Yellow Mama Archives

Terence Butler
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Zimmerman, Thomas

THE CITY IN THE RAIN

 

Terence Butler

 

The front door sticks just at the point of closing. You have to give it a tug to close it and when you do the wind chime sounds. Not a full ring, just a shiver like it does in the rain. And the flap on top of the mailbox lifts what must be only a tiny way and taps its part too. Then there’ll be another sound, maybe the honk of a car horn, or the crash and whine of a garbage truck, or the rush of the commuter train on the elevated tracks a block away. I learn things from that very next sound.

One morning it was a newspaper suddenly plastered against the side of my dad’s car by the wind. It flapped and fluttered there, trapped like a bird I once saw inside our garage, too dumb to just give in and wait until I went away. If the paper would relax, eventually the wind will die down. I’ve learned to let the world show me the way.

Yesterday morning when I went out I saw the black dog hurrying by again, the third day in a row. The first day he was going down the hill, the second day up. Yesterday he was going down again. He has a mission.  I hurried down the steps and called to him; “Hey, Blackie!” He broke his stride a bit and his ears pointed back at me but he didn’t come.

Dogs know things. Every time there’s an accident or a fire or someone comes out of their house on a stretcher all covered up, there’ll be a dog somewhere close. I want to watch this dog because black always carries a message.

I wait for the bus with a book open on my lap and my black hair hanging down so no one can see me. I let the others get on before I look up surprised that the bus is there. Then I lose my backpack or have to go back and get my jacket. When I get on I can’t find my fare, and I have to lean on the bar next to the driver while I look for it. I can smell his aftershave and his cigarettes and I know he can smell my shampoo and see that my hair is still wet. I always get a transfer even though the bus stops right in front of the school. He used to act mad, but not anymore. I’m waiting for him to talk to me and then I’ll stop. I’ll still get a transfer, but I’ll act like I’m the one that’s mad. He’ll be confused, but if I ever need him he’ll be there.

I sit across from the retarded guy. Most of the females sit as far from him as possible because he gets so excited. One old lady who rides in the sideways seat by the door thinks she’s on to me. She gives me a look, and that’s when I open the top button of my blouse and let my skirt slide above my knee. It drives her wild. Him too. He’ll rock, and rub himself, and groan like dad when mom does him in the kitchen. The old lady will hiss something at the driver and he’ll have to stop the bus and yell. “Marty! Stop that or you’ll have to take the next bus!” Then he’ll look at me in his mirror, but I’ll be behind my hair, studying.

I hear the girls in the restroom talking about how Marty is gross and disgusting and I wonder if they’ve ever noticed the size of that thing he’s rubbing. It goes halfway to his knee. It would drive them wild to know that I plan to do him when I get a chance. Not for the sex, but for his knowledge, because retards and crazy people can teach things. They live in a different version of the same world we live in. Our world is like TV with the sound off to them, and they have their own soundtrack. Once I do him he’ll teach me to see the way he does.

Father Murphy is the one I want though. He’s young and he’s got sad eyes and a stubbly chin, as if he forgets about what he looks like, and he never smiles or jokes. I love his sermons even if I don’t understand some of the words in them. He gets caught up in what he’s talking about, his voice trembling at first but getting deeper and louder as he gets into his homily. In not very long he’s forgotten all about us, and he stares down at his podium for long passages, or up at the stained glass over the choir without making any eye contact, and I think about the erection he must have under his vestments. I watch his tongue and his lips and I see the way he touches his stole and grips the lectern and I get dizzy. I go with him like listening to music in my room.

When he stops it’s always at a point of showing us the importance of good works or relating his own confusion about what God wants. Then he’ll talk about his faith before he goes back to the ritual and the singing in Latin. He leaves us longing to know what he knows. I’m never more aware of my body than at those moments.  I know he’s crazy and I want him to touch me. I want to do him. And I want him dressed all in black.

*

Today I took a wiener and waited on the steps for the black dog to come by. The second sound was something with cars; screeching brakes, and two different male voices shouting curses, and one car burning rubber as it roared away. It made me nervous and ruined my mood. It must have been an accident that didn’t happen and I wondered if it was going to happen to me.

Sitting there and thinking about that, I almost missed the black dog. If I had, it would have been the whole day that was ruined and I’d have gone back inside and stayed in my room until mom and dad came home. What changed it was a sound.

I had my head down inside my hair when I heard his claws tapping the sidewalk as he hurried by. I jumped up and went down the steps to intercept him. For some reason I snatched at his tail and I yelled, “Stop! Blackie!” Well, he turned on me so fast and crouched like he was ready to spring that I stumbled backwards and almost went down. I’ve never seen a dog like that, as angry and vicious looking, except Cujo that is. That’s what he looked like. Cujo.

He was barking and barking and I felt my control of the situation slipping. I held the wiener out and told him good boy but it made him even wilder. He started advancing, lifting one foot at a time and growling, his teeth bared. He held his head low to the ground and stared up, the whites showing at the bottom of his eyes. All his hair stood up along his back, and for the first time I noticed the scars on his body and an open wound on his chest. He didn’t have a collar and I thought maybe he was feral, a feral dog, and not just someone’s pet who knew how to get out of his yard, and I remembered something on TV about backing away slowly and not making eye contact. It was about bears, wild bears, but what’s the difference between wild and feral, I just did it.

And then I lifted out of my body and was over the whole thing spread out and watching it in pieces. I saw my body fall and lie still and curled up and I saw Blackie stop and lie down and watch me from a distance. My body was very still, almost like dead, and he watched me awhile and then he whimpered a little and got up. He tiptoed over and got the wiener from the sidewalk next to my body and swallowed it in one gulp and ran away.

I knew that I had entered his mind and stopped him from hurting me. But I wondered what his lesson for me was. Was it about the accident that hadn’t happened, and was he showing me that something that I thought was friendly, for instance him, might be a thing that could cause me harm?

I couldn’t go to school. I’d have to go to my room and fast. I’d listen to music on my iPod and go over everything that happened. I’d still have my uniform on when my parents got home and I wouldn’t have to explain until the call came from the attendance secretary tomorrow morning.

The god damn nuns are making things hard for me, calling my folks and telling them there’s something wrong with me. I have to keep pointing out my straight A’s and the beautiful art I make. I’ll be gone away to college in just a few months, and I have to keep mom and dad on my side. I can usually hypnotize them into doing what I want, but it’s getting harder. And now my day was building up to something big and I didn’t know what. That’s when I have to be careful.

It was when I was climbing the stairs to my room that I realized that the black dog was coming down the hill, not going up. He should have been going up.

*

My room was silent. All the things in my room were silent. I sat in my black leather chair and closed my eyes. I felt nothing. I spun my globe and it landed on empty ocean. My pictures were only pictures. Even Joan of Arc seemed like an ancient cartoon. Oscar, my goldfish, hung in the furthest corner of his home, barely moving. Worst, my scissors were open and neither blade pointed at anything that could teach. I closed my eyes again and I tried to see things, but the world was locked. I needed to understand why the accident hadn’t happened and how I could keep it from happening to me.

Weed always works when I’m blocked like this. I learned about it from my dad when he used to visit me before he got sad and scared. He told me not to do it, but what do people do when someone tells them that?

I went to their room and got the shoebox where he hides his weed and pipes. I took a little weed and a small pipe made of a piece of tubing and some brass fittings from the hardware store. My dad let me watch him make this pipe back when he wasn’t afraid of me. Of all his pipes it is the most powerful.

I put the shoebox back and went onto the deck off their room and smoked. Then I put the pipe back in the box and went back to my own room. I got out the iPod and sat in my black chair and listened to Radiohead. They are in touch with the other side of things, though I don’t think they realize it. Someone has power over them because the music is really about things that aren’t what he sings about. Like Guilt and Fear. Crazy things that teach. What Father Murphy knows and maybe Marty too. 

Marty swam up in front of me then, swimming like a fish with arms. His eyes bulged like fishes eyes and his mouth made slow gulping movements. He was graceful in that world and his erection was enormous. His round, fat little body was covered with tiny golden scales. His feet and hands were webbed and he waved them like Oscar does his translucent fins. He turned and twisted in front of me in a water ballet. This was his world and he was a beautiful part of it. He asked me to come with him, to swim in his world, to let him teach me. What else could I do? He would know about the accident and the black dog. I knew then how to begin.

Marty would be at the special needs building near the convent. I’d have to be careful, but I knew I could catch him there at lunch. I’d do him in the old school bus that’s parked at the back of the campus and then I could ask him. But first I’d need to perform a ritual. I drew the blinds and lit the incense.

I closed the scissors and held them while the metal warmed in my hand. I hummed “Reckoner” by Radiohead. When I felt a pulse in the blades I set the scissors down and spun them as hard as I could. They leapt from the desk and flew across the room and fell to the rug near the window. The blades were open again, but this time they were as wide as I’d ever seen them.

One blade pointed to Joan of Arc and the other to the window, two things almost directly across from each other. A window? And Joan of Arc? What else but this? My path was laid out for me.

I moved to the window and pushed it open. Ugly music came in from the city, like a composition made of layers of traffic noise and screaming. But floating on top, way off in the distance, the carillon at the monastery was starting up. Father Murphy was not a monk, but he was a priest. I am not Joan of Arc, but I am a crazy saint. I soaked up this message awhile, letting it go all through me.

Then I laid out my black clothing on the bed, humming the melody of “Reckoner” again. I chose things, all black, everything. Pants, top, underwear, socks and shoes, my hoody and shades, all black. I stood naked in front of the window and felt the power of being young and beautiful. I ran my hands over my breasts and touched my vagina. I almost weakened and lay down, but I overcame the waves of lust because I knew I’d have to do two men today.

After I dressed and wrapped my hair in a bun, I got my sword from the blanket chest. It’s a dagger, a silver letter opener I found in my mom’s trunk of things from her mother, a woman I never knew but who sometimes comes to me and tells stories of olden days. My grandmother’s dagger is from a time so far back I can’t imagine it. People knew things and everyone was like me then. The only “misfits” and “troublemakers” were nuns and cops and doctors.

Anyway, I was ready, and by the time I walked to the schoolyard it would be Marty’s lunchtime. After that I could visit Father Murphy in the rectory garden where he sits in the afternoons. He’s usually dressed in his cassock, but if not he’ll be wearing his black shirt and suit coat. He’ll be there, all in black, studying his missal stuffed with his sacred writings.

I went out and down the block, and in the gutter at the corner I saw Blackie, dead.

The accident had happened to him, not to me. I thought at first he’d sacrificed himself for me, let a car hit him so that I wouldn’t be hit. But then, as I pulled his broken body onto the sidewalk and arranged it under a tree, a bad feeling came over me, a question I couldn’t form, and I knew that there was more to this day that had to be played out. Blackie shouldn’t be dead. He was only a messenger. Was someone trying to kill me?

*

Rain. Coming down in torrents. Black columns of it in the distance between the City and the Holy Volcano. The wipers of the bus a fast thump-THUMP-thump and the hiss of the huge black tires a counterpoint. I tightened my hoody strings and settled my Ray Bans and stepped off the bus into the howl of the storm. I love a storm more than any other kind of weather.

The campus was deserted. The black expanse of the ball courts looked forlorn. The picnic tables in the portico waited uselessly. Cars huddled in the parking lot. Everyone would eat lunch inside today.

I ran from building to building and tree to tree and stood awhile in the shelter of each hoping for any glimpse of Marty. In reality I was enjoying the building of tension that each stop brought. I knew that eventually I’d find him in the special ed. building. In the meantime it was delicious to think of how excited he’d be when he saw me, how I’d drive him crazy with my ritual before doing him, and what his answers to my questions might be.

Then I was at the equipment maintenance shop, my last stop before entering Marty’s building. I made a bee line for an open bay where a pickup with its hood up was waiting for the mechanic to return from lunch. I leaned against its grille and looked out through the sheet of rain that fell from the roof edge. I’d wait here a moment and close my eyes. I might be able to get a fix on Marty’s whereabouts. 

Voices whispering. One wheedling and insisting, another giddy and resistant. One masculine, the other girlish. I was torn between running away before anyone saw me and an overwhelming curiosity to know who was whispering in the far dark corners of that old building.

I crouched at the side of the pickup and went to its back corner. I held there listening, then stole past the glass-enclosed office and the filthy restroom to a stairway leading to a loft. The voices came from above. Weak daylight up there wavered with every blast of the storm. I dropped to hands and knees and climbed the stairs like a small child does, moving upward one step at a time, careful not to make a sound. The last few steps I crept even more cautiously until I sensed that my head would be directly at floor level. Then I stretched my neck until my eyes were just above. In the tall rectangle of light from a broken and dirty window I saw them.

A small person huddled and kneeling in prayer before a much taller one, someone all in black, someone unbuttoning a cloak, letting the wind take it, spread it like wings while he placed both hands on the head of the kneeling one-- a benediction? Then that other one making sounds in his throat like an animal devouring something filthy and the tall black one tipping his head back to moan and sigh, and the other one, Marty, spitting and laughing and turning and seeing me as I run with my sword and smash it as hard as I can into Father Murphy’s chest.  

I’m slashing now, I slash at Father Murphy’s face and I find his dick, and I can feel it slippery as I saw on it, the sword not sharp enough, but I have holy strength in me and I will kill him before he kills me. And then he’s strangely weak, and I can see blood weeping like tears from the wound in his heart, and his hands, his manicured hands, clutching at his black shirt, brushing at it as if he wants to wipe the blood from his sacred clothing. His eyes turn up and away.

I stand and look for Marty. He’s huddled near the stairs and I rush and kick him, and kick him again, and I push him so that he tumbles all the way to the bottom of the stairs and then I throw Father Murphy’s dick down on him and I turn and hurl myself through the tall window, into the storm.

*

Delicious Pain. I know this is a hospital and it isn’t the nice one my mom went to. There is a narrow window with two bars and a deep sill on the outside. A crow is huddled there, his feathers puffed, his back to me as he waits out the storm. I whisper to him; “Turn around, black bird. Talk to me.” He hears me. His feathers are so black I can’t see him as a fully rounded object. He looks flat, and I see that he is a hole into another world. His eye, the eye he turns to me, is even blacker than his body and what gleams there is wild and crazy. He’s a saint too, like me. 

THE END


Fire Man

Terry Butler

 

When I start this, get in the car, turn the key, put it in drive, I already know I’m fucked. I don’t really know this woman. There’s probably nothing new here, I made lots of mistakes and lucky finds that same way before. But this one seems different. She’s a goddess in a toilet bar.

Yeah, I know, but fuck you. She is both lost and found and you’re so cynical you can’t believe in that. That’s your problem, not mine. I knew I’d try with her no matter what.

She texted late. Her message said I know you don’t know me, but I felt we connected. Can you help me?  A guy wants to hurt me.  Call me.

So what do you do? I mean YOU? You say fuck it, we haven’t even screwed?  Me, I remember her voice. I remember her big eyes in her little face, eyes ready to flood with tears, copper brown and seeking. This kind of stuff passes you tough guys right by, but it goes right into me.

I called her, she answered, she’s crying. She gave me an address and hung up.

Fuck you, yeah you’re stupid too. I’m out.

*

Pulling up outside her cul de sac I think I’ll just sit and look around.

Lupine Court is like a million others, four houses looking at each other. Two are nicely kept and anonymous, one has lots of cars in various stages, number four has weeds, broken mini-blinds, dead shrubs, water-logged newspapers in a pile near the porch. That’s hers.

I leave the car, walk around behind it, move sideways into a shadow. Lights are on in the motor-head place. Muffled AM radio music, otherwise crickets and traffic sounds.

Her porch light is on. There’s mail stuffed in the box and tossed on the stoop. I stay in the shadow, go to the side away from the living room, toward the gate that must lead to the back yard.

Still in the shadow, not ready to move, I watch a dark SUV ease in, headlights off. It shuts down, goes silent. There is enough street light that I can see two heads. A glow inside comes on and goes off, a woman steps out, crosses to the house I’m watching, drops an object, goes back to the SUV. The starter purrs, the Lincoln finishes the curve of the cul de sac and leaves without lights.

Flames blossom without much sound, just a soft whoosh.  They’re moving up the door, spreading sideways and up the walls. They’re traveling quickly and looking hot.

I’m in the gate and around the back and trying to get oriented. I see a slider that’s partially open and I duck in. I close it so that it doesn’t provide a draft.

“Aubrey!”

“Aubrey, are you in here? It’s Billy!”

“Billy? Billy! I’m here!”

Somewhere to the right and down the hall. I move, starting to choke but keep going.

It’s a big dude blocking the hall now. He’s got a bat and he’s spread wide, legs and arms planted and looking to take my head over the fence and out of the park.

I move to him square on. He’s taking little tip toe steps and raising the bat. The little .32 comes into my hand and cracks a few times in a tight pattern around his heart.

She’s in my arms, shaking like a wet, freezing dog, but she’s soft and curvy and just the right size and we’re kissing the way new lovers do, and she asks me to take her away.  

So I do.

*

Why don’t you just relax and tell me about it Aubrey? I’m the guy who got you out of there, right? What’s your deal? You think I’m going to take you back there? Come ON girl!

Billy, I love you and what you did for me but you’d never forgive. No one could.

OK Aubrey look, I’m not them, you’re not me, I’m not you, they’re not us. You are you, I’m someone separate from everyone and at the same time the same as everyone. Have you done something unforgiveable? What does that look like? Does it look like burning a house or trying to kill somebody with a bat? Is it unforgiveable that I shot that guy? Who would forgive him for beating me to death with that bat? You? Would you understand both why I killed him and why he would need to kill me? Who are you Aubrey? Who am I? Who are those people who made you afraid?

Just love me Billy.

So I did.

But I couldn’t stop asking. Couldn’t stop picking at the scab, and that’s what drove her away.

*

OK, fuck you man, so she disappeared. How is that different from any of the women you’ve ever been with? How many women do you remember besides the ones who fucked you over? Oh, yeah, Jenny, your first. And what’s up with her? You have no idea, right? Want me to tell you? I figured not. No, no, she’s cool, she’s doing well. I just know, OK? None of your fucking business. At least I know Aubrey will never forget me.

I’m thinking Aubrey was someone not of my realm. Like you and me are not of any place besides this right here. I had ideas and even plans. You had your dreams too, I remember your dreams. But Aubrey, and maybe that guy I shot, and maybe those fuckers who started that fire, they were from another world where there aren’t any rules and everybody is scared and everybody goes to hell. Like the ultimate game where only the worst people win.  Well, fuck you too, bro. I know what I saw….

***

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Terry lives in the country, near a small town south of San Jose, CA called Hollister. He used to write steadily, publishing both in print and online as Terence Butler, but after some health issues, the energy needed to write seemed to dissipate somewhat. He has been a professional photographer and a painter/collage-assemblage maker for most of his working life, so painting and photo art have taken the place of genre fiction as an outlet. Recently the story “Fire Man” appeared all as a piece in his mind so he simply wrote it down. He sent it to Cindy, and in the ensuing back and forth. They somehow discussed using some of his visual art, too. Cindy is simply the best, and a real stalwart in this little world. She has a big heart and a deep love for animals, too!



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