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Jim Marquez

The old man's stump flapped against the ridged side of his body-his dance choreographed to the hoots and whistles of the carousel. His little feet shuffling. Strewn hair crackling electric as the ocean breeze comes over the Santa Monica Pier and blows through the passageway leading up to a carnival of prancing horses. Arm and stump raised to the heavens as he circles an imaginary partner. The ghost of a dead wife? The last breathes of his own life escaping? He looks like a cavorting demon.

I stand there with a dripping chocolate ice cream cone in my hand. I won't look away. I see how his stump sticks out of a short sleeve shirt unabashedly. How his feet skip to the left, then right, then how he slips into a tight circle, slowly widening into a graceful arch as he makes his way around the room.

There's a rumor going around that people in LA don't pay attention to each other, but that's not totally true. For even if the dozens of others lined up to hop on the merry-go-round for $.50 a pop don't notice, I do. I have no choice. He is making me watch. I can't help but trace the line of his gray unshaven cheekbone. See his wild ashen hair billow about as if he was walking underwater. See that fucking stump of his obscenely gesticulating uncontrollably through the salty air.

I want so desperately to take his life. To seek his knowledge, to carry his wisdom into the new century; to find out how the fuck he can be perfectly content making a mockery of himself and not giving a rat's ass.

And for some reason I can see him running that misshapen appendage of his over my freshly scrubbed genitals. Probing my penis and scrotum with the blunt end of his very short elbow. I am not gay, but I see him hovering close over me. Feel his shallow breath brushing near my neck. Feel the scruff of his chin whiskers seeking out my chest. Smell the obvious odor of the grave seeping out of every orifice and wrinkled crevice of his body.

"You know, 'True Romance' wasn't such a bad movie after all..." I hear a voice say as I step deeper into the room, minding my dripping cone and then come to rest on a bench against the wall. From there, I sit and watch this spectacle. I can hear the rush of the waves, feel its breath too along the back of my neck and the old man dances for me, well, maybe not for me, but certainly for the horses and for the kids as they stagger droopy-eyed and soulless out of the arcade; for the babies in strollers, for Jesus why I'm perspiring. It smells like old cum in here, after a masturbation, after its been sitting wrapped up in a tissue and sitting under the bed or near the desk.

I can't sleep anymore, no matter how exhausted I am I can't force myself to go to bed; so I watch TV or watch the videos of all the shit I recorded or I read or I write. Looking for underage porn on the Internet once held a morbid fascination but no longer. Even that got boring. DVDs? Too many Sold most of them to a used record shop in Hollywood for five bucks a shot. But watching this old man by the sea I want nothing more than to find sleep. To be held in that sleep. To feel the heated back of another pressed up against mine. To know what will be there in the morning so I won't have to look anymore.

A cackle of laughter rises into the spacious room. I don't know if people on the carousel are laughing at the old man dancing, at the ice cream dripping onto my erection, or at the pure, unadulterated joy of being on a carousel and not worrying about a goddamn thing.

The laughter is followed by another gust of wind-the same type of coastal winds that rip your skin off down there off the Point in Palos Verdes-and it ripples over my body, making the old man cover his face with his one good hand. I look over my shoulder, through a window, down the length of the pier and out onto open sea. The glistening blue/grey is crawling, sliming its way to the shore, and it is immaculate. I remembered tossing rocks into a paper cup on the side of Pacific Coast Highway as the sun went down. How she and I tried and laughed and continued to gather up stones and saying "Ok, ok, these are the last ones" and then quickly scampering for more anyway and my god, doesn't that one tiny fucking moment count for anything?

"Excuse me...," somebody mumbles, and it's the dancing bear himself as he sits to rest. I can't bring myself to utter, speak, drool, or bullshit anything in response. I nod, scoot aside, lick my cone. "Carousel's coming to a too," he says as he reaches into a daypack under the bench for a brown-bagged Budweiser. "Damndest things," he says more to the bottle than me, and gulps. "Goddamndest things..."

I see the beet red of his scalp under the brim of his straggly hair. Age spots en masse. The apple in his throat protrudes like a buoy bobbing in rough seas. He swallows voraciously. And the sounds of the pier begin to dissipate. The laughter and sloppiness of children fade. The schlepping of passing homeless recede. Birds and their distorted calls. A young woman's shrieking. Bad memories and evil thoughts sink to the bottom of the bay.

What is it about you that I have always come to find? That I seem time and time again attracted to despite previous warnings. What is with you that distorts my sensibilities and blurs my vision? Look at the sun bouncing off the water. Answer my question! Look at the 16 year old grabbing her boyfriend's cock as they dismount the horse with the black dots. I want to know. Look, there, a couple in their mid-twenties walking arm and arm. The boy with a chocolate cone, the lady with vanilla. Now that's funny. At least it used to be.


Jim Marquez, 33, proudly single, is an L.A. based freelance writer who has been published internationally in print with Fear, Soma, Gallery, Gadfly and Roughnews.

Recently, the Internet has discovered his work with CleverMag.Com, SinglesFaq.Com, TheLongWalkHome.Com, and of course, here, with us, the best damn site in the free world with the lads at 3amMagazine.

Jim's just come back from dragging his sorry and drunken ass all over South Korea for four grueling weeks on the cheap as he followed his U.S football team through World Cup 2002. A veteran of Cup '94 & '98, he also plans to march on Germany in '06.

Jim's back packed all over Europe numerous times blah, blah, blah, and writes, and, blah, blah, and believe it or not is a professor of English at a local college back home. For his next trek this not so young man is headed east: Vienna, Budapest, Bansk, & Krakow. Of course this is all just fodder until he can scrape up enough dough to safari trough the jungles of Africa, actually in the bush, and go on the hunt...may goddamn his American bravado...

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