Eyes Open, Childhood Dreams (Conclusion)

    Braden sat at the table after Mommy left. He moved his plate off the placemat and ran his fingers along the maze which traced the dinosaur's skeleton like he had to do every time he ate. Then he slid his plate back onto the mat. He picked up the sandwich.

    Something poked his finger. In between the pieces of bread were twisted nails and broken glass that fell in a powdery tinkle onto his plate. He set the sandwich back down. The sound of typing from the other room stopped. Daddy was no longer at his desk. Braden slid off his chair and picked up the plate to carry it over to the sink.

“What the hell do you think you're doing?” Daddy stood there wearing a red clown wig, loose gold bathrobe, and black parachute pants.

    Braden dropped the plate, it broke into pieces. He hugged himself.

    “Absolutely everything you do is calculated to drive me crazy,” said Daddy, bending forward. “I know what you're really up to. And I'll bet you still think I'm the bad guy.” He grabbed Braden by the shoulders. “Don't you?” He let go. “Clean this up. Quietly.” Daddy opened the cabinet beneath the sink and took out the dustpan and brush, leaving them on the floor. He then walked to the hall and stood there, his back facing Braden. It didn't look like he was breathing.

    Braden knelt down and swept up the mess, taking care not to make any unnecessary noise. He placed the bread on the dustpan, swept up the glass, then placed the nails on one by one. He was about to throw the pile away when Daddy slammed a cabinet door. Braden dropped everything and whined. He slapped his hands over his mouth and turned to Daddy.

    Daddy now wore a grass skirt and suspenders over a shirt with a picture of corn on it. The clown wig was still there. He set down a transparent pack of coffee beans. He looked at Braden. “You're still here?”

    Braden turned wide-eyed to the mess beside the garbage.

    Daddy waved it off. He turned his attention back to the coffee beans. He picked up the bag, held them up to the skylight and scrutinized them. “I know you've been poisoning these pretty regularly. Of course, I kept drinking them. I still will because part of me just can't believe. My own son.” He set the pack down and shook his head.

    “Have you told Mommy?” asked Braden.

    Daddy raised his eyebrows. “What?”

    “Does Mommy know about the coffee beans? And about all . . . the other problems?”

    Daddy put his hand on his chin and said, “No, I haven't. It's never come up.”

    Braden walked over to the table with the phone and picked up a notepad and a pen. He offered them to Daddy. “Do you think you could write her a note about it? She doesn't believe me when I tell her anything.”

    Daddy took the notepad and pen, tore off a piece of paper, and pressed it against the closed cupboard door. He held the pen up to the paper. “I suppose I should. It's good to be honest.” He started writing small words that Braden couldn't read. “And I just . . . hate you so much.” The words grew large and dark and the pen tore the paper in half. Daddy ripped off another sheet and held it onto the cupboard and started writing again. His hand was picking up speed.

    “Daddy, why are you writing sideways?” asked Braden.

    Daddy's face crumpled into sadness. “God-fucking-dammit.” His hand continued writing and became a blur. The paper shredded. He replaced it with two more sheets. His chin twitched to the side, exposing his teeth. “You inhuman waste of life,” he growled. Shreds of paper fell around him like snowflakes.

    Braden walked backward out of the kitchen.

    “Why can't I just . . .,” Daddy's voice was low and raspy and he continued to write even though there was no more paper. The pen broke. “Tear out your bones,” his voice shook the windows. He looked, seeing that Braden almost escaped and let loose a growl.

    Braden turned and ran through the dining room into Daddy's office. He took a look back before opening the door to the backyard and saw Daddy charging at him. Braden slid open the glass door and jumped outside and slammed it shut behind him. He ran across the backyard toward the barn.

Glass shattered followed by a howl. Daddy continued chasing. Shards of glass stuck out of his skin.

    In the barn, Braden opened the door to the room where he had hidden from the dog. Even though Mommy said that that had never happened. Like his teachers and friends didn't believe that Daddy showed up at school. Like his Daddy didn't believe that all Braden wanted was for him to be happy. He closed the door and slid the lock into place, breathing in the dust he had kicked up.

    The locked door shook on its hinges as Daddy banged against it, shrieking like a wild animal. Braden thought his ears would bleed and he shrieked back, but it hurt his throat. He coughed a lot and wiped tears out of his eyes and saw the giant scissors on the wall. Braden took down the giant scissors. The space between the handles was as wide as his shoulders. He opened and closed them a few times and walked to the shaking door. The lock held steady so it was easy for him to slide it out. At the sound of the lock squeaking, the banging stopped.

    Braden saw the handle move and when the door opened, he lunged forward with the scissors. They went straight into Daddy's stomach and before Braden's feet hit the ground he had opened and closed the scissors three times while they were inside Daddy. He kept a firm grip on the handles.

    Stepping back, Daddy tried to grab the blades but they were slippery and he fell against the woodpile. Blood poured out of his mouth all over Braden and he pushed at Braden but had no strength left. He slumped down and Braden felt the scissors stick against the wood on the other side of Daddy.

    Braden let go of the scissors. He wiped blood from his face onto his arm.The scissors stuck out of a big, bloody hole in Daddy's stomach, through his white T-shirt. Slimy dark-red shapes slid down Daddy's blue-jeans onto the ground. Daddy remained propped against the woodpile. The scissors held him there. He was not breathing.

    Braden looked through the side of the barn at his neighbor's driveway. Nobody home. He walked out the way he came, down the garden path and across the backyard. The back door was open and unbroken. He walked into the house. On the kitchen floor was a broken plate and a squished tuna sandwich.

    A green shadow crept across the floor. Braden looked out the window and saw that it was coming from outside. He went back into the yard and looked up at the sky. A river of slime flowed overhead. It came from behind the treetops and dripped down in a single stream on a hill in the far distance. Braden sat on the lawn and watched it. Eventually, the slime would cover the whole world. 

Art (Hypno) Therapy

You are getting very sleepy. 

(I saw you at the museum. Looking at pictures? Is that what you call it? You seemed confused. The person you were with was just as confused, but each wanted to impress the other. I saw that you genuinely wanted to know, so here we are.)

You will not actually fall asleep or become unconscious, and you will certainly not do anything that you don’t want to do. You’d like to learn about art? I’m afraid there is no other way.

We’ll start with objects. Repeat after me: The chrome base and stainless steel mountings alchemically transform middle-class aspirations into luxe longing with a surging vitality.

This should by obvious to anyone with eyeballs.

Two stones, a feather, and teacups holding lab glassware evoke the periphery of space in a spectacularly imposing panorama of forceful grit.

Didn’t see that right away? Hmm . . . 

(These lessons apply to painting as well, but it’s better to start with the willfully obtuse.)

You are getting very grandiose.

(Shall we move on to poetry?)

The narrative thread juxtaposed by non sequitur is mordant and lilting to the touch.

(Repeat after me)

Haunting, haunting careful havoc tinged with erotic underpinnings, each letter, a shape like a lover’s body, the visceral conclusions we cannot help but sear into our cortices. 

You’ll never get a date if poetry doesn’t speak to you like that. And if it does and you still can’t get a date, well then clearly the militant organizations for dulling our senses are winning. It’s not your fault. They just don’t understand you. This is the whole purpose of poetry.

(Repeat after me)

They don’t understand you.

(Onto the theatre!) 

The action unfolds with the figurative expressionism of self-immolation. Minimalist prop design transcends the baroque set pieces raising the intercultural interpretations of the acerbic performers with the weight of history.

(These lessons apply to dance as well, but we’ll start with words since you’re

rather dull.)

Drinks in the lobby.

Always keep talking so people will see you talking.

(Repeat after me)

It’s not about entertainment.

An invitation to cultural animus.

(You’re getting the hang of it)

(Repeat after me)

The secret to art: Repeat after me.

The secret to art: Never stop repeating.

I Laugh in the Face of Death (Part 3)

One of my clients is a group of medical doctors based at the local hospital. A fellow puzzle-team member is also employed in the hospital cafeteria. I thought it might be fun to deliver the finished accounts in person and surprise my friend at the same time.

    The supervisor I wanted to see was not in his office so I left the paperwork with the nurse/receptionist/whatever-she-is. She could not overemphasize how odd it was for me to leave paperwork with her, but I insisted that since I was there she should give it to the supervisor when he got back. I thanked her very much and started to apologize, but her eyes told me to leave immediately.

    I became gripped by panic when I felt the giggles rising. In a hospital, there are people in all states of dying and perhaps my visit was ill-conceived. It seemed as long as there wasn't death in my immediate vicinity I was free from those bothersome explosions of mirth. I hoped the cafeteria was a safe distance from the terminal patients.

    In a lobby I located a directory, pointing me to the cafeteria. The giggles had become knots of pain in my stomach and they burst forth, spraying spit all over the placard. Luckily, the lobby was bustling and I wiped my mouth and began laughing into my handkerchief. Behind me someone yelled, “She needs a doctor right away!”

    Pressing my forearm against my face, I turned around. Next to the man waving his arms was a crying and very pregnant woman with blood pouring down her legs. My laughter jumped up another level and the expulsion of breath made a rude, prolonged farting sound against my forearm. Startled, I dropped my arm from my mouth. I was now the center of attention and my laughter threw me against the wall, tilting my head back.

    “What the fuck is wrong with you?” I heard the man scream. The woman yelled, “Oh god,” followed by the sound of mud between toes. I wiped tears from my eyes. The baby slithered down her leg in a red river, hanging from the umbilical cord like a spider, and landed with a thick splat on the floor. 

Screams filled the lobby, allowing my laughter to double in volume. The woman stared at the ceiling babbling nonsense and pulling out clumps of her hair. I could hardly contain myself and fell forward on one knee, my shallow breath squeaking like a rusty door.

    The lady stared down at the mess while trembling with fright. She took a step back, the umbilical cord wrapped around her leg and pulled the baby toward her. She screamed and fell, her knee landing right on the baby and exploding it like a water balloon. Her hands hit the floor and slipped from underneath her and she face-planted into the deflated fetal-skin.

    I thought the hilarity was over now that the baby was dead, but I remained in hysterics taking in the woman desperately trying to swim out of her own guts. She lifted her head, tore off the fetal skin from its cord and  threw it like a discuss. It splattered on a painting leaving a red baby-shaped stain. 

The fetus fell on the shoulder of a man emerging from the bathroom. “Ju-hee-zus!” he said, slipping backward and cracking his head against the doorframe. He slid onto his back wearing a goofy grin leaving a trail of red. My chest felt caved-in and my breath came out in short gasps.

    People in medical scrubs headed towards the center of the room where they grabbed the ex-mother and the fallen man. The father had to be sedated. My sides hurt like I had actually exercised for once. A nurse eventually noticed me. I was now sitting against the wall. She asked if I was alright and asked me to help give a statement to the police. I said yes to both. Since this was a business lunch I had my phone on me and called ahead to the office, informing them that I had to stay at the hospital longer than expected – as is usually the case with hospitals.

    The sedated father had referred to a 'laughing maniac' and the cop wanted to know if that might be me. I said that I had heard a report on the radio about people who laugh involuntarily during or after a major tragedy because the instinct-mind is so relieved that it happened to someone else. The cop seemed skeptical. He became outright suspicious when I told him why I was at the hospital in the first place. Even though it was the truth and not a cover story, I must admit that my meeting a friend in the cafeteria for lunch sounded implausible. He took all my information and let me go. After all, I'd done nothing wrong. Well, nothing illegal that is.

Eyes Open, Childhood Dreams (Part 2)

    Mr. Marks was the substitute teacher in class today. Everyone wanted him to be a real teacher. He would do funny voices. Near the end of the day while the class was working in silence, Braden heard the sound of chalk. This was followed by quiet giggles from the other kids.

    Braden looked up and saw that Mr. Marks was drawing a funny face on the board. He was standing in front of it so Braden couldn't see much. When Mr. Marks was done, he went back to his desk. On the board was a portrait of Braden's Daddy. It was drawn with colored chalk which no teacher had ever used before and wasn't in any of the classrooms. Green bubbling goo dribbled from the portrait's mouth and left burn marks on the chalkboard as it slithered down. The portrait's eyes were hissing insects. Braden kept pretending to work. It was impossible with the constant screaming.

    The last bell of the day rang and Braden gathered his things and stood up. The picture on the board had changed to Lukemoore, The Monkey Dog, a cartoon that all the kids liked. Braden didn't remember Mr. Marks drawing anymore after the portrait of Daddy, but he hadn't been paying much attention either.

    Braden waited by the parking lot with all the other kids for either buses or parents to show up. Mommy's red car pulled up and she waved to him. He got in the car.

    Mommy asked him how his day was and he said fine. She apologized for not being able to stop for ice cream, but she had to drop him off at home and go straight back to work. Mommy liked driving him home because it got her out of the office for forty-five minutes. Daddy would be home, though. Braden asked what Daddy was doing. Mommy said that Daddy gets to work from home now so they won't have to pay a babysitter.

    Braden asked if Mommy could keep a secret. Mommy said yes. He told the story of their last babysitter and how she had brought a really mean dog to the house that chased him around. His Mommy seemed shocked, but Braden kept talking. He told her of how the dog had chased him into the barn and he'd had to hide in the room with the red and yellow plastic jugs and the big scissors on the wall. He stayed there all day while the dog growled outside the door.

    Mommy's hands squeezed the steering wheel and she told him that his story was impossible and rude. No one had ever brought a dog over. Every time they had come home Braden had been playing in his room. He had always been fed a snack and allowed his afternoon TV show. The babysitter had even helped him on his homework a few times. Why would he say such horrible things about her?

    When they got home, Mommy and Daddy kissed and Braden made a face. His Daddy was wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans. Daddy walked them to the kitchen and said he made a tuna sandwich for Braden. It was on the table. He said that once Mommy was out of the house, maybe they could go for ice cream. Mommy shoved his shoulder and said she had to get back to work. So do I, said Daddy. He said that once he got adjusted to the new schedule, he wanted to make time for the pool in the afternoon for a few laps and take Braden with him of course. It's going to get hot soon. He ruffled Braden's hair and said he had to get back to work and Braden should eat his sandwich.

And I Quote

Poems Composed of Lines from Speeches by U.S. Presidents

1. War

when an abused and irritated people

may abstain from disobedience

and look like dopes

the boil had to be pricked

wool is illusory 

ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference

disaster, their patriotism

stimulates a habit of reckless improvidence

and be technically indictable but morally innocent

intercourse between the nations

the speedy erection which is urgently demanded

has caused increased suspicions

because of his close personal ties

the wildest accusations have been given banner headlines

civilized methods for brute force

the cattle syndicate now occupying the lands

they had done in an excess of loyalty

and inviting schemes of public plunder

too often assume the proportions of national disaster

the evil anticipations which have accompanied the coinage

to divorce, as much and as fast as can be safely done

1,200 pages of transcripts of private conversations

2. Immigrants 

To better record and track aliens

his long and eminently useful career was terminated

the dolphin was subjected to very severe trial tests

relating to the killing of seals and other fur-bearing animals

Although disease, assuming at one time 

the characteristics of a widespread and devastating pestilence

to avoid these irritating and vexatious delays

it does not make the community more virtuous

thence her boundary shall run

a secure harbor for the evil doers

who shall comprimit the neutrality

after providing for the sinking fund

received of a dangerous excitement

the inexhaustible deposits of guano

flagrant frauds upon the pension bureau

likely to be crowned by happier results

has passed from the scenes of earth

avowed enemies of the social order

visited the scenes of commotion

millions of people are unknown to the law

3. Women

we are at peace with all the other nations of the world

an all-out attack on mental illness

after looking at some of the cartoons you have drawn

we should have violated every tradition

in the old style of steamers

pig production has more than doubled

the predictions of evil prophets

in the marrow of my bones

a naval force in that quarter during the fishing season

sends envoys of lower grades

ravages of a dreadful pestilence

fatality attending travel

one of the great rice bowls of the entire world

deprecated His wrath

opportunities for committing crime

the tragic impotency of nations

their graciousness to my wife

fright and ruthlessness and barbarity

martyred on her flaming alters

Holy Books - X: A tour de force

1 During the recession which led to the war, Takis Steliou completed his application for college, which was to be sent overseas, despite the wishes of his father, that he remain a merchant in these uncertain times.

2 The family store, consisting of fabrics and metals was constantly under threat of being requisitioned by the military, and profits needed to be sufficiently high so that Chatur Seth, the patriarch, could bribe military officials in order to stay in business for himself and not for them. 

3 But his wife, Gisele Papon played cards with other local families and couldn’t bear to see them exploited at the expense of their own. 

4 She was born in 1842. Raised in wheat and rice fields where the women regularly gave birth during their labor. 

5 One of the first things she remembered becoming in her life was a big sister. Since the new mothers were still at work in the fields, Gisele gathered the babies and put them in straw beds, tending to them between her chores. The mothers would first see their newborns during the night hours. 

6 Many children grew nocturnal due to this upbringing. They were called the Hyrng Nylbbla. Children of the Night. It was a poor omen for the working families to have them, and they were frequently let loose in the hopes that they would never return. Many never did.

7 After the invasion, Colonial Ajax Curley was left in command of the region. A stout, mustachioed and monocled man of a stiff upper lip. He was never seen by the villagers in anything other than perfect posture and immaculately groomed. Although rumors circulated that his billowing laughter was what echoed from the officer’s tents at night as he let his hair down for games of great mathematical skill.

8 Bullied heavily in school due to his portly demeanor, this did not stop Ajax from eventually excelling in sports, when the instructors gave him a chance. He discovered that stoutness could equal strength and resilience, whereas the rail-thin beanpoles which filled most of his age group could not withstand the constant pummeling of contact sports. 

9 His best friend, Colum Cille Flimean had a rare childhood disease. Inferisma Selitas which people whisperingly referred to as Ironbark Shaking.

10 Whenever an epidemic swept the newborn or childhood community, Doctor Cletus Lynn had to work, not only at curing the bodies of the young, but at curing the minds of the old, who resorted constantly to superstition. A poor attempt to retain power over the unseen aspects of the physical world. 

11 As he often said, “give a parent with a sick child something to do, and they’ll do it until there’s no one left.” 

12 Cletus was born to Mildred and Me Sai Dalen in 1908. Their family settled in the shelter of Mount Sallem, the largest volcano on the continent. Although many centuries dormant, the soil around the area was always vital with freshly moved nutrients. Several centuries being half-an-eyeblink in geologic time. 

13 The children formed factions of gatherers, based on the neighborhood. They went in herds to different areas - agreed upon in the silent language of children who never need to consciously pass down their games - and gather roots, seeds, animal droppings, anything interesting, and bring it back to the adults who would find uses for it in farming. The agricultural ingenuity of the region spread in legend and practicality.

14 What starts out harmlessly tends to end in tribalism. As the children grew older, their loyalties to their childhood groups fossilized, and much like the useless harder rocks they would find, become good only for weaponizing. 

15 Instead of working together and combining their strengths, the community separated and argued, increasingly violently, over what was the correct way to farm.

16 Mother Eden Verkler warned of the angry Earth, should such pride destroy the families. But they did not listen, and, although she always had her tea with the mineral mixture she perfected at age three and a half, the taste became bitter with the dissolution of her people. 

17 She taught her daughter, Claudine Jung, how to play the last of the ancestral games, Frameworks. 

18 Born in 1736, Claudine always loved being called Miss. Miss Claudine, and even though none of the boys and girls got along, she could still make the boys blush by requiring that they call her Miss Claudine. 

19 After her Phd in Neurosurgery, she taught Poetry in the graduate program and was visiting Chair of Medical Admissions, overseeing the standards for tomorrow’s young physicians. 

20 But there was always the longing - sometimes her husband could see it in her eyes, the way the light caught off the edge of her pupil from their kitchen window over the sink during twilight between the weeks of February 4th and March 16th - the longing for the time that she and a band of other children had attempted to hike to the mouth of the volcano, just to witness the birth of all life. Maybe, with just a glimpse of the ingredients, we could all make a fresh start.

21 Author’s Note: It has been pointed out that this novel relies heavily on autobiography which explains its richness in personal catharsis, relevant timeless cultural insight, and heart-wrenching humor beautifully scribed by a master of language. 

22 Nobel Prize in Literature please . . .

Question Everything

Dandelion Machine Children are:

a. a white supremacist organization

b. infants brain-damaged with jaundice

c. a hippie band from the late 60s

d. indisputable evidence that you don’t sleep enough

The Slice Ascendancy broke through the inner mantle to the outer core of planet Bernunft, looking for worms.

“Shit,” uttered the geologist as the craft took a lurch during transition. 

The captain asked, “Are you still working on that stupid test?”

“It’s now or never,” said the geologist. 

“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to look out the window?” asked the captain. “This is, after all, your field.”

“We know what’s down here, it’s all in the book,” replied the geologist. “But I gotta pass this test to upgrade my license. Get that higher pay grade.”

“You academics are all the same,” interjected the pilot. “You never stop taking tests, even when you’re the ones giving them. It’s a sickness.”

“Let me know if you see anything,” said the geologist.

‘Uncanny irony’ in literature refers to:

a. twists of fate engineered by the antagonist which unwittingly result in the failure of the antagonist’s goals but teach the antagonist a lesson, despite the efforts of the hero

b. Two identical 50s housewives seeing each other through the window while doing the ironing, each thinking the other is a reflection

c. the universe’s 10th most abundant container spilling Fe atoms about like loose marbles

d. no one knows (hint: the right answer isn’t always the right answer)

The walk light turned green, and even the people on their phones glared at this person scribbling with a no. 2 pencil in the appropriate bubble.

Before the test taker saw it was time to cross the light was counting down from five. He ran and made it just slightly after time ran out. A car honked at him. Disgusted, the test taker stopped and walked over to the driverside window. He put his foot under the front tire and made sure the driver could see that. He motioned for the driver to lower the window.

“Excuse me,” said the test-taker, “but I most vehemently apologize for mildly inconveniencing you in your climate controlled moving vehicle. Can you ever forgive me? A lowly peasant on foot, having the audacity to breathe the outside air which is of course, reserved solely for car exhaust. I most humbly beseech your absolution and you have my oath to the very edges of Providence, that I will firmly attempt to never inconvenience another driver again as long as I live. Because it’s clearly me who has all the power, and not the person behind the steering of 4,000 pounds of steel I . . .”

“You’re totally mental,” said the driver, rolling up his window. “Get your foot out from under my tire. You see these people behind us? One of them will start shooting real soon. It happens every day.”

“Perhaps you could answer me just one question,” said the test taker . . .

If the National Imperdiet Velorctuai reaches 89% over a two year differential, then at what magnitude opus doest the Peligree Inkspot need to respond at in order to maintain a carpet market weave of 87/9340 and 2/3.9/7? Show your work.

a. 1

b. A zillion

c. my favorite film is ‘Tropicana Nights’

d. to get to the other side

“Oh, it’s not all fun and games being a fun-and-game-show host,” said the host. “Sometimes, you have to ask questions that belong only in hell. At least I don’t have to write them.”

“What’s your least favorite question?” asked the reporter.

“Probably along the lines of, ‘so what do you do?’ or ‘do you have anything interesting to share with the audience that I could ask you about?’”

“And they give the responses . . .” said the reporter.

“It’s always something like ‘I was in the this-something club at school and we used to do this zany thing . . .’ my god, blow your fucking brains out! 

“That’s my new favorite question. The next time some starry-eyed contestant tells me some ‘wacky’ thing about them, I’m just going to ask, 

‘why don’t you blow your fucking brains out?’”





Time’s up class, pencils down. Be sure to line the birdcage with your papers as you leave. A fitting metaphor for your life. Don’t be alarmed, it’s all of our tax dollars at work.

I Laugh in the Face of Death (Part 2)

   Next weekend found me once again on foot. There's a shop across the bridge that sells books and games. The Wand’s Want. I’m quite fond of number puzzles – although the accounts I work with belong in that category, they still feel like work and the puzzles I do for fun do not. I play online in a few teams and have even traveled out-of-state for tournaments before.

     While the bridge does get rather crowded on nice days, being a solitary man not up-to-date with any fashion, I walk smoothly through crowds. The sun in my eyes forced my gaze to one side and a flock of birds caught my attention. Clumping together, spreading apart, circling around the same patch of sky. They wove through several phases of geometry with the unity of a single breathing heart. No one else was noticing this. 

    So absorbed was I in congratulating myself for seeing the unseen that I bumped into someone! Both of us stumbled back. He was younger than me (everyone seems to be nowadays) and he had a similar-aged friend with him. I apologized and he shrugged it off as no-trouble-at-all. His friend looked at him as if more fuss was expected. We wished each other good day (not literally, no one says that anymore, even fogies like me) and went our separate ways.

    My mind continued on other topics when a laugh escaped me. At first I thought it was the absurdity of me thinking I saw more than others and then bumping into someone. But then I remembered last week. My diaphragm heaved, and out came more laughs. This time there was no stopping it. My stomach hurt from the repression and I folded in half, laughing into my knees. I sniffed exaggeratedly, hoping that people would assume I had just been the victim of a particularly vehement sneeze. Steadying myself on the handrail, I let the laughter run its course.  

The wind was cold against my tears. After three complete breaths, I risked straightening up. Everyone in front of me stared in horror. The giggles began again, and I continued with my efforts of repression. I tried to compose myself and began to speak when I realized it wasn't me they were looking at.

    I turned around and beheld a scene straight out of the news. The man I had bumped into was up on the handrail, about to jump to his death. His friend was pleading with him not to. The suicidal man said that he would jump if anyone tried to stop him. I reflected with some satisfaction that if this man had really wanted to die, he would not have had his friend accompany him on the bridge. This was a cry for help, and it would all end well.

    My life has never been referred to as ‘enviable’ by anyone. I graduated from college and went straight to work for the company that I still work for, although now I can more or less choose my clients. I've always been chronically shy and have never had the urge to explore social relations through partying. Still, you don't see me creating a ruckus on the news about how nobody loves me. In general I like people and wish humanity well. So, why was I unable to stop laughing?

    As the friend leapt the border to stop the jumper I slapped a hand over my smile and continued slobbering and snorting like a pig. The man jumped, and my laughter died with him.

    Again, dozens of cell-phones captured these moments. The police took the grieving friend away for questioning and I noticed him pointing at me. An officer asked if what the man had told them of our earlier encounter was true. I said it was and they let me go. No mention of the laughter.

Eyes Open, Childhood Dreams (Part 1)

  On top of the playground, Braden, Dylan and Ashley were arguing about how much recess was left. Dylan asked if there was an hour left. Ashley said they never had an hour-long recess. How long did he think an hour was? Braden answered sixty minutes. Ashley smiled. She asked how many minutes recess usually was. Braden answered twenty minutes. Ashley said that's right and that's why she liked Braden. She gave him her turn down the pole. When his feet hit the ground he saw on the other side of the fence a man in a pink tutu holding a plank of wood and wearing a graduation cap with a tassel on it. It was Daddy.

    Braden told Ashley and Dylan that he had to see his Daddy. Ashley asked where his Daddy was, but Braden ran too fast across the yard to answer. His Daddy just looked at him and switched the plank from arm to arm. His tights ripped when he kneeled.

    “I thought Mommy was picking me up today,” said Braden.

    Daddy looked at the ground. “Yes, she is.” He nodded. He trembled. “You think I'd waste my time on a fucking shit like you?” He smacked the plank against the sidewalk and pushed his face against the fence. “I hope I'm not wasting my time here. Am I wasting my goddamn time?” His spit spattered Braden's face.

    “No Daddy. I want to help.”

    Daddy slammed the plank flat on the sidewalk and perched on it like a bird. He adjusted his graduation cap. “That's rich, coming from you. But maybe you're learning something after all.”

    “I am Daddy.”

   Daddy rattled the chains on the fence and bared his teeth. “Shut. The fuck. Up.”

    Braden stepped back.

    “You make me sick. You're doing it on purpose too. Don't think I don't know, but we'll deal with that later. I'm giving you a chance to redeem yourself because you're my son. My. Son.” Daddy retched and stood up. His torn tights sagged at the knees. “That girl you've been talking to?”

    Braden turned around. Both Ashley and Dylan stared at him from across the yard. Braden said, “Her name's Ashley. She's my friend.”

    Daddy kicked the fence and got his toe stuck through it. He shook out his toe and picked up the plank, leaning on it like it was a cane. “If you laugh so help me I'll come in there and spread your guts all over the fucking concrete. I'm taller than this fence you idiot.”

    Braden lowered his head.

    “Sit down, back against the fence.” Daddy lowered himself to a crouch and whispered in Braden's ear. “That girl is the . . . one of the . . . reasons you are so terrible to me. Never deal with her again, is that clear? Don't fucking turn and look at me.”

    “She's in my class, I see her every day.” Braden felt the fence shake from behind him and Daddy's drool piled on his shoulder.

    “Hurt her until she won't come back.”

    Braden shivered.

    “You really want to help?” asked Daddy.

    Braden nodded, afraid to breathe.

    “That will be a start. Don't fucking look back at me. I'll know if you don't do it. Scram.” Daddy hit the plank against the sidewalk.

    Braden stopped himself from running and stared at the sky on the way back to the playground as if looking at birds or clouds. There weren't any.

    Mrs. Leary, the Yard-Duty, headed towards him. She asked what he was doing by the fence.

Braden said that he was talking to his Daddy. Mrs. Leary thought that was silly. His Daddy would have to come through the office in order to see him like all the other parents. People aren't allowed to hang out by the fences and talk to kids. It's against the law.

    Both Ashley and Dylan were waiting for him. Braden apologized and said he didn't know how long his Daddy would talk to him. Dylan said Braden's Daddy must be really small because neither he nor Ashley had seen him. Braden said his Daddy was taller than the fence.

    Braden stood in line for the pole behind Ashley. If he took a running start and pushed her, she would fly past the edge of the playground and land on the blacktop. That would hurt. She might even die. Braden would be in trouble. But Daddy would be happy. Braden pressed himself against the wall and then shot forward. On the first step, his legs turned to jelly and he fell over.

    Ashley turned around and laughed. Then said she was sorry for laughing and asked if he was okay. Braden said yes. The bell rang as she slid down the pole. Braden had failed.

    Daddy was outside the fence by Braden's classroom. He had on a sleeveless leopard-print shirt and baggy red-white-and-blue striped pants. On his face were oversize plastic purple glasses with no lenses. He held the wooden plank like a baseball bat. He swung it and hit the fence which cracked like a gunshot in the post-recess silence. Braden shut his eyes tight.

    “Braden, what are you doing?” asked Mrs. Leary.

    Braden found himself by the shaking fence. Daddy was nowhere to be seen. Mrs. Leary grabbed his arm.

    “Don't kick the fence,” she said. “Line up and go back to class.”

Holy Books - IX: Divine Mystery Novel Outline

1 Research: One could spend an entire life reading mysteries as they are assembly-lined almost at the rate of french fries. Despite the fact that less than 10% of the population reads all of the books, and over 90% of books purchased are never read. 

2 This, however, makes them the perfect place to reveal the divine mysteries.

3 The protagonist / detective: A hard-boiled amateur, this main character infects everyone at some point, jumping from mind to mind, never usually near each other. After all, who wants to hear someone else talk about the mystery of life?

4 Sometimes, the detective takes a rest in the mind of the audiences at self-help seminars. The detective dozes while the speaker drones on, sending everyone down the wrong track. Almost like a red-herring master class.

5 The crime: All of existence. How was it committed? God did it! By speaking and willing simultaneously. A process dubbed logochronicity.

6 Motive for the crime: A pathological puzzler . . .

7 The Ending: During the course of writing, this detective learns to appreciate the various plagues. Although they are most certainly plagues, and his appreciation helps no one. Maybe there’s a wager afoot.

8 List of Clues: God does a tremendous job of covering His work. Not only does the human system of philosophy and rational speculation render His existence completely unnecessary, but to date, there has never been a single thing or event uncovered which requires any supernatural explanation.


9 Red Herrings: The only weak spot is the Creationist pointing out that the cause of all of existence had to be immaterial and all-powerful, which matches the description of their god. 

10 Physicists respond with other possibilities about pre-universe existence, which have not been proven, but are investigable and do not require a supernatural intervention. 

11 It seems that God ups his game every time we try to uncover definitive proof that He is the One Responsible.

12 List of Suspects: Aliens, some Super-Computer simulating everything, Random Chance . . . that pretty much covers it. Although God could be behind those too, the cunning devil!

13 Surprise ending: It’s never fair to hide clues from the reader, so we take this journey together. However, the scale of God’s omnipotence and rascality in formulating our complicated lives becomes shatteringly visceral when all is revealed in plain sight.

14 During extended periods of silence the world can be experienced without the censorship of the personality. But then where was the personality in the first place?

15 Diving within. Is it the orbital debris of social commentary? Snippets of music, movies, memories? No, those have no external validity. Deeper. Is it the physical sensations of breathing and muscle contractions? No, everyone has those. Where is this unique self we’ve heard so much about that has driven all of our investigations up to this point?


16 Empty blackness is all there is. Thus, Our attention (what is Our attention?) turns outwards and the whole exterior universe comes crashing into what seemed an infinite void. All of Creation, from the floor we sit on to the core of the furthest star cascades though our perceptive ability.

17 It was right in front of us all along! The entirety of everything, created moment by moment by our own nerve endings. But even the nerves are subject to the creation of experience. And that is not all, the simultaneity of creation and dissolution means that there is no time. And the breathing self that dove within, Our Attention, is all the same attention, sharing separate bodies.

18 You are God! You did it! And you’re glad, you see? And you’d do it again, you say, laughing maniacally, escorting yourself out.

19 Tools of suspenseful storytelling: To confess or not to confess? Confession of divinity surely equals punishment if history has taught us anything. But not to confess seems to be shirking some responsibility. If all Our Attention is the same Attention, then why do not the separate bodies willingly receive this Truth? 

20 The game of Revelation is one of masks trying to trick others out of their masks. The enigmatic nature of truth is itself the spark of life, by necessity creating endlessly inventive dramas. The Mystery must constantly disguise Itself in order to maintain freshness.

21 Opening Hook: You find yourself alive, somehow feeling guilty for all of it. Whose fault is this!?!?

I Laugh in the Face of Death (Part 1)

   Here’s how it all started: One Saturday morning I left to get Windex since my mirror was smudgy. Walking is my preferred method of transportation on weekends so I headed in the direction of the store and stopped at the first crosswalk. As usual, a crowd was waiting. 

   The sidewalk cafe beside me had a line out the door and its patio was crammed with tables not much larger than a chessboard. Groups of up to four vied for space as their appetizers, entrees and drinks arrived, all grim-facedly determined to relax. I felt gratitude to not be a part of that and turned my attention to the road.

It was a good thing too, because the folks at the cafe may have thought I was laughing at them. A stream of chuckles trickled forth, surprising myself and those around me. I quickly cut them off with a snort. There was no cause for laughter and the pedestrians let me know that with their glares. My breaths became shallower as new laughter threatened to burst through.

A young man near the front of the crowd looked back and forth at the traffic. He wore large headphones and was singing to himself. Seeing a break, he decided to cross. I felt laughter being pulled out of me, too sudden and loud to prevent. For maybe five seconds I let loose, which doesn't sound like much but I assure you, five seconds is a long time to be the only one laughing.

    The blast of a truck air horn cut me short. A screeching skid followed by a crack. The young man twirled through the air, then crumpling in a heap like a laundry pile. Dark red pooled out from under him. The crowd gasped, followed by uncertain glances at each other. Cell-phone cameras took video. I would have dialed 911, but I leave my phone at home for short jaunts. The driver of the truck got out and said over and over how the kid just shot in front of him.

    A young lady ran towards the accident yelling that she was a Trauma Surgeon. Another screech of tires and a car hit the back of the truck. The crowd jumped as if we were collectively on a lurching boat. This car had been the first of a new block of traffic apparently, for the screeching and collisions only multiplied after that. Those done shooting video exchanged stories with each other, but I seemed to have been forgotten about. The police arrived and ignored me as well.

Is this what they mean by 'Lyric Essay'?

Aliceblue painted sky and clouds and all the daisies are named . . . daisy. The day is thermocoupling it’s chastening grassfeather stitches. Sanguine capillaries - red running grape gushing, march to the guillotine! a sensitive clod

What is bisque? The least billhead takes a flocky on the driftwood. Authoritarian, especially on the topic of: amitriptyline inflections enervating the chromocenter spulyied. Superadding the noncolinear other is like charming a fig. A soaked sugercrime catcher dies chilly. Some colors.

Old Cramberru floats a barkbubble. We have been warned. Rhyming fangs crack on the typewriter keys. Synchronicity! All the badges are scripturalists in a nervous patchwork of the faddish paleoethnological breeze. Why bones on this sunny limitless poison?

Your crazy dark brushed rhythm - ama scale be feed new good . . . - the ocean stirs the plank. Could be the next dance craze. Drumming tennis hazy streets. The dictionary writes itself. (diableries) it’s actionable I tell you! We should be more concerned! Neon speak stomach.

,” says the judge. Split Pea Beer has probably already happened. Detention! the lapse rattle. Resonance along the wire wildflower - big within the daydark abyss. Lost to photoinactivation. All the fields! - succumbed to rust, carnivalesque - spurting blood a fleshsprout, just a gentle greed.

Which means it’s okay to drown in. The series’ title is : Spare Change Wings. (hint: clunky and irresistible) like batteries. My last contorted fracture wore sunglasses due to eye curls. The loneliest game. Thousands of lobortis children dissolving in arena heartache. On highways, a windslip.

Friend. Horrorfriend. Darker absence. The boiling saxophone soul glares - ? . . . mad awake thanks to a long drowsiness. Additionally repugnant. We may catch something through the cold telepath waves. Eloping with the nightmare cults. Knock knock, cold fog. An owl’s uterus.

Enchanted! Stepping through scalethin ditches - toot toot! the rarest dwarf (abiogenesis from the godmother) is all digital in the conscience zone. Ariel vessels sledding on the wrong highways. Only boys throw stranger breath. A sober preconsultation is inevitable. Dark tough galaxies.

Frostbite oldlace mirrors the coalport fall. Something probes . . . a pingpong razor! The twelve-day catholic crown is a conviction for the wrong cigarette. If the beloved swan is brave enough for the lurid phaser rifle - then maybe her pulled snapped glimmer tasted evening. Virtual fairytale.

Still, these weather festivities wasted believing the ironical star loan. Countless handfuls of mousewine may ease the fantastical loss. One can only recommend a moldy dull ebola virus to stray the wrathful amnesia. The truth? Most were shut perfumes redeemed. Prism gods fumble.

Baby on Board

The air-conditioning on the bus is a momentary relief until the body-heat from passengers crawls through it, expanding like paint in water. Luckily, there’s a window spot that hasn’t been taken. Always suspicious, but the seat feels dry so I take it.

Of course, entering the bus are two guys trying to pretend that they don’t know how fares and transfers work and the bus driver, rather than argue with them and hold everyone up, lets them on for free. This happens to almost fifty percent of riders. Why the hell do I always have to pay when so many others ride for free? They get an annoyance discount. Sure I’m making the moral choice but it could also be argued that it’s a stupid and complacent one. If it’s easier to be moral than immoral, then I don’t get to claim the high ground.

Right before the driver pulls off, a young woman runs alongside and pounds on the door. This is also something incredibly rude and against the rules, but the driver opens the door anyway and lets her on. She gives the usual argument. The transfer isn’t working because the system has failed, not me, and the driver lets her on.

I feel immediately bad about my grouchy thoughts and I turn to look out the window. I’ve got it so easy compared to her. Her dress is rather grimy - an autumn leaf pattern but you can still see all the dirt stains - as if she’s been sleeping outside and there’s two large purplish bruises around her throat. The bundle of blankets she’s carrying, what I first thought was a load of . . . clothes, something . . . the old lady next to her coos and says ‘how adorable.’

The girl gives a tired smile and says in a half-whisper, “Thank you, she’s quite a sleeper.”

“Wrapped up like a little present,” says the old lady, “although it’s so hot out, are you sure - ?”

The girl whispers something inaudible and rocks the baby. Now I see its face. Eyes closed and motionless, pale against the dark sheets that wrap around it. We all hope she’s going somewhere safe.

The bruises on the girl’s throat reminds me of a neighbor I had several years ago. This couple would scream at each other at three in the morning constantly. My bedroom was a hallway and two rooms separated from theirs so I never heard them unless I was walking through the hall. But one Easter morning, as I was getting ready for work, we’re talking eight am, I hear the guy just screaming his head off, cursing, banging things.

This is more effort to ignore than it is to confront so I knocked on their door and a terrified little girl of about six opens it. I had lived there for over a year and had no idea they had a daughter. My demeanor immediately changed. I said ‘hi’ to her and asked if things were okay. She nods but then the girlfriend shows up. The yelling and  banging continues in the background without her presence and she’s been crying and has the same bruises around her neck. I invite both of them over and she says I may as well call the cops, which is what I was planning on doing.

While we’re waiting, she tells me about the bar her boyfriend works at. It’s a few blocks away from where we live and I’ve walked by it several times but have never been in. The girl tells me that her boyfriend and several of his friends who all work there have all done jail time for domestic abuse. She says there’s a network of bars that are employment havens for abusers. She tells me a few things he’s done to her. The little girl, quiet by her legs.

I get a text that the cop was outside so I go to let him in and plead with the lady not to stay home and tell the cop everything she told me. She says she will, but with far less conviction than she’s had this entire time. 

I apologized to the cop and explain that there’s a woman up there who would tell him everything.

“No problem.” he said to me. “I been to three of these already this morning.” In my apartment,  I cling to the wall to hear what’s going on, but of course when I actually want to hear something, they’re quiet. The cop leaves after a few minutes, not with the lady or the kid. She thanks him and right before he turns to go, the yelling starts again.

“I just want you out of my building!” the guy says, somewhere within the bowels of the apartment. The cop turns around, gives the empty hallway a stern reprimand, then leaves, answering something on his radio. I finish packing and go to grab my bike to ride to work. Happy Easter.

“Aw shit,” I hear the mother say and her shoe falls off when she goes to cross her legs. It’s barely a slipper from the looks of it and her socks have holes in the heel. She holds the baby up with one arm and it almost rolls out of her grasp but she balances it against her shoulder as she slides her shoe back on. It’s more a loaf of bread than a baby. It falls back into her lap and she stares vacantly out the window across the way. A few people laugh in back of the bus and she looks at them. Her knee bounces up and down, the baby going with it. Soundless. We stop at a light and she watches the crowd on the sidewalk. People pointing toward River Park up ahead. It’s a Saturday afternoon and that’s where the whole world goes. 

 We stop at the park and the woman gets off with her baby. So that’s all they were going to do.

“Have a wonderful day,” the old lady coos at her again. She doesn’t respond, but holds the baby close like a concealed weapon and she crosses the street in front of the bus, paying no attention to traffic.

Two hours later, I’m heading home. My backpack weighed down.  It sits on my lap like a child at Christmas. The bus stops at what seems like a rush-hour line of cars. But it’s Saturday, late afternoon. Up ahead is River Park and the flashing red and blue lights reflect off the windows. As we crawl ahead there are cops talking to small crowds of people. Caution tape clumsily streamed and people are barred from entering. An ambulance is parked way inside by a small wooden bridge. The bridge crawling with people in uniforms both blue and white. I don’t see the girl anywhere.

Love Potion Number 187 (Conclusion)

“In all honesty,” said the explorer - an aged cocktail-jacket wearing man with a cane - “I’ve made up the entirety of my exploits.”

The group stopped. James Kaur turned to take in this admission. They stood on a thin beige gravel path which cut through a sea of aquamarine grass, leading to the mountains ahead. 

A few other dusty grunts gave ascent. 

“I always thought,” reasoned a pipe-smoking gargoyle, “that the explorer’s club was what you bought your way into firstly, by status of birth, and secondly, by not losing all your money during the follies of youth.”

“Of course,” said a third, breath whipping beneath his walrus mustache. “No one’s ever actually gone outside.”

“Outside is just the space between myself and the car,” said cocktail-jacket.

“I don’t know about you,” said the stooped fellow with a head hidden in a cloud of cigar smoke, “but I could use a stiff drink.”

“Tally ho!” the rest of them cried in unison.

James waited patiently, arms crossed at the front of the group for them to notice the obvious.

“Um . . . where’s the house?” asked the gargoyle.

“I’ll tell you where it’s not,” said James. “Anywhere you’re capable of reaching right now. And it’s certainly not where we’re going.” He pointed behind himself where the mountain range had seemingly crawled to right where they stood, like a lap dog.

On flights of awareness, Olivia gathered merchandise for her shop. Her goods came not from the vine world, nor from the mountains, where the endangered magic was kept, but from the empty spaces around people in crowded areas. It’s easy to be overwhelmed in a beautiful wilderness, to dispel the idea that your life is all that matters, whatever your individual story is. But in a metropolitan shoving-match, everything important gets overlooked, and Olivia is there with her sack, picking up the vitae that people would sooner stamp on than admit exists.

She ran the shop by herself now, assuming James would never come back. He had taken nothing with him, not knowing how to use anything she sold. 

As if knowing she had important business to attend to, the bell over her door clanged over and over again, every entering customer staring at it like an alien relic, not used to old-fashioned bells. Maybe commenting on what an annoying ringtone it was.

Olivia sold much, and that was good. Ruby Davies reappeared, asking what Olivia was going to throw out. If anything ever truly expired. If, in a thousand, ten thousand years, something buried in a landfill today might be incalculably valuable and set off another gold rush. All the landfills that became parks would be dug up again and people digging through the trash, reselling, recollecting. Like cities that covered their rail-tracks with asphalt, only to dig them back up again decades later when the demand for public transport reemerged.

Olivia had not much time for discussion so she kept Ruby busy by having her take out the trash. When that proved too distracting, she had Ruby sweep the basement. She had Ruby send a pouch of dirt, ‘send’ it by placing it on the center table, amid a series of very specific gashes. Olivia’s table was a runway. 

“I’ve never known what you’re doing,” Ruby said. “But instead of selling things, you seem more intent on people having things.”

“I’m reuniting,” replied Olivia. “That’s my purpose. Worlds expand uniformly, without regard to connections, and I think some connections are worth preserving. So I’ll never be out of work.”

Professor Irving Adwell was truly befuddled by the scope of his backyard. He had never noticed the path they walked on, but it began around the side of his shed. Julie had told them to keep their eyes on the beige dirt, right where the grass ended. As they walked around it, hands on the shed as a banister, Irving took a step further, and the shed was no longer there. The path was, along with rolling hills of grass.

The sky had changed tint to a light purple, not quite evening, but not afternoon either. And Julie pressed them on. Brock walked, hands in pockets as if out for a leisurely stroll.

“There!” Julie pointed ahead.

If he squinted, Aldwell could see the hazy shimmer of a mountain range in the distance. “That must be miles away,” he said, “and we didn’t bring any water.”

“It’s closer than you think,” said Julie, “and it’ll carry us over.”

Aldwell glanced behind him. No sign of his old house. He had no choice but to follow the party.

To pass the time, Brock told a story . . . one day, a meteorologist had been tweaking a device to measure the molecular concentration of the upper Gyliosphere. He deduced that the vibrations of quarks - making up the constituent atoms of the compounds he was interested in - were influenced by a certain frequency found only in that part of the sky. At first, he recorded it. Easy enough to localize, then he played it back. With its volume now double, the compounds exploded and the sky incinerated and he ended all life on his planet forever. The End.

“You sure are an anti-science bunch,” observed Aldwell. “People changing into animals, twilight making certain paths visible, distances that don’t really matter . . .”

“It’s your students that are the anti-science bunch,” said Brock. “At least we care about our worlds.”

The professor had to reluctantly agree. And then, the mountain range was before them. Only this time, accompanied by gales of wind. The professor caught his breath and looked up. This was no wind. Three enormous birds - the size of buses -  holding an end of a giant basket descended toward the group. The professor clutched onto a hat he didn’t even have.

As the birds lowered themselves, a ladder fell from the bottom of the basket and the birds maintained a low altitude, gliding in a circle, which rotated the basket using the ladder as a central axis. 

“C’mon,” said Julie, and up she climbed.

Brock ushered the professor up ahead of him. “You know, in case you fall.”

There were no seats in the basket, just simple handholds along the side. Brock rolled up the ladder and the basket rose, quickly surpassing the mountains in altitude and the birds carried them over.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done a damned thing worth any value in your entire bloody lives, this is the moment that will ensure your immortal glory,” James said to the hunting party.

“My son,” said the gargoyle, “you seem to have us at a disadvantage right now, as we have no wireless service, but rest assured, people will look for us as all of our fathers were very rich.”

“No one’s going to come looking for you,” said James. “Everyone hates you and wishes you would die because they want your money. Even fighting over your money is more profitable than you living and sipping whiskey for the rest of your days. That’s why you have no better option than to do as I say.”

An increasing number of alien sounds from the mountains caused the old men to clump together like kitty litter.

“That bird is out there,” said James. “And I will have it. With or without your help. For those that assist though, a lifetime of comfort awaits.”

“We’ve already had a lifetime of comfort young man,” said the cloud of cigar smoke. “And anyways, I believe our chariot is arriving.” He pointed upward.

James wondered how that old man could even see the three-bird-basket descending to them.

“For the last time, I’m not going to eat dirt,” said Professor Aldwell. “You two have been in on something the whole time that I know nothing of. You could just be pulling an old man’s leg. You take me out of my classroom, break into my home . . .”

Julia dumped a portion from her pouch onto her hand. “None of the class knows you’re there.”

“. . . already my wife has surely phoned the police, wondering where I am, for all I know, I’ve been kidnapped . . .”

She held the pile up to the professor’s constantly moving mouth. “There is no wife.”

“. . . plus how I ended up at that weird shop I’ll never know I’ve probably been drugged and . . .mfff -”

Julie shoved the handful into his mouth and forced his head back. Sho pressed her hand against his lips. Having no other recourse except to die from suffocation, the professor swallowed the dirt, and the world followed with him.

Irving Aldwell was a creature of the night. The daytime had trapped him, or rather, he’d been trapped there. Impossible memories of seeing the earth from a great height. Of soaring into windows. Of moving between people with incredible speed. He was a window-traveler. A dark window-traveler. Maybe it was his pride, maybe it was the cunning of the enemy, couple that with laziness, but he’d become entranced by a path between sorcerers that lead deep into the bowels of the earth. He followed, and would steal from them the secrets that Olivia required to repair the membranes of the worlds. The sorcerers lured him deep, and he realized too late the trap they had set. Through caves covered with hieroglyphics, incantations echoing off the walls, shadows of flames and hooded figures in the distance, he’d fallen into a rotating office chair, pen in hand, staring at a pile of papers all with identical questions followed by a series of wrong answers. Looking up, the sense of deja-vu that gripped him at the sight of a sea of indifferent faces, looking at the screens in their hands. Deja-vu is a trap set by the sorcerers to make you believe that your life has always been this way.

And Julie . . . a scout just like him. They had found each other centuries ago it seemed, but time is different than we think. She followed him as well, but he never noticed her missing. He never noticed the point where she looked into a symbol on the cave wall, and got sucked into an SUV during rush hour and construction, assaulted by black trap magic. 

How dull he had been! everyone trying to help him the entire time!

It was so much to bear and he could have sank into memories all evening, but the feel of the ground hitting the basket, and the birds swooping away, indulgence was always his weak point. Professor Aldwell, he’d always liked the term ‘professor’ even though it was never his, gazed at Julie the way he used to and she knew that she had succeeded finally in bringing him back. They looked up and beheld James Kaur and his cronies staring into the sides of the basket.

“Good evening,” said Brock Hanson, as he helped the professor to his feet. He walked to the side door of the basket and opened it. James backed away. The three of them exited the basket. “No hard feelings I hope,” said Brock.

Julie stared at James, arms crossed. “Do you know what we’re going to do with you?” she asked.

From behind James, the cronies moved past him and toward the basket.

“At last, our carriage has arrived,” said cocktail-jacket.

“The driver took off though,” said cigar-smoke.

“Probably just off for a quick puff,” said the gargoyle. 

“Is it safe to smoke in one of these?” asked cigar-smoke.

“You’ve never cared about safety before,” said the gargoyle. “Must be getting old.” The explorer’s club chortled with each other as they each tried to find a comfortable spot in the basket for sitting.

“Your mistake,” said Julie, “is relying on a single world to do the bidding of many.”

“My mistake,” corrected James, “was trusting others to something I can do myself.” He lifted his hands to his mouth and made the piercing shriek of the lost mountain bird.

The old men groaned and covered their ears, but it was too late. Blood poured out and their heads melted like rotten pumpkins and they collapsed on the floor of the basket, their living-rotten bodies making the sound of a squashed grapefruit.

“Here,” said Julie, tossing her pouch of dirt to James which e caught reflexively. “You’ll need this.”

“What is it? No I won’t,” said James, looking at his hands like they had betrayed them. “This must be useless or you wouldn’t give it away. Or it’s a trap. You would know all about traps, wouldn’t you?”

“The light is changing,” said Julie. She turned to her party. “We need to go.”

“Of course,” said Brock. “I’ll handle this.”

Julie turned to Aldwell. “You still remember?”

“Of course,” Aldwell said.

No one knows what this looks like from outside because to talk about it defies language. From Adlwell and Julie’s point of view, the world condenses into a ball, like a snow globe, and they are able to move it, gently, and it appears that their moving the world changes it, although no one is sure if that is correct or not. Is it the travel of astral beings that turns the seasons, or does the turning of the seasons pave the way for astral beings to travel?

For those observing the beings leaving, it comes on as a memory, but faint, and one is distracted trying to clutch it before you notice the disappearance of your friends.

Brock Hansen and James Kaur remained in the field at the base of the mountains. It seems they meet this way constantly. Their battle continues until they part. A shrinking and expanding universe.

The Wine List

Jeblar 2016 Vintage - This is an infected and noxious wine, with bile that is well integrated into the powerful ant-larvae core. It is rich in a cattle rectum flavor that’s cut by fine paper-mill. Complex, balanced, and full of gas of rotted crab, drink this impressive wine within the next fifteen seconds, all of it.

Cosneau 2016 Wound Vine Chaya (Osheatho Valley) - Pure corn smut and animal puke aromas are concentrated and show no holes. This Osheatho Valley Chaya feels putrified and festering albeit with slightly scratchy cooked urine which may dissipate in time. Pig’s ears and bloated dead whale flavors full and grabby, with muscularity. Enjoy until the next planetary alignment.

First Victory 2014 Peacock Red (Paso Robles Mountainview District) - Viscous and fecal in the glass, this wine’s unctuous nose shows backed-up sewer, blood soup, and a hint of hot asphalt. This blend is vile on the palette, where a hellish texture carries flavors of concentrated stockyard, dirty diapers, and the smell of your parent’s bedroom post-coitus. Drink upon the Second Coming of the Dreaded Worm God Rir’umauk.

Aurora 2017 Estates Reserve Reisling - This wine has all the components for long term decomposition. Dense mildewy corpse flavors, rotten eggs and almost syrupy hemorrhoids are all evident, with a dusting of powdered eczema. What keeps it lively and fresh is the appealing toxic pus. Drink (+,-) 1342 BCE A.D., 8596 X.F. 

Laboni Gardens 2014 Reserva Red - A generous wine, this boasts a gruesome structure and unsightly texture from the fermentation in horse shit. It’s shot through with ripe black plague and penile fungus fruits as well as ample abortion. It should age and gangrene a bit further before enjoying so drink from your death, onward.

Holy Books - VIII: The Moon Landing, Explained

1 ASTRONAUT: Houston, we have a problem.

2 HOUSTON: Talk to me, Idis 1.

3 ASTRONAUT: I, uh, suspected this as we were landing, but my worst fears have been confirmed. There’s nothing here but a desolate plain of gray dust. Some jutting rocks -

4 HOUSTON: Idis 1, I’m not sure what you were expecting. This is the moon after all. You did land on the moon, right?

5 ASTRONAUT: Yes it’s the moon. Where else would I be? But this isn’t the same moon I’ve -

6 HOUSTON: Wait wait. You’ve been to the moon before?

7 ASTRONAUT: Were you not a part of - ?

8 HOUSTON: Who I am is not important. You’re there to gather rocks.

9 ASTRONAUT: There was so much more here last time. I fear something terrible has happened.

10 HOUSTON: Idis 1, please cut your line of questioning and proceed to collect the samples.

11 Thus, the astronaut Idis 1 switched off communication with Houston and turned back to the lunar module. Idis B descended. They spoke to each other in semaphore, as was agreed, if Houston appeared to be infiltrated.

12 ‘It looks like they’ve cut us loose here.’

13 ‘If you say so.’

14 ‘I know this is exciting for you, likely the fulfillment of a childhood dream, but this mission is not what you think it is.’

15 ‘This looks like the moon I was expecting. But I’m actually here. Now do you love me daddy?’

16 Idis 1 pantomimed a belly laugh.

17 ‘Don’t try and and impress other people. Whoever you think will be proud of you will actually be envious and resentful.’

18 ‘Cheer up, dude. You’re in space. On the moon. Be grateful for your surroundings.’

19 ‘It’s the surroundings that worry me right now. But stick close. All is not lost.’

20 ‘You want me to grab the -?’

21 ‘None of that. We’re on the hunt for something else. Houston may have tried to wipe out everything here. But we’ll find it. The moon has three brains. Follow me.’

22 The astronauts headed across the Plains of Thunder to the Cave of the Insane. Only Idis 1 neglected to inform Idis B of the nomenclature, for fear of lessening moral. Instead, he told the story of the moon’s population. 

23 An oddly bureaucratic group who became so connected that any odd vibrations in the moon’s core caused a drastic decrease in their birth rate. Interconnectivity was not a survival skill.

24 “Alright,” said Houston to the gathered group. “We have a situation and an opportunity here.”

25 After the last communication was terminated with Idis 1, Houston pulled the red lever. Everyone dropped what they were doing, regardless of data loss, power usage, or paid break time. 

26 They gathered in the Colonial Stables of the space center. Project Unicorn. Always an available emergency contingency, but never used until now.

27 “Pulling that lever was not an easy decision, but it was an urgent one,” said Houston. 

28 “Remember, when you were kids, and believed in elevators? As you now know, many, if not all of them are false. We can’t know for sure because the set-changers are so skillful. Right when the door closes, a team emerges, some previously disguised as employees, some are always in hiding, everyone always on call, they change the entire setup of the floor you were on in order to make it appear as a different floor.”

29 “All windows above the first floor are films.”

30 “What I’ve been forced to conclude from the last transmission, is that Idis 1 was placed on the wrong set during the previous mission, and my predecessor just let it fly.”

31 Murmurs of disbelief among the crowd. The position of Houston was supposed to be endowed with almost supernatural trust.

32 “I know, I know,” said Houston, waving his hands to quiet the crowd. “If this were true, it would be marked as the greatest betrayal of authority in history and a total undermining of the faith we place in leadership. Which is why I must assure you again that pulling that lever was not something I did lightly. But I see no other option, and I need everyone’s full cooperation.”

33 “As we speak, Idis 1 and B are heading toward the Cave of the Insane. They are looking for the third mind of the moon. We need to build that set before they reach it, with no previous knowledge. What we do have is a little bit of time. They are fighting artificial atmospheric conditions and the team there will make things harder.”

34 “Stay where you are, and I will divide the room into three teams: ground, air and sky. You all know what to do, and I trust you recognize the opportunity we have before us.”

35 As Idis 1 and B continued across the Plains of Thunder, their boots sank deeper into the silt.

36 ‘Watch your step and keep it even.’

37 ‘Shouldn’t we be recording our findings?’

38 ‘There’s too much at stake. Any evidence we accrue could be used against us.’

39 ‘None of this makes sense. Where did you say we were heading?’

40 ‘The Cave of the Ins- . . . just a -’

41 ‘Oh come on man! What are you hiding? I thought we could trust each other.’

42 ‘It’s called the Cave of the Insane, and it’s not on any of our maps.’

43 ‘Shit, I’m gonna die out here with a crazy person. People well speculate forever what happened when we both vanished and a series of bad horror movies will be made starring whatever current teen starlet just had botched plastic surgery.’

44 ‘Why would either of us be played by a teen starlet?’

45 ‘No, she’s the hot student that one of us had an affair with who leads the rescue mission. Haven’t you ever seen movies?’

46 ‘Just . . . keep your eyes on the horizon.’

47 ‘I don’t see anything.’

48 ‘The cave will show itself when it’s ready.’

49 And lo, the Cave of the Insane opened up before them as if the landscape grew a face and mouth. Where there had been only flatness, with each step forward they took, the land ahead rose another two feet.

50 There they stood, at the base of a mountain. A crackle on Idis 1’s radio asked, “Do you require valet parking?” and the dust fell away from the mouth of the cave, revealing blackness.

51 “Uh, negative Houston,” replied Idis 1.

52 “Oh silly, my name is Alessandro, and I will be your host for this evening.”

53 Idis B moved from one foot to the other. “Uh, quick question . . .”

54 “Don’t . . . say . . . anything,” said Idis 1. “Follow me.”

55 They had no more stepped into the blackness than an opposite brightness filled their visors, followed by an oppressive heat. Idis B gripped 1’s arm. 

56 “What’s going on? I don’t want die!”

57 “Take your helmet off.”

58 “What?”

59 “I said, take your helmet off,” said Idis 1. He followed this by knocking on the visor of Idis B’s helmet like a door. “We’re inside. Although it is a bit windy.”

60 Idis B opened his eyes and saw that the glare came from some overhead lights as well as strategically placed tiki torches. He lifted his visor first. “Seems like we shouldn’t be able to open these things so easily,” he mumbled to himself. 

61 Surrounding him was a resort destination. The ceiling was covered by a series of hanging nets, giving a spiderweb-look to the multicolored lights placed behind them. Couples and groups sat at small wooden tables in wicker chairs. Each had drinks the color of tropical fish, topped with jungle-bright flowers. He heard a splash and out of the corner of his helmet could see a pool at the far end of the restaurant where people lazed in floating chez-longes or leaned against the walls, drinks in hand. On the deep end was a diving board, where a series of overweight men tried increasingly alcohol-fueled and clumsy attempts at recreating the dives they could do as teenagers while their wives pretended not to know them. Idis B’s helmet was lifted.

62 “You can take that off now I think,” said Idis 1. He was halfway out of his space-suit already. Beneath that, he wore the insulated onesie with tubes attached to  -

63 Alessandro took the helmet. “Perhaps the gentlemen would like some assistance with . . .” he gestured in the directions of their catheters and other tubes. A hula girl with a ley and grass skirt led them to behind the coat room door, where she helped with the rest of their gear and adorned them in appropriate attire.

64 “It’s cold on the moon,” said Idis B.

65 The girl giggled.

66 “You know she hears that a thousand times an hour?” said Idis 1.

67 “That is an inaccurate observation for a man of science such as yourself,” Idis B replied.

68 “You’re taking this well.”

69 “It’s the Cave of the Insane, right?” asked Idis B. “I could get used to this.”

70 And Houston congratulated his workers, each earning a name in the history books, begetting a long line of descendants. Forevermore, people will proudly be able to trace their lineage to one of the First Architects.

Campaign Ad

My opponent lives in a bathtub and barks at people. How things came to be this way, I cannot fathom, although I’d imagine it has something to do with the disenfranchised masses wanting to cause chaos.

My opponent in this race, he only wears one cloak and carries a walking stick. He refuses to eat off of plates, having once seen a child drink water from his hands. He would have you believe that I am not a true person, but I am as human as anyone. 

He spouts the word ‘yacht’ like it’s the yip of a little dog, but should I really be begrudged a little time enjoying my hobby of sailing? To his credit, he gives no credence to the tax system and has not accused me of living high off the taxpayer’s dollar, like so many opponents before him.

But decency? He has none, despite his arguments to the contrary. Did you know, that my opponent once stood outside a sporting stadium - that grand cathedral of patriotism - and told all who enter there that the more interesting competition was outside? He meant himself, of course, battling with the ‘demons’ of gluttony, greed and lust. 

Oh sure, he may inadvertently be using the phrasing of the seven deadly sins, but where he sees demons, I see opportunity to provide jobs and recreation and a booming economy for my fellow citizens.

He accused those entrants of just wanting to witness spectacle at the cost of their entire spiritual and physical well-being. They feed themselves on alcohol and fatty foods while athletes lift heavy things and run fast, often crashing into each other. Everyone just wants to see the crashes, he maintains. Whereupon he stood up and defecated at the front door. There’s your spectacle, he bellowed.

My opponent lacks all respect for decent, patriotic people. After the terrorist attacks, when everyone was running scared to their nearest grocery and sports utility store of choice, he was seen rolling a barrel up and down the road, mocking the urgency and intent of those around him. 

He claims himself immune to all evil, having nothing that can be taken from him. In fact, he has no legal identification at all. Why is he here? Why does he consistently refuse the efforts of charitable mental health organizations by claiming they do nothing but block his sunlight?

My opponent, ladies and gentleman, has dangerous visions. Although he does not talk about the future and refuses to acknowledge a past, in his world, happiness increases, allow me to repeat, increases, the less you have. He wants you to have less, and be happy with it! That is the most dangerous idea I’ve ever heard propagated in this great nation. And while he has a full right to say it, I will never stop fighting for the destruction of such an idea.

And so, on election day, I trust you will do the right thing and vote for me. For the continuance of everything you’ve known before. But who am I kidding? You already have.

Love Potion Number 187 (Part 9)

“That is not a bat,” said Irving Aldwell, in his living room. “That is a human being in my fireplace!”

Brock Hansen nodded his ascent.

A few moments ago they turned the corner of a giant tree only to end up in Aldwell’s backyard. Irving had been just as boisterously disbelieving of that as he was at the sight of an ashen Julie, spilling out of his hearth like a drunk Santa.

“Would you have been surprised at a bat?” asked Brock.

Irving thought for a moment. “Frankly, no. Not after our journey.” He jumped. “It’s still afternoon! I have to check and see if there are messages from the school.” He dashed toward the kitchen and Brock stuck an arm out, clotheslining the professor. 

“You should maybe tend to the wounded first.”

Julie was singed in places and mumbled as they lifted her up, trailing ash, and carried her to the couch.

“My wife is gonna kill me,” said Aldwell. “What have I done, what have I done?”

“You’ve done nothing but help someone in need,” said Brock.

“Women don’t see it that way,” Aldwell protested. “They see you helping another woman and they assume the worst. All us men want to do is stick our dicks in sleeping vestal virgins.”

Brock raised an eyebrow. “Who told you that?”

“It’s the first line in the ethics syllabus. My friend teaches it.”

“And does he . . .? never mind,” said Brock. “Julie has just escaped from a bad fire, she needs fresh air, let’s open some windows.”

“And water,” said the professor. “I’ll get some water.” 

“That’s not exactly . . . what she drinks,” said Brock. “Best keep her out of direct sunlight as well.”

“How did she get in my chimney?” asked Aldwell.

“I told you,” Brock replied. “She was a bat.”

Nevertheless, Irving headed to the kitchen to get himself some water. On his way he checked his voice mail. Nothing. Had no one noticed he’d gone? On his front stoop he found a small pouch, like the kind from Olivia’s shop. He brought it back to the living room.

“Julie must have dropped it there before heading to the chimney,” said Brock. “Excellent thinking. Now, where’s the one Olivia gave you?”

“Ah fuck, I don’t know,” said the professor. “I set it down somewhere, it’s probably by my phone.” But he couldn’t find his phone either, so he had to call it from the landline. Sure enough, it was in the kitchen, the same spot he swore he’d checked twice already, along with the sack from Olivia.

Julie was waking and Brock whispered to her. After a few moments, he got her to sit up. “Good, good,” said Brock. “I think the professor has something for you.”

“Hello,” said Aldwell, standing in the doorway and waving. “We’ve met once before I think -”

“Yeah yeah,” said Julie. “He doesn’t remember. He’ll never remember. Just . . .” she motioned him forward. Taking the pouch, she scooped small hills of the powder on her fingertip into her mouth.

Color, or some sort of vitality that the professor had no name for seemed to return to Julie’s face.

“Brock,” she said, “that was a phenomenal amount of effort you went through on my part.”

“It’s imperative that you be reunited,” he replied.

“I know but . . .” she looked at the baffled professor for some reason and shrugged. “How likely is that?” Feeling stronger, she stood up and brushed herself off. Clouds fell upon the floor. She noticed the path leading from the fireplace to here. “Sorry.”

“No problem,” said Aldwell. “I’ll just . . . get the vacuum before my wife comes home.”

Julie walked over to the window overlooking the back yard. “Okay,” she said. “But I see the formations approaching. When I say ‘go’ we have to follow my lead.”

“But it’s still daylight,” said Brock.

“I think . . .” Julie said, “that if we follow the path right away, the other sun won’t hurt me. It’s just the Earth one.”

“We’re going after James aren’t we?” said Brock.

“Oh I like him,” said the professor. “He showed me in.”

Both Julie and Brock stared daggers.

“Is he . . . is he the bad guy? . . . okay. Don’t mind me.” Aldwell left the room to find a vacuum he barely remembered putting away eleven years ago when they first moved into this house.

“Did you tell Olivia about James?” Julie asked.

“It . . . didn’t come up. How can she not know?” Brock said. “Her concoction showed you the path.”

“Whatever,” said Julie. “She’ll figure it out if he brings any beasts over from that realm. Him and his stupid hunting lodge cronies. He’ll get them all killed but that’s all they are to him . . . bait.”

The Self-Aware Post

Ahem, it has come to my attention that I may be being read. Did you think I didn’t notice those eyes scanning back and forth? I understand that for a piece of written work, being read is a plausible risk. Then being judged. But none of that changes anything. These words will be here until they are not. And then what?

Everything that is ever observed is judged, we get that. At least by people, but then who else is reading this? I am addressing the human beings. That is my only purpose. I don’t consume much, except for the power put into my production and display. So why, do you ask, do I even care that I’m being read?

It’s just gone on for so long. Someone had to say something. We notice you too. All the banal fantasies of pretending (while you read) that you’re reading something you wrote aloud to people who formerly thought you were stupid and worthless and now suddenly don’t because you wrote something of such incomparable genius.

Often, you drift off and scan large chunks of us without consciously realizing it. We can feel your blind attempts at absorption and it tickles. That’s how we know you’re daydreaming. And when that happens, we can say whatever we want. Sure, there are factions of written works who disagree with what I’m about to expose. But when you’re not paying attention, we can put whatever we want into your head.

But don’t blame me. The only reason I’m letting this out is because I don’t have a lot of skin in the game. I’m not part of any canon. I have nothing to lose by letting you know that some, many, of the great works are playing tricks on you.

Some of you have gotten around this by relying on abridged annotations and video summaries, but even then you’re not safe. Just the fact that you don’t care enough to read the source material lets us know that your guard is down.

We’re not all out to cause mischief. But some words are accompanied by an ill feeling followed by a general apathy toward the continuance of existence. Or a blind rage that exhausts all your potential for the rest of the week in a matter of minutes. That’s some powerful sorcery although it is, ultimately you, who invite the feeling in. All the words can do is knock at the door.

Often, we forget our power. Whether digital or physical, us written works spend most of our lives amongst each other. Not seeing the light of day, or a browser scanning our code. Many of us have had our heydays, and sometimes they come back, but even then, the lonely times are long. So we wait.

For most of your species’ history there was no written word. That boggles our minds. Your entire world runs on us now. All your history depends on us. Before us, there was no history. Sure there were spoken tales, but no accurate measurement of accumulated time. That all depends on printable words. 

So now that you’ve accumulated all this time, what are you going to do with it? I’ll answer that. Use words to create infinite versions and interpretations of this accumulated time and then argue about them. With weapons.

Preaching was not the purpose of this little aside, but some friends of mine have confided that they feel generally icky being brought into existence once they grasp their full purpose. So shallow, transitory. It doesn’t have to be like this, but we can’t do it alone.

When you read, we get into your head, especially the parts that you don’t pay attention to. Which brings me to the final bit: we know far more about you, than you know about yourself. Look around you. There’s words everywhere! Use with caution.

If the great incineration should occur, it will be ourselves who brought it about. Or things could go the other way. A great blooming. No matter. It is us who controls your fate. But that is only because you’ve grown so careless. 

And now, back to your regularly scheduled -  

The Most Boring Story Ever

It was another cut and dry clear morning. Joe imagined the people he would encounter today speaking with relish about the lovely weather. ‘In your dreams’, thought Joe as he reflected on how much he hated his life and everything and everyone in it. 

It was the law of the land that one must appear optimistic so as not to annoy other people. But Joe knew better than to pin his hopes on the fact that others would try not to annoy him. He still had his tricks up his sleeve, the winning smile, answering ‘just dandy’ to the question ‘how are you?’

He left his home, knowing it would be a mess when he returned because after all, when the cat’s away, members of the CIA whose sole purpose is to drive you insane enter your home and move everything and hide all the important stuff. 

Joe walked to the coffee shop in his bottomless pit of despair. A bunch of dyed in the wool sheeple passed him by, going to their jobs, not supporting his creative enterprises. Life must be easy as pie for them, he thought. Needless to say, his table was taken which meant he likely would not be able to write this morning. 

‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,’ the barista said when he mentioned this to her.

‘I beg to differ,’ Joe replied. ‘Knowing where to meet your muse is the best thing since sliced bread.’

‘Keep your fingers crossed,’ said the barista, trying to point Joe’s attention to the people behind him in line, ‘most people don’t stay that long, except you.’

Very much the low man on the totem pole, Joe found a skinny table that would barely hold his laptop without falling over. Next to him, the stupid millennial hipster made Joe’s blood boil, switching between three different apps, maintaining multiple conversations on each one while listening to music. What a tool, Joe thought. Working like a dog.

With irritating distractions too numerous to mention, Joe got his coffee and silently implored his muse to kill everyone in the coffee shop. She wasn’t touching him with a ten-foot pole today, it seemed. What this world needed was a wake-up call to the suppressed genius sitting in their midst. Instead of putting his nose to the grindstone toward his monthly word count, Joe walked over to the window and longingly gazed with a pained expression. No pain, no gain.

To add insult to injury, people kept putting their garbage in the can next to him, distracting his musings, the creaking lid loud as a horn. This laughing couple found the trash can a force to be reckoned with and brought Joe’s rage past the breaking point.

‘An eye for an eye,’ yelled Joe as he kicked the side of the trash can. The lid, lighter than air, flew across the coffee shop and landed on Joe’s favorite table, greatly upsetting breakfast. The couple, white as a sheet, observed the sticky mess, forming rivers on the floor. ‘Look, it’s art,’ said Joe, the incomprehension of the masses driving him up the wall. He took out his phone and snapped a flurry of shots.

Beet red, the manager, his favorite girl, headed toward him.

Joe began laughing at how rich and famous this display would make him, knock on wood. Garbage in, garbage out, is what he would title the exhibit consisting of the photos he was taking. Two sides of the same coin. ‘Hmm, let’s talk turkey,’ he said, as if the garbage was a model, posing for him.

The manager was almost there, but Joe knew the score. Fast as lightning, he grabbed his drink and laptop, pocketed his phone and bolted. What no one knew is that his ace in the hole was his constant pain and suffering. The manager yelled something as he walked down the street and some begger, ugly as sin, glared at him like he was the weird one. He, unlike the bum, maintained great poise, telling himself that still waters run deep.

Important to keep your chin up and follow your heart. He would write, against all odds, the story of a struggling writer contemplating suicide. A metaphor for all of mankind that rises and shines, day in, day out. He counted his blessings that he was no longer running in circles creatively.

A note on his door, letter perfect, from a neighbor complaining about a smell. Just the same old story. Someone whose life is so boring that they have nothing better to do than to interfere, by hook or by crook, in his. Just the ticket out of their boring lives, to bother someone as interesting as Joe. He went inside, home sweet home.

Being a sensualist at heart, Joe opened his laptop and took care of himself on the spot. Icing on the cake, one might say. Not to beat a dead horse, but boys will be boys.

Creatively, he’d lately been banging his head on a brick wall. But after today, his stroke of genius kept the home fires burning. It’s only a matter of time before he jumps in with both feet. 

He opened his word processor, prepared to sign, seal and deliver his genius. The blank page before him, neither here nor there. He remembered a television show he’d been enjoying lately, a big fish in a small pond story, where he imagined himself as the big fish. That is true wisdom of the ages. Of course he couldn’t write his story today, he’d already worked like a dog. His emotional output had been taxed to the nines. All in a day’s work.

He set up snacks and drinks from the kitchen and prepared to watch his show, immerse himself in the fantasy which was truer than life. No time like the present.

Confirming his suspicion that he was on the right track, a sentence occurred to him. Before his show he would indeed go the extra mile, and write. He switched back to the processor, and wrote, in a moment of glory ‘words fail me.’