Daybreak on the Banshee: A Flash Memoir by Marc Alexander Valle

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First published in Potato Soup Journal on October 20, 2019

Daybreak on the Banshee

by Marc Alexander Valle

The women cried and wailed and prayed behind us, and my 7-year-old mind thought the dead body would look like something from the movies. I never saw a dead body before, and I was certain that it would look like a skeleton from a cartoon or at least Freddy Kruger. It would definitely be something that comes out only at night.

I stepped forward with my father and older brother towards the casket. All the conversation and noise in the room became silent inside of my head. I could only hear my thoughts, and all I could think was that I had to let dad step forward first and to be careful.

The toy soldier in my pocket poked into my thigh, and I readjusted it.

“What’s wrong?” my father said.

I looked up at him. “Nothing.”

I peered into the casket, and took in a deep breath.

It was my adult cousin, the one who lived down the street. No skeleton or wounds or blood or winkled skin. Just my cousin. It reminded me of a wax figure. My cousin. Then the silence fell to the back, and I could hear the wailing and the prayers of the woman once more.

“That’s it?” I said to my dad.

“Yeah,” he said. “Quiet.”

I felt compelled to go into my pocket and leave my cousin the toy soldier amongst all the flowers. I didn’t dare.

Death had only been a concept to me. Outside of television and movies, I only had urban legends. There was the time they found a dead body down at the end of the street in tall weeds. My older friend, Vic, said that it was done by a serial killer, who broke free from the Allentown State Hospital. He said that the escapee planned on killing all of the adults and torturing the children to exact some form of revenge. Despite my father’s assurance against this claim, I feared a man was roaming the streets with a gun that night. I couldn’t sleep. They ruled it suicide the next day, and I was relieved.

There was the story of the boy, who drowned in the Lehigh River next to Bucky Boyle Park. They said he swam too close to the whirlpool that swirled in the center, and he couldn’t swim back. For that reason, they told us kids to not even so much as step into the water.

Then there was the story of the boy, who fell out of a window in our former Brooklyn apartment complex. They said his ghost haunted the court yard. I had nightmares about him until we moved.

The wailing and the prayers grew even louder, and it began to make me sick to my stomach. I had enough of looking and standing still.

I looked back up to my father.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said.

“Quiet,” he said, then took my hand and we walked away.

Back in the car and on our way home, my father reminded me and my brother that although our cousin was dead in the physical form, he was still alive in spirit. And that spirit is everlasting and although we cannot see him, he’s still with us. The moment he described my cousin, I imagined the translucent ghost of Christmas past from a TV version of Christmas Carol.

“Do you think Freddy Kruger could beat a ghost?” I said to my older brother.

“I don’t know,” my brother said.

“Cause Freddy’s got claws,” I said.

“You’re dumb,” he said. “Nothing can beat a ghost.”

I looked back out the window and noticed that it was a beautiful day. When I got home, I would go outside and play with Mitch. Mitch was fun, and he would let me lead. We’d race and play with our toys, and I’d give him the soldier that was scarping my thigh, and I’d tell him that I don’t think I like funerals.

It was a beautiful day. No clouds were in sight, and I could see a faint moon above, immersed in blue sky. A couple of sparrow streaked across it. A gust of air from my father’s window blew into my face. The sun touched everything. And there was plenty of time before dark.

by Marc Alexander Valle ©2019

My short story, Daybreak on the Banshee, published

My short story, Daybreak on the Banshee, has been published on Potato Soup Journal. Here’s the link: http://potatosoupjournal.com/daybreak-on-the-banshee-by-marc-alexander-valle/

 

Hour of the Muse by Marc Alexander Valle

I’d always play with those bugs that curl into balls. They called them roly-polys. I’d dig them up in the dirt and touch them with a small twig so they could roll up. I always wondered what it would be like in that ball, only seeing myself in shafts of light. Was it warm in there like when I’d stick my head into my winter jacket? Does he feel untouchable in there, safe and sound? Can he fall asleep?

I’d cover my entire body with the blanket at night so the zombies wouldn’t see me. If I can’t see them, they can’t see. This bed sheet, my midnight steel.

I’m a grown man and now believe that nothing is free from harm. Not my body. Not my life. Not my world. Not my dreams that can turn into nightmares right before I wake and throw off this thin bed cover.

But I still cover up completely even if it’s for a few seconds late at night, trying to fall asleep, and I wonder what all the boogeyman fuss was about. And maybe that was the Universe’s evolutionary plan with those roly-polys. Like the ancestor to the roly-poly lived in a world of bigger bugs, predators, boogeymen, and the only ones that survived were the cowards that curled into the ball.

I lie in bed waiting to feel dozy. Two hours will have to do. Just two hours.

When I wake, I will shed this bed sheet one more time to meet the day that will always arrive regardless of my fears, or what childhood I had, or how strong my daddy was, or what goals I’ve planned or failed to meet.

Just two hours. A few hours will have to do.

by Marc Alexander Valle ©2019

 

Inquisition: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

I played with toys until age 13.

Are they just friends?

Maybe until 14, just a couple times.

Do you think she’s cute?

I had a younger friend. That was my excuse.

Does she like him?

I was good with toys.

Does he like her?

I could conceive complex scenarios and cinematic dialogue.

Are they talking?

I had a lot of toys.

Are they going out?

I’d line them up and just look at them.

Did they kiss?

I asked my therapist why I was doing this while others were maturing. She said, “Is that really any of your business?”

©2019 Marc Alexander Valle

Seed: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

You have to bleed it out. Art, truth, beauty.

Art.

Craftsmanship and hard work are effective, but it’s not what the body needs.

The mirrors of self-reflection reside in the gut, the solar plexus, the basement.

I used to fear the basement of my parents first house as a kid. It smelled of 100-year-old walls. I could touch the damp air with my fingers. For whatever reason I walked down, I always came running back up, imagining a zombie giving chase. I’d slam the door behind me.

You have to let it bleed. Art, truth, beauty.

Beauty is the circle and there are no shortcuts.

I once took a shortcut to the park with some friends through an abandoned factory lot. I walked on a steel beam pretending that I was 100 stories up in the air. My brother told me to get off. I kept walking, laughing. I tripped and fell on the next beam. It took a chunk of skin on my leg.

I thought I was going to die, it hurt so much. Blood poured down to my white sock and made its way down to my sneakers.

You have to let it bleed out of you. Art, beauty, truth.

Truth is the slow burn of the universe and the universe is a cold joke where reality uncovers itself at the punchline.

I once brought a dirty joke book to my sixth grade class. I showed everyone, thinking it would make me look cool. The teacher found it on me. I had to explain why I had it, and when he questioned me, I cried. Two girls in detention saw my tears, and I turned my face in embarrassment.

You have to bleed it out. Art, truth, beauty. It doesn’t even really like you or trust your humanity. But it needs you. And if you trust all three enough to let it pour out of your wounds, you’ll be rewarded with a feeling of pride, like you did something special. And we all need to feel like we’ve done something special. Even if it’s forgotten. And we will be forgotten. Right?

©2019 Marc Alexander Valle

Delicacy: A Flash Fiction (Feedback Please!)

Delicacy

by Marc Alexander Valle

The boy looked down at the worm, squirming on the backwoods trail. A ray of light illuminated its pinkish hue and a warm breeze hit his face.

“Eat it,” she said. “I’ll kiss you.”

“No,” he said.

“Then no,” she said.

But he had wanted to kiss her all summer, floating in the deep in the pool, bumping her hand at the movie theater as he reached for soda, lying on the grassy field with the late morning sun warming him enough to feel bliss.

He looked back down. Then kept squirming and picking up dirt.

“It tastes like nothing,” she said. “Go ‘head.”

He thought of candy then reached down and picked it up.

He could feel its life force as it wiggled and expanded on his palm. Candy would be pointless, he thought, “It’s too fleshy.” Then he imagined roast chicken instead.

“I’ve done it,” she said, “You won’t get sick.”

He popped it in his mouth and could feel it slither then contract, the dirt turning to grim on his tongue. He swallowed it and closed his eye. It slide down his throat quickly and he could feel it move. And like everything else he ate, the feeling disappeared just before reaching the stomach.

He opened his eyes and looked to her.

“Yuck,” she said.

He stepped forward and closed his eyes again.

His lips touched hers.

But he felt nothing in return. He held the kiss and waited for her to reciprocate. But he felt nothing in return. He stepped forward and moved his face closer to her. But he felt nothing in return. He could feel nothing but the dead lips, hear nothing but the cicadas and crickets chirping. Just the dead lips and live bugs and the hope of something in return.

She pulled away and jabbed his stomach.

“Gross,” she said, “I’m not kissing bugs.”

As he held onto his gut crunched over he could see her walk away down the path and out of sight. The pain spread across his abdomen and he wasn’t sure if he needed to go to the bathroom.

He could hear the bird chirping and an animal moving in the brush. He had to go home now. If he was late for dinner one more time, he’d be grounded for two days.

Rays of light disappeared as a cloud rolled in. A cooler breeze hit his face. He wondered what boy he’d get to tell first.