Monday, May 28, 2007

The little ant-people

My bathroom wants only to
Kill me today
With the blue shower-curtain
Or the tap-water
Which slowly leaks from the tap
Crawls through my nostrils and crawls
Through my brain
Through my eyeballs into my lungs
Which are connected by rubber-tubes
And separated on the tile floor
My lungs in this corner
Eyeballs hanging from shower-head
Brain on the toilet-seat
And the little ant-people
Swarm and feed
Until feeding bores them

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Manatee-terrorist death-poem

available at 3am.

There are other manatee-terrorist death-poems.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Madison Glass

"Lick me," I say. "Lick me Madison."

I look around.

"That's hot," I say. "Lick me again."

We're sitting next to the beverage-refrigerator at Safeway. The next aisle over, an old man's panting. I can't see him but he's panting hoarsely and with phlegm in his throat which makes the sound hollow and watery.

"Oh, lick me," I say.

"Stop it," Madison says. "You'll never be forgiven and when the Rapture comes, Jesus'll tie you in a movie-theater, smack you for a while and leave."

"What movie?"

"Something about sinning and punishment, with thorny branches and a fuck-load of blood."

I try to imagine a fuck-load of blood.

"I'm bored," Madison says. "I'm really bored."

"Let's do something."



"Okay." Madison stands.

Outside, the parking-lot's empty and wide. The sky's dark and distant and muted by tall street-lights. There's a man. The man's very tall and very wide. The man's face is a thin contorted shadow but his hair's long and wavy and moves slightly in the wind.

"Hey," the man says.


"Got a cigarette?"

"Don't smoke," I say.

"Deadly habit," Madison says.

"You should probably stop," I say. "Before the Rapture."

"The Rapture?" The man removes a flask from his overcoat, drinks long, then offers it to us.

Madison snatches it. "What's this? Whisky?" Madison sips carefully.

The man studies Madison. "I'm Jesus," he says. "Some people say things like, 'I'm like Jesus' or whatever but I really am. I'm Jesus."

"Must be pretty difficult." I'm laughing.

"People don't understand the strain."

"Oh," Madison says.

"I've been Jesus for like three-thousand years, every day, without sleeping or anything, not even my state-mandated breaks and lunch-periods and no one to redress my grievances or whatever. Can't take the organization to court and sue for back-pay. I'm tired." The man sits on a small concrete island. "I'm really fucking tired. I have these waking dreams where I'm sleeping and then realize I'm not sleeping and there's this little penguin slapping my face, and the penguin says, 'coconut' or something."

"Penguin?" Madison says.

"I like penguins," I say. "Penguins are very gentle and intelligent."

"No," the man says. "Penguins are angry violent things with razor-fins and big evil teeth."

"Penguins don't have teeth." Madison's glaring.

"Oh," the man says.

"You're not Jesus," Madison says. "You're fucking liar like all the other fucking liars who fucking lie all the fucking time."

"We should stab you," I say.

"We should double stab you."

"Hey…" the man says. He holds his hands up.

This is when the penguins appear, with razor-fins and big evil teeth.

"Jesus," the penguins say in unison. "Jesus. Jesus. Jesus."

A penguin steps forward. The penguin's holding a knife. "Jesus," the penguin says. The penguin jumps and pirouettes while holding the knife perpendicular from it's body with it's razor fin.

Jesus' head flips backward and hangs from a thin string of flesh. I can see Jesus' spinal cord and esophagus and other things. Then the penguins are on him. Feeding.

"I'm bored," Madison says.

"Me too," I say. "Let's go somewhere else."

We go somewhere else.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


"I should feel sleepy," I say. I'm drinking coffee and the coffee's bitter and tepid. "I should be exhausted."

"Maybe," Merna says.

"Might be super-human with no-sleep power-mutations or something."

"Maybe." Merna yawns and leans in her chair until the chair creaks.

"In comic-books I'd wear a black and white crescent-moon uniform and I'd never sleep and my head would be very small and thin and maybe blank with a question-mark where my facial-features are." I imagine fleshy question-mark facial-features. "I could be called 'The Question' and I would interrogate super-villains non-stop, for days, without sleeping."

My step-mother's head's face-down on the kitchen-table and her fingers are interlaced over the head, softly holding the head against the kitchen-table.

"Ever think about Anastasia?" I ask my step-mother. "I've been dreaming about her lately. I wonder why I dream about things."

There's a silence.

"I'm pregnant" Merna says.

"What?" my step-mother says.

"You're almost a great-grandmother."

"Great-grand-step-mother-person," I say. I finish my coffee. "Anastasia," I say quietly and to no one in particular.

"Twins," Merna says. "Noah and I've been trying for almost a year but it happened finally and the ultrasound shows twins, probably a boy and a girl but we don't know what to name the twins and Noah says we shouldn't name them until they're born and completely and independently alive, which makes sense because people with names are different than people without names, maybe. I don't know. Names."
"Wonderful." My step-mother raises her head. She's crying.

"You should name them Anastasia. Anastasia's a good name."


My step-mother's my grandmother. "Anastasia-One and Anastasia-Two. That's what I'd name them, even if they're boys."

Merna smiles a wide flat smile and cradles her stomach with both hands and her stomach suddenly seems strange and round, both larger and smaller than before, but rounder, and I want to rub her stomach and caress her stomach and feel her stomach through her stomach or maybe feel baby-feet or baby-hands or baby-heads, but I don't know what I'd feel or what I'd do when I feel it, whatever it is.

"Why don't we wake grandpa? I'm sure he'd want to hear about twins and probably has a thousand twin-names he's been thinking about. We could sneak into the bedroom and hide under the bed and shake the bed randomly like an earthquake or a ghost or something and we could bring whistles maybe and shake the bed and make whistle-sounds and control his dreams and when he wakes and puts his little foot on the floor, we could reach from beneath the bed and hold his ankle and blow our whistles for a while." I imagine my hand wrapped around my grandfather's ankle which I think must be bony and cold with tight bulging veins and wispy curled hairs. I think the words, 'Vein-y ankle-bone muscle-trap,' which is hilarious somehow, but I lock my laughter carefully away. In middle-school I once laughed aloud while Mrs. Gardener was lecturing. After class, Mrs. Gardener told me wait by her desk her desk, which was red and covered with tall, leaning paper-stacks, and, when we were alone, said, "Is laughing appropriate when I'm lecturing?" "I wasn't laughing at you," I answered. My history-teacher frowned. "I personally don't think ethnic-cleansing is funny, do you? How about rape and genocide, murder and death, class-struggle, immigrant-exploitation?" "No," I said. "You could be working in a bra-factory, sewing your little fingers into mass-produced push-up bras." I didn't answer. "Don't ever laugh at history." "I won't," I said. 'Don't laugh at history,' I think. 'Mrs. Gardener was very serious and her hands were large and red and angry and her face was flat and smooth and concerned only with history.' I imagine my grandfather laughing at history, heartily, with both hands on his broad stomach. "We could prank grandpa," I say.

"Stop it," Merna says.

My step-mother slowly stands and with her head lowered, turns from me and carefully steps into the family-room. Her bathrobe's thick and long and white, folded and shadowy, and I want the white bathrobe to be my white bathrobe and for my step-mother to be me so I might walk slowly into the family-room and silently sit on the family-couch. Or to be my grandfather and shuffle carefully down the stairs and into the family-room and to sit next to my step-mother who's head's lowered and who sits sadly on the family-couch and to then say, "I had the Martian-moon-dream with you and Anastasia and everyone and we had a gigantic mini-van in Montana with food and fire and tents and we opened a pimento jarring-factory and became rich selling pimentos to Canadians." Or maybe, "Let's go to Lisbon for the summer. We'll read books and live on hotel-buffets and maybe high-jack snack-food freight-trucks at night or something."

"Listen," Merna says.

I'm standing and walking.

"Come walk with me, outside, in the snow or something."

"No thanks," I say.

Merna grabs my arm. "Seriously. We should go to the grocery-store for something, or a soda maybe. I'll buy you a soda."

I can see my step-grand-mother and my step-grand-mother's sitting quietly in the dark with her hands folded on her lap. "We should turn on a lamp," I say. I feel reckless. "We should break all the lamps and make a lamp-pile and light the lamp-pile on fire."

"Come on. Orange soda?"

"Lamp-fire's a dumb idea. You're right. That's a dumb idea."

"We could climb on the roof again."

"Let's sit in the family-room and watch television and find every lamp and turn on every lamp here and everywhere."

"Just leave grandma alone."

"Who wants to be alone?"

Merna's holding my arm and pulling my arm. "Come on."

"We could play Monopoly or something and I could be a real-estate power-broker. I could evict you. I could build Wal-Marts instead of hotels." My step-grand-mother stretches her body horizontally across the couch and closes here eyes. In the lamp-less family-room, she's very thin and dark and even sinister in a filmic way, like a sleepy assassin or a serial killer, and I think, 'She's very stern and quiet and still and maybe carefully deciding my human-fate or how to murder me and who to hire and what kind of death I should die or what kind of death every person should die when every person dies and then what to do with the dead bodies [burn them?] and how to dress the dead bodies before the burning, what kind of funerals to have and will there be eulogies and who will say the eulogies, then what to do after, when it's only her and bodies?'

"Who's saying the eulogy?" I asked.

"I am," my grandfather answered. "I wrote this thing about pimentos."

"What's a pimento?"

"I don't know."

We were sitting in my grandfather's Cadillac. There was sun. I was small and my toes were small and I watched my toes and wiggled my toes and felt the smallness of my toes which seemed like tiny independent ants or beetles, maybe, and I wondered, with the right pressure, if my toes would pop.

"Use your power-windows," my grandfather said. "Make the buzzing sound." He was laughing. "Buzz," he said.

I used the power-windows.

"Very good," he said.

"I'm a skilled employee."

"And I'm a skilled employer. We're a good team. I'll find the capital. You do the backbreaking labor."

"I'll steal a car or something and take the car to a chop-shop. We'll sell the car-pieces and open an illegal car-piece shop which will fund my gambling ring."

"Okay, very good."

My grandfather hunched over the steering-wheel and my grandfather's profile was very large and jagged against the bright sunlight. The Cadillac's interior was bright and filmy and everywhere the air was suffused with a bright sparkles or dust motes which slowly moved at angles and adjacent from everything. My grandfather's face was deep and wrinkled and his mouth was very serious and straight and even his teeth were serious and straight and calm and I knew suddenly that one day I too would have a serious calm mouth and one day a girl would look at my serious calm mouth and feel strange and knowledgeable and calm and would think to herself that one day she too would have this serious calm mouth.

"Listen," my grandfather said. "I have to be serious."

"Listen," I said.

"You'll stay with us. We've decided. I've made all necessary arrangements and we have plenty of room and there are good schools here. I want you and Merna here. We want you."

"I'll stay." I didn't know what to say, only that I was supposed to say something.

"You and Merna."


"We moved your stuff already and it'll be good and fun and we'll play monopoly forever, or chess, chutes and ladders, something. I know it's not, or can't be the same or similar anymore. You and your grandmother can decorate a little. We'll go to the zoo. You like the zoo? I like penguins. I like the giraffes because they're very tall. It can be similar or the same, maybe."


"It can't be the same, but it can be okay."

"Okay," I said.

My grandfather nodded once. "Chutes and ladders," he said.

"Chutes and ladders," I said.


It's morning. I'm on the front-porch, which is wide and white and cold. Merna stands next to me. Our breaths heat the air and steam the air and the steam's amorphous and fog-like until it disappears.

"Ladders," Merna says.

"Do you ever imagine the world or reality, like downtown or high school, or the hospital or whatever, based on a chutes and ladders system?"


"Like you're walking downtown and a ladder appears before you and you climb the ladder because when ladders appear you must climb them and you're walking again and there's a tall thin man in front of you and you're approaching the man and suddenly the man disappears. The man is there and not there. You approach. There's a chute. You stand in front of the chute and wonder if you should slide down the chute." I imagine the man standing on the front-porch with his head resting in a corner and his hands flat against the adjacent walls. The man is there.

"Listen, I have to tell you something."

"But it's a chute and the chute's very red and very deep and the red chute curves slightly and disappears but you've stopped in font of the chute so you must slide down the chute and there's nothing else to be done but close your eyes and slide." The man is not there.

"We used to play chutes and ladders."

"I usually cheated."

"It doesn't matter." Merna's watching my face.

"Cheating's the only way to win. That's why I cheat. I'm a cheater." The man is there, the chute is there.

"Listen, it's about grandpa."

"The chute's there and not there." I imagine the chute and the chute's there.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


"You the driver?" It's a police-officer.

"I'm something or something else which is worse because something is this thing with thing qualities that are distinct and thing-like and endless and off-putting and painful because."

"The Honda? You were in the Honda?"

"Drivers probably. Something." I'm very tired.

"What's your name?"


"I need your name for the hospital records and insurance. How old are you? Where were you born?"
"I think I'm me I think I'm something." I move my head and my head hurts in a sharp and exact way, but distant somehow, as though my head's a thing and I'm a thing and these things are different things with different nervous-systems. My eyes see another gurney and another human and the other human is very red and black and crusted and hairless and maybe not enough skin so I think about skin and how much skin's enough skin and I think about my skin and how much skin I have and where this skin is and what if I were to lose this skin, where then would this skin be? and could I regenerate the skin somehow? I'm looking up at the police-officer who's very grim and solid and whose hat is tilted slightly and blue and bloody. There are lights behind him. "I'm sorry," I say.

"Because you're the driver?"

"Something else."

"If you're the driver you should tell me because it'll make you feel better and at peace with yourself, I know because if I were the driver I'd feel guilty maybe and need to confess and confession's good, not that I'm saying you committed a crime or that you must confess, I mean it wasn't your fault, probably, if you're indeed the driver, which I'm not implying you were, but if you were and theoretically if you caused the accident you might feel like a murderer if theoretically mostly everyone was dead and you were the sole or maybe one of two or three survivors."

I realize that we're in a hospital and that my bed's rolling and I'm aware of humans pushing my bed which has railings and to which I'm strapped. "I'm the hospital," I say. "The hospital is here."

"Yes." Someone else speaking through a mask.

"You're mask is awful," I say.

"Just relax a while."

"Something happened I think something happened what happened?" I try to raise my head but my head doesn't raise and I wonder what my head's doing if it's not raising when my brain tells it to raise. I want to touch my eyes. I itch. I want to scratch my eyes. My eyes itch, are itchy. "Scratch my eyes please," I say. "My eyes could be scratched, if you could scratch them, which you don't have to but it'd be nice."

"Could you count please, backwards from one-hundred?"

"I could probably." I could count. I won't count but I could count if I wanted to count. "You're mask is really awful you know."

Something happens.

"Could you count please?"

"You're mask is really awful," I say. It is. It's really awful.

"How are you?" It's Samantha.

I'm in the backseat.

I shiver slightly and hug myself.

There's a car and the car I'm in and another car, and as I sit in the backseat with my head rested softly against the cold window, the car, the other car, and the car I'm in converge in slow-motion and from my seat which is firm and in which I'm firmly belted I map the paths of each car and mentally place myself in the point of convergence and imagine the moment when all three cars meet. From my seat I can see the other people in the other cars and they're old and wrinkled and their hairs are gray and long or short but combed neatly and styled with gel or hairspray and I wish my hair were as neat and styled so I might seem complete and comfortable when each car intersects every other car. And in my car there are people with hair which is styled and combed or not combed but braided and pulled back, hanging loose over shoulders, curly. I don't know.

"Now," I say.

"It," Samantha says.

The cars converge.

Later, there's an ambulance. And gurneys, I think. Or beds.

"What?" I say to someone. "What?" I say to someone else.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


"I want a motorcycle," I said. "I want a llama."

I sat on the couch between Merna and Anastasia. It was night. There were many lamps.

"I want Monopoly and Operation."

"Monopoly's terrible," Merna said. "It teaches selfishness and accumulation."

"What's accumulation?" Anastasia asked.

"It's nothing."

"Bet you don't know."

Anastasia wore her pink flower-print dress and sat cross-legged with her tiny hands holding her tiny knees. Merna's hair was long and wavy and draped thinly over her thin shoulders. I stared at my toes and wiggled my toes and watched my wiggling toes.

A tall man entered the room. The man's hair was very dark and short and neatly combed and the tall man's suit was gray-flannel. He wore a bright white shirt and a black embroidered tie. A wide overcoat hung from his shoulders and fluttered around his calves. He moved quickly and smoothly and almost appeared instantaneously before Anastasia, Merna, and me so that I gasped slightly and leaned into the couch. Merna combed her hair from her face and held it bunched together behind her and the hair was distant and inaccessible. Anastasia sobbed once, punctuatingly. The man stood, cliff-like and menacing in a nondescript way, monolithic, projecting a strange foreboding that at once felt omnipresent and source-less. His thin rectangular lips parted slightly so I could see the tips of his pale white teeth, each tooth unnaturally straight and parallel to every other tooth.

"This," the man said, holding out his hand, palm up.

The man's hand was flat but finely grooved and my eyes traced the hand-grooves circuitous route which was complex and overlapping and maze-like, city-streets from a jet-plane maybe, an elevation map of Lisbon with bus routes and tourist information. The man's fingers were focused and defined, but the room, the man himself, walls, furniture, paintings, all seemed faded and washed-out, gray and formless like a distant fog. I imagined carefully removing the hand with a scalpel and mounting the hand to a polished wood-block, a trophy with smooth groomed nails and tiny black finger-hairs. 'Polish the hand,' I thought. 'Build a glass-museum for the hand, hand-museum with five-hundred-thousand hands mounted to five-hundred-thousand wood-blocks and polished and dusted daily, or protected in thick glass-cases. Charge a minor admission-fee. Provide a three-hour guided-tour. "This is the tall man's hand," I would say, or "This was Kevin Costner's golfing hand." Maybe a history of the hand or hand-replicas hidden in dark mystery-boxes with felt-lined holes. Tactile-hands.' I wanted to touch the hand, to dust the hand, to eat the hand and absorb the hand and become the hand, to hold the carefully mounted hand with the hand, form the shiny wood-block trophy-hand into a fist, but the hand was un-mounted and un-amputated and solid and sharp and living.

"This," the man said again.

Anastasia stood.

Merna's head rested on the couch-arm. Her eyes were closed.

"You don't know what 'this' means," Anastasia said. "You're 'this.'"

"Look," the tall man said. He pointed. "This."

"Don't," I said. "Sit, Anastasia." I stood.

"Where?" Anastasia asked.

The man pointed. "This."

"Don't," I said. "Sit quietly on the couch with me. Close your eyes."

"I don't see." Anastasia moved her face close to the wall and touched the wall.

"Here," the man said. He held out his finely grooved hand. "This."

"Lisbon," I said. "No."

"This," the man said. He touched Anastasia. "This."

I closed my eyes very tight.

"No," I say. "That's wrong."



Merna has parked the car and we're standing in the driveway. Snow's falling again and it's cold and dark. The motion-sensor senses our motion.

We blink.

"Let's get inside," Merna says. "Do you have the key? My key only opens the back-door."

"No key."

I follow Merna along the narrow run between houses and Merna's indistinct before me. My feet and hands are cold.

Inside, we collapse onto my bed which creaks thinly. I yawn.

"This bed's not soft," Merna says.

"Soft bed's twist and contort spines and cripple you with arthritis or something."

"My bed's very soft."

"Which is why you're so bent-over and super-curved. Your birth canal's probably like a roller-coaster."

Merna yawns.

"You're babies will be curved babies with curved spines and curved foreheads because of your bed and you'll be sad for a while, then defiant. Deformed. Dangerous."

Merna doesn't answer.

"We should wake grandpa," I say. "It's practically morning anyway."


"He probably went to sleep at like six o'clock."

"I wonder what Noah's doing."

"Grandpa could tell me why it's wrong," I say. "I don't know why it's wrong."

"What're you talking about?" Merna rolls onto her side and stares at the wall which is light-purple, but dark now with no light and almost invisible. "Noah's probably tired. Maybe he's sleeping now. Maybe I should call him."

"Fuck Noah," I say.

"He's at the hospital. He's helping people or something, or sleeping."

"Anastasia," I say quietly.

"Oh." Merna stands slowly. "This."

"I was thinking about Anastasia."

Merna stands and slowly points her eyes at my eyes then turns and I'm watching Merna's dark shadowy back and Merna's dark shadowy hair and Merna's dark shadowy walk as Merna silently moves out my bedroom-door. The stairs creak as Merna descends. I turn onto my side and watch my alarm clock which is digital and orange and bright. I imagine a soft dark snow-sound and I imagine a thin cold smell that's crisp and defined and makes me think of leaves and green things but frozen and rigid and in constant danger of crushing and the snow-sound's a crunching sound but faded and distant. I imagine a leaf very curved and fetal. I imagine a complex zigzagging wrinkle. I imagine one-million frost crystals.

It was night. I was in my bedroom. Anastasia lay on the floor. Merna snored noisily in her own room down the hall.

"Snore," I said. I laughed.

Anastasia didn't laugh.

"I want a goat or a cow," I said. "I want a pet, maybe, a jumbo-pet that's hairy or shaggy and savable or rescue-able. A pet that would usually be food or slave-labor or something but I would make it not-food with bows and things and put it in the backyard with hay, maybe, or maybe we need a bigger yard, like a big field that was a mini-world and many jumbo-pets and it'd be a jumbo-pet country, I think."


"We could steal a cow and hide the cow in the backyard. Feed the cow grass and flowers and stuff. Take it for walks. Cow-bell. I don't know anything."

Anastasia wore her pink flower-print dress. I braided my hair and tied it tightly with thin white bows. Outside, bright snowflakes slowly fell.

The tall man silently entered the room. He held out his hand, palm up.

'Grooved,' I thought.

"I want something else now," Anastasia said. "What are you?"

The man shook his head. "This."

The man walked carefully into the far corner of my bedroom and, facing the corner, rested his dark elliptical head inside the corner and placed his hands on the adjacent walls. The hand's fingers were splayed and long and sharp. My hands seemed small with little clumsy fingers and I wanted suddenly to remove my fingers with garden-shears. "This," the man said.

Anastasia moved toward the man.

"No, Anastasia," I said. "Stay here."

Anastasia pulled the man's gray-flannel blazer. "What are you?"

"This," the man said. "This."

Merna's head appeared in my doorway. "Hey, quiet down. I'm trying to sleep. I have cheerleading tryouts tomorrow and I need to rest so I can be successful in the tryouts. I need to be beautiful and perfect and have the cheers memorized which is hard and requires concentration and sleep and I don't want dark circles or anything."

"But," I said.

"Don't be a bitch, okay. Just for tonight."

"Anastasia," I said. I pointed.

The man cried quietly in the corner. Anastasia sat cross-legged near his feet.

"Just be quiet, okay?"


"Complete silence."

Merna's head disappeared.

"Anastasia," I said. "Anastasia," I said again.

My cell-phone ring-tone song's playing.

My cell-phone ring-tone song is very sad and soft and makes me think of burning slow-motion children at recess or on the jungle-gym maybe or thirty-five-thousand miniature-people marching miniature-marches through tall and rugged grass-blades or across endless expanses of concrete. I open my cell-phone and place my cell-phone near my ear and my ear hears ragged digitized breathing. "Yes," I say. "What?"

"My head." It's Erik.

"Your head?"

"Aaron stabbed me or something. He stabbed my abdomen, I think, he might have stabbed my chest or neck."


"Or punched my eye. He could've punched my eye and mouth and broke my teeth. There's some blood, I think. A little blood. Call the police, you should call the police."

"You call the police. I have to sleep. I'm tired."

"My legs are broken."

I don't answer.

"Are you home? Should I come to the apartment? I want to play Grand Theft Auto or something, together."

"I'm somewhere else." I roll onto my back and shut my eyes. "You're injured? Shouldn't you go to the emergency room? Call 911 or something? Ambulance and police."

"I'm okay."

"But you're stabbed and bleeding with broken legs."

"I'm only stabbed a little. It's okay. Where are you? Video-game auto-theft fun-night. I can show you my stab-wounds and stuff."

"I'm sleeping somewhere. I'm okay."

"But I should sleep next to you because we're sleep-partners which is solemn or something, so tell me. I need to give you your watch which you left at the Denny's anyway. I'll bring it to you."

"Bring it tomorrow or the next day. Leave it at the apartment where I can pick it up whenever I want."

"No," Erik says. "Come meet me. Come to the mall. The mall parking-lot."

"I'm really tired." I yawn loudly. "We'll talk tomorrow."

"Meet me at Wal-Mart. I'll call Aaron. We can have a conference."

"I'd prefer not to."

"We have plane-tickets for you. To Lisbon. Flight leaves in three hours. You must go to Lisbon immediately."

"I'm turning off my phone."

"But we love you. We need to see you. To take you to Lisbon."

"I'm sorry."

"Come to Wal-Mart." Erik's voice is high-pitched and desperate.


"We'll rob the Wal-Mart if you don't come. Take hostages. Murder cashiers. Please help."

I turn off my cell-phone and place the cell-phone on my nightstand which is dark and wood and shadowy. 'Nickel nightstand,' I think. I remember buying the nightstand at a summer garage-sale. My grandfather bargained and paid. "Needs to be refinished," he said. "I'll give you a nickel," he said. Mrs. Morley, who was old and wrinkled and who's fingers were thin and twisted and rigid and who was moving to a rest-home in New Mexico said, "What do I care? It's older than me and should be retired." I said, "Thank you." "Your welcome," Mrs. Morley said. "Everything gets old and moves to New Mexico and dies." My grandfather lifted the nightstand. "Sometimes things go Saudi Arabia or Portugal and die," he said.

I can't sleep so I walk through my bedroom door and then slowly down the stairs which creak sharply as I step. I watch my feet as I walk and my feet are small and bare and narrow but flat and hard so that I can barely feel the floor with them. There's a light. I move to the light.

I'm in the kitchen.

Merna and my step-mother sit at the kitchen-table. There's coffee. The floor's cold.

"Good morning," my step-mother says. "Come sit."

I look at the clock. "It's barely two a.m." I watch my feet which are small and tight and aligned with the polished wood floor. "We should wake grandpa," I say. "Then it'll be like family-insomnia and we can play Monopoly or something and someone can own everything with hotels and houses and maybe build hotels on Baltic Avenue and conquer and win."

"Come sit with us," Merna says. "Leave grandpa alone."

My step-mother lays her head on the table and my step-mother's head is round and thin and the hair on the head's tangled and frizzy and I want to comb the hair and straighten the hair and make the hair orderly and calm and maybe braid the hair into one perfect hair-rope. I sit. It's late and early and today and tomorrow and my shoulders are tight and pained as though each shoulder-muscle and each shoulder-tendon are tensed and tied or maybe webbed and netted, and I imagine my netted musculature strung between cars with little neighborhood-dogs caught in the muscle-net and stuck to the muscle-web and waiting sadly to be rescued or to die.

Merna's hand touches my shoulder and we're touching slowly and tenderly 'which is strange and human' I think.


"You're my sister," Merna says. "I'm sorry."

I was in the family-room, braiding my hair.

"You're my sisters," Merna said. "I'm sorry."

The tall man walked carefully into the far corner of the family-room and, facing the corner, rested his dark elliptical head inside the corner and placed his hands flat on the adjacent walls. The hand's fingers were splayed and long and sharp. The man laughed slowly and quietly.

We ignored him.

Anastasia lay between us.

My grandfather sat in his recliner, reading. He set his newspaper on his lap. "We should go to Portugal sometime," he said. "You'd like that wouldn't you. We could buy a small deli and make grilled-cheese sandwiches and sell them, maybe and live in a small farm-house with three dogs and goat and a cow."

"Maybe," I said.

"Portugal," Anastasia said.

"Yes," my grandfather said. "Lisbon."