Readers Report: Wants/Needs


* * *

He arrives at the hospital’s porte-cochere in his new Corvette, proud of its gleaming, a wet garnet red on the tooth-smooth concrete. The engine idles in a low frequency alone, the conspicuous throat clearing of a minor celebrity mid-nowhere.

He looks to see who is looking before he looks for his father, who is poured into a hospital wheelchair. The ends of his legs bulge with amputee casts like fat white match heads.

The car is low, the attendant strong. His father is lowered to a leather seat of an imaginary animal. The attendant admires the car, the cast of the left leg knocks hard against the glove box.

Oxycontin is a thin blanket in a frozen night. The pain is so pervasive it is weather.

The Corvette has magnesium racing wheels and a glass top and six gears. It is a solarium at eighty miles an hour. The Corvette itself costs $980 a month. Four new tires cost $2,400. His money comes from middle-manning online porn, the alchemy of penetration and airbrushing into recurring credit card billing. Still, it is barely enough. He has no garage.

His father has arrived at his nine-year-old fears, the age he toured the diabetic ward in 1956. Remnants of men tented in their gowns, the blind following the sound of his rubber soles and the doctor’s voice: Take care of yourself or else this.

Forty-five years later, the big toe on the left foot. Stubby canary going gangrenous, gassed and coal dusty.

Next year, the left leg below the knee.

The hospital’s physical therapist forced his father on a walker, driving him through the halls in a low morphine fog.  When they returned to the room, his father collapsed on the bed. His last leg struck the bed’s metal frame, splitting the heel.

One week after, the right leg below the knee.

One leg was a challenge, no legs is a mystery.

His father’s house is on a hill. The driveway is steep. His father dozes. A neighbor built a wooden ramp and deck around the back of the house. These are his father’s friends, this is what they do. He is unsure if he can lift his father from the bucket seat alone.

He wonders if anyone will emerge from the house, if they heard the Corvette. He wonders: Did anyone buy a wheelchair?

— Eric Raymond

* * *

weird. were. word.

Catafalque. Cataclysm. Carl was a cuss head. Curious. Carnivorous.

RaNdOmInIuM MeChAnIcUm. Malodorous mobbing.

The mellifluous revolution lead to a ritual round of most delightful executions,

the teacher thought but didn’t say it. He said instead: nothing.

saw three little blind mice today; one in a trap i had set, chewing

away on a piece of cheddar cheese; the second outside of the trap

singing parsley sage rosemary and thyme, and the third wagging its

finger at me for grammatical mistakes i had made in the past. they

were scarily clued out these rodents and i realised then and there

that the days of mankind on this earth were counted . . .

Ur-vibe. Bollywood love. Quick, draw a line. Backer Vortex.

Sword sick Santa scintillated sure eyes.

Fandango for four Voices, feet bound.

Ritual rondo. Rotual rindo. Rondual ritcho. Rondo ritual.

. . .  oh yes, the three mice told me their names before they pointed

a peculiar ray gun at me that made me see the world for the

first time for what it really is: a manger for gnawers. the names

were: Jo Caige, Sam Buckett and Gertie Stone.

you’re such a wuss.


moshie goshie,

wrote the little girl. It was her first letter.

— Marcus Speh

* * *

Hurrying through the door sometime between 11:00 and 11:30 at night became routine. Leaving the restaurant, memorizing my own sidewalk scriptures on the mystery of misunderstanding and wonder to endure downloadable, impatient advancements of certainty, me, deliriously a fool.

Why do I always look at the same Free Wireless Connection sign in The Café window?

Moments later, wanting company, only to be spoiled finding Pollock splatters above the electric mass, wishing Ol’ Jack was at Kelly’s, the corner bar, waiting to buy me a beer — keeping supernatural suspense available for those curious about jazz-painted offspring rapture.

Had my manager been glaring at me, tonight?  Did I take too many smoke breaks?

Walking home from work always surprises me at resurrecting unyielding creative persistence, governed by a toddler’s imagination: scribbled-page notebook illuminations piling up, disappearing, evolving and anxiously suspended . . .  I should eat something before taking a shower and getting ready for bed . . . intimate fruit basket assembly never spoiling into ground zero, depositing courage to wake up and do it all over again, tomorrow, and the next day, along with sending out this month’s rent . . . carving special fillet photos of schizophrenia . . . laundry . . .?

Submissive to an addiction for newspapers, stoking my imaginary (hopefully possible) news stories: human-jungle survival coverage, assignments with sardonic wit, peeling away mediocrity . . .  Don’t forget to feed Bitten Bat, the Annoying Cat!

Once seated on my porch step, I sit down, light a cigarette and think, this is what I needwanting—desirous, training the words through daily details.

–Leland Locke

* * *

“What will survive of us is love” * in bits of
garbage pail liners clinging fearfully
to songs that I always hummed under your breath because what good
is desire when you know of it? The apple
the serpent the naked woman you call Eve with such certainty—I know
she looked around the garden when God called to her and hummed “Is it
my name? Why am I Eve to you?”

She might have bitten the apple
because she craved it.

What good is
desire unless it is circling the drain too quick
for your eye to catch what it burns into you? You feel it:
ghost tongue on your neck—bigger
than a sliver of wind through the door.

*(quote taken from the last line from Philip Larkin’s “An Arundel Tomb”)

-Anna DunLany

* * *

It had been one of those afternoons when he had taken us for a drive. He wouldn’t tell us where. Don’t worry about it, he would bark, if one of the children asked.

Driving down 101 through Marin toward the Richmond Bridge, the baby started to cry, sitting in her car seat next to me. I had nothing to give her. It was way past dinner, maybe around 8:00 p.m.

We were broke. We had a pot of lentil soup living lonely in the fridge. We had had it for lunch and dinner the day before. Breakfast that morning. It would be waiting for us when we got home, the day that the girl told me to get what I wanted.

I told him that I had a couple of dollars. Could he please stop somewhere so I could get Avana a small burger or some fries. He pulled into a shopping center. There was a McDonald’s. Lindsay said that she needed to go to the bathroom. There were workmen inside. It looked like they were still finishing the interior.

W came out of the bathroom and walked up to the counter. That’s when she said, “Get what you want. it’s free.” I ordered a small burger, fries, and a small carton of milk. “No,” she said looking straight at me, “get what you want. It’s our grand opening.” I was taken aback. How did she know that I hadn’t gotten what I wanted? How did she know that I really needed much more? “Okay,” I said, “I’ll have six Big Macs, six fries, and six chocolate shakes. I still need the small burger, fries, and milk for the baby.”

She smiled. It seemed that it only took an instant for her to turn around, fill up two shopping bags with food, and hoist them over the counter. Lindsay was wide-eyed.

Her older three siblings looked wide-eyed, too, as we approached the car. I giddily handed out the food to their outstretched hands. Their faces had that familiar shock of relief. This wasn’t the first time that food had miraculously appeared. On the doorstep. Under a table. Behind a chair. In a jar. Out of a sack. They were used to miracles.

Guilt pulls the trigger on those memories. Re-loading year after year. Rides me like a cowboy on a bucking bronco. Lurching. Kicking. Tossing me through sleepless nights. This ride ends with me still holding on. Get what you want.I did. That night. That one time. But i didn’t get what my children needed. A safe home. A loving father. Food on the table every night.

— Kathleen Rowe Franks