by Howie Good
The Gates of Eden
I’m up on a ladder picking apples. My hands really hurt. You should be holding the ladder steady. Instead, you laugh and run off under the trees, I begin to climb down. This was a working orchard just 10 years ago. Now it’s a landscape that can’t see what I’m doing. Maybe I’ll pass through that vault of bones, and when I reach the other side, everything will be on wheels, exist as objects I created in my sleep, with the wind moving in fits and starts through the leaves, and the leaves angry, and throwing things, and slamming doors.
The Outrageous Thing
It may not be all that important, but the windows faced west and could be too bright in the late afternoon. The people there drank a lot. Some were bossy. Some played with the placement of tattoos. Some got bored, and when they got bored, they ate rattlesnake and cactus. I didn’t expect them to eat that. I kept thinking of Elvis dying on the toilet. God, I was stupid. A whole week later, a 4-year-old girl would crawl out from under the debris, grinning, angelic, committed to the outrageous thing, to be alive in spaces designed to kill her.
Ever since a spaceship reminiscent of a giant penis had been launched, sent on a years-long mission to gather data on the trumpet of the Last Judgment, plane parts occasionally rained from the sky. Government scientists were frantic. I was just a summer intern. Every day I walked the grounds of the space institute with a black trash bag in one hand and a trash pick-up stick in the other. There were cigarette butts and empty condom wrappers, and once I found in the grass something resembling a woman’s torn-off ear, tilted like it was still being forced to listen.
Baudelaire, dying of the so-called “French disease,” wore rouge in a pitiful attempt to hide his decay. Wow, have things changed. A boy of 10 or 12, in the game shirt of a foreign soccer club, comes rolling over on roller blades. He has a dusting of red freckles and looks at me so intently that I feel obliged to stop working on my piece-of-shit car. “Sir, how many girlfriends do you have?” he asks. I’m not the mad bastard shouting at the world anymore. I say I have enough with one. “Pfffft!” the boy says and then rolls away.
Howie Good is on the pavement, thinking about the government.