slipSTRING by darin c BRADLEY
I've wanted, since the beginning, to walk these carnival roads.  I've craved the aromatic pinch of body odor and funnel cake, and I enjoy the massage of errant palms in Midway crowds.  More importantly, I suppose, I know the owners:  the chimes of touch-screens and ski-ball fill ledgers of code in my office, but I compose--I do not listen. Before now, I have only known how the key of C looks.  It is prettier than it sounds.

Buffeted by thermal ghosts and burning canvas, I catch splashes of the inferno as it slops through the park.  I can only assume all of this is a result of the chemicals I used to start the fire.  Or maybe it's this string--it's altered everything.

Three days ago, I awoke to the string.  Across the duvet, along the carpet, and through the door--the string came from someplace outside.  It had embedded itself in my chest and begun to tug.  I didn't panic--I merely got out of bed and obeyed the tugging.  Putting on my bra proved strange with the string in the way.  I decided on a button-down to save myself the same trouble with a shirt.

I know this inferno--I have designed it for years in program after program.  I can hear its harmonics in the shouts of its victims, and I realize now that I should have paid attention sooner.  Certainly there are sparks between the lines of my work, but at least the string has led me here.  I've wandered and jogged and waited for days, going as the string bid me, going when it tugged, meandering through urban labyrinths.  I have seen no minotaurs.  My name is Joey.

That first morning, the string led me to un-interesting places:  a diner, the drycleaners, a pay-to-park parking lot, a bench.  The string only extended about twenty feet, stiff, pulsating like some psychedelic phallus.  It is thin, barely the diameter of a segment of yarn--it is not fuzzy.  No one else saw it protruding from my chest, but Michael could see the little skin-temple answering its tug.

There was a space between us--like magnetic repulsion--but the moonlight had grabbed our bare asses with pastel fingertips and shoved--didn't cease to shove--so we lay, naked and not touching.  He circled his fingertips around little skin temple--it quivered in tiny, delighted shakes, and the string danced to avoid his touch.

This could be something, he said.  An abscess, or a tumor--you know, something dangerous.

My finger touched it readily. No, it's just the tugging.

What's tugging on you?

The string, I said.

What string?

I rolled my eyes. The glowing one protruding from my chest.

Oh, he said.  That one.

This is taking me places.  I'm not drifting anymore--I'm going where I'm bid, no wandering.

Does it matter where you're led? he asked.

Not really, I said.  It's not the space you inhabit but how you fill it.  I touched his crotch--he had only the one normal lump thereabouts. Here we are, all geared up, but you prefer the space.  That's fine, but this is a different use of nudity and moonlight.  I've been led here as a lover; you're here to write poetry about it later.

He smiled.

I'll go elsewhere for my pleasure, you know.

I know.


So I program computers--or used to:  load script.  Run.  There is an office downtown, a nice one with glass walls and green sculpture.  It is in the middle of other nice offices with glass walls and green sculpture: Emerald Park--a suite of office spaces, crypt upon crypt of aging mainframes and lurking e-servers.  It might better be called the Emerald City:  Each tower comes with its own wizard--a little man with tremendous resources and works of art on his extra office tables.  When I was told how to go home and why, I clicked my heels and smiled.  I have money still--it's folding and decaying in nonexistent spasms, in infinitesimal hiccups in the mainframes of other lands.  Bigger wizards dictate how, and I will grow old in the manner they deem best.  Load meaning.  It had been my job to correct errors between product releases.

Michael's house had been my last stop that first day, so I stayed with him for hours, the moonlight thrumming along my upright string.  I no longer cared for the empty glass on his nightstand, the one another lover used two years prior.  He hadn't touched her either, but he still preserved the artifacts of her presence.  There barely remained any of the gloss with which she had ghosted a kiss onto the glass.

He kept other things crucial for his poet's distance:  books he hadn't read, a collection of fine liquors, a cache of digital pornography. 

I left the next day before dawn.  The string pulled, and I followed.  I didn't walk far, just to my car.  As I drove, the string dipped and swung, fingering like an angry needle the directions it wanted.  After a time, I deposited my car in a garage.  Back in the sunshine, I didn't have to wait long to find my first person.  I sat with him on a bench smeared with an advertisement for advertising on benches.  Backup.  Load bench. 

Where are you going in such a hurry? he asked.

I'm not in a hurry. File:  replace.  I just know where I'm going.

Where's that, he asked?

I didn't want him to ask.


I'm not in a hurry.  I just know where I'm going.

Where's that?


I'm going to the Fair Grounds, to the Fair.

Shall I come along, he asked.  He held a paper cup wrapped in a trademarked sleeve of corrugated cardboard--I could see the trademark between his fingers.  The no-spill space dome lidding the cup had become lined with spokes of spilled coffee.  There was, around the valved opening, a ring of coffee--wet and dirty.  I thought of Michael's pornography.

You'll have to come because it's the right thing to do, I said.  I mean, it feels to you the correct thing to do at the moment, and you have to leave only when you realize you have nothing better to do.

Yeah, sure. He smiled.

He needed to go home and erase himself.  He had spilled his directory all over himself, and I could see it.  It was obscene.  I decided a little reduction was in order.




I knew where I was going, and this arthouse bum wanted to come along.  I was happy to have him--shiny watch and all.