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    October 2009

    43. Killer Heart

    By Barb Johnson

    Dooley and Tina are fighting. Or not fighting, Dooley guesses, but discussing. That’s what Tina calls it, anyway. They have most of their discussions while their three-year-old daughter, Gracie, is at her grandmother’s across the lake. Today Dooley decides that if he shows a positive attitude and keeps his comments to a minimum, they might be able to wrap things up in the next little bit. There’s a show about the Louisiana black bear coming on in half an hour, and Dooley hopes he won’t have to miss it.

    “It’s just that you’re so impulsive, Dooley,” Tina says, shifting to the general list of his faults. She’s pacing back and forth, back and forth, like a little engine that’s powered by fussing.

    Tina keeps a record of old mistakes handy on a constant loop, one finger always hovering over the play button. During any dispute, when she’s through with what is currently troubling her, she presses that button and everything stored on the loop begins to replay. In their house, the past is never over. The good news, though, is that once Tina gets to the Great Loop of Faults, it usually means the discussion is coming to an end.

    “You never think things through,” Tina goes on. “There’s never a plan for anything.” . . . Read More.

    42. The Enchanted Bluff

    By Willa Cather

    We had our swim before sundown, and while we were cooking our supper the oblique rays of light made a dazzling glare on the white sand about us. The translucent red ball itself sank behind the brown stretches of cornfield as we sat down to eat, and the warm layer of air that had rested over the water and our clean sand bar grew fresher and smelled of the rank iron-weed and sunflowers growing on the flatter shore. The river was brown and sluggish, like any other of the half-dozen streams that water the Nebraska corn lands. On one shore was an irregular line of bald day bluffs where a few scrub oaks with thick trunks and flat, twisted tops threw light shadows on the long grass. The western shore was low and level, with cornfields that stretched to the skyline, and all along the water’s edge were little sandy coves and beaches where slim cottonwoods and willow saplings flickered.

    The turbulence of the river in springtime discouraged milling, and, beyond keeping the old red bridge in repair, the busy farmers did not concern themselves with the stream; so the Sandtown boys were left in undisputed possession. In the autumn we hunted quail through the miles of stubble and fodder land along the flat shore, and, after the winter skating season was over and the ice had gone out, the spring freshets and flooded bottoms gave us our great excitement of the year. The channel was never the same for two successive seasons. Every spring the swollen stream undermined a bluff to the east, or bit out a few acres of cornfield to the west and whirled the soil away to deposit it in spumy mud banks somewhere else. When the water fell low in midsummer, new sand bars were thus exposed to dry and whiten in the August sun. Sometimes these were banked so firmly . . . Read More.

    41. 1647 Ocean Front Walk

    By Dan Fante

    Nothing stops it—the emptiness of being alone.

    It was September. Still morning rush hour, and I was chugging along Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, empty. Another cloudless, flawless, fucking L.A. day.

    My Chevy taxi #855 had been overheating consistently for a week in the summer heat, and for the last two shifts in a row the problem was worse. My cab was an ex-Highway Patrol cruiser with over 200,000 miles on the odometer.

    I hated being assigned to this vehicle. Not only because of its cop history, but because of the steady night guy who drove #855. A fat Guatemalan fuck named Sergio. Sergio refused to report mechanical problems on the car the way it says to do on the SHIFT TURN-IN form that everybody is required to sign. According to a rumor passed along by JJ, the mechanic, my night man Sergio was devoting the bulk of his evenings to smoking cheap reefer and chasing crackhead pussy downtown near the Staples Center. The asshole was apparently unconcerned by the steam hissing out from under the hood of Cab #855. That left me—on my shift time—to deal with all the repair stuff. I’d complained repeatedly without result. This was because, coincidentally, Raoul the night dispatcher was Sergio’s brother-in-law, his sidekick at hounding pussy, and not coincidentally, also a prize Guatemalan sack of shit. It had taken two hours that morning for JJ to mickey-rig #855 so I could work my shift.

    While waiting in the repair shop, I’d occupied my time visualizing Sergio and Raoul . . . Read More.

    40. Twenty Eight—Pardon Me—and Twenty-Nine

    By Mississippi John Hurt

    PETE SEEGER: Incidentally—John? We got time. Tell a little bit about how you first made a record—way, way back in nineteen twenty-seven. You remember?

    JOHN HURT: Ah, yeah, twenty-eight, was—pardon me—and twenty-nine.

    To learn to play guitar, I had no teacher. I might say—well, I’ll say it like this:

    In a way, I . . .

    I kinda stole music, in a way.

    There was a gentleman . . . . . . Read More.

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