Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 2009 page 3

One short prose submission by
Craig Woods

Craig Woods was born in Scotland in the late twentieth century and will die sometime in the twenty-first. He currently resides in an abandoned railyard depot, conceiving of ways to propagate new human-animal hybrid species who will weave webs of light around rusty pylons. His hobbies include the yo-yo and firing guns indiscriminately.

Among the items salvaged from the wreckage of the ruined Jensen was a compilation tape of favourite songs. A cultural institution in itself, the mix tape has assumed an almost divine status in the minds and attitudes of subsequent generations.             Stumbling upon a lost mix tape is to akin to taking a dip into the ever-fluctuating psyches of the nameless compiler; every track blowing open new psychic avenues of sentiment and memory as our time tracks and lifelines merge in a slipstream with those of the compiler and the faceless many through whose ears and hearts the compilation has erstwhile travelled…             “That’s long enough, dear. Think you’d better come out now, hmm?”             Kirsten the Kurse leaned back admiring the amorphous mounds of foam which floated in the tub around her. She enjoyed the way they concealed her body from view; flabby thighs, pot belly and undersized breasts mercifully hidden from her self-conscious gaze. She thought how sweet it would be to achieve a physical state as nebulous and wispy as these white bubbling bergs… to fade into air or water like a wraith…             “You hear me, Kirsten?” Her mother tapped intrusively upon the bathroom door.             “I hear you. I’ll be out in a minute.”             “Well we don’t want you in there too long, dear…” there was an awkward pause, “You, uh, don’t want to end up all wrinkly.”             More like I don’t want to fucking drown myself. Why don’t you just say it, you old witch?             Kirsten’s recently augmented record of clumsiness, accident proneness and general bad luck, which had been remarkable to begin with, had caused her mother to fret over her every movement. In the last few weeks the woman had secured every power socket in the house, barred the upstairs windows… hell she had even stopped buying certain kinds of fruit for fear her ill-omened daughter would find some way of slipping up on a discarded skin and fall headfirst into a boiling pan or impale herself upon the TV antennae. These days it seemed any misfortune was possible no matter how absurd.             Kirsten drained the bath, got out and wrapped a towel around herself without incident.             See? I’m not totally useless.             A sharp report echoed across the upstairs hallway as she stubbed her toe on her way out of the bathroom. A swell of trapped blood blossomed like a dark flower under her big toenail.             Her mother, alert for the faintest abnormal sound, called from downstairs. “You okay, honey?”             Kirsten limped silently and sullenly to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.             She was in the middle of drying out her hair with the low power hairdryer (complete with circuit breaker adaptor for extra safety) when her phone rang.             “Alright sweetness, wanna have some fun tonight?”             Gary was something of a local rogue, a couple of years her senior. He had been one of the dangerous-but-popular crowd at her high school and she recalled watching him with awestruck schoolyard eyes as he smoked joints nonchalantly by the janitor’s station, captivating the upper echelons of the school’s female student elite with his firsthand tales of petty crime and weekend drug experiments.             “Maybe,” the word sounded pathetic to her own ears. She’d die for any kind of fun, particularly if it involved him and he knew it. “Got something in mind?”             “You and me might be taking a little ride tonight. In a special dream chariot. Fancy it?”             Of course she did.             By the time she had dressed and made herself up, Kirsten’s heart was pumping with anticipation, thundering in her ears like an orchestral drum. She was more than aware that Gary wasn’t interested in her for her stimulating conversation. In fact he made it consistently obvious that the quieter she was the better, as long as she remembered to moan in the right places while he had his forceful way with her. Likewise she was under no illusions about the nature of their relationship which was based entirely on his fairly accurate assessment of her as a prim-girl-turned-easy-lay-out-of-sheer-desperation. He made it no secret that she was but one in a collection of female trophies to whom he returned regularly to relieve his primal urges. In another life, Kirsten would have been appalled at this sordid predicament. Now though, she took solace that the hex which hung perpetually over her had at least permitted her this one outlet in which she could indulge regularly in a more palatable scenario; retreating into her mind as Gary thrust into her, she would watch the ceiling or wall or toilet cubicle before her dissolve into a dream landscape of success and personal wellbeing.             “I’m off out. Don’t wait up for me.”             “Now you be careful! And don’t be back too...”             Kirsten shut the door on her mother’s plea with a smug self-righteousness which dissipated immediately as she was pulled immediately backwards by some unnameable force at her back. She turned to notice that her purse strap had been caught in the doorjamb and wrenched from one of its buckles. Sheepishly, she reopened the door and retrieved the severed strap.             “Not too late, dear.” her mother advised solemnly.             Gary stood in the driveway in all his insolent glory. He had apparently arrived on foot.             “Where’s the ride?”             “We’re takin’ a short walk first, sugarbuns.” He grinned a devilish grin and gave her rump a suggestive pat.             Kirsten shivered in the hostile night air as he led her around the block and on to the old dirt road which ran along a brick wall beyond which the forest loomed in black silence. He walked with a purposeful stride and she kept appropriately quiet. At the end of the road they arrived at an old battered shed coated in black corrugated metal, rusted at the edges. A heavy padlock hung on a chain from two wooden handles. From inside his jacket, Gary produced a heavy claw hammer and slammed the head against one of the handles which gave way after four sharp blows. The echoes of the assault spread out in ghostly cycles through the unseen trees.             “Come on.”             With the grace and untamed vigilance of a fox, Gary ducked quickly behind a nearby bush and produced a jerry can and two bottles of cheap white wine, clearly stashed there some time in advance. He exhibited the goods in an open-armed pose, suddenly and briefly possessed by the incorrigible pomp of a sideshow magician. Yanking vigorously at Kirsten’s arm, he pulled her into the shed. Her heart threatened to explode within her chest.             He flicked a lighter and the flame cast an eerie glow upon the shed’s innards. There in the centre sat the sleek dark shape of an old car which huddled close to the concrete floor with all the silent elegance of a pent up feral cat. Though the jet black bodywork was caked in thick layers of dust; cobwebs decorating the fenders, side mirrors and radiator grille, the machine was still a sublime wonder to behold.             “You know what this is, love?” Gary’s eyes sparkled with liquid fire.             “A car?”             “No ordinary car. Jensen Interceptor. 1968 model, one of the first with power steering. Fucking beauty.”             “It is nice,” the banality of her words fell flat like cowshit on the concrete, “But who does it belong to? And why-”             Gary hushed her with a finger to his mouth. He stepped towards the rear of the car where he pulled open a flap in the bodywork and proceeded to pour in the contents of the jerry can. When the can was empty, he snapped the flap shut and pulled open the driver’s door.             “Come on, get in the car. Let’s go for a drive somewhere.”             By now her whole body was aflame as she sat quivering in the passenger seat of the ghostly vehicle while Gary hotwired it to life. The engine purred triumphantly and the headlights seared the dirt road ahead with the burning light of heaven. He thrust a wine bottle at her.             “Open it, babe. Let’s have some fun.”             The car roared out of its gloomy prison and thrust Kirsten into the chemical night…             As Gary charged the vehicle through the quiet streets of the town, Kirsten lost herself in the fleeting streetlights which seemed to bleed into one another and up into the screaming stars overhead. A sour moon wept above her like a great gouged out eye upon the sky’s tenebrous curtain. Wine fizzed upon her tongue and immersed her brain in a dreamlike haze. Gary spun the wheel expertly, swerving and zigzagging along backstreets and boulevards.             “Gimme some of that juice, baby.”             She passed the wine bottle to him and he took a long swig while continuing to steer the antique machine with one strong hand. Captivated by his roguish and coarse charm, she pulled the bottle from his lips mid-gulp and pressed her mouth to his. A portion of the sweet alcohol passed from him to her and she savoured the raw sensation as their tongues darted against each other in a fervent duel of hot flesh. Gary let out a slight and uncharacteristic cry as the front wheel climbed a kerb. Despite herself, Kirsten found herself laughing aloud as he struggled to regain control of the vehicle. A thorny fire burned between her legs and her breath came in short gasps. Gary turned to her, grinning widely.             “You like a little excitement, dollface?” She said nothing, leaning into him and letting an inebriated hand slide down to his crotch.             “Let’s take this wagon somewhere more interesting…”             At that, he flicked a switch on the car’s radio unit and an ancient cassette voiced a storm into existence;             ‘I won't hurt you as much as you hurt me let me take you there before the sun goes down come on give me your love come on baby all you have I wanna take your breathe away’             The motorway spread out before them in a luminous panorama of acidic radiance which broke the skin of the night in phosphorescent lesions. Kirsten was one with the dissolving stars as she fed on Gary’s salty flesh and the sugar enchantment of the wine as it passed between them. Flyovers and lay-bys swept by her in a blur of speed while she worked with one hand at Gary’s fly, finally pulling free his stiff member from its textile confinement. He winced and grunted in pleasure at her rhythmic caress while veering the car wildly from left to right as it tore through the night. Car horns blared and the cries of aghast drivers came through in staccato bursts before dying on the wind. The wine bottle fell free from Gary’s hand, splashing some of its contents across Kirsten’s lap before landing with a thud at her feet. He brought the hand down to her soaked thighs and thrust it between them.             ‘Come on baby all you have I wanna take your breathe away come on baby just like that, you say you make me feel so crazy’             “Gimme some of that sugar, honey.”             The night exploded behind Kirsten’s eyes as she lay with her head in Gary’s lap, his shaft in her burning mouth. Maintaining a steady rhythmic progress, she fell into a world of bleeding stars and benevolent roaring machines… a curse lifted admiring the amorphous boulevards… secured sockets a blood blossom in the grey hungover dawn, old faded photos of herself floating in the sour moon… soft breeze rifling a tongues darted… sailing a percussive wind through flyover railings produced a heavy claw of the night… severed telephone voices… howling trains endlessly with a cold… bleeding stars of lips slam dissolved… schoolyard scent of petty laughing and a hammer from behind the foam… thorny fire of sweet charm… coarse fleeting mirrors let out a ghostly vehicle… neglected flesh frozen upon a filthy toilet seat and the lunchtime bell… not in these mounds a dream… hand stubbed a flight inwards tore through the night… gone last kerb… gone over… sharp veering wildly a distant razor…             Gary was killed almost instantly in the collision. His torso had been impaled by the windshield which caved in on itself in an array of scimitar-edged shards. The top of his head was sheared off with the Jensen’s ruined roof, plastering his brains across the twisted metal. The female driver of the other car was dead also, her flesh smeared ruthlessly over the tarmac in red streaks. When the paramedics arrived on the scene they had to prise open Kirsten’s broken jaw in order to remove Gary’s severed manhood before it choked her. Though barely conscious, she recognised her own big toe and the blood blossom mocking her still at the end of a leg which now hung twisted and useless from her shattered hip bone.             The smoking shell of the devastated Jensen dominated the scene, as timeless as volcanic rock. In the moment of impact, the sleek machine had burst through the barrier of time and space and immortalised the two drivers in a sky of dissolving stars and merciful foam clouds. The machine which lay obliterated on the midnight motorway was but a pale shadow of that which multiplied itself in timeless infinity beyond the sour moon…             Fragments of Kirsten’s cartilage gleamed in the light of the ambulance beacons, as fixed and rigid as the pitiless tarmac.

'stirring up silt from complacent neural beds' with Dave Besseling

Born 1979, Peterborough, ON. Canada. Currently interloping in Bangalore, India, have spent the last 9 years living and traveling in a variety of countries to nurture a lateral appreciation of human diversity/mania and nurture to some degree a relevant capacity for self-awareness. All this and a deep appreciation for pretentious headshots.

My artwork is an exercise in documenting the subconscious mind and exploring the relationships between past experiences with personality and the images that seem to get all mixed up under the Id. Living in different cultures seems to afford somewhat of an objective view of what makes up the mind; what has been learned, seen or felt can be placed in a quantifiable context as opposed to identifying unconditionally with the persona of "Dave". The symbols and iconography cultures create to represent possible states of mind beyond the intellect are always an inspiration to me.

Dave Besseling currently has four publications in circulaton, Nakayubi One: the cynic, the critic, the masochistic anemic. (poetry), Nakayubi Two: The Barnstormer. (poetry), Nakayubi Three: the unmeaning and the holy city (poetry) and Kusuriyubi One: Fun With Memes! (prose).

He pushed aside a worn and sullen drape from the narrow entryway into the plywood booth in the backroom of a dingy bar. He placed two bottles of Budweiser on the imitation Formica, but didn't give the ceremonial offer of touching collected rivulets on the bottle to show the beer had been appropriately chilled, he just cracked them open.

"Current problem," said the bar manager, Prakash, leaving one to wonder how he could think the perennial catastrophe of a pub serving warm beer was limited to the present time frame.

He said he'd had this problem for the last month, and had petitioned, along with various other shopkeepers, none other than the Chief Minister himself regarding the predicament. Yeddyurappa would set things straight and see to it the pub was kept in cold, frosty suds; surely he would. He must.

But the Karnataka CM had not responded to their plea, said Prakash, and by the time one got around to wondering why neighbouring businesses would care if Prakash kept his beer refrigerated or not, the understanding dawned that the bar manager was referring to electrical current.

Electricity was something Malavalli was craving as much as Prakash's clients pined for rotgut whiskey—the town's power grid as parched as the cactus-tongued knackers seen shuffling down the main street, too hungover to see anything but the trails on their corneas dance, like the after-image of a flashlight waved round in a lightless cave.

"For the last month power supply has been a problem," explained Prakash, clearing any confusion over unintended double entendres as he poured the tepid Bud into beveled glasses, chipped and decaled: "Blue Grape."

"We have complained to Vidhana Soudha to get a constant supply," he said (electricity, not Blue Grape whiskey).

For those made to suffer the injustice of warm pints, incredulity and outrage made demands for a personal investigation, especially in a town reputed to have various forms of power generation plants in its vicinity. One's character became all the more resolute when, for the sake of research, a few more bottles were tested. They were, as expected and now proven, lukewarm.

The sun had set by the time the long evening of fieldwork had been completed, and crossing the dusty main road was done as much in the spirit of a seafarer as had been drinking in such a dive. Following the shops' candles down the alleyway leading to the Sri Ganesha Lodge, the pocked, unpaved ground was as unsteady as a choppy sea, each storefront candle another lighthouse closer to slumber.

Once inside the lodge, the lights came back on, and the room, it turned out, was like Shimla: spotless and white at the top, darker and progressively grimier on the descent. The handprints in the hair oil residue that made up the accrued bas-relief of filth around the bed made it easy to turn one's thoughts inwards, away from the grunge, to the ironic power plights of these rural folk.

The questions of why Malavalli, a short distance from the only biofuel power plant in the country and a hydro-electric plant on the Cauvery River should be subject to such frequent power cuts—its citizens deprived of the essential civility of cold ale—begged a visit to the plants the next morning.

Twelve kilometres away in Kirugaval, the Malavalli Power Plant is garrisoned by barbed-wire fencing, and then a second wall—tonnes of sugarcane leaves, coconut fronds and corn cobs, all waiting to be fed into the hungry boiler that will produce the steam necessary to transmute biomass into electricity, the lifeblood of ceiling fans and beer coolers everywhere.

But the plant's management consultant, Bala Subramanium, said the power produced at India's first and only "environmentally friendly" facility was not for the nearby villagers, but sold directly to the state power grid where Yeddyurappa's crew doles it out as they see fit.

But the plant was not opportuning; all the matter that farmers would have otherwise burned now fetched local agrarians some easy lucre. A farmer that drove his overloaded wagon to the plant's main gate said he had about five or six tonnes piled in that precipitous inverted pyramid of combustible waste. The farmer said the load was worth about Rs. 1200.

Back at the village intersection bus stop, any bucolic melancholy cultivated by verdant rice terraces or swaying palms were shooed away as quickly as the simian hordes making jabs for a waiting villager's chicken. Even their looted coconut zirconias were already meatless from the curs. The monkeys gnawed away all the same. It was lunchtime for everyone.

The hydro plant was just past the other extremity of the hamlet, said Prakash's elfin barkeep, Kumar Malavalli, opening a room-temperature bottle of lunchtime Kingfisher in the rot-smelling bar.

"There is not enough water in the river," orated Kumar, so local he was eponymous to the town, "When the river is high, we have power. When the river is low, we don't have power."

Kumar was visibly pleased to be so helpful to a strange outsider asking strange questions. The second bottle of Bud was also warm. Something had to be done.

The hydro plant bricked in a section of the riverbank, which flowed past at some speed. Yet the inside the plant—only dark. No harnessing seemed to be happening besides the reigning in of local couples' affections, who found the Banyan shade and rolling waves of the water soothing, conducive to their goals. It was a different kind of electricity at work on the picnic blankets. Currents there were flowing freely.

Back in Malavalli, the traffic kicked up dust higher than the single-storey buildings flecked with paint jobs in various states of crusting. Browned iron truss-rods stuck out the tops of the sub-par corner pillars; steel weeds sprouting from rotting concrete stumps.

The quest for a cold beer in Malavalli seemed all in vain. Chasing windmills again. This could be why temperature insouciant whiskey seemed to be the order of the day at the main drag's decuplet of wine shops.

Just before the bus station, a bedraggled man in clear contention to place first in the Drunkest Man In The World competition stopped, gaped, and in a surly pirouette, slumped over and fell into the open sewer flowing along the roadside. Looking over his unmoving soma, the sunlight was almost intrusive in a town where the lights are out more often than on. The man did not stir, darkness could not hide his early afternoon incapacity. His synapses weren't firing when another local attempted to rouse him. Current problem.

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