A Renaissance of Atonement and Music

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Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over eight hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines around the world. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his work and has recently released a novel ‘Two-Headed Dog’, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital.

CHAIN-OF-FOOLS

My wife’s iphone was hacked. It sent thousands of messages to friends and colleagues, announcing the emergence of a new form of mosquito, a mosquito who wishes to atone for malaria and will fly from house to house in the middle of the night and kiss people on the lips, thereby eliminating greed and violent urges from human society.

I work an eight-hour shift, but because there’s alcoholism in the world and irresponsibility, I sometimes work a double. I’ve worked as much as a triple, 24 hours straight. I’m strong, my mind goes numb, my mind is no more complex than a moth’s. The crew chief likes my work ethic. The fog rolls in and out.

My wife was still on her lithium, though she complained that it made her dopey and lethargic, but her friends and associates remembered the last time she stopped taking it. A buzz went through her world like the sound of a thousand mosquitoes in a squadron of peace.

Immigration officers scream in. In my brain-dead state I think they’re taxi drivers—the the amber light make the white cars yellow. I just keep pulling lumber. I’m legal. My papers are in order.

Her boss sent her a telegram firing her. I took it at the door and examined it—I didn’t know that the world, the world in which my wife’s i-phone was hacked, carried telegrams.

My name is Gonzalez, but it might as well be Johnson. A coworker told me that Johnson is the most common American name. I thought it might be Smith or Jones, but this guy said he knows because his name is Johnson. I told him Gonzalez is a common name in Mexico, but I don’t know where it sits on the Hit Parade. Johnson smiled at that one. Johnson is missing a lot of teeth. They have rotted out of his head.

I was still standing on the stoop when a team of exterminators in haz-mat suits showed up with tanks on their backs.

But then… I knew she’d been hacked.

I sat in my office chair missing her, yearning for her so much that I opened the hacker’s e-mail, as if it might really be a message from her, though I knew it was a foolhardy act. Of course, she wasn’t there. Nothing of hers was there and my computer caught the virus delivered by the hacker.

The Motherfucker of All Viruses, said my computer guy. The AIDS Virus of All Viruses. He was a failed novelist and liked to load on the metaphors, mixed or otherwise, six or eight at a time. Don’t you know any better, he berated me.

Before I was legal and moved to the Trees, my landlady worked as a police dispatcher in Oakland, but was a habitual gambler. So though she owned a pink Cadillac she’d won in Vegas, she never had any money. I suggested that she let me sell the Caddy and put the money in an account that I would manage for her but, though we’d become lovers and I’d moved in with her, she didn’t trust me enough. Instead she sent me on daily missions to the dumpsters behind the Safeway two blocks away for their best produce. She had a saying: In America, only the very rich and the very poor understand that resources are limitless.

I didn’t want to do it, but she wasn’t making me pay rent so I gave in. I was already clinically depressed and dumpster diving put me even further down in the dumps, so when I was arrested for trespassing and theft and placed in the back of a squad car, it felt right.

Alone in the jail cell, I felt lonely and longed for company, even if it were another prince of degradation.

My landlady bailed me out in the morning, told the cop that she’d warned me not to dumpster dive (as if I were her juvenile delinquent son) but that it was my drug. The cop raised his eyebrows when she used the word “drug.” We cruised slowly in the pink Cadillac, headed for home.

 

decline-in-grace

Seen from the night street, the lamps in my wife’s office bend their necks like Roseate Spoonbills, undisturbed, elegant, as they hunt for their breakfast in the shallow lagoon’s mud. My wife is doing paperwork to put her beloved mother in a nursing home.

My dog’s paws were burned walking on pavement and I feel bad, really bad, about it. I fill his water dish and he limps over and drinks and gives me a look that says: Man, you should have known better. It’s over a hundred degrees out there. It’s my natural inclination to forgive my master, but…

With what they presume to be a God-given mandate to rule the world, American evangelicals pay Ugandan preachers to spread hate. These homosexuals have missed the Father’s heart of love, say the evangelicals. Thus the door was left open to perversion.

The shadow of ancient ignorance falls across the land.

Cheryl’s vagina was a rusty part that fell off my father’s tractor, a 1932 International Harvester. That wasn’t unusual. Parts were always falling off his equipment. He used Grandfather’s old machines, fixing them with string and baling wire and a lot of duct tape.

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I was walking behind the tractor when Cheryl’s vagina fell off, a rusty, round part with a bolt in the side. I guess it wasn’t needed for anything important because the tractor kept running. I bent down and picked it up and put it in the right pocket of my worn-out overalls, where it brushed against my genitals as I walked through the ruts. Cheryl was a girl two grades ahead of me in school. Her father drove a black Camaro around the country roads and nobody knew what he did for a living.

I walked up to the house, where the white paint was flaking off the exterior walls, and climbed the stairs up to my room and lay down on the bed and did what I knew you were supposed to do with a girl’s vagina. It was hard and dry and rusty, and with all the rubbing up against it, my dick got chafed and rusty. My mother still bathed me, even though I was thirteen years old and told her I could bathe myself, but I guess she liked doing it. I was worried what she’d think about my rusty dick and that she’d know what I was doing in my room with Cheryl, who had big tits for a girl her age and who everyone called a slut, even though she didn’t even have a vagina anymore. But nobody knew that but me, who had it in my possession. Even Cheryl didn’t know yet.

My wife is an Australian Shepherd who herds me from place to place, nips at my heels, invades the space of my sacred man cave, subtracts the manliness. The cell phone she’s slipped into my pocket is nothing but a leash. Whenever I leave the house, she makes sure I have it, and when I return she makes sure that I plug it into its charger. The phone does not work on this cruise ship, but the cruise ship itself is a leash.

The oval promenade of Deck 6, each lap one-quarter mile, is a collar. Each lap I walk it tightens, but I must burn the calories of all those desserts I can’t resist—Lemon Tortes, German Chocolate Cake, Pineapple Sundaes, Lavender and Vanilla Flan, and that’s not even considering all the courses that come before. My wife’s girth increases each day. In the dining room, seated with inebriated, cordial and garrulous strangers, she wears a look of satisfaction.

WHY-AM-I-HERE

I murdered my wife with a banjo, her banjo, the one she got at the pawn shop. She was teaching herself to play. A melody got in her head, that song from Deliverance. She wouldn’t stop playing it. I asked her nicely.

She was part of a neighborhood music renaissance. The guy downstairs had bought a ukulele. He bought it at the same pawnshop. In fact they went together. They held hands walking over there. I watched them from our apartment window. My wife wore pigtails. The downstairs neighbor was fat.

I was still working in the sawmill, still driving my powder blue ’55 Chevy pick-up, powder blue because the paint was turning to powder. I don’t believe in change. I want my life to be unchanging. This infusion of music troubled me. The guy downstairs played Over the Rainbow over and over. It was his secret communication with my wife, his response to the hillbilly banjo song she played, each note a jet of pheromones. It was like they were fucking through the ceiling, her on top.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed the banjo out of her hands. The rim was hard and shiny. Her blood splashed on it, an art deco design. It was quiet in our apartment. The guy downstairs had stopped playing. I studied the pleasantly quiet mannequin on the floor.

 

 

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