I’d like to introduce you to collaboration #53 with the gorgeous babe, Coco. The card made me chuckle but of course when I sat down and started writing a story about being topless on the beach I didn’t exactly end up with a summertime romp. Oh well, hopefully that’s why you like me…. maybe even love me?
Yeah, you love me.
But not as much as I love you.
but i want to
The sweat drips down her ribcage and she puts a hand under one breast and flicks the moisture into the sand. She lies back on her towel and parts her legs slightly so they are no longer touching. Her bikini bottoms stretch and the elastic irritates her bronzed skin.
She lights a cigarette and looks down the beach while the stale taste of tobacco swirls around her tongue. No-one was around and she takes a deep drag before extinguishing the remainder into the sand. It sticks up beside the other three she’d already smoked like little tombstones of her time here.
The beach house she was renting had hundreds of them scattered through the yard. Sometimes it was the only way she could tell how long she’d been here. The first thing she’d done when she’d arrived was to pull out the telephone and turn off her mobile. He would have to find out where she’d gone before he could convince someone to drive him down and confront her. His license had been revoked after he totalled his car high on someone else’s meds.
She lights another cigarette and pulls the string of her bikini, tossing the sodden lycra in the sand.
She turns at the masculine shout. A small, tanned man was awkwardly stomping towards her.
LADY YOU CAN’T SMOKE OR BE NAKED HERE
She sits up and squints at him making no move for her bathers as he approaches.
This seems to enrage him further and he shouts that it’s against the rules. There are signs with the rules on them. He shouts for a while before he abruptly stops, his face crumpling, and leaves with slumped shoulders.
When she puts her hand to her face it comes away wet not from sweat but from tears.
Thank you for number #36, LMB.
This is maybe my fourth cat-themed postcard. Sometimes people can just tell.
The others in the alley were used to not looking at her hands. It wasn’t the grime. All their hands were dirty. Hers were swollen and malformed from the infections. She liked stray cats.
Ya gonna get fuckin’ cat aids, ya dummy.
He yelled when she returned to their tarp with fresh scratches and welts, cradling a cat.
She’s hungry and look, I think it might be Alby.
She held up the worn magazine clipping she carried everywhere, a watercolour painting of a cat amongst purple flowers. She said it was a photo.
She smiled when he pointed out the huge set of balls on the thing.
All cats are girls and all dogs are boys, she explained in her singsong voice.
She didn’t have the same high-pitched whine of the others around them.
You think there’s enough food? You go get it then, you fuckin’ retard.
His whine echoed off the heritage-listed bluestones of the alley, the mortar between them long receded, now filled with mud and shit and rubbish. The same glue that kept them together kept the alley together.
Please. I don’t like doing it.
She buried her head into mangy fur until he returned with glazed eyes and an empty goonbag hanging loosely from his fist. He pushed the cat away and pushed his hands under her thick layers, starting with her breasts, twisting the nipples hard. She looked at where the cat sat cleaning itself and then squeezed her eyes closed.
Good girl. You want some kitty food?
When the cat disappeared. She held up her crumpled picture to the others and asked if they’d seen Alby.
No one knew where to look when the nasal whine crept into her voice. Especially not at him.
So they looked at her hands instead.
I mentioned in my #35 postcard introduction that you might be seeing Eric Westerlind’s words sooner rather than later and I’m happy as hell to introduce some of them to you now. Eric made me grin my biggest grin when he asked for a postcard so he could return the favour and write a shorty for me. His address tucked under a little secret pocket on the card compartment made me explode.
So enough from me – meet Eric…
Me. A Coloradan living in a three story bedroom, working in a treehouse.
Surprised I was, mainly at the thick stock of the postcard, then the trim handwriting of one
yt sumner of Australialand Ln. Mama, brother, peekin over my shoulders like ‘ooo what be
that, boy’ and i told em I’ve gotta write a story for this girl in another country since she’s doin
one for me and they understood that well enough.
Finding that life doesn’t so much change its manners as it does it’s mannerisms, this story.
That gumless shark idea I wanted to make into a movie ended up on the back of a crayon-eaten-
crayon-made postcard. Only wish I’d had the patience to snail mail it back.
Onward, forward, all that! Huzzah.
Thanks yt, for the project. The space, the creativity. You’re crushin and inspiring.
– fre(e) (w)illy
“Take your sweet time, hon.” That soft paper voice, brittle like starched linens.
Did you iron that apron before work? is what I’d ask Ken, apparently (short for what? Kenelope?).
Her skin looks thick, a buffer against this small cafés darker side + guys like me.
Dear Ken, I’m thinking to her backside, I’d take you if I had teeth left. Then again, the coffee’s good enough, appetite suppressed — three sips. She walks to another table, two dark and hairy’s (though who can say if its dirt or grease or anything). They’re probably ordering eggs benedict like all the other drivers do.
A window shatters, one of the big plane ones, CAFÉ DE dot dot dot just dust and a perfect spray of glass shard shrapnel and Ken saw it coming but that just means she gets a bit further before the front of the semi coming through the window catches her and crushes her legs.
The other two are just near splatters, neither less ragged than the other.
Strange thing — a truck in a truck stop café. Seen stranger though.
It’s been six hundred years. Things happen. A Turkish mob pulled my incisors, just post second world war, in Turkey.
MARTIN, who’s opening the truck door now, hypothesized at the time, tied down as we were, that they might grow back. A year later, x number of livestock meals, then more years and mud and hunger, he gave up hope too.
It’s harder, pulling/peeling at the skin, than just puncture-withdraw, but we’ve found that the more exposed surface area
the less work on our part.
Martin starts on the trucker under the table and I stand up, one more sip of coffee, hobble over.
Ken, her uniform soiled with hurts, blood etc, — there’s her tongue, either fleeing down her throat to her heart or playing with her molar, and then I latch on to the second driver, apologizing the whole time in my head that it had to be this way, not prettier, more finesse, nostalgic for a way that undoubtedly, after all these years, I can’t even really remember quite right.
Hey, so I guess it’s been a while, huh?
This postcard was bought in MoMA, New York but sent from Melbourne. Two of my favourite places.
It’s sort of an ode to the short French film Un Chien Andalou. I don’t generally do surrealism but it’s been that kind of month, you know.
Anyway it seemed a fitting and fucked up way to get back into this project of yours and mine. I hope you agree.
wish you were here
Once upon a time…
I woke up this morning and remembered I threw his hat off my roof.
I probably should have felt bad. It wasn’t the hats fault. It’s still sitting on the grimy roof of the Spanish restaurant next door. The best time I ate Spanish food I was angry and in New York. The hat landed right near the grease trap and all this slime and ooze started to weigh it down. Now it looks like a poisonous brick. The little badge that says ‘pussy’ on the side is completely covered in this ooze.
Eight years later…
We were driving along the coast like in that short story I wrote and that song comes and you started singing Moon CHAIN I pulled over on the side of the beach and held your hand tightly and waited for the ants to crawl out. But they didn’t.
Around three in the morning…
The book glared behind me. It bristled its spine. I hung out of the window and smoked a cigarette with my feet dangling. My stomach hurt on the old red wood and I watched a drunken man sway up the street with a pomegranate clenched in his fist. The juice ran down his forearm and I thought about screaming HEY been trying to meet you but he might have hit me in the face.
Sixteen years ago…
Before I was pale and buried in her pages, my feet buried beneath me as the others played. Now I bury the book in wet sand because winter’s my favourite. I closed my eyes for the Dormouse. I loved him the most. I opened them to see if I should feel bad as I placed my sister’s dollhouse on the top as a tombstone.
But no-one noticed.
I’ve also began a project with him that makes me remember how much I love good old fashioned airmail. Especially that little blue sticker.
don’t get comfortable
I’m walking home alone again. It’s late. Probably dangerous. You know. Men. Always having to be scared of them. I wish I knew how to fight. Properly like, not just punching and kicking and clawing. I remember when he hit me. How my head snapped back and hit the wall. I hiccup and remember how big those hands were. I hate the hiccups. They hurt and make me feel drunk. I didn’t say goodbye to anyone at the bar but I never do. I keep away from the streetlights. They’re too bright. Showing all my faults to the trees. The houses are quiet and I feel like everyone is gone. Just like the Mary Celeste. I walk past a house and imagine the late-night sandwich someone made, sitting on the bench with a bite out of it. They had perfect teeth. I’m the Omega Woman walking the streets alone, but there’s music coming from a house ahead. The doors are open but no one around. I open the gate and see someone is. A man on the porch. Asleep on a couch. He’s more of a boy really. I remember how I should be scared but I step closer. The porch creaks. I hiccup. He doesn’t move. I toss and turn a lot. I have bad dreams and wake up with hair like a witch. His hair is dark. Wavy. He looks gentle. I bet he is. I can tell how he’s sleeping. All curled up with his knees bent like he wants someone to sleep with. I lay behind him and slip my arm over his waist. I press my cheek against his back. We breathe together and his hand moves and closes over mine. When he wakes up I hope he smiles at the strange dream he had.
This card was sent in by three very special ‘Cageys’ that have known me and my stories longer than almost anyone. Thank you, Anne, Chris and Kelly.
I keep you here because I love you, Kate.
That’s what she told me.
Bullshit, I said. I was a lot mouthier back then. In the beginning. Before the escape attempts. I said you don’t keep anything locked up if you love it. She said I didn’t know what love truly was. I said it was to do with her being abandoned by her fucked-up mother.
She didn’t speak to me for a week after that so I didn’t mention her mother again. She fed the dogs, the cats and the birds but she never even looked at me. Once she was smiling again meant she was feeding me again. I didn’t even care about the shackles she put around my ankle. There was always worse things.
There was one cage where a bird would peck at her hand when she tried to stroke it. It would make hissing sounds as she passed. I saw the hurt in her eyes when this happened, I saw how she started going to that cage last. How she started spending smaller amounts of time there.
As the bird’s feathers thinned out, it started looking more reptilian, it’s ugly squawks more alien, and I saw how the hurt turned to horror as she approached it.
I can’t even remember it’s name anymore, she sobbed at the bars of my cage one night. It’s dark down here, I said. He probably misses the sun.
She unlocked my cage door and slipped inside. I backed against the wall and stumbled onto the cot I slept on.
She looked hurt.
Are you afraid of me, Sam?
I shook my head as my hands trembled more and the ugly cry of the bird was the only other sound that filled the basement.
This postcard is of the German city Heidelburg but has a Greek postage stamp. I imagined all kinds of scenarios and mysteries behind the combination. But it wasn’t until I peered through those leaves that I found the story.
Her feet were dirty.
This distressed her more than anything for some reason. Her feet, which she always took care of, were hard and cracked. Her pale skin, darkened with grime. She noticed a toenail was missing and released a sob.
She stepped through the forest undergrowth trying to remember why she was naked in the woods. She leaned against the rough bark of a tree without feeling it. She knew this was odd because she knew she had sensitive skin. Just like she knew about her feet. She opened her mouth to see what her voice sounded like but a guttural cry emerged instead.
She knew she’d woken up terrified in the dark like in the middle of a nightmare. That there was incense. That she smelled honey and dirt. She looked down into the hole that she woke up beside and then at her split, dried hands and began to run.
She ran with bracken whipping at her face and bare thighs, hard stones and twigs piercing her feet. She ran until the sky became light above the forest canopy and the trees thinned out.
She walked until she could hear a river rushing and she knew this river’s name. She emerged from the forest and looked upon the town that had not changed much over three hundred years.
Sunlight played on the bridge where they’d carried her bound and drugged, the flames of torches and chanting whirling around her. She touched the back of her head and felt the dip where it had caved in as the priest struck her, kneeling beside the pit.
She retreated into the forest, joy flooding her withered body as she caught sight of the church she would visit first, as she returned to the earth and waited for night.