by J.A. Tyler
It was a funeral so it was dark and unnerved. And there was a box with a man in it. And people were as they needed to be.(he saw the lid spring and a clown in righteous garb bolted up like being unwound from a clock. His face was smiling. His face was white base with red lips and black in coats around his eyes. And his shirt was patchwork in bright colors and he had a rubber daisy dribbling from his breast pocket. And in his open palm was the man's heart. And in his open palm were the man's eyes. And in his open palm were the liver and the kidneys and the pancreas and the brain. In his open palm was a letter that said not me not me not me. It was a letter written in red. In his palm was the smell of smoke. In his palm was the world and the world was a melting burning lake full of plastic drooling on itself).
It was her father. And it was a heart attack. And he'd been tall even without boots on and so the coffin was large and maybe extended.
(the father opened his mouth and showed how it was all teeth teeth teeth. His handlebar mustache was silver and crouching and long. He was long. And he had wings like the devil and he hissed like a snake and he was flying above a city that was dark and sleeping. He was holding him over the city. He was holding him over the sleeping world. He was making like he would drop him. He was making like he would run him into shit on asphalt. The father was her father. The father was his. The father was a lake where no fish would grow. The father was stagnant. The father was and wasn't).
Snot and tears ran and people shook hands and his wife was uncrying in her own world. Her father was gone and she wasn't. Her father was gone and there was a Baby.
(he saw himself as a bomb dropping on the whole thing. He was bullet shaped and spearing through clouds. And there wasn't anything to stop him. The rain clouds weren't strong enough and the sun wasn't shining and the air was parting like curtains. It was freefalling. He was a bomb dropping. And the landing was a small click of a nose on the floor and then everything went bright. The people became silhouettes of silhouettes. The people burned and twisted and disappeared. And he was the bomb on the floor exploding himself).
He hugged her half-heartedly because he only had half anymore to hug with. He used one arm instead of two and it came out like a brother hugging his sister. It came out like a dad and a daughter. And she cried then even though she hadn't yet.
(he could pull his own teeth out with his bare hands. He could reach in and wrench them from their places. He was a bulldozer. He was a crane. He was a demolition that everyone came out to see. They had announced it on the news and he became the attraction. So parents took children and lined them in strollers along the sidewalks. And when the countdown began the smiles were toddlers awaiting noises. He was rigged and wired and had already pulled all the teeth in his head. He'd pulled his teeth and strung them into a necklace and wore them with pride and confusion and easiness. And then the numbers reached zero and he disintegrated).
He didn't want to eat but he took finger sandwiches from a side table and sat and ate them. And she was done crying now and was talking with her relatives.
(there was a man who came streaking across the place naked and lustful. It was a man who ran in pear toned skin and red unshaven cheeks and no clothes. It was him. And he saw himself like watching himself on tv. And the funeral parlor was a staunch and lit soccer field. And he was streaking. And there were fans in the bleachers chugging beer and eating hot dogs and blaming him for the issues of the world. So that when they laughed or screamed or choked on their food it was his fault. And here he was naked and streaming so like the perfect chance. Here he was apart from himself and taking it all. They threw popcorn and pretzels. And then it was plastic cups and wads of dripping napkins. And then it was fingers and toes and other dislodged parts. They were disassembling themselves and chucking everything at him. Ears and lips and bellybuttons. Love-handles and nipples and calves. Big chunks of scalp with hair. Loose pieces of their faces).
She looked across the room and saw him drifting. She looked across the room and found him wandering back. And they made eyes to each other like it was time.
(he wanted to crawl across the tops of their heads. He wanted to be a romantic scene in a romantic movie where she was shouting his name and he was shouting hers. He wanted to romanticize what never happened. He wanted to romanticize himself. So there was no choice but to raise up on strengthened legs and skip across the tops of them. In his wake he left broken necks and puddles of bodies. Behind him he left dead flowers and faceless moons and dirty floors. Behind him he left thoughts that were vapid and slick. Behind him he left streaks and glares and dead eyes).
Stretched on the couch he was better at ease. She was showering. He was watching tv.
(he saw her slip and fall in the shower. And when her slight and nothing middle hit the warming smooth of the tub beneath a red ball popped from her side and rolled to the drain. It was the size of a marble or a tennis ball or a cantaloupe or a basketball. And it settled on top of the silver mesh of the drain. It was washed by the still falling water. And she was sleeping now on the floor of the shower taking stilling breathes in and out until the red ball washed clean and slipped through the floor and willed itself away. Until it wasn't anymore).
With a towel around her breasts she squelched her hair and tried to talk to him. She asked him questions and mentioned how she was feeling. But he was still half-hearted and nothing came out.
(his mouth when it opened was a trap of dust and cobwebs. There was a spider in there living near his cheek and his molars. He named the spider and chewed carefully. And he looked in the mirror to see it dark and loathsome in the back of his mouth. She saw it too and screamed and tried to pry it out. But he bit her hand and she receded. And the blood her hand left in his mouth was food for the spider. The blood her hand left in his mouth was charming to a charmless world).
Don't you care she said and aren't you here she said and he couldn't say anything back. He wanted to but he couldn't. And he didn't know why.
(he saw himself killing himself. He saw blades and knots. And he saw beautiful women that weren't his wife and seemed to love him more. And he saw blondes and brunettes and redheads welcoming him home to a place where he arrived. To a place where he wasn't the plague or the riot. A place where he wasn't the fire or the burning or the sand or the glass. And there was one in particular who smiled at him and waved a half wave that matched his half heart. And the freckles on the chest connected like dots and spelled out in cursive things he couldn't read but was dying to).
She was crying again that night late in bed while he was still unmoving and watching tv. He wanted to cuddle her and assuage her and befriend her. But he couldn't. So he didn't.
(when they burn him at the stake he smells charred and edible. Villagers wrap around him in waves and bodies and eat him. They take forks and knives to him like a pot roast. And he surrenders because he is tied to a wooden pole that is bruising with orange and flames. He surrenders because he wants a knife and fork too. But he wants to eat something more than himself. He wants to drag his knives and forks through hair and good feelings. He wants to eat the sunset and drink the clouds. He wants to live and live and live. But all he can is villagers chanted in unperfumed tones eat eat eat).
He watched her sleep and drink in air. And her mouth and hair were parted. And she was only is somewhat showing. And he liked the somewhat of that.
(behind her sleeping eyes he saw painted ones engraved with words and hopes and fears and changes. He saw things that shouted at him and things that kicked him and things that practiced torture on him. Behind her eyes were colors of rainbows that were instead of sparkling and deep were setting themselves apart. Like she was boat on a shore launching into the sea. Eloping into the water. Slipping out into blue and foam and the tents of clouds and sun. Floating off).
And somewhere in the night a cat meowed. And somewhere else he went to bed. And somewhere else still he was out of bed and drinking a beer warm from a bag of groceries left on the table. And somewhere else the funeral had ended and things were moving on as they do.
(he saw himself standing on water and not sinking. And he saw himself at a circus taming lions. And then he was drowning and being eaten all at once. He was teeth marks and bloodshed and giant mouthfuls of salted water. And the tiger stripes matched the waves and the waves matched the tiger stripes. And both were swimming in his head. And both were like water on his brain. So when his head spilled and the ocean was a little higher and the tiger was drinking it with a pink tongue no one was surprised and no one cared and nothing else happened).
Among other publications, J. A. Tyler has recent work in Lamination Colony, MonkeyBicycle, Thieves Jargon, Underground Voices, & Word Riot. His debut novella is forthcoming from Ghost Road Press in 2009 and his prose poetry chapbook will be available soon from Trainwreck Press. He is also founding editor of the literary review Mud Luscious and a recent addition to the online editorial team at Pindeldyboz. 'Parenthetical #3' is a part of a recently completed novella entitled 'Of Violence and Being Parenthetical'. Read more at www.aboutjatyler.com.