Sunday, December 6, 2009

Overcast at Best

Lazy afternoon, huh.
The 90-proof goes down sweet and simple. Swallowing brings a pleasant trail of warmth downwards. I follow it with a chasing breath of the least intolerable cigarettes money can buy. Ah, if this isn't the life, then it's at least a worthwhile distraction. Exhale, and smoke pours up into curls. Refill glass, and repeat.
Double-taps of rain drops sound out each passing moment, but I've long since lost count. I'm not sure I can remember when it wasn't raining. Still, the hat's in good shape, and I tip it back from over my eyes. The classic hat-straightening for the ladies, gets 'em every time.
I look up, nobody's in my little office anyways. Still, it pays to practice. Can't let those smooth muscles go slack. Keep working out and all that jazz.
Whiskey, smoke, breath. The cycle continues, measured and quantified in uncounted rain. Lazy afternoon in the office. Unpaid overtime. Maybe it's undertime, I can't remember.
Feet off the desk, sit upright for a moment. Blood rushes to my head and forces me to think. Shit. When was the last one? The last broad who wanted the bigger half of the divorce settlement by showing the court her husband's dirty laundry, the guy who wanted to find his old girlfriend, the parents wanting to find their runaway brat? Same damn story every time, just pick one of the above and make sure to pay my bill plus expenses.
Expenses. Shit. I fumble for my wallet. Pants emptied out onto the desk, I get up for my coat. Stumble, then steady. The 90s that went down easy are coming back hard. I'm suddenly swimming in more than just smoke..
No, no, concentrate. Deep breath. Cigarette, drag of; face, slap in; water, glass-- empty. Well, that short-sells my counter-attack. Defeated, I drop to my knees, the shock sending my stomach that much closer to my open mouth.
Don't give up, dammit. Muster the troops, come on!
One foot on the ground again, and I push down with my arms, propelling the second shoe onto hardwood. Haha, excellent. My spine pulls the rest of me to firm perpendicularity. Firm as prom night, anyways.
I lunge forward, and by some miracle, I catch on the coat, and hear no tearing. Brief prayers can be heard, and they're almost intelligible, if only for the swearing. Reach for the bulge. Pockets, pockets, wallet! Victory is mine. Hold your billfold up high, as it is the goblet of victory.
But I've forgotten that at least two hands are needed to stabilize myself, and I am earthbound once more. Stars, and a flare of pain. I must have hit my head. Probably no lasting damage.
Lying on my back, I open the pitiful thing, and a meagre 20 flutters down onto my chest, having escaped its solitary confinement. Damn, thought I had more. I'd hoped...
Elbows, push, knees, and I'm ambulatory again enough to propel myself back into the desk chair. Breath is knocked out of me, but I'm back in business. Well, back in a business, anyways. The demands of distinctly diminished capital rain into my head. Business is needed, business is needed. Business for bourbon, bed, and breakfasts. Bueno, but not today. I'll wait a few more drops to count out when to get on my feet again.
The last couple of slips signal scotch cessation, shit. Grab the lighter, flick, whirl, breathe, and ash. I straighten my hat back over my eyes, and lean back, feet up. The tobacco monkey dangling from my lips hits filter, and I spit it off to the distance. I'll just wait until the time's tapped away... Start counting...

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The strings of hardening cheese dangling from his quivering jowls, Max smiled. It was an appropriate a kind of smile, given the unusual quality of the food. The Last Chef had done a good work of a cheesesteak. It was a damn pity he hadn't been able to get a Bud to go down with it. Hell, he would have even been happy if they'd brought in a radio to let him listen to the game. Ah well, you can't always get what you want.
Perhaps it had been considerate of them to give him a real set of cutlery. After 8 years of eating with those damn plastic things, even having a round-ended knife and a jan-u-wine stainless steel fork felt pretty swell. Max looked at his reflection in the untouched spoon; first time he'd seen himself for a while. He didn't even get to see his new haircut when they gave it to him this morning. Not that there was much to see: the whole thing looked like a cueball. Max the cueball. Max the electric cueball.
"Damnation if I don't look like one of them Hairy Christmas folks. All I need's a tambourine."
Maxwell Clerk, the Cowboy Bastard, would finally be getting his just desserts of frontier justice. It had been put off a touch when his request to be drawn and quartered was summarily denied. That Jew defense lawyer had harped on and on about rights and choice, while Clerk had sat there catching up on the sports pages. Courtrooms had rather nicer seats than in Solitary.
Still, Max was the last one to go. Kimbo met with a good dosing of the blue almond stuff in an airtight tank over in Missouri. Stu got his triple cocktail from a state-sanctioned IV bartender over in Texas. Charlie had dangled from Walla Walla's home-built gallows after the rope failed to snap his neck. And now, Max was going to get to ride the lightning.
It had been a frequent dream that they would have brought back the guillotine for Max. The awe and the majesty of that simple device sent shivers down his back. He pictured his head, separate from his body, with his eyes rolling wildly in their sockets, jaws gnashing ravenously at the last morcels of life. The body, at a sudden and sharply-induced loss of its higher functions, would leap off the gurney, as if in panic, running in circles and flapping its arms. This would send Max into gales of deep laughter. The perfect end. He remembered that Charlie had purposefully gorged on his last meal, waiting for the perfect moment to finally release the contents of his intestines on an unsuspecting warden. Stu's wriggling around in his restraints had gotten the attending physician to accidentally self-inject with paralytic. It paid to have the last laugh.
The guard poked his head into view of Max's cell, curious to the guffaws that ricocheted down the corridor. "DRAW!" Whirled Max, bringing a loaded and cocked finger-and-thumb to bear on the guard. The man had jumped back against the wall, hitting his head. More gales of laughter from Max.
"Shit, pilgrim! Wouldn't last a minute out there, wouldja? Hah!"
Had the guard been less green around the ears, he would have born witness to Max's conduct over the ears. Four turns in Solitary for aggravated assault on an inmate, one for assault on a guard, with another year thrown in for killing an inmate. Two genuine escape attempts had also been pulled off, and more recently- an uncounted number of times where guards had confiscated rasps from his cell. The steel bars of his cells were usually marked by months on months of shaving, cutting sliver by sliver through the magnesium and iron. These were never in the least effective.
One rasp had been discovered in a cake delivered to his cell. One of them had been a nail file. Two had been worn down so much that they were but smooth metal rods. The guards had long-suspected that he'd been flushing the shaved filings down the toilet.
Max buttoned up the shirt, stepping through the cell's gate for the first time in months. He breathed slowly, absently picking his teeth and gums. Everything was grand.
At the observation room, familiar faces glared out at him. Some seemed to be muttering threats or prayers, others making gloating remarks to their seated neighbours. One woman in the front was weeping, though apparently not in an unhappy fashion.
"Last words?" Asked the attendent.
"Yeah-" said Max, giving a grin that brought tendons to bear on his neck, splitting his face in a chasm of jagged teeth. "Enjoy the show."
Max sat on the stained pine, breathing in the smell best-described as 'overcooked', unmasked by the sterilizing chemicals. The wet sponge dribbled water in sweating little droplets down his chin, and the hood brought an end to the last light he would know.
The attendent glanced over at the guard by the phone, waiting with baited breath for the dramatic escalation of a staying of the execution. He wouldn't have been at all surprised if the guard had purposefully lifted the set from the receiver for a busy signal. But really, he didn't care either.
"Roll on one!" shouted the attendent.
Max crowed high and loud, unmuffled by the sack. A mad cackle ran through the room, rebounding on walls. "FUCKIN' PANSIES!"
"Roll on two!" shouted the attendent, pulling down the lever.
The room lit up with shivering light, bringing strand after strand of electrical arc directly into Max's skull. Tendrils of energy erupted from his arms and hands, flashing blue bolts of the stuff.
Max's attendent gaped in confusion- what the hell was going on? The audience, transfixed by the plasma spawing from the writing form of the condemned man, picked up screams of pure terror. It was all at once that a blinding white light disgorged from the body, searing observers to blindness. Veins of blue-white light rushed to the immediate surroundings, stopping hearts and bringing others to unending fits of seizure.
Max's last few moments of consciousness were filled with pain, blood, and burning torture, but above all these sensations was the overpowering taste of the bar filings sewn into his gums, the feeling of the shavings slivered into his legs, and jammed into his fingernails. Max, the Cowboy Bastard, now the literal terminal capacitor, thundered his last laugh into the ashes of his body, unfailingly grinning to his last.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The white was supposed to be calming. Apparently, there was something meditative about the idea of a void, perhaps something therapeutical. But if you build a room full of emptiness, how would you treat the claustrophobic, the agorophobic? Certainly, these issues would have remained unaddressed to the Eastern philosophers whose 'clear'-thinking had inspired such a local infinity.
The good Dr. Roeper pressed his hands to his eyes, massaging over the glasses. The isolation rooms always gave him a headache. It wasn't the brilliant and unadorned vision of the whitest purity that hurt his eyes, but more the thoughts imprinted on it. Here was a room for the making of mental graffiti; a clear surface on which to impress the every thought. This was Freud's free association raping the notion of interior design. Still, it had its merits.
The Rorschach blots were in disuse, vague and superficial attempts to perceive perception. The Intelligence tests were invariably driven to extreme distributions, giving no clue as to the purposefulness or the simple lack of imagination behind the scores. The Personality tests arbitrarily grouped the like-traits without individuating.
No, it was here that the White Room was the diagnostic panacea. At each corner of the cuboidal chamber, a hair-thin camera watched. At periodic intervals of space, a microphone had been placed inconspicuously. As Roeper's eyes and ears perceived nothing but the literal mental white noise from their surroundings, a myriad of recordings perceived his every waking moment-- if not his every waking thought. The panopticon was invisible and omniscient.
It had been the downfall of the softer elements of psychology, that puerile and fanciful notion of reading thoughts. It was with deserved triumph that the focus on observable behaviours and modes of thought prevailed. What better a place to do this than in this canvas of the mind, this White Room?
Roeper walked across the padded floor, ten feet from wall to wall to wall to wall. The light, masterfully scattered, gave no hint as to the source, evenly distributed along the toughened membrane of the room. Reassuring padding, uniformly present, was a necessary distraction for many of the more physically spastic patients. Microscopic pores fed fresh oxygen, and cycled the carbon dioxide out. Pressure-sensitive instruments recorded the rate of respiration, saturation of oxygen, and analyzed the patient's heart rate.
It had been twenty minutes since Roeper had entered the room, but already he was entirely uncertain as to the existance of anything outside himself. The suffocating fear of being lost had been quickly replaced with a sense of perfect calm. Still, the headache persisted.

Three hours later, and Dr. Roeper had became dully aware of minute vibrations in the room. Regrettably, the orderlies outside the room had no access, no means of unlocking the room until the treatment time prescribed by the administrator expired. Dr. Roeper had, of course, discarded his administrator nametag before entering the room. He began a conversation with his grandaughter, who was remarkably chatty for a stillborn.

Seventeen hours in, and Roeper was marching wearily from one end of the room to the other, buffeted by the crowd that surrounded him. The cameras observed this only as a tired old man swaying mechanically to a waning pulse. The ex-administrator's voice described in perfect detail the action of opioid receptors in the lateral thalamus while he gestured with his hands. The porous walls of the room had absorbed his attempts to draw a molecular structure with the blood of his torn hands and nails, but not before the cameras had recorded every last bond and angle.

It was after thirty-five hours that the room lock reached its expiry time, and the orderlies rushed in to find a pale and motionless Dr. Roeper. The man's frail figure had been coated in a plume of crimson, eminating from uncountable pores. On the floor, neither spot nor drop could be discerned. Medical personnel, of whom there were plenty, had watched the doctor's vital signs plummet well into the stages of irreversible shock. They went through the obvious motions of resuscitation, but to no avail.
Roeper's eyes, piercing and blue, were shrunken in their sockets. They tracked sluggishly, settling onto the unending ceiling. His irises seemed colourless and dead. The man's eyelids crinkled, and an unsettling smile split his face at an impossible angle.
"Oh, but I know." He chortled, his previously calm and collected voice now a ratcheting and spewing bark, "Now I know."
He began to laugh. It was a coarse and brutal guffaw that escalated into heady cackle, only to be cut short and trail into echo. The room's filamentous cameras watched detachedly as the good Dr. Roeper, inventor of the White Room, passed into the void forever.
Leo's hand traced the faint wisps of thought through the air. His hand, slicing an elegant curve, was steady and smooth.
The change, he thought, the rise and fall of it. His mind's eye saw the colourful bursts of derivation, plotting the hand's trajectory. Sinusoidal? How dull, how pedestrian, to trace so simple a thought. His smile faded, his hand dropped into the negative of his mental Cartesian. Still, it remained flat and incisive.
Leo lunged forward, suddenly flitting out into the third dimension of space. A new depth added, he plunged foreward, trampling over his notes, covering them with chlorophyll and dirt. Spirals of air and gentle sheets of wind were sketched out effortlessly. The rate, the curve, the divergeance; mere considerations that followed his motion. The numbers came without strain or stress, using only the slightest of willed ability.
How natural it all came to be, how perfectly apt. He collapsed to the ground, giddy. Turning to the cool grass beneath him, one couldn't help but stare. The long strands truncated the muddy chaos of the earth. Each solitary strand a warped perpendicular of growth. Leo narrowed his eyes, attempting to pierce the veil of mere sight. The image came to him easily, of a colonnade of self-iterated building blocks. Fractals of verdure coiled implacably...
A fiddlehead, picked from the fern at arm's length, was brought to bear by Leo's probing fingers. It begged to him to be uncoiled, to be free from a simple ratio. The fingers brought entropy's wrath, and the uneven frond lay bare. He examined it for a moment, before tossing it onto his crumpled notes, where the pages lay open to lines of integrands.
The only proof, he thought, is all around me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Snare drum, the gentle beating in the humid musk that echoes through the whole of the hall, as the minutes trickle away into the mist, and the gentlemen sip their Gibsons. The inimitable praetorian, the recently deposed Jack Temple, downs a different libation as the music hums around him. His neatest of bourbons, ever at hand, follows the tapping of his fingers on the glass.
Alcohol never agreed with him, but it tended to win the argument more times than not. He raised it, draining the thing, and promptly signalled for another. Such persuasive skills it had. Why, it could argue a man to lose his job, his marriage, and raise his fists against the slightest opponent. It was the abusive lover, the loving mother, and the naughty teacher asking for more. As the fresh glass met his lips, it kissed back with burning passion. It whispered sweet everythings in his ear.
The companion, Margot, looked leerily at Temple from across the table, aware of the ménage à trois. Her twitching fingers went absently to pull and curl at her golden locks, itching for distraction. This was not the place she wanted to be in, surrounded by vagrants, Negroes, and down-and-outs. However it was, Jack had what she needed. The manila dossier lay between them, unblemished by the sweaty air of the place.
"My flat rate," intoned Jack, his rheumy eyes coming to bear at least. "My flat rate, plus bonus."
"It will be wired tonight, Mr. Temple."
"I'm certain." He rubbed at his eyes, at the bags beneath them. "Your husband--"
"My husband will be getting better than he gave, Mr. Temple."
"I'm the messenger, not the judge, not the jury--"
"Nor the officer. Not anymore. You're a Mercenary, Mr. Temple. Your flat rate, 'Plus Bonus'? You're a few drops short of an absolute vulture. I wouldn't deny your skill, or your talents, but nor would I deny your weakness." Margot's eyes fell on Temple's emptied glass.
"And what would you have me do, fiddle while you burn Rome to the ground?"
Margot's hand dragged the dossier over to her side of the table. "I'm not a barbarian, Mr. Temple. I'm the last of this city's Old Guard."
Jack snorted derisively, rising from the table. "It wasn't the barbarians that sacked Rome, Mrs. Cromwell. It was the Legionnaires expatriots who led them over the city walls."
Margot, engrossed in the photographs, called to him as he left for door, "Fits you to a tee." Her eyes widened on the last picture, "Et tu, Brute?"
Jack gathered his coat, tipping the bartender as he did so. Always with the melodrama. He donned his hat, and stepped out into the rain.
Margot watched as his figure disappeared, and signalled for a glass of crème de menthe. She smiled ruefully into it, her eyes lean and hungry. None heard her whisper as the trumpet picked up, "Then fall, Caesar."

Jack Temple stopped at the corner of Hyde and Terrace, leaning tiredly against the street lamp. A flickering light danced around the shop corners, flashing across the windows. He lit a cigarette, and breathed in deeply. Smoke curled outwards, an ephemeral dragon rising into the grey night. Temple's eyes drifted, as if dreaming, surveying the surroundings. Rome burning? Hah, the city had caught on fire ages ago, and nobody had ever put it out. Let Margot have her petty victories.
"Pardon, you wouldn't 'appen to have a light, would you?" The voice came from a sharply-dressed man in a rain-spattered tan coat. He had appeared suddenly, perhaps hidden by the downpour. The down-turned visor of his fedora obfuscated his features.
Jack produced his lighter for the cigarette that perched out of the man's thin lips. As the wheel spun against the flint, sparks flashed out a face that was all at once pale, hawkish, and sharply defined.
"Merci," said the foreigner, his thin lips curling by the light of the embers. A distinctive Turkish aroma enveloped the two men. "Et aussi, au revoir."
The shot did not ring out, dampened as it was by the elements, and Jack felt a sudden heat spread across his chest, down his stomach. He looked down in disbelief at the rushing crimson that ate at his shirt. His legs buckled beneath him, and he fell to the pavement, water rushing over him. The smell of cordite and tobacco filled his last breaths, the smoke suffocating and cloying. Cheek to the pavement, Jack's eyes came softly to a close, seeing nothing but rain, ash, and the rising plumes of char.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Waiting Line Tidbits.

In the average day, the obligatory process of passing time fails to arouse any emotion beyond abject boredom. This fails to be the case in the instance of bureaucracy's famed invention: the queue. For those of you less able to either cope rationally with the tedium of the now-serving-number-34 purgatory, or simply able to drink subtly in public, occupying one's time with simple things prevents mass machete purchase/use. So, I took many helpful brochures, and covered them top to bottom with scrawl. The most legible of these are posted below.


'Lucky' Luke, perhaps not so appropriately named, gave more the impression of a passive volcano, disguised as a jacketed mendicant. Slouching and brooding on the chipped bench, he stared lazily up into the heavens, hair and beard providing the perfect triangle of graying bristle. His cigarette scowl fumed in the haze, carrying away, venting his will to burst and erupt.
His seams, worn as they were, still held. He would shift, and his tired skin creaked into its new position. An off hand ashed cigarette into a leathery front pocket, the charnel disappating to mere entropy.
Oh, how entropy had taken its toll, in leaps and boundswith each pack of reds, blues, unfiltereds and low-tars. His skin, his armour, far from fashionable, but further from unserviceable. It kept the rain from his bones, the road from his body. Rough cuts, that would score deep to scars, became glancing blows. Lucky's armor, worn and worn, was impenetrable. But entropy, the enemy, makes ash of us all.


Magic shoes, oh, Jamie's magic shoes. Mommy slipped them on, and leaned in to tell a secret: Magic shoes! Jamie bent down obligingly down to the fresh red laceless straps, and tugged. Listen to them rip- rips with no tears, just fuzzy straps that stared up. The sound pealed through the hallway, magic!
He burst out into the yard, a supercharged superhero travelling at the speed of sound. How fast you could go, how the birds would take flight and the squirrels scatter at the mere thought of the approach of the Boy With The Magic Shoes. Faster than a speeding bullet, and leaving race cars in the dust, that's what you could do. Why, Jamie could run to Timbuktu and back in time for supper.
Jamie collapsed, back to the grass, panting for air. He pointed his toes to the sky, reaching out to step on the clouds. He walked across the sky, Magic shoes treading daintily on the little cottony puffs in the deep blue, pausing to let the plane pass by. Jamie had to be delicate, of course-- to stomp down would just bring the rain down on him. It wouldn't do to wet the Magic shoes. Clomp, the shoes dropped earthwords. Still, there was magic left in the little sandles. Jamie lifted his head up from the grass, looking down at his feet.
Suddenly, he could look beyond it. The Magic shoes had turned the world on its side, and Jamie giggled, clutching the grass, expecting to fall down onto his mother's garden wall. Sidewalks became sidewalls, and mailboxes jutted out from the green mural that was all around him. Jamie goggled at one man who was calmly jogging straight up an asphault rampart. A skittish dog on a leash, paws firmly gripping to the vertical surface, was being pulled up by a waving neighbour. But the Magic shoes kept Jamie bolt-upright, staring across at the endless palisade of sky.
Mommy was calling him back in now, and the shoes pulled the ground back to its normal place. Jamie paused on the way in, only to run immediately upstairs for his sandles. Magic sandles.


The water washed down the taste of the medicine, but she still sipped it at her own pace. The new pills were just as nasty as the last, but the pain would subside, and her talons would become hands again, Glory Glory Halleleujah. Charlene, ghost of fonder times playing on cracked lips, breathed relief. The nurse accepted the glass, exchanging prefunctory smiles.
"New here, ain'tcha?" she asked the nurse, whose name tag read 'Craig Wen'. "Just lookit you. Back in my day, we didn't never have no handsome man kinda nurses. Somebody must've wised up before they dragged my ancient ass up in here. S'all the healthcare reform I'm gonna need, and you'd best believe it, glory."
Nurse Wen bowed his head, poorly covering an embarassed blush. He had heard of Charlene's inexplicable energy. With a body too frail to move without aid, it was reasonable to assume that her energy had to go somewhere.
"'Course, we didn't have many Asian folks back in my day neither. Damn fools in the guv'ment ain't never gonna learn 'less they look at how dumb they was. Puttin' Japs in camps wadn't about to do any kind a good, ain't doin' no good with the Arab folks today."
Yellow eyes, sharp and piercing, stood out from the worn and cracking alabaster.
"Oh, but Lord, what a time it was. Was one singer, worked my club, name of Blue Nightengale. And my, how she could sing. Now, I wan't no singer, but no slouch neither. You, sir," she said, lifting up quivering hands from the bed, "are looking at the softest ticklers of fine ivory that ever were. What fine music, what a fine piano. Lord, indeed, I can still feel it in my hands."
"Jazz?" asked Craig, absently, checking the obligatory gauges, dials, tubes and switches. Twenty milligrams of that, fifty milligrams of the other.
"Ain't no other what could call itself music, son. God's gift to the ears, but was the devil what made it get yo' legs a-movin', yo' arms a-wavin', and your heart stirrin' inside you fit to burst. Glory, Glory, ain't nothin' else so wicked like the jazz music, ain't nothin' so divine."
Charlene began a tremulous rise from the bed, and Craig move instinctively to move her walker into position. She shook her head- "Ain't no need. I ain't goin' nowhere". She sat there, quivering in a questionable resistance to gravity. "Ain't goin' nowhere fast," she intoned, pausing. "You a Jazz man, Nurse Wen?"
Craig frowned, at a loss- "I, uh, never really-- get jazz, I guess. It's kind of alien-- random."
Charlene chuckled, dispelling fears of admonition. "Ain't no worry. Me and Miss Nightengale, we got the jazz, got it good. Yes, Lord, how it flowed through."
She began to sway, shoulders and neck, her entire trunk moving to an inaudible beat. "Was a dancer, too, that Nightengale. Lord, how the devil made you dance." Leaning forward, she shifted her arms, and pushed her legs to dangle over the bed. "Wicked things, but Lord, you ain't never sure of your soul before it-- and after, ain't nothin' but soul that you got. Glory, glory."
Without warning, she surged forward, and was bolt upright on the floor. Nurse Wen rushedto her, ready to catch, but Charlene stood firm and true. "Lord, but they made the wickedest things the purest. My lovely Nightengale..."
All at once, her legs buckled, and Craig's hand smashed the emergency call button, immediately forgetting that he had given her the wrong medication. She stared up at him, broken into his arms, breathing hard, but smiling. "Boy, ain't nobody who gets jazz.... Only it's the jazz that gets you...."