Earlier, when we were having sex, your mind wandered to that time you were a lifeguard at a waterpark back in Temecula, just out of high school, the many hours spent watching the blue clean symphony of aquatic afternoon play perched on the plastic seat of a lifeguard stand, thighs glued there sticky with sweat…
“This is not good,” Sam Gregory thought waking from uneasy dreams. He let out a cluck that caught himself by surprise. Below his bedroom, in the kitchen, his family heard the cluck and ran up to see a giant chicken in Sam’s bed. The Gregory family was so poor, they mostly ate bread and potatoes.
Bravely dipping a pen in the ink of his own soul, Pickett’s novels chart a winding path from divorced, struggling writer in the throes of an existential crises, to celebrated author.
WHETHER BEAUTIFUL OR TERRIBLE, THE PAST IS ALWAYS A RUIN.
When I look back on my childhood, my earliest memories seemlike artifacts from a lost civilization: half-understood fragments behind museum glass. I remember the spherical alcohol lamp that glowed like a tiny ghost, ringed with dancing blue flames, which hung over the dining room table of the house where I grew up. I remember the sweet, oily smell of coal smoke, and the creaking of horse-drawn carriages on the dirt road outside. Most of all I remember
the summer twilight over the mountains and how, on certain evenings, just before the sun sank below the horizon, it cast rays so luminous and golden that they felt like a solid, enveloping close into which a small boy could simply disappear. An intensity no light today seems to match.
During parties, especially ones in designer-conscious downtown Los Angeles lofts, the couch is coveted territory. People have just spent twenty minutes making polite non-committal remarks around the kitchen island, and all anyone wants to do, at this point, is rest on the cushions and maybe squeeze an end pillow. However, the same competitive drive that applies to every other aspect of life in the city is amplified here. The people on the couch are ruthless motherfuckers.
The prom was off to a bad start, thought Dennis. His sweaty palms were making a mess of his pristine uniform, and a hush had fallen over the gym as soon as he walked in, leaving only the sound of Dennis’s labored breathing and the angsty crooning of the Kings of Leon. He quickly realized that he must have misheard his friend Bacon, who had told him the theme of the prom was “Tarts and Hitlers.”
It was the same old conundrum: how to build what he saw in his mind’s eye, how to raise a thing of beauty from the earth so that people would look at it and marvel for a century to come, without first raising the money to see it to fruition. Money. It was always a question of money. He’d borrowed from Sullivan to buy the lot for the Oak Park place all those years ago, and while he couldn’t very well sell it out from under Catherine, he’d already hit on the expedient of remodeling the place so she could rent out half of it and at least have a reliable income. He would provide for her and the children too, that was his responsibility and he would meet it—no one could say he was neglectful there, though they might whip him over Mamah all they wanted, pinching their noses and crossing the street to avoid him as if he were a leper. And he’d just have to find a means of raising money, not only for the remodeling, but for the new house that was already taking shape in his dreams and his waking hours too, a place away from all this confusion, a place where he could live and work in peace till it all blew over.
Read Part I at www.forthmagazine.com/Charlie-Thomas
Not involving himself in the mess of reporters frothing over Tony Growen upon his release from the hospital—a local miracle by any standards—Chester Goldsmith focused rather on the young man standing next to the newly awakened coma patient. Seventeen-year-old Tony stood now in front of cameras and questions, bright-eyed and freshly recovered from his head injury, while his friend Daniel Rogers was quietly ushered to the outskirts of the frenzy by a woman in large sunglasses, pulling the teenager by the hand. Chester squinted from a distance, trying to make out the face of the woman. Ah yes, he smiled. That was her indeed—Daniel’s mother, Bobbi, to whom Chester hadn’t spoken in several years, not since the release of his book on Daniel…the Wonderchild. While the ignorant local press affiliates drooled over their supposed miracle boy, Chester slipped back into his car and carefully followed Daniel and his mother away from the scene.
Her nervous toes danced under the table. She thought, on this dismal day in South West London, the time had come to confess her state of tangled affairs. She could, given the spotlight for long enough, call attention to quite a few issues plaguing the Longley family dynamic. She thought it best, however, to focus solely on the emotional affair she had been having with her parents’ neighbors’ 33 year-old son, Kingsley Stone, whom she had met three years prior at an equally dismal Christmas dinner.
In the summer of 1972, President Richard M. Nixon denied any knowledge of the five burglars who entered the office of the Democratic National Committee, the last US combat troops finally departed from a naval stronghold in Southern Vietnam, and I went to Savannah to die. I had never been to Georgia before. I knew of Savannah only from what I’d learned in the tones and faces of oil-painted jazz legends and in the subtle memories spilled quietly by my father years before. But in the sticky climate of that hot, political summer, I was determined to find a peace I had never known.