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Reginald Blisterkunst, Ph.D.
Among the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Pluto Wars

Greg Chandler
"Bee's Tree"
"Local Folk"
"Roland's Feast"
"Pond Story "

Doug Childers
"The Baptism"

Gene Cox
The Sunset Lounge

Clarke Crutchfield
"The Break-In"
"The Canceled Party"
"The Imaginary Bullet"

Jason DeBoer
"The Execution of the Sun"

Deanna Francis Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Dennis Must

Charlie Onion
"Love Among the Jellyfish"
Pluto Wars
"Feast of the Manfestation"

Chris Orlet
"Romantic Comedy"

Daniel Rosenblum
"A Full Donkey"

Deanna Frances Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Andrew L. Wilson
"Fat Cake and Double Talk"


Bee's Tree
Greg Chandler

Bee and Dez were half way to the treehouse when the rope ladder spun out of control. Dez lost his footing and almost fell—he would have brought Bee down with him—but caught himself just in time. He entered the treehouse through a hole, concealed by ivy, in the plywood and Masonite floor. Once inside, he set down the bag of provisions and extended his hand to Bee, pulling her in. Dizzy, a little drunk, they quickly undressed.

They sat face to face on a dingy bath mat exploring ankles, feet, and toes.

The elm tree made eerie sounds, high-pitched hisses and creaks. Although the tree was dead, ivy made it appear alive. Thick vines with heart-shaped leaves spiraled from the roots to the crown, to the tip of every limb, enclosing the treehouse like wax around a hive. The air smelled and tasted of bitter chlorophyll.

Bee's son, Charlie, had hired Dez through a service that assists ex-convicts (the price was right), to build a bomb shelter in the backyard, a specially equipped biochemical shelter, or protection chamber as he liked to call it. Bee paid Dez extra to mow the lawn and clip the hedge.

Bee parted Dez's long black hair so she could look into his almond-shaped eyes, bloodshot and milky from a speed binge the night before. "You're allergic to something. If it's the grass, I don't mind mowing it."

"It's the ivy smell that bugs me."

"Because I mowed it for thirty years before you came."

"Shush," he said, dancing his fingers in her face. "I invite you to think of something, something you watch carefully like a hawk."

"That's a weird invitation right out of left field. I don't know, the clock on the oven, I suppose."

"No, think of between my toes, where you rubbed the cream."

"Why would I want to think of that spot? It's your thighs I like best."

"It's between my toes where I took possession of your soul."

Bee laughed. "You're sure full of life today."

"Ancient beliefs, Bee, I read at the library."

"Oh, I see. Well, I have to admit, I did spend some extra time in your toe area applying that anti-itch lotion; I was checking for pimples, a certain dark pimple indicating worm—"

"That's when I sucked your spirit right up between my toes."

"Don't say that, I would have felt something. You're just making fun of me, but what you don't understand is that I lived through a lot of floods growing up on the Patusi River down in Hinshaw City. Not only floods, but outbreaks, too. My son says those experiences make me overly concerned about unimportant things like worms."

Dez massaged Bee's inner thigh with his thumb. "You're so soft there."

"Feels nice....Did I tell you I'm not nervous around you anymore? I feel very easygoing."

"Good, because that's how I want you to feel. It's too bad we can't feel this way in your bedroom."

"Don't bring that up or I'll get twitchy and nervous."

"Oh no, baby," Dez said gently, his fingers slithering inside her. "No, baby."

"Did I tell you," Bee shuttered, "Charlie built this at twelve with his bare hands? No help at all."

Dez kissed the place Bee referred to as her quim. After five or six minutes, he said, "Does Charlie ever come up here now that he's a hotshot?"

"As far as I know, he hasn't for twenty years—he keeps his lips zipped about what he does and where he goes. I'm sure he's forgotten all about it, which could happen since you can't see it from the ground." Bee cupped Dez's kneecap; he flinched. "When Charlie showed you where to build the shelter, I was inside watching you through the window."

Bee lowered her back onto the fuzzy mat and threw her legs in the air. On her calves she identified nine new varicose veins.

"I can't see why you've been spying all this time. We could've started weeks ago, silly girl."

Bee sat up, looked at Dez. His body was flexible and fluid, his skin a perfectly cooked yellow-brown. What a beauty, she thought, sipping her screwdriver. The two of them shared a secret love, in a secret love nest, and that's how she wanted it to stay.

There was nothing in the treehouse to distract them, just ivy, bath mats and towels, bugs and birds and squirrels. There were no pictures, of course, and no radio to remind them of life on the ground (although Dez had suggested music, Bee said no). The only furnishing was a white plastic footstool with aluminum legs. Under the footstool they kept their drinks; on top of the footstool a shoe box and rubber hairbrush. Bee pulled the brush through her wispy gray hair, cut short like a man's and parted to the left. She liked being called silly girl. "If Charlie knew what we were doing, he'd boot me right out on the street. I can't imagine what he'd do to you...I'm afraid he doesn't care for Chinese. And being half Canadian, I think that might tick him off even more. 'What's wrong with a cocktail?' I asked him the other day, 'you drink them all the time.'"

"Well I don't care for assholes. And since when does the son tell the mother what to do? You kick him out on the street—this is your house. And when the shelter's done, and he's all paid up, you can let me live in it...I'll be your fulltime caretaker."

"You're the silly one, this is Charlie's house, he bought it from me fair and square when I went bankrupt. He makes a bundle now as city controller. It's a big responsibility job, he needs me to look after him and the house. You know, he's tripled its size, it used to be smaller than the garage."

"I never would've let you sell your house—that's stupid business sense. Just think, if you'd been smart, I'd be moving in tonight and we could screw in the middle of the lawn or on the kitchen table."

Bee blushed. "Oh I don't care one way or another whose name's on the deed. As long as Charlie takes care of the bills and sees to the financial stuff, I'll cook supper and keep things tidy," Bee said, crunching on an ice cube.

"Sounds like Charlie's your husband."

"Far from it, my husband could barely feed us...but at times he was sweet. Charlie's a good provider, but he's such a bully. It's really a shame...his life has always been very lonely."

"People think he's a real asshole."

"That's because he has problems relating to others. When Charlie was a boy, some experts at the university told me that because he saw his father die, the trauma could follow him forever."

Dez paused for a minute. "Was your husband murdered?"

"Murdered? It was nothing like that. Charlie and his father went up to the hills one Christmas to pick mistletoe. Charlie stayed on the ground to gather what Stan threw down from the treetops. But then there was an awful turn. Stan's branch snapped off and he fell to the ground and died—poor Charlie was just an inch away from being crushed."

With closed eyes, Bee timidly sipped her drink.

At that moment Dez thought she looked like his next-door neighbor, an old lady who sold fly swatters from her porch. Earlier, Bee resembled a little girl when she jumped on top of him and tickled him wildly. In particular, a girl of about ten spotted recently outside the Laundromat smoking a cigarette. Dez liked this about Bee, how she looked old one minute and young the next.

Bee's eyes were still shut; her breathing was heavy. Dez crawled to the edge of the treehouse. Through an opening in the ivy, he looked down to the yellow lawn he'd mowed before lunch and over to the muddy pit. Around the pit were bags of cement and two rosebushes with pale orange flowers. Eventually he'd place the shelter's steel lid between the roses. In a day or two, if the mud was dry, he would pour the foundation.

Dez turned to Bee. "I'm damn lucky my son has his grandmother to live with."

"You didn't tell me you had a child."

"In Bell County," he said, snaking around her body.

"Oh, I've been to Bell County. If I remember correctly, it's very pretty. Charlie and me went there on a Sunday drive, something we used to do when he was a college student. He drove my late brother's station wagon back then. We'd pick a destination from the guide in the phone book and pack a lunch." Bee brushed her hair again. "Your mother's taking care of him?"

"No, it's her mother that's got him." He kneaded her left calve. His odor was that of turpentine and hard grape candy; his tongue and lips were purple.

"Is his hair as black as yours?"

"Last I saw, it was blond like hers."

"She's not Chinese?"

"No, I'm not sure what she is. Typical American mix, I guess."

"What's his name? You know, we drew Charlie's name, Charles Stanley, from a wool cap. I forget our other choices, but I know there were over a dozen."

"His name is Franco Custer Lee."

"Franco, Custer, Lee. Sounds like an historical figure. Once I read about a man who felt it was his duty—he was from a radical organization, like warlocks or socialists, I can't remember—he felt it was his calling in life to kidnap and kill the president of his country."

"This country, the States?" Dez's tongue flicked between Bee's toes.

"No," she answered, slumping forward, running her brush through Dez's long bangs, "it was South America, one of those countries down there. What the kidnapper did was take the president out to the woods in a little airplane, I think, and torture him for weeks on end, snipping off toes and fingers, even electrocution of the privates. One real funny thing the kidnapper did was roll around in the mud with the president, nude. At the trial, this man swore that the president had said he liked rolling in the mud better than being president."

"Did he kill him?"

"Yes, with a knife to the heart. When they found him, wild pigs were at him."

"Who's this guy again?" Dez was now kissing and licking the sole of Bee's right foot.

"A kidnapper and assassin whose name was something like Franco Custer Lee."

"Who knows, maybe his mother read the same article back when she was pregnant. I sure as hell didn't pick the name."

Bee felt dreamy. She pointed to a squirrel scurrying over their heads. "Have you ever rolled in the mud?"

"Sure, a few times. It feels good if you take your clothes off; being naked in the mud is very stimulating. If you have clothes on, though, it feels like you're wearing bricks."

Bee sighed, "Naked in the mud."

"Did you see the hole, it's all full of mud. Let's climb down and go for a dip."

"You're nuts, Charlie will be home in a few minutes. In fact, you should go down there and get back to work. If he catches us, that's it."

"First thing tomorrow we'll get naked and take mud baths."

"You know we have to ignore each other on the ground. Charlie might be spying."

"I'll never posses you completely, will I?"

Bee swatted his shoulder. "You have a son. Devote yourself to him, that's what you should do. Forget about me," she said, startled by a grasshopper that hopped onto her arm.

"Don't be stupid, I'll never forget you. Anyway, I'm not allowed to see my son."

"That's terrible. Fathers and sons need each other."

"Yeah, but I did time, in the court's eye I'm a big fuck-up."

"I suppose you're right...sorry," Bee said, petting his tan belly. "Did you burglarize for Franco's sake?"

"Yeah...though I don't know if I knew that at the time?"

"As long as you learn from your mistakes, that's all that matters," she said, blowing the grasshopper into the ivy. It sprung to an outer branch near three noisy crows. At once, three beaks lunged for the bug; two got it, ripped it in half, swallowed. The third crow squawked at the other two. Fascinated, Bee and Dez looked at each other with wide grins.

Bee laid on her side, took Dez's soft cock into her mouth. After Dez ejaculated, she washed down the seed with vodka and orange juice. "How old is Franco, by the way?"

"Eight." Dez caressed the top of Bee's breast with his cheek. "Last time we hung out together we put this fat caterpillar in a plastic boat and set it down the river."

"What for?"

"I don't know...it was fun to watch disappear. He asked me what the bug was doing; probably taking a shit I told him."

"Shame on you, Dez, that's nothing to teach a little boy."

"Don't scold me when I got your nipple in my mouth."

"My goodness...oh, I like that."

More crows assembled in the tree, adding to the noise.

Dez came up for air. "Mind if I have another screwdriver?"

"Please do. Here, let me fix it." Bee poured vodka, orange juice and ice into a jar, and shook. Dez held out his glass.

"Would you like to see something strange?" Bee asked.

Dez gulped his cocktail. "Is it on your body?"

"No, it's in this shoe box." She opened the box and removed a saucer made of pale yellow glass. On it, a hard brown object, shiny, sinewy, about the length of her little finger, with a black thread tied around it.

"Shit, what the hell is that?"

Covering her mouth with her right hand, Bee snickered at Dez's disgust.

"It looks like a little piece of rope that's been dipped in lacquer or glue or something."

"No, nothing like that. I was hoping you might guess," she said, refreshing her drink. "Here's a hint, you told me you like it."

Dez put his ear to her chest and listened. "It's not a turd is it?"

Bee tugged at the silky black hair under Dez's arm. "What a filthy mind you have. Keep guessing."

"Damn, Bee, I have no idea."

"It's a piece of steak, silly."


"Very old meat."

"Shouldn't it stink, good God, and be all covered with maggots?"

"The larvae already ate most of it, a very big T-bone. I took this last uneaten part and preserved it in pickling brine for a few months, then dried it in the sun. It feels good when I make circles on my hand with it," she said, doing just that.

"What are you saving it for? And what's that thread on there?"

"You'll think it's silly, but I read something in a magazine called American Anthropologist—."

"Come on, it's saved from your wedding, good luck or something."

"The only thing saved from my wedding is Charlie and me."

"Haven't you heard of ladies who save a slice of their wedding cake?"

"No lady I know has done that. And I especially wouldn't have done that because my wedding was very traumatic for me."

"That's too bad."

"My marriage was a bad one, Dez, though I'm sure you've figured that out by now."

"Yeah, I didn't really picture it as good."

"If it had been good, I'd probably be a sentimental person. Don't you think things always go right for people who are sentimental?"

"I don't know?...I'm not sure what you mean."

"Well, don't you believe that people who are very emotional, who laugh and cry and yell all the time, have a better life?"

"No, you've got it backwards. I do those things all the time and my life hasn't been too good. I mean, I guess it's good right now because of you, but most of the time it's shitty."

"Never mind," Bee said, rolling the meat between her hands. Something about Dez disappointed her, though she wasn't sure what. "You want to know what this is, or not?"

The tree made a loud shriek. Dez jerked his head. To him it sounded as if an electric guitar string had been cut with a pair of nail clippers. Bee was oblivious. The crows flew away. "I'm waiting," he said.

"In American Anthropologist I read about mountain witches in South America who use meat prepared this way as part of a magic hex. The rules are you must take the piece of meat off the plate of the unlucky person; and when it's preserved like this, you must slip it in their pocket. The thread holds in the magic."

"Oh. So why's this person unlucky?"

"Because, dodo, it kills them."

"You've made a death charm?"

"I suppose so. The unexplained has always been an interest of mine. And I thought, finally I'm old enough to look into it, as a hobby, of course."

His head burrowed into her belly. "Is that how you met me, using magic?"

"It must be," she said, outlining his second vertebra with the meat.

The sliding glass door screeched open. Charlie was home. Bee gasped. Dez, not sure if something was wrong or not, glanced at the escape hatch in the floor, and the rope ladder leading to the ground. He cupped her rump; using just the right amount of force, he guided her onto her belly. Beside her he laid in wait for something to happen. Finally, he parted the ivy and looked out. Bee snuggled closer to him, nuzzled his shoulder, chewed on his hair. She had to pee and feared she couldn't hold it. Dez scanned the backyard for signs of Charlie. He spotted him standing over the pit wearing a white diaper, sucking on a pacifier.

"What the hell?" Dez whispered in disbelief.

"Is he all right?" She was alarmed. "Should I look?"

"He's wearing nothing but a diaper...he's got a baby toy stuck in his mouth. You want to see that?"

"Oh lord...I've seen it before." She lodged her head under Dez's sweaty armpit. "He did this last Christmas. It goes back to the trauma, I think." She squeezed the preserved meat in her hand. "Traumas can ruin your life."

Under the weight of Dez, and the painful pressure on her bladder, Bee felt serene.

From their hidden lair, Dez watched Charlie traverse the back of the house, arms crossed, checking the eaves for signs of termites. After a couple of minutes, Charlie turned his back to the house and opened his diaper. Facing the elm, his head sinking backward, he filled the bird bath with pee.

Charlie was tall, around six two, pale and skinny. Anger strained his mild-mannered face and collapsed his fragile chest. His thick hair was real, but looked like a toupee. He wore it in the dapper style typical of city hall men, neatly parted to the left and dyed medium blond.

Charlie huffed around the pit kicking bags of cement like a bratty child. He was sick and tired of waiting for his protection chamber. Sleep was impossible. Down at city hall, gory daydreams clouded his mind. His lower back ached and his kidneys felt strange.

Under the kitchen window he drank warm water from the hose. It was his mother, always two steps behind, he was fed up with. But without her, where would he be? No, what he was really fed up with, utterly disgusted by, was the ongoing invasion of Flogger Heights by sly, greedy Chinese immigrants.

Charlie strolled back to the pit, sat in the grass between the rosebushes, and dangled his legs over the edge. At the count of three he jumped in. Lying in the mud, staring at big white clouds, he tried to imagine the cement and steel that would soon cover him.



About the Author

Greg Chandler recently completed his first novel, Bee's Tree, born from a short story that appeared in WAG. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and holds an MFA from Columbia University. His stories have been published in WAG, The Barcelona Review, Christopher Street and Southern Ocean Review, among others. He also wrote Soda Pop, a short film that's been screened at over fifty film festivals on five continents. He lives in Pasadena, California.


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