Devils Devils Everywhere (DOC) by jolinmilioncherie


									   Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St Berkeley CA 94705

                         Devils, Devils, Everywhere by Scott Lambridis

       Monday, my eyes wander unfocused on the bathroom floor, trying to think of the perfect

gift for Sam. The dark swaths of marble in the tile shift and I can see devils floating above Sam’s

bed like shadows cast by a hanging mobile. My phone bleeps and I read “Hullo” from Sam. I

start writing her back, but a text message from Unknown ID interrupts, saying “Pollo and

cerveza! Getting better.” It’s my dad, and he must be in Mexico. I try texting him back, but I

have no outgoing service in my office’s bathroom. The marble on the floor shifts again and I see

shadow creatures moving in the spaces between the swirls and flecks of shiny stone.

       With a thousand billion connections, the mind can see anything.

       I blink and the tile becomes solid again. Years before my dad ever fled the country, I was

worried Sam would grow up maladjusted. The poor kid is all genes, but no family: an unknown

donor’s sperm years before her mom met my dad. Now she’s twelve and it’s all Hello Kitty and

pop idolatry with those kids down in Malibu, a fake lightness that offers nothing to a girl

listening to her parents fight and cry downstairs. I’ve been trying to push Sam’s imagination.

I’ve been trying to prepare her for an adult life without therapy sessions. I wash up and flip the

switch on the bathroom wall. Everything goes dark, and the edges of the shadows disappear from

the tile. When I leave work later, I forget to write her back.

       Tuesday, I get a call from Unknown ID while I’m at work.


       “I’ll make this quick, for now. I’ll be the one calling you for a while. Maybe always.

You’ll have an email address you can send stuff to, but it won’t be the one you use now.”

       “Dad? What the hell are you talking about?”

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
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         “On the run again. Out of the country. There’s no fucking way I’m spending the rest of

my life working for that bitch, all because of California’s no-fault divorce law.”


         “So, I’m in Mexico now, but I’ll probably travel a bit and I’m not sure where I’ll end up.

Probably somewhere in the South Pacific. I’ll send you a ticket.”

         “Okay. But what about Sam?”

         “Sam? You’re my kid, not her.”

         “Legally, she is. You think she’ll be okay?”

         “I know exactly how she’ll be. She’ll get pregnant in high school and drop out and that’ll

be that. Her mom screwed it up for all of us. The two of them’ll get quite close now, I imagine,

but that’s not my problem now. I’ve got some other things to take care of. You’ll hear from me



         “I love you.”

         “I know.”

         I want to help her, and fear I’m missing my chance. The simple horrors in ‘normal’

homes grow and take up all the space, unless greater horrors are invented that can be left at any

time. Horror and fantasy are the refuge of the young and alone. With her worthless older brother

living in some other state, she’s basically an only child too. Just like I was, until my dad formally

adopted her.

         I found out when I visited over Christmas a few years ago.

         “Big brother!” she yelled and hugged my leg as I entered their apartment. If I was a

brother, what the hell was a brother? I smiled and said hello. We ate dinner and then Sam’s mom

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

and my dad drank wine and watched Sam and I craft a monstrosity of a gingerbread house. It had

fangs and spikes and impaled children and our little family of four laughed until our eyes were

red and the icing was smeared everywhere, moist with mirthful tears. I rubbed the tears onto the

spikes and impaled characters. “Dead children’s tears make excellent glue,” I joked with Sam as

she gave my arm an Indian burn. I flicked her nose and she stuck her tongue out. She hung on

my arm and put bite marks in it, then hit me with her head in triplet rhythm: one-two-three, one-

two-three, giggling, as I batted her away. Still violent, as usual. Pent up frustration she’s had

since I first met her, and I didn’t see her outgrowing it any time soon. My dad yelled at her to

calm down and brush her teeth and go to bed. Then he went outside to smoke a cigar while

Sam’s mom cleaned up the kitchen.

       “So what’d she mean by brother?” I asked.

       “Your father didn’t tell you?”


       “Well, it was a nice surprise, wasn’t it? Two years to the day since our wedding.”

       My cheeks compressed into a smile. I went upstairs to check on her. I wanted her to think

well of my visits, and not of sadness in her sleepward drift. I didn’t want her to miss me like she

missed her parents. I stood outside the door, body pressed against it, hand on the knob, listening.

I pictured Sam on the other side wondering how to react when the door opened, if she should

pretend she was asleep. When I was Sam’s age and got in trouble for not listening to my mom,

she would tell me to wait in my room until my dad got home. At eight at night, when he dropped

his briefcase by the fireplace, I could hear them talking, but not the conversation. I was in bed

but never sleeping. I remember every time I watched for my dad’s shadow beneath the door, and

the creak of his approach. I imagined great beasts from other dimensions, and what it would feel

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

like if they consumed your skin. Then the twist of the doorknob and the shadow stretched out

and his hand gripped the fine hairs next to my ear, lifting me up, letting the covers fall away with

any sleepy cobwebs. In a couple minutes, my dad would leave. Not another hair touched. My

imagined punishment was always worse than his scolding. I was on the outside of a door to a

nervous child now, and I opened it to Sam’s room.



       “You awake?”


       “Want me to go?”


       “Okay. I know it doesn’t take much for him to yell, but don’t take him to heart. Just think

how lucky you are that he’s softer these days.”


       “I know. Don’t worry about him. There are far worse things out there.”

       “I can’t sleep. Can you tell me a story?” Early symptoms of psychological trouble to

come, no doubt.

       “Sure, but its not going to be like any of that happy candy-coated crap you watch on


       “So it’s gonna be scary?”

       “Scary’s in the eye of the beholder,” I said, grabbing a flashlight and holding it up to my

neck, hoping it would radiate the o-shape of my mouth. I shoved the flashlight in my mouth and

repeated with mushmouth. “Scawy’s win we eye of wa weholda.”

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

       “You’re weird, brother,” she said, pulling the covers up.

       “Weird’s good for you.” I yanked them back off her, blond strands of hair fluffing in the

wake. She pulled the covers back up. “Makes you not get freaked out about all the truly weird

shit out there masquerading as normalcy.”

       “A-ha. You said a bad word!”

       “Quiet, you. We’re about to get serious. When I was ten I had a phenakistiscope. My

parents bought it for me because it creates the optical illusion of motion by spinning a series of

drawings placed at different angles around a paper disc. When you look through the lens you

only see one of the drawings, but when you spin the paper, it shows each one in succession and

they look like a single moving image. My parents didn’t realize that the spinning drawings could

open a portal to another world. But I did. When they were out, I would stand in my room, in

front of the mirror, with only the outside lights coming in. I would spin the disc of paper round

and round, faster and faster, and my mirror would bend and wobble and then something would

come through. I could only make out its cloak: billowing, steel gray, flowing too loosely over

what might be inside.” I grabbed a dark towel next to her bed and draped it over my head like a

hood. I turned off the flashlight. “There must have been some magic keeping the maze of folded

fabric suspended. If not, I shudder to think of the form beneath. The contours and content of its

skin. The skeletal structure lending to such dark beauty. And the head, what of the head? The

gaping hole into infinity there just beyond the shroud’s edge. What sort of mouth might lie

beyond, always just beyond, and what would it feed upon, if not your very soul? Would it even

need to crunch your bones, dissolve your skin, gnaw and strip your muscles? Would it even need

to consume your organs, your electricity, when it could feast on your soul itself? Yes, I asked

these questions, but it didn’t give me answers. It let me wonder these things, for it feasted only

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

on fear. And once I guessed the answers, it went away, but I was left to hope others wondered

the same of me. So tell me now, Sam, what do YOU fear?” I jerked my face forward, and Sam

shrieked, and then laughed loud. I laughed with her, but kept my voice low, hoping she’d follow.

The white bedroom door swung open.

       “Sam, no. Not the right time!” yelled my dad.

       “But I’m not doing anything. He’s telling scary stories.”

       “Enough. He’s not the one making the racket. Let her sleep.” I kissed her forehead,

winked at her under the towel-cloak, and left. The next morning was Christmas. I gave her a

phenakistiscope of her own. The note said: “Use at night in the dark.” The paper disc loaded in

the scope had a carousel of horses on it that spun up and down, one-two-three, one-two-three,

faster and faster. She watched them go round for a few seconds, saying “cool,” before her mom

gave her another gift. Sam’s first cellphone was all pink and glittery and she used it to talk about

pop music and haircuts with her Malibu friends, all of whom had cellphones of their own


       Back at work, I’m distracted by idea of my dad fleeing the country. When I finally get

home, I think about sending Sam a text message, but it is late and I’m tired.

       In the morning, Sam’s mom calls, but I don’t answer. Her voicemail consists of her

crying and not making any sense. She laughs a discomforting laugh before hanging up. I read a

Scientific American article indicating that just one hour of sleep deprivation causes an

adolescent’s mind to work at the capacity of a child three years her youth. I picture Sam in her

bed with no dad at home to yell at her. I imagine her deep into the night with the light on while

her mother drinks, pops anti-depressants, and makes calls downstairs, laughing between sobs.

Sam counts them in rhythm, four sobs and one guffaw, four sobs and one guffaw, the rhythm of

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

her mother’s heart. I see Sam open her eyes just a sliver so they tear up. She plays with her

eyelashes so that the strands of light entering form a row of galloping horses, magnified by the

tears. She bounces the horses in a rocking rhythm and watches them go round and round till her

tears begin to fall and her eyes hurt and her lashes split and bend and crush the carousel. She

blinks away the tears and fragments and shuts her eyes and goes to sleep.

        Later in the day I get a text message from Sam’s mom. It reads: “You don’t have to talk

to me, but please talk to Sam. Dad didn’t even say goodbye.” I’m instantly flush with anger,

knowing that Sam’s mom hasn’t told her anything. She thinks she’s protecting her, but that’s just

an excuse for her to not tell the truth. Sam will have to find out why her dad left eventually, and

she’ll just be even angrier at her mom for keeping it from her. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let

her mom pawn that responsibility off on me. I wait a few hours, hoping Sam will be alone, and

call her.



        “Whatcha doing?”


        “Nothing?” I pace the stairwell outside my apartment as dusk moves from pink to purple

and the potted plants outside my neighbor’s door lose their shadow.

        “Practicing my clarinet.”

        “Oh yeah. How was the concert?”


        “Come on. Tell me.”

        “I did. It was fine.”

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

        “I bet it was better than fine. Did you get any feedback?”

        “Yeah. The teachers fill out comment sheets.”

        “And?” I run my hand along the stairwell’s metal guardrail. It’s already getting colder

and feels good against my skin.

        “She said I played really well. Actually, I did play really well. I’m really good you know.

Seriously, it was sooooooo fun.”

        “That’s what I’m talking about. Can you play something over the phone?”

        “No, silly.”

        “Come on.”

        “No, I can’t. But I’ll read you my teacher’s comments. It says I have great rhythm. I

really wish you were here so I could show you the smiley face she put. And she wrote ‘Great

Job!’ in big pink letters.”

        “If I was there you’d probably pinch me in 5/4 rhythm.”

        “Hee hee. Yeah.”

        “I’m sorry I missed it. The recital.” The wind picks up and I lean into the nook between

the apartments. I cup the phone with my hand to keep the noise from distracting her.

        “It’s okay. I have another. We made it to the finals! Will you come?”

        “I’ll be there. How’s everything at home?”

        “Mom’s crying a lot.”

        “Has she told you why?”

        “Yeah.” Sam’s voice dips down. I can picture her looking down at the floor.

        “What’d she say?”

        “I don’t know.”

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

       “And how’re you?”

       “I’m fine.” She thinks she’s being tough, but her therapist will call it denial a decade

from now when she wonders why she can’t have a normal romantic relationship. I nudge the

buds on the neighbor’s outdoor plants with the tip of my shoe.

       “You should tell her to put you on a plane and come stay with me for a weekend.”


       But I know she won’t come. Her mom won’t let her. Too young to fly. Too young for my

music. Too young for scary movies. Too young to think for herself, but old enough to hurt. And

now, without my dad’s supervision, they’re going to be attached at the hip. He’s hopping flights

between New York, Paris, Madrid, Mexico City, and some undisclosed location in the South

Pacific, while Sam is a year away from starting high school and meeting boys and smoking

cigarettes and doing drugs with all the rich kids. If I were with her, I’d tell her a story and put her

to sleep. I’d tell her about dad’s exodus from Romania. I’d tell her about the motorcycle and the

midnight graveyard run past Communist sentries when he was out of college. He must have

rolled the bike with the engine cut. I don’t know, that’s all he ever told me, but I’d tell Sam

more. I’d tell her what might have been true, hoping she’d find strength in herself from the story

I always wanted to hear, hoping darker realities would prepare her for the uncertainties of life.

Can you picture him bounding, Sam? Across the borders? Can you picture his legs stretching and

his skin thickening with bulletproof scales? Leaping over gravestones, bullet sparks flying off of

him while the jackals and demons salivate below his leaps? Can you see his momentum build?

The Earth accelerates under his stride, spinning forward as if he were turning the Earth, rather

than running. He is powered by the dead victims of the Communists six feet underground. He is

powered by all those who said he didn’t have the power to leave the oppression. He was not

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                   Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                           by Scott Lambridis

afraid of the forest or the gravestones or the sentries or bullets. They just pumped his heart with

adrenaline, which pumped his legs with force until he bent the ground around him and his limbs

stretched out like rubber pulled into the distance. You can bound anywhere your mind can take

you, Sam.

       Instead of telling her this, I tell her it’s windy, that I’ll be at her next recital, and that I’ll

talk to her soon.

       “Okay,” she says.

       “Kiss kiss,” I say, and hang up the phone.

       When my mom sold and emptied our old house after the divorce, she sent me a box of

stuff from my old room. It gave me a great idea for a brotherly gift and I gave it to Sam for her

birthday this year. I was in Sam’s room and we were laughing as we’d laughed at dinner when

there were four of us and two bottles of wine and Sam blared some terrible LA pop on her

mom’s living room stereo. As Sam jumped on her bed over and over, pretending she couldn’t get

comfortable, I revealed the old plush elephant from the gift bag.

       “Here, for you,” I said, but she slapped the stuffed animal down, giggling. I picked it

back up, but she slapped it down again. Her knees hit the pillow in perfect time with her slaps.

“Quit it. Before dad comes in and yells at us.” I leaned the gray and black stuffed animal

between the wall and her pillow, but it slumped down, weighed by its sagging human-like

appendages. It took a strong memory to know it was an elephant. “Look, it wants a hug.”

       “It’s not cuddly. It’s crusty.”

       “Yeah, well, I used to have a puppy who lavished it with nightly bouts of overzealous

love. If only you knew where that thing came from. It’s older than me.”

       “I don’t care. Tell me a story.”

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

         “I’m trying, lady. My dad brought this with him when he escaped Romania, before I was


         “What did he run away from?”

         “The Communists, but don’t worry, they’re far away, at the end of the world. And this

elephant is special because of it. The souls of the villagers that were killed and the armies he

escaped have left their mark.” I pulled her covers up and flipped the light off. “Did you know

that angels hide in the darting shadows? They’re dressed like devils, keeping the demons on their

toes, keeping them from gathering armies.”

         “Do you know when the world will end?” she asked.

         “Right now it’s Tuesday, and it’s the end of the world somewhere.” I pushed the

slumping elephant back up. Its fur matted with canine saliva. Its eyes and nose gnawed and

scraped by teeth, its face crushed and compressed. Its insides leaking puffed cotton. I told Sam

that when we fall asleep, this little elephant grows and transforms and destroys the world and

everyone in it, one by one, piece by piece, cell by cell. By the time we wake, the world has

rebuilt itself and the elephant waits for us to fall asleep so it can destroy it again. The nightly

carnage is a reminder that our shouts of soul and love are silenced in the end, that our dramas are

human and incidental. As soon as we shut our eyes, it begins. Its shadow detaches and hunts

while the elephant watches its prey realize the shadow is not just a shadow anymore. In that

moment, the elephant feels its own soul shimmer and begins to feed. Its strands of fur become

glasslike slivers thick as triple-weight shag, and a vine-like appendage extends through the air to

a pile of struggling bodies. The appendage pokes into the soft throat of a victim and then

continues under the skin, cleaving bone and tendon and splashing blood across the weeping

faces. The human convulses up and gurgles, unable to draw the breath to scream. The creature

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

plucks off the head, flecks it into its mouth, and crunches down. Its feet suction to the

coagulating blood on the floor. Of course I have a soul, it thinks, as its shadow extends a series

of long threads to soak up what’s left of the meal. The creature and its shadow remain silent,

feeding, and swaying with the pulsing screams.

        When I finished the story and opened my eyes, Sam’s covers were rising and falling in

the 2/4 rhythm of sleep. She must have been exhausted. Maybe she sensed the rising tensions

around her. Maybe she felt her mom already starting to cling to her. I crept downstairs and

crawled onto the air mattress on the floor by the fire. In a few hours, she’ll have throw her red

comforter off in the heat and the gray misshapen elephant will have fallen to the floor, but by

then I’ll have left.

        With her parents split now, she’ll need more than stories of the horrors beyond.

        A week after that visit, late at night, I received my dad’s sobbing call. It took an hour to

establish that they were in marriage counseling because they weren’t communicating, and that he

was living in a hotel a few blocks away from their home. He asked for advice, and I gave what I

could. The next day my dad was back to his old hardened self. A week later he told me he

suspected she wasn’t telling him everything. He told her, in the counselor’s office, that he’d

forgive any infidelity, if she’d just tell him what was going on, but she continued to lie. He

checked her email account hourly looking for signs. He climbed the hill to their home at night

and tapped the house phone line through the garage by splicing a tape recorder into it and then

listening later.

        Sam was practicing her clarinet at school when my dad marched home to catch his wife

in his bed with her former boss. He called the guy’s wife at her home. “You’re not surprised?” he

asked. “Not entirely,” said the woman.

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

        On Wednesday I’m at work when I get an email from my dad in Paris telling me that he

digitized the audiotape and burned it to CD. The whole thing’s on there, he says. His call to the

guy’s wife. The lovers’ passionate exchanges, sexual recollections and forecasts. Even their

conversations about taking him for all the legal money the state would give them for the divorce

and child support. On Thursday I’m wondering when he’s going to call me again, and from

where, when I receive a package in the mail from my dad. It is a burned CD in an unmarked

green plastic case with no note. Before getting on the airplane, he also mailed one to her brother,

her parents, and his lawyer. Everything he would ever need to absolve himself in others’ eyes.

Her family isn’t talking to her now. Now she has no one but Sam.

        A couple weeks later, I’m strolling the windy aisles in the Alameda flea market,

imagining the many creative uses of old swords, goblets, lamps, figurines, and candleholders. I

flip each one over to check the price tag and am astounded each time by the cost of antiqueness. I

put the candleholder down and my phone rings.

        “Dad? Are you back in the country?”

        “New York, briefly, yeah. I’m on my way back to California. Just wanted to let you

know. The lawyer says despite California’s no-fault divorce law, I may not be in as bad a shape

as I think.”

        “Okay.” I walk away from the group and follow the scent of burnt kettle corn to the

outskirts of the open-air market.

        “I should probably think about this and see how it goes before becoming a fugitive again.

That was fine for my twenties, but I have you now and dammit, I like California. If I need to

leave, it’s always an option.”

        “Yes, true.” I’m pacing back and forth in front of the food stands, each vendor flashing

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

his smile and flipping his hands towards his booth as I look around.

        “I’ll call you when I’m back home.”

        “What about the guy?”

        “What guy?”

        “You know. The guy.”

        “Oh, she hasn’t heard from him again. I’ve been checking her email still just to be sure.

Crawled back to his wife I’m guessing. He could talk the talk. I know, I’m an expert at the talk.

He took her for a ride. She’s in a world of shit now.”

        “Did you talk to her?”

        “Her brother. They just let her out of the hospital. Drank a bottle of vodka and half of her

anti-depressants. Call you in a few.”


        The scent of burning caramel fades as I rejoin my friends and fumble with each table’s

nicnacs. I pick up a hideously caracatured statue of Emperor Hirohito from WWII. The vendor

says it’s a light gun receiver for target practice. It spins when you hit it. It’s $500. I want to send

something thoughtful to Sam, but I don’t know the thought. A perfect gift. Something she won’t

outgrow. Something to make sure she doesn’t turn out like the rest of the Malibu girls, a decade

or two away from their first counseling session. Something in place of a decent parent. I flip

through stacks of used records. Maybe I’ll burn her some CDs. Something heavy and dark that

she can blare on her mom’s stereo that’ll help her understand that things only make sense when

you can hear the distortions of the world with clear, non-deluded ears. As I put down an old copy

of Pink Floyd’s More, a small glass frame containing a pinned dead cicada catches my eye

among an array of binoculars, flashlights, and army surplus gear.

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

        I pick up the framed cicada, bothered by what should have been relieving news. I know

my dad will go back over to her apartment. I know he’ll try to play being both consoling and

cold so he can suck up to her as much as he can before the lawyers get involved. He’ll let her

think there may be hope, though not much. I send a text message to Sam asking what she’s

doing. She says she’s practicing for the recital. I ask her what they’re playing. She says

Pachelbel Canon, and I shake my head thinking how appropriate for kids in LA to play sappy

compositions that happen to also serve as the AA theme song. I ask her if she makes up her own

songs but she says she doesn’t know how. I wonder if she’ll be able to continue lessons when her

mom’s money goes away.

        I roll the framed cicada over in my hands. I want to tell her that if she tries really hard she

can become more. That she can stretch out her senses and hear the entire world playing with her.

But I don’t. She tells me she’s been staying up in bed trying to listen to her mom fighting on the

phone. She asks why her mom keeps saying that her soul is gone. I tell Sam to get permission to

take a flight and spend a weekend with me. She says okay, but she won’t do it.

        Sam’s mind is filling with things she can’t recognize. I want to prevent her from having

to pick them up some day and dust them off just to see how much they cost her. If I were there,

I’d pull the covers up to her chin and tell her that I used to study cicadas. I’d tell her that they

don’t have eyes and arms and senses like us and so they’re incapable of inhumanity. I’d tell her

that they stay underground for seventeen years and then need escape, even if it kills them. They

leave their underground home and devour everything they can. They sound like devils with their

wings flapping. Devils, everywhere, driven by the need for change. Then they are pulled back

into the soil for another seventeen years. It is the cycle of a husband and a father too. I’d tell her I

was seventeen when he left my mom, seventeen years after he escaped Romania. I’d tell her that

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

though they may sound like devils, she shouldn’t be afraid. But I can’t tell her, because my dad

is there with her, not me, filling Sam’s mom with false promises while he talks of paperwork.

Half-dads and half-moms arguing downstairs while Sam practices her clarinet in her room.

       If she goes downstairs, her mom will fold her arms and stare at her feet as if she hadn’t

been talking at all. I imagine Sam creaking her door open and walking to the bathroom instead

where the pipes carry some of the conversation, though it is echoed and non-distinct. She listens

hard, straining her ears. I picture her mind stretching. She furrows her brow so hard to listen that

her eardrums feel like they’re bursting. They pop and shudder and there is a sudden

overwhelming presence of everything all at once. She hears a billion cicadas crunching up from

under the soil, crawling over each other, splitting through chitin enclosures, and then unfurling

cellophane wings that sound like crinkling plastic. The billion of them become a giant fluttering

crescendo, the atmosphere itself overwhelmed and yielding, the sky turning black. Her ears are

filled with everything and anything and the hairs in her cochlea revolt. She cups her ears and

withstands the sound until the billions of dying insects begin to drop like stardust and coat her in

her own temporary exoskeleton. The cicada shells leach their juices and they soak into Sam. Her

skin tightens and the hair on her head tingles. Her entire skull feels like it is swelling, but her

skin won’t stretch any further. Craters, valleys, and rivers form across her face. She bites her

knuckles, able to hear every cell stretching and splitting. Discrete grid lines resolve. She feels the

air, the molecules, and the flow of atoms in between. Sam can hear, feel, and even see every

sound. After my dad leaves, she can even hear her mom on the phone, and the person on the

other line breathing and saying yeah, yeah, yeah, over and over between her mother’s sobs and

pleas. The hum of static puts her to sleep, sated on accusations and denials. If I were there I

would wipe the drool from her lip and carry her to bed. She’d wake up and ask if her mom was

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

asleep, and I’d put her into bed. “Hey, Sam?” I’d ask, but she wouldn’t answer. Then I’d leave

and close the door, if I was there.

       A week later, my dad tells me he has ten stitches in his face and Sam’s mom is in the

psychiatric ward. She went to his hotel with a bottle of champagne, attempting to make amends.

She found another woman there and broke the bottle on his face. She was back home the next

day with more medication and a warning not to drink that I know she’ll heed until evening rolls

around and Josh Groban swells from her living room stereo. I imagine Sam trying to put her own

music on, and her mom spilling her glass as she yells at her. Then the tears will start streaming

from both of them. Then they will hug and not let go, the refrain of “Can’t a person make one

mistake?” repeating and repeating in her mother’s mind as Sam asks questions answered only by

her mother’s embrace.

       My dad tells me that he doesn’t visit anymore because neither the doctors nor lawyers

think it’s a good idea. He just calls. Sometimes he picks Sam up from school after her music

lessons. He lets her out on the street, far away from the front door. I want to visit her, but I don’t.

Her mom calls, and I don’t answer. I get a text message. “Sam’s got her concert tomorrow. She

really wants you to come.” I prop the framed cicada next to my computer. What I want to give

her has no pricetag. It is real, like life at the end of the world. Something I’d have wanted to

receive. Something to open my eyes, given by someone who would treat me like an adult so that

I could make my own decisions instead of having them made for me by weak and selfish parents.

I smile, knowing what I should send.

       On the way home from the post office I rent a movie about a giant carnivorous plant that

uses luminescent tentacles to lure its victims into its cavernous mouth. By the time dusk has

passed, I’m on the couch watching the titles come up. In the movie, two siblings reunite and take

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

a journey together to a mountain with a cave on top. They cower together there, huddling against

the wind, until the sister scales the last boundary and enters the gardens lining the cave. The

earth grumbles deep, and she slides her hand along the silky blooms. Everything glows green.

Grasses thread out and she removes her shoes. The petals become thicker and wider and she

takes off her shirt and pants. Everything is sensuous. The green glow brightens, almost

unbearably, but she moves towards its source.

        I wonder if she’ll get the package before the recital, or after she’s home with her mom

again. She’ll read the card first. The outside is covered in unicorns and rainbows and on the

inside, I’ve written “Congrats on the recital! I’ll be there next time. Till then, here’s a little

something for you to listen to. You probably won’t like it, but you’ll appreciate it when you’re

older. Promise. Kisses, cutie-pie.” She’ll giggle as her mother pours herself a drink.

        Onscreen, the brother sees the swell of light from outside of the cave. It is beautiful, like

a gate to nirvana. The sister closes her eyes and keeps walking. The bright light flares through

her eyelids. She can see with them closed, but all there is to see is light. She can see the atoms

themselves. She is staring into the universe’s secret. It is beautiful and peaceful, burning bright,

as she moves down the garden walkway.

        The TV is bright, and I have to squint my eyes to even continue watching. I crack them as

slim as I can. The moisture that beads up on my eyelashes looks like a carousel of horses rising

and falling in 5/4 time, propelled by the whine of a clarinet. I wipe my eye and imagine Sam

seeing the two musical notes drawn in marker on the CD and the word LOUD drawn and

underlined on the post-it note stuck to the plastic case. The television screen dims and the camera

focuses on the woman’s skin reddening with heat. The hairs on her arm stand tall. Her face turns

to agony as her skin begins to pull apart, away from her. The green glow is the creature’s lure

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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis

and she enters its hot mouth. The brother outside the cave sees the bright hot flash, but he hears

no scream. He will tell the locals, but they already believe it is a sacred place. He will write a

book and become famous for his anthropological findings. People will trek to this place in search

of enlightenment for years to come. It is greater than the fountain of youth. It is a portal directly

to the stars. But really, they are all being digested in the creature’s stomach. The brother suspects

the truth but doesn’t tell.

        As the credits come on, I picture Sam plucking my dad’s burned CD from its slim green

case and slipping it into the living room stereo. She cranks it up. She lies down on the couch and

imagines curling up in my arms. I imagine her in mine. Her mom is in the kitchen washing her

glass. Sam presses play on the remote. I press stop on mine. The screen goes dark.


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Scott Lambridis ● ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ●

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