Sunday, March 5, 2006

ISSUE 3

Contents




POETRY
...............................................................................................................................................……………………………………..... 2
Kansas, KS
Dru Parrish

........................... 3
And your husband will smash your face open against a wardrobe but I still loved you, only the moon more dormant
Chris Scott

……......................................................................................................................................…….………… 5
Memorandum (Sticky Buns)
Tristan Meyer

ESSAY & LETTERS

……….................................................................................................................................................……….………………. 7
Artist’s Statement
Curt Bozif

……............................................................................................................................………….......................……………….. 9
The New Messiah
Alexander Braitberg

………........................................................................................................................………...........................…………….……. 13
A Letter to Dru
Vincent Saint-Simon

FICTION

................................................................................................................…………………….................................…………….……... 21
M = Male
Jake Beard

………..................................................................................................................…………………..............................………...… 27
The Bicycle
Royal Young

PLAY

.................................................................................................................40
Leo Tolstoy and Alfred Lord Tennyson Fistfight in Hell
Oedipus Jones

Kansas, KS (p. 2)


Kansas, KS
Dru Parrish

All the arums of October spaced over
The cropping fields drawn and loved behold all others.
The land here runs in directions northwest,
Too far from the modicums of the seasons.

Rubbing callus over blister at the work done.
Trace over the thorn bushes and the crops all silence I feel.
At this moment none of it seems real to the touch.

How aged in the long tired of the day from the morning.
The moment of innocence whips whiskers I have long forgotten to a beard.

In every evening the soft light of the west touches
The hidden colors of the atmosphere and cloud nine
Becoming the mainstay over this slumbering field work.
With night the punctual wonder of forgiveness.

Rocking chair porches, to theater of the stridulation
All wonder and sleep, to know is to dream.

All is lost until the hint murmur of the sun peak.
Conveying all too immediate that rest breeds no yield.
From where we are now the world curves in the scape.
There remains only the day, the cultivating, and the hands that bend the two.

And your husband will smash your face open against a wardrobe but I still loved you, only the moon more dormant (p. 3)

And your husband will smash your face open against a wardrobe but I still loved you, only the moon more dormant
Chris Scott

The future will be
how our kneecaps throb and pull
in a moving vehicle when we’re escaping
the deftly crumbling infrastructure
of a traumatized eastern seaboard,
trying to dissuade the shift
of interlocking limbs
from distracting the night sadistic

When you gaze like an impaled
wingspan stretched across the stomach
of a growling minivan I come alive
like the way we fill the air
between towns and cities with x-rays
and waves bent with anchormen
grinning on cue

And you,
at the foot of the bed when he’s crying
and bouncing your children on his lap
saying he still needs you, when
he’s driving you to the hospital and
he becomes your hero because there
were other weapons in the house
he could’ve used

I’ll ape ventriloquist blue from
the top floor of a brownstone, wrapping
canvas around my fists and packing my
things again like the past
won’t be our palms scraped from misjudged
footing and an awkward fall, and your
face as I still remember it are postcards collected
in a shoebox when it hasn’t rained in years
and we didn’t know better

Memorandum (Sticky Buns) (p. 5)

Memorandum (Sticky Buns)
Tristan Meyer

Moonlight on your brow
kiss like streams; love like oceans
Starlight on your breath

Liquid, piebald dreams
on doleful, holefull canvas;
Rain of memory

‘Some may find me cold,
but it is the limitless warmth
which I protect that they cannot see
or touch.’

Artist's Statement (p. 7)


Artist’s Statement
Curt Bozif

My work finds its origins in my fascination with the transient nature of existence, the residue of the individual’s choices/actions in time, and humanity’s dependence upon ritual. Process-based and labor-intensive, my paintings are physically demanding to make, and involve mundane materials and the representation of simple gestures and tasks such as walking in circles and drawing straight lines in blue ball-point pen. The intensity of the labor process and the commonality of its material parts function as entry points for the viewer that I hope trigger associations with the working class, education, social dogma, and religion. Countless straight lines made in blue with the aid of a ruler can activate connotations to the homogeneous and therefore expendable worker/individual (signified by the ball-point pen) exercised by a higher authority (the tool; the ruler) through an assembly-line process. My approach to transparency of form, material, and fervently avoids symbology and content outside of form, I embrace the sign-event to further enrich the experience of a piece.

Site-specific yet discrete, my sculptural installations explore the dynamic between the passage of time and the individual’s place within it by emphasizing the ephemerality of both the material and the artist’s intervention. In my work, as with that of Joseph Beuy’s, material, tool, process, and formal considerations ideally function at a highly symbolic, yet inviting level. In Circle Sidewalk –drawing from early Christian symbolism—the circle as form represents unity, cyclical time, and the cosmos, to mention but a few of many connotations. The sidewalk is divided into five equal sections, the number five referring to the human individual (the five senses and the four appendages plus the head that controls them). Where the number four symbolizes earthly structure (the four cardinal directions, the four elements, the square, etc.), the sum of one and four symbolizes the individual within the earthly realm. The formal symbology combined with the public and participatory nature of a sidewalk, together create a rich poetry.

Through its seeming incompleteness I attempt to imbue my work with both a sense of cynical anticipation—due to its dogmatic, task-oriented process—and an intense, meditative stillness triggered by its directness. I try to question and undermine the ideas of legacy, effort, and permanence by heightening one’s awareness of the poetic absurdities of daily existence.

The New Messiah (p. 9)

The New Messiah
Alexander Braitberg

Planet Earth will cease to exist eventually, one way or another. Our sun, a yellow dwarf, is in the main stage of its lifecycle, but in a few billion years it will transform into a red giant, and become so large that it will consume all of the planets in the inner solar system. And the Earth may become uninhabitable well before then. A meteor miniscule compared to the Earth has the potential to cause global extinction. If we manage to conquer internal threats to our existence such as climate change and nuclear war, our time on this cosmic yacht will nevertheless be limited.

Doubtless most readers will have heard these facts recited in science courses, but will have dismissed them as too far in the future to be relevant. Surely our time is better spent thinking about more pressing problems: global poverty, hunger, inequality, health, art.
But we live in an age of science. Religion continues to lose ground in the developed world, despite a temporary resurgence in the decadent and declining United States of America. Evolution is entirely uncontroversial in the scientific community, and evolutionary theory makes religion optional. We still hang on to the old myths, but their original purpose no longer applies. We no longer need them as explanations for our origin – we have something more believable, more concrete, and undeniably true.

A recent study published in the Journal of Religion and Society found that among citizens of developed nations, acceptance of evolution correlated inversely with religiosity. Thus, as long as scientific knowledge continues to expand, acceptance of religious myths will decline. As well it should be. Humanity has graduated into adulthood, and no longer needs Santa Claus.
The absence of religion leaves a void. We can no longer hope for eternal life, nor can we look to a Messiah as the culmination of human history. Instead, we are left with the bleak picture that we grew like a festering yeast in the stagnant pools of Earth, and will fester alone in a corner of the Universe until scrubbed from existence, with no sign of our passing. But this void can be filled.

We need a new Messianic event – a new story of hope, of transcendence, of eternality. The new story cannot simply be another myth. Science, education, and the spread of information across the globe will preclude self-deception. The new story must be a true story. And the truth is that we need not perish on this island Earth. The new Messianic event will be the spread of humankind across interstellar space.

It is true that travel to the closest stars, tens of light years away, at currently imaginable speeds, would take hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. Of course, we do not currently know if we would find habitable planets once we arrived. But if scientific knowledge continues to expand exponentially, the development of the technology for such travel is inevitable.
The obstacles to interstellar travel are, literally, cosmically large. But humankind is almost inconceivably powerful. The idea that amalgamations of amino acids born in the furnaces of oceanic vents could evolve into God-like beings capable of music, communication, emotion, is the most incredible phenomenon in the observable universe. To what ultimate purpose have we, the real Gods in our corner of the universe, devoted our incomprehensibly magnificent talents?

For 200,000 years we have fought wars and made knick-knacks, played games and deceived each other, masturbated and procreated. We have undoubtedly made amazing progress in understanding ourselves and in mastery of our environment. But it’s about time, now that we know who we are and how we got here, that we decide what to do with ourselves.
Of course, in order to ensure that we will reach a point when we are ready to embark on our journey, we must not shit in our own nests. We must forestall nuclear war and climate change at all costs, while continuing our quest after the technology for our escape. Survival must be our new worship, our new devotion.

The Christians have waited 2,000 years for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Jews have waited almost 6,000 years for their Messiah. In this age of knowledge, we are capable of thinking, and will have to think, in terms of time scales much greater than the order of thousands of years. As medical technology advances and life spans increase, the time scales involved in traveling to the stars will seem less and less daunting. During our lifetimes, we may see stem cells used to grow replacement organs, perhaps indefinitely extending life. We can even imagine, further into the future, downloading consciousness into a digital medium for eternal preservation. It is within the realm of possibility that you and I will live to see the colonization of Alpha Centauri.

Like the Messianic myths from humankind’s childhood, this new Messianic event retains the promise that we may see it in our own lifetimes. We will retain our romantic quest for eternality, and we will retain a sense of purpose and hope. But this new hope is firmly rooted in the empirical – and is therefore much more resilient than the anthropomorphic legends of the past that even the most faithful cannot help but occasionally doubt.

Letter to Dru (p. 13)

June 23rd, 2005

The Dru,

I must confess that it's been awhile since I've sat down with the express purpose of writing a letter. I don't know how well I'll fare, or how many of your questions I will answer. I have a specific goal in mind, you see, and if that goal does not coincide with your inquiries, then I have every intention of "letting them slide." These days are too hot to try and do anything else. If you had written me in autumn, then you may have stood a better chance of getting a direct response.

Ah! How refreshing. Now that the hedge is out of the way, I feel like I can write both candidly and with purpose. The two are not opposing forces. Actually, I often find that writing off-the-cuff can illicit a better response than mulling over something for many days. I encourage you to try it.

But now on to other things. The weather in this town is unbearable. The air is suffocating and almost as irritating as the basketball-sized bees that live just outside my window in the carport. I sweat at all hours of the day and night, even when taking a cold shower. As a result I take far too many naps and read far too much poetry. I've taken a great liking to Anna Akhmatova and Fyodor Tyutchev (excellently translated by Vladimir Nabokov).

You may be asking, "Hey, what are you getting at?" Well, the summer heat always has a strange effect on a young person. It makes one remember the happier days. Riding bikes with old friends until dusk, catching fireflies as the porch-light comes on, sitting in parks after dark talking with an old lover as the air cools and the stars become visible. Ah, to be young! I suffer this affliction every summer, pining for those times when talking about feelings came as naturally as skinning a knee. I often poured my heart out on those summer nights, sitting on benches, staring across the vacant baseball fields still alive with the energy of those who had played so ardently during the lighter hours.

I associate all of those emotions with being young, and in doing so, I tacitly admit that I no longer have the capacity to do them. I haven't set myself upon a bike in more than five years. I doubt I could ride one for very long, and I doubt even more that I will ever have an inclination to. I have no lover to share a starry evening with, and even if I did, I have been alone so long that I have forgotten how to talk about how I feel.

Only in the summer do I mourn the passing. I am not a man given to talking about myself. Most of my problems are either stationary parts of my character that I long ago learned not to talk about, or the sort of things I or Time can solve. I think of my past as a series of unfortunate, often embarrassing attempts to act out my favorite movie scripts mixed with a desperate adolescent desire to pass my woes off as battle scars. If that's what passes for communication between lovers, then, for my sake, I'm glad I don't have one. If that isn't the normal fare, then I'm glad, for the world, that I'm the only one who practices such silliness.

In the summer, however, the whole process seems magical. My past has the aura of a storybook, and all my actions are filled with the scent of romance run dry. Once, when I was much younger, I celebrated my anniversary with a certain girl by having a candle-lit picnic in our favorite park. I conned a friend of mine into setting up the picnic while we (the girl and I) went to the Botanical Gardens. After the Gardens closed, I took her back to the park where the picnic was already laid out. The whole night seems a work of art in retrospect, and I can't help but sigh, wanting desperately to relive it, to make it a part of me again. It makes me want to shower the first girl I meet with gifts, to take her out to an expensive restaurant, to listen to her stories about her past, and to tell her that I think she is very special and that I love her. What an evening that would be! And how quickly my interest would fade. After the summer was over, perhaps even after the night was over, I would wake up and realize it was just me painting something that wasn't there. I would come to find I didn't think the girl was that special, and really we didn't have anything to talk about (since I really have found that I have an inability to talk about myself for an extended period of time). Then, as always, I would feel trapped and would want to be alone. I remember all of this and it makes me hate summer, the season that always brings with it a failed attempt at love. It is the season of passion misspent. But enough of that. In response to your letter, I fear that I can give little comfort or advice. For quite some time now I've been using overdoses of melatonin to get to sleep, since chronic headaches have been plaguing me incessantly for about a month. I can only hope that you are able to get past your restlessness soon and can teach me your secret.

You did, however, mention that you have an inability to communicate with others, or an inability to relate. I find that I have the same problem. I've stopped going places where there is a risk of me talking to people outside my family since I often get myself into awkward situations in which I make a complete ass of myself. A week ago, for example, I went to a party at The Bivouac. Usually I wouldn't have gone, but I was feeling lonely, and I knew Brock would be there. Also, it is only two houses down from us so I knew I could leave suddenly if I had to. Well, I made myself a gin and tonic and trooped down. People on the porch yelled hellos at me, and I haphazardly responded with some nonsense about the time of night. I do remember saying "'Tis the season!" as I went inside, but I don't know what the context was, if there was a proper one at all.

Upon coming in the door, I saw that the living room was empty except for one drunk girl from my Ultimate Frisbee class who was dancing by herself. I didn't remember her name, so I tried to sidle past her, but she suddenly came out of her trance and shrieked at me. She had me give her a hug, and as I backed out of the hug, I found myself retreating as she asked me an array of questions about my age and major. I retreated into a corner, and she stood over me for fifteen painful minutes as I tried to field her questions. In the course of that conversation, I managed to down my whole drink. She laughed at me and said I was the most shy, awkward person she had ever met. I wasn't sure if she was hitting on me, and I wasn't sure if I wanted her to, so I asked her where the bathroom was (even though I knew). When she moved out of the way, I fled out the back door and would have left if Brock wasn't standing right there. In short, I was scared silly. I know how it feels to lose the ability to communicate. It's very lonely and kind of sad, even if the stories are funny.

I would like to give you good news, but I don't think it will pass. I've given the matter a lot of thought recently (after the Biv. incident). We are people of literature. We are too used to communicating with texts that don't demand a verbal response, and we are ill equipped to deal with social situations. It doesn't help that we almost never leave the house and only express our feelings in writing, either to each other or in our work. It is part of our occupation to passively observe, to absorb what we see and experience so that it can later be used for our own ends, mutated to fit a theme with dialogue we can make up after the fact. We are too used to constructing our own controlled environments that the characters can breathe within. We are not used to life without context. We are, as you once noted, "just to the left of life," unable to join in completely because we are busy taking notation. It is just our way, and I can embrace that. Sacrifices must be made, I guess, and I can make them. Can you?

I have been writing a little, when my head gives me reprieve, and I think I am close to finished with a new story. I've also been working quite a bit on the Awkward Alligator, reading the submissions and wishing there were a couple we could leave out. Overall I think it will be good. I have the utmost faith in Nikki, and she seems very excited. That means something to those of us who seldom get excited.

I don't know if this is quite the response you were looking for. I'm thinking probably not. But it's the best I can do in this oppressive heat. Do your best to stay in good spirits, and for your own sake please eat something. There's nothing more absurd than a person with good teeth who doesn't use them. Summer will end soon enough.

-Vincent Saint-Simon

M = Male (p. 21)


M = Male
Jake Beard

She enters the room with great caution. The Paxil she just snorted, only because she is out of coke, is giving her a difficult time walking down the stairs. Snorting prescriptions is a rare occurrence; she usually avoids having to stoop so low, but desperate times and all that. It provides that same burn in her nasal passage that she had begun to crave, first only after sex and then after waking up. The bleeding from all of that nose-candy is the only problem. Fortunately, she’s coated in a crimson red dress that has the ability to hide such stains well. The room seems too distant and distorted like a radio channel that is too faint to listen to, despite the great, glimmering and haunting tune. Needless to say, she wants to be a part of the party. However, the sudden feeling of ice grabbing her entire being had ceased all her attempts. The horrible event upstairs just moments ago jarred her into a sub-reality. “A beer; that will make me feel better,” she reasons to herself. This is a false assumption; the beer enters her and only accentuates the sour, salty drip in the back of her throat.

She feels there really is no point in being at this party any longer. If she’s tired of trying to look put-together, she is certainly exhausted trying not to break down at this point. From across the room two men she does not recognize lower themselves in front of her chair. Words come out of their mouths. Her name, Seria, surely floats into the complex network of her mind, but other than that, their speech is somewhat like a Bj√∂rk song when one has not had enough sleep; beautiful and melodic, yet unintelligible. Not one for broken social silence, Seria stands up and leaves at the second the two men shut up, waiting for her response.

Outside, the air is definitely that of autumn, chilly enough to give her goose bumps when her bare parts touch the leather on the seat of her car. While always being one prone to rash decisions and action patterns, irrationally driving home to her parents’ from the small college town she now lives in is not usually one of them. First, second, third gear, get on highway, make it home. It ran through her head like a mantra.

She gently jogs from the parking lot to her dorm - a ridiculous four-minute walk - removing her heels, allowing the cool concrete to soothe her feet. When she enters the dorm she continues up some flights of stairs and decides to use the elevator on the way back down; black overnight bag, one pair of jeans, one tooth brush, three joints, new Pumas and a sweater in a color invented in a customer research laboratory, run by J. Crew. Ignoring her roommate copulating in the corner of the room, she retrieves her copy of The Catcher in the Rye off of her bed. Sadly some of the pages are bent and gnarled from the rampant fucking it had just been subjected to. Seria decides to leave on her dress and makeup, just a quick change of shoes. She does not want to spend another minute in the dorm. She will just change and wash up in a gas station bathroom when she will be forced to stop due to her acorn-sized bladder. Besides, the dress makes her feel so confident.

Choosing the elevator for the decent of the building was a bad idea. Hoping for a seamless exit, her plan fails. The doors open up on the next floor down. Bernard came in. Bernard is the kind of guy who will shamelessly touch a girl’s thigh, then just giggle, saying he “can’t help it. It looks too good,” thinking it is all some sort of compliment. Seria closes her eyes and hums when the doors open to his pancake face. “Going somewhere?” he inquires, gesturing towards her bag. “Kinda late, don’t ya think? Ya never know what’s gonna get ya out there.”

The elevator doors open, donating a sigh of relief. Seria makes no response to the creepy man and swiftly makes way to the car. Going home will make everything better, she decides. She will just explain the situation to her mom, her loving mom, and she can switch schools and everything will be okay. Once at the car, she sets her bag in the seat next to her. She removes the first joint from the cigarette case and lights it using the car lighter—always a difficult task. She turns on the heater, but only on the floor so that she can feel the warm air over her hairless legs. Speeding out of town, listening to a scratched Radiohead CD, she slowly inhales the off-white smoke. It calms her at first but leads to paranoia and sudden sickness, both of which the drug has not given her in some years. Thirty miles out of town, forty…
The streetlights cut off at this point, too far from any form of civilization. Tears flow from each corner of her eye, only to be sniffed back up her nose. The sudden crying spell leaves her driving in a sorry state. Red, Blue and White lights flash behind her, at first a glimmer, only to get stronger and closer as the seconds race by. A siren. Slowing her speed down to around sixty and signaling that she is looking for a place to pull over takes a lot of effort. She rolls down all of the windows, allowing a flush of air to blow the reeking smell of joint out of the Volkswagen. “Can I please see your license and registration, ma’am?” one Officer Bartlett states, more than he questions. Grudgingly Seria reaches into her bag and removes her driver’s license, and from her dashboard her insurance card. She doubts they will help her at this point, and thinks of perhaps saying that she does not have her license. The cop takes both and returns to his cruiser. The seconds pass like hours and he returns, asking Seria to get out of the car. They stand in a nest made by both cars, his headlights still calmly beaming in stark contrast to the flashing, patriotic lights mounted to the top. Seria feels like a mess. Her dress is creased and crinkled, she’s wearing tennis shoes, and her makeup is smeared from the tears. “You look like a whore, you know that?” Officer Bartlett once again stated and questioned at the same time. “But, as I am sure you know, Joram speaks out against whoredom in Kings 9:22, and the LORD himself spoke against it in Deuteronomy 31:16. Yep, it’s all up here in my head, the whole thing.”

Bartlett becomes flushed and rapid in his speech, Seria very cold and fearful. Her high was busted the second she got out of the car, and she is now afraid that the cop cares about the pot the least of all. He continued his rant: “But no, you are no whore. You are much, much worse. The Bible never even mentions freaks like you, and we sure as hell can’t have none of that, it, YOU around my town.” With that, a silencing blow is lodged into Seria’s face. Suddenly layed on the grass along the side of the road on this October night, she feels kicks, first just at her side, but then more to her head when suddenly, thankfully, she is no longer able to fear or feel the next blow. She is unaware of how long this bizarre scene is to carry on. She slightly notices being dragged, but so far from consciousness at that point, she has little care.

Mr. and Mrs. Blaine were not told everything about the death of their son. In fact, since no one really knew all the details of the situation, it was speculated that due to the high level of narcotics in his body, he was beaten to death after a drug deal gone wrong. To his parents the police omitted that he was found in full makeup and a red cocktail dress. After attempting to file documentation of their son’s death at his university, complications arose. There was no Eric Blaine enrolled there, only a Seria Blaine, who had been missing from classes for over a week.

The Bicycle (p. 27)

This piece is dedicated to Tristan, whose eloquence and unconventional elegance has allowed me to stride forward in a wholly less affable world than the one he would mold for me and the one from which he continues to lift me with his shaky hand adhered to mine.


The Bicycle
Royal Young


His mother had explained, after what had happened they needed a change. She had described it all in clear and simple tones to him when he had woken up and was still groggy with sleep. His eyes were closed against the blue dark of the room and she had told him all about the sloping hill and the sea, flat and gray, beyond. She had told about the little old house. He imagined it would have a fantastic attic with long, slender windows. She had told him about sailboats, how they sometimes looked like birds, and smoothed back his hair and promised they would have a good time.

They left in a red Chevy she had rented. He had to count everything out as he put it in his bag. The morning sun was weak but ever-present, and he wondered if he would have a good vacation. He was scared because this was his first. She had gotten the idea the day he came home from school with a black eye and leaves in his hair. She helped him finish packing and his bag was so heavy that it bumped against the hallway walls as he walked out the door behind her.
“Come on,” she said. “You can sit in the front.”
He got into the front seat while she shut the trunk and his legs felt small amidst all that space. She got into the car and started the ignition. The street fell away behind them and the rows of trees got thicker and thicker. He drifted in and out of sleep, and each time woke up to the distinct feeling of movement and his face closer to the cool window. Soon they were on highways and he knew they were almost there when the highways turned back to roads, and through the partially open window he could smell the sea, or at least what he thought he remembered the sea smelt like. He rolled down the window all the way and let the wind whip back his hair and rush against his eyes.
“Get back in,” she said. “You’ll get your head knocked off.”

The house was different from what he thought it might be. It was up a winding path on a sort of cliff overlooking the bay. A short, fat old woman greeted them and handed them a key. From the outside, the house was bigger than he thought it would be. It had a large, majestic doorway. The walls were white and the windows had crooked shutters. There was indeed an attic with a great pointed roof and even a small, beaten weathervane, which was swinging to and fro in the wind.

His mother thanked the woman, who nodded and went off. There were many small bedrooms at the ends of the little hallways. None of the windows had curtains; just open shutters, so the light poured in dully from all sides. His mother showed him to his room. He put his bag down on his bed and looked around. He went up to the full-length mirror and stared at his reflection. His legs looked long and bony and his hair paler than ever.

The room had wallpaper with little gypsy people leading a caravan across the desert. The sand was sepia green and the gypsy people were intended to be brightly dressed, though the colours had faded considerably. He went over to the window and looked out. He could see a bit of very green grass and the sea rippling gently.

He closed the shutters and the room got darker. He went back to the mirror and took off his shirt. He stared at his reflection. It almost felt as though the gypsies in the wallpaper were staring at him and he thought he could almost hear them whispering fitfully and sharpening their daggers. He took off his pants and folded them neatly on the bed. He studied himself again in his socks and underwear. His legs looked thinner. He smiled at his reflection and his reflection smiled back. He lifted one hand, waved, and his reflection waved back, still smiling. He tried to imagine that he didn’t know the person in the mirror. He squinted and thought he saw his reflection wave at him again. He tried to imagine the boy in the mirror was someone he hadn’t met yet.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello,” said the boy.
The boy waved again. He unscrewed his eyes. He felt the gypsies shifting and coiling about each other. His reflection stared back at him and he felt dizzy—a dizziness that came on him as it had come before, its familiarity lending it greater power. The door opened. His mother stood in the doorway staring at him then she went to the window and opened it.
“Get on your clothes,” she said. “We’re going down to the beach.”

The beach was empty and vaguely cold. He was wearing a sweatshirt and she put her arm around him. The sand was very pale and hard. They walked along it.
“Don’t you like it here?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “I like it a lot.”
“The beach is so nice,” she said, and gestured with one hand. “I always loved the sea.”
“I like the beach a lot,” he said. “The water is so big.”
She smiled at him and squeezed his shoulder. “I knew you’d like it,” she said.

They had sandwiches for dinner all alone at the big dining table. Every so often she would look up at him.
“Did you remember your toothbrush?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I packed it first so I wouldn’t forget.”
She looked at him sharply. “You’re not thinking about that bicycle, are you?” she asked. He shook his head.
“Nope,” he lied. “I don’t think I rode it much anyway.”
“Honey,” she paused, “you know you’ll never see it again.”
“I know,” he said.

That night he took a bath and then went right to his room. As he was putting on his pajamas she knocked on the door and called goodnight into the room. He got into bed and thought about his reflection, how it had waved to him, how it made him feel happy but scared. He drifted off to sleep and dreamt briefly about boats on flat, black water. He woke up at some point and his light bulb was flickering dimly on and off as though it had been halfway unscrewed. It threw strange yellow shadows on the walls, but then he closed his eyes again. He woke again and the light was off—the mirror glistened palely in the light from the window. He heard the waves and the wind and though he couldn’t see out the window from his bed, he could vividly picture a figure walking across the beach outside, tired and trudging in a sloping way down towards the surf. When he next woke, the room was bright with morning.
“Mom?” he called. There was no answer. He went downstairs and stopped at the foot of the staircase. Through double doors he could see his mother laying on the couch with her back to him.
“Mom?” he asked and walked over to her. Her eyes were open and she had been crying.
“Mom, are you okay?” he asked.
She looked up at him and sighed, then got up, pushing him to the side. She pulled her hair into a ponytail and wiped at her eyes.
“Good morning,” she said. “You must be hungry. Do you want a sandwich?”
“Yeah,” he said. “But are you okay?”
“I’m fine, honey,” she said. “Let’s go eat something.”

She made black coffee with the sandwiches, his with lots of sugar. She leaned on the table.
“What do you want to do today?” she asked.
He shrugged and took another bite of his sandwich. “Go for a walk,” he suggested.
She smiled and nodded her head. “I think I would like that,” she said.

The beach was sunny that day and warm. He took off his sweater and tied it around his waist. The sea looked greener and more inviting. His mother had her arm around him again and they walked slower.
“What are you thinking?’ she asked.
He thought about it for a second. “I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I’m thinking about how nice it is here.”
She nodded. “It’s a nice change,” she said.
”I was thinking,” he said, hesitantly, “maybe we could do this again next year, come back here. I like that house.”
“I like it too,” she said.
“Mom?” he asked.
“Yes?”
“Why were you crying this morning?’
“I wasn’t.”
He looked up at her and she looked down at him for a second and then looked away. “Sometimes I just feel very far from everything,” she said.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I feel like everything is very distant and that I cannot touch it.” Then she shook her head and smiled and looked at him again. “I knew you’d like it here, though. That’s why I brought you, so you and I could spend some time alone in a nice place. We haven’t done that in awhile and I felt this would be the perfect thing to keep us close. You know I want us to be very close.”

That night at dinner they spoke very little. She had brought a bottle of red wine and kept it close to her on the table, refilling her glass often. Her face got flushed and her lips were touched with a purplish stain. He cleaned up and she went to the couch and lay there facing the cushions. He glanced at her once as he went upstairs and she was rocking slightly. He started to say goodnight but decided better of it and went straight to his room. He turned off the light and opened the shutters so that the moon lit everything gently. He tilted the mirror just the way he wanted then took off his shirt. He took off his pants and put them on his bed. He looked in the mirror and paused. He looked like a very slender girl. He took off his socks and stood there playing with the waistband of his underwear. His reflection looked sullen and dark in the dimness.

“Hello,” he said to the reflection.
“Hello,” the reflection said.
“What’s your name?” he asked, smiling warmly.
“Luke, what’s yours?” the reflection replied.
“Mine’s Luke, too.”
“Oh, gee! Now that’s a coincidence.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“Have you seen my bike, Luke?” his reflection asked.
“No, I haven’t seen it—did you lose it?”
“Well, I guess you could say that,” his reflection smiled.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I broke it,” his reflection smiled more widely.
“How?” he asked.
“I can’t say.”
“Oh, sorry—well, I think I’m going to go now.”
“Please don’t.”
“Well…” he paused. “I don’t know.”

He glanced back at the room and it was empty. The wallpaper was not threatening and his bed looked very soft, but everything was so shadowy. He turned back to the mirror. His reflection was motionless, waiting. He felt like he had a great secret, a new friend.
“Okay, I won’t if you don’t want me to,” he said.

His reflection nodded and stared at him. “That’s exactly what I wanted,” it said. He felt blood come to his cheeks.
“Why do you look embarrassed?” his reflection asked.
“I’m not sure,” he said.
“Is your mommy downstairs?” his reflection asked. “Can she hear us?”
“I don’t think so,” he shook his head.
“Do you like her?”
“Yeah, sure I do.”
“I don’t like her much.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t.”
“I should go,” he said, suddenly feeling very, very certain that this is what he must do.
“Okay,” his reflection understood. “It was nice meeting you, Luke.”
“You too, Luke.”

He stepped back from the mirror and put his shirt back on. He lay down on his bed and felt like laughing. He wondered if the other Luke once lived in this house, maybe even slept in the same bed he was laying on. He smelled the bed and it smelt like the other Luke. He put his head on the pillow and he could feel something near him, something that had been there for a long while, waiting.

Suddenly, he got up and put on his pants. He turned on the light in the room so it would be on when he got back. He walked quickly down the hallway, down the stairs, and into the living room. His mother’s shoes were still by the couch but she was no longer there. He went into the kitchen where the tap dripped into the silence. He went back upstairs and into her bedroom. One of the windows was open and there was a small electric fan on. Some of her clothes were on her bureau and her bed was unmade. He left the room and walked down the hallway looking in the two other bedrooms and the bathroom. He put a hand to his face and realized he had been crying. He reached for the cold-water faucet to wash his face and drew back in shock. The faucet was burning hot and he heard something coming from the ceiling above him.
“Mom?” he shouted, ran out of the bathroom, and started climbing the steps to the attic.
The stairway was long and narrow and a small bare bulb hung lit at the top. He reached for the door and found it locked.
“Mom?” he called again. He heard movement behind the door. “Mom?”
The door opened and she looked down at him. Her face was still flushed and her movements seemed very tense.
“What is it, honey?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he managed. “I was just thinking if maybe we could leave tomorrow.”
She stared at him for a while before she answered and it made him very uncomfortable.
“No, I don’t imagine there will be any need for that,” she said. “In fact, I quite like it here. No, I don’t think we can even think about leaving just yet. Stop being ridiculous. I brought you here because I thought you might need a vacation and now you want to go home? What do you think you’re going to do there? Stay in your bed day and night? You need to get fresh air; you need to get out.”
“I’m fine, Mom. Please,” he begged, “I don’t like it here.”
“Of course you are, darling. We all are,” she said. “Now go back to bed.” He nodded and walked back down the stairs. He heard the door shut and lock behind him. He walked slowly back to his room and lay down on his bed.

Leo Tolstoy and Alred Lord Tennyson Fistfight in Hell (p. 40)


Leo Tolstoy and Alfred Lord Tennyson Fistfight in Hell
Oedipus Jones


CHARACTERS:
ALFRED LORD TENNYSON, the 19th century literary genius
LEO TOLSTOY, the 19th century literary genius

The stage is empty except for ALFRED LORD TENNYSON and about a thousand Dixie cups. He is wearing nothing but black Spandex pants and has the letters “A.L.T.” painted on his chest. He is meticulously stacking the Dixie cups in the style of a protective fort around himself. Upon completing his fort, TENNYSON bursts out in song:

TENNYSON: Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixieland.
In Dixieland where I was born in
Early on one frosty mornin’
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixieland.

[He kicks down a section of the fort with each upcoming “Away!”]
Oh, I wish I was in Dixie
Away! [kick] Away! [kick]
In Dixieland I’ll make my stand
To live and die in Dixie
Away! [kick] Away! [kick]
Away down south in Dixie!
Away! [kick] Away! [kick]
Away down south in Dixie!

[The fort is now completely destroyed. TENNYSON stands for a moment in the middle of his admirable mess. Without any apparent warning, he suddenly throws himself on all fours, growling and barking like a dog. It is at this point that LEO TOLSTOY enters the stage. He is also wearing nothing but black Spandex pants but has the letters “L.T.” painted on his chest.]

TOLSTOY: Goddammit! [He crosses to TENNYSON and begins slapping him on the top of his head.] Bad dog! Bad dog! [TENNYSON slowly sulks upstage, whimpering like the dog he is. TOLSTOY speaks with sympathy.] Dammit, man…get up. Get up! [A beat, and then enthusiastically:] Up, boy! Up! [He slaps his legs enthusiastically and continues to encourage TENNYSON in this manner. Eventually it works and TENNYSON begins to jump excitedly on TOLSTOY. TOLSTOY in turn begins petting him on the head.] Good dog! Aren’t you a good dog!
TENNYSON, enraged: Damn you… DAMN YOU! [He begins to attack TOLSTOY but then stops himself.] Are these not the hands… the hands of a man? [He begins to quietly weep.]
TOLSTOY: The hands of a man?

TENNYSON, still crying: A man with a plan.

TOLSTOY: A man with a plan and a friend named Stan.

TENNYSON, realizing the game and forgetting his sadness: The hands of a man with a friend named Stan and a plan for the fan and a frying pan!

TOLSTOY: A frying pan?

TENNYSON: A frying pan.

TENNYSON and TOLSTOY: A plan for the fan and a frying pan! [They explode into laughter and shake hands and hug. TOLSTOY collapses in the middle of their embrace.]

TENNYSON: Oh God! [He checks over TOLSTOY and sees that he is no longer moving] Oh Christ Jesus in Heaven! [He straddles the unmoving body and grabs him by the shoulders.] Why? Why! Why, God, why?! Why must you take my one and only friend!? [By this point he is violently shaking TOLSTOY, who wakes up and begins running around the stage and shouting like a distracted person.]

TOLSTOY: RARGHRARGHRARGHRARGHRARGHRARGH!!! [He runs around screaming in this manner for about twenty seconds as TENNYSON just looks on in confused amazement. After the twenty seconds (or however long it takes for the audience to become extremely uncomfortable), TENNYSON begins following TOLSTOY and mimicking his screaming. After this anarchy has lasted far longer than it ever should have, they stop center-stage and pant heavily, looking out at the audience. After they have caught a little breath they begin running and screaming again, only this time they run out into the audience. After running amuck throughout the audience they should both exit through the audience entrance/exit doors in the back of the theatre. As the audience sits whispering amongst themselves and wondering if this so-called “play” is over, TOLSTOY and TENNYSON have made their way backstage. They should wait until the audience has begun comfortably speaking out loud (or possibly even leaving) before they each enter from opposite sides of the stage.]

TENNYSON: Hello, stranger!

TOLSTOY: Hello yourself.

TENNYSON: Fine weather we’re having.

TOLSTOY, after a beat: We’re inside.

TENNYSON, examining his surroundings: Are we?

TOLSTOY, instantly enraged: Of course we are! It is completely obvious that we are meeting here right now for the first time in the great indoors! Gosh and golly! Anyone in his right sense could either see and/or feel that this is the case and that the facts are how the case is solved.

TENNYSON: I see.

TOLSTOY: I don’t know that you do.

TENNYSON: I don’t know that I do.

TOLSTOY: I just said that.

TENNYSON: Said what?

TOLSTOY: That I don’t know that you do.

TENNYSON: Do what?

TOLSTOY: Do what?

TENNYSON: Do what?

TOLSTOY and TENNYSON: Chicken butt! [At this they hook arms and begin skipping in a circle and singing.]

TENNYSON: Do what, do what, do what?

TOLSTOY: Chicken butt!

TENNYSON: Guess what, guess what, guess what?

TOLSTOY: Chicken butt!

TENNYSON: More what, more what, more what?

TOLSTOY: Chicken butt!

TENNYSON: Less what, less what, less what?

TOLSTOY: Chicken butt!

TENNYSON stops.

TENNYSON, gravely: What did you say?

TOLSOTY, suddenly ashamed and sheepish: No… I’m sorry… Please, sir, don’t make me—

TENNYSON, shouting: WHAT… DID… YOU… SAY!! [TOLSTOY drops to his knees sobbing.] Tell me! Tell me you dirty little boy! Tell me what you said!

TOLSTOY, through his sobs: I… said…

TENNYSON: Yesss?

TOLSTOY: Chicken butt. [At this TENNYSON marching about the stage celebrating, seemingly drunk with his newfound power. Meanwhile, TOLSTOY just weeps and calls out to God.] Why me, God? Why me?!

TENNYSON, continuing in his celebration, shouts to TOLSTOY: Assume the position!

[TOLSTOY looks on in horror.]

I said assume the position.

TOLSTOY: Yes… sir. [He stand up and turns around. With his back to the audience he bends over and grabs hold of his ankles.] Read sir.

TENNYSON, menacingly: Good… [At this TENNYSON jumps off the stage and picks a woman out of the crowd. He brings the woman on stage and stands her beside TENNYSON.] Now to begin the chastisement. [He takes the woman’s hands and begins to slap the down on the top of TOLSTOY’s ass. Each time he brings her hands down, he and TOLSTOY shout “Chastisement!” and he encourages her to shout it as well. Once the woman has been established in her new role as an actress, TENNYSON leaves her to continue her job and pulls another woman from the audience. He sets this woman on the other side of TOLSTOY and instructs her in the same manner. When they are both correctly chastising TOLSTOY, TENNYSON leaves the stage again and brings up two more women. When they are on the stage, TENNYSON throws his head back and shouts:] Begin the chastisement! [At this, TENNYSON turns around and grabs his ankles. If the two new women don’t come over immediately, he should beckon them over to him. As they are both being beaten they should eventually start screaming “Chastisement!” in unison and with growing intensity. When their shouting reaches its peek volume, TENNYSON and TOLSTOY should break away from the four women. As the women and audience look on in complete confusion, the two will meet on the very edge of the stage where they will collapse into a passionate make-out session. If the women leave the stage, that’s fine; if not, even better. This make-out should last long enough for the shock to wear off and even to the point where it passes gratuitous and just becomes obnoxious. At this point, they will both look up and back at the back of the stage, which has become greatly illuminated. With a keen sense for pointing out the obvious, they are staring into Heaven.]

TOLSTOY: Father… is that you?

TENNYSON: So… thirsty…

TOLSTOY: Have pity on us… send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool out tongues…

TENNYSON: Because we are in agony…

As the two reach out to Heaven they become overwhelmed with the exhaustion of death. In time, they each collapse, their legs still entwined from the hot make-out session. The curtain should close at this point, leaving TENNYSON and TOLSTOY in front of it. Here they will lie until the theatre is completely empty. The play has ended.