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Mitchell Grabois

Mitchell Grabois


by Mitchell Grabois



I walk into the house. I see that my wife has decided to remove the popcorn ceiling. In fact, she’s removed it. I told her we needed to get it tested for asbestos first. She said we didn’t need to. She sits on a wooden chair, wet crumbles of the former ceiling strewn around her. Her smile is triumphant. It was even easier than they showed on YouTube.

A book is in her hand.

What are you reading? You’re not reading that trash again, are you?

She recites: From a very tiny, underused part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells – comes the thought: He’s here to see you. My wife begins to unbutton her blouse.

Jesus, you’re reading Fifty Shades of Grey again

I feel the color in my cheeks rising. I must be the color of The Communist Manifesto. My wife throws her blouse to one side atop a pile of popcorn litter. She wears no bra. Her tits are small, but “perky.” We make love on the wet asbestos. Afterwards we take a shower together, but the damage has been done. I already feel the cracklings of MESOTHELIOMA in the lobes of my lungs.



I wake at 5 a.m. to drive a neighbor to cataract surgery. I drop her off and go to find a McDonald’s with Wi-Fi, but find none between the clinic and the Front Range, just a Jack-in-the Box. Standing at the counter I peruse a poster, a man with a Jack head and an athlete’s muscular arms. I didn’t get this body eating chocolate milk shakes, the caption reads. Sometimes I got vanilla. I take a table, drink bitter coffee, and remember Bob W. in high school, a tall skinny guy with long, lank hair and a comical face. I remember his night-time raids, stealing Jack-in-the-Box heads from drive-throughs, leaving the “restaurants” bereft of their mascot. Some businessman would be really pissed in the morning, but that was part of the point. There was a connection between the Jack heads and the U.S. military (Bob lectured us as we smoked dope in his bedroom) and the atrocities they were carrying out in Viet Nam. It took me a couple of years before I understood, and then I became an activist member of the small cadre of Jack- head thieves. I finally got caught (though Bob never did) and spent some time in Juvenile Detention, to my parents’ everlasting shame.



My wife falls asleep. She’s like her Lithuanian grandmother: she can sleep on a manhole cover.



I grew up and moved to “Paradise,” where bougainvillea vines and Poinciana trees blazed, and escaped iguanas made a commune on my front porch. I fed them slices of banana from my palm and regularly refilled the shot glasses I left on the rail with iguana adult beverages, namely water with lime.

But I was exiled from “Paradise” by ugly politics, a kind similar to what Adam experienced in the Garden of Eden.



The goldenrod of my new, Midwestern home made my head swell. Wasps stung me in the face when I entered the barn. Holding my spray can of poison, I couldn’t find their nests. Maybe they were high up in the eaves, or hidden somewhere in the hay mow. But the expansive fields of corn and soybeans were a kind of meditation.



I drive to my one-room schoolhouse.

It was the Amish school for a while, until the local Amish community suffered a rift. The elders ordered everyone to disband, to scatter like dandelion seeds drifting in the wind.

But while they were still here, the Amish children drove little wagons to school and put the horses in the horse barn, out of the snow, across a miniature ball field next to the schoolhouse.

The horses were bored while the kids were in school, and chewed on their stall boards. It’s amazing how much wood a horse can chew in a school year. After the community failed, I bought the schoolhouse. I thought I might start an art academy, buy some abandoned farmhouses nearby for dorms, use the barns as studios, but the more I thought about it, it just seemed like too much work.



The industrial turbines were built, over our protests. By then I was a member of the community, sort of, though my cousins kept their distance. When I was walking on the road and they drove by in their vans or pick-ups, they wore sneers. The turbine blades sliced the air. Surely to say that is metaphorical, but why did I start finding streaks of blood on the floor of my front porch? I had recently scraped it and painted it glossy grey, and the blood was vivid against it.



I bought a chain saw, the most expensive one Farm Supply had, went into the horse barn and sawed out the horse-chewed boards. They were old boards, probably milled on the adjoining farms. I put them in rough frames, branded them with the image of a laughing horse, called them: Horse-Chewed Board #1, Horse-Chewed Board #2, up to #26. I shipped them to my agent. The art world was astir, me coming out of retirement. Some folks had assumed I was dead. Each piece went for about two-hundred grand. They sold out within the month. My total cut was about 3 mill, if I remember right. I love art. I was reconsidering starting an art school, out in that verdant township.



As in a horror film, the streaks became small pools, scattered across the porch floor like grisly polka dots. Hypotheses straggled across my mind. Had animals been fighting there?



Eventually it became too much and I took to the road. The Front Range rose before me like a mirage, as if I were a Spanish pilgrim on the trail. But I have no faith so I can’t be a pilgrim. I’m merely homeless, like so many others, like the refugees of the Dust Bowl.






Climate Change

by Mitchell Grabois


Day One

Dear God, let everything broken be unbroken.

Tiffany: The roadway is not asphalt but the bodies of Doberman Pinschers. Sometimes they come back to life.

Still, an urge to swim in her father’s pool, her breasts desperate for her children, or needing violence against her pale skin, a voice whispers: run run run.

Global warming has stopped ice bridges from forming, isolating the wolves who live on this island, as if fenced in barbed wire, trapping the Doberman Pinschers who inhabit Tiffany’s nightmares, trapping Tiffany as well on this Alcatraz-like place.

Inbreeding has made the wolves as twisted and angry as those humans who live in my township (off in another part of the state), in which the wind turbines, erected too close to our homes, have destroyed our health, the enjoyment of our property, the value of the property itself.


Day Two

Everything is gone, but they demand I get out of bed and brush my snaggle teeth. Can’t you hold me, Hank? Close, as if I were beautiful?

After years of hospital work, I am ubermensch with x-ray eyes. Under ugliness, I see beauty,

under dysfunction, capability. I see Tiffany before illness’s smears. She kneels in sunshine, in rich earth, like Mary Magdelene.

Greed shows itself in infinite forms, as does grief.


Day Three

Soggy collard greens.

Tiffany is not here.

Toilet graffito: Eternity—too long to be wrong.

At Highcastle Pharmacy, I stand in front of the lipstick display and read the names of colors.

She said: You buy me a tube. I shake from medication and you guide my hand,

I gaze at her new-colored lips. What if all the barriers —including her illness—suddenly collapsed?

So porcupines hurl themselves from trees at the greedy, climate changing humans, making themselves suicide bombers, though each hopes he’ll survive to bomb again. They have plenty of quills, and know how to hide as skillfully as French resistance fighters during WWII.


Day Four

At the grunge band crash-pad: Dax: prison tattoos, ragged hair, pinwheel eyes. Couch-bound,

he stares at the ceiling, his electric guitar on his chest, its neck between his legs.

“Wazzup, man…? Tiffany? Yeah, she’s here. Shaggin’ our new drummer.”

My heart soars, then falls to the pit of my stomach. I am ready to vomit with elation.

Dax leads me into a room with a bare, cum-soiled mattress, crushed PBRs on the floor.

“Probly went to score. You gonna bust her?”

“She’s a chronic schizophrenic, an escapee.”

“Dig, you gotta let people tune their own karma. You can’t just lean in like a shade-tree mechanic, spray ‘em with WD-40, and re-torque their mind with your kryptonite wrenches”

“So terror and confusion are Tiffany’s fate, and we should let her die under a freeway?”

“I’ve got to head for the McJob, man”

Drowsy, I lie on the couch, cover myself with his Fender. I’m a three-headed dog, Cerberus, at the gates of Hell.

I awake in deep dark, sneeze four times, feel dizzy. There’s meth in the couch cushions. I stand, grip the guitar—an ax—and head for the cum room. No grunge punk is gonna interfere with my treatment plan.


Day Five

As long as climate change continues, the porcupines will remain at war. If some call them terrorists, so be it.




Mitchell GraboisMitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, and Queen’s Ferry Press’s Best Small Fictions for work published in 2011 through 2015. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.




mitchell Grabois


by Mitchell Grabois


Wasps colonized my attic. I had to grab a can of wasp spray from my wife’s hand. She was a farm girl and stronger than me. She grabbed the can back and hit me in the head with it.

Our love was being overwhelmed by our differences. I found the wasps’ buzzing comforting, consoling. I heard messages in the drone, messages designed for me alone, telling me about the true nature of the universe. My wife said that if the droning didn’t stop, she was going to fall off the wagon—was I too stupid to understand?

Yet now that she’d hit me with the can of wasp spray, she couldn’t use it. She had created an inner barrier that she didn’t understand, but was unable to surmount. She went outside without saying anything, got into her old Pontiac, and headed down the road. She was going to the meth house. Whether she was going to do meth or just fuck the meth maker, I didn’t know. But I couldn’t pursue her. I was too engaged in listening to the wasps’ messages.


After I’d learned everything I could from the wasps, I went out on the front porch. I sat in my rocker and pretended to speak with my wife:

The world is corrupt, and pain closes us off to each other. We crave injections of transparency. We want to become floating windows, our religion Windex.

I see right thru you, girl, as if I were a psychologic genius. And you see thru me as well.

Crows and robins fling themselves thru the air, but part of what they think is air is us. We are annoyed, they are annoyed. It is significant, one of the downsides of transparency.








It’s a nice piece of fiction or nonfiction I’ve written—I can’t tell the difference anymore. I’ve hypnotized myself and can’t undo it—this is the creative process. Creativity has confounded reality. It doesn’t matter. Nothing’s at stake. It’s just words on a page.

It’s not my adult son’s maid vacuuming his carpet while crying over what’s happening in the Ukraine, where she’s from, and where her parents and sister still live. She’s thin and has a lot of prominent veins in her arms and shoulders. She has a firm grip from working hard. She can’t find her business card in her purse. She tells me I know a lot about women.

It’s not kidnapped girls in Nigeria, raped and traumatized. The difference between their conscious minds and unconscious minds is also blurring, but not in the service of art.

I want to use my wealth to buy them, all of them. I want to educate them and put them to work in my restaurant, in my factory, in my amusement park. Wherever they want to work, that’s where I want them to work. I will pay them $15/hour, well over minimum wage. I will bring their parents here. I will get them medical treatment for their poor and neglected bodies.


But, despite all my good intentions, I ended up getting too close to Heaven. Angels melted my face. It’s not that they lacked compassion or had a cruel streak—they were just following the laws of Physics. Even angels must follow the laws of Physics.






Rubber Crumbs


My father escaped the Nazis, went to NYC to his Uncle’s tenement, looked around and said: Holy fuck! This fucking place is going to kill me sure as Hitler (or whatever the equivalent was in Yiddish). So he went west, stopped in Colorado, got work on a ranch, learned Spanish. He was Rumanian, but easily passed for Mexican.

This morning I wake in my armchair in the living room of the ranch house he built by hand. A book of Yiddish poetry has slipped from my grasp. I pick it up and go wash my face. Today I’m putting down rubber crumb infill in my corral. The granules prevent flyout, splashing, migration of base, and promote traction and drainage. Shock absorption is maximized. The rubber absorbs more impact than sand and reduces the repeated concussions horses sustain from being ridden on hard surfaces. It’s easier on the horses’ joints and the crumbs don’t freeze in winter. And it keeps dust down. I like a dustless arena.

My father never knew anything about this. It wasn’t available while he was alive.


I try to focus on rubber crumbs and whatnot, but I have to put some focus on Green Energy, because placed too close to my home, these turbines are black as the soul of the energy company’s greedy CEO, with their noise, shadow flicker, and subsonic vibration.

I might have expected my sensitive wife to develop Turbine Syndrome, but me? I was a Marine, born to fight and conquer. Nothing bothers me, but I’ve also been felled by Turbine Syndrome. After all the armed enemies I’ve faced for my country, it is turbines that have defeated me.

I pray I won’t become a slave to sleeping pills, but I know I need sleep—I need to care for my stock—and this is the only way to get it.




mitchell GraboisMitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over seven hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013 and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver, CO.