Thirty-Two Keys Stud the Body of Each Sax, So It Logically Follows That.. – Jim Meirose

I got a tape for you to hear Sonboy. I got a tape you’ll hear to make you decide.

Mom. That’s great but I don’t need help—I—

Yes here sit down it’s short hear it out here.

Her finger jabbed in starting it coming. It came. It said, The last but not least dimension of anyone’s ascension to virtuoso-level sax playing, is the patterned pushing so fast it seems random but each push has a purpose a name and a meaning and more and more to it, depending on how deeply into the documentation you dare to delve—

Mom. I don’t see. I—

No, listen.

—thirty-two keys stud the body of each sax; nine fingers are used to press the sax keys, and that in itself is easy to conceptualize. Here’s a finger, the first of ten. There’s the keys baby, so press one any one; there’s the cards baby, so pick one anyone; look at it remember what key it was—

Mom I can’t follow this. And—I never said I wanted saxophone.

Hush! Listen.

But I never—

Hush.

—tear the card from the sax put it on the table and remember which key it was; look at it remember what card it was put it face down on the table and remember which card it was; do this for each and every key until none are left and there are thirty-two torn off keys from the now-unusable sax lying on the table—

Sorry but I don’t get it.

Maybe if you stopped resisting you would. Hush.

—do this for each and every card until none are left and there are fifty two picked-out cards from the now-nonexistent deck not anywhere anyplace anymore; now take the sax to a sax repair man and he will charge five hundred dollars on average to restore the sax to playing condition; now take the deck to anyone at all who knows what a deck of cards is—

Cards. Mom, I never have been interested in—cards.

Sonboy shut up and let it come.

—and he will charge nothing on average to pull all fifty two cards back together into a usable deck; now here’s the bottom-line cost-benefit analysis—it’s not really that but that sounds pretty impressive; this has cost the sax player five hundred dollars; this has cost the card player nothing. And the added benefit tipping the argument to cards is that the card deck can be restored by the potential card player themselves.

Thank God is that the end—This shows—my God there’s more? Mom.

—that in the final analysis, any logically impassive mechano-person to whom such numerical decision-making holds appeal, should forget sax—

Mom I never said I wanted to play the saxophone Mom. Mom—

Shut up!

—and take up one or more of the hundreds of table games which are based on a deck of cards, or take up some other non-game related pastime that nonetheless uses a deck of cards, such as magic, making bicycles sound like motorcycles—which also requires a big box of wooden spring-style clothespins, building houses of cards, constructing card bridges, making balls of cards, doing origami, making card boxes, or attempt to match the cardistry skills of Dan and Dave. Their most holy. Good-bye—and may you enjoy a profitable day!

Her finger jabbed out stopping it going. She turned to.

Sonboy, there—you.

Sonboy, hey! Sonboy get back in here right now!

 

www.jimmeirose.com

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The Magpie – Babette Gallard

Silence is our bond, the no-need to say whatever it is we might be feeling, because we know. I know Kerry is feeling my brush as I paint her, following the folds under her breasts, and I know she doesn’t mind. Her breasts are large and beautiful, even the filigree of lines drawn by their weight and traced, by me, in silver. Perhaps I love them even more, because my breasts are like walnuts, with as many folds.

The sun has moved down below the window behind her, its shadows filling hollows I hadn’t seen before. I want to go on and paint their darkness, but sense her cold. “Let’s take a break,” I say.

“No, I want to see what you’re seeing now.”

The magpie flies in just as I’m opening my mouth to say something in reply. Big and brash on the window sill, snapping his beak.

Kerry turns round to look for the disturbance, a hand on each nipple, which makes me laugh and say she needn’t worry, because, “human breasts probably aren’t his thing”.

Our silence and our laughing, shared and private. Sniggering like hogs, at the beautiful Spanish girl with hairs growing out of her ears, sitting two seats down in the coach from Burgos to Logrono. Both of us thrown out of the amateur opera, for laughing at Carmen, because her singing sounded like my mother’s orgasm. Our love is grounded in moments like these, so now I drop my head to the magpie and thank him. Kerry says I’m following an ancient pagan tradition and that she’d always known I was a witch. I kiss her, and we go to bed.

Him, strange that I never thought of him as anything else. He could have been female, but I never wanted to find out. He should have been she in my world of women, where men are only allowed in on special terms, but he was my boy. The Boy, named by me, just two days later. “Looks like The Boy’s here to stay.”

I remember now, that she didn’t reply. Perhaps our silence had already begun to lose its value, or perhaps I wasn’t listening.

Anyway, the Boy moved in, sitting on the backs of chairs and tilting his head, pointing a black eye at the brush in my hand. “Perhaps he wants to be a painter too,” I say. “I could teach him.”

“Try it,” she said. “He’d probably earn more.”

In the past I would have laughed, but The Boy has taken over, his raking laugh already better than mine.

I’m working on a big commission, a real one that could pay for our flat and probably even a car. Being gay is, for once, an advantage. The husband has said that only another woman, who loves women, could know how to capture the beauty of his wife. Her amputated legs lying bare on the floor, their fleshy ends as soft as cream cheese, flattened against the silk.

“Silk for the reflections,” I tell her. “Do you mind if I move this leg closer?” She shrugs, still angry with her husband, because this is what he wants to see of her.

The Boy is watching, one spiny toe scratching the other.

Today, Kerry has said she has things to do, and might be late getting back. I asked her to help me put this hurting woman at ease, leaving me to work, unseen behind the canvas. But Kerry is too busy, so it’s just The Boy and I, testing each other to see if we can be a team.

“Is he tame?” The woman looks over to where he’s sitting on the back of a chair. Another reason to be tense and not want to be here, on the floor of my studio where, I have told her, the light falls best.

“Tame enough,” I smile back, in a way I hope is reassuring. “Wants to be a painter too.”

The Boy claps his beak.

I see her face change when he flies over to sit on my shoulder. “Incredible,” she whispers, after a while. “He’s following everything you do and then looking at me, as if he’s checking to make sure you’ve got it right.”

That’s it. The Boy has done it, dissolved the knot inside her, and now we can work, the three of us a team.

Ellie, the woman, comes every day for ten weeks, understanding now why the silk is so important for me. How it tells the whole story and why it can’t end with her legs. The Boy hears her coming every time, and beak-taps the uneven rhythm of her steps on each stair.

Kerry drains her cup of coffee. “You don’t need me here. I’ll finish my research in the library.”

I put my hand on hers, wanting to push it down so hard that she can’t move, ever again, but instead my fingers trail like feathers over her white knuckles. “It’s the last day, please stay with us.”

“What for?”

“To see me finish,” I say. “No more painting. She’s just coming to check the final version before her husband sees it.”

“And then?”

The silence drips between us, blood-soft and as dark. When I call her, she says she’s having a drink with some colleagues. When she doesn’t come home, I’m not surprised. In the morning I look at The Boy and want to hate him.

Kerry has gone, every trace, even her smell. I’ve tried to find it, sniffing into the corners of the cupboard where she used to hang her clothes, at the edge of the bed where she always slept, curled like a kitten, when her period pains were bad. The Boy sits on my shoulder, watching while I search my phone for the digitally preserved love that has died in the flesh. It’s the silence I need, but The Boy has taken it, whistling at the back of his throat the way Kerry used to when I got out of the shower, snoring like me, when I’ve got a cold.

Night after night, I lie on our bed, playing our past in my head. The day we first met, both of us blobby and gauche, passing a spliff we didn’t know what do with. Then again, all those years later, when she’d finished her Phd, and told me I had to call her Doctor. I refused and answered that she was too beautiful. She was, by then, especially her breasts.

“What have breasts got to do with intellect?” She’d stuck them out at me like a rude tongue and we laughed for the first time, and then always after that, in a way I thought would be forever. The silence came later, when we both knew who we were and didn’t need to explain anymore. Laughing and silence, the key to our being. She’d written it on the blackboard we used for shopping lists, and I’d coloured in the curves of her letters.

During those first weeks alone, I used to draw her all the time, holding onto her in the only way I could. The parts I remembered most, her eyes and the fold under her chin, but when I’d done that, there was nothing left, so I told The Boy I was leaving and he would have to look after himself. He laughed with her voice, so I left, but when I got to the bottom of the stairs I had to go back up to check that he had really gone. The window was closed, and the sill outside it, empty. The Boy gone and Kerry too. Perhaps one because of the other, but mainly because of me.

When I paint now, I paint the spaces, the white between the black on The Boy’s feathers, the silences between two people who think they are talking. When I see a magpie I always nod and say thank you.

 

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Edginess – Jacob Kobina Ayiah Mensah

The cloudstreet hums,
walls vibrate, tears drop from the metallic hardness of the distance between
us, with an alarming speed,

rooms filled with sea currents,
we are filled with sickly smile.

Every parts of life floating across everything capture beyond
unpredictable lurch,
everything cross the rough strip

and everything remains a trait of certain vibrations and insinuations, the
house falls into a special version of afterimage, we are
lost in its weight.

Shadows follow
the shape of things to come,

and your time has past thirty years,
we lie awake,

predicting
forthcoming changes,

everything through
the blur of the water, everything remains imported confession,

sea waves come in your way,
a ray of moonlight

without shedding itself is all the feeling of guilty,
everything is looking like a urine sample.

 

JACOB KOBINA AYIAH MENSAH is the author of the new hybrid works, The Sun of a Solid Torus, Conductor 5, Genus for L Loci and Handlebody. His individual poems are widely published and recently appearing in Rigorous, Beautiful Cadaver Project Pittsburgh, The Meadow, Juked, North Dakota Quarterly, Cathexis Northwest Press, The Sandy River Review, Strata Magazine, Atlas Poetica, Modern Haiku, etc. He is algebraist and artist and lives in the southern part of Ghana, Spain, and Turtle Mountains, North Dakota.

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Mimo – Adam Forrest

The life of Mimo begins today. Everyone is very pleased. Such a pretty nose. Such a lovely mouth. The eyes and ears are completely flawless. In any case, the committee has deliberated long enough and final deadlines have now passed. No more tinkering. Mimo, you are terrific just as you are. You fulfil our brightest hopes and all of the client’s demands. More than that Mimo, you are beautiful and you have made us cry.

Is it important to catalogue all the misfortunes involved in your conception? No, probably not. But it may allow you, Mimo, some insight into your origin. If you understand the difficult creative pregnancy, it may give you some sense of what is expected of you, some sense of yourself as a delivery vehicle for the hopes and dreams of girls and boys all over the world. But enough with the burdensome jargon. Let’s stick to the basics.

The client wanted an illustrated figure representing the International Children’s Foundation (ICF). The icon was supposed to be non-gendered and racially ambiguous. The organisation wanted a symbol of innocence, but also one of dignity and independence, ready to inspire the world.

So we started with a head slightly tilted to one side, creating a sympathetic gesture of curiosity. We tilted it a tad more and suddenly the gesture became one of stupidity. So we tilted it back, but slightly too far back, and now the empty head seemed to speak only of jaded scepticism. We found the correct angle and composed a mental note: no more messing with the 7° head tilt.

Next, the mouth. We cheated a little here. We took the mouths of Tweety Pie, Pebbles, Snagglepuss and Squiddly Diddly and we put them all through a programme on our computer. We thought the composite might look a little ridiculous, but it was not ridiculous at all. It is the same mouth you have today Mimo. We added the tiny ears and pointy nose by way of polling. A simple, fuss-free method.

The hair was a bigger problem. We noticed, on our research trips to the toyshops and swing parks, that neat hair had become fashionable. But neat hair was harder to keep gender-free. Short neat meant boy, longer neat meant girl. In the end we went with medium-length messy hair, but it was a very organised, symmetrical kind of mess. So you see Mimo, we never gave up. We pushed on into the early hours, pulled you this way and that. Some things came gently, others came gently undone.

All this talk of pushing and pulling. It reminds us that perhaps your head is a little too wide, your cheeks a little plump. Can we say chubby? Can we say pudgy? We cannot, but the cynics have done. What will these horrible people do with you? Deface your precious features? Slim, shrink or stretch you out further to fill the required space on their baseball caps, promotional pencils or desktop wallpaper? So be it. What happens to you now, sadly, is no longer under our control.

Anyhow. We deliberated, again and again and again. We were under a lot of pressure. But remember Mimo, all of our anxieties and erratic behaviour made you what you are, and what you are is terrific. Think of it all as the adding up at the side of a tricky math problem. You Mimo, are the solved equation, standing alone as a solid truth. A truth that can be replicated as often as required.

But what about the feet? Did we get those lovely little feet wrong? Do tiny feet imply hesitancy? An unwillingness to move from here to over there, if over there is the place innocent, dignified and independent children should be? No, no – enough! Your feet are fine.

The eyes. Your eyes happened upon us as if by magic, on a late-night cigarette break. We wandered along the river where the answer was waiting. The water was a depthless blue film, the moon a light shining on the surface. It was hard to tell which was more real. We threw stones to break the spell. Then we realised – as the river swallowed the stones, as light and water shimmered in slow motion – we realised that if we reversed the typical order, turning the white of the eye blue and the pupil pure white, then we had something strange and wonderful. Mimo, we whispered, and you were all but done.

After thickening outlines, we filled your shoes, sweater and dungarees with red, green and blue. You were about to become digital, a one-zero whole. Here we faltered once more, hummed and hawed and lingered. We argued over meaningless details, like how thick the lower lip should be. Dungaree buttons: yes or no? That kind of thing. But we took a deep breath, looked at the bigger picture, and saw beauty on a flat screen.

Now that you are a fully copyrighted entity, Mimo, now that you actually exist out here in the world as we do, we seem to find ourselves quivering shamefully yet again. The eyes. Those haunting eyes. Will those big, beguiling saucers need further explanation in the ICF’s target countries? Perhaps we could now produce a short book illustrating Mimo at play? But have we then failed you Mimo, if you cannot stand alone without further puppetry and exposition?

We only hope all expectations will be met. We wonder if you will be happy. We want you to be happy just the way you are, just the way we finished you. We hope, we wonder, we want. And for you Mimo, life begins today.

Please feel free to create your own Mimo in the space provided below. This may help you better understand the difficulties undergone during the creation of the real Mimo.

 

 

 

ADAM FORREST is a journalist also writing flash fiction and short stories. He lives and works in London.

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Dulie Hud – J Edward Kruft

She was startled when a wide woman yanked open the red door. “You’re late!” she accused. “Never mind. Come in, I’ll get you up to speed.”

Sunlight beamed through clerestories as Calliope followed the woman. “Dinner is in the fridge. Warmed it up at 5:00,” she instructed. “He doesn’t like breakfast but he’ll eat dry toast if you leave it in front of him long enough. Medications here. I’ve written it down for you, see? I’m Ms. Godfrey.”

“Oh. Ms. Jones…but I think….”

“I trust the agency told you about his TIA.”

“TI…?”

“Mini-strokes,” she said, on the move again. “They didn’t tell you? Worthless! Not you, dear. I left a pamphlet on the table that explains it. Watch for the signs and call 911 if you suspect something.

“Well, I guess that does it. I’m awfully late so I only have time to introduce you and get out the door. Well. Come on then.”

The living room was aglow from the wood stove. The furniture was more modern than she would have imagined for Dulie, except for a worn club chair by the picture window that looked out on a hemlock stand. Across the room, a small man sat covered by an afghan, his head bowed.

This man was once Dulie Hud.

“You have a visitor,” Ms. Godfrey said as she shook his shoulder. Dulie lifted his head, looking all of his seventy-eight years. He glanced toward Calliope, his eyes working to focus.

Oh, but those eyes – green, at once probing and tender – they were Dulie’s.

“This is Ms. Jones. She’s here for the weekend. Be a gentleman and say, ‘how do you do, Ms. Jones.’” Dulie licked his lips but said nothing.

Ms. Godfrey, coat and purse in hand, all but flew to the front door.

“Behave yourself, Mr. Hud!” she called. “Good luck, Ms. Jones.” And before Calliope could correct her, she was gone.

There was only the ticking of the wall clock as they stared. Breaking his gaze, her eyes moved, as if by design, to an oil portrait of a woman in a red dress and a single strand of pearls.

Adira.

Her eyes shifted again to across the room where boxes looked waiting to be filled.

“Are you moving, Mr. Hud?” Immediately, she regretted keeping up the charade. Why didn’t she simply declare: “I’m not the weekend woman. It’s me. It’s Calliope.” Instead, she bit at a cuticle. “I’ll look at what’s for dinner,” she said, leaving Dulie alone.

She sat at the kitchen table and glided her hand across the smoothness. There was no question that Dulie had made it himself. When they were falling in love at Stanford, when Dulie was finishing his engineering degree and she was beginning hers in American Literature, he had built her a small cedar chest, the kind brides of old might have kept their trousseau. She still had it. Only hers didn’t contain linens or preserved gowns, but stories started and forgotten; poems abandoned and then grieved; her dissertation on Hawthorne, of which she had once been so proud. With this, anger muscled into her gut and she returned with conviction to the living room, only to again find his frail head bowed, and her anger dissipated, and she wondered: why had she come?

“Mr. Hud?” He raised his head. “I have a favor to ask. May I call you Dulie? I’m not very formal, you see, and I’d like it very much if you called me Calliope.” Dulie’s green eyes held her gaze, and he nodded.

Calliope sat in the club chair; it felt comfortable and familiar as she fingered its buttery arms, trying to harken its history. In her reverie, she hadn’t notice Dulie’s stare.

“Married?”

Calliope was startled by his voice – dry but strong – and by the question. “Once. I married late and divorced early,” she said, forcing a laugh.

“Children?”

“No.” Dulie went silent. And although she knew the answer, she asked anyway: “How about you? Do you have children, Dulie?” he shook his head.

Once, the two of them had spoken differently about children, bundled under a blanket at Golden Gate Park. “Three,” Dulie had said suddenly.

“Three what?”

“Children. That’s how many we’ll have.” Calliope laughed at the notion.

“We’ll see.”

Then, Korea. He wrote and she wrote. And then only she wrote. Finally, he returned, a Korean woman in tow. Adira. Adira Hud, who would lose that baby in the fifth month, but by then, the dye was set.

Dulie looked to be sleeping so Calliope slipped out to have the daily cigarette she allowed herself. It was going to be a cold night, she thought. She’d best bring in more firewood. She blew a final stream of smoke into the fading sun and stubbed her cigarette on the head of a garden gnome.

She adjusted the afghan on Dulie’s lap.

She put another log on the waning fire.

She set a TV tray next to Dulie, and another next to the club chair.

She put that evening’s bounty of medications into a souvenir shot glass.

She placed the meatloaf in the oven and set the timer.

She set their plates, and Dulie stirred. He looked at her, startled.

“Adira?”

Calliope drew a quick breath. “No, Dulie,” she said. “It’s Calliope.”

Dulie turned to his wife’s portrait: “Oh, how you grieved.” He closed his eyes and went silent, but his head did not bow.

Calliope sat in the club chair and wondered, wished: to whom did Dulie speak?

They were at dusk, and it was clear to Calliope that the weekend woman was not coming. They sat quietly together, as they might have for many years had circumstances been different. Calliope watched the last arc of the sun over the hemlocks, then she too closed her eyes and slept, to be awakened by the kitchen timer.

“Well then,” she said, rising from the club chair, stirring Dulie.

Off she went to the kitchen to fetch their supper.

J. EDWARD KRUFT received his MFA in fiction writing from Brooklyn College. He is a Best Short Fictions nominee, and his stories have appeared in several journals, including Soft Cartel and Typehouse Literary Magazine. He loves fried zucchini blossoms and wishes they were available year-round. He lives with his husband, Mike, and their adopted Siberian Husky, Sasha, in Queens, NY and Sullivan County, NY. His recent fiction can be found on his Web site: http://www.jedwardkruft.com and he can be followed on twitter: @jedwardkruft.

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Frozen Fingers – Jim Bates

“Jerry, how are those matches holding up?” Steve asked, blowing on his frozen hands. “Can you get that kindling lit?”

“Shit, no,” Jerry swore. “I’ve got three left and I can’t feel my fingers. Can’t feel a damn thing.”

Those were not the words Steve wanted to hear. It was twenty degrees below zero. If they didn’t get a fire going soon, they were going to freeze to death.

Jerry fumbled lighting the match he was attempting to hold. It flared for a moment and then fell from his numb fingers into the snow, sizzled and went out. Two matches to go.

Next to them the rushing water of the Yellow Knife River cascaded over ice covered boulders on its way to Lake Superior ten miles to the east. Steve and Jerry had been on a winter hiking trip along the trail that ran high above the river when the ledge of snow they were on collapsed and they tumbled thirty feet down the steep slope into the frigid water below. In just seconds they were both not only soaked but numbingly cold. They scrambled out and found a level spot in the snow. Steve had sprained his wrist. It was up to Jerry to build the fire.

That had been fifteen minutes ago. A combination of wet stick matches and a wind swirling down the canyon walls made lighting a fire difficult. They’d built a small teepee of twigs and pine needles but getting it to light was proving next to impossible. With two matches to go, their prospects were grim.

Steve moved closer to Jerry. In a gesture of profound intimacy, he motioned to his friend, “Give me your hands.”

When Jerry balked, Steve said, “Don’t give me that macho BS.” He motioned again and said, softly, “Here, let me help.” Steve took his friend’s bare hands in his and, ignoring the pain in his wrist, drew them to his lips and blew on them, warming them with his breath.

After a minute, Jerry said, “That good. Thanks, man. They’re better. I can feel my fingers, now.”

He took the second match and struck it against the side of the match box. Nothing. It was too wet. On the second try it broke apart and fell to the snow.

The two men looked at each other. They were in their mid-thirties and had been best friend since grade school. Now it all came down to this. The sun was setting behind the pine trees lining the rim of the canyon. With the lack of sunlight the cold was settling in deep and hard.

Jerry took the last match, resolve set in his eyes. He looked at Steve. “Let’s do this.”

“Go for it, man,” Steve said.

Jerry struck the match. Both men watched, their lives hanging in the balance, as it flamed…flickered…then caught.

They quickly built a roaring fire. There was hope for them yet.

 

JIM BATES lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers’ Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet and Mused – The BellaOnline Literary Review. You can also check out his blog to see more: http://www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.

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As The Current Combs My Curls – Faye Brinsmead

He paints me gliding through spinach soup. Past white picket fences furred with algae. Past fish-flicking mailboxes. Past the coral-encrusted wrecks of our neighbours’ houses. He captures my tippy-toes gait. The golden banner of my hair. My water-distorted smile, its echo on the dugong’s face.

The title curves above my head in bouncy black letters. Drowned Woman with Dugong.

“Your best yet!” I say, kissing his black moustache. We waltz around the studio. The gramophone plays “I Can’t Stop Loving You”.

June 12, 1967. Greek-born artist’s exhibition celebrates Australian alps

My scrapbook, open on the kitchen table, keeps miraculously dry. I leaf through honey-coloured clippings while my hair sets. He loves my corkscrew ’do. “My mermaid,” he murmurs at night as the current combs my curls.

The hydroelectric scheme brought people from all over to the Snowy Mountains. He wandered into Jindabyne not long after my 17th birthday. Worked odd jobs when he had to. Other days, he’d set up his easel at the river bend. I couldn’t keep away. Familiar vistas cancanned across his canvases in fancy dress. Never more themselves.

One day, there I was. Tiara on my head, meat cleaver in hand. Butcher’s Shop Princess.

My parents disapproved.

“He’ll never put meat on the table.”

“I’ll take care of that,” I said.

August 5, 1967. Flooding of Jindabyne valley to begin any day

I wore them down. “Your choice, darl,” Mum said.

“You can work in the shop for a wage. Apart from that, you’re on your own.”

The ring, a hair’s-width gold band from the main street jewellers, emptied his savings sock. We’d live on love, art and T-bone steak.

December 12, 1967. Last wedding at Saint Mary’s

The newspaper photographer was nicknamed “Blur”. He managed to tilt us 45 degrees as well. Our smiles are watery. My eyes ask: “Can you tell I’m wearing a shower curtain?” My brother’s suit, lent for the occasion, is too tight across my husband’s shoulders. Its buttons pincer his belly like tiny black crabs.

We spent our honeymoon in my parents’ squeaky old bed. The lino had just been laid in their new house up the hill. The bedroom suite was their pride and joy: rosewood veneer with real imitation mother-of-pearl inlay.

“You two can squat in the old place till the fish move in,” Dad said.

We whitewashed the walls, hung his paintings everywhere. Pretended we’d lived there forever.

My husband loved painting the creeping lake. “When it’s deep, it’ll be green. Green as spinach soup.”

The day water came snuffling under the front door, we cried. Blew our noses, stowed the paintings in my parents’ shed, pitched a tent on higher ground, near the bridge. Once they blew that up, it’d be curtains for old Jindabyne.

The town council turned it into a gala event. We joked that all we’d need to do was open the tent-flap. Front-row seats. But on the big day I didn’t want to watch. I mooched along the new lake shore, stealing white-faced herons’ eggs.

February 1, 1968. Tragic accident: bridge explosion kills newlywed

That one, a front-page story, isn’t in my scrapbook. Unforgettable, unbelievable, it eddies the lake’s surface. A pilotless motorboat, whizzing round and round.

Down here, where the spinach soup is thickest, the aftershocks are blunted. The fish welcomed me back home. The dugong, which came to me in dreams, never leaves my side. Stroking its knobbly head, I watch my husband work. A self-portrait. His best yet.

Smiling Ghost with Paintbrush.

 

FAYE BRINSMEAD lives in Canberra, Australia. A lawyer by day, she writes flash in all the snippets of time she can find. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, MoonPark Review, r.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal and The Ekphrastic Review. She tweets @ContesdeFaye.

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Development Hell – Patrick Chapman

INT. CLUSTERFUCK. DAY

The foley artist chops a white cabbage in two. The chhkk will be edited with a fast scrape of iron on steel. Something like that. Cutlery, maybe. I forget how those guys do it, but it’s smart. The sound is because I’m playing Lois XIV. Lois was a cool customer. She liked rock music, even though it didn’t even exist in her century, you know? In our movie, it does. It’s called anachronic or something. Hey, that’d be a great name for me if I started a band.

You know I didn’t really die. You got that. You know this is a movie. There’s a prop head in a prop guillotine. A blade falls but it doesn’t hit anything, not really. The rope holds it up. No way is it going to hit my actual neck. That’s not in my contract. They have a bag of fake blood in there, pig blood, I think, sterilized so no one gets pig-AIDS. That wouldn’t be kosher. I think I knew someone once, a Mexican wrestler, who had pig-AIDS he got from a midget whore in Tijuana.

Jenna Brown’s title on the first draft I saw was Liberté, Egalité, Sororité but no one gives a shit what she says although I think it’s a great name. Terence Morton wanted to call it Lois XIV but Jerry Silverberg figured the audience would take it for a sequel. What does he know? Well a week later he said, ‘It’s a feminist movie, so I know, why not call it Lois XIV?’ Asshole. Morton lets Jerry have the credit for the title so he gets to take the credit for the rest of the flick. ‘Choose your battles, Becs,’ he tells me, ‘choose your fuckin’ battles.’

Morton calls a wrap, and I realize it’s me he’s talking about. I’m done. It’s my last shot. Maybe some pickups later or whatnot. Everyone applauds and I make a short speech and Morton screws up his own little ramble in praise of me. Word is he has the speech written down and just changes the name of the actor each time he has to give it.

I move my behind off the set in my Lois XIV costume and it feels like the walk of shame. But I’m telling you I am so proud of this picture, of what we have achieved together these last nine months. That’s what it says in my speech. Am I glad to be done with this hair.

CUT TO:

INT. TRAILER. DAY

Sheila wipes rouge off my cheeks and powder off my forehead and makes me back into Rebecca Wood from Arkansas. I send her away. Sheila, I mean. When she goes, I sit looking at myself in the mirror. Those lights can give you a migraine but I wouldn’t mind having a headache so hard all I can see is stars, like I’ve been fucked good by a pro. I like my head outside itself. If I could make that a permanent state, I wouldn’t have to listen to other people’s crap. Like that vlogger who wrote I wanted to be blonde but didn’t have the bottle. Was that even supposed to be funny? It’s old, is what it is. Old and not original. I stand up. I don’t need help getting out of this costume, I want to do it on my own, to have one last visit with my character before leaving her forever. Then I just need to be by myself, is all. Isn’t that what Garbo said? ‘I just need to be by myself, is all.’

In the light from the mirror bulbs and the windows, like dusk in the afternoon, my body looks expensive. Nature lights me. I am my own stand-in, Robert told me once. He said my body is ethereal, insubstantial, two-dimensional. I think he was saying I have bulimia. He was just being cheap. He’s right though. My body is very adjective. I turn from the mirror and strip off my dress. It’s harder than I expected to get out of. Whalebone. Real actual whalebone from whales, which Fernando in craft services says is a country but it’s really a fish. I tear the dress off. They won’t need it again. In less than a minute I’m baby-photo-naked before the mirror. I’m so money, I want to fuck myself standing up. So, I do, until I fall over.

CUT TO:

INT. TRAILER. NIGHT

I hear the lights. I hear them pop off. They do that: pop! The hollow coughs of those big drums each time sounds like a cannon shot out of a cannon. I should be gone. I should have left hours ago but I’ve been standing nude, looking at me. I am going dark very slowly. It’s pretty awesome. I am pretty awesome. I go to the closet and open the door and see myself nude in the mirror inside there too, behind the clothes. I am so naked. I like it that there are 18th-century dresses and 21st-century tees, jeans, jackets, skirts, all jumbled together like in a fashion show held across time zones. Behind them all is me and I don’t even need to take a selfie to know that I am fucking hot. I don’t need to share this. This is mine. I don’t want to share this. I am dressed, in a way, you know? I am naked under my clothes. I take out a blouse and a pair of jeans and I put them on. I call the driver. He’ll be here in five. Lois XIV is done. She is done. I am here. Now what do I do with all these fucking flowers?

CUT TO:

EXT. A SQUARE IN PARIS, FRANCE. DAY

Two revolutionaries drag Lois into the square where the crowd calls for her head. And it’s a pretty head. Sean Young in Blade Runner pretty – but period. She’s all serene calmness but you can tell in her eyes there’s turmoil. The revolutionaries are putrid in ragged clothes, tricorn hats, big fat guns. (Did they have guns?) Lois walks fearless to the platform in the center of the square where the guillotine waits; an executioner and a representative from the People’s Commune (check this) stand beside it. One guard shoots a look of remorse at his co-worker. A queen to the end, Lois walks up to the scaffold. The executioner, fat and greasy with a blindfold and cummerbund – think Hamburglar but a prototype – he steps away from the guillotine. Lois takes her place in front of it and removes her Grace Kelly headscarf. Silence. Her locks have been shorn so the blade can get a clean lop at her neck. The executioner nods. Lois kneels and places her head in the frame. She doesn’t close her eyes. She wants them to look into her soul before they separate it from her body. The executioner puts his fat hand on the back of Lois’s delicate neck and pushes it down. He steps back and a guard takes out a scroll. He reads out the list of her crimes. Revolution, bad table manners, fucking burglary – they’re making this shit up and she knows it but Lois doesn’t answer. She’s kinda busy. The executioner tugs on the cord to release the blade. Whop!

CUT TO:

INT. CLUSTERFUCK. DAY – LATER

The rope breaks, the blunt guillotine cracks on her head and everyone stares at Rebecca Wood.

Terence Morton yells. ‘That’s a cut!’

‘What did you call her?’ the DP whispers.

Morton grumbles, waves him away. Then he realizes what has happened. Shit! She’s fridged!

Pandemonium breaks out. It takes a minute for someone to call a doctor, by which time Morton is speeding Rebecca to the hospital in his Ferrari.

They tell him later that he shouldn’t have moved her. He says she was gone already and he hoped they could bring her back. He liked Rebecca. She was going to be something.

CUT TO:

REBECCA WOOD DEAD IN PERIOD ACCIDENT

Lois XIV, Terence Morton’s $253m. post-feminist take on the French Revolution—here Louis XIV is Lois, played by Rebecca Wood (22)—hiatused Wednesday when a prop guillotine impacted Wood’s head. The actor later died in St. Mercy’s, Oakland. Morton’s reported to be disappointed but Fox says the flick will release July 19th next year, right on schedule. TMZ reports Wood is not dead, she’s just had radical work done. read more

DISSOLVE TO:

REBECCA’S DIARY

This endless airport departure lounge. It’s very exclusive, populated entirely by celebrities. That’s what they tell me. I have been here forever. They tell me that, too. At least it turns out I was a celebrity. That’s something. But all I can think of is Robert Hermes fucking Jessica Rand. Well she did win Best Supporting Actress for Stringless. Best Film Ever about a paraplegic cellist’s romantic obsession with an artist’s puppet. Being John Malkovich meets Boxing Helena, that was the pitch. Nurse Sheila tells me nothing. I may be in a coma. I hope it’s only a coma, because I hate the thought of meeting Michael Landon. His hair! Nurse Sheila says I have anger issues. What does she mean? But who cares. Robert Hermes. Jessica Rand. Seriously. This corridor goes on forever.

CUT TO:

THE VERY EXPENSIVE ROOM

As her eyes open she sees what’s going on, so she shuts them tight again. She isn’t ready for this. She isn’t ready. Morton was wrong. Rebecca Wood is not dead. Now in her hospital room a news crew waits; St. Mercy’s probably has a deal with the studio. This could even be going out live. If only she’d known, she would have got up weeks ago when they weren’t looking. Nurse Brown welcomes the crew personnel in as Rebecca decides to go with it. She stirs. An eyelid. She moves her lips but no words come out. Nurse Brown says that someone should have called Doctor Hermes by now so why isn’t he here? He might be watching from his office. ‘I’ve got footsteps in my head,’ Rebecca says, then her lips flatline as she dives naked back inside her coma. At least the coma is real.

DISSOLVE TO:

REBECCA’S DIARY

Everything. Everything happens at once. I’m in stage two now. I rise at an hour that could be dawn or dusk, one of those, or morning or night, who knows? This morning, that night. While Nurse Brown applies my face, I find the talcum powder here is cocaine. I developed a habit and am out of detox, both in the same moment. Simultaneously, I’ve never tried the stuff in my life. Drugs are confusing here, but at least I have the mirror. This enormous mirror in the Academy ratio follows me around on motorized castors. In the mirror, I am more beautiful even than Sean Young as Rachael with her hair down. That was a look. In return for all this wonderment, I only have to let John Hughes film me. He’s making a movie of me, all me, sitting paralyzed on a pink couch in the corridor. An homage to Kubrick, he says. Molly Ringwald isn’t dead yet, so she’s not available, so I get the part. Funny how the casting process works. He says the aliens are fascinated by the activities of humans and enthralled by the trivial. What the hell does that mean? Last week they were turned on by a spot for a body modification studio that ran during a musical special about a famine in Yemen. I guess it’s a pity about Robert and Jess, but life goes on. Just deal with it. I’ve already done the course of TM I’m about to embark on. People are all the same. I once stood a producer up on a date and he sent me a dead rabbit in the mail. I was on a strict diet at the time, so that proved he was the wrong guy for me. I will have my revenge on Robert when he turns up. Which he will. This isn’t any old joint. This is the big place they all talk about when they talk about the big place they all talk about. Boy, is he sure going to be pissed to find out the religions all got it wrong. When Robert gets here, he is mine. I can make him write the most beautiful stories in the world then I’ll reject all his scripts. That’s gotta hurt. Or! I can get someone to give him an infinite bout of herpes. Little blisters everywhere, new ones all the time, blisters on top of blisters. I think he has nerve endings so it should be real crusty painful. Or I can turn him into sushi, actual sushi; he’d have to be transformed into fish, which is great because he’s allergic to seafood. It’s possible to keep him conscious through all of it. After I eat him with wasabi and soy sauce and ginger, I’ll vomit him into a bucket for feeding to the angel sharks. Then who has bulimia, Robert? Here I can do anything. ‘Hey, Robert! Culkin says hi. Nurse, can I get a Pepsi? I am so happy. Can I get a Pepsi?’ Hold on a second. Yeah. If everything here happens at once, how come Molly Ringwald isn’t available? Answer me that, Hughes. You must’ve really wanted me for this part.

CUT TO:

‘That’s all you got?’ Jerry Silverberg flung the treatment back across his mahogany desk at Jenna Brown. She is me.

And that was all I got.

‘You don’t like it?’ I shifted in my seat and stared hard at him.

He looked like what he was, an executive. ‘Listen, Jenna, you’re a good kid. A nice kid. You come in asking for a chance, I give you a chance. And what do you give me back in return for my investment in you? My investment of hope that someone in this town can come up with something better, something more, something purer than the fucking robot movie sequels and the – not robots that are fucking, movies that are sequels that have robots in them – and the teen apocalypse crap and the…

Ah shit, Jenna, you give me this. It’s experimental. Jenna, it’s experimental. I mean, who gives a shit about whoever, and how about this? I don’t think the audience is asking is this feminist. They want Boy-meets-Whatever. Sure, the French Revolution, but didn’t we just have one? Les Miser-fucking-ables. Don’t the French have a revolution every year? Throwing sheep at each other? Can’t you write me something about that? You know, with people in it?’

As he spoke, I wondered what tiny insult might push him into spontaneous human combustion.

‘Jerry, listen.’

He flopped down in his seat and his body seemed to deflate like a pierced space-hopper.

‘Jerry,’ I continued, ‘the French didn’t just have a revolution. The last time they got close was sixty years ago.’

Jerry sighed heavily. ‘Why don’t you write that! Put a love story in it. And why don’t you have an ending at least? It makes me look bad if I greenlight this, and I’m not going to, I can tell you that now, thanks for asking.’

I put two fingers on the treatment. It felt cold to the touch. I dragged it into my lap and felt despair flow through me in full 3D with Smell-O-Vision. The room began to fuzz. Maybe it knew something I didn’t.

Well, screw the room. ‘It has an ending, Jerry,’ I said. ‘It has a good ending. I gave it the ending I did, because it’s Kubrickian.’

‘Who’s Kubrickian?’

‘What?’

Jerry took a serious moment before opening his lips again, as if he had to pay Teamsters to move them. ‘Why did you name a character after me?’

‘This happened,’ I said. ‘This story really happened. You were in it. So was I.’

‘Get out of here!’ The words flew from his mouth, a verbal Heimlich maneuver.

I grabbed my case, stuffed the treatment into it then hightailed it out of the room so I could let Jerry simmer. I didn’t wait to hear the inevitable violence to furniture.

He wouldn’t be asking for a script.

At the front gate, I paused to consider the day. It was noon. The palm trees were swaying and the cars growled by. Every day at every hour it always looks like noon. That’s what it looks like, here.

So. I’d blown it with Jerry. Never mind. Artie Mold might take a look. I’d call Laurie and ask her to set it up.

Something. Something would turn up.

I went to a Starbucks and sat with an espresso and a drink of water and then it hit me.

I felt it in my bones.

An inconvenient truth.

I was not a writer.

Not really.

But if I wished on a star that I could be Tina Fey, maybe I would be. I could be someone good. Tina Fey was good. I could be her.

To distract myself I listened to the yadda-yadda. I heard nothing, despite my ear for dialogue.

This failure to sell my script. It was not really my fault. It was the fault of this town. This town was dead. It was time for me to pack up and head home to Arkansas. I could get a job at the university.

Unless Jerry asked for a new draft.

That could happen.

Then something did.

I was about to raise my coffee but saw a distorted face reflected in the black liquid. Then I saw the face wasn’t distorted. For a big man grown fat on success, for a bear of a guy twice my age, Jerry sure could creep up on a girl. Ninja-like.

I turned to face him.

‘Listen kid,’ he said. ‘You’re young. You’re beautiful. I’m going to give you a second chance. How about it?’

I turned and furrowed my brow, which took no effort at all. ‘What the hell do you want?’

Jerry Silverberg grinned back. ‘Nothing!’

‘I’ll think about it,’ I said.

CUT TO:

INT. CLUSTERFUCK. DAY – A WEEK LATER

I forget which Starbucks we’re in. Jerry is yakking about the movie keeping the feminist angle but could I just kind of make it accessible? Could I give the studio this one and the next one is mine?

‘It’s a French Revolution picture,’ he goes on. ‘Female Louis. Fine. And if Larry can be Lana, what the hell. If Andy can be Lilly too, why not. Hiddleston is perfect for Lois. Come to think of it, Redmayne. Tick. Now, Rebecca. Let’s see. Scarlett? Not Portman. Scarlett. Or Phil Collins’s kid. She can do a British accent, right?’

‘Is this a script talk or a casting talk?’

He smiles. ‘I like to put a face to the character.’

‘Seriously.’

‘It’s all good, kiddo. I myself am a feminist. I marched with Gloria Vanderbilt in the 1970s. Even burnt her bra for her, though she was wearing it at the time.’

‘Seriously?’

‘OK, let’s cut to the chase. Redmayne is Lois. The Collins kid is Rebecca cos I dig the eyebrows.’

‘You said Scarlett.’

‘Careful.’ Jerry’s expression turns icy. ‘Don’t throw it away. You got a nice face and a future. Are you listening to me, Jenna Brown? Don’t throw it all away.’

CUT TO:

JENNA’S DIARY

Dinner doesn’t count. That means it’s our one-year anniversary minus two days, because in two days it’s the one-year anniversary of when I first slept with him. Jer says we can celebrate twice if we like. Rewind the film. Jer always says he’s going to leave his wife any day now, but I don’t want him to. I keep telling him no. I don’t want to ruin her life. I don’t want the static. I like what I have with Jer. They did a great job with the script. Redmayne wouldn’t commit, so Cruise signed on. Too old, I think. The picture is a musical now. It’s called Louis, Louis! Jer says we’re going to the Oscars with this one. Jess hates the Oscars and she’s given him carte blanche to take who he wants. She doesn’t know about us. Or maybe she does. Which is why I think Jer should stay with her. As long as he never owns me, I’ll be OK. This one’s for the studio, the next one is for me. But isn’t it exciting? The movie is in prep but what is almost in post, is our child. Jer says he’ll take care of us whatever happens. If it’s a girl, I’m to call her Rebecca, after his mother.

 

PATRICK CHAPMAN’s latest books are Open Season on the Moon (Salmon Poetry, Co. Clare, 2019); Anhedonia (stories, BlazeVOX Books, NY, 2018); and So Long, Napoleon Solo (novel, BlazeVOX Books, 2017). With Dimitra Xidous he edits The Pickled Body.

Cabinet Of Heed Contents Link 23

Image via Pixabay

Portrait of a Woman as a Young Mother – Katie Venit

Year 0

In the framed photo, a woman in profile—eyes smudged with dark circles, shoulder adorned with an epaulette of spit-up—hugs a newborn tight and high on her chest, resting her cheek on his head. The baby’s eyelids look like closed pistachios. His ears match the monkey’s on his swaddling blanket. Next to her, a laptop displays Google’s homepage.

● How to increase milk supply

● Fenugreek near me

● Fetal microchimerism*

● How to get baby to sleep in crib

● How to put sleeping baby down without waking

● How to sleep when baby sleeps

● How little sleep do adults need

● Hallucinations

*Examples of fetal microchimerism have been found in every type of placental mammal. Although the process is two-way—cells from a fetus transfer into the mother’s body via the placenta and vice versa—far more fetal cells persist in maternal blood and tissue than maternal cells in a fetus. Fetal cells seem to be both beneficial and deleterious to the mother. At times they act like stem cells and swarm C-section incision sites and other wounds. However, high levels of fetal cells are also associated with increased occurrence of many diseases such as Parkinson, Hashimoto, and Graves Disease.

Year 1

In the photo shared online, a woman wears sensible shorts, shirt, and shoes–nothing flimsy or hard to wash. Behind her, park lawns stretch to a river frothing with spring melt. She grips the wrist of a toddler who wears soaking wet white-and-navy-blue train engineer overalls and matching cap. He carries a stuffed monkey and a Superman sneaker; the other sneaker pokes from the pocket of her water-stained shorts. The woman stares into the distance with an expression of resolution. The boy’s limbs are blurry.

● Hey Siri, how do I unlock a door?

● How do I unlock a door from outside?

● How do I unlock a bathroom door from outside?

● Where can I find eyeglass screwdrivers near me?

● Can a toddler drown in a toilet?

● Call the local fire department

● How do I make a whiskey old fashioned?

Fetal microchimerism may play a role in the resource conflict between mother and child. Fetal cells may concentrate in those areas of the mother’s body that best aid the child postpartum in order to manipulate her into providing more resources to the infant than is in her best interest or the interests of her other children, current or future. Those areas are the thyroid (which regulates body temperature), the breast (which regulates lactation), and the brain (which controls emotional attachment).

Year 5

The live photo is one second long. A boy in front of a red brick elementary school wears sensible shorts, shirt, and shoes. He holds a slate that says “1st Day of Kindergarten.” His smile reveals a missing tooth. A woman’s tanned arm reaches into the photograph with a bedraggled stuffed monkey. We never see her body.

● Alexa, order a reusable lunch box

● Order a pencil case

● Order crayons

● Order all the school supplies

● Order How to Listen so Kids will Really Talk

● Play Time after Time

● Play If I Could Turn Back Time

Most fetal cells in the bloodstream are destroyed after birth by the mother’s immune system, although those embedded in tissue fare better. Fetal cells that survive the postpartum culling establish lines that persist for decades by becoming part of the organs that harbor them. Those in the brain become brain cells. Those in the lungs become lungs cells. Those in the heart become woven into the cardiac fibers, mingling with the mother’s own cells and even those from her mother, genetically distinct, pulsing in unison.

 

KATIE VENIT lives in Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in Volume One Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life, 365 Tomorrows, and Neutrons/Protons. She sits on the advisory board for the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild.

Cabinet Of Heed Contents Link 23

Image via Pixabay

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