Excerpt for Bad Hair Day & Other Bits of Fiction by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



BAD HAIR DAY





RC MONSON





Spit & Vinegar Publications







2nd Smashwords Edition
ISBN: 9781370145775



© Copyright 2017 RC Monson
All rights reserved.



Cover art by Livewire Productions
Cover illustration courtesy of drawingimage.com

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CONTENTS

Bad Hair Day

TWEAK!

My Own

Granite Soup

Careening into Upheaval

Eden

The Mean Time

On-Screen Colonoscopy

Snow Jobs

stonewalled

close enough

Sahara

Time Warp

Spring Fever

Waiting for the Green Light

Angela’s Nebula

Too Self-Conscious for Popcorn

Precious

Parting Shot

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Bad Hair Day

America, your hair is a awful mess
You feel all bloated and gassy
And your acne’s been flaring up again
Your butt’s gotten as big as the backside of a Buick
And liposuction is so expensive

America, you’re having a bad hair day
For decades you’ve been chewing your fingernails off
Your terrified children keep and bear arms
If they’re not on drugs, they’re on probation
Or fighting off PTSD upon return from the oil wars

America, your music’s a beat without melody
Your lust for money can never be quelled
Thus far, the corporate coup has been a bloodless one
We’ve got fascist oligarchs running the country now
They plan to erect the boondoggle to end all boondoggles

America, your deodorant has all worn off
Your stinking civil wars go raging on
And you still haven’t fully recovered from
The scalpings and lynchings of your checkered past
From your witch hunts and spooky family values

America, you’re lost in a reality TV daydream
Stilted sound bytes and alternative facts
And the saddest part of the story is that the welcoming words
At the foot of the Statue of Liberty now translate
Into every language as: BEWARE OF DOG

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TWEAK!

What was that?
A glass door riding stressed-out hinges?
An old boiler valve calling for repairs?
TWEAK!
Like a motor bearing about to seize up,
The locomotive fixing to explode,
The final shriek of a throat-cut pig.
TWEAK!
Nobody else seems to notice my patience
Straining like an old brick building
Tilting in the midst of a six-point earthquake,
A bum knee slightly overworked today,
Tar-clogged lungs reminding me
It’s time to quit smoking again.
How much of this shit can a body take?
I’m gridlocked amid cars, fumes, and orange barrels.
I’m standing in line at any bank or government office.
I’m being overcharged at a glitzy bar for a skimpy meal.
I’m screaming at the automated answering device
That’s taken over for people who used to answer phones.
TWEAK!
It’s a huge, crushing disappointment
Or the culmination of a series of small, nagging ones.
I’m trying to explain to my boss
That he’s talking out his ass again.
Or I’ve made the mistake of discussing politics
With a Bible-thumping fascist from Kansas.
TWEAK!
It’s not an audible sound. This tweak you can feel it!
Like fingernails screeching across the chalkboard.

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My Own

When I was small
I didn’t know they called
the busy streets arteries.

All I knew was
I couldn’t have a bike.
I couldn’t have a bike because of
a bad dream, Dad’s bad dream,
involving crushed spokes
and the severed artery.

This was a dream he often had.

So, I couldn’t be trusted
to stay off the busy streets
we lived between,
two narrow one-way streets
lined with elm trees,
all the way down the hill
to the valley—downtown,
the hub, the heart,
where fields of asphalt
were set aside
just to park on.

Maybe if we lived there
I could have a bike,
because cars only park there,
and when they drive
they drive real slow,
so a kid on a bike
would be safe there.

I learned to ride
my friend’s bike
on the tennis court
at Wellesley and Lead.
If Dad had found out
he’d’ve brained me,
even though I was only a child
and didn’t understand
the complex anatomy
of daily traffic patterns.

In school
they taught us
simple biology by dying
stalks of celery red
or blue or yellow;
they explained how
plants and trees have arteries
just like people,
how blood carries oxygen
on highways that branch
into roads and cul de sacs,
carrying oxygen through
arteries and veins and capillaries
to our fingers
and our toes.

And so it was
that my child’s mind
was able to comprehend
the tragedy when—
early one morning
on the tennis court,
as we watched the cars
go hurling by—
SUDDENLY
UNEXPECTEDLY
brakes screeched, tires skidded, a horn honked
and kept on honking as a loud thump
tossed a car over the curb
into one of the old elms
that lined the street
all the way downtown.

We ran to see
and wished we hadn’t as a woman slowly emerged,
bleeding and bleeding all over her face,
her hands, her blouse, and she staggered
to her knees on the lawn,
and there were men telling us to get back!
And they surrounded the bleeding woman,
and we peeked in,
and the men cried out, “Get lost, kid,”
and pushed us away.

So we went
with some other men
to look at the car,
its solid chrome face
lodged in the elm’s bark,
and the tree was weeping sap,
and I felt like crying too,
because I knew
about arteries now,
and a little something more
about the agonies
of the human condition.
The tree still has the scar;
it lives with that scar,
and when I drive by
I always remember
bits and pieces
of Dad’s bad dream,
almost as if it were
my own.

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Granite Soup

She put a flame under her biggest iron pot
and slowly, steadily brought it to boil,
slowly, steadily allowing the heat to work its magical alchemy
into a mineral-rich granite soup
containing all the ingredients
necessary to maintain a nice safe distance at all times:
1 lb. dogged persistence
1/2 cup always busy, so busy, too busy
3 oz. A-1 secretive sauce
1/2 tsp. never let your guard down
salt & pepper to taste
Stir in a pinch of longing to be close then add a dash
of needing lots of personal space.
This stardust soup sustains
and fortifies her fine body
along fine gravitational lines,
building up a magnetic field of substantial force,
constantly maintaining that same safe distance.

Meanwhile, I’m the spellbound blue comet
impatiently orbiting her big iron pot.

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Careening into Upheaval

Helen Wheels
comes tooling around the bend,
scoring a thin line
between creation and destruction,
coming on plumb loco—
motives unknown, unaccountable,
high-stepping, gyrating, satin schmooze.
When Helen Wheels
comes wending wondrous wiles,
she reawakens a primal myth,
an allegory of craft and vexation,
each generation recasting
revised revisions
of some new subversive notion
of a dream sublime.
Helen Wheels
comes careening into upheaval,
with Cleopatra black hair
and mummified wit,
or Marilyn Monroe blond
swirling Rubenesque curvature,
or Asian eyes and creamy chocolate
complexion like dark confection
dusting cloaked Romulan cruisers
suddenly shifting course
through wide-open landscapes
of smoldering ruins
with chances of winning
this lottery running
slim to nil.

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Eden

Eden works in her garden
tiny beads of sweat forming on her brow
behind the old Victorian house
along the property line, a line of men
queue up to wait a turn to help
till the soil and chop weeds
all she really wants to think about is
lilies and violets and orchids
all these loitering men only disturb her
with the way they all leer and ogle
makes her feel cheap and tawdry
as she bends over to pull weeds
she notices the lilacs need pruning
while raking away debris
of wilted crocus and carnation
among the faces of the men are those who
still hold rain checks from last season
and bouquets of buttercups and pink gnomes
but they know better than to expect
Eden to be beholden to any of them
if only they would all just go away
she has to put on gloves before attending
to the roses and an old puncture
wound that may never heal

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The Mean Time

In the mean time a pair of grackles,
cack cack cack cack cack.
Bitchy blue-black birds raise a great flap,
scrambling amid the leaves and branches.
I’m still half asleep and groggy
until a Rottweiler starts barking down the way.
I’m holding one end of a long white string
leading all the way back
into a labyrinthine dreamscape I’ve already forgotten,
except for the afterglow,
accompanied by that goddamned, infernal alarm clock.
My initial thought of the day: Oh, shit!
Can’t we just leave me out of it?
The sheets, cool and smooth all around me,
My tennis elbow causes only a meager wince of pain,
My bum knee isn’t throbbing
but the lower back is stiffer than usual.
After forty-six years of waking up every day,
I’m somewhat put off by the notion that
reality is little more than a circus sideshow,
Sandwiched inbetween sweet savory dreams.
Better get a move on.
As little as I care to get involved,
I have to drag my sorry ass
out of this bed right now.
Meanwhile, grackles bitch and squabble in the treetops,
the Rottweiler yelps for breakfast,
and a jet airliner thunders overhead,
as if in anticipation of some dreary tragic harbinger
of police sirens or wailing fire engines.
I hate to wish my life away but in the mean time,
as I set the burglar alarm and lock the door,
I’m already looking forward
to a nice little nap after work
with today’s TV newscast
droning whiplash in the background.

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Snow Jobs

Outside the window a cold otherworldly glow, a luminous violet-gray swirl of white unleashes flurries of crystal flecks.

Inside, a miniature frame of warm colorful TV reflections on the glass softly beat a war drum of corporate broadcast voices busily sanitizing the news of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

Gazing out, I contemplate the brutality of winter storms, the possible impacts of opposing snow jobs on a single pane of ordinary window glass.

On the yard underneath an overburdened cypress tree, a fallen branch has assumed the woeful posture of a distended angel’s wing.

As two-foot drifts steadily accumulate, the holly bushes prostrate themselves like Muslims at prayer in a blizzard of soap flakes.

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stonewalled

you just have to ask a simple direct question,
something like: “where’s that raise you promised me?”
and you’ll see the boss’s face twist and warp
like a disjointed contortionist
as she’s miraculously transformed
into a spineless mealy mouthed bureaucrat
and the ethical compassion of human interaction
is reduced to a carnival shell game
and in an instant it becomes abundantly clear
you won’t be getting a simple or direct answer
instead you can expect a deflection, a diversion
maybe some finger pointing or blame gaming
or, if she deems it necessary, a bald-faced lie
sometimes she’ll simply change the subject
supplying the answer to a question you didn’t ask
if she can’t dazzle you with her brilliance
she may try to bamboozle you with bullshit
maybe even take a stab at gas lighting
just for good measure
it’s truly uncanny how
obstructions pop up in every direction
invincible ramparts that surround and box out
any hope of constructive discussion
there will be no attempt at rational discourse
there will be no dickering back & forth
in an effort to achieve a delicate balance
no tilting toward some golden mean
her expression is a rock-and-mortar embodiment of stony silence
as the sky fades gradually to dusk
and all-encompassing obfuscation
descends over the field of discourse
like a shrewd calculated passive aggression
rife with absurdity and laughable
as Kafka’s worst nightmare
but you won’t be too disappointed
if you set your expectations very low
you can go ahead and call her out on her lies
but only if you’re prepared for repercussions
it’s probably wiser to just remind her:
“that’s exactly what you said last time”
and watch her squirm in her executive’s chair
as she averts her eyes and casts
a silent gaze upon a clear spot on the desk
and asks dismissively “will that be all?”

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close enough

at the leading edge, along a blunt seam
a confrontation
moist warm air & cold dry air
colliding along a line of intense resistance
a tornado descends from the clouds,
lightning bolts pierce the earth with molten fingers,
how many inches of rain fell?
these things get tallied up
& carefully arranged
like pros and cons
it’s no joke; it is what it is
this is not your average lab rat
it’s more like Pavlov’s dog baring fangs
more like a dissected frog with entrails on a silver plate
more like Paul Klee sketching out some elaborate line of thought
but if it’s not precisely a rat or a dog or a frog or a Klee
what else is it supposed to be?
close enough for government work
close enough for jazz

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Sahara

She tells me the tale of a long-ago love affair, of passions recently rekindled for a single fleeting instant then expired once more. As she reveals the sordid details, her whole body, the entirety of her trim hourglass figure recounts the lost minutes of a disappointing engagement. It occurs to me that she is gradually receding into the distance. I picture her trudging across the Sahara desert, leaving a trail of footprints in the sand. A steady breeze reshapes the dunes with dancing ripples that cover her trail. Her fine blonde hair gleams in the sun like a gem-crusted tiara, yet she looks so sad, so dismal and downtrodden, that the harsh dry wind whispers sympathetically: “Don’t look back! There’s bound to be an oasis just beyond the next horizon.”

But she doesn’t seem to be listening; she glances over her shoulder and back towards Ohio and the long-ago soldier she once loved, the one she still refuses to stop loving, even as grains of sand beneath her feet gradually grind one another to dust, even as another promising oasis dissolves into heat waves of hazy mirage. Wondering if she’s still with me, I lean forward and touch her arm, and I say, “Sooner or later, girl, you’re gonna have to let go.” Despite the faraway look in her eyes, this time she seems to be listening; a grin tugs one corner of her mouth and the hint of a dimple casually lingers as she restarts the hourglass and finishes explaining her dreadful dilemma.

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Time Warp

We spend our time as if it counts for nothing, throwing it away like raw recruits on furlough misplacing their affections in a downtown brothel. We spend time like it’s going out of style, a clearance rack at Macy’s, half full or half empty as half a bottle of wine, and either way it’s all polished off in no time flat.

When we spend time thinking about loved ones, what’s gained or lost? Give me the bottom line ’cause neither of us has any time to waste. That would be a sacrilege, worse than pissing on a crucifix or setting hundred-dollar bills on fire.

When we spend time together are we investing wisely? What are the hidden costs? Do we gain points on the Dow Jones Valentine Exchange? Or do we walk away from another poker game empty-handed losers?

We’ve spent some time together and what did it cost? Was it worth more than the time spent on a good novel or watching Wheel of Fortune or the X Files? Tell me the value of trying to link alien worlds where all parties are locked in an endless white noise of chronic self-absorption.

In a society where time is money, what’s the percentage in betting on love? For each moment spent thinking of loved ones instead of being with them yields no gain.

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Spring Fever

I sense a presence
in the room
I just can’t put
my finger on it
a dazzling flicker
of quicksilver appearing
and disappearing into something
vaguely familiar

I feel the magic
near at hand
just about to open
some unexpected door
or cast a special brightness
on the window
a wisp of flowery perfume
wafting down the hallway

This delightful fantasy
shears away and vanishes
just as it appears
a shining swelling phantom sheen
It frames her
vanishing face
in an ethereal silver aura
of cloudy mist and pure lust

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Waiting for the Green Light

Albuquerque traffic still
Not so snarled as LA,
Yet I’m moving so slow
I seem to hit all the red lights.
Feeling anxious, impatient,
I listen to the engine idle
And drift into a fantasy
About the girl next door:
She doesn’t live there anymore,
And I’d like to see her return
With her quick wit and rapid gait,
Keen brown eyes twinkling mirthful
Or brooding sadness
She’s learned to work through.
I sit at the red light
Wondering how I’d keep pace
With this high-stepping dynamo:
The girl next door
Doesn’t live there anymore;
She says she’d like to come back though;
She’s tired of California fast;
She wants to slow down,
Settle into the purpose of family
NOW
The signal finally changes
And I gun the engine, pedal to metal,
Suddenly in some kind of big hurry
To get to the next stop light,
Telling myself, “Maybe, just maybe,
If I speed things up a skosh
And she gears down half a notch,
We might go cruising together
Through mostly green lights.”

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Angela’s Nebula

She’s driven back to the scene of destruction;
she needs a fresh reminder of just how bad it was
before she can finish shaking off the jittery feelings,
before she can finish putting it all behind her,
before she can rise again,
not from the ashes of a raging inferno
but like a rare bird emerging in the wake of a tempest,
the steady clockwise motion of a hurricane blanketing the coastline
the dazzling stardust of a swirling super nova;
she needs a fresh reminder so that she
can reconcile her overall assessment of the damage.

What she’s seeing now are traces of something
that happened millions of years ago,
the ravages of betrayal and one too many divorces,
children grown and grandchildren born,
and yet it all seems like just yesterday
she decided to ride out the storm with friends in a swinging honky-tonk
to pit her firm and patient resolve
against the midspin pinwheeling action of a short skirt
rising steadily up the meaty thigh of the Mississippi marshlands,
her charming smile as calm as the stillness at the eye of the storm,
her every gesture graced with an ageless indestructible charm.

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Too Self-Conscious for Popcorn

This is a date! (No it isn’t!) Oh, yes it is. (No, can’t be.)
The film begins and in theater’s velvet darkness
Our elbows vie for the same space on the armrest.
I’m a little confused and having some trouble following
(The plotline seems to be developing a circular structure.)
As our elbows vie for the same space on the armrest.
Suddenly my elbow, my whole arm, in fact both arms
Are imbued with an strange newfound sense of purpose.
Their new mission is to determine the exact circumference
Of her shoulders, waist, and magnificent buttocks,
(To know them as they know the exact angle for tipping a beer,
Holding a pencil, cupping a pair of firm plump breasts.)
My elbow and arms, and now my reawakened fingertips
Are so motivated to learn these things that they distract me,
And I miss opportunities to laugh precisely when she does.
And the film ends, and it’s becoming clear to me
I still have no idea what’s going on here.
I have no clue as to how I’m supposed to act.
I’m so stupid and clumsy and awkward I forget
To turn in my seat, right at the end, and look over at her,
And touch her hair, and wait and see if she turns
Just so, and tilts her head just so,
So as to give me proof that the final credits are rolling
Over the start of something good and true.

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Precious

If the gift of diamonds goes on giving
How come so many engagement rings go back?
Wedding bands recast into diamond pendants
Years after the vows are forgotten.
A diamond is forever precious to DeBeers.
Forever an occluded Oppenheimer profit,
Ernest and Sons and the sons’ sons.
Business as usual for a hundred years:
South Africa, Congo, Russia, Australia,
Wildcat mining alluvial fields
Of worldwide monopoly on
Tiny brilliant stars, earthbound,
Multifaceted trades involving Crown Jewels,
African kleptocracies, Nazi smuggling rings.
Business in Moscow throughout the Cold War:
Siberian crystals, rough cut in India, and
Shipped to Seventeen Charter House Street,
London, while the Reagans did Eternity rings.
These coveted gems and cutting implements
Are distributed only to a select few
Merchants empowered by Madison Avenue myth.
Fought over and sometimes killed for,
This gift goes on giving us the business
On a product nearly as plentiful as coal.

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Parting Shot

It didn’t arrive with the mail. He was not greeted at the door by a friendly deliveryman asking for a signature. He found it on the doorstep in place of the person who presumably rang the bell and scurried away, leaving him this unsealed package to clear out of the doorway. Inside, a pile of Kodachrome and Polaroid snapshots loosely piled in a box like shiny rocks. A shoebox of paper tombstones. A pictorial history documented on thin veneer by the one who always had to make a big impact. The one who scissored her face out of every shot just to leave him a little something to think about in her absence.

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