A 9-year-old girl trick-or-treating in a black-and-white Halloween costume got mistaken somehow for a skunk. The lead detective on the case is borderline Asperger’s. Covering an entire wall of her utilitarian office is one of those conspiracy theory maps, with all the pins connected by strings. “I’ll break anything in order to figure out how it works,” she’s famous around headquarters for saying. Her brisk confidence irks male colleagues. “Go away,” one shouts, “and take your shitty forest!” She can’t hear him. She’s out in a far corner of the city collecting evidence of the brilliance of pearls of blood.
A Long Spiral of Going Down
I can remember your exact advice. I just can’t remember following it. The best thing for me to do, you said, was to do nothing. I glanced down the train tracks, first one way, then the other. There were no bare hills anymore. Months passed. Everyone was now into the music of a singer-songwriter who had committed suicide by stabbing himself in the chest with a kitchen knife. I escaped to the seashore. The water was full of seals, small boats, people I didn’t know, one a crying child, her face scrunched up like a knot commonly used by sailors.
Dying on Your Birthday Is the Definition of Irony
There are those who say it was a Golden Age. I don’t remember any so-called “Golden Age.” I just remember jubilant parents dancing in the road around a bonfire of banned books. Oh, and I remember choking from the smoke. Back at home, I must’ve watched the YouTube video of Roald Dahl at work in his writing hut. Now, years later, I wait by the window for the appearance of a moon that looks like a giant peach. In my pocket I have an informal contract that entitles me to nothing I don’t already have – the nonexclusive use of irony.
All About Wind
I think of it as a crime scene. The streets have so few people on them I feel in the wrong just by being there. I can’t explain the current state of things, how we came to create our own hurricane-like catastrophes. Crows fly at ground level. The wind carries the rotten egg smell. Archives are needed. Memory is needed. If I could find someone I know, we could compare plans, fears, experiences. I grow less certain every day about my chances. “You got to die of something,” a friend from home used to say – before he died of something.
The Family of Man
Your friends are dying while you stand there and video it. No one apparently has a better idea of what to do. I have to avert my eyes from the young couple bleeding out on the sidewalk or I’ll spend all day cursing and weeping. The birds flying up out of the trees in a noisy panic tell everyone’s story. We are the planet’s incurable disease. Wherever we go, however long we stay, we leave behind scars, holes, bones. Our father is the mass shooter with a history of mental disorders; our mother, the suicide bomber in a dynamite vest.
The Geometry of Night
Things go wrong, things get really out of hand, things have a kind of terrifying darkness in them. And people’s only comment is, “Whatever.” I don’t know what to do. I’m lost. The night is not a time, it’s a place. No one can own it. Everything is either gray or black, and the black is the blackest material after black holes. It’s very difficult to breathe. When I try to speak, I can’t find the words. I should be scared and want to run away, but I stay, for even if barbed wire is horrible, its geometry is fascinating.
Why, Why, Why
We started the spring off wrong. Show me your weirdly humble dream, you said. I said no, and after that, I couldn’t sleep. I still can’t. I try to, but people keep turning up at all hours of the night screaming and sobbing hysterically. They fear they’re about to be abducted, imprisoned, tortured, murdered, written out of the story. It’s something no one has been able to convincingly explain. So that’s a problem. I know more than a few women who read true crime books about serial killers just to gather survival tips: OK, I don’t get into the Volkswagen.
Between Everything and Nothing
Some people like shiny things, other people don’t. At the beginning, I liked almost nothing. Now I like almost everything. I just keep my eyes open and see what comes. If you surrender to the air, you can ride it. It’s not exactly a plan – more a mindset. I think everyone is beautiful, can be beautiful. It’s a matter of choice in some way. One day a stranger walked up to me and he said, “I am completely overwhelmed.” Get used to it! The symphony in the elevator, the ballet at the bus stop, the tunnels made by the worms.
Howie Good is the author most recently of What It Is and How to Use It from Grey Book Press and Spooky Action at a Distance from Analog Submission Press. He co-edits the journals Unbroken and UnLost.
Read more of Howie here.