Reggie and Len (a dialogue)

I was scribbling in my journal the other day while with my kids at karate practice, and this is what came out. As I continued writing, I began picturing Bert and Ernie and one of their many conversations at bedtime. You know (or maybe you don’t), the ones where Bert is desperately trying to go or stay asleep, but Ernie has something terribly pressing he must share. By the end of the conversation, Bert is awake and generally pissed off. Here’s one of my favorite examples.

What follows is a riff on Bert and Ernie’s Odd Couple‘s chemistry, though with decidedly fouler language. Reggie begins the dialogue:

My eye hurts

Man, fuck your eye.

Well, it does.

You want me to punch you in the mouth so you can bitch about that, too?

No.

Alright then. Go to sleep.

I can’t.

[sighing] What?

My eye.

Ah, Jesus.

It really hurts, man. I think I need to go to the doctor.

You don’t need no fuckin’ doctor, man. Go wash it out or get some fuckin’ ice.

When we were little, my brother and I were playing with some neighborhood kids, and this girl–

Did I ask for a bedtime story?

Just listen. So this girl hurls a massive rock at my brother. I mean, out of nowhere. We hadn’t even been arguing with this girl or her friends. And she had damn good aim, too, hit my brother right in his left eye. She ran off after that, and we went home.

What the fuck was the point of that story?

My brother is basically blind in that eye now, like 30 years later. Started out with a detached retina and got worse.

All because some bitch hit him with a rock?

That’s my theory.

Reggie, did someone hit you with a fuckin’ rock today?

No.

Then why–

I worry about my eyes.

Please shut the fuck up and let me sleep.

[a beat]

It might be pink eye.

Are you fucking serious?!

Look, that stuff’s nasty. It’s basically caused by shit in your eye. Like real shit. Fecal matter.

What the Jesus, Reggie? You trying to keep me awake and make me sick?

I’m just worried.

Look, I get it, but you can’t do anything about it, right?

I could go get some ointment.

Then get your ass on a bus and go to the fuckin’ Rite Aid on Lincoln.

I don’t know. I’m kind of tired.

What?!

Yeah. Good night, Len.

The fuck? After all that running your mouth and hyping me up, you’re just gonna–

Shhh. Come on. It’s been a long day.

[Len, wide awake, stares at the ceiling]

bert angry

 

Dispatches from Addiction and Recovery #5

We have another poem to feature on Dispatches. This one comes from JoAnne P, who lives in Louisville, KY and has been in recovery since October 2013. A key to her healing process has been writing.  Of the poem, she says, “This originally started out as a poem to my father, whom I’ve never met, but it turned out to a poem to my now ex-husband. I still love him, but we’re toxic together. The poem reflects how desperate and lonely I felt before I got help.”

If I Hate You

If I hate you then I hate myself, but I’m okay
with that tonight as I burn through memory
after memory of us and drink my way into the grave
just a bit earlier each time I pick up a bottle,
so many I’ve lost count, counting instead
all the times you vanished only to reappear
at the door drunk, like me, and we made love
until we fell asleep, sometimes half-way through,
either you me passing out before the kisses got deep.
There’s no point to this, to any of it, to life
when you’re not really living, anyway,
just borrowing time until real death hits.
Until then, I’ll drink without you
and try not to wonder where you are
and try not to care if you’re thinking of me.

I Would Trade My Warm Life (poem)

Inspired by the mysterious and wonderful Greek lyric poet Sappho, whom Plato called the Tenth Muse.

I Would Trade My Warm Life

I would trade my warm life
for your cold, wine-dark nights,
your finger tracing my scarred cheek,
your dangerous breath on my chest.

Let the gods wage war on each other
and exact their petty revenge.
I’m done calling out to them
as I wish I was done calling out for you.

Two Twirly Maids

Though the origins of the folksong “Two Twirly Maids” may predate Victorian London, it’s linked in popular culture to the story of, respectively, 14-and 13-year-old Minnie and Margaret Chattoway, who in 1845 were found guilty of murdering Leonard Brewer. The sisters confessed to cutting his throat and attempting to dismember the body, though they ultimately failed at the task and left a gruesome scene for police to discover.

The Chattoway sisters were sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to transportation. In March of 1845, the sister boarded a ship heading to a penal colony in Australia. Once the ship disembarked, the girls managed to escape and were never seen again.

Two twirly maids
cutting off his head,
O, that’s what I saw,
O, that’s what I saw,
O, that’s what I saw today.

Two twirly maids
sawing off his arms,
O, that’s what I saw,
O, that’s what I saw,
O, that’s what I saw today.

Two twirly maids
chopping off his legs,
O, that’s what I saw,
O, that’s what I saw,
O, that’s what I saw today.

Two twirly maids
burying the rest,
O, that’s what I saw,
O, that’s what I saw,
O, that’s what I saw today.

Dispatches from Addiction and Recovery #4

Today’s entry comes from Tabitha S., a Seattle-based freelance writer and poet who struggles with sobriety. Of this poem, she says, “The hardest part for me is always dealing with the damage I’ve caused in relationships. When I relapse, it’s generally over that.”

Sorrow Hangs On

Sorrow hangs on me like an old coat,
finds me in different forms–

a Museum of Tears, Bird Graveyard.

I get drunk and go under the needle
for another fuck you tattoo, chop off
my hair and throw it in the trash.

Love doesn’t come with a warranty,
just an expiration date.

An End and a Beginning

I am here, newly born, forged from the fires of adversity and the long shadows of self-loathing. Long have I crawled the shores of despair, riven by thirst only to find the bitter gall or rejection and alienation. I continue searching, praying to distant gods, and…

…okay, enough of that shite. All I’ve done is make this blog my “official” home (as a Poet and a Writer, replete with capital letters because I’m special). It’s now writingforghosts.com because I like the name and don’t plan on changing it even when I become rich and famous and hole up in a dismal castle somewhere.

Some of you will note that this site has far fewer posts than before. I made a number of them private because I may still pilfer from them, but I want to start fresh. New voices, new freewriting sessions, new everything.

Don’t take anything too seriously on this site, not even the poems, characters, and stories. Especially take with a truckload of salt anything I say about myself or others. As the late, great Kurt Vonnegut wisely says, “All persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental.”

Stuff to follow. I hope you dig it, but if you don’t, that’s fine. The world is wide, the blogs are plentiful, and magic abounds. And I’d like to think a little of that magic lives here.

-RC

 

Dispatches from Addiction & Recovery #3

This latest entry to Dispatches from comes from Bradley D, a first time contributor. He was not available for a follow-up comment when I reached out to him.

“The time I saw Maggie and we had that big-ass fight, I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn’t–not by a long shot. The fuck-all of it was that I still cared about her, wanted to know how she was, and if someone was taking care of her. She was definitely someone who needed taking care of, and I didn’t think I cared who it was. I sure as shit knew it couldn’t be me, so I wanted someone who got it, understood what she’d been through. But when I found out it was Ray who stepped into her life in a shitty suit of rusted armor, pretending to be Prince Valiant or whatever the fuck, I lost it.

I fell off the wagon weeks before that went down. My so-called friends said they saw it coming a million miles away and wondered why I didn’t do shit to stop it. They asked why I quit calling my fucking sponsor months before and wondered why I stopped going to meetings. I told them my sponsor was a douche and meetings never did much for me anyway. It was all just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo horseshit dressed up to sound spiritual. I get the 12 Steps, and I know they work for some people, but they didn’t work for me. And before you start in with the sanctimonious harping about, “Well, Bradley, you didn’t finish the Steps, so you can’t judge their effectiveness,” just save us both the trouble and go fuck yourself quietly in a corner. I’m done with people telling me how to work a program of recovery, and if I never set foot in another AA meeting, all the better.

Once I picked up again, I was back to my old drinking habits within three days, getting shit-faced before ten in the morning. I kept my job for a few weeks, which still amazes me. I was just waiting for the right time anyway to tell my boss to go to hell. My boss turned all chickenshit and called 911, said I was threatening everyone and said I’d shoot the first person who got in my way. I’ve done a lot in my drinking career, and I’ve remember every fucked-up and every wonderful moment; I’ve never blacked out, so I know I didn’t say that shit. When the cops got there, no one backed up my boss, so he ended up getting ripped a new one for calling 911 for no good reason.

When I got up the next day, I drank my breakfast and went straight to Maggie’s. I could have called before, and maybe I should have. Maybe I’d be writing a different fucking story today if I had, but you can’t go back in time. I’ve tried, man, every time I got drunk and most days when I was sobering up. Life doesn’t work that way, which I guess is good, because who the fuck knows what damage I’d cause if I could reverse the hourglass.

So I showed up at Maggie’s and pounded on the door. I don’t know what I expected when she answered the door. More than anything, I wanted her to be happy to see me, but she wasn’t. She just kind of blinked and left the door open as she turned away. She was wearing blue panties and a ratty Sex Pistols t-shirt, which normally would have made me hard, but it didn’t. She was using again. If it wasn’t obvious by her dead stare and the way she wobbled back toward the sofa, it was plain as fucking day because Ray Willer was tying off on the sofa, the fucking needle in his hand, just itching to find a vein.

“Hey, man,” Ray said. God, I hated his voice. I hated everything about him, especially in that moment, because I knew he’d come to Maggie with that shit and got her back on the rollercoaster. I didn’t know when it happened and I didn’t fucking care, but it had been him. I knew it without him saying another word.

Not that he got the chance to. I leaped across the room like a goddamn tiger and first knocked the needle across the room, and then I knocked his head as far back on his shoulders as I could without decapitating the motherfucker. I wailed on him until I got tired and then I climbed off.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Maggie whispered slowly to me, the heroin making her function at half-speed. Her pinpoint eyes were all over the fucking place, landing on me for a second and then jumping away.

“Saving your sorry ass,” I said and cracked her across the face with the back of my hand. I’m not fucking proud of that, but it’s what happened. When she looked back at me, blood seeped from her lower lip, which had formed into a sloppy grin.

“Same old Bradley,” she said. “Do it again, baby.”

I took a deep breath and looked over at Ray, who was hunched over and groaning. I watched him spit out a few teeth, so I walked over and kicked him in the face so he could add to the collection on the coffee table. “Help me get him out of here,” I said.

“But I like him,” Maggie said.

“He’s a fucking piece of shit, Maggie, and you know that.”

“I’m just going to lie down,” Maggie said and flopped on the floor. So it was up to me to move fucking Ray Willer. He was a skinny little shit, so I dragged him out of Maggie’s place and across the street, leaving him moaning between two trash cans. I dug out his cell phone and stomped into pieces, and threw his fucking keys down a drain. I didn’t care if the fucker lived or died.

When I got back to Maggie’s, she was drifting in and out, talking about her sister who died when she was ten. I’d heard that story sober and drunk, and no matter my condition, it killed me every time. Maggie and her sister Laura were walking home from school when some drunk asshole swerved to miss a car and slammed right into Laura. Maggie was something like five inches away from her sister and didn’t get a scratch, but her sister ended up dead on the sidewalk. Maggie always talked about Laura’s new pink Converse she’d gotten the day before and how proud she was to wear them to school. Instead, she was buried in them.

I drove Maggie back to my place and I put her in my bed, and I drank the rest of the fucking day. When Maggie got up, I was too drunk to do much of anything, so she drank with me. Alcohol was never her first love, but it would do in a fucking pinch.

The next few weeks went pretty much the same way. I tried to get Maggie to quit shooting up and she tried to get me to quit drinking. It was like some fucking horrible Abbot and Costello act for drunks and junkies. Finally, we just stopped and focused on the fucking, at least when we were both able to.

We heard on the street that some good Samaritan took Ray Willer to a hospital. They had to wire his jaw shut and he had some broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken leg. Last I heard, he cleared out of town, which is in his best fucking interest.

One day, I came home, and Maggie was gone. Took what little she had–her purse, a backpack full of these old paperbacks she read over and over, and a pair of pink Converse–and just fucking left. She put a note that said Too bad we’re bad for each other. Love, Maggie.

So here I am, drunk as a fucking skunk on Christmas, and alone. It’s just me and these words and a bottle, just like in the old days. I have no fucking idea if I’ll try to get sober or just let this be what takes me down, and honestly, I’m sick to fucking death of trying to figure it out. I just wish Maggie would come back. High or not, I’d take her. I’d tuck her in and kiss her forehead and tell her tomorrow’s a new day, and she can start over.”