Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Canine


    I watched a dog kill a gopher. It is not really surprising that it happened, but the dog happened to be a dog I was living with and I was taking him for a walk at the moment.
    He was on a long leash because anytime I see a dog being walked on a short leash for no purpose other than discipline for discipline's sake, I wonder what the dog could have possibly done to make the walker want or need to yank its neck whenever it strays just far enough to render the leash taut. The possibilities are numerous in both visceral and psychological ways. It is particularly troubling for me to see when there is no one else around but myself to witness it. What phantoms do these dog walkers refrain their beasts of leisure from reaching?
    The dog -Jack- and I were walking along the edge of the train tracks on the north end of town. The man made embankments create a three mile stretch of grassy bucolic hill with small patches of pine tree oasis below, some even with park benches and gazebos. A fence is installed along the edge of the tracks, at the apex of the industrial ripple of land. It turns out there are animals in the area who can burrow beneath the fence, into the hill; animals such as gophers.
     Jack had stopped to rest on the hill in the grass, panting and squinting lazily in the sun drenched clovers. I stood near him, admiring his massive and regal skull structure while simultaneously realizing if I were to let him go free he would almost immediately have been hit by a car, or picked up by animal services. I looked to the park bench at the bottom of the hill and considered taking repose from the summer walk as Jack had.
    That's when the leash went slack towards the opposite direction, away from where Jack was resting only a moment before. I looked north down the parallel tracks and saw a glistening and nearly black gopher scurry up through the unkempt flora.
    The gopher wasn't fast enough.
    Jack gained quickly on the twenty five foot dash up the hill. His tongue was back inside of his mouth. His thick architectural head, matted in paint strokes of white and black and brown fur, looked more determined than any dog's face I had seen or will ever see again. The sun shined bright on him on that nearly cloudless Midwestern afternoon. He was moving fast enough to blur his body.
    He caught the gopher by its neck with his wide and muscular jaws, and lashed his head upwards. The gopher's slick fur and seal-like blubber whipped up like a pendulum of carefully constructed animal matter, with legs and feet and muscle and blood and a skeleton with fragile vertebrae; specifically fragile when too much fast and angled trauma is applied to the to neck of a creature.
    Jack tossed the gopher high in the air, towards the train tracks. The limp body bounced against the edge of the fence, rattling the grayish blue chain links. The gopher toppled and barrel-rolled down the white gravel hill on the other side of the fence, next to the tracks.
   I ran to the fence and stared through the mesh at the dead animal dusted with powdered rock; it was nearly a quarter buried in the fallen stones. "Oh shit" I muttered in a low droning tone.
   Jack stood at attention with his snout pressed against the fence, his tail whipping back and forth at a vision blurring speed. He snorted and shook his head, letting his wet cheeks and jowls slap against his pearl yellow teeth and his shiny mauve and spotted purple gums.
   I wish I would have let him have it: the gopher. I wish I would have let him study it, poking and prodding is with his superior nose, that glistening wet furry ebon lump of an animal organ. I wish I would have seen it and I wish he would have at least tried to eat it.
   "Come on, Jack." I finally said, yanking his leash.
   He looked up at me next to the fence, his tail still wagging. His front legs collapsed as he pushed his head into a matted net of grass. He pushed and strained his muscular terrier legs and body against the green and tan web of friction. He snorted again, then rolled over on his back and remained that way.
    "Come on, Jack." I said and yanked his neck again.
    Finally he stood up.
    We walked back to the apartment.
    He was a dog of noble Roman origin, trained and bred for glorious combat. He was a dog with a biologically canine lineage, but only a short paper trail in his inevitable breeding from wolf to domesticated sport dog.
    As we neared the apartment, I said to Jack, as if he actually had the ability to talk, "We're not going to tell Steph about this. She would probably freak out. Deal?"
    Jack stared up at me panting and squinting in a way that made him look happy and oblivious.
    "It's a deal."

Aaron C. Molden

Thursday, May 22, 2014

To Bathsheba, in Jerusalem: with Longing


The battle was won and the warriors made camp.
They drank wine, slaughtered and feasted on fatted calf,
one of the few left in our army's herd.
One warrior was left to clean the dishes.
The next day they rode towards the city,
fast and joyous, whooping and howling
for the men they had slain.
We took lodging in a city that night.
Some of the warriors took wives.
Some of the warriors decided to stay.
Some of them left their new brides
riding fast into the sun,
howling a warrior's howl,
hoping someone from the band of warriors
heard their cries of desperation.
In a night of intense and chilling darkness,
while huddled next to the fire,
I asked Micah why he left his new bride.
Why did he rejoin the group?
He said the day after they took their holy vows
and consummated their nuptials,
he woke up in her bed and stared out
through the wood window frame
and saw his new bride watering the desert grass
with an urn made of red clay.
Why would she water the grass?
We are in a drought.
He said she would not have made a good mother
and then Micah fell asleep, quietly weeping.
I remained awake for the rest of the night
thinking about the question.
No one in the army could clean their clothing.
We had not come across a river
or a pond or even a small puddle of water
outside of an urban landscape
in nearly twelve days.
Micah's clothing was clean
catching only its third night of wood fire.
I thought of you all night;
of your smile,
of your fleshy hips
and ample bosom.
Of your golden hair,
your bouncing and fidgety body.
I thought of your eyes
and of your pursed pink lips
and of shapely navel
and of your milky thighs
and even of your delicate toes.
I thought of you
until the only thing I could do was fall asleep.
Micah made the right decision in returning.
I did too.
This is why I write to you.
I long for the next time we meet, darling,
after our legions take the Ammonites.
With Love,
Uriah

Aaron C. Molden

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Scars


    She had scars protruding across her thighs. She told me they were self inflicted late one night while we were sitting on our used couch in our apartment living room. Her friend, Rebecca, wanted to get rid of the couch because she claimed they held too many bad memories. It was mauve and upholstered in a course vinyl fabric. I had my arm wrapped around her and her head was resting against my collarbone.
     "In high school I use to cut myself." She paused for a moment, listening to my deep and steady breathing; feeling my chest rise up and down against her cheek. "It use to be the only thing that actually made me feel alive." She pressed her nose into my chest, bare at the neck between the collar of my button down shirt. She took several deep breaths.
    If she had told me this in high school I would have been shocked, but somehow riveted by such an audacious act of self mutilation.
    Sitting on our couch that night, alone in our new home, I only felt confusion in such an inexplicable act of blood proof. "Of course you are alive." I finally muttered, not quite knowing what else to say.
    She took another deep breath. "Do you want to see the scars?" She asked quietly.

    The first time we bathed together, I noticed the scars on her milky thighs blushed a bright pouting pink when they were immersed in the steaming hot water. They were only faint rippling contours on her legs before, no different in tone and girth than an elbow compared to a knee cap. In the hot water, they swelled to the color in impression of fair lashed flesh. She noticed I was staring at the scars. "I cut myself on our couch, once." She said quietly. "On Rebecca's couch." She was looking down into the steaming water in the cream colored claw footed tub. She folded her feet around my bare lower back, immersed in the same steaming water. "There was blood everywhere." She added in a low monotonous tone.
    I stared at her from across the bathtub. Leaning forward, I grasped her hips, pulling her closer to me. A small wake trailed her body in the water as I moved her towards me. I kissed her neck, her cheeks, her lips, and her eyes. I heard the drizzling sound of the water pouring off her when I picked her up and laid her face down atop my naked and saturated body. Her wet hair draped across my forehead while our lips breathed in and out of syncopation, only a half an inch from each other. I grabbed the clef between her thigh and buttocks and pulled her even closer. I pressed every inch of her wet naked skin I could manage against mine.
    "Thanks God." She sighed.
    I kissed and caressed her chest and neck with my face.
    "Thank God." She said again. "The clean-ability rating of that couch is rated W." She said with a sudden distance in her voice. "Otherwise the blood would have never washed out."
    "Steph?" I held her still against me. "Steph? Are you okay?"
    Her body went limp against mine. I went limp too.
    "What do you mean?" She asked. "Why wouldn't I be okay?"
    "What?" I asked emphatically confused. "Are you happy?" I asked, suddenly desperate for words.
    "What are you asking me, right now?"
    I lay there in silence. Her head rose from the tub, and though I was looking away from her, I knew she was staring at me. I didn't know what to say; how to answer. I had asked genuinely if she was okay, wanting to hear her answer. All is farce unless you have someone to speak to, so why should it not be someone who loves and cares for you: your boyfriend, your friend, your roommate? I simplified the question when I was met with her confusion and boiled down my concern to a yes or no question: Are you happy? And I was met with a counter offense of a question: What are you even asking me, right now?
    "Uh..."
 
    We heard from outside of the bathroom our roommate, Max, enter through the back door of the second story house apartment. He was with someone. The sound of their feet walking up the old wood stairs of the house. The sound of the painted red door clasping and closing in the jamb after they entered the kitchen. He had a girl with him who was obviously drunk due to the stumbling, yelling, laughing and barking noises being emitted through the walls and doorways. Steph and I laid still in the bathtub during the cacophony.
    "Let's do a shot." in a muffled cadence.
    "Do you think I'm pretty?" Could be translated in a faded timbre.
    "This looks like my old couch." Were the last word I heard from her that night.
    "Let's do another shot." Max said and then there was silence. After that, Steph and I listened as they entered Max's room. And finally, Rebecca's faint moaning.
    Steph pushed herself away from me, plunging my head beneath the cooling bathwater. She reached for a towel and dried herself off. She put on a robe and laid down on our bed. A couple of minutes later, I climbed into bed with her and kissed her behind her earlobe. It smelled like vanilla; I could not smell her skin.
    "Not tonight, Jed." She said in pained, but quiet frustration
    "What?" I asked, still confused.
    She pushed her body away from mine. "I want. To be. Alone." She spoke in metered exhaustion.
    I laid there for awhile. Then finally found my sleeping bag in the closest and slept on the floor in front of our; her; Rebecca's couch.

Aaron C. Molden  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring Break Part Three: The Fall


Part Three

    When he fell, Bobby had a pair of keys to his house and a Nokia cellphone that was hinged in the middle -it broke in half upon impact- in his right pocket. In his left pocket he had a sharpie marker, a ball point pen from Lafayette Savings bank, and  a small green Mead notebook; the pages were worn and old and the spiral bound wire was bent in on both sides. In his back left pocket he had an old tan wallet with seven dollars, several loose receipts, and small bits of paper in it. The one piece of paper I read had the name and mailing address of a girl in Colorado. I thought for a moment about taking the seven dollars.
    "What do you think this is?" I asked Sarah, who was peering into his wallet with me.
    "It's the address to his pen pal." Sarah answered.
    "Pen pal?" I asked slightly baffled.
    "We did that writing program with Westside middle school in seventh grade for English class." She said. "You don't remember that? The girl he was assigned to moved to Colorado when we went into Eighth grade; her dad got a job out there."
    I squinted, watching her head eclipse the sunlight above me. The overcast clouds had by now passed and I was mesmerized by the glowing wisps of her hair dancing in the breeze for a moment. "Yeah. I remember. What about it?"
    "He kept writing to her. They're still pen pals." After Sarah uttered these words, she looked over at Bobby's body laying limp and unconscious on the unfinished concrete floor of the roofless bunker buried in the ground.
 
    The fall had been hard. He was sitting in the edge of the foundation, pointing his legs outwards at a forty-five degree angle; craning his neck and shoulders forward, peeking into the depths below him. While teetering on the edge, a gust of wind caused him to lose his balance. He couldn't managed to catch himself and jack-knifed against the concrete only ten feet below him. He landed on the back of his neck with his head curled towards his chest like a nautilus shell of flesh and bone and brain; a brain controlling his muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, digestive, lymphatic, and reproductive systems as well as normal and irrational human thought. He accomplished one third of a high dive before landing on the pavement. Neck first, as I mentioned, then his head bounced and wobbled on the cement floor. After that his toes tapped the floor causing the rest of his body to act as a brittle spring before he finally slumped over unconscious.
    "Boing!" was the first thing Zeke yelled at Sarah and me as he ran over to us. I have never heard anyone say the word :"boing" in such a distressed tone.
    Sarah and I had left Bobby and Zeke at the construction sight to explore the woods that surrounded it. We were sitting up against a tree and I was trying -rather desperately- to figure out how to kiss her. There were some embarrassing moments, but as far as I could tell, I was doing pretty well.
    "Boing!" is what Zeke yelled as I was just mustering up enough courage to move in for the kiss.

    Zeke was standing on ground level looking into the bunker at Sarah, me, and a very injured and unconscious Bobby. "Guys, what are we going to do?"

    During the thunderstorm, the back awning of the patio was a waterfall. Standing under the eave, peering into the rain falling in front of her, she wondered where her son might be.

    Sarah's older brother was driving laps around our neighborhood in his air-brushed Honda low rider with a custom green and silver coat of paint. He had installed a Nos cartridge in it earlier that week and had been aching to push the button from the moment it was at his fingertips. The car was too low to the ground for him to drive very far on the deteriorated pot holed roads of that early spring. He was resigned to peeling out in quarter mile stretches on his imaginary rectangular tracks lined with houses where families and children lived.
    He was trying to impress the girl in the front seat with him, a Sophomore from our high school. Steve, Sarah's brother, had graduated two years earlier and was working at a factory where he wired together lamps and other home furnishings. When he came upon a kid riding his ten speed bike down fifth street, he swerved slightly towards him, as if to indicate that he planned on hitting the adolescent. The kid panicked and, twisting his handlebars sideways, crashed his bike against the curb.
    "Hmm." Steve smugly mumbled. "Fucking hilarious."
    Sarah was planning to call him first to come pick us up, but the battery on her phone was dead. Using it as a flashlight in the tunnel had drained it to nothing. I doubt he would have helped us out anyways.
 
    The sun shine had diminished and the dark grey cloud coverage was only becoming more congested above us.
    "He's breathing, right?" Zeke asked.
    "His chest is moving up and down." I answered.
    "How hurt do you think he is?" Sarah asked in a shaky and worried tone.
    "We need to get a hold of someone." Zeke said.
    "Yeah, but who? I don't want to get in trouble." I said, and began to flip through Bobby's wallet nervously. "And how? Sarah's phone is dead, Bobby's is snapped, and I didn't bring mine."
    "I have my phone, but there is no signal around here." Zeke said, looking into his screen. "I would call my mom if I had signal.
    "Don't do that." I said immediately. "We fucking stole her car, and I'm pretty sure we're trespassing." I pulled out another piece of paper: a worn post card from Arizona with a cactus and cow skull on the front.

Hey Little Brother,
I was fucking this chubby Mexican girl down in Mexico while I was there. She didn't speak any English so there wasn't much talking going on between us. She did know how to fuck, though, and we did it on the beach a couple times. When I was leaving at the end of the week, she didn't seem to care that I was going. I found out on the bus ride back into the states that she had given me crabs. A nurse from the army based near where I stayed was on the same bus and checked me out downstairs in the bus bathroom. Ain't life grand! Be safe baby brother. I'll see you soon.
Your big brother,
Kevin

    "What about Bobby's older brother?" I mentioned. "Does he live in town?" The postcard was dated almost exactly a year prior.
    "I think he goes to college out of state, if I'm remembering what Bobby once told me." Sarah said, sitting against the wall farthest from Bobby's body, chewing on her fingernail. I did not realize it at the time, but Zeke had wondered off looking for a signal for his phone.
    "Do you think he might be on spring break?" He was on spring break. He had gone back to Mexico for the second year in the row and he, inevitably experienced a second round of medicated pubic shampoo, but there was no way for any of us to know this, and contacting him would have been impossible because the only one who had his phone number was Bobby, whose phone was destroyed in the fall. Sarah didn't answer and I realized quickly that the course of action I had mapped out mentally at the time was quixotic; I sighed.
    The clouds above us were only getting darker and thicker.






Aaron C. Molden