two Katz tales

Steve Katz


     Grandmothers suffer. Their daughters married in haste. The grand-daughters never marry. Wont grandmothers marry again? Maybe. She scans the obituaries every morning, so when one has been cut loose, she grabs him; i.e., a grandfather. Then the pair will build up a house -- heaps of comfortable shoes, worn out, absorbent pads slightly stained, crushed oatmeal boxes, moth-eaten sweaters pressed into bricks, family portraits piled up, tea cozies stuffed with petrified scones. Memorabilia walls. Forget it, grandmpa. Everything stacked up. Perforated with antique bottles. Luminous coca-cola! What do they need more? It's a recycling domicile. They fill the rusting RV's with spent lightbulbs and flatten them. What a sound, almost a noise. The grandparent of all sounds. Then they angle these flatties against each other. Makes a roof. The glitz that packages our software is excellent doors for them. They don't need to get out anyway. Not any more. Out here? In the alleged world? Why should they? The grand-daughters never marry. The daughters married in haste. They shingle all this with plastic bags, thicknesses of them, so to shed the rain, and then they go in to live it out in it; i.e., life.

     Whilst they complain, let them know the sun shines anyway, though maybe not so amiably as when they once enjoyed it, but it shines down these days. If they complain, tell them the dogs bite, and the bite is worse than the bark. When they complain, treat them to a meal deal. Take them fishwiches and double big macs. Ply them with elevator music. Take them suits of polyester. Take them mairzy doats, and doazy doats. Take them an electronic brain. Ask them to show off the lindy-hop, even the mashed potato. Take them a rasher of plutonium. Take them Wittgenstein, Einstein, Gertrude Stein. Take them science and philosophy, heaps of it. Take them Whitehead and Russell. Remind them of Santayana. Make them shoot hoops. Make them play big time. Take them miltown and etcetera. Ragg Mopp. Take them a red-nosed reindeer.

     All the delights of their own devising, take them. Take them Elvis Presley in the form of an oral vaccine. Tell them life is as good as what you make of it. Take them color television when they complain. Take them Carmen Basilio. Take them Alfred E. Newman. Take them Jimmy Rodgers.

     Jean Seberg gazes into the rooms where her grandchildren entertain their guests. In one room Baudry has set up a small theater, three rows, five seats to a row, and there he screens for three of his friends, aficionados of the cinema, herself starring in "Breathless," then appearing as Joan of Arc, being burned, actually burned at the stake by Otto Preminger, who got what he wanted out of his actresses, then in "Paint Your Wagon," pretty as a Hollywood babe. They watch these movies late into the night, their eyes reddened, tearing. One might think they were weeping. "Wipe your tears," Jean Seberg thought to say. "Don't cry for me." Then she thought, "Why not let them cry? I was beautiful, and mine was the saddest story. "

     Thelin, in another room, reads to his wife and a couple they met on a cruise to Iceland. The text is Jean Seberg's deposition at the FBI hearings on the Black Panther Party. Although the other husband has fallen deep into the velour asleep, it is evident from the expression on the face of the two women that they are moved, even shocked. "Don't be so surprised," she wants to say. "It could happen to you. Just expose your upraised palms once to the winds that fly from these buildings." But she doesn't say it. This is not her voice.

     Mercurey in the third room is undressing for her lover. That lover is one of the many lost granddaughters of Alice B. Toklas. How can they be lost? Jean Seberg doesn't know what to say to this. She wants to sing, maybe. She wants to understand everything. She can't resist peeping.

     "I had no children," Jean Seberg asserts. "The grandchildren are an illusion, and they never marry. I am an illusory grandma, and my illusory daughters married in haste.

     "Furthermore, I am dead," she pleads.

Grandmothers have conditions. Grandmothers sing the blues. Grand-mothers wake up. Grandmothers in poverty. Grandmothers ethnic roots. Grandmothers in the home towns. Grandmothers splitting rocks. Grandmothers queer. Grandmothers beat the odds. Grandmothers control the guns. Grandmothers fly the Concorde. Grandmothers know the score. Grandmothers on their skateboards. Grandmothers excellent. Grandmothers have a heart. Grandmothers pickling. Grandmothers hello. Grandmothers of the flesh. Grandmothers concentrate. Grandmothers run the country. Grandmothers down and out. Grandmothers turn technical. Grandmothers to the wall. Grandmothers take no shit. Grandmothers never yield. Grandmothers on the run. Grandmothers with the answers. Grandmothers at the barricades. Grandmothers smoke opium. Grandmothers make yogurt. Grandmothers on Harleys. Grandmothers take a beating. Grandmothers back at 7.

Grandfathers, on the other hand, doze off while watching the store. Around them the predators fly in a circle of bliss. From the grandfathers they can extract a bitter that inculcates a sense of life into those grandchildren who have failed as mates. They know, as grandfathers do, that life is less important; but a sense of life is everything.


In the sunlight at the edge of the crowd a great hound lay kerchiefed in rayon. The snug delta-winged aircraft circled low as if this were an aerodrome of the other kind. As it left the service elevator the big hawk stretched its wings, drying them in the sun, then looked over what had come to be known as "the situation." Alas and alack. Swift as a nudity, he tunneled beneath the gathering to emerge by a bench six hundred feet from the faded hound. That was the hawk and that was the hound, sing fol de rol, fol de lay, fol de fol fol. As if this were an aerodrome of the other kind the snug delta-winged flying apparatus circled low. Butts of an uncertain ilk dropped from the sky like plushy mosses -- sphagnum, purslane, even irish, or like exotic bromeliads like pineapples and Spanish moss, harbingers of the coming gods. Were the gods coming? Rickety Buckets elucidated, "My enema is not your enemy, Alfred." Excusing himself, Herman rattled over to the liberation pulpit. "Let there be drunks!" The hawk, a fallow female of the elevator riding species, Buteo Ascensoria, recognized Herman immediately as her liege and lumbered towards him. "The hound is autistic, that one swaddled in rayon," was how she greeted Herman, who ignored this, but then spotted the dog and rushed across the sward to dive straight out and land full belly down flat on the kerchiefed flank. "WOOF" from the hound. In the creature's mind were the complete names and the contents of every meal ever eaten by every person ever to live in every apartment at 43 Crosby Street, a twelve story high-rise with one hundred and eight units. But the poor hound had no way to express this information in the language of humans. 0 idiots savant, awas and awack. Circling low over the situation as if it were an aerodrome of the other kind, a snug delta- winged flying contraption kept dropping butts. "Nice Butts," said Herman. "No ifs and ands about them." This was in the future. Today we'll hear a different story.

The effervescent Rastafarian shoe designer, Tobias I. Nix, stepped onto his balcony and looked askance. Down there the footprints of five avenging angels were palpable even through the crowd that had gathered across the turf. The surrounding folks were thick as marshmallows in a blue box, but not so opaque. Those footprints showed through like testicles in zip-lock bags. Glad Bags. Two terrifying angels still were unaccounted for. "Alfred," the shoe designer exclaimed. "The preparations!" The mob separated to allow the serpent, who before it arrived had been announced as a battery-powered tongue, to levitate and then penetrate the snugly slung, delta-winged airship that circled, looking for a better aerodrome. "Wheest groose!" the delta-wing exclaimed as it suffered the violation. Rickety Buckets elucidated. "Wheest is the yeast, but groose is not gross." Margot Margolies' mother mollified the multitude. That was in the future. Now, the following:

Spicy aromas of spargic acid blew across the green. Finally, asparagus season. At this time of year the congregation turned Herman loose from his diurnal burdens so he might apostrophize, lecture, preach, or what have you to the acres upon miles of tender spears erecting through the sod in anticipation of sauces or vintage balsamic vinegar. Some awaited the summer with apprehension. The revolution was kinking in. Soon some shooting would begin. Why not? Wouldn't you? Aren't you one of the oppressed? You are a minority, or a female of your species, is it not? The oppression is heavy, the poverty deep, the suffering unimaginable. And isn't "the situation" deteriorating, and wont you be the one to suffer more? You and yours? Them and theirs? Rickety Buckets elucidated, "News cannot be always new, but it can be noose." Tobias Nix felt the trouble coming, though he didn't believe in trouble, not really, not trouble. "Alfred," he whispered plaintively, "The preparations!" Alfred was busy, chatting up the two avenging angels that remained outside the napping crowd. "We've got the money," they said, as if they were one angel. " And you need the backing." The sounds of war erupted in the distance. Alfred gazed at his effervescent shoe designer, Tobias I. Nix, a man who counted on him when stuff started to move, like blood on its clots. Nothing bubbly about that. Can these avenging angels be trusted? Nix shook his head. And what a bright head! Big as a tuba. Maybe this was the earthquake. There's a likelihood. Maybe a parade. It could be the biggest one of all time. This was overdue -- for the earth to crack in two. The snug delta-winged aircraft held its position as the lawn below turned slowly on a pivot, as if it were trying to be the aerodrome of the other kind, some kind of turntable operative, something beyond the ordinary, a special kind of strip. How many were involved by now? How many dead? All of them? Was everybody happy? How many were fooling themselves? All of them. All of us. All of them. All of us. Asparagus pushed out like some loopy phalloids. Why not? Butts landed on their tips. Big butts. This was in the future. Today we hear another story.

"Reggae is the past, admittedly a greater past," Rickety Buckets elucidated. "But the past is overcooked. The past is not pasta." In our times the trivial is typical, and the typical is not the needed. A return to beyond the boring is needed. Perhaps a nasty hawk, and a hound that once smoked Lucky Strikes, sing fol de rol, fol de lay, fol de fol fol. Victims lay in the midst, and in the sunlight survivors from the edge slowly sifted in to look for loved ones. Only loved ones had died. This is the story. If you are not loved, you will tend to live. A grey pall had settled on the mall, so one could hardly see the violated delta-winged aircraft circling low, over this aerodrome of the other kind. But we could smell it, and it smelled like cusps. Alfred lifted the pitiful hound onto his back and returned to Warsaw. "Without shoes?" Tobias I. Nix worried. "And no preparations." "What is good for the hound," Herman said, lifting his arms in a celebration of times gone by. "Times don't go by," Rickety Buckets elucidated. "It is ourselves going by and by and by. Times is a cyclical unit and we only appear to undulate on its print-out like a disappearing script." A palimpsest? That's us! Now Rickety Buckets is running for office. "Office and coffin are close," he elucidates. "I've got the shoes, but where are the women?" Tobias I. Nix complains. Now the parade begins. Today the story is different. Now is the future. Today the story is different.

Abby builds her deck. Betsy wins the argument. Connie files the papers. Dolores masters golf. Eleanora starts a riot. Florence takes her triplets to the zoo. Gertrude blows it. Helga needs one more dog. Ida sits on the still. Jackie berates. Karin makes a go of it. Linda gives us more than something extra. Marian picks up the trombone. Nikki pumps iron. Olivia wants absolute victory. Patsy has already got the future figured out. Queenie lives from day to day. Rowena presides. Samantha is Miss Origami. Tabatha has the mind of a mechanic. Ulrika waits till the time is right. Vivian has perfect pitch. Wanda has perfect aim. Xenia has a perfect mind, but shyly. Yolanda always grabs the bull by the horns. Zelda collapses the contraption. Zora rubs a smudge. Yaphia pilots airships. Xaviera retools. Wilhelmina emits rays. Vanna swipes whiskey. Undine divorces. Tanya edges closer. Sybil holds a flush in clubs. Rachel writes the best novel. Quinta makes the chorus work. Penny beats the bushes. Oona obsesses. Nelly unlocks the library. Maureen harbors a grudge. Lucille takes control. Kim finishes the woodwork. Janet ups the ante. Isadora installs a shower filter. Harriet designs the bridge. Gail weighs her boyfriends. Fanny makes the supreme court. Esther hefts the newsy's pistol. Diana ships vegetables. Corinna goes ballistic. Barbara solos Boston to Beirut. Alison finds the glitch.

As the rest are watching.

This is in the future.

The busts fall from an airship, and land with some thumps. It was a blimp to be exact, that inadvertently crosses the divide and finishes under the bridge that separates A from B. All through the day they fall and fall, all of them falling, o fall de rall, fall de lley, fall de fall fall. The women from A quickly fabricate the pedestals and ship them to B. Displayed on their pedestals these fallen busts promote a season of optimism and dread. Such a drift can free any hound from rayon and open each elevator to its hawk. Oh, the change seasons. Ouch! Does so and so happen? The story remains to be told. A blimp can hover, or it can move, slowly, as it prefers; or rather, as its pilot prefers. She is Margot (the merry) Magnolo, in charge. This is in the present. This is right now. Music so melancholy. Cruelty so extreme. Rescue so complete. Yesterday was on its way.

No more will be described.

The next day comes.

("BUTSTTS" first appeared in Exquisite Corpse #53.)