Week #35 – Loose connections

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is loose connections.

Tassel by Coleen Shin
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Related . by Len Kuntz

The man at the door was missing an arm, part of his jaw, and he smelled like a brewery.

He claimed we were related.

My wife had left me, my son was in college, so I let the man in.

When he asked if I had any alcohol, I brought out port. He said it tasted like goat urine, but polished off the bottle anyway.

He told me that, while in Iraq, an IED had ripped his vehicle into confetti. “It took my arm, half my face. I’m lucky to be breathing.”
We drank more. Finally, I asked, “So, exactly how are we related?”

“I’m Uncle Buck!” he said, slapping his thigh.

“Seriously? You’re my father’s brother?”

“Why would I lie?”

I requested stories about Dad.

He said my father’s horrible insecurities were what made him career-obsessed, eventually turning him into an alcoholic. He said Dad felt guilty for working so much, for not ever being present as I grew up. He said Dad loved me more than life.

“Really?”

“Oh, man,” he said.

There were more stories, each enthralling and semi-accurate, but then he had to go.

At the door, I asked, “Did you know Dad’s dead?”

“Figured.”

I hugged him hard. “Come back soon, Uncle Buck.”

He winced. “I’m not really your uncle.”

“I know.”

“Everything I said about your dad, I was just describing myself.”

“Figured.”

“So–you and I–we’re not, like, well, even related.”

I patted his good arm and said, “Maybe not directly.”

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Playground Mom . by Michael Webb

 

She was a playground mom. I didn’t know her name, in fact, I didn’t know her at all- it was one of those connections you make in life that is one spot above stranger, but several notches below anything you could call “friend”. We never spoke- she was always talking on her phone, whispered, urgent words. We would interact when I saw that her daughter left something somewhere- I would walk over and hand her the lost object, she would mouth, “thank you”, and then return to her phone call. She was someone I saw, and recognized, but didn’t know anything about. She was pretty, with curly red ringlets and porcelain white skin.

I heard his car door slam that day, jumping slightly at the sound. He marched across the grass, making a beeline for her. He was shorter than her, darker skinned, but he looked strong, like he had spent his life lifting things. He walked right up to her, standing very close, exchanging angry phrases, his face contorted, his finger pointing. She recoiled before him, not speaking. I was stunned when he suddenly fired a punch, hitting her nose, knocking her onto her back, blood spurting onto her designer sweatshirt. I got up to help her, do something, but he was already stalking his way back to his car, and she quickly gathered her charge up, blotting her nose with a tissue, and left.

I never saw either of them again.

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Welcome to our community . by Matt Potter

 

“Yeah, she’s a real slut,” many contestants’ mothers say.

“If he could only keep it in his pants, he’d probably be able to stay in the country,” others say about their sons.

I sit in my beanbag, sipping beer and semi-flaccid, watching the new dating show Loose Connections, previewing it for a local community TV channel. I have to give it its correct classification. So I’m the one who decides which large letter flashes on your TV screen, and if you should send your kids out of the room now.

To become a contestant on the show, people you know have to answer a series of questions about you: this includes people you’ve had sex with, people who’ve watched you have sex with others, people from your church, and your parents. (It’s a New Zealand production.)

Once you’re on the show, it’s downhill – or even further downhill – from there.

What sort of people will watch this new low in trash-TV? Sad fucks, that’s who; people who have nothing better to do than sip beer late at night while lying in beanbags trying to muster the energy to rub one off.

I put my beer down and looking at my clipboard of guidelines, close my eyes and stab the page with my pen. G, for general exhibition.

OK, it’s not a foolproof system. But I’m also on the station’s Publicity Committee and being so far down on the dial, we need all the publicity we can get.

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Fog . by Susan Tepper

My head’s been wired for sound. I told the docs not to do this. I said I don’t want to hear ANYTHING. They said you have to. You cannot go around with your head in a fog. I like the fog I said. I like the color and texture. I like that you can’t see two feet ahead in really good fog. I like how it conjures up the living and the dead. I like to walk the mountain road in fog. It’s a low mountain, but all the same.

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Lost Connections . by Susan Gibb

 

“Who?” I ask. I don’t recognize the name, can hardly make sense of it. The caller is crying.

She explains that we went to college together, were in the same dorm, but I don’t really remember her well. A picture pieces together, a flat, freckled face, sad eyes behind telescope glasses, a certain smell, like stale cigarettes mingled with Vapo-Rub. Marcy Johansson. Clown orange hair. I only saw her through our second year; I’m not even sure she graduated.

She wants to come over. I avoid it and agree to meet her downtown. I stop on the bank on the way to the cafe, one hundred dollars cash is all I’m willing to give her. I’m sure this is why she’s called.

I spot her; same flag of hair. “Hi, Marcy,” I say and sit down across from her. She’s drinking coffee and I order the same.

The story is one I don’t want to listen to, don’t want to remember. It’s been twenty years, and I never knew all the details, the remnants of a mistake. I realize now why I hadn’t seen her around the final two years.

“He was your son, too,” she says. Her eyes drip sorrow. “I thought you might want to know what became of him, that he was brave and died a hero. He was a good son. A fine young man.”

I give her the one hundred dollars and leave. I don’t know what else she expected.

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The Outlaw . by Robert Vaughan

 

I slice my pinkie while he watches me chop carrots in his kitchen.

He’s told me endless reasons why moving in would benefit Starr and me.

He’s a good man. Wouldn’t hurt us. I know this, I believe him. But my scars run deep.

He says who makes you laugh more than I do? He opens another beer, as I run cold water from the tap.

It’s true, this outlaw.

This curmudgeon.

He’s cuddly, fuzzy, just slightly crazy.

But does he drink too much?

The water runs over my finger, the cool liquid mixes with my blood.

I watch my future run down the drain.

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Sparks . by Catherine Russell

 

The flickering porch light had annoyed her for months, but when the hunky electrician started fiddling with her wires she didn’t mind one bit. “It was a loose connection,” he said and screwed the cover back into place. “But I think I’ve got it fixed.”

“I don’t know,” she answered in her silkiest voice, eying the collar of his shirt and his conspicuously absent wedding ring. “I think I saw some sparks.”

He looked at the light, glowing brightly in its glass sheath. “No, there aren’t.”

“I stand corrected,” she said.

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Tastes like Chicken . by Michael J. Solender

Brains and eggs was enough to give anyone pause, yet that’s what she wanted.

“Are you sure Lena? We can go down to Dianna’s, they have great Huevos.” I sounded whiny and plaintive, even to me.

“Look, you said I could have anything I wanted for breakfast, and that’s what I want.” She pulled on her sweater though was having trouble getting her bony head through the narrow opening. A shock of jet black hair preceded the “thwok ” sound I imagined her head making as it popped through her too tight sweater.

“And you’re going to rustle this feast up for us, but I need to run over to Piggly Wiggly and pick up the brains, you’re sure they have them?” I envisioned standing at the meat counter asking some shit-for-brains clerk if they had calf’s brains.

I was starting to get nauseous; my tenuous connection to this girl only mildly enhanced by last night’s aerobics was fading fast.

“Vann, you’re pathetic,” she said, picking up her keys and making a beeline for the door. “It’s a delicacy and you clearly aren’t up for it. You know food habits say quite a bit about a person.”

My appetite returning, I started to get dressed and thought about going to Dianna’s. Before I left, I unfriended Lena from Facebook.

Food habits do indeed say a great deal about a person.

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Mister Fix-It . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

She found him in the pantry, fly unzipped, tilting over the recycle bin.

“Oh Dad,” she said and led him to the bathroom. She hosed down the urine-soaked container, then returned to the bathroom with a clean pair of boxers. He sobbed into a terry towel. She rubbed small circles between his shoulder blades. Skinny like bird’s wings, she thought.

“For Cripe’s sake, I built this house,” he said. “You’d think I’d know where I put the goddamn can.”

She waited behind the closed door while he changed. He’d installed the second bathroom twelve years ago, during his one week of vacation. Lined up like ghosts on the front lawn, the second-hand porcelain fixtures had embarrassed her. Her father whistled the whole week, annoying Gershwin tunes between his teeth, happier than a hog in poop because he was banging away on a ‘project’. She could barely hem her surgical scrubs.

A string of obscenities punctuated the burbling water. She opened the door. The face cloth dripped in shaking hand, spattering his tee shirt.

“What the hell is wrong with me?”

“It’s the Parkinson’s,” she said. “The neurotransmitters aren’t quite connecting in your brain.”

“Harrumph.” He tilted his head at her, then shuffled down the hall. “My brain’s just fine.”

At dinner time, she found him in the basement. Back to the door, he didn’t notice her as he plowed through the toolbox.

“Loose screws, my ass,” he muttered. “Now where’s the goddamn philips?”

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The Terror, Seriously . by Catherine Davis

“I have a fear of becoming a bag lady,” I confess to my therapist. Embarrassed by the sound of my words in this walnut paneled library, two French doors to a balcony, I am thinking of throwing the paisley over my head – afraid that she might hit me. Here off Madison, with the I-don’t-give-damn threadbare oriental easing the situation, I’ve already shrunk into the worn leather sofa, nestled into velvet pillows.

“How do you plan to manage that, as you own a house?” in her flat no-nonsense tone, wry smile. I adore her: head of this preeminent institute, speaking engagements world-wide, four books. Also elegant, a mensch, and she likes me. How can I not win? I watch my fingers lace and unlace, chew the thickened spot inside my lip.

I want to say: I know!

Say: Still!

Say: Terror!

Instead, I exhale dramatically, shrug, catch her eye and reply: “I will FIND a way.”

She laughs richly. Game point mine, session over.

“Ha, hoodwinked!” Lisa hoots later over Chardonnay, leaning toward me, eyes aglow. “I hoodwinked ‘em all. Charmed their pants off. Why I quit going to therapy – once you get them that loose, no use.” Her diamond sparkles as she pursues a speck in her glass.

“But you know, I’m afraid of it, too. Bag lady: one of the foremost fears of women in Manhattan. True. They really should take us more seriously.” Down goes that last half glass, as she raises the finger of her other hand.

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Perhaps it is Time to Forget After All . by Thomas O’Connell

Frank took his wife’s car. His was in the shop. It seems that the whining squeal he would hear while stopped at traffic lights was not always some other car after all. Becky stopped him at the front door before he left, as if she wanted to tell him something. When he paused she seemed to forget, or think better of, what she meant to say.

“I was just wondering if the car had enough gas,” she said. “It, it does; never mind.”

Frank let the car warm up a while. He had thought he might need to scrape frost from the windshield but it wasn’t too bad and he decided to let the defroster do the work. After adjusting the mirrors he turned on the radio. He didn’t recognize the radio station. It wasn’t a station he had preprogrammed to one of the buttons. It wasn’t a station he thought his wife knew about. Frank wondered how she had discovered it.

It was some mellow station, playing the hits of the 80s, 90s, and today. They liked to talk about the weather. ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ came on the radio.

“ Awright,” Frank said, aloud. “Excellent song.”

He sat in the idling car listening to the song, enjoying the memories it evoked, no longer wondering where Becky had discovered the station.

In the glove compartment, beneath the registration and insurance card, was a pair of wooden chopsticks in a red paper sheath. Frank didn’t know about the chopsticks.

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No one, Really. . by Randal Houle

Meet Tom. He seems very middle-of-the-road, average. He works at Walgreens on the corner of Lake City Road and 145th in Seattle. His till is never off by even a penny. He greets every customer with the same inflection, offers the daily special, and then rings up the purchase. “Our daily special is two for five dollars…” There is no conviction in how he presents the options. If you say yes, he’ll ring up the purchase as if it were completely your idea. If you say no, he continues as if the conversation never happened.

After work, Tom dons a pair of large headphones that play Gregorian chant to drown out the city while he takes a bus during the wet months. In the summer, he walks the three miles to his one bedroom apartment. This summarizes Tom’s life for the last ten years.

“Our daily special is two cookies for three dollars.”

Go ahead, ask him something. “Are they any good?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never tried them.”

You pick them up and add them to the lot. Good job.

Later, Tom ends his shift. As he passes the counter with the cookies under the sign “Daily Special,” he swipes a package and slips it in his pocket. The checker doesn’t even notice. She never looks at Tom.

The next day, Tom fails to show up for his shift and no one remembers the last time they saw him.

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Resolution . by John Riley

Too often, Calvin’s willful head finds its way into his hands. He certainly does not want to feel his fingertips brush against his thinning patch of uncombed hair, but is seduced by the way the bulge of his forehead, the bony ridge that slightly protrudes from beneath the hairline, settles neatly into the cup of his palms. It is a comfortable fit, without need of a finger adjustment, although, if his shirt sleeves are the tiniest bit too short, his eyebrows, which are aggressively bushy, tickle his wrists. This slightly diminishes the consolation. A more critical problem the resting of his forehead in his palms gives rise to is that the ears are neglected. It is quite noticeable to Calvin, who lives alone in a house his aunt willed him, that within seconds of his forehead touching his palms his ears turn from pink to a flustered red with what he assumes is lonely frustration. The problem has not yet risen to a fever pitch, but one can never be too careful where the head is concerned. It is an apparently intractable problem, and any chance of resolving it escapes him. His only choice is to struggle to keep his head out of his hands, and he plans to grow more committed to the effort moving forward.

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Loose But Not Connected . by Deborah A. Upton

“He knows what he’s doing. He’s being mean to me,” Marian complained.

“No, he doesn’t,” Jamie replied. “His brain is like a sponge with
holes in it. He has Alzheimer’s. Don’t you understand what that
means? He can’t make connections.”

Reaching into the dryer, Marian pulled out freshly cleaned pajamas—the
same ones she had taken to the nursing home yesterday. She found them
this morning in the dirty cloth hamper in her husband’s room, still
neatly folded and in a pile. Now she had to do them all over again.

Spreading the pajamas out on the ironing board, Marion slammed the hot
iron down on the cloth, steaming more than the steam iron.

“If they wouldn’t keep losing his pajamas in the wash, I wouldn’t have
to be doing this myself at home.”

“Well, why don’t you quit buying him pajamas?” Jamie replied. “Then
when they lose them all, he’ll just have to go naked.”

Marian met her friend’s eyes, “I’d be tempted to, but….

“But what?” Jamie asked

“He keeps holding hands with Gracie.”

“What’s that got to do with pajamas?”

“He knows what he’s doing. He just wants to make me mad.” Marian
raised her hand to her temple.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”

“Something’s wrong.”

“Did you know if they would quit losing his pajamas I wouldn’t have to do this?”

“What are you talking about?”

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Blood Line . by Doris Dembosky

Somewhere in India or possibly Botswana a phone was ringing. It took Claire six or seven rings to swim to the surface of her deep sleep and realize that the phone was hers. Reaching out to her bedside table, she lifted the receiver and fumbled the phone. She picked it up off the floor. “Hello?”

“Is this Claire Donovan?”

“Yes.”

“You are never going to believe this, but my name is Ian Donovan, and I am your second cousin twice removed!”

There was a long pause while Claire yawned. Why would I want to talk to my second cousin twice removed when I don’t talk to my first cousins?

“Are you there, Claire?”

Claire plumped up her pillows. “I’m here, but to tell you the truth, I’m running late for work. I was just about out the door. This isn’t a good time.”

“Well, this will just take a minute. I don’t want you to think I’m some sort of nut case.” And then Ian took a deep breath and spit out sentence after sentence at breakneck speed. Cousin Claire was, after all, late for work. “My mother found your name on Ancestry.Com. She’s the one who found your name, but I Googled your address! Can you believe it? We live only five blocks apart! You’re on Willow and I’m on Chestnut! Isn’t that amazing?!”

Claire shut her eyes better to see her long lost cousin. It was a loose connection. She hung up.

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Personal Trenches . by Matt DeVirgiliis

He deployed for Iraq February 4th. A quick goodbye in Gmail. No mush; no bravery. Just see you in six. I marked each month’s anniversary with a countdown – 5 months left, 4 months, so on.

The headlines were my source of information and contact. Four Soldiers Killed in Baghdad read one. Seven Ambushed in Fallujah. I’d read them, look for his name, and maybe clip it out. It put me there; put me in touch with him.

After the first month, he emailed and gave me an update. He ran late-night patrols – left at about 1am – and got back around 2am Eastern Time. He said he’d be online more because Iraqis were taking the calls.  Poor bastards were losing legs, getting ripped in half; their parade now. So I’d stay awake until he logged onto Gchat, until I saw the little green light next to his name. Staring. Waiting. Sometimes he came on. Sometimes nothing. Worrying.

The months passed and the contact slowed. He was busy. I was busy. The articles became sparse. Other, better shit happened – Snooki punched a ho.

It had been weeks and I sat in the back of the theater as the credits for The Hurt Locker rolled up the screen. Others filed out, talked about the acting and special effects. I stared for a while. Bitch of a warWhere’s the sacrifice? They ate their popcorn, were entertained. I stayed up until 2 every morning. I wiped my damp cheek with my sleeve and left.

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THE POWER . by Marcus Speh

Walking down a dead end alley, a woman talks unkindly to her man. He looks hurt. The man thinks: Women! They think they have power over us because they have our children. – The kid between them keeps its eyes closed. It is, in this very moment, deciding if it should be a boy or a girl. Instinctively, the man shows his muscles. His wife’s eyes widen and she stops talking. The thought of sex grows between them like a desert flower out of dead soil when it rains. The kid suddenly screams: she is going to be a girl! The parents rejoice: a girl! The woman thinks: Men! They think they have power over us with their magical dicks. All three look at each other now. And listen.

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The Forgotten Puppeteer . by Nicolette Wong

In memory of Mick Karn (1958 to 2011)

The fretting hand sought
half-tone increments lost in the dreams of reason–
I threw my arms into the air while you stopped me
cold fire fanning at the corner of the room.

Don’t look back
at the forgotten puppeteer
jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjaaaaaaaaaabbbbbbyou said
for every pizzicato I have played
must be detachedjaaaaaaadevoid of its passages
and leave with me and my music
in the nautical twilight.

A dream guitar on my lap
I looked for you
all night.

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Miss Lamb’s Love Advice . by Michelle McEwen

Don’t worry about love— that’s what Miss Lamb says whenever her niece comes over weeping and wailing about some man. Miss Lamb is sixty-something and she’s through with love. Whenever she hears a woman talking about looking for love, her favorite thing to say is: “You looking for love? Why? I ain’t. All I want is a good night’s sleep.” Then she laughs and says, “Watch, once you get old like me, you don’t wanna be bothered.” Miss Lamb was engaged once, but the man tried to boss her around. That engagement lasted a year; she knew then marriage wasn’t for her. “I see it like this,” she once said, “the only women meant to be wives are fool- women.”

Yesterday, I was sitting in Miss Lamb’s kitchen— crying and carrying on (though this wasn’t my intention) about some good love gone bad. Miss Lamb rolled her eyes in her what-I-tell-you-‘bout-love way. She said, turning on her oven for heat, “I don’t deal with love, but one thing I know ‘bout love is really good love don’t go bad.” My tears stopped then. She took my hand, said: “You know when you got a good dress that fit you well? It’s tight in the right spots and no matter how much you wear or wash it, it stays fittin you the same. Well, a bad made dress will loosen up after a few washes— now that was a no-good dress from the start.” Miss Lamb knows what she’s talking about.

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Match . by Stephen Hastings-King

I want someone who is attractive and funny, who is kind and who gets me.

I want to curl up by a fire with a glass of wine/cup of coffee/dram of scotch and be mesmerized/lose myself.

I want someone to go to parties with, someone who speaks the same private language; a look from across the room and we would flee the scene and go make out in the car.

I want to share this beginning of a new beginning/chapter/adventure.

I want to trust you. Please do not hurt me.

I am well adjusted. I do not have baggage.

I want to be swept off my feet.

I know. I know. I read too many romance novels when I was young and while I no longer believe traces of that reader linger still and here, in this vast electronic space landscaped with billboards that lonely people make about themselves from kits, I feel free to tell you about the ways in which she lingers, you who are packets of 1s and 0s that shower through my image and bounce away.

Like the Lady Miss Kier, I believe in the power of love. I believe.

I have a lust for life.

I want a photograph.

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Tip & Ring . by Nicole Cartwright Denison

Doreen hadn’t spoken to her father since her last birthday, a year ago, when he’d called two weeks late. He thought he’d gotten the date right, was proud and chipper, his voice strong and cheery as he launched into his rendition. She’d sighed, waited for him to finish, acted like it was the actual day, finishing his sentences, allowing the charade to continue because it wasn’t worth the fight anymore. They’d hung up with the usual ritual of Elvis-voiced Take Care’s and Love You’s, the rhythm in her bones, so familiar and maddening.

This morning she thought of tire swings, treehouses, ponies— things he’d bought for her, her amusement, to keep her occupied, out of his way. The times he’d sent friends to fix flat tires, mailed money with no cards, the only time he’d visited her apartment noting the windows needed bars since it was the ground floor, the back door with its paned glass a hazard for a young woman alone.

This morning she remembered her mother, her death a wedge, her corpse inhabiting space between them, the only thing they had in common: a critical worship of Doreen. Guilt or joy, she could no longer tell them apart, washed over her like a frantic character in a Kate Chopin story. Freedom blanched everything, tainting the day, like a lifelong prisoner who has nowhere to go when released into the world.

That morning, she tried to pick up the phone but her hand hovered just above every time.

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Once in a Lifetime . by Al McDermid

Perhaps because we were not as deep into the impossible as we had thought, we found no dragons and so slipped back into our own reality. The Police had gone, but the car was still there.

I say, “This is not my beautiful car. You are not my beautiful wife.”

You say, “This car was never that beautiful. It was also never a Chevy, but never mind that. If I’m not your beautiful wife, which wife am I?”

I say, “Don’t know. You could be my beautiful ex-wife but for two points.” But I didn’t go on. I look at the car instead, wonder why it is not a Chevy. Was it ever a Chevy? I couldn’t recall.

You say, “And those are?”

Looking up, I say, “Are what? Please make sense, please?”

You say, “What are the two points that demonstrate that I cannot be your beautiful ex-wife?”

I say, “I give up. What are they?”

You say, “The two reasons I cannot be your beautiful ex-wife is that we’ve never met, and, having never met, we could not have married.”

I say, “Right. Stupid that. We would have made great exes. We could have had an affair or something. Do you know why this car isn’t a Chevy?”

You say, “We’ve driven that car as far as we could, and since we’re now out West, we should abandon it.”

I say, “Since it was never a Chevy, I guess we should.”

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Ariadne’s Thread . by Stella Pierides

I have wanted to learn to knit for a long time. My mother knitted, her mother crocheted and they both embroidered. For the first half century of my life, I bluntly refused to touch a needle. Then, out of nowhere, I felt the urge. I googled immediately.

I learnt that once a week, knitters, stitchers, and crocheters from all over London meet and knit together. Stitch by stitch, loop by loop, they aim to take over the world and turn it into a warm, benign, woolly place, where humans knit together, refreshed by cups of tea, glasses of wine, cream cakes, and scones.

Rich and poor ladies, ordinary women, Oxbridge blue-stockings, illiterates, persons of various religious persuasions, and origins gather under one roof to knit and teach the learners. For free! Is that for real? I asked. Come and see, they replied.

Armed with wool and needles, I went. The Festival Hall, bathed in sparkling lights lit up the river; it overflowed with good-natured crowds. The knitters sat clutching their instruments, fingering the wool. Wine flowed, fairy cup-cakes, scones flew into mouths to the tune of clicking needles. I felt lost to alpaca, mohair, merino, cashmere.

I am a beginner, I said. Welcome, they replied. Feeling a huge grin mark my face, I picked up my needles. At last, I had found my way home. Afterwards, it dawned on me: had Penelope really wanted Odysseus back, wouldn’t she have given him a thread to find his way home?

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Dubai On Ice . by Matthew A. Hamilton

When I see the ice hotel in
the middle of the desert
my eyes melt into nothing.

Oil money. Men die for it
so that other men can
showcase their plastic wives.

Men in black suits and white robes
tell me where to lay the pipe. They
point at charts and demand more profit.

Money is spent foolishly.
But what can I do? I’m a man
with no power or money.

My wealth lies within a loving wife
and two shoeless sons.

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Root . by Roberta Lawson

Transcendental meditation, (accidental astral projection,) past life regression, hypnosis. She’ll try anything – almost. Some days: anything. Just to remember the thing she has forgotten. The thing that must be, must be there; is scratching like flint against her relationships, is fragmenting her into splinters. The thing that should and needs to hurt (Her acupuncturist threads a needle into her sacral chakra – Does this hurt? – Yes.) She’s waiting to grieve. She’s hungry to grieve.

That bigger hurt, the one that caused this split. The one she needs to recapture in order to become her whole self again. Instead of pain there’s a disengaged space. Instead of that memory she floats. That thing that happened – must have happened. It’s a taste in her mouth, the sensation just before waking. It’s the short sharp lightning strike that sets her teeth on edge. It’s the thing that – if only she could remember – might stop owning her.

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Telephone . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Locked in the bathroom, all the pale woman could hear was his snoring and her own heart thumping. She scratched the pink polish off another nail and looked at her phone again. This time, there was a signal. She called one friend, then another. No one was picking up. She scraped the polish off her last nail, touched her bruised right eye, and tried again. This time, there was an answer.

Mike, Mike! You’ve gotta come get me.

Nina? I can barely hear you. The connection’s bad.

Mike, listen, you’ve gotta come pick me up. If you don’t, I’m gonna . . .

Honey, I can’t understand you, and it’s three in the morning. Call me back at a civilized hour?

Click.

Nina sobbed. Then, she took a deep breath, unlatched the door, and opened her knife.

Moments later, the man stopped snoring. The flat’s front door opened and shut. Feet in the hallway sounded like dancing.

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NESH . by Martha Williams

She had the ache of an arse upon her face again, that Mrs Riley, cuz the dog got out and fouled her path and she only went out in her slippers to shout at the boys in the field again, what with her having a greenhouse and them having a ball, and they were good slippers but even if they were boiled to hell, she’d not want them on her toes again for her feet to smell of dog… and even thinking on it reminded her, her corn needed doing. It should’ve been done before Christmas but the croppodist, she couldn’t come, cuz of the snow, wannit. As if anyone should call it snow, she’s seen bigger drifts of dust in church, pitiful it is, how down here they can’t cope with the smallest bit of ice or cold — they’d be called ‘nesh’ up north, tho’ doubt anyone knows what that even means down here, being as soft in the head as they are with the cold. So her corn’s all big and her foot’s all smelly and what with thinking about it all and trying to see where the dog went and the flying balls and expensive greenhouse, whose plants are all burned brown now anyway on account of the open window and the frost – soft, that gardener – well, that’s how she didn’t see the step and so she fell head-over and now she’s dead.

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It’s Nothing . by Martin Brick

Tabitha tried her key again and again, but the car wouldn’t start. The library had closed, her co-workers gone, but a vaguely familiar looking man tapped her window.

“Need help?”

“It won’t start.”

“Pop the hood. I’ll look”

“That’s okay. I can call a truck.”

“It’s probably distributor wires. I used to have one of these old Cavaliers. Happened all the time.”

He went to work and after a bit Tabitha said, “You look familiar,” to fill the silence.

“I come into the library a lot.”

“That’s probably it.” She peered around the hood to study his face. This made him nervous.

“Try it now.” He avoided eye contact.

It started naturally.

“Thanks. Let me give you something,” as she handled her purse.

“Forget it.”

She looked at him. He examined the ground. He told himself he’d watch her eyes, but it was harder than he thought. And he couldn’t bring himself to say his rehearsed line: “I’d better go, it’s a long walk for me.”

“I suppose that was an easy fix.” Her voice was now slow and searching.

“I better go.” He wanted to say the rest so she’d offer him a ride.

“Did you go to school around here?”

He did. Just like Tabitha. Sat behind her in Spanish. Maybe if he responded, “Si” she’d remember. 90% of the words he’d ever exchanged with her were in Spanish.

“Well, thanks,” she said getting in her car.

“De nada,” he responded after she’d driven off. “De nada.”

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Going Home . by Dawn Armstrong

She’s crashing. It’s not a mechanical or a drug induced crash. On the contrary – it’s a crash that could be stopped by pharmaceuticals. The right one in the right dosage, of course. She’s sick of experimenting. You see, she has a loose connection in her brain. The wires don’t connect and her emotions short out. At times she feels like her world has been pulled out from under her and her heart has been pulverized into bits. The mental ache is often accompanied by a feeling of intense, searing pain that courses through her body. Other times she feels nothing at all, a blankness, like looking into a pitch black ocean at night. She feels as if the water is beckoning her to come in. It calls out to her as a mother calls out to her lost child. Those are the times she should worry. But she can’t because she has no sense of feeling, no awareness of fear. This is the nature of her crash right now. This is the time she could walk right into that ocean and go home.

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Anemone . by Guy Yasko

She’s ripped the elastic from all her waistbands. The loose threads wave like anemones. I am paralysed. My eyes are too heavy to roll, my arms too heavy to move. I cannot lift my head.

Miriam wants to argue. Worlds within worlds she says. Maybe. Like the paisley in paisley on her pyjama bottoms. She holds her pyjamas with one hand as she changes the dog’s water. The water sloshes. Her pyjamas fall. I see the muscles moving under her skin. I shut my eyes.

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Darkness Closing In . by Kim Hutchinson

For 22 years, they rode the same bus. He was the man with the winter Fedora, the one who always dressed neatly, wore polished shoes and spoke with a nineteenth-century flourish. She was a bookkeeper; she appreciated tidiness. She also read romances, so she liked that he had a little flair.

They exchanged pleasantries and smiles. He knew that her name was Eloise and that she lived on King Street. His name was Abe; he came and went at the 20th Street stop.

On Fridays, they talked of their weekend plans. He liked to follow the tall ships and attend military tattoos. She liked museums and open-air concerts.

For a year and a half, he mentioned a wife. When he stopped mentioning, Eloise didn’t ask.

Last Friday night, Abe almost missed the bus home. He had to run to catch it, which made him breathe a little too hard as he passed by without noticing her. She thought she smelled a whiff of drink. He rode at the back, standing up. As he exited, he turned on the step and called out “Good-bye, old bus! Farewell, fellow commuters. I’ve retired today.”

She watched as he walked a little unsteadily down the sidewalk, the darkness closing in on both of them.

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Hector’s Car . by Melissa McEwen

Covington Street is a narrow street; it has no yellow line on its pavement and Hector (who lives at the end of Covington) speeds down it as though he is fleeing the cops. His station wagon makes so much noise and is so wide it takes up half the road. Although it rattles like he’s got lots of loose parts in the trunk, Hector drives it like a race-car. It sounds as if it will fall apart as soon as it rounds the corner. And even though he fusses with his car all day on Sundays, it never sounds any better. Covington Streeters shake their heads and say, “Now, why doesn’t that boy just get his car fixed?” Others say, “Or sell it.” But they don’t mean it. Hector’s station wagon is part of the community like a long-time resident. In summer, he blasts his music loud and no one complains or calls the cops; they open their windows and dance. And in the early early-morning, when he goes to do whatever it is he does, Hector’s noisy car is to the folks on Covington Street what roosters are to the folks in the country. And they yawn and stretch without even looking at the clock.

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Chalky goes to night school and studies the Classics
by Walter Bjorkman

Distinguished Classics Professor:

“Theseus walked through the maze to the Minotaur’s lair, sent there to slay the beast, saving Athens from having to send 7 virgin men & 7 virgin women as an offering every 9 years, when the full moon falls on the equinox.”

Night Student Chalky:

“It doesn’t make any sense. This Minos guy gets cuckolded by a bull, I can hear the jokes now:

‘Minos, Pasiphae and a bull walk into a bar . .’

‘How many Cretins does it take to screw a Pasiphae? . .’

And I don’t even want to think about Aethra shtupping Posiden and Aegeus at the same time. Then that Daedalus – he builds a maze that only he knows the way out of? That had to be a scam to get the virgins for himself – maybe Icarus was in on it too.

Then we got Ariadne – she was supposed to be a real babe, ’cause Theseus is willing. Well, the choice is take her help and get hitched, or get eaten alive. She could’a been the second coming of one of LBJ’s daughters and I know I’d do it!

Finally Theseus’ pop, Aegeus. So the kid forgets to raise the flag as he sails in to show he is alive, and Aegeus throws himself to the fishes. Like I called my pops everytime I said I would – he didn’t take a header off the Brooklyn Bridge!

I tell ya – they all had a few loose screws!”

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Old Haunts . by John Wentworth Chapin

The Ancestors confront The Writer. “Why do you write filth?” they howl – the very timbers quake.

The Writer drinks in their longcoats, sabers, powdered hair. It’s not… well, not all filth.

“April 12, 1986!” thunders a corseted woman with an eyepatch, waving folded yellow legal paper: “Fellatio, drunkenness, bestiality, and six blasphemies!” A man in black frock with buckled boots nods, glowering.

That was a fake letter, a joke…

“He thinks it not filth if a joke!” The gentleman in dingy Civil War-era military garb hisses, the blue or gray faded to a judgmental charcoal. Someone belches fire somewhere; brimstone and sulfur creep hot down The Writer’s throat.

Uh… yeah, that one was filth.

The Writer’s mind races. Nothing he has written comes forth; all he remembers is sitting with a pencil, a pen, a typewriter, a laptop, an iPhone, words and images spilling over the lip of his mind like so much lava, too hot to touch but oh so tempting. He thinks of houseplants blooming in January, doe-eyed pets on his lap, lovers in blissful repose. Dappled sunsets…

“Well?” croaks a woman in rags, shaking her fists. “You think we have eternity?”

The Writer begins to object… Every time I go to write about beauty, I hear you scoffing at my weakness. He doesn’t speak a hurtful truth: I write about your weakness.

The Writer clears his throat: “You have written yours. Be still.”

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Big World . by Michelle Elvy

Partied with Walt under his
backyard breadfruit tree
John cut del, cadaver labia
met mopey Leonard smelling of dollar store shampoo
glycerine temporality, delicate and plastic
a fictitious Mount Richard
caramel puddings sticky with salt
>caramel pbalanced
on a blue-balled piñata-man

Over there, cop saves guy he thinks a thief
by the water, two naked girls ready for anything
a woman rushes in, her dim date living
in smoky oblivion

Another sees gray,
holding a box of watercolors
while a man moos melodious to his clapping daughter
Cinnamon girl’s smirking
at stinky kid lurking
near a guy with a plate of chorizo

Merkelmutter’s not sleeping
and an EMT holds a hooker’s hand sweetly
Telephone rings — Lady Gaga –
business bitches here, too

Someone recalls the Fenway fondly
his cracked head like earthquakes in EnZed
Joe’s freezing on the ledge
and a boy punches kid Cody

Then: we all peer into an octopus’s garden

Rabbitfoot falls off a cliff
Boa wraps round a supple neck
Manx-Cat-tats flex
while man on street awaits woman in Benz
whose bad haircut perches perfectly
atop her small head

Now: music, language, Gilgamesh, Odysseus
Postcard-memories Bahamian seashells
Postcard – poetry in a grain of sand –
but not for the girl who marries a man
whose wilderness is deeper than her own

Meropi’s on time her goat’s bell’s chiming
and now I’m climbing
above clouds of the Tararuas

or descending into oblivion
connecting with the void
snow on a hot cheek
then
snow on– KAPOW! –
I float away to today

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52|250 thanks Coleen Shin for her artwork for this week, “Tassel”

Comment on “This Week’s Art”

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Filed under Wk #35 - Loose connections

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