R.V. Branham, 11/11/2013
Current Occupation: editor, publisher, translator
Former Occupation: Treasury Dept. terrorist, social worker, stock photo researcher, tech typist, & co-host of a floating æther-den
Contact Information: R.V. Branham has worked as a short order cook, firewood bundler, security guard, tech writer, aerospace clerk, book-seller, photo researcher, newspaper editor, paste-up ninja, Treasury Department terrorist, assistant X-ray tech, rape crisis counselor, social worker, translator, and interpreter. [Optional: As a ’70s survivor, he co-hosted a floating æther den (as if there were any other kind back in the day). ] He is author/compiler of Curse+Berate in 69+ Languages (a 90 language dictionary and phrase book of insult, invective, obscenity, blasphemy, and other political speech, now in its 2nd. printing, from Soft Skull Press). His fiction has been anthologized in Dinosaurs 2, Full Spectrum 3, Ghosts 2, Hybrid Beasts (a Red Lemonade e-book anthol.), and Midnight Graffiti; and in magazines including Back Brain Recluse (UK), Ellery Queen’s Mystery Mag., Midnight Graffiti, Isaac Asimov’s SF Mag., Tema (a bilingual Croatian mag.), 2 gyrls quarterly, & online in In Other Words Mérida, Red Lemonade, & Unlikely Stories, with further stories forthcoming in Fall 2013 in The Writing Disorder, and W*O*R*K. His essays and interviews have been in the Australian artist book anthols. Mother Sun and Drawn To Words, as well as in Gobshite Quarterly, Paperback Jukebox, Portland Metrozine, and Red Lemonade (online). Two of his plays, Bad Teeth and Matt & Geof Go Flying had staged reading productions in Los Angeles, CA., and in Portland, OR. He is publishing editor of Gobshite Quarterly, a multilingual en-face magazine (now in broadsheet format), and as publisher of GobQ/Reprobate Books has published El Gato Eficaz/Deathcats (an en-face Spanish/English edition of Luisa Valenzuela’s classic magico-realist novel), as well as Douglas Spangle’s A Bright Concrete Day: Poems, 1978—2013, with bilingual chapbook & e-book editions of El Gato Eficaz/Deathcats , & collections of Russian and Croatian writing forthcoming in 2014 & beyond.
The Guns Of …
juuichi: Kyle was southbound on I-5, headed for Salem, headed for another interview with another branch of the State of Oregon Department of Corrections.
He glimpsed the Koin Center redbrick tower, capped with a grotty verdigris pyramid, from southbound I-5.
A trick of winter light made the Koin look like a yellowbrick tower, a sister city to Oz’s Emerald City…and the rainbow coming from Swan Island was a perfectly cruel joke. juu: “Good afternoon, Social Security Administration.”
Hold music at the other end. God. Classic Rock.
Stuck in the Middle With You… The teleservice rep waits twenty seconds, then disconnects. Takes the next call.
“Afternoon, Social Security Administration.” ku: Only an hour before Kyle had been dreaming of the Wicked Witch of The Willamette and how she’d fired his ass when his halfsister Sam kicked at the door (to a room so recently the office of her air bus-crash-killed Leslie and now Kyle’s guestroom) and reminded Kyle of his Salem job interview and threatened to toss his useless shite out on-to the street unless he arose and shone and got his tush in gear and Kyle yelled that she ought to be emailing suckup requests to publicists and threats to writers for her Journal Of the Plague Years deadline.
Ten miles north of Salem a freezing rain hurtled concentrated balls of styrofoamlike ice against his windshield.
He sipped tepid coffee and watched the road for patches of ice, black, white, or other.
The defrost strips in the hatchback glass behind him were losing the battle to condensation and cold.
Kyle turned the heater off…it made him drowsy.
The defrost, however, kept the front windshield clear.
One mysterious black big rig in front of him with strange plates bore casks marked “radioactive,” now what the hell was that about, wasn’t it illegal to carry nuclear waste on interstate highways?
Kyle wondered if the “radioactive” casks were from Hanford or Trojan as he got into the left lane and passed the big rig.
Traffic alternated light and heavy, with clusters of tripleload eighteenwheel-eighteenbaldtire rigs and customkitsch-mural vans and bigwheel trucks and recreational vehicles loaded with smaller vehicles, followed by halfmile blur after blur of 90 mph big nothing.
Ten years spent driving in Ellay, another in New York, and a month in Tokyo’s kana-neon metatraffic, made this stretch of interstate a cakewalk, though he would gladly do without the icing. hachi: “Social Security Administration. Thelma Louise speaking. Thank you for holding,” a teleservice rep says to a client, though her name is not really Thelma Louise.
Her name is Gloria Reid and she asked for Travis Bickle as a pseudonym but had to settle for Thelma Louise.
Gloria is furious because the others have not returned from their breaks and she cannot yet take hers. She has to go get Easter lilies for when she stops by Kaiser Sunnyside to see her dad, not that her dad will wake up from his coma long enough to notice. She looks at the greeting card just got for her dad.
“How can I be of assistance?” shichi: “Oh, and don’t wear levis or jeans, not even black levis or dress jeans,” was the last thing he’d been told by the Department of Corrections secretary who responded to his snailmailed-in resumé to set up an interview. — “Why?” — “In case the guards have to shoot.”
Kyle had on a cassette boot of a Sinéad O’Connor concert:
“What else should I be,” he repeated.
The left lane ahead was declared null and void as orangered cones converged.
A drugtest-yellow car with Washington plates just ahead and to the right of Kyle briefly swerved into his lane and he braked, no choice, Kyle had to brake, he braked on a patch of black ice, thwomp, glided into the cones, thwomp and thwompthwompthwomp, large orangered cones raining on his windshield and a cone cracked the windshield spider weblike and Kyle braked again to avoid hitting a State of Oregon truck stalled before him and he saw the shivering and frightened inmate-workers who had picked shrubbery and pruned litter and who now sat in the back sharing a bag of hickorysmoke metastasnacks, Kyle saw them as his head met the windshield visor.
He saw the hills and trees, too, all floating-worldlike, as cloud banks scudded into hills. Saw the crumpled bloodsoaked tissues. And the clouds, no not scudding, more rubbing against hillside trees to scratch their H2O hiho 25 watt silverlined acidrained backs.
Kyle was not certain which upset him more, the bloody napkins or sky and earth exchanging places. He made his way into the prison parklot some twenty minutes later, after using every napkin in the glove compartment, in the back seat, in the passenger footwell, in discarded fastfood and musicstore bags, to clean his blood from the windshield and visor and dashboard and from his forehead. — “Could you come into the office,” his seventh supervisor in nine months had asked him that final day of his ninth month and the first week after returning from the government shutdown furlough and he unthinkingly said, “sure,” and went to see his seventh supervisor (called by all and one “The Winged Monkey”) and when Kyle found another supervisor (a.k.a. “The Scarecrow”) was also in the office Kyle realized that the idiot bastard seventh sonofawingedmonkey bitch of a seventh idiot bastard sonofawingedmonkey bitch had sandbagged him and The Winged Monkey gave Kyle a letter to read and said, “I’m sure you know what this is about,” and Kyle said, “No, I don’t, because when you came on board you told me people weren’t happy with my performance but that you would make your mind up and let me know if you saw any problems, that you’d give me warning, and every week I asked you if you saw any problems or areas for improvement and you told me every thing was fine,” and The Winged Monkey then said, “Well, this is never easy,” and Kyle replied, “I wouldn’t know whether it’s easy to put a knife in someone’s back,” and The Scarecrow protested and Kyle added, “and If I weren’t the gentleman I am I’d call you the lying sack of shit you most certainly must be,” and when The Scarecrow said that was uncalled-for Kyle asked why the asslicking union steward who helped fuck him under was absent, wasn’t a steward supposed to be present, and The Winged Monkey said, when Kyle calmed down enough to talk about it, then, he’d be glad to help in any way he could and Kyle said, “So sorry…get me another spouse,” and by the time he was asking them about the bogus sexual harassment charge that kept finding its way into and out of his personnel file the rentanasshole guards were taking away his federal employee ID badge and escorting him from a federally-leased facility and he had come back a week later to retrieve his personal shit, already tossed into an empty photocopy box, and was threatened by an eagerbeaver rentanasshole guard when he protested that his enamel Starbucks cup and his potted cactus and a framed photograph by now-semifamous badboy photographer Beausoleil (bought eons ago at Butters Gallery and now worth some bucks) were missing.
But that eagerbeaver rentanasshole had given every one grief and shit.
Kyle watched inmates play basketball in the one spot of sunlight available in the entire state, play behind a high razorwired fence as he made his way to the main building which looked so much like his old high school as to creep him out bigtime…down to the moss making its way up the north side of the building. One cocky inmate danced the funky chicken and Kyle felt a burst of envy and loathing. Kyle hated dancing and could at best approximate a grand mal seizure when in the thick of rock club mosh pit or school gym floor. Release, yes, but not grace or beauty.
“You’re like Lester Bangs,” Gloria had told him once. — “How?” — “Bangs said writing about music was like dancing about architecture, but you do dance about architecture.” — Dancing made Kyle think of school, specifically high school, and high school made him think of dancing and this prison made him think of both.
The only reprieve Kyle ever found from the Bataan Death March called high school was in tennis. Tennis had been his high school sport and he had aced Singles, was an Ace, he reveled in the selfishness and found a palpable and animal grace only when playing, he danced then, a thousand dances, but the fuckwad coach had wanted Kyle to get with the program, wanted him for Doubles and Kyle hated Doubles, fuck the program, Kyle hated any team effort and finally just quit and broke the fuckwad coach’s nose when the fuckwad coach refused to take No for an answer. And, yes, there had been a fumbling grace in his bloodied wrestling with the fuckwad coach who refused to take No for an answer, a sort of first-dance-at-the-prom quality to the scene, not that Kyle ever went to the prom.
A Robert Mapplethorpe flowers wallcalendar behind the bulletproof-windowed guard desk was good for a hoot but the building itself made him want to run for his car and drive away, drive away and keep driving until his gastank tanked. The lesions on the neck of the railthin modelprisoner who administered Kyle’s typing test after he was let through electronically-controlled slamming barred door after electronically-controlled slamming barred door with deafening buzzes and clicks did nothing to assuage this unease.
— “One twenty words per minute with corrections.” — Kyle felt his forehead seep again as if he were becoming a miracle, a bleeding church madonna. “Bad day,” said Kyle to the modelprisoner, trying a winsome smile on for size. — “Would you like me to get paper towels,” the modelprisoner enquired, unsmiling. Those lesions, whether or not K-S scars, looked like states that Kyle drew to win free drinks in bar bets. — “No. Thanks. Where’s your ’loo?” Kentucky. — “What?” — Maine. “Sorry. Restroom.” Michigan. — “Right.” — Upper and lower peninsulas. A pause. “I’m sorry. Where’s the restroom.” Florida. — “Bog’s down the hall twenty feet, turn right.” Alaska. As he went to the restroom he could hear the modelprisoner say, “Asshole.”— Kyle could hear a guy in the corner stall impersonating a scat singer while having a trombone solo of a dump.
Kyle pressed and pressed the dispenser lever and unbleached paper tumbled down until he found what he reasoned to be an uncontaminated layer. roku: “How can I be of assistance?”
“I just don’t know who to talk to…I talk to IRS and they say to talk to you people and I talk to you people and you people tell me to talk to the IRS.”
“Well, what’s the situation?”
Gloria is so bored she looks at the latest issue of Journal Of the Plague Years, so bored she reads a review of a Hong Kong rollerdisco lesbian vampire kungfu movie she’ll never see, a review written by her bastard brother Geof, who cannot even be bothered to drop by the Kaiser Sunnyside vegetable garden to visit their bastard dad (or even go halves on lilies). Gloria always feels like an idiot when she reads her brother’s reviews and feels some how cheated, conned and manipulated, shat up on. She has this image to say thought of Geof dividing all and sundry toys or candy or booty when they were children.
— “Two for me, one for you, three for me, one for you, four for me.”
Gloria was annoyed with the intensity that Kyle loved reading her brother’s reviews, no, that’s not right, with the intensity that he loved hating them (“heavyfisted and hamhanded”) and the way that Kyle went out of his way see the movie so he could write a letter to Geof’s editor to slamdunk Geof’s pretentious review. When Gloria brought up the fact that Kyle’s sister is her brother Geof’s editor he agreed, yes, well, Sam would not print one of my letters, she’d consider it nepotism to do so.
And those slacker shits still haven’t come back from their java breaks. She’s not even sure whether those shitheels are even telling her the truth about her brother Geof actually dropping by to visit her yesterday, wanting to take her to lunch (and that is so out of character for him that he probably did do so, some how intuiting that she would be out of the office that day, that is so so so like Geof) but she would not put it past those shitforbrains to make up Geof’s visit, either, they know that she and her brother are not particularly close.
“The situation is that some one down in Florida or Alabama or Mississippi or Arizona, I don’t know where, they move around a lot, some Mexican, probably, is using my social security card and I keep having problems with my taxes.” go: Shutupshutupshutup, Kyle thought as he sat in an office filled with tschotschkes and plastercasted praying hands and Sears Special portraits of grandchildren, sat and faced his interviewers, a man with a face like the potato famine and a wretched toupee and a woman of the bluerinse tribe whose aging earlobes drooped under the weight of her mothership earrings.
They expressed concern over the bruise on his forehead and offered to send him to the nurse but he declined and the interview began.
Answers thirty seconds max, listen and pause, then back to thirty seconds max. He silently practiced his Japanese, bringing the kana images into his head, counting backwards from ten: juu, ku, hachi, shichi, roku, go.
—“About this last job, you were only there nine months.” —
Shi, san, ichi. Listen, pause:
— “Yes, well, I had been working there nearly three months and was encouraged to apply for a promotion and, well, my supervisor left the agency and I had another supervisor and then another supervisor and then another supervisor and after three more supervisors it was determined that the position wasn’t a good fit, but I think of it as a valuable learning experience.” —
Thirty seconds max, without getting too personal and naming names like The Winged Monkey, The Wicked Witch Of The Willamette, The Pod Lady, or The Scarecrow.
— “You’ve got quite a varied background,” said the man. — “Yes,” the woman said, “a very interesting background.” — “Very interesting,” the man agreed.
Very interesting, according to Kyle’s exwife, meant terminally excruciatingly boring. Interesting only rated elaborately boring.
Kyle had blown the interview any way when he assumed that the man was the woman’s supervisor. — “How do you feel about the prisoners,” said the man. — “About working with them,” added the woman. — “Well, if they’re paying their debt to society and if they do good work, well, I wouldn’t have any problems.” —
The two interviewers nodded, said “Good” in unison. — “And how,” the woman asked, “do you feel about working with people from different backgrounds.” — “Different backgrounds,” repeated the man. — “Do you mean ethnic backgrounds,” asked Kyle. — “Yes.” — “Well, I’m half Hispanic on my mother’s side, and I’ve lived in Los Angeles and New York and spent time in Japan during The…” (He caught himself just in time and did not say The Dirty Little.) “Any way, I like to think I am pretty tolerant.” — “And religion?”— Kyle looked at them, saw their persistent eyes. “Well, again, I’ve lived and worked in several places, different countries, different cultures, and I’d have to agree with Martin Luther’s comment that he’d rather hire a capable Islamic Turkman than an incompetent Christian. I don’t care what you believe, I care about what you do.”
There was a pause.
— “Interesting,” said the woman. — “I don’t remember Martin Luther King saying any thing like that,” said the man, “I am a great admirer of Dr. King.” — “…I meant Martin Luther Luther.” — “Oh,” said the man, “that Martin Luther.”
The woman chortled.
They asked him about HIV and the public’s attitudes and took notes as he spoke of the tragedy and spoke of an exseminarian junkie pal who sucked needles and shared dirty dicks and contracted AIDS in 1989 and been on protease cocktails since 1994, only to contract the emergent elohim strain and fall into a decline and die last year (and it astonished Kyle that only Gloria and a post-grad biochemistry professor had ever called him on inventing terminal diseases). Kyle chose to delete the sordid bits about shared needles and dicks and projectile diarrhœa, instead turning the dead exseminarian and rat’s-assignation shit-heel bastard pal into a noble posterchild for a tragic epidemic.
“We’ll let you know.” They rose from their seats.
“Next week.” He shook their hands. The woman’s grip was confident and the man’s was clammy and tentative.
The man showed Kyle out, back down the ammonia-soaked hall. The gleaming lino caught the wan winter light from barred windows and bounced it all over white walls.
Kyle told the man some thing he had told no one else about, never ever before, told the man about his diabetic grandfather and about how when he was a freshman in high school he took his grandfather’s syringes and cleaned them with bleach and gave them to junkie friends so they wouldn’t get hepatitis, or some thing worse. And then Kyle began to talk about his mother’s suicide, when he was five years old, maybe four. The man looked at Kyle, smiled a provisional smile.
“Interesting.” shi: “I keep getting problems with my taxes.”
“You’ll have to talk to the IRS. We can’t do any thing.”
If Gloria does not get coffee soon she will fall into deep sleep. Kyle was always good for that, always good for a cup of Starbucks java du jour, all you had to do was ring him and he’d punch idle and then run to the elevator and shoot down for a cup of double joe.
The quid for this pro quo was that you had to pay for Kyle’s cup of joe. Kyle never took longer than five, seven minutes, max…unless he argued with that asshole security guard who told every one that the World Trade Center was payback for Waco. And Kyle then asked what The Dirty Little was payback for. For some one who claimed to loathe dancing Kyle certainly did mix it up with people. Always finding some fibula of contention. She laughs when ever she remembers what Kyle finally told the rentanasshole: “May your genepool evaporate.”
She misses Kyle.
He was very considerate in his own contrarian and weirdo way. One day Kyle saw a photo of her son on her desk and didn’t press when Gloria said he was going through a phase and living with his grandma, and never asked embarrassing questions about paternity…an issue of rococco complexities, involving butcher and baker and turkey baster.
Kyle just asked when his birthday was and when that day came showed up to the office with a giftwrapped deeveedee of Rebel Without A Cause…one of Nicholas Ray’s finest films.
Their one “date” had been a disaster, sort of, they went to Satyricon and the band was so god fucking damn good that the usuallytoohip crowd was actually dancing and Gloria wanted to dance but Kyle did not and finally just split, she joined the dancing and turned around to see him gonegone.
It was cool, sort of, to run into him at Cinema 21 when she went to see City of Lost Children, and a bit strange because neither of them wanted to ruin the moment by talking about the whirling weirdnesses of shit around his departure from Social Security.
She felt she should tell Kyle how the Wicked Witch of the Willamette and The Pod Lady visited her a few times to get her to rat on Kyle and only stopped when she filed a grievance with her uncle at the regional office in Seattle. She remembers Kyle’s cackle as the Cinema 21 ran a trailer for a revival of Taxi Driver, but also remembers that the whole sardinepacked theatre freaked, too.
“Then let me speak to your supervisor. I just told you that IRS says to call you people and then you people tell me to call up the IRS, so I want to speak to your supervisor.”
“Please hold while I connect you.” Then: “I’m sorry, my supervisor isn’t available.”
“I can wait.” san: The phone was in voicemail mode by the time Kyle unlocked his halfsister’s front door and deactivated the alarm system and caught the mendelbrat Siamese cat before he bolted out.
Kyle retrieved and heard three messages.
The first was from the Oregon Department of Corrections and asked when he would like to schedule a second interview. Wellwellwell, they got through to the one supervisor who apologized to him for every thing, who had even offered to be a reference (the supervisor was called “The Cowardly Lion”) and who wrote him a letter of recommendation on Official Use Only stationary.
The second voicemail was from Janet Planet… Shit on a shingle, Janet Planet was the department secretary who had warned Kyle about the sexual harassment scam, told him that the coworker every one called the Pod Lady and supervisor who did this number on him had also done this to a blind black man and a gay Nicaraguan paraplegic before him, that not only did they get the charges to stick, but that no one even noticed that the same Pod Lady person made the same charge over and over again to the same supervisor (who was called “The Wicked Witch Of The Willamette”) and Janet had told Kyle the basic script, that the claims rep open files would be moved into the Pod Lady’s office by The Wicked Witch Of The Willamette and the employee who had to get into the Pod Lady’s office to look up claims rep open files would be berated by the Pod Lady and immediately receive a verbal and then a written warning from The Wicked Witch Of The Willamette, charging them with sexual harassment, all of this within an hour, and that a union steward who was paralyzed on his left side was kept out of the loop…and since he was retiring any month now for the last two or three years he was relieved to be relieved, and Kyle knew that much and felt a bit guilty about not telling Janet that the other union steward had interrogated him instead of listening to his grievance and asked if he’d ever been arrested for sexual assault or other sex crimes and twisted the fact of Kyle’s having been a sexual assault hotline volunteer from 1991 to 1995, told Kyle that that was just part of his degree work and when Kyle said he only got two semesters credit out of his five years of volunteer work she asked him if he got off on hearing assault victims accounts, if he went home and used their pleas for help and stories as masturbation fodder.
Kyle had told her that his specific task was to counsel the families, not the victims, that fathers and husbands and brothers and sons needed counseling, too, and that those were the people he’d been trained to help, and no he had never found their anguish particularly sexy.
Janet Planet told Kyle she just now took a call from Oregon Department of Corrections regarding references and that The Wicked Witch Of The Willamette intercepted The Cowardly Lion’s message and closed the door to her office.
The next message was from Oregon Department of Corrections, saying that the position was canceled due to budget cuts. Budget cuts, sure. When Kyle asked about such prospects in the interview, the woman of the blue rinse tribe laughed and told him that no matter who was in office that they were scheduled for twelve new state prisons in the next decade.
—“The last growth industry,” the man had said. —“The final frontier,” the woman amended, before asking him if he’d be interested in working on the decommissioned coast guard boats they hoped to have in the Willamette River by late Spring.
Kyle went into his halfsister’s attic, found a convincingly Uzilike water pistol that Sam had used at a few Halloween parties last year. Kyle loaded the water pistol with balsamic vinegar and put it in his knapsack.
He remembered he still had leftover tokens and decided to take the Try-Met downtown.
Stuck to the back of his license was a post-it bearing all the door security codes the office had been through in the nine months he’d been there.
Kyle once overheard a guard tell another they only used ten variations.
He had nine codes, so just maybe, just maybe he would visit the old office. ni: “I can wait.”
“…Well, my supervisor is out of the office and I wasn’t able to ring another supervisor, so if you like I can write up your problem and forward it to National.”
Gloria looks up, sensing something, and careful not to tangle her receiver cord, gets out of her chair. The office is unusually quiet.
— “Why didn’t you just offer to do that before?” — “The problem is that there are only a hundred people who handle this sort of thing nation wide and the wait can be very, very long.” — “How long?” — “Nine to eighteen months or more.” — “Well, I’ve been waiting for more than five years for some one to straighten out this mess, so if it takes another year or two I’m not surprised.” — “Let me logon to my computer and get your name and address and social and other information.”
Maggie, Gloria Reid’s coworker from the next gray cubicle and partner in fucking off, taps her on the shoulder:
“C’mon, Gloria.” — “Please hold.”
Then to Maggie, “Just what is your problemita?” — “Haven’t you heard, Gloria? It’s on the radio, it’s on the voicemail…” — “…What’s on the voicemail and radio?”—“The police are evacuating the building, Janet Planet went to evacuate the seventh floor and we’re the only two left here. Janet sent me to get you.” —“…Why?” — “…Kyle’s why. He’s got an Uzi and ’s attacked pedestrians, knocked a woman down and kicked her head in before running into our park entrance and beating the shit and shinola out of a guard.” — “You’re kidding me. Aren’t you?”
Gloria removes her headset, tosses it on-to her desk, by Kyle’s cactus that she rescued from the Pod Lady’s trash can and placed below an In Memorium trading card from her abuela’s requiem.
The way her father was going she’d soon be adding a card for him.
…Collect the Whole Set, as Kyle put it when they discussed deaths in families.
— “Kyle’s a wimp, he’s too much of a pussy.”—“I know you like Kyle, Gloria, but take a look out the window and check out the roof of the bank and the parklot, look at the SWAT team. I read about what you’re going through, they call it the Stockholm Syndrome!” — “Stockholm Syndrome? …What’s that, fucking your brains out and then committing suicide?” — “…No, Gloria Smartypants, it’s where captives become sympathetic to the captors agenda. Like Patty Hearst. I read it in Psychology Today.” — “…If Kyle’s got an Uzi why hasn’t he shot any one?” — “Stockholm Syndrome.” — “…You believe every thing you read in a glossy pop-psych rag?” — “…Better than that trendy degenerate Rocket To Uranus trash. Let’s get the caboose to vamoose. I swear, just because you like the boy.” — “Like the boy?”
“I forgot.” Maggie smirks. “…You don’t bat for the home team.” — “…Who I sleep or do not sleep with is not a matter of team sports, Maggie.” — “Stockholm Syndrome.”
Gloria looks out the window, sees closeshorn heads on the roof of the parklot off Second, heads with dark duckbill caps and darker glasses and rifles ready to take aim and fire. She also sees two hawks hacksaw across the cobalt sky on crinkly thermals. Also sees a boat on the Willamette, sees its watery wake downriver from the bridge supports. Then she turns to find rifle shadows on the roof of the Marriott off Front Street and of the First Interstate building off Third.
—“But the Pod Lady took a floater today and the Wicked Witch Of The Willamette is on a halfday schedule, she’s long gone.”—“Then go find Kyle and tell him, Gloria, tell him they’re not here. C’mon! They’re sending the police up for a floorbyfloor. We are s’posed to be out of here.”
Gloria remembers: “I still have the oldfartster on hold.” — “Fuck-get his raggedy senile ass,” Maggie says. “That asshole doesn’t have a pissed-off former coworker with a gun coming by to visit. Kyle’s s’posed to be in a stair well or holed up an office on the fourth or fifth, according to the radio. Janet said we’re s’posed to go to the freight elevator. Chopchoppity, Gloria.” — “I’ll bet his Uzi’s a plastic replica toy.” — “Stockholm Syndrome.”
She spies the SWAT team heads atop the smartpark converge, duckbill caps moving closer together, as SWAT teams rifles fixate on their floor at the very least, if not on Gloria and Maggie.
Some one can be heard in the hallway, running. Door beeping as code combinations are entered and rejected and rejected and entered and entered and rejected. — “C’mon, girl,” Maggie shouts as she runs into an office, “Let’s lock ourselves in here…” —
Maggie holds the door open.
“…Hurry…” ichi: The door will beep as it accepts the security code and Kyle will rush into the room, clutching his leaky Uzi water pistol and shouting for the Wicked Witch Of The Willamette.
Behind Kyle will be the eagerbeaver rentanasshole cop who always gives every one shitgrief and who particularly dislikes Kyle, with his own eagerbeaver personal-issue non-watergun and also shouting, yelling, screaming at Kyle, screaming, “Freeze, mother fucker!”
Kyle will lose his traction, slip, on a everrepaired everloosened lip of carpet. — “Jesus, Kyle, duck!”
A blast behind Kyle, percussive, firecrackerlike more a cherrybomb more bulletlike, will make him think of hunting for pheasant out of season with one of his whackedout California cousins, now long dead, hunting for pheasant of all things.
And Kyle will hear Gloria shout and, too late, fall as she throws herself at him, maybe not too late, maybe too early, in the elastic schemata of seconds per seconds of bodies and rest and motion because she will take a bullet and Kyle will take a bullet and a hole and Kyle will then hear Gloria’s shocked voice, hear her give a copcop his surname, “No, not like the sax player, like the Clash song, Guns Of…,” and her, “Yes,” as the cop completes the song title, gets it right—tell him what he’s won, and then hear Gloria dryheave a bit as she tells a paramedic that Oregon’s the Easter lily capitol of the World, her sonofabitch bastard dad used to say that, and tells of her experiences with morphine and percocet during various surgeries and how the slowup speed-down motion of a discharged bullet leads it to rest in the torn flesh of her Newtonian body. Like dancing on the mosh pit, riding on the clubland sea of roiling heads and shoulders. Dancing about architecture. Kyle will hear every thing and feel nothing as he is rolled down the hall to the elevator, not to Starbucks, no quid for that pro quo, no king’s double americano joe ever to put those fragged nerves together again.
for k. a.