Gazing through the glass I realised that what I had taken for gravel was in fact a mass of broken teeth, the silvery objects pieces of amalgam, fragments of old fillings half-buried among the shards of tooth enamel.
There is a strangeness to it, and I feel an utter distaste, the way the undergarments rustle and swish. Above the dresser is a mirror. I put on the hat and cover my short hair but leave a fringe that falls over my forehead. The mustache, I peel off and put in my pocket.
“I think about Dottie and Mara and Timmy all the time, even dreaming. It’s only when I can get pretty loaded, I forget. Dottie and Timmy have passed and Mara – she won’t have anything to do with me. I don’t think she even knows where I am. I don’t think she cares much.”
Since I’d always eschewed social media and had given no hint of my intentions to anyone, I knew there’d be puzzlement about my purpose. Had I come from some twisted ideology? A grudge against the club? People would look for a rationale that, however demented they’d deem it, was comprehensible to them.
A familiar woman dressed in black ran toward her car. When she was a few feet away, she leapt with a flying kick. Her Birkenstocks penetrated the rear window and collided with the assailant’s jaw, spinning his head like a demonic merry-go-round in a Stephen King novel.
Welcome to this special early edition of AM, which centres on the disappearance of the Prime Minister. He and his Agriculture Minister and his two security men failed to arrive at their destination of Murrayton after leaving Tambalong by car late last night.
I cleaned up the baby as best I could and wrapped him in clean pillowcases. I had often heard stories of abandoned babies left in the mosque where God would protect them until a good Muslim family would find and adopt them. And so I headed for the mosque and left the child just inside the entrance.
I know the sound is a gunshot because I have always been afraid of dying this way. I am in a classroom with my favorite English teacher and the rest of my class when I am shot in the back. I fall out of my chair and experience the worst fear I have ever felt in my life and then I am shot in the head.
Lloyd lay flat on his back, moaning, his arms and legs splayed. Blood trickled down one side of his face, his crazy eye open and jerking wildly as if he were scanning the night sky. He gurgled and blood bubbled up out of his mouth.
The odd fact is, The Fruit With No Stone doesn’t tell Alabama anything. The words can’t settle. Well, not at first. They don’t coalesce into meaningful ideas or musical poetry. They tease and tickle like the delicate paws of a tiny fox moving things around inside him.
“Englishman. Jamaican man. What’s the fucking difference? He is what he is. You’ve seen him, I’ve seen him. Bottom line—he just sounds weird. Uppity, better than the rest of us with that whatever-the-hell-it-is accent.”
He picked a pine tree because of how strong they are and how tall they can get. But the cholos didn’t like any of that. They would tell each other that it was corny and stupid, but really they felt threatened by the symbolism. Nothing good should be here, they would think, fuck life, fuck lames, fuck this tree.
One weekend, walking randomly on the other side of town in a neighbourhood I’d never visited before, I stumbled upon a cemetery and it immediately fascinated me. Hundreds of tombstones, some visibly decaying with names almost illegible, others brand new, shiny and elegant.
I woke up, from a nap, on a bus I did not remember boarding. It was daylight. My neck was stiff. I looked out the window. The surroundings were unfamiliar. The foliage was unfamiliar, trees and plants I had never seen before. The signs on the shops were in a foreign language.
Was I really going to start worrying about the story I'd made up just to frighten Lundquist? Of course not. Until he'd asked, I hadn't been bothered by the thought of what might be inside the narrow crack in the bottom of the ice cave that we plunged the probe into.
When he smiled automatically into the mirror, part of his daily, FRUP-mandated routine, he saw there were no teeth at all along his lower jaw. Thatches of dark, scraggly hair had sprouted up in their place.
When I get frenzied over all the remnants of the laughter, or of someone else’s college plans, I just think: “You could kill them all if you wanted, Caleb. If you decided you wanted them to die, you could find a way and go make it happen.”
In tonight's episode, a team of Army doctors treated roughly a dozen different patients: one spinal cord injury, one missing ear, multiple lacerations, contusions, and abrasions. One solider suffered from shock, one inflamed appendix requiring surgery, and of course, multiple gunshot victims.
Hounds gaining on desperate fugitives as they leapt over moss-covered logs and splashed through shallow creeks. Gunshots echoing in the forest, dogs wild with excitement. Meanwhile, in town, men who chased the runaways laughed and downed shots of whiskey...
Tyler tells her, glassy-eyed, hands trembling a little with trepidation, that he’s not sure he can make the next month’s rent. “I’ve got all these tools I have to get at school. They’re expensive and I still have another semester to go.” He throws himself on the couch, self-flagellating, despondent.
We also made cups of coffee, smoked cigarettes, ate crackers and left the stage to go to the bathroom. Eventually we invited a couple of friends on stage to hang out, play the guitar, tattoo fingers with a needle dipped in Indian ink, whatever they wanted to do.
Tiffany and the Nimrod took their first night in a motel just past the truck stop, in a scarlet and white bridal suite. The motel had plastic furniture in the lobby, and “Jesus loves you,” graffitied on the condom machine in the public restroom.
The urgent note from Larry, the vice-principal, was delivered to his classroom during a Monday lunch hour. Mr. Moss found it when he got back from a short nap in the staff lounge. “Please stop by my office after class ends today. An agent from the Education Commissioner wants to speak with you.” Mr. Moss blinked and re-read the note and muttered, “Fine, bring it on.”
The milling assembly on the sidewalk held signs that read: “Every Life Matters”; “Children are a Gift from God”; “Choose Life, Deny Death”; “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart”; “Every Life Deserves to Live”; “Let God Plan Parenthood”.
The girl capsizes herself with alcohol, Black Beauties, angel dust, sex with strangers, and slicing. Darkness barely discusses her. Blood covers our kneecaps one night from smacking into a lamppost. We buckle under her when she passes out.
Mother could never have taken care of thatha, who weighed a formidable 95 kilograms, all by herself. He had to be supported on his way to the bathroom and back, and when he wanted to rise from the chair and lie down or the other way round.
At one point in my life, I couldn’t stand the written word; I wallowed in disgust at the stale, sticky characters that seeped through the synapses like syrup. It was a strange affliction to be sickened by the alphabet in its endless forms, but I learned to live with it.
With each new encounter, she wondered whether she’d be able to bear it and see the act through to the end. Or would this be the one where she’d feel so sick that she couldn’t take any more and be overwhelmed and long to flee? Would she be in danger of being beaten or killed?
Turns out, time works like a roll of toilet paper. You can unwind the years, tear away a square, reloop back to where you started. Alter history. I began with minor changes, subtle tweaks: an insurance company here, a vitamin manufacturer there.
The internees were activists—outspoken writers, entertainers, union organizers, a few whistleblowers, and many others who attended demonstrations and protest rallies—but none were terrorists, despite the government’s claims.
I kept a confident, positive look on my face as the Governor of Louisiana, Alicia deVray, prepared to sign the document that would enact the first free drug community in the world. She turned and looked at me, I nodded encouragingly, she looked at the horde of reporters holding cameras, phones, recording devices and signed.
At work they are hammering nails through the back of his head staring, and with suspicious whispers. It makes him want to cry being so alone and his stomach hurts always. His home is a hole in the ground where he collapses like a cigarette ash and swallows wine until he can stand again.
Sex gluts with grief and rutting. Shelly’s lips haven’t been ransacked since the wedding, but Micky plows her torso with all the gusto his tiny limbs can muster. Mornings, damp with baked muffins and billowing coffee, smile blandly; cling to the mirror of each other. The couple practice lurid hearsay, family claws, spoonfed silences.
Mother stands frozen in my bedroom doorway… a block of stone: arms splayed, legs spread, a barrier to my exit. I cannot move her, never could; she’s as heavy as her gaze when she first looked in on me. So, I am left to chip away at her, like I did before she was transformed, but literally now.
Here is what I know: I have a quiet little boy in my car. I’ve bungee corded him to the passenger seat, which I recognize may sound cruel, but actually it provides him with a bounciness he seems to like. I ascertain his approval despite the fact that he has not made much sound.
The next shift has already queued around another corner across a narrow waterway, some sipping libations whilst others partake of their first meal, all their caps tilted at various rakish angles, depeche mode, as is the fashion, a fashion now in, now out, now in again.
“I knew some top-notch reporters in my time,” the old man said. “They were decent men, drunks most of them, but decent men. But they could not print the truth if the editor would not let them. Do you know who the editor worked for?” The old man glared at Karl. “The editor worked for the bosses.”