Week #17 – We are not responsible

Old School by Al McDermid

Petshop Girls by Doug Bond

“Although many people think that Albinos change during their life, they actually don’t.” Metzger had been talking to the lady with the pigtailed girls for a long time. After some more back and forth she freaking said yes. Her husband would be in touch to arrange delivery. My stomach was in knots.

She was a beauty. Not the lady. No, she was a snub nosed lizard like her pissy kids. Janine was the beauty. I’d been riding my bike to the shop all summer, since the day she arrived back in June. Metzger noticed me hanging around, said, “Hey kid, I want you to meet Janine.”

She was incredible. Not at all slimy. Smooth. I felt how strong she was. Then she began to move. Metzger pulled me off, not nervous, just moved in. “She wants to wrestle,” he said. Then he laughed “Cant be responsible for losing another kid that way.”

When the snout lady went to the register, her little oinkers stayed by the cage, squealing looking in at Janine.

I walked up and told them, “She uncoils 15-foot, weighs in at over 170 pounds.”

“We know,” they said.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “What else do you know!”

The fatter one said, “Her name’s Janine and she’s a Pure White Albino Anaconda.”

The other said, “My Mom’s buying her.”

I looked into the enormous glass tank. Janine slid down close. I could swear she was looking right at the girls, her eyes darting back and forth between them.

Responsible by Kim Hutchinson

Yesterday, she dazzled. Professionally brilliant, she sprinkled starlight and success over the meeting.

Twice they cut her contract.

This morning, she woke to the banshee: “Individuals must get up early and put in a full day’s work in this economy!”

She smashed the button, breaking the radio. Where? she raged. Where?

The Cyclical Night by Nicolette Wong
Her stiletto heels are drawing music on the cyclical night. That’s all she cares about—even as her husband weeps in a reclining chair, his accusations like a ghost wind blowing through their soon-to-be vacant apartment. As she speaks she breathes life into space again, leaving behind the moment when she thought herself pregnant: the panic, the fear of confinement and guilt over the phantom fetus growing in her womb. A throbbing life one had to take responsibility for, a life born out of a marriage without love. How could she—or anyone else—bear such cruelty?

‘The baby never existed. It was a mistake,’ she says. He doesn’t believe her. Years have passed; he still fails to taste the wildness in her smile. No, she doesn’t lie. She has only willed herself to live a promise she made, in her youthful days, until the phantom fetus came calling: ‘Come and sign our freedom away.’

Her man trails on, haggard and stunned. He stares out of the windows as if the drama would pass with the next hurricane. But the roof of their domesticity is shaking, ready to be blown away along with other houses in their neighborhood. All is growing fainter at the end of the road where an accordion is playing: her future.

‘This is what we’ve come down to,’ he says.

‘We’re not responsible,’ she says.

Beware the fever of manifest destiny by Ryder Collins

It first starts when he blocks the peyote scene from Young Guns. You’re here and here and there. He moves me. She’s my butterfly. His voice gets slurry.

Salty.

But, I’m no Danaus plexippus; I don’t like milkweed. My wings are stuck together and I’m shaking from his tremors.

I’m jealous of his mania. I want to cut open his skull, watch the neurons run wild through the West. Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Philips riding ganglions to their deaths.

The bed’s empty now; is he gonna go Lone Ranger on me?

I’ve signed treaties; I’ve made speeches. He parodies, he says put pen to parchment, he says put your mark here, he says…you’re my little masochist, he says, there, there.

All night, he clicks through channels, receiving signals from sentries stationed in the badlands, the borderlands, on the frontier. He strategizes, positioning cigar and garter forces. My general does not dream; I’ve tried to dream for him.

My dreams are always always bullets of love; his nondreams are “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

He sings and waits.

Soon he’ll see soot and ash fall outside; he’ll smell the coal of an oncoming train. High noon: he’ll think he’s all alone. He’s got a pocket watch from a father he forgot; he’ll unpocket the watch, unholster his pistol, not even look for me, & ride off.

Roadkill by Shelagh Power-Chopra

When I hit the dog, Abe screamed like one of those girls in a Japanese horror movie–a shrill wail that went right through my skin. I didn’t feel much as I got out of the car–I was more annoyed at the scream, the icy air around us and our eventual destination–his parents, the club, small talk, all that drunken insignia. I watched him as he examined the dog, patting its stomach, searching for signs of life. The dog was certainly dead, one ear was torn off and you couldn’t make out much its face; it looked like one of those old family photos where there’s something blurry in the background, something or someone you can’t really make out. I just couldn’t associate any feelings or memories with the dog, as I had never had a pet as a child. Dogs were like overgrown rats; I was always irritated when people spoke endearingly of them as if their own spouses had been regulated to sheds while animal and owner trolled the streets. “It’s dead,” was all I said but Abe frowned and tugged at my sleeve. I looked at him, at his ridiculous black trench coat and pulled it off his back and threw it over the dog–but you could still see it’s feet, isolated as if in mid run. Then, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach, a swift jab as if the nasty, little world had come rushing right in.

Statistics (Walking Through Lexington Market on the Way to Work) by Linda Simoni-Wastila

At the metro, I don’t take the escalator – too many pick-pockets. My feet crunch on the abandoned peanut shells, cigarette butts, and gnawed chicken bones littering the granite steps. A covey of young men loiter by the exit, voices excited, muscle tees framing black-inked tats. Absorbed in their furtive closed palm exchanges of rolled-up bills for baggies, they ignore me.

Outside, summer’s swelter carries the usual market smells of over-ripe fruit, worn-out peanut oil, and stale urine. I walk quickly, breathing though my mouth. Around the corner I bypass a puddle of vomit and almost trip over the legs of a woman propped against the Market’s brick wall. Sweat pours down her face; I fight the strong urge to yank off her puffy purple parka so she can cool off. She stares at me, eyes filmy from glaucoma or some other affliction, but I walk past, averting my gaze to the crab grass pushing through broken concrete, the spent condoms, the empty vodka nips rolling at her stockinged feet.

Campus security patrols the intersection. We smile at each other, as we do every day, small reassuring grimaces. The ham and Swiss hangs heavy in my lunch bag like a bad conscience. The light changes. I hurry across to the air-conditioned safety of the hospital, to the day of running yesterday’s numbers: admissions, discharges, dollars, death. But first, I stop for a latte, hoping to usher energy enough to feel the morning’s sting.

Back to Wk #16 – Busy at work

Forward to Wk #18 – Lucky number

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One Response to “Week #17 – We are not responsible

  1. Nicolette,

    This struck me as a good one for ‘The Betrayal of friends’ theme too. Lovely language, especially the stillettos.

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