rags of motel carpet waited to grow a brain

Mark Baumer


The wires in the motel stopped working. A pair of denim lay dead on the floor. It was Leon’s denim. I put on his denim hoping it would give the machines in our motel room some juice, but the denim did not fit well and gave my legs a fever. I worried the fever would grow into a rash.

The television didn’t work. Its fabric looked empty and dumb. I took off the denim and rubbed some of it on Leon’s shoulder. He was still sleeping. He did not know I was touching him with his own denim. I asked him what he wanted me to do with his denim, but he didn’t wake up so I rubbed his denim on a naked light bulb. All the light bulbs in the motel were dead in their plugs.

Only the smallest pocket in Leon’s travel bag would open. I removed its contents––a pair of fingernail clippers and some toothpaste. I stuffed a denim into an undersized location. The smallest pocket on Leon’s travel bag wouldn’t close after I stuffed it with denim. One of the threads on the denim unraveled and flickered a little in my palm. This loose denim was hungry and told me to plug it into something that wasn’t denim. I stuck it in a wall socket. The denim told the wall socket to smell my fingers. I was reminded of the sound dead fish make when you wrap them in stained paper money and burn a pile of old tires on your front lawn.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the nail clippers and toothpaste so I put them in the sink and turned on the water. Neither of them floated. The toothpaste looked confident in its ability not to drown. I picked up the tube and squeezed it empty onto the fabric of the dumb, empty television. I could almost hear a faint static in the cathode tubes. The television’s face softened. I thought of putting a stiff, yellow sponge in my mouth until it was moist and my teeth were no longer wet. When the toothpaste was empty and dumb I tried to stuff it inside a wall socket, but it didn’t fit.

The sink drained. I played with the nail clippers until I accidentally clipped off all the small areas near my cuticles. The tips of my fingers were empty. It was too dark to see anything so I had to get down on my knees and rub the carpet with my fingers to find all the clippings. Most of the clippings seemed lonely so I tied them all together with a few hairs I plucked from the scalp of my face.

Leon was still sleeping. I leaned over him with the system of hair and fingernails. A dribble of spit leaked out of his mouth onto the pillow while he slept. I dipped the end of on my follicles into the wet area of his pillow and then I wrapped them in a tissue and flushed them down the toilet. When the toilet stopped running I could hear the television talking in the non-toilet location of our motel room.

The motel wires were no longer empty.  Their juice gave our machines the ability to give us faith in the objects we weren’t aware we were praying to.