Please Pretend to Ignore The Sweat Beneath His Sleeves

By Samuel Porter,2014-06-17 05:40
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Please Pretend to Ignore The Sweat Beneath His Sleeves ...

    Please Pretend To

    Ignore The


    Beneath His


     ?2007 Gabriel Kalmuss-Katz.

“wishes and prayers are the way we leave the lonely alone and push the wounded away”

    -John K Samson.

“Right now I‟m trying to write a story about a 10 year old vampire who is trying to get

    over…being a vampire so he can be a normal 10 year old kid. I‟ve written four

    introductions, eaten too many peanuts while doing so, and thought it might be an easier

    story to write while drunk. We‟ll see what happens .”

     -Letter to Esther Ruth Martin (18/2/07)

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    th, 2002) 1: a failure that worked. (8 PM, May 8

    Hey Milton,

     I don‟t kno how to tell youu this, but I need your help, and your the only one who can. Remember when I said I had a secret, well Ill tell you what it is. And this isnt a

    joke or any thing. Sometimes my head just feels like I‟m going to die, it like someones screaming from inside, and I cant say when it will happen, or why, or anything. It just

    does. And the only thing that helps is to drink blood. Im serious. Its the only thing that

    helps them go away. my mom found out, and im scared about what she‟s going too do.

    Theres this place in Vancouver, and I kno you said it wasn‟t close to you, but I really

    need your help. Theres this place in Vancouver that says they can help people like me. I

    dunno how im gonna get there, but I need your help. Your from Canada- could you help

    me get in? its supposed to be close to the border, I think. I need to do it in like 1 night or

    maybe 2 max, because I don‟t want my my mom to get too worried. Im comingg to seattle which is pretty close in about a month, and if u wanted to meet me there, thatd be

    really hgood. I hope u can help me.



    ps- I told u mine, whats your secret?

    th2: Like I said, secrets never stay. (mid afternoon, March 11, 2002)

    It was not the kind of day during which a ten year old boy should be discovered

    lapping small puddles of uncongealed squirrel blood (or, really, any kind of blood) off a

    copy yesterday‟s Asheville Citizen Times (or any newspaper at all). If a child, much less

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a ten year old, must be discovered performing such an act, it demands the drama of the

    eye of a tornado in Kansas with windows on the verge of surrender, overpowering a

    mother‟s screams. It belongs in a lightning storm on the outskirts of Tampa, a suburb

    with too much asphalt for those same screams to be muffled, and the next morning the

    woman who lives one flight down would ask about the noise, wondering halfheartedly

    whether everyone was alright, while logging the incident down for future complaints to

    their landlord.

    The day it happened was a half day, straddled by standardized tests and no bagged

    lunch or early bus service. It was a day when, in parents‟ minds, wandering from staring

    at phone numbers in a rolodex or the thin borders of a spreadsheet, their children are out

    playing hopscotch, blowing sugarsmoke out of candy cigarettes, and ripping their jeans in

    15 different mid-spring activities. The kids, of course, were not that lucky. They were

    all sitting in their school‟s gymnasium, being shushed by overwhelmed teachers, waiting

    for their 3:15 busses to come. The bus drivers couldn‟t be expected to change their

    schedules for the whim of standardized testmakers, now could they?

     Clam lived not four houses down from the school, and he knew he needed the

    afternoon alone. He knew his mom would think it a fight worth fighting, so he got her to

    write a note to the principle saying it was ridiculous to keep a child cooped up in the gym

    for 3 extra hours when he walked home from school every other day. The note continued,

    in handwriting that suggested a power greater than legibility, if the principal had further

    issues, he could call her at her university office, but not from 9-10:45. She was lecturing

    then. Even at 10 years of age, Clam knew that his mother was proud of her current

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position in the world, which included her only child, and, almost as importantly, her

    tenure track position at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

    Clam couldn‟t remember much about the years where he had been dropped from state to state, each possessing their own lunchroom customs and local schoolyard name-

    callings. From New York he could recall both a big abstract painting, purple that

    somehow dripped into blue without hesitation, by an artist whose name he couldn‟t

    pronounce, and digging holes in the little green yard below his 25 story apartment

    building, surrounded by a thick brick wall with gates that locked with each closure. From

    Bloomington he remember lawns that never turned green, the sensation of sticking his

    hands into boxes of cheap glass beads, and a trash compactor that appeared once or twice

    in his nightmares. From Anchorage, where he had only spent one year, he could

    remember being scared by the sunlight for the first time, a deadly car crash that had

    almost happened, and how he felt like he couldn‟t hide his secrets well enough. And then came Asheville, from which he was storing away (unaware that this, this was the one

    where he would advance from To Kill a Mockingbird to driving around stoned after

    junior prom) the jam his mother would buy without labels, the way their house never had

    enough closets and so pictures that were formerly sacred were faded from beating of a

    mild sun, and finally the backyard, filled with enough plant life that no one could see him

    walking around, stealing his mother‟s trowel, and digging up the grass.

    Clam left school that day with things on his mind. Mark Sailor‟s birthday was

    coming up. Last year Mark had given Clam his old Game Gear after Mark had

    discovered his parents had bought Clam a talking R2D2 robot. Mark had concluded

    Clam was unworthy of such a cool toy, and that he probably wasn‟t the type to raise a

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fuss anyway. Clam wasn‟t really plotting revenge, but certainly wanted to teach Mark a

    lesson. He would normally ask his mother to help him with projects like this, but, being

    ten years old now, he thought it time he start making up his own plans. He thought about

    this as he walked out the doors of his school, which slammed behind him pushing a last

    measure of air saturated with broken penciltips and ziplocked sandwhiches onto his back.

    The doors had slammed shut with the same anger and cruelty every day since Clam

    started attending the school two years prior, but Clam still jumped and ran as he heard the

    clank and felt the cold air on the exposed skin of his neck.

    Clam thought, as he opened his house‟s always unlocked door, that he might write

    Mark Sailor a really nice letter about what a nice kid he was and how he always let others

    beat him in four square even though he was the best player, and then keep the present his

    mother had bought Mark for the occasion. He could not savor this thought, because just

    as he threw his bloated brickweight backpack onto the floor, an unwelcome, prolonged

    shrieking entered his head for the first time in 3 month. Clam almost thought he was over

    it, that it would never come back, but it had come back and it was like someone was

    scraping his brain against the bones it rested on, or like he could hear the sound that fish

    make when they die underwater. “STOP.Clam screamed to no one in particular. “I‟m done. I donwanna do it again.” But, like every other time it had happened, there was only

    one thing that could bring silence to Clam‟s mind, and he hated himself for giving in again. He tried one last defense- to throw himself onto the couch and cover his head in

    pillows, but that only made the noise louder. He kept his head buried there, slamming it

    with as much force as he could against the pillows and the secondhand sofa‟s rigid back.

    He cried and tried to make his own voice louder than the noise in his head, but he could

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not even accomplish that. It was like lying under a train that carrying a slaughterhouse

    on its cars.

    Finally Clam gave in. He knew, from the start that he had no fight or choise and

    ran to the backyard, right up to where he had coiled the water hose. He couldn‟t find the

    shovel, but that didn‟t matter. He began to dig ravenously with his small hands, getting dirt wedged deep under nails and even cutting his left ringfinger on a small rock. 20

    minutes and about a foot down, Clam found a ziplock bag, which contained a

    Tupperware which he had marked, in case of discovery, “property of Clam. Do not

    touch.” He cried once more, louder than he knew he should in public, at what he was

    about to do, and lay down for a brief moment on his back, his noise getting lost in

    Asheville‟s eternally light blue spring sky.

    He quieted himself and brought the bag inside to the kitchen. He opened it after

    laying down old newspaper (he knew at this point that bloodstains, even those from

    congealed blood, were hard to clean up, no matter what surface they appeared on), and

    didn‟t hear the front door open, didn‟t look hear his mom leafing through the mail that

    had arrived (the postman had heard Clam‟s scream and wondered halfheatedly if everyone was alright), didn‟t see the way her eyes opened wider than eyes normally

    should, when she walked into the kitchen and immediately knew her son wasn‟t playing

    with red paint.

3: A few hours before she found out, Clam’s mother had made herself a list and put thit on the fridge (8 PM, March 11, 2002)

     The first thing on it was “call the plumber” because their toilet upstairs hadn‟t worked for weeks. That night, both mother and son forgot, and Clam‟s mother stared at

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    the soiled basin without water and wasn‟t able to focus on how this had happened. Clam‟s mother went back to her room and tried to grade essays but couldn‟t even underline steadily. Clam was trying to read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH for school,

    but his thoughts and undeveloped plans distracted him. At 12:15, when he was sure his

    mother had gone to bed, Clam went back down to the kitchen and took his Tupperware

    from behind the cleaning supplies under the sink. He tried to convince himself that he

    should throw it out, that this didn‟t need to be part of his life. That he was bigger than

    this at 10 years old. He held the container over the metal basin, still filled with that day‟s

    breakfast (neither of them had eaten dinner), and concluded that at least now, he couldn‟t

    do it, that some day he‟d be ready, but right now he wasn‟t. He snuck out to the yard

    where he buried the container back by the garden hose. The firstborn crickets and

    cicadas of the year were trying out their voices and sounded groggy and unsure, and the

    automatic sprinkler system had sprayed the yard‟s grass with a premature morning dew.

    When Clam finished he looked back towards the house and realized there was still light

    coming from his mother‟s window.

    thth- 11, 1996) 4: How he found out. (September 8

     In northern Westchester County, a 25 minute Metro North ride from New York

    City, there is an office building which has 6 stories. The first two floors of this building

    are the offices of a law firm that advertises its accident and malpractice prosecution with

    poorly acted commercials aired during the Price is Right, and requires its lawyers (it has

    many) to work Saturdays and attend at least 3 games of the company sponsored little

    league team. When Clam and his mother had first come to the building, they had

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accidentally arrived on the second of these floors, and the first wave of sound (mostly a

    constant sputtering of electronic phone ringing) sent the then-4-year-old Clam into

    hysterics, and sent mother rushing with her hand over Clam‟s mouth back towards the elevator.

    Clam largely blocked out memories of the building, the elevator, the far too large

    parking lot, scattered with aged family sedans, and also of what happened in this building

    for the next four days. They had come because Clam‟s mother was prone to getting migraines, but she had never seen anyone act so violent or so pained by pressure in their

    skull. She had never seen headaches that make children of 38 months break glass and

    then step their unpadded feet on it. She had never heard of children having headaches so

    bad they get rejected from daycare.

    Clam was left in the care of a doctor with oily hands, who was trying to grow

    facial hair to look more professional. He had gotten hired at this relatively prestigious

    clinic based on his the school that had given him his medical degree. Clam‟s mother

    could not stay all day. She had a class she could not miss, but it was also her son‟s screams which drove her away. To her it sounded like her son was petrified of breathing.

    It was unnerving and unrelenting and so her love for her son was, for the moment overrun

    by her need for silence. She needed to remember what an average day was. Last week

    she had shouted at a homeless woman who had asked her for change and she was 3

    rdweeks late turning back her classes paper‟s on the limitations of 3 wave feminist theory when applied to Petrarch‟s love sonnets.

    Clam‟s doctor spent the first day leaving the preliminary interview to curse the

    limited vocabulary of four year olds. He made notes on a tape recorder about this child‟s

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inability to sit still or stop screaming when an inspection of the inner ear was attempted.

    There were rips in Clam‟s red shirt, adorned with a surfing Eskimo and 2 different food

    stains, and the doctor would use these, along with the scars on his feet, to consider calling

    child services on Clam‟s mother. The doctor would, from his windowless office, make notes in Clam‟s file on “the child‟s endless fidgeting” and assume attention deficit

    hyperactivity disorder. On the second day no further progress would be made.

     It was not until two full days of observation, the exhaustion of every possible x-

    ray and blood test the facility had to offer (they had run out of cartoon bandaids for the

    track marks on Clam‟s left arm; Clam was given gauze and an alcohol swab), ignored requests for calls to his mom (who could only visit him for about two hours each day;

    that was all the commute and her teaching schedule would allow), ignored requests for a

    working television, for an extra pillow, and finally, after a 13 year old next door

    requested a room change because Clams early morning whimpering had kept her awake, it was not until the third day that the doctor decided to have a second interview with


    Clam had finally fallen asleep after a painful night, when the doctor arrived with

    an overmilked cup of coffee, tape recorder and stuffed animal that smelled of detergent

    and 99 cent disinfectant. He asked Clam how he was feeling without realizing Clam was

    asleep. He repeated the question more loudly, and Clam stirred and eventually responded

    “ok, I guess.” The doctor asked if Clam was in any pain and Clam said “not now.” The

    doctor clicked a ballpoint pen in his pocket that would make a trail of blue dots soak

    through the white fabric. He asked Clam whether his mother had ever hurt him, wanting

    to wrap up what he was sure was a case of post abuse trauma, and Clam, incensed even at

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