story: At Night by Guy J. Jackson | music: Remembered States (excerpt) by Matthew Hough

At Night

At night the giant would stick its eye to the hole through his television and watch him as he slept.

He would go up against inanimate objects, versus walls etcetera, and always win emotionally even though the inanimate objects won physically.

He’d always smile if he saw someone he recognized.

It was never too long before he talked too much and said something stupid.

He took this nighttime job fliering for music shows. The job was hatched out of the back of a fly-by van that would stop in front of his house

 …him, his, we keep saying, let’s call him !!Morrison!!

 …back of a fly-by van that would stop in front of Morrison’s house, Morrison’s funny little house with its two gables painted to look like the eyes of the giant, with its purple walls and yellow shingles. You’d grin if you saw it, and maybe murmer ‘cool’. The van would toot and Morrison would come out and knock on the back of the van and the door would swing wide and there’d be Pike, ‘like the fish’, as Pike would tell you, and Pike would be chewing half-heartedly away at a cigarette. Pike sat in a wound-up, hunched, utterly awkward position, probably on the wheel well of the van for what Morrison could guess by his vantage point, and Pike was just about invisible in the universe of papers and notebooks and overstuffed cardboard boxes and building materials and wayward tools and television sets and outdated technologies that choked the van’s back. Pike would rummage in a box and hand Morrison a teetering stack of fliers, and Morrison would manage to snug the fliers between one hand and his hairless chin. Morrison would feel the glossiness of the top flier at the tip of his chin, and he’d smell the freshness of the minting of the fliers. They were always fliers for raves in warehouses for where pillheads could go and eat pills and either dance all night or watch lights all night or nod to the beats all night, or maybe all three of those things. “Alright, Pike?” Morrison would ask. “Yessir,” Pike would respond, rummaging. Then in the time it took for the fliers to be pulled from a box and handed over, Morrison would task himself to come up with one quick question about some other aspect of the van’s contents, because of course the contents always fascinated. “What’s with those bendy pipes?” Morrison would ask, for example. And Pike would respond one of three ways, he’d respond with obfuscation: “They’re for another job.” Which meant the universe of the van’s contents was in turn responsible for a universe of this and that. Or Pike would respond with a correction: “They’re not bendable.” Or Pike would respond with the actual answer, always adding some tantalizing yet mysterious detail: “They’re for gutters at The Channel Shed.” And then the fliers would be handed over and Pike would give the same instruction, always the same instruction: “Only dole them out between midnight and 5 in the morning, right?” And then the van doors would swing shut and the van would drive away. Morrison would stand there wondering about the job’s hours, wondering if the operation was just simply shy about fliering, wondering how Pike made the van doors swing shut without touching them. Or Morrison would wonder what such things as The Channel Shed could possibly be. Or Morrison would simply, with his free hand, snap his fingers in self-damnation at not asking what was always his biggest question after the van drove away. He’d then sing the short tuneless bit he’d made up his own self in regards to the question…

Who is he who drives that van?

Or is he a he, even a man?

Who is that driving that van?

And does he drive by a coda

Kicking at a can

He chucked that can of soda

On his driver’s side floor

Now it’s in the way of the accelerator

Who is he who drives that van?

And why do I always first think of him as a man…?

Anyway, Morrison would deliver the fliers at night.

He thought of another van he and his friends had once captured in the countryside, and then they couldn’t remember where they’d captured it.

He drove a vehicle he thought was like a van but much smaller, it could only fit him and the fliers and it did not run on gas, thank God.

He would always like to spot lonely soda cans sat lonely in empty parking spaces.

He would always like the radio to waver between stations with the stations belting out and then little interstices of static, the best time of this being the time the radio wavered between French people talking and Early American banjo blues.

Morrison pitched a tent in his yard so to avoid sleeping in front of the television and have the giant sticking an eye to the other side of the screen and go all night keeping the eye on poor Morrison. But then Morrison was always reluctant to go outside and sleep in the tent because it wasn’t a good night’s sleep.

But then again, neither was the midnight fliering gig, and creeping Morrison would go, down this street, down that, a prize when he found an apartment building with a stack of mailboxes, a pen in his pocket, a star in his eye, his heart chugging, his mother far away. The fliers went into mailslots. Every decent door had a mailslot. Mailslots could stand up straight and those were difficult to shove a flier through. Or a mailslot would be laying flat on the door but still have two opposing clusters of fibers beyond the squeaky mailslot threshold, and Morrison’s hand would get tangled. But mostly, mostly, mailslots lay flat and were easy to feed. Morrison would slink along, feeding the fliers. He was good at it, and the fliers, reconfigured from a stack between his palm and chin to a load in a small cloth canvas bag, would whisper into mailslot oblivion oh-so-quickly, and Morrison might be done fliering by as early as three a.m.

He remembered how she had said: “Yes but always to soon become an endless series of lakes and waterfalls and mountains and none of it anywhere any home in sight.”

He remembered how she would always be assisted by so many male clerks in, for example, the electrical department.

He remembered how she kept a red-cushioned stool in the fireplace instead of fires.

He remembered how she said she mostly just cried.

He remembered how she said he was the male version of Marjorie.

He remembered how her eyes went down toward her shoes when she no longer wanted to fight.

Fat American watching the hawk-haired fella zipping up his blue jacket Morrison remembered thinking whilst crossing the plaza just before his fliering job ended for good. Morrison arrived at the top of a street and the lights had gone orange down it as far as he could see, the way they made you sad in the night, that orange, and one light way at the end of the street flickered, and Morrison moved to the first mail slot and he flipped it and flipped in a flier and he seemed to see an eye in the house behind the slot, a single eye watching out at him, and Morrison thought of his own eye looking back, and he thought of the two eyes of him as though he were outside himself looking at his two eyes looking, and he thought of the single eye of the Other on the other side of the mailslot not making contact with his own eyes. He shook himself all over and moved to the next mailslot and flicked it and chucked in a flier, and he caught a glimpse for certain this time of just one eye beyond the mailslot watching out at him. What’s with this street and everyone waiting for me behind their doors? he thought, and carried on, and flipped the next mailslot at the next house and shoved a flier through and in dim green light, through said mailslot, he could see just simply one more eye, watching out at him, and he hurried on, wondering why these watching waiting eyes didn’t belong to people who emerged from their houses to scold him for fliering, but no one emerged. Maybe they liked getting the fliers. He went to a fourth house, and there indeed another eye could be seen, making eye contact with Morrison’s own eye in the momentary glimpse through the door that the flick of the mailslot’s own door allowed. Have I finally fliered too much, fliered every possible house in this city, and now they’ve conspired and are awaiting me and if so, why? They only seem to be watching, they don’t emerge and pounce on my back as I hurry back down each walk…

The fifth door was different. The mailslot was lower and Morrison couldn’t see through without hunching. He slid in a flier though, sticking his fingers well into the slot, and a yowl sounded from the far side of the door and he felt a sizeable talon rend his index finger. A hot sort of pain, and Morrison jerked his fingers out of the slot. The yowl shifted to a growl. Morrison looked at his index finger. The top knuckle was sliced wide and splayed. Like a top-joint-of-the-index-finger-sized-fish filleted. “Ow,” said Morrison, and with blood pouring, he lifted the flap again, but only with the index finger’s fingernail, and he crouched and peered through. The creature was in the entryway beyond, lit rose and prancing with territorial anger, its gills vented, its back up, its silver fur up, its scaled tail tip carving a million quick small circles. Morrison let down the flap. He watched his finger drip. It would surely need stitches. 

Morrison decided to quit the fliering job right then, in that moment. The hours were bad and the walks were always dangerous in various ways. In fact, the only positive slice of the job Morrison could think of was Pike and his mystery van, but Morrison was accustomed to that mystery now, and would soon even grow bored of it. He dumped the rest of the fliers into a nearby recycling bin. The next day he didn’t go out to meet Pike and the van. Pike had once said “If you don’t come out to meet me even once I’ll assume you’re quitting and I’ll never show up again.” True to his word, Ol’ Pike, it turned out.

Morrison soon got a day job, stuffing envelopes. It was a wisp of a job but it tired him. He would fall asleep in the early evenings with the television running and he would sleep unstoppably, unceasingly, until no matter whatever channel would go off air in the wee hours, the giant would come and stick its eye to the other side of the television screen, and watch poor Morrison through a veil of static. 

-The End-

guyGuy J. Jackson is a writer, filmmaker, and storyteller. He has many various and varied projects, including an album titled ‘Notes of Cow Life’ and a YouTube channel. His short story collection Drink the Rest of That is forthcoming.

houghMatthew Hough is a composer, guitarist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Hough has received composition commissions from Iktus Percussion, Yarn/Wire, Loadbang, Red Light New Music and the Freeport, New York school district. He has received awards and grants from New Music USA, the Sally Mead Hands Foundation, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Minnesota Orchestra and the New York Youth Symphony. Hough’s work as a guitarist includes his Music from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach, a collection of plectrum guitar duets designed for teachers of intermediate students. Hough’s writing will appear in Oxford University Press’ Grove Music Online in 2015 and has been published in the journal Guitar Review. Hough has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Manhattan School of Music, Montclair State University, Wagner College, Nyack College and SUNY Empire State College. His music can be heard on Original Abstractions and purchased through Hough House.

 Learn more about Matthew Hough

Music: Remembered States (Excerpt) by Matthew Hough.

Performers: Argeo Ascani: saxophone; Nicole Camacho: flute; Justin Friedman: trumpet; Matthew Hough: conductor; Dillon Kondor: guitar; Annie Lyle: bassoon; Joshua Modney: violin; Anne Rainwater: piano; Megan Schubert: voice; Dennis Sullivan: percussion.