WORDS & MUSIC CLUB
Yellow-Bike.jpg

01. WRITER

David Beuthin 


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Hippo Campus:
Why Even Try


04. WRITING

wearing her white gloves
she grabs me without a touch
i look at her eyes
i ask her

do you see my heart?
it is so full
for you

do you see my eyes?
they stare so deeply
into you

do you see my love?
i cannot be
without you

mist falls over her
hair lightens the night
she turns away
my heart turns to junk

 

01. WRITER

Brian Stout


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

King Missile:
Detachable Penis


04. WRITING

So this guy has a detachable penis. And then he loses it. He looks everywhere, asks his friends about its whereabouts, and ultimately has to pay seventeen bucks to a street vendor to get it back. The song itself sounds like a bar band hanging out on spoken word open mic night, with a vocal delivery that was an unholy alliance of the MTV Buzz Bin and this. Fifteen minutes of fame ensue. According to Lyric Genius, the notoriety also cost them airplay, but I scarcely remember this being accurate.

How’d they rope Richard Kern into directing? None of his calling cards or grit are on display. The video is as literal as the song, and equally boring. If this happened today, we’d probably have a YouTube channel or Tumblr to keep us informed of its adventures. One million followers for the detachable penis.

Worse yet, they missed the most intriguing part. What was his penis doing during its time away, while Hall was sleeping it off?

We have to stick with Hall because the song’s not called “Talking Penis,” but the video is a missed opportunity.

Did it get mad because he left it someplace? The narrator did mention he frequently loses it. I imagine an underappreciated detachable penis deciding to teach the owner a lesson.

Did they have a fight? Maybe it stormed off, got drunk, and passed out on the street vendor’s blanket? Maybe this is the reason for the frequent separations.

Maybe it was concerned about the prospects for the night, seeking to avoid being put someplace it didn’t want to go? Maybe it was brought out at an inopportune time, and the embarrassment was too much to bear.

Perhaps it jumped into an attractive woman’s purse or an attractive man’s jacket pocket, either to play matchmaker or strike out on its own.

Did it met up with another detachable to paint the town red? Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and Hall tossed it aside because it wasn’t operating as intended?

And what happened at the reunite? Did they embrace? Go get a beer and talk things out? Maybe it was the start of an epic blowout that led to one party moving out. Now they just exchange nods if they see each other from across the crowded room. Was Hall forced to find a new one?

Haven’t heard from John S. Hall for a minute, so I hope he and his penis came to an understanding. Or at least that he’s become more responsible about detachable penis ownership. I’d hate to find out he’s MIA because he’s lost it again.

 

01. WRITER

Dan Waters


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Red Hot Chili Peppers:
Throw Away Your Television


04. WRITING

Throw away the junk.

Throw away all the things that do not serve you. That have no purpose in your growth.
Throw away the junk.
All the things you do not need. The things that have no real meaning to you.
All the things that keep you stagnant.
Throw away the lies you’ve been told by others.
Throw away the lies you have told to your selves.
Strip back everything that is not you,
Hold on to what is.

Throw away the junk.

 

01. WRITER

Anne Trelfa


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Daughter:
Landfill


04. WRITING

Kelvin, appeared daily at the dump, the sun barely rising over what the neighbors nicknamed, “Molehill Mountain.” Seagulls nesting in crushed styrofoam cups, their webbed feet smashing milky feces, adding to the faux-mountain’s snow-covered peaks. He never forgot his turkey and cheese on white bread rolled in a brown-paper-bag, smashed under his arm and navy, pit-stained T.

He worked the bulldozer the last five years, anticipating the gear shift that stuck, his biceps taut and familiar with the pull, wiping his forehead with a rag and using the sweat to smear the dust off the “CAT A66G,” tramp stamp on its left hip.  

Listening to Bob Marley, dead before he was born, in his headphones wailing, “Rise up this mornin', smile with the risin’ sun, three little birds, pitch by my doorstep, singin’ sweet song.”

He got home, pushing the front door open into last months’ white shirts and sweat stains, stripping down to nothing, peeling white skivvies off sweaty balls and flaccid dick. Constructing his own fortress, today’s drippings, a sacrifice.

Knowing no washer deserved what he force-fed it. Stuffing the peaks and valleys of weeks work into garbage bags, to the laundromat. Fingering his quarters...much too shining, so guilty like he should have said a prayer for them, or the machine.

Kelvin showed up to Mass, and knelt on wooden slabs, lighting a white candle for his relatives, trying to focus on God, focusing instead on the pain in his knees. “with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will,” and tucked the sacred heart devotional under his arm.

Colored light of sun passes through the Passion of the Christ, through the Sacred Heart, in windows across his face. He took in the Body of Christ, turned into flour and water, before his phone vibrated the timer, time to toss his wet clothes into the dryer.

In a machine that created heat and tossed it around, he held THAT smell, passing the garbage dump and its burning blue light, saving us from the buildup of toxic fumes, making it impossible to brew a good cup of coffee. Kelvin brought a green thermos instead that used to belong to his father.

His dad took it to the shop, on the assembly line where man pretended to be giant machines pushing bolts into car parts. Parts to parts, piles on parts, “all my life I’ve never made a damn thing,” he said, threading a needle and never sewing.

His mother, making a life

Gathering fuzz
from corners
of the house.

Kelvin thought out loud to the washing machine, folding taint-ed fabric, “that machine had mercy on him,”
deciding, through forced bidding, to crush him—
admitting, the machine wasn’t great at hearing,
deaf from roaring
nonstop,
and it never heard
the bones and
veins
pop.

 

01. WRITER

Sam Moore


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Smeyeul:
bedroom


04. WRITING

The first few nights it happened, I ignored the noise, passed it off as the creakings of our old house, or something else just as ordinary and mundane. This particular night, however, was different. I laid in bed, sprawled on the mattress that rested directly upon the floor, all the junk of my bedroom scattered around me in a mess. Pale moonlight poured in, passing through my curtained windows as easily as water seeping through a net. The light always fell directly onto my bed, onto me. Sometimes it was beautiful, other times it kept me awake. Tonight it was the latter, which meant I was conscious to hear that same noise again.

It was like a metal creaking. Like a hatch being opened, gratingly, then closed. My room was just on the other side of our porch outside, and the noise sounded as if it were happening right outside my room. This time I got up, rose from my messy room, and went to the door. I peered through the window at the top. A blob of shadow had formed at the base of the porch, but the night made it impossible to make out. I flipped on the porch light and the blob of shadow took visible form.

Someone was delivering mail to me in the middle of the night.

They looked like a postman from a hundred years prior, complete with a cap (with some sort of insignia on it), dark button-up uniform, and satchel. It looked as if he had just wandered from a different age to be here, in the present, at my house in the dead of night. He was ghostly pale and had a 5 o’clock shadow with a sagging, worn face, like he had just been woken in the middle of the night and asked to do this bizarre job against his will. When I flipped on the light he sluggishly looked up for a moment, hanging his gaze on me. He obviously knew I was there, but this didn’t phase him at all. To him, whether I watched him work or not made no difference at all. He reached into his bag, pulled out a letter, and placed it in the mailbox. Then he closed the lid, which made that same creaking noise I had heard for several nights in a row, and left.

What do I do? I wondered. The image of this man wandering the night, delivering mail in the dark, felt too strange for me to form a cohesive decision. Mail isn’t delivered at night. This makes no sense. Perhaps I’m still dreaming?

I certainly felt awake, though. This world was solid and concrete, unlike the dreamworld. I could flip on the lights and feel the switch, could touch the door and feel the handle, could feel that glob of muscle beating against the inside of my chest as if it were impatiently beating on a locked door.

The postman sluggishly sauntered off into the night. I sheepishly opened the front door and stepped onto the porch. The night air was cold and pricked my skin, and quickly washed away any leftover thoughts of “this is just a dream” that still lingered. I glanced down the street and saw no sign of the postman. Not even a blob of shadow trudging its way into the dark.

I didn’t want to open the creaking metal mailbox and retrieve whatever that man had left. The whole experience had altered how I perceived the thing, like I’d be prying open the mouth of some strange beast and reaching inside.

I did it quickly, slammed it up, and went inside. The letters got thrown on the kitchen table in a pile of other junk, and I went back to bed.

Maybe I’ll walk up tomorrow and find that none of this really happened, I thought. But I knew that wouldn’t be the case.

As I expected, the letter was still there in the morning.

I looked down at the table covered in junk--papers, ads, a wadded up cardigan, more unopened letters, and that bizarre letter delivered by night. It had no address listed, nor a return address. Not even a stamp. The only thing present on the envelope was the inky black seal holding it together--an open eye in front of a black crescent moon. The rest of the envelope was empty and barren. I lifted the letter from the stack of junk on the table and stared at it. The seal--the eye--stared back.

“An eye and a moon,” I mumbled out loud into a mug of coffee. “The moon makes sense. You were delivered by night, after all. But what’s this eye?” Something about the eye made my insides churn and swirl, as if the eye was watching me back, waiting for me to open it.

“Well, there’s no writing on you. No address listed, or a place I could send you back. That means there’s no way for me to know that you were intended for me. Were you supposed to be delivered to someone else?” I asked the letter hopefully.

The letter did not respond, but it did blink.

I smacked the letter face down on the table. “Now you’ve got nothing to look at except this table. How about that?” I muttered. Then I went about my day, trying to put the whole ordeal out of my mind, telling myself I had only imagined it, that I was just groggy and seeing things.

My co-worker rambled on while we stood in the back, working our line stations, preparing the food as it came through for our meger little restaurant. He did this--his rambling-- non-stop, every shift.

“I’m just saying,” he began, waving around his tools as he spoke, “think about it. If we, as human beings, never had to sleep, wouldn’t that be incredible? I get that sleep is like, mentally beneficial too, but I think I’d be fine. I could handle it. I know I could. Think of all the stuff you could get done with all that time.” The orders kept coming through, but we’d done these tasks over and over countless times. We could zone out and work on auto-pilot by now no problem.

“You know what I’d do?” he continued. “I’d catch up on all the entertainment I’ve been putting off. Lotta good TV shows and movies out there I’ve been sleeping on. It’s hard to keep up with it all. Know what I mean?”

More orders came through. The head chef yelled some orders. My coworker and I continued chopping and prepping vegetables.

“Anyway, what would you do? You know, if we never had to sleep. You got anything you’ve been ignoring? Anything you’ve been putting off?”

His words were only partially reaching me, like some far-off transmission that was coming through crackling and broken.

“Hey--did you get any of that?” He waved a hand (which held a prep knife) back and forth, trying to get my attention.

I snapped out of it and looked up. “Did I what?”

My coworker laughed one firm syllable of laughter that sounded like half joy, half coughing up a rock, and shook his head. “You didn’t get a single word I said, did you?”

“Of course I did. You were saying…”

He held up a hand. “Save it. I’m just bullshitting anyway, trying to pass time. Are you alright, though? You seem kind of out of it.”

I was thinking of that man appearing at night to deliver letters, thinking of the letter with the mysterious seal, thinking whether it blinked at me or if I’d imagined it, thinking of which would be worse if one of those had to be true, thinking of...

“I’m not out of it. I’m--I’m totally in it. Just tired.”

“Totally in it. Sure.”

After a month, I had a box full of letters all delivered by the same postman at night. He had continued to appear every few nights, leaving more and more letters each time, all bearing the same seal with the eye in front of the moon. I heard the grating metal creak of the mailbox every time he appeared. I still hadn’t opened a single one, but I also couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. I’m not sure why. Perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind I assumed they’d just find their way back anyway.

One night I decided to approach the issue directly. The buildup of letters, the creaking mailbox every few nights, the seals all wanting to stare at me, it all became too much to ignore any longer. I stayed up and sat on the porch with the light on, sipping a mug of coffee and waiting.

The night was cloudy and cold. Crunchy leaves skitted down the street in the wind. The branches of trees bobbed up and down like waves. A crescent moon hung in the sky, partially obscured by puffs of cloud.

What am I doing? I began to wonder after some time had passed. I’m out here freezing, waiting for some stranger in the night to appear so I can do what, exactly? What if they never show up, and I waste all this time waiting around? I feel like a fool, sitting here in the middle of the night in the cold. What’s the point?

As these thoughts came flooding to my mind, something happened: the streetlights, one by one flickered out, like a wave of darkness sweeping down my street. The cloudy sky offered little visibility. It was now just me and my little porch light in a sea of black.

A glob of shadow stepped into view at the end of the street. It didn’t look like anything in particular at first, but took the form of a man the closer it got, passing under the now-dark streetlights. It reached the end of my driveway, and when the glob of shadow had reached my porch, it became the postman from before. He wore the same uniform and cap (which I now saw had the same seal as the letters on it), and had his satchel of letters slung over his back. He trudged slowly as if he was an old, crude machine running on fumes.

“I knew you’d show up eventually,” I said.

The glum, exhausted-looking postman grumbled a low noise, not quite a laugh. He said, “Is that right.” It was a deep, flat statement, barely a question. Then he reached into his bag and removed a stack of letters.

“Guess I don’t need to use the mailbox, since you’re right here,” he said. He took one step up without actually stepping onto the porch and held out the stack of letters for me to take.

I sat there without saying anything. The man lowered his arm and stood at the base of the porch, giving me a look that said are you really going to keep me waiting?”

“Who are you?” I finally said.

The man groaned and rubbed his forehead. “I don’t got time for all this,” he said. “You’re not my only stop, you know.” The man took a thermos from his side, emptying the last few droplets of its contents. He tipped it upside down, saw that nothing came out, and said, “Just great,” under his breath.

I stood up. “If I invite you in, will you answer some questions for me? I’ll give you a refill for your troubles.”

The postman walked past me, opening the door himself and leading the way in.

“Better make it quick,” he said.

The man guzzled his piping hot thermos without pause as we sat inside. He took a loveseat in the corner. I sat on a couch in front of a coffee table. The man finished his entire scalding drink in seconds and let out a long sigh as he lounged back in his chair. He looked as if this was the most comfortable he’d been in a lifetime.

“Hot as hell and black as death. Just the way I like it,” he said. “I’ll take another.”

Is this really such a good idea? I wondered as I got up to refill his thermos. Here I am with this odd stranger of the night in my house, sipping drinks and acting like this is completely normal. This could go south very quickly.

As soon as I had refilled his thermos again, he slugged down a good chunk of it in one go. “Traveling at night, the way I do--it takes a lot of energy. Gotta stay fueled up,” he said. His eyes still rested above layers of exhausted shadow, his cheeks still drooping like raindrops running down glass, but this had at least perked him up a tiny degree.

“Listen,” I said. “I know you’re not…”

“Like you? Yeah, you’re not wrong. Guess delivering mail in the middle of the night was a dead give away, huh? I’m somethin’ else.”

“Then what are you? Who are you? Why are you delivering these strange letters to me in the middle of the night?”

“Me? I’m just doing a job. Some things can only be delivered at night, so it falls on me to make sure they reach their owner. Even you should be able to understand that.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said defensively.

The man took a long sip from his thermos and exhaled a loud, tired sigh once more. “Maybe you oughta actually read one of those letters. Ever think of that?”

“How do you know I haven’t?”

“I’d know,” he said instantly, not missing a beat, staring right at me without blinking. “I’d know if one of the seals cracked. Just one of the things I can do. I tried getting your attention with them--see if you’d notice they aren’t just your usual junk mail you can ignore. But right now, all those eyes on the seal are seeing is black. Can’t see nothin’ at all, which makes me think you’ve stashed them away in a box somewhere.” Another long sip, and then, “Am I wrong?”

I paused before answering. A long, icy pause. “These didn’t seem like the type of letters that I’d look forward to reading.”

The man chuckled a cynic’s laugh.“‘Course not. But what are you gonna do? Let them stack up to the heavens? Let their numbers grow until you can’t count them anymore? You can throw them in a box and stuff the box in a corner, but it’ll still be there.” As he was speaking, his face changed.

“Ignoring them don’t make them disappear,” he said through voices and mouths and rows of broken teeth and empty eyes.

“They’re still gonna be there each day you wake up.” Two horns, one chipped in half, burst through his cap.

“They can’t just rest in a box, like a pile of junk. So you gotta do something about it.” Wings that covered the walls and windows like ripped, black curtains sprouted from his back. The room--the house--shrunk, as if it was a single small room with just this thing and I.

“Then what--what do I do?” I asked earnestly.

“Well, open one up for starters,” he said plainly. The man was back to normal. He adjusted in the chair as if it’d suddenly grown uncomfortable, then rested easily again. “Then, you gotta write it back. You can use the same envelope it came in. The seal will reseal itself. Don’t even gotta write nothin’ on the envelope. No need for a stamp. Just leave it in the mailbox at night and I’ll take it where it oughta go. Even you can handle that much, right?”

I leaned back on the couch, sighing in relief that this strange man, and the room, had gone back to normal. I stared up at the ceiling, letting my mind catch up for a moment. “I don’t know whether you’re...good, or bad, or what,” out loud, unsure whether I was asking him personally or just letting my thoughts slip out.

“I’m not nothin’. Don’t know anything about that stuff. I’m just doing a job, remember? What you do is none of my business. All I gotta do is get the letters here. After that, it’s on you. I’m just telling you what to do with those letters, if you so choose, since you haven’t figured out yet that you actually have to open the things. Now, refill me for the road.”

I did as he asked and saw him out. The postman stood up slowly, like a pile of bones trying to come back to life, and trudged out the door. He glugged down a huge portion of blazing coffee, exhaling a cloudy breath visible in the night. “Still got a lot of stops left tonight,” he grumbled. “But this oughta get me pretty far.” He lifted the thermos like he was toasting--probably the closest thing to “thanks” I’d get out of him--then stepped out of the porch light and into the dark, reverting back to a glob of shadow as he did so before disappearing completely, as if he were never here at all.

I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep just yet, so I went upstairs and took out the box of letters. I picked one at random, and opened the seal.

 

01. WRITER

Stephen Wisniewski


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Hüsker Dü:
Too Much Spice


04. WRITING

In the 1600s, Europeans were in love with nutmeg.

It was believed to have beneficial medicinal properties, and it was also delicious. And exotic, and expensive, so wealthy Europeans displayed it prominently on their tables as a marker of status.

Lots of exotic spices were expensive at the time, and difficult to get — Europeans knew only one island in an Indonesian archipelago where nutmeg grew, and the indigenous islanders had developed their own system of trading and selling it. So the Dutch, who wanted a monopoly in the lucrative "Spice Islands" deported or murdered the indigenous people to gain control of the territory. They would run islanders off of cliffs to their death, or behead them. In the end, the Dutch murdered over 90% of the indigenous people. Every sprinkle of nutmeg has been soaked in blood and is screaming with ghosts.

Over time, nutmeg plants were smuggled out and came to be cultivated on other Indonesian and Caribbean islands. One of them was controlled by the British, and in the mid-1600s, the Dutch wanted that island, too. So they made a deal: the British would trade that nutmeg-growing island for Dutch-controlled New Amsterdam — what is today Manhattan.

Several years ago, I was in New York City helping a friend move out of his tiny apartment and back to Michigan. It was summer, and so everything in New York was sticky and smelled of garbage. We had reached the point in packing up a home where you begin making ruthless choices about what you are willing to put in a box; about what you REALLY want to take with you. In the kitchen, sacrifices were made in the spice rack: nutmeg, peppercorns, cloves.

"I haven't even used most of this stuff in three years." 

So we threw it all away. He'd buy everything new once we got back home.

 

01. WRITER

Katie Mizell


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Fleurie:
Hurts Like Hell


04. WRITING

I never prepared. I never planned. I am not the list-making, contingency plan type person.
My mother always called me her break-loose baby. From the moment I was born, on my own time. All things on my own time, I was proud of that. The idea of planning just makes me itchy, so I never have. And now, standing in her front hall, shaking hands with black-clad strangers in long faces, I wish my mother had been wrong about me.

A chorus of solemn "bye-bye Jessica", and "we love you sweetheart" died in the door frame as I waved the last guests out. Shutting the door with a muffled click, I pressed my back to the wood and sagged.

She was gone so fast. No one could have been prepared. That's wrong, maybe someone could but I couldn't, because I don’t make plans.

If I went to therapy may be some kind woman in a cashmere sweater would tell me that my spontaneity comes from a fear of being boxed in by expectation. But I never went to therapy...because I knew what would be said. I never thought of my whimsical life as being something that needed fixing.

Now, standing amongst the clutter of my mother's life, I wish she was still with me because she would have had a plan:

Step 1 - end wake with grace
Step 2 - clean the kitchen
Step 3 - sort living room, dining room, bedrooms, study into manageable piles
• Keep
• Sell
• Donate
• Trash

That would be her list, I could see it as clear as if it were written down. As if she had anticipated this day all along, even if I couldn't. I could follow that plan, I supposed.

As I tapped the heel of my sensible, funeral appropriate shoe against the door frame I groaned. I don't like plans, but now I needed one. Was this the right plan? Maybe I could call someone to tell me, but that felt like giving up. I couldn't do that to my mother, that wasn't fair. It was my job to take care of this one, huge, monumental thing; the weight of parental pressure is never gone, I guess. My hands beginning to shake, I kicked my shoes into the dining room and stalked the kitchen thinking about lists.

Step 1 - open fridge
Step 2 - uncork wine
Step 3 - massive swallow
Step 4 - pull up your big girl panties
Step 5 - massive swallow

“I can do a fucking list,” I declared into silence. “I can totally do a list.”

Step 6 - massive swallow.

“Jessica Conroy, do-er of tasks,” I sighed. Bottle in hand I made my way to the bedroom to take off my funeral dress.

------

I am not a planner. Case in point: the nap I was waking from was completely unplanned. Pushing up onto my elbows, I took stock of myself. Funeral dress off. Underwear on. On top of the covers with my pantyhose still cutting into my waist. The list was getting off to a bang-up start.

The sense of shame when the clock told me I had slept away the best part of an afternoon cannot be overstated. Jessica Conroy, do-er of nothing, meeting all expectations. I could feel myself getting sucked into the bedspread, despair weighing me down. One job, just one, and I was already failing.

The mounting depression was quickly overtaken by the anger of my protesting ego. I had made the plan, it might have been a shadow of what my mother could plan but I had made it and I would complete it, check by brutal check. I am not a planner, but damn it I finish what I start. Climbing off the bed I rolled my pantyhose down, tossing them in the garbage before pulling on yoga pants and a t-shirt. I stomped to the study, pulling my hair up as I went. That is where I would start.

“Right,” I grumbled, “sort into manageable piles: keep, sell, donate, trash.” I could do this.

------

My mother's study is a beautiful place. A large picture window makes up most of the south-facing wall. During the day you could watch the wind dance through the perfectly cultivated garden she loved so much. At night, the window became a mirror, reflecting the rest of the room, bathed in the warm light of the lamps she had artfully placed. It was a mirror of grand design, in size and scale, a perfect reflection of her comfort zone.

In that reflection were walls lined in books, shelves on shelves of useful and important things. Cluttered in amongst the collection were the nick-nacks she had accumulated over a lifetime: tiny statues, bookends holding nothing, a clock, a small brass bell, photos of vacations and holidays. I saw my mother's life in that window, a series of memories scattered around the room where she had lived the most. And right there in the middle of it all, me, looking frazzled and overwhelmed and oh so very sad.

Where was I even supposed to begin in a room like this? How does one decide which parts of a life are worth keeping? In that moment I wanted to decide that everything should stay exactly where it was, a monument to a woman forever separated from her treasures. A museum of unappreciated things.

I felt stuck to the floor, unmoving and afraid. My eyes burned, my breath stuck, my heart froze between beats. I had lived so much of my life in this room. I had loved so much of my life in this room. The moment was a massive testament to my loss and I didn't want to face it. It felt unfair that I had to feel this hurt alone. I was desolate in this big room of books which had no pity for me.

For one glorious moment I was a petulant child, angry in my grief. I grabbed that anger like a lifeline, pulling myself from the sinking ship of my own mourning, and turned from the window.

The small, wooden desk in the corner was as good a place as any to start my list.

“Paperwork. Easy enough. Keep, sell, donate, trash.” I released a long sigh and opened a drawer.

------

Bills and letters. Notes and vital records. Christmas cards and birthday cards and fucking valentines. My mother had kept anything of even trivial importance, perfectly labeled and sorted, in the seemingly endless drawers of her old wooden desk.

I had gone through every piece meticulously, read and re-read documents for importance and stacked them into their designated piles.

Keep

Sell

Donate

Trash

Mostly just trash. Why my mother ever thought a paid energy bill from 2003 was ever going to matter was beyond me. There was some stuff to keep though, and some to give to family who might appreciate the letters she kept so well preserved. The desk was done, each pile neatly on top waiting for its final destination.

While I was sorting I found an appraisal estimate for the book collection, completed eight years ago, and in the morning I would call the shop to see if they wanted to buy it outright. I would box up the pictures and collectibles for family and friends to take. Something to remember her by. I would keep the cozy reading chair and lamp for myself. I would hold on to this efficiency as hard as I could and make each room in this empty house as sorted and organized as this desk.

My hands were sore and my neck ached. I leaned back in the leather rolling chair with a smirk etched on my face. I could feel something inside me beginning to rise up, it was warm and pleasant, maybe a little giddy. I think it might have been satisfaction. Working through this list felt good in a way I had not expected.

I reached for the center drawer, the last of the seemingly endless drawers for me to sort. I expected rubber bands and paperclips, maybe stamps or pennies. I expected the general detritus of a life lived at a desk, shoved away into the top drawer for later sorting that never got done. Instead I found a single piece of paper, meticulously folded in two, my mother’s angular handwriting shouting a single word: Jessi.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to burn the page and walk away as my neatly sorted piles caught flame and took this house away with them.

Keep
Sell
Donate
Trash

Ashes.

Reaching for the paper with shaking hands I could feel my heart speed away in my chest. A righteous growl ripped through me and I bared my teeth at that single word.

Jessi.

Whatever posthumous, heartfelt, movie-ending-worthy forgiveness in this letter was bullshit. I didn't need it. And I certainly didn't need the sting in my eyes, or the lump in my throat.

I didn't want any of this. But here I was, sorting a life into useful piles.

Keep
Sell
Donate
Trash

This letter would have its place. I unfolded the note with trembling fingers. Whatever was here would go into a stack just like everything else.

My mother's handwriting had always been so intriguing to me. It looked like spider legs, thin and black, scattered across the page. I used to try to mimic it when I was younger, but it never looked the same. Now, faced with the lettering again, I wondered why I ever admired it so much.

Jessi Girl,

I know the house is daunting and I’m sorry. Call Uncle Charlie and Aunt Sue, call Leslie, they will help. But if you don't want to, here's a lifeline

Westbrook Estate
1194 W 13th

Next door to that dentist I hated, remember? The one with the terrible breath. How can I dentist have terrible breath?

You don't have to do this, baby.
Love Mama

I read the note again and again. Each time I tried to find the subtext I was missing, and found nothing. It was just a note. The last note my mother ever left me. I didn't notice the dry tear smudge on the corner of the page until the fourth time through. I didn't know if it was hers or mine, and I probably never would.

Laughing quietly through the pain, I gently folded the note again and set it on top of the shortest stack: keep.

I would start in the kitchen in the morning. Jessica Conroy, getting shit done.

 

01. WRITER

George Lukezic


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Paul McCartney:
Junk


04. WRITING

My Junky Day

After a long night with a junk head
I woke up late to a junk heap
A junk pile
The place I call home
The radio was playing Simple Man by the Junkyard Band
I got out of bed and ate junk food for breakfast 
A recipe I got from some old junk food news
I checked out yesterday’s junk mail
Also looked at my junk e-mail and my junk bonds
Later that day I went to the junk shop
It was at the entrance of the junkyard
The junk dealer said he had some space junk
There had to be something there to make junk art
I found just what I needed and went home 
I called my junk head friend to come over to help me create
We cleared a spot at home to make room for our junk art
We moved the junk heap to another spot
Then straightened up the junk pile
We were ready to start, but
We crashed for the rest of the day
Maybe we will try again later
The junk will still be junk tomorrow

 
Yellow-Bike.jpg

01. Photographer

Michelle Lukezic


02. THEME

Junk


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Pedro The Lion:
Yellow Bike