SPOTLIGHT: ANVILHEAD by Rustin Larson (an Excerpt)

I chose to avoid hardware stores because I knew those would be the first places they would go to preach in the hidden fascist meeting rooms in the back espousing their intergalactic fascism and bigotry. I picked a flower today, a tiger lily which were once thought unpatriotic though they bloom on the fourth of July.

I heard the lemon dealer scream at a passing car. Oh, those passing cars, their shouted insults and threats from cowardly passengers or drivers. They frequently focus their rage on the lemon dealer. I have also been a target of their jibes, but I only once heard distinctly, “I’m going to KILL you!” The lemon dealer seemed incensed. He ran into the street and bellowed and demanded they (driver and passenger) return and engage in combat. They squealed away and disappeared over our famous suicide train tracks.

It’s that time again with neighbors launching small explosives into the air every evening. It makes the cats nervous and they meow at us questioningly as they avoid their window perches and gravitate to the arms and backs of couches. When I was a child, our calico hid in the bushes.

It was another summer Saturday of cars and motorcycles gunning their engines past our houses. The Sufis’ chickens cackled with their usual startled annoyance. The Sufis’ big black dog had been sent to a farm, so his barks could no longer be heard. Randallooney knew the dog bothered me, so Randallooney arranged angelic intervention and the dog was sent away. This made the Sufis sad because they loved the mastiff. But he had been miserable in his small enclosure and one day broke loose, scaring a young pregnant woman onto the top of an automobile. The dog was subdued and eventually relocated. “All in a day’s work,” Randallooney said to me, and then he vanished into the wall of my front parlor.

There were tornado warnings every week because mankind was being punished for not loving their neighbor. The donkeys in the zoo cried out for the Virgin Mary to bless them, and the tenderloin shop fried onion rings all evening near the hospital for Catholics.

I made myself an Arnold Palmer and sat drinking it in the kitchen. The appliance repair guy was sprawled on the floor trying to get the dishwasher to cycle and drain properly. I heard a gushing in the pipes.

My Earth grandmother loved hoagies and the White Sox and channel cat dipped in batter and fried crunchy good. September signaled the end of freedom, police helped direct the five alarm alert from the fire station, truck after red truck and sirens like they would never end because the mattress factory went up in flames on a July night because of errant fireworks.

Randallooney was being awfully quiet and so was Mrs. Abercrombie and her ghost daughter. I had planned yard work, but I needed to sit in the kitchen and grunt occasionally at the repair guy.

I chatted with Ariel who had just returned from Milwaukee. Her sister-in-law had died of cancer leaving two motherless children and Ariel was exhausted and couldn’t help me. I did talk to a rabbit who had laid his body at my doorstep. He was still alive and was lounging and flicking his eyes and ears lazily in the mist. Will the world be washed away by rain today, Mr. Bunny? I asked. He lay on his side stretching out and yawning.

“You’re probably using too much soap,” he said.

I grunted.

Nature takes no alarm to nature. The bugs sang and resembled the ringing that was already in my ears, but was different. Robins and cardinals bathed in song because it was morning and not night and there were no pyrotechnics to compete with or to flee from.

“And what’s going on with your stove?” he asked.

As he fished his flashlight into the guts of the broiler, I, for some reason thought of Mount Rushmore.

 Poor dear things, the ship is going down, but they tied my hands behind my back so I can’t help, I cried. The moon continued to be invisible. Don’t you want my help?, I shouted. The rabbit flicked his ears and fell asleep, children laughed from their picture frames near the door, each child now grown to adulthood. If I can’t help you, can and would you please help me? My dead English teacher smiled in her grave.

“Gas!” I said. “It sometimes smells like it’s filling with gas and it takes a long time to light.”

“I think your igniter’s bad,” he said banging at some metal.

I once was a Saturday morning child. There was a feeling then that was more minimum. Back then I had the path I took more than a specific plan I could live on. I was slight, despite my anvilhead, and was, some mornings, without the island. Two nights visible only to my eye and any breakfast, I would pull maybe three at best. I had it sometimes, even if I lost it, in my dirty jeans and my supplies there, hidden. I had only to rely on and strike out for the island. Saturday morning would come, landmarks, a patch in the river. Turtle Claw Island, I made my way to the curious bald stones of that island. Those I would bridge and pluck, and I rose from the soil like a boat of drowned iron and skulls, markings I by catwalking the rungs, plucked through myself. I left the railroad trestle to the lush canopy of trees, broken branches or strips of island, and then dropped to the island floor.

After my Earth parents divorced, when I was five, I thought my Earth mom, Hon, looked like a sugar cookie with red hots pressed into it. Yellow frosting hair. She would swing me in the park on the swing that looked like blue jet pilot ejection seats. I watched a lot of Captain Kangaroo while Hon worked in the kitchen and hummed Hank William’s “Why Don’t You Mind Your Own Business” as the radio played just that. At 3 pm Treeeesha would come to babysit me until bedtime as my mom worked a shift at the Paradise Lounge.

I keep hearing a chime like someone is standing next to me with a marimba and I only have a banjo but no hands to strum it. I cried flames of morning sun. Be calm I said to myself if they don’t let you fix the sinking ship, let it go down to the bottom, me with it. I asked. Yes, said the masked god. The weeds quivered. No one was delivering any packages. I ate a boiled egg and was calm and then I made coffee.


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