W. FLOOD : Chapter Five

W. Flood

CHAPTER FIVE.

Catherine had her back to me when I entered the kitchen. I felt bad about the distance I imposed but I was trying to sort things out in my own sick way. Her dirty blonde hair hung below her shoulder blades. Our features are opposites, we couldn’t look less alike but that made no difference we are family. Catherine was my sister and I wanted to give her the world, if not the world than a least a better version of the one she lived in now. She wore a navy blue shirt that peeked out from underneath a gray sweater. Blau. Grau. I watched her washing a dish for a moment and I felt so sorry for being removed. I shouldn’t have alienated her as I have everyone else in my life. I hoped she knew how much she meant to me. We’re family, part of a fucked up one but one nevertheless. If I could just sort out my thoughts, what would happen then? Would I be the person I wanted to become? If I could just let go of the past could I be a normal functioning part of this world? Probably not. I’ve been troubled by the fact Catherine had to endure Hattie. She deserved much more than what she has been handed. A lot of people in this life get cheated, not just us. Catherine danced slowly to a song in her head while she washed a plate clean. Catherine has the worst taste in music, true story.

I thought of Edgar Allen Poe, we are the hopeless and the frail.

None of our dishes matched. We had tall glasses adorned with christmas trees, New York Ranger crests, Mets logos and others with vertical stripes. We had monstrous coffee mugs with horizontal rings of orange and black haunted by ghosts on some, illuminating by pumpkins on others. Orange. Schwartz. All the different sets of plates were handed down to us in various weird situations. My favorite one was the plate with ugly, horribly grotesque foliage pattern that grew beneath the meals. When I do dishes, I feel relaxed, I feel somewhat purposeful, but whenever I squeeze my hand into a glass to clean the inside I always expect the glass to explode. I stand in anticipation, waiting for the shards to fly into my face and cut my soapy hands. Let the blood flow like our surname. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll squint and turn my face anyway. I think I wanted them to burst. I think I want everything to burst.

“I’ll dry,” I said standing to the left of Catherine, grabbing a hand towel.

“ Thank you,” said Catherine.

“Cuts the grease in half,” I said deadpan.

I looked into Catherine’s nervous smile. I wondered if she could detect the worry in my eyes. What does that little girl carry around with her? Hattie’s rhetoric? Hattie’s main strategy was to use humiliation as means to control. To propagate a tight hold by diminishing any and all self worth within her children. It’s understood that Hattie would do anything to keep us from leaving her, Hattie’s only tactic, a strategy that eventually backfired. With us gone, Hattie had burned her last bridge down to the ground. The irony is that Catherine was the only one who took care of Hattie. Catherine and Hattie delved into role reversal. With children who have deficient parents, it is not uncommon for the kids to take on basic adult responsibilities, it could be anything such as cooking and cleaning, as well as emotional accountability. Catherine became the caretaker, tending to my mother’s failing mental and physical health as well as her addictions. It often leaves the kids frustrated and feelings of inadequacy begin to fester. Our guilt is birthed from this. We assumed our identities from the basic six. Catherine worried about me as if she was my mother. I worried about her and felt responsible for everything. She was a nurturer. Some family friends have made remarks about how much Catherine looks like Hattie but I don’t see it. That was never flattering for Catherine to hear. I was embarrassed to confide in Pangur how much I feared I was in many ways like my mother. Some also say I have the look of my mother. I see it a little, more so than Catherine. The funny thing was that I saw Hattie in the face of strangers constantly. It could have been the result of my guilt or the simple truth that I missed her badly. In the skeletal face of a cashier or in the sunken eyes of a woman who passed me in the street of New York City, I saw Hattie. Show me any face of a woman with a hint of ennui and I will recognize my mother in it. She haunts me.

“What are your plans for today? Anything special? I don’t feel like going to work today? And I have an essay on the Central Nervous system due.”

“I know the feeling. I’ll probably head into the city for a little while. I’m going to meet Sundeep for lunch in Flushing. Then I want to go somewhere and write a bit. Maybe grab a beer. Nothing crazy. I have to be up early,” I said while placing a chipped Chinese bowl with a cat on it, onto the dry rack.

“Why does Sundeep get a pass?”

“There is nothing to get a pass from.”

“Sure. Anyway. Moving on. That’s good that you’re writing. How is it going? You haven’t mentioned anything about it in a while. You haven’t mentioned much about anything lately. I thought that last poem you wrote was great.”

“Thank you. Well, the writing is not really going that well. To be honest it is going painfully slow. I’ve been nursing it to a point where it’s basically non existent. I know I want to write. I know what I want to write. I just don’t write. I’ve stopped talking about it because it seems like once you speak about it, it kind of deflates the drive. I don’t know. When you talk about something more than you actually do it, it becomes problematic. I am really tired of being full of shit. The worst is when I’m writing a paper for school and my mind wanders off and all I want to do is write but I can’t. I want to work on something, a new chapter of a shitty story no one wants to read anyway. I won’t ever finish anything. I just have to write despite fatigue or distractions. I need to learn to write something everyday, a paragraph, a run on sentence, anything. As long as it allows me to be creative. I need discipline.”

“Self control is more like it,” Catherine said jabbing me with tiny punches. “I want to read it. Whatever it may be. You’ll finish something. You’ll have ample time when you graduate to work on whatever you want. It’s up to you, no one else can do it for you. You just have to do it. I am so ready for school to be done. I’m over it. It doesn’t even matter, odds are I won’t find work anyway.”

“I mean, that’s very possible. Jobs are hard to come by. I hope you’re right though. Whenever I have a chance to write I’m so exhausted from everything else I wind up going to sleep instead. I stopped talking about it because I felt like a liar.”

“You’re not a liar. I know you’re a writer.”

“I guess. I have nothing to show for it. Just because you write doesn’t mean your a writer. Does it?”

“Well, Wilhelm, It’s not easy to write. I tried to write a short story. I was required to for a class. It was god awful but you can’t give up on something you love.” What if I could give up on the things I loved so dearly, I mean, we did.

“You’re a detective and a motivational speaker.”

Catherine was always much stronger than myself. Catherine had to endure more than I had to, due to her being younger. At twelve years old I would just walk out and leave, hang out at the park or stay at Ronald’s. I had no rules to obey, I disregarded anything Hattie told me to do and did whatever I wanted to do. Catherine couldn’t do that. I was unresponsive to Hattie’s demands. Curfew? What does that mean? I always felt like I abandoned Catherine all those nights I left her alone in the company of pugilistic drunks. There was no where for us to go, anywhere was better than home, I am sorry I couldn’t rescue her. I still couldn’t and I hated myself for it.

“How is going with that girl? The bartender. What’s her name?”

“Ooh, girls,” I nudged Catherine with my arm. “How junior high school of you. I mentioned her?”

“Yes. You did.”

“When?” my face reddened.

“You came home from who knows where. You were pretty boxed. As a matter of fact that might have been the last time we really spoke.”

“Sorry. I’m such a weirdo. Please, please, forget anything I might have said to you. I’ve never said a single word to her. I don’t even know her. The only communication we’ve had goes something like ‘Stella’ or ‘pale ale’ or, maybe ‘thank you’. Thank you is a good one, though.”

“Well, you seemed completely enamored with her. Is she pretty?”

“No, she’s gruesome. Come on! She is very pretty. I just don’t know her at all. I shouldn’t talk about her. It’s just she seems, I don’t know, just really interesting and intriguing. There is something about certain people that ignite curiosity, I want to know her. She does that to me. I don’t know a fucking thing about her other than where she works but I know, for some strange reason we would get on so well. Did I just say that out loud? So stupid. It’s all very childish. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation. I’m really good at making things up in my head. Disregard.”

“It’s not stupid. It’s normal. So why haven’t you asked her out? You’re not that shy. I understand what you feel about her, some people make you feel things, what’s a good word, beguiled. You feel compelled to look at them, to talk to them, to kiss them. It’s the principle of attraction.”

“I know what it is, thanks. I’m taking a breather from women. Maybe I’m more timid than you know. I think I need a time out from girls. I’m in the process of taking a break from everything.”

Honestly, I was embarrassed about discussing my feelings and women with Catherine. I felt so stupid that I spoke about Glory. How do you talk about someone you’ve never had a real encounter with? It was bad enough I kept going to the bar to see her. Straight up stalker shit. Creep mode. I could’ve revealed more of my thoughts but I think from that point on it was a conscious decision to shut the fuck up. I have always been frank with my feelings and the moment after I verbally vomit I feel ashamed. Is it because my feelings, like everything else, change? Or is it because I felt stupid for simply having feelings and being affected by life in the first place. It could also be I just don’t want anyone to know me.

“Do you want to kiss her? I bet you do!” Catherine poked me in my armpit.

“Alright, stop it. You know I hate that.”

“You do. You love her.”

“It is evident we are nowhere close to being grown up here. What do you want to me to say? I want to kiss her? I want to kiss her. I am not in love with anybody. I am no good for anyone.”

“I am not even going to comment on that. You should ask her out tonight. Go and see her and ask her out. Tonight.”

“If it’s supposed to happen it will.”

“No. Gross. Wash your mouth out! When did you become fatalistic? There is no such thing as fate. You have to make it happen. Sometimes I think you won’t allow yourself to be happy.”

“I think the same thing about you. Hey Cat, when you grow up what do you want to be?” I asked.

“How about a caterpillar? Cat the caterpillar sounds right. Or like a famous person’s assistant. How do you take your coffee? I could do that shit!”

“They both sound great.”

“You know you can always talk to me.” I know I could talk to Catherine but I just can’t.

– Sean Gabler

W. FLOOD : Chapter Four

W. Flood

CHAPTER FOUR

I opened the lid to the coffin after clearing away remotes and some books collecting dust. I didn’t get to read as much I liked to.  Pangur Ban was at my feet, she was always by my side. I emulated a creaking sound with my mouth, then I removed its contents. I was curious about my suit. How would it fit me? How would it look? Terrible, I’m sure. I knew that already. I painfully wanted it to look nice. I had my doubts. The suit was beckoning me to wear it. adorn yourself with me, it said. I abided, its spell manipulated me and I put it on while the mirror scoffed all the while. I supposed nice things are just not meant for me. I cleaned up alright, but it was a charade. It wasn’t the true me. Its style was wasted on Wilhelm Flood. These threads did not look appropriate on my frame. A Ralph Lauren suit, grey, grau, with stripes, a classic, apparently. That is what the man who sold it to me said. I had no knowledge on the subject so I took him at his word. What happens when I typically put any stock in someone’s word? I am usually disappointed. People are far too eager dispense disappointment.

A notched collar with front button closures. And I thought I’d never have any closure. The suit was fully lined with both interior and exterior pockets, perfect for a flask of Tullamore Dew. A whopping 92% wool and 8% cashmere, beat that. I saw myself as another person in the mirror, trying to be an adult, for once. It appeared fraudulent, another form of disguise. I admit, I am more of an awkward adolescent than that of a twenty eight year old man. I couldn’t even tie the tie I bought for it. It had little eyeglasses with crossbones skittered around. My reflection was of someone who was unstable, insecure and lonely. Isn’t that everyone? My reflection was of a person I didn’t envy. A person that I no longer cared to be. That was my first suit, baby’s first suit, well, let us clarify it’s the first one I bought for myself. No more hand me downs for Wilhelm Flood.

I wondered how the suit would look with Glory on my arm. Why do I waste so much of my time imagining things that are never going to happen? I thought of her often. I should probably stop doing that.

I purchased the suit because grown up’s own and wear suits. I was going to be a grown up. It was long overdue. I might have had an ulterior agenda for this attempt at maturity. I figured it was time to live up to my age.

“Thirty is around the corner,” McLoughlin the old irishman said, “after that it’s all down a fucking slippery sloping dumb fucking hill.”

It was in the back of my ponderous mind that I will need one very soon. When I need to wear it I will, as always be overwhelmed by self-consciousness. Though most of the times we obsess over the materialistic worries of appearance, the last thing the joyous or the grieving care about is how you fucking look. Don’t be so self-absorbed, guys. It looked better on the hanger. I can admit that. I was scared of the day when I would have to wear this. The end is nigh. We knew it. Catherine feared for that day same as me. The news had always trickled down from its fat chatterbox mouths, like an overflowing river to wash up on the feet of the children playing in the polluted muck. The talk always reached us somehow about Hattie’s worsening health conditions. I felt like shit each time someone brought Hattie up and suggested Catherine or I should really go and see her in the hospital. You know she’s not doing well. you should, you should, you should… I knew what I should do. We all know what we should do but we don’t always do what we should, now do we? I knew how I felt. I felt like shit. I felt horrible whenever someone brought Hattie up, I didn’t need anyone to remind me since Hattie was always looming in the back of my mind and chipping away at my regretful heart. I didn’t require any one to inform me of anything, I felt it.

“How does that taste?” Pangur Ban licked my feet,

The hair that sprouted from my toe knuckles were so black. Schwarz. In comparison to the gross black hair and the suit, my feet were so white they were almost transparent. How ridiculously pale, I thought. Fuck the sun. I imitated Tim Curry from the movie Legend, “Sunshine is my destroyer.”

“The last cat dies tonight!” I grabbed Pangur Ban pretending to cut her throat with my finger, “I better not. Bad idea. Bad.”

I got into the coffin and laid back gracelessly. It was not the first time I had laid in the coffin. It smelled so good, like fresh linen. I want to eat dryer sheets. I thought how if I died I could be buried in this suit, but definitely not in this coffin as my pale feet hung out of it, over the side. I wondered about my funeral and who would attend it. How cliche of you, Wilhelm, so utterly original. I can’t worry about cliches or the levels of lameness, it’s easy to write everything off. But didn’t I write everyone off? Look for a flaw and you will find it. There is always a hair in the paint. I envisaged my funeral, I would want no one to show up. In my daydreams it’s completely empty. The sight of all my loved ones in those symmetrical rows before my melting corpse is too much to take, and oddly enough, I find it irritating. I haven’t earned the privilege of bestowing that heap of heartache on another person. I wanted to feel all of the things I had failed at feeling, and there are so many, I wanted to find closure in that deafening silence. Allow me a moment to come to terms with my life. The flower arrangements would be breathing and growing despite being truncated and forced on display. Everyday is a day closer to making death a reality. Whether it’s yours, mine, Pangur’s or Hattie’s, it’s coming. The worst part of death, or the thought of dying to me, is never accomplishing anything while you were alive. I certainly haven’t accomplished anything.

I stopped thinking about death as the vibration of my cell phone distracted me. It was on my desk. I should have changed my number, but like other things I should do, I didn’t. I have a million missed calls and voice mail messages. Heads up people, even if I wasn’t ignoring you, I still wouldn’t listen to my voice mails. I hate them. It was Sundeep Ceraso calling me, before him was a call from Ronald, before that Emma and so on. I didn’t know what I am doing with myself. Did all of the people I know really have it together or were just better at faking it? Was I the only person lost? I knew I had to change. I didn’t know much but I knew I wouldn’t be answering my phone anytime soon and I knew the next time I saw Hattie she would be dead and I’d be wearing that fucking suit.

– Sean Gabler

W. FLOOD : Chapter Three

W. Flood

CHAPTER THREE.

I combed my damp hair, after shaking my head to the music inside it. I made a part off to the side with my fingers. My hair was long, but not like ‘80s metalhead long, shorter than that but unruly. Although it was slightly neater since Catherine gave me a snip. When my hair’s wet it looks jet black, and I like it but I’ve never dyed it, nor do I think I ever would. My eyes are mostly green and my hair is dark brown. Hattie and I share the same color hair but not the eyes. The eyes came from elsewhere. I didn’t know how to speak much German but I knew some  words. Dunkel means dark and brown is braun. Dunkelbraun. I was told recently at work I needed to get a haircut, a ‘proper haircut’ was how it was phrased. Fuck that, I need a lot more in my life than a haircut. I was going to grow it real long just to be defiant. That was something I could actually do within my means.

The towel wrapped around my torso had livestock on it. I don’t have the answer to that. I tapped the space bar, that livened up the laptop and I opened up Spotify. The computer emitted a sound resembling a grunt, as if I disturbed it. The shuffle feature selected a song, “Tom The Model” softly began. I find myself constantly skipping songs, songs I love even. I am always a little curious about what will play next. I want to know what happens at the end. I suppose that goes for everything in life. Beth Gibbons has a voice that toggles emotions inside me, emotions I don’t know how to wrangle.

Catherine made my bed and vacuumed all of Pangur Ban’s mess. Her kindness has always gone beyond sweet, but I tend to feel bad about myself for accepting any help from her. I felt bad about everything that happened in our relatively brief lifetimes on this planet. I did’t want help from anyone. I didn’t want help from people but I know I needed it. I want to talk less and be independent and ride off into the sunset when the time comes.

I should be the one helping her, but I confess I feel I never have. The bed was much nicer than if I made it. I kind of felt like a spoiled brat. My brand new suit, my only suit, was lying on the dark blue comforter. Blue, Blau. Dunkelblau. How else am I supposed to learn? I threw the sheep and the cows who dried me off on the back of the desk chair, then put on my gray boxer briefs. Left foot first. I stood before my hand me down mirror, touching my stomach, I felt emaciated, “Breakfast served all day.” Chocolate chip pancakes are what I had on my mind. Chocolate Chip Pancakes are always the right choice. How often do things just feel right? It was getting late and I had an appointment with Professor Ceraso.

I removed the plastic, and the copious amounts of wasted paper protecting my two piece. I crushed it into a ball and shot from the invisible foul line, sinking it into the wastebasket hidden in the corner of my cluttered room. I brought up a fist, flexing, yes. I don’t like basketball as much I just like throwing shit into or at other shit. The carpet is the color of a cloudless day in spring. The color of the wall doesn’t matter, because when I feel stagnant, as I often do, I remove everything and repaint it. So pick a color: white, blue, red, purple, yellow. Got one? Alright, that’s the color of my room. That was easy. The color must change so I can pretend to be in another room, in another place, since that is what I’ve become accustomed to. I always tried not to get too attached to a certain house or apartment, preserving the ability to pick up and leave, sadly without ever really going far at all. I’ve moved hundreds of times it feels, all within the boundaries of Queens. Whitestone. Flushing. Ridgewood. Bayside. Forest Hills. Maspeth. All over the place.  Q borough most thorough. I am able to adapt, so when I make my final act, my disappearance, you won’t have to worry about me. Tell them, Beth. My whole life has been practice, preparation for the grand finale. I have always been an escapist dreaming of exits, so far I just cannot afford it. How wealthy do you have to be to become a recluse?

Oh, and one quick thing. If you’re from Queens and you’re not a Mets fan, Fuck you. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

There were drawings I made all over the walls, the art was not great by any means but decent in my worthless opinion. We didn’t have money for that shit so I made the art myself. I felt bad about putting holes in the sheetrock with thumbtacks, and scotch tape left stigmata. Are you seeing a recurring theme here. I feel bad about a lot of things, a lot of the time. Either way, they were fucked the moment they took our rent and one month’s security. There were quotes tacked onto the walls, little blurbs from people much smarter than myself, from songs or movies and whatnot. Is this the bedroom of a 28 year old man or a junior high school girl, I’m not sure. What can I say in my defense? It is possible that I appreciated things too much. I appreciated beautifully crafted or simple yet inspiring sentences, sentences I kept around to evoke something within me, to extract something from me, and they do. I’d quote one of them now but I can’t seem to remember anything verbatim.

We live in a society that does nothing but has a lot to say about how to do everything. Every one is after life, liberty and the pursuit of indifference.

There was a framed picture of a street I lived on when I was younger. It was in Whitestone. A town named by the Dutch after a large boulder, they spied the rock when they came upon shore long ago. It made sense. My intention was to photograph the moon. It was full and magnificent. If you saw how the clouds gently held that celestial body against the backdrop of darkness, you’d agree it was brilliant and moving. It brought to mind Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Bela Lugosi’s moon high above my house. You could hear the baying of wolves over the car engines that sped along 150th street at night. It was most likely a dog, but whatever use your imagination. The streetlights caught the flash of the camera, obscuring and smearing the image with fluorescent wavelengths. It made me think of electricity, of synapses in my brain, how do I shut those things off? I’d love to know. That picture was next to more portraits of myself and Pangur Ban. Only those didn’t have beards, they had mustaches instead, we had these gnarly three-dimensional schnurrbarts. Schnurrbart is the german word for mustache and I probably used the conjugation improperly. If I had possessed the manliness to actually produce a mustache I probably wouldn’t invest so much time glueing clippings of our hair to pictures of myself, my sister and my pet. Hattie’s pink driving shoes were pierced into the wall by the heels. Drive. Where to? Somewhere far away from here. That’s what those shoes say.

There was also a large map on my ceiling, nothing kinky like a mirror, just a plain old map of the world. The atlas loomed above my head, beckoning me to explore. When I observed it from my bed, I realized I’ve made no impact, no real impression on this world whatsoever. Probably exactly how my Pops felt. Only I fucking hate liverwurst. Outside of my network of friends and acquaintances and my divided family tree, beyond the routes I traversed I didn’t really exist at all. I was nothing and I am still nothing. I am no one, I understood that. I resided in a shoe, a mere diorama of a alleged life, in comparison to the vastness of the world, even worse, to the ever erupting universe where grudges are not held. It’s amazing when you analyze your possessions, your puny objects, the revelations about your personality and what they speak about you, about what you might want out of life. Maybe it’s not that amazing. Maybe it’s me caring too much and being anxious about every minute detail. Do you ever think about any of that shit? How everything you own defines who you are. All of these things I have crammed into my room, stuffed into my life- whats the use? What does it say about me? Does it have to say anything at all? Do I need really need anything or anyone? For the most part I like who I am, or rather who I have become. I’ve changed, but change only comes to those who scout change. If you don’t want it you’ll never grow. I’ve got a loose grip on myself, finally. it’s everything else I can’t get a handle on. Was I lying to myself? I might have been. You see I’m unsure of everything. Do you really like yourself?

In the center of my room was a treasured piece of furniture. a hand crafted relic. A coffee table in the shape of a coffin. Or a coffin biding its time under the guise of a coffee table. You decide. I didn’t purchase it at some bullshit store like Ikea or Target, I didn’t have to follow painstakingly frustrating instructions, screwing A into B, nailing 5 into 9, with pieces missing or pieces leftover after erection. It was an artifact from my adolescence, a representation of youth, trust and friendship. A friendship I had intentionally strained. I was fifteen years old when Ronald Winnifred, my oldest and closest friend, and my younger, dumber self constructed our personalized coffins in his father’s workshop in his basement.

Ronald and I met in the second grade, inside the red bricked building of Public School 79. We were introduced by chance, same class, seated side by side. We bonded immediately. Two devilish little punks seeking out mischief around every turn. His house and my family’s apartment at that time were situated quite close. We walked to school and back home together for the remaining years of elementary school. It didn’t matter how many times I moved or how far because his house was always in the same place. In all honesty, I needed that house to escape my own. I’m grateful for Ronald’s house. Sometimes, Ronald’s mom would pick us up after school and take us to Taco Bell. Three soft shell tacos and a quesadilla. The two of us were always small for our age, though we thoroughly enjoyed unsuitable movies and had quite an appetite for trouble. A Clockwork Orange and horror movies shaped our whole outlook on life. We were always in detention or suspended from school, reprimanded for our fits of laughter, punished for our morbid sense of humor or for throwing hands with the other boys.

I basically lived at Ronald’s house growing up, if they had ever decided to lock their doors I’d own a key. It was much easier at the Winnifred’s than living with the Flood’s, or later on with Hattie and her second husband. I never wanted to be for lack of a better word, home. I never wanted to stand and bear witness to Hattie and her dreadfully slow, self induced decomposition. Ronald’s parents didn’t always get along, and ultimately they divorced as well. Love does not last for anyone. I want that notion to be false. although it is becoming more and more true by the day. I didn’t find their arguments unusual, I was well versed in being subjected to the disturbing awkwardness of watching domestic squabbles. The Winnifred’s fights never seemed that bad to me, tame in comparison to the fights I was usually front row to, but it was not a competition. It might not have affected me because they were not my parents, though I loved them a great deal, I can’t speak for Ronald and how he felt about it. I’m sure he probably hated it. I practically lived there in a somewhat normal setting. What’s your definition of normal? I must’ve ate dinner there a million times. We would sit and eat and talk. There came a point when at home that ended, I made a plate and brought it to my room, and ate alone. I wished I would have included Catherine more. I regretted so much now, pretty much all of my youth. I didn’t realize my isolation from Hattie and her second husband, meant I was isolating myself from Catherine as well. I should have been more conscientious about this. She needed me and I shut myself off. What’s a big brother for? Was I doing the same exact thing again? Why is it I can’t be completely open with Catherine? Why is it I can’t be completely open with anyone? What was I so afraid of? It was everything, I was afraid of everything. Maybe, just maybe, I will always be afraid of everything.

Eventually I would actually live there, briefly after one last explosive evening at one of our apartments. I’ll get to that at some point. I moved in to Ronald’s, and Catherine went to live with our father, during this period we would save whatever money we made to get an apartment of our own. I couldn’t live with the Winnifred’s forever, it was clear on my side that the stay would not be permanent. Our Dad, well he would be finally fulfilling his own daydreams. No longer would we be a burden for other people. We would have a place in a few months. We had to be patient and headstrong. We hoped we would have a place where hopefully no one would continually remind it wasn’t ours. “You are not welcome here,” is a motto that has been branded into my feeble brain. You can only ask someone to leave so many times before they actually do.
Ronald’s father was old school, a hard working man, Budweiser for breakfast, with swollen and bruised fingers. Hands and fingers that found its way under heavy truck tires and got caught in the crossfire of tools. He loved to goad us, to make fun of us, to talk shit to us. It was his way to be affectionate, a chance to bond. He was a man who didn’t have a handle on his emotions as well. You would think he didn’t have any, but we all do, that’s the problem. We either channel them incorrectly or don’t channel them at all. He would walk into the house, seemingly annoyed, and Ronald would nonchalantly ask what he was up to.

“What am I up to? What are you up to? I worked.” He said from the foyer, as he hung up his mechanics jacket on an old hook by the front door. A six pack on the floor next to his dirty boots. A walking Dickies advertisement. “You two spend all day doing nothing. What the fuck are those?” He noticed. We thought it would have taken longer. “What is all this? Is that the wood from the basement?”

“Those are coffins.” Ronald said guiding his long black hair out of his face.

“Coffins? Coffins. What are they doing in the living room?”

“Well, Dad, your always complaining that we never do anything productive. So Wilhelm and I have been hard at work all day. Throw me a beer. We built these lovely caskets in the basement.” Ronald mimicked hammering with the television remote. “Surprised you notice them at all.”

“Throw you a beer? Get the hell out of here.”

“We went for a minimalist, spaghetti western type of coffin. We just have to stain them,” I said.

“Wilhelm, what the hell are you doing here? Don’t you have a home?”

“Yeah, I do.” I paused. “Not really.” I had a place to stay, a place where I resided but not a home. I preferred his to mine. I wanted to say ‘please don’t say things like this to me. Don’t hurt my feelings, not you too.’ Was I too sensitive? Did I tend to overreact? Was I Hattie? Yes. Yes. And yes.

“So who died?”

“No one died,” I said.

“Yet,” said Ronald with a sinister look in his black shark eyes. Ronald sat there in a black hooded sweatshirt. Schwarz. We all dressed the same. Jeans and hooded sweatshirts. Skateboard sneakers. Ronald had a large gash on the top of his head, stapled down the center of his inverted mohawk. His mother had pleaded with him to shave it all but he liked it. I liked it too. We were always hurting ourselves back then. My black eye from Emma was one out of what feels like hundreds I obtained growing up. We were reckless and feisty, with no regard for our bodies and quick to throw the first punch.

“So no one died? But you made caskets. But no one died. Are these for fucking midgets?” Mr. Winnifred fought to keep from smiling. When Ronald’s father smiled he tried to stifle it, he appeared to be in some kind of horrid pain from it.

“No. Midgets?” Ronald threw me a confused look.  “These are for us. That one’s mine and that one’s Wilhelm’s.”

“Oh, they’re for you two. Well, you fucking idiots are either planning on dying real soon or not hitting your growth spurts. Growth spurts that you so desperately need.”

“We are going out soon. Suicide is so in right now.” I said.

“Yeah, and we are going to be buried right next to each other,” said Ronald.

“I see. Just as I suspected. That was by far, the most homoerotic thing I have ever heard. And that is saying a lot coming from you two fags.”

We leaned in closer to each other, shaking our heads and wiggling our outstretched tongues. Mr. Winnifred shook his head and walked into his room, ignoring the ‘janitor’ sign we glued to his bedroom door. Mr. Winnifred was an ornery man. I wondered about his upbringing and if it sculpted him to be this apathetic. How can you expect a man to try to sympathize with humanity, when he couldn’t bring himself to connect with his own children. He could never put himself in the shoes of another to try to understand. It’s not that he didn’t know how bad my house was or how hard it affected me, he simply couldn’t feel anymore. I was conscious then that I didn’t want to live without compassion for other people’s feelings. That is not to say I haven’t hurt anyone, intentional or unintentional. I hurt people all the time. I’m scared of not being capable of feeling, though I wish I could tone it down a bit.

We walked my coffin to my house, I wished we would have worn black suits and got others to join, a staged procession commemorating the death of our future. Marching death through Whitestone to remind everyone the end is closer than you think. I kept blankets, sheets and pillowcases inside my coffin. Ronald stored old Spawn and X-Men comics in his. I think Mr. Winnifred was pissed about us using his shit, but secretly I believe he liked it. We built coffins, made them by hand, and took pictures of us pretending to be dead inside them. This was back when this behavior was still morbid, before all the dark things we loved became cute, before they became images embroidered on neck ties, or made into candy shapes, or on sweaters for your tea cup Yorkie. My Nana has a tattoo of a skull and crossbones. I mean she really doesn’t, though that sort of thing wouldn’t shock anyone now. Everything you love will eventually become ruined. The sign is still on Mr. Winnifred’s bedroom door. A week later, I pulled the crusty staples out of the gore and silly putty flesh of Ronald’s head.

– Sean Gabler

W. FLOOD : Chapter Two

W. Flood

CHAPTER TWO.

The next morning I was fast asleep, completely dead, unaffected by the horrible world outside my little bedroom. I felt something slightly damp, although abrasive brushing against my cheek. It stirred me from from a wonderfully deep slumber where nothing and everything happened. It butted its head into my sore, bruised orbital. I tried hard to remember my dreams, but I couldn’t retrieve anything. Not a single solitary thing, maybe that’s for the best. I remembered last night and wished it went a little differently. What a shame! A few moments ago I was lost, good lost, somewhere extraordinary but there comes a time when we have to leave all places and leave all things. I could never have those things I possessed in my unconsciousness. I mean it could have easily been a nightmare as well, something horrendous. I only hoped it was nice. I might have been in that metal band I always wanted to start, touring in a beat up van. I might have dreamt I had some talent and was doing something more eventful than I actually do with my time. I might have been an artist living in recluse who only paints pictures of old telephones. I may have dreamed of capes, super powers, flight and crime fighting. Maybe I Dreamed of six-shooters, whiskey, and painting the town red. Everyone should scurry for cover when the man with no name and Eastwood tattooed across his knuckles rides into your town. Dreaming of being a fictional Transylvanian prince lying on a bed made out of a harem is not bad either. I’d opt for a dream of a happy life with Glory, but that will never come to fruition. It might be my chance at happiness. Come back and see me tomorrow or in a week to find out if I feel the same.

Only on paper has humanity yet achieved Glory, beauty, truth and knowledge, virtue and abiding love. You know who said that Pangur? George Bernard Shaw. Ever read anything by him? Me neither. We should though. Only on paper and in the mind have I known Glory. I’m almost certain she is comprised of those other traits.”

My alarm clock that morning, was Pangur Ban, my elderly cat who woke me by smelling my face. She had charcoal gray fur with lovely yellow eyes, deceptively young looking. She weighed about seven pounds and was diminishing rapidly, skinnier by the day. In a short time I knew from then I would lose her, I’ve done my best to keep her happy while we’re still together. I wasn’t prepared to say farewell just yet. I’m wasn’t ready to let Pangur go. Truthfully, we should have paid a visit to the vet, but I’m not man enough to put her down. I’m not man enough for a lot of things. If she dies on her own I would be overcome with sadness and mourn forever. I couldn’t stomach the thought of agreeing to her execution, marking a day on the calendar to snuff her out. It has to be the last option, not when she still has some good days left. Her quality of life is based on opinion, my opinion, and my opinion is pending. Her lives are departing one by one, with suitcases and halos like in the cartoons. She purred on my chest, I would crave moments like this once she finally departs.

As she breathed her frail body expanded and contracted, gently tickling my nose. I refused to open my eyes or to move a muscle. That was our game, I played dead for her. My left eye was swollen. I pretended I was asleep, feigning snores in hopes she would lose interest. Her breath was so rank. Horribly bad due to her rotting teeth and insides and wet food. The aroma of death and Fancy Feast. She loved the can with the blue label, I did not. Pangur Ban was relentless in her efforts to rouse me. I attempted to open my eyes but they were disobedient. They weren’t permitted to. My eyeball was bound with pressure from the inside of my skull. They were sewn shut, glued by the lachrymal fluids that seeped from my tear ducts over the course of the night. Those tears congealed, sealing my eyelashes together. I stretched the skin on my face as a child might, making a fish-like face out of the back windows of a yellow school bus. Little jerks. I fluttered my eyelids to loosen the crunchy particles of my unconsciousness. One reason you shouldn’t cry yourself to sleep.

I slid my hands under Pangur’s arms, hooking my thumbs around her armpits- do cats even have armpits?- hoisting her above me. She looked down on me, unamused.

“Pangur!  I really don’t want you to go. If you die then who will I confide in? Who? I know, you’re right I have people. There’s Ronald and Emma and Catherine, of course. You’re right. You’re so smart and pretty. The only thing is you can actually keep a secret. You can be trusted. Some things you just can’t say to people. I want to eat your feet. Give me your feet.”

I gently rocked her back and forth, trying to nibble on the paws of her hind legs as they swung by my mouth. Pangur Ban didn’t try to wiggle free, bite or claw me. She trusted me and I trusted no human being entirely. She was struggling with kidney failure, maybe some cancer, and arthritis fused her poor spine together. I shuffled her to my left hand, and raised my right up and fished the air behind me for the elusive string of the Venetian blinds. I captured it like a hunter, like Orion, yanking it down to invite the sun into our bed to snuggle with us. A little sunshine couldn’t hurt.

“Let’s go back to sleep. Come on, I know your tired too. Get in here.” Pangur Ban nestled into my armpit, I have armpits, resting her face on my bicep. I felt behind me for a warm extremity, trying to fool myself that someone else may be in this bed. For a while my bed was full of meaningless women. It was lawless. That sounded mean but no worries, I’ve given up on that. I know damn well I went to bed alone the night before. It’s better that way, it’s better than sleeping with someone for the sake of not being alone. Loneliness makes us pathetic. It used to serve its purpose but now it doesn’t make sense to me. It’s pointless or I’ve just lost it. I wanted the woman of my dreams. That sounds so lame, but it was the truth. The woman of my dreams probably doesn’t even exist. I barely exist. I fall in love with a new woman every day anyway. An actress or some woman in her car or on the train. All over the place. I can’t even trust my emotions.

“I am such a sucker for a pretty face. What will I do when you leave? I will have no one to speak to. You’re the only one I trust. You know I mean that. You can’t say what you really think. What you say can and will be used against you. Pangur, I need you. What is it going to be like when you’re gone.” She cuddled closer, as if she understood and wanted to console me. “You smell absolutely terrible.”

The tremendous ball of gas in the sky felt great lightly toasting the outsides of my eyelids. I saw fiery orange and smudged black. Schwartz. The heat reminded me of incubators. I waited for the shell to be just right, to crack wide open and release me. In Kindergarten, our class had two chicks hatch in front of our impressionable eyes. A little girl, I forget her name, told me that was how we were born. I thought it was fascinating. She didn’t know shit but at the time it seemed plausible. My mother corrected that bit of information when she became pregnant with Catherine. The teacher was a huge Thin Lizzy fan, she named the chicks: Lynott and Gorham. Listen to the Emerald and Black Rose. Hattie explained to me that inside her stomach was not an egg waiting to come out, and would not crack open so my sibling could get out of it. I said it might, pas auf. Be careful. She said there was no egg inside her like the one the birds were in, but an amniotic sack instead. I thought amniotic sack sounded cooler than egg anyway.

I woke up some time later gnashing something foul and crunchy in my mouth. I was lying flat on my stomach, it was empty and rumbling. My head pinned under the pillows. I pulled it out of its burrow to glimpse granules of grayish-white pebbles around me. Grau. Weiss.

“Well, that’s fucking great. Am I chewing on kitty litter? Pangur! Seriously, Toxoplasmosmosis.”

I’ve been asleep long enough for Pangur Ban to bury me alive. She apparently mistaken me for a giant piece of shit, how appropriate. Fitting. I am excrement and always have been. I wondered how many people think I’m a piece of shit? Hattie had told me repeatedly I was. Her second husband said I was. Emma might have mentioned it last night, I’m not certain. last night was still cloudy. I’m sure I’ve entertained that notion of being a piece of shit on a handful of occasions. Anyone who thinks I am either doesn’t know me very well, or maybe they know me too well, who gives a fuck? I supposed I was the who did. What a waste of time. If you do decide to think about it, about the phrase it’s not very nice but still I can’t help but smile. I made a decision not to be wasteful, there are people starving all over the world and though I ran the risk of getting sick, I levigated the litter into a squishy paste and swallowed it. I searched my mouth with my tongue for more, licking the front and back of my teeth. I thought this has to be one of the best things to ever happen to me. A perfect way to start the day. I needed something to drink, but I could wait. I let her finish since she seemed to be enjoying it immensely.

Catherine was cleaning. She does that. I heard the vacuum roaring along our green carpet. A friend re-gifted us the vacuum as a housewarming present. She said it was too loud for her but not for our Korean neighbors. She said it was too heavy for her but we were fit and could handle it. The vacuum was loud and provoked my headache that morning. I didn’t complain, there were a plethora of instances where Catherine is trying to sleep or relax and I am way too loud or simply obnoxious. We are neat freaks to a lesser degree. The apartment was small but it doesn’t take much to make small apartments look messy. I always loved making patterns in the carpet by maneuvering certain motions. There is a childish joy that plants a smile on my face when pieces of lint or a dust bunny disappear into the ferocious hurricane of bristles. It sounded as if she was attending to the hallway then. The hallway was adorned with framed portraits of Catherine, Pangur and myself. I blew up some pics of us and glued our own hair after being cut in our bathroom or brushed, respectively, so we all had beards. There were some old drawings I did on documents belonging to Hattie. Eviction notices and such. There is no such thing as a clean slate. Everything else in this world has been defiled, so art should not be without imperfections.

I yawned my way into the living, waving to Catherine. “Guten Morgen,” I said over the noise. “Guten Morgen.”

She turned off the vacuum, “I didn’t wake you, did I? I thought I heard you talking earlier and the carpet really needed it.”

“No, I was up. Playing with Pangur.”

“I picked up the dry cleaning. Your suit’s over there. The old smelly tailor said if the alterations don’t meet your standards just bring them back. No charge. I think he likes you.” Catherine noticed my eye and her countenance visibly changed.

“Your hair’s getting long. Keep up the good work it looks nice.”

“What happened to your eye?” she rolled up the electric cord with petulance.

“Nothing. Can you vacuum my room, too. Pangur did the cutest thing. Pangur, tell her what you did. Stop looking at me like that. It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

“You look like Mom,” said Catherine. “So you broke your glasses again. Throwing money away, throwing it.” Her motion was that of how you would throw a football when the conversation clearly called for more of a frisbee toss.

“We have some jokes, have we? No, my glasses are intact.” I said while trying to catch the money she was throwing.

“So you took them off first. You knew you were going to get into a fight? So it was pre-meditated. Who did you get into a fight with? When are you going to grow the fuck up?”

“What? Pre-meditated? That’s good that you thought of that. You’re like a sick detective. Do me a favor cease and desist from watching anymore law and order or any those ridiculous shite prime time drama cop rape kit shows immediately. Stop it.”

“Where was it?”

“Where was what? Nothing happened. Calm down, you’re being a crazy person. Let it go.”

“Ronald called me. Did you know that?”

“Oh yeah, cool. What did he say?”

“He asked me how you were. He said you haven’t spoken to him or any of your friends in a while. I didn’t know I wasn’t the only person you’ve been ignoring. He asked me if I knew why? I said I didn’t because I don’t know anything because my brother doesn’t talk to me either. Why have you stopped speaking to everyone? What’s wrong? Did something happen? Have I done something to you? I’m worried about you, Wilhelm. We all are.”

“Nothing is wrong.” I lied. “I talk to you. I just gave you a compliment on your hair.”

“Everything is a joke. You isolate yourself and then you come home looking like that and you don’t expect an inquiry.” I didn’t say anything to her. I just smiled and continued, “Whatever, I bought some groceries, there are bagels and shit to eat if your hungry. Do what you want. You always do.”

I took the milk out of the fridge, there was a mouthful left. Catherine gave me a discerning look. I shook my head as if to say ‘I know, I know’.

“Ugh,” she said. “That milk has gone bad. I bought a fresh gallon, it’s on the counter.”

“It’s bad?”

“Doesn’t it taste bad?” Catherine asked with a screwed up face.

“I can’t tell.” I read the expiration date, it expired four days ago. “Catherine. Why? Why would you start vacuuming if you hadn’t finished putting the fucking provisions away first?”

“Provisions? Stop watching whatever it is you watch where they call groceries provisions. Downton Abbey. The answer is scatterbrain. I’m all over the place.”

“Then you just watch me drink it. You don’t say anything. Nothing. ‘Hey, don’t drink that it’s gone bad.’ None of that.” I spat into the sink. “Kitty litter and spoiled milk. The best part of waking up.”

“I gave you the I wouldn’t drink that look.”

“Is that what that was. My fault I confused it with the I’m disappointed with my older brother because I think he still gets into fights look.” I started to put away the fucking provisions.

“I’d never even drink that  little residue of milk on the bottom. It grosses me out.”

I opened the freezer and placed a pint of chocolate chocolate chip Haagen-Dazs inside, tore open the box of Bagel Bites and balanced one on my eye.

“Look, it’s a monocle. I’m going to take a shower after I vomit profusely. Do you need to use the bathroom? I might be awhile.” She shook her head no. Negative. Nein. “Oh yeah, can you trim my hair?” I asked from the bathroom.

“I was hoping you’d ask me to do that for you right this minute.” My family is well versed in sarcasm. It’s a way of life, really.

“Cool. Grab the black Sharpie from my desk.”

I used the rusty wrench to turn on the shower after my hair was trimmed. Catherine always complained about not having a proper shower handle. I didn’t mind nor did I care that the rusted tool rotted in little brown pools. Braun. I didn’t remember to pick up a new one. In actuality I never planned on getting a new handle. I definitely would not call the landlord about it. I knew the precise angles for achieving the temperature I preferred and I used caution not to get scalded. A forty five degree angle meant a trip to Booth Memorial with third degree burns. Showers are wonderful, aren’t they? I’m grateful to live in an era that has proper plumbing. That might be all. The shower makes us all better singers as well. So at least that’s comforting. I lathered up and sang the gospel of the Murder City Devils, “Everything in this town reminds me of something I’d rather forget.” Almost pure truth, almost.

– Sean Gabler

W. FLOOD : Chapter One

W. Flood

CHAPTER ONE.

“I’m fine. Mommy’s just a little tired. Run down. Really, Trust me I’m fine.” That was typical Hattie, her bullshit response any time her sobriety was in question. Especially when it was a inquiry made by a relative, in that instance it was made by me, her son. I may have been seven or eight at the time. “Go and gather your belongings,” she said.  “We’re going to be leaving soon.” All I’ve ever really wanted was to leave.

I asked her once more if she was all right, she nodded in defeat and walked away. Hattie, my parent, possibly the source of my own stubbornness, amongst other personality traits that I would not want to claim responsibility for. I remember how strange her hands appeared to me on that night, how familiar yet bizarre they were secured around a tumbler lounging inside five empty versions of itself. Her hands resembled that of a corpse, slightly bloated from the gaudy rings choking her fingers, cutting off the circulation. She had anemic fingers with eerie french tips clinking against her bloody Mary. Intoxication is the desired result.

If Hattie ever won the lotto she would have platinum grills and a gold rope chain. Some iced out four finger rings. Blood diamonds bejeweling her entire existence. She loved that shit. I suppose we all need something to mask our sadness.

Hattie’s gross fascination with jewelry always baffled me, I mean, poor people should not be worrying about that kind of shit. Prioritize. Those hands of hers have become foreign to me, estranged for years. If they reached out and touched me with the softest affectation I’d shatter. I wouldn’t know how to react. In all honesty I don’t know how to react to many things these days. I am simply unable to behave normal. My whole style is awkward. I want to, behave normal, that is. It’s like a form of momentary amnesia, I completely forget how to be myself. It’s probably not that bad, honestly.

Hattie brought me to a friend’s Christmas party. I don’t recall any other children being present; it was a long time ago, I easily could be mistaken. The privilege of escorting Hattie to the jam was mine. My little sister stayed behind at home with our Pops. I can’t say there was an agenda for me to go, you’d have to ask her. Catharine was far too immature, too little in stature to attend such an event. I was precocious. Is it possible my intelligence peaked at eight? I guess I made a habit of leaving Catherine behind early on as well. Catherine, hung out with our Dad, I like to call him Pops. It sounds like something out of a movie from the 60s, an era that best suits him. I can picture it clearly. Catherine and Pops sitting on the floor in the living room, television blasting. My father didn’t care about parties. He cared about us, guy’s guys like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, and liverwurst sandwiches. He never felt that feeling, you know the one, the feeling that you’re missing out on something. He never felt he was missing out an anything, or so I thought. Maybe he felt he missed out on life, so after that life really had little purpose for him. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, again. He couldn’t give a fuck about being sociable. I find that personality trait admirable. I’m trying, Pop. Contentment was a sandwich and six-shooters on the carpet. I wonder if I was excited about the party. I probably was all about it. My thought processes are always embarrassing in hindsight. Now I’d rather avoid the shit shows. Now, I’d prefer to avoid humans entirely.

The memory, I admit is a bit fuzzy. It unfolded in a kaleidoscope with a weird green and red tinge. I’m festive. I can see myself, or is it how I want to see myself, don’t interrupt me I’m getting on with it. I positioned myself timidly in the corner of my mind, lying on my stomach with a drawing pad beneath my arms and head. The cowl of the red hood of my sweatshirt pulled over my head. My longish dark brown hair nicely tucked into it. The zipper zipped up to my chin. This wasn’t a fashion statement, it was about comfort and security, to say ‘don’t look at me I’m hiding in plain sight’ while surrounded by so many damaged people. That sweatshirt was my favorite; it was personalized, with two firm iron ons declaring my initials boldly on opposite sides of the zipper. W. F.

I emptied my plastic jack ‘o’ lantern, spilling pencils, crayons, and markers on some strange person’s carpet. I was kind of obsessed with colors, stating out loud the obvious. Black. Blue. Red. And so on. I zoned out all the annoying laughter (I found no humor in any of it, really) and voices that rose louder and louder as the night went on. I focused on my artwork. Art is what should be most important, well to me anyway. It should be but no one cares about that. People don’t give a fuck about much. I guess it’s safe to confess I have been an aspiring escapist since childhood. Escape artist has a nice ring to it. Those billions of pictures I drew, none of which I have today, they were portals. I have always dreamed of running away, I did it then, I do it now in my twenty-eighth year. It’s pathetic, really. I just want to leave. I think I could leave everything behind me in a burst of dust. I drew bad pictures of where I wanted to go. Those unskilled works of art were the doors to exit what nonsense went on around me. Drawing took away the world I hated; as I got older writing would become just as necessary. I consumed myself within my own creations, my own little dimensions to command and control. Control is something else I’ve never had in my life. I think most kids have God complexes. I still might. Don’t you?

I drew a dumb picture, alone in the corner of a lame party when it happened. I can’t remember what the picture was, but it was not very good. I will make it up, give me a second. It was a picture of an owl, with a book and a birthday cake. Anyway, a feeling I’ve felt before arose inside me. It all transpired rather quickly, promulgating through my underdeveloped body. I felt compelled to make the drawing darker, to fuck it up. I needed to make that drawing grotesque intentionally, life is ugly. Face the facts. Life needs the ugliness. This emotion unsettled me. It was troubling. There was this awareness, something had gone wrong and I immediately felt the impulse to leave. Irish Goodbyes are inherent. I felt my eyes welling up but I was embarrassed by it and fought the tears. Tears won. My head oscillated with panic, I searched through the crowd for her. Through pairs of legs I spotted Hattie. There was no relief when I found her, I only felt worse.

Hattie was a good person; she was afflicted with a profound sadness. Whenever she is crestfallen, which is always, I absorb it. It stays with me always. That and guilt. My mother was a beautiful woman who’d never believe I’d say something like that about her if you told her. She was convinced I had nothing but hatred for her. If you see her, do me a favor and tell her I thought she was pretty. Garrulous by nature, she was engaged in a conversation with a woman of equal intoxication. Swaying and spilling shit. The woman had far too much makeup on and linebacker shoulder pads in a blue blouse. Hattie was crying, in the midst of informing those shoulders how she recently hocked all of her jewelry except for the glamorous collection she had on to pay the rent. She also confessed about the electricity being turned off. Honestly, I preferred candlelight. I didn’t think it was a big deal at all, it was adventurous. I watched her spilling the beans to someone who wasn’t a confidant; the woman clearly didn’t give a shit. She was unmoved, visibly uninterested in our family’s misfortune, silently prayed for an excuse to get up and run away. The woman hoped someone would replace her, someone who would fall into the epicenter of the pity party. The fallout was contaminating the party. The lack of pride, or is it tact, and the pathetic admissions of our personal lives stung me. The worst part, the thing that really killed me was watching Hattie manically shifting between fake smiles and real tears. Her self-pity would enforce an overwhelming awareness of vulnerability over Catherine and myself for generations to come. Hattie never told anyone about our misfortune that actually cared. There are many things about my mother that makes absolutely no sense to me.

I put everything away, buttoned my coat and tucked my hair into my maroon wool hat. I walked towards her managing my drawing pad, which was larger than myself. “I’m ready to go home. Mom, You know I was thinking it’s pretty nice outside. We should probably walk.”

In my memory Shoulders said thank you and went on to mingle, spending the remainder of the night, unsuccessfully, trying way too hard to get laid.

“Walk? What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy? It’s freezing outside.” Her left leg hung limp over the right, swirling bright pink high heels. “These are my driving shoes.”

“C’mon, it will be fun. I’m thinking snowballs. It’s not a far walk. You know where we live. Those can be your walking shoes.” I tried to reason with Hattie.

“We have to trade shoes then. We’ll catch hypochondria! Hypochondria? Hypothermia. That’s the one. Hypothermia does not seem like fun to me. No, Wilhelm. We are going home but we are definitely not walking there. You’ll get sick. You’ll catch a cold and you’ve missed enough school trying to save the princess.”

“They keep moving her to other castles.” The eighties were magical.

“Make sure you say bye to everyone,” she shooed me away as if her hand was a puppet.

“Why can’t we just go.” Irish goodbyes even then, I fully endorsed. They are a way of life.

“Wilhelm Flood! Don’t be rude!”

Before I could ignore my directions and head straight to the front, I was sidetracked by someone holding the top of my head, palming it like a basketball and playfully moving it side to side. “Hey Will, what’s up with the Jack-o-lantern? Halloween is over, brother.” I looked up and all I saw were coarse white nostril hairs. I didn’t trust him and I think he understood that.

“Sorry, my name’s not Will,” I said.

“Stop being fresh,” She yelled at me.

“I thought it was Will. Isn’t his name Will?” He spoke above me, at her, confused.

“Mein name ist Wilhelm.”

She addressed him by name, but I refuse to give him any kind of recognition, “Technically his name is pronounced with the letter V. Vil-helm. It’s the german equivalent of William. It sounds like the first syllable of the word villain.”

“Like Wagner. The composer.” I most likely did not say this or know the composer’s existence at that time.

“He carries his pumpkin with him everywhere he goes. He loves his pumpkin.”

“I see that.” Said the untrustworthy man.

“I do.”

“He probably loves that pumpkin more than he loves me,” said Hattie.

I didn’t humor her with an answer. I should have told her the truth. Instead I said, “You have white powder on your nose. That’s funny.”

There was a weird sense of pride that I have had about my heritage for as long as I can remember. A weird fascination grown from the bedtime stories and ancestral mythologies. I am American, but sometimes I don’t think I should be here. The notion of my Irish and German genealogy meant that somewhere out there, on this planet, beyond the reach of my BMX bike there might be a glimmer of hope. Those two distinct countries could have been individual planets; my understanding of distance was severely flawed, much like Hattie’s understanding of parenthood. They are still so far away in my mind. My whole world was comprised of my little town in the borough of Queens, New York. Whitestone was what I knew but not always where I felt I belonged. Not so different from Hattie. I had the ideology that If I went to Germany or Ireland, if I just went there that I’d find my place of solace. Am I the only one completely lost at a place that you call home? I’ve wondered so much about what my life would’ve been like there if I was raised there. I wondered about going to either place or being welcomed into a normal family. I wanted my name to be pronounced properly and I wanted to know the names of towns my ancestors lived before fleeing. I’d walk my fingers across a globe or a map, thinking why couldn’t it be as simple to migrate. I am in search of a place that is comfortable, but comfort is impossible for me. I laugh at silly thoughts of meeting someone who might understand me, to get exactly who I am. No one could or would ever bother to really know me. I know that now. You can’t expect people to understand anything.

Sometimes I strongly believe the ability to think is a curse.

The snow fell hard; it covered everything with its beauty. Trepidation fell alongside it as I thought about how snowflakes were alone and unique, like fingerprints smudging everything with white. These were even rarer, each snowflake was a little hand-sculpted seraph, antagonized then expelled from heaven. This is becoming apocryphal. She drove in the storm despite my whiny protests.

I expect car doors to open when driving, do you? The door always opened in my mind, and I fall out in slow motion, and I am killed upon landing. I noticed my reflection, shining down on me while I counted streetlights in German: ein, zwei , drei…I don’t know how to count in Gaelic but I’d like to learn. Underneath every beaming light the snow was vengeful, like hornets buzzing around an infiltrated nest.

We had a Cadillac, it seemed gigantic, or I was just small. I don’t know. I remember how tense I was, my body constricted, as I pressed my feet as hard as I could on the imaginary brake. I prepared for the oncoming impact, it was without a doubt we would crash, we should’ve crashed. Hattie sang her heart out. The car was her outlet; it was my mother’s stage. My eyes were glossy while my mother wanted to dance with somebody. She wanted to feel the heat with somebody. I couldn’t keep it together as I rarely can. I rubbed my index finger back and forth on the seam of the door’s red leather. It should have been a pimp’s car, I swear. Dirty change and candy melted together inside the ashtray. We approached the intersection in front of St. Mel’s church, we were close to home. Years later, I would drink beers at St. Mel’s, and get down with girls in their cars in that exact spot. I didn’t want to smile to Hattie or show any sign of relief. I didn’t want to let her think this was my idea of a good time. It wasn’t.

Hattie applied her damp shoeless foot, so much for the driving shoes, to the brake. With the turn of the wheel, the cadillac skidded, fishtailing, bald tires grasped at nothing. Protective Hattie swung her arm out, her palm open against my iron-on initials, keeping me from smashing my face on the dashboard. We were in an accident once before where I did. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, at least I don’t remember if I was. It’s a safe bet to say I wasn’t. So I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. I was scared. The car after spinning and spinning just stopped. I hated the feeling of being afraid. I think I hated her more for making me feel like a coward. She just laughed. I hated that, too.

“Are you okay?” She asked with a smile.

Heads up, when someone asks me if I’m all right I always lie and say yes. Just like Hattie. Apples.

The car was stopped, she removed her hand, I looked over to the driver’s side door, it was ajar.

She was gone and I was alone. I climbed over and got out into the blizzard, spinning around calling out, “Mom! Mom!” All the houses along the road were symmetrical and ponderous. They looked perfect. Cookie cutter homely perfection. I’d bet the families that lived in them were perfect too. Happy. Normal. Inside those houses mothers did motherly things and fathers provided, and patted the heads of small children to reassure them, to reaffirm love. There is more to life than baking brownies and little league games, yet these things are nice to have, they are important. Those houses were actual homes, not just structures of wood, nails, sheetrock and brick that harbored dysfunction and systematic resentment. The facades of those homes exuded warmth, friendliness, yet to me they felt uninviting. They seemed to politely look away, turning the other cheek, wanting no part of me. I still want to be on the inside of those homes, though I’m certain it would never happen. We were bred for failure.

The snow glowed radiantly, obscuring the definitions of objects in ambiguity. A weathervane in the shape of a rooster lost all its detail, barely retaining its figure.

I was glad Catherine hadn’t been invited. It makes no difference really; she was subjected to so many other incidents. I’d be ashamed if Catherine could read my mind. Outside in the cold there was no one to turn to, no one to call for help. I needed help to find my mother, but there is never any help. If there was someone I’d probably decline to ask out of embarrassment anyway. The snow increased production levels, bombarding me. I know it was cold only because I could see my own breath. I was unable to feel the temperature. Maybe I had become cold already by then. My breath floated away like ghosts then dissipated into nothingness. The anger functioning within me was alive but not conscious, but ready to awaken. I experienced jealousy of my own dematerializing breath. I exhaled and it simply vanished, for as long as I know that is exactly what I always wished I could do. Vanish. With ease into the cold night like I never existed at all. I guess I’m more like Hattie than I want to admit. I began to wonder about about outer space and wormholes. Is that infinite loneliness? The wandering of thoughts or energy that flies onward for eternity? That moment standing there was the perception of complete and unending helplessness.

I didn’t know what to do? I never do. I didn’t know where she’d run off to. Would I ever see her again? I didn’t actually say this but, this is what I would have said, “Mom, come back! I will enjoy your reckless behavior next time. I promise. These are my driving shoes, come back! Please! Don’t do anything stupid. Come back. I won’t pretend to hate you anymore. I Promise.”

I didn’t say a single word. What would you say? She didn’t come back. At least not for awhile. I looked up and squinted, through the aperture between the snowflakes was the blackest sky. It expanded, as my eyes seemed to click into focus. I saw three distinct stars. I thought of Orion’s belt. Orion, a hunter, a man killed by Artemis, placed in the sky to linger forever for everyone to witness and judge. I empathized with this Greek. As for Artemis, she’s someone I’d be attracted to. Another woman who was bad for me.

The surface of those circles became clearer. I could make out intricate lines, like roads, impressions like the grooves of a record. Lines that wandered with no destination. Don’t ask me how. They appeared pressed against something transparent. Was it the shell of our atmosphere? Which one? The troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere or the thermosphere? I noticed a glare, immediately I was anxious and dizzy, was I traveling? Astral projection. No, I was in stasis, I was the loneliest person ever standing in a thundering blizzard, then lightning struck.

On my stomach in my bed I thought about writing, maybe an autobiography, maybe thinly veiled fiction. It would be wrought with inaccuracies. My mind worked in tangents. It would unfold in a dark bedroom to no one. I could report it possibly to a strange woman who slept next to me, but what’s the use. My memories always come out of hiding but mostly when insomnia occurs. I lied, they always worm their way out. They present themselves when all I want to do is sleep. Sometimes I lay there and pretend I’m on my deathbed, with a Russian writer beard. I could almost feel the annoying tubes secured into my nostrils, slowly leaking oxygen into my uncooperative lungs. The thought of intravenous meals creeps me out. It’s not real. Truthfully, sometimes when I think of the past I can’t distinguish what’s real and what isn’t. At least I still have my youth. I struggle with the thought I’m wasting it. I am though. I am Wilhelm Flood, I am 28. I am a little down in the dumps. If there was one thing I could do it would be to leave.

I fluttered my eyelashes, acknowledged the swelling of my left eye. Emma can throw a punch. I am sorry for the things I’ve said. My eye doesn’t feel like it belongs to my face anymore, it defected. My bed is a traitor; it does not wish to serve me as I wrestle with the sheets and those pillows in the shape of fish. I waited in frustration for my mind to settle down so I could escape, albeit briefly, back into dreams. Confront sleep when you see her.

I craved sleep. Some dreams can be as saddening as the past, and as frightening as the future. I will continue to wonder about my mother and where she is until I fall asleep. Then I’ll dream about houses I’ll never live in, women I’ll never kiss and the person I’ll never become.

W. FLOOD

W. Flood

 

 

Hi, I wrote a manuscript. I worked on this project for a while and it is still a work in progress. Is anything ever truly finished? I have been sending the manuscript to literary agents and although I’ve only received rejection letters I have gotten some kind words and sound advice. One bit is that  a following is important for a novel by an unknown  or first time writer is very important. So I am going to try to utilize social media and try to garner attention with the hopes of getting published. So I implore you to read W. Flood and if you connect with the material then share, repost, print it out and give it to friends, anything that can help spread the campaign. All and any effort is appreciated. Thank you so much for your time. – Sean Gabler

Here is the synopsis:

Hattie thinks that Wilhelm Flood isn’t talking to her, but in truth, he’s not talking to anyone.

You see, Wilhelm hasn’t had a good day for a while, but today is an especially bad one. Getting punched in the face never bodes well with him. Crying himself to sleep never gives him much to brag about. And having kitty litter and spoiled milk for breakfast doesn’t help.

But on top of it all, Wilhelm Flood is having a bad day because he has a horrible feeling that Hattie is going to die.

Hattie’s explosive bouts of emotion and irrationality never made her the easiest to look after. Her crippling dependency can be as hard to manage as her persistent display of delusion. And her resistance to authority is almost as pungent as her fear of it — not behavior you’d typically expect from your mother…but then again, you’re not Wilhelm Flood.

Sean Gabler’s semiautobiographical debut novel, W. Flood, explores 24 hours in the life of a young man grappling with stinging shame, profound estrangement and a burning desire to disappear. In the wake of a mother’s slow, suicidal spiral, and a failing quest for being understood, Wilhelm wonders, is self-imposed isolation from everything you know and love the key to achieving clarity?

With the help of three lonely drunks who simultaneously provide him with useful encouragement and the terrifying prospect of adopting their fate, a dying cat who harbors all his secrets and the only man he’s ever considered successful, he embarks on a journey to find out. But as each harrowing hour of self-discovery goes by, the more he finds himself taking on traits of Hattie, and hoping more and more helplessly that a girl whose face he can’t get out of his head will realize that he finds comfort in her virtues and identity in her pitfalls. It can’t hurt that he feels as alone as she does.

Walking the line between looking for hope and having given up on it a long time ago, he contends with the notion that belonging, love and reciprocity might not just be something relegated to everyone else, but can he accept that the seedy underbelly of an upbringing marked by addiction and abuse might be just what he needs to get there?

I will begin the weekly posting of chapters very shortly. Any Praise/Criticism is welcome! Shoot is wilhelmflood@gmail.com Thank you again.