The Write Connection
July 15, 2019
The Write Connection is a free online e-zine that connects readers to authentic voices from all over the world. We pay our writers a fair wage to ensure that their writing and self is valued. We ask that if you use any of these pieces, that you please properly give credit for them. At Purple Fire, we believe that the authentic voice is the voice that calls from within. We value individuals that seek to genuinely connect with others through their unique and potent voices.
The interactive map below, is meant to be used as a collaborative connection tool, one in which writers can connect to creative collaborative work, or to just talk with each other. Each map pin shows where are writers are from and their biographies. Have fun exploring! We are excited for this E-Zine, and look forward to hearing your thoughts. Feel free to comment below in our Comments section.
An impending stretching of body, mind, and soul reaches past the limits of my whole,
But the seasons change and with the walls,
Like the retreating of light with the flip of a switch,
Like the king's master becomes the slave’s bitch,
He tells me of his masterplan, as I peel away his cross-eyed mask,
Like the monotone sunset surrounds the flood,
With the blurry eyes, screaming to the one,
Let us drown in your river of blood!
But the demon’s not of man, his soul is made of silk,
And in the glory of his brothers, he never spoke a word,
But he only cried to the words of the wolf’s milk,
So they only spoke of Heaven and Hell,
And he told her about his dreams of fire,
And a fear that was far too dire,
But a trapdoor opened in the bottom of his mind,
Where there are no floors, just infinite doors,
They only lead eastward, as the sun rises west,
Tears in the demon’s skies,
And they pull through the red tides,
But there is no ark,
Only what’s left of what was once my heart,
The end of the world is the devil’s art,
Yet he is not blind, only sly as the serpent sails through the indefinite sobs of burning mobs of those of did not nod to the winds of sand that killed the wise men of the land,
Behind the swamps of burning moss, or the forests that burned as you denounced our eternal acts as illusions,
My devotion to the sun was built on the mud made from the rain of the world’s pains, and I apologize for the uncertainty I trailed behind, for I thought my will was not denied,
I thought I tried.
I rise before the sun
In the pitch black
Illuminated by a singular
Harshly against my face
Red and angry
A thorn from under my skin
Bruised and sore
The dark speckles of purple
Lay underneath my
I can't hide it
Pulling open the zipper
Bottles of beige liquids stand in front of my eyes.
Bandaids for the ugly
I wet my sponge, water dripping
Over my tired hands
Then I begin.
I lay on my new skin
I draw on my new brows
I outline my new lips
I pull my cheeks from edge to edge
A melancholy smile creep onto me
Am I pretty yet?
Staring back at me
My reflection still shows the exhaustion
Disguised under layers of foundation
I still see the red
Covered meekly by colour correctors
I still see my small eyes
Emphasized pathetically by two,
Thick black lines
Drawn onto the sides
Pointing up, yet facing down
Why do I still try?
I am ugly.
I saw a ghost but I wasn’t
sure what it truly was
The ghost was a little over the
age of thirty- thirty degrees over
I’m losing it, the ghost has me
covered in moth balls and cracker
I wonder if the ghost is keeping
me awake to write this poem.
I don’t know, I don’t know for
As days go by, I sit and wonder.
I sit in this pain within my soul.
I sit here and wonder, but continue wandering in this pain.
I sit here and hear this pain grabbing beneath my soul.
A soul that was not to be touched by evil.
An evil reminder that you were real beneath my soul.
Reminding me of each finger, you have laid out beneath my soul.
A finger that left a mark of unhealed trauma beneath my soul.
A mark embedding my worst fear.
Fear of memories replaying over and over.
A memory of society making this fear a reality.
A memory I cry of lost cries that have slipped in silence.
A silence ignored within my own soul.
A soul so deep, I have written through my words beyond, page after page.
Beneath my soul, each page was torn, but still was never heard because I fear this trauma beneath my soul.
Green eyes that shine like emeralds
Touched by the sweet waters of sorrow
Fragile thoughts and heavenly loss
Fade away in their golden glory
A goddess cries in the distance
Chanting the words of a restless mind
And stars fall like fires from the sky
With her endless agony
The morning star holds onto her
It shines so bright that it burns
When its flames perish into the night
Darkness loses her sanity.
The Goddess, even more sad
Looks around and cries for help
No one saves her from the night
And there, she loses her beauty.
Your face lit a little as you jawed about your girlfriend,
that light an inadequate bulb, a half-lost memory,
a badly-acted scene of happiness with a lover,
a lover, a lover.
Her name was Werbunfulchen, pronounced Germanically.
I wanted to know what you liked about her
- also what she looked like (of course).
Was she slimmer, younger, prettier than I am?
I didn't wonder about her name,
though what kind of name, in Britain, is Werbunfulchen?
You didn't say much about her as we lay on sunlit grass
together, together, together, but you left after twenty minutes
and then I had a lot of aching to do, without you, without you.
Shall we unpick it?
'Wer' - she's a were-creature, like a werewolf.
'Chen' at the end means 'little'.
In between in 'bunful' - such a lovely thing to be!
Full of spherical carbohydrate, well-endowed with buns.
Buns in all the ovens and fluffy bunny rabbits.
Except that the little bun woman is a were-creature.
Beware! She's bad for you! Love me instead.
Though at the time I didn't care about her name.
I just loved that twenty minutes lying on sunlit grass
with you, with you, with you.
With the nonsense-importance of dreams,
I didn't care about language at all. Imagine!
I just cared about you.
“We should go home.”
Julia’s eyes swept across the massive trees that towered toward the sky. She glanced back at the bridge they had crossed. The narrow structure was at the mercy of the moaning winds coming from the mountains. Julia jumped on the solid ground and sighed with relief. She wrapped her hands around herself, shivering. The air was warm, but something in the woods made her blood run cold.
“Are you kidding me?” barked John. His forehead glistened with sweat. His chest grew and shrunk as he breathed hard. “We’ll be there in ten.”
“Look at you. You’re exhausted. Besides...” Julia’s voice died as the woods conjured a terrible image of a treelike monster breathing fire and devouring children in her mind.
“I’m fine. What’s up with that face?” John frowned.
“Father warned us.” Julia stepped toward the bridge. She dreaded to cross it once more, but there was no other way to escape the woods and what lurked inside.
John grabbed her hand. “You’re coming with me. You promised me!”
Julia looked at her brother. “What if the tales are true?”
“I guess we’ll have to see for ourselves. And trust me, there is no way a fire breathing tree can physically exist.”
Despite her better judgment, Julia nodded and ventured into the woods. The gigantic canopy blocked the sun, and the darkness and the eerie silence made her heart jump.
“Why is this place so silent?”
John shrugged. “I’m more worried about the directions.”
Julia froze. “What do you mean? Are we...lost?”
“Just keep walking.”
They walked for an hour. The air grew hot, and their skin became slick with sweat. The thick canopy was now an impregnable roof, ensuring a cover of pitch black darkness. Julia pulled out her flashlight. She swivelled and flashed it at the opening from where they had entered, but an intricate network of trees and creepers met her eyes.
“Impossible. Are the trees moving?”
John ignored her.
“I don’t understand. According to the map, the Red Tree should be here.” He wiped his forehead with his shirt. His lips curled into a victorious smile. “If it isn’t here, it means it doesn’t exist! I told you this town’s folklore is false. Hey, you alright? You look like you saw a ghost.”
“We’re trapped, John.”
The ground rumbled. The flashlight flickered and died. Everything turned black. Red streaks appeared from under the forest floor and started crawling on the trees, along the surface and under, like veins of an animal.
“Oh my God!” John pulled her to his side when a crack slithered across the ground. Earth broke and a hole formed at the center. A red womb, connected to all trees by red veins, emerged from the hole. Inside its thick, glowing membrane was a humanoid figure of flesh and roots. Leaves rustled, a sound like cries of tortured souls. The creature tore through and crawled out. It devoured John.
“No!” Julia screamed. Then it came for her.
I have a favorite rock. And now it’s time to go sit on that rock. It interested me from the beginning when I moved here from the city. It’s the only granite boulder around here. I’m glad it’s warm from the sun and there’s a nice divot for my hip on the top. In winter it can be so hard. The handholds get so slippery. And when I get up there, it’s so cold. My doctor just couldn’t understand why I had frostbite of only one ear. I need that divot because I have to get my head down low on the rock to hear anything. Just a murmur. That’s all; unless I really concentrate.
I’ve known that there’s a story coming for days now. Stories are like babies, they need to gestate and then the birth pangs start. I don’t know what starts stories. I’m careful not to watch these rocks at night. They might need privacy. Some stories only take a month and others take more than a year. But I know the signs of a story coming. The creeping feeling that something is coming, the sound of small nails scraping at a windowpane. Sometimes I feel guilty when I get praised for my stories when I don’t write them. I am only the midwife.
Is that why there are lumps on the rock; were those the stories that didn’t come out? I’ve noticed that the more I come out here, the more the rock seems to fit me. What will happen when I die? How many writers have laid on this rock? This is a new house but I know others had to have been here before me. There is a mound not far from here. How many hundreds have been here before?
I have to stop my mind from racing. But now this story is coming. I have to concentrate.
The beginning is a girl barefoot, playing in front of a stone and sod house. A historical? There’s so many of those. I suppose I can’t blame anyone; this rock has seen and heard centuries of stories. I tell it stories about my life, too. Especially the things I don’t want anyone to know. What is history but gossip about the long dead and when I’m dead the things I know can’t hurt anyone. I press my ear closer to the rough stone so I can hear better.
No, this isn’t a historical, there’s a solar panel on the house and the dog she’s playing with is green. I hope it’s not a post apocalyptic. It makes me nervous when I get too many of those. I mean they’re just stories, not hidden warnings. I hope. I have to concentrate, again. No, the sun over the girl is also green. It will be a very interesting story. Oh, sometimes I pity writers where the rocks are silent.
God whispered to his angels
Bring her home to me
She's touched the hearts of many
Her life is now complete
I wasn't ready for you to go
I'm not sure I'll ever be
But I know that you'll live on
Right here inside of me
And when you left this place
And made your journey home
A piece of me walked with you
So you wouldn't be alone
I know you'll be beside me
Our bond remains unbroken
And I will continue to speak
All the words that were left unspoken
For your love will be everlasting
In all the hearts that you touched
And you will never be forgotten
Because you were loved so much
And although we are left here on earth
Weeping tears of sorrow
We must remind ourselves
We will meet again tomorrow
Don't try to pull me under
I will resist your ebb and flow
I refuse to be pulled under
But I will never let you go
Don't make me feel the thunder
I will close my eyes through the storm
I will await the changing of the tide
But I'll take you in all of your forms
Don't cut me with your knife
I can't lose any more blood
But I will let it wash over me
Drowning in your flood
Don't make me repeat your lies
I can't take the twists and turns
I'll never know the unfiltered truth
And I will never learn
Don't make me question my worth
Because I don't know my past
And I'll lie to myself again
That this time will be the last
Don't try to dim my spirit
I will fight to let it shine
And I will go on knowing
That you were never really mine
Don't tempt me with your flaws
I will not give in to your seduction
I am my only master
The architect of my own destruction
I was raised in an era of anger
and spite-sated demi-worlds.
I lived brow-deep in the bogs of hell
and yet bloomed with a kind of blanched attractiveness.
I love to romp and play through endless woods and fields.
Sometimes hope requires a lot of running about aimlessly.
Of course, such activity stirs mosquitoes into action.
And I trip over downed trees a lot,
get tangled up in spiders’ webs.
But a desperate act of salvation still has charm.
Which is why I joined this dating service.
For now night has come.
Frivolity is a bystander.
Courage must take over.
And the dating culture
is one continuous abstraction
burning and blistering with trends.
But without it,
the world is cold and uncertain.
Or cringing and cursing.
And not a good place to give voice
to your fears.
A word from whoever you are
would be of great value.
Even just “what's up?”
A bit of humor, perhaps.
Of course, ultimately, we would have to part.
For what is getting together
but a torment that finds its way to your apartment
in the form of a snake.
Meanwhile, there’s breaking news.
The country’s at war
and all wars…of our choosing that is…are good.
The president wants me to be out there somewhere,
taking towns by force.
In the meantime, I must center my mind elsewhere,
away from me at all costs.
That also means away from you. Sorry.
If you can’t kiss
a frog’s slimy mouth
and transform it into royalty,
then what’s the point
of the creature.
And if it’s not sacred
to your religion,
or you don’t see
a woman in birth position
when a frog is squatting,
then why look any further.
No one concedes anything to a frog
A frog merely croaks and copulates.
It basks on a lily pad.
It breaststrokes underwater.
It seems banal, unimportant.
If it wasn’t for other frogs,
it would never attract an audience.
And yet its absence could indicate
an out-of-balance biosphere,
a harbinger of human end-times.
It sits motionless for hours.
Maybe it’s just working on
being the frog presence we need.
But no one concedes anything to a frog
I’m not really into cosmic things, but I don’t have a choice. Salvador Dali is forever. I used to see seagulls everywhere. Then a mirror unrolled from the sky, and the seagulls were just skeletons. None of it made a lot of sense. Someone said to me, “It’s simple. A black hole is where time and space disappear.” Simple?! Solid objects are melting into air at an alarming pace. It’s not an unknown future. It’s almost here. I think it must be like a wasp nest in a barrack in a German concentration camp or 634 minutes inside a volcano.
Not disability, nor plague, nor disease, it is just what structures my fence.
Like a fence, my ADD blocks out other people and their ideas.
I live between two yards.
My fence keeps things out, new ideas cannot always get through.
But overtime my bricks can wear down and crumble.
If you look at the crevices of my fence, you can find hate and darkness,
but you can also find humor, quirkiness,
and lots of qualities that make me a good friend.
A gate keeps people out, but also lets people in
who take the time to know me
or want to be part of the worlds I like to play in.
“Boys don’t cook,” says your father’s glare when you serve him sunny-side-up eggs in the
“Boys don’t look the way you do,” his furrowed brow grumbles in the afternoon when he sees your smudged eyeliner and fishnet sleeves.
“No boy of mine will be a failure,” his fists roar as they shake the dinner table.
Boys like you love girls and boys. Boys like you sometimes want to get hurt, just not by their father’s hateful words.
So, that night you slip into your leather jacket and shimmy down the sycamore tree by your window. You walk the empty streets, as single-minded as those moths that beat themselves against the flickering street lamps all around you.
She’s no sun; she’s no moon. No one at school would ever believe the nice girl likes to do the dirty deed with the reject extraordinaire. Yet she knows you, and you know her well. You knock on her window, the one she keeps pestering you to oil because we don’t want the entire neighborhood knowing what we’re up to, do we?
“Come in,” she says, and you do. You float to the bed full of fabric and pillows and supple skin.
You mold your body against hers.
“Oh, honey. Are you okay?” she asks with a gentle hand cupping your cheek.
“No,” you choke against her, “I’m not okay.”
You take her hand in yours and curl the nude-lacquered fingernails into a claw you place around your neck. Her small, cool hand fits there like a promise. The first time you did it, the look of horror you’d expected never came. She just tilted her head sideways, bird-like, inquisitive. You were already flying before she even squeezed.
This time, you don’t have to beg for long.
Soon, you’re soaring together.
Odd couple they stand near a pile of regrets
heads bowed their hands cannot quite reach
yet the tingling increases as energy moves.
Heaped like a warm fir of a past Christmas night
Those naked limbs seem to live a strange parody
At play with the memories of lives they once owned.
The glow of the ancient blaze dormant
makes like a chapel consecrated to worship eternity
witnesses they remain quiet as they too ponder a purpose.
Still the emanating recollection permeates their essence
and they vanish in a fiery shower of lost destinies
while the army of skeletons continues its lifeless dance.
Would-be makers of infinite worlds, shall they continue
on their stroll through the valleys, forgotten by the giants
or share in the treasures offered by these unlikely benefactors.
Perhaps they will pursue as they do into the evening fires,
the present chapter of a story without a fertile oasis
they too, bones of moments they could not truly cherish.
along the walls I'd built around my heart -
the first sign
that your light
was beginning to seep through the cracks
the monster wakes.
Its icy fingers wrap themselves
around my heart and squeeze.
In its wretched voice, it spits
as claws rake across my flesh,
tearing open barely healed wounds,
as if to brand me, claim me, with scars.
I used to fear the monster under my bed
but much more frightful,
much more cruel,
is the monster inside my head.
Like the water,
fierce at the same time
Become the vessel you are put in
torrential to tear
down a mountain.
Push and pull,
ebb and flow.
But at the same time,
Be as solid as the earth below
Just as hard and nurturing.
Be immovable by any force
And let life sprout through your cracks.
Be the fire that burns within
Uncontrollable and heartwarming
Brighten the darkness around
But burn the hand that holds you.
Be wild as to frighten all
But let others fly to your warmth.
Be the wind that fans the flames
Just as soothing and caressing
But at the same time
Let your chill bite.
Comfort the troubled souls with your touch
But uproot the immovable trees.
at seventy-one, awkward in-be-
of when I was seventeen
but instead of tumescence,
whose operating systems wheeze
this side of addled.
Hippies, we imagined
living together forever
now those of us left
pool resources for
burial plots and flowers.
There was a place
I used to hide.
A distant far off land.
Behind closed eyes,
soft colors swam among
sweet whispered scents.
Now, awake at three a.m.,
my heart begins to race.
Pulsating emotions fill my head.
Chaotic visions beyond
the realm of known truth
enter my weary mind.
No sleep, no rest.
Mental exhaustion plays
dancing feedback loops.
My hiding place now vanquished.
Dreams that are worth dreaming
come at a dear price.
I want to write like that,
I told myself
after reading through
the messy pile of magazines
stacked high upon
my night stand.
I stay up half the night
reading other people’s stories,
not having one
of my own to write.
I want to live like that,
I tell myself
flash across the television screen
at two in the morning.
Not even having the courage
to go down the street anymore
for fear of losing myself.
So I sit alone and read,
of a someday that will never be.
I want to be that someone else
that I can never be.
I sip tea as I turn another
page and vanish
into the story.
It was a day to remember. She was swirling around in her thoughts of true love. It was at that exact moment a young, yet mysterious, soul looked at her. She felt something deep down, and it seemed like she had found what she was searching for.
He used to follow her wherever she went. He couldn’t even breathe unless he saw her, and the most interesting part was she knew who was following her. The one she always dreamt of, but it was still a mystery as following her was not enough because she has gone far and wanted more.
But the mystery made her curious, so she tried all the possible doors to enter.
He thought he was smart enough to never let her know what he was up to, as he was just a mystery which never or ever could be understood, but nature helped her and soon she realized that she had following an unanswered path.
She finally approached him and was near to her never-ending grief.
She, in innocence and truth, fell for someone who never really took her seriously but enjoyed the true magic love of hers.
She was magic and him a mystery.
It all ended when she dug a magical pit and fell into it with unknown feelings and infinite questions buried inside.
How unfortunate he -the mystery - was. If he would ever have known what he had lost.
Love is magic and doesn't need any unsaid and unsatisfied feelings, such as a mystery. A mystery is simply an excuse to which the magic of love has always conquered.
So, she lived as magical as she was, and she left behind the mystery which was useless and as disappointing as the mystery itself.
Love, and to be loved, is a great blessing indeed, but for the weak, it’s the only pleasure of time.
Love is for the roaring ones not for the trembling leaking souls.
Alas, what a small world it is... mystery and magic remained alive, but the love disappeared as it never existed.
You’ve learned exactly how to seek a poem out
sneak up on it asleep,
lure it and tame it and teach it to obey.
But this one crept up on you.
Slipped into bed beside you at one AM
and started touching you in a way you didn’t like.
Without waiting for permission,
it put its hands on your most sensitive and secret parts.
And you hated it
for knowing what you loved.
A Report from the Narrator
The autobiographical fragment that conflates the day Elvis died with lost innocence is brought to you by the author’s failing memory. While the author provides the reader with an impressive accretion of believable details, using both playful and ludic forms, many suggest that some elements in The Day Elvis Died are entirely made up fictions. A handful of readers question whether the author really lost his innocence on the exact day Elvis died; or, as one prominent critic asserts, did our author lose his innocence when he ordered his friend Becky to reveal her privates in an industrial dumpster, as they stood on a pile of discarded milk cartons, exactly 11 days prior to the day Elvis expired on the tiled floor of Graceland?
It’s difficult to discern if our author knowingly created fictions that masquerade as fact and whether his motives are malign. Why would he consciously attempt to deceive readers into thinking the objects, characters, events, and themes faithfully represent his experience and exhibit verisimilitude? I suppose we'll never really know. It is entirely possible, as certain scholars contend, that he is a bastard. I would rather not comment on their claim, considering my delicate position in this matter; although, well, nevermind. Perhaps the reason lies with you, reader? Our author relates events that are 40 years old, yet he must meet your unrealistic expectations that these words accurately reflect his life. Who can say, after all these years, if the bricks in the housing project were red, brown, or gray; or, if Tim’s assailant was really named Frederick Jr? If I can be frank for a moment, both the author and me often wonder if we would be better off without you.
All of the characters in this narrative were constructed in the author’s creative faculties, wherever those may lie. Although, to clarify, some of the characters did exist, like the author for instance, and the assailant who now goes by Frederick Jr, and the bloodied victim whose name you will discover in the appropriate section of this story. Let’s stop these playful digressions for an instant and issue the warning that was prophetically anticipated by the title of this section. Since the author merely walked by the disturbing scene, which we will soon depict, he did not necessarily know Frederick Jr, the victim, nor the mysterious bystander. Consequently, their identities and characteristics are likely the author’s subconscious construction involving different elements of known individuals, mixed with fictitious characters found in numerous books and films. In the light of this admission, we can truthfully state that all characters in this narrative are fantasies but do exist on a fictional plane in the author’s faulty memory. If the mnemonic faults of this obscure writer resemble the faults of other authors, it is purely coincidental. For more information about the author, Thomas Willard, please contact the National Security Agency, ATTN: FOIA (DJ4), 9800 Savage Road STE 6248, Ft. George G. Meade, MD 20755-6248. Please enclose a SASE.
There Are Stories Behind Names
A brief offering of biographical capsules about the actors in this somewhat tragic tale:
Narrator: A relative unknown who was rejected by Cesar Aira to narrate The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira, until his recent explosion into the literary scene as the sole narrator in W.R. Foxgrove’s “A Pee in the Pence,” which has been hailed as a “ludic foray into the imagination of a London orphan during the Blitz,” by a noted literary periodical. Since the release of this enigmatic text a mere 3 years ago, some have levelled charges that he is an unreliable narrator, scabrous, or, according to his ex-wife, drunk with power. To these charges, my eloquent response can be summarized in 2 words: fuck you.
Tommy: A childlike persona of the author likely cobbled from multiple sources, which include the author’s delusional sense of his own past. He imagines himself a strapping young lad clad in a sharp velour pullover with a smart part in his jet black hair, and an ostentatious style that accentuates his confident gait. His mother Sharron offered a different characterization: “He was a really awful child. After one of his outbursts, I told him I was going to drive him to a pickup point for hell, where he will be carried away by large, presumably irradiated, fire ants. He then proactively took it upon himself to dig a hole to hell in our modest back yard. When he reached some rust colored dirt, he declared himself emperor of hell and that year is now 0. Moreover, his sheepish gait radiated nothing but uncertainty.”
Frederick Jr: His coiffed hair and black leather jacket provide this fictional projection with the necessary trappings of toughness. While it’s likely that the authentic Frederick Jr was tough, this tough is likely based on an archetypal musician in disreputable rock acts or a nihilistic biker who snarls and fights his way through the unfathomable. Although, most likely, it is fathomable.
Tim Nettles: Tim earned a small fortune characterizing victims in a series of provocative narratives. Born to be bullied, Nettles is an award winning character who appears in over 30 works of fiction and true crime. In 1994, he won the coveted “Masochist Martyr” award for his courageous role as Saul in Mark Cohen’s “I Stabbed the Sonderkommando,” narrowly defeating Gaston Berlin’s masterful performance as a forlorn cuckold in “Hierarchies of Love.” When Frederick Jr was asked about the honor of working with a celebrated character, he responded: “I’m not sure what it is, but there is something about Tim’s face that really makes you want to punch him.”
Mysterious Bystander: Who is this man? Why is he standing in our somewhat truthful autobiographical text, watching a hideous act of violence? What kind of voyeur gets off watching this kind of thing, or worse yet, reading about it? Is this character invading our narrative from a different story? Perhaps it is Dr. Aira spying on our story to steal ideas for another one of his “novels.” Well, I have plans for him.
Frankie: A faithful rendition of the author's childhood friend based on testimony and numerous interview sessions. In the transcript of my initial interview with the author, he relates: “OK, if you must press me for anecdotes, I would say he was adequate in both width and length.” In a later interview, Mr. Willard opened up a little more: “Frankie was a dominant Hungry Hippos game player. It was as if this sullen seven year old suddenly conjured the indomitable spirit of the hippo. Although, some school mates thought the key to his success lay with his shrill render of the hungry hungry hippo song, distracting his opponents from gobbling that elusive white ball. The truth is likely in between. He was also a noted Mr. Mouth enthusiast, but could never find the dexterous success he exhibited playing Hungry Hippos.
Frankie’s Mom: A snarky older woman who once taught the author how to blow his nose. Who can't figure that out on their own? Or, perhaps, she was snide and took joy in correcting the author’s every mistake? It’s difficult to discern the true motive of a fictitious construct. If there is a weak link in this story, it will likely be her.
Sharron: The author warned me to leave his mother out of this, or I would suffer grave consequences. Well, here she is, in the story, and your humble narrator has suffered no consequences. It's yet another limp threat from a powerless author.
Heidi: Some knew her as a hypochondriac who mimicked tubercular coughs. Some knew her as a partially deformed child, if only in spirit. Some knew her to commit isolated acts of cruelty toward cats. Some knew her as an innocent fairy, with a nasty temperament. Some knew her as a metaphorical ellipsis. Some knew her to write illegible aphorisms. Some knew her to cheat at Chutes and Ladders. Some only knew her imaginary friend, Cale. While others knew her far too intimately.
Assorted Children: Together they produced an atonal noise burst, a moving organism with cacophonous incongruities that savagely moved through the projects, like a sandstorm through a city in decay.
Elvis: This narrative has little to offer in the way of anecdotes, analysis, or digressive flights about Elvis and his overblown death. The lone exception is when the author’s childish persona, Tommy, bursts into Frankie’s apartment as a maudlin declaration echoes from the black and white television: the “king is dead.” Shortly before this declaration, the plot demands that Tommy view a horrific act of violence. This correlation may or may not be of symbolic value, depending on the readers proclivity. Elvis is nowhere, yet his spirit infects every word of this narrative. Don't ask me how. This is all I have to say on this matter.
Time and Sundry Topics of Note
Time will proceed in an orderly fashion, per the author, except for a few metafictional scenes that seem to exist outside of time and space. The day that contains most of the events referred to in this story is 8/16/1977, unless otherwise noted. Elements and amorphous objects, such as the weather, color, and the properties of both organic and inorganic materials, will suffer the effects of time; although, the reader likely won’t notice. Please note that all timestamps are in EST, adjust according to your particular time zone.
In a period piece, the narrator should not overlook the nuanced details of the mise-en-scene, so that the story lends authenticity to the reader. One wouldn’t enjoy a novel set in Victorian England if the landed gentry conversed in an Art Nouveau inspired parlor. This would surely violate your sense of decorum, as you are certainly a reader with elevated taste and expectations. The difficulties associated with locating accurate detritus from the mid-1970s are numerous, even if you insist otherwise. Soda cans, beer bottles, discarded mailers, fast food wrappers, and other sundry trappings of mid-1970’s poverty are not collector’s items, nor were they manufactured with the intent to last. I am far too busy narrating to locate rusty Schlitz cans, crumpled Hardees french-fry containers, and discarded Mad Magazine issues; for this reason, I have procured the services of Sam Tillcoat. Tillcoat, a noted detritus collector, achieved renown locating authentic detritus for the Blaxploitation classic “Eldridge Rise Up,” which demanded he source discarded ephemera from 1960's consumer culture, which had likely decayed to rot in the infamous Fresh Kills landfill.
If you were a collector of detritus, rather than a reader, your initial instinct would undoubtedly involve a shovel and pail to mine landfill for 70’s detritus, digging your way through decades of post-consumer waste hoping to chance upon RC Cola cans or pristine Carvel sundae containers. This is exactly why I didn't hire you, much to your dismay. Perhaps you disagree? Do you herald from a lineage of dynamic detritus collectors? Was your father a noted rag picker who could strip an entire neighborhood of every discarded rag before most people have finished eating breakfast? Did your grandfather successfully pick the pockets of 428 property owning New Yorkers before errantly picking Big Bill Howser's pocket, resulting in his grisly demise behind the Bowery Cement Factory? No, your father is probably an accountant or a pencil pusher, which denies you the genetic predisposition required to procure decadal detritus. Yet, you continue to belligerently insist that you could do better?
Recipe for a Mise-en-scene: Take 2
The scene is still and quiet as the action of our story has yet to begin. We see an ill-kept field with brown patches of grass strewn with discarded wrappers and cans that have been placed in no discernible pattern. If you walk through this small field, you would likely try to kick a can in front of you, then kick it again, as long as you can, but we ask that you please refrain, at least until the plot has exhausted itself. You have encountered small unkempt fields like this hundreds of times and given them no thought. An ill-conceived sidewalk snakes along the field’s western border and disappears behind the facade of a two-story tenement apartment. To the east, the field is enclosed by a cheap steel mesh fence that seems entirely unnecessary as the field simply continues beyond the fence. Does it matter what municipality this field belongs to? You won't find it on a map, there are no coordinates for this shabby place.
A patina of sunlight creeps across the field suggesting “the perfect day.” You look across the field, north, and notice the striking red hue of the brick tenement buildings. At a distance, the bricks look alike, perhaps too pristine given the passing years. Everything is in its place, just as you expect. As you move toward the building’s facade, you notice the superficial trappings of housing: plastic door bells radiating an orange hue, pieces of rusted black iron that serve as door knockers should you lack the energy to vigorously knock your knuckles, mailboxes made from flimsy metal, and a ridiculous weathervane that has no place here. As you draw closer and look carefully, you see that these are not bricks at all, just stenciled lines with an uneven splash of red paint on the surface of cheap particle board. A swift wind will blow this scene down. You almost imagine a half-built stairwell inside that leads nowhere, if there is an inside. Perhaps many of the materials were purchased secondhand, from other failed novels and stories that sit in dusty stacks or forgotten files on abandoned laptops.
If it pleases you, we can pretend that the buildings and sidewalks extend beyond your immediate line of sight, that they are part of a larger neighborhood where children play on lazy afternoons, and buildings give way to streets where cars roam dense arterial networks that lead to other municipalities that are part of a concrete world. But our characters know not to wander far because the scene diminishes into vague geometrical shapes suggesting depth. Fata Morgana constructed with cheap plywood. There is no use longing for an accurate scene, you will never know the truth of it; we are forever at the mercy of the author’s failing memory and waning resources. Should he not have waited so long to write this “memoir,” then perhaps he could remember it correctly.
One feels that this area is not only a scene in a poor American neighborhood, but a character in our story. Moreover, it is a character with characteristics, like any other protagonist, which has the power to jar memories. Our author succumbs to this power; the “red bricks” induced a wistful memory. It is the memory of a young girl, a girl we call Heidi. She brazenly squats on the dusty ground as if she were the main character in her own story, completely ignorant of her modest role in this ancillary scene. If this were a 19th century fiction, we might romanticize Heidi's innocence, but we know better now.
She seems to be breaking up Crayola crayons and placing the colored wax fragments into a brick protuberance holding a small stew of melted crayons that have wilted under the sun. Perhaps you would like to know the colors of the crayons she inserts into the protuberance? Quite frankly, it won’t add anything to the story, so I won’t bother. Tommy hovers over Heidi, curious about her intentions. She has none; the only reason she appears in this scene is to deliver her lines to someone, lines she will surely muck up. They speak.
Heidi: The scene looks really neat, but this is not how I remember it looked back then. The bricks were not like that at all and the fence wasn’t there.
Tommy: It would be prohibitively expensive to change it now. As it stands, we think the contractor submitted a fictitious invoice for their billable hours and some of the itemized materials do not appear on set, like the swing set. Do you see a swing set?
Tommy: There was quite an argument about this between the narrator and contractor. I expect civil litigation.
Heidi: Will the court proceedings be part of the story?
Tommy: No. That takes place in real life.
Heidi: Don't you think it's ironic that a fictitious invoice was submitted in a fiction?
Tommy: Let's try to be serious, this story is too ironic already.
Heidi: Oh, are we in the story now? Do you think I am doing okay?
Tommy: How should I know? Do I look like the narrator? I am sure you will hear from the narrator about how you delivered the wrong lines, just like you did in rehearsals.
Narrator: Tommy walks away disgusted, yet eager for the next scene.
Then What Happened
The part you have been waiting for is upon us. The cast rehearsed their lines night after night. Each of our characters are handsomely costumed in the trappings of 1970’s poverty, as long as you don't look too closely. Fake blood is mixed and generously applied where applicable. The building stands stately, not unlike plump Buck Mulligan. The grass is strewn with the appropriate detritus; that Sam Tillcoat does have a deft touch. All the while, a shadowy figure roams the boundaries of your visual field. Who is he?
The characters are correctly positioned and the action is about to commence. Tommy approaches the scene and notices Tim Nettles on his knees, as if pleading; his face generously painted in blood. When Tim sees Tommy’s sour expression, it functions as a cue, alerting Tim to strike an agonized countenance. Tim's agony continues this great chain of action as it induces Frederick to snarl his upper lip in an aggressive manner and stiffen the collar of his leather jacket, which is far too heavy for this summer day. The tension builds, will anyone deliver their lines? The very instant Frederick reaches for Tim's hand with resolute brutality, a bicyclist rides across the field of fiction. Security is quite lax. Frederick is sweating. The bumpy terrain jars the cyclist, but not enough to inhibit her progress into our plot. Frederick rushes to his left and pushes her to the ground. What kind of brute treats a woman this way? “What the fuck,” screams the cyclist. “You asshole!” The fallen cyclist disentangles herself from the bicycle. Frederick looms, sweating and confused. A perfect cross is created for an instant as the cyclist’s elbow connects with Frederick’s nose at a 45 degree angle. Tim panics as this is not in his script. Does he have the wrong script? We will never know. Frederick appears to have lost consciousness, yet he continues to perspire at an alarming rate. The shadowy figure mentioned earlier is maniacally laughing, or sneezing; the pollen count was elevated today. The cyclist is tending to the bicycle chain. Is she a character in this fiction now? I will check on her status later. If there were tenants in the apartment buildings, they would peer out of their windows at the spectacle below. Due to cost overruns unbeknownst to the characters, we could not employ extras to populate the buildings, nor could we afford the window frames they would gaze from while they take pleasure at the suffering below. Is it possible you could simply imagine something for once?
Tim looks relieved that chance penetrated our story since the plot demands Frederick break his fingers one by one as Tommy Jr happens upon the scene, presumably robbing Tommy of his childhood innocence. When Frederick awakes from his concussion, he will surely be disappointed. All week he waxed poetic about the crack each finger would make while “Tim's stupid face cried.” If you look closely, Tim appears dishevelled, which is odd, since nothing has really happened. A hack tailor job has left his button down flannel tight in unflattering places. I hope no one noticed. And the blood globbed up to the right of his nostril. It should have flowed downward and soiled his flannel as we are subject to the laws of gravity in this story.
Tommy began to cry for reasons we could only surmise. Perhaps performing in the author’s failing memory panicked him; we all suspected Tommy was really disgusted with the entire production. This charade is beginning to feel like a community theater group, which is a polite way of stating that it’s second rate. The only thing left for Tommy is to rush to the locale of the final scene. Before we can join him, the shadowy figure comes forth bearing a note.
The note is promptly delivered to the author and reviewed by his legal counsel. Since the author failed to construct a police department, we could not alert the authorities, a fact certainly not lost on the note’s author. The note sent shockwaves through our story, and could set a dangerous precedent for future fictions. Once blackmail is permitted, it never ends. Some of the characters viewed each other with suspicion. “Does Frederick, himself, stand to gain the most,” wondered Tim. Others questioned the integrity of the author; did he simply add this section for dramatic effect? We would not want this distrust to extend to the narrator though, would we? If your answer is no, please proceed to the next paragraph; otherwise, please avert your eyes and await further instructions.
Due to pending litigation, the author’s legal team asked that we not disclose the note’s content, nor depict a facsimile of the document, if you can call it a document. The quality of the note’s paper is horrendous, wrinkled in every imaginable permutation, which can vary significantly depending on who is imagining it. Our author is known for his Baroque imagination, for the record, but has elected to refrain from listing every permutation. And the handwriting? The writing instrument? (Note, a dramatic tone is intended.) A Crayola crayon? Of all colors, they chose “Tickle Me Pink?” Can we call a crenellated note scribbled in ineligible “Tickle-Me Pink” a document?
The author of the note, if I can paraphrase, has threatened to go public with information challenging the actual identity of the assailant in our story. According to the note, our author slanders Frederick due to a petty slight Frederick paid the author years ago. He willfully misrepresented a character, a charge readers will not soon forgive. Whelan T Peach, also known as “Whet Peach” in certain circles, was the true assailant, the note contends. It was Whet Peach who bloodied Tim Nettle’s nose and cruelly broke his fingers one by one as Tommy passed the scene that the dramatis personae were unable to successfully act out, due to an aleatoric bicyclist. The note contained one demand: remove all fraudulent references to Frederick in this narrative and cease any future writing or fictions involving Frederick from the pen of Thomas Willard. We have only one response to this demand, and yes we speak as one; we will not be intimidated by threats or blackmail, whether the threats, or dramatic players, be fictitious or real.
The Final Scene; or, One Scene Too Many
We all knew to hurry to the final scene, lest the author forget about us altogether. We could feel the waning vibrancy of the narrative as the author’s imaginative faculties fatigue. Tommy is the first to arrive in our hastily contrived final scene that remotely resembles a small apartment in an economically depressed building. Due to budgetary restraints, the details of our final, and some may claim most important, scene remain overlooked as we could no longer afford the luxury of Sam Tillcoat’s masterful detritus collections; consequently, Sam has run off with Heidi. Don't jump to conclusions, it’s possible that Heidi has pure intentions.
Frankie's mom strides through her living room with an air of indifference and greets Tommy with a tepid grunt that merely acknowledges his existence, nothing more. The script called for an “exhaustive hello,” a directive that has not been particularly successful. Her physical appearance runs counter to the script’s directive as well; we find her in a soiled nurse uniform rather than a short cocktail dress, undermining the professional verisimilitude you have come to expect in this story. The reader will never know Frankie’s mom as she should be, a delectable young tart with a heart of gold. Your disappointment with this failure is palpable.
If events are to adequately conclude, we require meaningful dialogue between Tommy and Frankie's mom; something tells me we will not get it. If she refrains from delivering any additional lines then the story is at risk of a premature ending. Out of spite, she will deny us this merciful end. While her eloquence is quite limited, Frankie's mom manages a phrase: “what went on out there?” Tommy is already annoyed with her condescending tone. “Nothing that was supposed to happen. Lines left undelivered, actions corrupted by chance, and now this!” Tommy motions to the poorly decorated room. The atmosphere suggests exhaustion. Frankie's mom grins, but is otherwise sullen.
The television that is situated toward the back of the room drones on, tuned to gray static. Let's abandon this false pretence, close our eyes, and pretend for a moment that Frankie's mom is a competent protagonist, who follows directives, and moves toward the television with unwavering resolve. If I can press this fiction a bit further, imagine she turns the channel to a major network, as the script demands, and successfully manipulates the tin foil encrusted antennae, arriving at a clear broadcast. A fatherly voice seeps into your imagination, delivering the following lines in a grave tone: “the king is dead, Elvis is no longer with us. Millions of Americans mourn his passing, and perhaps the passing of our national innocence.” Isn't this a pleasant fiction?