The Inquisition


A flying saucer burns two eye-shaped holes in the hayfield. The eyes follow us wherever we go. Mother keeps a lucky penny in her shoe and tallies crows with an auctioneer’s fervor. She swallows the milk of superstition. She illustrates fortune and omen, and draws the curtains in nightshade.

I am writing a runaway note on my red typewriter. A stranger knocks and introduces himself as Colonel Rip Van Scratch. He stinks of whiskey and jet fuel. He’s got eyes like holes burned by a flying saucer. The Colonel says, Rumors are the boy’s marked as mine. Mother says, Tyro’s a good boy and I should know. She points to the umbilical cord that connects us.

Mother searches my head for horns or 666. She says, Phrenologically speaking, he reads like a bald tire, slick and temperamental. She fixes my hair with hairspray. Colonel Scratch says, That’s flammable you know. Mother says, That’s not flammable that’s a cowlick.

The Colonel throws me on the kitchen table, spreading me out like a treasure map. His hands feel like every truth I never wanted to hear. He scratches at the course of my heart—straights and narrows, switchbacks, and the inevitable dead end.

The Colonel says, The boy’s destiny is written in a third nipple, and a stray patch of hair flanking his lower ribcage, and the howler is this coyote shaped birthmark. Mother says, That’s no sign, that’s a beauty mark.

Colonel Scratch says, He’s writing a runaway note. Mother says, That no runaway note, that’s his memoirs. Tyro’s sensitive like that. His grandmother could talk a squirrel down from a tree, and he talks himself up into a state of susceptibility. When he’s on a typing roll, he gets so sensitive he catches cold by dreaming it.

Outside, the Colonel’s red van bathes in moonlight. Sin Bin painted on the side. I say, I’ve no plans to travel with the likes of you. Scratch tips his hat to Mother. He says, Beware of the signs. Sass, truancy, and silence.

He rides his motorcycle out the back of the Sin Bin. I continue my runaway note, a litany of sufferings, shortcomings, and unfulfilled aspirations. Mother mops up Scratch’s boot marks. She says, Why he’s taller than I ever imagined. I say, To hell with his stature. He’s got plans to enlist me as a backscratcher, a backslapper, a bootlicker. Mother ignores me and kneads dough, her cheeks rosy.

I wake to snow. I break a dream over my knee. Outside, the Sin Bin looks like the flames of destiny. There are no tracks in the snow but the driver’s seat feels warm. I pull the shifter into neutral. Headlights off, I coast into the night.

A pack of coyotes follow at every turn. I stop at the dam site, and the coyotes yowl. I step out and they surround me. I hand the leader my runaway note. It says: I’m going to runaway tomorrow morning when you are sleeping. Be sure to say goodbye forever. The coyotes lift their chins and offer their apologies to the moon.