Thursday, October 28, 2010

Driving on a Friday

Another lovely morning birthed. Okay, so that was a lie on at least one count, thought Lenny, fingers digging into the few itchy locks left on his head. If it had been a birth, it'd be the kind of birth that worries. A blue baby, hypoxic, suffocating. Much like the city at this ungodly hour, a lack of screams was more worrying than anything else. Cynicism, chalk it up to years in a yellow cab, with the back of your neck and the seat slowly exchanging color with one another.
Chrissakes, it was still dark out, and they call it a morning.
Christ? That was one to bother the rabbi with-- would that still count as an expletive? As far as the light blasphemies went, it was probably Lenny's favorite, barring the occasional bacon-burger with melted cheddar. In either case, he was pretty sure these things would be glossed over in whatever post-death judgment awaited him when they'd point out that he usually drove the cab all through the weekend.
“What can I say? I tried to make it Kosher, you know, for the Sabbath. I tried, I did, but you guys shoulda laid out something in the Torah about whether or not automatic transmission was on that 'thou really shouldn't'th' list. I at least get partial credit for never learning stick, right?”
That was how he imagined it'd go, with him throwing up his hands, laying thick on the charm. He was pretty sure the G-dash-D would be one to let the schlepping slide for a kidder like Lenny. What's a Jew to do when gas prices are what they are? Maybe, and I'm not trying to complain, but maybe if you'd put the Promised Land in a little further in-land closer to some of that goopy black you instead decided to our neighbours who ain't so fond of us, maybe then a guy could rest easy on the Sabbath. I mean, sure, our guys cracked the atom and made with the power plants, but you could have at least put a little bit more effort into giving us some of that good stuff, that most liquid of assets. Oy.
“Look at you, you're falling asleep back there! You want I should get you a nice pillow and some warm milk?”
The fare, some college-age gunking up the window with an indistinguishable facial oil of some description. His eyes flicker. “Mmmmuh. Need... sleep.”
“Don't be roused to articulation, now, my friend, I wouldn't be able to handle it without having a nervous breakdown. Inadequacy. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you, it's a sentiment that brings people together when combined with that right amount of pity. I know you haven't met my parents, but it's gotten them through hard times, y'know, the kind that really only started after I came along.”
The kid peeled himself from the window, and it was difficult not to immediately think of the sound that comes from undoing velcro straps. “Need sleep. Doctors say we're not getting enough, or something. I'm all for that.”
“Doctors oughta know better. Sleep's only really something for the really young and the really old. Sure, you fall into the former category, and I myself am approaching on the latter like my mother at a chinese buffet, but we are still part of a category that exists solely as a caffeinated milieu that runs from dawn until dusk and then puts a few more hours on the punchcard to cover the incidental expenses you're doomed to bring up because in the end, you just had to have another dessert because not only does it taste so good, but you come from a family where your mother convinces you're anorexic until you're starting to put more on the plate than can be reasonably lifted by the average athlete.”
Traffic was slow, dull, molasses moving up-hill in the tundra. Over the dashboard was a sea of assholes who'd neglected to turn off their turn signals. Honking one-upmanship felt like a necessary pursuit to avoid the urge to put four on the floor and ten grand's worth of repairs into the bumper in front of you.
“Trust me, you get enough to do once you're my age. You don't get to be tired, not a bit. You're too exhausted to be tired. Don't listen to them, what they say, it's the perfect example that two wrongs make a right.”
“Or a left-- at the lights-- the, uh, the ones behind us.”
“C'mahn, that thing was more jammed than a peanut-free PB an' J. Only way we could get it moving would be to do something terrible with something sharp and throwable, and I'm dressed in my good shoes today, so I'd rather not resort to something so litigious at this early in the morning.”
The student shifted back into his seat, eyelids protestingly halving his already glazed-over sockets. “If it's too early, you really should get up at a later time. More sleep.”
Smug little schmuck. Way to win an argument and make me feel inadequate.
“Christ!” Grinned Lenny, but it probably didn't count. Probably.
Just another morning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

After-school Specials

“What seest thou else in the dark backwards and abysm of time? In Shakespeare's work, elements of prophecy and vision are recurrent themes, often punctuated by impending darkness to set the mood. One can imagine that the sinister nature of these predictions was all-too-real for Shakespeare's time, where faeries still lit lanterns in the still night, and witches plotted strange and unnatural alchemies. The dark and frequently cynical message of Shakespearean prophecy works with the paranoid tremors of the day, where anything outside of Christendom was foul magic indeed. Thus, any use of it must somehow be justified. In the case of Macbeth, the faith that the titular warlord has in the witches' fortune is his undoing, as he is still ignorant of the clear anathema demanded by interruption of nature's course (having committed regicide). One must not ignore the urgings of the supernatural, as they do tend to be entirely correct, but again underlined is the often dark settings of any words of prophecy. A seer warns Caesar of his impending death at the Ides of March; A ghost tells of murder and betrayal at the hands of a certain uncle-cum-king of the Danes; a coven of witches push on a nobleman the expectation of royalty and invulnerability, provided that the deal is sealed in blood. Even the more benevolent use of magic has sinister undertones: consider the vile Caliban that the magician Prospero has restrained.
Anathema is just as constant: Brutus, Macbeth, Claudius, etcetera, all meet their ends for having consorted with unnatural prophecy. Even the great Prospero burns his books, washing his hands of magic once and for all, and in this case, the appeal to the audience is explicit as in his parting words Prospero asks for the indulgence of their benevolence...”
My eyes are heavy as I read this last sentence. “Not a bad start,” I write, “but it needs more focus. Your use of language is deft, and this makes for an intriguing introduction to your essay. Just be careful to stay on track! It remains unclear as to whether you're talking about magic, prophecy, or simply attitudes towards witchcraft in Shakespeare's time.”
The pronouncement is already bleeding through the page in appropriately red ink. I've made my mark, given my opinion, and have made the opening blows for him to start trimming the fat from his essay. A sigh escapes from my lips. I am the Grand Executioner of rhetoric, but even this righteous work is making my eyelids heavy.
“Mmm? What is it, honey?”
That sweet little face looks up at me like I'm a work of art wrapping a visionary-mastermind. I can't tell if she's looking cute like this on purpose, or whether she's just incidentally showing off my impacts as Number One Mom. Ever. I have as much written on my coffee mug.
“I'm done my homework. Can I watch the TV?”
“You're done already?”
“Ahuh!” Her head bobs, wiggling around those lovely little bangs.
“Well, okay, but only until Daddy gets home. Then you wash up for dinner, right?”
Oh, honey, you're going to be a heartbreaker when you grow up, like it or not. You know I can barely refuse you as it is. So innocent and full of some of that happy fluff that too many of us adults need to be stuffed with. We're so empty next to you, sugar. Momma loves you so much.
She's in the other room, and has already flicked on one of those 24-hour kids networks, you know the kind: less eyebrow-raising content for parents. God knows we need some kind of distraction for those little minds now and then, and having TV babysitting your kidling lessens the guilt if they're getting in some of that ostensibly wholesome educational programming.
I have to smile. Not that she keeps one off of my face every time she flashes that cutesy thing she does with her eyes. I did something right.
But! Back to the papers. Older young minds must be moulded into essay-writers of superlative quality. I live in hope. If I have to be cynical, it'd be to say that it's more to enforce some sense of literacy on these kids. Keep 'em in school.
…Something whispers impatiently in the back of my head: “That's what you get for letting TV babysit 'em, huh? They don't know a book from a boulder, much less a raven from a writing-desk!”
My brain is such a smart-ass sometimes.

Don't overdo it. My little star pupil here has some nice stuff down about the Bard's hocus-pocus, but he's missing a few details. Maybe it'll add to his argument?
Maybe it'll throw him for a loop, make him do a re-write. Hm.
“Have you thought about some of Shakespeare's comedies? Midsummer Night's Dream has some comparatively sunnier instances of magic.”
The ink is on the paper. I've done it. I've made my verdict. It's a bait-and-switch approach to teaching: if the kid is smart enough to address that, he might come over with a stronger essay. Maybe throw in some of the disasters that happen with the spells, or some of that 'center cannot hold' jingle-jangle by magical mischief-makers.
“But what if...”
The voice is back, boxing my ears.
“But what if he really is defeated by this? You specifically mentioned it, so he knows that he has to mention it if he wants a good grade!”
So? I'm starting to feel the coffee leaving me, and I rub my eyes impulsively.
“So-- if he can't fit it in, he'll give up and toss this away!”
Voice is right, but it can't be helped. Sometimes, a bit of unnatural selection is needed. What doesn't kill us makes us better writers, right?
Right, really happy endings for Poe, Plath, and that nice Mr. All-American novelist whose Grapes of Wrath turned out to be ball-bearings in a loaded shotgun fixated on providing a last meal at the behest of its owner. Oh, Hemingway, you cad.
“So don't stomp on them!”
I swat Voice away. I'm a teacher, fer Chrissakes. 'Kill with kindness' is hardly a guiding philosophy if you want a student to progress. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is an indespensible tool in the ink-stained quest for truth, knowledge, and academic happiness.
Rewrite, restructure, and he'll pass with flying colors.

Already later in my mind than it is in that 'real world' outside of it. Note to self: learn to control time. I'm massaging my temples over a mug of hot tea, thumb and forefinger working magic headache-healing semicircles on either side of my forehead. I'm in the doorway to the den, where Shawna's nice and hypnotized by Big Bird and Elmo. Go, learning box, go! Make my kid smarter for me while I do other stuff!
Ah, she ain't doing half bad, I have to say, even if I'm a teensy bit biased in that regard.
Well-put, clearly capable judge of character. You've earned another Mom Of The Year mug, and good on you for being so awesome.
Why, thank-you, equally impartial part of me that congratulates my hard work as a mother. I think I will celebrate with a goofy smile and a bit of hot tea.
“What's the matter, Mommy?”
“Oop, nothing to worry about, honey, Mommy just forgot her tea was so hot.”
I didn't need those tastebuds anyway. Stupid goofy grin. Stupid parental pride making me get blindsided by the thermal properties of microwave'd Earl Grey.
“Okay, Mommy, just be careful.”
Shucks. Look at Shawna give me some good motherly advice. She's a natural. The self-satisfaction, having survived a minor scalding, bubbles back to the surface, where it puts a probable smirk on my features. Kids: Clearly the best medicine.
“Hey-hey, sexy lady.”
The whisper in my ear, low and purring, is so sudden that I almost spill/scald myself again. I'm caught off-guard, and a little swear escapes my lips.
“Shit, Stu! You scared me!”
Fortunately, Shawna's too busy singing along with a number-reciting plush Dracula on the TV to have picked up on my misuse of the grown-up language.
Stu's standing there, giving me a wide grin. “Sorry, babe. Thought you heard me come in.”
My ass. He's not sorry, and I'm damn sure he crept up on me on purpose. I narrow my eyes, giving him the pouty you're-in-some-shit-now pucker. Don't giggle when he's looking at you like that, you'll never fake being pissed at him.
“Guess I'm sleeping on the couch tonight, huh.” Oh, that's right, you know what's good for you. He pulls some puppy-dog face, trying as hard as I am to keep it straight.
“Not a chance. I'm going to let this offense slide, but you'd better make it up to me.”
This nets another grin.
“You're too good to me.”
I am. He pulls me close, and I get that eyes-closed rush when I'm in his arms all over again. God, I love him. I can only think of how he still does this to me. I breathe it in, getting a nice hit of cologne. Aw, shit. I've caught myself letting it slip. Old habits, right? Loving, forgiving me, checking for perfume on his clothes. Old habits die hard, dammit, but I'm trying, Stu. I really am. You gave me my life back.
He doesn't sense my stiffening, and pulls away to greet our daughter on one knee and with open arms, the standard opening for accepting a flying daughter. She turns away from the TV, and her face lights up. Here comes the pitch...
“Daddy! You're home!” She bursts from her sitting spot on the rug right into a chest. Like a spring-loaded man, he clamps his arms around her the moment she hits him at Mach 3. Kiss, kiss.
It's a bad mindset that I've triggered. I had to hold myself back from glancing at his collar for lipstick, and now I'm trying not to think that it's only Stu who gets that kind of warm welcome. When did I last get to catch our daughter on the welcome-home kid-launching? Stu gets them all.
Come on, it's not true, and you know it. Number One Mom for a reason, remember? Smiles and sparkles and hugs and snuggles, to say nothing of bed-time tuck-ins and kisses goodnight.
“Number One Mom forever.” I murmur. And don't forget it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The time's arrival was among those subtle enough where the day's sunshine simply slipped away to follow the tree leaves' escape some few weeks earlier. Breath would linger in the air so crisp without ever softening it. Nights grew and grew along the clock faces and sundials, simply swallowing up the soft light. For those with a certain affectation for the sun's luminescence, this would be problematic.
Rebecca, on the other hand, had found pleasant substitutes to the apparent antidepressant effects of UV radiation. She had made the glorious realization that winter was a time whose delights were reserved for those who had contrast available to them. Appreciating winter was like a zoo, as, for the most part, the answer to that question, 'what would be easier', was easily grasped: Better to see close-as-glass the majesty and triumph of a pride of lions playfully batting at each other in the lazy sun, or better to be dropped straight into the dry season of the Savannah where the most available appreciation of a pride of lions would be strictly in the internal sense after that majesty and triumph devolved into an easy meal for capable lionesses.
Yes, thought Rebecca, snow was a heap of lions burying any possible escape from the frank comforts of home. She was sitting in the perfect manner of a home-happy woman, gown and slipper-dressed, conquering a novel from her recliner. Her tabby, far from a lion, watched the swirls and strides of the vast winter squall outside, comfortably purring on Rebecca's outstretched legs. It was a sight that would make you curl your toes in bare joy for being on the right side of the glass dividing line.
She sipped at her coffee, conspicuously adorned with a candy cane. Winter definitely was the best way to feel warm.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Her own little island, an inverted pyramid of dirty and rock, twisted into a vague spiral shape by the gnarled roots of her tree, floated through the twilight with a leisurely ease. she had no boatman, nobody at the tiller, but it wasn't like there was any of that to be had, Direction, that is. She wasn't even sure she was drifting, or whether it was just the stars moving around her, twinkling wineglasses of quicksilver caught in a cloud that stretched as far as the eye could see.

Sitting on her back, in the shade of the tree (that wasn't really shading her anything at all, with all the brightness in a distance many times that of the old Earth to its sun), she wriggled her toes into the cooled grass, and watched the Everything go by. she didn't get tired or hungry, and the little island seemed to have mass enough to keep her feet sturdily anchored.

The things the cosmos had for her to see, innumerable but not uncountable, boundless as imagnation, were all there as surely as could be. For moments that stretched out to their very limits, she couldn't help shake the feeling that this was hers, that she was at the center, or that it had been made for her alone. But, on reflection, she concluded that this was a selfish thing to think. Who then would have have a chance to share it with? Surely it was as much theirs as hers (whoever 'they' were). It would be much better just to share in the beauty of it. Yes, definitely that. she'd still just keep her island to herself for now, as it was small enough, but everything else-- well, there was enough of it to go around.

It had rather been a while since she had seen anyone, really. It became difficult to tell how long or how far ago, or even when she'd come here and started drifting as she was now. She certainly didn't feel old, and although she really was rather young (perhaps 10), the unshakeable sense that she'd been around for millenia gave her little shudders. she'd get wrinkles. she'd start getting back pains and grow hair out of her ears. She'd start calling everyone 'Sonny' just to remind them how old she was and how young they still were, as if they needed the reminder.

No, better to lie here in the grass for now.

She started wondering about the big things, and not just the ones in the distance. Big ideas that couldn't be so much seen or heard so much as thought about or pictured. Big head ideas. Just how long had it been? How much time had she seen and felt run through her fingers? She'd tried counting it out one by one, each single units of some grander measurement, but she kept forgetting the numbers. Just as much, it wasn't at all a help that she didn't always seem to be moving forwards in time, and strongly suspected that time would catch up on her when it felt sneaky enough to do so.

Forwards? Backwards? Upwards, maybe, or side to side. Worlds did loop de loops, or turned over on their head, and every so often, the long silvery stretch of cosmos rise and fell from her island's horizon as it pleased. Or maybe the island itself was twisting and turning while the universe stood still. It just became so hard to keep track of what wasn't moving when all around her the creeping swirls of star-stuff curled itself in and out of the velvet void.

One day, she'd walked across her island, from one end to another. One hundred and twenty steps, in small strides. Sitting back afterwards, there was the satisfaction of knowing at least one constant. her island was one hundred and twenty steps long.

After a time that may or may not have been longer than it was short, she jumped again to her feet, and walked the distance again, same as she'd done before, from the little patch of clover to the old root on the other side of the island. How good it felt, to march on top of her new finding! she wanted a trumpet and a marching band with streamers and baton-twirling acrobats, a fanfare of adulation for her one hundred and twenty paces, a journey like no other.

Only, as she came to the old root on the other end of the island, she twirled about, looking back at the clover. Something was amiss. Something was different. Ninety-two footsteps had taken her to the root from her starting point. Ninety-two?

When she thought the journey would be like no other, she didn't think it would be in that sense!

she sat down dejectedly onto her usual spot, plopping back onto her back with her arms stretched out and her hands behind her head. Ninety-two? Surely she'd stepped in different amounts. That must have been it.

In the pale light of a billion stars, each burning with flames long extinguished by the time they'd met her, she walked again, this time with one foot firmly after the next, heel to toe, toe to heel. Two hundred and sixty-three steps, her arms stretched out on either side like wings. Much better. Much more accurate. Another accomplished smile spread across her face. Wiping the stardust from her shoulders, she made her way back to the tree, whistling without echo.

she heard it before she felt it, a curious warbling in an otherwise even whistle (she'd thought). Suddenly, she felt pushed back, and she fell to her knees. she sat there for a few moments, puzzled, before rising anew. No pushing, it seemed. she gave a cautious whistle, low and steady. It didn't change. She wiped her grass-stained hands on the legs of her jeans.


A curious thought squirmed its way to the top of her neck, and she found himself dashing to the small patch of clover. Before she knew what she was doing, she was again putting one foot in front of the other, step by step, measuring out to the tree as before.

Three hundred and forty-two!



She'd almost lost count, maybe she'd slipped a number or two in by mistake. she tried again, this time going to the clover. Three hundred and forty-two again. Drat!

A neat puff of pollen fumed up as she sat down in the clover, not knowing what to make of this, much less that, or even anything. Well, she did know what to make of some things, but this--

As if in anticipation, a blue-green cloud of misty being bloomed into view, and her frown was muted into a flat expression of enraptured appreciation. A sigh was followed by watery eyes, wiped away. It wasn't bad to feel so small when the elegant universe around her was so big as to never be completely seen. So very, very big, and all she had was her little island.

Brightness again, the soft glow of a countless minute dots of light over a dark blue mass that loomed forward. As it came closer (or she came closer to it), the dots separated into tinier pricklings, pinholes on a surface that became flatter and flatter before she'd even had time to count. she looked back, away from the engulfing place, and to the brilliant house of lights to which everyone and everything had been invited to stay. She waved at it in thanks.

“What'cha up to, honey?”

She jumped at the voice. “Dad! Don't creep up on me like that.”

Dad gave a low smile, and her eyes twinkled at his daughter as he took a sip of coffee from the white mug in his hand. “I made plenty of noise as I was bumbling out here in the dark looking for you. I think you were just too caught up in whatever it was you were doing, which from your mother's point of view, is letting your dinner get cold.”

“Awww,” she pouted. “Can't I stay out a bit longer? I'm only slightly kinda hungry.” An angry grumbling at the statement announced the sudden betrayal by her empty stomach. Dad raised an eyebrow. “It's... It's just so nice out here tonight.” she looked up, and dad followed her gaze to the night's prism of shrouded colors.

“But it will be waiting for you when you finish your supper. Heck, you might even get to come out to it again if you eat everything on your plate.” said Dad, scooping her up off her feet without serious protestation.

“I guess.” she said.

“You guess right, pumpkin. Now come on, let's go have some dinner, and then the universe is yours until bedtime. All yours, every last speck of it.”

“...Dad?” she asked, perhaps a little too close to her father's ear.

“Yeah, kiddo?”

“It might be too much for just me. You should have some too.”

“Why thank-you. Count me in.” said Dad, who then gave her a big squeeze as they made their way back across the clover that dotted their backyard and into the waiting light of home. There were definitely a few things she could count on.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spilled Milk

Helene was no particular slouch in the looks department, though approving her in the looks department would be like approving a V8 engine in a bicycle. Best to play it honest and give her due credit for what would be in any appraisal a tongue-ejecting specimen of smoke and sex. Honestly? Such a thing to ask for with Helene. With perfectly toned legs that, as they say, go all the way to the top, the merest hint of acrobatic sexy-flexy more than just made a bottom half begging to be twisted and turned in a tumult of steaming potency, instead making it the men brought to the begging positions, sparing her knees the effort. Even without being US-legal a drinker, she was a punch-drunk knock-out stretch of coiled sleekness. Why she was working in the bar-- nobody knew.
When she moved, it would always be as a pouring of muscle in every sense of the fluidity one thinks of with the words 'lithe' or 'mercurial' come out in your paper's yellowing crossword puzzle. Add a pair of wings to those heels she has a hidden stamina for wearing from one end of the evening to another, and she's suddenly a Hermes on the decidedly pink end side of the androgyny wall. Well, pink and black.
The engineers would come in and make whispered jokes about getting the numbers on her curves, and sometimes she would smile at their barely suppressed premature ejaculations of calculus notation, spreading all along the edges of whatever writing paper could be found. And sometimes she would taunt a more literal reaction out of them by daintily picking up one of their rulers or protractors, holding it to her breasts, asking for measurements (it was never elaborated on who would be providing them).
After all, it was all about fluidity: stalking from one dry spot to another, watering down whatever sobriety threatened to bollock the mood fuelled by cheap jukebox jingles and cheaper ethyl of varying quality, spills and splashes of conversation, blood, beer, vomit, laughter, song, urine, or unmanageable combination of most of them. The pub heaved and sighed, crested and waned, and Helene hopped about to treat the dry sores.
It wasn't that Jason ever remembered the place as being nice, or fun, or even forgivably cheap, nor did he ever expect that it would get better, worse, or change in any particular sense. The point that it was a constant hodgepodge, predictable in its turbulence, a little chaos fractal generated by the simple equations containing the usual variables and coefficients for tempers, stupidity, pathos, and intake. Simple things, simple people, leading to something occasionally fantastic, usually if you zoomed out or waited long enough to see it. Oh, sure, bias in hindsight, maybe a little bit of cognitive dissonance where your memory decides to Stalinize every last image with an airbrush of nostalgia, attachment, or other crap-- still, the place was as it was and as it always would be, the firmament that came with the void and chaos just because there needed to be a place for people who, from the moment the first fermentation put the first protoplasm a good two sheets to the wind, had been giving the whole of Creation the finger. Ernie's Den earned that distinction, being a repository for all manner of assholes, ingrates, and fuckers with a reputation that could outdo Hades if only it were to get itself a proper mastiff guardian instead of the limp-wristed security that pretty much regarded the legal drinking age as a suggestion.
That had been the initial appeal to Jason and Stan, who had moved beyond the faux maturity of the trendsetting cliques who drank (heavily sweetened) cappucinos, complained about migraines, and broached the octogenarian mode of thought in that they inundated one another with contempt for how the world was turning out under the leadership of people whose greed blinded them (preferring instead the visionary idealogues whose clear political and social iconoclasm were obviously the only reasons for their repression). By the time that the mid-stage teenagers had discovered the ether pit that was Montreal, flocking as they would to the buses and parents who would be wont to purchase summer homes in Dorval, Brossard, or else on the island itself, the two had already become afficianados of malt, hop hedonists of the snobbery of which would regularly further the divide between the Pabst-drinking pursuivants of the high-proof rush and the selectively consumptive have-nots who preferred the complex tastes of the brasseries to actually admitting that even heavy integration into the former group of swill-drinkers would not in any way get them laid by a woman of Coors-compromised critical faculties. So it was that Jason and Stan would grace the hormonal urges and demands of their newly de-alopecia'd genitals with the company of suds rather than sex.
In moderation.
Ed's, the bar in question, was as much to them a part of their education as the classes they skipped out on to go there. They didn't just learn about throwing a punch (in Jason's case), or taking one (in Stan's), playing darts, or hustling at pool (again, also Stan's)- they made their own strides of maturity in deft contrast to their social superiors, most important of which was not the contempt of the popular groups, but instead a rich and fertile pragmatic cynicism.
Of course, other lessons were learned, a necessity in the face of the fresh and screaming infant on their shoulders that was puberty, which could only be moderately stunted by immoderate consumption of abortive spirits, or perhaps by gorging onessself on engorging imagery followed by self-administered release motions. Nevertheless, despite the varying strategies to calm untested lust with a literal handful of strategies, the only clear resolution would be to actually go and divest themselves of their virginal charges.
“Helene.” said Stan, one night, knee rattling worryingly against the underside of the table. He gripped his Pilsner with an intensity that might fling it out of an already sweat-filled space between hand and glass. “I totally need to fuck Helene. Oh, Christ, I need to get laid.”
“Nobody fucks Helene. Not only is she more likely to lay you out than lay you, but you have to deal with the fact that she's a cocktease of lethal proportions. Picture a nymphomaniac who exudes venomous barbed wire from her skin. That's Helene.” Jason busied himself with overdue homework, already spattered with flecks of drying lambic, the particulate remains of which were a vague eyebrow-raising worry as to when the pub had last cleaned its taps.
“Don't make me picture that, Jesus, don't you see I'm already jonesing for this?”
Boys.” There was a stifled squeak from Stan as he only partially succeeded in reining in his sudden anxious terror. The glass did not make it, ruining a full page of Jason's scribblings, causing him to move in one motion to the backing of the booth and raising his arms and hackles to their full height, his mouth framed in a wordless 'O' of fury. “Another round for you?”
Helene had a habit of flowing into the environment without being noticed. She had her lips curled in a canine demi-smile, and was dressed in her usual oil-slick dress that resisted the greasy anarchy around it to a level of remarkable endurance that was on par with her resistance to being worn down in heels. She flicked a mascara-rich lash at Jason. “Better get that blow-dried.”
Jason, oblivious to the wink or at least feigning it to further punish the ham-handed unhanding of the hops (which was working, by any measure of the full-body stiffening of Stan), dryly said, “Stan, you can help me with that, can't you? Just purse your lips, huff, puff, and stop blowing down your damn beer.”
Helene's canines exposed themselves further. “I'll get you a new one, Stan-man. Can't have you jonesing about like that.” She bent past a crimson Stan, bringing a suddenly produced washcloth in swoops about the table, mopping up the beer. This exaggerated the movement of her breasts, and with the barely measurable proximity that Helene was putting herself, a similar tinge to Stan's red crept up Jason's collar. Helene straightened up, slapping the cloth onto the dress that wouldn't even notice it.
“I'll tell Morgan at the bar to set you up. Call me if you need me.”
She slinked away in a writhe-inducing writhing, and Stan slammed his face down onto the table.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Also:Fuck.”
Jason, however, was drawn to the one dry corner of his workbook, where appropriated ballpoint sounded out a local number. A 'call me' would probably have been superfluous, distracting from the point that the number had been given at all. “That's new.” he said. It wasn't. It was just Helene attending to the dry spots. A knowing smile crept about Jason's face. “Cheer up,” he said to the bruised ego sitting opposite him, head still in an unmopped puddle of flat beer, “You don't have to deal with barbed wire and venom.”
Stan muttered a thanks steeped in sarcasm and followed with profanity. Jason tucked the number in his pocket without particularly announcing the motion. No point in being excessive about it. Well, even if such things promised to exceed... Well. The pragmatic cynicism drifted into his now unflappable good humor. Virginity's loss, by the large, would already be humiliating, disgraceful, and probably forgettable. Better to go in being certain of that. Better still to have a fucking wonderful time doing it.
“Well, blow me down.” said Jason, rather relieved at the prospect of dousing his ailing parts with something less volatile than booze.
“Just shut up and get me my beer from the bar. I'm jonesing.”
Of course he was.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Loco Motion

In an ocean of heat, he sat with the kind of sagging posture that, had he been any younger, would have been the immediate attention of a orthopaedically obsessive parent. Instead, he simply endured snide looks from people whose nipple-tuck beltlines instantly marked them out as bitter seniors. Boredly, Carlos’ eyes would flicker to the fifty-something in barely sufficient khakis, who sat opposite them with her legs simultaneously on top of the table and splayed out, giving a shudder-inducing view to anyone not yet overwhelmed by apathy. Her thighs seemed to drift and wander in the currents of the ceiling fans, and with the blank expression on her face, there was an obscene sensation of being winked at, if not beckoned. ‘Come out and play, nobody else is home!’.

If Carlos had marbles, he would have tried to flick one in.

“How long until the train?”

Six hours. “Reply hazy,” said Carlos, half-eyelidded to mask the frank magnetism of the flickering inner thighs. “Ask again later, but fuck off until then.”

Tim stirred in his seat, having lost count of the Mississippi-seconds that had escalated into the realm of the exhaustively long. “Ffffffffffffuck,” he declared.

He pulled himself from the chair, hearing a small rip of leatherette chair as it sweatily tried to follow him, and ambled over to the ticket counter. A newspaper-reading attendant sat behind the inverted T of speaking space, presumably designed to minimized the less-welcoming effect of regular Amber Alerts in far-away counties, Terrorism Alert warnings, and the stern message that those who left their baggage unattended would be left to the overactively imagined punishments of a few uniformed and enthusiastic sadists with latex-clad arms greased up to the elbow.

Carlos had muttered earlier: “I always get the impression that the better part of the Border Patrol have done time. Who better to stop the rampant threat of terrorism than a group of gold-tooth fuckers with prison stars and cobwebs? Bin Laden will shit himself.”

The teller, at least, looked calm and bookish, pen ticking out the day’s Sudoku while also attending to the consternations of synonym-finding in the crossword, a well-worn thesaurus at arm’s length further indicated the commonality of the hobby. Air conditioned chill poured from the bottom of the window, drenching Tim’s front with a ball-clenching shiver of envy.

“Six hours.” The teller hadn’t even looked up from his paper, smirking only with an accompanying 9 in the centre square of his Sudoku.

“Fffffffuck. Excuse my French.”

“Mmh. Dastardly prevention, six letters…”

Carlos, on the other hand, had pulled his eyes from the peeking come-hither hairs, and concentrated his attention on the efforts of a pinched woman pulling back on the leash of a dog whose unfortunate lineage had probably been assembled from breeders who simply hated the well-being of other people. He couldn’t tell the exact breed, but it was almost certainly the kind that would make the most satisfying sound when crushed roundly beneath a heel, a sound that would, with equal certainty, be drowned out with the relieved sighs of everyone around.

A mail courier came in, apparently celebrating a canid bastardization of Daddy-Daughter work day with the appearance of a black lab whose size and beauty was mentionable even in the absence of a comparative Snap-Crackle-Pop mutt such as the one owned (though the word was only barely applicable) by the pinched-looking woman.

“He doesn’t bite,” smiled the mail courier.

The fuck he won’t, thought Carlos. Chow down, if there is a God, the lab has a taste for mouth-sized mutts. Silent thanks to a provably existent deity were whispered when the mutt launched itself at the lab with decibel-scale disregard for its own safety. Come on, come on. The sudden image of brain-atrophy’s general correlation to the degree of domestication materialized in the very front of Carlos’ prefrontal, aided by the lab’s three degrees of difference from its lupine counterparts. Do the smart thing, do justice to Cujo and Cerberus and all those other wonders of your kind, o lordly lab.

The lab, however, pussified in the clear absence of its balls, backed off, the mail courier giving an obliging dogs-will-be-dogs look at the pinched woman.

“Foofers does bite, I’m afraid,” said the desiccated dog-owner.

“Fffffffuck.” Came the distant exclamation of Carlos.

“Agreed.” Said Tim, neatly settling back into the welcoming slop of sweaty leatherette.

The clock ticked on with a mean-spirited disquiet. Crowds had come and gone in the face of false hope bursting up from the depths, before being dragged under again: “It’s going the wrong way.”

“Fuck’s sake. I just lost count of the Missisippis.”

“You need to get a watch.”

“You need to watch as I bang your mom.”

“Well, you are virginal enough to get a pity-poke from her.”

“And that’s how you were born.”

“Only if you seesaw the blood alcohol levels of both party with the time involved. I’d say she’d need a new liver after your thirty seconds in heaven.”

“Heaven is right, man. Just love those Pearly Gates on her.”

“Yeah, I like that, Biblical. I can see that you’re speaking from experience, getting that whole Rod of Judgment thing from those curly-haired cherry-bum cherubim over at the local hole of glorying.”

And so on…

“How long until the train?”

Three hours, but Carlos was giving out a band-saw snore, squeezed ass-to-neck inside the leatherette dividers along the bench, his bucket hat pulled over his clumped hair.


“Would sir care for a nap?” Asked the affable Stephen Fry Jeeves, conjured up from the air in a gentle poof of dulcet-toned English. Jeeves proferred a tray of imagined daiquiris, strawberry slush drenched in the humid sweat that if nothing else was sensible for the mirage’s setting.

“I’d like that, Jeeves, but more useful would be my time-control slippers.”

“Very good, Sir. I’ll simply inform the laws of natural temporal passage that you are not to be bothered. Would that be all?”

“No, Jeeves- if you’d be so good as to modify my imagination’s output into something more… erotic, I’d be much obliged.”

“Also a very good choice, Sir. The usual able-breasted sophomore nymphomaniac line-up?” Stiff upper lip, eyebrows ever-rising into an unwrinkled and unfettered brow, Jeeves always understood without passing judgment. Or, at least, without passing judgment in a manner that wasn’t in some way drily tolerant a barb of disapproval.

“Shirtless. And no bras, Jeeves, I will not abide that.”

“But of course. I assume also that Sir will, once he has wiped off the ropy strings of excitement from his abdomen after the passing of that so-momentous occasion within the restroom’s cubicle, appreciate something to alleviate the injurious self-loathing?”

“The Long Island Iced Tea- without the snark, Jeeves.”

“Your wish is my command, sir.”

And so on…

“Uch, dude, you stink.” Said Carlos to the rejoining and unnoticeably flushed Tim.

Tim paid him no heed as once more he slapped into a chair unhygienically marked as his territory. Antiperspirant, he thought, all the while waving a dainty pinky against the refreshing heat-hallucination cocktail, should have brought some of. Make a note to Jeeves.

The magnetic cougar flaps across from Carlos had now been replaced with a lumpy figure swaddled in bandages in the area of a surgical brace. The man’s arm had been placed in a plaster cast set at an angle against his torso, propped up by a sturdy looking device that together with the other white wrap of gauze gave the curious sense that if the man were tipped sideways, the fingers on his broken side would drip tea. His eyes snapped open in time with a uni-tooth mouth.

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Came the wail from the oxycodone-deficient man, settling in for periodic repetitions apparently unnoticed by the apathetic tolerance of the observers.

Two hours. Carlos pulled the bucket-hat down over his ears as far as could be done.

“Fffffffuck.” Said Tim.

And so on…

“How long-“

“As long as my dick, cabron, so stop asking.”

“Hey! You’re right, it’s here!”

Carlos leapt up with an implacable ferocity. “Oh, fuck! Yes!”

Masses set into the neat lines of the queue-forming variety. Yips of excitement joined a burbling hum of grateful smiles.

“Only three hours until we’re there!” cheered Tim.

“Three hours? What?”

“Three hours!”

Carlos squinted at the timetable on the wall. Slowly, his eyes screwed themselves together in some tremendous mental constipation to combat the shitstorm. “All the times are printed in military time. 24-hour clock. That arrival time is in the AM.”

“…Fifteen hours.”

The Unison, “Fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffuck.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dreamt something better

The covers are warm and inviting, and heedless of his redolence. They want only his lust for sloth, his naked embrace of textiles. It is so simple to collapse into them, taking mind to keep at least one orifice pointed gargoyle-like over the edge of the bed; a combination theory and experience has taught him the value of choosing the orifice most connected to his various breathing/life-sustaining parts. Semi-paralyzed in a sea of cotton and synthetic fibre, his mouth flops open and closed as much as could be expected from any such landed creature unused to the unyielding firmament. He can only just breathe, escalating to a wave and crest of hyperventilation. A joint actually moves, the precursor of total motionlessness. Dream, dream, dream... Bittersweet, as always, is the amber wave of memory that he plummets into.

Memories of the first, a title so well-deserved, bubble to the top, bringing words as gentle and soft as could be. Thoughts of her, next to him, warm with the gentle play of hands on hands and suggestive smoothing of her back- on a dare, almost, his hand might move next to her face on the carpet, a bold gesture for the secret prize of closeness, of having her warm breath fall gently onto his fingers. Remember the wide eyes when she looped up her foot to bring it around his ankle, playfully rubbing that in the mind turned to images of subtle games played under tables by winking lovers, socked toes darting furtively up leggings to caress bare calves-
Her face, and body, a mirror image of his except in the broken symmetry where she had crossed over heel-to-heel, where his hand rested just moments away from her cheeks. Pale hazel eyes, always on him, glinting with bare appreciation-- warm embers of the usual fire, perhaps doused by an unusual sense of trepidation.
“Jason...” It was intended as more than the whisper it came out as, evident in the way she kept parting her lips, eyes darting up and down his face.
At this point, even a usual preference for risk-aversion would have dipped itself in purple, torn off its overgarments and gone screaming into a crowd of hungry dogs.
Hungry dogs, right.
As an archer pulls the bowstring taut, so deliberate was his hand motion, fingers coming to rest on the angle of her jaw. Gentle, but firm, utterly driven.
But it was unnecessary. His patience was replied to with startling immediacy, and as their lips met, an almost overwhelming distraction from the sudden trauma to his nose might have ruined everything.
Not now, not with that one moment. No time for the minor naggings of pain when his face was flushed with the sudden flare of their heat.

Here, he is almost pushed, in his dreams, to a finite regression, remembering those other 'firsts': fumbling and sweaty apologies for experience trotted out by a constant hormonal screaming. Then, it was all about making it to the next level, tasting for the first time that salty pinched flesh between trying-it-rough teeth. Then, it was spit and tongues, and the tickle of nostril-breath on your cheeks as, for the first time, you felt someone else's tooth enamel. Then, it was a time of shameful surprises that creep up on you before you're even aware of them, and the rest of the exercise becomes a disaster management scenario that only now can bring at best a wan smile of stupider times.

But back in the first, that puncturing of overcast and cloudy memories by that wholly different need for the sun to shine, and having just that one moment to show you what the good days can look like, and what the best days might look like if you're lucky enough to live them for as long as you can. Fireworks in your head, scattering the stars.
So you do what you can do, for anyone who shows you that bright side. You let them know how much they're needed, how much you ache for them and that it's built to a passion and a lust by even the littlest glimpses.
Pull her to, pull her on top. Pull her in closer and curl your fingers into her braided hair-
And everything about her says 'yes'.
And everything she has smiles as the first buttons pop out.
And the only thing he wants is for her to see his face beyond the stupid 'oh' that is all he can manage in the cascade of skin as she falls to him, followed by the rush of his hands...
To see...

'Cruelty, thy name is Consciousness, thou pigfucker' he rails, grasping and gasping on the suddenly-there linoleum tiles, his face plunged into the mercifully white toilet. 'You utter fuck.'

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Identification Please

The morning routine, pronounced usually with an emphatic 'rut-een' in the minds of most of the workers, settled in with the traditional rush of the coffee machine's dispensation of the morning's necessary allotment of stimulation mixed with refreshing mocha, the earnest creak of asses taking up residence in their appointed desk-chairs, and the unprotesting hum of monitors and terminals as they too were sped into their own awakenings. Fingers twitched with the false anticipation of trying to remember the passwords they'd inputted only yesterday.
Someone entered his first dog's name.
Another entered her birthdate.
Another entered her favourite football team's mascot.
Another entered in sequence the name of his wife, son, and daughter, compressed into a 12-character response.
Yet another typed in his favourite Godzilla movie (simply and perhaps a bit unimaginatively, 'Godzilla' out of reverence for the Japanese original).
Yet another rapidly entered in the name of a certain game show host, whose image was brought to mind whenever she attended to the intimate needs of her boyfriend. The conditioned response of this always made her hips shiver, and nobody could see into the cubicle to wonder why she would lick her lips and pout her jaw with heavy breath.
Another entered an alpha-neumeric sequence that contained the maximum allowed number of characters for any permissible password. The illusion of unbreakable security that this gave was unbroken by the fact that it was so complicated that it had to be copied from a sticky-note attached to his monitor, helpfully prefaced with the heading “Password:”.
Another entered his mother's maiden name.
Another entered, with a dreamy look on his face, the song that had been playing when he'd lost his virginity, a rather unplanned venture involving a shuffled CD-changer that had happened upon his little sister's boy-band best-of. The dreamy look was nothing if not guilty.
Another entered the name of his patron Saint.
Another entered her dream car's make and model.
The entire floor had progressed from a trickle of keyboard clicks from the chicken-typing lot whose newness was further announced by a refusal to plunge into coffee addiction, instead heading to their desks with an enthusiasm and desperation to make impressions that in itself would achieve the end of its life-span in a matter of weeks. Now, the steady resonance of inputs poured freely, an avalanche of the speed-typing veterans whose pupils firmly moulded into the picture of caffeinated concentration.
Only one man still sat at his desk, oblivious to the city-enveloping sun that shone through one of the few windows. The one man who knew without error each of his floor workers' memoir, coveted as it had been to be the first willed recollection in the morning rut-een. It was a window into each character, compressed into a 5-20 character appreciation. Just as well they reminded themselves what they were working for, why they were here, imprisoned as much by their contractual obligations as by their earnest desires for their passions-- their passwords. Individual, unique, and binding. Employee identification, employee identity.
And he alone would scrutinize them wordlessly. He would keep track of whether they would be kept in line by their dedication, or fall into unproductive distraction. His task, and his job: the watcher, the voyeur, the man who made it his work to oversee.
The monitor flashed, demanding his input.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saturday in Soweto

The city pulsed into the hospital on a nightly basis, a collection of fresh scars, scabs, and throbbing masses that would bounce moans of pain off the sweat-covered walls from which the paint bubbled and chipped. A hell of humidity turned the air into a near-clotting fluid one had to wade through.
Anticipation was almost enough to supplant the need for coffee- almost- as if adrenaline from the probable flood to come kept everyone breathing. But it was early yet, and so Roos Hoek filled her senses with the least offensive blend of Java available. Just one cup of it, no more or else caffeinated alacrity will turn to a set of nerves that won’t stop humming with activity, overcharged and out of control.Unsurprisingly decaf can’t be found fresh in the break room. The last jar is a cake of powder that has fused into a sweaty solid, bleeding oil and essence.
“How’s it?”
Pieterzoon, already out of his scrubs and disquietingly clean. Blonde sweatless brows seemed entirely alien given the morning perspiration that clung to every other surface. “It’s them blerry payday weekends, eh? Ag man, I don’t envy you tonight, not at all.” He’d speak in English to be understood, heavily accented in English-Dutch inflection. Roos was, after all, only Dutch in name, and still blanked
whenever peppered with Afrikaans by conclusion-jumpers who saw just another Afrikaaner who spoke the language. Hell, she spoke more French than anything else, having only elected to take English to escape the bored townships of Provence. With that, she found herself in Johannesburg. Peachy. Be careful what you wish for.
She tilted her head, shrugging. “It doesn’t help that Thabola and Mbosi are still out on holiday for another few days.”
“Fok aye. You know those tits try to put themselves out of harm’s way on these nights by penciling in vacation time years in advance.”
“Don’t be so cynical, man. They’re at the top for a reason. --And before you say it, that reason isn’t Mandela.”
Pieterzoon dropped his eyes. “Whatever, girl, whatever.” A sigh. “I’m out for the shut-eye and peaceful recuperation. Say high to the dronkies for me, eh?”
He brushed past her without another word, almost brusquely. Maybe he was right, maybe he wasn’t, she couldn’t say, but dammit, why did everyone have to be so goddamned touchy about it.
Well, it’s not like they didn’t have a history of it, mmm, muttered her inner voice, now they’re just grumpy that the shoe is on the other foot. But nothing was that simple. Apartheid had switched to reverse racism, and the iron-clad oppression of bigotry had for a brief while been swept away, only to fall into a disjointed attempt to control a population discovering freedom without the gradual acknowledgment of its excesses.
Hell of a way to start the day. Hell of a reminder.
“Et merde,” she muttered to herself.

Saturday afternoon, and already temperatures were running high, a fever of cheers from everyone who'd slaved through the week with the expectation that they could now reap the rewards. Money, freshly minted, flowing opposite the stream of cans and bottles into plastic bags. The sun still breathing down peeling necks, thirsts were still being created rather than quenched. What better cure to the burden of thirst than with newfound libation? It was an answer that trickled into minds as the hours wore on and the boots came off, and by the time the horizon had pinched off the heat of day, liquid relaxation flowed freely.

Already Roos was blinking hard in the haze of stale beer and belched curry as the starting wave came slopping in, dragged by fortunately sober friends who passed the time by blending in with the crowd, passing between themselves drinks with feigned covertness. But few took heed of the drunk and orderly when there were their counterparts to mind. The sound of a pleading spew of vomit from a teenager was as much a starter's pistol as she was going to get.
Good evening, Soweto...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A glint of something

She marked the time with the patter of her fork, slow and seemingly purposeful chews separating each and every tick against the cheap china. She was out of uniform, so it was fine having her eat listlessly at the counter. A few of the regulars not convinced enough to buy cheap eats elsewhere would be all that would recognize her, given that was both the usual hostess and easily the prettiest worker at the rest (no doubt the two were connected), the rest of the workers seeming to have succumbed to the undesirable combination of affliction that comes when gravity meets cellulite. Lydia's only droop seemed the usual one around the edges of her mouth, not simply because of the feigned exuberance that put prospective customers in motion towards their waiting booths. Always, from management- 'Happy workers, happy customers, happy meals', even for smiles kept up by toothpicks.

“You'd better eat some of that, darlin'.” Said Catie

It was true. While Lydia was the prettiest, it was in spite of, not because of, a rather rail-thin figure. The manager, were it not for Lydia's stalwart consistency, would have felt more genuine in whispering things about cocaine and amphetamine rather than that founded only in jealousy of the young girl's figure.

“Trying.” Said Lydia.

The truth was that her mind was rather far away from there, lost to the endless discharge of precipitates from the asphalt arteries that burst into the diner with a disjoint of baseball caps, tattoos, and sad Middle America affectation that leads to premature droop and a sort of pansexual hirsuteness around the face and jowels. Wobbling chins and all-day breakfasts smothered in table syrup and served with crackling pig fat fresh off the sheet grill. Days wore you down rather than simply wearing on as might be expected. Little pills from the doctor, yellow tabs to treat the blue days, but more often than not they just left you with your mouth dry and your seat wet. A perfect match, perhaps, to the palms sticky with fake-maple sugar.

Lydia could still hear her mother's voice, the strong Vermont can-do pout, “Table syrup, more the misnomer than you can imagine, little Liddy. None of that junk on the table, not on my watch, not ever.”

The thought of this would make Lydia sink more towards her plate, towards the fries smothered in the alien vinegar rather than the common ketchup.

“You wouldn't believe what we got today.” Said Catie, quite prepared to accept the possibility that Lydia would, in fact, believe it. “Some queer from New York comes in and asks for a veggie burger. Annie was serving him, and had to be shown just where on the menu it was! I tell you, I don't get those queers- they won't eat meat, but why? So afraid of eating their own, but they all look more like the beansprouts they eat to me!”

Lydia continued to dig her fork into the malt-and-bitter-smelling frenchfries, staring blankly at the little chips that would fly off from the crisp little strings.

“He got the dipping veggies, and we had to find a bottle of ranch dressing- just for him. He just returned it to us after the meal, said he didn't need none of it, said that we could keep it for other customers. Chef and I had a big laugh pouring that little shot of ranch back into the bottle!”

Still, Lydia's fixation had dulled her to her friend- instead she found herself trapped in a thought that kept at her, growing in spite of attempts at ignoring it. Embers, she now thought, stoking her fries as if they were fires on the logs.

“Exactly like embers!” Boomed Mom, glancing to and from traffic at the sporadic pirouettes of light along the highway-side. The bright orange gobs of fire that lept up from the tall grass and the cat-tails of greenery held her mouth open in a constant 'oh' of wondrous fascination.

Mom had pulled over some time later, where Lydia had danced about waving her hands exultantly in a rambling chase to catch a handful of fire. But Mom was quicker, and fast as quicksilver had a fistful of quiet light. It seemed to snore between Mom's fingertips, waxing and waning- and the gasp when she parted her hands to show the source...

Lydia started up, the floor protesting the sudden movement of the chair she'd tortuously dragged along it. She smiled at Catie, who could only look back quizically.

“What's gotten into you? You're all smiles. Weirrrrrd.”

“I,” announced Lydia, no small hint of confidence, “am going out to catch some fireflies.”

"You sure there's still enough light out?"

"That's exactly what I'm going to catch!"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mother, standing, walking a skipping child back from school, swinging a basket of food gaily in her off-hand. Peals of laughter mingling with peels of zesty tangerines, unraveled as they walked by fingers sticky with their juices. Mother and son, making faces with orange segments, confidently confiding in the other about the distance to be had by seed-spitting. She let him win, of course. His day out, her day off, the rest of the week’s inevitable toiling washed away in a little wooden crate of sunshine hidden among the rest of the produce.
“Do they grow on vines, mom?”
“Vines, dear boy,” came the voice of wisdom, still laden with Belfast-bereft-of-bombs. “Why, no. You’re thinking of grapes and tomatoes.” The boy wrinkled his nose at the thought of the bitter tomato, whose inclusion in his mother’s usual breakfast choice frustrated him almost as much as her repeated attempts to convince him that it was a fruit. Nothing as bitter and horrible as a tomato could be a fruit. “Tangerines grow on great trees in orchards. Like the way they grow apples and lemons and- and coconuts.”
“Coconuts grow on palm trees! I learned that today!”
“You’re right they do, m’boy. On big trees that grow out of the sandy soil like arms of giants buried in the sand.”
“Arms! Wow!” The child paused, holding one cheek in a still-sticky palm. “So- that’s why they’re called palm trees, because they have a hand at the end of them?”
She laughed. “That may well be the case. You’ll just have to find out.”
“I will! I will!”
The exuberance of youth, the constant energy and wide-eyed wonder piled on top of Vel-Cro sneakers, mismatched socks, and scraped jeans stained with dew and chlorophyll. Matching stains on the elbows and palms of his hands meant that he’d probably been spending another sunny afternoon face firmly pointed earthwards, watching insects climb the micro-metropolis of grass and weeds.
“Can we get a tangerine tree, mom? I’d feed it and water it and climb in it.”
“Alas, dear boy, there’s nowhere to plant it. We’ve no lawn to speak of, and no back-yard that isn’t covered in rock. We’d not only need to buy somewhere new, but also somewhere warm and nice for tangerines to grow.”
“But why can’t we?”
She paused for a moment, slipping in stride and suddenly tired. “Because we’re not able to buy things like that, dear boy, I’m sorry.”
The boy paused, looking up at his mother, suddenly feeling like he’d said something rude or wrong, like asking grown-ups how old they were. It was an ache, having that kind of thing be so possible, that the simple things and questions could really hurt someone. Even the person who kisses it better can be so vulnerable to their own little collection of nicks and cuts. He wanted to ask if they were poor, but he felt with horrid certainty that this was another question that might hurt her, or make her sad. These things might have been as true as the little scrapes, but they could still hurt, and very much so.
He grabbed her suddenly, little arms circling around her hips, face pressing into her abdomen.
“What’s wrong? Jason, are you alright?”
Their eyes met, a vertical stare. “I’m fine, mom.”
“Well then,” she said, suddenly bursting into laughter, “that’s grand.”
It was. Hand in sticky hand, they resumed their walk. But the thought lingered with Jason, having been confirmed: even grown-ups need someone to make it better. Maybe everyone does. Maybe everyone needs someone to be special for them, someone different from everyone who just calls them by their name, someone who says ‘dear’ or ‘honey’, or ‘buddy’, or best of all, Mom. Someone who knew more than just a stitched-on nametag on an anonymity-ensuring uniform- Not just Eily Connolly, but Mom.
His mother kept her smile, and started to hum- “When Irish Eyes are Smi-liiing….”

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dogmatic Law

And ye, it came to pass that the Fellow became Steward of the palace, that heavenly kingdom so situated above the clouds and with the Divine miracle of Central Air. Humble he was, wearing nothing about the feet so that he could be constantly be in the divine presence of the carpeting, the linoleum, and the holy wood so-laminated that the Fellow would streak across it as did Tom Cruise before him in Risky Business.
And the Lady did say to him, "Guard well my kingdom in my absence, for I fly to realms of heady knowledge to convene with wisdoms great and powerful. I entrust in you the sanctity of this place".
And there was love in his heart that day as she ascended into a yellow carriage of brilliantly illuminated splendor (for the foglights had been installed). And he did lie in the bed, removing his socks to again touch the august glory of the firmament- the carpeting, the linoleum, and the holy wood so-mentioned as laminated.
But lo, a Despoiler was about the lands, slothful and cruel. With cloven paws and an arrogant parasol as a tail, he but basked in the radiance of his own glory, tracing his lineage back to the ancient clan of Shihtzu beasts.
But the Despoiler was in the kingdom, and the Fellow, not wishing to falter in his duties, did offer comfort and fine feasts. For a time, there was peace, but as foretold, that era came to a close some hours later, when the Despoiler befouled the firmament with his essence.
The Fellow, not wanting to re-don his flipflips and kneesocks, rose up in anger, hurling at the Despoiler a litany of abuse. But the Despoiler, above the petty threats of the Fellow, stared blankly on. The Fellow, again, not wishing to be negligent in his tasks, grovelled and mopped as he was want to do. For a time, there was contentment, but again as foretold, such things do not last longer than sitcoms, and there would be untold suffering abound.
A time of great thunder approached, and the Fellow, secure in the sanctity of the place, wavered not as the sky bubbled with anger, roaring at the arrogance to build a tower such as this and not sublet. The Fellow stood his ground, and turned once more to his studies. This was not well with the Despoiler, who instead took to the highest point in the realm that he could reach-- on top of the fellow. Subjugated, humiliated, the Fellow was the Despoiler's pillar as the latter shivered with rage, grimacing and bellowing at the thunder. Neither would relent, and the Fellow, diligent to his burden, muttered again to himself through the night.
Tired of their tirade, the storm left to other parts, and the Fellow, weak and deprived of rest, collapsed gratefully as the Despoiler dismounted for its own rest.
"I beg of you, Despoiler" said the Fellow, "Follow me to the gardens and expend your essence, for it cannot be spilled here, in this place."
But the Despoiler was very proud, and still rather miffed about the whole storm thing. Its cloven paws did not stray from the firmament, and the Fellow wearily resigned himself to the sheets.
It would not be long before the Fellow awoke with the start. The storm had returned to its adversary, the Despoiler, who glared angrily at the Fellow, conscripting him once more to the task of unwilling mount. But the Fellow, frankly less willing to put up with this shit, denied the Despoiler.
The foolishness of the Fellow was as great in magnitude as the fury and wrath of the Despoiler, who turned to the firmament in all his anger. The Fellow awoke once more to find the firmament desecrated beyond belief. The carpet befouled, the linoleum besmattered with filth, and the holy wood stained with vileness.
The Fellow wept, for he had been negligent in his duties. Against the might of the Despoiler, there was little reprieve. A great sadness filled his heart, as he turned from his studies to the comforts of the playwrites and muses of his imagination's theaters. The Fellow became enveloped in these musings, watching as the actors turned about on the stage. As if in a dream, a lofty being did turn his gaze onto the Fellow, and spoke in a harsh but powerful voice-- The Tucker.
"You doss cunt. You have forgotten yourself" said the Tucker, whose frail figure did not diminish his sense of command. "First time I've ever seen a massive poof overpowered by a smaller, more literal poof."
"But my Lord, I am but a servant, entrusted to the safety and protection of this place. I cannot hold against the Despoiler."
"Aye, ye winge-bag, not even the cacophony of your annoying voice would overpower the creature. But be not beholden unto him!" Thundered the Tucker, "For I, the All-Swearing Eye, shall kick so many shades of shit out of you that you'll be a whole new paint palette. Do yourself a bonny favor and discover you, a mere Fellow, has climbed the heady mounts of puberty and has grown a pair."
The Tucker was right, for when the Fellow placed his hands down his humble Jeans, he was met by the warming glow of courage, the overpowering if delightfully scented musk of which spurred him to action. The Fellow awoke with purpose, mustering himself for the task ahead.
Strange elixirs and ingredients were poured with foreign alchemy, implements were gathered from the far ends of the realm to combat the taint of the Despoiler. The Fellow stood, again bare-foot on the firmament, claiming his ground, defending his homeland.
For a time, there was great boistrousness, as the Fellow put himself and his alchemical'd tools to the firmament, renewing again the bounce of the carpet, the shine of the linoleum, and the proud sheen of the holy wood. The Despoiler watched as the Fellow moved with purpose through every cubit of space, marking the hallowed ground with purifying oils and lustrous pastes. Light shone once more through the realm, and for a time, it was good.
The Fellow had put down his tools, and had put himself to rest with a steaming bug of far-away Araby, and in his prosperity, grew blind to the sight of the Despoiler's encroaching presence.
Too late, the Fellow realized that he had erred most greviously, discovering that the Despoiler had befouled again all around them. Driven to his knees, the Fellow uttered a curse to the heavens-
"O most foul of beings! O horrid of sights! You who dumpeth under my place of feasting, within my sanctum of rest, my basket of linens runneth over with thy taint that runneth under and kind of beneath in this your Genenna, your Armageddon."
The Despoiler turned his piteous gaze on the Fellow, and with a silencing snuff, rolled over on his belly for tummy-rubs.
"No more, I say!" cried the Fellow, who turned with zeal to the thrice-tainted firmament. "No more!"
The Despoiler was unimpressed, and broke into a grin, knowing the futility of the Fellow's plight. All hope looked lost, when once again the words of the Tucker flew into the Fellow's heart- "Jaysus Christ, you pull yourself together or else I'll throttle you so hard you'll be talking like Freddy Mercury caught in his zipper."
With purpose, the Fellow rose from his obeisances, and grabbed at the Despoiler with all his might.
"Go and seek the confrontation with the heavens and the skies that you so desire!"
And the Fellow did fling the creature with all his might. The Despoiler did soar, panting with rage, before realizing escape velocity was unlikely without continuing propulsion. Bellowing his last, the Despoiler plunged earthwards to the asphalt with glorious liquidity. Still on the ramparts, the Fellow breathed again, filling his lungs with the Central Air, turning to feast on the grapefruits and microwaveable meals that awaited him, the triumphant man. The voice of the Tucker again filled his ears "Ah, don't get so full of yourself, wee man. Time yet for you to actually start growing hair in places of manhood."
And for a time it was good, and when the Lady returned again, bathed in redolent splendor and heady perfumes, the Fellow embraced her and held her close.
"You have done better than any other, my dear" she said. "My firmament is whole and pristine, as evinced by the brilliant fluff of the carpet, the quiet effervescence of the linoleum, and the shine on the holy wood so mirror-perfect that I can see up your trousers."
They did embrace again, the Fellow grateful to retire to an evening of headboard-damaging wholesomness. The Lady smiled at him, smirking ever so slightly. "And don't look now, but I think there's a bit of a puddle over there."
With horror and dread, the Fellow turned against the Lady's wishes, seeing that the holy wood, beautiful enough to eat off of, was again befouled. A heavy breath, the last he wanted to have, escaped him as his eyes fell upon the culprit. Untouched, unscathed, the Despoiler sat as he always did, lolling his tongue and rolling his eyes with horrible glee. Turning on his back, the Despoiler beckoned as always, ravenous for the comforts of tummy-rubs.
There would always be a firmament, a place to put one's bare feet, a place from which to know the unchanging presence and eternal comfort of its support. So it was the Despoiler, and for a time, for all time, there would be.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


She has a straight-razor tattooed on her forearm, the first thing you notice when she dismounts the bike, despite her sweating, heaving form that would collapse had she not just undone the courier bag strapped around her. A regular at the café, she signals for her regular café only to glare with shark's eyes at the embryo of a barista who at first uncomprehendingly but now with more substantial intimidation buckling his knees, stares helplessly back. Stares at the straight razor tattoo.
The razor itself is open and obtuse, a small but visible rose carved into the handle. Sweat drips and canalizes from the slightest of furrows down its blade as she wipes a sticky black lock from her forehead.
The barista consults with more senior staff who roll their eyes at him and his little squeaks about the bike being in the store, about a patron dampening the upholstery with a certain unhygienic magnitude. Subtlety, while not his strong suit or a factor in the volume of his voice, fails to distract her from the contents of her side-pocket, an obscure tome, there mere cover of which gives less a poverty of fancy so much as a bittersweet richness of fact. It bleeds post-it notes, and she prepares another pad, ripping each into smaller segments arranged along the fingers of the hand that does not turn the book. Unnoticed, she's already laid out exact change on the table, no tip. China rattles as the midnight-black Java is put down beside her, with certain apologies muttered by a barista as inaudibly as his pride would want.
Look at her, rail-thin with exertion, ponytail out of the mess of the rest, a ring around her eyebrow that clinks whenever she pushes up her glasses. Neat nails trimmed to their beds by idle picking, that is by tooth or claw. She rubs her shark's eyes in the pre-caffeine haze, again flashing an ebony straight-razor. Her lips, the type that pour out of a jutting lower jaw, mutter the silent litany of text, pausing only to be flicked at by a page-herding thumb. Half-lidded eyes are wholly on the text, and the rest of her works at an automatic pace.
Stare, be entranced, lick your lips with the sudden burst as she sweats over you from equally occupying tasks, anxious as much for exertion as to keep pace and delay the inevitable. Her head thrown back, her shoulders shuddering. Her stirring in the morning in a bathrobe, her fingers tracing frost in a winter's pane. Her growing old to your left, as you grow old to her right, side by side on a patio nowhere in particular. Nobody else looks that way, nobody ever will. There is a fond little moment, a synchrony, your uniqueness, her uniqueness, coming together in a crescendo of thought and would-be memories. A little ball of yarn for you to bat around your belfry as your feet too work at an automatic pace to bring you home again smelling of coffee.
Years later, you cut yourself shaving, the thin dribble of blood demanding attention and treatment. But you're useless for at least a few moments, cut apart by a straight-razor girl in a café.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cathedrals of knowledge, he snorts. How antithetical a notion. But even he must admit the notion to be relatively true: the roots of literacy in the West were carefully squeezed from the roots of religion. Such a pity it had to be retarded so early on by its fanatical devotion to the backwards foundations.
Still, just looking at the Gothic-inspired walls filled one with a sense of august passion for knowledge, even at the expense of being confused with the Augustine piety of the faith-hungry. There must have been some realization at some point when a learn-èd man of letters came forth and pointed out that building universities in the style of buildings constructed during the Dark Ages was at least moderately problematic.
Nossir, not so much.
He still giggled and goggled at the sight of ancient-era architecture, however it may or may not have once stood for historical precedent in its ivy-wrapped brick-chipped exterior, peppered by air conditioning units, antennae, floodlights, or artsy banners. Amusement came as much from the clash as from the appreciation of the novel thought's flourishing under stodgy clay and mortar(boards).
The Professor could only look back as earnestly into his office. Rather than the uniform backdrop of necessary and authoritative identical hard-bound volumes arranged not by subject but by color; aesthetics and image over argument and attestations. A depressing way to collect knowledge. His own collection was a perhaps-iconoclastic arrangement of paperbacks, a colorful array of diverse bindings arranged meticulously by subject, author, purpose.
Then line-up of student applicants for assistantships paid credence enough to such minor academic irreverence as to have a broad patterning in his own little library. Modesty might lead one to overlook a further flattering feedback from the gamut of students learning under him. Maybe modesty was a unique characteristic among his colleagues, too!
But enough self-adulation. Interviews to conduct, research to be done, and, ah, minds to mould. He brushed back a lock of graying hair, and opened the door to admire the equally admiring assembly of CV-bearing neonates.


The glass of red wine, the smoldering cigarette in the ashtray-- positive ID on any particular poetically inclined individual. A bit of a long shot from the Sartre-era clove cigarettes and vermouth, but still--
Distractions! Her nostrils flare with the anticipation of genuine arousal, genuine work, as her fingers glide across the keyboard without productive pressure. An inspirational glug of the Chianti follows, chasing whatever potential for creativity there is to be swallowed.
The window's open, of course, otherwise Mom would shit a brick at the cigarette smoke in the ashtray. Bad enough that Grandma did the whole Towering Inferno thing by falling asleep with a cigarillo gripped between a thoroughly disgusted pair of teeth on the 19th floor of a shitty apartment building. Moral of the story? Mom will get the nearest belt if she so much as gets a hint of the precious nicotine.
Shit, she thinks, flexing her fingers. So much to write, so little to say. Essays to write, CVs to embellish, and sweet little nothings to send to the over-sexed and over-spent boy-toys that litter the social scene. Boost some egos, make some connections, keep alive the chance that next weekend might be as fruitful as the last. A bunch of little dicks, leaping forward to the vague hint of wetter climates.
Right-- except for one.
She quivers a little at the hips, remembering how he cradled her with one hand beneath her head, and another on her breast, mounting her, riding her, bringing her to the crest. Oh, yes. The ones who genuinely gave a shit were always worth the top dollar beneath the sheets. The Chianti ratifies that statement, giving her a pink flush to compliment the general heat. Legs are rubbed together with a fervor of ostensible wholesomeness. Nipples taut, the rest with a distinct blush, she is still totally lost and without much to say. One nice night out of a hundred-- no, a great night. One to remember.
She clicks through, taking another drag on the cigarette, blowing the rest out the window- There was bigger, there was better, for sure, but there wasn't anything else quite like him.
She sits back, having discovered his email on a post-it that she's decorated with little hearts. Shit. What a blow to her cred. But worthwhile. Yes, he is.
She sits back, blowing imaginary smoke rings from the cigarette that's no longer there, thinking of something to say.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


She sits, for there is little else she has the energy for, as it is enough to keep the thin fingers in place to hide her face from the sun. It still peeks through, too weak to scatter the dust in the folds of a skin thin as tissue paper. Her eyes can still make use of the light, but it seems dimmer every day.
The light has faded many things around her as much as inside her, she feels. Fortunate, perhaps, that the photographs do not fade as quickly as the memories do, the increasingly sepia tone of the black-and-white glossies holding time as it once was, when it was at its happiest and on her side. She rubs at her ring finger, touching sterling silver but not feeling its presence so much as a void. Absent thoughts of a husband now absent before his time (and before hers) bring the wayward hand back to its place over her face. It becomes as difficult to remember him as to realize she's forgetting him more and more each day as the sun fades this too into mere background noise.
Here there's background noise enough-- the scuttles and ruminations of undersexed and underappreciated widows who comprise the home's backgammon clique. Even if she cared to remember their names, she can't bring herself to remember more than the long-ago past that evanesces into the fade with disconcerting haste. Visitations from dwindling relatives offer brief warmth, though it seems too much a sort of mutual humoring, smiles and handshakes held up to still their fear of sharing her fate. So she sits, sleeping and thinking of that end sometimes longed for. Or at the least, a dream that will linger upon waking.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The hand that draws itself

Two weeks. Fuck. Two weeks.
A lifetime of lifetimes, yet to the world at large, it’d only been two weeks.
Two weeks he’d been haemorrhaging caffeine, sweating spinal fluid out of every pore in an attempt to pull his mind into point fine enough to give simple literature a good shiv in the kidneys. Two weeks of filling whole pages with single repeats of expletives, or whatever verbal equivalent of diarrhoea his useless mind could drip out.
There was only so much legally available stimulant; so little that would be genuinely useful in generating anything resembling an original idea. Every waking moment, filled with (mostly) hallucinated blankness.
Paranoia hadn’t so much seeped in by this point so much as it had gushed and spurted obnoxiously-
“I’ve had a stroke, that’s it. My prefrontal cortex is turning into Swiss cheese from some kind of encephalopathy. I have cerebral malaria.”
He saw himself sinking into a depression of idiocy, awaiting a white straightjacket and the terribly un-PC red rubber ‘Retard’ stamp on all his health forms. “I have early-onset Alzheimer’s. Pick’s Dementia. I’m schizophrenic.”
Find something unique to say, stretch it until it’s taffy on the paper.
Write an original sentence.
He paused in a facsimile of concentration, writing that- “Write an original sentence.”. No, not an original sentence. NO- even worse- meta-fiction was the ultimate hackery. Fuck! FUCKING DELETE!
Stick with it, his atrophied writing muscles seemed to moan. Screw it.
Yes- hack writer. All there for him to write about. Yes.
He stretched, cracking his knuckles for the billionth countable time in the past—the past---
“Two weeks-“ he began. “Fuck. Two weeks….”

Sunday, May 9, 2010


As we inch closer and closer to Southland, that delectable place where the pages curl under the constant assault on aridity, it becomes so much plainer, that warped image of the world. Look at the irrepressible verdure, the choking vines that rise dominant above even the highest trees. Here you will find that nature has found herself a kind of venomous attitude to her competitors, who slink back to drums of moonshine and the comfort of splendid rocking-chairs. Fine moss covers even the quick-moving, almost to the point of actively threatening and punishing slowness. The air is so thick with water that spores float from spot to spot in search of a more stable roost, before being overtaken by competitors.

Nature is surely no slouch, for it cannot afford it. It is the men instead who, having been beaten back, lick their wounds in the damp comfort of their homes. They have eked out only that so-desirable resting point that has come at a cost so great that the mere act of venturing outside has become a coming-of-age ritual, upon which presumable plumes of hair erupt from chests, and bosoms become plump with fertile advertisement.

Truly, the air is turbulent, and every house on land is a veritable house on the river, slowly drowning in a torrent of humidity and hazy heat (to say nothing of the creeping ferns and impetuous grasses that fall upon the unwary attempt to organize against the swampy chaos).

Tilt your head (though beware not to have it fill with water), and take in the confident drawl that surrounds you. Breathe in the hops and the salt. Touch the thin layering of sweat that clings to every pore of every surface, be it skin, stone, or wood. Everyone exists in exhaustion from the fight. No wonder, then, of the smooth curves and grins that come as the sun wearily falls in the West, and people tip their hats to the end of the day. They can sleep as the night gives birth to a symphony of discord, setting the stage for the next living skirmish as the sun rises anew and challenges all to beat the heat for hours without rest. Southland lives and breathes and fights, and don’t you forget it.

What changes there are, when the lights go out. What wilts under the sun changes in the cool damp of the night, almost chasing in its search for return to heat. Red lights and blue notes fill the air, itself becoming an expressly proofed libation, which the eager mouths quaff and gasp in with every passing breath. Raucous, raucous, and ruckus bloom noisily as the night trickles in, a constant celebration of life after sunlight. Standing ovations are heard, and not just from the hoisted shirts and taut jeans, or from the constant raindrop-sound of bead necklaces thrown at every bared celebratory organ. Beer taps flow from brass fountains, patrons’ desire to consume in a piston-fury of bobbing throats fighting with the overt demands for the piston performance of other important areas. The night throbs, croons, and stands erect for all to enjoy.