Benjamin Bullard IV (still known as Benji to his family and friends) has boiled his life down to a series of lists. They were his last girlfriend’s idea.
“Focus. Focus. Focus.” Karleen said. “Lists saved my life.”
All of her suggestions about how he should live are attached to strategies she instituted to live hers, road tested for higher performance. She studied acting so her dramatic delivery was to be expected, triptyching her words.
“Eat. Eat. Eat. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.”
After awhile he found himself thinking in triple time.
“Fuck. Fuck Fuck.”
The transcendental meditation, EST sessions and their relationship didn’t stick, but the list making did.
“Leave it to you to overdo, overdo, overdo,” Karleen said scanning the Post It note covered door of the fridge as she packed the few pots, pans and utensils she’d brought with her into a canvas bag embroidered with the motto, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, right before she dragged her roll-aboard out the door. The dog, a teacup Yorkie named Diesel, went with her.
Continue Reading . . .
When she finally calls I have just had a new dishwasher installed, just shaken the Sears man’s thickened hand and shown him out the door. I am still watching him through the blinds as he gets inside his painted van when the phone rings and it’s her.
“Where have you been?” I say.
“Pacific Grove,” she says. “The Bide-A-Wee.”
“Pacific Grove,” I say. “Pacific Grove.”
“I’m still here,” she says. “Come meet me.”
“Come meet you,” I say. She stays silent on the line. “Don’t move.”
“Okay,” she says. “But hurry.”
The Bide-A-Wee, Pacific Grove: we stayed there once a few months after Jayce was born, a Christmas treat from Tracy’s sister, the hotel and the babysitting. I leave the boys with Tracy’s parents and have to fake excuses. I say it’s poker night with Rob and Chris, my friends, instead. Everyone’s too young or old to notice or to know that poker’s something I don’t ever do, and she’s not there this time to catch my lie. What’s wrong with me, this time, that I have to go hunt down my wife?
Pacific Grove is “Butterfly Town, U.S.A.,” a little place. You walk through a park the city calls its “butterfly sanctuary,” where the monarchs migrate for the winter months and where you’ll get fined a thousand bucks for bothering a bug. You have to be real quiet and look real close to see anything at all, but then they’re there, these big clusters of hibernating butterflies hanging in the branches, safe and still and all together now. I’ve been tracking Tracy’s every move on the Visa bill and wondering why there, but when I hear her say it it makes every idiot sense.
Continue Reading . . .
Margaret, with the longest blonde
hair in Wyoming county, took
over 30 stabs with a buck knife—
her body swallowing the blade
again and again. Her jealous man
wrapped her in a burlap sack, stuffed
her under the little bridge where I sip
my first beer and swing my feet.
The boy who tells the story and cracked
my beer wants my fear to curl me
into his shoulder—his skinny arm
to protect me from her cold
ectoplasm. I don’t believe this story—
that she will appear next to me, shaking
her head before throwing it in her hands.
The only high school class that finds
funding to amusement parks is physics—
centripetal or centrifugal, I’ll never
remember. But I’ll remember standing
in line for the biggest coaster, I’ll remember
my only conversation with Jeffery Wilbur,
the one where he told me his great
uncle pulled Margaret’s moldered body
from under that bridge, how her once
young hair had grayed in darkness.
I am ten when my mother stops
the car on the bridge, rolls down
the window and asks what the fuck
is going on here? The boy looks
17 or 18, and the girl cowering
at his feet looks even younger because
she’s on the ground—her head
in her hands, her hands on her knees.
Now, when I think of this moment,
she looks as if in prayer to Mecca—
blonde hair run ragged down her back.
The boy says nothing, nothing
going on here. She looks to the car’s
back seat, where, despite tinted
windows, she finds my eyes—
hers, just deep black hollows.
I don’t believe in ghosts
that trail their spirits in wisps
of white light, I say. I drink my beer
and shake off the boy’s arm.
I fear knives the way some people
fear ghosts. And I’ve seen a ghost
on this bridge, I say, but she
was solid like you and me.