What are you working on right now?
I just drafted and am currently editing a real long novel that we could call a weird western if we were the kinds of people what like to place things in boxes with labels on them.
down by the tracks, or, we all make a certain kind of sound in the dark
He was walking past some train tracks when suddenly there was a lady tied to them, and so he reached for his knife and slit the knot as tenderly as he could muster and fell to the side and grabbed her with his mouth to better pull her to an area resembling safety. He dusted off his pants. She asked him if he had put her there and he told her that he did not believe that he had.
She told him that that made sense. She told him how generally it was men that did this. She told him how they generally twirled their mustaches and had a general air in general of fear and of panic manifesting itself as a sort of abuse of power to compensate for their total lack of understanding of how to deal with their fear and panic, which they assumed they alone felt, and that, additionally, this made them weak in the eyes of others, and unlikely to receive their long past due and much-deserved compensation and/or blowjobs. She told him how anyone who didn’t go around experiencing a general air of fear and panic at the world as it presented itself to them was either not looking at the world at all, or somehow they were some sort of total aberration, untouched by doubt and worry, and wholly unable to empathize with their fellow humans. She said Like a mountain. Or a bandit. He said How are bandits not an act of fear and panic? She said They just aren’t. She told him how she wasn’t sure they were really all that human anyway. She said What kind of human would go around like that, would rob a body blind like that of all it held dear like that? He said There are points being made here that are hard to argue. She said Try me. He pulled out a long gun and shot her arguments in the face, severing their jaws, making it difficult for them to argue. The arguments told him and his long gun that if this was their idea of a counter-argument Then there wouldn’t be much point in having any sort of dialog now would there. His bullets told the arguments to shut up unless they wanted more of the same, and then he shot his bullets in the face and apologized for behaving in such a manner as to preclude discussion and promote bloodshed.
Are you married she asked and he said No as though it was not the answer he’d have preferred to give and so she said Do you have a woman and he said No and she said Does a woman have you and he pointed to the stars which spelled out No in the kind of way that could make you weep if you’d ever seen what a heart looks like when it is beating outside of a chest and so she said Well did you have a woman or Did a woman have you and he said Yes and took the subject and buried it in the ground and then built a fire over the subject to keep them warm at night. He said It is a complicated issue that I am not sure how to yet speak upon. He said If you don’t mind I am going to build a fire. She said If I told you that I did mind would that even make a difference? and he pointed to the stars, which were trying to spell out several sentences at once.
In the middle of the night she was stoking the fire and his pants went up in it. There were flies everywhere. It was hot. She began to cry and as she cried the flies ate the tears right out of her eyes. There probably wasn’t another reason for them to be there. People seem to cry an awful lot in this desert he thought. It made him very uncomfortable. So did his pants being on fire. She tried to spit on the fire but the flies ate it. The flies ate the fire too. It looked wet and alive with the way it was dancing and licking like that at that dried up air.
She says Can I tell you a thing or two and he says Alright. She says For about five years or so, since I was seventeen or so and ripe was I think the word men have used to describe it like some sort of fruit they could not wait to tear into the flesh of and just stick their fingers right into the meat of me, and anyway for about five years there was this man who’d come by with a waxed mustache and tie me to those tracks and then, in a different outfit entirely, come and rescue me. It took me maybe a few times to realize that he was the same man who was tying me there. Some nights, after things had sorted themselves out into some new and terrible life, we’d draw lines on my body where the train would have cut my limbs free and clear from what it is that binds us so, and he’d kiss these almost-missed parts of me as tenderly as he could, like it was a kind of forgiveness, and for a while it was this weird and terrible thrill, and then one day it wasn’t. He would look at me and wait for a scream I just couldn’t muster, day after day, until I guess today he wanted to see what would happen. I would bet my dress, which is by the way a very fine one, that he is off there somewhere waiting until the first hint of dawn to pick up what parts of me he can find and carry them around to kiss on as a sort of absolution until I don’t know. I can’t guess or bet that far away from what I have felt in my life. What about you? she asks. What do you have to tell me? At the moment he says I cannot think of much to say that would mean much of anything. She says Bullshit, and spits on the ground. He spits in return. She spits again. She picks up an iced cream from a box buried in the ground and smashes it on his face, and turns to sit and stare at the fire as though she was above all of this, which she was, there was no as though she was about it. He laughed. Serves you right she says. Served me right indeed he says. He cries a bit. He says I do not know what’s come over me. She says That’s all right. He knows it is all right, though What he wants forgiveness for is wherefore the tears, not for the tears. He says Thank you, though, and she tells him he’s welcome, and then they both say Well, goodnight I guess, and make their camps up as best they can.
And anyway, have you seen how lonely and cold the desert gets at night? Have you seen the way that body of hers looked naked and pressed tight against you? This isn’t a story where love is heroic, and it isn’t a story where we sit around waiting for everything to work out. In this story the heart is at times a tender sort of mistake.
Before dawn broke over the desert he was up and gone from a place where nobody was anyway and he buried his head in the sand until such a time as he could understand what it was he was doing out here anyway. Meanwhile she was walking along the desert tracing a route trains would take one day whenever it was that trains made their way out here, she was seeing already as if they were there the men shirtless and muscled with arms coiled and heaving and hulking and they were strapped to the front of the trains and laying out the tracks in front of it inch by inch. This was how it would happen because this is what progress was is how she felt. She closed her eyes and saw the sun rising up into a glass ball she could carry around with her in times of darkness or strife. She saw a death and placed it in a box that she set on fire and strapped to a train, to be drawn out into the great wide plains of America, for the ghosts to finally settle a land worth haunting, ghosts being an idea whose time has not yet passed, gripping onto the parts of our thoughts that don’t yet make a lick of sense. And wrapped in a sheet. And singing.
Sasha Fletcher is the author of it is going to be a good year (Big Lucks Books, 2015), one novella, and several chapbooks of poetry.