The month Donny’s dialysis machine broke they both began to feel like their lives had settled somehow, like now the entire power grid could fail and only so much would change for them. Leanne used to spend evenings watching him prepare it and then they would both sleep twelve hours while it hummed and pumped warm sugar water into and out of his abdomen. In the daytime they were normal. Donny would sit with Jean in the kitchen and Leanne would think about how surrounding yourself with women seemed like a reasonable, appropriate kind of healing. They would drink small glasses of orange juice and eat lettuce and vegetables and different types of grilled meat and fish that Leanne shopped for every day. She would ride with Jean in her car and Donny would stay home reading medical journals online. At night Donny would summarize clinical trials and research studies done at universities.
The Koreatown mission started like any other sunny four o’clock in Las Vegas. Yes, the sky was clear, the traffic humming along Charleston, Martin Luther King. Yes, we were on to Lynchburg Lemonades at a table at the Four Queens but we all called it Dixon’s for no reason that I could remember. Yes. Captain Rick was telling jokes and counting quarters, our heads rattled with new speed and our mouths were puckered— it was a very positive feeling. And also, there was the cashier. Bosscat really liked her, the cashier girl with the natural red hair and the unpainted nails. She wouldn’t look at him. What’s her name, at least. At least give me that, he shouted. Nobody paid us any mind.
I waited for a long time for a voice to tell me not to quit my job, and when no voice came, I quit. If someone had asked me how I felt, I would have said I appreciated the finality of quitting, of having made a decision, finally, that I could not take back. But no one asked and so I had no one to lie to, and after a while I began to forget why I had done what I had done and to wish that I could undo it.
For the spring break of her thirty-eighth year, Rebecca Park went to Barcelona in search of a fuck.
That was her joke, anyway. She told it compulsively.
“I’m going to Spain,” she said, smiling hopelessly. “To find a man with whom I can be unfaithful. Hopefully a Spaniard, but honestly, I’d even take a Canadian.”
In response she received mirthless laughter, followed by delicate suggestions that avoided the subject of infidelity. Why Spain? Why cross the Atlantic for the five dismal mid-February days that Rebecca’s university chose for its spring break? Rebecca’s specialization was nineteenth-century women writers of the American West, but she had never seen the Pacific Ocean or Taos or Yosemite or Yellowstone. She should visit a place that made sense. If Europe was non-negotiable, better to choose some cold, dignified place: London, Edinburgh, Copenhagen if she wanted exotic.
When Lou Schultz got to the Avis desk at the Orlando airport, the compact car he’d reserved was not available, nor was there a midsized left on the lot. They’d had no choice but to upgrade him straight to the top: a brand-new 1973 Chrysler Imperial, white with cream interior. He decided to let the kids believe that he’d splurged and was kicking off their holiday in style. Jonathan, ten, was splayed out in the backseat with a map he’d gotten at the rental desk, and seven-year-old Kitty, winner of the coin toss, sat up front next to Lou playing with the radio dial. The three of them were cruising under a pale Florida sky, en route to Villa Serena, a real estate development in Winter Haven. Lou had planned their vacation around the coupons and discounts he’d been promised in return for touring one of the model homes.
“Doesn’t it sound grand, kids? Vee-ya Serena.”
The girl had an unusual talent. She could make noises with her mouth, like a door creaking open and slamming shut, or like an old man huffing up the stairs. When my back was turned she’d do it: the sound of breaking glass or something. Tall for her age, I thought. Why she wore such dirty white tennis shoes I couldn’t understand. You’d think a girl her age would opt for something prettier. Look down and you got pale freckled ankles cut off in dirty canvas, like she’d just crawled across a muddy lawn. Curly brown hair, silver braces with lime-green rubber bands, careful to tear the corner from her notebook and fold her gum inside before she started to tune.
She was a horrible violin student.
“Uh huh,” was her answer when I asked if she was happy with her progress.
“Amy, do you think Kabalevsky would be happy?”
Excerpted from the in-progress book RAD: a twisted memoir of a fierce teenage girl in 1982. Halpern’s latest film, with co-director Chris Quilty, is the documentary Llyn Foulkes One-Man Band, which premiered at the LA Film Festival.
I am 16 and not invited to my mom’s third wedding. Apparently, it’s a ‘no kids allowed’ affair, which is scandalous considering I menstruate, I have touched three penises (two with my eyes open), and tonight, I am pretty sure I will lose my virginity. When I march in my mom’s bedroom to tell her what I think, she laughs and says of course you’re invited. We said it to keep the Bialy kids from coming, the ones who always pee in the pool. That’s a relief, I say. I thought you guys didn’t want me there. My Stepdad-To-Be says nothing as he pulls on his shoes and leaves.
We admit it. Like almost all of you, we here at Spice Rack have never eaten at a restaurant called “The Pulitzer.” We’ve never tried what Food Source calls a “Grand Marnier and orange zest crème brulee that’s like a double fake orgasm while dry-humping a Cara Cara tree.” Or their “small plate of bacon-wrapped kale in pomegranate truffle oil” that apparently has “the flavor intensity equal to a motorcycle driven by a grizzly bear on fire, if the grizzly bear was made of bacon-wrapped kale.”
We hate to throw anyone under the food truck here, but we suspect the writers from Food Source, like most everyone else, had never eaten at The Pulitzer and were just trying to fit in with the other food bloggers and reviewers who also claimed they had. Let us here at Spice Rack, with our three James Beard Award nominations for accuracy in food writing, set the example.
The Swan as Metaphor for Love is also available in Joyland Retro Vol. 1 No. 3.
A swan's foot, like a duck's, is a webbed claw. In traversing swan shit and mud, the claws gunk up and reek. Nobody in the history of the world, save another swan, has licked a swan foot while that foot was still attached to the swan. The feet resemble rabid bats in their sickly color and texture.
Moving north on the swan's undercarriage, one will find an eroded civilization of swan shit and pond scum. This is a banal phrase, "pond scum," one that is easily ignored, but look closer, take a more personal approach. Swans eat grasses, sedges and pond weed, each teeming with murk. The birds will also eat insects, snails and a fresh shrimp if they're near one.