Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jonah and a Whale

"Like the guy who got swallowed by a whale, right?" It happens every time I introduce myself to people. Even here, with this guy holding a gun to my head, all he or I can think about is the story of some guy who got swallowed by a whale. Me, I'm looking at the whale tattooed on the arm that's pointing a gun at me. My parents tell me that they named me after a distant relative of ours who fought in the civil war. Why they named me after someone who's life never overlapped with theirs, I don't know, but it happened, and I wish it hadn't. Damn whale follows me everywhere.

I can't go anywhere without the whale. In the grocery store, "Hey Jonah, have I got a whale of deal for you!" The whale is everywhere. For christmas my perpetually dying great-aunt Esthelle, always makes me a sweater with a whale on it. Each year she makes me put it on, then we take a picture of us together. I have to wear the damn itchy sweaters all day. In our family photo albums you can see me growing up, foot by foot, with the whale right on top of me.

I used to wish it would happen though. I wished a whale from the Lord would come, come and swallow me and take me away from here. This little town, it needs to be swallowed by something, or at least something other than the decay that is swallowing it now. Although I suppose decay is a sort of whale. Yeah I used to wish something big would happen, that is before this happened.

After he asked if I'd ever been swallowed by a fish, stupid question, the man with the gun came over the counter. I had to stop him, not because he was robbing our store, and not because he had already shot someone, but because of the whale.

On his arm I could see his tattoos. There, right there, on his left arm was a big white whale grinning at me. When he pointed the gun at me, all I could do was look at that whale on his arm. I don't remember much more than him pointing the gun at me, and me looking at the whale. I've been told I screamed something and ran at him, and I still want to ask everyone who was there what I said, but I know they couldn't tell me. I know all they heard was the sound of gunfire, and then the sound of a body crumpling to the floor, my body.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Postcard To The Atlantic

Dear "Howard",

Firstly, I'm not even sure who you are. Let alone how you might know me. Also my cat died when I was in high school. Were you a neighbor of my parents, or a friend of theirs? If you did really kill my cat, why did it take you so long to tell me?

Anyway, it was nice to hear from you. I agree with you on the whole zeppelin front, such a shame. I've always wanted to fly in one. I know one of my great-grandparents took a ride in one. Of course that was before I was born, but I like to imagine that some part of me, some part of their genetics, has flown in a zeppelin.

Can you even send a postcard to a ship? I guess they have mail-planes, or telegraphs. Maybe they'll scan this and you'll get a printed copy. I hope you get to see the picture of Mt. Rushmore on the back of this. I drew a mustache on George Washington, and I gave Abraham Lincoln lipstick.


Mary Anne

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Glass Night

A man sat in a worn out rowboat, on a small pond without a name. It was midsummer, and the wind was dying in the pine trees that surrounded the pond. He had inherited the pond and fishing rod from his father, along with all the old farmer's debt.

Somewhere in the distance he could hear the rumble of a large truck, hauling away his father's tractor. The tractor would hold off the bank for a month, maybe two, but that didn't matter to the man in the boat, not right now anyway. Even the pale line on his finger, where until very recently he wore a wedding ring, didn't matter. What mattered at this moment was the subtle movement of his hands, pulling gently on his rod's line. Twenty feet in front of him a fly he'd tied himself danced magically along the water's surface. It bobbed and hopped across the still surface of the water.

Nights like this are rare. To himself, below his conscious the man in the boat knows these nights as glass nights. They are nights when the wind dies, and the air is cool. The surface of the water is like a mirror reflecting the failing twilight. Insects rise from the water, and light from the setting sun reflects off of their wings. A subtle show of lights, small crystals flashing across the surface of the still water.

The man in the boat let his hands go still. He laid his rod down in the boat. These things the fish, the rod and the boat were the excuse he used to come here on this night. Nothing mattered but the stillness of the water. The trees let their whispers fall silent. It seemed as if the birds in the trees sensed the sanctity of the moment, and they stopped their common chatter.

To the man in the boat the momentary silence stretched joyously on for hours. He sat there in the boat in a state of earthly nirvana. He did not exist, all that existed was the still and quiet of the water. There were no troubles, no money or love, only the constant quiet of the still water.

In the distance a car's horn sounded, and the world started turning again. The wind picked up, the trees brushed their limbs against one another. Birds started a chorus, and the sun moved slowly towards the earth.

The man rowed to shore, back to money and love and movement. He rowed back to all of the things that make nights like this possible, these glass nights.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Glorious Descent of Lockjaw Jones

Lockjaw Jones, nobody remembers him anymore, except me. What good has he done me? Here I am pushing a broom around this stinking joint because of him. Everyone else forgot about him and moved on with their lives, they got better jobs, faster cars and bigger houses. Me, I'm stuck here, stuck in this old arena, nobody even comes here for the fights anymore. But it doesn't really matter, I've only got a couple of years left in me. 

The owner of the arena organizes a local boxing circuit here. I get to watch the fights for free, well I have to watch the fights. I clean up the teeth, I mop the blood sweat and piss up from the ring. Yeah that's one thing they don't tell you, sometimes you piss yourself when you get knocked out, sometimes you shit yourself too. The kids who come in here these days, so full of hope. You can see it in their eyes, they aren't here to fight, they're here to put bread on the table. These kids will never make it past this old broken down ring. They're gonna spend their weekends here fighting for scraps until they can't lift a glove anymore and they have trouble remembering whether milk goes in the fridge or the dishwasher. 

Don't get me wrong. You still get into it. You attach yourself to one color of shorts and yell at the guy standing in them to beat the crap out of the other. You yell at him, because you can't do it yourself. It doesn't matter that the kid in the other corner can't pay his medical bills from the last fight, you still yell for your guy to kill him, because you want to be in there taking his punches and hitting back harder, showing the world that you can still do it. 

That's the way Lockjaw was, right up until the end when he fought "Tricky" Ricky Robinson. God, I still remember that fight. I can't go day without thinking about it. I still remember the camera flashes made the fighters look like statues, the way the light froze them in a pose and your eyes wouldn't let anything go until they took everything in. I remember the way the referee danced around the fighters like a marionette. 

Lockjaw tried to go down in the eighth, like he was told to. "Tricky" Ricky wasn't in on it, but Lockjaw thought he was. So when that last blow came, the one after he had started falling, well Lockjaw set his jaw tight. He got back up and spent the next eight minutes giving "Tricky" Ricky a lifetime of lost car keys and half-finished sentences. 

The men in suits who had tried to fix the match watched in horror as Lockjaw Jones let the referee lift his glove over his head. They sent a man with a bat to the locker room. What happened there is something I can't tell you, I wasn't there, but I heard Lockjaw describe how much he screamed before he passed out. Lockjaw's legs were broken, the doctors couldn't set the fractures right. 

A boxer's nothing without his legs. Any damn fool can throw a punch, but a boxer's gotta move out of the way of those punches. He's gotta be able to shift his weight, lean in for the strike and lean back for the counterstrike. He's gotta absorb the blow, or twist away from the punch. Everything comes up through the legs, gains power in the hips and stomach, and finally out through the arms. A good punch comes from the earth. If you can ground a punch right you've got the whole damned world behind your fist, and there ain't nobody who can take a hit from the planet. 

Lockjaw had a limp for the rest of his life. Maybe it was out of pity, or vengeance, but the men who broke his legs got him a job working for them. You can still see Lockjaw somedays hanging around the ring, watching the young kids fight, leaning on his broom. 

A Postcard From The Atlantic

Dear Mary Anne, 

The boat left the dock a couple minutes late. Crossing the ocean this way gave me a lot of time to think. Even small delays, like the porter dropping my luggage from the cart add up. Across the ocean these small delays build up like a cresting wave, until it takes us four extra days to make port. 

I don't know why we don't have zeppelins. Airplanes are terrible. You don't have enough time to be comfortable, and the airlines make sure of that. If we still had zeppelins I think air travel would be cheaper. People would spend another couple days on board the zeppelin, while airplanes would only get used by businessmen and for freight purposes. 

But things happen, we don't have zeppelins anymore, also I'm afraid I killed your cat. 

Best Regards,