In this issue
War Crimes Team Digs Mass Grave in Crotia
My Mothers All Too Brief Affair With Rudolph Valentino
Die Frist Ist Um
Incantation of The Fall
Dancing The Presidents
The Love Lost Between Them
On a Football Poster
Phrenology Head & I
Crisis in the Oversexed Society
American Rebirth 1975
I Am in this Dress
How to Work the Forest
He Could Have Told Us The Truth
Afta: After Van Gogh
GUILLERMO NERICCIO GARCIA 71
H. EMILIA PAREDES 72
Im That Derelict
A Saraband for Barbara
Floyd Prescot and his grandson Hank have their differences.
Floyd Prescot is dead. Hank Prescot is not; thats the big one. Floyds body has been frozen for thirty years in a tank of liquid nitrogen. Hank is thirty years old, with a body temperature of ninety-eight point six. This afternoon, Floyd lies in a machine-cooled mausoleum up in Amarillo. Hank stands atop a fifty-foot fiberglass statue of Lyndon Baines Johnson, former Texan. LBJ is badly faded, and thats why Hank is there. Hes a painter; thats his job. He stands on the brim of LBJs Stetson, dripping whitewash, watching the sun go down. His granddad has been dead for ten thousand, nine hundred fifty sundowns in a row.
"Quittin time," drawls Hank to LBJ.
LBJ is too dead to answer.
Hank trots down the highway on horseback. He trots until he reaches the outskirts of Atomic, a quiet town on the mid-Texas plain, and zeros in on a neat little house in a neat little neighborhood. Its the house where he rents a room from Lyra Prescot, his widowed granny. He parks his horse in the garage beside Lyras Buick, and it feeds from a trough full of oatmeal.
"Hey," says Lyra when he walks through the door.
"Hey yourself," says Hank. He kisses her on the cheek through layers of makeup, and together they microwave supper. They eat, as always, in front of the television. Hank surveys the walls, which are lime green and hot pink.
"I can paint these walls for you, Granny," he drawls. "I painted LBJ today."
"I got what I got cause I like it," she answers, eating and smoking a Pall Mall. Lyras sofa is orange neon, like the carpet. Lyra herself wears a blouse of lemon polyester. Her lips leave a violet kiss around the filter of her Pall Mall.
By and by, the TV mentions that researchers have figured out how to cure some terrible disease. Hank doesnt catch the name of the terrible disease, but Lyra does. She goes ramrod stiff on the sofa. She goes pale beneath her makeup.
"Thats what kilt your granddad," she says. Her voice is distant and spacey.
Hank chews a mouthful of microwaved peas, watching her.
"Its time to thaw out Floyd," she whispers.
The next morning they drive up to Amarillo together. She takes his arm as they enter the mausoleum, and chain smokes until they find Floyd. Gallery fifteen, level two, block seven. Theres a marble square in a marble wall, and it reads FLOYD PRESCOT. The marble is cold to the touch.
Managers are summoned. Checks are written. Hushed conversations take place. The wall opens, exhales vapor. The managers speak softly, like funeral directors. They explain the things they will do to Floyd Prescot when he has been removed from his casket. Lyra listens and grips Hanks hand, and snow swirls down from the open square in the wall.
All that week, Hank talks to himself.
"Now theyre melting my granddad," he tells LBJ as he paints his great nose. "Now theyre rebuilding his insides, particle-by-particle."
LBJ seems to wink with his newly restored eye.
Lyra decorates the house with sticky-notes. Nothing metal in here, reads a note on the microwave door,not even tinfoil! Notes flutter on the range, the toaster oven, the garage door?a crash-course for the returning dead. A note above the double sink reads: Dry goods in the piesafe, cans in the pantry, paper towels in the pantry, too. Dog food thrown out; dog deceased.
"Now theyre rebuilding his outsides," Hank says to LBJ. "Now they are coating him with mercury. Now they are pressing a button on his longhorn belt buckle; the buckle surrounds my granddad with a magnetic field."
"Gawd-a-mighty," thinks LBJ to his dead self.
"They have to do that," Hank explains, "or his molly-cules come apart."
Lyra spends some money on her own outsides. "Ive got thirty years of wrinkles he aint ever seen," she explains. She gets her face lifted, tummy tucked, fat sucked, thighs stapled, all by laser. She gets a pedicure, too, the old-fashioned way.
One night, all the lights are out when Hank gets home. Lyras voice comes crackling through the dark, from the sofa.
"Your granddad was the tallest man in Range County," she rasps. "He was town Marshall for fifteen years, did you know that?"
"He wore a gun, but mostly what he had was a hickory stick big around as my leg. Used to beat the stink outa of people. Drunks, mostly; this was a wilder town once upon a time. He always used to say Hilly-Ho instead of Howdy. Sounded kinda foolish, but nobody said nothin."
She mumbles about their old ranch, their old horses. Floyd Prescot never owned a car, just a storm-gray stallion. He used to ride the stallion right down the middle of the street and nobody even honked. "I never had a car til after he was gone. Sold the ranch and moved here."
Hank finds a table lamp and switches it on.
"Jackass!" bellows Lyra. Hank catches a brief glimpse of his granny sitting on the couch wearing a badge and a fake mustache, then she flings a cowboy boot at the lamp and its dark again.
Another month finds Hank and Lyra on the platform at the train station, scrubbed down and dressed up. They squint into the brown Texas distance, down the black whipcord of the magnetic rail.
Sssshiiiiiiissssh! The train strikes like a rattlesnake over the horizon. It pauses, hissing, then subtracts itself again.
In the settling dust at the platforms edge stands a long silver man with two duffel bags.
"Honeybush," says the silver man, extending a reflective right hand. Lyra staggers forward. She folds herself around him, and for a moment, holding her, Floyd Prescot almost looks natural.
"You look good for an old lady," he tells her, and gives her a pat on the ass. His eyes settle on Hank.
"Hilly-Ho," he growls.
Floyd drives home. He insists. "Yall can go piss up a rope if you think youre gonna chauffeur me around! Hop in the back there, son; let your granny ride up front." He leaves black skid marks in the parking lot.
At the Mercantile Bank, Floyd bangs his fist on the counter. "Floyd Prescot!" he roars. "I left a bundle behind. Whats it worth now?" The teller hands Floyd Prescot a new checkbook, tells him hes rich, and then faints.
They buy horses and a horse trailer. When they finally get back to the neat little house in Lyras neat little neighborhood, Floyd wants to ride. They saddle up, and he leaves them in the dust. He is reflected heat on horse- back, a silver comet.
"My sister Florence could ride better than the both of you!" he calls over his shoulder.
"Gran??" begins Hank. It is the first syllable either of them has spoken since the train station.
"Hush, now," she whispers, squinting after her husband. She bites her hot pink bottom lip as if remembering something important.
Floyd doesnt trust the microwave oven. He insists that Lyra fry their suppers, or else use the grill.
"Rady-ashun!" he spits.
He likes sticky-notes, though, and leaves them everywhere.
Air conditioner less,door open more, he writes.
One day, as Hank helps his granny unload groceries from the Buick, he discovers a sticky-note on the dashboard. Gas-eater, Floyd has written. Another note, right beside it, reads My car that I bought in Lyras hand, in neon ink. That night, smoking a cigarette on the back patio, he finds a similar note posted beneath the kitchen window, away from the grill where Floyd will never see it.
My house, it says in the moonlight.
Times have changed. People honk at Floyd Prescot now when he rides his horse down the middle of the street. He holds his bright head high and ignores them. Windowshades snap down when he calls on old friends. Lyra plugs in the phone to organize a homecoming barbecue, but no one answers, and no one comes. She sits by the window, drumming her bright fingernails, and when Floyd comes trotting down the street she unhooks the phone in a hurry. Her hair, once dark, has been dyed red.
Floyd bursts in from the garage, carrying cans of whitewash.
"Hilly-Ho!" he bellows at Hank. "Put on your work clothes! These green walls gotta go; looks like a Mexican whorehouse. Whyd she ever move off the ranch anyhow?"
"That paints for my job," Hank explains. "Thats whitewash for Lyndon Johnsons hat."
Floyd ignores him and paints the whole house himself.
The next day finds Hank painting LBJs bolo tie. Out of whitewash, he paints it lime green.
"Hes a cast-iron sonofabitch," Hank tells LBJ when the sun has beaten down for a while, making him crazy. "Seems to me she was awful comfy before this."
"Nostalgia," offers LBJ, his voice distant and imaginary,"is a paper-thin lie."
Hank paints LBJ a set of hot pink fangs and trots home early on his horse.
Time passes the way a shadow passes. A month goes by; the nice neat lawn becomes an untended jungle. Inside the house, dust falls and deepens. Floyd rides his horse; he is rarely home. Lyra washes her hair with peroxide; it turns white, its true color. The next day she dyes it red. Then black. Over and over. Sometimes her left eye twitches and she cant make it stop.
One day, Hank arrives home to find Lyra on the sofa in her whitewashed living room, drinking tequila in her ancient wedding dress. Her hair is a shade of blue.
"Floyd sold my car," she mumbles.
"Ill be goddamned," mutters Hank, bumming a smoke, borrowing the tequila bottle. Lyra clutches the hem of her wedding dress and rubs it between her fingers. Her left eye twitches sixteen times.
Late that night, Floyd blusters through the door. He towers over his wife and his grandson, who sit tequila-drunk on the sofa, eating corn chips. He holds a store-bought package.
"Guess what this is, Honeybush?" he booms.
"A box," snaps Lyra. "Dont call me that."
Floyd glares a black-eyed glare. "Its a makeup kit. People dont see me right, with skin like this, like a mirror. I want you to paint me up."
"Do it yourself."
"What?" Floyd narrows his shining eyes. Lyra stands, and her wedding dress rustles like insect wings. Before she can speak, Floyds hand sweeps out. She ducks; his hand passes through her hair. Her hair, dyed to brittle perfection, snaps like jackstraws. Bald and crying, she darts over the coffee table and out the front door in high heels, vanishing into the tall, tall weeds.
Hank knocks his granddad sprawling, scattering the makeup kit. Floyd lies there, faintly glowing. He doesnt hit back, and Hank goes to bed wondering why.
Hank eats lunch on LBJs hatbrim, watching the Texas horizon. He is halfway through his corned beef sandwich when a mirage canters down the highway on horseback, a dark horse with a silver rider. Floyd climbs the ladder in sun-bright flashes, and sits down next to his grandson.
"Hilly-Ho" he starts to say, but says "Howdy" instead.
The great sky turns, burnt-metal blue.
"You shouldnt have sold the Buick," Hank says to him after a while.
Floyds eyes squinch against the sun, surveying the rooftops of Atomic in the distance.
"Quiet town, aint it?" says Floyd.
"Didnt use tbe."
"Granny said you was a good Marshall."
"Horse piss. I was a sonofabitch and it came in handy."
"Gonna buy your grannys car back for her, aintcha?"
Floyd makes a farting noise with his lips. "Well," he says. Thats all he says.
Hank winks up at him, winks into sun and silver.
A light wind kicks up. Floyd leans into it, inhaling the plains. Then he nods, as if finding himself in agreement with the wind, with the hour and the burning sky. He presses a button on his belt buckle.
Quicksilver falls from him like a snakeskin, rolling away in silver balls, flowing like rain from LBJs great Stetson. Floyd, for a second, is gray against the burning blue. His last wink is frozen like a wink in a black-and-white photograph, and then he rustles away on the wind, a swarm of dry leaves on a hot day, gone.
Hank trades the dark horse and five hundred dollars for the Buick.
They sit watching television for hours that night. They smoke Pall Malls and drink cool lemonade. The air conditioner buzzes in the window and insects buzz in the tall, tall weeds. Lyra wears a turquoise scarf like a turban around her bald head. She wears magenta eyeshadow. Silver colors her lips.
Hank surveys the whitewashed walls.
"I can paint this whole house for you, Granny," he drawls.
Lyra offers him a sad, silver smile.
"I miss him," she says.
After work, busboys
who had bought old cars
with their tip money
their tires had been spiked,
as a dollar
under an empty cup.
Over American cities
fly jets full of unwritten biographies,
history will not settle in,
its a wind that turns cold
when the sleeves of
a junkies shirt get longer,
the glass kingdom on the Detroit River
thumbs its nose,
its rounded, gleaming turrets at Canada.
COME HERE, PUNKS, WELL SLASH YOUR TIRES AND CALL IT LOVE,
I think about flying away
looking for bricks,
the river rolls on,
roads lead to new airports
where they sell the same national magazines,
the same kinds of tires
Flying over the Cabrillo Bridge
of the plane shimmer and slide over the folds
of a crowd doesnt change
the table of contents I read,
spiked and are flat in any state
in any wheat field
and downtown corner
or trading room floor,
were coming to the age where ghosts
arrive and stare over your shoulder
as you do your taxes
and fill in your crosswords,
a bony hand cannot hold you to things youve said,
it can only point
and point until lights come on the towns
that is the furthest from the center,
we cry at our own funerals,
I weep at the
drone of a plane crossing a lake,
NO ONE LOVES ANYONE, GODDAMNIT.
Detroit looks awesome
from across the river,
all the buildings are tall
and made with stone,
but on the bridge,
getting closer, every window on every floor is open,
the buildings are riddled with daylight, only wind is being traded,
only ghosts shop at Hudsons.
Cars burn near Cadillac Square
and busboys swear in every language.
Coulter JacobsFor Lance Vargas Confederate Poet,and Publisher...
Every last letter is an act
Every ant circling the stove
Dusty tongues, venom eyes
And though we are preaching
to brains of metal
(If enough are thrown)
Can shatter the dumb skull?
the tips of my fingers,
Peach fuzz tickles my words
I see the same page
as you, O Poets
Blank an Beautiful
waiting to be etched, gnashed
wept upon, moon beamed.....
I just figure
if I walk backwards
I can find
of the line