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
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,
There was a moment when nearly
three hundred studentsí lives blinked out, like the lights in a
barracks or dormitory at Lights Out.
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consonants have been replaced by zeros and ones and by Xís and Oís.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.
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?
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
to The Prague Revue,
and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize,
most recently for his story ďPurple HeartĒ published in The
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.
front page image is copyright ©
by Tony Kitterick, 2012