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The Late/Great Khristian E Kay is Alien Buddha Press’ Featured Artist of the month for July 2020

Kay

 

“Khristian E Kay died on 5/29/2020, just days before having the chance to hold a copy of Room 117.

As an artist, and an editor, I am honored to have had the opportunity to work on this heartfelt collection.

Khristian’s passion as a public elementary school teacher in a bad neighborhood shines beautifully in Room 117.

 

Typically, the feature artist of the month segment is an interview with the honoree, followed by space for them to share some work. Since that is impossible this time around, I would like to share the poem of Khristian’s that stuck with me the most. If was first featured in ‘Psalms of the Alien Buddha’, and then again in Room 117.

So one more time, I present “Mo Mo”, a poem by Khristian E Kay about one of his favorite students.

 

Mo Mo

Today he tells me he wants to be known as Mo Mo

Last month it was Mar Mar

Before that: Marky Mark (until I showed him

a video of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch)

Mo Mo is a ball of energy about 3 feet tall

always dancing or jumping on the desks

shuffling across the floor in his socks

He makes up raps about things I say to the rest of the class

Embellishing my words to fit his rhymes

“I gonna beat that ass if yo’ don’t have a pass

You need to have a pass / have a pass

I gonna beat yo’ ass if yo’ don’t have a pass

But I ain’t goin’ to jail for that

No ain’t goin’ to jail for that”

Mo Mo’s family sells weed, all of them,

to the locals everybody knows who’s holding

His older married sister handles the drop phones

His mom makes the deals his older brother keeps the bank

Mo Mo and his younger siblings run

interference with the police

since weed is not legal here yet

Mo Mo tells me this as he lays on my desk eating lunch

He prefers to spend his lunch time with me

 

telling me the benefits of an AK74 over a 47

of the Dracos hidden under the liner of the couch

The safe in his brother’s closet

 

The men that drink his mother’s liquor as she

makes deal after deal

The men they have to help out of their apartment

The secret passage in the basement to the barbershop next door

where Mo Mo and his siblings smuggle out bags of weed

in their book bags because boys coming out

of a barber shop with their book bags looks legit

Mo Mo tells me he keeps his nine in the wastebasket by his bed.

then bounds Spiderman-like up onto his feet at the corner of my desk

He leaps to the floor dances a shuffle singing

“got my gat gat gat / gonna rat a tat tat

 

Shoot all these mutherfuckin’ rats with my gat gat gat…”

 

I tell him to take his tray back to the lunch room he smiles

Picks it up and dances out of the door

 “I’ll be right back back back with my gat gat gat…”

 

 

Gunpowder for Single-ball Poems The New Poetry Book From Alan Britt and Concrete Mist Press

6º FAHRENHEIT

 

Isis rolls through the Federation Ring

beyond Saturn.

 

You know the ring

precariously balanced

these past 10 billion years?

 

That ring,

that cracked fingernail

if you’re in a cane rocker

on a peeling whitewashed porch

beneath the dripping pecan trees of Athens, Georgia.

 

Well, Isis found a stream

near the University of Georgia,

a stream that sometimes freezes solid—

Isis approached the whole affair

disguised as a gas furnace

lapping her iguana blue tongue

around the thighs

of coal miners,

poets,

and Beethoven perfecting his Ninth.

 

And on that very night in Athens, Georgia,

Isis pulled a quilt

over the antlers

of 6º Fahrenheit

blistering her unlocked doors

of solitude.

 

 

WINE TASTING

This ’99 Reserve—

who’d you reserve this for,

Humpty Dumpty?

Perhaps you thought you’d catch me napping?

Dazing when I should be focusing closer attention

on your Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet?

Well, the ruse is up!

So, don’t go waving banners or declaring holidays

for this anemic vintage.

Rumor has it that only the most cultivated spirits

can produce the exquisite amnesia required

by desperate poets like you and me.

Again, forget waving sentimental banners or letting

school out early for this anemic vintage.

This ’99 Reserve—

who’d you reserve this for,

Humpty Dumpty?

 

 

 

POEM ABOUT AN HOURGLASS

 

If only I could rise

from this velvet couch

and say what hasn’t been said

for millennia.

 

If only I could recall

the name of Gerard de Nerval’s

lobster

waddling the Champs-Élysées.

 

If only I could

fling my atoms

into perfect quantum orbit.

 

Then I might say that

words come too easily.

 

But you’d know better.

 

Just ask Marlon Brando

for a glimpse

into the future;

now that Marlon’s dead,

I’m dying to know.

 

Alas, if only destiny

had the sultry hips

of an hourglass.

 

hasdigfasuiu

www.amazon.com/dp/1734440902

The Corona Carlyle Conspiracy A Novella by Red Focks

The Corona Carlyle Conspiracy

A Novella by Red Focks

(unedited, lower your expectations a smidge)

lfB5Z1591413779

 

 Friday March 13th 2020

T or C Middle School

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

 

“I don’t want to be in this group, Mrs. Sanchez are you trying to give me the Coronavirus or something?” the class clown joked. Most of the class laughed. The social studies teacher hushed the disruptive student. Young Corona even laughed a little bit as a defense mechanism. She didn’t want to seem bent about anything in front of her peers. Deep down she wished her parents were drinking hennesy the night she was conceived. “Hennesy is a pretty name, and there’s no virus named after it” she thought.

It was 4th period, the digital clock on the wall crossed 11:11:11. Principal Freeman stuck his head in through the door and called for Mrs. Sanchez into the hallway. While the teacher was gone the students chattered amongst each other. Every time Corona heard somebody talking about the Coronavirus she became anxious that people would stare at her or make a dumb joke about her name. Corona Dianna Carlyle used to detest the nickname C.C., but now she embraced the abbreviation. The fourteen year old wore thick lensed glasses over her eyes, and braces on her teeth. Her frizzy charcoal colored hair was done up in a messy ponytail. She wore her brother’s Mountain Goats band t shirt that he got at one of their concerts. The goat emblem was faded and the shirt sagged down past her knees.

The class clown was a boy named Kyle and he had a crush on Corona. “Do you think Mrs. S and Principal Freeman are talking about your virus?” Kyle asked Corona with an off-putting grin.

“Leave me alone Kyle. He’s probably trying to figure out who left a bunch of empty monster cans on the bathroom floor and punched holes through all of the stalls”. Corona’s counterjab was good for a laugh from her classmates. Kyle wore ultimate fighting shirts despite having no training in MMA, he wore a ballcap on his head backwards, he called people bro, he did indeed drink monster, and yes, Kyle punched an occasional hole in his bedroom wall when life got challenging. Kyle was a total Kyle and everybody knew it. Corona on the other hand, while being far from the most popular girl in school, was generally liked by the students and teachers at ToCMS. She was a nice girl most of the time. She was friendly to Kyle when he moved to Truth or Consequences in fifth grade, which was when he developed his crush on her. He started picking on her in sixth grade, which was when she started to dislike him.

Mrs. Sanchez walked back in and addressed the classroom. “Kids; we are going to have an early dismissal today at noon, and school is going to be cancelled indefinitely. While we do not have an exact timeframe on when classes will resume, spring break was already set to start on the 20th and go until the beginning of April. It is probably a safe assumption that we will be closed at least until then due to concerns about the covid-19 virus. You will catch the busses home straight from this classroom, and I am sending you off with this packet of information for your parents. If anybody needs to call their parents or guardians to let them know about the early dismissal, you can use your cell phones now (we know you have them), or you can use the landline phone in the vice principal’s office. Does anybody have any questions?”

Kyle raised his hand and blurted out “I don’t want to take the same bus as her”. The pest pointed to Corona.

Sanchez shook her head and sighed. “Kyle, you’ve been making the same joke all week. Give it a rest. You can just ask her out on a date so she can say no, which she will probably do, because unlike you she seems to have some good sense. Covid-19 is not a joke. Corona has nothing to do with beer, or Ms. Carlyle here. Remember to wash your hands, be considerate of what you breathe in and considerate of what you breathe out.”

Corona texted her mother who was at work along with her father; together they ran a floor at a casino just outside of town. The text read “I made the school close down. I’ll be home before you.”.

C.C’s mother texted back “I heard a rumor that they were going to close the whole casino too. I will see you this afternoon at the latest. There’s leftover roast and potatoes from last night in the fridge”.

 

 

Meanwhile

at the 7 Mountains Casino

          Diehard gamblers wore white masks, some of them cut little cigarette sized holes in the middle so they could smoke while they pulled their levers, threw their dice, and exchanged cards and chips. Austin and Marley Carlyle have been working at the 7 mountains since it opened, back during the Clinton administration. They both got hired on the spot as poker dealers. They found themselves in their late-forties, still fit and full of stamina. Considered by the young and impressionable of t or c as a silver fox, a cougar, or even a milf, and something about the latter title appalled Marley. Well-to-do white baby boomers with over a thousand people working under them.

Now the guys working above them is breathing fire down from the sky. The day to day managers of the establishment were failing to keep the casino stocked with hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Top health inspectors were on site. People coughed and sneezed into their masks. The toilets in the bathrooms overflowed after folks left their complementary buffet and ended up flushing their socks and underwear.

Austin was relieved when he got the official announcement declaring that the casino was going to close indefinitely. The Carlyle’s were under a lot of pressure, and frankly they were both paid salary which would be unaffected by a temporary closure. The casino’s patrons were not as happy. A sense of hostility filled the air as the lights flickered and everybody was instructed to evacuate.

An Alaskan man sneezed near a trump supporter. The trump supporter thought the Alaskan was Chinese and told his ‘Keep you fucking ching-chong-wu-flu germs off of me!’. The Alaskan was drunk and responded to the trumpster’s remark with a fist to the face that knocked the red hat off his skin head. A small gang of white men butted in and jumped the Alaskan, knocking him to the ground and giving him a rude boot-party. Marley Carlyle shouted for the men to stop, and she radioed security. One security guard showed up to raised his voice at the assailants who continued to kick the Alaskan gambler.

“Get in there and stop this!” Marley shouted at the big security guard.

“This is beyond my paygrade, Mrs. Carlyle. I’m going home and locking my ass inside” said the germophobic bouncer. Marley removed bear mace from her pocket and sprayed the racists faces with the nozzles strong stream and pinpoint accuracy. The blinded cursed Marley Carlyle and their more aggressive sympathizers advanced on her. Austin ran across the floor to have his wife’s back; but all the same she stood strong and raised her canister high, all the while asking the question “Anybody else?!” The four men who caught the spray directly cried, and leaked snot, and vomited. Everybody in the general vicinity’s eyes began to burn just from being near it. Nobody else wanted any of it. The attackers fled the scene. The gamblers dispersed and a more sympathetic security guard came in from another section to escort the victim of the attack outside to be picked up by an ambulance.

“That was badass” Austin said to his wife. “You’re going to do well against the covid-19 zombies we’re going to face in the impending apocalypse”.

“C.C. texted. They closed her school too. As soon as all the non-employees exit this building we should punch out and go home” Marley suggested. Her husband agreed.

When the Carlyle’s walked into the floor’s breakroom, Marley saw Bobbi drinking a big tumbler glass of bourbon that she poured herself from a bar during the commotion. Bobbi was a new poker dealer, in her twenties. She’d been working at 7 mountains for a month, and had a pretty good track record with her games, which implied she was one of the sharper knives in the kitchen. The male patrons liked Bobbi’s tables, due mostly to the bottle blonde’s flirty smile and ample breasts.

“I’d like your style if I wasn’t responsible for you, girl. Did you pay for that quadruple shot?” Marley confronted Bobbi.

“Consider it my severance. Wu flu or no wu flu, the casino industry isn’t for me. This global pandemic is just the thing that put it into perspective for me. Mr and Mrs. Carlyle, I quit.” Bobbi confessed.

“No hard feelings, Bobbi. You can list us references in the future. We’ll talk about the good work you did in your short time here, and not the thievery and drinking on the job right at the end” said Austin.

“And the drink is on us” Marley added. Bobbi thanked the Carlyle’s, and then invited them to a covid-19 party that she and her husband were throwing at their house. A potluck shindig celebrating the national emergency, attended by skeptics, absurdists, and genuine nihilists.

“Bring your whole squad” Bobbi encouraged them.

Outside of the casino the victim of the assault was finally being carted away by paramedics.

 

 

Meanwhile

At Sierra Vista General Hospital

 

Jack Daniel Carlyle was working his day job as an orderly; disorder all around him. For every person infected with the coronavirus, they saw tens with common influenzas and hundreds with hypochondria. Last week, SVGH had the top score for confirmed cases of covid-19 in the usa, with three patients infected. They have since lost the top score several times over as new contenders for the title popped up all over the country.

“Word from the lab is that our fourth and fifth covid-19 cases are in the house now. They’re getting moved to quarantine right now” a nurse gossiped to Jack. Everybody in the ER was masked and gloved to the teeth. Many of the nurses were working double, even triple shifts. Many were feeling anxious and depressed.

Jack Carlyle was satisfactory at best when it came to being an orderly. He bedside manor was near excellent, but he was often late for shifts, sloppy in his appearance, with untucked scrubs, unkempt curly brown hair, and forever eight o’clock shadow. Jack was convinced that all the hysteria was mostly just that- hysteria. Jack would go as far to say that most people had a very slim chance of contracting coronavirus, and that people’s rubbernecking was doing more harm than the illness itself. Before long, a credit to his thoughts was wheeled into trauma. It was the Alaskan man from the casino who was beaten up by five men.

Jack helped transfer the assault victim from the stretcher to a hospital bed. The victim had an alarming amount of swelling around his facial orifices, and he was slipping in and out on consciousness. Jack could smell his mother’s bare mace on the victims clothes. He spoke to the man in a calming voice, instructing him to fight to stay awake. To keep his mind active and his eyes open. He was unable to take the good advice. He passed away before a doctor could see him. Official cause of death, some cigarette smoke got in his nose, so he sneezed, and an angry and ill-informed mob thought he was a chinaman sneezing the wu flu all kamikaze on them, so he was beaten to death. Jack Carlyle took a wallet off of the body, and he found identification. Jack thought the man looked attractive in his i.d. picture. Certainly more so than what was dumped in front of him, another bloody waste.

Later on that day a young mother ran into the ER screaming in hysterics, insisting her infant baby had corvid-19. The test came back negative for any type of flu. Doctors put some time and thought into the child and determined that the kid likely had asthma. After breathing through a medicated inhaler the child relaxed and seemed to improve. The mother still insisted that her boy had the coronavirus. She eventually broke down and shouted at the doctors, the nurses, and at Jack. She said they were all conspiring against the public, and not admitting how widespread the virus was. Most everybody in the room looked at the woman as if she was insane. Jack the orderly spaced out on the idea of what the lady was ranting about. Jack then attempted to use his deceptively charming interpersonal mojo on the disgruntled patient. He got down on her level.

“Ma’am, I believe you. Did you hear about Bill Gates and all of the elites running drills for the coronavirus like three months before the outbreak? The conspiracy goes way over this hospital” Jack was half patronizing, half expanding upon his appetite for imagination. In his downtime, and on the toilet Jack liked watching conspiracy videos on youtube. Something about Jack made him fascinated with the absurd. His game calmed the lady down. She took her kid’s inhaler prescription and left the ER without further incident.

Jack looked at the clock on the wall and saw six more hours on his shift. He was ready for his first smoke break. A satisfactory orderly.

 

 

Friday Evening at the Carlyle House

Mother and Father Marley and Austin, and their teenage daughter Corona shared a home baked pizza and some dr peppers in the kitchen of their two story double-wide colonial home.

“We were invited to an end of the world party today” Marley told her daughter.

“That’s actually pretty cool mom” said Corona.

“Why did you say actually like that” the aging mother inquired. The daughter rolled her eyes.

“I’m just saying, an end of the world party sounds cool. You typically don’t attend functions that are so edgy.”

“Before you and your brother were born your father and I went to all kinds of parties.”

“Sounds fun”

“So do you want to come with? We didn’t want to leave you here alone tonight, so we’re only checking it out if you come along.”

“Really? Yeah, sure” said C.C. Austin assured his daughter that they were only going for a short visit, and would be back before her bedtime.

Corona was excited. The only parties she ever went to were kid’s birthday parties. Her mother picked an outfit out for her, and one for herself that matched only with a graceful subtlety.

Austin wrapped a few batches of cocktail weenies in bacon and crisped it all up in his air fryer, before salting it all and putting it on a platter alongside tortilla chips, salsa, and nacho cheese.

Before Austin, Marley, and C.C were ready to go their son Jack got home from his shift at the hospital. He looked tired. Corona told her brother about the party. He agreed, it sounded pretty cool by their parent’s standards. Jack suggested that he might be able to swing on by a little later in the night. C.C., Marley, and Austin got everything together and headed out to the car, to go to an end of the world party with a bunch strangers.

Jack Daniel Carlyle found a few slices of pizza and they were still hot. The grown adult checked out his front window to make sure his parents were gone before he lit a menthol cigarette. Jack kicked his feet up on the living room couch. He turned on the news and watched while eating pizza and smoking. Reports were coming in that toilet paper was being hoarded by many, and was made temporarily unavailable to others; that all casinos, sporting events, bars, clubs, dine in restaurants, gyms, and many other establishments were to close down. Jack turned off the adjacent lamp to dim the room. On the glowing television screen a pest hovered, slapping itself against the screen. It was one of those big gothic looking mosquitos, his younger sister had a fear of them, and referred to them as dark pixies.

Jack was irritated by the flying bug on his television screen. The off-duty orderly got up to swat the mosquito. He backhanded the bloodsucker up against the screen. Jack expected that to be the end of it, but the bug flew away.

“Shitheel!” Jack exclaimed. He removed his cigarette lighter from his pocket. He knew the flying asshole could not resist the screen’s glow for long. Sure enough, it came flying back to crawl on the t.v. screen. Jack pressed his lighter into the mug with a twisty, mashing force. He pushed hard enough to pop most bugs into a bloody puss carcass, but this dark pixie twisted back, and struggled against Jack. He looked closer at the big flying jerk. It had feelers and tentacles, pinchers, and eyeballs, and more eyeballs. It didn’t look right. Jack kept on pushing. It felt like he was pushing against a little piece of vibrating metal. The dark pixie looked Jack in his eyes, and let out a high-pitched scream that could be heard echoing through the house. This frightened Jack. He released his pressure from the bug. The little fucker flew away. As Jack stood flabbergasted, out of the corner of his eye a bright pink flash flickered, and the bug was gone.

Jack was amazed. Being a somewhat rational young man, he had to chalk up what he experienced to exhaustion, mixed with too much adderall and coffee. He fell asleep on the couch listening to the news, and stress-dreamed he was back at the hospital, working. It would be a reality again soon enough.

 

 

Meanwhile at Bobbi’s Covid-19 Party

A hipster in a fedora freestyle rapped slam poetry “covid-19/Friday-13/Drinking Lean/ No Suicide/ Epstein/ Paper Straws/ Keep it green/toilet paper/lord and savor this moment.” He received a spattering of applause.

          Amongst the early guests attending the party were Bobbi’s friends from town, poker dealers from the casino, one of Bobbi’s sisters, a bunch of her cousins, her ex-husband, and their three kids. The guests were dancing, and laughing, and drinking corona and lime whilst ingesting marijuana. The night was young, and the downstairs bathroom had already seen a small molehill of cocaine.

The Carlyle family arrived at the shindig just before 9. Austin found a table to put down his bacon-wrapped wieners, and other part food. CC’s neck hairs recoiled when she recognized a voice shouted out

“Coronavirus!” the voice hollered. Fucking Kyle; drinking monster energy. As he approached with a shit-eating grin, her mother and father chuckled and patted her on the back before going off to make an appearance at the function.

“Kyle, what are you doing here?”

“What am I doing here? This is my cousin’s party. What are you doing here, Coronavirus? Hey, wouldn’t it be crazy if drank a corona right here?” Kyle flirted

Funny? No, but are you going to?”

“Do what?”

“Grab some beers” Corona encouraged.

“Some coronavirus beer? Ha- yeah that would be crazy right?”

Crazy? Just a little bit, Kyle. Just a little bit. Seriously. Grab some from that cooler in the corner, and walk outside.” Corona tried beer a few times before. Her parents never seemed to notice. A couple cans go missing out of a 30 rack, neither one of them was counting how many they each drank. “Kyle, are you doing this shit, or are you a pussy?” Corona antagonized. Before Kyle could fire back with a coronavirus joke, CC abruptly walked away, out the front door. Kyle was left standing there, knowing that if he walked away, drank his monster, and ate some nachos in the corner until his dad took him home, Corona Carlyle, his crush since fifth grade would think he was a pussy (her exact words). Kyle nervously made his way to the cooler. Nobody was watching him. His hands shook as he reached down into the cooler knowing that if his father caught him he’d be grounded in his room for some time. Kyle grabbed four icy cold beers and skipped out the front door in an attempt to be nonchalant.

“Nice!, c’mon dude!” CC was waiting for Kyle on the porch. If he wimped out she was ready to make a move on the cooler herself. CC lead Kyle off the porch, around the side of the house, to the back, where the two adolescents crouched behind Bobbi’s swimming pool.

Kyle tried to twist off the cap. CC informed him that it was a pop-off. The girl had a pocketknife with a bottle opener. CC cracked two bottles, she handed one to Kyle, they clinked their glass bottles and said cheers. CC drank her beer quickly. She was done with her first before Kyle was even halfway down. CC cracked her second beer, and chugged it. Her second beer was drank before Kyle finished his.

“Is this your fist time drinking beer or something, Kyle?” CC took the last beer and started drinking it.

“No, I just don’t like that brand. I don’t want to drink too much corona beer or I might get the coronavirus” Kyle joked. CC looked him dead in the eye. She was starting to feel a nice buzz.

“Do you want to fight or something? Because you’re always messing with me at school, try it here; watch what happens” CC challenged. Kyle took the beer out of CC’s hand and scoffed.

“What are you going to do, sneeze on me?” said Kyle. CC punched him in the middle of his chest rather hard. Out of reflex Kyle grabbed onto CC’s wrist. She muscled herself free, and smacked Kyle about his head, and his arms, and his back, with shots hard enough to leave several bruises. The rest of the beer was knocked over, sobering the entire situation. Music and chatter could be heard inside of the house. CC looked into Kyle’s eyes, realizing that she just straight assaulted the fool. His eyes were tearing up like he was about to cry. Just as Kyle was about to run away embarrassed, CC lunged forward and kissed Kyle on his mouth. He actually withdrew for a split second, and then leaned forward in astonishment. CC made it a point to make their tongues touch before she got up, and once again abruptly exited the situation. It was a first kiss for both of them. What neither of them knew was that just earlier that day, Kyle unknowingly contracted the covid-19 virus, and through their kiss, he passed it on to CC.

Back in the house, more people who had unwittingly caught the coronavirus and were not showing symptoms yet were spreading the bug to everyone else at the party. These people really were not taking pandemic seriously at all. Bobbi introduced Marley and Austin to her date “this is Curtis”. Austin shook hands with Curtis in awe.

“Are you the rapper Beef Dog?” Austin asked the man at the party. If Curtis was not Beef Dog, Austin would be quite embarrassed. It would seem downright racist of him to think that any black man with a shaved head who was dressed well, and of a certain age could be easily mistaken as multi-platinum international hip-hop recording artist Beef Dog; but Austin was certain. His wife was not as sure, as she read Bobbi and Curtis’ faces, which were not telling much. Marley spoke up to her husband.

“I don’t think Curtis is Beef Dog. I do see slight similarities; but what would Beef Dog be doing here? Wait, didn’t he die? Yeah, he OD’d on New Year’s Eve live on television a few months ago.”

“That was Post Malone. He died wearing the stupidest fucking t-shirt I’ve ever seen” said Curtis. “I preformed on that same stage on New Year’s in 09 and made a fool of myself, that’s probably where you’re getting confused” he added.

“Oh my god, dude you’re one of my favorite musicians, I swear to god. I love all of your older stuff from like 05 to 2010” Austin fanboyed.

“Nothing after that has been as good though, huh?” Beef Dog jabbed.

“Uh, you’re a legend I love your music, Curt Dog- uh, Curtis, Beef Dog man” Austin stuttered. Curtis rolled his eyes and took a sip of his beer. His date Bobbi rubbed his chest and smirked in a way that playfully teased her date.

“How did you guys meet?” Marley asked Bobbi.

“I met Curtis at the casino, just last month on my first day working there. He is terrible at Texas hold-um, he lost a lot of money” Bobbi joked.

“But I just kept sitting at that table, drinking my drank, and smiling at the sexy ass poker dealer. Now we fuckin’” said Curtis as he removed a blunt from behind his ear and sparked it. Bobbi and Marley laughed, Austin was still amazed that a rapper he’d been listening to since he was a teenager was at a party with him in T or C NM of all places. He nearly fainted when Beef Dog passed him the blunt. Austin hit the cigar and passed it around, along with the corona virus.

 

 

 

A Week Later

          “Have you ever seen the dead don’t die?”. It was a zombie horror-comedy that came out last year. It had Bill Murry, the guy who played Kylo Ren in star wars, and a bunch of other A-listers; but the movie sucked eggs. It was the driest, most do-nothing, teeth-pulling tedious script; and the actors just sort of blurted out the lines with this dull, dead, monotone inflection. I talked so much shit about that movie; but here we are. The real life apocalypse, and it’s nothing like mad max, or children of men, or resident evil; no, its exactly like that piece of shit the dead don’t die” Austin Carlyle complained from his personal section of the quarantined family residence. It was day five.

Marley, Austin, and Jack were all sick with clammy perspiration, stuffy heads, clogged noses, and a general rundown and unwell feeling. For the son, Jack, who was temporarily relived from his job as an orderly after catching covid-19 at the hospital, he was just beginning to feel his symptoms at their very worst. For the mother and the father, who both caught the virus at Bobbi’s house party, although they were still considerably ailing, they were feeling better now than they had throughout the previous few days. The daughter, Corona Carlyle contracted the virus, and tested positive for the virus, but showed absolutely no symptoms. CC felt fine.

“I read on facebook that bill gates spread it around with 5g so he can inject african babies with microchipped vaccines” the young and immune girl gloated. Her brother was in a shit mood.

“Corona, you just crammed like seven completely different conspiracy theories into one dumbfuck of a sentence. There might be some truth sprinkled in the middle of it somewhere or another, but really, armature conspiracy theorists like you are just useful idiots. You don’t know shit about infectious diseases. Please s-t-f-u”. Jack passed by her to go into the bathroom and breathe through an inhaler and pour medicated saline up his nostrils in a vein attempt to blow mucus out with it.

“Just because you move bodies from room to room in an ER doesn’t mean you know anything about it either! You’re not a doctor, and the only scientists you know about are Neal Degrass and Bill Nye. Shut up, poseur.” CC antagonized. Marley was in the kitchen making tea and overheard her kids bickering.

“Corona, since you’re the only one who isn’t sick, why don’t you ride your bike to the grocery store, pick up some orange juice, cans of soup, shampoo, and toilet paper if they have it.” The mother requested. CC rolled her eyes, but made her way out to do the chore. “Wear an N19 mask and rubber gloves!” Marley demanded before her daughter could get outside.

“No mom, that’s so cringy”

“It’s not cringy, it’s responsibility. Do it”. The mother watched her daughter go into the bathroom and come out with her hands and mouth covered before she was given money and allowed to leave.

Once CC biked around the first corner from her house, she took off her gloves and mask, and pulled a cigarette from her purse. The adolescent lit up with a lighter she stole from a gas station. An old woman drove past, slowing down to give the smoking preteen the stink eye.

“What are you looking at you old bitch?” Corona shouted at the sky as she continued pedaling. CC made it to the grocery store. She chained her bike to the rack in front, and then walked in through the nearest door. A store worker standing near the door pointed his rubber gloved finger past CC’s nose at the other door.

“This door is an exit only, miss. Exit only! Please follow the arrows on the floor.the grocery bouncer barked. CC was offended by the man’s abrupt direction.

“Listen dude, keep your dirty hands out of my fucking face if you’re going to be such a butthurt little bitch about the wu flu.” Corona snapped back. Shoppers passing by chuckled at clerk’s embarrassment of being chewed out by a teenage girl. The employee got red in the face.

“Nice mouth.” He said to her.

Nice mouth? Did you just tell me I have a nice mouth? I don’t think so. Time’s up, dickhead.” A panicked look overcame the doorman.

“No, what I meant to say was nice language, because you were using cuss words and insulting me.”

“Save it for the judge, you monster.” Said CC. She went about her business, shoplifting everything except the orange juice, so that she could keep most of the cash that her mother gave her. The store did not have any toilet paper, napkins, tissue, or paper towels. People would have no other choice but to go shit-to-shower.

While in line to purchase the OJ, Corona overheard gossip between a cashier and customer in another line. They were talking about Beef Dog, the famous rapper who was at the same party as her a week earlier. They were saying that he died. Corona could not believe it. She checked twitter, and it was confirmed.

Curtis Jefferson, known to the world as Beef Dog, was dead at the age of 44 from respiratory complications brought on by covid-19. He’d be remembered for his music, as a television personality, and a dedicated philanthropist.

CC found it bizarre. She’d never met a celebrity before; and the first time she did, he croaked a week later.

The cashier looked Corona up and down as she scanned the OJ. She asked CC if there was anything else that she wanted to pay for. She knew that CC jacked a bunch of soup and shampoo, but was not going to call her out on it after the door guy made that comment about her mouth.

“Just the OJ” CC declared. She walked out the entrance door while flipping off the clerk who confronted her earlier. Before she could unchain her bike, a notification chimed from her phone. She checked facebook, and what she saw troubled her. Kyle had changed his relationship status to in a relationship and had sent her a request to list her as his girlfriend. She declined, and sent him a message.

–Dude, wtf? I am NOT your gf.—

Kyle responded immediately

–Umm, what about last friday? —

–So what? I only kissed you because you were about to cry. You are the biggest asshole in our school. I DON’T like you—

Kyle responded with a series of emojis, and then shitposted emo cringe memes for the next several hours. He paced around his bedroom cutting himself, drinking monster energy and punching holes in his walls. His mother, Karen kept on shouting that his father was going to beat his ass when he got home from being an essential employee at pizza hut.

“Shut up, Karen!” Kyle shouted at his mother.

“You are going to get it, Kyle!” Karen screamed at her son as he walked out of his room and into the bathroom. Everybody in the house was sick. None of them were social distancing, wearing masks, or voting for joe biden.

Kyle drank an entire bottle of tussin before dying his hair blue and punching the bathroom mirror. He walked out drunk off cough syrup with blue hair and bloody fists. Karen shrieked in horror. Kyle squared up at his mother as if he was going to get into a physical altercation with her. Karen grabbed a bottle of wine and took it to the back deck. Kyle went into his parents room and took his father’s uzi from the ceiling panel he kept it in. Blood trail from the fresh razor slices in his arms told a damning tale. Kyle left the house strapped, and he took a little walk. T or C Middle School was closed for the year; that did not stop Kyle from hopping a fence, smashing a window, and letting himself inside.

Kyle stalked the ghost town establishment with his gun drawn. He took a selfie of himself in the cafeteria with a gun in his mouth, and posted it on instagram. The boy then visualized the lunchroom full of his classmates, and opened fire. He ran down the hallways spraying bullets into lockers and classrooms while documenting his spree via photos and video on social media. After running out of bullets, Kyle found a fire extinguisher and started smashing up the school with it while spraying the foam retardant everywhere. He walked into Mrs. Sanchez’s classroom and pissed and shat all over her desk. He then walked over to Corona Carlyle’s desk and carved KYLE&CC4EVER into the wood with his bloodstained pocketknife.

Meanwhile, on the internet, Kyle’s insta followers saw what he was doing, and spread the selfie around like wildfire. It did not take the Truth or Consequences police force long to catch wind.

Several cop cars made their way to the middle school, and officers made their way into the building from all entrances. Officers found Kyle in Mrs. Sanchez’s classroom, sitting at CC’s desk, crying with his pants around his ankles. The cops demanded that Kyle put his hands in the air and lay on the ground. Kyle attempted to comply; however, the moment he put his hands left his sides one of the cops shot Kyle in the head, and his fellow officers proceeded to shoot him another twelve times, and then stage his arm and uzi in a way where it looked like he was aiming at them, before erasing their body cam footage.

Kyle’s autopsy listed Covid-19 as his official cause of death. His snot was positive for it after all.

 

 

The Next Morning

          Detectives wearing masks and gloves stood six feet away from the Carlyle’s front door, asking CC questions about Kyle while her mom and dad shook their heads in disbelief.

“How long were you dating?”

“Did he mention anything about using a gun to you?”

“Did he seem troubled as of late? Suicidal even?”

“Did your boyfriend ever mention anything about having a vendetta against law enforcement?”

CC snarled and told the detectives her truth, “Kyle was not my boyfriend. I didn’t even like him. He was a bully, and he always teased me in class. I don’t know anything because I hardly ever talked to him” the girl explained.

“So, you never spent any time with him, other than in the classroom?” a detective inquired. Corona’s parents gave their daughter a look, knowing full well that she was with him for a little bit at Bobbi’s house.

“Okay, fine. I hung out with him last Friday night for a little bit.” CC confessed.

“Like on a date?” the detective asked her.

NO! Nothing like that. He was randomly at this covid-19 party that my parents took me to.”

“A covid-19 party? Do you know how irresponsible that is?” A detective said while redirecting their focus to Austin and Marley, who were both still showing some symptoms of the virus. Austin spoke up for the family.

“Yes, that was boneheaded of us. We regret going to that party, and we understand the severity of the situation now… But a lot of people were there. Beef Dog was there” said the father.

“Beef Dog, huh? Didn’t he die yesterday? I think I’m starting to see a pattern here” the detective sleuthed. Marley sighed.

“Officer, is anybody here being charged with anything?” asked the mother. Nobody was. The investigators left the Carlyle’s front yard.

Back inside, feverish Jack was watching the video of Kyle shooting up the empty school. The footage had already been shared millions of times over.

“For fuck’s sake, CC. You sure know how to pick them” the brother said before hitting a medicated inhaler.

“I did not pick him. He picked me. I’m a victim of a school shooting!” CC argued. The family rolled their eyes.

“The school was empty”

“Fuck you, you’re empty. All you’ve got in your fake soul is covid-19” the edgy girl berated.

Marley and Austin became fed up with CC’s bad attitude and utter lack of responsibility. They grounded their daughter to her room. She told her parents that she hated living in that house, and flipped off her sick brother before retiring to her chambers.

“Corona sucks” Jack exclaimed. Being furloughed on sick leave was eating at him, as his job would have been one of the handful of essential ones in his area. His stimulus payment had not deposited yet, and he found it impossible to navigate via overloaded telephone bureaucracy to apply for unemployment. The out of work orderly had no choice but to abide by the world health organizations advice, and do hardly anything, alone in his room while his body purged itself of its plague.

Outside of the Carlyle residence, a storm cut through Truth or Consequences. The trees in the front yard started shaking violently in the wind, and it started to hail. Marble sized ice balls pelted the window in Jack’s bedroom. He turned the lights off, his humidifier on, and began youtubing conspiracy videos.

Jack was feeling conflicted. As a card carrying member of the blue party, he had no interest in watching conspiracy videos made by trumpsters. Problem was that socially likeminded liberals seldom dug for the dirty truth. Jack wanted to know who was responsible for giving him this illness, and what was the motive behind it. Jack genuinely believed that covid-19 was manufactured in a lab; possibly even a chinese lab. Youtube was full of personalities who seemed quite sure that the virus was made in china. The more these people spoke, they all theorized practically the same motive. Liberal elites were conspiring with the chinese in an intricate scheme to sabotage donald trump’s presidency. This worldwide shutdown was all about him. Jack found the theory asinine. He reckoned there were thousands of people on earth, standing on both sides of the curtain who were more powerful than the president of america. Why put the global economy to a screeching halt just to possibly help vote out a tool like donald?

Jack’s attention diverted to the upper left corner of his bedroom where a smoke alarm mounted to the wall flashed red. He remembered that there was something stashed in the plastic disc that could help him brainstorm, while also temporarily relieving him of his symptoms. Something that he’s wanted to dig out for a while now, but never had the time due to his busy work schedule. It was drugs.

Jack unscrewed the smoke alarm. Wadded up in a paper towel was seven hits of LSD and seven Xanax bars. He started off by taking one of each. Jack turned on netflix, and played the first episode of Tiger King. By the end of the first episode it was his new favorite show. He was sort-of-feeling the effects of the xanniebar, but he was not feeling the LSD at all. Jack thought about how those drugs were stashed up there for two and a half years, and wondered if they were losing potency. Jack took some more drugs, and continued watching Tiger King.

By the end of episode three, Jack Carlyle was intermingled with Joe Exotic, and enthralled amidst protoplasm enveloping him through his computer screen, transcending realities, and implementing his astral pathway into the ecosphere of big cat proprietors.

Jack paused his show and went to the kitchen for a glass of orange juice. The digital clock on the stove passed 11:11:11. He did not notice his father sitting in a robe at the kitchen table and eating a slice of pie until he spoke.

“We saved a piece of pie for you!” Austin said. Jack practically jumped out of his skin, and shrieked in horror, initially thinking that his father was a caged tiger ready to maul him. The son remembered that he was on drugs, and caught his composure.

“Dad, you scared the shit out of me”. Austin examined his son closer.

“Are you on dope or something?” the father asked.

Yes” Jack said before abruptly making his way back to his room with most of the entire gallon of OJ. The father and son never got much into the habit of lying to each other.

Back in his bedroom, Jack pierced his eyebrow and bleached his hair like Joe Exotic. He caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection of his black computer screen betwixt Tiger King episodes. Somewhere in his mind Jack knew that we would regret his decisions eventually; but he was way to fucked up to give a shit at the moment. He was feeling better than he had in days.

Jack checked facebook on his phone, and saw that his sister had commented on a meme that he shared the day before. The meme was a screencap from The Walking Dead, captioned: Biggest thing hollywood got wrong about the zombie apocalypse was not knowing that people would go outside and protest for the right to be eaten by the zombies.

Corona Carlyle commented: What zombies?! It’s a respiratory disease dr. dumbfuck. The only zombies around here are bootlickers like YOU!

Lightning struck nearby causing a boom. His sister’s mean comment got more laugh reacts than the meme got liked. Jack was awfully livid. Corona had been getting on his nerves a lot as of late. She was always wearing his band t-shirts and staining them, giving him attitude, and talking to him like she thought he was craptastic.

When CC was younger, she idolized Jack. Ever since she hit a certain age, all of her curiosity became angst. Corona was a mean and cynical teen.

Jack ate his entire stash. The star of Tiger King, Joe Exotic spoke to Jack from inside of his computer.

“You know what this is, man, it’s some fucking bullshit, the corona virus. You don’t really believe that pansy ass shit, do ya?”. Bleached and pierce, Jack blinked unevenly and responded to Joe.

“Nah Joe. I don’t think that at all. Something’s fishy here, right?”

“You’re god damn right. Someone’s pulling the strings. You know who it is, right?”

“That bitch, Carol Baskins?” (lightning crashed)

“Close, motherfucker. That bitch Corona Carlyle” Exotic explained to the orderly. It all made sense to Jack. Coronavirus/Corona Carlyle. It was right in front of his face the entire time. CC’s full name was Corona Dianna Carlyle. You see anything suspicious there? She had nineteen letters in her name. 19 as in covid-19. Then there’s her initials, CDC. CDC as in center for disease control. It’s like they’re making it obvious on purpose to fuck with us or something.

Corona seemed harmless before. Now Jack’s sister was an infectious disease, ruining his shirts and plaguing humanity. She killed her boyfriend, she killed Beef Dog, and she was trying to kill him too.

“What should we do about this, Joe?” Jack asked his computer.

“You need to take care of that bitch” Joe answered.

The Carlyle’s didn’t own any guns, and Jack didn’t have the nerve to get stabby. A black metal folding chair was the best viable option.

The clock on the wall said 12:12:12.

Corona was in her room, also watching Tiger King. Her window was cracked, and she was sneaking a cigarette, figuring Marley and Austin were fast asleep, and would not smell the smoke. The girl was startled and dropped her cigarette on the carpet when a loud thud smacked against her door. She figured it was mamma Marley, coming in to yell at her, and search her bedroom, confiscating all her electronic devices, makeup, and cigarettes.

Another loud smash on CC’s bedroom door, and then another, and another. A foot crashed through the wood. Jack stuck his arm in the foot hole and unlocked the door. CC screamed.

“What is wrong with you, asshole!”. The girl backed herself into a corner, as her deranged brother busted into her room, swinging a folding chair around aimlessly, and screaming

“I love you Corona! I’m sorry, I have to do this to stop Trump! I love you!”. Jack’s vision was warped beyond any steady floor or vertical wall. His depth perception was right up his ass. CC picked her himalayan salt lamp up from an end table, and threw it at her brother’s head. The lamp bashed him in the temple, causing him to drop the chair and fall on the ground. CC ran over, picked up the cable to the lamp and started whipping her brother in the back and ass, lashing him with the metal plug-in teeth at the tip.

The commotion woke up Austin and Marley. They ran to CC’s room to see what was going on. Her cigarette was burning a hole in her carpet, there was a hole in her door, and the young girl was standing on her adult brother’s back, and flogging him.

“Corona Carlyle, drop the lamp this instant!” Austin shouted. Marley stomped out the burning carpet while shouting

“What is going on?! Are you smoking?! Why are you beating the shit out of your brother?! First the cops come to our front door, and now this?! What is going on with you CC?!”

Me?! Jack just broke into my room trying to kill me!” CC shouted. Jack was on the floor, bleeding from a gash above his right eyebrow, pierced and bleached like Joe. Austin helped Jack off from the ground.

“At least he’s honest with us! How long have you been smoking cigarettes?” The father grilled his daughter while pulling his delirious son into the hallway.

“This is such bullshit! Everybody socially distance themselves the fuck out of my room!” CC shouted. Marley took her daughters cigarettes and left her with a disappointed head shake.

In the kitchen Austin preformed first aid on Jack’s gash. The son talked stony nonsense about netflix and politics as his dad washed the wound with vodka, and wrapped it with gauze. Marley joined them in the kitchen, and insisted that her husband drive their adult son to the ER. Jack’s mom and dad did their best to coach Jack into acting in a way that did not get him committed to a wacky hut; or his sister who was already a person of interest arrested.

The thunderstorm passed on through, and the rain came to a halt. The father and son got into the family car, and headed to the nearest emergency room that wasn’t the one Jack worked at. Jack was riding shotgun as his father tried not to hydroplane on the slippery highway they drove down. Jack shouted the lyrics to Blame Canada from the south park movie.

“They are going to put you in a padded cell if you don’t pull it together, son” Austin advised,

“Who’s putting me away? I thought we were going to Area 51 to see aliens!. Where are you taking me?” Jack panicked.

“To the hospital?”

“Why?”

“Because your sister bludgeoned you with a himalayan salt lamp, and I can’t tell if you have a concussion because you’re on dope.”

“I’m not going to any hospital man. Pull the car over!”

“Jack, calm down!”

“I said pull the fucking car over!” Jack shouted as he grabbed the steering wheel. Austin tried his best to maintain control over the vehicle, but was unable to stop his son from crashing them into a ditch on the side of the highway.

Jack climbed out of the car through the passenger’s side-window, took off all of his clothes, and ran naked into the woods. Austin turned on his hazard lights, shot a flare into the road, turned the flashlight app on his phone on, and walked into the woods to find Jack. Off in the distance tribal bongos drummed. Austin could smell campfire, pot, and sex. He found himself compulsorily chasing the weird senses tingling. The father assumed his son would do the same.

“Jack!” Austin called out into the forest as he approached the sound of woodsy partying. The drumming got louder and louder. Bats and owls moshed in the sky above him. Austin tripped and fell into a thorn bush. When he rolled out the other side, he was confronted by thirty-six naked white people, covered in mud and blood, smoking and dancing and fucking. An old man watched voluminous women shaking while her sexually desecrated the dead carcass of a lamb. Pentagrams in the dirt littered the campsite. As a group of five satanic campers approached Austin with mischievous intention, he noticed somebody he know over by the campfire. It was Bobbi, the poker dealer who worked for him before the shutdown, whose party he caught the coronavirus at. She was caked in wet mud and consensually biting on the neck of another woman, and drinking her blood. He called out to her. Bobbi looked over at him, laughed, made her fingers into the shape of a V, and licked the air betwixt them suggestively, then went back to her drink. The troop of five woodsy freaks surrounded Austin.

What are you then?” one of the naked men asked Austin with a fake british accent.

“Uh, casino floor supervisor” Austin answered. The naked strangers laughed.

“Do you eat ass?” a woman asked Austin.

“Ass? Do I eat it? Are you asking if I~~? Ass? No! I don’t!” Austin stuttered confused and defensive. The naked, muddy partyers all groaned.

“We do. We all eat ass at this camp!” a naked fat guy said.

“Well, I’m just looking for my son; but I can see he’s not here, so I’m just going to leave here and pretend I never saw whatever this is. Deal?”

“No deal, Austin!” Bobbi said off in the background while chowing down on some neck. The partyers advanced on him. Austin held his fists up defensively, but he was no fighter, and her persecutors showed no fear. They tackled and hog-tied Austin without much resistance.

 

Meanwhile just a quarter mile west in the woods, Jack ran naked, pierced, bleached, concussed, and zonked through the bushes and trees. He could see a glowing light in the distance. Jack ran faster and faster towards the light, through thorns branches that sliced his naked body all over. The glowing light brought him out the other side of the woodsy patch to the offramp of the highway. The light was a glowing golden arch in the sky. It a was mcDonalds.

Unaware of his own nudity, Jack tried to let himself in. The door was locked. He saw a sign on the window informing him that they were serving drive-thru only. Jack walked up to the little box at the drive-thru. A person inside spoke

“Yeah, what do you need!?” the fast food worker asked.

“Are you selling food?” Jack asked the box.

“Yeah dude. What do you want?”

“Umm, Oreo mcflurry”

“Ice cream machine is broken, man. What do you want?”

“Cheeseburger!”

“Okay, pull up to the first window” The mcDonalds worker spoke with the attitude of an underpaid and overworked essentially non-skilled laborer who couldn’t get fired for farting in the fry-o-later at the moment.

Jack walked up to the first window. The worker looked at Jack, naked, bleached, dyed, bleeding, and not even in a car.

“That will be $1.06, sir” said the employee. Jack didn’t have any money, he tried to explain that he’d take the burger then, and come back and pay for it the next day. They closed the window on him. Jack responded by kicking the window in, crawling though, walking up to the slot between the kitchen and behind the counter, helping himself to four big macs and a medium fry sitting there, pouring himself a sprite, and climbing back out the window. Nobody tried to stop him, he wasn’t wearing a mask, they didn’t want to catch the coronavirus.

Jack took his bag of fast food back into the forest, chewing loudly and dropping paper and cardboard containers on the ground as he walked. He drank his carbonated lemon-lime beverage via plastic straw as he looked up at the treetops, spotting more bats and owls. Jack took a bite out of a sandwich and special sauce squirted out the other side, landing on his exposed dick and balls. One of those giant mosquitos that CC referred to as dark fairies flew down and landed on Jack’s penis before feeding on the spilled mac sauce. Jack snatched the dark fairy, getting sauce on his hand. He tried to crush the flying pest with his fingers, but the integrity of the gnat’s body would not cave. The bug once again hissed a vicious and intimidating battle-cry, and struggled itself free. The dark fairy flew away. Jack dropped the rest of his trash on the ground, and ran after strange insect. He ran faster and faster and began to hear the tribal drumming, and smell the aroma of sex and the campfire.

Jack ran into the clearing where the naked white yuppies were engaging in satanic activities. They had his father, Austin, now also completely naked, gagged and bounded at his wrists and ankles, and tied to a metal pole, where freaks held him from both sides over the campfire, slow-cooking him above the flames like a pig. The father screamed in pain through his gag. Partygoers drank, and danced, and chanted, and fucked in the mud.

Jack was naked and inebriated just like Bobbi and the other partiers; and was therefore able to blend in long enough to pick a heavy stone off the ground, and hurl it at one of the men who were cooking his dad. The rock hit him in the mouth, causing him to drop his end of the pole, thus dropping Austin’s lower body right into the flames. The woodsy freaks swarmed Jack, tackling him to the ground. Austin was dragged out of the flames, and had to roll around on the ground frantically to extinguish his burning pubic hairs. Bobbi instructed her friends to tie the father and son so they were bonded together back-to-back; and then burry them into the earth, up to their necks.

A scourge of dark fairy mosquitoes surrounded Bobbi. She opened her arms and swayed her body seductively as the buzzed around her. Bobbi murmured back at the buzzing swarm in a long-dead language. She received a message from the pestilence, and stepped forward to make an announcement.

“Satan is pleased! We have done well! An incredibly special guest is going to be stopping by camp tonight! Leave their faces undesecrated until he arrives!” Bobbi ordered. Austin and Jack were buried up to their necks, re-gagged, and then left alone for the next hour while the satanists had another orgy. Austin tried to make eye contact with Bobbi, hoping she would see the suffering in his eyes, and let them go. At one point, while Bobbi was preforming oral sex on her fat dentist, she did look over and see Austin. It did not make her feel sympathetic, only hornier to think about her former boss’ woe. She played with her nipples and retested the urge to walk over their and fuck his face.

An hour later, a helicopter hovered over the campsite. As a strong wind from the propeller’s blades chopped down on the satanic partiers, a rope dropped from the bird, down onto the ground right next to Jack and Austin.

Down the rope slid former vice president Joe Biden.

“Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I missed you!” Biden said.

The party-goers all dropped to their knees, and praised Joe as he let go of the rope and approached the father and son. Jack tried frantically to talk to Biden through his gag. Joe gave Jack a sideways smirk, and then turned to address his subjects.

“Can somebody free this guy’s tongue, please and thank you?” Joe asked his minions. Bobbi got up from her knees and ran over to take Jack’s gag out of his mouth. When Bobbi walked back to return to her original point of worship, Joe sniffed her hair a little bit. Jack begged from the ground.

“Mr. Biden, please, I contributed to your campaign. I’m going to vote for you! Please let me live!” he cried.  Joe and his minions laughed out loud as Jack begged for his life. Joe Biden looked down at Austin, who appeared to be in shock.

“Get the gag off daddy too, please!” Joe requested. Bobbi got up again to remove Austin’s gag. He bit her finger for her efforts, breaking the skin. Bobbi’s response was to suck the blood off her own finger suggestively, then lick Austin’s ear. He recoiled, and then looked up at Biden.

“I have nothing to say to you!” Austin blurted out.

“That’s fine. I didn’t emancipate that mouth for talking” said the former vice president. Joe got completely naked, then sat on the ground with his legs crossed, indian-style; then he leaned back and pressed his anus up against Austin’s lips. “Hail Satan!” Joe Biden shrieked into the night’s sky as he forced Austin and Jack to eat his ass. After getting his salad tossed by Jack and Austin for a half an hour, Joe Biden was finally able to maintain an erection. Joe ran into the bushes to shield himself while he jerked off out of sight from everybody as they followed Joe’s lead and used Jack and Austin’s exposed heads popping out of the ground as reluctant dildos.

The Carlyle men were eventually suffocated by ass. Their dead heads were left popping out of the soil, covered in every single bodily fluid containing the coronavirus, which before long was eaten and licked clean by ants and other pests.

The sun began to rise. Joe grabbed onto another rope and was ascended up into the sky on another helicopter. The satanists all went home, happily thinking that they just attended one of the finest shindigs ever thrown.

Jack and Austin Carlyle’s bodies were reported to the T or C police department later that day by an anonymous woman, claiming to be a happy camper. Their causes of death were officially listed as covid-19.

 

 

Back at the Carlyle Residence

The same detectives who showed up at the door a day earlier showed up again, distancing themselves from Marley Carlyle in their masks and latex gloves as they informed the worried soul that husband and son were dead. Marley broke down into tears, unable to catch her breath she screamed until everything went black and she landed on the floor. A hero cop put his life on the line by breaking the six-foot rule, and dragging the grieving widow to her couch so that the detectives may let themselves in and ask her a bunch of questions. They wanted to see CC.

A detective went upstairs and knocked on a pink bedroom door with a foot hole kicked in it. Nobody answered, so the detective put his hand through the hole, and unlocked the door from the other side. Corona Carlyle was not in her bedroom. Clues indicated that she climbed out her window.

The cops put an APB out with a warrant for CC’s arrest. Marley was devastated to learn that her daughter was missing, on top of everything else.

Marley considered drinking a bottle of pills with a bladder of red wine and tethering a plastic grocery bag around her head in the bathtub. If she had, her cause of death would have been covid-19. It was in her snot after all. But Marley Carlyle did not kill herself. Individual interior portions of her croaked, but her heart kept on beating.

Marley curled into a fetal position on her carpet as investigators tore her broken home apart, trying to get to the bottom of the conspiracy.

 

 

Meanwhile, on the other side of town

Corona Carlyle was behind the dollar store, smoking cigarettes; unaware that Austin and Jack were dead. She had snuck out the night before, right after being scolded by her entire family; CC was just riding her bicycle around Truth or Consequences and smoking ever since.

In the young girl’s purse was a can of black spray paint, which she used to tag the phrase Covid-1984 on the back of the store.

She rode her bike through a public alleyway spray-painting walls with ‘CORONAVIRUS IS A HOAX’ and ‘PLANNEDEMIC’. She kept on riding her bicycle through the public alley, until she was let out near the city’s square, where a bunch of pissed off republicans were at the town hall, protesting stay-at-home orders.

Young Corona Carlyle was not interested in politics to the point where she did not see the red hats, and other red flags indicating that she was basically at a trump rally. The girl was excited to see people angry as she was. The mob chanted “Hoax! Hoax! Hoax!”. Corona joined in and chanted along. Sweaty white men with military haircuts, wearing tank tops and sunglasses raised their automatic machine guns in the air. Cops watched from the sidelines. Some of them looked annoyed, others seemed happy to be there.

CC utilized her phone to record the protest. Her fellow resistance members gave her thumbs up and nods of approval. CC was approached by a crew holding video cameras, documenting a short, portly with a combover, speaking in a slurred and raspy voice about revolution. The man and his crew were wearing t-shirts that read ‘Freedom Warz’ in a patriotic red, white, and blue font.

Without her consent, the Freedom Warz crew began filming CC, and the host interviewed her.

This is the most inspiring thing I have seen all day folks. This young freedom warrior is out here, despite all the attempts at brainwashing our youth through the liberal media, and public schools. Congratulations, young lady, you are a hero” The host ranted while placing his fat hand on the young girl’s shoulder. CC shook off the man’s grasp, and distanced herself a step, but proceeded to respond for the cameras.

“Yeah man, no problem. I agree, school is fucking stupid” said CC.

“You must come from a strong, independent american family. Where are they, I’d like to shake their gloveless hands” said the host.

“No, I came here by myself. My family sucks. They are all a bunch of liberal brainwashed slaves. My brother’s the biggest dickhead of them all. He’s all butthurt about covid-19. I beat the shit out of him last night with a himalayan salt lamp because he broke into my room dressed up like Joe Exotic, trying to murder me with a folding chair and shit. So, then my parents come in, see him on the ground crying like a bitch; and guess what, I get grounded. I was just minding my own business, it was self-defense. He’s like eight years older than me, breaking into my room in the middle of the night, feeling froggy. How is that my fault?” CC rambled. The host of Freedom Warz nodded along with her testimony.

“Well, it sounds like you were just standing your ground, and that your brother is a real cuck” said the host. CC gave the camera a confused look.

            “What’s a cuck?” the young girl asked the grown man. I producer behind the camera shook his head frantically, signaling the host to ignore the question.

“Umm, it’s just a figure of speech… Anyways thanks again and—” the hosts attempted segway was interrupted as he felt a strong sudden tingling sensation in his nose. Without turning his head or covering his mouth, the host sneezed directly in Corona’s face.

What the fuck, man! Cover your mouth!” CC shouted at the host. The man offered an insincere sounding apology and rolled his eyes. “That is disgusting, you just sneezed right in my face! What is wrong with you. You’re a pig!”

“Young lady, you need to relax. 99% of people who catch this flu that the elites refer to covid-19 survive. Most don’t even show symptoms. You’ll be fine, kid” the talk personality said sneeringly.

“You asshole, I don’t give a shit about the statistics. Don’t sneeze in my face!” CC shouted. Instantly, she could feel the environment become hostile as the crowd turned on her. Grown men holding machine guns began taunting the girl, calling her a crises actor, and a communist. “You’re all a bunch of idiots too! You’re idiots! They’re idiots! Everybody’s a fucking idiot! I HATE EVERYBODY!” CC screamed at the top of her lungs as tears rolled down her cheeks and a vein in her forehead protruded.

Trump supporters began throwing soda cans and other garbage at CC. They advanced on her with bad intention. Before the angry mob could do any harm, Marley Carlyle drove her minivan through them, mowing down several of them. Marley slammed on the breaks and pushed the passenger side door open.

“Get in!” CC’s mother shouted. The girl jumped into the van as it was sprayed with bullets, breaking the windows and puncturing the body. More onlookers recorded the vehicular carnage with their phones as Marley ran over another couple of people making an escape, while several others were hit by stray bullets.

Marley drove as fast as she could away from the town square. She could here police sirens in the distance and made several sharp turns to avoid them. The mother looked over at her daughter, examining her to make sure that she had not been shot. When Marley saw that Corona was not hit, it made her adrenaline drop just enough to notice that she herself had taken a bullet to the shoulder and was bleeding all over the van’s center console. CC was terrified and crying.

Across an intersection, Marley saw red and blue police lights wiz by. They were undoubtedly looking for her. The mother made another sharp turn down a public alleyway running alongside a canal. She took the turn too tightly and lost control of the van. The tires screeched, the tail spun around, and the vehicle rolled off the pavement, down into the shallow canal.

The van tail-dived, splashing unceremoniously right through the ankle-high running water, onto the hard, manufactured concrete floor, landing on its ass, and then tipping backwards, crashing onto its roof, with its tires spinning in the air. Corona and Marley’s heads crashed onto the broken windshield. No N-19 masks. No seatbelts.

The upended car began filling with water. The mother and daughter’s faces were sliced up horridly and covered in blood. Both the mother and the daughter took a nap. Luckily, Corona woke up after a few moments, when she felt dirty canal water splashing her in face. CC dragged her mother out of the totaled van. She dragged her mother all the way to the end of the canal, a couple hundred yards away, where there was a small bridge that they crawled under. Truth or Consequences traffic rolled over their heads. CC found a dry spot to lay her unconscious mother down.

CC checked her phone. It was a paperweight after taking a quick bath. She remembered that her mother’s phone was waterproof. She dug into Marley’s left and right pockets and found nothing. Corona remembered that her mother often kept her phone in her ass pockets. She rolled her mom over and dug the phone from her right butt cheek. The screen was cracked, but it was still operable. The young girl called her father’s number. It rang five times before somebody answered. The voice was not that of Austin Carlyle.

“Who is this?” CC asked.

“This is detective Desmond Clauson from the New Mexico state police department. Is this Corona speaking? Please do not hang up. We want to help you and your mother” the cop spoke.

“Where is my father?” CC asked.

“Ms. Carlyle, your father and brother were killed last night. I am deeply sorry.”

Liar!” Corona shouted before chucking the phone into the canal. She truly did not believe the detective, she thought it was a conspiracy to lure her in. She went back to her mother and started trying to shake her awake. Marley snored through her broken nose. CC slapped her mother on the cheeks a few times before she woke up disoriented. CC slapped her mom one more time to get her attention. Marley snapped from one to one hundred in an instant. She rang CC’s throat for a second, then slapped her, then put her daughter over her knee, and spanked her for the first time ever.
CC screamed out during her spanking. It wasn’t fair. She always got in trouble. She didn’t even do anything. She was just trying to help.

Marley caught herself, remembering that half of her daughter’s entire direct family was dead, and they both might die before the end of the day, or go to jail. “I’m sorry CC. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what happened, but it has to be my fault. It just has to be” Marley cried. Tears rolling down their faces cleared a downward trail of skin under all the blood.

“Where are Jack and Dad?” asked CC.

“They were murdered, and the cops are trying to pin it all on you…… CC?”

“Mom”

“You didn’t kill them… Did you?” Marley asked CC who just shook her head and cried.

Still in shock, CC uttered.

“It’s a conspiracy, Mom.”

“That’s all I needed to hear” Marley cried. The mother and daughter hugged.

            “(idiots)” CC thought to herself. “Mom, we have to run for it. We need to get out of New Mexico and go to real Mexico            .

“No, Corona” the mother protested.

“I’m not letting them get us. C’mon Mommy. I mean it” Corona said. She started to pass under through the other side of the bridge, beyond the canal, to the dead end of a residential neighborhood. Marley limped after her daughter reluctantly. The mother and daughter reached the end of the road.

Hiding behind a bus stop around the corner was a young, white, plain looking male uniformed street cop on the hunt for Marley and Corona. He drew his gun and his arm shook. He demanded that the Carlyle’s drop to their knees and put their hands up. Marley looked at CC. The mother knew that her girl was itching to run. Her ears were ringing, and she felt incredibly weak and nauseated She spoke to her daughter, and the truth to what she said resonated with her daughter in an unexplainably cathartic way.

“CC, baby, we live in a sick bubble universe controlled by a mentally ill god who loves letting cops gun people down in the streets, just to illustrate some sort of point about his own bubble dystopia. It’s a fucking conspiracy.”

CC nodded her head, dropped to her knees, and put her hands over her head.

 

 

2 Years Later

(February 22nd, 2022;

New Mexico State Penitentiary;

Santa Fe, NM)

 

          Corona and Marley Carlyle were being held in separate buildings. Marley pleaded guilty to several counts of vehicular manslaughter and was serving a life sentence. Corona was finally about to have her day in court.

CC’s lawyer was confident that she could get her client cleared of all charges. Now sixteen years old, she had been held the juvenile offender’s camp this whole time, but today she was being trialed as an adult. She still hadn’t even gotten her braces removed.

A lot of things were running through Corona Carlyle’s head; most of all, the fact that her lawyer was going to be calling her mother Marley up to the stand in her defense. She had not seen her mom since the day they were arrested.

While being prepared for the courtroom, Corona was allowed to trade her orange jumpsuit for a white blouse, and a black skirt. She was also allowed to wear a little bit of makeup, and have her hair cut and straightened. It was a small victory.

The defense attorney was Wendy House-Owens, a bright twenty-six-year-old wunderkind from new york city who was renowned for representing clients in high-profile cases and helping them get off. Wendy graduated high school when she was just 14 years old, the same age CC was when she was arrested. The young attorney studied at NYU and Harvard throughout her teens, and was defending clients in court by the time she was 20.

Wendy looked at this as an open and shut case once you subtracted all the sensationalism and looked at the facts. The charge for killing rapper Beef Dog was absolutely absurd. Lot’s of people were at that party, and lots of people got sick at that party. His death certificate even said that his cause of death was covid-19.

The case for Kyle was also circumstantial at best. The boy had documented himself breaking into that school and acting like a lunatic. The text messages between CC and Kyle the day of his death did not implicate her as an accomplice in his break in. He was shot by police officers, and his COD was also officially ruled as being covid-19 related.

The deaths of her father, Austin Carlyle, and her brother, Jack Carlyle would be trickier than the others. There was plenty of physical evidence that CC and Jack got into a fight that night, and that CC bashed her brother in the head with a salt lamp. The girl went missing from her bedroom the night of their murders and had no alibi. Furthermore, there were no other suspects. The Carlyle’s did not have any enemies, and CC was the only person who seemed to have a motive, as weak as it was. Wendy planned on having Marley tell the jury that Jack and Austin got into that car alone, and that there was no possible way that CC was hiding in the back seat or anything. The lawyer also intended on showing the size comparison, and asking the jury how a 14-year-old girl could overpower two grown men, bury them up to their necks, suffocate them, make an anonymous phone call, and be on the other side of town the next morning at the anti-lockdown rally where she talked to the Freedom Warz camera crew. Wendy would point out that it was obvious that the father and son were killed by no less than five assailants. CC should have walked free.

Wendy met CC at the prison and rode the bus to the courthouse with the teen. The attorney had no intention of letting CC on the stand, but wanted to coach her on what to say, and more importantly, what not to say on the off chance hail mary where she would need Corona to speak for herself. CC listened closely to her lawyer, not speaking much, and nodding along to the instructions. Wendy House-Owens had successfully defended people on trial for murder, knowing full well that they were guilty. On this day, the lawyer knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that her client was guilty of nothing other than being a bratty tween.

An obstinate hush filled dead space betwixt the females with just a few miles to the courthouse. Wendy cut the tension by asking CC if she had any questions.

“What ever happened with the coronavirus? They don’t let me watch TV. Did a lot more people die over the last two years?” Corona asked her lawyer.

“Corona, I don’t want you thinking about that right now. That’s a political question, whether it should be or not. The district attorney who is literally trying to have you executed is going to be doing everything he can to politicize this case. We are going to give the jury the facts of the case. There is no possible way that you did the things that you’re being accused of, and we can prove it” said Wendy,

“Thank you for saying that.” CC said sincerely, looking her lawyer in the eye. For the past two years, everybody CC was in contact with (juvie inmates and guards) all thought she was guilty as hell. The crazy slaughtering tween brat who spread a disease named after her, and bludgeoned her brother and father, and buried them alive. It felt great to hear one person say that they believed that she was not a killer.

The bus arrived at the courthouse where the press was waiting outside, foaming from their mouths, waiting for their chance to document CC going to her trial while they shouted taunting questions at her in the hopes of getting some sort of response. CC and Wendy escorted by police, blew past the reporters and made their way inside without saying a word. While going through the metal detector, CC noticed the presidents on the united states’ photos hung on the wall in order. The most recent photos went Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, Biden. In president Biden’s photo he has the same smirk on his face as when Jack and Austin were being forced to toss his salad.

The DA was Dontrelle Washington relentlessly cutthroat examiner. From a ghetto in harlem, to juvi, to vietnam where he took some shrapnel to the ass, and got sent back home where he found an opportunity to go to college and shock everybody by exceeding any scholastic expectation set upon him by two thousand miles and a paid internship at a courthouse. Washington passed the bar and immediately started getting guilty  white assholes put away. He was so good getting people locked up that by the time he was in his early sixties he was doing it on behalf of the state of new mexico. Not unlike his opponent, Wendy House-Owens, Dontrelle had looked at all the reports and evidence, and he came to the conclusion that Corona Carlyle probably didn’t kill anybody. This was not going to stop him from doing everything he could to assure that the little cracker went to jail.

The persecution’s first witness was Bobbi Dowling, a former employee of Corona’s parents, who hosted a party that the defendant, CC, and two of her alleged victims attended.

DA Washington held up a photo for Bobbi and the jury to see. “Can you tell the courtroom who the young man in this photo is?” the lawyer probed.

“That’s my nephew, Kyle.” Bobbi answered.

“And for those of us who don’t watch the news, can you explain how your nephew died two years ago”

“In short, he had a sort of mental breakdown and broke into his school with a loaded gun. He shared video of himself on social media shooting in the empty school, and when the cops arrived they shot Kyle. He also had the coronavirus.”

“Did your nephew ever talk to you about the defendant before he died?”

“Yes”

“What did he say about her”

“He told me that she was his girlfriend after they kissed at a party at my house. A party that, in retrospect was very foolish of me to throw.”

Corona bit her tongue. She wanted to blurt out what she ended up whispering in her lawyer’s ear, “He was not my boyfriend, I hate Kyle”. Wendy patted CC’s knee to let her know she was heard. Corona was hoping that they’d object and have it stricken from the record, but Dontrelle and Bobbi kept on talking. He held up another photo.

“And, who is this?” he asked.

“That’s Curtis, but most people knew him as ‘Beef Dog’. He was a rapper. We dated for a little while.  ‘

“How did Curtis die?” asked the prosecutor with leading eyes.

“He died from Corona” said Bobbi as she looked over to the defendant with an implicating deminer. The jury murmured. DA Washington had no further questions for Bobbi.

The judge asked the defense if they wanted to redirect. House-Owens motioned to move on but reserve the right to question Bobbi later on. The judge granted the request without hesitation.

Washington summoned the next witness, and she was key. It was Marley Carlyle, CC’s incarcerated mother, and alleged conspirer to the defendant’s mayhem. Corona was seeing her mother for the first time since they were apprehended together. Marley looked as if she had aged fifteen years in the last two. She went from blonde to grey, and from tight and slim to soft and doughy. Her face was cracked and wrinkled like a dehydrated brain. An old gash crusted itself healed callus on her neck, as if the yuppie baby boomer found herself in a shiv fight at some point since being on the inside. She hobbled to the stand with a limp. Marley and CC locked eyes the entire time she was going through the motions. Corona was unable keep herself from crying, which her lawyer saw as helpful to their case, as long as CC sobbed innocently, and unlike a psychopathic mass murderer.

Washington was not here to pull a single punch. He got right into the questioning. He instructed her to tell the court why she was currently incarcerated.

“I committed several acts of vehicular manslaughter against a peaceful protest” Marley answered in a matter-of-fact fashion.

“Was your daughter in the car with you?” Washington asked.

“Not until after the collision”

“How soon after killing several people in the collision did she get into the vehicle with you?”

“Immediately.”

“Were your husband and son killed in April of 2020?”

“Yes”

“And that night, did you witness your daughter assaulting your son.”

“…Yes, but CC didn’t kill Jack”

Washington pulled up a picture on Jack’s corpse in an autopsy photo. CC and Marley exploded into tears as Washington flaunted the photograph. Circled in the photo with red marker was a horrible wound on Jack’s head.

“Is this a picture of your son, Jack Carlyle?” Washington interrogated/.

“It is” Marley said weeping.

“Was the wound shown here in this picture caused by your daughter bashing your son in the head with a lamp?”

“I have no way of knowing for sure”

“The autopsy report documented particles in this wound from a himalayan salt lamp, just like one that was found by investigators, broken, on the floor in the defendant’s bedroom” Washington announced. CC’s lawyer stood up to address the judge.

“Objection! Where’s the question”

“Sustained, mind your phrasing” the judge said as he pointed at the DA.

Washington continued hounding Marley, asking leading questions about CC’s attitude and personality that made her sound guilty no matter how her mother answered. A look of shame crossed Marley’s face every time she answered one of the DA’s questions. The defense took a beating.

The defense decided to redirect Marley right away. She only asked the felon mother one simple question.

“Is there any way on earth that your daughter did any of the things that she is being accused of?”

“No, Corona did not kill anybody. This is a big mistake. She is being sandbagged. When my daughter hit puberty, she went from being a sweetheart to a cold cynical drama queen. She was rude and rubbed people the wrong way; but that was just teenage angst. Underneath it all, CC is a kindhearted young woman; not a killer.”

Wendy House-Owens knew that Marley Carlyle was a liability on the stand and dismissed the mother back to her prison. CC mouthed the words “I love you” to her mom as she was being taken away.

“I love you too” the mother mouthed.

A middle-aged white female jure was noticeably emotional over the exchange. Washington became nervous, the young defense lawyer was victorious earlier in the jury selection phase and they both knew it. The prosecutor motioned to adjourn for the afternoon and pick things back up in the morning. House-Owens objected to the early day, claiming that her client had the right to a comparatively swift trial. The judge had a headache and felt the urge to comply with the motion. He told the defense that unless they were filing an official motion for a speedy trial, the court was not obligated to operate on the defenses preferred timeframe. The gavel was banged.

Wendy House-Owens reassured Corona Carlyle as the bailiffs cuffed CC to transport her back to her holding cell. “That was a good first day, CC. I know it was hard seeing your mother questioned like that, but I think it worked in your favor in the end. We only have to get through to one jure, and you’re going home” said the lawyer.

“I don’t even have a home anymore. But all the same, I think you rock” Corona said to her young lawyer. Wendy smiled and patted her client on the shoulder before she was taken away.

Wendy called an uber to pick her up from the courthouse. She evaded the press and got in the car. The uber transported Wendy back to the jail, where her car was parked. During the ride, Wendy noted her strange driver, a skinny bald man with a pentagram tattooed on his head. Wend caught the driver taking a picture of her in the back seat, and sending it in a text. It made her uncomfortable, but she chalked it up Court TV making a celebrity out of her. When the driver dropped her off he said “sweet dreams” to her in a way that sounded like a threat. She vowed to never use ride sharing apps again, assuming the man was on drugs, or mentally deranged, or both.

Wendy got into her car and noticed that her phone was missing when she went to use her gps to find the hotel she was staying at. She wondered if one of the vultures with cameras outside the courthouse ran her pockets as she walked past them. Wendy knew that she had to start going west down a stretch of dusty highway, and figured she cold ask a gas station attendant for better directions before she had to make any turns.

The young lawyer drove her silver jaguar down the mostly vacant road. She got five miles before a clunky grindy sound beneath her hood sounded, and her dashboard lit up red and yellow. The car died, and Wendy coasted gently off the side of the road.

“This is just perfect” Wendy said to herself. She stood around for a couple mins, hoping that somebody would dive by. House-Owens did not even bother popping the smokey hood, as she knew nothing about car engines, and was not in the business of even kidding herself.

A white van cam rolling down the road. As a lawyer who had studied and been involved in some heinous cases, she decided not to try flagging down a white van in a secluded place. Although Wendy did not want the van’s attention, she got it anyway. The young women clinched the car keys in her pocket as the van came to a stop. The window rolled down, and a face that the lawyer knew was behind the driver’s seat. It Bobbi Dowling, the witness that she had cross examined just a few hours earlier. Bobbi’s elegant style and deminer did not match the vehicle that she drove. Furthermore, Wendy found it strange that Bobbi was driving right there, right then.

“Are you having car troubles?” Bobbi asked the lawyer with a sinister smirk. Wendy shook her head at Bobbi.

“I’m fine” Wendy said dismissingly.

“You sure are. You’re really fine” Bobbi said as her eyes wandered around the lawyer’s body.

“Ms. Dowling, that’s inappropriate” Wendy said to Bobbi.

“I’m just playing. Let me give you a ride” Bobbi insisted.

“I am not supposed to have any interactions with you outside the courthouse whatsoever. It could compromise the entire case. Like I said, I’ll be okay. You can leave me alone now” Wendy said with the hairs on her neck standing up.

“Okay, I just have one question for you” Bobbi antagonized.

“I won’t answer, go away.”

Do you eat ass?” Bobbi asked.

“Get lost, skank!” Wendy shouted.

Bobbi pulled a handgun from under her seat and shot Wendy six times; in both shoulders, both knees, in the gut, and in the lower back. Wendy’s body dropped on the hot asphalt. Bobbi got out of her car and dragged Wendy’s bloody carcass into her van where she and her friends desecrated Wendy’s body, drank her. blood, and ate her entrails before burying her remains in the New Mexico desert.

 

 

 

The Next Morning

          Corona was disappointed when her lawyer did not show up for court. She ruminated scenarios as to why Wendy gave up on her. DA Washington pushed for CC to come up with a lawyer in 24 hours, or work with a public defender. The judge agreed with the terms.

CC met with her public defender back at the jail. His name was Mark Perovich, an old man in suspenders and a bowtie, slightly hunchbacked and bald down the middle of two sides of grey hair. Perovich spoke with a thick new England accent

“It’s genuinely nice to meet you CC. I promise you, your story will be heard”.

Corona Carlyle raised an eyebrow and looked at her public defender sideways.

“What happened to my other lawyer. Nobody is telling me anything. I think that her and I had a rather good game plan” CC implored.

“She vanished. It happens sometimes, people seem like they’re holding it all together, then all the pressure hits at once, and they go loopy. She’s probably on a beach somewhere getting loaded.”

“Okay… Well, Wendy didn’t think I should take the stand at all. She said that a lack of DNA evidence, and eyewitnesses providing alibis that screw up their timeline was all we needed; and that we wanted to avoid making this a political scene” CC tried reasoning with her new lawyer.

“Did you just say avoid making this a political scene? That’s not happening! Nationwide 7 o’clock curfews! People can’t leave their houses!” Perovich pried.

“People already weren’t supposed to leave their houses, according to them, because of the bullshit coronavirus!” CC argued.

“And who are they” CC’s lawyer asked rhetorically.

“The government! Trump! Biden! The fucking cops! Kyles! Bill Gates! George Soros! The media! Your fucking mom, dude!” CC’s attitude resurfaced for the first time in two years.

“Doesn’t it piss you off! Let me bring you up to speed, kid. I’m an old-school attorney, not some flashy brainchild. I’ve been defending people like you for fifty years, and I’m telling you this; if you’re on trial for murder, you speak in your own defense; because when you can’t speak for yourself, they are going to speak for you; and when your sitting in prison for the rest of your life, you know what you’re biggest regret will be.” The old man’s words cut deep. Wendy had her convinced that she was going to be set free. But she wasn’t there anymore. Maybe what Perovich was saying was true, and Wendy realized this, and that’s why she quit.

“Okay, put me on the stand. I’m going to tell them the truth. I’m the victim in all this. Me.”

 

 

Two Weeks Later

 

          A silver Jaguar compacted to the size of a minifridge was hidden under a pile of scrap metal somewhere in bumfuck New Mexico. The 24-hour news station reported on Wendy House-Owens, the prodigy special interests attorney who was shot in the head and killed with rubber bullets by police officers in New York City while she was at a protest against police brutality. The nation was outraged. The nation was always outraged. There was an internet conspiracy circulating claiming that those who were close to House-Owens swore that the corpse was not hers, and that she was murdered by Satanists with ties to President Biden.

And in other news, Corona Dianna Carlyle was sentenced to death for mass murder and mayhem. Before the sentencing, the judge asked CC if she wanted to address the jury.

CC considered going on a long political rant highlighting the sheepishness of the public, and the psychotically manipulative extents that evil and powerful people go to. CC shrugged and changed her mind.

“My only regret is not spreading the coronavirus even more. I wish covid-19 on everybody in this courtroom. I didn’t even do anything”

 

 

   Room 117 by Khristian E. Kay

Khristian E Kay died on 5/29/2020, just days before having the chance to hold a copy of Room 117.

 

As an artist, and an editor, I am honored to have had the opportunity to work on this heartfelt collection.

 

Khristian’s passion as a public elementary school teacher in a bad neighborhood shines beautifully in Room 117.

 

 

 

for Josie

 

 

 Mr. Room 117

 

The turnover is

astounding there were

six me(s) before

I came aboard

The longest one

lasted 90 days

the shortest

just a few

I teach in what

Is called a CBU:

Comprehensive

Behavior Unit

A self-contained

Special Education

Classroom of

6 through 8th graders

with behavior

and emotional

issues too severe

to be in a room

with their

unencumbered peers

On top of their academics

my job is to teach them

How to self-regulate

How to be calm

How to be nice

How to fit in

How to be social

How to care

How to survive

Maslow’s Hierarchy

The kids believed

they could run anyone out

and it seems they

were successful

they called me “teacher”

on the good days

But those were few

I was “White Bitch”

on the regular days

“Fat White Bitch”

on the worse

not much delineation

Appropriately

90 days in

to their consternation

I was still there

Some just called me

“teacher” and

Some continued to

ask me what my name was

I point up to the bulletin

board above my desk

My name is in large bold

300 point font

I say it is the same

as the first day

My colleagues are

not much better

trying to remember names

After each

subsequent turnover

becomes laborious

 

There is a lot

of energy to invest

in learning

someone else’s name

They call me

Mr. Room 117

 

 

 

Eighteen Hundred “Good mornings.”

 

I stand post outside the classroom door

welcoming my children in each morning

Other students, not mine, pass by:

“What’s up?” they say with a head nod,

a handshake here – fist bump there

a few even smile and wave but mine –

mine are afraid to show affection

show that they like me – to violate that code

is a sign of weakness – no emotion –

not until they are safely hidden inside the room

 

I say to them: “Good morning.” as they enter

They respond with scowling faces and

sour groans mumbling “fuck you bitch”

“shut up talking to me” or worse: nothing –

I think once someone said ‘good morning’ back

but then corrected themself

“I mean, fuck you”

 

 

 

Affirmation

 

There are subliminal signs of affirmation posted everywhere

To spur on or encourage the staff members to recognize

the hardships they endure, the thanklessness of their work

to remind them of their life’s chosen purpose

These are posted all over the staff lounge and staff work area

above the photo-copier, on the refrigerator, on the doors above

the microwave, next to the trash cans, even in the staff toilets,

On the wall across from the entrance way is the sign

“I’m a great teacher and I get better and better each day”

While washing your hands is the respite “My job is worthy”

Taped to the refrigerator while grabbing last night’s

leftovers from your insulated lunch bag

with a yogurt cup and some celery sticks one can read:

“I will share my gift for learning”

Above the microwave while heating up your microwave

popcorn one ascertains “Almost everything

will work again if you unplug it, even you.”

On the copier door that needs to be constantly opened

to fix the consistent paper jams reminds one

“I’ll stay focused and remember why I got into teaching”

 

By the trash can next to the door stained with

leftover foodstuffs, coffee grounds, soda residue, smeared yogurt

reaffirms the ideal “I love teaching. Teaching is my passion.”

Below the exit sign as you leave with a heavy sigh and a false

air pump of confidence to continue the tackle of the day

“My students, their parents, and my colleagues respect me.”

While in the men’s toilet urinating remember

“You are making a difference”

When cleansing your bowels confirm the epithet

You’re doing what’s in the best interest of your students”

 

 

 

Food as Religion

 

My students are pack rats

always squirrelling away food

in the crevices of their desks,

their lockers, their book bags,

my desk. They hoard their food

 

It seems there is never enough

They have to hide their food because

it is always open season on food.

As soon as a package is seen

the cries commence: ‘Gimme some.’

 

Begging ‘Let me have some’

They will circle one another

Wait for an opportune moment

Then seize the other’s food

Run off to a safe distance and

 

devour it like jackals mouths open

peals of laughter and chewing away –

spilling their greed all over the ground

 

Wasting their spoils.

 

 

Somewhere on some social media platform

They heard a myth that white people

cannot tolerate hot foods.

They are always trying me: ‘eat this,

try this… are you going to throw up?’

 

I bring in peppers from my garden

I share the jalapenos – once

I let them try a serrano. They are

dumbfounded as they spit out

the heat and watch me consume them

 

I bring in sushi with hot chili sauce

Rooster Sauce they call it and wasabi

The wasabi makes their noses run and

their eyes well up they drink water

straight from the faucet. Another time

 

I made them carnitas en chili de arbol

It was too spicy and much was left

uneaten, mouths burning they cried

 

“But you’re white?”

 

Theirs is not good or healthy food

It is all processed: chips, hot fries,

flaming hots – I once made them

nachos – they would not eat them

since they had never seen an

 

unprocessed tortilla chip

‘what is that?’ they said pointedly

‘those aren’t chips.’

I bring them healthy snacks

Apples, oranges, grapes, melons,

 

Cauliflower I show them how I eat

raw cauliflower dipped in Red Hot

“I eat that shit on everything” I joke

They like this and pick up this habit

But mainly it is the processed foods

 

the Takis, Dinamitas, Flaming Hots

they fight over these, these are sacred relics

and must be devoured for their power

 

To be worshipped

 

 

 

Culture of Fighting

 

They ask me why I do not fight

They are always fighting, first

with words then insults then bumping chests

No one wants to go first

They are encouraged by others and in turn

encourage others to fight

To punch, tackle, wrestle, bite, kick, pull hair

There are rules and they keep score

Bad form for kicking but then they will brag or retell

the story of how so and so got kicked in the head

face, nuts, stomach they glorify

the fight

 

They ask me why I do not fight

I tell them it is a waste of time

A waste of energy

Nothing is ever solved, resolved nothing good

ever came from fighting

No one ever wins a fight

 

It just escalates from name calling

Two people punching

Getting their crew to show up and rumble

 

Then moving towards weapons

Sticks, bats, knives, guns it progressively

gets worse

 

They ask me why I do not fight

I tell them I was not trained

to fight I was trained to kill

I am ex-military we do not waste our time fighting

We kill: end of story

One should not go around killing

There are no rules no points scored

No bragging rights

Someone dies – Dead

How many did you kill? I tell them

That is between me, and

Myself

 

They ask me if I was ever in a fight

I tell them yes, once

It is nothing one should brag about

I show them the scar on my nose

The bridge dented

I was hit here with the butt of a rifle

I tell them

 

Did it hurt? They ask

Of course I say they broke my nose

What happened then? They ask

I’m standing here, aren’t I?

Alive

 

 

 

Code Red

 

Active Shooter!

This is not a drill

Across the street from my classroom

Police are serving a high-risk warrant

There is fear that the home’s occupants

may open fire

We do not know this – yet

What we know is we are at the lockers

getting ready to go home for the day

when the code was called

I corral them back into the room

We lay low everyone

wants to know what is going on

Some go to the windows

to peek behind the blinds

I hiss at them

to get away from there

to be quiet

Instead they lift the blinds

Yell excitedly that SWAT

is across the street

Try to open the windows

I physically have to move them

 

away chastising, explaining

the dangers – They say

 

“They are gonna shoot the cops

not us.” I tell them

about the Odessa shooter

pulled over for a traffic stop

Who then shot at the police

and fled shooting people randomly

as he drove away – I tell them

people do not need a reason

to shoot you

they just need a target

Don’t be a target

 

 

 

In this corner: New Boy

 

New Boy has been here for 4 months

and they still won’t use his name

White Boy used to be New Boy

because he arrived in September.

White Boy is of mixed race so this

culture segregates him out

and thus he is known as White Boy.

Here it is a derogatory term

and is meant to isolate him. But

White Boy is happy because he

is no longer New Boy.

He has been named.

 

New Boy is from Chicago so that gives him

some sort of street cred but still

they want to fight him

And New Boy bloodies White Boy’s nose

This buys New Boy reprieve and accolades

for about a week and then someone else

chooses to challenge him

 

This is what they do with new students

They surround them with fists at the ready

 

 

Each taking a pot shot and jumping away

I have to step between them

blocking punches and kicks

 

a bouncer on top of everything else

I have to referee these fights

several times a day until New Boy

is no longer New Boy

but called by some other name.

 

 

 

Lexi

 

Lexi is a fighter

She carries a boxer stature

wiry and muscled

legs astride one

slightly ahead

of the other

bouncing off the balls

of her feet a

stutter step here there

she has a quick jab

Both left and right

She is always shadow

sparring with someone

though she does not

pull her punches

Instead she lands them

with an intense fury

of earnestness

I contact local

Teen MMA and try

to get her involved

there instead she

wants to fight me

 

jabbing and kicking

I just block

trying to get her

to come back to her

academics

I tell her I will

not fight her

She punches me

nevertheless

If she does not

get her way she

tosses the room

clears off the desks

punching and kicking

anyone who gets

in her way

Safety and

administration

often wrestle with her

as she punches

and kicks at me

I block her strikes

as she screams

“Fight me! Bitch.”

 

But I refuse

I tell her I won’t

And I block

trying to get the rest

of the class

settled and back

to learning fending

off Lexi’s attacks

 

 

 

Crack-Head Bobby

 

Dances his best Mr. Bojangles soft

shoe across the floor, twisting and

shaking doing the “floss” making

His goofy faces bulging eyes crooked

smile he works the crowd for laughter

His clothes are dirty his hygiene bad

he hoards food in his desk and locker

He has bruises and came to school

with the mumps once I took him to

the hospital I follow my checklist for

Child Protective Services he meets

all the red flags for neglect or abuse

I cannot get a hold of his father and

He tells me his dad is in jail again

He is staying at a group home with

His sister and asks me for a ride to

the shelter since the bus does not go

there I tell him the office will provide

a ride that I am not allowed by contract

to give rides to students he does not

want the office knowing his situation

I follow CPS rules and contact the

Social Worker and my administrator –

 

it is not abuse nor neglect and I am

cautioned off from reporting as it is

determined to be poverty, so I am told

– I shrug I am a mandatory reporter

by virtue of my position as a teacher

 

He came to school with a white crust

of milk around his mouth and some

one said he looked like a crack-head

He is a jokester a clown and acts out

to protect himself so he rubbed chalk

dust all over his face and acted a wild

fool “I’m Crack-Head Bobby,” he took

Jolly Ranchers and crushed them up

“I need a fix.” and he snorted the candy

I told him not to do that that the crushed

candy is sharp and cutting like glass

and he could hurt himself by doing that

“But I’m Crack-Head Bobby!” he states

The class laughs at his antics and he

wins the day hiding behind his mask

of humor his horrors of day to day

One day on the way to school I saw

Him standing on the island between

 

the boulevard begging for money

He saw me and waved shouting out

my name “I’ll see you at school.” He

turned back to the stopped drivers

dancing his best Bojangles soft shoe

 

 

 

Miracle

 

Miracle dances on the table rocking back and forth

the hairpin legs already pulled out, bent

and replaced several times over

bending under her shaking – her tongue pink and glossy

sticking all the way out down her chin

I tell her to stop “Be safe.” Iterating the litany of

the school expectations:

‘Be Safe. Be Responsible. Be Respectful’

 

Miracle responds with “Suck my dick you fat ass white bitch.”

I tell her she needs to pay attention during biology class

She sticks her middle finger out at me

This is old territory the table has collapsed before

with her dancing on it falling to the floor hitting

her head, getting scrapes on her knees and legs

Her mother wants to know why I did not stop her,

why I let her hurt herself I tell her I did not

that I cannot physically control her

 

Miracle tells her mom “He never is helping me.”

I defend myself I say when I go to help Miracle

She tells me to “Get the fuck away from me bitch”

 

Miracle sticks out her big tongue as far as it can go

This is her tell

Whenever she is about to do something bad

 

Miracle sticks out her tongue

She does not know she does this

She is confused as to how I know she is lying

or about to do something she is not supposed to do

She is up on a table rocking it back and forth

dancing her tongue lolling out

She pulls out some markers her tongue hangs out

I tell her to put the markers away

“Don’t talk to me bitch!” and she turns her head to the class

rolls her eyes

She starts to write on the walls, the desks the classroom textbooks

with her markers her tongue lolling about

 

Miracle asks to go to the bathroom, her tongue lolls about

I know she is going to run through the halls

disrupting other classrooms I tell her

to return to her seat she calls her mom:

“Teacher won’t let me go to the bathroom.”

I tell mom my concerns – I am told her good girl would

never do things like that “Why don’t you teach her?”

I tell her I cannot teach her daughter

 

when she misbehaves…

Mom just hears “I cannot teach.”

 

Miracle sticks her tongue out and runs about the class

whispering into the ears of others

then stands by the door

 

I tell her to sit down that she is not going to go run the halls

and no one else is going to join her

She spits on me and says “Fuck you bitch.”

 

Miracle returns from art class hiding something in her hoodie

Her tongue out she pulls out a bottle of blue paint

I ask her where the paint came from she says

“Teacher gave it to me.” I tell her I do not think so

She pours this onto her desk and smears her hands in it

I reach for the paint and she squirts it on the carpet

 

Miracle drops the bottle her hands coated in blue paint

She jumps up putting her hand prints on the walls

desks, window shades, the backs of other students

I secure the rest of the paint while

 

Miracle skips to the blackboard and prints her hand print

 

over and over and over her tongue sticking out

 

Miracle comes to class with a new box of colored pencils

She sits at her desk her tongue hanging out

breaking the new pencils into little

pieces and throws them at the other students,

at me, then tells her mother that I won’t let her color

 

I tell the class to get their reading books out

that it is time to read now

 

Miracle says “I ain’t doing that shit.”

Her tongue hanging out she comes over

and clears off my desk papers and books go flying

 

Miracle laughs and my attention is focused on her

now and no one is able to read as Miracle

dances through the spilled papers and books

They laugh at her antics and Miracle

bathes in their attention

 

Miracle demands attention be focused on her

She goes to the classroom phone “I’m calling my Mama.”

I abandon my lesson from the board and

 

I tell her to leave the phone alone – her tongue lolls out

as she punches in numbers “Teacher is a fat white bitch.”

I hang up the phone “I was talking to my Mama!”

She unplugs the cord from the phone base

 

and runs around the room swinging the receiver by it

her tongue out she tries to hit the other students

 

Miracle smacks the receiver against a desk

I wrestle her for it taking it from her hands

she gets mad snorts and spits out

a large green glob of snot onto my shirt

I escort her from the room she pounds on the door

pounding the plexiglass out of the frame

 

Miracle comes to school with long braids plaited in her hair

She unbraids them making sure everyone watches her

I ask her why she is unbraiding her hair

after her Mama had paid good money to put them in

Miracle answers “Shut up talking to me Bitch.”

 

Miracle has a pair of scissors and starts cutting her hair

I will not wrestle the scissors away from her

I try to reason with her

 

She cuts large clumps and then throws them at

 

the other students who recoil as she laughs

at their discomfort – she cuts off all of her braids

 

Miracle comes to school with her mother the next morning

Mom claims that “Teacher cut off my daughter’s braids.”

I tell her I did not that she did it herself

“Where’d she get the scissors from?” I tell her

she stole them from my desk “My daughter would never.”

I tell her I have a classroom full of students

who will attest to this she says

“You already poisoned them against my daughter.”

 

Miracle jumps on the desks and leaps from one to another

again I remind her to be safe

I remind her of the other times when she jumped to a desk

slipped off and smacked her head

Her tongue is out and she says “Your fat ass can’t catch me.”

 

She leaps to a desk and it flips and she falls to the floor

She has a nasty bump on her head and is crying

 

 

 

She tells her mom that I made her fall

 

Miracle and I conference with her mother and the principal

We talk about her need to learn how to read, to behave

to function in society, her pathway through education

We talk of her safety

our concerns and how she needs to follow basic expectations

We talk of her responsibilities to herself

to her mom to her class and to others

We talk about her lack of respect for teachers for others

Miracle sticks her tongue out

points at me and argues “But he’s white!”

 

 

 

Gaps

 

Gaps is always eating, his momma

will pack him a mid morning snack

a lunch, Lunchables, an afternoon snack,

and some treats – he eats all these

before lunch and then gets a school lunch

He begs me for some cereal or chips

whatever it is I have and sits at his desk

eating, noisily – chomping and talking

crumbs spilling down his chest

onto the floor some spewing out

as he talks excitedly about his night

or how he braved some scenario

beating up this person fighting another

I tell him not to talk with food in his mouth

I point to the floor and ask him to pick up

the crumbs and he argues with me

“that isn’t mine!” “I didn’t have Cheerios”

As Cheerios fall from his lips.

 

He is sincere.

 

 

 

Carissa

 

Hooks my arm in hers

and introduces me as her Grandfather

I smile a powerful beam

grab her little brown hand

and tell her that I would be lucky

to have a granddaughter such as she

 

Last year Carissa was bumming

outside my classroom door

I asked her why she was not in class

She said she had no place to go

Her class was going on a field trip

She said she did not have enough money

to go on the trip so she had to stay behind

I asked how much she needed

She said one dollar

I checked my wallet and only had some tens

So I slipped her a ten and told her to

use the rest for lunch or snacks

Her smile lit up the room and she twirled

and ran off to catch up with her class

By the end of the day the rumor mill

 

had run amuck ten fold

The story became that I had given her

a hundred dollars to go on that class trip

And that I was spoiling her

like I was her Grandfather or something

 

Carissa is a beautifully exotic girl with

a brilliant smile a little crooked

as if she is hiding a delicious secret

her eyes widen like dewy saucers

shining in the morning sun the crease

of her scar running from her brow

to her high cheekbones from when her

Momma tried to cut the demons out of her

accentuates the light like an etching of a spider

silk crack in delicate bone china

 

She walks with me to her social worker

Back straight and poised our arms hooked

With a formality pulled from some deep recess

Carissa introduces me to her worker

Who shares a familiar knowing wink with me

Not as her teacher, pops, grampa, or gramps

But says “This is my Grandfather.”

I should be so lucky

 

 

 

Dewayne

 

Dewayne stuffs his mouth continuously

with whatever he can find available

devouring bags of chips after bag

mixing different chips into one bag

and crushing them into dust he dumps

these into his mouth swallowing

pouring these bags his head back

mouth open and talking loudly and

excitedly grinning he will lick the dust

from inside the bag with his fingers

stained red from the artificial coloring

he inhales bags of Halloween candy

vacuum-like wrappers piling on his desk

running about the room shadow boxing

his hyper self further invigorated

 

Dewayne can take a handful of Takis

and Jesus-like feeds the multitude

dozens of kids with their hands out

all fed with chips.

 

 

 

Bed Bugs

 

Scarred and scabbed over Bed Bugs likes to fight

He bullies the ones smaller than he

He used to be the bullied, last year

curled up on the floor fetal style crying

Crocodile tears and a wailing of pain

not associated with the physical

 

He has marks all over his body the others attribute

these to bed bugs and they named him so

He likes the girls flirting with them

by inappropriate touching or using

graphic sexualized language trying

to impress them to prove his prowess

 

Bed Bugs will run across the desks ‘parkour’ style

kicking papers and books to the floor

He leaps to the windowsill to the heating ducts

tipping desks over from imbalance

begging me to chase him or try to catch him

I warn him of the dangers of falling

 

I do not chase him that only makes him more reckless

If I try to grab him to make him stop he could fall

He calls the girls “thots” and “sluts”

but still they laugh at his antics encouraging

him to run and jump and slide and kick

I tell him to stop so he does not get hurt

 

He laughs me off yelling “parkour!” and leaping aside

He tips a desk and falls across the surface

his head hitting the edge of a chair

He goes down blood oozing from his forehead

I try to help him but he rises using his shirt

as a bandage and swearing at me runs from the room

 

Bed Bugs’ Mom calls the police seems he claims I pushed

him down and made him smack his head

The police put me in a conference room

they interview the other students – me last

The kids tell tales of ‘parkour’ and obscenities

the police want to know why I did not stop him

 

 

 

Katera

 

Kat is messy, she likes to instigate and mess up

the minds and lives of everyone around her

She will often yell in the halls

“They’s fighting! They’s fighting!”

Just to get people to run out of classrooms

 

Katera’s version of crying wolf

She’s prolific on social media starting

fights with this one or that one but then

forgets that in real life she is not protected

by circuits and digital fortresses instead

she has to deal with those people the next day

often she will skip school to avoid her messiness

 

Kat is messy, in school she mixes makeup and lotion

stirring into her cereal and spreading it across

the desk she will pour glue

and then sprinkle glitter and cereal

just as a means of entertainment in the classroom

 

Katera’s version of chemistry

She is masterful at avoiding her schoolwork

often decrying how bored she is and how much

 

she hates school how much she hates work how

much she hates the classroom with its rules

and directives and procedures for behavior

often she will skip school to avoid this messiness

 

Kat is messy, dealing with people and her avoidance

She prefers to go shopping with her mom and aunties

She will often relay her purchases

telling everyone “I hate peoples.”

to avoid having to talk or engage with anyone else

 

Katera’s version of flirting

is to hit a boy she likes or insult his manliness

then runs out of class to kiss him in the bathroom

She returns and insists that I protect her from them

She obsesses over videos of people eating

and she will watch these over and over

often she will come to school to watch this messiness

 

 

 

Mo Mo

 

Today he tells me he wants to be known as Mo Mo

Last month it was Mar Mar

Before that: Marky Mark (until I showed him

a video of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch)

Mo Mo is a ball of energy about 3 feet tall

always dancing or jumping on the desks

shuffling across the floor in his socks

He makes up raps about things I say to the rest of the class

Embellishing my words to fit his rhymes

“I gonna beat that ass if yo’ don’t have a pass

You need to have a pass / have a pass

I gonna beat yo’ ass if yo’ don’t have a pass

But I ain’t goin’ to jail for that

No ain’t goin’ to jail for that”

Mo Mo’s family sells weed, all of them,

to the locals everybody knows who’s holding

His older married sister handles the drop phones

His mom makes the deals his older brother keeps the bank

Mo Mo and his younger siblings run

interference with the police

since weed is not legal here yet

Mo Mo tells me this as he lays on my desk eating lunch

He prefers to spend his lunch time with me

 

telling me the benefits of an AK74 over a 47

of the Dracos hidden under the liner of the couch

The safe in his brother’s closet

 

The men that drink his mother’s liquor as she

makes deal after deal

The men they have to help out of their apartment

The secret passage in the basement to the barbershop next door

where Mo Mo and his siblings smuggle out bags of weed

in their book bags because boys coming out

of a barber shop with their book bags looks legit

Mo Mo tells me he keeps his nine in the wastebasket by his bed.

then bounds Spiderman-like up onto his feet at the corner of my desk

He leaps to the floor dances a shuffle singing

“got my gat gat gat / gonna rat a tat tat

 

Shoot all these mutherfuckin’ rats with my gat gat gat…”

 

I tell him to take his tray back to the lunch room he smiles

Picks it up and dances out of the door

 “I’ll be right back back back with my gat gat gat…”

 

 

 

Tori

 

Is a big girl worthy of the storm in her name

When her anger unleashes she loses all control

A dervish of fists and kicks and tears

A tempest decimating everything in her wake

She towers over me with a height

Hiding the 12 year old girl that she is

 

I try to soothe her fervor calm her demons

Regulate her exasperation before

being pulled into her tantrum

She will twirl her foot or stomp her feet

when she does not get her way

Seeing the 12 year old girl that she is

 

I walk her to the gym where the late bus riders wait

She begs me to stay with her I tell her I cannot

Knowing that to tell her of union rules and

school policies will just go over her head

I tell her I have to leave

Being the 12 year old girl that she is

 

She says she does not want to be alone

I wave my hand at the gym full of other stranded students

You aren’t alone you have all your friends

“Please she says…” and pouts sticking her big lip out

tilts her head flashes a smile bats her eyes

Playing the 12 year old girl that she is

 

She pleads: “Look. Puppy dog eyes please…”

Scrunching her face “Look! Puppy dog eyes.”

I look up at her and have to remind myself she is

A little girl gripped in anxiety and of being alone

I acquiesce and she grabs my hand and skips along side of me

Acting the 12 year old girl that she is

 

 

 

Domo

 

Domo is a man-boy a bear of a child at 6 foot 4

300 plus pounds he is missing his two upper front teeth

having them punched out in a fight Domo is always fighting

He wears white t-shirts stained with sweat and baggy sweat pants

He will lie on his back on the floor and eat candy or cereal

dumping it from the container into his mouth

When he gets up you can see the outline of his head in foodstuffs

He bullies the littler students punching them or kicking them

until they cry

Sometimes he will grab them and choke them

or toss them down the halls

He laughs and hurls graphic insults at the girls

asking for sexual favors and rubbing his body up against them

Dropping his pants asking them to touch his penis

Other teachers are afraid of his size but Domo is a bully

not because he is mean but because of his size he is

a Teddy Bear who does not know what to do

or act trapped inside his body other than to intimidate others

He is afraid of the boys his size or ones that will stand up to him

Often I have to play linebacker as he will rush

into the room to attack a student

I block and grab him stopping him and then jokingly hug him

We then dance about the doorway

as I lead our way out of the room

We often hug things out and he breaks into a big grin

showing the world the toothless Teddy Bear within

 

 

 

Kenny

 

The girls cream for Kenny

They gang up outside of the door

trying to get his attention

His phone blows up

beeps and clicks as the girls

text and sext and facetime him

asking him to come out in the hall

meet them in the bathroom

Some shout through the air vents

“Meet Tenesha in the bathroom

in 10 minutes” others just blatantly

pound on the door

Kenny was held back a year so

he is 15 and prime meat

 

Tucked up inside his hoodie

Kenny sits in the back

of the class sleeping

He comes to school high

every morning squirreling his

breakfast for later when he

awakes and the hunger hits

His PO wants me to call him

 

when he is like this I call

every day and they make a note

somewhere on some tally sheet

tucked away in some bureaucratic

sense of responsibility

As long as we cross the Ts

 

Kenny packs bags of weed in his

book bag sometimes inventoring

His stash on the classroom floor

when he thinks I cannot see him

He carries just enough to not

get arrested for trafficking

By the time I have contacted Safety

or an administrator Kenny

has handed off his stash

Some of the kids have figured out

 

how to open the doors with a half

of a scissors they open a storeroom

door and then text everyone on a

group chat/text the location

 

The kids clamber into the storeroom

under the guise of going to the bathroom

or some will just leave their class

They smoke their weed giggling

and making all kinds of noise

not realizing that anyone passing by

would be suspicious of a storeroom

that smokes and giggles and laughs

 

Kenny is always in the midst of these

caught in the threats of suspension

but that would sully the bottom line

another black boy statistic

suspended, expelled, school drop-out

it’s just a little smoking

 

 

 

Paris

 

I know this man is telling no lies

As you beat him with your fists

and curse denigrate his worth

This man who has only loved you

with his caring words to soothe

and brighten that dark within you

 

I know this man is telling no lies

He trying to teach you right

And you beat him! He give you

attention and you give him pain

he takes it all in and shoulders

your fear your burden your cry

 

I know this man is telling no lies

As once someone whose name is

forgotten a face I can no longer draw

cradled the junkie anger in me

and saw my beauty my worthiness

and exposed the beauty that you are

 

 

 

MT Jason

 

Jason believes himself to be a rapper

He will rap over existing performers’ work

repeating their words and phrasing

recording and mixing it and releasing it on Youtube

To his credit he does call it the MT Jason ReMix

The MT stands for the Milwaukee Twins: local rappers

Jason lays claim to, I joke that it stands for what is in his head

He does not understand the joke

He claims he does not have to go to school or do any schoolwork

because he is already making it big as a superstar

The other kids Google him and find nothing

I try to impress upon him the need for education, for reading

for writing so that he will be able to create these raps

He tells me that I am Old School that

that is not how it is done in this age

He talks of his bodyguards and managers and promotional agents

I ask him to tell me when his next show is but I never

get a reply or invitation, neither do the kids

I tell him in all seriousness that he is failing school

He has not done any school or class work

I ask him to write: poetry, verse, rap whatever… he copies

down others’ words and hands them to me saying they are his

He does not realize that I know how to Google also

 

 

 

Valencia’s Laughter

 

Valencia makes me an origami skunk,

I thank her and tell her it is clever,

my students complain

they do not know what origami is

or why she is making me one

She soars through the hallways

a seagull tacking on thermals

Sometimes she waddles like a penguin

hands down at her sides

Other times her wings float her softly

a majestic butterfly or

hurriedly like a moth.

I have adopted her into my classroom

When she came to this school

she would scream

She would tear rooms apart

throw chairs at people

kick, bite, pull hair, punch

She would be dragged out of the classroom

an adult on each limb

as she screamed, kicking and flailing.

One day she stood outside my room,

breathing heavy

 

the fury alighting her eyes –

I invited her in pulled out a chair

asked her to sit, relax, breathe

and then went back to

teaching my class.

My students talked about her, insulted her

they seek the weakness: too poor to have the right shoes,

dirty clothes, they often insult the parents

striking the jugular about each other’s mommas –

Valencia is a foster child

they swoop in on this and make fun of her

like a pack of hyenas braying around a carcass,

sniping and nipping at one another

as she quietly wept,

I told them to leave her alone,

Asked how they would feel

if they were upset and

people were making fun of them.

 

Eventually Valencia composed herself

and quietly, politely

excused herself from the room.

Since then she comes to my room every day

sometimes all day,

 

sometimes for a period, sometimes just to say hi

She finds my students’ antics funny

and will burst out in laughter.

They want to know what is so funny

and she replies: “You.”

 

Valencia has a lovely laugh, crystalline and honest

She wants to study Japanese when she is older so

She practices pronouncing Japanese words

I compose Senryu and Haiku for her

and she translates them into Kanji –

she tells me that each stroke she carefully

 

scratches onto the paper represents

the words I had written down.

I do not know I cannot read Kanji

I trust her and tell her so. She finds me funny,

She tells me some of the things I write make her laugh.

 

It is good to hear Valencia’s laughter.

 

 

 

Why I was absent

 

That’s when because my brother Jamar in the hospital

and we had to pick him up

That’s when oh my god oh my god my brother Jamar

got stitches in his head

That’s when he got this big bandage around his head

like in those war videos

That’s when oh my god we over at Big Cheesy’s house

throwin rocks at her and shit

That’s when I pick up this brick and tell Big Cheesy

I’ll throw it at her – Say I won’t

That’s when she up and threatens my little brother D-Mac

– he’s little! And Big Cheesy’s big!

That’s when I throw that brick right through

her kitchen window “bam”

That’s when her momma come out in her bathrobe yelling

“I’ll get you little niggas”

That’s when she say “I know your momma and grandma,

I know where you live.”

That’s when we start running down the street laughing at her

and Big Cheesy – oh my god

That’s when I tell D-Mac that he better not say anything

about this to Momma

That’s when I tell him that I will crack him in his shit

and hold my fist up like this

That’s when we get home and my grandma start yelling at us

about breaking windows

That’s when I tell my grandma that we didn’t do shit

that they’s lying

That’s when my momma come up and ask D-Mac

what I’d do

That’s when D-Mac just like that tells Momma I threw a brick

in that bitch’s window

That’s when I bust my little brother in the nose – oh my god

“bop! bop!”

That’s when he start crying and I tell him “I told you I crack you

in yo shit,”

That’s when my momma whip out her belt and start

cracking me

That’s when I try blocking the belt sayin “Momma! Momma

don’t whoop me, D-Mac is lying”

That’s when my momma say “D-Mac don’t lie to me,”

“smack smack smack”

That’s when she say “I know you broke that fuckin window.”

“smack”

 

That’s when I tell my momma to not hit me no mo

“I won’t do it agi –gi –gi…”

That’s when my grandma start hitting me with the back

of her hand “bop”

That’s when my momma say “We all hit you because

we love you!”

That’s when my grandma say “gi gi gi gi –  y’all a bunch of

greasy monkeys.” “bop bop”

That’s when I tell my grandma “you gotta keep your fucking hands

off me cause

That’s when I’m gonna get my 38 and pop yo ass.

pow pow pow”

That’s when my uncle say “Don’t you talk to your

grandmother like that.”

That’s when my momma and uncle start fighting

“bop bop bop.”

That’s when my other brother Jamar comes out

with his Draco

That’s when he tell my uncle to stop hitting Momma or

he’s gonna crease his ass

That’s when my uncle grab my brother’s gun and

smacks him across the head

That’s when Jamar goes down all bloody and Momma

jumps on my uncle’s back

 

That’s when my grandma starts cackling and laughin

about monkeys

That’s when she slaps me across the face and says

“See what you devils wrought?” “bop”

That’s when the Draco goes off “pow pow pow” and shoots out

the windows by the couch

That’s when everybody stops and Momma tells my uncle

to hurry quick leave

That’s when he picks up Jamar and take him to the hospital

before the police come

That’s when we clean up the house and hide the guns and shit

in a hole in the basement

That’s when Momma leaves and grandma says “Git yo

monkey asses ready for bed.”

 

 

 

Active Shooter Drill

 

We are experiencing a Code Red

This is an active shooter scenario

It may be a drill it may not be we

have 4 or 5 of these a month some

are drills most are real situations

The kids are desensitized and will not

be quiet they talk and yell and argue

why they have to follow these “stupid”

procedures, why they cannot leave

“I’m going to use it you can’t stop me”

“I don’t wanna be in here” “God gave 

me a mouth so I’m gonna use it”

As I review the step by step

instructions I realize that to them

every day is an Active Shooter drill

These are kids who cannot play

outside in their yards for fear of

being caught in gang or drug crossfire

these are kids who are wary

when walking to the park and

encountering others or groups of

others in assaultive battlegrounds

 

My words logical as they may be

do not fit their mindset their experiences

Mo Mo tells me that if a shooter

enters our door he is going out

 

the window I tell them of the 2 boys

from Kentucky who waited outside on a hill

and had a friend pull the fire alarm

The students left the building in orderly

fashion and were shot as they left

the building – my students point out

this flaw in following orderly fashion

Jason accuses that I will hide under a desk

afraid of the shooter leaving them to be shot

I give up on the prescribed procedures

I engage them in another way

I joke and tell them that if a shooter

came through the door and demonstrate

by grabbing Jason and put him in front of me

pretending to use him as a shield

I tell the rest to get behind me

They all laugh at the absurdity even Jason

I tell them let’s pretend: I am the shooter

I hold my hands together as if holding a weapon

 

“I have my automatic Sig 45 with 15 in the clip

and I am coming through the door – Go…”

Mo Mo jumps from the floor before he can

get to the windowsill I yell “Pop! Pop!

You’re down.” I sweep my hands across the room

“Pop! Pop!” each time aiming at a student

“Pop! Pop!” I point my fingers at Katera

saying “Katera is just sitting there screaming

 

 

‘He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!’ So I let her

live for the moment.” White Boy has his phone

out live streaming on social media “Pop!”

I point to the kids huddled in the corner

“Pop! Pop!” I pretend I empty the clip

 

“That’s fifteen. Time to reload.” I lower my hands

Again I point to the ones huddled in the corner

“These are the only survivors,” I tell them

“They are huddled behind your fat ass teacher

who had the rest of the clip emptied

into him as the shooter tried to get y’all”

There is snickering at my language

but they are solemn now I tell them there

is no running the best defense is pretending

 

the room is empty to not give a shooter

a reason to enter the room to begin with

Gaps tries to change the topic redirect to

a less scarier one and he asks me why

teachers do not have guns to protect them

Crack-Head Bobby says if we were outside

He is running away Tori asks what I would

do if we were outside – I smile “I showed you

I’m grabbing Jason.” The tension breaks again

I say rules would state that I have to keep

a gun locked up in the closet or a drawer

I tell them the shooter takes me out before

I can even get to the closet I pantomime

being shot as I go to the door “Pop!”

 

Today’s lesson is dying – we practice at death

 

 

 

Fat Santa Claus Lookin’ Mutha Fucka

 

I am a big guy, fat, rotund

The kids try to pierce my armor

Make fun of me of my size

I wear my grey hair long

And with a beard I grow out

for the holiday season

The kids try to insult me

They say “You think you

Santa Claus?”or they

call out to me “Hey! Santa Claus.”

When walking through the halls

I always answer with a wave,

fist bump, they call me that “Fat

Santa Claus Lookin’ Mutha Fucka’

I embrace their insults

I smile and waggle a finger

I wink and say “Be good.”

 

The younger ones do not know

What to believe: I tell them

the North Pole is just a cover story

so children will not try to seek me out

They ask why I am working here

I tell them “Santa has to have a day job.”

They ask how I get to all the houses

in one night and I tell them “Magic.”

And I do simple sleight of hand tricks

I see their barricades crumbling

They ask me about reindeer, I tell

Them that reindeer are old school

I ride a special motorcycle

with a side car as my sleigh

They have seen this in the parking lot

Their facade slips further

They ask me about my list

of naughty and nice I tap

my phone and pictures of them

with their addresses, phone

and relevant information

pop up on my screen

They give me that look of

uncertainty not sure what to embrace

 

The older ones challenge me

“What are you bringing me?”

I say “Right now nothing,

You need to be better behaved.”

I tell them I am Santa

At special parties

I volunteer my time

at the homeless shelters

churches, Boys and Girls Clubs,

Hospitals and anywhere else

that could use a visit from old St. Nick

These older ones say I must be rich

Playing Santa Claus and all

I tell them no I volunteer my time

“What that mean?”

I give my time, I don’t get paid

“You don’t get paid!?!”

I tell them no that is what

Volunteering is all about

They call me stupid

 

One boy wants to test me he says

“If you Santa what do you say?”

I know what he wants me to say

So he can procure laughter

at my expense so I grab my stomach

lean back look him straight in the eye

and with a hearty laugh I say

“yo mama, yo mama, yo mama.”

 

 

 

4:20 AM

 

I sit in my chair in the living room

The doggies gather around to comfort.

The larger one lays her head upon my

lap and nudges me to pet her I scratch

behind her ears and along her muzzle

The other, the smaller one, comes to my

side and begs my hand under her belly

scratching lightly in her favorite spots.

They each are extremely jealous of the

other if I pet one I must pet both

if I dare to stop with one I am met

with disdain from the other so I sit

petting my dogs and occasionally

drifting off to sleep being awakened

by a nudge at either hand because my

petting has stopped. This is my night –

this is

also my day. My students seek help and

attention they also are extremely

jealous of one another. If I try

to help one – others will complain that I

am not helping them that I show undue

favoritism  “You never help me.” and

when I switch to the complainer the first

complains that I am not helping them but

am helping someone else. Sometimes they will

be working fine and I bring one to my

desk for extra help. Soon I am flocked with

students nudging my hand to help them. Some

will climb upon my desk others under

some nearly sit upon my lap “Help me.”

“You never help me” “You’re always showing

favoritism.” They chime in a chorus.

The girls will often braid my hair in turns

braid then unbraid then braid again they seem

never to be satisfied with their work.

The boys taunt me “You have to leave it like

that for the rest of the day.” They tease me

in awe of my predilection for self-

deprecating attitude, I shrug all this

 

away as I “refuse” to assist them.

Their chorus becomes white noise and drones on…

 

The smaller one nudges my hand from sleep.

 

 

 

Epilogue: in which the epilogue is really the prologue

 

“It has been forty years, a milestone. If I were an alcoholic or junkie I would be given a chip. A chip with a pair of 40 pound brass balls attached, and maybe a cake, definitely some coffee. But I receive nothing – nada – zip – zilch. My milestone of non-violence, of refusing to fight, 40 years of self-inflicted pacifism, gets me nothing. It is confusing to most: why? Why do you put up with it? People hit you, spit on you, call you names and worse but still you refuse to fight. Have you no dignity? Does it not bother you?

I tell them the last time I fought I killed a boy and so swore I would never fight again.

This sounds like bravado from a braggart but it is far from that. I was in the military going through Seal training. I call him a boy but he was probably older than me. I was 17 and going through training, filled with false confidence buoyed by being surrounded with men, my team members, who wanted to demonstrate their fighting prowess, their skills, their confidence. We were on a training exercise, “War Games” we called them, ways of practicing killing one another. We were not at war these were not maneuvers – these were drills, training exercises, play acting.

We were in Central America, I spoke a regional dialect of Spanish – a bastardized mix of indigenous mountain dialects. I had to move from a jungle drop to the coast and set up a communications array. Simple, routine, I worked at night. The probability of having to speak to anyone was null but yet still prepared for. I was crossing a field when it happened. I startled a local boy, like I said he was probably older than me but his actions defined him as a boy – where I, the Navy Seal in training, was categorized as a man. It seemed that way at least.

He jumped, he saw me and seeing me could jeopardize the “mission,” the objective would be breached, I would be the impetus for the failure of the mission.  And everything we were trained for was to protect the mission. Being already seen I did what I thought was best: be reasonable, try to reason with him – but how do you reason with someone who is scared for their life? Protecting a loved one? Fearful of tyranny and coercion? I was just going through an exercise after all. So I approached, my finger to my lips “Shh. Guarda silencio, por favor.” He started to yell “¡Ayudame! ¡Ayudame!” Then he started to run. I had no alternative I had to shut him up so I ran after, I tackled him, my hand slipping over his mouth. “¡Silencio!” But this was not a drill this was not a “mission” to the boy. He fought, he kicked, he thrashed. I wrapped my legs around him, “¡Callate cabron! ¡Callate!” I squeezed my body like a vise my training coming to the forefront. He moved less, struggled less, “Shh!”

I listened to the background noises: crickets, frogs, wind in the grasses, leaves blowing in the wind, the concert of our breathing: wet, sticky and deliberate. Had his yelling called attention to us? Did we go unnoticed? Every snap in the air seemed a betrayal. Voices seemed to generate out of the breeze. The stars became a cyclone of angry alarms. The night was alive, an entity weighing, pressing down, suffocating. I was breathless with fear. Was the mission blown? Silence. Was this how I would end? A failure. I sensed the quiet the unperturbed, I believed we had gone unnoticed. The voices my own imagination battling my conscience. The sky lifting and I made the mistake of slightly releasing my tensed muscles, the slightest relaxation, imperceptible to most – unless you were fighting for your life.

His struggles renewed, he tossed and pivoted his head, again screams for help escaping his lips. I moved my right hand to my sheath and pulled out my knife. This should be threat enough I thought. I hissed “¡basta, ya, cabron!” We struggled my hand over his mouth trying to silence him, trying to stop the yells, the shouts. I moved my knife to his throat hoping this would be an incentive to stop struggling. The funny thing is when posed with a life and death situation most people fight so I am trying to get him to be quiet, “¡Callate, ya!” and subdued; he chooses to fight.

Elbows are flying into my side, legs are kicking at my shins and we are doing this macabre modern ballet: me struggling to hold on – keep up – subdue. And he bites me my fingers slipping from across his mouth and he seizes the opportunity and bites down on my fingers. The pain is incredible and surprising, too surprising, I jolt my thumb under his jaw to force him to open his mouth like I had been taught, like I had trained for – but I had never trained for this – the sound.

It was unremarkable, but still I hear it now clear as an alarm, just this soft hiss more like a slight fart escaping with a soft pfft. That is how I remember the last throes of life from this boy: farting from his throat. When he bit I had somehow pushed my knife into his throat, not slicing the carotid artery like I was trained, like I had practiced no this was a slop shot, my knife through the neck stabbing the tongue and air from his breathing escaping out of the slushy hole my knife made. Pfft. Pause. Pfft. My fingers were free but now useless with this hole in his throat. I could hold his mouth shut but he could breathe through this makeshift tracheotomy. Now I could not even suffocate him into submission.

Momentarily stunned he began to struggle again, and I merely held on my knife pivoting and swiveling back and forth in his throat as he tried to get away and I tried to hold on. “Mierda.” Sloppily hacking away a brutal butchery. “Mierda, mierda, mierda. Lo siento.” He ceased to struggle, noises like cries and shouts gurgling from his wound. “Lo siento.” We laid on the ground his body slowing down the thrashing less and less. He died slowly, painfully, choking, blood filling his lungs – he died despite my best efforts to kill him.

I laid with him a long while unaware of time traveling around me, I could not cry I willed tears to come but they would not. I mourned: saddened for the loss of his life and the sorry state of mine. I was selfish: I plotted and planned: I could leave his body, it could point to a random murder, drug deal gone bad, an attack by the Sandinistas, a lover’s quarrel, a stupid fight… anything but me and the mission. I had saved the mission, the training exercise was no longer in jeopardy. I had won the fight.

The mission continued I set up the communications array, but I was late. I was chastised for my time delay – my tardiness had put my team in jeopardy. The reprimands rained down on me like the tears I could not produce. I used the castigation to wash out. I would not be a Seal. I walked away from my dressing down, being reminded of what a piece of shit I was, how I was weak and weak minded, how I could not be trusted to be a warrior, how I would have to serve out my duty in the service industry feeding and picking up after the real warriors. I was spit upon by my team members, ridiculed, punched, kicked, sworn at with levels of depravity reserved for the penultimate failure. I shrugged, that night out in the field when I could not cry for the boy I had just murdered, how I had found refuge in the fact that the mission would continue, that I was alive… I vowed I would fight again no more.

And now knowing this, knowing a piece of my 40 year struggle of hearing your pithy insults, the bumping in the hallway, the punches and kicks in the back, the throwing of obscenities and other objects, the disrespect… the question you need to ask yourself is do you really want me to relapse from my vow of non-violence? Or do you want to be reasonable and get me that cup of coffee?”

 

Kevin Ridgeway is ABP’s Featured Artist for June 2020

ABP– Thank you for taking this interview Kevin. Back in April of 2018 ABP was lucky enough to publish ‘A Ludicrous Split’, a book of poetry that you wrote with Gabriel Ricard. What can you tell us about what went into the writing of your half of the book, and how you feel about it now over 2 years later.

 

KR-Gabe and I had been friends and admirers of each other’s work for years.  Around 2016, 2017 he asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a split collection of our poems.  Gabe wrote all of his poems brand spankin’ new, but all of mine had been previously published.  My writing has always carried me through my good times and my bad times.  The poems I selected all have ties to my own experiences with mental illness and drug addiction–my section of the book is slim, left readers wanting more.  I relapsed on drugs and alcohol during our work on this book.  My head was in the poems I’ve written about in regard to that.  Gabe and I both share sensibilities in our sense of humor and also share an obsession with movies and Warren Zevon.  He is my ideal counterpart, you know?  He is one of my favorite writers, versatile and a dependable and inspired workhorse.  Plus he was patient with me during my struggles.  Now that I’m clean I can see how drugs really influenced what I put into my section.  I was and am quite pleased with the book, and was very enthusiastic in my publicity for it.  I even went on the road a little to do so.  It garnered us both new readers to add to our growing audiences.  We are now at work on a split book of poems centered around favorite songs of ours.  So far it is one epic motherfucker, we are both really excited about it.  Joan Comics did a beautiful cover and Alien Buddha captured the right kind of spirit we wanted to give off.

 

downloaddfs

(Cover art by Joan Comics)

 

ABP- What can you tell us about “Too Young to Know”?

KR–It is my debut full length poetry collection.  Up until last year, I had only had a number of chapbooks published with my work but never a full collection, which I started to specifically work on back in 2014 once I decided it would be a mosaic of poems regarding my origins, experiences with social stigma, mental illness, my mother’s death and my general view of the world.  The earliest poem in the book was written in 2012.  It touches on my illnesses but so many other layers are rolled out in the narrative arc of the collection, which I finalized in December of 2018.  I decided to call it “Too Young to Know” because I’d heard that phrase in the lyrics of the song “Lonesome Whistle” by Hank Williams, which touches on being a prison inmate or any kind of label that falls victim to social stigma.  At the core, I grapple with the death of my mother in the guise of several poems that flew out of me in the years following her untimely passing.  I sent the manuscript over to Jeanette Powers, an amazing writer, performer and editor who I had become a big fan of.  I’m still shy with her, I think she is so awesome.  She launched a new press known as Stubborn Mule Press.  I discovered her press when I read a collection of new and selected poems called Leadwood by my friend Daniel Crocker.  I loved Daniel’s poetry and was really impressed by Stubborn Mule.  It seemed like I found a fit, being kind of a misfit voice in society.  In January 2019, I was stunned to received a publication offer from her and Jason Ryberg, who is affiliated through Spartan Press.  They were both so great, Jeanette made sure the words sang and Jason envisioned the cover, which I think has gotten more good reviews than the poems.  I am very fortunate to have garnered their support and am honored to contribute to Stubborn Mule Press.  They will always be special to me.  First time I got my big boy poetry collection cherry popped.

ssssss

(Cover by Stubborn Mule Press)

 

ABP- Are there any other books you have written that you would like to mention?

 

KR-My most recent chapbooks are “Girls! Girls! Girls” and “Grandma Goes to Rehab” (both titles with Analog Submission Press, UK) which contain a lot of my newer poems that are bound to take up part of my second collection, currently in the final stages polishing.  I call the new book “Invasion of the Shadow People.”  Other chapbooks like “On the Burning Shore” (Arroyo Seco Press, 2014) and “Contents Under Pressure” (Crisis Chronicles Press) were especially well received upon their first printings.

 

 

ABP- What’s the deal with getting caught in your boxers?

 

KR-

  1. It is something that is deeply ingrained in my psyche. I grew up terrified of any one seeing me in my underwear.  I also was obsessed with my Dad’s boxers as a wee dude searching through his untouched dresser drawers after he went to prison, to connect with my father.  He was arrested in his boxers when they dragged him off to jail.  I have only been arrested once–in 2016.  I was arrested in my boxers and dragged off to jail.  I’ve not said anything about it to my, Dad–not yet.
  2. It makes me laugh. Which is a major reason why I share the photos, because the photos are usually really funny and a bunch of my friends simply love it–I am a notorious entertainer with an extensive acting background.  Even my ex-wife thought it was great and got into it.
  3. I have gotten over it a little–it’s worth any embarrassment. The first time I  was in public in my underwear was a long time ago, when this kid in theater camp dared me to strip off my khakis and run across a field in my underwear in front of all of the girls.  That stung big time, but it helped me have more courage to be myself and to just fucking go for it no matter what people want to think.
  4. It is the most goddamn silly thing ever to me. It is embarrassing, but my life got way too serious, man.  I started doing it recently again among poetry videos and other gag selfies I’m putting out there to cheer everyone up during what has been such a dark time.  I am starting to come up with other gags, but many are amused and distracted by my embarrassing poses in festive and loud boxers.  Not even my mother saw me in my boxers…oh wait, that one time when I was drunk.  But that’s it.  I am developing a book of poems about underwear and such things I discussed above.  A chapbook called “Picture Them All in Their Underwear” so posting photos of me in my boxers also count as research.  There is poetry in boxers.
  5. My older brother would walk around in his boxers everywhere his whole damn life, does not phase him. I wonder what he thinks of me attempting to do it.

 

 

 

ABP– What is the poetry and art scene like in Long Beach, CA?

KR-It is an incredible scene.  When the energy is in full gear, there are regular readings at Gatsby Books and several other venues with an enthusiasm for new literature.  Gerald Locklin, Charles Harper Webb, Bill Moyer, Donna Hilbert, Tamara Madison, Jeff Epley and Clint Margrave, to name some of Long Beach’s most distinguished poets.  My favorite Long Beach poets are Fred Voss and Joan Jobe Smith.  Fred’s poems are epic and masterful and real.  Joan co-founded Pearl Magazine, considered among the best poetry journals in all the small press.  She is an amazing narrative free verse poet, so electric.  There are far too many poets here to mention, those are just a few favorites, not to mention RD Armstrong (Lummox Press), Thomas R. Thomas (Arroyo Seco Press) and Sarah Thursday (Sadie Girl Press).

 

 

ABP- Who are some of your biggest influences as a writer?

KR-Carson McCullers, Sandra Walker, Sinclair Lewis, Voltaire, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Bud Schulberg, George S. Kaufman, Terry outhern, Tony Gloeggler and Albert Huffstickler, to name a few.

 

 

ABP- Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. The floor is all yours. If there are any announcements you’d like to make, shoutouts to shout, poetry to share, anything at all.

KR-Poetry saved my life.  I hope it saves yours.