mermaids_cover

“The Dead Dream of Being Undead”

Part I

 

Once, there were two brothers born nine months apart in the same room of the same hospital in the same manner—the protracted period of ill-timed contractions, the doctor in blue scrubs and white mask, the late-night crowning, the father’s kiss, the death of the mother. And with each child’s arrival and each mother’s passing, the father celebrated and mourned in the only way he’d ever learned to do either: asleep in the arms of a new woman. Christenings were funerals. Cradles were made altars.

Not until their tenth year on a day four and one-half months after the oldest’s birthday and four and one-half months before the youngest’s birthday did the father reveal to the boys they weren’t borne of the same woman and that the woman they’d known as their mother was in fact mother to neither. And it wasn’t until this day in their tenth year that either brother had considered the differences between them, had even recognized there were differences between them other than their nine months’ difference in age.

Deaver Book Cover_photo credit Ashley Inguanta“Vasco and the Virgin”

Vasco Whirly had been an English professor out at the college, but he didn’t get tenure. So he got on the safety crew out at the Murdock Mine, and it wasn’t so bad—his self-esteem was shot, and he didn’t fit in, but he did make a lot of new friends. Actually he didn’t. But he kept a lot of the old friends, Lowell Wagner in Psychology, Ann Rook in English, Gloria Steinem the local librarian, some others. All this took place in the dying prairie college town of Tuscola. This is more than you wanted to know.

Vasco never saw his friends much, and they never saw him, so it was hard to figure how they were friends. And his daughters, Michelle and Melanie Junior, were always off somewhere, and this left Vasco hanging around his old homestead doing things like staring down in the cistern or climbing around in the rafters of the garage. Sometimes he’d go all around the house opening drawers, and sometimes he’d take a shovel and dig in the narrow passage between his garage and the Rittenauers’ garage next door. The house was old, built in 1882— he’d poked around for hours in the dim of the musty basement, finally even using a metal detector he’d rented. In fact, he did the whole yard with the metal detector, working day after day, half the community driving by on Niles Avenue and seeing him do it. He metal-detected Melanie Senior’s tulip bed out by the garage, under the grape arbor, along both edges of the drive, in the parkway, under the bushes that surrounded the front porch. He came to the conclusion he was looking for something, the way he was always rummaging around.

11873373_879110155493027_2034678384430381309_nBlack Mamba

Blinky ran the pet shop out on Route 64. There was nothing wrong with his eyes—20/20, he said—but he only had one and a half legs and he said he believed the nickname stopped people from staring at his stump. A die-version, he said. I didn’t stare at his stump mostly because I’d know Blinky since I was a kid and had gotten used to the fact that he refused a prosthetic. Said it wasn’t American. He’d lost the leg in the war, and he wanted everyone to know even though he didn’t want people to stare. He was weird like that.

You went to Blinky’s pet shop—named Randy’s House of Reptiles, for no reason whatsoever, Blinky’d always run the place—to buy shine. There was the bar in town, but they stopped selling at a certain time and they didn’t sell the good stuff. Blinky would never really say where he got his supply from, but damn it was good. Real good. You had to buy something pet-related when you went—I usually bought a cat toy, or dog bones for the mutt that hung around the back of my property—but if you did, Blinky took care of you. He was good like that.

bigvenerablecoverfinalThe Bureau of Everything Fitting Into Its Rightful Place

My friend Penny phoned and asked whether we’d go to the rally, my family and me. I told her I wasn’t sure. And in fact, I wasn’t. I knew that Burton wanted to cook again, meaty foods like steak or ribs. “Fire up the grill,” he said about what he was going to do. He encouraged me to go get the cauliflower and so I did. I went to the grocer and I picked some up, along with a few other items. The cashier had been friendly, didn’t even ask about my purchases. I liked to be left alone and not subject to inquiry when it wasn’t necessary. Among a few other unnoteworthy items, I was buying cauliflower as a delicious side for the meal we’d be eating that evening. Nothing more needed to be discussed. She probed instead about my day, about the rally, whether I was going. I said we might, my husband and kids and I. I wasn’t sure –much like I’d earlier told Penny. She said she was going and implied it would be good if I went too, with the family. She didn’t say it like she was trying to scare me. Still, I had to be getting home.

After Abel Cvrs Final“I have a special job for you today, Miriam,” Amma says. She woke me even earlier than usual today. Everything is black, the walls of our hut, the ceiling, and the sky outside that I can see through the doorway.

It’s hard to get out of bed so early. Usually, Baba is gone by the time Amma rubs my back until I open my eyes. Not today. Baba is standing right behind Amma when she wakes me, which is how I know this is important.

Baba holds up the basket that Amma has been working on for weeks. First, she sent me to the river to gather long reeds for her. She cut those up and wove them together so that I couldn’t see through them at all when I held the basket up to the light. After that, she carried it down to the river to line it with thick mud. That sat in our hut drying for days, but it didn’t bother me.

Helen86_Final Cover.inddLife Above Sea Level

patchogue 1968

“Sink or swim,” my mother’s brother says as he drops me from the side of a boat in the Great South Bay. Bobbing up, head above water, I can see the shore, see where my father sits in a folding chair, Times spread across his lap, head tipped back, eyes closed. Water fills my nose and lungs, and I am scooped out by a strong-armed uncle. Funny, they said, it worked so well with all the other kids.

Every summer my mother’s family piles into this house bought by a grandfather, great uncles, and an aunt. My mother’s family: police detectives, payroll clerks, and Brooklyn Navy Yard workers. Irish. This is a place where men come to catch blues, weekend fishermen after a perfect run. Where women wash clothes in ice-cold water, then hang them on long lines cast toward the Bay. Line-dried clothes, stiff and hard, that stink of bay water and don’t bend easily against skin.

DifferentBedEverytime(new)(large)The Wrong Sister

Okay. Say the reason you’re stuck here in limbo is totally unclear to you. Say you were a woman who cared about little but treated others basically well. Say you had a twin who was married to a doctor, but because you were so ambivalent, you never agreed to partner up, never liked anyone enough to commit or even give someone a real chance, to ever approach the situation where you might have to explain these feelings to another human being because you’ve joined to have and to hold, in sickness and in blah blah blah…

The funny thing about Kelly’s body was the way it appeared to weirdly bulge above the puss area whenever she wore clothes, but then was fine (flat, smooth) once she got naked. (This might more accurately be described as the funny thing about Kelly’s pants, seeing as it had to be the pants that caused the bulge. And yet the pants were normal, Levi’s five-oh-whatevers, so it wouldn’t be the way the pants were made that was funny, but the way the pants fit her body. Unless it was a funny way she wore the pants, i.e., maybe they would have fit just fine if she didn’t pull the waist so high or low, or—it didn’t matter. What mattered was that the way her overpuss area bulged or seemed to bulge when she was clothed, but then didn’t bulge or seem to when she was naked, was… funny.)

They were lined up outside the door to the Actor’s Union, seated in chairs on either side of the hall. There was Dima and Tolya, Ilya and Luka, and that bore Vladimir Antonovich Pugachov, who would never cease to remind you that he had studied at the feet of Stanislavski himself. Boris Nikolayevich lifted his hat to say hello, but he received only a few nods of recognition in return. Everyone was going over their lines. The hallway buzzed with that earnest mumbling peculiar to Jews in prayer and actors before an audition.