Writing

Fiction — “That Chevy Impala”

I will never forget it. Blue as the Kelley Blue Book, a proud white belt, dual headlights like plates on display and squinting taillights. It made salesmen use the word “aerodynamic” and “chrome” and its interior looked like the cockpit of a rich man’s bush plane.

We (the neighbor’s kids) would touch its windows with our faces when the owner wasn’t looking. I told Nana someday I would own that car, that very car, and she tsked me: “No one wants you driving around in an Impala.” That’s when I noticed the dirty trucks littering the street like beer cans.

Something happened, or maybe he sensed evil thoughts. A For Sale sign appeared in the windshield, and the next day someone keyed the car. I still remember the owner touching the scars as if they were still sore. “You don’t see us driving nice cars,” Nana said, watching the street, and now I knew why. 

Writing

Fiction — “Fale/Fail”

The room was used for secular reasons. Union meetings, pro-dev seminars, documentary screenings, a Women’s Book Club. One day out of the week, however, the room became a sacred space – one of those churches you see packed in with animal hospitals and loans offices in a mall strip beneath the knees of a freeway. This church didn’t have block letters above its door announcing “The Church of the Risen Christ” or “Corner Ridge Pentecostal Assembly” or “All Faiths Ministry – Our Service is Heavenly!” Instead, block letters read “Community Center” and offered a 25% discount on weekends.

The church met Saturdays. Its congregation were Pacific Islanders from Samoa or some other island. Whatever it was, if you confused the family with a neighboring island like Tonga, they would curse you lightheartedly in their language, either Samoan or Tongan. Most of them weighed four hundred pounds; their cells, which had found clever ways to store energy on long journeys at sea, had not adapted well to America’s heart-stroking, hip-expanding eating patterns. Still, they laughed.

We knew about the family since they would come by Depression Alliance (we met on Tuesdays after Bingo Derby). We’d eat their coconut rice and joke about turning our meetings into Overeaters Anonymous, although we were a little unsure about the Pastor, at least until he revealed he was having trouble finding women. Someone said to try the zoo and we laughed – a connection made, some raw commonality.

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Writing

Fiction — “Little Omens”

There were millions of diners, but Grandma Dee only cared for three. They were the breakfast buffet at the Country Village Senior Center, a small commissary, and an old Mom & Pop’s which after a lengthy annulment was now just Pop’s. Dee would assemble an exact dish of eggs and sausage and toast, order a side of bacon, then fold the bacon into her napkin for the cats.

It was usually up to me to navigate the conversation unless she had a newspaper, in which she found the poor guy at 7/11 who slit his throat or the latest development in privatizing the lake. Dee blended superstition with the rituals of life. A day without the eggs, without sausage and bacon, without newspapers, was a day that would go poorly.

So we were drinking coffee and sitting by the dusty windows at Pop’s, a lot greasier and sadder now that Mom was gone, on the verge of delivering three cats to an animal shelter to be put down at $25 a piece. Neither of us liked the idea of a cat ceasing to exist on our own initiative, but Dee’s backyard had become a breeding ground for gingery longhairs and they were marking and leaving litters. If they got in, they’d chew through bread bags and piss in discrete places. This hadn’t stopped Dee from tossing them cat feed and giving them the garage and, as mentioned, bringing them leftovers, but now that a county retirement was becoming a reality and Grandpa was gone…

“Grandma, you have any superstitions?” I asked while we paid the check.

“God, maybe.”

“Be serious.”

Life

Nonfiction — Mendengar Saya Menguam

 

Sumatra, Indonesia

We can’t afford color blinds on our windows, not with kids in Disney shirts waving from the roadside, young women stooped by rubber trees, old men smiling with malachite teeth. There is the International conglomerate and the poor indigenous and all that separates us are barbed-wire fences and fat bank accounts. I spend my day learning U.S. History; my nights playing soccer with a ball of teak root. Some locals drop a hornet nest near my head. I think 9/11 occurred in Kuala Lampur.

 

Tianjin, China

The skies are gray. There are no pigeons but deadly chemicals disguised as bread crumbs. We can’t let the pets outside – I wonder if it is because of the poison or the markets where vendors line stalls with freshly-gutted dogs. The Chinese see us less as bourgeois, more as barges. Strangers call their friends over to laugh at our large feet, our looming height. A business man wants my picture by a bull statue’s testicles. Poverty is swept behind skyscrapers and the larder of cranes. Our U.S. passports can only get us far. From there on it is knowing which barbershops cut your hair and which are brothels.

 

Lecheria, Venezuela

We live in rich man prison – a network of mansions connected by a network of canals. Transport includes travel-by-yacht. I’ll take the boat to the Mall, tie her up, watch a film with English subtitles. I’ll take her to open water and fish like Ernest Hemingway. We say what we want about Hugo Chavez. The taxi drivers never agree; they think they’re monitored. Nothing can stop the wanton – not the insurgents, not the kidnappers who take our neighbors, not the pirates asking for agua with pistols behind their backs, not the man collapsed in the Wendy’s drive-through with a bullet in his shoulder.

 

Santa Barbara, California

I’m idling incognito, an exclusive ooze, wasting away with a cynical smile. There are scars on my legs from jungle hornets, a little red book full of Mao. I think in languages I never use. I walk along landing strips and thumb airplanes and refuse to play tricks on Gimpel. I don’t belong. I don’t belong. I don’t know where this is going.

 

Writing

Fiction — “Rue/Ruin”

Autumn:  I like to be a cynic

Spring:  a professional mood killer

Autumn:  life’s funny to the emotionless

Autumn:  yeah, but the truth is ur pretty sensitive

Autumn:  u cant fool me

Autumn:  im not just a hat rack my friend

Spring:  guess the same could be said of you, though you put on a good show

Autumn:  i do my best…

Autumn:  why do we do that?

Spring:  maybe something’s wrong with the world, something’s wrong with us, and the interactions in between really hurt.

Autumn:  im not sure if i like that


Autumn:  i just did something really dumb

Autumn:  i have no idea where i put my band aids and i cut my hand, so i decided to put nail polish on it to stop the bleeding..

Autumn:  it worked but it hurts like a bitch

Autumn:  very funny but it hurts

Autumn:  im laugh moaning

Autumn:  like ow ow hahahhahahah oww

Writing

Fiction — “Plain Boxes”

I dated Miranda (a fake name but not a fake person), the little swashbuckler, respondent to the slightest touch, a child in every conversation except for the one in which she broke it off, when her face froze with a look of sweet pie, her freckles spattered, that Pomeranian hair, those steel-white eyes like a photo in grayscale. “It’s you, not me, really,” she said. And she said it without laughing, without a huge plastic smile, without Barbie. She said it with a storeroom empty of guilt.

“What?” I asked, as sweaty as a basketball player in a Gatorade commercial.

“We’re done and you’ve got to get going,” she said. And just like that.

Writing

Fiction — “Tea Maps”

As I write this, she’s waiting for the red eye. I wish I could say that she’s leaving me forever, as Dad used to say about my Uncle in jail, “out of life, out of mind.” But nothing’s definite, definitive, finite on this annoying planet. We might be fucking in a week.

We looked at each others’ hands before we left, mine flat and ready-to-be crinkled, like a new map, hers rough as a shark fin. She called me a new soul. She said she was a teacup that’d been broken over and over again, repaired each time, never truly whole.

We never talked about the old man. Why music made us sad. Sex, about us and sex. Forbidden fruits. I never told her what she meant.