by Howie Good
I like naps. As it wasn’t too late, I wanted to enjoy a nap under a tree. I started for the door, but a short stocky man with an uncanny resemblance to Stalin, the dictator who put the “p” in paranoia, caught me by the arm. Of all those present, only he had a distinct shadow, and he projected it onto walls, ceilings, furniture, anything. “Fishing,” he said, “is a metaphor for Alzheimer’s.” He sounded pissed about it, too. I promised myself right then that when this was over, I would resolve the things eating away at me.
By the time I was 22, I’d already had all sorts of shitty jobs — washed dishes, unloaded auto parts from semi-trailers, alphabetized files in an insurance office, drove a cab. I once even cleared a field for an old farmer who was skeptical at first because of my shoulder-length hair. These days, farmers sing to their favorite crop, and the bearded lady gives serious consideration to shaving her face. One must have some chaos in oneself, like Sartre when he thought he was being followed down a street in Paris by a pair of rare blue lobsters.
Some days I walk to think, some days to actually get somewhere. I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately, whether there are flickering emojis at the end or steel bars on all the windows, whether Jesus appears with the hateful look on his face that my father would give me whenever he sneered, “What are you, stupid?” It’s perplexing just how much darkness a person can swallow and still function. Even after Hitler was dead, the screams from the gas chambers went on.
I was anxious about what might happen next now that transvestite vampire biker nuns from outer space were shooting death rays from their fingertips. So I dove into a visceral beautiful turbulent place. I was soon wishing I hadn’t. There were people there who could recite by heart the four rules for the perfect selfie: hold your phone high; know your angle; know your lighting; and no duckface!
The beach is deserted this time of year, but the light is particularly beautiful, as if infused with the tenderest feelings for all the bleakness it touches. She gets out her phone to take a picture. I’m standing a slight distance off, the sparkling ocean at my back, waiting for her to tell me when to smile.
Howie Good is the author of The Death Row Shuffle, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.