WORDS+IMAGES - Cuyahoga County Public Library

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WORDS+IMAGES - Cuyahoga County Public Library
M U S E
I S
T H E
Q U A R T E R L Y
J O U R N A L
P U B L I S H E D
WORDS+IMAGES
05.09
ISSUE
B Y
T H E
L I T
{THE COVER IMAGE }
No.
Grassroots luxury for everyday life.
ADDRESS UNKNOWN
BY DAVID GIFFELS
I ’m totally serious.
Ain’t I right about Stan and Bennigan?
It’s him.
—Bennigan?
Yeah, Bennigan. Just take a look. He still has that limp
from the time with the circus pony.
—There’s no way. Look at that suit. That’s a thousand
dollar suit, easy. And look what he’s driving. And
there – look what he’s got sitting in his passenger seat.
No way is that Bennigan.
Wait. Watch – look where he’s going. Yup. He is walking straight through the front door of Wilson & Perroni. That chump has gone out and done it.
—That is not Bennigan. I’m tellin’ you right now, that
is not Bennigan.
—Oh, sorry. I was watching the backhoe. It just looks
like it’s eating that wall. The Hornblatt Building, pile
of bricks, just like that. Hundred years, gone. Wonder
what’s behind it ...
Christ. I don’t know why I bother with this anymore.
Where did our dreams go? What happened to all
those nights we sat here and allowed ourselves to believe that we were going to be the ones, the ones everybody watched, every single one of us, fearless in our
ambition, unafraid to say exactly what we wanted and
then to want more and to believe that it was going to
happen. We fucking burned. We were steel. It was
bound to happen. Maggie, you turned heads all day
long, just sitting there. It all came to you so easy.
Christ, Joe. You most of all. We all knew you were the
one. We were good, but you, Joe … and look at you now.
—Well it’s not like you exactly set the world on fire.
Listen. It’s Bennigan. It is. You can debate all you
want, but you’re making the wrong argument. You
don’t believe it’s Bennigan because you don’t want to
believe that a guy like us can make it out there. ‘Cause
if Bennigan’s a success, that means you’re a failure.
That’s what this is really about. Ain’t that right Joe?
—Huh?
walden
Watch it, Maggie. Don’t you even start. You all know
what happened to me. You know it wasn’t my fault. I
was on my way. I was there. I had it. The rest — you
can’t blame me for that. Nobody could have seen that
coming. None of you could have.
—Wait. He’s coming back out. Lordy lord. Would you
look at that? I’ve never seen one that big. It ain’t
frickin’ fair.
COVER
LIVE WALDEN INN WALDEN SPA WALDEN CLUB WALDEN GATHER WALDEN
BUNNIES
CHUCK MINTZ
Screw it. I’m hungry. Who wants Chinese?
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5336_WD Muse_apr_09.indd 1
2/5/09 6:07:48 PM
3
MUSE IS THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL PUBLISHED BY THE LIT
VO LU M E 2 , I SS U E 2
JUDITH MANSOUR
Editor
[email protected]
T I M L AC H I N A
Design Director
[email protected]
R AY M C N I E C E
Poetry Editor
[email protected]
R O B JAC KS O N
Fiction Editor
[email protected]
A L E N KA B A N CO
Art Editor
[email protected]
K E L LY K . B I R D
Advertising Account Manager
[email protected]
contents
05
09
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E
4
03 Address Unknown
By David Giffels
11 The Vampire Lover
By David Megenhardt
06 The Transmitter Field
By Steve Smith
24 Geniosity.com
By Carolyn Jack
07 Fusion is Not Granted
By Bree
25 Book Archaeology
By Rob Jackson
The Uninhabited World
By Robert Miltner
26 Like It Was Something Good
on TV
By Jake Snodgrass
BILLY DELFTS
LISA, 2008
8.5X8.5"
FROM THE SERIES:
STREET PORTRAITS COMMISSIONED BY
CLEVELAND MAGAZINE
SUBMISSIONS
(content evident) may be sent electronically to
[email protected], [email protected]
We prefer electronic submissions. MUSE publishes
all genres of creative writing — including but not
limited to poetry, fiction, essay, memoir, humor,
lyrics, and drama; stories about the writing life;
profiles; book reviews; news of importance to
writers, publishers, and agents; and other things
which might stimulate public interest in reading
and writing. Preference is given Ohio-based authors.
Founded in 1987 as Ohio Writer, MUSE is the quarterly
journal published by The Lit, a nonprofit literary arts
organization. No part of this journal may be reproduced
without written consent of the publisher.
THELIT
CLEVELAND’S LITERARY CENTER
ARTCRAFT BUILDING
2 5 7 0 S U P E R I O R AV E N U E
SUITE 203
CLEVELAND, OHIO 44114
216 694.0000
BACKGROUND
BILLY DELPS
PLAYGROUND, NYC, 2003
W W W. T H E - L I T. O R G
Spring in Cleveland usually means that we can look forward to only
another few grueling weeks of sleet, ice, and clouds. In lieu of new buds,
warmth, and sunshine, we’ve brought you new voices and artists for the
6th issue of MUSE. Alenka, Tim, Ray, Kelly, and I have been lucky
enough to find Rob, our newest staffer to MUSE’s editorial board. Rob
Jackson, our newly appointed fiction editor and creator of our new
column, Book Archaeology, is first and foremost a voracious and judicious
reader. He has an eye for prose that is edgy and well-crafted, and he
looks forward to reading your submissions (hint, hint!), and we look
forward to hearing your voices.
Also in this issue, Alenka has provided new images created by cover artist Chuck Mintz, and interior work by Billy Delfts, Jeff Yost, and Margaret E. Arthur. Ray has chosen new poetry and prose, crafted in response
to those images, by David Giffels, Bree, and Robert Miltner. Rob premiers his books column and short fiction by emerging writers David
Megenhardt and Jake Snodgrass. I read each of their submissions, satisfied that new work is blooming all around us in Cleveland, despite clouds,
rain, and an unstable economy. I’m grateful that new work is never in
short supply here in Northeast Ohio.
In The LIT’s (and now MUSE’s) time-honored tradition of collaborating
with other art forms and arts organizations to bring heightened visibility to literature, we revisit the very popular Mirror of the Arts program
for our 35th anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 6th at Convivium
33 Gallery. We honor John Gabel, Bonnie Jacobson, Robert McDonough,
Leonard Trawick, and the late Cyril A. Dostal, early members whose ongoing leadership, direction, and support have sustained us. We will also
recognize with lifetime membership individuals whose poetry and dedication to craft shaped our mission: Mary Chadbourne, Christopher
Franke, Nina Freedlander Gibans, Diane Kendig, Joan Nicholl, and
John Stickney. Using For Closure: Visions of Reality, Words of
Promise; An Exhibition of Photography, Words, and Found
Materials as the backdrop for this celebration, honorees and guests will
be treated to music, performance, libations, and hors d’oeuvres to mark
this special occasion.
There’s a lot to celebrate here. Including spring.
Judith
M
05
09
M
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E
M
05
09
VO LU M E 2 , I SS U E 2
5
MUSE IS THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL PUBLISHED BY THE LIT
VO LU M E 2 , I SS U E 2
JUDITH MANSOUR
Editor
[email protected]
T I M L AC H I N A
Design Director
[email protected]
R AY M C N I E C E
Poetry Editor
[email protected]
R O B JAC KS O N
Fiction Editor
[email protected]
A L E N KA B A N CO
Art Editor
[email protected]
K E L LY K . B I R D
Advertising Account Manager
[email protected]
contents
05
09
M
U
S
M
E
4
03 Address Unknown
By David Giffels
11 The Vampire Lover
By David Megenhardt
06 The Transmitter Field
By Steve Smith
24 Geniosity.com
By Carolyn Jack
07 Fusion is Not Granted
By Bree
25 Book Archaeology
By Rob Jackson
The Uninhabited World
By Robert Miltner
26 Like It Was Something Good
on TV
By Jake Snodgrass
BILLY DELFTS
LISA, 2008
8.5X8.5"
FROM THE SERIES:
STREET PORTRAITS COMMISSIONED BY
CLEVELAND MAGAZINE
SUBMISSIONS
(content evident) may be sent electronically to
[email protected], [email protected]
We prefer electronic submissions. MUSE publishes
all genres of creative writing — including but not
limited to poetry, fiction, essay, memoir, humor,
lyrics, and drama; stories about the writing life;
profiles; book reviews; news of importance to
writers, publishers, and agents; and other things
which might stimulate public interest in reading
and writing. Preference is given Ohio-based authors.
Founded in 1987 as Ohio Writer, MUSE is the quarterly
journal published by The Lit, a nonprofit literary arts
organization. No part of this journal may be reproduced
without written consent of the publisher.
THELIT
CLEVELAND’S LITERARY CENTER
ARTCRAFT BUILDING
2 5 7 0 S U P E R I O R AV E N U E
SUITE 203
CLEVELAND, OHIO 44114
216 694.0000
BACKGROUND
BILLY DELPS
PLAYGROUND, NYC, 2003
W W W. T H E - L I T. O R G
Spring in Cleveland usually means that we can look forward to only
another few grueling weeks of sleet, ice, and clouds. In lieu of new buds,
warmth, and sunshine, we’ve brought you new voices and artists for the
6th issue of MUSE. Alenka, Tim, Ray, Kelly, and I have been lucky
enough to find Rob, our newest staffer to MUSE’s editorial board. Rob
Jackson, our newly appointed fiction editor and creator of our new
column, Book Archaeology, is first and foremost a voracious and judicious
reader. He has an eye for prose that is edgy and well-crafted, and he
looks forward to reading your submissions (hint, hint!), and we look
forward to hearing your voices.
Also in this issue, Alenka has provided new images created by cover artist Chuck Mintz, and interior work by Billy Delfts, Jeff Yost, and Margaret E. Arthur. Ray has chosen new poetry and prose, crafted in response
to those images, by David Giffels, Bree, and Robert Miltner. Rob premiers his books column and short fiction by emerging writers David
Megenhardt and Jake Snodgrass. I read each of their submissions, satisfied that new work is blooming all around us in Cleveland, despite clouds,
rain, and an unstable economy. I’m grateful that new work is never in
short supply here in Northeast Ohio.
In The LIT’s (and now MUSE’s) time-honored tradition of collaborating
with other art forms and arts organizations to bring heightened visibility to literature, we revisit the very popular Mirror of the Arts program
for our 35th anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 6th at Convivium
33 Gallery. We honor John Gabel, Bonnie Jacobson, Robert McDonough,
Leonard Trawick, and the late Cyril A. Dostal, early members whose ongoing leadership, direction, and support have sustained us. We will also
recognize with lifetime membership individuals whose poetry and dedication to craft shaped our mission: Mary Chadbourne, Christopher
Franke, Nina Freedlander Gibans, Diane Kendig, Joan Nicholl, and
John Stickney. Using For Closure: Visions of Reality, Words of
Promise; An Exhibition of Photography, Words, and Found
Materials as the backdrop for this celebration, honorees and guests will
be treated to music, performance, libations, and hors d’oeuvres to mark
this special occasion.
There’s a lot to celebrate here. Including spring.
Judith
M
05
09
M
U
S
E
M
05
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VO LU M E 2 , I SS U E 2
5
the transmitter field
The Uninhabited World
Our village was all the world we needed.
We bred red birds until we could afford babies.
right where the city dump ended and
gave way to a dark clearing
we ran as children and tried to catch
one another in the dark
to catch someone and hold them
their skin slippery from the sheen
of summer nighttime fear
and from running fast
Fusion is Not Granted
To marry is the best.
Loft ilk, etched in acid
Which changes a thing
Over time.
i was 7 and a half and that
made me faster. center in the
clearing were two transmitter
lights, glowing red and warm like
errant planets and
if caught by
a snaggle-toothed boy or redheaded
girl you had laid down,
if only for a moment on dry
summer grasses, the ground still warm,
to recharge by the blurry radiance
of the twin red planets
A nurse once ignored
The fledgling/now u nurse
Me, amid the recycled,
U walk not fly with me.
MARGARET E. ARTHUR
COUPLE
OIL, 60X46"
an explosion of bone to bone
went off in my head when Robert
the Birdman slammed his wooden
forehead
into mine in a spiral of dizziness
and we both fell backward
05
09
M
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6
seed in the fields. I set down my hoe
when the government forces trampled
the tall oats and planted landmines
to explode the feet off the insurgents.
While they rounded up goats, ducks,
and the other young men, we slipped
Yr hip is mine & even
Oft on a blurred stretch of
Our landing.
through shadows from our home
to a farm shed at the village edge.
BREE
Do you remember how we awoke
to the patch of blue sky in the roof?
TRANSMITTER
JEFF YOST
only
to become new men by the red
lights of the transmitters
i never loved the transmitter field
any more than the night when
Darlene gave us kool-aid jars
long since emptied of peanut spread
each punctured lid an instrument
ringing with spinning metal and glass
if the keeper could run and leap
and catch the firefly
that hung magically above
then hovered slowly to the left
or the right
and should you be caught in
the transmitter field with light
in your jar you could run all night.
At the refugee camp they stripped us
like peapods and shaved us like sheep.
We looked like sardines taken from a can.
Each morning I see carts being pushed
and when i laid down
and prayed til my eyes were
flash white with dreams
i awoke and swear,
still to this day,
that i had taken down from
the pitch clear sky
far above the transmitters
toward the open pit over the small hill
beyond which the wind goes to die.
Last month I aged a thousand years,
this week another hundred more.
Soon the salt will settle on my shadow
and my bones will be covered in lime.
a star in my jar.
I dream I have the body of a white bird
that flies around this beating world.
steve smith
You’ll know it’s me, floating like a kite,
a skeleton holding an unsigned poem.
ROBERT MILTNER
05
09
M
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M
and we began hurling rinds and
hooting our confused lusts at the sky
and the wind was whooshing by
my red sunburned ears
while my hands bled from the sharp stones,
relics I dug from of the dirt so we could sow
To the yellow birds nesting in the eaves?
To the kick of army boots and gun butts?
towering and humming on idle
in the great and magnificent
foreground of stars
and Friday night when Roy
cracked a watermelon we slurped
and ran and spit seeds into the
mystical darkness at one another,
careless juice drizzling on
rounded bellies
At night our bodies were string beans in a box.
You worked so hard your nails cracked
7
the transmitter field
The Uninhabited World
Our village was all the world we needed.
We bred red birds until we could afford babies.
right where the city dump ended and
gave way to a dark clearing
we ran as children and tried to catch
one another in the dark
to catch someone and hold them
their skin slippery from the sheen
of summer nighttime fear
and from running fast
Fusion is Not Granted
To marry is the best.
Loft ilk, etched in acid
Which changes a thing
Over time.
i was 7 and a half and that
made me faster. center in the
clearing were two transmitter
lights, glowing red and warm like
errant planets and
if caught by
a snaggle-toothed boy or redheaded
girl you had laid down,
if only for a moment on dry
summer grasses, the ground still warm,
to recharge by the blurry radiance
of the twin red planets
A nurse once ignored
The fledgling/now u nurse
Me, amid the recycled,
U walk not fly with me.
MARGARET E. ARTHUR
COUPLE
OIL, 60X46"
an explosion of bone to bone
went off in my head when Robert
the Birdman slammed his wooden
forehead
into mine in a spiral of dizziness
and we both fell backward
05
09
M
U
S
M
E
6
seed in the fields. I set down my hoe
when the government forces trampled
the tall oats and planted landmines
to explode the feet off the insurgents.
While they rounded up goats, ducks,
and the other young men, we slipped
Yr hip is mine & even
Oft on a blurred stretch of
Our landing.
through shadows from our home
to a farm shed at the village edge.
BREE
Do you remember how we awoke
to the patch of blue sky in the roof?
TRANSMITTER
JEFF YOST
only
to become new men by the red
lights of the transmitters
i never loved the transmitter field
any more than the night when
Darlene gave us kool-aid jars
long since emptied of peanut spread
each punctured lid an instrument
ringing with spinning metal and glass
if the keeper could run and leap
and catch the firefly
that hung magically above
then hovered slowly to the left
or the right
and should you be caught in
the transmitter field with light
in your jar you could run all night.
At the refugee camp they stripped us
like peapods and shaved us like sheep.
We looked like sardines taken from a can.
Each morning I see carts being pushed
and when i laid down
and prayed til my eyes were
flash white with dreams
i awoke and swear,
still to this day,
that i had taken down from
the pitch clear sky
far above the transmitters
toward the open pit over the small hill
beyond which the wind goes to die.
Last month I aged a thousand years,
this week another hundred more.
Soon the salt will settle on my shadow
and my bones will be covered in lime.
a star in my jar.
I dream I have the body of a white bird
that flies around this beating world.
steve smith
You’ll know it’s me, floating like a kite,
a skeleton holding an unsigned poem.
ROBERT MILTNER
05
09
M
U
S
E
M
and we began hurling rinds and
hooting our confused lusts at the sky
and the wind was whooshing by
my red sunburned ears
while my hands bled from the sharp stones,
relics I dug from of the dirt so we could sow
To the yellow birds nesting in the eaves?
To the kick of army boots and gun butts?
towering and humming on idle
in the great and magnificent
foreground of stars
and Friday night when Roy
cracked a watermelon we slurped
and ran and spit seeds into the
mystical darkness at one another,
careless juice drizzling on
rounded bellies
At night our bodies were string beans in a box.
You worked so hard your nails cracked
7
The
Vampire
Lover
BY DAVID MEGENHARDT
M Y B O S S TO L D M E TO F I N D S O M E O N E to fill a sales job so I placed an
ad in a local newspaper. Normally I wouldn’t handle hiring, but the human
resources lady, Sheila Burst, had taken a medical leave because of shingles or a
goiter, and my boss hated interviewing.
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The
Vampire
Lover
BY DAVID MEGENHARDT
M Y B O S S TO L D M E TO F I N D S O M E O N E to fill a sales job so I placed an
ad in a local newspaper. Normally I wouldn’t handle hiring, but the human
resources lady, Sheila Burst, had taken a medical leave because of shingles or a
goiter, and my boss hated interviewing.
M
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esumes poured into the
office and I began to wonder if I had made the job seem too good.
The sales job of this particular territory was horrible and most of
the recent hires exited the company humiliated. I had not put this
information in the classified ad, but I did throw in a couple of exclamation points and the words “Sales Career” at the top in bold
letters. Such simple chum worked better than I thought possible,
but as the slush pile of resumes on the corner of my desk grew well
past 400, I guessed that the catatonic regional economy had something to do with so many people seeking such a perversely bad job
with an unknown company.
So how did I come to hire Benny Coco out of a crop of
overqualified college graduates, career lead salesmen, hustlers,
consultants, free-falling executives, drunks, crazies, and beautiful young women looking to move out of their parents’ homes?
Benny’s resume jumped out of the pile for every wrong reason. It
had been copied on cheap paper, slightly askew and smudged. He
had not proofread it thoroughly, so along with a batch of grammar mistakes several words were misspelled or missing. It was four
pages long, listing a series of jobs held for no more than six or seven
months, and for several he had written the reason for leaving in
pen in the margins. I should have just sent it through the shredder,
but near the middle of the third page he had listed “Comic Actor—
The Beef O’Bundy Show” in his chronicle of experience.
For a few years of my childhood baseball and the Beef
O’Bundy Show were the two most important influences outside
the family. The show came on at 11:30 PM on Friday night, right
after the local news. O’Bundy and his dwarf sidekick, sometimes
called “The Kid” and other times known by his full name Gimpy
Von Shrieker, showed old horror and science fiction films and peppered the evening with crudely filmed comic sketches complete
with a strangely resonant laugh track. They showed every film
Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee had ever been in, the old Hammer Film stable of creaky horror tales with titles like Frankenstein
Created Woman, Dracula has Risen from the Grave, and The Vampire Lover, and a slew of American black and white schlock.
may have even been missing an ear. Her right side was stunning
and perfect, the remnants of what I had seen on paper. I hired her
anyway and she stayed with the company for two years before moving to Arizona to be a massage therapist. She was incredibly efficient and hardworking, and by hiring her my reputation as a hiring
sage grew.
I called Benny. He answered in a low mumble that
seemed somewhere between a drunk and a hangover. When I told
him the nature of the call he rallied his strength and his inflection
sharpened.
“Hey, I can’t say I wasn’t expecting the call. That resume
is Sputnik. It’s rocket-fire. I’ve been to the moon and back, baby,
on the vapor trail of that little piece of paper,” he revved up in a
hammy patter.
I didn’t hang up, which probably said more about me than
Benny. Beef O’Bundy, Sputnik, nonsensical patter. I rubberneck at
every crash as I am irresistibly drawn to disaster.
“How does 11:00 AM Thursday look to you for an interview?” I asked.
“I like flesh and blood. You tell me when and I’ll be there
with winged feet and winged tips”
“Are we agreed?”
“You’ve said it. I’m ready to follow.”
I highlighted the time and date and even drew a star on
my desk calendar.
The day came, our receptionist ushered in Benny, and
we met near my door with a handshake. I loomed over him like a
giant. His hand felt dry and brittle and his grip barely registered.
I imagined he had to hold a glass of milk with two hands, with
one hand under the bottom of the glass to keep it in the air. I offered him a seat and he waited until I was settled before easing
slowly into his chair. The movement betrayed a ferocious case of
hemorrhoids.
I stared at a man at the end of his road. His blue jacket
was shiny from wear and almost matched a green cotton tie secured
with a giant Windsor knot. The shirt, blue and thin, had a frayed
and worn collar that had been discolored by sweat. His glasses
were enormous, crooked and pushed flat against the bridge of his
nose. Perched atop his obviously bald head lay a dark gray toupee
framed by a band of thin white hair. The toupee looked like it had
been fashioned out of mouse fur.
I didn’t think I had the energy to make it through the interview. I knew I had to throw him an easy opening so he could
gain an advantage or I would have stared at him for a few moments
and then asked him to leave.
“So, I see you played on Beef O’Bundy. When I saw that I
realized you were a celebrity when I was a kid. I don’t remember you
though. What parts did you play?” I asked without much enthusi-
asm because even Beef and Gimpy couldn’t pull me out of my funk.
He ruminated on the question dramatically as he leaned
back in his chair, placed a hand on his chin and struck a thoughtful
frown.
I felt my shoulders stoop and my head wobbled as I was
on the precipice of a migraine.
“Well, if you don’t mind me saying so, Beef O’Bundy is a
cocksucker. Strong words I know, but a cocksucker nevertheless,”
he concluded with a nod of his head.
“Well, what parts did you play? Were you on camera?”
“I was with Beef from 74 to 84, ten years. I played parts.
Lot-o-parts. For instance, remember the running Tarzan gag we
ran with. Like Tarzan kept trying to find coconuts, right, and Jane
keeps nagging him about trying to find the right kind of coconuts,
remember? Well, let’s just say I’m not above doing drag. You know
what I saying?”
I vaguely remembered the skit, and the best I could
muster was a wan smile.
“Remember the burping cigar store Indian?”
“Halo kemosabe! Belllllchhhh!” I nearly shouted the
catch phrase of this particular skit. It was pure reflex. I couldn’t
believe I had retained the information and recalled it so easily. I
warmed to him and we spent the next fifteen minutes discussing in
detail all of the skits on the show whether he acted in them or not.
I tried to talk to him about the horror movies they showed but he
waved the line of inquiry away.
“I never understood them. How can you understand a
Dracula? And what the hell is Frankenstein? Jesus.”
“Everyone always calls the monster ‘Frankenstein.’ It was
actually Dr. Frankenstein, so other than it being the last name of
his creator it had nothing to do with the actual monster,” I said
seriously.
Benny returned a blank stare and then realized he was out
of his depth so he squirmed uneasily in his chair. So I asked him
about his relationship with Beef O’Bundy.
“He’s no good that one. I give him ten years and now he
acts like he don’t know me. You know how many calls he hasn’t
returned. It all went to his head. He’s just a big Pollack anyway.
Nothing Irish about that sonofabitch.”
Benny had some sales experience peppered throughout
his long career but I never questioned him about any of it.
I learned he fronted a Dixieland Jazz band called B. Coco and
the Crawdaddies, had a short stint as a master of ceremonies in a
downtown hotel, wrote a handful of unproduced and probably unread movie scripts, scouted talent for a record company, played accordion in a Polka band called the Bratwurst Boys, had a gig as a
trombonist in a traveling circus, and even had tours of duty in a
flour processing plant and a ketchup factory.
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My first memory of the show is of my Dad coming home
from the factory around 10:30 PM. The crunching of truck tires
on the gravel drive announced the arrival of a bag of McDonald’s
hamburgers that my brothers and I would devour. I was six or
seven, and I tried to stay up to watch the movies I didn’t really understand. Every Friday night I passed out on the floor with my
ear pressed into the carpet with my belly full of meat and my head
filled with horrible dreams of blood-sucking monsters dressed in
suits. I filled notebook after notebook with different renditions
of Dracula, wolf men and women, and the Frankenstein monster, usually the Boris Karloff version. I collected plastic models of
every horror figure I could find and crudely painted them. We created horror scenes in our backyard with masks and bed sheets for
costumes, capturing them with my Dad’s brownie camera. I once
went to school with bolts drawn on my neck, a remnant of an elaborate photo shoot.
For the next eight years I watched Beef O’Bundy introduce the night’s movie, sometimes in a gorilla suit or dressed as an
effeminate vampire sophisticate, and act in one insipid skit after
another. After the punch line was delivered the actors predictably
mugged for the camera and a twisted laugh track sounded. In one
sequence they had a pizza eating contest. The standing champion
was Mealmouth Malorgha, a 400 pound behemoth who could fold
a whole pizza into his limber mouth. The only challenger I ever
saw him lose to was an overweight rottweiler. In another skit the
dwarf, who sported a wooly beard, dressed up like the New Year’s
baby, walked around town asking for lollipops and wished everyone a happy New Year even though it was June. So is it any wonder
that for years I had autographs of both Beef O’Bundy and Gimpy
Von Shrieker tacked to my bulletin board? I had scored the autographs at a grand opening of a frozen custard stand where a thick
knot or parents and kids my age had come out to see them. After
they left we played Space Invaders and pinball and compared our
autographs.
For obvious reasons I pulled Benny’s resume to schedule
him for an interview. Whenever I was given the task of interviewing I always managed to fog the process with my personal failings.
Usually I pulled resumes of women who appeared beautiful on
paper, unqualified though they may be, in hopes of passing a pleasant half-hour with someone not misshapen. Judging beauty from
a resume was an inexact science at best, and my average hovered
around 10 percent. Once I called a woman named Skye Love for
an interview. Everything from her name to her voice on the phone
to her chronological list of experiences that included modeling,
clothing apparel manager, and her bachelor’s in communication
pointed toward rare beauty. My instincts were correct, but unfortunately a car accident had mangled the left side of her head which
was a confusion of scar tissue and shattered bone. I thought she
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esumes poured into the
office and I began to wonder if I had made the job seem too good.
The sales job of this particular territory was horrible and most of
the recent hires exited the company humiliated. I had not put this
information in the classified ad, but I did throw in a couple of exclamation points and the words “Sales Career” at the top in bold
letters. Such simple chum worked better than I thought possible,
but as the slush pile of resumes on the corner of my desk grew well
past 400, I guessed that the catatonic regional economy had something to do with so many people seeking such a perversely bad job
with an unknown company.
So how did I come to hire Benny Coco out of a crop of
overqualified college graduates, career lead salesmen, hustlers,
consultants, free-falling executives, drunks, crazies, and beautiful young women looking to move out of their parents’ homes?
Benny’s resume jumped out of the pile for every wrong reason. It
had been copied on cheap paper, slightly askew and smudged. He
had not proofread it thoroughly, so along with a batch of grammar mistakes several words were misspelled or missing. It was four
pages long, listing a series of jobs held for no more than six or seven
months, and for several he had written the reason for leaving in
pen in the margins. I should have just sent it through the shredder,
but near the middle of the third page he had listed “Comic Actor—
The Beef O’Bundy Show” in his chronicle of experience.
For a few years of my childhood baseball and the Beef
O’Bundy Show were the two most important influences outside
the family. The show came on at 11:30 PM on Friday night, right
after the local news. O’Bundy and his dwarf sidekick, sometimes
called “The Kid” and other times known by his full name Gimpy
Von Shrieker, showed old horror and science fiction films and peppered the evening with crudely filmed comic sketches complete
with a strangely resonant laugh track. They showed every film
Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee had ever been in, the old Hammer Film stable of creaky horror tales with titles like Frankenstein
Created Woman, Dracula has Risen from the Grave, and The Vampire Lover, and a slew of American black and white schlock.
may have even been missing an ear. Her right side was stunning
and perfect, the remnants of what I had seen on paper. I hired her
anyway and she stayed with the company for two years before moving to Arizona to be a massage therapist. She was incredibly efficient and hardworking, and by hiring her my reputation as a hiring
sage grew.
I called Benny. He answered in a low mumble that
seemed somewhere between a drunk and a hangover. When I told
him the nature of the call he rallied his strength and his inflection
sharpened.
“Hey, I can’t say I wasn’t expecting the call. That resume
is Sputnik. It’s rocket-fire. I’ve been to the moon and back, baby,
on the vapor trail of that little piece of paper,” he revved up in a
hammy patter.
I didn’t hang up, which probably said more about me than
Benny. Beef O’Bundy, Sputnik, nonsensical patter. I rubberneck at
every crash as I am irresistibly drawn to disaster.
“How does 11:00 AM Thursday look to you for an interview?” I asked.
“I like flesh and blood. You tell me when and I’ll be there
with winged feet and winged tips”
“Are we agreed?”
“You’ve said it. I’m ready to follow.”
I highlighted the time and date and even drew a star on
my desk calendar.
The day came, our receptionist ushered in Benny, and
we met near my door with a handshake. I loomed over him like a
giant. His hand felt dry and brittle and his grip barely registered.
I imagined he had to hold a glass of milk with two hands, with
one hand under the bottom of the glass to keep it in the air. I offered him a seat and he waited until I was settled before easing
slowly into his chair. The movement betrayed a ferocious case of
hemorrhoids.
I stared at a man at the end of his road. His blue jacket
was shiny from wear and almost matched a green cotton tie secured
with a giant Windsor knot. The shirt, blue and thin, had a frayed
and worn collar that had been discolored by sweat. His glasses
were enormous, crooked and pushed flat against the bridge of his
nose. Perched atop his obviously bald head lay a dark gray toupee
framed by a band of thin white hair. The toupee looked like it had
been fashioned out of mouse fur.
I didn’t think I had the energy to make it through the interview. I knew I had to throw him an easy opening so he could
gain an advantage or I would have stared at him for a few moments
and then asked him to leave.
“So, I see you played on Beef O’Bundy. When I saw that I
realized you were a celebrity when I was a kid. I don’t remember you
though. What parts did you play?” I asked without much enthusi-
asm because even Beef and Gimpy couldn’t pull me out of my funk.
He ruminated on the question dramatically as he leaned
back in his chair, placed a hand on his chin and struck a thoughtful
frown.
I felt my shoulders stoop and my head wobbled as I was
on the precipice of a migraine.
“Well, if you don’t mind me saying so, Beef O’Bundy is a
cocksucker. Strong words I know, but a cocksucker nevertheless,”
he concluded with a nod of his head.
“Well, what parts did you play? Were you on camera?”
“I was with Beef from 74 to 84, ten years. I played parts.
Lot-o-parts. For instance, remember the running Tarzan gag we
ran with. Like Tarzan kept trying to find coconuts, right, and Jane
keeps nagging him about trying to find the right kind of coconuts,
remember? Well, let’s just say I’m not above doing drag. You know
what I saying?”
I vaguely remembered the skit, and the best I could
muster was a wan smile.
“Remember the burping cigar store Indian?”
“Halo kemosabe! Belllllchhhh!” I nearly shouted the
catch phrase of this particular skit. It was pure reflex. I couldn’t
believe I had retained the information and recalled it so easily. I
warmed to him and we spent the next fifteen minutes discussing in
detail all of the skits on the show whether he acted in them or not.
I tried to talk to him about the horror movies they showed but he
waved the line of inquiry away.
“I never understood them. How can you understand a
Dracula? And what the hell is Frankenstein? Jesus.”
“Everyone always calls the monster ‘Frankenstein.’ It was
actually Dr. Frankenstein, so other than it being the last name of
his creator it had nothing to do with the actual monster,” I said
seriously.
Benny returned a blank stare and then realized he was out
of his depth so he squirmed uneasily in his chair. So I asked him
about his relationship with Beef O’Bundy.
“He’s no good that one. I give him ten years and now he
acts like he don’t know me. You know how many calls he hasn’t
returned. It all went to his head. He’s just a big Pollack anyway.
Nothing Irish about that sonofabitch.”
Benny had some sales experience peppered throughout
his long career but I never questioned him about any of it.
I learned he fronted a Dixieland Jazz band called B. Coco and
the Crawdaddies, had a short stint as a master of ceremonies in a
downtown hotel, wrote a handful of unproduced and probably unread movie scripts, scouted talent for a record company, played accordion in a Polka band called the Bratwurst Boys, had a gig as a
trombonist in a traveling circus, and even had tours of duty in a
flour processing plant and a ketchup factory.
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My first memory of the show is of my Dad coming home
from the factory around 10:30 PM. The crunching of truck tires
on the gravel drive announced the arrival of a bag of McDonald’s
hamburgers that my brothers and I would devour. I was six or
seven, and I tried to stay up to watch the movies I didn’t really understand. Every Friday night I passed out on the floor with my
ear pressed into the carpet with my belly full of meat and my head
filled with horrible dreams of blood-sucking monsters dressed in
suits. I filled notebook after notebook with different renditions
of Dracula, wolf men and women, and the Frankenstein monster, usually the Boris Karloff version. I collected plastic models of
every horror figure I could find and crudely painted them. We created horror scenes in our backyard with masks and bed sheets for
costumes, capturing them with my Dad’s brownie camera. I once
went to school with bolts drawn on my neck, a remnant of an elaborate photo shoot.
For the next eight years I watched Beef O’Bundy introduce the night’s movie, sometimes in a gorilla suit or dressed as an
effeminate vampire sophisticate, and act in one insipid skit after
another. After the punch line was delivered the actors predictably
mugged for the camera and a twisted laugh track sounded. In one
sequence they had a pizza eating contest. The standing champion
was Mealmouth Malorgha, a 400 pound behemoth who could fold
a whole pizza into his limber mouth. The only challenger I ever
saw him lose to was an overweight rottweiler. In another skit the
dwarf, who sported a wooly beard, dressed up like the New Year’s
baby, walked around town asking for lollipops and wished everyone a happy New Year even though it was June. So is it any wonder
that for years I had autographs of both Beef O’Bundy and Gimpy
Von Shrieker tacked to my bulletin board? I had scored the autographs at a grand opening of a frozen custard stand where a thick
knot or parents and kids my age had come out to see them. After
they left we played Space Invaders and pinball and compared our
autographs.
For obvious reasons I pulled Benny’s resume to schedule
him for an interview. Whenever I was given the task of interviewing I always managed to fog the process with my personal failings.
Usually I pulled resumes of women who appeared beautiful on
paper, unqualified though they may be, in hopes of passing a pleasant half-hour with someone not misshapen. Judging beauty from
a resume was an inexact science at best, and my average hovered
around 10 percent. Once I called a woman named Skye Love for
an interview. Everything from her name to her voice on the phone
to her chronological list of experiences that included modeling,
clothing apparel manager, and her bachelor’s in communication
pointed toward rare beauty. My instincts were correct, but unfortunately a car accident had mangled the left side of her head which
was a confusion of scar tissue and shattered bone. I thought she
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would not play a joke on you.”
“Never fool a fooler, but I have been known to fool a fool.
Monday it is Chief. Halo kemosabe, bellcchhhhh!”
He bounded out of the door.
I didn’t feel any remorse until later that night when I was
eating a bowl of soup, watching a west coast college football game.
It occurred to me that the hiring decision could reflect poorly on
me. How would I explain that of all the people in the world I ended
up with Benny Coco? I couldn’t rescind the offer, but I felt sick at
the prospect of Benny showing up to work on Monday. I could
only hope that over the weekend he would splurge on a better
matching toupee or wear unstained clothing.
It wasn’t to be. On Monday we wore the same interview clothes and, if anything, his toupee looked as if it had caught
mange and seemed dangerously close to disintegrating. I had rehearsed several excuses for when the boss caught sight of him, such
as he was the uncle of an important customer or that I had stolen
him from one of our competitors where he was a top salesman. All
were too easily verified. I did come up with “Boss, you have to look
beyond appearances. I just want a guy that can sell,” that I would
use as a spell to confuse him long enough for Benny to prove he
could do the job. That, and the fact that no one, not long-legged
women or men with luxurious hair, had been able to hold the job
for more than six months, gave me leverage.
The boss saw him later in the morning in the coffee room
while we were taking a break from Benny’s initial training.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. I’m excited about the
prospect of working here. I think I’ll be able to hit the ground running and make you happy you hired me,” Benny said in liquid tone.
I thought I saw the boss’ moustache twitch and his eyes
may have lingered a little too long on Benny’s pate. He held out his
hand and Benny gave him a firm handshake.
“It’s good to have you on board,” the boss mumbled from
the back of his throat before he poured his coffee and retreated
back to his office.
The boss stared into his coffee cup as he passed me. I
didn’t take that as a good sign. I wondered how long it would be
before he called me into the office to ream me. I felt reasonably
protected by my carefully crafted spell, but he could be a moody
and unreasonable man. If he made the meeting too painful I would
have to remind him of some of his less than perfect hires, like the
receptionist who was addicted to blowing the delivery drivers and
posing for nude photos or the janitor who lived in the supply room
for a year before being caught. I decided against ever bringing up
Danny Ribovec, a murderer who addicted half of the employees to
pills. No one ever brought up Danny.
The call never came and Benny concentrated on the training. He learned the job quickly and made friends with the front
office staff, making sure to fawn over the secretaries and the receptionist. I saw him once or twice talking baseball with the boss,
standing in the doorway of the boss’ office, coffee in hand, and
chatting leisurely about the intricacies of the game. The boss didn’t
know a goddamn thing about baseball and after listening for a few
moments I realized neither did Benny. The boss had a delinquent
son who showed some ability in little league, so he thought the little bastard was going straight to the majors. For months he cajoled
the staff about the kid’s prospects and by now everyone was weary
from his imbecility. Benny listened and ingratiated himself with
comments like:
“Kid’s a lefty? I think the show has scouts in elementary
schools looking for lefties. I wouldn’t doubt it. Don’t think it don’t
happen. Struck out eight batters in a row? Ohhh, baby. Maybe
they’ll be making a movie someday “A League of HIS Own.”
We were all relieved to have someone on staff willing to
take the flak, so Benny became something like a family’s favorite crippled and blind pet. He even began selling. His first quarter sales were 36% higher than the previous salesman and the third
highest aggregate for that territory in six years. With Benny and
Skye Love on my hiring resume I was beginning to be thought of as
a hiring guru.
Chas Butterman, a long time successful salesman, caught
me in the parking lot one day as I was coming back from lunch.
“What the hell did you see?”
Chas was wearing a three-piece gray suit. The vest had
grown tighter over the years and now looked like Saran wrap
stretched over his meaty chest and belly.
“What?” I asked. I was nearly incoherent. I had met my
girlfriend at our apartment for lunch and took her from behind.
The image of her ass was still prominent in my thoughts.
No.49
Join us, June 25 at the Hanna Theater for our 49th Annual
Awards Event and meet the 2009 Cleveland Arts Prize winners.
6:00 PM THE ANNUAL AWARDS EVENT BEGINS. Winners will be feted as you hear their history and
see their work. A short performance will follow the presentation of the medals.
7:15 PM PARTY WITH THE WINNERS. Following the ceremony, a reception will take place in the Hanna Theater's
historic lobby. The cash bar opens and the food appears. Become part of the Cleveland Arts Scene.
artsPRIZE
C L E V E L A N D
You can purchase tickets at www.clevelandartsprize.org, or send a check to: Cleveland Arts Prize, PO Box 21126, Cleveland, Ohio 44121.
Patron Ticket—$250 ($220 tax deductible) General Ticket­— $50 ($20 tax deductible)
Tickets will be held at the door. Open seating.
THE GALLERY AT
Aftermath
Works by
Chris Zahner
Gallery hours: Monday-Friday, 10AM-5PM
Saturday by appointment
www.galleryatgrays.com
10717 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland OH 44102
p: 216 458 7695 f: 216 458 7694
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At the end of the interview I hired him. I had only interviewed a handful of candidates from the massive slush pile growing
on my desk, but who could have been better than Benny? I handed
him the health insurance application, 401K information, and W-4
in manila folder and told him to return on the next Monday with
them completed and to be ready for work. He said ‘thank you’ at
least eight or nine time using different inflections and a couple
of different accents. He held the folder with both hands. A slight
tremor in his left hand betrayed an oncoming disease. He paused.
I waited for him to make a movement toward the door or at least
acknowledge my instructions. After the moment became awkward
he raised his eyes which were sparkling with tears.
“This is no fooling right? I’m taking it that I am NOT on
Candid Camera, OK? B. Coco doesn’t want to celebrate over the
weekend only to find out it was a BIG hoax played at his expense.”
“No, Mr. Coco. I have made you a serious offer of hire. I
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Around this time I noticed that the other employees always referred to Benny as “your guy” or “that guy you hired” when
telling a story about him. With credit, comes blame. My status as
guru was on shaky ground unless Benny adopted a more reasonable diet in line with the capabilities of his colon. I doubted anyone
had directly confronted him, so I decided to talk to him. Keeping
my status was worth the effort.
I called Benny into my office, shut the door and turned on
him quickly.
“Benny, you cannot fart wherever you please in the office.
I’ve got complaints from everywhere. People say they feel like they
work in a landfill when you’re around. We can’t have people calling
off sick because of your farts. Seriously. Did you know this was a
problem?”
“I’ve been eating my fill. It’s been a while since I’ve had
three squares. I’ve never shit so much in my life. Complaints? If
you’re going to do something do it well. Complaints about my
gas?”
I started hearing a few complaints from the secretaries
about his indiscriminate farting. Brenda Weeker, a faded and overweight beauty, pulled me aside.
“The last time it was nearly in my face. He didn’t even say
excuse me. He’s a nice old guy, but my husband doesn’t even fart
on me like that.”
I had witnessed it a couple of times. Once in the break
room he blew what sounded like a bugle from his ass and the smell
was terrifying.
Another time we were in a sales meeting. The sales manager droned on about expectations and the ramifications of not
surpassing last year’s sales. Suddenly Benny’s wooden chair seat
rattled and the two guys seated on either side of him turned their
heads in disgust. The sales manager paused and narrowed his eyes
at Benny.
“Ah, too much bean in the burrito my good man. I apologize to the delicate natures of my compatriots.”
“This is a meeting, Benny, Jesus. Go to the goddamn toilet,” said the guy seated to his left.
“Hey, didn’t you know I played trombone. I’m a natural.
Nature versus nurture. Nature always wins”
After a time a complaint made it to the boss’ desk. The
boss slapped his right palm flat on his desk.
“Goddamnit. I’ve got a guy who does nothing but make
money for the company and you mental midgets want him fired
because he breaks wind. Are you out of your goddamn minds?
What do you want me to do about it? I’ll build a hermetically
sealed room around him so nobody gets offended. Christ,” said the
boss in the retelling of the scene that made its way around the company in the next few days.
“Seriously, if a couple people turn on you who have the
boss’ ear you’re done for.”
“I thought I was doing well.”
“You are doing well. We are very pleased with your
performance.”
“But there’s talk of firing me? You’re going the fire me because I’m doing well,” Benny said as a thousand hurts, slights and
disappointments welled up to the surface.
“No, you’re misunderstanding me. There’s no talk yet of
firing you. There is talk about your farts, which, if you consider it a
moment, is not a scenario you should wish to continue. You want
to be known for your performance, not your gas.”
“This is crazy. I’ve been treated in a lot of ways but this is
a cake topper.”
“You’re not being treated in any way. You are farting and
offending people. You need to stop that, find a bathroom or a deserted corner or go outside where there is wind and do your business there. If you take care of this. If you are mindful of other
people. If you pay attention to what you’re eating. It goes away and
everybody goes back to being happy.”
“Are we done, sir? Because there are sales to be made out
there. And I’m in here.”
“I don’t know. Did you understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes,” he said as he lowered his head.
I was pretty sure he was crying.
“Go, go make your sales.”
I waved him off and averted my head to give him time to compose himself. He left noiselessly. I couldn’t help thinking I had made
matters worse. For the first time since my early trepidation when I hired
him, I felt Benny’s tenure with the company would end badly.
Appletree
Books
12419 Cedar Rd.
Cleveland, Ohio
216.791.2665
Fine Arts and Antiques
Bring in this ad for a complimentary glass of wine.
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Our next auctions will be
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The fun way to recycle
05
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www.graysauctioneers.com
10717 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland OH 44102
| p: 216 458 7695
f: 216 458 7694
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“In Coco. What did you see that nobody else could? Are
you Nostradamus or a fucking gypsy fucking fortuneteller?”
“He’s doing well.”
“Well? That little fucker is kicking ass all over town. It’s
like he knows everybody. He’s had every job in the goddamn world
and he sells his ass off. Tell me, is he using Beef O’Bundy to get into
places?”
“No, I don’t think they talk anymore. I don’t think he’s
even using Gimpy von Shrieker.”
“Shit. The guy’s a fucking natural. You, sir, have the balls
of a lion.”
“What?
Chas was already heading toward the door, shaking his
head as he went.
Over the next quarter his sales held steady and he invested
in a couple of new dress shirts, short sleeved, and a new pair of
slacks he wore every other day. I could swear he was spray painting
his shoes to keep them a reasonable black.
17
Communities in
Conversation:
Judaism
Christianity
and Islam
Communities in Conversation is a
6-week, scholar-led, interfaith study
and discussion group exploring three
great religions and their modern
relationships.
Shaker Heights
Public Library
Cuyahoga County
Public Library
Chagrin Falls Branch
16500 Van Aken Boulevard
Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120
216-991-2030
100 East Orange Street
Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44022
440-247-3556
7:30 p.m. Mondays
7:30 p.m. Tuesdays
April 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18,
and Tuesday May 26
April 28, May 5, May 12,
May 19, May 26, and June 2
Sponsored by
The Chautauqua Institution
Cuyahoga County Public Library
Shaker Heights Public Library
Cuyahoga County
Public Library
Parma-South Branch
7335 Ridge Road
Parma, Ohio 44129
440-885-5362
Registration is limited.
Please call the library where you
will attend. Study guides are
available at each library location.
7:30 p.m. Thursdays
April 30, May 7, May 14,
May 21, May 28
WBg_09_Muse_Jan 1/8/09 8:44 PM Page 1
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Local history in an 1894 brick building, Rts 5 & 7,
Kinsman, OH, 6 miles south of Rt 322 on PA line
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330.876.3178
www.kinsman.us
[email protected]
Mon-Fri 10am-6pm Sat-Sun 10am-5pm
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The complaints stopped and for weeks Benny was less
of a presence around the office. I didn’t see him at the boss’ door
chatting about baseball. He poured his coffee and exited the break
room without engaging anyone. He seemed to be spending more
time in the field. His personality faded, his quirks were suppressed
as he became fully incorporated into the staff.
Then the third quarter sales figures came out. He had
made one sale throughout the quarter. It was the lowest figure ever
recorded in the territory. Even Dave Burns, a salesman who had a
heart transplant recorded more sales in the quarter in which he had
the operation than Benny’s posting. The sales manager and the
boss met with him behind a closed door. I checked the door periodically as the meeting lasted for hours. I could tell Benny had held
his job as the time went by. Firings were over in minutes. The door
would shut and moments later the victim would emerge with a
cardboard box and an escort.
The door swung open. I heard laughing.
“Halo kemosabe! Beellllllchhh,” the boss chortled.
Benny backed out of the office, making mock bows and
hammy facial exaggerations. When he turned to retreat to his cubicle, Benny seemed buoyed, a trace of a grin on his face, looking determined with a minor swagger to his walk.
Hours later I saw him in his cubicle, head in hands, staring
at the phone. I watched him for awhile but he didn’t move.
“Benny, are you sick?”
He didn’t answer.
I entered the space and placed a hand on his shoulder. I
felt nothing but thin polyester over bone.
“Benny, are you sick?”
His head jerked up and he swung the chair around wildly.
His lips glistened with drool. It took a few moments for his eyes to
focus on me.
“Whoa, sneaking up on a guy while he’s thinking.”
“You were sleeping,” I hissed under my breath.
“Thinking. Sleeping. What’s the diff? It’s all brainwork.”
“Are you out of your mind? Didn’t you just have a meeting with the boss today?”
“Are you my mother? I just can’t do nothing right in your
eyes, huh?”
“Goddamn,” I squeezed out through clenched teeth as I
left him. I decided I wouldn’t interfere any more. He was on his
own,
“I can take care of myself, kemosabe,” he said to my back
as if giving form to my thoughts.
For as ghostly as he was the preceding weeks, Benny dominated the office over the next month with jokes, impressions,
dancing demonstrations, and endless chatter about Beef O’Bundy.
He brought in sales bin roses for the receptionist, started wearing
a new pair of orthopedic shoes, and gave the two secretaries slightly
discolored chocolate truffles. The word was he showed up at one
of the boss’ kids baseball games, and he and the boss coached from
the stands. Some said the two went drinking afterwards but no one
could confirm it. A few of the staff went to see him play with the reformed Crawdaddies at a gazebo performance at a local town square.
They said he wasn’t too bad except that his teeth kept slipping as he
played the trombone. I stayed away because a chill had inhabited
our relationship even though I really wanted to see the band.
At our next sales meeting he fell asleep at the table. I had
noticed his eyelids descending inexorably downward earlier in
the meeting, so I watched him closely as sleep descended. First
his head tilted forward and his jaw slackened, parting his lips. He
kept unconsciousness at bay a few times by jerking his head but he
could never open his eyes. The battle had already been lost. The
sales manager read some motivational piece about honey bees.
The descriptions of hive organization did nothing for my morale.
I didn’t listen but I supposed we were workers and he was drone. I
heard someone mutter the sales manager wanted to be the queen.
I couldn’t argue. Benny slackened and nestled deep into his chair.
He began to snore. The first sounds were light wheezing, but then
it shifted deep within the sinus cavity and throat, sounding more
like a death rattle than anything else.
The sales manager stopped, ordered his notes and folded
his hands in front of him. He watched Benny sleep, as did all of us.
He looked troubled and fitful. I imagined he had not slept peacefully in many years as he looked braced for a coming blow. We
shifted in our chairs as we waited for the sales manager’s interest
to wane. We sat for several minutes. The quiet drove Benny to the
edge of REM. It would have taken a cannon shot to wake him.
“You may all leave, but please do not wake Mr. Coco,” the
sales manager said in a viscious whisper.
We gathered our papers, slid our chairs back quietly and
crept from the room to the soundtrack of Benny’s snores. The sales
manager didn’t move as he continued watching Benny from across
the table. We left the tableau and its horrible conclusion without
a witness. The last person out of the room clicked the door shut.
We retreated to our spaces thankful to Benny for short-circuiting
the lecture. I imagined my legs laden with pollen as I walked to get
more coffee.
Benny’s disappearance wasn’t noticed for a week. Salesmen often scheduled days away from the office to focus on their
customers. The boss encouraged the practice as long as sales rolled
in and the salesman phoned in to the office daily. His cubicle lay
undisturbed each time I passed. A few personal artifacts were
bunched in a tiny circle in the right corner of his desk: a pair of
reading glasses, a rubber yellow wrist bracelet that had STRONG
TEETH embossed in it, a robin’s feather, and a dog eared photo
05
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Programs at Shaker Heights Public Library &
Cuyahoga County Public Library
19
“An edgy intensity driven by a
relentless intelligence that
refuses to look away or ignore
the real world. The range
and depth of his emotional
insight is unnerving. The
powerful deft
imagery is drawn
from a truly
unique creative
voice. Highly
recommended!”
Review fRom Gilda Kelsey
Univ. of delawaRe
The Cold Wick!
Poems by Stephen Koelsch
BooKs availaBle diRect thRoUGh tRaffoRd PUBlishinG;
on line at amazon, BoRdeRs, B&n; oR oRdeR thRoUGh
any local BooKstoRe. isBn 1-4120-7147-X

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

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Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry
www.macsbacks.com
Coventry Street Fair
Thursday June 18th from 6-9 p.m.
Booksigning with Harvey Pekar & Joyce Brabner
Special Guest Russell Howze, author of Stencil Nation:
Graffit, Community, and Art
New Arrivals
Harvey Pekar/2009 Books
The Beats: A Graphic History
Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic Adaptation
American Splendor: Another Dollar
Bree
was chicken trax amid sparrows tread:
poems and one long movement
Catherynne Valente
Palimpsest
Susan Petrone
A Body at Rest
Thrity Umrigar
The Weight of Heaven
S. Andrew Swann
Prophet
Congratulations to the LIT on it's 35th Anniversary!
“I’ll take the check to him.”
I held out my hand waiting for the delivery of the
envelope.
“Right. Bring it back if you can’t find him. Maybe he just
took off,” he said as he handed me the envelope.
“Where would he go?”
“You have a point.”
I collected his personal belongings in a blue plastic grocery bag and looked up his address online. I expected him to live
in one of the seedier parts on town, but the address was in a suburb
along the lake that hadn’t yet been taken over by rot. I imagined
the residence was a possession from an earlier and more successful
period in his life.
After work that afternoon I drove to his house. The suburb had been mostly developed between 1955 and 1964. The lawns
were a little wider than suburbs closer to the city and every house
for 20 blocks was a ranch with an attached garage, either on the
right or left hand side. Giant oaks and maples towered over the low
rise houses casting broad swaths of cool shade. Residents landscaped their yards with evergreens and hostas and the town felt like
a well-developed campsite amidst an old forest.
I found the address and pulled into the driveway of a
brick ranch. The tyranny of leaves rattled and hummed as a breeze
from the lake sliced through. The bushes of the house had been
sculpted into green globes, and the lawn looked like it had been cut
with a straight razor and tweezers. Even the mortar of the brick
looked like it had been scrubbed with a toothbrush. The driveway
gleamed in the filtered sunlight as if it had been poured just days
before. Benny’s old Chrysler sat in the street, leaking.
I rang the bell which sounded suspiciously close to Heart
and Soul. In my left hand I held Benny’s check and his bag of personal items. An elderly lady answered the door by swinging the
door open wide and standing regally behind the latched screen.
Her gray hair was molded elegantly and she wore a high-collared
silky dress with a bow on the front. She greeted me by arching her
right eyebrow and waiting for me to announce my intentions. The
smell of potpourri and chamomile tea escaped from the opening.
“Ma’am, I’m looking for Benny Coco. I’m from his work
and I would like to speak to him.”
I felt rumpled and soiled and somehow unworthy to be on
her step.
“Benny is in the garage,”
I walked to the garage under the scrutiny of her imperious eye before the door clicked shut. The garage door was closed
and after a moment’s hesitation I knocked and then knocked again.
The garage door opener purred awake as the door rose with a rattle and a sway, slowly revealing Benny as he waited for it to lift. His
countenance stiffened once he recognized me.
“The Grim Reaper returneth. I, sir, awaitheth your judgement,” Benny said in a British accent.
Behind him a small television set flickered with the sound
off. The set rested on a stack of snow tires five high in front of
an overstuffed armchair that bled chunks of polyester from its
arms. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light I picked up more detail.
Along the back wall a sculpted old fashioned refrigerator sat next
to a work bench that held a greasy chain saw, a set of screwdrivers,
wrenches, hammers and a hot plate slowly warming a pan of what
smelled like broccoli soup. A threadbare Winnie the Pooh carpet
had been thrown down on the concrete in front of a wooden single bed that, judging by the intricate headboard, had once belonged
to a small girl. Over the bed, along the wall loomed a row of rakes
and shovels. A collection of suit coats and stained shirts had been
hung on nails on the wall next to the shovels and rakes. A kerosene
heater at the foot of the bed emitted an oily vapor. On the other
side of the garage gleamed a preserved Buick built a decade before.
It looked like it could have had the dealer tags still hanging in the
window.
“I take it that’s not your car,” I said.
Benny turned his head and inspected the car as if for the
first time.
“No, that car would belong to the lady of the house.”
“Not your wife?”
“My wife?”
“Your wife is the lady of the house?”
“No wife. No. This gentle Mistress of the Manor has been
kind enough to let me stay in her garage as I iron out a few of life’s
wrinkles.”
05
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without a frame of a woman standing in front of a wooden cigar
store Indian.
I went to the sales manager to inquire about Benny’s fate.
“Is he fired?”
I could see that he was revising his thoughts on bees as he
had scratched several editing marks across his notes. He deliberately set his editing pen down on the desk. He considered me for a
moment before reaching over and holding up an envelope with the
company logo printed in the upper left corner.
“Last check. Goes in the mail today.”
“What?”
“Your guy hasn’t checked in for a week. A-W-O-L.”
“You didn’t fire him?”
“For what? I told him to stop farting and sleeping. He
got extremely squirrelly with me after that. Didn’t talk to me for a
few days then stopped showing up. I couldn’t get an answer on his
phone so out goes the check,” he said as he concluded with a shrug
that I assumed meant the process was completely evident.
21
05
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“I need a couple of nails to get
this stuff off the floor.”
“I brought your last check and the
stuff out of your
office,” I said in a mumble.
“Why beat around the bush?
Straight as a train in a china shop, I
suppose."
“What?” I couldn’t help asking.
“As if my thoughts on this subject
matter in the least.”
I offered him the envelope and
the blue bag.
“You can throw them on the floor.
I’ve got my hands full of soup.”
I set them down in front of the
TV.
“I’ve got a gig with the Crawdaddies over at the Medina Summer Fest tonight. We’re the fourth to
go on, not a bad slot, five to six pm. Soup keeps me strong.”
The back of my neck started itching from being in contact with the arm chair. Suddenly, my torso felt covered in mites
and I wanted to rip off my shirt and roll around in a patch of dirt.
I perched on the edge of the chair, ready to bolt if the infestation
worsened.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” I offered as the beginning
of a conclusion.
“Life, hey,” Benny said with a shrug before he raised a
spoonful of soup to his mouth. “Sometimes the bear.”
“Right.”
“I want to show you something before you leave. I was
going to bring it in…”
He set down his half-eaten cup of soup on top of the TV
and rummaged in a large paper bag that had gone limp from being
folded so many times. He produced a video tape that had had several labels adhered and imperfectly removed over its life. He placed
the tape in a battered VCR lying on the floor underneath the TV
and it clunked awake. The stress of the operation made the machine sound like it had been built with hydraulics. Benny found
the video channel with a remote and the screen went blue then an
image stuttered.
The familiar Beef O’Bundy intro began. The music
sounded like a perverse brass quintet playing underwater. The faux bass of an announcer’s voice said “You are about to
waste two hours of your life watching a
movie that should have never been made
and performing actors who should be embarrassed to be paid. YOU HAVE BEEN
WARNED. Tonight we play Frankenstein
and the Monster from Hell, a curious little
oddity that will likely haunt your dreams
for the rest of your life. Nowhere in the history of celluloid has a monster as scary and
dreadful been captured for your viewing
pleasure (‘Yeeeeaaaa righhhhhttttt!’ said
a sarcastic voice in the background. Now,
here are your hosts Beef O’Bundy and his
assistant Gimpy Vin Shrieker.” (A warbling
shriek punctuated their entrance.)
Benny hovered over my shoulder.
“This is the show where we introduced
the Cigar Store Indian,” he said.
“You have the whole show?”
“Yea, commercials and the movie and
everything.”
I settled back in the armchair and forgot about the itching. Benny handed me a cup of broccoli soup in a Styrofoam cup
with a plastic spoon, followed closely by a can of beer. I thanked
him, but what I really wanted was to hear the crunch of truck tires
on our gravel drive announcing the arrival of my dad with a bag of
McDonald’s. I knew I was going to waste the next two hours of my
life watching this show that should have never been made. I also
knew that I was going to enjoy it more than anything I’d seen on
TV in a long, long time. M
Poetry
from The Kent State University Press
NeW IN The WICk ChAPBook SeRIeS
WINNeR oF The STAN ANd Tom
WICk PoeTRy PRIze
Far From
Algiers
Djelloul Marbrook
“How honored I am—
how lucky—to have
been able to choose this
superb first book by
Djelloul Marbrook that
honors a lifetime of
hidden achievement.”
—Toi Derricotte, Judge
Song of the Rest of Us
Mindi Kirchner
WICk PoeTRy ANThology
“Mindi Kirchner’s poems are rich with vivid detail and full of
passion and spirit. Song of the Rest of Us recognizes and celebrates ‘the rest of us,’ people whose lives sometimes get overlooked, ignored, by elements of our larger culture.”
—Jim Daniels, Judge 2007 Open Chapbook Competition
The Next of Us Is
About to Be Born
The Wick Poetry Series
Anthology: In Celebration of the Wick Poetry
Center’s Twenty-fifth
Anniversary
Edited by
Maggie Anderson
Salt
Liz Tilton
“A clear, seemingly effortless voice and a special curiosity animate
the world Liz Tilton gives us in Salt. And it is a world, ranging
from domestic life to manatees and the governor of Texas. Discoveries abound. Salt is smart, subtle, and essential.”
—Don Bogen
Wick Poetry Series
edited by Maggie Anderson
Entry guidelines for Wick Poetry Center competitions are available at www.kent.edu/wick. Visit www.kentstateuniversitypress.
com for a complete list of winners.
“The books in the Wick
Poetry Series present
exciting writing by new and emerging poets. Diverse, surprising, and politically and emotionally
charged, this series has published some of the
best new poetry being written, chosen by many
of our most beloved and respected poets. The
Next of Us Is About to Be Born is a valuable addition to the landscape of contemporary poetry.”
—Harvey Hix
The Kent State University Press
307 Lowry Hall • Kent, Ohio 44242-0001
■
www.kentstateuniversitypress.com
05
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“It’s a pretty big house. She doesn’t have a spare
bedroom?”
“Decorum, my good man, what would the neighbors
think or your grown children who live five and seven states away?
She is a kind woman, without an ounce of passion. If I were Lancelot I would be unable to scale her daunting fortress. She even keeps
the door between the house and garage locked so that I do not succumb to my animal urges. One must knock in order even to use
the bathroom. Would you like a cup of soup?” he said in a voice
that was meant to ape Johnny Carson but I couldn’t be sure.
I declined and he offered me a seat. I sat in the armchair
which smelled like mice. Benny walked over to the hot plate and
poured the soup into a coffee mug. He
wiped a spoon on his pants leg and as he
came back he tripped over a trombone that
was lying on the concrete without a case.
Near it sat an accordion and a snare drum
with a neck strap.
23
A global marketplace for your writing
Winning attention for your
value some huge publishing or
Most important for you, writers
creative writing has never been
retail conglomerate might never
will: receive 60 percent of
easy.
recognize.
the sales price of each of
their volumes sold; retain all
In fact, in the last decade or two,
That’s also why I’d like to invite
copyrights; and have their work
most emerging writers have
all serious – including seriously
displayed on attractive store
probably had an increasingly
funny – writers to submit their
web pages featuring excerpts,
hard time persuading literary
work to The Geniocity Shop.
author bios and contact links.
magazines and book publishers
We’re starting a collection
In return, we ask only that you
even to read their work as
of excellent literature – from
sign a short-term contract of
competition keeps intensifying,
poetry, plays and essays to short
between six months and a year,
agents seem to want only
stories, novels and nonfiction –
giving Geniocity.com exclusive
potential blockbusters and
to go with the selection of visual
rights to sell your work or works
publishing houses generally
art, film, music and functional
for that period of time.
accept nothing but agented
designs we’re already building.
manuscripts. 05
09
M
U
S
M
E
24
Where we go in search of lost books... established and emerging writers
offer forgotten published works that deserve to be rediscovered
Some of my most memorable reading experiences came from
books that I never heard of. I always tell people, for example,
that I can’t believe that Frank’s World: The Odyssey of a Fleshy
Lump by George Mangels is out of print and mostly forgotten.
At minimum, I thought the work would become a cult classic,
especially because of its inspiration the film Blue Velvet.
Whenever I meet a fellow bibliophile the subject of books
HAROLD BLOOM
Yale University
Author of The Western Canon and
Shakespeare: The Invention of The
Human
The book I recommend is LITTLE BIG
by John Crowley. I submit the following
comment: John Crowley’s Little Big is a
miracle of a fantasy novel. It has sustained about a dozen readings by me and
always refreshes me anew. I don’t want
to ruin any reader’s experience of it by
describing its surprises in advance. I just
urge that it be read.
So maybe it’s time to take that
Why consider The Geniocity
manuscript out of the drawer
The whole process of reaching
Shop? We’re dedicated to
and get in it front of the reading,
an appreciative, buying
searching out the best and
buying public at Geniocity.com.
public can be difficult and
most creative English-language
Please check out our site at
discouraging. That’s why, when
authors, no matter how new and
www.geniocity.com, including
I started Geniocity.com in
unknown, and we plan to find
The Geniocity Shop and the
June 2008, I wanted to create,
them in Northeast Ohio, the rest
Submit Your Work page, and
not just a great news-and-
of the U.S. and the world. The
feel free to call 216.544.8848 if
opinion webzine about what’s
works we select will be brought
you have questions. I hope you’ll
happening on the cutting
out in attractive, limited-
give Geniocity.com a try. edge of a whole spectrum of
series, softcover additions that
fields, but also an online store
readers will find enjoyable and
CAROLYN JACK
featuring the most interesting
affordable to collect – and
and promising creative works
Geniocity.com will market them
by artists and inventors of all
to make sure as many readers
kinds – the kinds of work whose
discover them as possible.
JONATHON EVISON
Author of All About Lulu and West
of Here
Though widely considered a masterpiece
throughout Europe, Bohumil Hrabal’s I
SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND is a
hilarious, sensual, and incisive portrait
of Nazi-occupied Prague through the
eyes of a Quixotic young waiter is, in my
humble estimation, vastly underexposed
stateside. Anyone who has ever worked in
the food service or hospitality industry,
must read this book, which was released
in 1971 by Petlice, an underground anticommunist press in Prague, and not published in America until 1990. Hrabal was
a bigger-than-life (though highly accessible) figure in Czechoslovakia, where he
died at the age of 83, falling from a fifthstory hospital window while trying to
feed pigeons.
inevitably arises, and it is the works that I don’t know that I pay
most attention to. I want to know what great books are out
there that I may miss.
I guess I also sympathize with the writers of under recognized
gems: all that hard work and often more talent than others
that, perhaps because a lucky break here or there, received
recognition and a multitude of readers. – ROB JACKSON
LEE K. ABBOTT
Ohio State University
Author of All Things, All at Once:
New & Selected Stories
WINTER’S BONE by Daniel Woodrell:
Ozarks noir served up in a prose lyrical as
it is loopy. Not since the hey-day of Barry
Hannah and Dorothy Allison have you
read fiction that spins the head even as it
roots at the heart. Danny may be the
wickedly funniest novelist in captivity.
LYDIA MILLET
Author of How The Dead Dream and
Georger Bush, Dark Prince of Love
I’d recommend WAR WITH THE
NEWTS, by Karel Capek: This dystopic
sci-fi fable, first published in 1936 but unbelievably resistant to aging, was written
by the Czech genius best known for coining the term robot (which he actually
credited to his brother). Hilarious, poignant, and as gripping as the purest pulp.
LAVONNE MUELLER
Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow
Author of Little Victories, The Mothers, and Hotel Splendid
I recommend the play OPEN ADMISSIONS* by Shirley Lauro. It is what I consider a perfect one-act. The play not only
has an original haunting theme about a
teacher–pupil relationship but also follows dynamic theatrical conflict. I use the
play in my teaching and as a reminder to
myself to follow an essential dramatic
structure. (Note: The play was enlarged
into a full-length play but lost its power.
I recommend only the one-act.)
JAKE SNODGRASS
Creator of underground zines Stuart Dybek, in THE COAST OF CHICAGO does all the things that any great
writer does, but the one thing that separates him from many others is that his
stories always manage to move me. Their
impact is so great that I can only read
them in short bursts – I read one, maybe
two stories, and then I read something else,
before coming back for more. They touch
me as if they were events in my own life. Memories and memory itself play a big
role in his stories. Often, he writes of
when he was younger, and the stories he
tells are both entertaining and thoughtprovoking, but in the end the focus is not
so much on the memories as it is on his
memory of them and what that means to
him in the present. In his story Chopin In
Winter we read about a boy who interacts
with a young musician who is dealing
with an unplanned pregnancy and an old
man who is nearing death. The story
focuses on their stories, and in the end we
are impacted by those stories, but even
more so we are affected by what these
memories mean to the boy who is now a
grown man. Like him, the reader feels a
sort of bitter sweetness for the past, both
the character’s and his own. M
*out of print but available used
05
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Geniocity.com
Book Archaeology
25
A global marketplace for your writing
Winning attention for your
value some huge publishing or
Most important for you, writers
creative writing has never been
retail conglomerate might never
will: receive 60 percent of
easy.
recognize.
the sales price of each of
their volumes sold; retain all
In fact, in the last decade or two,
That’s also why I’d like to invite
copyrights; and have their work
most emerging writers have
all serious – including seriously
displayed on attractive store
probably had an increasingly
funny – writers to submit their
web pages featuring excerpts,
hard time persuading literary
work to The Geniocity Shop.
author bios and contact links.
magazines and book publishers
We’re starting a collection
In return, we ask only that you
even to read their work as
of excellent literature – from
sign a short-term contract of
competition keeps intensifying,
poetry, plays and essays to short
between six months and a year,
agents seem to want only
stories, novels and nonfiction –
giving Geniocity.com exclusive
potential blockbusters and
to go with the selection of visual
rights to sell your work or works
publishing houses generally
art, film, music and functional
for that period of time.
accept nothing but agented
designs we’re already building.
manuscripts. 05
09
M
U
S
M
E
24
Where we go in search of lost books... established and emerging writers
offer forgotten published works that deserve to be rediscovered
Some of my most memorable reading experiences came from
books that I never heard of. I always tell people, for example,
that I can’t believe that Frank’s World: The Odyssey of a Fleshy
Lump by George Mangels is out of print and mostly forgotten.
At minimum, I thought the work would become a cult classic,
especially because of its inspiration the film Blue Velvet.
Whenever I meet a fellow bibliophile the subject of books
HAROLD BLOOM
Yale University
Author of The Western Canon and
Shakespeare: The Invention of The
Human
The book I recommend is LITTLE BIG
by John Crowley. I submit the following
comment: John Crowley’s Little Big is a
miracle of a fantasy novel. It has sustained about a dozen readings by me and
always refreshes me anew. I don’t want
to ruin any reader’s experience of it by
describing its surprises in advance. I just
urge that it be read.
So maybe it’s time to take that
Why consider The Geniocity
manuscript out of the drawer
The whole process of reaching
Shop? We’re dedicated to
and get in it front of the reading,
an appreciative, buying
searching out the best and
buying public at Geniocity.com.
public can be difficult and
most creative English-language
Please check out our site at
discouraging. That’s why, when
authors, no matter how new and
www.geniocity.com, including
I started Geniocity.com in
unknown, and we plan to find
The Geniocity Shop and the
June 2008, I wanted to create,
them in Northeast Ohio, the rest
Submit Your Work page, and
not just a great news-and-
of the U.S. and the world. The
feel free to call 216.544.8848 if
opinion webzine about what’s
works we select will be brought
you have questions. I hope you’ll
happening on the cutting
out in attractive, limited-
give Geniocity.com a try. edge of a whole spectrum of
series, softcover additions that
fields, but also an online store
readers will find enjoyable and
CAROLYN JACK
featuring the most interesting
affordable to collect – and
and promising creative works
Geniocity.com will market them
by artists and inventors of all
to make sure as many readers
kinds – the kinds of work whose
discover them as possible.
JONATHON EVISON
Author of All About Lulu and West
of Here
Though widely considered a masterpiece
throughout Europe, Bohumil Hrabal’s I
SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND is a
hilarious, sensual, and incisive portrait
of Nazi-occupied Prague through the
eyes of a Quixotic young waiter is, in my
humble estimation, vastly underexposed
stateside. Anyone who has ever worked in
the food service or hospitality industry,
must read this book, which was released
in 1971 by Petlice, an underground anticommunist press in Prague, and not published in America until 1990. Hrabal was
a bigger-than-life (though highly accessible) figure in Czechoslovakia, where he
died at the age of 83, falling from a fifthstory hospital window while trying to
feed pigeons.
inevitably arises, and it is the works that I don’t know that I pay
most attention to. I want to know what great books are out
there that I may miss.
I guess I also sympathize with the writers of under recognized
gems: all that hard work and often more talent than others
that, perhaps because a lucky break here or there, received
recognition and a multitude of readers. – ROB JACKSON
LEE K. ABBOTT
Ohio State University
Author of All Things, All at Once:
New & Selected Stories
WINTER’S BONE by Daniel Woodrell:
Ozarks noir served up in a prose lyrical as
it is loopy. Not since the hey-day of Barry
Hannah and Dorothy Allison have you
read fiction that spins the head even as it
roots at the heart. Danny may be the
wickedly funniest novelist in captivity.
LYDIA MILLET
Author of How The Dead Dream and
Georger Bush, Dark Prince of Love
I’d recommend WAR WITH THE
NEWTS, by Karel Capek: This dystopic
sci-fi fable, first published in 1936 but unbelievably resistant to aging, was written
by the Czech genius best known for coining the term robot (which he actually
credited to his brother). Hilarious, poignant, and as gripping as the purest pulp.
LAVONNE MUELLER
Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow
Author of Little Victories, The Mothers, and Hotel Splendid
I recommend the play OPEN ADMISSIONS* by Shirley Lauro. It is what I consider a perfect one-act. The play not only
has an original haunting theme about a
teacher–pupil relationship but also follows dynamic theatrical conflict. I use the
play in my teaching and as a reminder to
myself to follow an essential dramatic
structure. (Note: The play was enlarged
into a full-length play but lost its power.
I recommend only the one-act.)
JAKE SNODGRASS
Creator of underground zines Stuart Dybek, in THE COAST OF CHICAGO does all the things that any great
writer does, but the one thing that separates him from many others is that his
stories always manage to move me. Their
impact is so great that I can only read
them in short bursts – I read one, maybe
two stories, and then I read something else,
before coming back for more. They touch
me as if they were events in my own life. Memories and memory itself play a big
role in his stories. Often, he writes of
when he was younger, and the stories he
tells are both entertaining and thoughtprovoking, but in the end the focus is not
so much on the memories as it is on his
memory of them and what that means to
him in the present. In his story Chopin In
Winter we read about a boy who interacts
with a young musician who is dealing
with an unplanned pregnancy and an old
man who is nearing death. The story
focuses on their stories, and in the end we
are impacted by those stories, but even
more so we are affected by what these
memories mean to the boy who is now a
grown man. Like him, the reader feels a
sort of bitter sweetness for the past, both
the character’s and his own. M
*out of print but available used
05
09
M
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Geniocity.com
Book Archaeology
25
BY JAKE SNODGRASS
05
09
M
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26
W H E N I WA S L I V I NG W I T H M Y SIST E R , we got into
the routine of going to The Elks every Wednesday for their
fish fry, and after awhile we got to know one of the bartenders there, a guy named Vince. He was pale and thin, about
forty years old, with wispy blonde hair and a dead tooth.
He had an ugly, skeletal face, but his voice was deep and
appealing, like that of a county-western singer.
One time, after we had been going there for about six weeks, Vince came over
and asked us for our orders, but instead of the usual — fish, slaw and a Crown &
Coke — my sister said, “Vince, all I want is a kiss.” But Vince just flashed her his dead
tooth and walked away.
Later that night, after we’d had our fill of fish and were deep into the drinks,
Vince came back and hung out with us. After awhile, he picked up my pack of Winston’s and lit one for himself without even asking, but I didn’t really mind because
Vince always treated me good when it came to the drinks. And then even later, he
pulled my sister over onto his lap and started whispering in her ear. And then he
started kissing her with long silent kisses — and I just sat there, drunk, watching
them like it was something good on TV.
05
09
M
U
S
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M
Like It
Was
Something
Good
On TV
27
BY JAKE SNODGRASS
05
09
M
U
S
M
E
26
W H E N I WA S L I V I NG W I T H M Y SIST E R , we got into
the routine of going to The Elks every Wednesday for their
fish fry, and after awhile we got to know one of the bartenders there, a guy named Vince. He was pale and thin, about
forty years old, with wispy blonde hair and a dead tooth.
He had an ugly, skeletal face, but his voice was deep and
appealing, like that of a county-western singer.
One time, after we had been going there for about six weeks, Vince came over
and asked us for our orders, but instead of the usual — fish, slaw and a Crown &
Coke — my sister said, “Vince, all I want is a kiss.” But Vince just flashed her his dead
tooth and walked away.
Later that night, after we’d had our fill of fish and were deep into the drinks,
Vince came back and hung out with us. After awhile, he picked up my pack of Winston’s and lit one for himself without even asking, but I didn’t really mind because
Vince always treated me good when it came to the drinks. And then even later, he
pulled my sister over onto his lap and started whispering in her ear. And then he
started kissing her with long silent kisses — and I just sat there, drunk, watching
them like it was something good on TV.
05
09
M
U
S
E
M
Like It
Was
Something
Good
On TV
27
05
09
M
U
S
M
E
28
don’t really look like—“
“I look like Ma
Barker, that’s what I look
like!”
“Yeah, or maybe
Aileen’s sister, but not so
much like Aileen herself.”
“I need a face lift
bad! Do you know any
plastic surgeons, or anyone who has gone to a
good one? I need a really
good one!”
I lit up a cigarette
and rested it in an ashtray
on my knee. “Do you want one that can
make you look more or less like Aileen
Wuornos?”
“Less! Less! I can look more like
her on my own!”
We both laughed, and then my
sister grabbed the remote. “I can’t stand
this commercial,” she said and started to
furiously flip through the channels.
I went into the kitchen, and came
back with two beers and a whiskey. As I sat
down, I gave my sister a beer, and then
took a sip of my whiskey followed by a slug
of beer.
“What’s the name of that schizophrenic you used to take care of when we
were growing up?” I asked.
“Which one?” my sister scoffed.
“The one who lived down the
street from us. The one who communicated with Hamilton, Ohio by talking to
the ceiling.”
“Eva Mae.”
“Did she talk to Hamilton
everyday?”
“Oh yeah, all the time! And if
Hamilton wasn’t talking back, she’d put
her underwear on her head and get into
bed and completely cover herself up with a
sheet and lay there as straight as a board
and not answer to anyone. And the only
way we could coax her out was with her
sweet milk.”
“Sweet milk?”
“Yeah, that’s what she called her
vitamin drink. It was the only thing she’d
eat! She was super skinny…I mean, like 90
pounds! And her teeth were thin and as
black as a rat’s.”
I took a drink of my beer and
looked at the TV where my sister had
turned it back to The Price. I wanted to ask
more about Eva Mae, but my sister hushed
me and pointed at the TV where the Showcase Showdown was about to get
underway.
•••
Later that morning, Vince
stopped by with some beer. He and I
started drinking, while my sister went in
the kitchen and cooked us some sausage
and eggs.
After awhile, Vince slid a cigarette from my pack and lit it up. With the
cigarette bouncing between his lips, he
said, “What movie do you think has been
seen by the most people? The Wizard of
Oz? Star Wars? Titanic?”
I stared at the TV where an episode of The Golden Girls
was muted. “Who cares,”
I said.
“Come on, have a guess.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Come on.”
My sister stuck her head
out over the bar. “E.T.!”
she yelled. “E.T.!”
I rubbed my forehead
with my hand and continued to stare at the TV.
“Come on,” Vince said.
I dropped my hand into
my lap. “Alright,” I said,
“Logan’s Run.”
Vince wrinkled up his
forehead. “That futuristic
flick? Come on, man, that didn’t even
show in theaters.”
“I don’t give a fuck if it didn’t
show in the theaters,” I said as I reached
out and slid my pack of cigarettes towards
me. “It’s still my guess.”
Vince shook his head and blew
smoke out of his nose. “Yeah, well, I sure
as hell ain’t never seen it.”
“Whatever.”
“Not from beginning to end, I
haven’t.”
“Whatever.”
“I haven’t.”
“Whatever.”
Vince crushed his half-smoked
cigarette into the ashtray, and started to get
up, but my sister came around the bar, carrying two plates of food for me and Vince.
“Well, what was it?” she said. “E.T.?”
“Aw, who gives a fuck,” Vince said
as he took his plate and sat down. Then
after taking a bite of his sausage, he said,
“This is freezing cold.” He dropped his
fork onto his plate and shoved it away.
“How is that even possible? Huh?”
•••
My sister and Vince fought a lot,
but that was to be expected, because my
sister has fought with every man she has
ever known for more than twenty-four
hours. But one night they had a huge blow
out—one that was more fucked up than
usual—and I could tell that it was over for
good.
After the fight, Vince went out to
his car, and my sister went in the bedroom
and cried. I went outside to tell Vince to
stay the fuck away for good, but somehow I
ended up taking a ride with him and picking up some beer.
“I’m sick to death of these
bitches,” he said as he aimlessly steered us
through town. “I don’t need any of them.
Right now, I’ve got three chicks that I’m
fucking on a regular basis, and there could
easily be five others—maybe even ten others—that I could get back on the team at a
moment’s notice.”
It was cold out that night, and it
must have been late November or early December, because the main street in town
was decorated for Christmas. Hanging
from every streetlamp, I saw candy canes
made from tinsel and sparkly lights, and in
front of the library, I saw a manger scene
with illuminated plastic figurines resting
on a bed of hay.
Vince pulled into a parking space
alongside the street and we sat there,
drinking beers and watching the windshield slowly fog up.
“You know what I’d like to do?” Vince
said. “I’d like to get me a video camera and
hide it outside my house. And then I’d like
to call every one of those bitches and tell
them to be at my house at a certain time.
And I’d tell them all to wear something
nice and to bring me a home cooked meal.
Then, on the big day, I’d turn on that video
camera, and leave the country—go to
Mexico or Puerto Rico or something—
and then later that night, you could go get
the video tape and send it to me. That’s exactly what I’d like to do.”
Vince laughed and finished off
his beer. He then leaned in front of me,
opened the glove compartment and pulled
out a flask. He took a swig and passed it to
me, and I took a swig too, and then Vince
laughed again.
I almost laughed too, because I
started thinking about all those women
out in front of his house, all dressed up and
holding containers of home cooked food.
Then I pictured them all deciding to make
the best of it by sitting down on his porch
and having a little picnic. And then I
thought of Vince getting a video tape of it
in the mail. Vince in Mexico or wherever,
watching his bitches partake in a potluck
on his front porch—that was an image that
made me smile.
I handed the flask back to Vince
and he raised it in a mock toast and then
tipped it back for a swig. He then screwed
on the cap, stashed it against the crease in
the seat, and said, “Cover me,” as he suddenly swung open his door. He jumped
out of the car and began running toward
the manger in front of the library. As soon
as he reached it, he plunged his arms into
the cradle, yanked at something, struggled
for a moment and then yanked even
harder. He then charged back toward the
car, cradling a plastic baby as if it was real.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” he yelled,
even though he was the driver, and then he
gunned it as he simultaneously swung the
door shut.
•••
When I woke up the next morning, I was on the couch, and my sister was
in the Lay-Z-Boy. She was eating ice cream
and watching The Price. I think we watched the rest of the
show before I said anything. She didn’t
even provoke me—she hadn’t even said a
word—but something about the way she
was acting got under my skin.
“It’s the same thing all over
again,” I said. “The same things that attract you to a man are the exact same
things that you end up hating about him.
That’s how all women are—they want it
both ways. They want to hook up with a
real man, but then as soon as they have
him, they want to cut off his nuts. Well,
you can’t have it both ways. And if you
keep thinking that you can, then you’re
stupider than I thought.”
I remember my sister looked
angry, like she was going to start yelling at
me, but then she just said, “I know, I
know,” and then let out a couple quiet sobs.
“I’m not saying Vince was anything special,” I said. “In fact, that’s the
point: he was exactly the same as every
other man, but until you see that, this is
just going to happen to you again and
again, just like it always has.”
After that, we didn’t say any more
about it. We just watched TV, and then I
got us some beers and we drank for most of
the day. I remember we watched The Munsters and later we watched Leave It To Beaver, and I remember we both laughed
pretty hard at both shows. Then I think we
both went to sleep. M
05
09
M
U
S
E
M
One morning, my sister and I
were sitting on the couch, watching The
Price Is Right, when my sister pulled out a
state ID that she had gotten the day before.
“Don’t I look like Aileen Wuornos?” she said as she handed me the ID. “I
told the lady at the DMV that when I show
my ID at the bank, the teller is going to say,
‘Well, hello, Aileen, we thought they killed
you!’”
I looked over the photo and then
handed it back to her. “It isn’t a perfect resemblance, but—“
“I look so
hardened!”
“Yeah, but you
29
05
09
M
U
S
M
E
28
don’t really look like—“
“I look like Ma
Barker, that’s what I look
like!”
“Yeah, or maybe
Aileen’s sister, but not so
much like Aileen herself.”
“I need a face lift
bad! Do you know any
plastic surgeons, or anyone who has gone to a
good one? I need a really
good one!”
I lit up a cigarette
and rested it in an ashtray
on my knee. “Do you want one that can
make you look more or less like Aileen
Wuornos?”
“Less! Less! I can look more like
her on my own!”
We both laughed, and then my
sister grabbed the remote. “I can’t stand
this commercial,” she said and started to
furiously flip through the channels.
I went into the kitchen, and came
back with two beers and a whiskey. As I sat
down, I gave my sister a beer, and then
took a sip of my whiskey followed by a slug
of beer.
“What’s the name of that schizophrenic you used to take care of when we
were growing up?” I asked.
“Which one?” my sister scoffed.
“The one who lived down the
street from us. The one who communicated with Hamilton, Ohio by talking to
the ceiling.”
“Eva Mae.”
“Did she talk to Hamilton
everyday?”
“Oh yeah, all the time! And if
Hamilton wasn’t talking back, she’d put
her underwear on her head and get into
bed and completely cover herself up with a
sheet and lay there as straight as a board
and not answer to anyone. And the only
way we could coax her out was with her
sweet milk.”
“Sweet milk?”
“Yeah, that’s what she called her
vitamin drink. It was the only thing she’d
eat! She was super skinny…I mean, like 90
pounds! And her teeth were thin and as
black as a rat’s.”
I took a drink of my beer and
looked at the TV where my sister had
turned it back to The Price. I wanted to ask
more about Eva Mae, but my sister hushed
me and pointed at the TV where the Showcase Showdown was about to get
underway.
•••
Later that morning, Vince
stopped by with some beer. He and I
started drinking, while my sister went in
the kitchen and cooked us some sausage
and eggs.
After awhile, Vince slid a cigarette from my pack and lit it up. With the
cigarette bouncing between his lips, he
said, “What movie do you think has been
seen by the most people? The Wizard of
Oz? Star Wars? Titanic?”
I stared at the TV where an episode of The Golden Girls
was muted. “Who cares,”
I said.
“Come on, have a guess.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Come on.”
My sister stuck her head
out over the bar. “E.T.!”
she yelled. “E.T.!”
I rubbed my forehead
with my hand and continued to stare at the TV.
“Come on,” Vince said.
I dropped my hand into
my lap. “Alright,” I said,
“Logan’s Run.”
Vince wrinkled up his
forehead. “That futuristic
flick? Come on, man, that didn’t even
show in theaters.”
“I don’t give a fuck if it didn’t
show in the theaters,” I said as I reached
out and slid my pack of cigarettes towards
me. “It’s still my guess.”
Vince shook his head and blew
smoke out of his nose. “Yeah, well, I sure
as hell ain’t never seen it.”
“Whatever.”
“Not from beginning to end, I
haven’t.”
“Whatever.”
“I haven’t.”
“Whatever.”
Vince crushed his half-smoked
cigarette into the ashtray, and started to get
up, but my sister came around the bar, carrying two plates of food for me and Vince.
“Well, what was it?” she said. “E.T.?”
“Aw, who gives a fuck,” Vince said
as he took his plate and sat down. Then
after taking a bite of his sausage, he said,
“This is freezing cold.” He dropped his
fork onto his plate and shoved it away.
“How is that even possible? Huh?”
•••
My sister and Vince fought a lot,
but that was to be expected, because my
sister has fought with every man she has
ever known for more than twenty-four
hours. But one night they had a huge blow
out—one that was more fucked up than
usual—and I could tell that it was over for
good.
After the fight, Vince went out to
his car, and my sister went in the bedroom
and cried. I went outside to tell Vince to
stay the fuck away for good, but somehow I
ended up taking a ride with him and picking up some beer.
“I’m sick to death of these
bitches,” he said as he aimlessly steered us
through town. “I don’t need any of them.
Right now, I’ve got three chicks that I’m
fucking on a regular basis, and there could
easily be five others—maybe even ten others—that I could get back on the team at a
moment’s notice.”
It was cold out that night, and it
must have been late November or early December, because the main street in town
was decorated for Christmas. Hanging
from every streetlamp, I saw candy canes
made from tinsel and sparkly lights, and in
front of the library, I saw a manger scene
with illuminated plastic figurines resting
on a bed of hay.
Vince pulled into a parking space
alongside the street and we sat there,
drinking beers and watching the windshield slowly fog up.
“You know what I’d like to do?” Vince
said. “I’d like to get me a video camera and
hide it outside my house. And then I’d like
to call every one of those bitches and tell
them to be at my house at a certain time.
And I’d tell them all to wear something
nice and to bring me a home cooked meal.
Then, on the big day, I’d turn on that video
camera, and leave the country—go to
Mexico or Puerto Rico or something—
and then later that night, you could go get
the video tape and send it to me. That’s exactly what I’d like to do.”
Vince laughed and finished off
his beer. He then leaned in front of me,
opened the glove compartment and pulled
out a flask. He took a swig and passed it to
me, and I took a swig too, and then Vince
laughed again.
I almost laughed too, because I
started thinking about all those women
out in front of his house, all dressed up and
holding containers of home cooked food.
Then I pictured them all deciding to make
the best of it by sitting down on his porch
and having a little picnic. And then I
thought of Vince getting a video tape of it
in the mail. Vince in Mexico or wherever,
watching his bitches partake in a potluck
on his front porch—that was an image that
made me smile.
I handed the flask back to Vince
and he raised it in a mock toast and then
tipped it back for a swig. He then screwed
on the cap, stashed it against the crease in
the seat, and said, “Cover me,” as he suddenly swung open his door. He jumped
out of the car and began running toward
the manger in front of the library. As soon
as he reached it, he plunged his arms into
the cradle, yanked at something, struggled
for a moment and then yanked even
harder. He then charged back toward the
car, cradling a plastic baby as if it was real.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” he yelled,
even though he was the driver, and then he
gunned it as he simultaneously swung the
door shut.
•••
When I woke up the next morning, I was on the couch, and my sister was
in the Lay-Z-Boy. She was eating ice cream
and watching The Price. I think we watched the rest of the
show before I said anything. She didn’t
even provoke me—she hadn’t even said a
word—but something about the way she
was acting got under my skin.
“It’s the same thing all over
again,” I said. “The same things that attract you to a man are the exact same
things that you end up hating about him.
That’s how all women are—they want it
both ways. They want to hook up with a
real man, but then as soon as they have
him, they want to cut off his nuts. Well,
you can’t have it both ways. And if you
keep thinking that you can, then you’re
stupider than I thought.”
I remember my sister looked
angry, like she was going to start yelling at
me, but then she just said, “I know, I
know,” and then let out a couple quiet sobs.
“I’m not saying Vince was anything special,” I said. “In fact, that’s the
point: he was exactly the same as every
other man, but until you see that, this is
just going to happen to you again and
again, just like it always has.”
After that, we didn’t say any more
about it. We just watched TV, and then I
got us some beers and we drank for most of
the day. I remember we watched The Munsters and later we watched Leave It To Beaver, and I remember we both laughed
pretty hard at both shows. Then I think we
both went to sleep. M
05
09
M
U
S
E
M
One morning, my sister and I
were sitting on the couch, watching The
Price Is Right, when my sister pulled out a
state ID that she had gotten the day before.
“Don’t I look like Aileen Wuornos?” she said as she handed me the ID. “I
told the lady at the DMV that when I show
my ID at the bank, the teller is going to say,
‘Well, hello, Aileen, we thought they killed
you!’”
I looked over the photo and then
handed it back to her. “It isn’t a perfect resemblance, but—“
“I look so
hardened!”
“Yeah, but you
29
MONTICELLO, NEW MEXICO 2006 T. LACHINA
A R TC R A F T B U I L D I N G
2 570 S U P E R I O R AV E N U E
SUITE 203
C L E V E L A N D, O H I O 4 41 1 4
MUSE IS THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL PUBLISHED BY THE LIT
ISSN 1942-275X
07
9 771942 275009
W W W.T H E - L I T.O R G
NONPROFIT ORG.
US POSTAGE
PAID
PERMIT #4248
CLEVELAND, OH

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