Stories From the Author on Calle Buenos Aires

Heidels

I went to hang up the wash tonight after my friend left. That job plus the helicopters droning, calmed me down. My friend came with bad news and it’s true, life is fragile, so I decided to post this story. I wish I had something really funny to post tonight, but this will have to do. I wouldn’t post it all because it was once rejected by a publisher here in Barcelona for being too racy, but of all the stories I’ve ever read to an audience, this is the one that got the biggest applause.

The Package

My son is standing in the kitchen on a wooden stool. He cuts a carrot for his hamster and in his high squeaky voice writes a Zenlike line in his bright blank book. “You don’t need to be tall to see things.”

I wrote poems long before my son was born. Now that I know him I realize he has always been my muse.

This is easy to understand.

His latest dream is about a world blanketed by snow. Snow on everything he says, trees, buildings, cars, streets, shops, buses, dogs, people—nothing moves, there is only silence, it’s a new planet, a new galuzy.

I tell him. You’re always having these New World dreams where some amazing and beautiful transformation takes place.

What do you dream, mommy?

At that particular moment, a frozen spitball was sitting in my gut.

I dream that I come back to life.

He gave me a look. Did you die?

When I stopped dreaming.

We are sitting side by side on the sofa facing the TV. I kiss the top of his head. I breathe the soapy smell in his soft hair. I close my eyes and make a wish: let time freeze this moment.

Mommy? Are you dreaming now?

That’s exactly what I’m doing. How did you know? Dreaming on the sofa. I open my eyes wide. It scares him.

Let’s make popcorn, mommy. And watch Roseanne in English. And stay up real late.

I look at him. He has grey shadows under his eyes. Too grey for a ten year old.

Nine o’clock lights out buddy.

That’s not fair.

What are you? An anarchist?

What?

He has no idea what that word means. He inserts the videotape we have made of six Roseanne episodes. Darlene comes on the screen.

He wants to know what an ownarist is.

There’s one, I say, pointing to Darlene.

He returns gloomily to the sofa, I’m not a girl.

That night I smoked too many cigarettes and wrote a short story while my son dreamed he turned into a seal.

It’s obvious that this story was inspired by my son’s malapropisms and puns. “The Package” is about an absent-minded anarchist who gives up politics and gets a job as a motorcycle messenger. Everything is going along well until one day, someone steals the delivery box from the back of his bike. He curses in the street for a moment. “Me caigo en la leche, hijo de puta, cabron, gilipollas,” then he gets back on the bike and darts in and out of the heavy traffic going down Balmes. Before he crosses Pelayo, he stops off at the Heidelberg and has a beer at the bar. A few doors down, he picks up the two packages he has to deliver. He leaves one on the back of the bike while he makes his first stop. A foreign looking woman opens the door as an extraordinary, almost blinding attraction draws him to her. It’s not because this woman is beautiful, nor does she have supernatural powers, but he recognizes in her eyes the same wild lonely hunger that bores a hole in his chest every day. His ancient life looks back at him through the tunnels of her eyes. He doesn’t notice the aluminum crutch she leans on. For many years, this woman has been hoping some man would look at her like this and see her deep, powerful intelligence and true inner beauty. He is shorter than she is, but she believes in God. It is God who then sends her the thunderstorm. Rain is the perfect excuse to invite the man in. He accepts, ready for whatever will happen. They are both ready. They both want this other world, this fantasy, this dream, this eternal moment. They erase themselves in it. The woman erases her lame leg and the man erases his ridiculous job. The envelope he delivered to her remains unopened and the one he left on the back of his bike becomes splattered with rain. They begin on the floor and then they move to the bed. After the bed they try hanging off the edge of a table. Then they get up and sit in a chair and this is when the woman comes. Later, the man comes, standing up in the shower while guttural noises spit out of the woman’s throat and echo off the walls like goat noises. The rain, by now, has turned the package on the back of the bike into a soggy pulp. The illegible words running down the pages in the package were meant for the woman in the shower. It was a legal document informing her that the wealthy father she never knew she had, recently died and left her his money. The absent minded anarchist delivered the wrong package. However, a package in Spanish, a paquete, is also a man’s genitals. Considering the fact that the woman making goat noises in the shower is practically being consumed by the pleasure she is getting from the package she got, when seen in a broad, bi-lingual light, this story doesn’t necessarily end on an unhappy note.

 

Stories From the Author on Calle Buenos Aires

Sadie SadieMothers have many secrets. It’s no secret how much I love Sadie, my daughter. She lives in the north country now and I miss her every day. This is a story written in her voice around the time when she was still missing her two front teeth.

Vallvidrera, Barcelona, 1990

I have this marble collection. It’s nothing like Carolina’s, but I have tutti fruttis, toohpastes, cat’s eyes, devil’s eyes, bumblebees, beachballs, green ghosts, mirrors, swirlies, opals, glimmers, bloods, deep blue seas, rubies, tigers and galaxies and Pau always wants to trade, he doesn’t know what he’s trading though. I mean he traded me – oh – I forgot to mention one of the best kind for trading, steelies – that’s what Pau traded me for one normal toothpaste. The thing about these marbles isn’t that I don’t really play with them or anything, it’s just that at Pedralbes, they’re in style, and that’s what we do, we trade. Trade. That was the word I couldn’t think of that night when my mother took me up to her friend Celia’s house. I never said that word in English and so I didn’t know what to say when I took out my big brand new bumblebee. I speak English, Spanish, French and a little Catalan but that night I was spacing out. My mother said I was talking like I had marbles in my mouth, but the truth was, I was scared in that house, so I went and stood outside on the kitchen balcony. I’m sure my mother was afraid I would fall off the mountain but I was just looking at all the lights out there and I wasn’t even cold and I was wearing short sleeves. I had just gotten home from volleyball and we were supposed to go shopping, my mother wanted to get some boots, I told her okay but please let me rest for a little while first because I was tired and she really walks a lot, especially after volleyball when I’m the tiredest. But everything got changed around when Celia called. My mother asked me if I wanted to go to Celia’s house, I was looking at Pablo’s water marble (which my mother says is not really a marble because it’s plastic, but she doesn’t know that at Pedralbes a water marble is worth a lot because it rolls good), and I said I wanted to know where Celia’s house was and she told me in Vallvidrera, which sounded far away with a lot of walking, but Celia likes me, she gives me cuddles and screams a lot when she sees me, so I said okay. When we were walking in the street and my mother was telling me that Vallvidrera was a mountain overlooking the city, I started to get worried, I thought, uh-oh, I’m gonna be really tired now, so I asked her if we had to walk up there to Celia’s, but she laughed and told me we were just walking to the parking lot to get the car. Okay.

What a ride. My mother is driving up the mountain road and she can’t find the lights and her seat won’t go up all the way so her feet don’t reach what they’re supposed to reach. She’s driving so slow and the road is very curvy, and I’m getting a little car sick, but when she asks me, I tell her I feel fine because she looks like she’s sliding backwards in her seat while trying to hold the car down so it won’t go off the road. She drives this way, pressing on the steering wheel, pressing on all of us, her, me and the car, like she’s pressing us up the hill. It’s pretty scary. When we were going back down the hill I looked out of the window and I wondered if we could just fall over the edge. It looked so easy. My mother told me not to even say things like that, not to mention those horrible thoughts, not to even think them. Okay. But I wasn’t scared, I was just messing around. When we finally got up there, Celia made me a pretty yukky sandwich, I mean it didn’t taste bad but the bread was like wood. And I saw my mother dump a bunch of olives into Celia’s green soup when she wasn’t looking. Celia made me close the kitchen door when she was cooking because she said she hated cooking smells in her house. The plants in there are like trees and you can go up the steps and look at things with lights hanging in the dark and in the room where Celia has her typewriter there are crabs in the drawer. She asked me if I wanted one. No thaaaaaaaanks. She took us into the room where she was building the boat and that’s where I saw the blue marble. It was hanging from one of Celia’s weird light things that she makes. It was the biggest opal I ever saw, it looked like a blue moon, but I couldn’t tell from so far away. I didn’t care if it was a blue moon or not, I wanted to trade my new bumblebee for it. But I couldn’t figure out how to say all that. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say because I couldn’t remember the word trade, not in Spanish or English or French or Catalan. I finally said cambiar but Celia didn’t understand me, my mother understood because she knows about how I like to trade marbles and to get me to agree to go up there she told me that at Celia’s house I would see some great marbles, but she didn’t help me explain anything, I didn’t know what she was thinking, she was a zombie until she finally said trade. Then Celia understood. She asked what I wanted in that room and I pointed to that blue marble popping out of that helmet thing or whatever it was. My mother laughed. I didn’t think it was very funny, but no problem. Anyway, I wasn’t so sure if Celia wanted to trade and then I sort of figured out what was wrong. Celia wanted that blue marble for herself, she wanted to keep it just where it was, hanging from that suit of armor statue, so she got a box down off of one of her shelves and we all sat down on the floor and looked inside. It was full of glass things. It was fun looking in that box, my mother liked it too, she likes my marble collection. But I didn’t see anything that looked like a marble in there, she had glass points, door knobs, eggs, see-through balls, light bulbs, and then I couldn’t believe it but she dug out another big blue marble, almost exactly like the one that I wanted and we held it up to the light and I knew then that it was mine and that it was a blue moon. That was when I took out my bumblebee and put it in her box. I traded fast. Well, the blue marble wasn’t perfect, it had a bump on it with a tiny hole through the bump and it wouldn’t roll good and the kids would know that it wasn’t a real marble but I didn’t care and it had some wire through the hole which Celia wanted to take out for me so she could put a different thing, some string or something, but I didn’t let her. I took the wire out of the hole by myself, and it wasn’t easy but like my mother always tells everyone, I have very good fingers, so I did it. Then I had to give the marble back to Celia for a minute, she wanted to put that string through it, I guess she thought it would look better. Now my mother said I looked very tired and that we should go home and she looked at her watch and we went downstairs and listened to some strange singing music and Celia stood up and closed her eyes and leaned to one side with a finger pointing in the air. When we got in the car, I took the string out right away, first thing and as we were driving down the hill I kept telling my mother that Pau Cuervo was going to try and trade me all kinds of marbles for this blue moon, he was such a loco trader, ni un churro, ni un churro, Pau, I kept saying that in the car, ni un churro, ni un churro, finally my mother told me I was saying ni un churro Pau a hundred times but I just couldn’t stop saying it, I couldn’t wait to show my blue moon to Pau Cuervo and I knew he was going to try and trade his best steelies and beachballs and he has a blue pearl galaxy, but ni un churro Pau, ni un churro.

Barcelona Ink

Stories From The Author on Calle Buenos Aires

cafe mar y sol 2                 Rhonda and Carter, Part Two

She was already picking out the perfect tree where she would bring him. The fig tree near Kiki and Mel’s house. It was absolutely dripping with figs right now. The only problem would be the bees. They would have to go there at night. She knew it was crazy, but she suddenly had this wild idea—she should have sex with Carter.

The Mar y Sol is practically empty. It is mainly a night bar, an early morning post-discoteque hang out. Rhonda and Carter look like they are filming a scene in a movie. Drop-dead-casual.

Carter looks like the film’s stud.

Rhonda is already one step ahead of having sex with Carter, she has just decided he is the perfect man to father her child. She realizes this is a crazy fantasy, but there it is. She can see herself; tall, skin and bones, her hands clasped under a high graceful belly. She will wear long white gauzy dresses that billow around her in the breeze. She will walk along the edge of the sea, glide over hills of straggling ancient vineyards, drift up the sides of cliffs, and one day she will lie down like a cat and have her baby under a tree.

“Raquel Welsh says the sexiest organ of the body is the brain.”

“Train the brain,” Carter nodded. He was pleased with the rhyme.

Train, Rhonda thought, toilet training. She smiled. That would be no problem, her child would go naked under the trees. She looked out to sea, a statuesque leading lady standing by her bike, standing by her man. Carter wasn’t her man, no man was her man. She didn’t want really want a man, she wanted a child. Rhonda believed this idea to have a child with Carter was a miracle. A miracle in the Ibiza port, in the blue and white morning, among the fishing boats and the million dollar yachts and the catamarans — here it was — the miracle word, written right in front of her on the oily rainbow surface of the Mediterranean. It swirled, gleaming at her, in the middle of a sunny patch like a florescent hieroglyphic. Rhonda stepped closer to the patch. She read the word. It was a message. Faith. This was nothing new. An astrologist had once told her that Faith was the biggest stumbling block to her creative expression, that her insecurity generated fear and as a result, her artistic career was blocked, not to mention her true powers and strengths. What she needed was Faith. Faith would build self-confidence, and only with self-confidence could she get rid of her fears and realize her true potential. She licked two tears off her cheeks, swallowing them as if they were a divine breakfast. Then she turned to Carter again and tilted her head to the side in an effort to be kittenish.

“Speaking of training, did you know I trained myself not to eat?”

Carter swatted at a fly.

Rhonda reconsidered. “Well, only certain things of course.”

Carter’s face was a mask.

“Bimbo,” she said. “Take Bimbo.”

He took it.

“It’s got antifreeze in it. It’s rotting people’s livers, kidneys, breasts and probably the brain, in particular the lobes that tend toward depression.”

He settled further back in his chair and closed his ears.

“That’s not all. You know what they use to make it easier to mix those giant 500 pound batches of enriched bread? You know what they put in the Bimbo dough to elasticize it?”

He saw her face but he didn’t hear a word she was saying. She knew he was looking at her but she didn’t dare try to guess what he was thinking, she just kept on going like a train that couldn’t stop. “They put plaster of Paris. Then, so bugs won’t ruin all the flour, they remove the wheat germ and the bran where all the nutrition is and sell it for animal feed. Bimbo eaters get a starchy substance that wouldn’t keep a bug alive. You know what it’s called?

He wished her mouth would stop jumping around.

“Endosperm.” Rhonda blinked and batted her eyelashes. She paused. “That’s a loaded word, isn’t it?”

He knew she was waiting for some kind of answer from him, he could tell by the way she suddenly lifted an eyebrow, but instead of saying anything he gave her his handsomest smile and filled his ears with Modest Mussorgsky.

Rhonda knew that if she stopped talking now, whatever chances she had with Carter would be over. She explained that 26 essential elements are removed before the bread is even baked, she named all the chemical additives, she gave him the WWII story on how the food companies put iron filings in the bread to toughen up the soldiers’ diet. She thought the part about the iron filings might rouse him, but he never said a word. She knew he painted, so she changed the subject to art. Carter maintained the same bland face but he was listening to her now, he was splicing and editing her sentences into subtitles for a video clip of Pictures at an Exhibition.

“…art has been reduced to objects…. technology, skill, control, special effects…quadrophonia…”

Her words were perfect for the scary movement at the old castle.

“The true essence of art is….irrelevant now…it’s not appropriate in the computer age…. Art is….outdated…. it’s artifactual.… it’s superfluous…. it’s just like they say it is…it’s dead.”

The cymbals crashed. He leaned forward.

Rhonda took this gesture as a sign of interest. She also leaned forward. “Who are the recognized artists?” she asked his beautiful Bimbo face.

The lonely horns swooned.

She didn’t wait for his answer. “I’ll tell you who they are! They’re the ones whose styles and techniques reflect modern life. But what’s so great about modern life?”

A good sad insert for the string section.

“We’re just….a bunch of….consumer corpses…grinding away…”

The oboe…the slow-motion consumer corpses… downtrodden… marching to their daily jobs. Ahhhhhhh…

“…trying to…as my father says…beat inflation.”

Carter grinned. Beat inflation. The perfect subtitle for the trumpet announcing the inauguration.

Rhonda thought the grin was a positive sign. Now was her chance. “Do you think true art in modern society is like a rusty knife trying to cut into a dozing half-dead cerebral cortex?” She was about to sit down.

Carter edited this last line out of the video and stood up.

“When you have it you know it,” he yawned.

She didn’t have it, whatever it was. She sat down. She was fed up. She was a mess. She blew it. She was sick of pretending. She was sick of being cool. She wasn’t cool. She didn’t know what she was. She didn’t care either. She didn’t care anymore about having any chances with Carter, or trying to get him to talk to her or impregnate her. She was sick of trying to get Carter to like her. She was sick of herself. She was exhausted and humiliated and hungry.

“Mind if I borrow your bike for a while?” He needed to hurry, the catacombs movement was coming.

She did mind, she minded a lot. “No, not at all,” Rhonda smiled, waving.

She watched him ride off and she waved goodbye to the fig tree and her gauzy white dresses and her toilet trained baby. She waved goodbye to the rainbow hieroglyphic and to faith and creative potential and self-confidence and she waved goodbye to something else but she didn’t know what it was and she didn’t care. Without looking, she dug into her money belt and counted the Spanish coins with her fingertips and when the waiter came around she did something she had been dying to do ever since she arrived on the island. She ordered one of those gigantic silver bowls of strawberries and cream that the tourists ate.

Stories From the Author on Calle Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires 44This is where I live. My apartment is the one at the top on the left with stuff hanging down from the terrace. That stuff is my jungle. Sometimes I write there. Not today. Today I’ve got the door open, and it’s a warm fall day in Barcelona, but not nice enough to be outside writing. I’m inside thinking about a story from my novel Black Sheep. It’s about Ibiza in the seventies and the people I knew back then. The same people come and go throughout the stories in the book and it’s about them, about what it was like to be a black sheep in Ibiza and be happy, or at least, entertained. In my book, the stories have an order so there can be a plot, but I don’t care much about plot. Part one of today’s story takes place at the Café Mar y Sol, on the port in Ibiza in 1980. Cafe Mar y Sol

RHONDA AND CARTER, Part One

Rhonda has so much energy she feels like she could walk up the side of a tree. Instead, she borrows a bike in Cala D’Hort and rides it to Ibiza town. As it is, she has been riding for over two hours when she sees Carter on the port sitting at the Mar Y Sol. He invites her to sit down, but she can’t sit down. First of all, her butt hurts from where she was shot up with Vitamin B, and second of all, inside she is flipping like a fish out of water, she feels like she has coca cola cruising through her veins. She is high on Ibiza’s electric energy and a bunch of happy hormones recently activated by exercise and fasting. However, because Carter is cool and Rhonda belongs to the same cool set, she contains her nervous energy, swings a very long tan leg out of a very torn, very short pair of cut- offs, steadies the bike and stands like a queen with one hand on the seat, the other on the handle bar, filling Carter in on the Nazi dentist in San Antonio.

“He wouldn’t stop drilling. I went in there with a chipped filling and now I have a gaping hole in my head. I was screaming and told him if he didn’t stop drilling I would go to the police. I ran out of there while that maniac in the white coat was staring out the window with his air gun pointed at my eye… Can you believe it ?… while he was drilling, the whole time he kept telling me I would have to have some special fluoride treatments. He practically obliterated my molar. I heard he’s ruined a lot of people’s teeth, not just mine. A lot of people probably have no teeth at all if they went to that assassin. Now I have to get this thing filled by another dentist in Ibiza town who I hear is also really bad. I’ll probably have trouble eating solids for the rest of my life after going to that escaped Nazi butcher.”

She paused here for a moment, expecting Carter to say something, at least a word of sympathy or a hint about the dentist his rich bovine aunt used, but Carter merely tilted his head slightly further back as if to be more in line with the most potent rays of the sun. He was wearing his ski instructor sunglasses and it was hard to see if his eyes were open. His silence embarrassed her, so she kept on talking. It was very quiet on the port this morning and each time Rhonda’s stomach growled, she raised her voice.

“There are way too many cars on this island. The air in Ibiza town is so polluted. Smashed cars are all over the windy little roads, it’s starting to look like that Godard movie…oh, what was the name….the one with that traffic jam? San José is getting so tacky. All those tourist buses. Did you hear about that man? They carried him out of the water half-drowned. He died on the beach, but probably not because his lungs were full of water, there was this crowd of tourists breathing down his neck! Why would they go to the beach anyway? There’s no ozone layer. Their faces are so… pink!

She would have continued, but now she could see Carter’s eyes. They were closed. Rhonda paused, breathed, and looked out to sea.

“I never eat indoors.” She said, inhaling the smell of diesel and salt water and fish. “I prefer to eat under a tree whenever possible.”

“Free as a tree,” Carter chirped. “A single free tree.”

Rhonda turned and looked at him. This was exactly right! Exactly! She loved that he said that, it was the exact image she had of herself. Not only had Carter finally said something, he had said something to her, the real her. And, he was sexy. Up until this moment she had never even considered Carter a man, he seemed like a handsome suntanned robot.

“Yes,” she said. “I love trees.” She adjusted her Woolworth’s halter top with the hand that had been resting on the bicycle seat, and brushed a fly off one of her bony knees.

Her smile, Rhonda would have no way of knowing, reminded Carter of his aunt. This association led him to think that he should feel something for this skinny girl, but just as it was with his own body, it was with hers. Useless. He couldn’t even feel himself sitting here, not with his head or his feet or the wet seat of his brother’s bathing suit.

Rhonda decided she would take him up on the invitation to sit down if he offered again.