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Map-Cover-Color-small51. Antimony (Metalloid; Primordial; Solid)

Take June to the tanning salon where you work and give her a free tanning session. You will have to help her undress. Feel the tension that comes with regarding her scarred nakedness. It lifts your shoulders and hardens your abdomen. Help to maneuver her into the coffin-like bed of glass. Once she’s secure, go to the front desk and offer to cover things while the other girl working there goes on a break. As soon as she walks out, find the pill bottle in the drawer. Take one of the red pills—it’s the mildest of them.You have to drive June back home, after all.

WE 3D v2A           

Al•ice /a-lEs/ n : a girl transformed by reflection

On a cold and lonely Friday last November, my father disappeared from the Dictionary. And not only from the big, glass building on Broadway where its offices were housed. On that night, my father, Douglas Samuel Johnson, Chief Editor of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, slipped from the actual artifact he’d helped compose.

That was before the Dictionary died, letters expiring on the page. Before the virus. Before our language dissolved like so much melting snow. It was before I nearly lost everything I love.

GeometryOfLove_FinalCoverWebIn his ground-floor office on Ninth Street, Frank McCloud, LAc (licensed acupuncturist), stood next to me, staring off into space as he took my pulses. Thin and straight, he incarnated health and longevity. Walking in, I expected a preliminary medical interview, but instead he directed me right onto a treatment table. The gentle koto music in the background (Japanese) didn’t quite jive with the scrolls on the wall (Tibetan) or the silk jacket he wore (Chinese), but the general Asian effect was soothing.

Cover_ILovedYouMoreThe Maroni

What I’d like to do now is take the opportunity. To say what I couldn’t even think that Wednesday evening in Jeske’s class, 1985. The scariest thing about myself. If I were to have spoken it out loud.

I was impotent.

By that time of my life, my thirty-seventh year – heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, top or bottom, threesomes, orgies with men and women, with a whip in my hand or chained to the radiator, whatever way two or more people can get together sexually. Drunk or stoned or otherwise fucked up. Hell, even when it was just me alone stone cold sober.

I couldn’t get it up.

american-monsterSometime in the night back in the Spill City trailer, Norma had woken up and eaten the last churro but in the morning had no memory of doing this, or of anything else. She tried to shrug the burn out of her shoulders, her night with Bunny slowly coming back to her. Calling Mommy down at the beach. Half-falling over some kid outside the pay phone.

ByrdUp on the Roof

Roland is making a picnic. He has never made a picnic for anyone. It’s not even a word he uses: picnic.

On his counter, blueberry smoothies and crinkle-cut fries from his favorite stand on the beach, plus everything from his kitchen: a can of peaches, half a bottle of white Zinfandel, and two hard-boiled eggs, which he peels and mashes into a bowl with salt and pepper. Then there’s the barbecue Addie brought with her from North Carolina: hickory-smoked shoulder meat sliced thin, packed on dry ice in her little travel cooler. Slaw, too, and sauce, the thin red tomatoey kind they grew up on. You can’t get sauce like this in California.

MannequinGirl_2-021-198x300In July she becomes an anomaly, a glitch in a plan, a malfunction in an otherwise perfect mechanism. There is no pain, no warning signs, and no heredity issues, contrary to what the doctors imply. Her mother says Kat’s diagnosis is a slap in the face and a curse and the blackest day of their lives. “You should’ve seen us,” she says. “We were black when we came from the doctors.” Her mother’s face is white, her hair short and dark. She resembles the champion figure skater Irina Rodnina, and everyone knows she is prone to verbal extravagance.

BedrockFaithSo what do you plan to do with yourself, now that you’re home?” said Mrs. Motley. She was sitting at the kitchen table opposite Stew Pot who had draped his peacoat over the back of his chair. Along with a silver tea kettle, the china cups, saucers, and sugar bowl were arranged on the table between them. His apology, which he had just finished, had been long and rambling, and they had now moved to discussing his life situation.

“I’m going to get a job,” he replied. “And I mean honest work. Mom says there’s a Help Wanted sign at the car wash over on the drag. Probably just part-time, but it could be a start. No more crime for me. This change is for real.”

ImageI come from a long line of whores.

In my nine decades on this earth I have never uttered these words, let alone seen them written, in my own hand, indelibly staring back at me. But now, as a summer storm rages strong enough to send the Pontchartrain right through my front door, I sit with a curious sense of peace and clarity. My past is more than just my own history. Although this story shames me in so many ways, it is the legacy I leave. I must embrace the very truth I spent my life denying.

I come from a long line of whores.

FINAL coverPrologue

Tell me a story, he said.

So I told him about my first morning in San Francisco. It was July, summer in the city, foggy and cold. I was tired and jet-lagged and had yet to unpack, but I wanted to see the famous California coast. I took a bus over the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael, where I boarded a shuttle to Point Reyes.

Alone, I wandered along the cliffs in the freezing fog, out to the lighthouse. I stood gazing at the roaring Pacific, a crazy-looking ocean, infinitely more dangerous and dramatic than the Gulf Coast waters I knew so well. On a small hill above a meadow, I followed a picket fence for several hundred yards, curious where it led. And then, without warning, the fence abruptly ended. A narrow ditch split the ground in two; on the other side, the fence continued on its way.

Badge Cover TNB #120913Somehow, in Seattle, for reasons no one could explain, No Fun Intended had a packed house.

The Verve, an all-ages club just off the interstate, was the kind of place any touring band hoped to avoid. It was a grey cinder-blocked box, capacity 400, so close to I-405 as to be underneath it. The shadow of the off-ramp made it darker and danker than it would’ve been otherwise, and with no other businesses around, the chances for a walk-in crowd were nil. Inside there were no seats, and the cement floor would’ve been more suitable for storing utility vehicles. The bar, which looked like a concession stand at a Little League game, was tucked around the corner, far away. The stage was so high horny kids would spend the night looking up Betty’s skirt.

PlayPrettyBluesStop Breakin’ Down Blues

We received proof of his life less than a month after his death. In late September of 1938, a period of days on record as the hottest in state history, our memories of Robert Johnson had begun to entangle themselves with the sensations of our skin gamy in the joints and our dresses glued to sweaty thighs. We could hear him in the symphonic trickle of riverbeds parched by crop storms. We could smell him in the effluvial perfume of tomatoes fallen to decay. At each of our homes in towns scattered throughout the Delta—Tabitha lived in Tutwiler, Helena lived in Yazoo—all six of us distracted ourselves from both the heat and his memory by snapping peas on the porch, by beating dirt from rugs in the yard, by scrubbing laundry with lye in the washroom. Our chores were interrupted when the postman arrived at each of our homes carrying parcels that bore each of our names. We immediately recognized our husband’s serpentine scrawl.

Motherland_FINALHannesburg, December 1944

 

When Liesl heard the noise from the cellar, her hand shook and the coffee spilled. The liquid spread in claws across the counter, its color neither brown nor red nor black, but some combination of all three, earthen and old. A hopeless feeling rose in her chest. She had discovered the grounds deep in the pantry yesterday, tucked behind a post, in a tiny tin next to a tiny pot of jam, both labeled in the first wife’s hand. It was surely the last real coffee in all of Hannesburg, boiled with the last of the morning coal, the sharp selfish heaven of its scent rising toward her face. Then it splashed everywhere.

Laura254Jack spent most of those first days staring at his daughter’s back. He watched her good hand, the one that wasn’t in a cast, glide across a keyboard. Angelina worked fast, and clearly, Crostini, the Hitchcock blonde of a boss, was pleased. She leaned against his daughter’s little desk, randomly picking up then putting down pens and paperclip holders. Angelina looked down at Crostini’s alligator-skin high heels and asked her how long it’d taken her to get her master’s degree.

“Ms. Moltisanti, if you keep blazing through the assignments, I’m going to have to get more creative,” Crostini laughed.  “Don’t you know I’m an engineer? We don’t do creative.”

Understudies_RMangla-frontShe bought a home down the hill from my own, a snug little number done up in wisteria. Not so long ago she won a Golden Globe for her featured role in one of those paranormal romances. I hadn’t seen the film, but I had heard good things from Chudley and others. The house once belonged to her grandmother and she would visit in the summers when she was younger: playing in the park, swimming in the community pool. She was looking to reclaim a part of her past. Two spells in rehab, a nasty divorce and widely circulated honeymoon video. The Hollywood grind had ground her into something she no longer recognized. She was piecing herself back together. Or at least that was what Chudley told me.