The Spring 2017 issue of Goddard College’s peer-reviewed literary journal, The Pitkin Review, has arrived in the mail! My story, The Highway, is looking mighty sexy on page 9.
Grab a copy: http://blogs.goddard.edu/pitkin
The Spring 2017 issue of Goddard College’s peer-reviewed literary journal, The Pitkin Review, has arrived in the mail! My story, The Highway, is looking mighty sexy on page 9.
Grab a copy: http://blogs.goddard.edu/pitkin
I wrote this micro fiction piece today. Decided to play with an idea.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
i forgot about you last night. left you standing on the roadside while i drove around looking for weed and pink satin heels. you told me you walked to the bus stop, barefoot. you left your sandals in the back seat when we stopped at the gas station to get Twinkies and Mountain Dew.
my phone rang. it was Samuel. said he had some good weed and he’d meet me down the road by the swings. i saw you walking around, looking for the Twinkies, checking the price on the peanuts and swinging a six pack of Mountain Dew. i saw you put everything on the counter and mouth something to the clerk, who pointed to the back of the store. he gave you a giant wooden rectangle with small silver key dangling from the end. you walked to the back. you opened the door with a little black silhouette of a woman in a skirt. the door swung close and then you were gone.
you were gone too long. i needed my weed. so I left.
when you found me, hours later, you told me i shouldn’t have left you, at the gas station store, barefoot, in a dirty public bathroom that smelled like a well-used outhouse. you said the walk to the bus stop was long and you stepped on rocks that you couldn’t see. your feet hurt. the sun went away, you said. and I left you there, with no sandals.
i forgot about you, i said. i found Samuel on a swing with his friends. he gave me weed, so i got high on the swings. then i forgot about you, just like that. like you never existed. i saw pink satin high heels flying through the air. pretty pink heels that fit me perfectly. they floated off into the starry night sky. i reached for them. but all i caught were sandals. your sandals. then i remembered that i left you. but it was too late. there was no turning back. so i pushed off and let the swing take me higher. i was high.
i leaned back.
© zaji, 2016
I grew black wings today. I spread them wide and flew beyond Mars. I pushed my wings to flap through thick dark space around Jupiter and beyond. I then stopped to dance on the rings of Saturn. Before I knew it, Pluto became a tiny dot behind me, disappearing as I flew toward a cluster of lights. Up ahead was another galaxy filled with colors that did not exist on Earth, colors that did not need light to be seen, colors without names. The colors were filled with grandeur and life; I knew instinctively that naming them would doom them to my limited idea of them, it would take them far from their meaning and mutability. So I let them exist, nameless and free, allowed to be whatever they wanted to be. The many colors grew their own wings and could fly.
As I flew away from the colors, I could sense them communicating with me. They told me telepathically that colors were sentient, could feel and reproduce–yes, they gave birth to new colors. They said there were several planets where colors lived and breathed and had infant colors born black; they ran around spreading joy to everyone and everything. The infant colors grew into colors with their own unique DNA, variations of the colors on Earth, along with colors never experienced on Earth. Every once in a while, a group of adolescent colors explored other worlds to give species the experience of them. Some species could see them, others could not. Their ability to see colors depended on the bodies they incarnated in and whether the body was equipped to see the colors, and/or the spiritual level attained by the species. The colors, regardless, spoke of their experiences in different realms and what their presence did for each species. They gave themselves to others through love and a desire to explore the essence of other beings. These beings in turn, without knowing, gave something to the colors. What the colors received, they used to create new colors.
I listened and allowed them to share their history with me. I’d never heard anything like it and never imagined there could be planets where colors, as sentient beings, existed. But there I was, leaving their world and receiving the gift of their words as I flew away, far off into their galaxy and into new unimaginable adventures.
© zaji, 2016
The dusty black tar receding behind Panga ran into the forlorn past. Far from the groping and needy future, the road ahead beckoned her to follow. She was worn from the sleepless drive. Morning became her night and the sun her night light. But a place to bed was more of a challenge than she’d expected. She wanted nothing more than to sleep until death claimed her. Death instead claimed her two year old daughter, husband of five years and her mother who suckled her into womanhood through breast and bravery. Panga knew that if she traveled the roads at night she would see them in the mint green car, driving back to meet her. They would rewind time, return from the great beyond and find Panga roaming the highways; no hopes necessary, only life wrapped in second chances, straightened metal, unbroken glass and bodies laughing in the noonday sun.
© zaji, 2016
This is the beginning of an idea I believe I can flesh out and do something interesting with. I was thinking about consumerism, commercialism, capitalism, usury, and the poor economic state of this country. I haven’t done any editing, so…
The Elec-Trick Company
The line was long. The people were fat. They each looked like humps in a little plump caterpillar, moving through the line, colorful with multiple legs. They writhed and squirmed, seeming to be filled with gas. Their faces looked hungry. They each looked around the foreign space, seeking a morsel, or two. But there was no morsel to be had unless they’d taken to eating people. From the looks of them, eating people was probably their secret past time.
We inched forward, their eyes on us, the anomalies in the room. Slim. Astute. Clean. Nothing sold in Wal-Mart touched our bodies. The caterpillar parts, however, wore even pajamas to pay their bills. Was it because their lights were already turned off and they wanted to be dressed the part as soon as the lights came on? Plop down to watch TV. Order pizza. Scratch ass. Fart. Leave scraps in box on floor. Scream at kids. Fall asleep on couch. Wake up and head to bedroom. Turn on TV. Recall that the living room TV was still on. Good. Maybe will go down to kitchen to grab another bite to eat and can catch something interesting. Lost. American Idol. The commercial said 40 was the new 30, so indulge yourself in chocolate. Mouths open and another 100 pounds piles on. The bedroom TV blazes on. Late night talk shows and sex. The flashing on the wall as sleep takes over. While in slumber a string of commercials talk about restless leg syndrome and eating more pork, the other white meat. Morning comes and the fat caterpillar part changes its shirt but leaves on the pajama pants; it doesn’t know why it now has a strange craving for pork. Will grab some right after paying the damned bill. “Why’d they cut off my lights in the first place?” it thinks. “I was only five days late.”
They keep looking. Their parts moving almost in unison to the front desk where separated caterpillar parts sit collecting green paper. Caterpillars like green leafy looking things. They work for the lie bearers, the people who took what nature offers for free and made it into an empire. The caterpillars don’t have time to think about why they are on the line. They are too busy being caterpillars, moving along in little shuffles, into a destiny with no substance or form.
“Hello, sir,” the separated caterpillar chirps half pleasantly.
“Fine,” I lie. It’s what you’re supposed to do? Right? Tell the caterpillars what they want to hear so they don’t begin to twist and bend out of shape, losing their form.
This is a short story I’m still working on. It’s rough around the edges, but I like the idea of it. I started writing it a while back and decided to play with it a bit today. Tweak here. Tweak there. A few sentences still need rewriting and bit more development might be in order. I’ll see where the editing process takes me. Thoughts?
The Altar Gods
Ankhesenamun saw him, Sahure, off in the distance, over mounds of golden wind tossed Saharan sand. It was sunset; the sky was pomegranate and his skin like wet blackberries under the failing light. He moved, agile and patient, seeking. She sat on the altar, knowing her body would be sacrificed and he would perform the ritual.
His shoulders were broad, and his hunter legs, scratched and pierced, were decorated with the markings of his tribe.
Before she could properly greet the prince who would usher her to the other world, he spoke. Her heart quickened.
“Ashura hanti bemba, Ankhesenamun.”
She stared into his eyes hoping he would understand that she was fine.
“Shembi libara bemba yoturi?” he said.
She nodded. She was ready.
He took her hand and motioned for her to stand. His breathe smelled of jasmine and almond oil. Her hands shook as she closed her eyes. The scent of jasmine enveloped her. His black locked hair brushed her face. It was filled with the smell of gardenias. He ran his hands over her shoulders and across her neck, all the while whispering in her ear, “Baruti shengala bemba tumani?”
Yes, she thought. I want it, I want to be sacrificed.
Sahure immediately prepared her body for the sacrifice. Her suri fell in a bundle at her feet. He lifted her and placed her on the altar, spreading her legs to prepare her for the other world.
“Bemba turi membi acoa.” His voice spoke from a far place.
He had moved close enough to smell the pungent mix of cocoa butter and her waters–she had prepared, scooping gobs of butter on her skin, imagining it seeping into to her bones, lacing everything with the aromatic glide of rich thick oils. Now he was stirring her flesh and like a lake of lilies in the noonday sun, her vapors rose to meet him, to intoxicate him, and even supine like she was, she could feel the power of the sacrificial lamb.
His tongue pierced her cheuwa, forcing her to moan with delight, begging for the sacrifice to continue. Now the scent of acoa made her drunk, as she moved without fear into the other world.
The gods were watching, smelling the acoa, knowing that she would soon be gone. They sent the rain. They were pleased.
I could feel it happening. It was after midnight. My fingers were orange and my hair began turning orange. I had a wild urge to lay in the grass. I was turning into a pumpkin. I was flopping around on one lonely shoe. Glass. The other one came off when I was trying to swing from a limb hanging over a waterfall. My cream chiffon dress got wet. I stripped naked and hung it to dry on a low branch. I decided to take a nap and woke up to find myself turning orange.
Writing Prompt: Alphabet Soup
Write down the letters of the ABC. For each one, choose a word that begins with that letter. Now, write a post about anything — using all the words you’ve selected.
The morning came suddenly to the Alpha Quadrant. It was bright and the painted sky gave painless birth to brilliant pale yellow and orange streaks that ran across the majestic horizon. The air was crisp and clean, filled with butterflies and lady bugs and winged ants and a lonely firefly that forgot to go to sleep. As the birds awakened, insects dwindled, making their escape to avoid becoming breakfast for the sparrows and bluejays and cardinals that perched on limbs yawning to the morning sky. The energy of the day was high. Memories of the many yesterdays reminded all things of their future. Tomorrow floated near as the crystals gave warnings of what was to come. All the stones knew. They were the first and would probably be the last. They were the healers of our world. They healed the soil and the trees and the oceans each time they bruised and cried out to be relieved of the burden of use. It was the stones’ duty to heal through memory, through the many reminders of a planet transformed by constant change. The planet was like an island within its solar system, and the air between each planet was like the oceans, surrounding each world with a life giving force that breathed to remain.
Joy embedded itself in all things. It touched the soul of the world that housed inquisitive beings who needed to know the why of their existence more than the how. They beseeched Kachina to tell them everything, but there would be no answer, at least not one that told them the truths they needed to know. Why were they made? Was there desire involved? Was it loneliness? Or was it simply to give to the created that which Kachina had, life and a sentient existence? Maybe it was to discover what Kachina existed within without understanding why. Maybe it was to know love. So many questions. Was love in a magnolia tree? Was it born from it? Was it in an apple or pear tree? Did it live within dandelions or mangoes, almonds or pine? Maybe it lived in everything and nothing at all. Maybe.
Maybe each living thing greeted each other with words like namaste or sawubona or sani bonani in a language meant only for plant beings. Could we hear them if we listened? Or would we remain the other species, the one on this world that has lost memory of a connection to everything, the one that can’t remember that speaking to other living things was once second nature and necessary for our survival. The hearing was easier back then, in the days outside of history, before writings in stone and oral transmission of memory. Memory. It was once the panacea for everything. It healed matter without question or consequence. It was memory that gave the rose its scent, the leaves their green and clouds the ability to rain. Memory made love making sexy. Memory wrapped itself around sensual bodies tangled with the history of beginnings in wombs that burst like stars giving birth. They burst long and hard and stretched beyond the universe and its edge. Beyond the edge, behind the stars, they still found unexpected life. It lived inside velvet ripples of nebulas and quasars and purple light.
Their too late wisdom doesn’t matter. It won’t change what is. They are here, inside this moment where examining themselves is critical to uncovering the road to true freedom and peace and love. But even then, it won’t matter. Time cycles back to where everything began. Something now examines them for them, and reminds them that their Xanadu was left behind many millennia ago in the age of nakedness. There can be no return to that idyllic time of yesterday, when men were men and women were women and equality was not a word, but a way of life. Women, the keepers of the planet, zaftig from a full ripe womb, they bear witness to the truth—life will find a way.
A – Alpha
B – Birth
C – Clean
D – Dwindle
E – Energy
F – Floated
G – Gave
H – Heal
I – Island
J – Joy
K – Kachina
L – Love
M – Magnolia
N – Namaste
O – Other
P – Panacea
Q – Question
R – Rose
S – Sexy
T – Tangled
U – Universe
V – Velvet
W – Wisdom
X – Xanadu
Y – Yesterday
Z – Zaftig
Attached to my old dusty hard drive is a note to whomever finds it when, possibly, my flesh is dust.
Time moves forward, hurrying through a hundred, then two hundred years of peaks and valleys in human existence.
The year is now 2214.
A hunched back old woman ambled into an antique store on a thick black cane. Xia loved weddings. She was looking for the perfect antique gift for her granddaughter who was getting married in a week. Her silver rimmed glasses slipped down and were nearing the tip of her nose. They never stayed in place. She paused mid-stride and with her index finger pushed the glasses back to the bridge of her nose. The antique shop owner watched her jerkily walk around, annoyed that she was touching everything carelessly. She worked hard to clean the fingerprints from the glass and silver items. The old woman didn’t perceive her annoyance and continued her search for the perfect gift.
She happened upon a section with a stack of old computers. They were dinosaurs. She remembered learning about them in school. Large screens that required power cords and batteries to run littered the white round table. Computers in those days consumed more metal and plastic than the people of the time were able to manage. It was amazing to her how primitive they were. She looked at her wrist and smiled at the computer she wore there. It was no more than two inches square. A simple push of a bottom and a crisp, lifelike image of a computer screen popped up on a wall, along with a lifelike keyboard in front of her. The People’s Corporation, the largest community run company in Xia’s city, recently released a new model that allowed access in mid-air, no wall required. The hologram somehow didn’t need a wall to present a fairly solid looking image of a computer screen and keyboard that seemed to sit on a desk in front of you, no matter where you were. She couldn’t afford it, however. It was too new and too expensive. The beauty of the time Xia lived in was there was no more wasted metal, plastic and power cords that were cumbersome and hazardous. No more dying batteries that ultimately found their way in dumps. Endless power was harnessed from the atmosphere and funneled to the wrist mechanism—what powered the wrist computer was drawn directly from the skies. The days of dying batteries and having to search for a power source were over thanks to the pioneering work of Nikola Tesla, a man before the age of computers.
As she looked around at all the nostalgic items from many yesterdays gone, she noticed one smaller item amongst the heap. She remembered it from her elementary school classes. It was a hard drive from a computer. With shaking hands, she picked up the piece to examine it. Her fingers touched something smooth at the bottom. She turned it over to discover a note attached to it. She leaned her cane against the table that housed the many old computers, removed the note from the hard drive, sat in the chair nearest her, unfolded it and began to read it.
To the one who finds this, hello.
I don’t know how far into the future this hard drive will survive. Mountains of waste in acres of fields have claimed far more precious items—and some not so precious. Many of them may not resurface in a future time, but will be melted down, burned or left to sit amongst piles of old worn out shoes, broken plates, molded rugs, unwanted wigs, Lego blocks, spark plugs, unloved books and a host of other items, some of which probably should have never been made. Who knows when the earth will reclaim many of the things we’ve made and turn them to dust.
Maybe my hard drive won’t suffer such a fate and someone will find it, scratched and bruised, but able to be restored, like a fine piece of antique furniture or old antique car. Love has brought many old things back en vogue. This hard drive, while not the kind of thing one might show off at tea parties, does contain memory. It is filled with my voice, my words, and my heart and soul. You see, I’m a writer. On this drive that is now discarded lives the many thoughts I’ve had about my current culture and the many stories I’ve written that give voice to how I feel about this world.
Had I the funds to restore this crashed drive, I would not be discarding it. But life has been a struggle and the world is taking a turn. I am not as young as I once was and even less savvy. It is unclear if the turn this world is taking is for the better or for the worst. Time will tell. If it turns out to be for the better, then the one reading this will know that humanity surfaced on the other side of its challenges with fewer bruises than I had anticipated. I am hopeful. But more than anything, I want you to find a way to restore this drive. There is history here, my history and to a great extent, our history from my perspective. In some ways, it is accurate. In other ways, it is simply my way of seeing. Oftentimes, that is really all any history is, a collection of stories based on what we believed about the world at any moment in time. Our personal stories add to the puzzle. It allows those in the future to piece together history more accurately. Or, at the very least, get a sense of how people processed their experiences. It speaks to what one woman, me, felt in a time where you may or may not have existed. Admittedly, this hard drive and note may only make it into the hands of someone tomorrow. But if by some strange destiny it makes it into the hands of someone a few hundred years from now, then my my, what an adventure for that person.
I’ve written too much already. You will not only find my writings, but many illustrations, photos and research notes I’ve collected. Each item speaks to what interested me at the time; to what swayed my way of seeing my moment in time. I turn this adventure over to you. Restore my drive and immerse yourself in one woman’s view of the world. It is sometimes sad and sometimes glorious. But it is always me.
Xia looked up from the note, stood up and remained silent for what felt like minutes. The store owner raised an eyebrow and wondered if the old woman was going to croak in her store given that she stood in one place for far longer than what she felt was normal. As long as she didn’t ruin her displays when she fell, she didn’t much care. She was tired of the old woman’s fingerprints anyway. Xia picked up the hard drive, grabbed her cane and walked to the front to check out her item.
“Will that be all?” asked the store owner.
“Yes. That will be all.”
“What is that thing?”
Xia looked at the woman and wondered what elementary school she went to. “It’s an old computer hard drive.”
The store owner laughed. “What do you want that old thing for? I usually only see techie heads come in here looking for that stuff when they’re studying the history of ancient computers.”
“This is more than just a computer part and history lesson, it’s memory, it’s a piece of soul.”
“Memory? Soul? Lady, are you ok? It’s just a piece of junk.”
“Two dollars and six cents.”
Xia took her purchase and left. She knew she’d found the perfect gift. Her granddaughter was a writer after all. More than that, she was a writer who loved to read how other writers saw the world. Xia would restore the drive and give her daughter a gift from the past in hopes of guiding her steps into the future. Xia was glad.
Everyone was thirsty, but no one wanted to walk down the long corridor toward the kitchen, not even Marie. The fridge was only a few terrifying feet away and inside was cool water that would easily quench their thirst. But it was a dark night. The blackout was disorienting and lasted far longer than anyone had expected. The new moon blackened the sky, leaving not even the slightest sliver of light upon the trees nor through corridor windows. No one saw the other’s tear stained face, fear filling their heart and freezing their legs in place. Marie was the first to cry, but she cried in petrified silence while frozen in place. Although no one wanted to move, the night was young and the kitchen was an adventure existing in the near future, hoping for someone to find the courage to walk through darkness toward the waiting fridge.
I was born on an oddly shaped island just below Cuba. Places like Kingston, Montego Bay and St. Ann are reminders of a colonized space that begs to forget its past. I couldn’t forget, but I didn’t want to remember either. I instead wanted to save memories of my uncle and our moments in the outhouse at twilight. He on the right hole, me on the left hanging on for dear life, because children bigger than me had fallen in and drowned in urine and feces. I couldn’t imagine drowning in that deep dark hole, alone, amidst the waste of us, mixed together closer than we could be as a family. But my uncle and I were close. We talked of many things as we peed and moved our bowels. To this day he is still the man who reminds me that I can be safe with a man, even in a place where there was no electricity to light my way to safety, no running water to wash away the fear of darkness.
“Marie,” he would say, “what you believe you want to be when you get big?”
Wasn’t I already big? I thought at the time. Big enough to sit on the grown-up outhouse hole? Big enough to know about anger and darkness? I was almost eleven. I was big, bigger than my older sister Gem who still played with skinny white dolls with blonde hair on the veranda. I was big enough to bravely look in the hole one day. But it was too deep and dark. I couldn’t see the lives that intermixed, those lives slowly rising over the years, filling, filling, until we reached the top, overflowing with everything wrong with our family, overflowing until Gem’s doll surfaced after years of disappearance.
“I loved that doll,” Gem would one day say. “How it get in there?”
The doll didn’t look like us. It made me feel ugly and afraid of the many faces that passed along the dirt road. I remember seeing the morphing faces of children inside the hole, brown girls with blonde hair, all lost in a time long gone, a time that didn’t admire their beauty and brown skin. They all looked like me and dreamed like me. They were free of this world now and the need to be something other than self. I couldn’t remember if I felt free then. Maybe I did. Or maybe freedom was a dream. As the years went by the days of feeling free diminished. I began to see the chains of our existence. My uncle never asked me again what I wanted to be. He became too busy trying to figure out what he wanted to be. Years later he would continue to search, never really finding what he wanted to be when he grew up. He grew up nonetheless, his chains forever holding him in place. Dreams of planting mahogany trees in Stonehenge kept him alive. But they were only dreams, the kind that would never manifest.
I became a painter. I realized my desire many years after my uncle’s probing question and lost dreams. I struggled with my art and trying to find my muse. Then one day I decided to paint my childhood and my days in the outhouse. I painted the joy of my memories and the despair I imagined those who were swallowed by the vast and deep hole experienced. I painted families packed tight in an outhouse, the release of wasted memories, the stink of their lives floating around them, reminding them of how their lives meshed, solidifying in one moment, liquefying in the next. It became grotesque and beautiful all at once. The people, the canvas, the colors and images now sit on a wall unmoved, but moving those who can remember their story. It takes them back in time, to a moment when they were eleven years old and big.
None of us remember the first colonizers. It was long before our time. But their ghosts remain, walking among the living. They possess us with their language, religion and family structure. The outhouse is the product of this possession filled with mixed up realities and beliefs. Deep in the holes sit the demons that need to be exorcised and the children who need to be saved. I will continue to paint their story and use my canvases like steps of a ladder, so the children may climb out, inch by inch, until the sun is all there is, no outhouse, no wood, no waste, just sun and sky.
The music started. Emanating from the office were tunes meant to soothe the inner beast. I walked to the doorway. His back to me. Moving slightly to the beat, tunes dancing around the room like fireflies on a warm night. He moves.
I walk in, notice the green beach chair. Again. It sinks to the curve of a body, any body. I sit, slide back, both legs up. I watch. He moves, gently nodding his head, slightly rocking, no intrusion to the air around his head, he rocks. I watch. His back to me, smooth and clean, freckles smiling at the sounds that invite them to move in time, they move. I watch.
He listens. I smile, wondering what he is thinking at that moment, his handsome form soaking in the electrifying beats that fill the room. Only hours before, his sensual body writhed in time with the beat of my heart, our skins melding, folding, unfolding, a symbiotic melody that churns to the tune of our moans. He moans. We meld. A symbiotic life form is created between us. Forgetting where he begins and I end. We moan.
The images clear as he turns to place a CD in the slot. It is only then that I realize he does not know I am there. He rocks. I smile. His body moves in time, he tilts his head, wondering, wondering what? What is he wondering about the tune he’s just selected. He tilts his head, twitches his mouth to the right, changes tunes, sits back, listens. He does not move.
Then, my captivation is shifted from him to a song that begins to slide into my soul, distracting me from the beautiful form that sits before me, quietly enjoying his space. A space he doesn’t realize I also inhabit. It is the symbiosis. The thing between us that does not speak. It is quiet. He leans back, no movement, just listens. I listen. The tune is slow, easy, instrumental, but words float off the notes like a siren calling to us from the sea. We listen. He still doesn’t realize I share the space, and the pleasure of the tune.
Nearly twenty minutes have passed. He turns, picks up a paper, begins to flip through it, his full form nearly facing me. He reads, and listens, but does not see me, sitting there, in the green beach chair, unmoved, but moved by his presence. He does not see me. Yet, with a mere upward glance, I am easily seen. He does not see me. His space is uninterrupted. I smile. I shared in a moment, a natural moment, him being him. Him being his whole self. I captured that moment. I speak. “What was the name of that song?”
He glances to the doorway, realizes I’m not there, then searches for the source of the sound. He sees me, sitting there, unmoved, but moved by the sound of his voice. “Wow, I didn’t know you were there. How long have you been sitting there?”
Moved by the sound of his voice. Moved by his form, his smile, the easy way he speaks. His easy way of being. His light-hearted surprise at my presence. I smile. We talk. The space remains calm and easy. But something stepped away. His sense of alone stepped away. It walked out the room when my voice entered the space. It’s still easy, but different. We talk. I smile. And sit, on the green beach chair.