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The Apocalypse

Shut the world off, please, I’m going back to bed
Turn it over, out, and off lest these flowers will rise dead
They’ll plan all my schedules’ meetings, working overtime
Work out birthdays, dog walks, dentistry, and misanthropic pine
(That tree hanging over the house is going to fall and would just LOVE to take us all out)

Spur-like evenings bursting of thyme-flavored romance are impossible to find—
And they don’t just happen.
Fashion a respectable Christmas card before Christmas, take Wally to the vet,
Brush Baby’s teeth so clean you can see yourself in Baby’s toothy shine
Family dentistry on Tuesday family dentistry on Tuesday
Lawn getting high and taxes getting higher
If we even had the nerve to sell, we’d never find a buyer
But sweet Jeanie’s prepping for camp next week
Ah the sweet innocence of camp for her
O the perfect release of responsibility for her
Eee what a burst of relief for her

I can feel the pressure lifting.

So shut it off now, or at least please turn it down.
The iron gates are clashing closed and I can just make out your darling freckles.
I’ll draw imaginary lines on you, connecting them crookedly when your face tickles.
And this was our perfect moment.
It’s so nice in here again, and all away from it.
Much safer than a bleed out.
If you hav’nt got a penny, a ha’penny will do.
If you hav’nt got a ha’penny, super-impose Malorie.
Not a chance.
I will not devastate my soul.
And we don’t believe in angels anymore, right?

Shut it off.

The Fisherboy’s Follies

 Or

 A Portrait of the Fisherman as a Young Man (A Romeo in Hormones’ Clothing)

Characters
(Main characters in boldface)

Sea Captains 1,2,3
Charlie Marigold
Mr. Marigold

Mrs. Marigold
Friendly Family Father
Frienldy Family Mother
Maya, the Girl of Charlie’s Dreams
Devil Fish
Righteous Fish


Scene One (In which Mr. Marigold gives some good advice)

Sea Captain 1: Something happens.

Sea Captain 2: Some other things happen.

Sea Captain 3: A fish winks at a lobster.

Sea Captain 1: It is early springtime in Kumbaya, Maine. The locals are preparing for the onslaught of tourists and vacationers. Yar.

Mr. Marigold: Hey Charlie, come ere, I wanna show ya somethin’.

Charlie: What is it, Dad?

Sea Captain 1: Charlie, a young fisherman learning the ropes, comes running down the dock to greet his father.

Mr. Marigold: You see that sea, Charlie? You’re still young but you can still see, can’t ya’?

Charlie: Sure I can see.

Mr. Marigold: Look past all of it, Charlie. Way out past the horizon there. Squint if ya’ have ta.

Charlie: (squinting) What am I looking for?

Mr. Marigold: Look past the sunspots and past the illusions; past all the grim monkey faces and graceful ballerinas …

Charlie: Um.

Mr. Marigold: There’s heaven and hell out there Charlie. Mark my words and don’t you forget ‘em. If ya wanna be a fisherman like your old man someday, you have to start learnin’ to distinguish between the two.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie smiles wide and grabs a medium sized trout from a bucket. He smacks his Dad across the face with it.

Charlie: (yells as he runs away) Sounds more like I oughtta be learnin’ to distinguish between sanity and madness.

Mr. Marigold: (yells after his son) Very well, boy! You’ve been warned! … Nice fish slap, son!

Scene Two (In which Charlie falls in love)

Sea Captain 3: Charlie runs all the way back to the Kumbaya Friendly Family Inn. His mother is checking in a family from …

Charlie: Connecticut.

Friendly Family Father: That’s right. How’d you know that?

Mrs. Marigold: That’s Charlie! He has a gift. He can guess where any family is from with 99% accuracy.

Friendly Family Mother: What happened to the other 1%?

Charlie: I have a raging fear of perfection.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie smiles wide, revealing a head full of sparkling teeth.

Sea Captain 2: Somewhat frightened by his gargantuan grin, the friendly parents turn back to the business at hand.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie turns around to leave when he finds himself face to face with the girl of his dreams.

Charlie: I love you.

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: What?

Charlie: What?

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: Did you say that you love me?

Charlie: Love you?!? I’m 13! What do I know about love? No, I said “elephant shoes”.

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: (unbelieving) Elephant shoes?

Charlie: Yeah. Read my lips. El-e-phant Shoes. See, it looks like I love you when really … no.

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: Why did you say elephant shoes?

Charlie: Elephant’s don’t wear shoes. They’re nocturnal.

Girl of Charlie’s Dreams: No they aren’t!

Mrs. Marigold: Charlie, why don’t you show these good people to their room?

Friendly Family Father: I’m sure we can find it ourselves, it’s not a big place.

Mrs. Marigold: Don’t be silly, Charlie is an excellent bellboy! Besides, he has to do something to earn his keep.

Friendly Family Father: Very well then. Come along, Maya.

Charlie: Your name is Maya?

Maya: (sarcastically) Nice deduction.

Charlie: My name is Charlie.

Maya: (sarcastically) Really? I hadn’t picked up on that yet.

Sea Captain 1: Maya and her parents begin to walk away. As they turn the corner, Mrs. Marigold winks at Charlie.

Mrs. Marigold: I think she likes you, Charlie.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie picks up their bags and winks back at his mother before heading into the Inn. Yar.

Scene Three (In which Charlie nearly earns a little less than a dollar)

Sea Captain 3: Charlie has walked the friendly family to their room. He inserts the card key in the slot and opens the door.

Sea Captain 1: A radiant beam of sunlight shines through the window, through the room, and into the travelers’ eyes, momentarily blinding them. As they adjust to the light, they make their way into the room.

Charlie: It’s small, but we like to call it home.

Friendly Family Mother: Oh, do you live here in the Inn?

Charlie: No … yes … no …

Maya: Well which is it?

Charlie: Which is what?

Maya: Do you live in the Inn or don’t you?

Charlie: Not today. Yesterday we lived in the Inn. Today we live out the out.

Maya: Is that humor?

Charlie: It was meant to be.

Maya: Charming, I’m sure.

Sea Captain 2: The friendly family father makes his way over to Charlie. He reaches into his pocket for some lose change.

Friendly Family Father: Well thank you very much, young man.

Charlie: Oh, no thank you, sir. I cannot take your money.

Friendly Family Father: Preposterous! You provided us with a service and you should be rewarded. Here’s (he counts out the change in his hand) … 25, 35, 36, 46, 71, 76 cents for a job well done.

Charlie: Thank you very much sir, but I must persist. I have already been paid … in other ways.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie makes googly eyes at Maya.

Friendly Family Mother: Excuse me?

Charlie: Oh, um, my Mother pays me in advance. Enjoy your stay!

Sea Captain 1: Charlie exits the room and shuts the door behind him. The friendly family father is left standing there with 76 cents in his dangling hand.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie’s heart is beating like a hummingbird’s after his third cup of coffee. About to faint, he leans slowly back against the door.

Charlie: (whispering) Her name … is Maya.

Sea Captain 3: The friendly family father opens the door quickly and Charlie falls backwards onto the ground.

Friendly Family Father: Oh, hello again Charlie. You saved me a walk. Here …

Sea Captain 1: The friendly family father drops all the change onto Charlie’s stomach.

Friendly Family Father: I’m not one of those cheapskate numbskull droll-abouts who flees from providing good and sensible wages for a job … well … done, I suppose.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie jumps up and collects the 76 cents from the ground.

Friendly Family Father: Just don’t go spending it all in one place.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie gives his signature grin again as the door shuts quietly in his face.

Charlie: (exhaling cautiously) Maya …

Scene Four (In which Charlie buys a soda)

Sea Captain 1: Charlie’s head is light. Air flows in and out of it. He glides down the hall and finds himself in front of the soda machine.

Sea Captain 2: He reaches into his pocket and retrieves 75 cents of the 76 cent tip.

Charlie: No sir, I won’t spend it all in one place.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie plinks the money into the machine and selects himself a Sprite. He clicks it and sips it. The fizz tickles his nose.

Charlie: Ahhh.

Sea Captain 1: A bucket has been left precariously on the edge of the top of the ice machine. The ice has melted and left a pool of cold water. Charlie takes out his remaining penny and rolls it between his fingers.

Charlie: Well, it’s not a wishing well, but it will have to do. (He ponders on a wish for a moment.) I wish … I wish … I wish for a lifetime of fishes and wishes.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie flicks his penny at the ice bucket. It flies through the air and hits the bucket on its side. The bucket comes crashing down to the floor and the cold water escapes in a splash.

Maya: Charlie.

Charlie: (screams) Ahh!

Sea Captain 3: Charlie whisks around to face the girl of his dreams once again.

Charlie: (catching his breath) What are you … why are you … how are you … when did you … where have you … hi.

Maya: Hi. Nice shot.

Charlie: Thanks. I meant to do that.

Maya: Yeah right. You were aiming for the inside. I heard your wish.

Charlie: Oh, you did. Um …

Maya: Are you a fisherman?

Charlie: Oh, um, no, not exactly. I’m more like a fisherman in training.

Maya: So you’re a fisherboy?

Charlie: No! No! No! I’m um … uhhhhh …

Maya: I think fishermen are cute.

Charlie: I’m a fisherman. Yup. Sure am. Always have been, always will be. That’s me. Fisherman Extraordinaire. There never was a man more fisher than I. No sirree.

Maya: (grabbing Charlie’s hand) Come on. We have to hurry. I want you to show me how to fish.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie is dragged away by the girl of his dreams. She pulls him down the stairs and out the back door.

Charlie: But what about your parents?

Maya: What about them? They won’t even notice I’m gone. Come on, take me to the ocean. Take me away.

Charlie: Listen, um. Maybe we should stop and think about this for a second.

Maya: What’s to think about? We’re young, we’re fun, we’re crazy!

Charlie: Yeah … OK.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie and Maya run down to the dock. Charlie looks around for his father. He sees him far off on the pier. A gust of wind carries his father’s voice to Charlie.

Mr. Marigold’s Voice: …and the most wickedest part of it was that the darn things had on these phony moustaches! Or at least… I think they were phony…

Maya: Is this your boat?

Sea Captain 3: Maya is pointing to a pathetic looking thing in the water.

Charlie: It’s a skiff, actually.

Maya: Well is this your skiff then?

Charlie: Yeah. Yeah, that’s my skiff. All mine. Nobody else’s that’s for sure.

Maya: Ooh, look, it’s already got all the stuff in it.

Charlie: Tackle.

Maya: What?

Charlie: It’s called tackle…

Maya: If you insist!

Sea Captain 1: Maya runs straight at Charlie. She tackles him and they fall off the dock into the skiff.

Charlie: Ow.

Scene Five (In which the fishy season begins)

Sea Captain 2: The little skiff has taken Charlie and Maya far out into the sea. The land has disappeared and the only sound is the peaceful drone of the loud, annoying motor.

Maya: It’s nice out here.

Charlie: (screams over the motor) WHAT?

Maya: (screams) I SAID IT’S NICE OUT HERE.

Charlie: (screams) THANKS! I THINK YOUR SHOES ARE PRETTY, TOO!

Maya: (screams) YOU CAN PROBABLY TURN THE MOTOR OFF NOW.

Charlie: (screams) I HAVE A BETTER IDEA … I’M GOING TO TURN THE MOTOR OFF.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie turns the motor off and suddenly, there is dead silence.

Charlie: Alright. Let’s have ourselves a fishnic!

Maya: A what?

Charlie: You know, a fishnic … It’s like a picnic with …

Maya: (sarcastically) … Fish, yeah, I got it. Is that what they teach you at Fisherboy school? How to be dopey?

Charlie: I’m not dopey! Look, do you wanna learn how to fish or not?

Maya: (overly excited) YES I DOOOO!!!!

Charlie: Nice enthusiasm. I like that.

Maya: I thought you might.

Charlie: OK then … grab a handful of worms from that bucket behind you.

Maya: Eww! What? No way!

Charlie: First lesson of fishing: If you want to learn how to fish, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty.

Maya: (sarcastically) That’s deep.

Charlie: Yeah, I guess it kind of is. My Dad taught me that.

Maya: What else did your Dad teach you?

Charlie: Pretty much everything.

Maya: Has he ever been wrong?

Sea Captain 1: Charlie thinks about the question for a moment.

Charlie: No … not really no …

Maya: Your Dad sounds all right.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie shakes off this idea.

Charlie: He’s a loony. Anyway, hand me the bucket.

Sea Captain 3: Maya makes a face of disgust as she hands the bucket of worms to Charlie. Charlie grabs a handful of worms.

Devil Fish: Throw them at her.

Charlie: What?

Devil Fish: Throw the worms at her, Charlie. She’ll love you for it.

Righteous Fish: Don’t do it Charlie! It’s not right!

Charlie: What the …

Sea Captain 1: Charlie turns around and takes a look at the water near his skiff. Two fishes sporting handlebar moustaches give him a simultaneous wink.

Maya: Who are you talking to, Charlie?

Sea Captain 2: Charlie’s head gets even lighter now. The air flow makes his brain spin.

Devil Fish: I do believe that the boy will pass out.

Righteous Fish: I do believe you are right.

Sea Captain 3: And that’s just what he does. Yar.

Scene Six (In which Charlie faces a perplexing dilemma)

Sea Captain 1: Charlie opens his eyes and looks up into the beautiful face of Maya, the girl of his dreams. She is shining with the light from above.

Charlie: What happened?

Maya: You passed out. I had to slap you with a fish.

Charlie: A fish … what?

Sea Captain 2: Charlie sits up in the skiff and sees the fish that Maya is holding. It is the Devil Fish.

Devil Fish: That really hurt, Charlie. You’d better do something about this girl or I’m going to.

Charlie: (to the Devil Fish) Why are you talking to me?

Maya: (drops the Devil Fish) Um, hello? Who am I going to talk to out here? The fish?

Devil Fish: Easy on the crazy talk, Charlie. You’re starting to sound like a psycho.

Charlie: (to Maya) How did you catch that fish?

Maya: It was pretty easy. I saw him swimming by the side of the skiff and I just grabbed him by his moustache and pulled him in.

Devil Fish: By my whiskers, Charlie! By my whiskers!

Charlie: And then … you slapped me with him?

Maya: Him? I slapped you with it. How can you tell it’s a him?

Charlie: Um … The moustache gives him away.

Devil Fish: In my school, I’m actually considered quite handsome.

Charlie: Where’s the other one?

Maya: What other one?

Righteous Fish: (from the water) Yoo Hoo!

Sea Captain 2: Charlie looks into the water.

Righteous Fish: Don’t listen to a word he says! Follow your heart, Charlie, not the advice of a fish.

Devil Fish: Well by that advice, why should he listen to you either?

Sea Captain 3: The Righteous Fish thinks about this for a moment.

Righteous Fish: Touché.

Charlie: Maya?

Maya: What?

Charlie: The fish are talking to me.

Maya: Of course they are, silly! That means you’re a true fisherman!

Devil Fish: Oh that’s rich.

Maya: What are they saying to you?

Righteous Fish: But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Charlie: But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Maya: Ah me … you have found my weakness.

Charlie: I did?

Maya: Shakespeare always turns me to goo!

Devil Fish: Eww.

Righteous Fish: Aww. You should kiss her now, Charlie!

Devil Fish: Throw the worms at her, Charlie!

Charlie: I’m getting mixed messages.

Maya: What do you mean?

Charlie: Well … for starters … who are you? One minute you’re making fun of me and the next minute you’re swooning under my spell. Do you like me or are you using me as a tour guide in your own selfish fish-capade?

Maya: Fish-capade! Ha!

Devil Fish: She’s using you! Throw the worms!

Righteous Fish: She likes you, Charlie. She really likes you. Kiss her now or lose her forever!

Charlie: Secondly, in one ear I’m hearing that I should kiss you and the other I’m hearing that I should throw worms at you.

Maya: That would be rather disagreeable to me, Charlie.

Charlie: Which one? The kiss or the worms?

Maya: You have to figure it out for yourself.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie looks at the Righteous Fish in the water. The Righteous Fish shrugs.

Righteous Fish: You’re on your own, man.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie looks at the Devil Fish in the skiff. The Devil Fish shrugs.

Devil Fish: I really don’t care anymore. But I am having a little trouble breathing. Do you think you could hurry this up and throw me back in the water?

Sea Captain 2: Charlie’s mind races. He hears his father’s and mother’s voice in his head.

Mr. Marigold’s Voice Inside Charlie’s Head: There’s heaven and hell out there Charlie, and you have to start learnin’ to distinguish between the two.

Mrs. Marigold’s Voice Inside Charlie’s Head: I think she likes you, Charlie. 99% accuracy.

Maya: (puckering up) Well, Charlie? What will it be?

Righteous Fish: Kiss.

Devil Fish: Worms.

Righteous Fish: Kiss.

Devil Fish: Worms.

Righteous Fish: Kiss.

Devil Fish: Worms.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie sees the decision as if it is as clear as the bright, blue day. He bends over and grabs a handful of worms. Bringing them to his mouth, his huge smile kisses them. The worms are cold and slimy.

Righteous Fish: (sarcastically) Bravo.

Devil Fish: That’s it, I’m outta here.

Sea Captain 1: The Devil Fish manages to flop his body up and over the side of the skiff. He hits the water and swims away with the Righteous Fish.

Devil Fish: See you in the funny papers, Charlie!

Righteous Fish: See you in the loony bin, Charlie!

Charlie: Not if I see you first!

Sea Captain 2: Charlie turns back to face the girl of his dreams. She is frowning and looks rather distraught.

Maya: Take me home, Charlie.

Sea Captain 3: Charlie drops the worms and guns the motor.

Scene Seven (In which all is resolved or not)

Sea Captain 1: It is seven days later and Charlie sits on the edge of the dock with his feet dangling over the water.

Sea Captain 2: Mr. Marigold walks over to Charlie as he stuffs his handkerchief into his overalls pocket.

Mr. Marigold: Don’t tell me you’re still pining over the one that got away, son?

Charlie: I can’t help it, Dad. She’s the girl of my dreams.

Mr. Marigold: Well then maybe you oughtta wake up now, dontchya think? She’s nothing but trouble from the sounds of it!

Charlie: I had a chance and I blew it! I kissed worms, Dad!

Mr. Marigold: Yeah well, that is a little peculiar, I’ll give you that. But you said that the fish were controllin’ ya, right? You were all messed up in your head! You can’t blame yourself, for your actions, Charlie. It’s like I’ve always told ya … it’s heaven and hell out there.

Sea Captain 3: Mrs. Marigold walks over to her fishermen.

Mrs. Marigold: Leave the boy alone, Dad. He’ll do better next time.

Charlie: There won’t be a next time. The dream is over.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie gets up and sadly walks away. He heads down the pier with his head hanging down. Mr. Marigold puts his arm around Mrs. Marigold and they watch him walk away.

Sea Captain 2: Charlie walks down to the parking lot of the Kumbaya Friendly Family Inn. He hears a horn beep and he looks up to see the friendly family father driving toward him.

Friendly Family Father: Thanks for a great week, Charlie. We had a ton of fun! We’ll see you next year!

Sea Captain 3: The friendly family drives past Charlie slowly. Charlie manages a weak smile when he sees Maya’s face appear in the back window.

Maya: (mouths out these words) Elephant shoes.

Sea Captain 1: Charlie lights up instantly and reveals every tooth in his face. His smile reaches the heavens as his sour mood fades away. Laughing loudly and loving it, he watches as the girl of his dreams drives away.

Mr. Marigold: Hey!

Sea Captain 2: Charlie turns around to face his father. Mr. Marigold slaps Charlie playfully with a fish.

Mr. Marigold: Now we’re even.

Sea Captain 3: Mr. Marigold sprints away and Charlie chases after him into the cool, Kumbaya sunset. Yar.

The above is the ridiculous property of Bryon Cahill. Any attempt to steal any or all of the highly intellectual integrity found herein will be laughed at, profoundly. Also, it wouldn’t hurt you to visit Kumbaya. It’s tourist season there now and I hear the fish are jumping.  — BC

Your Last Words

Just open that brain of yours. It’s probably not as bad as you remember. Take a peek, ride those waves. What’s the analysis? Can you continue on, knowing the truth? If not, you should reconsider your thoughts. Kill the dated monster that made you who you are and step forward.

This feeling you are having right now can never be exactly and accurately replicated. You can reach at it in your memory, claw through those demons struggling out of their cage, but you will never have enough traction under your feet to feel this in the same way. What’s it feel like?

Does this particular emotion of yours sit in the stern of a fog-encased ship out at sea? Is that clanging I am hearing the clamoring of the “land’s ahoy” bell? I hear you, friend. You are ringing it with impudence and shame. Tell me, how in the earthly world do you manage both?

I no longer wail for you. But I dare to pray that you find your way back home to us—with all your precious thoughts and feelings intact.

Your last words to me were, “Be a good boy, Pytor. Beware the bandersnatch.” Your own personal Jabberwocky was always calling. It’s not mine. I do believe in fear but not terror. I wield my own swords more brilliantly than you ever could. Watch me now. I’m moving along. Riding bulls. Getting laid. Doing life before it does me. Everything works. Except these memories of you. And I am awakening now and I suppose I must  now be driven. I shall enter your realm to save you. I will seek you out in the desperate world of your own making and steal you back to normalcy. Lord knows you can’t do it alone. So here I come, Dad. Goddamn you for it all.

Ohm.

Pockets of Poison

When the first bird fell at my feet from the sky I didn’t think anything of it. Not at first. At first I just thought, “Whoa.” I looked down and saw it was a winged creature. Didn’t know what sort. I tapped it lightly with my foot and inertia rolled it over. It was clear it was stone dead. I made a move to bend down and then it started raining.

More birds.

It was a sight, I’ll tell you. To say it was ethereal would be spot on except for the fact that there was a nagging reality to it. I wanted to laugh out loud. Felt it in my gut. But the drizzle became a downpour and instinctly, I ran for cover in a nearby kiosk.

What happened was in all the papers. (Not that anyone reads the papers anymore.) And not just locally either. The bizarre event made Headlines with a capital H. Nationwide. Reporters swarmed on our little town like… well like this particular species of bird used to. Twice a year they flock through here on their way to either a better place or a worse one, depending on the season. They were late this year, about a month. But no one reports on that. Nor do they ask me what I think. Not that I’m anybody but I was there when the first bird fell. I did feel the energy in the air. And I can tell you what it was if you want to hear.

I call ’em pockets of poison. They’re rare but they’re there. Think of them as our small town’s bad thoughts, all of us, mashed up and floating overhead. Consider your own fears and poisons, now your family’s, now your friends. Consider a town. All dealing with whatever badness individually. Separate as the whole. Yes, some will talk out their feelings and try to reach a certain understanding. A place where they feel at least comfortable with their shit. Talking helps. Sometimes it works. But those folk are a small percentage. You know as well as I that we all let it stew. And boil. And bubble. And explode. Well, sometimes it explodes in the face of our loved ones. Other times it explodes in our hearts and we die. But on the rarest of occasions, we let loose without knowing it. The hell of us escapes us and festers in the air. I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen it. I’ve been wandering for ages and I have seen it. Never quite so much as here.

This… gas. This vile gas that this town emits, it goes upward. And I swear I heard the explosion just moments before that first black fowl fuck stopped me in my tracks. It is a low sound, like a calf choking quick. Like my own woes growing sick inside me. Like painted wrong love on my heart. It’s a pathetic whisper in a black robe. Burp.

This is why the sky falls.
This is why the sky falls.
This is why the sky falls.
Not with a tweet, but with a flutter.

A Good Day For Art

Behrman wept.

His whole life had been a sketch up until now. As he considered his visage in his bathroom mirror he traced the lines of his past in his face. Everything he had known had been a rudimentary pencil drawing—his birth, childhood, growth, experiences, heartaches, his art. All of it. It was all foolishness. Poppycock. A poor man’s dream of meaning. What had he lived for? Here it was. Now. Right in front of him. Behrman’s tears cut ages out of his cheeks, slit mediocrity from his pores, and a few drops that fell upon the old man’s lips tasted at once of a life-in-progress and a masterpiece. It was all the old man could do to stop from exploding right there on his linoleum. His heart was the entire world. The beat beat beating of his genius rang in his ears, eyes, throat, lungs. Behrman, 65 and alone could feel the weight of the universe on his shoulders and he welcomed it with a smile and a cry. “This is what I was born for,” he said to his reflection, and his reflection understood.

It was … too beautiful. It was … too perfect. He hoped to God he could pull it off.

When the end of his last day came, he did not know it as such. But Behrman did watch the sun disappear, as he did most nights, from the old, stone wall in front of his building. It wasn’t the best view of mother nature’s brilliance the world had to offer, but it was his and he had always held a deep, quiet, respect for that. When the sky turned from that bright, pristine white to that passionate fire-orange he gasped, every time. And then, faster than a brush stroke, all light faded away and Behrman was immersed in nighttime. There on his stone wall, the old artist sat, twilight after twilight, wondering how he would better the world, grasping at impossible ideas, coming up empty every single time. The most terrible thing in the world is for a creative soul to sit stagnantly waiting… waiting for his purpose to show itself. Being imprisoned behind a wall of doubt, shadows, and decadence has been treacherous for him. But tonight… on this night, everything would change.

The first star appeared and Behrman made his wish. The cold wind frazzled his gray beard and a chill ran up and down his spine. The old artist pulled his scarf tight around his neck. Tighter. Tighter still. The plaid wool choked him ever so slightly and he welcomed it. The tighter he pulled, the more he felt his life loosening away. The more he felt his life loosening away, the more he understood.

“Ah,” he said to the moon. “Tonight iz, I think, a good night for art.”

From above him, several trees shook their branches and dropped a thousand leaves at his feet. This was the end of autumn. This was the end of Behrman. He scooted his wiry, old self off of the wall and looked up. There was still a light on in Sue and Johnsy’s apartment. The old artist removed his pocket watch. It was not quite midnight.

Behrman’s bones ached. But then, Behrman’s bones had always ached. There had never been a moment the old man had lived where his creative soul had not tried desperately to appease his aching bones. And now he believed he had had it. Now, Behrman believed, was his time.

Across from Sue and Johnsy’s lit window, there was a wall.
Climbing up this wall, there was an ivy vine.
On this ivy vine, there were once leaves.
Just before the sun set on this autumn evening, the last ivy leaf had fallen.
Behrman’s ladder he propped against this wall.
Behrman’s ladder he climbed.
And as he painted, this dear man suffered.
And as he suffered, this dear man painted.
Art could care less who makes it.

Life is the ultimate masterpiece.

—————————————————-

For O. Henry.

Her Undivided Attention

Here. She sits at the edge of the stage with her legs dangling down. In her head, she is singing some unknown showtune. Unknown to the world, but unknown to her as well. It takes her a moment to realize, through silent humming, that it is not Sondheim or Webber. The tune holds softer notes by gossamer piano strings and it tells her own sorry story. Yes, she now sees, the leaky melody is her own making.

This realization has two effects: simultaneously she is impressed with her own creativity and devastated with her own history. Luckily, she is the best actress she knows and therefore can effortlessly push the latter into the wings. She sings.

This is all I know
And this is what I say
You tell me I am gold
I know that I am gray
Yet in this life we hold
That all will be somedayyy
A light that shines alouuud
In foggy blooming Mayyy…

She stops. Coughs. Rheumatism maybe. Most likely not. From the balcony, I make myself known to her. I applaud her song and her mask. She stands, feigning surprise, and curtsies. The theater lights shine so bright on her. In her eyes. She can’t possibly know who I am. There is no one else here.

But the thing of it is that it doesn’t matter in the least. I could be a light breeze in her hair and she would be ecstatic. She would feel me anywhere. She feels every life. She experiences every touch, breath, laugh, raindrop. She is a shell collecting all the world.

I think to myself, “You would be perfect for my movie.” And yet, I walk away.

Out on the street, I imagine she is dangling her feet again… working out the rest of her song.

Xanadu

Have you ever attempted to write something you so fortuitously named Xanadu before even starting the thought, “What the frog am I going to write with a title like that?” Well here’s a tip: think that. Because otherwise you’re certainly going to go jaunting off into the mountains with snowshoes made from tennis rackets. Is there snow in Xanadu? You don’t know. You’ve never been, You’ve never even seen it on a map. But you do know it’s some rare kind of paradise so, now that you think about it, you can leave the snowshoes at home.

It’s possible, you fathom to no one, that Xanadu is some far away place in your imagination and that in order to get there, you may have to do some terrible things. It’s kind of like the “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” mentality except much more… dynamic! Because if it is indeed paradise you are seeking, then it is indeed paradise you will find. Just don’t expect to keep your morals in check. Not entirely, anyhow.

Or maybe Xanadu is a mid 70s band you are remembering. Yes. Didn’t they perform at the hippest rolly dinks? Wow how great did everyone look in bell-bottoms back then? Sweet Marie.

A damsel with a dulcimer.

Or… no there was your Xanadu. Back there before time ran out on you. Ah you young son of a bitch. Kissing the girls and making them cry under the whimpering willow tree on the hill. Had that truly happened? An exceptional breeze never lies; it also never leaves you.

You don’t know from Xanadu. No one can. But to be candid, who even cares? Why go there? You haven’t heard much word of mouth about it. Can’t be all that great. Besides, you’ve already used up all your vacation time and cashed in your miles when you went to Nevada last month to visit your 19 car pile up, wreck of a brother. Miles well spent. Did some blow. And oh shit now THAT was Xanadu. That was also two black nights resulting in two blacker eyes, a skull fracture, and a wife. Yeah, oops. Funny now though… almost.

Down to a sunless sea.

What was the name of those ball pits you used to jump around in as a kid? Were those damn things just called “ball pits?” How unfortunate if that’s true! But there was the once upon a time when you stayed under for what was, in kid time, akin to an eternity. Completely oblivious to mother’s profound worry. Hardly able to contain your usually robust giggling. And when she ran out of the Burger King play scape area to look frantically for you out in the parking lot, you swam comfortably under your multicolored plastic ball water, able to breathe, able to create, able to be transferred to a different, unbelievable place. To Xanadu.

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Was that there where you saw it? The impossible light and shadows? Did these perfection anomalies envelop you, merge with you, become part of you? Because that is what happened to me. That is where I first was there. And that is when I last was when. And do you know that it was the damnedest thing because I knew. I mean, I really knew at that time that this was a never again moment. And the real treagedy of it is that I was just a dumbshit kid, unable to fully appreciate it. Fully grasp it. Never let go. … That is what it was like and how do you like that? All of these years traveling to the just beyond that is not quite right out of realms; all this time knowing it could never be–this fruitless, thankless task of yours. Yet you never stop, do you? Tell me, why do you think that is pleasant

To be forever drunk on the milk of Paradise?

——————

For Samuel.