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 Volume #9                   September 16th, 2002                  Issue #4
 Established January, 1994                                http://morpo.com/
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                                             Contents for Volume 9, Issue 4

     Burnt Offering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Doug Tanoury

     Composition in Blue  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Avik Chanda

     Mexican Piggy  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Karyna McGlynn

     D as In Doughnut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris Barnett

     Havre de Heart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris Barnett

     On Fences of Never . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris Barnett

     Desire Translated  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Richard Meyers

     Swimming Pool  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Chris Duncan

     About the Authors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Authors

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 Editor                               +                       Poetry Editor
 Robert Fulkerson              The Morpo Staff               Kris Fulkerson
 robert@morpo.com                     +                     kalil@morpo.com

 Associate Editor                                            Fiction Editor 
 Lori Ciulla Abolafia                                           J.D. Rummel 
 lori@morpo.com                                            rummel@morpo.com 

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

 _The Morpo Review_.  Volume 9, Issue 4.  _The Morpo Review_ is published
 electronically on a quarterly basis.  Reproduction of this magazine is
 permitted as long as the magazine is not sold and the entire text of the
 issue remains intact.  Copyright 2002, The Morpo Review.  _The Morpo
 Review_ is published in ASCII and World Wide Web formats.

 All literary and artistic works are Copyright 2002 by their respective
 authors and artists.

 ISSN 1532-5784

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   Burnt Offering
   Doug Tanoury

   And it is with great haste
   I come to her from the altar
   Fresh from the sacrifice of atonement
   Still in priestly robes
   Splattered with ram's blood
   My face smudged with ashes
   When my robes fall away
   I wear only the smell of olive oil
   And incense before her and
   She wears only a perfume
   As our scents mingle and our
   Fragrances intertwine
   And our clothes left lying
   In heaps on the floor
   Are the skins shed by serpents
   And the discarded shells of insects
   That are cast off when
   They take on new forms
   
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   Composition in Blue
   Avik Chanda
   
   An open breeziness, as in Miro,
   but anamorphosed so that when
   seen from an angle, the threads
   and microbes dissolve, coagulating
   into boats rooted at San Agustin,
   their stunted masts meshed against
   a liquid Majorca moon rising
   between the blue and the blue.
   Perfect, you think - and turn around
   to where an obscenity greets you,
   scrawled above the seats in the
   sidewalk, smearing the edge of
   the canvas where I would have signed.
   
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   Mexican Piggy
   Karyna McGlynn
   
   There was that piggy-bank
   in that slanted store
   in Puerto Vallarta:
   fluorescent flowers, ugly,
   but it screamed
   "Look at me! Look at me!"
   It was shaped just like a pig,
   a real pink fat pig.
   however many pesos,
   I didn't have it.
   I knew a Spanish girl who ate sugar,
   right out of the packets,
   right off the table.
   She like pure sweetness, concentrated,
   the way I like colors.
   Well she swallowed that pig
   right there in front of God,
   the store owner and everyone.
   No one said a word.
   At dinner she showed up
   with the plaster pig in her hands,
   and I didn't speak Spanish,
   but we sneaked out by the monkey cage,
   where I plaited her long black hair with sugar,
   so she could suck the sweet ends
   long after I'd gone.
   
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   D as In Doughnut
   Chris Barnett

   She said "doughnut"
   In the cutest way
   A rusty bike tone
   Or a broken heart
   Over the phone
   She said "doughnut"
   And I giggled
   
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   Havre de Heart
   Chris Barnett

   For something so pure
   So eloquent
   I'm helpless
   Here in my cow outfit
   So I sit
   In dejected sophistry
   A big thud
   If you will
   Living an interruption
   You exist where I do
   Not
   That is how you complete me
   That is why we may never find us
   That's why I'll keep my mouth closed
   While grazing...

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   On Fences of Never
   Chris Barnett

   I don't know what to do with my eyes.
   
   ....at first you're one in a million of the post-chic, donning what
   the magazines tell us... dodging your imaginary Paparazzi....your
   lacerating tresses stealing me to a still......every eccentricity
   quieted behind corporate digs...the "New Yawk" babe intrepid and
   yummy...this is what you are...of course you're just as capable of
   pizza chin as any pretty face...
   
   Next, I detect your cataclysmal communication devices that seem to
   beep, vibrate, ring, and solve very important problems...I soon
   realize you have that hushed kind of sugar found only in the
   lonely...the kind that leaves you bitter with subconscious smirks...to
   top off such allegations, I realize you were the one by the Chai café
   off Allen Street...most indeed of my memory you were...the one with
   the strawberry sandals...you were telling me to get a job and stop
   trying to commune with dead beats and other urban legends...
   
   I understand,right there in my castle in the sky, that it's
   you...Natasha Gurdin...Natalie Wood that is....or Wagner or
   Walken...it's you and your baby browns and as they start into melted
   chocolate chips...I feel I should leave you to yourself...but I harbor
   this urge to help, to somehow run with gifting hands, I want to hug
   you, cook with you.....but I just pick my nose instead...squawking
   claptrap parables about death.....
   
   For 389 shuffling steps...20 feet behind and
   following....inconspicuously nosy
   
   through the Lower East 5th arrondissement and I'm suddenly converted
   into the kind who over-rationalizes about chance and the supernatural
   and the strangely bizarre whilst strangely comforted knowing the
   mystical has happened to me...twice...twice my eyes have convinced
   themselves of you, Natalie....did you really think you could get away
   with it?....fake your own death to come to New York and mosey around
   in what looks to be Metallic Teal flip-flops, thinking we're not
   always in control of our destiny?
   
   I guess we're not in control or even at the wheel but it feels
   real....and my right now is telling me you're in it.... it feels good
   to be alive, Natalie....that the quintessence of divine virtue is
   inbuilt...that the timeless immediacy of "but it could happen" does
   indeed....
   
   Jeepers.
   
   A dangerous place to be...especially at this time of night when
   vibrant imagination elbows up with you in that wayward kinda
   way....but I find myself following you still in this dark ghoul of an
   hour...as is my birthright when it comes to miracles, Ms. Fudgy
   Eyes...awh, Natasha, downtown for boots and your prissy button
   rouge...step princess step...Natalie of limited range but of heart
   tugging amenities...snivel Natalie snivel.... you know you're a
   star...but you need space...I understand....just like I am somebody's
   Chris Barnett or Kevin Bacon and they're behind me about 5 blocks and
   guessing, constructing, imagining my entire life story....I guess
   we're all characters...characters for each other's benign
   delusions...I'm just not sure if I should share you with the rest of
   the world....or if I should tuck you in my dreams.
   
   From behind a fire hydrant, I watch you stop in at the Chinese
   butcher, browsing the marinated death of ducks teary-eyed and
   carnivorous; a gumball pops out, you arc it to plop in your mouth,
   teal tongue soon...and waving to a brash clerk, you leave humming
   Sondheim. We go on for blocks, almost whole neighborhoods of cultural
   joie de vivre and I see you chew the fat with bag ladies like you were
   made of bags and all things pure...next you're kicking a rock in front
   of the picture parlor and you seem delighted the rock has kept up with
   you all these blocks...they miss you, Natalie. They are begging for
   you to re-surface...begging for one... just one more thrill...
   
   At the cigarette shop, you ask the vendor if your husband has come and
   he licks his finger and holds it in the breeze...his eyes a quiz away
   from certainty.
   
   Ms. Wood...I won't tell a soul that you chew gum cow loud or that I
   saw you last night under the streetlights on Stanton, status electric
   under an active rain with your definition of suicide...but if you
   didn't come back.....you came this close...this close...but I wouldn't
   blame you.
   
   I can see it now ...long after the artificial promises made during
   heartfelt cocktails... you just slipped but right before that you were
   on the railing, finding meaning in your own sailing expedition, and it
   felt good to yell, to even the score your way, finally yodeling up
   into that expansive nothing for a final lasting meaning....that
   metaphysical holiness we crave under the cape of our own
   sorrows....the kind of meaning we all lose the gist of until we
   finally define ourselves....you just slipped I know.....now it's just
   you and Sondheim rolling on like some anonymous parade...while the
   holidays and the fireworks and the affairs and the frugality and the
   conundrums and the news and the normalcy and the clockwork of an
   innocent New Yawk linger around the edges of your smallness.
   
   At 2nd Avenue, your scruples get tied like a pretzel as some chance
   bum recognizes you and starts quoting "34th Street". He'll enter a
   bar. Everyone will think he is just a mad bum, but what his
   beautifully mucky head knows would turn the world upside down...he
   will drink until he cannot stand or speak and it will be just before
   puke when he ventures to tell the world who he saw, and upon hearing
   his zealous discourse the world will pass him off as a drunkard and he
   will plead, kick, flail, and stomp like an irate child until he passes
   out burped....
   
   Upon waking, all of his recollection blurred and
   disenfranchised.....he'll forget he ever saw the real Natalie...and
   having realized his head hurts, he will tend to that instead....and
   then he'll cry a lot......not because he has forgotten....but because
   he cannot remember.
   
   I don't know what to with his eyes....
   
   We all know them when we see them...Natasha....we all want a piece of
   them....those with that miracle in their stride...that numinous trait
   unexplained behind the eye.....those folk where you just know....it's
   something about them...they've "got it" or they've "found out". They
   inspire the ordinary to become unordinary...the tame to get a tad
   wild....the caved in to resurface....the dead to rise...maybe we're
   all like each other in our own ways, maybe... just maybe...we're
   everyone in whispered waiting...or maybe we're all just ghosts trying
   to get hired.
   
   Only God knows...and let's pray that's the gospel...either way this
   unemployed ghost is taking a seat....my ankles are swollen.
   
   See you around, Natalie...
   
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   Desire Translated
   Richard Meyers

   I slit little narrow-hipped Hope's abdomen wide open. Though thirty,
   she has the figure of a twelve-year-old boy. I tell her months ago to
   prepare for a c-section. I want to delivery it naturally, she whines,
   her bottom lip quivering. I tell her, Honey, I say, naturally is a
   relative term. She cries. I shrug and smile at the husband, lumberjack
   type, furry and thick, friendly like a Golden Retriever. We share
   smiles that say, Pregnant women, so emotional, what can you do? Randy,
   I say to the husband, you need to take care of this one. I pat Hope's
   leg compassionately. Smiles all around. Dr. Edwina "Weenie" Monroe is
   a doctor with a great bedside manner. Patients love me.
   
   Now I dip my hands through muscle and human muck and pull out a fat
   little boy, blessed with such a clear complexion and a mellow
   disposition. I'm always pleased that c-sectioned babies are so like an
   afternoon nap on a rainy day; they're spared the red-faced,
   cone-headed war of a vaginal delivery. I fancy myself akin to the
   stoic firemen who rescue unfortunate little boys and girls from
   abandoned water wells. I shoot entropy the bird. In short, with my
   miniature sword, I make it easier for this plump little boy,
   bewildered yet unperturbed, sticky and malleable, to enter from a
   world of creation to a world of erosion. Hope stutters groggily,
   D-Does he have all his fingers and toes. He's perfect, I answer. The
   sweetest music for parents is he's perfect or she's perfect, for a
   compliment of the child is a compliment for the parents, saying loudly
   and clearly: You, with all your flaws, are good enough to produce a
   pretty baby. Their egos want he's perfect or she's perfect, so I give
   it to them...when I can, when it's possible.
   
   Hope tearfully says, Thanks, Weenie. I tell all my patients to call me
   Weenie. They love my name. I'm so memorable. I'm so personable. Why,
   you're welcome, I say, my tone light yet responsible. I glance at a
   crying Randy, his scraggly beard sticking out from behind his surgical
   mask, a big lug dressed in surgical room garb. Oh, Weenie, he says,
   his voice cracking, the proud papa. You're welcome too, I say, giving
   him a wink. I'm sewing Hope up, whiting out the red spill, working on
   her numb, gaped open tummy with monotony, with expertise, and with a
   ho-hum nonchalance that puts the patients at ease. I'm in control and
   immersed in the Tao of my job; I'm this woman's gut, the sutures, the
   scalpel, the baby's umbilical cord. I'm so Now. Briefly, I allow
   myself to remember my first vivid experience with what I thought had
   to be the divine, with the experiencing of growing from the inside,
   with the ecstasy of life overcoming death, if only for a few seconds.
   
   I walk timidly, lightly, my high arched feet making sucking sounds on
   the wet, smooth concrete floor of the Boy's Shower Room at the public
   pool. I'm between fifteen and sixteen years old and am here to wait
   for Preston and for myself; for, it seems, I am not complete until he
   is by my side. My overwhelming desire for my life has caused me,
   momentarily to forget about the death I've occasioned. When I close my
   eyes, there she is, packed tightly inside my skull, a sort of little
   girl hermit crab, creeping out of her compressed home at inopportune
   moments: Susan White-cute, second grader, Aryan in looks, constant
   lisp (she says Pepthe when meaning Pepsi)-drowns in the pool today. I
   am her baby-sitter. She's my responsibility, my neighbor, and my
   fault. Susan drowns surrounded by stalactites of preadolescent and
   teenaged legs, girls and boys, hundreds of busy toes scraping the
   rough concrete floor, crazily going nowhere, hairless butts, nubbin
   tits and incubating vulvas, pasty pale penises with robin eggs for
   balls, all hanging on pelvises pivoting gracefully and gracelessly to
   catch flung Frisbees and tossed tennis balls. These girls and boys
   surreptitiously excrete without care zigzagging jets of warm piss,
   trailing each of them like a car's frenzied dust disturbed by a
   joyride on a gravelly road. Kids. Doritos. Snickers. M&M's wrappers.
   Baby Oil. Susan White's dead. Cindy Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have
   Fun" blares while Preston and I kill her; we stand on her back and
   legs, absently lost in each other, while her little lungs fill with
   pool water.
   
   Where is Preston? He said we'd meet after Saturday Night Live. I feel
   like crying: a little girl's response. Where is he? This room echoes
   my heavy breathing and my gurgling stomach, upset and empty. I haven't
   eaten a thing since we killed her, no supper, nothing, except for a
   wintergreen Lifesaver, that's all. My mother shakes her head. She's
   worried about me. That poor little girl. What in the hell were the
   lifeguards doing? I don't know, I say. I don't know. My mouth and nose
   are filled with the smell of chlorine, dampness, and urine. I'm still
   wearing my one-piece, navy blue swimsuit. I keep thinking about my
   clarinet. Why do I keep thinking about my damned clarinet?
   
   Hey, you say. I look up, startled and excited. I hear the heavy door
   to the changing room close. Oh, hey, I say. I've been waiting. I know,
   you say. You're still wearing your trunks. Your torso is bare and thin
   but taunt, like a willow tree's branch. You're tanned brown; you're
   hair is white blond from the hours in the sun. I feel so bad for
   Susan, I say, willing dejection in into my voice. Yeah, you answer.
   That was bad. Yes, it was, I say. You nod. We both have climbed over
   the fence to get back into the pool tonight. This is the fifth time
   we've done this. We feel special, separate, ready for the ascension to
   play. We are enamored. We are both ripe.
   
   I'll bet your mother about shit, I say. You look at me and smirk. You
   wouldn't believe it, you reply. God, she hugged me and hugged me and
   I'm like Jesus, Mom. I smile and giggle. I know, I say. I look at your
   trunks. I'm absently swinging my feet. We are sitting on one of the
   two wooden benches in front of the lockers nobody ever uses. I'm
   tilting my head, noticing the gentle outline of your penis in your
   trunks. By the yellowed light of the dusk-to-dawn light that has crept
   underneath the heavy door leading to the pool, I can see your glans,
   Preston, through your trunks, everything, the coronal ridge, how it
   curves so slightly to the left, everything: your growing opaque pubic
   hair matted to your lower abdomen, so dark a cloud on so light a
   canvas, your left ball, squeezed against your thighs lower than your
   right ball. She was so worried, you say. I know.
   
   I notice how your nipples are so small and wrinkly. Your broadening
   back and shoulders are sunburned and peeling and covered with a small
   splay of acne. I stand and walk behind you; you lean forward and hug
   your knees, like a pregnant woman preparing to receive an epidural.
   You know that I love to peel the dead skin from your back. I start
   slowly, picking at you, finding a flapping corner of white skin below
   a freckle on your right, wing-like shoulder blade. I dig a fingernail
   into you, flicking upward, toward the ceiling; I glance over your
   back, noticing the bulge growing in your trunks. You shift your weight
   to accommodate the metamorphosing member, still strange to you. You
   clear your throat. You're at that age, able to come globs at just a
   touch and never lose a bit of hardness. I peel from you, your skin,
   thin and delicate, like a butterfly's wing. I'd like to put it in my
   mouth. That would be so gross. I'd like to do it. I drop the bit of
   the peeled membrane, gray as a dried out condom lying on a sidewalk. I
   find another piece of skin, dead, lower on your spine. I push you
   forward, exposing the top of your ass, so bare and slick, Preston; I
   can see the hint of your crack. I dig a fingernail into you, pressing
   hard. Jesus, you say. Oh shut up, I answer, smiling. I flick my
   finger, unearthing your lifeless skin like I'm digging for buried
   treasure. I grab the skin between thumb and forefinger and start
   peeling. I lower to my knees, tugging dead skin with my right hand and
   living skin with my left. I've slipped my left hand into your trunks,
   encircling your swollen glans with an okay sign. I pull and squeeze
   and caress and you gasp in seconds; my hand disappears in white
   quicksand. I imagine the slit in your dick undulating, Preston, its
   mouth opening and closing in spasms like a feeding baby bird. You're
   coming, I say. You just grunt. I can see the muscles at the top of
   your ass contracting. I love the word come. I love saying coming to
   you, Preston, breathing it hot in your ear, spraying the word onto you
   like perfume. Um um, you say. I pull my hand from your trunks and
   taste a congealing part of you, Preston. I taste you, your come,
   Preston: slick, snotty consistency, salty and sweet, tears of joy from
   your cock. I pull the dead skin in one continuous piece up your back,
   following your spine to your neck, before it breaks off. You're so
   pink, Preston, underneath all the burned brown summer skin, Preston,
   you're so pink and new. Jeez, you say, responding like a little boy.
   
   I hear the drip, drip, drip of the showerheads, impotent now, Preston,
   but during the day so hard, blasting away the dead skin of so many
   boys and girls, their bare butts so cumulous cloud white, so daisy
   petal white, their youth chipped away so slowly. The showerheads kill
   us, so full of innocence and possibility. They melt boys and girls.
   Don't you see, Preston? All the jovial, if slightly self-conscious
   white bottoms, all of the pink bodies, so new, smelling like freshly
   folded towels, are blasted away, skin cell by skin cell, leaving
   resignation and loss. The drip, drip, drip of the showerheads mock us,
   Preston; they're snickering like wallflowers at a school dance,
   snickering at us because we dance, and they don't. The showerheads
   want to kill us, Preston. Your come, Preston, is already drying on my
   fingers, leaving a tightening grip where a wet, lapping tongue should
   be. Why must we evaporate?
   
   We're quiet. You drip from my hands in time with the dripping
   showerheads. Your breathing is strained. You don't know what to do
   next. Your first hand job. You'd like to leave: a little boy's
   response. Reciprocation does not enter your mind. I close my eyes and
   see Susan's bugged out eyes, her swollen face, her limp body, and I
   hear the white noise of a hundred kids all screaming, the radio
   blaring, set to Cool 101.5-your Superstation. I hear and feel
   asphyxiating splashing water from every direction, the older boys
   performing jackknifes and cowboys and cannon balls off the high dive,
   sporadic whistles from the lifeguards, mothers' chitchat, the arcade
   games beeping, crying babies, the Coke and Pepsi machines' constant
   drones, airplanes flying, and, louder than anything, more real than
   anything, are your whispers in my ears, Preston. Everything you say is
   hilarious or enticing or exciting, always inviting. When you whisper
   in my ear, I almost faint. All the Harlequin Romances, all the
   clichés, everything-they're all true because of you, Preston.
   
   Among legs and flailing arms and screams and whistles, you kiss my
   neck and you brush my lips with your own, Preston. Our first kiss and
   it's in the pool. You're trying to trip me, to push me backwards, I'm
   laughing, you kiss me again. Suddenly. With you, Preston, everything
   is so sudden. You spin away. You don't know what to do next: you try
   to dunk me under water: a little boy's response. I tingle all over,
   surrendering myself to you forever if you'll take me: a little girl's
   response. Legs are kicking us, Preston, scratching us. You're telling
   me a joke, whispering in my ear. You are hilarious. You are my
   elevator to the clouds. Your breath smells like Sour Onion Potato
   Chips and Dr.Pepper. My legs are being attacked by small children's
   kicking feet. Crowded. We move deeper, you and I, toward the deep-end.
   I must bounce on my toes to keep my head above water. Short little
   teenie-weenie, you say. I stick my tongue out. I stare at your Adam's
   apple, nesting in you throat, a berry ready to burst. I feel more
   damned kicks and scratches around my legs, annoyances, minnow nibbles.
   I finally look down and see Susan, limp around my feet, her eyes wide
   and absent, her mouth forming an O. My shins are streaked red from her
   scratches.
   
   She'd tried to keep up with me.
   
   I hear the lifeguards' panicky whistles.
   
   I'm pushed out of the way. I stand on the concrete, dripping water,
   staring at dead Susan White while a lifeguard pumps her tiny chest and
   Cindy Lauper's "girls just wanna have fun" fills my ears.
   
   Randy and Hope's little boy, Brice, grips my index finger and with my
   thumb I stroke the rest of his tiny hand, pink like a baby rabbit.
   With his other hand, Brice alternately grabs his big toe then his
   penis. Talk about an eater, one of the nurses says to me, referring to
   Brice. I chuckle as the baby sucks my finger; his benign little mouth
   searching anxiously for a nipple. What do you see, Brice, through your
   blurry eyes, staring back at you? Do you see a person who loves you,
   or just the distorted brightness of the overhead fluorescent lights?
   
   He bites so hard, says Hope, hobbling, still very sore from the
   incision. She's come to breastfeed. He's hungry, I say. Hope sits in a
   chair, uncovers her B cup breasts with her small nipples. After
   Brice's mouth finds his mother's left nipple, I swear I can see his
   eyes light up in intensity matched only by those odd creatures living
   so many miles below the ocean's surface, glowing from within a
   phosphorescent brightness that illuminates the pressure and absence of
   their world.
   
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   Swimming Pool
   Chris Duncan

   I slit little narrow-hipped Hope's abdomen wide open. Though thirty,
   she has the figure of a twelve-year-old boy. I tell her months ago to
   prepare for a c-section. I want to delivery it naturally, she whines,
   her bottom lip quivering. I tell her, Honey, I say, naturally is a
   relative term. She cries. I shrug and smile at the husband, lumberjack
   type, furry and thick, friendly like a Golden Retriever. We share
   smiles that say, Pregnant women, so emotional, what can you do? Randy,
   I say to the husband, you need to take care of this one. I pat Hope's
   leg compassionately. Smiles all around. Dr. Edwina "Weenie" Monroe is
   a doctor with a great bedside manner. Patients love me.
   
   Now I dip my hands through muscle and human muck and pull out a fat
   little boy, blessed with such a clear complexion and a mellow
   disposition. I'm always pleased that c-sectioned babies are so like an
   afternoon nap on a rainy day; they're spared the red-faced,
   cone-headed war of a vaginal delivery. I fancy myself akin to the
   stoic firemen who rescue unfortunate little boys and girls from
   abandoned water wells. I shoot entropy the bird. In short, with my
   miniature sword, I make it easier for this plump little boy,
   bewildered yet unperturbed, sticky and malleable, to enter from a
   world of creation to a world of erosion. Hope stutters groggily,
   D-Does he have all his fingers and toes. He's perfect, I answer. The
   sweetest music for parents is he's perfect or she's perfect, for a
   compliment of the child is a compliment for the parents, saying loudly
   and clearly: You, with all your flaws, are good enough to produce a
   pretty baby. Their egos want he's perfect or she's perfect, so I give
   it to them...when I can, when it's possible.
   
   Hope tearfully says, Thanks, Weenie. I tell all my patients to call me
   Weenie. They love my name. I'm so memorable. I'm so personable. Why,
   you're welcome, I say, my tone light yet responsible. I glance at a
   crying Randy, his scraggly beard sticking out from behind his surgical
   mask, a big lug dressed in surgical room garb. Oh, Weenie, he says,
   his voice cracking, the proud papa. You're welcome too, I say, giving
   him a wink. I'm sewing Hope up, whiting out the red spill, working on
   her numb, gaped open tummy with monotony, with expertise, and with a
   ho-hum nonchalance that puts the patients at ease. I'm in control and
   immersed in the Tao of my job; I'm this woman's gut, the sutures, the
   scalpel, the baby's umbilical cord. I'm so Now. Briefly, I allow
   myself to remember my first vivid experience with what I thought had
   to be the divine, with the experiencing of growing from the inside,
   with the ecstasy of life overcoming death, if only for a few seconds.
   
   I walk timidly, lightly, my high arched feet making sucking sounds on
   the wet, smooth concrete floor of the Boy's Shower Room at the public
   pool. I'm between fifteen and sixteen years old and am here to wait
   for Preston and for myself; for, it seems, I am not complete until he
   is by my side. My overwhelming desire for my life has caused me,
   momentarily to forget about the death I've occasioned. When I close my
   eyes, there she is, packed tightly inside my skull, a sort of little
   girl hermit crab, creeping out of her compressed home at inopportune
   moments: Susan White-cute, second grader, Aryan in looks, constant
   lisp (she says Pepthe when meaning Pepsi)-drowns in the pool today. I
   am her baby-sitter. She's my responsibility, my neighbor, and my
   fault. Susan drowns surrounded by stalactites of preadolescent and
   teenaged legs, girls and boys, hundreds of busy toes scraping the
   rough concrete floor, crazily going nowhere, hairless butts, nubbin
   tits and incubating vulvas, pasty pale penises with robin eggs for
   balls, all hanging on pelvises pivoting gracefully and gracelessly to
   catch flung Frisbees and tossed tennis balls. These girls and boys
   surreptitiously excrete without care zigzagging jets of warm piss,
   trailing each of them like a car's frenzied dust disturbed by a
   joyride on a gravelly road. Kids. Doritos. Snickers. M&M's wrappers.
   Baby Oil. Susan White's dead. Cindy Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have
   Fun" blares while Preston and I kill her; we stand on her back and
   legs, absently lost in each other, while her little lungs fill with
   pool water.
   
   Where is Preston? He said we'd meet after Saturday Night Live. I feel
   like crying: a little girl's response. Where is he? This room echoes
   my heavy breathing and my gurgling stomach, upset and empty. I haven't
   eaten a thing since we killed her, no supper, nothing, except for a
   wintergreen Lifesaver, that's all. My mother shakes her head. She's
   worried about me. That poor little girl. What in the hell were the
   lifeguards doing? I don't know, I say. I don't know. My mouth and nose
   are filled with the smell of chlorine, dampness, and urine. I'm still
   wearing my one-piece, navy blue swimsuit. I keep thinking about my
   clarinet. Why do I keep thinking about my damned clarinet?
   
   Hey, you say. I look up, startled and excited. I hear the heavy door
   to the changing room close. Oh, hey, I say. I've been waiting. I know,
   you say. You're still wearing your trunks. Your torso is bare and thin
   but taunt, like a willow tree's branch. You're tanned brown; you're
   hair is white blond from the hours in the sun. I feel so bad for
   Susan, I say, willing dejection in into my voice. Yeah, you answer.
   That was bad. Yes, it was, I say. You nod. We both have climbed over
   the fence to get back into the pool tonight. This is the fifth time
   we've done this. We feel special, separate, ready for the ascension to
   play. We are enamored. We are both ripe.
   
   I'll bet your mother about shit, I say. You look at me and smirk. You
   wouldn't believe it, you reply. God, she hugged me and hugged me and
   I'm like Jesus, Mom. I smile and giggle. I know, I say. I look at your
   trunks. I'm absently swinging my feet. We are sitting on one of the
   two wooden benches in front of the lockers nobody ever uses. I'm
   tilting my head, noticing the gentle outline of your penis in your
   trunks. By the yellowed light of the dusk-to-dawn light that has crept
   underneath the heavy door leading to the pool, I can see your glans,
   Preston, through your trunks, everything, the coronal ridge, how it
   curves so slightly to the left, everything: your growing opaque pubic
   hair matted to your lower abdomen, so dark a cloud on so light a
   canvas, your left ball, squeezed against your thighs lower than your
   right ball. She was so worried, you say. I know.
   
   I notice how your nipples are so small and wrinkly. Your broadening
   back and shoulders are sunburned and peeling and covered with a small
   splay of acne. I stand and walk behind you; you lean forward and hug
   your knees, like a pregnant woman preparing to receive an epidural.
   You know that I love to peel the dead skin from your back. I start
   slowly, picking at you, finding a flapping corner of white skin below
   a freckle on your right, wing-like shoulder blade. I dig a fingernail
   into you, flicking upward, toward the ceiling; I glance over your
   back, noticing the bulge growing in your trunks. You shift your weight
   to accommodate the metamorphosing member, still strange to you. You
   clear your throat. You're at that age, able to come globs at just a
   touch and never lose a bit of hardness. I peel from you, your skin,
   thin and delicate, like a butterfly's wing. I'd like to put it in my
   mouth. That would be so gross. I'd like to do it. I drop the bit of
   the peeled membrane, gray as a dried out condom lying on a sidewalk. I
   find another piece of skin, dead, lower on your spine. I push you
   forward, exposing the top of your ass, so bare and slick, Preston; I
   can see the hint of your crack. I dig a fingernail into you, pressing
   hard. Jesus, you say. Oh shut up, I answer, smiling. I flick my
   finger, unearthing your lifeless skin like I'm digging for buried
   treasure. I grab the skin between thumb and forefinger and start
   peeling. I lower to my knees, tugging dead skin with my right hand and
   living skin with my left. I've slipped my left hand into your trunks,
   encircling your swollen glans with an okay sign. I pull and squeeze
   and caress and you gasp in seconds; my hand disappears in white
   quicksand. I imagine the slit in your dick undulating, Preston, its
   mouth opening and closing in spasms like a feeding baby bird. You're
   coming, I say. You just grunt. I can see the muscles at the top of
   your ass contracting. I love the word come. I love saying coming to
   you, Preston, breathing it hot in your ear, spraying the word onto you
   like perfume. Um um, you say. I pull my hand from your trunks and
   taste a congealing part of you, Preston. I taste you, your come,
   Preston: slick, snotty consistency, salty and sweet, tears of joy from
   your cock. I pull the dead skin in one continuous piece up your back,
   following your spine to your neck, before it breaks off. You're so
   pink, Preston, underneath all the burned brown summer skin, Preston,
   you're so pink and new. Jeez, you say, responding like a little boy.
   
   I hear the drip, drip, drip of the showerheads, impotent now, Preston,
   but during the day so hard, blasting away the dead skin of so many
   boys and girls, their bare butts so cumulous cloud white, so daisy
   petal white, their youth chipped away so slowly. The showerheads kill
   us, so full of innocence and possibility. They melt boys and girls.
   Don't you see, Preston? All the jovial, if slightly self-conscious
   white bottoms, all of the pink bodies, so new, smelling like freshly
   folded towels, are blasted away, skin cell by skin cell, leaving
   resignation and loss. The drip, drip, drip of the showerheads mock us,
   Preston; they're snickering like wallflowers at a school dance,
   snickering at us because we dance, and they don't. The showerheads
   want to kill us, Preston. Your come, Preston, is already drying on my
   fingers, leaving a tightening grip where a wet, lapping tongue should
   be. Why must we evaporate?
   
   We're quiet. You drip from my hands in time with the dripping
   showerheads. Your breathing is strained. You don't know what to do
   next. Your first hand job. You'd like to leave: a little boy's
   response. Reciprocation does not enter your mind. I close my eyes and
   see Susan's bugged out eyes, her swollen face, her limp body, and I
   hear the white noise of a hundred kids all screaming, the radio
   blaring, set to Cool 101.5-your Superstation. I hear and feel
   asphyxiating splashing water from every direction, the older boys
   performing jackknifes and cowboys and cannon balls off the high dive,
   sporadic whistles from the lifeguards, mothers' chitchat, the arcade
   games beeping, crying babies, the Coke and Pepsi machines' constant
   drones, airplanes flying, and, louder than anything, more real than
   anything, are your whispers in my ears, Preston. Everything you say is
   hilarious or enticing or exciting, always inviting. When you whisper
   in my ear, I almost faint. All the Harlequin Romances, all the
   clichés, everything-they're all true because of you, Preston.
   
   Among legs and flailing arms and screams and whistles, you kiss my
   neck and you brush my lips with your own, Preston. Our first kiss and
   it's in the pool. You're trying to trip me, to push me backwards, I'm
   laughing, you kiss me again. Suddenly. With you, Preston, everything
   is so sudden. You spin away. You don't know what to do next: you try
   to dunk me under water: a little boy's response. I tingle all over,
   surrendering myself to you forever if you'll take me: a little girl's
   response. Legs are kicking us, Preston, scratching us. You're telling
   me a joke, whispering in my ear. You are hilarious. You are my
   elevator to the clouds. Your breath smells like Sour Onion Potato
   Chips and Dr.Pepper. My legs are being attacked by small children's
   kicking feet. Crowded. We move deeper, you and I, toward the deep-end.
   I must bounce on my toes to keep my head above water. Short little
   teenie-weenie, you say. I stick my tongue out. I stare at your Adam's
   apple, nesting in you throat, a berry ready to burst. I feel more
   damned kicks and scratches around my legs, annoyances, minnow nibbles.
   I finally look down and see Susan, limp around my feet, her eyes wide
   and absent, her mouth forming an O. My shins are streaked red from her
   scratches.
   
   She'd tried to keep up with me.
   
   I hear the lifeguards' panicky whistles.
   
   I'm pushed out of the way. I stand on the concrete, dripping water,
   staring at dead Susan White while a lifeguard pumps her tiny chest and
   Cindy Lauper's "girls just wanna have fun" fills my ears.
   
   Randy and Hope's little boy, Brice, grips my index finger and with my
   thumb I stroke the rest of his tiny hand, pink like a baby rabbit.
   With his other hand, Brice alternately grabs his big toe then his
   penis. Talk about an eater, one of the nurses says to me, referring to
   Brice. I chuckle as the baby sucks my finger; his benign little mouth
   searching anxiously for a nipple. What do you see, Brice, through your
   blurry eyes, staring back at you? Do you see a person who loves you,
   or just the distorted brightness of the overhead fluorescent lights?
   
   He bites so hard, says Hope, hobbling, still very sore from the
   incision. She's come to breastfeed. He's hungry, I say. Hope sits in a
   chair, uncovers her B cup breasts with her small nipples. After
   Brice's mouth finds his mother's left nipple, I swear I can see his
   eyes light up in intensity matched only by those odd creatures living
   so many miles below the ocean's surface, glowing from within a
   phosphorescent brightness that illuminates the pressure and absence of
   their world.
   
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                                                          About the Authors

   ** Avik Chanda [ avik_chanda@hotmail.com ]
   
   Avik Chanda is a management consultant and freelance writer with
   several articles, art reviews, and short stories published in Indian
   dailies.

   ** Chris Duncan [ cduncan204@aol.com ]
   
   Chris Duncan is 29 years old and lives with his wife and 2 year old
   daughter in southwest Virginia. He will be entering an MFA program in
   creative writing next year. His most recent publishing credit is a
   short story which appeared in the Spring 2002 edition of Intertext.

   ** Richard Meyers [ richmeyers88@aol.com ]
   
   Richard Meyers was active in the Berkeley, California, Civil Rights
   and the free speech movement of the early sixties. He went to India to
   serve in the Peace Corps for two years after which he continued in
   India, Central and South East Asia for another four years working as a
   teacher of English.
   
   Later in Europe and the United States he helped develop Alternative
   and Co-Operative communities. Participating in many aspects of
   spiritual community organizing, he contributed to a number of works in
   Journalism, Film and Fiction Publications.
   
   His short stories have been published in Moondance: Song and Story,
   Kenagain, Web del Sol, InPosse Review, Spinnings and SFSalvo. He has
   published two volumes of his collected poetry, The Journey's Loom and
   Striptease of the Soul through Gondarva Press. His poetry has appeared
   in numerous journals and anthologies.
   
   His other works include the novels The Journey That Never Was Made,
   Alms For Oblivion, Under Indian Skies and A Maze for Infidels.
   Prolific in all genres, his short stories, essays and plays include
   Rivers of Babylon, Dark Rituals and Last Train to Simla.
   
   Currently he teaches English at City College of San Francisco.
   
   ** Doug Tanoury [ dtanoury@comcast.net ]
   
   Doug Tanoury is primarily a poet of the internet with the majority
   never leaving electronic form. His verse can be read at electronic
   magazines and journals across the world.
   Doug credits his 7th grade poetry anthology from Sister Debra's
   English class as exerting the greatest influence on his work:
   Reflections On A Gift Of Watermelon Pickle And Other Modern Verse
   (Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders and Hugh Smith, (c)1966 by Scott
   Foresman & Company). He still keeps a copy of it at his writing desk.
   
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