VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Howie Good

Excreta

My mother went into the hospital for heart surgery and never came out. Afterwards, my father tried to kill himself three times. The last time the lights in the house went “Pop!” I was about to turn nine. I remember because I had just won an award at school for most improved speller. You’re probably thinking, I have seen this movie before, I know how it ends – with a hanged man shitting his pants. Almost. It ends in 1800 with French soldiers at the Battle of Marengo urinating on muskets that had become too hot to handle from constant firing.

Sick, Sick, Sick

It’s as though under my skin I have swarms of voracious insects with razor-sharp teeth biting, scraping, whittling my bones. People who have seen me gasp in pain when I stand up sometimes suggest I try heat or ice or some special cream. I nod just to be polite. What is broken in me can’t ever be fixed; it can only be calibrated. At the edge of my vision lurks a hooded figure whose face is set in a luminous grin.

Trigger Warning

As I remember the story from Bible class, an angel with eyes all over touched a burning coal to the lips of Isaiah the Prophet. But what for? I ask myself now. Was it to provide the fire of inspiration or to purify his speech? I am one of those unreconstructed types who believe that only a foul mouth can speak the foul truth. I recite like a curse on man the names of the forlorn streetwalkers whose throats were cut and bodies mutilated by Jack the Ripper: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly.

At the Movies

I squint at the screen to avoid seeing in gore-soaked detail what is about to emerge from the house made of human skulls. Annoyingly, the guy sitting behind me keeps crossing and uncrossing his legs and kicking the back of my seat. No one can say how Jesus’ predicted return to Earth would shake up the hierarchy of the Marvel Universe. In the meantime, a cowboy appears over the horizon on a dapple-gray. He has a face like cracked leather from reading by the flickering light of campfires all 688 pages of Finnegan’s Wake. “There’s some things,” he tells his horse, “a man just can’t ride around.”  

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