Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-Two

crackling as the truck crushes the brittle shrubs. Bernie crawls sidewise, his arm in the dog’s mouth until he has been dragged under an awning of roots, a hollowing out of the wall. He pulls his legs in and curls up against the dog. The truck is idling again. This gully seemed so hidden, Bernie thought the driver might barrel right into it. He hears the cab door slam. So there is a driver. It’s not just a demon truck driving itself. “Bernard Went!” Bernie looks at the dog. The dog’s head is tucked under Bernie’s shoulder, not looking at

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety-One

the truck’s tremendous engine shifts suddenly into roar and Bernie’s sure the truck is turning off the road. Toward them? His ankle turns on a stone and he slides onto his ass. The engine roar reverberates through the gully. Bernie scrambles into a spray of sand. The dog is digging at a log jammed into the gully wall. Bernie yanks the log out and a crumbling of dirt reveals an entry. A cave? He’s about to crawl in when the dog grabs his arm, firmly, teeth pressing into his flesh. “What? What?” The dog pulls him back. The crashing and

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Ninety

nose seem to darken as a ray of sunlight streaks down from a break in the clouds. But the ray fades and the flames glow and writhe. Where’s the dog? Bernie stumbles and the bushes grab at him, poking him in the face, a thorn reopens the wound on his forehead. He pushes forward and branches give way, raking more scratches on his arms, and tearing his clothes. “Oof,” says the dog softly. Right at Bernie’s feet there’s a hole. No, a gully. Grabbing the stout stem of the bush that just scraped him, Bernie lowers himself. The idle of

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-Nine

on easily) and bops after. Least as much bopping as one can do who’s just stirred his bruised lump from unconsciousness and gravel. Then there’s the brush his guide seems blithely unconscious of, but which keeps snagging and yanking on Bernie’s clothes. He’s sweating, a black fly likes smacking against his brow, and there’s this roar. He swivels his head. The truck, truly gigantic, what is it? three stories? each tire as tall as a mansion door, has pulled up to the place in the road he and the dog just abandoned. It’s snorting, the orange flames painted on its

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-Eight

that’s our ride?” The dog’s tail is almost still and the growl is joined by pricked up hackles. “You’re the boss.” He reaches into the inner pocket of his coat and pulls out a wallet. He takes out a pink business card and uses the card to shoo the scorpion onto the loafer’s upturned sole. He blows on it, keeping it corraled, while he shuffles over to a thorny shrub, right for a scorpion?, and drops it off. The dog is already bouncing away through the bushes, curl of yellow tail beckoning, so Bernie puts on the shoe (it slips

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-Seven

the barb. “My name is Bernie,” says the man to the scorpion. “I don’t know how you survived my big squishing foot, dear fellow, but it’s over now. No hitchhiking to hell in this leather boat.” Says the dog again, “Urf!” this time following with a growl. And Bernice recognizes another growl in the distance. A truck. The road shoots down a long slope, hunches over two hills without turning, then lunges off left. The truck is cresting the further of the two hills, and it is huge. The dog turns his head to look at Bernie. “I don’t suppose

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-Six

into the shadowy interior, but can’t see anything. Nothing. Just a blank of darkness. Wait. A movement? He puts the shoe to his ear and shakes it again. It’s a loafer. He wore it to the office. Imagine going to hell in a loafer. And chinos. Although, he thought, I guess you go to hell in whatever you happen to be wearing. What’s making that whispery sound? No laces to lash. He upends the shoe and whacks the heel. A little red scorpion hits the road on its back, flips over and waves its pinchers, arches its tail and points

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-Five

right from the tour office he would have gone there prepared. But no, he thought he was just going to pick up a brochure, flip through glossy photos of the sights on the road to hell, the flames and tortures of hell itself maybe, looking as attractive and enticing as only the monuments and unique cultural costumes of hell can look. Slutty bitches? Rapacious philanderers? Moping suicides. Liars, hypocrites. Use your imagination. The shoe doesn’t want to go on his foot. Then when it does there’s a pebble in it. A tiny sharp pebble that won’t shake loose. He peers

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-Four

tensely, his jaw ajar, ears perked up, head turned to look down the road. The man groans again, rubs his arm which is scraped up. Fortunately his sport coat took the brunt of the gravel. He looks himself over, now that his eyes have adjusted to the glare. A couple small rips in his pants, skin scrapes on his hands and forearms, and his face, he’s sure, though it’s harder to assess that damage without a mirror. Well. Hell. What got into his head? He crawls out in the road to retrieve a shoe. If he’d known he was leaving

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-Three

fingers smell of blood. Blood! Great. As he investigates again, his fingers trembling, he doesn’t find much. Must not be a big gash, he thinks. A scalp wound bleeds a lot, even if it’s just a scratch. Urf, says a dog softly but with a sense of urgency. Dog? The yellow dog. The yellow dog he’d last seen sitting on a black woman’s carpet slippers. Before the weather invaded. “I signed a contract with you?” the man says. The dog stands in front of him, straddling the white line at the edge of the lane, curly tail raised and wagging

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-Two

contract.” Contract? The man’s cheek pains him. He touches it gently, rubbing at it to brush away whatever is bringing this hurt. Ooh, he groans. His whole head throbs. It seems to swell, then drain, collapsing in on itself. He pries his eyes open, flinches at a desert brightness. He lifts his cheek off the gravel by the side of the road, which he seems to have been sleeping on. Unconscious on. When he feels dampness on his forehead he squints at the fingers that found it, sees nothing, nothing but a sore blur. But when he sniffs them his

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty-One

each distant place, wishing you were here, having a great time, looking forward to seeing you in all the old familiar places. Like on the way to hell. “Dear Bernie,” said one card, “You should open your eyes now and look around. Please do it quickly.” Curious. How can you read with your eyes closed? “We are on the road, Bernie,” the card continued. “You signed the contract for a round trip, which I will do my best to provide, although there’s no guarantee for that sort of thing, you know. No guarantees. You acknowledged that when you signed the

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Eighty

in a swirl of colored balls! Here is the card that shows how, in cartoon diagram, chocolate bunnies have their organs inserted. Here is the card with the facades of three museums, the Museum of Old Useless Crap, the Museum of Unbelievable Messes, and the Museum of Matilda Wilcox and Her Kin. That name sounded familiar. Where had he heard it before? Perhaps it was his fifth grade teacher. He turned the stack of cards over so he could reread the messages. That dog was so considerate, sending capsule versions of all the exciting thing he’d been up to in

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-Nine

shoe which had been built on a golden wave under a sun pasted together from older suns that had begun to sputter in their particular skies so had been cut into strips, into corners and squares, which pieces were sorted into lighter and darker, warmer and chiller, then matched to make more suns, each for a realm specially designed by a dull clockmaker who was good at chance operations and indifferent diamond rooms. The man flipped through the cards that had come so far. What a fine beach covered with bones and thistles! What magestic ferns arching over plangent hotels

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-Eight

a traveling trunk. A gust rushed the room, the walls rippling with its force, a painting of horses seemed to paw and neigh, the window curtains flexed like biceps, and the front door ground against its latch. Yet on the man’s head only his beard moved, growing rapidly, itching. Arrows impaled an Old Joker magazine on the coffee table and on the cover a naked youth bled from the mouth. Storm clouds crept into the man’s teeth and lightning jolted his fillings. He smiled and the sea rushed in. A dog was sending him postcards from a house in a

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-Seven

curdles, it is difficult to clean the deep ill stink away. The man on the couch felt groggy, dizzy. He pressed the cool glass against his cheek. There was a roar in his head. The yellow dog had come back in and was sitting on the other side of the coffee table staring at him. The man nodded, put the glass down on a cardboard coaster advertising Gelato Beer (“Colder than a Witch’s Tit!”), and stood. His head thrust through the ceiling. He closed then opened his eyes and each eyelid rose with the windy gasp of the lid of

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-Six

into the ice, which was a series of short fat tubes through which messages passed, sweet, cold, yellow. He smiled weakly. When he looked up he was alone in the room but for the pinscher. He touched the dog’s head. It didn’t tense up so he let his fingers wander back and forth across the pelt. He sipped his lemonade, dissolving the crystals on his tongue. A comet of the Oort cloud is turning back toward the sun. Sitting on the side of the bathtub she’d just cleaned, a girl runs a blade lightly over her wrist. Once a dream

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-Five

long, evaluating look and a lemonade, which he drank sitting on her lumpy couch. Three dogs came into the room. One, a miniature pinscher, jumped onto a couch cushion and curled up beside the man, but otherwise seemed not to notice him. A German Shepherd and a large nondescript yellow dog stuffed their noses in his crotch. The shepherd also sniffed his lips. The yellow dog went back over to the woman and sat on her feet. She was standing, sipping her own lemonade. It was from a mix, the man noted, very sweet, and still gritty. He looked down

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-Four

one hand on her hip, an eyebrow arched, stood aside to let him in. Tied over her tight black hair, the woman wore a red and white spangled bandana. “Pardon me, ma’am,” said the man in a voice dripping with sarcasm or servility. “The sign said there’s a dog here who. Who will take you to hell.” With a soft white cloth the woman patted the shine of perspiration from her skin, which made her seem either darker or lighter depending. Depending on the way the sunlight touched her. Depending on your attitude. The woman treated her visitor to a

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-Three

into thinking you are having a good time when really it’s to hell you are driving yourself. Under the sign for Guide Dog to Hell there was a little red door with one of those old fashioned peepholes attached to a knocker. The man who raised the brass knocker and tapped away with it had been young once and handsome, but was sagging now, like an old porch, and he sighed frequently, like a sofa cushion. The woman who peeped at him through the hole in the door didn’t like the look of him, so she opened the door and,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-Two

as well, so you don’t have to rough it, necessarily. And there are motels in various states. There are spas, too, and resorts (every one claiming to be the last). You can buy a bus ticket. You can fly first class or be borne on a wicker chair towed through fogs by a swarm of bats, or you can book a cruise, or you can step through a transdimensional gateway. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages. Some cost an arm and a leg, some your soul, some hours of aggravation and privation, some will just mislead you

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy-One

traveled in the dark as in the heat of the day. The sun can get blinding midday anyway. The hours near dawn are probably best. Coolest then, plus you get some light to stumble by. You’re going to hell and you want to sleep in? Wake up slobber is available from your guide. You may have to camp but along the route there are often abandoned tents, sometimes in surprisingly habitable condition, occasionally with accompanying campfire still burning. What happened to the campers? They were too eager to get to hell to get their beauty rest? But there are hotels,

Monday, May 09, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Seventy

to hell. He didn’t charge much. A full belly, a pat on the head. The closer you get to hell the less likely you are to pay. The dog knew this on some level, but he would forget in the excitement of getting a customer and a bowl of ground chuck. It’s true he ate as much as his tummy could take, then lay down in the sun for a snooze, which tended to make his customers antsy. But the road to hell was long, usually, and if you knew the smells of the way it was just as well

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixty-Nine

“Excuse me, Mr Christ?” “Actually, ‘Christ’ is a title. ‘Jesus’ is the name.” “Oh. OK.” “What is it you wanted?” “Well, we’re having a barbecue and we’d like to know if you want cole slaw.” Once upon a time there was a dog. This dog had been to heaven on a dare and come back to bark and wag his tail about it. This dog had also been to hell. The trip to hell had been repeated several times. The trip had been repeated so many times that the dog hung out a shingle offering guided tours of the road

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixty-Eight

to run! I’ve yet to be cremated, too. Not to say I haven’t been badly burned, and died once because of it, but. But nothing. God’s plan has not been written out even for me, so I haven’t read ahead. If, perchance, a plan has been written and it was I who wrote it, I took care to write in a good stretch of forgetting all about it. Glory to God. Few places I can announce myself so grandly as I did today and not make a big mess of it. The people have heard of me here? I apologize.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixty-Seven

whom God disdained. As often happens, some few believed the opposite, that my deviation from the norm made me lucky. Bad luck is better than no luck at all? How many Jesuses could there be? I did wonder about the hand. If it were God’s hand, would it fester and rot away like any other flesh? Perhaps it grew a replacement man, as I grew a replacement hand. I haven’t run into this twin in the centuries since. What would he know of himself? Not much, I suppose. I’ve never lost my head in all these years. That’s an experiment

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixty-Six

new flesh burgeoned on the bones of the old, how tender was the new. When bumped I yelped! The buds of fingers began to form and stretch out. At first they would twitch or jerk by themselves, but gradually they began to obey my commands. I did not keep the hand hidden until it was the perfect match for the other. Who knew if that would happen? I did not mind the eyes that touched my seeming deformity. I was no longer seen as one who had been judged by man and punished, yet I was seen easily as one

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixty-Five

don’t think I was left to slump into unconsciousness there in the street, blood pooling around my suddenly open wrist. But there are things I do not remember. Perhaps I died. I do know that when I could, I left that place behind. I should have stayed and showed them a miracle? I hid my miracle in a bag, like some Indian renunciates. You’ve seen them, haven’t you? They walk about with a lightweight cloth bag cinched constantly over one hand and make do in life as though they had one hand only. I do remember the pain as the

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixty-Four

I pointed at with a sneer? No, they were laughing at something else. Having the power of fate at their disposal, perhaps. One made a joke about about the other’s nose? I don’t remember. The woman looked at me but her eyes were dull. They might as well have been painted on stone. I did not recant. And lost my hand to the transaction. I wonder if they allowed the beggar woman her bag of dried apples and dates? I believe someone helped stanch the blood. I believe I was not thrust out the city gates with a curse. I

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixty-Three

one patting her on the head, a smile cold his face. “I suppose if I were to call on God to save us both, to send a lightning bolt from the clear sky and strike down only the unjust, or only you, the man who dares threaten me with steel, you would laugh, sure God and I had no arrangement.” They laughed. Indeed, they laughed. But it wasn’t at anything I said. I didn’t say anything. Wouldn’t it have been fun if I had, and that a jagged stripe of light would spear down from Heaven and turn crispy whomever

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Thousand: Three Hundred Sixty-Two

but perhaps he was telling truth. Liars can tell the truth. So, as I say, I protested that this poor woman was not the thief, it was I. I had seen her bony hand outstretched at the entrance to the bazaar, and, having nothing of my own to give, had taken from one who seemed to have plenty. Who am I to accuse another of lying? I was seized and a stout cord cinched over my hand, squeezing the bones together. I gasped. The swordsman unsheathed his blade and laid it naked upon my skin. They held the woman, too,