lost ironies

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first day of summer

Pender Street Venus rising and a waning crescent moon. The sound of Mahjong tiles and Cantonese opera from open upper windows. Next to midnight, spots of pearl and yellow light. Poorly cast shadows. Her red lipstick was black.

She was there to meet the clayish smelling Ogden. The tall and gaunt. This his only time on the street. In the dark. He ate the dark. She’d seen it run wet down his chin.

“I have the thing,” he’d told her over the telephone, earlier in the evening. “The thing you wanted. You asked and I have it. I’m looking at it now. You were right. It shines.”

“We’ll meet then,” she said. The radio soft, the music. “You know where, when.” Her sad eyes. The sun and horizon from her apartment window. She rang-off without saying goodbye.

She drank coffee in a cafe until the time was near. Melancholy patrons. Cigarette smoke. An outcast’s lips moving sitting next to her saying nothing.

An hour later on Pender Ogden held the thing out in his bony hand. “Orbits,” he breathed. “Just listen. Shafts of light. The mud of beginning. Early birdsong dawnings. Noons and midnights. Pages. The dark paint of whispers. Listen. Leaves. Flowers on a path. The night.”

She took it from him. It fitting like a cup in the saucer of her palm. Midnights. A clock somewhere. “It’s your season now,” Ogden said. “But it will not last.”

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sister somewhere

wall is something with a somewhere on the other side
guessed opposite at by its lonely sister somewhere who says
I am best so lonely that is being she’s a something that has read
her William Carlos Williams she thanks and admires
the graffiti tagged obstacle before her alone I am best alone
thus disconnected from other loner somewheres the wastes
grasslands the spines of continents cities the planets and stars each
their own somewhere exquisitely lonely a blessed lonely that
only really hurts on Saturday nights imparting the basic look in her eyes

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she would never be a planet

it was a Tuesday thought
she would never be a planet
no orbits for her no
place on a mystical chart
oh Emily Dickinson
where were you when she needed you
so suspiciously perfect your metre
(who were you trying to impress?)
and Gertrude Stein
your verse so blank
so serviceable before its time
and Sylvia so self-deadly we found you lost
and wept the
poets were useless
and she’d never be a planet
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making photographs

don’t look into the lens you Sylvia Plath you
there be monsters there
where I live too keeping fiasco rooms
faces protests and frank poverty
but I bar nature at the door
nature don’t even knock don’t
let me hear you in the dark hall
snacking on the sunlight in your pockets

don’t look into the lens this ain’t no portrait
no one will look into your eyes your smile is meaningless
it’s your misery people want to see that’s right
look over there where you figure there might be an out
so you won’t have to look at me in the direction
you were looking when I found you yeah it’s cruel
but it’s also art it’s art baby don’t fuck with my art

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shame wheel

the shame wheel spins
only slowing round shift change, the fentanyl dawn
after doing the graveyard
handing out rigs at the door and listening to plights
having to be tough at times
down here where no one backs down
no, no bread tonight no sandwiches
yeah, I got socks no razors
yer right, I don’t know what it’s like
fuck me, another OD in the men’s room
as the neighbourhood tilts into daytime
throwing its own mercury switch
naloxone doesn’t always work it’s all about timing
sirens ambulance and fire the cops stay away
we’re good Samaritans after all
though none of us has heard of the Samaritan Pentateuch
it was Eric he had a bed in the sanctuary
did he have family?
the Mayor calls it a bloodbath
then has an organic lunch
the shame wheel spins

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Noah Bones Chapter 4: Rabble Town

Late evening, darkness falling

It wasn’t really a town, only a bleaker neighbourhood in a bleak city. And across its busy Centre Street, lined with shabby carts, a threadbare sex trade, dead storefronts and hawkers, was strung a multitude of crackle screens, like paper lanterns hanging over a once brighter Chinatown, each screen with the face of the Chief Victor, leader of the Federated States, speaking, all day every day, assuring the People of the brightest and winningest of futures, interrupted only by advertisements.

Noah Bones leaned against a brick wall at a corner, sipping cheap street cart tea from a paper cup, watching an advert for a sugar confection called Pokyfun, a thin brightly wrapped bar of cheap genetically modified carob gown in rooved-over reclaimed asbestos mines in the irradiated Western Wastes, and tempered with hydrogenated pork fat, paraffin and microcrystalline wax.

The ad consisted of a bald mustachioed man in an orange pinstriped suit and purple tap-shoes capering madly across a stage to frenzied music with a Pokyfun bar in each hand as a line of scantily clad dancing girls in gold lame kicked and smiled deliriously behind him.

“Pokyfun,” the mustachioed one finally shouted, as confetti fell, bright coloured lights flashed and strafing jet fighters flew across the length of the stage on green screen, dropping napalm on fleeing victims, “it‘s the Chief Victor’s favourite bar!”

Then after a snowy pause, the Chief Victor himself appeared on screen to deliver a brief pre-recorded message, one viewed and heard by millions ad nauseam.

“I smell dog on the air,” he said, his creased pastel expression hardening, his small hands gripping the podium top. “Underground influences, enabled by Koslov himself, have delivered sham tidings. Koslov, the enemy. He’s the heaviness you feel. The promise of thunder, rumours of disaster. He’s what estranges us and isolates you, and why long ago I intervened on your behalf, placing all art and expression under my gracious care. Fake dispatch is a disease that weakens the Greater Plan, and undermines the righteous authority of your Great Leader—sad.”

“He’s stopped ad libbing,” said a man coming to stand next to Noah, and lighting a cigarette, the smoke mingling with the stagnant odour of Rabble Town.

“That’s old news, Markus,” Noah said, sipping his tea. “I’m not even sure it’s him anymore. Suddenly he’s downright eloquent. He must be being handled by some spook in the background. On the other hand, maybe he’s retired to some tropical island, laughing his head off. Or maybe he’s already dead.” Noah pointed at the image on the screen. “Maybe this is an automaton or data generated.”

“Then what’s the point of this meeting?”

“The point is that we’re here,” Noah said, “like we promised we’d be. The point is that Dr Vlad promised he’d be here too, sometime close to dark.”

Marcus sneered, “I don’t trust that little queer.”

“It’s too late for that. We needed an insider disenchanted with the Plan, and Vlad’s definitely that. He’ll be our push against their shove. Besides, Sylvia M says he’s on the square. That’s good enough for me.”

“I don’t trust her neither,” Markus said. “Vlad’s her little slave. There’s something kinky going on there. Plus he’s a puny little zealot, and I bet he’ll be cashing in big if we pull this off. While we’re sent packing with just a pay cheque.”

The video on the screens hanging above and down the length of Centre Street distorted for a second, the sound crackling noisily as the Chief Victor’s image disappeared, replaced by a manic ad for hand soap, featuring battle tanks and missile silos.

“And don’t forget,” said Noah Bones, “we’re just the hired guns. We aren’t the thinkers. That means that we—you—can leave anytime.”

“No,” Markus said. “We can’t. We’re in too deep now, know too much. If any of us left now, he or she’d be dead in a day.”

“Then why not just enjoy the ride?” came a voice from behind them, as small well-dressed man stepped out of a shadow cast by a street light. “We’re plotting history here. You’ll be heroes soon.”

“Or in a corpse pile,” said Markus, “awaiting trial, post-mortem.”

“Heroically dead, then,” said Dr vlad. “What’s not to love?”

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Noah Bones is a story written in short chapters, not quite flash fiction. This due to the fact that I now have a real job, and less time for writing.

Chapter 3
Chapter 2
Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

Noah Bones Chapter 3: Sylvia M

Read Chapter 1 here
Read Chapter 2 here
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There came the words whispered, “Who’s there?” after a too long silence that followed her knocking.

“Sylvia,” came a female voice. “Let me in.”

Light shone through an eye hole drilled in the door. Then it didn’t.

“But you’re dead,” said the man behind it.

“A dirty rumour,” the tall darkly dress woman said. “Something I’ll deny, if pressed. Now open up.”

A bolt slid, loud in the hall that time of night, and the door opened a crack. A single bright eye peeked out.

“Hello Vlad,” Sylvia said, smiling halfly. “Open up.”

Dr Vladimir Cromwell knew the woman, Silvia M, and her clique well enough. He’d been forced into their plots before, as they raged against the Greater Plan. Violence and certain disappearance came to the noncompliant. He moved back and away from the door, and let Sylvia M enter.

“Cigarettes,” she said stepping in, “and the good stuff. I know you have it. None of that Rabble Town canteen shit.” Vladimir Cromwell obeyed. Vanished a moment into the dark regions of his well furnished apartment and returned with a deck of cigarettes, the package embossed in gold. He handed it over. Sylvia M lit up and unbuttoned her coat.

“There’s been a killing,” she said.

“There’ve been many,” replied Cromwell. He was a meek man, slight in a dark red robe that might have been made of silk. He could have been mistaken for a woman in the low light. His toes were nervously clenched in his slippers. His was an inescapable flamboyance which he tried to hide during the day, but not now in his own home. “The dead are stacked in common refrigerators in morgues all over town, each awaiting its criminal conviction and incineration. We’re overwhelmed.”

“No, none of them,” said Sylvia M. “The one I want you to think very carefully about was a high ranking Agent of the Greater Plan. He won’t be in a stinking corpse heap. He’ll be stored in his own drawer, as is his privilege. You’ve already done the autopsy, I’m certain, Dr Vlad. You’ll remember him for the tragic gunshot wound where his manhood once dwelt, and the fatal bullet wound to his head.”

“Yes,” Cromwell said after a moment, nodding. “I know him. Chief Justice Agent Ahriman, scheduled for pick-up tomorrow,  by a funeral chapel chosen by his family.” In passing, he said, ” It was a tragic wound,” and swallowed.

“No,” said Sylvia M. “You will not hand him over to a funeral chapel.”

“No?”

“No. You’ll lose him, instead. But let him not be so lost that he cannot be found again if necessary.”

“But lose him? What do mean? It would be a criminal act to tamper with the remains. Besides, it’s almost impossible to do. Certainly with the standard operating procedures I’ve implemented since my appointment as Chief of the Forensic Pathology Department of the Justice Bureau.”

“Then, Dr Vlad,” Sylvia M said, “what you’re telling me is that you’re the primary obstacle to my plan?”

“No, not at all. I….”

“Because small effete men frequently end up in stinking corpse piles, don’t they? There’s a prevalent prejudice against ladylike men in the Greater Plan, as you know. I’m no fan of the Plan, of course. I fight against it, and I disagree with many of its phobias. But some wonder how you’ve lasted this long.”

A male silhouette moved across the dark parlour behind Vladimir Cromwell, in the pale light coming through a window from the street, then disappeared.

“I’ll see what can be done,” the doctor said.

“Good,” said Sylvia M, now buttoning her coat and pocketing the deck of cigarettes. “And there’s the wine I enjoy.” She took a card from out of her handbag and handed it to him. “You know it. That Italian red. You’ve gotten it for me before.”

“Yes,” he said, taking her card. The fingernails of his soft hands manicured, and buffed to a glossy lustre. “It’s quite expensive, though. I’m not sure if it’s in my budget.”

“Have a crate delivered to the address on the card, and you know that neither I nor any of my people will be found there, so don’t get any ideas. The wine will find its way to me on its own.”

“Yes, alright.”

“These are dangerous times, Dr Vlad,” said Sylvia M, taking a different tone, smiling halfly again. “Especially for some.” Reaching out, she stroked the smooth lapel of his robe. “But the dead sleep like clouds, don’t they? Moved along by hurricanes, or, as in this case, by soft surreptitious winds? And when they’re gone the sun always shines, doesn’t it?”

“Yes.”

Pausing a moment, she looked into his sad eyes and said, “There’s shame in these rooms, Dr Vlad. There needn’t be, but there is. It’s because you somehow agree with the opinion others have of you. Shame’s a weakness; it reveals too much about a man. Don’t carry it out into the world with you when I’ve assigned you a task.”

“No.”

“Be sure to eliminate all paperwork, audio, video and data-chronicles. All physical evidence; identification, clothing, shoes, any trinkets found in his pockets. This Agent never existed as far as your forensics is concerned.”

“I understand.”

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Easter poem

we’re gonna put you on the dime
for Easter, baby your profile
the milky sound of fireworks & Resurrection
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haunted shelter

3am

Gustav Holst plays in the dim gymnasium
—the gentle decay of orbits

I pass through the gym with my eyes on the floor
for there are monster faces in the shadows
of this old and long haunted church

then comes the two-way Narcan(!) crackle
someone dials 911

the face of the man on the washroom floor is blue when I arrive
the first two naloxone injections haven’t worked, and I
see flap in the faces of my unflappable coworkers
we wait on the third dose then hear
the fabulous deep inhalation

it’s raining outside
a trivial detail
but it fascinates me
after the ambulance has gone
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Noah Bones, chapter 2: Rachel

It wasn’t dawn.

*    *    *    *    *

“It happens in small rooms like this,” she whispered, sitting up in bed hugging her knees. “Fatal stanzas spoken in low voices.” She lit a fresh cigarette, a pale-skinned undernourished woman, next to a man in a shabby room. “All of us being fragile and prone  to surrender, how could it be otherwise?”

“What was that?” Noah rose up from beneath the sheets and onto his elbows. A candle burned and spat on the nightstand.

“When they come,” she said, “their faces will be blank. Don’t look at them hoping for reason. The Greater Plan will have wiped them clean.”

Then she looked at him, and said, “Listen to me,” as though it was critical that he did. “This isn’t infatuation or about the sex.” She paused and slowly shook her head. “It’s not about your little gifts of contraband. It’s about who I am, in fact. In fact, I may be your exit. That’s what this is about, and I think you’ve figured that out in your own way.”

“Exit?” he said.

“You’re trying to get in, become a member of the Greater Plan, by being one of their assassins. We’ve discussed it, you and I, in passing.”

“Yeah, so?”

“You don’t know me,” she said. “Even after all these months.”

“And..?”

“That’s not your fault.”

“But I don’t want to know you,” he said. “You’re right. This isn’t about love.”

“The first two chambers of the gun weren’t loaded.”

How could she know that? He lit his own cigarette, and lied, “What gun? I don’t have a gun.”

“People like you never do,” she said, “or say they don’t. That’s smart, but when they give you a gun to do a job, a disposable one, one would think you’d check to make sure it was fully loaded. That’s what a professional does.  But you didn’t this time. You trusted them, and you nearly botched the kill as a result. You shot his balls off first, by accident. Then you apologised like an idiot before you killed him proper. It was a test, the empty chambers. They tested your trust in them, and you passed. They made you look like a damn fool, but you passed the test because you didn’t inspect the weapon, because you trusted the Plan, and because of your lust to belong. And they know that you’ll return when called. That means you’re closer than ever to being invited in.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment. She was Rachel, no? An ageless gaunt woman he’d meet on a street corner two days a week, and take home. They’d share a meal, government canned meat, stale bread. He gave her cigarettes. Sometimes there was a bottle of mysterious clear liquor. Once a warm coat. And they’d sleep together. Bland sex. Dull conversation afterward. Then she’d leave, without saying good-bye. He’d watch her back as she left his room, into the hall. A stranger in a worn dress, no stockings, weathered shoes and the coat he’d gifted her.

“Who are you then?” he said, finally. “What are you?”

“Your salvation, so far. Your roomful of remaining days,” she said, poetically, but with a misty hint of menace. She even nearly smiled for the first time since they met. “Originally, my people sent me to kill you, but I convinced them that you might be useful. That we might infiltrate the Greater Plan using you, by following you in. You’re one of the Greater Plan’s darlings, you know? As it turns out. You don’t know it yet, but you’ve been placed at the top of their list.”

“Your people?”

“Never mind that.”

“You’re the Faction, aren’t you?” He sounded hurt.

“There is no Faction,” she said. “It’s a myth.”

“But if there was, if the Faction were real, your people would be it, or a part of it, knowingly or otherwise.”

She put her feet onto the cold floor and got out of bed, naked. “I suppose you’re right,” she said, then pulled a gun out from under her pillow. It was the first time he’d ever seen one in her hand. Their eyes met for a moment, and she looked sinister in a way he’d never seen before. “It’s getting serious,” she said.

“Why would I ever work for you?” he said. “Risk everything?”

“Because people I know want you dead. Because you’re the sort that thinks he’s clever, or wants to. And a man who thinks he’s clever never is. I’ve kept you alive so far, and I’ll continue to do so as long as I can make use of you. You’re an asset in a bank, placed there for withdrawal, later on. And since you hold your life dear like everyone else in this dirty world, you’ll play along.”

“And you intend to make this dirty world a better place this way, is that it?”

“That’s the idea, or a small part of it.” She stepped into her dress, and then checked her hair and refreshed her lipstick in a mirror on the distressed sideboard.”

“That’s the real myth,” he said. “You’ve delusions of justice, righteousness.”

“They’ll test you again soon,” she said, putting on her coat and taking five packs of cigarettes out of the nightstand drawer, and placing them in her handbag. Her gun having disappeared somewhere else in the secret folds of the coat. “It may be your final test. If it is, it will be the most complex and dangerous. To test your cunning, which I’m not sure you have in adequate supply. But we’ll see. No more juvenile ticks with partially loaded revolvers, though. Please don’t do anything stupid, like getting yourself killed. You may be an valuable to me soon, in spite of your lack of guile in the face of what has so far been mild treachery. And don’t come to the corner anymore. I won’t be there. Someone will contact you when the moment is right.”

She left his room without closing the door behind her.

Getting up, he watched her cross the empty road through his second story window, and get into a ramshackle automobile. A man was at the wheel, white as a ghost in the dim streetlamp light. Looking up, the man gave Noah a short wave and a shady grin. It made Noah turn quickly, and stand out of sight with his back against the wall.

 *   *   *   *   *

Author’s note: A new job makes for little time to write. Hence the shorter story length. In fact I intend to make this a very short novella, not quite flash fiction.

Read chapter 1 here.

 

 

 

 

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