Warlords of Wor Update

So I came to the shocking realization that it has been a fortnight and a half (approximately) since my last update regarding the most cavalierly badassedly cool mini-comics series I happen to co-write.  So much excellence has taken place in the meantime.

Well, as of now, the first two issues have been published as a flip book and was released at the ManOrMonster? Booth at C2E2 2013. Two comics for the price of one!!

The first issue was written by myself and Brandon Michael Barker and featured the impeccable artwork of Cory Hamscher (Supreme) on pencils & inks with Sean Forney (Scarlet Huntress) on colors. Crank, in turn, did the lettering.  The result, if nothing else, was this stunning splash page of Bog-Nar.  This first issue is now currently available through the wonderful digital comics site, Thrillbent, as part of the Mini-Comics Included selection, which includes work by such great creators as Tim Seeley, Michael Moreci, Steve Seeley, Brent Schoonover, Sean Dove, and Kyle Latino.

BogNar Splash

Warlords of Wor: The Mutant Muck Menace

The second issue, which was released with the first as part of the convention exclusive flip book, is a story about Clawbber. It involves his history, a return home to battle and protect his demons, and how he gained his gold-plated smash-fists. The entire interior artwork is stunningly rendered by Brian Level (The Brothers James).  He adds such beautiful eloquence and realism to the piece, and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists.

Ghosts of Tohoco

Warlords of Wor: The Ghosts of Tohoco

Now, we also have our third book finished, lovingly titled, The Pride of the Guerrillax, and features the origin story of Beastor 9, one of the villains in the series. This book was again written by myself and Brandon, but features complete art by the one, the only, the magnificent Tom Scioli (Godland, American Barbarian).  It has been almost a year since I was first introduced to the creations of Scioli, when I was recommended to read American Barbarian (sidenote: If you haven’t read American Barbarian, rectify that problem in your life here). It completely altered my perceptions of what comic book creation could be and it was truly an honor to work with him. His art in our book is so stupefyingly divine, I cannot wait for everyone to see it.  Here is a murderous teaser of Beastor 9 breaking free of shackles:

Beastor_Breaks_Free

Warlords of Wor: The Pride of the Guerrillax

The Pride of Guerrillax will be released sometime in December through Thrillbent. So make sure you catch that. If you are interested in purchasing the first two issues in print, they are currently available through ManOrMonster?’s webstore.  We are currently in the process of getting art for our fourth issue with a confirmed artist that will cause gaskets to go kaput. Also, we are looking in the future to turning Warlords into an ongoing through a publishing company, but that is a long couple miles down the old dirt road. This is all I have for you today, so relax and view upon this gorgeous picture of the first four toys in the action figure line, also available through ManOrMonster?’s webstore, to limited quantities.

WoW_Cast

Hope to see you all soon,

Eric

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I Wrote a Poem but Who Gives a Shit: Linguistics

It is 10PM here. My boys (children, not frat house friends) are asleep. This is a poem about words, as can be presumed by the title, and maybe the way that our decisions are rendered comes bathed in the light of words contextualized by our own cluttered and confused noodles. It is all very Chomsky and boring but it is a poem. As promised.

Linguistics

Avarice spiced like licorice, I told her.

And she explained that I only say that

Cause they look the same.

Others may compare it to an orange rind.

And even others the smell after rain.

But when I think of avarice I think of licorice.

But also birds.

 

But maybe I like you cause your name

Can be beautifully transfixed into,

resembling

an impression in the back of darkened Polaroid,

the word nude.

You drip of sexuality but only because we think

Of sexuality in a dripping manner.

The mixture of fluids and gravity

And she smiled saying, yes,

Yes, that is sex.

Precisely.

 

And she reveled in my name

And how it can be jumbled into rice.

Like the ending of avarice and licorice, I say.

She loves rice, white rice, the boring rice.

And she loves me.

And somehow the world comes together

With linguistics being the common bond,

the glue

That forges villagers to villainy,

Lunatics to sublunary fools like us.

A quaint quantum atom to its ever-faithful brother.

And oh the world we would have if we’d spoke another language.

Can you even imagine that?

I cannot, I said.

 

I Wrote a Poem but Who Gives A Shit: Winter Storms

I don’t understand anything really.  But it isn’t in that guru way, like “true knowledge comes from realizing you know nothing.”  I just don’t get it. The world is chock full of wrong answers that sound great.  This is a poem about that, I guess.

Winter Storms

I have heard it said
That real love involves delicately
filing one’s fetters,
Like shuffling papers in loose hands
And sliding them effortlessly
Under the ribs of another.
It is supposed to feel like ejaculation.
It is supposed to feel like entering
A new fish, something like an Oscar,
Into a new bowl.

There are also those
Who compare it to a trumpet soloist,
Dipping softly into a song,
Wailing, as they say,
Putting one’s elbows outward;
Addressing one’s presence.
And having the song become lax,
flaccid in your arms,
A sleeping child brought in from the car.

Like constructing an orange
Without the use of a caliper.
Or a compass.

Anything related to circles,
Let’s say,
Is comparable to true love.
The kind with the coolness
Sunglasses that never go out of style.
Jagged toes cut across a skyline.
A mispronounced Thank You that gets a coy “You’re welcome”.

But then again, who knows?

Short Story: Serve Me the Sky Tonight

It is Monday and I wrote another short story.  It is possibly about legacy, how we want to be remembered.  I don’t why but I have always attributed concern over legacy as being a very male trait.  Therefore, I wrote a story about a woman who very much wants to be remembered a certain way, even if only by one person.  The story is called Serve Me the Sky Tonight.

Serve Me the Sky Tonight

Yitzhak wakes up in the quaint doublewide purchased by Dolores and Donald Hoffman in the summer of 95.   He smiles thinking of the elderly couple proudly unveiling their red rock front lawn that winds elegantly to the back and wraps around the modest patio they’d had installed.  Their motorized neighbors encircle the cul-de-sac in awe.  That previous evening, Dolores had explained to Yitzhak that in 1995, they were new to the community and only spoke to their neighbors with grandiose waves of the hand and mutual hellos as their neighbors strolled on morning outings.  She would do a word search puzzle on the porch on her lap or perhaps a crossword.  Donald would drink his mug of coffee while complaining about the news and threatening letters to the editor.  And on evening strolls, it was the newly-minted couple’s turn to move through the community.  They kept mostly to themselves, sensing a clique against which they had yet to press their ears.  The twilight couple nodded politely to the old men in their golf shirts and cabana hats as they talked about their children, their children’s marriages, their children’s children.  As they returned home, Dolores would be thinking of the stew in the crock-pot and the bowl sitting next to Donald in his barcolounger.  “Yes,” Dolores commented, “95 was a good year.”

Yitzhak lies on the couch for a couple moments, imagining the smell that resulted from the recipe that Dolores had explained that night.  Then he arose, kicking off the blankets, moving into the kitchen.  He is overwhelmed with pride as he pictures Dolores bustling listlessly around the kitchen island during holidays in a maelstrom of candied yams and flour, denying help from her sons’ wives.  The same emotion she felt as she explained May 96; how everything changed.  One morning Don casually placed an envelope on the counter.  As Dolores opened it, her excitement was inconsolable.  It seemed they had been invited to a summer get-together, a celebration to begin the season, at the end of the block; the Burch residence.  By 96, Dolores had begun to understand the politics of Cherry Creek Community and to be invited to this “soirée,” as she put it, was quite the honor.  Thomas Burch had a handicap of four and had made an amiable fortune producing ball bearings.  From Dolores’ understanding, the Burches had the nicest home among the retirees, yet were living well within their means.  Henrietta Burch had previously been the leader, and often founding member, of various groups highlighting culture and arts and appreciation for fine wines at noon time luncheons.  It was rumored that her martini parties had once been noted in a prominent Fort Wayne periodical.  It was quite the honor, you see, simply to be invited.

Now Donald wasn’t the type to socialize often, but had promised as they entered their autumn years to be more open to the “excitements of life.”  So, after very little gentle prodding, Don agreed and Dolores was quickly on the phone with a well-articulated RSVP.  The day of the party, Dolores considered producing a large bowl of her famous potato salad, but eventually decided against it.  Upon arrival to the party, Dolores was introduced to her hostess as Don was handed a brown bottleneck and ushered near the barbeque where the men congregated.  Dolores found Henrietta to be a lovely woman, so humble despite her beauty, poise, and successes.  The two quickly hit it off, talking of their kids. It seems that both their eldest sons had attended the same university.  And soon, Dolores was accompanying Henrietta on her rounds throughout the party.  Every once in a while Dolores would glance over at Don gesticulating near the fiery Weber as he would tell his bombastic, and often comical stories, while the men laughed in hysterics.  “Do you ever get these moments where all your jagged edges finally fit with all the pieces that surround you?” she asked Yitzhak.

Yitzhak replied over the roast she had prepared, “no.”

In the present, Yitzhak is fumblingly trying to figure out the antiquated coffee maker.  He eventually gets a dark liquid filling the carafe as he hopes it tastes something close to coffee.  He is particularly tired this morning and his feet and head respond accordingly.  In the glaze of sleep, he still thinks meticulously of Dolores’ story.  It seems that a wave of good fortune befell the elderly couple after the party.  Don have become a regular golfing buddy of Thomas, who was constantly dispersing tips that largely improved Don’s game.  Dolores became very close to Henrietta and evolved into quite a necessary fixture at every Burch event.  The next four years moved gracefully as the Hoffmans were having the time of their lives.  Although Thomas had retired and sold his business, he was still held in high regard within his former company, so when Donald and Dolores’ eldest son, Nicholas, came upon hardships, he was able to obtain a lucrative position as a mid-level supervisor for Burch Ball Bearing.  This inevitably brought family closer to the Hoffmans.  The grandchildren came to visit often and both couples’ extended family spent countless recreational hours together.  The kitchen was every holiday filled with the smell of cooking meats and a vast array of pies while the spry matriarch was viewed upon as a deity, a model for her daughters.

Yitzhak takes the time to revel in this thought, matronly and stoic. And as they all sit down to eat, their mother is at the top of their thankful lists.  As they leave late into the evening, Don hugs Nick squarely and they load into the car all the children, whom scream with glee for their grandmother’s kiss.  She leans into the car, gently places her cheek to their foreheads, “I will always be here.  If you need anything…ever, you call grandma.”

But nothing gold can stay, so what chance have we carbon life forms?  So it was the next summer in which Donald suffered his stroke and died the next morning.  He was peaceful and heroic and his last words were “see you soon, my love.”  A single poetic tear moved down her cheek.  The funeral was an elegant affair, far more extravagant and grandiose than would have been in Don’s favor, but it was nice to see all the support.  Henrietta never left the arm of Dolores.  Thomas gave a well-spoken eulogy, however two-thirds became inaudible for the effort he put into choking back his tears.

The next year was difficult for Dolores, but with the aid of the Burches, Dolores began her new life.  Her church mass attendance had risen slightly and she began making crafts, little knick-knacks out of yarn, selling them at local shoppes and bazaars.  She began rereading the favorite books of her youth.  She was happy, under the conditions.

Yitzhak sat at the table and looked out the back window of the Hoffman residence.  The weeds had taken over the red rock lawn.  The table was littered with letters addressed to Dolores, or Mrs. Donald Hoffman, from the Cherry Creek Community Management. Yitzhak, knowing Mrs. Hoffman would not mind if he imposed, opened the letter and found eviction threats as well as a convoluted point system for punishment, in which, as the letter indicated, numbered to 312 before eviction was enacted.  Dolores was currently at 303.  She also owed around six thousand in fines for such offenses as; an overgrown weeds, leaves not removed from front walk, garbage cans not brought in from curb, et cetera.

Thomas had taken to helping Dolores around the house after Don passed, but became ill in the winter of 05.  They soon discovered Thomas had contracted skin cancer.  The doctor apologized for not having found it soon enough, as the evil had spread to his innards.  After that, the Burch brunches ended and Henrietta stopped dropping in to check on her friend.  Dolores would go over every once in a while, but it was not the same vibrant home as in the previous summers.  It had fallen to a cancer as well.  Henrietta and Thomas stayed confined to one room, watching reruns on DVD of their favorite television programs, old detective serials and westerns, the Saturday morning cartoons their children would clamor out of bed in order to catch every minute.  Thomas slept 16 hours a day and Henrietta listened to every breath he made in fear the next would be his last.

On one random, unnoticeable day in November, Thomas Burch fell asleep and never awoke.  Upon finding him, Henrietta walked into the closet, grabbed a box from the top shelf, sat beside her motionless husband and put a bullet into her head.  Dolores claims she heard the gunshot, but also claims she may not have.  However, she contends that she knew the exact moment her best friend took her own life, and she fell to the ground weeping.

“To be honest, James, I couldn’t tell you whether I wept for my dear friend, or myself.  I suppose probably for myself.  I couldn’t weep for her, no, she was at peace now. Thomas was at peace.  I, however…”

“And why for yourself?” Yitzhak asked.

“I read science fiction books.  I really love them.  Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke before the children were old enough to consume my time.  Don knew I liked them, but I really love them.  Began reading them again after his death.  I like to think like the alien.  Little green creatures, often, outsiders looking upon earth with fresh eyes.  I would like to make guesses about life on earth, and then laugh at how truly wrong they must be.  Such as the population on Earth.  I bet aliens from their perfect planet look at how many people there are here and say in their funny high voice, ‘I bet no one is ever lonely there?’”

“But they’d be wrong,” said Yitzhak.

Dolores lowers her eyes, “very wrong. And isn’t that a pity?”

“Yes, yes it is.”

Yitzhak finishes his coffee and continues looking through the house.  He finds old photographs of Donald and the grandchildren.  He moves down the hallway past the bedroom in which Dolores had retired the prior evening.  He steps with the balls of his feet, still uncomfortable in this new place.  He enters the bathroom and removes his clothes, looks in the mirror. His newly christened freckles stare back at him.  Yitzhak turns the shower on and steps in, watching the sweat and dirt that had congealed upon his skin flush off his flesh and down the drain to mix in the arteries of the community into one triumphant flotsam of waste.  He placed his head under the warm glowing spray, thinking endlessly of the deluge of waste moving in one solid exodus, outward.

This must be what death and heaven feels like, he thinks, as the stream envelopes his ears, the dark mechanic sound matches the exact sensation on the skin in an exulting confusion like synesthesia that borders on onomatopoeia, as if they were designed to coexist.

He uses Dolores’ products to wash his hair and body, then exits the shower, collects his things, and rolls them into a nice little ball.  He thinks of hair follicles he may have left, or dribbles of saliva on his pillow.  Let em have my DNA.  I have nothing in any file that would connect me to anything, besides, they won’t catch me until I get God’s attention and He grows tired of me.  Yitzhak moves into the living room and turns on the television.  He places his old clothes; his dirty and soiled clothes in his purple duffle bag and grabs his change, while he listens only slightly to the Public Broadcast in the background.

As Yitzhak becomes fully dressed, he peers through the blinds, reflecting on the previous evening.  Poor Dolores, relaying her story, in the sort of death bed confession style of television dramas where the matriarch conveys the family’s most nefarious and darkest secrets, the kind one keeps under her bosom; “Raymond is not your real father,” and the like.  After dinner had waned, and her life story had converged with the present, the two sat in the living room with two delicate glasses of lemonade.

“I know why you are here,” says Dolores, as their eyes meet.

Yitzhak is initially caught off guard, but succumbs to the realization that this is the time for honesty.  “Do you?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

“And why is that?”

“I knew the moment I saw you this morning why you were here.  I could tell.”

Yitzhak sits still, peering slyly over his glass.  Let’s see what this woman knows.  “That I need some help? A place to sleep and a meal to eat? Yes, that’s what I needed and you have been a gracious host, Dolores.”

“That’s not it.  The moment I saw you I could tell in your eyes that you wanted something from me, something too big for me to give, something so big you would have to take it.”  Yitzhak patiently sits and watches the woman.  He doesn’t move.  “Are you here to take my soul, James?”

The man across from her stays silent, never moving his eyes.  And with a single instant, he becomes reanimated.  “How did you know?”

Dolores now shows her hand.  “I figured you wanted money at first, but I don’t have a nickel to my name.  You know I don’t have a nickel to my name.  Yet, you’re still here, still waiting and watching.  So I had to ask myself what has motivated you to stick around.  Quite simply, the only thing I can think of is that you are here to kill me.  Now, I don’t know why you are here to kill me, but I suppose when push comes to shove, it doesn’t really matter.”

Yitzhak repositions himself in a search for comfort, but the hardwood chair won’t give any.  “You are correct, Dolores.  I am here to kill you.  And you are also correct in your supposition about my motives.  They do not matter.”

Silence falls on the house.  The sound of the dishwasher kicking in makes a startling noise.  Dolores does not jump, but instead looks out her window.  Yitzhak views a tear only as it balls at the base of her mandible and drops to her blouse.  She looks over at him with the saline reflection filling up her eyelets and asks, “when?”

“You will not see the sun ever again.”

“Why do you have to put it that way,” Dolores snaps back, “it’s not enough for you to take my life, but there is no need to rub it in.  I am still a human, you know, and this is still my house of which you are a guest, James.  Please show some goddamned manners.”

Yitzhak is taken aback, but retorts quickly, “I apologize, Mrs. Hoffman.  I lost myself for a moment.  I just, you know, lost…”

She interrupts him, “Oh, it’s okay, James.  We don’t have enough time to quibble over these stupid thoughts.  You are right; I will not see the sun again.  I should have been thankful for your frankness and honesty.”

A full minute passes before Dolores speaks again, this time with a question, “What day is it?”

“I believe it is the 26th.”

“Of?”

“March.  March 26.”

“I guess that’s not such a bad day to put on my gravestone.”

“I am sure there are worse.”

“How are you going to do it?”

Yitzhak repositions himself again. “I will probably smother you with a pillow.”

“Have you ever done this before?”

He lowers his voice to a calming whisper, “Yes, I have.”

Dolores matches his volume as she asks, “Do you mind if we do it on the bed?”

“That was what I was going to suggest.  I’d prefer the bed.”

Dolores places her glass on the end table beside her and initiates the event.  “Shall we get to it, then? No use in waiting.”  Yitzhak notices her attempts to be upbeat despite her shaking hands.  He thanks her silently for this.

“Is there anything I can get you before we do this?”

“Maybe a flask of scotch.”

“Okay.”

“I am only kidding, James.”

Yitzhak walks over to Dolores and gently reaches for her hand.  She fits her frail hand in his and he helps her out of her chair.   She puts her arm in his and he can feel her position her weight upon him.  He walks her down the hallway to her bedroom, where she sits on the bed, silently staring into the closet.  He stands beside her, before suggesting she lay back.

“I just need to catch my breath.  This is happening very fast, you know.”

“That’s fine.”

The tears well up once more.  “It is very strange to be counting your last breaths, James,” Dolores said.

“I know.”

“I don’t think Don knew he was dying the day he went.  He fell asleep and never awoke. I told you about Don, right?”

“Yes, you did.”

“I am thinking right now; am I the lucky one?”

“I don’t know the answer to that.”

Dolores shrugs her shoulders and lays on her back with her arms at her side.  She closes her eyes and steadies her breathing.

“Dolores?” Yitzhak asks.

“Yes?”

“If you knew I would kill you, why did you bring me home?”

“Oh, I suppose it had something to do with the pull of inevitability, like gravity.  It’s not like if I left you there I would live forever.  I assume in a car accident there is a point when the steering wheel is just something to hold on to.  And you seemed nice.”

“Thank you, Dolores.”

“James, are you Catholic?”

“No, ma’am. I am not.”

“Are you religious?”

“You could say that.”

“Do you mind if I make my final confession to you?  I have sinned, you see.  I told you lies, quite a few.  Don and I never attended any parties at the Burch’s home.  Don wasn’t the type to socialize.  We were invited, but we did not attend.  And I never befriended Henrietta.  I have not seen my grandchildren since Don’s funeral.  But, you have to understand, that was the life I wanted to lead; the one I should have led, and that has to count for something, right?  And I guess I just wanted someone to see me in that life.  I am sorry, James.” She covers her face with her hands and begins sobbing.

“Now, now, there is no need to confess to me.  Look here.  I will make you a promise.  Whenever I think of Mrs. Hoffman of Cherry Creek Community in Albuquerque, I will always remember you making others laugh at luncheons and as the centerpiece of vast family photos.  I will remember the smell of holiday feasts and the looks of contempt on the face of petty and jealous neighbors.  I promise.”

Dolores laughs mildly and wipes her face.  She looks at the photo of Don and her on the far wall.  “Don was the one who died from cancer.  And he wasn’t always the right man for me, but I loved him and everyday I wished I had the strength to pull the revolver out of the closet and end my life, but I am weak.”

“That is no more.”

“I am ready, James.”

Yitzhak positions himself over Dolores, grabbing what he presumes was Don’s pillow and puts it gently on her face.  He begins slowly applying pressure when he hears a soft murmur that perhaps wasn’t meant to be heard, “will it hurt?”

Yitzhak replies, “I don’t know,” and thrusts his entire weight unto the pillow.  She thrashes in an instinctual manner for a few seconds before she lays still and static.  His work must now begin.

After collecting and stowing his things into the purple duffle bag, Yitzhak is ready to leave.  He pulls out a Polaroid camera and walks down the hallway to Dolores room.  He pushes the door open, the room now glowing red, and takes a photograph of Dolores’ disemboweled and hanging body.  He leaves the room, files the photo without looking at it and returns to the living room.  As he turns to the television in order to turn it off, a book review program piques his interest.

The friendly-faced blonde speaks, “Some are calling him the Dean of Death.  The literary world is in uproar over Leland Polk’s collection of short stories all depicting the demise of everyone’s favorite Dickensian tramp.  The stories are fanciful and minimalistic.  Critics are torn, but all are asking why this 30-something bookstore recluse is so obsessed with death.  More on that after a touching segment about…”

Hmm, Yitzhak thinks and exits the Hoffman residence.

I Wrote a Poem but Who Gives a Shit: Too Early

So I have a backlog of killer poems that I have written, but who gives a shit.  So I am putting them on my blog.  Here is one of them.

Too Early

It is too early in the morning for poetry

and such disdain I had for your saying that.

 

I wanted to defend it.

I wanted to grab the blankets

with both hands and roll myself up inside them.

Creating the perfect hermitic shell

to shrug off your attacks.

But I just lie here, dreaming of globed fruits

cradled infinite upon the finite sea.

 

You got up and spelled your name

as you always do in the yellowed egg yokes sizzling in a pan.

I hunkered down in my trenches,

ready to deny you the pleasure of my consumption.

 

And so what if it is too early for poetry?

It is quite possible, I will admit,

that we have not yet the lucidity

to grapple with that benevolent sonneteer,

to undo his linguistic leg locks

and sonorous sidelong stares.

But surely the sleep in your eyes will fade and the grog of dreams will lift.

So when is it not too early?

 

Or maybe you yourself were writing a little poem,

reciting it to me.

Speaking metaphorically.

It is too early for poetry, you say.

 

It is too early for poetry if we are still willing to push a flag into the dirt for it.

It is too early for poetry if horses die bearing its emblem.

It is too early for poetry if a long night’s deluge

of the subconscious leaves you yearning

for more of the abstract

and more of the hypothetical.

But when is it too late?

 

And I am sure you will say something to the effect of it was always too late.

You’re Not Evil

Rachel reads the letter:

Dear Rachel,

Not to be too trite, which I am fearful is the case, but hopefully not so much so that could extinguish that which we have, I cannot stop thinking about you.  Your hair, the smell of your hair, the color.  It is all so much verity, so much exactitude and precision.  Sweet and undeniable and strange verity.

I understand you have decided not to leave your husband.  And I fully respect this decision, however, I must say, from an outsider’s perspective, this appears to be a wholly wrong action on your part.  I have tried to make this apparent to you, both in speech and in action, but it would also appear my rhetorical and lovemaking skills leave something to be desired. However, the invitation to come join me in my villa, though only furnished with a miserly professor’s wage, is still open.

Your husband is a lucky man.  Remind him of that.

Love,

Antony

PS. This is my last most human attempt at an appeal: If you are lonely, come be with me.  You still may be unhappy, but I won’t.

Rachel places the letter back into its handwritten envelope. She doesn’t let any of it sink in deep enough before she goes to check on the giant mongoloid ham speckled with pineapple rings and glazed with something pungently sweet.  Her brown hair bounces joylessly as she moves past the ham collecting dust and bacteria and entropy. She drinks from the bottle before pouring the wine into a glass.  It was a moderately priced Pinot Grigio and it tasted slightly reminiscent of kitchen refuse, the kind that gurgles with the flick of the garbage disposal switch. But truth be told, it wasn’t the Grigio’s fault.  The lines on her face were getting darker, and deeper and showed no sign of acquiescence.  She was getting older, that’s what the ham signified, also the birthday cake, littered with candied sprinkles and a few uncounted candles.  But he was late.  And perhaps that signified something as well.  She tried not to be angry.  She tried very hard to be reasonable, taking traffic and the light inclement weather in account, but the warm liquid rollicking down her throat and the thought of his secretary’s pert breasts and the callow way she rolled her tongue at the Christmas party and the imbecilic way she looks twenty-two and the way she most certainly is twenty-two, can’t be said to be helping matters.

She stands at the sink and peers at her reflection in the darkened window.  It is not an accurate depiction, she supposes.  It bends the light and makes the flaws less noticeable. She was officially 40 and she’d had no children, though it wasn’t as though she even wanted them.  Children, she had heard, conspire with the time vortices and algorithms of change and cause the breasts to sag and the hair to lighten and eventually fall away far before it is evolutionarily necessary.  Sure, it is said they keep you young, but Rachel had all too often seen that glaze of disdain in the eyes of a young mother, a rodeo clown with vomit-speckled frocks, as three terrors loudly and manically tear her limb from limb.  They possibly only keep you young for the sake of extending your suffering.  No, Rachel is aging well enough on her own, thank you.

She downs the glass before refilling it.  There is a fire in her belly and she is steadfastly fueling it.  She could feel Antony obsessing over her from far across town and it felt like a tiny wistful gnat grazing her skin every time she had finally been able to concentrate on something not related to Antony or Richard.  Antony knew about Richard but, as far as she could tell, Richard knew nothing about Antony.  She imagines them meeting, how Antony would look like a worm in Richard’s talon.  Richard had all his hair and was large and muscular and calm and unapologetic, but there was always the tinge of apathy, like he could take or leave her.  Like she could be all or nothing to him and the world would be just the same either way.  Antony had become smitten far too easily and her heart would crumble a little with each time they made love.  He was a weasel and was responsible and properly pronounced French foods and knew all the artists, but found no joy in any of it.  Found only joy in her. And since Rachel found joy in anything but, they were entirely incompatible.

Outside, an inky rain lightly sprinkles, placing an icy sheen on the backyard caught in moonlight. She looks past her fence into the illuminated window of her neighbor and stares intently, hoping for the shadow of some human to glance past.   The night feels like a temporal precipice, a dividing line between the past and future, but she supposes every night is exactly that.  Still, it would be nice to see someone in that window.  For whatever reason, the rain makes the backyard look fake and immaterial, it is noticeably faux to the eye, like bad special effects in a blockbuster film.  She has to knock her middle knuckle against the counter to make sure she and it still exist, but there would be something tangible about actually seeing her neighbor, whom she had never met, arguing or pacing or fucking in the window across the way. But Rachel sees nothing. Not even a shadow.

She hears a car door close and she jumps.  A few seconds later the front door opens and she hears someone, almost certainly Richard, climb the stairs.  She is embarrassed to know that his steps have the slow sad countenance of trudge to them.  She smiles. It is not a hunch, but a fact.  She could decipher his mood through his footsteps and that had to mean something, right? It had to mean something about him. That, though the day is long, and their trials mundane and wrought with betrayal, they could still communicate on some level.  That he could convey his contempt for the world with the pressure in his lumbering steps. He went upstairs and stayed upstairs.  She slowly drinks the rest of the bottle.

There is something wrong.  Well, clearly.  He was a stunning oaf with a horn-rimmed sensibility, but he was never callous enough to forget her birthday.  And the doorway almost certainly still smelled of meat upon his arrival.  Had he found out about her and Antony? She holds the letter tight, making certain it is still in her possession, which then in turn makes her think of the countless others that she had always remembered to burn then toss.  But what if one had come in the mail, which, of course, was never Antony’s M.O., but could possibly have been a birthday surprise. Or maybe Antony had contacted Richard himself, exacting revenge, but revenge for what?  Besides, if there was one distinguishing factor about Antony it was his immovable cowardice, she thinks, remembering the almost childlike way he first ran his fingers up her dress.

She creeps up the stairs, hands empty, adroitly and quietly.  Rachel approaches her door and the floor creaks obscenely under her feet.  She places her head to the door and listens.  She hears nothing.  She slows her breathing and closes her eyes and what she then hears shakes her skin loose and to the floor, unraveling around her feet. Richard is sobbing.  She opens the door and finds his clothes filleted open, his hairy tits and stomach protruding through his unbuttoned shirt, his boxer slit spread wide so a dark hint of his penis is visible.  He sits on his side of the bed, and he is weeping.  He doesn’t even budge as she enters the room, just continues, sniffling and choking.

“What the heck is wrong with you?” she asks coldly from the door. If asked later, she would defend this approach.  Like a policeman who pulls a gun automatically when faced with any nonplussing circumstance.

He jolts. Quickly and resoundingly says nothing and pulls his feet up and rolls over on the bed.  His subtle back fat jiggles mildly as a sign of his continued sobbing.

“It’s my birthday, you know. We have a ham to eat.”

She goes to walk away.  He has displayed to her a side of himself she had never managed to bring out of him.  His melted stoicism is disgustingly pooled upon the bed and she cannot stand the sight of her husband in this state.  Moreover, if this were the result of him finding out about Antony, well, she did not want to stick around for what lies across the ocean he had constructed.

“Wait!” He says.

She stops and turns around, waiting for him to say something, waiting for him to break her heart and she tears up.

“I have something to tell you.”

“I am not so sure I want to hear it.” She says, beginning again to move downstairs.  It is a morbid curiosity and nothing else that keeps her upstairs long enough to see his red face and his glisteningly bloodshot eyes.

He opens his mouth to speak, pauses and rethinks his approach like a timid chess player at a crowded board with a queen in hand.  He places it down, an apparent check. “I have been unfaithful to you. And I am sorry.”

“The secretary!” She screams and darts at him.

He stands up and his belly takes the brunt of her blows. She only punches and slaps him because she knows it means nothing to him.  He doesn’t wince once, like the noble messiah taking his punishment.  She finally tilts her head downward against him, tired.  He wraps his giant arm around her.

She whispers, “How could you do this to me?”

“I don’t know. I never meant for it to happen.”

“It was the secretary, wasn’t it?”

“No.”

“Who was it?”

“Just some woman. I barely know her.”

The way he says this, just some woman, like they were all interchangeable to him.  Like she was on some conveyer belt of cunts and he was taking his pick of them at random like chocolate-covered almonds.

“It was a mistake,” he continues, “It never should have happened, and for that I apologize.”

She remains silent. Holding him close, her head against his chest.  She hears his heart beat slower and he clearly thinks he is out of the woods.  He thinks everything is going to be fine and before he can move once more, she grabs the letter opener off of the nightstand and delves it deep into his thigh.  He screams and she protects her face with her forearm but catches the bulk of his fist with her elbow.  He then falls to the ground screaming.  “You bitch. What have you done to me?”

She runs out of the house, grabbing the keys to the Camry.  It is still wet, though has stopped raining. She drives westbound for blocks and blocks, not fully aware of her driving.  Trapped inside insipid instances replaying like a cavalryman’s bugle on a decimated battlefield, the letter from Antony always factoring in somewhere.  She imagines Richard blustering into her, this mystery woman, she imagines him drunk, though fully recognizes this hackneyed notion was built aloft some form of self-preservation.  No, she has no horse left in the fight, she thinks. Take on its full reality.  She imagines him seducing her, him telling her about his wife’s disgusting body, him embracing her for hours afterwards in his cloudlike arms; the whole of the magnanimity of lovemaking that makes the human experience so worth longing for. That oneness, the ache.   She breathes shallow and the high beams of an oncoming squad car jolt her back to the present.  She decides for the time being to stay there.

She turns left on Lancaster Parkway, wondering if Richard had called the cops to report the incidence.  He would more likely drive calmly into the ER depicting how he left the letter opener in his chair and sat down upon it, Geezus Christ, I feel like a klutz, he would say in his businessman tranquility, that dazzling Ferrari-red grimace.

Who was she now, in this instance? And what would this new woman do now?  She was Rachel as always, but Rachel Shifted, Rachel Realigned, Rachel on the Lam. She was the Rachel who had stabbed her husband and in a fiery moment truly wanted him dead.  To want someone dead and to take actions toward that end, despite the actual results, must make her a murderer.  A true flesh and blood murderer.  She had crossed some line drawn in her sand, some line or flag that she had always presumed, based on her constitution, would be easily crossable, and had always feared its inevitable occurrence.  So in a way, she was always a murderer. She was a killer. Rachel the Murderer on the Lam.  She sees herself in the rearview mirror and her eyes look disgustingly the same.  Nothing has changed.  The Rubicon lies, supinely and weaving, in her rear view as well.

I should buy a beret and a trench coat and slink in and out of movie theatres pretending to be the character, in a Nouvelle Vague film, who is masquerading as an American outlaw.  I will cast ominous shadows and carry a derringer. She builds and builds and decides in fact to catch a flick, remembering an old classics theatre off of Callas Way, citing a need for the heat to die down.  She holds tight to the steering wheel. Where would this life of crime lead her; a white knuckled femme fatale with a penchant for killing the men who had done her wrong?

Only half-buzzed and fading she decides to get a pre-screening drink so pulls into a mom-and-pop liquor store.  Inside is a young man, maybe in his twenties at the register.  He reads a magazine in the empty store.  As Rachel walks in, he diverts his eyes, demonstrating nakedly the palpability of his own passivity.  Rachel, newly awakened to the breadth and width of her own morality, finds comfort in this.  She is attempting to see the world in terms of predators and rubes; he was clearly of the latter class. She peruses the aisles, noticing that he is watching her.  Even she can notice the recognizable glint of sexual attraction in his eye. She play-acts, lets his fantasies unfold as she coyly pulls a bottle of wine off of the shelf and looks through the bottle, taking in its divinity.  She places it back on the shelf.  She wasn’t going to a dinner party.  She was a ruffian with a lust for baser instincts.  She needed something hard and swig-worthy.   She spies a small flask like plastic bottle of a whisky behind the counter and addresses the boy.

“That one, there.” She points.

“This one?” He asks.

“Yes.  What are you reading?”

“An article on some writer.”

“Oh really, I was an English Major in school. Maybe I know of him.”

“It’s a new guy.  Just released a series of short stories.  They are calling him the King of Killers.  Kind of outsider art thing from the article’s perspective, but it sounds good.”  His look of meager indifference is fading. Let a man talk about his passions, she supposes.

“Is it the guy on the cover?”

“No, that’s someone else.”

“Do you sell that here?”

“Nah, I brought this from home.”

“Can I buy it from you, then?”  He is clearly attached to the magazine and wishes not to part with it, and the eyes, looking away suddenly, convey this.  However, he is also one who has not yet learned to put flags in the earth, to defend what is his.

“Um, sure.”

“How much, for everything, including the drink?”

“$8.75 for the bottle, and um, look you can just have the magazine. Consider it a gift.”  He pulls out a paper bag and places the bottle and the magazine in the bag and pushes it toward her.

Rachel opens her billfold and finds that she has no cash to speak of.

She splays it open for him to see and he gets an embarrassed look on his face.

She says, “sorry,” and grabs the bag and slowly walks to the door.  She gets in her car and looks back at him through the window. He stares at her, as would a child just realizing that his mother has left and is never coming back.  When their eyes meet, he turns around quickly and sits down in his chair behind the counter.

Poetry: Mike Teevee

This poem is about my eldest son, Bennett, and a morning in which he witnessed the slaughtering of his grandfather’s cows.  I was both sickeningly proud and curiously appalled by his lack of fear toward the carcasses.  The poem is also about Mike Teevee, the cowboy kid from them Willy Wonker movies.


Mike Teevee

Perhaps this is the end of the broadcast day.

They were shot and killed, beheaded even,

before we awoke.

The splayed bodies of the newly christened dead

spewed a mockingly pallid rivulet of steam,

a remembrance for the once-was,

the way you can still hear a set is on

even with the volume muted.

Dissipating

somewhere around our heads

while the cavalier fog was trying its damnedest

to add a touch of low-hanging profundity

to the lurid proceedings.

And it was a palatial masquerade

but we simply sat back in our recliners.

The bloated white stomachs

mimicked weather balloons

and threatened to lift

the carcasses skyward.

“Boy, what a good show.”

He held its tongue and such verdant

word play was rendered in those moments.

But I kept it to myself,

for he was suddenly discovering

the quotient of the stars,

that all was dissolving,

the universe,

with its million halo-headed

clusters and clouds,

was breathing.

And with every exaltant push,

a red wagon on a yellow day,

comes the pull,

an oxen, divine and laden,

marbleized on a proud wall.

The cow was created to be killed, I told him.

It was a magnanimous tragedy

and the ache of it never touched

that calloused way he stood over them.

So proud of his humanness in that instant.

So proud to be on the side of the butcher

with his sharpened knives blackened

by a dense iron-enriched patina.

Why are you standing over it?

Smiling and dancing with voracious glee?

It couldn’t be possible you sensed

how lucky we were and how unlucky

we would eventually become

and in the end

before the end

the most human of our actions

is the slow subtle tapping

of some vibrato laced flamenco.

Dance that fiery dance that holds

the heavens aloft.

Eat the flesh of others

and resist the urge to recant

when your flesh is eaten in turn.

 

And the deadpan reporter asks,

What do you think of all the killings?

His cowboy hat, his dial rung back, says,

What do you think life’s all about?