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

 

Have You Been Saved (by art)?

Art has been a toy to me, like an extra-dimensional rubrics cube in the mind. I didn’t know that I was an artist until my 30’s, after years of actually being an artist through writing, photography, and other mediums. Art is a compulsion, an impulse inside the body that manifests itself when we wake up from the auto-pilot of day-to-day life and realize that the world is 10,000 miles away from how we actually feel inside. It’s an attempt to get hold of the wild horse called our life and steer it in a direction that accurately expresses who we are or at least how we feel about who we are.

When I wrote those first screenplays in high school, I thought I’d be Spielberg by senior year. What the heck did I know about life and setting realistic goal? I thought the answer was a grandiose level of success. What I didn’t realize is that I was doing the most fundamental and bravest thing. I was saving my life.

Art saved my life. Not necessarily in the literal sense, but at very least psychologically. And psychological survival is often overlooked. I would have cracked inside as a teenager. I don’t know how this would have looked, but I had a steam pipes inside my mind and it needed release. Nothing else could do that for me those days. I barely knew how to talk to people, and I thought that being noticed and liked was everything. And for something that was everything to me, I barely felt that I was noticed at all, sitting at the lunch table by myself.

This thing called art, this puzzle in the seat of the creative mind distracted me from suffering, self-inflicted suffering, as it always is self-inflicted. Art became a place. Like a child going to her or his grandparents in order to relax from the overbearing nature of parents. Except myself and my value system were the overbearing parents, believing that if everyone loved me, all would be normal.

Art snapped me out of this. It was a long drawn out snap, one where I fought back, but art eventually won. “Who do you think you are?” it said to me. “I’ve been here before you and will be here after.” And then you see the greats. Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Mozart, Kubrick, Mary Shelly, those people that wrote on cave walls in France. Death didn’t care what they did for art’s sake. Death took them as quick as Death takes everyone else. Time doesn’t care either, because everything they did could one day be gone, will be gone when the universe ends.

We must treat ideas as though they are real and can grow if we feed them thoughts, positive or negative thoughts. “Art saved my life.” It’s not the hungriest idea I’ve ever conjured, but it has had the power to humble me. But I’ve come up with a better idea since getting older. “Art had and still has the power to save my life.” There’s a big difference, and I won’t insult your intelligence with an explanation. But I will tell you to find something to be a nerd about and geek out over it. Knit sweaters, catch crawfish, paint a portrait, collect coins, race go-karts, anything as long as it’s positive. Do it well and know it well and do it again. The skills that we gain through practice is the empire that we build within ourselves. Practice often and practice well. It may save your life or at least your sanity.

©2019 Marc Alexander Valle

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

The Bucket: A Flash Nonfiction by Marc Alexander Valle

“Wax on, wax off,” I said. Tanya laughed. I continued with more impersonations.

After the fourth minute, it was indisputable. The second grade blackboard was clean. I would have to impress her another time.

“Alright,” she said. “Mrs. Reed makes us dump the water in the sink when we’re done.”

Tanya approached the sink. I followed.

“I got it,” I said, taking the bucket from her.

“Mrs. Reed told you how to dump it, right?”

“Yeah! Watch.”

I grabbed the handle with my left hand and lifted. It wobbled. I held the bottom with my other hand. All I needed was to get it above the sink, way above, as high as I could get it without getting water on the counter.

Tanya stepped forward, “Mrs. Reed said–

I tilted the bucket.

“Just make sure you pour the water sl—

I dumped all of the water into the sink in one shot. Nearly all of it splashed back.

Tanya backed off a step.

I backed off a few.

But it was too late.

“Oh my God! You got water all over my dress.”

I looked at myself, “Yeah, I got it on me too.”

“Why’d you do that? You were supposed to pour it in.”

“I didn’t know.”

Students got out of their seats, looking over.

“Ooohhh, weeee,” they said.

I turned to Mrs. Reed’s desk.

She was walking towards us. I placed my hands in front of me to cover the water.

The Ride by Marc Alexander Valle

“You guys want to stay here and watch Transformers,” my dad said. “Or do you want to go on a ride?”

My older brother voted to stay at the department store to finish the episode on a big screen color TV.

I voted for the ride.

“Well, you guys have to figure this out,” my dad said.

I turned to my brother, “I want to go on a ride.”

“I want to watch Transformers,” my brother said.

“I want to go for a ride!”

“I never saw this on a big TV.”

“What’s the ride?” I said to my dad.

“Well, you’re not going to see until you get on?”

“I want to go on a ride,” I said to my brother.

“I don’t want to go,” he said.

“But you’ve seen this one,” my dad said.

“Yeah, we saw it!” I said.

“No.”

“Come on!”

“No.”

“I want to go!”

“No!”

I want to gooooooooo!

He looked over, “No.”

I turned to my dad: “I want to go for a ride.”

“Well,” he said. “Since you guys can’t decide, you can watch this at home.”

“But it’s gonna be over then,” my brother said.

“It’ll come on again.”

We went on the ride. It was a five-story, downward spiral car ramp. The one we were always going to ride if we wanted to leave the parking lot.

Lancelot and Arthur at the Corner Bodega: A Flash Fiction

Lancelot and Arthur at the Corner Bodega

by Marc Alexander Valle

 “If you step on the line,” Terry said, “it’s a laser, and it’ll cut your legs off.”

“Yeah?” Eddie said.

“So we gotta jump them.”

“Are we fighting evil knights?”

“No, just lasers.”

“Okay.”

They never used lasers before, but Eddie had seen them in a movie, and he thought they were the most dangerous weapon. He liked the idea. So the boys walked over one sidewalk line to the next.

Terry’s movement was fluid. He’d step over the line, then he’d have to hop the next one or two. Eddie took his time, hopping over one, then stepping forward a bit until he’d hop the next line.

Last week, they dodged arrows, and Eddie got shot in the knee, so Terry claimed.

“The most painful place in the world to get shot in,” Terry said. “We’re out of commission. The queen is dead.” Eddie decided to practice his jumps every summer day since that event. He felt that he was prepared this time.

Terry pulled ahead.

“Wait up,” Eddie said.

“Come on,” Terry said.

“Wait up.”

Terry stopped.

Eddie continued to hop and step just a bit faster, but not too fast.

“Eddie, come on. There’s gators.”

“What?”

“Alligators behind you.”

“Alligators?!”

Eddie hopped and stepped faster. He’d seen alligators on television, and he feared what they called “the death roll”. Concrete block by concrete block, he began to find a flow and a groove. He could sense the gap between the gators and himself widening behind him. He caught up to Terry. “Where are we going?” he said.

“Around the corner,” Terry said. “To the store.”

“For what?”

“I want a 5-Nougats.”

“I can’t do this that far.”

“You want a Swill Stick?”

“Yeah.”

And they continued, hopping and stepping. Eddie fell behind. Terry stopped and waited, then started again. They continued around the corner and approached Stephanie and the jump rope girls. He knew Stephanie from class and liked her and thought she’d be impressed with his new jumping skills. He once gave her a valentine with a knight drawn on it. His caption read, “I’ll save you, princess.” Eddie jumped as far as he could and nearly touched dog poop. He checked to see if Stephanie saw, but she continued to count the girl’s jumps.

Eddie continued. Neither boy stepped on a line.

Eddie caught up to Terry. Terry looked ahead. He could see the sign for the corner store up the block.

“Alright,” Terry said. “No more lasers.”

“No?”

“No. See that house? That’s a sniper’s nest. It’s got Nazis in it.”

“What are Nazis?”

“You remember Uncle Jimmy?”

“Yeah.”

“He used to kill them. Now they want to kill us. So we can step on the lines now cause they don’t need lasers anymore, but we gotta run. Real fast. On three.”

“But you said lasers.”

“Yeah, but Nazis now.”

“What about the alligators?”

“No, just Nazis. So here we go. Three..two…one.”

But Eddie stood still, looking at the sidewalk.

“I said let’s go,” Terry said, looking back.

Eddie shook his head.

“Come on. They’ll blow your head open.”

Eddie shook his head again.

“You want to get blown up?”

Eddie shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s just for now,” Terry said, touching Eddie’s arm.

“I thought you said lasers.”

“Yeah but for now.”

“Yeah but lasers.”

This wasn’t the first time Terry changed the rules. But it was the first time Eddie insisted on following the previous instructions.

“I’ll get you a soda,” Terry said.

Eddie put his head down.

“And a mystery bag of candy.”

Eddie looked up.

“Or a bag of gummies.”

Eddie’s eyes opened wide, “Okay.”

They ran. They ducked. Terry yelled commentary on the sniper’s fire. Eddie lagged just a little behind. But not too far.

They made it to the store.

“Alright, just a regular size bag of gummies,” Terry said.

Eddie nodded.

“And a small soda.”

Eddie nodded.

“And don’t tell mom about the soda. Finish it before you get there.”

Eddie nodded again. Terry turned to the steps of the store.

“I win,” Eddie said.

“What?” Terry said.

“You got no legs!”

“What?”

An ice cream truck turned corner down the street. Eddie could see Stephanie and the jump rope girls stop, then run toward their row home. The sidewalk was clear now, and Eddie estimated that there must be one-thousand lines and cracks on the ground. This was the most he’d ever jumped. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. He turned to Terry whose eye brows were crunched down, waiting for a reply.

“Nothing.”

Human Anagram: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

Human Anagram

by Marc Alexander Valle

Nice, quiet, smart.

People have told me this all my life. I don’t know how I feel about those words anymore. I used to hate them, but I think I’m making peace with the fact that I’ll never really get to shake them off.

Nice, quiet, smart. A combination that makes me a rare bird in this world.

Why do we hate being different when we’re younger?

Why do we need so much of the three A’s–acceptance, approval, admiration?

Why does it take so long to get to yourself when you have to live with yourself every day anyway?

The rare bird has few avian friends, but people love him and put him on stamps.

Now I just tried to make a metaphor where birds represent people, but I couldn’t figure what actual people represent in that particular metaphor. I cringed at every possibility, thinking of what readers would think of my writing. So I guess I’m not that rare a bird that embraces its uniqueness yet. I don’t know if we ever really get there in mid-life.

But wouldn’t that be cool to be on a stamp?