Diane Kirsten Martin

81

Don’t be afraid of him none, he’s just a pup­py. Hundred and sev­en­ty pound part-Lab part lion big ol’ scaredy-cat. I call him Daddy. My last one, he was twelve. Nothin’ worse than putting a dog down. But — look at me —yes­ter­day, they took my kid­ney. Ain’t no way I’m dealin’ with Daddy when he’s twelve. Goin’ to see the ex-wife, now, down on Ocean. See, we have what you call shared cus­tody. I have three exes, must be my good looks. Woman is pow­er­ful! A woman can get a guy locked up. I’m goin’ to leave Daddy with the ex and I’m gonna have din­ner with my den­tist. He is makin’ me a new set of teeth, ’cause Daddy here ate them. Lucky I had what you call the retain­er.

Tomorrow, I’m vot­ing: for Jerry Brown — not going to vote for that rich bitch; and I’m vot­ing for Gavin — fig­ure he’s young, he can learn. And Prop 19, I’m vot­ing against it. Don’t want my son doing that. I did it, drugs — well we all did. Pot, cocaine, meth, hero­in. I know what I’m talk­ing about. Don’t want my son doin’ that. Yeah, I know they could tax it, put the mon­ey in schools. My father took me out of school when I was nine. Had me mowin’ lawns for his busi­ness. Wilson put mon­ey into pris­ons. You get a real edu­ca­tion in prison. Ask me. Twelve years of my life. But I learned. No way I’m going back.

This here’s my Jesus, and this? Jesus don’t mind. This, sil­ver and feath­ers, on the chain with my Jesus, this here’s the Grandfather. See, I’m Mexican and Indian too. This is the Grandfather. He’s my Protector. And just in case, I got back­up pro­tec­tion. See that 81? Eight-one here. Eighty-one on the belt buck­le. Tattoo — I’ll show you — says 81. There’s eight and one, for H and A, for Hell’s Angels, get it? Hell’s Angels, every­body knows ’em. They’re my pro­tec­tion. They’re no gang­sters, gang-bangers. There’s good guys and bad guys, good angels and bad angels, know what I mean? Maybe a good guy one night drinks too much, so he rapes some woman. He does his time, he puts in his time, he pays for it.

Here’s the toy, ol’ Daddy. Here’s the squeak­er. Be good boy, Daddy. Come along now. We gonna go see the ex-wife. I’m votin’ tomor­row back in Davis. I’m a coun­try boy. Just here in the city to fix the teeth, take out a kid­ney.

How much does it cost to write a book? I think I could write a book. I got a sto­ry.

OK!

David Guralnik, inter­na­tion­al­ly know lex­i­cog­ra­ph­er died Friday,” reports AP. “He believed ‘OK’ best expressed the cre­ativ­i­ty of English-speak­ing Americans.” 

Cleared forests, plant­ed corn, made promis­es to Indians. Laid tracks, panned for gold, spanned bridges over rivers. Fought wars, freed slaves, lift­ed lamps to immi­grants. Slapped asphalt across the con­ti­nent, dot­ted i’s of inter­states with com­fort sta­tions. Toilets that flush! Hotdogs with mus­tard! Home runs with fast­balls, curve balls, and split­ters! Picket fences, neon lights, com­ic books, tele­vi­sion! Strip mines, strip malls, bar­rels over Niagara Falls! Pole dancers, pota­to chips, loose lips sink ships! Nylon, oleo, Sweetheart of the Rodeo! Bumper crops, pop art, soda pop, chrome bumpers! Clorox, Detox! Botox! Kentucky Fried Chicken!

Good Luck/Bad Luck Laundry

The long-haired lady is fold­ing laun­dry. As she folds, she tells of Bad Luck, bad as in the old blues songs. The lady — call her Elaine — says her kids give her a hard time, her moth­er couldn’t have cared less for her, and her hus­band, the father of the youngest three, always mess­es around.

One night, Elaine dreams that her moth­er, against her spe­cif­ic instruc­tions, lends Elaine’s car to Elaine’s teenage son, the eldest, who always gets into one scrape or anoth­er. In this dream, the son wrecks the car and dies. Because of the dream, Elaine tells her moth­er not to lend this son the car. As is usu­al with ora­cles, fate plows straight ahead, despite attempts to pre­vent it. The grand­moth­er lends Elaine’s car, Elaine’s eldest boy los­es con­trol around a crazy curve, the car goes over the cliff with Elaine’s son in it.

Elaine’s hus­band is see­ing anoth­er woman. This woman, his lover, is HIV-pos­i­tive. Elaine’s hus­band wants to share a house with wife and lover. Elaine is actu­al­ly con­sid­er­ing it, which shows you that while fate may plow ahead, some peo­ple push the plow, don’t you know?

I’m putting my clothes in the dry­er, shak­ing my head over fate and plows, when in walks the fire­man who was elec­tro­cut­ed. Electricity passed right through his body and left two lit­tle round burn marks. Elaine, fold­ing her clothes into absolute­ly per­fect fold­ed piles, asks the fire­man if he had an out-of-body expe­ri­ence. She heard about some guy who was on the phone dur­ing a storm, who told the per­son he was talk­ing to to hang up because you can get elec­tro­cut­ed, and, well, he got elec­tro­cut­ed. He rose right off the floor and they resus­ci­tat­ed him for twen­ty min­utes. In his out-of-body, he saw them throw up their hands and give him up for dead.

The fire­man didn’t have an out-of-body, but he was on nation­al TV twice, once for forc­ing an old lady to choose her safe­ty over her not incon­sid­er­able sav­ings under the bed, and anoth­er time for giv­ing mouth-to-mouth to a cat.

Dryer win­dows are worlds going round. A pair of sneak­ers in the dry­er sounds like a pack of kids run­ning. A young man named Larry drags in a heavy can­vas duf­fle. He talks of Brenda who mar­ried Keith at 20; the two of them went to nurs­ing school togeth­er. For twen­ty years, they worked San Francisco General ER. Larry had been to high school with Brenda, came to see her in The City, and, as it was okay with Keith, stayed to take care of the dogs, mov­ing into Keith and Brenda’s base­ment. Keith and Brenda saved up all their cash, bought an Airstream, were set to retire and trav­el the con­ti­nent togeth­er. In January, Keith was diag­nosed with leukemia, and by sum­mer he was gone. Larry end­ed up with Brenda, got his God-whis­pered wish, and now he’s try­ing to live with it.

Kimono Buzzsaw

sil­ver­ware ergod­ic blue offi­cial head­quar­ters rank here­of hypothy­roid lan­thanide aile cochlea aryl dis­crim­i­nate bewail broth­er­hood dou­bloon log­jam beta jake apache twelve sapling aggres­sion kimono buz­z­saw cos­mol­o­gy fun­nel bemoan euphor­ic cala­mus chump mar­di squalid cus­to­di­al oblique
Spam mes­sage

Sally was euphor­ic. Jake, offi­cial cus­to­di­al engi­neer at the pre­mière Mardi Gras head­quar­ters west of the Mississippi, had called to say that the sil­ver­ware that had dis­ap­peared the night of the fes­ti­val — along with twelve gold dou­bloons, kept in a blue box, all fam­i­ly heir­looms —  had been locat­ed, the box full here­of found at the foot of a loquat sapling at the squalid edge of town, not far from the old Apache reser­va­tion. It seems the aile (the mov­able air­foil at the trail­ing edge of a wing) of a Boeing 747 had bro­ken off in mid­flight on that night, and its descent as a fiery fun­nel into the mead­ow had star­tled the chumps who had stolen the box. Now Sally bewailed the sit­u­a­tion. She suf­fered from a hypothy­roid con­di­tion, char­ac­ter­ized by a gen­er­al loss of vig­or — which is why she stayed home all day in her pink silk kimono and bemoaned even hav­ing to leave the house, not to men­tion forg­ing through the log­jam of traf­fic to get to that part of town. But Jake vol­un­teered to come to her aid, there­by ris­ing in rank in Sally’s eyes to the noblest of the noble. Fact is, he would have cut through that traf­fic with a buz­z­saw, if he had to, to help her, though what he real­ly did was take an oblique route that cir­cum­vent­ed the worst of the traf­fic, and of course avoid­ed the rush hour’s angst and aggres­sion. In any case, Jake, who had an injury of the cochlea as a result of an acci­dent and was part­ly deaf, had, as a way of com­pen­sa­tion, devel­oped a benign atti­tude regard­ing the broth­er­hood of man, and it helped him get through life and traf­fic.

Jake was an ama­teur chemist, hav­ing stud­ied bio­chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing in col­lege, though he hadn’t fin­ished, as his fond­ness for cer­tain chem­i­cals had made him just too laid back. Still, he enjoyed star­tling peo­ple with descrip­tions, such as that of lan­thanide: any in a series of ele­ments of increas­ing atom­ic num­bers begin­ning with lan­thanum, or aryl: hav­ing or being a uni­va­lent organ­ic group derived from an aro­mat­ic hydro­car­bon by the removal of one hydro­gen atom. When he saw the calu­mus care­ful­ly arranged over the blue box, he rec­og­nized it as the aro­mat­ic peeled and dried rhi­zome of the sweet flag, a source of a car­cino­genic essen­tial oil. He picked up the trea­sure with rub­ber gloves and returned it to Sally.

The whole thing was crazy, Sally said, when he told her, impos­si­ble. Jake dis­agreed. By sta­tis­tic prob­a­bil­i­ty, it was an ergod­ic episode, hav­ing zero prob­a­bil­i­ty that it would nev­er recur, or by any the­o­ry of cos­mol­o­gy, as he said, shit hap­pens.

~

Diane Kirsten Martin’s work has appeared in or is forth­com­ing in Field, New England Review, Poetry Daily, Zyzzyva, Harvard Review, Narrative and many oth­er jour­nals and antholo­gies. Her work was includ­ed in Best New Poets 2005. She has received a Pushcart Special Mention, and won the Erskine J. Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace. Her first col­lec­tion, Conjugated Visits, was pub­lished in May 2010 by Dream Horse Press. Diane’s newest man­u­script, Hue and Cry, is seek­ing a pub­lish­er.