Week 6 – Balance of Terror

Fragments by Walter Bjorkman

Getting Into It by Doug Bond

Everyone in town knew about it. They knew my name, said it like they were in church, hushed and quiet. Tommy’s step-brother up in Creelston said he’d help us set it right. Never did like that man. Gave me the shimmy shanks.

Momma just glared and spat and broke different parts of the house. Got so bad I couldn’t eat. Used to be she and I’d spend better part of Saturday morning out on the sand flats digging for stuff. Sifting the tiny shells at the tide line. Them slippery clams we hauled out with the sun still silvery and the gull’s squawking. No way could I hold any of it down anymore.

Well, Tommy, back in the vestry, game and jittery said let’s go do it. Told me Father Hammley kept his best stuff in the little drawer by the place where his robes were hung up. We creeped back through the maze of hallways and found the place, opened the drawer and just stared at it for a while. Then he said, “I’m having a smoke now…You OK with that?”

When he struck the match that’s when the real trouble started.

The Good Guys by Beate Sigriddaughter

A photo of her hometown, 1945. The castle in the background, standing. The church transparent with boldly missing chunks of stone, but the basic structure is intact. The rest is rubble, ragged stones that no longer look manmade. One five story façade stands tall, facing the market with nothing behind it, no depth, no life, no commerce. All back to nature almost, with grass already growing wild between the tumbled bricks.

However, the market square is filled with striped umbrellas—red and white mostly she remembers, though the picture is black and white. There commerce has resumed with eggs and vegetables and, yes, a few flowers for those whose life continues. Women with shopping bags, men striding with produce or purpose, children quite possibly laughing. One perky umbrella has polka dots.

She used to play in the ruins nearby. Splendid places for hide and seek, always provided there were no longer any not yet detonated bombs.

The rubble patiently sits in the grass awaiting the future. Peace at a cost. The work of the good guys.

Not her favorite photo, perhaps, but one that haunts her with importance and impatience until women and men will have the courage to persuade each other that priceless peace is better than even what the good guys do.

Wired by Elizabeth Irvine

Snap! Is the sound your bones make if hit with enough force at just the right angle. Snap! A sound like a rifle shot and you wonder for a split second if someone nearby is hunting. Snap! Before you crumple to the ground and realize that your leg is broken and you are alone in the middle of nowhere. Snap! Don’t be scared, it doesn’t really hurt, not right away.

First you feel like the wind has been knocked out of you and your leg feels hot and full of pins and needles, as though it has simultaneously fallen asleep and spontaneously combusted.Then it begins to expand like a useless, perversely inflating log inside your skinny jeans. Not to worry, your adrenal system is in high gear, your body is wired for survival, it won’t let you feel the pain… not yet. It has to give you enough time to drag your sorry butt to safety before it allows the shaky waves of frozen nausea to wash you away.

Snap! It has to make you laugh in the face of your karmic debt as you drag yourself across an enormous field of dried thistles… laugh at the blood dripping from your palms as you pluck the mean thorns from between your fingers and wonder who will help you pluck the them out of your ass. Snap! Don’t be scared. You are wired for survival.

The Terror of Balance by Martin Brick

He always smells her. Great plains dust and sweat. When she dismounts off the rope, into his arms, it is most prevalent. Not like Renée who smells of some kind of lotion. Something French. Both nice.

Come see the amazing Flying Zambrotta Brothers. Seven Brothers all defy gravity with their seven beautiful wives. They twist and turn high above the crowd, led by the eldest, Giuseppe and his lovely bride Sophia.

When she falls into his arms it’s a matter of trust. She’s seen his eyes on Renée. Knows that her presence challenges this part of the act. He could easily miss a catch, break her neck, claim accident. He won’t, but every time she imagines it.

Gentlemen! You won’t want to miss the fabulous, the sensuous, the sultry burlesque dancing of Lady Renée St. Croix. She’s traveled to India, to Persia, and to Paris, performed before Sultans and Princes, and now she’s come to the great state of Oklahoma. This is a show you won’t want to miss.

Renée knows Giuseppe will catch Sopia every time. His act depends on her. But more, he loves her, as a craftsman loves his most trusted tools. There is an absolute rightness of her in his hands. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate holding something else. But she knows men always fall back on what they know best – their craft – his craft – balance. They all balance.

In Lieu of the Welfare State by Bernard Heise

He’d heard their voices so often that they echoed in his skull. “Stop whining, asshole,” they said, “get a fucking grip. You gotta pick yourself up by your bootstraps – keep your eye on the prize!” But after a lifetime of Whoppers and Kentucky Fried consumed in front of the TV (Jerry Springer for fun; the History Channel for education; FOX for moral guidance), Arthur was so fat that he could reach no further than his prick. One day, for reasons that he would never understand, just as he was waddling across the parking lot of St. Andrews School for Boys on his way home from the bottling plant, the Lord spoke to him softly – “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” – and Arthur knew that He would honor a good faith effort. So Arthur turned his eyes towards heaven and crossed himself. He put down his lunch box and whipped down his pants. He reached into his underwear, grabbed himself tightly around his testicles and penis and pulled hard. And suddenly he found himself ten feet off the pavement, balancing horizontally, suspended from his fist. The pain was incredible and his balls were blue, but he was afraid to let go. Worst of all, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the boys in their private school uniforms, their eyes trained never to miss an opportunity, coming at him with lacrosse sticks to bash him like a piñata.

Back to Wk #5 – Lovelies on the Beach

Forward to Wk #7 – Broken Camera


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