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The Best Years of Our Lives

Their parents must have been flower children.
The kind of New Age hippies who renounced
all worldly goods, embraced the earth and created
a commune from found objects: discarded furniture,
broken appliances, and dead fall.
Shared everything equally: husbands and wives.
Especially the wives. Despite all the rhetoric
otherwise, peace, love and harmony, the husbands
always ruled.

The women had sunflower tattoos on
their backs, roses on their ankles, hearts and
flowers on their inner thighs. And the men had
peace symbols embossed on tops of their
feet. Wisely, all could be hidden by straight life
clothes, thinking that, in the short run, they might
have to take temporary jobs in the world.
Never considered the temp work would
become permanent careers in stock broking
and bond trading, accounting and high finance.
Totally selling out the life styles they had
valued above all else until the harsh winter,
short food supplies, lack of indoor plumbing,
made back to the earth just another nice sounding,
drug infused, high ideal. None of them looked back
from where they were now with fondness, pretending
youthful indiscretions were best forgotten despite
indelible reminders otherwise. More than one
long weekend, on the road accounts executive,
was amazed to find under straight-laced, hard driving
ice queen’s stern demeanor, hid a wild woman whose
knowledge of the carnal arts rivaled those of women
found on South East Asian sex tours.

None of the Trustafarian, wasted youths, suspected
their parents had been anything other than what they
seemed despite odd body art they had devised a
cover story for. Not that their perpetually stoned,
less than zero, children cared one way or the other,
about potential wild times, high crimes and misdemeanors,
in their mamas and their papas summers of love.
As long as their plastic problem remained solved,
life was good. Who cared about sordid truths,
potential inherited biological time bombs,
their questionable parentage? None one really knew
where they came from, right?

  Alan Catlin __

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

“Ghosts never die. Their windows are always lit.”
Patrick Modiano

In the right light, she might have
passed for the kind of woman
she wanted to be. Thought years
would vanish if she wore a custom
designed slogan t-shirt that said:
“Kurt Cobain Died for Our Sins,”
under an unbuttoned, sheer white,
silk blouse. Wore form fitting leather
pants. Red high heels. All the most
expensive facial creams, highlighters,
wrinkle removers, known to man.
Wore glossy mauve lipstick and too
much, matching eye shadow, in an attempt
to distract someone from all she would
prefer no one saw, as some kind of
cosmetic sleight of hand trick, in lights
turned down low, lounge. A dull,
incessant, heart beating, techno bass
line/ noise gradually increases as
witching hour approaches and passes,
as the hour between dog and wolf nears,
as shadow men and women gyrate in
something like a St. Vitus dance in overhead
flashing, post rave, highlights. All conversation
on eternal pause, frozen in mid-speech,
as barmen pour iridescent drinks into
tulip shaped flutes and the solo women at
the bar multiply; their acetylene eyes,
their benzene breath, as they press their
lips against glass leaving imprints in blood
wherever they touch, apply eye wash where
they sit, using an acid drip, bold and Teutonic
as Valkyries hitching a ride. Mouthing the words,
“Got a light?” to the only lovers left alive,
they await fire to be applied, drag deeply on
Lucky shorts, in long thin ivory holders,
blowing perfect ovals into the dark, back room,
of just another sad café, all the tables empty
except for the ones three old men sit at, reciting
lines from Sartre plays: the ones the Nazis
didn’t get, the ones the partisans did.

  Alan Catlin__

A Clockwork Orange

Maybe they thought what they did
for kicks exempted them from harm,
made them more than four-bit, life
wasted, hoods that they were. While
young they were juvenile delinquents,
they were never children, they rolled
younger kids for lunch money. Moved
onto middle school mayhem as criminals-
in-training, selling reefer to 8 year olds,
on credit, charging interest that would
make a loan shark blush. By the time of
their first adult charges they were already
predicate felons skilled in the dark arts of street
crime. Saw themselves as moving
forward on a career path that would reap
larger rewards. Rolled street people and
busted wino skull with aluminum bats
because they liked the sound the bats made
when perfect contact was achieved.
Knew these implements would never break,
in the clutch, the way a wooden bat would.
Pissed on the remains after, because they could,
thinking of their victims, not as real people,
but a lower form of life. Stole pocketbooks
from old ladies in parking lots, pushing them
to the concrete to certain broken hips and limbs,
even after they made the score. The howls
they made on contact made them feel alive.
Even smiled for the security cameras as they
were booking to waiting cars. Thought, somehow,
if they drove fast enough, and far enough no
one could catch them. Liked to hit the same
places multiple times as if no one was paying
attention, as if every cop phone, lap top, message
board in five county radius didn’t have their
faces on the top of their watch lists. Tried
ransacking neighborhoods, parked cars, unoccupied
homes, storefronts, like they were barbarian
hordes. Were one black and white car from an all-
hands-on-deck call that would put out
all the raging fires they harbored inside
with gasoline.

  Alan Catlin__