Willie Smith


                I play catch with myself. Bounce a ball off the wall. Worry the window catch unlatched. Remember the chill last night woke me up. I got up. Closed the window. Fastened the catch OK.
                Catch ball. Toss back.
                When I ask Don how his catch and release on the Kalama goes, he invariably replies, “Oh, catch as catch can.”
                Catch ball. Toss back.
                History never catches up to John Donne, who himself is never done running with his head to the sky, striving to catch that falling star.
                Catch ball. Toss back.
                The sole catch to the contract signed in the womb: In life there are, if you catch my drift, no guarantees. Which constitutes in fact the thrill.
                Catch ball. Toss back.
                Sails wide. Breaks window. Disappears six stories below. Maybe brains a baby in a stroller. My heart catches.
                Playing this game as a boy I’d catch hell for breaking a window.
                Any cop on the ball will find my prints on the ball. Only a matter of time before I am caught. Exists an “energy” of time?
                In prison will the inmates allow me to play this game? Or will the bounce thud, the catch slap, repeated every third second, drive them to catch me up by the neck?
                Find another ball under the bed. Toss ball.
                Nobody seems to be coming up. Cool air. Exhaust odor. Fastfood stink. Honks and hubbub down on the street reassuring; nastily pleasant; wiggling in my soul a loose tooth.
                Catch ball. Toss back.
                Maybe someone below one ball better off. Did I bestow the spherical equivalent of a minute MacArthur?
                Catch ball.
                OK. That’s it.
                Time to don coat. Exit efficiency. Board elevator. Leave building. Catch bus. Arrive in time for appointment. To see if we caught in time the testicular cancer.
                I’ll tell the manager, when next I catch her in the hall, some damn bird broke the window. Fear not: I have of course disposed humanely of the corpse.
                Down on the street, in the gutter, sure enough, there lies the ball. Leave it lie. Perhaps the implied pun will seduce Lady Luck. I would prefer – if not quite till the end of time, at least for a while – to continue to play with myself this game.
                Catch, waiting to catch the bus, my death of cold.

                   The corner paints itself into my telling
                     the same story to put myself to sleep.
W. Smith

                Happen into the living room. The walls breathe. The blinds crawl under their shades. The rug chews its cud; the sofa anticipating the “Uff!” of yet another body dumped across the cushions.
                Hap hazards in. He the kind of psycho always smiling. Figures victims will beat a path to his door if he but keeps a better mouse trapped. Hence the smile: he’s putting one over – only Hap knows Mickey inhabits Hap’s mouth.
                Feeds Mick spiders. Has acquired a taste for the turd. He’ll eat spider shit, too, of course; but it’s mostly material filtered through rodent gut fills the bill.
                Nothing out of the ordinary happening. Superfluous fire spits at overheated gloom. Hap smiling into the mirror above the mantel.
                Me worried I don’t worry enough. Rent due. Video overdue. Due to dew on the lawn, mailman could slip and sue. Dog doo fouling the porch. Dewar’s not my scotch. Mickey Mantle dead.
                Hap’s ass rings. He digs out the cell. Scans caller ID. Announces it’s the babe from the bar last night. Activates transceiver. Grins hello into the plastic void in his palm.
                No, he’s not doing anything. Oh yeah, she should totally come over. They can open some Dewar’s. Swap daydreams. Board one another’s floaters. He’ll be more than happy to explain how the magnets on her refrigerator work. Gives our address. Bids bye-bye.
                Smiling so big vermin whiskers protrude, Hap snaps shut and returns to his ass the cell.
                God, no, I whisper to the deity lining my stomach: not another BODY! Hap flashes the rictus that says: not to worry, still plenty of room down there.
                Maybe for an anorexic midget. I begin to worry this “babe” a woman of size. A full-figured fatso no way could cram her in enough even get the door shut.
                Hap corners a daddy longlegs scurrying across the rug. Snatches prey. Holds the squirmer above the hearth like Cotton Mather’s idea of a human soul. Smiles mercifully. Pops the horrified arachnid instead into his yap.
                Stands between the fire and the sofa, expecting the secret word. Smiles broadly when he at last detects Mickey bite bug. Hap is proud of having trained the mouse to eat live meat. If you call the torture of desperation training.
                His heart warms – an icicle cracking in sympathy – when exoskeleton cracks between rodent teeth. Although relishing the nose of spider guts, Hap is scrupulous to leave for Mick the meat, allowing himself for food but excrement. Hap happens to be, at heart, extremely religious.
                Watching my housemate feed his pet succeeds only for a moment in lessening worry. Warts about the babe, the rent, Mantle’s early death from drink, the crap on the porch, the weather, the knot of existence, re-erupt.
                The mind involuntarily throws up a comparison: the poet Nerval walking a lobster down the Champs Elysée with Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. If religion can’t save us, can’t poetry? French teacher on sabbatical, I take this mental note like an anti-biotic at the moment not being sick I don’t need.
                A note on the mouse: specially-bred dwarf not much bigger than the spiders it eats. Just bulky enough to fuzz Hap’s speech – produce a sort of Bogart lisp. Hap swears it was the mouse first turned him into a lady-killer.
                Knock at the door. She must not have been far. Smiling, Hap passes into the foyer. Releases the deadbolt. Twists the knob.
                The walls hold their breath. Between pane and shade the blinds gulp. The sofa suppresses a sigh. The rug lies perfectly still. Oh, I suppose we can always make room.
                My buddy Hap, unemployed teamster (odd couple, we), opens the door. Smirks into an explosion of noon-day sun.

                She glows in canary pants, cardinal blazer. Choker of brilliants. Struts in obsidian stilettos past Hap into the living room.
                “Excuse the loud duds,” she announces. “Fresh from a board meeting. I own a business that markets sex toys. I do not, as I claimed last night, work for the airlines. Today I want to be honest, up-front, frank.”
                “Make yourself to home…” Hap steps around from behind, grins through the wide lenses of her tortoiseshells… “Frank.”
                She flops down on the couch. Crosses legs high. In a 20th Century movie she would light a cigarette. But it’s too late for that, so she instead produces a lispsticky smile at nothing in particular.
                Hap says not to worry. He lied last night, too. Meat markets encourage romance, not truth. He’s no software engineer; just a lion-tamer currently between gigs.
                “Animal handler, huh?” she says (do I notice a hiss?). “My father was a zoologist. Taught at the U. Kept animals all over the house. How I got into sex; and, eventually, the industry; watching from babyhood lynxes and lizards and wombats and such fuck.”
                Hap sits beside the dreamy carrot-top. Snakes an arm around her shoulder. Snickers he forgot her name. Is it Patty?
                “Patina,” she licks her lips, emerald eyes twinkling. “Patina Copperhead. You can call me Tina. I don’t want you to think I’m easy, but you do seem to be making a pass… care to fuck?”
                “I guess you got a tight schedule. Myself I gotta later today order online a new razor. Here on the sofa copacetic?”
                “Frankly, darling, your living room oozes the creeps. Like the walls have ears, or a bug lurks in that lava lamp on the mantel; or somebody is standing here… but that’s absurd… watching.”
                Hap explains, Oh, that’s just a virtual course he is taking in French. So intense, sometimes feels a tutor right here. On the iPhone in his hip pocket. Soon’s he removes his pants (he shuffles off cutoffs, already barefoot (Hap never shod indoors), kicks the jeans into the foyer), that feeling of déjà-occupé will vanish. Does she – Frank or Patty or whatever her name – believe in ghosts?
                The fly chuckles, choker glinting like black-light flooding compound eyes. Answers the spider, “My dear boy – ghosts believe in me!”
                She drops a high heel. Uncrosses legs. Leans into Hap’s shoulder. Wiggles off the other Gucci.
                Two comatose beetles stare up from the rug at ten perfect toes, twin high arches, gold-ankleted ankles with each an aqua ankh tattoo. Never much of a foot-man this revelation nonetheless rope-trick’s me stiff. Hid behind the drapes I drew, just as Patina was entering the living room, my thoughts cloud with sex sweat. Room for this one we WILL make.
                “Take that clown I’m imagining behind the curtain. He can’t help but believe in me – right, Polonius?”
                I stand, except for swelling member, stock still; breathless. Will my heart to slow. So the thumps won’t tremble the drapes, the curtain, the (in Tina’s analogy) arras. Believe in my heart I don’t exist. Pray magic sympathetically will create the impossibility of any beyond two occupants. Hap and Tina, Tina and Frank, sitting in a…
                “How about a kiss, big boy?”
                Hap needs no further invite. Dips, while I knead crotch, into her mug. All four lips in sweet-and-sour sorrow part. Hap in her cavity set to mouse about, when she spelunkers him to the punch.
                Tears away, kissing throatily, the blazer. Unhitches bra to reveal a candelabra of B cups, as the terror of a nano-cobra strikes Mickey, gobbles the paralyzed rodent before Hap even happens to notice, while I slide from behind the air ass to perform the razor act.
                Frank leaps from the liplock. Levels tit derringers. Squeezes triggers to squirt pointblank Mickey Finns firing us both from the awareness job.
                The walls apnea. The blinds nightmare. The sofa sucks. Bagged in our own carpet, we eat the nap.

                Awake – Hap and me hogtied together. Patina Copperhead – topless, barefoot – towers like an Eiffel over our tinhorn Paris. We grab an eyeful of her sneering down the valley of the shadow of her bosom.
                “OK, fuckers – ready for living room rodeo?”
                Hate getting roped into Hap – too much crap crowded into the bowl of one skull. Oh, Hap not the dullest in the drawer. But the fool never read a book in his life. He’s all TV cop show, radio blat, National Enquirer sociopath. Wouldn’t know Baudelaire from the bawdy liar underlying the fetid id of his shit-for-brains personality. I love the prick; but the last twist I want is inextricably mixed with the serf up.
                Hap gargles around the gag: Fuck you!
                Tina snatches from the hearth a whitehot poker. Brands PIG on the forehead of the unemployed trucker turned sexkiller (stink of burnt flesh blooms). Skips into the kitchen. Yanks open the cellar door. Frees the ghosts of a gross of butchered bitches.
                We recognize dozens of corpses – like picking out chunks of breakfast, lunch, dinner. The living room – us trussed with sex-shop rope to the sofa – overflows with their wails, their psychoactive fingernails, the googol ailments the soul is heir to.
                The walls gape. The rug sheds. Open scrape the drapes. Up snaps the shade. The blinds rattle apart. Sun between slats spanks. The supernova of an ordinary noon asphyxiates the living room. Anchorites cannot bear very many photons.
                Hap – plus me to the nth – melt in the glare. Equate hell with here with now. The Copperhead cackles. Rebuttons the blazer. Departs the scene – both bra and cobra choked.
                The freshest of the revenants, called Dawn till she just yesterday over Mount Razor broke, blows away from Hap the poetry of one last ungodly smile.
                The rug soaks up the goo. ‘Atta rug, good rug. Walls all right. Sofa offal catcher.
                Mantle dead these years. To burn out the fire begins.

Willie Smith videos can be found at YouTube
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