I hear everything: the soft cry of my mother, the beep of the heart monitor, the whispers of the nurses, and the subtle hum of the air conditioner. I feel the rough texture of my hospital gown against my skin, the cold hand of the doctor every morning when he visits, and the warm hand of my mother every time she touches my cheek. I am awake. Wide awake.
Small-eyed, small-eared, a mole perched like an ace of spades on one eyelid, a mastoid-depressed void behind one of those ears, pale of complexion, shoulders it seemed worn down by weights almost too ponderous for life, Jimmy Griffith was the essence of obscurity as he leaned on the bar of the Vets Club. All members knew Jimmy by name and by sight, but few had ever heard him say much more than a good morning or a goodnight, or “I’ll have my second beer now, Al,” or “Brownie,” if Brownie Latefox was on duty. This was the two-a-day ritual at the end of walking his route about town, measuring water consumption, reading the meters down in fieldstone cellars or the utility rooms of newer bungalows. Read the meters, jot the numbers, cheat a bit for a friendly face, or go a step further, like disconnecting a meter for six months at a time, not a soul at the water department or in the confines of Town Hall ever the wiser. Nobody knew how happy Jimmy was to have the job, nobody in God’s creation. Or why.
Almost sort of exactly 201 years ago, Jane Austen died. I must confess I haven’t read much (any) of her work despite Pride and Prejudice and Zombies being on my reading list for some time. Never being one to allow a lack of knowledge to get in the way of a good opinion however, I’m prepared to wager that her collective works didn’t contain many references to the humble kilogram.
Young Jane would have been almost sort of exactly 18 when the French said pas plus to the grain related measurements of the time and invented the kilogram. She would have been far too busy working on her short novel Lady Susan to bother with such new-fangled frippery. She no doubt noted however that the initial name for this kilogram was a grave and as such the literary seed for her zombie based works was sown.
A Few Rings of Hell’s Bell Ago
The little god of unfounded happiness at an unlikely place seemed to be smiling on me. I was up 500,000 bit-pesos at the online Uruguayan poker site, and someone had finally restocked the Snax Machine in the lobby with chili-cheese Fritos. Yes, the good guys were winning, and no one was supervising my activities. I fondly recall whistling “Dance Ten; Looks Three” from A Chorus Line, prior to carb-loading for that long elevator ride back to my office, deep in the bowels of the Smiling Face of Darkness.
I sat a long time before going up to the house. Vanessa lived on the left side of a duplex behind the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. There was a pink beauty salon chair on the white paint chipped front porch. Weathered cardboard boxes filled with National Geographic magazines and empty Marlboro 100 packs were stacked in the corner. After I knocked at the door, it opened and I saw Vanessa standing there before me. I knew her as the regular who always asked for extra soymilk in her reusable coffee mugs but my manager called her Fat Madonna. I didn’t get the joke until he showed me a picture on his phone one day.
The day she left me, she left the fish. The gloopy, dead-brained goldfish sitting in our room. My room now, fuck her. I don’t miss her. She used to ask her if I missed her when she went away in the summer- not really I’d say, she’d come back in three weeks. That made her cry. Why do people cry when you tell the truth?
A friend of mine for many years, Eric Peavy, lived on the third floor of a tenement house right near the center of the town square graced by a circular green holding two huge elm trees with grand columns and huge umbrella limbs that spread for the season at hand. He was apt to break into an on-going conversation with a connecting remark based on his third–floor view of the square and what had come into his mind.