A smooth take off and an ascent to cruising altitude set the stewardesses at work. The plane felt stuffier than usual. He was in the middle, his favorite location. He’d been at the front, not first class, but right at that front row, with all that legroom. It just didn’t suit him. He wanted to be appropriately uncomfortable, a badge of honor, a shared suffering. So here he was, middle of the plane, middle of the row. Priest to his right, old woman holding a Pomeranian on his left. He felt like he was living inside a not-that-funny-gotta-laugh-to-be-polite joke that he couldn’t remember the punch line for.
To this dying man whom the wolf already scents
And whom the crow watches.
Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil
The tip of the shovel had talked to him with a dull thud, not just through his ears, but totally. It came into his hands and up the stiffness of his arms, through the quick riot of nerves on red alert, through all passageways of recognition. It was wood! At its tip was wood, a cavernous wood, a chesty wood, an enclosing wood. Promise poised itself, much like awards’ night and names to be named. Light leaped at his back, behind his head. Down through the awesome sky of darkness he could feel a star draining, down through thirty-five years of a hole.
-I don’t know why you have to drink so much all the time.
They were sitting at a small wooden table in the kitchen. The dinner was long finished and between them were two empty plates that had been gently pushed aside, and two bottles of wine; one empty, one full.
Early evening light, what was left of it, spilled near Jack Wilkens in his one lone room in the big house, a house once flaunting and imposing in its stance, now cluttered like an old shed forgotten in a back lot, debris its main décor. Despite his reputation as the town drunk, a ne’er-do-well from the first day, an inveterate crank, there had been an instant and subtle attraction between me and the old codger, an attraction without early explanation.
My son and I meet in the City, dinner and talk. And drink. More and more drink as time goes by. He is quite the drinker, my son is, Old Overholt Rye on the rocks–a drinkers drink. None of those blends that people call Rye. Who am I to talk? When I was his age, twenty-seven, I was out drinking every night and my poison of choice was Tequila.
But it’s not the same. Sometimes I think he needs his golden anesthesia to tolerate our time together. We hug hello and goodbye and he never acts embarrassed to kiss me when he sees me. We never have a bad time, not like the old days, which were rocky as all Hell. That’s okay. Fathers and sons should have a little conflict to make them stronger and bond as more than just parent and child when they get older. By now we should be bonded at the hip, but I worry that he’s getting the Irish disease which is even worse for a Jew than for a Mick. I should know.
“I have a headache,” I told Clark, and came upstairs.
It was nine o clock and the kids were asleep, and I didn’t have a headache. But I didn’t want to sit downstairs and watch Clark get drunk on screwdrivers while watching old Seinfeld episodes, and then have to come upstairs and try to have sex while his penis stands at half mast no matter what I do.
It isn’t me. I have no doubts about that. It’s the booze. We aren’t as young as we used to be and after the kids are out, Clark can’t put the glass in his hand down. I guess I don’t care much anyway, anymore. I just don’t want to spend twenty minutes flogging and sucking a soft penis then trying to stuff it in while it wilts and bends. Then the excuses and the pity party. Having to make him feel good about himself while my vagina crawls up into my uterus. Might as well skip the whole shebang, and head upstairs with a book, and escape.
Liam paces the floor of his “study” which is a bedroom in the home that he and his wife Eileen are renting. The new addition screams its head off. He wishes the thing would shut up. Not the thing. That’s terrible. The girl. The baby. They cry constantly, babies. They cry because they’re infants, then they cry because they’re teething, then they cry because they’re in the ‘terrible twos.’ It seems different names for the same dreadful screeching. He has no idea why anyone would have a baby. He has no idea how he ended up with one.
This one’s for you, Skink, this solid and remarkable dream I had one night, just last week, still haunting me in this, my 88th year on the planet. It was so real I believe it really happened in a place so near us, we can’t see it, or so far away from us, we’ll never get to see it for ourselves, even though we know it inside and out, upside and down, from left to right, and all the in-betweens, the hereabouts that may occupy more than one place in this universe.
As an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College, Clementine Hamilton had majored in psychology. For the department research requirement, she had pursued her studies in abnormal psychology, so she was aware there was no formal diagnosis for what she was. There were elements of obsessive-compulsive disorder in that her need for constant stimulation was recurrent and persistent, and the impulsivity aspect of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder characterized past behaviors. If she had been forced to ascribe a name to it, it would have been something like ‘stimulus deprivation disorder,’ and the symptoms that had manifested themselves over the years were readily measurable.