1. A Big, Giant, Empty, Nothing

          The bullet must have gone rip-daddy on my brain on literally the same day that I got my seven millionth follower. I bet it happened right at the very same minute that that very smart, very cool, very in-touch user pressed the follow button. Click. Follow. Boom - brains eerrrrywhere. Poetic. Shakespeare styles. He'd have liked that. Mr. Tragedy himself. He'd have Loved it! Well, it's all a big black empty nothing now. Serious unmellowing of the Vibes. Oh The Vibes. Bye bye Vibes.  I named my first boat The Vibes. Asshole boat-salesman laughed, NOT with me. Too bad for him, Mr. poor boat man. Vibes is life. I don't care if boats are supposed to have chick names. My world, my rules, bro. @T8Honey's rules, bro.  

          It looks like my body landed in this twisted position, so my legs kinda doubled over myself in a way that I defo could not pull off if I was alive. Rad. Major traffic driver. Most obviously it looks like I just partied wayyy too hard. I hope Rafta takes a pic and like maybe crops out the blood and brains, or just like angles it so I appear only drunk and not dead? Fuck, Rafta is gonna be pissssssed. She's been grinding like the hardest of all time for three weeks to get SunStrip Festival off the ground. Our slogan is literally 'Eat your own ass, Coachella!' And we don't even any have bands. Whatever works, bro. They threatened to sue us and she sent them an old selfie of her and I giving the double whammy-middle finger. She snapped that pic at one of our first major parties we promoted, and to be honest I don't even remember which one it was cause we were all certified blackout. Best manager a dude could ask for. 

          Some people call me a quote unquote influencer? Ugh. Worst. Job title. Ever. Almost as bad as Promoter. But Rafta, she says it best. She calls me a storyteller. And that's the hardcore truth. Always been a storyteller. Sometimes the content tells the stories, sometimes the party itself is the story. 

          I'm kinda spitballing with the whole bullet part. I'm guessing I got shot? I mean one second I'm alive, healthy as fuck, virile as pre-2016 Harambe, and then the next minute I'm lying in a heap? I didn't hear a damn thing. A silent killer behind me? Who would want me dead? Do I have enemies? Well, shit yeah I have enemies, who the fuck makes my kinda cash without pissing off some people? But let's retrace our steps a minute here bro, cause something's not adding up. I get to mom's house. No one's here except mom and Maria, who are upstairs. I take a phone call from Rafta, then I take a bite of mom's oatmeal and sip of coffee from her tray in the living room. And then bam! It happens. lights out. Now help me out – did we hear anyone come in the house after me? No? Mom's still upstairs with Maria, probably getting helped into her chair, getting ready to come down in the 'vator, and she doesn't even know that I'm in the house. I should've yelled "Hey!" or "Vibes!" or something. Dang. Next time, bro.

          Yeah that's right, I bought my mom a mansion with a fucking elevator in it. Tate the Great, baby. Tate the generous. Tate the benevolent. Does she even recognize you anymore? Can she even spell your name? That asshole Norris opened his mouth in exactly this most uncouth manner when I handed the real estate agent a briefcase filled with green stacks as a down payment. You know what Norris? Not everybody is a selfish, unfeeling asshole like you. Poor mom. No one should outlive their kid, even if they won't remember it. What a bummer. Maria, caregiver extraordinaire that she is, will have to explain it. I don't have a goddamn clue where in the world Michela is. Morocco maybe? Algeria? She won't be the one explaining anything to mom. She probably won't even find out for a month. Shit, she probably won't even be at my funeral. Holy shit the funeral! I gotta start planning that! It will be the most ignorant, ignited, ignominious party of the year, hands down! Wait. I can't plan it. I'm fucking dead. Rafta, this one's on you, baby! You know what? Fuck it! @T8Honey never dies! My content is immortal! My style is immaculate! Mike Tyson himself'll be a pallbearer! Get readddddyyyyyyy. Eight million followers within a month. Watch. Beyond the grave Vibes, baby. Beyond the grave Vibes. 

2. Ricochet

          Taylor says to me, "Did you know there's this cocktail you can make with like 12 different liquors and if you make it right it can kill you instantly?" I'm literally entangled in my own bikini strap, trying to un-fuck the galaxy of a knot that I've woven myself into, and Taylor just refuses to shut his yap. "I wanna see if they'll make it for me. One of the ingredients is some crazy Tibetan liquor that the monks make in the mountains. Or something." Like I'm so sure that the SunBeach Inn will have your crazy killer monk liquor, stupid. The knucklehead keeps talking, and I go on repeating my favourite sentence in the English language, "Uh huh." I have to keep talking because if I go too silent he'll ask me for the fourth time if I need help. "Do you you need help?" he says, right on cue, so I roll my eyes as far back as they'll go, then I take my business to the bathroom with the dull kitchen knife, and I cut the damn bikini off, even though I just bought it and love it. I change into my mauve sports bra, which I hate wearing at the beach, but it's the only other thing in here. 

          When we finally head down, stupid Taylor is still talking about his magic cocktail, and for some reason the beach is slightly less busy than usual right outside our hotel, like I'm seeing hundreds instead of thousands of college boys and girls going wild, which actually makes me supremely happy, cause maybe I can have some peace and quiet and just listen to the waves. Yesterday I walked for thirty minutes down the beach to find a quiet spot, only for some badminton-playing bimbo with way blonder hair than me to take a shuttle-cock right in the eye and start crying and whining at the top of her lungs. It's my lot in life. I was meant to suffer at the beach. We're walking towards the water and it only takes a minute for us to realize that everyone has clustered further down the strip, and Taylor says "Oh shit, check that out," and he's dragging me down there before I can even say "ugh," and in no time we're in the swarm zone. The distant bass-drops that I had heard earlier from our room are now thudding in my ears and my whole body is shaking with every beat. The last place I want to be is here, engulfed in a mass of bulges, of muscle, sweat, sun, soaking, dying of thirst and annoyance. Taylor is behind me, pointing at the stage, his arm glancing across my shoulder. "Look! That's that guy!" he says, and on the stage, there's a huge guy with the throat tattoo holding the mic, I think he's called Frostbyte, but that's not who Taylor's pointing at. I see the other guy, and he's right, it's him, @T8Honey. I've been following him for years. Like from before he was even famous. His content is the funniest, and dude knows how to throw a party. I literally had no idea he would be here. Okay Paulette, shake off the cobwebs. It's party time. 

          I keep trying to jump to get a better look at the stage, and suddenly I'm being lifted up in the air, my legs on a neck, and then I'm taller than everyone. Ugh, Taylor. Always first to be that guy. His sweaty back is already covered in sand and its getting in my crotch. Whatever. Let's make the most of this. I'm screaming at the top of my lungs and I'm the loudest, baddest bitch in this pathetic loser crowd, and every time I yell, the whole crowd roars with me. My heart skips like 17 beats when @T8Honey points at me and says "Get up here!" That stage is the last place I want to be, so I shake my head and @T8Honey puts up his hands, lets it go, looks for someone else to call up. But then Frostbyte jumps in the crowd, causing a Red Sea situation, and he wades through the college coeds and hauls me off Taylor's shoulders.

          Everyone is screaming like crazy, and I can barely feel my legs every time the bass pounds, and it's way more sunny from the stage cause now the sun is directly in my eyes, and Frostbyte's hand is on my back, when @T8Honey says, "I don't know if she wants to be up here bro!" in his raspiest party voice, and I can only pray that he is serious.  "Don't worry about that. Why don't you let loose and show the crowd those titties!" Frostbyte says, still touching me. The crowd is cheering; security is doing nothing; Taylor is standing there lokking annoyed. My own friend, while fuming with a kind of jealousy that translates to "I want to see her naked but I don't want any of you people to", can't do anything. I'm literally shaking. @T8Honey says, "Who here likes motherfucking champagne!" The crowd goes nuts and @T8Honey pulls a champagne bottle out of nowhere and shakes it up real good. Just as Frostbyte's giant hand is about to reach into my bra, @T8Honey aims the bottle right at him and pops the cork. Time slows down, because I watch that little cork sail through the air and strike Frostbyte right in his scrunched up forehead, just before it ricochets and nails me in my left eye. The last thing I see before security and medics are all around me, other than that big fucker Frostbyte falling off the stage headfirst, is @T8Honey rushing over to me. I'm holding my eye, blind as a bat, not really feeling anything, and I barely hear @T8Honey say in my ear "are you okay?" I reach out for him, and totally by accident grab the champagne bottle that's still in his hands. I take the biggest swig of my life, until my mouth is full, an all-you-can-drink bubbles buffet, and champagne flies out of my nose. "Haha! You'll be okay. You'll be okay!" T8Honey says. Then, into the mic, he says, "She'll be fucking okay!"  

          In the medical tent, I have an ice pack glued to my eye, and I'm using my good eye to Google images for fashionable eyepatches. It hurts like absolute hell, but for some reason I'm smiling. I don't know what happened to that big son of a bitch Frostbyte. Or @T8Honey for that matter. Or Taylor. I don't really care about any of them right now. I'm excited about the prospect of this new fashion item. Maybe I'll get Joan, my water-color artist pseudo-friend, to design it. Maybe I'll have a forever Halloween costume. Maybe I'll have an excuse not to go to the beach.  

3. Kalishnikov

I'm going to tell you a story you might not believe. It's about my brother, Tate, and it's about when he and his friends were young, when he was known as Honey Badger, when I was the little vulnerable sister, when they would call me names like Mitch and Michael, which they knew drove me nuts, and one of them, Moscow, was particularly mean and would pinch and flick me when Honey Badger wasn't looking, and once he even put a cigarette out on me. My memory of this time is only so clear. Honey Badger wanted to be a writer. It was something he said all the time. He always got kicked out of class, sent to detention, suspended, grounded, you name it. He was a shit-disturber of the highest magnitude. Plus, he didn't know how to string a proper sentence together. But he had imagination. He understood narrative. The lot of them, always in detention or suspended, all had this knack for storytelling, so they formed a crew, simply called The Writers. Their leader, Bazarov, was much older. He was Moscow's uncle. He'd host them in his cramped basement where it smelled of mold and sour, homemade liquor, and he'd teach them lessons on writing. His most important lesson, the one he reinforced every class, was that writers had to be tough. He told them they had to fearless, even violent if need be. He went on about how Dostoyevsky spent years in the Gulag. He taught them that because they were still just kids, they had much to learn about life before their writing would become worth reading, so they had to learn the hard way. The boys would wander the streets at night, looking for trouble. My brother was the toughest hand-to-hand, which was how he earned his nickname, Honey Badger. He'd pick fights with adults twice his size, and often came home with black eyes and split lips. When I'd ask him what happened, he'd say he had been out learning how to write. One day Bazarov was arrested for selling counterfeit money, and just like that the boys were on their own. They became even more reckless without an adult influence. They'd hunt down local graffiti artists and beat them up for being phonies. They'd write their incoherent stories in their own filth on the walls of government buildings late at night. They'd rough up local thugs, tie them up, and make them listen to their insane narratives. Sour Patch, who was the least socially adjusted of the six boys in the group, cut the head off a local cat, and brought it back to the basement, which they had been using as their hangout even with Bazarov in jail. He said they could use it as a prop if they ever decided to perform Hamlet. Honey Badger was furious; he was repulsed at the notion that the group would ever tell someone else's story, and told Sour Patch that he would be banished from the group unless he cut his own ear off like Van Gogh. Sour Patch tried but only cut about an inch of the way in before he gave up, and so he was banished. Moscow was still receiving messages from uncle Bazarov, and he told the group that his uncle wanted them to commit a murder, so that they could carve a story on the victim's body for the cops to find. Any old fool would do, Moscow reiterated. Bazarov told him that the act would be meaningful in time, that at first people would reject it as pure, gratuitous evil, but that eventually they would understand and believe in the power of the gesture. Moscow told the group that he had been planning to write a whole novel, and that he would write it on a dead man's body to satisfy Bazarov. He even said that he knew where his uncle hid the Kalishnikov in the house, a weapon that would get the job done. Honey Badger said no, he said that the group did not kill people, and that Bazarov could go fuck himself because he was in jail and wasn't the boss anymore. He and Moscow fought. It was a brutal affair, with bruised ribs and broken noses and much blood, and though Moscow was considerably bigger, my brother won. Honey Badger assumed leadership of the group in that very moment, and told Moscow that he was banished. Later that night, Moscow got deep into his uncle's homemade vodka, and then wandered the streets with the rifle, looking for a victim. He came to a homeless man sleeping against a red-brick building, aimed the rifle, and pulled the trigger. Moscow missed, and the bullet ricocheted and hit him in the face, removing a part of his jaw. He wandered home, still drunk, semi-coherent, bleeding terribly from his face. He sat down at his desk and wrote out his novel by hand. Honey Badger and the rest of the gang went to his house, because he decided he had been too harsh, and that Moscow could rejoin the group if he stopped consulting Bazarov. They snuck up to his room, only to find him at his desk, dead, slumped over a stack of paper where he had completed his novel by hand with part of his face missing. My brother kept the novel, but never told anyone what it was about or if it was good. The group asked himif they could at least know the title, but Honey Badger said that it had become obscured by Moscow's blood. 


My brother told me the story that night. I didn't believe him, but he was covered in blood, so clearly something had happened. This was a long time ago, before he became what he became. He never wrote anything after that. He never told me what became of the novel. He never spoke to the crew again. He ignored them at school and hung up when they called. Honey Badger, as they knew him, was dead.        

4. The Loot

          Lisbon to Malpensa. Acquire the loot. Three pair of Dolce and Gabbana Black-White Smokes. Half day in Milan, stay shuttered in hotel with migraine. Malpensa to Charles de Gaulle. Neighbor is woman, mid-fifties, short hair. In town for chocolate conference. "What do you do?" "Personal Sunglasses purchaser for Norris Wips." "What?"

          Charles de Gaulle to Schiphol, for some reason. Neighbor is boy, 12 or 13, striking. Disengaged. When landing, "What do you do?" "Personal Sunglasses purchaser for Norris Wips." No response. 

          Schiphol to LAX. Neighbor is woman, early twenties, too pale and bright-eyed for LA. Too naive. We chat. Pleasantries. Headache. Brevity helps. "What do you do?" "Personal Sunglasses purchaser for Norris Wips." "OMG that's sick! Can you introduce us?" "He's very busy." Scorn for remainder of flight.

          Cab to Beverly Hills. "What do you do?" Pretend not to hear. Arrive at house. Hope to deliver bag fast, go home. Norris and brother, Kevin I think, in foyer. Looming argument. Ambiguous tension. Outside, by pool, unknown man on phone, pacing. Norris yelling now. Kevin looking away, head shaking. Man outside agitated, seemingly unrelated to argument inside. Kevin saying, "Name the last time you came to one of my openings." Norris scoffing. "Pretend to care. Just keep his name out of your mouth." Must exit. Must deliver bag and exit. Attempt to speak. Deaf ears. Attempt to place bag slowly on counter, looking at Norris. "Wait there, I want to inspect them with you. Want to make sure Mr. Dolce didn't fuck me this time." I wait. "You haven't seen what I've seen." Kevin not in same universe as us. Face drips with ineffable dread; eyes carry weight of a hundred atrocities. Unspeakable truths. Things seen, terrible knowledge acquired.  Norris says he needs new therapist. Repeats. Repeats again. Kevin's face red. 

          Man outside more agitated. Yelling at phone. Looks familiar now. Throws phone in pool. Unzips pants and urinates in pool. Mostly misses phone. Seems drunk. Looks very familiar. Tate Hendron, I think. Man has presence. Something… special. Slightly overweight but handsome. Realize I'm staring. Realize he hasn't zipped up yet. Catches me staring. Norris yells something at brother, turns, sees Tate Hendron finish pissing. Whole scene confusing. Tate enters.

          "What the hell man!" "Ah fuck 'em. That agency is as useful as a box of expired, rotting condoms. You two kiss and make up yet or what?" "He'd never kiss another man. Too afraid of being perceived as queer." "Kev, shut up for a minute, let the adults talk." "Hey man, you should be nice to your bro." "I'm going back to Johannesburg." "Jesus, enough with that shit." "Live your dreams, bro." "Don't talk to him. He's talking bullshit. Duloxetine. How many times I've heard that stupid word. You  need to grow some balls. That's it. Our grandfather didn't have PTSD. Know how many Nazis he killed? Know how many dead bodies he saw?" "You're unbelievable." "The one minute he complains about his problems, the next minute he loves his camera more than any real person and needs to go back." "You refuse to even try to understand." "And you still want to go back… You're a whining little shit and you don't know what you're saying." "Hey, be nice to your bro, bro." "Tate, stay out of this." "Don't tell me to stay out of anything! It's all about family, man. All about family. I never see my sister cause she hates us. Our dad disowned her when she decided she preferred pussy, and my mom never said anything. Our dad blew all his money on whores. Flushed it down the fucking drain, all of it. Then one night he drank a fifth of Bushmills and drove his truck straight into a telephone pole. Lights out. My mom,  she can't walk or shit on her own. She doesn't recognize anyone. Listen to me; you got gold right here, man. More than that. What you have is priceless. Family is priceless, bro. Cherish it." "With all due respect, fuck off. He's my brother. I'll talk to him how I want."

          Hendron walks away. Takes beer bottle from fridge while all is silent. Takes two sips. Tosses it to Norris. Clumsy catch. Spilt beer. Norris soaked. Tate punches him in the stomach, hoists him on shoulder. Norris is bigger than Tate. Doesn't seem to matter. Carries thrashing, insensitive man, my employer, outside, throws him in his own pool. "Be fucking nice to your brother, asshole!" Norris is flailing, gasping. "You pissed in here! Jesus!" Hendron reenters house. "Let's get the hell outta here." Kevin shrugs, stands. "What's in the bag curly Sue?" Takes full minute before realize speaking to me. "Sunglasses." "Nice ones?" I nod. He lights cigar. Norris tries to climb out of pool, falls back in. Tate Takes sunglasses out of bag. Wears pair. Throws pair to Kevin. Exit. Just me. Lone pair in hand. Could steal. Could steal and quit. Stealing effectively quitting. Letting belligerent but heroic pool pisser steal loot effectively quitting. Not sure of next steps. Norris out of people, walking toward house. Not happy. Understatement. Could quit. Could avoid question "What do you do?" from now on. Could just say nothing. 

5. Guiding Light

          There flows, from an aperture on the second floor, perpetual light. It shines irrespective of the sun's position in the sky or the time of day. I convalesce under it regularly. It is reminiscent of the light that would come from the port hole above the upper dais at St. Bonaventura, with the great bust of Jesus on the cross, always looking over us. That was the light, the holy Light. The spectral window in St. Bonaventura and the presence of a spectral window here cannot be a coincidence. The light marks the path. I feel him, on my face, in the sun, in me.

          Poor Mrs. Hendron's condition continues to worsen. At the time of my hiring, she could still speak. I would ask her about the skylight, a question to which her response was always the same; "It is the window to heaven." I took joy in the repetition. Now her voice is a distant, though pleasant, memory. When I replaced her soiled linens this morning, I found myself shaken to tears. I was shocked at my own reaction, and forced a quick recovery of composure. Where had it come from? It was my duty as her caregiver to perform these tasks while helping her maintain her dignity to the best of my abilities. In that regard, I came to believe this morning that I had failed, not because of any missed obligation in my care for her, but because of a once forgotten promise that I found myself suddenly revisiting. 

          A beige tray is prepared, every morning, by me, with her breakfast of oats, her amalgam of pills, and her coffee. Yesterday I dropped the tray, spilling oats and coffee on the stairs, breaking the mug. I stared at the mess for some time, hypnotized by the brown stain seeping into the carpet, until I eventually cleaned it and preparing everything again. In another time, Mrs. Hendron amy have been furious about such a coffee stain. Not anymore. After she ate, I went to the light. It was where I went for solitary reflection, where I could have counsel with god. The light shined down on my face. The heat was glorious. I asked a question to which I already knew the answer. How was I failing Mrs. Hendron? Her son had purchased for her this magnificent house with every possible appointment, but that did not maintain her dignity. I recalled, in the presence of the glorious light, the moment three years previous, removed from her element because of a particularly high dose of Amaxaleprone, Mrs. Hendron said to me, "My life is worth something as long as I can still piss on my own." I recall being shocked at her use of a pejorative, an enormous leap in character. Then she said, "Don’t let me live like that. If that part goes, I go." She took my hand and said, "Promise me." I nodded, unsure of what the appropriate response was, but I saw in her glassy eyes that she had taken my nod as affirmation. A moment, forgotten in time. Until now. 

          My duty becomes abundantly clear. Promises kept in the eyes of god. I have secured an item of precious rarity. A bottle, unmarked, its contents liquid and clear. It has no name, no aroma, no flavor. It comes from very, very far away. I had to stretch the reach of all my connections within the network of those who studied the divinities to acquire it. The narrative, as I remember it, was that upon consumption it worked painlessly and immediately. I also knew that this was not some product of pure mythology. I had seen it used, once, at St. Boneventura, on sister Frances, who had been wracked from head to toe with the final stages of a cancer in her spine, the pain so great she could not speak. I watched through the curtains as Father McShine held her hand and poured but an ounce into her open mouth. In an instant her hand had gone limp. 

          A beige tray. A bowl of oats. Pills. A mug of coffee, black. I stare at the bottle of the substance with no name as I hold it in my chamber. I close my eyes, and I think of the light, and the answer it gives. Water, giver of life. Infused with the giving surge of caffeine. A simple cup of coffee. My guiding light. A promise kept. 

6. Modus

  

          We settled on Acapulco. The official reason – it was the site of our first major party together, the one that made Tate famous. But there was another reason for me; it was where he gave me my name. Rafta. Rafaella, he always said, was too long to pronounce when drunk or on drugs. It was DreamScape Acapulco, a decade ago, when the party had all but cleared, and the beach was littered with bodies of semi-alive partygoers, Tate and I shared that moment in front of the rising sun. He said, "Change your name to Rafta. Rafaella's too freaking long. Make my life easy," and this torched little blondie crawled up to us and puked on my shoes. He jumped up and screamed," There it is! A sign from god!" 

          I'm positive that this was the most complicated funeral ever planned, but hey, that's showbiz. It's my job to make things work. Just getting the body back from the police took forever. They did two autopsies, even after his mom's caregiver confessed to the poisoning. "Accidental" poisoning. The way they found him, it looked like someone blew his brains out. He'd just fallen right onto the coffee table in the worst possible way. What a sad end for our beautiful Tate. Had to go out with a closed casket. Once they finally released him to us, getting his corpse to Acapulco was a whole other mess. Have you ever tried to get a body through customs? Beyond that, I had Angie in my ear the whole time about how we can't pick Acapulco because it's "too dangerous." The highest murder rate in Mexico, blah blah blah. She put a news story on my desk about a severed head that washed up on the exact beach that we picked for the funeral. I told her Tate would have loved that. He'd have said that it would add cache. If another head washed up, somebody could drink a margarita out of it. But what I also told her was that you couldn't live in fear, of news reports or murder rates or anything else. Tate believed in living unafraid. He may not have looked it, but he was as tough as they come. This was our party, mine and his. Mostly his. Mostly somewhat his. I'd be goddamned if crime rates were going derail it.

           Then the worst happened. The day of my flight I couldn't stop shitting. Salmonella, the doctor said. No way I could fly for a few days. I nodded my head, the whole time, with my hand behind my back giving a middle finger. One thousand grieving degenerate animals were about to arrive at a private beach for my party of the year, and I wouldn't be there to greet them? Yeah, I'm fucking sure. I went to the airport. Strategized bathroom trips. Probably maybe didn't quite understand how dehydrated I was. Collapsed in the luggage line. Ended up in the hospital when I was supposed to be landing in Acapulco. Angie showed up and said, "What do you need??" as the doctors were trying to kick her out of the room, but she caught must have caught me mouthing the words, "My MacBook."

          What's this business if not the business of figuring out a plan B? Angie caught the next flight, and with the technical team they reoriented the cameras. I would Skype in, direct traffic, and watch the whole thing from my bed on the fourth floor of Mount Sinai.

Tate always said he was gonna go out on his own terms. Well, you could say that he still did that. Right as the pastor gave the closing remarks of his service, while it still appeared to be a hot, clear, beautiful twilight, as the ecstasy was being swallowed and phials of cocaine loosed from necklaces and purses, it hailed. They were like white tennis balls made of ice. One girl, Sandy Fluke, got knocked out cold. Several injuries. Half the windows of the hotel destroyed. Cars destroyed. Some people ran for cover, some said fuck it and began to dance, before the music had even started.

Tate's body lay in the coffin atop a ten-foot pile of wood. The bonfire was to be lit at midnight. Well, amid the hail-storm, as people screamed or danced or made out, lightening struck the pyre. Tate's cremation started prematurely. I screamed as it happened, and a nurse raced in to see if I was okay. The same nurse that tried to bar Angie from the room. I told her to fuck off.

          The bonfire raged within minutes. My initial horror subsided when I saw that the fraidy-cats stopped hiding from the hail-storm when they saw the fire. Nobody knew what was going on, but everyone just went with it. Suddenly it was a party. The party. Tate was lit. Someone took the microphone and announced at the top of his lungs, "TATE IS LIT! TATE HONEY IS FIRE!" What ensued was the most obscene spectacle I've ever seen. Dozens of his friends, acquaintances, people he hated, people that loved him that he'd never met, women he'd fucked and forgotten about, guys he'd fucked and kept in touch with (nobody knew about that part but me), his cherished ex Suzie who once asked me if Tate and I ever hooked up and I avoided the question, and even his sister, Michela, they all surrounded the fire, suddenly unafraid of the plague raining down from the sky, and they partied. They. Fucking. Partied. It was biblical. It was revelatory. More drugs were consumed per capita than anything in the history of life. Tears were shed. So were clothes. One couple fucked so good right on the beach I got myself off under the covers watching them. That sounds like a success to me. That sounds like a fucking party. That was when I finally cried. right after I came. The nurse checked on me and I couldn't stop balling and she just hugged me and watched Sodom and Gomorrah play out on the screen in front of us. My poor @T8Honey. I will miss you.    

          

two urinals

Two urinals, side by side. One covered, taped with charcoal garbage bag. Relief - no neighbours. Unzip. Five second delay only. No shiver of proximity. No prehistoric turning off of the water. No defence mechanism hesitation. Door opens. A man, more in the bag than me, inspects the tape job on the out-of-order slab. Gets in there close, like forensics. Doesn't believe the warning. Rights himself, tears away the prohibitive bag, unzips. Let's her rip. I'm dried up, still not finished, realize i'm watching, staring at a pissing dick. His eyes are closed, he's swaying. Pipe below the urinal's leaking. Piss River finding his feet. The Mississippi now, at the opposite wall. Eyes open, Oh Shit! Guess the thing is really fucked up! Haha! Finishes. Zips up. Leaves, minus a sink visit. Wait ten seconds in silence, let her flow again. Mississippi changes course, heads my way. Faster, i say to the wall. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Door opens. Eyes close

maestro

He looked out at the city; no movement yet. No sounds. He unspooled three cycles of grey tape and wrapped the handlebars. He jangled the bottle -holder. Still too loose. He made a decision; he took the screwdriver and loosened it completely, tossed it aside. He looked outside; the towers touched the sky, the clouds steady. The husks of giant buildings loomed. Former glass cases. Now skeletons, glass paneling eroded, empty, haunted. He sniffed the window. Still nothing. He strapped his feet into the Garneaus. Light as a feather, he said. Light as the wind. He walked to the door, each step producing a knock, a knuckle wrapping wood. I had been sitting at the little kitchen table, shirt off, watching, sipping coffee, looming through the steam of it. There's some left in the Bodum, i said. Kinda cold now. All good bro, he said. What time you get up? i said. Sun wasn't up, he said. I looked at the bike, then i put my face to the window. Anything yet? i said. He sat, looping more tape. I hear 'em, he said. I put my ear to the window. Distant rumblings, deep; crucibles of the earth, moving. You're good, i said. He righted the bike against the wall, slid on his gloves. How confident are you? I said. He looked at me, through the purple tints of his goggles, the WindRazors that Haverman had crafted for him before he died. I could feel the look. It was an answer. We heard a tilting, a shifting in the landscape, like an ancient creak breaking the tectonic plates. He rolled the bike to the door, and i opened it. The highway stretched from outside our door for miles, flanked by the towers on both sides. The ground rumbled, or so it seemed. He strapped the left Garneau into the pedal. Let me pour you some coffee first, i said. He shook his head. I looked at the wrapping around his knee, from last time. What if your speed is compromised? i said. He shook his head and squeezed my shoulder. What if, what if, what if. That's all you say bro. That's tired. You won't be coming back, eh? i said. Places to go, he said. Lots of 'em. He took off. He was a cheetah. A bullet. Sound and light. If only he'd been born in the time of the Tour de France. I held my breath, and watched the first tower. The sound rose from the depths, enormous, earth shattering. The tower teetered, and glass panels plummeted. The first missed him by what must have been inches, smashing against the concrete. I could hear him shooting, even that far in the wind, Woooooooooo! Woooooooohooo! The next building shook, and pieces of it tumbled down, crushing the highway, toppling parts of the pillars that upheld it. But he was already past it. He had the speed. He had the wind on his side 

family matters

Father entered the anteroom and from my horizontal vantage point i could not decipher the contents of his tray. The duration of my convalescence had far exceeded expectations even despite the extreme condition in which i had been. So close to death that i could feel the cold glint of the scythe hovering just above my neck, the gooseflesh raised and hairs on end, that such prolonged periods of lying flat had instilled in me an uncommon irritability that i suppressed as much as possible in front of dear father and mother. Father placed the tray upon the coffee table that had acted as my dresser for these weeks, revealing to me the steam and then the orange pallor of the soup. Eat, he said, not betraying his preferred amount of syllabic output. I righted myself, and struggled through some pitiful milligrams of what would normally be a delicious carrot consommé before returning to my horizontal inclination. You gotta eat, he said. All in due time, father, i replied. I am fuelled by something more nourishing than food at the moment, i said to him. What's that? he replied. Vengeance, i said. Father shook his head and rose. Vengeance, i repeated, more to myself than to our naïve if not nurturing father. You've got to stop this, Jesse, he said, disengaged from reality as per the usual. There was no mistaking it - my parents were rubes, unaware of the deeper turnings of the gears. There were things they simply could not see. Your brother didn't poison you Jesse, you just got sick is all. It happens, he said. No father, i replied, it doesn't. It doesn't happen that a perfectly healthy man of my age is befallen by such a condition as to baffle physicians and bring me to the precipice of death. It doesn't just happen that our dear Brandon arrives for his visit and then only upon his departure does my ordeal commence. Certain things are known. I haven't a doubt in my mind. Haven't had a doubt in my mind since the first inklings of numbness began in my fingertips. Father threw his hands to God as if to say Lord! Replace me! Relieve me of my caregiving duties and help this poor boy with his hallucinations! It was inconsequential. In two, maybe three days, when i would regain the ability to walk, i would set out, in mother and father's borrowed Cavalier, and my hunt would begin. Dear Brandon, older brother, tormentor, harbinger of odious wisdom that no one asked for, the hourglass in which your life-sand sits is now flipped. Why on earth would your brother want to poison you! You're talking crazy. I'm calling the doctor again, father said. He has his reasons, father. He has his reasons 

calypso

A was pissed at B because B cheated on C with D when they all lived together on the fourth floor of The Gilmore, in the room with the neon sign outside the window. C said they didn't care about the cheating, but A swore revenge on C's behalf. A bought a Delagrote folding knife from E at the extremely run down pawn shop, not the nice one across the street. E felt misty parting with the blade. It had been a gift from F, when they still ran together, before the pawning days, before stints inside. It had an irremovable spot of rust on the handle that F had liked to pretend was blood before giving it away, a reminder from the moment F plunged it to the hilt in miserable G's belly. G had survived, but not without permanent complications in the digestive category, and regular need of H's services as a caretaker. H had served G for years, when the time suited G, in a more pleasurable capacity. H didn't report their earnings from G to I, even at the risk of violence or worse. Those earnings H kept, tax free. When I wasn't sitting in the car at 2 AM, watching J try to work the corner, staring at J's jerky left leg as it constantly tapped the concrete, watching while chain smoked, hoping for a car to pull over, ensuring valid effort through the pressure of proximity, I'd be with K. K performed as best as possible, always acting as if private time with I was pleasurable, even desirable, and not painful or violating, but K was desperate for a way out. K and J made a pact to split together. As they packed their bags, I burst into the room, intuiting the betrayal. I tackled J, the stronger of the two, and K unearthed the razor blade always hidden in the left boot, taped to the stocking, and turned I's right Achilles tendon into a canyon. J and K holed up at K's older cousin L's place. L, years recovered from a nearly fatal heroin addiction now ran the Daisies and Dukes Daycare, though was thinking of changing the name. One of the kids, M, would hug L's leg all day long. L tried to get M to eat and nap and play with the other children, but nothing worked. M just clutched that leg until it was numb and L would walk with a limp for the rest of the evening. When N came to pick up M every day they would ask how much leg clutching went on, and M would say oh not much, it's getting better every day, and then close the door and limp back inside on the numb leg. N would tuck M in after dinner, and then stare out the window for two to three hours, contemplating infinity. Then N would call the Hotline, hoping O would be working. O was the only operator at the Hotline that turned N on. But then N got the news that O had quit, leaving the Hotline unceremoniously to go live in an airstream in the middle of the New Mexico desert. O got bitten by a rattlesnake on the third day in the desert, and walked 6 miles along the road, snakebit and freezing, until a truck pulled over. P drove O to the hospital, minding the puke and the incoherent ravings about the devil coming from O's mouth. P did not stick around to learn the results, after O had been sufficiently placed in front of the Emergency Room doors. P went to Harrington's Pump, sat at the usual seat, drank the usual beer. Much to P's delight, Q was behind the bar. Q only worked once a week, sometimes less, for all the organizing. Q wore a black patch not dissimilar to that of a pirate, acquired six years earlier, the result of a ricocheting rubber bullet that did not spare the eye it struck. Q'd been tear gassed, tasered, and beaten with batons, but never thought of giving up the life. Q's stories kept P drinking and kept the whole bar entertained. Once S got annoyed, being a staunch conservative and detester of protests, and confronted Q threateningly, only to have a highball glass smashed over the head and then a few subsequent skull whacks with a bottle of Jameson. T nursed S's wounds, the whole time S ranting about how liberalism was tantamount to terrorism and had to be stopped. T's assignment was to go to Eastside Hardware and buy sparkplugs. The city hall bombs were to be the first attack in a string of many. U approached the car as T sat in it, and asked if T needed some company. And after they had fucked in the back seat, T's bad knee popping the whole time, U spent time massaging T's head, eventually convincing T to go again. T returned home with no money and no sparkplugs. U wanted to use the earnings to rent a car and escape somewhere, anywhere, a plan long in the works. But the courage wasn't there, and U gave the earnings to V, who replied with a kiss on the forehead and a light slap on the cheek. V could sense the impending betrayal, and planned to show U that there would be consequences. V took the earnings to The Roundabout, to the back room for cards and dice, where X was dealing at poker. V sat at the table, thinking about whether they would cut U or just give a firm warning, and paying peripheral attention to W, who was always sketchy, but seemed particularly agitated now. An hour in and Sketchy W unleashed two civil-war-era revolvers and pointed them at X, demanding all the money in the joint. W, being less than a super genius, failed to anticipate that Y would carry a gun, which was quickly applied to the back of W's head. Y, however, failed to spot Z at the table, pulling out their own gun, the promise of outlaw heroism finally realized, only to have W shoot Z right in the head, as Z's gun went off, missed W, and struck Y in the eye. X of course had the shotgun hidden under the table, and blasted through the felt, lifting W five feet in the air, scattering cards and chips and blood about the room, and the place was once again quiet, no sounds of chips clacking, no chatter. A sat there stunned, terrified, blood splattered. Up until that moment A had been thinking about B. A was pissed at B because B cheated on C with D when they all lived together on the fourth floor of The Gilmore, in the room with the neon sign outside the window   

ASMR for dummies

The handcuffs hurt a hell of a lot more than she could have imagined. She couldn't smell the blood, but she felt the wetness. She rocked on her knees in the padded room, leaning forward then angling back, trying to get comfortable. The room was tiny. She figured they didn't bring more than one in here at a time. She chewed on her hair because it was there, trying to find solace in the chew noise. She whispered to herself. She worried about her subscribers. After a day or two of inactivity, they'd begin to look elsewhere. New queries would fill their search lines. A channel can go from number one to irrelevant in heartbeats. Options were growing every day. The door opened and a man in a suit floated in, serious, agitated, chrome gun on his hip. Rachel, he said, i'm lieutenant Cleene. I'm here to talk. She looked at him with her moistest, most endearing eyes. Hello Lieutenant. I would be happy to talk to you, but if you could loosen these cuffs ever so slightly it would make a world of difference. It's hard to think when it hurts so badly, she said in the softest, floweriest voice she could muster. He smiled, and stayed put. Okay, he said, we're gonna try something. It's gonna involve me leaving the room for another six hours if i feel like maybe i'm being manipulated? Toyed with? Know what i mean? Cut the shit. She nodded without affect. You understand the charges against you? he said. She shook her head. You know Manson, right? He said. Manson? She repeated. Charles Manson? I don't mean personally. But you've heard of him, he said, not really as a question. He died in jail. Spent most of his heathen life inside. You know what he did? She didn't respond. She whispered something to herself, nearly inaudible. He had his disciples kill five innocent people. Never pulled a trigger or swung a blade himself. It was influence. Murders of influence. You wouldn't know anything about that though, would you? Thirteen former, whatever, whatchamacallits, whatever it is you people do, they wouldn't know anything about that either, would they? They don't know much of anything anymore. Thirteen, Rachel. Thirteen souls. Who were they, Rachel, he said, competitors? Her whispers increased in volume. He thought she might have been praying. Maybe cut that out, he said. She rocked back and forth while whispering. He furrowed is brow, scratched his head.  Unholstered his gun. He stood there, holding it tight as she whispered. He looked at it, like it was his first time laying eyes on it. All right, he said. He opened the door and left the room, finger on the trigger

tunneling

There is nothing left to write, i tried to tell them. They would not hear of it. They said there would be no food. I had found the tunnel weeks ago but had not ventured into it. I had to believe they were bluffing. But after what felt like two days no one had come down, i assumed the worst. I ventured. The walls smelled of mold at first. Consistencies changed. Hard surfaces softened. The smell changed. Something perfumed, inorganic but irresistible. A tiny kernel of unblack pinged from somewhere deep on. Could have been miles away. Allowed me to see the walls, just barely. They appeared to be breathing. I'd been here before. There was no denying it. An absolute certainty. A return. It wasn't only a place I'd been before, but the place. But when? I decided to go back. I didn't feel equipped to make the trip, wherever it was going. I would die in there, most likely. With my back to the kernel I felt profound sadness. I'll be coming back. One day soon. I'm coming back. I'm coming home   

stuff of dreams

I'm cruising down the PCH fast, the fastest i've ever driven the Stingray, and my hair is doing the thing where it blows perfectly behind me, like i'm in a Megadeath music video if a Megadeath music video could be shot in a sun-soaked paradise. The salt rides the wind directly into my nose and i am instantly aware as to why dogs are so happy sticking their faces out of the windows of moving cars. I know this feeling. Have known it. But this time feels different, more perfect somehow. I have to remind myself that's part of the illusion. But what i really have to remind myself is to shut up and stop thinking and enjoy the ocean and the breeze. Seagulls fly over my head and they don't shit on me. I can see, just barely, out of my peripheral vision, past the cliff edge, dolphins, jumping out of the ocean. My sunglasses - i probably don't need them, do i? I take them off and throw them out of the convertible, into the sky behind me. I Let my naked face digest this. The transponder makes a strange beeping sound on the seat beside me, and i look at it, and suddenly i'm in my dark little room with the smell of mold and sausage that i can't get rid of. The transponder beeps and flashes. I haven't seen this before. Outside, riot police are entering the building across from mine for the third time this week. A dog howls in unison with the approaching sirens. I don't know what's wrong with the transponder, but out of instinct i smack at as hard as i can. For a second i'm back on the California coast, then again back in my room. I smack it again, harder, and i'm back in the Stingray. The ocean smell is back. I may have to replace the transponder, which is extremely anxiety-inducing because it will cost me two months' salary. But for the moment it is working again. My hair is blowing. I can feel salt on my eyelashes. I am free  

headwalking

June was sick of being told girls can't mosh, so she set out to prove it wasn't so, first with the little knife on the wrist that no one noticed, then with the half sleeve, which Stacey and Alexa said was a bit much for a former miss eighth grade gymnastics silver medallist, then with a full sleeve by the end of the year, complete with blocky Xs on both fists, vowing never to drink or smoke again, but at the xSurvivorx show she was still pushed out to the back of the pit by the boys and almost lost an eye to a spin kick that forced her to spend most of the set in the washroom holding her face with a damp clump of toilet paper, a little bit of blood on her Bane shirt, doing her own expert makeup for the next two weeks to encourage the eye to look normal, when she got wind that Knuckle Sandwich were finally coming back to town after a five-year hiatus, and Jerry and Mitch beat their heads against their lockers in anticipation, because they remembered that at the last Knuckle Sandwich show six people left in an ambulance and Oren Okowski lost his two front teeth, which was why he wore veneers, and which June learned only recently was how he'd earned the nickname beaver, so she took her time with a mannequin's head she'd stolen from The Levi's Store, drawing realistic blood and gore coloring around the neck, adding firm horse hair and drawing realistic facial features, and when the show finally came she snuck the head in under her jacket, pretending to be pregnant, which particularly disturbed Mack Jones who was working the door and hadn't seen June in months and had always had a crush on her, and she bided her time, waiting through the openers, avoiding conversation near the back, until Knuckle Sandwich came on and opened with Ten Count, to which she unearthed the head from her ruse of pregnant belly, and ran as fast as she could through the circle, swinging the fiberglass and plastic head by the hair, mashing anonymous faces, noting Beaver in the crowd making a face like Oh Shit! and within seconds the crowd cleared as June swung with all her life, and then she rushed the stage for the singalong, thrusting the mannequin head up to the mic as Pete Knuckles shoved it at her, and the mannequin head owned the moment, with the crowd behind her carrying the words, security forcing their way through the pit to hoist June and her weapon out of there, everyone screaming and manic, June still holding the head up trophy-style, twirling it by the hair like a helicopter blade, screaming the final lyrics to Ten Count, foaming at the mouth, pit queen, if only for a minute 

hunted 1

          He chewed on sunflower seeds, Mad Crunch Tommy, like it was outta style ten years ago and he was trying to relive something. That's where he got the Mad Crunch part from. We wasn't close, never really. His dad showed me a thing or two with the shotgun when we was little, on those first couple hunting trips, but we was never close in the best friend kinda sense. That's why this whole thing was supposed to be easy. Tommy did this move with his hair, after it got long, where he pretended to play harmonica with it. Never understood why the girls loved that bit so much, but then again i never understood much about girls one way or the other.

          When Gene O'Dea and me had the sit down, right in the back of Jessop's bar, he gave me five hundred right there. Said i'd get another thousand after. I didn't ask questions, just like i ain't accustomed to asking questions when it's pets. Guess that's different. Jenny Harliss' dog, that sumbitch was 19 years old when she paid me to do it. Cried the whole time she was giving me the details. I showed up at the barn and that old chihuahua took one look at me and it was like every last ounce of anger, every last growl it had in it was reserved for that moment. Guess the old bastard didn't really want to die. Guess he had a sense of what the reaper looks like. I wish i coulda told him, it ain't that. It's just a quick 150 beats the hell outta what a vet costs. That dog had history, you could tell, looking at it, listening to that old-ass snarl. I didn't ask Jenny no questions about that dog, and i didn’t ask Gene no questions about Tommy. 

          Gene didn't need to say nothing about Tommy, to be perfectly honest; i heard the rumours just like everybody else. Gene's former Mrs., former fiancée actually, Marla Cove, she'd been walking around with a growing bump in her belly as of late. Couple people around town, they mentioned how they saw her and Tommy a little more than cordial together. You stupid shit, Tommy. You don't fuck with a man like Gene's business, even if it is expired.

          We'd only been out for deer alone twice. Idiot with his seeds, chewed so loud he could scare away a dead bullfrog. The part i still hadn't worked on was the story; he went crazy officer! He come at me like a bat outta hell! He's been doing LSD as of late! I didn't love that one. Still could land me 25 to life, I figured. I just thought he was to my left, officer, not in the bushes in front. That deer come up quick, and i levelled the shotgun, i had no idea he was there! It all happened so fast, i didn’t know what was sunflower seeds and what was poor Tommy's teeth! Oh officer, he was my dear friend! That bit worked for Dick Cheney, didn't it?

          He set there, holding his rifle like a doofus, and i realized he might actually blow his own damn head off, make this whole thing a bit easier. We heard the rustle behind us, and there he was, the big ole buck. He was looking right at us, and believe me, he was pissed right off. Tommy's seed-chewing mouth froze real fast. Maybe we deal with the buck first, then worry about the rest, i thought. Yeah, i liked that

blessed

Okay now this is supposed to be the part where Macnello hoists the delicious carcass onto the spit. We've had it in the ground six hours now, slowly cooking, and i mean isn't that a delicious looking pig Sandy? Look at that. I mean the meat is already sizzling, dripping with what must be its own juices. Gotta be careful not to get any on my shirt here. ATV News pays for the Ralph Lauren but they don't pay for the dry cleaning, hahaha. What's that Sandy? Yes here it comes, Macnello is climbing out of the hole now. His little workers, Pablo and Pedro, they are doing the hoisting here, onto the spit. Boy is it a hot one today. Macnello is catching his breath here, trying to wipe the dirt off; he's practically covered in it. You know i feel silly in this shirt Sandy, i don't know about you. Just so the audience is aware, we did in fact travel 48 hours total to get here. Two planes, two continents, a twelve hour ride in the back of a truck, through the mountains, and i gotta say, it wasn't exactly sunny out or dry out. That's right Sandy, the rain was pouring. Another eleven hour ride through the desert, on a bus that shall we say was a little more cramped than our city buses back home, and i was of course sitting beside a woman who had lost the ability to walk years ago, who did in fact soil herself during the first hour of that trip. The clothes i wore that day are long gone, but not forgotten. Macnello is chewing on a root of some kind, something we don't have in America and if we did it would probably be classified as a Schedule One drug, hahaha. Now i want to warn the audience, this is the part where Macnello blesses the meat, quote unquote. You see the scarring on his wrist there, that's from years of doing this and of course he's got Pedro and Pablo to assist with the medical attention afterward. What's that? Oh yes, of course, Marco! Pedro and Marco. Now of course with a process this involved, Macnello can only make this dish once a year. He gave up a world-renown restaurant and the Michelin Stars years ago to be able to devote himself to the craft, but i'm told that once we taste it, once we're eating together with the villagers, we'll understand. And i don't know about you Sandy but i for one am famished. Now i want to warn the audience, this part is going to get graphic, as Macnello is going to open up a part of the wrist, in order to get the right amount of his blood onto the animal in a short amount of time as it starts the last segment on the spit. There's going to be quite a bit of spraying, so viewer discretion is advised. We've got Marco and Pedro ready with the towels and bandages, and folks remember they are very experienced here. Oh, look at that Sandy, Macnello has the blade ready, a stone he carved and grinded himself, into a razor sharp stub just for this annual occasion. Well let's just look away here so not to get sprayed. Guess i should say goodbye to the Ralph Lauren for good, hahaha. Now boy that meat smells good, i gotta say, i am very excited to eat that pig  

hunted 2

          I don't know what the buck's deal was, if it had rabies or what, i don't even know if deers get rabies, but this sumbitch was in a mood. I went through a little debate in my head about whether i should say anything to Mad Crunch about whether he should move when the buck charged, snarling, red-eyed, very pissed off with the universe. Too late. I gave it my all on a last-second dodge, feeling the shotgun fly outta my hands as i rolled, but Tommy ate it. I didn't see it clear, but i heard the crack of the buck connecting with some part of Tommy, and then he was flying through the air like he'd been running with them bulls in that crazy place in Spain. I saw that on TV once. I swung the shotgun up from the soil into my grip and fired without a chance to blink. This thing was twelve feet away, and i shit you not i put a hole in it so big that i could see the trees out the other end. And the motherfucker charged me again. I pumped it but the buck was already on me, shotgun gone flying again, and it felt like a rock smashed my face, and there was a moment there when i was just waking up, not knowing what was what.

          Tommy was yelling something, and i was hearing this distant boom sound that got more and more distant, being most likely the echo of Tommy's rifle. The deer was lying beside me, looking right at me like we just spent a regretful night together. One of it's eyeballs wasn't there anymore. Tommy tried to stand, smoking rifle still in his hand. "You all right?" he gargled out, and i said something can't remember. Then he fell over. 

          I shook out some of the cobwebs, definitely something not being right upstairs, and crawled over to Tommy. His leg was bleeding more than the buck, a big nice hole right in the side of the thigh where the antler must have got him. He laughed; he was so happy he nailed a buck. I don't know why i said it, but i said, "You need a hospital." I should have just taken care of business right then and there. I had the shotgun in my hand, and he was laying there not knowing his ponytail from his asshole. If Gene coulda seen the scene he'd a been screaming.

          I helped Tommy to his feet, but without my help he couldn't walk for shit. We were about two miles from the road, two miles from the car and from the possibility of getting out of this. I couldn't help Tommy hop around and also carry the shotgun at the same time, but Tommy refused to dump his gun; his daddy gave him that and shit if that sunflower seed-crunching bastard ain't sentimental. I put my shotgun down on a prominent rock, maybe thinking that if i wanted to i could come back for it later, but some voice was saying that probably wasn't gonna happen.

          Two miles with a wounded man bigger than you, half slumped on your shoulder is a shitload farther than two miles normal, even if he does have the maturity of a half-stupid child. We stopped after about a quarter and i decided we needed to wrap up that leg, seeing as i was getting a bit sick of that warm feeling of his blood getting on me. I had bandages in my backpack, but then i remembered that my backpack was sitting next to that stump where i left the shotgun, along with the water and the nuts. I ripped my sweater apart trying to find a piece that would work. I imagined Gene's face, getting madder and madder. I could still do it, Gene. Maybe at the car. Well, maybe that's a bad idea. Could be other cars driving by. Might be i'm coming up with a story for Gene instead of a cop. And giving back 500 dollars. That's probably a best case scenario if i don't take care of business. Well shit.

          Tommy said something like "Go on without me, I'll be fine," and i slapped him in the head and put him back on my shoulder. The whole way to the car, i kept trying to look behind me for more rabid bucks, or grizzlies, or mountain lions, or alligators. They all seemed just around the corner. 

          I don't remember much about coming home, probably on account of the buck-induced concussion, but i have a vague sense of getting pulled over. When the cop came to the window, me and Tommy couldn't stop laughing. It was that hysterical type where your chest hurts and you can't talk. The cop was not impressed, certainly thinking we was drunk, which we half were, but then i managed to lift Tommy's leg mid-laugh, and that's all i remember. Turns out the cop was Bill Styles, who i know somewhat, but i was probably too fogged up to tell when he pulled us over. I do remember being in an ambulance at some point, thinking it was probably damn lucky that officer Styles thought i was just drunk driving, cause it turns out the concussion was real bad. I might have crashed that car and made it a poetic end for both of us. Gonna be real treat figuring out what to do about gene. Been crafting that one from the hospital bed. I guess i could always tell him the job's still a work in progress. Tommy gave me his ice cream sunday today; our beds are beside each other in the same room. Awful nice of him. Then again, i'm gonna have to figure out how the hell to pay this hospital bill. We'll see, Tommy. We'll see  

the last brutalist

You know, the roof must be higher, Yuri said. Juliana glared at the half-formed bus stop, its immense concrete pillars looming over her. Well, she said, the roof is already supposed to be thirty feet high. We can't change it. I'm only using the specs that The Bureau approved. The Bureau? Yuri said. The Bureau does not understand buildings. The Bureau does not understand architecture. The Bureau does not understand art. Juliana took her phone out of her pocket. I'm calling The Bureau, she said. The Bureau! Yuri spat. The Bureau won't help you. They have hired me, only me! Only i can design these public centres for transportation, he said. The Bureau are nothing but a pile of useless, faceless goo. We are six months behind schedule, Juliana said, to design a goddamn bus stop. I'm sick of not seeing my daughter before she goes to sleep. I'm calling The Bureau, they can deal with you. The Bureau! Yuri said again, more viciously. The Bureau never sat in a cell in the Gulag! The Bureau never froze its balls off for six years! The Bureau didn't lose half its body weight, watching its friends starve to death all around it! The Bureau didn't have to eat stray cats! The Bureau! The Bureau! The Bureau! I'm calling them, Juliana said. They can call you. They'll tell you what to do, and you will listen, she said. Yuri took his own phone out of his pocket and threw it on the ground. Argh! He yelled, and then he took off his shoe and beat the phone to death with it. He kept yelling The Bureau! at the top of his lungs while beating his phone until it was reduced to paste on the concrete. Juliana had her phone to her ear, on hold. She shook her head at the old man, who was now on his knees, sweating. She looked up at the unfinished pillars of the station, feeling the same spine-shiver she felt every time she looked at them 

what's in a name?

Yesterday had my first lecture. Prof is a beanpole, a real lamewad. My toenail gunk is more interesting. Kid beside me was wacko. Started breakdancing outta nowhere. People cheered. Ate shawarma on bench for lunch. Was pretty good. Really good actually. Probably have it again tomorrow. Texted McKenzie. She didn't respond. I think that might be done. Had a seminar later. Breakdancing kid was in there. Recognized me so he sat next to me. Has a bowl cut like Jim Carrey in Dumb And Dumber. He asked my name,  told him Amir. I asked his name and he said some shit i can't even pronounce. Martinveege?

Today, class worse. Fell asleep twice. Got called out for it. Then phone rang. Prof in this class is a ballbuster. Came right over and took the phone when i pulled it out, and answered it.(!) Was mom, Jesus Christ. She told mom Tell your son to turn his phone off, he's in college now. Everyone laughed, except breakdancing kid. He's in like all my classes. He had sympathy. After class, said Do you wanna do some breakdancing? I said Uh, i'm kinda hungry dude. We got lunch. I asked him his name again. He said Martinveeger. I said, haha was the R always there on the end? He said, super straight face, No, i got my second R today. I looked at him like what the fuck? He goes on, says My parents were real generous, they gave me a second R. I could have five or six by the end of the year. Then he said what letter did you gain today? I looked at him like how pigeons look at dog turds. What in the fuck was he even saying? I said, Wait, so your name, like, changes every day? Your parents give you a new letter every day? And he said, Duh? Don't yours? I thought he was messing with me, but then he showed me his acceptance letter, from last year. Had it in his backpack. Name went off the page. Like over 200 letters long. Said it resets every year on his birthday. I told him to show me his passport and he said What's a passport? 

Kid is a total weirdo. I like him though. We're gonna get lunch again tomorrow.

length

Marguerite had won the short story contest. Several famous authors had entered, and she beat them all, and had done so with a story of only 100 words. She went to receive her check and her little plaque from the literary magazine's office. They gave her her awards and shook her hand. She felt amazing. Outside she sat on a bench and ate a hotdog and drank Coke from a glass bottle. A tall man with an oily-looking leather jacket sat next to her and asked her about the plaque. I won a literary contest, she said. Did it in only 100 words. The man said Congratulations. Did you know Hemingway once wrote a story that only had six words? Marguerite nodded as she swallowed her last bit of hotdog. She smashed the Coke bottle against the bench and stabbed the man in the liver. The man survived for three weeks before succumbing to his injury. Marguerite went to jail, where she continued writing. Over the years she tried to enter literary contests, but was mostly rejected. When she was in her forties, she won a contest with a story that was one single word long. An article was published about the convicted murderer literary genius. A literary agent came to see her and tried to convince her to write a novel. Marguerite refused to speak, but wrote the word NO on a piece of paper in big letters and slid it to the agent. The agent came to see her a few more times, but failed to convince her to write a novel. Marguerite responded with the same one word answer each time. She was nearly sixty when she was released. She took a job at a bookstore. After a few days of work, she noticed that a book had been written about her life, unbeknownst to her. The introduction to the book was written by the literary agent that had come to see her in jail. The intro began by saying Hemingway was famous for, among other things, publishing a story that was only six words long... Marguerite closed the book. She bought a Coke and a hotdog on her lunch