* scroll down for fiction by Meg Pokrass
Hick Chicks and Other Self-Mythologies
What do you do when the Sunday Times arrives at 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon, splayed across the middle of the small yard, too small to call a lawn, but fertilized and herbicided enough to qualify, off to the side of a pile of old snow on the coldest day of the year, I had to walk through the snow to get it, he said, like this is tundra, Yes, she said, and so early too, How can it be right—As if, he said, the National Edition is ever what you might call "right," being neither National nor an edition, since so many missing pieces, the pieces missing, the parts of the pie you would get if you lived in the city, if you were where it was happening instead of out here in the middle of bumblefuck, at Bumblefuck U, if it were six in the morning Sunday as opposed to four on Saturday, if it were the right time and the right place rather than this wrong, wrong, wrong existence, so far from the presses; if you were where it was happening, in fact, you might not even need the newspaper, you would know what to think of Anne Waldman's reading at the Poetry Project because you were there, a friend would have told you about it—hell, friends there told you about it here and you could do nothing but sigh, they dialed up their internet service and sent you an email about where they were going that night, they Facebooked themselves, updated their status to read "Dodie is going to That Vietnamese Place where she knows the owner," she took you there once when you got on a plane and crossed the country, but anyway tonight she's with "Hao and Renee and that Joyce girl, the McSweeney chick everyone is so jazzed about"—and all you could do is sigh, think about how happy those folks are, they're closer to Small Press Traffic than the Poetry Project, but you know what I mean—either city would do, really, even though Small Press shares your dilemma of getting merely part of the Sunday paper, the Sunday paper if you know what I mean, they themselves too far from the presses, and there you sit staring at your screen, your paper awaiting you, far too early, who has the balls after all to read the Sunday paper before Saturday supper, the world is just not right in that way, and so you begin to chop, to prep, to chef your way to a curry not quite as good as the lemon soup at That Vietnamese Place, and it is hardly worth updating your own status, since your status has stalled, it is the lion that will not roar, and your curry simmers while you examine the nutrition label on the coconut milk, and you face a reckoning with yourself about how much fat you're about to imbibe, and that's when he turns on the TV, seeking news, more recent, more current news than the paper would afford, and she says, "But Saturdays are always such weird news days—sometimes something happens, and other times they just rehash the week"—and he agrees but makes it louder to drown out her objections and she thinks, Fuck—If I only lived where I belonged…and where is that, my dear, my darling self…and she says not here, not where nothing happens, where nothing alters status, where nothing moves forward or back except perhaps for that fucking pile of snow in the lawn, or should we call it yard, that fucking snow that snowed two weeks ago and he shoveled it off the drive into a pile on the yard that is almost larger than the yard itself, so that while everyone else has six inches of snow in their lawn, we have two feet, and this is how it goes, they continue to be buried there, status stalled, status unaltered, with news come too early and nothing but some kind of affection for each other, really, some might use a word like love, to keep them there.
M eg Pokrass
I spend weekday afternoons at the bird refuge, watching the ducks and geese. Today, I talk to a guy named Mike who I saw here yesterday. He tells me about himself, how he used to work for the zoo, managed the zoo-mobile rides. I loved those as a kid, I tell him. Then we start talking pleasantly about zoo animals and idiotic parents and their smart ass kids and we talk on this subject for a surprisingly long time. He is funny and cute - but I'm getting cold, and it's late. The sun is drooping way down toward the ocean.
I slip off my shoes and massage my toes, while he watches me rub them. They hurt when I'm angry and upset, my acupuncturist says I hold stress in my toes. "Don't go barefoot here, you can get an infection that will eat your flesh from bird shit," this Mike person says.
He sounds like a guy who is good at knowing about rare diseases, that kind of thing, something in his voice like a growl. I feel tipsy from the schnapps and because I've been jilted by Jake and I want him surgically removed like a wart.
Mike wears hiking boots, has full, puffy lips, and just one arm. His left sleeve hangs off. I don't look at it directly, just out of the corner of my eye. I try not to notice. He's probably sick of people noticing and pretending not to notice. He probably hates me for my lack of forthrightness.
I put my shoes back on, tie them, say, "that's what I need, my flesh eaten," and he smirks.
The duck nearest to us has only a few tail feathers, looks obscene and naked compared with the rest, and basically stays clear of other ducks. It squawks to tell the others to fuck off. I try to imagine what ungodly trouble could have left a young man like this Mike with one arm and hiking boots.
"Do you drink too much?" Mike asks.
I tell him that I am not drinking, and that I don't. He shakes his head and smiles with cute little gappy teeth. I pull a beer out of my lunch pack and imagine fondling Mike's groin. He skin looks baby animalish, and I want to say something intelligent.
Suddenly, I wonder what he is doing here alone, feeding the ducks. Probably, like a freakish person - he is just acting queer as hell because he's already been labeled by people. Nothing matters, is my guess.
"What happened to the arm?" I ask.
"You are pretty," he says.
He clears his throat, and says he'll tell me about it if I meet him here tomorrow not drunk. A feeling of anger overtakes me, starting with a tingle in my fingers, working its way to my cheeks. Perhaps this man is a creep, just a pervert feeling sorry for himself.
"No promises," I say, walking away, skating through piles of new bird waste.