Mark Edmund Doten | Blackbird
Mark Edmund Doten is enrolled in Columbia Universitys MFA writing program. His fiction has appeared in USERLANDS: NEW FICTION WRITERS FROM THE BLOGGING UNDERGROUND, ed. by Dennis Cooper (Akashic Books), Word Riot, and Web del Sol site The Potomac where he is a contributing editor. His interviews with Edmund White and Rick Moody have appeared in Internet publications. In June 2007 New York Magazine ran an excerpt from his fiction as part of a profile that named him one of six future stars of New York area writing programs. His website is greenzonekidz.blogspot.com.
On the highway trucks were downshifting, three days wasted. The sun on my face, the rain on the windows, a fat moon prying up another field of soybeans. Id just missed him in D-----. And now? In M-----, where coffees to be had for 75 cents a cup, a new noise in the windbreak pines. At midnight the rig pulls up. He climbs out and stretches, hand on gut. That mouth: licorice and cigarettes. And the air he pulls in his lungs, imagine: wet grass, pavement after rain. I test the action of my .45 under the table (he loved that nickel handle, yes he loved it) and signal for the check.
All we want is murder on video. A screen within a screen. In black and white the ski mask pulls trigger, the boy at his chest drops, the film loops twice, three times, and again. While in our palm-treed world (this hospitality, these paper cups filled with cups) something keeps panning: Dennis, rattlesnake, it fixes us. Indian Summer slips into your heart and very quietly shuts it off. Then, later: LA doesnt care enough to hate Calvin. Or: It is terrible to be alive. The oldest spent the least time surveying your good things to come: smokeless, candy in your sweats, they turned you out. Someone at least drive me to the drugstore! kiddo, I wasnt driving. Your blog < / polite cough>: We were all about the old school! I miss Bill Clinton and wish he could have known you like I did once ; ) so Ill call, someone says theyre calling, and hands pocketed, easy.
family now. Just wait. A decade back I hired a private detective to find my mother, one-time star of silver screen. He riffled aliases, saved his receipts, at last picked the lock of a Saskatchewan dry goods concern, where she paid him off and fled. I hired another. Bangor, lighthouse: likewise dispatched. The third tackled, palmed her a note: I dont need love. Movie connections? That long flophouse summer we banged out our spec. She would play Nathan, he Dickie, and I Bobby Franks. Or she Darrow, I Nathan, and he the alienists. Our future trembled, legion. In the wee hours, she and I stubbed out Kools, undressed and waited, the detective bedding down with whomever he deemed to have carried the day, writing-wise. What an ear he had! The mother/son/detective combo was dynamite, the coverage was dynamite, every executive tossed us a water bottle and winked. Nothing. Nothing. Hollywood is best struck with an oar, then sued. What we wanted belonged to someone else. We didnt know. Why did you ever come looking? she screamed. I was happy with my guitars and breakfast cereal! The detective tipped his hat and vanished into the rain. His last words: Its not salvation, but were still alive.
The children pass spats, afros, nose rings, polo shirts and I rest, head on fist. I only rest, turned away from what I love most. But what was that? The memory of knowing cuts like the memory of seasons: another chill. Children die far away, they grow older and die, and I wait for what... nothing but seasons. One night a child fell at my foot. Men loaded her into the ambulance, too late. Which of us chose the other? Which of us passed, and which changed? It will snow so soon, never on my face.
This is not my face.
You have been Mr. Schaefer. Also Drs. Boyd and Zebriskie. You have been a vagrant, rock star, math teacher, short order cook. This month, CEO of AOL/Time Warner, you dictate a memo w/r/t declining market share in the Cincinnati metro area, tear the shrink wrap from your binoculars and swivel to the window, refusing all callers.
The leaves blaze and fall, they tumble down the frontage road whirling up insects, condom wrappers, lottery tickets. And then? Brown leaves and trash, too many tag ends, the old inevitable: a torn something-or-other scraping the bumper of a familiar black sedan. You catch as catch can (cigarettes, AA batteries) knowing that even these things will be stripped away. You scribble a note to your wife, pad down fifty flights of stairs, you vanish.
Treasure the witness stand, the betrayal, the bullet that will one day tear through your neck; these are your only possessions. For love, fugitive, is a telephone ringing five minutes after youve left the office. And your secretary, pulling on her raincoat, watches it, and does not answer, and closes the door.