September 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
This Will Not Return
The girl next door is dying. I cannot pronounce her disease, but I know that far away look in her eyes, as if to say Someday. Someday. For better or for worse, it will be over. She smiles heroically, those hazel eyes of opaque need, sends me away, claims that today there is no room for two. Live your life is what I read in her eyes.
It will be 1966 forever.
I spend my days painting barns a deeper shade of red, counting hens’ eggs with a crooked sense of hope. After a rain, a Kansas wind, I cling to the insulation of the attic. There is a darkness there I do not recognize. I’m never comfortable with my loneliness. Homework, as usual, drags. My sonnets for Mrs. Hershey’s class are ruined. The meter is off. My mind drifts again. The girl next door will say she’s sorry but prefers to bleed solo. She will not want me to touch her/does not realize that my love is too serious, too simple.
My mother still makes me peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for school, even though I’m a high school freshman. She collects glass jars, says she fills them with trapped air, the cloud of a man’s shallow breath. On the days that my father doesn’t call from Germany, she lives on black coffee and crumb cake. The girl next door still loves macaroni and cheese. She can name each cat by her back lot dumpster and confesses to feeding them scraps of morning breakfast. When her folks are out, we make out to some old reruns of American Bandstand. If the pain becomes too much for her, she digs her fingernails into my flesh. I tell her I don’t mind. I hope the imprints of her nails in my forearms stay forever.
Walking back home, I look up. The sky cries foul play. The sky cries It’s never fair. I’ll hike over to Murray’s Field, bat & glove, will pitch a ball to no one. It will be me against loneliness. The score is always 0-1.
Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. This is his second publication on Slice of Life. He lives and writes in New Jersey.
Image: Rust, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
September 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
He waited until his son went to bed and took his prescribed pill. Other than a general feeling of slowing down, he didn’t feel particularly different. He fell asleep and dreamed he was with his son, in a life raft floating in the waters of a marsh. He navigated their way through the bulrushes but they never found shore.
Earlier that day, he waited in the neurologist’s office. The doctor left, her medical student in tow, to confer with her colleague. Her office overlooked the site of the new “super hospital” and, if he leaned to the right, he could see nine cranes busily completing its construction.
The medical centre was adjacent to a tony neighbourhood of high end boutiques, fair trade coffee, smug self-satisfaction, and nowhere to park. He chose a spot where parking was permitted for one hour, and hoped it would be enough.
He came because his family doctor referred his case when he saw him about a stutter he had recently developed right around his fortieth birthday. He never had one before and wondered if this was the beginning of the end of his mental facilities.
He found himself stuttering at work, in meetings when he was pressured for an answer, or when his toddler refused to get in the bath, or get out of the bath, or his wife would ask him a question and suddenly, all he could say was “p-p-p-p-pork chops.” This caused him to be more reticent than usual. He earned a reputation as someone who rarely spoke.
The neurologist administered an exam to determine if there were any issues and asked him several questions about his overall mental state.
As he answered, he remembered his father who, in the span of seven years, sired four children. That meant, at one point, they were all at once teenagers. He remembered him at the dinner table, trying to maintain control over his unruly, defiant brood. The words would catch on his lips, or at the back of his throat while his children would have a good giggle at their father’s troubles.
After she left, he noticed a small bust of a bearded man. He wondered if it was Sigmund Freud. He picked it up and saw that it was Hippocrates.
Right, he thought. Of course.
When the doctor returned, she was accompanied by her colleague, an older man with dark curly hair. He held a position of authority over her because his medical students numbered six to her one. The ratios clearly increased with tenure.
“We don’t think there is anything wrong with you, neurologically,” the doctor told him. “We think your stutter is anxiety related. I’m going to recommend a subscription to Rivotril. Try it at home first as it may cause drowsiness but it should help with what may be a generalized anxiety disorder.”
“Should I take it with scotch?” he asked the doctor.
When he left, attached to his car, was a parking ticket.
John Hansen lives with his wife and child in the suburbs of Montreal, Canada where he works spends his days looking at spreadsheets and evenings writing and obsessing over Coronation Street.
Image: Stick in Sand, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
September 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
Pick-up-Charlie to Astronaut
This star reconnaissance began on the fourth of July, quick morning soft as a fresh bun, as warm, air floating up stairs and coming across my bed in the smell of burnt cork or punk as smoky as a compost pile rising upwards from lawn debris night had collected, spent rockets askew in gutters throughout the town, clutter of half-burnt paper and tail sticks themselves once afire in the night sky, signals that gave darkness a new dimension of light and sound and the explosion of circular flares too bright to look at, as if the sun had delayed departure for the heart of our celebration, as if stars had loosed their final demise amid the spatial junk they might encounter in outer reaches, friction of them in the measure as silent as Indians in the past on these fields and paths at flint and rock, even as children younger than I was went secretly about the ways and quiet roads and padded lawns collecting expended shafts of excitement, rolling them into fisted quivers of their hands, tightly against their noses smelling the residue of them, dross and dregs of sky-reaching powder that short fires had implanted on their thin shanks as black as the night was, so that when amassed in one child’s hand a match was re-applied in secret and the gut blaze of the celebration began anew for those without money to buy their own pyrotechnics, the blue-red and orange-green flames loosed by this competition excelling much I might have seen on the holiday eve, these young scavengers, that young army of excitement seekers like a fresh wind adrift on the dawn, younger brother Charlie one of the aimless searchers of ignited celebration goods; marked all the way across a vast lawn, where the flag was left hanging out all night, by his red hair and fiery eyes, even before the false dawn flashes, nimble legs in drive gear and nimble fingers at the bundle sticks awaiting new flame; young Charlie, long ago appointed to the same bedroom as I, who would decorate the walls with Neil Armstrong’s little dance down the ladder of time and across tempest tide of skies and blur of our black and white television set, this younger brother of mine who dreamed and reached the stilted aerodynamics of lads, who exaggerated his heart and his mind for the unseen, the unknown, that far pit of darkness the skies offer to imaginations leaping for the wonder of endless contact, sweet abrasions of the universe and all its parts, the coming global wanderer, aeronaut and astronaut and star traveler now out of the tight innards of the small bedroom Neil Armstrong carried on his back, the fiery-eyed, dreamy, celestial kid brother now in endless orbit and sending me these late signals from a far turn of the once-dark universe whose reception began in simple ignition beneath fisted hand like a wondrous booster for his tell-tale heart, who now makes no sudden moves.
Tom Sheehan served with the 31st Infantry Regiment, Korea, 1951. Books include Epic Cures: Brief, Cases, Short Spans; A Collection of Friends; and From the Quickening. He has 18 Pushcart nominations, and included in Dzanc Best of the Web Anthology for 2009. He has 280 short stories on Rope and Wire, Magazine, and print issues Rosebud (4) and Ocean Magazine (8) among others. Poetry collections, include This Rare Earth and Other Flights; Ah, Devon Unbowed; The Saugus Book; and Reflections from Vinegar Hill.
Image: Full Moon, By Leigh-Anne Fraser