Julian Stannard

Billings to Minneapolis

Julian Stannard

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And she used to write poetry, oddball stuff , it didn’t rhyme  or anything

and it certainly didn’t make any sense   and they gave her  electro-shock

therapy and she went crazy , maybe she was already crazy,  she just went crazier,

I guess, and  even lovelier. It brought the freckles out,

the crazed girl with freckles.  Have you had electric shock therapy? No, I say -

not yet.  My advice,  says Frank,  is not to have it.  It didn’t do Haley  any good

and, as far as I know,  she never wrote another word  just a blank page for ever,

a blank page for the whole of life, Frank  says.  I used to watch her sometimes, 

she’d pick  up this pen of hers  and  write on  that page,  as if she owned it -  that was

before they plugged her in -   she was good,  I mean  good  with  words, they just

came out like she had a secret supply that no one else could get to.

And she made weird noises when we were making out, really weird.

I guess it comes with the territory, Frank says. The weird noises, you mean? He nods.

Do you make weird noises ? he asks.  I do sometimes.  That’s ok, he says, I’m fairly

liberal when it comes down to it .The stewardess comes with  pretzels, cookies

and   wet towels.  High in the American sky,  in a place that’s  nowhere.  

I kind of like it:  my private pretzel  paradise .

You know, said  Frank, I can ride bulls from  one end of America  to the other   but I couldn’t 

do fuck all with a blank page. To be honest,  it’d scare the shit out of me.  If I were in a

Kansas Motel alone with some smart arse blank page I might even go and shoot somebody.  

Well, I say hesitantly, looking at the battered cowboy, the blank page can be rather scary but I

 don’t think you can compare  it with a buck off.

He puts up a hand. Listen,  did you tell me your name?  I think you did but I’ve forgotten it   

– anyway I’ve broken  every damn bone in my body but I know  you’re suffering,

you’ve broken  those  bones that no one else can see.  Come on man, admit it,  it’s in your 

face,  it’s  in  your dumb questions .  And you know what,  I respect you for that –  we are 

both broken, broken differently,  I guess, broken  in different ways, broken men on a plane 

that’s being flown by a broken Vietnam  vet  who reads Walt Whitman in  a log cabin full of 

peacock shit in the middle  of  some  gloomy transcendental forest.    Thank you I say, eating 

another pretzel (they’re so good!)  And then we look out of the window, that’s what it’s for,


                                                                                        it’s mostly cloud, and more cloud.

Julian Stannard

Julian Stannard is a Reader in English and Creative Writing at the University of Winchester.
His most recent book is  What were you thinking? (CB Editions, 2016). He reviews for TLS.