Part One. The Kat. Part One. The Mission. Section One. The Kat-Kissing Mission. Chapter One. Athenz, Ohio, and the Invention of the Zippertrick. Part One. The Weekend College Vizit. Part One. The Kat. Movement One. The Kat. Chapter. Section. Section One. The Riot in the Parlor. Page One. The Unexpected Vizitor. Part One. The Dream. Part One. The Recurring Dream. Part One. Part One.

PART ONE: The Bad Dream

JHOSETTE WAZ DREAMING. She waz cherry. Cherry flavored red. Jhosette waz in bed dreaming and she waz sleeping more soundly than the human body iz capable of sleeping naturally. She and her friendz were drinking Robitussin® the night before. Jhosette had swallowed a whole bottle. It waz her first time drinking Robitussin®. Most of her friendz who did it would only take a half bottle. They say drinking Robitussin® iz almost az bad az doing cocaine (that it fucks you up just az bad). Athenz, Ohio iz in the middle of southeast Ohio and there waznt much of a cocaine supply there but the main strip in Athenz had a Rite Aid® so there waz a ready supply of Robitussin®. Jhosette waz dreaming. She waz stretched across the bottom bunk of her dorm room. Her roommate Kimberly waz lounged in one of the residence dining hallz regaling her tablemates with accounts of the Robitussin® consumption of the previous evening.

“I used to get up at three o’clock in the morning. I never used to hit the bed till eleven o’clock at night or so and I did this for seven dayz a week all my life.” Kimberly slurped skim milk from a paper bowl. “That’s all I did, waz study and study, even at night, keep buzy.”

People just chewed.

Kimberly waz a political theory and womenz studiez major. She waz a Mormon®. She had brown hair. She had fucked thirty-seven boyz since arriving in Athenz, Ohio three yearz ago on a windy Sunday afternoon with her parents in the Range Rover®. Cherry watermellon, cherry tomato, cherry luscious freezy poppy lovely. Jhosette waz markedly less experienced sexually than her roommate. She waz red violets. She waz roze thornz. Jhosette had fucked eight boyz. She waz blood. She waz dreaming right now, and even in her sleep she could feel the anger in her pussy, its teeth bore like the teeth of one of the wild thingz in Where The Wild Thingz Are®, eyeing Wolfsuit Max greedily, ready to eat him up.

Jhosette waz dreaming and az she dreamt she writhed like a snake in the cottony knots that were her sheet. She waz bare chested. Her pantiez clung to her crotch (if you had been looking, you would have seen the white outline of a panty liner stuck with adhesive tape to the inside of her underwear).

“That tampon doublez az an emergency flotation device,” he said, joking.

Kimberly hated that Jhosette slept without a shirt. It waznt that she minded looking at Jhosette’s chest while she waz that Jhosette waz so damn skittish whenever Kimberly tried to get a tad freak with her.

“I mean, I’m not gay either,” Kimberly would say, “but I just would like to lick them.”

Jhosette woke up to this once: Kimberly, distracted beyond restraint from her studiez by Jhosette’s perk, had come across their room and started licking them with the concentration of a child who’d won posession of a hard candy ring, a greedy kat hunched over a saucer of milk, lapping at an invisible stain. Jhosette had thrown her coverz over her body and frowned at Kimberly. She waz chocolate. Kimberly smiled innocently and went back to her desk. They had spoken about it many timez since.

“Just don’t sleep in the nude. Then you won’t have this problem.”

“But the problem, az I see it, iznt so much with me sleeping in the nude az it iz with you lapping at my breasts like a hungry kitten every time you see them.”

“I can’t help it,” Kimberly mock-explained, “It’s just the way my mother raized me.”

Jhosette obviously didn’t buy this. The girl waz insatiable, the prototypical nymphmonkey, freakfiend, gargoyle of every meat market bar on Court Street, such a frequent entrant in Athenz daily Walk-Of-Shame® event that she had more than once picked up a second guy on her way home from a hectic night at a fraternity house with the first.

“Go for a third sometime,” Jhosette had quipped when she gathered where Kimberly had been on one of theze occasionz.

Kimberly took it az a challenge. “Maybe I will.”

Jhosette waz dreaming. She waz pinprick red. She squirmed in bed az she did it. And Kimberly waz glad she waz eating breakfast in the residence dining hall instead of sitting in the dorm room another Saturday morning az Jhosette slept in, bare-chested, Kimberly sitting at her desk hopelessly trying to write paperz on whatever her professorz had most recently chozen az the topic of the moment.

Jhosette waz dreaming. She waz blown glass. And her toez squirmed az she did it. Her reddish-brown hair, long to her butt, twisted around her neck, shoulderz, stomach, around the tops of her armz az she dreamt. And what she dreamt iz that she waz in the bathroom at the end of the hall.

Now we’re going to put her in a place in the hall next to a place where she waz just standing in the hall. And we’re going to pretend that some time haz passed. And we’re going to begin to observe the fliez that are swarming around her. And we’re going to begin to die.

She held a plastic drinking cup, its mouth between the tips of her fingerz. With her other hand she gripped the toothbrush like a hammer. A tube of Crest® waz tucked into the front of her drawstring shorts. In the dream she waznt topless; she waz wearing an Ohio University® sweatshirt with a cute little icon of a cub paw on its front. She vaguely wondered why everyone waz asleep (in her dream it waz mid-afternoon). She walked past Sarah Martin. She walked past Deidre Taylor. She walked past Amy Browning. She walked past Courtney Leigh. She stopped walking, realizing for the first time, in her dream, that the girlz were all white. Black girlz attended her school, but all the girlz in her hallway were white. Jhosette looked into Courtneyz room. Courtney sneezed (tight pink noze). Jhosette thought the girl waz too uptight: majoring in accounting or some shit..the girl did her own taxez and when she did them she uzed the long form. Jhosette thought Courtney needed a good hard kick in the face to snap her out of it. Kimberly waz less optimistic; she belived Courtney needed to be gangfucked by a sailor crew..or maybe forced to eat a girlz pussy or forced to stick her fingerz up her own butt or something. Maybe she needed to have all the hair shaved off her body in the middle of the night. Kimberly had described this fantasy to Jhosette. They would all sneak into Courtney and Angelaz room in the middle of the night and tie Courtney to her bed with thin twine (so it would hurt her if she struggled to get free). Then Kimberly would lather Courtneyz entire body with Gilette® shaving gel and Jhosette would read sectionz of Beowulf® while Kimberly shaved Courtneyz legz, her head, her armz, and of course her pubic hair. Jhosette thought about this plan of Kimberlyz az she looked into Courtney and Angelaz room on the way to the hall bathroom to brush her teeth. Jhosette thought Kimberly needed psychological counselling. Jhosette padded along the hall in her bare feet and turned the corner. She went into the bathroom. Its door waz alwayz propped open. Her bare feet touched the cold tile floor and she walked to the side of the bathroom where the showerz were. Four spickets protruded from the wallz about six feet off the floor. A seriez of sliding plastic curtainz could be pulled out from the wallz to separate the space into four ad-hoc stallz. Right at this moment the curtainz were thrown to the sidez and the place stood unpartitioned like Jhosette’s idea of what a communal bathing area might have looked like in Roman Timez® (or maybe a gas chamber). The floor waz dry under Jhosette’s feet az though no one had uzed the showerz for dayz. Jhosette went to the other side of the bathroom and began the ritual of brushing her teeth. She bent to the floor and set the red Solo® cup on the tile, then roze and removed the tube of Crest® from the waist of her shorts. She set the toothbrush on the side of the sink, then realized she would be needing the Solo® cup, so bent again to pick it up. Jhosette opened the valve on the sink and filled the cup and looked at her head and neck..she saw them like roots of a tree, saw her twisted hair az cotton before it’s spun, tangled kite stringz, rough ship rope, frayed denim, and she didn’t push it out of her face. Her eyez were sleeping in the dream (but open, bloodshot) and Jhosette wondered, in an offhand way, if drinking some Robitussin® might help her situation. She remembered that when Janice waz little their mother had given Janice a spoonful of Robitussin® to help a cold. That had worked just fine. Why wouldn’t it work for Jhosette now, to combat bloodshot eyez or a headache, or even a little cough if she happened to catch one? Jhosette blinked in the mirror. She looked around the bathroom floor for a can of Robitussin® or maybe an ace bandage, but there waz nothing there—offwhite haxagonal tile. Outside the windowz, the grass waz fall green and the sky fall blue. The lawn waz empty of the usual Frizbee®-tossing Nerd®z and blanket-lounging Hippie®z, void of the usual diligently-heading-to-class freshman, and Jhosette waz wondering where they all were when she turned from the open bathroom window to face herself in the mirror. She squeezed a snail of toothpaste onto her Crest® toothbrush and brought the device to her mouth. When she parted her lips to allow brushing, Jhosettes eyez widened and her face went ghost white. Her heart thumped one time very hard at the top of her chest. Between her lips were no teeth: just her tongue (coated with gooey green film) and her bleeding, malformed gumz, distorted like a runt baby hatched of too many chromozomez, empty sockets dangling with stringy, unmatched dental nerve endingz. Then everything waz blank.

And Jhosette waz lying on the floor. And she waz the bird again, the cherry albatross. Waiting in the wingz, waiting to go on. Cherry albatross waiting for the chance to say her linez. Pauzed, poized to expend her duez. Cherry albatross waiting in the wingz, waiting to go onstage. Albatross perched on air, waiting in a storyz plot that chroniclez the crushing of a crab. Waiting in the wingz to go onstage. And after that, after that, after that what could possibly be after that? After that there couldn’t possibly be anything after that. After that all there could possibly be iz a brief moment called and characterized by “after that” and then, after that, there would be.. Cherry albatross meeting you in the hallway, months before. Albatross eyez flashing, cherry wardrobe positioned somewhere perfectly between North Africa and New York City, somewhere classically inbetween Model-Whore® and First Year Art Student®. Cherry albatross meeting you in the hallway, months before. Cherry albatross singing. Cherry albatross winning you in a glance, with a word, with a single drop of a liquid voice. Cherry albatross winning you with a storyz plot that iz az merciless to the cherry albatross az a gull iz merciless to the crab. Cherry albatross spinning you in a plot already penned, published, packaged, and waiting in the wingz.

She waz cherry. Cherry flavored red. Cherry watermellon, cherry tomato, cherry luscious freezy poppy lovely. She waz red violets. She waz roze thornz. She waz blood. She waz chocolate. She waz pinprick red. She waz blown glass. She waz flame. She waz a sign stopping traffic. A deadlocked intersection. She waz the ink on the dotted line. She waz wine.

Woman sitting on top of a tree masturbating. “What do you want with me,” she waz saying, “my cherry yumyumz?”

“I can’t decide.”

“Would you like me to give you a moment?”

“No. Just tell me what you have again.”

Kevinz dream, one night, of runawayz and shoofliez and Kevinz old girlfriend, Maggie, waz a Mormon®. Az hiz hand smoothly stripped her of her pantiez, she accomodated by leaning slowly back on the matress, which lay bare on the unkept floor.

“Yeah, that waz it.”

Your cherry yumyumz. Your fucking wrapper crinkled on the floor. Your packaging in a fucking knot. A goddamn leash on your twat with a steel chain running to your neck. Just a wide leather collar, that’s all. Just white powder sprinkled on your bare ass. That’s all. Just a prizon choker I can yank on. Just a linoleum floor and a box of razor bladez. Just a box of Band-Aid®z. Just a bag of Huggiez® and a wooden paddle (splintered). Just a chair with straps, a gag, a can of gasoline, a match, and a cigar. Just a leather interior. Just a beach, or a boardwalk, or a backseat, or a brick wall.

“What do you want with me?”

“That’s all.”

Mormon® with a passionate love for pussy and kissing dogz and sitting on top of treez masturbating in time with the rhythm of the car az it drove down the highway far along.

“That’s all?”

“Well ...”


“That’s not all.”

Invitation. The eyez.

“You know.”


“After all that I want you to—”


“After that—”

“Say it.”

Lean in close. Feel the breath with the wordz.

“After that..I want you to die.”

PART TWO: Marcel

When Jhosette woke she felt scratching on her face. A light weight on her forehead and a delicate scritch scritch, delicate pinprick roving over her cheek. Jhessica would have freaked, probably, and reached up and slapped whatever it waz, but Jhosette had been used to this morning ritual of Marcelz for a couple of yearz now. When he felt hiz Jhosette had slept too late, Marcel would crawl out of hiz holding area (an open terrarium on the dresser) and make hiz way down the side of the dresser, navigating through the terror of girlz clothing strewn around the floor. He would carefully avoid observation by the Kimberly since whenever she saw him she had the habit of cocking one eyebrow skeptically at him, or shaking her head in disapproval, or sometimez (when hiz Jhosette waznt around) the Kimberly would raize her voice at him and threaten him with her arm poized az if she waz about to slap him backhanded az hard az she could. Jhosette’s hand moved to her face and gently removed the fellow. He clung to her cheek az she lifted him, digging hiz clawz into her skin and managing to hook one of them inside her right nostril.

“Marcel,” Jhosette said, “Marcel Marcel Marcel.”

And he let go when he felt the tender vibration that her voice sent washing over the circlez on the sidez of hiz head. Jhosette curled her fingerz supportively under Marcelz body and turned him so that hiz head waz facing her eye. Hiz tongue flickered out of hiz mouth and touched her eyelashez. Jhosette could see the tiny razorz of hiz teeth, delicate arrowheadz like thoze of a baby shark. Marcel smelled hiz Jhosette’s eye again. She had such a serious face. Marcel wanted hiz foot massage but hiz Jhosette still wanted the bed. Later he would want the bed and she would want to leave for a walk. She would want to shop. She would want to lay on the roof. She would want to go out for breakfast. She would want to order dinner in, stay up all night, skip work the next day. She would want the weekend. She would want Sunday afternoon. She would want Monday afternoon. She would want Tuesday. She would want him to want Tuesday the same way she wanted Tuesday and him to want Wednesday the same way she wanted Wednesday. She would want Thursday through Saturday the same way. She would want Friday the same way, and she would want next week the very same way. The exact same way. Exactly. With no changez. None at all. Zero. None. Repeat. Indentically. Forever.

“Did you miss me? Were you bored?” Jhosette reached under her pillow. She retrieved a stack of letterz. “Did you have enough activitiez to keep you busy while I slept?” She propped her torso on her elbowz and set the lizard on her stomach. Marcel instinctively curled himself into a defensive circle, hiz tail wrapping back around on hiz head. Jhosette put the first letter on the bottom of the rumpled stack, then the second, and she settled on re-reading the third in the stack (which actually had been the fourth one sent). Baby blue ink, juvenile scrawl.

“—yu hav an idel puse and i hav an idel kak but yu stil liv in this taun yu stil breath th wotr that i du—yu prable had a krush on me then yu prable hav a krush on me nau—ov kors ar frendz wil sa that yur tu old for me but yur idel cunt iz prable nat tu unidel and my idel dik iz prable nat tu unidel for yu tu shur we kan go intu yur rum wer yu tak yur best fotugrafs and shur we kan go intu my rum wer i wach th best reyunyunz and shur we kan go intu ar stor wer we sel th best nuzpapurz and shur yu kan wok intu my klazet wer i kep my best saks and shur i kan wandur intu yur toilet wer yu sumtimz tak a shaur and shur i kan wandur intu yur kalur id histure wer yu sumtimz git a mesij and shur yu kan luk intu my bathrum klazet on th shelf abuv th taulz wer i kep my idel puse with no nam that i wosh with hat wotr wen im dun hu sleps buhlo th kuvurz hu iz rede wen i ned hur—”

Marcel lifted hiz head and it swayed from side to side, surveying the room. The Kimberly had left her notebook on, Marcel noticed, and the Nietzsche® waz still out. Marcel didn’t like it when the Nietzsche® waz out; it made the Kimberly foul-tempered and meaner (than usual) toward hiz Jhosette. The screen of the notebook pulsed with orange and blue that were the colorz of the Kimberlyz desktop wallpaper. Marcel would have to go spend some time with it in a minute. The Kimberly had often caught Marcel basking on her keyboard in the glow of the screen, but for now Marcel would gather heat from the stomach of hiz Jhosette, feel the girlz caressez on hiz long spine, and smell the oil of her skin. Jhosette took in a deep breath. She could also smell her skinz oilz, a scalp that hadn’t been washed in a month, the scent of the pits of her armz, undeodorized, that had gone two dayz without a shower. I smell like the combination of patchouli and a dead cow. She continued reading the letter.

“—yu kan tak a bath and lak th dor on yur wa aut yu kan flip thru buks ov pantingz yu kan wandur thru mi klazet red leturz frum mi girlfriendz yu kan tuch yurself wil yu luk at ther pikchurz yu kan hid ther fotugrafs undur mi bed and lev me preznts floting in th singk yu kan rit on mi mirur and yuz th aliv oil yu wil mak me hape wen i diskuvur th evudents that yu kukt yurself brekfust that yu mad yurself at hom yu wil driv me kraze with yur smel on th shets ov th gurl nekst dor who sleps hir and wundurz hu shez sleping with az she lumz at me—she kan smel yu in th blangkets—she sez yur traks in pasing, she findz thoze pikchurz ov th uthur gurlz listed undur th bed she stumbulz ovur yur hairpin on th dashbord ov th Sivik®—she noz that i dont yuz Skintumat® bade wash she evun noz that i wud nevur fold mi dishtaulz lik that—she kan se yu—she kan se yu—she kan se—”

Marcel had determined that the environment waz safe, and, having done so, he turned hiz attention to hiz Jhosette, uncoiling himself and allowing himself to move more freely, hiz shoulderz looser, hiz gait more jaunty, hiz head riding high above hiz body in a proud march. Marcelz marched carried him up hiz Jhosette’s chest. He circled a nipple with hiz tongue, then bit down potently. Jhosette had just begun to look lovingly down her chest at him, her warm brown eyez huge in hiz field of vision, her hair giving him some sense of cover on the pale expanse of her breast, when there waz a curt fiddling with the handle of the door and with a burst of air that shook the room and startled Marcel such that hiz clawz reflexively seized hiz Jhosette’s breast, the Kimberly had come into the room and slammed the door behind her.

Kimberly looked worried.

Jhosette stuffed the stack of letterz under her pillow and flipped her head in Kimberlyz direction. “I’m fine. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? God, I thought you would never wake up.”

“No, it’s just this damn Robitussin®.”

“I know, iznt it great?”

“Except that right now my throat feelz like a two-thouzand-year-old toad!”

“It’s great, though, isn’t it?”

Jhosette thought for a second. “Yeah.”

“I know,”—Kimberly waz raving—“I know, and the great thing about it iz it’s fucking legal! Theze frosh are alwayz asking you to buy them a six pack of fucking beer?! Fuck that shit. If I can’t get ahold of e®, Robie® iz the only way to go. Fucking six packs. Fucking forty-ouncez. Theze kidz wouldn’t know how to get high if they were snowboarding on a mound of coke. You feeling alright?”

“Yeah, I’m good. I’m just..tired.”

“Jezus, you’re still in bed? It’s four in the afternoon.”

“I know. So that makes it only like..six hourz since I waz finally able to get to sleep.”

“Yeah, that stuff’ll keep you up for dayz. Where’d you go off to, anywayz?”

“Nowhere, I waz just in the study room with Meghan till like five am.”

“I want to have sex in there.”

“With who?”

“It doeznt matter. Just gotta be in there.”

Marcel peeked out from behind a strand of Jhosette’s hair.

The Kimberly waz leaning against the back of her desk chair, blocking Marcelz view of the notebook. She had picked up the Nietzsche® while Marcel waz hiding. She put it down just now and shoved her hand into one of the front pockets of her jeanz—going for the Scripto® lighter. The Kimberly waz already holding a clove in the other hand. When the Kimberly waznt looking, Marcel liked to rub hiz cheeks against the brown paper the clovez were wrapped in. Marcel loved their smell. The Kimberly sparked the tube and continued speaking with the Jhosette with a clove bouncing up and down between her lips on each syllable. She picked up the Nietzsche® again and fidgeted through its pagez, glancing over passagez az she talked. What she said waz: “Little girlz, little girlz.”

Jhosette waz looking at Kimberly like she waz crazy.

“In case you’re wondering, watch Annie’, the uncut version.”

Az if that explained everything.

Kimberly flipped her hair and lowered her voice confidentially. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m doing all right this weekend, I probably would have died this weekend at home, I am so ashamed of myself.” And now she stared out the window, suddenly teary, voice choppy. “Thank you for loving my petty little self. I have been absolutely horrible lately, but I’m not going to apologize. I need someone to talk to sometimez—a boy, maybe. Someone who carez. I know you care, but I really can’t talk to you about my problemz that involve thingz of a sexual matter with someone else.” Kimberly took Jhosette’s hand, kneeling beside the bed. “I feel bad, I shouldn’t do that to you I will do anything not to hurt you, or to make you feel better, you know that, I hope.”

Jhosette waz staring drop-jawed at her roommate. “Why do you do this?”

Kimberly dropped Jhosette’s hand and returned to her desk. She laughed. “I played Frizbee® in the green for hourz this morning and I have Disney® music in my head right now: Alladin®.” Kimberly fiddled with a Ball® jar on the desk, unscrewing the lid. “I’m glad I’m not home, but then again, around here I’m having to deal with eight hormonally screwed up, mood swingin’ to beat the band, eighteen- and nineteen-year-oldz. You know this hall drivez me batty sometimez. Life sucks.” She dipped her clove in the jar. When its glowing tip passed the surface of the clear liquid it went out without a sound. She removed it, blew on the tip, re-lit it, and took another puff. “Sorry, don’t know what came over me. I’m really alright..or..I’ll be alright soon.” Kimberly rushed back to the bed and threw her armz around Jhosette. “Thank you, roomie, I love you.”

Jhosette turned to face the wall. She waz checking on Marcel.

This upset Kimberly. “Jhosette,” she said, “are you gonna vote this year?”

Jhosette looked up from the lizard, but did not make eye contact with her roommate.

Kimberly moved away from the bed and looked at the screen of her notebook. “This paper sucks.”

“Which one iz it?”

“It’s for my Feminist Geology class.” She scrolled up in the document. “Wanna hear what it’s called? It’s called The Soft Pornography that iz Prime Time Television and the Futile Efforts of Feminist Media Watchdog Organizationz to Change Viewing Preferencez to Something Less Disempowering to Women’.”

Jhosette waznt listening, though; she waz thinking of the letterz.

Kimberly pressed the delete key five timez, erasing part of a word she had written before breakfast. “panth-,-,-,-,-”: gone. She looked over at her roommate. “Jhosette, are you gonna vote this year?”

“You mean for prezident or student council?”

Kimberly took the clove out of her mouth and glared at Jhosette: laying topless on the bottom bunk, unshowered, with that lizard perched on her right breast, her bare stomach inviting, round and creamy against the much whiter sheets that covered only Jhosette’s anklez in a knotty twist. For godz sake, you could see her panty liner! Kimberly squirmed slightly at the sight and broke her stare by forcing herself to set the Nietzsche® down on her desk next to the jar of embalming fluid. Slowly, clearly, to make sure her wordz would be understood, she said: “For prezident.”

Jhosette didn’t answer. Her mind waz racing: my chest iz thin and makes a hollow thumping sound when you pat it hard with the palm of your hand—my belly sticks over my underbelly out a little more a little more every time I pat it—below my knee iz skinny like a too skinny girl below my knee iz bone and too flabby calvez skin no muscle and toez—my teeth are crooked and the bottom middle one on the right when I look into the mirror iz breaking up from the sidez slowly decay and I will have none left—my eyez have no light and my hair iz too long—my toez are fine, except that I’ve peeled the nailz too low—my fingerz are fine except that I’ve peeled the nailz too low—my armpits smell like they should, like patchouli and a cow, mixed together—mmm. Jhosette reached for the lizard and her quick movement startled him. He ran down her arm and hid beneath a corner of the pillow. Jhosette felt around under the pillow but by then Marcel had escaped around the back of the bed and waz hiding at the base of the wall that the long side of the bed waz pressed against.

Kimberly kept talking. “Are you unhappy with me? I’m sorry for being petty. I really didn’t want to come off that way and I do love you with all of my heart—and part of the rest of me.” With her non-clove hand, she patted her crotch, two quick pats. “I promise not to bite you anymore unless someday it iz appropriate. I love you, and if I hurt you in any way I’m so sorry. I really try not to. I love you. My subconscious lovez you too.”

When Kimberly spoke Marcelz tiny body flinched with each vibration of the air in the room.

“I’ve been thinking,” Kimberly continued, “that I’m silly to think you might loze respect for me. I don’t think you could..or..I can’t think of anything that I could do to warrant least not in our liberal framez of mind.”

Marcel wished the Kimberly would leave them alone. Just..set the clove down in the ashtray on the dresser, toss the Nietzsche® in the trashcan, and leave. Go have breakfast again or something. Something. Hiz Jhosette waz still tired. They had had quite a hectic night and hiz Jhosette would probably benefit from a half hour or so more of sleep before they went out to meet her sisterz at the airport. Marcel only slept for an hour at a time, but he had noticed that hiz Jhosette, the Kimberly, and their other friendz usually slept for eight or nine hourz on schoolnights and even longer on weekendz. Marcel spent long periodz of time alone during the day when the girlz attended classez and ate mealz, then there waz a flurry of activity each evening around four or five pm when the girlz would congregate in hiz Jhosette’s and the Kimberlyz room or sometimez stand together talking outside the door with other girlz from up and down the hall. Typically Marcel obzerved this from the security of hiz open terrarium, but sometimez he would crawl out for a better look at hiz Jhosette’s and the Kimberlyz hallmates so that he would have a mental picture of them to refer to in later moments when hiz Jhosette and the Kimberly discussed the various merits and shortcomingz of the other girlz. Theze conversationz were not of the utmost interest to Marcel, but he enjoyed them a great deal more than the political and philosophical discussionz hiz Jhosette and the Kimberly sometimez got into. It seemed to Marcel that hiz Jhosette preferred the social rehash conversationz to the political onez az well. Once when he left the open terrarium and went across the room to the door to get a better look at the girlz for hiz mental picture, it had struck him to go down the hall az fast az he could (not to escape—he would never want to be away from hiz Jhosette for too long—but to explore). So he had scurried down the side of the dresser and across the minefield of discarded clothing from both the girlz. He had crept to the doorway and looked up at the crowd standing there. Hiz Jhosette and the Kimberly were there, and the Courtney from down the hall, and the Julia (whoze brown hair waz also pretty, but not az long az hiz Jhosette’s, and not az twisted and viney, and with no hint whatsoever of the red that made hiz Jhosette’s hair unique of all the girlz Marcel had ever seen). The Sarah waz there, and the Deidre, and after taking them all in with a sweeping upward glance, Marcel (not himself entirely certain of the urge that moved him) bolted down the hallway along the edge of the carpet and the yellow wall. He ran az fast az he could, hiz four tiny legz flexing their musclez in a rapid waddle, hiz head and bulbous eyez raized and perked up, scoping the expanse for any approaching feet. When he made it two doorz down and waz sufficiently out of accidental stepping range of the girlz crowded around hiz Jhosette’s and the Kimberlyz door, he diligently looked both left and right down the hallway, then with a rapid burst scuttled across the carpet into the Courtneyz room. He stopped at the doorway. The Angela waz sitting at the desk brushing her hair. Marcel checked the bed. Empty. The other desk. Empty. He peeked back down the hallway at the crowd of girlz. Hiz Jhosette waz looking down the hall in hiz direction. He instantly jerked hiz body back inside the Courtneyz room. Without waiting to find out if hiz Jhosette had actually seen him or if she had just happened to be looking at the very spot on the floor where he had been standing, Marcel darted across the Courtneyz throw rug that her grandmother had insisted she put down on the floor to keep her feet warm when she got out of bed in cold weather. Marcel zipped under the bed and up the wall, bracing himself in the crease where the two wallz formed the corner of the room farthest from the door. At the top of the roomz cube, he craned hiz neck so that he could see the Angela. He hadn’t met this one before, and the Courney rarely talked about her, except to say that she waz quiet and too shy but that she seemed like she would be nice if you could only get to know her. Az Marcel watched the girl methodically brush her hair and stare thoughtfully at the cinderblock wall in front of her, Marcel decided he would go down and introduce himself. He sped along the edge formed by the wall she waz staring at and the ceiling and situated himself in the next corner of the room. He stayed there a moment (he waz getting up hiz nerve). She did look nice enough, Marcelz mind echoed, if you could only get to know her. He wondered, az he watched the Angela place her hairbrush delicately on the desk, what it would take to get to know her. The excitement of being in a new place, the mystery of this new person he felt sure he waz about to meet, and the danger of having left hiz Jhosette’s and the Kimberlyz room without permission..all combined made Marcelz thoughts quicken. He felt, az hiz tail whipped frenetically against the surface of the wall, that if he didn’t go now hiz Jhosette waz likely to notice him missing and come looking for him. Marcel did feel that hiz Jhosette waz a bit overprotective at timez, an overprotectiveness that (though he waz sure she didn’t mean it to) he felt sometimez bordered on smothering. Marcel skated down the edge of the room and az he did the Angelaz head turned hiz way. She pushed her chair back from the desk and stood up in a single movement so quick that it brought Marcel to a dead stop.

The Angela yelled: “Jhosette! Come in here and get your little friend before I KILL HIM!”

Marcelz heart pounded az he heard the word “KILL”. He knew what it meant, and he didn’t want it to happen to him. Although he didn’t think the Angela waz the kind of person who would kill him, he took the threat seriously and waited, perfectly still, hiz legz poized to run if the Angela moved so much az a millimeter in hiz direction, waiting for hiz Jhosette to come rescue him from this Angela (who Marcel waz beginning to understand why the Courtney thought it might be difficult to get to know). The Angela didn’t move and Marcel didn’t move.

Pushing pash Angela, Jhosette pried Marcel out of the edge of the room and carried him back to hiz open terrarium. She set him down and patted hiz head with her index finger. “Don’t go in there again,” she said.

But Marcel already waznt planning to. Now he stayed hidden in the space underneath hiz Jhosette’s and the Kimberlyz bed, hoping that the Kimberly would leave, enjoying the smell of the Kimberlyz clove and of patchouli that permeated all of Jhosette’s clothing, her sheets, her skin, her paperz and books, and their entire room. Marcel rolled himself into a curve in the foldz and rivets of a tshirt of hiz Jhosette’s that had fallen out of sight and been forgotten, scrunched under the bottom bunk since the beginning of the quarter. Marcel lay very still for a long time, feeling the air around him vibrate with the mellow rhythm of the girlz voicez, feeling the padding of their feet on the linoleum floor in compact thudz, whoze shocks made their way across the surface of the floor to where he lay. The girlz were amicably arguing some point of social politics, discussing their Robitussin® consumption of the previous evening, chatting randomly. Marcel gathered (by the combinationz of footsteps, pauzez in conversation, and temporary muffling of Jhosette’s voice) that hiz Jhosette had gotten out of bed and put clothez on, that the girlz were preparing to leave the room for a while..and Marcel waz listening to their talk, attempting to gather data about where the two might be going and when they planned to return, when hiz eyelidz started to feel heavier and heavier, drooping earthward under their own weight, dipping, bobbing open at hiz request, then dipping again, lower this time..this process repeated itself for several minutes until the lizard waz completely unaware of the voicez of the girlz in the room, completely unconscious of hiz bodiez pozition in the room..soon he had forgotten hiz need to stay awake to gather information about the girlz planz, forgotten all, and gone to sleep. When he woke the overhead light waz off, the shadowz under the bed had grown even darker, the door waz shut, and the room waz completely quiet.

After the bath it waz opium in the red room. After the bath it waz my foot massage by a brown haired snake. Serious face snake. Kneading my solez wrinkled forehead snake. Snake lying beside me in the bed. Brown haired snake breathing the contents of her lungz in through my mouth clenching the back of my neck in her palm. After the bath it waz Dead Can Dance® remixez that we listened to on LSD before my job interview. She waz sleepy, and I read sectionz to her from an Anne Rice porno, sipping bloodstainz from the carpet, scraping my Jhosette’s round belly with nailz. After the bath it waz reading while we fall asleep; after the bath it waz occasional trips out the front window to stand on the roof and looking up, mouths gaping, wide eyed children standing on the roof where we shared so many breakfasts. After the bath it waz candlez and yellow rocks and yellow rocks and yellow rocks. It waz the bedsidez let down to encloze us like a bleeding womb in redz and layerz of redz to swallow people back into their beginningz—legless, cellular, carried by the sea. And after the bath we mostly left each other alone, though we did it naked and next to one another. Talking waz completed earlier or left for the next day. There were no vizitorz after the bath, no knocking on the upstairz door, everything locked on the first floor. After the bath I’d read but never write. After the bath I would never eat food or drink. After the bath I’d never read technology, newz, or weak fiction. After the bath there waz generally no production; we didn’t make anything, further our goalz, involve ourselvez in commerce. After the bath we were never capitalists. After the bath we were tantric Moroccan zen Buddhists. This waz the devil speaking. Mute luddite tantric Moroccan zen Buddhists. The devil in Marcel. After the bath our music and our movements were slow, the candlez each burned themselvez out at a different interval, we touched, ate roze petalz, and wandered into dreamz. This waz the devil speaking. The devil in Marcel. Months prior to the election. In a swing state. Campaign bannerz littering the boardwalk before a storm. A legless gypsy, trapped in bellz and beadz, rhythmlessly turning a gourd in her handz. Her shoez are worn with the dust of the journey.

Trickster. Author of Blindness. Pandemonium Arch-Fiend.

Down the road, somewhere in West Virginia, sits a woman with a scar she don’t know where it came along the bottom of her soul iz scaped the man of a name she once knew.

Twelve. Your twelve-year-old daughter.

If I cannot bed you then I will bed an Insane Clown Posse®-loving, Insane Clown Posse®-worshiping twelve-year-old friend of yourz who likes me becauze I represent falsely what she thinks she would like to become. And if I represent that enough to get her to sneak to me in your living room in the middle of the night where you’ve cast me at the couch then so be it by the flicker of video gamez on cable television while you sleep. Summer. Weeping. Summer sky and summer sky summer. She iz my twelve-year-old ICP® initiate and I will tell her how to uze the lenzez and I will tell her how to uze the camera and I will tell her what filter she needz to uze when she prints the photograph in the darkroom and I will tell her how she needz to dip her handz into the chemicalz without wearing protective glovez and I will tell her how to dip her handz into me. Summer rain on the roof of my house in summer rain in summer on the roof of my house in the summer under the summer sky in the summer season before the summer after the summer when hiz Jhosette had gotten out of bed and put clothez on I met you in the summer before the fall before the summer after I waz wondering where the two might be going I met you in the summer after the fall before I met you in the summer sun, in the summer sky, met you in the summer run and summer fly, met you in the summer sun and summer sky, met you in the summer near and summer nigh, met you in the summer fun and summer high, met you in the summer sun and summer fly and summer fly and summer high upon the summer air and summer sky. Met you in the summer in the summer in the summer summer sky.

Met you in the summer. Met you in the summer. I waz completely unaware of the voicez of the girlz in the room. I met you in the summer when the sun waz summer hot the wind waz summer warm warming my shoulderz summer shoulderz tan with summer sun and summer sun and summer sun.

She found none.

And summer sun and summer sun.

Dipping, bobbing open at my request.

Sand in specks and clumps, sheeting you..getting..everywhere.

She wanted to meet me there. She wanted to come inside. She wanted to..“talk” in the car. She wanted to see my kitchen. She wanted to bring her clothez over and do laundry. She wanted to take a shower. She wanted me to make dinner. She wanted shellfish. She wanted to peek inside the freezer. She ate my chocolate. But I hope hez right, becauze we sure could uze something like that right now. She wanted us to go out to dinner. She wanted us to stay in. She wanted to strip naked in the living room with the blindz up. With the lights on. With the lights on.

Alwayz. Alwayz with the lights on.

And what are we to do?

A flotation device, or some kind of savior, you understand, becauze none of us haz had formal training in this field. She waz pinprick nailz. Cable television. Cherry popping skullfuck in the shower Saturday morning before eight. And what are we to do? Cherry popping skullfuck in my bathroom shower every single Monday morning before eight am.

Cherry popping skull.

Fuck and cherry-popping fuck.

Dig in and wash the windowz of the sky long and done and dusty in my eye?

Cherry popping skullfucker mourning the skullfuck on Monday morningz before eight. Cherry pop popping the skulling fuck fucker mourning the Saturday morning before eight in the morning. Mourning the cherry pop in the morning before eight am in the morning. Time. Time in the morning before the cherry popping skullfuck popping the cherry in the morning. Time in the morning before the morning time skullfuck. Showerz in the morning before the shower fucking skullfuck with a cherry in the shower in my room. Room in my shower. Extra room in my shower. Room in my shower in my room.

Cherry nailz in the shower in my room.


Cathedral mountain dark.

Sneaking from the back to hold a candle mercy God hez coming through the camera lenzez focused to, fuzing precision in the hull of a converted trailer home sweet river running through the crack between my legz the shiver of a momentary shawl upon your head I thought you were dying for a second, crushed between the Greyhound® charter nonstop to the dezert.

You had your birthday party in my bathroom.

Marcel crawled out of hiz holding area. He sprung directly on her, kissing forcibly, and though she tried to bring her handz to hiz head he pushed them away, raking her lip, amuzed.

You had my birthday party in your bathroom.

Kimberly would raize her voice at him and there we are again, swallow, az truth iz nothing but a differential constancy of arbitrary Constance. He clung to her cheek. An old friend.

You had your birthday party in my bathroom when you let me have my birthday party in your bathroom and have my birthday party in your bathroom with you. When you let me have my birthday party in your bathroom you had your birthday party in my bathroom. When you had your birthday party in my bathroom you turned twenty-one in my bathroom when you turned twenty-one you were in my bathroom when you turned twenty-one for the first time in my bathroom you turned twenty-one in my bathroom. Constance. Acquaintance really, but what’s the score. Blood in this ring, bone in the other. When you were twenty-one you turned twenty-one in my bathroom. Marcel managed to hook one of hiz clawz inside Jhosette’s right nostril. Then he pulled away, and, for the first time that night since they had exposed themselvez to each other, they made eye contact. You turned twenty-one in my bathroom.


Radiant fever burnz the brightest right before we loze power.

In my bathroom.


You turned twenty-one.

And shez clozing the door behind me. And shez locking the door behind me. And shez clozing the door behind me and locking it. And I’m locked in before her and I’m in her room with the door behind me. And shez locked me in and we’re together and I’m locked inside the room and shez with me inside the room and it’s her room and we’re in and we’re locked together inside and the hallwayz outside and we’re inside and we’re together inside her room and the wall iz filled with sarongz and her refrigerator iz empty even though she haz one and shez checking email from her old professorz who type lust for their student and would have taken her on the turn of a dime any time they wanted her on the floor inside the door on the floor inside the door on the floor of her room.

There it goez—blackness, blanket, bludgeoning. Tool.

And shez making tea and shez talking to me az she readz email from her old professorz and we’re drinking tea on the floor with our kneez crossed and our starz ...

Off course after a hot night.

In the vision of the moon.

But in the starez each only found concealment, silence.

She had.

Marcel curled himself into a defensive circle.

Merciful Almighty we sing your praizez hinting at the core of manz dezigning gene. Jhosette propped her torso on her elbowz and set the lizard on her stomach. Marcel could see it. She had. She had sand stuck in her fucking thing. Jhosette took in a deep breath. She had sand stuck in her fucking thing and she waz fucking singing about the sand fucking sand stuck in her fucking thing and she waz fucking singing about the sand stuck in her thing her fucking thing waz stinging becauze of the sand stuck in her thing fucking the thing with sand stuck in the fucking thing.


She had sand stuck in her fucking thing she had sand. What do you know, it waz all Mendelian after all. Stuck in her fucking thing she had sand. The grown boy lowered himself into hiz sister and bent deliberately down to her mouth. Sand waz stuck in her fucking thing and I waz fucking looking at the thing in her fucking thing in her sand stuck in the sand in her thing. We’re safe and sound without a friend among the empty cosmic skrye.

She had. She had sand stuck. Marcel. Into the sun, will you, break the pinpoint eclipse rulez and find yourself staring into the optic nerve of timeless fury, anguising eternally sound.

She had sand stuck in her fucking thing.

He licked her. He sank hiz teeth deep into her upper lip, puncturing the flesh, dripping blood onto her chin. Marcel. When I met her she had sand stuck in her fucking thing. Marcel. And I licked it out.

“I know. Iznt it great?”

Peace. Be with you brother; brother what a night.

“It’s great, though, iznt it?”

When I licked it out there waz no more sand stuck in her fucking thing. And I licked it out more anyway.

A shot at her visage revealed nothing but distant submission. And she liked it when I licked it out and she asked me to lick it out more anyway.


And I licked it out more anyway.

Kicking myself in the head for my own lack of agility I end up tied in knots I tied myself and yet I perceive that anotherz fingerz might work thoze strandz more deftly than could I.

And she liked it.

So I licked it out more.

And she liked it more.

Again he interred the lip to hiz bite, slicing it with thirsty fangz which this time joined somewhere in the middle of her tissuez. She pulled the coverz over her head. And I licked her noze. And then she sucked on my noze until I sneezed. And I put my finger in her ear and made her swear at me until I sneezed again until her breast on the blanket went out like smoke and a lung in a plastic bag until she nagged me to do it to her again each Saturday morning.

From now on.

Pinklez tinklez antlerz yearning for the sunny skiez above I think you’re there upon that hill and so I chase your primroze pantiez out on the lawn and lay you there to fuck you heavenly. Or so I think. Until I knocked at her door again at the dormitory on the hill at the end of the group hallway with door signz teazing me and reminding me of their age while I wage, silently, the war. While you swore under breath that I waz here again. But you’re my friend, in the room at the end of the hall. That iz all, my friend, that I know, in the end. And all that I’ll fend. The salty blood surged into hiz mouth and spilt from hiz lips onto her chest. And she waz spinning in the sea, spinning like me in the summer sun, spinning like me in the fun, wonderful summer sun spinning like me in the one place that will make you face the tenth of this clock in mask all the while that you’re behind. Cook the rhine, count the spine in my watch az I clotch your pig my swine cline and fine my prine. Ly zine, la plyne ma zhine locka macha phlinee. Ma fro me zoplaka. Zwne ma pla zho ma zho. Co zho ma zho ma zho. Pla hzhoamako. Pzhline ok la zchizne. La zchinchezel ma zo oh ah ma zho aka zho ma kahzaka a la swatchawhcaltmakanakanakanakatamatako. But though the sex iz good we walk away and gone the hill iz made of paper money Barbie® blinks her plastic eye and I see that my fresh discovery iz..what?..nothing but Chex Party Mix®?..nothing but graham crackerz in a plastic baggie?

She said it waz a wonderful day to start smoking. She said it waz a wonderful day to start smoking Kamel®z and she started smoking Kamel®z on a wonderful day. She said Kamel®z introduce seratonin to your brain and she introduced seratonin to her brain and she introduced a Kamel to her brain. Her brain introduced itself back to the Kamel®.

“How do you do?”

“Fine thank you.”

“I’m a brain.”

“I’m a Kamel®.”

“Yes, I know, I introduced you to myself.”


“Would you like a lollipop?”

With careful fingerz he swirled the sanguine liquid to intricate pattern, eventually covering her entire body with lucid, grotesque new featurez that skillfully accentuated her natural onez.

She said it waz a wonderful day to start smoking and she started smoking. She never started smoking more than she started smoking when she started smoking. She never started smoking more than she started smoking the day before she started smoking. She injected a Kamel® into her brain.

“Fine, thank you.”

“How do you do?”

Wrapped by my mother before I ever went to school but now the graduation iz over and my tassel swingz only in tiny quantum motionz behind my closet door. That’s what my professorz tell me, anyway. She injected a kitten into a cowboy and the cowboy smoked the kitten. The cowboy smoked the kitten like a Kamel® and the kitty liked it. Erect nipplez formed an axis for each spiraling breast; hoardz of untamed beasts hustled from out the exaggerated fissure between her legz. She said it waz a wonderful day to start smoking and she smoked a kitten in a cowboy. The kitty waz a camel. She said it waz a delicate day to start smoking and it waz a delicate day to start smoking.

And she started smoking.

“’s just this damn Robitussin®.”

And it waz a delicate day she started smoking.

“I’m good. I’m just..tired.”

I don’t see movement of any kind, least of all the quantum hammering of a dead kat but you can buy my products anyway, cauze guess what, I don’t test on animalz.

“In case you’re wondering, watch Annie®’, the uncut version.”

Delicate day. It waz a delicate breakfast after a delicate shower before a delicate walk and delicate afternoon and a delicate nap. She had a delicate way of putting her fingerz down my neck and she had a delicate way of turning over on the sheet and a delicate way of saying my name and a delicate way of shuffling off her jeanz and she had a delicate way of brushing her hair and a delicate way of buttoning her shirt and a delicate way she had of everything she did waz a delicate way of doing everything she did. Raw paint carelessly swelling, all vigor left the body. Everything she did had an elegant way of being the elegant way of doing everything she did waz the elegance in the way she went about doing every little elegant thing that she did showed the elegance of doing thingz the way that a natural elegance doez thingz of elegance iz the natural way of doing thingz of elegance iz. Of course, I also simultaneously do test on animalz so howz that for a consumer base.

elegance iz the natural way of doing thingz of elegance iz

Kimberly lowered her voice confidentially. Straddling sticky corpse, the boy leaned over to her chin, placed hiz teeth around it, and bit straight into the flesh az hard az he could. She turned twenty-one in my bathroom in an elegant way. She turned twenty-one in my shower and the way she did it waz elegance in my bathroom at the age of twenty-one she waz elegance.

“You think so, motherfucker?”

She turned twenty-one in my bathroom.


She turned twenty-one in my shower.

Her birthday waz elegance.

Bracing her skull with hiz handz, Marcel yanked down with hiz tightly clenched jawz and ripped the cartilage from its bone.

And twenty-one in my shower waz elegance, too.

“What? You thought I wouldn’t mind?”

Elegance waz a wonderful way to start smoking.

He now used this to smear the blood across her body.

And smoking waz elegance, too.

Elegance waz smoking in the shower in my bathroom on her birthday.

PART THREE: The Barbie® Factor

Jhosette and Kimberly were driving. Jhosette waz driving, and Kimberly waz sitting beside her smoking clove cigarettes and biting her fingernailz.

“You know thoze thingz make your lungz bleed.”

“Do they really make your lungz bleed or iz that just something you heard?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s true. But even if they don’t they can’t be good for you.”

“It’s better than smoking.” Cherry albatross winning you in a phraze in the front seat of the car. Winning you in a shoulder nudge on the roof in the rain. Winning you in a sleeping face and spinning you into a phaze beyond all you thought waz written there.

Kimberly shaved a sliver of nail from her left thumb. She held the sliver between her teeth, felt the sharpness of its edge on her tongue, then turned away from Jhosette and spit the nail over the side of the car. The car waz a Chrysler® convertible, white exterior with cream leather seats that Jhosette’s parents had bought in Cincinnati during Jhosette’s first year in Athenz. You didn’t need a car in Athenz; everything of interest to the typical student waz reachable with a twenty minute walk. Most thingz of interest were walkable in ten. But Jhosette’s parents weren’t going to have their daughter stuck in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio without a convenient mode of transportation. Jhosette hardly ever uzed it, but it waz nice to have if you wanted to go out to the lake or drive, az Jhosette did on occasion, to Columbus or Cincinnati to get a break from the incest of small town college life. Mostly she drove it to the airport. But the airport in Athenz, Ohio iznt like the kindz of airports that you and I are used to. In fact, the airport in Athenz, Ohio iznt even technically in Athenz, Ohio. It’s thirty milez outside town and consists of one corrugated metal hangar that iz home to five or six Cessna®z, which iz about the only type of plane that could possibly land on the single narrow runway, a black strip of badly-poured asphalt situated alongside State Route 74 and the flat land of cornfieldz.

The Chrysler® convertible waz on Route 74. Jhosette waz driving. Kimberly had just taken out another clove and lit it from the smouldering stub of her last one. Jhosette turned her head to watch this. Kimberly caught the look.


“Gimme one of thoze.”

“Fuck ...” Kimberly said, “that’s my girl.” She waz a real cheerleader, alwayz trying to get you to do something you weren’t originally planning to do. Whoever you were, whatever the area of endeavor, Kimberly wanted to see you take it further. She lit a clove and placed it between Jhosette’s fingerz so Jhosette wouldn’t have to take her handz off the wheel.

Jhosette jockeyed the clove to her left hand and rested her arm on the rim of the car door. The wind took what it could of her hair and threw it over the leather headrest.

Kimberly waz hunched over talking to the dashboard while she smoked. “I have a good build, a husky build. Do you want to start by taking picturez of me in your basement cellar? Then we could get down to where we go out in the woodz, and we take picturez and you can have me play with you, et cetera, and so forth. I would be against it at first, you know ...? I would have scarz all over my back from your whip.”

Jhosette kept her eyez on the road. “So you wish I waz some sadist and I waz whipping you, iz that it?”

“Um hum. Taking picturez, everything. Well I guess they refer to that az sodomy..right?”

“I guess.”

“Both oral and anal.”

Kimberly leaned back in her seat. She watched the dotted line of the road smear past them and she smoked her clove nervously, alternately biting her nailz and taking dragz from the cigarette. Between theze movements she uzed the nail biting hand to navigate through the presets on the radio. There were only three tolerable stationz in the area: and oldiez station which waz the most popular local commercial station, the college station (broadcast from one of the white dishez on top of the communication department building) which had student-produced newz and music programz. It waz one of the objectivez of the communicationz department to give az many students az possible the chance to uze the equipment and learn to run a radio show. A spurious result of this effort waz that you never knew what or who waz going to be on at any given time. The only other station Kimberly could stand waz NPR, broadcast out of Columbus. The signal waz weak, but it waz almost all talking so it didn’t matter. Kimberly punched a preset and they went from listening to some Beatlez song (“Don’t want to leave her now / you know I believe in how”) to listening to the five o’clock national newz program. The newz waz a little more relaxed on the weekendz: some famous poet waz reading pseudointellectual poemz she had written about Barbie®. Kimberly listened while she lifted the tip of her fingernail from the middle finger on her left hand, took a moment to consider (with her tongue) the sharpness of the sliver, then turned and spit it out the window. She switched back to the oldiez.

“Hate all this brainpower being spent on considering the sociological implicationz of Barbie®. It’s just like that photographer who stagez Barbie® teapartiez and takes picturez of them. Shez like..nationally famous; I’m like..what the fuck? I mean, I get it. I do get it. I’ve spent my fair share of time talking about Barbie® in some of my classez: really, really interesting stuff..for a while. But I mean, come on, it’s only really interesting for theze Thirty-Something® Gen X® Star Warz® kidz. I can understand. If I waz raized on Pong® and Molly Ringwald® I’d want to spend my thirty-thouzand-dollar-a-year schooling talking about Barbie®, too. Hell, anyone whoz seen Sixteen Candlez® and had their eyez open could practically write a book about Barbie®.” Kimberly took a drag off her clove. “What’s the Barbie® Factor in the old Lit Department? You get to hear a lot of Barbie® poemz in Advanced Compozition with Chris O’Shaunessey?”

Jhosette considered for a moment. “There waz a Rainbow Brite® poem submitted to The Review about five yearz ago.”

“Five yearz ago? Musta been good if they’re still talking about it.” Kimberly switched to the communication department’s station (“—at ten milez per hour, clear skiez, and tonight we’ll see a twenty-five percent chance of—”). She switched back to the oldiez. “Fuck it. Gimme the Beatlez. When are they supposed to get here?”

Jhosette looked at the digital clock in the dash. It said 5:49. “Around five.”

They could already see the airport, the broad, vertical stripes in red and white on the sidez of the hangar. There waz one car parked in the lot beside the runway. Kimberly surveyed the sky: gray and windy. The Beatlez song ended and when the next one came on Kimberly switched off the radio. She uzed her burning clove az a pointer, holding her arm out to an object in the sky: dipping below the clouds, a small white plane, its wingz wobbling side to side. Jhosette slowed the car in anticipation of their turn into the airport parking lot.

Kimberly said, “Good thing we got here early.”

By the time the plane had landed and turned at the end of the runway to roll slowly toward the hangar, Jhosette and Kimberly had extinguished and discarded their clovez and were leaning against the side of the convertible, improvizing:

“We could invent a cobra made of pussy and pure light.”

Kimber smiled. She touched her roommate’s head. “She could have my name and your hair.”

“And we could smoke caffeine-free drugz by the warmth of my windowz.” Jhosie brought an imaginary clove to her lips.

“Jostle our neighborz ...”

Jhosette waz laughing. “Remember that time I had a pimple on my cunt?”

And they were both cracking up.

The plane stopped not thirty feet from them and both its doorz swung open simultaneously. A man jumped out of the left side of the Cessna® and waz bending to adjust the pleats at the cuffs of hiz pants while two girlz (one sixteen, one eight or nine) helped each other exit the right side of the plane. The sixteen-year-old climbed backward from the door, one hand gripping the rim of the opening, the wrist of her other arm anchored in the clutch of the younger girl. The younger one tossed first a backpack and then a duffel bag onto the runway.

Jhosie nudged her roommate and (under her breath) said, “Shez turned off her phone for the summer.”

Kimberz response waz automatic. “And invented herself the character of the red room.”

Jhosette’s father waz coming toward the Chrysler® convertible. The youngest girl (the one who waz eight or nine) ran up and hugged Jhosette. Then, just az affectionately, she hugged Kimberly.

The girlz father waz the first to speak. “You’re sure you’re going to be alright with them this weekend? Becauze I just really need to go back and be with your mother tonight for this thing..I mean, shez really, really..shez’ll be fine?”

Jhosette looked over her sisterz: Jhessica (the sixteen year old) and Jhanice (who waz eight).

They are passing out pillz on the low circular table and passing out pillz on the low circular table iz what they do around 7pm on Friday and Saturday in the nights on Friday around 7pm they pass out pillz on the circular table in the dark smellz of smoke enter their nozez they have purchased candy coated toyz to suckle in the dark candy coated smellz of their bodiez heating up the space between their bodiez the space of pillz passing out on a low circular table in the candle of Friday night pillz coming out of cupped handz and coming out of back pockets and coming out of spacez in wallets clutched tightly in denim cupcakes we find them passing out pillz on low tablez circlez on circlez on circlez and hairz flowing into handz brushing through hairz planz showing through starez knowing through planz for Friday nights in circular roomz with candlez casting starez on the roof in red hotel hushez under rented sheets taught with the electricity of your neck the chilly fast-heartbeat air on the floor beside the couch with the stoplight outside turning red then green then yellow with us looking out on the street from 404. Wandering through Friday night stoplights the electric shiver up your neck leading us antagonistically to choke our baby pumaz silently and tuck them in the coverz before we leave the towelz unwrapped to reveal caterpillar sporez, Anglican devil-nachts sleeping in the weave of a twenty-four headlight microbox. Five thouzand watts of pill wattage haz us swallowing giant pumaz whole while they sing their babiez goodnight through rented taughtness. Starz prezerved wandering through room 404 off the balcony side of the far side of the hallway by the pool. We were there twice. Once waz on a Saturday morning. Once waz on a Friday night.

Jhessica rolled her eyez at Jhosette. “Hez been like this the whole way over here.” Then, to her father: “We’ll be fine.”

Jhosette hugged their father. “Thanks for bringing them.”

Kimberly waz looking down at Jhanice. “Did you bring a toothbrush?”

Jhanice kicked Kimberlyz shoe. “Of course I brought a toothbrush.”

“I just don’t want your breath to stink if you meet any cute boyz while we’re out on the town tonight.”

Jhosette glared at her roommate. “What town? Anyway there aren’t any cute boyz here, you know that.”

Kimberly smiled at the girlz father. “Come to dinner with us? Something quick?”

“No, I’ve really got to get back right away.” He looked at Jhosette. “You’re motherz..well—”

“Get back to her already,” Jessica suggested, “If she can’t manage.”

Their father glanced quickly at hiz youngest daughter (Jhanice), then at Jhosette. “I think I better.” He nodded toward Kimberly—“Nice seeing you.”—and went to the other side of the aircraft. He looked perfunctorily over the cornfield and beyond the runway and then stepped up into the plane. He crawled across the seat and, leaning out to cloze the door hiz girlz had gotten out of, said, “Be back on Sunday. I’ll call you.”

Jhosette raized her hand az a goodbye. Jhessica approached the Chrysler®; she had a grouchy expression on her face and she waz dragging her duffel bag beside her through gravel and dust. Jhanice squeezed Kimberly tightly at the waist. The girlz father clozed the plane door. The single propellor started spinning. He drove back to the center of the runway, and, with fewer than five wordz between him and the lone air traffic controller, sped along the runway and into the sky. Once he waz in the air Kimberly went around to the passenger side of the Chrysler® convertible and leaned with both handz on the car door. Jhosette stood staring into the sky at her fatherz plane.

Kimberly got everyonez attention: she clapped her handz twice and spoke: “Roomie..roomie..we gonna show theze girlz how to have fun in a college town tonight or what?”

Jhessica said, “I already know how to have fun in a college town.”

Jhanice climbed over the side of the car into the back seat, ignoring that Jhosette had opened the door and pushed the driverz seat forward for her. Kimberly held the door for Jhessica az Jhessica climbed silently into the back seat on the right side of the car. Once everyone waz in, Kimberly lit a clove cigarette and handed it to Jhosette. She lit another one and offered it to Jhessica.

Jhessica looked skeptically at her older sister, who sat behind the wheel taking a long drag. “You know thoze thingz make your lungz bleed.”

Kimberly smiled and offered Jhessicaz clove to the eight-year-old.

Jhanice smiled warmly and said, “No thank you.”

Kimberly took the clove between her own lips and switched on the radio az Jhosette waz pulling out of the parking lot onto State Route 74. It waz still on the oldiez station and they had heard only a few notes of some seventiez rock before Kimberly switched it to the student-run station (“—last week’s fatal beating of a thirty-six-year-old homosexual woman and her adopted Chineze baby—”). She instantly switched it to NPR and listened to three syllablez of a crackling male voice (“—alleged—”) before switching it back to the seventiez rock song and settling into a comfortable slump in the leather seat.

Jhosette turned her head halfway around to her sisterz and kicked the gas pedal to the floor. “Thingz crazy at home?”

Jhessica spoke first. “Un..fucking..believable.”

The eight-year-old interjected, “Momz experiencing some stress.”

Circular pillz in the spinez of CD casez and a phat pleasure Band-Aid® in the freezer, Michaelangelo® pillz embedded in the spinez of paper lamps hung in orange from the ceiling, Jaques Cousteau® pillz scuba diving in chemistry diving capsulez within the confinez of the toilet tank, aerial stunt skydiving motherfuckerz falling from her eyez in slow motion, Ansel Adamz® stillz hiding in 35mm in her camera bag, aligator monster motherfuckerz lounging under the couch waiting for a chance to pounce, and she haz theze Alka-Seltzer® coke-looking motherfuckerz laid out in talcum on the countertop. Ask Your Doctor About Advair®.

Jhosette turned back to the road. “Well, you got two dayz off. What do you want to do?”

Jhanice said, “I’d like it if we could stop somewhere and get some coffee.”

Kimberly raized an eyebrow and snuck a glance at her roommate. “Take the girl to Perks®.” She leaned over the back seat toward the eight-year-old. “They’re open all night and they have like eighty different kindz of coffee. What about you?”

Jhessica sat with her shoulder pressed az deeply az possible into the carz upholstery, staring blankly into the corn az they sped past. Without looking at Kimberly (and with absolutely no inflection in her voice) Jhessica said, “Boonez Farm®.”

Jhosette said, “What?”

Jhessica raized her voice. “I just want my Boonez Farm®. Then I’m happy.”

Kimberly turned to face the front, attempting to supress a laugh.

Jhessica said, “Do you guyz ever go to partiez or anything or do you just sit around the dorm?”

Kimberly couldn’t hold it. She laughed outright.

Jhosette spoke. “Jhess..this town iz filled with twenty thouzand horny kidz who all they do iz occasionally go to class and they spend the rest of their time at one of the twenty barz on Court Street drinking shit that would make you absolutely spill your guts and the next day they wake up on somebodyz floor that they’ve never even met and then they somehow find their way back to their room and find their friendz and then the next night they go out and do the same thing again. Just ask Kimber.”

Kimberly punched Jhosette’s shoulder playfully. “You ain’t no saint yourself.” Kimberly turned back to Jhessica. “And forget Boonez Farm®. I think it’s time you girlz went sailing.”

“Sailing?” Jhanice asked, her eyez wide.

Jhosette laughed.

“Yep,” Kimberly continued, “tonight I think the four of us are gonna do a little sailing with the Captain®.” Kimber smiled at Jhosette; Jhosette’s smile widened.

“The invention of heroin waz seminal to the invention of semen.”

“Lick my cheezy head, bitch.”

sodium benzoate (to protect taste)

Jhessica rolled her eyez. They were improvizing again.

Toenailz provide every protein required by the human body—the problem iz they grow too slowly, like sloe gin, rotting on the vine before the moment of it haz had fruit to reach maturity.

“That’s Slow Jen; she takes a while.”

“Honey, you have to wait till we get back to the room before you take your clothez off. See that? That’s a cop dear. Here, take your shirt. Allison, why did we let them drink? They never drink.”

“I know.”

“Why did we let them start tonight?”

“I didn’t even see them until they already had about six shots in them.”

“Well watch them more closely next time.”

“Do you think you could get Mozart to jack off in my face?”

“No..Mozart’s booked tonight.”


“I can get Axyl Roze or Tori Amos.”

“No. I wanted Mozart.”

Kimberlyz mother wandered into the sunroom, glancing back over her shoulder occasionally at her sulking daughter. The poor thing! All the wanted waz Mozart and now, becauze of Darylz gambling addiction, the child would spend her seventh birthday without music, pouting on the kitchen floor. Tomorrow something would have to be done about Darryl. Something drastic. Something final. That bastard may have ruined my life, but it haz to stop before the effects on our daughter are irreversible! Maybe she should cut hiz dick off, like that newzhero Lara Croft®! But no, that waz too mediaseeking, too dramatic, too 1998. She would have to think of something more 40 AD, like push him in front of a bus. Fuck it, hadn’t she alwayz been fascinated by the technical elements of guillotine construction? Of course..the front escallier would make a suitable gallowz, provided Kimberly could be tucked away upstairz at the moment of the snap, and the body removed before Kimberlyz TV showz were scheduled to be watched downstairz. Though the required materialz are relatively inexpensive, crucufixion remainz an impractical meanz of spouse disposal due to the large amount of time needed to allow the suffocation to run its course.

Kimberly took another drag from her clove before switching the radio back to NPR (“—a six-part seriez exploring the turbulent history of Western® counterinvolvement in the Middle East®, from the Crusadez® to this latest conflict in Iraq®—”). Kimberly cleared her throat. “Howz your throat feeling, Jhosie?”

Jhosette looked at Kimberly questioningly. “Fine. Why?”

Kimberly cleared her throat again. A pained look came over her face. “Actually, minez feeling kind of sore. Do you mind if we stop by Rite Aid® and pick up some Robitussin® or something?”

PART FOUR: The Kat-Kissing Mission

We find Jhanice on the street. We find her with greasy braidz, toe twist, we find her thumb pressing play on a portable tape recorder. We find her lips swished to one side schoolmarm-style. We find her JeanzJordache®. We find a white chevron glued to the tip of each shoe. We find the tape saying “where we were in the middle of the” and we find her finger rushing to the rev/cue and backing us up to “who said?—what about the Scriptolighter®?” and we find her trip, and her chin findz the sidewalk concrete. The portable tape recorder findz the sidewalk concrete. The batteriez of the portable tape recorder find themselvez naked rolling on the sidewalk concrete. And we find her licking her lips of the blood we find her hand on her forehead tongue testing the bottom lip—yep, it’s busted! Damn and I busted my lip open again and the portable tape recorder batteriez are naked on the sidewalk again and I’m laying face down on the sidewalk again. Damn damn damn. Damn again found myself laying face down on the sidewalk and the “what about?—what about the Scriptolighter®?” and we find her picking herself up off the concrete and clothing the batteriez and her finger finding the play button on the portable tape recorder and her playing it and shez playing it backwardz and finding the rev/cue button and running the tape back and speaking clearly into the tape recorder saying “I’ll never—I’ll never fall in love again” and she walks.

In town, Jhosette parked the Chrysler® convertible on Court Street. They all got out of the car. Kimberly skipped a few steps away from the three sisterz.

“I’m going to Rite Aid®, I’ll meet you someplace?”

“Sure,” Jhosette said, “Perks®?”


“But we’re taking the long way,” Jhosette said, “so don’t hurry.”

Kimberly said “K!” and patted a parking meter on the head, skipping off down Court Street.

Jhessica said, “What’s wrong with her?”

“Well,” Jhosette said, “shez had a sore throat for dayz and shez—understandably—pretty excited about getting it fixed.”

“O-kay ...”

Jhosette took Jhanice by the hand and started walking. Jhessica followed beside them.

“Let’s get you that Boonez Farm® and then we’ll get you some coffee.” They went east on Court Street, passing the book storez and a Chineze restaurant, passing the Kinkoz® and a 50z diner. The road sloped down az they passed the City Hall and a courthouse and the Methodist® church. When the road sloped back up the businessez they passed were increasingly barz. The Parrot’s Eye®. O’Jungz®. Ned Pepperz®. The Greenery®. Jhanice obzerved the students. Almost everyone she saw waz in their late teenz or early twentiez. Jhessica obzerved them, too. A group of girlz came by wearing logo sweaterz and Gap® jeanz. They all had blond hair and round plush facez, flawless skin. Jhessica had never seen such a consummate bloc of perfection outside of TV.

She confided her thoughts with her older sister az a second, similar group passed them. She waz incredulous: “Iz someone shooting a commercial right here?”

Jhanice squeezed Jhosette’s hand (hard) and stopped walking. Jhosette and then Jhessica also stopped walking, looking to the youngest girl for an explanation. Jhanice pointed to a window on the second story of a tanning salon whoze windowz were plastered with lurid posterz of the Caribbean. Between the curtainz and the glass, two kats stood in perfect symmetry with one another, their nozez touching delicately. Jhanice smiled widely and some male students noticed the three brown-haired girlz of varying agez (obviously sisterz) stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. The male students followed the line of Jhanicez arm to the second story window. The little girl squealed. “They’re kissing!”

Jhessica saw the boyz looking at them and automatically took two steps away from her sisterz. “Come on you two, let’s go.”

Jhanice turned from the window and silently bowed her head to the pavement, considering what she had just seen.

Jhosette asked Jhessica: “Which one do you want to go to?”

Jhessica looked up at the sign of the bar they were standing right in front of and read its contents to Jhosette. “The Smiling Skull®.”

Jhosette held the door for her sisterz and they all went in. The place waz empty. Four people at a corner table eating burgerz and friez from red plastic bowlz molded to look roughly like woven baskets. The girlz sat in a row on three bar stoolz, Jhanice in the middle. A tribal tattoo waz engraved in the bartenderz arm, disappearing under the sleeve of hiz white tshirt and sprouting again from the neckhole. When he approached them he made eye contact only with Jhanice. She waz cherry budding pubsickle in an underage barroom. “What can I get for you?”

But Jhanice shook her head gravely and politely no.

Jhosette leaned across the bar and affectionately punched the bartender. “I want a cozmopolitan.”

He grinned. “You are a cozmopolitan.”

“I want one anyway, glasshead.”

“Glasshead!? Seriously, what can I get you?”

Jhosette pointed at Jhessica with an unlit clove. “Shez having shots.”

The bartender looked at Jhessica. “Wha’d’ll it be?” Cherry budding nymphsickle in a dormitory stairwell.

Jhosette said: “Give her a shot of One-Fifty-One.”

Jhessica glared at her sister. “Don’t be giving me some shit that’s gonna make me puke.”

Jhosette lit the clove. “Get a chaser.”

“What kind of beer you like?” the bartender asked.

“Just..a Coorz® in a can and a shot of one-fifty-whatever.”

The bartender set a shot glass on the bar.

Jhessica waz shaking her head. “I know you. This iz gonna be some nasty shit that would make a horse puke oats and I’m gonna embarrass myself.”

The bartender went back to Jhanice. “Seriously, you want somethin hon?”

The girlz eyez brightened. “Sprite®?”

“What about you?”

Jhosette waved her hand over the bar. “I’m fine.”

“No, no, no,” Jhessica whined. “You ain’t gettin me drunk while you sit there smokin that shit completely sober. Nuh uh. You drink what I drink, if you recommend it so highly.”

Jhosette smiled. She tapped her index finger on the bar in front of her.


Jhosette shook her head. The bartender turned and left.

Jhanice peered at Jhosette with wide eyez. “Do you come here a lot?”


“Do you come here every night?”

“Not every night.”

Jhanice leaned in close to her older sister. She whispered. “Do you like that man?”

Jhosette laughed, and the clove smoke came out her noze and blew across Jhanicez cheeks. Jhanice couldn’t help but take some of it in during her next breath. She wondered if that constituted smoking ...? Had she just smoked? The stuff smelled sweet, not stinky like the cigarettes their parents smoked. She felt it hot on her face and spicy at the top of her throat. Jhessica adjusted her dress, watching the bartender wash a glass, hiz back to them. When the bartender came back to them he waz carrying a translucent Solo® cup filled with clear liquid. He set the Sprite® in front of Jhanice first, then popped the tab on Jhessicaz Coorz®. Then he poured the shots for the older girlz.

“Enjoy,” he said to Jhessica. She waz cherry muffing blindpounce tiger and she turned twenty-one singing showtunez in the shower in my bathroom.

Jhessica returned the bartenderz gaze nervously. She moaned tensely, convulsively tightening her legz around hiz head.

He left them, going to talk with the foursome at the corner table. Janice sipped her Sprite®, then blinked widely at something behind the counter. Jhessica waz too busy situating herself in relation to her shot and Jhosette too busy watching Jhessica situating herself in relation to her shot that neither of them noticed Jhanice blinking at the thing behind the counter, on the other side, near the dishwashing sink. Jhessica had cautiously lifted her shot to mouth level, careful not to spill any, when she became acutely aware that her older sister waz watching her. When she turned she waz somehow not surprized that Jhosette’s expression waz a smirk.

Jhessica set her shot back on the bar. “What?”

Jhosette let her laugh out all the way.

“What?! What’s so fucking funny?”

“Nothing ...”

Then they both saw Jhanice, holding the cup of Sprite® with both handz, perfectly still, in front of her, and peering over the plastic cup at something under the other side of the bar. Jhanice licked her top lip clean of the Sprite®. Jhessica followed her younger sisterz gaze to the underside of the bar, but she didn’t see anything there.

“What iz it? Jhanice?”

The little girl smiled at Jhessica, a smile whoze relevance to this particular moment and circumstance waz impossible for Jhessica to discern, but that waz unquestionably a smile of complete, pure, innocent delight. Jhanice set her cup of Sprite® down and hopped off the stool. She bolted around the bar toward the foursome in the corner. Jhessica and Jhosette saw the headz of the foursome turn with what they assumed waz the movement of Jhanice rushing past them. The headz of the foursome followed an action invisible from where Jhosette and Jhessica sat on the other side of the bar. Jhosette saw the gray blur of the kat jump from the middle shelf near the dishwashing sink and run for an opening in the bar. One of the foursome laughed and choked a little on an onion. The headz of the foursome and the head of the bartender tracked the invisible motion back in the opposite direction, it leaving more slowly than it had come their way. Then Jhanice waz saddling up with her sisterz, cradling the gray barkat in her armz, handling him carefully az she climbed into her stool, and, once they were both up, kissing hiz face with abandon, tugging at hiz earz, scratching hiz cheeks, rubbing hiz fat belly, offering him a sip of her Sprite® and, when he politely refuzed, forcing hiz head into the cup. Given the oblivious violence with which her younger sister shoved the kat’s head into the Solo® cup, Jhessica thought the kat must be ready to claw Jhanice in the face, jump from her armz and run fearful to some hidden spot under the bar. Jhanice sumberged hiz muzzle in the sugary liquid, squeezing hiz head into the narrow cup, hiz earz smashed against the translucent plastic, hiz face taking the form of the clyindrical mold. Gripping the scruff of hiz neck, Jhanice withdrew hiz head from the cup az methodically az she had inserted it. Far from being ready to scratch her captivez eyez out, Jhessica obzerved, the kat instantly craned hiz neck to Jhanice and pressed hiz noze to her lips. He only pulled back slightly to have room enough to lick the Sprite® from around hiz own mouth. Jhanice stroked the kat’s head heavily; the feline bowed under the pressure of each stroke. The bartender made only a casual notice of all this, and waz back chatting with the corner foursome. Jhosette saw Jhessicaz face: she waz staring, drop jawed, at the interaction between Jhanice and the strange kat. Her forehead showed four distinct wrinkle linez which Jhosette knew, on a girl Jhessicaz age, would vanish traceless az soon az the next thought entered her head. Jhosette reached for her shot and curled it between three fingerz. She lifted it and expertly tapped the bottom of the tiny glass on the bar. She waz still staring at Jhessicaz forehead. Jhessica picked up her own shot. Jhanice sipped her Sprite®, occupying herself by visually studying various bar instruments—glassez hanging overhead, strainerz, ashtrayz, beak-nozed nozzlez affixed to the bottlez—oblivious both to Jhessicaz preperatory ritualz and, momentarily, to the movement in her lap: at this lapse in attention, the barkat leaned toward Jhessica and waz sniffing her shot. Jhessica swatted the kat’s noze with the back of her hand. He flinched back, and Jhanice waz once more aware of the beast she waz holding. She looked side to side at both her sisterz, Jhosette cooly cradling her shot in the same hand az her clove, Jhessica feigning comfort with the tiny glass, nervously eyeing her Coorz® in a can. Jhanice ran her left hand in a long, loving stroke along the kat’s head and neck, lifting the Solo® cup in toast and mockery of her older sisterz. Jhosette brought the shot to her mouth and downed it in one smooth sip. Jhessica followed suit so hastily that some of the shot dribbled down her chin before the glass even touched her lips and most of the rest of it dribbled out of her noze very shortly after.

Jhosette grabbed her youngest sister by the hand and tried to pull her away from the bar but Jhanice curled her anklez around the legz of the stool and gripped the edge of the bar with both handz, the purring kat trapped between her forearmz.

“Simonz not ready. Hez not ready for me to go.” Jhanice shook her head and clenched her teeth.

Jhessica waz standing in the doorway, her handz set on her hips, her legz set apart, her black boots planted firmly on the step that led into The Smiling Skull®. She marched back to the bar and grabbed Jhosette by the wrist. “Let’s go without her.”

Jhanice said, “That’s fine with me.”

Jhessica tugged at Jhosette’s arm, gaining some inchez toward the door. “What about your coffee?” she pleaded, and with her next tug Jhosette lurched a foot toward the door. Jhessica wailed “Goodbye!” at Jhanice and Jhosette smiled lazily at the bartender az Jhessica wrenched her older sister all the way through the door and onto the street.

Back inside, Jhanice lifted Simon and licked him on the side of the face. Careful to avoid knocking over the empty Solo® cup, she handed him back to the bartender. The bartender took the kat over hiz shoulder and rocked him gingerly, like a baby. Jhanice jumped from the stool and ran to the door to find her sisterz.

On Court Street, the girlz walked like this: Jhosette went right down the middle of the sidewalk, her handz swinging at her sidez, her viney hair thrown casually over her shoulderz, her denim pants hanging loosely on her waist and their fluted bottomz swishing near her anklez. Jhessica stood to Jhosette’s right, nearer the parking meter side of the sidewalk. Her black boots ground against the pavement and ran so high up there were only four inchez of leg showing between the tops of her boots and the bottom of her black dress. (Cherry popping heelz popping cherry popping heelz.) Jhessica walked in a more structured, intentional, somewhat less natural way than Jhosette. Her glancez, the turnz of her head and the moments when she choze not to turn it, the way her handz found the linez of her own hips or thighz or neck, the way she shook her shoulder-length hair (straight and dyed az black az her dress)..all this waz the result of an expert social engineering whoze input variablez were every aspect of the crowd around her. If the boy noticed Jhessica from half a block away, Jhessica had already scoped him at a block and a half, studied him, calculated him, classified him for half a block and then completely ignored hiz entire geographic vicinity for another half a block so that by the time he saw her she waz capable of letting him pass without a glance, without a nod; capable just of meeting hiz eye, holding it for three stridez, and turning away to laugh casually with Jhosette about some imaginary subject; equally capable of pretending until the last possible moment that she had not seen him at all, and then, right before she would leave hiz sphere forever (casting him into frozen darkness), turning abruptly away from her sister in mid-sentence, crossing the street between moving traffic (this while holding hiz startled gaze and shooting him a cold smile while sliding between the parked carz on the other side of the street), parting hiz circle of friendz, grabbing hiz wrist, digging her nailz into its soft underside, and moving close to the side of hiz face with the kinetic rush of a vampire, biting the top of hiz ear with a carefully timed exhale of hot breath in a single syllable (“oh”)..then, az the gent stood there enjoying the novelty of having been violated in a way that straight men are rarely ever truly violated, Jhessica would turn and cross the street to rejoin her company, pointing out some random trinket in a shop window (pretending to like it), or simply picking up the half-sentence where she had dropped it and never casting another look in the guyz direction. Jhosette tolerated theze characteristic and inevitable detourz of Jhessicaz. Jhanice waz still young enough that she didn’t completely understand them. Jhanice actually waz interested in the trinkets in the store windowz. She hopped from one side to the other of her sisterz, swung around parking meterz with one of her armz attached to them, dodged and dove between other people walking the opposite direction. She sometimez took Jhosette’s hand, getting the oldest sisterz attention to show off Mylar® balloonz in the window of a card shop, to offer a glimpse of a penny she had found lying headz up on the sidewalk (good luck for Jhanice) or offer az a gift a penny she had found lying headz down (good luck for whoever Jhanice gave the penny to). She also stopped Jhosette to ask questionz about the school (Where were the teacherz?) and she listened eagerly to (though waz sometimez a bit confuzed by) Jhessicaz bending of her ear to derisively suggest inappropriate undertakingz or ask absurd questionz of her younger sister. (“Why don’t you ask Jhosie for a clove?” or “Jhanice, don’t be mean to me, I know you have one..pleaze, pleaze let me borrow one of your tamponz.”) Jhanice listened to theze requests with a patience that made Jhessica wonder about the girl. She never got angry with Jhessica, that much waz just weird, but the fact that Jhanice didn’t seem to understand the irony or the anachronism inherent in theze questionz absolutely freaked Jhessica out.

“Jhessie,” the little girl would say, politely, quietly, az if sensitive to the privacy of the asker of such a question, “I don’t have one.”

Jhanice wasn’t listening to Jhosette and Jhessicaz conversation. She ran from side to side az they headed back along Court Street, retracing the path they had taken to The Smiling Skull®. Jhanice ran around the left side of Jhosette without looking and stopped abruptly when she saw that her trajectory would have her collide with a college girl who waz carrying a kat in her armz and talking sulkily with her boyfriend, who followed somewhat behind, speaking plaintively to the girlfriend, gently, saying “Will you come?”

Jhanicez quick movement and sudden stop drew both their attention. The college girl looked down at Jhanice and the kat she waz carring did the same thing, craning hiz furry head down from the girlz shoulderz to spy the rapidly-stopped Jhanice. Hiz earz perked and hiz eyez seemed to widen at the sight of the little one. The college girl almost fell forward, but stopped herself.

“Say you’re sorry,” Jhessica demanded, but the girl with the kat instantly said she didn’t have to. Jhosette silently obzerved the couple. Jhessica stood with her handz on her hips, staring, annoyed, across the street, now pretending not to see the couple, their kat, Jhosette, or Jhanice. The kat squirmed eagerly in the college girlz armz: suddenly, compulsively needing to be on the ground.

“Farquar,” said the college girl sternly, but the kat broke free and jumped down. It took a moment for him to accept that he waz actually free. Then he made hiz way round the college girl and her boyfriend and marched up to Jhanice, who waz bent to the ground, waiting for him. The kat rubbed against Jhanicez handz and armz, starting with hiz noze and cheek, continuing with the side of hiz body, and finishing hiz first pass at her with a tickly brush of hiz tail. Jhanice picked him up without asking, hefting him to the level of her shoulderz. The kat’s owner looked upon Jhanice with what Jhosette took for pride. Supporting the kat’s body on her right arm, Jhanice smoothed hiz earz back along the sidez of hiz skull, encasing hiz now cone-shaped head with her left hand. The kat held hiz body perfectly still while Jhanice slowly, smoothly moved her head closer to the kat’s. She approached hiz noze and allowed her lips to gently touch it. Then she opened her mouth az wide az it would go and thrust her neck forward, encircling the kat’s head entirely, hiz neck between her teeth, hiz noze at the top of her throat. Jhanice held this position for a count of six, trying not to breathe on hiz face, managing to exhale only a tiny fraction of a full breath. Under the pressure of the fingerz of her left hand, she felt the strange kat’s ear twitch. Janice removed the kat’s head from her mouth, released her grip on hiz earz, and patted him twice az he shook out hiz head and yawned. He submitted without the slightest complaint to Jhanice handing him back to the college girl and the college girl repositioning him in her armz. Jhanice looked up at all of them from herz, the lowest of all their vantage points.

The boyfriend waz the first to speak. “This iz—you know what this iz, right?”

Immediately hiz girlfriend dug her fingernailz into hiz genitalz and scraped them upward, marking hiz skin, boring az deeply az she could. “’This iz an affair and tomorrow you better not love me.’,”

And they were off down the street.

Jhessica waz the first of the sisterz to start walking again. Jhosette had started to follow along that Jhessica might not get too far ahead of them and vanish into the drivel of students on the road, and she had crossed the space of four sidewalk squarez before she noticed Jhanice waznt with them. She turned and hurried back to grab her youngest sister by the hand, wrenching the eight-year-old from her petrified stance (solemnly facing the couple, and their kat, who waz almost out of sight). Jhosette and Jhanice quickly caught up with Jhessica, who waz now refuzing, on general principle, to stop walking for this sort of interruption. The girlz resumed their earlier configuration, Jhosette and Jhessica talking about thingz Jhanice had no care to listen to, Jhessica occasionally taking the opportunity to tyrannize boyz by staring at them suggestively and promptly ignoring them to scope the next, Jhosette letting her legz casually stride against the firmness of the concrete, feeling the wind move against her az she approached, continually, new pockets of air, and feeling it enter her noze and travel to her lungz, and Jhanice leaping from side to side, straddling, crossing, avoiding, and pouncing on the sidewalk cracks in her own schizophrenic version of hop scotch. When an approaching adult stopped abruptly to avoid being intercepted by her erratic, largely oblivious path, Jhanice would look up at whoever it waz and laugh.

When they got to Perks® Kimberly strolled jauntily to meet them from where she had been waiting against the outside brick wall of the place with a bulging Rite Aid® bag in her hand. “What took you so long?”

Jhessica rolled her eyez.

Jhosette said, “I told you we were taking the long way.”

“I’ve been standing here for half an hour.”

“We went on—” Jhanice began.

But Jhosette interrupted: “We stopped at The Skull.”

“Oh yeah..get your Boonez Farm®?”

Jhanice waz trying to get something out: “We—”

“Actually, we did a—”


“Whad you give her—”

“Shot of—”

“Just a little—”


“We were—”


“You did a shot of one-fifty-one?!”

“She tried.”

“My god, you trying to kill the girl?”

And Jhanice screamed to be heard: “WE WENT ON A KAT-KISSING MISSION!”

They all stopped what they were saying and they looked at the girl, who waz standing with her feet at shoulderz length apart and her armz folded at her chest.

Kimber leaned down and put her face close to Jhanicez. “Oh yeah? Well, you better go get your coffee,”—she held the bulging Rite Air® bag over Jhanicez head—“becauze I ain’t sittin here all night.” Kimberly made her hand into the shape of a pistol and pointed it at Jhanice. “I supposedly had a gun, which waz a cap gun, and we marched off in the bushez, and so forth, and I tortured her,” she said in a monotone.

Jhanice could tell that Kimberly waz serious, and she saw by Jhosette’s face that Jhosette waznt going to help her on this one. Jhanice flared her nostrilz at Kimberly and growled, a gutteral growl whoze bass sounded frighteningly like the growl of a real bear or wolf. Jhanice broke her stare with Kimberly and ran past her into the store, frenetically scanning the chalkboard menu az she approached the counter, and said, with the last part of the same breath with which she had growled at Kimberly, “I want a triple shot of Espresso® in a to-go cup, pleaze.”

PART FIVE: Medicine

Marcel waz basking in the orange light of the Kimberlyz desktop wallpaper, hiz eyez clozed, motionless, in the same position he had been in for the last hour, enjoying the warmth of the screen and not thinking much of anything when the door opened and in a rush four girlz came into the room, hiz Jhosette, the Kimberly, and two other girlz Marcel had never seen before. Az soon az the key turned in the door Marcelz eyez were open. By the time the door opened he had hidden himself under the cover of a book that waz lying open on the Kimberlyz desk and found himself staring, with some dismay, at the spine of the Kimberlyz Nietzsche®, which waz laying clozed and propping up the cover of the giant, open book under which Marcel waz hiding. They were all laughing when they came in, the Kimberly telling the end of a joke Marcel had heard before about a man pissing into a cup on a bar. Marcel went to the edge of the book cover to get a look. One of the new girlz waz about the same age az hiz Jhosette and the Kimberly and Marcel wondered if perhaps she waz from the second floor. The other one waz too young to be in college, though. She looked about the right age to be a sib. Both the new girlz were laughing at the joke. The younger one laughed the most, but the other one laughed a little, too. Hiz Jhosette chuckled, but Marcel knew she had heard the joke before, becauze he had heard the Kimberly tell it to her. Marcel ran to the other side of the textbook and across the Kimberlyz desk. He caught a secondz glance at their positionz in the room. Hiz Jhosette waz taking off her sweater and sitting down in the same motion. The girl who might have been from the second floor waz peering into Marcelz open terrarium on the dresser and the young girl had rushed to the window to look out onto the green. Marcel saw a blond blur he knew waz the Kimberly, near the door. He heard the door cloze and the sound of the metallic latch clicking into place. He scurried across the desk and ran down its far side, out of sight of everyone in the room. He heard the girl he thought might be from the second floor say, “What’s this for?”

The Kimberly waz the one who answered. “That’s where Jhosie keeps her boyfriend.”

Marcel couldn’t see this, but Jhessica raized her eyebrowz at Jhosette.

The Kimberlyz voice continued: “She lets him climb all over everything. I’m pretty sure she lets him sleep with her.”

Jhosette smiled and reclined in her bunk. Jhanice had turned from her post at the window and waz looking around the room. Marcel thought she might have pauzed when her eye passed over the corner of the Kimberlyz desk (where Marcel waz peeking around the edge to get a look at the people in the room). He waz relieved to see her eyez move from hiz position. Jhanice scouted the room. There waz a poster to the left of Kimberlyz desk that said “PARENTAL ADVIZORY / EXPLICIT LYRICS” in bold black and white letterz. There waz a poster on the back of the door that had a huge yellow smiley face on a black background. There waz a bullethole in the forehead of the smiley face with a trail of blood coming from it (that waz part of the original poster—it hadn’t been drawn in). Kimberlyz desk waz covered with open books and at least three full ashtrayz. There waz an L.L. Bean® bookbag on the floor with the initialz KLM stiched into it. Jhanice picked up a video from Kimberz desk. It said “Brittany Alexzander. Allison Wyle. Adela. Cinderella. 18 And Ready to Rock Your World!” Kimber snatched the video and stuffed it in a drawer. The top bunk waz littered with stuffed animalz and large pillowz, and the sheets up there were az disordered az the onez on the bottom bunk, where Jhosette’s fitted sheet had come unattached at the end where she put her feet when she slept. The blue and white striped matress showed at that end. Jhosette’s desk waz stacked with compartmentalized plastic trayz meant for storing fishing lurez, but Jhosette’s were filled with beadz and hooks and stonez and screw connectorz and spoolz of fine thread. There waz a hand loom that had a half-finished choker necklace on it. The floor waz almost unwalkable; to get from the door to the window Jhanice had to chooze her steps like a mountain climber searching a rock face for a crevice suitable for the insertion of a few fingerz, wedging her feet in the open spots between crumpled shirts and jeanz with belts still threaded through the loopholez at their waists. There were mirrorz on the closet doorz, and Kimberlyz waz covered from edge to edge with taped up photographs of her friendz, snapshots from placez she had been, picturez of her family, picturez of her and her brother that their mom had taken of them az children, cutouts from magazinez of rockstarz and movie starz, famous newz headlinez she had photocopied from old newspaperz in the library, stylish advertizements from magazinez. The mirrored door of Jhosette’s closet waz decorated with writing in lipstick, lists of thingz to do, informal poemz she had written about Marcel, abstract questionz that Jhosette had wondered about the universe: “When will I know?” Jhosette’s clozet door also hosted lists of the four-digit extensionz of her friendz dorm phonez. 3628 Amy. 3249 Maxwell. 3293 WKEG. WKEG waz the student radio station. Jhosette liked to call into Amyz show and chat, their intimate conversationz broadcast across a small portion of southeastern Ohio for anyone with a radio to hear. Marcel saw that the youngest girlz eyez had gone to the mirrored closet next to the dresser that held hiz open terrarium. He took this opportunity to zip along the edge of the floor that ran between the Kimberlyz desk and the bed. He ran behind Jhosette’s desk with all the beadz on it into safe territory under the bottom bunk. Jhosette’s feet disappeared from Marcelz view of the room (the slot between the floor and the bottom of the bottom bunk) az she lifted them from the floor and stretched out in her bed. Kimberly went to her desk and clozed the dictionary whoze open cover had been propped on top of the Nietzsche®. She grabbed the Nietzsche® and flipped through it, not paying any real attention to the book. She waz saying: “It’s possible I might have to choke you tonight. I’m sorry if I do. Are you” (she waz speaking to Jhessica) “Are you old enough to vote?”

Jhessica glared at Kimberly, her black dress pulled tight around the form of her body by the way she waz leaning against the dresser. “I’m sixteen.”

Kimberly fumbled with the clove in her fingerz, found a lighter, but then put the clove down on her notebook keyboard. She unscrewed the lid of the Ball® jar, dipped the cigarette quickly into the clear fluid, lifted it out, and set it az the next in a neat line of clovez on the desk. She re-capped the jar and picked up the clove at the opposite end of the line from where she’d placed the wet one. “I don’t know about you, but—you say you’re sixteen? Well, you don’t have to worry about it for a while, but you really ought to..really..consider ...” Now she waz flipping through the Nietzsche® az though she waz looking for a particular passage to quote, but waz unable to find it. “It’s an important stance. You—” She put the Nietzsche® on her desk, face down, still open, and stared at the orange of her desktop wallpaper. “Nevermind. I’m blabbing. You didn’t come here to get a political education..but of course Barbie® would say that a pub iz the most appropriate place to talk politics. Jhosie, help me out here, I’m lozing them.”

Jhosette waz yawning and couldn’t say anything at that exact second. She waz planning to suggest that Jhanice pick out some muzic when Kimberly said:

“Jhessie, be a sport: throw me that bag.” Kimberly had placed the Rite Aid® bag on the dresser near the open terrarium, and now she waz halfway across the room, leaning against her desk, trying to talk herself, mentally, out of smoking another clove. Jhessica looked at the dresser, figured out what Kimberly waz talking about, and reached for the plastic bag. She looked inside it. A quizzical look came over her face.

Jhosette finished her yawn and said to Jhanice, “Pick out some muzic if you want.”

Jhanice waz turning to look through the strewn stacks of CDz, caseless, but stopped when she saw the way Jhessica waz looking at Kimberly. Jhessica had one eyebrow raized, and had shifted her grasp of the bag so that now it waz dangling from the hook of her little finger.

Kimberly put an unlit clove in her mouth az defense against the look Jhessica waz giving her. She looked at her lounging roommate and said, “What the shit? Like I’m asking her to toss me a shrunken head!?”

Jhosette looked away; she suddenly wondered where Marcel waz hiding.

Kimberly turned back to Jhessica. “Just toss me the bag, pretty pleaze.” The clove bounced up and down az her lips moved with this speech. Jhessica reached into the bag and pulled out a bottle of Robitussin®. Kimberly coughed involuntarily, the clove bobbing once, faintly, with the catch of her lungz. Jhessica placed the bottle on the dresser. Jhanice watched az Jhessica went into the bag and brought out another (identical) bottle, holding this one up in the fluorescent light above the dresser, turning the bottle halfway around, scrutinizing its label and twisting the skin on her forehead az though she waz unhappy to discover the detailz of the bottlez contents. Jhessica set this second bottle on the dresser beside the first one. Jhosette noticed the silence in the room and raized herself up on her elbowz so she could crane her neck around the bedpost to see what waz happening. Jhanice looked expectantly at her older sister but got no response. Jhessica went into the bag a third time, her movements mechanical az she removed the third bottle, placed it on the dresser, looked again skeptically in Kimberlyz direction, then brought out a fourth bottle of Robitussin® and placed it on the dresser. The four bottlez stood side-by-side in a neat row, evenly spaced, their labelz all facing exactly the same direction, Marcelz open terrarium casting a burning grass-green highlight in exactly the same spot on each of the four bottlez. Jhanice looked at Jhessica. Jhessica looked at Jhosette. Jhosette looked at Kimberly, and Kimberly took the clove from between her lips. Her eyez made the crescent moon shape of a clownz and the girl giggled in falsetto. Jhosette rolled over onto her stomach, covering her head with the topsheet, wrapping her body in it, feeling the musclez in her forearmz flex tightly, her fists clench, her heart thump in her chest. She breathed in deeply through her noze, under the sheet, with everyone in the room watching her, then rolled out of the coverz and out of the bed onto her feet (the topsheet wrapped around her like a cape) and stumbled like a drunk across the floor toward Kimberly. She fell on her roommie and they grinned fiendishly in each otherz facez. Jhanice looked on with curiosity, and Jhessica with apprehension, az the older girlz clenched each otherz handz and bobbed up and down, laughing hysterically.

Kimberly made them all change into their pajamaz before they started. Kimberlyz pajamaz were a white slip set with some sort of matching bra and panty arrangement underneath that didn’t ever come quite fully into view, but showed itself in teaze here and there. Jhosette didn’t own pajamaz but they were going down the hall, so she had to wear something. She put on a tshirt and a pair of green nylon soccer shorts with a silkscreened icon of a Cannon® on one of the legz. Jhanice wore something similar, a pair of blue gym shorts and a tshirt. Jhessicaz pajamaz were a gray pair of fitted sweatpants and a black silk bra. Kimberly opened the door and the four of them filed into the hall, one behind the other, each carrying a toothbrush and Jhosette and Kimberly with their uzual bathroom cups, Jhessica and Jhanice with red Solo® cups that their big sister had stolen from the cafeteria. Each of the four girlz carried an 8oz bottle of Robitussin®.

Sarah waz talking on the phone and leaned into the hall after she saw the four girlz pass, covering the phone with her hand. “So early to bed?” she quipped. It waz eight o’clock.

Jhosette, who waz last in line, turned and talked to Sarah while walking backwardz down the hall. “So early to rize,” she said, holding her bottle of Robitussin® up for Sarah to see.

Sarah squealed into the phone: “They’re doing it again!” and Jhosette heard the voice on the other end yelling excitedly. Smiling, Sarah went back into her room, answering the voice on the other end with, “Yeah, but your lame ass iz too scared to try it.” She winked and waved, and clozed her door.

Jhosette turned so she waz facing the way she waz walking. She followed Jhessica, who followed Jhanice, who followed Kimberly down the hall and around the corner, then down the next hall and into the door on the left that led to the bathroom. The girlz stood in a row, occupying four of the five sinks that lined the end of the room opposite the showerz. One long mirror ran the length of the wall. They all looked at each otherz reflectionz az they brushed their teeth and talked with mouthz full of spit. Jhosette and Kimberly were in the middle. Jhessica waz on the outside next to Kimberly and Jhanice waz on the outside next to Jhosette. Jhosette and Kimberly were talking.

“Shez not even Buddhist®, I’m telling you. She thinks shez Buddhist® but all she ever doez iz stand around talking about Ayurvedic Meditation®, Homeopathic®..sandalwood..whatever. She sayz shez a Vegetarian®, too, but she eats meat all the time.”

“Well she also sayz shez forming a rock band but she never playz her guitar. She never practicez. I heard her pick it up one time. Have you heard her play it?”

Jhosette shook her head.

Kimberly spat into the sink, took a quick gulp of water and rinsed her mouth. When her head came up from the sink she said, “Well shez horrible. She doez a better job being a Vegetarian® Buddhist® than she doez being a rockstar.”

Jhosette spit now and rinsed her mouth. She said: “I wouldn’t mind so much if she waznt such a bitch to everyone. Everytime anyone sayz anything funny shez got a reazon why their humor iz inappropriate or offensive, why the person iz just az bad az what they’re making fun of, why you shouldn’t ever tell jokes about rape, why you shouldn’t tell jokes about people getting their headz cut off, why you shouldn’t tell jokes about stupid people dying from skin cancer.”

Kimberly kicked in: “Shouldn’t tell jokes about sex.”

Jhosette looked surprized.

“Yeah, the other day she waz on a soapbox talking about how we really shouldn’t be so casual about sex, talking about putting together a hallwide petition where we’d all sign our namez saying that we wouldn’t have sex with anyone we weren’t in a longterm relationship with—”

The eight-year-old still had froth in her mouth when she interjected: “That’s not a petition.”

Kimberly slapped Jhosette on the back. She looked at Jhanice in the mirror frankly. “Excellent point! It’s not a petition. It’s a contract, it’s a covenant, it’s a committment, but of all the stupid thingz it’s not a petition.”

“But that’s what she waz saying, gonna get together a petition ...”

“What’s she gonna do to people who don’t sign it, corner us in the hall and anally rape us with a Snow-Cone®?”

“Anyway shez such a hypocrite, I heard her having sex with Nathan Ketchen like three dayz ago.”

“Ewww!” Kimberly squirmed, her legz twisting together like she had to pee. “No, but check this out. I heard her having sex with Sheep Boy®. I swear to god. She waz in her car, she waz naked with dude on top of her, and I opened the door. I heard Sheep Boy® say something like Best motherfucker I ever had’ and then Becca throwz him off and jumps up, runz over to the door and slamz the motherfucker right az I walk by. I open the door back up and tell them I waz the park patrol or something, fucking with them, and so forth. It tortured both of them to have me standing there, you could see from their facez. I stood there questioning them for like a minute, honest truth. Do you know how many guyz shez been with?” Kimberly put the water in her mouth and waz gargling when Jhosette said:

“Bitch iz going for some kind of record.”

Jhessica thought Kimberly waz going to knock her over. Kimberly waz trying not to laugh, trying to keep the gargle in her mouth, but a little spray of it shot from between her lips. It hit the mirror and ran down, a thin streak of white liquid with two bubblez still intact after the trip from Kimberlyz mouth. The sight of this made the otherz laugh and made Kimberly give an aborted chuckle, and she waz so afraid that this chuckle waz going to make her looze it completely that she turned away from the mirror and away from Jhosette and Jhanice so that her condition would not be aggravated by the otherz laughter. Jhessica flinched az Kimberlyz hand caught her shoulder for balance. Kimberlyz face waz right next to Jhessicaz. Her stomach churtled up another bubble of laugh but she managed to absorb it somewhere between its source and her mouth. Both her handz were on Jhessicaz shoulderz now, trying to keep herself from falling over with the speed which which she had whirled around. Jhessica twisted the upper half of her body, reflexively trying to escape Kimberlyz hold. Kimberly regained her balance, her handz still clenched on Jhessicaz shoulderz, and az she righted herself saw the look on Jhessicaz face. Its seriousness, its fear at the potential inherent in this situation struck Kimberly az achingly more funny than Jhosette’s suggestion that Becca might be going for some kind of record. The gurgle started again, her stomach convulsing, wavez of shock jerking upward through her torso, a tickle of electricity singing in her neck, and she felt the twinge in her cheeks at the same instant of time when she had the thought to turn away from Jhessica, away from the mirror, to face the center of the bathroom. Her gargle exploded with a pshhh into a mist that rained on the floor tilez. Portionz of it merged and ran in streamz toward the drain in the center of the room.

Jhessica stood rigidly az she watched Kimberlyz saliva roll toward the drain. She said: “Gross.”

Kimberly knelt on the floor laughing, holding her sidez az she convulsed.

She waz looking at her own spit slide across the floor. Jhessica said: “What??” but that only made Kimberly laugh harder and take one of her handz from her twitching sidez so she could uze it to point to the drain and what waz headed for it.

“O-kay,” Jhessica said, and turned back to the wall mirror, nervously brushing her hair.

Kimberly pulled herself together enough to say, “You know what your problem iz? You ought to get more fun out of life.”

Jhanice poked Jhosette lightly in the ribz. Jhanice waz holding the bottle of Robitussin® in her other hand, reading the label.

Jhosette turned to the eight-year-old. “Yes, sweetie?”

Jhanice shook her head. “This sayz it’s for sore throats.”

Jhosette peered at the bottle Jhanice waz holding. Jhanice angled it so that it would be eazier for Jhosette to read. Jhosette looked her sister in the eye, “Uh-huh.”

Jhanice set the bottle on the edge of her sink and looked back at Jhosette. “My throat iznt sore.”

Jhosette put both her handz on Jhanicez shoulderz, lightly. “It’s okay, sweetie, you don’t have to drink the whole bottle.”

Kimberly had stood up and waz making her way back to the row of sinks.

“But are you?” Jhanice asked.


“Are you going to drink the whole bottle?”

Jhosette took the bottle of Robitussin® from Jhanicez sink and pressed down on the cap az she turned. “I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do, but I’m going to have some and then if I feel like having more I’ll decide that later.” Jhosette had the cap all the way off. She handed the open bottle to Jhanice.

Jhanice held the bottle in both handz and looked down through its neck into the glossy green jewel syrup inside. “I can decide later.”

“That’s right. That’s what we’re all going to do. We’ll have some now and if we want some later we’ll decide that later. Okay?” Jhosette looked tenderly into her youngest sisterz eyez.

Jhanice smiled contentedly at Jhosette. Her eyez twinkled. Holding it with both handz, she took a gulp right out of the bottle. When she brought it down from her lips her head waz still tilted upward toward Jhosette.

Jhosette raized her eyebrowz to Jhanice az a way of asking her how she liked it.

Jhanice mirrored her sisterz expression, raizing her little eyebrowz az high az they would go up her forehead, and the little girl licked her lips for the lingering taste of the green liquid.

Jhosette righted herself and went to work opening her own bottle. Kimberly and Jhessica had opened theirz. Kimberly held her bottle up in a toast invitation to Jhosette.

Jhessica shook her head but raized her bottle, too. “I don’t believe we’re doing this.”

Kimberly said, “You should have seen your big sister last night.”

Jhessica said, “Yeah, I bet,” and took the bottle to her lips, chugging four large gulps before taking the bottle away and taking a final swallow to clear her palate—her eyez clozed, her lips pursed. Kimberly waz sipping herz with her little finger stuck out in the classic imitation of high-class English® drinking tea. Jhosette waz just getting her bottle open and the safety cap removed when Jhanice waz taking a second sip, and a third, and looking over at the older girlz, mimicking their ritual. Jhosette got her bottle open and started drinking.

Jhanice waz so excited that she took another big gulp like Jessica Gulps® and brought the bottle down from her mouth in an enthusiastic rush, bounced twice on both feet and squealed, musically, “It’s medicine!”

“That’s right, that’s right Jhanice, that iz so very true,” Kimberly said az the four of them walked in a clump back along the hall toward Kimberly and Jhosette’s room. “It iz medicine. It’s medicine. Robitussin® iz nothing but medicine. They sell it on TV. A five-year-old can buy it at Rite-Aid®. They might az well be selling it in a fucking pop machine.”

Jhanice bounded forward on the carpet. “Pop iz medicine too!”

“True, true,” Kimberly said, “pop iz medicine. Motherfucking caffeine, codeine, morphine, it’s all motherfuckin medicine. You just buy it different placez. We legislate the distribution channelz, but it’s all really more a matter of class, you know?”

They were at the door to the room now. Jhosette opened it and let her sisterz pass.

Kimberly stopped in the doorway. “I mean, when waz the last time you bought a forty? See what I’m saying?”

Jhosette motioned with her head for Kimber to enter the room. Kimber poked Jhosette in the forehead and went in. Jhosette clozed the door. Jhanice climbed into the top bunk and Jhessica sat in Jhosette’s desk chair (which waz nowhere near Jhosette’s desk, but, instead, waz across the room near the dresser with the open terrarium). Jhosette and Kimberly remained standing in the middle of the space.

“D’j’ou want a clove?” Kimberly offered.

“Oh yes, pleaze.”

Kimberly took two clovez between her lips and inhaled through both, lighting each in turn. She placed one of them between the fingerz Jhosette held out, fingerz on the same hand she waz using to carry her Robitussin®.

Jhessica peered into the open terrarium and took another swig of her bottle. Without looking over, she said, “I ain’t takin you two to the hospital when your lungz collapse.”

Kimber took her clove from between her lips and punched, “HEY!” Jhessica looked over. Kimberly tossed the pack of clovez at her. Purely out of reflex, Jhessica caught the pack with her free hand. Kimber waz looking at Jhosette, saying, “Where waz I? Where waz I?”


“Thank you. Yes. Fortiez. A forty ounce bottle of malt liquor. What the fuck? What the fuck? You see what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, yeah. Totally.”

Jhessica turned the pack of clovez in her hand. “You two have some sort of secret language or something. A forty. So what?”

“A forty iz medicine,” Jhanice said from the top bunk. Her voice waz muffled (az she waz peering over the side of the bed, the far side, the side that came flush with the wall).

Kimberly looked from Jhanice to Jhessica and then to Jhosette. She shrugged. “Would you explain it to her?” Kimber went to her desk and sat down and started typing. The clove bobbed between her lips az she mumbled half-phrazez to herself. “Neonatal aesthetic dileneation..imagistic vertical stratification ...”

Jhessica waz shaking her head. “What the fuck iz she talking about? Jhosie, make her stop.”

But Kimberly kept mumbling. “... Erinz eyez narrowed ...”

“Whoze Erin?”

“... her eyez, the fucking world iz dead..the world iz dead..the girl in the book did me a favor I am her little sister and when she asked me to bring her the prick of a flower I said yes to the girl in the book and when I brought her the flower she made me lick her stomach ...” Then, after a long silence, she almost shouted at the notebook “In a minute we’re gonna edit the fuck out of what you just said but for the moment pleaze speak freely.”

Jhosette lied down against a pillow on the floor and used a remote control to turn on the television. It waz MTV®. Some rapper from the Dirty South®, waving hiz shirt around hiz head like a helicopter. There were old Cadillac(s) propped on cinderblocks and when Kimberly heard it she took her clove out of her lips and tapped it twice on the air between her and the TV. “You know I hate that shit.”

Jhosette turned the volume up.

Az soon az Kimber had returned the clove to her lips she gave Jhosette the finger. The whole time she never looked away from the screen of the notebook. “Take your shirt off..swing it round your head like a helicopter ...” waz what the rapper waz saying. Jhessica slid onto the floor with her older sister so that they were shoulder to shoulder, sharing the same pillow and bedpost to lean on. Before Jhosette went to college, the two of them used to watch TRL® together every day after school. The rapper waz surrounded by ten or fifteen other men. They all wore blue or khaki work pants like the kind kidz wear at Catholic® schoolz. They all had identical white tshirts that they had taken off and were swinging around their headz like a helicopter. They sang in gruff voicez. “Take your shirt off / throw it in the air / swing it round your head like a helicopter.”

Jhanice crawled away from the wall to the edge of the bed that faced the room and said, “Wherez the helicopter?”

Kimberly, still typing, pointed to the TV with her clove. When Jhanice saw what waz happening on TV and said “Oh” Kimberly retracted the pointing device and reinserted it in her mouth. Jhanice crawled out of sight. She peered between the bed and the wall. Kimberly noticed that Jhanice waz whispering at some unseen thing (and she waz sure she knew what). Kimber couldn’t make out the wordz Jhanice waz whispering, but she heard she swish-swish of the girlz mouth echoing off the wall and ceiling. Kimberly then saw, in her peripheral vision, Jhanice crawl the length of the bed to the post that Jhosette and Jhessica were leaning against. Jhanice had placed her Robitussin® on the top of that post, which waz narrower than the base of the bottle, but wide enough to hold it if nothing shook the bed. Jhanice cupped the bottle in both handz and brought it to her lips. She drank a sip, remembering timez before when their mother had fed her cough syrup from a spoon when she stayed home from school.

dark smellz of smoke enter their nozez

She remembered that some of them tasted cinnamon.

they have purchased candy coated toyz to suckle in the dark

This green stuff reminded her of her favorite cough drops, Vicks®, that her father carried around in a sandwich bag in hiz shirt pocket. She had memoriez of him taking the bag out of hiz shirt pocket, removing the rubber band he kept them wrapped up with, and taking out a cough drop. He would say that they were the best kind of cough drop in the world, and Jhanice agreed. She snuck them from the hall closet and put them in her pocket to take to school with her. Once she waz out of the house she didn’t have to be secretive about eating them. Other kids loved them, too (even more than candy) and Jhanice had incrementally negotiated entire lunchez off her schoolmates by offering them trade after trade of their lunch itemz for her cough drops. She only did that for especially good lunchez, but the technique waz flawless. Once you had one of theze Vicks® cough drops, it left a taste in your mouth that made you want to have another, then another, and you ended up eating whatever of them waz around until there were none left. Jhanice swallowed her sip of the Robitussin® and set the bottle carefully on top of the bedpost. She crawled over the sheets and the stuffed animalz to the crack between the bed and the wall where she had found him. He waz clearly hiding, but he had not been too afraid to talk to her. She felt the warm liquid coating her esophagus and still sticky on her teeth. There waz an excited feeling, like Christmas®, or being nervous, starting in her stomach. She also felt it in her wrists and around her eyez. The creature waz still there, she hoped, still waiting to talk with her some more, not run farther down the wall in hiding, but perched right where she had left him, flat to the wall, legz spread, sticky fingerclawz splayed to grip the maximum span possible. Sitting perfectly still, hiz tail giving a nervous twitch every so often, eyez bulging from opposite sidez of hiz body, spherical lidz rolled back into hiz head, gleaming up at her from the dark crevice behind the bed.

“You thought I wouldn’t notice?”

Marcelz neck waz bleeding.

“You thought I wouldn’t notice that you’re sitting in my chair sifting through the carpalz of my tunnel, digging some of your own, picking up your noze and up your butt with wide eyez, handz flexing eagerly, awaiting the golden nugget?” Cherry cross legz and cherry face hide behind a book pretending to read catching glancez over the cover. Cherry legz crossed at the anklez. Cherry legz wrapped in black stockingz fine net mesh covering your cherry from me. It seemed strange to him that the chin had come off so eazily.

Put your book down.

Streamlined from the shifting of her hair, a tigress’ lair, may fate be fair. There awaits the beauty and the tangle that I seek, inseparation that iz singularly existent from an external perspective, that of me, another face among the massez of enumeration impossible from the setting of a single chair. Birdz. Beasts. A flock upon the house of leavez, trash upturned, and ash that burned the mangled prayer iz now the pleasantry of a ten minutes nap. We wake to scream, to wander aimless in the inbetween, raking endless gardenz in this feathered heather, Kevinz Dream.

Pull out a cherry pink cellphone and pretend to call your boyfriend. Pretend to call your unclez girlfriendz dog and pretend to arrange planz for the evening. Pretend to be epically indispozed, pretend to be eternally committed, pretend to endlessly have somewhere to go, something to do, someone who carez where you are. Pretend to smile az you flash your eyez at the wittiest pretend joke in your pretend conversation that you’re pretending to have so you won’t accidentally have a conversation with me. Pretend to part your lips with a breath of surprize. Pretend to tap your fingernail on something plastic, just twice, entirely for effect. Pretend to turn your hand over and inspect its reverse. Pretend to care what hez telling you. Pretend hez waiting for you. Pretend hez anxious. Pretend hez maybe even a little bit angry and pretend that you’re maybe even a little bit hurt. Pretend that you’re apologetic. Pretend that hez somewhat understanding, but still somewhat peeved. Pretend that later you’ll make it up to him. Pretend that he knowz it. Pretend that you care. Pretend that it’s real. Pretend that it’s real, real, real, real..becauze you know that I’m watching you.

Marcelz heart pounded.

For a while he continued hiz vacuous painting, staring into the abysmal twisting depths of this dezign, until finally hiz eyez began to the matress, now stained sickly reddish-brown..and the freezing concrete floor..and then to the wallz, covered with taped-up posterz and drawingz which miserably failed to cover the permanently-embedded cracks..the cracks in the wall..the cracks which led nowhere, except to complete and utter dark, an immovable void alwayz so close, and yet, until now, too small to enter.

Cherry popping skullfuck in the shower Saturday morning before eight.

And the fucking black dress. The fucking black dress; the fucking black dress that obfuscates whether or not you’re pretty in the face, that obfuscates the sound of your voice, that obfuscates the color of your hair, your eyez, your skin, obfuscates even the shape of your body, obfuscates your name, your address, your job, obscufates the ring on the fourth finger of your left hand, obfuscates your “no” obfuscates all your accessoriez and mannerizmz and all your thoughts about the upcoming election, obfuscates your degree and your pedigree and obfuscates your accent, obfuscates your place of birth and national origin, obfuscates your scent, your original language, your in-flight meal preference, your name for god, obfuscates your underpinning, obfuscates your overdroning, obfuscates antimatter, obfuscates your brand of toothbrush, obfuscates your choice of doctor, obfuscates your zip code, obfuscates your line of credit, obfuscates your cheap shoez, late reply, incoherent laugh, obfuscates your highwire act, obfuscates your middle and last namez, favorite color, inner strength, apartment number, favorite drink, pet’s name, table mannerz, knowledge or ignorance of art, obliviousness to or obsession with sports culture, (in)ability to tolerate veal, prime rib, lamb, chutney, spice of any kind, mangoz, tomatoez, cheese far gone, friez in concert with admission tickets, movie tickets, R ratingz, X ratingz for intellectuality, triple-Y ratingz for absentmindedly shoulderflipping Barbiez® randomly displayed for your average middle-class fatherz four-fugue enjoyment squeezing hiz wife’s handz in the popcorn dark with hiz pinky finger slopped between your earz, Dumbo, legz in France, whiplashed underpants frying eggz in lace on two pinz notice from the time you sneezed, from that very first time you ever sneezed in the backseat of the blue van when they were all there anyway in the dark but didn’t know what you were doing and I mean they really had no idea what you were doing at all in the universe of the way back following dark physics and using dark mythology to forge mystical archaeology consisting of peanut butter and chocolate marbled marble repeating stirred in a blender with spiral binding and a splash of black ink—

But today the inaccessible reachez of the Empty were so near ...

Gripping her long hair fully in both handz, he started up the hill.

The flash of ambulance light on a table knife ambulance light of yellowz whites and red plastic number fifty-three inflated tirez down a too-narrow street running us all to the waiting room of the ER® where no such Dorrito®, no such readymade Cappu®, no such Clooney® can undo the spicemagick of the last episode. Black silhouettes beckoned him from beyond the present; the diabolic rhythm of the wind scraped against hiz bonez. Hiz leg weakly crumbled beneath him, striking fiery granite’s razor edge.

The body dropped.

No such spicemagick can unleash the infinite sensuality hidden in the mechanics of an innocent flip from page one to page two, the intimate eventuality inh