Shower, stone, domestic violence.

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I hit the bank and got the cash, drove to the house and carried everything to the place downstairs. The hotel last night was a bitch, literally. This couple was going at it all night, yelling next door, fighting, the door slamming shut, flying open, on and on until 5 a.m. The entire motel smelled liked weed, which was fine, it was legal here now, but for someone like me, a once-a-year stoner at best, I hadn’t made friends with the smell, I couldn’t embrace the burning tire odor. Dog shit all over the back lot of the motel, garbage strewn in front of the door.

I got us fully moved in, fed the boy and stood in the shower, the high and perfect setting on the spout cleaning my flesh, my thoughts on the last month, and last night’s voices of domestic violence running off my shoulders and into the drain:
“BITCH, YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR MONEY AT! AH PAID THE MOTHERFUCKER SO HE WOULDN’T TAKE YO ASS TO COURT!”
“OH, FUCK YOU, MOTHERFUCKER! I’M THE ONE MAKIN’ THE FUCKIN’ MONEY FO THE ROOM! YOU SUPPOSE TO BE THE MOTHERFUCKIN’ MAN!”
The slamming door, then another one of her screams:
“WHERE MY LIGHTER AT?!”
I felt the water move down my skin, and the last year of being out in the wind moved with it. I thought about the last book tour, my Australian girl, my diamond, really, the one who flew over and traveled the coast with me down California from Washington, to Vegas, to San Diego, to her departing flight from LAX. Six weeks of happiness, six weeks of beauty slated not to last, but to be ripped and torn from me, from her. We were the ghosts of each other now, she moved on and I moved on, which was healthy, it was essential. I counted back to the year when the word first found me with its tattoo, with its permanent mark. I was a young man, a cook in Tempe, my fingers weeping into the keys of my first typewriter, the bricks of the room bringing Hell onto the page, the reckoning of worth, the strength in pure solitude. As the water covered me there, I rested my foot back on the stone, and I felt the words start to grip me again, I felt the sentences strengthen, I felt the wind of words and the wind was the world, it reached from Mombasa to Montezuma, from the depths of Mars to mirror the Moon and flow back to Earth. We were all carbon, and the universe was carbon, there was nothing separate between us. I looked down at the floor unblinking, the water falling from my brow, and I remembered everything and nothing, and I remembered the loving eyes of my angel dog, Meg, my Border Collie-Blue Heeler girl, her electric soul and her bones in the ground. It would soon be four years since she left this place, since she left Chico and I behind to sift through all the things she knew, the things she took with her. I thought about the faces of the past, the ignorant faces on the jobs, the teeth of them, the look of them because they knew I hated them, they knew I didn’t share their fears, and they pawned me off to insanity.
I shook off the thoughts and killed the water. I dried myself and let the sorrow of those days go into the towel, the anger of them. Chico nosed his way into the bathroom and looked up at me, his mouth full of food, and I laughed.

https://flowofprose.com/post/7112/Shower-stone-domestic-violence-

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In transit.

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Blasting through the southwest. Stark brown, mesas, plateaus, cacti, Joshua trees, dirt and disfigurement. The desert has its own kind of dignity.

https://flowofprose.com/post/4640/in-transit

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All you artists are fucked up. (From an old folder, from somewhere in the ’90s.)

barrow

 

I was hanging a door at work today

when this piece of shit I work with

asked me what I was working on

a book

I told him

no shit,

about what?

just a bunch of short pages

on different things, I told him.

so, he smirked through

his rotted-ass teeth, and

said, so

it’s not really a book then, right?

and I said

that’s why I didn’t say novel,

asshole

that’s when he dropped his level

and called me a queer

and I laughed

and told him

if I really was queer

he would have been loved over and over

by this point in our relationship

all you artists are fucked up

he said and picked up his level

just help me square this goddamn frame I said

so I can leave

and he said all artists were selfish

and I said more like precious

faggot, he grunted

listen, I said

you keep projecting your weakness on me

and

me and you are gonna

go round and round

to which he said bring it on,

faggot

he squared off

and I squared off,

caught him on the jaw

stunned him

Jesus, he said

I was only kidding

and I said so was

I

 

Algren mentioned that

he liked to stay close to

his sources.

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Breath Upon A Burn

 

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I drove her car to Norms for some dinner, where I finished the novel. Something snapped in my head, something changed. The last line in Hunger wound the book up air-tight and gave me chills. Such selfless, beautiful work. All the wonder of pain, the blood of words that dripped onto the page like rain, like breath upon a burn. The next day I sat in the same booth and read Ask the Dust. The warm colors smiled. The whole book was like swallowing the ocean. I drove home looking for his characters walking the streets.

Breath Upon A Burn, coming soon…

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And the books will burn.

readers

I noticed this young couple reading. I made the block and parked across the street, walked up and shot their photo. It didn’t occur to me until later that I noticed nothing in their pockets: no phones, no media, no headphones. They weren’t waiting for anything. They were outside reading because it was good outside, and they read in silence bracing each other, absorbing the sentences, and it filled me with a kind of warmth I hadn’t sensed in years, in many years. I was just thinking earlier about the feeling of holding a paperback, the old and good feel of it, and while once in awhile across the city, I see someone reading a book, this scene was too perfect for me not to capture. Going by my own career, and seeing how big ebooks out-sell paperbacks, the rise and domination of that: paper is dying. Downtown a few days ago, I drove up First and waited at a light. Looking around, every fucking face was buried down into a phone. Bus stops, smoke breaks, walkers, drinkers: faces down, smart phones. I said to myself, “And the books will burn.”

Seeing these two made the drinks taste better tonight, and the thought of smoldering punk burning up into a flame of orange and blue and silver crossed my mind the same way coffee crosses blood. Back home behind the machine, blasting vintage metal and waiting for summer.

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Loss of Shadows

bad jacket kindleCC…the love for the written word and the sun-torn highways flush with mountains and small stations, a cup of hot coffee next to my typewriter, the feeling of life warm down my arms, is no longer real to me. It’s a grainy film, a mirror I use for my own self-image, and it keeps me going in here. It keeps my blood warm in a sea of cold, controlled environment, a place where autonomy and expression are simply not possible on an outward plane. A place where your own death is welcomed hungrily, because it would be a diversion from the horrible nothing. My life in here is a new, sick dream. I exist by minutes in this cell, by dark hours of uniform garbage. It’s pushing 9:30 p.m. and we’re celled in for the night. I sit and pencil this to you, Helena, my muse, for lack of a definitive word, because I need you here next to me, a friendly face to listen without words. Know that I write this with a gun to my head, while every 15 minutes the hacks walk by and make their count, while the lights of the cities across the States are lit and waiting for spring to burn off to summer. I’ll start from the phone call now, and will soon revert to form, because I need to make this letter to you as clear as I can, but bear with me for a chapter, Helena. After all, you taught me how to write, how to sit and be water, bone, blood, and fist while the words fire from chest to arms. Yet what I wouldn’t give to feel my bare feet in the grass, my hands upon warm dirt. I sit in this concrete box freezing. The pencil moves across the page while outside my shadow looks around for its body.

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Sunday in Venice

flotsam cover nookECWe walked toward the ocean.
“No hippies for Papi?”
“I hate those motherfuckers.”
“Same here.”
We stood at the edge of the dry sand. The water was from everywhere, from places and times unknown to God and Darwin. All the beauty the sea holds hidden, the oldest of things beneath the fear of its depth, the mystery of life tucked safely away in the catacombs of her body, in the hearts and thoughts of whales. The sea floor more naked than the Moon or Mars, more untouched by mankind’s infant comprehension than either. The answer to everything waited in the recesses of her trenches, in the paradise of her undiscovered countries, a land beyond the throes of Shakespeare’s capture of death, beyond theory and faith. We stood and watched the ocean while the Sun moved down. The frost of a wave rolled up and clawed our feet while a gull bit through the surface and came up empty.

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Take your medicine.

march cover nookECHe postured himself like a gorilla, and it sickened me. Then he took a swing. I ducked it, and he lost balance. Before Gus could make it over the bar I was on top of him, landing blows in his face. I blacked out. Rage took me over. His face was that creep kissing Helena, his face was the watch resting on the edge of a canyon, his face was my stomach twisted for the last four months, not to mention Tijuana or Farmington or Boulder City, or the nightmares. I felt his bones moving down there. I heard women screaming. Gus had to choke me with the club to pry me loose. He pushed me back and yelled for everyone to exit the bar. They left, and he locked the door. The gorilla was unconscious. Gus leaned over him and cracked the billy-club over one of his hands until he was satisfied. He grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me back in the room. He held the club and looked at me.
“This is going to hurt.”
“Stay the fuck away from me, Gus.”
“Listen, I have to break your nose, bud.”
“Like hell.”
“You want to go to jail? You want to get locked up for assault?”
“Why would I go to jail? He started it.”
He pointed to the door and talked through his teeth.
“That prick’s gonna need plastic surgery! I couldn’t stop you for almost a minute. You want me to get sued? You want to go down for a felony? Fuck you. Now put your arms down and take your medicine!”
His words frightened me. He walked out of the room and called the cops. He came back in with a bottle of Ten High.
“The pigs are on their way. Here, take a swig, a nice long swig.”
I grabbed the bottle and took a long swig. I handed it back over and looked at him.
“Do it.”
The club came quickly. It wasn’t so bad. What really hurt was the sound and my eyes filling with water, my gums pulsing. Gus then punched me in the eye. He tossed me the bar towel from his pocket. I walked out behind him.

I sat in the booth next to April. I looked down at the guy. I heard the sirens. He was all blood. I held the bar towel to my face. My nose was definitely broken. The towel was full of red and yellow. April buried her head into my arm not to have to see the guy. My knuckles were cut up and splintered and they stung. The cops were knocking violently. Gus let them in, and some paramedics jogged past them with a stretcher. The cops moved me to the other end of the bar. Gus and April told one of them that the guy was getting aggressive with her and I’d stepped in to make peace when the guy swung and broke my nose and that I had to keep fighting him off of me. He wrote down their statements. When they tried to question me I told them the only thing I remembered was getting hit in the face and defending myself. They were utterly pissed off that they could not arrest me or trip me up with a different story. It was worth taking the pain to see them writhe. The gorilla was coming around. One of the medics called an officer over.
“Hey, Frank. He’s carrying.”
The medic was holding up a baggie of weed. The cops forgot about me and raced to the gorilla. He was on the stretcher.
“Hey, now! That ain’t mine! It ain’t mine!”
Then he started yelling death threats. Gus nodded and smiled at the threats. A medic was finally sent over to me.
“How are you doing?”
“I think he broke my nose.”
“He sure did. Do you want a ride to the hospital?”
I looked at Gus. He was shaking his head, rubbing his first and second fingers against his thumb, indicating money.
“No,” I said.
April interrupted.
“I’ll take him.”
After everything was over, Gus sat in our booth and had a shot. I was gauzed up and throbbing. He told me to make sure I got to the hospital so everything would be official. He also told me I owed him for a quarter ounce of weed. He bumped me up fifty cents an hour and told me if I ever did something that stupid again he would kill me then fire me.

April was still drunk, so I drove her car. A doctor checked me over and gave me a prescription. We swung by a 24-hour pharmacy. Back in my room I popped the codeine with some coffee so it would dissolve faster in my system. I undressed in the dark and laid down. Soon I was floating amongst the greatest men who had ever walked, and everything in the world was fine, just fine.
April came in and sat on the bed. I pulled the covers over my middle. She was still drinking. She could hardly speak. Her question barely made it out.
“How are you?”
“Ethereal.”
She finished the bottle. I could smell the alcohol on her skin. She threw the blankets back like they were bothering her, and she rubbed my stomach. At once she was down there, her head bobbing. I was powerless against the feeling, the feeling of her mouth, the smooth motion over me, the codeine, the bridge of my nose humming a deep, steady ring. She was going at it, and I was in afterlife, weightless over the wars and destruction. I saw coastal lines sink in the ocean, the perfect hand of God reach down and splash the water over continents of filth and waste and lies and greed, making them clean again, young again. It was a cleansing by nihilism. I was up there, I was up there, I could do no wrong. She finished me off and walked out. I succumbed to the codeine.

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One Night in Austin.

Conversation with my favorite clerk in Austin the night before I leave town:

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“Just the beer?”                                                     “That’s right.”
My buddy grabs the six pack, opens the door and lights a cigarette. I grab a Nutty Bar and toss it on the counter. The clerk looks at it and shrugs, “Don’t worry about it, man.”
I nod at at him, “Thanks, brutha.” I shove the Nutty Bar in my pocket. He stares at my buddy, “So, man, I met this girl in a bar and we went back to her car and fucked. She’s a little bit big, has two kids, but I’m wondering if I should see her again. She keeps texting me.” His phone chimes. He looks down at it then back over the counter. My buddy tosses his smoke and walks up to the counter next to me, “You fucked her in her car, walk away.”
“Well, we didn’t really fuck, well, we did.”
I stare at him, “Dude, did you fuck her or not?”
“A little bit.”
My buddy and I start laughing. I stare up at the guy. Not sure how tall he really is, because he stands on pallets behind the counter, and the floor back there is already elevated. But he looks like a Hindu giant. I’ve never seen him on the other side of the counter, and tonight I take note of his head gear. I don’t know if it’s a do-rag, or some kind of hipster do-rag, or something fashionable I’ve never heard of. I shake my keys in my pocket, “How is that possible?”
“I just put it in for a second or two.”
“Got it.”
My buddy’s staring off over the counter, picturing it. The guy looks down at me and raises his eyebrows, “Should I take her seriously, man? I don’t know.”
“Listen,” I said, “If a woman fucks you in her car outside of a bar on the first night, you’re either really special, or she’s a whore.”
“She said I was really special, man.”
“All whores say that.”
We throw some more jokes around and leave. Outside it’s humid and I’m thinking about the drive back west, thinking about the ease of naked conversation like that, which only occurs in places like Austin, and only on corners like this one. I watch the traffic on Guadalupe. My buddy lights another one, and I start calculating the time it will take to get to the border and get a room. If I can get within a two hour range of El Paso before I sleep I’ll be in good shape.

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