Yesterday afternoon, forming a firm grip over my only bodily asset¸ I walked through the impassable darkness of an unfinished basement with constricted pupils, navigating by memory through the careless obstructions laid across it’s forgotten floor. Having recalled clearing the path of my splintered, nocturnal rages and focusing on the distant daylight of a far window that needed blocking, I did actually forget the column of brick occluding my stairway, which intimately penetrated my face. In retrospect my cautious stroll could have been made more meticulous and practical with outstretched arms; I am, however, grateful to my neighbors and their willful ignorance of my agony squelch, which did not remotely resemble the typical boiler clamor by which they are accustomed. (I am one-third mouse, one-third phantom and one-third shame. I dislike my human sounds because they prove my existence; therefore I prefer to replicate general creaks of my derelict refuge, their unfinished basement.)
I tore my last pair of trousers as I bent over my crypt of discarded vodka pints to examine and log the dates of my drunken displeasures, scrawled onto their labels with raw corkscrew and a pissy attitude, the freshness of Cashman’s gravy thud in that space residing beyond light and photographs and everything slim fit, where, due to my inveterate abuses I cannot remember myself. It is one of my beliefs while I am dying, the only moments of my life that will flash before my ascension into hell will be the ones that were chemically whited out. What is that sound?
If light seeps through a crack the crack is caulked. Time spent sniffing the floor for drafts goes untracked. I need to keep better track of what is not my result, what I was not responsible for, what is fundamental to this glorious structure and older than my time here. My new goal: become mistaken for the floorboards. I ring in the darkness, my mistake was meddling briefly with the light, luckily my loins were spared and I can continue with my deadly reflection, forever concentrating on the green trucker hat that really didn’t match Tingaling’s outfit. A wet rag is slapped across a table upstairs and I can feel the droplet connect with his forehead, but a fan rendered with fat clogs his attention. Rag slapping is fun. I can hear past your thudding temples and its vastness vibrates because you want to steal rich people.
When I moved into the third stall of the second story bathroom of the library on Fifth Street Cashman had already made his residence the first stall and laid claim to the manga section and its patrons through his heinous stink.
In yesterday afternoon’s wandering the dusted cooler skidded across the floor. I bent over to recover shattered fragments of my brow and, forced to sift through the contents of the cooler to distinguish one grain from another, sat recollecting my careless library days, and…had I become carefree since? I ground the dust between soft fingers, reading them like braille scattered in the wind, in the darkness, my eyes in abeyance, making the revisited history as vibrant as the present slapping of wet rags against my ceiling, their floor. This was proactive procrastination.
There is something I call the everything and it’s not within me, and it’s purpose is to teach me everything, and sometimes I can’t understand why the everything does, and, according to the everything that’s okay, but the everything does have every answer, even if I don’t have many questions…and I just have to do the everything everyday to earn an answer every now and then, but lately I feel like I haven’t been doing such because I’ve been too focused on what happened. Part of the everything processional is knowing that you are doing everything wrong every day, all of the time. But I am so scared that I get tired and take a nap, and then when I recover from a nap I get mad at myself and think about the everything I have not learned and how the everything can’t teach me anything if I do nothing. When I get mad I stay sad.
People are still living in the bathroom at the library. Cashman’s gone, and everywhere I live someone else is living and I am hiding: My new neighbors are here, they are home, slapping rags against each other now, I can discern between the varying vibrations from flesh and furniture. One sounds like a medley of Vietnamese and Korean. One sounds like eyebrows drying. I overlook it, and I still feel something in my nostrils. It’s been about more than twenty-four hours. Day dreaming with a cooler in my arms, laughing away the anxiety, recollecting last year inside of a time capsule shaped cooler, small and tawny…was this how it was meant to be lost? Was this how it was meant to be forgiven? As Clompy dangled? And the donkey butter pumped through labored vessels and long, wet hair down his back to his ass and covered his eyes (because bangs were cool for guys again)? With stubborn knuckles screaming honey? Let me be even more specific: if I do not change before the door opens I will die from shame of repeating myself again.
When Clompy sobbed into his lunch bag nobody’s eyes rose from their manga because nobody cared about Clompy. Clompy was not a crier; didn’t know the basics. Normally, you can’t keep crying if there is no audience, but Clompy laid the foundation, endlessly prodding for any paltry glance, even from the guy with the headphones. An adorably dangerous Clompy cried himself asleep with manga spread open on his lap; chin to chest. He’ll get sucked when he brings attention to himself.
Right around this time my daughter stopped calling me completely. Easy, easy; my reaction is often delayed, sometimes years.
I was first taken to the room where Cashman kept the senior projects, which locks from the inside, and Tingaling told me she wanted me to stop tossing the gravy, to save it for her, so she could take it global. I was shy, distracted by her trucker hat. Don’t be shy, I’m about to make out with you, we are about to go kisses on each other, touching each other, I know, I told you, I touch your palm first and then I’ll take you to the room where that Cashman keeps the senior projects. It was Tingaling then, but Selma lurked nearby, my eyes passed over her dismal grey poof on the daily, until we were released from pizza holding, something like ten hours one day, it took some time to evacuate the manga section, ironic, considering the hole of a room it was, how many vagrants would cram daily into its six chairs. Let’s try to remember the day we were released from pizza holding at the same time and I walked alone, ahead of you, briskly pacing towards that next slice, wherever it was…and you snuck up behind me and screamed hello, I remember you, remember me and I said uh. Selma, you said. Selma! From the manga section! Selma! From the manga section! Of course! I exited freely and left the cooler with turgid batter, some mystical worth. We weren’t having any fun there, at all, were we? In those two weeks I stayed focused on Cashman, saying no words, putting chocolate to the booty while I developed my manga skills. The first few nights I spent some dollars on Tylenol so I could sleep, I just wanted to square that away.
Except for the girl shelving books whose smile was always directed towards the floor like a timid sprite, everyone in the manga section was frightened; the inherent type of fright that accompanies change like etheric ecstasy accompanies the fragrance of paint thinner. A step in any direction could be the wrong step, which, if taken for too long could lead down the wrong path. So concurrent steps are taken in multiple directions and hazy gazes down blurry, prospective paths of sentiment lead nowhere but deep into the pages of bottomless manga. The onus of possibility is hefty stress for the unchanging, hopelessly timid. Where did we go wrong? Standing in place, idiot. The manga was just too good; we never left this spot. The bottled frustration is akin to the time in between putting the pajamas on the apathetic, antsy kitty, and right before the kitty’s prompt bedtime. I stay quiet for myself mostly, and though I want to, I cough only when rag thuds on my ceiling, their floor.
Whatever Cashman was, he was living in the stall with a pulsating black garbage bag that grew like it was alive. Often I lay my head on the tile floor of my stall to spy the rarely sometimes shuffling of Cashman’s feet and the mysterious heartbeat of his black plastic bag. Another shameful reason to keep his stall perpetually secured. Despite my erratic schedule I never witnessed Cashman’s likely sluggish movements for gravy placement beside the often running communal sink. When my compulsive behavior prompted my fingers to tighten the faucet, I noticed the uncovered container of the hot, turgid gravy, figuring this to be the reason Tingaling lost clumps of hair to nervous fingers, and wore the trucker hat and seduced me in the room where Cashman kept the senior projects. I snatched it without hesitation as her implement. Opportunity to move and cap his gravy wasn’t granted due to my compulsion. I dislike confrontation. Something moved beyond that stall, whether he was sitting or standing I couldn’t tell, only a large breathing mass of blurry gray, like an upright loveseat. Pour it into the trash, and it clumps. Rinse it out in the sink, and I could hear him squealing. Poor, helpless Cashman; shame kept him sequestered behind doors, mountains of nodules on splintered vocal chords kept him a squealing mute.
I haunted the Fifth Street bowling alley my first Tuesday following the evacuation. My eyes scanned the tables for ditched pitchers of auburn puddles, mostly backwash and salad dressing, which I bussed pro bono and guzzled on route to busing station one. I needed a faded denim jacket with little red hearts on the sleeve, but with only one pair of pants left I needed sea foam cream more. The memory of Clompy’s honey siren still rang throughout the bowling alley, and I cringed when thinking about my daughter’s missed phone calls. I cuddled the cooler, my paw stirring its insides. When I hear a door opening I hold my breath. Could be Selma. If it’s not black, it’s gray.
Clompy’s eyes admitted to stopping time to steal her cell phone; a hole punched in his nose. I need someone to talk at. The manga section, though not equally driven, produced bifurcations of the Cashman’s original strain, unique perspectives of on their own shortcomings. I’ll eat your ice cream, but I could do without a conversation; I am scrubbing to keep the ghosts away. Learn how to ass from the shameless Clompy: diving from window, escaping any wretched flames of a broken cyst, scarlet sheets painting the fifth floor; cultures culminating in heavenly glitter.
Before Tingaling fucked me in the room where Cashman kept the senior projects she told me that this was all part of my demo…I’ve been reading some random books on Internet marketing, I bought a rad domain name: crystalballsupermans.net, I’m going to get heads on June 14th. My friend graduated from the NFA. All the ads and images on here will be made into a documentary. I made this one for the curators. I call it ‘There is Dust in Everything We Eat.’ Most of the unemployed people that come in here are clothing designers, shoe designers, architects, graphic designers, dancers, sculptors…creatives. This is definitely outside the box. People tell me ‘oh I need a website.’ And I say ‘you don’t actually need a website…you just need a webpage. Like TMBG. They released an app. A clean, nice looking publisher’s card, I will launch the pre-registration. Have you ever seen inception? Everyone wants to make a movie like Inception. The industry is trying…Tingaling’s mismatched trucker hat stretched over yellow hair, with numerous missing clumps, she been listening to manga angels in her sleep, she needs to be recognizable, that trucker hat covering the clumps does it so much. I wanted the answer, and I wanted the abuse to be all over, and when it finally was, when we left pizza holding, some of us cold, I wanted five more slices with tepid water to make stew in my stomach during questioning to excuse myself to the restroom; but the inquisitors knew better, stifled my nest. It was the bowling alley over pizza booking, and then Selma’s generous request became an earnest assertion. Entering through that basement became another deathbed moment.
Behind a black curtain theres a fuzzy pink dress walking, I try my best to block out the light, but if I spend too long by the light I will blind again, find my eyes like hedgehogs inside my sockets. My spinal column distends towards ceiling. A baby cries; a dog barks; I’m so proud of my daughter’s brownie.
Any choice for an exit from this superficial banishment now belongs to my despot, Selma. Selma, tall with that poof, she put manga in that wig. She said she had a Pomeranian, used it as an ashtray, his shiny, metallic paws go clomp-clomp, it go clomp-clomp I name it after my Clompy. Our Clompy. Looking at her outfit, she must be a fire witch. I thought you broke your bitches up, Selma keeps the donkey batter (her strain) in a closet where it spoiled in the months spent across the ocean, pointed elf ears and tightened petals pierced in all holes, best place to escape for the year, escape all the drama of the manga section to develop her new overseas recipe. Cute, short, blond Selma, pickaxe wielding, golden smile and dimples don’t reach her cheeks, they stop at the corners of her lips…she holds the galley of a poorly written Teen Prisoner’s Bible, wipes excess donkey butter on her ass. Shouts, and gets noticed. I’m still beef it up with my pork shoulders, and she is busting at the seams.
Tingaling didn’t belong in the manga section; she wasn’t a timid, she was a greed, and her unprovoked seduction and bloodthirsty quest for ultimate gravy, yanking my trousers to my knees in the room where Cashman kept the senior projects proved her crazed cunning. Yet yesterday afternoon I was supplied with unexpected reminiscence over those dark memories: the once familiar odor of the Cashman and Tingaling’s daily period.
If the everything couldn’t tell me to think it then it wasn’t thinkable. What could take me out of myself? Ever been too frightened to hear your own voice? Ever shrink at the sound of familiar footsteps? Global gravy could not help me find myself out of myself, something else needed to tell me the everything.
Once, hunched over the sink the stall door slightly ajar, I spied that hefty lump of the Cashman beneath battered, muddy rags in the faucet’s reflection; I’m sure turning my head would have caused it to wither and shrink. I washed my hair in the sink with taxpayer hand soap terrified to investigate the slurp of Cashman’s congealing gravy. It was only someone else’s poop I told myself again and again, sparking my first vibrations on record.
From pizza holding I stared unpleasantly into the faces of my fellow manga maniacs, theirs permanently disfigured from the wrongful detonation of gravy conversion. They didn’t mind that I lived there, but I couldn’t live there anymore. No one smiles about triple homicide, except for the suits with eyes toward promotions. It looks so humid in here my hair is curling; she sits down in a reflective woman’s business suit, ass on marble, vaulted bronze ceilings. Flashy holding. I sleep with anger. He just popped. Maybe that’s what he happened. The inquisition feigned warmness. Even I was clueless. Sober, yet falling asleep waiting, my position needs to stay upright.
There is so much I tell Selma about the Cashman that I wish I could have told the Cashman before the evacuation. Over prophesizing, his forecasts remain indoors. Cashman, their oracle-king, Clompy, their demented jester, yours truly, the man with the red beard that runs in place in the bathroom. I too would cry into my lunch bag if that bathroom locked from the inside.
Selma want to listen obediently, but first she tells me that My new crib has a black space between the floor for you, you’re a lover of cracks and appreciate the tightness of my spaces but please keep your shut up, the mummies are ragged up…You’re scared of your insides and they are scared of your insides too. Dance with me, you fucking, or else get mad high. These sleeves are cute, I’d like them with little hearts on the side. How fat you’ve become, I loved it. A big ass gold chain, it could have been bigger, the purpose, the goal, is to keep it moving forward. These scraps of wooden rages can be as irresponsible as Cashman, but leaving good gravy to waste, total unconcern for sallow recluse of our starving library, guaranteed shame across each of your heads! Choose your adventure wisely.
Our library on Fifth Street is safe from inside the streets. Please, I’ve been to jail. These people are no different; the timid sprite (keep her blessed) can feel for me. Until my fingers are unbroken, I’ll keep this grey dot on my head; it’s a mole but it looks like a patch of hair; I don’t need to be bald too.
Tingaling left my dentures crimson each time we met in the room where Cashman kept the senior projects, even now, while I reminisce in the unfurnished basement she lives in between the gaps of my teeth. She figures him to make her cash from the creepy gravy blueprint. She fucked me as a gimmick. Scrubbing the floor keeps the ghosts away, tightens shoulder blades, and keeps my mind deli fresh. I prefer to hate her fraudulent batter; I can taste through her phony sadness while I drown in the deep pools of sincere shame composing Cashman’s gravy….
Clompy pulling manga off shelves with a hooked finger, and he looked at me and smiled with half moon lids and a crooked jaw. Underneath his wig there was a helmet. That guy has a power of attorney, crumpled in a soggy lunch bag. Come in here with a par of ‘I’m Not Supposed To Know’ shears, maybe stab me through that gap between my rib cage. Don’t tell Tingaling that she needs assisted living. Smile, wet jackass as she goes tight like a clamp, but even Clompy crushed her in the room where Cashman kept the senior projects! Again. Boos from the crowds, headlines shouting ‘Honey!’ with a Clompy on the front page. That trucker hat became an infamous symbol of the now meg-popular batter. Be close to me, or starve the toilet. Standing still mumbling incantations into the toilet, his cauldron, where the seer could see the future. Shut me down. I’m came through her mouth onto her esophagus, watched it sink between her soul’s writhing black tentacles, polluting the core with my purity. Spreading the donkey butter on Selma with a pickaxe, the balls on that Clompy! But before I was hers Clompy taught me the art of the baseless rages: Dropping shelves down stairwells, falling asleep with open manga in his lap, teething on cardboard, replacing the faces of fellow maniacs with the surfaces of celestial objects. He was too scared to drink, and always ready to cry. Tipping shelves over in sadistic glee. Could he read? Or did he just look at the pictures? The acceptably irritating wildcard. There was only one; I was one too many. It was all very unclear where I was meant to store this drum of quickly congealing batter, and its supposed purpose.
My daughter gets to that age when she has field hockey practice after school, and she is too tired to call, too busy with schoolwork, too important to remember the consistent mutation of her daddy’s payphone numbers. I can only imagine her present days as fuzzy and golden; always dew on the grass, always the sky is like a gray before rainfall. Dances in meadows, the shouts of cruel children, shimmering asphalt games, squealing mealworms… the present in my mind’s eye is seen like movies suggest I should see the past. I am too far away, so it will always be completely different than how I imagine it to look. I would just go to her if the everything permits.
As I became hers I climbed the seductive fence and kept my eyes downcast and then climbed another seductive fence behind the fence, terrible cables forming a monstrous fabric against a brick sky, the hellish and complex and expensive for the wealthy and naïve. A rusted wreck of a car, peering through glass at sleeping celebrities, somebody upstairs says something about kidnapping them.
Cashman’s bag burst, and the alive spilled onto the floor between our stalls, even the industrial strength of his garbage bag couldn’t bear the weight of celestial gristle; the wellspring of odor pouring alive outside of the Cashman, into it’s own …Tingaling settles on a batter. Mixing despair and greed creates poisonous ale. You’ll effect more than the manga section! Be safe around me. I couldn’t think about bleeding, so I rushed to turn the lights off to cover the smell. I lose weight to jog in place.
I hung Cashman on my wall, I wore Clompy, I burned Tingaling. I tasted them all. Tingaling waited out in the urban fiction section for the everything dust to vaporize into a batter with her secret child. With the gravy condensation floating, she squeezed a rags worth into a steel container and crawled inside, dressed like a skeleton. The congealing would take one thousand hours, and soon she’d be crouched on her fortune’s plinth.
Now I hide like the Cashman. I don’t know why I woke up sad. Everyone is confusing. The everything is confusing. I am sad and confused by myself, especially. The library has been completed, but people are still living in the bathroom (on the third floor, besides urban fiction) at the library. Maybe: becoming passively involved in this battle of the batters, my diffidence became overwhelming, even exceeding that of the manga heads? I am Tingaling’s horseshoe and Selma’s American Girl Doll and it feels like happiness to hug a cooler yesterday afternoon. Not even the everything can elucidate on the rampant success of Tingaling’s batter delusions. Who totally snapped? I did something I can’t remember to the Cashman I didn’t want.
Clompy is confused like an always body, accuses me with sticky honey finger of her stolen phone when I can’t stop time get that honey finger away from my eye freak. Thudding of rag against floor ceases, squat Selma, tripping as a waitress in the daytime, nose pointing in the direction of the gold.
If I tried looking for the everything in the bin where I kept the Cashman’s gravy, would I have been given an answer about my daughter? Would the marbled spiral of dissolving grain leave a prophetic image in its surface? Is this what stared through? There is an answer in anything but myself. I stood, didn’t choose sides. I wanted to stay inside. New Clompy, the Pomeranian on my ceiling, hear the clomp-clomp, it goes clomp-clomp…is there anything left in this cooler? Sad god, dead king, drifting again with new captor and it wasn’t close. So exhausted, and this won’t last forever, it won’t, it won’t. Remember: my daughter is not forever. I once walked across a dawning bridge before rainfall, with a meatball sub and Greek olives dripping down my red beard.
There is no pay phone in Selma’s unfinished basement, my daughter can’t reach me here, and this is the only time where she could not reach me if she wanted. Consequently, I cannot reach her either. What did the gravy want me to do? What did Tingaling want me to do? Save the receipts. Tingaling saved all her receipts, I see trucker hats everywhere, and yesterday she became the face, the batter a sensation, a phenomenon. If only. I can’t see anything, haven’t seen a light since I got here, haven’t smelled a billboard since I got here. How wrong should I be feeling? I am sequestered from all incoming transmissions. Into a cloud of whipped up manga dust I watched as Clompy’s thrusting body disappeared, through the window, escaping the wretched flames, Clompy won’t get himself killed, he’ll kill himself. A black square on his forehead was seen beneath his helmet for the first time.
If I just do what the everything recommends, if I abandon my daughter’s field hockey tournaments, and should I leave this all behind is what I thought about yesterday afternoon. In the stall, I came back to the library, the manga raided, Cashman still hung in the air like a lonely close line over pastoral serenity, a strange web of grey sponge joining the corners of his sectioned off stall to form The Cashman Core….
I was bullied into admitting to time stopping and stealing her phone. Inquisitors watched as nerds were pulled from between charred piles of gravy soaked manga, depleted baby cigarettes, my incomplete memoirs shredded shame in memory snow. Tingaling packages the gravy with black lids in unmarked, ribbed canisters, and markets globally as a ‘batter;’ A collectable bone is available inside each.
With strength of an asylum goon, hinged, ruddy elbows raise an empty shelf of manga above his head. He adjusts his ponytail, watch it drop on his head. This is fun, but where is everybody? The manga section is gutted, prepped for mold abatement. Wet piles of manga drying curbside, pages blur, stuck together, flipping through ten pages at once.
An enzyme reacts to the gravy to formulate the batter, I can’t explain, I’m not a chemist, I can’t be bothered, I operate on uselessness. If it tastes like how I feel then I’ll reach with a ladle, slurp from the pond, the layers are warmed up, and the bones appropriated. Fuzzy, pink, Selma bobs, jars of the butter, beige layers, a timeline of effort. Look at the disparity of opacity, the grain…leave it to dry and wishes are granted. The auburn dazzle, glowing tree sap, the gravy exists in the aether between state, conjured from a derelict magician’s daydream; hieroglyphs and celestial rays. I can’t explain the complex reactions, the enzymes, the batter formulation, I operate on regret, if it tastes how I feel then watch me reach with my personal ladle, the layers of beige…
Look, I want to change everything, even calling my daughter. Is there any ooze you can use? I know how it feels to work now. Harder. It was so easy to make great gobs of this stuff! Oh. Only it was much longer, hotter than I expected, if lazy the hot gob flames certainly try to dissolve me.
I want to find this power within myself Cashman, I do not want to rely on your creepy fucking gravy for the power that should be inside me all along. What trust can I put in the everything? Cashman: I don’t need your gravy. There is power inside me…I reach inside myself and pull a smile outside of myself, and it may be too dark to see, but it’s there and Selma is home.