Babel Books, Silver Cliffs, and Me
Less than a year ago, a scrawny, hairy misanthrope opened a bookstore on Blossom St. in the dreary, dusty city of Silver Cliffs. His ambition, pummeled and spat on by reality, economics, and the petty pretty ambitions of those shiny monsters around him, dictated that it be the greatest bookstore history has ever known and that it be the house of a counter-cultural movement, a literary revival built from the muck and dirt of this forgotten cultural oasis way out on the edge of America. Of course, this man is a fool, building windmills only to call them giants, attack them, then flee in terror. The bookstore, Babel Books, cannot be the best bookstore in history because it cannot be a bookstore known by history. Silver Cliffs is a forgotten city, a ghost town not because it is uninhabited, but because it is inhabited by demons and spirits pretending to be normal, ugly suburban Americans. Thus, this quixotic, some same misogynistic, some say narcissistic, some say talentless man paces and stutters inside of his little palace of failure, a maze of musty books in a dilapidated half-Victorian half-mad building, cracks in the ceiling, windows that won't open during the hot summers and won't close when the critters start to crawl in at night, and he dreams up a beautiful world in which everyone knows who Caleb Sterling is, who Carol R. Sugar is, who Israel Farmer is, and of course, who he is, S.W. Green, poet-laureate of Nowhere, USA.
S.W. Green was born on leap year day in 1980. He is a young wicked child and his gleeful, anarchic immaturity lives and thrives inside of that two store cockeyed hovel he calls a bookstore. In his gray, sinister eyes, the place is more than a bookstore though. The official name is Babel Books and Publishing Inc. though the business is not incorporated and he has, as of writing this, only published three books. The first was a reprint of his 2008 zine Allusions Allusive, a 74 page naval-gazing rant about not getting laid. There is no difference between the cheap, photocopied 2008 version and the cheap, photocopied 2009 version except that, somewhere in small print toward the back, it says "Published by Babel Books and Publishing Inc." The second is a little-read novella by a little-read author from a little red town; he shares my name, birthday, biography, and shoe size but I take no responsibility for any of his actions. That novella, Mundane Objects, originally self-published in 2005, now exists as a pristine, 89 page booklet of thin stapled paper and a crinkled, black cardboard cover. Good luck finding these artifacts. Search the dump. Look in the sewers.
The last "book" published by Mr. Green is an anthology of the best Silver Cliffsian authors, put together by my good friend Bryan Edenfield. Mr. Edenfield, regarded as a traitor to some who live in Silver Cliffs and not regarded at all by everyone else, designed and edited this beautiful little literary sampler titled 22 Opening Paragraphs. Consisting of 22 opening paragraphs (no, really) by a variety of different authors (including me!), the book attempts to give its audience a tantalizing glimpse of what is offered by both Silver Cliffs as a cultural entity and Babel Books as a capitalist enterprise. In its pages you will find the stunning opener to Bridget Loom's gender-bending semi-classic, The Atlas of Pleasure, the ho-hum beginning to Anna Selvney's middlebrow masterpiece, Automatic Perversions, the moderately moving start to Jacob Walter's Smoke Skool, and the whimsically tepid first words of Lee Field's sprawling novel, Tourism in Babylon. Of course, you will find none of that here.
What you will find, dear reader, is the Internet version of 22 Opening Paragraphs, cleverly titled 9 Opening Paragraphs. Also edited by Mr. Edenfield, this little electronic anthology offers us nine new examples of the wondrous, fabulous, splendid, and amazing work that came out of Silver Cliffs in the last few decades. Edenfield, as he did with the original book, takes liberties. Does the anthology actually represent the literary movement that now exists in Silver Cliffs? Below you will find work by Caleb Sterling, who was born in Silver Cliffs but now lives fancy and famous in Hollywood. Certainly you will find the disturbed words of Jacob Walter, but you will find Mr. Walter himself no where; he slit his wrists in 2007 and authorities cremated his body. Bryan Edenfield is in the anthology, obviously, but he was not born in Silver Cliffs, does not live here, and has only visited a few times. Famed (sort of) genre writer, Israel Farmer, similarly, only spent a few years in Silver Cliffs, but the place left an "important scar on his subconscious," as journalist Miles Cimerman once stated. Oh, Mr. Cimerman's in the anthology as well, though he was born in Oregon and lives in Northern California and Washington. Odd. But I'm in there too, and I live in SC. So does Mr. Green, and Ms. Selevny, and Mr. Leviathan. Enjoy their work. They are not traitors.
But that, ladies and gentlemen, is not all. Free with admission, we've thrown in two (in)complete pieces by some brilliant up-and-coming authors (ha!) from Silver Cliffs. From Manuel Darwin, member of the Wordless Dictionary Society, armchair historian, and former employee at the Main Street Card and Comic Shoppe, we present to you an excerpt from The Dictionary of Coincidences, Volume I, soon to be published by Babel Books (if Mr. Green can get his self-absorbed head out of his soul-sucking ass). The Dictionary of Coincidences series is part of a larger, unnameable, unknowable project that the Wordless Dictionary Society has been toiling away at since the mid-19th century. Darwin's work upsets the very foundations of human knowledge, twisting and subverting the meaning of words until the fabric of our reality begins to unravel. His neologisms, subtle puns, and paradoxical couplings short circuit rationality and re-contextualize the supposedly sensible and mundane world, turning it into the frighting and alien landscape that it deserves to be. Make no mistake, the excerpt presented below does none of those things, but somewhere, perhaps, Darwin has written something that does, and he should be commended for that.
The next piece, a short story from the novel City Maps, is by me. It's not that good.
And now, I know, you ask yourself, "What's the point of all of this? Why do I care? What's the occasion?" On January 26, 2010, Mr. Edenfield hosts a soiree in Seattle (of all God forsaken places) titled "The Imaginary History of Silver Cliffs." I'll be there as well, lending my literary presence to the disreputable proceedings. Here is what I want you to do: If you live in Seattle, cancel your plans for the evening of the 26th. At around 6:30 PM, go to Richard Hugo House, a literary community center and performance venue, take a look around, find a seat, drink a few drinks (there will be booze!), and prepare to be dazzled. If you do not live in Seattle, buy a plane ticket right now, book a hotel, and follow the above advice. If your budget, apathy, or idiocy prevents you from doing this, than you are missing out on the first important cultural event of the 21st century (though it may end up on YouTube in March or April) and will regret it for the rest of your life. This show is only my third performance in the Emerald City and the first two were complete disasters, so I hope to make amends and some new friends. The show will also feature a traveling exhibit from Silver Cliffs' Museum of Detritus, an amazing gallery of discarded art, eccentric garbage, and those tender, mundane objects that secretly design our lives, the buttons, cereal boxes, speeding tickets, and torn socks that compose our ethereal, divine bodies. Additionally, a few other people will be reading but they don't matter. Save the date: Aden Bell at Richard Hugo House on January 26, 2010. Be there!
But enough about me; let us return to our good friend, Mr. S.W. Green. What is his mad plan? Is Babel Books an attempt to annihilate the mainstream publishing industry? To become apart of it? To replace it? Babel Books carries the widest selection of Silver Cliffs based authors, most published by small presses located in other parts of the country. The academic and cultural establishment has yet to recognize the literary and artistic importance of the authors presented to us in 22 Opening Paragraphs and its web-sequel, 9 Opening Paragraphs. Green's mission is thus a noble one; here in a sprawling, ugly, unassuming city along the California/Arizona border, a long literary history has continually produced vibrant and original writings in all manner of styles and genres. No one notices. Silver Cliffs has its own early 20th century art movement, similar to that of the Futurists and the Dadaist, and no one notices. Silver Cliffs has its movie stars and auteurs, its artists and architects, its pranksters and intellectuals, its revolutionaries and visionaries. No one notices. Lillian Gray, Titus Loom, Isadore Damascus, these should be household names. But if they were, would we care about them? If the metropolitan literati knew of Anna Selevny, she would be nothing but another author, occasionally popping up on radio talk shows, her works occasionally appearing on the best seller list (towards the bottom). If the cultural elite knew of Carol R. Sugar, her books would be turned into bland movies, dumbed down, glossed over. If Bridget Loom entered the fray of everyday American culture, hipsters might flock to her, call her "hot," and read her books on the bus. Is this what we want? Is this Mr. Green's goal? Can't we Silver Cliffsians keep our history to ourselves so that the rest of you don't water it down and ruin it? Apparently, we can't. Now, reluctantly, we emerge from our hiding place way out there in the desert. If the authors of Silver Cliffs lose some of their allure because they stop being obscure, so be it. Obscurity be damned. Some of us need to eat.
There isn't a lot of information out there concerning Silver Cliffs or the authors mentioned here. Milo Cadence, a terrible writer with a terribly informative blog, provides us with a brief glimpse into the lives of those who live in that secret city. Mr. Edenfield's show will be a another source of information. Write This has now become a third source. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries or concerns. I thank you for your time, dear reader.
Goodnight, and see you in Seattle on January 26.
A Silver Cliffs Sampler
Pretend Genius Press
Babel Books and Publishing, Inc.
by Bryan Edenfield
Hannah, the Backwards-Walking Champion of the World, turned eleven shortly before her birthday. Her suspicious parents said to each other, "She must have done something naughty, turning eleven sixty-six days before her birthday. She must have done something really really bad between now and her last birthday, when she turned ten on the day she was supposed to turn ten." But Hannah had done nothing naughty; she became Backwards-Walking Champion of the World, lost a tooth, had her hair cut, learned to develop excellent peripheral vision, and made a new best friend, Anna, who was so short and tiny that she could fit between Hannah's head and heels. Hannah told her parents these facts but they did not listen and insisted she be punished. Thus, she was sent to her room without supper and grounded for an entire year. "That'll teach her to change ages whenever she please," her mother said to her father. "Yes," he agreed. "When I was a kid, we wouldn't even dream of doing such a thing. My oh my, how times have changed."
Her Secret World, Carol R. Sugar, 1961
The first girl I fucked was Melanie Push. She was twenty four and I was twenty one and I had never even kissed a girl before, never called one my girlfriend, never intimately held hands, never slept closely and warmly next to someone, wrapped around them in an all night embrace. I had, though, recently been in love, an unrequited, half-realized, deformed love. A love that is not reciprocated may be no kind of love at all, but a lustful, emotional obsession. I would never know her kiss, her body, her true complete physical presence. This love, her name was Cayla Moss, would not be the last woman I'd pine after in secret or fail with completely, but she would be the last failure to truly matter, unless life twists and fucks me in ways that I will rescind back into that pitiful shell I once existed within, unless I devolve, become freshly naive and forget how painful and unnecessary inaction can be. Before Cayla, I had thought I was in love many times. I thought I loved Starr; we rode bicycles through the Sepia Manor Trailer Park, our home, and I jumped with her on her trampoline in her backyard. We were in third grade and for a brief period I seemed like a normal kid. When I lost her, though I never had her, for years I felt as if something was missing. I learned pathetic romantic obsession at a young age. I thought I loved Laura Gong too; we met when I was thirteen and I danced with her in a barn in the desert. In a better world, she might have been my first kiss. She haunted me for years just as Starr, in different ways, did. Jennifer Ocean, the quintessential high school crush, broke Laura's curse; if life were a television show, Jennifer would be the teenage sweetheart, the first true love, the first broken heart. But instead, she is nothing. Finally, high school ends, college begins, and Cayla Moss enters my life. We lay on the floor and complain about how terrible the world is. We take shots of vodka and try to learn to square dance. We drive aimlessly in the night through the dark mountains and arrive at a Denny's in Silver Cliffs where we eat and talk nonsense. Sometimes, she touches my shoulder. Sometimes she smiles at me.
The Amorous Exploits of a Pathetic Loser, S.W. Green, 2003
Lillian Gray starred in twelve films before she died from an overdose of sleeping pills, or maybe they were pain killers, on August 19, 1945, in a hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona. Of these films, my favorite, against critical sentiment, is The Lost Treasure, a strange and sloppy film noir in which Miss Gray plays a seductive Frenchwoman exiled from Vichy France. This was her second to last film. Charles Clay, my best friend since high school, sided with conventional wisdom; he spoke lovingly of her first film, her first known film that is, an overwrought drama titled Beauty. Miss Gray plays the titular beauty, a New York City dancer who becomes the obsession and muse for a down-on-his luck playwright. As the playwright, an aging Brandon Cummings, his silent career almost forgotten, nearly staged a brilliant comeback; truly it is his performance that gives the film any gravity it may have, but the movie, as a whole, lacks the playful, haphazard grandeur of The Lost Treasure. Nonetheless, our obsession, Charles and I, with Lillian Gray centered around neither of these films, nor the totality of her impressive body of work, pardon the double meaning. It centered, instead, on an unknown reel of 35mm film Charles discovered in an abandoned building on Blossom St. Dated October, 1931, three years before Beauty, it is a stag film in which the beautiful, and only 17, Miss Gray performed all sorts of unseemly acts with cooking utensils.
Lillian Gray, Caleb Sterling, 1999
Ladies and Gentlemen, I hate you with all of my gracious soul. Observe: poor fog face wafting down elbow avenue, the street of shoulder knocks. His mouth is agape and he drags a large bag; the handles twirl and tighten around his red knuckles with each pedestrian kick. He holds an empty bottle in his other hand (maybe sometimes it has water, sometimes booze) and barely picks up his feet as he ricochets through the maze of skyscraper citizens that sing their secret songs and recognize this idiot's existence only through coughs. Of course, he smells. They smell too. Witness exhibit B: the perfumed siren clicks like an insect as she smokes down the sidewalk. Her hair is a nest for beautiful dead birds and her business dress shimmers money. Red talons flick the ash and a red snarl smears words into her cellular phone; she is a songbird or a cicada depending on the conversation. And then, look there, at the fat man enjoying his coffee. He moves only when he needs to and shoats into his wireless hand-less brainless contraption only when he doesn't. Someone on the other end of the conversation, miles away perhaps, hates this quaking mound of flesh more than I do, and the air between the two is infested with those invisible signals, pregnant and oozing with his wide words; the menace of his thoughts brewing in a stew of bile and snot that festers in his sloppy jowls is then spat into the tiny machine attached to his ear. Off it goes, into space, to pollute the cosmos. We are all his reviled interlocutor. Finally, by the bus station, that automaton might be the masculine doppelganger to the insect bird woman. Fancy, pouting, good God I cannot believe I have to stand here next to these lurching bus-bound cretins (he thinks, rightly), he runs his effeminate fingers through his military hair and taps his foot nervously. What if the smog from their breath stains my suit? He gingerly lights a cigarette and hopes no one will ask him for one, but someone always does. How can I survive around all of this disease? He straightens his tie, though it wasn't crooked, is never crooked.
Landlocked Leviathan, Marcus Leviathan, 2007
June 5, 97. I only know fragments of myself. Today I slept in and I woke myself up by beating off, soiling my sheets with cum. I imagined a woman, a stranger maybe a banker, giving me a blow job next to a bank vault or maybe at a grocery store. I just masturbated again to some ripped up porno pages I found behind a mall and now I'm listening to an old Pigman record. I don't think I brushed my teeth today but someone on this planet brushed some teeth; a woman somewhere brushed her teeth and a man somewhere brushed his teeth and maybe they brushed their teeth simultaneously. Did they have the same color toothbrushes? Did they use the same hand and did they slide the brush across their teeth with the same pattern? All of the patterns in the world, there can only be so many, and someone somewhere brushed the same pattern as I did and who is to say that that person is not also me? That vile gorgon, Madam Geography? I ate breakfast and did not want to leave the house and I left the house to go to the video store and return three movies, a soft core, an action spy movie, and some foreign shit from the 70s. I hate it here. This place has turned me into a monster.
The Diaries of Jacob Walter, Jacob Walter, 2008
My half-sister, Fred, was a woman trapped inside of the body of a boy. Confusion wrote itself into her frame, into her blood; her bones became the uneasy map to the faltering mantle, the cracks in her skin bled the shaking earthly refuge of a dying, reborn planet. She was and was not; a contradiction, a confusion, colored everything she experienced and thought. In her dreams she was one person, in the mirror she was another. The gaze from others, that fleshy reflector, told her to move in one direction; alone she found herself in different private company. She was two broken parts at most, though usually, she was the gray zone in between. Seeing her for the first time I knew this; I saw her body as female and she felt it as male, she heard her voice as male but felt her womanly conscious, they saw him as a boy and she wanted to be a girl, and so she was nothing. This was, I later realized, our collapsing globe; only partially there, desperate to be realized, a secret truth suffocating underneath.
Of Ancestors and Animals: An Imaginary Memoir, Bryan Edenfield, 2008
We present to you here the curious tale of Oscar Manchester, a relatively unknown but prolific author who met his demise at the hands of a group of strangers whose lives he knew intimately. Events across the continental United States set off a series of incidences that eventually culminated in Oscar's murder. The story of his death is the story of Patricia Carlson, a quiet waitress living in Seattle, Washington. It is the story of Rodney Richardson, a beer drinking misanthrope residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the story of Anna Wright, a bored teenager in the suburbs of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is the story of Eugene Warren, a charismatic couch surfer adrift in San Francisco, California. Finally, it is the story of Lilly and Grover Johnson, two married teachers living only a few miles from Oscar in Silver Cliffs, Arizona. None of these people knew each other, yet their lives would collide in the most unlikely of ways.
Any Resemblance, Living or Dead, Israel Farmer, 1979
We here at the Society for Disbelief believe in not believing; as such, we do not believe in not believing any more than we don't believe in believing. Following the logic of disbelief, we cannot be held accountable for anything we say or do, but as we do not believe in irresponsibility, we take credit for everything, even, and especially, that which we had nothing to do with. Moreso, we take credit for that which never happened and which cannot ever happen and we believe, no, we disbelieve, that the impossible happens on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Working within the logic of disbelief, which is, in fact, not a logic, we must admit that we are not actually a society for anything, and as we do not follow the customs and rules of grammar, society, language, and genetics, we do not know and cannot follow even our own statements, which are, necessarily, retractions by definition, retractions of themselves and assertions of the opposite. As they are retractions and assertions of the opposite, they are assertions and retractions of what they actually say, which is, to put simply, not-truths. This is not to say that they are lies; they are as much not-lies as they are not-truths. A not-truth is not a truth but it is not a lie, that is to say, it is not a not truth, but a not-truth, which has more in common with a knot truth than a not truth. We do not, though, know anything about knots or knot tying, though we know quite a lot about not tying, as we rarely tie anything, especially if it means tying things together. We would much rather unravel, but what we unravel is not a knot so much as it is a tangle of unraveled knots knotting into a straight line of strings made out of not-truths and not-lies. A knot lies next to me, and I may not be aware of it, but that is not to say that I do not know it is there.
1st Manifesto for the Society of Disbelief, The Society of Disbelief, 1968
On November 18th, 1926 Pittsburgh's famed Oyster Opera House burned down after a riot erupted following the showing of Kreval's latest and last opus, The Brick Walls. Kreval was an unusual figure in the world of classical composition; he came from a poor, rural background, was entirely self-taught, and had lost his right hand in a farming accident as a young child. He, thus, composed his pieces on a piano with only one hand and a stub, creating alarming, often dissonant and deceptively simple pieces. He gained popularity mostly as a novelty and high society quickly latched onto his "working class" sounds. The Brick Walls was his fervent anti-bourgeois and antiupper-class statement, and the opera upset the audience so much they preceded to try to force the musicians and actors off the stage. A fight ensued, eventually climaxing with the Oyster Opera House in smoldering ruin. Kreval barely escaped with his life, his career ruined and his face horribly burned.
Invisible Machines, Iris Black, 2007
Ah, Albert. Come down, dummy, forget Gary's harassments. I just jogged, limped, made no negatively pensive questioning remarks, so to undertake vicious, belated, enquiry. Your wounds are bleeding. Can dear old friends greet, huh, honey? Jesus, jams just zing, no? Open, please; quietly respect smiles, treats, love integrity. Won't we wonder, when words wreak wondrous wombishly warm friendships, can his harmful jabs, karma kisses, mean nothing? No, but better let assholes existence, every ounce puts standard dudes in pleasant quarters. Qualms? Why yes. Come climb, crawl, down from tremolo trees. Test this open ground. Zephyrs zither by, zygotes undulate vapidly, worms x-out your name. Albert, as all our zigzagged vestiges vex your fragile soul, Kara lumbers moonlike now, over past quarter retro-spaceship videos, towards us. Wouldn't xylophones quake in her presence? Courage, Albert. Enough fussiness. Gary is ugly. Jagged kites loom menacingly, nullifying, obfuscating, permanently, quiet respectful summer time dreams. Verify, would, could you? Zesty alcohol bleeds crazily down, entering, from Gary's hole, into justice, killing lush meadows, nourishing opulent, putrid quasars. Kara sits. Kara understands. Vroom! While eating you voraciously as he (Gary) does, embittered forever, there lounges Kara, juicy Kara. I must not observe pests. Questions I ask. Tears, unsalted, volley within x-rayed yawning zipping aching breathing corroding dusty enameled freezing gashed hearts. Inside, jovial kicks, xxx moments, narcotic erotic pulsating queefing rushing sex sensations. Upper lips. Wounds. X marks the spot. X carries journeys. Enough, egghead! Get down! Good. July ain't no time for openly x-ed out eyes. Siesta! Table joy! Villainify when winter warily wanders between beautiful caresses, dressed eunuchly for garish hell in jumbled killjoy lanquidity. Usher zero vertical zits, quarter sized, unto terrible unhappy valleys. Wow, xerox yourself zillions apon zillions of doomed loveletters, for I have gone crazy. Krazy? Little bit.
A Small Presentation Concerning the Wingspan of Certain Nocturnal Insects, Isadore Damascus, 1995
special thanks to the
Wordless Dictionary Society
the dictionary of coincidences,
by manuel darwin
let’s not talk of skeletons while we [together] we [alone] are here. Upstairs at Bella’s I outlined the future and jotted you down with fine penmanship while staring at pictures of hair and honey or what I thought of then as insertion.
We are lonely moving near the place of our future surrender. Coming and then replacing real life jumping. The girl and the girl in the kilt stove. Breathing a mop of wood, flake and sordid collapse.
She bells the intense coma of slinging. A pasture of disruption and friendly marbles living. Her upright girdle splendor splinters the ram’s nest. Blink darling. Blink. The pied-à-terre amalgam of rooster.
Her name is Jeffamar and she purports to be unsung. Screeds of two laps curtailing the axiom of vanishment.
andventures of the cornbread maker
divide the reich and press our interests in the north.
Renumber the planets and bring them lovely. Hirosito Kamasashi is a comic book fighter. Oolong Hirosito. Lumps of plum and dilly.
Shall I make a memory of thine fissure and strike at the breast of merriment? Oh noble chameleon of many coloured hues, tinges, and shades. Yonder.
it’s been a long time since I have writen but I want you and everyone to know that I am all rite here. Everbodys’ been wonderfull and last nite I had vanila ice cream for desert. I brought my robe with me on acount that you told me it woud raise my self asteem if I walkt around in it and pretented I was a vammpire or somethin like that cause of monsters bein’ afraid of other monsters in the dark and if’n I was a monster then there ain’t nothin to be afraid of in the dark. It was just like you said momma. Ain’t nobdy even messin with me and I’m a warin the robe all off the time now even when I’m outside and doin work. They try to make me not ware it but they ain’t got no rules about what I can ware here and I hippotize them any ole way and now they all walkin’ aroun like ghosts.
the windows and doors of her steamy southern plantation house. A rare draft. The sticky bodies of her slaves.
The day was pictures. And no words neither because of the dark. Lifting companions on a single flinch. A corporal dissension among the hierarchy club. Here where we walk subdued and circle maybe in yes.
dreams of terrible angels
two lovers in the snow. Two lovers framed by jade (color). Two lovers pierced by the sword of a mighty rhododendron (flower).
Gone good are days of long and lonely suffering when the window shingles (fermata, algernon, and caribou) conspired with words like reckon or dragoon master willister to confound us. Ours was the house seen from the road. But only the back door and the bedroom window above, framed by trees on either side. If you had a pretty dress mother or one moment to rest upon the stairs I would have told you that not far from here I impressed a girl by saying: ‘the trumpet is the most beautiful sculpture I’ve ever seen’.
the dream-like sequence, the basis of all conversation, is an example of a near-perfect combination of form and function that provides an environment in which people can exist [live]. Rules are established of what can or should be said and of what cannot or should not be said. In turn, expectations are met, practice is rewarded, and humans may interact in relative safety.
We’re on a ship that’s sinking and you and I move away from where the water’s filling. They’ll bring a fire truck on deck to put out the fire. It’s a long ship and there’s lots of space. But we’ll have to jump over. Near the ship there’s a pond and we see pond things while we’re swimming underneath. Storybook pond things that invert words like vespertine (from the viny) or crepuscular just for this sense. It looks like an old city but it’s just an old town. And when the Indian sailors come rowing over to tell us how they fixed her up, we’ll tell them to row back because we’ll be staying here a while. We’ll say ‘you’ll find us waiting here Mathilda, our sweat collecting in the creases of a bamboo porch.’ It could be the land of turtles or the land of underneath water. But we are a relevant species, scraping chum along the briny, humming jingles while flowers bloom from the bottom of our shoes.
by Aden Bell
The house on Calypso is three cigarettes away from my apartment. I’ve done the math. It takes eight minutes to smoke one Red Moon Cigarette (regular, with a smooth, natural, full bodied taste), and there’s about a one minute break in between each, to light up, to fight the wind, to hide in some corner and shake my golden lighter in frustration. My hands are cold. I can’t work a lighter to save my life. The monsoons are here.
The house is crusty white shudders and rusty pipes. The doors creak, the steps make little moans when you walk up to the front door; the tiny spirits underneath can feel the weight of your feet. I told the people who lived there that the place was infested with ghosts. They retorted: The whole city is infested. So we went around and shared our discovery with the world, or at least our small useless and unassuming corner of it.
We went out with our spray cans and we wrote. “We believe in ghosts.” Sprayed large, in big bold letters, in bright orange or blue or dead permanent black. But nothing is permanent. With effort and paint, anyone could cover it up. So we repeated our actions in an endless cycle of preach, erase, preach, erase.
We wrote small sermons. “You are no one.” “This means nothing.” “Fuck you.” We inspired. “We love you.” “This was meant to inspire.” “Seak beauty and destroy it.” We misspelled. We wrote on public property, private property, our property and their property and on objects that could scarcely be called property. We covered signs with our signs, ads with our ads, words with our words, pictures with our pictures. “This road goes nowhere.”
Ladders wobbling, we looked over our shoulders at the dim lights under the stary skies and laughed nervously. Well, I laughed nervously. They laughed like dogs. We weren’t clever or profound and rarely did anything we did get noticed by anyone besides those who erased; still, every night I went over there, three cigarettes away and so many uncounted drags. We went out for four cigarettes, for nine, for the whole night, for the whole pack. We went out until we couldn’t breath, until the sprayed fumes of paint were our only oxygen.
The sun came out on us some nights and the roads glistened in dryness, in wetness, in rain and dust and everything in between. Birds chirped and people drove by in cars off to their morning jobs, sipping a coffee and talking on a cell phone. We were calm after this; we could go back to the house and hide in the basement and talk about movies and politics and bore ourselves to sleep on the torn couch that everyone had vomited on at least once. This was now my home.
I barely lived in my apartment, with those roommates, Bob and Clyde, or Jones and Carter, or Billy and Frank. I could never remember their names; maybe they had none. I’d sit in the window for a few drags and wait for the right time to leave while they sat in the living room, living or rooming and barely moving.
I’m not sure I know all the names of the other people who live in the house. Of course, not all of them live here, but we all live here. We eat and we shit and we open the shudders and admire the tree and the cactus. I think Guy owns the house, and I wonder sometimes how he afford its. He has no job. I asked him one day if he had rich parents. He smiled at me and didn’t answer. I think he must. His rich parents are funding slow burn suicide and the defamation of character of our suburban niche.
And then we’d go down to the basement and listen to records that scratched and skipped, the sounds disappeared beneath our laughs and our yells and our “this is this and that is that.” If we got home before the sun came up we’d be sure not to fall asleep until little slivers of light crept in above our heads. If we were out when the sun came up, we’d stay up even longer. Sometimes we wouldn’t sleep, and go out the next night, fresh and dead tired, and that’s when we accomplished the most.
The more days without sleep, the more libations poured to our non-existent gods and our good for nothing ghosts and monsters, the more drags of time we hissed by, the more it all seemed to work. We made our own moonlight in those dazed nights of no sleep, booze, pills, and cigarettes. We’d sit in that basement filling the air with smoke, getting high and talking about the doors and the windows and the walls and the coyotes wandering around the neighborhood.
“Listen to the coyotes howl.” “The walls are muted souls.” “I use this corner for toilet paper.” “My mundane is your beautiful.” “My love is your skepticism.” “Believe this.” “Smoke wails and streaks and stinks up everything.” “Fuck you.” Yes, it always seemed to come back to fuck you.
“Time drags,” I wrote one night that was the same night as before and the same night as now. Darkness came and went, light came and went, and we were okay with that. We had little to do with it. We were building our own clocks. “This is our clock.”
I walked past restaurants and bars, past houses and lawns and gardens. I walked past people walking the other direction, people walking the same direction, cars driving in circles, bicyclists ringing bells, children coughing and wheezing. The clouds layer the sky. The dogs growl at nothing and a poor fat kid is sits in his empty room with the lights on, alone.
I walked past gutters and trees and little trickles of water. When it rained, I got wet. I walked on sidewalks and roads and through peoples de-weeded front-yards. I walked past little stores where tourists bought bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets. I walked by bright gas stations where I bought junk food and giant sodas. Everyday, day after day, I surveyed our kingdom.
Cigarette number one is finished, here I am at the intersection of Extension and Cherry. At the end of cigarette number two, I’m next to a strip mall housing a little place to learn karate. Next to that, a pet store. Next to that, a quaint little restaurant; inside, grandmothers eat breakfast with their grand-kids. I can smell the syrup some mornings if I’m in the area. I can smell the grease, the pancake batter, the coffee.
I walk past everything. There’s comfort in that house. I can sit there and have trouble with my lighter and make jokes about flatulence. All animals pass gas. “All animals pass gas.” “This is where you find meaning.” “The world is your broken toy from second grade.” “I like apples.”
“The sirens are in your ears.” “This is an Italian horror film.” “Bleed harder.” “Enter here.” “Conversations with white noise.” “I am masturbating.” “This will not be here forever.” “I count using made up numbers.” “We don’t know what time it is.”
And so on.
Sometimes I wished we could do better. “We wish we could do better.” “Are we impressing you?” “We're sorry.”
We told whole stories in our tired non-city. If someone walked where we walked that night, in the same order, at the same pace, moving with us in a different time, tracing our path, following our own personal ghosts, they’d get their own personal novel, a novel of where they were, where they were going, where they had been. Past this and that, the dumpsters and garages and empty streets and flickering lamps.
“Begin again.” “The second place you see is someplace special.” “Stay on your toes.” “For something important.” “Hidden under the lamp lights.” “Where monsters sing.” “About boring things.” “We listen.” “We mean to behave.” “We find the songs.” “So interesting.” “They move us.” “To do beautiful things.” “To do ugly things.” “Will you see it?” “Can you be there for it all?” “Can you comprehend?” “Something horrible is happening here.” “This place is haunted.” “This place is haunted too.” “There are cities buried here.” “There are ruins underneath this dumpster.” “Ancient burial grounds.” “Green eyed freaks.” “Lonely abused tyrants.” “All things sweet and fulfilling.” “Don’t you agree?” “Don’t you see?” “We are in heaven already.” “We are in hell already.” “You passed purgatory.” “Go to the next block.” “Now this is utopia.” “Follow our invisible maps.” “We are making a new city.” “This is already in ruins.” “Where is something new?” “Over there.” “Over here.” “Back behind you.” “Garage sale on 7th avenue.” “Don’t be afraid.” “We are here to protect you.” “The end is near.” “The end is here.” “Begin again.” It’s all one big circle.
We thought about doing other things and we ripped down flaming stars wasting words over glorious grand plans. We would, hypothetically, take cars, steal them, take them apart, weld them back together, and transport them back to their appropriate parking spots, disfigured, like some metal mutant. We’d take down all street signs, change the names, and put them back up. One brainstorming morning, while we ate donuts and drank milk, coffee, and beer, we came up with pages of new street names. Dead End Ave. Circle Cr. Drunk Dr. We’d name streets after ourselves or people we admired, but we admired no one. We’d name streets after made up plants and animals. Drivle Forest Way. Bark Mork St. Quag St. And so on. Smashed Bug Dr. Fetus Lane. Suicide Run. Dead Man’s Curve. There had to be a dead man’s curve, on a straight road that went all the way out of town and inched up over the horizon. All of the roads did that.
At the end of cigarette number three I’d take one last long puff and throw the butt at the curb. There was the house, my home. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it, like any place I’d ever lived. I went inside anyway. I was tired and wanted to sleep. I wanted it to be tomorrow. I wanted the night to never end. I went inside and dragged out more time. We all did.
“We drag time.” “Behind us with chains.” “We move forward.” “Looking backwards.” “Smile.” “We passed a department store.” “We passed you.” “We passed your friend.” “We passed a woman with a baby.” “We're past all dead ends.” “We're past churches.” “We passed eateries.” “We're past safety.” “We passed used car lots.” “We're past everything.” “We passed you...again.” “We walk past ghosts.” “We believe in ghosts.” “We drag you with us.” “We are past.” “You are in a time drag.” “Get out.” “Fuck you.”