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vol. 1, issue 1
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a story by
Carl Annarummo
> bio

Announcing the Birth of Dead Air

As the sun came out and kissed him on the cheek, L.L. fell over sideways in the back seat of his father’s car. He fell over sideways and watched the tips of the trees roll across the rear side window. He stared up at the cab light—at the fly that’s been trapped in there for years—and wondered whether or not air had any feelings.
—Daddy, are we there yet?
—How come those people are wearing mom’s dresses?
L.L. was gazing at the giant metal fixtures queued up in a line that stretched along the interstate and up and over the hills to his dad’s house (modest box, garage, seven screened windows). They were made of triangles. They held up wires filled with electricity and telephone conversations and prayers. Their invisible heads atop invisible shoulders showcasing some great, invisible, make believe cleavage; their invisible breasts, maybe too perky… and when the wind blows cold…These women stood defiantly shrinking in the rear mirror, waving goodbye to Fords, hatchbacks, pick-ups, and a lazy old Honda. L.L. always wondered why the rear side windows were always separated with that thick, black filter. Scenes changed as they rolled by…
— How come they’re just standing there?
—They’re dead.
—They’re dead? Why? How?
—Someone shot ‘em.
—But they look so happy.
—They were trespassing.
—But dad—
—What is it?
—They’re invisible.
—Yeah, well…
L.L. rolled over on to his back and looked up through the rear window and saw clouds. His father turned up the radio and rolled down the window. His left arm dangled and banged against the door handle. Another five miles and L.L. would be back in the custody of his mother.

His name was L.L. White.
Each “L” in L.L. stood for L.L. Some called him ‘Square’ or ‘4-L’or ‘4-Square.’ Some said his middle name was hell. The oldest man in town used to tap his gnarled cane on L.L.’s shoulder and laugh and yell:
—L.L., you belong in L!
The oldest man in town was death personified yet he never did scare the amused child.

L.L. loved the feeling of spring sunshine splashing across his face. Every morning he’d get up when the sun was starting to peek over the horizon. He’d feel around for his pants and his button shirt, his blazer, socks and shoes if he was lucky. He was even more fortunate to have his ensemble matching in color schemes and patterns. L.L. often needed the assistance of his mother when dressing in the morning. Going to bed was easy. He had two sets of pajamas, one of which he hated.
—Mommy, what happens when people die?
—What hap—
—George didn’t tell you I’m dying again did he?
—No. But I just wanna know wha—
—God damn that George.
—I don’t have brain cancer O.K., L.L.?
—Sure mom, it’s just that I—
She kissed him on the forehead and turned off the bedroom light, walked down the hall and locked herself in the bathroom. She began the process of smoking an entire pack of Doral cigarettes while she gently massaged her head, checking for some school of lumps that hopefully would not be present. She brushed her teeth after smoking, always did. She felt it would provide justification for her refusal to give up nicotine. Nobody wants to kiss a girl with mouth, or worse yet, full facial cancer. Her face was a ‘no cancer zone.’ She could care less about her breasts or her uterus. She could lease those out to the cancer landlord who she believed, when drunk or low on smokes or in the same room with George White, was spying on her through tiny cameras carefully hidden in the holes upon her walls. Ingrid brushed her teeth after every cigarette she smoked that night. One pack and a half a tube of Colgate later, she heard L.L. stirring about in his room.

—Good morning L.L..
Their conversation, as always, took place from behind closed doors with the lights off and the vent in the bathroom, vents in the floorboards, forcing air full blast with a deafening roar. It was a confessional with more muffled words and less extraneous attention to confessions.
—L.L., I’m sorry I snapped at you last night. It’s just… George… well… you know…
—Yes, I’m talking about daddy…
She said this mostly to herself. She turned on the H knob and watched the water rush to a boil, as though the friction of another upper-midwestern downpour caused the pipes to heat up and shift the water to steam. She noticed it was raining. It had been for what seemed like forty days or forty nights. She wasn’t quite sure. Here comes Noah with a pair-less animal: L.L. screwed up his lips and looked around his room. The walls were wallpapered in a red-white-blue-white vertical pattern. There was a cross over his bed nailed too high up for him to reach. He’d tried to knock it off with a stick a couple times but it was screwed on pretty good. He shouted to his mom through the thickness of two walls: a whole room between his and the bathroom: his mother’s.
—Mom, daddy says that when people they turn into air and that bad people turn into clouds and float away.
—Why do you always talk about those things? Boys your age should think about baseball…
—Daddy says that people die playing baseball.
—They most certainly do not!
—Do to. Daddy said Tony Con-igly-arrow died. He got hit in the face with a ball.
—But he didn’t die instantly, did he?
—Are there baseballs in heaven?
—God, I don’t know, L.L..
—What about yo-yo’s?
She brushed her front teeth with the outside edge of her index finger.
—Are there yo-yo’s in heaven? Or those iron women?
—L.L.! Jesus!…your father is here. He’s waiting in his car. I love you.


Earlier that same morning, George White woke up in the driver’s seat of his old Honda as it sat parked in his garage. The motor was still running. The garage door window had been knocked out with an errant golf ball. His clubs and a gun were in the back seat. He blinked his eyes hard and rolled down the window so he could rest his left elbow on the ledge. Out came the lighter and another cigarette was lit. George grabbed a brush from the glove box and combed his hair in the side mirror. He had taped a picture of L.L. to the same mirror and laughed at the inscription underneath it:


It was Saturday, which meant visitation rights were granted. He drove the thirty miles to his ex wife’s house, parked the car across the street, and waited for L.L. to explode from the front door. When he saw Ingrid he sunk lower in his seat and turned up the radio. The voice said:
—Most marriages today last as long as twenty-two minutes…


George shrugged and thought about the time when L.L. was still a bubble in his mother’s belly. He narrated his daydream in a radio voice: At 8:03 P.M. George White and his then-wife Ingrid came to blows over the rights to bear arms. George was a firm believer that everyone should own a gun—even kids. In fact, hoped that his yet-to-be-born son would one day own a gun, if not several guns. The more guns their son would have the better. It would teach him the value of guns and the importance of guns in American society. Ingrid on the other hand believed a real man only need rely on his two fists. Guns were a cowardly tool of the weak according to Ingrid. She demonstrated her point by repeatedly shoving her fists into her husband’s puffy cheeks.
—Lets teach our son to use his fists and not some piece of junk metal!
She worked poor George’s face like a meat tenderizer.
—Oh yeah, his fists! The boy’s what…negative six months old? Christ, Ingrid, lets take him down to the town hall and have those suckers legally registered as lethal weapons.
—You’re such an asshole, Georgie.
He hated it when she called him Georgie. It made him feel fourteen years old. Plus, he couldn’t do the same to his wife’s name. You can’t do much with ‘Ingrid’ except the predictable ‘Inbred’ or ‘Wolf-Woman from the Land of Dead Sea-Bass’.
—I just don’t see what the big deal is. All the kids have guns now.
—When I was a kid, boys collected baseball cards. They’d put em in the spokes of their two-speed and pretend they had motorcycles.
—So go buy him some baseball cards…
—Why don’t you?
—Because I’d rather buy him a gun instead. Christ Ingrid, some things you just can’t solve with good old hand to hand combat. It’s a different world now; people need guns to survive.

With that George walked down the hall and into the bedroom. He pulled out the bottom drawer of his dresser and took out his .44 magnum and a metal container that was locked and had two rows of duct tape wound around it. He un-peeled the tape and unlocked the box with the key which had been stored in his wife’s lingerie drawer. At 8:09 he proceeded to perform his nightly ritual of counting down the bullet box.
—That’s odd, I’m two bullets short. Better recount them to make sure.
He recounted the box trice, still was missing two bullets from the bullet box. George yawned and tried to remember if he had used them without making a note of it in the bullet check book.

August 15th, 2001. One bullet. Reason: co-worker’s birthday gift. 45 left.
August 16th 2001. three bullet. Reason: none listed 42 left.
September 9th 2001 Four Bullets. Reason: hunting trip. 38 left.

The bullet check book said that everything was legit. He sat down and tried to wonder where those three extra bullets went. Surely they could not have grown legs and feet and walked out of the bullet box on their own!
—Well, what about those three you got rid of on August sixteenth? His wife asked. Maybe you just miscalculated.
George looked at his wife as though she had two heads.
—No, I know about those.
Truth is, he did know about those. He sent those to his neighbor who insisted that he stop driving golf balls into his yard at six in the morning. Given the close proximity of their houses, it was only natural that an occasional ball should ping off his roof top, car hood, patio furniture, or rarely, if ever, clang off of the aluminum siding. He sent those bullets as a message: “either deal with it like a man or go back to sleep.”

At 8:15 George made the correction his bullet check book and headed back into the kitchen where his wife was standing with her coat draped over her arm.
—Where you off to?
—I’m going to the store to buy some smokes and some Colgate. And then I’m going to go buy some ice cream. Then I’m going to go Wal-Mart and buy a gun. Then I’m going to come home and shoot you and leave you to die in the bathtub or in the garage behind the stairs.
—Well go then.
—I will!
She put on her coat, grabbed her keys from the key tray and bolted through the back door. George White walked deeper into the kitchen—the darkest part—and grabbed from the cupboard a wineglass. Holding the glass upside down with the thin end between his thumb and index finger, he popped open the refrigerator and un-hissed a can of shit-brown beer.

At 8:20 the garage door opened. At 8:21 the car engine roared. He walked back into the bedroom and grabbed his .44 and the bullet box which were still lying on the comforter. He rested the glass on the night stand as he loaded a single bullet into the .44 magnum. 8:24 the garage door closed. He pulled back the safety and grabbed his glass and proceeded back to the living room. At 8:25 his wife drove down the driveway, the headlights shown like spotlights on the front door of the adjacent house. At 8:28 George White stood in front of the window and thought about life as a single man. They lived on a fairly busy road. He signed on the dotted line, folks.


—Looks like Mommy got her wish, eh there, L.L.?
—Daddy, Mom says you lied when you said dead people turn into air.
—So. It takes a lot of imagination to lie, especially to lie well.
L.L. asked if he could sit in the front seat and dad obliged. He was going to open the door and switch seats that way, but George insisted that he just hop over the center console.
—So how’s it going.
—O.K., daddy.
—You want a cigarette?
—I’m only eight. I can’t smoke yet.
—Yeah you’re probably right.
—Hey what is it?
—Where is hell?
—In nearby Milwaukee.
—Well, technically, it’s in the lobby of a Holiday Inn in downtown Milwaukee.
—No it’s not.
—Then where is it?
—Its underneath us.
—Hey my Honda ain’t no hell.
—No! I mean, its underground.
—Then Earth is hell.
—No. Earth is Earth.
—So its below Earth.
—Yeah! I guess so.
—I think your mom has brain cancer.
In the silence that ensued, thoughts began to rattle around in George White’s head like a golf ball jiggling in the holes on the back nine: The dead vanish into thin air. They turn into radio waves. They turn into sound waves. They inject themselves into electric machines and satellites and radar, sonar, telephone wires. They reincarnate while in your speakers, headphones, mouthpiece, monitor, an automobile. The dead see all without the use of eyes. The dead hear all without the use of ears. The dead do not improve, they multiply and out do the living.

George and L.L. drove recklessly through the rusty streets of Milwaukee to the Holiday Inn on West Wisconsin Ave. There L.L. met his father’s fellow gun-club members and watched them all get pleasantly disoriented. Ladies were kissed. Arms were pulled. Norm Rogers is doing that thing with his eye again! They were eventually told to leave by the Inn manager with the gentle assistance of local law enforcement officers. A few rounds were fired off in the lonely Wisconsin parking lots that stretched behind the Inn and in front of lonely, empty stores. No one was injured. The group remained inebriated. The intersections remained silent. The bullets fled to space, or so they thought…

George and L.L. sat in the front seats of the old Honda as snowflakes popped on the windshield. The two of them sat full-slumped in the bucket seats; ecstatic and content, George stared at the parking lot in the rear-view mirror, L.L. thought he heard his mother crying. After a few starts and stops, George mumbled:
—L.L., I’d love you even if you were deaf and blind. You’re a good kid. You’ll live forever in the air or in someone’s speaker.
George turned up the radio and lit another cigarette. He extended one in L.L.’s direction. He took his father’s offering and leaned into the lighter. He’d seen his dad light one a thousand times. Together they lit their cigarettes and leaned their heads back and blew smoke rainbows in the cabin of George’s old Honda. Light gray on top, slowly fading to darkness. George was an old pro. His son’s attempt wasn’t bad for a beginner.
—Oh… You uh… you got that uh… bullet check book with you?

On Sunday night, George White dropped off L.L. at Ingrid’s house then drove home and tried to turn himself into air. He had closed the garage door but left the car running. He wanted to poison himself with the cloud of gas that flew out of his exhaust pipe. He felt he was succeeding as he slowly drifted into a state of unconsciousness. Turns out he just really, really drunk, and, eventually embarrassed when he woke up to find that he had pissed his pants and that it wasn’t even his garage but his neighbor’s. The same neighbors that George has been launching golf balls and mailed threats towards for the past decade and who constantly left the garage door open to showcase his fine exercise equipment. At that moment George thought about becoming one of those guys who has to climb the iron women and replace the burnt out lights or pick out the bits of dead birds from the transformers. Or one of those guys who just nestles up between those immaculate, invisible breasts and watch the clouds roll by… He turned on the radio full blast. There were certain things he just could not bear to think about.


L.L. sat there in his favorite chair, in the yellow glow of a single bulb, staring out at a row of streetlights. He folded his map of Milwaukee into halves, fourths, tucked it under his arm, coughed, whispered to himself.
—L.L., you don’t have to go to hell because you’re bad. You can go as a tourist.
His eyes danced in the trails of headlights created by passing cars. Everyone was out navigating the roads tonight. Everything seemed so invisible, so gone, so air-like.
He walked into the kitchen and placed the map of Milwaukee on the small dining table. The candle light from his mother’s room flickered and looped through the keyhole and out into the hallway. L.L. walked back into his own room and closed the door, knelt, and while a single tear filtered down his left cheek, he peered out through the keyhole across to his mother’s door. He had looked with the energy of the thunder that had begun to crack and roll outside. The lightning far outshone the flicker of the candle. The thunder made the now audible sound of a child’s sudden whimper seem distant, awkward, cool. The rain shot against the window. The wind howled with the strength of a dozen passing cars. The air seemed alive yet electric.

L.L. made a fort with his sheets so as to not let any sound or light escape. The steep pitch of his make-shift tent resembled an old erotic foray into the twisted passions of Victorian romance. Only these were not satin sheets, these were not Arabian shawls; they were boring blue sheets, sky blue—no clouds in sight. He held in his lap a light without a shade. Over his ears: headphones plugged into a tape machine. He laid on his back and held the light between his knees. He adjusted the headphones and took a deep, heavy breath then laughed. He turned on the light bulb, spun the volume of his headphone to max. The light shone with brilliance so magnificent and pure, so radiant that it illuminated the room through the sky blue sheets. Have you ever been driving after a snowstorm when the sun is out? Have you ever stumbled into the kitchen at four in the morning and opened the refrigerator door? Have you ever imagined the white gates of heaven? White light stripped the paper off the walls. White light poked holes in the plaster on the ceiling. White light shone through the keyhole and encroached down the hallways, into the kitchen, over the waste basket, onto the stove, into the pot, mixed with boiling water (hot light bulb), poured down into a glass, mixed with peppermint, and settled in the stomach of his mother. White light shot from socket to bulb to eye socket and blew out all the wiring. L.L.’s eyes burned to a dark brownish-green blur. Led Zep circa 1970 on maximum volume shot through the headphones, spilled into L.L.’s ears, spilled onto the floor and seeped under the door and into the hallway. Led Zep circa 1970 seeped down the hallway, passed through the lock on the front door, spilled down the front steps, into a passing car, into a parking lot, into a seedy bar, a drink, and bubbled just as it touched the lips of another hopeless drunk. The bulb burned to a whisper of blue and the batteries in the headphones droned to a halt. L.L. lied there for what seemed like inexcusably long split seconds, years. Then the child’s giggle grew louder, louder, as he closed his eyes and desperately tried to fall asleep facing the wall, his back to the window, and unable to hear his bouts of laughter. He closed his eyes and laid motionless like a child, alone, in the dead of night to the strobe light of static energy. He couldn’t feel a thing. At last he fell asleep.


George turned off the radio of his car and the cool breeze felt like his mother’s skin. Windblown through a deserted town, they drove past a series of street signs, back yards, taverns, and playgrounds. George turned the old Honda left down onto a dead end road. He reached the end—shade, prophets in white robes, electric wires hanging from the trees, daggers growing through the dirt like flowers. L.L. noticed a playground, this one filled with buzzing children. The energy and the electricity in the children’s eyes, limbs, hearts, faces, actions hit his face like a cool breeze. The prophets were chanting and wrapping the wires around their fists. They picked up the ends of the wires and shocked the earth, the side of a tree, thin air, each other as the children looked on in youthful indifference. They were content with the spinning of the swings, the slick metal surface of slides, rising and falling to the earth’s dirt. One particular red headed child smiled at the foreign visitors, and in return they smiled back.
—Daddy, did you mean what you said about loving me even if I was blind and deaf.
—I uh…I sure did.
—And that good people turn invisible like air, and bad people get sent to Milwaukee on a cloud?
—Something like that, yeah.
—What is it L.L.?
—Are there yo-yos in heaven?
—No. Yo-yos allow you to buy your way into heaven. It’s a really backwards barter system. But for me… I sell yo-yos…if I sell enough yo-yos I’ll eventually go to heaven…and get my soul back.
—Then what, daddy?
—I become invisible. That’s the most important thing, I guess… It’s like baseball. You wait for the manager, in this case God or his brother, to pick up my contract, in this case, my soul, and rescue me from this minor hell, in this case, Milwaukee. See, in the big leagues you’re invisible… everyone knows your name and face… but your soul is like the back of the baseball card… it holds your statistics like how many good deeds you did or how many women you slept with or how many bullets you’ve fired or how many times you struck out looking. It tells how much of something you have or have done.
—Even yo-yos?
—Especially yo-yos.


—Mom, am I invisible?
—Oh darling! Oh darling!
L.L. felt as though he was floating on a breath of fresh air through thunder clasps trashed from the skies. Everything was a dark midnight blue and nothing made a sound. He got up out of bed, felt for the door, stumbled through the living room, found and turned on the television set—the screen popping onto his fingertips indiscernibly. He turned on the radio to find that he was just twisting knobs—silence, except for the cool wave of breath from his mother’s screams. He imagined the room to be filled with songs long ago forgotten but recently remembered—. He laughed and danced and made airplane wings with his arms.

Suddenly the kitchen door swung open. Ingrid, with phone cords and streaked cheeks, in total disarray. Chaos and jagged pictures and static and a child’s gaiety: everything came together in a cloud; he felt his way to the kitchen. He was blinded; he couldn’t see. Inching along the wall, over switches, over crashing picture frames, over the shadow of the one thing and then another and yet something else that meant the world to him. It was like having elephantiasis of the endorphins. Ingrid shrank into the bathroom with the portable phone and a lighter.

Over the sound of rushing water and the air vent was heard:
—Damn you George…why couldn’t you just buy him a gun instead?
She frantically spit out toothpaste from between her trembling lips as L.L. found the back door and wandered outside like a puppy.

He thought he was floating.

He extended his hand out into the midnight air. The candle flickered maniacally in the breeze. The world shook, he shook his head, he shook his hand and danced at the thought of losing everything while essentially gaining all there is ever desired. He had seen it. In the kitchen, the candle flame tapered off into a fine point one last time before it flickered to an end. The lightening fell upon his face and for all L.L. knew it could have been the sun. He fell over sideways in the tall grass and imagined the stars passing by overhead. He could see them all in their constellations. He could see the brother of God riding the skies and sweeping down and lifting his (L.L.’s) body up like a big ol’ baby. He dreamt of visiting heaven and hell.

He thought he was floating.

He thought he was floating.


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