Confessions of Alberta

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 05, 2018

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Submitted: February 05, 2018

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CONFESSIONS OF ALBERTA

By Brian Bartels

 

Today was better than yesterday.

Would today be better than tomorrow?

What if tomorrow never comes?

It’s only 11:45 a.m. today.

Today is better than yesterday. 

Yesterday I bought a circle’s worth of wheels for this old wooden crate my mom kept in the attic.  It said “Land O’Lakes” on the side in faded yellow.  It reminded me of a faded see-saw in the park.  Called Roger.  I called a see-saw Roger once. 

And also, Clappy.  After the divorce.

Now it’s only 11:46 a.m.

It’s still today.

Wait.  No.  Yes. 

It’s still today.

With peanut butter, toast and butter in my belly after entering my mouth and squeezing down the straw that is my throat, I wiped the breadcrumbs from my hand and threw away the napkin I used as a plate. 

My bike had just been fixed and I wanted to ride it.  The gears were not participating in what I will call “Alberta Devlin’s World,” which was an inter-planetary orbit focusing on my daily behavior and activities.  My bike needed to get in line and change its attitude.  This oft-putting behavior was helping no one.

Bikes were put here to help people. 

Today is still morning.  Was.  Is.

Tomorrow I would be up earlier. 

Or would I be up earlier tomorrow?  Judges? 

I don’t know what kept me in bed so long this morning but I found my eyes heavy, my limbs sluggish and my breathing ill-tempered.  My room was just dark enough to be constantly thwarted by what time it was outside.  Unhealthy.  For anyone.  For me.  I was certain my clock was playing tricks on me so I turned it around and refused to acknowledge it until it started behaving.

Clocks were supposed to help people.

I should not have had butter on top of peanut butter on top of white toast.  Toast toast toast.  Why do I love toast so much?  What’s happening to my acid brain?  I wake up late one morning and it begins to tell me things such as Greetings, earthling.  Today would be a splendid day to begin with Skippy creamy and charred flour with oily, greasy tweetie bird blood spread over the horizon.

I was married once.  To Alexander.  He lives around the corner and has one of those porch ornaments where it sounds like ice crystals softly colliding into one another as they can’t make it out of their porch maze.  He is not quite eleven years old, which still makes him one year less than I, but he is shorter, and wears fat-heeled sneakers to improve himself.  So he tries.  His mom has dark black hair and always wears black clothing to match her hearty eyebrows.  I told Alexander she could be a witch.

“No way she’s a witch,” he said.

“Live your life however you want it,” I shrugged.  “But live it with a witch mom.”

“Don’t say that.”

“I’m just saying, sweet husband, your mom is very nice and makes the best spaghetti and meatballs second only to Odessa’s mom, Mrs. Lady Gordon, but the last time I had those spaghetti and meatballs, Mrs. Gordon forgot to purchase the salty cheese I enjoy as she grates some over the stop, saying, ‘Tell me when’s enough,’ and I sit there, and pretend I’m reading a newspaper, and everyone just laughs – when actually enough is never enough!  Because I love salty cheese, I tell you, husband dear!  I love it and would never disinvite it to the party.”

“Don’t call my mom a witch any more.”

“Don’t have a witch mom.”

Butter is tweetie bird blood, did you know that?  It is rare when I can stave off the craving. 

Today is after noon.  12:11 p.m.  I am still home.  How did I linger?!

Our front door and the back door are open, allowing a peaceful circulation through the old house.  It keeps the ghosts happy, too, as most ghosts have asthma, and especially during the winter months when it gets stuffy and mom yells, “Alberta!  Shut the front door when you come home!”  And I have to run back downstairs or far enough down the hallway to simply explain what mom always forgets, which is, “Mother!  The ghosts have asthma!  They need to breathe better!  Stop forgetting that!”

My mom is older and her memory burps from time to time, like the first sip form a plastic thirty-two ounce Coke bottle, but she lets me wear earrings around the house, which are silver and loopy and make me think I’m in a science-fiction movie or TV show or one of the beautiful black women in National Geographic, but I can’t tell if I’m part-human or an alien, and I sort of relish the duality of never finding out.

Do you ever stop and look at time and blame it for everything wrong in your day?

My parents keep National Geographic under the top of the coffee table and never directly on top.  They want the neighbors and guests to know they are culturally evolved but in truth I have never seen my mom pick one up for any other reason than to dust, and my father once picked it up but he stared at it for thirty seconds as though another alien (like me) had arrived in the house and he wanted to use the restroom but didn’t know how to speak to it, staring at the front cover, staring through the image of a young woman with no shoes, colorful eyes, short hair and exotic earrings in an unknown village.  My father finally realized it was more than he could process and returned the magazine to under the coffee table counter and picked up an ESPN magazine. 

He wanted to read something that made him not think about the world.  He never said that but I could tell.

I can tell a lot of things.

“Dad, do you ever wish there was an ESP magazine?” I asked him on his way to the bathroom.

“Uhh…for – you mean instead of ESPN?”

“Yes.  For all the people who feel awkward about seeing things before they happen and wish to know more about their special powers.”  I scratched my nose.  I did that when I wanted to hear an answer to a question I already knew.  “Or maybe it’s just like any other magazine, but instead ESP tells us things we didn’t know about the things we were perceiving.”

My dad was trying to move past me but I wanted to talk about this, so I stood in his way.  He rolled up the magazine and seemed ashamed of it.

“Take a second to think about it,” I said.  “Your forehead is sweating.”

“I’m trying to think, Al.” 

He loves calling me Al, and he’s the only one I would allow for that.

“Don’t call me Al once we publish the magazine, ok?  If I’m the editor and one of the head writers I need to be respected by our staff.” 

“Al, I need to go to the bathroom, okay?”

I nod.  “The first issue will be titled ‘Your Next Dream.’  We’ll sell a billion copies!  Who wouldn’t want to read about their next dream, dad?”

Right now it’s 12:28.

I can tell you in less than one minute it’s going to be 12:29.

One of the neighbor girls, a person named Randy, who is missing one part of her left eyebrow, has Aunt arms.  My Aunt Bettie wears short sleeves as though she’s the neighborhood gladiator and young hairless children run from her.  She also eats cold beans from a can.  I’m pretty sure she does everything else normal as can be, but let me return to exhibit A:  she eats cold beans from a can.  She is a gladiator prospector hillbilly fisherman on welfare.  Only I’m told she is not financially distressed.  And I suppose I’ve never seen her hold a fishing rod.  But she smells like cod!  How odd!

Randy doesn’t eat cold beans from a can but picks her nose mornings when she walks to school.  She too wears sleeveless shirts and is married to Alexander. 

Alexander and I are only pretend married, and when I grow up and become an adult I will think fondly of my marriage to Alexander, but I will ultimately be happy we never continued on our path of nuptials.  I don’t care for witches and boys who smell of orange pee after they’ve been running in the sun.

“Give me two dollars?” Randy says.  Her clothes smell of lapsong souchong tea, smokey peaches and hay.  And birdshit on hay.  And I know most birdshit doesn’t have an odor, or smells more of hay, but whatever it is I find emits from Randy’s pores.

“Did you sleep in a barn last night?” I ask.

“I’m two dollars away from a bus ticket.  Can you loan me the money?”

To get Randy on a bus to Anywhere would be ideal.  That I know she is the richest girl in the neighborhood tells me she did something bad and her parents either grounded her or she’s gone psycho and needs to be hospitalized.  She has yellow magic marker on her neck.  Never a good sign.  Perhaps I should call the paramedics.

“Where are you coming from?” she asks me.

I imagine Randy lying on the floor and looking at the newspaper classifieds, her lower legs up in the air, arms folded, yellow magic marker scraping her throat.  She would also be listening to Wonderyarn.  Wonderyarn is her favorite band.  She listens to them when she is sad, happy, blue, green, lifeless, joyful, or when she is thinking of running away.

“I think I’m going for a walk,” I say.  “My bike has been ruthless to me and I’m keen to change that dynamic.”  I am staring past her into nothing and losing focus as I maintain distractedness, but Randy doesn’t seem to realize I am uninterested in helping her. 

And for the record, I am distracted.  I am so distracted I have to keep time close to me, for time is all I have before appointments must be met.  I know this.  My parents know this.  I simply don’t wish to share it with the world. 

Why can’t we keep appointments between us and simply agree on them?  Why do we need to act on the behalf of our appointments? 

“You look like you just got back from a walk,” she says.  “Can’t you just go inside and get me two bucks?”

“You look like you need an egg sandwich, Randy,” I say, and really mean it.  “An egg sandwich just like your brother eats in the afternoons when he’s not trying to eat all the ants in the sidewalk outside your house.”

Which is true.  As her brother is an aardvark and not an actual human being.  And he sweats waterfalls and often wears a mayonnaise moustache. 

I walk off.

I don’t see a clock but I feel there must be one close to me.

Did you know if you run around in the sun long enough you smell just like orange pee?

Something is about to split inside the world we all live, but I can’t put my finger on what it might be and I’m limited with my ability to locate it.  I have to go somewhere but my coordinates don’t seem to be quite specific or available.  My bike isn’t trustworthy and I can’t yet operate a motor vehicle. 

Of course I’m not wearing shoes, either.

The water tower stands proud in the distance.  To climb it’s angular majesty would provide enough sanctuary overnight, but there’s still too much daylight.

There is enough time today to start a parade.  If Alexander answered his phone earlier when I called we could have already started gathering the parade necessities.  A big bucket of candy.  Balloons.  Music.  Clowns walking around and grabbing strangers arms and swinging them in the air; clowns letting the strangers go as they lift into the air and don’t have any other place to go but remain suspended in mid-air, a community of air traffic life forms where no one cries, it never snows, and bands are all New Orleans-sounding.  Lots of toots, blurts and boom-tick-tap, boom-tick-tap, boom-tick-tap of drums we praise and live and clutch and watch as the foamy sticks hit the ends and we clap for the edges of sound as we run between the lines drawn in the street, the flames created with chalk and imagination where our feet get hot when we leave them in one spot for too long.

It’s now after one. 

It’s 1:08.

I’m standing on grass with my eyes closed and imagining myself in a field with daisies and sunflowers and another yellow something and the only reason I am here is Randy’s dumb neck being so yellow and distracting me.  Now everything I look at becomes yellow.  The grass is not green, but mustard.  The blue sky is yellow cheese.  The houses aligning the yellow brick road of street are all popcorn-colored, handsome.

I watch Downton Abbey on television.  No one else knows this except my family.  I don’t really have the patience to share my opinions on television and characters with others, since it is all really so imaginative, but occasionally I like to speak the way the characters do on the show.  British.  Regal.  Dignified.  And with sustained purpose, so everyone in the room or within earshot understands my direction.

There is an appointment later today.  I know the time it’s scheduled but I don’t care to think on it very much.

Tomorrow would be so much better than today.

Today isn’t bad in a horrible way, but it is not great in a terrific way.

Today is irksome.

Distracting.

Daylight is distracting.

If we threw a big enough parade in the street, with hundreds of large people and active clowns and herds of elephants, my guess is my parents would forget about schedules and appointments and things we have to hold together as adults.

Though I am no adult.  Alien species don’t believe in adults.  They simply keep growing.

Though my parents tell me to go out and play often enough.

And yet I am the one who reads the National Geographic.  Do they know that?

No.  Of course they don’t. 

I created ESP Magazine, but did I receive any royalties or benefits from this? 

The fresh-faced youth aliens of today are the recycled garbage of tomorrow. 

It’s 1:16.  I’m standing on the corner and waiting for someone to jump out of a plane and parachute in and rescue me, but a plane first needs to come by, then someone can jump out of it, then I can be rescued.  Order must occur. 

I can’t cross the street.  The street might have broken glass, jagged rocks or dragon toenails I can’t see.  The pebbles in the asphalt glisten in the sun and make me feel I am on an island prison, but it’s my shoe-less fault.

If I want shoes I have to go back home.

If I go back home I have to stay home and get ready for the appointment.

If I go to this appointment I will faint and die.

I would rather lick a hippo’s armpit than go back home, wait for time to find me, and head to this appointment where death or unconsciousness awaits me. 

One of my friends might be able to save me.

If the world was a friend they’d find a way to throw me an impromptu parade and we can have fun in the street and I’d ride an elephant and talk as loud as I want because elephants have the ability to equalize loud or low voices.  Their skin is not unlike one of those sub-hooters my uncle likes to talk to my dad about in the backyard.  That’s where they drink beer and eat hot dogs and laugh at the trees rustling in the wind.  My friends and I occasionally run through the backyard while my dad is there and pretend we are space aliens who can play music only interpreted by dinosaurs. 

The appointment and I are never going to be friends.

If I could.  If I could.  If I could only stop and look at a collection of flowers and keep the flowers in my sight long enough I get to find a pleasant transfer where I become one of the flowers in the bunch, smiling back at the sun, the early afternoon indefinite, my voice disguised within the other flowers, my flower family, the seasons passing by as we continue to shine, as we have been here before and know how to wear pride.

If I could get to be a flower I could stay and get away, could be the best of both ends where good people live and travel and return back to their safe home of goodness.

Some have the ability to see the rows of people and collections of faces stuck inside their face mirrors, their mouths retreating to the edge of sanity while they walk with their briefcases, their stone eyes blinking against the crystal blue sky where my squadron of angels fly, my angels in flight, the better half of our moon awash in glorified splendor.  My alien party.  My family somehow still my family, but the world a more complete place once my human family and my alien family get along.

It is now after two in the afternoon, when most people over the age of thirty are taking naps or thinking of taking naps.  When the slumber of millions gets beaten by gravity’s torment.  Do bodies sleep more because of gravity?  I wonder who to ask such a question.  Should the allergist be trusted with such information?  Should I wait until someone walks by me with the right look on their faces so that I may ask the questions to the answers which escape me? 

Time continues when I only want it to halt.

I don’t want to eat anything, and then I want to eat everything. 

I feel my blood swimming in my body.  My arms tingle.  Tiny dolphins are in my bloodstream, jumping through molecular hoops and squeaking for snacks while an anxious audience cheers them on.

It is now exactly 2:06 but only for less than the sum of its parts.

Why do I worry so much about time?

Why do I keep looking at clocks as though they inhabit the answers we seek?

Currently, I am not one bit hungry.

But I would eat food if you put it in front of me.

Just about any sort of food. 

Except veal.

When will I be hungry again? 

What’s so exciting about veal?  Saying the word fatigues me.  It imposes a doubt about the world I am not interested in exploring.  Veal.  To veal.  To vuh.  Ver.  Eee-yul.

Eel.  Another inedible item.  Another hack.  Another sliver to pull from the hand that is my memory.

Food is nothing but a creation of corroborated boredom.  Can anyone explain chickpeas to me? 

 

And yet I am allergic to flowers more than anything else.  Cannot touch them.  Cannot breathe them in.  Cannot think of flowers without sneezing, hacking and asphyxiating.  My eyes water.  My skin tickles and itches and feels as I’ve been rolling around in hay. 

It is now 2:36.  In less than one minute it will be gone.

So close to thirty-sevens.

Closer to tomorrow.  The sun is a distant baseball microwave and yet a cold device of emphatic reckoning.

Someone once told me the sun was responsible for many of my ailments.  And I love the sun, so hearing this disturbed me in a way I couldn’t tolerate.  Who goes around blaming the sun? 

But then we went to the allergist doctor and the allergist doctor confirmed the suspicions forwarded to me from the phantom sun-blamer.

“Yes, I’m afraid the sun does have an influence on your condition.”

I was beyond distraught.

“Where is your evidence?” I asked him.

“The sun is evidence.”

I gagged.  “The sun is naked as a jaybird up in the sky, sir,” I coldly stated.  “You’re speaking about something I hold very dear and saying it’s not supposed to be my friend, is that what you’re saying?”

“No, but I am saying it’s partly responsible for your allergies, as it influences nature.” 

He was smiling through his Coke bottle lenses, gapped teeth and stringy charcoal gray hair which looked like rotten spaghetti sticking to the side of his head.  He looked like Johnny Cash.  I didn’t even know what Johnny Cash looked like but after hearing his voice from the car rides I took with my father, this allergist was Johnny Cash. 

Keep smiling, bastard.

“Are you telling me the sun gives me allergies?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Are you an expert on the sun?”

“Well, that’s the part of—

“That’s the part of the conversation I’m trying to figure out, sir.  May I call you sir?” I say, stern and focused.

“The sun influences everything.”

“It does?  I see it just as much as you, if not more.  So I’m an expert on the sun too?”

This was when my mom tried to interrupt the conversation, but I shushed her, as the allergist glanced in her direction for some sort of explanation or interference, which I had grown accustomed to and very capable of dismissing.  The examination table was my podium and I was lobbying for America’s vote. 

“Not necessarily.”

“Well, poop in a chair,” I said, flabbergasted.  “Mom, can we go now, please?  I’ve had my share of false truths today and I wish to retire to the castle for some peanut butter toast.”

I spotted the clock on the wall, which read 3:17.  I was mad enough I could’ve reached through the glass separating the hands and bend the time bars holding me prisoner until I was free.

Very few things unsettle me.  One of them has to be being told I am not in control of my destiny, that the sun has something to say about it all, that I cannot go and smell the flowers decorating the rows of houses and forests and fields I take delight in exploring. 

“Before you go,” said the lying allergist, reaching into a compartment of lies and corruption, “I’ll give you some information on why your having sneezing fits and coughing in the morning and afternoons.” 

“I’ll take those,” said my mom, knowing I wouldn’t touch them. 

“What I’m going to recommend is we start slow on some allergy medicine, and over-the-counter stuff is fine for short-term, but what I’d like you to consider before you come back is taking a better approach to preventing the reactions.”

I huffed.  “If I took your advice I’d never see daylight again.”

The allergist turned to my mom, lowering his voice.  “It might be a good idea to start with a weekly shot.”

But hold!  Did he say what I think he said?

He couldn’t have said shot.  Did he say shot?  Shots are tubes attached to needles, magnetized to pierce fragile skin, something I particularly enjoy preserving as it covers my entire body last time I checked. 

There is no way he said “shot” since I would’ve already projectile vomited on his clownish round T.J. Maxx shoes.  My eyelids burned red with his lack of enunciation.  Speak better, for Pete’s pets!  You’re a licensed practician are you not? 

“Where is your degree, sir?  I only see photos of kids with odd-colored shirts standing on grass and in full record of your precious sun you can’t stop speaking about.”

“My degree is in my office, Alberta.”

My eyebrows lifted above the ceiling.  “This isn’t even your office?”  I scooted off the examination table and began a series of wild gestures with my hands.  “Mom, what planet are we on?  Is this still Earth?  Because it’s not the right thing to do, to conduct a series of tests so far away from one’s degree.  I don’t trust it.  Especially since when I’m being threatened by what this imposter calls a shot.  A “shot,” you say?  Really.” 

Or did he say “weekly spot,” and I might need to stand in a certain place where the allergies in my nose and chest won’t react to the meddlesome sun’s influence.  Spot, yes.  So I would have to stand in a specific place and wait for the healing to begin.

How long would I have to wait?  Would I have to remain motionless in the spot?  Could I bring a friend or one of the National Geographics? 

My mother and the weird allergy man continued speaking as my mind traveled with the idea of being sequestered to a place where I might not see my loved ones for an indefinite amount of time.  It would be just as the summer before last, when I “won a trip to camp,” as my parents said, when, only later, upon arriving at camp, proudly stating to everyone, “Very nice to meet you.  I am here on a special prize.  They didn’t have enough time to mail the crown and ribbon but I expect them waiting for me when I return home.” 

Little did I realize camp was free for everyone, and there was nothing lucky or special about having to use the public restroom, which doubled as the shower facilities. 

I keep those nuggets of parental ruse like eggs in a basket, and the eggs can only stay fresh for so long, and then I have to start throwing them.

My name is Alberta.  I was born in an igloo not in Alaska but somewhere in Canada, with geese and wolves and moose awaiting my arrival.  It is why I am now such good friends with penguins and aliens.  My parents told me this.  I was born in the despairing cold and frozen winter, when so many souls try to escape the lives of those they follow, and many of the souls spun around on their faraway journey to extended parts of the world, such as Vienna, Saturn and El Paso, or “The Pass,” and returned to gaze at my open, crying little body, uncertain of the snow white world before me, as I wailed and robbed the feeling of being young and unable to speak my mind until my body caught up with my brain activity and imagination, and then – and only then – could I be ready to give the world all the news it never knew it so desperately needed. 

My name is Alberta.  I was born before time, at some corner of immediacy, anticipating exactly where I would be going once the needle dropped on the record of tomorrow. 

 

 


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