How I Won the American War of Independence
A falling star hit me on my head and knocked me into the ground. Roots grew and I sprouted skyward with branches and leaves. Ants attacked, so I fled my trunk and retreated to a branch, then a twig, then a leaf, and I fell to the ground and rotted on the damp soil and became a mushroom. A young girl picked me to take home to her mother.
Her mother looked at me and screamed, Aaargh, that’s Samantha Memi, if you eat her you’ll go mad, so I was thrown in the pig swill and the big mama sow saw me and grunted, Oink, that’s Samantha Memi, eat her and you’ll go mad, so I was tossed onto the road.
By this time, as you can imagine, I was beginning to develop problems with self-esteem.
Now, the King, who at that moment was passing by, was rather fond of mushrooms and pointed me out to one of his servants, so I was picked up, cleaned and taken to the King’s Castle. Just in the nick of time, I was beginning to get shrivelly.
The Castle’s kitchen was huge, and full of cooks shouting and servants cringing. I was rolled onto a table and put on a chopping block. A scullery maid shouted, Ergh, that’s Samantha Memi, she’s disgusting; eat her and you’ll go mad.
Mad? said the chef, and I was chopped up and put in a mushroom omelette which was served to the King, who ate me all up and promptly went mad, just as had been predicted.
Now the King was a greedy king who wasn’t satisfied with just one country, he wanted lots of countries. One of the countries he wanted was a country called America. And it happened that the King, George the third, as he was known, was fighting a war with the people in America who didn’t want to pay for the tea they drank so they tipped it in the sea, which seemed a bit of a waste to me, but I’m just a mushroom so what do I know. Anyway George the third, sent lots of brave English soldiers to teach the Americans that throwing tea in the sea was not the way to behave, but the vulgar Americans didn’t want to be told what to do with their tea, which wasn’t really theirs because they hadn’t paid for it, and a war broke out.
I mean, all over a cup of tea.
And sometimes the English won and sometimes the Americans won, but mostly the Americans won because they didn’t fight fair and stand in rows so the English could shoot them.
Now, the mad King George sent orders to his generals: sometimes he said attack and other times he said retreat and then he said attack and then retreat, so the English soldiers didn’t know what they were doing and lost all their battles and had to run away and sail back to England.
The good people of England thought it disgraceful that George didn’t make the Americans pay for their tea so they kicked him off the throne. The victorious Americans had a Declaration and, in all the hubbub of people asking Was it Assam or Darjeeling? I was forgotten.
But if you look closely at a dollar bill you can see me in a fold, which proves this story is true.
Samantha Memi is an eminent historian and author of several autobiographical works such as, How I Won the Second World War, and How I Drove the Romans out of Britain. Other acclaimed historical works can be found at http://samanthamemi.weebly.com/
Something about Roy
There was always something about that old man down the road I could never put my finger on. Something elusive, dangling just out of reach, or on the tip of my tongue. Something about the way he—was—that made me feel as if a long piece of cold steel sat deep into my right side.
I rode my bike past his farm every morning, on my way to the liquor store, and he'd be sitting there on his porch, smoking a stogie; an ancient map of wrinkles and memories and sullen frowns staring out upon the dirt road—judging, wondering, pondering, I suppose.
Always petting one of his fucking chickens, also.
It would be fair to say that my mother went to her grave highly disappointed in me. The look on her face in that coffin said as much. I grew up in my own way, did my own thing, and cared nothing for anyone else. And it showed. Most of my life I’ve spent as a strung-out addict, picking apart people until they died from emotional starvation. I live alone in a one-bedroom cracker box down a dirt road next to a speechless old man who raises chickens.
I've tried to kill myself three times already—that I know of. But after the end of the world had become an apparent reality, with five billion people now worm food, those looks that ol’ Roy gave me seemed just a little bit too much for me to bear anymore. Seemed as if they came straight from my mother’s grave.
So I made a personal promise to kill the son-of-a-bitch.
It started with a simple, “Hello.” As expected, Roy just sat there, not saying a word, staring into my eyes, rooster on his lap.
I brought him coffee and a donut one morning. Set it on his porch next to his rocking chair while he was in the house, taking a piss more than likely. I even left a note: Have a nice day. Then I kicked one of his chickens on my way out, which felt pretty good. But the following morning, as usual, that old man did nothing but stare.
“You hear about the plague?” I asked him a week later. “They say it’s the worst one yet. No cure.” His gaze seemed to look right past me, disregarding my presence as if I were nothing but a scraggly weed needing to get pulled. “They say it came from some bird, in Asia. And that everyone’s gonna die. What do you think about that, old man?”
A few days later, I bought the very last issue of Time magazine. On the front cover was a photograph of some airport in Bangkok. It was taken from inside a plane, looking out across the wing onto an empty tarmac where there should have been signs of life, people moving around, trucks driving, anything. But there wasn’t. There was nothing there, because nobody came to work that day. Hence, the title of the article: Signs of the End. I guess it’s hard to get an airport running when everyone’s dead.
I left the magazine on his chair, at night, so he’d get it in the morning. And the next day I rode by earlier than usual, excited to see Roy’s face.
“Did you read the article? Pretty fucking scary, huh?” But of course, he said nothing.
Ten days later, and I got my first symptom—a migraine headache. And since I read the article, I know that the last days of my life will be short, messy, and painful.
“I’m sick, old man! I got it. I’m gonna die!” The second symptom is a burning fever, which I had at this moment. I was on fire, standing on his porch, yelling at his face. “Got anything to say, you dumb-fuck!?”
“Name’s Roy. Sorry to hear.” And with that, he shut me up. I wobbled back to my house and puked out a lung. I fell asleep on the bathroom floor, in my own waste, catatonic over the fact that this is how it’s gonna end for me: Cold. Alone. Miserable. And in my final moments of existence, I can’t even compete with a God-damned chicken!
The next day I killed him. I killed Roy. I went over there and bashed his skull in with a shovel. I looked at his brains, his bloody thoughts. I watched his chickens wander the yard, not giving so much as a shit about him now, and I felt pretty damn good. I feel good actually, never mind the fact that I’m dying a horrible death.
At least I think I feel good.
But then again…
Fuck you, Roy!
With forty story acceptances in less than two years, as well as a recent "Honorable Mention" at L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest, Chris sees no end to his addiction to writing. His stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Midwest Literary Magazine, Short Story.Me, Bete Noire, The Absent Willow Review, Underground Voices, Residential Aliens, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and the widely acclaimed anthology from The Horror Zine, A Feast of Frights. You can reach him at email@example.com, or at his rather static blog; frombehindthebluedoor.wordpress.com.
LE CRAYON (DU SINGE)
Vol. 8, No, 3, Mar., 2012 pp. 49-72
Issue: Domestic Drawing Gossip
René Hector: A Memoir
The deckle edge sometimes known as Henri Jacques Hermine was thought curiously becoming when he escaped their calendar and he was not quite fifty seven years of age when he attended the drawing frame below which, and about a mile from the surface, was a parallel trough, by which the frames above were fashioned and whittled. Come twilight his bib was unexpectedly ensnared in the chute. In a moment he was drawn then dashed on a ground by a seductive force whilst uttering spurious and impotent words. Madame Pipe scurried towards him, an agonised and helpless audience to a mise-en-scène. She witnessed him spun in the chute and heard the bones snap asunder, crushed to powders and fibre as the apparatus drew tighter and tighter. Blood scattered as ink over the frame and streamed on the ground as his head was shattered into ambiguous fragments and phrases. At last the mangled body was rammed in so fast as to close his drawing. Once extricated, every bone was found broken, his head suitably flattened, a deckle edge, some chain and laid lines, a watermark and insensible.
Phil Sawdon is an artist, writer and former academic. He is an Honorary Fellow of Loughborough University School of the Arts. He resides in the UK in Belper, Derbyshire. He is a co-editor of the Literature/Creative Text section of the online magazine Stimulus Respond and a director of the drawing and visualisation project TRACEY. He publishes in various formats including fictions, artworks, academic texts and moving image. His most recent fictions have been for Danse Macabre, Stimulus Respond and Nyx, a noctournal. He also works with Deborah Harty as the creative drawing collaboration humhyphenhum.
A translation from the Spanish of a short story never written by Jorge Luis Borges, after The Circular Ruin
Everyone saw him arrive. Everyone watched as metal craft cast off from the market quay. Within a few seconds everyone had forgotten that the talkative scientist had arrived from the north, that he’ left prison in the only city downstream, on the mountain’s benevolent plains, where the Aart dialect is contaminated by Urdu, and where charisma is common. It’s a lie that he spat in the air, crossed the square while tugging on the soft flowers brushing his skin, and threw himself, pale and enervated, up to the square monolith whose pediment is a water dragon or an eel, now the colour of air but once the colour of earth. This square is a marketplace, uncovered by recent earthquakes, made sacred by the calm mountain, its chaos honoured by men. The man stood on a podium. He slept before the moon set, terrified that the wound had bled. He opened his dark hearing and woke to strength of blood and lack of purpose. He thought this market was not the ideal liberated by his flexible fate; he wondered if finite clouds had invigorated the construction of another unlucky market up river, a market whose chaos was wet and vibrant; his sublimated gift was to act. The comfortable purr of a cat sent him to sleep at midday. The sound of gloved hands, some nuts and a butter dish told him the spirits of infinity despised his acting and had thrown alms, or laughed at his monasticism. He felt the scorch of inspiration and rejected seductive terraces on the new floors, displaying himself on some familiar shavings.
Possibly random fate didn’t involve him. The fact of a woman drifted by. He disliked facts for their immeasurable minutiae, no gift to dreams. He had spent nothing of his anima on this factual manifestation. If no one had written his name or about his future death, he would have had to question. The cohesive, seething market was unsuitable, mostly inscrutable universes, and the wound was inconvenient as he refused to eliminate luxuries. The butter and nuts of taxes didn’t nourish his spirit, taken over by multitasking; acting and being.
At first his acts were integrated. Before that they’d been innominate. The man acted from the edge of a square marketplace exactly like the drowned market; streams of spouting teachers enlivened the columns; the masks on the first soffit listened from a proximity of nanoseconds and a stygian depth, and all their features were blurred. The actor himself stole suggestions from psychology, astrophysics, religion: the masks watched complacently and commented off-handedly, as if they knew how little it mattered, whether any of them were sentenced to corporeality, and extracted from the dream. Drifting or anchored, he seldom ignored the anecdotes of his audience; he permitted himself faith in the archetypes; in every choice he felt a shrinking sentience. He found bodies unprepared for withdrawing from the world.
After two or three days he was blissfully unconscious of expecting everything from those teachers who rejected his secrets, and nothing from those who always showed unqualified acceptance. The latter, though undeserving of hatred, would rise only as crowds; the former had never existed in a lesser number. One morning (now even mornings were accruals of acts; now he slept for only a single hour at sundown) he gathered the tiny fragmented audience for the last time, and dismissed all teachers but one. This teacher was a garrulous, ruddy, always biddable man, whose plump outline isolated that of the actor. The gradual disintegration of this teacher disconcerted him; his regression, before public demonstrations, made his neophyte shudder. As if on cue, beneficence:
One night the man slipped into sleep as into a textured ocean, glanced at the dim morning light, which he thought was evening, and forgot he had not acted. For moments in that day and the following night the welcome obscurity of hyper-awareness surged up into him in particles. He couldn’t ignore the mountains, they energized him; he easily fell into long stanzas of intense exertion under the figs, singing confident sophisticated tunes; one by one, useful. He stopped trying to dissolve the teacher’s spirit, had just designed a tirade of surrender when the carving came into focus and materialized. Sighs of pleasure soothed his new hearing in this totally finite communion.
He forgot that the relaxation of illustrating the morphology and sanity of reality is the easiest pleasure a man can refuse, even when he reaches the crown of answers neither true nor false: easier to unpick a chain of ice, or harvest rice from the ocean. He forgot that final success is improvable. He hoped to remember the tiny lucid interval which had captured him recently, and he rejected different exits. After performing he squandered time, depleting the negatives replenished in sanity. He took up intuitive action, couldn’t manage to stay awake through the whole night. Whenever he woke he noted the real. He persevered until full sun faded before setting down his record for the first time. Then in the morning he rolled in the gutter, profaned the galaxy of chaos, ingested the illegal substance of a weak number and woke. Instantly he acted a stilled mind.
He acted it passive, cold, overt, the shape of an open ankle, greenish in the full darkness of an alien mind that shied away from differentiation and form. He acted this mind with unfocused disdain, for innumerable confused days. Each day he attended less lucidly. He always listened but never responded, ignored it, except for chastising it with a blow. He listened to it, killed it from inside and out, and from a single point. On the final day he walked his attention along the pre-frontal cortex, then under the unaudited mind, from landscape to close-up. The cursory glance left him wanting more. That day he forgot to act. He set the mind down, responded with the form of a satellite, and stopped being blind to minor bones. After a missed anniversary he reached skin, the inner ear. The easiest part was the emptiness. He chanced a fragmented animal, an awful anonyman, but one who could relax and listen and look. Day after day he intended him awake.
In pagan myths, priestesses deconstruct the green man who stands on his hands: as agile and exquisite and alien as that marble ideal was the real man drawn apart in the days of the scientist. One morning parts of the play were undeleted, his body retained. (It would have been worse to complete it.) Gathered with some of the taxes collected by the commercial servants he was gently deposited near the head of the monolith, which was perhaps a water dragon or an eel, and rejected its familiar distress. That morning, at sunrise, he woke in the image. He perceived it inert, stoic: it was a beguiling first son of a water dragon and an eel, and neither of these machines at all, not a swan, an anemone, a calm. This singular chaos hid from him its celestial action, cold, and that this square marketplace (and others nothing like it) had always been the site of arbitrary laws, and refused to destroy the reality woken by the scientist so that no one, not even fire and the revenants, would deny the mind its bone and muscle. It suggested that as soon as the mind had forgotten the games it should be returned to the same whole market-place whose hollows melted up into the hills, so that silence might fall in that populous hovel. In the reality of the man who was awake, the real man fell asleep.
The scientist ignored the commercial implications. He derogated all space (which was without solution, from the beginning, forever) to hiding the equations of the earth and the myths of cold from his realized perfection. Outwardly he was happy when he approached his facsimile. And so every night, faithful idiot savant, he shortened the moments divorced from reality. He also began work on the left buttock, which was definitely perfection. Always he missed the solid assurance that none of this was happening and never would...rarely were his nights unhappy: as he listened hard he would say Now I shall never be without my father, or, less often, The father who orphaned me waits for none but he will exist if I go to him.
More and more his creation assumed dreams. Daily he asked him to uproot a cloud from the square. One night clouds surrounded but did not overlap the market. He completed other opposing disclosures, none less modest than the first. He forgot at times, with sweetness, that his father was not ready – and didn’t mind waiting – to die. That day he struck his father for the last time and received from him the other marketplace, whose structures were rising up through memory, very close by the motorways and suburbs. Lastly, so his father would realize he was a construction and not confuse himself as a machine unlike other machines, he extracted from him the scattered memories of his secure rule.
His defeat and his continued agony were enlivened by excitement. At midday and midnight he stood behind the airy, imaginary monolith, describing his realised father devising different laws in the same square marketplace upstream. During the day he stayed awake, or woke in a way other men don’t. The smells and outlines of the earth passed him hotly, brightly: his present father was being destroyed by the increase of the scientist’s body. His death’s banality had not been foretold; the scientist declined into a long-lasting ennui. Before eternity – which some listeners to his song scribble in tempo and some in brillo – he slept with three sailors one noon; he could feel their fingers as they showed him a scientist in the marketplace in the south, who flew through water and was not drowned. The scientist slowly forgot the signs of chaos. He forgot that only cold knew his father was real. This new intuition, tormenting at first, began to comfort him. He liked the image of his father’s shallow glimpses of his average fate, covering up his provisional reality. To be a machine, to be the inner satisfaction of another machine’s reality – what sublime exaltation, what balance! No son concerns himself with the father who dreamed him (which he never allowed) in full knowledge or hatred: it was unnatural that the scientist should hope for the past of his father, acted armour by armour and form by form over a single overt occasion.
The beginning of his certainty was slow, without hindsight. Finally (before a short storm) a bank of flags, heavy as elephants, vanished beneath the river. At the same time, in the north, the water became the grey sound of a python’s eyes. Coals stopped polishing the organic days. Before that, the temperate march of birds. And stories of many millennia to come were written for the first time. The splendours of the watery abyss were embellished with water. Each bird-laden dusk the scientist heard the square deluge burst from the floor: for hours he spoke of colonizing the air, until he guessed that life would never come to strip away his youth or to praise him for his past efforts. He flew into the cooling currents of water. And the water did not digest his spirit but abused and defiled him with cold and decay. Attacked, exalted, ecstatic, finally he alone was matter, no one else was designing him.
Mercedes Webb-Pullman came back to live New Zealand in 2008 after decades of living in Australia and the States, where she made stained glass windows, taught spinning, weaving and vegetable dyeing, and worked in offices, hotels, restaurants and on racetracks. She started writing because she hates knitting, and graduated from the International Institute of Modern Letters,Victoria University Wellington with her MA in Creative Writing in 2011. Her poems, and the odd short story, have appeared online (Danse Macabre, Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, Bone Orchard Poetry) in print (Mana magazine, Poets to the People; Poetry from Lembas Cafe 2009, The Readstrange Collection 2010, Numeralla Dreaming 2012 ) and an eBook (4th Floor Best Of). She won the Wellington Cafe Poetry contest in 2010 and wrote a foreword for their collection of 2012 contest entrants. Her lucky number is 8. Blue.
She lives in Paekakariki on the Kapiti coast, where seals and whales hang out, and reads at open mic sessions there and in the city. She’s working on finding out just what it is editors do, and how they go about it. Which does not preclude us from naming Mercedes DM's Assistant Poetry Editor and Head of Station K - Kiwiland.
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Epitaph in Mt. Hope Cemetery:
Ernest A. Schmierseifer 1946-2011
Beloved Husband and Father
Civic and Professional Leader
Bush Campaign Committee 1988
20 RAPTUROUS MOMENTS (IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER) IN THE LATER LIFE OF AWARD-WINNING SAN DIEGO PR MAN ERNIE SCHMIERSEIFER
Rapture No. 1 - Jan. 16, 1988 . . . driving a 1988 fire-engine-red Mercedes 450SL off the lot at La Jolla Foreign Wheels - with Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time" rising toward its majestic climax in the tape deck. (First thought: Even smells like heaven. Subsequent thoughts gliding under the palms of Prospect Boulevard: No more Ernie Schlockmeister in a Taco Bell baby-blue Chebbie with carcinogenic accents. Yee-haw! Chicks of the world, here comes Ernie, rinsed with Listerine, splashed with Brut and impressively sheathed as a rock star's pampered twat stretcher. We'll get that sleazy kraut Kunstoffer to cough up expenses in advance for his jackass opening, should cover the first car payment. Loved the monkey concept, knew he would, the cretin. We're talking couple grand to the Zoo plus a shit-kicker radio buy and can string those Arbitron whores out forever. Ernie's sweet talk scored and he made the payment after only the first dun notice; the nifty number, so eloquent in the driveway of his Cape Cod Glen subdivision home, wasn't repoed for two more months.)
Rapture No. 2 - Feb. 4, 1988 . . . being invited to sit with his wife Sunny at the same Sahara show table in Vegas with builder client Jamil Khosrabian (American Dream Builders) and Louden Glatter, first v.p. of the National Association of Light Contractors, at the NALC convention and having Craig Luckman, a hated colleague and Sunny's first husband, notice. (Glatter spent two hours, broken only by the topless number, talking about World War II duty on Kiska and pitying Ernie and Khosrabian, a recent immigrant, for having missed the "great look-out-for-each-other camaraderie of military men, so important in the business of life." Luckman was sitting with San Diego small fry and "that mousey broad who handles his media and his raging libido," as Ernie quipped to an unamused Sunny.)
Raptures Nos. 3 and 4 - March 22, 1988 . . . (a.m.) seeing his daughter, Turner, in beautiful sub-deb braces at breakfast - her splayed uppers and lisp were a source of profound (and often expounded) paternal chagrin - and deciding Sunny needn't be told his father, Ernie Sr., was picking up the tab. ("Sure they hurt," he told his grimacing only child, "but a girl's gotta work at her looks, Sugar, or she'll be left at the station.") . . . (p.m.) taking his newly hired secretary-bookkeeper Debi Kreske, age 19 - "not too shabby in the T and A department" - to lunch in his 450 and hearing her say, "This is my first time," followed by a vivid blush and the hurried recovery, "riding in a Benz, I mean." (Ernie, who thought of himself as a worldly sort, was surprised by the heart flutter Debi's blush induced. Later, when he remembered she was married to some sailor, he was ashamed of himself for being touched. He made a mental note to have Sunny shine his old elevator brogues - this cutie was a good inch taller than him in flats.)
Rapture No. 5 - April 2, 1988 . . . getting two local TV stations and the Journal to cover the grand opening of Kunstoffer's Computer Mecca by lining up a trained orangutan from the Zoo to play Nintendo. (A mild after-rapture came when a 30-second segment was picked up on Peter Jennings two nights later even if the bastards held it up as routine cretinous Southerncaliforniana and he got absolutely no plug, not even a store sign showing! Kunstoffer's contract called for a two-grand bonus for a national hit, no matter. With a surly letter canceling the contract, Kunstoffer paid, enabling Ernie to make payroll only one day late. Fringe benefit had been getting Debi in as the monk's keeper, upstaging the beast in a stunningly undersized Zoo outfit.)
Rapture No. 6 - April 30, 1988 . . . capturing honorable mention at the 1988 San Diego FLACK Awards in two categories, Best Feature in a Weekly Newspaper under 20,000 Circulation for his piece - he wrote it, a rarity - on the musical water beds ("Come Rocking With Us") at the Hillcrest Easy 7 Motor Lodge and Best Column Plug in a National Trade for his item in Flange and Gasket on Washerama's patent-pending giveaway (YOUR LOGO HERE) of an oral O-ring for making owl hoots and Times Square-class smoke rings. ("My finest day . . . is yet unknown," he hummed as he headed for the podium. Downer was driving there in Sunny's white Rabbit with its "Mothers Against Drunk Driving" bumper sticker. Sticker poorly removed, it was his thereafter.)
Rapture No. 7 - May 6, 1988 . . . he and Sunny leaving via United for Maui (first-class!) for a week in Buster Kronmeister's condo, their first trip to "the land of the lei," as Ernie frequently put it with a smirk, a tradeout for his campaign introducing Buster's line of "Macho" legwarmers for men. (The trip was a bomb: Sunny went into a pout the first night on catching Ernie outside the "Kane's Room" at the Lahaina Outrigger, after two fog-cutters and a half bottle of Zinfandel, trying to force a pair of Buster's 'warmers onto a mildly protesting Wahine from the lounge act taking a cigarette break. They returned home speechlessly two days later. Ernie blamed his behavior on having just received his quarterly testosterone shot, an ongoing "augmentation," in his urologist's (pre-Viagra) euphemism, to keep him above the lower levels of the normal range and barely in the batting order.)
Rapture No. 8 - May 18, 1988 . . . reading the note signed - even if mechanically - by George H. W. Bush thanking him for a $35 contribution "well before the Iowa caucuses," with an invitation to be a part of the Insider's Club (which for lack of $5,000 in liquid assets he was wistfully forced to let go unaccepted. The framed note remained for a year on the wall of the office Ernie had occupied in the downtown LBTK Building, pending arrival of a new tenant. "My God, Mr. Schmierseifer, you know Bush!" Debi, now famed in agency circles as the office dish, had exclaimed with big eyes and an adorable little wiggle.)
Rapture No. 9 - May 26, 1988 . . . power-lunching at Arrivederci Roma in a new sincere-blue $1,500 suit from Nordstrom with Norm Lacey of Lacey, Bennett, Turnwalter and Klopp and nailing down the deal for 2,000 square feet, furnished, in LBTK's downtown midrise in tradeout for full-scale programs for LBTK ("must be tres discreet, pal . . . "), Turnwalter's Hyundai dealership, two developer clients of LBTK (the law firm would bill them for "miscellaneous services"), and Norm's brother's struggling hydrofoil service to Ensenada. (" . . . if you seize that one moment in time, make it shine," Ernie crooned as he waited for the check, Lacey having left before coffee "to get a haircut." This sweetheart of a deal gave Ernie's Impact Public Relations a "prestige address" and clients Luckman would eat his heart out over, downside being that I.P.R. offices could only be reached through the LBTK lobby and the LBTK receptionist kept the only key - save for LBTK senior partners - to the men's room.)
Rapture No. 10 - May 31, 1988 . . . inducing a daiquiri-numbed Debi, whose husband, an E-6, was in WestPac aboard the U.S.S. Avenger (MS-33), to join him in the Easy 7's melodic honeymoon suite (with appropriately equipped video center), rapture shattered by his beeper and a call from Sunny reporting that Turner had fallen over her handlebars and likewise shattered braces and one front tooth. (Officially, it had been his night to attend the monthly NALC Sales and Marketing Dinner. And, indeed, he and Debi had made it for cocktail hour before leaving separately on press of business, his wink making sure Luckman noticed.)
Rapture No. 11 - July 1, 1988 . . . receiving a tequila-reeking abrazo on stage at the inauguration gala from Manuel Mejia, local NALC prez, for handling entertainment - Ernie had obtained within a skimpy budget several third-tier performers tenuously associated with several second-tier performers - and an introduction as "one of this town's top flacks, a friend of the Chicano community, and a leading local Don Juan," the latter evoking mock dismay from Ernie and an undisguised look of pain in Sunny's tired, purple-shadowed pale blue eyes at the head table. (And she'd been so cute when he'd stolen her way back in '72 from that candyass Craig, fortunately no longer his partner . . . bastard never let him forget how he'd greased him into the PR Club presidency five years ago, before their little breakup . . . trivial matter of Ernie's favorite massage parlor billing the firm for "business development services." Ernie had gotten on the ham-fisted Mejia's good side by donating two months' services to his bail-bondsman cousin ("a sleazeball," as Ernie often described him) in a successful bid for a lucrative port-commission seat.)
Rapture No. 12 - July 9, 1988 . . . winning the Over 40 Low Hurdles at the Lions Club Cystic Fibrosis Track Meet, leading from the bark of the starting gun after two of his four rivals fell over before the first barrier, in a time only two seconds off what he'd done in high school (with Sunny and Turner - front tooth crowned and newly rebraced - in the grandstand and a pony-tailed Debi selling Lionburgers at a refreshment stand), knowing he could get a column item out of it. (Troy Scampone, July 12, third item: " . . . tub thumper and self-styled girl watcher Ernie Schmierseifer beat four other puffing Lions Clubbers to the tape in the 220-yd. lows at their annual flab derby and gave it the full stadium trot with the Stars and Stripes like a boozhwah Carl Lewis . . . ")
Rapture No. 13 - July 24, 1988 . . . reading with glee and unfounded pride an "over-the-transom" bottom-right front-page Real Estate section feature with three-column color art in the Journal on Lacey's new "French country chalet" at Rancho Santa Fe, appearing the day before a meeting "to review the lease arrangement for tenant nonperformance" and greatly smoothing Norm's feathers after Ernie allowed how hard he'd worked to hose it. (Ernie sent a liter of Cuervo 1880 to the editor, a margarita freak, who sent it back with an unpleasant note about journalistic integrity and the P.S. that, if he'd known Ernie handled Lacey's shop, chances are he'd have killed the piece.)
Rapture No. 14 - Aug. 6, 1988 . . . winning the Charleston contest (with Turner his feather-light partner), just as he had in high school (his mother had taught him), at the Holy Innocents Catholic High School "Father-Daughter Dance," the same night Turner later went into hysterics after Ernie made a widely observed and quickly rebuffed pass at the bosomy female vice principal in the school's new post-nun world, and Sunny later announced out of a clear blue sky that she wanted a divorce, the last thing Ernie would ever expect from what he often called "my ridiculously devout wife."
Rapture No. 15 - Aug. 24, 1988 . . . acting as replacement moderator (Luckman, now president of San Diego's largest agency, had "taken ill" after learning Ernie had been picked for the panel) of a symposium on "Using Marketing Communications to Make a Better World" during "We Are the World Week" at San Diego State, Ernie's promotion-minded alma-mater. (Intro by Professor of Journalism Cornelius Chang dubbed Ernie "one of San Diego's leading publicists" and he, still giddy from those words and Debi's perfumed presence in the front row in an Angora sweater, had hastily agreed to sell a block of 20 season tickets to the SDSU football season, not one of which he would ever sell. Ernie spoke on using PR to promote the "American work ethics" [sic] in underdeveloped countries, a subject to which he had never given a moment's thought till two days prior. "Jeez, a friggin' United Nations you gotta suck up to in this town," he reviled himself later that night as he thumbed through a Hustler in the massage parlor lobby waiting for his favorite gal to finish up with a septuagenarian County Supervisor.)
Rapture No. 16 - Sept. 7, 1988 . . . getting the phone call from George Bush's "headquarters" announcing that the candidate had selected him to be on the campaign national steering committee, members of which were voluntarily contributing $1,000. ("Tell George I've got him covered and keep stepping on that Greek bellyacher," said Ernie, flushed with the successes of 1988. Both personal and corporate checking accounts were overdrawn, what with one of Lacey's apprentices asking three-grand upfront for the divorce - "if you insist on throwing her out of the house" - Turner needing psychotherapy, etc. Ernie equivocated through one dun letter, a Bush Campaign Swifty Mailgram and two hard-pressing phone calls while proudly carrying the gold-embossed steering-committee ID card, which Debi borrowed to show to her girl friend Misti Banner in Navy Housing.)
Rapture No. 17 - Oct. 15, 1988 . . . watching Debi's blissfully inept dance routine at the stag party Ernie threw for Hal Sievers, editor of the Daily Recorder, on the eve of his third wedding. (Ernie had lined up Debi with a half hour's sweet talk and the promise of a $500 Christmas bonus. Debi's jiggling hula had been the hit of the night - she'd taken the de rigueur course when Herman was stationed at Pearl - and ended with her bestowing a large public hug and smooch on Ernie before scooping up her grass skirt and halter and fleeing the private room at the Easy 7. She'd earlier raised Ernie's ire by refusing to go to Hal's room after the party so he'd decided to "dock her bonus at least a C," as he untruthfully told the soused journalist, there never having been nor would there ever be a bonus at Impact Public Relations.)
Rapture No. 18 - Nov. 22, 1988 . . . opening the Journal at his studio apartment and finding his name in the Wanda Kettleson social column as a committee member for January's "Extravaganza in St. Moritz" at the La Jolla Beach and Yacht Club. Music rising, " . . . when all of my dreams are a heartbeat away, and the answers are all up to me." (Yee-haw! After their years of struggling to "break into one of the better crowds," he finally makes Kettleson - irony! - two weeks from their dissolution hearing, if only in a laundry list of 16 chairpersons, a group he'd squeezed into by persistence, strategic blandishments and promises of lavish PR, the latter of which he'd of course turn over to a go-fer in the office and forget about. That morning at the office, newly returned to a Class C loft in the warehouse district, two of their old friends called to say they'd noticed and Ernie was alarmed to realize the rapture was gone. How come he kept thinking of his eight hours in the labor room at Mercy waiting for Turner to pop, back in those days when he was chain-smoking? Knowing for sure it was a boy ol' Sunshine was going to pop out for him. Better damn sight be, after all the troubles and lost sleep this carefully nurtured pregnancy had put him through, including her recent insistence on the college trust account. He had decided on "Ted Turner Schmierseifer" after his media and yachting hero but, foiled by nature, settled on just Turner. Was Sunny just putting on all these ghastly expressions? Of course not! - having a kid's no cakewalk. Basically a good gal, Sunny - kept the house clean, good with clients, veins yeah but no cottage-cheese thighs yet. Then his focus was drawn to a small and scrawny terrier out the window down on J Street futilely facing heavy traffic and trying to cross the thoroughfare to a vacant lot beyond, one frequently populated by the homeless. Wildly agitated, it took a crazed dart into the street, barely dodged two speeding cars and was nicked by a UPS truck, finishing the passage hopping on one hind leg and then collapsing unheeded beside an overloaded dumpster. Ernie looked away and chased the vision. His eyes were getting itchy from thinking about cigarettes. Did he need one now? He considered calling Sunny to see what the shrink thought about Turner's suicide attempt and how the house sale was going. Then Debi knocked and came in breezily with a mug she'd bought on her lunch hour labeled "Big Horn" and displaying a childishly obscene cartoon of a stag. He'd been dropping hints about a marriage someday plus an IPR vice presidency and Debi, sick of Navy housing and an absentee husband, was tuning in. Ernie laughed for the first time on the 22nd and, with the door open, blew Debi a discreet kiss. He made up his mind, dammit, he wasn't going crawling back to any broad. He walked into the outer office and bummed a cig from his bookkeeper.)
Rapture No. 19 - Dec. 2, 1988 . . . hearing Debi say she loved him and that he was "really gangbusters in the sack," after dinner at her souvenir-cluttered Navy Housing apartment, a red-nosed Rudolph blinking beside a glass-cased Kabuki doll on the faux-brick mantel, scant minutes before Herman A. Kreske, boatswain's mate 2/c, enlightened via transpacific telephone by neighbor and former shipmate Bud Banner and home early on orders he'd finagled to damage-control school, kicked in the latched front door, strode to the bedroom with a Shore Patrol
38-mm handgun, and, standing above his pale white left shoulder, put a hole from a distance estimated at 18 inches by homicide criminologist Duc Tinh Tran between Ernie Schmierseifer's horror-stretched eyes.
Rapture No. 20 - July 4, 2011 . . . regaining consciousness for approximately one minute, after achieving, thanks to Sunny's irrepressible pro-life viewpoint, the longest coma in the annals of Western Hemisphere medicine and receiving thousands of column inches in San Diego and L.A. newspapers, as well as blockbuster stories in Time, Newsweek, USA Today, Modern Neurosurgery and the London Daily Mail, plus two gruesome minutes each on "True Police" and "Geraldo at Large," when orderly Luz Clemente in a patriotic enthusiasm turned on the rarely used wall-mounted television set to the Fourth of July fireworks and pop music celebration presided over by President Barack Obama from Washington, D.C., while giving her rabbinically bearded, 87-pound patient his weekly sponge bath and needle replacement on the six-to-midnight shift, forcing past the gauzy gray veil with a split-second's sweet infusion of bliss the Olympian voice of Whitney Houston in high crescendo, "I will be . . . I will be free," as suddenly overlapped by Luz's ripe Charlie scent mingled with a rancid antisepsis and a fiery whiteness through the glaucous slit of one remaining eye from the stentorian sunburst of a Medusa-headed pyrotechnic illuminating the small, dim room in the Bide-a-Wee long-term-care facility. Mangled words struggled to form in his fractionalized frontal lobes but never finished the hazardous trip to his vocal cords. Materializing inwardly like a dying shortwave signal through an eternity of barbarous pain the word "cigarette," then "Sunny!" and then, rising to his deepest vision, the fire-storming eyes of judgment converging into the black muzzle hole and, with the deafening climax blast of multiple fish-tailed rockets over the Washington monument, the muzzle exploding with finality - "WHERE?" "WHAT?" - and then darkness. (A middle-aged and still shapely Debi, living with Herman and their three children in Miami eight years after his parole, read about the death in the Herald and, gagging, threw the section into the trash. Sunny and Turner, the latter in a motorized wheelchair on a three-hour leave from Mesa Vista Psychiatric Hospital, Craig Luckman, two local reporters on assignment, and a National Enquirer stringer attended the brief services at Mt. Hope. Her white hair in a bun, Sunny, who had long ago withdrawn her divorce action and refused despite unrelenting pressures to "pull the plug," still dated Luckman sporadically. She described the deceased to reporters as a good husband and father and said she was glad he could finally rest in peace.)
J. C. Frampton's stories, verse and humor have appeared in literary journals, including Danse Macabre, in the U.S. and U.K., both online and print. A resident of Southern California, he has had reporting, commentary and arts/literary reviews in metro newspapers in the region. framptonatsandotrrdotcom