My eyes are a camera. When I was a young boy eight nine ten years old, I’d keep my left eye close to the wall, at eye level as if I were a living breathing Steadicam, my right eye closed, an eternal tracking shot, my left eye forever open, the score always in the background, the score I had written on a one hundred dollar Casio. I pan down the hall, to the left, past the bathroom, Mama’s room, into my bedroom, I pivot and the left eye closes and the right eye opens, it’s seamless, undetectable by the human eye, a marvel at 50 FPS, my tiny bedroom a diffused here and now, Mama’s voice coming to me from the kitchen – Nathan, what are you doing? Nothing, mama! The camera finally telescoped into a close-up of the Snoopy plush on my bed, resting on my pillow, excited to see me, the director of everything. You’re a daydreamer just like your daddy was, Mama says. The world isn’t kind to daydreamers, Nathan – remember that. Continue reading
The birth of their daughter was the turning point in learning his wife’s mother tongue. Allan often joked that it was because he didn’t want them to speak behind his back in front of him. He worried once, with Learning Portuguese for Dummies splayed across his chest, the joke betrayed his motivation was not for his wife or his daughter.
It’s a distant memory by the time they move to Brazil to be close to her parents after her mother’s remission ended.
Giovanna is a nurse at a local hospital in Maringá. In this city of trees and rotaries, he’s a stay-at-home dad, a foreign concept to Brazilian culture. He gets a kick out of walking through Parque do Inga, this the dense jungle with paths and a small Japanese area like a hidden trinket. The first time he saw the capivara roaming the grounds, he jumped back and shouted “what the fuck is that?” Now he tries to pet it. He marvels at the Catedral, this massive cone off the side of one street, where kids congregate on Saturdays and kick around the bola de futebol.
Alan tells people, in America, they pull down panels with computerized designs overnight or even have those digital signs that change in front of your eyes. He loves to watch the painters come out and retouch the hand-done walls in front of the houses here, so much so his daughter has to tug on his hand sometimes. He pitches in to the family income by writing translations, Portuguese to English.
Still, there are still expressions of language that elude him. Saudades is the famous example. No matter the descriptions and allusions he’s given, they say he doesn’t really get it and he trusts them. It’s a Brazilian thing. Continue reading
____We were nine and ten when Billy Jacobs told us about the man behind his house.
____He has red hair and wears a baggy shirt that says Nautica, our friend said. Then Billy, always the best artist in the group, drew the man with fine-tipped markers from the perspective of his bedroom window: a skinny grinning creep, lava-headed and standing at the edge of the forest, the word NAUTICA exceeding the square of his chest. The man would stare for a while, then cross back into the green like Bigfoot. He came lots of times and he lives in the woods. Oh and sometimes he waved to me, Billy said, raising his hand to show us.
____Two of us betting Billy was lying, a small group organized on a Saturday to find this red-haired man. It was early autumn and the green of summer (a wonderful summer) had angered to a red that snowed all around us: living leaves, still fleshy, mute beneath our Chuck Taylors. I brought along my kid brother Jared, in those days, a weak and anxious child preoccupied with eyebally anime. My father worried, seeing the sulky teen in embryo, a loser man to be. Challenge him, my dad said, standing darkly in my bedroom doorway. He’ll thank you one day.
____We walked past the stream and down the enormous hill (I see some of us chucking rocks hail Mary at a family of deer) and emerged in the light of a big shaggy field. A man lay there with frizzy red hair, parted in the center, trash and bottles in a circle around him like witchcraft. His face was scorched and lumpy with plump whiteheads that resembled useless, half-formed eyes. Nautica Competition, his shirt said. He grinned like in the picture. Continue reading
uncertain of my position in the universe I look up the wikipedia page titled “felix and alicia’s relationship”. I scroll past ‘summary’, past ‘major characters’, past ‘controversy’, to ‘reasons for breakup’, under which is the single line of text felix is an asshole. it’s hyperlinked in blue and I click it and the page that loads is felix’s shortcomings as a human being (incomplete list). I see ‘lack of empathy’, I see ‘lack of initiative’, I see ‘overclocked sex drive’ (no lack). you can help complete this list. I tap backspace, scroll to ‘reasons for break-up’, click ‘last known edit’, see alicia_p_, 01/01/2013, 00:46:32 UTC. I google ‘new years 2013 aliciw’, rub my eye. rub my eyes. did you mean alicia? scroll past several articles on news events that don’t involve me or alicia or me and alicia’s relationship. alicia died from alcohol poisoning at a party in buffalo; alicia gets her mecha piloting license in season 7, ep 13; in a mongolian border town alicia is a pig statue commemorating the [translate this page?] young worker’s leek cultivation society. page 4 of 4,590,000 results I see nick’s stupid fucking blog, personal orgy: nick’s stupid fucking blog, bruised purple. click and two paragraphs, 0 comments. I see wild night brojos. I see in flashing colors ‘leprous octopi want to date you’, I see ‘23 photos that are inherently self-aware’, I see yellow font on orange background, I rub my eyes at nick’s stupid fucking blog, I see rooftop pool party and glow paint made it impossible! to hide and gpt me thinking about resolutions and someho wgotlost then calleeeedddd for heeeeelp and I unlock my phone and tap and tap and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and see ‘call from nick m 4:07am 01/01/2013’. nick’s blog says “aliciw got me kicked me out”. Continue reading
He took these hunting trips three times a year. He hunted one kind of game but he never had the stomach to take it.
The hunter hiked through the bush—no, it was not bush, he corrected himself. The autumn leaves on the forest floor made him think of corpses, for some reason. The sun shone over the ridge-line ahead. He had been here as a boy.
The hunter never carried many rounds. He kept ten in the cartridge loops on his belt for appearances. He breathed out and went downhill. There was a wide stream that trout lived in at the foot. He came here in the summer to fish. He crouched at the stream and the cool air was refreshing despite the autumn winds.
He was going to be back at his job on Monday, maybe, back to listening to the bitch make demands of him over nothing and expect him to act as her confessor. Coming home to an empty house was normal to him.
He looked up from the water and a deer stared at him, a doe. He stood up slowly. The doe ran up the ridge on the other side of the wide stream. The hunter sloshed across. His boots filled with water. That was alright.
He listened and stalked. He was not after this doe; it was the wrong kind of game. He went after it anyway, tracking the disturbances in the dead leaves. Continue reading
He parked his car just outside the hillside community and then entered on foot. The neighborhood had big family homes with trimmed lawns, long driveways, and streets with Spanish names. Here and there a few windows were lit, but for the most part, everything was dark, asleep. He tried to appear casual, like he was on an insomniac’s stroll. Over his shoulder, if it were day, he would be able to see a peel of ocean. Instead, he felt only the breeze.
The fourth doormat he lifted, he found a key. The house was ranch style with a stone path leading to the front. He tried the key and the Dutch door released. He pushed it open a few inches and waited for the alarm. Then he went inside.
In the open foyer, he took off his shoes. He took off his socks. He rooted his bare feet for a moment on the oak floors and let his eyes adjust to the dark. Ahead was a living room with a vaulted ceiling. Through the big picture windows, he saw the outlines of trees and hills.
He stepped onto the limestone of the kitchen. He placed his hand on the cool marble island. He looked around. He kept the lights off. Everything was orderly in the white cabinet kitchen. The drying rack was empty. The countertop was bare except for the usual appliances. The plant on the windowsill near the sink was well maintained. Outside, just beyond, the pool lay still. Continue reading
Lately the most important thing in my life is television. Specifically, those complicated procedural courtroom dramas that air in six-hour blocks I can get lost in. The onslaught of technical law jargon strewn throughout each episode is only able to register in my brain for a second but it’s long enough to distract me from the stress dream that is my entire life. In fact, my life has become so unbearable,that I’ve begun this ritual of planting myself in the chaise in front of the TV in the study for days at a time, moving occasionally to eat or urinate but never to greet my son or daughter or husband when they arrive home, never to ask how their days have been. I just do what I think is necessary. I eat, I shit, I piss and I watch criminal after criminal get exactly what they deserve.
This process has become so frequent, that now my family seems unfazed by my random bouts of binge watching. They leave me to my television and my sulk, bringing me food sometimes but never bothering to see if I finish or caring if I even try. The dramatic effect, my son says one day before dropping him off at school, has worn off. Continue reading
Something like. Like track ballast. Igneous, dense and heavy. No, weighty. Full. When you were young you had a friend who lived near the freight line. Ballast would appear in his backyard. Once when you visited you put coins on the track, waiting for a train to come by and warp them into smooth, useless flakes. Like the ones he’d brought out in the school playground at lunchtime. While you hid in the bushes by the track you thought of your mother and this waste of money. This literal sheering of cash; it made your palms sweat and your ears drum. Made you want to piss. But the train didn’t come and when your mate suggested following the tracks to the signal hut to throw stones, you were quick to hop up and pocket your coin, a fifty cent piece, now worth more than the five and the oh on its face.
Coin in your pocket, you followed your friend. You kept an eye out for the train, an ear out for its approaching rhythm; dogs barked at you from backyards. Eventually you arrived at an old hut. The door was kicked in and each wall had a scribble of graffiti on it. Every window was already broken but, even so, it was a thing to throw rocks at. The scrub around the signal hut sprouted from small pebbles. Before long, you were scooping them up in handfuls and catapulting them into the air. Of course, soon, your mate threw the coin he was ready to let the train press flat. Threw it at one of the broken windows but it curled sharply and missed the hut altogether, tinkling as it landed on the other side. He turned to you, as if expecting you to do the same with your coin, but you grinned and hurled another handful of pebbles at the hut’s roof. Continue reading
In late 2004 and the early winter of 2005, Richard Cooley left approximately 100 voicemails on the answering machine of Patrick and Nancy Boson as the depraved dog groomer Rory Thibodeaux. Despite a majority of these voicemails being left in a state of glowing intoxication, they create a cohesive, thrilling narrative about one man’s lonely quest to wash, trim, and masturbate Henry, the Bosons’ fey and cowardly Papillon. Cooley has known the Bosons for years.
The normally unassuming Cooley, who is a high school music teacher in Lake Charles, found solace and refuge in Rory Thibodeaux, a caricature of savagery and lust, perversity and contempt, gleeful amoralism, and a nostalgic entrepreneurial spirit.
These selected voicemails have been transcribed by Mr. Cooley’s close friends in order to preserve a doubtlessly unique era in his life. With the resolve of a new year, he has decided to quit drinking “once and for all.” Naturally, this means the death of Rory Thibodeaux, who will be mourned, most of all by the Bosons. They looked forward to each new chapter of what would become a transnational, then transglobal, epic, often shooting tequila or sharing a marijuana cigarette as the recordings played back. For both the reticent Cooley and the more sociable Bosons, Thibodeaux’s misadventures served as a singular distraction from the anxieties of modern American life. Continue reading
The smell was almost pleasurable, in the wholesome, natural way that the smell of sawdust or rain is. I rested my hands on the glass barrier separating me from the room of dirt. I had read that it weighed over a quarter million tons and the first thing I thought about was the building’s structural integrity. Now, actually standing in front of the Earth Room, my mind drifted from Manhattan’s lower east side to some hazy midwest destination, of corn and other basic agricultural staples growing out of dirt tilled over every day, of young children with muddy feet running through a backyard, of retirees lovingly examining their gardens under bright blue skies.
Adam had told me it was called the Earth Room, one of those ambitious art pieces that radical schools so adored in the 20th century’s last decades. It was just that; a room full of earth, dirt, feet of it, layers upon layers contrasted with the stark white walls that held it in. It was located on the second floor of a loft that we had had some difficulty locating. A permanent exhibition. I ran my hand along the surface of the dirt and was disappointed when it was clumpy and not fine and smooth. I stepped back from the opening and let the people behind me have a look. Continue reading