Synchronized Chaos September 2020: Mercy and Fragility

Welcome all to September 2020’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine. This month’s theme is Fragility and Mercy.

“In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted shortcuts to love.”
― John Steinbeck

“You see, my son,” continues Kolbe softly, “the saints are not so different than you or me. Their stories reveal them to be very much human. However, this frailty does not weaken their witness or holiness, but rather extends to us the invitation to the same life amid our own frailty.”
― Jamie Arpin-Ricci, The Sinner Saint: A Novella of St. Patrick of Ireland

“I was reminded of a proverb: ‘When a clay Buddha statue sails across the river, it can hardly protect itself.”
― Qiu Xiaolong, Enigma of China

“You can never be a first class human being, until you have learnt to have some regard for human frailty.”
― Abhijit Naskar, Conscience over Nonsense

This month’s contributors express our hopes, aspirations, struggles, and yearnings, and where we go to find meaning and grace.

Several people of varying ages standing in front of a building feeding a flock of pigeons in a city

Doug Hawley writes of how the end of a person’s cancer journey impacts his family, while Kevin Hibshman discusses the lessons of pain and loneliness.

Michael Lee Johnson sends us vignettes of complex relationships, fragile beauty, and battlefield deaths. Tony Beyer writes, among other things, of caring for pets: our companion dogs and cats.

Hongri Yuan envisions a lovely, orderly golden city in our future while Allison Grayhurst draws on her Christian faith to reflect on compassion and mercy.

Art gallery owner, painter, poet and sculptor Sara Joseph speaks of how her faith journey, her creative work, and her maturing as a person all connect in her memoir Gently Awakened. Mary Bone writes of the simple beauty of birds, the sun, and the insects of summertime.

Mark Young combines images of hardness and softness, delicacy and strength while Steven Jarrell Williams reminds us, in a gentle way that however we wander or err as humans, nature outlasts and forgets us.

Michael Robinson honors contributor Joan Beebe’s husband and talks of love, legacy and mentorship. Joan sends in a lovely and poignant piece about her memories, reflecting over her long and love-filled life.

Three people of indiscriminate race standing atop a van in an orange sunset.

In her monthly Book Periscope column, Elizabeth Hughes reviews Andre Mego’s Reverend Duckworth: How Kendrick Lamar Lyrics Redefined Spirituality for Me, about how and where Kendrick, and Mego, find meaning and grace in life.

Norman J. Olson reviews art historian William Wallace’s latest work Michelangelo: God’s Architect, describing how Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, an opportunity he received later in life after he’d already begun designing his own coffin.

Ahmad Al-Khatat expresses some hope amidst the misery of trauma and discrimination. In his new novel Not Okay, Brett Axel writes of a vigilante murderer who evokes tenderness despite his brash words and behavior because of his history of abuse and because his goal is to protect children.

Moustafa Dandoush writes about the ups and downs of romantic love and friendship.

A. Iwasa relates vignettes of love and small crushes he developed while working with a moving company and Ian Copestick talks of heatwaves and minor illness in a time of pandemic. Tim Suermondt writes of romance and nostalgia, along with a poignant love letter to global cities struggling amid coronavirus.

White or Arab man seated and bent over under the weight of chains, tied down to the ground.

Santiago Burdon presents a character addicted to drugs, focused on external disapproval rather than his own personal choices, while J.J. Campbell’s pieces deal with stuck-ness, feeling at a loss to change one’s life.

Chimezie Ihekuna shares a Mafia suspense tale where best laid plans for revenge go awry.

Mahbub looks to Greek mythology to express the constant tension between love and death, while Mike Zone and Daniel DeCulla use cats and donkeys as metaphors for our impulses to connect to, or become, something greater than ourselves.

J.D. Nelson and Damion Hamilton use wordplay and contemplative pieces to speculate on who we are, how we can live our lives. Ike Boateng is always ready for inspiration, be it musical or poetic.

Elizabeth Hughes’ Book Periscope

Middle aged white woman with glasses, a smile and blonde bangs
Elizabeth Hughes

Unpolished Journey by Morgan Blair

Unpolished Journey is a memoir of Morgan Blair’s journey through depression and an eating disorder. She tells her story through the use of pages of her personal journal. This gives the reader a true look into what the mental illness looks like and what it feels like to live it. This book will speak to anyone who is or has gone through this in a very real way. She lets others know that they are not alone and that it is okay to have these emotions and there is help. She lets the reader know that the road to a healthy life is hard work, however it can be done. This book touches on a very real topic and can help others are going through it or know someone who is.

Unpolished Journey isn’t available at this time but you can visit the author’s website here and learn of her other current projects.

Andre Mego’s Reverend Duckworth: How Kendrick Lamar Redefined Spirituality for Me

Young Black man with a crown on his head looking out into the darkness in a shadowed image.
Reverend Duckworth

Andre Mego wrote this autobiography about his love of hip hop music. He describes how he incorporated his love of God into the Hip Hop genre. and how any music can be used to get the word of God to people. I agree with that. Music can be very personal to each person, if people are learning about God’s word through whatever kind of music they listen to and use that to better themselves and their lives then it does not matter what kind of music they listen to.

Reverend Duckworth can be ordered here from Indie Bound, support your local bookstore!

Story from Mike Zone

The Dictator’s Dream or The Son of god Trembles
By Mike Zone

He was dreaming of cats again. Looking for something pure. He wanted to be pure. He was pure…or they said. The black and white kitten was now a full-grown memorial balloon coming down on the citizenry of Seoul, spreading a noxious green gas turning them to what he loved best…cats, this would be his City of Cats, now that the Divine Empire had been rendered officially victorious.
K’s father would be proud, only it was not past tense but the here and now. A technicolor ghost of gray uniform and glowing golden Buddha skin and he was there presenting him the Gatekeeper of Eternal Paradise, Chamchi The Cat…get it? Translated into dumb Americanese for the dotard President Triumph, Tuna the Cat, get it, the cat is named after what it enjoys to eat when it is in fact not what the cat is?
Ha-ha. K was funny even as a child and his father rewarding him his dead reborn cat at the moment of triumph when Triumph and the rest of the world who opposed him was just cinders and ash.
He cuddled his illuminated and cosmically soft feline friend from childhood who long ago disappeared with a mangled leg never to return and wept tears upon the earth from the cloud in from which he hovered above the dry dead lands, tears of bliss and purity rejuvenated and fertilized what was lost and from bombed out husks of continents grew vast fields of rice patties and trees of water fruit bearing infinite arrays of fish from within.
The world would no longer go hungry again.
The Great Leader had won. The Son God had never trembled and bowed before his father ready to be anointed as God himself, sending his own father to a blissful rest in the grateful ever expansive wave of forever.
K awoke.
The Son of God awakened to another day.
Glory to The Leader.
Three looming attendants chanted.
Gold featureless masks and black cloaks.
“Morning is here. The Son of God does not tremble. Oh, save us from universal mourning, Oh Son of God. We surrender to your salvation.”
He was curled up in the womb position in order to be reborn each and every day and time he slept.
“Great Leader, we strive for you, yearn for you. Oh, Great Leader save us from darkness, lead our childish sinful hands to the light.”
K knew he was really rolled up like a ball and could have cared less. There were no cats in this sterile white room, nor clouds even though his bed felt like one.
“Dawn! Touched by the Great Leader! The Son of God, does not tremble!”
K tumbled out of bed. The attendants scampered around, prostrating themselves before him as if it were a grace and delicate birth.
He had his boots on. He was nude. The attendants pounded their fists on the floor, beat their chests and wept on how unworthy they were to be in Great Leader’s presence. He swayed back and forth groggy from his afternoon slumber which was needed for the first three hours of his day diplomatic duties depleted his being.
The door slid open and three white clad virgin brides entered. Virginal though they were, they were still impure seeking something pure much like he was, but was he pure to begin with and if he himself was pure without knowing it, wouldn’t that make everyone else just as pure, possibly divine? Best not to consider anything of the sort, there were no cats here, ergo how could he really know anything?
The needled plunged into a fat roll, his rotund finger recoiled, shuddered and all of a sudden K stood straightly erect like a rocket ready to launched overseas delivering thunderous flames of liberation and blessings. The dwarven virgin hair down like a common street girl, threw the apparatus down which was quickly picked up by a guard. The vial it was connected to contained a cocktail of vitamins needed to keep the Great Leader ever vigilant and healthy at the height of perceptive power.
K felt a comforting warmth engulf his blood vessels, an electrical current circulated through bone and sinew, blooding rushed like a typhoon to his private member, “Chamchi Junior” in honor of Tuna the Cat who he always held in the most intimate part of his soul, hidden from even All-Father God and Supreme-Leader, his father.
His mother knew but Mother May I no longer existed, nor did she ever as he was repeatedly told.
“K, you have no mother.” His maiden-wife proclaimed.
The cocktail of vitamins silenced these thoughts as his cock swelled toward the trio tale, disrobed, and setting on all fours before him. Mechanically the virgins spat and rubbed themselves wet to receive the poison he must spew from his system in order to cleanse the dirty realm with his cleansing seed. He chose the plump one to the left with the pigtails and thrust himself inside her.
            “I love you, oh Son God.” She cried in a forced moan, gyrating in a dramatically staged ecstasy.
The other virgins rolled around, reaching toward the sky.
 “Will the Great Leader ever one day choose to love us?”
K pumped vigorously away hoping to end this filthy exercise as soon as possible. The theatrics emotionally wounded him. These women didn’t love him nor would they ever just as he could never love them. They acting within the mechanics of which they were created for. How could he a man of flesh and blood descended from Heaven love a machine?
Once upon a time, when he was dreaming of cats…a herd came to him in a dream, they spoke without moving their lips, eye broadcasting ray of thought transforming into images in his brain, the secret language of cats.
He plunged all the way inside his virgin bride as she wept begging to be impregnated. The rest of virgins weeping at their missed chance to take part in divine conception.
K was not yet God only the son he quivered at what he started to remember but didn’t want to explode just yet inside this robotic girl for lack of pride and remembered the set of purple doors which opened to the golden hall his cat friends had shown him within his dream; a hallway of glass cases containing all manners of shapes, eyes, noises and mouths, a variety of skin toned doll parts to shape the record of a not yet living being, even the schematics for his wife were plastered across the ceiling along with the schematics of various dispatched concepts for  potential wives and consorts had been,  being or had yet to be.
He climaxed as he put the girl he was inside together from the various parts. There was much rejoicing as the Son of God did not tremble doing his duty with a mighty roar which really sounded like a pig’s squeal but this was the world K knew he lived in until he could find something pure and pretended to blindly accept it as a guard wiped him down, while groveling and simpering how as much as he risked his life he could never be as brave as the Great Leader.
They met eyes. The guard bowed. K stiffened his upper lip and solemnly nodded.
The door slide open and General Shipeo ran into the room and fell on the floor before K. He held his hands out, asking for mercy before the naked Son of God. K stood stupefied as his attendants dressed him in the same gray uniform as he wore day in and day out much like his father The God-King of Neo-Heaven.
“Great Leader, Son of God who does not tremble! The military has failed. The police have failed. The Red-Light District we thought extinguished burns bright with vice corrupting our people and attracting killers from far off lands. We know your burden is great God-Prince of Forthcoming Golden Eternity, a killer terrorizes our unlawful whores and frightens our people…Johnny American, sent by the dotard President Triumph to strike fear into our people, sullies their innocence, I beseech you for our salvation and forgive our failure.”
This was it. This was the purity the cats alluded to in his dreams. The search was over. The quest could begin. K would be pure. The people would be pure. The land would be pure. All he needed was his special uniform to hunt Johnny American for one had to blend in looking like an “American Johnny” to stalk and slay one Johnny American.
He would hunt just like the killer masquerading as an illegal American Tourist would look, needing to slake his thirst in the dim world of the flesh trade. One attendant cut him out of his uniform with oversized scissors, while the other two put him in tapered khakis and a red Hawaiian shirt with gold flowers and fish, crowning him with a white fisherman’s hat but saving the best for last, he would know Johnny American’s every move for the great General Shipeo bequeathed upon him eight-ball sunglasses so he could see the plethora of the villain’s possible moves before any could be enacted.
All fell to their knees before K, praising him as the Son of God who did not tremble and Great Leader who could never falter.
K was all that stood before the Bright Land and the onslaught of American terrorism. He thought about this and the ever allusive purity, dreams, and cats, most especially Chamchi as the chopper landed and he was all but pushed out into the dark alley in his ridiculous outfit, his most loyal men, sacred friends and honorable followers laughing and waving in which nothing felt right. He clutched the M-16 they had given him which felt much lighter than it should have as he had shot them off before and the texture felt so…rubbery but “It is a new type of gun, Great Leader meant to look like a toy to distract and inflict more harm with false perception.” He was assured.
Crimson light flooded the darkness…indeed this was what a red-light district must be like K assumed. He looked around, taking a hesitant step forward gripping his so tight, the perspiration caused his hands to slide off the rubber textured weapon. Good thing, the gun was still slung about his neck with a strap otherwise hope would be gone for President Triumph would stand triumphant with the gates of paradise closed for all eternity.
He wondered where Johnny American could be hiding and shook his head vigorously, the rattling of potential answers slushed around until there was a hiss and a wild growl. The glasses hits the ground as a soft cuddly wind hit K’s face. The lens were broken leaking what looked like liquid onto the trash littered illuminated blood colored sidewalk.
The gray scraggly furred cat with wide insane eyes looked up at him telepathically projecting images turning into words he could read in his mind and hear upon this tangible realm of existence.
“K son of god you are not but more…soon to learn right meow.” The cat scurried away into a dark corner which could have been a black hole, but black holes only existed in outer space didn’t they and weren’t those just western capitalistic fictions to prevent the Age of Gold from being ushered in?
A bloated calico rose from a garbage can, a lid on his head.
            “Fire and fury beckons your land, your people and yourself K. Throw your gun away. Save yourself. You are messiah of the pure, your true father awaits.”
            “My true father? Who are you? How do you know all of this, living in garbage?”
            “I am Booster and it is called a garbage can not a garbage cannot.” Booster sunk back down into the filthy container.
            “It’s okay, K you won’t face him alone. I am here.”
K looked down upon a cylinder-shaped white cat with one eye. He looked young but was scarred with alley cat battles. There was a bald patch on the left side of his body, a jagged scar like a lightning bolt ran along the length of it.  The cat noticed K gazing at it.
            “A human thought it would be fun to lure me with tuna when I was but an innocent kitten yet seeded with feral savagery. He ran piece of broken american cola bottle across me, I tore his throat out with fangs and teeth. He died and I bled dying next to him and in my dying days as we were left unattended to by the rest of our kind I saw what was to transpire for the great good and lived to make my life sacred which was to be here with you now.”
            “What is your name, brave one?”
            “I am nameless, like every great sacrifice never to be known, hidden from the world and knowing eyes.”
            “May, I call you Brave One?”
            “You may call me whatever you may wish, I stand ready to do battle with you. The world of forever dreams and prosperity lies before us and to endure we must be pure.”
            “I see.”
            “You do not but to be blind is to really see…when the sky ignites, look to darkness.”
K did not understood, nor would he fully understand. The Son of God trembled and pissed himself as a hulking form came from the other end of the alley way. Brave One moved aside to avoid the wetness secreted from K and stood ready to pounce with a low growl. 
Like an American horror movie, the massive steroid infused figure came barreling toward them. Johnny American, shirtless with eight-pack abs and muscles looking like they were about to tear open his skin, American flag painted across his face with a blond crew cut and camouflage pants, he had no weapons but a machete. A silver tank embedded in his chest with various tubes pumping a queer vile chemical concoction which seemed to make him a flesh-machine of rage and manic muscle, getting larger and angrier as he charged forward.
            “This is so unfair! I’m just a political science major! Call the President!  Send in Space-force!” Johnny screamed aimlessly swinging the machete.  
K raised his gun and pulled the trigger…. nothing happened. Nameless as he was truly known, rolled his feline eyes and leapt at Johnny American who instantly grabbed him and began to squeeze.
            “Brave One!”
Nameless formerly known as Brave One turned to K as his body was crushed, his sight-orbs popping out from his skull.
            “A spear to the side, a loss of an eye for true insight. My life is no loss but sacred K. Look away dear hearted friend to the sky and see fire and fury toward a better tomorrow.”
K did as he was told. The lights went out. Sirens went off, blocking whatever death rattle emanated from Brave One from invading K’s living audio receptors. Cats did not lie. He knew this to be true. Most especially when in dreams. There was a whistle and the sky was literally aflame. Swirling and coming down toward the ground, melting structures in an eerie silence, like a fictional depiction the world as it was meant to be on the soundstage of reality which didn’t seem all that stable to K despite what he had been told over the years.
“The bastards did it! They really did! Without rescuing us! We show them giants walked the Earth and no one cared!”
K watched as Johnny American wept and plunged the machete into his stomach toppling over the corpse of Brave One as he would eternally be known instead of Nameless as he would have preferred but K would decree otherwise.
            No one should be nameless…He purposefully thought for the first time.
The calico garbage can cat knocked the can over spilling contents of dirty diapers and remnants of pasted canned meals over as he rushed past K.
            “No time to gawk K, into darkness we must go.”
The ground snapped, crackled, and popped beneath K’s feet as the fire got closer. He followed the cat into a black oval located in the corner as flames engulfed everything above, below and beyond what could be void of everlasting non-existence.
K was where he belonged. He sat on a golden throne in a round room of violet and gold.
 A stack of pies; cream pies with fish parts stuck out of them, tails, fins, eyes, and complete open faces.
Towers of pies accompanied by marble columns and millions of cats sat before him.
            “Welcome home son.”
K looked up to see Chamchi, like the miniature tiger he was so unlike a tuna, curled on his own golden throne, levitating before him with a sly grin and a pie sitting next to his tail.
This is pure. K thought purposefully for the second time in his existence.
            “Yes, it is.” Chamchi replied aloud. “Let the purrification begin right…Meeoow!”
He flicked his tail, the pie flew from his seat and smacked K right in the face…tuna and cream, how divine. Cats and human threw pies and chased each other every which way in a slip sliding cacophony of bizarre laughter…
K woke up.
He was dreaming of cats again.
Searching for something pure.
He had his boots on.
Naked with dried semen on his stomach. His wife’s robotic parts strewn all over canopy bed. Circuitry and wire protruded from her cheeks and forehead. Chamchi walked up to him and stretched with an epic yawn.
            “Sometimes you have to hurt the one you love, K.”
K awoke…
He dreamed of cats…again…
Nude except for boots…  
He wanted to be pure.

Piece from Santiago Burdon

Women Always Leave Me

 She was putting on her jacket getting ready to slip out. 

“Where did I put my God damn keys?” She hollers.

I was sure her question was rhetorical so I didn’t answer fearing I might receive a response marinated in anger.  I sat on the couch and continued watching the television. Next I could hear her throwing  shit about the kitchen shouting profanities, pounding on the countertop, accompanied by intermittent groans of frustration.

” Have you seen my keys? I could’ve sworn I just had them?”

Her voice resonating through the apartment.

 She suddenly appears like magic standing in front of me blocking my view of the television.

” Are you gonna answer me? What’s your fucking problem?”

Now it’s obvious the question was intended for me to respond.

” No love I haven’t seen them. Would you like me to help you look?”  I say in a sympathetic tone.

” If it wouldn’t be too much of a chore.”

As I get up to assist in the search, she slaps the TV off button to be sure I wouldn’t have any distractions. The result of her action produces a familiar jingle of keys as they drop out of her hand onto the floor.

” I believe I’ve solved the mystery of where your keys are. They’ve been in your hand the entire time.” I say while laughing. ” I’ve done the same thing more than once. It’s your mind playing a trick on you. Letting you know that you’re only one step away from insanity.”

” It’s not funny. So you’re saying I suffer from some type of mental deficiency ?”

” No that’s not what I meant. All I was trying to do…”  She interrupts.

” I’m sorry.  Just experiencing one of those days when everything is off-kilter. No, don’t you dare ask if I’m on my period.”

“When have I ever acted in such an insensitive manner? You talk to me as though I’m some college frat boy. A dim witted  shit for brains jock with the manners of an inbred  hillbilly. What have I done or most likely not have done to cause you to treat me with such contempt?”

“Santiago I need to know what we’re doing? Where are we going? There’s no plans for our future. It’s the same routine over and over. It’s no fun anymore. Are you going to be a drug crazed addict your entire life? Are we going to stay together? Do you love me?”

” Jesus Christ Jess which question do you want me to not have an answer for first? Come here sit-down. Let’s talk about this and see if we can possibly come up with a solution to your questions.”

” Oh no you don’t! You’re not going to  pull that shit on me! I know exactly what you’re doing you silver tongued con-man. I’m savvy to your used car salesman pitch. I’ve witnessed you convince someone you owed money into not only feeling guilty for them asking for you to pay up but they end up lending  you more.”

She had me pegged. I was going to sweet talk her into a state of tranquility knowing she’d become bored and uninterested in continuing the conversation. 

” Jessica why the hell are you still  here with me if you’re so displeased by our current arrangement? You act as though it’s a deplorable lifestyle and I’m the cause for your  every touch or sadness. There aren’t any bars or chains restraining you from leaving. You’re not a hostage or prisoner being kept against your will. You can’t just bushwhack me with questions expecting me to have answers for the future? I’m not a fucking Psychic. If you’re unhappy with me and the way things are put your ass on the tracks, leave, take the Midnight Train back to Georgia and your ex-husband. There won’t be any hard feelings or harsh remarks.”

” But Santi I love you. Why can’t we live a normal life and be happy, grow old together? We could travel through Mexico, Central and South America like you promised. Your addiction is out of control and harder for us to afford. I’m not peddling my ass on the street anymore and I want you to get clean. Is that too much to  hope for?”

” The only normal I’m aware of is in Illinois, no way I’m going back there. I’m not saying our lifestyle is typical behavior but you knew the circumstances before getting involved. I’m correct?”

” I know Santi, I never thought I’d feel the way I do for you. You’re so smart, you’re funny and make me laugh. You have so much potential it hurts me to see you wasting it. And you’re easy on the eyes, good looking most of the time.” 

” Telling someone they have potential is just another way of saying you’re not as dumb as you look. I don’t know what you want from me, what you want me to do! I’m not going into another Rehab program. Rehab is for quitters and I’m no quitter!”

” How can you joke at a time like this?”

” Ya well I’ve got a question. Why do you have all those keys? Did you buy a car? Get a job as a maintenance woman or a Real Estate Agent? Where are you heading off this early in the morning?”

” Early in the morning? It’s five in the afternoon dumbass and I’ve been working at Jeff’s Pub for the last five days. I told you I quit being a prostitute. I have the keys because I open and close the bar sometimes. Oh ya, Jeff doesn’t want you to come in when I’m working. You forgot I was working there didn’t you? Perfect example of your apathy concerning our relationship.”

” I didn’t forget I’m just unable to recall.” 

” Ya I’m sure. I’ve gotta go babe. Don’t go pawning the Television for dope! I bought it so we could watch movies together. And well so do you?”

” Do I what?”

” Do you love me?”

” Did you misplace your keys again? This all started because you couldn’t find your keys. Let’s not go through this again. Yes I love you.”

She gives me a long wet kiss goodbye and sashays out the door.

I entered a Drug Rehabilitation program two days later. Jessica came to visit on Wednesdays and Sundays, but after a month she didn’t come to visit any longer. I never heard from or saw Jessica again. Jeff told me she took off with the apartment manager Harry, Larry, Terry or whatever the fuck his name was. Women always leave me.

Stylized image of a French-looking gentleman in short pants and a buttoned shirt and coat tipping his hat.

Short story from Doug Hawley

The Final Frontier

Sally got home from her nature guide conference after being gone for a week.  She was surprised to see an envelope with her name on it in Duke’s handwriting propped up on the phone.  He used to send her little love notes, but with his recent problems, he had dropped the habit.  Could he finally have some good news?

“Sally, there is no way to make this easy.  I’ll be dead when you get this.”

After the first line, Sally sat down and started to cry.  It was five minutes before she could resume reading while still sniffling.

“I didn’t tell you how painful and humiliating the first dialysis was.  You may think that I had some hope of getting a kidney transplant.  I was able to keep other health problems from you that ensured that I wouldn’t be around long.  I also have liver cancer.  No idea why I bothered with dialysis, I won’t be around long, so why keep hurting when the end is near?”

“You were too good to tell me ‘I told you so’, but I certainly deserved it.  Every time you tried to keep me from smoking, drinking and overeating, I fought you.  The hacking and coughing, the blood in the urine, there was nothing that I wouldn’t ignore.  It is all on me.”

“Besides trying to protect me from myself, you were so good to me in so many ways.  When the DMV wanted to pull my driver’s license, you went to bat for me to keep my license.  When I wanted to invest half of our money in my crazy brother-in-law’s get rich scheme, you talked me out of it.   You saved me from having the crap beat out of me by the neighbor that hated the loud music I played in the backyard.  Eddie forgave a lot for your scrumptious apple pie.”

“If you knew how dire my situation was, you probably would have wanted a few more weeks together, but you know what a whining baby I am.  I would have been miserable, and I would have made your life miserable.  That is why I’ve been on my best behavior the last few weeks.  No whining about your hair or the time you spend on the phone.  Finally, I’m acting as I should have all the time that we have been married, so I hope that I get a few points.”

“You shouldn’t have to deal with the grim details.  I will take a bus out to the Gorge and get off somewhere, and then climb up, avoiding trails as much as possible.  Do you remember I wondered if there was any place in Oregon no one had ever set foot?  I hope to find such a place where I’ll never be found.  I was able to get enough fentanyl to kill me.  Remember how much better I felt at emergency when I got it in the IV?  I hope that and the brandy I’m taking will get me a feel-good passage to oblivion.”

“I loved you since we met.  You deserved better than me.”

Appears in Soft Cartel

Poetry from Daniel DeCulla

A woman, a man, and a boy standing outside in a field with grass hills outside a small country village near a donkey who's going to the bathroom.
Daniel De Culla’s original artwork


          We were kids and little girls, boys and girls, mischievous and unruly children, “chisgarabís” (pipsqueak), about 40, from four to six years old, the only ones we had in the town of Cañete, in the province of Cuenca, Spain, who, tired of teaching based on stick and tentetieso (tentety), and the reed of the catholic national doctrine, we created a “rock” in which we worshiped the Donkey’s dung, and its Hee-Haw.

          The Ass`Hee-Haw was our guide, and not that insipid, insubstantial and false Hee-Haw of the teachers, priests, doctors and mayors, the four important figures of the town, to whom we changed the name Cañete for Chiquiburra.

          We liked to tell ourselves that we were mulatto and black children or vice versa, or children of india and zambo or vice versa, because we felt longing for Cuba, since most of our grandparents had been in its war, and they told us good adventures and, rather, bad.

          When our heads hurt, our mothers would put slices of grease-smeared paper on our temples as a home remedy for pain.

          When we crossed paths with fellow countrymen or women from the town, and they asked us:

-Where are you going little ones (chiquitos)?

          We answered them:

-Mr. Mrs; Gentlemen, Ladies, “chiquitos” are the Indians of the southwestern region of Bolivia, and “chirapa” in Peru calls rain with sun.

          So much was our love for America discovered by Columbus!

          In lofts, corners or hiding places, or at the top and most hidden of a haystack, we looked at our bulba (chirimbolos)  and their flageolet(chirimías), objects that we did not understand that they were used for anything other than pissing. Thus, the boys called the girls: “Las ojetes”(The holes); and the girls to the boys: “Los pellejos” (The Skins). Although, for us these two were instruments for touching and kissing.

          When we heard a Hee-Haw, we listened attentively, trying to see where it came from and how its master was called in town, to see if he was a good or bad man.

          Once seen, we followed the Donkey wherever it was, calling it “ the Holy Father”, and also was called “You”, waiting with enthusiasm and passion, that come out from its arse hole, to which we saw opening and closing like a fig, throwing those half-spherical and warm, steamy dungs, taking them in our hands, and passing them from one to the other, sucking them as in a game of caresses. Someone passed their tongue to see what they tasted like.

          Some sparks or particles came to our eyes, blurring our sight.

          The owner of the Donkey was called “Uncle Chiriguán”, because he looked like an Indian from the interior of Cochabamba, in Bolivia, and he was also a beekeeper, because he had hives, and they also called him “Uncle Chisquete”, because, when speaking , spit was coming out of his mouth.

          This was in the afternoon, when we had already finished school, and our parents did their homework, and they went home confident that they would not have to put up with the kids.

While we passed the dungs from hand to hand, like the small change of money, we sang out of tune:

“Afternoon time

End of work.

Donkey’ Master

Don’t pay your jobs

Based on sticks.

When breaking the day

You beat it

So what it cares your garden

And your ferris wheel

At dawn in the afternoon.

On top of that you hit

It gives us free dungs.

Master, You are lucky

For a donkey’s wages

It does a great job for you

Without paular or maular

Without saying a word

Giving a lesson

To the world of work.

Your Ass is evening

The same as morning

Hours are of it

Although yours are

The orchard and the ferris wheel.

The Ass is your life

Take care of its dungs

That its light shines

All our paths and roads

For us to live

Always in its presence ”.

          Sometimes, in summer, the Ass made us very funny, because “Uncle Chisquete” put on a top hat. We looked like a herd of goats and goats behind him.

          At night, we took the dungs, which we had brought, to the goshawk that spent the night with the partridge that flew after a not too strong north wind, in the stable of “Uncle Chisquete”. Also, the chochas gallinaceous birds felt love and affection towards dungs, so much that they began to peck them as if they were bean or beans.

-Daniel de Culla