Monday, February 14, 2011

ISSUE #24: Anthony Jones, Diana Blackwell, Bridges and Powerlines

Painting by Diana Blackwell

by Anthony Jones

On this day in Granada, a gray haze spread across the sky and everything was dark and very hot. The people stayed out of the streets, and many crowded into bars to drink beer and complain about the heat, from which there was no relief.

In one such bar a group of men had gathered, and they sat at a table crowded with empty glasses and half-smoked packs of cigarettes. One of these men stood out in particular. He was a short man with a very high pitched voice and his body was strangely proportioned; his neck was thick and stout but his limbs were very thin and his torso almost seemed minuscule in comparison with the other men at the table. He was not quite a midget, this man, but it was fair to say that he looked very, very odd.

Issue #24 soundtrack: Bridges and Powerlines "I Remember A Blue Sky"

“Another,” the strange short man said. “Another drink for these, my greatest of friends.”

The bartender brought them several glasses with ice and rum and also many small glass bottles of Coca-Cola. The men roared with laughter and drank, and a fat man with a gold watch put his arm around the strange short man and squeezed him the same way he might cuddle a teddy bear.

“Let’s drink to Alfonso,” the fat man said. “On this the day of his rebirth.”

Alfonso grinned, and he raised his glass and then drank half the liquor in a single gulp. He stood up and quavered on his feet and then wobbled a bit more until he staggered chest first into a construction worker sitting at the bar. The men at the table laughed so hard at the spectacle that tears came to their eyes.

On the television behind the bar there were highlights of the week’s best bullfights, and a patriotic, sentimental song played while they showed the best kills. Alfonso apologized to the worker and then stopped to watch the bullfights. The music suddenly filled him with such emotion that he had to bite his tongue for fear he might cry.

The man with the gold watch sauntered over to Alfonso and smacked him playfully on his backside. “Alfonso,” he said. “Go over there and speak with that beautiful young woman.”

He motioned toward a dark girl in a white dress sitting at the opposite end of the bar. This girl’s hair was long and black and flowed down onto her bare, brown shoulders. Alfonso stared for a moment and she looked at him. Her eyes were piercing and green and Alfonso lost his breath when he saw them. He finished his drink and stumbled to the side. The fat man steadied him while the other men from the table came over to offer their encouragement.

“Look here, Alfonso,” one of the others said. He had a gray moustache and his hair was dyed a light shade of blond. “You must go and talk to that woman. It’s clear to me that she desires you.”

Alfonso eyed the man with moustache and giggled his high-pitched giggle. He was very drunk. “She has a lover,” he said. “He’s sitting right there next to her.”

“Nonsense,” the man with the moustache said. “It’s obvious that this man is only her brother.”

Another man stepped forward. He wore sunglasses that had a light orange tint and a gold chain around his neck, which placed the lord Jesus crucified within his chest hair.

“Alfonso,” he said. “Come and have another drink.”

Alfonso grinned at the man and then giggled. “But Rafa,” he said. “I am already very drunk.”

“Nonsense,” the man with the moustache said. “It’s evident that you are only a little tipsy.”

“Yes,” the fat man said. “This clearly is the truth.”

Rafa got the attention of the bartender and then ordered two shots of American whiskey. Alfonso held his shot and wavered a little from side to side, and Rafa steadied him so that he could drink the whiskey in a single gulp. After, Alfonso coughed until his face turned bright red and then looked up bleary eyed.

“Rafa,” he said. “Truly, you are my most loyal friend.”

Rafa smiled and handed Alfonso the second shot, and Alfonso giggled in that strange high-pitched way and then drank the whiskey in a single gulp. Above, on the television, they were now playing American music videos, and the songs were much more lively than what had been playing during the bullfights.

Rafa slapped Alfonso on the back. “Now is the time for you to speak with that princess over there.”

Alfonso looked again at the girl. She was laughing and there was a glass of sangria in her hand. The man that was supposed to be her brother had his hand on her brown and supple thigh and when he whispered in her ear she smiled in such a way that made Alfonso shiver.

“Don’t be a coward,” Rafa said. “Or you will bring shame to us your most loyal friends.”

Alfonso nodded and became serious all of a sudden. He steadied himself and clenched his jaw and then began to make his way though the crowd of people so that he could speak with the beautiful girl at the end of the bar.

Rafa returned to his friends and the men there watched the scene with smiles on their faces -- giddy as schoolchildren -- watching Alfonso attempt the impossible.

Anthony Jones is a writer and basketball coach living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Westwind, The Furnace Review, PANK Magazine, The Montreal Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Write Room, Orion Headless and Phantom Kangaroo. He was also the 2007 recipient of UCLA's Ruth Brill Scholarship, awarded for outstanding achievement in creative writing. Check out his collaboration with the Noah Garabedian Sextet, a story about the danger of falling in love with robots, on Vimeo.

Diana Blackwell is a self-taught artist in Berkeley. She works in many media, including charcoal, acrylics, papier mache, collage, block printing, monoprinting, and digital photography. Blackwell’s colorful monoprints are a regular feature at Mignonne D├ęcor in Berkeley. She has shown work in California, Massachussetts, Missouri, and Nebraska. Visit her online portfolio at

Bridges and Powerlines is an indie pop band from Brooklyn. Their new record "Eve" was recorded in the same room as Sufjan Stevens's "Illinoise" album, with many of the same players. Visit them online at or on Myspace.