Originally published on my website: www.apeyardholler.com

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The River Lethe

There is a small cat in the right side of a green dumpster eating the left-over meat from a tuna can lid. A homeless man, younger, yet graying with burlap skin spies the tuna can lid and thinks to himself nothing, dictating to himself otherworldly observations such as ‘the city hasn’t been this beautiful in fifty years’ but he is only thirty-two. In the distance, at the mouth of the alleyway there is a patio diner where a group of four men play Quartet for Strings and Piano in A Minor by Mahler. The homeless man climbs in the dumpster while a couple, walking by, startle him. They are dressed to attend a college zombie party. His initial reaction is disbelief, but in his otherworldly fit says to the couple, S. and Moira,

“I am Lucifer reincarnated.”

They walk faster towards the patio bar, where on the television CNN is broadcasting a breaking news segment on the wild fires that California seemingly has every summer. Moira looks behind her to see if the homeless man is following them, he is not because he is in the dumpster looking at the small cat licking found meat from the tuna can lid, now mostly clean.

The homeless man with his brick-laying fingers, mimics the violins in the distance, and in no way are his movements accurate but in his feverishness convinces himself that he is Lucifer and he now plays the third movement on a golden-filigree fiddle. It is actually a log with a plastic shopping bag on the end. The cat mews for more tuna.

The homeless man, Tom Wilcox Jr. (maybe) was probably in a war once, perhaps Desert Storm or not even a war but was abused by his father Tom Wilcox Sr. (maybe) or a drunk or just a man who was bad at living life. His house burnt down once and he is also Noah and Moses at the same time while he curses the Jews from Germany. He wears the skin of crows at night and eats their feathers to keep warm and believed he could fly once and ended up in the hospital because he drank a lot of Steel Reserve trying to prove something. He has other homeless friends and they give him day passes to the COTA Transit and he rides the No. 2 because it makes sense to him out of all the other buses and he’ll tell people on the bus that it makes sense because he thinks he is Lucifer or The Withered Hand, The Devil and The Holy Spirit and sometimes he’ll be Jesus.

Tom Wilcox Jr. (maybe) is tired and shuts his eyes and can see things that only an acid causality can see because maybe he is an acid causality or maybe he is like S. and Moira’s friend Joey, diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia at seventeen. Joey drew pictures of Lucifer in black and red ink, showing them to his young cousin and they were terrifying in their truthfulness and their honesty. “These are things all men fear,” Joey said and then he would climb a tree and say he was The Morningstar and that he can see Hell.

Moira wonders if only Tom Wilcox Jr. (maybe) had a loving, worried family like Joey did, who now lives in Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center in Hazard, Kentucky which is shorthand for the nuthouse. She thinks about this during the zombie party, where several party-goers come as homeless zombies with long fake beards damp with red corn-syrup.

In the dumpster, Tom Wilcox Jr. howls and lunges for the cat and he catches the cat and because he is probably sick in the head, or a disgusting hobo, a mindless vagrant desperate and bothersome with his constant need of pennies and nickles, tears the cat apart because it is logical to him because he wants the tuna and that is all he wants. His actions make sense to him, like riding only the No. 2 bus every day makes sense. It makes sense to him just like claiming to be Lucifer and Jesus and a man from Deerborn, Michigan despite having never been there.

Sometimes, Tom Wilcox Jr. (maybe) isn’t Tom Wilcox Jr. (maybe not) but actually Robert Stuckey and he is clear, and cognitive and conscious. When he looks at his hands they are a real color, and his heart exists and he can remember his mother’s name, Deborah Stuckey. Robert Stuckey was in a hospital once but Tom Wilcox Jr. doesn’t remember this even though it was Tom Wilcox Jr. in the hospital and not Robert Stuckey, and it happened when Robert Stuckey was playing basketball at a family reunion when he was seventeen. He stopped playing and pulled his pants down and started crying about all the men that were coming for him, the men in black or the men that had sharp teeth and horns and slits for eyes and had no fingers. These were the men that Robert Stuckey feared and he drew pictures of them like someone else once did and he didn’t show anyone because of their horrifying nature. Deborah Stuckey called Robert Stuckey for many years and after a long time he became Tom Wilcox Jr. and he couldn’t remember her name and she sent him twenty dollars in an envelope that was post-marked and addressed to both of them. When she died he never found out because no one told him, and even if they did, which they did once, he only asked ‘Who is Deborah Stuckey?’

He left once because he was on medication and was Robert Stuckey for three months, and he had a job for two weeks before he forgot to refill his medication (maybe) and he was fired shortly after that because he thought the Assistant Manager put Clorox in the cilantro-lime rice and he tried to warn the customers.

And now there is a man (?) in the right side of a green dumpster eating the left-over meat from a tuna can lid (maybe.) He has many, many names, and some of them are real and sad but they are all present and lingering like buzzing flies. And each new name is further away until all his names are innummerable and meaningless.
I really liked the ending of this. Very sad. (Sorry I'm tired, can't think of a better description). The build up did seem kinda slow, but that was probably just due to the fact that i was reading it at four in the morning.
I really enjoyed this, and at first I thought I wouldn't cause I felt lazy and didn't want to read the entire thing... But I'm glad I did. Through the entire piece the imagery was great, because it was never forced or fake. All of the pictures you painted had something to do with the theme of the story, which was nice. I also liked how this was very abstract for a short story. The way the writing had flow and rhythm made it seem like a very long poem put into prose form. That was what made it very interesting to read. I also liked how you managed to develop multiple characters using the space you did, it seemed like every sentence multitasked, if that made any sense. The only thing that I didn't like was the line about bricklayer's fingers, that part seemed a bit out of place. The rest of that paragraph was great, just that one phrase seemed forced. That's just one line out of many, though, so all in all this was brilliant

If you could give my piece a readthrough, it'd be much appreciated