Kevin McIlvoy

All of the stones all at the same time

 
The client scratched at paste clot­ted in his hair.

The client was in a car. The client’s car was in a car space between new­ly paint­ed gold­en lines.

A sign: Mini Bob’s Mart.

We are quite lost,” said Deer Food.

The client asked, “Isn’t this Mini Bob’s Mart?”

Bob’s Mini Mart,” answered Deer Food.

So.” It was as the client thought: Mini Bob’s Mart. He had learned that argu­ing with Deer Food was point­less. When a small mat­ter could be dis­put­ed, Deer Food, the client’s hal­lu­ci­na­tion, would dis­pute.

Deer Food sucked in smoke, crushed his cig­a­rette butt against a burn-scarred left paw pad. His teeth were stained, the fur around his mouth was nico­tine-green, the fur at his paw-tip and brow was singed green. If the client con­cen­trat­ed upon all of Deer Food all at the same time there was more of Deer Food to con­cen­trate upon. Deer Food’s chin damp. Deer Food’s tail pump­ing against seat­back. Deer Food’s breath­ing sound­ing like wiper-blades.

The dis­ori­ent­ed client could not find his way home. The client did not know that he was three miles from his house, that he was two blocks from Dr. Guelderose Darshan’s Neurobiofeedback Clinic. Dr. Darshan bald but for elec­tric-white hair fol­li­cles, which the client at this time could not sum­mon through con­cen­tra­tion. The client, parked at Mini Bob’s, felt his brain strug­gle as it pro­duced, half-pro­duced, then pro­duced a phan­tom, his younger broth­er, his broth­er phan­tom he should rec­og­nize from mem­o­ry: a form mov­ing in him as if behind glass, a bow­ing and kneel­ing form very slow­ly shelv­ing small items of great vol­ume. The client, lost, did not rec­og­nize shelver, shelf, shelved, door, shop, car, car space. The client did not rec­og­nize the road from which he had pulled in, or the place he held in the world, or the world hold­ing him. The client felt he must have once been in this place with his phan­tom, that his phan­tom had once held a job in a mart like Mini Bob’s, that his phan­tom had moved there beyond him but had appeared before him. He felt he could have opened the door to Mini Bob’s and said to his phan­tom, his broth­er, that he would be there for him, when­ev­er he need­ed him, he would be there.

The client’s phan­tom, who tried and failed to salve his extreme sleep dis­or­der with alco­hol, had hid­den him­self from the client. For eleven years the client had not known whether his phan­tom broth­er was alive. For eleven years the client, an alco­holic strug­gling to sur­vive his own extreme sleep dis­or­der, had made no effort to find him.

During the two hours of the client’s five-ses­sion ther­a­py the mem­o­ry of his phan­tom had con­tin­u­ous­ly intrud­ed, a press­ing mem­o­ry and, with it, an urgent need to be believed about a past expe­ri­ence in an air­port wait­ing room

Dr. Darshan and his assis­tant could not keep the client focused upon pro­ce­dure: to sum­mon in a reg­u­lat­ed loop of neu­ro­bio­con­trol the “reward images” on the com­put­er mon­i­tor before him: idyl­lic for­est mead­ow, stream, trees, dis­tant vague forms appear­ing accord­ing to scale of Adequate Total Reward achieve­ment; bloom­ing mead­ow flow­ers with hov­er­ing insect life, tree leaves, rip­pling stream sur­face and sub­sur­face, stones in a streambed, a slen­der deer strange­ly hun­gry-look­ing, and pseu­dostars puls­ing behind the hov­er­ing limbs of two omni­scient hem­locks appear­ing accord­ing to scale of Ideal Total Reward. Deer Food, a chain-smok­ing green squir­rel with a beer-gut, appeared accord­ing to out­er-lim­it scales of Ideal Total Reward.

Electrodes (28 – refer to cra­nial map) past­ed to the client’s scalp had pre­vi­ous­ly record­ed unprece­dent­ed abil­i­ties to reg­u­late breath, blood pres­sure, heart rate, to elim­i­nate inhibito­ry impuls­es of thought or feel­ing in order to con­cen­trate atten­tion upon the client’s wished-for iter­a­tions of beau­ty intend­ed to com­pen­sate for life­long extreme sleep depri­va­tion and absent deep sleep and REM stages of con­scious­ness.

 

Session 9 goals were unre­al­ized due to the client urgent­ly email­ing Deer Food dur­ing each ther­a­peu­tic seg­ment.

Noted by Dr. Darshan: Unrevised client emails print­ed, filed. Phatic utter­ance char­ac­ter­ized by void­ance.

Noted by Dr. Darshan: The client Robert Lucens refers to him­self as “Silence” and, at times, as “The Silence.”

Noted by Dr. Darshan: For all future ses­sions, remove key­board on com­put­er mon­i­tor desk.

 

8:18 AM

DF, please stay, DF. There is some­thing a kind of not con­vinc­ing sto­ry – I’ve nev­er been able to make any­one believe it. I can’t put it out of my head. I tell peo­ple and they sneer the way they sneer at drinkers. Or they open­ly say It doesn’t add up, Mr. Silence.  I always think they are say­ing, It doesn’t add hup.         It doesn’t add hup.         It’s the way I tell it. If I could tell it right if I could make you believe – but then maybe it just could nev­er be true at all and believ­able. It seems not believ­able. I bare­ly ever believe myself since I nev­er slept more than eight hours a week my whole life     like cold dash­es and hyphens and spaces of Could are every­where where the should-words for Should should be – I hal­lu­ci­nat­ed in the after­noons and late evenings saw blue pen­nants wav­ing at me      and on them      in them was what­ev­er or who­ev­er or wher­ev­er stood in front of me. I saw wav­ing and some­times whip­ping pen­nants light blue      real­ly pale      and in them on them might-things that might have been near me or in the far dis­tance from me.      Hell      I think even in my crib I saw a crib-mobile of the pen­nants because my moth­er said I nev­er slept right not even imme­di­ate­ly after my birth. And my younger broth­er    Saul     he nev­er slept right. And the pedi­a­tri­cian who let me zip and unzip the smile of her spe­cial friend Zip-Me Doll was of the opin­ion Saul was men­tal­ly retard­ed because he was still and because he was silent then not silent but scream­ing most­ly like hawks make a scream      that comes out of their entire bod­ies even the slen­der­est hol­low pin­feath­ers. He was a sky-dweller.  I was a ground-dweller. The pedi­a­tri­cian – the doll had no tongue no teeth except zip­per-teeth – believed  I was men­tal­ly retard­ed because I swayed swerved. When I crawled I kind of crawled through a tremu­lous some­thing not there instead of toward some­thing there. When I made my first words, Hup! Hup!, they flapped in vibra­to ways they should not     and after I learned “Up!” I still said      Hup.          Today some­times I’m over six­ty now today some­times I say Hup –        I sound drunk      – when I mean “Up.” I am try­ing I am mak­ing a great effort but am not able to think of the dif­fi­cult word Up     my thought will not go there. I say hup­stairs, I say fill my cup hup, I say           Anyway, I don’t believe my own self too often. I say, Onward and hup­ward! when I do not mean it. I am a kind of liar is the truth but I have a blind friend Abraham who says every per­son liv­ing in an altered real­i­ty alters real­i­ty. (He also says that     no mat­ter what     it is not accept­able      to lie      to your­self.)

 

8:49 AM

I have a blind friend Abraham – I could have men­tioned him     should have    I have just the one blind friend not lots of them – there are nev­er a lot of Abrahams that I see when I’m see­ing swarms and swarms. It is con­fus­ing to see just the one Abraham who can­not see me. Abraham says lying – he is not a liar him­self – is not what Jesus would do who told his fol­low­ers Blessed is the Silence who will have words – who walked on words when no one would believe he could – Jesus Iscariot Jesus Pilate Jesus Magdalene Jesus Mehitabel who asked for a hand to be put inside the word in his side when it looked to oth­ers like it was not      at all      a word – a   scratch is what peo­ple thought. I told my friend Abraham this sto­ry I want you to hear. He would not believe it. The whole thing doesn’t take a lot of words and prob­a­bly is a proverb or a rid­dle and not a sto­ry at all – in the past I didn’t use enough of the right words.           The way I told it was my whole prob­lem. DFDF – I’m going to put it down here because I tried

to                     I know this now           I tried to tell it but I need­ed to type it.

 

8:59 AM

I was at an air­port ter­mi­nal a small­er zone among the zones     a zonule     at night there the sounds were in a fog of sound – like God flip­ping pages or burg­ers or surf­ing chan­nels or dial­ing radio bands – nois­es and sounds nois­ing sounds and leach­ing, illu­vi­at­ing, accu­mu­lat­ing. I had slept approx twelve hours in the past days 29 or so     so as usu­al I hal­lu­ci­nat­ed the pen­nants thou­sands and tens of thou­sands of the pen­nants.          Near me or dis­tant and com­ing near­er was a sleep­walk­ing late-mid­dle-age mag­pie mut­ter­ing in his sleep and snor­ing – sleep­stomp­ing is what he was doing – to be accu­rate he was drum­ming his feet light­ly.           I tried to read a bare place on the indus­tri­al green car­pet worn down to illeg­i­ble by flight-can­celled sleep­ers – but my brain invit­ed more peo­ple-pen­nants blush­ing blue from the icy reflec­tions of their cell-phone faces.

 

9:01 AM

He had a most­ly black black-and-white check­ered jack­et on with a most­ly white white-and-black check­ered lin­er.

 

9:04 AM

I am get­ting this less wrong – because of you.     DF.      DF      you might be what I need­ed I mean a lis­ten­er a read­er non­hu­man approach­ing     and with­draw­ing      and with­draw­ing while you’re read­ing me. The sleep­ing man a man old­er than me — he was def­i­nite­ly old­er prob­a­bly by ten years but maybe more – he stomped, he skit­tered near but with­drew mak­ing a shrill gasp when he saw me – with­drew – with­drew into the sound­fog – the shov­el­ing-out sounds of flights about to land the shov­el­ing-in sounds of flights out­go­ing     he with­drew     because of some­thing about me – with­drew behind the voice of the pleather-zip­per-woman across from me who was blue­tooth­ing, It is mine – the rest of what she said was not clear though it was own­er-like. Her sleeve- and ankle- and breast- and shoul­der-zip­pers gnashed and the zip­per-pulls jan­gled. She want­ed out of her­self. A tod­dler cica­da two rows or so behind me kept telling some­one he want­ed to see. The sleep­ing man was stomp­ing again not at all omi­nous­ly – then omi­nous­ly – then not at all – not at all.       The tod­dler gig­gled when I turned around and air-kissed him and I stomped two beats before I was in rhythm with the sleep­ing man stomp­ing, the two of us stomp­ing and then the tod­dler stomp­ing with pas­sion­ate jung­ly­ness         stomp­ing          tod­dler thun­der          the tod­dler was now a hun­dred-thou­sand ban­ner­tod­dlers stomp­ing – the way an air­port ter­mi­nal nev­er sounds until until you hear it real­ly stomp­ing with the furl­ing unfurl­ing pleather-zip­per-woman and tod­dler and sleep­ing man stomp­ing – mil­lions on the blue pen­nants and in the sound­fog.

 

9:19 AM

I nev­er can make any­one believe. The sleep­ing man stopped stomp­ing. He resem­bled me     I mean I resem­bled Saul and he resem­bled Saul     more than I – Saul and I looked unex­act­ly alike  – he looked exact­ly like      that man      the shelver     there in Mini Bob’s Mart. Saul had a job like the shelver once      and I knew about Saul and his full-time shit-pay­ing job dur­ing that time when Saul was liv­ing some­where in car space     when his home was in his car in an aban­doned car lot. He hid him­self from me but was not good at hid­ing because I knew where he worked and knew I could find him there. But I did not find him there. I let him hide. I hid when it might be that Saul could find me. I made peo­ple there promise not to tell that I asked about Saul. He was a good work­er wet-brain drunk and dis­ori­ent­ed on the job. He did not take days off sick – and was com­plete­ly depend­able. He was not able to com­mu­ni­cate right and was liked – he was loved – loved is the word peo­ple used – I can­not say that it has been used about me or ever will be – he was loved by cus­tomers by his boss by the big boss     all of them     through an entire decade. He did not pray to any God but had a mil­lion benev­o­lent Gods in mind was what he told peo­ple who worked with him who loved him who might have fig­ured out that he lived in his car and then lived for a few days in dive apart­ments     then in his car. Everyone in the zonule – throngs and throngs of peo­ple-pen­nants – wavered. It’s not the right word     wavered     – how does any­one tell any­thing believ­able with­out the right word? They wavered as the man walked     clos­er to me     and clos­er.    The tod­dler want­ed to see and so he walked at the man’s side – he stood on the bare spot of car­pet – qui­et now the tod­dler looked at me close­ly and with­out any ques­tion in his throng of faces.

 

9:29 AM

It does not add up. Saul was dead. Saul has been dead for years.    The sleep­ing man looked me up and down. He looked me over so that I would have to be in his gaze in the cen­ter of his gaze. The tod­dler     myr­i­ad tod­dlers     said      I want to see I want to see          and stepped away from my side so he could see how the sleep­ing man saw. One Saul-crowd      one tod­dler-crowd     crowd of pleather-zip­per-woman     crowd of arriv­ing crowd     of depart­ing     crowd in sound­fog      crowd of one wait­ing in God’s zonule     crowd of sleep­walk­ing man ask­ing me one ques­tion: Brother? Is that you? Will you stay in sight?

 

The client asked Deer Food, “How will I go home?”

Mercy,” said Deer Food, only faint­ly. “You want to go home?”

No,” the client said, “I mean yes. I should go home. I mean no. No. But I want to know how.”

I’ve read your emails.” Deer Food’s vol­ume was not sig­nif­i­cant­ly above Constant Zero.

And?” the client asked.

The sto­ry is not quite plau­si­ble,” said Deer Food.

The client could bare­ly hear his com­pan­ion Deer Food as Deer Food asked, “What about that tod­dler? After it all. What did the tod­dler do?”

~

Kevin McIlvoy, in his forty-fifth year as a writer, lives in Asheville, North Carolina. “All of the stones all at the same time” will appear in his forth­com­ing col­lec­tion of prose poems, short short sto­ries, and short sto­ries, 57 Octaves Below Middle C (Four Way Books, 2017).