art, fiction

The Festering Wound of Tacky

Driving from the grand canyon into Vegas feels as I’d imagine a flea feels hopping from one side of a warzone to another.

We drive in at night. A sea of lights, a fire that refuses to die–or even flicker.

“Holy shit,” I say.

“Holy shit,” my brother agrees.

Our mother is in the back. “It’s the tackiest place on earth,” she tells us.

We get closer, a giant pink lighted sign advertises collision insurance. “Tacky, tack, tacky,” my mother says, in awe.

“It’s like the birth place of tacky,” I admire, as we head straight for a beam of light shooting into the sky.

My brother, trying desperately to concentrate on the road, can’t help but add, “the festering wound of tacky.”

We laugh, agreeing that ‘festering wound of tacky’ is the greatest height our joke will attain. “Where are we staying, again?” I ask.

“The giant glass pyramid,” our mother says.

My brother and I frown. “The what?”

“The giant glass pyramid.”

“Right.”

I don’t know exactly what we expected, but it turns out to be exactly that; a giant glass pyramid.

“Why?” I ask, staring up at the top where the beam of light is shooting into the sky.

My brother shrugs. “I think Las Vegas is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question.”

“And what’s that?”

“Why not?”

We make for the long entry-way into the pyramid.

“You realize if I were an alien, I would think this was the capitol of Earth.”

My brother nods. “Maybe this place was made by aliens and that is the capitol of Earth according to the rest of the universe.”

I can’t help but feel like that makes more sense than any other explanation I can come up with. So, I agree. Inside is motion–pure motion. People move, lights move, the air moves. It is 2 a.m. We carry our bags through a crowd of open containers, lit cigarettes, and bachelorettes. Our mother calls it “The Floor.”

It is endless, yet, it ends. The elevator goes up at a slant. A woman in a sequined blue dress stumbles into an elderly Hispanic woman holding a sleeping child.

“This is some wonky shit,” the sequined woman blurts out.

“I wonder what’s going on at the bottom of the Grand Canyon right now,” I whisper to my brother.

He looks around and shrugs, “probably the same.”

We laugh. Neither the elderly Hispanic woman or sequined dame seem terribly impressed.

 

**For more of our art and stories check us out at Flash 365

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art, fiction

Go Cowboys

Knock knock…

“Hi.”
“Hi”
“What did he say when you came home?”
“Go Cowboys…you left a mark”
“Is it big?”
“No.”
“Did he notice?”
“No.”
“Did she–”
“She called five times in the middle of the night.”
“Oh.”
“Why did we?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“I know”
“I have to go.”
“Why?”
“I have to. I said I was getting coffee.”
“Okay…”
“Bye.”
“Bye.”

 

 
Knock knock…

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fiction, photography

HEIRLOOMS

Chris R-0883 Image by Christine Renney

In the past, when we argued, I would often throw something. Now words are enough as over the years I have become more adept at hurling them and I no longer need to rely something inanimate. If I happened to be holding a mug I would throw that and, after retrieving the largest surviving part, I’d throw that again and again. Or I might reach and grab for something close at hand, an ornament or a trinket made from china or glass, something that would break, something that would smash. If I happened to be holding a book then I would throw that. It wouldn’t break of course, not even after I had kicked it and stamped on it. Books don’t come apart or at least not easily. Try for yourself, take one down from the shelf, a paperback, open it in the middle and try to rip it in two. It can’t be done. In order to destroy a book you need to act methodically, to tear the pages one at a time. I have done this, but only once.
I hadn’t read the book but I remember it was ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoevsky. As I started to rip out the pages, T… watched but she quickly tired and, exasperated, she went to bed. ‘The Idiot’ is a big book but I persevered until each and every page lay at my feet. In the heat of the moment a book is decidedly unsatisfactory. A mug, on the other hand, is ideal. A mug will bounce unscathed across a carpeted floor time and again. Six, eight, even ten times, before it will begin to chip and crack and, when it does, when it breaks, something snaps and in the silence we are able to make things right again. To scrub at the coffee stains and sweep up the pieces, although for weeks afterwards, we find bits of the mug lodged here, there and everywhere.

T… was frightened by my outbursts and believed if I didn’t react in this way that I would lash out and strike her. But it was only when the argument really took root, when it wouldn’t stop, that I would throw and break something. Of course, it wasn’t always a mug but sometimes things that were much more valuable and difficult to replace. Heirlooms, things that had been passed down and things we had bought together and which, over time, would have come to mean so much more. I won’t bore you with a list but I did once break a clock, a wedding present. I lifted it from the mantle and flung it to the floor. I kicked it, stood and stomped on it. Grinding the glass and the face and the mechanism until all of the tiny parts, the cogs and the washers and the wheels, were embedded in the carpet. Later, we hadn’t any choice but to carefully and painstakingly pick them out.

I am now aware, however, that T… has begun to replace some of the things I have destroyed from our past. I wouldn’t even have noticed if it hadn’t been for the book, not even the clock, but there it is up on the mantle, exactly the same although of course it isn’t. I wonder how she did it, how she managed to find it? And I would like to ask but how can I, how can we talk about this?

After finding the book and taking it down from the shelf, I carry it with me and begin to wander through the house, searching the rooms and discovering item after item, things I won’t list, not now, not here. I’ve told you about the book and about the clock and that’s enough. And the mugs of course, although they don’t matter, mugs are inconsequential; you use one only for so long and then replace it. Eventually I sit and start to read ‘The Idiot’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a copy of the book I desecrated long ago. It has the same cover, a sky blue border and the same painting on the front. ‘Portrait of Ivan Pochitonov’ by Nikolai Dmitrievich although of course these details I don’t remember.

T… comes into the room and, noticing the book, she asks quite coolly, ‘Haven’t you read that before?’.
‘I started once but didn’t finish it,’ I reply, ‘and I’ve decided to try again.’

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art, fiction

How Do You Know if You Love Someone?

One of the most classic and clichéd questions is how to know if you love someone, so, I found myself, drunk with sleeplessness–trying to figure out some reasons, the first and most obvious being,

when I think of this question, I think of you.

If I were stuck as a fish forever, I’d want you to be a mermaid–

When I think of you, it is not a memory. It is a feeling, a touch, a taste, a smell; it is the way my body reacts to the idea of you.

Whenever I see something in a store, my mind tries to find any way to connect it to you, in the hopes that giving it to you might bring you some sort of joy.

I worry about getting drunk–or deliriously tired, and randomly asking you to marry me.

Some songs remind me of you–without ever having heard them before.

When I let my mind wander, it wanders over to you.

The idea of losing you feels like being on the edge of a waterfall–deafeningly loud, standing on a wet, flat stone.

I cannot trust myself to write anymore because love is like falling, and no one ever thinks too clearly when they’re falling.

So, you will just have to stay as a mermaid while I drift off to sleep.

 

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fiction

Subliminal

Sometimes you talk to me like you’re sending thoughts from underwater, strange deep-sea aquatics coming up for air and you probably hope they’ll sprout legs in less than evolutionary time so they can wiggle up on dry land and track me down, collect their intel, and scurry back to tell you what I thought, late-carried messages, forever later, doesn’t matter as long as you get something because you won’t say so but you don’t think I say what I’m thinking and I find that marvelously ironic.

I think maybe I just don’t listen closely when you’re way down there like that and probing, distorted beneath the surface, and that’s my way of not playing along, of doing my best to make sure it takes that long for your words to sink in when they’re not cutting right to. And I tell you so, start to—you think…—but it’s loud in here, and hot, and the louder I try to be the hotter I get and I wonder why we came here in the first place when it’s a cool dark quiet night but we’re in here like we didn’t get enough bright hot noisy day. To stay mute, it seems, drowned, and I really don’t want to fight with you, at least not aloud.

It’s different at night, I think, everything is—told you that, earlier, once, before it was, and now that it is I don’t even consider saying I told you so or asking what you think because of the overheated yelling so instead I stop and look away in that way you always say is my way of vanishing and I always say I know which really means just let me vanish, except for the first time you told me, now that was a thing. Remember? You called it and I came right back.

WHAT? REMEMBER WHAT. YOU’RE MUMBLING AGAIN.

Nevermind.

Lovely, now you’re a smidge annoyed because I’ve gone from “vanished” to “difficult” in your color scheme of me, so fuck it, I continue being what you’ve decided I am for the moment and take a slow sip of beer while looking at you quite obviously out of the corner of my eye so you’ll notice as you sit there watching me be what you’ve decided, then I slowly put the glass back down on the thin cardboard coaster with the whale on it and ask with an overdone sense of nostalgia if you knew my grandfather was a whaler, which he of course was not and you know it.

Your grandfather was an insurance man and you think he was like Wallace Stevens but without the poetry and that’s what killed him.

You say it plenty loud for me to hear, but not yelling, just firm and clear and so unlike the things you think and I wonder why those things can’t be like this too but all I say is I know, that’s my point exactly.

Ah and there it is, your full-blown stoicism, rueful and trimmed with disdain, refusing to say another word or flash much of anything human because human has cracks in it as if cracks will only encourage me and we can’t have that because we both know they will.

I lean forward to get you out of my periphery and put my elbows on the bar, crossing my arms like I was told my grandfather did when he sat like that, the verysame whaler-suit-unpoet grandfather, and I remember reading a book about generational cycles which I enjoyed because it was interesting ok? isn’t that enough? it was interesting and it lent some convenient credence to the part of my person-myth I always believed was my grandfather reincarnate. So maybe he liked it. I grow weary with talk but never ever with thought which makes me think talking is an exercise, especially with you now, like it’s a test, but I don’t know what of or if it’s a nighttime thing or a daytime thing or neither—well, both, I mean, not neither. I’ve surely grown tired of hearing myself speak both day and night, not reaching you, been tired of finding words to cover thoughts like pillowcases for nightmare heads resting and that simile doesn’t even make sense because the words don’t cover they open like the nightmares and that’s the kind of shit I’m talking about. Or not. Not talking, thinking. Because you wouldn’t want to hear it and I don’t need to.

Thinking of thinking, there are certain books I simply will not read any time other than night, certain brain patterns and postures, certain ways of speaking that are purely nocturnal and I wonder if that scares you. If my place, night, scares you, supposed day creature you from the deep dark waters valiantly pretending not because you’re really a lot like me, precisely because, my stubborn contrarian and loather of mirrors. It’s as if some things can’t stand the sound, others the light, most both, not because they’re too muted or fearful but because they demand something more than graph paper for straight lines and whale coasters on which our banalities might rest, sweaty, the real shit around us that’s all lit up and loud in daytime, where you thrive because of all the cover, underexposed in the midst of that overexposure, while I thrive at night when it’s turned down low and thoughts have space and lunar rovers.

Fuck, telling stories is hard—I don’t know how they do it, I venture to tell you, putting a cap on our silence, a silence prevented from being too loud by the din of voices not ours and music and glasses clinking and laughter laughing having far better times than us, sort of changing the subject neither of us outright stated and you tell me I should just try outlining or take a class and I think for fuck’s sake why don’t you listen, I understand that you hear. Seagulls hear, squirrels hear, but people are supposed to listen, right? It’s one of those people things we do when we’re being peoplely people instead of the animaly ones.

Eyes roll this time because I said it, not the whole thing but the whale’s portion part about why don’t you listen, and I ask you to be careful before they roll right out of their sockets and onto the floor—it’s dirty down there, I say, and you’d look weird without eyes, though it’d be much harder for you to give me that glare, yeah that one right there.

The pretty barback smiles at me—perhaps she caught some of us—and in the miniscule kaleidoscopic of fully imaginable possibilities her pretty smile triggers I realize I don’t know what I’m doing with you, what this story is we’re telling ourselves and no longer adding to, just retelling and replaying and shorter, briefer, more careless all the time, you from the concealments and smoke screens of day, me from the freedom and aversions of night and I remember for a few days previous I was taken by the thought that what’s not said remains unreal, that the unreal drops its un when spoken and that’s why I’m obsessed with inner, I thought at the time, and with night and silence, I think tonight, but I suddenly tonight now want to test that whole theory-thought and bring a little supposed unreal to real to see what new real it might create and I tell her her smile made me see stars whether it was meant for me or just comes with the job territory and oh now you’re suddenly perked up and listening, your unreal made just as real as my real was just made un, without either of us saying a single word to each other.

Here we go, I say to the smile, I might as well be yours.

 


I’m cheating a bit, you know, because this was originally published last summer on my personal site, Art & Insolence. Don’t tell anyone. Or do, because a writer without readers is like a chicken without eggs, nobody knows which comes first. I promise that doesn’t make any sense, but you probably catch my drift.

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fiction

THE COMPOUND

Chris R-1110369 Image by Christine Renney

At less than an hour’s drive from the City, the compound wasn’t particularly remote but it did feel isolated surrounded, as it was, by open country, as if in the middle of nowhere.
The guard had been on duty for three days and he began to realise that his orders had been more than a little sketchy. He knew what to do when the others arrived – his job was to simply check their credentials, to let them in and to leave them be. But no-one had come yet and already he found himself gazing longingly through the gatehouse window at his car parked beside the barrier.
He didn’t need to leave the gatehouse. It incorporated his living quarters and there were enough supplies in the store room to last him for months. He was able to operate the entrance gate and the barriers from inside the front office. Cameras had been situated across the site and all he really needed to do was sit before the bank of monitors and watch.
He had expected the compound to be busy, a veritable hive of activity, people constantly coming and going and he hadn’t prepared himself for this lengthy period alone.

The guard abandoned his post. At first he kept to the inner single track road and carried the swipe card with him, reasoning that if anyone did arrive he would be able to let them in without too much inconvenience. Anyhow, he had been here on his own for almost a week now and he couldn’t be expected to be available twenty four hours a day.

The guard began walking around the perimeter fence and looking across at the warehouses. He was always impressed by how imposing they appeared, the black paint always managing to gleam even under the dullest and most overcast of skies.

Sitting in front of the monitors one morning the guard realised that he hadn’t taken a proper look at the warehouses, not up close. Stepping from the office he set out toward them, making for the one at the centre. Drawing close he registered the nettles and thistles at the base and the bindweed climbing up the sides. There were patches of rusty metal breaking through the black paint and he could see quite clearly that the warehouses were constructed from thin and flimsy sheets of corrugated tin. Reaching out, he pounded with his fist and the whole structure shook.
The guard saw a door to his right. There wasn’t a handle or a latch but he pushed at it and grudgingly the door swung inward, revealing another directly in front of him. Taking out his torch, he peered in and saw a narrow walkway between the first warehouse and the second which was a rusting husk. Crossing the threshold he kicked at it and paint flakes rained down on him. Coughing, he pushed his way through and, moving quickly, he lost count of the doors but each warehouse was a little more decrepit and at last the guard was inside and it was small and it was empty.

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art, fiction

Take a Taxi

We headed to Memphis
A city known for blues music
and segregation
(segregation is a thing
like when you’re a kid
and you try to keep your peas
out of your mashed potatoes
except you have an irrational fear of peas
and you’re a potato)
we had dinner at a place
that didn’t have any peas
they had shrimp though
and it was good–
blackened
We asked the waitress
for a place to see some blues
she told us about a place
in that part of town
(that is a thing that no one talks about
it is similar to them or those)
“Take a taxi”
she told us
“I always take a taxi
when I go out
in that part of town”
We thanked her
and ate shrimp

 

*For more of our work, check out Flash-365

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