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SPARKS: ONLINE ISSUE NUMBER 9

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Summer 1995


Contents

 

Three Stories: Boyle and Lucky, Chris and Nina, P and C

by Thomas T. Hammill

 

Poem: Elephant on the Roof

by Philip Hughes

 

Story: Veronica Was Standing Still

by Ben Ohmart

 

Am I Blue?

Artwork by Jim Esch

 

Three Poems: The Conscience Pays Up, Revolution Part 3, Singles Game

by John Grey

 

Two Poems: The Little Girl, Advancing Front

by William C. Burns, Jr.

 

Scenarios: Virtual Moby Dick

by Paul Ford and Jim Esch

 

Story: If The Moon Won't Rise Tonight, I'll Bury Us

by Stacy Tartar


Sparks: A Magazine for Creative People

ISSN# 1077-4149

Editors: Jim Esch and Stacy Tartar

Copyright © 1995 by Jim Esch and Stacy Tartar

All rights for each work contained herein revert back to the author(s) upon publication.

Printed in the U.S.A.

We welcome your submissions. Unsolicited manuscripts will be considered for publication and returned, provided you have included a self addressed stamped envelope. Send all correspondence to the address below.

232 North Kingshighway #616

St. Louis, MO 63108-1248

e-mail: jmesch@artsci.wustl.edu


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Jim Esch or Stacy Tartar


Three Stories

by Thomas T. Hamill

 

Boyle and Lucky

Good old Mr. Boyle had retired from the NYPD with thirty years of service, the latter half of which had been spent as a desk sergeant at a relatively quiet but ethnically charged precinct in Queens. That was five years ago, and Boyle, now in his late fifties, was fully--and may I emphasize the qualifier "fully"--retired. His three sons were all grown, but only one of them had left the old Long Island homestead, which was a modest whitewash of a Cape Cod on a road leading to the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma. Boyle now felt not merely retired, but truly averse to any kind of labor, often blurting out to his neighbors "I hate fuckin' woik," while in the summer his two resident sons hurried about in an attempt to maintain the lawn and shrubbery in perfect condition--indeed with what one might accurately label a Japanese impeccability. All the while Boyle would sit outside his fence gate with its monogrammed "PFB"--an acronym for Patrick Francis Boyle--extra tall Budweiser can in his hand, enormous belly stuffed into a white tank-top undershirt. Lucky, his vile tempered Doberman, was usually chained to the side part of the fence, so that it could get close enough to the mailman without ripping his blue uniform into shreds and committing atrocious acts of doggie lunch. When the ice cream truck rolled by, its bells being rung by a little half-Italian half-Puerto Rican guy in his white uniform, Lucky would go the canine version of ape-shit and pull its chain taut in an attempt to attack the Good Humor Mobile. Boyle would hoist his Budweiser and blurt an ethnic slur about no good guinea-spic half-breeds. And so it went on, year after year, summer after summer.

One day the dark little man in his white uniform in his white ice cream truck came down the street, once again. However, this time Lucky lunged at the truck, and the ancient chain broke from metal fatigue. The Good Humor man couldn't stop in time, and the pooch was fatally run over; it twitched and blood came out of the orifices in its head. Boyle turned the color of a cheap Florida beach motel and tried to yank the no-Irish out of his truck and beat the living doodoo out of him, but suddenly, from his sedentary retired lifestyle and general bad habits and disposition, Boyle suffered a massive myocardial infarction in mid-yank on the Good Humor man, and collapsed on the street. Boyle's two sons came after the little guy with hedge shears, and so he ran away as fast as he could, into the pizzeria up the block.

And that's the story of the demise of Boyle and Lucky.

 

Chris and Nina

Chris decided to stage the Century 21 office party on the sixth shopping day remaining before Christmas. There were to be two twenty-something pound turkeys, several antipasto platters, marinated steaks, etc. In other words, "the works." And of course plenty of soda, beer, Italian table wines, plus a small arrangement of spirits. All the agents in the office had chipped in--not a small accomplishment given the questionable esprit d'corps of aspiring real estate sharks. Chris, in his role as broker, felt that he was going to, if only for one afternoon, bring his underlings together in a spirit of mildly good wishes and festive enjoyment. For the stretch of a few hours, all the little daggers could be put back in the third-rate desks that surrounded the perimeter of the main office chamber, and their owners could at least engage in a modicum of benevolence.

When the occasion presented itself, the entire "works" was displayed on a large collapsible table at the center of the war room. After everyone had arrived, and had had time to imbibe a drink or two, Chris decided it was time to carve the turkeys, and to invite everyone to "mangia." But as he grabbed the carving knife, he quickly realized that he had misplaced the large two-pronged fork to be used in conjunction with the blade. As it had been a long, harrowing day, and he was winded from carrying foodstuffs and bottles, vacuuming a dingy carpet with a third-rate Sears machine, dealing with holiday season traffic and its concomitant intermedia cacophony of automobile horns and flying middle fingers, Chris had reached the threshold of frustration. He raised both sweaty palms over his bulging, Super-Sunday sweater-clad torso and yelled the following:

"What the fuck did I do with it...where the hell..what the fuck did I do with that damn knife...whaddid I stick it up my ass?

Nina, who was an enormously chubbed and obnoxious woman, and incidentally, the listings and sales champion of the entire office, retorted, in her inimitably snide style:

"I'd love to stick it up your aaasssss!"

Most of the agents laughed with a general sense of sleezy togetherness, that kind of camaraderie that is often brought on by the good cheer of the Christmas season. The fork in question was later found by a lump of ice cubes, where Chris had used it as a giant ice pick.

 

P and C

Junior often wondered about God. It seemed to him that God must have an awful sense of humor, for people and things in this world tended to take crazy shapes; and if they weren't funny-looking at the moment, just wait and they would be. Like the way his Uncle Bolin and Aunt Nita had ballooned to four times the size of normal people, mostly from eating pork and cabbage. It was always pork and cabbage at their house: pork chops and sauerkraut, hamhocks and cole slaw, cabbage leaves stuffed with Canadian bacon, etc. After they had served their guests the p and c on large blue china plates, they then began to heap some on their own plates, which sported enamel portraits of prize hogs. Uncle Bolin liked to explain that his fondness for pork began a long time ago in Iowa, whre most everybody ate pork. It was always the same, as if his mouth and hands were those of a hellish marionette destined to perform in a perverse ballet until the strings ruptured from fatigue. These motions had made both of them into sweaty and grotesque figures whose only thoughts were either the anticipation or memory of p & c. Was it God who held the strings? Strings that were now coated with the residue of rancid pork grease? Junior throught that there must be some sort of controlling force whose occupation it was to make humans slaves to these cartoonesque repetitions, to force them closer to puppethood. It was obviously very entertaining for this kind of God, for he had created a brilliant spectrum of puppets, a fine array of the blindly robotic. Sometimes, for extra laughs, God would force one puppet to dominate another; the dominant one would feel at once like a 'free' individual; the victim would pray for divine assistance. But Junior was almost certain that such prayers were foolish and probably just made the Puppetmaster nauseous with antipathy. The only ones he truly respected were those that had somehow eluded the attachment of strings.

 

Elephant on the Roof

by Philip Hughes

 

An elephant on the roof is not "aloof."
He lacks all philosophic inquiry
as to how and why he's hoisted high.
He's there and only wants on down.
Meantime, wondering metaphysicians cry
"Elephant?" and "'Roof'?" and "!"
and elevate first principles
to instances profound-perplexed.
Crazed poets grin and glory in
decked rafters of the commonplace
obliged to bear such overload
that drives prosaic dullards mad
with its "what-the-?!" anomaly.
Then someone summons PACH-EVAC,
a copter makes a mercy flight
and takes high strangeness down a peg,
gently setting back to earth.
The crowd deflates with one great "Ah...!"
Unlikely roof-top finials
may seem some spoofster's prank.
But gravity-defiant fancies must
appreciate an elephant,
now and then.

 

Veronica Was Standing Still

by Ben Ohmart

The light seemed to come out of nowhere, but it had been all the time there and the ones behind her were honking, losing all kinds of patience they couldn't afford to be without. On the freeway, it was a little better with keeping attention up. The steady blur of factory-made foreign cars, with a sprinkle of the American woven in for luck, may've been a visual whitewashing for the common mind on a hectic Saturday morning junket, but Veronica usually couldn't be counted as awake until she'd downed at least a bucket worth's of Royal Crown Cola straight from the can, and that only counted for weekdays. Forcing eyes apart and armpits to take their deodorant like a woman and an enveloping shower alone when the mattress was meant to be kept holy for the Sabbath, this was enough conscious bait for scorn as ever an event allured for.

3 chinks in the sides of cars without elected blinkers was just barely enough to keep her up for however long it took her to notice a good turn off, that just happened to be heading to wherever it was she wanted to go. She parked and slept with a hand on the radio dial until there was finally a station with enough rock, and not disguised pop, to generate her interest in continuing with life. Hard rock was her first choice, but there were too many happy morning programs bouncing around in well-timed formats ever to get Close to something resembling unrecognizable chord patterns.

A cop with big beefy brown eyes tapped at the window, then coated the organs with shades. She rolled it down. "Uh."

"Can't park here," he stated officially.

"Uh." She looked around, and had to agree. She felt for the handle to roll the -

She looked at the all but empty parking lot, at which she had somehow achieved. Even up to getting it right within the lines 3 invisible doors down from the first handicap sign.

"Uh?" she asked.

The cop authoritatively stood up. Looked around. Checked around. Removed the sunglasses so they wouldn't impair his vision on that slightly cloudy day.

He smiled. Covered eyes again. Let out a chuckle sponsored by the unfair city of Syracuse, and yawned, "Sorry."

Lipstick in the mirror, cupped hand to mouth for the breath test, eye down at cleavage, shoes properly strapped, hair combed by fanning the pages of a book out and scrapping it over her young head, skirt licked for last night's cotton candy stains, the haul to the front door of K-Mart was an overload to the senses. The cool morning threatened her with dew if she kept a footprint too long in holding, but the sprinkle of invisible moisture was refreshing up to a point, and that point was waiting for the damn place to open.

She was the youngest one there. Standing around. The women didn't know who to look at, so most chose a blue and white swingset that should've melted from the combined visual perception. Still, the 2 old men shuffled, and some lady coughed. Took the fluttering scarf from her head and blew thick wads of yellow into it that filtered through the material and splattered on the various entourage who didn't thank or scold. Veronica checked the loose straps on her shoes and some woman, who up until then had been shielded by a huge subsidy of plastic swimming pools, began putting far too much change into a Coke machine that at last refused to deal with her request.

That's what she gets for pennies a day, Veronica thought.

A few more minutes and wind changing direction, the assistant manager showed up with his keys dangling from his belt like some second dick and a few clicks later, he was rearranging sale signs so they faced the right way, smiling at the people swarming in. Like a SWAT team, they fanned out professionally, each seeming to know what he/she had to do. Veronica couldn't think. Used her nose until it found the Snack Bar then shut it off again. Coffee, they say, does the trick, and she was in need of some magic, but the damn place was closed. Still she smelled it. She thought of the employees that had to be around. Mid-sectioning into a buggy handle, she grabbed it for support and it took her to the infants department.

"AHHH AHAHH! What!"

A woman looking over pants she'd never get into gave the young woman a look you could poach an egg with, but it seemed to solve the puzzle, and soon Veronica was speeding into the place where dryers and toaster ovens and machines built to do a variety of things from toenail clipping to squeezing poor picked oranges waited on bending metal shelves that took the weight like some kind of Jenny Craig satire. The very tops of the highest shelves were nearly scraping sprinkler tops. This was where the materials that were supposed to rest easy in the empty areas, on lower shelves, above the bar codes were actually kept.

There were lurking department managers sweating in hidden store corners, egging themselves on at high speeds while no one was watching, eager to put merchandise higher, and higher. Then higher. If the outlawed (i.e. they're not allowed to sell, but theyuse them all over the store) 2-step ladders didn't give enough height, and a knee on the curved top bar wasn't just that much more for putting thing on top of thing, a doll's head would be smashed in on a shelf, or, if pets was the target dept., some fish tank with round cardboard food containers or ceramic rock sculptures within would be stepped in for added support. One of these poor highly motivated people stepped from the above back to the earth's crust just in front of Veronica.

Big smile. "Did you need help with something?"

"Just looking thanks," Veronica demonstrated.

"Is there anything I can help you find?"

"I'm just looking thanks."

"Can I help you with anything on sale?"

"Just looking. Thank you."

"If you need any help, just let me know."

"Thank you!"

"Are you looking for anything -"

"Piss off!"

Pissing off with the teeth of a well-purred cat, the dept. manager scaled the bantam ladder like a mountain lion on the make, and the slightly worn, usually fine looking shopper picked up a box with a knife sharpener residing within just to have a focus.

From that height, the crazy woman who'd accosted her would have the advantage on 2 of the next rows. Her only chance from direct penetration of her gaze was to shop just below the employee.

It was only the god of luck that one of the things she'd given up a morning for was directly to her shoulder's horizon. The box was brown. Neat, laser graphics for packaging. It made waffles, it bubbled when you put water in it to soak your feet, it could beep like a car alarm, it warned you with a computerized verbal command if you weren't holding your cucumber properly, it could shampoo your hair automatically, it was called (something in a foreign language) and it was more expensive than a visa. Veronica unfolded the upper buggy portion and placed it securely in, pushing off to the main lane to try to find the garden center.

"Remember," a voice soared down like a friendly god, "it's only 9am."

Why smile when she wasn't going to look up anyway. Veronica could easily stand all the inhuman black globes swallowing up most of the ceiling between air ducts, but the personal touch infringing on her privacy was more than mere recording devices. There were a couple reasons she was more than glad to smell the bedding plants.

They were arranged all in rows of 3 in. width, 5 the long ways. Most were wet but the leaves were too small for dripping from the early, timed sprinkler system. They were stuck in their little "cups" three tiny plants to a cup, to be cracked off from one another for the cost of 50 cents a piece (that's 3 very small plants for 50 cents). At that kind of cost, plus the discount for the early morning hours, she'd be able to afford a large percentage. A large percentage so that she could afford to kill off a good deal before being able to have 1 or 2 plants live. Not that she had a garden, living in a small flat on the outskirts of SU's campus, but the landlady never said anything about bringing huge quantities of dirt into her house, probably because she was never asked, so she just had to decide on what she felt like smelling for months to come. Of course there was topsoil. Or was it peat moss? She went to have a look.

That's when Veronica's leg broke.

For no apparent reason. She wasn't lifting. There was no twist to the ankle, no strain, no extroverted circumstances. It just broke. And she screamed. Passing out from the pain.

Fluttering her eyes. She tried to understand what was happening. If dreams were as clear as they were coming in right now. The old ladies were there with their buggies. Clashing like buggies clash, running into each other and the wooden stands that kept the bedding plants from the soggy floor. They moved slowly, poking spotted fingers in damp dirt, trying carefully to get around Veronica. But when she was in the way, and there was just no other way to getting around her; often they'd run over her soft skirt, perhaps an arm protruding too much in the lane. There were several small tire marks over certain parts of her.

Whether it was a dream or not, something would be better than this. She screamed. The old ladies continued to walk. Picking up plants. Trying to decide how they'd look in the car. Some taking a single plant out, putting it in another empty (if it wasn't empty, it soon was) cup, then trying to decide if the cat would urinate on it or not. The screaming did nothing. A few minutes later, someone took offense at the cutting abuse Veronica was lobbying. She went to talk to the manager. Veronica screamed just as the door to the garden center opened.

"I'm sorry, awfully sorry," a man in a white shirt said after a passage of too much time.

Veronica assumed a vixen mouth, ready not to give the satisfaction of acknowledgment. When had he done the same? Apologies came quickly for the man. He sent word to the man standing idly behind him. The man was gone, out the door.

"The ambulance is on its way." Thoughts of being sued. It didn't hurt him personally. It wasn't his store. He was only manager. Yet he thought of his shrinking incentive bonus program.

"I'll tell you what. I give you 10%. Right off the top of everything."

Veronica looked at her watch. 9:13am. "Fuck you! I had 25% off -"

"Oh, I'm sorry," he said, taking on the appearance of man who had special answers. How could anyone else be expected to know? Whether they did or not. "That's only until 9."

Jumping up, Veronica lurched for her buggy. It kept her steady. The agony was terrible, but the scraping bone she could feel wasn't as bad if she could just concentrate on the sound. The odd click or soft snap her leg made when she tried to put pressure on it.

Department to department. She tried to remember what she needed. It was excruciating. It was difficult. Sweat making her hair run. The grime she could feel between the cracks of her body. Everything went in the buggy. Soap, family size. Electronic devices. A special lotion she'd heard about. The multi-pack of video cassettes she was going to have to buy someday. The ambulance was coming. The soft steady siren they were using to weave through weekend traffic was already developing a pulse through the vibrating doors. Or was it a mirage? Was the blood pounding in her head? The buggy was filling. A faint was coming on. There was a register open. The light was on anyway. It was another vision. She ran into a free-standing candy display, and began hurriedly chucking hard items into the bubble gum-tapes' plastic case, almost tipping it over, until the nearest checkout girl came over, gave her a little direction.

The men in the white coats were coming through. They were unfolding their little mobile bed. They saw her. Veronica reached out for a checkbook in a purse she couldn't find, faster and faster with the other hand attempting to put everything she'd ever wanted onto the checkout counter. The poor girl witnessing it assumed the to scan or not to scan perplexity, when the ultimate snap came. No movement. She wasn't sure. The checkout girl scanned something, just for moral support.

The white coat men came, supported the body as best they could. Careful to keep the broken neck from doing even more damage.

The hospital food was pretty good. What little the straw made sure she had. Her only wish was that they could somehow put a good 5 head VCR in there, somehow on the tv floating almost reverently in the corner next to the window. Same old shit on tv. She was getting tired of it. Veronica told herself she was grabbing a straw. There was no movement. She only wished she could write, or talk, or do something to indicate that a VCR would be such a blessing.

Image

Artwork by Jim Esch

 

 

Three Poems

by John Grey

 

The Conscience Pays Up

 

only you know why
you're doing better
than everybody else
only you know
who puts what where
to keep your
ambition fueled
slip a coin
into the frazzled hand
of the woman
at the entrance
to the subway station
in passing
don't wait around
for a thank you
it'll just sound
like a curse anyhow
sit back smugly
and relax
as the train takes
you to your destination
and then some

 

Revolution Part Three

 

revolution I say
falling out of the book
I'm reading
into your pink shelter
as if I had the weapons
and the inclination
while you sprinkle perfume on me
like seed
while I feel possibilities
respond to your sweet cultivation
but allow them to go no
further than the tip of
our wailing skin
like something grows here
that will not bother
to bring a country down
but will follow the shape
of your naked back with its fingers

 

Singles Game

 

His messy apartment
tells you all you need to know
about him.
You want to get out of there.
You make an excuse
you're ashamed of immediately
but that doesn't stop
you enjoying the rancid taste
of the outside aire,
even the choking traffic smog.
The cough you don't get
rid of for a day or two,
your tired feet when you can't
find a cab and must walk home,
are better than this guy.
Back in your apartment,
you pour a shot of bourbon,
drink it quickly
to erase the memory
of one more dismal date,
to kill the fear
of someday meeting
the one who'd swap
one extra moment with you
for all the pain in the world.

 

Two Poems

William C. Burns, Jr.

 

The Little Girl

She runs across the field
with the handful of flowers
Stolen from the graves
She's been doing it for centuries

 

Advancing Front

From seeming nowhere
Thunderheads appear on the horizon
Seeking to blot out the late-summer sun
The clouds are ripped
In a brutal crosswind
And the forms of mystic dragons
Are severed from the cloud mass
The dragons leap for the Sun
Across a rainbow bridge
Their eyes ignite
As they wolf down the light
I can see the Sun
Slide down the throat of the beast
Thunder is his laughter
Lightning flashes are his joy
I witness the quenching of the Sun
In the belly of the beast
The cold touch of Fear raises the hair on my neck
But Reason whispers in my ear
"Fear not
It is merely an advancing front
It is not the end of Time
It will pass....."

 

Virtual Moby Dick

by Paul Ford and Jim Esch

[these brief sketches are extracted from a book in progress by Ford and Esch]

Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form. Ahab's full lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted; like the unabated Hudson, when that noble Northman flows narrowly, but unfathomably through the Highland gorge. But, as in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahab's broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had perished. That before living agent, now became the living instrument. If such a furiour trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentrated cannon upon its own mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

 

Future Scenario #1:

Man 1:

Have you read Moby Dick by Herman Melville?

Man 2:

Hmm Moby Dick... [types into terminal -- pic of whale pops up] Oh, the book about the white whale?

Man 1:

Yeah, what did you think of it?

Man 2:

You, uh, you can get to it through Yahoo. It's under Entertainment/Fiction

Man 1:

But did you read it?

Man 2:

Yeah I can get to it. It's right here. See? It's 780K long. I can link right into the full motion video of the movie.

Man 1:

What do youthink Melville wanted the whale to symbolize?

Man 2:

I don't have a link for that.

 

Future Scenario #2:

Scene: On-line, at Internet University Virtual Campus Coffee House

Grad Student 1:

Starhawk, what did you say your thesis was?

Grad Student 2:

I'm using the LITSCAPE VR modeling system to simulate Moby Dick from the POV of the whale. The user will be able to experience the novel through the whale, since Ishmael's narrative is so unreliable. See, I'm using the idea that animal perspective is free of human sociobiological constraints, so Ishmael's rambling can be passed over by having the user be the whale. This way, the user can look at things in a pure, unfettered manner. They get the full objective experience of the novel, because they're not seeing it through human eyes. My thesis is about the re-interpretation of the text by remapping it with the whale as narrator.

Grad Student 1:

How are you working out the harpoons?

Grad Student 2:

That's actually become the center of the project; translating the novel's actions into physical feedback data. I pretty much have to ignore the text, since it's so human-based. I mapped out the novel with a revised outline; I actually based the outline on the cetacean nerve structure, so that the Whale's brain is merged with Melville's work.

Grad Student 1:

You mean you took the neurological information on whales...

Grad Student 2:

And blended it with the novel. Again, to make the reading more effective. I had to get rid of words, of course. Everything's in whale.

 

Future Scenario #3:

1:

What are you reading?

2:

I was reading Moby Dick. But my Language and Video filter conked out.

1:

Really?

2:

Yeah, and I can't understand a damn word.

1:

I heard it's a tough book.

2:

I don't think anyone's accessed it in years. It's only got hypermedia expansion; it's not even VR.

1:

Really?

2:

Yeah, the whole book's centered around the text.

1:

It's pretty old, then?

2:

I think so. One of the supporting movies is in black and white.

1:

They lost the color information, or something? Or is there not enough memory for color?

2:

No, it was actually made in black and white.

1:

But they didn't colorize it?

2:

No. They just left it.

1:

Weird. How come you're turning it off?

2:

It's no good without the interpreters filtering the text. It's all written in Old English or something.

1:

Oh...

 

Future Scenario #4

1:

What happened?

2:

I don't know. Someone erased the Library of Congress and all the backups.

 

If The Moon Won't Rise Tonight, I'll Bury Us

by Stacy Tartar

A ceiling fan cut noiseless shadows on the bare white walls. The room swung cooly, waiting for the sun to fail. Waiting forever. In the east window a reflection, weakly yellowed by a small lamp on the bedside table with the clock, cast the starkness inside against the desolation outside. Barren fields, dead and disappearing in the heat, and brown, wilted trees stood the earth in silence, mutely cracking lower bits of sky. My homeland. Mine alone, I sometimes think, where every road, exhausted, leaves me, where impossible distances in every direction force the eye to either upturned or downcast contemplation--either that or stupidly inward. The lamplight began dominate against the window and my reflection seemed to fit among the dumb shadows. I killed it.

Am I on the road or is this another fake lane leading nowhere? Darkness keeps me still. I would look for stars if I thought they'd tell me a story. Used to be stars would tell such fine stories. Look, you stars, you flickering stars you, hello. Tell me the one about the guide, tell me now because I'm sure I'm lost. But direction isn't real, is it? The stars must know direction isn't real. They've been up there spinning lost since time, haven't stopped yet. Forget the guide bit. Direction isn't real. Nothing is real, which is why the sun won't rise tomorrow. I've made a deal, asking it not to, and there's a chance now it won't. Sunlight is too much to see with, too much to move by. So much truth can't be good for stories. Moonlight is easier, less serious, thanks, always ready to play. I'm getting ready, too. Watch me, all you flickering stars. Because we can spin like you. I can spin lost like you. I can spin as tricky as light if I choose. Nothing is real by the moon.

But if I decide to walk instead of spin...I'll walk alone. I can be here all alone, too. I can play. I don't need anyone following, trying to figure me out, where I'm headed, or telling me where to go. No one has to step where I step, no one has to listen to me here. Except you, you poor stars. Really, I can walk alone. Walking is easier than waiting. It's not as if I were waiting any more. It's not as if walking would be for anyone but just me, if I walk. I'll walk alone.

Only, when the silver lights begin spinning on the dead trees, maybe they'll follow. Whenever. No rush. If the moon won't rise tonight, maybe I'll stay for tomorrow. I shouldn't be alone. But hey, I am. Dark proves it. Hey, you dark, you night you, hello! I'm watching you. Your silver lights. Stillness is the only truth worthy of time.

Now I'll be told I've stopped making sense. Are you there? Huh? Are you there? I've stopped making sense, I'm told. Make good solid sense and what's to stop you, I'm asked. I'm told I've stopped altogether. So making sense will start me again, is that it? I should start up again and spin like the stars, like every other dizzy star, is that it? But leave me stopped. Get it over, leave me if that's the sensible thing. I have an answer now, an answer I've learned from the dark. The answer is--so what. You've stopped making sense. So what? But you've stopped. So what? It's a fine answer, every star should try it. It's flexible enough. I disapprove of you. So what? I'm ashamed of you. So what? A bright in the darkness. So what?

Walking is easy in the dark, now that the stars and I understand each other. Feels safe now. It is. If only I could leave behind this restless memory of light, this fitful curiosity as to where I am, where here would be if the moon were up, then I'd never move again.

And knowing why the sun is gone. I'm supposed to know why. But the sun is gone. And I don't know why. I killed it. I don't know.

Imagine floating up through the blue, and that's all for the blue. You blue you, goodbye. I'm up to the black. Really it's black. Beyond the sun and between the stars, it's black, deep black, with deep black bottomless holes. Imagine thinking you were blue. That's what I said to the sky, walking under it. Leave me, I said. Please leave me. Then the silver came.

The silver came as if it were real, cutting bright silver edges on the dead trees, on the crooked, hanging branches that looked ready to fall. So fall, I said. Fall? they replied. I'll bury you, I said. No, you've missed the most important point. I stepped next to the silent one that stood over me. It hung there, twisted and silvery. I touched it. Have I? I'm sorry, I said. I said so many, many times, slowly rubbing sharp, dry chips away from its trunk. My hands bled. Bits of dead bark fell in flakes around my feet, the black ground dousing each small, spinning bit of silver light as it reached bottom. Time is waking up, they said.

4:52. They live, those faintly glowing red numbers airily suspended in the black. We've fixed it so they appear not to spin. Supposed now they go forward, they add up, but with the old hitch. They'll only add so high before starting over, always back down to the beginning they go, endlessly like the days and nights they pretend to count. This new sun that's coming isn't new at all, but it's real, some say, older and more real as those faithful, pretty figures glowing quietly into nothing.


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END OF FILE SPARKS

jmesch@artsci.wustl.edu