Rich Ives

Explain Why You’re Here:

         The first time I chose failure over success, failure failed me.

Describe the Nature of the Illness:

         Villagers carrying wild torches and obedient rope.

Do You Have Any Questions Concerning the Proposed Supplemental Plan of Treatment?

         How can you be right if no one knows the answer?

When Do You Hope to Return to Your Normal Activities?

         Tomorrow, when I begin the first millennium[1].

Do You Have Any Concerns About the Limitations of the Treatment?

         We were camping in Montana, or was it Idaho, near one of those small towns with an impossible name, like Hope or Success or Everything You Wanted, when a storm tried to carry us away. Our tent seemed drunk in the downpour, deciding to fly and restrained only by a few annoying pegs. April’s last days had hidden behind a snow-bank, and May was dripping. The freezing cold we had expected had not materialized[2], but a cool slick fog of return had replaced it, anchoring itself in my wandering thoughts next to a popsicle and a pile of dead bees.
          Finally the tent deflated and wanted only to be a tent. We took advantage of the break to walk to the trading post for dinner supplies. A knot of variegated thrushes was unraveling in the grass, each part furiously tossing leaves over its shoulder and spearing the insects hiding beneath. Too quickly the cloud cover thinned and the birds flickered off.

How Did You Arrive at the Conclusion That You Were Ill?

         We began walking, and the others were mumbling, complaining, talking about what they were going to get to eat. The Duchess wanted Braunschweiger, but Little Beaver wanted Kielbasa. They agreed on red wine and then argued brands and vintages no store in the middle of nowhere would have, as if agreeing on it would make it appear.
         I saw a flash of silver on the edge of the pathway and held my breath as I continued forward. I was ahead of the others and suddenly aware of how odd the noises they were making had become. The silver was a fox, curious[3] most likely. I had never seen one this color[4]. I didn’t know if it was a different species or if it was an albino. He made me think of my girlfriend, the one who had left me for a wrestler, but I couldn’t think of the fox as a female. I stared hard to try and see if its eyes were red or blue like I thought albinos got. I had a dream once where a fox stole my baby and tried to sell it on the black market. The baby was made of sticks and no one would buy it. Why do I still remember it? I have never been involved with anyone whose eyes weren’t brown. My attentions seemed to spook it, and it slipped into the rosehips along the shoreline of a small pond. I knew the others wouldn’t believe me so I didn’t tell them.
         The angle of view offered by the sun’s sudden appearance gave me glimpses beneath the surface of the pond as we passed. The fish all had the colors of birds and darted about and perched in the water like birds. I expected them to fly up out of the water, but they didn’t.

At What Point in the Treatment Could You Tell That the Treatment Was Working?

         The rock that marked the turn had grass growing behind it that hung over its head and from a distance gave the impression of a gangster in an old black and white movie with heroes who talked out of the side of their mouths and drank too much waiting for his mark. I was busy all the time with compulsions, but I was waiting for something.
         Just short of the turn was a pile of personal belongings on the porch of a shack that had gotten wet in the rain. It looked like in the city when a renter gets kicked out and doesn’t bother to collect his belongings. A couple of rats were poking about in the wet personals. Oh so much pleasure those rats absorbed, and for the moment, let me be the world and say I hate you too.
         I saw a stick walking towards me. It was too tall to be a stick. It was too straight to be a woman. It must have been a man. He had a light yellow beard, long and thin, like corn tassels. Three unsecured clouds began conversing like chinchillas[5]. I refused to listen.
         There was nothing dramatic about the man, but I knew in a sharp moment of clarity that I would have to kill him.

         The dripping didn’t bother me anymore, but the itching did.

What Do You Intend to Do with Your Vestigial Memories?

         Several of the historical figures melted.

         Expressionism didn’t have anything to say yet.

We reached the trading post, and sure enough, there was the stick again, behind the cash register[6]. How had he passed going the other direction and still arrived here before we did? Now I knew I could depend on him. I wondered how much I cared for him.
         There were some cute little Ma and Pa Kettle salt and pepper shakers for sale on the counter. And wouldn’t the Missus be delighted now? said Colduck the Chopper like he was asking, Gimme a chance ta chop im, Turk. The man reeked of high moral values and superior behavior.
         Don’t ask me about that, Hack Racksel was saying like somebody had asked him a question. I’ve got some sandwich meat to taste. His oil-stained regard for borders, the corpulent bovine man of lethargy satisfied as a weighted stamp. We never knew why we took him along. His body sags in all the wrong places. Right now he’s looking down intently, deepening complications of his navel analysis.
         One peep outa you and Betsy starts yappin, he said as if that were what he had been thinking all along. I wasn’t close, but I imagined the odor on the breaths of carrion eaters.
         I imagined what the stick would say, and it was something like, Well I’ll be a boll weevil’s adenoids if they ain’t lookin’ at each other like a coupla ducks in a thunderstorm. And he’d be talking about The Duchess and Little Beaver who had planted themselves at the picnic table on the porch, and were making faces at us through the window. Papery skins of something disgusting were draped over forks stuck upright in the crack in the plank top.

Do You Feel There Could Have Been Any Better Means of Presentation of the Treatment?

         I felt like a little understatement would have been appropriate, and I thought about saying, I’ll do you a mischief, but I didn’t.
         Behind the stick a woman appeared from the cave attached to the back of the store. Her chin, her fluttering eyelids, had fallen. Her housedress was tented out beyond any existence she could ever fill. She had caked into herself, dry and crumbling. All weight and water and release, the pregnant woman inflated and let go as if she were carrying around her own assisted breathing apparatus. We were all here now.

How Many of You Are There in Need of Such Treatment?

         I have been given used clothing and new food, but the new food tastes like the used clothing. As near as I could tell, this had happened enough times to fill an egg carton.

Why Have You Returned for Further Treatment?

         Fear is the greatest weakness, for fear of weakness imprisons the weaknesses in strength, but the weakness of fear releases everything.

Would You Offer Any Advice to Those Considering Such Treatment?

         President Winter vetoes everything the congress of rain passes now. Times have changed. The governor of light sleeps late and doesn’t care in what form the water arrives. Three snow-ladies are frozen to the front yard, their parts sagging, eyes cast down. Can they hear what hasn’t been said yet?

Have You Experienced Any Side Effects?

         Yes, I got better.


[1] roughly equivalent to 13% of the total volume of the left foot when measured from the ankle

[2] a lack of participation in sweeping gestures

[3] capitalism however cannot be adequately [4] defined in this manner

[5] definitions are in any case subject to further variation

[6] variations are by definition excluded from capitalism as we currently know it

Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. In 2011 he received a nomination for The Best of the Web and two nominations for both the Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air Magazine. His book of days, Tunneling to the Moon, is currently being serialized with a work per day appearing for all of 2013 at