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ken*again, the literary magazine  

         
   
A quarterly, nonprofit e-zine presenting a hearty,
eclectic mix of prose, poetry, art and photography:
accessible, obscure, soothing, disturbing.
Wrap your mind around a good read.
Submissions invited.


                                      


Poetry

The Farm  Duane Locke
Moving from Farm to City  Duane Locke
Untitled  Tre Murillo
The Immobile Feather  Eimear Ballard
The revenge of the inanimate  Eimear Ballard
Steel Tracks Across My Dream Paths  Harding Stedler
A Road's Return  Harding Stedler
Mountain Tea  Harding Stedler
The Red Barn  Janet I. Buck
Arachnid Siren  Richard Fein
Signing A Song  Richard Fein
Love Poem  Richard Fein
Dance of the Wounded Heart  Laurence Overmire
The Poet's Ongoing War  Rochelle Hope Mehr
What I See Beyond the Refuse in the Garden  Sam Silva
three down, me to go  Penelope Talbert
Unrelated Cricket 
Todd Jenkins
Canto VII:  Songs of the Second Night   Edward Reilly

 

 

Prose      

Green  Wes Prussing
Impressionism and the Zen of Bluegill Fishing
  JR Bumgarner

Sapphire  Melanie Faith
Love-self  Jerry Vilhotti
Chipped Dishes  Jerry Vilhotti
Fire  Jack Swenson
Andgame  Bertrand Bickersteth

 


Art

broken decorator glass  Duane Locke

tossed-away paper and a bottle cap  Duane Locke

so blah  Sean Simmans

Spiral 13  William C. Burns, Jr.

Man 3  Élio Oliveira

Visage I  Élio Oliveira

News 1  Élio Oliveira

Mondain  Élio Oliveira

Georgia L. Haislet - 1994  Danny Haislet


And another thing...
 

Beagles for Breakfast  Pamela Boslet Buskin

 


 


CONTRIBUTORS


Eimear Ballard (poetry) is from Northern Ireland.  She is currently studying English Literature, and considers her favorite writers to be Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, and Charles Dickens.  Her other interests include film, acting and music; she has directed a few short films, and has been in various musical groups and performed nationwide.  She is also very concerned with animal rights, and has been a devoted vegan for several years.  Ballard has been writing poetry since she was a child, and hopes, eventually, to make writing her career.

Bertrand Bickersteth
(prose) is from Vancouver, BC.  His family is from Sierra Leone but he was raised in Canada.  He is currently doing his PhD in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London).  He spends some of his time doing research, some of his time contributing to the SOAS Literary Review, and all of his time raising his baby son.  Bickersteth considers himself "a very lazy but generally happy guy."

Janet I. Buck (poetry) is a two-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of four poetry collections:  Calamity's Quilt, Reefs We Live, Bookmarks in a Hurricane, and Before the Rose.  In the year 2001, her work is forthcoming in The Montserrat Review, Niederngasse, PoetryRepairShop, San Francisco Salvo, Southern Ocean Review, and dozens of journals worldwide.

JR Bumgarner (prose) enjoys all things, including nature and the continual unfolding of its mysteries and aesthetics.  In addition to writing short essays and poems, he is also a photographer and painter.  Some of his photos are currently traveling in a Northwest Regional Salon, his paintings have been displayed locally, and he is currently working on two screenplays.  You can reach him by email at:  bmgarner@olypen.com.

William C. Burns, Jr.
(art) phased into existence in Washington, DC, circa early 1950s, putting him on the trailing edge to the beautiful people of the late sixties.  Clearly he watched way too much Dobie Gillis and idolized Maynard (Shaggy from Scooby-Do).  Bill is a strange confluence of degreed electrical and biomedical engineer, graphic artist, actor, playwright, poet, father, and husband.  He has published prose in intermix, ...ad infinitum, and others, and poetry at Cross Section, Gravity: A Journal of Online Writing, Morpo Review, and others.  He also won the reader's choice award at Third Horizon.

Melanie Faith 
(prose) graduated in 1999 with a BA from Wilson College, where she majored in English, with a concentration in professional writing.  While in college, she was staff member of the school newspaper and literary magazine, and served as an intern at another small newspaper.  She currently works as an English, French, and history tutor at The Mercersburg Academy, a college preparatory high school in Pennsylvania.  Melanie's short stories have appeared in The Dead Mule Southern fiction magazine in 1999, as well as The Pedestal Magazine in December 2000.

Richard Fein (poetry) has been published in many print and web journals.  A sample of his poetry can be found at his web page at:  www.expage.com/page/richardspoems. 

Danny Haislet (art) is TheLymner.  Now living in Lakewood, Ohio, TheLymner has been capturing his subjects on canvas for more than thirty years.  While his larger works are executed in acrylic, he equally enjoys doing smaller works in pencil, as well as pastel and colored pencil.  More of his work can be seen at www.thelymner.com. 

Todd Jenkins
(poetry) is a lifestyle artist and aspiring biophiliac currently residing at the Sunny Ridge Center for Sustainable Dysfunction. He really likes sleeping.

Duane Locke
(poetry and photography) is Doctor of Philosophy in English Renaissance literature, Professor Emeritus of the Humanities, and was Poet in Residence at the University of Tampa for over 20 years.  He has had over 3,000 of his poems published in both e-zines and print magazines such as American Poetry Review, Nation, Literary Quarterly, Black Moon, and Bitter Oleander.  He has had 14 books of poems in print, the latest of which is WATCHING WISTERIA.  Locke is also a painter and photographer who has had a number of works appear in exhibitions and online.  He lives alone in a two-story decaying house in the sunny Tampa slums, where his recreational activities are drinking wine, listening to old operas, and reading postmodern philosophy.

Rochelle Hope Mehr
(poetry) has had poetry in Aabye's Baby, The Bayou ReviewAnthology, The Fauquier JournalPoetalkComrades e-zine, and other online and print publications.

Tre Murillo
(poetry) is a 19-year-old freshman at Indiana University who knows that "the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln."

Élio Oliveira
(art) was born in 1959 in Venezuela and was raised in Portugal.  In 1988, he created his own ceramics company.  His artwork has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world, including galleries in Portugal, France, the United States, Austria, Italy, Canada, Slovenia, Germany and Sweden.  You can view Élio's work at:  www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/e/elios/.                        

Laurence Overmire
(poetry) is an American actor/director/writer who has worked on stage, film and television.  His poetry has been widely published in the U.S. and abroad, including Kimera, Main Street Rag Poetry Journal, Bardo Burner, Pegasus, Mobius, Footprints, Lynx: Poetry from Bath, Poetry DownUnder, Cotyledon, Thunder Sandwich, Samsara Quarterly, Jack Magazine, The Hinterland, Free Zone Quarterly, Pogonip, Kookamonga Square and many others.

Wes Prussing (prose)  is a 45-year-old husband and father of two girls, living in Florida, working hard, and having fun.  He loves reading, running and catching c-span when he can.  He has been writing bits and pieces of prose and poetry for the last couple of years.

Edward Reilly
(poetry) teaches Literature at Geelong High School in Australia.  He has interests in contemporary poetry from Ireland, the Baltic Republics and especially the USA, having participated in the Austin International Poetry Festival of 1999.  He holds a PhD from Victoria University of Technology in Creative Writing and would like to retire to the north shore of O'ahu.  His poem Canto VII:  Songs of the Second Night is from his book in progress, Deluge.

Sam Silva (poetry) has had numerous poems and short stories published both online and in print, including Blue Magazine, Ink Blots, Neiderngarse, Adirondak, Poetry Down Under, Poetry Super Highway and Hippie Land Mag.  His third and latest book is De la Palabra.

Sean Simmans (art) is a Manitoba illustrator residing in Saskatchewan.  All of his time is 'spare' and he uses it to design book covers for Dead End Street (www.deadendstreet.com).  He likes to wear pants and prefers laying in the tub to standing in the shower.  Sometimes he eats too much Quaker oatmeal (maple & brown sugar flavor) and then he gets cramps.  His work has appeared in umm, VIBE NATION and MIDWEST TODAY.  Online, you can find his some of his stuff at www.liespeopletell.com, www.libida.com, www.venusorvixen.com and www.scowlzine.cx.  Send friendly email to simmans@sk.sympatico.ca, or hateful email to simmans@liespeopletell.com.

Harding Stedler (poetry), a retired teacher, works as a writer/editor at Shurley Instructional Materials in Cabot, Arkansas, where he designs Language Arts materials for elementary school students.  He is currently secretary of the Poets' Roundtable of Arkansas.

Jack Swenson (prose) is a former teacher.  Now retired, he and his wife live in northern California.  He has a B.A. in journalism from the University of Minnesota and an M.A. in language arts from San Francisco State University. His publishing credits include a grammar textbook, two books on business writing, and a book on horseracing.  More than a dozen of his short stories have been published in web magazines. Among the authors on his list of literary influences are Chekhov, Isaac Babel, Hemingway, and Raymond Carver.

Penelope Talbert (poetry) is a poet from Pennsylvania whose work has appeared in 12th Planet, Literary Lion, Poet's Cut, Poems Niederngasse, and other publications.  She will be the featured poet in the July 2001 issue of Newsletter Inago.  She is also the founder of Circle Publications; editor of The Circle Magazine (www.circlemagazine.com), a quarterly print and electronic literary journal; a member of the Executive Board of BerksBards, a nonprofit poetry organization based in Berks County, PA; and a member of the Lebanon Poetry Project, a not for profit poetry organization in Lebanon County, PA.

Jerry Vilhotti 
(prose) has had stories published in The Dream International, Hob-Nob, Puck&Pluck, The Literary Review and many other literary magazines.  He lives in the Litchfield Hills, "in a simpler place in time, with a good and thoughtful wife who treats me well (often I wonder why--writers, you know)" and their three children, "who have helped us fulfill a dream we had long ago and far away--just like the song!"

 

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Green                                                                                                      

 by Wes Prussing                                            

 

nce, about the age of seven or eight, balanced on the wobbly split rail of a fence that ran the width of our front yard, I gazed out beyond the stoplight that peeked between the boughs of two large oaks and tried to imagine what lay past the four lane highway, past the dried up twin ponds where I sometimes feed bread crust to wild ducks, past the fire station that housed the fearsome red engines that screamed past my home late at night and past the church steeple with the stone cross that marked the edge of town.

This is what I imagined: great waves of land rising and falling mile after mile until finally cresting in towering palisades at the ocean's edge.  This land was knitted in a mosaic tapestry of towns and cities and neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, office buildings, retail stores and of course homes--like mine--narrow, gothic, two-story structures with gabled ends, wrapped in weathered reams of primary-color extruded tin.

What else? Roadways, highways, and expressways.  Paved roads and dirt roads.  And bridges--some small, some massive, usually built of steel or rock--spanning all manner of rivers and waterways which curled through the land like the wandering vines that covered our garage wall.  Then, near the sea, a harbor with ships and boats of every size and design, some just arriving and others embarking for faraway ports.  And here and there bobbing between lumbering ocean liners and scurrying freighters, tugboats, nudging a bow or a stern, tooting their horns.  (I've piloted one myself.  A brilliant blue and white plastic vessel--battery powered, four D cells--now resting on its side at the bottom of my sister's inflatable pool that lasted only a week before it ruptured and collapsed into a wrinkled, yellow doughnut.)  Past the harbor?  What?  The vast and seamless ocean?  Still more land?  Islands and peninsulas?  Archipelagos holding the endless masses of foreign races I had learned about from watching war movies?  The Japs?  The Krauts?  The Commies?  All of whom I pictured as deracinated losers, defeated, rounded up and poured into immense tubs of muddy conquest somewhere off our very shores.  Well such is the cruel consequence of war and as a student and tactician of warfare I believed all this to be so.  I had, in fact, directed many battles myself.  Lead mighty armies.  Achieved scores of righteous victories.

My favorite battlefield was in the back yard near a tall elm which had been planted the same year our house was built.  Although it offered a generous amount of shade during the hot summer months, its roots made it difficult to construct a proper theater of warfare.  For this reason I was compelled to move off to the side near the high hedge that served as a shield from our neighbor's yelping rottweiler.

Using a teaspoon I carved furrows into the hard-packed dirt.  I lined my miniature trenches with small flat pebbles, staggering the joints the way they did with sand bags in the movies.  I carefully molded the rolling hillsides and sloping valleys with the dirt I had dug and placed broken branches and larger rocks between the opposing forces.

My men were green--good or bad, it didn't matter, they were all green.  When not waging war they existed peacefully together in the cellophane bag that they had arrived in, locking arms, legs--even weapons.  Embracing like brothers, which I was convinced they were.

But when equally divided into opposing forces and laid out on the battleground, they became bitter enemies.  Some knelt, rifle to cheek, elbow twisted outward.  Others sat defiantly, legs crossed, rifle raised, gun stock to helmet.  There were some who could only stand at attention, their rifles welded to their sides or over their shoulders.  A few were too ill to fight, deformed at the factory--a withered arm or leg, a defective base.  These I gathered up and tossed back into the bag.  This was not a parade, this was combat.

My favorite were the prone riflemen.  These were compact soldiers that needed no base to support them.  They could be placed almost anywhere.  They never retreated, they never surrendered.  Made for the trenches, they were true warriors.  They often died first, sometimes in wholesale numbers as hand grenades and mortar fire tore apart their lines.  I often flipped them over, one by one, as phantom bullets tore through their ranks or sent them flying through the air as imaginary bombs fell all around them.  The carnage was massive.  The destruction devastating.  All died heroes.  It was glorious.

Over time my network of trenches and craters began to expand.  New battles required new battleground.  I was running out of room.  I tried to fill in some of the deeper holes and even scattered some grass seed left over from last year's attempt to cultivate some sort of lawn.  But it was useless.  Nothing ever grew.  Soon even the small tuffs of crabgrass and weeds that spotted our narrow slice of land like bread mold disappeared too.

One day in early summer, after a long and brutal battle, I sat on our front stoop admiring the lawn across the street.  Mr. Casey had done an exceptional job that year.  His grass was deep green and perfectly cut like the tight nap of an expensive rug.  The edges were neatly trimmed and straight.  I looked back at my own yard, at the ashen landscape where I fought all my wars and built my many battlefields.  Not even a dandelion grew.

I went to the basement and found an old garden rake, crusted with cement.  I gave it a whack against the oak tree and scales of hardened mortar dropped to the ground.  Beginning at the south corner of our back yard, I began to rake the dirt as best I could until it took on a freshly tilled texture.  I filled in every hole and every crease in the earth.  I patted down the dirt and raked again.  When this was done I moved on, working in small square grids.  Every so often I'd have to stop to move a bicycle or a garden hose or beat down a stubborn crown of dirt.  Sometimes my rake would catch on a root and I'd yank hard until it snapped free.  My t-shirt was soon soaked with sweat and caked with dirt.  I kept raking.

Gradually I made my way to the front of the yard.  The sun was now very low and that mysterious nocturnal string-section of crickets and katydids was just tuning up.  When I reached the farthest front corner of the yard I had a small pile of rocks, bark, broken toys, marbles, Popsicle sticks, cigarette butts, broken glass and a wooden yo-yo which I tucked into my pocket.  I shoveled the rest up and dumped it in the trash.  I leaned on the rake and surveyed the job.  The ground looked like one broad swatch of gray-black corduroy.  I put the tools away and sat down on the front stoop.

Twenty minutes later I saw the bus stop at the corner.  My father stepped off with two other riders.  He lit a cigarette and stared after the bus as it continued its route.  He sighed and let a funnel of smoke stream from his nose.  He straightened his cap then reached for his nightstick which hung from his wrist on rawhide cord and gave it a flip.  It spun like a pinwheel and slapped his palm.  He started down the street, stepping to the cadence of his twirling stick, his polished badge flashing prisms of color like a tiny mirror--the slow, steady pace of a weary beat cop.

When he came to our house he stopped at the gate and picked up the paper.  He scanned the headlines, refolded the paper and looked down at me.

"Where's your mother and sisters?"

I shrugged.  "I dunno."

"What'd you do today?  Did you play?"

"Yeah."

"What'd you play?"

"Stuff, but nobody was home, I had to play by myself."

He tucked the paper under his arm.  "It's a hot one, today," he said, wiping dots of sweat from his forehead with the back of his wrist.  "I guess summer is here to stay."

"Mom says we can go to the beach tomorrow if it don't rain," I offered.

He looked over at the yard, then peeked around the corner of the house.  "We'll see," he said.  He didn't seem surprised at the expanse of freshly turned soil; at least he didn't say anything.  "We'll see," he said again, his voice a half octave higher.

I tugged at his leg.  "Dad?

"Ummhum."

"Can we plant some grass sometime?  Everyone else has a nice yard except us."

He pinched the cigarette and flipped it across the yard.  It landed with a puff of red ash.

"I don't have time right now, Son.  We tried it last summer, remember?  Nothing wants to grow here.  Sometimes there's just not much you can do.  Ya know?"

"Yeah, I know, Dad.  I thought we could have a yard, too."

"We have a yard."

"I mean a nice one.  One you can play in, do things."

He climbed the stoop and tapped the newspaper on my head.  "Where'd you say your mother was?"

"In the kitchen, I guess."

"You coming in for supper?"

"In a little while."

He tucked the paper under his arm.

"Dad, ya see what I did...?"

He let the storm door slam behind him.  I sat and watched a few cars go by and threw some rocks at the fire hydrant near the street.  When I couldn't see where the rocks hit anymore, I went into the house.  My father was already settled into the chair next to the TV.  His gun belt and cap hung from the hall closet door.  My mother was in front of the stove mashing a pot full of potatoes while my little sister played near her feet.  She called to me: "Wash your hands before dinner, young man, you've been playing in the dirt all day."

I went to the bathroom, turned on the faucet and waited for the water to warm up.  I stuck my hands under the tepid stream but immediately yanked them back.  I examined the broken blisters on my palms and on the inside of one thumb.  I waited for the needles of pain to subside then picked up the soap and lathered up.  That done, I turned the hot up as far as it would go and shoving my hands under accepted the sting I knew would come.  A real trooper.

A week later while I was seated on our overturned milk box tightening the chain on my bike, a long flatbed truck trailering a rusted forklift pulled up in front of our house.  Short, dark men, flashing sinister-looking machetes and speaking in a language I did not understand, hopped from the truck and swarmed among the pallets of sod which were deposited around the house like stacks of poker chips.  The men worked quickly, flipping the mats of grass, kicking them into place, trimming around trees and bushes and along the walkway.

My father stood near the front stoop and smoked.  When the job was completed he went into the kitchen and returned with cold cans of beer which the men drank in hurried gulps.  From where I sat I could see their Adam's apples slide up and down their leathery throats like they were swallowing a pouch of marbles.  They wiped the foam from their upper lips with the backs of their hands and bowed with gratitude as they placed the empty cans neatly on the walkway.

I took my bag of soldiers and went to the back yard where I always played.  I sat down near the elm.  I dumped the bag onto the grass and began arranging my men.  But something was wrong.  My battlefield had been buried beneath the sod.  Not an inch of ground was left exposed.

There was no way my soldiers could stand among the tangled blades of grass.  Even my favorite riflemen would not lay flat.  I tried jabbing them into the spongy mat of grass but it was useless.

A shadow fell across my indolent army.  My father crouched down and squeezed my ankle and gave my leg a playful shake.  "How do you like our new lawn, sport?"

"Good," I said.

"You're going to have to help me take care of it, you know."

"Yeah, I know, Dad."

"Wha'cha doing here?"

"Just playing."

He picked up one of the soldiers and turned it in his hand.  "Can I play with you?"

I pitched the solider I had been holding against the base of the elm.  "They won't stand like before--it’s this stupid grass."

"Here..."  He knelt, and folded back a piece of sod like he was opening the cover of a book, revealing a crust of hard dirt.  "This will be yours, okay?  This patch right here.  We'll leave it just like this--and we won't tell anyone.  Only you and me will know about it."

"And we won't tell no one?"

"No one," he said, his hand on my head, his fingers making tiny circles on my scalp, "only you and me."  Then he stood up and snapped a small branch from the tree and sat down next to me.  I could smell the beer on his breath mixed with the smoke of countless cigarettes.  He began scratching an S-shaped trench in the dirt.  "This is what you do," he said, widening the sides with the tip of the stick, scooping out the dirt with the tips of his fingers.  "You need to build your trenches first, see?"

I nodded.

He selected three or four of the men lying in the grass and sorted them in his palm.  "Then you take your men.  You see how they're made?  They go on the line, like this...."

I nodded again.

"You want these guys in trenches like this, okay?  You see the way they hold their rifles?  You want the barrels just over the edge... like this...."

"Unhuh."

"Then you take the others, over here... the ones sitting down.... You watching, Son?"

"Yeah, Dad."

"Once you've got them set... you want to keep them spread out, you know, to protect your flank.  See how I'm doing it?"

He was kneeling, sitting on his heels and dropping soldiers in the shallow trenches.  He continued with his instructions, pulling more men from the bag.  "...Got to protect your high ground.  That way the enemy--these men over here--they can't attack you without exposing...."

And on he went.  But I wasn't listening anymore.  I was on my back, stretched out on a blanket of new grass with my hands locked behind my head and the sweet breath of summer on my neck.  Smiling up at the crimson blush of the mild June evening, at the gently nodding treetops and at the low spark of the evening's first fireflies; feeling like I was being held in a wide cozy palm and drawn in tight to a cool, moist breast--the world's own heartbeat steady and gentle across my back.  And it wasn't warmth exactly or even love for the man kneeling over me that I felt stirring deep inside my anxious soul, it was something more... like... like peace.

In the years to come I would cut the lawn many times.  I would spread fertilizer in the spring and pull weeds in the summer.  I would set out sprinklers when the days were dry and I would rake leaves in autumn.  I would do all these things for all the years I lived at home.  And our yard would always be green and well kept.

Yet when I think on it now, I cannot for the life of me recall doing any of these chores--though I know I did.  There's even a home movie where I can be seen dragging our old push-mower from the garage and charging into the tall grass, the handle bouncing just below my chin.  But I do not remember it.

I only remember that one afternoon in the early summer, earnestly raking our measured plot of earth and waiting for my father to return home from battlefields I could not yet imagine and that fathers have forever revealed to their sons, only one small patch at a time.

 

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Impressionism and the Zen of Bluegill Fishing                

by JR Bumgarner

                                                                               

y buddy and I left home a couple of hours ago on a bluegill fishing expedition.  We unloaded the boat, paddled across the lake, and anchored beneath a large maple.  The tree's shade creates perfect hiding places and hopefully we will find a convention of bluegill lurking in the darkened waters.  Our poles and reels are readied:  leaders, bobbers, and hooks attached, and the worm container opened.

Looking overhead, two hawks skillfully ride updrafts.  Enthralled by their beauty I'm suddenly daydreaming and soaring with them.  I see my buddy below and marvel that he'd rather fish than fly.  My lungs fill with fresh air and my outstretched wings carry me atop warm air currents.  Tucking my wings, I dive for a lazy bass lolling about on the surface.  Then suddenly, like a dropped bag of potatoes, I'm back in the boat, rubbing a sore finger.  The hook I'm holding, but not paying much attention to, pricked my finger and flight school is over.

My spirit, temporarily plucked away, awakens my sleepy senses and something other than fishing begins commanding my attention.  The hypnotic blip-blap of small waves lapping against the boat soothe me.  Velvety green trees blanket the mountain slopes surrounding the lake and reach to meet the deep blue sky.  Faded reds from a barn on the far shore blend with the blues and greens reflecting off the surface.  Lost in thought, I am no longer connected to the original purpose of our trip; but, I know Van Gogh and his other impressionist painter buddies would love this natural masterpiece unfolding before me.

On the banks, bunches of bulrushes, cattails and aquatic grasses provide shelter for turtles, fish, red-winged blackbirds and clouds of swirling insects.  Further along the shore, other monumental maples stretch their broad, flat-shaped leaves toward the blue sky, casting dark shadows on the water, creating more hiding places.  Leaves flutter and a small frog jumps from one lily pad to another.  In a pasture behind a clump of cattails, a cow bellows and a redwing belts out one of its finest arias.

The swish of the fisherman's cast and the whirs and clicks of his reel cut the air.  The tackled worm's splashdown creates a sudden explosion of water and colors.  Broken ripples and newly blended colors stream across the surface.  He reels in slack and the bobber’s red and white colors add new hues to nature's painting.

My partner, the fisherman, focuses on the dancing bobber as though his sight is sunlight shooting through a magnifying glass.  Watching him stare and patiently wait, I notice his silent entry onto the canvas.

The redwing offers up another aria.  A soft breeze cools the air.  The odors of earthy decay and fresh air mix and the mooing in the distance tell me no impressionist or photographer could fully re-create this scene.

The bobber jerks violently and disappears below the surface creating an implosion of water and colors filling the vacuum created by its vanishing.  The fisherman sets the hook and reels in a ferociously belligerent, eight-inch bluegill.  The fisherman's joy fills the boat as he lifts the fish into the boat and places it on a stringer.

I watch him re-bait his hook, set his pole, and cast again.  Another explosion of colors and ripples occurs and soon the bobber again dances gently on the surface.  The fisherman checks the captured prey on the stringer, then sharply refocuses his sight on the distant and floating bobber.

My pole lies quietly beside me, the line is dry and the worms in my cup are secure.

I'm simply too busy to fish.

 

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Sapphire                                                                                         

by Melanie Faith

 

e is alone.  She is his reason.  He has convinced himself, this time, of the possibility.  Arias of silken springs sing in his nervous heart, shimmering as the flowing melody of her presence.

She is what brings him here, to the high school auditorium, to hear the biggest benefit of the year:  An "Unforgettable" Evening.  The whole town has assembled.

Her name is Enid, but she is his Sapphire.  Why a gem?  A gem lives beyond the everyday dullness, is surrounded by appreciation.

A woman so intriguing, so placid does not see the world through the streaked, plate-glass windows of a storefront.  Since he was four years old, he has stared out those windows; they are his boundaries and his refraction.  Passing pick-up trucks clog the air of the nowhere town with dust.  Time is parched.  Pebbles accumulated in an empty well.  Closed and disconnected.  His life, composed of longing.  A flat tune without crescendos.  Until his Sapphire arrived.  From that moment, no other voices hummed the tune of his life.

It was a Thursday in May when she first walked by the Glenn Rowe Dry Goods and Sundries.  A German Shepherd on a leash pulled her down the sidewalk.  Her iced-mocha tresses swept back at the sides in tortoise shell combs and sea-breeze voice echoing, “Friar Tuck, settle,” while the dog bounded forth.

She always stops across the street, outside Five and Go Laundry, depositing coins in the machine that carries Cokes in glass bottles.  The old-fashioned kind.  The machine he had fed countless coins while minding the store as a child for his father.  The same Coke, condensation sliding down the side in icy-drops and kissing lava hot fingers.

Twice a day she passes his store, never stepping foot inside.  But he waits for her nearness, though the street separates them.  He desires her with no perverse goal.  Stalker, he does not know the term.  This, too, is the world in which she belongs.  Sapphire, blue.

He is blue, but never ventures across the street to speak to her.  Nor does he arrange an accidental meeting.  He barely has enough courage to redial after a wrong number.  But he has saved his bravery for one event he knows she will attend.

He does have a certain quality, a manly way of rolling his shirt sleeves like Cary Grant.  Yes, and the charmed gait of Fred Astaire, always bedecked with a shopkeeper’s smile.  Pleasant, unassuming.  The heart recognizes self while reality does not see.

Her visage is a fantastic hue.  Not icy, or passive silence.  Another blue entirely.  A presence of dusk without sunset, breathless for the stars’ first appearance.  Embers of blue, upon blue, overlapping powder, sky, baby, navy.  Beyond that.  She is charisma and wonder.  A color no man’s lips have ever spoken.  She is not red.  Expectant fruit, flavor spent.  Nor yellow orchid.  Exotic afar, the scent that strangles in nearness.  She is the color of movement, illusive, breathtaking.  She is freedom’s wings, God’s breath upon wondrous creation, the sigh of morning light.  Presence of absence, absence of pretense.

They speak to her.  The customers, the townsfolk.  She joins this committee, that charity.  A kind word spoken in passing, a birthday remembered.  From them he learns the details of her life.  Learns her passions in snippets.  She teaches philosophy.  Ten years ago she gave up TV for Lent and hasn’t watched a show since.  She listens to public radio.  Her parents are musicians.

The crystalline night arrived.  He will speak.  To her.  But no, he won’t speak.  Then, yes, he must try.  It is silly.  His mind is indecisive, the twittering of a child, a teen.  He is not that.  So, indeed, he will speak.  Just when and what remains.

To speak, yes.  Where is she?  Row three, seat ten.  Alone, by the aisle.  Her cloak is cream.  Her movements starry sea-foam.  New clips in her hair this evening.  Sapphires and a cluster of diamonds uplifting them.  He feels the blues in her soul.  The cool grace of her mind.  She brushes a stray curl into place, it falls.  His throat, two pates of sandpaper, scratching discordantly.  He is intimidated, he is awed.

No, no speaking.  What to say?  What would amuse her?  Astute, he is not.  Clever, sometimes.  But witty?  No.  She abounds in wit.  You can tell.  He does not.  No words come.  He stands.  Waiting.

Waiting.  No one sits beside her.  All are in groups, with families.  But her.  She, alone.  And him.  He, by the door.  Inside the doorway, to the right.

“Excuse me.”  Voice of Margaret Summers, his neighbor from three houses down the block.  She is thirty-five pounds overweight and wears glossy black spandex shorts each morning as she jogs past his picture window.  He averts his eyes with his morning coffee in hand, just as he averts them now.  He moves to the left.  Against the back wall.  Mutters, “Oh sorry,” while composing lines.  For he will speak.  All lines sound like pick-ups.  Hackneyed bar lines.  Plastic.  He is not.

House lights dim.  Lights on stage turn, hazy blue.  Nightfall.  An emcee looms.  Silently wills him to stay.  For one more minute.  Just enough, for he will say--something.  No rehearsal.  Just--speak, speak, speak.  Yes, speak.  Say something.

He touches the one bare spot on her shoulders that the cloak does not cover.  Her dress is organza, an ivy pattern the stage lights paint blue.  The auditorium is drafty.  Her skin is chilled-warm.  A wave of rosewater perfume washes over his senses; he breathes deeper, drunkenly.  He feels the pulse of spring beneath her skin.  His thumb accidentally brushes a stray tress that has fallen against her chin.  An ice-tea tress, composed of purified water, flowing, flowing current into the sea.  She turns.  He begins, then feels shopkeeper grin snap onto his face.  What--?

“Excuse me, Miss--” he falters.  You know her name, know her name.  Enid, Enid.  Speak, Sapphire.

“Brookley.  Enid Brookley.  Yes?”  Her being is hushed expectancy.

“This row of seats has been saved.”  Saved.  Saved?  No!  He means, “This row of seats seems to be free.  May I join you?”  But he has said saved.

She answers graciously.  “Sorry.  I’ll move, then.”  The moment past.  His moment wasted.  Wingtips have frozen to the floor.  Watching her retreat.  Watching her flow down the aisle. The curve of her movements, a velvet spring floating into summer.  Another row, another seat.  Could have said, “May I join you?”  Cannot now. 

Emcee enters.  Babbles.  He cannot hear a word.  The censuring tape in his mind mimics, “These seats have been saved,” while his eyes suck in the emptiness of row three.  Pelting droplets of ice plink against his heart.  Courage leaving, no return address.  Blanket of blue flushes his facial features.

“Well, tomorrow,” he promises.  “Tomorrow--I will stop her at the soda machine.  Then I’ll say...”

The curtains sweep open, revealing a stage full of players.  The strains of “Mood Indigo” wash over him.

 

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Love-self                                                                                  

                                                                                           

by Jerry Vilhotti

 

ohnny--who his older brothers and sisters wished had been born catatonic if not dead so easier to not feed in the days of the Great Depression--could remember if he strained real hard a place called Mount Carmel Church and words about caring for "fetishes" not wanted but after "they" came among the living were allowed to suffer without a liver, stomach or brain giving the righteous and sanctimonious a sense of meaning, superiority and a feeling of holy comfort as they delighted in the watching of the suffering and the one talking down from his pulpit with a look of disdain on his face, also harboring a shadow upon his soul, told all the upturned faces that even those unborn babies that would live a life of pain and rejection; that those with their missing organs were supposed to come among them and then be thrown away slowly, for wasn't it said to "suffer the little children"?  Johnny could hear the music his father played on his accordion and he had galloped to the "Donkey Serenade" as a four year old while people danced attempting to stomp the bad times out and then only when the living would begin to die to make others survive from the superior race marching toward the big lady in the harbor with her feet bounded by chains did divided become united and then after the blood had almost dried--hate again began to thrive even more strongly--and the chains revealed themselves again; rusted.  Years later Johnny was at a table with his older brothers and sisters, who with contempt on their faces, were saying:  "Hey still alive--are you going to eat your eggs or are you going to just keep drooling on them--"  Johnny interrupted the chorus by saying that the white of the eggs looked like snow and the yokes looked like suns but the thick film of flowing phlegm like globs over them made them become drowned.  He would not eat the eggs nor ever eat again... with them....

 

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Chipped Dishes                                                                                          

 by Jerry Vilhotti


he boy's mother threw the change to the floor in disgust.  They were mostly Lincoln pennies but for a bison nickel and a dime--not showing the shackles around the legs of the great lady in the harbor.  Thirty cents Tom had given her and now he wished he had given her the other money he had kept for himself.

Tom told her--emphasizing his sobs while exaggerating the long catching of his breath--that his older brother Leny-one-n and older brother-cousin Flap had dished him out of all the corners he wanted but due to his polio leg he couldn't outrun them and so they got many more shoes to shine.

The coins had crashed to the floor squirting into various directions and her severe expression kept Tom in place for he would have jumped immediately to retrieve them all.  She curled up her nose as if suddenly he had become a manifestation of a bad odor and turned slightly which gave him the opportunity to go collect the coins and for almost an hour he lay on the floor beside the radiator trying to get the dime that was stuck between wood and linoleum, flexing his fingers every which way until his scraped, bleeding hand extracted the coin from its confinement.

Tom gave all the coins back to his mother as she looked down at the six year old and said:  "Do you have any more?"

He looked up to fix his eyes to hers, making his head go far back to look even more deeply into her eyes and said:  "No, Mama.  No, Mama. No, Mama. I  swear to God--I have no more!"

She looked deeper into his eyes, perpetuating the lie that she could see a truth hiding behind the color of eyes, and said,  "So you spent it!  Look into my eyes and tell me you didn't!"

Tom tried to fix his leg steadier to the floor as he placed his two hands behind his back and looked straight into her eyes, while his tongue scraped away from his teeth the remains of the chocolate bar he had eaten as he watched Tom Mix and his horse "Tony" chase down a hundred bad guys all with shifty eyes, and shook his head vehemently, making sure his tongue was doing its work steadily and invisibly to clean his mouth thoroughly in case she asked to look inside for evidence of the spending.  His good leg's foot began to hurt as the coins hiding inside his shoe were making themselves felt.

Fully dissatisfied, she told him to get out of her sight as she placed the change into her apron pocket.

Tom made a beeline to out of the apartment before she began to dish him out all around the place--if she looked deeper into his eyes and saw fully what he had done.  He galloped awkwardly up Mauritania Avenue toward the movie house where he would watch another movie where many other people would be engulfed by the quasi-darkness, trying to shed the reality of the Great Depression and all its misery eating away their lives bite by big bite.

                                                        

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by Jack Swenson

 

arry read Ann Landers' column for the same reason he listened to Rush Limbaugh--for laughs.  Harry's wife Katie, who was not a big fan of either the advice columnist or El Rushbo, told Harry that he had a strange sense of humor.


One morning the column was particularly bad, in Harry's opinion, and he clipped it out of the newspaper and brought it to Katie.  He found her in the back yard putting peanuts in the jay feeder.  Katie took the clipping, read it, and handed it back to Harry.  "Pretty good," Katie said.  Harry opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again.  "I like that part about love being the mature acceptance of imperfection," Katie said.

Harry had the column in his pocket when he showed up at Leonard's shop before their daily walk.  He handed the clipping to Leonard.  "What's this?" Leonard asked.

"It's an article about the difference between infatuation and love," Harry said.

Leonard gave the article back without reading it.  "What does Ann Landers know about love?" he asked.  "She's got to be eighty years old."

Leonard explained things to Harry while they walked.  "Women got it backwards," he said.  "They want friendship, love, and sex, in that order.  What they get is sex first, then love and marriage, and after that, friendship.  After marriage, friendship is all that's left."

The two men went to an AA meeting that night, and the next morning, Harry walked into Leonard's shop and told his friend that he had a new career picked out for him.  "You can write an advice column," he said.  "You could call yourself 'Mr. Sympathy.'"  Leonard shook his head.  The previous evening, one of the men at the meeting, a balding, raspy-voiced salesman, had talked about his problems with his fiancée.  While he was talking, Leonard got up and rummaged around in the kitchen area of the meeting room.  He came back with a towel and a large cooking spoon and slapped them down on the table in front of the salesman.  "There's your crying towel," he said.  "I couldn't find a shovel."

Rain had turned the trail to slop, and after their walk, Harry sat on the curb in the parking lot digging the mud out of the grooves in the soles of his sneakers.  "The problem with guys like Chuck is they get mixed up with women that they don't even like," Harry said.

"We all should have kept our mouths shut," Leonard said.  "Chuck doesn't want a solution; he wants to whine about the problem.  Like the Book says, we're better off if we don't give advice."

After sessions like the one that night at the church, Harry was glad that he was married to Katie.  There was plenty of friendship and love in his marriage.  Not as much sex as he wanted, perhaps, but at his age, probably all he could stand.  Katie was twenty years younger than Harry.  They had met ten years before, at the funeral of a mutual friend.  It was the second time around for Katie, the third for Harry.  Harry told Leonard that he didn't take credit for the success of his marriage.  "Maybe I learned something from the others, maybe not.  Maybe I just lucked out," he said.

The only thing that Harry could fault his wife for was that she rubbed his nose in it when he made a mistake.  Katie liked to be top dog.  Earlier that week, Harry had made some changes in the software of their computer, and afterwards Katie claimed that the computer didn't run right.  She was grumpy about it for days.

"It's all about relationships, all the bitching and complaining," Harry said.  "Not at the Friday meeting, but Monday and Wednesday, that's all you hear."  The two men were trudging along the path they walked each morning.  It was a cold, windy November day.

"I've got problems with relationships, too," Leonard said.  "We all have.  If it's not the wife, it's the kids or some asshole customer.  The reason those guys are having trouble is they got married for the wrong reasons.  They do all their thinking in the bedroom with their clothes off.  When the fire dies out and the smoke clears, they see what they've got, and they don't like it."

Harry asked Leonard how Hawk and Billy D. were doing.  Both of these men were sober alcoholics that Leonard sponsored.  Leonard told Harry that Billy wouldn't even talk about it, but Hawk was doing okay.  "He's going to throw his wife out one of these days," Leonard said.  "Sooner or later, he'll meet a woman who'll let Hawk be Hawk, and like it, and that'll be it for that forty-year-old teenager he's married to."

Both Harry and Leonard had previously had their own troubles with the women they married.  Harry had been married and divorced twice before he met Katie, and Leonard, who had been married to Sally for thirty years, freely admitted that he and his wife fought like cats and dogs both before and after he got sober.  Leonard talked about it often at meetings.  They were just kids when they got married, Leonard said, and they didn't know what was what.  In fact, that was why he joined AA, to get back in the house.  One day when he got home he found his clothes in a shopping bag on the porch.  Sally told him to come back when he got his act together.

Things didn't go smoothly after he got sober, either, Leonard said.  Finally, he got fed up, and he told his wife that either they were going to see a marriage counselor or a lawyer; he didn't much care which.  They ended up going to a counselor, which made Leonard happy because he figured the guy would straighten Sally out.  It didn't work that way, however.  "He sent Sally home, and he kept me for six months," Leonard said.

California is a place where disasters stand in line to happen.  In the winter it's floods and mudslides.  In the summer it's fires.  An earthquake can occur at any time.

That year it was a fire that made Harry think he should have moved to Kansas when he left Minnesota.  Harry and Katie stood outside that night and watched the rosy glow in the sky above the hill at the end of their street.  One of their neighbors was spraying the roof of his house with a garden hose.  Others stood in the street, talking and pointing.  Later, a friend called Katie and said she heard about the fire on the TV news.  She was worried because the report said the fire was threatening homes on the street where Harry and Katie lived.  They were okay, Katie said.  It must be the houses on the other side of the canyon.

Around eleven o'clock, flames shot into the sky at the top of the hill, and Katie headed for the house to put the cats in the cat carriers.  Harry came inside a few minutes later and told her to wait.  It was a backfire, he said.  The neighbor had been watching the fire fighters on the hill with binoculars.

By midnight, the glow in the sky was fading, and an hour or so later, the sky was black and empty with a sprinkling of stars.

The next day they read in the newspaper that the fire had burned nearly a thousand acres of grassland on the eastern edge of the city, but no structures were lost, and no one was killed or injured.

One day the following week, Harry was at the grocery store, and when he brought his purchases up to the checkout counter, he saw that the man in front of him was wearing the dark blue uniform of a fireman.  The fireman was a rangy, blue-eyed youth with a buzz haircut.  He looked like his picture should be on a box of Wheaties.  Harry smiled at the young man.  "Are you the guy that put out that big fire the other day?" Harry asked.  The fireman told Harry that he was one of the first ones on the scene.

"It was a hot one," he said.  "What made it so bad was the wind."

Walking back to his truck, Harry looked up at the hills beyond the homes across the street from the shopping center.  They were as black as burned toast as far as he could see in either direction.

Arnold, their next door neighbor, had been testing the free agent singles market without success for months, so Harry was surprised when one day that summer Katie told him that Arnold had a new girlfriend.  Arnold's wife had moved out the previous winter.  Before she left, she told Katie that Arnold had been bringing women over to the house during the day while she was at work.  Katie asked how she found out, and she said her cat told her.

Harry didn't like Arnold.  In his opinion, Arnold was a cheap, self-centered mama's boy. Katie, who was less judgmental about people, got along well with Arnold.  She often reminded Harry that they were lucky to have such nice neighbors.

One Sunday Arnold brought his new friend over to Harry and Katie's house to meet them.  After they left, Harry told Katie that Lucy was a peach.  She was too good for Arnold.  She wasn't pretty, but she was smart and she had a good sense of humor.  What struck him most about the girl was how much she looked like Arnold.  The main difference was that Lucy had red hair, and Arnold had no hair at all to speak of.  Otherwise, they were like two peas in a pod.  They were both homely and as skinny as scarecrows.

Early one morning some weeks later, Harry was outside on the porch behind their house.  Katie was still in bed.  Harry had fed the cats and put on a pot of coffee.  When he heard the noise at Arnold's house, it surprised him.  He recognized the sounds, but he didn't expect to hear them coming from Arnold's bedroom window.

When Katie got up, Harry told her what he had heard, and Katie said that she, too, had heard them going at it, not this time but before.  "In the morning?" Harry asked.

"Morning, noon, and night," Katie replied.

Harry went back inside the house and got two cigarettes from a pack on the kitchen counter.  He gave one to Katie.  Harry mumbled something, and Katie asked him what he said.  Harry said it was something he read somewhere about love being friendship that has caught fire.  He couldn't remember where he read it, Harry said.

 

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Andgame                                                                                    

by Bertrand Bickersteth


don’t see him yet, but I know he will approach, he will oppose me, and ultimately he will serve.  I know especially that none of these things should be occupying my mind in the least at the moment.  And they don’t.  ‘And’, because I am able, uncannily, to acknowledge these thoughts even while I remain serenely separate from them.  ‘And’ becomes an act, an action I carry out, am obligated to carry out, as an athlete.  It is because I have honed my physical abilities to such a peak that I am able to perform this mental conjoining of insight and inactivity.  For all its governance of faculty, after all, the brain is just as physical as the rest of the body.  And there he is now.  The body opposing me.  He approaches.  I see him.

The retired tennis star steps on to the court.  His body is mostly tight and toned, despite his years.  For now, his shirt and socks are sparkling white, and his soft belly is within his rein.  Each step he takes is with mingled apprehension and an odd sense of duty.  As he approaches the service area, he feels a mysterious energy, the old energy, frustrating and fuelling his hands.  He decides to welcome this feeling, his old friend.  He looks ready, for now.  His eyes are wary.

He glanced at me.  I didn’t expect that.  I must anticipate him; I must be him.  Nothing else.  I can’t allow myself (my circumstances--these circumstances) to become distracted.  I must concentrate my body on the game.  This game that requires the concentration of chess.

The retired tennis star glances at his opponent.  At times he is astonished that he has allowed himself to become involved in this match.  Sometimes he feels gratified that it will raise money for charity.  Sometimes he feels the duplicity of his own willingness to participate in this unusual, publicized match.  He pulls at his headband.  The first itchy bead of sweat already threatens to crawl out from under the stretched material.  He had caught a glimpse of himself on the way out of the dressing room and had paused.  In the past he had never paused.  He does not know, though, that other retired tennis stars, other unrelenting, aging human beings often approach the future with ever-increasing indulgences of doubt.  He cannot know this.  He pulls at his headband and wonders at this early heat.

The game is just underway.  Our endgame.  The beginning, for me, the middle, and the end, for me, are all the endgame.  The duration of this back and forth is an interminable indecision.  We ponder continually between us, and now, as they say, the ball is in my court.

The ball is another familiar in the retired tennis star’s hand.  His friend.  His foe.  Just before everything quietens, he hears a frenzy of camera clicks as he gives the ball two or three gauging bounces.  He leans over, poised, in his sparkling outfit, to flay the ball with his once-famous opening serve.  Much of the spectators’ pre-game murmuring had centered on this very moment.  Would he launch, dare to launch, one of his scorchers at a charity match?  Should he?  As expected, the retired tennis star himself is on the verge of doubt.  Wisely, he banishes its possibility by choosing not to look, again, at his opponent.  And he launches a scorcher at her.  Now, he thinks to himself, the shoe is on the other foot.

Back and forth we play out this end.  He serves, he serves, he serves.  As far as I can tell, the crowd is aghast.  Thrilled.  The end is being drawn out and all of us are on the balls of our feet.  I can’t get distracted.  He serves.  In advance of him, I serve for him.  Back and forth, his serves are very fast.  I am already proven, though, it is for him to prove himself.  My agent suggested this tournament of ‘champions’ to me, but I didn’t respond at the time.  I never respond.  There is no need.  He serves; I serve for him.  He is never outside of my reach and I am always one step ahead of him.

The retired tennis star steps into another blistering serve.  The crowd is galvanized by his performance.  She then returns each of his serves and they rally interminably, and then he releases another scorching serve.  The crowd buzzes.  His outfit is touched with dark patches, here and there.  He feels a responsibility to live up to their memory of him.  He feels, as well, the spontaneous elasticity of his middle age.  And, yes, and… and the unpredictable rigidity of his athletic middle age.  He lifts a coping arm to his face, wipes the moisture, and warily looks around at the gleeful faces, the chipped paint of the undersized venue, the glinting sun bouncing off of every white and near-white object.  It is the glint of the white lines in the turf that distracts the most: chalk lines choking with vaporous dust, occasionally puffing with each laborious grunt, each challenging swing, each reluctant serve.  In the crowd, he sees his wife’s fat sunglasses with her nose protruding between the large lenses.  Her strip of white teeth.  Bright white, very bright teeth, and they also have their imperfections.  He notices his son is fiddling with a book and a soft drink, and then the game doesn’t give him time to react to this sight.  ‘The Tournament of Champions.’  He pulls in his belly and prepares his athlete’s body for another, and again another, trademark serve.  The gauging bounce.  The raising arm.  The arching back.  The audience holds its collective breath another time.  Here and there people wonder if he can do it again.  He thinks to himself, with his arm raised, the ball spinning slowly, suspended between its foreseeable fall and a fumbling apotheosis, he thinks to himself, with his cotton shirt, hot, despite its color, and twisted against his arched back, and he thinks to himself, I can pull other stunts if I begin to look like a fool.  He feels the heat crawl up his back and slip around his throat and slide into the rump of his skull.  ‘This is Hell,’ he thinks to himself and immediately expels the thought from his mind.  The ball spins.  The crowd holds on.  And he snaps into action:  his arm, though exhausted of its finesse, is not desperate yet, and it lumbers his racket into the suspended ball, flaying it with one more of his once-famous scorching serves, and, for all its ferocious speed, just within reach of his opponent’s racket.

I once admired this retired star and now, with each stroke, before each stroke of his racket, I am him.  I draw myself into him, like a pen, and like air.  A long time ago, my agent said to me:  ‘Why do you allow yourself to get drawn into these schemes you don’t want to do?’  He knows full well that I don’t get drawn into things, and that I draw myself into things.  He knows this, that’s his game and I refuse to respond.  And that’s my game:  a game of action, and a game of simultaneity that must be played for real.  I draw myself, like a pen, like air, into this tennis star I used to want to emulate.  I am his wary eyes.  I am his powerful serve.  I am his deuce-side movement and his advantage-side movement, back and forth, all before him.  I am squinting into the crowd and grimacing at my wife.  I will win at all costs.  Maybe even my dignity.  I am growing tired.  I mustn’t show my fatigue.  No, that’s him.  He’s getting tired and he still strikes the ball with that desperate enthusiasm I used to admire.  So certain, so tenuous:  admirable.  There were no women players that I wanted to identify with when I was first playing.  Only this retired champion.  And now me, the current women’s number one.

The retired tennis star’s wife pushes her sunglasses on her nose and energetically flicks her charity program in a sort of impromptu, inadequate fan.  She sees her husband struggling on the court, but having fun at the same time.  She smiles brightly.  She had been afraid that he would overexert himself, and maybe he has, but he has also surprised everyone by maintaining a fairly rigorous pace.  Next to her, their son sits bored and hot, sometimes flipping through a novel, sometimes sucking on his soft drink.  Play continues.  This is only the beginning, but everyone is pleased with the performance so far.  Occasionally the retired tennis star grimaces and then twists his grimace into an exaggerated mask of pain, limping with one arm perched on his hip and swinging the other vigorously, like a very, very old man.  The crowd laughs in great gusts of joy.  No one is fooled, but everyone is happy.  These grand serves, though, these unrelenting scorchers will have to stop.  Nevertheless, he was an idol once to so many people, now to his immense joy, he’s finding that he’s still number one for many people.

The endgame continues.  I edge him a little this way, so.  I anticipate him edging that way, like so.  I draw myself into him and, in being him before him, resist him.  If I choose to, I can look into the crowd and pick out my agent.  He attends all of my matches without investing any emotional commitment.  Why not?  ‘I’m running a business,’ he responds.  ‘I’m not the one playing tennis out there!’  According to him, my attitude doesn’t help my profile.  I can’t respond to him and then act for him at the same time, he says.  This tired tennis star I am playing right now will serve again as hard as he can.  Some might say that he is being too aggressive for a charity match.  I’ve caught a few wondering glances in the crowd.  But this is the endgame, and it has just started, and it may never end.  It is a question that we banter back and forth.  I understand him completely, and I sympathize with him.

“Net ball:  first serve.”

The retired tennis star looks squarely at the women’s number one, world female champion, and his opponent.  It is apparent now, his serve is faltering.  This is only the first game of the match.  The crowd buzzes.  He looks at her, wearily.  This is the trap he sought to avoid, the same one he has carefully directed himself into.  His mind wants to cast out for blame, but what is the point?  He doesn’t want to complain.  He can’t complain.  This is a charity event.  He blinks in the heat of the sun.  It is as though she's there before he has hit the ball.

Now I have maneuvered us both, here and there, and finally there I have seized his queen.  It isn’t ‘final’ though, as I’ve said.  There is far to go and I too have lost things, and yet stand to lose more, in this match.  This recurring question we play out is serving us both, whether we saw it coming or not.

“Out!”

The retired tennis star has pulled a muscle.  He is the only one that knows this so far.  He will have to put on a brave face and pull out some other stunts.  Should he dig down and try another scorcher?  Involuntarily, he thinks of his son.  The end is nowhere in sight.  That’s the idea, he thinks to himself, I should have brought a book.

I see.  He will not hold back.  He will serve through his clenched grunts, his bared grin revealed.  He will serve and turn his new look, this ground-tooth, over-powered nostrils look, into a stunt for the audience.  They will doubt and he will fuel their doubt.  Now I see him, panting, drained, and drawn, and complete.  I must meet the ball as me.  I must meet the ball and, like my own unheeding agent, change it. I am him before.  I am myself afterward.  Nowhere in between.  He and me, drawn and drawing and anding, a back and forth.

“Deuce.”

The women’s number one and current world champion meets the ball, like her own unheeding agent, and returns the serve with a powerful stroke of her racket.  Her opponent takes a small leap and then, surprisingly, does a quick somersault managing to contact the ball as he does so.  It goes out, but the crowd lunges to its feet at this last stunt.  The women’s world champion smiles for the crowd, for him, and rubs her forehead.  Clearly his somersault was unnecessary, but she knows that his leg probably would not have allowed him to make the shot anyway.  The entire crowd is on its feet.  That means her agent is on his feet as well, she thinks to herself.  She sympathizes with her tired opponent.  ‘He is in denial,’ she thinks ruefully.  Or wait.  Is it her?  No, him.

I didn’t know what else to do, and so I served another scorcher.  And now she’s returned it with a strong cross-court volley.  I’ll never make it with my leg, but I still have some stunts to pull.  Acrobatics always get the crowd on its feet and… and… look at them!  There they are!  What else could I do?  What can I do next?  Should I dig down and try another scorcher?  Can I?  Involuntarily, I think of my son.  The end is nowhere in sight.  That’s the idea, I think to myself, I should have brought a book.

“Deuce.”

 


                                                        

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broken decorator glass

Duane Locke


 tossed-away paper and a bottle cap

Duane Locke


so blah

Sean Simmans 

 


Spiral 13

William C. Burns, Jr.

 

 

 


Mom and Oliver

Beagles for Breakfast                                       

by Pamela Boslet Buskin                                                      

 

My mom was special.  She was born in the USA but English was her second language and she never quite got the hang of it.  Here is Part Two of some quotes I surreptitiously copied down back in the 1980s.  (Part I is archived in the November '00 issue.)

 

He's one of those guys who escaped from Russia--a defective.

Oliver likes opera?  All that squeaking?  All those fiddles?

He worked his way up from a peanut.

He was very nice and very slow.  He wouldn't hurt a snail.

He danced with two feet.  (two left feet)

He was like her left foot.  (right hand man)

He was pulling my foot.  (my leg)

He was pulling my hair.  (my leg)

re Iranian hostages:  They put them in a horror jail and tied their hands and dashed them and bashed them with wire.

They don't have much money, they're just trying to put on the horse.

Me:  Who scored?  Field goal or touchdown?
Mom:  The Bingles kicked it over that thing.
Me:  Who?
Mom:  The Bangles?  How do you pronounce "ben"--"b-e-n"?  How far do you go?  '"b-e-n-g"?

Everybody has their ups and downs; that's called Down's Syndrome.

She finally had to put her father in a veterinarian's home.  (veteran's hospital)

We had to go across the Tapestry Bridge.  (Tappan Zee)

Let's have some of that Cold Whip.  (Cool Whip)

Look at the way she's driving--she's a real toughneck!

The house looked like a cyclone.

He's a big head shot.

re drugs at the local high school:  They're trying to hush it down.

re Ron Ely singing "Miss America":  I think he was dabbed in with Bert Parks.

The ambulance came with oxygen to try to revise him.

They got disgusting with themselves.  (disgusted)

He parked right across the street from the fireplace.

Me:  Oliver is so cute now, but you never know, he could be funny looking when he grows up.
Mom:  T'heck with funny looking, as long as he doesn't have a bad reputation!

Ray and Mary Etta renewed my prescription to Reader's Digest.

re Mayor Koch:
As soon as he found out they were going to demonstrate, he just beat it up someplace.

Mom:  What's that kind of watch?  S-M-O-A-B?  Smatch?  Smotch?  Snotch?
Me:  Swatch.
Mom:  Oh, it's five letters?  I thought it was four.

They got married civil service.  (They had a civil ceremony.)

Me (pregnant):  You should see how fat I'm getting!
Mom:  What do you expect?  What do you want to have, an ant?

They had to put him in a nursery home.

She's a member of the Hysterical Society.  (Historical)

re Dorothy Hamill:  She's going to be at Medicine Square Garden.

Me (trying to explain call forwarding):  So, whoever is calling you can reach you at Mary's, or wherever you are.
Mom:  But who will it be?  Who will be at the other end?  How will they know they're calling me?

He's around Irish people so much he speaks with an Irish vogue.

He was so nervous he was sweating like a bullet.

If I go out in this weather, I'll die of heat frustration.

re a sportscaster:  He's got to go to the ballgame to cover it up.

Well, like they say, the fence is always greener on the other side.

Her car was so old she had to give it to the junkies.

She's so old fashioned--she still has a buffet hairdo.

When he swims underwater, you'll have to get him one of those sparkles so he can breathe.  (snorkles)

re Ronald Reagan:  He was lying over his dead body.

They shut the place down because they didn't have enough fire distinguishers.

He had an operation on his prospect gland.

He hit a slam-jam home run.

Me:  He's handsome.  He doesn't have that wide Polish nose.
Mom:  Oh well, he could get that fixed.

He didn't have much money in the bank, so his check jumped.

He was very big for his size.

He was a young man who decided to follow in his father's footprints.

re Clint Eastwood's roast:  It was one of those fry things (and boy, is he dumb!).

Oh good, my favorite show:  70 Minutes.

I think I'll have a beagle for breakfast.

 

 

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