Category Archives: Mather Schneider

NAÏVE

Tracy looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. She was disgusted. She was a big girl. It had always been that way, ever since she could remember.

+++++The doorbell rang.

+++++Tony Possino was 17, only a year older than Tracy, but seemed much older. They had met at the Pekin mall outside the record store. Tony had just purchased an album and Tracy was sitting by herself on an island with palm trees, listening to the fountain and waiting for her mother to come back from the bathroom. Tony smiled at her. She liked his smile, mainly because it was directed at her. He was a big, Italian looking kid, with a slight mustache. He had big hands and a big nose. He wasn’t good looking but he had a charming appeal. He walked over to her and began talking, which seemed unbelievable to Tracy. He asked her out and before she could think, she said yes.

+++++Two months later he stood ringing her doorbell in the middle of the afternoon.

+++++“Hi,” Tracy said, opening the door and squinting into the autumn sun. Tracy lived in a rural area outside of Glasford, Illinois. From her yard, you couldn’t see another house.

+++++“Hi,” Tony said, stepping in. “Anybody else here?”

+++++“No, my mom’s at work and Mark is at school,” she said.  Mark was her brother, two years older than her, a senior at Glasford High, home of the Tigers.

+++++“Did Mark like that album I lent him?” he asked.

+++++“Yeah,” she said, “he loved it. He really loved it. He said he’d like to see what else you have.”

+++++“I could tell him about some bands.”

+++++“Just tell me,” she said, “and I’ll tell him. It’s nice having something to talk to him about. We never had much in common.”

+++++“Is he still dating that girl from Peoria?”

+++++“Holly. Oh yeah, they’re together all the time. He’s been skipping school and getting mom really upset.”

+++++“We’re skipping school right now,” he said, smiling and pulling her down onto the couch, where he had settled himself.

+++++“I know,” Tracy said. “And if mom finds out she’ll kill me.”

+++++“Nobody’s going to find out,” Tony said, “and if they do I’ll just have my uncle snuff ‘em out.”

+++++“Oh, right,” Tracy said, sarcastically. “I forgot, you have an uncle who’s in the Mafia.”

+++++“You still don’t believe me?” Tony said.

+++++“Well, come on,” Tracy said, “whoever heard of a Mafia in Pekin?”

+++++“They’re very low key,” he said, looking out the sliding glass doors of the living room. There was a big yard with a clothesline at the back. It sagged with laundry. There wasn’t much of a breeze. Every once in a while a shirt sleeve would move a little, like a slow wave by a ghost. Beyond the clothesline were the woods. All the trees were shedding their leaves. It was late September, getting chilly. The trees looked very hungry and naked and huddled together. And at the same time they seemed proud, and stark, and brave, bracing themselves for the winter.

+++++“Hey,” Tracy said, stroking his leg, “If you say your uncle’s in the Mafia, then I believe you.”

+++++“You do?” he said.

+++++She nodded.

+++++“I knew you were different from the minute I met you,” he said.

+++++“What do you mean, different?” she said, defensively.

+++++“I mean different in a good way,” he said, coming closer. “Different in a sexy way.”

+++++“Sexy?”

+++++He leaned forward and began kissing her. She let him, and kissed back, tentatively. Tony began putting his hands all over Tracy’s body. He began grabbed handfuls of fat through her sweater, kneaded it and squeezed it. Then he got under the sweater. He leaned into her and began kissing with more ferocity.

+++++Tracy made a noise of protest. Her hands were down at her sides and she was very stiff and unyielding.

+++++“Stop,” she said, trying to push him away.

+++++“Why,” he muffled, kissing her fat neck.

+++++“Because,” she said, “I can’t, I’ve never…”

+++++“Come on Tracy,” he urged. “We’ve been dating for two months now, I think I’ve waited long enough.”

+++++“Tony, I can’t, I can’t,” she said.

+++++“It’s ok,” he said. He reached into her sweater and ripped her bra. You could hear it snap.

+++++“No,” she said again, starting to cry.

+++++He grinned at her and put his hands to her throat.

+++++“Don’t fight me,” he said. “Be a good girl.” He tightened his grip and she closed her eyes and gasped. He turned her over and pulled her pants down. He pushed her face into the cushions of the couch. Tracy heard the sound of his zipper. His full weight was on her, and he was a big kid, very much bigger than her.

+++++“It’s ok,” he whispered in her ear, pushing her head violently into the couch and pinning her hands behind her back with one hand. She screamed as loud as she could but there was no one around for miles.

*

+++++A rock song was coming from the tape in the boom box, which was thrown on the back seat of Mark’s Dodge Airies K-car. Mark was driving and singing the words to the song. The sun was shining, a beautiful autumn day. His girlfriend Holly sat in the passenger seat smoking a cigarette and laughing at him. When the song was over she reached back and turned the volume down.

+++++“Where’d you get that tape?” Holly asked. “It’s great.”

+++++“My sister’s boyfriend,” Mark said.

+++++“Tracy has a boyfriend?” she said.

+++++“Can you believe it?” he said.

+++++“What’s he like?” she asked. “Some kind of psycho or something?”

+++++“Oh, no,” he said, “he’s a nice guy. The only weird thing is he claims his uncle is in the Mafia.”

+++++“What Mafia?”

+++++“The Pekin Mafia,” he said, laughing.

+++++“Don’t laugh,” she said. “My grandpa used to talk about a Pekin Mafia.”

+++++“Well,” Mark said, “he’s got this Italian name so maybe it’s true. Who the hell cares? I figure the Mafia won’t bother me if I don’t bother it.”

+++++Holly leaned over closer and with a devilish grin put her mouth to his ear. “Speaking of being bothered…” she whispered.

+++++The little K-car groaned with fury down the country road.

+++++Holly had, only seventeen months earlier, indoctrinated Mark into the world ofsex. Now they were in love, or at least they thought they were in love. They said the words. Holly loved to say them. I love you, I love you… It took a while for Mark to say it the first time but after that it was easy.

Holly was always very loud and vocal during sex, especially when they skipped school and went to Mark’s house, because he lived so far out in the country and there was no one around to hear anything, but this afternoon she was particularly demonstrative and encouraging. At one point she was literally screaming. Finally, an hour and half later, they lay back onto Mark’s bed, exhausted.

+++++“My god,” Holly said, wiping her eyes. “I’m crying.” She giggled a little.

+++++Three feet away, on the other side of the wall, Tracy lay curled on her bed, her eyes shut tight and her hands pressed hard to her ears.

*

+++++Clara came home from work at 6 o’clock. She walked in with a grocery sack and put it on the counter. She noticed the refrigerator door was cracked open and she frowned. She closed it and looked around. The place seemed very quiet.“Tracy?” She called. “Mark?” She walked across to the stairs and looked down and then began to walk down. She walked over to Tracy’s door and listened. She thought she heard something move. She knocked.“Tracy?” she said.“You in there?”

+++++“Go away,” Tracy said.

+++++“What? Why?” Clara said, getting alarmed. “What’s wrong?” She tried the door and opened it. Tracy was sitting on her bed. Her eyes were red. She was looking off into space. She was in her bathrobe. “Are you sick, honey?” Clara said, rushing over and sitting down next to her. She reached up to feel Tracy’s forehead for fever. Tracy slapped it away. “What happened?” Clara said, “Come on, you can tell me.”

+++++“It’s nothing,” Tracy said, “It’s just…”

+++++“What, honey?” Clara put her arm slowly around Tracy and pulled her to her. “Something happen at school?”

+++++“I didn’t go to school.”

+++++“Are you sick?”

+++++“Yes,” Tracy said, “I didn’t feel good so I stayed home. I’m sorry, I should have called you.”

+++++“That’s ok,” Clara said, “Is there anything else? Something happen with Tony?”

+++++Tracy shot her a look. “No,” she blurted, “No, that’s not it, it’s just, well, Mark skipped school again today.”

+++++“That little shit,” Clara said, “I warned him, I’m going to send him to his god damned father’s if he doesn’t shape up.” She stopped and looked at Tracy. “How did you know he skipped? Did he come here?”

+++++Tracy nodded and looked down at the bed.
“Did he come here with her?”

+++++Tracy nodded again.

+++++“What did they do?” Clara asked. “As if I have to ask.”

+++++“Oh, mom,” she said, “Don’t be too hard on him, it was all her fault, she was just so loud, it was like he was hurting her, and she wanted him to hurt her.”

+++++“Oh, honey,” Clara said, “And while you were sick and trying to sleep. That little slut, I’m going to call her mother this time. I’m really going to. This can’t go on like this.”

+++++“Just drop it, mom, it’s ok, really.” She tried to smile and Clara smiled back.

+++++“Oh, poor thing,” Clara said, pulling Tracy’s head to her shoulder. They sat there for a minute.

+++++“Is that the way it is, mom?” Tracy asked her.

+++++“What do you mean?”

+++++“Is that what love is?”

+++++“Some people think so,” she said.

+++++“Do you?”

+++++“God no,” Clara said.

+++++“I thought it was supposed to be nice,” Tracy said.

+++++Tracy was trembling and it was suddenly clear to Clara how frayed her nerves really were. The two looked at each other in shock. Clara pulled her closer and hugged her again. “Oh, honey,” Clara said. “Me too.”

*

+++++Clara pounded on Mark’s bedroom door, which was locked. Mark opened the door. Deep, heavy, dark music played in the background.  One dim light shone from the desk in the corner. There was cigarette smoke in the air.

+++++“Turn that fucking music off,” Clara said, walking in and flipping on a light switch. “I thought I told you not to smoke in here.” She stood for a second looking at him while he blinked his eyes to adjust them to the sudden overhead light. “How dare you bring that little whore of yours to my house, how dare you ” Clara said.

+++++“What? How did you…”

+++++“Tracy was home today,” Clara said, pointing to the wall that separates the bedrooms. “She was right in there the whole time you were doing your little dirty deeds.” She talked like there was some horrible taste in her mouth.

+++++Mark sat down on the bed. “Oh,” he said.  “Sorry.”

+++++“Sorry?” his mother said, “I lived with a man just like you for twenty years and I’m not going to do it again. I’m through, I tell you, I’m through with it ”

+++++“Everything is always dad’s fault, isn’t it mom?”

+++++“You just keep that little slut out of my house ”

+++++“She’s not a slut,” he said, standing up again. “And there’s nothing wrong with sex, it’s perfectly natural.”

+++++“If you keep skipping school you’re not going to graduate and then you’re not going to go to college and then what?”

+++++“I’ll graduate,” he said.

+++++“And don’t get her pregnant, by god don’t get her pregnant, whatever you do.”

+++++“We love each other,” he said.

+++++“You don’t love her,” she said. “You only think you do.”

+++++“What’s the fucking difference?” he said, lighting a cigarette.

+++++“What’s the difference?” Clara said. “There’s a difference.”

+++++“We love each other. Not everybody is as hateful as you are, mom,” he said, with a finality that sapped the strength, temporarily, out of Clara.

+++++She waved angrily at the smoke in the air. “You don’t know anything about life, yet, mister,” she said, slightly out of breath. “It doesn’t get any easier, from here on out it gets a lot harder.”

+++++They looked at each other.

+++++“I’m going to have to call your father,” she said. “I can see I’m not getting through to you.”

+++++“What’s to get through?” he said. “You’ve made your point, just leave me alone.”

+++++“Fine, if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. You turn eighteen next month, and on that day I want you out of here, out of my house. I’m calling your father right now.”

+++++“Fine,” he said. “I’ll fucking leave right now.” He darted to the phone and picked it up and dialed a number.

+++++“What are you doing?” Clara said, softening and becoming alarmed.

+++++Someone answered on the other end of the phone. “Troy?” Mark said. “You still need a roommate? Good. I’ll be there in an hour.” He hung up.

+++++Clara’s mouth hung open. “Well,” she said, “You don’t have to go off in the middle of the night…”

+++++“No, that’s it,” he said, going to the closet for a bag. “I’m leaving.”

+++++“I’ll call your father, he’ll have the cops on you so fast it’ll make your…”

+++++“I’m turning eighteen in a month, you just said it yourself.”

+++++Clara looked at him and she wanted to cry. “Can you leave me alone please? I have to call Holly and tell her,” he said.

+++++Clara backed out of the room and saw the door shut in her face.  Then she walked slowly up the stairs.

+++++A few minutes later Tracy walked from her bedroom to Mark’s bedroom door and stood ready to knock. Her raised hand was shaking. In her other hand she held a music tape that Tony had made for Mark. She had promised to give it to him. She stood at the door listening to Mark’s voice talking into the telephone.

+++++“She’s so incredibly naïve,” Mark said. “She’s terrified of the world and she’s probably going to be that way forever. That fat little bitch, I wish I could just get it through her fat head that it’s ok to live a little bit and break a fucking rule once in awhile.”

+++++Tracy lowered her hand and turned away.

+++++“I know, I know,” Mark said into the phone, throwing some clothes into a bag. “Nobody understands us.”

Brody Soldier

John gets out of bed and turns on the computer, listens to the comforting hum. He goes to Facebook, punches in his email and code word. The Facebook page says BRODY SOLDIER. On the upper right of the Facebook page he sees he has 3 messages from the little yellow “3” there and is disappointed about the small number.
+++++He sees that he has 4,999 “friends.” 5,000 is the maximum, and he has been at that maximum for a couple of years now. It makes no sense to him, this maximum number, seems random and stupid, for a popular guy like John could easily have 10 or 20 thousand friends by now if it was allowed. But somehow he has lost a friend over the last few hours. This is depressing, but fixable. To the right of the screen Facebook asks him: “Do you know these people?” There are a few people there. The first one is a woman named Heather Kaye. John clicks on her name, goes to her page and clicks on the box to request her friendship. He writes her a message: “Heather, have been reading and enjoying
your posts, which always brighten my day, would love to be ‘friends’ (ha ha) with you here on Facebook. I am a poet and a lover of life. Have a nice day. Brody.”
+++++He goes to his messages. One is from a woman named Karin Fowler. Karin is in love with him and won’t get the hint that he isn’t interested. She is a fat sow and at least 46 years old, much too old for John, even though he is 44 himself. The message reads: “Brody, where have you been? Didn’t you get my last message about the getting coffee?” Sure, John thinks, like I’d ever have coffee with you. Besides he doesn’t even live in New York. That’s what his Facebook page says, though really he lives in Tucson, Arizona.
His second message is from another woman named Ami Reese: “Brody, read your last poem and it made me weep, you are truly talented, thank you for being you.” Ami isn’t bad looking, nice ass from what her pictures shows.
+++++The third message is from Claire Larson: “Brody, what’s up? Hope you’re well, just wanted to send you a hug.” Who the hell is Claire? John thinks.
+++++His Facebook header is a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge and his photo is from some tall dark and handsome model he found on the internet. He had used the same model for his photo albums.
+++++If you click “about” on the page it informs you that he works at “poet, photographer, artist” and that he is married, is male and knows English and Spanglish.
+++++He clicks to the general Facebook feed. Nick Murray-White has posted: “Embrace your fate, love your fate.” Love your hate, John thinks. Then he clicks “like.”
+++++Sammy Girard has posted: “344 new words finished on my novel! Great morning so far. Am going to reward myself with a cup of tea!”
+++++Comments under this read: “Yay, Sammy!” “Way to go Samuel” and “Atta boy!”
+++++Mike exits Facebook and goes to the internet and writes in the search engine box: Poetry journals. A zillion pop up, and he scrolls down until he finds one he’s never looked at before, called, My Old Shoe Review. He looks through the poems, finds one that he likes, copies it. Then he goes to his Facebook page again, and pastes the poem. He changes a couple of words and the title, then clicks “post.” In about 4 seconds he has two “likes”. Likes are fine, but it is the comments that really get his juices flowing. In a minute or two there is a BLOOP from his computer speaker, indicating someone has commented. Below the poem Jackie Fire has written: “Brody, you are amazing, please keep it up, this was one of your best!!”
+++++John doesn’t write a response, instead, as reply he puts a little yellow smiley face and clicks enter. The smiley face pops up in his comments section and then someone puts a “like” under the smiley face. Then someone likes Jackie’s original comment. There is a number “1” underneath it and a “thumbs-up” symbol. Then, there is a number “2” and soon after a number “3.” Then it is like popcorn pushing up the lid of the like-pan.
+++++He leaves the popcorn popping and goes out of the room, down the hall and into the bathroom. He washes his face and brushes his teeth. He is 5 feet 6 inches tall and has a small head with thinning hair and a puffy pale face. He steps to the toilet and takes a piss.
+++++He leaves the bathroom and goes back into his bedroom. He flips on the light switch on the outside of the closet wall and opens the closet door. She is huddled against the farthest wall of the cement lined room. She’s not moving. Shit, he thinks, just what I fucking need today.
+++++When he bought the house he’d lined the closet with concrete block, installed a drain in the middle of the concrete floor. He had inserted iron hooks on the walls and attached to one of them was one end of a pair of handcuffs, the other end dangling. He hadn’t had to use them on her in a long time. He had done all the home improvements himself, with the help of the kind folks at Home Depot, which was only a few miles down the road.
+++++The girl is emaciated and wears a tattered blue dress. She is filthy, her long Mexican hair dark and caked together like dread locks. Her eyes are half open. The only other thing in the room besides her is a bucket filled with urine, the smell of which fills the little cell. John thinks about how her eyes had looked so much more beautiful when he’d brought her home that day 3 years ago.
+++++“Fucking Mexicans come here, take our jobs, take our land, take everything!”
+++++He gives her a kick.
+++++She doesn’t move.
+++++He backs out of the cell, closes the heavy iron closet door, locks it with the deadbolt, shuts off the light. Then he goes out of the bedroom, down the carpeted hall and into the kitchen. He fixes himself eggs benedict, his favorite, whisking the sauce with skill, poaches the eggs perfectly, toasts the muffin, piles it on a white plate with artistry and patience. He spins the plate around and views it from all sides, cleaning up the edges with a white cloth. Then he carries the masterpiece into the living room and sets it on the thick oak table. His digital camera is sitting there, he lifts it and takes a photo of the eggs, then takes the plate and eggs back into the bedroom and sits down at the computer.
+++++Back on Facebook, Heather Kaye still hasn’t accepted his friendship request. “Fucking stuck-up cunt,” he says. His photo of breakfast pops unto his page with the upload, and he makes a little caption: “My humble breakfast.” Almost immediately the likes start coming, and then the comments.
+++++Heather Worthington-Fuller says: “YUMMY!!”
+++++Denise Hamm says: “Oh, my, that looks GOOD!”
+++++Roger Edith-Erickson says: “Eggs Benedict, YAH!”
+++++Samuel Georgian-Stuckerheim says: “Watch that colesterol, Brody!”
+++++John types into the keyboard: “Another day where I’m wondering where I went wrong. My wife, as always, refused me this morning, and last night, just as she’s done for months. I try and I try, but nothing is good enough. Am I ugly? What is wrong with me? I even made her breakfast in bed this morning, as you can see, and she didn’t touch it.”
+++++The likes come so fast it’s as if they’re elbowing each other out of the way to get there, a stampede of likes.
+++++Remi Lovings writes: “Brody, she’s not worth it, but I realize you can’t just let 3 years of marriage go, because you are a good man. Whatever this woman’s problem is, it’s her loss! You are beautiful and don’t ever forget it!”
+++++The clock says 7:35. He turns the computer off sadly and gets ready for work, pulls on his dress pants and his green dress shirt. He picks up the phone and calls a cab because his Celica is in the shop, being worked on by a couple of Mexicans, no doubt. He tells the dispatch to send a driver. “And make sure he speaks English!” Then he checks the lock on the closet door again, grabs his briefcase.
+++++The sun is already hot on the upper middle class neighborhood as he climbs into the cab that pulls into his driveway. He tells the driver the address. He works at an immigration office on the south side of Tucson. His office is not much different than the cell where he had kept the girl for 3 years. He’s not looking forward to the long day, listening to all those fucking Mexicans whining and whining and whining, and all the god damned paperwork. He’s especially not looking forward to the hole he’s going to have to dig in his back yard when he gets home. Well, hell, he thinks, maybe I’ll write a poem about it.