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BOOK OF LISH

by

Trent Walters

In my bib overalls, on my way from the farm to the United Broken States Federal Post Office as I liked to call it, to drop off a post and drop into the library of Babel as my brother liked to call it--but picture the post: a picture postcard, the kind sent out on Christmas with the whole family gathered round the Christmas tree, only this was of my brother's dog, Jake, sitting on my brother's tractor, a picture postcard headed for somewhere near the Arabian Sea, somewhere I cannot pronounce, somewhere where my brother was who had joined the Army because he disagreed with me and Mama that we should have helped the Vietnamese struggling for freedom, a picture postcard with a bunch of words that rang wrong and hollow to me now that I glance over them again but sounded right when I wrote them or as right as I could write them in the tiniest letters that the Army would no doubt cross out anyway like the did in Catch-22: "Here's Jake, I'm feeding him, ha ha, looking after farm, hope you're okay, hope what you're doing goes okay, Mama'd be proud but worried, you know how Mama got, but I know it's the right thing, I think, but I don't know what it means, you out there doing what you're doing, what are you doing, do you think it's the right thing, what's it all about, what's it mean, are you happy or sad or angry or frustrated or mixed up and crazy, I want you happy and not sad and not crazy but it's all so sad and crazy, people dying is sad and crazy, I'm sad and not crazy but I don't want to die either, what's right, Jake is, see how happy he is, see how that tongue lolls and longs to lick your face, love, your brother." I finish reading and turn the postcard back to the picture which seems right on top of the wrong, the wrong words, the words I couldn't find right--but before I drop off the picture postcard, I drop into the library, road the empty aisles, pick up a book with a ghostly white dust jacket--Moaner at the Door--spooky--no, I read it wrong: Mourner--still spooky, spookier still. The spine is unbroken. The pages serrated, jagged, uneven--difficult to turn, even with a wet thumb. Or a green thumb if you happen to be a farmer like me, good at digging up weeds and roots, pleased with whatever you happen to find. But I cannot flip through these pages to find the story I want. The stories are lists, lists of names I cannot pronounce, lists of places I cannot pronounce, lists of questions I can pronounce. I pronounce them like rock candies that would break your teeth if you bit too hard. A candy dish overflowing with lists. An ethereal dish of lish I wish I'd grown up with so I could pronounce them at the barren earth as a curse or an oath for when it wouldn't listen, when it wouldn't obey and freely offer up her bounty. A lish of lists you can see through if you raise the dish up to the light by the barn late at night when moths swarmed and beat their bodies against the light encased in invisible glass. A list of lish, this book is. I skip the lists I cannot pronounce. Was I wrong? Was I bad? Did I miss something? Okay then. I skip to the end. I'm on the edge of something, the end of something, the edge of meaning, something life-threatening, life-changing, something meaningful to my life... I close the book and reshelf it randomly to contribute to the purposeful chaos. Postmodernism ain't so bad. But how about a post post? I finish my errands. I don't look at the words on the back side of the picture postcard when I open up the blue mailbox that squeaks and clanks when I open it all the way and drop the post. Was I wrong? Was I bad to write what I wrote? I close my eyes and lean against the cold blue metal box and turn to warm myself in the cold orange October sun.






ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Trent Walters is a medical student at Creighton University. Works of his have appeared in Carleton Arts Review, Full Unit Hookup, Minnesota River Review, and The Pittsburgh Quarterly.








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