the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Execution of the Sun"
Among the Jellyfish"
of the Manfestation"
Cake and Double Talk"
shed, set in a secluded grove of fig and mayhaw trees,
had been rained on every night for two weeks straight,
until, finally, some of the sandbags he'd placed around
his little house split open, and a muddy stew of rotten
fruit, tree branches, and dead gophers, seeped under the
Marker, doer of odd jobs, lay on his
cot nine inches above the mud, too tired from work to
reach out the window for a fig. Caressing the moss on
the aluminum wall, he noticed a sulfurous stench had wafted
in, an odor he found both repulsive and enticing. After
awhile, he rolled onto his side and saw the dirt floor
had gone to mud, and worms, many over a foot long, were
erupting from it. A closer look, with candle in hand,
revealed toe-biters, beetles, leather-wings, and roaches
battling for the dry spot at the center of the room.
Marker watched the spectacle for over
an hour, until random gunfire and garbled walkie-talkies
roused him—a pack of hooting RamCo security guards
on their way to the night shift at the furfural plant.
Rumored to be former mercenaries, as well as skillful
torturers, Marker hoped they never came knocking at his
door. Hugging his pillow to his chest, he blew out the
candle and rolled against the wall.
The guards moved on. He sat up and looked
around. The mud had stopped flowing, the insects had dispersed.
Listening to a toad croak, concentrating on it, eased
his mind. The toad, pulsating on top of a book on the
night stand, was brownish green with an orange spot in
the center of its back. Marker petted its head. Suddenly
he was very thirsty. A moth sputtered in his drinking
water; he picked it out and drank from the jug.
Marker spent his free time making pen
and ink drawings of animals and insects which he stuck
to the walls and ceiling with rubber cement. In one drawing,
a stampede of slugs on camelback crushed haloed rats.
In another, ax-wielding cardinals baptized June bugs in
boiling lava. On the ceiling, worms with heavy human genitalia
soared upward on Judgment Day.
A childhood song popped into his mind,
something about an orange peddler, and he tapped the melody
on his sweaty belly. It was a silly song, he recalled,
but the words wouldn't come.
He set the toad under his cot and picked
up the book. He'd discovered the book, Bats in Your
World, propped against a trash incinerator in a vacant
lot in town, as he walked home from Zulchy's Wig Shop
earlier that night. A much needed surprise after ten hours
of painting, and repainting, a Christmas mural on Zulchy's
front window (although it was only September 3, all the
shopkeepers were starting the season early to help business).
Thumbing through its mildewed pages, a drawing started
to form in his mind.
Written by Dr. H. Lloyd Humphrey, a
professor of Chiroptological Research and Exploitation
at RNET-CO University, the heavy opus covered bat morphology,
physiology, ethology, and the crucial role bats were soon
to play in the State's economic and military affairs,
due to their sophisticated radars.
Marker opened the book to a photo of
a bat giving birth, and set it at the foot of his cot.
On a soggy piece of cardboard he drew a leafless oak tree
with rings of bats flying around it, and titled it "The
next morning, after shoveling mud and dead creatures into
the woods, he found a note glued to his aluminum door.
Marker Earns, your presence is requested by the Mayor
at the pond underneath the roller coaster at the Good
Times Park at 9 o'clock in the morning, today. The Council
will deliver payment at the usual payment rate upon completion
of the task. The Council.
Standing before a small mirror on the
inside of the door, Marker dipped his comb into a jar
of orange blossom water, slicked his lobe-length black
hair behind his ears, and wiped a green smirch off the
bridge of his nose. "A fine Roman nose," his
mother used to say, "like Hadrian, one of the five
At a few minutes past eight he set out
for the Good Times Park. He snaked through the forest
of oracle oaks following the usual route to town, passing
the furfural plant and its workers' quarters, the RamCo
silo, and alongside the creek, until the creek disappeared
into a culvert at the beginning of the two-lane road everyone
On the corner across from Zulchy's Wig
Shop, he stopped to inspect his mural, and to see what
was happening in the heart of town. Miss Zulchy was inside
her shop on a ladder hanging garlands. She was the only
person in sight, since most residents either worked computers
all day in office buildings, or sat in recliners at home.
A few of the better hewn worked at the State compound
on the edge of the woods.
As Marker started across Aorta, the
Shazer Christmas Cottage pick-up truck came skidding around
the corner, its passenger side a foot off the road. Marker
jumped onto the curb. "Stupid fool!" he shouted,
shaking his fist, "crazy Christmas idiot!" On
top of the truck's cab, the Shazer's notorious eight-foot
Santa Claus swayed like a stop sign in a hurricane, its
rusty springs screeching, scratching, drowning out a mumbling
voice box: mer-mer-mer istma-istma-istma. In the truck
bed, a fake Christmas tree—the lone green among
several red—toppled over, rolled to the edge, almost
fell out, and rolled back.
Marker followed the street for several
blocks until he reached the hovel that had once housed
the library; here, in the forgotten part of town, he turned
left. A few minutes later, standing on craggy sidewalk
in the long, morning shadow of the loop-the-loop roller
coaster, he remembered good times had as a boy with his
mother at the Good Times Park; the long Saturdays spent
languid in the grass with sandwiches and fruit, fabricating
outrageous private lives for the dull amusement-seekers.
People stared and snickered at Marker and his mother,
for she always tried to shock, to provoke, like the time
she drooled cotton candy onto her fingertips and smeared
the pink goo on Marker's lips, inserting her fingers into
Just then, longing for his dead mother,
Daisy Smithey swerved her bicycle into the middle of the
road as Mrs. Bola Shazer, wife to Mr. Jesus Shazer, who'd
been driving the Christmas truck, sped past in an unadorned,
electric subcompact, missing Daisy Smithey by an inch.
Daisy screamed, and with an expression of abject horror
on her face, pointed a rigid finger at Mrs. Shazer's car.
Daisy's wispy auburn hair fell back exposing her ears—unusually
round, and unusually pink, like folds extending from her
brain. The rumor was that at a tender age, sunlight could
beam through one ear and out the other, until young Daisy
was taken away for an expensive operation.
Daisy spotted Marker on the sidewalk
and dashed off like a rabbit, much to his disappointment.
The revolution of her green rain boots pedaling down the
road mesmerized him. He wanted to meet her, to know her,
but she was always busy with civic affairs, not to mention
her importance in the community. Daisy was powerful, yet
unpopular with the locals.
Recently, the mayor divulged to Citizen
Watch, a column in the newspaper, that "Miss Smithey,
proprietress of the Sewing Hut and treasurer of the Curtain
Club, often telephones members of the Standards Committee,
of which she serves as presiding officer, threatening
them with acts of violence, such as torture, if they don't
vote her way."
Was Daisy afraid of him? he wondered.
Had she heard stories about his mother that left a bad
taste in her mouth? Did she know that his mother had ran
off never to return, leaving twelve year old Marker to
fend for himself on the streets and in the forest?
noticed a small vehicle coming towards him from the park's
interior. It had oversized wheels and was open like a
golf cart. The driver stopped on the opposite side of
the pond, stepped out, and waved his fist in the air.
Marker walked over to him.
"You the pump boy?" the man,
who looked to be about Marker's age, shouted.
"Council hired you to get all that
shitty water outta there."
"Oh, I didn't know what they wanted
me for." Marker shaded his eyes to get a better look
at the guy. He stood taller than Marker, at least six
foot, and was prematurely bald with only a few orangish
tufts left over the ears. His yellowish-white jowls drooped,
giving him a waxy appearance. "Is there a generator?
The man pointed over his shoulder. "See
that big pile of shitty trash all different colors?"
"That's the snack shack. Behind
there you'll find a hose and a generator. Drag the hose
out to the middle of the pond and wait till the water's
all down the sewer."
"Okay, I can handle that no problem.
By the way, when's the coaster coming down?"
"I'm demolishing it tomorrow. I'm
in charge of the whole operation."
"Well, I think it's a big mistake..
They should open this place back up again."
"You nuts? This is gonna be a big
fuckin' biolab. So unless you got something wrong with
you, you better get to work."
Marker snickered and walked away.
The man got in his buzzing machine and
drove into the street.
Alone, Marker stripped to his shorts,
tossing his sweaty clothes over a pile of disemboweled
fuse boxes on the pond's slimy banks. He scanned the once
festive grounds and saw amusement debris in every shape
and color. Cotton candy drums piled up like pyramids.
The Ferris wheel lying on it's side, crushing several
trees. Marker was sad to see the park in ruin, if only
to know the ruins would disappear too, leaving no reminders,
no memories of the past.
Behind the brightly painted remains
of the snack shack he found the hose. He took hold of
its weighty steel lip and lugged it out to the center
of the pond, and in the shadow of the loop-the-loop, plunged
it underwater. The water gurgled and purled, loudly at
first, then softly, as a powerful foot-wide whirlpool
took shape. It consumed leaves, twigs, dragonflies, and
baby snakes. Once the hose felt secure, he waded to shore
through algae-thick water and swarms of flies.
Three hours later, asleep on a scrap
of drywall in the noontime sun, he awoke to a terrible
sting on his scrotum, sprang to his feet, and yanked down
his shorts. Between the folds of hairy skin, he found
a mosquito and crushed it between his fingers. Examining
the mess, he saw the blood that had been sucked out of
him. This made him think about sex. Already naked, he
dropped to his knees in the remaining two inches of pond
water and splashed funky chemicals and warm greasy scum
all over his body.
After pleasuring himself, he put on
his shorts and squatted on shore. Several feet away, a
crow pecked at some unidentifiable carrion. Dogs growled
in the distance. And an image came to him, that of his
mother in prison camp, her face waffled against a chain
link fence. She told of a city in a cave one mile underground,
where people slept all day in big heaps on carpet remnants
and scavenged all night for insects and bats. This image,
the only time he saw her after she ran off, always filled
him with anger and hatred, toward her captors, her oppressors,
and her. Before the anger had a chance to set in, he saw
the last drops of pond sludge shimmy up the hose. "Work's
After lugging the hose back to shore,
Marker returned to the center of the pond where one of
his sandals had gotten stuck in the mud. Bending to retrieve
it from the gunk, he noticed that a set
of teeth had grabbed onto it. He jumped. On closer inspection
he realized the teeth were false, they were dentures.
He polished the teeth with his shorts until the moss and
mud gave way to a grayish-white glow. He fondled them,
pondering their origin. Was this odd find a missing link
of some sort, or had they sprung from the screaming mouth
of someone looping the loop?
Despite unbearable heat and humidity,
sore muscles, encroaching wild dogs, Marker forced himself
to search the area for more teeth. Maybe they were worth
something. Using his sandal for a shovel it didn't take
long to unearth a loot stranger than dentures—wigs.
Matted, caked with mud, flecked with shimmering fish scales,
he found four long blondes and two short curly grays.
Then more teeth, eleven sets in all. He felt as if he
had discovered a secret passageway to another world, the
intimate detritus of those who came before, the real treasures
of the past. It was amazing, he thought, that all these
fake parts, worn by people he may have known, people he
probably disliked, should wind up in the mud under the
He dug faster, deeper, until he saw
something glimmer like a jewel. He'd found a glass eye;
an entire nest of them, thirteen to be exact. Sky blue,
cobalt, hazel, gray, each as cold and clear as if they
had just lopped out of a socket.
He carried the wigs, eyes, and teeth
to shore and lined them up. They made such an uncanny
display that he knew he had to assemble them into works
of art. Flattering busts of the mayor and his cronies,
the Town Council, seemed the appropriate thing to do,
considering his low standing in the community. And the
eyes would surely lend the kind of realism leaders admire.
At home he had scissors and paint and the ingredients
for papier-mache. Selling them would be easy, for he was
well aware of the Council's vanity.
Marker gathered his exhumations into
a plastic bag and started for home. On the sidewalk he
paused for a final look at the Good Times Park. For a
moment he thought he might cry, then reminded himself
of the art project he had to get to, and hurried on his
The streets were silent. He detoured
past the steps of the Council Building hoping to glimpse
an important face—it had been so long since he'd
seen one up-close—but the place was deserted. At
the Food Window at the rear of the food processing plant
he stopped to buy a turkey leg from Penny, a retarded
teen, to eat as he walked.
When he got home he thoroughly soaped
and scrubbed the parts. Delicately combing his fingers
through the longest blond wig, he pictured his mother
stirring soup, patching a hole in her bicycle tire, clipping
his toenails. As horseflies dodged his face, he could
almost hear her laugh at the pond's gruesome gifts.
Marker eased his sore back against the
warm exterior of his shed. Between his muscular legs he
held a plastic bucket of water, wood shavings, and glue.
After whipping the rancid smelling concoction with a thick
branch, he was ready to sculpt. Indoors, he made a workspace
by covering the floor with cardboard, and with only dim
memories to guide him, began to manipulate shredded newspaper
and gooey papier-mache into five individual busts.
On top of the mayor's head he glued
the long blond wig, cutting the hair just so, until only
a few sprigs remained. The mayor's ski slope nose, weak
chin, bulbous Adam's apple, it was all there. And Mr.
McCone, with his messy gray hair, hazel eyes, flat nose
and thin lips, looked on the verge of making one of his
cruel rulings. To recreate Mr. Zulchy's hair color he
had to work late into the night. Once the hair was the
proper shade of drab, he secured a set of dentures in
the mouth, then knocked out the three upper front teeth
with a ball peen hammer. Mr. Henty and Mr. Creab were
easy, both had anonymous, expressionless faces.
At four in the morning, he finished
the sculptures and set them on the stove to dry. Unable
to sleep, he wrestled with his pillow, until he felt the
stare of the Council. Mayor Heenwiss, the others, looked
so lifelike, chills ran up and down his body
spent the next three days on a rope hoisting himself up
and down the RamCo silo, whitewashing it for mediocre
pay. When the job was done, he went home and wrapped each
one of the sculptures in a towel, loaded them into a wheelbarrow,
and headed for the Council Building. The mayor's secretary,
a young woman bitter beyond her years, led him to a small
waiting room. Gnawing on her fingernails, hissing under
her breath, she ordered him to leave the wheelbarrow in
the hall. He sat on an uncomfortable, high-back dinette
chair facing a wall of framed photos of mayors and council
members past and present, ugly men hugging the city's
key to their chests and snipping ribbons with gardening
After a two hour wait, Marker was finally
called into Mayor Heenwiss's office. The mayor sat behind
his desk. Marker sat on a vinyl sofa alongside a cinder
"Now what is it you want to see
me about? I'm very busy what with the new biolab and all
the other hub-bub. My secretary tells me you did some
work on the site."
"Yes," Marker replied, "I
did. But what I came about today is a different matter,
Incessantly, the mayor ignited his clown
face desk lighter and pushed the buttons on his phone.
"I've brought you something. I've
brought something for everyone on the council."
The mayor lit a piece of paper on fire,
wafted it about, then crinkled it in his hand, letting
the ashes fall to the floor. "A gift?"
"Sort of. You see, what I've done
is sculpt you. I've sculpted all of you."
"Yes. I do drawings most of the
time. I can copy you, anyone—"
"Really?" The mayor was somewhat
alarmed. "I should know about this."
"I don't have any drawings with
me, but I have sculptures...you know, 3-D. They're here,
out in the hall, and I was hoping you'd look at them.
If you like what you see, maybe the council could give
me a donation...I do odd jobs."
"It's not my fault you do odd jobs.
No one has to do odd jobs if they don't want to."
"I'm not complaining, I just want
you to see what I've made."
"Okay, let's take a look."
The mayor followed Marker out to the
hallway where the secretary had already uncovered the
"Oh dear God, E.H., these things
are really yucky. Disgusting. What are they?" she
The mayor, looking quite perplexed,
inspected Marker's work. "This boy says they're sculptures
of me and the Council. Hmm, they look pretty nice, I suppose.
I dunno. I sort of like them. You don't, Nella?"
"I don't know. If you do, I suppose
they're all right. But...don't you think they're scary
"Mayor, sir, I put a lot of time
and effort into these, into making them very realistic
to please you." Perspiration beaded on Marker's brow.
"Don't you like them?"
"I can't make a decision either
way. But I can say they're mighty accurate representations
of me and the boys." The mayor blithely dabbed the
nose of his likeness. "Look here, Nella, it's me,
it's definitely me. And Rory and Al and Fred and Stan.
I bet they'd get a kick out of these. But Nella, you're
the woman, you're supposed to know about this stuff."
"Cripes, E.H.. They look like something
the cat dragged in from the graveyard. They're putrid."
"Really?" The mayor was silent
for a moment. "I do trust your judgment Nella,"
he said, massaging the back of Marker's tense neck. "I'm
starting to surmise a problem. Nella's right, there's
something, I can't put my finger on it, unflattering and
sacrilegious about these things. Now excuse me for a moment
while I have a private meeting with my secretary. Don't
you move, friend."
Marker pounded his right thigh with
his fist, and shut his eyes as tightly as he could till
he saw stars and planets swimming in the blackness.
"Eh, Marker," the mayor called
out, "you run on home and we'll contact you at a
"But my sculptures?"
"Leave them with us. Like I said,
we'll contact you later."
Marker's face was on fire as Nella led
him down the hall. "You're not too bright, are you?"
she said. He didn't respond. Stepping through the final
doorway, he turned, looked her straight in the eye, and
without hesitation, spat on her shoes. She smiled and
kicked him in the shin. He ran off, knowing trouble would
the next morning, Marker's freedom came to an end when
security men busted down his door, tore off his sheet,
and hogtied him with plastic chains. Before the chains
were secure, he elbowed one of them in the testicles while
growling like a rabid dog. They tried to suffocate him
by pinching his nostrils and covering his mouth. A finger
slipped inside his mouth and he bit it to the bone. Warm
blood filled his mouth. Then a metal rod touched his bare
shoulder, electrocuting him into unconsciousness.
The security men locked him in a cell
under the Security Building and told him to prepare a
written statement. The sculptures are to honor the council,
not to disgrace them, was all he wrote.
Weeks passed. His only contact the guard
who slid food under the steel door. At ten AM and six
PM, heavy footfalls preceded a brown hand with fleshy
fingers that snapped for Marker's attention. The meals
never differed—crackers, a square of sweaty orange
cheese, a paper cup filled with bitter vitamin tea—but
the gifts did. Marbles, fool's gold, seed pods, snail
shells, gumballs. Marker always thanked him and tried
to engage in conversation, but the guard was silent. Although
their relationship was nonverbal, at least on the guard's
side, they developed an intimate, physical bond. Through
the three inch space at the bottom of the door, they clutched
hands, massaged knuckles and palms, and caressed each
After a month of waiting, they took
him before the Town Council and Standards Committee. Of
the guards who escorted him, none had brown hands with
fleshy fingers, a bad omen for sure. In a hot, windowless
room, Marker sat handcuffed on the floor, as the members
glared at him from a single row of folding chairs against
the back wall. In the center of the all-white room, between
Marker and his accusers, were the sculptures. Imprisonment
had made him forget the eyes, teeth, and wigs he'd fashioned
into the Town Council, but there they were, the reason
he was arrested in the first place, and he couldn't have
been more proud.
Daisy Smithey, presiding officer of
the Standards Committee, looking quite unlike the woman
Marker was used to seeing, wore a long plaid dress over
her bony frame, and her hair in an elegant bun. She commenced
the trial by asking each Council member to express his
opinion of the sculptures.
The mayor spoke first. "I was appalled
when the boy brought them to my office. I was sure it
was a prank, maybe something one of the Council had cooked
up. I was wrong. I think this is called slander. That's
it, Miss Smithey, I feel slandered. I think the person
responsible for this degenerate stuff should spend a good
while locked away. Imagine if everybody started to make
this kind of stuff."
The Council members repeated verbatim
the mayor's statement. Daisy called a recess; everyone
left the room but Marker. When they reappeared, Daisy
went to Marker's sculptures, fondled the hair, rubbed
the faces. "Mayor, Council and committee members,
I believe Marker Earns has been wrongly accused."
Daisy's sideways glances and breathy
voice were comforting to Marker. He felt great relief,
and utter surprise, knowing she was trying to save him.
"His attempt at art is unmistakably
bad, yet it's obvious he tried to make these in your likeness.
All along we've thought that something subversive was
in our midst, perhaps a maker of effigies, or an inciter
of revolutions. Having gone over the accused's history,
I find him to be subversive only in that he's reclusive
and strange; these are not crimes. Therefore, how can
we conclude that there's anything more to his sculptures
than what we see? And what we see is simply what's here,
and, I can assure you, nothing more."
Now it was clear to Marker what made
Daisy special, her nerve, her audacity, her courage to
"Miss Smithey," the mayor
growled, "are you the only person in this room who's
forgotten that this boy's mother was a terrorist?"
"Miss Earns paid for her criminal
activities with her life," Daisy proclaimed, staring
into Marker's eyes. "That is an entirely different
matter. Furthermore, Marker was only twelve years old
when his mother joined the Glowing Path. She has nothing
to do with this hearing."
"I'm worried, Miss Smithey, very
worried this boy is trying to avenge—"
"Avenge nothing! Marker Earns wanted
to make a little extra money. He wanted to honor the Council.
Is that a crime? Certainly not. And Marker Earns is certainly
not a criminal. He should be released at once."
After another recess, the mayor began,
"I'm not entirely convinced of this boy's innocence,
and that troubles the hell out of me. I want to believe
anarchistic uprisings are a thing of the past. I want
to believe Marker Earns has nothing up his sleeve, and,
Miss Smithey, I hope I'm right. But the Council and I
have decided that, for now, we don't have a strong enough
case against the accused to continue. But don't think
for a minute, Miss Smithey, that we won't be making up
some new laws."
The mayor left the room, the Council
followed, and Daisy handed Marker a glass of water. As
he drank, he tried to formulate the best words to express
his gratitude, but before he could say anything, she was
That evening, while Marker was safe
in his shed, hundreds of citizens assembled in front of
the Security Building to watch the mayor douse the sculptures
with gasoline and set them on fire. It was the closest
thing to a festival anyone had seen in years, and a first
for many young people.
Marker resumed his quiet life of odd
jobs and drawing. All was routine until one morning he
found a note under his door that read: Mr. Earns, please
meet me at the oracle oaks tonight after the rains. Cordially,
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,