Wednesday, April 5, 2017


 The Last Asbestos Town
     MAY – Chapter 10

May began researching the ghoulish world of the occult. She left her sewing plans and studied Cheryl’s book going along with Isaac’s crazed idea to bring her back. She spent her twenty-fifth birthday trawling the internet, reading her journals and a weird publication called Lost Cities of the Unborn. After she had read page after page, flicking through albums, sketchbooks and her mother’s notes, she realised the dearly departed had had to suffer some violence for them to return. Cheryl had been traumatized, too. She also reasoned they would need plenty of luck, perhaps some divine intervention or power to bring the girl back at night after 10.00pm. There was one thing she wanted to ask her if she came, ‘why arrange the cats?’
    May chopped twigs of Rosemary, basil and fresh garlic and rummaged further into the pantry for honey, soy sauce and carb soda.  She couldn’t imagine a more vile concoction, but it was supposed to add some sort of chemistry to the situation.  She needed Juniper as well, but couldn’t find it.
    Isaac padded down the hall, untying his sneakers. He rummaged inside his backpack ‘Do we have any Pamidol2?’
   ‘Not sure. Look in the pantry.’
   ‘What’s that smell?’
   ‘It’s our poultice for tonight. I’m not sure how long I have to cook it.’
   ‘Do we wear it?’
   ‘Somehow!’
   Isaac opened a can of Cola, and let it trickle down his throat.  ‘You think she enjoyed defiling those bodies like that?’
   ‘Every page of her notebook is bloody and horrific. How can we bring back a girl or, per se a ghost, who has drawn such cruel pictures? I’d like to know if they were her school classmates.’
    ‘We can’t play judge and jury, May. We don’t really know anything about her. Also, I don’t want her to pick up any vibe that we’re suspicious of her or that she’s a whack-job. Let’s pretend she’s our friend, of sorts.’
   ‘What I don’t understand is that those decomposed bodies are mainly Girl Guides. Some are younger, maybe ten, eleven. I hated looking at limbs splayed apart with iron bars, some girls cramped into foetal positions, or desecrated.’
   ‘They’re just drawings, May. She was into black art.’
   May tipped the pot towards the sink, holding the lid a fraction apart. ‘It has to cool now to a paste. Guess we wear it as a face mask.’
   Emptying the pot reminded May of a time making blackberry jam with her mother. The tree had overflowed with dark clusters of fruit; the jam coming out rich and sweet and purple. There were plenty of those memories to haunt her. She wished she could go back in time, not to connect with a dead girl now, but to her mother, to the day before that horrendous accident killing her parents.
   Isaac sat cross-legged at the edge of the stage. ‘Thanks for this,’ he said, licking the shaft of the rollie and lighting up. ‘Lucky Steve had some.’
   He lay back, transfixed with a broad cartoon smile crossing his face. Junk wafted through his brain, while the pot mixture cooled, black as ink.
    ‘Don’t make it a habit.’ May laughed, putting a foot lightly on his stomach.
   ‘Ooh, I can see right up your skirt.’
   Smiles wavered and died on their faces as the hours ticked by.  In the middle of the hall, with blackened faces they huddled around several of Isaac’s paintings, two of Cheryl, the community centre, and one of the early hall thrown into the mix for good measure.
   May yawned, while Isaac stretched and almost passed out amongst the different hues of his watercolour and oil paintings, the open sky filtering through the two front doors.
    She wiped the sticky mixture from her face. ‘Hasn’t worked, Isaac.’
    ‘We have to do it, again.’ Isaac could barely keep his eyes open, then he sat up straight and shook himself.  ‘Seems to me we are doing something wrong, May!’
    ‘Isaac, what makes you think she is interested in coming anyway?’
    ‘That’s it!’ He stood up, bolt still. ‘There has to be a reason for her to come back. Now, let me think. It’s still a cold case. She died in vain. The killer’s still free. May, we have to find the killer! Let her know. Then she’ll be interested.’
    ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake.  She knows who the killer is and how on earth are we going to find that person, anyway?’
    ‘We’ll sniff around, ask questions. We just need the evidence.’
    May felt the nonsensical beginning to take over. In another two weeks the A.T.F. had scheduled a final inspection of the hall and from then the men dressed like astronauts would come; she’d seen it on the news, there’d be the slow and laborious dismantling of walls of their home. She felt powerless. Why had she allowed Isaac to smoke again? He was delusional.  But she knew he was committed and he offered to interview people to get an idea of the tragedy.
    ‘We can try one more time, Isaac.’
    ‘And if she comes, I’ll ask her if she saw or knows her killer. That would save a lot of work.’
   ‘Isaac, I don’t think I should be here. She appeared to you and you alone. I might go into the city tomorrow and visit Ben. Stay a couple of nights; get some ideas for winter dresses. Time best spent, I’d say. And you’ll know what to do.’
    ‘I’ll miss you, babe.’
    ‘You have to try. Appeal to her for help. And if she comes tell her you’ll work on getting her killer punished. There is one thing I thought of Isaac.’
    ‘What’s that?’
    ‘Sounds bizarre, I know, but this is her home too, in the afterlife. She keeps moving things around, picture frames break and fall to the floor.  She loves the cats. They’re always in a different arrangement. She wouldn’t want the hall pulled down, would she?’
    ‘Yeah, you’re right, babe. And I think I have to wait for her under the stage. It’s some kind of wormhole.’
    ‘You do whatever it takes. And I would say, keep a clear head. You have a lot to concentrate on.’
    For a moment, May imagined the thin fabric of a girl’s white t-shirt, a hollow look in the girl’s eyes. A glowing light coming under the stage. She remembered seeing a picture of Cheryl in the photo album, standing quite tall with her smallish brother in front, her arms wrapped around him.  She must have been thirteen or fourteen, but her shoulders seemed bowed with heavy breasts. A blossoming girl. A strange one that they needed to befriend.
    ‘Have we got batteries for the flashlight,’ asked Isaac, bringing May out of her daydream.
    ‘Last time, it worked. Maybe there’s some in the bottom drawer.’
    ‘I read somewhere that waving a flashlight like a wand, and calling the person’s name is part of the recovery. I know one thing, I’m going to shit myself if she suddenly appears. I will need to smoke some more, May.’
   ‘Oh, just try anything.’ May began to laugh.
    ‘What’s so funny?’
    ‘I’m sorry I shouldn’t laugh, but “smoking under the stage!” You’ll get asphyxiated. I can see you suddenly pulling yourself out, the smoke pluming in the air, setting off the smoke alarm. Isaac, that image is so funny, ha, ha!’
    ‘I’m not going to smoke under there. I’ll finish a joint out here before I go in.’
    It was truly an amazing scenario for May to contemplate. She imagined a comedy of errors. Isaac, slumped there, under the stage, waving torchlight, and calling out, Cheryl, Cheryl are you there!
    It was too much, she couldn’t stop laughing.
   But that was being silly. Their troubles were imminent, and deep down into the very core of her body she worried, not wanting Isaac’s habit to recur from its sinister past, and all the excruciating thoughts of losing the hall.
   Their situation appeared to be chemical, yet those beautiful stirrings in her groin were physical.  She pushed Isaac down on the bed and wrapped her legs loosely around him. He moved his legs against hers. Together they stretched their elongated bodies out close to one another, their tongues and mouths maddeningly slow. And so they did it. She held his penis in her mouth, and in turn he sucked down below, almost painfully teasing her.
   Sated, they slept into the early hours. The hall’s iron roof cracked a continual beat around them, the soft rhythm of their breath rising and falling, rising and falling into a moist web of dreams.
   



 



Helen Hagemann (c) Copyright 2017

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Helen Hagemann's first literary collection, Evangelyne & other poems, was published by the Australian Poetry Centre in their New Poets Series 2009. 'of Arc & Shadow' is her second full collection published by Sunline Press. She has two e-books, The Joyous Lake & Par écrit: poetry of the feminine @ http://issuu.com/evangelyne/​​docs/joyous_lake/

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