tom was 20 when i first became infatuated with him and 21 when they saw the last bubbles float to the surface beside the burning remains of his boat. in that short time, i felt that i had gotten a better sense for his character than any of his contemporaries. i first saw the article in the new york times magazine. it was a 300 word affair. a quick blurb peripherally mentioning him in the context of some hollywood flop, but something about the way they classified him caught me off guard. he was billed as a "mime from birth." as time went on i would come to realize he was merely a nihilist mute. i myself was one of two siamese twins joined wrist to back, but i'd always taken to labeling myself a ventriloquist.




"Look. I've been coming here a while, Pete. And I love your usual stuff. Really. But you're sure you don't have anything with a little more...kick?"

"'Keck,' heh?" he chortled. "Yer' Oi surpose Oi know whutcher arfter."

He rummaged around in the little shoebox full of glass canning jars and screw-top former shoe polish tins 'til his fingers flitted over something small made of blue glass and stoppered with a chapped looking bit of rubber. He took it up, as if to read the peeling label, and then instead of bringing it towards his mole-like face (and the smudgy lenses that magnified his pupil-less eyes into hazy hemispheres protruding softly from the clammy-looking folds of his ecsema-marred cheeks like scuffed-up doll buttons nestled in a pile of well-marbled, thin-sliced prosciutto) he shook it gently and seemed to listen for the response. When he finally spoke it came from deep within him. Almost like it wasn't him at all.

"...'mamber 'e yad thes red sturf. Callt 't 'JENN-jar.' Enny thot et wor hullarf. Sum koinder joib 'gainst meh'n haccounter Oi gottarla thes foin red 'air...'

(This sealed it, as he distinctly hadn't).

"...Lukt loik herazer durst. Oi 'mamber'r wor tooervussat wor hopen' t' go en honnet t'gather. Oi yaskt 'em hubbouter proice 'n 'e swurr Oi wudn' wannet. 'Whoizzat then?' Oi yarst'm. 'Wud'n the trep darnce? En surposing et ded, wud'n not Oi be hullong weth 't fer th'enjormant?' Well 'e thot hubbout et fer a mennit. Fext 'es ois onna florren got thes for arf luk. Thenny jurst koiner...."

The little jar fell back into the box. The noise drew me back into the room, but it was like waking out of one dream straight into another. We sat looking at each other. Or at least I sat looking at him. He seemed catatonic. Now and then his eyes darted, if you could really call it that, so penned in were they on all sides by the grand sweep of his mottled cheekbones; dwarfed in scale by contrast with with his massive spectacles. He looked no different in most regards I suppose than when I'd come in and found him, gazing rheumilly at a bare patch of the floor. Only now his tongue didn't dart out intermittently to reseat the cigarillo in the fizzure that masqueraded as his mouth. Now instead it smoked itself lazily in the little tin foil ashtray at his side.

"Having an acid flashback?" I laughed, nervously, not wanting to dredge him out too quickly lest he bring some violent hallucination back with him. Instead he seemed to simmer. I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd hissed and chattered a little like water in a kettle.

"Well, this is 85," I said, putting a tight roll of bills in the mouth of an old frog-shaped porcelain sugar dish by his arm. "If you want more for it, next time I'm here you can tell me. I'm going now." I grabbed the little blue jar. His eyes bulged a little and watered. Presently, he did seem to hiss a little. "You're a funny guy, Pete," I said, mostly to myself. After I got out onto the street I heard a soft thud, like a chair tipping over onto a rug. If he wanted me out so he could scoot furniture around, I thought, he could've said something instead of putting on that mummy act. I never saw the smoke curling out through the silk scarf curtains, past the sash and, building slowly at first, up along the fire escape. I was already around the corner and down the subway by the time neighbors ran to the deli across the street to call the fire trucks. And even now as I sit here, holding this curious blue bottle, considering by what means I shall coax it into my bloodstream to perform the alchemy about which it has been softly whispering to me, I don't know old Pete is dead and instead sit staring at a knot in the floorboard only wondering what ever happened to his friend, or the friend of whoever was speaking through him.




Mind your step
i keep the overhead low
just the bed
and the books
and the rotary phone
chicago manual of style
keeps the prose right crisp
the minneapolis edition,
well it goes like this:

i talk way too fast
and i shoot from a glass
i keep poe in the glovebox
plath on the dash
and there's nobody shotgun
i got enough gas
to get vegas by daybreak
i'm not coming back
i'm pushing this luck
all the way to the coast
i'm throwin it over
just to see if it floats
i'm taking my chances,
i'm making my own
cause i've been pretty patient,
i'm ready to go.

i'm the book that beat the speed-reader,
and i'm the card the dealers won't touch
and it's just not true i'm a man-eater
all the same,
we should probably go dutch.

Careful kid with that wolf-whistle
you never know what you'll attract
and you shouldn't make noise
to which you wouldn't want to listen
what's good for the goose
is good for the...
gander back
and i'm packed
and i'm out before dawn
leave a tip on the sink,
all the staff they work hard
i hit rain, i hit sleet,
but mostly weather stays good
hit a deer on i-80,
fucked up the hood,
but you can't play for keeps
if you never draw blood.
you just brace and you breathe
you drive through the dust
you go through people and places
you hope the engine can take it
they get you up on the blocks
on a regular basis. but
innocence is overrated
based on what you haven't done
i don't need a poker face
open book, smoking gun
renegade agent,
i got no taste for their races
i run on whiskey and risk
and ennui and impatience

[repeat chorus:]

love is like liquor
it burns when it moves you
far as i figure
there's nobody fireproof
so thank you for the offer
it was truly kind of you
i'd take you up on it,
but just passing through
cause i talk way too fast
and i shoot from a glass
i keep poe in the glovebox
plath on the dash
and there's nobody shotgun
i got enough gas
to get vegas by daybreak
i'm not coming back
no i'm not coming back




On a small patio in the scorching sun at a roadside rest stop mcdonalds my sisters boyfriend menaced my girlfriend with a garden hose sprayer head that had been left out by maintenance and yelled Chicago Gangland Assassination at her in mock ruthlessness

My girlfriends brother and his friend from college talked about ugly man parts for approximately thirteen hours nonstop while in proximity of and or away from each others person

My girlfriends brothers college friends girlfriend was nineteen and crude

My girlfriends brothers college friends girlfriend threatened to queef on her boyfriends head after we all had assisted my girlfriends brother in burying his college friend in sand

My brother and his wife and his children and i made a sandcastle together by the shore with a moat and a suburb and a strange crater or rock quarryish landscape formed by the imprint of my brothers wifes butt

My nephew and his sister and mother were frightened when they thought they saw the sillhouette of a sting ray in a wave

No one wants to be remembered for dying like Steve Irwin

My girlfriend and her brothers college friend both agreed they had seen a seal while her brother and his college friend suggested that a pair of lifeguards in a rowboat had also seen a whale

The waitress at Pizza Mikes was very short with us and got into a verbal dispute with my brother over the most efficient way to bring him tartar sauce for his fish sandwich

We all postulated that the arhythmic banging coming from the four eighteen year old college boys who had displaced us from the guest house was the sound of a headboard involved in a sex act though no one recalled a headboard when we had been in the property the day before

The eighteen year old college students played a game wherein they dejectedly lobbed sandbags toward one another while their faces unpredictably shifted from grim disappointment to hard won victory for seemingly identical events leading me to conclude that they were deranged

Our rentor was also deranged but in the more harmless way of someone who missed the hippie revolution by a decade and now wishes to be seen as hip by the younger set while involving odd hours with drug addled sex crazed and pierced delinquents in her less than close kept personal affairs and generally dressing like a small dog owning shut in

Both places we stayed looked put together wrong and damp and godless

Everyone in Jersey is a prick

The sea was full of trash

Got burnt to fuck and death

Did not drink exactly the right amount

Would go again




it makes me uncomfortable because i don't understand it. i'm glad (s)he's happy. probably that's enough.




"The CNN commentator just called New Hampshire the 'LIE-ve, Free or Die' state."

"Really?" she asked. "Meaning what?"

"I mean that she said it like 'live' in 'live birth,'" I answered. "Rather than 'live' like 'Live and Let Die.'"

"Oh," she said.

"I think it was just an honest slip of the tongue."




He isn't sure when he started wearing the ski mask. The ski mask was definitely after the yard work glove. He remembers because after the hell his wife gave him for wearing one glove (with the elastic wristband, velcro strap, cutouts at the knuckles) the ski mask went down easy. At least when he wears that damn mask, she yells over the din of the tvs (four of them haphazardly piled one atop the other: a fools' tower of babel comprised of shrieking upset housewives and enthusiastic hirsute salesmen). There is plausible deniability and it spares her some of the grief. She pleads with an invisible police officer who has apparently wandered into the room. She has never seen that man in her life, she wails. Her mock innocence morphs into frustration as her gaze falls on a box of chocolate-covered raisin just outside the reach of her grabber. Now she needs him, he thinks.

His failed attempt at vigilantism is becoming a common topic of discussion around the condo. He leaves the fanny-pack in the glove box and the wiffle ball bat in the trunk. He's not ready to answer those questions yet. He has been drawing unemployment for two months. That is one method for measuring it.

Most superheros do something for the greater good, she yells. Fuck her, he mouths into the mirror on the outside of the bathroom door down the hall from her room. He leans in very close and says it just loud enough that he can barely hear it. The steam on the mirror charges up under his nose and leaves an angry wet dot. He turns the steamy smudge into a grimace and takes pleasure in watching the bullet hole of his noseprint dripping lazily down the vapor-man's stark visage. He tries to match it. He isn't convinced.

The youngest child opens the door an inch, shrieks and throws it shut. As the door closes he can make out two more children in the tub and a third standing on the toilet seat playing in the back of the tank. He heaves a great sigh, pulls the mask back down off his brow and snugly under his chin. He mumbles something about going to the store and smokes a cigarette in the Skylark instead. There are now only two left in the fanny-pack and the four flimsy matches in the Stop-n-Gulp book. Some clerk wrote 'you will die' on the inside of the matchbook. It's true.

The Skylark takes several minutes to warm all the way up, while various dash lights come on and off and the car makes noises like a motor boat regulating ballast water. Most times the light-headedness of the second cigarette wears off just as he's pulling out of the condo lot onto rural route 23, but today he waits til he's out on the open road to light up that penultimate dale. Terry's going to get it tonight, boy.