So I wanted the kid to sleep. As any parent knows, the car is a powerful tool for soothing the beast that is your child. We were already in the car, so… it’s not bad parenting if you took a little longer than usual to drive from point A to B (never mind if you traverse the entire alphabet twice before finally arriving at B).

Tooling down the street, curling around roundabouts, I found myself settling into the routes of my childhood like a wheel locking into a well-worn rut. Not the exact routes, mind ya, because that would finish quite badly, with chain link wrapped around my fender, along with various bits of backyard paraphernalia which might or might not include bits of bloody dog hair.

My old stomping grounds were illuminated, long dormant neural pathways superimposing the subdivisions, the shards of maze-like suburbia with memory’s clarity. There the cornfield I was afraid to go too far into, content to pitter and patter at its edge; bright constellation of activity there—a nail punctured rubber sole to flesh sole causing me to limp home. Across the street there was the cauldron of Osage orange trees surrounding the recessed foundation of a silo. There was no light pollution.

Then the bicycle dashes across the cracked sidewalks, the destination often suspect. The squeak of wheel, the fading pink paint of my sister’s “borrowed” bike so my friend could take mine. Hot and cold, your hands burned, your face burned. Forcibly forgetting the brakes down the town’s steep rolling hills. Cooling down at the local Dillon’s, twenty five cent generic sodas from the machine outside and stolen candy whose wrappers were hidden between the folds of magazines. VHS tapes from the video department. The movies were so great back then. A Family Circusesque montage stipples our routes across town, which are just as circuitous.

The heat wave making waves across the concrete. My grandparents were in town and everyone was off to the City of Fountains but I elected to stay behind. I don’t know why, but there I was, with some pocket change and not enough water in my body, walking the couple miles to the local comic book store where I woke on the floor surrounded by concerned faces right after buying a candy bar at the 7-11 (which has long since been converted to a pawn shop and its barricaded windows, to add an element of seediness). When I got home I found that the candy bar had melted in my pocket, and the packaging made a teardrop shape as all the chocolate rushed to the bottom.

Turning the car down a forgotten street, the flash in the mirror showing the kid’s nodding off, but not at the finish line. The pond slides past. Me and a friend on a bench, my shoulder blades perched on the 2 by 4 backing, tripping balls off on sticks of honey sunken amanita muscaria. Benevolent columns of cloud in the blistering blue sky, twirling to pause and cast bashful smiles before twirling the opposite way. His trip something else, but the muscles in our face were drawn up. The water, like Joyce put it, millioncandled. Then we went down behind the hill to the runoff pool which used to be a fish hatchery to smoke a joint or two.

Park after park, clandestine conventions of illegality, slouched on armatures belonging the children of the day (I imagine if we could hear, the ghosts of these whoops and cries linger on the wind)—during the night, a different sort of child comes sneaking out of back doors, across low wet grass, footprinting the asphalt until they reach the pre-arranged destination, eyes glittering, hands snaking into pockets to grasp moist leafy fragrances.

Then somewhere between that and now, things happened. Some things got better, some good things got lost, and some things hit the fan. It’s hard to reconcile the kid with the large wire-frame glasses pervasive in the 90’s  to a tall father sodden with exhaustion myself. Illusions were shattered, of course, and along with the pieces fell the innocent versatility of naivete, belief. Now a cynic cashing in doubts, the trip fades (wire-frame unrendering of memory) to leave behind mellow nostalgia but not the despair of the absent. It is a gift, something we should give to ourselves once in a while, to remember our origins, to remember it wasn’t always like this. We can reacquire the pieces of self that made us in thrall of the world, if only indefinitely. A fine vintage to be enjoyed on special occasions.

I look in the mirror. Out like a light.


Knight Errant

“Varlet!” cried the rastaknight as he placed his hempen boot upon the sword boy’s proffered forehead and drew the enormous broadsword which wavered in moonlight like opalescent smoke. Its wielder reeled backwards under the sheer weight of its legend, his bones leaden with the burden of contending with the valorous knights of lore who carried the very same blade to become, for their greatness, immortal in the tales of men. The sword flickered into the air, relinquished from the knight’s grasp as he slipped on a lump of manure his mule had just ejected and fell onto his back with a clatter of clamorous clangs. The weapon seemed to hover in mid-air for a moment before orienting its lethal point towards earth. “No!” the Knight had time to gasp before it penetrated cleanly his armor and sprayed the poor sword boy with hot blood. Laughter wheezed harshly from the knight’s challenger, who then turned a dark eye upon the boy and made to stride towards with murderous intent. The sword began to shimmer, a multitude of unearthly whispers gibbering from the spaces between its atoms, coagulating into a moaning, protoplasmic voice dribbling syllables that throbbed with smoky consonants and tinkling vowels. The boy’s frightened eyes widened as the it said, “Draw the sword from the stoner…and realize your destiny, boy.”

The moon poured its light onto the clearing where the knight, death clenched in hand, stalked across the moss towards the boy and the corpse’s sword.

The Bitch Witch

She had many names, which was quite proper for somebody who had lived so long and moved on so often, but we will call her Mab for that is her name now in this particular time and age, Mab the bitch witch everyone loved to hate, the bitch witch everyone depended on for their sad secrets.

See Mab in the forest, in her shack. The shack is overgrown, wrought with morning glories and yagé, the twining vines of introspection, and a musk of cinnamon and jasmine and vanilla suffuses the wet air. Honeybees bumble about those flowers and parcel dizzying properties to their hives. Dilapidation reigns in the warped beams and crooked flue and the flapping eaves, but this is a ramshackle farce, for entering the house finds oneself in a cozy space, hearth warm in the winter, cool as stone in the hottest summer.

A cast iron pan hangs above the cast iron stove. Stainless steel kettle. Embroidered rug. A hempen hammock dangling from the rafters. Various herbs drying in bunches on the walls. Glass bottles of all sizes and colors on shelves along one wall, also hung on hooks and roped to the rafters. Mab herself is seated in a burnished rocking chair sipping tea from a finely rolled spliff. Through the artful smoke rings that litter her atmosphere, her hair is brown shot with gray, and she moves with slow lithe grace. She puts down the smoldering roach and putters about her abode. Now, Mab needs to go to the market.

As soon as she left her door she affected a humpbacked gait, held a cackle at the ready in her throat, and for measure, gave her eyes a good roll. It was a ways before she entered the perimeter of the town, marked by the rough translation of rutted dried mud to a relatively smooth pane of dusty road. She rolled her eyes at the beastly children who ran up to her to throw rocks and sometimes eggs. When Mab passed storefronts, the townspeople’s chatter ceased to stony silence, starting up when she was well behind them. Nevertheless, she had hawk ears and heard their prejudices from afar. The General Store lay ahead.

Cruel children hid and sniggered from the shadows of alleys, rags of light moving across their faces. She slipped into the stuffy heat of the General Store and ordered flour, eggs, nails, and dried fish strips. She paid, cackling and rolling her eyes, reveled in the alarm flashing under the shopkeeper’s bushy brows. That one, he had hives whenever he glimpsed women’s underclothings. He came to her one blustery night bloated with hives on his hives. He couldn’t see through one eye and his words were slurred. Apparently he had deviated with his proper and prim route and passed by the whorehouse. She had him kill a toad and smear its innards on his badonkadonk. It must have worked. The Madame was now part owner of his General Store.

The folk of this town feared her but that never stopped them from going up to Mab in the deep of night to knock tentatively at her splintery door, secrets of pains and curses heavy in their mouth spilling like blood from a pig’s slit neck. The cobbler beating at his leather averted his gaze, him she helped rid with a powder the sores inside his underwear. She cackled and rolled her eyes at him, saw he had blushed. The piemaker flashed her lashes with demure shame. Her husband was frigid so Mab showed her how to rub the button special to make her gush. She had concocted a bullshit potion for the Mayor’s wife who wanted to curse her husband for running around with his filly; it was bullshit in more ways than one for the mayor’s wife’s ill wishes were all it took for the filly to fall off her horse and break her back. It was sublime pleasure watching the high off noble borne quaff rancid steaming crap and daintily dabbing the corners of her lips with a kerchief, utterly trusting Mab. She had cackled high and long.

Mab walked through town without much trouble but for the infernal children. She shot a dart from her sleeve, small as a rose’s thorn, and it caught a red-haired brat in the neck. He slapped at it, probably thinking it was a skeeter. She cackled at them and they scattered like pestilent rats. The boy would have interesting dreams tonight. His mother would be stunned at the aftermath and burn the shamed boy’s sheets.

Mab had a bag stashed away with her essentials. If worse came to shove, as it often did with a constellation of burning torches in the night, she would small rose thorns dipped in quick acting hallucinogenics inside her sleeve spray, disappear in a swirl of purpleblack smoke and leave the cottage a night bloom of flame at her back. Once she had made the Slavs think her house run away on feet of chicken.

She cackled all the way to her rickety cabin.

The Geriatric Malcontent

X: Your license and registration please, sir.

X: (sniffs) Sir, what’s that?

Y: My license and registration like you asked, old boy.

X: (gestures) No, what are you doing?

Y: Barely staying alive, son.

X: That’s not what I meant, sir. What are you smoking?

Y: Oh, this? A new fangled cigarette I found in me grandson’s bedroom. Never had a nicotine buzz like that. I was on the way to the store for some more.

X: Please wait here a moment, sir. (Under his breath) Why do I get all the nutjobs?

Tires squeal just as he steps to his patrol car, and he turns to get a lungful of bad exhaust and a faceful of gravel.