this is a
white knuckle chapbook
copyright 2017 by Michael McInnis
for white knuckle: Howie Good and Dale Wisely
design and cover image,
by Dale Wisely
A version of “The weather was mild with some rain and sprinkling.” appeared in The Bees are Dead. “We broke into condemned factories and lit fires.” appeared in In-between Hangovers. “Letters to Travel Agencies” appeared in Oxford Magazine.
Secret Histories control the intersection of hagiography, memoir and fiction. Secret Histories reject the dictatorship of reality, the death of the spirit where everyone says the opposite because they are right. Secret Histories channel alternate universes, alien abductions, societies where truth and reason no longer function. Secret Histories feature dread at the edge of the world where sea monsters and leviathan menace passing ships.
We stood watching a new moon circling Jupiter. A screaming moon, full of gadgetry and gimcrackery. That moon, that screaming moon catapulted us over handlebars where we landed on the windshield of a passing murmuring moon. We left a perfect imprint of our body on the passing murmuring moon, sliding and tumbling in orbit past still more moons.
The weather was mild and sprinkling. An angry comet, mad that it was nothing more than a dirty ice ball and vowing to do real damage some day if only it wasn’t stuck in this orbit, scorched across the solar system. There seemed no point waiting for the comet’s return.
Clouds braided the sky. The fishmonger arranged fillets of cod on ice and straw and insisted a scratch ticket foretold the future. We no longer had a use for UFOs, magic bullets or string theory. Our focus remained on Thoreau’s pencils.
On an island yet to be discovered – navigational maps referenced only shoals and deep sea volcanoes – where crystal pools of sweet blue liquid nourished the flora and fauna, where the cognoscenti tended interior vineyards and the hooligans, pedestrians and sailors argued essential questions of the universe, fears of alien encounters remained unknown, or so it was rumored, except among shipwreck survivors who were quarantined to the side of the island where seals and reptiles lounged and where sharks swam the hypersaline lagoon....
The first thing we noticed about the rocketship was its small size, like a VW bus decked out in alien peace symbols, webbed in light, adrift as if at sea.
When the door-to-door exorcist arrived, we let him in before he had a chance to introduce himself. At first, he stood in the hallway as if testing the space for satanic residue. Satisfied, the door to door exorcist ventured into the kitchen. We offered him coffee and a snack, but he declined and moved toward the dining room. It was in that room that he realized he was in the wrong house. We insisted he stay for dinner.
The existentialist from Essex understood the history of boatbuilding and fried clams, the theory behind golden battered onion rings and a rational existence despite an irrational universe, but he fretted over salt marshes and Le Grand Dérangement of the Acadians, of the supremacy of Great Whites over grey seals, of sperm whales battering ships and of the futility of memory, of history and of pink bicycles whose riders were spirited away.
From sonar control I could see the edge of the world, a Fata Morgana projecting images of islands and ships and breeching whales, shipmates stranded on cannibal islands and everyone on the frigate feeling like Fletcher Christian.
We rocketed our children to the future and watched them land on planets with flinty cellular coverage, free of us and our gravity.
I left a dish on the hotel nightstand tiled with coins from seven countries for the cleaning maid. A tour guide came to the hotel lobby and asked if anyone would like to dismantle alien spacecraft stored in hangers carved out of Antarctic ice.
A broken window was proof enough that cereal boxes, fortune cookie codes and short wave radio broadcasts originated from a higher intelligence.
In a wooden box we found vacation snapshots tattooed with gold leaf and runny black marker.
In a wooden box we found a black hole where light had finished its marathon and sound left us only with our heartbeats amplified and changing our DNA.
In a box we found the edge of the world, the edge our hands, the edge of our seats, the edge of the solar system where satellites loiter.wooden
We broke in to condemned factories and lit fires. At night the stars resembled a sluice of dead light fractured and emitting a hum we heard through broken windows.
Michael McInnis trained as a cabinet-maker, but never managed to work as one. Instead, he served six years in the Navy as a Sonar Technician chasing white whales and Soviet submarines. After his Honorable Discharge he founded The Primal Plunge, Boston’s original bookstore dedicated to ‘zines and underground culture. He is the designer & editor of the online literary zine, Nixes Mate Review (nixesmate.pub).