Emerald Bolts M. Krockmalnik Grabois
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Lights Out


The twenty-six-year-old third mate was driving the ship. It was his first time in this treacherous channel and the captain had gone to his cabin. The second mate suggested that the captain was an intravenous drug user, but the first mate told him to shut up, he didnít know what he was talking about and shouldnít feel so free to malign the captain, his superior. The second mate was suspicious of the word ďsuperiorĒ.
     It was then that the boat began to list and roll. It didnít take long. It rolled over like the third mateís headstrong girlfriend turning over in bed. She was a white woman, nothing like the spare Koreans he had gotten used to fucking. She had round white buttocks. In fact, he was thinking about her at the moment the ferry began to roll, how she rolled over in bed and turned on the lamp. She was reading a novel with the name of a Beatleís song, written by a famous Japanese writer whose name he could never remember. Every time he tried to think of the manís name all he could come up with was Hari Kari, and he knew that wasnít it. She was reading the book in Japanese. He himself never read fiction and did not know Japanese.
     The boat rolled. The students in their cabins texted their parents goodbye, apologized for all the misdeeds they had done, or not done, as children. Their bodies whimpered, like the wings of trapped manta rays. There was a jellywash of entombed bodies in the muddy tide, the water dark and secretive, septic even.
     There was a moment when nearly three hundred studentsí lives blinked out, like the lights in a barracks or dormitory at Lights Out.







Language



Language has frozen in my voicebox. My throat is jammed with a blue popsicle that will not thaw. I climb down a Hawaiian cliff to a beach with green sand. I will stay here until the popsicle melts or until I figure out the truth. My wife brings me a basket of pineapple and mayonnaise sandwiches. I cannot eat them. I throw them to the sharks.
     Languageís vowels and consonants have been replaced by zeros and ones and by Xís and Oís. Which is the hug and which is the kiss, I ask the woman with the vagina tattooed on her finger, and is there a symbol for fuck?
     The man at the cash register tells me the geyser will blow every ten minutes without fail. I ask him, If it fails, will I get a refund? He looks at me as if I am a Jew from New York. I am a Jew from New York. I watch the geyser. I consult my watch. The geyser goes off every four minutes.
The geyser has a petting zoo featuring fainting goats. When fainting goats are panicked, their muscles freeze for ten seconds and they fall over on their sides. But because so many boorish tourists have tried to frighten them they are inured to yells and booga-booga jumping around and have thus overcome their hereditary genetic disorder.
     The fainting goats wonít faint, I tell the man at the cash register. I want my money back.






Slaves



This woman Iím dating Ė she has a beautiful eight-year-old daughter and I already feel paternal toward her, though her mother and I are not near the point of considering marriage and, frankly, Iíve told myself that I donít ever want to marry again and should guard against impulses to do so. Weíre drinking wine in a restaurant, nothing too fancy but nice enough, and she starts telling me of her plans for her daughter. She wants her to be a child beauty queen like Jon-Benet Ramsay. She goes on about the details of preparing for pageants and, while doing so, mentions Jon-Benet Ramsay several times. She does not mention any other child. Perhaps there is no other child beauty queen who became famous, at least famous enough for me to recognize the name. I comment that I think itís odd that she would be using Jon-Benet Ramsay as a role model, as she was murdered in the basement of her home, possibly by one of her parents. The case is still unsolved and the mother has died, taking whatever knowledge she had with her. 
     My date tells me that parentsí plans for their children rarely come to fruition, and plotting a trajectory like this would be more likely to insure a bright and productive future for her daughter than a plan frankly ambitious, but I donít want to hear any more of this cracked-brain thinking. Women are too crazy for me. Thatís why I got divorced. Thatís why I swore off marriage. I donít care if Iíve already started feeling paternal toward this eight-year-old. Her mother and I are done. 
     I looked out at the Golden Gate Bridge and began my rabbinical debut. Twenty years of studying Hebrew and I stuttered Shalom. Sixty years old, and Iím alone. I began the ceremony by saying that marriage is also a bridge, and once you cross you can never return. This is wishful thinking, and obviously wrong. My son and his soon-to-be-wife looked perplexed and amused.
I told them I was wearing my grandfatherís hat because he rode across Europe on the top of a train and they were also adventurous. They were throwing off convention, quitting their jobs to live aboard a boat in a sea where a million slaves died of heat and hard labor. I wondered: Could their laughter redeem anything?
  

 

   

- M. Krockmalnik Grabois (USA)
 
 


M. Krockmalnik Grabois is an American poet and fiction writer from Colorado whose works have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, most recently for his story ďPurple HeartĒ published in The Examined Life in 2012, and for his poem, ďBirds,Ē published in The Blue Hour in 2013. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available from Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.

 

 
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The front page image is copyright © by Tony Kitterick, 2012