Three Stories by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois


The Failure of Velcro


I remember where I was the moment all the world’s Velcro simultaneously failed. We were in a hotel on the beach at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My wife was drawing a picture of a monkey eating a banana, a common sight in her home country. At first I was not aware of the magnitude of what had happened. No one was.


As I was leaving the quarry, my rear axl broke (it was not an axle—if it had been an axle, it might not have broken. At that time, I was not aware of the difference between an axl and an axle. A lot of people are ignorant of that difference, even most mechanics).

I was wondering if something like that might happen. I’d put my trust in God, but God was not worthy of my trust. I didn’t think the failure of the world’s Velcro was responsible. There was no Velcro in my axl, though I did have some duct tape holding together parts of the car’s interior and the front bumper.


The Mayan ruins sit heavily in the dark, as do the gowned Mayan women in the red brocade opera seats, like cups of chocolate candy in foil wrappings.


Hinduism is surely the most compassionate religion, says my new father-in-law, who is about my age. Here at my advanced age, I close my eyes and the image of so many topless, full-breasted women crowd my mind, some with skin of azure like the sky, and I try to parse it out—are these temple images, or memories of women I have bedded?


It was an old car. It was an old God. This God had a lot of staying power. He was the foundation stone for a world of stupidity. Obviously, my car didn’t have staying power. It was what used to be called a “jalopy.” The Kelly Blue Book said it was worth 99 cents, the same value as the autobiography I’d placed on


Now if I were a Christian, all I would have would be a stark image of a crucifixion, a man in agony, and the question would be: Is that me, or Him?


In the island church, in a niche where a religious statue would normally stand, is a golden ship with black sails. Outside the church, a dreadlocked alcoholic is ranting to himself. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, my son and his wife are sailing their ramshackle boat. They mend the sails as they go.


I abandoned my car. Luckily I hadn’t filled the tank for my return trip. It had maybe 99 cents worth of gas in it. I took a torn sweater out of the back seat and headed down the dirt road which led away from the quarry.


Consumerism pulls me like a rip tide but I’m a strong swimmer and learned long ago to swim across the rip to make my way to shore. On my back on the beach, breathing hard, I need nothing but these breaths, and the pretty shells scattered around me, calcium in the shape of life. I raise the largest to my ear. It speaks to me in Arabic. It says: Help us, please.


The Madonna holds a knitting needle. I hope she doesn’t accidentally poke me in the eye. The pastor makes small talk, then asks for a donation.


A black woman walks away from this church, the Cathedral of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, the virgin whom I have followed from Sicily to Mexico and into the Caribbean. The black woman’s back is muscular. I would like to wrestle her.


Wind Power


I was walking down the beach road toward a man who was sitting on a wall overlooking the ocean, the sand stinging his legs, when a metal sign from a tourist shop across the road that read Tikets Avilable came unhooked, spun in the wind and beheaded him. I reflexively ducked. My new watch fell from my wrist.

I thought: Words should not be wasted on vegetables and birds. There are too many orphans needing our language, too many refugees threatened by terrorists on one side and right-wing Amerikan extremists on the other.

Other facts: His brother, an amateur beekeeper, had been attacked by a swarm of bees. His wife had contracted Lupus and didn’t have the energy to attend to his stings. The family’s oldest daughter, just entering high school, was showing early signs of schizophrenia.


Then true misfortune befell me. They wouldn’t let me back in the USA, even if I promised to leave my dachshund behind, even if I abandoned my cart, even if I left my battered saxophone, even if I stripped down to my grey underwear and hobbled into the homeland over sharp gravel. What part of no don’t you understand, asked the immigration official.


His brother’s basement had had a hidden leak and now their cellar was filled with black mold, an aggravation to Lupus. There was nothing he could do about the problems his brother and his family were having so he threw his old violin into the field. Then, a few days later, he was beheaded. Though it had nothing to do with it, ISIS comes to mind. ISIS is to beheading as Santa Claus is to Christmas.


I leave the bathroom door open and shave, shooting foam from a miniature red and white striped can of Barbasol, pulling a Costco razor cartridge across my face, going sideways to get the stubble from the pits in my chin. I look, I think, young for my age.


They confiscated my passport. The underling said: Go be a prostitute and earn the money to hire some bandito to guide you across the desert to the border.


Now I’m in prison. I tell myself it’s for the death of my dog. Those windmills that destroyed the quality of life in our township cost a million dollars each. I wish I’d had the TNT to blow them all up.


Superman’s Defeat


The actors who play Batman and Superman get in a fight over who will ride the pygmy elephant at the Cinco de Mayo carnival. This is out of sight of all the little Mexican-American children who stand by the side of the road waiting, eating churros. It starts as a fistfight but devolves to ground fighting.


After my wife and I divorced, I started out with a two-hundred-dollar Studebaker, but later in life, I was reduced to a dog cart. I started with a big dog but ended with a dachshund, and a dachshund can’t pull even a short man like me. I went to Mexico and had my stomach stapled, but the dachshund still looked at me with disgust. Like all dachshunds, he was bitter and stupid. In fact, his IQ test had shown that he was in the lower quartile for dachshunds. I’d paid a psychologist ten dollars to administer the test, money I really couldn’t afford. But neither Batman or Superman were doing any better than I was.

The actors who play those superheroes are not trained fighters. Both are clumsy and ineffective. They roll around in the dust like women cat-fighting over a man. Finally Batman pins Superman, then dusts off his costume and goes off to ride the elephant, while Superman sits on the ground rubbing injured parts of his face and body.


I decided I would stay in Mexico, become a Mexican, and use the money to buy another Studebaker, one that shuddered even when the engine wasn’t turned on.


A rat crawls up on Superman’s shoulder and whispers suicidal thoughts in his ear, which he tries to ignore. He hates playing Superman, hates having to avoid bars for fear some patron will challenge him to a fight or armwrestling match. He is actually pretty weak, and wants to be playing Hamlet.


We sailed south into a sunburnt nowhere that we could not see because our optic nerves had been fried, but we’d been told that the skeletons of slaves littered the landscape.

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over thirteen-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes, and was awarded the 2017 Booranga Writers Centre Prize for Fiction. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.

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