She read my poetry and told me she adored it, that it was precious—it was the grey dishwater of life. She had spent her life as her mother had, and her grandmother before that, peeling potatoes, dropping the peels in her tenement sink. She hadn’t read Horatio Alger, hadn’t been convinced that she was required to pull herself up by her bootstraps into an American stratosphere where consumer goods of all kinds weightlessly floated around her. She had passed her test to be an American, and had promptly forgotten all the history, and everything about the workings of government.
She showed me her tattoo. There were blood oranges intertwined with blood roses. She would never need a transfusion. Still, she never got too close to the subway tracks. She never put herself in danger, to the extent that she could avoid it. Of course, living in one of the scroungier boroughs of New York City kept her in constant and perpetual danger. She showed me her tattoo and I said: Greetings, O princess of darkness.
Then she fled to a tulip festival with frat boys.
That was the end, but neither of us wanted it to be the end. I had a fantasy that I was an Armenian, the last survivor of a family that had been killed by the Turks. I had taken the name Agabab Agababian. When I introduced myself she thought I’d said: Ali Baba. No, I corrected her, Agabab. There’s a big difference.
Are you employing I’m a dumb nigger, she challenged me. She was white as snow, and I was confused, both by the concept and her strange use of language.
Later, she sent me an aerial view of tulips. It arrived by bicycle messenger. Almost hidden among the tulips was a hot air balloon passenger whose hot air balloon had crashed. Searchers could not find her, but here she was. In the photo she looked like a ruined woman from the cover of a 1940’s pulp magazine, but she was dead, not defiled.
It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, said the fat police chief, the same thing some people said about Tunisian Airlines Flight 270. Every government in the world had its eyes out for meaningful debris. But the man who knew said: No, It’s like looking for a needle in a needle factory.
After that she left the city and went back to her grandmother’s farm. Her grandmother was a pioneer, growing organic radishes and using weeds as curative agents. There are no side effects, Grandma said, referring to the long lists of side effects modern pharmaceuticals are burdened with.
Despite her grandmother’s example, she decided to live in defiance of nature. You can take the girl out of the city, she’d tell guys at the town’s one bar, but you can’t take the city out of the girl. Which meant, in that context, that she meant to be a slut.
She longed for the day that global warming turned the Frigidaire that is Michigan into a tropical paradise. She left her car running all night to do her small share. Go carbon, go, she chanted at the moon, like a deranged cheerleader. She dreamed of turning her barn into a bar and serving pina coladas to tourists. She herself, she’s never had a pina colada.
She’s worked hard all her life. Her boyfriend test is finger-lock wrestling. But if she bested a man, and had him groaning and crying on the ground, she relented and let him fuck her anyway. No man has ever been able to best her. She is a saint of merciful sexuality.
Her grandfather had a parrot, but it died. He’d built a greenhouse for it, and on his deathbed he made his wife promise that she would take care of it forever.
Her granddaughter, the power-slut, said that she would take over its care. Her grandma was happy to get the responsibility off her hands. But the propane bills got too high, and City Girl couldn’t afford it. If you don’t give me more money for protein, she threatened her grandmother, the parrot’s death will be on your head. She meant to say propane, and her grandmother didn’t know what she was talking about. Maybe it was that thing about being gluten free, whatever that was.
The parrot died. The granddaughter believed that her grandfather’s spirit went to live in his beloved parrot, but she let it die anyway. She was a lousy person, she told herself, and also: poverty trumps love. That was not an elusive concept for her.
After that her grandmother asked her to leave and to take the parrot’s body with her—she didn’t want the body around to remind her of her dead husband. She didn’t want it buried on the property, to haunt her. But her granddaughter, the cockteaser, woke up in the middle of the night and buried it anyway, right under her grandmother’s window. She buried a dead candle and a bunch of birdseed with it, and a bell toy, to accompany the bright-colored bird into its next life in Parrot Heaven.
Then she hitchhiked from Michigan to New Mexico, her heart full of grief for all mankind and womankind and birdkind. The desert turned into a garish painting by a man who signed his name: P. Mento
A telephone was ringing, that old fashioned ring tone. The granddaughter wandered the desert, trying to find the telephone. She was thinking: this is a dream, this is Surrealism, though she had as much understanding of Surrealism as her grandmother had of gluten and other faddish diets, even nouveau cuisine, with its artistic plate dribbles.
As she wandered, she thought these thoughts: They wanted to put Frieda Kahlo into a box called Surrealism. She went along for a while and then she bailed. Her box was a coffin. She didn’t look pretty on her death bed. Her fat, cheating husband, despite his womanizing, had a faithful heart. They couldn’t put him in a box either. Diego Rivera was too big for any box
The telephone keeps ringing. It’s the grandaughter’s former boyfriend calling, the guy she left at the altar in southern Indiana, by the border of Kentucky, an area called Kentuckiana, or, to young cynics, Indiyucky. The former boyfriend wanted her to start a detective agency to find where their love had gone.
It was strong for a while but then became weak, like a bodybuilder who abandons steroids. He wants her to find the steroids. He wants their love to be enriched by performance enhancing drugs, Viagra and the blood of Christ.
M. Krockmalnik Grabois’ poems have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, most recently for his story “Purple Heart” published in The Examined Life in 2012, and for his poem. “Birds,” published in The Blue Hour, 2013. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for 99 cents from Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.