Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sanam Shahmiri - The Tourist

They stood in doorways
picturesque postures
symmetrical eye makeup
objects for your gawking.

I was fifteen
surrounded by drunkards
and out-of-towners
pockets dripping euros.

They call it the red light district
‘cause you can’t help stopping,
eyes strive to capture
these pleasure domes,
scenes set to singe innocence.

The neighbor raps on the door
for a cup full of condoms
and the stairs spiral upwards
uncomfortably narrow.

I was fifteen
and it didn’t bother me,

at first. Next stop, Iran;

where even doorways

tuck away, in shame.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Luke Lagraff - Everywhere for Me

I feel I've been more places than a lot of people. I've been more
places than one of my friends. I know I have. I've been more places
than almost all things. And by things I mean animals. Except birds I
guess. Well, the ones that migrate and shit. They fly thousands of
miles. They eat fish from the same little lake each time. They eat from
the same family of worms, too. That worm family must not like them. If
I was in that worm family, I'd be like, "NOT AGAIN! That same swooping
bastard ate my 349th born child!" I'm not going to check if worms have
that many offspring, I'm just assuming they do. Because worms don't
have much to do that's fun besides get it on.
I went to Memphis once. It was alright. I got lost in Soulsville. I
thought that was cool. I've been to Knoxville hundreds of times though.
Some were fun and some were forgotten. One time that wasn't forgotten
was the most cathartic concert I've ever been to; Phish is a helleva
band. I've been to Nashville a number of times as well. I had sex in
Nashville once. In the backyard of a house that was for sale. I never
had sex in Knoxville. I've been to Martin once, too. They have a
college there. I went to Bristol once to see a cirlce race. Yep, they
all went left. I've been to Crossville, Clarksville, Kingsport,
Murpheesboro, Dayton, Dunlap, Soddy-Daisy, Gatlinburg, and Manchester.
I saw all the bands you'd ever want to hear in Manchester. Bonnaroo is there.
Fun. I didn't have sex there, nor did I see anyone having sex. But, I
did see Elvis Costello, Beck, Radiohead, and Ivan Neville's Dumpstafunk
one day. On another day, in another year, I saw Modest Mouse, My
Morning Jacket and Widespread Panic. Two years ago I saw Al Green, TV
on the Radio and Phish on one day. Our camping neighbor that year gave
me something called Molly. He gave it to me for free! His name was
Apple Butter. I really shouldn't have taken it. At least not as much as
he gave me. I remember looking up after 15 minutes, and seeing a flag
for the Pittsburg Penguins and knowing I wanted to find a place to
watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, I headed straight towards it. I
found some people from Maryland who luckily gave me the hat I was
asking to wear, for my head was boiling and I feared it might begin to
melt off. They were nice. I got scared though after they went in to
hear music and left me at their camp. I began calling all in my phone.
Nobody answered. Then my friend who I came to the weekend with called.
He said he was at Al Green, and asked if I'd like to meet him. I said
that was probably the greatest idea I'd ever heard. When I arrived and
heard the full band tearing through 'Love and Happiness', blissing my
brain out, I remembered why I took the drug in the first place. Later
that night I sat down to rest next to a volunteer. He was beside one of
those signs for 'Sharps' disposal. In this case meaning needles. I
found this odd, and hilarious that the staff would provide a place for
the junkies to drop off their used syringes. But he told me it was for
diabetics and I realized this was a good idea. Soon a couple of local
chicks parked it next to us. I had gotten their attention by telling
them,"We'll talk about it later!" They were wondering what I meant. I
asked them where the ground was. They both had on makeup and were clean
and obviously had just come into the festival so they were curious what
I was on. I said,"Nothing, anymore." One of them said,"NAW. You on
somethin." I kinda wanted to hang out with this pretty, country girl.
She then non-sequintially asked me if I have any kids. I said, "No, do
you?" "No," she said, "oh wait, yeah I do." Damn Tennessee girls let me
down that time.
Six years before this I came with some friends to Venice and swam in
the Pacific Ocean on Valentine's Day. I had bet my friend a beer that
I'd get in. I won. The water was cold but the air was around 80 degrees
that day. And cloudless. It was perfect. We drove the PCH and cut
through Topanga Canyon. We made friends on the 405 as we sat. It was a
great trip. I even got stuck in Dallas on the flight back because of
ice. So the airline gave me a $300 voucher towards a future flight. But
I lost the voucher.
But, I went back to California six years later. Actually, just a few
years after I had gone to Massachusetts. And one year after I had gone
to Toronto. And 15 years after I went to Stratford-Upon-Avon. And
London. And when I got to California, this time having driven. Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona all having been
wonderful, I went to sleep. When I got up it was so nice. I felt grand.
I ate fish tacos and oranges and sushi and drank rum. I went to a
comedy club and Hollywood Boulevard. I got stoned. I, I didn't have a
way back though. Nope. This time I had come all the way to California
with no plans on how I was getting back. Back being Chattanooga. I had done
this when I went to Massachusetts. Also when I went to Knoxville once.
Don't do this, as it pisses off people. People who care about me and don't
want me sleeping on their couch. I ended up trading a very stylish Foster's
beer shirt that had a pouch sewn onto it with the words 'The Big Taste From Down
Under' on it. My friend who I traded this with said it might be worth
$90 at an L.A. boutique clothing shop. The plane ticket it got me was worth
it. On the trip home I had two dollars and 21 cents. I bought a taco at Taco Bell
during my layover in Denver. I was still so hungry. TSA had taken my
soup and Chef Boy-R-Dee at LAX. I boarded my connecting flight to Orlando. The
woman sitting next to me passed on her complimentary beverage so I
asked her if she didn't want her peanuts, could I have them? She asked if I was
hungry. I said yes! She immediately got up and went to the back of the plane and
came back with eight bags of peanuts, 4 bags of pretzels, and three bags of
cookies. She said she used to work for American Airlines! Thank you, ma'am. Thank
you very much. I continued reading Macbeth a much fuller man. When I arrived in
Orlando I knew only a little about how I was going to get to my third
flight. Sanford, FL to home in Chattanooga. Sanford is about 45 minutes north
of Orlando International Airport and I had no money. I found out the city bus
would take me within 2 miles of Sanford's airport. So I went to sleep and got up to
board the first bus at 5:05am. I showed the bus driver the 19 pennies I found in the bottom
of my backback and looked as helpless as a person with all working appendages
could. She said get on. I had to be at my flight by 7:30am. Busses are slow. I was
becoming more and more worried that I'd be stuck here for days, missing my
flight and reciting monologues from Shakespeare's 'Three Great Tragedies' for more tacos.
The bus dropped me at Airport Drive with 35 minutes to get to my flight. It was
August in Florida. It was around 93 degrees and so humid it was so humid it was
just so damn humid. I tried to run. That lasted 50 seconds. I had a backpack and a
large piece of luggage as well. I trudged and trudged along the road. I flipped my
thumb up but had no luck attempting to hitchhike. I speed walked! I sat. I walked a little
more. I sat. I was so hot!! I was sweating sweating sweating. I was becoming pissed for the
first time on my trip. AHH! Why do I get into these situations! I think I yelled rural
sayings like,"Y'all suck!" at the passing drivers in their cars and trucks and lawnmowers.
I was beaten down. I was desperate and worthless. Pathetic.
I saw a guy taking out his trash. I couldn't see the airport. I asked
him if it was close. He said, "About a mile." I kept on walkin. Damn
this heavy ass luggage. I didn't need to bring all this stuff. I
probably wore two different shirts and the same shorts the whole trip.
Why did I bring these hats, these CD's, these boots, these books, these
rollerblades! Why did I bring rollerblades?? I used them once when I
went to Massachusetts and often at home as a portable, free way of
traveling; I got make fun of.
-"Hey? You goin' to the airport?"
What. Was that? That was the garbage taker outer. "Yes, sir."
"Do you want a lift?" he asked.
"Yes. Yes, that would be the greatest," I answered.
I got in his air conditioned SUV and found out he was a heatpacking
Homeland Security Officer that was not scared of me or much else. His
wife graduated from the same college I got a 0.0 at and she was from
Knoxville. She wanted to move the family back there in a few years.
I got dropped off at 7:22. I made my flight.
My friend picked me up at Chattanooga Regional Airport and took me to
see 'Inglourious Basterds' that afternoon. It was like I hadn't left. Or
something like that.

Luke LaGraff is a lover of sandwiches, egg nog, and one of a kind days. He used to forget them, but now has realized he shouldn't; they have more meaning than ever at this point of his life. He enjoys the sun in LA and watches hockey and funny things whenever he can. He listens to people. He's from Tennessee.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Riddhi Mehta - A Letter to My Child

Dear Child,

You are not yet a part of my world. You are not yet a part of this world. Yet I know you. I know you as a reflection of myself. I know you as I know me. I know you as I am a reflection of my mother and her mother before her. I know you as I am a reflection of my father and his mother.

I know you dear child-for you are my reflection. My reflection-yet to be reflected.
Know this dear child; I love you no matter what. Know this dear child; you don't have to be the best of the smartest or the fastest for my love.
I do not expect you to live up to the expectations-others or my own.
I do expect you to respect the expectations of others.
Yet dear child-reflect at what you do... for what you do is a reflection of you.
Yet none of this matters!
You don't exist. Your reflection doesn't exist.
But I reflect upon this. So it matters to me and not to the faint reflection of you.

Best regards,
Your mother's reflection

Katie McMahon - Letter to a Girl I Used to Know

Dear girl I used to know:

You should never put blood on paper because blood browns, and that can look pretty gross. If anyone ever saw it, they would think something was wrong with you.

It is horrifying for people to look at things written in blood. Just use a pen or a pencil. People look at that and they think it's more normal, so they go on reading. Anything you are writing in that blood is going to seem crazy and questionable.

If you like how it looks, I don't know what to say to you. I guess I will just remind you that it's not going to look like that in five years, or even five days for that matter.

Even if you don't think anyone will ever see it, someone will see it after you're dead, or you might show it to someone when you're drunk or feeling desperate. People will think that you carry disease. You could be writing, "I love sunshine. The world is so beautiful," but people won't care. They will just see the blood and some of them might even throw up in their mouths.

Why don't you just step outside? There are people and things bleeding all around you and not using their blood to write on anything. Some of these people fear bleeding too much, and they go to a hospital or use strips of elastic to stop the blood from emptying out of their bodies. This could be you, too.

I know what you're thinking: "But the sun is out there." I know you might not believe this, but scientists are saying that a little bit of sunshine is good for everyone. It may even make you want to write with things that aren't so permanent, like writing on the sand with sticks or writing in the fog on the car window. Plus, they have this lotion that you can put all over your body that will block the sun away. Just keep your eyes closed.


somebody who writes with pens, pencils, and laptop keyboards

Katie McMahon is a lady who lives in the North Hollywood area. She has a bachelor's degree that she keeps on her bookcase and looks at sometimes. She is getting a master's degree to put on her nightstand. Sometimes she takes pictures which you can look at here, but you don't have to if you're busy right now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Anonymous - Phillip


Yesterday was your day and I didn't even think about you. I didn't whisper "Happy You-know-what", or wonder what it would be like if things were different. I only think about how you are in me when you come out because I'm angry, even though you are there every time I take a step. It's a testament to genetics, because I have never seen you walk, but I will always have your gait. I have your ghost in my feet and I hate it, and when people ask, I explain it away; how I have a weird little step in my walk “just like my biological father", and then I hope that they don't ask me anything else about you, because it is a very long story, and I grow tired of retelling it.

I do have your temper sometimes. I never experienced your fury firsthand, but when I was a teenager and I would get so angry, mom would always point it out to me. "You're just like him when you act like this." She didn’t even have to use your name; I knew. I hated to hear her compare me to you. I don’t think I’ve ever told her that. How much it hurt to resemble someone that hurt her, even while I hurt her myself.

When I remember you, it’s only to hate having any of you in me. How can you still hide inside of me when I know nothing about you? I’ve never seen your face, and I don’t dare to look for photos of you. I don’t want to see you in my face when it was hard enough to accept that you are somewhere in my heart, living through little quirks, despite how you never cared to be around when you were alive.

I lie; I do know of your token visits; I just don’t know if you meant them. Mom told me you stopped by grandmother’s to see me a few times when I was growing up, and you would bring your new wife’s son. He and I would play together, and you would watch me but not say much to me at all. I know it was too long ago for me to be able to remember it, but if I try hard enough, I can see this scene like it’s from an old movie; it looks like faded film on a summer day. You stand by mom and watch me and your boy from the orchard fence, and you and her barely say anything, besides her bragging on me, and you just stand solemn and stare. I wonder what you really thought when you would watch me. I don’t know enough about you to guess, and when I try, I know I’m just putting my thoughts in your head and my words in your mouth, but I can’t help it, and do it anyways. When I think in your head I am so proud to have a healthy, beautiful, kind, and intelligent young boy, and excited to think of the man you would one day be. I would see myself in the little things you do. I would see myself in the way you walk, and in your face. I wouldn't know how to express it, but I would know that things would be better for you without me around, and I would hope to talk to you one day and explain why I did the things I did, and why I made the choices I made. I wouldn’t know what was growing inside of me. I wouldn’t know I would never be able to tell you any of these things. It would grow inside of me until I was not the same man, and one day I would leave you in the span of a gasping breath, and without a second thought.

A man doesn't always want to be a father, and I understand that, but a real man will be one anyways. I know you never had a chance, and I know I need to forgive you, and maybe I will some day when I am a father, and when things like having a son and a wife to be there for aren’t so black and white, I'll be able to put it to rest, but for now, besides this one time, I do my very best to forget you.

Yesterday was your day, Phillip. "Happy You-know-what" to you.

Emily Idzior - Letter to the Moon

Dear Moon,

I’m sitting in a coffee shop sipping iced pomegranate oolong tea, what are you up to? I see you are starting to rise in the reflection in the window next to me. How are you doing? You seem cold but I know you must have a warm core in there somewhere. No matter what science says.

I’m wondering, I’m wondering if you could tell me why I always say the wrong thing. You hang there listening and never say anything at all. You must have learned something about us after all these years looking. What am I saying, you’re not God. You’re not even a god. You’re the moon. The glorious bright beautiful big round moon. I’m over you. I’m over the moon for the moon.

Dear Moon. I write you letters and you never reply. Why couldn’t there be a real man sitting on your surface reading my words, writing a response? I’d climb a ladder to meet him. To meet you. You’re famous. You’re famous the way no one on Earth could be famous. Famous in a way even the Earth could not be famous.

I want to get drunk and drive to the middle of the desert and hug you. I want to get drunk and slink into an observatory and watch you sleep. Or wake. Watch you change your makeup, change your seasons. The moon is always female so I assume you wear makeup but forgive me if you do not.

What do you look at, perched like a bird, suspended in space? You must see me. Or someone who looks like me. Do I look pathetic, grasping at the air like a lunatic? I’m a lunatic. I’m obsessed with you. Why don’t you see me? I want love like any other human. You must want love. You must want warmth. Some blue. Some white. A little wind, a little water, a little bit of electricity under your surface.

Oh, Moon. I’ve done it again, haven’t I? All talk and no listen. Listen, Moon, whatever you need to say you say it. I’m here waiting. I’m waiting for the phone call. For you to tell me what’s going on in that big satellite above me. To tell me what you see. What you hear. What you wish you could unhear. I’ll say the wrong thing, I promise. I’ll say all the wrong things and you’ll wish you never called me. But that’s okay, just this one time I want to pretend to be good at this.

Listen, darling, I have to go but call me won’t you? Call me some night, tell the wolves to find me. Tell the prairie to call for me. Tell the ocean to call my name. Tell the whales to sing out to me. I’ll be there.

For now, loving you,


Emily Idzior can be found on her tumblr (, twitter (@ylimejane), and, rarely, Blogspot ( She and her husband reside in Michigan with 2 kitties.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mary - An Open Letter to the Universe

Dear Universe,

How are you? I know you’ve had a lot to deal with lately, what with the parade of natural disasters spiraling across the globe and of course things like global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps and all of that. And as a whole, you’ve been very good to me—no major complaints. However, I do have one question: Why must you keep stealing my friends?

I’m a natural people-person. I have a tendency towards co-dependency, to be honest, so I’ve always had at least one best friend. But lately, universe, you’ve been a little haphazard. First you set each of my friends from high school on our own paths. Totally necessary, I understand. We had to learn to grow up. Then you gave me some amazing friends in college, only to have us all move apart—as far as California, Hawaii and Australia. Okay…Seeing the world, I got it. And now, living on my own in a new place for the third time in so many years, my close friends are so consumed in their romantic relationships that they no longer understand how to manage their platonic ones. Hello? How is that fair? Do you realize that I’m on my own here?

I’m a GOOD friend, Universe. I bake cookies and cupcakes for birthdays, or just because. I host weekly dinner parties. I make handmade cards for holidays and buy real Christmas gifts. I write poems and make hand-paper-turkeys for your refrigerator. I write letters and send postcards when we’re far apart, and I send thoughtful texts and emails even when we’re not. I am loyal. I am dependable. I am adventurous, and spontaneous and creative. I am everything a best friend should be, and yet you continually challenge my ability to hold on to a quality friendship for more than a few years.

Is it me, universe? Am I not worthy of a confidant? I feel pretty worthless, to be honest. You keep stripping me of my comfort blankets. I lay awake at night, texting people who don’t give a shit about me, because I’ve lost the ability to connect with the ones who do. On long drives I reminisce about the times when I had my choice of people to call and pass the time with good conversation. Remember that, universe? Remember the friends that I cared about so much that I would overcome my dislike of talking on the phone? Remember the friends that would make time slip away from me as we sunk deeper into thought?

I remember.

I remember the feeling of living with the security of tight-knit friendships. Wearing them like a safety vest, sure that if my boat were ever to capsize, I would keep my head above water. You wanted that safety vest back, didn’t you? You wanted me struggle, to tread water fiercely just to keep breathing. You wanted me to get tired, to give up.

What kind of cruel universe wants that?

I’m not asking for world peace—I know it will never happen. I’m not asking to be beautiful, or famous, or rich. All I’m asking for is a new best friend. Someone to ground me to reality. Someone to give me the assurance that I mean something, to someone—to help me feel like I have a place here.

I feel like, in the scheme of the universe, that’s not such a difficult request.

Think it over, and get back to me.


Mary is a somewhat recent college grad who still hasn't quite figured out where she wants to live or what she wants to do with her practically meaningless degree. She is currently settled in the cornfields of Northern Illinois and spends her time dreaming of a world where she could get paid to write and drink coffee all day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Scott Joel Gizicki - Letter to My Brother on the Eve of His Wedding

Dearest Brother,

Watch those cold feet

You may slip down the aisle!

How I am so proud of you

Proud of the grown man you have become

And so proud of myself

I took care of you, Little Brother

Yes, I am one hour and 17 minutes older

Yet still wiser

We came from the same womb

On the same night

It was mother who so bravely

Pushed us out that tunnel into a brave world

A brave world

All in all, my love is growing stronger for you

I find your actions foolish, however

How I miss the smell of your hair

In the morning

I taught you all about women

I don’t take all the credit

You taught me about man

The only man I long to be with

I want to drink your skin

Feel the pulsating of your blood

Deep within my safe haven

I hear your voice every time I shower

“I must listen to Little Brother,” I say.

I tell the nurse to quiet down

I say no more

Do change your mind

Do come back

Do come

With every limb

With every muscle

I quake and long

For you.


Older Sister

Scott Joel Gizicki is just another one of those new Los Angeles residents that acts and enjoys writing as well. After being born and raised in Detroit, he finally made it 3,000 miles to the city he's always wanted to live in this past August. He hopes he can stand out from the crowd; at least a little bit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Debra Crosslin - Pissed Off Letter

Have you ever been enraged and pissed off at some asshole that is suppose to be your friend, co-worker, boss, lover, family member and so on?

That person was rude, obnoxious or just fucked-up. Their uncalled for opinion embarrasssed the shit out of you. You may even comtemplate murder, revenge, pay back time sweetie! ...even though you may love or respect them. In the end my suggestion is to write them an angry letter and afterward simply throw it away. I guarantee you'll feel better.

As an example: some complete asshole outright lied about you in front of some splendid company and totally ruined your happiness.


Dear jerk-off idiot,

You are mean and nasty. (good start). When you were born the doctor slapped your mother and declared the baby as the devil child.

I have seen pictures of you in condom ads stating, "Do not let this happen to you. May cause unecessary, life long pain and suffering."

Next, in the police station you are pictured as the FBI's most wanted, along with an ugly profile and an evil smashed in face. Warning: Wears many diguises and is dangerous and armed. Beware! Wanted dead or alive. A zillion dollar reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of this monster.

As a revenge I would love to capture and tortue you. Something worse then washboarding. Mmmm... tie you up and handcuff you to a small uncomfortable boat in Disneyland at the "It's a Small World" exhibit forever.

Or simply cut your tongue off with a very, very dull knife and leave you for dead.

Get the picture? Sign it and read it over a few times. Laughing with errie delight. Then destroy the letter.

Next time you see this asshole just thinking about it will put you at ease.

Please send all evil ideas to me. Not about me, but about your asshole companion.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Josh Grimmer - Camp Granada

Hello mother, hello father.

Camp Granada is not as fun as the brochure would lead you to believe. First of all, the weather isn't great. I mean, sure, rain happens, but this stuff is corrosive. It ate through my clothes. I spend my days huddles under sheets of corrugated tin, hoping to escape the elements, and even then I have to make sure to avoid the poison ivy.

The food is awful. I've been throwing up for days now. I'm caked in what I know must be vomit, but I cannot identify the source, seeing as I haven't eaten at all. I have no idea what this all could be from. I thought about escaping. The forest is full of bears. The lake is full of alligators.

The staff is almost as bad as the environs. The counselors and waitstaff are constantly fighting for reasons that nobody has bothered to explain. The head coach just sits around and reads James Joyce to us all day. And despite the fact that it's a danger to everyone at the camp, the kid who I share a bunk with has malaria and the counselors won't just send him home. Thank God I insisted on getting that intramuscular quinine shot before coming.

I need you to come get me, please. Please. I'm willing to meet any demands you set. No more messes or noise, even when other boys come over. I'll even kiss that wretched aunt of mine, Bertha. I'm not kidding. Please. I am your son. I am broken and deadened. Save me.


Your son, the nut,

PS: Please send my deepest regrets to the family of Jeffrey Hardy. He was a good guy who just ended up in a bad situation.

Josh Grimmer lives in North Hollywood with his wife and cat. He used to run this blog, but now he only sorta runs this blog. Let him know what you think about his dumb bullshit at

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Katie McMahon - Flirtation Device

I had a dream last night that I made out with your face.

We were laying on the ground on a blanket in the grass and we kissed. You put one hand on my hip and you wrapped your other arm around my shoulder and put your fingers in my hair.

Do you realize that I've never felt you like that? It felt good. We fit well, my arm intertwined with yours. Our lips fit together perfectly, like when you snap a lid on a container of leftover spaghetti.

"What!" you shouted over the music. "I can't hear you. You had a dream about me? What for?"

I've never felt you like that. I think once we hugged, but it was because I was crying and you didn't know what else to do.

Even though we don't touch, people at the party keep asking if I'm with you. I keep saying no. I tell them you are with someone else. An older woman I've never seen before asks me if I'm with you and I find myself saying, "Yes. Well... sort of."

I lie! I lie right to her face.

You are stuffing your face with potato chips in the corner, trying not to talk to anyone. I like this because I am often uncomfortable and very nervous at parties, but you are worse. This makes me feel like I'm okay. In a different time and place, I don't think we would ever fall in love, but I would still like to kiss you once before I am dead. Dream kisses are always better though, so I bet it would be awful.


I am always wanting to date someone fat so I can feel small and petite and feminine, but then I am also scared that they will die of a heart attack.

All of the people at the party are talking about you, since it is your party afterall. And they made your favorite foods. They keep saying how much they will miss you, but I think they may be lying. People usually just like making food and talking and eating the food they made and saying things they feel like they should be saying. Then they forget about you. I'm sorry to say this, but in between their jobs and getting married or even more simple parts of the day, like making waffles or carrying groceries to their cars, people are not always missing you like they said they would. Perhaps they feel a little twinge in that place between their chest and their stomach, but they build that up to anxiety or hunger and they don't even think about it being you.

"This music is awful," you mumble and go out onto the porch to find a cigarette from a stranger. Somebody that somebody else who knows you brought to the party, saying, "Come on, it'll be fun. It's so and so's so and so."

If this party were at your house, you'd be playing jazz. I'd be wearing a black dress with a sweater and black nylons and no shoes and I'd be smoking cigarettes out of a long cigarette holder. I know you'd take the holder from me and snap it in half. Then you'd take your hands and place them carefully on my shoulders and push me to the ground.

I know you wouldn't do that. I guess the whole idea seemed silly, so I made that last part up.

Now I feel silly.

You are outside smoking with the lady that I lied to and another lady who is not very, very skinny, but is thinner than me. You laugh and let her touch the sleeves of your coat. How does she do that? Where can I learn how to do that? I don't really want to do it, though.

I do think that everyone should touch your sleeves like that so when you go, they can say, "At least I touched so and so's sleeves," incase you never come back.

Sometimes you look at me through the window for longer than two seconds, which is a long time to look at anybody. I don't know what you're looking at. I know it's not really me.

Katie McMahon is a lady who lives in the North Hollywood area. She has a bachelor's degree that she keeps on her bookcase and looks at sometimes. She is getting a master's degree to put on her nightstand. Sometimes she takes pictures which you can look at here, but you don't have to if you're busy right now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Barbi Beckett - Grandma's Car

Mrs. Collins was unimpressed when I pushed a red haired girl called Charity down to the ground and laughed. I didn’t laugh because I hurt her but because of the way she slid across the floor on her knees. Charity was the younger sister of Faith and Hope, reason enough to push her across the room. Our third grade teacher didn’t think so, though, and her disappointment shut me right up.

Mrs. Collins was in her fifties, slim, with an airy, gray bouffant that gained her five inches. I would write her love notes and she would write back. Here is an except from my diary the day I brought Charity to her knees:

March 8, 1978

Dear Diary today I was bad in class I wrote mrs. collins a letter she wrote back and when school was out I said thank you to her and she said tank you to me my brother bugged me agin today.

I had watched teachers nostalgically greet classmates as they called roll on the first day of school, “Are you Oscar’s younger brother?” I didn’t share a last name with my siblings, plus, my next youngest brother was six years older and already a drop out. I didn’t expect to garner any special esteem based on family ties. But, somehow, Mrs. Collins and I put together that she’d been Ken’s teacher and, to my delight, she was delighted.

For two years Ken and I had been under separate roofs. I lived with our dad, my mother’s second husband and nobody’s biological father, while Ken lived with our grandma. I spent weekends with them. I’d been feeling the clouds descend around my brother for a few years. That baleful air was confusing and never made clearer by my grown ups. When I brought the curious spray paint laden tube sock and paper sack into my grandma’s house from the backyard, I never expected her to yell, “That goddamn boy!” and burst into tears.

Another diary entry:

February 8

Dear Diary tonight my Brother got picked up by the please cause he had merawana on him and my dad has to pick him up. my other brother went to a class he will see a film with people throwing up and he bugged me agin.

On another confounding morning Ken and my grandma stood in the hallway near the refrigerator where she screamed at him to drink more beer since he liked it so much. They were both crying and he was saying he never wanted to drink it again and he was sorry. I sat on the living room floor trying to escape into my coloring at the coffee table. Our mother was over and I remember looking at her with a vague sense of, “Shouldn’t You have some part in this?”

One afternoon Mrs. Collins quietly knelt down and told me that I was needed in the office. Her sweet but forced smile told me I wasn’t in trouble but should be worried. When the administrators in the office saw me, one picked up the phone and another opened the low swinging gate allowing me passage beyond the tall counter. On the phone my dad told me that Ken had stolen my grandma’s car. I was not to go with him if he came to pick me up after school. I went back to class where Mrs. Collins gave me a knowing look and I felt the burden of worrying about my brother was not mine alone.

On the twenty minute walk home I was all perked. But the cars whizzed by and, when I turned onto my block, the driveway was empty. I wondered why he hadn’t come for me. I flashed on the night before. My dad had come to pick me up at Grandma’s house. I picked up my bag and said goodbye to Ken but he stepped over and hugged me, a long hug, and he whispered, “bye.”

Several days passed with no word. One night, on our way home from Long John Silver’s, I suggested to my dad that we drive by Grandma’s house. We knew it was bingo night and she had arranged a ride but there, in her driveway, was the long, blue LeBaron. By the light of a street lamp we could see a blanket in the backseat. The carport was only steps from the front door. We knocked and waited but, even though he had a key, my dad didn’t go inside. Instead, we went to the neighbors house where Pop borrowed the phone. A few minutes later, one police car pulled up and then another. The blue and red lights flashed around while we all stood back from the house as if it might explode. It was quiet except for the staticky jabber from the police radios. I shuffled around a bit with the others but mostly stood leaning back against my dad wondering what the big deal was – why was everyone being so cautious and mysterious? There was a light on inside the house. It shined one bright stripe between the drawn drapes. That window looked through the dining room, into the living room; Ken was either in there or he wasn’t. I pictured him sitting in Grandma’s chair watching TV, oblivious to the small crowd gathered outside.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. I walked across the yard and climbed up on the tall brick planter box in front of the window. It never had flowers in it but Ken and I liked it because, standing up there, we could write messages to each other in pencil under the eaves of the house. I peered through the crack in the curtains and saw across to the empty living room. Then I heard a cop yell, “Get down from there!” Another cop came from the other direction, grabbed me, and ran to the sidewalk. It scared the shit out of me. That’s when it occurred to me that they were not imagining my brother inside, oblivious, watching television. They were imagining him in there, scared, with a gun.

My grandma’s bingo ride dropped her off and an officer slowly escorted her to the door and into the house. I’d already told them, through shaken tears, that he wasn’t home but they still acted all coppy.

The following day we learned that Ken had parked the car in the driveway and headed, on foot, to the police station to turn himself in. He’d been all the way to Dallas and back, hoping to join forces with our outlaw sister.

A couple weeks later, on a Sunday morning, Ken and I were lying around on his bed. He entertained me with a Hotwheels car which he used to perform a routine that I call “One Time When I Had Grandma’s Car…”. He would open each bit with “One time when I had Grandma’s car” and go on to describe and demonstrate increasingly absurd adventures in driving. “One time when I had Grandma’s car, I had to swerve to miss hitting this dog but I clipped a curb and went up on this ramp and the car flipped in the air and landed in a spin.” The images of that tank of a car behaving so sprightly had me in stitches.

He was surprised when I told him about being called to the office at school. “Really? They thought I’d come get you? I wish I’d thought of that.” I told him about Mrs. Collins’ concern and he quieted down. We shared a distaste for disappointing her.

We never would have let Grandma hear us carrying on about her gravity defying landboat. And our tones were hushed when he talked about his disgust with himself for hurting her. This would prove to be a pattern; Ken takes advantage of Grandma’s generosity and lack of spine, Grandma’s crushed, Ken hates himself for abusing her trust and kindness. The salt in those wounds was that he’d learned by example. Grandma spent some serious time in the wringer courtesy of “that goddamn boy” and our outlaw sister. At least she wasn’t alone:

January 18

Dear Diary my sister still isn’t home I know any one eles wood be wreryd to cus if they had a sister that has been in troble so much even jail. I’m scerd that she went off with some gey she don’t even know and he mite hurt her I don’t know about her she may get hurt very bad.

my mom is gone.

my brother shot me tew hi and hurt my but.

Grandma had a comrade in me, even if I couldn’t articulate that. Mrs. Collins was a kind lady but teachers had too many boundaries for my taste. And, their stint in our lives is short. My grandma and I were stuck with those kids, year after year, shenanigan after shenanigan. No doubt we appreciated days like:

January 19

Dear Diary nuthing exiteing happend today so I allmost forgot to right. and my brother bugd me agine.