Tag Archives: literature

Drool: A Short Story

8 May

The noonday sun shone down harshly over the rotten, decaying, landscape. Tar bubbles rose and popped on the crumbling road like molten lava drying at the foot of a volcano. Occasionally a leaf would blow across it and get stuck, becoming part of the once quaint but proud slab of one lane pavement winding haggardly between two other similarly forsaken roads. Below the seething tar dilapidated houses perched precariously on a ridge marred by the effects of erosion, straining against the pull of gravity that would one day win and wash them down into the gully.

Lee sat on the steps to the front porch of his sunken home, staring blankly into the midday heat while his barren landscape of kudzu and dust roasted around him. Incandescent tin roofs and tar shingles sizzled, and the voided surroundings reflected the heat onto the decaying boards of the houses. He thought nothing, he said nothing; he was looking in the direction of the road, idly rocking back and forth, absently grasping his prize between his palms as drool seeped from the corners of this mouth. This day was much hotter and much more exciting than any others for nearly forty years. Mechanically, he was waiting for his mother to walk slowly into sight at the top of the hill, returning from a day of housework and cooking for the rich family with the farm. Lee didn’t know their names, but he couldn’t have told you if he did.

He made little noises of communication, slight grunts of assent and purls of displeasure. His head was oddly shaped and literally a bit soft. Thick lips moved against a thin layer of foam that had formed on his tongue behind a severe under-bite. When Lee had turned five his mother had walked him down the decaying, dusty road, past the farm where she had just begun to work, to the small clapboard schoolhouse next to the Community Methodist Church. She felt defeated even before the teacher gently told her that Lee’s intelligence level would not improve with schooling. His mother had known her boy wasn’t normal from birth. Lee’s disabilities were achingly obvious. He was five years old, still in diapers, and the only word he could say was ‘Maw-Maw.’

As they walked home together, tears ran down Maw-Maw’s face while Lee burbled to himself, unconcerned. Afterwards, she left him at home; in the scrap wood fenced yard at first, until he was in his late teens and had mastered the skill of doorknobs and basic self-care; then she allowed him to roam freely in and out of the house, peeling paint off the house, poking bugs with sticks, and digging holes in the dirt.

At 12:45 every day Maw-Maw walked the four miles home to feed Lee his lunch and to choke down her own. She would watch with aggravation as Lee struggled to reach his mouth with his food still on the spoon. Each day she grew more and more bitter and desperate and finally when Lee was ten, she took to hitting him, her way of attempting to teach him the basis of right and wrong. Eventually Lee did learn, and he no longer regarded his mother as another person to love and feel affection for, but rather as a source of pain. He feared Maw-Maw. Maw-Maw had lived with a baby for nearly forty years now, her baby that had never matured more than a toddler. Maw-Maw had never had a husband; Lee was the only family she had. Maw-Maw was a fatigued and bitter woman.

Lee grew quite tall and became more awkward when he reached his teens. Throughout his twenties he continued to gain in weight and size, becoming quite a large man. By the time he was thirty, Lee would have successfully scared any child simply from his appearance, but he never left his yard; and no one ever visited his rotten house on it’s forlorn road, so Lee never met anyone but his Maw-Maw. And although he did look rather intimidating because of his size, the only person he had ever known he was afraid of, and was therefore incredibly timid and withdrawn. Having never gained control over his muscles and joints, his fingers twisted mindlessly into fumbling knots whenever he went to grip something or to hide his face from a passerby on the road. When walking aimlessly about the house and kudzu, he shuffled his feet, being that it took too much effort and attention to lift his legs. He took his time climbing the three steps to the porch, though the hill had eroded away beneath the house so that the front porch nearly sat on the ground and the three steps leading to it were nearly level with each other. Lee carefully watched his feet, attempting to calculate his steps so that he knew his porch with an unconscious familiarity.

Lee had spotted the bunny from the corner of the yard and cautiously inched closer throughout the morning. He was unaware that he was doing this. Its fur was a dark and lustrous brown, which stood out noticeably against the pale grey wood of the decomposing porch. When he decided it seemed safe- a small, furry, woodland creature of some sort- he sat down next to it and they considered each other, unconcerned with their surroundings or with anything at all.

He grunted at the bunny, pleased that something new had happened. Gingerly he picked it up, sweetly cupping his palms together as best he could. The bunny trembled and he watched it twitch. Its back left paw had been injured, a rock was stuck in its foot and protruded menacingly, He sympathetically did the best he could to mend it, pulling the rock out delicately and cupping his hand over the bleeding area. He squeezed the tiny foot with an odd delight, causing the animal to jolt with pain. Then, still cradling the feeble rodent, he sat on the steps. Lee considered the feel of the fur to be comforting, and he did not put the rabbit down for the rest of the afternoon as he sat rocking back and forth and waiting for Maw-Maw.

At sunset his mother walked wearily onto the porch and stared at her son. She was nearly sixty, but her face was unlined except for the creases around her mouth. A dark and disturbed frown formed when she saw what Lee was clutching, now tightly held against his chest.

“Boy, what you got there?” He blinked at her. She decked him, and then tried again, “Maw-Maw ask you what you got there?”

Lee presented the rabbit, still cupping it firmly, and declared, “Yuh-Yuh.”

Lee had acquired the skill of randomly naming objects in his mid-thirties, and the hobby thrilled him.

At first his Maw-Maw refused the rabbit, telling Lee that after it was well they’d have to let it go. Lee threw tantrums and wailed and whined and snorted until Maw-Maw, so appalled by her weak and peaceful son’s animosity, assented to allow him to keep the baby rabbit, “At least,” she said, “Until it is big enough to cook,” which always made Lee whimper and sob. And although she did regard the pet as a nutritious meal, she never truly considered cooking it; it just soothed her to make Lee upset.

After a few months, when the leaves changed color and began to fall and the forests of kudzu which shaped and governed their scanty habitat became looming skeletons, Maw-Maw grew weary of the extra care and attention the pet rabbit drained from her, and she threatened both Lee and the rabbit daily with a skewer. Lee did not understand how his Yuh-Yuh was a food, though he has unknowingly eaten rabbit many times before, and he kept his pet out of the way as much as he could, fearing for its life.

Lee developed affection and compassion for his rabbit, and the novelty of these feelings would have intrigued him, could he have comprehended them. Every day they played in the yard, until Lee, noticing its tendency to try to burrow under the fence, developed bravery and confidence enough to go onshort brisk walks, Yuh-Yuh tucked safely in his arms. Perhaps his mother endured the rabbit so long because she appreciated Lee’s ability to relate to it, or perhaps because she simply didn’t mind its presence after all, but most likely she endured it because Lee began to burble to himself more, and peddle around the yard alone and she finally got to catch up on forty years of rest. Maw-Maw was tired.

After time, Lee’s walks with Yuh-Yuh began to stretch further and further away from home, and Lee was ignorant to the concept of the importance of following roads and paths. Quite frequently Lee had to follow wagons and people back to the road which would lead him home, if he went in the right direction. Had Maw-Maw not been as old, shrewd, and tired as she was she might’ve begun to worry when these walks began to last for entire days, but her state of mind barely allowed her to notice.

While still shuffling his feet when he walked, Lee had gotten faster; he didn’t have to look down at his steps so much. He liked to look up and register color and movement in his sight while holding comfort in his hands, feeling the soothing fur. He was entirely stunned when, one day, Yuh-Yuh kicked free of his grip and darted out across a field. At first Lee watched blankly as his comfort ran aimlessly, liberated from his gnarled grip. Realizing slowly that he could lose comfort forever, never to caress its entrancing fur again, he took off stumbling across the field after Yuh-Yuh, waiving his hands frantically and making moans of pain and sounds of sorrow.

Yuh-Yuh led him to the frame of an old farmhouse, where Lee became bewildered in the midst of angles and lines. He gurgled deep inside his throat and began to cry until he spotted Yuh-Yuh. Across the deserted yard lay a pile of bricks with an old ply board neglectfully strewn across the top. Yuh-Yuh sat nibbling on some grass next to the bricks. Lee had become excellent at recognizing Yuh-Yuh’s rich brown color in contrast to the monotonous yellow, brown, green, and red, all of which were the same hue, that made up his despondent environment of dead kudzu. He stiffly scuffed towards the rabbit, slowly, and then pounced on it, throwing his entire sloppy weight and wiggling like a beached whale as he tried to capture it in his fumbling, mindless fingers. It hopped desperately onto the ancient wooden plank, clawing as the warped wood, but never escaped Lee’s frantic grasp. As he concentrated on getting up, Lee made throaty wailing noises that echoed off the crumbling bricks and into the devastated autumn landscape, and upon hearing his own sounds reverberate through the hills, he only wailed harder in disbelief and confusion. Lee and Yuh-Yuh struggled clumsily with each other as Lee got to his feet, and having given up hope in gripping the rabbit in his twisted fingers, Lee lunged once more, refusing to let the rabbit slip from his grip, and squeezing the little rodent into the crook of his arm, held firmly against his body.

The cracking of the board made a sound as loud as Lee’s wordless yelling, which ended abruptly as man and rabbit landed at the muddy bottom of the abandoned well. Reflexes found Lee gasping vainly for the air that had been knocked from him, but to no avail. As his eyes adjusted to the murky darkness and the surprise faded he felt fluffy comfort pinned underneath one of his hands, and he slipped peacefully into unconsciousness.

Lee didn’t realize at first that he had woken up, because it was so dark outside and Lee wasn’t accustomed to being outside at night. Slight mewing sounds escaped his foam covered mouth as he slowly slid his arms about in the muck, clueless. With no explanation available to him at the bottom of the well, he drifted in and out of sleep, half-paralyzed by fear and hunger and shock and sore with bruises. Birds and light and crickets and owls occasionally woke him, as well as the vacant awareness of lying in his own waste, but he did his best to burrow down into the muck so as to muffle his senses. Finally, with the sun directly above him and weighing down its heat, Lee woke up with enough awareness of the situation to be worried. He sat up and glanced numbly about himself, only seeing mud and dirt. Roots penetrated the walls of his cell in places and light fell on muddy puddles in the floor ina nearly perfect circle. Lee looked at this circle contentedly until he noticed the heap of fur in a dark corner, next to a shallow pool of stagnant dirty water. A crooked smile formed on is lips as he snuggled back to sleep with Yuh-Yuh tucked in closely by his side.

The echo of a monstrous growl awoke Lee next, scaring him, because he did not understand that it had come from his own stomach. He recognized the pain, though, deep in his chest, more so than he had ever felt before. “Maw-Maw!” he screamed, fear being recognizable to him now. He wanted to cry but found it hurt his belly too much, so he laid moaning and drooling, staring at comfort in the light. Yuh-Yuh lay stiff and motionless, the faint light making millions of colors in the rabbit’s fur. Lee stared at Yuh-Yuh indifferently.

Lee’s stomach growled some more.

Perhaps he knew, in the back of his mind, that rabbits were animals and animals were meat and meat was food. Perhaps Maw-Maw’s treatment of Yuh-Yuh as an opportune feast taught him. Perhaps, while laying abandoned and ensnared at the bottom of the well, he became frustrated and angry and Yuh-Yuh was available to for him to lash out at. Perhaps he instinctively wanted to kill him.

Lee reached out a hand and picked up the rabbit’s limp body: Lee didn’t understand that it was already dead. He dangled Yuh-Yuh in front of his eyes for a moment- in front of his face that showed no expression- then with a swift hurl he flung its body against the wall, knocking dirt down into his eyes and nose. This upset him.

Something inside Lee’s fragile consciousness ruptured and collapsed.

Bellowing and yelping he wildly tore his teeth into Yuh-Yuh, spitting out chunks of flesh and fur. Gouging madly at Yuh-Yuh’s eyes, poking with curled fingers and knuckles, Lee sobbed and mutilated.

Lee awoke sometime later to the salty smell of blood. He was drenched in it and in his own excretion. All that was in sight were bits of regurgitated skin and the desecrated carcass of what was once his only comfort. He tried to bury his face in the murky mud he lay in, but succumbed to reality for the only time in his life.

Shrieking and sniveling, he awkwardly rolled forward, fighting his lack of dexterity and brains, and thrust his head into the small pool of stagnant water in the dark corner. The water smelled and was pitch-black, but it soothed Lee’s squeals as it filled his mouth and nose and throat and lungs…

Seeds

11 Dec

“Cartooning is the art of distilling reality to its essence. There is nothing superfluous in a good cartoon. That quality makes the medium particularly well-suited for memoir: comics are like memories, in that they filter and capture only the most important details. The difference between good and bad cartooning is how well the cartoonist filters and captures. Ross Mackintosh is a good cartoonist.”

In his forward to Seeds, Brian Flies (Mom’s Cancer) explains the recent notion to use the comic book/graphic novel medium to “tell personal, powerful, true stories”. Books like Persepolis and Maus are certainly vibrant examples of graphic memiors, but Seeds is something a little different. Seeds makes you realize a story that, while it may not be similar to that of your own one day it will be. Flies writes “Seeds is about Ross Mackintosh’s family, and mine, and millions of others. That’s what good comics can do.”

And it’s true.

Seeds had me tearing up a bit as I read through it’s beautiful, simple, and bleak pages. As we are taken through the story of his father’s diagnosis, battle, and death by cancer, we get a glimpse at the true nature of life and death, parent and child, and sickness and health.

We were always meant to outlive our parents.

Mackintosh explains , “I know about gene propogation; that our bodies are just enablers, containers, to preserve our genes for the next generation. We spend our lives protecting our bodies and reproducing, to keep the thread of genes continuous. As soon as we are certain that our offspring can prosper, we become disposable. A species that cares about it’s offspring will flourish.

And there is this irony:
Those who love will be rewarded with the endless cycle of birth and death.”

So who said comic books were just for children?

How’s about you and me…

14 Feb

Did I ever mention that I have pointy ears? Like, totally pointy. I think I am a descendent of elves or something (well, if that were a real option). It often catches people off guard. I like to make up stories to explain my ears’ serrated edges, and for the most part people believe them.

I’ve never been too good with names but I remember faces. Oh, wait. That’s entirely not true. I am good with neither.

Cheeseburgers are the best food in the entire world.

I come from Mississippi.

One time, I killed a Fer-de-Lance with a machete. That’s the best part of that story.

I’m naturally blonde. A great color blonde, actually. I dye my hair red in the winter, and I don’t know exactly why, but it makes me happy.

In another life I was a fish. Then a ferocious jungle cat ate that fish. I was ferocious jungle cat in another life, too. And probably a seaweed at some point, as well.

My favorite words are: porcupine, staccato, nail polish, creole, island (because it is just spelled so stupidly), fences, pineapple, cellar (I think of wine), stellar, gem, and blowfish. My least favorite words are: dry, rip, qi (it should NOT be allowed on Words with Friends), Cincinnati, yeast, lo-carb, and pit (lest we are talking about the Brad).

Also, I kind of want a pet dolphin- but only for like a day or so.

My favorite bits of machinery and mechanical wonder are photo booths, drawbridges, automatic staplers, those great margarita blenders, hair dryers, and the compass in the dashboard of the car.

I like books. I also like graphic novels. A lot.

When I was like, 15 maybe, I went to Scotland for the summer. That was fun.

It’d be neat to be a pirate, but I’m not really down with stealing from people. Unless I was looting like badass jewelry and genie lamps. And flying rugs. And I had a pet parrot. And an eye patch. And Johnny Depp.

I should’ve put ‘badass’ on my list of favorite words. It certainly is badass enough to belong there.

I collect pearls.

I also collect fossils. And rocks. And seashells. And bones. And teeth.

My cat’s name is Floyd- you can see her picture here. She’s the bee’s knees. My dog’s name is Kiki. She pees on things. I love Floyd more. They both know it.

Young Guns and Young Guns II are two of the best films to ever grace American cinema. Top Gun was a gem as well. But, if I were at a dinner party or asked by a customer (this happened the other night) to list my top five favorite movies, my reply would be something like, “Gone With the Wind, A River Runs Through It, Braveheart, Forrest Gump, The Dark Knight, Jurassic Park, The Lion King, and Gattaca” because I cannot count, and hate to admit that I went to a museum exhibit just to see Top Gun movie storyboards, jackets, and helmets.

I suffer bouts of insomnia. That’s usually when I write random lists such as these. More often than not I google funny pictures of koala bears.

All of my tattoos are down around my feet.

I have broken a LOT of bones. Many of them more than once. I’m fragile, and I know that- now.

I won a competition once to see who could get down a water-slide the fastest. I have a scar from that. When I tell people my scar is from Breckenridge, they usually assume it was a snow skiing accident. Nope.

So those are some fun facts about me, the love of my life (besides Floyd) this Valentine’s day. I guess it’s a good thing no one is taking me to dinner or some sappy thing, I make ridiculous conversation.

You Gotta Sin to get Saved

12 Dec

So in the introduction to “High Lonesome” (book 5 of the ”Scalped” series,) Jason Starr compares William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi to Jason Aaron’s creation of the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in the Dakotas. As if I wasn’t completely sold on the series before!!

I just got the 8th installment of the “Scalped” series called “You Gotta Sin to get Saved” and I am having a hard time getting off the couch for even the most important errands. It is so gritty and raw that the fact that it is NOT real is the odd part. Phenomenal work by Jason Aaron, and as always R.M. Guera’s graphics are absolutely stunning.

If you don’t read comics- I really don’t care.  This is an excellent novel with a compelling story and I encourage you to get out and do something about it (read it!)

You can download the first issue here http://www.dccomics.com/vertigo/graphic_novels/?gn=7722

You’re welcome.

MY TOP FIVE FAVORITE BOOKS (CURRENTLY) IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

13 Apr

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Very few folks who have read this book would disagree with me that it is nothing short of fantastic.  Magical realism at its best, Garcia creates not only a family but the most (il)logical and perfect place possible for them to live, and carryies us breathtakingly through the journey of their existences.  Macondo is founded and inhabited by the Buendia family, and over seven generations Garcia weaves the beautiful tale of their rise and fall, their virtue and immortality.  While the story is told in beautiful prose that is nothing short of art, the real gem (for me) is the use of time as linear movement and a cyclical process.  Time marches on and history keeps repeating.  Did I mention that besides love affairs, miracles, and wars there is a gypsy?  What is a great story without a gypsy or a pirate- really?

Sanctuary by William Faulkner

Be warned- this book is not for the weak of heart.  In Sanctuary, Faulkner takes us to his famous Yoknapatawpha County in this crime novel that portrays the dark side of the human existence.  A master of Southern Gothic and therefore my one of my favorite authors, Faulkner wastes no time in introducing the evil and corruption that surround the chain of events beginning one weekend deep in the Mississippi woods.  Set during prohibition and with things like corrupt politicians, southern decadence, moonshiners, rape, murders, brothels, gangsters and lynching, it’s a ghastly look at the old south and the uglier side of humanity- the first time I saw ‘Deliverance’ I couldn’t help but think back to this book.  Needless to say, it is a must-read.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

The story of three friends who meet in New York and ‘make it big’ seems like an innocent enough story, and most little girls’ dream, but throw in self destruction, drugs, pills, and suicide and you’ve got a regular sorority story!  Neely, Anne, and Jennifer are three girl friends I visit at least once a year to catch up on old times and remind myself that things really do fall apart.  These glamorous ladies all fall victim in the end to booze, pills, and self-destruction.  It’s an interesting narrative on the unattractive side of the fabulous Hollywood lifestyle, and how the rich and famous deal with being rich and famous.  Susann also gets gritty with the topics of jealousy, insecurity, anger, and obsession- after the first time I read it I was certain life was about disappointment and friends turning on each other.  I still occasionally wonder if that isn’t true.

Bone by Jeff Smith

OK. I know it might not seem similar to the other books on my list, but Bone is an awesome epic tale of love and adventure done in one of my favorite media- comic books.  Three cousins, the Bones, are run out of their hometown and end up in a strange and enchanted foreign land.  Taken under the wing of the lovely and fated Thorn Harvestar, they soon learn all about the local belief system- and how beliefs can change the world.  It is a world of fantasy with dragons, rat creatures, people and alternate realities.  A great combination of Lord of the Rings meets Calvin and Hobbes with cutesy humor in all the right places combined with a dark and ominous tone, it makes for an excellent introduction to the genre for those of you that aren’t usually into comic books.

The Comedians by Graham Greene

Some books I like so much I own multiple copies of them and this is one of those books.  It is set in Haiti during the regime of Papa Doc Duvalier.  Our protagonist, Mr. Brown, is the owner of a tourist hotel, but the tourists have stopped coming.  The country is collapsing and rapidly descending into civil strife.  Resisting the urge to get involved in the local politics and putting most of his efforts into the love affair he is having with a married woman, Brown finds himself tired and fatalistic.  When jealousy meets resignation, Brown decides to finally take action- for all the wrong reasons of course.  What results is a heart-wrenching look at infidelity, conviction, action and inaction.  By the conclusion of the story it is obvious that we are all con artists, merely acting on a stage.  Lovely, isn’t it?

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