Monday, September 26, 2016

Home Invasion/Conversation (plot holes) from "Locombia"

Jesse S. Mitchell

When I made it back to my apartment, I quickly noticed something wasn’t right.  The air of the place was wrong, the door slightly ajar, and there were a few yellow-gold lights shining inside, a distinct amber glow.  I know I left all my lights off.  I went slowly in, pushing the door open with my foot, shoving the letters and memos deeper into my pockets, easing my way into the kitchen, grabbing an almost-sharp bread knife off the counter, palming it.  My eyes were straining, completely alive, nervous.  I could smell a sweet tobacco scent, and cheap perfume.  I went around the corner and gazed into my living room, and I saw a woman, a tall woman sitting on my couch, her back to me.  She didn’t get up or turn around, just kept smoking her cigarette, blowing giant clouds around in the open space.
“Who are you?” I asked loudly.
“You Emilien Ross?”
“I might be.  I asked you first?”
I walked into the room and faced her, black dress, long, well over her knees, long black hair, perfectly straight except for a slight flip at the ends, long face, dark skin, dark eyes, like some Peruvian Veronica Lake.  It wasn’t until later I found out her name was actually Veronica.
“You the one that works undercover then, for some group of radicals or whatever?”  She swooshed her cigarette hand around dismissively making huge halos and tiny interconnected circlets of smoke.
“Again, I might be, but probably not.  Who are you?  How do you know my name?”
“So, that is your name then, Ross?  Emilien Ross?”
“Yeah.  It’s my name.”
“Why don’t you have a vitalite in here?  You are going to get sick without the vitamins.”
“They creep me out, don’t like the weird blue sheen…makes me feel sick already.  So what’s the point.”
“And it is you then, the hair-splitter, whatever that means?”
“Yeah. How did you find me?”
“Johnnie seemed to think you were the only person trustworthy in this town, talked about you some, told me to come here if anything…”
“If anything happened, yeah, but as far as trustworthy, Johnnie might have overestimated me a bit.”
I sat down in the big overstuffed armchair in front of the coffee table between the couch and the other furniture, stared at this tall Incan and wondered about the kind of couple she was with little Mayan Johnnie, both of them trying to out aloof the other one, lying back and forth with those big ol’ eyes, like Boris and Natasha.  Then she put her cigarette out on my coffee table, right on the corner, and folded the butt up and placed it in the middle of the table.
She shrugged.  
“And you were Johnnie’s girlfriend?” prying at it a bit.
“Girlfriend may be a bit much.”
“But you were the person staying with him at his apartment, intermittingly at least?”
She nodded.  The smallest, most subtle nod ever perceived, I believe. 
“What is it exactly that you do, Mr. Roth?”
“Oh, nothing really, I just collect facts.”
“Like the police?”
“Oh!” guffawing, couldn’t help it. “Oh ho ho, no, no, not like the police.”
“Not like a detective?”
“Maybe a bit like a detective.”
“You don’t work with the police?”
“Oh no, never. Why on earth would Johnnie think I was even remotely trustworthy if I did?”
She nodded again, a bigger nod this time.
“I watch what is happening.  I watch what is coming through at the ports.  I listen to what the folks, normal folks, street folks, are saying.  I observe how they are feeling, acting, spending their time and money.  I collect all that up and I make something out of it, a summary, that’s all.”
    “So, you take all the facts you collect and you come up with the story then, huh?”
“Yeah, basically, that’s how I do it.  Take all the information I can get and deduce, figure it out, turn it into a digestible narrative for someone to read and then they decide what to do about it.”
“Based on your story?”
“Your words?  That must feel nice, like power.”
“Kind of.”
“So, you must be pretty good with words, huh?  With telling stories?”
“I do okay.”
“It isn’t an easy thing, you know, plotting those things out, got to get everything right, no holes.”
“Oh, no, plot holes are great, you have to have those.  Plot holes are the life blood of any good story, everyone gets that wrong.  What a plot hole is, is life being lived, a bad decision, a wrong turn.  Like if you read a story or watch some flick and you catch yourself thinking, if this character so and so, had done this or acted this way, they would be better off, the story would have went easier, quicker.  Well, no shit, that’s how it is for everyone.  Lots of times, folks could have done something better in their life or treated someone with more respect or appreciated things differently but man, that’s really hard to see for a character immersed in a chain of events.  Even me, things I could have done differently and I wouldn’t have had to come the long way around to some things, maybe my days now would be better, maybe worse but definitely different, but how could I have seen any of that in midst of living a life?  I couldn’t.  Plot holes and mistakes are sometimes the only things make a story real.  If I ever hear a anecdote or account of anything without any holes or discrepancies, I know I’m hearing a lie, and a rather artless one at that.”
“I guess we all make mistakes.”
“Yeah, at least a few.”
“Several, usually.”
“So, Johnnie then, did he make some mistakes?”
“A few.”
“Big ones…lately?”
“It is beginning to look that way, yeah.”
I nodded my head.   Adjusted my weight in my armchair.  I tossed the ridiculous bread knife on the table, tired of keeping it hidden in my palm, starting to chafe.
She looked down at it and back up at me.
“What were you planning to do with that?”
“I don’t know, come around a corner, give somebody a quick jab, get the jump on them kind of, maybe a slash or a punch thrown then.  Who knows?”
“You don’t carry a gun?”
“No, why would I?”
“Basically in the business of espionage, might come in hardy.”
“But, I’m undercover, right, so I go out drinking with some regular guys or gals down at the ports, I have too many, they got to get me home and they see some fancy piece on me…cover blown.  What am I, a cop?  A criminal?  Military?  Just some weirdo who needs a gun to make himself feel like a big tough guy?  None of that any good.  I rely on my wits, thank you.” 
“You don’t think this apartment would be a cover blower?  It is far too nice for a dockhand.”
“Ah ha, but this isn’t my official address, it isn’t listed on any of my employment forms, got another place waaay down town, very low rent, kept just for the job.”
She got up off the couch and walked around the room, looking over everything, lightly touching some pictures or statuary along the way.  Made her way to the south wall of the apartment, a solid piece of crystal clear glass, the one and only window on this level of the apartment, but a very fine one.  It looked out over the intersection below.  Two or three blocks could be seen, partially at least.  
“You ever been out to the barrens?” she asked.
“No, never had any desire to.  Imagine they’re just like any other patch of wasteland.  Saw enough wasteland when I was in the army.”
She laughed, loud, “You should let me take you out there sometime.”
“Why? What they got out there?”
“A Bao A Qu.”
“A Bao what?”  I shook my head.  She chuckled but it died away pretty quickly. 
“This is a nice place, Ross.  Nice neighborhood too for this part of town.  You must get paid pretty well for what you do.”
“I’m comfortable, doing fine, but it looked like Johnnie was too, huh?”
“So, how many holes, the ones for the sake of life and honesty, do you leave in those stories you give your superiors?”
“Hey, now, what are you getting at?  You trying to imply I’m crooked?”
“No, no, not at all, just to make everything more believable.  Imagine being able make such decisions.”
“I don’t make any decisions, my bosses do.”
“But your influence.  Why, I would think a person would find a way to make certain the story got read they way they wanted it read.  Am I right?”
“We all have our own little agendas, I suppose, small as they are.  I just like getting the overtime pay.”
She laughed again and walked closer to the door, put her hand on the handle and slowly pulled, walked out the door without even looking over her shoulder, out onto the landing and into the lift and disappeared.  Completely.  I stood up and hurried over and waited by the window to try and see if I could see her on the street or get into an el-cab or whatever but nothing, vanished.  Vanished and gone.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Giant of Juno Falls (part 4)

Jesse S. Mitchell

part 3 here

Night came and the family was back at their house in the valley on the other side of the county.  It still hadn’t rained and by the way it felt, the temperature was going down fast, likely if it did rain now, it would be sleet, or snow.  This was good news to Noah.  Snow or sleet of any accumulation meant school would be closed.  Noah hated school.  Hated the uncomfortable seats, hated the unpleasant teachers, the acrid/basic smells, like mildew and bleach locked in epic struggle, but most of all, he hated the other kids.  Hated their faces, their names, their constant jeering and name calling, their smugness, completely undeserved, hated their games, hated their slow wits, their lack of compassion, of vision, or imagination.  Noah didn’t feel like he was meant to be thrown into such a maelstrom of hateful conditions. A grand tragedy.  A miscalculation of heroic proportions.   He resented it.  He preferred being left all alone.  So, now, Noah nearly prayed for snow…everyday…snow, sleet, hail, whatever inclement weather would shutter the doors, or fire or flood or plague of frogs, locusts, anything, something huge, biblical, maybe never have to go back.  Noah hoped for every kind of difficulty to be breaking beyond that backdoor.
Noah’s father did not, however.  He sat on the bench by the backdoor, rubbing his hand over his face, worried about making the trip to and from work in what looked like a nasty bit of weather.  He reached down and pulled on a thick sock, one after other, moved his big dirty boots closer to him.  Getting ready for one of his dreaded ten hour midnight shifts.  Ten hours but they usually turned into twelve or fourteen hour shifts.
Noah walked to the backroom of the house and watched his father from the doorway for a few seconds and then went and sat next to him on the bench.  His father looked over at him, smiled.  As he looked back to his boots and the dirty floor, Noah noticed how his face changed.  It was slight, his eyes seemed to still be smiling, the lines of his face didn’t move, but the color did, the spark in his eyes did, maybe not dimmed, but moved, fluttered, shook a bit like in a heavy wind.  Noah’s arm hair shot up in a spate of goose bumps.
“What’s wrong?”  He asked his father.
“Wrong?  Oh, nothing.  Nothing is wrong, Noah.  Why?”
“It looks like something is, that’s all.”
“You know, Noah, when I was your age and even older, I was a lot like you.  Did you know that?”
The boy shook his head, looked down at the same dirty floor, those big dirty boots.
“My head was full of life, all kinds of stories, imaginings.  I had a lot of fun running up and down these hills, head full of fantasy.  I never really think about it but then I see you and see the way you are and sometimes, Noah, it makes me a little sad.  Well, sad isn’t the right word, could never get sad looking at you.  It is a different feeling.  Like, maybe if I hadn’t convinced myself, or let others convince me that it was no way for an adult to act or live, that maybe my life might be different now.  Different job, a good job, where I could’ve used my mind, and not have to worry about going so far down into the damned dirt and scratch and itch at for a livin’.   Not that I ain’t happy the way my life turned out or that I think I could’ve ever ended up without you or your mom.  I think no matter what, you two would be a part of my life, that was destined, I feel I’ve always deserved that happiness.  Do you know what I mean, Noah?”
Noah, his legs swinging on the bench, looked back up at his father, and nodded.
“Good.  Then you know what you have to do, right?”
Again, Noah nodded.
“Thank God.”  He tussled his son’s hair.  “Now, get off to bed.”


He stood in the middle of the soot-choked broken back of the rural south.  Poor.  Third world.  Desolate.  Deserted of all hope.  A desert of sorts, a wasted wasteland devoid of optimism, expectation.  A land of rusted shut machinery and broken yellow grime, lock-picked locks, and full-faced faceless dread, but not strength enough to be dread or foreboding but a weaker, more debased sense of calamity, doom, just fated.  The acts of god.  No rattling of sabers or bones but things broken and useless and might as well be buried.  He stood in the middle of this barrenness, on the playground on morning recess, next to the chipped paint-red slide, and imagined that the world could be a beautiful place.  He had been reading a geography textbook, skipping ahead to Borneo caves and deep freshwater holes in southern Mexico.  Places that relied on different currents, different food chains, different requirements, big vacant places with wonderful glittering spires and all manner of wonderful wildlife.
His father hadn’t made it back from work before Noah had to leave for school, so he had to walk.  His legs were tired.  His mother, if she weren’t basically blind, would’ve driven him and even volunteered to…but she was basically blind, the offer had to be refused.  He could walk it.  No problem.  No need to trouble yourself mom and do you need anything before I go, mom?  But it was a particularly quiet morning in the valley, no rumbling, no dynamiting, no giant traipsing.  His father most likely had to work overtime but it was so still, the birds hadn’t even busted from the trees, scattered.  Like a watercolor painting, everything so static-stationary.
It was also a particularly cold morning but it hadn’t snowed, not yet.  Noah had waited and watched out the windows of the house all morning, barely eating breakfast, hoping, wishing, yearning.
But as he stood there dreaming of Borneo jungles and Central Asian desert plateaus, the other kids circling him like hurricanes and tidal waves, his eyes slowly refocused on the air right in front of him and he could clearly see scores of falling flakes, crystalline, geometric, frozen cascading flecks of beautiful snow.  It started slow, barely noticeable but it soon grew and grew and the flakes were big and flying chaotic and fast and collecting in banks and piles on the ground, shifting with the wind.  The sky above and right down to the very earth, blanket white.  It felt good and smile crept up Noah’s face.  A teacher emerged out of the back double doors that lead directly to the playground, blew a whistle meant to get the attention of all the children, youngest to oldest.  Noah positively beamed, he knew the teacher meant to declare the rest of the school day canceled.
But those aren’t the words that came out of the middle aged teacher’s mouth, a lot of red hair on top and too much cheap make-up, she wasn’t Noah’s teacher, he didn’t even know what class she taught.  No, she said nothing of the snow and she certainly didn’t smile.  Her face was white and it was stern and it was sad, a wicked kind of sadness, a sadness Noah instantly felt to his soul.
“Henry, Henry Evans, Cameron Owens, Noah,”  she pointed at Noah, he nodded at her, “Noah Williams, Lucy  Trimble, can you four come with me, please.”  And she waved her hands in a small circle and she herded the four children to the school office.  The sounds of their footsteps on the hard tiled floor echoed and echoed and sounded so vile, the pain from the impact of the bones of the feet and ache of skin shot up Noah’s body.  No one said anything.  Not even the teacher, her arms full with paperwork and manila folders, she would at times look back at her parade of confused children, her eyes and mouth turned down, sympathy written in every line.    The only words on the minds of any of the children, Noah, Henry, Cameron, Lucy, was a mantra not a statement, the mantra of the loved ones of any miner in any coal-country county.  No no no no no no no.
But, yes.
Sadly, it is commonly yes.  Roof bolting machine malfunction, creased in the middle, velocity off, angle wrong, shooting sparks and bolts, a weakness in the framing, commotion, disarray and panic and collapse, half a mile under the ground or more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

(second part of) part of "A Rough Country"

Jesse S. Mitchell

part 1 here

The cold firing of guns, immortal.  I imagine the cold fire of guns, immortality.  But don’t let me live, live to see the color of the last night, endless night, the blinking of the eye coming, closing the aperture, strangling out the light.  The end of the world.
The end of the world, people will be prophesizing Armageddon until Armageddon and still miss it.  Apocalyptic and quick and it will pass over like a ghost, aghast, a split in the seems, a leaking in of radiance, a brilliance that soon fades again.  
And is gone
And even oblivion has lived on too long and folding back in on itself, disappears, leaving even absence even more empty, more void than was void, and so on and deeper and deeper.  Amen.  
Talk about occult possibilities, sensibilities, naught coming more and more from naught.  Never-ending pure, paganism, a soft slow wash of pixilated sorcery that reads the blank spaces instead of the lines.  Lines, wrinkles in time, that grow more and more gross and noticeable, around the eyes and down the hands, galaxy burning and liver churning and it is right after all…after all, aching feet, burning in the arches, busted nails, shifting through the hot ash, the dry ground.  Cursed.
I am cursed.
You are cursed.
I hope I get carried away to fiery cities with fiery spires and cinder glow that turns to buildings light at sudden nightfall and all and all, everything remains and no matter how askew, a glimmer, a few nearly departed eyes can still see, the view not diminished and not dull.
So, heaven so where, some time, still exists.
And all the king’s creatures
Still all sprawled along the universe, end to end, constellations a’ glimmer, miserable or restless or glad or all of it,
Shuffling our feet between and never making up our minds.  Bending or unbending but still blending and blurring and becoming, cold fusion, and new symbols, emblems, embolism and aneurysm, flood flood flood, Mississippi mud.
A curator of a museum of vast empty spaces
And in the blank places breeds the savagery,  bitter wars, that travel around the world in thin elliptical orbits.
I wanted to get a tattoo.  Just lines and points, no shapes, black.  Lines, connected and broken in random orders like some I Ching prophesy.  But I didn’t want it mean anything.  But I thought that meant something.
I balked.
I thought.
The world continued to move.  Some things never stop, unstoppable, so

I balked.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

the Giant of Juno Falls (part 3)

Jesse S. Mitchell

part two here

part one here

But it didn’t rain and the sky just sat up there, wilted, grey, menacing, holding back, holding back. So, the family went on, past their home, further down the road and deeper into the woods.  They went to Leah Williams’s mother’s house as was their usual custom on Sunday afternoon.  The drive was soundless except for the monotonous hum of hard rubber tires, punctuated by sharp pops of small rocks on the chip and oil road, barely paved.  Noah’s father had to constantly swerve to miss ever widening potholes and drop offs.  The movement of the trip was serpentine and nauseous.  Boring and wearisome and time-consuming.  Noah rested his head against the window of the backseat passenger side and looked out and up but all he could see was rocky hillsides and teetering pines, old old ancient-old knobby oak trees hanging on to their dormant rust colored leaves, fluttering like impotent feathers, so long locked down into the stony soil the old trees seem to want to take flight, pull up roots and run, but they could not, they knew they could not, so they just trembled in the breezes and teased the wind. Before long, Noah began to close his eyes.  His lids so heavy and stomach churning.  He fell asleep.  He always fell asleep on his way to grandmother’s house.
While he slept, he dreamt.  And began to see, with his dreaming eyes, tall Juno Falls and the shadowy cave.  The creak was swollen to river-size and up above the falls was more and more water.  The red giant was up there, working, building, placing trunks and huge trees across the edge of the falls.  He was picking up stones and boulders and making walls and he was using his own body to fight back rivulets and surging  streams that broke through in places.  He was trying to keep the gushing water back, trying to keep it out of the valley below.  He was singing.  No, not singing, just speaking, chanting maybe.  Noah understood the language, plain English, but it was a story he had never heard or at least not told that way, some old Chaldean legend.
Everything there was.
Everything there was.  Pure ones.  Fat ones.  He selected and put them on board.  The birds that fly in the sky, cattle of Shakkan.  Wild animals of open country, he put them on board.  He invited all his people to a feast.  He put his family on board.  They were eating and they were drinking and he went in and he went out, he could not be still or rest on his haunches.  His heart breaking and spitting bile.  The face of the weather changed.  Adad bellowed from the clouds.  When he heard his noise, he sealed the door with the bitumen.  Closing the door as Adad demon-bellowed from out of the clouds.  The winds raging.  The rope was cut.  The boat released.  Anzu tore at the sky with his talons and he broke the land and the flood came out like god-blood from behind the clouds. Sweet water. The kasusu.
The giant’s voice was loud and very deep.  The ground around Noah rattled with every word and it seemed like the cloudy sky thundered at every syllable.  The car finally began to slow and creep into a long driveway and the change in direction and  speed woke Noah up.  The dream was still in his head.  He had a hard time adjusting to the change; it was difficult shaking the dust from his mind.  And he wasn’t sure what he had just seen but he didn’t say a word of it to his parents as they walked to the house.


The old woman sat in a big overstuffed chair, bright blue eyes shining with multitudes of wrinkles at the edges of the lids, webs, smile creases down the cheeks, and long dimples.  Her grandson, Noah, sat in a smaller chair next to her and vaguely listened as she talked but mostly he was focused on watching out the window, looking outside toward the trees and ravines, where he wanted to be.  The house smelled like pork and rose petal scented potpourri.
“Now, my father and grandfather you know were from Wrexham, Noah.  That’s north of Shropshire and they had all kinds of stories like you are talking about.  They used to tell me about the Giant of Shrewsbury.  He made the Wreakin Hills from a load of dirt from his shovel and the mud he scraped off his boots.  Meant to cover up Wales or England or whichever, can’t be too sure now but anyways he got outsmarted by an old shoe salesman or shoe repairer…I don’t remember.”
“I wish you wouldn’t tell him stories like that.”  his poor mother sighed.
“Oh why? Imagination is good for a child, turns ‘em wheels in the brain.  A good story never harmed nothing.”
“Maybe not but it’s all I can get him to think about anymore.  Only reason he goes outside is to look for the foolish thing.”
“At least he is goin’ outside.  Good for him.”
“His school work is suffering.”
“Good.  Needs to a little at his age.  They expect too much from them at his age.  Ten years old ain’t no time for hard work.”
Leah Williams was attempting to argue with an unbeatable foe.  She relented, waved her hand, and said no more.  The older lady kept talking.  Noah fell deeper and deeper into trance, watching the tops of trees swaying and twisting in the wind.  Imagining the trembling earth shaking under big lumbering feet crashing down on the ground.  He could clearly hear the sound; it sounded like his father coming in tired from work every morning.  The way the door slamming made the whole hallway quiver, the way his father’s coal dust and mud covered boots hitting the floor made the floorboards rattle, all of that happening outside.  Writ large.  Gigantic.  Across the whole expanse of nature.  Or at least the whole of nature Noah knew and understood in the smoky hills of Appalachia, the knobby pines and bowed  red cedars, the valleys and rocks and yellow clay.  Mines and caves running underneath everything and streams and creeks running over the top of everything else.  Noah’s grandmother tousled his hair, he absentmindedly reached up to fix it, trying in vain to smooth down the unruly sticks and shocks of thick black fuzz on his head.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Giant of Juno Falls (part 2)

Jesse S. Mitchell

part one here

And Leah Williams stared out the window and ignored the schizophrenic static of the television.  The set emanated barely any sound and her eyes collected barely any light, the exercise was useless.  38 years old and her eyes had been dimming and dying away from the very moment of her birth.  It made her feel older, more useless than she was, it caused in her a kind of mild depression, a buoyant kind of melancholy, in which she wasn’t necessarily cheerless but definitely discontent.  She used her son, Noah, for her eyes most of the time; he performed with brightness all his visual chores.  He mostly had to read to her, spot things for her, warn her away from sudden drops and the odd tripping hazard left lying about.  
Outside the window, the mountain fog was falling down the valley sides, a sheer mist undulating over rocks and stones.  It looked like smoke, spiraling and cascading down.  Her murky eyes made a kind of fabric out of it, the spectacle continuing and swelling and at times surging close to her window, a silken unfurling, unraveling banner.
“Mom, I’m going out.  Dad just came in and I think I might go outside to keep busy, at least until he can get good and asleep.”
She turned in her chair. “Your Dad’s home?” She had missed him coming in, too half-blind and too caught up with the fog outside to hear.
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Okay, off you go.”
“Do you need anything before I go?”
“No…no, no, I’m fine.  Have some fun.  Be safe and hurry back.”
Outside their house was the neighbor’s fields.  The fields abutted their yard nearly completely with the cattle pasture being the closest.  Noah walked gingerly along the border fence of the two properties.  Throngs of black and brown cows stopped in motion and stopped in time, perfectly still, staring at him, standing hoof-deep in the thick yellow clay mud, some splattered about them and crusted on their heads like crowns or haloes.  A whole herd of Prithvis monitoring the boy’s every move.  The cows creeped Noah out.  He made every real effort to avoid them.  Usually the only way to the woods was through their pasture, a trip he had taken hundreds of times without incident but always with crippling dread.  Fortunately, it was winter and winter meant that the small gulch, a rocky gulley between the yard and the field could be used to circumvent the horrid Vedic demons.  The other three seasons and the gulley was filled with snakes, mostly harmless snakes but definitely a copperhead or two and sometimes rattlesnakes.  The last thing Noah needed to deal with was a snake. Cows before snakes.  Rural folks never gain the ability to properly appreciate or understand reptiles the way urban dwellers do.  In the middle of woods and rocks and farms and mines, snakes are beyond the pale of natural acceptance.
Stumbling along the rocks and rumble, making his way to the trail to the woods and back further into the forest to the cliffs, he was heading to the spot where the three pine trees fell over in the big flood four years ago.  They fell just right and blocked up the creek in such a way that now, all year long, a thin gauzy stream of water rushed through.  It made a loud sound.  A marvelous noise.  It also had begun, through the magnificent process of erosion, to build an indention behind, a cave.  A tall cave and getting deeper and deeper with every season, and it was at this cave were Noah first saw the giant.  First and only time.  But he keeps coming back.  He will see him again.  Tall.  Wide.  Wearing old fashioned clothes, rough cloth, brown and rust colored.  Hair wild, like tentacles or waves, bright red, and a face as narrow as his body was wide, with a long nose and two big eyes, blue eyes.  Two big blue eyes that clearly caught sight of Noah as well as Noah catching sight of them.


In the near exact middle of a long straight wound in the surface of the earth stood a clapboard building, whitewashed and murky and worn at the corners, twice as long as it was wide.  A tall sign stood in front suspended on two wobbly untreated railroad ties; it read “The Nations Church of Christ the Redeemer”.  A parking lot at the side and scrubby red cedar trees sprouting haphazardly in the alkaline soil of the reclaimed land, lumpy gob piles of dusty coal standing sentry around the perimeter, threatening slumber and avalanche.  Up the side of the hill beside the road stood the nearly rusted through chain link fence of the abandoned number nine mine and a row of sleeping silver maples with their arms held heavenward, little fingers reaching up, grasping at the grey underbelly of whatever overcast stormy being lived up there, floating flaccidly over the valley, waiting to flood everything again…any time…any time.
Inside the building, rows and rows of cheap pews, all lined with gaudy red fabric.  Noah and his family sat in the third from the front.  The building was half full with sad looking, wrinkly people.  Their was only one other family young enough to have children, the Evans’s in row two. Henry Evans, Noah’s age, kept looking back with a glower.   Noah tried to ignore it.  It burned him up inside, just seething.
Everyone else had their eyes forward watching a tall, middle-aged, impossibly skinny man next to the pulpit.  Wild grey hair and wild long swinging arms and a wild blue and black striped western shirt with faux pearl buttons; his bones and his clothes and his hair and everything about him jangled and rattled when he moved.
He read from a bible flopped open limp in his big left hand and the whole congregation gazed at him in awe as if this was some Promethean thief, spilling divine secrets hard won to the open ears of this crowd of hopeless humans.  Noah rolled his eyes.  He yawned and struggled to not fall asleep.  The feral screeching of the thin man went on and on. “It was then that the Nephilim did walk up-on the surface of the Urth and they did co-hab-tate with the…”
Noah tugged on his mother’s sleeve on his right.
“It was durin’ this time that there was a great pro-liffr-rey-ation of ehvil on the Urth.  And the Lawd did mean to blot the man he had made from creation furever.”
“What Noah?” whispering, even quieter than whispering, barely making a sound.
“I saw him again.”
“The giant.  Yesterday afternoon.”
“Oh, hush Noah, this is not the proper time, now you pay attention.”
Noah sighed.
His father looked over at him and rubbed his hair.  Turned back to the ferocious preacher.  
“I just hate that Henry Evans, dad.”
“Just ignore him, son.”
Noah inhaled deeply.   And suffered through the rest of the madness and chaos being perpetuated on the stage in silence and disbelief.  
Walking through the big open dark brown double doors, helping his father lead his mother to the car, “It’s just too much, he thinks he is so much better than me, ’cause his dad is so big and rich.”
“His dad ain’t nothing but a shift foreman.  Now that isn’t but one step higher than what I am, an extra hundred dollars in his pocket every week and twice as likely to lose his job when somethin’ goes wrong.”
“Is he your shift foreman?”
“Is he a jerk?”
His father chuckled, “Only one of the biggest.  Listen, Noah, ignore all this stuff.  My family have always been very proud of what we was.”
“What’s that?”
“Nothing.  A bunch of nobodies, every last one right down to me.  My Daddy always said that the thing about being somebody was there was always something to it, something to hide, something to live up to, or something to live down.  Now me, I like being honest and I never did want the trouble.”
Noah nodded slowly, “Yeah.”  Helped his mother slide into the car and closed the door slowly.
“It’s just that if you don’t pay attention, you get lost tryin’ real hard to impress a lot of folks who ain’t impressed by nothin‘.  Nothin‘, not unless it happened to them.  Don’t worry yourself, don’t waste that precious time.”
The sky crackled.  A quick pale flash of extraterrestrial light chasing a crashing hum all along the borders of the cloud cover.
“Lord, I think it could rain just any minute, come a downpour.  Last thing we need. Better be getting home.”  Noah’s father pushed him a bit in a effort to speed him along.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Giant of Juno Falls (part 1)

Jesse S. Mitchell

The television set was on in the last house on the edge of Heart Attack Valley, it was on and silent, flickering between dimensions, the rough rhino hide growl of the morning news, grit and grimy concrete, busted rock and Nagasaki-bloom, and the smooth silk of corporate-caste sales, the siren calls, the soft soft tones.
So, Noah looked back and forth and at times, behind himself, at the wall and out the window.  He watched the whole world unravel, confident though that he would never see the end of it, the weave and tangle too intense, the ball of string far too large.  He was in no danger of oblivion.  And that is precious knowledge, reassurance to a young boy, and sometimes even he speculated that perhaps the world really was a beautiful place, sometimes he was absolutely sure of it.
But mostly his doubts on the matter were as dark and thick and shadowy as the coal dust grunge that covered over everything in the hill country where he lived.
He knew that usually things were harsh and mostly people had to work hard and had short miserable lives.  He was no romantic.  Ten years old and already the world had gnawed this skin thick.  He understood things about life.  He understood things about death.  And he knew that the place for stories and wonder and joy was a very small one, a dip or crack in the hard mantle of planet Earth.  But still, that tiny divot is what most occupied Noah’s mind, that is where he liked to live.  He was blessed.  That feeling is a blessing.  A miracle.  And he thought, maybe he would just stay there forever, in that niche market for beautiful things, just stay there surrounded, preoccupied and never need another anything ever.
The TV continued to buzz back and forth and sometimes the sound would come back, screamingly, punctuating the quiet trembling in the valley.  Been a lot of tremors lately, falling rocks, slides, the reception is never good with all the quivering, no radio or TV at all for days usually, best enjoy what you can get.  All kinds of theories, all sorts of stories as to why.  A lot of answers for everything around this part of the country, depending on who you asked, you get a different one.

Probably too much dynamiting, maybe the tunnels crumbling a bit.  But Noah had his own answers to the tremors and the rock-slide shivering. And his answer was different than all the rest especially.  But one thing is certain: the mines are always trouble, tragedy everywhere.  Best enjoy what you can get, live the day.

Noah’s father came clopping in the backdoor, loud heavy feet nearly stomping through the floor before he got the boots off, dusty dark, muddy, awful thick soled, steel toed, frayed ugly boots.  The man sat on a bench beside the door and perfectly arranged the boots and their long tattered laces, took off his big coat, rubbed his face.  Noah looked back away from the TV screen.
“Morning, Dad.”
His father nodded.  His eyes were all red and raw.  They always were, every morning, burning out of his tired face, and after all, it is the washed out yellow of pale early dawn that burns eyes the most.  Imagine the worst, most violent light, imagine a lifetime underground in the purple veins of darkness black-gold mining for the bright shine of stars, imagine the lungs choked and full of smoke and dust, imagine the busted knuckles and the whole long nights of mile deep hard work.  Imagine that and imagine the light of morning or afternoon, the sun shining daytime, and imagine the paycheck folded in your pocket, the paycheck that never goes anywhere and never, never ever, covers all seven days of the week.  
Imagine the raw eyes.  Noah’s father’s eyes were raw but not as raw as that, but they should have been, but no, a little light, right there in the middle in the big wide pupils, a tiny little candle flicker still jumped.  Noah saw it.  That is a blessing.  That feeling is a blessing.  A miracle.  He turned back to the television as his father made his way through the house, patted Noah on the shoulder and made his way to the bedroom and the bed for some well earned sleep.