December 7, 2012

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In The Gloom

February 25, 2012

In the unlit corner of the room where I stand, the yellow walls appear dark brown-like old dry blood. Staring into this space the darkness becomes pixilated. Flecks of green and blue light switch places on my retina. Colors dance with the saccades of my eye.

Moving my head slightly to the right, the darkness melts into the corona of warm tungsten light from the lamp on the bed stand. In shadowy valleys and highlighted peaks, the textile landscape of the bed sheet stretches out. An uninhabited world charted out by a printed grid pattern, as if to note it’s present frozen undulations.

The lamp is a beacon, a lighthouse, a sun rising at the horizon of this bed world. A pyramidal black fabric shade hovers over a shiny black ceramic body. The lamp gives the impression of an obelisk glowing from within. It is the center of this silent and stillroom.

Beside the lamp on the bed stand top is a clock. It is turned to the side and I can not see the time. There is a faint green reflection on the blonde wood surface the clock rests upon. My eyes look for a fluctuation that might indicate the glowing numbers have changed, but none occurs.

My gaze descends past the slightly open stand draw, down to the floor. Glinting in the light is a large glass jar that is full of pennies. The warm copper coins wait to amass value. Thoughts of the jar’s weight repel my stare off to a section of floor by the bed. There just before the darkness of the bed’s underside, lay a ball of dust.

Suspended inside the grey wisp of dust are tiny particles of matter. Delicately unraveling from within the dust ball’s universe is a long single strand of hair. The chestnut colored hair has an unmistakable provenance.  Of all the things present and not present in this room, the hair leads me to an absence, and that absence fills me with longing.

My Father’s Dream

September 8, 2011

The other night my father dosed off as he sat watching television. He was sitting where he always sits, watching a television that stands in the same place all his televisions have stood. The TV’s have changed, and the sofas have changed. But the positions have remained the same for over fifty years.

It frustrates him that he now regularly falls asleep before the last ten minutes of a show, or, to be exact, ten minutes before 11pm, at the end of primetime broadcasting.  Although it has become common for him to doze off, he had never recalled dreaming, except on this occasion.

In his dream, he is sitting watching TV. A tremendously loud thunderclap shakes the house. The TV screen turns to white noise. Then, lights flicker and the house goes dark. He knows my brother is upstairs. He calls out to my brother, telling him to get out the candles.

He is aware that he is dying. He tries to tell my brother that he needs to come and say goodbye, but his voice is fading.  Suddenly, he is outside his body looking down over himself sitting on the sofa.

He then woke up.

Turning the TV off, he went up to his bedroom very shaken by the dream. That night, he slept poorly.

In the morning before breakfast, he found a large dead bird on the kitchen floor. One of the cats must have brought it in. He thinks it was a mocking bird.

In the living room where he had the dream the night before, he observed the clock on the VCR blinking. This meant there had been a power outage sometime during the night. When he looked at the other clocks around the house the time was correct. Only the TV had been affected.

Later that morning just before noon, my father received a phone call. It was a woman he did not know. In a friendly voice she asked him if he would be interested in purchasing a plot in the cemetery she represented. He told her he was not interested because he desires to be cremated and have his ashes scattered.

The dream stays with him for many days.

Ghost Story

October 12, 2010

Admittedly similar to the current trends in the genre, I saw my ghost in broad daylight. My living room was flooded with morning sunlight as I sat having coffee and reading the online news. I heard nothing, but felt compelled to turn and look toward my hallway. There in the doorway to the hall a man dressed in jogger’s gear stood, or should I say hunched, stretching out his calves. He wore sneakers, blue shorts, and a white tank top. Astonished, I rose from my seat, took a few steps toward him and said, “How did you get in here? Who are you?”

It was then that I became aware that he could not hear me. I stared at the back of this stretching man, noticing that he was slick with sweat. I was extremely frightened, and began to take steps backward. I turned my head to look for where I had placed my cell phone.  When I turned to look at the man again he was gone. I had heard no footsteps to my front door. It was impossible that he could vanish that quickly. My heart began to beat very fast. I felt certain that he was still in the apartment. Moving from room to room I found no trace of him. A terror and bafflement gripped me, why, how was this man in here? A dawning sense that this had been some kind of apparition or hallucination began to hold me. I walked to where the man had been stretching. There on the rug were small dark spots. Bending over, slowly I touched one spot and realized the dampness was from his sweat. I cannot say if the chill I felt was from revulsion or a sense of violation. But He had been here. I had no idea what I should do. Would anyone believe me?

I stood there for what seemed an eternity, the very place where only moments before the man had been. As I stepped away the floor creaked beneath my feet in a way I had never heard before.
Much as I had felt compelled to look up from my morning computer, I knew I must look under the carpet. This new sound could not be a coincidence. It had to be connected to the stretching figure.
Getting on my hands and knees I began to roll the carpet up to the area from which I heard the sound. My eyes scanned the dusty floor till I spotted the source of the sound. A part of the floorboard had been cut into a six-inch section. It was loose to the touch of my hand. With uncertain excitement I used my fingernails to pry the floorboard up.

The board was removed easily. There before me was a dark oblong opening resembling a miniature grave. Crawling over the opening I stared down into the dark cavity. Something square and white glowed from within. With nervous dread I reached into the hole. I felt relieved momentarily when my fingers felt that it was a piece of paper. Picking the paper out, I was surprised to see that it was neatly folded, bright and white, as if it had only just been placed there. I sat back and leaned against the wall. I knew it was a message. I unfolded the paper slowly. There was something written on the paper in blue ink. The handwriting looked very familiar.
In the middle of the sheet of paper was a simple statement:

“You did not write this”

BODIES I & II

October 12, 2010

BODY I

I
1911, Osage Hills, Oklahoma

A miserable failure again, and now a pain running through his body that would lead him to his end, Elmer McCurdy thought about the boy who had left the barn.

He’ll remember me; he’ll remember I wouldn’t surrender, dying like a man, what else can I do, my choice, no choice.
Lying in the hay facing up, the empty revolver in his hand, he listened to the cracking and splintering of wood as the men outside fired another volley at the barn.

He was told he’d turn to the lord. All he could think about church was the man who played the piano. The piano player, thin, with delicate fingers, black hair slicked back. Always staring at Elmer, his eyes filled with pity, and something else, something that made Elmer angry. He remembered a song. Had the man played it?

Tis but a little faded flower,
But oh, how fondly dear,
‘Twill bring me back one golden hour,
Through many, through many a weary-
year,
I would not to the world impart,
The secret, the secret of its power,
But treasur’d in my inmost heart
I keep my faded flower, I keep my
faded flower.

Yes, he remembered the song. He felt his body going numb and a spreading dampness across his shirt.

More prized, more prized than jewels rare,
A faded flower, a broken ring,
A strand of hair.
‘Tis but I little faded flower,
Once the fairest flower in May,
it brings me back my childhood hours,
Through woods where oft I cared to
stray.
But years have passed, and I have known,
Youth’s day-dreams, youth day-dreams fly
away,
Just like this little faded flower,
That pine and pass away, that pine and
pass away.

II
1976, The Pike Amusement Park, Long Beach, California

He broke it while clearing the light cables. At first there was dread; just the thought of having to inform them about this. After all it was not the first time it had happened to him, and the thought of not getting on the set next season for this show was an awful, sinking feeling. Shit, insurance would pay for it, but,,, it was not only a decent job, but it always stirred people in an amusing way. His little nephew asked him once if Lee Majors could really jump that high. High? Editing, editing!

Well, maybe he could glue it, or if he were lucky it might just sort of stick back on. Standing beneath the damaged figure, he scanned the dark floor of the funhouse for the hand he had broken off. There it lay next to the haunted house’s picket fence. Picking it up he was struck by how light it was. In the dim light he attempted to stick it back on the wrist of the figure.

He looked at the face of the “hanged man”. Old papier-mâché. Placing the hand against the wrist he knew it would not just stick back on. He observed the break closely. The tattered cracked edge showed the strata of years of paint, day-glo yellow, red, green, blue. Within hollow part of the break there was no wood, or chicken wire. There was something else – a growing horror accompanied the realization that it was bone.
There he stood, not yet knowing he held Elmer’s hand.

Epilogue

Once the police investigation, and the media attention subsided, Elmer McCurdy was finally buried in the Boot Hill section of the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma. For over sixty four years his body traveled from one carnival exhibit after another, no one knowing who or what he was – a dead body that had in fact been a dead body.
No one remembers Elmer alive.
Now only a few remember him when he was dead.

BODY II

1999, September 2, Jericho Long Island
Thirty years in the darkness, dead still, mother and child waited.

1972, October 29, Jericho Long Island
In the early evening standing outside by the sliding glass doors Howard Elkins overlooked the backyard.
Not long ago, he thought to himself, there seemed more space, the shrubs and trees were a bit smaller, many hadn’t been planted yet.
Now the house was sold. Melrose Plastics was sold. There would be no more artificial plastic flowers. No more Reyna.

He was leaving for Florida in the morning. He was leaving his secret, but for how much longer he wondered? He would know when it was his time.
He remembered the night his wife was visiting a friend. How he struggled from the back of the station wagon to these glass doors. That night three years ago he was covered in sweat, and still had a distance to roll.

1999, September 3, Jericho Long Island
It was bad enough he had to roll it all the way out to the curb. Now to make the situation worse, the garbage men had not taken it away. Most likely because of it’s weight – or perhaps the garbage men believed it was toxic waste.

Frustrated, and just wanting to be done with the house sale, Ronald Cohen stood on the sidewalk looking over the rusted metal drum.
He had placed on the ground before him trash bags, a hammer, a crowbar, and a screwdriver. The drum had been removed from the crawl space beneath the house only a few days before. It seemed to have been there for a very long time, and now the new owner insisted that he get rid of it.

Not quite sure if it would help the matter, he believed that emptying the barrel might expedite it’s departure. With some difficulty he pried the metal lid off the drum. As he had guessed, there was no liquid inside. Instead, there were beige plastic pellets, and to his annoyance, another barrel not far below the pellets.

The inner barrel was blue plastic. Awkwardly Ronald lowered the metal drum onto its side. Pellets spilled out onto the sidewalk and into the gutter. “Great, just great,” Ronald said to himself. Beginning to breath heavily he lifted and tilted the metal drum. The blue inner barrel slid three quarters of the way out.
Moving to the other side Ronald hunched over and pulled the inner barrel further out. He noticed its lid was partially pulled off now. Ronald straightened himself and moved to see if he could tell what the contents were. In the blue outlined gap he saw a shoe and something grayish brown. For the first time in many years sunlight lay upon Reyna’s hand.

Ronald stood there, frozen in shock, listening to his own breathing. At his feet amongst the pellets lay a thin haliogen-green plastic plant stem.

1999, September 7, Garden City, New York
The dead women had been in the rusted 55 gallon drum since 1969. With the body were an assortment of objects; a ring, a locket, an address book that no longer could be read. Held within the woman was an unborn child.

The police would soon identifiy the woman as Reyna Angelica Marroquin a former worker who assembled artificial flowers at the Melrose Plastic Company.

The police had taken DNA samples from Reyna’s unborn child. They believed this would help determine who the father was.

1999, September 10, 1pm, Boca Raton, Florida
Howard Elkins felt sensitized by purpose. He put the car in park and turned the ignition off. His fingers lingered on the keys in the ignition, there was no point in removing the keys, they’d be there for his wife. He felt stupid for a moment as he caught himself thinking how good this conscientious act was.

Turning his head he saw the plastic bag that covered the barrel of the shotgun lying across the back seat. He let go of the keys and let his right hand rest on the passenger seat. The velour of the seat felt comforting. He then looked down. There beside his hand was the plastic wal-mart shopping bag. Inside the bag were two boxes of shotgun shells. “It was odd” he thought, “Why did I buy two boxes when all I need was one shell?”

July 31, 2010

Pizza News

Two guys walk to the back of the pizzeria holding paper plates and cups and sit across from me at the next table. They are both large men, one is in his forties; the other is in his early twenties. Their size and weight seem due to muscle turning to fat. A radio is playing a song  — you know, I wish that I had Jessie’s girl, I wish that I had Jessie’s girl— .

The older guy says to the younger guy, ”yeah (hee hee) Jessie’s girl’s a HO! (Ha)”. The younger guy barely acknowledges him as he inhales his pizza. The older guy realizing the younger ones’ disinterest mumbles, “yeah that’s an oldie, real clas – sic”

The older guy says to the younger guy, “where’d they go? Did ya even taste ‘em?”. The younger guy smirks as if proud and says, “I don’ know, I was hungry”

The older guy is picking up on the feeling that he’s getting on the younger guys nerves. So the older guy says, “you hear ‘bout that pyramid they found? “. He waits for a response and then continues,
“Yeah, the largest pyramid in tha world, and its buried under the ground.” A pause, “Bigger than Giza.”. The young man says something low that I cannot hear. Just then the door to the pizzeria opens and lets in the sounds of the street. The older guy says something that sounds like, “yeah its in Turkey.”

I take a bite out of my pizza. “I’ll have to look that up when I get home” I think to myself.

Toy Plane

March 31, 2010

My brother gave me this toy airplane on my fortieth birthday. This is the same as the toy we both played with when we were children. What became of the actual toy? Lost, turned to dust, destroyed in the consuming play of little boys. A tiny red toy plane. Two and one half inches long. Made to resemble a 1918 Fokker Dr I fighter plane. This is a scale model. My big fingers. Had I grown so large, or had this toy shrunk? This tiny airplane has traveled a long distance in time; thirty or more years flying through time. What shoe boxes, closets, warehouses had it moved through?

This toy came in its original package, mint in the box, as collectors would say, safe in its vacuum formed plastic cocoon. The toy suspended beneath a clear plastic pane, is given the look of a relic or a butterfly specimen. Framed and held by a cardboard box that is embellished by printed graphics. These graphics, so simple in the style of their time, have yellowed; whereas the plastic toy and it’s plastic packaging has not appeared any worse with age. When I first received this gift, I pulled open a flap of the box and held it up to my nose. No smell. Time had neutralized any odors. Ungraspable phantom memories point to this absent scent. No aromatic trace of plastic, paint, printers ink. An artificial flower.

To carefully remove the toy from it’s box and hold it between thumb and index finger was to set in motion feelings infantile and shameful, sweetly sad and tender. Was this the real gift my brother had intended? Was it intended as an aid to re-imagine an already imaginary family past? What was it that the child I had once been gained by the possession of this thing? Why had it been made into this miniature? To make quaint the obsolete technologies of war? Past horrors to be reduced in scale. The bloody Red Baron in plastic formed into the plastic cockpit. Baron Manfred von Richthofen the chivalrous knight of the air. A fetish, to activate an imaginary narrative, some fictive history, and now was it not doing the same thing again? This time with a longing that hurt more than it pleased.

One fragment of memory after another visit me. All these memories seemingly converging on this small artifact. Red felt stockings, tinsel in Samantha the cats’ vomit – musty books read in the grammar school library, Rickover, Richthofen. All that I believe I know about my childhood, my family, and my cultural history; jumbled and rearranged. But the patterns don’t surprise, nothing new, no break – out or through. Unless it is to be discovered in the growing dullness and indifference. These states being the true measure of this great distance. I look out as if from a great height over the shifting past-scape. When I raise my hand as if to wave good bye I find the little airplane between my big fingers.

March 31, 2010

Fall Story

This past October my Father told me how excited he was when as a boy he found an intact Edison light bulb.
The beautiful blown glass with it’s pointed nib top – enclosing the delicate filament within, was an exciting trophy. He kept it for years but cant remember where it’s gone now.
When he made this find, the light bulb was already thirty years old.
His mother scolded him for rummaging in the foundation of the ruined house where he found the bulb.
Now, the memory of finding this small glass prize is older than the light bulb held in that little boy’s hand that day.

March 31, 2010

Is It Nothing To You All Ye Who Pass By

Standing tired and agitated he stared through the window as the train crept forward. There surrounded by an immense empty parking lot was the new stadium. Just two and a half years ago he watched them tear down the old stadium. Slowly, section-by-section, like an architectural pie it was devoured by the wrecking ball. He never thought much of the old stadium. He remembered what he had heard about the Beatles concert there. “Cant buy me love” rendered inaudible by thousands of screaming girls. He wondered how many games had been played there, but then again, he didn’t really care for the game or the team. An ex girlfriends mother had told him she had been to the concert in 1964. She couldn’t hear a thing. He thought about waking up this morning alone, to that asshole on the radio. His whole body felt the warmth of an indeterminate anger washing over him. This made him more conscious of the aching in his ankles and knees. He did not want to be on this train, going to his job were he’d continue to stand. Still able to see the new stadium at an angle; he thought how it was all so ludicrous. A new stadium designed to look like an old one that had also been torn down, which in turn was the reason the recently demolished stadium had been built,,, and now this ugly piece of shit. Thought drifting over thought, his mind overcast. The asshole on the radio, his smug voice as he interviewed someone about a collapsed school in Port au Prince. 150 kids. Rachel’s daughter; was she happy in her new life? It didn’t matter, or was he trying to convince himself it didn’t matter? Then almost loosing his balance the train lurched forward slightly increasing its speed as it approached the next station.

March 31, 2010

Texas Tower 4

There is a position between hope and no hope, an extremely thin place where two certainties meet.

80 miles southeast of New York City, 30 fathoms above the ocean floor stood Texas Tower 4. It rose above the Atlantic’s waves like a giant spider. It’s three radar domes waiting for menacing signals that would never appear. Perhaps it was aware of its own obsolescence and even shamed by its recent nickname “Old Shaky”.
It’s mission like the structure’s soundness were already past. Months back in September the tower was weakened by the 130 mile an hour winds and 50 foot waves of hurricane Donna. Repairs had been attempted, but not finished. The United States Air force wanted it manned till its equipment could be removed. A reduced crew of 28 men remained on board the radar tower platform.

At latitude: 39-48 N, Longitude: 072-40 W, on the night of January 15 1961, the USS Wasp found nothing but oil slick and debris where Texas Tower 4 once stood. At 7:25PM in stormy seas, a mayday call went out from the tower. At 8:01PM the tower vanished from radar.

80 feet down in the dark cold Atlantic water, James Calhan, one of four divers, felt that familiar sense of otherworldliness.

For James who was a civilian, the past six hours had already been just as otherworldly. A phone call at 2am, the helicopter flight to the aircraft carrier, and then the dive from the ship’s motor launch. All this movement, leading to what would now be a moment of release from the hours of urgency. James had found nothing. Floating motionless he listened to the sound of his breathing. The repeated sonar signals of “shave and a haircut, two bits” had ceased twenty minutes before. Maybe there had been tapping, but no one living or dead had been found. Looking up he saw the morning light filtering down from the water’s surface. Above him the navy boat waited. Once again from the darkness below a metallic echoing sound reached up to him. James turned his flashlight back on and swam ten feet down. He directed the beam of light onto the submerged platform’s side. The elliptical spot from his light framed two dark windows that seemed to stare back up at him. He listened to the sounds from below again. Shifting, cracking, rubbing, Texas Tower 4 was settling down onto the ocean floor. Switching off his light, James began his ascent to the surface.