EXCERPTED PASSAGES FROM BLOODFIRE
By Eyeshot al Sheriff
Bloodfire -- the first pretty paperback from Eyeshot -- is
a short, dense, autofictional, speculative biography (ie, a novella) re:
the consequences of living beyond one's means, wish fulfullment, confabulation,
and anxieties re: neuropsychological inheritance/genetic dehiscence. Excerpts
appear below from the book, which can be ordered for $12 (includes shipping
and transaction fees). Note: a few copies remain of the first edition,
which includes four known typos that will be corrected in subsequent editions,
[Add Bloodfire to your
Everything seems set in stone then it turns to water.
Thank god for the nineteen eighties. Everyone wanted a swimming pool,
had to have a swimming pool, something to dive into, something to invite
kids over to celebrate, a pool of clean water in the backyard. Morris sold
the slides and furniture, the diving boards and rafts, snorkels and flippers,
the maintenance equipment. In the summer he hired college kids who’d drive
all over the area cleaning pools and wearing t-shirts that said Morris
Pools. No cute slogan, his name and nothing more. No extraneous words to
detract from that beautiful word––pools––what a beautiful word––pools––he
could say it forever––pools—and my uncle foresaw a long restorative
float in an in-ground pool.
He’d float till recovered from the drive. Straight down the interstate.
The central vein. All day moving with everyone else, tense, afraid some
lunatic jerks the wheel to the right when shooting down the passing lane.
Or cuts across the grass divider, meets you head on. Drivers shoot through
windshields. My god another day avoiding a crash. Another day waiting for
the car to catch fire and explode.
Morris would take care of him. Keep him secret. Resurrect him in the
healing waters of the backyard pool. Float him out in the raft after pouring
a vodka tonic down his throat. Send him floating in shorts and sunglasses
and water-resistant sun-block, a tape of a Brooklyn Dodgers radio broadcast
on a loop, spooling nine innings over and over, the game never-ending,
never changing, the twenty-seventh out flowing into first pitch. Each at-bat
restores my uncle’s life until he rolls off the raft and holds his breath
underwater, holds it so long he learns to breathe through his skin.
So beautiful an idea: thousands of miles across an ocean to locate a
fountain in swampy wilderness. How inspired this greed beyond gold, only
fulfilled by everlasting life on earth. And what with the church offering
everlasting life in heaven it must have amounted to theological rebellion.
Gold pillaged from the New World must have made them want to live as long
as they could in this life. Only in life before death could they enjoy
the treasures they hoarded. See all the palaces they built enjoyed by generations.
Make sure no one squandered their fortune hundreds of years in the future.
Everlasting life awaited in heaven. But if they’d be forever in heaven
then let the Lord lead believers to concealed waters. Imagine the Spanish
king’s influence when he installed the fountain beneath the Torre de Oro.
How many favors would be won from the insidious and ignoble looking to
depose their rulers? Kings deep into fragility, in exchange for time spent
with the fountain they’d hand over how many islands of the Caribbean? Who
knows how much of Africa Spain would receive from the French king in exchange
for a single sip? All the rulers of the world drawn to the fountain. The
Spanish nobility would poison a false fountain, depose of bodies, then
take unsettled kingdoms by force.
The quest for the fountain like the race to harness the atom. Godly
power. Unholy quest. So beautiful an idea: the quest for the fountain as
audacious as building a tower to heaven, which enraged God, who scattered
everyone across the globe, scrambled the common language—and to avenge
Ponce de Leon’s attempt to find the fountain of youth, the Good Lord turned
Florida into the land of the eternally old.
It’s time to make it deep into Virginia by midnight where my uncle will
rent a cheap room, but before he goes, he’ll offer for sale a kaleidoscope
in which his in-between daughter looked to distract herself from insults.
The shifting colors made her think of unexpected beauty in the world, though
she’d said it more like so pretty when you look inside even if on the outside
it’s just a tiny telescope-type microscope thing. Instead of letting
you see the microscopic, the distant, it invited you into a peacefully
hypnotic, gracefully repeating set of effortlessly shifting patterns. Not
that she said it like that. She held an eye to the kaleidoscope and it
helped her through the day.
Its value exceeds the stars visible on a moonless night in the middle
of nowhere. Should cost ten dollars a star! Walk away with this item forever
available to salve your heart. Always there when you need it. Almost free
Once the trunk is empty and my uncle’s pockets filled, he will produce
from the glove compartment the black-velvet sack of earrings, necklaces,
bracelets, stones and shells, assorted souvenirs, the small items of sentiment
in ornamental dishes next to each daughter’s bed, ingredients that converged
to ward off undefined evils. Simple collections of whatnot in ornamental
dishes. Unorthodox Judaism reverted to trinket obsession. Pagan worshippers
of soft white stones and sea glass rescued from the Belmar surf, pheasant
feathers, a robin’s egg, a pair of black dice, ticket stubs to long-gone
matinees, an old photograph of a man’s shrunken head in a jar, another
of the same guy with three heads. Trick photography showing the three-headed
man my uncle would become when his daughters’ heads sprouted where his
had been. Trick photography showing the three-headed son he would have
had if his daughters had all been simultaneously born as boys with one
All those gambling with their lives should have an easier time. There
should be tables surrounded by carpets of plush flames were the dealers
wear red leotards and black satin capes, goatees and devil horns. Wisps
of fire escape from lips each time they curse the damned at their tables,
the gamblers betting their lives, putting it all on the line because they
trust something good must come. The break. The edge. The opposite of anxiety.
They put themselves in the way of the worst so the best might notice the
risk and appear.
All those gambling on carpets of flames should win a few rounds so it’s
a sure-fire thing that things’ll go well, then they can decide to press
their luck or stick with it and have life made easier by the beneficent
casino. But the tables would be too mobbed, so they’d raise the stakes,
cause some sufferers to lose everything, the way the infamous Curly Lemon
lost the rest of my father’s loan, then was tempted to ask for more, but
by then my father was pressuring for the first installment of repayment.
The check always in the mail till he learned how to turn his Lucky Strike
butts into bright-shining pellets of gold.
That’s the question I have for America now: how much must its citizens
endure before the ashes of every cigarette they smoke become bright-shining
pellets of gold?
Imagine uncovered legs and feet, swim trunks, inflatable raft, black
wayfarers, hair slicked with grease and water, the blessed sun above, the
radio playing the latest hits by Gil Hodges and the Dodgers. Sullen daughter
not listening to the ballgame. Her brain turning speech into sounds. Thousands
of years of advances from grunts and groans to verbs and nouns. Now an
understandable set of sounds transmitted across something called airwaves—waves
in the air, imagine that—waves in the air on which modifiers and exclamations
ride from horizon to shore. In this case, the horizon is the baseball diamond,
the shoreline the swimming pool. Extraordinary advancement. Super-sullen
Iris Reizenstein kicks at the pool with timid feet, not even caring that
Jackie Robinson stole third and a sacrifice fly or wild pitch or any sort
of hit will send him home and break the tension the 2-2 tie’s been tightening
around the game’s throat since the second inning. Doesn’t care that words
ride invisible airwaves and bring the game from Brooklyn to their home
in Jersey. She doesn’t care, in fact, so intensely that she doesn’t pay
attention and thereby reverses thousands of years of human achievement,
turning language into sounds she hears no more than she feels the sun come
through her blouse and warm her pale shoulders.
Afraid of the water whether in the pool or waves of sound in the air.
Afraid even when the water’s in a classic rectangular swimming pool. Look
at her kick at it like a curled-in-defense garter snake, a harmless thing,
the girl, the snake, the water in the pool. But she so seemingly afraid
of everything, tentative, too quick to let her mind run through the list
of terrors. Melinda, her mother, made her afraid of every watery danger:
lightning storms, hitting head on walls of pool, swallowing too much water,
post-lunch death cramps, kicking the radio into the water, electrocuting
She didn’t want to kick the radio into the water and electrocute her
father in the seventh inning of the Dodgers–Giants game, did she? Electrocute
he who made life seem as though all there was in the world were pools of
colorless water made blue by lining along the bottom (appearances). All
there was in the world was all day afloat on a raft, arms submerged, spirit
aloft, nose coated in sun block, trunks pulled over navel. No other way
to pass the summer, the whole reason they lived and worked and did anything
at all was to spend a week of summer days supremely supine on an inflatable
raft, hard at work at nothing more than allowing distinctions between self
and other melt away, the way an ice cube in a tall glass of vodka tonic
melts away, as they say we all melt away, softer and softer until softer
than air, a memory.
Ida was a good kid. A full blown bloom at 2:50, 2:40 in the morning.
She became a wife at that time. She saw visions and birds and that crap,
so I accepted her stories especially the 2:15 in the morning stories. She
took fantasism to certain people and certain combinations of numbers, time
numbers, two o’ clock, two-forty, twenty minutes after four, two-thirty
in the morning . . . As you grow older you grow more stable to stable facts.
She had ant . . . ant . . . ant . . . ant . . . anecdotes! Stories that
used to ring bells and they ring bells when I’m talking and telling you
bells and say “do you ring bells now?” I say I don’t ring bells now. She
would come to a story somewhere that she lost faith in it and someone said
jeez these are swell pairs of shoes, the best I’ve ever worn, and with
that something else would come about, the story of a number, and I would
take that number and rumble with it, as I call it, talk a lot of bullshit
with it and see how it falls in. The bullshit goes with it or she goes
with it and who’s following the story, who goes the most, one attracted
to the number to something that they were telling the story of a story
of a story of a number that a number’s getting picked up somewhere someplace,
had no connection whatsoever and suddenly the story became a story like
that, just fumbled out of my mind. Ida was a different thing. She always
had fantasies about being gone with big shots, big guys who were guys who
could afford to back up a story with facts and fiction, fill them in and
give them a ring of truth, some had stories that didn’t have a ring, a
ring of fantasy, but for her it wasn’t fantasy. It was that she had an
opportunity that didn’t break through whereas the stories were plump and
solid and she anticipated something that was working together but lost
faith in it and never happened. I never had any stories with Ida.
They were banging all the time, he thought, he said, as he walked. She
always had these stories waiting to tell somebody, breaking into a story,
and it would come to a point she would not know that it was fantasy. She
was on a theme and continuing that theme, there was money to be made in
the theme . . . She would have stories that she would build up of cars.
She gave the automobile credence to the power it had for her to get there
to do this to do that, but sometimes she couldn’t wait, never worked for
me any way else. Because of the themes she had in her mind, she had a lot
of theories and she would tell them to me already in action . . . that
was her dream.
He had learned not to intervene. It was not his role to intervene. If
he dared limit his wife’s response to a distended orb of a mark on the
garage door he too would be screamed at in a way no human being should
ever be screamed at. No one should be screamed at the way my uncle’s wife
screamed at her daughters. The way she screamed at me for eating too many
M&M candies in a bowl on a table when I was ten years old. I was attacking
a bowl of M&Ms, just going at them, coming close to finishing it, when
my aunt (through marriage) screamed at me. I don’t remember crying but
I do remember resenting her and probably still resent her twenty-three
years later for how she screamed because I still remember it and only see
it from the perspective of someone standing in the entranceway to the living
room. I see the television in the far corner and I see myself on the couch,
leaning forward to attack with wonderful clueless gluttony the bowl of
M&Ms. I remember the scene from her perspective coming into the living
room, which reveals something about how intensely she screamed at me for
something as small and forgivable as gorging on delicious chocolate candies––an
almost pre-sexual fervency to it, extreme oral pleasure. She screamed so
intensely that my memory of the event switched to her perspective. What’s
frightening about this switch is that it was just one moment I was exposed
to a scream so unexpectedly harsh I must have been standing on the living
room’s low coffee table, pants around ankles, shitting into the bowl of
M&Ms. If I had been shitting into the bowl of M&Ms, I’d have expected
shrieking, but comparatively I only very politely sat. The sound of the
wordless scream, how terrible the scream must have been for my aunt, how
painful. She was not a sadist, in no way did she enjoy screaming like that.
It hurt her to scream, a scream that came from too far down to make rational
He wraps a towel around his waist. The television still shows baseball
highlights: back, back, back, and gone! No need to wait for the ball to
crush your skull. Take up a bat from inside yourself, man, a rib. Much
better than a Louisville Slugger.
He imagines standing on top of the bed as he slips beneath the sheets
and readies himself for the ball’s inevitable switch to full speed, the
pop of the pitch coming to life, the naturally energized swing. If Morris
throws one down the pike he’s taking that shit deep––back, back, back,
My uncle stands over his sleeping self, anticipating the ball’s sudden
acceleration, and as long as it tumbles ahead like a four-seam fastball––crack!––it’ll
soar into the night and he’ll kiss his hand as he crosses first base to
signal to his first daughter he’s thinking of her at that moment; he’ll
kiss his hand as he rounds second to signal to his second daughter he’s
thinking of her then; and as he rounds third base he’ll kiss his hand again
to signal to his youngest daughter he’s thinking of her, too; and when
he makes it around all the bases he’ll kiss both hands and throw them skyward
then kneel in front of home plate and kiss it as he would if the base were
his home restored.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/bloodfire.html]