Everything Good Just Leaks Out of Me

I discovered it near my neck in the divot between shoulder and collarbone like a pink fleshy barnacle with a ragged mouth. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself-

Toward the waves walking fast on wooden planks as usual I considered asking Jemmy Berwick out for a stroll and how she might react if I finally got the nerve. She might hook her arm in mine as we sipped frothy drinks from paper cups and watched the winter drizzle hurry people along the distant street that ran parallel to us. At some point we would stop and lean on the wooden railings of the boardwalk and look at the snow-blown and empty beach and I would ask have you ever considered voice-over work? If you heard her speak you'd know why. The other thing I wanted to do was buy her a floppy woolen hat, a green one I'd seen in a store window, because she had this hair-this long auburn hair-and when she walked it flashed around her waist the way a forest fire moved between treetops. Imagine: Droplets of light rain on the shoulders of her coat, in the length of her hair, beaded on the woolen floppy green hat.

I would have to ask her soon before the idea grew dim, leaked away. An example: I once had an idea for a children's book I wanted to call Emperor Penguin! I planned to illustrate it myself, fill it with vibrant renderings of my tuxedoed ruler amongst his subjects in their arctic landscape. My very next visit to the local bookstore revealed that once again, my idea had gotten away from me. A standing cardboard cut-out of a penguin read Percival, Emperor of the Penguins and MEET THE AUTHOR next to a table stacked with the actual copies of Percival, Emperor of the Penguins. In the children's section bright colors were everywhere. The other examples of this kind of leakage are too numerous to go into.

Long before all this I woke to find residue on my pillow that was not drool or anything like that. Birth fluid of fugitive notions I thought as I looked around for the source. I discovered it near my neck in the divot between shoulder and collarbone like a pink, fleshy barnacle with a ragged mouth. I guessed that some passive mechanism was at work whereby everything good just leaked out of me through this raised pucker: a physiological anomaly that gave vent perhaps to some obscure node which obviously played a role in trafficking our gleaming bits of insight. Later I began to fear it was not a passive process but something else altogether, something not of my body. The word that came to mind was parasite! After that all I could think was how it was a parasite stealing from me and not simple leakage after all. It probably had roots going beneath the skin like tiny arms dipped into the nerve centers, grappling for info. Empty tissue boxes piled-up in my apartment. Each morning I twisted a fresh sheet to stopper the flow, wadding it in tightly. It looked like a Kleenex boutonniere on a jacket of flesh. Once a co-worker saw it fluff from my collar as I bent over my desk. He asked, What in the hell is that? I said, Shaving. Then I had no choice but to walk away when he replied, Holy damn. That far down?

There was a bench toward which I walked with my various newspapers and trade journals bundled beneath my arm. Here I usually tried to sit alone no matter the weather and read all about the latest innovations. FRIED CLAMS! was nearby but closed this time of year. A small brass bell tied to the door of FRIED CLAMS! cried and struggled on its length of twine. I sat and shivered on the bench and culled the sections devoted to the arts, books and films, science and technology, all the pages I needed for monitoring the leakage of my ideas into the world. Leaning on a wall behind my bench was a broken window that had been removed from its housing and allowed to just lean. It had curved lettering that said LLIRG DNA RAB. I went through my papers with stiff red fingers, shivering a little, moving my lips over the headlines until I actually swear-to-god heard her fantastic voice, as if she were giving sound to my silent mouth as it made the shapes of the words I was reading. When I turned I expected to see icy boards and all the typical white desolation but instead I saw her-her, Jemmy Berwick!- standing next to a bench with some guy further down the walk. She wore a floppy green hat. They were both laughing and holding paper cups and dabbing froth from their lips. The guy pulled some pages from an attaché that was sitting on their bench and gestured at them as he spoke to her and looked for love in her eyes. It may or not have been a spec script for voice-over work. He brought a miniature tape recorder from the pocket of his raincoat. He grinned and clicked record on the thing and placed it near her face with his arms smugly crossed. She leaned toward him with her head held up and began reading from the pages, standing there in the flurry of snow. I watched her moving lips and her hands sifting through paper. The cup in my hand shook and a slosh of coffee went steaming into the snow, shaping my dark regret. Her papers clacked like gull wings in the wind. Jemmy finished speaking into the recorder and lowered the pages and sort of meekly hunched her shoulders. The guy placed the recorder on the bench and gave her a thumbs-up and winked and began clapping his hands together, slowly and soundlessly, a farce of applause. She crinkled her nose and looked down at her feet and he grinned and shook his hands as one clasped unit beneath his chin. When I moved toward them he jerked around at the sound of my steps crunching the snow. I only wanted to say her name, but my mouth wouldn't work correctly. I wanted to say Jemmy. The tissue beneath my collar began working loose in my haste and sweat. I wanted to ask her why. I wanted to say, This was mine, Jemmy. The guy stood and asked what my problem was. The damp parcel of tissue fell loose in my shirt, wedged in my waistband, feeling damp and warm. His clumsy tough-guy act just saddened me, every word pilfered from false, marquee idols, when he said things like, Hey pal and What's the big idea. His mouth was filled with theft. Shut the fuck out of here! I screamed in his face. Jemmy's eyes and mouth were dark empty places beneath the floppy green hat. Static crackled when I snatched the hat from her head. Strands of fire blew around me. Her friend got puffed-up and bold. He took a swing and missed and twisted around on himself with the belt of his raincoat whipping loose. I had my hand in my pants, feeling around for the tissue. I tugged open the collar of my shirt, revealing the small flay-edged hole of my losses. I couldn't reclaim the idea of the floppy green hat entirely, but I tried, like a magician forcing with one finger a handkerchief into his squeezed fist. The coarse plug of green woolen fabric did a finer job than tissues. No more leaks. Tough-guy came at me again and I pushed the recorder in his face, holding him back with the skirring sound of rewind. Then I pushed play and I heard her rich voice-over voice say,

I discovered it near my neck in the divot between shoulder and collarbone like a pink fleshy barnacle with a ragged mouth. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself-

About the author:

Bill Spratch grew up in New Orleans. He has not yet had the pleasure of meeting the legendary barmaid named 'Tangerine,' who works at the Tropical Isle.