Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fifty-Six

sticks with you, maybe like a sharp stick. It can be painful, a memory like that. Some people think a super memory would be the best, remembering every name, hanging onto every address you threw a paper at as you whizzed by on your bike, recalling the dimple of every girl you poked in the ribs playing tag in third grade, unable to let go the moment of terror you felt when an ill-propped broom fell to the floor in the middle of the night. Every tear you ever shed. Every smile that lit your face. When Bernie woke one

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fifty-Five

have been known to come and go.” There is more to the conversation. Later Bernie will try to remember what he decides right then he will do his best to forget. He doesn’t try to remember in order to get back to the leprechaun’s words but to see how good his powers of amnesia are. Super. It just goes to show, you can get away with all sorts of things with your mind if you ask it not to be there. You kinda have to be prepared, though. All of a sudden something happens and you’re paying attention, why, it

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fifty-Four

the wiggle of dog tail off over there by the trees. But, now that he’s looking, Bernie thinks he sees a movement in the grass near the house and a movement to the left and a. If he’s not careful, Bernie realizes, he’s going to imagine up all sorts of monsters. He closes his eyes, then opens them, because all sorts of monsters can creep up on you when your eyes are closed. Indeed. Standing on his plate is a creature part feral cat, part strangled raven, and all fungus. Which does not keep it from speaking. “You Went?" "I

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fifty-Three

never quite got there. What was it? I think they have a snack bar. Does hell have a snack bar?” Sir gets up, scratches his chin with a back foot, shakes his head, and pops down the steps of the gazebo. The cowboy and the innkeeper went into the house while Bernie was talking to the dog, or to himself, more likely. There being no food left to pick at, other than salt cellar and pepper grinder, Bernie drives a spoon in circles around his empty plate. The dog has disappeared into the high grass, though Bernie thinks he sees

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fifty-Two

asks. He doesn’t really expect to get an answer. “I didn’t know I was going to be buying a trip to hell when I visited that lady. I mean, it’s not like I read an account written by a travel writer in one of those glossy magazines in the dentist’s office and said to myself, ‘Bernie old man, that’s the ticket. You want to buy a round tripper to HELL!’ I mean, I heard you can get to the End of the World. I read about somebody doing that. It didn’t exactly sound fun. Far as I could tell, you

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fifty-One

that. He closes his eyes. Damn good hash browns. Crispy, melts in the mouth, is that garlic? The innkeeper bustles out of the house and grasps the cowboy’s hand, giving it a brief pump, then holding onto it while he talks, laughing, nodding. Bernie squints. The cowboy is smiling, isn’t he? Perhaps they know each other. He hears a thump thump on the boards and sees Sir’s tail lightly swinging, though the dog hasn’t gotten up. Sir glances up at him, but when Bernie raises an eyebrow the dog turns away and yawns. “Do we get to hell today?” Bernie

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Fifty

cowboy. He closes his eyes. When he opens his eyes he sees a cowboy. Over the cowboy’s shoulder bulky saddle bags sway. The bags and the cream-colored hat with the sweat-darkened band around the forehead make him look slender as a fence post. Bernie looks down at this plate. Shoveling up the last of the hash browns, Bernie feels absurdly self-conscious, as though the cowboy, at the end of the field, could tell that man in the gazebo was gobbling something that could be offered graciously to a hungry stranger. Nobody would want my leftovers, Bernie thinks, blushing, uncertain about

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Forty-NIne

said and pulled up his pants. He hasn’t told the innkeeper (“Call me Ishmael!”) about the spider. He is just hoping what he is eating is what it looks like. That the omelette is made of eggs. That the ham is ham and not, oh, human, say. The wheat toast provides yeoman support for the homemade jam. Everything, he can’t but admit, is heavenly. Sweeter, richer, more complex, more interesting to nose and palate than anything they’ve come to before. He closes his eyes and lives a few lives in a mouthful. When he opens his eyes he sees a

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Forty-Eight

him glance upward. Filling a corner at the ceiling was a tarantula the size of a dinner plate. Bernie froze, the shirt a rumpled wad against his belly. He stared at the hairy creature and, if it was staring back, Bernie couldn’t really tell. There was a scratching at the bathroom door and a doggy whine. Keeping his eye on the spider Bernie shuffled backward and pulled the door open. The dog walked in, strode right to the corner below the spider and sat down, looking up at Bernie expectantly. Bernie looked from dog to spider and back. “OK,” he

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Forty-Seven

tshirt, a baseball cap, lightweight athletic shoes and white tube socks, a cotton flannel overshirt. He felt self-conscious dressing in front of the dog, so he took the clothes to the bathroom with him. The chamber pot was clean, the tub (he felt its walls) was dry. There were fresh unlit candles, a grass basket filled with a spicy potpourri. A dome of glass in the ceiling lit the room with a pearly glow. Bernie couldn’t see a filament, but it was too bright to look at closely. When he pulled the tshirt over his head a shadowy movement made

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Forty-Six

the coffee?” Bernie says. The man frowns. “Sugar! No! No sugar.” “Oh,” says Bernie, wanting to ask why then the coffee tastes so sweet. It is coffee, isn’t it? He looks into his cup. Whatever is in it looks like coffee. He lifts it to his nose. Smells like coffee. He takes another sip, a tiny, tiny sip. Rolls that around on his tongue. Sir has finished his serving of egg already and is slopping at the bowl of water. When he got out of bed, Bernie put on clothes that had been laid out for him. Jeans, a soft

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Forty-Five

In a rickety gazebo (“It’s a collectible!”) in a field back of the main house (“Cut down the weeds and we have hoedowns.”) the innkeeper (“’Inn The Way,’ haha. Funny, no? Inn the way to hell! Hell! You crazy kids. Why the hell you want go there?”) brings Bernie and Sir (“What you need, my dear Sir, is a good brushing.”) ham and cheese omelettes (“Hard to slice pig thin when he struggle, but I do it because ham best fresh.”) with Sir served on the floor and Bernie served on a rusting metal table. “You already put sugar in

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Forty-One

of the ranting face. “Nothing will satisfy her but a big fat apology from the deeeeeevvvi—“ at which point the leg whisks the head back to its duties as a foot. There was also a long and heavy rain. This came later. Or thousands of years before. It was difficult to date by the animals, clearly of a variety of species and, perhaps, epochs. Waves crash on a beach, washing over sexy people writing fully clothed in a libidinous passion. Near each other. A dog was sitting on a fur rug, watching him. Bernie blinks. Is that happening now?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Forty

thinks she doesn’t deserve this! She thinks she should have gone to heaven, eh? Gone to heaven! Well, she was judged, her sins weighed, her past reviewed, her thoughts combed through, held up to the light, and, what do you think, flaws! Riddled with flaws and holes and evil! Evil!” Bernie blinks. “Where are we going?” he asks. “She thinks her shit don’t stink! She thinks she oughta be pampered and fawned over in death like she was in life. The little people she stepped on? She thinks they should be her cobblestones still!” Bernie waves his hand in front

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-Nine

as the leg as the leg!” The head’s last words are torn into a shriek as the leg provides a demonstration. Down the head goes. When it strikes a stone, Bernie flinches, and the shriek abruptly ceases. Bernie leans to the side, his seat belt cutting into his belly as he tries to catch a glimpse of the tortured face rising for another step. “Ha!” Bernie jerks around and finds himself facing another head at the end of another leg. This one’s twitching smile, surrounded by a dusty patch of beard, spits out, “Don’t believe that bitch! Damned soul! She

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-Eight

and shining and beautiful, how I brushed it, tending to its climates, how proud of it I was, and now, NOW!, it is bound atop by head, tightly bound with straps, yet it can so little protect my fragile scalp from the roughness of the earth. With every step the worm drops me to the ground and presses its weight upon me. It lifts me and, what can I do, I hope, I hope it is for the last time, this relentless march will cease and my wounds heal, but every time my hopes are crushed, crushed!, as the leg

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-Seven

Bernie finds himself facing, not the pad of a caterpillar foot or the claw of centipede, he finds himself face to face with a grimacing woman. Tears stream from her eyes and make tracks in the dust on her forehead. Her chin trembles and he sees where spittle also has traced trails from the corners of her lips up her cheeks. He makes to lean over again, but a bark from the woman arrests him. “Don’t! Don’t look! Don’t look at them! Yes! Yes! The foot at the end of every leg is a skull. Like me. My hair long

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-Six

toward a hill upon which three dripping crosses stand illumined by colored spotlights while he shouts, “This way, folks! We’re going to have to run across the park to get there before the switch up of the centurians!” Two sparrows battling over a grain of rice. Being borne across the desert on a throne strapped to the back of a gigantic worm, the thumping of its round-bottomed feet accompanied by grunts and gasps. As he leans over to see what is making those pained sounds one leg jerks up, one leg fewer seems not to impede the worm’s progress, and

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-Five

a padded rope around his chest. Pleasantly dazed, Bernie wonders if he’s now being tied up. But the water is calling to him, all cozy and comforting, so he goes down into it with a contented little hum. Not until his chin touches the water and his head falls back against a waterproof pillow, the padded rope holding onto him, does Bernie realize that he could go to sleep right here, in the bath. And it would be very nice indeed. A few things that might be dreams: a yellow dog wearing a red vest and waving a furled umbrella

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-Four

one sustained gulp gets it down. Then he pushes it back and says, “Water now, please.” The man chuckles, which sounds to Bernie rather the thumping of apples in a barrel. An apple. One could eat an apple. The man is drawing Bernie from the seat, rubbing his buttocks with a soft cloth. He takes Bernie to the tub and eases him in. “Didn’t I just drink more of that laxative?” Bernie says. The man is shaking his head. And as the water closes around Bernie’s body, he loses interest in speaking. The man gently lifts Bernie’s arms and slips

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-Three

easy, dumping all that baggage. It’s not all easy flow. Bernie grimaces, sucks a breath, bears down, gasps, clenches his fists as a trapped bubble fights through a kink in his colon, slumps, as one more release seems to finish it off, he’s done, he feels wrung, what an experience, it’s psychedelic, his head throbs and blue and red paisleys dart like minnows around lotus leaf shadows. He’s thirsty. And the mug with that cloying, bitter, wondrous liquid in it refuses to return to the floor. He yanks it from the square hairy hand in which it hovers and in

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-Two

that foreign air, turns in its deepening gyre toward the base of his spine, sweeping cleanly through the coils of his tract, the small, then the large of it. A divine hand has been dipped into him, as into a bath, and there it makes wide slow circles, gentle, implacable circles. It is the most pleasant, relaxing, most complete and freeing shit. It feels so nice Bernie is proud of it. How long does it take? How long does it take to wash out the last old hurt, the regret like a stain, the humiliations that knotted together? It’s not

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty-One

could explain that. Who could explain that? An angel standing on your tongue! What, in boots? Feeling the toes wiggle? No, no, Bernie’s thinking, no angel in high heels standing at attention. A weight, a vertical weight, holding me to the earth, my mouth the point most likely to submit to pressure. Otherwise, my body may lose its sense of gravity. Bernie closes his eyes. He breathes. A vortex gathers around his stomach. He feels it progress, engaging every organ, incorporating every particle as it travels. When his abdomen expands to receive a breath the swirling vortex moves farther from

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Thirty

It's all points and the distances between them. How large something is. Whether you get past a point or never get to it makes a difference in determining your experience of the size of the world those points describe. Bernie is looking at the mug, the mug which the man put in his hands, the mug which he held under his nose, etc. Each point the mug inhabited presented a meaning congruent with its moment. The atoms in that mug were relatively excited, Bernie wants to tell the man, but an angel is standing on his tongue. Not that Bernie

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-Nine

on the floor. His head is already larger than it was, the cathedral’s second storey, as it were. His feet would be a long way away if that didn’t include all of him. If your ears are a long way away, what does that mean for toenails? But that’s okay. An atom is almost empty, and it doesn’t think of itself as empty. An atom feels rather full, Bernie decided. Definitively. He came to this conclusion a long time past. A half a breath ago. I know the feeling, Bernie imagines saying to the atom, which has confided in him.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-Eight

into a cathedral, buttresses flying, nave oppressed with tunes. How can you not drink after that? The liquid is almost painfully sweet. After two swallows Bernie pauses and the bitter comes on. That makes him shake his head. He blinks, opens his mouth for another swallow, and the sweetness relieves the bitterness. Until the liquid has gone down. Then he shudders again. And holds the mug away from his mouth. “All of it,” the man says. Gazing at the mug Bernie remembers the last horribly sweet thing he swilled. Earlier that day? The lemonade from hell. He puts the mug

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-Seven

under it painted with violets. The innkeeper pulls Bernie to this, and he goes willingly enough, relieved to be offered something like it. The hands pressing him onto it are, perhaps, unnecessary. The mug pushed into his hands is, one might not unreasonably protest, a distraction rather than a help. But Bernie is so disarmed by the warmth that’s just wrapped him that obediently he puts the mug to his lips for a sip. The brew’s aroma swirls into his head and his body responds with an inhale so grateful and extended that the little chapel of his meat unfolds

Monday, July 04, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-Six

to his feet and strips off Bernie’s pants. He takes Bernie’s hand and leads him naked to the bathroom. In one corner, taking up most of the small space, is a round wooden tub set into the floor. Wisps of steam loll upon an unstill surface under the mild light of three candles. The man whirls out a dark towel and wraps it around Bernie’s chest. It is heavy, damp and so warm Bernie shudders, the last of the cold lifting off like moths. In another corner waits a low stool with a hole in the middle, a porcelain pot

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-Five

smells the warmth of the room. A wood stove’s shifting glow faces him as the man seats Bernie on the bed. Soon a kerosene lamp adds a brighter and friendly light to quilt-covered bed, a small dresser, wood floor with throw rugs. Dazed, Bernie listens to the soft splash of water in the next room. The man bustles back and slips Bernie’s shoes from his feet, his torn jacket from his back, and is busily unbuttoning his white shirt when Bernie says, “I. I think I can do that.” But the man brushes away Bernie’s hands. The man raises him

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-Four

on the word. There are other buildings, shacks, in the darkness. Bernie can’t make out how many. Two? Twelve? The man’s firm grip pulls Bernie completely out of the light and now only by keeping pace can he hope to avoid stumbling. The man is. Whistling? He’s whistling. Bernie imagines whistling along. He even puckers his lips. But he needs his breath for other things. The man pulls Bernie alongside and puts his arm again around Bernie’s shoulders. “Step,” he says, and Bernie lifts a foot. “Step step step.” Then the rattle of a key, a door sweeps back, Bernie

Friday, July 01, 2011

Thousand: Four Hundred Twenty-Three

cozier. Bernie lets his head fall on the man’s chest and gets a squeeze and tut-tut. “Come along, come along. We have a room for you. Sir has it all arranged. He will meet you in the morning.” “Sir?” “Sir. Yes. Your tour guide.” “The dog? That’s the dog’s name? Sir?” Bernie has let himself be led by the hand from the warm building back onto the porch. He watches the man’s carpet slippers kick through weeds and gravel as they leave the yellow light behind. “Why is the dog called ‘Sir’?” Bernie almost adds, “sir,” but closes his mouth