Notes: Issue 1 Prose Excerpts
Stretchin' the Truth
by Ryan Lawson
The joie de vivre had dropped out of our relationship with a thud. Our love had slipped and fallen in the mud like the loose footing of an aged Sherpa surprised by a flash flood. We grasped desperately for tree-branch anchors and protruding rock footholds but we were mountain climbers traversing molehills, my wife and I. And our arguments did nothing but reflect that cramped and constricting truth.
When the urge struck me to announce that I was lost without her, she would snort, wordlessly click on Mapquest, and leave the room. “You’re my everything,” she would say in a fit of emotion, and I would snigger, condescendingly gesturing towards her monthly foster parent donation receipt and ask, “Everything?”
Melancholic and miles from sober, I would declare myself willing to die for her. She would fill a pot with cooking oil, turn on the burner, and just stand there, looking at me. Occasionally, she would show her impatience with the stove, glancing at her watch and tapping a groove into the counter with her frenetic fingernails.
“Oil,” she’d say, “actually takes, like, a really long time to boil, huh?”
“Who’d’ve thought,” I’d respond, my sarcastic playfulness tightening in my throat with the incremental realization of what she had planned. “’Dying for you’, by the by, doesn’t directly translate into ‘scalded and disfigured with a cauldron of oil’, regardless of what your mother tells you.”
“You can’t be sure that you won’t die,” she would say, affecting her mother’s purposeful posture and grisly determination. “I mean, who really knows what will happen here, right? I’m of the mind that we should be strong enough, courageous enough, to shrug off convention and just, you know, give it a shot.”
Oh, how we laughed when cooler heads prevailed… after I wrestled her away from the stove.
Sometimes, in the lighter moments, she would ask if I felt like some macaroni and cheese, and I would nod and call her “my little macaroni”. She would playfully suggest that if she were the “macaroni”, then I most certainly was the “cheese”. I would laughingly shoot back that she was a dirty bitch who slept with my cousin, and that I spend most nights lying awake and imagining that every breath I hear her take is her last. She would jokingly retort that I had a dick the size of a thumbtack, and that she’d fantasized herself to orgasm over the image of slitting my throat and dancing in the arterial spray. Again, we would laugh. Mirthless, hateful laughs, but laughs nonetheless.
Then, one evening, after another typical workday spent practicing my wife’s handwriting so as to better prepare her “suicide note”, I happened into a bodega that seemed to specialize in frozen meats and spectacularly ornamental implements of death. While I absentmindedly gazed over the decadently bejeweled butterfly knives and Korean murder-swords so filthy with gemstones that one might mistake their very existence as a none too subtle nod to irony, a gentlemanly clerk swept into view and asked, “Girl trouble?”
I was amazed at his insight, truly taken aback. Reading my astonished silence as an affirmation, he wheeled around and popped open a freezer door hidden behind the counter, rustling through bricks of individually wrapped ground meat as the chill visibly swept into the storefront. Finally, he spun back around holding what looked to be a full-sized vacuum-sealed monkey. It didn’t at first peek look like something one could realistically use to bludgeon one’s wife to death with, so I was skeptical.
“I’ll be honest,” I said, pausing long enough to make it seem as though I was unfamiliar with the notion, “unless that thing comes equipped with side pocket tommy guns or, better yet, some kind of clandestine yet easily accessible piano wire, I don’t see the point in…”
“Bup!” he interrupted, like a drill-sergeant using the element of surprise and the barest of syllables to shoot me down.
“Well,” I continued slowly, eyeing him with suspicion, “at least tell me that it shoots poison darts or someth…“
But the clerk interrupted me again with something that sounded like ‘abbit!’ and the abruptness of his interjection was so jarring that I found myself becoming lightheaded. Still, ever stubborn, I sped up my articulation in a futile attempt to slip a question past his whiplash gibberish:
“Christ, would you…“
I slapped both palms on the countertop, staring hard into the clerk’s wrinkled and surprisingly docile visage, and sighed.
“Mouse trap?” I asked, wearily.
His disappointed eyes tore at me as only an elderly Asian man’s can, and he shook his head solemnly.
“Pork Monkey,” he said.
Huh, I thought. Pork Monkey. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. Of course, since I hadn’t the foggiest idea what a Pork Monkey was, my inability to conjure such a thing as a solution to my problems wasn’t all that surprising. The clerk enthusiastically pushed the frozen atrocity at me, smiling and raising his eyebrows as though I hadn’t noticed that the monkey looked to have been turned inside-out before it was sealed in plastic.
A Bit O' Truth
Jesus and Bob
by Maze Addison Hill
We came back from Christmas vacation to find our cat, Koko, had given birth to a litter of kittens. Before leaving on vacation, I had set up a heated doghouse for her because she looked like she was about to pop and I wanted her to have a warm, enclosed place to give birth. We came home to find she had given birth to five kittens, but one had died and she had pushed it to the back of the doghouse and covered it with a blanket. We took the dead kitten—blanket and all—and went into the woods to bury it. This was my six-year old daughter’s first funeral. Meg was quiet on the way out to the woods, crying silently as we buried the tiny kitten’s body.
The day after the kitty funeral, Meg’s friend Casey came over to play. By that time we had moved Koko and her four kittens inside. As soon as Casey came in the door, Meg grabbed her hand and said, “Casey, come see our new kittens!”
I heard Casey squeal, “Awww, they’re so tiny! Can I buy two of them for free? My daddy said I could have two when they were born.”
Meg said, “We already promised three people ones, so you can have the leftover one. Koko had five babies, but one died and I can’t give you that one. You can’t keep dead kittens, so there is just one for you to take.”
“One died? Oh, that’s so sad. That sorta means that one of my kittens died because I was going to take two and now I only get one. Where is the dead one?”
“Buried in the woods… You want to go see it?”
I heard Casey say, as they headed out the back door, “Yeah, let’s go see it! Does it look like these other ones, the live ones?”
I figured at that point, I had better join them for their trip into the backyard woods in case they had any ideas about digging up that kitten so Casey could see what it looked like.
We got to the grave and Meg said, “Here it is.”
Casey said, “Who buried it?”
“My dad. He dug a hole and the kitten was wrapped up in a blanket and he put it right into the hole and covered it up. I made the cross, see? It’s just sticks.”
Casey said, “This is so sad. This is the second cat of mine that died.”
“Casey, it wasn’t your cat… I didn’t give it to you yet so it was still mine!”
“But I’m going to count it as my second cat to die. I can do that! Now we have to have a funeral, like we did for my other cat that died.”
Meg mumbled, “It’s not your cat, but we can have a funeral.” She then said, “You got any words?”
“Any words? What do you mean?”
“You know, like at a funeral, they say words. You got any?”
Casey said, “No… I don’t know what to say.”
Meg looked around and found some dead roses lying on the ground. She picked up three of them and handed one to Casey and I. Then she took the one she kept for herself and placed it very reverently next to the stick-cross. “Now put yours on the grave,” she said to the two of us.
She then put her hands behind her back and said, “I will miss you little black kitten…
…Casey, we didn’t name it yet before it died because it was dead when we met it…
…I am sorry I didn’t get to know you better. We will take care of your brothers and sisters, well, at least until they go to their new homes. I am sorry you couldn’t go to Casey’s house with your…
…Casey, do you want a boy or a girl cat?”
Casey whispered, “Girl.”
Meg finished, “…with your sister…”
Casey interrupted, “Hey, since it was really my kitten, can we dig it up and bury it in my yard?”
I took that question: “No.”
Meg continued, “This rose I give to you because I love you. The end.”
At the end of Meg’s eulogy, Casey had started to softly sing “Away in a Manger” to which Meg said, “That’s not a funeral song, that’s a Christmas song, but it is okay that you sang it since you didn’t have any words.”
As we were walking back from the “service” we came upon some barbed wire in the path and Meg said, “Watch out, Casey, there’s some bob-wire and it will prick you if you touch it or step on it.”
Casey said, “Hey! I was just singing about baby Jesus and then we found this bob-wire and that is exactly what they put on Jesus’s head when they hanged him.”
Meg, indignant, said, “You lie! They didn’t hanged Jesus; he was just a baby! And no one put any bob-wire on his head. That’s just stupid!”
“Nuh-uh, it’s true. They did hanged him when he got big and they twisted up bob-wire and made a crown out of it and put it on his head before they hanged him on the cross.”
“That is a lie,” Meg said through clenched teeth. “Ain’t it a lie, Mom? They didn’t do that, did they?”