Impression № 044: Ephemera

Author Jamie Guiney, one of our oldest Snake-Oilers, brings us some leap year fun on this February 29th, with a handful of writerly ephemera.

Check out Jamie’s previous contributions to the Snake-Oil Cure here.

Beards on a washing line

I’ll kill yis all 

Hotdog warning

Clive and the lightning bolt

* * * * *

Jamie Guiney is a literary fiction writer from Northern Ireland who has a black belt in Karate, lives beside a graveyard and has a strong dislike for onions.  His short stories have been published in literary journals, newspapers and digitally on iPhones and iPads.  He has previously attended the Faber & Faber Writing Academy and received backing from the NI Arts Council for his writing.  Jamie is a member of the Newman Writers Group.  His short story ‘A Quarter Yellow Sun’ was nominated for ‘The 2011 Pushcart Prize’.

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Turtle Song

She enchanted the land
when she could feel in her bones
the white man coming—
Jimmy Redfox told me
before basketball practice one day—
to take what he could
for himself.
Standing on the shore
of Dutchman’s Creek,
the elder mother
of the turtle clan
chanted to sky land water
so all would return
to her one day. How long
before my father’s father’s father
claimed over two hundred acres
and three miles
of the creek’s north shore
Jimmy couldn’t say.
But he could tell
how they buried mother turtle
at the base of a young oak
in a field in sight
of the rushing water
so she could become the tree’s spirit,
watch the land as she grew,
and when the tree died
she would be free
to set the spirits in motion,
returning the land
to whom it once belonged.
I don’t believe in curses,
I told Jimmy.
But I did.

* * * * *

Kevin C. Peters transitioned into functional adulthood in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he received his MFA. He then fled the cold to spend several years teaching and traveling abroad. He currently resides in Oregon. His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

The Memory Eater

.
ohn sat on the floor
, wishing desperately he hadn’t stubbed his last cigarette out. If he was outside, he could smoke, but he wasn’t outside, and the idea of getting up and walking all the way to the front door just to go outside and smoke seemed ridiculously tedious. If he was going to go that far, he might as well just go home.  Which didn’t seem like such a bad idea, really.

He climbed to his feet, steadying himself against the wall. His hand was completely encircled by one large yellowed water stain, a blemish that started in the top right-hand corner of the room and widened and narrowed, almost artistically, all the way down to the floor.  He stared at the stain for way too long, thinking about how much fun it would be to trace the shape of the stain with a black magic marker, fill in the shape with doodles and squiggles, turn it into a real piece of artwork, before forcing himself to take the two small staggering steps that would take him out of the room and into the hallway leading to the living room, the hallway full of family photos framed in cheap flowery metal frames, all the pictures of Keith and Sarah’s family, including the ones of the two children they lost. The little girl, aged five, and the little boy, aged nine, both dead.

This hallway never seemed right to him. There was too much before photographed and cataloged in this walk, and it bothered him. This hallway belonged to a nice house, of a happy family, and of him as a welcome guest, wearing clean clothes and bearing gifts like nice bottles of wine and take-out food and even flowers, like some smarmy character from a feel-good television show. The walk through the short hallway always felt to him like drowning, and it was only with the greatest exertion that he pulled himself along the wall and into the living room.

Through the congested hallway and into the living room. Keith was sitting on the couch with a little boy. The room was full of hung-over people ruffling the little boy’s short hair again and again, with the boy smiling patiently through it all as if happy to be in the center of attention. “That’s my boy!” said Keith, again and again, his arm around the boy’s shoulders. He also ruffled the little boy’s haircut. Sarah, in the kitchen, making Irish coffees for everyone, smiled every time Keith said, “That’s my boy,” patting her stomach as though to reassure the baby inside that he or she would also receive similar accolades once born.

“This kid, he’s so smart,” said Keith. “He’s just great. Tell everybody something smart, little boy.”

“Did you know that there might be planet-sized moons inside of Saturn’s rings that could be terra-formed for human habitation?” piped the little boy, smiling around the room. “It’s true, I read it in National Geographic. We don’t even know how many moons Saturn has, because we can’t look inside the rings properly. It has hundreds of moons.”

I know the names of at least a dozen of Saturn’s moons, John thought suddenly. Why can’t I remember the names of Saturn’s moons? He opened his mouth, determined to list at least one of the moons, but nothing came out. It seemed really important to him to remember just one of the moons.

“Wow.” Keith looked at the little boy with renewed adoration. “That is so cool. This one, he’s like a rocket scientist, he is.”

Like I was, thought John. That wasn’t right. He wasn’t a rocket scientist, but he was something, something different than this. He had that feeling like he had when he was in the hallway, like he was drowning. He opened his mouth to speak, only to find a beer bottle heading toward it, propelled by his hand. “That boy, this, it’s not right,” he muttered just barely under his breath, swallowing half the bottle in one draught. He looked up to see the little boy staring across the room at him with a look like drowning on his face. Bobby. The boy’s name was Bobby. “You’re all wrong, Bobby,” he said to the boy, loud enough for everyone to stop talking at look at him.

“Little boy, I need you in the kitchen for a second,” called Sarah from the kitchen, glaring at John through the doorway. “A minute, maybe. I don’t know.” She wrinkled her forehead as if concentrating on something really important. “Right now.”

“Aw, I never get to spend any time with my boy,” protested Keith, but let Bobby get up anyway. The little boy held onto his sweet smile all the way out of the room, held onto it in such a way that John could tell he was trying not to cry.

“Aw, shit,” John said, and got up himself. “I didn’t mean anything by it,” he said to Keith.

“Well, you’d better go and apologize, asshole,” said Keith. “You can’t talk to kids that way. Especially my  kids.”

“All right, all right. I’m going.” John quickly walked through the hallway to the kitchen. Sarah was standing at the stove, holding a knife in her hand, a blank expression on her face. Bobby was standing next to her, two pieces of bread laid out on the counter in front of him, as well as an open jar of peanut butter and an open jar of jelly.

“I think I can handle this part, Sarah,” said Bobby, reaching up and taking the knife from her.

“No!” Sarah shouted, suddenly coming to life. She pulled the knife back from the little boy. “See this knife, little boy?” she said, pointing. “It’s too sharp for peanut butter and jelly.  You can’t use this kind of knife for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You need a knife that’s less sharp, so you don’t cut yourself.” She put the sharp filet knife down on the counter in front of Bobby and stared off into the corner for several quiet seconds. Bobby looked up at her expectantly, then sighed. He picked up the filet knife.

“No!” shouted Sarah again, grabbing the knife. The blade slipped across her palm, cutting a thin red line through the pale yellow skin. She dropped the knife on the floor and sucked at the blood welling out of the wound.

“It’s okay,” said John to the boy. He reached down and carefully picked up the knife. He grabbed a paper towel and wadded it around the blade, then put the knife and the towel in the trash can, pushing it deep beneath a mound of coffee grinds and filters so that no one would accidentally cut themselves if they reached into the bag themselves. He opened first one drawer, then another, until he finally found a butter knife.

“You won’t be able to hurt yourself on this one,” he said, handing it to Bobby. Sarah looked at him with gratitude in her eyes. Bobby began scooping globs of peanut butter and jelly on the pieces of bread.

“I have to teach him,” said Sarah, grabbing John’s arm. Her voice sounded like she was forcing herself to speak very clearly and evenly, as though that was some sort of extreme effort. “I remember why my own—my other—children died. I didn’t feed them, John. I forgot to feed them, and dress them, and put them to bed, and they got sick and died. What’s wrong with me?” she hissed through her clenched teeth.  “How could I forget to feed my kids? They were eating crap out of the trash can, and I just—I just—I drank. I smoked, I drank, and I think I even went out for a burger. And all that time, they were sick, and then they were dead. I can’t…”

“…let it happen to Bobby,” nodded John. He ruffled the little boy’s crew cut, and seemed to remember doing the same thing to some other little boy, some boy who was his. “We won’t let it happen to Bobby. See how good he is at making his own sandwich? He barely even needs you here, right, big guy?”

“It’s a pretty good sandwich, Sarah,” nodded Bobby. “I can make you one, too, if you’d like.”

“No.” Sarah shook her head. “I want to you wash off the knife when you’re done, then put it somewhere where you can find it again, okay? Put the peanut butter and jelly in your backpack, with the bread, so that any time you feel hungry, you can just make yourself a sandwich. This is important, Bobby,” she said, kneeling down so that she could look her son straight in the eye. “Don’t let the backpack out of your sight. When you run out of bread, get more out of the kitchen and put t in your bag. Or crackers. Or you can just eat right out of the jar. Any time you get hungry, promise me you’ll just eat, okay? You won’t wait for me to make you something?”

“Okay,” said Bobby. He looked like he was about to cry again.

“And, and, you’ll start calling me ‘Mom’ again, right?” said Sarah. “What kind of kid calls his mother ‘Sarah?’” She stared hard at Bobby again, and a confused look clouded her face. After a couple of seconds, she reached over and set the open peanut butter jar on the stovetop. She turned the burner on and began humming.

“Whoa.” John reached over and turned the burner off. He grabbed the jar of peanut butter and twisted the lid back on. “Put this stuff in your backpack. Now,” he ordered Bobby.

“When are we going home, Dad?” asked Bobby quietly. Sarah stopped humming for half a second, and Bobby backed away to stand behind John. “I want to go home. I just want to go home. You have to fix this, Dad,” the little boy added, looking up at John with a desperate look in his eyes. Bobby choked back a sob and wiped his eyes furiously with the back of his hand. John felt the beginning of a scream build in his chest. How long had he been here?

“You have to show me the way out of here,” he said, finally. He grabbed the little boy’s hand and pushed him towards the door. “You have to get me out of here, before I forget you again.”

“And then everything’ll be okay?” whispered Bobby.  “You’ll fix the Memory Eater?”

“What’s that?” snorted John. “Some kind of video game?”

“No!” hissed Bobby fearfully. “It’s that thing that’s broken! You’ll see when we get home!” He pulled John after him, out of the kitchen and into the living room, through the room full of people and past the sofa where Keith lay sprawled out, smoking a cigarette and laughing at the television.

“What the fuck?” said Keith, watching John and Bobby. “Where’re you taking my kid?”

“We’ll be right back!” called Bobby, squeezing John’s hand tightly. “We’re going to the store to buy more cigarettes!”

“That’s a great idea,” said Keith, nodding and smiling. “That’s a fucking awesome idea.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a thick wad of bills. “Buy me this many cigarettes, okay?” he added, passing it over to Bobby.  John tried to pull his hand free from the little boy so he could sit on the couch next to Keith, but Bobby held on tightly.

“Hey, little dude,” he started, smiling, trying to pull free.

“I can’t buy cigarettes by myself,” said Bobby loudly, looking over at Keith. “I’m too young.” He pulled again, and John nodded, following him out the door.

The light outside was so bright that John just stood there, blinking, for several seconds. How long had he been inside? It felt like weeks, or even longer, since he couldn’t remember for the life of him when he’d actually arrived here, or where he’d even come here from. The party that had been going on inside seemed to have followed him outside, though, which was somewhat comforting. A yellow schoolbus squealed by him and Bobby, nearly tipping onto its side as it turned the corner. “We’re number one!” shouted the bus driver, half his body hanging out the window as he drove by, both arms waving wildly.  “Number one!”

“All right!” John shouted back, holding up his index finger and hooting back. “Number one! All right!”

“Do you think Mom’s all right?” asked Bobby quietly. The little boy sat on the stoop of Keith and Sarah’s house, his arms wrapped around the blue backpack on his lap.  “I tried counting the days we were here, but the sun didn’t come up for a real long time, and now it won’t go down.”

“Yeah. It’s real bright out,” said John, whistling. He jammed his hands into his pockets. Something felt wrong, something was missing here. “You still brushing your teeth?” he asked.

“I don’t think it’s the sun at all,” the boy continued, his voice so quiet it was practically a whisper. “It’s too bright, and it’s on all the time. And it’s so noisy out! Do you hear it? It’s like a car revving its engines, but it just keeps going on. Do you think your machine can do all that? Make it daylight all the time and be so noisy?”

“Oh, that’s just traffic. It’s a busy street,” said John, ruffling the boy’s crew cut. “See? There’s a car right now.” A Volkswagen bug careened down the street, fire shooting out of its tailpipe, the driver slumped over the steering wheel. “Now that’s a noisy car,” he added, nodding sagely at the boy. “Was that what you heard?”

“No. Can’t you hear it?” Bobby put his hands over his ears and clapped them tightly. “I can still hear it,” he said after a few seconds. “It’s like it’s in my head!”

“Could be,” said John. “You know what, little dude? I just realized I left my wallet in the house, and I should really go back in and get it before I forget. It’ll just take me a second, okay?” He turned to go back into the house.

“You can’t go back in there!” said Bobby, leaping up and grabbing his hand. “Dad, if you go in there, you’ll forget me again. I’ll be alone out here!” The little boy fell against John, wrapping around his leg, digging his fingernails into his pants. “I’ll be all alone,” he sobbed, shaking uncontrollably. “We have to go home so you can fix the Memory Eater!”

“What’s that?” snorted John. “Some kind of video game?”  And then it suddenly felt like a thick, sticky web was pulling away from John’s brain. It was all coming back to him—his son, his wife, his home. It was all just down the street from here, less than two blocks away. “Bobby, I’ll just be  a second,” he said, trying to sound as reassuring as possible. “I’ll just go in, grab my wallet, and come back. It’ll take a second. Two seconds. It’s okay, buddy.” he said, pulling his son’s arms off his leg.  “I won’t forget you, okay? I promise. I’ll just be a second, and then we’ll go home, and I’ll fix everything. I promise.”

Bobby looked up at the change in his father’s voice, a glint of hope in his eyes. “Okay,” he said at last, backing up and taking his seat on the stoop once more. “But you’d better come back,” he added. “I’m just going to sit here and wait for you to come back, and if you don’t come back, I’ll be out here all alone.”

John opened the door of the house and stepped back inside. His wallet was right where he had left it the night before, on the corner of the coffee table full of beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays.

“Dude!” said Keith, laughing. “I can’t believe that nobody lifted your wallet. Did you leave it there all night?”

“Yeah,” said John. “Pretty stupid, huh?”

“You’re pretty lucky, is what it is.” Keith sat up and made room for John on the couch. “You want a beer?”

“Oh, sure, man,” John said, plopping down on the couch. He reached into the paper bag on the table and pulled out first one empty beer bottle, then another. “Are there any full bottles in here?” he asked, pulling out a third empty.

“Sarah! Get John a beer, will ya?” Keith yelled, taking the bag from John and throwing it into the corner of the room with a loud crashing sound. A dark stain spread over the brown paper bag and began leaking. “Oh, shit!” said Keith, laughing. “I guess there was a full beer in there. Oh, well. They’re better when they’re cold, right?”

“Sure,” agreed John. Sarah came in from the kitchen and handed John a cold beer. He took a swig from it and grunted approval. “Yeah, this is good,” he said.

“Don’t go in the back room, by the way,” said Sarah. “Everyone else is back there, fucking, or dying, whatever. Something noisy. I mean, you can go back there if you want,” she added mischievously, “but I wouldn’t want you to wander back there thinking you were going to take a nap or get in some meditation time.”

“Wow. I might have to go back there just to take a look,” said John. “How did that happen??

“I dunno. The TV went off for a moment, and I went to the bathroom, and when I got back, everybody was gone,” said Keith.

“I was in the kitchen, trying to make Keith a sandwich, but I couldn’t find the peanut butter,” said Sarah. “I just know people are in there because they’re making noises. You can hear them really good when you press your ear against the door,” she added, gesturing.

“I think I’ll take your word for it,” said John. “So the TV went out?” he asked Keith.

“Yeah! It was the weirdest thing!” Keith reached over and grabbed the remote control. He flipped around the channels for a while, then leaned back against the sofa. “We were watching the news, when all of a sudden, it was like the cameraman just dropped the camera and it broke or something. There was just static for like, ten minutes.”

“Looks like it’s working now,” said John. The screen showed what looked like a grocery store parking lot, except the big plate glass storefront of the grocery store was shattered and the parking lot was full of half-clothed people riding around in shopping carts. The picture was sideways, as though the camera was lying down on the ground.

“Looks like some kind of movie,” said Sarah. She sat down on the couch next to Keith and lit herself a cigarette. “What movie is this?”

John stared at the flickering television screen. Over the sound of the people yelling and laughing hysterically, he could hear a low, noisy, metallic roar, like a car engine revving up over and over. Huge shadows passed over the parking lot scene, but the camera angle made it impossible to see what the shadows were coming from. Part of something really big appeared briefly in the background, and John thought he recognized a word on the side of the really big object, a company logo, graffiti. Damn kids. Something about kids.

“I think I’ve gotta go,” he said, suddenly, standing up. He opened his wallet and looked inside. There was something in here that was really important. There was something he was supposed to do. He flipped through the credit cards and saw a picture of a woman, my wife, and a little boy, Bobby.

“Aw, so soon?” said Keith. “Oh, hey, you think you could go in back and get Paul to come out here and hang out with us? That Paul, he’s so funny! Were you here earlier when he was telling that story?”

“I’ve gotta go,” said John. He ran at the door, ran because he wasn’t sure how long he could remember the face of the little boy that he had left on the other side, sitting  on the stoop. That sad little face that believed him when he said he was coming back. That sad little face that believed him when he said he was going to fix everything.

“Bobby?” he said, pulling open the door. The stoop was empty. The little boy wasn’t there. John ran down the sidewalk, looking around wildly for his son. “Bobby?” he shouted, once more. All around him, in the street, in the sidewalks, people were lying down on the ground, as if they were asleep, except their eyes were open, staring at the sky. Some of them looked as though they had been run over by a car, with big, comical drag lines bisecting their bodies, while others were in perfect condition.

Overhead, something huge and noisy was making another pass of the neighborhood. John looked up at the huge gray object, the gigantic flat metal disc that was blocking out the sun. He thought he recognized a word on the underside of the big thing, that really thing blocking out the sun, a company logo, graffiti. Damn kids. Something about kids. He couldn’t remember. But it was really huge! He giggled. What in the world could be that big? And noisy! He put his hands over his ears, trying to block out the wave of noise that seemed to be rushing at him from all directions. His hands were just not big enough.

* * * * *

Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poetry and fiction has recently appeared in Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Oxford American, and Slipstream. Her book publications include Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar-All-in-One for Dummies, and Music Theory for Dummies, which has recently been translated into French, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese. Her contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Week 51

Yes, Dr. Hurley has made it to his 52nd week, and he’s doing a little jig in the background as we write this week’s digest. To celebrate, take a read of this week’s posts, and stay tuned for news of our short story contest (you still have time to enter, so get scribbling.)

Poetical

Photographical

Artistical

Fictional

Next week, we will celebrate our first week of the second year of the rest of our lives at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure, and trust us, there are goodies to come!

The Detectives’ Book Club

.
he second time I saw Sam Hammett, he strode toward me with an unwarranted rancor, crumpled with a surly air into the chair opposite me, and dropped onto the table a hardback book. The sound of it striking the rosewood made a wizened crone browsing the non-fiction splash coffee on the carpet tiles.

Hammett was greying. With the occasional stripe of black reaching back across the bristles, his hair was the half-used eraser to his pencil-thin body. His mustache draped his upper lip in a great arc. He seemed nonetheless to be sneering.

“This,” he said, stabbing the book’s dust cover with a narrrow finger, “is not what I asked for, Mr. Archer.”

The Second Murderer is a classic work of detective fiction, Mr. Hammett.” I paused, under the illusion that silence might be the solution. But he leaned forward, opened the book to the first chapter and proceeded to read:

Ray Delaney’s coffee smelt like the underside of a bus. As the heat dissipated into the early morning sky, he could hear the counterpoint of city wildlife bubbling just beneath the veneer of civilisation. Cats mewed to a symphony of scratches and overturned trashcans, birds querulously warbled and – in the distance, unheard – larger creatures prowled the rocky Californian soil.

The ice in Hammett’s stare burned my face. “Like the underside of a BUS?” he said. “What the hell kind of writing is that?”

“That is, Mr. Hammett, one of the most famous opening paragraphs in detective fiction. Charles Thornton is not quite our best-selling author here at the Mysterious Bibliophile, but we certainly make a healthy profit on this novel alone.”

“It’s about as elegant as as…” He fumbled at the air between us. “As a… tarantula choking down a piece of dog food!”

A cough hybridised with a burst of chuckling escaped from a figure seated in the far corner of the store. He stood, reached with a glabrous hand a black wooden pipe to his mouth, and stepped toward us around a tower of Erle Stanley Gardners. His suit was better upholstered than my couch.

“Good to see you in such festive spirits, Sam.”  In spite of the pipe he enunciated each syllable with an Ivy League exactitude. His jacket and vest were of a heavy tweed, and though his chin was weak he concealed it with copious puffs of smoke. He seemed to have punctured Hammett’s pomposity.

Hammett stood. “Ray,” he said. “I didn’t realize you frequented this place. Is this where they keep your poetry these days?”

Chandler smirked, his eyes watery but keen behind round, thin-rimmed glasses. He said: “I’ve circumvented the need to demean myself in the world of poetry, Sam, and so have you. In fact, much like Mr. Thornton—I’m terribly surprised you’re not a fan—we can bask in the glory of popular success without the expectation of  critical praise.”

Still seated, I watched this Homeric struggle. Hammett’s gaze seemed to soften in the face of this raffishness, while Chandler—quieter, smaller and trying his best not to seem flustered in spite of it all—puffed a perfectly-twisting curl of oak-flavored smoke into the air.

“Gentlemen,” I said. “Please take a seat, I’m sure I can find something to both Mr. Hammett’s and Mr. Chandler’s taste.” I rose and went to the back of the store. A stack of titles as yet unsorted teetered between two leather armchairs. I removed a soft cover and returned to my seat, perched my glasses on my nose and turned to the opening paragraph:

Her features, soft like wax, are half-hidden in the darkness. I wait until the train crossing the bridge screams into a corner and fades before I ask her why she is here. She speaks in riddles, fractal sentences, misappropriated phrases and English half-wrapped in her native tongue. I sputter in German, consonants and vowels spill beneath the underpass and flicker for a moment in the midnight air before obscurity snatches them. We talk like broken glass before, finally, her face leans toward mine and I see a wisp of warmth on her lips vaporise between us.

I could neither gauge their reaction nor draw a deep, well-earned breath before Hammett sprang to his feet and said: “Wonderful, that IS more like it, Mr. Archer—The Laconic German, correct?”

“Yes, one of J. Ford Hadley’s more pop…”

“Good God, Sam!” crowed Chandler, pulling the pipe from his mouth and swinging it in an arc as though dispensing incense. “He just spat at the alphabet and hoped for the best. There’s nothing there that one would be unable to express in a single sentence.”

“What sentence would you suggest, exactly, my dear Raymond?” he said, arching a bushy black eyebrow.

Chandler, now twisted in his chair the better to address Hammett, replaced his pipe and said: “I kissed her,” he paused. “Like she was my last drink of the night.”

Hammett raised a hand to his forehead and his blazer ballooned out from his sides. If he were any thinner he would disappear, I thought. He began to pace like a tiger enclosed, vivacious yet centered, appropriating with embracing gestures of his arms words from the book-dust around him. “All you’re interested in, Ray: Adjectives and nouns. Try some verbs some day.”

“Nouns and adjectives are all that this country is interested in, Sam,” said Chandler.

The words bounced off Hammett as he paced toward the non-fiction. The old woman, now sipping lukewarm dregs from a Mysterious Bibliophile coffee mug, squinted up at Hammett, blind to the author’s stare.

Chandler creased back to face me in his chair and placed his hand on the dust cover of The Second Murderer. He said: “Do you know, Mr. Archer, that Charles DeForest Thornton appropriated this title from me.” It was not a question. “My first novel was, in the original draft, going to be called The Second Murderer. But the agents, second only to actors in their finite wisdom, did not appreciate the reference.”

“Sometimes reference is all we have left,” I said. Chandler nodded sourly, eyes obscured in the glint of his lenses, chin hidden in a wreath of smoke. He rose slowly and traipsed past me toward his corner, and toward his miniature stack of books.

I looked back to Hammett. He was stood in a shaft of light at the front of the store, eyeing the shelves despondently. The sun—creeping in from the steps that led to the curb outside—shone onto the white streaks in his hair to form an afternoon halo. Behind me, Chandler was puffing like an irregular steam train and making notations on a battered copy of Eliot’s Waste Land.

I picked up The Second Murderer.

Cats mewed to a symphony of scratches and overturned trashcans, birds querulously warbled and – in the distance, unheard – larger creatures prowled the rocky red Californian soil.

Delaney was focused intently on the sunlight catching the right-angles of his filing cabinet. It was a dry, stubborn heat that had been many times his savior. Heat always drew from others an unexpected candor.

Delaney did not know it, but today was the first time he would see Sylvia Munroe…

Impression № 043: Le Blob

Favourite Snake-Oiler Gaëtan Vanparijs brings us more Belgian surrealism, with “Le Blob”.

* * * * *

A native of Brussels, Gaëtan Vanparijs is a young independnt illustrator. He frequently exhibits and enters competitions to help share his universe. Through “l’étrange vie des autres” (“The strange life of Others”), he inserts a touch of the absurd into scenes of everyday life, leaving each reader to his own interpretation. He has just finished working on a book about illustrated Monsters’ Biographies,”Monstrueusement  vôtre”. He is influenced by movies and the Belgian surrealism that surrounds him. More of his work can be seen at Flickr.

It’s Already In the Plans II

Of silence of a new day to buzz the brain
or buzz the silence of it all
in the green leaves’ stretch you think
you see yourself
to toast and tea ease things, forget the lovely beach view
blue covered squawking sprawls.

Why don’t we dump the birdbath with its mosquito larvae
remember that music of summer
of Mother and me on front porch summers
with imposters pretending to be alone,

To hear themes inside the walls
of neighborhood families trying not to be lonely,
how cordially they create exclusion.

He plays the radio but why should that be
radio for dinner and mumbling platitude conversation
of concluding we’re all dumb as bricks,
so why  carry- on over trivia
as if  we’re all not  isolated or involved in a test
as you are carrying-on texting
with no one to stop  it
haunted by the Empire’s decaying orbit;
take out the trash, or, or go to sleep–
time shuts down the viewing process.

* * * * *

Joan Payne Kincaid has published a collection of work entitled Greatest Hits with Pudding House Publications. She has also published a book with Wayne Hogan entitled The Umbrella Poems in which we both contributed drawings of some of our poems.  She has also published a collection of haiku entitled Snapshoots on the web at <TMPoetry.com>. Her work has been published in Hawaii Review, Limestone Poetry Review, Licking River Review, Iodine, Hampden,Sydney Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, Santa Clara Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, South Central Review, The South Carolina Review,  Cross Currents, Georgetown Review, Edgz, 88,  Oyez, Modern Haiku, Iconoclast, Lynx Eye, Yalobusha Review, Mother Earth Journal, Tule Review, The Quarterly, Cairn, among others.

Exposure № 064: Pirkei Avot

Love work, and despise official positions, and do not become too acquainted with the governing power

Photographer Conrado Sarid-Maletah shares this brilliant series of photos, which he describes as an attempt to translate passages from Pirkei Avot (The Master’s Sentences) into visual poetry. He admires the sense of balance, justice and self-control embodied in the 1800 year old text.

When East meet West the sea, the blue sea start to sing  silent songs

In this project, Sarid-Maletah attempts to interpret literally the sentences from the text while being critical of them.

One who uses the crown will pass away

Sarid-Maletah says:

Portraiture is a very special way to “speak”  because you need to play with the other, you need to communicate with the model first and if the results are ok, the model will be a great way to speak to the public. In these images my model was an Armenian man living in Haifa, North Israel. A very special experience for both of us.

The main thing is not to study but to do

Stay tuned for more of Conrado’s images.

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Conrado Sarid-Maleta’ is a Cuban photographer and painter. He left his home country six years ago, and has not returned. Most recently, he has lived and worked in Europe, and is now in Tel Aviv, Israel. He learned photography with the help of a great Cuban artist, later continuing alone and working very hard to increase day by day what he knew. Mainly, his works use the visual experience as a means to connect with ideas rather than with techniques or methodological processes. He prefers to be a storyteller rather than a perfectionist.

Brought to you by Circumstances

You didn’t put this house here
nor did you fill it with these people.
The year, the month, the day, are not your doing.
Your age is only partly your fault,
for failing to slam your car into a tree,
for refusing to catch a deadly strain of pneumonia.

Your current life is a convergence of circumstances
from the street you live on
to the miserable weather
to the last commercial on the tv.

You’d prefer to lie down in the snow.
You’d rather be naked in the dairy aisle of the supermarket.
Please swans, you say to the birds in the park pond,
let me paddle with you a while.

But the walls of the house won’t hear of it.
The bones that hold up the people
hold you up as well.
Time, your age, say nothing doing.
The Street allows no such thing.
The weather didn’t blow up this way
just so you could ignore it.
And what about that commercial,
for white brighter teeth.
You have teeth don’t you.
Yes, those are yours,
the ones with your life attached.

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John Grey is an Australian-born poet, but has been a US resident since the late seventies. He works as financial systems analyst, and has recently been published in Xavier Review, White Wall Review and Writer’s Bloc with work upcoming in Poem, Prism International and the Cider Press Review. John Grey has been published recently in The Talking River, South Carolina Review and Karamu with work upcoming in Prism International, Poem and The Evansville Review.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Week 50

As a happy Valentine’s Week from Dr. H’s editors, this week we featured some great poetry from friends old and new, including Sandy Day and Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke, both longtime Snake-Oilers. We also saw a great Smithsonian post based on one Dr. Cadmus (a fellow physician), and photography from newbie Patrick Joust. To read these and more, click below!

Valentine’s Week

Smithsonian

Photographical

Poetical

Remember to keep submissions coming in for our Short Story Contest!