I didn’t answer the knock at the door. And I didn’t look through the peephole because I knew who it was. But I stood at the door and watched two pieces of paper slide under it. When the sound of footsteps receded down the hall, I grabbed the papers. Petition and Notice of Petition. Bullshit legal jargon that meant the first steps toward eviction.
I hadn’t paid a dime of rent in four months. My vulture of a landlord was circling.
I felt woozy. The eviction papers fucked me up. The heat made it worse. The A/C was off. I had to keep the electric bill down, especially since a final termination notice dropped the day before. I read through the eviction papers. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Seeing it spelled out—all court-approved and official—I could’ve taken a shit in my pants. I collapsed on the couch. Before the papers slid under the door, I’d been mellowing out to Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, getting buzzed on the ebb and flow of his horn. I had jacked up the volume to get the buzz back when my phone rang. The ringtone was the old-fashion kind from back when phones were just phones and not handheld supercomputers that people couldn’t put down. Because god forbid your eyes aren’t plastered to a phone every second.
It rang again. “Hello?”
“Hey, bro.” Guy’s voice. It drawled, like he was strung out. “They’re downstairs, in a blue Ford Explorer.”
I grabbed the last of my cash and scrambled down the three flights of stairs. My dress shoes clacked against the dingy white-and-gray marble steps and shot noise all over the building. One old lady—the building was bursting with them—poked her head out of her door. She pinched her face up as I clacked by.
There was parking space along the curb, but the Explorer idled in the street. Easier to make a fast getaway, I thought. If it comes to that. Hogging the street like that, passing cars would have to crawl around the thing. Not a biggie. Happened all the time on these one-way streets in Queens. It was a polished midnight-blue, windows rolled up and so darkly tinted, it was like looking into a black hole. The day was too gaudy and bright. The humidity was so thick, you could grasp it. I opened the passenger door, climbed in. My relief at the air-conditioned interior rivaled my shock at seeing a chick in the driver’s seat.
“Hi there,” she said.
She must have sensed my surprise. “You ok?” she said.
“Yeah. This is the first time they sent a ch—a woman.”
“Were you afraid you got in the wrong car?”
I was. I’d done it once before. Luckily this isn’t some redneck state with conceal/carry laws, or I might have gotten my brains blown out.
“Can I get a hundred percent sativa?” I said. “Small baggie.”
She pulled a black messenger bag from under her seat. Even with the dark tinting she was careful to keep it below window level. She was late twenties, early thirties. Black tank top, white denim pants, black sandals. Straight, shoulder-length brunette hair. Fruitpunch-red lipstick, a little blush. Pretty. Young and plush and dewy. The kind of chick I liked to hook up with.
The engine droned, but was soundless enough to hear jazz crooning from the sound system. Could it be? A millennial listening to jazz?
“Impressive taste in music,” I said. The smell of weed dangled in the air as she picked through the messenger bag. “Pannonica.”
“The piece that’s playing. It’s ‘Pannonica.’ Thelonious Monk. He recorded it a couple of times. This version’s from his Brilliant Corners album. 1956.”
“What’s a Thelonious Monk?” she said.
She should have just stabbed me. “Um…Pianist. Composer. Jazz legend. Same level as Miles Davis, Basie, Ellington, Coltrane. Played bebop, hard bob, cool jazz and you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, do you?”
“I turned on Spotify and this was playing.”
I didn’t know what Spotify was. Probably some digital thing. I thought for a moment, then purposely stuck my foot in my mouth. “Yup. Love Thelonious Monk. Got all his CDs.” I gave CDs an extra punch.
She stopped picking through the bag like someone had hit a stop button. “You still own CDs?” Like it was Nazi memorabilia. “Write checks when you go to the store? Get your mail by Pony Express?”
A concoction of astonishment and insults, topped off with a glob of disgust. The reaction I expected—and always got—when I said I own CDs; that I do DVDs instead of the streaming thing; that I subscribe to print newspapers and would rather die than subject myself to social media. Yeah, I know: it’s the Twenty-first Century, the Digital Age, time to go green, blah blah blah. I get it, okay? But I need the CD booklet with the liner notes; the DVDs lined up on the shelf; the physical book they cut down a tree for. Look, if I can’t see it, touch it, hold it, it doesn’t exist. Yup. Old-fashioned. And I’m forty-seven, so to you I’m probably just old.
The chick pulled out a baggie. “That’ll be fifty.”
Stupid spending money on weed when I couldn’t even pay my rent. I passed her the cash anyway. She passed me the baggie, never lifting it above knee level. I jammed it in my pocket. She was looking me over. Smiling and not trying to hide it. Hmm, I thought. She wants me. Maybe next time I’ll get a discount if I give her a little something in return.
Ok, you think I’m an arrogant prick. Normally you’d be right.
But here’s the thing: I’m not normal—I’m freakin’ hot.
My biceps are so big and round, you’d think my sleeves were stuffed with soccer balls. I got pecs so large, my shirts barely hold them in. My ass is so perky, it’s like there’s invisible hands pushing up my cheeks. A big ol’ bubble butt suspended in midair. You know how they draw superheroes? Sweeping shoulders, svelte waist, muscles busting out of those skin-tight costumes? That’s what I’d look like if I wore a superhero costume. And my face—I’ll just say it: I’m extraordinarily handsome. Capital-H-handsome. Movie-star-handsome. Calvin-Klein-underwear-billboard-in-Times-fucking-Square-handsome. It’s understandable if you think I’m an egocentric jerk. But if you saw me, you’d know I wasn’t lying.
The music had changed from Monk to Nancy Wilson singing “The Masquerade Is Over.” From the set she did with Cannonball Adderly in ‘61. Nancy’s voice tinkled like light fingers on piano keys.
“You’re dressed like you’re going somewhere,” the chick said.
I was wearing dress slacks, shirt, tie, hard-soled Oxfords. “Job interview costume. Got one in a couple hours. Haven’t worked in a while.”
“Not stopping you from buying weed.”
“Sweetheart, weed is the only reason I’ve survived.”
And the reason I was out of a job to begin with. I was a surgical tech till I got screwed by a random drug test. I’d smoked half a joint the night before during an unexpected hookup. They’d already tested me that week, so I thought I had some leeway. How’d I know they’d test me again so quick? Yeah, I get it: Random means random. But usually it was weeks between tests. It came up positive—of course. They fired me—of course. The state revoked my certification, and every time some jerk-off HR rep or stuff-shirt hiring manager asked about it, I had to tell them. A year and a half later I was still unemployed, living on cold cuts and water, facing eviction, and in mortal danger of having to move back upstate to Tilton—my hometown—to live with my twin sister and her family. Enough to make anyone need a joint.
The chick kept checking me out and nodding, like she approved or something. Kind of weirded me out. She handed me a business card. “I know someone who’s hiring, ” she said. The card had an address. No name. No phone number or email. Just an address.
“What’s the job?” I said. Not that it mattered. I had an eviction notice upstairs.
She started the ignition. “Bye now. Have a good rest of your day.”
Empire State Testing Corp. was in one of those monstrosities on 55th Street and Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. The kind of building that’s all snazzy glass and steel, zig-zagging up sixty stories like some funky futuristic thing. Supposedly avant-garde, but really just overdone and full of itself. New York architecture has lost its character. Give me buildings made of limestone, with Art Deco spires and gargoyles instead of this modernistic horseshit.
I checked in at security and went to the thirty-eighth floor.
Empire State’s receptionist was a black guy with short dreads. He wore a set of big-ass headphones as he tap-tap-tapped at his keyboard. I waited, thinking he’d greet me or check me in or whatever it is receptionists do. But he kept tapping. I cleared my throat. Cleared it again, louder. Nothing. I waved my arms in front of him like I was flagging down an emergency vehicle.
“Hellooooo? Anyone hooooome?”
He stopped tapping, lifted his head in extreme slow motion, and snarled, “Is there something I can help you with?” Lips moved, teeth didn’t. He didn’t remove his headphones.
Two folks you don’t piss off when you go to a job interview: the security schmuck in the lobby and the schmuck at the receptionist’s desk. You do, you’re screwed. I knew I’d earned a demerit with my waving routine, so now I had to make nice.
“Sorry,” I said. “You probably couldn’t hear me, so—”
“I was in the middle of entering information into a Spread. Sheet.”
He over-enunciated it like it was something exotic. Pop music shrieked from his headphones, like he wasn’t wearing any. Young guy, so he probably didn’t know jack about jazz either. Even though he was black.
“I have a 2:00 interview for the test proctor position,” I said. “My name is—”
“Check in on the tablet.” He went back to tapping.
“Um…The tablet?” He gestured at something with his chin. An iPad-looking thing clamped to the counter. “Enter your info.”
“On that thing?”
“On that thing.”
Self-service job interview check-in? Seriously? If you check yourself in, do you get to hire yourself, too? I entered my information, but had to ask him out how to close out of the window.
“Um…you press the save icon?” he said.
“Sorry. My first time using one of these gizmos.”
“Gizmos?” His mouth opened into a teeth-baring smile like an animal who just caught a whiff of blood. “Do you still use a flip phone, too?”
How’d he know? I love my flip. It’s like the communicators on Star Trek that Kirk and Spock open with a quick snap of the wrist. Smart phone, schmart phone. Don’t fuck with my flip.
I sat in the waiting area, opened my leather portfolio with my resume and a list of bogus references. I wasn’t getting one from the hospital obviously, so I’d arm-twisted friends who owed me favors and coached them on what to say if they got called. I crossed my legs. Checked my watch. I wished I was home, stoned, listening to Billie Holiday murmuring sad songs, or Ella Fitzgerald scat-singing a storm of joyful nonsense. Billie matched my mood. Ella matched the mood I wanted.
I slapped the portfolio shut, and thought, Jeez. Another fucking interview.
You know that old saying, You don’t truly believe something bad can happen till it does? I believed it. I believed I could lose my job, my apartment, have to move back to Tilton. I knew it could happen. And now I spent my days smoking weed, listening to jazz, scrolling through endless job listings online, and schlepping to interviews where they asked, Why do you think it’s taking so long to find a job? And always with a subtle tightening of the eyes, head turned slightly askew, mouth half-smiling to disguise their suspicion. Because what they were really saying was: What’s wrong with you? Something must be, or you’d have a job by now.
“Hang in there,” my twin sister said on the phone earlier that week. “It’ll be ok. You’ll get through this.”
“Think so?” I said. I told her about something I read—way before I got fired—about a flock of homeless people living in a state park in Jersey, and not your typical homeless. These folks had solid educations, serious career accomplishments. But they lost their jobs and failed when they tried to get back on track. One was some kind of research scientist. Published academic papers up the wazoo, lectured at universities. She was sixty—a non-starter in the job market. She moved to the park when the bank foreclosed on her house. If that happened to her, it could happen to me. Because I wasn’t accomplished. I was a fuck-up.
“You are not…that,” my sister said. She hates cursing. “This will make you stronger. Remember the Laws of Attraction. Think positively.”
That positive-thinking stuff is crap, but she was trying to help. I loved her for that.
“Come with me, please.”
Someone had appeared next to me, out of nowhere. Poof. Young guy. Probably half my age. Jeez, I thought. Another interview with a millennial.
I extended my hand. He ignored it and strode out of the waiting area. I dashed after him, panicked I’d get left behind. Actually, he didn’t stride—he swished. Ass cheeks smacking from right to left like a runway model. His pants clung to him like tights.
We got to his office and he slung out the first question as soon as he flopped in his chair.
“What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?”
“Well…uh…um…” First question and I was already off-course. The guy made a production of sighing and drumming his pinkie on the desk as I fumbled and stumbled.
“Uh…Dependable. Trustworthy. And…hardworking.”
“How would other people describe you?” he asked.
“Uh…Dependable. Trustworthy. And…hardworking.”
I thought my joke would lighten him up. It didn’t. I opened my mouth to give a serious answer, but he moved on.
“Do you think the customer is always right?”
The guy’s eyebrows rocketed straight up. He yanked up a pen and chicken-scratched something on a legal pad.
He annoyed the crap out of me. His questions, his interviewing style. Everything about him. His swamped-in-gel hair. The curl—perfectly sculpted—hanging in the exact center of his forehead. The scruff grazing his cheeks and chin—too little for a full beard, but enough to mimic his generation’s concept of “cool.” Something about him struck me as artificial and—I don’t know—premeditated. He was good looking, I guess, but bland, so the premeditation fell flat. Like he was trying so hard to be hot when he wasn’t. I could tell he was gay. It occurred to me: Maybe he’s being a dick ‘cause he likes me.
He kept banging out questions. “What are your five greatest strengths?…What are your five worst weaknesses?…Where do you see yourself in five years?…Tell me about a time when you had an altercation with a coworker…Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer…Tell me about a time when you were over deadline on a project and had to tell your supervisor you were having trouble getting caught up.”
Part of me wanted to say, How ’bout I tell you ’bout a time when I bitch-slapped an interviewer? And part of me was terrified. Because I was fucking up this interview. With each answer, I fucked it up a little bit more. I was flailing. I had a barren bank account, an empty 401(k), an eviction notice, and I was flailing when I had no time and no right to. My life was sinking in quicksand and every effort to escape seemed to pull me in deeper. That was the worst part—the powerlessness. I didn’t control my own damn fate. Recruiters, placement agencies, HR people, and hiring managers did. I was nothing but a puppet sinking in quicksand.
The guy put his pen down. “That does it. Any questions for me?”
I was pissed. At him for his asinine questions—they sounded like he got them from the Internet—and at myself for the asinine mistakes that landed me here. I leaned so far forward, my face was almost in his. My voice cracked. “Yeah, how about actually telling me about the job?” A tear rolled down my cheek. I didn’t wipe it away.
His jaw plummeted. He explained that Empire State Testing Corp. administered certification exams in various and whatever areas. The job: checking in test-takers, setting them up on computers, answering questions, troubleshooting technical issues, yada, yada, yada. Jeez. So much for taking tests with a number two pencil and a Scantron.
“Training takes two weeks,” he said. “One, if you train full-time.”
I didn’t ask why it took two weeks—or even one—to learn how to give bullshit exams. I just wanted out of there, so when he started tapping at this computer—probably in a Spread. Sheet.—and asked if I could find my own way out, I said I definitely could.
Jeez. Another disastrous interview.
I left Empire State Testing and went straight to the address on the business card the weed chick gave me. Moving back to Tilton seemed inevitable. I wanted to be with my sister and my niece and nephew, get to know my brother-in-law who’s a pretty cool guy. But I hated that town. I didn’t have a single good memory of the place. Not. One.
My sis and me weren’t close growing up. That’s weird, right, since we’re twins? I mean, we always got along. We didn’t fight a lot or do the sibling rivalry thing. Everyone thinks twins are best friends, soul mates. My sis and me weren’t. We didn’t start getting close till college. She went to school near home, studied English. I majored in biology out west. Junior year, at Thanksgiving dinner, our dad asked what I planned to do with my “fancy college degree.” I knew it was a trap, but I answered, “Go to med school, be a doctor.” I waited for the trap to spring. My dad and mom looked at each other. Two tricksters in cahoots. My dad said, “Yeah. Like you’re smart enough to be a doctor.” He and mom laughed so hard, I thought they’d choke on their Stove Top stuffing. Sis came to my room later. “Ignore them,” she said. “They’re mad you’re turning out so good and they had nothing to do with it. You’ll be a great doctor.”
I didn’t go to med school, but I didn’t go back to Tilton either. Now it looked like I had no choice. At my age.
Flowers flared out of window ledge boxes up and down tree-lined Union Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Clinging, leafy vines scrabbled up brownstones. Couples in Birkenstocks pushed designer strollers with gurgling brats decked out in outfits way pricier than mine. Chicks in leggings traipsed by carrying yoga mats and vegan-gluten-free-sugar-free-caffeine-free-soy-mocha-chai-frappuccino lattes. Politically correct vegetables like kale—probably bought at the neighborhood organic food co-op or picked at the community garden—spilled over the top of some guy’s recycled canvas shopping tote.
Jeez, I thought. Stereotypical Park Slope bougies. Fuck me.
I stopped in front of a four-story brownstone. The address matched the one on the card. I wanted to go back to Queens and smoke, put on some Nat Cole—his jazz stuff, not the commercial crap he did with orchestras and sappy strings. I’m glad they made him rich, but I hate those records.
I walked up the steps and into the vestibule. Young guy inside. Psychedelic tattoos scorched each arm from shoulder to wrist with a few scalding his hands. Bowler hat. Muscle shirt. Skinny jeans. Shaggy beard that reached his crotch. He leaned against the wall next to the buzzer panel. He was reading Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. He looked like Whitman with that beard.
“ ’Sup, dude,” he said. “Who you here to see?”
“I’m here about a job? A woman sent me?” I showed him the card.
“Dude!” he said. “You got this from one of our best talent scouts. Go on in. Second floor. Talk to Personnel. Welcome aboard!” He startled me when he pulled me into a bro-ey half-hug. He pushed a button on the panel. “We got a live one,” he said into the speaker. The door buzzed open.
The apartment doors were all closed. The pale lighting and tacky floral wallpaper crackling off the walls made the place feel ancient. That stale, bathroomy odor of ramshackle pre-war buildings wafted through the place. Whitman didn’t tell me where to go once I got to the second floor, but I heard a voice from somewhere at the end of the hall. The scuffed wood floors creaked as I followed the voice. I peeked inside the room. Someone was shuffling through a file cabinet while chit-chatting on a phone wedged between shoulder and ear. A real phone. I mean, not a cell phone. One with a cord. A twirling coil that connected the receiver to a push-buttoned cradle with a wire plugged into the wall. Like I’d stepped back in time. The person on the phone was a black drag queen with an afro the size of Jupiter. She wore red stilettoes. Without the heels, she was at least 6’5, with them, close to seven feet. Her mountain build—two parts muscle, one-part flab—was wrapped in a clingy red dress that ended just above the knees. Her chest bulged out. I couldn’t tell if it was a godly set of pecs, baggie man-breasts, or falsies.
She hung up the phone, kept shuffling through the files.
“You gonna stay in that goddamn door all fuckin’ day?” she said. “Or is your ass gonna say somethin’?”
Her voice: a bear’s growl. I was scared. I knew I should go. But I couldn’t. I…I didn’t want to. All I could do was think, Wow.
“Um…An associate of yours said you’re hiring. Here’s my resume if you’d like to…” I swallowed, “take a look.”
Her hips bumped hard and slow as she made her way to me. She plucked the resume out of my hand, tore it in a million pieces, tossed the shreds in the air, and plopped her mountain ass on top of the desk. She gouged something out of her teeth with her finger, inspected it, and flicked it away. She primped her massive fro, crossed her arms, and glared at me. One hand cupped her chin, like she was contemplating, evaluating. She was so tall, her legs hung only a half inch from the floor as she perched on that desk. I couldn’t move. I was in a trance. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker’s “Salt Peanuts” played on a clock radio sitting on the file cabinet. My eyes went to her feet. The stilettoes were so red and licorice-slick, my mouth watered. The drag queen looked me over from head to chest to crotch to thighs to feet and all the way back up. She nodded, found my crotch again. Her mouth swelled in a lecherous smile.
“You older than what we usually hire. But you’ll more than do. Mmm hmmm. Twenty-five bucks an hour. You start now. Go up to the third floor. Tell ’em Personnel sent you.”
Just like that? No reference check? Background check? Credit check? Drug test? Oh, fuck, I hoped there wasn’t a drug test. Paperwork? Tax forms? Hell, what about an interview? After the year-and-a-half drought that ransacked my savings; after waking up bereft every morning because I had zero prospects and no health insurance; after suffering through interviews for jobs I knew I wouldn’t get because I wasn’t twenty-six; after doubting my worth, my intelligence, my manhood; after going through all that shit, I was jumping up and down inside. But this was too good to be true. Too goddamn easy. I didn’t even know what the job was. But I was broke. I was getting evicted. Twenty-five an hour wasn’t much in New York, but enough that Tilton could go fuck itself.
“Tell me about the job,” I said. “And the training.”
She yawned. “Child, you want this job or not? They need you on the third floor. Go. Now.”
The stairs creaked. Voices drifted down, and music. Pulsing, synthesized pop. Think disco balls, grinding pelvises. The sounds led to a bright room crowded with cameras, lights, cables, sound equipment, and a crew buzzing around a bed topped with two mega-muscular naked guys. A ginger. A peroxide blonde. Ginger on his knees getting done from behind by Blondie.
I stood in the door. The trance from before dazed me again. I came back to earth when someone barked, “Cut!” A five-foot-tall guy in a beret approached the bed. His pants were stuffed into black boots that came up to his thighs. He looked eighty. “An ice cream cone has more heat than this scene,” he yelled. “What’s the problem, guys?”
Blondie sat on the edge of the bed. He gestured at his lap. “I need some help down here.”
His voice was deep and gruff and brutalized by a New York accent that wallowed in his mouth like lumpy gravy. He sounded like a garbage man from The Bronx.
“You’ll have to help yourself for now,” the old man said. He checked his watch. “And hurry. We’re on deadline.”
Blondie stood up. “I get a fluffer. It’s in my fuckin’ contract.”
“We’re understaffed. Personnel hasn’t hired anyone yet.”
“Den you pussies are in breach of contract and I’m walkin’ off dis shit film. How do you like dem fuckin’ apples? Whoa. Hold de phone. Who. Dat.”
He’d seen me. So had the crew. They wolf-whistled and ogled and smooched their lips. Told you I was freakin’ hot.
“Did personnel send you?” the old guy said. I stammered, yes. “Finally,” he said. “What the hell are you waiting for? Get over there!”
Was there equipment he needed me to haul? Sets or props to move? Lights to hang?
Blondie plunked down on the edge of the bed. Ginger plunked next to him. They looked at each other, then spread their legs at the exact same time, super wide, dicks hanging like slabs of raw meat in a butcher shop window.
“Over here, sweetheart,” Blondie said.
I was still in the doorway, half in, half out of the room. “Um…Personnel said…I mean…I had asked about training.”
Blondie and Ginger licked their lips. Blondie said, “Ain’t ya heard of on-de-job training, sweetheart?”
My phone rang.
“Hey, bro. They’re downstairs, blue Ford Explorer.”
I wasn’t dressed. I’d placed the order a half hour earlier, and gotten back in bed. I took my time putting on jeans, t-shirt, sneakers, sunglasses. I yawned in the elevator on the way down. I hadn’t been outside yet. After lounging all day in the A/C, the heat sucker-punched me. The light. The bright. The swampy humidity. It hurt so good.
I climbed into the Explorer. The same chick was behind the wheel. I’d hoped she would be.
“Good to see you again,” she said.
And we snickered like the only two kids in on a crazy secret.
“Hundred percent sativa, please,” I said. “Hundred-dollar bag this time.”
She passed the baggie. I passed the cash. She had that Spotify thing playing jazz again. Did she do that for me? It was Dinah Washington’s grandstanding 1955 version of “Come Rain or Come Shine.” That woman was a fucking force of nature.
“You good with the job?” the weed chick said.
“Sure. It is what it is. Keeps the lights on. I needed to save my life. And I’ve done that.”
I got quiet, I looked out the window, took in my very nice neighborhood. I’d lived there eleven years. Hoped to be there eleven more. I scooted close to her—easy, so she wouldn’t get scared—and kissed her cheek.
As soon I got back upstairs, I loaded five Lester Young CDs in the stereo. My favorite tenor sax guy. Billie nicknamed him Prez because he was President of the Tenor Saxophone. I rolled a joint, sat in my bedroom window, smoked, surveyed the street, the apartment buildings, the bodega on the corner, the mailbox in front of the laundromat. Summer was out in force. Humid and brazen and ecstatic. People on the sidewalk fanned themselves, mopped their heads, schlepped umbrellas to deflect the sun. I heard the above-ground train rumbling, the drummer in the next building practicing, rap booming from a car stuck at a light. Smoky, delirious notes steamed out of Prez’s horn. I was still in the window, still smoking, when the sun set; still there when the moon rose and the temperature quieted and the crickets started chirping. I pulled the screen up, leaned out the window, over the fire escape. I inhaled the night, inhaled deep, like I was in a field of wild and fragrant flowers.
Joe Okonkwo is the author of the novel Jazz Moon, winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction. Jazz Moon was also a Lambda Literary finalist for Best Gay Fiction. Joe served as prose editor for Newtown Literary, a journal in Queens, NY, with a focus on nurturing Queens writers. He has taught creative writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and served on the planning committee for the Provincetown Book Festival. Joe’s story collection, Kiss the Scars on the Back of my Neck, will be published by Amble Press in 2021.