The Binoculars

I once used to see what was left out of brightness. I could see the smartest concepts that passed by my window and know in a minute whether their genius was real. A bird with its prey would circle the field and beneath its beak I found the mouse. Hidden in a cocoon of detail, it was not stupid, just afraid. I saw a woman bathing a child from my neighbor’s apartment window. The child was safe in his curiosity just as I was in mine.  I saw men with briefcases turn into men with messenger bags. I saw pigeons on a mission and stories that floated from sky scrapers.  Now my lenses are smudged with a tint of nostalgia. I look out on visions passing by, but I only see my memories.

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Photo by Linda Daunter

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The Door Knobs

“You push and I’ll pull.”

“No. YOU push and I’LL pull,” the brass knob said to the silver. They had been yelling all night which was really no different than what they had been doing their whole life. The in and out and black and white and push and pull of their life had become routine. This argument would have been no different if it hadn’t concerned the little boy.

The little boy came to their house once every year around the holidays and would treat their door terribly. He would pull or push at their knobs until the spare guest room door was swung open with such a force, it shook the door frame. He was a brat of a boy, only seven but with an anger and a fire that tore up the house in the flash of an eye. The door knobs had been expecting him ever since they could smell the sweet smell of pine from the Christmas tree.

“Damn it. I don’t want to argue with you again,” the brass knob yelled to the silver. Of course, this wasn’t the case at all. He lived to argue. When she turned one way, he twisted the opposite and when he moved in one direction she would counter him perfectly.

“Then don’t argue, and just push.”

“He’s going to push on your knob before he reaches mine.” The brass knob said. “If you don’t push, then you’ll mess up the whole door.”

In addition to the little boy having a temper, he was also left handed. This made the entire house creak and groan with every different twist and turn he made. The silver knob was not giving up though. Instead, she insisted on staying put. She was not pushing nor pulling in any different direction.

During the evening at around five p.m. the door knobs heard the little boy run into the house. His shouts and cries for his mother echoed across his grandmothers house endlessly. With a force as fierce as a cannon he ran up the stairs and toward the guest room.

“Brace yourself,” the brass knob said to the silver.

“Oh hush,” she said. But when the little boy grabbed the silver knob, he twisted harshly and pulled to the left. The silver knob held tight to her position. She was never very good with change and insisted that she could only move in one direction. With a terrible clunk, the little boy pulled the silver knob so hard that she popped off the guest bedroom door. Her body fell from his small hand and she landed with a clang on the hard wood floor.

Having no one left to push and pull with, the brass knob teetered to the left and then to the right. When he could find no balance, he too crashed to the floor. With a loud thud, he landed exactly on the opposite side of the door.

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Psychiatric Chart of Objects

Name: The Green Pen

Discharge Diagnosis: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Opening and Closing Date: 8-23-13  –  1-13-14

Reason for Admission: Not able to work. When asked what happens if someone does not click his top, he simple states ”he can not write.”

Allergies: Dry air.

Outcome: Can work sometimes. Will need to be on medication for the rest of his life.

https://awordofsubstance.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/the-green-pen/

Name: The Piano Keys

Discharge Diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder.

Opening and Closing date: 3/13/98 – 1/20/14

Reason for Admission: Feeling empty and hollow. Complaints of being out of tune. Insistence that everyone was ”playing her.”  Number one symptom is her insistency that everything is either black or white.  Her relationship with the strings is unsettling.

Allergies: Dust.

Outcome: She will be in therapy for the rest of her life with multiple different therapists.

https://awordofsubstance.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/the-piano-keys/

Name: The Melmac Dish

Discharge Diagnosis: PTSD.

Opening and Closing date: 9-14-13  –  1-22-14

Reason for Admission: Feelings of depression and worthlessness. He talked frequently about how his parents had been smashed in a fit of rage from an alcoholic man. He has reoccurring feelings of abandonment from being left in a cabinet for three years.

Allergies: vegetables.

Outcome: He will need therapy for years to come.

https://awordofsubstance.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/dear-melmac-dish/

Name: The Lightbulbs

Discharge Diagnosis: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Opening and Closing date: 12-07-13  – 1-12-14

Reason for Admission: The front hallway said they had no use for his light. He consistently believes he is brighter than all other objects.

Allergies: None.

Outcome: He will never get better.

https://awordofsubstance.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/how-to-be-a-successful-light-bulb-in-5-easy-steps/

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The Needle

Going in and out as fast as possible, it punctures its way through an unhealthy relationship. The start of it is sure and clear minded. The sharpness cuts right through the bullshit because it knows that this is the right thing to do.  With extreme precision It pierces the possibility of doubt with a sterilization that’s clean and good intentioned. There is no cause for concern.

But on second thought, it finds a bump in the road. The unhealthy situation that it’s attacking is what it lives for and once it’s inside, the job is done. Paralyzing the problem, it strangles it, making it disappear. In its absence it has nowhere to go and the relationship has ended. Slowly it pulls out, wondering if it should have ever been there to begin with.

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The Table

Would warmth wooden? Across the pale blond shades of curtains hanging low, whisps drape gently on a circular shape. Coffee cup rings and a rusty tin plate. Underneath splinters there’s a distant marked flow. Old oak water comes running from the cold. Hurry in – keep that out. It’s shut up safe in a fiery bout.

But when things get muddled and life gets sticky, I go where the wood stays dry.

Solid legs will keep me afloat with the wild eyed wood of my table boat.

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Italian Shoes

Edited by Melissa Mayberry

She had a full front page down the catalog that featured nothing but her Italian body. She and her twin modeled themselves with a kind of snooty attitude combined with only the kind of grace a dancer could embody. This was no ordinary pair of shoes, these were the kind of shoes sneakers dream of.

I came from Larry’s Shoes. It was a simple store down on west Main st. that sold only men’s shoes. We were an ugly lot. There were the brown shoes with fake leather that were often sold to the suckers who went job hunting. After weeks of rejections, they would finally saunter into the store and buy interview shoes. The problem was, they were so poor by the time they got to Larry’s that they could only afford faux leather. I had to sit next to those fake leather shoes for forty five days until Jeremy Winters took me home.

He was a nice enough guy, but he fit the Larry’s Shoe society to a tee. He took one look at my shiny, but not too shiny, smooth skin and thought ‘for fifteen bucks, these sneakers will do.’  My laces were a tangled up mess with the end bit of plastic already frayed off from the factory. Being a cheapskate, Jeremy never bought new ones.

I tried to hide the tops of my laces under my tongue, hoping maybe the Italian beauty wouldn’t notice. I had only a couple more blocks to go until we met at The Closet for a drink. It was a little hole in the wall bar, cozy and not too out of the way. I would have picked her up at her place, but she told me she lived in FlatBush which was seven blocks in the opposite direction. One look at the bottom of my shoes and I knew I would split a hole before reaching her house. Instead she said she’d call a cab.

As I approached The Closet, I checked once again to make sure my laces were safely swallowed. Through the darkness of the bar I saw her from outside the window. She was dressed in red silk and had the heels of a kitten. In a flash I knew I’d be selling my sole just to have one drink with the likes of her.

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Dear Melmac Dish

Edited by Melissa Mayberry

Dear Melmac Dish,

I hope this doesn’t come across in the wrong way, I just wish to tell you what we have been discussing. You are a beautiful dish in your own way and I admire the sturdiness that you hold within you. You’re a very accommodating plate and will always hold as much as you can. However, I’ve been talking it over with the group and we just don’t know if you would make the right impression for our annual family dinner.

Your resume is quite impressive and It’s not that we don’t appreciate where you’ve been and the many stories you can tell about being from a thrift store, it’s just that the story is hard to relate to. This place setting is reserved for someone with more experience in the fine dining atmosphere. Unfortunately it seems you have a chip on your side which all others have failed to get rid of. I understand your last dinner party overlooked this aspect, but unfortunately this is a more formal setting.

In addition to the manners in which our table upholds, you also seem unfit in the looks department. While you were once, I’m sure, a beautiful, bright blue, you appear to have gone pale.  The decorative design that tattoos your whole body is a bit much for our usual look and to be quite frank, your complexion is not what should necessarily be showcased in this particular event.

For this years dinner we would really prefer all of the table to be matching. We’ve already allowed the table cloth a place at our dinner and so you see, we can’t allow for anything else not to be perfect. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but we will not be needing your services at this time. If you are still looking for a place come April, perhaps a spring picnic outside would better fit your needs.

Best of wishes,

– The Silver Spoon

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The Jug

Edited by Melissa Mayberry

It was located in the secret place I snuck off to when things got chaotic around the airport. I worked security for over a year when I noticed the secret place. It was small with barely enough room to turn around, but cozy. I imagined a stuffy real estate woman describing the place as ‘quaint’ or ‘rustic’, but what would she say about the jug of mysterious chemicals that sat in the center of the room?

The thing had been there for a million years. Late at night when flights were canceled because of a snow storm, I stumbled into that place. The jug was eerie and sometimes when everything was quiet, I got the sense it was trying to talk to me.

“Well, Jug,” I said, sitting down opposite the canister. “It’s a quiet night out there.”

The jug was old and brown and monstrously huge. It had started off as one of those nice, shiny, metal jugs with a lot of promise for something important. The jug went around telling everything that he was going to be something useful one day – more useful than the milk cartons and stronger than the bottles of bleach used for cleaning swimming pools. When he got a chance to be used for cleaning solvents, he scoffed and said he had more potential than that.

When I found the jug, it had already turned a rusted dark brown.  My boss had kept it as a souvenir and would unscrew the cap to flick his cigarettes into the bottom of the darkened container. The jug ate them wordlessly.

I never asked the head of airport security where he found the jug, but as I sat there describing the night, I could feel something rumble.

“Too quiet”  It said.  The silence was deadly.

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Photo by Steven Mcvey

How to be a successful light bulb in 5 easy steps

1. Don’t be too bright. No one likes a show off. 

Those opinions about how to solve the Great Recession? Save them for later or don’t say them at all.

2. Be sturdy. 

Did Pussy Riot cave under pressure? No. And neither should you. Are you too fragile to take any criticism? Will you crack under pressure? If so, you do not belong in any lamp.

3. Unless your owner is depressed, try to stay out of the light boxes. 

Getting involved in emotional lighting is exhausting and may zap your bulb.

4. Be warm, not hot. 

This is not the MTV music awards. No need to sizzle any fingers off.

5. Don’t be embarrassed. 

Chris Christie is not your leader, don’t follow his feelings. Getting red in the face may look like an artistic and interesting mood enhancement, but it’s not useful.

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The Slip

Edited by Melissa Mayberry

The rolled up white slip slouches in between the bed and the wall. The nylon texture is so clingy, she’ll latch on to anyone. Pathetic really. She used to tell me I’d never make it to the top of the drawer by being such a lowly UNC sweatshirt, but who is the first to get used when she is in the wash? That’s right.

The woman would rather curl up in a big, fleece, bear hug than to be constrained in a miniature ball of thin material. She is strong and never clings. By working hard, she gained a full scholarship where she would continue to work until she had made it to the top of her class. Through years of studying, she graduated and landed a job at a prestigious legal office with long hours. Early in the morning she would rise from her bed and put on beige tights and a long button down that was anything but flattering. She is a strong woman, yet she yields. She yields to the unfortunate insecurity that all slips cling to.

The slip fits neatly into that unforgivable roll that makes the average person weak in the knees. The innocent, wispy white piece of lingerie that could blow away at the slightest breeze. The waif of a garment that could just as easily shatter if she were a glass vase. In essence, she is the very opposite of the woman wearing her.

Whispering, she will plead to the woman, “Don’t you know I’ve been waiting for you to come home all day.”

And she has. She smoothes herself out in that impossible way that only slinky fabric can.  After hours of dolling herself up she shapes herself into whatever size fits best. By spreading herself thin she gives the illusion that she is as big as need be. By turning her neck line in just the right way she hides the tiny holes just below the lace.  She is almost perfect in her careful manipulation.

No one will be friends with her. After pushing her way to the top of the dresser drawer, the socks won’t talk to her. She ignores this and instead yaps on incessantly about the problems she has with static electricity or the way her material is so thin and fragile.

“Come on…” she says. “Does your boyfriend really want to see you in underwear or worse, a ratty old UNC sweatshirt? You can show off all the things he never sees under that button down if you just pick me.”

The guilty feeling of being comfortable cuts the woman like a knife. In a flash, I see in her eyes the unfortunate insecurity. Perfectionism. It binds them together in a hold that is so strong, they both have little chance of escaping.

Her boyfriend would like to see her in more sexy attire and after a long day, hadn’t women always tried to appear their best?  She had made it through high school, she had a 4.0 in college, she had managed long mornings and long afternoons at the top legal office uptown, and through all of it she had been successful. Was she really going to let it all hang out now?

Before she is even aware, she takes the slip out of the drawer and throws it on over her head. With both her hands she pries at where her voluptuous hips crowd the fabric, it’s still not quite big enough to fit.  She stretches the length, trying to hide her knees which are never properly shaven, but the fabric barely reaches her thighs. Cursing another night where she has chosen something form fitting instead of luxuriously comfortable, she will fight with the slip well into the dark blue light of three a.m.

When the sun first hits the window, she will fling the slip in between the bed and the wall where she must then wait alone for laundry day. The day I sit and wait for.

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