Summer’s Passed

A summer had gone by since she’d written in the book, since she’d felt even the smallest glimmer of desire to look at it. From spring to autumn, it sat on the shelf hosting dust mite symposia and nothing else. More than a few of the mites had, in the process, acquired a deeper sense of meaning in their tiny lives just by perching on the cover, gnawing through the title page, while others still found simple contentment floating mindlessly in the sun beams that poured through Anna’s bedroom window.

It was November when circumstance finally pushed her back into the writing chair, when the silent approach of winter hung still in the doorway. Fall had come in a flash, almost without salutation. All at once the leaves yellowed and the skies grew awfully grey.

The day she returned to the book the weather proved rather mild. The wind moved like laughter through the air. And the moon had come out well before curtain call.

By this time, the Quartet had left House du Petit, no doubt in search of warmer climes–more specifically the climes of an invisible Hawaiian island, where, according to Anna, a stale apple pie spoke at length of humanity’s worst mistakes, and the honeybees were as big as your fist.

Meanwhile Anna had returned to the Midwest, hoping to lead some semblance of a normal life. The Shaman saw to it that she wouldn’t–and it was precisely his interference, an ongoing and increasingly vivid campaign of dream transmissions, that prompted her to sit down and finally write once more.

After all, the Book of Pie would not finish itself.

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The Shaman

Want to know something about the Shaman? 

He’s not Jesus. He’s just a guy who stumbled by accident upon the waters of eternal life. 

Making pie is not about immortality. 

It is about leaving his burdens behind. 

Getting out of his mind. 

Away from himself. 

From his sins.

His memories. 

His past. 

But his past isn’t going anywhere. 

It’s as present as the noon day sun hanging over the Pacific. 

He wakes up and faces it every morning. 

It’s his cross to bear. 

And Anna has not come to set him free, 

Nor has he come to enlighten her. 

Of this we can be certain: 

The two have things to learn from each other. 

For they are more alike than either know. 

The Whore and the Holy One (cont’d.)

There’s a swallow on the tree outside the hearth window. A band of light wrapped like ribbon on the branch. The morning is rising in a sea of deep blues and wispy little clouds. Gustav has gone to the town for a meeting. I will meet him there later, after I have completed my writings. For now, I am caught thinking about the crisis that has befallen my life. This dance between archetypes. This chasm in my personality. 

The Whore and the Holy One. Parts at eternal odds. Distinct. Separated by a valley. The good girl. The poet. The book reader. The sweet soprano. The angel. The bad girl. The slut. The dirty nomad. The abomination. The demon. I am only ever one or the other. My feminine spirit remains cleaved by illusions, old world beliefs; it remains fractured by unseen shame in my heart. I am a child of this world of men, this world that is fearful of woman, fearful of sex and fertility, creation and passion; this world that fears the moon–that seeks to lasso her from the night sky–this world that fears the sea, her waves, her hidden depths, her capacity to swallow cities whole. And I am no different; I too live in fear of the powerful forces stirring within me.
I am filled with the sacral energy. It pours out of me unconsciously. And I wonder if, at night, I roam around the city streets looking for a good time in my sleep. I love Gustav. He takes care of me. He feeds me. Clothes me in the finest linens. He has given me the gift of language, made it possible for me to write elegant works of poetry. Without him, you would know nothing of my life. Yes, I have much to be grateful for with Gustav. But he wishes for me to renounce my whorish ways, to never return to my old life. He wishes for me, piety and purity, safety and health. And sees nothing of that in my past. Just a girl debasing herself to the lowest of the low. But I am finding something in my studies. I am learning of Isis and Ishtar, of Diana my namesake. I wonder where have gone these feminine idols? What world hath caged them in caves? And how, through such barbarism, have I come to find myself split? Trapped in between the Whore and the Holy One. 

But now I wish to quit speaking in the abstract. For there is a life I have lived, and though it is far from over, though I am still young and by the accounts of many beautiful, there is much to tell of my past. Perhaps Gustav wants me to bury what I have done, to become his holy angel, but I cannot hope to evolve without first acknowledging the seed from which I have sprouted; this seed buried in the body of a little boy, somewhere near the Adriatic, living with an old whore in her elegantly adorned house. Without her, it is true I would be nothing; least of all the woman I am today. 

So I shall tell you of this lost existence, which leads me here to Gustav and the stable hearth window; and I will give you the fragments of the life that must have come before all this, the string of broken memories stitched together in my imagination. 

But first, I must be off to meet my husband. He awaits my arrival, no doubt with a placid smile on his aging face, and I wish not to upset him. 

A Date with Floyd (excerpt)

She took the train today. She stood quietly on the platform while the rain fell. She listened intently to the storm’s frenetic cement drum beat. She tapped her fingers to a slower rhythm. The rhythm of anticipation. The rhythm of anxiety. She had a date with a journalist named Floyd. They were to meet outside the Milk Bar where, sadly, no milk was ever served. A White Russian was as close as you could get. But it was too balmy for a White Russian, too gray. Something sad hung over the city; a torn dust-caked tapestry; a tattered childhood blanket; an executioner’s mask. 

Outside the train window, the land unraveled like an old rug; moss, streams, and trees gave way to cement, gutters, and buildings of all shapes and sizes; the sky stayed the same, with the exception of the pillowy fog descending over Golden Gate Park. 

Anna sat in her seat, reading a book of poetry (your leaving uprooted me, mother… I yearned to sing the true song of the earth… The town was forlorn, dust, and depression…); her thoughts kept drifting; her fingers twisting and fidgeting some piece of lint in her pocket; her hands were always busy; they had minds of their own; it was her way of keeping tethered to the real world; a totem; a spinning top; a little gray ball of lint that once belonged to a pair of dirty jeans and now resided in Anna’s coat pocket. She thought of the Shaman; wondered how he was. She found herself thinking of him a lot lately, dreaming of him even. And she didn’t doubt he was dreaming of her. It’s not good, she’d think, for a shaman to be alone like he is. In fact she’d venture to say it wasn’t good for anyone at all to be alone like that; alone with no one but that dirty little hamster, and too many pies for one person to eat. 

She thought of Kansas City; it was afternoon there; her mom would be at work right now; her sister asleep as she often was. She loved her sister. But didn’t get the chance to say it very much. She was always moving; always caught in some perpetual wheel of motion. And her sister always missed her when she was gone, but neither could spend more than an hour in the same room as the other without getting at least mildly irritated by some minor idiosyncrasy. So Anna expressed her love from afar, from trains, and planes, in the middle of forests, standing on dirty street corners, whispering to her beloved sister, I miss you and hope you’re well. I’m sorry I can’t be there. And yet she lamented the Shaman’s isolation, classified it differently. At least I would go back. There is no ‘back’ for him. Only ash and soot in his wake, the death cries of a burned up village, the memories of slaughter and capture, the worst horrors humans could and did commit against one another. It was a sad world he left behind, she’d give him that; it was understandable what he did; maybe even necessary. How were whips and chains any different than a crucifix? How many passions was he supposed to endure before he’d simply had enough? And then the train stopped near Ashbury. Mind the gap, said a British woman. Her thoughts turned to Floyd, his green eyes, his innumerable curiosities. If ever there was a person so perfect for their profession it was Floyd, a journalist through and through. Little did she know that for Floyd Hamlin, this was not an average date; in fact he harboured no romantic or otherwise lustful desires for Anna. There was no time for that; a veil would be lifting soon, he was sure of it, and Anna whether she knew it or not was going to help him score courtside seats to the whole show. 

I’ve Got My Eye On You (An Excerpt)

Willis K. Wheatley, standing on the side of the road with his semi-flaccid penis plopped in the pool of his palm, a steady stream of urine arching up then down into the Earth, smiled the kind of smile you’d see in a Colgate commercial, smiled the kind of smile you’d see on an old man staring down the pink petals of a twenty-year old girl’s rainsoaked garden. But he was not looking at a beaver. He was looking at a magpie perched on a slender slumping tree branch hovering over him like a television microphone. The microphone, positioned as it was, picked up the lazy summer notes of the jibberish-inflicted tune springing from his lips. Mr. Wheatley, a vocalist of highly abstract character, preferred the liberated movement of songs whose lyrics more resembled the rainbow wax scribblings of a six year old than the calculated lines of a Da Vinci.

To the layperson, walking by or perhaps crouched in the bushes beyond the counter-tenor’s line of sight, the jingle would have sounded like the warbled murmurs of a sleep-talker tonguing the folds of his pillow. But it would have felt like a sweet cream trickle of rum raisin in the gut—like a cocoon exploding butterflies in the brain. To Willis K. Wheatley, it was the jolly song of creation, a high and spiritually nuanced expression of his love for the magpie-encrusted forest before him. So locked was he in reverie that the sound of approaching sirens could not disturb the joy of his afternoon micturition. And a joyous relief it was! Though he’d find the comedown less dazzling. So locked was he in the subtle flow of urine-soaked endorphins pleasing his pituitary that he didn’t think to shield his shaft from the acute view of a single police car pulling off the gravel road and parking alongside him.

It took a total of ten minutes for the officers to stuff the counter-tenor into their backseat, cuffed and grumbling, still half singing his tune, secretly hypnotizing the cerebral hind-quarters of his captors. The other quartet members didn’t call him weasel for nothing. He simply had a knack for weaseling his way into your subconscious, lulling you into the lukewarm tides of trance with his glittering vocals. And he had a way of weaseling out too. The cops would soon learn of this, though by the time of their realization Mr. Wheatley will have already made off from the jail with a haughty bag of Columbian fish scale, a fat elbow of Afghan haze, three bottles of Kentucky moonshine, and a corn cob pipe confiscated from a delirious blues musician who spent the days before his incarceration living in the forest, sewing daisy chains into his dreading beard, serenading beds of moss, and bathing dead squirrels in the shimmering stream. Don’t ask why he went to jail. Or how he got his hands on the squirrels, or how they died. It wasn’t made clear in the police report.

Though I suspect that this lack of clarity was owed to the fact that he was simply being a nuisance, and the townsfolk had grown wary of the late night skulking and the muffled wails of his harmonica. And in his delirium the cops found it rather easy to coax him from his forest sanctuary. It’s also possible that he, like Mr. Wheatley, had been rudely interrupted mid-piss and this was reason enough to arrest him. Needless to say, the counter-tenor found no traces of dead squirrel in the evidence locker, much to his chagrin.

Anyways, by the time the cops realized their prisoner was gone, it was far too late. Upon their return to the station, Weasel in tow, the smallest of the three cops, a fat, balding constable who clung to the six wisps of hair that still fell over his forehead, processed the prisoner and pushed him unceremoniously into the seven by eight cell, and said, “I’ve got my eye on you.” When they found he was gone, they were dumbfounded. Having been sitting in plain sight of his cell, discussing what to do with him next, he simply disappeared. After an hour of squabbling over whose fault the escape was, the attending officers decided not to blame themselves. Instead, they consulted the security footage, which they should have done an hour ago. The video, grainy as it was, showed clear as day the counter-tenor sitting pensively in his cell one moment then vanishing the next. Without a loss of frame, he was gone.

“Now you see him,” said the short cop, “Now you don’t.”

What the vertically challenged constable did not know was that immediately following the disappearance, Willis had slipped through the iron bars, climbed onto the cop’s desk, unsheathed his cock once more and rested it gently atop the constable’s polished bald head. Before climbing down, Willis laughed and said, “I’ve got my eye on you.”

A Normal Day (An Excerpt)

For all intents and purposes, it was a normal day. And normal days, as well as abnormal days, tend to start the same way.

Open your eyes, Anna. The waterfall isn’t real. It was only a dream. And this is a normal day. A day like any other day. A day that takes its coffee black. A day that walks its dog to the park and back. A day that has yet to discover its purpose. And one might suppose that a normal day, as well as abnormal days, indeed has a purpose.

Okay, you’re awake. Good. Now wiggle your toes, Anna. Look out the window. There’s a green warbler on the branch outside—it’s got a song for you. Down the stairs, a record is spinning. It is not Lil Richie. And it is not Neil Diamond. And it’s not Velvet Underground. Down the stairs, there’s a plate of eggs sunning on the table. Would you believe your friend made it for you? Would you believe she awoke with your smiling periwinkle eyes twinkling in her mind, and thought she’d do a special thing to make your eyes smile wider? You’re a lucky girl, having friends like that. And she made the eggs just the way you like: a light shower of shredded Colby jack and a quick pinch of picante? Scrambled to milky perfection. A little fluff goes a long way. And so do good friends.

Life is a series of cycles.

We’re born alone. We grow up in a family, a tribe. Then we find ourselves itching for differentiation, a new name, and a vein of expression that is wholly our own. We find ourselves wanting to stand on the feet our mama gave us, prop ourselves up like flamingos in the waxing surf. We find that the pond—this pond that once seemed an ocean—is no longer big enough for us to stretch our big ole fins (to mix metaphors). So we head out. We pack a rucksack. No more sack lunches. No more notes from mommy. Who’s my sweet girl, Anna? I hope you have a wonderful day at school filled with learning and laughs. What a sweetheart that mother of yours, Anna. What a sweetheart. Let’s forget the time in fifth grade when Suzie Bondalucci looked over your shoulder at the lunch table as you exhumed that note from its brown paper confines and read it in the shadow of your own curls.

Oh wait. You didn’t have your curls then. You were too young to know you wanted them—that one day they would become as integral to your identity as your journal and signature space pants. You were too young to shuck off the husk of other people’s ideas to assert your own truth—the truth that one day you would grow out your curls and never look back.

So anyways there was Suzie Bondalucci sniggering over your shoulder like an invisible goblin with a lit candle up her butt and a donut in her hand. And there you were, stricken with a mixture of affection and embarrassment. The latter of which was only exacerbated by Suzie reaching over you, snatching the note from your hands, and reading it aloud for the entire cafeteria.

What a bitch that Suzie was. 

Anyways now you’re in the car and the sky looks like a half-finished Jackson Pollock. The highway overpass looks the same as ever. Droll. Drab. Dreary. Gray. Stone. Slats. A rumble of cars passes beneath it like an anthill built dead center between a troll’s legs. The troll in question—the overpass—is collecting its toll as usual; nothing material, simply that for brief moments, drivers have to subject themselves to the possibility that the troll could choose to pop a squat right there on the highway, or perhaps, a car—your car—were to fly right through the barriers as if mimicking its favorite Michael Bay scene, as if rushing to greet the vehicles below, as if smashing like a child’s toy Pontiac into another child’s whole collection of coupes, sedans, four-doors, SUVs, trucks, and go-carts, Lambos, Porsches, and Ferraris—too many foreign cars to be occupying the same roadway at one time unless we were in Italy, on some sundrenched coastal town sliced up by cement serpents rushing toward the sea.

But we’re not in Italy. We’re in America. In Kansas. This is prairies, and foothills, and too many pro-life billboards to count. And it is mundane office parks. And it is suburbia. And for a girl like you, it makes no sense. You stick out like a sore thumb at a pinkies-only party. At the mall, you catch a few too many stares for one human to be justifiably comfortable. Fortunately, you’re not in the mall. You’re in your car. And you’re crying. And you’re thinking about driving your car right off the overpass into westbound traffic. Of course, you’re too afraid to do it. But you’re thinking about it.

Something About Love (An Excerpt)

Here is something the author knows about love:

Listen reader, the author doesn’t expect you to live a life as extraordinary as the Shaman’s. If, however, you do lead an extraordinary life, please give yourself a genuine and heartfelt pat on the back. We cannot doubt the importance of living boldly.

For at the core of such a life there throbs a great willingness to take risks, to take mindful and impassioned leaps of faith into the great big unknown.

Did the Shaman know the island would be there? Let’s ask him, but stay quiet; he’s meditating.

“Hey Shaman…”

One green peeper opens with a mixture of irritation and nonattachment. “What is it?” He asks with a cinnamon roll of this lonely open eye.

“Did you know the island was waiting eight miles off the shore for you? Or did you dive into the salty Pacific merely hoping it would be there?”

He scoffs that signature scoff of his—the kind of scoff that doubles as a shrug and moonlights as a pooh-pooh on the weekends. “It was a simple matter of concentrated divination. Now please, I’m trying to meditate.”

When the Shaman meditates, two things happen: the koas blush and the Universe expands to play catch up.

Space is not merely a matter of the third dimension.

The brain is capable of many feats, one of which is that it can simulate the sensory conditions of visualization—anything you picture in your mind, you bring to life. If you want to imagine a baboon rubbing his butt against your leg in an effort to rob you of your cookies, and you’re able to hold the vision for a long enough time, you might just feel the fuzzy red flesh of ape cheek against your calf, as well as the profound disappointment of having lost a freshly baked batch of oatmeal raisin to a being of lesser evolutionary stature.

The same goes for space: if you can visualize yourself surrounded by infinite space, pregnant with it, a stomach full of it, and you hold the vision long enough, you will actually begin to feel it.

So space is also a matter of the fifth dimension—an inner experience as well as outer.

And one must have a healthy dose of both if they want love to thrive.

Anna never learned the value of space until it was forced upon her by her parents’ divorce. The collapse of the family unit as she’d known it left a void inside her—one that’d been previously filled by social and familial expectations, by enmeshed roles of identity, by hidden codependency.

It was not until she began living with the Shaman that she learned the true value of this most important ingredient of love.

“Love blossoms first within the Self.” He said, catching glimpses of the sunset through the Technicolor concoction in his highball glass. It looked like the Sun was dressing in tie-dye lace, swimming in a bowl full of jelly.

“Then what happens?” she asked him between sips of potato vodka and blueberry.

“That’s it.”

“What do you mean? It doesn’t go anywhere?”

“Love flows from the Self,” he said as the bowl of jelly began to spin, “and downriver the Self is there to receive it.”

Just then, the Sun began to twinkle in the upstairs hearth of the forest. The sky, in turn, blushed in six different languages. A mourning dove not endemic to the island landed on the porch. On her beak was a smile the size of a fried plantain. Anna smiled too. The time was soon at hand for her to return to the mainland.

For it is not merely a matter of creating space. One must also bring it to life—set aflame the joy of their own soul, pour it out their eyes and… One must begin to fill it with good salubrious work, the kind of work that makes a man go “whoo” when the day is done, the kind of work that cannot truly be called work if it is done with purpose. One must cultivate their space until the avocado plants are growing six feet high and the bees are having way too much fun pollenating the orchids. Cause everyone knows, all work and no play makes Jack a dull bee. But a bee that enjoys its work makes honey sweeter than a peach, and its space becomes rife with that sweet honey love.

The kind of love you can bake a pie with—a pie so good it’s guaranteed to make life at least five slices more bearable.