The children dodge flung volleys of furtive feelings as the boys and girls that compose their brothers and sisters line up on either side of the thoroughfare and fling their feelings, furtively, at each other in the form of birds, taking their dreams and fears and burying them in those beaks in the hopes that these words can hit close to their intended, or at least their intentions. They are doing this in order to say the sort of things they have trouble saying out loud because some things are easier to say when you don’t have to look someone in the eye. This goes on well into the sunset, until nobody can see where the birds are, and the only sound heard is WELL LET’S JUST GO DOWN TO THE BARN, and they do, slipping out of their clothes, pressing their bodies up against each other, breasts on breasts on chests on cocks both hard and soft and everyone just yearning to be touched and, at that touch, exploding.
And so they the children’s brothers and sisters sleep. They sleep for days or weeks or months or hours. Time is just a series of moments measured by how they pass us by is how we are choosing to look at this. The town brews its morning coffee. The town tries some tea in the late afternoon instead of its regular after-work coffee, as the town has lately had some trouble sleeping. The town tried drinking heavily before bed to better subdue itself, but at this point the more the town drinks the more the town seems to really feel it in the morning, in which it is the feeling of our body’s slow, steady, and incessant betrayal. And so. Some tea. The town gets a pet and then the pet dies and the town finds a way to explain it, the death, to the children in the town, and so then the town acquires another pet, in an attempt to demonstrate how life goes on. The children ask for a demonstration of morality and the town replies Like what and the children reply Fucking and the town asks them to watch their damned tone, and the children appear not satisfied but considerate of the limits they are testing. Windows open, letting in airs of all kinds. In the town, an uprising. The uprising taking the form of men on horses demanding goods in return for the payment of their choice, the payment of their choice being a bullet in the eye and the use of your mouth like a pot to piss in. Inside the jail, the Sheriff. Outside the jail, the men. Inside their heads, his bullets. In the ground, their bodies. Meaning was swallowed up by those hungry for it and it brought them small comfort. In the desert was the desert but now we’re being obvious. On the edge of town, a darkness. In the White House, the President. In his heart, a burden. In the burden, America. In America, the Americans. The Americans are everywhere all the time in America. It is just how it goes, guesses the President, presidentially. He has not slept in years. His dreams tether him to his citizens or, more precisely, their dreams tether their hearts to his. The interests telegraph the President ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello’ says the President ‘This is the President.’ ‘We know’ say the interests. The President says ‘Where did you get this number?’ and the interests say back ‘We want less dreams and more production.’ ‘What’ asks the President ‘Is more productive than dreams?’ ‘Many things’ go the interests. ‘To hell with you’ says the President, setting the telegraph line on fire, drawing up plans for another America, just above this one, in which nothing is more productive than dreams. And still America sleeps.
And so all of a sudden they the children’s brothers and sisters emerge from the barn with a plan. More specifically, the sun rose in a way one day such that they took notice, and they paused their fucking and sucking and slipping and sliding and sleeping for a moment and, with one mind, grabbed hold of the nearest birds, and shouted some intentions into their hearts, which was that their brothers and sisters should pay them a visit, and with a few of them adding a note concerning the need for their services as consultants. They cleaned themselves with a well they’d dug and brushed off the water with hay dried in the sun then licked each other clean and dressed for the first time in however long it had been since they’d gone off into the barn.
‘Well’ go the children who’ve gathered in the barn one at a time, entering line by line to see their siblings lining the walls on piles of hay as though this was some sort of court in another time or place entirely, their siblings’ eyes watching them with a wariness the children were not accustomed to, as though something in them had changed, as though their appetites had gained direction.
‘Our appetites have gained direction’ go the siblings.
The children are here because their brothers and sisters want to start a gang that they will call THE JUVENILES. And THE JUVENILES want to consult the children as to what they can do to set themselves apart from all these other gangs.
‘Do you think these other gangs have meetings like this?’ go the children.
‘We have no idea’ go THE JUVENILES. ‘That’s kind of why you’re here.’
‘We will give you good and solid odds that they do not. We will give you good and solid odds that how they do things is first they found each other and in each other they found a common purpose to work towards, or in some cases were united by a belief in a mythical figure that unites them, but this is the sort of conjecture we know you do not appreciate, so.’
‘And furthermore’ go THE JUVENILES ‘We were wondering about your thoughts.’
‘It is a real good name’ go the children.
‘It is the sort of name that would ring out amongst the towns out in the dark where a shout takes days to reach the sort of ear that would do a thing about that shout. It is the sort of name to carve on your bullets so that your bullets cry out that name and people lean in close as though there is a whisper they are supposed to hear, and when the bullet rips through their skull it burns THE JUVENILES onto the very surface of their brains before ricocheting off of a rock and burying itself in their heart. It is the sort of name to burn onto a flag and fly it above you so that everyone will see you coming and know that there is not a damn thing could be done about it. This is the sort of name you have chosen. The kind a body could choke on.
‘And we can see your mouths and how they move to speak but don’t. Because this is the thing: and what of the future?’
‘The future?’ go THE JUVENILES.
‘The future’ go the children. They mean: ‘Is your goal to stay this way? To live and fuck in barns then ride on horseback through towns and villages carving THE JUVENILES name onto a literal map, if we were to view a map as being a survey of the landscape with indications of directions and borders and boundaries? And, once you have carved your name onto the territories, how will you punctuate it? With a comma? With a period? See, the comma implies a continuance, a going forward in one way or another, and then, once gone, would you disperse? Pair off and fuck your way into a family of JUVENILES, remaining forever in this age you have created for yourselves, for that is what you have managed to do, and we can see that even if we cannot manage to understand it. And then with your families will you carry on the name? Will you rewrite the map of this nation so that it just reads THE JUVENILES? And what then? Will you spread this further? To Canada? To Mexico? To Europe, of all fucking places? When you turn your eye from home will someone rise up to take your place? Can you be everywhere at once? Does it matter?
‘And furthermore: What about a period? What if you were to punctuate it with a period? What if you were to stop in some town and then take that town as your own? Full on assault and annihilation would work, but negotiating trade routes is harder than you’d think from the other end of the barrel of a gun. You wouldn’t think it, but the human element resents the expression of its expendability as expressed by the other end of the barrel of a gun. And so let’s say you’d have gone on your rampage across these United States and let’s say you’ve ended up in a town. Let’s call it Death’s Valley Done Passed Us By. That seems like the right sort of name for a town like this. It is near the ocean but the ocean won’t come because the ocean says it has got some better things to do, so they built some piers and took up prayer, but still. They do not know what the future will bring. It is not like they are the moon or anything. So anyway you come across the town, having had nothing but a bunch of nasty ass birds to toast and not even roast because none of you can get a decent fire going for reasons pertaining to the air that we aren’t going to bother going into. So you’re hungry. And tired. And you are wondering if you’ve made the right decision. We mean, sure: You have some riches. You have reputations. You’ve been JUVENILES for longer than you haven’t been now. And suddenly you have, each, alone and in secret, begun to wonder if there is more to this life than how you have lived it.
‘So you set upon Death’s Valley Done Passed Us By before day breaks over the mountains like something worth seeing, having (hopefully) ascertained and identified the whereabouts of the various town leaders and community pillars both metaphorical and actual. And you hear a long low whistle all around, and for a moment you bristle, aroused, at a memory long since past. And then the town is upon you. And in some cases, this is what happens: it is a blood bath. You open fire at their legs which really takes them by surprise while their calves begin to explode. They have never seen bullets like this that sear ideas into their flesh like this with every inch of their flesh suddenly screaming JUST DIE ALREADY YOU USELESS FUCKER, and some of them have the sense to hold on to their guns and open fire, taking Dolores out with a shot through the eye that bursts open her skull and sends brain and braid flying out into Jonathan’s mouth, which is open, and gaping in shock. Jonathan vomits and when he vomits he vomits bullets which catches absolutely everyone by surprise. The town retreats to the town while you stay put, licking each other’s wounds. There is a strategy about taking down mountains using force, but this is not a mountain, it is a town. And force has gotten you several things in this lifetime, this much we can all agree on. So you wait. You have a meeting. You flay the flesh off Dolores’s body and dry it in the sun. Then you begin to write.
‘The town works itself up into a frenzy of gunfire, sent out like a misguided weather system out into the horizon, which is everywhere. From time to time a hail of arrows is returned which arrows are shot either down or into the ground or a body or a doorframe. Windows and arrows reached an agreement years ago is something we’ve begun to notice lately. Everyone in the town moves to Germany. But surprise! it is a joke, and they’re all just sitting there sullenly waiting for something to happen. Some folks go out in the street and fuck, and the town gets together and shoots those folks in the head. People don’t like displays of emotion in this town is something we have just decided to notice. You continue writing deep into the night. You hold fire in your hands because that is what you decided to do. You nail Dolores’s skin upon which you have written a proposal all through the damn night to a pillar of the community overnight. It is up to you if this is a literal or metaphorical pillar. The town gathers.
‘We are just so lonesome we could cry’ is what they tell you.
‘I do not believe you’ says Jeff who shoots someone through the eye and that shot person collapses onto their child, breaking the child’s leg, but neither of them die, they just both keep screaming, which makes conversation difficult. Jeff is later reprimanded, although he points out that for all you knew they were using that as a ruse. Feelings are often used as a ruse, it is true, we can all certainly agree on that much.
‘We are just so lonesome we could cry’ they say again with both more and less conviction.
‘If this is a ruse you should know that using feelings as a ruse will get you strung up by the dick or dick-equivalent until such time as you learn not to use feelings as a God damned ruse’ is the unanimous response from THE JUVENILES.
‘We are THE JUVENILES’ go THE JUVENILES. ‘And ideally you have read our proposal, written upon the skin of our dear departed Dolores. We are going to call this town KINDA PRETTY as that is what we have decided it is. We will bring the ocean over here because it fucking owes us by now. We will build a small mountain, and on that mountain we will build our houses, and we will live in these houses. Trade will continue and expand, and KINDA PRETTY will never again be known as Death’s Valley Done Passed Us By, because that name is totally true, and also real depressing, and plus it invites the continuance of that fortune. And hey, that’s just fine. But it is not a fortune we are interested in. If you’d like, you can pack up your belongings and move down the road and set up a new town and keep the old name. We’ll rewrite the maps. We are lettered, and in possession of some erasers and also some paint. But we’d rather keep your existing infrastructure relatively intact. Eventually our children’s children’s children will write their own lives here in this port side town we will build for them. We will, together, give these future children of the future a kind of a metropolis. Or a violent death, here and now, unloading all the bullets in our possession at your reproductive organs, sending your sperm and your eggs flying across the desert, and then we will set them on fire, using spells. Spells are something you may not know about, and that is probably for the best. We hear you have a coyote the size of a house out here. That is just fine. We are fine with that, and a few other things to boot. What we are no longer fine with is trouble. We are tired of pursuing it, and of welcoming it. This is your choice. We are waiting for your answer.’
Sasha Fletcher is the author of it is going to be a good year (Big Lucks Books, 2015), one novella, and several chapbooks of poetry, and this piece right here, which is an excerpt from a novel he is working on.