Category Archives: fiction

christmas needs to come early this year

Karl was vacuuming the carpet like I had asked him to do while I flummoxed and flumped the furniture all over the narrow living room, making way for the fake but, to our eyes, gorgeous and redemptive Christmas tree.

‘Karl, Jonah,’ Manfred, our third roommate, stood in his coat, shoeless, spooning food from a foam plastic container into his mouth with his fingers; he and his fiance Victoria had been out to dinner, ‘I know you’re both lonely but-‘

‘Ahem!’ Karl cleared his throat forcefully and held the roaring vacuum up with arms outstretched towards Manfred. A warning.

‘It’s only November-‘

‘Christmas needs to come early this year.’ I said it more to the window-sill I was clearing of grit and low-wage-bachelor debris (cigarette butts, mugs, bits of paper, ash, two copies of Mad) than to Manfred. Karl and I had already dusted the high walls with the broom and strung three strands of lights around the room, making a quadruple layer of them, so long did they stretch.

‘I don’t know about anyone else,’ Manfred was not to be ignored, ‘but I’m not even done eating my Halloween candy, and now, what? Guys. Guys?’

‘Ahem! Ack ack ack.’ Karl ran the vacuum across the floor and just shy of Manfred’s shoeless feet, coughing on the dust and dog-fur storm scattered by the vaccuum.

‘I even saw some trees today on the way home, alongside the FDR, that still had green leaves, guys. Green leaves!’

‘Christmas needs to come early this year.’

‘And just ask the dog.’ Manfred was insistent. ‘Look at him, look at Pressler Dog. Look at neutered Pressler Dog.’ Pressler wagged his tail upon hearing his name, mouth open in what could have been a grin but just as easily could have been obliviousness. ‘He hasn’t even started growing in a new coat of fur for the wint-‘

‘Ack ack ack!’ Karl, vacuuming the corner, coughed after a gust from the open window blew some of Pressler’s hair – a harvest we walked through and upon daily – into his face.

‘The window, guys, the window! The window is open!’ Manfred ran across the room and pointed to the window in mock but genuine earnest, miming a mime. ‘You don’t have a window open in Brooklyn at Christmas time!’

‘Christmas needs to come early this year.’ I bit my tongue and waited, hoping to relieve the rising tension within me with flatulence, which did not arrive. In my heart, as little Lord Jesus knew, I was making hilarious if very unkind remarks about not having just been to a bourgeoisie dinner having romantic and personalizing conversation with a woman who not only gave proletarian handjobs (good ones) but related in some way to the goodtiming but utlimately emotionless male (Manfred) standing before us shoveling some sort of meat and rice into his open maw with three fingers. The tree, I figured, would stand on the empty and rather useless souvenir box.

‘Come on, guys, I know it’s been-‘

‘Ahem! Agh! Ack ack ack!’

‘-a longer period of isolation, rejection, confusion and meals-for-one than any of us could have imagined, even in our most feverish, thunderous and howling nightm-‘

‘Ah God, ah God, ack ack ack!’ Karl was vacuuming his pant legs, which of course needed it, but also gave him something to embrace. It was, if not necessary, at least beneficial, in that he did not need any further succor from us, so we let him be.

‘Victoria and I walked through the park tonight-‘

‘Christmas needs to come early this year.’ I rapped on the window to make a noise.

‘-and the lawn, the grass was just thick with greenness-‘

‘Yack hack hack!’

‘Come on, guys!’

Pressler Dog, standing, put his head low to the ground as though he wanted to whimper in pity and licked Karl’s face, easily done as Karl lay huddled on the floor, face already awash in tufts of Pressler hair, stuck to streaks of tears and now to Pressler’s saliva. Karl had turned off the vacuum and was spooning the appliance, which was at least two feet shorter than he.

‘Guys,’ Manfred warily eyed the decorations we had taped or stapled or hung from the walls, including the Christmas Ghost, which our married and departed former compatriot and roommate Derik had made two years ago from tissue and dental floss (to cinch the head and give it form), ‘Guys, we’ve barely finished celebrating Columbus Day and not even close to the celebration of the Pequot Indian massacre and you wanna-‘

‘Away in a manger – ack, ack – no crib for a place to sleep-‘

‘Karl, really.’

‘It’s a bed, Karl,’ I said, ‘no crib for a bed.’

Pressler had uncerimoniously crumpled himself onto the floor, his tail in Karl’s face.

‘Go tell it on the – ack, ack, agh! – mountain-‘

I harmonized.

‘-Over the hills and everywhere.’

‘Agh!’

‘Jesus Christ you guys.’

‘Jesus Christ is born,’ we finished in harmony. ‘That’s right, Manfred. That’s right, Karl. Go tell it on the mountain. I’ll shout it from the windows!’

‘Jonah, you don’t even like Jesus.’

‘Christmas needs to come early this year.’

‘-holy night – agh! yack, hog! – all is calm – … – utz! – all is…‘

‘Bright, Karl. All is bright.’

‘He’s gonna lose it on the virgin part.’ Manfred chewed the last of his leftovers loudly, swishing the food down with beer.

‘I’m gonna lose it on the virgin part.’

‘Me, too,’ Manfred said.

I stooped and retrieved Karl, slinging his left arm over my back like a wounded Hollywood soldier carried from a battlefield. Manfred clasped Pressler Dog’s front legs and walked with him – sort of inverted wheelbarrow style – and we harmonized in the November night, windows open to the chilly breeze and street illumination, somewhere up above our heads the dull Christmas star, which died light years ago, twinkling.

 

END

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The Day They Razed Our Town – new short story collection

cover_razed

JC’s new and first book of
short stories:
The Day They Razed Our Town.

Razed is a collection of miseries histories and comedies –
doggie daycare work,
gentrification,
Chelsea Manning,
Christmas,
first loves and last,
MOVE,
dental health,
New York,
Grandma,
watching your alma mater wrecking balled.

Stories included:

The Day They Razed Our Town

Smiling, USA

Ona MOVE

Sophia Sara Bednarczyk

It Was Me

Jesus’ Teeth

Taking Short or, I Love You, Chelsea Manning

Bedford & First

Eveline

City Property

Mr. Drunk Driver

Thwack

Jesus used to watch me.

Handjob at the Beach

Christmas Needs To Come Early This Year

House On Fire

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The first novel atop the Greenpoint Oil Spill

Boulevardiers: The Greenpoint Oil Spill

One week in New York City, 2006. A small group of broke gentrifiers and undocumented immigrants working doggie daycare at a glorified kennel. Some of them live atop the Greenpoint Oil Spill. They demonstrate, consummate, levitate, infuriate. Chasing the New York dream, chased by the American nightmare. Part of the Brooklyn Historical Society’s collection.

Cover_5X75

Purchase here.

paperback
pages: 273
September 2014

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spirituals

Most things ended up fuzzy.

The realization came as a shock, though it shouldn’t have, to Marty Sistrunk.  It had really been on it’s way to realized for quite a while, long enough so that if one looked at the time line of such events one would probably agree this shock took its time becoming shocking.

Sight, thought Marty, doesn’t just up and go, I mean, I wouldn’t think.  I’d think it is kind of something I guess you ease yourself into, like a bath in mashed potatoes with gravy bubbles.  You don’t just plop into a bath of mashed potatoes, plopping in all its onomonopeadic glory, because mashed potatoes are a bitch to get up off a tiled floor.  You ease gracefully into a bath of mashed potatoes.

After toweling off, Marty dressed, slipping into his favorite sweats, grey, worn thin in patches, elastic wheezing with a slipping grip like in any movie where someone’s hanging off the edge of a roof.  Harrison Ford spends a lot of time this way, Indiana Jones, Bladerunner, finger by finger slipping.  He pulled a sweater over his head, replaced the large square glasses and rubbed his fingers over the growth of stubble on his face, deciding he really couldn’t spare the energy on cutting that off today.  The scraping friction of shaving had always bothered him, the rough cutting sound, the reshaping of the image in the mirror, a constant struggle against time and nature.  The whole idea exhausting.  There was a period in which he could not watch a Gilletteâ commercial.  Every cartoon image of hair being pulled and cut, the deforestation of face, sent tension through his body.  Facial hair is a symbol of time, and like plastic surgery, the struggle to stay ahead of it, to lie to others through a body’s manipulation, drained the energy from his limbs.  He used to cry when his mother’d tell him the story of Samson and Delilah.

He made his way to the JMZ, heading toward Manhattan.  Using his half fare card, he climbed the stairs and walked out onto the elevated platform to wait until he saw the train approach.  Oftentimes he wished the subways ran on steam so he could watch the plume rise, trailing the train, marking its progress, signaling its approach, the impending arrival.  In pictures the smoke would bulge like flexed muscle, a symbol of strength and intent, an imposition of presence, forced destiny, effect.  Imagining the pictures he could hear the chug of the engine, the strained breath of the locomotive, like a weightlifter, like a sprinter.

The half fare MetroCard came with his disability, his flat affect, a reward for taking medications, because he heard music that wasn’t there.  He was also entitled to sit in the seats reserved for persons with disabilities, though he never did, never sure enough of his right to claim them.  As the train rolled slowly across the East River he saw the sun on the water, echoing between buildings, glaring off the edges of the train windows.  He thought of Whitman, asking, “Could you possibly, did you see me?  What thoughts would you have, riding this train, of me, of us, of our humanity?”  The skyscape whispered symphonies in his ear as his sight, still fuzzy, still blurred edges, rolled along the heights, the glass and steel, the points and distances of buildings, all staking claim to skyline, all winking good morning to each other, bowing slightly in the wind.  The music paused over downtown, like the dead keys on a childhood piano, muffled strikes on no-strings.  He thought of The Drama, the great play of this age, the actors, the music, the newscast conductors, the great improv, Dan Rather, cliché ruffled hair trying to keep up with the score.  He thought of the composition’s symmetry, the erection, the building up of the structure of the piece, two wholes notes, modern chords struck in unison, in self contained, oblivious completion.  Two grand statements, they exclaimed and were exclaimed.  He thought of Stockhausen.

He turned, looking back over shoulder at the cars lining the side of the bridge, aching for entrance into the beast of the thing, itching, slowly lurching, breaking.  He saw the projects’ towering symmetry.  Row, row, row of brick, bars of buildings, bars on windows blocking the view.  Laundry broke out.  Urban, fire‘scaped clothesline, haphazard and snapping in an autumn wind.  Sheets, t-shirts, jeans.  Multicolored, patchwork, lace fringe.  There was life there, in drying laundry, in striving for godliness.  He remembered sun bright white of crisp sheets against a summer’s green lawn.  They were supposed to smell different, sun dried sheets, though he’d never been able to tell.   There was, here, in iron-barred hung laundry, a call to the sun, a request for warmth, a prayer to an Aztec’s sun god, a reaching out from the walls of these new pyramids.  A belief in the dawn, in the rest of the day, testified from clothespinned crossbars, from echoes of windowpane on windowpane.  Spirituals from the section 8 stacks.

The train struggled on.  Clicking rhythm, steel drummed wheels scratching roll till the cymbal crash hiss of air brakes and the movements of bodies swaying kindly in time.  That was Essex, the next track’s a 2nd Avenue love song.  Don’t change that channel, steer clear of closing doors, tune up boys here’s the pitch, ding dong and a one two, a one two three four.

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