Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Blizzard

Safe and warm at my dad's house, waiting and watching the exciting storm as it builds up outside. I can't hear the wind though... and the snow gently patches itself to the window panes, with no viciousness. It's a little dis-heartening.

My dad has been out twice tonight, to plow our driveway and the car lot, and he plans on going again at 3 a.m. This storm is supposed to keep steady on through 6 p.m. tomorrow! My boyfriend's Phish concert is around 7 in Worcester, and so far has not yet been cancelled. Most stores plan on remaining closed till late tomorrow, or even until Tuesday.

Originally, Boston was cited as getting 12-18", etc.; that turned into "up to 20" and now 18+, I guess. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph. I want to go to Salisbury Beach like crazy, to watch those waves whip on shore and tear the banks down, but dad says he doesn't have enough gas in the truck to make it that far AND plow all night, and my car wouldn't make it out of the driveway... so maybe tomorrow or something. It is a little windy, I guess, but I have no fear for our electricity. The lights on the tree are blinking just as much today as they were yesterday, and the pellet stove is on full-blast.

There have been something like 1,200 cancellations at three of the major New York airports, and New Jersey has been pretty heavily snowed on as well--I think their inches-count was something like 26" (the prediction). Not sure though, I've been paying too much attention to the Boston map. That's all for now. I plan on tagging along on the 3 a.m. plowing expedition, so I will check back after that. Keep warm, be prepared!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Wave

The wind is ferocious; a real living thing, ripping branches from trees and trash bins over into the street. It pushes my car sideways on the highway. The rain is tossed down on the body of my car like pebbles caught in the mud flap of the truck in front of me, so hard I’m afraid the window will break. When I’m safe at home, in the warm, it sounds like a freight train is rushing through my yard all around, and the flap on the pellet stove goes tap-tap against the outside pipe, like something is knocking to come it.

Nights like this remind me of my dreams. They remind me of the wave.

I had the dreams for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think I really started paying attention to them until I entered middle school. There, people talked about their dreams, and how they hardly ever saw color, and they had no control, and dreams were hard to remember. I quickly realized that my dreams were not ordinary. It was not normal to feel like a dream is real when you are in it and when you are out of it. My dreams were more like memories than regurgitations of my days—and always, there was water; usually a lot of water.

In my earlier dreams, it was my mom who was surrounded by lots of water, all the time. Sometimes she got stuck in it and couldn’t swim to shore. I was never a part of these dreams though, I could only watch. Men would swim out to her and drag her in. Then they’d do things to her, things I didn’t like, and I’d leave the scene for a little while. I could do that—leave and then come back whenever I wanted. When I woke up mom would talk obsessively about her new boyfriend, so I eventually learned that these dreams were good and mom was happy.

But some nights the dreams were violent: the man would rip the ring he’d given her off her finger, and push her down in the water. The water was cold, I could tell, because mom’s bare arms and legs had goosebumps all over. She would try to climb back out, but he would just push her deeper and deeper, until she was almost drowning. She never did though—drown, I mean. But in the morning she was quiet and sad-looking, and I knew the boyfriend was gone.

I didn’t tell anyone about my strange dreams. I felt like a freak, seeing these things, knowing what my mom was going through. But as I began to make friends, more dreams came to me, more water, and more emotions. I saw my best friend lock herself in her bedroom and scream in rage while the water on her floor rose from a trickle flowing under her door, until her bed was floating on it. Just before it swallowed her, though, she quieted down and the water drained. She lay on her bed, dry-eyed, until I got up.

I learned from her sister that her favorite aunt had been killed in an accident. I avoided her for days, afraid to confront the girl I’d seen go so hysterical in my dreams. I avoided her until our friendship was lost entirely, and she appeared no more in my dreams.

High school brought with it my first real crush. He was sexy and sweet and dirtily greekish. He played Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday nights with his friends while I studied Tarot cards. From my cards I learned the meanings of the elements, but the most important to me was water: It’s symbol was the cup, it’s meaning—emotions. It began to make more sense then, my dreams, the water rising, threatening to drown, but not quite getting that far.

There was a girl I met briefly once. She was the daughter of my mom’s friend. Her name was Denise. She had a happy face and long pink fingernails. She’d been to rehab several times, my mom told me, and I needed to be nice to her. I read her cards. We got some that Denise didn’t like—it basically all told her that she needed to sacrifice and love, and be alone for a little while. Denise wanted to stay with her boyfriend, she loved him. But I knew from the look on her face that whoever he was, he wasn’t what she needed.

That night I dreamt that Denise was in a dark place, like a cell, with a single concrete bed, no blankets. A boy came into the room—a boy without a face, and he hit her until she screamed for him to stop. He pulled her head back by the hair and stared down at her. She was wearing chains on her wrists, and I assumed that was the reason she didn’t try to stop him when he pushed her back and took his pants off. I left the room as the water began to trickle in.

Even though I didn’t see Denise again, didn’t even talk to her, I kept seeing her in my dreams. She was always with a different boy, mostly in the same room, although sometimes there were blankets on the bed, or sometimes she was singing. Then, in my final dream of her, she was sitting on the bed, far under the blankets, touching herself. No boys came to see her. No one wanted to see her. I heard a rush like a speeding train and felt the spray before I saw it—as the wave collapsed on top of Denise.

I woke up as though from a nightmare, my whole body awake with terror and the need to act. I paced my room frantically, then went to find my mom.

“I feel like something’s wrong,” I told her, “Call your friend? I’m worried about Denise.”

“Why? What’s wrong with you? Go back to sleep.” She rolled over.

“No mom! You have to call, now, I’m not kidding. Please, just do this for me.” She sighed, sat up, and called her friend.

The look on her face gave me shivers. I could hear loud, painful sobbing from the earpiece. Her mom must have heard the wave too. Denise was dead; she’d killed herself only a few hours ago.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Books I'm reading

Whenever I finish an exceptionally good book, I get a little sad. Or a lot sad. The latest all-I-can-think-about infatuation was with Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games," the first in her trilogy.

I spent hours with characters Katniss and Peeta; the impending danger of being murdered by fellow tributes or by the Capitol, the people in charge. I learned so much about the characters: hearing their memories, laughing with them, running by their sides in fear. And now many of them are dead. And even for the ones that aren't--I'll try not to spoil it--I miss them terribly, like a boyfriend you love love love for days, and then he just up and walks out.

Every library has Collins's books signed out or on hold for another fanatic reader: these books are that good. I am stealing myself from buying the second book. I'll have nothing to look forward to if I read them all too fast. It will just leave me drained and unhappy. You dedicate hours of your life to something, you're going to want something in return for it. So I'm taking a break.

In the meantime, I have listened to a bunch of Ray Bradbury short stories. He is excellent at weaving deep emotions into a science fiction story. I got these audio tapes from the library and they were created in 1979; they're read by Bradbury himself! I also got "Fahrenheit 451" on tape. It's hard to find much else that I can play in my car's tape deck. I'm listening to a lot of traditional/classical stories of late. I just checked out Bradbury's "One More for the Road," a collection of short stories. I didn't care much for the first story--"First Day"--and I didn't really get it. A man who remembers that 50 years earlier he and his friends promised to meet at the flagpole back at school on the first day. Something weird happens--like his friends come back as ghosts maybe, although it seems more like a mirror-projection, and I think it's all in his head. Like I said, I didn't really get it. I hope the other stories are better.

Psycho that I am, I also started reading "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte, and I'm on pg. 92. There are 700 pages or so, and I'm not sure I'll make it that far. I like the main character and her bold defiance. I don't like how slow the story is moving, and I haven't seen an inkling of love. I'm hoping that it will come soon.

I have also been reading Seth Godin's "The Purple Cow," a book about business marketing, and how businesses need to really stand out to survive. I'm enjoying it: it reminds me of school: Everyone conforms, yet, "I'm special." Oh, and you can do anything you put your mind to. Ridiculous things we say, then take away immediately. "Oh, you want to be a musician? Well, the school doesn't think the music department is very important, so you're shit out of luck. Sorry. But if you think really hard... you can be whatever you want."

This afternoon I picked up "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," by Diane Ravitch. I really want to read it, but her writing is boring and hard for me to get through. I've only read a few pages, but in the middle of every paragraph I find myself drifting. I need the cliffnotes for this book. It's too long. She could have shortened her first chapter by half, I think. Most of it is just her repeating, "I changed my mind, people can change their minds..." So I will continue to try. But no promises. She supported the "No Child Left Behind" Act, and now regrets it, apparently.

After reading the first not-exciting short story in the Bradbury book, I decided to start reading "I Know this much is True," by Wally Lamb. It's a thick, heavy book; but I read his "She's Come Undone," and loved it, so I know I can get through this book. I should really be reading more copywriting stuff, and in reality I should be writing a lot more than reading; like, I should have typed up the school committee meeting notes already, but I'm so lazy, and anyway, I have work very soon. Delivery, here I come! More next time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joni's Secret

“Joni, he’s looking at you!” hissed an excited voice in Joni’s ear. Joni tipped her head back and downed the rest of her beer in one smooth gulp. When she came up, the voice was chirping excitedly, “He’s coming over here!” And the voice had a body, whose hands were gripping Joni’s forearm tightly.

“Let go, Marie,” Joni said, not taking her eyes off of the television across the room to their left, where she’d chosen to train her eyes for the moment. There were bodies crowding around the big living room with the beige carpet, which was slowly morphing into something dull and browned with spilt beer and mud. The music was pounding, a heavy blend of electronic and rock, mixing together in a nonsense way that meant someone didn’t download their MP3s right. “He won’t come over here if you’re grabbing me like that. God, he already knows we’re in the GSA together.” Marie immediately dropped her hands and there was a boy’s voice at Joni’s ear: it was Chris’s deep voice, his breath brushing against her neck.

“Joni. Wanna play beer pong with me and the guys?” She kept her eyes on the TV, focusing on the dull greens and whites and digital numbers of a football game. She nodded, still looking away from him, until he placed himself in front of her. She glanced at his soft blue eyes, the frizzy brown hair, the plush thin lips, and smiled.

“Love too. How about Marie?” She turned to look at her friend, but realized that she’d gone. “Just as well,” She said, “she was starting to get on my nerves.” Chris took her to the table where they proceeded to play three rounds of beer pong in which they won zero and stumbled from the house drunker than a hamster dunked in vodka.

Chris stumbled over to his car and Joni followed. The slid down against the outside of the door, giggling together. “Man, did you see Charlotte when that full cup tipped all down her dress? She was SO pissed!” Chris said.

“Oh no, not the best. When Rick pushed Tessa and he fell over, that was awesome. Tessa totally sat on him.”

“I didn’t see that,” He said. After a few minutes they stopped giggling and sat there in buzzing quiet. Joni focused on the numbness in her fingertips and practiced humming in her head. It felt nice to get lost in it. “Joni?” He said.

“Hm?” She noised, turning to face him a little.

“Will you ever take me on Wolf’s Workout?” He asked. Joni laughed. “What’s funny?”

“Why would you want to?”

“All the guys say that’s where you…you know.”

“What?” Her eyes were wide now, his voice felt closer than it had in a while.

He made a motion with his thumb in his mouth, tongue pushing out.

Joni looked away. “It’s called a rumor, Chris. You don’t wanna go. It’s not that, but it’s a secret.”

“Take me? They say it’s eye-opening. I’ll learn something, right?” He looked entirely too excited, meaning that he knew learning would be in the sexual department. Or thought he knew, anyway. “Are you doing anything tomorrow?” He asked.

“Saturday morning cartoons,” she said. “And I’m working on a new outfit.”

“Take me tomorrow?” he took her hand and, begging, said “Please?”

Joni sighed. “If you don’t make it through, we don’t make it. You have to get that.” Chris just looked confused, his wild hair shining with grease now. “But since you asked, there’s no turning back now. My house at noon tomorrow, I’ll take you there. It won’t be fun.” She stood up sloshily and tipped to the side a little before straightening herself up. “Later.”

Joni lie in bed, eyes open, trying to prepare herself for the day ahead. The boy was sure to fail, which was pretty awful, since it meant she’d have to move on. It was too quick, the relationships were meant to last longer, go more slowly than this. But alas, she had no choice. The boy had placed the question before her, and like a free dessert, the offer could not be passed up.

She swung her legs out of bed and went to the closet, where she picked out a pair of slightly baggy camouflage pants and a tight green shirt with long sleeves. She put on a darker green baseball cap for added measure, hiding her thick brown hair high in the cap. She began to hope that the boy would forget about their plan; he’d been drunk enough for that to be a possibility. But when she heard the doorbell ring, she knew it was going to happen. The jock better pass, but more likely he wouldn’t, and the he would never be hers.

“Joanne!” Her mother called, “A boy’s here for you!” Joni cringed, embarrassed by the name her mother called her, completely ignoring Joni’s pleas to be called by her shortened name.

She came into the living room to find Chris standing in front of the door in nothing less than a suit: a suit, blue, complete with a black and gold striped tie, and with glossy black shoes on his feet. He looked uncomfortable, shifting his feet and looking down at the floor, while her mother stood there staring at him, her arms folded across her chest. “Joanne, do you have a date?” She asked, and looked over at her daughter. Her mouth fell open, her eyes widened, and her arms fell to her sides. “I…” She tried, faltering. “I’m not even going to try,” she said, admitting defeat and leaving the room. Probably off to play some more piano, Joni decided, rolling her eyes.

She focused back on Chris. “What the fuck are you wearing?” She demanded to know.
“Um…” he mumbled. “I just wanted to look nice?” He said.

“Oh please! I’ve never seen you dressed up, what is this?”

“They say to dress nice…or I’ll lose.” He looked straight at her then, and she saw longing in his eyes.

Joni tried not to laugh. “You trust too easily,” she said. “But let’s go. We’ll see how long you last in that.”

Joni took him outside to the woods. He followed her between a small space between a thick oak tree and a rusty metal fence. He stumbled over loose stones and jutting roots as they half-walked, half-crouched through thick bushes. To their right was appeared to be an abandoned yard, with the burnt skeleton of an old house hidden away inside the fence; to their left was a drop-off of about thirty feet. Chris stuck close to the fence, ready to cling to it for dear life should one of the dangerous objects underfoot come truly loose.

“I come out here all the time,” Joni said from somewhere ahead, “every morning, and I used to come every night, too. I can get through this place with my eyes closed.” If he could have caught up to her, Chris would have noticed that Joni moved like a soldier avoiding landmines like she had put them there; she slid around the most dangerous rocks, slid under branches that she knew were too fragile to climb over, she only bent down at places where Chris would crawl on his hands and knees.

Chris was currently at one of those places that necessitated crawling in this way, and he could feel the knees of his nice pants beginning to chafe, and he could just imagine the thick patches of dirt that would stain them there and elsewhere, like on his butt when he slipped on an old wire sticking out of the ground and landed on his butt to avoid falling off the cliff. He felt his shoes scuff, and knew they would be dull and impossible to repair after this journey. His tie kept getting caught in snarling pricker bushes and in stray threads from the dead fence.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he came to a standing place and stood as straight as he could. “J-Joni?” He asked, looking to the left and to the right. At the bottom of the cliff, past a thick stand of trees, there was a market basket or stop and shop—it was down there, where no one could see them. At the bottom was a river, spotted with rocks jagged like his grandfather’s teeth. The non-existent path had turned to the right, and here the fence disappeared; in its place, against where the fence should have been was a thick slab of concrete, about five feet tall, three feet thick, and ten feet across. Vines snaked around it, and some burst through cracks in its face, but it was a dangerous thing, for the ground in front of it was nearly gone, meaning that he would need to grab onto the vines and just hope that the concrete didn’t press wrong against the little bit of earth left under it and send him to his death…

“I’m over here, Chris.” He looked up and, sure enough, there was Joni—standing on the other end of the concrete slab. “What’s wrong?” She asked, looking at his face, which had drained of color. “You can make it past this! All the boys do!”

“I don’t think you’re worth this,” he said. Joni had been smiling, but now she wasn’t.

“Worth what?” She asked, her eyes suddenly fierce.

“My life!” He said, pointing to the drop below, “I won’t risk my life just to play your stupid game. Nothing you offer me can be worth this…” He started to turn around.
“Chris!” She said, and he paused, “Turn around and you’ll never be with me.” Seeing that this had no effect on him, she decided to try enticing his curiosity, “You’ll never see what’s back her—the thing I keep so secret. No one’s seen it.” He walked away.

Joni slid down against the fence and put her face in her hands. She sobbed, wandering why she needed so badly for someone to see her secret. And why it needed to be out here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Most Intense entry about Danish

I fear the silent bed that awaits my return. It lies ever so still, blanket cool against the sheets, pillow no longer smells like my love, but like this fetid room of oozing injuries, dog piss, and cat dander. I breathe into the pillow, hoping for a brief strong taste of my love. It’s still there, a little. I’ve been away from him for so long it feels: more like months rather than days. I Want to take his slender arms and hold them about me, curling me into him, becoming my hermit-shell so we can crawl on spindly legs across the world together.

I want to see what the cats see: when they crouch and glare and stalk, eyes intent on the black rectangle beneath the fridge, or on the doorframe, or a single step. Skitzo-cat paces the frequently dirtied floor, head arched like he’s proud, an Egyptian god or pharoh, as his paws pad silently about. It is not a monster slumbering two rooms over, but a patient of putrid wounds and injuries, an aging accomplice often known as “Man’s best friend.” She lies for hours with her eyes open, looking at nothing, except, perhaps, happier days, or the Beyond, and perhaps she wonders when that Beyond will take her. Or when this present day shall be taken from her. Either way, death is inevitable. As is all sleep. Eventually my tired eyes will close, I will lie down, Danish will wake me up, my feet will feel scalded on the cool wooden floor (I know what’s been there) but I’ll open the door for her nonetheless and wait, and hope, she will soon return.

I’m kissing the lips of exhaustion, sucking them dry, willing them to keep me awake
and refreshed, or else take me down in a complete way--a way that will let me stay under for a full eight hours, or at least six.

A pale woman in black plume hat and dress, dagger-length necklace dripping to her bosom. The ends of a pink or red scarf fall from her shoulders. I wish she’d walk out and scare the dog into eternal silence, granting me a multitude of peace, a supreme gift of love would I feel for this dark stranger, painting on the wall, staring at nothing unhelpfully.

The floor snores, black fur rising. A voice from the office shrieks about being alone. A moth flits from wall to ceiling. I live to wait this night.




A chant. A simple thing, really. And later-sleep. Sleep like waiting on a balcony for a storm, like falling into James’s arms when we make love, like lying on a bed of moss in the beginning of spring, before the bugs visibly swarm, or like that first drunken kiss--the freedom of opening my former relationship, the codependence of the road trip, the independence of running to the Smoky Mountains, and the warm, green forest of Cades Cove.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Watching Danish

I’m at Donna's, sitting on one of the two beds that are available for my use. I can see Danish, the reason I am to remain here most of every day, lying on her bed in the corner. She lays on her right side so that the cantalope-sized bump on her left hip remains untouched, and although I can’t see it, I know the growth on the right side of her face is against the softness of her bed. Like a fine-toothed comb, the growth is hard and bumpy. Yellow vet-wrap is wound over her shoulders and up over her chest; on her back lies an open wound that will not close, and should I not change the wrap every day, or should I leave it to air out too long, the maggots will fester.

But the most striking visual feature about Danish (and most are visual, because she is very quiet and can hardly move) are her ribs. Her legs are toward me, and her ribs stick up through her fur, thin like a kid’s keyboard or a box of ribbon lasagna--laid out in a line. She breathes slowly, and sleeps with her eyes open. I hope she’s sleeping. I hope her eyes aren’t open because she’s lying there, suffering and miserable and unable to do anything about it.

Danish is a 14 year old Foxhound (I think). I have been hired to watch she and another dog, four cats, two horses, and a couple of bunnies for two weeks while Donna takes her four adopted children on a road trip across the country.

At 5:00 it’s feeding time. It will be a frenzy, no doubt. I’ll need to feed pretty much everyone but the bunnies, check all waters, and prepare the horses 8:00 treat which needs to “soak” for a few hours. I don’t think that Donna realizes the amount of work she does every day here: simply pushing a full wheelbarrow the 200 or 300 feet across the yard to dump it sounds easy, until you add a some hills, a bunch of toys (including a dilapidated wooden wagon), long grass, a fence line to lift up and go under, a bunch of bushes to shove your way through, and then you get to find a great patch of poison ivy on which to dump.

Day 2

I’m so angry all the time. I don’t know how not to be. Every time I’m angry I get hurt. For instance: I walked down the driveway (it’s steep--my Saturn can’t make it up during the winter) to the neighbor’s house. The guy there is paying me to fill his wild bird feeders. Simple, right? He has an envelope on which is written all the other stuff: water the garden, put an orange up, toss the old one in the bushes (specifically the Lilac bushes), rinse and keep the bird baths full. I was mad that the directions appeared to have a new instruction: water the garden twice. I assumed this meant twice daily. I was so mad that after filling the feeders out front I took the orange out back and tried slicing it in half on my hand. Yeah, I cut my finger open. Stupid. Later I realized he’d told me to water the garden twice--as in, twice while he’s gone.

I hadn’t mucked the stalls yet, so I needed a bandage. I put it on and spent 45 minutes or so mucking the two stalls. Even with my IPOD playing I couldn’t get beyond my anger. It isn’t just the pay or the work, it’s me, and the fact that I can’t whip a stall clean in five minutes, that drives me crazy. It’s not like I have anything else to do, there is no need to rush, especially since I’m trapped here all day. So then I start blaming things. I blame the shavings; they’re too thick. The pitchfork is like a Devil’s rake, as it's metal and the damn prongs are so bent that the only way to get any manure no larger than a baseball is to get it on the left side and let it roll down into the mitt, if you will. In order to try dissipating my insatiable rage, I try to admire that Donna does this every day: she feeds all ten animals, cleans all their litter/shavings, etc., bandages the deteriorating dog, mucks the stalls and paddock, and still manages to work and take care of her kids.

But it’s hard to admire someone whose dog wakes me up five times during the night. Especially when after only an hour and a half of sleep she keeps wandering around the kitchen, barking in agony whenever she slips and gets stuck under the piano bench or in the laundry room amid the junk on the floor. So I put up the broken gate so that the dog can’t wander throughout my entire attempt at sleep, but the cats keep knocking the damn thing down and making us both jump. And after all of this, I was unable to fall asleep until 3 or 4 in the morning, having been woken at half past midnight. I woke up soon after from a nightmare. The birds started there screeching around 5 a.m., so I had to shut the windows in the room. Around 6:00, the cats jumped on me, played with my books, and wouldn’t be quiet. Finally I got up to let the dog out, feed the horses, put Danish’s bandage on while she took a shit on the living room floor, cleaned it up, and washed my flipflops. I hope my parents never get this old. Her stomach must be bruised--it’s the only place to really help her up whenever she falls.

After pushing the wheelbarrow into the weeds down by the poison ivy, I tried lifting it up (getting all the manure out isn’t always very easy), was still thinking about how dumb I was for accidentally cutting my finger open, and dropped the heavy metal edge of the barrel on my foot. Bloody hell, I thought to myself.

I keep thinking that maybe I’m so angry because I’m sick of working with animals, but I don’t think that’s true: I get angry a lot. Whenever I feel that someone is walking all over me, whenever I have to suck up to someone, whenever I hold my tongue, whenever someone makes me feel inferior, whenever I feel inferior on my own, I get angry. So what is the root of this misery?

10:23 p.m.

Talking to James has calmed me down a lot. I tried going to sleep at 8:00 so I could get some sleep before Danish needed to go out at 11, but all the noises were driving me crazy. As soon as I laid down Danish wanted to go out. When she came back in she kept making noise, like scratching herself and licking, and getting up then lying back down. When she finally left the room, a cat began eating loudly in the bathroom. Before all this, I could hear Ann, Donna's oldest child, laughing on the phone in the other room, so I had attempted my headphones: Incubus. To no avail. I did not fall asleep. So here I am: Pissed off, exhausted, and determined to not even bother trying to sleep until I can’t stay awake anymore. She got herself into the kitchen, promptly fell on the floor, and pissed herself. I had to put my hands under her belly and pull up until she got those damaged legs down and under her.

I cried while washing the floor. I wanted to take off and drive home to James, home to comfort and relative cleanliness.

My tears are spent for now, but my eyes are crusty, the shadows beneath deepening with every breath.

James reassures me that maybe she’ll die tonight. I pray that he is right. Ann says that her mom doesn’t believe in killing. I don’t think that’s the accurate word for what death would do for ancient Danish. She thinks, as her mother does, that “Dan-y” is happy. I think Danish is long gone, and in her place is this skeleton with weeping wounds and balloon-like projections all over her body. It hurts to watch her try to walk, to see her tipping backward on weak hips and hope that she will somehow counter-balance, because I can’t catch her every time she decides to walk.

I have no peace from this dog. She is the purpose of my being here. She is the reason I will abandon pet-sitting for the rest of my life when this 13-day-hell is over. That’s what this is: Hell. I’m not sure which circle, or why I ended up here, but I’m probably supposed to learn patience, because this is the primary virtue of which I am direly in need. And this is the one place I need so much of it for.

June 25, 2010

I was mucking stalls in the barn last night when Donna called. We started talking and she told me that she and the kids were in Wisconsin and that they’d seen a tornado and other exciting things, when at the end I asked a question. “So…you will be back by the fourth of July, right?”

A few weeks ago, James had invited me to join him and his friends in New Hampshire. I was very excited about this prospect, since I haven’t done much with his friends lately and chances are that they will be a big part of our lives…so I kind of need to. And doing anything with other people on holidays is important for me. There have been many miserable New Years--each one involving loneliness and tears--and all this before I was even 22. James abandoned me for our first New Year, but he had made plans months before he even knew me. So spending a fourth of July minus my parents seemed like a grand plan.

“Oh yeah, we have to be back by then. I don’t have any choice. I have to get back to work.”

“Oh good,” I said emphatically, “because my boyfriend’s friends are having a pig roast up in New Hampshire.” I had never heard of a pig roast in modern life and felt very intellectual whenever I said it. I told everyone it was a pig roast, but as soon as I said it to Donna I knew that I’d done wrong. I was taking care of her ten animals, she wouldn’t kill the dying dog, and there were veggie-burgers in the fridge. Oh shit, I thought.

“Oh Artemis, that’s awful!” My mind began scrambling. How could I fix what I‘d said? “Do you know what they do at one of those?”

“Eat…pig?” I said anxiously.

“They put it on a stick and they cook it. It’ll be seared into your mind forever. You shouldn’t go to one of those.” I imagined what she might have been imagining: a band of unruly young men and women, slaughtering a harmless piggy, her piglets whimpering in the corner as her blood covered the hands and faces of the murderers. I imagined she saw them wiping the blood around their eyes and licking it from their fingers. I imagined the pig with a stick going into its mouth and out the other end, and even I started to get a little nauseous.

“I’m sure they won’t do that.” I said, “why, what do they do at a pig roast?” I didn’t want her to tell me anymore, but I didn‘t know what else to say. My own imagination was getting the better of me. I could see James wearing the skin around his body like a coat to get laughter from his friends.

“Oh honey, they slice its throat.”

“…I’m sure they won’t do that,” I said again, at a loss for new words. “I think it’s just a barbecue. I think James just called it a pig roast. I mean, half of them are vegetarian.” I didn’t know if this last bit was true, but I knew that a few of his friends liked Thai food, and to me that meant they didn’t like a lot of meat. If they did, they’d eat Chinese instead.

“I really hope they don’t.”

It was an awkward conversation to end with, and I began to worry that, like she does with the “martyr” dog, she would try to do what was right, in her mind, for me: she would intentionally show up the day after July 4th to save me from the awfulness of the animal-slaughterers.

I continued mucking the stall, intent on calling James a little later and demanding to know just what this pig roast really was. And maybe I’d celebrate another holiday alone instead of having this one seared forever into my memory.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 24, 2010 midnight

Eventually there comes a point, when you go on and on avoiding something or someone, and just snap-and go right to them. Like the poor dog who doesn't want to go to the man, afraid that he might be hit, but wanting attention more than anything else; or like a person on a diet absolutely confident that this candy bar will be the last; or like me, scared to come into contact with anyone who I think has hurt the people I love, or who will hurt me.

When you run back to that thing you've been avoiding, like a lonely pup with her tail between her legs, you-in this scenario-are rewarded. The treat has been given: a pat on the head, a nice talk, some confidence-boosters, and all is good. It reminds you that some people are good, and family is not all infected. You don't need any elaborate lunches, any shopping sprees or whatever, just each other, lots of things to talk about, and hours of time. It becomes difficult to leave. This person makes you feel so good, and not many other people can do that, so walking away is like getting up in the early morning-you can barely lift the blankets.

This person inspires the positive in you, knows how you're feeling, why you're feeling it. But everyone you know is in a different sphere of the world: there are the ritzes, the cheapos, the friendly and the fraud, the gentle and unsociable, the teenage angst, and the five-year-old darling who stands up for her 22-year-old sister on graduation day.

Then there is you. By which I mean me. The recent grad., ready for road trip but not really, very worried, wishing her boyfriend wanted her more, terrified of what happens AFTER the road trip...unsure of what is right or wrong to say, to think, to do-not only around the boyfriend, but also around anybody else, worried that she isn't polite or professional enough, that she can't dress the part, that she needs to meld into the normal in order to survive, and she wants to believe this one person, not her mom, not her dad, not even really her family, that these are not all bad things, that they can be quite useful, and not everyone needs a prescribed path.

She feels much better, a little less afraid, some plots in mind. The anger is not so much there as it was before. (She drives home in the dark, might have hit an opossum, tries hard to ignore that thought, the images, the guilt-reminding herself that it wasn't her fault, she tried to dodge it-and remembering that soft crunch under the tires.) She will try to sleep, and may struggle to do so, but tomorrow will be calmer. She'll sleep later, and write when she gets up, and will send the person some writing exercises to do. Then she will go home to her boyfriend, and maybe they'll keep each other warm.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stagnant...but not

It is very difficult to stay awake past 11 when you've been awake since 8 a.m. Although I am glad to have gotten up so much earlier than usual, I miss my usual reason for late-wake-up--my boyfriend. Only a single night I have been without him, yet already I want him here with me. Kind of. Part of me does, part of me does not. I enjoy being away from him, for just a little while. It may just be that I so very much enjoy being away from western Mass. I do not like it there. For me it is boring and lonely. For is the perfect bachelors' place. We will see how this goes.

I want him here so I can show him around. It's weird. I know I'm supposed to see him as a person now, but I still have this weird obsession with pushing him into the follower position where he won't react. I guess I want him to react, I just don't know how he will. That is perhaps the best part about being with him--I never know what's next. With Chris it was always quiet, or he was scared of something, or whatever; with James there's a bit of bravery, curiosity, an insatiable humor, although it can be somewhat morbid.

I got my hair cut at Wal Mart tonight. Maricel brought me out to lunch (onion & mushroom pizza at Not Your Average Joe's), and then we went with dad to China Buffet (we snuck out lots of, ahem, leftovers), then Wal Mart, and home again. I talked to James on the phone for a little while. I will not be obsessive and check my phone to see how long...but it felt like five or ten minutes. Spent an hour and a half in Staples trying to put together that damn booklet for the mothers at the TLP. Wicked bothersome. I was so out of it after that. Registration tomorrow, for the Honda, for the road trip.

I need to sleep really bad soon, this tired feeling is killing me. Stomach also killing me. Apparently being in Eastern Mass does not heal my intestinal issues. I will just need to not eat. Everybody here keeps telling me I need to gain weight, but how do they expect me to do that when everything I eat just stagnates in my gut from night to night? Sleep calling still. Dreams of storms last night. Perhaps there are more waiting.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Random Scene (fiction)

Stuck in the scene: you, holding onto me weakly, me, trying to escape, to reach for the remote. But you never let me have it. You never gave in. You’d rather leave bruises on my armbands than give to me a second chance at choice.

My first choice was a mistake, I get that now. But everyone, especially greedy little children-and very especially little spoiled greedy children-will try and get what they want. The thing I did was a little over-the-top, which is, I suppose, why I was never given another choice. But father refused me the one thing I’d ever wanted in life: a shock-shooting typewriter. The kind where, every letter you hit, you get a little shock, so that by the time you finish a word your finger’s tip is numb, and by the time you finish a whole sentence your arm is numb, and he wouldn’t get it for me, said it was dangerous. As if. I didn’t realize the apricot seeds would hurt him so bed, would send him into that place-we-don’t-speak-of. But I still don’t regret what I did: standing up for what I believed I deserved has created me the person I am today.

And you held me there, just held me out of reach of that damn remote. You’d watch the spontaneous -trig channel and the “Aren’t Gods Millionaires?” show, and movies like “My wife turned into my testicles,” when all I asked for was a simple space alien or blood-and-guts type show--like my favorite, “Harry’s in the Bloodbath.”

Sound-No sound

Turning around in the thick blankets. Warm blankets, sticking like sweat. Breathing. A snore. The sound of hair and pillow against your ears. A car passing by, headlights flashing across the ceiling as it turns out onto the main road. You hear a slight scratching above, the rats or squirrels living in hordes on the floor above. But this is nothing but sound.

Sitting at the kitchen table. Peeling surface rough beneath your fingers. Light pouring in from the sky-roof, landing on the potted plants on the lower sill. They are green-someone gave them a spill of water and in a day, after months of dehydration, they came back to life. You sit still. Not even bird calls can be heard from where you sit: every window is closed and encased in cocking: cemented tightly shut. The washer and dryer are off. Every sink closed, so not a drop clinks against the metal and porcelain sinks. Branches shake outside, send the light and shadows spilling across the wooden floor. An ant scurries across the floor and over to the rug, but the silence is complete. You stay until you can’t stand the quiet anymore. Your ears are buzzing in the quiet, and thoughts just won’t bob to the surface. You run the faucet, say his name aloud, throw his favorite can of Zazz across the room.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day at the (flooded) beach

There’s nothing like a mug of hot apple cider after a long day in March. A long 68-degree day in March. It was amazing! I got up at eight this morning, ate some of dad’s icky oatmeal (he must have put less than a teaspoon of brown sugar in) eating only clumps of banana and trying to force the rest down, before getting on the computer in search of a publishing house or magazine to get an informational interview at. I tried calling North Shore and Merrimack Valley, both local magazines, but getting hold of an actual person over-the-phone is impossible. I found the North Shore one, but the editor was in a meeting, and a guy at the front desk told me to e-mail or call, so later I called and left a message. I never got a return call. Maybe tomorrow, I hope.

I spent a few hours over my friend Sara’s house with she and her boyfriend. Her half-goldie black dog (90 lbs), Harry jumped all over us until we decided to go to Salisbury beach. We walked down the beach and found Harry-sized piles of black seaweed and half-buried lobster traps in the sand. Intermingled cans and bottles, gloves, boots and other single-paired shoes were trapped in the weeds. A dead fish, its mouth partially open to reveal sharp tiny teeth, made me stumble as I almost stepped on it barefoot. Sara scanned among the debris and sands for sea glass while I searched for anything interesting; a whole clamshell, some driftwood; more dead fish.

And then I started searching for images with the sight of my camera: a still standing on its own in a circle of weeds, right next to a black rubber boot and bleached yellow tennis shoe. Sara pointed to the long cement garage that has forever drawn the curiosity of my step sister and me into its depths: a five by five portion of its ceiling had been blown clear off. “From the waves,” Sara said. Further along the building I found a calling I was unable to resist: the door was gone. The wood that had been nailed over the entrance for my entire life, had been either destroyed or kicked out, and this was my chance to finally explore it.

Sand on the ground, a light film on everything; a dusty beer bottle on a shelf beside a dusty wooden chair; light blaring down from the no-longer-existent ceiling; the ceiling caved in a bunch of splintered beams; two half-open doors beside a refrigerator with its door thrown wide; closer to the entrance, a small room with double-holed cement blocks jumbled on the floor; in focus a rusty sewing machine on its side, Sara and Adam standing together on the beach out the door in the background.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

flood 2010

Our waiter was Herman Munster from the “The Munsters” . . . at least, he looked like that Frankenstein-guy. He was very tall, at least seven feet, and loud. The hair on his head was sparse, although it was hard to make out from all the way down in our chairs. “What Would You Like To Drink Young Lady?” He boomed. I asked for a pepsi. “Coke OkAY?” Nod. I felt our table wobble as he walked away.

We were sitting in a booth on the restaurant half of Bar--“it used to be a really good restaurant,” dad said—where the tables were arranged in a kind of triangle, on either side tables, but slanting to an end table by the far wall. An unequal triangle—obtuse? In any case, the bench is far enough away that one’s beer gut or thick flesh might lean comfortably against the hard edge of the table. For us, this meant we had two choices: we could either lean all the way back (even cross-legged) with our backs against the high wooden back, or we could sit on the edge of the seat, as close as possible to the table, where it would be possibly to reach our plates and waters.

The bar wasn’t really hopping. Saint Patrick’s Day night, and nothing really happening. I wondered if it was because of the time (nine p.m.) or if it was just because the town is Ipswich. When I think Ipswich I see the Ipswich Savings Bank monogram (?): a blue sky with white Vs flying around the name. Then I think of my step sister’s dancing place (Mariana’s) and of the floods.

The floods were the reason I came home. Living out in Western Mass is a bore after growing up Merrimack-North Shore. Where there is ocean here, there are mountains there; a variety of people here, basically all tree-hugging hippies there; real city-like during the school year, but rolling ghost-town during breaks: summer, winter, middle of March.

Dad left a message on my phone when I refused to answer it at 9:30 in the morning. “Man, you should have taken yesterday off from work and come down here! The floods are amazing and Ipswich river is all backed up, everything’s underwater…” not his exact words, but close. I called work, cancelled, and drove to Rowley.

Just before the bar we parked by the EBSCO building, with its giant mural painted on one long wall. The river was high. Trees were halfway underwater, but it was hard to tell. When we crossed town and stood in front of the footbridge, the damage was more striking: EBSCO, that enormous brick building, was a little underwater; the lights were still on through the windows. “They must be water-protected,” dad said, and we nodded. The water was moving fast like rapids. It went into a short waterfall on a long wall; this fall was only a few feet, when normally it’s a little further. The foot bridge was being pummeled, and for that reason the entrance to it was strung with many caution tapes, to keep us out. On the other side of the bridge, where the water came out, we could see it struggling to move; it was so fierce that I was sure it would have to break eventually.

I imagined the damage it would cause, if it was forced from its hold and pulled downriver. It was probably tumble a little (the bridge is at least 20 feet long) and maybe break apart in a few pieces, but it looks like the water could still hold it up. It would tumble downriver, gashing great holes in the sides of buildings, ripping through windows and flooding more basements. In seconds it would be to the major bridge in the center of town, the one that cars and people go over all the time, the bridge where the water is only a foot or so from completely touching the bottom of the bridge; it would tear it apart. Well, first, it might lean against the bridge, and maybe a piece or two would make it through underneath, but it would clog, and water would keep pushing, and eventually, eventually, that shit would break into pieces, the road would fall in, any cars or people standing on top would surely drown, and it would lead to incredible chaos.

But that didn’t happen. Not yet, anyway. From the news reports on NECN, it appears that the entire town of Billerica is underground. I’m not sure if that’s true.

Only a few weeks ago, the coast of New England was slammed with some seriously damaging winds, hurricane-style, 60-, sometimes up to 70-mile-an-hour winds. I missed it because of school. But it did damage: trees down everywhere, on houses, on top of cars, onto pedestrians walking by! It howled and shook houses and trailers, tore down weaker trees and challenged stronger ones, and I missed it! Now with the flooding. We haven’t had quite this bad flooding since the floods of 2006, when I fell into river-runoff and almost got sucked into the sewer under the road (my step sister rescued me).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Joy Ride Gone Wrong

“It wasn’t a joy ride.”
“Then what do you call driving halfway across the state, then coming back in less than an hour?”
“Paul, you don’t get it…we were out there-”
“In Turner’s Falls?”
“Yeah-we were out getting some gorgeous speakers installed. Jeff said he knew this cool mechanic who would do it for cheap. He said we wouldn’t have to pay much.”
“So why aren’t the speakers in your car?”
“Because Jeff…Jeff…the guy wanted some money none of his wanted to give him. Can I talk to mom?”
“No, she’s busy and doesn’t want to be bothered. She doesn’t even want to talk to you after what you’ve done--abandoning your little sister like that-”
“What are you talking about? She’s friggin’ fourteen! She could have taken the
bus. I told her to find another ride home.”
“She obviously didn’t think you were serious. Hey, didn’t your girlfriend go with you?”
“Where is she?”
“Did you drive her home?”
“Rachel didn’t come with us.”
“Don’t answer that.”
“But it’s Jeff. I gotta’ tell him something important. He left his…wallet in my car.
“Hey Jeff. What’s up?”
“Dude, I don’t think we should tell anybody what happened.”
“Dude, I’m not. But do you think she’ll be okay?”
“Who, Rachel?”
“Tell him what you need then get off.”
“One sec, Paul.
“Yeah. I’m wor-….thinking about it a lot. Your wallet’s in my car.”
“No it’s not. It’s right here in my pock--oh shit.”
“I think I really left it back there…”
“What do you mean ‘oh’ this is a big deal brotha!”
“That’s too bad.”
“Off the phone, NOW.”
“I think I gotta’ go.”
“Paul startin’ in on you again? We’re gonna’ have to go back there tomorrow. I don’t want that creepy jerk getting hold of where I live and shit, you get me?”
“Totally, bye.”
“No internet, T.V. or video games for a month. And-no more car.”
“How’d you get hold of this sweet ride, bro?”
“Careful, don’t smudge the windows, Jeff. We’re going in and out, in and out, just
like the burger-place, right?”
“Sure, don’t sweat it. This dashboard is smooth. I can’t believe your step dad let
you drive his Ferrari!”
“Trust me, Paul doesn’t know anything about it. He left this morning and
shouldn’t be back ‘till tomorrow. I’m just hoping he doesn’t come home early. I will be
So screwed.”
“Got that right. He’ll sell that beauty Mustang your dad got you.”
“I’d kill him.”
“Have you seen him lately?”
“Who? My dad? Nah, it’s been awhile. Like…a year.”
“Harsh. At least he gave you the car before taking off for good.”
“Yeah, right.”

“This place still gives me the creeps.”
“We shouldn’t have come back, but I really need my wallet.”
“Did we really bring Rachel here? What were those things you made us take?”
“The pills? Some guy at school sold them to me for something he needed me to
“Do I even want to know.”
“Eh. It was just business. He just told me the pills would make us a little out of
“I don’t remember anything, really. How the hell did we drive out here on that
“Like I’d remember anything you couldn’t? Chris, maybe your girlfriend isn’t
even out here. Maybe she’s safe at home. I mean, we couldn’t have really just…left her
here. I mean, we wouldn’t, right?”
“I don’t think so, but . . . Remember what he was going to do to us?”
“That’s why we had to get out of here.”
“But what if he did those things to her? I don’t feel so good.”
“Okay then, let’s go. I forgot about the glass room and the smell . . . Oh god, let’s
just leave!”
“But Rachel, we have to get her out of here!”

Monday, February 8, 2010

Prom #3

A curtain of turquoise and deep blue falling
from the doorway, aired up fish floating the papery-
-ocean depths; a balloon arch of the same colors,rising
over a mouth-piece-less microphone: hanging on curtains
behind the mike, a collage of fish and sea-like creatures
drawn and colored in; on either side safety pins hold up
computerized images of birthday men and women their faces
those of the fish, or inside the fishes' mouths.

Giant mural made of boxes of cardboard glued together,
the bodies of Ariel, Flounder and Sebastian painted
faces cut out, mural leaned back against the piano for support:
a grinning face, little hair, from the face of the fish, a curious
mermaid looking up for him.

The dresses were poofy black with sequin-shiny top
fanned shoulders; and a short red dress pointing down
at the crotch like a heart, puttered sleeves and big bow on back
crimped hair and bare legs, golden shoes and hoops and Shawna;
or long blue gown, big-back-tattoo, who does splits
and twists, known only as "blue dress girl" (Prom queen show-off);
or tight-shoulders, tight-ass, tight-hips, tight-thighs shine bright
dull gold Becca, excellent dancer, didn't win; or dances-with-blow-up-shark
hay-colored hair, big red dress Kim, back it UP and keep the drink COMING.

There was also black dress, layered-hair (with side-bow) knee-high stockings,
tennis shoes girl Stephanie. There were tight, falling-
-out yellow dresses, and poofy-skirt, pretty curls (small) Cinderella-type dress
(Karra); and goldy-locks (glamorous!) black dress pearls, pink-slack's girlfriend.
Among the boys there was pink slacks, grey vest, pink shirt and tie; then there was good dancer, frilly shirt, red-and-gold vest, short hair & glasses, looks like he should be smoking a pipe (Mick-D?); and open jacket, tussled tie, moosed-up
hair, sunglasses, stomping-the-floor "he's in character" Greg McWilliams;

There was, of course, red-head Smile, pink cheeks and open-coat-by-end-of-night
grabbing me for last slow dance (Beatles), lights on, people cleaning up,
angry-about-the-judging, James. He was talk-to-everyone introduce, introduce, forget forget forget; flask in his pocket.

Sober-Girl-in-purple-and-gold-medieval-dress dancing/making-out-with/straddling/hugging/laughing with Legendary Jim/James.