Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Visited by ghosts


Drek Kline is a German Jew - a bit of a scum bag - who lives from scams and small-time crime in Berlin, screws german women, drinks too much, sells cocaine. 

He is a thin and quick shyster in a sharp suit, brill cream on his dark hair, Clark Gable mustache, pale bulging blue eyes, long face, and big nose. 

He tugs at his earlobe when he lies, which is all the time. He is half Jewish - his mother was Jewish, his father German, but his mother died in childbirth, and his Grandmother brought him up much against her will, seeing him as a symbol of her daughter's falling away from her people. 

She calls him "drek" - human garbage - and this is how she treats him. When he is 13, after his Bar Mitzvah he runs away. 

Drek has forgotten what he is, denied his past. He is a made-man sharp and sly like a rat, a small-time hustler getting fat on war. He deals a little, steals a little, pimps a little, and buys jewels cheap from Jews and other desperate people wanting to flee the Nazi regime. 

Then one day he is sleeping in his bed with this big-tit german girl, sleeping bare-ass but in his vest and he hears screams from downstairs. He gets up, lights a cigarette, goes to the window, and sees downstairs the vans and the soldiers and it means nothing to him. 

Then they break down his door, screaming his name. He is naked in his vest with just his socks and his suspenders, his cigarette forgotten sticking to his lip. 

They drag him downstairs, and the German girl comes to the window in a flowered wrap, her thick breasts hanging like udders, her yellow hair sticking up, and screams: "Schweine, let him go!" 

And the officer says, "Would you like to go too?" and she shrinks back, mouth open wide, her startled tongue lapping at the icy air. 

They take him "JUDEN," and he doesn't understand WHY and they stick him in that van with scared and desperate people crying and sobbing, and he sits there with his shrinking penis dangling and the children staring, and some kind man takes off his long coat so he can cover his nakedness. 

He gets processed, shoved into a train, and taken to a camp in Poland. He is outraged; he does NOT consider himself a Jew - he complains, tries to talk to "someone in charge," and gets beaten for his troubles. 

He is deloused, given a uniform, and he gets a bunk next to a Rabbi who gets up every morning and whispers, "Next year, Jerusalem." 

The Rabbi is a small man with long sidelocks who chants each morning: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither" and "Next year, Jerusalem, next year..." and it drives Drek mad. 

His daily response is, "FUCK OFF!" They kept each other alive As the days and weeks progress, this old man becomes the symbol of the difference that is killing him, the inheritance he rejected and left behind and is now destroying him. 

Hating the Rabbi keeps him alive. The Rabbi has these very thin white feet, I don't know why. Drek would see them sticking out, these white feet, when everywhere there was dirt and mud, and they wore paper slippers - and he hated him even more - because he loved him, you see. 

One day they wake up, and the Germans are gone, but the Rabbi does not get up. So Drek screams at him, "Don't you die now, you fucker! Not now! Next year Jerusalem, remember? Next year Jerusalem!" 

The Rabbi holds his hand and tries to speak, and he dies. So Drek takes the Rabbi's star of David - the yellow rag of shame- and he hacks off his sidelocks with a shard of glass. The Americans come the next day, but Drek tells them to fuck off, drags himself through the open gates, and starts to walk from Poland to Jerusalem.

It takes him over a year, and he gets there, and he goes to the foot of the wall and gouges a hole in the dead ground and buries the Rabbi in the temple of Soloman. 

Then he goes and asks to fight. They tell him no. he can barely stand. He doesn't eat, you see, he can't. Everything he eats he throws up. So he does a scam. like he used to in Berlin. He steals a shipment of cigarettes, American chocolates, and nylon stockings and bribes a ranking officer in the new Israeli Army. He gets assigned to a battalion under the authority of Joseph Levi. This is Leila's Joseph (you will see him in the script) and he dislikes Drek, despises him, and calls him "soap". 

On the day of the battle for Jerusalem, the street and the house they are holding is bombarded, and Joseph is wounded, his legs crushed. Drek takes him out of the rubble and drags him to the nursing station and he keeps screaming, "You can't die now! Not now! Not now!" "You can't die this is Jerusalem, and it is ours." 

He takes Joseph to Leila, and he is dead already. No breath, no final words are said - but Drek lies. He tells Leila Joseph died with her name in his lips, struggling to live. Drek takes Joseph's gun, and goes back to fight, walking into the clouds of dust. He survives and stays.

He calls himself Joseph Soap; he stays and makes a life.


Friday, 9 September 2022

The Dictator's Slut Chapter II

The Dictator's Slut

Chapter II

I was taken to a quiet room with a soft carpet that hushed every sound, and thick drapes that softened the harsh light into a gentle glow.

I was laid on a bed and soon a bald man with spectacles and a doctor's long, delicate fingers was examining me, touching my head, asking embarrassing, intimate questions.

I mumbled "NO!" and tugged the skirt down, trying to cover my exposed thighs. I hated that skirt, and how vulnerable it made me feel. 

The man nodded, smiled, and gave me a pill and a glass of water. He went away and I was left in blessed silence. I tugged a cover over myself and slept. When I woke up, a smiling woman came into the room.

"Are you alright, my dear?" she asked kindly. "I hear you had quite a fright."

A fright? She called being battered and nearly raped a 'fright'? I didn't answer, I didn't know what to say, and that didn't seem to bother her.

"The Generalissimo has asked me to escort you home," she said gently. "What is your name?"

"Dita," I whispered. "Dita Hernandez." Was this woman really going to take me home? Was I free? I was and she did.

I was taken home in a long black car with fluttering flags. As we rolled slowly through the narrow streets of my barrio, people came to the windows and peeked from behind their curtains.

Curiosity was not something that was encouraged. It could be deadly. The car stopped in front of my door, and the woman helped me out and knocked on the door.

My mother was pale, and her eyes were swollen and red, her cheeks puffy and blotched. In that first moment, all she saw was me. 

"Dita!" she gasped, then she grabbed me and held me so tight it hurt. She started pouting an incomprehensible stream of words in my ear, her old language, something she only did when she was very upset.

Then she saw the woman over my shoulder in her elegant grey suit and her leather pumps and she stopped. "SeƱora," she said. "Forgive me, a mother's fears..."

"It's quite alright, Mrs. Hernandez," she smiled. "I quite understand." She stepped forward and offered my mother her hand. "I'm the Generalissimo's secretary."

My mother gaped, then glanced at me bewildered. "But how? Why..." she asked.

"Dita was accidentally caught up in a riot," the woman lied smoothly. "Dissidents. She was rescued by the Generalissimo himself! She is a lucky child."

My mother was nodding dumbly, disbelieving. "So lucky!" she gasped. "My precious baby..."

The woman smiled, and threw me a peculiar look, equal parts disdain and scorching envy. "Yes, indeed, a lucky child," she repeated. "We trust you will be more careful next time."

She smiled at my mother again, nodded at me, and left. We watched as the long sleek car drove away through the empty, dusty street.

It wasn't long before my mother's fear and relief turned to anger. She demanded to know what had happened, how it had happened.~

I told her nothing about the grey room or the man with the meaty hands. I repeated the woman's vague story about the riot, and my mother became very quiet. She knew it was a lie, she just didn't know why I was lying.

When my father came home, she told him the lie with a bright smile. "Imagine, mi amor," she exclaimed. "Our baby met the Generalissimo!"

Twenty years before, my father had been one of the men who'd come out of the jungle, following a charismatic young colonel to preach staccato revolution with a gun.

There were photos of my father in fatigues, with a cap perched far back on his head, cradling a machine gun. He had an insolent look in the pictures, an air of casual, arrogant violence about him.

That man didn't look like my father. My father was a stocky man with oak-brown, thick forearms, and surprisingly elegant hands.

There was no arrogance in my father, not since my brother Carlos had left. He was quiet, so quiet, except that sometimes late at night I'd hear his voice, talking, talking to my mother.

Sometimes he'd sob, and I'd feel a flush of embarrassment at his weakness. My father the freedom fighter, the hero of the revolution was long gone.

That night there was an uneasy silence at dinner. None of us wanted to break it. Breaking the silence might drag in the truth and the grey room and the man with the meaty hands.

No, we liked the silence, and most of all, we loved the lie.~

The next day I went back to university and everything seemed the same. No one seemed to be missing. I didn't see Pedro, but his roommate told me he had a broken nose.

I remember stifling a giggle, because, like all poets, Pedro was enormously vain. I giggled then, but now I know that by then, Pedro and a handful of the ring leaders were probably already dead.

Things went back to normal, isn't that so strange? No one talked about the silent march, it was as if it had never happened, then one day I went home and the black car with the flags was there.

There were also two men in parade uniform, one on either side of my door. I was so afraid. Were they here to arrest me? The door opened and my mother stood there.

She was smiling, and there was bright color in her sallow cheeks, but her eyes had a febrile gleam. "Dita," she cried. "You are honored, child!"

I stepped in and there he was, the Generalissimo. He stood there smiling, his head held high, his hands behind his back. "Hello, Dita," he said. "I wanted to know if you are well, after your fright."

I looked into his shallow, black eyes and glanced away again, quickly. I nodded. "Yes, sir, Generalissimo," I whispered. "I'm well. Thank you."

He placed a hand under my chin, tilting my head, and making me look at him. That frightened me more than the man with meaty hand's blows.

"What a pretty child, Mrs. Hernandez," he said smiling. "An angel..." It was then that I saw that the strange shine in my mother's eyes was fear.


Saturday, 3 September 2022

The Dictator's Slut --- Chapter I

The Dictator's Slut

Chapter I

I'm going to die soon, I know this. They will bury me in an unmarked grave, and the histories will remember me as the Dictator's Slut, but I was just a girl who wanted to be a dancer.

Back then, life was exciting. I was at university and suddenly I was cutting my skirts shorter, wearing a French beret, and smoking forbidden American cigarettes.

I was seventeen, and I was drunk on life and my own daring. When the art students decided to do a silent march to the Generalissimo's sugar-white palace to protest the disappearance of so many of us, I decided to go too.

The truth is I wanted to impress Pedro Baltazar, who was a literature major and a poet and had dangerous hooded eyes and a beautiful mouth. I went on the march to be near him, and I never saw him again.

We marched with signs that showed the faces of the vanished students, with no slogans or demands. We believed that if we didn't write it down: CHILD-KILLER, TORTURER, they couldn't object. HE couldn't object.

We were so silly, such children. Looking back now, I see that. How futile all that pain, all those deaths. We changed nothing.

After fifteen years as the Generalissimo's mistress, his sweetheart, the only woman he ever loved, I changed nothing.

But I'm losing my way and my time is short. I went on that march in my shortest skirt to show off my long dancer's legs, my beret, a daring dash of lipstick, and my mother's perfume.

I was given the photo of a girl with a dull, heavy face and a pimply forehead. To this day, I don't know her name, but when Pedro gave me the poster, our fingers touched.

I blushed and stared at his mouth and the way his lower lip dimpled and I imagined that by the end of the day I'd be kissing him.

By the end of that day, I was screaming and struggling on the floor of a grey room, while a brutal man with a crewcut shoved my skirt up with a meaty hand.

There were two other men in uniform watching and I begged for help. They just looked at me, and one of them calmly took out a cigarette and tapped it against his thick, yellowed thumbnail.

I managed to free one hand and raked my nails down my attacker's face. He cursed me and slammed his fist against the side of my head.

The pain was huge and silent, and through the dizzying aftermath, I half saw, half sensed a commotion. The man on top of me was miraculously gone, and gentle arms held me up.

"OUT!" a huge voice thundered. "How dare you hurt one of my children?" 

Looming over me, gazing down at me with concern was a face I knew from a thousand official portraits: the Generalissimo, the Father of the Nation, the man the world called the Butcher of Belvaria.

Manuela Cardiga

Monday, 27 June 2022

Roe Vs Wade Our Hearts in the Shade

Surely there is
No story of more woe
Than that of Wade and Roe...

Does no one else find it strange that the very same states fiercely defending their right to bear arms strip women of their right to decide whether or not to bear children?
The same constitution that enshrines the right to arms also (according to the Justices of the Supreme Court) does not guarantee privacy or sovereignty over our own bodies.
The same Justice eagerly looks forward to stripping away the right to contraception, same-sex marriage, and even same-sex love...
The Supreme Court believes there are no circumstances under which abortion is permissible: Not rape, the mother's survival, or the extreme deformity of the child which would lead to life-long suffering.
What next? No contraception, going to jail for the love that dare not speak its name?
Shouldn't the Supreme Court be much more concerned with protecting the children of their Nation who are hungry, homeless, and abused?
Just asking...


Tuesday, 19 April 2022

The Walking Dead Made Love Instead


I want to crack open
The safe of bone
Where you use
Your intellect
To hone

Your passion:
Fashion desires,
And rhymes.

I want to run
My avid tongue
Over the tremulous
Convolutions of
Your cerebellum:
Leave it pink
And sweet;
With my spit.

Manuela Cardiga

Friday, 31 December 2021

We just have to stay sane and keep breathing...

Excerpt from "A Sliver of Skin"

She is immersed in that unbelieving moment even as more figures stumble in, and around her, a maelstrom of activity erupts. She is stillness until a voice screams: “Nurse, you bitch! I fucking need you, right here!”

Leila turns slow as agony turns away from Joseph-is-dead to lend her hands to another who is yet alive.

“NURSE! Stem this hemorrhage! NOW!” Her hands sink into the soft yielding mass of ruined flesh, she presses down. Against her fingers, she feels the malignant stubborn spurt of arterial blood. She presses down. It slows to a sullen trickle, then there are other hands pressing on hers, and she draws away, turns away.

She looks for him, for Joseph-is-dead. The boy on the stretcher has two legs, but his chest is the wrong shape for life. She sees it at a glance and goes to him. Joseph-is-dead, the droning voice in her head says. Joseph-is-dead.

Finally, they stop coming, they stop dying. Those that can be saved are borne away, and she walks outside.

Maybe outside, far from the sweet ripe odor of torn flesh and gangrene and death Joseph won’t be dead. She steps outside and sees the thin man sitting on the ground.

There is blood on him, blood and dust. He looks up at her.

“I saw you once, at Solomon’s shop…With him. The American.”

Leila nods. “Yes.”

The thin man whispers “This is not real, did you know? I discovered that at the camp. None of it is real. There is no death or dirt. I sing a song and it goes away.” He starts humming something off-tune, in a guttural tongue. He nods his head in time, wobbling it from side to side on his long thin neck.

Leila turns away, falls back into the nightmare, wakes up still remembering, still sane.