Listen,

There is a house I live in. The screen door slaps in the wind and black crows settle in the naked trees and cry. The cry isn’t shrill, and it’s not sweet, and it’s not low and warbling, it’s a dull kitchen knife practicing across the heart. When I’m sitting on the porch, in the chair I’ve named (which I won’t tell you), I try and reach into my chest to pull it out (my heart), and see if they’ll come and try at it. But that’s only when I can find it. Sometimes I reach in and find another thing instead: one of my Mother’s old Better Home and Garden Magazines, a picture of the time my father made me dress up like a dead soldier, an Altoids box of roaches. I try and throw whatever it is and hope it shatters like a broken plate. Sometimes I think I should collect the bits and make something, but when I bend down, my fingers go numb. 

Whenever I walk up my street (I’m not sure where it ends) and spy things peeping from the grasses, I think: Oh wow, a something! And then I come to it and pick it up and wait for it to happen. I try to think all kinds of things: wow, look at this something, what a special thing; it could have been anywhere in the world but it is right here! But every thought, before it can reach my cavities and sit there, is slurped up by the thing I see (and its esses hiss). The thing grows fat and that’s when I know there’s even more stuff in there and I bang the thing on the ground hoping I can crack it so I can get that vinaigrette taste in my mouth. Otherwise, my nightly salad is bland.  

Most of the time, I try and knit (I never know when to knit or pearl so I try to look past the needles). I keep thinking that I’m going to make one of those strips of cloth that run down the center of those fancy tables. (My dad doesn’t like his steak bloody, but his teeth are so sharp). Near the end of my strip, I always find another color I’d rather make it out of so I quit. I wonder if I’ll ever run out of colors? 

Knitting is a good hobby, though. Before I did that, I painted frames (this was just after the blackouts). I hung them all over my house—crowding the bathroom door, lining the walls, cramping above and below the light-switches. But I got tired of nailing them up and I always mashed my thumb with the hammer; sacks of purpleblue sat under the nail for days. Plus, whenever I had people over to look at them, their voices and faces said different things. They just saw what wasn’t in the frame. But that didn’t concern me. (Can you tell when you’re lying?)

But it wasn’t my fault: a big spuming truck came down the road every morning and unloaded a crate of already paid for frames and fine acrylic. I didn’t want them to pile up and I knew they must have been sent for a reason. (I always think people know better than me—especially people who don’t give me their names). Now, I’ve taken them down and laid them on the grasses, around the rooster from my head. (I call him Botulism, but he seems to want to be called Botticelli). 

I didn’t even know I had a rooster until a year ago. I was living in headaches and my parents bound me with sheets so I could sleep. During the day, my eyes blacked out intermittently and my optical nerves felt like they were being slurped backwards like spaghetti. My eyes were as snug as that ball-in-a-cup-game and I could only see the spaces between things. My mother told me that I should clean the flagstone— that it would make me whole. One time, when I came back from the black, a bottle of bleach was empty and so was my mother’s cereal bowl. My father took away all the kitchen knives and left. (I finally realized something was eating and shitting in my brain). So, I took the frame hammer from the kitchen table and laid it teeth up on the floor of the porch, closed my eyes and hinged over it like a trapped door. My head was furnitured for a long time, collecting dust. I came to when I felt something creeping out of the new-old split in my head and peck my cheeks. (It’s now a pretty resourceful thing; it finds its own food: mementos from scattered boxes, those roaches I found.) It made a house out of the frames and filled the spaces with grasses and blackoil gloob. I still won’t let it inside.

When I stopped opening the door for the truck driver, his car took on a different sound—like the sound beef makes when it’s being cooked (not the sizzle one, but the voice inside). The truck’s spume shot higher into the sky and splatted my roof and glopped onto the molding flagstone. The windows were covered thick and the roof started to sag. Beef sounded all day. When the driver pressed his eyeball up to the peephole, I blocked it. Still, I could feel his little webs pulse. 

The last time I saw him, he read a script attached to the shipment of boxes. At first, the words sounded like nails and metal and color—like the sender had chopped up the paragraphs and confused the order. But out from it—between the spaces and non-sounds—fibers and electricity grew and I knew the sender’s name. I realized it was sewn amongst my veins. 

I write these letters to myself and they appear in the crevices, in the baseboards. They come from my cavities and hide in the house, but I won’t let them be slurped. Sooner or later, my blind toes will seek them out like a dowser. 

David

David paced over and over across his beach deck, heartbroken. He had told himself a hundred times what she had done to him but the details stung fresh and moved back and back to their source. And rolled in waves of ache where he was slapped and washed across the deck over and over. He was a ship in a bottle, shook up, never to make it out to sea. He was turned on the tides again and again.

Teresa

Teresa walked home in the heat and felt everyones eyes hungry. They looked on from street corners, bus stops, front stoops like panting dogs, all slobbering. She saw with their eyes each part of her body as a cut of meat and desperately slung her arm across her chest. She wished their owners would pull back on their collars, heeling them, wimpering at the leash. But they had none, so she ate herself before they could.

Andy

In the heat, Andy felt like he was swimming in a pool of himself. His pockets hung heavy with sweat and he emptied them out onto the sidewalk. He saw two children darting and dodging, playing tag and running towards him. He cursed their glands. As they neared, they pulled out bubble wands and blew in his direction; one landed on his cheek, a fat sloppy kiss. He whirled and screamed at them and the children cried cold tears that wicked away their sweat. Andy walked home, hot as hell.

Richard

Everything that Richard saw burned him— a Cardinal gliding from a tree, a bicycle whizzing and clinking chains, a homeless man shaking a change cup on the street. The burns started at his eyes and radiated over his whole body. At night, he put on aloe in vain, moaning in pain and unable to sleep.

One night things moved beyond unbearable and Richard let out a piercing scream. And as he did, thousands of seeds shot out of his mouth, collecting in a cloud above him. And soon began to touch down gently on his body, where they slowly took root and began to grow. 

Rupert

Everyone thought Rupert was crazy. He stood in the corner bookstore in his raggedy coat and touched books all day but never read them. He smelled their spines and ran his fingers down the lines of their pages. He said each book was electric, that you didn’t need to read them to know.

One day a young woman came into the store to use the internet so she could download books on her kindle. Rupert, seeing her across the room had an overwheming need to touch her. As he reached out for her shoulder, she shrieked and ran out the door. At that moment, Rupert wished he was cut in to thousands of tiny little pieces, so that he could be downloaded and read.

Nicole

The friends loved nicole. She worked three days a week so she could party four. She brought booze and they all screamed into the pale pale dawn. When she decided to move to Puerto Rico, teaching five days a week, her friends were sad and sober. But then they smiled because they knew that they could always find her in the bottom of their bottles.

Bill

Bill waited for the 9:45 train that was already an hour late. He had nearly missed his meeting and every anxious minute he spent he grew fatter. He broke noses and bruised stomachs as the line cinched tighter. Fifteen minutes later, buttons popped and he exploded, shooting organs like confetti; his head went off like a firecracker. The line of patrons cheered and sang and closed tighter, waiting for the next one to go.

Michael

Michael wanted the perfect son, so when the child was born, he put a mask on him. It sparkled in the glasses of his party guests. The child grew up uneventfully until he began to feel a tingling at his ears, an itch on his forehead he couldn’t scratch. He began to smell rotting flesh. And then finally, in the mirror, touching gently with his fingers, he felt the mask. And went home and bashed his head into the seven stair stoop. 

Jane

As Jane walked home from work, she ripped flowers out of their beds and drank them. She wrung out each pulpy gulp and reached, crazed for the next one. In the golden hour, vines poked out of her calves. At home, they worked their way upward, gripping her thighs, wrapping below her stomach. In bed, they cinched their way up her chest and wound tightly around her neck. She gasped in her sleep, choking till morning.