“See the Machine”

The machine is simple. It’s not designed to kill, but sometimes it fits the hand just right. Like a length of pipe. Violence is too simple a word. The machine’s much more efficient.

The black people are all smiles in their pimp suits. They spin and slap each other five. It is okay that they have bad teeth and are not good looking because their job is to spin and slap laughter from the machine. This is progress. Until now only white people could do this. Now it’s black people. And that means things are zipping right along, because look how their timing is better, and it hurts to say this, especially for the white people, but the machine is ravenous, it does not care who does the dance. And it cannot be ignored that the black people are better at it.

See Bill run. Bill the dog is intelligent and fun. Just like the humans except he can sense danger at ultra-normal levels. His mind is like a Richter scale that jumps in zigs and zags. Jump bill jump. Sensitivity makes him quiver like a machine. But not the machine. That’s different.

Run Bill run. Save the pockmarked girl and her darling white family. Bark Bill bark. But the white people are too busy to listen, too busy shaking their heads and saying it really is a shame since these pimp suits became the fashion, and when I was young etc. The black people don’t worry about it. The machine says don’t worry. The machine can make it look like you live anywhere, even if you really live over the tracks. Bill is worried. Bill is diligent and a patriot and he smells fire and so even if no one listens he will bark. He must save his nice white family. He might also consider saving the black people, but his glaucoma is spreading and he is old and may not have the time or energy to go saving everyone.

Don’t worry. Don’t be a prude. It’s not racism. It’s just a machine. It’s just the way things are. And come Sunday it’s the machine that lets white and black men run after each other and fall into each other’s arms and rub each other’s bottoms, tight man suits bulging around calves and quads and crotches. And Bill growls. And maybe he hates the machine. Maybe somewhere deep inside him, in the dull thrum of his lost wolf mind, he feels that this is all wrong, that here is danger. But maybe it is just all the excitement, the piles of legs and arms all jumbled up together just asking for a bite.

The fire is so close now that Bill licks smoke deliriously off his chops. But the fire doesn’t matter. He needs to protect these men from each other. He needs to rush in and put things right. Rush Bill rush. But then, suddenly and luckily, a leg bends back with a snap, and a glistening bone pokes out, slick and clean, like a little bald albino rat head fresh from a shower saying peek-a-boo, and everywhere grown men caress their own knees and groan and writhe and look away and pick their sacks out from under where they’ve been pinched in the couch and then settle in comfortable and loose and ready for more and Bill sees that everything is okay. Rest Bill rest. But, of course, keep an eye on them because no matter how much they wish to cup each other’s small tight rumps andpile on top of each other with hoots and groans and secret caresses of adoration, it is wrong. Also there is also that pesky fire to watch.

Bill is growing old and no one will listen to him. Who cares if the fire is coming? You always say that old Bill. Quit that barking. There are so many wide wheat fields and unfurling joyous flags that say Go! Fight! Win! and parades full of those frilly things on little girls’ bicycles that it can’t really matter. But Bill is choking on all that unhealthy second-hand smoke and there are billboards and famous people making sad faces all for Bill.

Bill does not care. And maybe it’s because he’s just a dog and doesn’t understand that those people with the arched plucked brows are famous. Or maybe it’s his ancient and powerful wolfy mind rejecting a condescending civilization. But Bill wants to run. Run Bill run. In the distance, under the blue sky, Bill runs, and he has lost his esophagus to cancer so his bark is now just a cough, but here is the little girl, her acne miraculously cured with only a single application, and she flaps her arms in happiness, and there is a wind that pushes her skirt against her body in a way that no one would say was suggestive and the white people are making sure not to look and while the black people are not allowed to be quite as beautiful as the girl, they are here too and are muscular and earthy and probably know how to have more fun than the girl anyway, especially in that sort of wild ancient way they have, I mean just look at their gaudy ties and how they shake their hips and sometimes, when their rapture is at its height even shoot each other.

Now is the climax. See the pockmarked girl hugging Bill and fire creeping up her skirt far enough to necessitate a low camera angle, and the white people chanting something pompous to signal that the hero will come, though rumor has it he is entangled in some sort of accusation about using a piece of pipe to crush a skull in the privacy of his own home, which, of course, is wrong, but no one can deny that he is still a god on the field.

Bill is tired. Sleep Bill sleep. He is old and tired and cannot remember how he saved the girl or how exactly the black and white people all learned to get along. But all is well because it’s the end of the hour. The dancing and groaning is done. The glorious snap of high-fives has grown faint. And inside us each and every one a little machine clicks and whirs and waits for more. And Bill dreams.

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Allen Jones

About Allen Jones

Allen C. Jones has an MFA in poetry from University of New Mexico and a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. He has taught in Mexico, Korea, China, Spain, Louisiana, and presently serves as Associate Professor of English Literature and Culture at the University of Stavanger on the wet coast of western Norway. His work has appeared in Razor Literary Magazine, Blackbox Manifold, b(OINK), Moss Trill, Slipstream, Bird’s Thumb, Whale Road Review, Pilgrimage, Third Wednesday, The Deus Loci and the Lyrical Landscape, The Bitter Oleander, The Louisiana Review, GSU Review award edition, The Southern Anthology: Louisiana, Ekleksographia, Two Hawks, The American Journal of Nursing, Flaming Arrows, Korea Lit, Maudlin House, and various other journals.