Grasshopper Penthouse Magazine Brenton Rossow Macro-Fiction

map Grasshopper Penthouse Magazine

by Brenton Rossow

Published in Issue No. 159 ~ August, 2010

Self hate tickles and calls. I choose Mani. People call me Mani in this town. Many a year has passed since I rowed my boat to the island in the middle… but I’m back—talking sideways to the motto geeks—roaming dead with a mantis sketched hard. The cigarettes disgust and inflict. The Raskmey Makara weeps insects day and night. And there he is again; lion lips on the karaoke mike, that girl with a fucking limp in her tongue, me and my clever blue pen; writing suicide; thirty three, immaculate, sweat beads racing into the belly of my favourite Hawaiian; buttons busted open; neither here nor there.

It takes courage to stay in this hotel; courage to stay harmless; courage to be alone. Hate lingers and itches and forms a tasty scab. Clouds dissolve, wind fondles, dogs race in knee high grass dissected by rusted heart-shaped flowers. Red skin and daylight, dust clouds own the street. Japanese beer and aircon…. What would Dicky Wadd do? Where would Senkay roam? Phlegm, shit, piss, cum, hair, blood, love want away from me…. but I look more beautiful than I was at twenty nine. I have cultivated my ugliness and veiled the populace with a likeable design. You can call me Mani from now until the end.

*

No one goes to jail as long as they buy inflatable toys. You can wade into the water if you don’t know how to swim; wallet water proof welcome aboard you’re one of them; ankle in the air as the lotus blossoms ruse. Mani waits in doorways, smoke combing his raptorial limbs. Mani knows this town; watches geckos and wonders if he’s faster, listens to the singing night swim darkness. Mani has beautiful teeth and a lot more hair. Minoxidil gushed blood to his skull. Peachy hairs trained softly at times resembled a full head of hair. His dentist plastered his gap and polished his fangs. He shaved his conquistador’s chin and for the first time since childhood blended. He wore clothes that displayed his wealth and cushioned him kind in a middle-aged gate. Pleasantries were exchanged, bills were paid. Mani undulated in the breeze; a year since Blinch and Senkay had buried Painin.

*

Cool morning. Birds who walk serious into coconut caves. The cleaning maid sings so soft and sweet Mani almost squeezes salt. His chest feels heavy. He watches her from behind, dragging a wet mop. Mani gets shaky without beer. Hands slightly shaking, eyes salivating, he moved towards the refrigerator and pulled out a couple of cold ones, returned to the table and handed me a fresh one. A flashback of my old withered granddaddy zinged before my eyes then—zam—he was seated across the table from me. Dicky Wadd isn’t doing well. He started smoking and has horrible teeth. He rarely smiles or takes the rains, grimaces at his running shoes and peers through the curtains with a silver can. Past loves haunt like flies in a window gutter. He is empty and afraid, ruled by the Ghost Mantis Mani. But Mani has colour beneath his wings. Mani is born again—new eyes and heart. Mani tips. Mani abides. Mani sneaks through palm leaves and prowls. Follow the grasshopper: Singers Under The World. They all hurt too much and refuse to accept they’re real. Mani peers out the curtain sipping from a silver can. He sees a light in the bushes.

*

Senkay skips into the evening, brushing against the leaves. In darkness, we are invisible with our thoughts and the whispers of the swamp call us into the beautiful bubble-muck. He slips out of his favourite Hawaiian and slides into a lotus pool—nostrils barely above the waterline. The sky is dark and clumps of bamboo rustle as if a creature is about to emerge. His toes squish the mud. This is where they breathe. His lower tibia and upper femur fiddle inside his mandibles and out pops a singer’s knee. He swivels his eyes and hears a faint muffled scream. In darkness we are invisible. They are all around, hidden deep sideways, camouflaged between stems and leaves. Legs move back and forth as Senkay numbs inside the sound. A moth lands on a lotus leaf and hums its wings in a dusty blur. “I know you Mani.” Senkay shoots out his comb-like blades as the moth curls antenna and darts into the air. Mani’s hands rest against his chest in an upside down prayer. A turquoise tarantula rests on the banks of the lotus pool. It drinks slowly pawing the mud, hands breathe. It sends a ripple centipeding towards Mani, looks across the water, and smiles. “I bought you twenty one red balloons for your birthday Mani. How could you forget that? How could you let me drown?”

*

Mani rests silent in his pink curtained room. He looks up at the ceiling and watches Painin disappear beneath the waterline. Who was that guy with his fuzzy fucking rambutans, trying to be genuine and kind? Barry; Vietnam vet, bearded, wiry, war pension; nice to meet you Knucker Knucker. We have more in common than typewriters, fish tanks and an appreciation for the chucking sublime. I will eat where you eat. I will become your close friend. You will scold yourself in the mirror; keep Mani close; head against chest, tears soaking soft. Mani loves Barry. Mani loves it when Barry builds castles in the sky. Mani stares into the night and understands quietly nothing can harm him under Koh Kong skies. Bank balance hefty, Mani smiles like a gentleman, offers friendship and people climb aboard. He takes them to a place where the reeds rise high, baptizes them with love and understanding and climbs inside.

*

Knees climb the pillow; tunnel hairy wide smiles. Mani rubs fingertips across nipples and knifes from behind, adjusts the rubber and fiddles with her trochanter. She arches and releases river mud. Mani squishes down hard and listens to her breath. Right and wrong is the same picture if the photographer turns out the lights and asks you to see. There’s a girl who lives far away in the mountains of Luang Prabang. She gets up early and cooks breakfast for her family. She teaches her daughter the basics of English on a whiteboard. She studies photographs in secrecy. Mani runs his comb-like fingers through country hair and studies the dimple between her back and temple. He wishes he could roll a 5 baht coin from her neck, using her shoulders as guides. He walks outside and prays upside down to the moon, fires a menthol and blurts smoke. There’s a man crouched in the bushes thirty feet from where Mani stands. His old worn out running shoes bark silent below shorts high on the thigh. He doesn’t look at Mani; head down, ready for the gun. Mani blinks and The Wadd dissolves into the leaves. Mani doesn’t want him here now. He will take solace in his wisdom when he is crippled and diseased.

*

Mani studies them through leaves. He rustles the lobby boy and pays for another eve. Mani’s getting sicker but he doesn’t know it. He is aware something is grappling but confidence anchors soft in the promise of belief. People are soil poor in Koh Kong and he wades comfortable through their reeds, squishes down toes and breathes singers under the world. At night he wanders free; basking in immortality. She hands him an embryo and he squirts it lemon, buries it pepper and spoon, relishes the loom of beak against distant Ferris wheel, holds tightly and studies the scar on her thumb. Mani’s not a mountaineer. He’s friends with cigarettes and booze. It’s too damn hot to go running through villages when the maid moves so sweetly with mop and broom. His silver cans wink silently and promise to protect him from fear. Mani smiles as he shakes hands and laughs with the local police. Mani is bubbling when he peers through pink curtains and stares out at the trees. The rain barely obeys and the sun tears dizzy ribbons from forehead and knees. Mani has secrets but that doesn’t stop him nursing the obligations of everyday men. He buys cheese, sardines, and bread from the Chinese in front of the round about, pays the motto geeks the correct fair and smiles sideways at the breeze. Hairy tunnels arch, widen and smile as Mani beguiles. This will be a good one. Cigarettes fall from fingers; dead grubs on the floor. The maid tucks them away for her husband as Mani recovers in his tomb. He pities the night managers; light on the loafers, long fingernails, little dances to the gate of The Raskmey Makara when a customer might arrive. More than thirty grasshoppers live out back in bungalows. Mani receives no offers and is barely humoured by these parasites. No matter how beautiful Mani and Senkay have become they are only guests at the Raskmey Makara. They are perfectly ignored as soon as they the pay the bill.

*

Mani squirts his limbs in mosquito spray, terrified of an insect inflicted disease. The swamps hum as the sun disappears. An iceman sings with the muezzin who drifts his tongue across the Muslim fishing village and serenades the Raskmey Makara. Grasshoppers emerge from their air-conditioned rooms, loping towards the bunkeresque karaoke rooms that stand in a line in front of Mani’s pink curtained room. You can feel their breast, ass and knee, but they will not sleep with you unless you cough painful fees. There is no loyalty when a big fish is willing to breathe; grasshoppers are parasites if the conditions appeal. But Mani is a creature of modest wealth who doesn’t like the way the grasshoppers at the Raksmey Makara sing. The road to The Grasshopper Farm is meditation; a deep pondering. Mani is a well groomed businessman. Two sisters of the ideal species smile their way back into his room. These grasshoppers could be fold-outs in Grasshopper Penthouse magazine. Mani is charming. Mani secretes pheromones which lubricate their ovipositors. They drink from silver cans and peer out pink curtains. Hands become knees, knees pressed deep in the Makara’s black vinyl couch. The younger sister licks Mani’s mandibles, dances a tongue into his ear and watches her sister arch. Mani whispers fragrant and foreign. “Yes… tonight dream… cock in pussy me.” Mani watches them switch places as the dear hunter spins his ridge. He doesn’t hesitate. His hands begin to pray as his eyes swivel the room. Mani is Christian. The older sister jiggles his balls and looks up laboured, laughing at her sister. Mani diddles her trochanter and splays her tarsus; imagines two sisters with blood on the front of their knickers, riding high, locked in the cage of a ferris wheel. The older sister slips into the bathroom and lets the water run hard. Mani pounds the meatier sister from behind, strokes her neck with a groomed fingernail and explodes inside her mannequin’00s tools. She waits appropriately then joins her older sister with soap and shampoo. Mani fires a menthol and alights from the room, steps onto the balcony and softly cries.

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Brenton Rossow is the lead singer of an experimental three piece called The Folding Chairs. His work has been published in Thieves Jargon, Parameter Magazine, Barrel House, Dogzplot, Decomp Mag, Jerseyworks, Flutter, Sein Un Werden, Zygote in My Coffee, Nefarious Ballerina, Unlikely 2.0, Cha, The New Writer, Weyfarers, Qwerty, and Indigo Journal among others. He enjoys shopping and light-weight shoes.
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