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SmokeLong Quarterly

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View From a Flying Jimmy

Story by Tammy Turner (Read author interview) December 15, 2003

Listen: hounds loose their run trill reveille behind the lines
of white pine and cedar and elm that guard my seclusion.

I pretend I’m dreaming—then I am—waltzing with Jane
barefoot and ballgowned through a wood: music howls
somewhere beyond the grey, somewhere in the black.
So I oversleep and wonder when I wake why my feet are ice.

I fly to work down backroads that turn suddenly
into streets miles from my driveway graveled and
tucked between menacing rows of black-hulled pecans:
they bear on the third year and I keep their fallen ancestors
packed naked in blue tupperware tubs stacked in my freezer.

The cockpit of my jimmy is strewn with dead coffee cups.
Jack-in-the-boxes lay discarded and dying on the floorboards
-similar slaughters of necessity- ketchup clotted to their sides.
Last month’s cable bill flaps under the visor like a battleflag.

Tobacco whips by on the left and on the right so fast
each leaf on every stalk stands out in surreal bas-relief.
I taste the sharp and bitter tang of suckering plants:
it reminds me of my father’s pall malls and politics and
the smell of money seeded from blood.

Barn swallows rise -in lazy tourbillions- from the fields
their beaks and bellies full of yellow and green hornworms.

I wing past Buck’s BBQ Pit (You Can’t Beat Our Meat)-past
Lucy’s Do-Lounge where the girls serve more than shots-
past Big Jim’s Quick Mart: the stoner kid who pumps gas raises
a hand in reflex. I don’t wave back in sympathetic apathy.

Most mornings I stop to kill coffee cups but today I’m late.

Tenant houses rush by on either side, their concrete blocks
painted with Kudzu and mildew: I think of abattoirs and
oubliettes and other inevitable exits. Children and dogs and
cheap molded toys from the plastic plant over in Elroy dot
the tiny dirt yards -little boys and little girls stand in stagnant
ditches chunking rocks at death while their mamas are inside
fucking the mailman or watching General Hospital on TV.

I see slideshow flashes of their faces and I hope I don’t
have to come back out this way: scrape them up, heads
cracked open, futures frying on asphalt like so many eggs.

I pass the city limit sign -some of the holes are mine- ringed
in rust and canted to one side. Courthouse looms right,
county buildings lurch left and blocks ahead day meets night
where tracks split the city: segregation in iron ties old as time.

I pull into my lot -number six, section twelve-filled with cars
and trucks and bikes but I am the only flying jimmy.
Everything ticks: engine, watch, pulse, -alpha papa charlie-
the people that mill outside my windshield tick with tension.

I want to turn the key, turn around, turn into my driveway
where squirrels sit stuffing my sweet meats in their jaws:
instead I clinch mine -name rank serial number-open the door
and step out.

Listen: animals sprung their cages snarl in angry unavoce
behind walls of brick and steel and glass that guard nothing.

About the Author

Tammy Turner is a Paramedic from North Carolina.

This story appeared in Issue Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Two
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Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.