Storyglossia Issue 33, April 2009.

Mixtape for Annie Purpose

by Benjamin Buchholz


1 - Modern English, regrettably, thinking perhaps they'd follow-up with something equal to, insipid upon reflection, an all analog download from the radio, hissing, as if behind it somewhere someone were saying ifs and ifs and ifs


a state of imaginary grace, six photos, the beginning, resting face-up in a wastebucket, he turned, the boy, nearly out the boss' office, reached in, as if, no, nothing sir, you rifling my garbage?, no, hands out, show me, and the circus trick, gone, gone, headshots, all of them, in series like a photobooth confessional, palms up and empty, he'd seen her eyes, flashpoint, the facsimile of them, blank, folded in a motion into the inner crease, into the sleeve, nowhere and free and they were his, all his, on his heel, saluting, out and down the dustmote hall, clatter-waxed footfall, not knowing who but wanting, yes


the hissing flooded forward, bright daylight, milkwhite and mouthfeel bitter as blood, on each side of the roadway an embankment shoulder-height, hierophant, showing signs once secreted in the tarot of real, a girl no older than his sons, covered on the macadam strip with a blanket brought out by wailing sisters and mothers and queens of cups, he must


2 - Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar), brash, jarring, a contrast to what went before, inexpressibly complete despite the doctored sound of remix, no feedback, between breaths a clarity of nothing that couldn't, isn't, only computers and noise cancellation


she volunteered to assist him, unsure why, as the debutante business-school waitress-on-the-side, and ROTC, to help him at the ball, take pictures, he emceed and caught her looking through the looking-glass lens at him, a whole roll of 35mm to be mis-marked at Walmart, thrown-out, inappropriate, confessional, he's engaged and she's almost and it would never in the shut-in darkness of his office do, I've got to go wash his laundry she said, his fianceé, by way of emphasis, their only encounter


these people gather when he gets on the stand, half up the embankment to look, have the boys push them back, back, interpreter standby, this is the father?, yes, I'm not ready to talk to him, tell him in a minute, inshallah, in a minute, I've got to sort it out in my head


3 - high frequency active auroral research project, or Map of the Problematique, a fresh mint, muse, something to tweak her out between black holes and beggars, as if it were a taste of the depth and misunderstanding that could exist, she likes country, and it brings to question the purpose of mixtapes in general, this in specific


hoodoo starlight, in the desk, the central control, pulled open and missing, six pictures, after-ball etiquette quite lacking and beer, he says something unprofessional about a girl ahead of them in line, a lavender dress, then, then turns to her, then thinks, you know, your eyes, he's about to say, she says you can't say that, corruptible, why not?, you're indisposée monsieur, well, I'm tranquil with it now, though she's torn up all the pillows, broken the Pink Floyd poster, it was Plexiglas, amazing, the force and thrashing when I came home, it's over, you know, your eyes, they're so circular, why?, she didn't challenge me, that's


what happened was the semi, you see, and the driver, and the kids roadside, try to tell drivers not to throw things, little gifts, but they're good little beggars, kept dirty by parents on-purpose, you see, and its just a little charity, sir, how can you tell a good muslim no?, nothing compared to big research, big money, big little


4 - Gordon Lightfoot, more her style, getting into the swing of, twang of, dad's ol' walnut speakers sitting crosslegged as they thump bare-ribbed on the orange shag, all an urgent dilemma of who he, where, and how kindles in this, burns on the altar, his navelstone, dad stirs old-fashioneds, falls asleep in footed pajamas upright


the first meeting with in-laws wasn't supposed to, snowed-in, skating pond, blizzard settling up to banks undercut by snowplows, hot cocoa, dad caught her in his arms during pom-pom pull-away, held her to him, he saw it too, threatening, theatrical almost that effigy of the open, of plain and field and circular, her eyes, folded in a motion, somewhere somnambulist laughing, roselipped, snowlashed, cold and blinking and one room short so they bedded like spoons in the clerestory comfort of a room nearest the wind


though mother was your maker, into the maker receding, blood on dust, a drool of it, drying now, he lifts the blanket, sets it quickly back, tucked in, what a girl of six looks like when rolled to film in a wheel-well chasing waterbottles, thrown, for good purpose, kindness, or so he's forced to believe, he's not ill, he's well, he's all there, problem is


5 - he's all there, problem is, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, he wants to be just like you, woohoo, in the Disneyesque of nothing goes wrong or heroes are and race/religion isn't and just forget that little flick about Briar Rabbit, she could be Sunni, Shi'a, he can't say, trouble?, henna skin, he's here and it doesn't matter to one six-year old


in brief, here it is, a life, the approach toward penultimate, planned, two kids, new house, wed struggles and second honeymoons, they separate, things spin, and on the eve of his departure overseas she says something like I'm tired of monkeying around, I've looked, it's just not the same with anyone else, and so he felt, and the little space between them confessed, no lying, at least not then, able to speak briefly and clearly of tarot, then not speak at all, just walk around the block of her apartment, eat cakes at the farmers' market, stalled at the runway, gone


he wants to be just like you, he wants to talk like you, walk like you, have the desire for man's red fire, but he doesn't, not no more, not after seeing it snuffed again and again, the same snuffing, different snuffings, angles from above, below, the side, like waxed mannequins, like ripe melons dropped from a ferris wheel, that six year-old girl, the blanket on her face, father waiting to haggle, women wailing, problem is, he's all there, he's there, he's all there, problem is, he's there and it's a quiet, quiet place


6 - No song here, just me talking.


I've hooked up your karaoke machine, a little drunk. Rambling.


You want to know where I've gone since I came back. I made you this mixtape. I'm trying to make it work. It's not working, talking, hell with it. Sixth-grade, maybe, when up all night waiting to tape songs from top-40 because words weren't enough, weren't brave enough, smooth enough. Maybe then, the mixtape. A technique. More complex now. More, I'm sorry.


[a blip]


I just remember the pictures I stole. Your eyes. A liferaft around the void, too difficult to look at directly. But in aggregate, from afar, O, the outline of it, Annie.

Copyright©2009 Benjamin Buchholz

This story by Benjamin Buchholz will be the last fiction he publishes for awhile. He's currently working (very slowly) on a novel about his time in the small Iraqi city of Safwan while simultaneously attending an intensive Arabic language immersion program. Ben's stories "The Cabalfish" and "New Joe," both published in STORYGLOSSIA and included in Dzanc Press' 2008 and 2009 editions of the Best of the Web, deal with similar subject matter: the Iraq war and its often tragic, personally devastating effects.