Franny & Toby, by Tetman Callis

“Not since Watership Down has there been such a whimsical, original take on humanity in the form of beloved members of the animal kingdom. Franny & Toby is a gorgeously rendered tale of love.”

– Suzy Vitello, author of The Empress Chronicles series

http://silkyoakpress.com.au/?p=433

What the Dead Can Do

Fourteen degrees Fahrenheit at daybreak.
The stairwell smells of dirty
diapers and stale cigarette smoke.

A man dressed several levels
below stylish picks through
the garbage bin behind a business.

Three blocks away at three
o’clock this morning, a man
was shot to death on the street.
The subjective impression
of his last moments are as
all of our such moments are,
forever lost. His blood froze
in spots on the concrete sidewalk.

The man at the garbage bin
pulls out a jacket discarded
there, says to no one walking by,
“Let the dead bury their dead.”

Two-Four Time

The clouds relax,
the snow shakes loose.
Icy dandruff coats
the shoulders of the roads.

The sky is gray,
the lake is green and still.
Gulls threaten each other for scraps.
A man stands on the breakwater,
shouts at the lake, “Jah! Allah!
Motherfucker Santa!”

A commercial truck
backs up on the street,
its beeper beeping warning beeps.
The man on the breakwater
throws his head back,
dances to the rhythm,
two-four time.

Dropping Back to Punt

Whenever a litmag/journal/site/publication/entity publishes one of my stories, I wait at least three months then post the published story to this site. In July, Knee-Jerk Magazine published “Dropping Back to Punt.” Now it is included in the Previously Published Stories sidebar.

 

The Bell

The joggers and joggettes of Evanston
gather in packs on grizzly November days
and run south into Oniontown.
At their head is the crier who clangs
his bell and calls, “Stand aside! Stand aside!”

The joggers and joggettes are young
and slender and beautiful, their faces
unlined, brows unfurrowed, their clothing
new and unfrayed, well-styled and of
perfect fit. Their conversation is of matters
pertinent. You may overhear snatches
of it as they trot past. The bell clangs.

The joggers and joggettes trot along
the sidewalks. They will nudge you
in the most polite manner possible
if you have not paid attention to the cries
of the crier and the clangings of the bell.

What You Know and When You Know It

When you are young
and you move to a new place,
you know you are
going there to live.
Everything there is fresh
and very important.

When you are older, past
the mid-point of your life,
and you move to a new place,
you know you are going there
to die, and you know
it doesn’t matter,
you are now free.

Where the Danger Lies

Nine out of ten doctors
will tell you that the crazy guy
who gathers sopping newspapers off
the sidewalk in the rain while talking
to no one you can see about all
the reading he now has to do
is a crazy guy.

He stops talking when people
draw near, he’s not that crazy.
He knows where the danger lies.

Ten out of ten doctors
will tell you what they would have
done for or to or about
the crazy guy. Ten out of ten
of them will be wrong
and so will you.

Unscrewing After the Dreaming

Usually, when a piece of mine is first published someplace else, I post a notice here on my blog, with a link to the someplace else. I also post the notice and link on Facebook. Then, about three months later, I add a copy of whatever it was to my previously published works on this site, with a notice of same posted again here on the main line.

Tonight is different. The aptly named Synchronized Chaos published one of my short prose pieces, “After the Dreaming,” on their website two weeks ago and so butchered it that I’m not posting a link to it here or on Facebook or anywhere else. What I’m doing is posting here the original unscrewed piece, so that all three of my readers may enjoy it in its pristine entitlement.

After the Dreaming

We woke up and found ourselves wearing clothing and carrying weapons, our women carrying babies on their hips as we wandered dry, sun-drenched plains on our way to gather in crowded cities and drink beer in cool, dark shops, gossip and grind grain by the city walls, watch the seasons and the pirouette of the stars.  Calculating when to plant the corn, painting ourselves, hacking the gemstones, melting the ores and prostrating ourselves before ten thousand gods we sliced the hearts from endless rows of sacrificial victims captured by the soldiers arrayed in endless rows of the armies we found ourselves marching in when we woke up out of our infinite dreaming and into this endless nightmare.

 

Counting the Hours

Hell in a very small place
is directly beneath my feet.

Las Hermanas de Las Dolorosas
live if you want to call it living
in the apartment below my soles.

Their bickering ends only
when one or both of them
lose or loses consciousness.
O to sleep
and not to scream.

They are up and at each other
at nine o’clock
ten o’clock
one forty-four
and five-thirty the following
morning. Sometimes I expect

to hear gunshots and hope
they don’t accidentally aim
at their ceiling. More likely
I think their impasse could
resolve with crashings of furniture
and smashings of glass and
wailings followed by
silence,
sirens,
and the news trucks showing
up outside on the street.

Most likely, though, it will
go on and on, the muffled
whine, the occasional shout,
no end in sight, two people
locked together forever
in their love and hate.

Certificate

A woman sat in a canvas folding
chair by the lake. The day
was still and water calm. Mist
in the sky blurred the horizon.

She held her wallet in her lap. She
opened it and pulled out a folded
sheet of paper, unfolded it,
looked at it, a copy of her birth
certificate. She folded it, returned
it to her wallet, fingered her
drivers license there, closed her
wallet and looked out over the lake.

A few minutes later she opened her
wallet again, pulled her drivers
license out, looked at it, put it
back in her wallet, pulled her
birth certificate out again,
unfolded it and looked at it again.
She lightly ran her fingertips over
the names of her father and her mother,
folded the certificate, returned it to
her wallet and looked at the lake.

Yesterday she ran away from her
husband, literally, running down
the sidewalk in a light drizzle
on a street a few blocks from
the apartment where her father
died when she was seventeen. Two
pedestrians turned and watched as
she ran by. Further up the street,
her husband stood on the sidewalk
and he watched her go.

Hardwood

The downstairs neighbors are having
a bad day. Last night they had
a bad night. Yesterday, at least
during those parts of the day
when I was at home, they were
having a bad day. The night before
last, etc.

I try not to listen. (I want
to listen!) I try not to press
my ear against the floor and I
am almost always successful.

It hardly matters. This old
building is built like a honeycomb,
sound traveling well up and down
the cells. (They’re shouting now
below me—I want to listen!)

Even without pressing my ear
against the hardwood floor,
I can hear “Fuck!” and “I
told you!” and “Don’t” and
“Help me, you never help me,
I have to do all the fucking”
and then it trails off and
then the dogs bark. Yes, they
have dogs, two of them. They
bark. Sometimes they even howl.

“Fuck” is the word easiest
to hear in this honeycomb. It’s
like the punch of a fist.

Behind Closed Doors

Memo in the inbox at
opening time today. From
Divisional Headquarters, Department
of Intimate Affairs: There will
no longer be any
fucking between the husband
and the wife. Forms have been
submitted, a closed-door
hearing has been held (to preserve
the privacy of all involved),
and the decision has been
reached. What little has been
leaked and may be said with
any degree of certainty is
inconsistent and controversial.
The wife waved her arm and said,
“Look at him—those wrinkles,
those teeth—and he smells of
cheese.” The husband clutched
his hat and said, “It’s true that
I am flatulent and sniffle
and often scratch myself—
frankly, I wouldn’t want to
be mounted by such a one as me,
either.” The husband had a way
with words. The gavel sounded
and the matter was considered
settled. Coffee-flavored kisses
were still to be exchanged
on an ad hoc basis.

Spit

High over the lake
on autumn afternoons
gulls flutter
flutter?
They fly in lackadaisical
manner, not in any
formations or groups

The angels this afternoon
have been having a party
and threw confetti

Gulls flutter and soar
and glide above the lake
sidelighted by the afternoon
sun, lifted by the breeze

What do angels eat
at their gatherings?
What do they barbecue?
What do they roast
on a spit?

The City Has Flocks

The city has flocks
of big
fat
finches

A factory on the far South Side
that turns out Scottie-dogs

dog after dog after dog

The forges blaze
through the night

Fresh-cast dogs clatter
onto the factory floor

Released into the parks
by vested City workers
the Scottie-dogs chase
finches pecking in the grass

The big fat finches fly away
The Scottie-dogs prance about
they howl and yelp

Controlled Access

The police
knocked on my door last night.

I was pleased
they weren’t looking for me.

The doorbell rang and I got up
and looked through the peephole.
I told my wife, It’s the cops.

I opened the door and they
identified themselves. Hello, we’re
Chicago Police. They wore uniforms,
badges, guns, and bulletproof vests.
They had radios and batons and other
gadgets. Yes, I can tell, I said.
How can I help you?

They told me how. They asked
me what I knew about
the neighbor who lives below.
I told them what I knew,
which was nothing and a little more.

They asked me about
the neighbors next door.
I told them what I knew,
which was nothing and a little more.

They asked me about
the neighbors upstairs.
I told them what I knew,
which was nothing and a little more.

They thanked me for
my time and left. I watched
them out the window as they
walked away from the building.
I forgot to ask them, Hey, guys,
this building is controlled access—
how’d you get in here?
My wife said she thought
they may have had a passkey.
Maybe all the cops have
a passkey to all the buildings,
she said. Makes it easier.

Intruder

Things happened at night and
I don’t remember which of them
was real and was happening
outside my head. Someone was
trying to break in through
the back windows or the front
door. I got up in the dark
and went to my closet and pulled
my rifle out and walked down
the hallway in the dark and hoped
I didn’t shoot someone I wasn’t
supposed to shoot. I woke up with
my wife pounding her fists
against my chest and saying, No,
I won’t! No! And I grabbed
her wrists and she woke up.

Fire Sale

You don’t have
what they want to buy.

You’re reading Thomas Aquinas
on the corporeality
of angels, spiritual substance
made manifest through form,
and not even you
will buy that.

It goes in the back room,
with the boxes of used
quill pens, and the jars
of cold and hardened
phlogiston.

Crowded back there.
Arson might be
the answer, followed by
a fire sale.

Hot embers for
a quarter, bowls
of ashes at
a dime a pound.