How can we ever truly know ourselves when we spend our lives not knowing the little cross-shaped mole behind our ear, our twitching when we fall asleep, the backs of our teeth, the face we make when we reach an orgasm, die, lie. What if, one day, you look into the mirror and the person staring back at you yells, ‘Who the fuck are you?’ What if you are the intruder? What if you are the psychopath?
After his sister’s death and the tragic events that followed, an isolated young writer isn’t sure anymore who he is. In an effort to find both himself and material to fuel his nonexistent writing career, he makes a deal with Alex, a girl with an unsettling nostalgia for the childhood she spent too much of in wells. The deal, the deal is to strangle her.
It’s because there is not one single part of you that defines you. It’s because you are made up of so many things, of so many freckles and winks, so many laughs and bad jokes and silly dances, so many sighs and tears and so many whispers and kisses. You can’t lose all that at once. How could you possibly lose all that at once?
Out there, it was a storm rioting, the type that Marion faced when arriving at the Bates Motel, and I was sitting in this stranger’s freshly vacuumed Mitsubishi with my muddy, turn-out-not-to-be-waterproof hiking boots, him telling me how he hadn’t been home in nearly two decades. That, back there, he had a wife still mourning his death. That his daughter wasn’t the little princess she used to be, but married recently and was pregnant now with two little princesses herself. His voice a warm drone against the rain that was drumming against the Mitsubishi’s metal frame. I was just happy that I was in there, and not stuck at the last lonely gas station, biding my time with overpriced Cheetos and overweight truck drivers.
The windshield-wipers cutting the rain into smooth pieces, going faster than Jess’ eyes blinking when she was angry. You could hardly see the night outside; only smears of it. I’m sure, driving was guesswork and hoping for the best, but my driver, his wire-frame glasses and Richard Gere haircut said there’s no place safer in this world. The type of guy you’d want as a dad; friendly but competent.
“Every morning,” he droned, “the first thing I do, is check whether there’s news about the twins. Sometimes she writes that they’ve been kicking all night and kept her awake again. Here, she posted this ultrasound a while ago and I printed it out.” He produced a much-handled, much-folded paper from out of nowhere and handed it to me. “Or she posts pictures of the new nursery, and son, I tell you, she’s got style, that princess of mine. She’s got a hand for fabrics and matching patterns and the right little details. It’s all crème-colored and warm – you don’t want to leave that place, I tell you. It’s a womb in itself.” Jess wanted it all yellow – for gender neutrality and all. “There’s that small lambskin carpet on the beech floor, a tiny beige wool blanket she knitted all by herself, with pale purple flowers stitched on it. An ash crib with flower carvings twirling along the rims and a matching rocking chair where you’d read Goodnight Moon to them. Fairy lights all over the place.”
Jess had said, ‘You would have someone to read The Little Prince to. I thought you like it so much.’
“She posted the whole process of donning it up. Of sewing the canopy for the crib, knitting the pillows. She’s a doer, that princess of mine, you know? When she was little, guess what she got excited about. Bulk garbage. Bulk garbage’s what she got excited about. When we walked down the road and people left their old, lived-up furniture by the curb; the dining table they’d ate and argued by for three generations – who’d all left their marks on it – she’d go, ‘Daddy, daddy, can we take this? Daddy, daddy, this one, please?’
“One time, it was a set of drawers from a liquidation – a neighbor who died. Only the drawers, not the case to hold it all together – the chest, you know? About this long and this wide.” His right hand suggested a cut at the most fleshy part of his steering underarm, another one just below the wrist. “So we took those drawers – four of them – and Sarah explained exactly how it’s gonna look; them all stacked up together, one wider board on bottom, a second on top. And we drew it, measured it out, drove to the hardware store together and she looked all excited at the tools they had and the paint, and kind of stunned and in awe, she said, ‘There are so many things to be made!’ My six-year old daughter, in that little frilly flower dress of hers, she said, “Daddy, there are so many things to be fixed!'” His laugh was friendly as Gandalf’s; dry autumn leaves, crackling red and orange. “Anyways, I let her select the wood and one of the consultants there told her about the proper wood-care and whatnot, and we went on making this thing – this chest of drawers. We measured and we sawed the pieces and we drilled holes and somehow it made up this thing. It was just, wow. You can do something, step by step by step and it adds up to something. She was amazed. I was amazed. And you know what this kid said? She said, ‘Daddy, what I like about it most is that it had this whole life we don’t know about. That we made it together, and that it had this whole life before.’ Aaaaand,” (His voice thickened at this) “on Facebook, some days ago, she posted a picture of this chest of drawers in the nursery.” The windshield-wipers measured up five quick portions, the way Jess throws dishes when she’s upset. Swish, swish – one side, then the other. And I was thinking how and why, when people pick you up, they always tend to use you as a therapist – load all their shit on you – that’s just the fare you pay. “She wrote, ‘In memory of my daddy, who taught me that you add things together, you work on something – with love – and it becomes more than you. It’s everyday magic, really.’ And she wrote how she’d wish more than anything that I was there to…” He stopped so his voice wouldn’t break. One gallon left, another right.
He continued, “So every morning, there’s pure dread in my gut that she might’ve changed her privacy settings. That I won’t get to see my grandchildren. I’m terrified that she could make those few clicks. And she wouldn’t even know that she shut me out, or – and somehow that is even worse – that she just stops posting things. And I wouldn’t know what happened – whether there was an accident and she died, or she just got bored with it all. There wouldn’t be any way for me to know. It’s those stupid updates of how any old granny wants to pat her belly that are all I have left, and because I can’t sit in that rocking chair to read Goodnight Moon to them that these stupid posts mean that much,” and without so much as a breath in between, he said, “Do you mind if we grab dinner here? I’m starving.”
I hadn’t noticed that we’ve already pulled up into a dark parking lot, the beacon of a red neon sign on top of a low, wide building shining its welcome into the night. But for now, it was just the windshield-wipers sounding out their metronome against the rain, us sitting still in that box until we measured up enough time to take a gulp of air, turn up our collars, slam open the car doors and hurry across the pavement with our jackets doing a bad job at shielding us against the downpour. By the time we reached the bright, chattery universe of the diner, my jeans and sweatshirt underneath my parka clung wet to my skin. “Dinner’s on me,” my driver said, wiping sheets of water off his sleeves. My $200 hiking boots squeaked wetly as we left a trail of the storm on the dull, black-and-white check board tiles. We sat down in a booth where Pumpkin and Honey Bunny plotted their holdup, Agent Dale Cooper sipped that ‘damn fine coffee’, and Mr. Pink explained why he doesn’t tip – but here with the night outside, and the rain.
I was slowly melting over the red fake-leather upholstery, one of my toes probing around its soggy home, when a woman tagged Charlene pressed the welded sheet of a menu into my hand, scoffing, “Quite the storm out there, huh?”
I was half trying to read the menu, half pretending to try, while I felt his eyes on me as he wiped his glasses with his wet shirtfront. Me thinking, “Why do they think you’re dead?” Pancakes and hash browns being just random letters in front of me. As if he read my thoughts, he said, “You want to know why I can’t go back, right?” He slid his glasses back on, still streaky with moist. “Let me guess, you think it’s the mafia, right?” He smiled, broadly, friendly. “Son – what’s your name?”
“Joey, this is where you won’t like me anymore. Because you won’t understand. Hell, I don’t understand – There’s a death certificate in my name, you know.”
“You faked your own death?”
The very real ghost across from me recoiled smoothly. “No, I didn’t fake anything. I just… failed to correct assumptions. The thing is,” He scratched his forehead, “before that day, I didn’t think I had any desire to leave. If you had asked me before, I would’ve said I’m happy. Perfectly happy. But when I was running down that staircase – endless miles of stairs, you couldn’t begin to imagine; 48 floors – on that staircase I felt like this layer was stripped off of me, and I could suddenly see all my sadness, and I knew I couldn’t go back there. I walked through the lobby – with those half and quarter bodies, little bits of human – and I kept walking… as if something pulled me forward.” His hand mimed some Donnie Darko wormhole protruding out of his chest. “I kept walking, past Watts Street, through the Holland Tunnel, past Jersey City and Newark, and with the cash in my wallet, I bought a bus ticket to Reno, where I crashed in a motel. And the next day I was looking for jobs and I found one at a car dealership, and I never used my real name again. Step by step by step I built this new life, even though I didn’t mean to – it just… happened. And I was happy.”
In a booth in the back, a couple was scheming how many children they’ll have, and how they’ll go to ivy league colleges and become anorexic. Charlene came to take our order of pancakes, hash browns and coffee.
“I can’t decide,” I said, “whether you are crazy in a very sad, very tragic way, or just an asshole.” He smiled. “I mean, I wish my dad had vanished off the face of the earth. But you sound like, like a good dad. I mean, fuck, man.”
“I know…. Joey.” He tested out my name the way your tongue probes a foreign object. “But you have to understand that it’s not like I had a choice. People are quick to hate, because they assume folks have a choice. Hell, God knows, I hate myself. But there was no question that I had to walk on. I couldn’t go back to how it was. It was empty. I was happy, but empty. That chest just wouldn’t hold me anymore. Yeah, maybe you are right and I am crazy.”
Charlene came to fill two spotty mugs with a thin black brew. After a sip it was clear that this wasn’t the ‘damn fine coffee’ Agent Cooper so raved about. When she was gone again, the ghost across from me said, “Joey. If you don’t watch out, you’ll walk and walk and walk. And some day, you’ll discover that you went too far to turn back.”
I took another long gulp of that not-so-fine coffee. I thought how and why, when people pick you up and you listen, they end up being your therapist.
No, I was afraid that step by step by step I’d have a yellow nursery and a job that I hate and I’d be my father’s son.
That couldn’t be the chest I was meant to live in.
© Deva Mari, first published by Literally Stories
Oleg, scraping the big bolt cutter along the concrete, the noise waking no one because, by this time, they are either in the deepest REM or hopelessly turning in their scratchy bed linen, Oleg says, “Sooner or later, this town will die anyway.” He spits a sloppy speck of phlegm onto the soda pop cans and fast-food Styrofoam boxes piled in the ditch by the side of the road.
I don’t really like Oleg, but he’s my best friend. In 5th grade, some divine intervention shifted the focus of his dabblings in Strappado torture from dough-faced Jaczek to me and I told him that bullying was a suboptimal solution to his father’s drinking problem, but I wouldn’t mind staying on after school to practise a couple kicks and punches, as long as I could swing some too.
I didn’t have to know that his father was an alcoholic to know that he was an alcoholic. I mean, it was a rather safe assumption to make. In this town.
Oleg says, this town is his dog Laika that needed to be put down – that’s what mercy demanded, and that’s what mercy demands now.
Laika had those seizures that made her twitch the way dogs sometimes do when they dream. We used to giggle about it before we cried. Oleg’s father put her down with a hammer he borrowed from work. This man who’d named his dead son Yuri, after the cosmonaut. His dog Laika.
I hope I never love anything this badly.
The sign at the gate says, “No trespassing.” In faded black on yellow, it warns, “Authorised personnel only.” And already, you can hear it crying, howling. If it was daylight, you’d see people hurry past with their faces turned down, down as if guilty of a shared crime.
It was their last attempt at saving the town, at bringing in tourists to fill the high-rise hotel they’d built a decade earlier in what used to be a nature reserve, right by the big lake, the hotel that now stood empty – it having destroyed all the pretty nature you were meant to look at.
Those new tourists, they were supposed to marvel at the exotic beast; stand in awe at nature’s beauty and might. But caged in the way it was, with no companion to share its ill fate, it started to rot away like the cut Carnations my mother laid out on the kitchen table every Sunday. Its glossy fur became scraggly and wan, the clear green of its eyes, like moss through a riverbed, became muddied and pale, its movements, once full of the exact force of a ballerino at the national theatre they show on late night TV, those movements were now as sluggish as Oleg’s father. And then, of course, there was the howling. A pleading sound toward a higher power, god, or more reliably the moon; something that rips right through your petty heart.
Oleg, taking the bolt cutter (borrowed from his father’s workshop) to the first chain and pressing the two handles together with all his strength, pressing the words through his teeth, he says, “People, they want to own beauty.” He bares his teeth in exertion, the veins in his hands and arms swelling like rivers in the rain. “They want to own beauty, and that’s what kills it.”
My father, after they let him go from the hotel, having no use for a concierge, he started painting those copies, of Van Goghs, Gaugins, Goyas. Our basement is filled with a dozen Mona Lisas, a handful Starry Nights, a bevy of Danaës, a sea of Olympias, reams of Nighthawks. Each stroke a little less distinct, a little paler. The Birth of Venus hangs in the Ivanov’s bedroom, Jaczek’s parents put it in their hallway, even the mayor is said to own a copy (although I heard it’s above the toilet.)
My father says, everyone should be able to own such beauty. Not just the oligarchs. But the poster stuff, that just doesn’t do the trick – has no soul.
My father is an alright man. He’s reasonable and kind. When he’s drunk, he doesn’t beat around like Oleg’s father; he just falls asleep in his spot by the TV, and when he isn’t, you can talk with him about galaxies and books and reincarnation. My mother is the same, but whenever they’re together, they become the failures they see in each other. She can confidently barter at the market about the price of fish, can discuss the grievances in Somalia with measured eloquence, but whenever she’s in the same room as my father, the air grows thick with her self-doubt, stutters and stupidity.
The beast, it cowers in one corner of its cage. Its low groaning makes your bones trill, it drowns out my breathing and fills the night with the foul smell of the rotten meat they feed it.
And Oleg, he says, “People aren’t good at love,” he says, “Sometimes, you just need to let go.” And he feeds the last chain into the jaws of the bolt cutter, and he says, “Sooner or later,” shutting its jaws tight, he says, “sooner or later, this town will die anyway.”
© Deva Mari
At first, that innocent question of people, so light on their lips, it would stab as sharp as the gutting knife her mother had used to disembowel fish, pushed between the white bones of her ribs. If they were muttering these words with a slight smile on their lips, better yet, a howling toddler on their hips, pacifying them with sways and swaggers, the knife would slice the soft meat of her lungs, slowly down to her own guts.
By now, she enjoys saying, with unmoved features, “I used to” and watch their faces split and crumble, watch them as they try to gather up the shambles and hurry away with too many words. Now she hoped people would ask. She bullied people into asking. Just for the fun of it.
I used to. I used to be a mother. I used to be a wife. I used to be a daughter. But with 37 you’re not an orphan anymore. You’re just a widow who was never married and the mother of a dead child. There are no terms for these things.
Now, biting into the buttered edge of her croissant, Anna tries to picture Paul’s eyes, paints bright Greek beaches of blue and green, with specks of shallow sun, the smooth crow’s feet of his smile as he said, “You know, baby doll, the croissant, it was invented as propaganda by the Turks to invade Christian culture. A crescent moon.” He loved to tell lies like this. Baby doll, that’s what he’d called her. He said, for the forever to come, he’d always call her baby doll. Another lie.
Smelling his aftershave on other men, in a crowded elevator or on a bleached street corner, the scent a shadow of a long-gone man – that’s another stab. Sometimes she manages to melt into it, to melt into a smile. More often than that she has to stop in her tracks, because she’s afraid she might scatter and spill if she moved on.
If you move on, from a dead lover – unwed husband, for lack of a better term – worse, from a dead child – moving on meaning, if once in a while you forgot and smiled – you might as well have killed them.
It didn’t help that, although she used to spend quiet minutes in bed or at traffic lights, tasting, relishing, turning over the idea that Polly, with her hay-colored hair (which for some reason always smelled of hay) with her dreams of discovering the vast nothing and faraway lands of outer space, that Polly was this perfect flesh and blood and mind thing that she and Paul had made. Despite all that puzzled pride, it didn’t help that she’s had days – laundry filled days – when she wished she could just quit and go back to France where she had spent the summer after graduation sitting in smoky Parisian cafés and copying any drifts in her head down onto the leather-bound moleskin, running through night-time, carnival-lit alleys, chanting behind fugitive friends, drunk on cheap, sweet red wine, finally daring to kiss Camille, finally daring to let her fingertips float over the powder-white skin of her hips, finally daring to pull her down onto the fabric-softened sheets whose scent summoned never-had memories of meadows in full blue and yellow bloom. It didn’t help that, however much she adored Paul and Polly when they were still full of breath, she sometimes daydreamed to be free, to be with Camille between those sheets. Without baby puke and play dates.
The women in her family always got what they wished for, and no matter how bad it was, they made do with it. One late summer day, her mother, cutting prunes into perfect halves and freeing them from their velvety wood core, laying the first in ripples on top of dough the texture of baby skin, piling the latter into a lacquered clay dish, her mother – as if revealing a secret passion – had whispered, “Don’t tell, Anna, darling” she said and wiped the knife against her apron, “but if only I’d get cancer.” She bit her lip to keep it from smiling. “Don’t tell, but I’d travel.”
And promptly two months later, carving orange pumpkin flesh into slices to be roasted with rosemary and thyme, now with a lump in the pit of her stomach, she announced that she had booked her tickets. Mongolia. And if she made it, then Nepal.
Similarly, as a little girl, her grandma had wanted some disaster – any disaster – to happen, just so she wouldn’t have to live a dull life in this dull town along the dull Danube, working in her daddy’s dull fruit shop. Of course, it would be stretching things to subscribe WWII to the whims of a 16 year old Slovak girl, and by all means, the disaster she had had in mind – unspecific though it was – didn’t involve her parents being shot on the village square, fleeing barefoot through winter fields, or being raped by German officers, but it did get her out of dull old Báč, it did bring her to exciting New York, where she, maybe with a twinge of sarcasm, opened a – guess – fruit shop.
Washing another bite down with a sip of richly roasted, creamy coffee, Anna thinks she ought to warn Polly about this curse in the family line. Forbid that she wills man-eating aliens into being, brings about human extinction.
By now, she is used to the prickly needle that is remembering she’s dead. The coffee is warm and spicy on her tongue. Anna, because she is – was? – her mother’s daughter, her grandma’s Anička, she took the doom she had coveted and made the best of it. She even bought a moleskin. And for what it’s worth, Paul’s aftershave is a lot less popular in Paris’ rues and ruelles.
Yesterday, she rung Camille’s doorbell. Hadn’t even called her first. Not that she hoped for anything. Well, for something, for sure, but she tried to keep these hopes small enough so they couldn’t hurt her when they shattered. On the way to the address she had googled, through the same narrow streets she had dashed through in her twenties, a pale, unbaked croissant of a moon rose in the still-bright, not-yet-dark sky. She didn’t even think Camille would recognize her, but recognize her she did. Exclaimed her name as soon as she opened the door. Same blond fire hair, same rosy lips, same cool pools for eyes. But a pillow-skinned, siren-voiced toddler on her hips. Of course, Camille is a mother now, and a wife. And probably still a daughter.
As if to balance out the initial silence, Camille, with too many words and too many gestures beckoned Anna to come in, to please sit down and talk with her, to please stay for a drink, to please excuse the mess and the smell, and her life. Anna picked up a baby food stained milk cloth, a baby spit soaked plush rabbit, and a baby teeth imprinted remote control to make just enough space on the couch to sit on. And Camille, cheery and stressed, rocking her body up and down to pacify the baby, asked, “Do you have any children?”
© Deva Mari
Joey and I are waiting at the bus stop. He wants to do that ‘Into the Wild’ thing and get himself killed. I give him a week, no more. Either he’ll be crawling back home once his Hopes have been soaked wet and he’s suffering from severe nicotine withdrawal shivering in his $10 tent, or he will have fallen off a cliff in an attempt to get cell reception on that damned mountain. He just read one too many Kerouacs, that’s all.
“You can’t deny that the system we created is plain wrong, man.” His voice is the warm lullaby of a radio presenter. You don’t need much else in life if you have that kind of voice, ‘cos everyone just throws their things at you. “It’s the matrix with all those invisible rules that we built for ourselves, but it’s not working and people are clinging onto it for dear life, because it’s all they’ve ever known.” He flicks the butt of his cigarette toward the two pigeons quarreling by the sidewalk. One looks much smaller than the other, but is bossy as shit. “It’s like, too much evidence has accumulated in my brain to unsee it. Everywhere I look I see those contradictions. It’s the facade crumbling, man. You wait, you’ll see it, too.”
He crouches down to unzip the smaller of his two backpacks, the normal-sized one, and starts again to search for his Hopes. They are in the small pouch in front, just where you left them five minute ago, I could say, but whatever. He’s on his own now, better get used to it. “I still don’t get how you can smoke that menthol crap,” I say.
Joey and I, we were high school friends. Not that we’re not friends anymore, but school is over. For years now. And since then, Joey has done a good five semesters of engineering, while I delivered a trillion pizzas and another zillion people, still brooding over what to study – I guess it’s just never gonna happen.
Joey, having found the packs of Hopes, in that chimney fire voice he says, “You just have to look around you.” He sticks one into the corner of his mouth, pats his jeans for the little red BIC lighter and lights the cigarette with it. “Look around you. People stream in masses to psychologists, because they are depressed and burned-out, and what do they do? Sit there and talk about how depressed and burned-out they are. You think talking about that would cheer you up? And those psychologists are taught to tell them that they just think wrong. That it’s just the wrong patterns in their heads. But come on, who wouldn’t be sick, living plastered in with all this concrete, with the only purpose in life to amass a bunch of trash and slave away in little cubicles to do so. People are meant to live in nature, man. There’s no more nature in our lives. And look at doctors. Whatever the issue – stroke, cancer, whatever – they prescribe pills that only make you more sick. Those people stay inside all day and watch TV, thinking of the lives they can’t afford, when all they’d need to do to get healthy is take a hike in the mountains. It’s a universal thing, man.”
As kids, Joey and I and some other friends would meet for LAN-parties in our parents’ basements. Weekends full of junk food and bad jokes. God, we had to carry those damn computers through the whole neighborhood for that. Those big-ass white plastic things.
“No, you go to the gym and run on one of those treadmills watching an animated forest swishing past, while behind all that, guys pumped up on anabolics lift weights in a dull concrete box. You see the pattern, no?” He takes the last dismissive drag from his Hope, flicks it again toward the two pigeons, the one now puking into the other’s mouth. “We live in all this concrete and make up those pointless goals for our lives that don’t make us happy, and in the process we destroy the one thing that’d be the solution to all this. Like a cage we built for ourselves and now we’re burning the key. We don’t even see that cage anymore, man.”
“Don’t ‘yeah but’ me, man.”
The thing is, he’s not trying to escape the cage because he wouldn’t work inside. He’s not one of those lunatics who are shoved into asylums because they… well, do see the cage. He’s not like me who’ll be a fuck-up all his life. He’d be successful in that cage.
“Yeah, but,” I say, “how do you want to live out there? A week and you’ll miss Netflix and Skittles. Do you really want to hunt a deer every couple days? I thought you’re vegetarian.” The front pouch! The front pouch, idiot.
“Man, Netflix and Skittles don’t make me happy. Not the way swimming in a cold stream and collecting wild berries will make me happy. And I don’t see how that deer is a problem for me being vegetarian. That deer has never seen a factory farm. It’s never been cramped into one big dark room with a thousand other deer, so stressed and desperate that it gnaws off its own tail. All the reasons I have for being vegetarian – animal cruelty, health, money – None of that applies to the deer. I’m not saying that this whole thing will be easy, but by god, I just wanna live. Don’t you wanna live, man?”
Yeah, but it’s because I want to live that I don’t go into the jungle to get myself killed. Whatever. The bus is late.
“You slave away for half a year in that cubicle to be able to afford three days in some family resort which is another concrete prison. And I say ‘slave away’, because it really is slavery; you are caught in that system that doesn’t leave you any choice while lying to you that choice is exactly what you have, choice between 25 cereal brands; but not the choice that matters. No, you are made to do pointless tasks that only serve to sustain that faulty system. Tell me, man, how many do really have choice? Who has the luxury to self-determine their own life? I hate to use that worn out image, but people are caught in that hamster wheel without the mind to just stop and step out. Fear is what keeps them running; fear to starve, fear to be homeless, fear to be judged by their friends for not having the latest IPhone. People are too hungry and too scared to leave that mad fucking hamster factory and do what is in them. We have poets working the assembly lines, their only job to check whether this little piece of plastic has the knob where it’s supposed to.” He holds up the little red BIC lighter. “And after 16 hours of knob-watching, they’re too tired to write the Annabelle Lee that’s in them. Great inventors driving busses all day, composers working as prostitutes. Do you think that’s right, man?”
The bus, 22 minutes late now, finally pulls in. The big inventor behind its wheel is meant to bring him to Reno, after that he’ll hitchhike, then walk. Joey nods to the driver when putting his backpack in the boot. To me, he says, “And I don’t mean that it’s just one in a million to have such a talent. I mean it’s every. single. one. Dude, when we were kids, you used to write those little stories – what’s with that?” He shows the inventor his ticket, the DIN A4 page all crumpled. Those little stories he mentioned, I had forgotten all about them. In some too-eager temper I had shown one of my teachers “The Adventures of Arnie the Astronaut” scribbled onto the lined sheets of my workbook, and he said that, maybe I shouldn’t waste my time on them.
Joey, he’s in the door of the bus, saying, “And whenever I tell my mom these thoughts, she goes, ‘That’s just the way it is Joey.’ See? Like there’s no choice, man. But we do have a choice. And I’m taking it.” He’s flicking his last Hope out of the door. “If you ever change your mind about the hamster wheel, come find me and we can hunt those deer together.”
Two weeks. Two weeks and he’ll be dead from trying to hug a grizzly, either that or he’ll be begging his mom to live in the basement.
© Deva Mari
In writing, I aim at the strange, messed-up poetic, not the pink frilled variety, but the one with dark, rough edges that leave you hurt, yet wanting more. I love to get into the heads of my characters and to find that one sentence that tingles like electricity on your skin. As an ardent reader that’s what I value most in the books I read myself.
After years of writing short pieces, I wrote my first long story in the 3-months frenzy of a semester break. Now, to be able to devote most of my time to writing, I travel long-term and low-budget (friends and family also call me ‘the homeless bum’) with the added advantage that the myriad of random encounters and experiences on the road provide just the right material to make for rich and lively, yet delicate stories. Nothing beats writing in a café in some strange country while watching passersby, especially if the coffee is cheap and the passersby weird.