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“Since I'd moved to the South, something had happened to my body that made it crave vinegar. Maybe it was all the medications I was taking. They were base, vinegar was acid. I gained vitality from those infusions…”

three flashes
by mitchell krockmalnik grabois


1.
Unguentine

My Daddy believed in self-improvement, so he made me swim ten thousand miles. He believed that because we were genetically linked, he owned my strength. I wanted to own my strength.

Then he drove me home in his bright blue Rambler. He was wearing a white button-down sport shirt, black slacks, shiny black shoes. He looked like a Jehovah's Witness come to the door. He was humming-I've got a mule, name is Sal, fifteen years on the Erie Canal. She's a good old mule, a good old pal, fifteen years on the Erie Canal. He turned to me and said, “This car meets my every specification.”

There was something fluttering in the back seat but I didn't turn around because I was still bound by the ropes my Daddy had wrapped around me. The Rambler's engine went taptap taptap taptap taptap.

After my swimming career ended, I went to work in a state mental hospital. After a while I quit and worked in a Nursing Home. My next job will be in a school for Juvenile Delinquents. I have a career trajectory.

Snow 323 has fallen. Canada repulses me like an electro-magnet. I keep taking my pills to keep me from despair. I keep using Unguentine for my skin conditions. I wear a back brace to keep me upright. I go to church to keep me upright. Big brains lead to big problems. Normalcy constantly decays. A Mini-Cooper advertisement shows their little car slaloming through acrylic, creating eight Pollard paintings in two seconds. Mini-Cooper asks: Who wants to be normal? To whom do you send the answer?

.

2.
Old Man's Cane

The old man's cane fell from his table and, after a moment, he slowly bent to pick it up. The air was redolent with dinner prep. Chalked on the blackboard was: Chicken Fried Steak. The smell of mushy collard greens wafted from the kitchen. Sometimes all I'd order would be corn bread and a heaping plate of greens I'd sprinkle with pepper sauce. Since I'd moved to the South, something had happened to my body that made it crave vinegar. Maybe it was all the medications I was taking. They were base, vinegar was acid. I gained vitality from those infusions. The peppers in vinegar killed viruses and bacteria, some from Earth, some from the far reaches of the Andromeda Galaxy.

I often dreamed that another patient, filled with the deadliest diseases, was biting me and I woke with the sheets sweated out. Then I'd go to the kitchen and soak a piece of bread in white wine vinegar, bring it to my mouth. I gasped at the fumes, but made myself eat it. I worshiped its prophylactic powers. I wanted to survive.

When I realized I could no longer protect myself, I hit the road. I put out my thumb, calloused with trauma. The roadway is not asphalt, but the bodies of Doberman Pinschers laid side by side, their corpses recruited from junk yards from Mobile to Apalachicola, Galveston to Jax. The highway is Doberman, and black men with blue muscles reeking of pesticide. Sometimes all the Dobermans come back to life. They spring at the black men's throats. They engage in pitched battles, as if it were back in the Stone Age.

Do you see why I have so much trouble traveling, with all this roiling around me. I tremble to get on a bus with the image of a stretched out Doberman on its side. I climb into the belly of the beast and comingle with blue toilet disinfectant and xombies travelling en masse to the next xombie jamboree.

Please, mister, give me a ride in your white Cadillac with fins like an angel's wings. My race is nearly run and I prefer to fly in the clouds with your drunken hand between my legs and your clothes dirty and rough.

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3.
Marys

If I had my babies I would lay them in a crib. They would glitter like diamonds. My legs would splash through surf , sending droplets of pacific gism to sparkle in the sun. When they fall on me I am pregnant again. I am whole. I am the essence of female-animalism. I am invulnerable to murderers and rapers. I am the Virgin Mary, protected by God.

There are so many Virgin Marys. Bloody Marys, cross-eyed Marys, marys whose eyes are carbolic wedges of cheese, leprosy marys, revolving door marys, recidivist marys, marys who work at convenience stores, marys whose lives are inconvenient, marys whose life force shoots out like gism into the milky way universe, marys who died tens of thousands of years ago and whose voices are reaching us only now, marys on their backs in cheap motels, marys putting quarters in vibrato-beds, marys who were my roommates in the asylum. So many.

One of the Marys murdered my sister. She stabbed her forty-two times and they still haven't caught her. I saw her. I saw the “perp” leave my sister's house, a black Mary wearing a purple bandanna, big gold hoop earrings sparkling in the street light, jangly bracelets, a big boned woman, sinewy as a slave. A woman like this should be easy to find, but she has disappeared into the roadway. The roadway inhaled her like cigarette smoke, then exhaled through an eighteen-wheeler's smokestack.

I don't need to be in the Mental Hell System. I've served my time in Hell. I've been in levels One thru Nine. I've been in Seclusion at every level. Yet I am as pure as that black murdering Mary's gold hoop earrings. That slave deserves her freedom, until we put her to death.

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Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois' poems and fictions have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue, and has been thrice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for 99 cents from Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.

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