A New Day

Not surprised to wake in a strange bed, in this unknown and distant city, through bamboo shades I watched mornings light dappled by heavily falling snow. Different as well, I am not alone as my companion of last night still shares my bed.

I smiled remembering our laughter, how we sang and danced while holding hands. Her wildly tangled blond hair so mottled by mornings light. Golden hazel are her eyes, clear, confidant, and full of love as she moves closer to my side.

She placed her hand to my cheek, I felt her warm breath, and so softly she whispered, “Pop, read me that story again, the one about the man selling caps that were all stolen by monkeys, and do the funny monkey voices too.” And for my Granddaughter, I so gladly complied.

by-Doug Mathewson

Phone Feud

“This is such a Mavie and Davie story,” said Davis,  casually sliding his gaze around the room. He scanned every booth, and corner for his sister Mavis, just to be sure she had not silently infiltrated his one table-two-chair coffee shop kingdom.
“I mean,” he continued,” you know how she can be, more than little competitive, right? Between us we have our own rules about it, always have. Friendly, with love, looking out for each other. Well, mostly.

Remember last summer?  When ever you came by we were fighting? We sent these nattering nasty little text-messages, sniping and snapping back and forth for weeks. The argument was stupid. Aren’t they all? It was about who’s phone was better. First I got this feature, thought it would be real handy.
You typed in six-six-six, you know, like hell and the devil and everything, then hit the pound sign. Put the phone under your cup, it would get real hot and reheat your coffee. Sounded good, but she would watch till I did it, then call me. Like a jerk I answered every time! We both got the optional cellphone fax feature that used the same little papers to rolled cigarettes too. Worthless. The faxes too small to read, and neither of us smoked. Then she got a retina scanner in her phone and I wore mirrored sunglasses day and night just to spite her. People assumed I was on drugs! Sure, we made up, always do eventually.”

I enjoyed hearing another one of their insane “Mavie & Davie” micro-dramas. Mavis told them better, but since she regarded me more as a friend of  Davis, she  was guarded in what she would share. I got an another coffee, and some half-caff-Tunisian-pumice-stone-soy-latte thing Davis favored at the time. By then he had finished checking the multiple blogs he followed and positioned his latest phone just so, displayed to its’ best advantage on our small table. With a smile and half a laugh, he shook his head theatrically and continued.  “Crazy really, how we’ve been with new phones the past two years. We both like tech. And you know we both like showing off, and this is someplace we can do it on equal ground. Phones, we do need them. Well, you can’t really call them phones any more but all that personal digital assistant communication system stuff is all just so pretentious!” He seemed serious now, moving his chair closer to mine and sotto-voce continued.

“No mr.businessman-plain-jane-regular-blackberry-bluetooth stuff, that all get the raspberry far as we’re concerned. Custom stuff. All high end offshore limited edition genetically linked e-phones. We both got e-implants now, total interphase. Got ’em on our birthday. We had a party, had both been drinking, and worst of all, she dared me!  So next day there we are, the two of us, with cartoon band aids behind our right ears, and all hung over. She had Smurfs and I had Yogi Bear. You know, for what it all cost they could do better than Hanna-Barbera. I think.

Anyway, all hotter than hot, these e-gen-phones. Nothing newer. Mine in “distressed asphalt”, hers in “acid-wash taupe”. Latest pre-production backdoor stuff. I hacked mine a little, and knew she would too on the side.  I gotta laugh, you’ll like this part. So I follow this way cool bilget. Text messages from  minor celebrities waiting in Hollywood traffic court.  Defendant asks who ever is online, which possible excuse for their behavior will seem most plausible to the Judge!  L.A. tabloid vibe, outrageously vapid!

So thinking  I’m way cool, I drop by her place. Two quick knocks, and I stroll right in. There she was! Shaving her legs to summertime silky smoothness with her phone! A little implant jaw twitch, and her phone goes all still, and darkens. She blows the stubble-ash off the edge, looks at me real sly with her million dollar smile, and all innocent says,” “Oh, yours doesn’t do that?”  “You know, I gotta say, she so had me there!

by-Doug Mathewson

Double Decker Book Review

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts
The Circus In Winter  by Cathy Day.

Cold and flu season soon will be upon us. Everyone treasures “snow-days” to
stay warm and cozy, catching up with a great book. But what of “sick-days”? Seemingly
near death days of jumbled thoughts, muddled actions, and CVS generic tonics. Days
you are too sick to even follow day-time TV. What do you read then? A fortunate few who may still have their Archie and Veronica comics, but for everyone else may I suggest the following two short novels. Read them in simultaneously or individually, it matters not. The flat characters are so lacking in dimension the reader can shuffle them like two pinochle decks. A slipstream merger of these two tales might well produce a more intricate, and interesting story.
The Honk and Holler Opening Soon (Guilford Library Book Sale $3.00) is without question the better of the two books. Plot and style are both enjoyable. Our story centers around a small diner owned by a disabled Vietnam Veteran. Life is quiet till a mysterious woman in a short skirt, carrying a three legged dog, emerges from the night.
The characters are predictable and cartoonish as they pass from front cover to last page, but, I liked them. The reader should not hang big expectations on these good folks, the humorous parts are entertaining and that is enough.
The Circus In Winter (Broad Street Books, Middletown, Final Clearance Table $1.98)
outlines the history of the Great Porter Circus. A lesser know big-tent show that toured smaller mid-western towns in the late nineteenth century. The snapped chalk-line of a linear plot does not allow the reader to stray far as they get increasingly bored. How can a circus book be dull? The images of life behind the scenes were very interesting. Details of a post Civil War circus touring America are revealed through biographies of the performers and their families. This information redeemed the book for me. I found the side-show people much more interesting than the  star performers. My favorite chapter follows a young man hired to portray a ”Pin-Head.” He marries a delightful woman who performs as both the circus Fat Lady, and “The Zulu Queen.” They and their children to follow establish a “Lost-Tribe,” (discovered apparently by the shows promoter), and toured for three generations.
During long winters, when the show would not tour, the performers who appeared so exotic are shown to be everyday people, just with unusual employment. Each short chapter follows a different performer, making finding your place easy after dozing off in a Day-Quil haze.
Those among us who love books regard an unread stack as “money in the bank.”
These two books are more akin to extra boxes of kleenex, great to have on hand when needed, but only pick them up when on sale.

reviewed by-Doug Mathewson

Clearout Sale

Clearout Sale
by Mark Edwards       reviewed by Doug Mathewson

Before the very first page of “Clearout Sale” author Mark Edwards tells us his purpose. The dedication page simply states, “for my mates.” I for one am glad Mr. Edwards has kindly included the reader within this circle. Clearout Sale  (Andromache Books London UK,146 pages. 2008) is a love story. Not romantic love, though romance does appear more than once as a topic with in these pages. Rather love of place and people, love of language and the interplay of conversation. The title may suggest a clearance of odd remainders, a clearing out of mismatched bits and pieces the author has yet to find homes for, but this notion would be both untrue and a disservice to the author. What he done in fact is carefully assemble a fascinating and delightful collection of brief prose poems and equally brief fiction pieces.
The first section of the book is poetry. Short prose poems that are the strongest work featured in this volume. Our setting is contemporary urban Scotland, our cast an assemblage or well crafted everyday working people. Friends and neighbors of the author one assumes. The prose, the actual language is fascinating and exotic you my American ears. Read these poems aloud for a real treat. More than the accent Mr. Edwards conveys to us with his fanciful spelling is the cadence, the rhythm of of his characters speech. Among my many favorites a few are exceptional. In “kev” the author  beautifully captures a man tell us a bit of his life. “CV -Promises” provides lasting images of high-rise life. My favorite “yir all shite” is simply brilliant. For anyone who is a poet, knows a poet, or has every attended a live poetry event this poem alone justifies the volume’s purchase. A drunken poet tells all assembled, in no uncertain terms, of his might and prowess. At a recent University open mic event I was sorely tempted to rise from my seat and read this piece aloud. If only I could manage the accent.
Short fiction, very short fiction that fits the ever changing description of flash fiction
comprises the second half of Clearout Sale. While the language and characters remain
just as captivating the selections themselves are not as strong or as lasting. Fiction that comes to us as “a slice of life” is often quite good. Tasty and memorable. When the “slices” are very small, as in all forms of micro-fiction, two problems arise. Which tiny slice to pick, and does it leave the reader satisfied? Mr. Edwards has mixed results in this area. Several stories are good. One that stands out is “Drama.”  This short piece, too long for current flash fiction guidelines, tells a complete story well rounded between our central character’s internal dialogue and the well written dialogue he has with friends. “Holiday” is memorable as well. This first person narrative memory of childhood is done with just the right mixture of innocence, desperation, and humor.
I for one was glad to have read this book, and happy to recommend it. Being both poetry and fiction may work against it. Perhaps a future edit might intersperse the two,
arranging the work more by topic or theme. Happily would I read future works by Mr. Edwards, and look forward to additional offerings from Andromache Books.