Physics with George

George is a good pal of mine. He’s a nuclear physicist and so is wife, Crystal. They’re both finishing their Ph.D.s this spring at the Cyclotron.
George

okay i’m back

i changed into clothes

which don’t have holes in ’em

9:26pmLevi

dang

must be nice

9:26pmGeorge

well

the holy clothes are comfortable

9:27pmLevi

the holy raiments

9:27pmGeorge

yep

9:27pmLevi

the gilgamesh shroud

i wear a live wolf on my back to parties

9:27pmGeorge

ladies like a dangerous man

i ride to parties on two blue whales

9:28pmLevi

hahahahahaha

9:28pmGeorge

one for each foot

9:28pmLevi

i harness them with comet tails

woven into moebius strips

9:29pmGeorge

breaking ’em in is a bitch

9:29pmLevi

unless you feed them fish from heaven

9:30pmGeorge

but theres nothing like a team of 80 ft mammals

cetacians

9:30pmLevi

a brace of them

9:30pmGeorge

indeed

Dirt Centrifuge

The clerk at Kroger smelled worse than me.

Apparently I’m lurching into a Chinaski character as I progress this semester. If that’s true, it means they’ll all soon learn just how lecherous and vile I can be. I think I’ve mildly offended the AI not with vulgarity but with the description of semen dripping slowly from a recently vacated vagina. It’s awful, sure, but it was part of the story and I didn’t plan it. Now I’m a limp-wristed misogynist and along that vein increasing in potency. My ass.

So I took his advice and bought “Women”. So far (pg 3) it’s what you’d expect, and something tells me since I’ve seen Barfly I’ve read all of this before. There’s nothing shocking. It’s more anthropology at which women ought to take a little offense. He’s an asshole. Sure he is. But he’s also selling books, so what the hell?

Blub blub blub. Have I been striving forever to beat the asshole back? Are these impotent cover-ups residual Catholic guilt manifesting?

It’s so easy when you’re a Gemini. There it is, the scapegoat. Wearing two faces, the more genuine of which consistently uglier but less believable than the frontispiece. No, it can’t be true.

I’ve begun applying “Wart Off” to the monster wart on my ring finger and the wartling on my pinkie. It turns them chalky white, making them stand out worse than before. The doctor refused to freeze them, and the immune system drugs that cause a permanent immune response are $150.

Up through the air I go, heaved by the fiend Earth from her bosom.

Graceful Deceit

Told a lie today about my very own mother so what, from here, is sacred? The objective was to speak with someone who performs a job that I couldn’t imagine myself doing and depict them in 1,000 words performing the job, etc. My mother drives a school bus, a special needs school bus. I could do the job, I think, which constitutes the primary and fundamental lie I’m telling upon which the others converge and build.

The story’s a short one:

Bus Driver

Aboard my little school bus ride a half-dozen special needs children. Daily I swing through and wait as their parents hustle them up the bus stairs and wait more as they shuffle to their seats. The first stop on my route is Kathleen, a fourth grader. Often it’s her father, a stumpy day laborer, who brings her out to the road.

Should she walk a little faster than he does he governs her, squeezing her paw until she falls back into step with him. He’ll wear denim overalls and muddy boots, balancing a plastic coffee cup in the other hand. I’ll smile and wave good morning, and he’ll raise his glass. One time Kathleen had a yellow bruise on her forehead.

Kathleen likes bluegrass and so do I, so the disc I pop in that early in the morning will have some Union Station, some Bill Monroe, and others for the bumpy ride. This county is where millions of years ago the glaciers finally stopped and melted, so my route undulates all through the rural eastern half. Kathleen and I chug up hills and brake around hairpin turns below which the earth falls away for eighty, maybe a hundred feet sometimes. We see crowded forests, their ravines, and the empty pastures surrounding them before we pull up to Harold’s place.

A blue double-wide with moldy cream skirting tucked into a clearing next to the road. The old Ford is gone off the lot and I know I’ll have to honk for him. Harold won’t come out of the house unless I let him know I’m here. The screen door swings open and out pops Harold, fat with thick, unkempt hair. He kicks through the gravel lot and mom steps out on the gray wooden landing, an infant in-arm and a little blonde one at her hip. She may be pregnant again, but it’s hard to tell. She doesn’t smile or wave when she sees me.

Harold’s the jolliest kid I’ve ever seen. He’ll squeeze through the bus door, catching his lunchbox strap on the handle or he’ll trip over his feet and fall up the steps. None of it fazes him, though. He’ll pick up like nothing happened and plop down in the back, oblivious. As the ride wears on, he’ll sometimes laugh out loud at something he saw through the window, or not.

Nine years now I’ve been running one route or another, and this is my second school corporation. A year more and my first PERF check will be direct-deposited into my savings account. That’s the golden egg for state employees: Pension! They pay it as long as you live, the fruit of a decade given over to public service. Some people turn in their keys when the day comes, but I won’t, at least not yet.

In the overhead mirror I see Kathleen’s crown pop up as we roll over potholes, and Harold’s just bopping along, engrossed. Up through a corridor of overhanging trees, and we’re almost at tiny Michael’s house. He was my youngest passenger, only a first grader. I miss him because he used to sit directly behind me. I insisted that he stay close so that I could keep him from some of the older kids who might find cause to pick on him. One day four months ago (during autumn) he was wearing a green t-shirt which revealed, as he climbed my steps, his battered pair of stick arms.

Disbelief defined me then. I couldn’t understand how someone could beat a six-year old black-and-blue and if they did why they’d let him leave the house advertising the evidence. He sat behind me, asking question after question, like kids do: What books are you sitting on? Why are you sitting on phone books? What’s in that big mug? What color is your hair? He’d ask, and I’d tell, my mind racing behind simple explanations. The bruises faded, but were back the next week so I told my boss. A few days later I received a call at home telling me that I wouldn’t have to stop at Michael’s house anymore. The state had moved him to his dad’s place across the county, and another driver would be picking him up.

We passed the quiet gray split-level. There weren’t any toys in the yard. Next stop: Avery.

He’s loud and threatens the younger kids. He bit me once and got suspended from riding for a week, as if that would turn him docile. He’s waiting for me. You’re late again, he says as I open the door. Sorry, Avery, I reply, stowing my pride. I’m two minutes early. He stalks down the aisle and sits down across from Harold in the very back. He meets my eyes in the overhead mirror, and I look down to the road. We trundle on.

The radio’s crackling “Old Rock Candy Mountain” and I’ve got plenty of Diet Coke for the trip back home from school. I think of Ozzy, our german shepherd, who will be looking forward to his second morning walk. Automatically I stop at Jennifer’s house, and then Amy’s. They sit together a seat behind and across the aisle from little Michael, immediately pulling dolls from their backpacks. Whole soap operas play out between them during our sunrises together. I hear Amy plead “Maria” in her soap voice and I look to the dashboard, where I’ve stuck a small oval pendant: Our Lady of the Highway. None of these kids know it, but weekly I pray for them and their families over unfinished rosaries at my vanity in my log cabin bedroom. In the worst cases, it makes sense that someone ought to watch over them when everyone else has fallen away.

Finally we head back toward town and pick up Thomas and Alisha Burroughs. They’re the last ones on and the first ones off in the afternoon. Alisha’s older, and guides Thomas to the seat in front of Harold. That puts Avery in the back corner by himself, and the others along the passenger side save Michael, who’s far enough away from Avery that sitting opposite him isn’t necessary. As the children file off the bus and toward the school, I watch Avery shoulder past the others and march ahead of them. I touch my rosary and pray against his loneliness.

***

Well. I should tell you: this is a veritable garden of fabrications. She does drive a bus. Those are not the names of her riders. There’s a bully, but not guilty of the crime. I know nothing of the other children. I didn’t speak with her. I have no idea what’s on the bus dashboard. I’m pretty sure my mom doesn’t pray against anyone’s loneliness.

So what, you might be asking yourself. Who cares? Fiction is fiction, right? Yes, unless you’re supposed to be writing nonfiction.

Something is going on in my mind. I am only capable of lying to my professors and my peers, submitting outside the mode. They want fiction; I give them 90% truth, and vice-versa. I think…that I am very immature. I don’t know. I feel squeezed on both sized by rules I don’t respect. Childish rebellion. That’ll probably stop the moment I lose the luxury of an audience. /sigh

Last.fm has been good to me lately, btw. Been playing the Philip Glass station. HIGHLY recommended.

Lingual Jumpstart

GUAH. mmmph. molasses in the veins. sticky, slow- movers. superficial down-to-earth in an earthen manner…what can we do with nonsense when that’s all that’ll come for us? rusted lines and leaks IN; nothing’s getting out worth recording, just flubs and mucks. that’s what this is for, to get going. i haven’t poked my head out of doors, into the world, in a week. I don’t know what’s going on and i’ve pulled the nails out of my face but there’s wound mustard in my teeth and i’m a walking stye. The urge to bleed Bukowski is always gnawing. I AM that much of an asshole sometimes. Do I care? Am I capable of pulling it off? Will they just hate me? Do I care?

mMMPH. we dance slow on the bottom of the river, with the cats.

I’ve lost a book of stamps somewhere. I’ve written a family email to a cousin and sent it to two wrong addresses. No one’s written back.

The minute this illness is up I’m getting the fuck up and MOVING, going tactile. Too much construction in my life. Too much world-building, too much direction, too much orchestration and not enough play.

I’m feeling the walls of the academy bubble. Within this environment things can only go so far. There is a ceiling brought on by locality, immobility. The same people read you all the time. Get to know you. Give you leeway that no audience will EVER give you. Make excuses for you. Read much deeper than what you’re capable of.

I literally have nothing to say for fear that it’ll be accepted.

mmph. All the forehead wiping and temple-squeezing is causing me to break out. I just want to fall into a trap.

Castor oil beneath the fingernails. I smell like the cat.

Shower and moving forward. Waist-deep with a wake.

Sinus Infection Week

Yep. Got a pair of rusty 16Ds pounded into my cheekbones, once again. Megan thinks I picked this bug up in DC, but I ‘m not wholly convinced. Sure, I walked around one evening in the cold for a while. Sure, I weaved through thousands of people I’ve never met over the course of a weekend. Those things may have done a lot to soften me up, but writing, I think, is what did the Damage.

When I got back, my inboxes were black with messages and a fifteen-page short story was due on Tuesday. Arrival time (at home): Sunday midnight. I worked Monday morning 7:30 to 2, went to class at 2:30 and got home at four. Still exhausted, I fucked around until 7pm, at which time I started writing. Fast forward nine hours of hair-pulling, and I’ve got 11.25 pages of material, rugged. During that last hour, from 3 to 4, is when I think my body finally gave up.

I became delirious. Nodding chin and lolling eyes, I couldn’t hold the screen any longer. I fell asleep, and at 7:20 woke up for an 8:00 class. My creative writing workshop followed that at 9:30. After that night/morning, things went south and here I am a week later STILL WHINING. Unbelievable!

Everyone’s sick these days with something, but most folks on campus have this flu crap, which is to say NOT a sinus infection. Why has this become annual?

NETI. Fucking A. I’m using a neti pot for the first time tonight. I’m sick of being shut in.

The Neti pot worked, or at least it feels like it did. The face still hurts, and the voice is still pretty nasal. I told all of my friends tonight (two sets of them) that I wouldn’t be coming out, and all are disappointed. It feels a little better, but I don’t trust it yet. Better to wait, I guess. /sigh

Freewriting

Anita I read her read her with rhythm she wavered in her sundress shifting patterns winded rhythm we’re already flagging Anita we’ve read ourselves blind and the flags made no sense in their ceaseless shifting owing nothing against the wind its rhythm a lazy waltz through your curls little autumn flags meltwater between your sundress shoulders we read our scars and weren’t afraid Anita for they fell in common rhythm autumn harmony owing nothing against our sins Anita

and i believe in my heart of hearts that I can do it just as well as you

The hardest thing is to remain unafraid beneath the burden. You’ll agree that the ones who aren’t afraid can’t see the burden, the wall, or hear the ocean’s roar when they wake up in the morning, right outside their bedroom doors. Am I the only one who sees it marching afire by night?

A hungry cat paws dumbly at a scrap of paper, a receipt. Merwoww, it says. The cat cocks its head, confused, and pads off.

Cordova, you tart. Your body is the same, only younger. Your brain is gray, only bolder, closer to black than white, better to see your synapses crackling at twilight as you dream. You play passable violin. I hate violin.

Gray-green dock underside: noted.

Four Runs

A little personal narrative I wrote for a class last week.

Bay Creek Pet Care Center sat like a metal Hun on the back end of our ten-acre lot. My parents, after years of scraping to get by, tapped their histories and erected the monster when I was eleven. The main pole building was long and narrow, flanked in chain-link runs, thirty per side. It turned out that my folks were the best at what they did in Northwest Indiana and the business, after a few years of growth, exploded: all of those held animals, the mewling cat room was full, and the six runs they installed against our personal pole building were regularly full. Take stock: that’s around seventy dogs (when our own didn’t have pups) and a dozen cats versus two adults to manage them.

Jared and I were young; ten and eleven, and we helped where we could. He most times would hose runs (which paid fifty cents per) or walk dogs and I would make rounds in the yards with the pooper-scooper (twenty-five cents per). We both saw it all, but were largely ineffective in lightening the load. In grooming them we had no hand, we couldn’t teach them obedience, marketing bloodlines globally was beyond us, and finally we couldn’t really keep customers from walking past our driveway gate after hours and knocking on our house door. In a lot of ways, they were more of a burden than their animals.

Take greyhounds. One gray morning (weatherman banks on Michiana gray mornings) my folks admitted a greyhound for the first time, and I flew out to the kennel building from the house to see. They’d already kenneled her up so I asked whether she’d be alright with someone in with her. Of course, they said, and so I eagerly sought her out. I entered the outside run; she was inside (they had the choice) and padded out when she heard me. I froze, and cursed my parents. The moment she’d seen me her lips curled back, revealing a razor stockade of canines and incisors. She didn’t rush me, or growl. My armpits immediately became moist. It wouldn’t be my first grapple with a tenant, but this breed is notoriously limber. Her tail began to wag.

Greyhounds, I shortly discovered, are one of the few breeds that smile like humans do. She had stood at her end of the run and I’d stood at mine, unsure who was to make the first move. I took a step forward. She watched me, tail going and going. Inertia-swept, I laid my hand on her head and soon I was hugging her, face inches behind that killing muzzle. Later we’d take Sadie out and run her, which is important for greyhounds. No metal gates had slapped her hairless backside in years, but they don’t ever forget how to run. She buzzed around us and our other dogs, who liked her well enough for her novelty.

Meanwhile, in a large run on our barn building a pair of female sheepdogs, the Crapper Queens, had shat themselves crusty; it was their way, and I’ve not seen anything like it since. They were both guilty: hunching their backs in tandem, and the moment all of it was out on the concrete they’d antagonize and encourage each other, racing back and forth barking, smearing shit from toe to tip and all about their runs. Shit clung to the chain link, the metal siding, their tails and eyebrows, and everywhere else. Every day a shit-stravaganza, and every day we’d hose their runs, hose them, shampoo them, and on and on. Monthly residents.

I found old Charlie one evening around supper time, sleeping in his run. An ancient cocker spaniel, he’d gone salt-and-pepper long ago, and now he spent a lot of time down on his modest pillow. He didn’t raise his head upon seeing me, but raised a white eyebrow and thumped his tail once against the ground. I let myself in, and sat down on the other side of his little inside room and just watched him. Outside the sun was setting, and I could smell my dad grilling chicken by the pool. I hadn’t been there a minute before Charlie groaned and hauled himself up, wobbled over to me, and like a cat climbed onto my lap. I held his head with one hand and laid the other across his tired flank.

We sat there together for awhile, Charlie and I. His was a brand of exhaustion I’d never encountered before then: the weight of years laced into his bones and sinew, inextricable and leaden. All that was left was to rest some, get by, and wait for tomorrow, should it come. Charlie was Autumn then, and by now Winter’s taken him, and probably spring.

After six long years the work became too much for two adults. Due to constant grooming duty my mother’s arches fell, and both of my parents developed carpal tunnel syndrome. Their marriage almost ended, and Jared and I often were left to our own devices. As our family unraveled thread-by-thread the business burgeoned day-by-day. When they finally sold it to an optimistic couple from Illinois they made a killing, and we moved to a polar county within the school district.