Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TROOPS

now officially "too hot," pulled off his

Friday, July 25, 2014

TROOPS

and in her panic to hold it together she leaped from the edge into soundlessness

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TROOPS

"Mmm. Timid people can surprise you."

"Well she did."

TROOPS

were actually put to thee then by the

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

As I sat here typing my password into my computer to begin the day I wondered, Did I have a dream about typing my password into my computer to begin the day?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stung

Suddenly the bee was there, on my ring finger. It wouldn’t go away, which was strange; it just sat there, brushing my skin with its wings and hair. It’s just a poor bee, I thought—I shouldn’t kill it. Should I? I tried to shake it off and sure enough the sting came, hot and angry. Red wine spilled out of my plastic cup in big drops but still the bee kept stinging. It felt like a reproach. Like I deserved it.

We moved our picnic things away from the nest and I imagined them watching approvingly. Don’t worry, bees. We won’t bother you no more. But soon after I poured another cup of wine one landed on my hand, my other hand—again, the hand that held the wine. I was resigned this time. I just have to let it do this, I thought. And it did. My fingers swelled; my hands felt poisoned, heavy. But no bees bothered us again.
At the party in New Hyde Park, out on Long Island, I was hoping the flight path of the planes taking off from JFK—or landing, who can ever really tell?—would be right above the house, as it was last year, but it wasn’t; the planes were off to the side a ways, disappearing behind the giant gray water tower and reappearing after a strangely long time for something so big that’s moving through the sky.

Jackie played on the well-tended lawn, sometimes by herself, sometimes trying to keep up with big kids. It was cloudy but it never did seem like it was going to rain. The sun came out later, blinding us on our ride home. On the Kosciuszko Bridge you could barely stand to see the Skyline.

Friday, July 18, 2014

TROOPS

of God, our own highest voice, becomes crowded out in the process

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TROOPS

She looked back at me and the fear was naked in her face.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TROOPS

a sickly, frail fellow, who despite his fundamental defect,

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Streak - 98

You wake up and it’s dark and your legs hurt and your back hurts. Now why is that? You’re in the back of a fucking car in the middle of the night. That’s right. And there’s this situation going on. What did they call it? A procedure? An operation.

The car’s not moving though. One of the guys is snoring in the passenger seat; the other guy is gone. Where fuck are we?

You feel an urge to get out. Door’s locked. Other door’s locked. But you can work the controls on the driver’s side armrest, you’re pretty sure. You lean between the seats and reach for them, careful not to touch whatshisname, Joe, Matt, whoever, and press buttons until you hear that happy little sound: chup! The latch releasing. Door’s open now. You get out. The night air is hot and dry.

Inside the building there’s a diner and a store, each lit mercilessly with high, fluorescent lights under which a few patrons and workers struggle to survive. You wander into the diner, avoiding eye contact, trying not to be seen. Are you hungry? Maybe you’re hungry. There’s a pile of onions browning on the griddle and shouldn’t there be a smell associated? You watch the cook turning them and you can hear them sizzle. You can hear the tapping of the spatula. You’d think there was a smell of onions, a delicious smell. You try to remember what the smell should be. A little bit sweet? Smoky, prickly? Sullen? Bent? A little desperate? What are the words you’re supposed to use to describe a smell, even? You don’t know anymore. Is that why nothing’s coming up your nose? You know if you could smell right now you’d remember something—smell and memory go together, they say—like Mom in the kitchen cooking liver and onions, which you hated; she knew you hated it and it seemed like she cooked it just to spite you. Is it possible your mother, who loved you the best—she always did say so, and the others didn’t let you forget it—hated you all along? Is that what love was? Hate? Now you get that thing they talk about, a chill. A chill down your spine. That part of your physiology seems to work just fine.

Why can’t the memory be nice? Onions. Onions and peppers on a sausage, from a cart outside Fenway with Dad before he got sick, in what could it have been, nineteen-ninety-something. That’s right, you were born and raised a Red Sox fan and you came up a Red Sock, dream come true, and one thing led to another and here you are a Yankee. Your team is your blood and the guys are your brothers, that’s the law, no question, no matter where you come from. But they sure did give you shit when you first appeared in Boston in your navy trim. They yelled faggot the whole time you first walked to the circle. Faggot, faggot, faggot, faggot, faggot. Other things, too. I swear to God I’m gonna kick your ass, you faggot, Benjaminson. And this one: Benjamin Arnold! But mostly, they called you this: faggot.

There’s a mysterious authority fans have when they boo and jeer. Even when they’re drunk and stupid. Especially when they’re drunk and stupid. What is it, exactly? Somehow, they yell the vilest insults with absolute, emphatic certainty. The cruder it is, the more ridiculous even—somehow, the more true it seems. These are people, some of them—well, maybe they never have a moment of uncontested authority in their entire, shitty little lives. Their mothers and fathers and teachers and wives and bosses have been breaking their balls for thirty or forty goddamned years. Stand up, sit down, shut up. I said shut up! Eat, sleep, get up, get dressed, go to work, behave yourself, be on time, go the fuck back home. Tonight you get to fuck me. Tomorrow night you don’t. And now look at you. Look at them look at you. All preening and pretty in your uniform. A fictional being, popping off the pages of the most glorious story in America. You live inside a book; you write a chapter with your bat. They can’t even write the story of their lives. They can only howl in the margins of yours.

Is it that they know you don’t live like them, that you don’t eat shit like they do? It can’t be that simple. Can it? Some of these people are movers and shakers, alpha personalities, success stories. They may be plumbers or account executives or train conductors but they’re not losers. Not all of them, at least. In fact, what does it say about you that you so readily gravitated to that characterization? You’ve got another chill now. Don’t you?

Yet there they are in the trash-strewn stands and there you are on the immaculate grass. There’s no special rhyme or reason to it, really, but you’re on the other side of some divide and the only privilege they have compared to you, the only authority they have over you, is to scream at you what a faggot you are, spittle erupting out their mouths and down their chins. You gotta hand it to them on some level. They’re right. You may be the writer but they’re the reader.

And they’re right about you. The straight faggot. That’s what you were. That’s what you are. What is it about that word?

Whereas there’s dignity in being a homosexual—in asserting who you are, casting off shame, deflecting sticks and stones, and names; knowing what you want and how to get it—there’s no end to the dishonor in your heterosexual faggotry. You never stood up and made decisions. You never thought about what you cared about. You barely worked—not hard enough, not as hard as you could. It all came so easy for you; seeing the ball, hitting the ball, seeing the ball, hitting the ball. Getting laid. Hitting the ball. Did you study the game? This beautiful, mysterious game? Did you examine your weaknesses? Did you strive at all times to improve? Did you reach deep down inside? Did you prostrate yourself before God, or some god, or something, in complete humility, offering yourself in every way so as to better serve Him, or Her, or It; or to become a more perfect being; or to know something, even the slightest fucking thing, the light, the something, whatever the fuck? No. You trained lazily, reluctantly, and you took the fucking andro, the ‘roids, the cortisone, the vikes, and you fucking jerked off into a puddle on the floor. You were born with a silver bat up your ass, you lucky cunt. Talented, muscular. Lightning reaction time. You should have respected your gift but you took it all for granted. You traded your glorious, athletic self to Satan for coke and blowjobs, in increments too small to notice at first but look at you now. You’re not a ballplayer. You’re not a husband to your wife. Not a father to your son. Faggot. Straight faggot.

Can you hate yourself so much you disappear? Maybe you could slip back across that divide, become a short-order cook at a truckstop diner in the Nevada desert, never talk about baseball again, or at least not for a good long time, until inevitably someone comes looking for you, someone from the papers, like they used to say; someone who persists despite your resolute denials, and then he breaks you, catches you in a weak moment, says something about your son, probably, and finally he writes an article about you, and then a book, which becomes a movie, a great one, leaving people weeping in their seats. Is that what you want? It is what you want, isn’t it? Even in your deepest fantasy of worthlessness you wind up king of the hill.

You touch your nose. It’s still rubbery and sore. From what? You took a good beating, remember? From who? From your double. From Evan Benjaminson, ha. From who? From you. Isn’t that right? You get a cold, dark feeling, a feeling you’ve had before but never this strong. The relentless truth finally catching up to you. That was you. That—he—you—who roughed you up in St. Louis. That was for a reason. He can be you now. You can be someone else. Better yet—you can be no one. A short-order cook. A stock boy at the truckstop store. A spectator. That seems to be the only way out. A perfect way out, really. So elegant. Except for one thing: your double’s about to die.
As I wandered from the kitchen back to my cubicle with my coffee I overheard someone telling someone this: “I don’t like the way he seems to coast through life. I find that… problematic.”

The Dictionary Defines Hundred as Ten Times Ten

There’s an old dictionary propped on a stand on a table near my desk, opened to H—humblebee to Hunnish. I glanced at a random definition on the page: hundred. It is defined as a cardinal number, ten times ten.

Monday, July 14, 2014

4th Avenue Scene

A few years ago I was gassing up the car on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, soon after we moved to Park Slope. A car was pulling up to the intersection in an ordinary, leisurely way when another came up fast behind it, pulled around and stopped just in front with a screech. Immediately its driver began a furious harangue:

“You fucking cocksucker! You motherfucker! You fuck with me? You fuck with me? I’m about to fuck with you, motherfucker!” he shouted, his head and torso straining out the window. “I’m going to fuck you up you little fucking pussy, you fucking maric√≥n!”

He punctuated his insults by spasmodically slapping the outside of his door and banging on the horn.

“I fucking kill you! Fucking little bitch! Look at you now bitch! Look at you now!” Honk! Honk! “I should climb out of my fucking car and kill you, cocksucker!” Slap! “Bitch!” Honk! Slap! “You cut me off?! You cut me off?! I cut you off, bitch, how you like that?! How you like that?!” He indicated the front of his car with a jab of his outstretched hand, like: Look. I cut you off. “You don’t fucking cut me off, bitch! I fucking cut you off! Faggot!”

Through it all the driver of the other car, a meek young man in glasses, sat impassively, staring at his abuser.

“You wanna fuck with me, you little piece of shit?! You wanna fuck with me? I fuck with you!” Honk! Honk! “Little fucking bitch. You happy now? Bitch.” Honk! Slap! “You fucking happy now?”

Here there was the briefest pause.

“You fuck with me again I kill you.”

And then the angry driver took off in a U-turn, tires squealing, and drove back up the avenue. The light had turned green and red and green and red again by now, so the other driver had to wait. And wait. Alone.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Something fell from the windowsill into the tub, one of Jackie’s toys or something. Probably the wind picked up.

A minute later there was an awful crack outside the living room. I went to the window. It looked like a normal summer evening—pedestrians, joggers and cyclists, all oblivious, lost in thought. Yet the wind was moving strangely, in little eddies. You could see it in the way the leaves rustled and the trash blew. I looked to my left and found that a tree had split about halfway up and fallen over parked cars and into the avenue. Passersby turned to calmly photograph the scene. Cars honked as they navigated around the branches. Finally the police arrived, then some kind of city truck. We settled back onto the couch as the chainsaws started up.

TROOPS

Or what I imagined someone might wear to a party.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

TROOPS

"If Kenten is involved in something that sleazy and high-risk, why would he initiate a meeting and attract attention?"

Monday, July 07, 2014

Robert Moses Beach

We set up on a little patch above the surf, in front of a young, attractive family, a couple and their little girl. They looked European, Italian maybe. They spoke English to each other but you could swear you heard an accent. Tedious dance music played from their little black-and-red boom box. Several times, the man lifted it, shook it, blew on it. She sunbathed. Sometimes she’d lift her head to watch her daughter with a frown. Sometimes he’d rush up and scold the girl for not playing nice with Jackie, though Jackie didn’t care. The woman sat up to eat potato chips, deliberately placing one at a time on her tongue. She had eyebrows like Kate Winslet. Her husband picked up the boom box and blew.

A gust tore their parasol from its base and rammed it into an elderly couple in beach chairs behind them. Profuse apologies, expressions of concern. The man retrieved it, tried to reinstall it in the wind, thought better of it and folded it up.

When it was time to leave he took the little girl into the water and submerged her, holding her by the waist. She wailed as he carried her back up the beach. They shrouded her in towels and set her down. Before long she was quiet, relaxed, possibly asleep. The man picked up the boom box and shook, and blew. Finally they gathered up their things, the woman took the wrapped-up girl into her arms, and they walked off to the parking lot.

TROOPS

They were all hooked into dispatch

Thursday, July 03, 2014

TROOPS

on the front step as we pulled into the driveway.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

TROOPS

"I'm sorry," he said again