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    

 

little things

For two days i had been hearing this scratching noise in the wall whenever i was in the can. It was coming from down by my feet. I was worried it was a rat or something so i got my hammer and pried the sucker open. Inside the little hole was a person, about two inches tall. Holy shit! i said. She didn't panic or anything; she just looked at me like i was a nuisance. She was wearing high-waisted jeans and a turtleneck. In her little space was a tiny desk built from wood and paperclips, with a little makeshift computer. There was a bed, and a few other electronic apparatuses i didn't recognize. Do you mind? She said. I have very important work to do. Well, i said, you're in my house, so yeah i do mind. She rolled her eyes and said I guess it was only a matter of time. I shrunk myself a while back, with one of the earlier prototypes i built in my lab. Jesus! I said. Are you ok? Do you need help? She said Do i look like i need help? I'm doing just fine, thank you. I shrunk myself to get away from all the noise. I never have enough time to focus on my most important work. She turned around and went back to her computer. I noticed the pile of insect legs in the corner. Can I bring you some food? I asked. She looked like she wanted to smack me, and then she sighed and said Sure. Can i put in a request for a vegetable? Frankly i'm getting sick of eating ants and termites. I have termites? i said, but she was already busy on her little computer. I brought her some kale and a cherry tomato, and she put them in the corner and then she told me to buzz off cause she had to work on her particle accelerator.  What's your name? i said. For god's sake, she said. It's Anna, Ok? Anna. Now get the hell out of here! I need to focus on my work. What an ungrateful little bitch, I muttered, walking back to my room. I sat down at my computer and checked my email. I had a message from an Anna Zeenan at CModernTech. It said I heard that!   

jesus wept

For weeks, i brought Anna rations in her little hole while she worked on her particle accelerator. I don't know how the hell she got all her materials, but day after day, this thing was getting bigger and more complicated-looking. I would ask her how it was going, and she'd usually reply with something like Maybe if you'd screw off and not bother me so much i would actually make progress! She enjoyed the food rations, but didn't want me spoiling her because, as she put it, hunting kept her sharp. But then things started to change. Over time, her work on the accelerator started to wane. I'd peak an eyeball in there and see piles of metal tubing on the floor, and she'd be working on other things. Once i saw her binding a book she'd made, using ultra thin sheets of wood. She'd written a whole novel by hand and bound it into a book. Eventually, she became disinterested in science altogether. All i ever saw her working on was artistic stuff. She'd unplugged everything electronic that she'd made and repurposed it all for picture frames for paintings she'd made using her own blood, and, uh, other stuff. It was hard not to be mesmerized, looking at these tiny little paintings. They were really something. She'd crafted her own museum. Then, one day, she was gone. I went to bring her a blueberry, and when i peered in there was no trace of her, or her artworks or novel. What remained was a miniature Golgotha. She had built three wooden crosses, and affixed a termite to each cross. One of the three termites, the one with the crown of thorns on its head, was still alive, wriggling with its last few ounces of strength. On the floor she had written I've done enough. I cleared out all of the debris and the crucified termites and threw it all in the trash, then i patched up the hole. I'll have to fill it with something or else mice might move in there. I went to my computer to check if she had emailed me, but of course she hadn't    

excessive steepage

At the Little Neck Café, Jenny dropped the drinks off at 31. A moment later, the lady at the table waved her back over. My iced tea, it doesn't taste right, the lady said. Jenny nodded and said One moment, i'll get someone. A minute later a giant man, uniformed like the other staff, at least six and a half feet tall, with absurdly large hands and only a few remaining wisps of hair on his head, approached the table. EXCESSIVE STEEPAGE, he declared, with a volume so stentorian that all the guests in the Café jumped and looked around as if they'd just survived an earthquake. The woman with the iced tea said Uh, th..thank you, and the behemoth walked away. Later that day, a gentleman in a mauve suit tried to send back his bleeding steak. Jenny told him to hold on. A minute later the giant approached the table. INADEQUATE TIME OVER HEAT, he proclaimed. The man in the mauve suit looked at him, then at the steak. He took a bite and said, You know, this is fine. The next day, Jenny's guest found a hair on her Portobello mushroom. Jenny went away, and a moment later, the giant was looming over the guest and her Portobello mushroom. He stared at the solitary hair as it sat, defiant. Do you think it's nice to remind a man of his impending baldness? The giant said. The guest said Well, I don't really care about that. I just want to eat my lunch. The giant nodded and said UNCOVERED SCALP in his mighty voice. The guest looked at the hair, and then at the giant. She picked the hair off with her fingers and handed it to the giant. He walked away and she ate her lunch

simulation

Glenn came home from the lab. He decided to forgo the usual announcement of his arrival home. Sheryl said Is that you? and he muttered Yeah. Come in here, she said. Stir this risotto. I need to change Charles before his diaper becomes a shit bowling ball. Glenn walked into the kitchen and took the wooden spoon from Sheryl, and she gave him a peck on the cheek. He stirred and stirred, and Sheryl put the baby on the dinner table. What's wrong? she said. Glenn sighed. You remember Dr. Anna Zeenan? he said. Of course, she said, changing the baby's diaper right on the dinner table. Well, Glenn continued, after she disappeared, we started scouring her old notebooks for any unpublished theories and formulas that might be of use. Recently we discovered a very peculiar formula that she had been working on. Well, today we... solved it. Her formula proves, beyond any doubt, that this is all a simulation. What's a simulation? Sheryl said. This is, Glenn said, making a circular motion with his hand. Us. Life. Everything. It's all some kind of computer program. Zeenan proved it. Sheryl looked at the baby as she applied the new diaper and said It's burning. What? Glenn said. It's burning, Sheryl repeated. The risotto. It's burning. Glenn! Stir! I can smell it. Did you add more milk? What, no, Glenn said. Was I supposed to? We've made this how many times? Sheryl said. You know how to make it, stop playing stupid. Add another splash of milk and keep stirring. Sheryl, Glenn said, are you not hearing me? Our whole life, everything on this planet, our baby, this stupid risotto, none of it is real! It's all software. Sheryl took the baby and put him in the high chair. She put baby food into the little plastic blue bowl and the baby shoved its whole fist in its mouth while eating the mush. Do you even care? Glenn said. Sheryl set the table. Does it mean i can stop changing diapers? Does it mean i can go back to sleeping normally? she asked. Glenn stirred and said Well, i mean, i guess probably not. She took the wooden spoon from him and commandeered the risotto. Then no, i don't care, she said. Go change, last time you spilled on your work shirt you moped about it for three days. This will be ready in four minutes. She gave him another kiss him on the cheek, and he walked upstairs, unbuttoning his shirt 

tennessee

On day one my cat catches a mouse. On day two my cat catches a second mouse. On day three my cat catches a third mouse. On day four he skins them. On day five he leaves them in front of my bedroom door, but retrieves them before i can claim them as my prize. On day six i look for my cat, who i haven't seen all day. On day seven i hear sounds under the floorboards, so i look, and i find my cat with his three skinned mice. The mice are all miraculously alive. I catch them in a tableau, and it is immediately clear that the three mice are enacting a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. On day eight i hear a noise in the attic, and i go up there and find the three skinned mice once again mid-scene, this time from The Glass Menagerie. My cat is there, standing on hind legs, wearing a bow tie. He has always been obsessed with Tennessee Williams but this time he has gone too far. I tell the mice they can go free, but they don't want to leave. My cat calls me a tyrant and a chauvinist, and scratches one of my eyes out. On day nine i watch TV with my one good eye and my cat licks himself 

dick picks

Ziggy played guitar in the death metal band Penile Hacksaw. Wonk Magazine had labeled them the heaviest band in the world for two years running. At shows Ziggy would throw his infamous guitar picks into the audience. They played the Toledo Portuguese Community Center to a crowd of thirty-two people. During the song Extra Virgin  Blood Oil, Hana Fyst stood headbanging in front of the stage, and headbanged so hard she hit her head on the barrier and split her skull open. Ziggy noticed the incident when a modest spurt of blood hit him on the nose. After the show Ziggy went to the hospital to see Hana. You are an exceptional headbanger, he said. The best i've ever seen. My cousin Boyd runs a headbanging academy. He could use a junior instructor like you. Hana said i'm no good, look, as she pointed to the stitches in her forehead. That is a mark of talent and dignity, Ziggy said. She smiled, and said thank you. Ziggy reached into his pocket and handed her a bag of his infamous guitar picks. They were shaped like penises and had silly-looking blood flowing down them. Here, he said, you can have all of these, for your headbanging efforts. You're giving me this bag of dick picks? she said. He nodded. She was so happy that she cried, and a little bit of blood seeped out of her wound. Ziggy left, for he had obligations, and Hana played air guitar with his dick picks all night long