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That Man

Man in profile with machine

That man over there is stacking tables too high by far. That man over there has put our hats on all the wrong pegs. He is not to be trusted. Do not trust him even when he breaks for coffee; that is not coffee he drinks. Look at the way he holds his cup: Watch him closely. Right there, did you see that? Troubling, very troubling. I suggest you move on. That man over there has confused his paperwork with the changing of the seasons. That man is not to be trusted.

Ben Conley

Today

Yes, this here.

Let’s talk exceptions and the standard rule of measure. We have our orders; we’ve checked the sequence. This day (yes, this very one) is ours for to give and take. From any window you can clearly see there is much to be deployed as we circle the planet. Our course is exceptional (so too, all our team-members) and we have calculated the correct lines of deviation. We see that future, so carefully scried in every sphere. We know what we must do (for the memo is already on your desk). This alteration calls for the most exacting precision one can find in a bespoke universe. Yes, there will be celebration, but for the love of God please ignore the interns. They know not what they do.

Ben Conley

Heat

 

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A child’s touch which brings to mind the dim wonderment of those early screens, but also a cactus whose thin needles guide you toward a thoughtful caress, releasing their private melody. It’s hot out. Too hot to brighten my phone any further. Too bright to have forgotten those knockoffs in my car. The hazy sight of your touch flits between a mirage and augmented reality. The unconscious squeeze of an empty Gatorade bottle serves to stimulate memory but also to aggravate my thirst. A padlock on the nearby pump does not move in the wind that does not blow. Twelve minutes down the road by car is where they have water and Mountain Dew in vending machines.

While driving I fail to remember how track five skips in the middle and that seven is an order of magnitude louder than six. I picture a thousand CDs scattered across the rocks of a petrified forest, or rather the trace of something 250 million years away. Will they crack the way a microwave can? My exit is Rainbow-something, which I miss. I drive in the wrong way but there is only one other car, windows tinted, Alaska plates. Vending machine is cheaper than I would’ve thought. Two bottles of water and a Mountain Dew. On a whim I open all three bottles and prepare to examine my sense of taste. Bottle one, bottle two, bottle one, bottle three, bottle two. Must’ve lost one of the caps. My car is still running, the A/C works well enough, and I wave bye to the man from Alaska even though I cannot see his face.

With my arm over the back of the passenger seat and my head turned to reverse out of the parking lot, I take a picture of myself looking away from the rear-view mirror and send it to you.

 

Ben Conley

Consultation

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Resting his head on a book of puns he asks me, What is the worth of a word?

I double check the figures on my napkin and give him my initial estimate excluding contingencies. His face tells me he can afford it, set in gold and ticking off the time in a strangely syncopated fashion. Opening a jar of jam he winks at our waitress, Excuse me M’am, but when is a door not a door?

Ben Conley

The Sometimes Sea

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The boy holds a can of coke and applies just enough pressure to be gifted the pleasure of crinkling. He pours the drink into a bowl and sets afloat a ship of folded paper. He sends away the cat and with sweet breath gives the ship to spinning. The little paper crew unfold their hands and brace against the fury. A light comes to life in the kitchen and whispers thoughts of lunch. The boy lifts the bubbling sea and stows away its maritime dream. Thinning galleymen forget themselves and fall away to sleep.

Ben Conley

At the Agency

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Yes sir, this fire works. I have it on high authority from the farthest lands that of course you may. Take hold and approach with me the center of the blaze. Here you will find the earth is warm, coaxed into being by all our brave initiatives. We offer quite the special for inquisitive and financially secure participants, that of course you may. It is quite simply the making of an allowance, of a unique privilege for one and only. Yes sir, this is you. This thing for you have cleared the directives and have found the proper implement. We deal in guarantees and the unquestioning. We can enable great turnings of gears and grease, but choose instead to lightly char the earth with concentric circles. You must see it is better this way. Come closer so you may see that of course you may. Please do not forget to breathe and this experience will soon belong to you and you alone. Yes sir, of course.

Bob Gatson

A Pile of Rocks

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Rocks in a pile gather in density, bind themselves to each other with borrowed gravity. They float a few feet above the ground. One by one an elderly gentleman removes rocks from the cluster. As each rock is removed the mass gradually takes on height. At the end of the day he will sell them for $4.99 a piece and the discerning shopper will recognize excellent opportunities for future investment.

Ben Conley

A small hill near an overpass.

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–and the dirt that fell from the sky took the boy by surprise. Looking over the hill he can see hundreds of minivans keeping the highway warm. Pardon me but I’m looking for a shower and a smaller car. They drive by in color-coded waves. Two dozen Town & Countries bright red and flecked with mud. Another twenty-some purple Toyotas and an aging Mazda follow close behind. It is quite likely the sun is setting. Yes, but I’m standing here and still I am not clean. A clever reproduction of an island breeze causes the boy to shiver while he reaches for his phone and a stick of gum, fresh and minty. A streak of green passes by going eighty. The boy calls home and waits for his mother to pick him up.

Ben Conley

Syrup

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A lizard spoke from the rafters requesting a second helping of syrup. My dear friend I try, but I know not where I left it. In secret I think of the room where Scarlet prepares her pancakes and often winks at me. Lizard leaves quickly for another great elsewhere whistling off key. It is true I keep many secrets from him, but I will have no syrup on my ceiling. 

Ben Conley

Collect your chickens…

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Collect your chickens when they hatch or else their eggs. Speak with exacting correctness and touch your toes in the mean time. I mean really touch them, like you would your lover’s. I speak here of a breeze folding like cake batter, or better yet the body of a cat named Dirt. We gather material of varying consistency. I pull a weed up and toss it in the crate caring less about the crop and more about the sound of roots escaping the earth. I figure I’m still doing my job.

Ben Conley

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