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Rich Ives


A Tunnel between Death and Herman Melville

I stole the chewed frisbee from the dog and pretended to throw it. I walked away.

I tried to pretend the rain was not taking parts of me into the earth with it. I tried to listen to what the venerable oaks had to say about it, but the rustling of the wet leaves kept interfering.

I had been invited to the grand opening of The Bottomless Pit, and I was considering going because I had always wondered what was really in there, but I had heard from certain unreliable sources that it was just a lot of hoopla over a whole lot of nothing, and one guy said his girlfriend had gone to a pit party there and he’d never seen her again. He wanted me to believe she went in and never came back out. He wanted me to believe it wasn’t his fault.

Ever since I was trapped in childhood I have dreamed of falling down a well. One of the men there was always wearing Robert Kennedy’s sunglasses. You couldn’t see things any differently through them, but you could tell how cool the man thought it was, and he wouldn’t even discuss the price he paid for them, but he insinuated it was more than money. He knew how pathetic it was, but he still loved the girl who had fallen with him. Sometimes I suddenly realize I don’t know what I’m thinking until I start talking about it, but I was relieved to find that I was not the me I thought I had known living there in the bottomless pit.

Someone complained about the difficulty exiting the dream facility, and I guess that would have to be me, but the authorities couldn’t quite get a handle on the extent of the problem. No bodies. No evidence of foul play. Some of the missing persons cases were solved when the missing persons turned out to be working in the dream. They just never went home to their loved ones.

My wife wanted to know why I was so slow about getting up in the morning. “I’m restructuring my approach to the curb,” I said. I thought she was going to say, “You always were a fool.” She didn’t. She just turned her head to the side and looked at me. Perhaps she wished to have the bottom of her soul tickled.

In another dream, there’s a scar on a boy’s lip where a tin can cut into his bragging. The directions I gave myself were inadequate and led me right to the goal. There’s a little hummingbird accident in there you can’t even hear, a rather melancholy cloudburst was the way I thought of it. I waited, the way the wind does, best when it’s unexpected. I didn’t want to hear what was supposed to be there, even if it wasn’t there.

Then I was married in the mud, and I was very tired. The sun lets us sleep, of course, but who permits the sun to do likewise?

Why must the poor always merely huddle and never embrace?

Someday the moon will get tired of kneading the earth, and the tides will cease, and the winds will have to pull back the covers enough to see the ocean’s lips each time it forgets, and the forgetting will have to grow reliable and keep us learning all over again until the moon’s hunger returns.

Or hammering the silver from the whale’s ear. I get them mixed up because there’s always another dream that’s really the same but feels like it’s just now happening. And it is. It’s happening again and again. It’s like the chewed Frisbee. You only have to pretend to throw it, and it comes back to you looking like something else.


An Enormous Fly

Someone called the boy’s name, and he looked around. No one was there. He stood in front of the green door and pressed the buzzer. An enormous fly landed on the back of his hand. Someone not too demanding could have been inside. It was that big.

The boy was tired. Very tired. When he shook his head, he thought of a great lumbering mastodon. He continued trying to remove the falsity of the representation of himself he was used to.

He looped a chain around his wrist. He wore it so that he could take it off when he wanted to. He turned to face the street.

The street was empty, and he used the opportunity to step into it. He passed a small red tree and did not try to break it. He passed a store that sold doughnuts and coffee. He looked at the photographs of donuts in the window, and he forgot to look for people inside to discourage him from what might happen. He passed a bus with its engine running and there was no one inside.

He heard someone’s footsteps, but he could not see them. A dog barked and abruptly stopped.
Someone called the boy’s name.

He thought it was his name, but he was not sure.

He thought someone was calling it, but he was not sure.

He thought it was an enormous fly, but he was not exactly sure.

The boy didn’t know why he thought this.

The boy didn’t know why he thought about thinking this.

The boy didn’t know what he was supposed to be thinking about.

He continued trying to remove the falsity of the representation of himself he was used to. The street, however, did not, and he turned to face it.


An Understanding of the Disease

By way of explanation, I offer you this large green ham, said the miller’s wife, for it is very like unto my husband’s testicles before the disease of wealth shriveled them up like old potatoes of which we no longer partake. I refer to the disease as Little Harold for the sake of your understanding, which perhaps does not wish to chase my husband around the house as Little Harold does. Had we but had children prior to the onset of Little Harold, perhaps this animosity which grows between us like a series of disgustingly genital tubers issuing blows to the self-esteems of both the engendering source and the perplexed and deeply frustrated non-participant in the holy act of little-people-making might have trundled up its bag of broken mirrors and limped off into the twilight of misdirected fairy tales.

Before I become an accident, let me state that I have no intention of succeeding, for succeeding is like unto the lily in bloom, which is in imminent danger of falling off its stem as quickly as it has achieved its majority. And yet I may not merely wish to encounter an experience of the accidental variety, for wishing so transforms it from an accident to a desire, and that is not what someone in need of an accident would like to have happen.

Neither is it a mistake which I seek, for that I already have in the person of my husband, who has achieved his intentions, if not his prodigy, and is in imminent danger of falling off his stem. It is, instead, an alteration of an entirely unexpected sort, which I am awaiting, and the more informed I become, the less chance I have of such an occurrence.

How then, can I know that an accident will be forthcoming? I do not, but I have faith in God’s potential for error, which is, thank God, reflected so cleverly in the trajectory of that which I do not understand, which includes my own thinking in arriving at the conclusion that an accident represents a greater and less fragile accomplishment than any made possible by my husband’s unhealthy little potatoes.

Little Harold in a bundle of curlyhairs all twisted and kinky. Little Harold on the shelf, poised to elicit sighs of congratulatory excess. Little Harold leaking enthusiasm like a beautifully cracked ancient urinal. How could I not love you whom I may have encouraged into this unappreciative world, my mistake, my envy, my vicarious achievement?


Assisted Living

My manual indicates, said the new Doctor, that the extra hand, which modern living has provided, and which is meant to offer transition assistance, and which is bothering you most severely instead, is merely an appendage. You see, if one appends something to a portion of the body, which happens itself to be merely an appendage, then the secondarily appended portion may actually be unnecessary, so let us simply remove it.

And neither is the couch in the living room meant to roll over and play dead, agreed the attentive housewife. If I wanted something to roll over and play dead, I would feed it from a bowl on a newspaper in the kitchen and take it outdoors to relinquish upon the accepting lawn. I would give it a silly name, attached to my childish memories and desires for security O and I would teach it to navigate between the extremes of carefully placed obstacles in the rooms, which I regularly inhabit O and I would speak to it in the language of a very young child to give it a false sense of intimacy la la.

It’s a beautiful ballad indeed, said the Therapist, but I believe we will have to attend to your husband’s body in a less epic manner. Perhaps we could then simply divorce the schmuck and teach the couch to drive to the office and have an affair so that it would then have reason to dispose of us as a useless attachment on our own behalf, O.

I am still the housewife to which you indirectly refer, screamed the housewife, and you cannot have an affair with me because I do not find you attractive although I realize the precedents are voluminous.

But I have only been pretending to be debilitated, said the hairy red couch, with an increasingly provocative understanding of the wife’s psychology as he appended yet another negotiable bill to her marital difficulties and phoned the husband in question at the office, who had not yet been removed from the space in which they were to begin the removal, but this husband merely continued to be appended in a less needful location in the housewife’s attentions, which had, in any case, been wandering of late.

The scheming couch was indeed very helpful with that adjustment and did not, for the time being, roll over or beg for treats since such actions were likely to be viewed as inconsistent with the couch’s goals, which were inconsistent with existence as a couch, which was inconsistent with installation as the desired mate, even in the retirement facility to which the housewife intended to relegate the couch in order to please her unnecessary appendage in the hope that he might then willingly remain unattached following the procedure.




RICH IVES has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at Cloudbank and Mississippi Review. The Mississippi Review finalist works appear in the Spring, 2010 issue of that magazine and the Cloudbank finalist appears in the Spring, 2010 issue of that magazine as well. Contact author.

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