Suburban Shaman

May 29, 2012 | Published Short Stories, Writing

This story was just published in (hand bound & letterpressed) no. 5 of The Coming Envelope. Other contributors include M. Kitchell, Diane Williams, Mikhail Iossel and Michael Nardone. I was only able to publish an excerpt here, though you can find a copy on Book Thug’s website.

I. WHERE THE GHOST CAME FROM

1) The Boy.

When he was a boy scout, Beuys marched in black boots amongst his peers: youths on the cusp of maturity, all lean as grass with nubile, girlish faces. Their boots thumped in unison against the cobblestone streets — up-down-up-down-up-down — Hiaho, haha, hahiaha!

They woke early and gathered in the square for attendance, afterwhich they left in legions for the woods. Dogs bayed at their heels. The sound of a hunting horn. The morning mist exhumed herself like a veil from the ground.

Under an older man’s command they found a stag (the dogs bayed). They lifted their guns (the dogs bayed) as he lifted his own arm up above his head; everything in the world froze until—

His hand swung down like an axe.

Shots ran out — Hiaho, haha, hahiaha! — and they broke the morning and they broke the stag and they let go of their dogs who broke through the thicket. Hungry and joyous, the dogs tumbled with a ruckus at their prey; it stood feeble and trembling. The stag shuddered and collapsed and the dogs raced up and bared their teeth and the dogs bit and howled. Strings of spit snapped off their lips. The dogs bore down on the dying stag and tore into its delightful neck. A ravishing fury, they lost themselves in their own fulfillment and snapped at one another when the old man called them off. The old man called his horse Buphesalus. The old man called off the dogs. They came whining back with red beards. Domestic again, they were welcomed by boys who laughed with flush cheeks.

Together the boys strung up their stag; it had a weak and fetid heart that beat now, soft as an oyster. The boys carried the stag on a stick stripped from a nearby tree; its fetlocks bound by leather chords. Together they trotted through the Black Forest carrying their prize. The stag swung a little with their stride while the boys sang the songs of their country, sweat drying on them like dew. They laughed. They were quite proud. They squinted. They blinked in the light of day and gathered again in the square.

Boys lined up before the stag and the old man took a photo. The shutter of the camera clapped — Hahiaha! It pressed the boys to paper.

They are smiling.

It is just before the war.

They lay the stag before the clock in the middle of the city. The clock struck eight. The animal lay in a heap. Its eyes rolled back like milky balls of glass. The sated dogs snuffed its musty coat in a friendly way until the horse, with its small head, also snuffed the stag. The boys lined up around a fountain. They shared a bar of soap. It slipped between fingers. They washed their hands, they washed their necks, they washed their faces. They didn’t wear shirts. They smiled wide, white, ecstatic teeth: everyone was very happy.

The old man gave each boy a shot of liquor. It was thick and brown and spicy with licorice. It smelled like pine soap; it tasted metallic like chocolate or blood. The boys sang more songs while their mothers polished the mud off their boots, getting ready for school. The boys went to school with shiny shoes and dark mouths.

At lunchtime they would march again over the cobblestone streets, the blood of the stag still tasting in their mouths, as if the aftertaste of mercury.  Hiaho, haha, hahiaha!

….pick up a copy to read the rest of the story: about how Beuys crashes an airplane and loses a piece of himself! Or how he returns to his war town city to rebuild houses with fat! Or how he tries to get his spirit back by way of a werecoyote!