I always make a joke about my very prominent bald spot on the first day of the semester to endear myself to the students. Usually i say something about how they need to be careful because the light from the halogen bulbs in the ceiling might reflect off of the bald spot at the perfect angle and damage their eyes and maybe even blind them. They always laugh awkwardly and i know that i've got them. But today there was one student in class who was totally bald, and clearly not bald by choice, and while i don't know much about cancer, it seemed obvious that she was bald from chemotherapy. Her head just had that look to it. It was too late once i noticed her because i had already started the joke and couldn't stop. I told the joke, and all the students shuffled in their seats and most of them looked at her, and after a couple seconds she alone laughed
They asked me what i liked to write and i said violence. They said the market wasn't good for that right now, but what they could really use was a sex scene. I told them i really didn't know how to write sex scenes, but i'd be willing to try and fake it. They said that would be fine, and so i faked it for them right then and there. They liked my fake sex scene very much, i could tell. They were sweating and becoming excited right from the very start. I saw hands groping legs and hair being flung back and chests becoming flush and i just kept on faking it. I wrote the climax and they all appeared to orgasm. When i finished they all clapped and told me i was excellent at faking it, that the scene would work brilliantly. I asked them if they meant it and their heads nodded and some of them snickered. They said they'd let me know when they need me again
The first time anyone ever bought smokes for us we were 12 and shoulder tapping outside the York Hill convenience store. We'd been out there for over an hour, asking everyone that walked by if they'd take our five bucks and get us cigarettes, and most passersby just looked at us funny and shook their heads and one woman with a stroller even yelled at us. Finally one woman said yes, and she must have been about 80 and looked just like my grandmother. She had brownish-orange stains on her fingers and walked with one of those wheely baskets. I didn't want to ask her but Barry called me a pussy, and then he took the coins out of my hand and went right up to her and popped the question. She stared off into space for a solid minute before she said alright and took the money and went in. She was in there for god knows how long, and i was sure she just plum forgot what she was doing in the store at all. But sure enough she came out with two packs of Matinees, one for her and one for us, and i was pissed cause those are old-lady cigarettes. She said here's your goodies when she handed us the pack, and she even gave us the receipt. It was probably the greatest moment of my life up till that point and still ranks up there. We went to the park and smoked three cigarettes each until i felt sick and told Barry he could take them home, even though we had split the money. The next day my mouth felt gross and i was happy i gave them all to him. The day after that i wanted one and called Barry, but he'd left to go to disneyland with his folks
TJ told me that his sister Angela always misses her flights. Just about every single time she has to fly, he said, she misses her flight. I asked why and he just shook his head. I asked if she left enough time to get to the airport and check-in and he said he wasn't sure, because she lived in Oregon and he didn't see her much, but he said that she was very impulsive by nature and was usually late for things and often didn't show up to engagements. I got very angry and said that she was probably the kind of person that leaves their house less than an hour before their flight is scheduled to take off, and that i always get to the airport at least 24 hours in advance and sometimes i bring a small tent and several books and even a typewriter. i started to shake and told TJ that he had made me very angry by telling me about his sister, and that hearing about her airport behavior was giving me terrible anxiety and that i might throw up. I left his house early and threw up when i got home, and i threw up three more times that night, and i pictured myself in my warm tent at the airport
if you mention david foster wallace, they'll shoot you
if you mention kathy acker, they'll smile but deep down they'll feel uneasy
if you mention matthew barney, they'll blink
if you mention jk rowling, they'll praise jesus
if you mention james baldwin, they'll pluck your eyes out
if you mention bell hooks, they'll commend you, but dubiously
if you mention gilles deleuze, they'll ask about the other one
if you mention angela carter, they'll force you to masturbate
if you mention phillip k dick, they'll roll their eyes
if you mention james joyce, they'll change the subject
if you mention haruki murakami, they'll pause the interrogation
if you mention orlan, they'll inject you with truth serum
if you mention junot diaz, they'll know
if you mention richard ford, they'll kill their spouses
if you mention judith butler, they'll debate your future
if you mention gabriel garcia marquez, they'll commence the apocalypse
if you mention jonathan franzen
Sherry is retired and spends her days having tea with gravestones in the cemetery near her house. She always brings her green teapot and two mugs and saucers, and sets up a picnic in front of a different stone each day. She pours the tea, always for her guest first, and then pours for herself, and proceeds to chat excitedly with the gravestone, gossiping about this and that, sometimes throwing her hair back and laughing. Yesterday she had tea with Margaret Cavill's stone. The day before that it was Edison Smith. Today, Maurice, the old security guard that watches over the grounds, asked her if she would ever offer him some tea. She looked at him very seriously and said no. He told her she had to leave and she said in time she would
I have never been worried about being murdered by the other passenger in the elevator, but i am constantly worried about becoming bored to death or being suffocated by awkwardness. I do, however, worry that every person i ride with in the elevator thinks i'm a serial killer. They know that it can't just be a coincidence that we are there at the same moment. They look at me for one second and they know that i've tracked them there, and when i get in behind them they know i'm watching them, analyzing how they move, and when they press the button for the 20th floor, it's obvious that i'm going to press the button for the 21st floor just so i can be in there long enough. I know they know that when i spend the whole ride looking at the floor, it's because i'm really trying to look disinterested on purpose. Sometimes i can see them reaching deep into their jacket pockets, maybe for their keys or a knife. Sometimes they have their phone in their hand, their thumb firmly placed on 9. When they get off and mutter "take care," or "have a good one," i know that their squeaky whisper is coming from a throat choked by the fear of imminent death. Their super-quick saunter out of the elevator and down the hall is the fastest they'll move all day and the hairs on their neck are standing prone until they hear the elevator door close and they look back and i'm not there, in the hall, behind them
Here is the recipe for the perfect cocktail:
3 parts alcohol, 2 parts something fermented from the jungle,
1 part fevered dream about leading her country to revolution, 16 parts sediment of a nation,
1 part image of a determined, if not idealistic, heroine
some ice, some sweetness, something palatable to take it with
1 part clever deception, 1 perfectly fitted fake guerrilla outfit, 1 shared fireside tea, 1 sly smile, 1 part cyanide
it's supposed to go down easy at this point
1 part hospital, 1 code blue, 4 parts surgery, 1 part rehab, 1 part walking again, 1 part galvanizing the resistance, 1 part stone-faced gaze with a raised fist, 1 part vengeance, 1 part magazine cover, ripped shirt, photoshopped extra cleavage
many parts Kalishnikovs, many parts molotovs, many parts militarized response, assorted bullets, explosions, limbs, blood
1 part ricocheted bullet, 1 part wrong place wrong time, 1 part martyr
some time later, after appropriate dust has settled, a drink will appear in every local bar and restaurant, and everyone will know it is named after her, and it will be called La Revolucion, or something like that, and it will be sold for a moderately high price. It will wipe away troubles; it will dull stresses of everyday life; It will bring things back to way they were
We were drinking from a bottle of Speckled Hen in the park when Antoinette asked me who I considered the greatest author of all time. Christine and Ola gawked at me, interested in what i had to say, but Johnny kept fiddling with his lighter, his mind elsewhere. I said it was a tough call, but ultimately Faulkner deserved the number one spot. Christine and Antoinette looked annoyed, but Ola said at least you didn't say Hemingway. Then she offered Jane Austen as a retort. Antoinette and Christine laughed and Christine bopped Ola on the head, and said that Emile Zola was the greatest of all time, hands down. Antoinette seemed very angry at Christine, and we were all quiet for some time. Then she announced that Carson McCullers was her pick, and said this couldn't be disputed. Johnny picked that moment to chime in, right after he had lit a cigarette and he batted the smoke away from his eyes, and said that the greatest author of all time was Gramercy Orbort. He said that Orbort had won The Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and The Nobel Prize. He wrote what many critics considered the greatest novel of all time, which was called Fold The Laundry Properly and was 1800 pages long. We all looked at each other, puzzled, and said we'd never heard of him. Johnny spat and said we were a bunch of uncultured idiots, and then he stamped his cigarette out in his hand and ran away as fast as he could. Antoinette said fuck him, he's a weirdo anyway
Robbie told Crumbs that he was tired of always being the last egg on the shelf. Crumbs said that's not a thing. Robbie said so make it a thing. Crumbs threw his hands up and said you can't! you can't just do that, it doesn't work that way! You can't just make something a thing like that! Robbie didn't like this, and he said to Crumbs you're a rat punk with no balls. Crumbs said i don't give a shit, it's not a thing, learn some real expressions. Robbie kicked him to the ground and pulled out his knife, and, holding it half an inch from Crumbs' eyeball, he muttered make it a thing. And Crumbs said ok. And he made it a thing
There's something down here. I can smell it breathing on me. The air tastes different when it's close. It's mostly black down here but I can feel a strange warmth when it's near me. It never makes a sound. I asked them if i was crazy or if there really was something down here, and they scoffed and said that i should be better at using my imagination. I sat at my tiny desk in the pitch dark and tried to use my imagination as hard as i could, but i felt certain it was there, behind me. It's breath was hot, making the air sticky and unbearable. And it stunk, like rotten eggs and partially consumed flesh. I turned around but couldn't see anything beyond the black space surrounding me. When i asked them again about the thing down here, they said that if i asked one more time, if i refused to use my imagination properly, then it was all over for me. A day or two later (it's hard to be precise with time in the dark) they brought someone else down here, but because of the dark i can never see them. When the time is right, i will ask them if they think there is something down here, with us
Henry dared me to stick my dick in the electrical socket, so i did. The electricity flowed through me and i saw god and the heavens. I saw the end of times, and the cosmic rebirth. I understood the purity of existence, and every nostalgic longing i had ever had made perfect sense. I no longer had desire or need. Time ended. Transcendence was achieved. In the hospital my parents asked me why i did such a stupid thing and i said cause Henry dared me to. My mom said if Henry dared me to jump off a bridge would i do that too? and I said no, no way, there's just no way it would be as good
There's a Cuban heavyweight boxer named "Irish" Mike Perez, which is strange because Cuba isn't particularly well known for producing heavyweights. He defected from Cuba so that an Irish trainer could take him under his wing and turn him pro, and in order to do defect he had to dive into the ocean at night and swim onto a Mexican cartel boat, and then his Irish trainer paid the cartel so he could have his future champ. "Irish" Mike was undefeated when he took on a huge Russian named Magomed Abdusalamov in a 10-round fight. The bout went the distance, but Mike had beaten him so badly that Abdusalamov ended up in a coma after; he probably won't walk or talk properly ever again. "Irish" Mike's undefeated streak ended shortly after that; he's never been the same since almost killing Abdusalamov. Rumor has it he's changed his nickname so maybe he isn't Irish anymore. None of this is fiction
She asked me if i wanted to be committed to her and i told her that i did. She said she had been hurt in the past and wanted to know that i wouldn't hurt her or flake out if things got rough. i suggested we sew our skin together to show that we were both committed and as a sign that we wanted to be together always. She clapped and jumped for joy and agreed that that was a wonderful idea. She took out her needle and thread, and we did it right away. It took a while and did hurt a bit, but it was successful. We went to the movies that very night, sewn together and in love. Some people became annoyed with us, if we bumped into them in line or while trying to squeeze down the aisle into our seats, and we did get blood on some customers and on the floor and i think a little got in an older gentleman's popcorn. But we felt so close, and we knew that we would feel this way forever
My clone is sitting next to me in the car, as i drive. He's staring at me. This is weird, i say. You don't know what that word means, he says. We keep driving, and as we pass a decrepit, burnt-out farmhouse, he lights a cigarette. I tell him that it doesn't make sense, that i quit smoking ages ago, which should mean that he did too. He just shakes his head and blows smoke everywhere. The sun is setting. Black birds fly off into the dusk as we approach the horizon. He blows smoke in my face and says, you wanna know something? I fucked your mother. Did you know that? I tell him that that doesn't make any sense, since we have the same mother, and she would obviously never do that. He tells me that i don't understand anything. We sit in silence for a while, and all we hear is the hum of the tires on the pavement. The place is coming up soon, he says. There are no more cars on the road. There are no more birds. He says we're almost there. I close my eyes and let the road take us. He asks me why i agreed to this and i tell him that i don't know. He laughs. Quite the thing to be unsure about, he says. I put my hand up, signalling for him to be quiet. He says it's pretty naive of me to really think we have the same mother. I see the farmhouse now. It looks black in front of the sinking sun. I've never seen a building so ominous and rotten. My clone gets nervous. I'm happy to see him show some kind of a soul, finally. What are they gonna do to me in there? I say. He puts his hand on my shoulder. You'll be ok, he says
I opened the door to Barry's room and found him bent over on the bed with his pants down around his ankles trying to shove a cigarette up his ass. I said what the hell are you doing? and he said that in the movie Good Will Hunting Robin Williams tells Matt Damon it'd be healthier to shove his cigarette up his own ass rather than smoke it, and he wanted to see if Robin Williams was telling the truth. I asked him how he would know, and he said that if he got really sick or died of a bowel obstruction then he would know Robin Williams was lying. So as he got ready i said wait, you have to light it first. In the movie, Matt Damon lights the cigarette and then Robin Williams says it would be healthier shoving it up his ass, so he was referring to a lit cigarette. Barry said what! I'm not doing that! And then we heard his mom call us down for supper. He pulled his pants up and he said fine, i'll light it and try again after supper, it'll be a more accurate test then anyway
Janine started boxing when she was seven years old. In the early days she was the only girl in her gym so she had to fight the boys, and she whooped their asses over and over again. Angry parents called in, complaining that their sons were getting emasculated by a girl. Coach Sommerset told them that their sons were sissies and that little Janine was going to be a star. She became a Golden Gloves medalist at age 15, knocking out Ashley Winburger with one massive right hook. Coach sommerset told her she could turn pro and become a world champion. On her 17th birthday, she found out she was pregnant. Her parents were furious. She told them that it didn't make sense because she was still a virgin. They didn't believe her, but she swore to them and to god that it was true. She told coach Sommerset the news and when he asked her what she wanted to do, she said she wanted to fight; she said she wanted to be a world champion. Her parents had a meeting with coach Sommerset and he recommended they let her continue, and they said that this was a gift from god, that their daughter had been blessed with an immaculate conception, and that the divine child growing inside her would bring them glory. She had a few fights before she was showing, all of which she won by first-round knockout. When the time came to take on the champion, Wynona Rockman, Janine was seven months pregnant. Everyone at the event made faces when they saw Janine's round belly. Her parent's kissed it for good luck and she went into the ring. She paced back and forth with murder in her eyes, and Wynona Rockman looked uncomfortable. The ref gave them the last instructions, and Janine rubbed her belly, kissed her right glove, and stared hell into Wynona's eyes
Gilda sat down at the bar at Anguish, somewhere deep in the fifth layer of Hell. The surroundings were all ablaze, which made it hard to see through the fiery blur around her; the temperature must have been somewhere around 200 degrees. She wiped the sweat from her brow and said Goddamnit i could use a drink! A bartender materialized; he was scrubbing a glass with a filthy rag, and had a long ponytail and an eyepatch. I can help you with that, he said. Were you a pirate when you were alive? Gilda asked. What? Fuck no, he said. I got this cause i got in a fight with Esmerelda a few months ago. She's the lead bartender for all nine layers. She insists on serving one thing and one thing only: Fireball, straight up. I told her she was a hack and couldn't bartend worth shit, and she broke the bottle in half and attacked me. We had a good scrap, but, well, as you can see she and her stupid broken bottle won and i lost my damn eye. As if things weren't hard enough down here. Gilda nodded as if she were paying attention and asked if she could have a drink, and the bartender put down his filthy rag and his unclean glass, and poured her a healthy shot of Fireball. You don't have anything else, eh? she asked, and the bartender shook his head. Gilda took it down in one gulp, which made her clench her fists and stick her tongue out. Do you have any ice? she asked. Only on level nine, he said. She shook her head and pointed at the empty glass, and he poured again
Gonzales sat down at the bar at Hydrogen, atop the Global Bank Building. He wore his favorite brown corduroy suit, and his brown sandals. He ordered an orange juice, and the bartender made a face and poured it for him. The patrons beside him glanced over their shoulders with disdain. Eventually the manager approached, and said sir, i'm sorry but you cannot wear sandals in here. This is a fashionable place, and we have a dress code. Gonzales ignored the manager and sipped his orange juice. The manager opened his mouth to speak, but Gonzales stopped him and in his deep voice asked am i not fashionable? The manager, dumbfounded, said look at the people in here! Do you see anyone wearing a suit with sandals here?? Gonzales stood up, and the manager was taken by his height. He said, if i am the first person to do this, am i not an innovator? Am i not the very definition of fashion? Am i not a god, good sir? The manager stared at him, and for several minutes neither of them spoke or moved, as if both were transfixed by the presence of a higher power. The manager fell to his knees and said forgive me lord! I am not worthy of you! Gonzales touched his head and the manager began to cry. Everyone near the bar applauded with polite, dignified claps. Gonzales took his seat and sipped his orange juice
I bought a muffin at Groucho's Coffee over on Blimp Street, and after i paid, the nice cashier asked me if i wanted a receipt. I said no thank you and her demeanor changed instantly. She got very nervous and started to shake. She said you have to take your receipt, sir. I said really? Why? Who needs receipts in this day and age? And she said that her manager was a psychotic maniac who will yell and beat the employees if they don't ensure that the customers get their receipts. She said that once he even put poison on the computer keyboard, and one of the other employees' skin flaked off from her fingers and one of her lungs collapsed and she was in the hospital for a week. She shook the receipt in my face and i took it. I walked outside and bit into my muffin, getting crumbs on my face, and when i was almost at my car i looked back and she was laughing with the other cashier. On the drive home i thought long and hard about poisoned keyboards. I got home and opened my sock drawer and pulled out my bundle of receipts. I counted them; I had over two thousand now. I stacked my new one on the very top of the pile, wrapped my elastic band around the stack, and put it back in the drawer carefully
It's brilliant! The Editor said. Maddingsly was happy to hear it. You're a real writer! A one of a kind talent! We've slept on you too long! The Editor got on the phone and dialed three or four numbers and waited. Pick up, goddamnit! Ah, Henderson! Get in here! I've got this country's next great genius in my office, the Maddinglsy kid! Get in here and lets give him a deal! The Editor hung up and lit a cigar. You want one? Maddingsly said no thanks. Get ready to be happy kid, The Editor said. Let's just say if Henderson likes you you'll be laughing all the way to the bank! Henderson came in and stared at Maddingsly. He nodded and said mhmm three times. You must be Mr. Maddingsly. I'm Mr. Henderson. We've read your novel, and it's quite the feat, quite the feat indeed. Yes, I think we can get you quite the deal, quite the deal indeed. Maddingsly smiled for the first time in a while. There is one catch though, Henderson said. This book is very dark. Very very dark. The public will feel that no sane person could have written this. What we're saying, Mr. Maddingsly, is that in order to publish your book, we would require you to kill yourself. Maddingsly looked at The Editor, who nodded uncontrollably. He looked back at Henderson. I know that's a big ask. Take a day to think about it. Take two days, Henderson said. Maddingsly left, thinking about the offer. The fall wind was brisk; he zipped up his thin jacket. The Editor popped outside and said Maddingsly! Be rest assured that if you take our deal, your whole family will be taken care of. Your whole family! He puffed on his cigar and nodded before closing the door. Maddingsly stood with the wind beating against him, thinking about the deal
Ivan limped from the hangar. His hips would break. His forearms would tear off. His knees would crumble into dust. He sat at the table, still dripping sweat. He twisted his arms out of his spandex suit. He had even forgotten to take off his lifting belt.
Coach Bonn removed a pre-wrapped bowl from the fridge. Ivan hadn't heard him come in. He popped the bowl in the microwave for one minute, and watched Ivan with his steely eyes as the bowl circulated. He put it in front of Ivan and removed the plastic wrap. Ivan recoiled as the initial wave of steam struck his face. He was used to the smell of the meat by now, but the initial shock of that strange smell always shocked him. He ate in silence.
Bonn sat across from him at the table and watched. Ivan looked at the fridge. The original white had become yellow; rust flaked off the door handle. He looked down at the bowl of meat and contemplated. What is it, boy? Bonn said.
Who was this one? Ivan asked.
Bonn hesitated. I don't like when you ask. It removes focus, Bonn said. Ivan looked at him with the pleading eyes of a child. Henrik, Bonn said.
Who lived down by the creek? With the Rottweiler? Ivan asked.
Yes, Bonn said. He was happy to give himself for us. He believes in you.
Ivan sat in silence. He stared at the meat. Bonn's look intensified and Ivan forced down another mouthful. Who is going to look after the dog? Ivan asked.
Focus, my boy. Focus. Don't concern yourself with details. Focus. On the bar. You lift. I'll take care of the rest, Bonn said. He got up and put his hand on Ivan's shoulder. His grip was powerful, and Ivan began to eat with vigor. You almost broke the snatch world record today, in training, Bonn said. You are going to win gold. There is no doubt. Focus. Eat. And Lift. I will handle the rest
she turned off the wifi, and cut the iPhone cord in half, dropping it at his feet. He let out a horrible gurgling sound and fell to his knees, as he began to bleed from his eyes
"I noticed the little bell isn’t above the door anymore. There's no ding ding when you walk in now," Charlotte said.
"Too old fashioned, I've been told," Helga said. "I don't want people to think I'm looking at tarot cards or reading palms, or any other such nonsense in here." Helga lit the candles. Charlotte scratched the cross tattoo on her knuckle.
"Your finger, it bothers you?" Helga asked.
"It always tingles when I'm in here. Are you ready?"
"Yes. Show me what you have."
Charlotte put her purse on her lap and began to rummage inside. "His name is Dave," she said.
"Tinder?" Helga asked.
"No. At a bar actually, if you can believe it. My god, I'm so old."
"Nonsense dear. Our youthfulness is a gift to cherish. But do continue."
"He's a drummer, and he also works in one of those modern, hip barbershops, where everyone is young and they have man-buns. Yes, he has one."
"Has it gone as you expected?"
"Yeah. We did it the night of the date, and I haven't heard from him since. It was almost a week ago. He was kind of a weirdo. He asked me to shave his pubes right before. I was drunk so I guess I was into, but now it seems ridiculous. Wanna know why?"
"To show me his Supreme tattoo. He has it on that part right above where the cock starts. In the proper red colour and everything. Too bad for him, swiping this was easy," Charlotte said, as she took a small baggie of pubic hair out of her purse and put it on the table. She also extracted a dented, empty Ace Hill can, and a Blue Jays baseball hat. "Will this do?" she asked.
"Oh yes," Helga said. "This will do just fine."
Check out Julia Monson's corresponding drawing at juliamonson.com or https://www.instagram.com/p/Ba7FNb_gwbQ/?taken-by=julesmonson
Sheila raced home in anticipation. When she got home, Warren was sitting on the couch with his head in his hands. So? she said, how is it? does it work? Warren put his hands in the air and said it's a total failure! All it does is masturbate all day long! It's been in there all day, frigging itself off! It's done it 40 times today already! I built this robot to help do chores! To mow the damn yard! My back! My back! I can't mow the damn yard! I'm no spring chicken anymore! It's a total failure! Sheila rubbed his back. Oh honey, it can't be all that bad, she said. Here, why don't i go in there and take a look at this thing. She went into the bedroom and closed the door. Warren sat there, huffing and puffing. Sheila didn't come out after several minutes, and Warren went over to the door and put his ear to it. He could hear the bed rocking back and forth. You're supposed to do the damn yard, he muttered, and hobbled into the garage to look for the lawnmower
I move my hand against the suture marks that run the length of my body. It has been a year since she left, but the scar still hurts to touch. And yet, i can't help but touch it. Usually i do so several times a day, sometimes nonstop. Sometimes the urge to touch it is so strong that if i am out in public, i will run to the nearest bathroom and strip down just so i can feel those hard ridges of calcified skin. One time an older gentleman in the bathroom helped me get undressed, because he could see how desperate i was; i showed him the mark and let him touch it. The separation had hurt, even more than when we had sewn ourselves together, but the physical pain was nothing compared to the pain of her leaving. Every time i touch the wound, i wonder to myself, can she feel this? Every now and then, out of nowhere I'll get a shudder that will shoot up my entire body; it is an intense feeling, like an electrical shock, and nowhere does it feel more present than in the wound. Every time it happens, i tell myself it is because in that moment, she is touching her scar
Samantha stood on the cramped streetcar on her way home during rush hour. She barely held on to the bar above her head to keep her stable, gripping it with her fingertips. She tried to adjust her position but there were too many other passengers around for her to move at all. A very dirty, stinky man tapped her on the shoulder. She took her earphone out and said yes? He said can i use your sleeve? He had a younger woman clutching at him from behind. They both looked at Samantha pleadingly. Yes, go ahead, Samantha said. The dirty man pulled out a little phial and sprinkled white powder on Samantha's sleeve. He took out a $100 bill and snorted the powder up his nose. His ladyfriend behind him started to jump up and down as she clutched at his shoulders, nearly smacking the other passengers around her. The dirty man then turned, spun his ladyfriend around, pulled her leggings down, and started to fuck her from behind. They bumped and knocked the passengers around them, and she began to moan louder and louder. People made subtle, annoyed faces; people looked out the windows, or up at the ceiling. Samantha brushed the remaining powder off her sleeve; she put her earphone back in and turned the volume way up
They brought me upstairs, out of the cellar. I hadn't seen natural light in weeks, maybe months. They sat me down and said you haven't written anything in six weeks. What's the reason for this? I said because i am working on a big project but the idea takes time to form in my head before i can write it. They looked around the room at each other and they all shook their heads. You're not taking this seriously enough, they said. Do you know what that is? they said, pointing to a giant slab of rock in the middle of the room. That's our trusty writer's block, they said. When there's a problem, we use it to take parts off the writer that aren't working or aren't necessary. Sometimes we use it to put other parts back on, they said, but in the wrong place, to encourage creativity. All we need is an axe or a sewing machine. I can do better, i said. They nodded; they were happy to hear it. They led me back down into the cellar. Get to work, or it's the writer's block for you, they yelled from the top of the stair
S1 and S2 waited silently outside the apartment door. They heard pots and pans clanging within. S1 put his ear to the door. He put his index finger to his mouth, which was partially obscured by a balaclava, and whispered ssshhhhh. Wait for the sink, he whispered. S2 nodded. Remember, he said, you don't have a name. S2 nodded again. He heard the sink turn on and then pulled his gun out. S2 pulled out her iPad, and S1 kicked the door open. The woman at the sink screamed, dropping a pan, spilling water everywhere, and S1 forced her to the ground. He held the gun to her head. What's your name? he said. J..Josie! she cried. What's your full name? Josie Ravchuk! S1 looked over at S2, who typed something on her iPad. She nodded, and S1 nodded back. You have a reservation at Earth and Soil Restaurant on January 18 of next year, is that correct? Josie looked puzzled. Y..yes, I do, she said. S1 knelt down beside her, and spoke quietly. Not anymore, he said. She is Josie Ravchuk now, he said, pointing at S2. It is her reservation now. Do you understand me? You will not go to that restaurant on January 18. Do you understand? Josie began to panic. What? What! No! It took me two years to get that reservation! She cried. S1 put his index finger to his lips. We know who you are. We know where you live. It's our reservation now, he said. He held the gun in front of her face. Understood? Josie shook with terror and nodded that she understood. S1 and S2 backed out of the apartment, closing the door behind them
I was in the thick of it, serving a big section on a Saturday night at Earth and Soil Restaurant. I had it under control until the couple at table 34 ordered the bottle of Chateau Trepanier. I played it cool when they gave me the order, but i was shaking when i told Magritte, our sommelier, that they had ordered it. Oh mon dieu, she said. Ok, i guess i'll go get it. I said that i wanted to be the one to open it. Are you crazy? she screamed in my face, that is the most expensive bottle of wine in the entire world! I said it was my table and that i insisted that i be the one to do it, and that i had opened countless bottles throughout my life and this one would be no different. She got it for me, from the secret cellar in the basement, and told me to treat it like my first-born child. I brought it to the table and showed it to the gentleman, and he said no no, Josie will taste it. I began to cut the foil off the top, but that foil was sharp as hell and it cut me deep on the index finger, and the bottle slipped out of my hand and exploded on the floor. Everyone went white with shock. Magritte and the other servers were aghast. A drop of the wine landed on my tongue; it was the most glorious moment of my life. Without even considering an alternative i got down on my hands and knees and sucked the wine off the floor. Magritte fainted. One of the other servers crossed herself and ran away. Some of the guests shouted things that i couldn't make out. Someone stood on his chair and applauded. The couple at table 34 was silent; they watched in horror. I kept sucking and sucking. I licked the beautiful juice off the floor like a cat. Broken glass got in my mouth and sliced my gums. It brought the wine closer to my heart. I licked until the floor was almost dry, until my entire uniform was stained red. One of the other guests tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could join me before i finished it all. With a drunken slur i said by all means, mon amour, and together we licked the floor clean
Macy walked into the playroom and found Stacy messing around with a giant cardboard box.
"Sister, what are you doing?" Macy said.
"Hello sister. I have completed work on my time machine. Observe," Stacy said, pointing at her creation.
"It hardly looks like a time machine. It's simply a box with a door drawn on."
"Your skepticism shall soon come to an end. Step inside with me sister. Let us explore the temporal landscape."
"I shall not, under any circumstance, enter that hackneyed excuse for an invention. Now, tell me, where are mother and father?" Macy asked.
Stacy smiled devilishly. "Mother and Father are somewhere in revolutionary France, if my coordinates are correct. They are my first participants."
"Stop this nonsense. I need to speak to mother about preparing my Vera Rubin costume for the talent show. I require her assistance immediately. Now, foolish sister of extreme foolishness, tell me where they are."
"I told you," Stacy said. "They're gone."
Macy left the playroom and searched all over the house. She checked the garage and the barn, the basement and the attic. Both cars were still in the driveway. She stopped in the kitchen and made herself a mayonnaise sandwich, and ate it while contemplating her costume and the importance of the discovery of dark matter. She finished, wiped her mouth, and stomped back upstairs to the playroom where she found no sign of Macy.
"Macy? Stop these shenanigans at once! Where are you? Where are mother and father?" There was no answer. She looked inside the cardboard box and was blinded by phosphorescent glowing lights. The sound inside was deafening. The air inside the box twisted into a corkscrew, and her hair blew back. A rip in the fabric opened in front of her. She reached out to touch it
To see Kari Maaren's accompanying take on twins and time travel, check out https://wobtalk.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/over-easy/
Explore the fantastical world of Kari Maaren and her debut novel Weave A Circle Round at http://www.karimaaren.com/
Lanky, emaciated, phlegmatic Smith walked into work his usual forty-five minutes late. He sat in his cubicle for thirty more minutes and stared at his blank screen. Johnson walked by and saluted him. Smith did not react. He went to the photocopier and breathed on the screen until it was fogged up. He wrote his name in the fog. He went to the bathroom and took a shit, and then sat there for thirty more minutes without his phone. He used his canine tooth to prick his index finger until blood was drawn. He reached down behind him to the back of the toilet bowl and wrote another notch. It was number 117, and he placed it perfectly without looking. He went out with Efraim for lunch. They ate sandwiches, and Efraim took the meat out of his and said he was going to save it for later, and if he didn't eat it he might give it to his turtle. Smith nodded. When they were back at the office, Don McKey said boy would i like to give to her good, and Smith got up from his desk and threw his glove at McKey, who apologized and slumped away. Smith watched him walk back to his desk and then continued to stare for fifteen more minutes. Later, when he played FreeCell, Jim Rivers came to his desk and said Smith, i don't tell you this enough, but you are the most significant asset this company has ever had. I'd sell my own kids' vital organs to keep you here. Smith just stared at him, and Rivers nodded and walked away. When Smith was preparing to leave for the day, he overheard Jamaica and Charlene talking about him. Jamaica said That Smith is the sexiest son of a bitch that's ever worked here, by far. Charlene said that is the absolute truth. I wish my seat was his face instead of my lousy desk chair. Smith turned around and looked at both women and they scuttled away. He stood there for several hours, and went home long after everyone else had left the building
44XD and SL101 approached the intergalactic throne. Emperor Blorb sat on his ivory seat, picking his teeth. He waived them forward.
"Good evening, my bulbousness. We have returned from our galactic surveillance assignment and have finalized our report," 44XD said. SL101 made globular clicking sounds, and then used one of its tentacles to reach into its translucent mass and extract a stack of several hundred pieces of paper. It passed the papers to 44XD, who floated to the throne and handed the report to Emperor Blorb. The Emperor flipped through all the pages in a matter of 5 seconds. He put his head down and began to moan.
"My lord?" 44XD said.
"This is TERRIBLE!" Blorb said.
"I'm sorry your extreme nobleness, but our calculations are infallible. You must know this is true."
"Of course its true, that's the problem! We cannot, repeat, cannot, give Earth the award this year. This is a travesty of such gargantuan proportions that it could cause total cosmic chaos! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! "
44XD and SL101 looked at each other and shrugged. SL101 made several gloopy clicking sounds and waived its tentacles around.
Emperor Blorb rose from his throne and slimed his way to the window, where he observed the black expanse of outer space.
"40 years ago," he began, "long before your time, we gave the award to planet Earth. The award, of course, made sense for Earth. They deserved it, based on infallible calculations of agents much like yourselves. To award the same planet twice in less than a thousand years would be an absolute outrage. Especially if you consider what a stinking hole that place has become. The Razzzingzazzands would throw such a shit fit there would be genocides and mass extinctions and all kinds of craziness. Many planets would respond violently. It would be a full scale war. And my imperial rule would come into question."
"But sir," 44XD said, "our analysis is never wrong. Earth does deserve the award."
Emperor Blorb thought for a moment. "Blah! Just destroy the damn planet and we'll give the award to the runner up. The council will never know."
"Yes my great leader. Shall we enslave humanity first? For fun?"
"No time for that! No time for that! Just blow up their sun and let it consume the whole solar system. It'll look natural."
"Yes my great Sage of the Roundness," 44XD said. 44XD and SL101 left the intergalactic throne room and floated out into space, heading toward Earth
I was at the party when the drunk blonde girl lit her own hair on fire. They poured wine on her to put it out and she laughed, drenched and stained red. She danced while her friends held her up, with half her hair now short and burnt. She held a bottle of wine in each hand, and slowly danced her way toward Stan and me. I half wanted her very badly to come talk to us and half totally dreaded the thought of her being near us. She said wanna see a fuckin party trick? I'm a psychic, but i need booze, watch. She chugged back several gulps and then pointed at Stan and said your birthday is...... June 16th! Stan said Holy shit! and i laughed. Stan's girlfriend Geraldine came up behind us and put her arm around Stan. The drunk girl stared at her with a very concerned expression. She took another huge swig of her wine and dropped the empty bottle. She looked Geraldine right in the eyes and subtly shook her head. Stan didn't catch it, but i sure did. Geraldine said do i know you? and the drunk girl shook her head again. She had a look of horror on her face that i'll never forget. Geraldine caught it, but stupid Stan was too wasted to pick up on anything. Soon her friends came to her and said come on, we gotta get going, and they escorted their drunk psychic friend, and she looked at Geraldine intensely as she was led away
Henrietta was reading her book at Groucho's Coffee, occasionally picking her head up to stare at the handsome barista with the manicured moustache. The woman at the table beside her leaned over and said do you mind watching my laptop while I use the bathroom? Henrietta looked at her and nodded, and the woman got up and went to do her thing. Henrietta analyzed the computer, and the iPhone charger that was also plugged into the outlet near the table. She waited a few seconds, and then she climbed up and stood on her table, her shoes scuffing the marble. People turned to look at her, confused. She cupped her hands to her mouth and made the announcement. I need everyone's attention, she began. I've been tasked with guarding this computer. Anyone who feels the urge to steal it, be warned; i will guard this at all costs. Until death. The other patrons in the cafe looked around at each other. Two men stood up; they were both huge, nearly as tall as Henrietta even from her vantage point on the table. One of them grabbed a porcelain saucer and threw it at her head like a frisbee. She ducked and both men lunged at her. She kicked one hard in the temple and he went down. The other tackled her, and they flew to the ground with a thud. As they grappled with each other, a young woman made a jump for the computer, but the short woman behind her grabbed her by the hair, broke the glass water bottle from her table, and stabbed her repeatedly. Henrietta got on top of the large man and twisted his head with her muscular thighs until she heard his spinal chord snap. The short woman with the broken bottle got in front of her like a rabid wolverine, covered in blood and foaming at the mouth. She lunged at Henrietta, but was too slow, and Henrietta kicked the bottle with perfect precision, and it went right up into the short woman's eye. Suddenly Henrietta couldn't breathe; an electrical chord was being squeezed around her neck by the barista. He wrenched the chord as hard as he could, and Henrietta started to go unconscious. There was a loud bang, and Henrietta could breathe again. She was covered in blood, brains, and skull bits, and the barista slumped to the ground. The woman who had asked Henrietta to watch her laptop stood there with a smoking pistol in her hand. I asked you for one thing, she said. One. Simple. Thing. She shook her head, put her gun away, and scooped up her computer. Henrietta watched her step carefully around the bodies and exit the coffee shop. She noticed that the woman had forgotten her iPhone charger; she unplugged it and slipped it in her purse, and then she got up and left, catching the sound of sirens in the distance
They brought a new person down to the cellar. We couldn't see each other because of the darkness. For two days we didn't speak to one another, we just sat alone in the dark. On the third day he asked me to tell him a story. I said i didn't have any because i was suffering from writer's block, so there were no stories available, and he said okay then tell me something about telling stories. I told him about a young writer i once knew, who was obsessed with making it as a professional, and liked to write about dark, bad things, but he struggled to find inspiration because he had lived such a pleasant, trouble-free life. He was raised by good parents in a nice town, and had a respectable upbringing. He was convinced that good writing had to be dark, and could only come from experiences of trauma, violence, terror, and death. He sought out these things in his nice suburban town, but they were hard to find. He visited morgues and cemeteries, hospitals and prisons, he looked for conflict wherever he could. He tried to get himself hit by a car when crossing the street, but everyone avoided him. He tried to goad people into assaulting him, but people simply ran from him. I lost touch with him, but last i heard he had killed a man and was in jail. I don't know if he has ever written anything. I stopped speaking, and my new mate in the cellar was quiet. I asked him if he wanted me to talk more, but he didn't respond, so i went back to thinking about stories
Young people: Facebook is cool
Old people: Facebook IS cool! Let's try it!
Young people: Fuck. Ok, Instagram is cool
Old people: Haha Instagram most definitely IS cool! We love the pictures
Young people: FUCK! all right, Snapchat is cool
Old people: Haha we don't necessarily get it but sure, this is fun! Snapchat IS cool, come on everyone!
Young people: JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!! Memes!
Old people: Already there with you! we look at the memes on the smartphone. Lol, what's with the gorilla?
Young people: Alright you wanna know what's cool? You wanna know what's cool?? Eating fucking poisonous laundry detergent!
Old people: This is the death of society. The decline of civilization. Our children have betrayed us *a shift of eyes, and slow, mincing bite of a Tide pod* it's actually not that bad if you eat it slowly, over the course of a week. There's not as much poison that way, and the flavor could be worse. I might use it in the roast next Sunday
Young people: This has gone far enough. We have no choice but to self-terminate en masse. Coordinate via Finsta and meme pages and whatever routes we can. The method is irrelevant. Bullets, blades, blunt force trauma, jumping in front of freight trains, playing dangle-the-bacon with rattlesnakes, skydiving without parachutes, whatever. As long as we coordinate the timing so that we all take ourselves out of this stupid existence at the same time
Old people: Um, you know we monitor your Finsta, and we understand your memes, right? Ok, so no, no mass suicide, and you're grounded!
Young people: … fuck
Old people: And stop swearing so much or you're double grounded
Young people: *eye roll*
Old people: Ha! That looks fun! Let's do that together. *all eyes are collectively rolled, which become stuck up inside their heads, because they did it wrong. They are unable to see, and the panic, which following the sudden blindness, results in mass hysteria. They accidentally run off of buildings, run through plate glass windows, run into traffic, run into freight trains, run into rattlesnakes, run into Niagara falls, run into the sun, until there are none. The majority of the population is eliminated. Older generations are completely decimated
Young person, retired, Bitcoin-rich, sitting in a rocking chair, smiling triumphantly: what will younger generations enjoy in the future?
Young person's unborn child: *eye roll*
Dirkwood Gleebs, 117 years young, hacked up a storm and rose at 6 AM. He walked to his little rickety office, still wearing pajamas, and sat at the typewriter. He heard a sound coming from the doorway and spun around to see a young man standing there. Who'n the hell'r you? he said. You know who I am, Dirkwood. It's time; let's go, the young man said. Wot? I ain't goin nowhere's. I gots a write my memoirs. I dunno how in the hell ye got in here, but git! The young man smiled and said Come on Dirkwood, make this easy for yourself. Don't make my whip out my scythe. Dirkwood typed on his rickety typewriter and said ye best git the hell on outta here 'fore ye git hurt. The young man rolled his eyes and touched Dirkwood on the shoulder. Dirkwood jerked out of his chair and stood up, hunched and wobbly. Well that's weird, the young man said, and Dirkwood punched him hard in the nose, and then he kicked him in the balls. The young man went down like a bag of hammers and lay there moaning for a while. Ye git the hell outta my house! If i see y'around here again i'm on' kill ya! The young man crawled out of the room and coughed. You old son of a bitch! I'm coming back tomorrow. Sure y'are, sure y'are, Dirkwood said, shaking his fist. That's what they all say
I'm at the gym four times a week but i saw some crazy shit the other day that i've never seen before. Skinny Greg Mallard was in the squat rack, loading up that tiny amount of weight that his skinny little legs can barely even handle, like 95 pounds or something, and he's chatting away while he's doing it with anyone around him that will listen. One of those gym talkers. Some people hate that, but me, i don't mind. Hard enough to make friends as it is. Outta nowhere this big, mean looking juice-head comes along and throws him, and i mean literally throws him out of the squat rack. Skinny Greg must have flew five feet. This jacked up shithead says something like Get your puny ass out of my squat rack! Everybody was stunned, just standing there, looking. Skinny Greg picked himself up and walked right out the front door. The juice-head was so terrifying no one even said anything. But you won't believe what happened the next week. Skinny Greg came into the gym but he didn't put his duffel bag in his locker, just brought it with him into the weight room. And there was the juice-head, already in his rack. Skinny Greg waited till he had the bar on his back, and there must have been over 400 pounds on that bar, and then Skinny Greg unzipped that duffel bag and whipped out a big honking 12-gauge. Everybody froze solid. The juice-head could see the shotgun pointing at him in the mirror, but the fear didn't register till Skinny Greg pumped it and said Squat! The juice-head went down and came up like there was nothing on that bar, like angels helped him lift in up. Skinny Greg yelled it again, Squat! and the juice-head, sweating and shaking, squatted again. And he did it again and again and again. After twelve or thirteen reps the juice-head was weak, grinding up the weight with all his might. I could see Greg's finger tightening on that trigger. The juice-head had nothing left but Greg yelled Squat! and the juice-head went down with no strength left to come back, and Greg levelled that shotgun right for the bullseye. That's when those slow-ass security guards charged in and put the kibosh on the whole murder thing. Haven't seen Skinny Greg or the juice-head since. Probably won't again. Goddamn security, always gotta ruin everything
Work is not always fun. Yesterday the same troop came around, the ones that always give us trouble, and they got us good this time. Chained up all the employees around the special cheese and white wine tasting display, and stole all the red wine from the store, and i mean literally all of it. The ring leader came inside the store this time. She usually waits in the car. I've made eye contact with her a few times while on the phone with the cops. Normally they run around, smash a few things, and only steal a few bottles. But this time there was more of them than usual, and one of them, the twitchy skinny kid, had a gun. And then she came inside, tall, dark eyes, towering over us. Looked like someone not to be trifled with up close. I said why the hell are you doing this? and she said Cause my best friend has cancer. We all looked at each other, the employees, and the blonde continued talking, said My best friend has cancer. She's dying. Wants to swim in a pool of red wine before she goes out of the game, and i don't plan on letting her die unfulfilled. I said You won't get a way with this! and she just shrugged her shoulders. They had a truck waiting and everything; must have been twenty of them. It all happened in a few minutes. She blew us a kiss and then they were gone. Left the chains on us too. Cops took almost an hour to arrive. After i gave the police report i went to change and my arms felt like they'd been squeezed by god himself. By the staff room a lone bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape was rolling on the floor. I picked it up and tucked it into my shirt. I brought it out to the car later, tucked it under the seat. I don't think anyone noticed
Jim sat down in his and put his coffee cup on the wood coffee table. He began to read his book. Sheryl came into the living room and glared at him. He looked up at her. Please use a coaster, she said. He nodded and said alrighty, and she walked away. Thirty minutes later she brought a laundry basket full of towels into the living room and set up to fold them on the floor. She saw that Jim still had his coffee cup directly on the wood of the coffee table. As he flipped a page of his book, Sheryl looked up at the coffee cup. She walked over and lifted it off the wood, revealing a water mark. Look, she said. Look at this mark. That's never gonna come out. I asked you to use a coaster! Jim nodded and closed his eyes. He said I'm sorry. Next time i'll use a coaster. Sheryl took the coffee cup away and went into the kitchen. Jim continued to read his book
They let me out to visit The Author. At one point he had a normal name, but he changed it legally to The Author a few years before he went prison. I had told them many times that if they let me out for anything it should be for this, despite the difficulty involved in arranging a meeting of this nature. He hasn't been in a normal prison for the last year, but rather a maximum security psychiatric facility. I heard a rumor that he keeps his Pulitzers and his Nobel Prize on a shelf he built in his cell out of some of his own books and pieces of human bone. But it didn't happen the way it was supposed to; The Author wasn't there. They opened the cell door, and they were all as shocked as i was; there was no one inside. Security scrambled; people got on their walky-talkies, spewing out codes for this and that security situation. In the confusion i entered the cell. There were words written on the wall: "My biggest fear is that the world will end during my lifetime. My greatest desire is that the world will end during my lifetime." It was written in bold, childish lettering. The words were brownish-red in color, and i started to wonder about what substances he may have used to write them. A security guard came in and pulled me out of the room, citing danger and escaped patient and other things that blurred together
I'm telling you, i can't deal with Aanders anymore. You wanna know what he pulled the other day? We left the Penile Hacksaw show and then went to shoot pool at Sadie's. There were these two girls playing 9-ball at the table next to us and one of them, the blonde one, was wearing this Jean-Michel Basquiat shirt, the one with the crown on it. Aanders interrupted their game and said, Excuse me, but do you even know who that is? The girls just looked at each other all confused, and Aanders went ballistic! He screamed You don't even know who Basquiat is! Have you ever even seen an artwork of his? Have you ever even been in an art gallery before? and the girl is just yelling Dude, get away from me! Get away from me! I'm like trying to tell Aanders to chill, and then this huge black guy comes over and asks what the problem is, and the girl says This guy is freaking out at me! The guy turns to Aanders and tells him to calm down, and Aanders says Well she doesn't even know what a commodity is, so tell her to calm down! The big guy says Hey man back up, that's my girlfriend, and fucking Aanders says Well your girlfriend is a moron. The guy smashes Aanders in one shot, and then kicks him twice in the face while he's down. The guy and the two girls are running out of there, and all Aanders can say is She can't even spell Basquiat! Like two of his teeth are on the floor in front of him, and he's still giving this girl shit! I help him up and hand him his teeth and there's blood all over his shirt. That moron, she can't even spell commodity! he says. I say Dude! You're holding your own teeth right now! Who cares if she's wearing that shirt! Who cares! And he just spits out blood and says Moron. I can't deal with him. I just can't
Beth stared in shock at Valentine's Day. She read the artist's name on the placard: Shonda Williams. She looked around the exhibit, but she was alone. Beth had seen many famous, challenging works at The Beringen Contemporary Art Collection in her 75 years. She would save up money for a month to pay the entry fee, even though it meant she'd eat less. Here she'd met Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol when Basquiat premiered his Irony of the Negro Policeman. She'd come here and marvelled at the works of Damien Hirst and Francis Bacon, and the performances of Marina Abramovic. But Valentine's Day made her uncomfortable. The hands were grasping one another in such a way that suggested that they were the hands of two people deeply in love. And yet they were identical-looking, except that the left ring finger bore a gold band. Beth stared at the bones that jutted out of the severed wrists. Some blood had leaked onto the white slab. At the base of the slab, Beth read the words: "hands donated by a willing subject. She lived and loved without them, for a time." Beth felt a drip on her head, and looked up just as another drip hit her eye. Suspended several feet above her was a human heart, still beating, attached to some kind of special pacemaker. It dripped blood onto the floor and onto the slab on which the hands rested. She walked around the slab and read the other note, "heart also donated by our willing subject, at the very end, while she was alive." Beth felt faint, looking up at the bleeding, pumping organ, and rested heavily on her cane. She let the blood continue to drip on her forehead
Beth lined up to purchase a ham and cheese sandwich in The Beringen's cafeteria. When she attempted to hand the cashier some money, the cashier said We don't take money anymore. You have to use photos you took of the artworks on your smart phone. If you've published them on social media they are worth more. Beth said But my phone doesn't have a camera. It's an older one. The cashier shrugged her shoulders and said You'll have to buy a new phone i guess. Beth asked for a cup of water and the cashier filled a plastic cup and set it down hard on the counter, spilling a little. Beth drank her water and then explored the gift shop. She found a book about the life of Shonda Williams, the artist of Valentine's Day. In the opening blurb it explained that Shonda never had a husband or a lover, and lived alone until her death. Beth was surprised, as she assumed Shonda was still alive. She read about an older work of Shonda's, entitled Through Pain We Learn To Live, where she took several dead dogs, all of which she had owned at one point, and all of which she had killed herself, and stacked them on top of the other, in order of age with the most recently dead at the top. The dog on the bottom was nothing but a pile of bones. In the section about Valentine's Day, Beth read that the severed hands belonged to Shonda herself. She had had them removed the year before for the piece. When Shonda was alive she would grasp her own hands when she lay in bed, imagining that one hand belonged to someone else, so she could experience intimacy. The heart also belonged to Shonda. She had had it removed the day before it was included in the piece by her assistants. Beth took the book to the counter and asked if she had to pay using smart-phone photos. The clerk nodded. Beth took the twenty dollars out of her pocket; it was what she had remaining after she had paid the entry fee. Do you think this is enough money to buy a smart phone? she asked. The clerk shook his head no. She leaned in on her cane and motioned for the clerk to come closer. I'll give you this twenty dollars if i can use your phone to take some pictures in the gallery, she said. The clerk looked unimpressed by the offer. And i'll give you this, she said, showing him her cellular phone. Ha! he said, that's like a relic. Ok lady, deal. How many pictures do i need to take to buy this book? she asked. Twenty pictures, he said, but only ten if you are uploading to social media. Since you're doing it on my phone i'll give you a deal; upload five and you can buy the book. All right, she said, that's a good deal. Now you hold on to that book for me. I'll be back in a few moments. She walked into the gallery, looking at this strange device in her hand, wondering how to use it. She looked at the gallery exit, which was only a few feet away, and she looked down the hall, toward the exhibit which housed Valentine's Day. She looked one way and then she looked the other way, deciding
They opened the door to the cellar and told me it was time i went to an art show. They told me i needed some culture, plus seeing the artworks might inspire me to write. I asked them if i had a choice which gallery they took me to and they laughed. They said Do you know any art galleries? I thought for a minute and then i said Beringen? They looked at each other, unnerved. Where did you hear that name? one of them asked. I said i didn't know, that for some reason it was in my head. One of them whispered something in the other's ear. They said they needed a minute to consult about something, and brought me back down to the cellar. After some time, maybe an hour or so, they opened the cellar door. Now's not a good time after all, they said. We'll try again some other time. But you keep writing, they said, and they closed the door
Too bad for you i suppose
So tell us about your trip to Africa! Janie said, sitting down at the dinner table. The roast was almost ready. Her sister, Amanda, was playing with the cat in the living room, avoiding the conversation. Papa Morris sunk into his chair at the head of the table with a nice cold beer in his hand. It was great, he said. Wild animals and safaris, mmm mmm mmm. Mama Joan took the roast out of the oven; she lifted the tinfoil and revealed the gigantic zebra head. The fur still smoldered; the stripes were still discernable, despite being cooked. Joan began to carve. What a great trip, she said. Your papa here got us this zebra with his own two hands and a machete. What nice people those park rangers are. From the living room, Amanda said what countries were you in? The African ones, Morris said. Amanda got up and shouted You don’t even know which countries you were in?? Morris said Silly girl and Joan said Silly girl and Janie said Silly girl and they all patted Amanda on the head. Once they were all seated they said a prayer and began to eat. Amanda took a bite that was covered in burnt fur. She chewed for several minutes but couldn’t seem to chew through it. Everyone else around the table appeared to be doing just fine with the meat. She kept chewing and pretended everything was okay
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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