Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writer: Rich Ives

Flash Group

Concerning the Part I Played in the Movie I Thought Was About Me

Tony T. Toast was talking to the weather and the weather was talking back. I mean I was telling the world to be like me, and it wasn’t. I was listening to the voice it gave me, which wasn’t mine.
Tony watched the branches’ knobs turning back like the knuckles of a tough, badly beaten veteran still going back for more and already lost in himself. Built like an over-ripe pear, I had been offered an important part in a movie I was already in. I began crying right along with the deceived lover, who was not so much crying as slipping jewelry into his pants.
I was pretending to be Tony, who was pretending to be me pretending to be married to Eileen, my semi-beautiful, my beloved, my dipsy human pomeroodle of decency. The fog was smiling wanly.
Aw Sugarpaps, said Tony, I had hoped to witness the resurrection of our spoon, and she mouthed she had been drinking. Perch brandy, sounded like. Tell ya somethin’ else, Tony said for me, I take lessons at the club, but I can’t get out of my cleverness.
Eileen’s love, you see, was carried in a vessel too beautiful to continue because before I knew it, Tony had given me license to act like Tony, which was who I was, but not who I wanted to be in my movie, even if Eileen got the supporting role.
So I went to the workshop in my head, which I call the garage. Garage, however, is unpretentious, garage is lingering, like happiness and despair living in the same neighborhood. It’s where I live when my body’s looking for something I can turn in. Like a marriage lost off the coast with all hands, the ocean of still to come closed up over the parts the way what we think childhood was closes over what childhood was, only we haven’t sailed towards several but away from one.


This is a true story about the lies I tell.
I’m patient for a little while, but this isn’t like the wet days of travel and deprivation I’ve been telling you about. This is external.
And I’m staying here because counting the beads on an endless rosary of misfortunes has begun to look like a lovely fat piece of excruciating excitement. Better at least than over there where Toto and Wilhelmina are playing with Bobby’s shiny rubber ball as if it could assimilate the subtle tenor of sexual innuendo visited upon it by their deceptively discrete interchange of gestures and whispery vocalizations.
This time the cold wet shadow with your name stitched on its skirt was taunting the relevant seashells under their hard velvet tongues like surprisingly cool nosebleeds, and the ambiguity had begun swelling and threatening suicide.
That’s just the distance between then and now that won’t quite disappear. It’s the lack of meanwhiles that bankrupts the salt ranch. We couldn’t have lived there without a little moisture.
Which is why I see you as one of those gifts that sits in the closet for a while and then bingo, out it comes on the occasion of someone else’s celebration.
I should have known better than Toto that Wilhelmina’s latent homicidal tendencies would not be excited by Bobby’s genderless skirt without the assistance of the patent leather shoes and a good stiff polish. Some things should be obvious.
Which is why I stabbed Toto with an eraser and the wound, of course, disappeared.
Which fails to account for the baby that lives in my head, continually laughing and dribbling, refusing to announce its age or sexual preferences, although I’ve discovered its name has been Meanwhile all along. It’s not, of course, a real baby but more of a vocational choice.
Which means I’m so happy singing the institutionalized version I can’t even tell you what makes it taunt its sadness so relentlessly. You just can’t give up if you expect anyone to be yourself.


Okay, I’ll admit that it was sad, but at that time in my life my best friend was a dog, a mangy big mutt named Jimmy Carter. We lived in a trailerhouse I tried hard to keep bright and cheery because I wasn’t feeling very bright and cheery and the trailerhouse was getting old and tended towards the dark and gloomy. I had Christmas wreaths (fake of course) all over the place, and I sprayed them with pine scent. I had bowls of leaves and cinnamon sticks that smelled like air purifiers in 1963 Buicks spread out across the unattended surfaces of the countertops and tables. It seemed to confuse Jimmy, who sometimes limped from one to the other trying to figure out what that smell was. Jimmy had never experienced a 1963 Buick. There was an oil painting above the plastic fireplace that made snow look like something so comfortable you’d want to curl up and go to sleep in it. I had a picture of butterflies and children jumping around like popcorn on the side of my refrigerator. I can remember sitting down with Jimmy for a heart to heart and telling him there wasn’t anything to stop us from being happy. I was entirely sincere, and I believe Jimmy understood that. I had put the reliable old fan that sounded like the starter of a roadgrader into the dumpster the day before, so there weren’t any conspicuous impediments to keep him from comprehending the full import of my revelations. I was done believing that the world was against me. It was ungodly hot outside, but I had begun to wonder why I wasn’t out there frolicking. I consulted the time to see if it could help me.
I stepped with my left foot, I stepped with my right foot, and then suddenly I was going somewhere. I found it surprisingly exhilarating.
Elevated thinking was not part of my agenda at that time in my life, but I suppose I must have had relative moments of increase. I mean there were some complicated things going on around me right there in the grass outside and the sky demanded attention, but it didn’t seem to bother me that I was receiving the world on a rather simple level.
When I got home, I started looking for a hole punch. I needed some kind of a symbol that wasn’t too complicated. I thought it would save me from a lot of difficulty.

Cute Little Digression with a Taste for Chilled Asparagus

A window floated down the river. Fortunately, it wasn’t open, and the river couldn’t get out.
“It’s really something quite extraordinary,” I said without talking through my nose. Robert and Bob and Rob all agreed the window was not an ordinary expression of extraordinariness.
In this way, I was trying to describe myself, but I wasn’t listening, and I realized I do not wish to be removed from that which contains me, even if I have yet to fully comprehend the containment. I am certain to need a device of numbing if not a device of pushing away or of casting asunder.
“I can see your inevitable confluence and the tributaries seem promising,” said Robert and Bob and Rob to the enclosed river in the kitchen, where they were seeking alimentary completion. And then I heard them refer to, “One of those impulses that seem to arrive entirely unbidden, which herewith has caused me to observe that I have an ordinary and dangerous testicular condition the experts say is called masculinity (no no silly boy that’s the key to my heart).”
They opened the window. I told them I was their child and discovered they had not opened the window after all.
“I’m so glad the offering was chilled,” they all said, and, “speaking of transportation might not be the best means of realizing our abandonment of childhood, but neither have the methods in evidence thus far proved to be infallible.”
Finally we agreed that our participation was stimulating, yet reserved. We agreed that the window between us, and the attraction it created, was itself quite attractive. We agreed that containment was not an adequate career goal for asparagus. We agreed that we did not understand how the asparagus had come to be a part of our experience, and we enjoyed it waving gently in the chilly wind behind the window all the more for that reason.

© Rich Ives 2011

Rich Ives is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at Cloudbank and Mississippi Review.

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