Jacqueline is a Corpus Christi native and developed a love of writing at a very young age. More about Jacqueline at the end of this section.
If my eyes could take pictures,
Oh, the things that you would see.
Because I’m so very observant,
And you’d see the world through me.
You would notice the beauty of the ocean,
And its refreshing shade of blue.
You’d also see the tall green trees,
And wonder what without them you would do.
The picture of love that my photos would capture,
To you would be an anomaly.
But if you’d just focus, you’d see how beautiful,
My version of love could truly be.
You’d see my children smiling,
About the most trivial things.
But you’d also see their humility,
And how they treasure all that life brings.
You’d look at pictures of the night sky above,
And maybe wish upon a star.
You’ll value your life differently,
And realize you’re perfect just the way you are.
So now that you have seen life through my eyes,
Maybe you’ll have a different view.
And if you’re ever having a bad day,
Just think of all the beauty surrounding you.
Everywhere I looked, there was red. Then again, red is the universal color of romance and love, and well, I was at a wedding. Ugh. The things I do for my sister. She looked so beautiful and happy in her wedding gown, as the groom spun her in circles, then dipped her back and kissed her on her cherry red lips. Gross. Why do couples have to be so mushy? I shifted my focus to the table where the gold vases held bouquets of flowers in vibrant shades of crimson and burgundy, and the way the color popped off of the black and white table linens was a bold reminder of the absence of love in my life. Thank God for alcohol. The blood-red liquid dancing in the tall crystal goblet that I had been nursing for the past few hours was the only companion I had. It was all I could focus on as I realized that this was probably the 5th wedding I’d been to this year, and I was still alone. I’d already made peace with it…I suppose.
As I looked around the room, people were leaving and the dance floor was dying down, with the exception of the bride and groom and a few other couples, so I took this as my cue to head out. I didn’t realize the degree of my inebriated state until I stood up to walk in my 4” Jimmy Choo’s; it was like watching a drunken horse trotting. I was trying my hardest to walk out without appearing like the train wreck that I was at the moment. I finally found the door and breathed a sigh of relief because I was free from the love in the air that was suffocating me.
read a longer excerpt in Corpus Christi Writers 2020
Sitting in the corner
while my world is going dim,
I’m thinking that I hear a voice-
My sanity is wearing thin.
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Jacqueline is a Corpus Christi native and developed a love of writing at a very young age. She holds a BA in English from TAMUCC and a MA in English and Creative Writing from SNHU. Jacqueline works as a Staff Writer at Visit Corpus Christi and is also a Contributing Writer for The Bend Magazine. Read more of her work at www.jacquelinejisele.com
Jason Bond is a Corpus Christi native and teaches fourth grade. He lives with his beautiful wife, Rose. When not taking care of his cat and dog, Jason loves to read and write. His hope and dream is that someone else enjoys his imagination.
Brian watched Timmy reach as far as he could under his bed. Imagining his chubby fingers tiptoeing like spider legs over dust-bunny covered Cheetos or long-lost Lego pieces or whatever else might be under there.
“Got it!” Timmy whispered and pulled the tattered shoebox out into the light of the flashlight he had resting on his lap.
The black and yellow box was covered in sunflowers. Although all of that was almost impossible to see through the layers of Scotch tape and endless yards of twine that Timmy had placed around it. Brian, unfortunately, had to help his mom wrap Christmas presents last year and knew all about how much tape to use and where to hold his finger so his mom could tie the bow. But Timmy’s box looked nothing like that.
“It’s in here. I had to wrap it up pretty tight. I didn’t want it getting out. I mean, what if it can get through the cracks somehow, or worse, pop itself open like a Jack-in-the-Box.” Timmy’s voice sounded excited and out of breath even though the two of them were just sitting there quietly on their sleeping bags.
Timmy clutched it tight. Little beads of sweat were making their way down the side of his cheeks. Brian wanted to reach out and grab it out of Timmy’s hands and rip it open to see its contents. Another part of him wanted to either hide under the folds of his sleeping bag and zip it up like a human pupa, or run out of the bedroom and not stop until he was safe across the street and back in his own bed. Finally, after sucking up as much courage as his seven-year-old body could contain, he reached out and asked to hold it.
“Hold on. Let me tell you about how I got it first, and if you still want to hold it, I will let you. But you have to promise me that if you do hold it, you will hold it like it’s a bomb or something like your life depends on it.” Timmy said seriously. His eyes stared at Brian, never blinking.
“Ok then. I was out behind my house, you know where they are putting in all those new apartments. And I was just looking around for stuff. You never know what you might find when they start digging things up. Well, I was hoping to find an arrowhead or maybe some like cool animal bones, when I hear a voice coming from one of the buildings. The walls were barely up, and you could see all of the wires and pipes like the intestines of a huge robot. My dad would tan my behind if he caught me snooping around there, and I was about to high-tail it back home, but there was something in that voice that I just couldn’t walk away from.”
Brian didn’t say a word. He was no longer looking at the box in Timmy’s hands but instead staring into the frightened look on his best friend’s face. The dim light of the flashlight teased the shadows and turned the cozy bedroom into an endless labyrinth of shadows. Brian could hear the air conditioning and the steady rhythmic squeak of the ceiling fan overhead, but other than that, the house was dead silent.
Timmy continued, “I had seen where the workers had been earlier in the day. The place was littered with cigarette butts and Styrofoam cups. That was when I heard the voice of a girl about our age. Sounded like she was playing by herself around the corner. Her voice changed the closer I got to it. Brian, I ain’t kidding. The closer I got to her, and the deeper I walked into the back end of that building, the older the little girl seemed to get. And another thing, it wasn’t getting louder. Before I knew it, I had walked beyond the middle of all that wood and nails and stuff, and still, instead of her voice getting louder and clearer, it was the same faint sound coming from just beyond wherever I was turning.”
Brian now wished that he had gone with his second option and just ran home when he had the chance. It was too late now. He was in deep. Timmy had been his best friend since kindergarten, and he had never seen him like this. The whole time he shared his story, Timmy’s voice was never above a whisper, but Brian didn’t think that it had anything to do with Timmy’s parents downstairs. The fact was that he had never seen his friend scared.
“The old lady, that’s what the voice sounded like at the end, wasn’t talking to me.” Timmy looked down at his box but still told his story to Brian, “It was talking about this. ‘Keep it safe. Keep it safe. Keep it hidden.’ It just repeated those words over and over again.”
Timmy held out the box to show Brian the patch-work taping job that he had done. In barely a whisper, he said, “There is another box inside this one.” He looked around the room cautiously as if someone or something might be trying to listen in to their conversation.
“Wh-wh-what d-d-oes it l-l-look like?” Brian stuttered. The shoebox seemed to shake in Timmy’s hands, and Brian couldn’t tell if it was it was because his friend was scared or whatever it was inside was trying to get out.
“When I turned the corner around a huge stack of lumber, I found the shoebox. The old lady’s voice was whispering about it until the very end, I mean right until the second I saw her. I ain’t kidding Brian. I think I saw her. She was just a mist. She was like the opposite of a shadow. For the life of me, I couldn’t breathe, and my legs wouldn’t move. I was paralyzed, and I could feel my heart beating. I could hear it too. That was when she moved.” His body had become a little ball. He had curled into himself, trying to be as small as he could.
It was Brian who was now paralyzed. His friend’s words hung in the air like a noose, and Brian was afraid that if he did manage to screw up enough courage to look to his left or his right and into the darkness, then whatever was hiding just beyond would reach out, and he would disappear forever.
“Then she turned to look at me. She looked right into my eyes. ‘Never open it. Keep it safe. Keep it hidden,’ she told me in her creepy old lady voice. Then, she just wasn’t there anymore. It was like the wind just blew her away. Not really away, more like apart.”
“So, what’s inside?” Brian asked.
“A smaller box, only it’s not made out of wood. I don’t know what it’s made out of. It’s like it’s made out of like some kind of white stone or rock or something. It was dirty, and it had like this wax seal over the opening. I didn’t know what to do. It was getting late, and I knew that my mom was going to be calling me in for dinner pretty soon, so I just grabbed it and started running. I didn’t stop running until I was inside and upstairs. Mom yelled something to me about running in the house and slamming the door, but I wasn’t listening. I just ran to my room and put the box on my bed.”
Timmy’s posture relaxed a bit, and he leaned back letting a few rays of the flashlight’s beams come between him and his friend.
Brian relaxed too. “So why did you wrap it up like this if it was already sealed up?”
“That’s the thing. The ivory, or bone, or whatever it is made from is cracked all over the place. I was staring at it on my bed, and all I could think about was what if it cracked, or I dropped it? So that is when I came up with this.” Timmy said and held up the box.
Brian didn’t know what was hidden in the white box that was held in the taped and mangled shoebox, and after Timmy’s story he was quite sure that he didn’t want to know, that was until it started to whisper to him in the dark. It had taken what Brian had thought were hours before he was able to fall asleep. He could hear Timmy’s slow and steady breathing from the sleeping bag not too far away and knew that his friend was sound asleep. This was Brian’s first sleepover, and he was so excited that his mom and dad had said yes. His mom thought that he was too young, but his dad had convinced her that he was getting old enough to sleep across the street without the world coming to an end. As Brian lay there sleepless in the dark, he was pretty sure that his mom may have been right.
“Please help me.” the mysterious voice pleaded. Brian sat up straight with the sleeping bag still zipped up tightly around him. To him, it sounded like a child. He couldn’t have been more than three or four. “Let me out.” the toddler’s voice pleaded. Timmy’s light snoring was unaffected by the tiny whisper of a voice coming from the deep corner under his bed. Brian, on the other hand, was wide awake now. The little boy’s voice continued to talk to him.
“Brian, your friend was so nice to bring me home. Please let me out. I’m so scared in here all alone.” His faint words floated like a cloud. No, like a mist.
Brian slowly unzipped his sleeping bag. He should have been more afraid. In fact, he should have shaken his best friend like a cup of Yahtzee dice so they could both have gotten the hell out of there, but instead, he crawled toward the sound. His knees made a shuffling sound across the dark blue nylon of his bag, and he stopped just short of the edge of Timmy’s bed.
“I just want to be free and go home. I miss my mommy and daddy so much. Please, Brian, let me out.” His voice sounded older now. Not louder or stronger, but now he sounded like a boy that could have sat next to him in Mrs. Nelson’s class.
Brian now understood why Timmy had been drawn to the voices that he had heard in the empty construction site. The curiosity drove him forward. No matter how logical it might have been to just run away or wake his friend, the only thing Brian wanted was to get to that box. Luckily, his arms were much longer than his friend’s, so he had no trouble reaching under the bedding and into darkness. Brian looped his index finger around the loose twine and pulled the shoebox to him.
“Timmy lied to you. He opened the box. He just didn’t tell you what was inside, because he didn’t want to share it. He wanted to scare you away from it, so you wouldn’t even try to open it.” The voice became the voice of a teenager. “It’s filled with gold coins. That’s right! It’s filled with gold coins that Billy the Kid himself stole off a stagecoach. It’s worth a fortune.”
Brian had no choice. He had to open the shoebox. He wanted to see what was inside for himself. He wanted his half of the treasure that his so-called best friend was hiding from him. He began to pull and tug on the string that was knotted and bent in around the sunken cardboard. Once he pulled so hard that his elbow hit the corner of the bedpost, and his funny bone screamed back in anger. Brian was afraid that the noise was going to wake Timmy, and his friend would angrily grab all of the coins for himself. When Brian had removed all of the string and had tossed it behind him, he started to work his way around the edges of the box to where Timmy had layered the tape. The tape bunched and tightened as he pulled, but before too long he could see the tiniest of slivers inside revealing the corner of the alabaster container.
This time it was the voice of a man, a voice that reminded Brian of his father. “That’s it, son. You are almost there. I am so very proud of you. You are so brave. Don’t stop now.”
The whispered sounds of the man filled the dead silent bedroom. Brian thought for sure that it would wake Timmy from his deep slumber, but his friend lay there corpse-like. If it wasn’t for the steady movement of his chest, Brian wouldn’t have been too sure. He tossed the mangled black and yellow shoebox on the bed triumphantly and held the cracked treasure in his hands. “What am I doing?” Brian whispered to himself. For the first time since he had been awakened by the eerie voice of a small boy tempting to help him, he realized what he was truly doing. He was just about to toss the box across the room having it shatter and splinter into thousands of minuscule pieces when the spirit spoke to him again.
“Not just gold, but a secret,” the elderly voice crackled. “That’s what this box contains. Don’t turn chicken on me now, boy. Just break the seal, and all will be yours and yours alone.”
Brian had never been good at keeping secrets, and more so, he hated to be called a chicken. He no longer cared about the misty figure that had shown his friend the box and the warning that it had whispered to him. He no longer cared about making too much noise and waking Timmy up as he slept soundly just two feet away. All Brian DID care about was getting to the golden treasure and the secret that he now held in his hands. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more upset he got knowing that Timmy was trying to keep it all to himself. So much for his so-called best friend.
When Brian broke the seal, immediately the ivory box began to glow, first a wonderful golden yellow, and then a bright white. “It’s the gold!” Brian thought. The once dark room filled with radiance. “It’s beautiful.” And then the box began to feel warm, not just warm, but hot. The wax seal began to melt and drip like a candle onto Brian’s sleeping bag. Finally, Brian couldn’t take the searing heat any longer and dropped the box at his knees. That was when he noticed the thin white mist that seemed to slowly swirl and circle. It originated from the bright white rectangle and like a ghostly tornado quickened and swirled clockwise to the ceiling.
“Yessssss! Freeeeee!” the entity hissed.
The objects on the shelf behind Brian began to shake slowly and then more rapidly and then after teetering back and forth, fall off the edge. T-ball trophies and books crashed to the floor. The lamp on Timmy’s desk rattled and then fell onto the carpet. The specter wailed and spun around the room. It seemed to float through certain objects and smash into others. The tail end would turn to a fine mist and pass through the bedding, while other parts would throw clothes and toys like projectiles toward the bedroom walls.
“What did you do?” screamed Timmy. Now wide awake, his eyes were transfixed on the ghost that filled the room. “What did you do?”
“I-I-I wanted the gold coins. You w-w-weren’t going to share.” Brian mumbled.
“What are you talking about? Brian, what did you do? I was supposed to keep it safe.” Timmy was yelling and tears streamed down his reddened cheeks.
The spirit seemed to solidify the more and more it flew around Timmy’s bedroom. The blue and white striped sheets on the bed were caught up in the swirl of mist. The room became a roaring echoing tornado of debris. There was a frantic pounding on the bedroom door as Timmy’s mother and father tried to get inside to protect their little boy, but it was too late. Their muffled screams coming from the hall seemed miles away. Timmy’s parents were helpless.
Brian picked up the open box at his knees and held it up to the sky as if the creature would have somehow changed its mind and returned to its prison. Although the sides of the box burned his hands and begged him to let go, Brian held fast and determined. At the same time, Timmy stood at the door in his pajamas turning and twisting the doorknob in every direction hoping against hope that it would open as tears blurred his vision.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t know!” Brian yelled to Timmy from across the bedroom.
Everything seemed to happen at once. The ghostly spirit shattered the window causing shards of glass to shoot around the room almost blinding Brian. He screamed at the entity and managed to cover his eyes with the sleeve of rocket ship pajamas. The bedroom door burst open as Timmy’s mother and father fell into the room almost crushing Timmy underneath them. Timmy thankfully had his soaking wet hands slip off the knob causing him to fall on his tailbone into the soft padding of his sleeping bag.
Then the room went silent. The cool night breeze from outside blew the curtains inward and chilled the sweat on Brian’s brow. Timmy’s father helped Timmy to his feet, and they all stood to stare at the broken window. His mother bent down to pick up the alabaster box with the broken wax seal.
“Keep it safe,” Timmy said, but his voice trembled, like he knew it was too late.
Oh, he’s real alright!
It must have been about five years ago this Christmas Eve when I saw him. I was just a little kid back then, but I had this crazy plan to drink as much water as I could stomach and then in a few hours after the house was dark and everyone was asleep, I would have to pee and then I would catch him dropping off the presents and filling up the stockings.
Sure enough, it was well past midnight, and the house was so quiet you could hear elf fart. I got up to take a leak. That was when I heard him in the living room. He was hunched over and sniffing at all the gifts that mom had put under the tree. My eyes widened as I hid behind the door and watched his claw-like hands slowly bring each gift to his hooked nose.
“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake,” the figure sang to himself and chuckled. The glow of the green and red twinkling lights of our tree cast his thin silhouette against the wall. “He knows if you’ve been bad or good,” he continued as he took one of the packages and stuffed it into his sack.
Wait, isn’t Santa supposed to be fat? Every picture that I had ever seen of him, he had always been fat. But I was just a kid back then, so I didn’t dare say a word, instead I kept watching him. Plus, didn’t mom say that he started the night skinny, and it was all the milk and cookies that made him fat by the end of the night. But wasn’t Santa supposed to put presents under the tree, not take them?
The figure shuffled in the dark toward the stocking that were hung by the fire that had long turned to ashen coals. His red and white hat tilted on his head to the point I did everything I could to not run up to him and straighten it for him. But even if my life depended on it, my legs were paralyzed and frozen to the wooden planks of the hallway floorboards. That’s when I saw it.
Santa pulled a long candy cane out of my baby brother’s stocking and slowly and carefully peeled the cellophane wrapped back. Then St. Nick took one long drag of the cane and let the pink spittle run down the center of his gray beard. He laughed so hard when he saw the sharpened point that his whole body shook like a bowl full of jelly.
I guess he could hear me breathing or something, because the next thing I knew was that he was staring right at me. His eyes went from focusing on the point of the candy cane to me. The thing that I remember was that his eyes were black, not just the center, but the whole thing. He held the sharp end of the candy up to show me the point and then began to grin.
“Get down, boy!” I heard from behind me. My grandfather held a shot gun in his hand and pointed it at Santa Claus! Santa quickly reacted with a hiss. My grandpa is not a big man, but when you are holding a shot gun you don’t need to be big. The gun does all the growing for you. Well. he didn’t have to tell me twice. I hit the ground and covered my head. All the while grandpa was shouting and cursing at Santa. When I was finally brave enough to look up, Santa was baring his yellow teeth (I guess there aren’t many dentists at the North Pole) and cursing back.
BAM! The shotgun missed Santa and shattered the window to his right. Well, that was all it took. Santa Claus grabbed his sack and jumped out of the window and into the snow. You could hear his cackling as he opened his red fur robe and let it take him up like wings. Seconds later, Santa Claus was gone. Grandpa and I ran to the cold hole in our wall and looked up to see if we could catch a glimpse of his sleigh, but it was too late. Santa was gone.
Now, I have told this story to pretty much anyone who would listen, but all of them have that same look on their face that you do right now. You think that I am crazy, or that I am making the whole thing up. All I know is you may say there is no such thing as Santa, but as for me and grandpa we believe.
“I guess that’s it,” remarked Officer Gallagher. He stared at the body slumped over the kitchen table. Silence enveloped the room. The small red iridescent clock on the microwave read 8:31 A.M.
Officer Ortiz walked to the table carefully and approached the scene. He grabbed the shoulder of the corpse with his rubber glove covered hand. He pulled the slumped bloated figure back slowly. The body went from being hunched over itself in some obscene prayer to now leaning slouched against the wooden back of the chair. “Oh, yeah! Look at that smile.” he replied disgustedly, annoyed.
The widened smile on the pale white body was an image of pure happiness. The skin was translucent. There underneath the ashen skin was a roadmap of blueish veins across the poor man’s face. If it were not for the fact that the body was dead, Ortiz would have sworn that the corpse had just won the lottery or something.
“No, not that, “Gallagher pointed to the decorative glass on the table. “that.”
One the kitchen table was what looked like an ornamental glass from what could have held a milkshake straight from a 1950’s soda fountain. Layered inside was white fluffy cream and rich milk chocolate. Smiling between those were layers of fresh ripe raspberries and purple plump blueberries. Officer Gallagher noticed that between the layers of the dessert he could identify, were layers that he could not. There was a thin layer of what first appeared to be caramel and just below the surface was a layer of something sliver and florescent. The colors of the parfait were too bright to be something that was made in this tiny kitchen. The colors seemed to shift and change before Officer Gallagher’s eyes.
“Oh yeah, I guess you are right. Stay away from it until we can get someone in here to bag it up.” Said Ortiz.
Officer Gallagher had heard all about this new dessert that was making its way around the dark web. The recipe was said to have been taken down dozens of times all around the world, but somehow it kept coming back. And yet, now here it was only a few feet away from him. Calling him.
“That body freaking stinks. I’m going to wait outside in the fresh air until the truck gets here.” Officer Ortiz said as he covered his face and walked out of the room.
Soon, Officer Gallagher was alone with the bloated grinning ex-resident of the house. He walked the two steps to take in a closer inspection at the layers of the heavenly dessert. It was rumored to be the most wonderfully created sweet coming from God himself. To taste the parfait was to glimpse heaven. The only side effect was the fact that it was indeed just a glimpse, because one bite brought death. The flavors were also said to be too much for any one person, and the dead body slouching in the kitchen chair beside him was proof.
Officer Gallagher picked up the spoon that was resting on the crumpled napkin. He rhythmically tapped the side of the antique glassware.
The dessert called to him. What was it like to taste heaven? The slowly rotting corpse could no longer share that secret. The bliss that it had once experienced had been taken with him to the grave. Officer Gallagher dipped the spoon into the corner of the glass letting it slide gently down layer after delicious layer.
He picked up the glass and held the dessert up to the sunlight to admire the multi-layered sweetness. The morning light shone through the kitchen window making the glass sparkle like a thousand diamonds.
Officer Gallagher was alone in the silence. He held the spoon up to his lips. “Just a taste.” He thought to himself. He just so slightly stuck out his tongue and licked the white fluffiness. The moment the flavors kissed his lips, Officer Gallagher knew that it had all been true. He gulped the dessert, sticking the spoonful deep in his mouth. Gallagher closed his eyes and let the flavors spread not just in his mouth, but through his soul.
The smell and the death of the kitchen faded away around him.
“The colors, all of the wonderful colors.” Officer Gallagher said as he raised his hands to heaven and began to slowly spin like a child in a field of wildflowers. “Thank you, Father.” Was the last thing he whispered before his dead body fell to the floor with a dull thump.
I was back at the same old Stripes Market trying to find something, anything with a label. Anything at all that I didn’t have to spend thirty minutes prying open just to find out that it was filled with mushy yams or even worse, cranberry sauce that looks like the inside of the can when you shake it out. They used to say to never eat from a dented can because somehow that makes all the dangerous lead or tin or whatever leak out into the food, but now that is all that is left. I didn’t make it through all these months just to die of lead poisoning or tetanus.
She was right outside the window. Sure, the window was filthy, but I could still make out her gentle child-like smile and the way she focused that smile at me before she disappeared. Her raven hair was matted, oily, and thick, but so beautiful in the way that it still managed to blow in her face.
Deep Breath. Everything is going to be okay. I AM NOT GOING CRAZY! I know she is real. She has to be.
After I saw her, I carefully placed the can of “mystery meat” back to the dust-covered shelf and as quickly as I could, made my way to the front entrance. I remember when they would magically open with a swish when you stepped on the mat as if you were a brave knight entering an ancient castle filled with mystery, but there is no more magic and all of the mystery leads you straight to horror. Now as the noon-time slipped quickly into the afternoon, I had to slide myself sideways through the cracks in the shards of long broken glass. I reminded myself that you can’t make too much noise. That’s the way they find you. That’s how you end up one of them. But all that silence was for nothing because she was nowhere to be found. Not even footprints in the dirt of the empty sidewalk. I could have sworn that she pressed her hand against the glass, but not even a fingerprint. How is that even possible?
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2020
Javier Villarreal holds a BA and MA in Spanish and a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics. More about Javier at the end of this section.
At first sign of dawn
the uncertainty of your movements
troubles the stillness of the day.
I see you from my window
plodding along your weathered driveway,
hair and beard ragged in the breeze.
Withdrawn in heavy footfalls
seemingly searching at every step
for something missing, something lost.
You always believe it’s Monday,
a hardened echo in your mind
of garbage collection day.
How many times do you drift
back and forth clutching a trash bin
trying to calm an obstinate nightmare?
You drag it to the empty street
over faded memories, over fallen leaves,
recycling minutes from your past.
Unmoved, you labor along
as if shouldering a stranger’s body
always on a stubborn Monday.
Perhaps you thirst
at every step for a glimpse of light
that could break the spell of time.
Sometimes, in fleeting moments,
I perceive a trace of clarity burning
through the heavy mist in your eyes.
-Today is Monday, Jim.
-Here comes the garbage truck.
You stop, stare into my eyes
and after a hesitant How are you?
fall back into the shadows
Apenas amanece escucho
la incertidumbre de tus pasos
inquietar la serenidad del día.
Por la ventana te observo.
Atraviesas lento los huecos del camino,
melena y barbas libres en la brisa.
Andas pesado y vacilante
como anhelando a cada paso
recobrar algo perdido, algo olvidado.
Siempre sospechas que sea lunes,
como un eco detenido en la memoria
que reverbera en retirar la basura.
¿Cuántas veces naufragas
aferrado a un tambo de basura
para calmar esa obstinada pesadilla?
Lo arrastras hasta la calle solitaria
sobre hojas mustias y memorias desprendidas
reciclando escasos minutos de la vida.
Intransigente, te desvives divagando
como si llevaras a cuestas a un extraño,
en un incesante lunes obsesivo.
Acaso buscas en la repetición
de los pasos el atisbo de una luz
que despeje el artificio de los años.
A veces, en momentos fugitivos,
percibo albores entre la niebla
espesa de un rostro conocido.
-Hoy es lunes, Jim.
-Ahí viene el camión.
Te detienes, me miras de frente,
enlazas un pausado How are you
Luego, con los pies en la niebla, te alejas.
cada remanso de luz que asoma
entre la densa niebla de tus ojos.
Cuando tus manos
perciben mi luz resplandece
una flor en tu rostro.
A veces, ilumino tus sombras,
hilvano tus sueños, silencio tus murmullos,
enjuago de tus ojos el polvo de la noche.
From its banks
the willows holding
the water with open
arms and sprawling...
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Javier Villarreal holds a BA and MA in Spanish from Pan American University, Edinburg, Texas, and a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics from The University of Texas at Austin, Texas. His major fields of interests are Languages in Contact (Spanish and English), Mexican American Folklore, and poetry. His works have been published by academic and literary journals. His first book of poetry Entre lluvia, canto y flor was published in 2008. He translated Versos para no dormir (Leticia Sandoval), edited Voz de Amor (Servando Cárdenas), and is currently working on his second book of poetry. After 30 years in the classroom, Dr. Villarreal retired and lives in Corpus Christi with his family
Jen Deselms says she has been surfing badly since moving to the area in 1994 from landlocked states.
Aug. 20 Old lady surf report: Lots of shortboarders crushing it today and one old lady occasionally getting crushed. Paddled out to the end of the pier four times before catching the elusive wave of the day all the way to shore. Did I look good? Only to the newbie gal who asked me for some paddling out tips, but the ride felt good other than my typically slow pop up. Have water in most body orifices from being shot out of a cannon of water. Now putting beer in one of my body orifices.
July 11 Old lady surf report: surf session cut short by nearly irresistible urge to puke. Shouldn’t have gone to the fish fry before paddling out. Also was thwarted by messy waves and a nagging thumb injury that wasn’t up to the conditions today. Still grabbed several ugly rides with slow pop-ups. No style points awarded today. Stopped before I could make my thumb worse. Best thing: Found a new used shirt to add to my wardrobe. If only I could get someone to drop some scrubs on the beach.
May 31 Old lady surf report Jersey edition: Jersey shore is for the young, the spry, the shortboarders, those with great pop ups. I do not fit those categories. Tate had some success. Andersen caught some with assistance and had a nice one on his belly and a collection of righteous wipeouts. I also had some epic wipeouts. I caught a couple but horrible pop ups led to rides on knees or doggy style. And it was cold. Really cold. My blubber didn’t do much. Nearly broke the water heater upon my return.
May 13 Old lady surf report: Water was a clear dark green with little mounds just big enough for some fun rides. Was joined by several on my fellow gray hairs about midway through my session. Glad they joined me because I spotted a fin in the water twice this afternoon and couldn’t be sure what it was (always tell myself dolphin). Had I been alone I might have paddled in, but in a group I stayed still my fingers turned to prunes. Izzy now happy with a ball and I now happy with a brew. All is right with the world. March 16 Old lady surf report: Today’s surf induced reflux is sponsored by several cups of chocolate raspberry coffee, Honey Nut Cheerios and a black-eyed pea concoction with some sort of tasty meat. Surf was slow and mushy but rideable. For the first time in several years I hit myself in the face with my board. Missed by eye by a fraction of an inch but I see no lasting damage to my right cheekbone. It is a bit tender. Got tangled up with a fisherman who seemed at least pleasant about nearly reeling in the giant jenfish.
Dec 23, 2020 Old lady surf report. Great morning surf session. Totally needed some attitude adjustment and the company of my usual surf buddy. On my first ride I nabbed a fisherman’s line at my waist but managed to grab it and fling it over my head and keep on cruising. Felt like a rock star. On a paddle out toward the end of the session some tourists cheered us on. Felt like a rock star again. But as usual I also took a bunch of water up the nose. And as for the water temps: it is getting a bit chilly. But as the worker from the local surf shop told me in the lineup — they’ve got a new shipment of suits in. Got to love a guy who is on the job even in the water. Dec. 13, 2020 Old lady surf report. My timing today was impeccable thanks to a message from a Nebraska businesswoman who planned to call me at 1600. That was the cattle prod I needed to get moving. The surf was rolling with a huge crowd hooting and howling as they surfed on the south side of the pier. But the north side was nearly as fine with only three surfers during most of the hour I was there. First wave was a nice drop in and it formed and reformed all the way in. I had one more glorious ride later during which I felt like my board was dancing up and down the face forever. Did it look as good as it felt? Probably not. The other rides were nothing special. Got shot out of a water cannon a couple of times, ripped off my board and somersaulted. Left shortly after the sky turned a deep blue gray, the water an eerie green and the wind howled more than the surfers.
Nov. 22, 2020 This old lady surf report is brought to you by magnificent white beard whose presence made me get in the water this morning. I wasn’t really feeling it when I was up before dawn to stroll with the dog. Waves didn’t look great and air was cool, but then I saw him stretching on the sand. Took the dog home. By the time I returned, he was packing up and I paddled out alone. As I sat on my board, a dolphin’s fin appeared. Seconds later another jumped as it surfed a wave. I had some cool rides, got a nice sinus wash and watched pelicans dive bomb for breakfast before a wave of surfers joined the lineup. Thanks for the gift, white beard. May your chin mane continue to wave in the morning breeze.
Nov 19, 2020 Old lady surf report: The Texas Coast means 80 degree air temps in mid-November and the truck next to you may have a cowboy hat on the dash and a surfboard hanging out of the bed. Nice waves this evening but sunset session was less than pleasant because of three large tacos and a side of rice and beans consumed at lunch. Decision resulted in more belching than a third-grade boy in the cafeteria and burning epigastric/chest pain. I know better. But the waves looked tasty and so did the tacos.
Nov 7 Old Lady Surf Report Yesterday I surfed with noodle arms and barely caught a thing. Today I was better. Caught more bigger and better. Pop up still sucks but had a couple rides all the way to shore and enough gas in my tank to paddle out four times. And I learned once again how small my town is. A man I don’t know said he had seen me in the water several times and then told me exactly where I live. He lives about a block away.
Oct 28, 2020 Old lady surf report. When I woke to 47 degree temps, wind, fog and mist I couldn’t imagine that I would get the motivation to surf today. But a hurricane swell in the gulf does strange things. Temp got up to 66 with sun near end of the day and that helped. Broke out the wetsuit and luckily still can get in it. But I likely could have gone without it. Waves were awesome and I beat the working crowd which showed up about 530. I also rescued my new used beach shoes from the yard and the jaws of Izzy so they could make the beach trip. Izzy thinks I am a butthead.
Aug 26, 2020 Old lady surf report extra: Unexpected day off. Managed to paddle out to end of pier or beyond four times which was a feat in itself for an old lady. Got pummeled, crushed, shot from a cannon and thrashed. Every wave was either a face plant disaster or a take or be taken ride. Good news is that no old ladies were harmed in the making of this report. The bad news is that farther up the Texas/Louisiana coast disaster looms. My heart hurts for them. It is ugly, devastating and the work continues long after the news cycle ends.
Aug 26, 2020 Old lady surf report addendum. Omg. A dolphin. Huge. Just after I paddled out. The first time it leapt I almost missed it, but then it leaped two more times, body completely out of the water and closer each time before disappearing. Session was otherwise not impressive, but it doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s what you see not what you do. Only regret is that I was surfing south side alone so there was no one to marvel in the moment with me.
We loaded our duffle bags this morning. They are bound for the airfield.
Now we wait.
It is Christmas Eve 1990. It is cold. The narrow, wooden barracks refuse to hold warmth. I have been a full-time soldier for 38 days, 34 of them at Fort Riley. I am surrounded by hundreds, but I am alone. Sure, I have known some of my barracks mates for years, but only in the one-weekend a month sort of way.
Some know that until 38 days ago, I worked for a small newspaper. Some know I read a lot. Some know I like to write. Others know that I am lousy poker player. Do they know I am cursing the choices I made that brought me here? Do they know I am worried? Ok, maybe, more than worried? Do they know it has been 16 days since I smoked a cigarette? Do they know it’s because I fear I might have to run when it’s really important and my short legs require every advantage?
Do they know that I fear failing to be brave in a moment of crisis? Do they know that I worry I may never get back home? Probably. But I don’t tell them. I don’t tell anyone. I can only assume we are all worried.
In two days, we fly out bound for a desert on the other side of the world. They will be all that I have.
Last night, I called my family and had to tell my sister, fresh home from a semester abroad, I was going to a war not some cushy stateside locale or even to a spot in Germany. Why hadn’t they told her? Why did I have to do it, standing at a payphone, in the cold on a bad connection. And Grandma keeps telling me that she is praying I won’t go. I have told her that is a pointless prayer and to pray for something else. I am as harsh as the Kansas wind. I am not angry at her. I am angry at everyone. Angry at everything. I don’t make it home for Christmas much anymore, but I am still angry to be stuck here making my mom miserable on her birthday while my family plays cards and feasts on smoked oysters, artichoke hearts, cheese and crackers. I am even angry I will not have to eat pickled herring.
Thank God for beer and its numbing powers. Although, that soon will be a memory as well. But as my dad mentioned that my liver probably could use the break.
I am on the second-floor balcony of the barracks, beer in hand, belting out Christmas carols off-key during a poor attempt at a holiday party, when my Christmas present walks up.
“I’m looking for Jen Deselms. Anyone know her?”
I don’t recognize him immediately. It has been more than a decade. We were just kids.
But then I am running down the stairs. Can’t help myself. I jump on this now-grown man and hug him.
I have no doubt it surprised him. Hell, it surprised me.
I moved in across the street from Mike as a sixth-grader. We didn’t stay long. We never do. But our moms were close and stayed in touch. Mike and I were never that kind of close. Age, circumstance and interests didn’t lend themselves to it. He was a grade behind me and attended Catholic school, unlike the other neighborhood kids. He was on the cutting edge of video gaming. I was on the dying edge of outdoor games – war ball, kick the can and capture the flag. He was a boy and I was a girl, or at least trying to act like one part of the time.
We had a sparring relationship. He teased. I mocked. Sometimes I watched his younger sisters even when he was home to prevent squabbles and household destruction. Even so, there was damage to a trundle bed from excessive jumping. I don’t think I was directly involved, but memory is a funny thing. Either way, I wasn’t great supervision.
His family’s gerbil died on my watch during their family vacation. I was so freaked out by its still body that I locked the keys in the house. They were good about it. The dog survived.
Mike taunted me the summer I was laid up with a nasty foot infection. I vowed revenge and marched to his yard as soon as I was well, wrestling him to the ground. I tell myself I was the victor, but I’m not sure.
I am sure that was the only time we embraced in any way -- until he appeared under the balcony and I tried to break him in half with a hug.
I had known that he was somewhere among the thousands at Fort Riley because Mom had told me on one of my phone calls. His mom obviously had done the same.
I didn’t seek him out. I didn’t figure he would want to see someone he hadn’t talked to in more than a decade. He was smarter. He was braver.
And I had been wrong. Oh, so wrong.
We drank beer. We laughed. We shared memories of the old neighborhood. We talked about our families. We didn’t talk about the coming war. We didn’t talk about fears or feelings. I got drunk. I assume he did as well. Everyone in the barracks was working on a hangover that night. Mike headed out as the drinking slowed. I haven’t seen him since.
After more than 30 years, the details of the conversation that night are even fuzzier than they were the next morning. The feeling from that familiar face in an unfamiliar place remains clear.
He will always be my best gift on my loneliest Christmas.
November 11. Old Lady Surf Report: Fall is officially here. Lifeguard stands and crowds have been removed from the beach. Morning crowds are all of us AARP types and their dogs. Surfed alone in lame conditions but the temperature, both air and water, was glorious. Izzy and I took a stroll in late afternoon where she encountered a creature crabbier than me. We said hello to several Winter visitors along our route, including a man with Nebraska plates who said he was from Louisville, one of the million places I lived as a kid. Izzy and I have returned to the deck so she can resume her neighborhood watch duties.
November 7. Today’s Old Lady Surf Report is brought to you by sunny skies, 70 degree temps, time change late sleepers, Cowboy fans staying home for the game and a charge nurse who gave me a heads up to slow my roll and delay the start of my work day. Surf was far better than the photo indicates. The breeze was so light that it didn’t affect wave form and there was enough water power for a few OK rides and a sinus wash.
November 5. Old lady surf report: Air temp 64 degrees. Water temp maybe 10 degrees warmer. Worst part was walking back to car. Nice little waves with a touch of power. Spotted a dolphin and lots of pelicans this afternoon. Izzy gamely investigated several dead things on the beach and I spent part of the evening at my first Port Aransas high school basketball game. Seeing them take down the big city team was an added bonus. Really impressed by community support, especially this morning’s send off for the state-bound cross country team. Sounded like a four-alarm fire from inside my house as the team bus was escorted out of town.
October 31. Sunny, still day and the surf forecast blew so Izzy and I strolled to the other side of the island to see the impressive array of wooden boats. Watched some of the family boat builders try to finish their three-day build-a-boat projects and saw the successful launch of the one project completed in time for the 2 p.m. scheduled Champagne launch. Stopped off at the VFW where the beer is so cheap I can tip 100 percent and the deck is always empty. Good day so far.
JoAnn Sanderson taught many years in Illinois public schools before retiring in Texas. More about Jo Ann at the end of this section.
If you had been sitting on a bench at Patriot’s Park in Lewisville, Illinois, at 4:30 p.m., on June 9th, you would have seen Mayor Sam Samuels stretching before he began his two mile run on the nature trail that wound through the park. Since he was facing east, you would have known by the directional arrows posted along the trails that he was headed down the path that ran by Swan Pond.
But if you had, instead, wandered down to the shopping area, you might have seen Angie looking at the apparel in the town’s only women’s boutique, The Trendy Threads. You would be able to watch her change numerous times into two outfits--a purple dress with a peplum bodice and a black sequined jumpsuit. But you might not have known she was deciding what to wear for her dinner date in the evening at the Lewisville Inn.
If you had then taken a short drive to the Old Town Square to visit the meticulously restored courthouse which housed the police headquarters, you would have seen Officer Perez, who had been on the force for ten years and Officer Cornelius, who had been hired only six months ago, typing information onto routine forms. If you had wandered into the office, you would have heard Perez and Cornelius talking about their boss, Humphrey McDuff, Chief of Police.
“He’s been acting pretty weird lately,” Perez spoke as he typed. “Yesterday he spent half the day gazing out the window, muttering to himself.”
Cornelius stopped typing. “I don’t know how long this can go on. We can’t keep covering for him like we have been. I’ve been hearing some rumors about him around town.”
“Rumors, innuendos, gossip, conjectures, hearsay, scuttlebutt. This town thrives on this stuff, Corny. We spend a lot of time and effort separating fact from fiction.”
Suddenly, Chief McDuff entered their office. “I want you guys in my office, muy pronto.”
If you had followed them into the chief’s office, you would have witnessed the chief’s strange behavior that Officers Perez and Cornelius had been discussing.
You would have seen Chief McDuff sit down behind his desk, the officers settle into chairs facing him, and heard the chief announce, “You will soon be called by a 9-1-1 dispatcher to investigate a possible crime scene.”
You might have observed how the confused officers shifted in their seats and heard Officer Perez ask, “Excuse me, sir, you said the call had not yet been made?”
“You heard me correctly, Perez. You will respond to the call by going to Patriot’s Park, where the body of Mayor Sam Samuels will have been discovered by a jogger running on the trail which leads to Swan Pond. The body will be found lying under some trees a few feet from the 10th marker. You will determine that the mayor had been shot at point blank range with a 9MM Glock, one bullet straight through the heart and one bullet to the head.”
Perez persisted, “But, sir, how would you know . . . ? “
“I suppose you want to know what the victim was wearing, too,” McDuff interrupted.
Hoping to take the heat off Officer Perez, Officer Cornelius intervened. “No, sir. We just don’t understand how you know we’re going to get this call.”
You might have sensed that the officers were not accustomed to questioning the source or the validity of the information the chief reported. But the officers had indicated that until recently, they had not seen the chief muttering alone at his desk, tossing police reports in the waste basket, and staring for hours at the county map hanging on the wall by his filing cabinet.
Showing no sign of being offended, Chief McDuff began describing the victim’s clothing.
“He was wearing navy blue jogging pants and a navy blue short sleeved T-shirt with a white stripe running down the right side. And although you are not detectives, I’ll tell you that the murderer’s motive for killing Mayor Samuels was that he had been cavorting around town with the murderer’s wife. Since there were several joggers beginning their five o’clock run, I expect the call will be coming in soon.” Chief McDuff stood and paced around the room. He walked to the window and opened and shut the blinds several times before slipping an unlighted cigar between his lips.
Perez looked up at the ceiling, and Cornelius looked down at the floor, considering the details the chief had reported. After a brief silence, Officer Perez suggested, “Well, Corny, we’d better head out there and check this situation out.”
The chief laughed. “Hold on a minute, boys. He’s already dead. No need to rush.”
If you had been observing the officers closely, you would have also sensed that they had agreed that they had matters to take care of before they went to the park.
Then you would have seen Perez and Cornelius stand and walk slowly toward him as Perez announced, “Chief, you’re under arrest for the murder of Mayor Sam Samuels. It is necessary for us to handcuff you to the desk while we arrange for support to handle this situation.”
“Well, Perez, I guess you’d better read me my rights. And since you insist on adhering to the proper protocols, will you hand me my phone to call my lawyer? Oh, and will one of you fellas call my wife? Tell Angie to forget about meeting the mayor at the Lewisville Inn tonight. Tell her he had to deal with some unforeseen emergency. She hates to be kept waiting, you know.”
If you had chosen to leave the office after the two men handcuffed McDuff to the desk and had followed Perez and Cornelius into the hallway, you would have heard the anxiety in Cornelius’s voice.
“Perez, the chief is crazy as hell. I don’t know what to believe about what we’ll find out there at Swan Pond.”
After hearing this conversation, you would have probably rushed over to Swan Pond to see if the mayor were dead or merely suffering from a gun shot wound. But, perhaps, you would have found him sitting on a bench, drinking from his bottle of electrolyte-infused water, having completed his two mile run, fit as a fiddle.
Friends, relatives, and acquaintances thought Maria was a clever lady. She enjoyed devising techniques to keep the romance alive in her relationships. She told them, “A man likes fantasy and intrigue, so I find ways to keep him interested. Variety is the spice of life, they say.” She called one of the techniques she used, “the greeting.” Each time he arrived, she would use it.
Although he had told her that he would arrive from work at 6:00 p.m., she greeted him, “Sam, I thought you wouldn’t be here tonight.” And he replied, “Here I am, Maria, back from the construction site—straight from the scaffolding into your arms.” And then he lightly pulled on her right earring.
But the next night he walked through the door, she said, “Alex, I thought you wouldn’t be here until next week. But here you are.” Responding to her cue, he replied, “I took some time off from the electronic shop to check your connections.” And then he poured her a glass of wine and helped her set the table for dinner.
Perhaps if he came home after hiking with his buddies, she would greet him, “Raul, I thought you would still be out in the wilderness camping.” And he would respond, “Yup, I followed the trail which led me straight to you.” Then she would bring out oils to soothe his aching muscles.
One night he was Dr. Clark, home to check her vitals. Another night, he was homeless Derek, looking for a warm place to spend the night. Tomorrow, she decided he would be Hugh, a wild game hunter who had just returned from a safari in Kenya.
But when tomorrow came, the expected Hugh did not appear to be greeted. She paced the floor, checked her messages, and busied herself with household chores, waiting for him to appear at her doorstep. But he didn’t. She waited the next night, and still he did not appear.
In the morning she began wondering how she should proceed. After considering all her options, she decided, “I think it’s time to extend another invitation. I need someone new and different.” She went to the living room, walked to the black cylinder on an end table and pushed the button. “Alexa, send me another one. This time I’ll take a stockbroker from Manhattan, about six feet tall, blonde hair, maybe about thirty-five years old.”
She took a shower, went to her closet, and set aside a pale blue cashmere sweater, black designer jeans, and Gucci boots. The stockbroker arrived in the evening. How she loved the same-day delivery service!
Yes, she knew how to keep romance alive in her relationships—each and every one of them.
Read more like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2020
George McDougal was seated on a brown leather chair talking to his friend, Sammy Lomax, seated on a comfortable recliner on his right. “Sammy,” George asked, “Have you ever noticed the wood panel above my fireplace? That’s Aesop’s adage, 'A man is known by the company he keeps' carved into the panel. My parents gave it to me thirty years ago when I was going through the typical rebellious, existential-angst stage during my teenage years. I’m sure my parents gave it to me to teach me a character building moral lesson.
"I admit that some of the members of my company are not worth the trouble they cause me. Maybe, I thought, it was time to make some cuts. I made a list of my companions’ behaviors, both those whom I consider beneficial to my general welfare and those whom I consider liabilities. I set out to evaluate whose companionship I should encourage and whose I should avoid. I put the company I keep in pairs to show the contrasting behaviors they exhibit. I call them my dueling duos.
"Take Juán, for instance. He recently bought a $225 pair of athletic shoes which he wears only to walk from the parking lot to and through Al’s Athletic Attire. Aaron, on the other hand, walks three miles a day in dilapidated sneakers held together with duct tape.
"Then there’s Sean. He eats small portions of nutritious food recommended in each category of the USDA’s food pyramid. But Abdullah heaps his plate at Pete’s Pyramid of Food Cafeteria and sneaks extra desserts in a voluminous tote bag he carries for these binges.
Bean-counting Isaac monitors his investment portfolio, bank accounts, and credit card balances daily. David wakes up on the morning of April 14th each year feeling the breath of his nemesis, the IRS, breathing down his neck.
"Suave Jeremy speaks articulately and listens respectfully to others. However, Pundit Patricia considers conversations as opportunities to deliver lengthy monologues about her pet chihuahuas, the state of the union, and the rudeness and lack of responsibility shown by children born after 1959.
"Let’s not forget Let’s-Go-Green Ralph. He extols the merits of conserving our natural resources and reducing consumer consumption while Celeste uses the recycle bin to store leftover kitchen tiles and old tee shirts shredded into rags.
"Add to the list, Eugene. He furnishes his home in the minimalist style of a Buddhist meditation retreat and cringes when he visits Diego who fills his home with fifty fishing rods, bookshelves stuffed with DOS operating manuals, and high school football trophies.
"These are a mere sampling of my companions and their behaviors. They whisper to, shout at, advise, compliment, and reprimand each other and sometimes, me! But, you know, Sammy, I realized all these comrades are endearing, and I don’t want to cut any of them out of my life. Of course, some of them need to be kept at bay at times. But cut them off completely? No!
"When I went to my weekly appointment with my shrink, I told him about my evaluations and my conclusion. I thought at first that he was impressed with my analysis. But all he said was, ‘George, I think we’re making some progress, but I’d like to increase the dosage of your meds for awhile.’
"Frankly, Sammy, I think my shrink needs one of his own. I’m onto his game. He wants me needy and lonely so he can add anti-depressants to my pharmaceutical arsenal.”
George looked toward the empty recliner on his right and asked, “So what do you think about my evaluations and conclusions, Sammy? Pretty spot on, don’t you think?”
JoAnn Sanderson was born in Iowa, received a Masters degree in English Education at Southern Illinois University, and taught many years in Illinois public schools. After she retired, she researched possible places to re-locate and made the wise decision to move to Corpus Christi, Texas. Recently she became interested in writing very short stories (flash fiction/micro-fiction).
Joshua Espitia is an award-winning author of short fiction, playwright, journalist, and former managing editor of The Windward Review.
Please insert or swipe your card.
Wait that breathless few seconds
for approval or denial, validation
of your financial well-being, your
fiscal responsibility, an adulthood
confirmed by your ability to buy
this fancy loaf of San Francisco
sourdough instead of plain, white
Wonder Bread for that sandwich
waiting to be built in the kitchen
of the efficiency you worked so
hard to afford-
The buck eighteen in loose change
jingling around in your jean pocket
will buy store-brand sandwich bread.
And the rent isn’t due until Tuesday.
Read more like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that. ~Joseph Campbell
Today was a high gravity day -- very high gravity.
If I had to hazard a guess, I would say today's gravity was at least 19.394 m/s2 in most of my house, and a solid 21.0 m/s2 in the immediate vicinity of my couch.
There is only one thing to do with gravity on a high-gravity day: defy it.
So I trudged to the grocery store.
Really, I just wanted to go to the craft store that is in the same plaza as the grocery store. Walking to the craft store to buy a pair of pinking shears for a project that is impossible to start due to the Earth's current anomalously high gravitational pull seemed kind of silly, so after I bought the pinking shears I walked the additional 50 or hundred yards or whatever to the grocery store. I bought organic romaine lettuce, organic blueberries, a single conventionally grown radish (already scrubbed the crap outta that sucker), and an orange flavored Lacroix fizzie water.
Normally I just drink filtered tap water, but trudging over crusty snowbanks next to a highway chock full of speeding drivers too self-absorbed and self-important to slow down in order not to spray me with road grime made me a tiny bit thirsty and I'd forgotten to bring my water bottle and the snowflakes were tiny and falling much too fast for me to catch enough of them on my tongue to quench my multihazard-induced thirst.
I hate high gravity days, but there is no better day than a high gravity day to defy gravity.
Poll: on a 0-10 scale, with 0 being absolute silence and 10 being the deafening sort of cacophony that drowns out machine gun-fire while you're trying to wind down with an episode of Peaky Blinders, how quiet is your dishwasher, what brand is it, where did you buy it, and who installed it?
My 17 year-old Bosch is still cleaning the dishes as well as ever, but I'll never know what Meredith said to Derek in season one episode one of whatever that show was, and, honestly, it's kind of starting to chap my ass. WHAT did she SAY?
Serious recommendations only please.
What a great week.
I managed to complete a set of TGUs bottoms-up without concussing myself, and I had to ground my elderly cat for coming home ridiculously dirty.
Who looks more stoned to you: Chris Cuomo or John King?
Who looks more hung-over to you: Chris Cuomo or John King?
I can't offer a FOX poll because the word "tart" is not politically correct.
I need my husband to come home and sputter spontaneously the opinionews to me from Naked Capitalism that's what I need.
I'm becoming unhealthily obsessed with Sanjay Gupta's [handsome but too-whitened] underbite.
What a trying week.
Going out, to the indoors public, I have wanted to (but didn't, because distancing) high-five and belly-bump the dishearteningly, underwhelming minority of us who STILL have the [underscore] BALLS (and good sense, and KINDNESS) to mask in public.
Go us! ESPECIALLY in that unholiest of places, Walmart!
Reporting now, I receive more compliments on my Scream mask than I receive on my Guernica mask, and my McNab ask was high jacked by my husband for his trip to Ireland and Scotland, so I I'm not getting compliments on that one at all.
Okay, I lied; I have not been in a Walmart for months. But you get my drift.
Absence of logic serves none of us, ever.
If my government mandated breathing, I would not plant my feet in the ground and refuse to breathe in order to prove that I have freedom.
Rest in peace, those who would.
And excuse me, please, if I think those people are uptight, selfish, self-righteousness, utterly misguided assholes.
What a beautiful week!
Ain't no bottoms-up like Turkish Get Ups, bottoms-up!
It is never too soon to prepare oneself mentally for less than desirable circumstances, therefore I offer this bit of pedantry:
The word spring refers to a geocentric view of the astronomical seasons, specifically that instant when an imaginary plane dividing night and day is perpendicular to our Earth’s equator. That is all spring is; spring is not a deadline for the absence of snow.
The latin roots for equinox are aequi- and noct meaning equal and night. The latin roots for eviction are e- and vincere meaning out and conquer. In 15.3 days the celestial event vernal equinox will occur. There simply is no heavenly event called vernal eviction.
The lush greenery we northerners miss so very deeply will not necessarily, suddenly, recover its property from the snow — by legal action or by any other means.
I am not running late, I am simply following a calendar more astronomically-based than most people are aware they could be following.
According to JennyAstronomy (not a real thing), which of course features heavy doses of JennyMath (a potentially scary thing, although even less real than JennyAstronomy), New Year New You 2019 starts with the New Moon on January 5 at 8:28 pm.
If you feel like you've already ucked fup your resolution(s) fewer than 24 hours into 2019, fear NOT! The BEST time to begin any new endeavor is the time at which the Moon gets herself New.
I am not procrastinating my resolutions; I am simply patiently waiting for the most advantageous moment to begin.
There are only just a handful.
They are specific.
They are realistic.
Like last year's resolutions, this year's were chosen for their potential to help me to achieve My Ultimate Goal.
Joel Jay Ortiz has been reading, writing, and performing poetry since 1991. More about Joel at the end of this section.
There he struts, like some brown Travolta, tres viejos in his hair,
Demanding a tortilla in the chinese buffet,
Once he brought his own music, Bach on the tape recorder, on full blast
For all the other patrons to admire along.
Sometimes, he sports a mullet, sometimes it looks like a haircut that is half
Always a connoisseur of things, but doesnt know how to let others in his circle,
He will get the girl, by the dawn's early night, he will get the girl,
Or he will fight you because there is nothing else to do.
He will claw your eyes out, watch out, he fights dirty,
But he will get you an Uber to get you home safely, for he is
A gentleman of a different stance, as he stands in your house
And with mere looks, he impregnates everybody with a desire
Este Vato knows how to live. He drinks the finest cervezas this
Side of the river, he has honeys by the wayside,
He gets deals like you don’t know. He will bust out the snow,
But only on occasions when the juras are not around.
How he knows the juras not around, he tells us his
Grandfather is a curandero, and we all stand in awe
Of such folk-like stories, we believe them late into
Middle age, waking us up in the night, still sitting on your chest.
Stealing your breath.
El gallo is a good friend to have, he backs you up, even when the
World shits on you, he will come and brighten your day, he will come and
Make you laugh. He will come in his new Mustang, and he will crash it
Outside the dope house.
That's the gallo, and no matter what, he gets up for work the next morning
As if he went to sleep at nine.
so, the movie was supposed to be serious, but I found a lot of parts funny. I’m sorry if I messed it up for the people sitting next to me, I don’t talk but I guess my sighs are over dramatic and I pissed off everyone around me, the boyfriend of the girl I was sitting next to, I thought he was gonna pull a gun on me, while the explosions in the theatre were extremely loud, I kept jumping and I was told to shut up and I became hyper aware of my own laughs, cuz I know I laugh obnoxiously but I can’t help it, I know that and i try to stay away from people, but I guess when I was younger I had friends who would back me up, nowadays with old age comes the death of friends you don’t ever see again and it hurts to remember them and why they cared about me , and now it’s not even a black hole that eats light and gets heavy but it becomes a nothingness that was never really there ever, and the bovine fictions of my life that keep me going around this circle called earth don’t ask to be around, but I’m still here and the sun still comes up tomorrow and I’ve Learned that I need to work tomorrow and school begins next month, and another anniversary of another death in this miserable heat
Working is for stiffs. These pictures I take every day, these computer chips, getting to me, typing with my fingers takes so much energy. My skin is cold, with millions of goose pimples covering my body. Someone once told me when you get chills like this, it’s because there’s someone walking over your grave. This person has never been sick, not like this, not like me. Look at that guy, my manager; I need to talk to him. I need to get out of here. It’s been eight hours, and I don’t feel so well.
Michelle, the pretty little milf, looks at me and asks if I’m okay. Her perfume, some expensive brand made to turn on men with their base pheromones, just makes me wretch.
I run to the restroom with my head wet with sweat and fall to my knees. That last smell from Michelle’s breast or breath or perfume smells like the worst trash to me, makes me lean down and place my hand on the edge of the toilet rim, not caring who used it last or who cleaned up and flushed.
Nothing comes out because there is nothing in my stomach. I talk to the monsters, spit dribbling out of my mouth, my nose running, long trails of snot-dripping into the dirty toilet, goose pimples up and down. I’m so cold, but I’m sweating as if I’m stuck in a sauna., I just need a little taste.
After about fifteen minutes of losing it, I go back to my job of taking pictures. Richard, my stupid manager who always likes to give me lectures on tardiness and absences, asks if I’m doing okay.
“No,” I manage weakly to say.
“Can you work the rest of your shift? You have been leaving quite early a lot recently. Is there something you would like to talk about? You know we are here for you.”
I listen to his speech, and I know where he is going with this lecture. Little skeletons dance in his pupils. Beyond his eyes, behind him, I see a couple of my co-workers, and they are looking at me funny. I know they are talking about me, just like Rich here is talking about me, in a way that he wants to tell me something, but he can’t quite get it out. So, he beats around the bush, to use the thousand-year-old cliché. How many thousands of years have people been trying to say one thing when they really wanted to say something else entirely, a completely different thought than what was conveyed. The subconscious, the sublime, and my manager want to talk about my problem, but all that oozes out is ‘problem.’
Rich’s coffee-tinged bad breath makes me think of all the dirty sewers and dirtiest toilet bowls, and I make this retching noise with my mouth as if I was going to throw up right there in front of him. It is loud and surprising. He looks at me with fear. Michelle has a look of disgust painted all over her pretty china doll face. I retch again and run to the restroom.
As I’m kneeling at the toilet bowl, Richard comes in and asks if I am feeling okay. Again, with the stupid questions. After hearing me for a couple of more talks with the monsters, Richard says simply, “Ivan, if you need to go home, go right on ahead. Go ahead and take the next day off as well, but I expect you to be here Friday, okay, don’t let me down. C’mon Ivan, go home and get some rest. You don’t sound so good.”
It’s like I get well for a second as I wipe away the tears from my eyes. That Rich, he’s such a good man, I keep taking advantage of him, and he always gives me the benefit of the doubt.
I clock out at the machine and retrieve my empty bag from my locker. I slap the bag over my shoulder and leave that cold building. It is early morning, about 7:00 am. I have been working ten hours straight, and I am really sick. The traffic smells really get to me. I immediately set my hands on my knees and vomit. This time something comes up. It is this world, with its natural smells of oil and gasoline filling the streets. The odors of the sewer mixing with the trees mixing with dumpster mixing with perfume are too much for my guts. The morning dew, the dumpster, car exhaust, doggie-doo-doo, her hair, my bad B.O., it all comes up with the sniff of the real world, and when it comes up, it burns all the way up my throat as I spit out the bile that I had deep in my system. It is white when it hits the sidewalk, and I hear it sizzle so early this morning.
I manage to finally get over this predicament and find my way back home. I get in the door and immediately drop my pants and take off my shirt. Cold, in my boxers, I go to my room and get underneath my heavy covers. It is wintertime, and I am under one of my favorite covers, a blanket that I had for over ten years given to me by this old girlfriend of mine. I don’t know why I hold on to it when I no longer have any contact with her, but I can’t throw this old and tattered blanket away. We had both been discarded and lived through so much life together; I just could never get rid of it. I get under the velvet cover and pass out to nerve-shaking nightmares.
On a boat, in the middle of the ocean with rain falling over me, waves trying to capsize my boat, and I’m shivering in this Arctic Circle, looking for heat in all these freezing temperatures. I’m lost for years in the northern seas, freezing my heart all alone, with not even a deckhand to alleviate my loneliness nor to help me remember what warmth was.
I wake up with sweat-soaked sheets stuck to my cold skin. I peel them off and throw them on the floor. The clock tells me I was asleep for only twenty minutes, and I can’t sleep anymore.
The phone rings. Veronica asks how I was doing, and I tell her not so well.
She asks if she can come over. She had just visited Chuy and says she bought some oatmeal crème pies ‘would you like some.’ That dirty water, that Texas T, that dragon she is bringing wakes me out of my stupor. Just knowing she’s coming over makes my sickness heel a little bit.
It’s true I love the dragon, but Veronica is my true love. Veronica I met when I was still in high school, in my Italian class. I was trying to learn Italian to read Calvino, but all it ever did was get me more confused within my English tongue. But Veronica was in my class, sitting next to me. A very beautiful woman, she had me breathing every time she spoke to me. We started to hang out after school, and eventually, we became an item. Unfortunately, when I left for school, she stayed behind, and we drifted apart, but upon my graduation from the university, I began to experiment with some drugs until I found one that was to my liking. When I came back home, the dragon was always on my mind until I found Veronica again. It was a quaint existence together. We did everything together. She lived with me off and on; sometimes, when we get too crazy on the dragon, she would go back to her stepmother’s, but lots of times, we struggled together.
She’s been out of town to visit her real mother in Houston. She had some methadone with her for her trip, but now since she’s back home, she wanted the real stuff. Unbeknownst to me, she had gone to our dealer’s and picked up some dope for the both of us. My nose stops running, and my bones stop aching. I go to the restroom and get out my works.
In an old cellular phone case, black leather, I unzip it. It consists of a bottle cap, already dirty with remnants and traces up and down the cooker. There is a little makeshift handle to hold it. There are a few Q tips, a lighter, of course, and last but not least, a needle.
I expect her in fifteen minutes, but after thirty minutes, I call. She says she’s on the way. I sit there on my couch, cold as hell and feeling very sick. I try closing my eyes, try to fall asleep, but sleep never comes. Every time my eyes close, strange faces appear. Great big, horrid figures with teeth sharp and eyes dark as dense forests, where monkeys live and yell, screaming at the moon, these faces, these harbingers of doom and terror live in that darkness when my lids are closed. I open my eyes, sweating on the leather couch, with my skin stuck on the leather, feeling like melted saran wrap on my skin. So uncomfortable, I try to sit on a blanket, but my sweat keeps making noises on this skin of the couch.
The television holds no relief either. It’s nothing but talk shows of who is whose daddy and how my daddy beat me when I was a child or mock court shows where people are suing other people over parking in the wrong space. I flip the channels for about ten minutes until I finally turn the sad television off. Nothing.
I call one hour after Veronica first called, and this time no answer. The harlot. Where could she be? Who is she with? I know she’s with someone, doing my dope. She’s out there sucking someone off. She’s in somebody’s trailer dancing or in the back of some car with her panties on the floor. I bet she’s on some bed getting drilled, and well, here I am sick as a dog, waiting for this, this, damn that, Veronica. Why won’t she hurry up? I love Veronica, and I love what she has for me. Both of these warmths that make me feel good about myself. Those two warmths that give me confidence, I need them right now, right here.
Ring ring goes the phone. Is it my dope, is the only racing thought through my sick mind. It’s Veronica. She got tied up, so she says. By whom, I wonder? But she eases my heart by saying she will be here in a few minutes. She’s just down the street. Get everything ready, she tells me, and I tell her I already have, and now the time I’ve been waiting for is so long, but so short.
I hear her car outside my window. I already have the door unlocked. She comes in like nothing. Places her bags on the couch. She comes to me and kisses me, but her kisses leave me so weak. Where’s it at? are the only words I have for her. She digs in her pocket, like a drill in the earth, looking for oil, and in her tight pocket, she pulls out a balloon. A pretty good red balloon, larger than usual. She throws it to me, and I unwrap it on our coffee table. I have a shot glass of water, a cooker, my lighter, and two needles set on the coffee table, sans the coffee, sans the big books.
Busting the red balloon, I let obsidian tar fall onto my cooker. It is a big piece of tar. It bubbles up after about thirty seconds of flame underneath it, and my guts begin to boil along with it. That smell of the drug rises up from the spoon and hits my nostrils. Immediately I want to throw up again. I start to retch, but I stop myself because I don’t want to spill any of the drug on the floor.
I draw up about seventy-five units of complete darkness. She sits next to me. It is dark in that syringe, and it looks like the depths of the deepest oceans.
“Hit me first,” she says, holding on to my arm, squeezing it tight.
“You know I always do, baby.”
I look in her face, and she is looking at the point where the needle is about to enter her. “Come on,” she whispers.
Her eyes flutter as I push the plunger. Her arm falls limply between her legs. Her mouth opens wide as she falls back on the black leather couch.
Maybe it’s too much, but let me find out on my own. Veronica, mummy-like, on the leather couch, lies there unresponsive. I pick up my needle, wishing to be on her level of highness. With my queen, my princess. I just follow the rest of my scar tissue. A joke enters my mind, of the two greatest inventions in the world. Heroin and the hypodermic syringe. Cracking a smile, I push the drug into my vein.
My eyes get heavy. I close them, thinking of the rush; it feels so great. Better than sex, better than orgasms. It’s warm, enveloping. Better than food, better than water on a hot day, hot and overwhelming. I can’t remember if I remember anything at all, but my eyes close quickly. That’s the only truth because when truth is found, it comes the quickest.
There’s no holding Veronica, no taking out the flowers, but numbness. Beyond clouds. In dark shapes coloring my vision. Blackness comes on so quick. This nothing, where hearts are not next to loved ones. Alone in this void, this is what I’ve become. Nothing but dust, nothing but dirt, but…
Remember, bout 20 years ago, we drank all night, our noses were sore, our alcohol was go gone, and I wanted to keep going, you wanted to keep going too, so we went to Uncle on everhart looking for some warmth that I like, but there was none to be found. So we went to your friends, but they were out, we went to Molina, nothing. Went to the cuare, nothing.we went to all the haunts, and nothing. We started at 4 in the morning, came back to our place on 14th, driving in that little mirage, hoping for the worst in our lives . It was on weber, in front of heb, he saw a rabbit running across the street, I said that ain't no rabbit and slowed down. He opened the door and a lil dog jumped in my car, a lhaso apso, so beautiful just jumped in and said where you've been, you're late you know. We found a bum in Morgan and he said yeah I can get it, ho down staples, turn in holly and wouldn't you know back at uncle's place, lol, which we already knew there was nothing there. This was now noon, so we spent from 4 am to 12 pm on the hunt for more dirty rugs, cause that's what we liked at that time. We never got our fix that we wanted, it wasn't till later when everyone woke up that we were straightened out, but we did have a dog that I named pennies from heaven, because that was all the joy we were gonna get that day. Peace and love to the new year. Thank God I'm not on the hunt anymore, but those that are, one day you will realize that nothing will ever fill that void, just enjoy the time we have now, on the greatest day of your life, until tomorrow begins...
Every once in a while I can look near the edge of my pupil, and in that brownness, i can see a pin prick of light emanating from the inside of my eye, so I look in the mirror, and sometimes, sometimes I can see a whole other world, a different world, much like this one, but with a few differences, similar in the sense of having the same names, same people, difference being, I'm left-handed, no I'm right, sometimes I get lost in the crack, trapped in this eye, I'm here, I'm there, i am, i think?
And I'm running, running out of time, running to lose weight, running from my problems, running towards happiness, blessing those around me, wanting to change, late in life, sometimes undecided, out of money, wanting more out of life, whoa, slow down, this is too much, this is not what I wanted, was this what I really envisioned, who are you, who am I, where do these questions come from, i want more, no one wants to give, i have so much to give, but no one wants anything but harm, i don't have harm I don't have fear, i have love, love of undesirable...
THE CHUPACABRA OF SAN DIEGO, TEXAS
It was a night like this, with a steady flow,
The fog was deep, ever thick in San Diego,
Busy hunting, driving my truck around,
The moon it glowed,
Driving through back roads with my windows down.
Going through thick brush, walking to my deer blind,
All my clips, left in my truck behind,
Hearing the critters, in the brush scurrying around,
In the moonshine,
Not paying attention, to all the glorious night sounds...
sometimes you're just damned
books, that spine I love, curving at the right
pages. Her dog ears I flip in my mind, kissing
each sentence I injest into my system.
I've given it all up so I can enjoy a few
paragraphs of intelligent chatter
I've ignored many possibilites many lives so I could
stick to those dirty words
i've taken ferries to countless libraries
and devoured each lover from its brain and secluded
many covers i just blew away
in my own i have stolen unmade masterpieces
and gave my full attention to such minds games the best
of the race have created
to be seated in rooms of your brain, you move so subtly from
reading to writing. what you read becomes the very word you
write. These fictions, these tigres de los suenos, as that
educated prick so rightfully wrote
life is very much like a book
you can either take your time and inject the wisdom
or enjoy it fast & move on to other works of pulp
in the end it comes from someone's library, it was somebody's book
it was my book but now i see that the mending department doesn't
even want to put together my torn book
i'll just let it fly off in all directions, my pages fly away like icarus, with no
destination can be substituted for destruction
a reconsctruction of tales with no heads
for we dread what poetry can give birth to
oh poetry, i'd die for you
POETRY!-----OPEN YOUR EARS FOR WE'VE GOT TO RECITE THE TIMES
POETRY!-----KEEPS US TIGHT AS SHRUNKEN SWEATERS
POETRY!-----HOW I WANT NOTHING ELSE BUT POETRY.
Copyright Joel Ortiz
read more great poetry like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2018
Spying UFOs in the desert
While this Mescalero Indian
Chews buttons in the dry valley
Sewing patches over bullet-riddled skin Taking arrows out of skyscrapers
Blood raining on painted faces
Cannibals in the Gulf reliving
Forgotten lives in friendly times
As much as you try, you will never leave The dry mesquite trees burning Bluebonnets littering the paved roads Don’t Mess With Texas
Played on a slide guitar,
Psychobilly noise on a turntable And us Tejanos drinking late in the morning.
(i wrote this one, behind the annex some 13 years back, and i remember the good man Robb Jackson, an English teacher at Texas A & M University Corpus Christi, he was the only person in this part of the world who would go visit the lowly inmates of Nueces County and help them express themselves through the written word. he was looking for a diamond in the rough when he was out there, i was already a diamond, i just like to live rough, all for sake of art, and somehow i got lost in all roughness, i was there initially for different reasons, but along the years, the substances just got more and more under my skin and i could not do a damn thing without any substance inside of me. nowadays, doctors would say, oh you just self medicating, and i said, yeah, whatever, gimme a new scrip.)
I still dream of you even though
you hate me,
I am nothing but an ink spot on your paper.
I want you to feel my leaves underneath your feet,
My roots, they grow in your undershirt,
I like you better when you are smiling,
But when I'm around I make you awkward.
Late at night when I’m busy writing my novel,
I stop and think of you,
I know you don’t want to hear this,
But I’ve got to tell someone.
I paint pictures of photographs and super-impose you in
For example, I have this photograph of a lonely tree
I shot when I was in high school,
I took a picture for sometime in my later years,
I want to find it in my box of unusual photographs,
my pictures of strange women, whom i tell my girlfriends
are my sisters,
pictures of found brothers,
Found mothers, found fathers,
& some of them are fond nature photographs
I've been thinking of painting this lonely tree,
By a silent pond with quaint mallards
still as if they once were
A hoax of the loch ness monster
Or the Nueces River witch,
Which one is more appealing, yet lately i've been wanting to put you
In the painting
I did not want to fall in love with you,
But sometimes when the heart starts
What must one do to keep it beating day in & day out?
I know you are not confused,
But i am all nitwits, pulling my hair,
Pulling my teeth, trying to find some
Gold in me to give you,
I can be cheap & give you this,
Or say nothing, but a cheap kiss,
Can’t you hear my heart late at night,
The cops were called last week,
Neighbors complaining that there
Was this constant beat that
Wouldn’t let them sleep.
Sheepishly I told the police it was love,
The officer smiled & told me to go
Inside & try to put a pillow
Over my heart, he didn’t want to come again & arrest me for
A count of mad love
So i tried quick drying cement,
But the movement never let it dry.
I don’t want to compare you with anything,
I know i'm not supposed to love you,
But when the insects keep telling,
What the birds keep chirping,
What the gorillas keep grunting,
The babies keep crying,
The snakes keep hissing,
The music notes i keep plucking,
It knows something, nature only colors it,
All you have to do is come,
All i have to say is to speak,
& then our pens will fall in love,
With each other's form of ink.
Joel Jay Ortiz has been reading, writing, and performing poetry since 1991. He started at various open mikes, reading poetry with musicians, and then continued when open mike with spoken word began appearing. He has been published in various indie zines and been the guest poet at readings in Austin and Corpus Christi. He also hosted open mikes throughout the years. His poetry tends to be literary with literary allusions and pentameters that agree with music, due to his love of music and ability to play guitar and piano. He wishes the world read more poetry and loves to hear poets express themselves, especially in a venue where poets can be themselves.