fiction

Lemons : For A. K. by D.M. Jerman

My sister, Vivi, was killed last year by a truck carrying lemons.

I thought it was intensely beautiful, the state I discovered her in. I broke through the crowd to find her, looking almost as if she was sleeping, peacefully, with compound fractures in her contorted legs.

Her black hair shining wet tangled amongst the features of her face and the thousands upon thousands of lemons made a bright puffy blanket over her and the street. Their thin yellow citrus juices and her thick dark red blood concocted a visceral seeping orange with the street dirt. All these fluids tarnished her yellow dress. Melting her.

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Vivi was attempting to cross the street behind the truck, and the driver wasn't looking when he slammed it into reverse to park. The rusty rear door hinge sprung open with a jolt and a thunderous cascading landslide of the vivid sour fruit broke free of their crates to buffet her fragile skull into pieces.

I was 13. Vi was 17.

I adored her. After all this, I became obsessed with the things that destroyed her. Lemons.

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I read up on their vast uses. Their supposed killing power in folkloric mythologies.

I began to eat them raw. It seemed as if their tartness came from a kind of poison. Was their purpose really to kill? Each time I tried, bordering suicide, to drink my weight in juice, I could feel the adrenaline from the death wish dashing through my veins.

Lemon milkshakes, lemon slices on my cereal, across my stinging eyes, as rancid perfume, dried rinds stuffed with cloves for ornamentation- they were everywhere.

Soon I could tell I was stung. Scarred, by the very anticipation of the tartness hitting my mouth. Is this how vampires feel when they get another taste of blood?

I felt as if I was committing the ultimate sin by loving the thing that killed my sister.

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Now, here it is, one year ago to the day. Not so long ago at all.

And I'm standing in the same spot- across the street from where she took the fall under that dambreak of the many many many many tough and tiny unyielding fruits.

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Except now, I'm not waiting for her to cross to meet me. To arrive as if nothing happened and take the past away.

I'm waiting for the same truck to come along again. Bringing me the thing I want most.

Final Report and Review Log of Science Team Executive Lieutenant Dr. Lana VanDavis - June, 2035 - by D.M. Jerman

A week from the green light our team set off in the Santa Volta IV (SV-IV), the largest of four modest ex-navy vessels, for three days off the coast of the Azores to get to the North Atlantic Gyre. The Santa Volta fleet had their hulls painted thick with POP neutralizer. Active polymer disruption that made the minute plastic decomp easy to pass in digestive systems. This was important because over the course of the next six weeks we intended to oversee the "baking process" of this massive island of plastic from a free-floating swirling mush pile into a dense land mass capable of supporting infrastructure and using as a way station for ocean preservation and wildlife rescue. We couldn't beat it, so we were in the process of joining it.

About two months prior a preliminary crew set out for the berg of trash on a projected week-long mission armed with sonic deterrant, airplane cable and depth coagulant in order to float as much detritus as possible at the surface while keeping the sealife population at a safe distance. All had gone accordingly, and now we were operational as engineering set to install the cage perimeter and peripheral entrapment units which would more solidly collect any garbage that came within 8 to 10 meters. If this worked, we surmised, the Santa Volta fleet could very well quadruple and become a household name overnight.

But things turned out a little differently.

Functionality within mission and crew of SV-IV for the first week had proceeded as planned. We then discovered that we were the first humans to "come down" with what was later simply termed “Gyre Syndrome." On a small recreational fishing expedition lead by Captain Max Goldwell, we discovered more advanced stages of Gyre Syndrome had already occurred in some populations of larger sealife- turtles and whales specifically. It sounds like a terrible thing, but instead it managed to be an extraordinary physiological phenomena tantamount to a mid-21st century evolution. The last collusion in the name of the pursuit of perfection between man and nature.

Very quickly we understood that we were to remain unafraid of 'Gyre Syndrome' and its effects, namely because it made us happier. I believe this is so for a few key reasons.

Firstly- we were becoming maps- semi-holographic mosaics. Broad spectrum reflectivity at the subcutaneous level. Our temporary time-susceptible physical make up was being replaced with something we then understood to be much more beautiful. We began to notice that the searing days and bitter cold nights on the SV-IV were more tolerable and required less protection. When exposing ourselves to these drastic elements, we soon required only POP neutralizer boots, and the tools our daily workload required.

Finally- as a team we felt even more impelled to continue the tasks relevant to our ahead-of-schedule mission. To collect the Gyre in the name of creating a living landmass. To date, several additional expeditions have been made by our peers to the Gyre's new centralized lookout and command post. Our bodies have begun to take on the saturated and reflective grey-pinks and blue-greens which currently indicate to us that the landmass is becoming viable as organic food.

In consideration of all of the above, it is now our firm assertion that the sinking of the Santa Volta fleet has been the right decision.

We have become the Gyre, and it is our home now.

Woman Near The Light by D.M. Jerman

Once in the not-too-distant past, and again in the not-too-far-flung future, a woman lived in a small house high on a hill in a quiet neighborhood of a small city.

She wasn’t young, but she wasn’t old, and her favorite room in her house was the kitchen. Not because she loved to cook, but because of the light. There was a table in the kitchen and a large lamp that hung close hovered over it from the ceiling. And this lamplight was very warm and pleasing in the nighttime. But the best light came from the daytime in thru the tall picture window beside the table.

It was the light and the view the woman enjoyed so thourally.

From her high house, perfect as a locket with its handful of modest rooms, she sat at her kitchen table, at her window, and gazed out onto the tall hills and the dazzling treeline that sloped lushly across them, leaving a beautiful series of gaps here and there thru which could be seen the pearlescent sparkle of the moving river below, and the pale blue arch of the long steel bridge and its pillars which crossed it.

The unmoving bridge. A fixed point: straddling the river unflaggingly thru all the seasons and their magnificent advances and retreats of color. At dusk, when the light grew weary, the bridge resumed its own glow. City travelers shuffled over and across it in a thankless dance of one or the other direction.

From the window, the woman could close one eye and hold the bridge in her hand, or pinch it between her fingers. The slow black waters beneath it glimmered the bridge’s glow back at itself, and the trees kept their green secrets in to rest.

The days, and the nights, and the woman and the window.

The house and the hillside. The bridge and the river.

The city and the woodlands all. All together in a harmony that had room for itself and its reflection in every way. The reality, and the dream.

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Because I remember what it was like to stand in the middle of the living room and open my arms wide and spin and spin and spin... by D.M. Jerman

NIGHT OUT 2025-

 

First the hot sunset. A real desert burner. Then thunder hiccuping like a sphincter deep in your gut.

Thick clouds, real in their gilt edges within the pale uniform of tired indigo washing out the sky beyond. That end-of-summer rain on approach. Fetid downpour ripe as a tramp. Slowly clearing.

Full evening takeover, then.

A hazy, half-fat moon. Over half. Gibbous waxing, wet as a jawbreaker worked over by a dog.

 

Before all this. Hard to believe now what those clouds looked like. Wide and peach-milk-pink. Spilled strawberry milkshake melted out on a lamp. Then atrophied blue gangrened deep thru. Corrupted simple under the sounds of bootsteps in blind alleyways.

 

The bar closed down after a good run and the team had themselves a long final party. They put on music the boss would never let them play with clientele in the place, and proceeded to destroy the ambiance with their bare hands. It would stand empty for a time after that.

 

Meanwhile- bass and smoke. Expletives, skateboards and some game on. More of everything than usual, especially sirens.

The city a bit of clamor and noise reeling amongst itself.

 

A ponderous night, drunk on new wind. Streetlamps courting miles of loneliness in all directions.

People can feel summer gasping its last and they want it gone, but they don’t either. It would be hard to make a false world and stay there while any windows are open and the whispered threat of more rain is riding the airy relentlessness.

However, a week prior is an example. Another place, courting the taxidermied reverb of memory.

 

Earlier, in the park made of late afternoon and bench and foliage in a neighborhood different from your own, a man stands in the shade of the garden not far from your spot and sings the same song aloud over and over. The book is good. You put it down to close your eyes. You are wearing heels. You are perhaps a half hour away from stopping at a new bar and killing more time before an art show.

Is it Friday? A day hazing over fast into the good long while of night. Both are so happy to have had themselves. To have been connected.

This was long after the rooftop days were over. Removed and exposed from the vantage of three or more stories.

 

Still stranded on a long road abandoned to cold on the saddest night of your life. These opposites were the same. They came before and after the dream-within-dream world of another bedroom.

Here you climb into the bed. Heavy covers lush and cool. You wake and find the envelope hidden under the pillow.

 

“Give this to the butler” says the fine paper with a black key etched to its opposite side. When he comes, you do. Then change into a red robe to follow the tall handsome butler silently out into the carpeted castle hallways and down. Down into a tearoom where you are expected. You greet and join your ancestors for light repast until the sun too goes down. Thru the prismatic glass all netted together with tall wrought iron spires, it turns into a polished cherry flame and winks out.

What do you do then? What do you say?

 

Come back now. Quit dreaming. It is Friday after all. The last of the last. Someone stumbled in to the place saying “I’m just here for the piano.”

Many hours later everyone made it home, altho’ the homes they made it to weren’t always theirs to start.

by D.M. Jerman

Hi Scott-

I hope you're still writing. I imagine you are. I'm a writer living in Chicago. Originally from western Pennsylvania. It's a whole lot of poetry with some short stories/flash fiction thrown in, for me.

I work in a mom-n-pop bookshop of all-used volumes in the Logan Square neighborhood; as you can imagine I get to read a lot. That's where I found your books.

What I love most about your fiction is the people. Sometimes the ones you remember the most are the ones you see for an instant or two, then they're gone forever. It's like they just swooped down to give you this one thing to remember. Then they're out of here.

I'm familiar with that part of WV where your head and heart are so much of the time. One time my car broke down on the side of 119 somewhere, (which runs north right past the house where I grew up in Home, PA) and I had to wait hours for my dad to come get me. In the meantime I was at the house of this family who had me for dinner and were such dears. They had 3 girls. The girls loved me and wanted to play and play and play. We played inside. We played outside. I was in my mid-twenties then. I was lucky. It was midsummer and I remember the light fading over their dusty back yard. I was exhausted and filthy and I remember going in having turkey and applesauce. Later I sent them a thank you note with a gift basket of fancy foods in small portions and nice packaging. You know, jellies and dips and crackers and stuff. The girls are all grown up. Maybe one of them still has the basket.

Usually I think I'm writing to answer question(s) I find myself asking. That ever happen to you? Like, if I put a few characters thru something, I'll gain some insight. It's a bit like playing dolly in the big-girl sense. If you have too many dollies tho', you want to add them all in. Sometimes that makes it complicated where it probably doesn't need to be.

I watched all the Holler Presents videos on Vimeo and they are so worth it. I hope you make more. My husband used to be a teacher and we watched the video about your Mom's last day at school and we cried. She is so good. And the pastor you interviewed. Good stories from good people who have a way of changing the world you don't see that often, because it's not flashy. But boy is it important.

Hope you're having a nice autumn out there. All the trees do here is turn yellow.

Sincerely, a fan.

Eighties Night Feels Like Halloween by D.M. Jerman

Eighties Night feels like Halloween. The dishwasher girl as Madonna. She swings her ass in fishnets around the dance floor busing tables. Hall and Oats are begging everyone to ”Say It Ain’t So.” Back in the kitchen two industrial fans push around air at 110 degrees.

Her boyfriend is serving kamikazes dressed like a zombie from Thriller. All his carefully orchestrated fake old blood trickling from his forehead to his cheek.

Later they take his motorcycle across downtown in a summer drizzle that seems so cold.

In the wet, the city is like a shining toy. Or a barricade flashing. Battery operated.

She gets in the shower with some wine. Breaking the slippery glass, she nudges the pieces into the drain with her toe.

He leans half naked into the railing of their 5th floor apt. Makeup off, contacts out, glasses on, bloodshot. His thick cigarette enduring soft drops plunging from the August black.

The bartender and the dishwasher. They go to bed early and make wishes into each other’s warm hair, into the three-paddle ceiling fan, out of their window that looks out to other windows.

Out on the street they left only moments ago, the light pollution makes the stars into squinted pinpricks. Anti-reflections of amber streetlight in a prostitute’s tar-dark eyes as she sits low in the passenger seat of a car that belongs to a man whose name she does not know.

The city is like an awkward teenage boy who wants a first kiss, or that same attention. The city is writing a letter to itself on itself. Each letter in the shape of a drop of rain. The littlest prayer for the certain hope that tomorrow keeps becoming today.

Halloween Story c. 2005 (For Aloma) by D.M. Jerman

For halloween last Jennifer was Rosie the Riveter. She took on the idea of keeping with a theme for all Halloweens to come. She would have her costumes represent 'Important Women thruout the Ages'. This year she got stuck somehow on wanting to be the Delphic Oracle. But only up until the time I told her she'd have to dress in an old sheet and carry a stool she could sit on while also holding a laurel sprig. Also she would have to “inhale” ethylene and pretend to go into a trance.

Within an hour, the new passion was "Godzilla". Godzilla went thru a gender change real fast as you might imagine.

Halloween was on a Thursday night. She had decided on Godzilla on Sunday. So there was lots and lots of time to build a costume out of slabs of cardboard and other things stapled together before being spraypainted forest and neon green.

She had decided to make maximum noise. She was going to strap tin cookware to her feet and mash around the neighborhood. Our 'hood wasn't that big to begin with. But it was a great tradition to trick-or-treat at the 7-Eleven and then leave an offering of your favorite candy at “Pumpkin Rock" which sat high on the hillside adjacent to the episcopal church graveyard and was, each year, painted like a Jack-o-Lantern.

The Jonesons kept up this tradition. An ancient couple that lived just beyond the church property, who served as its landscapers and security force all at once. They had a mean german shepard named Barry that they would dress up like a fuzzy white bunny for the holiday each year. The costume did somehow take the edge off the snarling, drooling animal.

Mary and Rayanne, our neighbors from a mile out, were going as a drug dealer and a unicorn respectively.

I laughed when Jen told me. Then I got puzzled. A drug dealer? Kind of sounds like a less-than-wholesome persona for a 10-year-old to be portraying...

Jen came back with "Man, her dad couldn't afford to buy her a costume, so he let her borrow his clothes." I couldn’t seem to break her of the habit of calling me “Man” instead of “Mom.”

But I had one of those gleaming moments where I realize again that my daughter is socially aware & tactful & that I am often a bumbling nut full of questions.

Jen and Mary are the same age. Rayanne is 7. They made a good match in the end, the pair of them: Mary thugged-out. Holding the hand of her sister, dressed in fuzzy purple with a big gold horn. She had been a unicorn last year, too.

The night of, a few hours before we dressed to leave, we planned our route.

I issued a challenge, as I do every October 31. This year was 100 pieces of candy. Averaging 2-3 pieces per house, I deemed that we were going to hit approximately 55 houses. At about a minute a house, it should take us one hour. Mary seemed very pleased.

Down Main street we ran into Benny Cho who was also in the 4th grade, dressed like a piece of popcorn. And Karen Motley, who had made herself into a creative rendition of the Empire State Building. They joined us, and I told them our last stop was Pumpkin Rock.

Rayanne had never been there before, she admitted. She couldn't hide her excitement.

Too, the littlest one was quick to compliment my costume. Even tho' she couldn't guess out just who I was. My answer:

"A character I watched in my Saturday morning cartoons growing up... Rainbow Brite!"

Obviously, I had dated myself. She had no frame of reference.

The kids had reached the challenge goal by about 42 houses, so I cut it short and we went up to the Jonesons for cider.

Jen, the female Godzilla, and Mary, the drug-dealing gangster, were hanging out and keeping it low key when they were together. I watched them hold hands and whisper. When I'd realized they'd gone up to the Pumpkin Rock by themselves, I waited a moment. Then followed. Rayanne was deep in conversation with Mrs. Joneson and managed to make friends with Barry.

Mary was crying. I let Godzilla tell me what was wrong.

"Her dad lost his job and she's afraid they're going to have to move out and be homeless. And that she might have to leave Rayanne."

"Why would they have to leave each other?"

"I don't know. She's really scared, tho'."

I moved over to Mary: "Everything will be alright baby. You'll see. Maybe while your dad finds a brand new job, you can stay with Jen and I for awhile."

Godzillas eyes lit up. 

I continued: “At least we could eat all our Halloween fare together and get fat!!"

Mary giggled and I squeezed her close. Her tears resolved and she wiped at the rest. We all smiled then, and howled at the moon as it arrived out from its veil of grey clouds.

The youth in these girls made all the possibilities in me glow with heedfulness. A likely lesson for Halloween.