Harp & Altar
Roberta Allen

Stephen-Paul Martin

Eileen Myles

Joanna Ruocco

David Wirthlin
from Houndstooth

from Houndstooth
David Wirthlin

A Molotov cocktail flies through the air, rotating end over end as it moves forward, graceful in its slow motion revolutions. It stops mid-air, suspended. A drum beat plays lightly in the background. Boom boom pop, ba boom boom pop, boom boom pop, ba boom boom pop. Like that. The bottle, the gasoline inside, the air surrounding it, almost everything is motionless. Only the flame still burns, still continues to devour the rag. The bottle is clear glass, and the sky behind it is cloudless.

                The fire peters out.

                The Molotov cocktail surges forward, ripping through the air until it slams into the target with a thud and lands on the ground. Music stops. The target is a cardboard outline of a generic car. It resembles a car in overall shape, but has no characteristic features. There are no wheels, windows, doors, mirrors, fenders, nothing. Where the driver's window should be is a hand drawn target. The bottle lies on the ground near the tail end; the rag has come loose and gasoline is spilling out.

                Iggo rushes to the bottle and picks it up. Gasoline spills on his houndstooth pants as he turns the bottle upright. He kicks dirt over the spilled gasoline and walks to a row of bottles fifteen yards away from the cardboard car. Adjacent to the bottles, a gasoline canister and a neat pile of rags. The drums pick up again: boom boom pop, louder now.

                Iggo picks up a bottle and fills it halfway with gasoline. He picks up a rag, stuffing it into the bottle until only a couple inches are dangling out the top. Iggo flicks the lighter and the rag is on fire.

                He throws the Molotov cocktail toward the cutout. It sails two feet over the top of the car, shattering against a cluster of rocks. They ignite. Iggo rushes to the fire. The music fades to silent. He throws a thick wool blanket on the fire. Everything is silent and motionless. Smoke sneaks out from the edges of the blanket.

                Iggo walks to the cutout, head down. He kicks it, knocks it down, bends it, it breaks. He stands next to the broken car, unmoving. From up in the sky, Iggo is only a small dot.



A beat up station wagon drives down a suburban street. Look close at the driver, it's Iggo. He pulls into a strip mall parking lot and parks in front of a bookstore. Iggo steps out of the car, walks to the store entrance, opens the door and enters.

                He wanders around the store aimlessly, occasionally glancing at a blonde girl behind the checkout counter. He has a couple of books under his arm: A Contemporary Guide to High Tech Explosives and The IRA Cause. Alikki the blond is busy talking to a customer, and several are lined up behind for help. She catches an Iggo glance and smiles.

                Iggo continues to wander until Alikki is alone at the counter; then he approaches her, places the books on the counter.

                — Some interesting choices, eh Iggo?

                — Yeah, pretty cool.

                Alikki scans the books, the bar code reader beeps.

                — That'll be thirty-six seventy-eight, she says. Then with a smile, After your discount of course.

                — Of course.

                He smiles and hands her two twenty dollar bills. She smiles as she puts the books in a plastic bag.

                — Thanks, Iggo says.

                — Come back soon.

                — I always do.

                Alikki brushes her hair back with her hands and puts it behind her ears.

                — I mean real soon, she says.

                — How soon is real soon?

                — That's up to you, Alikki says.



Iggo sits at a kitchen table with his two books in front of him; The IRA Cause is open. The kitchen is starkly white, with only a few silver accents, and spotless. There are no loose papers, nothing on the refrigerator doors, and the sink is free from dish build up. Doris enters the kitchen with a bag of groceries. She sets them on the table and sits down next to Iggo.

                — Can you explain your infatuation with the IRA to me again?

                Doris picks up the book and looks at its contents. She closes the book and hands it to Iggo.

                — We've covered this Mom, he says. We're Irish . . . and Catholic.

                — We're one-eighth Irish, and we're not Catholic.

                — Grandma's Catholic. That makes us Catholic.

                — That's not how it works.

                — That is how it works.

                — See? Doris says, If we were Catholic I would know that.

                — Mom, are you being unsupportive?

                — I'm just trying to understand what I'm supporting.

                Doris stands up and starts removing the groceries from the bag. She removes each item and places them carefully in a cupboard. She makes her way back and forth between the table and various parts of the kitchen.

                — Sounds unsupportive to me.

                — I'm always supportive Iggo.   

                Doris pulls a carton of milk out of the bag and carries it to the refrigerator. She opens the fridge—it is stocked full of food. Juices, meats, breads, leftovers, dairy, all neatly arranged by category.

                — When's Dad gonna be home?

                — Any minute now. Why?

                Iggo smiles and stands up. He walks toward the door and, just before leaving the room, turns to his mom, and says,

                — I want to talk to someone supportive.

                She laughs and throws a loaf of bread at him, but Iggo is already out of the room. The bread bounces silently off the door as it closes. The plastic bag opens upon impact, slices of bread litter the white tile floor.



Iggo sits on the brown leather couch in the living room. The room follows a brown on different shade of brown color scheme. Dark woods and tan accents compliment the chocolate carpet.

                Iggo draws a picture of a car exploding. The people inside the car are wearing oxygen masks and protective suits. The car itself hovers above a cloud of smoke and fire. Miniature Molotov cocktails form a border on the edge of the paper.

                Bill walks in and says, Hola Iggo.

                — Hey Dad.

                Iggo, por fin. ¡Que elegante!

                — How's the spanish coming along, Dad?

                Bueno. Muy bien.

                — Your accent keeps sounding better.

                Gracias, Bill says. He sits down next to Iggo on the couch, Yeah I think I'm almost ready to start my book.

                — I'm excited for you. It's gonna be great.

                — I'm super pumped. Literature in the Spanish language is just so much better than our English trash. Bill looks at the picture Iggo has drawn, Not bad, he says.

                — Thanks Dad.

                — How's the explosives coming in real life?

                — Slow.

                — How’s the IRA thing?

                — I’m over it. It wasn’t what I thought.

                — Don't get discouraged. You think I learned Spanish overnight?

                Iggo folds up the drawing into a one inch by one inch square and stuffs it into his pocket.

                — I just wish I could blow stuff up right now.

                — You just wait, Bill says. He puts his arm around Iggo and pulls him close, You'll be the best damn bomb builder this family has ever seen.

                — Thanks Dad.

                Bill looks at his watch and says, Where's your brother?

                — I haven't seen him since the day before yesterday.

                — Really? Bill says. He cups his hands around his mouth and yells, Honey? Have you seen Ian?

                From somewhere else in the house, Doris says, Not for a day or two.

                — He'll be fine Dad.

                — I guess if your Mom isn't worried, entonces yo no preocupo tampoco.



Iggo drives up to his house in his station wagon and parks directly across the street. The neighborhood is well kept, with deep green lawns and new roofs. The only exception is the house directly across the street, a run down version of the other houses on the street. Faded gray paint and a moldy shingle roof create the exterior facade. The lawn is overrun with crabgrass and dandelions; the flowers are infested with white flies and aphids.

                Iggo gets out of his car and walks across the street to his house. His brother, Ian, lies on the front lawn, face up. He stares up at the blue sky, in a trance, and does not notice Iggo's arrival.

                — Ian?


                — Ian?


                — Ian?


                — Hello?    Where have you been?

                Ian slowly raises his head to look at Iggo.

                — I'm going back, ya know, Ian says.

                — Going back where, Ian?

                — It was so much better there, says Ian, laying his head back on the ground.

                — Where?

                — It was amazing. I want to go back so bad.

                — Fine, Iggo says, Don't tell me.

                — I can tell you later.

                — Well, good luck sliding this one past Mom.

                — Mom? says Ian.

                — You haven't been home for three days.

                Ian gazes at the sky. A cloud drifts by.

                — Oh no, I haven't been gone for three days. Three hours maybe, but not three days.

                — Ask Mom how long you've been gone.

                — But Iggo, everyone was getting along. I didn't care I was fat. People were nice and happy. All the girls were beautiful, and they didn't care I was fat either.

                — Ian! Stop saying you're fat.

                — Okay. If I was though, they wouldn't care.

                A rusty pickup truck drives up the street and stops next to Iggo's car. A drum beat starts to play. Ba boom boom pop, ba boom boom pop tsss.

                — He better not hit my car again, Iggo says.

                — It just didn't matter what I looked like.

                The truck parallel parks behind the station wagon. A leather skinned old man steps out of the truck. He walks up to the passenger side of Iggo's car and spits on the window.

                A bass line joins the drum beat. Dumm dumm. Dumm dumm. Dum de dum de dum. They both increase in volume.

                — Hey! Thanks for spitting on my car bro!

                The old man looks up at Iggo, startled. He gives Iggo a menacing look and walks away.

                — Don't walk away from me, bitter old man, Iggo says. Why are you so bitter?

                The leather face disappears around the side of the faded gray house. Iggo glares at the old man's truck.

                A distorted guitar riff jumps in line with the bass and drums. Chukka chukka chink. Chukka chukka chink. Chukka chink chukka chink. Chukka chukka chunk chunk.

                Iggo looks at the truck and the old man is sitting in it. He hurls a Molotov cocktail at the truck and makes it through the open side window. The interior is engulfed in flames. The old man tries to extinguish the fire by spitting on it.

                Iggo picks up a small missile launcher off the ground, hoists it over his shoulder, and points it at the truck. The music gets louder. He takes aim and pulls the trigger.

                The missile speeds toward the truck. The old man stops spitting and screams.

                And then silence. Everything moves in slow motion. The missile is almost to the truck. It reaches the truck, enters through the open window, and hits the old man directly in the face. His head implodes on impact. The music picks up again, louder than before, as movement returns to normal time. The truck explodes, shooting twenty feet into the air. The explosion repeats from the front, side, back and top views, in rapid succession. When the truck reaches its peak, it disappears and the music stops.

                Iggo's eyes search the old man's yard for movement. The truck is parked behind Iggo's station wagon, with no signs of any explosion. Iggo crosses the street, approaches his car, and sees the enormous amount of spit dripping down the side. He walks past the truck, staring at the gray house for several seconds.

                Iggo returns back to his front yard. Ian lies on his back, staring at the sky.

                — I even farted in front of the girls and they didn't mind, Ian says.

                — Did you see that? I hate him. He's gonna be sorry he messed with me.

                — And if I ever did anything wrong, I didn't have to apologize cuz they forgave me right away.

                — Hello? Ian?

                — Oh       hey Iggo.

                — Did you see that?

                — What?