Vangeli Moschopoulos + Nik Cook

Sticker-foot

Ricky, look, there’s a hedgehog at the center of the scarecrow. See it? Ee’s controllin’ it.”

What?”

Yeah, see? Ee’s got pulleys and everythin’.”

Man alive, Kenny. Hah! Look at that.”

‘Ey, hand me a fourty, huh? I wanna see where this guy goes.”
“Yeah, here. Holy mackerel.”

Ain’t gonna have one?”

No, later. Why… huh. What do you think he needs a scarecrow so badly for?
“What else? Mobility, security, warfare, probably”
“Warfare?”
“Yeah, warfare. What are
you chucklin’ about? I mean, maybe. Ee’s an animal, you expect ‘im to be diplomatic or somethin’? Prettied up ‘n a suit?”
“No, what? See…”
“You gotta let me in on what you think’s so goddamn funny, Rick”

I just don’t understand who he would have to go to war with, Kenny.”
“Other hedgehogs, obviously. And I guess other small things, too. Lizards, mice, birds.”
“But why though?”
“Why does anyone go to war? Resources and territory…”
“What the hell is a hedgehog going to do with territory?”

Own it.”

And?”

What do you mean and?”
“You tell me what you think that scarecrow-driving pin-cushion over there would do if he owned any sort of property.”
“What the hell, Rick. What do you expect me to say? Invite ‘is lady-friends over? Build a railroad? Themepark? It’s a goddamn hedgehog, Ricky. A goddamn hedgehog.”

I know, that’s why-”
“Rick, man, use your imagination. The hell does a hedgehog want? Why would a mother-fuckin’ hedgehog steal our scarecrow? Ricky? Hey. Rick.”
“Dammit, I don’t fucking know, Kenny. I’ve just never seen anything like it.”

No kiddin’. No big fuckin’ kiddin’, Rick. You’ve never seen critters up and drive away with no tow-truck neither? That’s fuckin’ unusual, isn’t it?”
“Fuck you, Kenny.”
“What’s got you so upset? You gonna start cryin’?”

What? No I’m- you and your retarded stories.”
“Grow up, man. I’m just jokin’ around, you the one callin’ names.”
“Mother of…”

My mother was a saint, Ricky-Ray. You say nothin’. Nothin’.”
“I wasn’t-”
“Nothin’, Rick.”
“Fine, nothing.”
“A saint.”
“Yeah.”
“Yeah?”

Yeah.”

…”
“Yeah, fine, your mother was a saint.”
“Hah, the fuck she was. The kinds of nut-jobs she’d bring home…”
“Yeah, Kenny, I know.”
“I said
nothin’, Ricky.”
“Goddammit.”

Look a’ that little guy go, man. He. Is. Bookin’ it.”
“Mm…”
“You think this is the first one ee’s stole? Looks like ee knows what ee’s doing.”
“Driver training, maybe.”
“Driver-pfft. Tryin’a make a joke?”
“No.”
“Gonna have to try harder’n that. I’m kiddin’, man. Don’t look so angry.”

He’s walking in circles isn’t he?”

Izzy? Guess so. Hey Rick.”
“Yeah.”
“Guess the driver training didn’t do him too well. Eh? Lighten up, man. That was funny.”

I would have never thought a hedgehog had that kind of dexterity.”
“Mm, yeah.”

Would you?”

Uh…”

His hand-eye coordination is amazing, don’t you think so? The subcortical structures in his brain must be abnormally large for such a small mammal.”

Mm…”
“Know what I mean, Kenny?”
“Yeah.”

I can explain if you want me to.”
“Said I got it.”
“Huh, yeah. Not to mention the obvious problem that our scarecrow wasn’t mobile before. That means this hedgehog had the foresight to build or steal
exactly the right machine for the job.”
“…”
“Isn’t that amazing?”
“It’s pretty smart huh, Rick?”
“It’s a fucking genius.”
“Smarter’n you?

Smarter than you for damn sure.”

Mm…”
“What, what’s the matter?”
“Nothin’, jus’ we gotta get off our ass and do some work.”
“Work? Kenny, there’s nothing. Nothing’s ready yet. Just rained so we can’t spray.”
“There’s a thief, Ricky. Can’t afford another scarecrow.”
“Kenny, what-”
“Little fucker’s gotta learn.”
“Put your boots back on. Kenny. Kenny, oh what the fuck.”
Ain’t gonna take more’n a stomp or two, be right back.”

Jesus, Kenny. You- ugh. It’s got spines. I’d better get the phone.”



Red sky / Meteor

Red Sky

Meteor

First Day: The news came.
They named it Wormwood.

Long after the sun cracked
and spilled red holocaust on the world,
every neighbor, clad in mantles
of blankets, strode in silent procession
to where the night was darkest, so they could see.
But no one could guess which of the fireflies
pinned against the sky
was still alive.

Earlier, a boy in the outfield
couldn’t quite grasp the gravity of fireballs.
He stared at the white, secret sky
until the crack and howl of a well-swung bat awoke him.
The brown, scuffed baseball hung against the clouds
then dove, right onto him,
burying its nose into the plain of his leather hand,
nailing him in the palm.
the boy took a second look up
(the ball slid and dropped)
and raced himself home.

*

Seventh day: the last corner-store open
is out of flour and wine.

Martha began taking the brightest, gleaming
rings, pendants and brooches,
picking them out of the curtain-red, velvet grooves
of John St. Jewelers’ window display and lifted
them down into a garbage bag,
swiftly growing fat.
It wasn’t a long trek to her sister’s
and her nieces were already waiting
by the window, shocked alive by the sheer size
of her sagged and stretching cargo.
Girls, sit down,
Before you get to peek inside,
we need to think of princess names.

Little mouths jammed up
with gummy-sweet pseudonyms
(the longest they could conceive)
as Martha saved a single ring
out of the mass and sighed.

Take them, John sighed, I’m leaving. Yes,
this is why I asked to meet.
He placed the keys
into Martha’s cupped hands.
His Venus packed every shining proof
of his hidden fire into a black,
plastic bag and he made an excuse, went into the back
and paced the storage room beside a lump
of luggage. Collecting his things,
he breached the universe and found
the lip-stick note:
It’s the end of the world,
So why couldn’t I say it? I want you
to visit me, if you want to.
I’ll be at my sister’s-

With the address firmly gripped,
leaving the shop an empty ring box,
John walked out of the door, home
to dump his one-man tent
and pack silk ties instead.

*

Twelfth day, Wormwood has already begun
to cast its own shadows.

1:08 am, wandering in a ditch-
effort to find a single cigarette
or bottled water, a seminarian kicks around
the wreckage outside a hollow grocery store
unconvinced of his actions.
A thousand animals there before
ground the broken glass into coarse sand,
but now only a grasshopper twitches
across the rubble. The ground ripples
gently through his eyes and he kicks at it,
scattering the liquid garnet-drops and
ruby globs so they splash and peal
against the ocean now under his feet.
A silver fish twisting underwater shoots at the surface,
bursting into feathers as it ruptures the atmosphere
to encircle Wormwood’s fire.  Too dark against
the comet, the bird unfolds its arms.
A gull screams and the seminarian stops,
unsure in his vertigo that a man stares at him,
hanging in the red sky.

Her face streaked in sharp relief,
she strains her neck to see
the second sun from a small, barred
basement window. A foot
scuffs a wooden stair. Too heavy to leap,
the young girl carries herself
into her rusted, wheezing bed to
draw a horse blanket over her back and head.
The single light, a bulb in a yellow, paper star
flickers on with a faint tick
behind the padlocked door.
With nothing left to give the unborn,
she closes her eyes to beg the falling star itself
for succinct delivery; for the cleanliness
that can only come from fire