Two Flash Pieces
Trip Down Happy Valley
He and I are buckled in a borrowed mini-van on an all too familiar highway in Happy Valley, very much Utah, where all roads lead to a wedding reception, and he and I have made the trip and dressed the part, he the Best Man and me his Uneasy Girl, and Oh Lord this State is eerier than ever and it’s a fact — cruise control is an emotion — like a niggling you’ve left the oven on a continent away, so that my throat is fisting, chest gagging, and he offers a far-off You Alright and I give a flat Yeah Ok, even as my eyes swell, now spill, and he says What, and I spew Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, mammoth sobs, all the flaring holes in my face struck up like a feral choir, and he’s going What Is It, and his voice is a whole other human away, which is It exactly, so I just say I Can’t Be Here and he says Babe I Don’t... but I can’t hear past my head slopped to my hands, and any word he says will be the definition of too little, so I wipe my snot and say instead How’s The Driver’s Side and he says Um Good But There’s A Governor On It So, A Governor I ask, Yeah A Governor You Know Like, A Govena I go, Gov’na he goads, all cheesy English accent, and like that, one-second zero-to-sixty I’m shot from my head and lodged in my side — a full-on bloody laugh — swinging rib to rib to slang out a ruddy luscious Ha Ha! whole Heeheehees, suddenly impossible to exaggerate, are coming out of my body like immaculate babes, amnesiac bursts, and he laughs with me as I’m wiping the hell out of my eyes, and that’s when the really unreal thing happens, when I cinch up in glee-knots, arm reaching for his, and my foot must press something out there because the glove compartment yawns open automatic, so processionally slow, so mechanically self-pleased, so manfully intentional, as one gearing up his jaw for the first bite of heroic sandwich, but so in excess of that as to be something else, that I am no longer making a hee and a hee but being heaved, my body a thing Laughter does, like a great mother lung, where each breath is a he and I, he and I, until choked up with joy not to be believed I look to him, my eyes wet and desperate as I make out Make The Face Of The Glove-Thing When It Opens, which is a precise request like prompting the familiar telling of an old tale, and the need does feel exact, in fact crucial, but I have no idea what the Face would look like, and this is the test, to make the right answer where none existed before, and that is when he veritably swerves the van with A Face I Have Never Seen, like an itch and a scratch in one, and I am relieved as if I had been shown the world ending, the dissolve of the insoluble — he and I mercifully far-gone from words — yet, we both must hear it: the deep-bellied sadness that such a nothing could be so funny, laughter like a rumbling downshift to a gear of low consolation, laughter like there’s a gov’na on us, mile after mile limiting our speed, but that’s the cry talking again, and so he and I howl down the way not nearing and not knowing which place, the head-ache or the side-ache, is the house he and I live in when the van stops.
Leaving off the sound of the thing, which is in fact a low lug of foghorn, a meaty throb of longing pitted in blank space. And forgetting for a moment the physiology of it—the lips loosely puckered with a cigarist’s musculature, and, yes, bluesily blowing a smoke-ring in life’s face. Let’s not break up the phonemes, for I have an ex who, in discussions without solutions, would occasionally rap the closest hard surface—just once—with the boney head of his knuckle in what I took to be a terse expression of Welp that’s the way it is—a shrug of a plunk, folk-punctuation that hits like a knowing glance, and that’s how the tail-end d strikes me in my mouth. Besides, if you were to tell it, you’d have to go to the start: speak the br—a bumble like a half-hearted belch—trailing into the cyclical ache of oo, to end a thump of tongue against the wall of your teeth--duh. So now you’ve gone and done it: you’ve burbled a sigh, you’ve mouthed the pout, you’ve pronounced a dull thunk that’s just how it is. None of these is meant to be glib. You don’t say it like this because you’ve got brooding down, but because you don’t know how else to say it: you are quite literally brooding. All this aside, I simply want to address the bonedry hardprint shape of it. Brood looks like it is. There is a graphic gravity to it, holding the letters together, making them a body—a space—where the convexities of convention converge with shivering content. That is to say the medium is the message. But I wrote it like that for want of v’s—of vertex, two lines converging, and the two-front teeth vibrating on your bottom lip are a charge that connects one thing to another, and that’s what I’m talking about here. Involved—evolved—continuity of the word gone to bits. Because if, let’s say, your body, your space, were bathed from birth in words as belief, figures as literal, stories straight from Mother Mary’s teet, dying the yarn of your cells their otherworldly blue and blood red and wool white, verses coal burned into your tongue’s groove, now long emptied of what they were meant to mean, what do you do with these words, their raveling, warp and woof of you, undone words that don’t go, they dwell in you and you brood on them, these words, they buzz eternal, a mouth over water. Here one learns to spell stories like homonyms. Same shape, different entry. The word is read left to right one letter at a time. The characters are the story. True to brood, I can see a stooped but dignified (and perhaps unhappily bald) figure wandering from b to d.... The drifter enters the space, he slumps down against a bare trunk, a hunched and hollow bulge:
(just see it, don’t sound it)
He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die…. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he did eat and drink...
putting forward, with graphic reluctance, his walking staff:
(slightly hooked at the top) ...only to slump down once again and crawl into a hole:
pulling the interiority over himself. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and said unto him, what doest thou here, Elijah? He mopes and gropes his way out, but he does not exit; he looms in the threshold, in the moan wide
...And, behold, there came a voice unto him again, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? It’s clear he can’t hold this moping note forever. The man verily hikes up his skirts and departs from the dwelling of his agogic glooming, to here, the end of the word, where he clasps his mantle on a boy at the plough, the wooly heft coming down round his shoulders with a hard thud:
and there’s nothing left to do but let go and get up and go thence…. Then he arose, and went after. Because that’s just the way it is, at the end of brood.
About the Author: Brooke Larson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and is currently a PhD student in Poetry at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Often she runs away to teach primitive survival skills as a wilderness guide in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.