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Scrap Paper Review
Issue #4
February 1996

Copyright ©1996, 1997 A.D. Sullivan
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Waiting to Fly
Alternate Universes
Lessons on a Warm Day
Fixing Bridges  (Life in Passaic)
The Lip
A.D.'s Journal

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Waiting to Fly

I was twenty-eight before I grew wings,

The buds forming under my shoulder blades just after my birthday, a strange itch at first, and then, a cancer-concern, turning to limbs I thought at first were spare arms.

Then I noticed these limbs had no hands or fingers, and when the first plumes appeared, I plucked them, hiding them under my bed for fear of people thinking I was crazy.

I could no longer sleep the way I had at night, finding this wing or that poking me as I tossed and turned. They, too, had a disturbing habit of falling into pins and needles.

I had dreams of perilous flight -- where I found myself leaping off bridge or mountain, hoping I could sustain flight.

I woke sweating, gripping the sides of the bed, the wings inches longer -- for they grew only at night.

During daylight hours, I found myself staying to safe places, never rising more than one floor per building, thinking if I could avoid temptation, I might reverse the trend.

To avoid attention, I used masking tape and later ACE bandages, folding the wings out of sight under suit and tie, though all too often my back bulged, the hunchback of Madison Avenue, bent over my desk with compliments and praise: This boy'll really take off some day, the bosses said.

I took to bed finally when the bandages and tapes burst and the wings fluttered free of all restraint, just them and me, together, and yet, apart, as if they were two new children born from me, but not of me, craving something I could not crave, drawing me to the roof where my neighbors gawked, where I fluttered once and fell -- the doctors asking me later why I wanted to die.

I tried to explain that it wasn't death I sought, but satisfaction for my newest members -- which, of course, the doctors could not see.

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Alternate Universes

Every day things happen that science can't explain. People call them coincidence. The more enlightened called them Synchronicity. More stubborn scientists ignore them and hope they go away. More precisely, they defy scientific method which has become the "correct" way of seeing the world. Science is simply the latest fad, replacing religion and magic. We live in the scientific age where "proof" and "answers" have replaced "faith" and "belief." It is unacceptable in our time to have questions which cannot be answered.

A few years ago, a friend's grandfather died as the result of a car accident on the New Jersey Parkway. Oddly enough, two years to the day, his grandfather on his mother's side died. In the same hospital. In the same hospital room. Of the same causes.

Freud and his followers shrug off such incidents, calling them Anniversary Complexes, implying that there is an unconscious compulsion for the second man to repeat the act of the first. There is historic evidence to support this. In one case, a man killed himself on a roadway where his father died, ten years later to the day.

Still, not all instances of this kind can be explained away. Like the three men hung in London in 1911 for the murder of Sir Demunch Berry. The hanging hill was called Greenbury Hill. The men hanged were Greene, Berry and Hill.

Carl Jung, who invented the concept of Synchronicity, broke away from Freud on this and other points. To understand his approach, however, one must understand the workings of modern science which believes for every "effect" there must be a "cause." The whole of Western Civilization rests on this single premise of science. Sir James Frazier put it more succinctly, saying one pulls a string and something happens. In his view, magic and religion pulled strings attached to nothing.

The itchy rash associated with poison ivy is caused by a resin that attached itself to clothing or skin when walking through the woods. Science says two people coming up with the rash means both touched the resin. For a long time, people believed one person gave it to another. But what if months later and miles apart, both came down with the rash? Science would look for a cause such as the resin lingering on both people's clothing from a walk in the woods the previous summer.

What science can't explain is why both people would touch their respective sets of summer clothing at the same time -- why the idea and memory of that summer moment happened to come into their heads during the middle of winter.

Synchronicity says that events such as these are connected outside the traditional structure of cause and effect. Why do two people, separated for years, suddenly meet after thinking about each other? Are they connected by a system of reality we do not recognize. If so, then science poorly describes what goes on in the world, since its rules are violated more than it will admit.

One should be careful about Jung since he is looking for a connection by which to maintain cause and effect. He says we all are attached to a central data bank called the "collective unconscious" from which we all draw memories. It is through this that Jung pulls his string, some of us believe the rules may not apply at all, that no one exactly pulls the string, and that a whole different logic lies behind the world, only partly explained by Science or Jung. What is it? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Lessons on a Warm Day

The slowing chatter of the moving leaves say the wind is dying, the sluggish season weaving through this bend like an old river collecting flies, I think of you, and your midnight ghosts dancing in the shadows, willow arms reaching for one last embrace. People whose faces shimmer in the passing water, shrouded with faded places, docks from which this old boat has set sail. You may never see them again, the prancing child that looks like you, running along the shore, waving to make you stop. The mother, father, lover, friends, all cold in memory's grave, each post stuck firmly into the muddy soil.

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Fixing Bridges
(Life in Passaic)

Jimmy was wrong.

They weren't finished by Valentine's Day. Broken slabs of concrete had sealed us onto the Isle of Dundee. While Manhattan had been a deal for the white man, this island cost them – European businessmen moving north from the Bay of Newark to seal a deal: Two hens a year for perpetuity. I suspect the price would still be enacted if Helmsley-Spear could find someone to pay it, or the town had not passed ordinances against barnyard critters within city limits.

That's what I mostly think about being trapped, stuck in the traffic jams in and out of here, and just how dependent we've become on these bridges. We don't think about them. We just travel back and forth like they weren't there. George Washington and countless farmers crossed this river with a little more care, taking it in the low water turn near Post's Ford upstream, or over the traditional spot where the Route 46 bridge was built. They had to think about the water.

But our bridge, over deeper water has been out for months—and from the look of the road crew months more before they'll call it safe again. We can walk from side to side, but not drive, and even Jimmy has ceased his persistent pestering for rides to Quik Chek knowing my answer will be tempered with curses about having to go all the way around. Perhaps he is in his third-floor-attic room casting spells upon the worker to make them hurry.

A friend who once worked on such crews told me about their habits, about how one summer when he and others were supposed to be up county painting lines down Kimberkermack Road, they were actually extorting money from some parking lot owner for painting his spaces in -- the friend made two grand that summer without anyone catching on.

But these fools seemed different, slower, less ambitious. They came every day and set to work, doing over some of the things done the day before, stopping often for coffee or meals or just to whistle at the cute blonde from the used-car place down the road. So it wasn't Valentine's day they finished by, nor St. Patrick’s Day, it was Mother's Day -- though none have officially declared it open.

If this is American efficiency, I say sell the damned island back to the indians!

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The Lip

The twisted lip brought it all back like a shot to the stomach, or a scab ripped off a wound that had never healed -- no blood, just pain, throbbing down into his bones.

I'm sorry, Dan, she'd said, her jagged smile outlined in fresh red, shimmering lipstick. She might have been sucking his blood as telling him good by. I just don't love you any more.

And right beside her, her twisted-lipped half-brother holding the door, clicking the car keys. Dan had always suspected something funny between those two.

Too close to be natural, the neighbors always said.

And now, he sat two stools down, the same pug nose, the same twisted lip.

``You got some nerve coming back here,'' Dan said, his fighting tone drawing up the startled gaze of the bartender.

It wasn't even Saturday night when Dan did his usual fist to face dance in the parking lot with whom ever would join him.

``Huh?'' the small man asked, glancing up from his drink, the scarred lip snarling with a puzzled smile. He seemed to think Dan was joking.

``You know what I'm talking about,'' Dan said.

``Hey, quit it!'' the bartender yelled. ``I'm in no mood for your shenanigans tonight.''

``But this is him, Bill,'' Dan said. ``This is the son of a bitch that took off with my Linda.''

Bill moaned and detached himself from the pretty blonde and reached beneath the bar for his pistol.

``Well, Mister? What do you have to say for yourself?'' Dan asked, eyeing the twisted lip again, feeling it all boil up inside him like it had for months after she'd gone -- no drink capable of quelling it then or now.

``Dan, don't!'' Bill shouted, unable to stop Dan's leap at the little man's throat, the thumbs digging into the Adam’s apple, choking it to death as if it was Linda.

The blast shook the room and Dan staggered back, blood streaming from his side as he stared at the smoking mouth of the pistol in Bill's unsteady hand.

``He tried to kill me?'' the little man said, words horse as he rubbed his throat.

``Damn it, Dan,'' Bill said, rushing around the bar, bending over the wounded Dan like an old comrade. ``I told you I didn't want no trouble.''

``But it's him, Bill,'' Dan said, blinking up at the small man whose face was largely lost to the lights. ``It was him this time, I swear it.''

``Yeah, I know,'' Bill said, mopping at the blood with his bar rag as he waved for someone to call the police. ``It always is.''

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A.D.'s Journal
  Kalico Coffee
      July 21, 1980

Heat and coffee kept me up last night. Ten cups of Kalico Kitchen brew bringing back those days of marathon sitting. For a long time, I stared up at the dark ceiling from my bed. Pauly's mood had shocked me, deviating from his negativity long enough to sound like his old cynical self. He smiled. He laughed. His sharp humor bringing me straight back to those early days and their magic when he had served as our total orbit. He seems master of those feelings now, capable of calling them up at will, choosing most times to ignore them.

And as usual, he made Hank butt of these jokes, putting us back in the mind set of wondering when the man would die -- his now pointless bet rattling in the back of our heads from when we were seventeen, when he declared Hank wouldn't live to twenty-five.

Now-a-days, it is Hank killing us with utter boredom, Pauly declared.

It amused us, though confused Sandra who missed many of the allusions, proving just how new she is to the gang-- the subtle references always going over her head. She looked to me for explanations, but such things seemed to ruin the jokes and I resisted. It seemed too much like putting ice cubes into rare wine:

It loses subtlety with the watering down.

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Copyright ©1996, 1997 A.D. Sullivan
Written by A.D.Sullivan except as indicated.
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