Jim Ruland


The interlopers buried the bodies in yellow winding sheets. We discovered they seldom returned when they said they would. That's how they caught us off guard, over and over again. We held on to our ways, the old ways, the way an aging actor hangs on to youth. They taught us that girls with skinny arms are the worst kissers. Roses are useful for hiding stains on pillowcases. They teased us, imitating the sounds we made as we fucked one another on the hillsides, in the ditches; it did not occur to us this was inappropriate. It was, we all agreed, a squeaky translation. We were an argument. The interlopers didn't start it, they were quick to point out, but they would end it. After many months what did we learn? Coffee. They liked coffee brewed in coffee makers, regular drip. And this: veiled threats, at the office, in the home, are more coercive than open hostility, which only yields more hostility. If you can come up with a better plan, they used to say at the funeral services, we'll implement it, but no one ever complied. We forfeited the argument. There was resistance. There were those who fought bravely, acted valiantly, and we no longer remember their names, only that they got what they deserved. We did what we had to do. We kept the coffee urns full, left dishes filled with candy, squeaked less. Everyone pitched in, did their part. The interlopers brought us together, like a family or a rash. The ink is in the pistil. The counter sticks to the cup. We are the sign driven past too fast, the bad chair, the recalcitrant kiss. The argument has been abdicated and now the interlopers do their interloping elsewhere.


"The Interlopers" was written in a fugue of corporate layoff survivor anxiety. The music of Asche & Spencer, without whom Halle Berry would be Oscarless, also contributed.