“wash it down with gin” (NF) and two paintings by Kelly Matheson

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Each joint has a price. In terms of insurance, that is. Worker’s comp is a son of a bitch to people who sprain an ankle because you wore flip-flops to work that day or slipped on ice in the break room. But if you find a band-saw and make the calculated decision to remove appendages to work the system, you’ll find a legend of values for each limb and ligament. I know this because my brother cut his fingers off. I half wondered if he did it just to get out of work for a few months. At least it got rid of those trashy prison tattoos on his fingers. That’s the kind of contempt you hold for someone who has tried to choke the life out of you on multiple occasions. He received a settlement check that gave him the only stability he ever had.  A trailer that he paid the down payment on and then never made another payment. He rented the lot, of course. It was in the middle of nowhere and we only visited him a few times to help him clean and move in. He was riding a sympathy high for a while. He got to live the way he wanted. No responsibilities like working, paying bills, or cleaning. Just smoking, bartering his pain meds, and making god-awful food. He sat in a singlewide trailer, chain smoked and corresponded with a slimy attorney every day to make the best case and get the biggest payout. He got a check for somewhere in the neighborhood of $17,000. A hell of a bankroll for someone who’d been relegated to poverty his entire life. With it, he played house. He found some semblance of love and got married. Even attempted to start a family. Several months of marital and patriarchal bliss. He added an entirely impractical iguana to the mix. Years later, on one of his quests to live on the fringe of society, he let the beast freeze to death. After a year of growing moss and a rubber tree, a Magic Chef range and having to maintain 700 square feet, it all proved to be too much for him. All relationships were too much for him. I have no qualms admitting his accident was most likely on purpose. My brother was a rambler in a post-rambler world. There are no more brakemen and hobos. Only sad, lonely homeless men who claim park benches in the winter and creeks in the summer. It never did sit right with me knowing he was sleeping in the park or on someone’s floor. He wouldn’t reach out often to me considering my brash nature and my selfish shithead of a husband. He wasn’t welcome as an overnight guest and he knew this. I can blame my husband, but that kind of life scared me. No stability, no check, no 800-thread-count pillowcase and lamp to light my nightly escape from reality in some book. Brian was a bastard. Not in the descriptive sense, but in reality. He knew because he was told over and over and over again. Drilled in him that he was a mistake, born to be resented.  He was made in a one-horse pseudo-old-west town as revenge for my mother to pay back my father for all the bullshit he pulled. My brother, his namesake nonetheless, was the collateral damage. With each signature and roll call he was reminded that he was the illegitimate child of his mother and named after the man she avenged herself against. He was not wanted and he would never truly know his lineage. He was always a problem or issue to be dealt with, with thrown punches and sharp words. Funny thing is I met his so called biological father. He looked nothing like him. So in all these fights and mud slinging there was a name that rang out. But now I knew that wasn’t even his real father. I never made this known to my brother, we never talked about anything really. Until the day this mans obituary came out. I’ll never know if my brother believed me when I told him, there’s no way that was your father. It made me feel sad for him. It made me remember when he turned eight. The doctors handed down the news. It felt like a terminal diagnosis at that time. Juvenile diabetes. To a family with no money, no prospects, and too much pride to accept help. Two shots a day. Insulin and syringes twice every day. Every day was a struggle. He was already ostracized in every way. In his own family. In school, due to his learning disabilities, which could probably be explained by his illness and the ever-present mood swings. Now he was different physically. He never belonged anywhere. His sheared wool was always black as soot. Constant fighting with my mother, who poured her resentment of his existence straight into him, unapologetically, which only exacerbated his distaste for living in reality. His ability to lie as a means to an end was honed at a young age. She told him what a sorry piece of shit he was. The fact of the matter remained that my mother and brother were so much alike in the fact that neither of them could hold a job very long or maintain any kind of relationship. They were both infamous for screaming matches in the front lawn. Fist fights and dramatic attempts on each others lives were just another day. In our little slice of rural North Carolina, it was always a first-name basis with all the deputies. In a time when mental illness was an urban issue, these were nothing more than rural realities. Nothing you can do to help them.  Keep them from shooting the neighbors. Anything more is out of my pay grade. The rest of the souls living in that hellhole are just SOL. So you wake up. Another day of shit to eat. Go to vacation bible school where you are taught to be grateful for the shit you eat. Forgive your mother and file your brother away in a part of your brain that can’t be explained or contacted without pain and confusion. Make a complacent attempt at finding normalcy and stability. Then they both die, and you are left craving shit for breakfast.

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Kelly Dishmond is an artist and writer who lives in Hickory, North Carolina. Kellsbells1783

“Gym Teacher” by G.P. DeSalvo

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G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“Wary” by G.P. DeSalvo

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G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“Mark” by G.P. DeSalvo

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G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“The Confrontation” by G.P DeSalvo

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G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“A Vigilant Soldier” by G.P. DeSalvo

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G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“Stroke” details by G.P. DeSalvo

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G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“The Miscarriage” and “Brian J. Ledbotter” G.P. DeSalvo

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There was a boy.  He had busy hands and nervous limbs and made messes everywhere.  Such a sensitive and wobbly soul begs to be protected from himself.  He was clumsy, awkward… and had fully sprouted hair everywhere… which, to her, signaled even greater tribulation on the horizon.  The more chest and leg hair he got, the more surveillance she installed.  She wanted to put throw pillows, rubber bumpers, soft edges and pampers all around him… after she paddled some sense into him, of course.

That’s why the cameras were always trained on him.  Better tracking and oversight lessened the need for reactive measures.  She was a proactive personality type A.

During her work day, she dutifully checked the monitors every few minutes.  It was for his own protection.  Being that she was hardly ever home– hadn’t been for years– this was her way of ‘keeping the lines of communication open.’

She was a modern mother on the go.  Today, she had a power meeting at nine.  She had lunch with upper management, CEO Bill Withers, to discuss the biennial budget at 11:17.  A career was in flux; she was roasting on both ends.  But, at age 44, she was still a stone-dead hottie with the personal pizzazz to work it to the top.

Watching her son while she was at work.

When he was at school, she couldn’t watch him.  Yet.  But she’d come to rely upon the homing device fixed to his leg, sadly, kept there on a semi-permanent basis.  This was because he couldn’t be trusted to fasten them on before he left for school.  Now, they wouldn’t be removed until she got home.  She gave him all the rope he needed and he ended up swinging every time.  Because of these ‘bracelets’, he claimed the others made fun of him, calling him Lock-Up Bitch.  She told him what any sane parent would: she told him to toughen up. She told him that he’s going to be a man soon enough facing far greater challenges than popularity contests.  He’d succeeded in slicing two of his trackers off.  That was before she had three custom designed, tamperproof (they were all supposed to be), with the small yet crucial modification of electric contacts.  To shock, of course.

Goodness, yes.

She could chart his exact latitude and longitude via satellite, if she wanted to.  When she had the time- which she didn’t today.

Watching him while she was attending her niner.  Watching him on her laptop while she was driving and talking on her cell phone.  There he’d be.  In his room, in the living room, in the den.  Kicking around with his shoulders slumped over that phone, his dark mop of hair hanging over his eyes.  She had parental controls on all of his devices, too.  She was no fool.

“Stop slouching, Brian!  My God.  Hold yourself like you’ve got some self-respect.  Do you want to have a dowager’s hump when you’re fifty?”  He drooped even more, probably to spite her.  His thumbs sparring with the phone screen.  “I wish you’d read.  Or go outside and take a walk to somewhere other than The 40 Stop or Burger Schwanz.”

She hadn’t put surveillance in the bathroom.  Yet.   So, he tried spending a lot of time in the bathroom.  But then she’d be on the intercom listening and intervening.  She could talk on the intercoms from her Bluetooth.  

“What’s going on in there, Brian?”

“Oh, god… nothing.”

“What’s taking so long?”

Silence.  Then, a series of stomps and he turned on the water.  She waited, listening to running water as she looked at the clock on her console, the hiss of the water in the sink distorted to static in her ear.

“Brian?  What’s taking so long?  Stop wasting water!”

“Nothing, mom.  Please.  I need a minute.  Can you give me a minute?”  He shouts over the faucet.

“Well… you’ve already had half an hour. And I think your hands are clean now!  My goodness!”

“Jesus Christ, I’m trying to shit.”

“Don’t talk to me that way, Brian!”

“Oh…”  He turned the water off.

“Oh what?!  I demand an apology!”

“For what?”

“For using profanity with me.  For treating me like an inconvenience.  I work too hard to be treated like this.”

“I’m sorry.”  At seventeen, his recently claimed manvoice was already fading, sinking back into him, like a the retracting head of a turtle.  “Please just…”

“I won’t tolerate that, Brian.  I won’t.”

“… can I just have a couple more minutes?  Please?”

“It’s not natural for a boy to sit there that long!  To use that much water.  It costs money, you know.  It all costs money!”

“Do you think that…”

“You’ll get hemorrhoids if you sit on a toilet seat for such a long time.”

“I’m constipated.”

“It’s how you eat, dear.”

“Maybe if you’d cook for me once in a while…”

“Oh now don’t start with that.  Please.  I am working to put good food on the table.  It’s not easy being the breadwinner and super parent too, you know!”  That was always the excuse.  “You won’t eat the dietary meals I buy for you.  Those are very nutritious.  They’re scientifically scored and engineered to cover all your recommended daily requirements.”

 

He looked down at the grey, sculpted indoor/outdoor carpeting of the bathroom.  

“They taste like paper.”

“That’s what salt and pepper is for, dear.  They’re very easy to fix…”

“So’s going to Burger Schwanz.”

“… just pop them into the micro and they’re good to go.  You’re just too lazy for your own good.  Lazy!  You won’t be skinny forever!  Trust me.  Start exercising now…”  The tiny, smart car she bought for him to drive was also outfitted with a GPS tracking device that she could monitor from her laptop.  Or her office computer.  Or her GeniusPhone.  She wasn’t able to commandeer this vehicle by remote.  Yet.  But, if he were foolish enough to drive to Burger Schwanz, she would automatically know he was headed towards Meridian Ave.  His path was always predictable.  He was smart, but not smart enough to be unpredictable.  “Where do you get all the money you’ve got to go to Burger Schwanz, anyway?”

 

Silence.

 

“I do homework for other kids.”

“You do what?”

“Homework.  For kids that’re having problems with their homework.”

“That’s cheating, Brian.”   She could tell he was lying.  About everything.

“Oh…”

 

Silence.

 

“Hello?  Brian, I said, that’s cheating.”

“No it’s not.  No it’s not.  I’m helping someone less fortunate than me.  That’s me not being selfish, like you always say.”

“Don’t try it, mister!  It most certainly IS cheating and I won’t hear of it.  No sir!  Not under those shingles!”

The first camera she installed, was a Panasonic Micro Digital Pantiltzoom camera.  ‘A NICE ALL PURPOSE CAMERA FOR GENERAL MONITORING PURPOSES’, was what the online product description said.  It got an average of four and a half stars in Consumer Reports reviews.  She bought that one when he was in first grade, back in the day.  It was a good enough camera, but it wasn’t tamper proof.  He could throw a ball cap over its simple, obtrusive design.  If he were out of range- or shrouding her frantically telescoping lenses- for too long, she’d be on the intercom shouting at him to present himself, front and center.   Currently, that piece of technology was an outdated- if still serviceable- relic in her ever-expanding and complex network of state of the art pinhole cameras, microphones and motion sensors.  She believed that Brian believed the Panasonic dinosaur no longer worked.

With all of this, she still couldn’t bring herself to take the final step in installing cameras in the bathroom.  This point was a painstaking, ongoing moral struggle for her.   After all, she wasn’t a fascist.

“I can’t see you, Brian.  I need to see you.  You’ve had enough alone time.”

“Goddamnit.”

She saw him come out of the bathroom, his pants still unfastened and then he disappeared out of frame.

“BRIAN J. LEDBOTTER!”

On her way out of downtown, with her laptop open on the passenger seat and the dash mounted screen linked to the tree cams trained on the exterior of their house, she turned the AC up full blast and took a sip of her Iced Capp.  She couldn’t afford to allow humidity to collapse her carefully crafted hair.  When she hit the I-270 acceleration ramp going 25 miles per hour, she glanced over at the laptop, the screen, split into quadrants of their home’s interior.  The shots were eerily still.  Their cat slept on the couch.  The sun played through the branches of the tree outside the living room window casting swirling phantoms and studding the room with diamonds: a series of small sunbursts followed by rainbows.  She reached over and- with a stroke of her finger- switched to a second block of cameras.

 

Still nowhere in sight.

 

What she hadn’t taken the time to realize, yet, is that her boy, often and with great intensity, traveled far in his mind.  Over walls and bridges, through space, folding time.  He blew things up below him.  One of those things was her.

 

Radio silence.

 

“Brian?  Brian?  Let’s go.  Let’s get in sight, here, buddy.”  She did her best to be patient.  That is, until nearly rear-ending a Humvee, stopped in a bottleneck, as she frantically swiped her touchpad toggling camera angles.  She barked threats and candy-coated invective into her Bluetooth.   As a driver, she convinced herself that she was being responsible because she was, basically, hands-free.  Her car was equipped with Smart Stop sensors for just these reasons.  She took her responsibilities seriously. “I swear, Brian, if I wreck this car you’ll be grounded for the rest of your natural days.   Just now, I was almost decapidated!  Don’t think that you can pull this baloney much longer… I’ll turn this car around and be back home in half an hour.   And you had better be in front of those eyes of mine well before that!” 

Somewhere, Brian was rolling his eyes and slamming his fists onto something.  He banged them against it until they were numb and swollen and the thing broke apart.

 

Radio silence.  Crackle of satellites and the big bang.

 

When she got out of range, she felt confident that when she returned home, her captures would reveal anything she needed to know.  Then there would be the fight and subsequent punishments.  It was getting harder and harder to physically lay into him the way she used to, the bigger and the more sullen he got.  But, like her job, she gave it 150%.   Spare the rod (and all those Confucius-type slogans).  It was then and there, sitting in the cool isolation of her vehicle- in that traffic jam on I-270- that she decided to push aside her squeamishness and finally install those nano-cams in the bathroom vanity (and tissue cozy).  She’d make an appointment with her favorite tech (with the full arm tattoo sleeves and nipple rings that showed through his shirt) at Alsnauer Security this week.  Her son’s health and welfare depended on it.

 

G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer