Friday, May 28, 2010

Under an August Moon

We sat among empty beer cans, broken bottles, and cigarette butts in the small clearing. The night was sweltering. Our shirts, sopping wet with sweat, clung to our backs. A cloud of sticky smoke rose above us and slunk through the thin canopy of stray branches overhead. We coughed loudly with every exhalation underneath the full August moon while laughing at nothing at all.

We talked and joked with one another, spread rumors, and swapped horror stories of sexual conquests gone wrong. So far, they had all gone wrong for all three of us. We were still young, still inexperienced in the ways of women, still light years away from even the remotest understanding of the mysteries hidden in blessedly comforting curves.

The camping lantern shed an artificial glow on all of our faces, casting shadows where none yet belonged, giving us each a glimpse of how the other might look after the years wore down on us, and we became mere ghosts of the people we were that day. We were still healthy then, still blind, still smiling.

We knew the world moved on around us. We heard the low hum of cars on the freeway a half mile through the brush to our east. Airplanes flew overhead, red and green lights flashing. A train whistled as it rode through what would be an empty intersection at this time at night in this part of the world.

Life was moving, but we were stationary, lost in our smoke, sipping warm beer, and we stayed there a while longer, laughing at nothing at all.

Friday, May 21, 2010


The Pastor Comes A Courtin’

Pastor Jason shook hands with Momma and Daddy at church. Momma asked what such a fine young man was doing without a wedding band? He said he just hadn't found the right girl yet. He looked to me and smiled.

He never asked me out, but he asked Momma. Momma agreed, and he took me on a date. He took me on a walk down a nature trail and talked to me about God while he did things to me I thought God should never know about.


I suffered morning sickness on my wedding day.

The Honeymoon

I sat down on a toilet seat that was cold and wet with his urine. Before going to bed, he put a fresh roll of toilet paper on the roll. He made it go under. I prefer the paper to go over.

Birth Pains

Still newlyweds, he would not come to the hospital with me. I was there all alone while I miscarried that first time. It was the same the other three times. He said his parishioners needed his comfort, and he had God's duty to perform. My stillborn infants' dead eyes never saw their father. Perhaps that was for the best?

The Parishioner

Cathy Jacobs, a single mother, kept having children out of wedlock. All three of her children looked like Jason.


There were recurring dreams of my children. They looked like me, not Jason. They looked nothing like Cathy's children.

I woke up sweating and feeling an empty pit in my stomach. I touched the scars from my last C-section, and went to the bathroom to cry. Once again, the toilet seat was wet and the toilet paper went under, not over.

The bastard!

The Request

I asked for a certificate of divorce the next day. He quoted, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." I mention that divorce is permitted in the case of infidelity. He claimed there was no infidelity, and even if there were, a Christian woman would forgive.


He refused the divorce. I talked to Momma, and she told me I was being ridiculous, that Pastor Jason had opened up so many doors for the family. She told me to stop being so selfish.

"Besides," she reminded me, "you don't have a job. What would you do?"

I had no answer.

Jason moved us to a big house in the country. I was only allowed to leave the house on Sundays. I sat on the front pew, listened to him preach, and forced a smile on my face.


He no longer slept with me. The only time he touched me was when he hit me. As lonely and isolated as I was, I made him hit me a lot. I know it was wrong, but I enjoyed the touch.

A New Day

There was a new parishioner. A middle-aged man named Charley. He was a tall blonde with an athletic build. Despite his age, he looked younger than me. Before coming to town, he used to play football in the city. He's retired now.

He smiled at me. I smiled back and uncrossed my legs.

A Second Request

I asked for a divorce again. Charley promised he would provide me a way out.

My husband refused, quoting "And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."

He hit me and called me a sinner before leaving me alone in the house. Jason drove away to be comforted by his parishioner.


Reading the Bible, looking for a way out, I read "And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell." I didn't want to sin. I understood I had to cast off the hand.

A Bonfire

I got up to go to the bathroom. The seat was wet and the toilet paper went under, not over.

I had enough.

I took the roll of toilet paper into the bedroom. I straddled Jason, used the sheets to hold him down, stuffed the toilet paper roll into his mouth, and lit it on fire. His screams were muffled as the sheets caught the flames.

The firemen found me laughing in my nightshirt while I watched the blaze burn the house to the ground.

The Caged Bird

On Sundays I am surprised by how free I feel despite being enclosed in my cell. I sing and write long love letters to Charley.

He never writes back.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Fisherman's Tale

Wrinkled hands, spotted by an age of outdoor living, reeled in the line. The fisherman squinted as he watched his line dart across the rippled and sun-dappled surface of the pond. He pulled back. The reel squealed. His fishing pole bowed into a steep curve. The tip pointed outwards and flicked around as the line moved.

Something leaped in the water about twenty feet from the shore. Something big. It shined a multifaceted reflection of golden sunlight.

“Ha! You’re a big one, ain’t you? C’mon baby. Don’t fight it.” He held his breath and let out a little slack, worried the line would break from the strain.

The reel whined as the fish ran out towards the center of the pond. Once the line stopped moving, the fisherman inhaled and pulled back on the pole again. The fish struggled, but not quite as hard as before.

“That’s right. C’mon over here baby.”

The fish gave up the fight, and he was able to reel it in. He bent down among the reeds lining the muddy shoreline and reached into the water to pull out the bass. It was the strangest bass he had ever seen. It was as golden as sunlight; it reminded him of how his wife’s blonde hair had shimmered back when they were still young and used to swim in this very pond.

He reached down to grab the fish by the mouth.

“Excuse me.” The fish said.

The man fell back on his rump. Reeds and mud cushioned his fall, protecting his fragile hip (it had just been replaced six months ago). “What the –“ He pulled his pole up and began slamming it against the fish.

“Ow! Cut it out! Damn it! Stop it!” the fish screamed.

The man began to yell himself now. “Dang demon! What the hell!”

The fish tried to swim away, but could not. The line was tangled among the reeds. The hook was caught in its lip. “Stop it, old man! I can grant you wishes!”

The man paused, his pole held up above his head. “Wishes, huh?”

The fish looked at him and nodded its head by contorting its body. Scales glistened. “Yes. Three wishes. That’s how this thing normally works, right?”

The fisherman shook his head. He thought to himself that he needed to check the side effects of his new cholesterol pill. He could not remember the warning label saying anything about talking fish.

“So?” The fish looked up to him expectantly. “What’s your first wish?”

The old man thought about his wife, he thought about his kids and grandkids, he thought about the warmth of the sunlight beaming down against his bare scalp and soaking into the t-shirt on his back, and he paused to listen to the songs of grasshoppers and cicadas. He shook his head and began beating the fish once again with vigor.

“I don’t need you, demon. I gots all I need!”

Shining scales littered the pond. Like rising ghosts, steam filtered up from the dissolving golden flecks along with the smell of corruption.

The fisherman nodded his head, spat into the water, packed up his tackle, and turned towards home. He smiled. He knew his wife would be waiting on the front porch with a smile and a nice glass of iced tea.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Day the Sun Slept In

The sun didn't come up, so I decided to stay inside. I figured there was no point going out if there ain't no light to see by. I remembered hearing about something like this back in Sunday school – that God had done something with the sun for some battle or something, but I've always been fuzzy about details. I've never been a good student.

I thought I'd paid the power bill, but the lights went off. I kicked my toe against the coffee table and it hurt like hell. It's a wonder the neighbors didn't call the cops with all my fussing. My damn apartment has thin-ass walls.

With nothing better to do, I tried to play some music on my iPod. I thought some Zeppelin would do nice, or maybe some Sabbath? But that damn thing didn’t work either, and I knew I just charged it. Fucking piece of shit!

After sitting in the dark a while, I got tired of staring out the window. The swirling purple clouds were pretty weird, but after a while they got boring. I pulled out the old hookah and lit up some stems and seeds, all that was left in my baggie after the night before. I coughed on the harsh smoke. It burnt like fire.

Hoping to refresh my stash, I called my buddy Roach, but my cell had no charge. I tossed it out the window because it pissed me off.

The phone broke through the window and stopped in midair among dozens of glass shards. They sat a moment, still, and then began spinning before slowly floating up into a black and purple swirl of sky.

Papers fluttered throughout my apartment. A couple taped-up concert flyers from my old band ripped off the living room wall.

I decided I didn't need any more weed after all; my tongue felt like a stuffed sock.

Shuffling my feet and using my hands to guide me through the dark, I carefully walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and spilled my milk. It pooled on the floor. I felt an odd urge to cry, but it passed.

I pulled out a beer – the only liquid I could find since the sink wouldn't work – but it was one of Bob's damned imported pieces of shit. I tried to twist off the cap and cursed as the serrated edge cut into my hand. I needed to find a bottle opener.

I remembered a flashlight I kept on the fridge. I pulled it down and laughed because it didn't work. Of course that piece of shit would be out of batteries, too.

I put the flashlight back in its place and worked my way over to the little window in the kitchen, unopened beer in hand. The cold condensation felt nice on my bleeding palm.

I looked out and knew something was wrong.

Behind our apartment is a school. Normally, when I wake up around noon the place is swarming with kids. They're out there hollering and going on during their recess, generally pissing me off as I try to sleep.

But the playgrounds were empty.

The school was dark and without students.

I couldn't have known it at the time, but I felt it. I knew deep inside that I'd never see another kid again. And I'm glad.

What's left of this world ain't no place for children.