Defenestrationism.net !Short Story Contest! is STILL ON

April 3rd, 2020


Dearest Lovers of Literature;

Whether or not you are well– perhaps especially is you are not–
the time has come to submit to
the !Short Story Contest!
only on Defenestrationism.net

Be forewarned–
this is not a subtle contest.
Guidelines, here

Please be understanding, should there be any emergency changes in our readers or judges.


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Not to Panic: an appeal

March 22nd, 2020

Dear Lovers of Literature;

A deep thank you for continuing to spend your free time on Defenestrationism.net . I know some of us have now suddenly far more free time than we know how to deal with.

While I understand the full impact of this catastrophic flu, I cannot understand certain reactions some are having. Yes, wear your gloves; yes, keep Purell on your person at all times; do not– do not– let your fears overcome your needs to be human.

The proper preventative precautions are easily taken. But the stress levels of panic on this scale– a scale that we rise to so very swiftly– will kill us as suredly as any virus.

For this is an issue of faith in humanity.

At the up-ticking of the cold war, in 1949, William Faulkner gave a speech where he said, “Man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”  

We all– as the totallity of Sapiens and in our own personal lives– have survived far worse than this virus. And will continue to do so.

I consider myself a September 11th survivor.  I was 16, and I could see from my High-School this blackest smoke rising off the Pentagon.  The same evening as that disaster, I was privileged to watch a little league baseball game– uninterrupted.  It had to go on– for the sake of those young baseball lovers, but even more, it had to go on for the sanity of mankind.

I went to New Orleans after the hurricane, the day the city opened. I saw panes of glass fall from skyscrapers, and heard of crocodiles swimming through the brack, swallowing anything warm-blooded. And, I heard a man named Michael say that all he needed in his new life as a refugee were power tools to rebuild his own city. That’s when I saw him cry.

You Millennials sure are a tough luck generation. You graduated with vast debt right at or after the 2008 depression. Now, just as you start to buy your own homes, have families of your own, this shit happens. My word of advise– as a wisened X-ennial who didn’t finish school till 2016– prepare for worse; never panic; carry on.

The death toll looks to be high, by the end. So– all while taking the proper precations– buy groceries for your elderly neighbor, you know the one, who yells at you for the volume of your music, whose breath is always, like, butt.

The economic ramifications will also be an undoing. There will be no restaurants or bars to re-open. I only pray the majority of landlords are forward thinking enough to know no one new will move-in if they kick us out. But anyone with a morgage will not have to worry about one for very long. Banks will collect, as banks will. But now is the time not to hoard cash so easily burglarized, or buy gold bricks you haven’t a hope to carry with you in an evacuation. Now is the time to donate. Now is the time to invest (especially in Purell). Now is the time to loan what little you have to someone who has even less. I do not say these things hypocritically.

We must never panic.  Yes, we must prepare; yes, we must take precautions; yes, we must know when we are in danger.  But we must never– never– give in to this disease of fear. We will live on. We will adapt. We will endure.

For, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”–  Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Peace, Paul Newell Reaves,
owner, co-editor, co-founder, Defenestrationism.net

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Thanks for Surfing Through this Winter of 2020

March 12th, 2020

We have reached the end of our Winter publication schedule, here at Defenestrationism.net .

Make sure you join us this June for the 2020 !Short Story Contest! And do not hesitate to submit, as the reading period for that contest opens in April.

But, to last you and your defenestratory necessities for the next three months, here are some highlights, only from Defenestrationism.net :

previous publications of particular potency:
A lamppost named Mark
The Zoo-Illogical Gardens
Joy

from our Musings:
The Art of Sustaining a Still Popular Website in an Age of Social Media
So, You Want to Understand T.S. Eliot’s the Wasteland?

favorites from the !Short Story Contest!:
An Excess of Light
Billy Luck

and from the FLASH SUITE Contest:
Tiger in a Suit
Birds of Italy

finally, we are pleased to announce that 2020 FLASH SUITE Contest winner
Bad Road Ahead: the Story of Willie and Sister Fran
by Don Robishaw
is now an indelible part not only of your conscientiousness, but also of
Voices of the Disenfranchised
— only on Defenestrationism.net .
Re-read Bad Road Ahead and the rest of our
Homelessness Narratives



Who’s responsible for this madcap affair?–
Masthead: meet the editors

And what, pray tell, exactly, is the art of throwing people out windows?
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My Father the Leprechaun

March 1st, 2020

by Allen Roy MacPherson

4. The Leprechaun Suit

“Having a habit definitely doesn’t make you a monk
Nor does having Clover Green in bed make you an Irishman
But if you come up short you might as well be a Leprechaun
Or maybe consider becoming a celibate ol’ monk.”

“The Leprechaun’s Suite” -A. R. McClurichaun


I drink just as much as my father did but I handle it better. I’m never drunk after drinking; he was, always. I definitely inherited the gambling gene from him, but the numbers are not in yet on which one of us that demon destroyed the most. I inherited a lot from him inherently but not physically except for ugly toenails. I am a black man, while he always insisted he was a brown man, famously telling a female American immigration officer who, in correcting his presented form, wrote his color as ‘black’, “Take a look at my shoe”. The officer looked down.

“What color is it?” he asked.

“Black,” she answered.

“Now take a look at me.” I think she may have had a tough day and couldn’t be bothered. She left it as ‘brown’. (I haven’t travelled to the United States for 31 years but I somehow think they have removed that section from the form). He was not a Pan-Africanist nor a Back-To-Africa supporter, smoked cigarettes, but not weed, and despised Rastafarianism, Rastas, including Bob (Marley) and especially Peter (Tosh) both of whom I loved and admired (actually knowing the latter). My father, however, was a  Black Nationalist deeply involved in the labor movement and the so-called ‘politics of change’ especially before Jamaica’s independence, but not as much after because he was very anti-communist and thought the socialism being preached promoted here was closer to the Russian model while pretending to be the British one. He didn’t see the need for Ebony magazine because “the White Man does not have an Ivory magazine, and doesn’t feel he needs to and if he did we would accuse hom of  racism.” He was a student of Latin and claimed erroneously that he could use that knowledge to dissect every English word and know the meaning even if the word was new to him. However a lot of the English language also has non-Latin Anglo-Saxon (which is basically German) roots. When I testingly asked the meaning of negro (now a badword), he answered “From Latin, it means black”. This was in the 70’s before the word was passé.        

“So are you a Negro?” I asked.        

“The White Man says so” he answered, “but he is more Pink than White and I, I am a brown man.” He was not alone in the country. Many of my fairer-complexioned compatriots are nicknamed ‘Brownman’ and ‘Browning (the women)’. Some with a tip of straightish nose and a hint of straigtish hair mixed with more than a dash of ignorance sadly call themselves ‘White’. Locally and colloquially they are called ‘Jamaican  Whites’ for once they land on American shores their inherent blackness is harder to hide. My father, in 1950’s fashion, brushed and greased his hair til it appeared shiningly straight, but those waves would curl on the shores of the nape of his neck, revealing its true texture. He however did not want to be White. He was very patriotic. The colors of our national flag are Black Gold and Green, which brings me back to his favorite green leprechaun suit which my mother hated so much, often wearing it with a green tie and yellow shirt (for the Gold? His brownness and inert blackness ‘repping’ for the Black? Maybe. Who knows?)

This, though, is what I know I about that green suit. In mid-March 1974 my father traveled to New York on business. On a slightly blustery Sunday morning, he dressed up in his favorite green suit and stepped out of Hotel Wentworth onto the pavements of West 49 Street in search of a bar to have a few drinks, but only a few, as funds were limited and mostly dedicated to the business he was there for. He noticed the proliferation of people wearing green, like himself but didn’t pay it much attention. He was intent on his drink. A few blocks away he turned into an Irish pub. Everyone there was white but suprisingly they all greeted him loudly and with smiles as if they knew him before. Before he could an order a drink, the bartender enquired what he wanted. Vodka, of course. The group who had ordered it for him, lifted their green caps – those who were wearing – and gave him the thumbs-up, which he returned with a mouthed ‘thank-you’. After that drink, another one came, from another group, with the same silent pleasantries. They were kind, but a rowdily loud but he was not worried. They didn’t look like thugs or hooligans, seeming more mature than that, in both age, manners and dress. Soon, some of the patrons drew closer to him. One asked, “What’s your name, my friend?”

“MacPherson” my father answered. His new acquaintance seemed overjoyed about that and repeated to the others, “McPherson. That’s his name.” It began to echo through the pub as one group shouted his name to another. More drinks began to come his way. When some patrons couldn’t hear because of the din, the others spelled it out for them, “M-C-P-H-E-R-S-O-N”. My father never told them his name was Scottish not Irish. He never told them it was spelled Mac and not Mc. Although that may not have changed anything based on the celebratory mood they were all in. He asked the bartender “Why this enormous generousity?”

“You’re wearing the green” the bartender answered, “and you’re a Mc. You’re half-irish -“

“Yep” my father answered, before the bartender finished.

“And half-black?”

“Yep, yep” my brown-complexioned father answered.

“It’s St. Paddy’s Day”, the bartender explained. After that night’s extended drinking spree, my drunken father had to be escorted back to his 46th Street hotel  by two young Irish-American girls, whose names he remembered only as ‘Mousey’ Brown and Ginger, which i suspect was really only their color. That became one of his stories that had no conclusive ending, but from that time until his death, he planned all his business trips for mid-March and always made sure my mother packed that favorite leprechaun green suit.     


“Wearing green
Doesn’t mean
You’re Irish,
Or have kissed
The Blarney
Got the Gift
of Gab
Or from Tír na nÓg,
Or the Tuatha Dé Danann
Or a green-suited Leprechaun.
It Just means today
Is St. Paddy’s Day”

’17 Green’ – MacSewell M. McKie





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My Father the Leprechaun

February 23rd, 2020

by Allen Roy MacPherson

3. Ad/Vice 

“The worst vice is advice.” – John Milton

Though my father discouraged many of the paths I wanted to pursue, dismissed others and ignored some, he did give me three pieces of encouraging fatherly advice, though they were really more suggestions and parental requests than advice or encouragement. They weren’t delivered all at once but through out my pre-adult life.

Firstly, he said, “You should always go to church like your mother does.” He never went to church but offered assistance wherever he could, including paying for the renovation of the pastor’s rectory. As a youngster, I always thought he had a falling-out with God.

Secondly, he advised me, “You must never dye your hair”. I had started greying from in my teens.

“It’s a sign of distinction” he liked to say, and touching his receding hairline and his pated baldspot, he sometimes added this story, “when I was a young trade unionist, I earnestly prayed to God to give me some grey hairs to make me look older so the older opposing employers [all either English expatriates or Middle-eastern Emigrants in thoses days] would take me seriously and not treat me like an upstart. It seemed to me that God was a bit hard-of-hearing because he gave me this cursed balding head instead. But then he later blessed you, my son, with what I requested. Never dye those grey hairs”. When I was 48, which now, 11 years later, doesn’t seem so old, I was unemployed and desperately in need of a job and by then almost completely grey. A prospective employer suggested I dye my hair. Affronted, without thinking, I blurted out, “Only clowns color their hair”. I could have maybe told him calmly, “My late father’s one request before he died was that I never dye my hair and I have to honor that” but unfortunately I have always been impulsive. Shoot first, ask questions later. The prospective employer explained that he dyed his hair. I never got the job.

Thirdly, my father demanded, “Never write your name as McPherson and never let anyone write it that way either. If they do, insist that they correct it, because you’re Scottish not Irish.” I am in fact, Jamaican.

A friend once told me this “Most men usually have one of these four vices: cigarette-smoking, womanizing, drinking and gambling” then he added “your father is the only man I know who have all four”. I only smoked for two-years of my life and only menthols like my father smoked because I couldn’t handle the harsher, non-menthol ones (like the local Craven A, the most popular in my country). My father smoked all his adult life, cigars more than cigarettes and pipes most of all. He died from a car accident at 70 and not from lung, lip or throat cancer. In truth, his cause of death remains inconclusive, though, in my opinion, only due to a confused coroner. I was in the courtroom, during the Coroner’s Inquest, and heard him use the word ‘Maybe’ and/or the phrase ‘May have been’ at least six times in his statement on the determination of the cause of my father’s death.

The maybes and may-have-beens included according to that so-called specialist expert, “blunt force cranial trauma”, “ST-elevation myocardial infarction”, ‘circulatory cardiogenic shock, or physical shock due to acute stress disorder or cold shock”, but he especially doubted the latter and mostly doubted the others thinking that “it more likely may have been lethal trauma caused by deceleration”, but most likely “may be respiratory impairment as a result of immersion or submersion in or under a liquid, complicated by extreme low body temperature with aspiration of vomitus, and/or ARDS, which is acute respiratory distress syndrome.” Then he clarified that for the confused judge and jury, half of whom were dozing, the other half sleeping, “that is, Yo’Rhonor, drowning. Drowning with death.” Death by drowning, I interpreted that to mean.

My father could not swim. Therefore he could not teach me to swim.

“Non-swimmers rarely drown”, he informed me, “it’s swimmers who drown, because they are confident and get overconfident and go to depths and distances where even angels fear to tread… water.”

I never learned to swim. He died from an automobile accident but not by it. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. This was, because he had stopped the vehicle. He did this, even though he was on a bridge. He had been drinking and driving and was still drinking. The other driver had drunk more and was still drinking more and driving. The impact sent my father through the front sidewindow, out over the railing of the bridge, falling over 300 feet into the water below.

He was not alone. She was unconscious but alive. I had seen her before; half-naked, she was sitting on a collapsible couch in my father’s office, in a long-discovered, now-destroyed color photograph taken by my father. She was no assistance to anyone, not my mother or myself, nor the coroner’s court. Her only ever comment on the accident was, “I never knew he was married!”. The other driver had blacked out before the crash. To my consternation, the droopy jury let him off the manslaughter charge and the bored judge fined him JMD20,000 for  exceeding the speeding limit and JMD50,000 for driving under the influence of alcohol. JMD70,000 (USD510) for my father’s life. 




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My Father the Leprechaun

February 16th, 2020

by Allen Roy MacPherson

2. The Half Has Never Yet Been Told; Tales of My Father, Told and Untold

My father never spoke about any other woman but his wife, my mother, nor of any of his other invisible children, nor of his failed travel agency and the shipping line that defaulted on their agreement, after he paid them, nor his time in prison after. He never spoke about his failed attempt at priesthood but did not pressure me, as the rest of the family did, to follow that course. He never spoke about his failed songwriting career (he was only a lyricist and played no instrument) but ignored my youthful years in the neighborhood garage band as second lead singer, lead songwriter, keyboard player and occasional guitarist). He sometimes, but rarely, spoke of his writing but disparaged my poetry, even the poems I won National Awards for. He spoke technically and with pride about his own paintings though I only remember one completed one, of a boxer, and another half-finished one of my mother’s niece. He begrudgingly admired my paintings and drawings, spied on me doing them and never commented on my technique (because, I will say with confident conceit, I was admittedly, in everyone’s opinon as well, better than him. I destroyed most of my artwork after a quarrel with my greatest admirer, my mother, to spite her. Of course, I only spited myself, the only remaining pieces being a few sketches which I have, and three stolen oil paintings that some unemployed gardener has hanging on the living room wall of his shantytown shack). He was extensively and prevalently better than me with women, though I also inherited his extreme love and libidinous attachment to them (but I remained single) and whilst he had years of bad luck with vehicles (another story) involved with multiple, uncountable  accidents (remember he drank; and so do I but) I don’t drive and have never owned a driver’s license (which doesn’t mean I can’t be killed in an auto accident as well). He often spoke of Admiral Horatio Nelson and Napoleon as well as Napoleon’s arch-enemy the Duke of Wellington (of whom he was named after, Wellington being his given name), only because of their short stature and his. Nelson was 5’4″, Napoleon a supposed 5’2″ (but most likely five inches more than that) and the Duke was actually 5’9″ and inch or more than my father, who was the same height as my mother. I, on the other hand, am a 6-footer (my mother always insisted that I was 5’11 and three-quarter because only Jesus was 6ft, though I – and religious historians too – doubt that). He also admired Martin Luther King and Gandhi (the two go hand in hand), Churchchill, Lincoln, JFK and RFK. I actually admire the same people and maybe influenced by him, am not so into Garvey as a National Hero of Jamaica (which he is, so I say that quietly. My father was more outspoken about it. My mother shared our beliefs as well but she was soft-spoken in every way and on everything). He spoke often about my spiritual hero the Apostle Paul and interpreted Jesus’ words in a lasting – for me – and different way from everyone else before or since, revealing the real, Socialist, mendicant, militant man-of-color Jesus (not a black man but a brown man, like my father, but I’ll soon get to that). Both of my parents disdained James Dean as well as my idolizing of him. My mother spoke of the dashing, swashbuckling english actor Errol Flynn, who she may have encountered as he owned property and sometimes lived nearby to where she spent some childhood summers. My father only spoke of James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and Mickey Rooney (and this had to do with their shared physical stature as well).

Most of what I know about my father came from others, mostly my mother.  Other than what she knew from first-hand knowledge, she also got from others, including his own supposed friends, as well as rifling through his pockets (which she had a right to do before tossing the clothing in the washing machine) and, on one occassion, from a letter he sent to a newly acquainted New York lover, whose address he didn’t get correctly, and so was returned to sender (who was at work when the postman brought it, but whose wife, my mother, was at home and received it. He never got it because I found it among her possessions, not his, after her death). His life, by his lips, was the proverbial ‘half that couldn’t be told’. He started stories but couldn’t finish them because the conclusion (both of the story and of my surmising) ended with an illicit liason with a lover. My patient and tolerating mother once said to me, “You’re just like your father. You keep telling me the same stories at different times over and  over again [forgetting that it was told before]. The only difference is that when you retell the story it has the same ending as before. Every time your  retells me a story, though it is the same story it always has a different ending”.




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My Father the Leprechaun

February 9th, 2020

by Allen Roy MacPherson


1. Opening Pandora’s Box
   
“Malo accepto stultus sapit
(trouble, experienced, makes wise, a  fool)”
– Erasmus, ‘Pandora’s Box’, Adagio


My father had a favorite green suit. My mother hated it with as much passion as my father loved it. She called it his leprechaun suit (because of its color). However, he was always insistent that his ancestors were Scottish and not Irish (and leprechauns are Irish). But his insistence had nothing to do with leprechauns, for my mother never referred to his suit that way in his presence (as far as I knew, for I was not always in their shared presence). It had to do with his Scottish heritage which he was proud of. The other McPhersons on the island (we lived on the Caribbean island of Jamaica) spelled their surnames exactly like that (with a ‘Mc’). He insisted and was passionately adamant about it that our surname be spelt Mac.

He never encouraged me in his vices of wine, women and song (and more), because he was a good father, but at the same time he dismissed all my early career choices (commercial artist and writing respectively) as “that’s a hobby not a career”. My mother consoled me often, explaining that my father was both a failed artist and a failed writer (one painting hanging in his study, a clipping of one his newspaper articles in an otherwise empty scrapbook and a clipboard of the carbon copies of some of his poems were the only remnants of those early forays of his). He was also a failed musician, failed travel agent, which landed him in prison – for fraud – and he also made a failed – and probably frail – attempt at the priesthood. He eventually put all that aside and became a trade unionist and labor movement leader before switching sides and becoming a successful Human Resources manager,  or Personnel Officer as we used to call it then (his nicknames was infact ‘P’ and ‘Personnel’ for that reason). He was also a lecturer on the same subject at a learning institute that he founded. He became very wealthy but filtered those funds back into his favorite pastimes, wine, women and song (and more).

He actually rarely drank wine, his preferred drink being odorless but creepingly potent vodka, a preference I share with him (and I’m feeling for a drink now but cannot afford it as I also share his eventual decline into poverty from wanton spending, living and wastefulness). I never knew he was involved with women other than my mother until I was 20 and found hundreds (it seemed so but let’s say, many) photographs of half-naked and fully naked women in a small box in his office desk drawer (I was looking for the latest issue of his usually-hidden Playboy magazine and I will still swear today that I was only interested in the articles in it). He was an avid photographer, as I also became, but he never pursued it professionally or artistically (while I have won a few awards for it as well as my writing and would have won some for my paintings if the caretaker/gardener at the Jamaican Cultural Development Commission, who promised me he would make sure my paintings made it into the competition after I reached too late on the last day for entry, absconded both with my fabulous canvases and from his job.) I knew some of the faces in the photographs. Secretariies, female family friends, business partners and colleagues in the H. R. industry, but two stood out. A color photograph of a young lady topless on a long chair in his office, which I never knew could collapse backward into a bed until I saw it in the photograph, and a black-and-white photo of a toothless, obese woman, who was old enough to be his mother, posing completely naked, reclining pseudo-aesthetically on some statk, rugged rocks at an anonymous beach, in the harshest of uncomplimentary sunlight; a very artistic photograph, I thought then, regardless of its subject. I hid that box far in the back of his desk drawer because I knew my mother also occasionally passed through the office. Of course, she was not in any of these photographs and could not have been as she was a puritan and a saint, who if she had stuck to her baptismal Roman Catholicism and not switched to Anglicanism could have been beatified while still alive for her immaculately conceived purity. I went searching for the box another day (because they were more interesting than the Playboy ‘articles’) but never found them. I thought my father may have discovered my discovery, and moved them, but my mother told me years after (and after my father’s death in an automobile accident) that she found the box and, because she knew I occasionally passed through the office, she did not hide it as I did, but burnt it and all its contents.


2. The Half Has Never Yet Been Told; Tales of My Father, Told and Untold

My father never spoke about any other woman but his wife, my mother, nor of any of his other invisible children, nor of his failed travel agency and the shipping line that defaulted on their agreement, after he paid them, nor his time in prison after. He never spoke about his failed attempt at priesthood but did not pressure me, as the rest of the family did, to follow that course. He never spoke about his failed songwriting career (he was only a lyricist and played no instrument) but ignored my youthful years in the neighborhood garage band as second lead singer, lead songwriter, keyboard player and occasional guitarist). He sometimes, but rarely, spoke of his writing but disparaged my poetry, even the poems I won National Awards for. He spoke technically and with pride about his own paintings though I only remember one completed one, of a boxer, and another half-finished one of my mother’s niece. He begrudgingly admired my paintings and drawings, spied on me doing them and never commented on my technique (because, I will say with confident conceit, I was admittedly, in everyone’s opinon as well, better than him. I destroyed most of my artwork after a quarrel with my greatest admirer, my mother, to spite her. Of course, I only spited myself, the only remaining pieces being a few sketches which I have, and three stolen oil paintings that some unemployed gardener has hanging on the living room wall of his shantytown shack). He was extensively and prevalently better than me with women, though I also inherited his extreme love and libidinous attachment to them (but I remained single) and whilst he had years of bad luck with vehicles (another story) involved with multiple, uncountable  accidents (remember he drank; and so do I but) I don’t drive and have never owned a driver’s license (which doesn’t mean I can’t be killed in an auto accident as well). He often spoke of Admiral Horatio Nelson and Napoleon as well as Napoleon’s arch-enemy the Duke of Wellington (of whom he was named after, Wellington being his given name), only because of their short stature and his. Nelson was 5’4″, Napoleon a supposed 5’2″ (but most likely five inches more than that) and the Duke was actually 5’9″ and inch or more than my father, who was the same height as my mother. I, on the other hand, am a 6-footer (my mother always insisted that I was 5’11 and three-quarter because only Jesus was 6ft, though I – and religious historians too – doubt that). He also admired Martin Luther King and Gandhi (the two go hand in hand), Churchchill, Lincoln, JFK and RFK. I actually admire the same people and maybe influenced by him, am not so into Garvey as a National Hero of Jamaica (which he is, so I say that quietly. My father was more outspoken about it. My mother shared our beliefs as well but she was soft-spoken in every way and on everything). He spoke often about my spiritual hero the Apostle Paul and interpreted Jesus’ words in a lasting – for me – and different way from everyone else before or since, revealing the real, Socialist, mendicant, militant man-of-color Jesus (not a black man but a brown man, like my father, but I’ll soon get to that). Both of my parents disdained James Dean as well as my idolizing of him. My mother spoke of the dashing, swashbuckling english actor Errol Flynn, who she may have encountered as he owned property and sometimes lived nearby to where she spent some childhood summers. My father only spoke of James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and Mickey Rooney (and this had to do with their shared physical stature as well).

Most of what I know about my father came from others, mostly my mother.  Other than what she knew from first-hand knowledge, she also got from others, including his own supposed friends, as well as rifling through his pockets (which she had a right to do before tossing the clothing in the washing machine) and, on one occassion, from a letter he sent to a newly acquainted New York lover, whose address he didn’t get correctly, and so was returned to sender (who was at work when the postman brought it, but whose wife, my mother, was at home and received it. He never got it because I found it among her possessions, not his, after her death). His life, by his lips, was the proverbial ‘half that couldn’t be told’. He started stories but couldn’t finish them because the conclusion (both of the story and of my surmising) ended with an illicit liason with a lover. My patient and tolerating mother once said to me, “You’re just like your father. You keep telling me the same stories at different times over and  over again [forgetting that it was told before]. The only difference is that when you retell the story it has the same ending as before. Every time your  retells me a story, though it is the same story it always has a different ending”.


3. Ad/Vice 

“The worst vice is advice.” – John Milton

Though my father discouraged many of the paths I wanted to pursue, dismissed others and ignored some, he did give me three pieces of encouraging fatherly advice, though they were really more suggestions and parental requests than advice or encouragement. They weren’t delivered all at once but through out my pre-adult life.

Firstly, he said, “You should always go to church like your mother does.” He never went to church but offered assistance wherever he could, including paying for the renovation of the pastor’s rectory. As a youngster, I always thought he had a falling-out with God.

Secondly, he advised me, “You must never dye your hair”. I had started greying from in my teens.

“It’s a sign of distinction” he liked to say, and touching his receding hairline and his pated baldspot, he sometimes added this story, “when I was a young trade unionist, I earnestly prayed to God to give me some grey hairs to make me look older so the older opposing employers [all either English expatriates or Middle-eastern Emigrants in thoses days] would take me seriously and not treat me like an upstart. It seemed to me that God was a bit hard-of-hearing because he gave me this cursed balding head instead. But then he later blessed you, my son, with what I requested. Never dye those grey hairs”. When I was 48, which now, 11 years later, doesn’t seem so old, I was unemployed and desperately in need of a job and by then almost completely grey. A prospective employer suggested I dye my hair. Affronted, without thinking, I blurted out, “Only clowns color their hair”. I could have maybe told him calmly, “My late father’s one request before he died was that I never dye my hair and I have to honor that” but unfortunately I have always been impulsive. Shoot first, ask questions later. The prospective employer explained that he dyed his hair. I never got the job.

Thirdly, my father demanded, “Never write your name as McPherson and never let anyone write it that way either. If they do, insist that they correct it, because you’re Scottish not Irish.” I am in fact, Jamaican.

A friend once told me this “Most men usually have one of these four vices: cigarette-smoking, womanizing, drinking and gambling” then he added “your father is the only man I know who have all four”. I only smoked for two-years of my life and only menthols like my father smoked because I couldn’t handle the harsher, non-menthol ones (like the local Craven A, the most popular in my country). My father smoked all his adult life, cigars more than cigarettes and pipes most of all. He died from a car accident at 70 and not from lung, lip or throat cancer. In truth, his cause of death remains inconclusive, though, in my opinion, only due to a confused coroner. I was in the courtroom, during the Coroner’s Inquest, and heard him use the word ‘Maybe’ and/or the phrase ‘May have been’ at least six times in his statement on the determination of the cause of my father’s death.

The maybes and may-have-beens included according to that so-called specialist expert, “blunt force cranial trauma”, “ST-elevation myocardial infarction”, ‘circulatory cardiogenic shock, or physical shock due to acute stress disorder or cold shock”, but he especially doubted the latter and mostly doubted the others thinking that “it more likely may have been lethal trauma caused by deceleration”, but most likely “may be respiratory impairment as a result of immersion or submersion in or under a liquid, complicated by extreme low body temperature with aspiration of vomitus, and/or ARDS, which is acute respiratory distress syndrome.” Then he clarified that for the confused judge and jury, half of whom were dozing, the other half sleeping, “that is, Yo’Rhonor, drowning. Drowning with death.” Death by drowning, I interpreted that to mean.

My father could not swim. Therefore he could not teach me to swim.

“Non-swimmers rarely drown”, he informed me, “it’s swimmers who drown, because they are confident and get overconfident and go to depths and distances where even angels fear to tread… water.”

I never learned to swim. He died from an automobile accident but not by it. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. This was, because he had stopped the vehicle. He did this, even though he was on a bridge. He had been drinking and driving and was still drinking. The other driver had drunk more and was still drinking more and driving. The impact sent my father through the front sidewindow, out over the railing of the bridge, falling over 300 feet into the water below.

He was not alone. She was unconscious but alive. I had seen her before; half-naked, she was sitting on a collapsible couch in my father’s office, in a long-discovered, now-destroyed color photograph taken by my father. She was no assistance to anyone, not my mother or myself, nor the coroner’s court. Her only ever comment on the accident was, “I never knew he was married!”. The other driver had blacked out before the crash. To my consternation, the droopy jury let him off the manslaughter charge and the bored judge fined him JMD20,000 for  exceeding the speeding limit and JMD50,000 for driving under the influence of alcohol. JMD70,000 (USD510) for my father’s life. 


4. The Leprechaun Suit

“Having a habit definitely doesn’t make you a monk
Nor does having Clover Green in bed make you an Irishman
But if you come up short you might as well be a Leprechaun
Or maybe consider becoming a celibate ol’ monk.”

“The Leprechaun’s Suite” -A. R. McClurichaun


I drink just as much as my father did but I handle it better. I’m never drunk after drinking; he was, always. I definitely inherited the gambling gene from him, but the numbers are not in yet on which one of us that demon destroyed the most. I inherited a lot from him inherently but not physically except for ugly toenails. I am a black man, while he always insisted he was a brown man, famously telling a female American immigration officer who, in correcting his presented form, wrote his color as ‘black’, “Take a look at my shoe”. The officer looked down.

“What color is it?” he asked.

“Black,” she answered.

“Now take a look at me.” I think she may have had a tough day and couldn’t be bothered. She left it as ‘brown’. (I haven’t travelled to the United States for 31 years but I somehow think they have removed that section from the form). He was not a Pan-Africanist nor a Back-To-Africa supporter, smoked cigarettes, but not weed, and despised Rastafarianism, Rastas, including Bob (Marley) and especially Peter (Tosh) both of whom I loved and admired (actually knowing the latter). My father, however, was a  Black Nationalist deeply involved in the labor movement and the so-called ‘politics of change’ especially before Jamaica’s independence, but not as much after because he was very anti-communist and thought the socialism being preached promoted here was closer to the Russian model while pretending to be the British one. He didn’t see the need for Ebony magazine because “the White Man does not have an Ivory magazine, and doesn’t feel he needs to and if he did we would accuse hom of  racism.” He was a student of Latin and claimed erroneously that he could use that knowledge to dissect every English word and know the meaning even if the word was new to him. However a lot of the English language also has non-Latin Anglo-Saxon (which is basically German) roots. When I testingly asked the meaning of negro (now a badword), he answered “From Latin, it means black”. This was in the 70’s before the word was passé.

“So are you a Negro?” I asked.        

“The White Man says so” he answered, “but he is more Pink than White and I, I am a brown man.” He was not alone in the country. Many of my fairer-complexioned compatriots are nicknamed ‘Brownman’ and ‘Browning (the women)’. Some with a tip of straightish nose and a hint of straigtish hair mixed with more than a dash of ignorance sadly call themselves ‘White’. Locally and colloquially they are called ‘Jamaican  Whites’ for once they land on American shores their inherent blackness is harder to hide. My father, in 1950’s fashion, brushed and greased his hair til it appeared shiningly straight, but those waves would curl on the shores of the nape of his neck, revealing its true texture. He however did not want to be White. He was very patriotic. The colors of our national flag are Black Gold and Green, which brings me back to his favorite green leprechaun suit which my mother hated so much, often wearing it with a green tie and yellow shirt (for the Gold? His brownness and inert blackness ‘repping’ for the Black? Maybe. Who knows?)

This, though, is what I know I about that green suit. In mid-March 1974 my father traveled to New York on business. On a slightly blustery Sunday morning, he dressed up in his favorite green suit and stepped out of Hotel Wentworth onto the pavements of West 49 Street in search of a bar to have a few drinks, but only a few, as funds were limited and mostly dedicated to the business he was there for. He noticed the proliferation of people wearing green, like himself but didn’t pay it much attention. He was intent on his drink. A few blocks away he turned into an Irish pub. Everyone there was white but suprisingly they all greeted him loudly and with smiles as if they knew him before. Before he could an order a drink, the bartender enquired what he wanted. Vodka, of course. The group who had ordered it for him, lifted their green caps – those who were wearing – and gave him the thumbs-up, which he returned with a mouthed ‘thank-you’. After that drink, another one came, from another group, with the same silent pleasantries. They were kind, but a rowdily loud but he was not worried. They didn’t look like thugs or hooligans, seeming more mature than that, in both age, manners and dress. Soon, some of the patrons drew closer to him. One asked, “What’s your name, my friend?”

“MacPherson” my father answered. His new acquaintance seemed overjoyed about that and repeated to the others, “McPherson. That’s his name.” It began to echo through the pub as one group shouted his name to another. More drinks began to come his way. When some patrons couldn’t hear because of the din, the others spelled it out for them, “M-C-P-H-E-R-S-O-N”. My father never told them his name was Scottish not Irish. He never told them it was spelled Mac and not Mc. Although that may not have changed anything based on the celebratory mood they were all in. He asked the bartender “Why this enormous generousity?”

“You’re wearing the green” the bartender answered, “and you’re a Mc. You’re half-irish -“

“Yep” my father answered, before the bartender finished.

“And half-black?”

“Yep, yep” my brown-complexioned father answered.

“It’s St. Paddy’s Day”, the bartender explained. After that night’s extended drinking spree, my drunken father had to be escorted back to his 46th Street hotel  by two young Irish-American girls, whose names he remembered only as ‘Mousey’ Brown and Ginger, which i suspect was really only their color. That became one of his stories that had no conclusive ending, but from that time until his death, he planned all his business trips for mid-March and always made sure my mother packed that favorite leprechaun green suit.     


“Wearing green
Doesn’t mean
You’re Irish,
Or have kissed
The Blarney
Got the Gift
of Gab
Or from Tír na nÓg,
Or the Tuatha Dé Danann
Or a green-suited Leprechaun.
It Just means today
Is St. Paddy’s Day”

’17 Green’ – MacSewell M. McKie




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The Jump

February 2nd, 2020

by Jim Bates

I didn’t expect so many people to be standing around on the cliff overlooking the Yellow Knife River but there were, maybe fifteen or so, mostly young folks in their twenties just hanging out, joking around and having a good time, everyone looking tan and fit. It was honestly not what I expected at all. Scared as I was, I found the festive atmosphere kind of distracting and that was a good thing, giving my growing unease. You know what, I thought to myself, this just might work out okay.

Next to me my ten year old grandson took my hand and smiled, “Grandpa, look at all the people. This is really cool. “

He pulled me along, ever closer to the edge. I followed behind trying to calm my rapidly beating heart with little success. Was I really going to do this? Was I really going to conquer my fear of heights and jump off a thirty foot cliff into a river? It looked like I was. If my wife could only see me, now.

A week earlier when I’d told Connie of my plan she’d said derisively, “So you’ve got a bucket list, Ed? First I’ve heard of it. And jumping off a cliff is the first thing on it? What, are you nuts?” She shook her head in marital disappointment. “Look, I asked you to take down the swing set in the backyard at the beginning of summer, what, three months ago? You couldn’t be bothered. Now, suddenly you’ve got this ridiculous bucket list that you’re all fired up about, and it has to happen like right now. What’s next? Parachuting out of a airplane?” I quickly found something of interest down by my shoes and averted my gaze. How’d she know about that? It was third on the list, right after hiking the Appalachian Trial. “How about you put ‘Take down the swing set’ on that stupid list of yours, huh? Maybe then it’ll get done.”

I tried to recover some modicum of dignity, “Look, I’m sorry about the swing set. I’ll get on it right away.”

“Yeah, right.” I could see it in her eyes. My wife’s opinion of men, never very high even on a good day, slipped down another rung on her ladder of disappointment. “Before or after you jump off the cliff?”

I felt some clarification was in order. “You know that I’ve always been afraid of heights. I just want to prove to myself that I can do it, and, you know, get past my fear. Plus…well, I’m jumping into a river,” I said, for some reason thinking it would put a positive spin on things. Wrong.

“Oh, well, a river,” she said and then let out derisive “Humph,” which rattled the crockery in the nearby kitchen cabinet, “Well, that makes it all right then.” She thought for a moment, shaking her head, dismay written all over her face. We had a good marriage and had been together over forty years, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to do something to either try her patience, or disappoint her, or both. This obviously was one of those times. “Well, call Ronny at least. See if he’ll go with you. Maybe our son can help protect you from yourself.”

Whew. Off the hook.

I watched as she turned on her heel and headed for the living room, phone in hand, eager, I was sure, to call one of her girl friends to commiserate once again on the idiocy of the male species, a life-long pastime of theirs. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time and probably not the last, either, but what could I say? At least I kept things interesting.

As if she could read my mind, Connie turned and gave me a pointed look, “What did you say?”

“Ah, nothing. I…I just…”

I shut up. It was disconcerting that the longer we were married, the more she seemed to be able to read my mind. I’d have to watch myself.

She jabbed a long, pointed finger in my direction, “Something about keeping things interesting? Is that what you said? Well, you’d better watch it, buddy, that’s all I’ve got to say.”

Scary. Was she becoming clairvoyant? I shuddered at the thought. That’s all I needed.

I took a moment to collect myself and then called our oldest son and explained what was going on. “This Saturday? Sorry, Dad, can’t go. I’m swamped at the dealership, but maybe Noah can. I’ll put him on.”

I took care of my grandson and his two younger sisters one day a week after school. He and I loved doing things together, and after he listened to my idea about jumping into the Yellow Knife River it took him all of about two seconds to say, “Yes!” And that’s what brought us to the forests of central Minnesota, a two hour drive north of Minneapolis, on a Saturday and a warm and sunny August afternoon.

A tall, well built, dreadlocked guy who looked to be in his mid-twenties broke away from the group when he saw us walking toward the cliff’s edge. He came up and smiled a greeting, “Hey there, guys. What’s going on? Here to jump off Lollipop?”

His grin was infectious, and his bright white teeth were accented by his tan face. He was wearing cut off jeans and flip flops. I tried not to stare at his bare chest and torso, rippling with muscles. He kind of looked like I imagined Hercules might have looked like. Next to me I swear Noah whispered, “Wow.”

Lollipop? What the heck was he talking about? I coughed to clear my suddenly restricted throat and said, “Jump into the river? Yeah, I think I am.”

As if reading my mind he grinned, pointed to the cliff and said affectionately, “Lollipop is what we call this little baby here.”

“Really?” I stammered. It was all I could think to say. Then I croaked out, “Why’s that?” And why was my mouth suddenly so dry? But he was very friendly, and I was trying to be friendly back, you know, trying to get into the spirit of things. Next to me Noah surreptitiously handed me a bottle of water which I gratefully drank from.

“We call it that because it’s such a sweet little jump.” His grin widened, “Not like that one.” He pointed over his shoulder up a long rise. Through the trees I could barely make out a high cliff about a hundred yards downstream.

“What’s that one called?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.

“Hangman,” he said and laughed,” because the drop could kill you.”

Next to me Noah said, “Yikes,” while I wiped a bead of sweat from my brow and tried to get my racing heart under control.

Mr. Dreadlocks took a long moment looking me over before he calmly patted me on the shoulder and said, “Let’s get you started with Lollipop and save Hangman for some other day. How’s that sound?”

The answer was obvious to me. “Sounds good,” I said, trying to sound confident. Next to me Noel whispered, “Way to go, Grandpa,” as he took the bottle from my suddenly fidgety hand.

Mr. Dreadlocks then slapped me on the back (he really was a touchy-feely kind of guy) and turned to his friends, yelling, “Gang, we’ve got a jumper here!” A chorus of cheers arose from the crowd. He turned and gave me the thumbs up sign before giving me another once over, taking a bit more time appraising me.

I’m a little overweight (doughy would be putting it mildly) and nearly bald. I was wearing tan cargo shorts, a dark blue Minnesota Twins tee-shirt and a Twins baseball cap. On my feet I wore an old pair of canvas tennis shoes. In my research on cliff jumping, I’d read that they would help protect my feet from the force of the impact on the water.

“First time?” Like he even had to ask.

“Yeah,” I said, and damn it if my voice didn’t crack. I tried to recover. “It’s on my bucket list.”

“Bucket list? Really. Well, we get that a lot here,” he grinned and stuck his hand out, “Welcome. My name’s Cody.”

We shook, “Hi. I’m Ed and this is my grandson, Noah.” Noah shook Cody’s hand, but didn’t (or couldn’t) say anything, enamored as he was to the point of speechlessness by the statuesque Adonis standing before us.

“Great to meet you guys. If you want, I’ll help you out.”

“That’d be nice,” I said, meaning it, my relief palpable.

For the next ten minutes or so he talked me through what he called The Jump. He was really nice about it, patient with me and informative. He seemed to understand the trepidation a sixty-five year old man might have about leaping into space

As he talked people kept coming up to the area and jumping off the cliff, often without any warning or fanfare whatsoever. I saw a skinny whip of a girl walk to the edge, hold her nose and step right off. I saw a guy and a woman around forty jump while holding hands. And then one of Cody’s friends, Mia, ran off the edge and did a back flip on her way down. Watching all those jumpers served to make me both excited and nervous, an strange feeling to have.

Finally, Cody clasped me on the shoulder in a friendly way and said, “Okay Ed, that’s about it.” He looked me over once again and nodded to himself, “I’d say you’re all set to go. How about it? Are you ready?”

I looked around. The sky was cloudless and clear blue. A hot sun was beating down. The scent emanating from the pine forest was heady and fragrant. The crowd nearby was boisterous and happy. I’d been coached by the inimitable Cody. I guess was as ready as I’d ever be.

I took a deep breath, “Sure. Yeah. I’m ready.”

“Super.” Cody turned to the crowd and yelled, “Ed’s going for it!”

There was a heartfelt cheer, and lot’s of ‘Atta boys’ and ‘Way to go’s’.

I gave my hat to Noah and stepped to the edge. The river was wide, about two-hundred feet across and even though there was a current, the surface looked calm with barely a ripple showing. The shear granite cliff I was on had formed eons ago with a natural ledge that sloped away from the edge toward the shore. All I had to do was step off and drop thirty feet straight down. I was told  it would take less than two seconds before I hit the water.

I took a deep breath and exhaled. Cody had suggested not to not look down, so I didn’t. I looked across the river to the pine trees and rocky cliffs on the other side. Behind me Noah whispered, “You can do it Grandpa.” I felt him take my hand and squeeze.

I turned and looked at him and he smiled an encouraging smile. I smiled back, squeezed his hand once more, and let go. Let’s do this, I said to myself. Then I turned and stepped into space.

For a moment I hung suspended. It felt like I was floating. Then I was air born and free falling, and it was exhilarating. The wind whipped past me, and I’m pretty sure I held my breath. I kept my hands glued to my sides, and the river came up fast. When I hit the water I heard my feet smack the surface as bubbles boiled around me. I went under and spread my arms and legs wide so I wouldn’t go too deep. I was conscious of blowing air out through my nose to keep water from going in. Then I swam up about five feet to the surface, not having expected the water to be as cold as it was. But the coolness felt refreshing and added to my euphoria. I’d survived my jump! I was alive and I felt fantastic – energized. I couldn’t believe it, but I’d conquered my fear of heights. I felt a sense of accomplishment unlike any I’d ever felt before. I hope it doesn’t sound too crazy to say this, but I will: I felt reborn.

I was also reveling in what must have been a natural high coupled with an adrenaline rush in the aftermath of my accomplishment: the sun seemed brighter, the sky bluer and the wild river I was floating in seemed…well, wilder. Suddenly there was a huge splash next to me. I looked over and saw Cody’s head as he bobbed up to the surface. He was grinning like there was no tomorrow. “You did it, man. Welcome to the club.” He gave me a high-five which I awkwardly returned.

I don’t know why, but I was so happy I had tears in my eyes.

We swam to shore and climbed a trail back to the top where I was greeted with an enthusiastic outpouring of support and camaraderie by the crowd that had seemed to have doubled in size since I’d first arrived. Noah gave me a big bear hug. For an old guy who wasn’t coordinated or in any kind of athletic shape, I have to say that I felt unexpectedly on top of the world. As far as checking something off a bucket list went, I’d have to say that my ‘Jump off a cliff’ had worked out pretty good.

Later, driving home, Noah couldn’t quit talking about the whole experience: How cool Cody was. How amazing his girlfriend Mia was. How neat great my jump into the river was. Finally he asked, “Can we go back again, Grandpa? If you want to, that is. If you do go, I’d like to go, too. I mean, if that’d be okay with you.” He was excitedly running off at the mouth, and it was kind of cute, but I have say that I understood the feeling.


I wondered what Connie would say, me driving back north with Noah sometime and jumping off the cliff again. Well, I knew exactly what she’d say. She’d look at me like I was crazy and say, ‘Oh, really, Ed, jump again? What, are you completely insane? Once wasn’t enough? You’ve got to do it again? What have you got to prove? Are you seriously trying to kill yourself?’ Then she’d wonder if was time to take me in to a psychiatrist and have some tests done or something.

I’ll probably never get her to understand that jumping wasn’t about ego some macho malarkey or anything like that. It was about facing a fear and overcoming it. The jump was a means to an end. Besides, it turned out to be an incredible experience.

I didn’t have to think too long. To heck with it. I turned to my grandson and said, “You know, I just might.” I waited just a tick and said, “And if I do, you can come with.”

“Yea! Great Grandpa,” he grinned, “I can’t wait.”

I’m sure he had his own reasons for wanting to back, but I did, too. The more I thought about it the more I figured, why not jump again? You only live once, no matter how crazy it might seem to others. Besides, once I conquered my fear, it turned out that jumping was an unbelievable rush, one I wouldn’t mind experiencing again. That being said, however, I’m positive I’m going to leave Hangman to those made of firmer stuff than me.

So, yeah, I think I’ll go back, maybe even next weekend. And when I do, there’s certainly a bright spot in it for my wife and her friends and their observations concerning the idiotic behavior of men – It’ll give them one more thing to talk about. It’s the least I can do, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. So everyone will be happy, and that’s got to be a good thing. Right?

But before we go, I’ll get Noah to help me take down that swing set in our backyard. Promise.





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The Wind Up Key

January 26th, 2020

by Cecilia Kennedy 

The sky bridge that connects the parking garage to the fancy department store on the other side gives me a sense of excitement when I cross it.  The glass to the right and to the left of me offers a view of modern buildings and the carefully spaced tiles below my feet feel deliciously dangerous. Certainly, I’m out of place in old jeans and running shoes.  Women hurry past in their heels and tailored skirts. A glorious haze of perfume settles in the air and I can catch the edge of an expertly outlined eye in black.  I know better than to pair powder puff pink shoes with neon laces and a red jacket that advertises the local outdoor clothing store chain.  Such things are for tourists. I live here now, which is why this trip to the department store is particularly important, I’ve decided.  I’ve decided that it’s time to look and dress like I live here.  Like I belong here.

Everything inside the store gleams, even the mannequins that model sleeveless classic dresses I know I could pull off with style, but I don’t really go anywhere in particular these days.  And then I remind myself that this is why I’m here: to treat myself a little better.  I don’t have to be going anywhere in particular in order to look nice.  So, I dare to glance at the price tag and realize that my expectations of shopping for $20 dresses to treat myself are unrealistic, so I move on.  Maybe I’ll change my mind and come back.

In the meantime, I watch the women go by and I take the escalator up to the second floor.  I think I might find a plate or a shiny glass object that could buy me some temporary happiness in the furniture department upstairs.  When I reach the moving stairs, I count: one, two, three, so I don’t trip and fall on the first edge that rises.  I make sure I wait before I count, so that I don’t hold others up. There are plenty who would be annoyed by someone like me, who counts before using the escalator.

As my escalator goes up, there’s another one that goes down in the opposite direction and I can continue to watch people as they ride the stairs. I carefully observe how they are dressed and how ashamed I should be to even go into a place like this dressed as I am.  

On my right, is a very clean, silvery mirror.  I don’t dare look at my face, for fear of finding all kinds of flaws like smudges of makeup, lines, or gray hairs, but I force myself to look anyway and I realize that the face that stares back is pretty much okay.  But then, I notice something about my hair, so I turn my head slightly to the side while keeping my eyes trained on the mirror.  At first, I think I see a bald spot near the right side of my head, towards the back, but then I realize that it’s just the spot where I slept hard last night. I reach my hand over to cover up what I think is just bare skin, but my hand hits something metal and hard.  I can’t quite see what it is in the mirror, but I feel around using my hand and I come into contact with a hard, metal, zipper-like surface that trails the protruding object I believe is sticking out from my scalp.  I don’t remember it having ever been there before and now, I need to know what it is, so when I reach the furniture department on the second floor, I turn the corner and head back down the escalator to find a dressing room on the first floor.

The harsh lights of the dressing room are unforgiving, but I must know what’s sticking out of my head—what has been there for so long.  From my pocket, I pull out a powder compact with a mirror so that I can angle it into the full-length mirror and see the right side of the back of my head.  The hair is definitely a little thinner in that spot, which is not something I really want to fully accept at the moment, but my main concern is the metal object that’s sticking straight out.  It looks like a large, flat key for a wind-up toy that’s been implanted into my head, and it seems to be placed right over a very jagged and sharp metal zipper that runs from the spot just above my neck right into the middle of my skull.  I’m afraid to pull it, so I gently try to tug on it first to see if anything moves. The key won’t turn and the teeth of the zipper don’t appear to unzip in any way. For the life of me, I can’t remember why it’s there or when I had this done. Surely, I must have consented to this; it must have been done for a reason.

My hair is long enough to try to push several strands over the metal parts to hide it, but when the wind blows or I move my head, it must be a noticeable thing.  I’ve not seen anyone stare at me before, though.  In fact, I have been able to walk through this entire department store without seeing anyone look at me in an alarming manner.  But then again, this is not the place for anyone to stare at anyone else.  Here, people look straight ahead and mind their own business.

When I get home, my Radin asks me why I don’t have a load of shopping bags to take in from the car.

“I lost the will to shop,” I say.

“But that was the point—to go out and cheer yourself up—spend a little money on yourself.”

“I thought it would help, but things are so expensive and then. . . I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before.”

“Like what?”

I turn my head to the side a bit and lift up my hair.

“How long has this been here?” I ask.

“You had that done a year or so after we moved to Holmsville—before moving here.”

It takes a while for my brain to register Radin’s words: I had this done.  I clearly consented to this procedure.

“It was all the rage in Holmsville,” Radin adds.

“Was there a surgery?”

“Oh, yes—an expensive one, but you’d saved up your money from teaching overtime, so you could have this surgery and fit in.”

I vaguely remember watching the other Holmsville women run off to meetings and to ball games.  They all had the same sporty, effortless hairstyle with just a hint of shiny metal underneath—with a wind-up key inserted directly into the scalp.  Everyone had one and I decided I had to have it too, but I don’t remember the day I went to get this done or how I’ve been able to sleep at night with this thing sticking out of my head. I’m surprised my scalp doesn’t itch or hurt.

“Why don’t I remember this?” I ask.

“I have no idea.”

“Do you hate it?  Is it ugly?”

“It’s fine—especially in Holmsville. When you comb your hair over it, it’s hard to really see anything anyway.”

“But what about when the wind blows?  Surely you see it then?”

“I . . . I guess,” Radin says—and I can see he’s just trying to protect my feelings.

When the wind blows—and it always does—the key and all of the jagged metal is exposed and now I wish I’d never done this, but I hadn’t counted on living anywhere else but Holmsville.  I never thought I’d ever move.

“Do you suppose I could have it undone?”

“I guess it’s possible.”

But I know it’s not possible.  It would hurt too much. I don’t want to subject myself to so much pain anymore.  What’s done is done.

“I think I’ll go back to the department store. I think I saw a dress I’d like to buy.”

“Want me to come with you?”

“No—it’s okay. I won’t take long.”

The entire drive over to the fancy shopping center downtown is unnerving.  All I can think about is the wind-up key and I can feel it.  I can feel it stuck into my head and I just want to pull it out. When I reach the parking garage, I walk slowly towards the sky bridge.  Then, when I reach the first glass tile, I spread out my arms like I’m walking on a tightrope.  A few people look up to watch me with curiosity, but they don’t stare for very long.  

When I reach the middle of the bridge, I turn to my right and face the wall of glass that overlooks the downtown buildings.  In the reflection of the glass, I can see my face.  Clouds of cherry blossom and cucumber perfume breeze by.  The finely painted faces and sleek, straight hairstyles zigzag behind me. With my right hand, I reach up to push away the strands of hair covering the key and I give it a firm turn—much firmer than I’d done in the dressing room earlier.  Nothing happens.  I don’t even feel anything in my scalp, so I crank harder—as hard as I can—and the key finally turns.  Strands of hair fall about my feet. From the follicles, the blood flows, and in the reflection in the glass on the sky bridge, I see my days of fitting in are over.



Winter Publication Schedule
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Traffic Totals for 2020 FLASH SUITE Contest

January 21st, 2020

Welcome to Defenestrationism reality.

Woah… woah, woah.  Wow.

What a contest– with winners now announced.

The 2020 FLASH SUITE Contest received nigh record breaking numbers: since the finalists were announced on November 3rd, 11,530 visits; 1,682 unique IPs; with Two (2) single days during fan voting with over one-thousand hits. 

Actually, most of those numbers are record breaking.

So, to all you Fans and Followers, Authors and Judges, you Work-Shirkers and Surfers
— and especially to you Voters–
a big sparkly
thank you
from the bottom of the cold, wireless, internet heart
of all of us at Defenestrationism.net .




Conclusion to the Lamppost Poem, now published
Back to the 2020 FLASH SUITE Contest
Keep surfing through for our Winter content
Submission for this Summer’s !Short Story Contest! opens in April
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