Thirty Hertz Rumble

A bl-g about movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick

Category: Writing (Page 1 of 3)

Skyfall Remixed Opening w/ Oingo Boingo

I really liked the thematic coincidences between Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party” and the Skyfall title credits. So I mashed ’em up.

Skyfall Remixed Opening w/ Oingo Boingo from James Patrick on Vimeo.

Smartiecaine

(originally published by Squalorly)

a short story by James David Patrick

(click here to hear my reading of the story: Smartiecaine)

http://www.squalorly.com/sites/default/files/styles/slideshow/adaptive-image/public/3199603659_e5a79d5f28_b.jpg

Nine years old. I’m sitting on my bedroom floor—orange berber—with my buddy Josh, listening to Michael Jackson’s Bad on cassette and plowing through packages of Smarties like Dr. Pepper, which was consumed in greater quantities than water. (Don’t tell our moms, as this variety of overconsumption wasn’t specifically condoned.)

But back to being an innocent nine-year old, back to Michael Jackson’s Bad. Back to the whirring sprockets inside my boombox and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Josh and I debated who the “You” might have been in the title of the song. And what exactly was the “Way” they were making him feel? We came to the conclusion it was about everyone ignoring him because he was black. We were nine.

We knew of racism and something or other about the Civil War from our Social Studies book. The actual content of the lyrics proved irrelevant. Or that if there was anything Michael Jackson didn’t have to worry about it was being ignored. We were fledgling intellectuals hyped up on sucrose. This made complete sense.

“But if he’s black, why is he so white?” Josh asked.

I pondered. “I’ve got to think it had something to do with all the cocaine.”

By then I’d watched at least four movies containing drug smuggling, use or sale. Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, a couple of Cheech and Chong movies and, most recently, the last half of Scarface (which I’d caught on HBO late one night when I was supposed to have been in bed). I felt like I knew as much or more about cocaine than anyone in the third grade. Per our D.A.R.E. presentation in school, I knew that drugs did bad things. So when I suggested Michael Jackson’s skin color had something to do with cocaine (his increasingly pale skin color, thus being the “bad thing” that drugs did), I think Josh believed me, even though my evidence, if you could call it that, was circumstantial at best and inadvertently racist at worst. That we lived in a rural farm community in southwest Michigan should explain some of our unfamiliarity with minorities of any color.

‘How do you think it’s made?” he asked, shortly after our epiphany and halfway through “Liberian Girl,” the absolute, inarguable, worst track on Bad. If you were to argue in favor of “Dirty Diana” you’d have been wrong. “Liberian Girl” was the last track a nine-year old wants to hear. Slow and falsetto. “Diana” had guitar, thus better. We would have scrubbed forward through the song had we not become preoccupied with cocaine.

Though I’d become a self-appointed expert on cocaine through a broader movie-watching regimen than my peers, I had no knowledge about its manufacture. I could recreate its airborne properties as propelled by rampant gunfire, calculate its worth by weight in precious metals, explain how you tested by taste—dip your pinky in the powder (“like Fun Dip,” I said), or how it was consumed. Scrape the powder into a line, ideally on a mirror, and snort the line. Simple.

Instead of dwelling on what I didn’t know, I got proactive. I took two of those circular, concave Smarties, one in each hand, and rubbed them together over a Rolling Stone magazine with Motley Crüe on the cover and, curiously, the promise of articles about Elvis and Whitney Houston in the header over the Crüe’s puffed and coiffed locks. I dove into this chore, so much so that now I imagine a focused overbite as I ground those candies into a fine powder all over Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee. With the edge of Michael Jackson’s cassette tape case, I corralled the powder into parallel lines. I reclined and admired my uniformity. Looking back I do not know what compelled me to sample the powder. I knew, clearly, that I had not in fact created cocaine by rubbing candy together, nor did I actually want to try cocaine. While I watched the powder collect on the magazine like an early fall snow, I had no intent of leaning over, pressing my nose into the lines and inhaling.

But that’s exactly what I did.

The pain proved palpable, but fleeting. Was there a rush? Perhaps, but the effects were immaterial over the amount of sugar we’d already consumed. I dubbed it Smartiecaine and urged Josh to take a hit.

At first he resisted. I shuddered—the sting had not entirely dissipated—and swiped at the remaining powder on my nose. Like any impressionable friend worth his weight in adventure, Josh eventually leaned forward and inhaled the second line, just as I’d done a moment before. The kid jumped off the roof of his garage earlier that week because his brother told him to; I knew he’d have a go.

“Just Good Friends” had almost gone unnoticed while we sampled our uncut, 100% pure Smarticaine. The outro bled into white noise and the capstan, passing the plastic polymer coated with ferric oxide across two electromagnets, ceased rotation. The boombox clicked, popping the play button back up to its resting position.

Josh exhaled.

“Are we going to be whiter than we already are now?” he asked through a fit of coughing.

“Nah,” I said. “I don’t think that’s possible.” He looked at me. I looked back. “That only happens to black people when they do cocaine.”

“Are we high?” he asked.

“I doubt it,” I said.

“So you think Michael Jackson does cocaine for real?”

“Do you have another explanation?” I asked. He didn’t, so, again, we stuck with that.

We walked down the hallway to the bathroom. I removed my stool from beneath the sink, and we stepped up to see our reflections in the mirror. Our virgin noses, now laced with the damning powder, looked dull, a little cloudy—paler perhaps in the fluorescent light. We liked the way we looked. We looked like we knew something about the world.

Of [In]human Bond[age]: Skyfall and the Question of Spacetime

Today I launched the first of a 23-part essay about the James Bond series of cinemas over on the Sundog Lit Mag. I encourage everyone to journey over to the Sundog Blog to read,  comment and join in what we hope to be an extended conversation about not only the films themselves, but cinematic trends, political and other external influences on the series’ tone and direction, etc. The entire project will be collected on the Of [In]human Bond[age] Tumblr.

Of [In]human Bond[age]: Skyfall and the Question of Spacetime
originally published on Sundog Lit

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

The Bond film franchise, now aged fifty, has endured long enough to have had the luxury of multiple reinventions and course corrections, informed, directly, by the rapid shifts of the sociological and political tides. Bond is both a reflection of our deepest fears and of our guiltiest aspirations. Women want him and men want to be him, so the saying goes. Or went, perhaps. Our modern cynicism and over-intellectualization has re-rendered that phrase. James Bond has become the man that women want, in theory… if he weren’t such a serial womanizer with a thrill-addiction. He is still, however, the man that men want to be, no caveats. Draw your own assumptions about how the collective male id has evolved over the last fifty years. Bond has become a character in our modern commedia, played by six different actors (all informed by the original on-screen Bond, Sean Connery) and parodied and re-imagined the world over, no more or less human than Pierrot the fool.

Taken at face value, however, James Bond’s cinematic escapades in international espionage are a collection of stories taken from the career of one man. Independent scholars John Griswold and Henry Chancellor have taken it upon themselves to assemble the original Ian Fleming novels into chronological order based on the events contained within. The films, however, prove more problematic. If the latest, excellent entry into Bond’s resume, Skyfall, has cemented one notion about chronology it is that the Bond films cannot be treated as isolated escapades along an individual timeline. Not even suspension of disbelief can atone for Skyfall’s temporal incongruities (even within the movie itself). Must we then consider the Bond series as multiple serials distinguished only by the actor playing the role? (Also made problematic by recurring, self-referential leitmotifs.) Or is it something more complicated, like the intertwining plots of a collection of linked short stories with no particular start or finish?

To offer a simple comparison, consider the various cinematic iterations of the Sherlock Holmes character, widely considered the most prolific character in the history of film. Holmes has been played by Ellie Norwood, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey, Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch among many others. None of these film series extend beyond the character playing Sherlock.

What director Sam Mendes has wrought with Skyfall forces a re-interpretation (or at the very least encourages a more scholastic examination) of the Bond film chronology. The first Bond film, Dr. No, offers no origin story of the character. Bond is, already, an experienced and expert British intelligence agent with a weakness for the ladies. It is, per say, in medias res. It is only in Skyfall, Bond’s 23rd film that we are offered a glimpse into his past with any clarity. And it wasn’t until Daniel Craig assumed the role in Casino Royale (the 21st movie, but 1st Fleming novel) that the Bond character was considered a newly minted and irresponsible rookie agent with more significant depth. Bond has been irresponsible for decades, but only now was he considered a “rookie.” The fact that audiences simultaneously balked and swooned at the novelty of James Bond falling in *gasp* love and then seeking revenge for the death of that significant other, speaks volumes about the character development up to this point.

*Skyfall spoilers ahead*

Furthermore, Skyfall introduces audiences to a James Bond with deceased parents, motivation for joining the British Secret Service, to his childhood home in Scotland and the underground pathway in which James Bond hid after the death of those aforementioned parents. James Bond has a childhood home!?! Inconceivable. But these facts aren’t problematic for the character’s chronology, necessarily. They are only problematic because of our external assumptions that James Bond is immune to emotions that would detract from A) womanizing and B) eventually, complete his assigned mission. If Spock had any desire to chase tail, he might be closer to our collective understanding (or previously held understanding) of James Bond.

Skyfall’s specific chronological schisms occur, however, because he is allegedly a bit of a green agent. Bond has been given his first big break, two films earlier, in Casino Royale and spent the entirety of Quantum of Solace as a bit of a vengeful rogue. A major to-do has been made in Skyfall that James Bond may or may not be forced into retirement because he’s lost his edge. After a particularly botched mission to open the film, James is alienated, lost and considered dead by British Intelligence. In reality he’s experiencing a kind of mid-life crisis and drinking himself into oblivion somewhere along the Turkish coast. When Bond at last returns (somewhat reluctantly) to defend Britain from a mastermind cyber terrorist, he’s a shell of himself and the film dances around (albeit rather eloquently) the “I’m getting too old for this shit” over-the-hill hero catchphrase. The notion has traction because as an audience we have knowledge of Bond actor Daniel Craig’s age (44) but it runs contrary to the earlier assertion of Bond’s greenhorn status. At this point I’m not even prepared to acknowledge the chronological disturbance brought about by a sprightly 58-year-old Roger Moore appearing in A View to a Kill. But how are to reconcile that even within 143 minutes of Skyfall Bond waffles between being a unpredictable rookie and a potential retiree?

Follow me further down the rabbit hole. Bond fans are then treated to the return of the Aston Martin DB5, the vehicle most identified with James Bond, the vehicle that first appeared in 1964’s Goldfinger (starring Sean Connery). It is unveiled to the audience as if Craig’s James Bond has a pre-existing relationship with the car. In truth it is not Craig’s Bond that has a relationship with the car, but us, having brought our collective knowledge of the entire Bond oeuvre into the theater with us. The same principle functions when a supporting character in the movie, an agent that has followed Bond on his globetrotting, reveals herself (after resigning from field duty to a clerical position within MI-6) to be none other than Eve… Eve Moneypenny. A character played by Lois Maxwell in the very first Bond adventure, 1962’s Dr. No.

The temporal mischief makes almost your brain hurt more than the time-travel narrative in the Terminator series. Almost. But we are rescued from certain brain cramp by the above-stated notion that these Bond movies are interweaving and unlimited, bridged, almost seamlessly, by our own pre-existing knowledge of the character – a proto-prescience perhaps. This proto-prescience encourages James Bond filmmakers to break the fourth wall with nudge-nudge-wink-winks that make no sense in the isolated conditions of the individual film. Not only are we carrying around the baggage of all other Bonds, but so too are the filmmakers.

That Skyfall succeeds at being an excellent film despite gleefully throwing about the requisite Bond baggage is no small miracle. Of the recent films, say from the Brosnan-era forward, only 1995’s Goldeneye really succeeded at being both. If you go back further you’d be hard pressed to find a film that qualifies, objectively, as both solid filmmaking and a solid Bond film (according to the standard set by the Connery-era) until arguably On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. The entire Roger Moore-era can largely be chalked up to a shift in aesthetics brought about by a response to the cinematic trends of the 1970’s, nevermind the challengers and parodies threatening the Bond status quo.

That’s a lot of baggage in between and a lot of baggage left unsaid. And based on the small examples taken from the latest Bond films, that’s a lot of incongruity. The notion of a infinitely recursive character with increasingly larger baggage has inspired me to go back and re-watch these movies in order from the very beginning to see what threads might evolve from movie to movie, to see what kind of specific evolution of the character (internally or externally imposed) I might have missed by watching them out of order. It’s possible there might be some thread to reconcile and bind all of these different Bonds and temporal anomalies under one roof. It’s also possible that we’ve all just been duped by our own over-intellectualization of a fundamentally two-dimensional character. Either way, it’s an excuse to watch a lot of Bond movies and wax philosophical.

Please visit Sundog Lit to leave comments and join the discussion. Sundog will be hosting a regular screening/live tweet series for each of the James Bond movies starting with Dr. No. Details to come. The result of those live tweet conversations will inspire my subsequent essays on each of the films.

Shoot Like You’re Awesome

(a version of this story was originally published by P.Q. Leer)

a short story by James David Patrick

Rock, Paper, Scissors

“I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have a bellboy,” the concierge said.

Westinghouse demanded that his bags be sent to his room. “My hands are my life,” he said. “They could cramp. The muscles could tear. I could be left with a claw! You’ve never seen a national champion with a distorted grotesquery like a claw, have you?” Westinghouse asked.

The concierge, who was really just an Art History major with a pregnant girlfriend named Kimmie, shook his head. “No,” he said, “I’ve never seen a dude with a claw. Let alone a rock, paper, scissors champion with a claw.” But he couldn’t leave the desk, he said, being the only one on duty. “At a bar in Philly, I did see a guy with a club foot, however.”

“First. The bag is heavy,” Westinghouse said. “It contains my clothes for an entire three month roadtrip and my best suit, my only suit, for when I’m the guest of honor at the Champion’s Dinner. And second. I think I speak for everyone when I say we prefer the term Rochambeau.”

The Art History major looked at the bag. “Hmm.” He pointed. “Use the shoulder strap there.”

Westinghouse laughed at his own oversight. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just so focused. I’m just so focused I can’t function. You might wonder how I can focus so entirely.” The Art History major didn’t wonder but Westinghouse told him anyway. “Every day I tell myself to ‘Shoot like you’re awesome,’ until I believe it,” he said.

The Art History major asked for a demonstration.

Westinghouse placed his bag on the floor and closed his eyes. With his fist pressed into his palm he repeated “Shoot like you’re awesome” until he believed it. Once he believed it, he opened his eyes to find a white-haired woman with nearly-transparent skin now sitting behind the desk. She flipped through a Redbook Magazine and looked like a blue-haired Valerie Bertinelli.

“Carl left,” she said.

“Wow,” Westinghouse said, “I’m just so focused, I didn’t notice.”

She flipped the page.

“You might wonder how I can focus so entirely.”

Blue-hair Valerie looked up from her Redbook. The corners of her mouth rose, but nobody could have called it a smile. “Honey,” she said, “I’ve been listening to that crap for nearly an hour. I think I got the picture. I even tried it myself for awhile.”

“How’d that go?”

“Well,” she said, “when I opened my eyes, I was still here, listening to you.”

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Teeter

(originally published by Bartleby Snopes)

a short story by James David Patrick

Teeter Totter

When the snow melted in February, a teeter-totter appeared where there had previously been nothing but a pile of vines, pried from the rosebushes and left there through the change of seasons. I’d willed it to appear, having closed my eyes so tight my stomach clenched up like when Peter Dumbrowski threatened to punch me in the nose during recess. I asked my mom how this could have happened. She said she didn’t really know and that I should ask my dad. My dad, who was clearly much smarter than my mom because he had an answer for everything, said it was because things have a way of showing up when you need them the most. I disagreed because last Sunday I really needed the Vikings to beat the Packers and they just embarrassed themselves. My sister and I went up, we went down, but after the immediate thrill the teeter-totter lost its appeal. Not because the teeter (or is it the totter?) wasn’t inherently fun, but because this was during Alexis’s “heavy” phase. I was up far more often than I was down. We forgot that initial joy of discovery. Weeds grew tall around its sturdy base without our feet (especially Alexis’s) to trample them. Then one day in August the Totter was just gone. Perhaps I’d willed it away by forgetting about it, just as I’d willed it into existence. I asked my mom what had happened to the teeter-totter, and she said she couldn’t really say. I asked if Alexis ate the teeter-totter having mistaken it for a tater tot in a fit of summer lunchroom-tot-withdrawal. Dad laughed as he read the paper. Mom told me the conversation had ended.

I started to fear that the teeter-totter had never happened at all; after the disappearance no one spoke of it. I couldn’t know for sure until I needed something the most again. Months passed. I’d wanted a lot. A new baseball glove and a trampoline, for example, but I couldn’t say I’d needed them the most. I rode the pine on my Little League team and the trampoline was only a necessity because I wanted to impress a girl named Cathy who ignored me. A trampoline would change that.

By next winter, Alexis had lost the weight. She kept on losing weight until she felt sick, all the time. And she turned orange from using so much fake tanner. I told her that she needed a burger and to cut it out with the tanner, but she insisted otherwise. She said I’d understand when I grew up. She was only six years older than me so I couldn’t have needed all that much growing up. With dad away on business again, I felt I needed to take matters into my own hands. When I went to bed that night I closed my eyes and wanted so badly for her to eat, not to want a juicy burger for dinner tomorrow. One of those half-pound Canadian Angus burgers we got when we drove to Winnipeg on holiday with the melted cheese and grilled onions and sometimes the mayonnaise, but I didn’t want to push it because mayo spoils if it’s left out too long. I knew nobody could resist one of those burgers. The next day, mom called me down the stairs, I thought to dinner, but the table was bare. I heard Alexis puking in the bathroom. Mom stood outside the door, pointing to the table. She asked if I’d done that. I noted the half-pound burger on the table, minus one bite, and then nodded. A smile crept across my face. Mom sent me back to my room and told me to take the burger with me. She’d been crying. Of course I took the burger; you couldn’t resist the Winnipeg burger. Dad took half before I could make it up the stairs. One bite. I didn’t even know he’d come home. He must have come when he heard about the burger. I checked for mayo. No danger of spoilage.

 

I visited Alexis in the hospital. Mom said she’d been feeling better and wanted to see me. She asked about school. She asked if that Peter kid was still picking on me at recess and if I’d talked to Cathy yet. Last week I’d willed Peter into another school district and the next day Miss Stapleton said he’d moved to North Dakota. If anyone deserved a Dakota it was that prick. Not so much progress with Cathy. Alexis asked if I was taking care of mom. I didn’t understand how I’d be the one taking care of mom so I just said yes, of course. Alexis didn’t really sound like herself but before she came here you’d have needed a Geiger counter to get a good reading on her moods.

A nurse appeared and replaced the tube in Alexis’s arm with another one. After the nurse left I pulled Alexis’s bottle of fake tanning lotion from my pocket, placed it in the bedside drawer next to a bible and closed the drawer. Contrabrand. Without her lotion she’d gotten so pale, if less orange. Apropos of nothing I said that dad had been working a lot and hadn’t been home much. She asked where I’d learned the term “apropos.” I shrugged. Then she got angry. She said dad’s gone. Then she repeated it. I reminded her that dad came to visit her in the hospital the same day that he took me to the zoo. That’s different, she said. I didn’t see how. I explained that I’d closed my eyes and wished to see the penguins. The next day dad took me to see the penguins. She sat forward in bed and said, he left and he’s not coming back. Not like you need. You don’t understand anything, she said. A nurse suggested I should meet my mom in the waiting room. I agreed.

I’d begun to notice that nobody talked about dad always being on business anymore. No more talk about trips to Madison or Calgary or Eugene, which I’d just realized was a place and not our Uncle Gene in Michigan that bred Brittany spaniels. When Alexis came home from the hospital she wasn’t allowed to shut her door. I took this opportunity to bother her more than usual, asking to borrow this or that, usually CDs or sparkly writing utensils. She said yes to everything I asked, which took most of the fun out of it. She just kept saying yes, except the time she grabbed my hand and said “I didn’t think I would but I really miss dad.” If it meant getting my old sister back, the one that would bounce me out of the room, throw her magic 8-ball at me to keep me from reading her diary, I needed to try something. Later that night, I thought and thought about how I needed to will my dad back home. The next morning a man named Will appeared in the kitchen and asked me to call him dad. He made blueberry waffles and served them to each of us on the nice plates, the ones we weren’t allowed to use. He kissed my mom on the cheek. I guess something got scrambled in the communications.

October brought our first snowfall of the year. Late November blanketed the North Country. This meant tunnel season had begun. Alexis didn’t join me as she always had. She still kept her door open, except at night, when it was only open a crack. She rarely came out. I spent more time with the Feuchtwanger twins across the street, but their mom wouldn’t let them tunnel because they’d probably catch a bug. The way she accused them of bringing these things into their home you’d expect them to catch raccoons rather than pneumonia. I grew bored with the Feuchtwangers and the empty tunnels. I grew bored with Will. He’d moved in permanently and made us blueberry waffles every Sunday. Mom was happier. She kept telling us that since she was finally happy we should be happy too. I wasn’t so sure since I’d just started doing the reflexive property in math class and that just didn’t fit, but then again, Miss Emerson kept telling us that this was advanced math and we shouldn’t get too upset if we didn’t get it yet. We still saw dad once in a while, but he wasn’t himself. He’d stopped shaving and he moved out to Little Falls where he said rent was “more economical.” I begged him to come home because things just weren’t the same. Alexis never said anything when we saw him so I did the talking for both of us. I told him that we needed him at home the most we’d ever needed him. Will was fine, but he needed to learn how to make something else besides blueberry waffles.  I asked dad if he remembered when he said that things have a way of appearing when you need them the most. He nodded. He said he might have been mistaken.

 

Alexis never left her room except to go to school or the bathroom. She’d put on weight again, but she wasn’t nearly as heavy as she had been last spring. Mom seemed to think everything was okay. I wasn’t okay. It was winter in Minnesota and without fellow tunnelers and snow fort constructors, there really wasn’t anything left to do except sit inside and play Nintendo but I was limited to only thirty minutes a day. Mom said it was bad for my eyes and Will did nothing to disagree with her. Dad would have bought me some more time because he knew more about that kind of stuff than mom. I’d gotten sent to my room for breaking a vase with a Nerf ball after I’d been told repeatedly not to play with the ball inside. I argued that no one had bothered to offer a reasonable alternative to not playing with the Nerf. Will called me a smartass. I could come out, my mom said, when she wasn’t mad at me anymore. That seemed arbitrary. I pulled the covers up over my head to block out the last of the daylight and closed my eyes. I closed my eyes so tight that I made my stomach ache and my eyes sore. It worked once so it would work again. I begged and begged no one in particular. I said “I will the teeter-totter into the backyard.” I said it over and over until I got so hot I had to pull the blankets down to breathe. Maybe, if the teeter-totter came back Alexis would come outside again and dad would come home. Maybe then everything could go back to normal.

Every so often I’d stick the shovel into the snow where the teeter-totter had been, just to see if I struck anything hard beneath the snow. I never did. But then again the snow was dense and there was a lot of it. Mom said we’d reached our seasonal average by the end of January. I couldn’t remember anymore if I wanted more snow or less. One morning I made the mistake of suggesting that I missed the teeter-totter. It just fell out. Will served me a waffle and said how those things were childish and kind of unsafe. He added bananas to waffles now. We had options. Mom nodded and said she was so happy to hear that he felt that way about the teeter-totter. Will kissed her on the cheek. Alexis pointed down her throat. I had to laugh. I wonder if Will also thought pancakes were dangerous and that’s why we never had any.

When the temperature reached the mid-thirties in late February I began watching out my window into the backyard. Sun reflected off the snow, melting the top layer each day so that it could freeze again at night. A layer of epoxy, like the finish dad put on Alexis’s craft table that now lay beneath a mountain of magazines, including the occasional Vogue that she’d smuggled in. We weren’t allowed to read those adult magazines because mom said we weren’t old enough to digest them. Alexis came in my room and sat down on my bed. She seemed so out of place.

The jagged icicles that had once blocked my backyard view had shrunk down to rounded nubs. Water dripped onto the windowsill in unpredictable patterns. Just when I thought I had a handle on the pattern everything would change. I told Alexis to watch, that I could stick my head out the window and catch the drops in my mouth. “You know dad bought you that teeter-totter,” she said. I shook my head. I said I willed it there because I wanted it so badly it hurt. I told her to wait. Wait and see because last year I didn’t want it nearly as much as I wanted it now. She said nothing. I made her promise that if it appeared she’d come outside and play with me, just as soon as the snow melted. I watched through the window. I waited and wanted. She said, “Sure,” and walked back into her room. I could tell she didn’t mean it. She didn’t believe. But I knew better. I knew that one morning, when the snow gave up its hold, the teeter-totter would appear, just as I said it would. I’d wake Alexis to tell her. She’d actually beat me down the stairs, through the kitchen and out the back door saying “No way, no way, no fucking way.” Mom and Will wouldn’t have made it downstairs yet because if they had they certainly would have told us not to go outside, there wasn’t enough time, you’ll just get your clothes muddy. Alexis and I would sit on opposite ends of the teeter-totter and I’d start on the high end, as I always did, waiting for Alexis to push up off the ground. In another moment I’d fall back down to earth and watch Alexis rise into the air, her waxen frown taken over by a smile. And even there, cemented in my dream, her smile looked so unnatural, so out of place, like I’d willed it there out of thin air.


BIO: James David Patrick has an MFA from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine and lives in Pittsburgh where he can often be found sifting through stacks of vinyl at Attic Records or begging his daughter for new story inspiration. He has previously published with Monkeybicycle, PANK and Spectre Literary Magazine; tweets at @30hertzrumble and blogs at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com.

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