Kim Csizmazia: Year of Dragon (excerpts)

Fall '09 TOC

Spring

         Especially in the pause of dawn, Megan often wondered why Moon and Cherry-Blossom were her friends.
         Cherry-Blossom was really Hannah, but Moon was Moon or depending on her mood she might be Moon-shadow, or Moonshine, or Moon-Dust. In certain situations Moon was The-Man-on-the-Moon, but that was mostly when she was high.
         Once Megan asked Moon, “Why not the woman or the chick on the moon?” Moon just threw back her yellow hair and giggled, “Because I am The Man.” Megan thought that was dumb and she decided not to smoke dope anymore because of it.
         Cherry-Blossom was more specific. She’d been to Sarajevo in the early 80’s as a rotary exchange student. In the spring she had fallen in love with a Muslim schoolmate. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom at the time and she’d never been able to shake the passion ignited and then contained between old-world, plaster walls and cobbled streets.
         Cherry-Blossom loved to tell this story: Once, she and her lover went to the Cathedral of Jesus’ Heart to make out. They’d slouched down on the wooden pew in the gloomy back row. Her lover felt like a warm, wool blanket wrapped around her.
         The gigantic door creaked open and a wedge of hazy light sliced down the center aisle. An old woman dressed in black shuffled in. The woman dipped her fingers in the baptismal pool, father-son-and-holy-ghosted herself, then shuffled forward to a pew. The rhythmic sound of rosary beads clinked off the mural-painted walls.
            Cherry-Blossom and her boyfriend pulled away from each other and froze. On the far side of the church was a shrine with flickering votive candles. The old woman rose up and moved to the shrine. There she crossed herself again, muttered another prayer, and lit a candle. “They do this to remind their prayers to continue praying. As if! They pray and cross themselves non-stop. They need reminders like they needed a siege.”
            Still, Megan thought the image of old ladies praying non-stop was sweet. Every time she heard Cherry Blossom tell the story, she imagined the old woman’s reminders manifesting as filament prayer ghosts. They floated away from the shrine like the cottonwood seeds used to float through the summer air in Idaho when she was a kid. The prayer ghosts floated up past the larger-than-life crucified Jesus, tickling his sinewy legs, rubbing his stomach and chest, and then, finally, curling around his face before they disappeared in the shadows that obscured the cathedral ceiling.

Summer

            Megan liked to hike up a steep gully behind town. In a few blocks the streets ended at the wooded incline of Grotto Mountain.
            Today she hiked with Moon and two bottles of wine.
            Moon had been fired from her deli job the day before, so Megan called in sick, which was halfway true. They hiked up the narrowing gully, stepping over water-worn boulders and making a trail of footprints in the sand until they reached a small cliff that blocked the way. A waterfall with the volume of a garden hose streamed over the cliff. The waterfall filled a shallow pool amongst dark limestone rocks.
            They removed their shoes and held their bare feet under the clear water. Megan poured wine into pastel-colored, plastic wine glasses.  
            Moon said, “I hated that job anyway.”
            Megan nodded and started to talk: She used to live on the second floor of an abandoned warehouse in San Francisco. A clan of cranksters occupied the ground floor. The cranksters stayed up all night, every night tending to their campfire, which they built to rage on the cement floor. They kept the fire contained in a cinderblock ring and fed it with wooden panels from the walls.
            Megan didn’t like their speed, their high-pitched madness, their teeth grinding, their lip-splitting grins. She kept quietly to herself and for the most part they ignored her when she passed along the outer perimeter of their space to reach the stairway at the far end of the room.
            Some of the steps of the staircase had been broken and removed for the fire. The whole structure had a tendency to sway away from the wall if she didn’t step and balance her weight correctly as she ascended.
            “One night one of them got loose,” she continued shifting her place on the flat rock she’d taken for a seat.
            The guy somehow made it up the stairs with out her hearing him. She always slept lightly but that night she awoke from the deepest sleep to find a radial arm saw blade held against her neck. He was stick skinny but strong as God. The speed pitched through his nervous system and fired his fast twitch muscles in a continuous convulsion. Megan didn’t resist when he picked her up. She didn’t resist when he yanked at her waistband. The button above her zipper popped off and rolled away on the old linoleum-covered floor.
            “You know,” Megan said stretching her neck by leaning her head over to the left and pulling down on the top of her head, “It was actually a turn on, the saw…”
            Moon stared at her. “Jesus,” she said.
            “I haven’t had an orgasm since.”
            “Jesus,” Moon said again.

            When Megan and Moon got back to the house, Cherry-Blossom was cutting the grass with a rusty old push mower. When she saw them approaching she stopped and waited. She pulled her ball cap off and rewrapped her hair into a bun before deftly sticking the cap back on.
            Megan and Moon sidled up.   
            “Megan got raped by some punk ass on speed.” Moon said.
            Cherry-Blossom frowned. She leaned on the mower and looked closely at her two roommates. “What?” she said.
            Megan noticed the sky above Cherry-Blossom was the same color the water had been in the gully pool. “Don’t worry. It was sexy,” she said.
            “Jesus.” Cherry-Blossom pushed an escaped strand of thick, red hair behind her ear. “Jesus. You’re drunk. Get me a bottle while I finish this.”

            That night Megan, Moon and Cherry-Blossom sat around on the deck smashed and arguing.
            “What if Islam isn’t a peaceful religion?” Megan said. “Some old Shiite dude gets virgin pussy into eternity ‘cause he blew a bunch of Sunnis to bits. WTF?”
            “Well I should know. I sucked some Muslim lips.” Cherry-Blossom slurred and crawled across the floor to the coffee table to pour more wine.
            “Religion’s violence!”
            “Yeah I’m a legend. My saw-guy OD’d the next day; dead as a rat. The cops came and kicked us all out. They pulled the building down the next week. I’m snow woman, ghost princess.”
            Moon and Cherry-Blossom stared at her again.
“Wow Megan that is … well, where does that shit come from?” Moon staggered to open a window.
            The smell of damp, blooming plum flowers drifted in.

****

            Megan remembered a hole in the door with a light shining through, but there wasn’t a hole now. She ran her hands over the surface. It felt like a mass of wet fishing line. She thought she heard her grandmother whispering from behind. She strained to understand.
            She woke up soaked. She wiped her hairline with a corner of her pillowcase. Her t-shirt stuck to her back. She stood, heavy sweat rolled down her inner thighs.
            Outside, cricket song was like rushing water. A huge summer moon took up the sky.
            She sat at her desk on an old wooden chair. The hemline of her underwear pinched between her sharp sit bones and hard oak.
            She heard her Grandmother whisper again. This time her words were clear in the cool, moon air, “Use imagination to conjure truth.”
            Megan frowned and put her pen down, but then she said, “What the hell.” She picked it back up and imagined it blowing a whistle. The pen became a ruddy-faced cop. The cop’s cheeks puffed out and his eyes bulged. But he was a kind cop and not stupid like most. His whistle was magic. “That’s strange,” she thought, but she focused on the tip of her pen as it scribbled across the page. “It’s the least I can do.”
            The pen raged up into the annals of her hidden things. When it tore toward the blooms in her dusk, she held back against the moon and watched from across her proprioceptive gap: the pen pushed across her pages, gently at first, then more strongly as night progressed and pushed into dawn. Then dawn pushed into daybreak and Megan’s imagination fell back to her body. Out spilled her cherry lips; grey eyes as clear as spring water; skin, soft as forgotten snow; a notebook and a pen in hand; her reflection solid and everywhere in the morning dew.

****

            The next day was Sunday, the 3rd of July. Megan, Cherry-B (as Hannah was now calling herself) and Moon sat on the front porch wilting in the first hours of a hundred degrees for the summer.
            “My feet are sweaty. They never sweat. Shit, usually they’re frozen,” Moon said in a way that expected no comment. She sat with her back against the brick wall of the house. Her feet were gray-black grimy and she slid them back an forth on her flip-flops smearing the toe jam and flip flop scum back and forth across the spongy pink plastic.
            Cherry-B lay prone in an old lawn chair. She stared straight down through the plastic webbing. “When you think of, who do you think of?” she asked.
            “What do you mean?” Moon said.
            “I mean, when you think of, who do you think of?”
            “Think of who?”
            “I’m asking you.”
            “What?” Moon shoved her feet all the way forward in her flip-flops and stood up. “You don’t …”
            “I think of my dad,” Megan said. She was half-asleep in the hammock slung between a brick porch beam and the trunk of the plum tree. “My dad. I wrote fifteen pages about him last night. How…finally. He thinks he hates me but he doesn’t.”
            From somewhere on the other side of the house a single grasshopper began a high-pitched scream. Nobody spoke. The scream modulated. A whole troupe of grasshoppers joined in: an artful big band of wings and stiff legged instruments.
            “Did you write some poems?” Cherry-B said from her still prone and completely relaxed position. Her unkempt hair spread out from around her head like an Aztec sculpture of the sun.
            “No.” Megan’s hair was unkempt too. Actually all three of them were a mess but Megan had only slept for a drunken hour before her strange dream about the weird door. Then her writing gush had kept her up the rest of the night. “No. No poems. Just word vomit. I don’t know what I wrote. I had a weird dream. I couldn’t sleep.” She felt stoned, completely spent.
            “I had a weird dream too,” Moon said. She’d moved now to the other side of the deck, the shady side where a pine tree grew. She stroked her fingers across the needles. “I was stressed out that all my tobacco was gone. When I went to get some money, I thought this must be a sign because all the cabinets in the kitchen were open.”
            “Ha, that’s because all the cabinets in the kitchen are always open because you leave them open,” Cherry-B said.
            “I’m feeling really angry,” Megan interrupted. She stretched and yawned.
            “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know I’ve got this thing about doors.” Moon said.
            “No not you! My dad.”
            “Oh.”
            “Fuck it. We won’t think about that.” Suddenly Cherry-B jumped up. Let’s look at these. She pulled a small cardboard box of animal cards out of her pocket. “The art work is worth it no matter what.” She slid her fingers under the cards, cut the deck and held them out in a fan for Megan to chose. Megan chose the closest: a blue firefly flying against purple dawn clouds.

:: TOC ::

Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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