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The Brightside Where the Grass is Yellow

devoteddexter's picture devoteddexter
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Hello, hello, and why the hell are there so many monkeys in spacesuits?
I'm not complaining, it's just been a while.

Alrighttyyyyyy, then. Old-time poster, here, good to see a few of the old regs still kickin' around.

Long story short:
I've just submitted this piece to a few places for publication after some encouraging remarks from my workshop professor, but I'm sure I can improve on it substantially. I figured droppin' it to the Paula-Nicks might help me with that.

So, ladies and gents, whet your appetite, sharpen your teeth,
and commence to tearing this sucker apart for me.

The Brighter Side Where the Grass is Yellow
G. Donaldson

After your first erection you’re fucked. I’m sorry if this is your wake up call, but that first erection ends it for all of us. Like a big middle finger. The original sin. It’s never the same after that.

The first time you find that hard, blood-blown stick of flesh you know everything’s changed. Sitting in your bedroom or on some camp cot, underneath the slide on the playground or hiding your stiffy under your desk during class, praying to god you don’t have to finish any of the problems on the chalkboard, you know you’ll never be the same guy you were yesterday. “Everybody’s today looks tons different than yesterday’s tomorrow,” Ralph would tell me. “It don’t matter who you think you are. Practically, no one will remember you when tomorrow comes. People only remember your name and the things you done, and not for long, and only until somebody else makes a stink.” He’d say: ”ain’t nobody remembers anybody. Not really. Remember that, ‘cause it’s the closest you got to stayin’ sane. It’s a relief, f’you ask me. You can be somebody different every day and ain’t nobody gonna notice. Probably not even you, ‘less you keep a diary. It’s like keeping track of the weather.”

This is Bright Shiny Morning with today’s weather report, a mix of sun and more sun, with a small chance of sunburn should you forget your lotion at home. That’s right, it’s a doozy today, folks, so if you spent your spring working on that beach body instead of cleaning, this is the day to showcase all your hard work. Get out of that messy ol’ shack and come find a spot for your towel by the shore to take in the rays. You don’t wanna miss days like this! Bright Shiny Morning, where it’s always a shore thing…

Ralph and I started hanging out in third grade, the same day Mrs. Lake sent us all out to the stream to go bug hunting. Running out the portable doors like a pack of coyotes, hooting and hollering, we hopped, skipped, jumped, twirled, spun, and tumbled down towards the stream, quadriplegics with permission to use their bodies for the next half hour. 5 hours’a school a day with every evening and weekend off to get squirrelly but none of these kids bounced around like they did when you pretty much gave them an extra recess. Force people into a dusty old room for a little while and then surprise them with a little freedom, you’ll never see a more grateful bunch. “Stockholm syndrome, it’s called,” Ralph would tell me. “You want somebody to love you? Lock’m up and don’t let’m out ‘till they stop yellin’ and crying. Soon as they lose hope, then give’m the key. Shit, they’ll come back and love you forever.”

None of us kids were really bug watching, of course, save the few that fancied that sort of thing. Most of the class just passed their sheets around to fill in the same answers as everyone else. The rest of the kids were running around playing tag or seeing how close they could get to the water without falling in; testing how much weight willow branches could hold, or finding sticks that best resembled swords, staves, bows or guns. Sometimes they’d find a perfect cane, which they’d proceed to limp around with, mocking Mrs. Lake to the delight of their audience of friends. But me and Ralph, we sat underneath the bridge on a ledge dug out by the stream back when it was a river with water high as the pathways, and we’d just talk. We’d about the days it used to rain non-stop in the town, how the river was perfect for rafting. How some kids would ride it all the way out to the shore, and sail passed and out into the sea. But now all we had was these sunny days. The ground was always dry and pitted, like Mrs. Lake’s yellowed skin, pocked and parched, a reminder of how much things had changed.

It was under that bridge where the water used to run high that Ralph taught me to swear. He’d given me a few words to practice, but I was scared to use them at first. Scared of cursin’ anyone. Ralph eased my concerns, if only slightly. “They ain’t nothin’ special, just more words,” he assured me. “People mostly use’m when they’re angry. They get pissed right off and start hollering them words like they was gonna be saved’f they told’m enough.” Saved from what, I asked. “Theirselves,” he told me. “I told ya, ain’t nobody ever the same as they remember. Start forgetting enough, I reckon, you won’t even remember your own face in the mirror.”

Bright Shiny Morning here, your first and last stop on the way to the Brightside, where Mr. Sunshine ensures your skies are never gray. Today’s forecast brings another beautiful blue sky with absolutely no chance of showers. It’s not too late to find that spot on the beach before they fill up, and don’t forget that suntan lotion, folks, after all: it’s a hot one out there! Bright Shiny Morning here, where it’s a shore thing…

The first erection I got I told Ralph about right away, under that bridge. I was scared, thinkin’ I was sick or something. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I figured to Ralph he might know what was goin’ on. He responded with a wide grin, slapped me on the back and told me, shit, I’m in trouble now. I’d better not go out in public, never show my face in Deisha Views again. I’m pretty much a leper, now, he told me. Naturally, I freaked.

Eventually, after getting his share of fun and laughs, he broke it down for me and told me it wasn’t anything to worry over, normal, nothing to get worked up about -- a comment that threw him into a fit of laughter. I told him to stop being such a dick, this time sending us both into fits of laughter.

We spent most of our time together after that, Me and Ralph, mostly down by the shore where it was peaceful and we would be left alone, leaving our spot under the bridge behind. The shore was one of the few places it was quiet, right there beside the waves. Sitting there with the waves hissing before lapping against the shore, Ralph would tell me stories about Deisha Views back when we were younger. He’d tell me about the boats that used to ferry refugees here from the old town. “Boats big as this whole island,” he’d say “comin’ here with all them pilgrims to start fresh. I tell ya though, sure didn’t smell fresh. ” Ralph remembered all of it, tons better than I did. To me it was foggy and out of focus, and I could never remember about it first-hand, as if I wasn’t ever really there. To Ralph it was like it all happened yesterday.

I’d sprung another hard-on in third period, my first since I told Ralph. Mrs. Lake was talking about the old fisherman that lived here before us, back when Deisha Views didn’t even have a proper name, wasn’t mapped yet, and how those fishermen were nice enough to make room for all of us. With my dick perched in an awkward position inside my jeans, the bulge was hard to miss, even with me pushed all the way up to my desk. I leaned back for a moment to readjust and hide it underneath the waist-line of my jeans, but she saw. A young girl sitting in the row beside mine, she’d seen me groping at myself, and she wasted no time announcing it. “If there wasn’t no people to make jokes at, people’d start figuring out that this, all of it, life, it’s the big fuckin’ joke. But people ain’t never cared about bein’ fooled that big anyways, long as they ain’t the ones lookin’ foolish,” Ralph would tell me.

Ralph lost it on that little girl. He started screamin’ every curse word he ever told me, every forbidden verse he threw at this girl like a punch. He reckoned to her that she should be taken down to the shore and drowned, that clueless little bitch. Eventually he was led out of class, still flailing in anger, probably taken down to the principal’s office or for a meeting with the school counsellor. And I was dismissed early. I didn’t feel like ever going back.

Bright Shiny Morning here with another sunny day in Daysha Views. Absolutely no chance of thunder, lightning or even static shock, just a lot of blue and yellow sky – but don’t take my word for it, go on and take a look for yourself! Grab a beach towel and some suntan lotion and head on down to the shore for a seat in the heat. Bright Shiny Morning, where it’s always a shore thing…

I didn’t see Ralph all weekend. The usual was for us to meet down at the shore, but I went each day and he never showed. I sat there skipping rocks out into the waves, aiming at imaginary boats in the distance, imagined’m to be the ferries Ralph told me about, maybe coming with another boatload of people all ready for a second chance in Deisha Views. I bet those people were right disappointed when they got here, seein’ how bloody ugly and boring this place is, yellowed, pitted, pocked and parched. They were probably just grateful to be alive, I thought, to be saved from whatever drove them away from their homes. Just glad they had new lives waiting for them elsewhere. Glad those fishermen were good enough to let them shack up here. What a catch that day, I thought. Fishers of men.

Weeks went by and Ralph still never showed. And the girl in the row next to mine, she wasn’t there either, not really. We had a new student, looked just like her but wasn’t. A new girl just moved here from one of them crippled towns, a new body fresh from the pilgrim ferry. But the same face that watched me fumbling with my cock, same face as the one Ralph cursed. A different name and a different desk, but practically the same. Tell you the truth, I figured it was definitely her, even though nobody else noticed it. Ralph would’ve noticed. He would’ve told me how she was the same. Would’ve talked about everybody forgettin’ all the time. Seeing -sickness, he used to call it. How once you get here off that boat you start forgetting. Tell you the truth, once he told me that there wasn’t really any boats. Not even a sea, not really. Told me how this was all a big joke, one big lie that worked because everybody believed it, everybody filling their sheets with the same answer as everybody else. No boats, no fishermen, no Deisha Views. “People forget just’s easily’s they remember, and just as honest. Call it Déjà vu or Deisha View, the past that never passes, it’s all the same. Rememberin’ you lived it before or forgettin’ you haven’t. It’s all water under the bridge to folks. ”

The last thing Ralph told me before he disappeared: he said that the shore was the end of the world. He told me that nobody ever really came to or left Daysha Views, that it was impossible. Same day when he told me the sea wasn’t there and there weren’t any boats, that people just forget because it makes living easier. Worse, they remember things differently, better and brighter, he’d say, false memories to save them from the truths that make’m scared and depressed. They forget their own faces in the mirror and invent somebody new once they can’t live with the old them anymore. They set sail for another life. Their light out of the darkness, like a lighthouse on some shore, a shore far away from the old one. A light that’s never interrupted.
Tell you the truth, he said he knew all this because he’s been here before, but his name wasn’t Ralph back then. “Jack Fischer,” he said. “One of the originals. One of the Fischer men, the first generation on this island. The original liars.” One of the Gods, according to legend. But to me, he was Ralph, the talking snake. Ralph, the guy who taught me to curse and the guy who explained my hardened dick, my original sin, the day I realized how naked we all were: how vulnerable.

Bright Shiny Morning here, reminding you that it’s still sunny, still not a cloud in the sky, still no thunder or lightning or static shock. So get on down to the shore and take in those rays. Heck, why not go for a swim too? Get out there and start paddlin’, you wouldn’t wanna miss a day like this. Bright Shiny Morning, where it’s still a shore thing…

A few days after Ralph disappeared, I tried to leave. I ran down to the shore, stripped my clothes, put on some suntan lotion to protect me from that lying sun, and I dove into the water. I swam as hard as I could, over and over. But every time I’d end up back at the shore. Over and over I’d wash up back on the shores of Deisha Views. Over and over and over.

I first met Ralph in the third grade, but the first day I got to know him was the day he told me about the boats, the sea and how the weather would never change. Ralph knew better than anybody else how the world worked, how fucked up it all was. How we didn’t live in it, it lived in us. How it’s fucked up because we’re fucked up. “The closest you got to stayin’ sane is rememberin’ this: the farther you look out for tomorrow, the more you see of yesterday.” He told me that unless everybody else is forced to see the truth all at once that you’ll never convince them. One person rambling on about the truth won’t do it, even one born from Gods. It takes a world of people to believe before you can create a new one. And people’d rather beautiful lies than ugly truths. Ain’t that the truth.

We went bug hunting again today, with the same chart as last week. Down by the stream, by the bridge where me and Ralph first started talking. We tumbled, jumped, spun, twirled and tumbled back down to where the river-water used to run high as those path ways. Kids balancing on rocks nearest the water, and others fashioning staves, bows, guns and canes out of sticks; and I sat on the ledge dug out by yesterday, where me and Ralph used to squat. I sat there skipping rocks downstream, imagining they made it to the shore and out into the sea, and out even further, out toward the imaginary boats on their way with fresh Daysha View move-ins, coming to start fresh. Freed from the places where the weather was unpredictable, ever-changing. Coming over to the brightside, where the sun was always shining, the grass was always yellow and there wasn’t ever a cloud in the sky. Today I started keeping a diary, a way to stay sane, see that same face in the mirror. A way to keep track of the weather.

Bright Shiny Morning here with another day in the sun. Don’t forget that suntan lotion, it’s a doozy today, folks. Head on down to the beach for some fun under another blue and yellow sky. Here in Deaisyha Views, where it’s always a shore thing…