1. Springs, Cogwheels, Chocolate Truffles
Each morning, she tries to repair the boy using whistles, wake-up calls, a rattling G.I. Joe doll with eyes as plastic as his. Still, he won't quite wake up. She knows that he inherited some of her obsolete parts: the springs too stretched, the rusty gears, the leaking of mechanized voices across the placenta. To be drowned in absolute need. To detach & admit nothing. The past? Just an elusive present that keeps ticking. She would reattach him to her belly button if it could make him rise & blink. Not like the toy soldiers that she threw out. They were only donations and they made her hands feel like sand, caused her to pant as if her breaths sifted back & forth through impossible particulate masks.
The mother & son live over an Italian bakery on West 6th. At sunrise, she imagines tasting the ricotta in the fresh-baked cannoli or the fruits in the panaforte. She imagines how even after life stops, delivery trucks will continue to double-park & window-washers will still lose their keys. It's a neighborhood that rises & sinks with its own secret timers. At night, she hears the footsteps of the baker's wife after she closes shop. Or the shots fired, when she shoots an assailant in the foot. The almost-adult mugger addicted to powdered sugar & deep-fried balls of dough .
2. East of Steinbeck
He would unscrew his head if he could, empty himself of all undigested bits to feed his dog. The left-over pizza crusts, the untouched Spam, tiny islets of cold cuts with bluish spots. Pieces of his own liver that the birds haven't touched. The dog is a black Labrador with eyes reminding the old man of the warmth of a woman when sharing things did not lead to depletion. When some rooms were not impossible to heat. The dog that is a she has a limp & whines from long distances. From East 53rd to Noho, for example. That night was a dry run. Now, evening is settling like a memory refusing to let go. Man is carrying she-dog to the outskirts of city mist. She licks the insides of his wrists in content. They cuddle behind a restaurant dumpster. They feel not-themselves as if their bones are expanding beyond flesh, or blood is coagulating behind their eye lids. Still, she will bring him a semblance of warmth. By morning, somewhere in this late autumn, a swirl of leaves wishing to have names, another body will grope for a feel, another will wake up dead.
3. Chance Encounter
I met Bill Shatner the other day in the new building on Hudson Street. We discussed politics, theories of alien migrations, the best way to make a tarte tartin, took an elevator to the 11th floor but there were only ten. Feeling hungry and cheap, I suggested, once the elevator stops, that we get chicken wings.
4. The Saint of Dead Spiders
You never have enough hands to rid spider webs from dark corners. I never had common sense, mistook spider webs for safety nets & I fell through too many holes. They diagnosed me with a chronic form of darkness. I showed them spider bites on my arms & legs. They said to be careful where you walk. At the hospital near East 3rd and 24th, I met a girl who said she heard spiders talking to her at night. She had tried to hang herself with her mother's old stitches. A subtle sense of humor, she had. At night, when the nurse on duty was asleep, we collected all the spiders on the unit & crushed their voices. We thought this would make us immune to bad omens & lies, to the carrier insects still crawling in our badly-wired brains. The girl tried again to hang herself but this time in a new outfit that her mother had bought on sale. A purple lacy skirt over cropped leggings, a floppy vintage hat. When I said good-bye to her, she said to be careful of the spiders. They keep multiplying. You just don't have enough hands. After discharge, at a new job, I felt precariously safe behind windows, over clean floors. Only the woman mopping floors after 5 p.m. kept weeping.
5. Don't Let Them Write Your Autobiography
When they try to destroy you taking lines out of context, escape to New York, get off at Port Authority. That's what I did twenty years ago. I walked several lifetimes from uptown to Bank Street. I was becoming so thin, I could have been mistaken for a self-served watered down cocktail. Behind graffiti stalls, I puked so many versions of myself, I could have been unborn. There were nights I tried to destroy myself, dancing into a dervish of smoke, twisting my limber half into all shapes of invertebrate. I shocked my monkey as the song went. I reached morning in a stranger's warehouse-converted-to-efficiency apartment. Over three cups of bitter coffee he explained how they were shooting a new Scorsese sequel a few streets over. He said he asked De Niro for an autograph, but it turned out to be his double. Or the bearded woman who allowed me to sleep in her shower. She kept a bat in a closet and mistook me for the son with half a heart & a lisp that tickled. By the time I made it over the bridge, back to Jersey, the buses were about to go on strike.. & I was losing my breath.
About the Author
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. His latest ebook is titled Father Dunne's School, published by Wayward Boys. You can find it on Amazon.com. He blogs at http://upatberggasse19.blogspot.com .