going to the beach on sunday
It was Sunday night when I gave up. I was sitting at my desk when I just decided that I had enough of the world. I flushed my cell phone down the toilet. I threw my computer in the trash. I left all my money in a big pile on my living room floor. I packed one bag with three clean pairs of underwear and one bar of soap and I walked to the ocean. I stood in front of it for a little, staring at the sun, and then I just jumped in and swam.
I swam deep, deep, underwater, until I got to the ocean floor. I built house out of coral down there, way past where the waves break and people swim. I had a backyard where I grew seaweed and played with my pet clownfish. His name was Lemonade. Besides Lemonade, I was alone for years.
One day, during a storm, a boat sank not far from my coral sea house. Four fishermen were drowning in the water above me. The Coast Guard came. Their rescue operation was big and loud and of course they found me, too. They carried me back to the surface, kicking and screaming. All my friends and family were standing on the beach in the storm, tears of joy on their faces mixing with the rain, crying George, where were you, we missed you so much, and I tried to explain about my house and my Lemonade but I had spent so much time underwater that I forgot how to breathe on land. All that came from my mouth were some raspy gasps. I passed out. They filled a garbage can with water and put me in there until they could figure out what to do. My friends had a fundraiser and collected a bunch of money and bought a big glass tank at the Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey, where I lived with a bunch of grumpy sea turtles and stingrays. Twice a day, a scuba diver fed us chopped up pieces of other fish. I kept hoping that I wasn’t eating my poor Lemonade. My friends and their families came to visit me every other weekend. They were happy I was back.
our grayscale in january
I am so sleepy, she said. We’d been wide awake all night. Our neighbors were screaming at each other and the sheetrock between our houses had been crumbling. We could hear them clear as day. I rolled over and fit an arm in the soft space between her rib cage and hipbones. She yawned and closed her eyes. She slept.
That morning I made strong coffee and sat at the counter. It was snowing a little bit. The elm tree in the yard was swaying in the wind. I heard the bedroom door open. She came downstairs.
Hey, she said.
Hey, I said.
Last night sucked, I said.
I’m so tired, she said.
She sat down.
I have coffee ready, I told her.
I know, she said.
Do you want some? I asked
Please, she said.
I poured the coffee into this old cup we stole from IHOP and set it in front of her. She was staring out the window.
It’s snowing, she said.
I know, I said
We layered heavy coats on top of our bedclothes and went outside.
The sky and the houses and my bare elm tree were grey. The snow was white and the asphalt was black. It smelled like the inside of a freezer and it was quiet, so quiet, the quiet it gets only when it’s really cold outside and it’s snowing. Her pink cheeks shone against the January cold. We sat on the curb passing one cigarette back and forth. The smoke and our breath looked exactly the same. I couldn’t tell which one of us was smoking and which one was breathing. She flicked the cigarette into the road and the cherry split off into a hundred little glowing pieces that the wind picked up and scattered throughout the neighborhood and burned color into the wind and the street and the sky.
porch life 2012
I was drinking wine on my porch when this cat shot out from under my hedges, chasing a squirrel. It knocked over my bottle of wine. The bottle shattered and spilled down my steps. There was big chunks of glass everywhere and when I stood up to yell at the cat he had already caught the squirrel. It was thrashing in his mouth. In slow motion I watched him squeeze his jaw tight, and the squirrel kind of popped, and blood squirted out all over my steps, mixing with the wine, and I could hear screeching, agonized, raw and raspy like television static and the cat just posed there, a statue at the bottom of my steps, proud.
Get the fuck out of here! I screamed, Get out! He walked away calmly. It was no big deal.
I stood for a moment, in shock. My neighbor came out. I told her what happened with the cat and the squirrel. Oh, he does that, she said, laughing, and went back inside. I could hear her unmute the TV. She was watching Two And A Half Men. It was no big deal.
I got a big pot from my kitchen and I filled it with water from the spigot outside. I didn’t have a hose. I mixed some bleach in with the water and poured it on the steps like they do in train stations. The wine washed away easily but the blood took its time, snaking down my steps in deliberate bands, chunks of flesh and guts clinging fast to the concrete, tenacious. I tried my best to clean the porch and then I went to bed. It was hard to sleep because I kept hearing the noise that squirrel made when he died.
I woke up late the next day. The sun had already been baking squirrel guts to my porch steps. The smell of wine and bleach and blood was overwhelming. I saw the cat creeping around my hedges again. I sat down with another bottle of wine, uncorked it, and raised the bottle in a toast. Then I threw the whole thing and hit him right in the face. He yowled real loud and fell down and for the second time in twelve hours my porch was covered with wine and dead animals. My neighbor came out again and asked why her cat was laying in a puddle of wine. I said he drank too much. I said you should take better care of your cat.
this is a story about money
Maybe I’ll find money in here, she said. We were hanging out in the woods when we found a little tunnel in the side of a hill. I didn’t want to go in. She wanted to go in. She thought she’d find money in there. Who would hide money in a tunnel in the woods? Stupid, Stupid.
This tunnel was dark. It smelled like a sewer. Dirty water ran between our feet and we had to walk single-file with our legs spread far apart so our shoes wouldn’t get wet. I was nervous. After walking like this for ten minutes the tunnel dead-ended into a big room with sewers all up and down the walls, spewing their shit into a big pool in the center. There was a grate in the middle of the pool that all the sewage drained out of. I want to go in, she said, and before I could do anything she jumped.
It was the most beautiful swan dive I had ever seen. She, in her white shirt and her blue jean shorts, jumped up out of the tunnel and then flipped herself over in midair. Her body was so straight and perfect and she bulleted herself so cleanly into the center of the sewage drain and that was the last time I ever saw her, ever.
When I flush a toilet or unclog a sink I think she’ll climb up the drains, grab me by the belt and pull me down to look for money in the sewers with her forever. I’ll scream in protest but I’ll take one look at her, soaked and still perfect with her little white t-shirt clinging to her little pink breasts like plastic wrap and I’ll go.