Two Stories by Monica Raymond & Artwork by Fran Forman

Green Couch

It’s not my fault—who loved me, copped a feel on me, kissed willingly or unwillingly, passed out, who positioned herself alluringly, mounds of her breasts pressing above Empire bodice. Uncle Bromley pressed in on his sister Agatha, then twenty years later nieces Madelyn and Marcella (each not knowing about the other), and finally twenty years after that, grandniece Robyn, this last not so easily. Avuncular iron maiden, sinew and tendon, old man horse teeth, Bourbon breath.


It’s not my fault. I am prop, scenery, never collaborator. The stains have been cleaned from my green silk. I stand where I have always stood. I await the next bottom, next assignation.


It is not a robin, my namesake, but a bluebird I hold in my hand.  Don’t lie, green couch, you know what you made possible. Go on, bluebird, fly! Do your business! The bluebird is hungry. And I have packed your inseams and cushions with birdseed, have sprinkled it everywhere.

Uncle Skank

His name is Uncle Mobley, but I call him Uncle Skank.


He is very old, maybe 150 years?


I like to trace the veins of his hands. The veins bulge up, like the banks of rivers, and in between are little depressions, like flood plains, only dry. I dip my finger between my lips and then I water them—dip, dip, dip.


I call him Uncle Skank—because his hair hangs down in hanks. And he smells rank.


You are not supposed to say that about relatives, but he does.


He smells like he peed himself and then fell asleep in it (and nothing like sweet little baby pee either) but it settled into tweed and dried into dinosaur bones. He smells like he drooled his mushed up liver into his bib 150 years ago and it never dried, just stayed, getting ranker and ranker. He doesn’t even try, like some try and splash something all minty and witch hazely, but he doesn’t. He just stays with that old man smell of decay, like a human compost pile.


I like that he doesn’t try to hide it.


His body is like a forest and hairs on his big flaccid pink ears look like moss, and he has different moles that look like they are sprouting pale hairy bean sprouts. Only he doesn’t smell that amazing deep brown inhaling forest soil smell. He smells like dust and rotting meat, and also something secret, a secret or maybe a bunch of secrets not told.


Daisies are the daisiest flower.


He likes me to sit on his lap in my white sundress with the blue sprigs. And then he likes to paw into my top while I bat his old man sausage puffy pus-filled fingers away.


And we laugh. It’s a game. Sometimes his fingers graze my nipple and then I slap him and push him away. Honestly, I don’t think he’d know what to do with it if he caught it.


What I think is the funniest (and the stupidest) about this game is that all the time I am batting his right hand away, his left hand is firmly grasping my left butt cheek, like a steering wheel or a handlebar or something that, if he didn’t hang on tight, he’d tip over. Or like he’s a clown or a kid on a bicycle and this is his red horn. Toot! Toot!


All the time I am batting him away on top and he is holding my bottom and we don’t say a word about it.


I don’t hate it. I think it’s weird but I think it’s cool to be so close to something 150 years old, like parchment paper. I don’t even think of him as a person really.


I am his favorite, and I wouldn’t say he’s my favorite, actually he’s the only one of my uncles I know.


Most of the time I don’t feel young or old, but when I get up from his lap, I understand that I am young and will outlive him. I am sprig green like tonic with mint in it. My white sundress has blue sprigs on it, and I am sprig, sprig, sprig and sprig is spring without the n in it, like you tried to hold the spring between your thumb and forefinger and the n jumped out. And it goes on jumping. I understand that I am going to live forever.


It is his birthday, but I keep missing him. 


I am sparkling water, and he lives in a den dug under the roots of a mottled sycamore, he is an old badger in brown corduroy with huge yellow teeth.


Eventually, we will find each other. And I will hand him the bouquet, and he will bow down and say “Thank you, little lady,” and kiss my hand. I will smell his old man rot and see his stubble and feel his rough mustache brush the back of my hand.

Monica Raymond writes poems, plays, librettos, lyrics and sometimes prose from an old house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A MacDowell Colony Fellow, Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow, Swan Fellow (Vermont Studio Center), and Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellow, Raymond has taught writing and interdisciplinary arts at Harvard, CUNY, and the Boston Museum School.
Fran Forman’s work is included in major museums and private collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Fran studied art and sociology at Brandeis University, received an MSW in psychiatric social work, and then an MFA from Boston University. She resides in the New England area.