I am particularly thrilled to introduce a completely new undertaking that TAHRC is entering into. Before starting This Ain’t Heaven back in 2013, I had spent extensive time studying to be a English academic and creative writer at Wichita State University and the University of Iowa, respectively. More precisely, I spent about 8 years working on becoming a writer in some format. Those experiences have really been driving me lately to consider working on more writing – and given the model and the inspiration that TAHRC has been for me in the last couple of years, giving me a vehicle to release music that I know is excellent that others haven’t heard, I feel like it’s something important that I can do to help the label grow and expand the concept to include different mediums of art. I’m going to attempt to do that same thing here in the TAHPC (that’s This Ain’t Heaven Publishing Concern) section of our website – offer up some written work of various kinds (editorial, prose, criticism, reviews, whatever isn’t lame and is worth reading) that I feel might be worth consumption, both from myself and several other contributors.
Joining me in this endeavor, and helping me to establish this new publishing concern is my friend Troy James Weaver. Troy lives here in Wichita with his wife and dogs, has been a longtime member of the DIY music community, and has published a couple of novels in the last couple years that are quite excellent, in addition to having a presence in multiple online literary magazines. He’s been quite impressed with a lot of literature that has flown below my radar, and my life recently has been flooded with new things to read as a result of our friendship. We have been discussing the possibilities of having our own means of publication – a place where people could submit, and we could publish, both digitally and in physical formats – new literature that isn’t being read somewhere else. That is precisely what we intend to do here – to publish, to read and write and search out quality fodder to read and write about. Troy recently published a fantastic novel(la?) called WITCHITA STORIES, and it’s one of the most unique and powerful reads I’ve come across in some time. Wichita residents will find it particularly intriguing – Troy writes in a space inbetween the town we all know, and one that he gradually mytholigizes throughout a series of powerful and, sometimes disturbing vignettes. I have to admit that reading it has re-invigorated my fascination with well written and original prose.
There’s so much that I could say at this point, I have so many ideas – but much of it is still being developed. But TAHPC exists, and we aim to use it. Expect to see both Troy and myself publishing new things to read in this space from time to time, and also bringing in some new writers, both locally and otherwise, who would be interested in contributing. As this continues to grow, we will continue to offer new things to you all, and hopefully find some of you to bring into the process. Our ambition is to offer consistent and locally conscious publication, extending from our own community to the larger art/music/lit/DIY community that many of us share. If you have any suggestions, comments, tirades, or most importantly, SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE CONSIDERED FOR PUBLICATION, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be reading everything we recieve, and will be preparing space both online and through a quarterly publication that is still now taking shape. More on that later.
Having said all that, I’m stoked to bring you our first publication, an exerpt from Troy’s recent WITCHITA STORIES which is already seeing an expanded edition in the works. This exerpt, FUNERAL, is pulled from the additional material in the expanded edition. For more information on where to find WITCHITA STORIES for yourself, visit FUTURE TENSE BOOKS.
Funeral, by Troy James Weaver
Last time I saw you, it was right after your brother died. I didn’t know what to say. Who knows what to say at moments like that? Nothing registers sincerity, or whatever comes out doesn’t feel like enough—seems meaningless to even address things like death after death. Even though your brother was a dog, I still understood those feelings of loss, even without the words. Dog deaths sometimes feel even more weighty than people deaths. I wanted to let out a yelp or bark in solidarity. I’ve never seen you more distraught, though you didn’t really talk about the death. Instead you just talked and talked about the war. Talked and talked about how fucked it all was, how the world was dying and so were you. How can you comfort someone in a state like that? You can’t. Listen. Here’s the thing. Just listen.
Here’s how I imagined it all in my head, even after you told me the facts. I know it was anything but, but this is my personal version of your brother’s, your dog’s funeral. More personal than you’ll understand, because it’s about what I understand about death, which isn’t much, and you know so much more about that than me. So I’m hoping through this invention, you’ll have something to teach me, something I’ll learn.
Regardless, I hope you’ll find this a suitable tribute.
Nothing but a scab, said the woman, your mother, late thirties, weighted under messy waves of blonde, smoke-stained hair, sitting shotgun, air all clogged up good with Pall Malls and radiator fumes.
Don’t wipe your scabs on the seat, said the man, your father, who was driving the car, early forties, with streaks of grey in his dark, walnutty hair. Boogers or scabs, he said, don’t wipe them on the seat.
The kid in the backseat, you, unshackled his seatbelt, rubbed a sore place on his hip with his left hand, and let out a yawn. He had blonde hair, like the woman, and Mexican skin, a summer spent in the sun, eight years old, about to turn nine.
Somewhere across the world people were cutting people’s heads off for their beliefs not somehow miraculously aligning, go figure. The two, the man, you father, and the woman, your mother, listened a few more seconds to the radio before the man turned it off.
Fucking Buddhists, said the man, strengthening his grip on the wheel.
Muslims, honey, Muslims, said the woman.
I don’t see a big fucking difference, if you ask me, said the man.
Well there is, said the woman. A huge difference.
She stamped her cigarette out in the ash tray and took another into her lips, thoughtfully lighting it with a match before speaking through the filter: And ple’ don’ ta’ tha’ wa’ in fron’ jon’tha’.
They were quiet, your parents, a minute, trying to recharge the mood at a stoplight. They were almost there. They gazed out the windows and watched as the trees along the street molded over and over again into the various and infinite shapes of the wind.
Damn, said the man. Sorry. It’s just so…Damn.
I know, honey, said the woman, lending a little pat to his knee.
When they arrived at the eight acres of country afforded the man, your father, upon news a year earlier of his father’s death, the mood seemed implanted with sadness and dread-leaden—a feeling amplified by an uncertain order of facts nobody cared to sift through.
They unloaded out the sides of the brown sedan, the man snatching up a weighty trash bag from the trunk. It was black, sticky with liquid and grime, tufts of reddish fur here and there in the curves and hollows, noticeable only as he walked. In his other hand he carried a shovel.
Five steps was all it took—and on the sixth, he started to cry.
Within a few seconds the woman had come over and wrapped her arm around him.
I’m sorry, honey, said the woman, your mother. We all know how much you loved him.
Your father pushed your mother’s arm down and turned away.
I’m fucking pathetic, said the man, father. Look at me. I’m pathetic.
Your mother patted the man’s back, rubbed circles into it, and then started off toward the tree line to be with the boy, you, who had run over to relieve himself in a pool of shade.
While dad was digging, mom and the child ate cheese sandwiches beneath the trees.
Is he gonna be all right? you asked, language all garbled and sticky with cheese, gummy with crust.
Yeah, said mom. He’s fine. He’s just a pitiful person, always has been. You know what he needs? He needs to go out and find himself a dog.
Like the ones people kill each other for on the radio? you said, you poor little boy.
Yes, honey, just like those, said your mommy.
You took another bite and watched as the man, your dad, lowered the bag into the hole, the sun setting into your eyes, making everything obscured and distant-looking. Just like the time you mistook a mirror for a window, then, finding it to be a mirror, fixing your hair all pretty in it to impress the girl you liked at school—that’s how hard you were looking.
I wish somebody, anybody, would look as hard at me as you did at yourself—the reflection of yourself in that little mottled, fury corpse, or even in your dad, your dad while he was just digging that hole, showing you how frail and beautiful it all can be, how incredibly rewarding it all is, but only when you take your eyes off the mirror and look at somebody else for a change. And goddammit, I hope this time you are listening.