Category Archives: Guy Yasko

Sometimes I feel like Charlie Brown by Guy Yasko

– Strike three!

Some you win, some you lose. Only these days it’s more like “You
lose.” Period.

– How much?
– Eight for the beers and fifty for the bet.

I slide three twenties across the bar.

– See you tomorrow, Chuck.
– Don’t think so, Bill.
– Oh, you know you’ll be here.
– Fuck you, Bill.
– See you tomorrow.

I hate myself.

.

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Death in the Afternoon by Guy Yasko

– Bobby! Bobby! I’m home. You call Liston yet?

– Bobby?

Must be gone. Curtains closed. Sunlight through curtains, like when
you’re sick.

– oh.

No color. White? Blue? Not breathing.

What do you do when someone dies? Call 911? He’s already dead!
Chrissake. Have to call anyway? Bureaucracy of death. Police? They’d
know.

You have a drink, that’s what you do. Mark the occasion. What though?
His stuff? Not me, not now. Not even. Stuff from Sandy: Calvados. What’s
that, Spanish? Good enough.

Got what he wanted — or did he? Spite? Escape? That’s it? Ran away from
me, now life. Fuck him. Me, this what I wanted? Don’t know. No. Not
really. Waste of my life, too. Gone now.

.

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No. 66 West by Guy Yasko

I am accustomed to sheriff’s deputies, Jehovah’s witnesses and
partiers looking for 66 East.

This caller is different:

– Do you mind if I have a look around? My happiest days were in this
apartment. It had such positive energy for me. Didn’t you ever wonder
about this doorknob? I put it on. Don’t you love it?

I let her in. Her voice echoes off bare walls. There is nothing but
apartment, me and her.

.

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Monsoon dialectic by Guy Yasko

I write naked. It is too hot to do otherwise.

Tomorrow will be the same: high skies, relentless sunshine, token
clouds. There is no hope for change, not until the monsoon dialectic
generates its own destruction.

My neighbours take refuge in air-conditioning and ghost stories. I
take cold showers and dream of thunderstorms.

.

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Tainted Love by Guy Yasko

– Would you mind turning that down?

– In a minute. I’m listening.

– 80s pop was all about record company hegemony and falling microchip
prices.

– I don’t care. I like it. Try the broccoli.

– Broccoli, the easy-to-ship vegetable, the logistically-friendly
vegetable. You need something like that when you’re getting rid of local
producers.

– Do you enjoy anything?

– I enjoy you.

– Do you really?

.

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Bluebird by Guy Yasko

I wake to the rain on metal roof. I want coffee and breakfast, but i’m
not ready to be wet, not yet. I move up to the driver’s seat. Why not? I
check the mirrors. There’s nothing to see; too many raindrops, too many
blackberry bushes.

Dexter’s books are on the dash, some half-open, spine-up. I peek. The
feeling of excitement disappears in the teachings of Don Juan. I fall
asleep.

When i look up there is a woman at the door. She doesn’t knock. I crank
open the doors. Rain drips between us.

– I was looking for Dexter.

– Not here. Check his place?

– Not there either.

– Well, come in out of the rain at least.

.

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Dans la lune by Guy Yasko

I

She is drawing the hermit from Led Zepplin IV in the margin of her
dictée. The hermit’s lantern illuminates a forest of misplaced and
forgotten accents.

I stare at her legs. Her toe rise and fall with her pulse. I look at
the clock on the wall and count. Fourteen times four is 56.

Surprisingly low.

II

Paris Match:

Mastroianni et Deneuve. Depardieu et Deneuve. Bardot et Deneuve. Une
semaine avec Deneuve.

Deneuve, Deneuve…

III

All details of my environment are gone. All i know is that i am warm.

A voice calls my name:

– Etienne, Etienne.

Each syllable seems louder.

– Etienne, s’il vous plaît, répondez à la question.

– Umm…Je ne sais pas, Madame.

.

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Popillia japonica by Guy Yasko

I look at her, admiring how she has aged. Better than the sunset.

She watches the roses.

– Goddamn beetles.

– Another gin and tonic?

No answer.

I want one. I go inside for more ice.

When i return she is picking beetles from the roses. She tosses them on
the patio and crushes them underfoot. Brown stains spread from broken
shells.

.

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The wall by Guy Yasko

He takes a brown bag to the office. Makes him look frugal and he gets to avoid people. Why do it if you have to rub elbows with them? Besides, it’s part of the job description. You can’t do the work, can’t even get there without the wall.

Problem is the brown bag doesn’t last forever. Calls, meetings and a guy wants to eat. He takes the tunnel. He thinks of the fury above and smiles. No one is the wiser.

His men are waiting on the street. He pulls his collar up, adjusts his hat. Why take chances? He sees the lights and presses his pace. He counts his steps. …31 32 33.

33. He exhales. The room is warm but silent. A murmur begins. The volume increases as he walks to his table. He sits to a chorus of boos.

.

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To the core by Guy Yasko

Crumbs of sand fall into the footprint. The wind pushes streams of sun
dried grains through its crenels. She can still read it as her
own. Tomorrow it will be only ‘footprint’. No matter. There will be
today’s prints and the next days.

She turns to the empty sea to absorb the sun, then walks along water’s
edge, past dunes, over bleached trees.

At the black rocks she finds an apple core, white in the sea water. A
crow cries from the forest.

.

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It all starts with respect by Guy Yasko

Another one. She files it with the others, all unopened, all in
alphabetical order: AT&T, Bank of America, Clerk of Courts…

She closes her eyes, then opens them to the row of eggcups above the
desk. Time to rotate? No, not the first yet. She moves the bunny to the
end, then reverses herself. Several delicate adjustments return the
display to harmony. She meditates on the arrangement and rotation, then
corkscrews away from the desk.

She hesitates at Linda’s door, then peeks in: laundry unfolded, book
open on the bed. Chaos.

– Wayne! Wayne, honey.

– Yeah.

– Wayne, i need you to be a father to your daughter.

– What does that mean?

– The pastor said she was late for bible studies.

– What do you want me to tell her?

– That it all starts with respect. Respect for us, respect for herself,
respect for others.

.

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Trois coïncidences impliquant la langue français by Guy Yasko

I

a

– Eric, you need to get school.
– I know, Mom.
– Got your books?
– Your French homework! Honestly, Eric — and after all that sturm and
– drang.

Books in hand, door slammed, feet down steps, angle of toast hanging
from mouth. Out the door, around the corner. One two steps into the
alley.

a’

8:48, late. Alley to Riverside. Garbage. Like mountains. Can’t see.

Schoolkid. Dead?

II

– Ma tête me fait mal.

– What?

– Non, j’ai pas de faim. Impossible de manger avec ce mal de tête.

– We don’t speak French, Eric. Why are you speaking French?

– Laisse moi tranquil, maman.

–Someone call Judy.

– I don’t care if she is working. This is her nephew.

III

Seeking couscous, i become aware of being interpellated. It’s Eric. He
speaks nonstop in either Italian or English; English to me, Italian to
everyone else. He’s lost, but will not listen to directions. I take him
to the Jewish Quarter in a taxi. I interpret.

– Deux sandwiches falafel s’il vous plaît.

He is a stream of Italian the next day at the Gare du Nord.

– You’ll miss your train.

I push him on. He is still talking as the train leaves.

.

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CAD20 by Guy Yasko

It is the dogshit thaw, with the trees still bare, the grass still
dead. Black-ringed snow lines the streets. Head down under grey skies
and greyer thoughts: pea soup, shit job…

Dirty, dead-green grass offers up a swatch of blue-green. The queen, a
twenty. Coffee, a few hours in a warm café, tea, milk, ham…

All gone in an hour or two. Tomorrow there will be no twenty.

.

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root access by Guy Yasko

I like my cubicle. I have my sunshine, my tea cup and my figurines:
Jabba the Hutt, Chewbacca — all the good ones.

But what i really like is logging in. Push the button, type, return,
enter the circle. I can do things. I’m wanted. I belong.

Then i think i could do more, be further in. I want more.

.

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Speed by Guy Yasko

People ask me what i think about when i run. They want to hear ‘sex’ or something. I say ‘nothing’.

I ran cross country once. Thoughts ran me down. Everytime. Same with
them. Bunch of nervous wrecks.

Now i run in circles, 400m. In school they said drugs don’t work:
problems are still there when you’re done. I know. I still want speed.

.

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Center St. by Guy Yasko

We would like to thank Guy Yasko for his painting for this week, Center St. Here is what he had to say:

This is a view of my hometown. I wasn’t happy with the way the shadows were working out and stopped working on it. Fortunately, that left the building in the middle a ghostly shell of a building — which it is.

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Sunrise by Guy Yasko

I

He wakes with the sun over the dashboard. He checks the mirror: still sleeping. He decides not to pee.

He looks across the river. He’s never been.

No papers, no money, no reason to go. Just be looking at this spot from over there.

II

The dogwalker watches the tug churn upriver. The low morning sunlight flashes back east. A nova? He looks: just a car window on the other side.

He thinks about the last time he crossed — mostly for the duty free:
Six bottles and only two of us. Let us go.

The dog pants and pulls against the leash.

Out of gin.

– Time to go, Coco.

.

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Linens by Guy Yasko

I like my pillowcases and sheets. The colours are like mustard and
ketchup. The animals are friendly. The seal balances a beach ball on its
nose. The lion is smiling. He waits for orders. The giraffes and
elephants march side by side. The ringmaster’s whip stays on the
ground. Everything is in the right place.

Larry has the same sheets, but i don’t get the same feeling. His room
is sunny. He has the best dad ever. It’s different at my house.

.

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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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Signs by Guy Yasko

I missed the significance of the death rattle. I knew Mary was dying — of course — but i missed the signs. “The end is nigh.” I should have known. Birth was the same: a series of steps which i was able to piece together as a whole only after the fact. At least i had a child at the end of it. I never worried that i had missed a sign that midwives or obstetricians pick up. Who cares? But with death, i felt that i had missed all of them — and that it mattered.

Why? What was to be done? Hold on tighter? I told myself i wanted her to float away, to skip over it all. The problem is that death is something to be lived through.

.

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Texas City by Guy Yasko



Now that one over there, she’s more my type: little dangerous. See the
eyes, the mouth? Stormy — but that’s because there’s passion.

Don’t mind if i do. Thanks.

Logistics — operations, container shipping. No, you wouldn’t. You
really wouldn’t. It was just as boring in Vietnam. Different ports,
different stuff, same old shit. Been doing it too long to get out. I’m
supposed to keep a lid on costs. Sure. Goes without saying. But you tell
me if some pissant jiggering of operations is going to get you going in
the morning. Don’t think so. No.

Me? Because there’s always the chance that something will blow. You
wouldn’t believe the shit they put in these things: You have your
weapons, your fireworks, lithium cells, pistachios, nuclear waste,
ammonium nitrate — there’s a classic for you. Ever hear of Texas City?
Blew a couple planes out of the sky. You get containers of that stuff
and you’re checking on that ship every five minutes. They’d can me for
sure. Out in a blaze of glory.

You?

.

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Silence by Guy Yasko

The couple exits the lobby and its Christmas music and steps into the
grey. They cut across the parking lot and disappear into a row of
snow-coated cedars. They follow the path between fields, past empty
lodges. The sky darkens. They stop.

– When are you coming back?

He stares at horses in the field beyond the fence. The horses are
completely still. How do they stand the cold?

– Do you love me?

He looks at her and sees the snow falling on her hot cheek. He resists
the urge to brush it off.

.

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Off the grid by Guy Yasko

The bus slices through the grid, leaving six way intersections in its
wake. Inside, the boy holds his hand to the window and looks for a
street sign. His sister sits beside him and says nothing, her legs
swinging with each pothole.

The bus stops and idles. The boy hasn’t seen the sign.

– Harlem Ave, as far as we go, folks.

He has read of this place, on bus signs and route maps. It seemed
impossibly far away. He holds his limp transfer in his hand and waits
for a bus to take them back. Headlights tease, but no bus appears.

– Let’s walk.

His sister says nothing.

At the next stop, he doesn’t bother to look back. They walk on, past the
silent airport, past alphabetical streets.

– I’m tired.

The boy puts her on his back. She feels lighter when Ls turn to Ks.

.

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Urban decay by Guy Yasko

His walk is a catalogue of resentment. The old places are gone. There is
no one left to go to them.

Josef swings wide to avoid the sidewalk café tables, but not wide enough
to miss the conversation:

– We close on the 11th.

– Condo?

– Yes.

– Assholes.

No one hears.

The joggers are faster in front of the Paris Star. Their eyes focus on
points far away, anything but the words “Danseuses Nues”. Mothers tug
stalled children homeward. Even the dancers themselves make a beeline to
the door before ducking in. Not Josef: “Let them see me.”

At the bar, he argues hockey. He has one beer and leaves.

.

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K by Guy Yasko

I

I have a K in the palm of my hand. It’s there because the Y-top of a
cyclone fence makes Ks in human hands. I can play ninths and tenths with
my left hand, but not even an octave with my right. I live with it. What
else can i do?

II

We had played together all day, but when i cut my hand, i ran away from
him. I sprinted up the alley holding my wrist, stomped up the wooden
steps of the back porch, and pounded on the door. No one. The woman from
upstairs took me to the hospital. I don’t remember Johnny being there,
though he must have been.

III

I was the last to hear. The news passed through friends, in laws, a
librarian and finally my wife: “Johnny is –.” She never finished her
sentence.

.

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Apple Branch by Guy Yasko

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The Editors of 52|250 thank Guy Yasko for his drawing, Apple Branch. Guy likes to work in media that doesn’t allow for reworking such as brush and ink and watercolour.

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Argonaut by Guy Yasko

The closing door chokes off the roar of the party. Interesting. He tries
it again. Same effect. He can see his breath in the bedroom. He pulls
his sleeves down and considers crawling under the pile of coats on the
bed.

– Drunk, drunker than i thought. Boots where are my boots?

He sits on the bed and tries to remember. His eyes spin upward to the
bookshelf. A code: The gift triste-tropiques suicide distinction homo
academicus the postcard. His coat sleeve beckons from the pile and
triggers memories of his boots.

Out on the street, hands thrust deep into pocket and collar turned up
against the wind, he announces:

– Dilettantes. Derrida for dilettantes.

The judgment promises to echo off the brick, but dies in the cold. There
is only the crunch of cinders under boots.

.

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Parisian Nautical Object by Guy Yasko

.

“I found this object at a marina in Paris, near the Bastille metro stop. I became obsessed with it, and went to the marina every day for a couple weeks trying to capture what was so compelling about it. Now, years later, I’m more interested in the city and the sky in the background.”

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Lemma by Guy Yasko

Ladies and gentlemen, i put to you that the runes are intelligent
texts. By ‘intelligent’ i mean something more than the physical trace of
intelligent beings, but being itself. As you know, opening oneself to
the runes brings one to a certain set of thoughts, as if one were
reading. This is no doubt the reason we refer to them with textual
metaphors, as ‘runes’. What do readers experience? Their own
memories. Nothing more. And yet every reader agrees that there is a
certain abstraction to the sequences and play of memories, a certain
patterning. Readers liken it to the visual patterning of migraine
headaches. We can only imagine. There is also the sense that memories
used by the runes are no longer one’s own. I have long considered such
statements mere paranoia. No longer. Our interviewers — whom we have
insulated from the runes — now experience a similar patterning of
memories, a similar paranoia. Something has been transmitted from
readers to interviewers, something with origins in the runes.

.

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Portrait of the artist as an old man by Guy Yasko

I

Harry’s cut is a two-step bowl: flat across the bottom straight up the
cheek, straight across the eyes, then straight down the other cheek.
Harry says it’s from Mussolini’s guards. In truth, it was unconciously
inspired by a cut on a buxom brunette in the stack of Playboys
underneath the cash register. It lives on in school photos, similarly
sequestered in attics and box bottoms, and in laughter and shame.

II

– He made the trains run on time.

– Bullshit, Harry. You left. What do you know about it?

– Get out.

– You’re not done.

– Get out of my shop.

– Finish your job, then i go.

Harry spreads his left hand across the customer’s face and holds him
against the chair. In his right hand he holds his razor against the
man’s throat.

– Get out of my fucking shop.

III

Harry swats at flies. He checks the sky above 12th St. and thinks
about low- ering the blinds. A curve swings through the city’s
parallels and orthogonals. His son-in-law’s brother’s bride. He went
to the wedding. What an ass.

– I’m going for a coffee.

– OK, Harry, i got you covered.

The light at the corner turns red. She stops, eyes fixed on the light.
Harry pulls up beside her and pinches her nipple. She laughs.

The light turns green and she crosses. Harry stays on the corner.

.

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The Sisyphean table by Guy Yasko

I see you start with the pickled vegetables. That probably means one
of two things: either you like them or you don’t. Are you trying to
get them out of the way, to clear your palate for what you prefer, to
justify pleasure with suffering? But can you be certain you’ll get to
the pleasure? There is a small chance that you will die before
reaching what you like. Unlikely, yes, but would you want to go out
with an unpleasant taste in your mouth? In any case, a proper host
will replenish your supply. Deferment of pleasure then becomes
infinite. You fill up on what you dislike, or even if you do like
something, you’ll pickle your tongue and you’ll lose your taste for
any of the more delicate entrées. And in any case, as a proper guest
you’re too polite to say that you don’t like something. Don’t tell
me. I know already: it’s all simply wonderful. More wine?

.

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The gathering by Guy Yasko

.
Child one slumps in his chair; only his head is above the table. Child
two hovers behind the diners, giggling with her cousin.

– We’re leaving.
– Which car are you taking?
– We’ll walk.
– Come on you two. We’re going.

Out of the gathering, out the farmhouse door, onto the road.

– It’s hot.
– It’s not that hot. Let’s go.
– Where?
– Cemetery. We’ll see your uncle. You haven’t been there, have you?
– No.

Down to the crossroads, over the bypass, past the new houses.

– Can’t you walk faster?
– We’re tired.
– I guess so.

The children poke at ants with their sticks. Father waits under the gate.

– Where is it?
– I think it’s just over the top of the hill, on the other side

It isn’t.

– She was my friend’s mother.
– He ran the paint store.
– He was my teacher’s husband.

They find a grave from 1835, but they don’t find Uncle.

.

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Going Galt by Guy Yasko

By 8:20, i’ve made it to exit 307B — good time for a Thursday — but
it’s backed up from there. A long line of cars inches down the on
ramp. I watch from my lane. Each driver waits for the green, then rolls
forward to shoehorn into the right- most lane. It’s all codified,
ritualised — like the dance of bees. I see an SUV waiting its turn. Its
bumper sticker announces that someone or something is “Going Galt.”

– The hell you are! You’re sitting here in traffic with the rest of
us. Why? Because you have to get to work by nine!

I marvel at the irony. Who wouldn’t? Then i think negating something
because it’s stuck in traffic or because someone is going to work might
also be a fantasy. I mean, how long can this go on?

.

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The day is long by Guy Yasko

She waits for him all day. Where does he go? When will he be home? Why
does he leave me?

She didn’t think about him when the sun was out. She sat in the window and watched the birds in the bare trees. She watched pigeons take in the sunset on the roofs above the street. When night fell, she
burrowed into the covers on the mattress.

She hears the door open, then his heavy tread and his home-from-work sigh. She cocks eyes and ears and watches the kitchen. He takes a cabbage half from the cupboard and attacks it with brobdingnagian bites. She winces at the vegetable smell and the sound of saliva sucked between teeth, tongue and half-chewed cab- bage. She burrows into bed once more and shuts her eyes, only to be woken again by his arrival on the mattress. She listens for his breathing to slow, and when it does, she settles herself into the hollow of his chest and purrs.

.

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Synecdoche by Guy Yasko

They follow the wolf’s tracks over the dune, past the point’s wind-bent
tree. In the fog, the forest’s edge is a wall which hides something
larger, some unseen threat. The trees themselves are haunted by mist
threading between their branches. And beyond the fog, beneath the
waters, lurking in the kelp, under the cover of surf’s roar? Who put the
sticks in the sand?

“Let’s go.” says the girl as she takes her brother’s hand.

.

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Through the plate glass by Guy Yasko

Alice thought of Dean and Duncan as rivals. She had no idea what they
thought. She had never asked. She goaded them because she felt more
secure, more herself when they fought. “This is what Alice is supposed
to do.” She liked the diversion. She knew she would miss it if it were
gone. Would she find herself fighting with one or both? Where would that
lead? At least she knew where their arguments went. It was safer that
they fight.

But what if they didn’t? She had seen them through the bar window, their
eyes fixed to the game, sharing cigarettes, eating peanuts from the same
bowl. She watched through the window until she noticed they were
cheering the same team.

.

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Catacombs by Guy Yasko

I

The last time I was in Paris, I slept next to a piano and ate with
sopranos. I painted the bridges. (Everyone does.) I sketched in cafés
and bars.

– May I see it?

– Yes, of course.

II

We walked through Montparnasse and sat on a bench in January sun. “I
want to die there.” I meant another place, where she was from. I held
her hand.

III

I ran to answer when the phone rang. Wet footprints from the shower. I
told her I’d visit. I said I’d write.

.

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Take my identity . . . please! by Guy Yasko

— Let me tell you about e. Now, all the other numbers say e is lucky;
they admire her natural-yet-transcendental qualities. But she herself
will tell you that having been raised by i and π, she can be a negative
one. She thinks “hey, when i was in a relationship with some one with a
multiplicative identity, it all ended in a big zero.”

— It’s like a Niagara attraction. You take a koan, something that should
be approached circumspectly, meditated upon and turn it into a dumb
joke. Euler’s identity is a thing of beauty. Why should those numbers
relate, and relate so elegantly? And yet they do: e + 1 = 0.

— That is the dominant aesthetic, yes. Numbers are the servants of the
state apparatus, the lackeys of engineers and of capital. And what is
not bourgeois banality is sublime genius, utterly apart from the
workaday world, the product of an intellectual asceticism. It’s a kind
of piety. I want laughs. I want drama, mud-wrestling, eating
contests…

— If i can’t enjoy Euler’s identity, i don’t want a part in your
mathematics.

— Who’s not enjoying it? I am. Just in a different way.

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Kanashibari by Guy Yasko

The wind pushed from the tunnel tells the commuter to close his book
and tuck it away. A figure in red bisects the newly vacated block of
space and consciousness. The commuter understands immediately: the
figure’s speed and trajectory imply intersection with the train. And
yet only the suicide moves. No one makes a sound.

The commuter tells himself that he is no Lord Jim, that no one was
responsible, but rationalisation opens into memories of the
platform. Paralysis revisits with each replay. The train is too close,
the man too fast and too far. He sees it as if on graph paper, the two
vectors narrowing the horizons of imagination to the point where no
action has meaning.

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Numbers by Guy Yasko

– I cannot pass this on. You understand why — or don’t you? I don’t
know sometimes. I can’t spell it out for you. You know that.
Nevertheless, I still need you to understand. And if you can’t or
won’t, we’re going to have to find someone who can.

– I understand.

– I’m not convinced that you do. Let me put it this way: We survive
here so long as you and I keep our superiors happy. You know what
makes them happy. Go do it.

– Numbers are numbers. Rules are rules.

– Then make them someone else’s problem! Regulations need to be
followed — maybe — but it doesn’t need to be us who follows them.

The numbers slide from their cells, leaving hollows and balances. A
fiction renders them homeless: they leave for cells in other
spreadsheets. Instead, the wind deposits them as an invisible film over
everything outside the books.

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Sleepwalk by Guy Yasko

I

From behind broken glass the morning sky reads time to go. The
Undergraduate pulls himself off his mattress and splashes himself with
cold water from the sink above the stairs. On his way down from the
attic he steps only above the risers, stepping easier once out the door
and on concrete. He heads up the street, across the schoolyard, on to
the footpaths through the park. The sequence and spacing of mud and
puddles reminds him he used the same paths as a schoolboy. Past the
park, he walks the alleys, envying intact carriage house windows,
savouring the solitude of the walk.

II

Middle-aged and long since graduated he can not shut off his mind. It
skitters from worry to worry, pain to pain: children, work, no work,
money, women, worry itself. There is no question of sleep; he sits awake
if only to keep his mind on other things. He goes to bed when his body
can no longer support itself.

Head on pillow, he retrieves memories of the attic room and the view of
the winter sky. He intends to move sequentially: from window to sink to
cold water… the iron stains under the taps, the steps from the attic,
the girl who read to him when he was sick. He walks through alleys,
savouring each carriage house, bisecting each memory with more intricate
detail, never arriving.

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Alien by Guy Yasko

Edith sticks to the barn walls, watching the dancers and asking herself
if there is anything, anything at all, to like about this
place. Perhaps. She finds warm feelings for the library’s flaking yellow
paint and its shabby stuffed chairs where she reads between morning and
afternoon chores. She even likes the books, even if she finds them
suspicious. It isn’t their contents, but the other campers and staff who
make the books dubious — although, come to think of it, she hasn’t been
able to let herself be amused by Parkinson’s Law.

The barn itself is the site of near-nightly folk dancing, something she
finds affected and anachronistic: “We’re not folks. Why should we dance
like that?” All the same, she lingers at the dance because she would
rather avoid her cabin’s smell of mould, pines, and outhouse. She
decides the only way to balance the two repulsions is to decamp to the
dark field between the barn and the cabins.

Away from the fiddling and stomping she can hear her footsteps in the
grass. At the same time, she notices that as the sound recedes, the
music and voices become comforting. Sufficiently reassured, she turns
her back to the barn and its yellow light and looks into the river of
stars across the night sky’s middle. “There. That is my home.”

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Love it or leave it by Guy Yasko

As his stomach growls and pleads, Mr. Hu holds the peach in his
hand. He notes its colour. It isn’t right; it’s too yellow — not
surprising for a fruit from the Gold Mountain. This peach has a smell –
not all of them do in this country — but that too is wrong: acid and
cloying. But the wrong smell retrieves the right smell, the flatter,
sweeter scent of a proper Chinese peach. He lingers within his memories
of Wuhan streets and the greengrocer’s wife before he recalls his last
encounter with an American peach. He decides it is unwise for him to
hold the fruit so long in his hand and returns it to the bowl.

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The Nebbish by Guy Yasko

I

Only the Nebbish is present when the new Roomer arrives with his bags.
The Roomer takes a seat on the sofa in front of the picture window. The
Nebbish takes a chair across the room.

– You’ll be down here until i leave.

The Nebbish doesn’t explain, but begins a discourse on why he wears only
undyed cotton. He connects each element of the explanation with a
rationality whose net effect is to subvert that same rationality.

The Roomer observes that the dusty cotton brings out the pink in the
Nebbish’s face.

II

The kitchen is dark and the Roomer squints to find the unminced garlic
on the cutting board. He finishes mincing, adds the garlic to the
frying pan, and moves on to the chicken. The Nebbish watches from
behind.

– I’m going to have to throw that cutting board away now.

The Roomer turns. His face asks “Why?”

– You put your knife on it.

– Sorry. I’ll wash it.

– It doesn’t wash off.

III

The collection of incongruous and incommensurate purposes and personages
within the car can only be held together in the rationality of a dream.
The Roomer isn’t sure why he is in the car or where it is headed, but
the scenery says southbound Lake Shore Drive. As they pass Lincoln Park
Zoo, he asks “How does he come to terms with his meat nature, that he
is 150 pounds of red meat?”

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Lawn care by Guy Yasko

The dog’s nails tapping across the floor divert her attention from the
phone.  She now hears the cartoon voices, the lawn mower, fridge, and
central air.  The sound of the lawn mower peaks then quickly returns to
its previous buzz.  She understands the pattern to mean that the mower
has passed near the window.  Larry.

The conversation resumes:

– Him?  He’ll be at Mom and Dad’s next.  Then he’ll clean their gutters
or something.  It’s passive agressive.  Everything about him is — even
the way he cuts the grass.  Every time exactly the same because he heard
somewhere it’s better for the grass to do it different.  So he does it
the same.

– I don’t know.  I don’t care.

– You’re right.  I should.

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Good Morning by Guy Yasko

A figure in a dirty shirt and pyjamas puts a sandaled foot tentatively
through the tobacconist’s broken window. He holds a coffee pot in one
hand, a cigarette in the other. He joins a fire-tender in the circle of
chairs besides the barricade. Nods and glances suffice; it is as yet too
early to talk. Others join them as the cicadas begin their chorus.  One
of the newcomers distributes mugs.

The barricade is a row of cars on their sides. The cars are all black,
charred, but only one still smokes from its glassless side window. The
source of the smoke is a growing pile of cigarette butts within the
car. From time to time, one of the coffee drinkers flicks a butt through
the open window.

The cicadas grow louder.

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Perp Walk by Guy Yasko

– Why Poughkeepsie?

– No one expects you here. Besides, there are more
 mushrooms. Especially now, in this economy.

– Oh?

– People won’t sell unless they need to. Now they do. Up in the
 Catskills, they’re selling them to the dealers. They don’t
 usually. Complain all you want about bonus limits, but you’re eating
 better than ever. You want the chanterelles.

– Eyes on the essential — as always. The wine?

– That’s a tough one. I’m going to say go with a sherry.

– That’s a surprise from you, Roger.

– Just trying to keep you on your toes.

Shoptalk and tax advice ensue. A first course arrives. Then somewhere
against the babel of conversation and the sound of knives on plates, a
chair scrapes against the floor. The light arriving at the table
decreases. More scraping sounds.  All too far beyond the realm of the
conceivable, all too quickly unfolding to process until much later, his
eyes record Roger being kicked to the ground while hands push his face
into the pasta. He is handcuffed and pulled toward the door.

Someone cackles: “Perp walk!”

Feds?

A diner holds open the door for the ad hoc entourage. The newness of the
situation allows illusions to linger briefly. The implications of his
new situation arrive only with the first projectile, an apple. This
meaning is communicated not by the choice of projectiles or their state
of decay, but by savage impacts and the sheer hatred in the velocity.

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Broken Camera by Guy Yasko

– Café? It’s more like a crack house. Think about it.

– I – we – spend, what? three to five dollars a day here.

– That’s not it. What do you pay, what do you sacrifice to be here,
in this city, in this neighbourhood? Admit it. The whole reason you
ever stayed was this place. What did that decision cost you? It’s
not even the rent so much as the lost opportunities, the flying back
and forth, the dithering. It all adds up. Huge. I can’t live here
any more. Not really. I can’t afford it. I shouldn’t even be here.

She left.

He took stock as directed. The really heavy losses had come first:
the career, the marriage, the sense of identity. Money,
certainly. Later there had been a stretch when he had lost bits and
pieces of himself: a broken toe, lost and rotting teeth. Lately it
had been the prosthetics of vision: broken eyeglasses, lost contacts,
a broken camera.

All painful (and therefore repressed) but still familiar. Only the
last string of items was worrisome. It was as if the city were taking
away his ability to see it for what it truly was.

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Minuteman by Guy Yasko

A row of headlights shines south into the darkness.

Stop!

Minuteman sees the three shapes head north against the headlights. He
lets them pass. The boys’ll take care of them. That’s what back-up is
for. Another two dash back across, toward the darkness. Fuckers. He
heads into the gulch after them. They scramble up the bank on all
fours. He’s past the flat of the river bed, they’re almost to the top.
Now or never. He shoots.

Just a kid.

Panic hits. Mexican side. No time. He grabs at the boy trying to get a
grip. His hands slip on the blood. The boy isn’t cooperating. Don’t
die, don’t die. Hang in there. Heavier than he looks. He loses his
grip. Let’s go, let’s go.

It’s brighter now. A lone pair of headlights now shines the other way
across the river. Minuteman drags the boy down the slope, toward the
lights on the north bank. He sees the others against the headlights.
Why are they standing there?

¡Alto!

Minuteman tries to run, but the boy’s arm catches in his legs. He
trips, still on the downslope. A car door opens and shuts. No one
moves, not Minuteman, not the boy, not the figures against the
headlights on the far slope. A voice speaks into a radio. Footsteps
approach from above.

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Jigokudani mon amour by Guy Yasko

Jigokudani mon amour by Guy Yasko

He watched the snowflakes land in her hair. They lasted just long
enough for a layer of snow to collect. A parallel layer was building
in his. She had her arms around a rock. He sat against the rocks at
the pool’s edge, only head above hot water. Their faces were wet with
steam and melted snow. Neither moved. Neither wished to. Together
they watched the snow fall. The gorge was more than silent.

She looked miserable. He decided there was a pathos in the way she
clung to the rock in the middle of the pool, that to cling to a rock
is inherently sad because that is what shipwrecked sailors do. Her
eyes seemed almost tearful. Had today been a bad day? He wanted to
ask, but that was out of the question. Her hands were mottled, but he
wouldn’t have called her old. It was the nature of her hands.
Perhaps he was reading suffering into her features. What did she read
in his? What does a monkey see in a man?

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