Monthly Archives: February 2015

Hate Me

 

By Ron Riekki

     

I had an ex-girlfriend who was into voodoo. When I was dating her, I thought it was really cool. It was when we broke up that I worried. I started thinking I could feel tingling in my arm.

I went to the V.A. doctor and told her I was having voodoo pain. The doctor asked if I was having suicidal thoughts. I said no, just voodoo pain. The doctor asked if I had any PTSD. I told her I was stationed stateside. I was in the military between the first Iraq War and the second Iraq War. If I had any PTSD, it would be horrible memories of Kentucky. Fort Campbell. You can’t have PTSD when you were stationed at a place that’s made up of the words “fort,” “camp,” and “bell.”

The doctor told me it was hypochondriasis. Psychosomatic. The doctor looked like she was a prom queen. She looked like she wrote award-winning villanelles. I wanted to have sex with my V.A. doctor, but I’d asked one out before and I realized that if you’re going to the V.A., you’re a failure. The V.A. is made for veterans who can’t find jobs. And there are a lot of us. In the waiting room, I looked at all of us. The only way the room could look uglier is if it was filled with hobgoblins. Vets are some sorry ass motherfuckers when you see them up close in hospital lighting.

I went home and looked for Wanda’s number. I couldn’t find it. I must have called her a Fish Called Wanda ninety thousand times when we were dating.

I called her a Trout Called Wanda.

A Shark Called Wanda.

A Cod Called Wanda.

Now she was making me pay.

I’d slept with her brother. Not actual sex though, so don’t get angry with me. It was just mutual masturbation. And I was high on disco biscuits, so you have to give me a little leeway. The hug drug gives you the decision-making skills of a crack whore. But here’s the thing – I decided to fight fire with fire. I googled “how to voodoo,” but got nervous the FBI would see my search history, so instead I DuckDuckGoed the same and I found out it’s easy as hell. All you need is a doll and a lock of hair from the person you want to curse.

The doll doesn’t even have to look like the person. I thought it does, but wikiHow said no. Just get a doll and a hair.

So I stole an Elmo doll from my nephew and then I found some hair in the shower. It was long, so I knew it had to be hers. There was a possibility it could have been my mother’s, because she had used my shower once or twice, but odds were pretty good it was from my ex-.

I put the pin right over Elmo’s heart and just held it there. The floor below seemed to hold a lot of hell underneath it. I felt my feet getting hot. I felt my elbow hurting. I tried to think of what would be a good decision in this moment. Good people have such easy lives. They die of cancer at 45. They kiss high school sweethearts.

I was having a train wreck of a life. My dad committed suicide in a Walmart parking lot.

I kept staring at the needle. I thought what Neil Young would do in a moment like this.

I put the needle down, went over to my CD collection, and threw out every cover that had a skull on it, any CD that had songs with “Kill” in the title. I decided from now on I was doing shit like going on more hikes. Even if my elbow fell off. Sooner or later she’d get exhausted with putting the pins in. I went outside, walked into the woods behind my house. The trees were herpes infested, city diseased. I went further inside the branches, convinced if I went deep enough I’d stop hearing horns, stop smelling driveway. It felt good. Like being salutatorian. I kept walking. It was post-midnight. The moon was Texas Chainsaw Massacred down to a little sliver of a C. Beautiful.

 

Ron Riekki’s books include U.P: a novel, The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book, Wayne State University Press), and Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (May 2015, Michigan State University Press). He has had seven nominations for the Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions from publications such as Blue Fifth Review, Moonshot Magazine, WSU Press and Verse Wisconsin.

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The Silver Bird

 

By Sean Mulroy

 

Not long ago the Silver Bird flew over our valley and every child ran into the clearing so tall poplar trees could not distort their view.

When the bird flies over, circumstances are always the same; it passes around midday, each time there are seven days between one sighting and the next and it only ever glides over for a few fleeting moments then is gone.

The Silver Bird is constantly hungry and always angry; its stomach growls repeatedly while flying overhead and often there is a thin white trail left behind that looks like clouds. Some say the clouds come from the Silver Bird, that it is their mother, but others don’t believe so. Many have noticed that the white trail soon disappears and therefore the substance cannot be a cloud but something different.

Older children raise their arms up to the Silver Bird until it disappears into the distance, perhaps hoping it will fly down and carry them away. Younger children cover their ears with both hands, scared by the bird’s anger, and peek frightened glimpses up every now and then imagining where it is going to. Sometimes in dreams they can see that place but when awake are unable to describe it and as they grow older those dreams leave them forever.

The Elders of our tribe mostly sit down and gaze eerily at the bird or pray or offer their most valuable possessions up to the magical creature. Once the largest enawene fish ever remembered being caught was cooked and laid out for the bird, in hope that it would swoop down to accept the gift and bless the giver with many wishes or even just one. Some of the adolescents, or fighting young men who feel they have something to prove, throw sharp spears at the bird and beat their chests; but this is frowned upon and often afterwards most stay away from them, fearing, because of their sacrilege, they will bring bad luck.

Once, after a heavy rainstorm, a child found a strange piece of rock in the mud that had washed off a small hill. All were transfixed by this rock as it resembled the Silver Bird’s skin, particularly the way it glimmered under sunlight. Awa has now stuck that rock to the tip of his totem staff and carries it around everywhere.

Today the Silver Bird flew over our valley louder than ever. Smoke like that from a fire fell from its rump and there was no trail of white clouds left behind, only black smoke which smelt strange. Everyone shouted at seeing this and as the powerful-being fell lower and lower some screamed and wailed. The creature collided with the forest and the whole earth shook louder than thunder. Now there is a terrible fire off in the distance. Tall trees are ablaze and their billowing smoke rises to the dark sky in waves or like ripples in a pond, one after the other. More great birds have gathered in the sky. They too must be angry, because each one constantly growls while floating over the area where the Silver Bird fell; perhaps they are searching for someplace to land and rest. Although none can see the birds, it is much too dark for that, we can see their eyes; they glow and some must have many eyes, one bird has more eyes than I have fingers, I know because I counted them off. They resemble small moons that flash light pale colours.

Even though it is dark and cold tonight, we are all getting ready to greet the great multitude of giant birds. Awa has put on his best skeins and Mashco-Piro, the witch woman, has collected multiple bones and skull fragments from each family’s recently deceased. She is hard at work threading them together into a long necklace. We shall give those flying giants the best offering we can, our most precious. All, who have not already, are applying red clay to their bodies; we look impressive.

So now I must prepare myself as well. For I too will leave this valley to trek up glowing red hills under a smoky sky, following my Wayãpi towards those blazing flames that eat into our jungle and there, on the crest of the highest hill, kneel in worship before fallen Gods.

 

Sean Mulroy lives in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. His writing has previously been published in AntipodeanSF.

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Garbage Day

 

by Arman Avasia    

    

The man and the woman had names but they often forgot them. Both still had a living parent who missed the dead one, so they weren’t yet old, and their memory problems should have been a cause for concern but there was just so little they cared to remember. They knew Tuesday was garbage day because their neighbor always knocked on the door and reminded them. If she didn’t remember to remind them they wouldn’t remember to put it out. She knew this because when she didn’t, they wouldn’t, and the smell of the garbage drifted down the hall to her apartment like a lingering ghost. Once, in her younger and wilder and more indifferent past, she had lived next to a corpse for more than a week before notifying the proper authorities. She tried to last the full month, but her cat started to look at her with a hunger that would not be confused with desire, so she sullenly called her landlord who frantically called the cops. Neither she nor the cat ever really forgot about what had transpired between the two of them.

‘Jordan,’ the neighbor would say, in a quiet but firm but polite voice. ‘Jordan, it’s Henrietta. It’s garbage day.’ The man and the woman would look at each other blankly, trying to figure out if either one of them was Jordan. ‘Jordan. Jordan, it’s garbage day.’ At this, the woman would nod and the man would nod and he’d unlock the door with a simple grace that never failed to make the woman stare with wonder. ‘Thank you Jordan,’ Henrietta murmured. ‘Thank you,’ the man muttered, and shut the door.

In the moments after garbage day, the atmosphere of the studio apartment was happy and accomplished. The woman stood beaming by the stovetop and the man sat contentedly in his chair. A quiet bliss floated lightly between them and held their gazes together. It never lasted long. The moments after the moments after were maddening. Neither knew quite what to do with their hands while their faces held themselves in grim parodies of the easy smiles that had earlier graced their lives. Inevitably, they fought. The woman and the man did not fight like you and I do. They did not use words or fists. They did not use guns because they did not have guns and they didn’t use knives because there was only one. What happened between them was something beyond language— something that came before. It happened on a physical level and also an emotional one, so of course it happened most of all during sex. When they fought, they fucked like people who didn’t care about each other because, when they fought, they were people who didn’t care about each other. There was no winning or losing but if there was, it would have been the woman who won more, since she was the one most often left unsatisfied and awake. It was only when she finally fell asleep that they were truly together again. They lay next to each other and dreamt different versions of the same dream. The woman dreamt of the man before him and the man dreamt of all the women that would come after.

The man and the woman lived like this for a long time. If it wasn’t love, there’s no other word for it.

 

Arman Avasia lives in Saratoga Springs, New York. His poetry has appeared in Folio and Glass Mountain and his music criticism can be found at Inyourspeakers.com.

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