The Return of the Orange Virgin
The stone heads—Cow, Goat and Manticore—were malign at first
glance, the distillation of a dead craftsman’s nightsweats and horrors.
The Orange Virgin rose and transferred a kiss from her fingertips.
“Fare-thee-well, friends. Keep my secrets. We go to perform great works.”
Goat’s lugubrious striped vanilla tongue lay across the floor; the Cow’s
blind eyes stared at nothing.
The Year They Invented Frozen Lemonade
“I am midtown. Manhattan?” Linda Winkelman speaks her question
out loud in the middle of the rush hour push; no one takes notice. Linda
is standing in the middle of a street. She can not recall who she is
or why she is here.
“I remember lemonade,” says Linda. Buildings disappeared, people disappeared.
Now it is her turn.
The Illuminati (Owe Carl 57 Cents)
I was down by the county road checking the mail when
Harold Junior pulled up in his rusted-out Lincoln Continental. Harold’s
domestic battle cruiser had been bought cheap and came with a titanic
appetite for gas and oil. It never had to go far, only start, and it
plowed through drifts that would stall a Jeep.
“Beaver,” he said, pointing at the river. This would be the same day
the Illuminati—secret, sinister—reentered my life.
The Runaway Bungalow
“Arrgh! See me neck, lad?” Theophrastus Bigelow’s head
hung at a grotesque angle from where the long executioner’s knot had
settled at the base of his skull. Randy held his mother’s mop, set to
dry in the sun, between himself and the pirate. Bigelow succumbed to
gales of laughter. “I didn’t die from the drop; I swung and strangled.
Whadda ye think o’ that?”
“I think it’s rather nice that you didn’t die all at once,” Randy said.
The cat had been a twenty-pounder once, but now you
could read a magazine right through him. He hadn’t been around for a
couple of weeks, and Val figured that he had tackled something out of
his league: a bullet, traffic on the state road, some upcountry coyote
with a taste for feral cats.
Wide and quiet, his great green eyes invited her to share a secret knowledge,
intimating she was trusted, but not yet ready for a full revelation.
Her species would have to mature.
Two of Swords
Capt. Futvoye Halfnight, D.D.S, popped his dropped eye
into its socket. “Ahh.” What he saw ahead was not reassuring. “Ohh...”
A great gnarly man was leaning against a tree and staring at him. He
was naked but for the skin of a tiger which he wore nonchalantly over
“You pilgrims should carry rearview mirrors. You leave an inventory
of lost lesions and dropped appendages all over the landscape,” said
The Song of the Rice Barge Coolie “My sister, is she dead?
Go and give her a poke, would you?”
The great white presence that was the Lady Mother of the Long Walkers
indicated the row of captive queens on their dais beneath her, deferentially
E Pluribus Human
“YO, BABE!” A man’s voice blared at Grenadine McKenzie, “SURPRISE,
YOU’RE PREGNANT.” A craggy male face bloomed before her.
The face was a hero’s face, Lance Davenport from Rights of Spring. There
was an odor of patchouli.
Sylvester and Beany
The year the monarch butterflies didn’t return to Maine,
I went home to Brooklyn. “Something in the milkweed,” they said.
In New York the monarchs got bumped to the inside pages. A bewildered
teenager stared from the Post, News and Times. Amy Fisher, Lethal Lolita,
shot her boyfriend’s wife. The wife had survived and was mightily pissed;
the butterflies were dead and didn’t care.