The streetlights hung low. Narcissus on the edge of the pond. I drove. A coyote stood in the middle of the two lanes. I drove past. It didn’t move.

I slowed and turned back. I parked on the side and walked in darkness. It didn’t move.

“What are you doing out here?” I asked.

“I am caught between two paths,” the coyote said.

“That’s every moment.”

“Not for a coyote.”

“What do you plan to do?” I asked.

“I’m not sure.”

Headlights shot out over the road. I walked back. The car barely missed the coyote. It didn’t move.

Litro #154: Cuba | How To Play


Translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel

The escalator, located in the room’s center, carries the little man up to the edge and then he appears again at the bottom. The transition takes place with a buzz like the sound a photocopier makes. The little man rises up to the top and BUZZ returns to the bottom. Rise-top, buzz, return-bottom. Risereturn, topbottom, buzz, etc. The game consists of pressing the off button right when half of the little man has risen to the top and half has returned to the bottom. One must take into account the inertia of the mechanism on being stopped, the inertia of the body in motion when the ground beneath its feet stops. The velocity of the transmission of the signal from the off button to the stopping mechanism. When the little man is not split exactly in half, a ceiling of blood and guts (so much blood and guts it has no proportion with the body of the little man) is dumped upon the player, dumped upon the room, on the escalator itself, etc. The game restarts with the escalator measuring one fourth less than its previous size. When the little man is split exactly in half, two whirring sounds are heard (just like the noise of a photocopier), and another little man appears, identical to the first, in the very center of the escalator, which grows by one fourth of its previous size. It is necessary to make at least one attempt to split the little man in two out of every three times he rises up the escalator. Otherwise, a ceiling full of blood and guts falls down, etc. The game ends when the player, drowned in blood and guts, loses control of the off button, or when there is no longer space on the escalator for a new little man.

The next level adds a non-uniform acceleration of the escalator, varying physical dimensions between one little man and the next, sudden currents of blood and guts across the floor of the room, etc.

Green Graffiti

Photo by Nick Simpson via Flickr
Photo by Nick Simpson via Flickr

The guide says we’re lucky then goes sombre, giving us a second to feel lucky.

“Yesterday was so rainy we couldn’t take the boats out.”

The Spree gleams like glass; poky white clouds skate across it. Someone asks me if I want another beer. I squint into the sun bursting behind the waitress.

“Why not? Hell, it’s my birthday,” I say and wave at the crystal meth addicts mooning me from the bank.

It’s a kick-ass day to be in Berlin. So much green and graffiti.

“Greenest city in Europe,” the guide says as we pass the wall with the most graffiti in Berlin. I snap a photo. It’s blurry, and we’ve drifted too far away for another chance.

This part of the Spree divided East from West, I’m told—The East Side Gallery—“where children drowned,” the guide says, “fetching a ball or doll, while soldiers looked on, guns readied to protect East from West, West from East.”

My beer comes. It’s cool, amber against the bluest sky. The boat stops, absorbs a load of Eastern European tourists.

They soon drown out the guide, so I doze in the din of everything around me: a Slavic dialect, the breeze and ducks. But the guide’s voice sometimes breaks in. I learn this building, which was once used for something, is now used for something else. This quarter is multi-culti, has its social problems and prominent citizens—and it’s green. So much green.

“You can hop off here,” I hear, but I drift on and wave to people picnicking on the banks, passed out on lawns, spitting from bridges.

I stay on the boat all day. I tell myself I’m sailing the Berlin Wall, though I now know the Spree doesn’t divide
the city that way.

I wave at the crystal meth addicts again, shout, “I’m 21 today!”

They wave back and call me a capitalist pig tourist, which I like. It makes me feel political.

In the evening, the boat deposits me at the Jannowitzbrücke. It’s dark and I’ve forgotten which way my hotel is.

There’s much more graffiti than green now. Men curl in corners, in sleeping bags and moving boxes. I take the money from my wallet and put it in my shoe, my credit cards in my back pocket. It’s not my first time abroad.

I walk the wrong way fast, end up at the East Side Gallery where hundreds of people are dancing in protest. The city wants to demolish part of the Wall to build a hotel. I laugh, talk too loudly: “First you try to knock it down yourself, and then you get pissed because someone else wants to?” It’s a bad joke. A hand pushes me into the Spree. It’s not deep, but I’m drunk and flailing.

I lose the shoe with the money. The Spree pulls at me until an old man, all tattoos and piercings, pulls me out.

“You’re lucky,” he says, “it’s not 1985.”



Small Incendiary

Photo by Michael Coghlan via FLickr
Photo by Michael Coghlan via FLickr


On Sunday morning the girl is still there, on the corner of our street: red leather miniskirt, sleeveless jacket, teetering heels.

She stamps her feet, hugs her stomach with pimpled arms. It might be years since a car slowed.

In the garden of the last house stands a man clipping hedgerows with green-gloved hands.

He has white hair under a grey bobble hat and a red-veined, indignant face.

To the right of the hedge is the driveway where his car is parked, but this morning it is also occupied by the girl’s pimp.

The pimp leans on the bonnet of the car, one hand in the pocket of checked trousers, his leather cap pulled tight and low, smoking.

He watches the girl the way a farmer watches a sheepdog. The hedgerow clipper raises his shears. The blades scrape and snip. Thin limbs topple from their perch and land like gauntlets at the pimp’s feet.

The pimp takes another drag. At the corner a blue Audi slows. The girl totters over to the window, bends double, lays a frozen hand on the roof. The pimp watches her slide into the car, flicks his cigarette – small incendiary – into the hedge, and strolls away.