The Sky Collector’s Husband


When the sky collector died it was his husband Gary who was left with all the skies, sunsets crumpled in corners and slate grey storms cluttering up the empty apartment. After weeks of tripping over tattered summer days with his sadness swelling to anger at his late husband’s insane hobby, Gary finally decided he had to do something with all these used up skies.

The first place Gary called with God’s house. God’s wife Mary answered the phone with her voice of unfiltered cigarettes and bottle caps, and he explained the situation.

“There are some really nice ones here,” Gary told her untangling an oatmeal sky from a dusty twilight.

“I get that you’re trying to move on,” said Mary, “but you humans keep having babies. They’ll tell you myths about hell and purgatory when you’re little so that you’ll sit still in Sunday school, but here’s a secret, God’s a real softy. Last week I was in a round robin tennis match with Hitler and Genghis Khan. Every human gets to go to heaven. Every single one of them, and we’re over-crowded. We don’t have room for every human and every sky.”

Gary wanted to remind her that she was once a human too, but he knew better than to reason with her when she got like this. Instead, he thanked her for the lilies she’d sent to The Sky Collector’s funeral and hung up.

He looked out the window at a cold grey sky that would inevitably end up in his apartment. It seemed like just last week that The Sky Collector was alive and flipping through the blue skies of endless summer days, but it was fall now, and the weather was turning cool. He went to the boiler room to turn on the furnace, and a sound like a metal train trapped in a metal cage came out. He shut everything off, and tripped over a hurricane on his way out. It was always the Sky Collector who had dealt with the furnace in the winter.

Gary blew into his hands and called local weather man. They had met at a cocktail party some months ago and had exchanged numbers to talk about a croquet tournament Gary was organizing.

At first, the weather man seemed interested in the leftover skies.

“Some of these skies are real collector’s items,” said Gary. He was sitting on the kitchen table wrapped in a Caribbean sunset for warmth. “I think I found the sky on that blue summer day right before that July hailstorm no one saw coming.”

But this gave the weather man pause.

“Listen,” he said. “Thanks for the call and for thinking of me, but seeing all those rainy skies on days I promised sun, and the tornado I wasn’t able to warn anyone about, I think it would break me, you know? To be surrounded by all my failures like that.”

And so Gary accepted an invitation to the weather man’s house for dinner later that month and hung up again, no closer to getting rid the skies than he had been at the beginning of the day. He found another warm summer sky to wrap around himself in the chilling apartment and called the CNIB in case blind people who couldn’t see the skies wanted the opportunity to touch them instead. He called a few art galleries too, but no one was interested.

That night, a new crate of used-up skies was delivered to Gary’s apartment, but he didn’t even unwrap them. He let them sit in the front hall with the skies from the week before, and the week before that. The sun had set now, and an October rain beat against the windows. The apartment was so cold Gary wore both his bath robe and The Sky Collector’s old bath robe as he heat up his Lean Cuisine and watched three episodes of The Mindy Project on his laptop.

Without anything else to do, Gary climbed into bed just after nine-thirty and stared at the sky The Sky Collector had tacked above their bed. It was the sky from the day they met. The Sky Collector had taught Gary all the names of the clouds that day, and later on, he would get so frustrated when Gary couldn’t remember the difference between stratus and altostratus or understand why it was so important.

Of course they had had their problems, as all couples do, but it was never boring with The Sky Collector, and they had loved each other until the end.

Gary fell asleep still wearing his robe and The Sky Collector’s old robe, but he woke to a strange sound a little after 3am. It was a high pitched chirp that at first Gary thought was coming from the smoke detectors, another thing The Sky Collector had always dealt with. Gary followed the sound out of the bedroom and down the hall to the box of skies that had just been delivered. The chirping was frantic by now. Gary pried open the crate and found a little bird that had somehow gotten tangled in that afternoon’s storm clouds. He held the bird in his hands and felt its little heart beat against his thumb.

“How did you get in there?” he asked. His voice felt strange echoing into the night.

Gary’s bare feet were cold on his apartment building’s concrete stairs as he carried the bird outside. The fall wind bit into his cheeks and his robes flapped in the breeze. The clouds from earlier that day had rained themselves out, and Gary could see the light from stars millions of light-years away.

“Go south,” Gary whispered to the bird, still feeling a bit odd. He reached forward and let go as though offering the bird to the sky. The bird seemed dizzy at first, almost running into a tree branch, but after a few flaps it found its wings and flew into the night.

Coming back into his apartment, Gary felt different than he had before. The skies were still there, and he still didn’t know what to do with them. The heat was still broken, and even the Lean Cuisine package was still on the coffee table where he’d left it, but Gary felt lighter somehow, like his chest was opening. Inside, it wasn’t blood and organs and a heart that might give out at any second like The Sky Collector’s had. Inside Gary there was a dark night sky with stars from all over the entire universe scattered across. Some of those stars had never been seen before, and some of those stars would never get named, and some of those stars had already gone out, but their light was still there, shining through the night.

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My Grandmother is a Kite

Most days she sat in the living room and yelled at the television in French. On Sundays she went to church and her friends came over after. She ate pig’s ears which I’m pretty sure are meant for dogs, and sometimes she sang to me in a made-up language when I couldn’t get to sleep.

In the fall though, my grandma got the itch to go flying again.

“I’ve got to go check up on things from a bird’s eye view,” she said.

“No way,” said my mom. “There’s too much for you to do here.”

My grandma told me there was a red blood stain in the shape of a person on the roof of city hall. She told me that empty swimming pools look like blind eyes when you see them from above and that she wanted to spit in every one of them in town.

“How am I supposed to look after things with you flying around?” asked my mother, and so my grandmother waited.

I saw her saving bits of string when my mother wasn’t looking, the twine from the butcher, the shoelaces from my old runners. She wound it all together in a huge ball she kept under her bed. She watched TV and yelled in French and ate her pig’s ears and she still even sang to me sometimes, and all the while bits of string kept going missing until one night, and the very end of fall when then wind is the harshest and the air is the coldest, I heard the window open down the hall, and I got there just in time to see her jump. She didn’t turn around to say goodbye, just leapt and was lifted by the wind.

When the sun rose, my mother and I went outside. We watched the string attached to my grandmother’s bedpost stretch all the way to the sky. I thought my mother would yell or try to yank the string back down, but instead she sank to the ground. She picked blades of grass one at a time real slow and lined them up in her palm. It wasn’t until she saw me looking that she stopped. She brushed the grass away and ran her fingers through her hair and my hair went into the house.

It’s been six months now and the string’s still stretching. We can’t see my grandma in all the clouds and the blue of the sky, but somehow I know she’s still up there, sailing above the neighbourhood and checking in on bloodstains, trying to spit into every empty swimming pool in town.

Introduction to Spaghetti Monsters Through the Ages

I realize that even in the time of writing this introduction, Spaghetti Monster is becoming an out-dated and even derogatory term.  In the early 2000’s there was a push for the colloquial Spaghetti Monster to be replaced with the more scientific, PW Bo Pot Barts Bof DT Tea, of course standing for People whose bodies or portions of their bodies are reduced to stringy bits of flesh due to tragic escalator accidents, however, it didn’t catch on and we will simply refer to these people as Spaghetti Monsters throughout this text.

Over the next 728 pages, we will journey through the history of Spaghetti Monsters, starting with the instillation of the first escalator on Coney Island in 1896, and the first tragic shoelace-escalator accident, leading to the first Spaghetti Monster, also in 1896.

What roles have Spaghetti Monsters played in the past and how has our view of them shifted in these more liberal times?  Is it still even ethical to eat Spaghetti Monsters? And what sauces might we pair them with to bring out their rich and robust flavours?

Nautical Priest


Nautical Priest
It’s the middle of August in this park,
and I’m eating
pierogies with my bare hands. I’m sitting
where dogs pee, and I’m dressed
like a nautical priest.

Our bodies are opening
in this late summer heat. We are not
like flowers but like eggs.
Our yellow centres are raw,
but maybe the pavement will change that.

We are nowhere near the ocean
and my nautical priest duties
are limited. There’s a man pretending
to tai-chi in this park, and no one
has noticed he’s doing
the Macarena very slowly.

God bless this water fountain
and that woman’s anchor tattoo,
and God bless these eggs,
opening like flowers
in the mid-August heat.

Other Selves in Helium Balloons

 Other Selves in Helium Balloons

What surprised us was not that they suddenly appeared, but that they had not always been there, those helium balloons of past experience tethered to strings above our heads.  They encased the parts of us we had called lost only because we didn’t have a word for the feeling, the thought that those people we once were continued existing in some other dimension, the night in Berlin, drinking White Russians in the flat of a friend of a friend, singing Leonard Cohen until sunrise, or standing on the steps of the church we went to in childhood, watching our grandmother’s coffin drive away.

Some kept their strings short, wandering around with balloon bouquets of memories in front of their faces, and some let their balloons out so high, it seemed as though their strings were attached to the sky.  Warm womb balloons and tiny balloons of children’s laughter and great balloons from long sad days we thought we may have left behind, all strung along behind us for almost a month until the winds changed and as suddenly as they came, those iridescent casings flew away.

We weren’t sad to see them go like we thought we might be.  Some left their strings around their wrists as memories of the memories we had finally all seen, but seeing they were there for that brief time, we remembered they had always been there, our other selves in other times still living, and the present a helium balloon about to fly away.

The Lawn Sprinklers at the End of the Earth

The earth flattens out at the very end.  There are mountains and cliffs and waterfalls as tall as the CN Tower, forests, marshlands and then the flat space at the very edge where there’s nothing but grass spread out like icing on a St Patrick’s Day cake and a man named Christopher to maintain it all.

Christopher doesn’t know how long he’s been there, but he doesn’t remember not being there, so he thinks probably eternity, cutting the grass and repairing the sprinklers and staring into the white part after the end of the world, the grass transitioning into nothingness the way an echo disappears.  As far as Christopher can tell, the world has got an endless end, nothing and then nothing and then more nothing after that.

Christopher doesn’t know if anyone ever told him it’s his job to make sure the grass is watered and neatly mowed, but he knows it the same way he knows his name is Christopher even though he can’t remember if he ever had a mother.  He thinks be probably did though, once have a mother in another life by the ocean.  It was a place with waves of water instead of blades of grass, and he had a little sister too, who ran away.

He’s been alone at the edge of the earth for so long now, the whiteness beyond the grass like a canvass that will never be painted.  He usually thinks he couldn’t possibly have had a life before this, but on some days, when the blades are trimmed and the sprinklers are sprinkling he looks out at the grass like green glass bottles and remembers floating in the ocean.  He remembers a little sister who ran away, and he remembers there are other things out there before the end of the world and the whiteness and the whiteness and the whiteness.  There are mountains and cliffs, forests and marshlands and waterfalls as tall as the CN Tower, and sometimes the wind from those places comes to him and the rustling blades look like waves, and it’s then he thinks maybe this isn’t the end of the world with the blankness and the blankness and the blankness, but instead it’s the very beginning.

Diner

Diner
The hospital waiting room
was also a diner.  I drank
a chocolate milkshake with another man
while you turned the floor red.
Flowers bloomed from your blood.
You picked them for me,
but I forgot them on the counter.

The Thing that Looked Like a Baby

The fountain wasn’t deep.  A few nights before, I’d run through it, drunk with my friend, and the fountain was only half-way up our calves, but the baby at the bottom looked further down than that.
“Miss,” I said to the woman sitting next to me.  She had dyed blonde hair and a book on her lap.
“Miss,” I said.  “Is that your baby?”
“No,” she said, “but you see it too?”
“Of course.  What do we do?”
I felt a slow dread come over me like two weeks before when I was sick and kept falling asleep at the doctor’s office.
“Pull it out.  I don’t think it’s alive, but we should pull it out,” the woman said.
I wondered why we were both so calm with that baby in the fountain.
I dipped in my arm without rolling up my sleeve, and the water made the cloth cling to my skin.
“Is it even real?” the woman asked.  Her mouth had a curve in it.
The baby hadn’t been down as far as it had looked.  It was small.  Most of it could fit in my hand.  The baby’s skin looked like imitation skin.  Its nose looked loose.
I brought the baby close to me.  It was made like a real baby, only different.
“It must be a joke.” I said.
“It can’t be real,” I said.
“Should we call the police?” I said.
“For a prank?  That’s stupid,” the woman said.
“I guess,” I said.
The woman’s hands looked too big for her wrists.  She closed the book on her lap.  It was written in Russian, or a language with letters that look like Russian written out.  She scratched at the price sticker stuck to the back.
There was a weird ticking in my head.  It said: you should be more confused.  Why are you so calm?  I thought maybe I was still asleep at the doctor’s office.
“What do we do?” I asked.
“You pulled it out.  It’s your problem.”
The woman stood, and then she was gone.  I watched her go before I thought I should stop her.  Tick, tick, tick.  I looked around like maybe this was a book or a movie and she left a note or something.  There was nothing but that ticking in my head.
The baby, or the thing that looked like a baby, weighed five pounds, maybe four.  I wasn’t sure if that was how babies weighed.  It seemed too heavy for a baby that small.
The park was empty except for me, a woman with a shopping cart, and a family at the playground a field away, but I still felt dangerous holding what looked like a baby, a baby that wasn’t moving or anything.  I wrapped it in my magazine and tucked it in my bag.  And the whole walk home I thought: What if I’m the guy walking around with a dead baby in his bag?  I didn’t feel scared though.  I felt curious.  I was curious in a, this is an interesting thing to happen to me, type way.
I walked as gently as I could, holding my bag away from my legs.
I set the baby on my kitchen counter and drank that morning’s coffee straight from the pot.
I stood a ways back and looked at the thing on my counter.
The coffee tasted thick.
I thought: If I wasn’t so calm, I’d be anxious about being so calm.
 
Tick, tick, tick, my brain said back to me.
I’d held the thing for five minutes while I was at the park, but now I was afraid to touch it.
It wasn’t fragile.
I called my friend, but he wasn’t home.  He wouldn’t be helpful, but I wanted to call him.  I wanted to call my older brother, but I hadn’t talked to him since Christmas.  I wanted to put the thing that looked like a baby in my garbage, but if it was a real dead baby and they found it in my garbage, they wouldn’t believe I found it in the park and brought it home.
The thoughts came one at a time, like I’d once read a Wikipedia page about what to do if you bring what looks like a baby home from the park and I was just remembering what the page had said.
I pulled a beer from my fridge and looked at the baby again.  If it really was a baby, something would happen.
 
Tick, tick, tick.
It was then I noticed I’d left my apartment door unlocked and wide open.

I pulled a beer from my fridge and looked at the baby again.  If it really was a baby, something would happen.
Tick, tick, tick.
It was then I noticed I’d left my apartment door unlocked and wide open.
It wasn’t ticking like a bomb, more like a car after you turn the motor off.
I closed the door and locked the door.
I kept thinking that something might happen.  The TV was on, on mute, and I was looking out the window.  I was drinking my beer and listening to hear if maybe something would happen.
I thought about falling asleep in the doctor’s office and brain tumors that make you hallucinate, but it was just a cold.  I had gone to the doctor because I had had a cold, and I was better now.  I just had a cough that wouldn’t go away and this ticking in my head.
I went back into the kitchen to look at the thing that looked like a baby.   I put the what might be a baby on a plate.  It seemed like the right thing to do, but once it was on the plate, it felt a little like I was going to eat it.  I wasn’t going to eat it.
Tick, tick, tick.
I remembered I had to change my shirt.  The sleeve was still damp from where I forgot to roll it up.  The sleeve smelled like the fountain.
The TV was still on and flashing.
The sun was looking low, so I closed the blinds.  I wasn’t trying to hide anything; it was almost getting dark.
What if I killed the baby, I thought.  What if this was my son and I killed him then convinced myself I found him in a fountain and never had a son?
The baby had a curve in its mouth, just like my wife.  I could see her face in our son’s face.
I didn’t actually have a wife.
Tick, tick, tick.
I waited for my wife to come home and breakdown because I killed our son.  Then I looked around the apartment, and it didn’t look like a place where a family would live.
When I heard keys at the end of the hall, I put the magazine over my maybe son and stood very still.
When I pulled the magazine off the baby, it still looked like a baby.  It smelled like a dog’s mouth.
The Fresh Prince of Bell Air flashed on TV.
I turned my kitchen light on.
Tick, tick, tick.
Nothing happened, and nothing happened for two hours.
There was no blood pooling or face bluing or whatever bodies do on crime shows.
There had been a picture of a baby in the doctor’s office.  The baby was still inside a human being when the picture was taken.  I thought: I was once inside another human being.  I thought: the earth is a human being and I am inside of it.
It couldn’t be a real baby.  It couldn’t be my son.
Suddenly, I wanted a son.
I could make this baby be my son.
I didn’t really want a son.
Tick, tick, tick.
I had to take the baby back.  It wasn’t even a real baby.  I could take the baby back.
Tick, tick, tick.

I decided not to wear all black.

There was someone at the fountain.  I thought she was underwater, but it was just her reflection.  Her fingers were in the water.
I kept my head down and sat away from the woman.
I felt pebbles through my pants.
I would wait for the woman to leave.
The thing that looked like a baby was still in my bag.
It was April, and it was colder that I remembered it being the April before.
Tick, tick, tick.
“You came back,” the woman said.
The woman at the fountain was the woman from before, the one with the Russian book and the curve in her lips.  There was that YouTube video of that guy in Russia, naked and dancing.  I wondered if the woman had seen it.  I wanted to fall in love with the woman.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I wanted to see if you’d come back.”
“What do you know about all this?”
“I wanted to see.”  She might have had an accent.
Tick, tick, tick.
The woman got up and walked towards the street.  Her long coat that hit against her legs like in a film noir.
“Hey,” I yelled, “come back.”
Tick, tick, tick.
I started to follow, but she ran.  Her high heels didn’t get stuck in the mud.  I ran too, but my bag with the thing that wasn’t a baby banged against my legs.
“I want to talk to you,” I called.
But she was already at the street.
A bus drove by, and she got on.
Tick, tick, tick.
At the doctor’s office, the doctor had said to get plenty of rest and drink clear fluids.  I was better now.
I went back to the fountain and pulled the thing that looked like a baby from my bag and held it again.  I thought for a second that it was warm, but it wasn’t.  I slid it into the water; it was the only thing I could think to do.  It sank.
I reached my arm all the way into the water.
I sat holding the baby in my hand in the water.
A wet leaf stuck to my elbow.
Tick, tick, tick.
I couldn’t to let go just then.  In the yellow light of the park lamp, the thing that looked like a baby looked like it needed me.  My arm ached with cold.
When I was fourteen I wanted to be an underwater welder.
I let the baby roll out of my hand onto the cracked tile of the fountain bottom.
The ticking in my head stopped.
I walked the perimeter of the park, alone, feeling twice as alone, as though someone had taken the world away, and then taken it away again.  I couldn’t even hear my footsteps.  I started to run.  I ran around and around the perimeter of the park until I was afraid my shoes would fall off my feet and my feet would fall off my legs.  My lungs hurt, and I was afraid I was getting sick again.
I went back to the fountain, just to see, and the baby was still there, looking just the same.
The woman was nowhere, and I had a feeling she’d be impossible to find.

Astigmatism

Everyone you love will leave you.  Your bicycle will ride away outside a bar in a neighbourhood you thought was safe.
You will spontaneously spurt blood from your hands and feet and your hairline will leak red liquid into your eyes.
Your cornea will warp to oval shaped and everything will be blurry both close and far away.
You will try not to love your new bike as much as you loved your old one, but your new bike will have five gears and a basket for your groceries.
You will need to wear glasses for both reading and working on the computer, and you will constantly be soaking the blood out of your clothes.
You will occasionally be worshiped as though you were born in a manger and rose from the dead on the third day.
You will lock your new bike outside of a man’s house one night, and in the morning, both the bicycle and the man will have gone away.
Your boss will still except that report on his desk by five, even though everyone in your office will have nick-named you the new messiah.
You will have a hard time recognizing people’s faces from far away.
They will ask for answers anyway, and you will only be able to tell them that when your palms bleed it’s difficult for you to use your breaks.
Your glasses will fog in the winter, and your friends will go on adventures without you.
You’ll be asked to leave restaurants where health codes don’t permit blood being splattered into the cordon blue.
But eventually, none of this will matter to you.  You know your bike will be stolen but that the road will remain the same.
At night you will take off your glasses and bike downhill.  And from somewhere far away, someone will call your name.
You’ll hold bloody palms to the sky, hear the wind shoot through the holes, and for a brief moment you will be lifted.  It will feel as though time has started to fold.
You may not be able to see, but you are here to bleed, and with your blood pooling in the pools of streetlight behind you, you will have earned your eternity.

All Men Are Roads

You remember it as dream
Sleep drunk hallucination
When actually, it happened.
Walking home with your
Shoes off, dead centre
Of the street, pavement
held the daytime
heat, and it felt like warm
Skin beneath your feet.
The road rolled out before you in a line
And when it reared up towards you
You weren’t surprised.
“What are you doing
Walking on my spine?” asked the road.
“What are you doing
Being a road?” you wanted to know.
Because the road was a man
A gigantic man with flat arms
And flat legs laid out
In every direction.
“You think you know
Things but you don’t.
Every man is a road.”
“And every road
Is a man?” you asked.
“Or a woman,” said the
Road.  “I am many roads
And I am both.”
“Ok,” you said.  “Good
To know.”  You tried
To keep walking but the road
Turned to waves before you.
There were sharks
And a dolphin diving
Across a concrete sunset.
“I can show you things
You’ve never known,”
Said the road.  “I can show you
A horse with no legs sitting
In a terrarium made
From an apple core.”
“Is that a metaphor?” you asked.
“Am I not literally a road?”
“Yes, but you’re also a man,” you said.
“All roads are men.”
“Or women,” you corrected.
“Exactly,” said the road.
And then you walked home