Smog sits over the city, and a plastic-wrapped package of meat decays on the back seat of my future wife’s old gray Buick, though she remembered to take her schoolbooks:
- a primer on running a landfill
- a guide for the beginning butcher
- a collection of brief, touching memoirs by women taller than 6’2 or weighing over 250 pounds
Hers is an unusual vocational program—it has a broad thread of humanities—and she is earnest and studious and very strong.
My daughter came home from her first day of middle school and, at dinner, acted strange. She cut her food into a thousand little pieces and made a mosaic with them, but didn’t eat. At bedtime, she asked me to draw her a story. I’m an amateur artist, and this is something we did a lot when she was smaller.
Draw me six bleeding zebras, she asked. Draw a girl eating purple sea urchins. Draw a clock–when it ticks another child dies of hunger.
I wielded the colored pencils and, once again, mourned her mother, regretted her mental illness, and wished I wasn’t a single father.
Muslim governments are detaining birds of the air on suspicion of spying. They’ve already imprisoned their women in burkas. They cannot dance, cannot fly. Now birds.
Green ankle bracelets affixed to the birds raised the mullahs’ eyebrows. Was this another American or Zionist plot? No, it was scientists from my university, whose reports I write, whose illustrations I draw, studying avian flight paths. But, until the situation could be worked out, kestrels, European Bee-Eaters, endangered Griffins, some common pigeons, even a pair of Vultures had been held in cells and tortured. They squawked but gave up nothing.
Finally released, traumatized, they flew away.
I thought that when you took Pepto-Bismal, your shits would turn pink, a childish notion. As everyone knows, they turn black.
I’d gone through several boxes before I thought to go to the doctor. I thought that the hollow feeling in my stomach might be existential dread, my painful recognition that Hell is other people, but it was really stomach cancer, inoperable. Now my daughter is doomed to become an orphan.
When you were a kid did you ever play a game during recess in which you pitched pennies against a wall, and the one who got the closest won all the pennies? I do that now with pink bismuth tablets. I have no opponents so I always win.
Mankind makes the same mistakes over and over. I think of that as a kind of disease. The champagne toast devolves to alcoholism. Grandeur gives way to stains on a wrinkled tablecloth, a half-eaten slice of cake, a cast off fork, the desolation of crumbs.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over eight hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.