One Short-Short Fiction & Two Poems by Daniel Jones

Death Valley Days

The TV was straight ahead. In my hand was the remote control. I was pretending it was a gun.

A person flashed across the screen. I pressed a button, shooting him dead.

Another face appeared. There were twelve buttons on the remote control. I pressed them one after the other.

Oprah Winfrey. “Bang! You’re dead.”

Family Feud. “Bang! Bang! Bang!”

Vanna White. “Bang! Gotcha.”

I had won the TV in a raffle six days ago. I had been lying on the sofa ever since. I hadn’t slept. I hadn’t bathed. Bags of potato chips and jujubes littered the floor. I had filled a Giant Slurpee with piss.

Ed Broadbent. “Bang!” I killed without discrimination.

Someone walked into the living room. It was Linda home from work. She stood glaring at me.

“Bang!” I got her right between the eyes.

Linda dropped her briefcase on the floor. “When are you going to stop this?” she asked.

“Not until I’ve killed every last one.” I stuffed some peanuts into my mouth, dropping Tom Selleck with my other hand. I fired again.

“I’m undercover with Miami Vice. Bang!

“I’m the Ayatollah. Bang! Bang!

“I’m a Contra, a Vietnam vet, a crazed Maoist revolutionary blowing the heads off bourgeois pigs, I’m The Texas Remote Control Massacrer. Bang! Bang! Bang!

“I’m Bernie Goetz. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!”

I had just wiped out the cast of Sesame Street.

Linda took the remote control from my hand. She aimed it at the dead centre of the TV.

“And I’m George Bush,” Linda said, “and Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, P.W. Botha and Yitzhak Shamir.”

Faces crackled. The image silently exploded into a million coloured dots of light. Then the screen went black.

Linda handed me the remote control and walked out of the room.

I sat staring at the blank tube, and then at the device in my hand, scratching the top of my head in wonder.

 

May Day 1986

 

We came to read poems of revolution and love,
but the workers couldn’t make it.
“Maybe everyone had to work,” Keith says,
to the five or six poets who have gathered.
“Or maybe they’re home resting with a beer,” says Enzo,
opening a bottle of beer.

We read the poems we have read and heard before.
This one is now dedicated to the ghosts of the Haymarket
martyrs,
another to the damned in factories and picket lines
everywhere.
The words drift among empty chairs,
echo against the dirty glass of the store front.
We can barely hear above the passing streetcars.
We, the committed poets, applaud ourselves loudly.

Outside the Queen Street hospital,
an anorectic punk bums a cigarette, and I think of Nicky,
barely twenty, hitchhiking to Chicago with his sister
and brother anarchists.
Our differences seem like wisps of tobacco smoke
in the cool May dusk.
Our typewriters are not guns, but machines.
We work hard, each for some similar end.

In the tavern Keith dances with a young poet
he has met this night.
Enzo’s head rests on the surface of the table,
his long hair wet with spilled draught.
Lost in the noise and smoke, I stare up through a window,
one with many, underneath an ever rolling moon.

 

After the Reading

 

The toilet had overflown into the back of the gallery,
and Linda was moping the floor.
Harris and I stacked chairs and emptied the ashtrays.
Enzo placed the remaining beer on the table and sat
muttering about the small audience for his reading.
“Everyone’s probably home watching the hockey game,”
he said.
Linda sat and opened a bottle of beer.
“Maybe poetry readings are obsolete,” she said.
Enzo thought about this. “That’s heavy, man,” he said,
finally.
He started to tell a story about the year
he had hung out at Rochdale.
We had heard it before, but the woman next to him said
she had lived in Rochdale that year.
“Did you know Meat Axe?” the woman asked.
Enzo was staring into his empty bottle of beer.
“Was he a friend of Butch’s?”
“He might have been,” the woman said.
“Yeah, I knew Meat Axe,” Enzo said.
He started another story about the time he had played bass
with a blues band in Yorkville twenty years ago.
“Everyone knew everyone else in the sixties,”
the woman said.
“I’ll drink to that,” Enzo said. And he did.
Across the table someone was having a conversation
with no one in particular.
He was saying how he had written poetry for ten years
but never shown his poems to anyone.
During the reading he sat in the back corner,
scribbling in a notebook.
“I feel poetry is a private act,” he said.
Enzo pounded the table with his fist,
spilling several bottles of beer.
“Poetry is a vehicle for social change,” he said.
“How are you supposed to change anything if no one shows
up?”
On the wall was a painting of the poet Mayakovsky.
Enzo pointed to that as if to illustrate his point.
Harris had been sitting quietly,
chain-smoking my cigarettes.
“I always thought the vehicle for social change was a tank,”
he said.
I felt something seeping into my shoes.
Linda looked up from the pad
in which she had been sketching the group around the table.
“Whose turn to mop?” she asked.
Closing my eyes, I heard water pouring
over the side of the toilet bowl
and splashing down onto the floor.
And then the sudden loud crash.
Enzo had fallen out of his chair. UG

Daniel Jones was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1959. He died by his own hand in Toronto on Valentine’s Eve, 1994. In between, he worked as a dishwasher, cook, caretaker, editor, and writer. He left behind several volumes of highly acclaimed and controversial fiction and poetry. His work continues to appear in several magazines and anthologies, the most recent of which include Concrete Forest: The New Fiction of Urban Canada (McLelland & Stewart, 1998) and Burning Ambitions: The Anthology of Short-Shorts (Rush Hour Revisions, 1998). He posthumously published punk novel, 1978, was recently reprinted by Three O’clock Press, and Coach House has reprinted his 1985 book, The Brave Never Write Poetry.

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