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P1030019My long essay, “What I Learned from a Cockfighter,” is now out in River Teeth 15.2*. And Nichole Reber reviews the issue, including some thoughtful words on my essay at The Review Review.

“Full of juxtapositions and subtle implications, the strands finally come together soothingly, pensively, as Bundy grapples with his entry into middle age…”

Read an excerpt from the essay below:

Hundreds of crowing cocks broadcast their territory in a never-ending loop of five notes. A concert of noise that will either drive you mad or set you smiling at nature’s harmonies. And the birds, feathers glistening like bourbon in a glass, black and red and orange, the colors of scandal and sin. They waltz as far as their tethers will allow, their beady bird eyes watching me sideways. I’m out of my element, a city kid in the country, and I step lightly.

*If you’d like to read the entire issue on your Kindle or otherwise, it’s only $3.99 at Amazon.

FrontWigOut-640x290Don’t talk here enough about music I see and like, but had a great time seeing Stephen Malkmus (former Pavement frontman) and the Jicks at Terminal West here in Atlanta. Malkmus pretty much colors within the lines of his own oeuvre, but that work has always been his and only his–original, low-fi rockers that mock the affectations of the grunge era that helped to spawn his first band and play with language and point of view (rarely his own).

His new album “Wig Out at Jagbags” is no different. Like many of his fans, he’s older, has kids, and works hard at his craft. Check out the clip from his recent show in Atlanta. Great show in a small new venue here. Even threw out a Pavement number (“Stereo”) for the nostalgia crowd. Thanks to vacantmoon for the clip.

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Illustrated by Max Currie

Kent dumped the contents of his hockey bag onto the floor: three T-shirts, one dress shirt, too small, a pair of sweats, two pairs of jeans, shorts, underwear and socks, all mostly dirty; Rushdie’s tattered and swollen Midnight’s Children; torn copies of the celebrity magazine Shukan Gendai; his dressing room star; the bottle of limited edition Kame no O sake and a half-empty bottle of cheap whiskey; seven packs of cigarettes; a pack of matches; a copper hash pipe; a pink Hello Kitty Zippo he lifted from Midori’s car; two mushy, brown bananas split open and mashed against the bottom of the bag; and one urn. He turned the clothes inside out. He  rummaged through the bag’s contents on the floor. He shook the hockey bag. He shook it again and again, until there it was, the miracle he’d hoped for: a plastic mini-baggie he’d either forgotten or never realized existed winking at him through the banana mush. The mini-baggie held a fingernail of shabu, the crystallized rock flattened into an icy powder. Kent knew two things. One: he should toss the baggie into the grimy toilet. And two: he wouldn’t. He wiped banana pulp from the baggie and shook it before him. A couple of drags would displace all of his aches and pains, clear his head, help him find Midori and pick up where they’d left off. Forget Hideo and Chieko. He’d do anything to feel better.

Kent went to the kitchen for tinfoil then returned to Midori’s room, stepping just outside the back door where he’d imagined a woman crying. He rolled the sheet of tinfoil into a thin tube. On another piece, folded in the middle to create a conduit in which to burn the powdered shabu until it became liquid, he tried to light the crystallized rock holding the Hello Kitty lighter underneath. But the air was gusty. He stepped back inside to light it again, the shabu bubbling up at him as it heated. With his tinfoil straw he inhaled then repeated the procedure three times until the shabu was gone. Within minutes his head cleared, his need for food and sleep vanished, and he didn’t care.

Bullet

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Illustration by Max Currie

The shabu surged, pulled his head straight and tightened his neck, speed rushing through his bloodstream. His heart rate and blood pressure shot up, and with the second hit he felt increased focus, a familiar alertness and energy that had been absent. His nose itched and his fingertips tingled. He felt grand. And with thoughts of Midori waiting outside, he forgot about Ozman as another surge lifted his spirits and gave him an erection. Any appetite for food was erased. He’d be up all night and well into the next day.

Kent glared at the mirror, searching for someone he knew. He lowered his head, pulled his glasses off and smirked. He auditioned his once popular line for the mirror. “A-re?” A familiar face scratched with fear and fatigue returned the smirk. Midori had been kind to laugh when he so wrongly tried the line on her. Perhaps there was more kindness where that came from. He squeezed Kumi’s Saint Christopher medal around his neck. She’d always worn the medal—a gift from a childhood pen pal in Peru—despite protests from photographers, handlers, and her agent. It eventually became an iconographic piece of the Kumi brand. Young girls all over Japan, with no understanding of Catholicism or saints, wore the medal, which became known as the Seinto Shi—Saint C

With his jaw clenched and his heart racing, Kent returned to the bar and Midori, who smiled and took his hand as if she had done so a thousand times before.

Bullet