They turned to walk out of the bar, both wearing ties and in trench coats and apparently on the move for something more than I or she could offer. Or so I thought.
“Where are you two going? I need someone to talk to,” I joked.
“You’ve got her, Jésus.” He nodded in Lisa’s direction as they disappeared.
She turned toward me. The deep brown eyes and short black hair clipped around her ears seemed incongruous against her pale skin. Could she be Irish? Scots? I couldn’t precisely place the accent.
Wide cheekbones, perfectly oval face. Curvy. And a boyfriend.
“Can I get you anything?” asked the bartender. I said I was fine, but she ordered more wine.
Lisa batted those brown eyes at me. “I think my boyfriend’s cheating on me. He works as a bouncer, and all the girls there want him. I can tell. They hang all over him. Sometimes he doesn’t come home until the morning.” She sipped her wine while keeping her eyes locked with mine. “Sometimes I think I hate him.” She laughed ruefully. “I want to marry him.” She stared down. “I love him.”
“I think I am going to hire a private detective.”
“To see if he’s cheating.”
The Narrator 1
I am neither a zombie nor a ghost. I am the Blue Jay of your soul that won’t go away, that haunts your insides and pecks at your psyche worse than any imaginable parasite. When you die, I travel on, to another body, and spew my Blue Jay stories, stories of stance and rhetoric that deploy language as weapon. I am a cruel bird. I tell only lies, ones convenient for creating havoc. I am your narrator. Welcome to my place.
Blue Jay 1
A Blue Jay raises or lowers its crest, or crown of feathers, according to mood. When angry or excited, the bird’s crest rises up. When the bird is frightened, it bristles and turns bushy. During relaxed feeding or resting, it lies flat.
A Blue Jay’s face is white.
“Private detectives must be expensive.”
“80 dollars an hour.” She searched my face, then turned her attention to her phone. I watched a baseball game on the TV. The bar was emptying out. “I just texted him. I wrote, ‘If you don’t want me tonight, I’m with someone who does’.” She stared into my eyes.
“Lisa, you’re playing games,” I said, while pounding my index finger onto the bar.
“Oh, I know. But he plays games with me.”
“He’s not the only one you’re playing games with, Lisa. What are you, 45? You’ve been through two marriages already? What are you doing?” I searched her face. “We’ve known each other for what, a year—what is this?”
“I can’t stand coming out like this anymore. I want to spend my nights at home on the couch with my man, watching TV. I don’t like bars. I just don’t know what else to do.” Her eyes welled. “I love him.”
“You love him.”
“With all my heart. I want to marry him.”
Blue Jay 2
Blue can be the color of disaster, of dastardly deeds, of deep disappointment and dismay. Blue can be the color of difficulty and diffidence, of dropping out and dripping onward, driving toward dissembling.
Blue can be the color of distemper and distraught.
The Narrator 2
Call me Jay. Call me Tom or Jackson. Do not call me Jésus. Feel free to be stupid; just don’t call me late. And don’t be too Goddamn smart or I might like you too much and you wouldn’t like that, now would you?
Are you unsympathetic? Do you cry at the wrong funerals? What’s the point of your body’s slow dissembling toward dissolution? What is your pay scale? Do you pay, or are you paid?
In the end, does it matter, when you have me pecking at your insides, making you old old before your time?
Blue Jay 3
A moderately slow flier, some say Blue Jays are easy prey for hawks and owls. They beat their wings slowly, and they fly flat and fat in the air.
Then again, some say they may chase the hawks and owls, and scream when any predator comes near. Owls that dare to roost near their nest during the daytime may be hit with a mob sit until they go elsewhere.
Some say Blue Jays have also attacked or killed smaller birds.
Confirmed: Blue Jays have attacked humans.
“Then why do you play games, Lisa?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why do you play games with the one you love?”
“Everyone does it.” She laughed. “Who else is there to play games with?” She hauled out her large, leather purse and pulled out and put on some sunglasses even though we were inside and it was already dark out. “I want to know the truth,” she said, her eyes hidden behind dark lenses the size of monarchs. “What do you think about me hiring a private detective?”
I asked her five times if she really wanted to know what I thought.
Five times she said, “Yes.”
Finally, I asked her if she would get mad at me if I told her the truth. “Not at all.”
“If you are even considering hiring a detective, that relationship is broken whether he is cheating or not. Here’s what you need to hire: a therapist.” Her jaw dropped. I looked away.
“That’s okay,” she said quietly. “How did you know? All my close friends say I should have higher self-esteem. How did you know?”
“Because you’re in love with a no-count bouncer, that’s why.” She looked stunned, then turned her attention back to her phone.
“Oh, I got a text back from him. Remember, I texted him that if he didn’t want me tonight, I knew someone who did. I just got this back from him, ‘But he won’t be any Justice’.”
“His name is ‘Justice’?”
“You’re playing games,” I said with a strain in my voice. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the bartender look up.
“I know I am. What about it?”
“You want to make me your whore.”
“Well, I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t think you were cute. So it’s not exactly like that.”
“You want to bang me to make your boyfriend jealous. And you’re 45.”
“I know it’s pitiful. And don’t use that word.”
“For a guy my size, the best banging territory is a mattress on the floor. I got one about five blocks away. And I am horny. I guess you’re good looking, enough.”
“Jésus, we’ve known each other for a long time! Be nice.”
The Narrator 3
Born in 777 AD. Six foot six, “300 pounds of heavenly joy.”1
With my beady and beaky gaze, I have made Beelzebub himself crawl in the circus sand under the watchful eyes of captive elephants. Satan himself has, on occasion, recognized my presence.
Life goes a bit wacko around me, thank you.
I see from behind your swollen eyes. You are less you than you think. I nest in the pores on the inside of your skin. I bring twigs and leaves and twisted wire there. Do you like it, yet?
Do you like me? Did you know I was there before I announced my presence?
Blue Jay 4
When I choose to haunt a person, they become capable of anything. You and you and you, you are all less stable than you think, all less in control than you think.
We arrived back at my place, a house the landlord rented to four different tenants. We shared the kitchen and the living room: it was the old farmhouse, now in the middle of the city. The floors were unlevel. It creaked in the wind.
My roommate, stringy blonde-haired Wolfgang, sat on a plush couch in the living room sucking on a 40-ouncer and watching people on TV bellyache about their relationships. In front of him on a small coffee table: The crumbs of a pizza in a box. He stood six foot six and wore a sleeveless, black Harley-Davidson shirt. “Wolf, my man, this is Lisa. We’re going to do a little bangin’.”
“Would you stop talking like that?” asked an embarrassed Lisa.
“What do you want me to call it, ‘makin’ love’? I’m cutting those panties off you, baby.” Wolf quietly cracked up, his hand over his mouth.
“I don’t like it rough.”
“I don’t either. I just like it quick and efficient, baby.” I started to caress her cheek with the back of my hand, but she pulled away. “This way,” I motioned with my head. We walked through the kitchen to my room.
Blue Jay 5
Jealously territorial, Blue Jays chase other birds from a feeder for an easy meal.
Some think Blue Jays raid other birds’ nests, to steal eggs and chicks for food. Others think this is overemphasized.
The truth lies with the Jays themselves, who are among the most intelligent of birds. They say.
The Narrator 4
You are welcome. For entertaining you. For providing you with the opportunity to believe (or not believe) all I relate.
I am the seventh.
And seventh and seventh and seventh.
Generations of sevens.
Do you believe me?
The Narrator 5
I am like a virus, potentially under the skin of any unsuspecting human. Some ward me off better then others, but when the time is ripe
Am I with you? Maybe you like it? Do you take pleasure in your power to make others do stupid emotional dances, to twist and turn in affective air even when there is no need? Do you like that? Baby? Why?
I’m always here for you, in my way, just waiting, just wasting, just working with others until you need me.
“I like these things, what do you call them? art? poems?” On my walls hung visual poems I made by smearing ink from 100-year-old rubber stamps on rough, heavy paper. Some words could be made out. Some were splattered. Even some letters could be this, could be that. But they were all definitely letters.
“I did those. Now kneel on the edge of the mattress after hiking your skirt above your knee.”
“You haven’t even kissed me.”
“That comes after oiling you up, baby.”
She looked stunned, maybe afraid. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“You’ll love it, baby. No worries.”
She was on the verge of tears as she knelt down. “We have known each other for a long time. We’ve had good talks. Real good talks.”
“We have baby. Now arch your back real nice.” I pulled her skirt above her full ass and pulled out a scissors and, sure enough, cut off her panties in three quick snips. She cried quietly, then gasped when I put it in.
“Oh, my,” she said. I squatted low behind her, my feet flat on the ground and my hands pressed against the back of her hips. I oiled her good, then reached under to pull on her sensitivity like I was milking a cow. Her dynamite had a short, short fuse.
“What the fuck!” I hear Wolf yell over her shuddering vocalizations. “Get away from the door.” I hear a banging. “Who are you?”
“Justice,” I hear, very loud, very clear. “They call me Justice.”
“Oh, my God,” yells Lisa, who pulls away and throws down her skirt. “He’ll never know. I’ll just go out there.”
“Don’t. The Wolf will kick his ass if necessary.”
“No, don’t hurt him. I love him, I love him.” She fled from my room. “Don’t hurt Justice, Wolf. Don’t hurt him.”
I followed her out to see her fleeing toward the front door with a kitchen knife, which she must have pulled from the counter, held high. “Get away from the door,” yelled Wolf. “Justice has no business here.”
Blue Jay 6
Some people have claimed to notice Blue Jays in captivity using strips of newspaper as tools to obtain food, while others say even captive fledglings have attempted to open the door to their cages.
The Narrator 6
Where does conjecture end and knowledge begin? Where does your skin end and my feathers begin? What is that strange sensation you get under the skin by your ribs every Tuesday? Blue Jays have been known to organize their social calendar by human activity, rather than the moon.
Blue Jay 7
Blue Jays are, they say, typically monogamous for life. Then again, who is watching?
Some folklore holds the Blue Jay to be a servant of the Devil; other folklore considers him capable of getting the best of Satan himself, if he ever bothered to try.
I yelled to Wolf who spun to catch Lisa’s arm before the knife hit his back. “You stupid bitch.” He bit her forearm, and the knife clattered across the floor. Lisa screamed and Justice shook the door in its frame. Wolf threw it open into Justice’s face and pushed Lisa out to him, before slamming the deadbolt back into place. “If I see either of you around here again, you’re dead.”
“You never saw me,” said a voice I took to be from Justice.
“I know the look of Justice,” said the Wolf. Then Wolf laughed. And laughed.
He turned toward me, still laughing, the lopsided mouth accentuating the thick scar running from the edge of the right side of his lip in a jagged line to the bottom of his ear. “I know Justice, Jésus. I know Justice.”
The Wolf always grew silent when I asked him where the thick scar came from.
The Narrator 6
Here is the time for my good-bye. The word count dictates so—but I refuse to go.
I refuse to go.
*Written by Willie Dixon, sung by Howlin’ Wolf.
AlteredScale.com. He is the author of the experimental novel ...and beefheart saved craig (BlazeVox) and the mystery The Vanilla Lawyer in the Mayhem Blues (Amazon Kindle). His poetry is collected in Jazz Forms (Blue Lion), and he most recently published the chapbook The Branded Woman & Other Poems (TheAlteredScalePress).
Jefferson Hanson served as Poetry Editor of Mad Hatters' Review Issue 12.