Riddled with Arrows RwA 5.4
Honored for Monkeyballs to have found a
home in RwA. Meta fiction and poetry at
His username is Monkeyballs69. Tammy knows it’s a crazy name but he looks kind of cute and she probably shouldn’t, but she swipes right. It turns out he’s studying for his doctorate in French Renaissance literature. Or he’s a guy who does sound effects for films.
A Foley artist, he says, but nobody ever knows what that is. He and his mom listened to old radio shows when he was a little kid. Clomping footsteps, creaking doors, phones ringing, the sounds filled him with awe. Or maybe Monkeyballs owns a fleet of ice cream trucks. They’re painted in pastel pictures of frozen treats, rainbows, bubbles. And happiness, he says. If a kid can’t pay he lets them have one for free.
He drives a truck himself when he has time, although, sadly, he says, most days he’s too busy with the business end of things. He studied engineering at MIT but gave it up after doing ayahuasca. No, not ayahuasca. That’s trite. He did shrooms with friends one weekend at a cabin in the mountains. Commonplace maybe, but not trite. After that he tried micro-dosing out of curiosity and rekindled his childhood love of the ice cream truck. He embraced his passion, he says. Opted for joy.
Tammy sits alone on her navy-blue Ikea pull-out couch in the living room that doubles as her bedroom. She lives in a studio apartment because rents are so high in the city. Other than the fact that she’s lonely, she wants a boyfriend to share expenses. And now, rather than simply say she’s lonely, I’m supposed to show how she’s lonely. Is it enough to mention her melancholy as she swipes left and right while idly eating the take-out salad she gets every evening on her way home from work? She notices the compostable cardboard bowl is empty and realizes she missed her dinner again. Damn, she thinks, I need to be more mindful, promising herself she’ll pay attention tomorrow. It’s dusk and the evening shadows slant into the room like a David Hockney painting. Trite, but true. Also, there’s supposed to be a theme and tension, leading to a climax and resolution. People are always asking, where’s the arc? What’s the purpose? Our lives often have no arc. Days, weeks can go by. Arcless days. Why does there have to be a big deal purpose? My purpose is to look gently into tensionless, resolution-devoid life. Modern takes on the mundane that teeter on poignant. Almost funny, but not quite. How, in a pinch, we grab a pair of pants from laundry mountain on the floor and we’re dressed. Or when we’re out of clean underwear we turn them inside out and give them life for one more day.
I imagine Monkeyballs69 would do that, the laundry mountain part. The underwear, not so much. He knows a lot of random facts. He shares them often, like one of those people who constantly comes up with puns. In the beginning, Tammy is charmed by his impromptu discussions about Asian giant hornets, immortal jellyfish, chickens’ earlobes. When they eat sushi, he points out that the wasabi is probably dyed green horseradish. When her friend has a baby, he shows her how much it looks like Danny DeVito and they laugh. One day Tammy will think his fun facts are weird segues, that everything he says is a non sequitur. She’ll ask him why the hell he named himself Monkeyballs69. There will be tension because that’s what happens in relationships. Maybe she’ll leave him. Maybe they’ll stay together, get an apartment with a bedroom, have a baby that looks like Danny DeVito. But today, they lean into each other on her navy-blue couch. She enjoys his facts, laughs at his jokes. They eat snacks, drink red wine and watch Grace and Frankie. That should be enough.
Moss Piglet,July 2022 The Food Issue
Moss piglets, aka water bears, aka tardigrades, often are called the most resilient creatures on the planet. I can’t speak to Moss Piglet the magazine’s resiliency, but I can definitely say that it is one of the most delightful publications on the planet.
Pigeon Review, April 14, 2022
The truck has ladders strapped to the side, huge sign on back – “Tired of ugly roof stains? Don’t replace it. Clean it.” Pictures illustrate dirty, unsightly roofs magically transformed into pristine, sparkling ones. People replace their roofs if they’re dirty, I wonder?
How did he get here, this enterprising businessman? An idea concocted at halftime watching the game? Hatched over pitchers of beer at the lanes? Dreamed up at four a.m., searching for his passion? Did a career coach test to determine his competencies? He scored high on lack of fear of heights, comfort driving a truck, love of silence.
I imagine him perched high up near the peak, alone in the quiet drinking his coffee. He uses a real thermos, metal with a glass lining. Lois got it for him at a thrift store. Lois loves “discarded treasures.”
Lois is on a health kick, making him give up sugar, flour, cow’s milk. No bologna and cheese on white for lunch anymore. Now it’s hummus and julienned vegetables she learned to make in her cooking class, bread with millet and poppy seeds.
He hates his lunch. Hates picking seeds out of his teeth. Lukewarm coffee with almond milk and agave. Lois says estrogens in soymilk are bad for his gonads. But, it’s okay. Sitting up on the roof just about anything is okay.
He loves Lois. Loves the notes she leaves in his reusable sandwich bag – stuff to pick up on his way home; reminders of things they have to do; or simply “I love you.” signed L.
“L” feels weird to him at first “Lois, why don’t you sign your name?” he asks. She says L is more intimate, loving. He tries to wrap his head around that. He figures she’s right. She usually is.
Have you ever seen a better looking cow? Leave it to Pure Slush! Pure Slush will always thrill, never disappoint, a slush pile I'm proud to be in.
”BECAUSE YOU ARE ALIVE, EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE”
THICH NHAT HANH
Pure Slush Vol. 23, June 2022
My Three Cows
A lovely book by the late Thich Nhat Hanh is How to Relax. It’s tiny, not much larger than the palm of your hand, as if to say, don’t fret, relax, I’m small. Most of the instructions are short, some less than a hundred words. One entry, “Naming Our Cows” begins “Each one of us has to sit down with a piece of paper and write down the names of all our cows.” He talks about how we struggle and suffer. He says we should “Let go so that happiness, joy and peace can be possible.”
I sat down with a piece of paper to write my list. It was short.
Hannah came with a friend, a palomino horse, whose name I forget. Let’s pretend it was Kevin. I agreed to keep Kevin and Hannah until their owner, whose name was Sally, found a more appropriate living situation. We made a paddock for them by stringing electric fencing on posts. The hard part was having to test it to see if it was live. It was. Hannah didn’t like it inside. She routinely disregarded the shock and muscled her way out to lie in the grass outside her enclosure. She didn’t want to go anywhere. Just not be inside, except when I attempted to ride Kevin. Then she’d moo bloody murder, break out, and chase after us, running as fast as her cow legs could carry her. We’d wait for her, Kevin and I, knowing our ride was over, as Hannah ran circles around us, like a Border Collie rounding up her charges. When Sally came to get them, she hopped up on Kevin and the three of them rode off together, Hannah trotting along behind, screaming all the while.
Rosebud was so named because of a swirling bit of fur on her forehead, a cowlick. Ironic, right? A cowlick. If you squinted and tried really hard you could imagine it looked like a rose. Her brother’s name was Big Mac. I didn’t name either one of them and don’t know what became of him. I always hoped his name was joke, not a prophesy.
Rosebud was young when I got her, but as she grew older, as cows tend to do, she became large. And she grew horns, and although they were short and stubby, she routinely tried to impale me on them whenever I entered her enclosure. Another thing about Rosebud, inconsistent with her obvious desire to kill me, was that when she wasn’t in her paddock, she loved company. Whenever I’d come home she’d moo boisterously for attention. She loved to be scratched between the ears, and demanded it often.
I’d always check on Rosebud as she grazed in her field when I left the house. One morning, I glanced over and noticed two white beehives at the far edge. I was quite certain that I was not a beekeeper and that those hives had not been there the previous day. Faced with beehives magically appearing on my property, however, I experienced a moment of doubt. Am I a beekeeper? Have those hives always been there? It would be several days before I spotted someone tending to the hives. It was Paul, the son of the family who owned the grocery store in town. Paul had spotted the red clover growing in my field and thought red clover honey would be lovely. Who was I to disagree?
Paul came from a long line of beekeepers. He told me stories about tracking bees through the woods over the course of several days to find their hives. He’d snag the queen and thousands of bees would swarm onto his arm, and he’d gently guide them into a basket. His grandfather was known for intentionally knocking hives over in order to get stung to cure his arthritis. He was hospitalized more than once for his shenanigans. His arthritis prevailed.
Paul’s family also kept cows, so naturally, I introduced him to Rosebud. They hit it off right away. He knew just how to scratch her and she appeared to have no interest in killing him. When I moved away, Paul was the obvious choice to give Rosebud to. As it turned out, Rosebud wasn’t like any of their other cows. None of them mooed at the top of their lungs when he came home. Rosebud did, no matter how late at night. He tried everything, including parking his truck down the street. Once he went so far as to take off his boots to sneak by quietly in his socks, but she always knew it was him. That was some bovine love right there.
If I ever get another cow, I will name her Sally. I’ll write her name on a piece of paper.
And I’ll smile.
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