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Likewise, Rise Up, All You Angels of Disquiet
by Spencer Dew


    The phone sex girl was asleep when I called. She kept yawning, smacking her tongue. She kept stretching, or doing something that sounded like stretching.
    In the silence, after, I could hear her co-workers in their cubicles, their laughter, faux moans, someone saying, sternly, "I told you to go to bed two hours ago."
    Then I hung up, and there was only the wall, lacerated in cold blue, parking lot light. A smell of clams to the bedding. The distant turning over of the ice machine.
    The phone sex girl was asleep when I called. Guillotines of darkness, sequential actions, grids. A network of numbers. Mathematics as a form of melodrama. I dialed, hung up, dialed again.
    Phone sex always frightened me – the initiative required. My scrotum clenched up. My bladder signaled wildly that it needed to pee.
    The phone sex girl yawned and purred, made a sound like shaking her head back and forth, exhaled. A bone popped somewhere in her, a joint.
    When I hung up, there was only the wall. A crack of light through the curtains. A smell of clams in the bedding. The distant turning over of the ice machine.
    Asleep at her cubicle, asleep on the job, she woke with the sound of smacking, a gulped breath, a purr. She claimed her name was Melanie, though I heard Mallarmé first and prefered it, blunt idiot that I am, hairy and naked in a motel room, my penis in my hand, unresponsive.
    Sequential actions. An infinite receding. Process, purified into a mirror of itself.
    The phone sex girl made a sound like shaking her head back and forth, exhaled. A bone popped somewhere in her, a joint.
    In the silence, after, I could hear her co-workers, laughter, faux-moans. "I told you to go to bed two hours ago."
    Disconnect. A smell of clams in the bedding. An echoed rumble from the ice machine down the hall.
    Back then, during my refugee days, those months of living in motel after motel, moving through the heartland, just ahead of everything that had made me so afraid, back then I would cover the mirrors at night, with towels.
    The phone sex girl was asleep when I called. She claimed her name was Melanie, though I heard Mallarmé first and prefered it, idiot, always frightened, lacking any sense of initiative, scrotum shriveled, bladder twitching. But I calmed myself with blank, rote thoughts on Mallarmé, art as a serial project, an ongoing conversation with oneself – utterly empty, pathetically alone.
    And in the silence, after, the rustle of wings. Rock doves, strutting back and forth, their chortle, their modulated gurglings.
    The phone sex girl told me in a bored tone what she was not wearing. I began to stroke, that simplest solipsism, and she asked where I was calling from, standard small talk on the 2.99-a-minute low budget lines. "Yorba Linda," I said, because some names are stable, like the womb. Yorba Linda, sweet deity, protectress, holy bride. She yawned again.
    I fought back a sob, though the cause was indistinct. An amputated memory of the financial district, shadows shifting through the canyons, that last most painful hour before the commuters push their way through revolving doors. In my mind I stood by a fountain, some faultless gold-speckled autumn afternoon, a paper sleeve of peanuts in my hand.
    "I told you to go to bed two hours ago." The walls of yet another temporary room. A serial project, chronicling only its own progression – mathematical, melodramatic, utterly alone.
    I lied to the phone sex girl, and she, in an unscripted moment, told me she was from somewhere close by, do I know it, so I made another lie: "Not California, sweetie; Yorba Linda, Texas, just shy of the border line." My hands wouldn't stop shaking. My erection, what there had been of it, was gone. I had no idea where I was, really, had forgotten even the number of the highway that had taken me there, save that it must have been pretty much a straight shot, day after day, away from where I started.
    The phone sex girl shook her head back and forth, exhaled. She bent backwards. Something inside her snapped. Guillotines of darkness. The bedding, the ice machine. Fall had dropped fast into winter – broad-gestured, plain, and absolute.
    And in the mornings, inevitably, there would be pigeons everywhere, across the parking lot and the frozen fields outside – rock doves, common city pigeons – pecking at bits of trash, the pavement, the frozen soil. Rock doves: their chortle, their modulated gurglings.
    She was asleep when I called. She stretched, cleared her throat, yawned. The wall, the splinter of cold, blue, parking lot light. Disconnect. And in the mornings, inevitably, there would be pigeons everywhere – urban birds, survivors. This was true in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois. This remained true in Iowa, Nebraska, out to the edge of Colorado, where I finally came to my senses, I guess, or at least stopped.
    Some days I would stand outside with scraps of leftover takeout, a reduced loaf of gas station bread, or the free toaster pastries from the lobby with its little poster of the flag and the words "Thank You for Traveling."
    Rock doves in mottled marble, dalmatian, iridescent, violet and pale ivory, sandy salmon, mother of pearl. Rock doves, necks tucked and ruffled against the cold. Rock doves, rising like a deck of cards exploded from the dealer's hand.



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Midnight Picnic
a novel by
Nick Antosca

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The Suburban Swindle


More about The Suburban Swindle
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