O p r nt s p ot ie u i T a We a No o h t Si d T I T e at n h Ps

Sa fr Fi ma t od r d n n e

Opportunities That We Said No To In The Past

By

Stanford Friedman

Published by Stanford Friedman at Smashwords Copyright 2010 Stanford Friedman Smashwords Edition, License Notes Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to Smashwords.com to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.

Contents Also by Stanford Friedman… I. Pastime An Easy Schematic that Leads to Harm Whether Assume That Memory Is a Glass Sheet The Devil’s Tool Endowment Small Talk Opportunities that We Said No To in The Past Fragments In Lieu of Flowers Common Sense Vernacular An Attempt On One’s Life The Beaten Path II. Story Problems The Fine Print Perpetual Motion Mama's Boy The Dirty Truth About Toast Spare Change A Brush With Desire Partial The Star Registry Man of the World Killing Time Begotten Body Count Sapience In Praise of Sex, Fully Clothed What I Know of Women in Water III. Land of the Giants One Hundred Years of Solitude/Gilligan's Island An Addams Elegy Make the Man Reservation for Two Legendry The Morning After About the author…

Also by Stanford Friedman…

God's Gift to Women (a novel) God's Gift to Women reminds me of Nick Hornsby's "High Fidelity"--except instead of a tale about a man's obsession with music, we get a book about a man's obsession with the opposite sex. I'd call this novel "guy lit" but it's too smart, too knowing, too literary for that. Really, it's a 30-something male's coming of age story. Anyone of either sex who feels confounded by love, dating and what it all ultimately means will love this book. --Paula Derrow--editor, Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting It, Giving It, Loving It, Missing It

God's Gift to Women follows Scott, an egocentric Manhattanite in crisis mode, on a long run: the 1995 New York Marathon. As the story traces his difficult, five hour trek through the streets of New York City on the coldest race day ever, it simultaneously delves into Scott's memories of a dozen past and present lovers, dead and alive. If the book's title takes a jab at its protagonist’s obsessions, it also foreshadows his epiphany: God's real gift to women is that, if all goes well, they outlast their men.

Learn more, read excerpts, and buy after Oct. 15, 2010: www.stanfordfriedman.com

I.

Pastime I have spent the day untying the running shoes of the women of Montreal. It is easy. Their steps are slow, predictable as a downbeat, and generously unguarded. They employ the footwork of the bilingual the patient two-step of a people who say everything twice, ascending like an accent ague, falling like the crosshatch of a Q. But mostly, it is about the knot. New Yorkers wear their Reeboks to work in the morning with the knots tight paradigms of their lives, a surrogate strangle of their husbands' necks, the unsolvable tangle of so many suffocating nights. But the women of Montreal are loose with their strings, even double-knots give up their bows like a muffler freed from its rusted mount, dragging through the Avenue du Parc, throwing sparks at my open palms, lighting their paths without them even knowing.

An Easy Schematic that Leads to Harm There are a hundred million explosives at rest and underground and five billion hearts ticking. We spend our days in flak in offices where walls are concrete, our nails concealing their burning fingertips. Hers are painted pink, mine reach to the pocket outside the bomb where I keep my cigarettes. Sex is only the placing of a stethoscope into a dangerous casing. The real work comes after, our sweating bodies exert language and here a wire must be cut, the red or the blue, the magnetic field of sleep — these small forgivings that hold a detonator in place, these eyes like a clock’s pendulum unwinding as we dream. (Here’s what I’ve buried beneath this poem: If I bring a friend too near my lover’s pulse, he will take it from me, throw his body in front of mine and absorb the shock. If my desires implode then no one gets hurt.) As she and I wake and stretch our tired arms, thousands of arteries reach up toward the sky. The slightest pressure on the dome of our world and this whole damn thing could go off.

Whether On Monday, stand atop the roof of a house in Casper and observe the storm that is miles off. Each morning sip a coffee and feel the sky swell like a pregnant belly until dousing you in your pajamas on Thursday. I mean, of course, the way my body is a field of low-growing plants that can do no better than to weather its own violent downpours. Like the ruined moods that strike without warning but really are days in the making — my silence, anxious as a cloud and, every night, seeded. A flow of tears has its own method of erosion, its own resulting canyon. I can sit very still and feel my losses pass right through or I can hold a woman like a lightning rod and not let go. If I say, I want you, after my feelings have moved on, what I mean is, the ground has flooded. In my country I cannot predict disaster, I can only clean up after one. I could advise that my tongue is the tip of an iceberg but that’s a small warning. Anyone would ignore it at first.

Assume That Memory Is a Glass Sheet Relax next to an elderly man as a girl shatters the calm of the pool's surface. He seems grateful simply to follow her matted hair, the ripples surrounding her like a parenthesized hush. She will emerge coated in glass. Sculpt the old man's fist in the shape of a Hummel swan. Enter the sex shop named Wonderland, bringing a pocket of singles into the booth. A steel partition rises, reverse guillotine, to reveal not stained Plexiglas, but a space to stick hands through. For two dollars touch the breasts of the nearest torso, oiled, familiar. She will whisper how all these reaching fingers remind her of wheat before the rain. She will speak a name just as the hole slaps shut. Yell at the bank teller. She has miscounted and turned off the speaker. On the business side of the glass her only perception is a mouth moving without voice, a backward confessional. Yell that she didn't know how to love, that leaving, like waiting in line, is a desperate act. She will reveal her empty palms only when you focus on the window itself. She will be replaced by the reflection of a man, red-faced, forgetful of where he is at.

The Devil’s Tool Place an ear tight to your mattress and whimper into the sheet. The springs breathe, they amplify your low moan and the whole bed brays with the sound of cattle at the realization of morning. The transistor radio is dead so lick the battery. Your taste buds, flat against the 9-volt’s tips, tingle as if the tongue has been tied across your lower lip and tickled way past the point of pleasure. The battery is fine. You decide you want to boil milk, a lot of it, a gallon in an aluminum pot. There are white bubbles like a cloud drowning or a bed sheet stalked by blisters. You can place an arm above the disturbed surface and think that this burn was born from an animal mouthful of grass or how your mother would test your formula in much this same way. The binoculars are ancient but your act of magnification is not consumed by time. The woman’s legs are just as long, the green tattoo on the man’s back just as hard to discern. Blocks away she looks right at you, you handsome postcard, Nude Reposed On Windowsill. You are so hungry for a salad doused in vinegar. You are sprouting stubble even as you watch. Turn the spyglass to the clock and see the space between each second. This is how long the day can be.

Endowment Yes, a severed aorta is a broken heart, fire hose of a vein snake-loose and spewing. How about: embankment. The car flew down the embankment. The damaged heart tumbled o'er the rib embankment. How about when she taught you to bathe, your miniaturized chassis a rough draft of hers. The slick surface, the wheels spinning, the bifurcate organs and offspring and roads. Shower without thinking the nozzle an open wound, manic tear duct, nippled fuel line. Sign her corpse away in your sprawling, loopy script. It's a model year for movement, the road curves just as you thought it might. The glove box is a coffin of maps.

Small Talk We name the minutiae of our bodies to batten down the flesh: eyelash, fingernail, bellybutton. The secret to cover up is that the smallest parts are what hold us together. Think O-ring or of the baby born to prevent divorce and it comes as no surprise that to split atoms is to obliterate Nagasaki. So easily dismissed over tea. I can't list more than two of those astronauts nor a single Japanese. In our tight circle, the chatter is focused on bigger deals: who sleeps with whom (one of us puns that spermatozoa are microfiche), the latest film, and work (cogs, we mutter, or, more poetically, belly-up minnows in a stagnant pond). In a better world, the big idea floats over Jughead's crown — a glowing bulb, and winged hearts flee Veronica's collar. Their skins are permeable dots. But here, what the beautician won't whisper to her frosted client and what the guys around the juice bar keep to themselves is that they are each a captive of the anatomy's gulag. Cell walls are interlocked and they span for miles, anchoring us to Earth.

Opportunities that We Said No To in The Past Like the stem of a brilliant umbrella your body held to the beach as your sun dress bellowed. I did not kiss you then, there was time for that. You were a new friend in a cocoon of wind so I waited for the stall that would draw the cloth tight to your ribs and for the sea salt to braze your skin. Then, I did not take your hand and we drove back. There was no dinner but rather coffee, black, and dry croissants. Our feet, invisible beneath the table and so not really touching, certainly not the way my knee pressed tight to your thigh. You told me all your loved ones are ghosts and I said that mine aspire to be but so far I have taken their absence too well. We did not go home to the same house and when I kissed you you were surprised, the thought had never occurred. One night did not happen because it rained. Your phone, for hours a steady aural drip, ultimately cleared and we held the receivers out our windows so that whatever was in the dark could converse. I did not hang up even as the sky turned scarlet. You sliced pears into the salad, roasted a chicken and served it with grapes, froze cherries into ice for the sangria. Our plates piled up with bones and seeds but I did not touch your blouse where it opened. I was satisfied and we dressed for bed. I caressed the sheaths of your eyelids, the wells between your toes, and napped. Had I stayed till nine, I would have mimed the clock's open arms and at midnight we would overlap, but you rushed me out at eight, saying that someone ancient was due. I have bargained with the air a thousand times since then, but you have been blown inside out by the torrential eddy of your genetics, another clock that would not wait for me. The ocean breeze prowls your boy's hair and your husband hands over a shell to hold to your ear. You shake your head and bury it.

Fragments In Lieu of Flowers The dirt is on its way, seeping through the woody folds of your coffin like a piggish man slipping the curtains of a peep-booth, unzipping your musty dress, damp. How you've changed in this bad part of town, giving it up to the earth, your every molecule an orifice. All the dead are sluts, on my heels even after their time, the tease of silence eviscerated from your vanishing lips. *** A neon sign is a tortured window, a pane stretched round itself, gassed and shocked until it blabs in a style us melancholy men adore. Indeed, we are drawn by its pink threat: LIVE GIRLS LIVE Women, living for a living (you kept out without your beating red ticket of admission). I can enter a velvet cage and glimpse silhouettes, pornographic in the way they hog air and dare to age. There are cells and then there are cells. *** A bill arrives listing those I love and how much they've cost me. You are the pricey one. 900 numbers answer in your voice. Intimacy without the bother of bodies. A long distance phone kill: You: "I want to hear it. I want to hear it." Me: "What? The sound of a toothbrush left undisturbed?" ***

Bodily fluids have their innate sense of direction: sperm doing the swim upstream, urine waiting its turn at the door; but our fleshy selves can be helpless. So when buried in snow by avalanche, dig around the mouth and drool, tunnel out in an opposite path of the saliva's flow. When drowning, simply follow those patient bubbles to the top. If dead, keep someone behind who can't get rid of you. *** Everyone who holds me leaves their microscopic gift of used flesh but that's not good enough. I was engulfed when you lived in your balloon of skin that would tan, burn, dimple. Now look at you, making yourself at home in the bulbs I planted around your plot. You’ll be carried by bees from pestle to hive. Bottled, and finally sold as honey that can coat the throat of a sniffling stripper and still her heaving chest.

Common Sense Granddad made the bomb. When it went off he clamped his eyes, shielded his clear irises, but still held witness to a quick x-ray of his fingertips. When Granny was his prolific desert, her old belly was young and swelled with the explosions. Everything that should be remains buried except this hot dust cloud of genetics persistent as a surname. Their daughter wore her stroke like a plank along the breastless hemisphere of her body. When I told her the sun is a merciful gasbag that keeps us, she opened, shut, and opened the refrigerator door. When I asked her if she was counting down her days, she pointed to the cat and said mouse. Their son became Doctor but could not shake the curse. Every lover: a black mole spotted as he sponged a tanned back, a sinewy knot he ignored in the armpit of his first fiancée, handfuls of hair from Mama’s radiated scalp. When we went to bury my aunt we found someone named Crick already in her plot. A mix-up at the head office, a misdirected chromosome in the otherwise healthy body of the cemetery. Cut it out, we told them, remove that speck of bones from our beautiful graveyard before every corpse ceases to belong to its offspring. It is commonplace, for some, to eat dirt or lick at the window of an office if that is what one inherits. I did not choose my father’s profession but became him nonetheless. His half-life. I bear the glow of my first shave, how he distilled a few drops of scented flammable into his hand,

rubbed his palms together until they caught fire and taught my skin what every pyrotechnician knows.

Vernacular When I announced, "Iamdevoidoftheemotionalintegritythatsustainsarelationship," she didn't understand that I meant, "Go." I enlisted a simpler language but the grammar of turning my back was misread. My spine, to her, was Braille. Her nails lingered illiterately over a warning of bone and nerve. There is a vernacular that exists somewhere between the spoken and the held, a communication born of dismissal. I have freed her to the black of her room, shutting the door behind me, and now, from here, I speak. Her hands do not cup my jaw and she hears what I never said.

An Attempt On One’s Life The pie-chart of risk is etched into memory and I know I make love in that small, safe wedge — the width of a needle or a thorn. Still, my veins conspire to stay hidden from statisticians. So in a room of arms, where a technician hour after hour tightens the rubber strap I watch a syringe accept my cryptic blood. When Wendy is wooed by Peter Pan she exclaims, You know fairies Peter? and the adults hoot. Peter responds, Yes, though nearly all are dead. What I believe is based on what I am asked to do. The technician said, Make a fist. Every time I say a virus does not exist, a friend dies. Through eight days of waiting a result I spy no eagle clutching a bloodied pup, but there are signs enough. The blood drive begins at the office and I hear the word "drive" in its urgent sense – a yearning at the microscopic level or a raceway of arteries. J.F.K.’s favorite White House escape was an unfinished room upstairs where a square of wallpaper from the Lincoln years hung in a gilded frame. He couldn’t have known it was a carrier. That that swatch corrupted his destiny just as a bullet infects a gun. A medic can report that a body teams with assassins but I can only watch the killing, over and over again.

The nurse leads me into an office without expression and in the slow instant before the doctor speaks there is no telling what he is made of. He shuts the door and a squeaking hinge makes us laugh. He can fix it or let it go. Even I know how it works.

The Beaten Path A house in the woods is singing. Her red floorboards warp in rows of gradual smiles as the walls grow ripe with termites. In a summer like this one half a million can breed between the studs, massaging the plaster to talc. A family of field mice nuzzle in the knife drawer and their fur is glazed with a sweetness that drizzles from the ceiling, a ceiling soaked not with rain, but with the produce of fifty thousand bees that slave in the attic. After the investigation the men took away a whisker, a sampling of bone, a garbage can of honey for each of their wives.

II.

Story Problems A. A square that expands is a house and when one of its segments snaps that fractured space is a door or a divorce. He walks out after 20 years, 30 pounds, 2 unruly kids. Any shape with a section missing is still labeled as if complete. When perpendicular lines don't meet we perceive that they do or that the children will touch their hands to their hearts yet not be desperate. Without the parabolic dips in his double mattress, is his potential equal to or greater than the zero that adorns his finger? B. The closed set of her womb holds circles. Therefore, she is a compass when her legs achieve a certain angle and the sum of two angry parts pirouettes into her doctor's hands. The lines of his steady obstetric palms form a graph, each of her newborns a point in time plotted on his latexed flesh, while her husband's mitts are more attuned to the cylindrical grace of a shot glass or the brief sting of the tangent formed by her fist rising to meet his incoming slap. A slap is a variable that begins a life. When the doctor and the husband shake is it a collision of matter and doesn't-matter, or the least common denominator of two fractions that bracket her whole and simple body?

C.

If the cross above the bed is his plus sign, then the figures to be added up are at it again in the kitchen. If the words, "God damn" can be factored out from the din of breaking dishes, then the rhombus and trapezoids of a shattered platter are a last supper mosaic. He is 8, so when he lies down, feeling not quite whole,

he is the symbol for infinity and, perhaps, the base of a trinity. He knows faith is two-faced but still trusts his parents are as one and that the brightest star to the east is his. When he prays the Lord his soul to keep will his folks gather at the doorway as proof of his theorem, or might one of them betray him, before the night is through?

The Fine Print The glass ashtray is forged, and emblazoned with a decal of a smoking dolphin, in three minutes flat. It is made in America. It retails for $5.99. The shell I pull from the Atlantic already has a perfect notch, and is free. It took countless years, still the laborers were microscopic, alien, and had no grasp of the English language. It is an understood and inalienable right of the Homo sapien, A NAFTA with the high seas: We take what we need. The smoking dolphin has a sly wink and a wry smile, as if ready to bluff a full house to your three-of-a-kind. But biologists know the score. This mammal's skull has not evolved in 15 million years. It's as savvy as it's going to get. This is a contract between God and His creators. We keep him alive, He makes us the smart ones. Decals are nothing without water but still we enslave: boil then freeze, turn it to urine, cause it to flush. So, when the Mississippi rushes to reclaim its land and tsunamis take the children of New Guinea, we are at the mercy of a walkout. Our ecosystem of faith is washed away leaving us exposed for what we are: the party of the second part lured into a sucker deal. Stunned, like a net full of dolphin.

Perpetual Motion For your fourth birthday, Gyro the clown pedals a unicycle in place above his heavy stand and never tires. On the shelf, his constant spin lulls you to sleep. Weeks later you wake up screaming at the sight of the silver harlequin dead on his side. Father calms you, shows how a bottom panel slides out to reveal a magnet and battery. He plugs a new 9-volt into the pillow-shaped connector and the toy springs to action. But now you see the effort etched onto its chrome face and you ask to have your nightlight given back. Twelve years later you find the real thing. You wrap a corsage around her wrist as the band begins a Motown set. "Tears of a Clown" is first and her pulse is in time with the bass. You sway and soon the whole gym gyrates in the same bluesy cycle. The tune lingers as you motor into the hills, toes tap the pedal, school ring clicks against the wheel. She is with it too. Beads of sweat like clear musical notes ease off her brow, she snaps her fingers, crosses her eyes to make you laugh. The rhythm blows you onto the back seat and keeps up as you fall into her arms. She responds with staccato moans that match your tempo, the offbeat resounds in the squeak of skin against vinyl. You pant even as she squeals, a simultaneous exhale and you fear that, finally, motion has stopped. A steady red light glows from the dash.

Months later you are by yourself when the phone rings with a clarity like you've never heard. You let it go four times, counting the seconds between, remembering movies where the kid, home alone, knows what will happen if he picks up. She is sobbing, but through her steady gulps she is able to admit that her cycle has stopped and a new one taken over. You understand that the pulsing didn't end with her underneath you, but merely went microscopic: a cell spewing other cells, the way a jalopy gives birth to a parade of clowns, the constant refrain of creation pouring out of itself until a heart is formed and an electric current jump starts that same Detroit-based beat. You tell her to sleep. You lock the doors and turn on every light. At noon, you slam the alarm too late to stop a warning from entering an erotic dream: touch her belly and stop it, as you might a spinning top, or else surrender to a spiral wherein you become the father who, one day, will shock the baby's hushed toy back into a certain kind of life.

Mama's Boy I won't stand for this any longer, you sneaking back inside my womb. Bad enough when you reached adolescence, slipping up under my housedress while I washed the dishes, banging the walls of my belly, moaning the names of girls I'd never meet until you fell fast and uncontrollably asleep. Should have put a stop to it in high school, yes sir, but you'd come home past curfew, headlights off, screen door kept from squeaking, and you'd spend the night counting my heartbeat, touching the tip of your nose to my extra rib when I exhaled. I knew right, you grew out of it when you left home, too caught up in a hurricane to want back in the eye. But ten years is storm enough without a port, so over the phone tonight you breech right out of my earpiece and slip like an amnio through my navel. Your marbles are still there, shooters and cat's eyes that otherwise would be your brothers and sisters. They are smooth and hot. Beside us in bed you-know-who is watching my face so I must tap to you in code that this simply must stop, that a place as safe as it is dark should be inhabited only twice.

The Dirty Truth About Toast I would like to believe in it as a comfort food. Warm, coarse, buttered, father’s cheek in the shaving mirror, jellied, the color of changing leaves. But toast is a phony. Like so many other things we pretend to appreciate teachers, money, art we are really only after one thing, the hidden agenda of bread, the dark side of toast. Take this simple test: make love to your wife and just as you end, still damp and a charley horse cramping your leg, make toast. Close your eyes against the harsh florescent light and when it pops bring the slice right to your face and breathe in. I know that scent. And you know it too.

Spare Change The joke goes: a sock which disappears in the dryer, turns up in the closet as an extra hanger. The face of Becky, who fell from a jungle gym in third grade, turns up on a subway poster, until I look again and no, the nose is wrong. The instant I remember her I forget which street The Gap is on so I get off the train and walk. That Becky was waiting to jump from a synapse is odd, that she came to me holding a glass of milk in a Spanish print ad is terrifying. Looking for the shop, I pass the same cop twice. He's flipping a dime, counting to himself. "How many heads?' I ask him. "Two, if you count yourself," he replies. What do they call those little rooms where you try on your choices before buying them, the clear opposite of confessionals? There's a mirror where the priest should be. I recall the contour of Becky's back. My new jeans are thrown in the wash. The laundry flying in the dryer calms me: familiar colors spiraling into new shapes, perhaps a piece vanishing for now.

A Brush With Desire She's biting down and licking his nose she's tied his feet with her bra his hands with her hose he's bouncing into her laughing uncontrollably fragrant lust-rotten guffaws, her whispers hot cuss words their steam rising to his nostrils like coke then a scissor of light, a cloak, strikes from under her mane from beneath the pillow itself reveals a pair of wings gossamer as the bubble of spit inflating on his lips and Shit! it's the Tooth Fairy risen from his childhood bed (now of all times) to redeem the cuspid he would not surrender that he tried to glue back but ended up swallowing and the woman is blaring clawing his back the imp not even embarrassed as it frees itself waving a wand and she yells there's no such thing it was your mom late at night he is having an orgasm and a halo of stars spins around the wand he feels the hollow in his gut conks out till daybreak when she and it and it are gone his limbs still bound a silver dollar wedged between his knees.

Partial Kathy works the factory up in Sparta that makes false teeth, a supply house feeding the needy dentists of the East their bridgeworks and various dentata. She knows that her skill is the blossom of a dying art. Cuddled with the boyfriend, enjoying a Coke and a smoke, the TV blisters with the news of tartar control and baking soda, hideous children being born every day whose teeth will last a lifetime. At the core of the tooth where the nerve should be is a square of aluminum that gets coated in porcelain. If the supervisor is out Kathy takes a pin and etches an obscenity into the metal before providing its final vanilla dip. This is to say that there's a 78 year old man is Ossining with a "Fuck" hidden in one of his cuspids, and a grandmother of 5 in Lafayette with "Cocksucker" spelled out over an entire upper denture. They eat, or kiss their loved ones, like the people who live above oil or those who never find the severed finger in the basement. When Kathy dreams, she sees a graveyard full of treasure chests, or her guy taking a wet toothbrush to an ancient painting of her own hands and scrubbing the top layer off.

The Star Registry Sarah is somewhere east of Orion and Peggy is lost beyond the scoop of the Little Dipper. Every Christmas for the past five years he's bought a star for his current girl. His toll-free call is taken by the same majestic voice every time. He pictures archangels harnessed to a switchboard, balls of flame drawn from their celestial warehouse, one christened with the name of his latest obsession. Two years ago it was Margo, who proved to be too bright. And last year, Jo Anne: he remembers New Year's, how they did it on his studio floor and he looked out to see his neighbor peering in, a pair of binoculars focused on their glistening skin. He knows the distance to the sun, how there are stars, come and gone, whose light will not reach him in his time. But Kate has received a gift and she wants to go walking. It's Christmas, she says, make a wish.

Man of the World To truly believe that matter is neither created nor destroyed is to understand the thing was here before I lost it — perhaps as a mushroom cap, a marinated hors d'oeuvre sailing from Mother's mouth through our umbilical — and also that it's still around. Last thing I remember is suckling the rabbi's thumb, a thumb laced with wine to keep me quiet. Then the blast, a pull tab ripped from a shook can of beer. What went on while my fontanel stung must have been my father giving the traditional gag, "Keep the tip," the ghoulish holy man opening a black felt bag to collect my bit of flesh as if he were an Israeli gathering figs, not a Cincinnatian stained with slobber, purple-thumbed. Maybe it has become the cork which surrenders itself easily from this Beaujolais Nouveaux. She cradles it in her hand, sniffs, naively flings it out the bedroom window. After the bottle is gone, she travels my body. She explores my minute scar and tilting her head as if reading a word she doesn't know, draws back; unsure of where I come from, wary of what I could possibly make.

Killing Time My skin is ephemeral and not just in the mortal sense. According to you we are only passing through — New York an unyielding station house, my bed its wooden bench. Your eventual spouse and father of daughters is waiting. Right now he is some guy taking some girl he barely knows, in the town you will move to when it's time. You exist for him in the haze of cigarette smoke ballooning above his head. You'll know him, when he calls, by the way in which he has nothing to do with me. The morning you were nearly late for work you said it was the best ever, that we should set a timer to everything: Tickity-tick Dear, one three-minute egg tastes pretty much like the next and we rush enough already. Unlike the solid-yolked oval lying dead in its pot, this is a line — or, if you insist, a trip — that begins we-know-where and will stop at the place least expected, far from the spot where it's squelched. You think it's funny your period arrives with the phone bill, I scan the locales, all these minutes converted to pennies.

Begotten What we were first given is what we still need today. — The American Dairy Assn. I will conclude by saying that Z is an A with the luxury of hindsight, 3 connecting lines that have changed. Consider this boy's history with the female breast: a subconscious memory of being fed as she sings the alphabet — laying the rails of neural networks that will tie his body to his needs and track his desires into words. Then nothing till 12 when Amy Simon's gray T-shirt, ringed with sweat, strikes him as ideal so by 15 he's one of a dozen rowdies waiting at their lockers for Rebecca Owens — Becky, whose body is unexplainable, who must sit in the back of class so the boys can concentrate and who will allow books to fall from her chest so that some guys grab her and others scramble. The one who places a pocket Webster's in her hand, she kisses. He sees her again, 4 years later, carrying a baby. At 19, he sleeps over often with Charlotte. Mornings, he lifts her diary from the nightstand, not to invade, but to run his fingers across the clean pages in the back, the milk-white sheets of their future. It lasts 2 years. He succumbs to a lust for writers and through the following decade visits a breathing carnal library of poets and unfinished novelists. He is happy their forms follow them to bed, that the formalist says she doesn't think about her breasts, her attention instead drawn to the breadth of her hips and the distinctively female way they can part. He reads their works,

scanning the pages, like gritty mirrors, for signs of himself or for clues to past lovers. One night, shortly after he turns 30, he runs his palms over the clean slate of Ann's arched back and worries about their own dissolve, how he will vanish then arise with a new name in her latest story as if the nights he had gone to her breast nourished her, fortified Ann with the idea that will hatch into a boy with his birthmark. And a girl, whose name will be an anagram of her own, will trace their relationship backwards, concluding she wishes she had known better when they first met — on that fictional trip to Penaranda de Bracamonte, or make it Peru, as the author's hand tends to cramp. The epilogue will find him in his mother's house.

Body Count I hauled a legless guy in a wheelchair out of the subway one stair at a time. "God Bless," he'd say by rote, between drags off his cigarette. "Shouldn't smoke," I thought but then realized if cut in half, you are privileged to fill your severed veins with nicotine, grow tumors as a means of compensation. If it had been his arms, he still would have found a way. Picture a pariah rolling tobacco with his toes. My brothers, cousins and I bore our grandmother to her grave. The drill was precise: face away from the hearse, the two nearest the coffin pull and the rest of us grab hold as she scoots past. March to the site then sidestep to the stone. Set her on the stretcher which lowers to the vault. Pray. Go teary. In turn, drop a shovelful of dirt to the casket. Leave before a baby bulldozer plugs the hole like a mud clod stuffed into an ear. In high school my arms failed to lift me up the gym class rope. Years later, they flailed, useless, as I took in water through the nose. But lately they have learned their place. Whole and warm, they have strained at the framework of the dying, the shell of the dead, and translated the pain down the length of my spine, knees shaking, two feet doing the work of four. My bicep is roughly the circumference of my brain. My fist is the size of my heart.

Sapience Beneath a tyrannosaurus, two boys Go at it. Neither of them Half the size of the mastodon's drumstick, They kick, pull hair and scream, Their nostrils flaring. Only the living Are unsettled, there is such little power In their chubby frames, not even the bones Of the creature's smallest toe vibrate. "Don't ever touch me again!" the blond one With a bloody nose shouts. He is too Primitive to see the luxury of his words. He says ever like he never heard Of extinction, as though this room of skeletons Is just for show. Strolling past a glass-encased rhino, A man tugs at his wife's hair and whispers, "look Hon, it's your sister." She doesn't laugh. The baby is kicking And her new hugeness breeds Only pity for the obese girl Who first taught her to tie Her shoes. She pretends To observe the animal but her glassy eyes Make it obvious she is scanning Her own reflection. And when she finally Does crack a smile, it is because She knows he is the rhino, A phallus growing out his forehead, Where it belongs. A whale is suspended from the ceiling. I stand Under the massive arc of its blue gut, Uneaten. Luckier than Jonah, I am Relatively ignorant of how it feels To be swallowed into darkness, and yes, I am better off than this whale. Still, like any mammal, I can sense fear And now I smell it in my own musk, The paranoia, peculiar to my species, That the beast will come crashing down, And worse, in the second before I vanish, I might understand how my history ends.

In Praise of Sex, Fully Clothed Again, you pull me down on your unmade bed. Cottons and silks contain us like wine skins, straps and buckles keeping our precious mettle under wraps. Your legs give hot substance to your tights which press then steam my pants. Unbutton my shirt, your dress, to release a complexity of texture superior to that of flesh on flesh: a tee of the teeth, a slip of the tongue. This can last for hours. Our fabrics rise and fall, our naked voices filtered in cloth, carnal kazoos. Does a sheet with a low thread count turn you off? That weaver on public TV, fingering his loom, is he Eros for the long-winded or merely a pimp for the shy? Fertile stains tease us inside our undies as this familiar motion lulls us to sleep and wrinkles our duds. Another night neither out on the town nor wowing the masses, but the lights are on, Sweetheart, and we're dressed to kill.

What I Know of Women in Water I Four girls at the pool. Three rush the high dive. One walks on her hands. II A woman can be brilliant as a marlin, peering out of a wave. III Esther Williams on skis. Those arms, her eyes in black and white. IV I know a woman is nothing but water. I know a river with soft, muddy feet. V Odysseus tied to the mast, his ears unplugged. Their song crashing on deck. VI A thunderstorm begins. A bag-lady dances. A starlet throws her a coin. VII Helen Keller at the pump. An alphabet women keep, that I can't even trace.

III.

Land of the Giants (In this shrunken era, bereft of Kafkas, Picassos, and Edisons, anchormen become the giants of society. —Lewis Grossberger) Good evening. Consider my dimple. June 5th, UAL Flight 6040 smashed head-on into my cheek killing all aboard save one 3 month old girl who came to rest safely on my tongue. Good evening. Regard my ear. Follow the wire that winds like a beanstalk down my sleeve, out my back, past that guy working the camera. It is plugged into the brain of, perhaps, a balding, overweight Hispanic, a big-nosed, yellow-toothed woman, in other words, the voice of God. This just in: A tree has fallen over in the woods killing an elderly, one-handed man who, ostensibly, was sitting beneath it, clapping. Experts disagree as to whether any sound at all resulted from the event . . . Well, the point is moot. I am the sound, the echo of incident, the talk of the town. Though I stand taller than any map, this land has one dimension. Fudge with the contrast if you must but don't bring me in any clearer, my static body pressed against the glass is a radioactive reflection of yours. Good evening. Interpret my smile.

One Hundred Years of Solitude/Gilligan's Island To know both is to reveal yourself as godless. To confuse the two (The Professor with the tail of a pig, Pilar and Rebecca tug-o-war over a coconut bra) is to realize that the ark Buendia finds in the jungle is never named. Seven stranded castaways put their faith in science or in their goggled idol, Wrong-Way Feldman. They build a stage for Ginger but our little buddy never crosses two chutes of bamboo and drives a nail through their center. Macondo was Eden for jock-o's and nerds. Men with giant testicles fought the tough fight. Others shunned women in favor of the dead, eager to trade ice for a pocket protector, an Arabic decoder ring. Was "Eucharist" the future's word for "Indifference"? I did not leave my apartment for thirty years. When they finally broke down the door I had come up with this anagrammatic answer: Ired, Used Holy One Farted On Us/ Ill Gas Is Landing.

An Addams Elegy Charles Addams suffered a heart attack in his automobile while it was parked in front of [his] apartment. —The New York Times You float out of your calmed body thinking up a caption for the scene below: "Must be the battery." In the ash tray, something with fangs is laughing. Flat on their canvas, Gomez lets go a scream, Cousin It sits on a tack and cackles, Uncle Fester meditates, the light bulb in his mouth is dim. On your way, you buzz the pet cemetery where you and your Marilyn got hitched. In her black wedding dress she winks so-long, her eyes are scary. Just beyond this page, your orphaned family finishes a game of graveyard croquet, jubilant that you are here: ghoulish, inky, peeking from a coffin.

Make the Man Some of the simplest looks were actually the most complicated — Halston Roy H. Frowick, simple as the Des Moines cornfields he weaved through, wearing his jeans tight, crimson and cobalt blood coursing up and over the shoulder, tied off at the chest. Hats, not sports, became a specialty, his first score was a pillbox. Like any wizard, he chose a single moniker, stamped it on New York and all was swell. Toward the end he would sell even that — his J.C. Penney line a plague, killing off the upscale clientele. A lifetime of pins. Smart white heads clicked against teeth until jabbed to an Ultrasuede shirtdress, voodoo in a decade confused by appearance, eager for magic. Studio 54 was his lair of disco— hypnotic women, the dance floor dressed with cashmere mannequins. Would he slip into the john to make the logical transition, a needle prick to those streamline veins, all-American corpuscles accessorized with a touch of poppy? Did the virus make a secret debut? Or perhaps it came much later, his ultimate unisex statement, a second body worn from behind, exquisite in its design, naked.

Reservation for Two Ask the guard — Who's buried in Grant's Tomb? and she'll point down to not only Ulysses S. but also his missis, Julia, there at rest in their twin red-granite sarcophagi. See they aren't really buried, and they come as a set, so the old joke is really a trick question duplex. And to think that at his funeral the bishop said, "Side by side they shall sleep in the same tomb, and she shall share whatever homage future ages shall pay." Who knew an homage recession could last 110 years. And to know how she closed her memoir: "the light of his glorious fame still reaches out to me, falls upon me, and warms me." Not through 3 inches of rock it doesn't. You traveled around the world all right but your radiance was sucked up by the black hole of history. You're cold, Ms. Dent, a pile of bone smaller than that of his horse, Cincinnati. "Bought the farm" would have been a fitting phrase for you in 1902, but the plantation he called Hardscrabble, he drove into the ground long ago. Yet when you went, you went wealthy thanks to his autobiography, the one written with the sole purpose of ensuring your comfort. He died the day he finished it, that's true, I've seen it in print. I hope you didn't blame yourself, he was chock full of cancer after all. Sure it's one thing to live in the past

but to do it while deceased takes perseverance. Sharing a national memorial helps. Just ask the tourist who, with but a single flower for the dead, whispers — Oh, of course, his wife.

Legendry 1977: Groucho, Bing, Elvis Television went insane for a year: A Night at the Opera, Road to Morocco, Viva Las Vegas. My parents and older brother sat through them all, never so much as smiled. They were stunned. Not only that the myth of triples had again proven itself true, but how three decades, a golden era, could be so neatly personified and then taken away. Clean as a splice, as far as the moon.

At 86, Film Comedian and Star of "You Bet Your Life" Dies I steal his insults and try them on friends, you follow me? Clips from the show have him seducing housewives until they are saved by a magic word, the duck ex machina. Looking into Margaret Dumont's eyes he realizes that humor must be an old man exposing himself. In a flasher's coat, cigar firm in mouth, he crouches as if bearing a cross. You follow me? Well stop following me or I'll have you arrested. Singer and Actor, 73, Dies in Madrid at Golf Course He shoots an 85. Bob Hope is "too devastated" to comment. My mother gasps, I envy what he gets away with: a pari-mutuel bettor, an actor playing happy-go-lucky drunkards, his last wife, Kathy, 30 years his junior. All the while crooning to teenage girls and becoming a Christmas icon. We buy it, the calm in Der Bingle's baritone voice

that massages our aching bo-bo-bo-bones. Rock-and-Roll Singer is Dead at 42; Object of Teenage Adulation and Adult Ire in '50s My baby was cruel when we danced to him. I'd shake like I was on amphetamines, wet my upper lip, try to make it curl. She would look away. That time I split my pants, down to the John she went and never came back. She ain't nothin' to me now. I stay up all night thinking I should get my own place. The old man swipes my 45's when I'm out. Graceland has a jukebox poolside, and the "Memphis Mafia" to keep Priscilla's folks away. He's time to invent songs about being lonely, being so lonely he could die. *** 1988: Divine, Andy Gibb, John Holmes There was excitement for a week: Pink Flamingos, Solid Gold, Deep Throat, were mentioned but not seen. A tabloid field day for fat and sex and maybe drugs. The first two went fast, then that vigilant wait for the third, trying to pick him out (Dennis Day, in a coma, was the favorite), knowing that he'd show. An ideal triumvirate for their decades of fame - figurines like the ones I'd seen in a shop at the mall, shelved somewhere between mood rings and the genuine rocks from the moon. Transvestite Film Actor Found Dead in Hollywood at 42 He is labeled a cult figure by the press but we know Manson and Jim Jones are the only ones. We turn out for a midnight movie in drag or in punk convincing ourselves that we're family, that this guy could be our mom. Toward dawn I try to dream of knifing a pregnant woman, of offing myself for a god. But instead I see him in a strawberry-blonde wig. At 30, Singer in '70s Dies in Britain

I do the Latin Hustle to "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" in a polyester suit and gold chain with a whistle on it. That and "Shadow Dancing" are his only hits, unable to par his brothers' output of Miami-style rhythms and sappy lyrics sung through the nose. He drives himself to cocaine, bankruptcy, hosting T.V. shows, maybe wanting to be punished for being part of how I dance: my index finger pointing up as if something is there. Star of Sex Films, 43, Dies My brother takes me for my birthday: sticky seats, grown men hiding their eyes, bluish women on screen, screaming (A criminal: in '82 four people are slain in a Laurel Canyon home. He never fesses up to what he knows.). The stuff of snuff films: Johnny the Wad dies of work-related injuries, old co-stars line up for blood tests, dripping a cold sweat. Fans study his cum shots and, for the first time, they are repulsed. *** 1997: Cousteau, Charles Kuralt, Ginsberg Internet chatrooms remained focused on sex. The Undersea World, On The Road, and On The Road bubbled, reported and howled but I was below the surface or on vacation. Three vanguards of adventure a wipeout, I sat staring at my screen, shooting email through the Negro wirelands of dawn. The TV was on, but ignored - a Sunday show chronicling our foreplay to the millennium. Our fathers learned to breathe underwater. We turned wanderlust into web sites, moonshots into movies, and watched. Ocean Impresario Dies, Was 87 There was a song about your boat, but not you, mister inventor of SCUBA, a.k.a. Aqua-Lung.

We shunned Calypso in favor of our Jethro Tull 8-tracks. Or, I'd tele-snorkel amid your giant squid with the folks then sneak out to drown my boredom in the beery company of fellow explorers. The greatest contribution was a hunk of phraseology, "Rapture of the Deep," your name for nitrogen narcosis. But I could do no better than Admiration of the Shallow, making fun of your accent. At 62, Chronicler of the Country is Dead A lone wolf, your massive heart gave out before the more fitting Lupus could travel your body in its ulcerous RV. The wife and two girls sat at home following the trail of hair you shed over 37 years. The timbre of your morning voice so fatherly I often wept, despite knowing how Scotch will do that, regardless of growing up in a town where we stare at the strangers who chat up our widows. Master Poet of Beat Generation Dies at 70 If ever there was a case of right place/right time... How I wanted to be you in secret, oh Dirty Jew, Druggy Fag. As flirtatious as you were cancerous, oh Hebrew Whitman, oh Lost Boy. The scansion of your dead mother holds the blue print for mine. Your New Jersey is my Ohio, oh Blurb Slut, oh Conjunction Monger. Blessed with a war to protest and friends who wrote novels that sold, you piggybacked what was admirable and sexed it with taboos and finger symbols and finger cymbals. Oh Dead Beat. Your lines I know by heart. Buddha.

The Morning After "Emotional stress caused by a strong earthquake...appears to have set off a burst of fatal heart attacks." "Mr. Bullis was having an affair and mailed the bombs to his wife...." -adjoining articles, The New York Times, February 15, 1996 Fissures and seizures rock the hills as orderlies turn drop-dead beautiful for their blind dates. Up and down the seaboard lips are colliding like tectonic plates making mountains and stirring floods south of the waistline. Before Mrs. Bullis lost her fingers she wore an amber ring that held a fossilized bug. Before the ice age this winged tick had landed on the rib of a mastodon torn asunder. Imagine the roar of the dying mammoth in its tiny ear or the startled wail of a prehistoric relationship that ends not with a whimper. Lovers kicking off from stress litter the malls like spent cherry blossoms. Till death do they partition their emotions from the ones who ultimately turn to fire. Explosions are the finishing school of the miserable. Their fault lines began early, you could have read it in their palms, seen it in the sweaty shoves they gave each other approaching the gym class rope as if it were an oversized fuse. You might turn to the New England Journal of Medicine and tear out a calculated diagram of the heart. If you can fold it into an envelope and lick the ventricles shut, in time it will blow up on its own.

About the author… Stanford Friedman was born on August 20, 1961, and raised in Springfield, Ohio. In 1983, he received his BA in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University, one of the few undergraduate writing programs to exist at that time. That fall, he moved to Manhattan and began a series of odd jobs including holiday help at Sherry Lehman Wines & Liquors where he fetched champagne for the likes of David Letterman and Mrs. Irving Berlin, and a questionable stint selling imported metal etchings door-to-door, which got him thrown out of a host of NYC landmarks. In 1984, he landed a temp job on the loading dock at The New York Times. He parlayed that position into a nine-year climb up the corporate ladder, eventually becoming manager of the NYT Speakers Bureau where he would organize speaking engagements for Times luminaries such as Frank Rich and R.W. Apple. During these years he added an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and an MLS from Rutgers University to his resumé. In 1995, he began his career as a Research Librarian at Condé Nast. Now, as the company's Senior Librarian, he has performed over 14,000 online searches on topics ranging from international politics to Beyonce's eating habits. Stanford received international attention in 2008 and 2009 as a two-time winner of the ESPNZone Ultimate Couch Potato competition, watching non-stop sports for up to 29 straight hours at their Times Square restaurant. He failed to defend his title in 2010, having fallen asleep while watching a golf match at hour 42.

His novel, "God's Gift to Women," is available at www.stanfordfriedman.com

Thanks for reading!

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