by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
I was happy when I was younger, when I was meditating, but I no longer meditate. I no longer can. It’s not good to meditate without a teacher. The mind can stop in a dangerous place. We need to be guided to the path, and even though my city is known for its many teachers, my husband will not allow me to find one. Getting permission from my husband is like asking feathers from a turtle. If he knew that I want the sun, he would remove it from the sky.
She applies an arm bar. It feels like she’s tearing off a turkey wing, which is how she wants it to feel. She knows her opponent is in excruciating pain. Her mother used to wake her in the middle of the night, applying the same arm bar. You need to be able to defeat people in your sleep, her mother said.
No one can withstand her arm bar. They grimace in pain, then submit. She racks up another victory. She is known as the most dangerous woman on Earth, but really, the most dangerous woman on Earth is an arms manufacturer who inherited the business when her husband died. She supplies countries all over the world, often those fighting each other.
Husband: I am heavy. My soul is dark as asphalt. It covers the earth, like Sherman-Williams paint.
I once had a Sherman-Williams t-shirt. It was tight on me, a hoodlum’s shirt that showed off my muscles. It intimidated the weak. Even though I was small, I decided to fight anyone who challenged me or insulted me. Because I was small, I was vicious. I thought that the only way to survive was to assume that every opponent was out to kill me, so I had to kill them first.
Mixed martial arts is strictly small time, but the arms manufacturer enjoys it. She watches it on a movie theater screen in her office. Another screen shows military battles being waged throughout the world using arms she’s supplied.
The mixed martial arts fighter applies another arm bar. Her opponent, not adequately trained, shrieks in pain. You’re never supposed to shriek when you’re a warrior. The MMA fighter lets her opponent go, a disgusted expression on her face. Her opponent, she knows, didn’t have a mother who applied wrestling holds to her in her sleep.
Husband: When interrogated, I made self-defense seem plausible. They released me, even after I became known. I was a modern Billy the Kid, with my deformed foot and sunken chest.
I hear thunder and think it’s a truck scraping the street, readying it to receive more asphalt. The nun is married to Jesus. I am married to asphalt. It is the only comfort in my life. No one messes with me anymore.
She moves sweetly, lethargically. Her limbs are like candy cooked in a sheet, ready to be cracked into pieces.
Husband: My soul has been rolled over and over with heavy machines, machines smelling of tar. I can be rolled but not crushed, not obliterated.
When we were kids, the future arms manufacturer and I got a painting job together with another kid, whose way of handling his teenage unease was to constantly imitate Groucho Marx. It was weird, but we were at the start of the hippie era and we believed that weird was good.
The future arms manufacturer and I were best friends, even though we were of different genders. We hung out a lot together, but never had sex. Halfway through this painting job, she came up to me and said, Me and Groucho have talked about it. You’re working too slow. I’m letting you go.
She was the one who had scored the job, so she owned it.
Friday night. I ate swordfish, got drunk, went to a different movie theater than the one I intended. I thought: this is the kind of thing old people do all the time. I asked for a senior discount, gave my ticket to the midget at the portal, felt superior to him because of our relative heights, saw a movie starring Tom Hanks.
You’re firing me? Tears welled up in my eyes. After a little more perfunctory talk, I just left.
Do you know Tom Hanks, I asked my Facebook girlfriend, who is poor and lives in an undeveloped country.
No, but now I know that there is an actor named Tom Hanks.
Do you ever see any movies, I asked.
I don’t know anything other than the plants and bushes in my home garden. I’m like a frog who lives in a deep well. She sends me a sticker of a bright green frog with a goofy expression.
Yes, that looks like you, I write.
That is my photo, she replies.
Later I read reports about the arms manufacturer. She was known as manipulative and ruthless. Her employees were all afraid of her. I realize now that I should have punched her in the face, even though I was half a foot shorter and she was a girl. In the long range scheme of things, it would have benefited both of us.
After I got off my computer, I went out and asked Princess Di to dance. She was biking across the heath in a glum mood, wearing an expression that might have suited Thomas Hardy. I’m pretty sure she would have taken up my offer. She would have danced with me across the heath. Who knows what else she might have done, what we might have done together?
My favorite creature besides Princess Di is the Bearded Lizard. He is so knowledgeable. I sit at his feet and ask him questions and he responds with great wisdom that stays with me for a short while and then evaporates. I do not have the abstract capabilities to store it, so every night I ask him again and every night he enlightens me anew.
But a tornado blew down Windsor Castle and she had to hurry to make repairs. I saw a trowel in her bicycle basket, caked with cement. I knew that besides being a princess, she had many other skills and here was still more evidence.
That’s why I’ve stayed here on the farm as my siblings, one by one, have gone to the cities to pursue their ambitions and “dreams.” The bar where I drink at the edge of a nearby town doesn’t have a name. It was called Joe’s for a few years, when a fellow named Joe owned it, but after Joe died and it went on to other owners, they took down the Joe’s sign and never put up another. In un-Joe’s, there are other guys like me, guys I went to school with a long time ago, who sleep in their houses but live in their barns, who are not farmers anymore or who were never farmers.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad, including FORMER PEOPLE JOURNAL. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, and Queen’s Ferry Press’s Best Small Fictions for work published in 2011 through 2015. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.