Formerly Badass Horrible Poetry

This isn't just a poetry blog. Let's be honest, a lot of what I post is poetry but there are more often than not also postings about short stories. I do try to keep this blog separate from my others and post strictly creative work here. Some of it will be better than others, and much of it is in first or second draft stage when posted. These are raw works, and there will be spelling and grammar troubles at times because I use this blog to gauge what works and what doesn't. I use it as a place to get feedback. That's the reason it is "horrible". Because it's not finished-- And why should it be? We all want feedback but most of us are too afraid to put ourselves out there.

Welcome to my word.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Roll 34


**Author's note: So... warning, I guess? This one involves the 1940s porn industry. It doesn't exactly get steamy or anything but I should probably put some kind of warning here just in case**
Roll 34


The delicate string glistened in the unmoving air of the attic. For how lace-like the sheer thread was spun, Autumn almost mistook it for a spider’s web. When the string slid across the nape of her neck, Autumn jumped, simultaneously bashing the crown of her head on the humidity sodden rafter and dumping the trunk with a crash. A timeline littered the floor, concentrated near the lid, its skull bashed in, and fanning out all the way to the corner where the bones of a mouse rested in a tuft of fur.
            “Fuckin’ A.” Autumn said, covering her faux lace skirt over her knees so that they would not touch the grimy floor as she knelt. She gathered as many of the Polaroid’s and photo-negatives as she could and plopped them back into the trunk. Swirls of floorboard residue came up with each stack. Most of it fell into the box with the photographs but what did not splayed into the atmosphere. Autumn could feel the inside of her nose becoming caked with the stuff; it would take more than a tissue and a few huffing puffs to get it all out.
            Amid the swath of pictures were strewn other things: spoons coated with dark oxidization, the Western Union telegram that congratulated Nanny Roselie on the birth of her first son, and the shards of a perfume bottle that had exploded and scented everything with pungent Hollywood glamour. Placing in the last of the items, Autumn absently rubbed the top of her head where the skin, under her coppery hair follicles, swelled. Her free hand picked up a small cylinder of white and orange plastic. The orange outer shell had a crack along one edge; in smeared sharpie it was labeled #34. She did not remember seeing it on the ground when she first clambered up the attic stair, though it could have easily hidden under the rubble of old newspapers and other junk. She also did not remember seeing it in the trunk when she had peaked inside.
             She had been expecting to find a secret trove of family wealth – deeds to old properties, stacked and loose-leaf bills that would float through the air when she piled them like leaves and jumped in headfirst, or even sparkling gemstones from some secret marriage. Alternatively, Autumn also hoped that she would find something dark and sinister – the bones of a lost child who had been killed playing with his father’s shotgun – she had seen something like that on television once. Instead, when she finally undid the neatly secured latches, all she saw were neatly tied bundles of bills, some old cutlery, other odds and ends and more photographs than one could know what to do with.
She had perused through them. Mostly they were the extra photographs on the roll, the ones with mis-aimed shots of half a persons face, or were otherwise too over exposed to hang on a mantle or tape into a book. A few were doubles of pictures hanging in Nanny Roselie’s living room. Then there was the small orange cylinder in her hands. When she pried it open she was dismayed to find nothing but more film, tightly wound around a center spigot. Unlike the other film, this was smaller and more delicate, absent of color and appeared to be a positive. It was a movie, she realized. She pocketed it, and hoisted the trunk down the stairs to where her mother waited with the rest of Nanny Rosalie’s belongings, tied and set to go to Goodwill.

“How come you get to sit in the armchair Laur?” Autumn’s butt enveloped Lauri’s spindly legs. She hoisted herself on meaty arms into the crevice between the chair and Lauri’s body. “How are you coming with the projector, Mia?”
Lauri craned her neck around to peer at Mia, who leaned on a table, her legs spread and her butt high as she inspected the inner mechanism of the projector with irritability. Mia’s chipped fingernail had been clicking itself against the tabletop like a metronome for several minutes as she tried to turn the projector light on.
“Maybe the bulb’s dead?” Lauri suggested. Her leg was going numb but she did not want to say anything to Autumn.
“No, the bulb itself looks fine – I just can’t get the damn thing to turn on.”
“Did you try hitting it?” Autumn asked.
“That only works with movies.”
“That is a movie.” Mia glared down at Autumn. She could not raise one eyebrow by itself, so both of Mia’s eyebrows arched in surprise. She hit the projector once, without force. The light bulb sprang to life. Autumn exclaimed, “Let there be light!” and Mia sighed, pinching her eyebrows together with her forefinger and thumb. She put her finger on the trigger.
“Wait!” Lauri squealed. “We should turn out the lights!” Both Autumn and Mia asked why. “You can see better and besides,” Lauri curled her arms around her legs as Autumn flipped the switch. “It’s a more intimate experience.”
The first beams of light showed nothing but a cellophane wall, crackling with blips of pure white. Sometimes shadowy artificial lines scarred the neat and vibrating rectangle of light upon the wall. The blankness stayed and the cellophane continually reshaped itself, as if someone was snapping it taught and loose over and over again. But the light remained blank. Mia said they should have checked to see if the frames had anything in them first. Inside, Lauri frowned at the thought of ruining the surprise.
“Maybe it got over exposed?”
            In one corner of the screen a dot blipped and something appeared for, at most, 4 seconds. A single action. The woman, devoid of color and set in grey-scale, wound her body around the frame. Her knees paired down towards the left bottom corner and she was twisted so that her face took up the largest portion of the frame. Her arm was raised behind her head so that her right breast, as it fell down the length of the screen, seemed perfectly round. Hair, that each girl imagined the color of their own, covered almost all of her other breast. The film, still shining with exposure, made the woman’s perfect, naked body glow off-white; each breast had only the hint of a shadow exposing the pointed nexus, and where her legs met it seemed as if a shadow had grown tendrils of fine vines. The motion was brief and dreamlike. The woman, who’s curved body revealed a small pouch of skin below the belly button and a lean waist, was what Autumn realistically felt she could someday grow into, although she never did.  It was the motion on the screen that transfixed the girls. It was not the pulsating figure of the man behind her, nor the arm on her shoulder as he held her in place. It was the rigidness with which she tightened her sweating body, the nonchalance as she pushed the man’s hand off. It was the smile biting her lip as she dug her nails into the dry dirt closest to the camera lens. It was the moment her hand blocked out her shining, white body until only her face could be seen, contorted and trembling with ecstasy.
            The projector clicked as the roll finished, but none of the girls got up to turn it off. Instead they stared at the blank frame each with her own inner fire burning, tinged with pink. Autumn counted the tiles on the floor as she thought it, Mia turned to listen to the mechanicals of the projector as she thought it, Lauri stared transfixed to the screen as she thought it. Woman was beautiful.

The operating house was on third street, past the liquor store that documents said had been newly opened 7 years earlier, although the owners had held the property and welcomed the drunkards, sloshing and lilting, for ten years before then. Rosé draped herself carefully in her plainest work dress. It had wrap-around cloth work but its dull granite color made it blend in with the surrounding city. The broach of colored glass kept her from feeling absorbed. Rosé walked brusquely, letting the backs of her oxford pumps rub through her hose; she knew that by the time she reached the studio it would be ruined, but thought, really what do I need it for anyway?
Jimmy who worked the front desk sat with his feet up on a stool, reading the paper. Rosé saw him look her up, look her down. He chewed on something in his mouth and Rosé could not tell if it was tobacco or his own cud. Her robe hung on a hook by the door. She grabbed it and began taking the pins out of her hair. She was supposed to look unrefined today.

She sat in the lobby, holding an unlit cigarette in her teeth. She did not really want it and so had not pulled out her lighter. Her partner was pouring himself a glass of water by the food table and to everyone’s annoyance he had not bothered to close his robe. Their annoyance amused her, the way their serious faces scrunched up. She loosened her own robe to feel the air from the open door.
Richard, flustering and bobbling, ran after Martin who spent most days drinking something very bitter out of a hip flask. Richard waved something above their heads. He was shouting about the ruined roll.
“I developed it like I always did Martin! Whole roll is a bust. Nothin’ on it but the puss on this broad at the end and even that is over exposed to shit.”
“We go to print on that one tomorrow, Rich.”
“None of it’s usable, I’m telling you.”
Rosé fanned herself with the sides of her robe knowing neither Richard nor Martin would pay her any mind. She was already sore today.
“Are we going to reshoot it?” Rosé would need to reapply the lipstick they said, and she would have to be rubbed down with oil and the men on lights would blow a gasket if they had to reset that design again, which had been too strong anyway, so no. Besides, they said, no one wants to see the faces. Best to edit around it, and just get a shot of him ejaculating on the camera for the climax instead. When the men had gone and left Jimmy sitting in his off kilter chair behind a newspaper, when there was no one around to see, Rosé reached into the wastebasket and tucked the small film roll, still wet with developer fluids, into her purse. 

©2014 Lex Vex (ps, the title was intentional) 

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