Clarence “Pancake” Paterson’s system of eyeball recognition tones proved to be responsible for the category of passive hallucinations identified in male respondents of specified ranges of muscle mass and bodyfat ratios. The gloves worn when handling these sounds can be purchased underground with the exchange of sexual favors replacing the release of the sourdough tension spring found in the politically incorrect “official” model now found only in museums and ethnic delicatessens.
The First Answer sought out the first foxed page where the love got real and found himself suddenly repelled by the Josephine he wore to encourage the sun’s interference with his pasty white skin.
Because for a moment the visitors suffered as much as the patients, we cried hard inside for the look they gave us, which was the look we gave them and included:
a) A burden of doves. b) Broken clothing. c) A wayward rose with table supporting. d) A chair composed of distinguished granite.
The First Answer returned the dented husband, sporting an unexpectedly eyeless mineral delight linked to a rather substantial mischief list. There seemed to be no bone oars strapped to the body’s miscreant gunnels.
Night falls on another serving of traditional moonlight stark with folkloric motives. In the museum of everything, fused wives have grown indolent. A tidy little hair-knot or two of maybe no and maybe knotted seems to be chattering endlessly against the girl’s dirty neck-brace. The First Answer, charmed by this, undaunted, includes:
a) A raw egg in a wineglass staring. b) The love-slave’s lopped ears flopping. c) An amber throb of impossibles choreographing the bee arrangements. d) The stunning golden slander of dying reeds.
At the top of the husband’s ragged metallic tree, the girl’s still dripping skin glistens. Intelligence is not her proper friend. Her wild is closed, but it’s possible to live there unopened.
Once I finished reinventing the world of obscure obsessions and unnatural tendencies to see myself as a quirly little nerd-hero, I realized optimists are never really happy anyway. They can’t be surprised.
My system of obsession development includes:
1. A place where the cold is never pretending. 2. A reluctant assassin who likes you more than he likes himself. 3. A containment system for the steam release valves hidden in symbol-driven folktales. 4. A further refusal of eyeball recognition tones. 5. A system of answers that hide the questions inside them. (They appear to be questions. They appear to be unanswered.)
Clarence played the tune his system had compiled on a sweet potato named Herman Melville, which appeared to be active and thus required gloves, (i.e. to be “Hermaned,” or to be registered, or to be evident upon a table loaded with entertainments neither facile nor adequately contained).
No such person (the one I believed I was) could be located in the present circumstance. I’m an unrepentant mess with an honest mug and an unfortunate propensity for testifying. (This is what I thought Clarence intended.)
We carry our guns like children here, wrapped in the clothing the natives wear, as we edge around the intermittent blemishes of dying forest, watching a honey badger eye a cluster of yellow baboons, the Josephine forgotten.
Bat-eared wild dogs tear at a wart-hog, yellowthorn acacia softening to pastel in the dust, the sun and the heat like a claw. The sweet flare of a bush orange skirling along the breeze beside a blackened rain tree interrupts another meal of whiskey and buffalo kidney.
The millipedes scrabbling across the coral path move like miniature convoys executing evasion tactics. This will not save them. The wild geese argue in raucous delight.
The wild geese win.
The Next Important Clue
I was asked not to do something for somebody and keep it secret, but I couldn’t remember what it was I wasn’t supposed to do although I could remember who I wasn’t supposed to do it for. So I called this person who could be anybody of any gender or age and maybe wasn’t even a person because it’s a secret and I asked him what it was that I wasn’t supposed to do and he said, You’re not supposed to do that.” So I said, “What?” And he said, “Ask me what you’re not supposed to do.” “Oh so that’s it,” I said and hung up quickly so I wouldn’t do what I wasn’t supposed to do any more. But then I got to thinking about it and it made me happy that I couldn’t remember who it was that I had called and I nearly burst with joy when I realized I couldn’t remember his phone number either or if his divorce had come through yet or how many of his thirteen kids he had custody of or what illness his grandmother was in the hospital dying of or even why he was quitting his security job to manage the little grocery store over on fifteenth street. So I thought it would be safe to call Bert and tell him how happy I was about knowing I was going to be able to do this strange favor for this person and Bert says, “Hello? Who’s this?” like he didn’t know it was me that called him when everybody else was asleep. So I said, “It’s me, Numbnuts,” because we have that kind of a deep friendship between us, and he said, “What did you say?” like he was really sleeping before two o’clock in the morning, so I said, “What are you wearing, Sugarpants?” and then we got cut off like we do sometimes because Bert lives in his Mom’s house with six of his kids and the battery’s always going out on his rechargeable phone. And then I get to thinking about how sleepy Bert sounded and how he didn’t answer the way he usually does though his voice was definitely familiar, and it occurs to me that the voice sounded a little like this person I’m not supposed to do something for, a little anyway, so I hit redial again and I’m relieved to see that it’s Bert’s number alright so I say, “To win you must apply raccoon grease to the left buttock and shout, Papa‘s got a slide trombone and Mama’s bell’s a ringin’,’” and then I hang up and wait for Bert to call back and I watch the clock because if he hasn’t called in an hour or so, I know his phone will be recharged and I can call back with the next important clue.
The Goatherd as the Goat
Father Raphael began contemplating a large body of water. He wanted to be inside that body of water. This animal does not exist. This animal does not exist. This animal does not exist. That’s what Father Raphael was chanting at his mother’s bedside.
Okay, Bible Boy, then listen. Jamone he take little little. He take not much. Jamone he witness. He go see miracle. He buy chance at lifelong from old woman who see tomorrow. Gone be thief money.
Bobo and Fifi and Eustace eventually they grow up, don’t even remember Father Raphael. Baser instincts altered but persisted they (unabated them).
And Jamone he washing Big Man car. Big Water. Big River. Old Woman say lifelong cost big money. Row me across to other side.
Okay, Bible Boy, when it tired, it gone. Evaporate. Contemporary as the inside of water buffalo. Go be there and go be occupied. Ain’t like edge of river in memory. It flow only here to here again. And here again we be there.
Don’t make nevermind. Don’t make have me some. Little river go round and back. Be pond (the finely drawn witness of these expanding rings folded like the hands that are the dove descending).
Erase my name from more than my own memory say Father Raphael. Make a little effort to dismiss me from my passing, so that what remains is where I was going and not where I’ve been.
-- Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at Mississippi Review. In both 2011 and 2012 he is again a finalist in poetry at Mississippi Review, as well as receiving a nomination for The Best of the Web and two nominations for both the Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. The Spring 2011 Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and 18 of his hybrid works. His book of days, Tunneling to the Moon, is currently being serialized with a work per day appearing for all of 2013 at http://silencedpress.com.