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|The One Million Stories Creative
|Midnight, McCarthy, Sally...
Three flashes by
Mitchell Krokmalnik Grabois
I create midnight poetry readings. I litter the city with flyers, yellow, pink and light blue, the colors of baby’s breath.
But in the end, I am the only one who attends.
Sitting at the turkey table, he writes more poems in the soiled notebooks he carries with him everywhere. Behind his
back his brother calls him Walt Whitman because he is bearded and disheveled and has leaves of grass in his long
hair. His work, truth be told, is as humorous as that of Ogden Nash and the niece giggles until stuffing comes out of
in a ghetto or a forest, in a sawmill camp along a highway, in an apartment across from a semi-professional baseball
field, in a shabby room, sharing a kitchen with a guy, where the ancient burger grease was inches thick, in a house
next door to a prison where my wife was incarcerated, in a chamber of smog, in a chamber of pulp mill fumes, in a
condemned bar, in a bed with the legs set in water pails to keep me from getting malaria, in a malaria ward, in the
servant’s quarters of a youth hostel in Tanzania, in an apartment across from a mill pond.
He perches on the seat of his toilet, its water heated to a comfortable temperature. He feels its radiant warmth, like
the residue of a prostitute on his loins. He sits there and licks an ice cream cone he bought in the lobby of his hotel.
It’s a flavor he’d never heard of, and now he can’t remember its name. He’s proud of the fact that Alaskans eat more
ice cream per capita than any other state in the Union.
After I joined the Witness Protection Program and was relocated to a dry, western state, I became a poet. Later, I went
on this vacation. Walking mindless round and round the promenade deck of this cruise ship is all I want for eternity.
I’m there with my kids. I buy them blue popsicles and they eat them in the rain, avoiding mud holes when they
can. I’m fulfilling my responsibility, teaching them about life.
I ran to the House of Flavors truck. Ice cream flowed out as on a Charlie Chaplin conveyer belt or an I Love Lucy
production line. We were all jolly as we mind-melded with obesity. Live long and prosper, we told each other,
though we knew we would do neither.
More of us are wearing suspenders, I notice. More massage therapists are charging by the pound. It’s cynical and
callous, but they do it anyway. Like the Gold Rush, any one of them can get rich off one vein.
During the McCarthy Era, when I was five years old, my father, who was an aeronautical engineer and had a high-
level security clearance, pulled me aside one evening, rather roughly, after my mother had stuffed me with dinner,
pushed his face into mine and commanded: Don’t ever tell anyone we’re Russian. His parents were Russian. Waves
of his aftershave, Old Spice, radiated off his face and nauseated me.
He is engorged with rage. He’d watered his anger, grown it like Alaskan produce, eighty pound purple cabbages dense
and hard in the Arctic sun.
It’s cold and rainy on the carnival midway. Only the masochists are out, and the desperate, the recovering alcoholics
who are terrified by the idea of going into a warm bar, the meth heads who have blown up their homes, blown up
their mothers who’d been sleeping on the couch with aggravated expressions on their faces.
I knew my grandparents. I knew they spoke with an accent, but didn’t know they were Russian. I didn’t know what
Russian was. I didn’t know what he did for a living or that FBI agents came to his work, questioned him, and tried
to entrap him into admitting that he was an alcoholic, an adulterer, and a homosexual, though he was none of those
His rage is a companion. Bored, he puts a quarter in the old bed’s clunky massage machine. He lays back and clasps
his hands behind his head.
When we get home, soggy, muddy, and they’ve gone to bed, I turn on my Latino laptop. The tiny fan keeps me
warm. I have a hundred messages from people wanting me to like them. I don’t even know them, but I like them. I
like most people.
A Russian court will determine my fate soon. It’s all been fixed, well in advance. Sally has connections.
I put on my bright pink dress and matching baklava and hope I will not be judged too harshly. I am a man. I am
not even a homosexual, so you may ask: why is he dressed so?
Sally did this to me. Sally betrayed me.
He’s growing infinite food.
His eyes are slits, like the windows in his Fairbanks hotel. Late at night, his eyes in the window are like the
anonymous eyes in a burglar’s mask. He peers out at the Aurora Borealis.
I say: Did you make that up? My Sri Lankan mistress is surprisingly smart, but maybe the fact that I am surprised by
her intelligence is only proof of my own prejudice and condescension.
I learned the lesson to keep my mouth shut, which served me well when I married a Sicilian and went to work for
He’s drinking eternal water.
During the Independence Day parade, I scored off the Frito-Lay truck, bags and bags of chips. I was faster than the
old farmer who was handing out samples. My hands flew like three-card monte. He was a potato. I was a potato
slicer. Man cannot live on chips alone.
C. Mitchell Krokmalnik Grabois