Squeal For Joy
she screams something in the direction of the sleeping vulture. maybe she says, I’m never coming back. she walks along a barbed wire fence. there’s someone on the other side of the fence. I thought the clown had become the only person in the universe. but there’s someone there. perhaps a person and an animal. the blade goes ding on the metal frame of my hospital bed. the shadows wear masks and carry knives. they’re never ashamed of themselves. I blow all my money in a single afternoon and feel ashamed. the shadows’ masks dangle with ornaments. some people claim to disappear. he’s rattling the knife between the bars of the metal bed frame. the shadows bark at me. so I further confess. it’s the only thing that’s effortless. most men are afraid to truly accept their own madness. it’s almost a form of bravery. his eyes bulge out between the bandages. his mouth moves in a goldfish confession. the clown blows her nose and walks along the barbed wire. she waves to the workers in the field. now she’s alone along the road. there’s a slight wind. her steps look determined. then they don’t. again. again. there’s nowhere to go. she’s playing with something in her hands. she sits down on the side of a hill. I’ve continued on for years when there’s been nowhere to go. I was young and wanted nothing. then I was old and wanted nothing. why doesn’t she go back to the green woman and the children? the wind ripples the leaves of the ugly trees. this life has no meaning. do animals torture each other? the shadows put their boots through windows. they demand confessions. caterpillars. goldfish. feathers. the caterpillars live like royalty. they buy and sell these goldfish. if it were me I’d call on the murderess. I’d like to kill one. just one time. bang its little head on the ground till the lights went out. they don’t appear to be ashamed because they aren’t ashamed. you’ve bent yourself into this shape for me. it dies and returns. dies and returns. the shadows’ masks dangle with ornaments. goldfish. feathers. caterpillars. the murderess telling us a story about her dog. maybe we shouldn’t call her the clown anymore. the runaway sits along the side of the road and frowns. and thinks that running away is like a birth. but she didn’t run away from a place she ran away from a man. a man who’s always moving. so it may already be too late for her to find her way back to him. he may have woken up and sped off. she plays with the insects. she lets them walk across her hand. maybe they’ll find her dead body here. one walks across her hand and flies off. as I’ve seen her to be caring and kind-hearted I want something good to happen to this runaway. this clown. this blue woman. I want her to find her long-lost family. or a man who isn’t anything like the vulture. the knife again goes ding on the bars of the bandaged man’s bed frame and he tells them everything they want to hear. I won’t return from such humiliation. the remainder of my life will be a further confession. a further surrender. I thought I’d like to abandon the bandaged man and tell you about a girl I met last night but he’s right here in front of me begging for his life and he’s my responsibility. she was the antithesis of all my worry. every time I looked at her she smiled. they take the knife away and the bandaged man collapses on the bed. wasn’t someone supposed to be protecting him? will there be another wave of torturers? then three men march toward the runaway playing horns. it could be a flute and a clarinet and a trombone. but I can’t see them clearly yet. there must be an urgency to this music. a desire to express a lifetime of confusion in the time it takes to march past a lonely runaway woman. their music makes me think they’ve spent their whole lives together. or that they’re ghosts stumbling through some eternity together. the woman sits up in disbelief watching them approach. it’s a flute and a clarinet and a small french horn. they pass by the woman just as the horse passed by her on the night she was abandoned by the vulture and the jack-o’-lantern. I’d rather not think of the torturers. what would it be like to be alone with her? I felt I could just grab her. like I should have been entitled to just grab her. the torturers look down in disgust at the bandaged caterpillar man. they bring back the knife. they had taken it away but now they bring it back. they press it to the bandaged neck. in the reflection of the blade I see a girl with a beautiful smile. a girl who smiles every time I look at her. I begin to see through a torturer’s mask to his eyes. anything can be diffused through thought. through finding another outlet. the mask doesn’t exactly fit right. the eye holes are sliding down toward the end of his nose. but I wonder why they went to the trouble of stringing ornaments around their heads. maybe I recognize this man through his mask. maybe he’s the man I’ve always called the failure. she decides to follow them. she follows the music and smiles. and I wonder if this means that something good will happen to the runaway. that she can finally rest easily. safe from vultures. she spins and jumps and follows the music. and suddenly isn’t quite as hopeless as we’d thought. falling in behind the third man. being led to some kind of ceremony. a celebration of spring. a rejoicing that the trees no longer look dead. a wave of children in identical costumes. the runaway’s swept up. love pours from all of their hearts. and her faith has never been stronger. it’s clung to me since childhood. I was sitting there with the insects praying something might happen. I followed the wind and I’ve found a family. they’re carving up pigs for the feast. we parade through the streets together and I’m in love. I’m in love with this salvation. no one has a right to say anything to their fathers. we should trust each other and bask in the good fortune. the runaway’s pulled along by this. she turns away but she’s spun around again and made to continue forward in the same direction. her faith has never been stronger. there’s rest and safety and comfort in this. there’s someone willing to offer her a home. the two torturers now huddle and begin whispering into each other’s ears. among these ornaments perhaps I see a sky blue ballerina. a child in pink pajamas. a girl who smiles every time I look at her. a star shape. a baby shape. an owl with symbols drawn on her arms. lights reflect off the surface of the mask. four light bulbs below the eye. one light bulb above the eyebrow. I’d like to let myself into her room. she’d never be angry at me. her smile says she’d never be angry at me. I could spend days looking through her things. burning every trace of him. when we live. when we sleep and work. sleep and work. people live our dreams. their hearts swell with joy for us so that when we look at them they smile. finally the torturers are in the hallway unwinding. having found somewhere to sit. rubbing their eyes. I’d like to draw the symbols on her arms. I’d like to watch her change her clothes. I’m not afraid to tell her anything. I’d collapse just like the bandaged caterpillar man when the torturers pulled away the knife.
David F. Hoenigman was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio but has lived in Tokyo, Japan since 1998. He is the author of Burn Your Belongings (Jaded Ibis Press) and the organizer of Tokyo’s bimonthly PAINT YOUR TEETH, a celebration of experimental music, literature and dance. He is an assistant professor at Meikai University and also writes for The Japan Times. He is currently working on his second novel, Squeal For Joy, forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press.