the Millionaire Rig Veda

the following is an excerpt from a tale – The Millionaire Rig Veda – soon to be published in a novella collection sometime in late 2011:

Ginny Staithe, when she could, wore sweatpants like a uniform. Her motto was Why Walk When You Could Run? The sweats were both an athletic thing and a symbol of her complimentary devotion to leisure. Because, if she thought about it, it went the other way too: Why Sit When You Could Lie Down? Ginny didn’t do anything half-way, and that included fixing her car. At the mechanic’s, dressed in her sweatpants and a cute (but understated) hoodie, she circled the Jeep and the mechanic on his knees beside it, pointing out everything that needed fixing with an unpolished fingertip. From the missing antennae to the back hatch which needed gas shocks, the timing belt, and the rear passenger door that stuck in the cold.

I live up here because I’m ahead of the curve. Soon you’ll all be leaving your beloved cities like rats from a sinking ship and guess where you’ll come? She still couldn’t believe she’d said it. Not because she didn’t think it – she did – but that it’d come out of defensiveness, out of caring what someone else thought, and Ginny Staithe had believed herself to be passed all that.

Apparently not.

“Rotator cam is shot,” said the mechanic from underneath the Jeep.

Ginny’s cell phone rang in her bag. She had the one-strap back pack slung around her – no purse when you went to the mechanic’s; they saw that and they tried to rake you over the coals and that just pissed Ginny off. She reached in, grabbed it out of there and flipped it open without looking at the incoming number displayed.

“Ginny Staithe.”


It was Emily.

“Hi, Em. You-”

“I just wanted to say something. I just wanted to say one thing, okay? You talk about him like he’s dead. He’s not dead. Okay?”

Ginny closed her eyes. She swallowed. When she opened them again, the world swam for a moment, the colors running. It was only the briefest of seconds, but it had been there. She thought she also felt the beginnings of a headache, like a storm, brewing behind her forehead. A good frontal lobe whanger, she thought.

“Em, I’m at the car place right now. Let’s talk about this another time.”

“There’s nothing to talk about. I just had to tell you. It’s been…it’s one of those things that’s been one my mind, that keeps me up, like a little pin in the pin cushion.” Emily was calming now. That was how Emily was. She came on big and strong, just about tidal, and receded full of doubt, guilt, backing out the door like a head-bobbing bird.

In her mind she saw Emily at college, years ago now, affecting her patented Aussie accent and saying down undah and absoluteleh while people partying with her cracked up, tears tracking down faces. When Em was on, she was on. Should’ve been a stand-up comedian, Ginny had told her once. Missed your calling. Now Em had dried up. Seriously. Dried right up. Em was a resistor, a control freak – had to take everything and run it through her system, evaluating and scrutinizing and ultimately sitting indefinitely on that fucking fence about everything. She always had to have a crisis, a drama. She had to get something to get mad about, to get riled up about and organize against because, well, that was all she had left. Ginny knew this, she understood it, but, sometimes she was still a bitch too. And, who was to blame her? She was trying for upright and honorable, but she’d settle for listing and half-decent. Didn’t everybody?

“Em, he’s a deadbeat asshole, and you know it. He’s your brother, so you’re in denial. Not as much as your mother, who thinks his turds are royal and glimmer like jewels, but you’re still in denial – and it ain’t the river in Egypt. If I act like he’s dead, it’s my fucking right. To me, after all the shit he’s pulled, he might as well be. Deal with it.”

Ginny listened for the rebuttal, for Em’s return to her blustery storm mode (sometimes, yes, sometimes she didn’t go out with a whimper, not at all, but hung tenaciously to her judgment and bitterness as a drowning woman to a floating log) and as Em’s first word -leader of an army with their bayonets thrust forward- came out – “You” – Ginny snapped the phone shut. She looked at it, saw that the call had lasted one minute and forty-nine seconds, and realized she should use the caller ID more often. Em wasn’t likely to call back. Her dignity was at stake – she’d been hung up on, the ultimate glove in the face. No, she wouldn’t call back over and over in a blind rage like some. Em would plot her revenge.

Ginny shook her head. “Jesus,” she said softly, slipping her phone back in her bag.

From beneath the Jeep, the mechanic said, “I’ll say.”

horsey-horse-horse takes off into the *&^% woods

0716090853 by you.

We walked Chief, the four year-old Quarterhorse, down the road around dusk. The roping muscles beneath his chestnut hide twitched to bounce off the flies. Jude ran along with us, keeping beside me. My stepfather led the horse, letting it pause to eat the grass on the ragged median strip of the dirt road. “I’m giving him mixed signals,” said my stepfather, “I’m letting him eat sometimes, but then I’m urging him on other times to get away from the horseflies.”

When we got to my car, halfway down the almost-mile road, Chief halted a couple of times, alerted to something in the woods. “Horses spook easy,” my stepfather said. He walked Chief into a clearing off the dirt road. “Animals, people, their own shadows,” added my mother. I loaded Jude in the car. About the same time, Chief took off. His sudden leaping away spun my stepfather a half-turn as he let go of the lead-rope. Chief darted out into the road and stopped. “Woah, Chief,” we all intoned. “Easy.”

My mother said: “My grandfather used to say, ‘remember: they’re beasts.’ They’re wild things, wild animals.”

Chief took off again, this time towards the woods, onto a logging trail, and disappeared. We all smiled and were aww shucks and my mother and I said, “He’ll be back.” But my stepfather wasn’t so sure, and started towards the logging trail. From inside the car, Jude said, “Can I have a lolipop, daddy?”

My stepfather disappeared into the woods after Chief. In another few seconds, the horse came charging back out, did a sort of sidewinding run, and stopped in the road again. “Chief!” I called out. “Come on, man.”

“We love you, Chief,” said my mother, and the horse broke into a gallop again, back into the woods, moving so fast he almost tipped over, kicking up clods of dirt and grass.

“Oh man,” I said, “I hope he doesn’t knock over dad, or something.”

“Oh,” said my mother, “you should see the way Steve is. The horses we’ve had. I had to hold them while he put shoes on them. He’s been doing this a long time.”

“That horse is so big,” I said, “it’s all an illusion. Dad holding the lead-rope like that, like he’s letting the horse pause to eat. That thing knows how big he is. He knows he could break free any second. The thing is, it’s a mind game. Dad shows him that he’s the master, and the horse buys into the illusion. He’s smart. He accepts it, because he gets to eat, and he gets to have fun.”

Just then Steve reappeared, and Chief was with him, and Steve had the lead-rope in his hand. They came out of the woods, the Quarterhorse behaving mildly, Steve seeming just fine. That’s frikkin awesome, I thought. Horse goes into the woods, man goes into the woods after it. Horse comes out and then runs back in. Then man comes out leading horse. Awesome.

“You have to act like his master, Timmy says!” my mother called to my stepfather.

Shhhh, mom. Oh God. Don’t say that to Dad. I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.”

She patted the air next to me. “No, no, it’s good. Steve listens to what you have to say about everything.”

“I don’t know half of what he does about horses,” I said. I watched Steve and Chief come back towards the road, off in their little world together, everything fine between them.

“Alright,” I said. We were batting at flies and mosquitos. I hopped in the car.

“Daddy, can I have that lollipop now?”

“Yeah, yeah. Did you see that? Did you see Chief take off like that?”

“Yeah,” said Jude. “He was running.”

“He was running. Yeah.”

We said our goodbyes and drove trundling and slow out of the bumpy dirt road thinking that next time we’re with Chief, there’s going to be riding.

Beasts, I’m thinking on the drive home. Remember, they’re wild beasts.

Yeah, that too.

0723091917 by you.

the katherine series. part I. i passed her a note on the train.

I passed a note to her on the train: Who are you?

When I met her, I was 22. I lived in Fleetwood, in Westchester County. I would take the Metro down to the city and stay there all night, sometimes just wandering the streets until the Harlem line opened up again. The morning I met Katherine was after one of these all-nighters. I was sitting a few seats back from the front of one car, and I noticed this girl, in the front seat on the other side of the aisle. She was eating an orange. She was looking off into some place that a pre-conscious, pre-jungle, pre-Eden part of me recognized.

From where I sat, I could see her profile. She was sexy. A sly smile curled the corner of her lips. I could see the left side of her, and one lens of her bright eyes, and something was going on. I watched her eat the orange. The way she peeled it and took it in with her lips mesmerized me. It was erotic; it looked like the fucking thing tasted good. And it was more than that. What got me was this acute sense that the girl eating it was in on something. That there was something happening there, and what was happening was much more than a girl eating an orange on the train.

009 by you.

I wrote a note down on a piece of notebook paper. It read: Who are you?

I passed her the note.

For the rest of the ride north (she was only a stop or two after mine) we sat together. I instantly reverted back into young-guy-mode. I interacted using my persona, a gently wretched thing filled with insecurities and auric gaps. She was quick, friendly, and open. We became friends.

Some time later I watched her dance. Performance art. I remember a dark room and things billowing and her silhouette sweeping around; evanescent moments, shapes and auguries. I asked her to participate in a music video I was shooting in the east village for an unsigned band. We hung around some more and I moved away and she moved away. That was twelve years ago, and I’ve just recently found her again. And I’ve been reminded of the girl on the train, and the things that I recognized. How things begin is how they end.

I discovered this video on her facebook page. It was early in the morning, and I decided to check it out. I could’ve had no idea how it would strike me.

The thing with Katherine’s work/pleasure/art is this: It’s a direct skinny dip into the fucking sexual-amative ether. I’m telling you. If you watch, and listen, and slough off all of that nonsense you’ve been taught about rational deduction; if you can, for a moment, pin down the squirming worm of your brain just DYING to categorize, analyze and breakdown – if you can do this, you might find video (by Matt Feato) the way I found it: an oasis of the elusive obvious, where the elements of dance, light, and music line-up and hypnotize. There!- A silhouette passes in front of frame; the color has just rippled from gauzy pink to vermilion to cerulean. In just that spiderleg of a second, something entirely new is happening. Which is the dance, now? Which is the light? What is moving? What is experiencing?

Let this take you away. Give it a few seconds to get going, to lift you off, and then – you’re gone. Bye bye. Eat it, drink it, an extra side of trip-hop honey and finespun, immaculate dance. By two minutes in, I’m on the gangplank and tingling. By three minutes, I’m happily dying; when it all comes together for me at four, I’ve arrived in elysium, amid pounding breakbeat hooves, aerial and undone.

Katherine Kendall Video by Matt Feato. FLUID / ASIDES

004 by you.

cock-a-doodle-do all day

I’m barreling down the back country roads with my muffler tied to the car by a coat hanger, thinking about the seven stages of learning, the melting polar ice cap and ensuing arctic landgrab when I realize I’m about to run smack-crunch into a group of deer.

I’m still vibrating from an adrenaline rush caused by a fight with the rooster. The rooster is new, and is confused. It cock-a-doodle-fuckin-dos all day, with no sense of time or decorum. The sound of its crow is throaty and strangled; a high, warbling, obnoxious cry of indignation enough to send anyone to the booby-hatch. I had whacked at it with a broom, ushering it back into the coop, shouting at it to shut up. It’s the kind of rooster you want to blast in the head.

After the rooster, piloting the old Honda down the gristle curves of the country back roads, I’m jouncing and clanging over the vestigial frost-heaves and Spring culverts, over steel deck bridges spanning bright, burbling water, past horse-crossing signs and trucks where loggers dig into the forest edge. My “check engine” light keeps blinking on. I manually shift the automatic transmission, dropping it into third gear to take the hills, careening down the other side in fourth. To get rid of the “check engine” light, and to temporarily resolve whatever sensory problem or rocker-arm issue the engine is having, I kill the power and coast. After a few seconds, I fire it back up and try and recover some speed. My stereo has a short in it so the song on the radio goes out over one unavoidable pothole, comes back on after another. This. Is. Driving. With no muffler, the rapier sound of the car is like a maniac motorcycle. I pitch into the turns like a motocross driver, leaning into the curves, slaloming the orange road safety flags, blurring by the moose-crossing signs now along the shoulderless edge.

When I see the deer, my heart flips. I’m coming down a hill at a pretty good speed, about to rocket out into a straightaway. The back roads are a series of hairpin turns, and when you get a straight stretch, you give her all she’s got, captain. The deer are right smack in the middle of the road, halfway down the stretch. It’s a mother and two twin spotted fawns. I hit the brakes and my car shakes like it’s having a seizure. This is normal. The rotors squeal and the brake pads thump. This too is normal.

Along the sides of the straightaway, spires of dead pines stab into the baleful sky. Crows fly off from squashed carrion already there on the pavement. The trio of deer, the doe and her two fawns, don’t move. My Honda shudders and jerks and squeals as I work to slow it down in time. I pump the brakes for fluid, but fluid isn’t going to help. I’m closing right in on the deer; this is all happening in a matter of seconds. For some reason I picture the head of the rooster blowing up in slow-motion. Ka-PLATT. But these deer aren’t going to blow up if I hit them. They’re just going to get messed up. So’s my car, maybe so am I.

The brakes are smoking now. I think of having just passed Union Falls, and what a pleasant moment that was, with the shushing water, the sundappled waterdam pond. My knuckles are white on the steering wheel. The stereo jumps to life, music blaring. I tell you, it would have been something if the song playing was “Bodies” by Drowning Pool or even “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff, but it’s not. It’s Neil Young singing, “Old Man.” Finally, the car stops. I’m only yards away from the deer. The mother looks at me. She hadn’t sprung off the road, she hadn’t moved. Only now does she nudge her fawns forward so that they bob off into the underbrush and disappear. Along the dirt edge of the road she takes one look back at me, as if to say, “That’s a beater car, you asshole – get a job,” before slipping into the forest herself.

I sit for a moment. I turn the music down. After some time, I lumber on again, the Honda glubbering forward. I sort of lose track here, not thinking of anything, just calming down. At some point, the music cuts off again. I get up some speed, but not as much. I continue along this sunbaked tracery of roads that aren’t on any Google satellite map. I reach the corner of Rock Street and Alderbrook Road where a nice, modest home sits with log-siding and what look like goats or small donkeys grazing inside a fence. There’s a mixture of homes along these roads. From vinyl-sided ranch-style, to squat log homes, to more ambitiously sprawling rustic.

I move slower now, yeah, but I’ve got to keep the car alive, got to get to my destination. As it is I get to a steep hill and chug up, going as little as fifteen miles per hour at one point. When I get to the top of the hill, I get going a little, bring it up to third, and then to fourth, and start barreling down the next hill again. I swerve a little to avoid a pothole, clip it with the rear tire, and the radio pops back on. I smile. This is driving.