Author Archives: Juancho

Baby Evelyn-Sweaty Duane continued.

The night was less kind to Manny. Ambivalent to his pain, he collected himself on the icy sidewalk. Regaining his feet he clutched the front of his coat in a panic, and felt the reassuring folds of his secret letter tucked inside the liner. All day he followed the bus route asking strangers if they remembered her, helpless and forlorn thirty feet below the world. Her cries distraught, but oh the life in her! Those mewling shrieks calling to every citizen of the nation, the entire world, and to the night stars millions of light years above Oklahoma. A child himself at the time, seventeen years before his accident, his awakening, the crash of great clarity that revealed his purpose in the universe.

Dear Mrs. (Baby) Evelyn,

What song did you sing from the bottom of the well? Can you remember? The news said you cried mostly, and your mother could hear you. All of us, everyone, could also hear you. You did not want to be in that well one minute longer. Get me out of this well! You commanded. Late in the night you were silent. Oh what we would have done to hear that defiant cry! Then, better than the obstinate yelp of your dissatisfaction, you sang to us. Do you remember the tune, or even a note? I would sing it without ceasing. I bet the rathole driller dug hard at the throttle when he heard your song. I bet he remembers it still.

I trust that you are well, and understand you have a family of your own. I am so deeply regretful to intrude upon the very life all of humanity once prayed would be your fate. It is for the hope of your family, and all families, that I write.

If we are to find our way back to that hopeful night when our prayers were answered, you must do it. Return to the well. To the strong-throated infant that cried from the well, the whole wide world will listen. Return to the well and deliver a message of peace.

Yours in humble service,

Manny Fiesta

As Duane and June dozed wakeful and safe on Duane’s bed, Manny walked west on Belshaw Rd. towards Marble City, Oklahoma. With some rides he could make it in a few days, or if he walked the whole way, a week. The fold of his cap glowed with a ring of ice growing and melting down onto Manny’s shoulders, but that letter and the promise of it kept him warm until he crawled to the top of an underpass on I-290 W and slept as the sun rinsed across the grey hawkish clouds and the sickly aura of Chicago faded into morning.

Duane Gets Paid

Duane wished it would get cold enough to snow.  Sleet stung the back of his neck, exposed between his coat and his uncle’s wool watch cap, seeping into his shirt eventually meeting with the sweat slowly rising from the small of his back.  A young woman looked at him like she was going to punch him in the face, but instead she casually spit on his shoes as she brushed past him, escorting a couple into the Wicker Park Planned Parenthood clinic.  Duane wished them a good morning, as his commitment to his employer was only to wear the sandwich board of a dismembered fetus with the bright yellow ABORTION IS MURDER! scrawled across the top and GENESIS 1:28 along the bottom.  He did not know, nor care which bible verse this was, or if it may indeed sway the decision of anyone seeking help at the clinic.  He assumed his presence at the clinic didn’t really make a difference to anyone other than his anonymous sponsor, who verified Duane’s compliance by GPS and a promise that someone was checking to confirm he maintained high visibility and did not obstruct the message by any means.   Seventy-five dollars for 2 hours work was good money, and Duane needed that cash. He was offered an additional $50 to chant from a list of approved slogans, but he declined, being too diffident by nature to go to such effort.  Standing was good though, although the rain was picking up. He watched the girl’s spit slowly dilute and rinse from his shoe.

There was a girl at his apartment.  The first female to ever enter that space to his knowledge.  He recognized June, because anybody would recognize June if they had seen her one time. He did not recognize the man he had shoved to the ground, and he did not recognize his own bewildering actions in knocking that man down.  He did not expect for her to be there when he returned, although he would not mind it at all.  All night he lay awake next to her while she slept like she may never wake up.  He lay there all night in the clothes he was wearing, only removing his wet boots and his belt, wide awake, skin buzzing with the closeness of not just someone, but her.  For the briefest time he dozed, and dreamed he was driving over a shining highway that climbed miles above the ocean towards the sun. He startled from it in a soaked panic that he would crest the horizon and the road would disappear, leaving him to fall and fall and fall into the sea.   In real life Duane had never seen the ocean, just the lapping shores of Lake Michigan with its cold, stinging rain.

Sweaty Duane continued…

June woke to an empty apartment. Duane was gone. Icy air seeping in around the window frame made her shiver and she pulled the acrylic blanket snug around her neck and rolled her back to the wall.  Duane left her a note on the nightstand, it read, “went to work, don’t leave. Come back if you leave I mean.  If you want to.” He signed it with his first name in a careful cursive, “Duane.”

She had nowhere to go, no place to be and also no reason to stay.  The thermostat ticked and she heard the radiator somewhere far below in the basement wheeze a warm current under the bed.  She had to pee.  The mattress rose against her hips as she sat up, it was an old and formless thing, and she rocked against it to get upright and swing her legs to the floor.  Still wrapped tight in the tattered Green Bay Packers blanket she scuffled in her socks to the bathroom.  It was tidy, if not clean and she lowered the cold seat and pulled her tights down.  She finished and used the last scraps of toilet paper on the roll.  She squeezed a bit of toothpaste onto her finger and rubbed her teeth and rinsed her mouth, then poked around for more toilet paper to replace the empty roll.

The bathroom cupboard held 4 threadbare towels, neatly folded, 2 washcloths of the same era, a large bottle of amber mouthwash from which she poured some into the cap, gargled and spit, a pipe wrench, a coffee mug from Cook County Sheriff’s Office with a scrap of soap in it, and a coarse shaving brush stuck to the bottom.  No paper.   She moved slowly into the kitchen as if she might disturb someone or be caught snooping around where she was not welcome. She found a can of coffee in the freezer and not finding any filters, used a napkin on the counter to improvise herself a cup from the little 2 cup maker on the counter.  She searched the rest of the cupboards as the coffee popped and percolated, not finding any toilet paper there either.  She moved to the narrow coat closet in the foyer by the front door, and broke through the tightly packed rack of men’s overcoats and uniform jackets to reveal a cardboard box against the wall on the floor.  She read the simple label.

IDENTIFICATION

NAME OF DECEASED: Alfred Edward Duval

BIRTH/DEATH DATE: 1936-2014

CREMATED ON: 11/27/2014

RELEASED TO RELATIVE/FRIEND: Duane Wicks- nephew

She slowly closed the curtain of clothes and backed away from Uncle Alfred’s resting place, turning the knob to close the door as if she might awaken him. The coffee maker stopped. The radiator no longer hissed through the vents, and June thought of Duane, in his silence, day after day.

Chuck Says

Chuck says it doesn’t matter what you write.  Chuck says once you make a move like gathering and categorizing your art you say, “What now?” That’s a hard thing to get past according to Chuck.  He says go ahead and write whatever.  Go back to your roots and antagonize friends about bikes.  Write some real stuff then change the names and make it fiction. Send June, Duane, and Manny off to war, or make them dress up like Stormtroopers and go to Comic-Con.

Rail about politics or write a letter to your old high school friends you just can’t see fit to hear from anymore.  Tell them you would rather heave vomit into the toilet until blood vessels pop in your eyes than listen to their platitudes that things will turn out okay, that your friends who are not white, male, straight, or who conveniently have avoided or evaded any sense of dysphoria will be fine.  Chuck says it is OK to write about that.  It was just time for reform and if you haven’t served than maybe you don’t exactly understand freedom and appreciate freedom as much as they do, which is why they feel obligated to remove it from your life experience. Write a how-to guide for black people to follow when stopped by the police.  If they would simply follow the orders of the law enforcement officer than everything will be fine, routine.  In every instance they tell you, if you look at the details, the black people did something wrong and got shot, even Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Jordan Edwards, and those kids who got themselves shot standing on stranger’s porches begging for help in the night.

My old homeboys.  We called each other homeboy, gave ourselves nicknames like rappers on television.  I’m the Fresh Kid, and we did our best to ape black culture  because it seemed so much cooler than our own.   Chuck D and the S1W- pride, loyalty, courage, and even a uniform- kind of like the military.  Defenders of Funk forever right? Right up until the funk gets shot. Get your asses in your deplorable baskets and don’t come out until I say when.

Chuck said it would be OK if I wrote that.

It’s hot and humid and everyone feels like partying, but I don’t feel much like partying.  I feel like digging a tunnel in the floor with a trap door and a little room underneath where me and my sweetheart can tip-toe down the ladder and stay very still and quiet until the knocking on the door goes away.  The WiFi sucks down there too, but it is cool and surprisingly dry with the fan blowing.

Maybe it will be easier to write down there.  Manny can get organized to talk to that woman about getting back in the well and healing America, and Duane and June can finally get his uncle’s car running and get on the road to Florida, because honestly, the author knows not the first thing about Gary, Indiana so this story needs to get on familiar ground.  I mean, fiction is hard enough right? Or maybe that’s the point, to make it hard.  That’s what Chuck says.  He says don’t put puppies in your song because people like puppies. That’s the worst kind of art.  Write a song about black kids that makes people feel as warm as they feel about puppies.  Now that is art, so Chuck says.

 

Juancho

Sweaty Continued- Manny wakes up

Lying on the icy sidewalk Manny Fiesta came to after what, he could not say. He knew with great conviction that he was significantly responsible for Barack Obama becoming the first black man elected as the president of the United States of America. Not through his single vote, which he had not used since voting for Bill Clinton in 1992, but through the blasts of electricity that cracked from his brain and then spread like the veins in a leaf, connecting him to all leaves, everywhere, to spread the sense of urgency that Mr. Obama, the senator from Hyde Park, just 20 miles away from where Manny lived, must become President.

Back then, Manny was first learning of his powers in the Central Florida heat of July, 2007 as he suffocated beneath a tarp under an I-4 overpass.

The Artist Retreats.

I worry I procrastinate too much. We may never film the Paddle-boat Sonata where plastic bobbing boats of itchy fiberglass churn in a lurching murmuration designed by yours truly, and my co-founders of Slippery Horse-wink LLC, or Walm ART, or any of the hundred other names of production companies and art galleries never founded.  Filmed from above on a tiny lake in Alabama, our volunteers would launch on my command and draw a beautiful plait of wakes to a banjo accompanied by a Wurlitzer, hence the name.

Our film noir musical, Certain Death, starring my cat Iggy portrayed by finger puppets spectacularly ward-robed and shot in a shoe-box diorama also threatens to never arrive at the box office.  The images trapped in two dimensions struggle to rise from the page. Our naked fingers are on to other things.

Sweaty Duane and Black June still sit in Duane’s uncle’s apartment, awkwardly wondering if they are to be together, in passing or forever, or if they are simply pinky players in Manny “the Thumb” Fiesta’s story. Left standing at the stove, Duane holds an egg while June’s stomach growls.  Are they ever to eat?

The added pressure of the triple threat, not content to write and perform silently as Chuck’s dark conscience in Glitter Chariot, I now have two musical projects to not finish, with all of the instruments not yet learned.  Only Had One and Squirrel Bullet, headline stolen afternoons to an audience of birds and the eponymous squirrels, and one cat who fears not Certain Death.  Our nihilistic hit single, Sad Right Now, written and sung by an 8 year-old ingenue in a boon-docked Air-stream, drones on in d minor awaiting verses and a chord change.

These and all things stand behind the current masterpiece in waiting. When the earth eventually rolls around and points the humble panhandle of Florida towards the sun, and the dank, wool blanket wraps its loving folds around our town– I will revive and rinse myself beneath a fountain in the garden, or to put it meanly, an outdoor shower.

Yes! Once those waters flow from the garden hose and onto my beading head, all projects will be finished, all works rendered done.

Juancho

 

 

El Viejo

There is an old man sitting in his old man chair,
He feels the price of every year.  His fingers tap merenge
rhythm for no one but himself to listen.

Dear wife brings his slice of cake, a glass of sherry, she thinks he wakes.

Not asleep, just gone for a ride, through the upstate Jersey countryside, he,  his brother,  nothing dies– the larder full of harmless lies.

The Florida grass is thickly green, the heat a soaking, sickly thing as sprinklers run, condensers hum is this success? And have I won?

Mis hijos, men- m’ija then, comes to watch the television. Fireworks fall outside and in, he holds her hand inside of his.

He drags the beat a hair within, the timing late, but on the one. Let it arrive but not too quickly– ¡da te prisa!, pero  en el uno.

 

Juancho

 

 

The Self-Immolation of Reverend Moore

Wanting something is the wrong way to go about getting it done.

Nobody knew this like Reverend Charles Robert Moore.  He wanted so many things.  The ruling in Brown vs. The Board of Education ended legal segregation in the United States, and the young reverend was fired from his post for celebrating this in the most cautious sense from the pulpit.  He would not make that mistake ever again, to be cautious in the face of injustice. He stood outside the governor’s mansion protesting the executions of 150 prisoners during Governor George Bush’s tenure.  He defied the traditions and doctrine of the Methodist Church by opening the doors of his church to the nascent Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Austin, but being tolerated by the church was not enough for him.  He stopped eating, and on the 15th day of his fast the bishops acquiesced to his demand that the church accept responsibility for its contribution to the suffering of the gay community, which they did by proclamation.  His faith took him to India, Africa, the Middle East, Chicago, Austin, and ultimately back to his hometown of Grand Saline, Texas where his deepest memories of shame and inequality were born.

Reverend Moore made a mess of his life.  All three of his marriages ended because he could not make room for the comfort and love of relationships that distracted from his desire for justice. His children suffered his absences.

At 79 years-old, in 2014, he was elated by the election of Barack Obama, the first and only black President of the United States, but the hatred and racism that accompanied the moment left him heart-sick and stricken with defeat. His lifetime of wanting had brought him nowhere. He was still in Grand Saline, Texas, a child unable to make a difference. Charlie Moore was a coward, a failure, a loser.

On June 23rd of that year he drove to a strip mall on the edge of town in Grand Saline.  He paced for hours in front of the Dollar General store, while curious watchers noticed him, musing about his circumstances.  They watched him finally open his trunk, pull a foam pad from it and place it on the ground.  Those watching assumed he must be praying, perhaps a Muslim.  He kneeled and lifted a container to his head and poured liquid all over his legs, his chest, and his head.  Being June in Texas it was a steamy afternoon.

As the fumes from the gasoline choked his breath away, he pulled from his pocket a lighter and sparked it.

 

On the windshield of his car, he left this note.

 

Juancho

 

 

In the Yellow House

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailWhen I saw the fourth one it all made sense.  He is the dad, and the guy I always see with the boys is the uncle.  They live around the corner from us in a little yellow house.  Uncle drives an early 80’s cream-colored Mercedes Sedan.  He has the powder-blue tag of an antique automobile, but the car is not a showpiece.  It’s a workhorse, the back end caked with diesel exhaust.  Uncle and the boys ride skateboards past our house, making careful turns working down the hill.  I would not call them skaters, because there is none of the culture of skateboarding apparent with them.  They wear no helmets or pads, occasionally just bare feet, and they do not seem interested in tricks or energy drinks. From our brief conversations, the longest of which happened as we watched the utility workers triumphantly raise our pole after the storm, I know they are all ponderers curious about the world.  When I saw them I ran to get my own skateboard so I could sit on it and join them.  Just us skateboard owners.

This is when I met Dad, who is a slightly shorter, thicker version of uncle, and more gregarious.  I don’t really know them at all, but I delight in their company and in watching them work down the hill mostly cautiously.  The smallest of the boys, who looks most of the time like a pair of jeans pulled from the dryer, is the daredevil and the one with a natural talent.  Uncle calls out to him frequently.  “Think about how fast you have to run before you jump off.”  “Hold up, don’t get too far ahead of us.” Blue Jeans loves his uncle, and mostly heeds his advice.  These four guys are family. Serious family. They are intelligent and gentle.  They speak to each other with warm familiarity and kindness.  I get the impression that to really get to know these guys would be a trip into a deep and branching story with cul de sacs of segues into 15th century Tarascan architecture or theories on time travel. Perhaps Uncle and Dad are in a ska band or build model rockets. To me they seem a self-contained unit, not needing much else to enjoy life but to hang out together on Goodwill skateboards on the edge of Indianhead Acres.   I told them all my spectacular story of crashing on the hill around the corner.  I do the thing I do with my arm to provide the visual metaphor when I say it looked like a twisted old TV antenna.  They squeeze their brows in sympathy, but I see it is no cautionary tale to them.  They are just having fun.  Nobody is going to crash. They can probably see, or sense, that I was not just having fun when I crashed.  I was miserable and sad.

The boys are the free-roaming kind.  A month past-due for haircuts and so easily cool I want their nod of approval, to be acknowledged by their feral eyes. When in their company they are polite and look at me, but their true interest lies at the horizon, the treetops, or at my barking dog.  They would like to be her friend, and if they are patient they will be.

I don’t know their story at all, or even their names, which fly from my mind as I hear them, but I find myself occasionally preoccupied with wondering about them, and holding them up to myself as evidence that we are going to be okay, that we all deserve to be okay.

 

Juancho

Normal

There was no light, just sound. It was 1:30 A:M and the frumpy little mess of a tropical depression had found its wings and formed into a proper Category One hurricane by the time it hit the coast down the road in St. Marks. Melissa and the dog were asleep, but the cat and I were awake.  I cracked open the carport door and peered into the night with my flashlight.  The treetops were swirling, the rain a steady stinging spray.  It was exciting. The electricity popped out hours ago with a boom at 10:00 P:M before the weather even rolled in, an ominous sign. Still, I felt prepared.

I heard the first deep cracking of a tree before the burst of wind got to our house and laid 100′ tall mature pines and oaks over as if they would be pushed back down into the earth.  It terrified me.  A life-long Floridian, I had never seen wind like this in person. I knew in my sour stomach we should be somewhere else, but it was too late. I shut the door and went back to our dark bed to wait.  The last forecast I saw called for winds on the back of the eye wall to be in the 90’s.  I believed our brick house could withstand that, but the time for options had passed anyway.  My plan was to rest until the calm of the eye came, then to take a quick survey before hustling the four of us under the house or into the hall.  I awoke to a total calm, only the sound of dripping water outside and sirens competing in the distance.  The storm moved east, and spared us the brunt of the tailing winds. I walked out to the street at 6:00 A.M. and saw my neighbor standing in the darkness, strong and sturdy, looking down the hill to our corner, which I no longer recognized.  Large trees and power lines were down across both roads, and in the dark it was hard to interpret the image. Headlights pierced through, weaving slowly around the debris, I expected it to be the police.  Instead it was my friend Kevin on his way to work, to see how the teen crisis shelter fared in the storm with nine kids, other people’s children, and the staff who look after them. They were all okay. He said they did great.

Melissa awoke, rested and in much better shape than myself, as did the dog. We walked our wooded lot and checked the house on all sides. There was no damage to the roof.  Our cars were fine, but carpeted on one side with fresh green pine needles and dirt.  The briefest exploration of our block determined that this would not be a normal day.  My nerves were shot, and I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything although I knew I needed to get something in me.  I chugged two warm protein drinks.  400 calories. After checking in with friends and neighbors the day took shape around the mission to free Paul and Stephanie, who had a massive tulip poplar across their driveway like a gate.  Melissa rallied me and I immediately felt better having a purpose.  Joe and Dan chainsawed while the rest of us rolled big chunks of tree to the curb.  An hour later the task was done, and thus began the ennui.  Nobody tells you the worst of the storm, should you survive, is the waiting.

The rest of the week would bring lots of sharing, a neighborhood kitchen set up in the park, and the endless tedium of preparing for nightfall.  We didn’t leave our immediate vicinity for 2 days until we heard word that stores were opening and the inevitable outing for ice had to occur.  Then each day brought normalcy to some, while others waited.  Countless offers from friends for places to stay, supplies, equipment, meals came, and continue to come actually, as there are many who are far from recovered still.  That’s what we do in a crisis.  We try to feed each other, to put a dry blanket around wet shoulders, food and drink, a break in the air-conditioning.  All of it welcome and necessary, while the one thing you really want, and the only thing you truly need can’t be had, or given by anyone in particular.  You want normal.  To be cool and full in your own living room, or to hang on the door of your own cold refrigerator contemplating a snack. So you develop the frustration of the ungrateful, for turning down so many well-meaning offers from those that regained their normal.  It is not that you want them to continue your suffering, your inconvenience, with you- well- maybe that is it.  Misery truly does love company, and this past week had its share of miserable.

Maybe those kids at the shelter did so great because their normal was already gone.  For once instead of being the ones without anything, receiving constant offers of everything but the one thing they crave, they saw the whole town coming to join them, and they were happy to have such good company.

During my next disaster?  I will still offer whatever small comforts I can should I be lucky, but my first question will be, “What sucks the most?”

Juancho