Stumbling

Easter when
he rose
he couldn’t see
his toes
you know the way
that goes?

Again
he rose
to feel
the ground,
spongy wet
and sucking
at his feet,
slurping sloshing,
sweet.

A marsh.
A cross.
The cattails bent
from heavy snows,
and moss,
and mud.
He rose because
he could.

To cross
a marsh
as if he could
by miracle.
Walking
on the ground,
soaking cold
and marshalling
his breath.
Snapping sinking
death.

He rose
because he rose.
You know the way
that goes.

Ice Breaker

He looks west to where the clearing should be but the horizon is gone, swallowed by snow. The ship’s iron hull, forty-eight millimeters thick, groans against the fresh ice. He cups his hands together and blows into them, then straightens his sunglasses.

The south-west passage should be open – it’s usually open – even this early in the season. And the Halvljus has opened this very route dozens of times before. Palms sliding down his gray-blonde beard, he recalls the first time he made the trip, as second navigator, seventeen years before. It was the peak of the oil crisis, and the ship’s radio was tuned to the state broadcasting service every morning for scratchy snippets of the latest news.

Now Ryuikssen comes with news of the Finnish breaker, Kontio, sent to pull them out. She’s delayed south of Negerpynten; running too light, it seems.

“And what about Andres?” he asks.

“Fine,” Ryuikssen says. “In quarters, recovering.”

“And the girl.”

Ryuikssen looks down. His blonde hair is thinning at the top and his lips are chapped to white.

“I don’t know,” he says. “She’s talking but no one understands.”

The captain of the Halvljus turns his head, cracks his neck to the right, then the left, heaves his chest and sighs. Three weeks ago he left Maarit and the baby in Luleå. It had been early morning when they went out, and from the pier he could see the cathedral spire covered in frost; the city beginning to light up behind it. The baby was wrapped up so tightly only her face showed, and Maarit, her hair pulled back, looked upset.

He didn’t know what was wrong. He thought to ask her in the car on the way over, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead he stared out the window, watched the refinery lights go by. When they reached security he gave her his badge to show the guard. In the side mirror he saw the baby’s pinched face and then reached behind awkwardly to hold her mitted hand.

“I’m pregnant,” Maarit said now, looking away, and then directly into his eyes. “I’m pregnant again.”

 

Expose yourself

Write what nobody hears. Fill the page and turn it black. Fill a void, yourself, ambition, vanity, self-consciousness.

Pick up a pen do it. Have a notebook write it. Watch people. Note gender, size, age, hair color. Write it down.

Eavesdrop. Quote it. Don’t trust yourself to remember, you will not.

Expose yourself. Expose others. Observe and report.

Don’t swing at the ball. Swing where it will be. As if it’s not there. Discover that, indeed, it was. That is a home run, baby. A hole-in-one, nothin’-but-net, buzzer-beating crosscourt winner.

The truth is you don’t trust yourself. You want to transcend but hate to scrape and toil for it.

You fell in love with a cold chill, spine-descending, sleep drubbing, soul numbing. Paralyzed amputated imagination.

Throw up the windows now, the night is cool. The city hums. The whole ecstatic vibrating mess of it running out of steam. Moonless birdless cloudless only the flaccid post-rush-hour highway traffic tumbling from a distance. And the faucet drips and the refrigerator snaps to life, oh coils coils coils freon.

Pooja, SEO Consultant

By six fifteen I have awake, dressed, and fed. I have one cup of dark tea with three lumps sugar and a bowl of rice with condensed milk. Hari sleeps until seven, and after that everyone will be swarming like moths so I find some peaceful time for myself.

We live here, nine people. One: my mother and father. Two: uncle Ravi. Three: his mother-in-law. Four: my brothers, Hari (older) and Ashwin (younger). Five: Aarti, my sister, who is four. And Six: Falguni, an old woman who is not our grandmother.

When I move to Riverside, CA, I will have an apartment with two private toilets and six flat screen plasma televisions. I will have an automatic coffee-maker with an alarm set to five-forty-five so I can become awakened by the smell of fresh coffee, and also a Playstation! The apartment will face the beach and I will observe the surfing and American lifeguards from my balcony.

Riverside is the sister city of Hyderabad. Here I share a toilet with Falguni, who has no shame despite her many years and drooping skin. Falguni walks from the bathroom to the bedroom she shares with Ravi’s mother-in-law wearing silk underpanties. Falguni moves her bowels regularly and produces a smell that is at first enticing, like curry or my mother frying onions, and then terrible, terrible.

Ravi is my mother’s second younger brother. His beard is white and he lost his left leg when he was sixteen stealing a rickshaw. His wife was a large woman with moles on her hands but she has died when I was in primary school.

Bruno, listen: I am not telling you all this because of to wasting your time. I know you are proabbly very busy with many other prior emails…. but now I have sent you six prior emails and I know you have opened these because I have hidden a tracking pixel inside each. I am Pooja, SEO Consultant, and I have found your websight after a Google search for “10 Ways to Re-Purpose Coffee Filters”.

Did you see my six prior emails? Bruno?

Last week in Moosapet we had no water supply two days running. I stayed at the office to sleep there because in Madhapur they don’t curtail the water for silly reasons. I have had to convince Anish to let me work very later both evenings and then I hided in the bathroom until everyone has left. It was very unpleasant but I cannot begin to imagine for you how much more unpleasant would be my shared toilet with Falguni after there is no water for two whole days.

The building where I work is called the Cyber Gateway. It looks like the separated legs of a giant metal baby squatting to have a movement of his bowels. My company is called RVInfoService. My supervisor is Anish. His supervisor is Raghavendra, or Ragi, although we are not allowed to called him that. My job is customer service for a large Dutch telecommunications company called Ziggo. For Ziggo I am helping the Dutch restart their cable modems, restart their laptops, restart their browsers. And to clear their cookies.

Bruno, have you spent any time in the Netherlands? Their people are very polite. They do not wish for any more confrontations. But I feel they are only patronizing me when I help them to restart their many devices. I feel, perhaps, they have already restart their laptops and their cable modems, and still they have no internet, and that is why they are calling me.

But Bruno, I am not really an telecommunications customer support passionate expert! My work passion is as SEO Consultant, and I worry how I am WASTING MY TIME WITH THESE DUTCH! That is why I have sent you six prior e-mails. I am contacting you after looking at your websight to make you understand: I will be glad to assist you with offering our services. Very, very glad. Please let me know your interest!

Please, Bruno. Let me know your interest. I have been successful SEO Consultant for many prior customers. I have been working in mornings and evenings and while Anish and Ragi eat lunch and babble about cricket matches. I am passionate for this work and confident I can obtain 100000+ manually built links for you in the future 1 year.

Thanks,

Pooja Sharma

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Note: To unsubscribe from future mails (i.e., ensure that we do not contact you again for this matter), please send a blank mail to email with NO as Subject.

But Bruno, please. Do not unsubscribe.

 

The Second Quarter

I had a an uncle named Rawley. Well, I have an uncle named Rawley but he lives in California. He used to come over on Saturday mornings and take me to get groceries. He was terrible at groceries. My mom gave him lists but he liked going up and down every aisle instead. It took forever.

The basketball says Rawlings. I prefer Spalding because that’s what they use in the NBA, but still this is a nice basketball. I like to feel the dimples, like an orange. A huge orange.

I bet Rawlings and Spalding were cousins. Spalding Evinrude and Tom Rawlings.

I look at the game clock, and note that I have been holding the ball for twenty-seven seconds.

If my name was Spalding and my cousin’s name was Tom, I’d be pissed too. I bet they were buddies until high school, when Tom got picked for varsity and Spalding got made fun of and no one asked him to prom. Then Rawlings went to a D-I school and Evinrude had an apprenticeship in a shoe factory.

It’s the second quarter. In the first quarter we scored 17 points. I scored 14 points. Arnault hit a three from the corner. I got the assist.

There are six minutes and forty-two seconds left before halftime. I look at coach.

If I had to guess, I would guess coach is fifty-two. He wears braces on both knees even though he never runs with us in practice. He alternates between two shiny wind-breakers and a navy blazer with gold buttons he wears for games. The buttons have anchors on them. Like, for ships.

Fortunately, I don’t have to guess. I know he’s forty-one, because he told us last year when he turned forty. He went to Vegas for a week, and Dolores, our assistant coach, took over for him. When he told us he was turning forty, I think most of the guys were kind of disappointed. It meant there was absolutely no chance of him retiring before any of us graduated.

I look at Dolores. It’s been about two minutes. I have the ball cradled under my armpit and I’m pulling the drawstring on my shorts. She makes a pushing motion with her arms like ‘get rid of something hot!’ or ‘here take this baby!’ but I realize she means I should pass the ball to Arnault. I hate to do this, but I do it.

Now Arnault is holding the ball. The other team is confused. The big white kid who plays center for them is standing under the hoop with his arms up, trying too hard. I want to tell him he’s going to get a three-second, but why would I tell him that? Anyway I don’t think he’s going to get one. The refs are talking and they have their arms crossed.

Did you know there’s no shot clock in high school basketball?

Arnault has been holding the ball for a minute. I smile, thinking “Here Arnault, can you hold this basketball for a minute?” I hate to let him touch the ball. But it’s true he hits that three from the corner almost every time.

I look at coach now, and he hugs his belly with both his arms and looks at me and frowns. Arnault throws the ball back to me.

Here is the thing I don’t like about him: when my mom was home sick last year in the spring and she said I could drive the car, I told Arnault I could pick him up, but he said no, he’d rather take the bus. That’s bullshit. We live on the same damn block.

Rawley used to tell me, when we were going up and down the aisles, not to let anyone think they’re better than you. I already didn’t think anyone was better than me, but the point was not to let anyone else think it either. I think that’s what Arnault thinks. He thinks he could score fourteen points in the first quarter if all the plays weren’t designed to get me the ball.

There’s a minute left on the clock. Coach told us before the game if he made an X with his two forearms that we should just hold the ball.

– Like call a timeout? I asked.

– No, just hold it. Pick up your dribble. Just hold it.

– Can we doing that? This is Diego asking that. Diego speaks very little English. He moved here from Barcelona when his dad got a job teaching philosophy at the college. I think things were pretty different in Barcelona.

– Yes, Diego, we can do that.

Coach says Diego like “Deego”.

– Or you can pass it, if you want. But just you two. Ok?

Arnault is dancing around and clapping at me. He wants the ball. There are thirty-six seconds left on the clock. Yeah like I’m going to give you the ball after all that.

Coach calls a play. He holds his fist up and then a two, which is a pick and roll for me to the left. I cross over twice, and kid in front of me pulls his shorts up over his knees. I cut to the right, then Arnault slides over and sets the pick. I cut back left and go behind my back to my left hand, and now I’m clear all the way to the hoop.

In two more years I’ll be out of here. Out of high school and out of New Hampshire and I’ll go to USC and live with Rawley and they’ll have Spaldings.

I go up for the layup with my left. And out of nowhere that giant white kid is there, behind me, like a clown, and he swats my shot away. He hits the ball clean and doesn’t make contact and just the shock of it knocks me off balance and I go twirling down to the hardwood.

The ball flies, arc-less, as if drawn by a powerful magnet, to the corner, where Arnault has set up, and is completely undefended. He checks his feet, brings his elbows up, sticks his tongue out one side of his mouth, and nails the three.