Monday, December 12, 2011

"Spanish Arches" published in Haggard and Halloo / Poem: The Furnace Man

It took me six months to find the house I live in. Read my story in this prestigious online journal I'd never heard of: Haggard and Halloo.

H Ryder Haggard, author of the classic "She," was one of my favorite authors when I was growing up.

When I went outside this morning, my birdbath had frozen water, the cup of water in my car was frozen, but I had bundled up in layers. Drove to Quest Diagnostics for my monthly kidney tests.

This is the only Quest around that isn't crowded.

The pleasure from being published at H&H is reminiscent of when I was in fourth grade at Mercer Elementary School in Shaker Heights and the principal came to our class. That would be the class of Mrs. Evelyn Hess. No relation to the gas station or Bill.

I had written a report on Abraham Lincoln, in pencil, we weren't allowed to write in pen, and for some reason the princiPAL loved it, that would be the famous educator Mrs. Alice van Duesen, who had no kids of her own.

I was always obsessed with religion, so I did a lot of research in getting Lincoln's religion right. I used our home World Book Encyclopedia as well as the World Almanac. Plus some books in the Mercer Library, Mrs. Leffler, librarian.

Way to go, 65-year-old Ruthie! (I just inserted the first name of Mrs. Hess. Evelyn. Took me five hours to remember it.)

Anyway, Mr. Lincoln had no religion at all.

As I sit here on my living room couch desk, I look across the room to where I have a facsimile of the Gettysberg Address on the wall.

I'm waiting right now until my insulin takes effect and then I can eat. So, I'm sitting in the exam room at Quest. Lisa is my phlebotomist. She's got the needle in my arm. And can't get into a vein.

Did you drink water today?

Yes, I say, imagining drinking it last nite from the blue bathroom glass cuz I was so thirsty, and then half a glass this morning, plus I had four chunks of watermelon for breakfast which is all water.

I know it's there, she says, as she moves the needle about.

Does it hurt?

Not at all, I say.

She really seems like she's onto something.

I just know it's there, she says. Keep your fist closed.

Ah! she says.

I look down and one drop squirts out.

Oh no! I say.

No, it'll come, it'll come, she says. And glory be, my wine of life is spilling into four tubes.

The most important test is the BK virus, which hits 20 percent of kidney recipients. The virus can kill the kidney, so my docs are doing everything they can to make the numbers go lower. They do keep decreasing, so all I can do is pray to Mr. Lincoln's god.


Hello Mr. Furnace Man
into the crawl space
you go
like a coal miner
with your lamp
and your clanging belt of tools
strapped to your hips

Are you an acrobat?
You will be
spiraling across my
concrete floor
till you hit the
heaving ailing furnace

In a flash
he has found the problem
a dirty gray filter
he dangles from his hand
and a black rubber loop
tilting at the side

In another week, he says
you wouldn't have had
even 62 degrees of heat
You would have had
no heat at all!

I gasp.

He moves toward me on the couch
What a kindly face he has
shrouded in a knit hat
sweet as a baby bonnet
his eyes are like a cat's:

Does he have murder on his mind?
Will he strangle me and
boil my bones?
Or is it just a little rape and pillage
he intends?

He drops to his knees,
looking at my walls, my windows
What do people see, he moans,
in abstract art. To me
it looks like craziness.

Oh, dear, he has touched a nerve.

I look out the window
at the dead flowers in
my dead garden.
That's abstract art, I show him.
You have to use your mind
to make sense of it. Do it!

His yellow eyes squinch in

Oh, you either like it
or you don't, I huff.

On a clipboard
he presents me his bill,
laying it
tenderly by my side
like a bouquet.

For the first time
I find his eyes and
stare at them hard.
"Stan! This is expensive!"

Crestfallen, he tries
three times
to defend his price.
As he tells of charging the "day rate"
to an unemployed family he serviced at night
I thrust a $100 bill in his hand.

He doesn't understand.

Just fix my goddam furnace.
Charge me what you will.
Just let me bitch, that's all.


  1. You never know. Mrs. Hess and I might tie together somewhere. After all, my great, great, great.. grandfather, John W. Hess, had seven wives and 63 children - so there's a whole lot of Hess's whose blood lines go back to him.

  2. Ya know, mr. keebler, you may have a point.

  3. Congrats again. As you know, I liked the story a lot. I confess, though, that I have never read Haggard. Tell me more if you can, whenever you are able.

    I am glad you are glad you rememembered Mrs. Hess' name. To me,it's a curse that I can't seem to forget any of my grade school teachers' names. I am more fuzzy on JHS and HS and much more so about college(s). I worry sometimes that there is only so much room in my very cluttered brain and I want to leave room for lots of new stuff, so I don't know why the grade school memories are so vivid for me.

    Anyway, this was not supposed to be about me, but a way of saying kudos to you for the story publication.

  4. I finally read your story about Norman and the house. Hmmmm... so you love all your men, real estate salesman and homely guys on elevators? Do you love me, too? Your distant fellow blogger, writer and photographer?

    Congratulations on being published in Haggard and Hallo, which I too had never heard of, just like few have heard of Uiñiq.

    I have received your latest Compass. It looks nice. I have not yet had time to read it. It will take awhile longer for Uiñiq to reach you. As I noted, I had misplaced your address but now that I have the Compass, I have it again. Uiñiq is very heavy, so I will send it book rate.

  5. ooh, can't wait to read your uiniq. hey, how'd you get that little accent over the N? i mailed out the compass "media mail" so it would be cheaper. and, bill, of course you know i love you!

  6. iris, it would be fun to share the names of our goddard college teachers - erland jacobson for english, ray mcintire for music for me, that's all i can remember! my memory is at its worst when i need to drive somewhere. i'm gonna do a blog shortly and hopefully will remember to discuss that!