leave food and water for the animal. He poured a bowl and put it beside the sink motioning with a flutey voice to the panda to drink. He put three more Triscuits by the bowl and he went to his computer. Very quickly, having a tiny pet panda became normal and it was time to work.

Swath typed up a letter to donors asking them for their support. He typed up a separate letter to people with money who he knew loved the magazine, or at least said they did, who had never donated, asking them for their support. He wrote a third letter to the head of a giant clothing corporation, asking her, and he knew this wasn’t above board, if there was anything she could do and they’d make it worth her while. In the kitchen the panda made a screeching sound like a fork scraping a plate.

The panda had cut its nose on a knife in the dish rack. Swath picked it up, took it to the bathroom, put on ointment and put it down on a blue towel with stars on it. Swath put on a record, Revolver, and tried to unwind. John Lennon had the best voice in rock and roll, he thought. Paul was the smoothest songwriter. He woke up and the record was spinning silently. The panda slept. It was not yet daylight. Swath put the letters he’d written in envelopes, added stamps and walked the bunch in the cold dawn to a mailbox and tossed them in.

He decided he’d quit the magazine that day. When he told the higher-up, the man nodded. Something had to change. Swath told him about the letters he sent and that if he heard anything back he would direct the people to the higher-ups, giving confidence that he could handle it and that there were people at the magazine who were extremely capable, competent, and if there was anything anyone could do, they could do it. Life would move on. It had to and it always did.

At home, Swath needed to figure out his panda situation. He’d tried typing other animals into his computer but only the panda had appeared that one and only time. He had tried to put the thing back into the screen but it only scrunched up against the glass, squeaking a little bit. Swath became more and more anxious for the future and more and more saddened by the past. He went to his refrigerator and poured himself a glass of wine and cut a few slices of cheese and a few slices of apple. He gave an apple slice to the panda and they ate together in the quiet kitchen.




“I don’t feel good,” the nine-year old boy mumbled, walking behind his distracted parents. They hadn’t heard him until he fell to the sidewalk.

Raised above the people in succession along the walkways of Central Park were large orange rectangles covered with purple handprints, each structure about twenty feet high. They looked like tall, unpinched staples sticking out of the ground, one every ten feet. The scene had taken the artist two months to arrange, and years to build each Gate.

The nine-year old boy strolled slowly to the Park behind his parents before suddenly feeling too weak to walk. Heat came from his body at a high degree. He felt flushed under his bright white t-shirt, and his auburn hair had begun to soak up his own sweat. The physician would call it, later that day, an unforeseeable blood clot.

From out of the air in front of the boy, a shadowy figure appeared. It didn’t say a word but it grabbed one of his wrists. The nine-year old screamed, but no one could hear. In fact everything around him had stopped at that moment: Frisbees flying between trees, his parents in front with their heads turned back at him, their tan terrier with its tongue still out.

The figure said in a low voice, “There are three minutes until the end.” Above them in the sky, a tiny black dot appeared and began slowly opening up with each breath the boy took. He looked up to the sky at the growing circle. His parents were still.

“Two minutes,” the shadowy-figure said. The boy wanted to reach out to hold onto something, but as soon as he raised his other arm, the figure grabbed hold of it firmly. The boy tried to pull back, but couldn’t move free. “One…” He feared what was being counted; his head ached like never before.

He wanted to shake from the grip of the figure. He wanted his parents to say something that could end all of this. If only he knew what to think or say, he could escape. Closing his eyes, the boy screamed, “What’s happening?!”

The figure, upon hearing this, grew nearly twice as tall. It looked at the young boy, watching his face as the last seconds ticked past, and spoke, “This is the common thread in the world. It is everywhere, boy. Take it for yourself!” And the hole above swallowed them both.

















Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney