House Party


It is October and it is cold. Keenan lives in a blue house with a white door and black shudders. Keenan is five. Keenan rings George’s doorbell and George answers the door. Is it Halloween, Keenan asks. George shakes his head and shuts the door. George walks into his basement. It is dark in the basement.

Is it Halloween, George wonders.


George buys milk from Sara. Sara is a cashier at New Hope Grocery store. She is nineteen. She wears pigtails and chews gum and blows bubbles. You drink a lot of milk George, Sara says. George doesn’t say anything to Sara because he can’t think of anything to say. Have a good night George, Sara says. Ok, George says.

George walks to the hardware store. Hi Jack, George says. Hi George, Jack says. George buys rope from Jack. I am building a sailboat, George says. Oh, Jack says.

The man on the television says that it is time to turn the clocks to another hour so that the winter will be darker. The man on the television likes the winter darker so that he can hide in his basement and make babies with his secretary. George pours whiskey into the milk carton and puts the carton in the fridge. He walks to the center of his kitchen and sits in his rocking chair. I am really thirsty, George thinks.

My wife is a whore, the man on the radio says. The man on the television laughs. George decides it is time to open the fridge and drink the carton of milk. I like Sara, George thinks. George falls asleep in his chair in his kitchen.


George hangs from a tree. The tree is on the playground next to the elementary school. The elementary school is called New Hope Elementary School. Marco and Sally play in the sandbox. Marco is six. Sally is five. Is that George in the tree, Marco asks. Sally waves.


I didn’t know there would be blood, Greg says. Greg is a police captain. Greg has his hands in his pockets. Should we cut him down, Marty asks. Marty graduated from the Police academy with perfect scores. Why are you in your bathrobe officer, Ms. Lashley asks. Cut him down, Greg says and walks to his car.

Gary runs in the morning. Gary runs by Greg. Hi Greg, Gary says. Hi Gary, Greg says.


At night, Gary has a warring party. We are going to war after all, Gary tells Meg. Fine, Meg says.

Lou captures Eastern Europe. You are wearing a smock, Meg says. Lou made me the Queen of the Ukraine, Michelle says. Michelle is smiling like she is on a stage. Michelle is smiling like she is on a stage and she is waving from the stage and men and women are standing clapping and throwing flowers.

We just lost Eastern Europe, Lou says.


He always said hello, Greg says.



Rubar the Map Seller

I buy a map from a haggler who is selling maps. He is selling maps in the street of a town that has not been named. The street is dusty and brown and has many people in it. But the people are not moving and they have open eyes and I think that the people might be dead. I cover my eyes a great deal. I am close to the desert. There looks like there is water on the desert.

We don’t name these towns, the map seller says. He stands above one of the people that looks dead. He paints the skin of the person that has still eyes. You do not live here, I ask him. Of course I live here, he says and he is smiling and there are untruths and caught teeth in the door of his mouth. But he is dried and tangled in his own skin—and he is feebled and old and he is rotted and hunched over.

His name is Rubar and his head jerks back and forth. He tells me his whole name. His name is long and he sounds like a person who lives very far from where I lived when I was a child. Where is the place to dig, I ask him and the sand has begun to get into the wind and it is very uncomfortable in the street. But he does not tell me and he does not look at me and it looks then like he is looking like a man who has just seen his daughter—who would also be very old—and has gotten very excited.

But we are alone and I suppose, then, as I have begun to do quite a bit lately, that he has lost his hearing and he is ready to die. The old men do that in the desert. They walk into the desert, the old men—when they are too old. Then they do not have hearing or sight or taste and they walk into the sand dunes and fall down and they die.

But Rubar has just turned his ears into the sand. And now he squats on the sand in the street in the town. He is not ready to walk into the desert, I think.

Rubar draws an X. There, he says. And I laugh because it is actually probably very close to the time that this map seller will walk into the desert and die. Where, I ask and I am thinking that I would very much like to stop playing his game. But I cannot move and my arms feel like lead weights. There, he says and he points at the X with his bony finger. I want to tell him that he has a bony finger and that he is a crazy old man but it is hot and I have already missed three meals in the past four days—no, I have missed four meals. I realize, then, that I did not eat breakfast on the third morning of my trip.

Now it looks like I will miss another meal because Rubar smiles and continues to point at the X in the sand and now he has trouble finding his feet. Rubar flaps his arms like he is a bird and walks around the X. But he does not stand up. He is no taller than my waist when he is on the ground flailing and chirping like that. I wipe the sweat off of the back of my neck and I shake my head because I am really not sure if it is autumn or summer or, perhaps it is even winter but I know that it is really quite hot. Rubar cocks his head and cautiously comes closer.

Rubar wants to have a conversation. I shouldn’t have bought a map from such a frail old man, I think.



White Family


She looks like she is a ghost because she has whitened her skin. It is a skin whitener. He thinks that he can see through her. I can see the bookshelves on the other side of her, he thinks. You are a tramp, he thinks. I have fat fingers, he says instead.

Do you like how it is white and elegant and it looks like the people in the paintings who are rich.

She has on a white nightgown. The nightgown is white like she is white. We have white wallpaper, he thinks. My wife is a fucking nightmare, he whispers. He is in the kitchen, next to the cupboards, and the window. It is fog outside and it is damp outside and it is already spring.

He stopped drinking or started drinking again. He cannot remember. He had become sick and turned his sheets in the morning, turned his sheets and vomited on the wood to wood floors. He was deafened by screaming. She had bruised flaking skin and it was white. I knew you were going to be my wife, he says out loud but she is not in herself and she does not listen.

His wife is white and bruised and she looks like she is a ghost. His mother was white, untouched and covered and then white and covered and stale and unmovable and buried in the backyard under the oak tree that turned and rotted in the winter.

You should have been a woman, his father had said. That fucking tree should die, his father had said. And they had moved, out of the south and into the north—into a small house next to another small house on a street with a lot of small houses. All the houses were all gray or all black or all uncolored. All the houses had basements without windows. He went to the basement when it was dark and he couldn’t sleep and his father was twisted in the mattress.

Still, the wettened dreams are unguarded in the basement. He is sickened and trolled and he urinates methodically on the floor. Estranged, he tries to find his brothers and his sisters. He undigs the lawn. But they are buried in the south and the neighbors in the north look like factory workers because they work in factories.

And yet he still wakes in the night, sweated and touched. The screamed are deafeners. He bleeds the sheets. He cannot remember if he is drinking or if he has stopped. She is still unattached and she will not respond to him. You have turned into a ghost, he says and he knows that she has decided, a while ago, not to reply.


Geoff dies. He is six, five when he gets sick. Merryl dies. She is fifteen, or sixteen. Stan dies. He is eleven. His father buries them close to the rock wall on the northwest side of the land.


She is stiff and she is white and she is a ghost and she does not talk and she sits in the chair close to the window and watches the sun go to spring to summer and to fall. Perhaps, the white of this winter will tell her to walk into the backyard and find the holes beside the rock wall and below the looted and tired oak tree.





Hal and Davies cut off the little boy’s head because he won’t stop screaming and the middle aged men in the night suits are getting close. The little boy has skin like newspaper and his blood looks like a dark red scarf. His name is Harold. The men in the night suits are, indeed, close. In the forest, middle men shout like people who belong in mad houses. In some of the canyons in the woods, their voices are echoes.


We shouldn’t have started the War Company, Hal thinks. There are mosquitoes on his neck and his body feels like it is inside a spider web. Harold’s head is on a flat rock. Harold’s body is against a tree. It is odd to look at a boy’s body that doesn’t have a head or a boy’s head that doesn’t have a body. Why was he screaming, Davies asks. The other children are quiet. The youngest one, Jacko, urinates in his pants and holds onto Mark’s hand. Mark is Jacko’s brother. Your hand is sweaty, Mark says.


Hal makes a small hole and buries Harold’s head in the small hole. Davies puts small rocks and sand and dirt on top of Harold’s eyes. Are we going to bury his body, Davies asks. Did you close his eyes before you covered his head with sand, Hal asks.


The boys are from the third grade elementary class at Roseland Elementary school. They stand around Harold’s buried head. Harold’s body is still propped up against the tree and Mark thinks that it looks like an old scarecrow. Who knew Harold best, Hal asks. None of the boys says anything and it is quiet except for the very loud screams that seem to be very close. The screams sound like somebody who might be crazy or might be in a lot of pain. Davies picks up the saw and Hal shakes his head. But Hal is just upset because he is tired and it has started to rain and there are only twelve boys in the forest and the screams do not seem to want to go away.


Those aren’t decisions for you to make, Judge Herring says. She went to a very good law school when she was twenty-two and then she had a daughter who she named Becky. Becky is a very good swimmer and went to the Olympics but didn’t get a medal. Judge Herring eats shrimp and pasta and hamburgers when she is hungry. She wears clothes from a store on Fifth Avenue and she spends her vacations on an island in the Caribbean.


Hal looks at Davies and Davies shakes his head because the screams would have kept screaming if the little boys had not had their heads cut off. Judge Herring looks like a nice woman, Davies says. She looks clean and well mannered, Hal says.


Hal sits behind a big oak desk and stares at the floor. Sometimes, Hal thinks, Judge Herring probably doesn’t think that something that is terrible and horrible is also something that is probably ok too because it makes the screaming stop.


I don’t know, Davies says. I guess I just don’t suppose it’s a bad thing.



Un-housed and Soldiered

They had howled and draped into their own feces—dripped and blackened. All warred.


Shone sells crack. She has cuts on her fingers. She walks crooked like she is beaten with sticks at night and told to be a tramp. Those men have swords, she says and she points and she whispers. Her voice has been torn out of her throat by snakes.


Lance has a ribbon on his shirt and smells like oil. The others supplicate. The in and out of the pastures, of the barnyard vices, is on their skin. The massed—housed in the basement of an ex-communicated monastery—are un-abased and ruthless. We will picket the crack dens, Lance says and he thinks that the ghosts of the earth are free to eat.


The barber massages himself in the bathroom and then he erupts. He twists and tries to undo his face. He makes cuts into the mirrors and his veins are red inside and red now on the floor. The faint light in the afternoons grows—his cloaked madness and anger. He weeps on the steps. I cannot die, he says.


Shone is well versed and later weds—after dealing crack for her adolescent years. Her veins in her arms had become tiny dry wells and she had turned to her thighs then her toes then her neck. I have drained myself, she had thought and her pimp had whipped her and made her look like a street troll.

And now she is married and un-cut. Were you castrated, the man asks. I am not a male, Shone says. Oh.


It is time to behead.



Spring in the Small Town

The rain stops. Marla is in the backyard. Marla yells at Jackie. Jackie lives next door. The fence is broken, Hal thinks. You drink too much, Marla says. Hal yawns. It is green on the lawn, Hal thinks. Marla wears jean skirts in the spring. She looks smooth and tanned and undone in the spring. Jackie punches Marla.

The blouse is red, Marla says to Liza. Liza shakes her head. You should bleach it, Liza says. Hal is in the kitchen. He drinks milk and shudders. Marla should talk to Jimmy, Hal thinks. Last night, Liza tied herself to her flagpole. Louis found her there. Why are you tied to the flagpole, Louis asked.

Jimmy owns a bar in the center of town. He makes bourbon in his backyard. He sells the bourbon in his bar. Jimmy calls the bourbon Jimmy Standert. Standert is Jimmy’s last name. Jimmy Standert burns and looks black. It tastes like it has too much alcohol. Liza tied herself to a flagpole last night, Hal says.

Liza lives with her husband and her two children in a five bedroom house. The house is next to Jimmy’s bar. Liza and Hal lie in bed. They are naked. They lie under white sheets. It is early afternoon. Hal lights a cigarette. You don’t have to do that, Liza says and walks into the bathroom. Hal puts the cigarette out on his arm and screams. Liza sits on the toilet with the hairdryer on.

Hal burned Liza’s house down, Marla says to Nicky. Nicky is Liza’s daughter. She is twelve year’s old. Why do you have cuts on your arms, Nicky asks. Marla has cuts on her arms because she cuts herself when she is scared. I don’t feel anything because I am numb, Marla says and walks into the backyard. Hal sits on a chair that he bought last summer so that he could sit in the backyard and watch the trees. You were fucking her weren’t you, Marla says. Go back inside, Hal says. Are we living here now, Nicky asks.

Have you seen Jackie, Jimmy asks. The weather man says that it is going to snow and that the entire town is going to look like the North Pole. The North Pole is where Santa lives, Nicky says. Don’t be stupid, Hal says. Two men in a car with a siren drive into the driveway and park. Are those police officers, Hal asks. I don’t think you are going to live here after all, Hal says. One police officer gets out of the car. The other officer talks on the radio and looks bored.

Have you seen Jackie Standert, Greg asks. Greg is five ten and looks like a Hollywood actor but he is really a police officer in a small town and he is gay. That is my wife, Jimmy says. We heard she was missing, Greg says. Oh, Hal says. Marla stands on the deck and picks at her fingers. The weather man says it is supposed to snow and turn this whole town into a white blanket, Marla says. But it is almost May, Greg says.

Liza is asleep on the couch. Louis knocks on the door. She is asleep, Marla says. Louis walks past Marla. Louis weighs two hundred and thirty three pounds. Louis has lost a little bit of his hair. Why did you burn down the house, Louis asks Liza. Liza is still very much asleep.

Why did you burn down the house, Greg asks. Greg stands in the entranceway with his hands on his belt. I fell asleep smoking, Liza says. Marla drinks coffee and sits at the breakfast table. Marla wears a bathrobe. Louis was here earlier, Marla says and stares at the newspaper. The newspaper says that two more people were found at the bottom of a lake. The newspaper says that they got caught in a storm. Two more people, Hal asks. Hal stares at the one tree that is in blossom. It is spring not winter, he thinks. Yes, Marla says.

Where is Louis now, Greg asks. Greg is too young to be a detective, Marla thinks. Hal is dressed in golfing clothes. He stands in the kitchen and eats toast and he is grinning. Louis was fucking Jackie, Marla says to Hal. Hal laughs. Jackie burned up like a little piece of newspaper and she is dead, Greg says and looks at Marla. But you don’t smoke, Marla says to Liza. Liza starts to cry. Marla takes the blouse out of the dryer.



First Week


The Daily News says a tsunami will strike the city within the next month. Nector sleeps naked on 61st St. Marla returns from Bermuda. Ted Lime says that the Hornets are two games out of first place. I slept with a chauffeur on the beach, Marla says.


Do you want a date, Sally asks. Sally is a hooker. Sally wears red make-up and has thin sallow skin. I am in hell, Nector says. You don’t even want to hit me, Marla asks. I want to die, Sally says. Nector bleeds from his ears at night. Dr. Michaels says that the drinking level in urban America is at an all time high.


Nector has a bandage over his eyes. There are small round spots on the bandage. The spots are red. The spots grow. The bandage turns red. I am in hell, Nector says again.


Bobby is a police officer. Bobby sees Nector on the street. Why are you naked, Bobby asks. Theo lifts a box of bullets from his brother’s apartment. Downtown, there is a woman dancing behind a glass wall. Her eyes look like she is empty, Hue thinks. Where is her front door, Theo wonders. The girl in the window rubs herself. Hue hides in his shoulders and gives the girl another dollar.


Bobby arrests Nector and puts him in a cell with Angel. Angel is a crack dealer who lives in the Bronx. Angel has two brothers and a sister. Angel has a three year old daughter. Her name is Precious. I have no eyes, Nector says. I don’t either, Angel says and lies down.


You could kill me, Marla says. She is bald and looks like a ghost. Mrs. Fields is a psychiatrist who has a radio show on Sunday mornings. You look like a ghost, Hue says. Mrs. Fields says that white men in their late twenties are homicidal. I am not white, Hue says.


The judge looks at Angel. Why did you sell crack to a police officer, the judge asks. Marla shaves her head and stares at her reflection in the mirror. The man in my cell bleeds from his ears, Angel says. I look like I am famous, Marla says.


Bobby walks home and sees Theo on top of Maria. Maria is naked. Where are your clothes, Bobby asks. Hue masturbates in the downstairs bathroom. Marla buys a bottle of champagne for $29.95. There is a hurricane in southern Florida, Stan Harding says on the evening news. Those reports aren’t usually accurate, Theo says. Bobby undresses in the bathroom.



Early Adolescence


Mrs. Grace is a hooker. We play a game in class:

She is a tramp.
She is a coke-head.
She is a dirty prostitute.
I could pay her for sex and then I would feel better.

Mrs. Grace reads the responses. The last one is not a description, Mrs. Grace says. Mrs. Grace wears make-up that bleeds into her silk blouse. Her street money bought her that blouse. She is round under her blouse and she doesn’t wear anything under her skirt.

But you are right, Mrs. Grace adds. That girl is cheap. Mrs. Grace looks like a Halloween lantern. Oh, Mrs. Grace.

Mrs. Grace reads more responses.

She is stupid.
She is a punk bitch.
She don’t eat shit.

The class smiles and laughs. That is not English, Manual. Mrs. Grace shakes her head and looks like a manikin. She would screw like a manikin—up and down—with her dislodged glass eyes. She was bought in a store for $3.95 in Chinatown. She was sold next to the fake porcelain dragon. Oh, Mrs. Grace—

You poor hooker.

That wasn’t mine, Manual says. Sure, Mrs. Grace says. The class laughs at Manual again. Manual hides behind his shoulders.


She has a history of undressing in class.




I am in an unusual position. Music or history: the choice is up to me.

* * *

I find my new line of work stressful, so I call Tara to complain.

"You think YOU have it bad," she says. "I don't even LIKE my job."

I realize she has a point.

* * *

Pros and Cons of Music: a partial list.

PRO: It makes time pass pleasantly.

PRO: It can make a difficult situation bearable.

CON: It can make a difficult situation bearable.

I sit back and regard the list on the bright white screen.

* * *

Tara takes me out to dinner. "You look tired," she says. I play with my fork. "It's just this job," I say. "I can't stop thinking about it."

"Tell me about it," she sighs.

And then later:

"Do you think you'll ever get married?"

"I don't know," I say. "How could I know? There are millions of women who could make me happy, if only I could find one, and get along. But marriage? I don't know. I'm tired of making choices."

"You look tired," she says.

* * *

3:03 in the morning and I wake up with an idea: history is stepping out of time to understand time; music is stepping in time to lose time. Excited, I get out of bed to write this, but come morning it looks sad and flat as a the clean white page.

* * *

Pros and Cons of History: a partial list.

PRO: It connects us to the past.

PRO: It connects us to the future.

CON: To exist, it must be recorded.

CON: It requires work.

I print out the list, and throw it away.

* * *

Tara and I are in bed. "You have a beautiful body," I tell her. I can feel her smile in the dark. "My body likes your hands," she says, so I let them wander across her skin, like little animals wandering the woods. "I am lost," I say. "Tell me where to go." She takes my hands with hers and pushes them down. "You are on the right track," she says. In my mind's eye I am seeing stars. I am imagining the movement of heavenly bodies, and the history of an orderly, rational universe like the one Newton imagined, or Locke. In my heart I say it again: "I am lost." Tara is moaning. In the dark, it sounds like: me-too, me-too...


"What did you want to be when you were younger?"

"Not this."

"What, then?"

"I don't know. Important, I guess. Like how I feel when I'm having a dream."

* * *

It is late and the white screen is full of black lines. I am trying to express the relative strengths and weakness of history versus music in a narrative to submit to my supervisor. I have come to a conclusion, but am afraid: will he approve? what will become of me if he does not? what will become of history? of music?

Carefully I print and seal the pages in manilla envelope. On the outside, I write URGENT!, and drop it in the mail. Then I light a cigarette, and turn on some Beethoven.

I regard the smoke thoughtfully.

* * *

Several weeks pass. Finally I receive a letter in the mail: my supervisor received the letter. He wants to know: am I willing to take an another assignment? I look up from the letter. Tara needs a vacation, and I promised I would take her away for a while. I remove the check from the envelope. "Dreams or Security?" the letter says.

I sigh, and reach for the phone.

Oona's parasuicide



Oona is born in a field behind a punk rock concert. She has soft skin and puffy eyes.

When Oona is two, a man in a white slicker leaves her in a deli in Atlantic City. Two weeks later, New Jersey State assigns Oona a social worker. The social worker gives Oona to Marty. We don’t know if this one had a mother or not, the social worker muses.


Oona is a fifteen year old white girl. You look like a tramp, Marty says. Marty smokes cigarettes. Marty beats Oona with a metal baseball bat in the cemetery behind her high school. Get undressed Oona, Marty says.


She has a history of physical and sexual abuse.


Oona is addicted to crack. She buys crack from her pimp. Niko is her pimp. Niko sells Oona to business men from Staten Island. The men tie Oona to bedposts and whip her with belts. She likes it rough, Niko says.


Oona smokes crack in the bathroom and her eyes turn small and beedy. I think I am green, Oona thinks. Pretend to like it next time, Niko says. You are a hooker.


Oona is a hooker.



They howl in the bedroom.


She is in the bathroom. She inches to her feet. She is red in blood, her blood. Her mouth is dry and her lips are cracked. She is uncomfortable and has to urinate.


My shirt is ripped, she thinks and sees that she is naked—except the shirt. She still has her shirt on. But it is red now, in blood.


Is this my blood, she wonders. She lifts her shirt to her nose and smells. It smells like my blood. They are wolves, she thinks. They howl again. Oh, she thinks. It is Niko.


Niko makes a lot of noise, she thinks.



Cans of coke cost 75 cents in the lobby. She has 75 cents in her purse. Where is my purse, she asks. Fuck if I know, Niko says.


The lobby is crowded but the people are quiet. Thank you, Oona says. A woman behind a desk wears a suit. She looks like a flight attendent. The woman asks Oona if she is ok.


Is the coke machine working, Oona asks.



Oona is put into hard restraints and taken into a white building with men and women in white.


Oona plans a parasuicide:

Plan A: Use belt around neck
Plan B: Insert nose ring into vein
Plan C: Dive off sink in Quiet room
Plan D: Tie yellow suit around neck.


Oona takes out her nose ring and puts it into her mouth. Hank is a security guard and he likes to touch the girls on their chests. Hank puts Oona’s arms behind her back and puts Oona in soft restraints.


Oona has a history of hospitalizations.



Hendrik is a Heathen


Hendrik is born in Utah. His house is on a red hill. The sun in Utah is yellow.


Hendrik is a heathen. When Hendrik is fifteen, Dale tries to cure him. Dale is a professional farmer. Dale farms in the summer and winter and his tomatoes are the size of small human heads. I know how to cure Hendrik, Dale says. Dale sells his tomatoes for $4.95 each.


Dale ties Hendrik to a bench in a stable. The stable has horses in it. The horses are bred to race on the track that is in town. Last year, Betsy won $15,000 at the Galven Main Horse Race. Betsy bought a red truck and drove it to Texas to visit her brother, Jimmy. Jimmy is a race car driver. Once, Jimmy’s picture was in Car and Driver. The caption on the picture said Jeff Gordon and unidentified friend. One day, Jimmy says, I will be in a magazine without ‘unidentified’.


Do you believe in Jesus, Dale asks Hendrik. I don’t know, Hendrik says. Dale pauses and looks at the ground. I wish I had a bible, Dale thinks.

I guess we will have to use gasoline, Dale says. Dale walks out of the stable and gets into his blue truck. The rocks in Utah are red.


Dale drives to town in his blue truck. Dale listens to his radio and taps his steering wheel. The salt flats are white. The sun is pink. Dale bounces his head back and forth. He passes a sign that says: Biggest Tomatoes in Utah $3.95.


You sell bigger tomatoes than they do, Gracie says. Gracie looks like a thin piece of wallpaper. You should stop smoking Gracie, Dale says. It makes you look like a ghost. But I’m not a ghost, Gracie says and throws her cigarette into the garden. Those are my tomatoes, Dale says. Go to hell Dale, Gracie says and walks inside.

You live in a trailer, Dale thinks.


Dale lives in a trailer.


The Mattison family lives in a trailer.
Jimmy lives in a trailer.


Dale gets his shotgun and walks to the farm stand. I have bigger tomatoes, Dale says. Oh, Hickory says. Hickory is four years old and she can count to 159. Once she ran around her trailer 27 times. Once I ran around my house 27 times, Hickory says. Did you write the sign on the highway, Dale asks. Do you want a tomato, Hickory asks.


Horses sleep standing up, Hendrik thinks and falls asleep. Hendrik dreams that he owns ice skates and that he is skating on his ice skates. Wake up Hendrik, Dale says. Hendrik wakes up. Do you believe in Jesus Hendrik, Dale asks. I don’t know Dale, Hendrik says.


My horse was in that barn, Betsy says. I’ll buy you a new barn, Dale says. Last call, Mel says. But it is only midnight, Dale says. Its Tuesday Dale, Mel says. Oh, Dale says.



Betsy approaches Zero and the South falls again


Georgia is a red state in the South. Hal lives in Georgia. He carries a shotgun in town. Hal is a mechanic but he used to be a factory worker. Once, he was even a plumber. He chews tobacco in his mouth. He lives in a one room truck. The truck is next to a strip mall and a gas station.

Darla and Hal eat fast food. They look orange and yellow. Hal gets Darla pregnant. Darla is sixteen. They have a daughter. When she is born she is round and has fat fingers. Darla says Cu-cu little girl. Darla cuddles the girl and smiles. Hal walks out of the hospital. We had a fucking girl, Hal says. Darla names their daughter Betsy because Hal doesn’t care what they name her.

Later, Hal decides to marry Darla. He finds a ring at a rest stop in Alabama. The Bulldogs are playing the Tide. Hal gives the ring to Darla. We won the game, Hal says to Darla. She is my precious, Hal says. He is talking about Darla. But he is looking at his Bulldog mascot. Darla wears a t-shirt that says Best Mama. She says that Yankees are snobs and slobs. We don’t like those northerners down here, she says.

We had a fucking girl, Hal tells Jimmy. Jimmy works at the hardware store. He already has two daughters. Daughters are no good Hal, Jimmy says. He continues to stock his shelves. Do you see either of them helping me here Hal, Jimmy asks. They are four years old Jimmy, Hal says.


At school, the other children call Betsy Peach. She will go to a university with a mascot like a Tiger or a Bull or a horse, the guidance counselor says. The guidance counselor is twenty-six. She has never had a man, Darla says. Don’t trust her, Hal says. I have a boyfriend, Betsy says.

Betsy is dating a boy from the North, Darla says to Gracie. What is his name, Gracie asks. Holden or Clay or Brad—I can’t remember, Darla says. Darla has her face in her hands and she has been crying. Your make-up will run dear, Gracie says. Oh dear, Darla says. Darla scurries into the bathroom.


Dad, this is Clay.
Is he from the North?
Yes, dad.


He talked about golf and yachting, Hal tells Jimmy. Jimmy and Hal are at Lou’s. Lou’s is a bar that has been opened for 65 years. There is a picture of General Lee on the wall. Lou’s grandfather Lou first opened the bar. Lou’s grandfather passed the bar to Lou’s father. Now Lou owns the bar. Maybe I should sell the bar, Lou says. Why, Hal asks. I don’t know, Lou says and continues washing glasses. At the end of the bar, a girl on a cell phone is laughing. She wears open-toed shoes and a tank-top.

Give me another Bourbon, Hal says.
Me too, Jimmy says.


Excuse me, can I have another Cosmopolitan, the girl on the cell phone asks.


A few years ago, there was a war between the men in the North and the men in the South. The men in the South wanted to start their own country. A tall man in the North said that the South was racist and backward. He said that the South couldn’t start its own country.


Betsy has sex with Clay in the backseat of Hal’s pickup. Betsy twists and turns in the backseat and her body tingles and she thinks that she floats. I feel like a boat, Betsy says. Me too, Clay says. Will we live in the North, Betsy asks. This is about the Union, Clay says. This is not about you and me.


I won’t free any slave at all if it is better for the Union, the man in the hat said.


Jesus looks white on the cross.


Betsy turns into a balloon. She will not go to a school with a tiger or a bull or a horse. Now the kids at school call her Big Betsy. She cries in the bathroom in the afternoon and her make-up runs down her cheeks.

Soon, Betsy gives birth to a boy. Betsy names the boy Stanton. He looks like Clay, Hal says.



The Flat Earth


Love is like an orange. The world is flat. The globe in the classroom is wrong.


Hugh has hands like flying saucers. The boys and girls in the third grade sit in rows and do not speak. Matthew raises his hand. May I be excused, Matthew asks. Yes, Hugh says. Hugh is sitting on his desk and swinging his legs.

Girls in fourth grade have yellow skin, Mark says when Matthew walks into the bathroom. Mark looks at Matthew. Matthew is small and has tiny arms. Who are you, Mark asks. I am Matthew, Matthew says. Give me a dollar Matthew. Ok, Matthew says.

In the classroom, Hugh laughs. The walls in the school are thin. It used to be a school for little nuns. The boys in the bathroom can hear Hugh laugh. That is my teacher, Matthew says. I know, Mark says. Now give me a dollar. Ok, Matthew says. Matthew hopes his family will move to the castle in England. That is where Mr. Clayton says they will go if life continues to be so damn hard in the mine.

Matthew goes back to the classroom and sits down. Hugh laughs again. His laugh sounds like a man screaming inside an empty water well. I have an empty water well in my backyard, Stacey says. Really, Hugh asks. How big is it. I don’t know, Stacey says. My brother fell into it last winter and Mr. Clayton said that it was too deep to get him out. Oh, Hugh says.


Mrs. Clayton cries in the kitchen. Why does she cry, Stacey asks Matthew. Because she is sad, Matthew says. Why is she sad? Because we can’t move to England because life is not too hard because Mr. Clayton can still work in the mine.

Mr. Clayton drinks whiskey and falls asleep in the chair in the living room. The man on the television says things like: people die in car bomb; tornado takes down Lutheran Church; famous man who played a horn dies in his sleep. Matthew plays with his trucks on the rug. The red truck is bigger than the blue truck. Aren’t you too old to play with trucks, Mrs. Clayton asks. She stands behind Matthew. She rubs her hands together. She is not crying now. Her face has hardened and it looks like a cement rock.

Mr. Clayton snores in his chair. His left leg twitches. His neck is going to hurt in the morning, Mrs. Clayton thinks. She walks into the kitchen and lights a cigarette. My boy is going to turn into a boy who likes to get caught in bathrooms, she thinks and sighs. She decides to smoke two cigarettes.


Where is the dollar for milk, Stacey asks Matthew. I spent it, Matthew says. But I am thirsty, Stacey says. Go get your own milk, Matthew says and walks away. Matthew has a red mark on his neck. The mark looks like a coal miner’s hand.

The principle sees Matthew in the hallway. Did somebody hit you on the neck, the principle asks. The principle wears glasses and a wool suit. The principle cleans his glasses. His shoes are black and polished.

Mind your own business, Matthew says. I am calling Mrs. Clayton, the principle says. Go to hell, Matthew says and smiles. Matthew knows that hell is a place that is hot and on fire. The men in hell carry pitch forks and pinch one another. The men in hell scream and say, “Why me?” God laughs at the men in hell. He should really go to hell, Matthew thinks.


Mrs. Clayton knocks on the classroom door. Is Matthew here, she asks. She has a flowered skirt on and she has red marks on her neck that look like coal miner hands. Did somebody hit you, Hugh asks. Where is Matthew, Mrs. Clayton asks.


Why aren’t there women in hell, Matthew asks Hugh later. Because women are in heaven, Hugh says.


Matthew told the principle to go to hell, Mrs. Clayton says to Mr. Clayton. Mr. Clayton shakes his head and walks into the basement. He is going to get the sticks Matthew, Mrs. Clayton says. She walks into the kitchen and stares out the window. There is one tree in the yard and the one tree has white flowers on it. There is a well next to the tree. The well has not had water for many years.

Mr. Clayton returns from the basement. Matthew is moving to England, Mr. Clayton says to Stacey and Mrs. Clayton. I am moving to England, Matthew thinks. He follows Mr. Clayton into the basement. Help me tie this rope to that beam Matthew, Mr. Clayton says. Ok, Matthew says. Matthew and Mr. Clayton tie the rope to the beam. Put this around your neck, Mr. Clayton says. Now climb to the top of the stairs and jump. Is this a game, Matthew asks. Yes, Mr. Clayton says.

Matthew jumps. Love is like an orange. The world is really flat. Hugh throws the globe out the window and smiles. The principle cleans his glasses and smiles.



The White Line

Donna did not always live in the big green mental hospital on the white plains. When she was a girl her home was under the Montana sky, which is often said to be the widest, bluest of all the skies in America. Her home looked like this:


Donna lived inside with her mother, her father, her sister and her brother. Things stayed that way for a long time. Many times the sun went up and the house got bright; Donna and her sister and her brother went to school, then out to play. When the sun went down the sky got dark and the stars went bright and they all stayed inside: Donna, her mother, her sister, and her brother.

Donna's father went out a lot. One day he didn't come back. "We're moving," Donna's mother told them. "We're going to Wyoming. You're all going to like it there."

She was wrong. Donna didn't like Wyoming. The sun went down and up but it wasn't the same. The shadows were too sharp. The air was too flat. "I don't like it here," Donna told her mother. "Be quiet, Donna – Richie and I are trying to talk." Richie was her boyfriend. Donna's mother knew Richie from when she was in high school, and now they all lived together in Wyoming where the shadows were sharp and the days dragged by like a dead dog across the desert. "I miss Daddy," Donna said.

Donna's father missed her, too. He wrote her letters that said I miss you darling… I hope you can come visit me soon in Montana. But Donna never visited him. "I don't want that good-for-nothing trying to break up this family," Richie told Donna's mother. "I don't need him
feeding Donna any lies about me." Donna's mother didn't say anything, so she agreed, and Donna never got the letters.

What she got were rabbits.

The first rabbit came in July. The sun was hot like an egg on the flat sky. He came in a box with small holes on the side. "Oh Mommy!" Donna said. She hugged the rabbit against her chest. "Can I keep him?" Donna's mother was tired and sweaty. "Okay," she said, "but you have to feed him, or else he will die. I'm not taking care of any rabbits. I already have enough mouths to feed." Donna was happy and she took the rabbit and showed him to her brother and sister.

The rabbit looked like this:

\ /
/\ /
Richie came home when it was dark. "What's for dinner?" he said. "What's that rabbit?"

"It's my rabbit," Donna told him. "Daddy sent him." Richie's face went red.

"What did I tell you? Trying to break up the family!" He called for Donna's mother. "What were you thinking, letting that good-for-nothing try and buy Donna's love with a filthy rabbit?"

"He's not filthy," Donna said.

"Get over here," Richie said.


As the weeks went by the rabbits kept coming. First he sent them once a month, then twice. In October he sent her a whole family, for her birthday.

"Ha ha," Richie said. "That good-for-nothing is good for something after all. He is keeping our family well-fed."


By her next birthday, the rabbits stopped coming. Donna stood in the hot sun and looked at the sky. It looked like this:


In school she asked her teacher, "Do rabbits go to heaven when they die?"

"I don't know, Donna," she said. "What do you think?" Donna thought.

"I think they go to rabbit heaven," she said. The teacher smiled.

"Why, that makes perfect sense."


Donna draws a picture. Outside the window the grounds are green and wind runs pas the trees, through the fence, and up into the sky. Donna takes a white crayon and draws a line on the paper. The doctors want to know: What are you drawing Donna? Are you feeling well today?

Yes I am feeling well.

Are you drawing a picture?

Yes I am drawing a white line on white paper.

What are you making?

I am making a picture of rabbit heaven.

The doctors take note.


When Donna turned sixteen she found a way back to Montana. Donna's father was so happy he could barely speak.

"Darling!" he said.

He invited her in.

He had a new wife now. She seemed friendly and far-away. It didn't matter to Donna; even if she missed her mother and wished she could see her, she was happy to be home. She loved her father, even though he came into her room at night, and soon he bought her enough rabbits that they had to build a special room in the house just to keep them. Later, when she had to go away to live on the white plains, he kept them healthy and happy in their special room, and made sure that Donna got pictures every week so she knew everything was going to be alright:

\ /
/\ /\

The City


On Monday, the Newspaper headline says: Bomb. There is a picture of an explosion on the front page. That looks like our city, I think. The explosion looks like a mushroom. They call it a mushroom explosion, Clark says. Oh Clark, I say, you haven’t checked the fax machine. I didn’t know it was on, Clark says. The fax machine is always on, Clark.

There are two faxes from Mr. Ridgley. He wants ten acres of land on the South Island and fifteen acres on the North Island. You told me he wanted ten acres of land on the North Island and fifteen acres of land on the South Island. That is what I said, Clark says. Oh Clark, I say, you should really wear a collar shirt to work.


On Tuesday, I see two young men hitting an old man with a stick. Sally used to tie me to a chair and hit me with a stick. She called it My Game. I liked My Game. Are you playing My Game, I ask the two young men. The two men look at me and spit on the ground. They shake their heads and walk away.

The old man is on the ground and he has his hands over his face. The old man has blood on his shirt and he has cuts on his arms. You should get that cleaned up, I say. You look terrible. Some old people don’t like looking young and successful, I think.


On Wednesday, there is a lot of noise on the street and the fax machine at the office is broken. The fax machine is broken, I say. I know, Clark says. Are you picking your nose, I ask Clark. No, Clark says. I think you were picking your nose, I say. We will have to get the fax machine fixed, Clark. I think you should call the repair men.

All afternoon, Clark and I wait for the repair men. The repair men do not come. Did you call the repair men, I ask Clark when it is dark. Yes, Clark says. I left a message. They didn’t answer? No, there was nobody there. The noise outside is still loud. It is difficult to work in a busy city, I think. I shake my head. I should take a day off, I think. Sally can tie me to a chair and beat me with a stick.


On Thursday, the people in the street have yellow skin. Some of the people have holes in their bodies. Why do you have a hole in your arm, I ask an old lady who looks like my grandmother. She looks at me and giggles. She has no teeth and her breath is very bad. I think you should brush your teeth, I say. She is not my grandmother, I think.

When I get to the office, Clark is not there. Where is Clark, I wonder. The fax machine is still broken. Why isn’t Clark here, I wonder again. I look for Clark under his desk and in the closet. He is not there. Hmph, I think. Maybe he has yellow skin like the other people in the street. Living in the city is odd, I think. I should take a day off, I think.


On Friday, there is nobody on the street and it is quiet. I cannot take today off, I think. There are very few days when it is quiet in the city. I wonder if Clark will be in the office today. I say goodbye to Sally and walk to work. Hmph, I think, Sally did not say goodbye. I shake my head. Life in the city is too busy for everyone.

On the street, two men who do not look like me come toward me. They have sticks in their hands. They speak to me in a language I do not understand. No thank you, I say. I keep walking. But the men are rude. They do not let me keep walking. I look at the men. They have strange uniforms on. Oh, I say, you must be from the fax machine repair shop. Of course, I think. Yes, the fax machine is broken. I can show you the way. I begin to walk but the two men want me to go some other way. Maybe it is a shortcut, I think.

The two men lead me onto a narrow street. We have to walk single file. I have never walked this way to work before. Maybe it is faster. At the end of the street, I see a man face up in the street. He is smiling. His skin is yellow. I know that man, I think. Oh yes, it is Clark. I call to Clark. Clark, I say. I knew you had yellow skin. I knew that was why you weren’t in the office yesterday. Clark does not say anything. He does not look at me. I shake my head. This city is getting too big, I think.

The two men push me against the wall. They talk to me in a language I do not understand. No, I say, the fax machine is in my office.




I kissed Marla twice -- once on New Year's Eve, and then again 12 days later.  She is a dancer with thin arms and fat thighs.  Kissing made her nervous.  "This makes me nervous," she said, and kissed me again.


Alexa is crying.  "If I tell you, you might change your mind."

"I won't change my mind."  She looks at him and Robert feels something in his chest.

"How can you know? You don't even know."  She is hysterical now, her face is a broken mirror, her lips are swollen and wet. She crumples into his chest.

"Trust me," he says.


Later they are under the sheets.  He has given her a stone with a word carved on it, as if by typewriter.  He is inside of her and she makes noises like a rusty tin machine.  She is squeaking.  She is about to come, and when she does her fingers find his and grips them fast in a mousetrap-slap.  He discovers she is still holding the stone.

Afterwards, as if by sweat, the stone is stained the color of the evening sky. Just yesterday it was gray.


We are on the roof.  The sky is bright over Cambridge but still the rain falls softly, slowly, on our hands and through our hair.  Marla has caught me with her eyes, and knowing this makes her happy.  I want to look away: the Charles, the wet sky, my life on the other side of the river.  "Alright," I say, and her tiny hands dig into my sides.

"You mean it ?"

"I do."

"Michael's coming to Montana," she sings softly.  "Trust me -- we're going to be so happy."


Sam is short and he wants the world to himself.
Some people are like that.
He decides he needs a drink:
"I want a drink," Sam says.
The city is hot teeth on a black sky.
He finds a bar to order a whiskey.
Women are moving their bodies to the beat.
Sam has never touched a woman.
He has never made love to a woman.
He has never kissed her.
There is an invisible wall between Sam and the women moving their bodies across the bar.
He would prefer to tie them up,
tie their legs together,
their arms to the bed,
and make love to them then.
Some people are like that.


Khalil is trying to make his soul like air.
He is outside the supermarket.
The sky is a sky the ocean dreams about.
Khalil suffers from a peculiar condition:
the world is too much for him—
strangers’ laughter, the shadows sunlight makes on brick—
his own warm skin—
makes his eyes water.
So he stands on the corner outside the supermarket like a stone in a river,
spreads his fingers,
and makes of himself a sieve.


Sam is drunk.
"I am drunk," he decides,
and walks over to a dancing woman.
"I am drunk," he says.
The woman does not move her eyes to look at him.
"I want to tie you up," he says.

Sam is outside the bar with blood on his head.
"I will not go back to that bar again," he thinks.
Instead he makes his way though the city streets as if in a dream.
He does not know what will come next.
Women pass by leaving trails of perfume and warm love.
Men look hungry, or satisfied.
"I will fuck you all," Sam says.
The passerbys look worried, so he says it again--
"I will fuck you all,
I will fuck you all—"
until he is satisfied.


Sam passes Khalil on the street corner.
"Fuck you all," Sam tells him.
Khalil is standing with his fingers spread open.
He looks at Sam's eyes with his own.
Sam stops. "I said,
Fuck you all."
Khalil smiles.
He is letting the world try him on.
He is like sunlight, like jewels.
The city wears him like a cloud.
"You hear me, man?" asks Sam.
He is leaning dangerously close.
"You hear what I’m saying?"


Sam makes it home and takes off his pants.
He rubs his cock hard and fast, like violence.
There is blood on his hands that will dry and cake while he sleeps.
"…don’t fucking listen," he is saying to himself.
"They don’t fucking listen."
Then he comes.
Some people are like that.

Julie Kisses Girls


The sign outside the building says: Almost Whores.

The building is white. The windows on the building have bars. The girls who live in the building are white and black and brown and red. Some of the girls are almost mature. Some of the girls have breasts. The girls wear white dresses and cross their legs and say thank you.

The girls are managed well. The girls are told how to develop. You must not develop your breasts until you are ready for children, the Madam says. She is old and has crinkly skin and makes purring and cooing noises—but only when she is excited. If you mature too quickly you will become a whore, the Madam says. I didn’t ask to have big breasts, Julie says. You were always meant to be a prostitute, the Madam says.

I want to die, Julie thinks. Maybe I just will kill myself.


Hollis is a barber. Hollis cuts hair on Broadway and 61st St. He charges $4 for a haircut. Single men come into his shop. They wear suits and have moustaches. One of them plays baseball for the baseball team in town.

“Take a little off the top and a little off the sides.” The baseball player says. Hollis nods and cleans his scissors. “Do you want gel?” Hollis asks. “No.” The man says. The man is not in his uniform but his face looks like the face in the television commercials. I have seen the television commercials before, Hollis thinks. Why do I buy gel, Hollis thinks.

Hollis listens to the radio. His son is a garbage man and makes $18 every hour. His son smells like things that people don’t want anymore. I wonder if I smell like hair, Hollis thinks. In the afternoon, Hollis sweeps up his shop and stands in front of the liquor store and smokes cigarettes. Maybe I should commit suicide, Hollis thinks.


Julie kisses Molly. Molly kisses Sally. Molly and Sally are girls. Molly has red hair and thin teeter tott bones. Molly kissed Sally, Julie thinks. I know you kissed Molly, Tom says.

Tom is Julie’s counselor. He carries a clipboard. He makes marks on his clipboard. His shoes make sounds when he walks. You can’t kiss girls, Tom says. Ok, Julie says. Julie is upset. Why did Molly kiss Sally, Julie wonders. Why doesn’t Tom talk to Sally, Julie thinks.

I want to die, Julie thinks. Maybe I will kill myself.


Julie has a white dress on. All the girls wear white dresses. When Molly has on her white dress she looks like a nurse, Julie thinks. I don’t even like girls, Julie thinks. Tom has thick hair on his arms. He walks like he has pains in his knees. I used to play football, Tom says. And then I stopped.

Julie, we are going to have to move you to Level 5, Tom says. No, Julie says. Yes, Tom says. You have not behaved on Level 4. But on Level 3 I could kiss boys, Julie thinks. I don’t even like kissing girls, Julie thinks. I want to die, Julie mumbles. I am going to kill myself. Tom walks away. She can hear Tom’s shoes on the mopped floor.


Julie decides to escape from the white building. There are a thousand ways to kill myself in the outside world, she thinks. I can kill myself with anything at all. She looks at her breasts and breathes out. Fuck you Tom, she thinks.


On Sunday, Julie escapes from the white building. She bends back the bars on Level 5. She slides down the outside pole. When she is on the sidewalk, outside, she runs with her hands in the air. I am free, she thinks. I can finally kill myself, she thinks.

Hollis sees Julie slide down the pole. He sees Julie run. He is on the corner, in front of the liquor store. She escaped, Hollis thinks and smiles. Nobody ever gets out of that building, Hollis thinks. He walks inside and cleans his mirrors. Hmph, he thinks and smiles.




tomorrow when I wake up I will take Ross’ arm and lead him under the skeletal tracks mounted over the intersection of broadway and 231st for subways to rumble through on. Across broadway, on the west side, is the bodega Ross picked. I will buy him a diet pepsi and a shrink-wrapped pastry of his choosing; I will buy Gary a diet pepsi, Tommy a pepsi, and Steven a coffee.

six days ago I bought Steven a coffee but he didn’t like it. "It’s no good," he said. "What’s wrong with it, Steven?" He shook his head. "No, it’s no good."

when Steven was sixteen he lost his virginity to Ms. Ramos, his mother’s friend. She said, "Do you like this, Steven?" And he said, "Yes, yes," and she asked, "Should I stop?" And he said, "No, don’t stop." which is what she did, she did not stop. Randy Steven’s brother watched. He lay still under the sheet to pretend he was asleep, and peeked through the hole he curled up in the blanket. He told his mother the next day that Ms. Ramos was rubbing Steven’s pee-pee, and then said it again to the police, and to the social worker, and to the psychologist. the file says "Steven ******* is a 17-year-old African-American male diagnosed with Moderate Mental Retardation with a rule-out indicated for Autism. He was referred to our agency to evaluate his appropriateness for outpatient treatment with a clinician who specializes in…."

tomorrow when I check the behavior book in apartment 18C I will make sure to update the apartment’s behavior protocol regarding sexual contact between residents. it is prohibited, unless a psychosexual evaluation determines that they are able to consent.



tomorrow I will type the list and file it appropriately. I will make sure Sharon, Tia, and Alex understand the protocol, and in-service them if necessary. six months ago I inserviced Tia for the first time. The issue was regarding human rights. "The residents have a right to worship as they please," I explained to her. We were in Steven’s room while he was away at programming. "Asking them to say Grace over the dinner table is well-intentioned, but takes away their ability to decide: Do I want to say Grace?" I said it so she could understand. When she kissed me I remember how she push ed her tongue into my mouth with such force I was momentarily obliterated. Several times later I would think of this while inservicing her on various issues come up from the apartment, like Safety & Security, proper use of the Swear Jar, Time-outs & Discipline.

I have gone over these areas with Sharon and Alex, though not in same depth.

tomorrow I will not see Tia; she works the day after tomorrow and tomorrow I will take Ross across broadway with his head like a bees nest of electrical thought and get him the diet pepsi he wants. Ross must be escorted to the corner store since Alex witnessed him offering people sexual favors for money in the park. Ross does not need money -- I buy him what he needs: but he thinks he needs money, and will go to any length to get it. We do not know when this began, if its genesis was the incident several years ago with Steven and the dollar bill, or buried in the Ross’ undocumented past. so tomorrow I am happy to go with Ross and take his arm across the street. th e sun will be shining, Steven told me so, and he is always right about such things.

"Sunshine tomorrow," he said. "No raincoat."

yesterday Tia arrived dressed for rain. the sky was dark like an eggplant when she came in, and then lightning flashed, and the radio went on by itself. "I must have turned it on," she said. I didn’t laughI was busy cleaning Gary, who had shit himself in the bathroom. I wore a plastic apron and on my hands were plastic gloves. Two hours later, after the residents were asl eep, I watched Tia take off her rain clothes and put on the apron. It was dirty, but I still felt my dick stiffen and I wanted to pull her onto me. I did, and the crinkle of plastic made songs for the residents that lasted the night.



today is a sickday; I am surprised. I hadn't imagined an open window, birdsong, sunlight laid out like maps on the backs of homes under tree branches and sun. ross is walking with danny down 231st street getting looks from the young girls streaming by. t he street is a river to him. he is under water. "you like the girls with the nice ass eh?" manny makes hands like a nice ass, "you like eh?" and puts his hands around ross' shoulder. above them the satellite slowly turns; somewhere it is is starting to rain...


in three days I will present Steven's case for the human rights panel. they are compromised of upstanding parents, professionals, and a few I don't recognize. "I tell you what I think of those human right fucks," Danny explains. "I tell you where they can put their opinions." But he does not.


My Wall

Part One

The newspaper advertisement says: LAND: $225 an acre. The advertisement is large and the picture is in color. The colors are red and pink and yellow. It is a picture of the desert. There is a smiling family in the picture. The desert looks friendly and warm, I think. I could buy ten acres. My wife is tall and thin and has blonde hair. She makes little sweaters. She sells the sweaters in a store.

I could buy a farm in New Mexico, I tell my wife.
Really, she asks. Do you like the blue yarn or the brown yarn.
I like the blue yarn, I say.
Oh, she says. I thought you would like the brown yarn.
We could move to New Mexico, I say.
Ok, she says. But don’t change your mind about the yarn.

We move to New Mexico. I buy ten acres of land in New Mexico. I own a farm. I am going to farm desert trees and sell them to the Native Americans. It is a good idea. The Native Americans live on land that is flat and empty, I tell my wife. The Native Americans told the white settlers that they could live anywhere. The white settlers did not believe them. Try living there, the white settlers said. Ok, the Native Americans said. They did not even have trees. Now, they still don’t have trees.

We have to give them trees, I say.
But arent they dangerous, my wife asks.
I think so, I say. But I bought a rifle and a book.
What book did you buy, she asks.

I bought a book by Andrew Jackson. It was written when there were more Native Americans in the United States (some people call them Indians in the book, but they are really Native Americans). The book tells me how to talk to the Native Americans. I need to know how to talk to the Native Americans.

Who are those people on our lawn, my wife suddenly interrupts.
What people, I ask.

I am busy reading the book and I do not want to look up. Andrew Jackson is discussing treaties and handshakes. I am trying to practice in front of the mirror. My wife should be knitting and figuring out when is the best time for us to make babies.

But there really are people on our lawn.


There really are people on our lawn.
I don’t think these people are Native Americans, I whisper to my wife.

The Native Americans have to live on reservations and there are moats with sharks around the reservations. They wouldn’t be able to get off the reservations. Not without a boat. But if they had boats they might have come to Europe. I laugh and hug my wife. I put the shotgun down.

Of course, they aren’t Native Americans, I tell her.
Will they go away, my wife asks.

I look through the window and see men on the lawn. They sit in circles. One of them has a guitar. They are singing and the desert is pink. The men look young and happy like they are at home. This is not their home, I think. They should not look happy. I am discouraged and I get in my car. I drive to town.

There are men on my lawn, I say.
Build a wall, the man at the shop says.
Where, I ask.
Around your house, he says. If you don’t they will keep coming.
Oh, ok. I say.

I drive home. I am disappointed. I really wanted to sell desert trees to the Native Americans. But now I have to build a wall to keep these men out. Maybe we shouldn’t have moved to New Mexico, I think. When I am home, I cannot find my wife. I call her. Wife, I say. She does not answer. Wife, I say again. She still does not answer.

Later, I find her in the closet. Are they gone, she asks. I sigh. I will build the wall now, I tell her. Let me go to the store and get some wood and nails. I came to New Mexico to sell trees to Native Americans and now I have to build walls, I think. After I build the wall, I can plant the trees.


You are building a wall, the man at the store asks.
Yes, I say. I have men on my lawn.
Are there women too, he asks.
I think so, I say.
You might have to shoot them, he says.

He is old and thin and I can see the bones in his face. He has blue eyes and smoke tinted skin. He does not blink. I have a rifle, I tell him.


The Un-Seen


The house is in the desert. The desert is hot and dry. In the desert, the sun is yellow and is round like a ball. Hugh builds his house in the desert. Hugh has a mute wife who stands in the kitchen and looks out the window. It is spring but it looks like winter. Or fall. Hugh’s wife is Stacey. Stacey is not white but Hugh tells his friends that he will make her white. Stacey sometimes cries in the bathroom but she doesn’t make any sound.

The walls in the house are thin and have holes in them. The holes come after storms. Storms are when Hugh gets angry and makes holes in the walls. He tells Stacey that they are his storms and that she bruises like she is almost white. But you don’t yet bruise like you are white, Hugh says. Hugh wonders when she is going to be white.

Hugh has two children with Stacey. They make the children in the garage. Stacey does not like to make children with Hugh and she tries to make him stop. But Hugh won’t stop. White women wouldn’t make me stop, Hugh thinks. Hugh slaps Stacey. Stacey doesn’t cry. She looks at Hugh and her eyes twinkle. Her eyes twinkle like two little stars. Hugh hates stars. You are laughing at me, Hugh says. Hugh slaps Stacey and Stacey runs out of the garage. She hides in the bathroom and cries. She doesn’t make any sound when she cries because she is mute.

If only she were white, Hugh thinks. He puts on his clothes and walks outside. He smokes a cigarette. It is almost morning. The desert light is pink on the rocks and it looks like Mars. The desert is soft like it has arms in the morning.

Later in the year, Stacey has two children. Maybe Hugh won’t want more than two children, Stacey thinks. Hugh names the children Stan and Arnie. Stan and Arnie grow fast and begin to look like Hugh. One day, I will have to murder my children, Stacey thinks. She walks into the kitchen and shakes her head.

When Arnie is five, he throws rocks at chickens and lights himself on fire. He does not die but he looks funny because he is a little burned boy. Maybe I won’t have to kill Arnie, Stacey thinks. When Stan is seven, he is expelled from school because he is caught in the bathroom with another boy. Arnie won’t tell Hugh what he did. What type of children did you give me, Hugh asks his wife.


Hugh and Stacey are in the garage. Stacey is a mute. Hugh wants to make her round. Stacey is bruised and she does not want to be round. She shakes her head. Hugh hits her. Arnie and Stan are outside. They hear Hugh hit Stacey.

Hugh hits Stacey, Stan says.
I know, Arnie says.
He shouldn’t hit Stacey, Stan says.
What did you do with that boy in the bathroom, Arnie asks.
Nothing, Stan says.

Stan is short. He has his hands in his pocket and he looks at the ground. Arnie does not go to school because the other children call him freak and push him on the ground and kick dirt in his face.

Do you think they would kick me still, Arnie asks.
Yes, Stan says. They are meaner now.
Oh, Arnie says. His face is always going to be crinkled like a raisin.

Hugh hits Stacey again. Stacey looks at Hugh. She takes off her clothes and puts her hands on her side. It is quiet in the desert because there is no wind. There is no sound in the garage and Arnie looks at Stan. Stan looks at the ground.

I think Stacey stopped, Arnie says.
I think we are going to have a brother, Stan says.
Will I still have to stay at home, Arnie asks.
You will always have to stay home, Stan says.



Street Men

Theo buys pills from his brother and sells them on the corner. Theo’s brother is Ted. Ted has small glasses and a round paw print on his right shoulder. I was in jail, Ted says. I was in jail and I told them I didn’t want to play their games, Ted says. The paw print looks odd when it is summer because the paw print is red.

Lance drinks beer in the bar. The bar is called Ray’s. The beer costs 75 cents a glass. The beer looks like apple juice. The bartender is a white man who killed his wife. The court said he didn’t kill his wife. But when the bartender is drunk he smiles and says, I killed her.

Theo tells Lance that he is going to kill his brother, Ted. Lance tells the bartender that Theo is going to kill his brother. I didn’t know you had a brother, the bartender says. Lance shakes his head. I don’t have a brother, he says.

The pills will be cheaper if I kill him, Theo thinks. He is on the street. His hands are hot and he thinks that he is cold. He smokes cigarettes and walks up and down the street. He is nervous. Maybe I should practice, he thinks. Maybe I should practice so that I don’t mess up. It is dark and it is cold because spring has not come.

Lance has small hands. He drinks his beer and pays 75 cents. Lance is a Capricorn. He was born in a barn and his mother looked at him and said: oh. Lance looks at his fingers and says: oh. The bartender cleans pint glasses and smiles. I killed my wife, the bartender thinks. Ted has a tattoo on his right shoulder, Lance says.

I know, the bartender says. The bar is crowded because there is an important sports game on and the two players that are playing in the game are tall and do not look like real people. The bar is loud and Lance thinks that he is going to leave. Two men in the back begin to yell at one another. They are angry about the game. The bartender gets his shotgun. The two men stop fighting when they see the shotgun. We can resolve this outside, the men say.

The other people continue to watch the game. The bartender puts the shotgun back. Theo walks back and forth on the street. I need to practice, he thinks. Now his hands are red and cold. Ted will be home soon, Theo thinks and Ted comes home. Ted sees Theo. Ted says, Hi Theo. Hi Ted, Theo says. Do you need more pills, Ted asks. Ted is tall and he looks like he could have been one of the men in the game on the television.

I need more pills, Theo says. Theo starts to cry. Don’t cry, Ted says. Jail is not that bad.