Thanks to Untoward Magazine for selecting Percival as a Puscharter. HereI mean...Here
Also, for those who would like another look at Percival go here
Monday, November 28, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Written for Dogzplot only:
I’m not the biggest man on the planet. A buck thirty dripping wet, five foot eight inches with heels—biceps, triceps—I got them. I decided to be the first gay man, at least the first out-of-closest-queer to take up MMA and kick the living shit out of one of those steroid freaks that eat, drink and sleep manliness in like a protein shake, while yelling out every damn cocky phrase invented. You’ve seen the type (not me, of course. I’m an anomaly): hideous cut off shirts, a couple gaudy tattoos, and a chick whose face is a double bagger but whose fake breast look like the speed bag the freak practices with at the gym. He laughed when we touched gloves. He should have taken me serious. After dodging two of his jabs, I knocked him out with a left. I stood over him, and with eyelashes painted, glitter sprayed and lipstick on, as he came to, I told him, “you just got knocked the fuck out by a queer.” Humiliated for life, but what made it the sweeter was his friends wouldn’t stop repeating my line, reminding him what type of person knocked his ass out.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Elimae passed on this one: I like it though, so here it is.
Chasing the Dragon
Yin and Yang fought so hard for space that the white and black could not be told apart, a limited, melded grey circle accelerated at such speeds that it would be impossible to estimate ad unguem factus the rate to which they reached. The circle began to burn a hole in the earth and plow through eras, eons:
Paleo/Precam/Hadean, and hit the center streaming, impossible to gauge which half of the circle won before it burned up.
Ouroborus is an impossible dish to serve at even the most expensive restaurants. Chefs called in from all over the world studied the problem as it circled, tail in mouth on the stainless steel table. We wouldn’t know where to stop or stop, they told the owner.
Don’t you mean start or stop.
It would be impossible to know the beginning from the end, a brazen Indian chef, known for his curry dishes, added.
Todd told Mark that since life is infinite, or the life after life is infinite, a dialectic nightmare so to speak and when put in terms of casual conversation, there is only one choice not two. Suicide is a far cry from ending life. The choice to live is all we have, and dialectically speaking, isn’t a choice but a negation of choice, something forced not spoon-fed us from a Gerber God. Free will is a device the devil made up. Nothing is ever free. Choices consist of more than “pleasure principles,” biological functions, consciousness and unconsciousness; they stem from more than regurgitated nerves and instincts of those Neanderthals. I’m confused said Mark. Did you choose to be? Todd asked.
The chicken and the egg existed at the same time. Due to Catholic and doltish thoughts for about one thousand years, some agreed that if ex nihilo were an actual possibility in the chain of possibilities then the point is mooted. I watched the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave with my mate Sartre and he preferred staring at the wall. Said THE WALL made life more interesting than trying to measure the distance between the wall and the light outside. He then said the outside light consisted of nothing. Interstices, my boy. Anytime you get a chance to put the word interstices in your writing, do it. The blank spaces between each word are more significant than some of the words.
ApoetinNewOrleans,Ibelievehewasbornthere,feltchronologicaleventsoccuredsorapidlythatnosuchthingAschronologyexistedandallhumanscoulddo,thembeingsuperiorthanotherappendagesofnature,wastryfrommomenttomomenttopiecetogetherwhathappendandimmediacyandrecollectionwerenodifferentbecauseneitherreallyexistedifyoucouldn’tprovethatoneexisted.HeshothimselfbeforeandIemphasizetheinsignificanceofthewordbefore,hefinishedhisfinaltheorem.ItstillirksmethatJOHNKENNEDYTOOLEwonthePulizerafterhisdeath,orwasitbeforehisdeath,deathbeingbutasleep.Marcel Proust had padded walls and a wonderful memory.
My girlfriend told me she had the “sickness unto death.” Which of the two is it? I asked her, concerned. The first kind. Symptoms include the wish to negate existence, utter annihilation. Well that is a relief, I said. I suffer the second, and reprieve is like that guy in KOLYMA TALES who chopped off his hand so he wouldn’t have to work anymore, and when that didn’t work, he lodged his head so tight between two limbs that he hung himself. One of my greatest tasks in life is to get more people to read that book or Solzhenitsyn’s. What’s this about? I asked her. The used needle had been thrown away, but the spoon with the ring of evaporation and brown burn sat on the bathroom counter. Her arms had a few new bruises. I can’t seem to get a good high anymore. That sucks, I told her. What are you going to do?
Kill myself. Will you kill yourself with me?
I can’t, I told her. She asked me why. Because I suffer the second “sickness” not the first.
Well I refuse to chase the dragon the rest of my life. I’m going to overdose.
Please don’t. It won’t end your suffering.
I don’t believe in hell. I guess I’ll know what it is if I get there.
You are already there, my girl. There is no need to kill yourself.
One of us is right and one of us is wrong, she told me. I told her it was probably both.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Not my favorite genre. That's why I experiment with it from time to time.
…and now the dreamt dream dreams, and sons carry fathers on their backs. Still the rock needs defining, and the hypnotic water reflects deeper yearnings than the sturdiest of minds. The arithmetic of soaring doves, the pattern of a pinecone expresses perfection finer than a² + b² = c².
The supreme soul, all pervading, let the eye in heaven expound, let the blue clouds communicate their comprehension, and distill the dew of familiarity over the quiet earth. Clap shut the books, abandon the cramped classrooms, and teachers drop the chalk. Let the dream still be dreamt the way it always has, supinely, two eyes staring into the vastness of heaven and wondering what it all means.
“Things that are Beautiful”
Paper thin clouds coruscating slivers of red veins on an apricot sunset
Groves of yellow aspen seizure with light from an autumn breeze
White glacial escarpments nose dive into chilled Arctic blue
Fields of green clover blanket the humpbacked land
Pitch black sky accentuates astral eyes of light
Gray pockmarks cover Luna’s cheeks
Rows of white crosses
Descend from the sky
Wild horses hoofs’ drum desert stone
Ocean Waves shatter along myriad shores
Line upon line of arrayed tulips rainbow the ground
Mountain streams converge then plummet into deep pools
Resonant songs of morning birds usher in the bright new day
A fly tangled in a cobweb bounces and awakens the sleeping spider
…I watch as she performs the task of folding the towels in exact squares, creasing them with conciseness, stacking them in rows of symmetrical perfection. I watch all this and I know I am caught in a trouble that is beyond repair.
“Waiting for Fall”
A lone man in the garden must ponder everything—give a name to everything—even to a nameless shape that twists inside—the shadow that clouds the mind.
My family tree is deciduous.
Its leaves must fall to the ground
—blanket the earth with the impotent,
—good for nothing but crackling under the feet of little children and leaving bare the thing that breathed life into them.
But leaves do not drop until the fall.
The children must wait.
Monday, November 14, 2011
The first page of a paper. Someone shoot scientist for believing they can't use the word "I"
Impacts on Utah Rangelands and Methods of Control
Squarrose knapweed (Centaurea squarrosa, Centaurea virgata) is an invasive perennial weed impacting many areas of rangeland in Utah. Squarrose knapweed (Cs) is problematic due to its competitive nature, which reduces native grasses, shrubs and forbs that are so imperative for wildlife and livestock. Squarrose Knapweed’s invasiveness can be qualified by its ability to thrive in shallow, dry soils, survive harsh climates, relatively high fire tolerance, successful seed dispersal methods, the ability to remain as a rosette for years in unfavorable conditions and its capacity to take over large areas of once healthy rangelands or exposed, disturbed areas. To effectively control the spreading of squarrose, a variety of methods must be employed. In order to successfully control the spread of squarrose, a potential management plan must integrate biological, chemical, cultural and mechanical control, attacking the satellite populations first and working inbound toward the main infestations.
In order to understand the problem squarrose presents rangeland managers, and to distinguish common characteristic of squarrose, the weed must be examined in modest detail. The Weeds of the West, now in its ninth edition, is the authoritative standard for basic information. Paraphrasing from that book general information as follows can be gathered. From the Asteraceae family, squarrose, a native to the eastern Mediterranean area, is a taprooted, long-lived perennial with heights reaching 12-18 inches. To distinguish squarrose from other knapweeds, it is important to note that the flower heads are pink and relatively small, holding three to four seeds. The seed heads are deciduous and fall from the stem after seed maturation. Bract tips, the most distinguishable feature of squarrose from other knapweeds, are recurved, and the terminal spine is longer than the lateral spine on each bract (Whitson, et al., 2006). A lengthy paraphrase, but important in its detail of just how squarrose differs from othe knapweeds and how it functions as a weed. In figure one, a close up of a squarrose knapweed head, listed at the end of the paper, though not comparing it to the other knapweeds, it reveals the distinctive recurved or bent bract singular to squarrose. Once spotted, especially in a native scene, these bracts can be the easiest way to tell squarrose apart.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
I am very loyal in my submissions. I love elimae, so I thought I would try an experiment. They respond within seven days, so if my piece, "Chasing the Dragon," doesn't make the cut, I will post it here for my fans to read, but my hope is to get it published, post a link to elimae, and mark the exact time it takes from submission(November 12. 3:00 pm Mountain Time) to response. I hope to encourage other magazines and zines to be as effective. I hate the one year wait. Lately, if it makes it six months, I withdraw my work and just post it. I know others say, the longer, the better chance you have, but I see in my mind the work just getting overlooked for some reason.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
James McMurtry, John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Waylon Jennings, and some Hank III loaded on the Itunes DJ and the roomie headed to the liquor store to buy the cheapest vodka we can pay for. Need to bust out a short story within the five minutes he will be gone:
Saturday, November 5, 2011
I used Arcade Fire's line from the song Neighborhood #1 Tunnels, and came up with a story titled FOR YEARS HE CAUGHT HER TEARS IN A CUP. Pank, and Roxane Gay, graciously accepted the piece, and Roxane even edited the long story for me (I love her). In the aftermath, a new Swiss publication called Novembre asked if they could run the story in their next issue. I said yes, and am super excited to have a piece translated. So, for Arcade Fire's help, I am posting the video to the song that started my thought process for my work. The video rocks.
Watch and learn
Watch and learn
Friday, November 4, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
He analyzed the precepts of renowned philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, and he was able to plumb the psychological depths of subjects few dare venture into. He was well versed in poetry and could recite the diverse canons of the greats ranging from Shakespeare to Milton, Blake to Stevens. If necessary, he could even pen his own heartfelt sonnets of sublimity. He had studied the physical and life sciences, and one minute he could rehearse on the formation of the earth or the vast expanses of space, and the laws pertaining to both. The next minute he would explain how a plant grows or how a cell splits. He knew art, its movements, its theories, its aesthetic. He had spent countless hours scrutinizing theology and fathoming the world of faith and God. He had spent night after night in humble prayer, attuning himself to the subtle and soft sounds directing the unseen circles twirling and twisting in melody through all facets of life. In a phrase: he knew himself, and he knew his place in the cosmos, and he knew beyond a doubt, of all the unseen sensations, love was the reigning force—stronger than hatred, mightier than hunger.
John Driscoll set off with love as his guide and goal. He was to meet Rose in about twenty minutes. He would ask for her hand in marriage. Everything had been calculated. Through his keen ability to reason, he had not only influenced Rose, but he believed he had convinced her that the two of them were to be together. He proved this through postulations and equations, through explications and derivations, all of which made no sense to Rose, but, nonetheless, could not be refuted. Above all else, he had keyed her in on the bond—the most powerful bond—of love, existing between the two. “Simple mathematics. Basic physics,” John would explain. “And two hearts beat together as one.”
John did not know mathematics and physics were topics Rose detested. Theorems and equations functioned on an abstract plane, and Rose liked things to be more concrete. She was enamored by the physical not the metaphysical. Having a mother who married a short man, Rose was taught at an early age how height and good looks were more important than anything else, even love.
And so, when all five foot four inches of John, guided by love’s subtle whisper, by its melodious urging, slunk down to one knee and asked for Rose’s hand, she did not see the submissive act as one of time honored tradition or of servility. Rose only saw the monstrosity of a compressed man, and that of a man who even raised to full stature still seemed too small for her taste. Without thinking twice, Rose declined his offer and wondered how someone could be so misguided as to think just because she liked to listen to his suave elocution she would love him.
John, too, wondered how he could have been so misguided. Did he get his spiritual antennae crossed? Wasn’t he listening to the omniscient melody that twists and turns throughout his life? Did love with its perfect knowledge strike on the strings of his heart as a joke? John went home with a dark nebulous of depression and anger hanging over his mind. Gone was his earlier notion that a presence, a melody, an actual magnanimous being somehow guided his life. How quick things fall apart, thought John. He tried to grasp what had happened. His acute sense of reason came up with the following list to mull over: First, no amount of philosophy could help him fathom what had happened—he had entered the realm of emotion, and emotion did not follow ratiocination. Second, the suffering was unfathomable; there were not words to describe it. Third, if he had prepared his whole life for this moment, and had been guided on by a force exceeding human comprehension, and, in essence, been rejected by the very force, or if the rejection had come by the object the force had led him to, no cognizant higher power could exist. No God would be so cruel to its subjects. This world was as absurd as well-learned men had for centuries proclaimed.
John thought about the shotgun he kept tucked under his bed. His emotions: the physical, mental, and spiritual strain from the past forty-eight hours, were too much for a rational being to bear. John tried to calm down by telling himself Rose was wrong and she would come around. This buoyed him up for a few days. It took John hours to fall asleep each night, and upon waking the burden he bore returned to him, but even so, he still had a thread of hope. “If she comes around, I will be sorry I have ended my life prematurely. If she does not come around, perhaps, I will be so far removed from the moment that the present pain will have already subsided.” John went on with his life. Weighed down, depressed, the shell of the man he once was, John tried to embrace the absurdity.
Two years later, the wedding invitation arrived in the mail. Two years is a long time to recover, but John had not yet learned how to deal with unrequited love. He had hoped some other woman would come along and efface the old image. It had not happened. Distraught, John took the wedding invitation in his right hand, and walked down to his room, counting each step as he went to divert his mind. When he got to his room, he took out a pencil and wrote the words “John’s Will” on the blank-white back of the wedding invitation. John pulled the shotgun, a Remington 870 Express his father bought him for Christmas, out from under the bed, put the barrel in his mouth and felt the cold steel and taste of rust. John contorted his knee and put his toe as near to the trigger as he could get it. He did not like the idea of using his toe to pull the trigger. He envisioned the act as an ignoble deed of self reviling self—almost like a dog chasing after its own tail, only with harsher repercussions. John turned to his “invitation-will” and was about to write something down when he began to go over his entire situation one last time.
For John, existential thought presented a truth beyond refutation when it asked the question: What did I do to deserve this? Resoundingly, the same answer echoed in his head: nothing. If no choice was required to initiate such vindictiveness, then life was not based upon the theory of action/reaction, but solely reaction. A life of reaction is the forfeiture of free will because reaction is instinctual, only action is a pre-conceived thought which must then be consciously manifested through motion—The Word made Flesh, or the thought turned into the deed. John made a list of what made his life so unfathomable. With a shaky hand, John wrote the number one down and then the following:
John’s Will (title already written)
1. I did not choose to love Rose. It did not come of volition but through random circumstances.
John had dropped a class due to a schedule conflict, and the only other open class was the one Rose happened to be in. She happened to be in the class because she had not fulfilled a diversity credit, and this was the last remaining class in the allotted time period. John did not select Rose as his study partner; they were assigned to each other by the professor. John did not choose to find Rose attractive, and he did not choose for his heart to palpitate in excess whenever they got close, or when she laughed, or when she touched his hand obviously accidental.
2. Once within the situation, there is no clear way out of the labyrinth.
John did not choose the emotional situation he found himself in, but now that he was within it, he could not control nor understand what was taking place. He did not know why Rose did not choose him. He did not know her refusal was based on something so petty but real as his small stature. He did not know why nothing made sense. Nor why, try as he might, he could not find a way out? He only knew forces beyond his capacity of comprehension had been set in motion.
3. The absurdity of the entire situation is causing the pain.
If he could move on, the situation would be over, but constantly in his head was the reminder of his loss, and the inability to prove his love to Rose. He would not have the chance to move on. His whole life of training had come down to a miscue.
John set the pencil down and looked at the shotgun for a moment. Trying to muster up the strength to work out his thought to its end, he remembered people who claim suicide is the most courageous act one can commit. John started over again.
With existentialists, the absurdity of life, its meaninglessness and its endless labyrinth, was not something chosen, nor could a person do anything about it. John tried to differentiate between his life’s circumstances and the general existentialists. He began by asking himself the question of why—why was the outcome of his unrequited love such an absurdity?
John came up with two possibilities. The first has been glossed over: Life is a riddle that makes no sense, and the absurdity verifies life in an existential world as unfathomable. The second reason started to make more sense to John. Absurdity was proof the trial—and John took to this word “trial” as if it were predisposed—John was currently undergoing was mandated by a higher power. With any other trial besides the one that came upon John, he would have been both prepared for and able to handle it. The trial which came upon him was the only possibility that would have squashed his current philosophies, his rationalization, and force him, if he be willing, to create a new self. Only against odds impossible to fathom must one abandon his own reason and seek a higher power. John remembered the old scripture his grandfather would quote: “Neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”
That life confronts us with absurdity then is what John termed “the call.” It is the critical moment when we are forced to go one of two ways. It awakens us to the stupidity of the world we live in and requires us to confront it. When someone is called, the common reaction is one of two choices: reject or accept it. It is not surprising most will reject “the call” and view it and the life that follows thereafter as simple absurdity impossible to overcome. However, if someone is to accept “the call” and trudge through something so absurd, something that does not make sense, the person chooses to do so of his own free will, and such a decision requires complete faith and humility and the abandonment of the human convention of reason if the soul is to overcome it and not get lost in the world’s conundrum. Thus, the person who perseveres amidst the absurdity is both called and “chosen”—another word John subconsciously produced.
But absurdity, thought John, was an existential invention not a religious one. Religion would claim all things serve a purpose and are divined by the God of this earth. John’s thoughts remained still for a moment. He had reached an impasse. John began to think about the trial of Christ. Wasn’t it absurd? he thought to himself. John began to measure the irony involved in Christ’s trial. He began by pondering the topic of innocence. How ironic, thought John, the innocent Christ, who had just left the garden of Gethsemane where he paid for the sins of all the world, including those who had come to profess his guilt and arrest him, was betrayed by a kiss from one of his own disciples. Then John thought about the trumped-up charges and the illegal trial? According to Jewish law, no less than seventeen laws had been broken that night, including: No person may be tried at night. John thought about how the witnesses’ stories did not corroborate Christ’s guilt, but certified his innocence and added to the absurdity of the entire night. Then John’s mind started racing as it thought about the ignoble circumstances surrounding Christ. John remembered how Pilate’s superstitious wife had a dream warning her not to harm Christ, and how Pilate, a heathen, a gentile, found no guilt in Christ, and how the chosen people did not recognize The Christ, and set free Barabbas, a known insurrectionist and robber, in his stead, and how Christ was hung among two common criminals, and as if all of this was not enough; John remembered that while Christ hung from the cross in agony, and at the very moment Christ needed His Father most, His Father withdrew His spirit from Him, leaving Christ all alone to die in the cruel. absurd world.
Then John uttered these words in poetic and affected soliloquy: although Adam’s expulsion from the garden may have ushered in the absurdity of life, Christ’s crucifixion was the apogee of all absurdity. The existential plea: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? attests to the complete absurdity of that moment. But the plea was not followed by a further denouncement of life’s aloneness. It was followed with the reconciliatory, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Christ, left alone to die in an absurd world, under absurd circumstances, saw through the labyrinth by Himself, and when He was “called” upon to die so that all might live, He “chose” to accept the call and lay down his life.
John could not take any more. He could not stop thinking about the trial and subsequent death. If ever, he thought, there was a time absurdity reigned supreme on this world, it was then. And if Christ had to deal with the existential world on his own, if His life afforded Him no respite from it, how could John’s? That absurdity exists, and fills our lives, is nothing more than the affirmation God has left us alone to wander through the maze the world without his influence heeded, consists of.
John tore up the wedding invitation he had used to write down his will. He threw it away and chose, that very moment, to never think about Rose again. He chose to face life, to face the cruelty, the absurdity, the burden. John tucked the gun back under his bed, and weighted down as never before, he ran upstairs and outside and let the existential wind smack him square in the round face.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
“A list. I should compose a list of things I haven’t experienced.” The writer speaks out loud. He has spent three years in his bedroom, not consistent; he does leave to buy groceries and complete other menial tasks. He has dissected his last relationship with her, and his relationship with his maker, capital “M”, and his relationship as it relates to nothing until the bones are picked clean and the buzzards have stopped circling. Introspection has been doing loops for half a year, but he managed to regurgitate some material and believed it new. But his latest idea, he calls it a revelation, filled him with the electricity of a lightning strike. He composes. He stops at number three and decides he needs to consult the only artist he knows—a musician who spends more time living than composing, and who happens to be less introspective. He is the perfect candidate to bounce ideas off of because nothing seems ridiculous to him, especially when he is drinking, and he is almost always drinking because he plays for beer and the hopes that a new girl might want to sleep with him.
The writer makes the call and knows he must now enter that dungeon people call bars, as in BARS, like those steel traps that keep prisoners locked in. He generally hates faces, especially vague and rememberless faces, and the bar is where he bumps into such faces, or overhears them talking about the latest political, social, or work matter as if the impetus of any such situation mattered the way matter matters or the way a good story matters when it takes meaningless matter and makes it matter more than life itself matters through perfect arrangement. A good story, he knows, required new experience, hence the list of raw matter and the wandering into enemy territory to talk to his buddy, if he can call him that.
They meet at eight and the bar is not full to capacity. He hates when it is so full you have to yell to be heard or you bump up against cold skin as you side step between people to make it to the restroom that smells too much like the deodorizer they put in the urinal to mask the scent of urine and keep the appearance, or at least the smell of cleanliness. His buddy is wearing a flannel shirt and non prescription glasses with dark black rims to make him appear intellectual. It is a new look for him. “What’s with the glasses? I didn’t know you wore them.”
“Oh these,” his buddy says and takes them off to inspect them with approval. “No I don’t need them.” He puts them back on. “They help me attract the smarter broads, and I’m beginning to think the smarter you are, the better you are in bed.”
“Oh,” says the writer, “and I thought we were supposed to prey on the dumb ones.”
“Yeah, you’d be wrong,” the musician rejoins and takes a swig of beer. “Smarter women want smarter sex, meaning the total gamut of pleasure. Dumb girls just want dirty sex, which doesn’t always mean the best sex.”
The writer orders a beer and the two wait in a near awkward silence until she returns.
“I need another, too,” the musician says by raising his bottle with a slight tilt. “Why didn’t you tell her when I ordered?” the writer asked.
“Because I didn’t think that far ahead,” the musician replied with honesty.
“Anyways, something must be amiss. What brings you out of your cave?” The writer resented the fact that the musician knew him so well, but his smart-placed arrow would never register with him. He is simply calling it how he sees it.
“Can’t friends get together and have a drink on occasion?”
“They can, but I’ve never known you to do such.”
“Well put. In all honesty I’ve ran out of material. I’m sure you can relate to that.”
The musician grabs at the peanuts in a metal bucket and pulls them toward him. He doesn’t take a peanut. He just sort of looks at the wall and then responds. “Honestly I can’t say I can relate. I never have material to begin with. I usually listen to someone else’s music and then change it to fit my style.” He defends himself before the writer can respond. “It’s not stealing because I make it my own, and authenticity is important to me.” The phrase seems contradictory, but the writer doesn’t want to get into musical theory. He would rather talk about his own ideas.
He drinks from the bottle like a sissy and it foams up to the mouth. He doesn’t want the musician to notice so he tells why he has come out of his cave as it has been put. “I’ve been needing new, bold experience so I can capture the detail and write about it. I wanted to discuss some new ideas with you.” He pulls out the piece of paper with ten numbers and three filled out. “What you got there. Let me take a look at it,” the musicians demands and stretches his hand across the table eagerly. The writer pulls back in a moment of embarrassment then hands over the paper.
“Whoa, what? The writer asks.
“First of all you put down ten numbers and only made it to three. Secondly, these are more than bold ideas. These are extreme to the max. I mean, number one, for instance: KILL SOMEBODY. Are you going to murder them or what?”
“No. I don’t want to murder anyone. I was thinking maybe just stop a crime or something. You know. Someone snatches a purse and I pull out a gun and say give it back or I’ll kill you. I want to see the look in the man’s eyes as he decides whether to drop the purse or call me out to action.”
“Yeah, but, how are you going to stage such a scene? It’s not like you can prowl around here and get into such a situation. And then number two is the same way: RESCUE SOMEONE. You aren’t a damned firefighter. People don’t climb trees and need rescuing. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the population never has a chance to kill someone without it being murder. And, last I checked, people die alone or with no possible way to be rescued. These ideas are too extreme.”
The writer seemed perplexed. Lightning bolts rarely produced wrong effects. “Well what about number three? Is that at least feasible?”
The musician waits for awhile, drinks half his bottle of beer, deshells a peanut and eats them. “Three is your best bet. You could run your car into a pavement barrier and survive, but I gotta be honest with you. None of these ideas is good. Why don’t you just live?”
”Just live,” the writer says with disgust and rips the piece of paper from the musician’s hand. “What kind of story can be written from that?”
”Just live,” the writer says with disgust and rips the piece of paper from the musician’s hand. “What kind of story can be written from that?”
“Hell, lots. You could write about me. You could write about trying to pick up her,” and he points to the last girl in the bar the writer would find interesting.
“Her? That non-being who still wears Birkenstocks in 2011. Her? Are you mad?” The writer stands up to leave; a small flush of rage purges his cheeks. He puts down five dollars and exclaimed rashly as he began his trod to the door, “See you in a few years.”
“Whatever man,” the musician yelled to deaf ears, “all I’m saying is the ordinary is never as ordinary as it seems.”
He carried the Colt ACP 45 with him everywhere. He liked to feel it rub against his side when he stood in line to buy a ticket for a film he would watch alone, or see the face of a unsuspecting bus passenger as they nudged up against it. “Packing heat,” he said a lot at such moments. He had the gun for a year and had yet to use it besides taking it out to the mountains and firing it at close range then at twenty yards. It pulled to the right. He corrected himself by favoring it to the left and within one hundred shots he still could hit the middle of a card at twenty yards. “I’m a dead eye,” he said and put the gun in its case to take home and clean. He cleaned it often, and loved the smell of Hoppe’s gun oil. It burnt the nostrils slightly but the aroma reminded him of a clean death, like a patch of flowers blossomed over a fresh grave.
He thought he was going to have to use it once, about four months ago. A man and a woman were having an argument in the street outside of their house. He never got the full details, but he figured the domestic dispute started over the man’s cheating and took place on the street because the woman wouldn’t let the man back into his house. He hung around the argument waiting for something bad to happen. He hoped the man might strike the woman or pull out a knife and demand entrance to his house. After ten minutes of yelling, he thought nothing more might happen so he stepped in to initiate confrontation. “Is this man bothering you?” He asked the woman politely. “Mind your own damn business,” the woman shouted as the man rubbed his hands over his bald head and felt ashamed that someone else wanted to get involved. The gun-toting writer felt shocked that the woman seemed more apt to start a brawl than the man. He didn’t want to have to shoot a woman. It isn’t how he played the scenario out in his mind. After arguing with the woman, he saw it as pointless to carry on, so he left while the woman called him every name in the book, the book of the non-lamb and life, he supposed.
He began to worry that his plans would come to naught. Hanging out at the liquor store, the drug alleys, the whore dens, none produced the result he hoped for. He stood in line to buy a watermelon, pondering how hopeless his situation had turned when like a godsend, a man grabbed the cashier by the back and put a knife to her throat. “Everyone stay calm,” the assailant yelled. “I just want the money from the register, and she won’t get hurt.” The knife at her throat shook like it had been constructed out of putty. The man seemed unsure of himself or under the influence. The two people in line in front of the writer sat down to be out of the sight of the thief. The writer and the thief stared each other down while the poor cashier, a girl no older than eighteen opened the register. The man wore a beret, cocked awkwardly to the right and small gray hairs, more like whiskers poked out over his ears. His eyes were bloodshot and dark brown and revealed more or less an animal instinct of fear rather than excitement. The writer targeted him as easy pickings. He walked up to be face to face with the man and only the conveyer lay between them. The writer had his feet between the two sitting down.
He pulled the gun from out of its holster, enjoyed the shininess of it and cocked the hammer, meaning a bullet already had been loaded in the chamber. “We don’t want this to get ugly” said the thief. “We don’t need no heroes. Why don’t you put that thing away before this girl gets hurt?” The writer stared the man down. He placed the sight a quarter inch to the left of the center of the man’s forehead. “If you don’t want to get hurt, I suggest you release the girl and walk away slowly.”
“Please mister! Put the gun away” the girl pleaded through gasps as her tears ran off her cheeks and on to the tile. The writer took note of this. The sound a tear makes when it hits a tile floor. His hearing attenuated by the adrenaline of the moment, he also felt his own heart beat so loud it felt as if it were placed between his eyes. “You’ll be fine,” he said. “We just need this man to put the knife away and walk out of here slowly.”
“I’m warning you,” said the thief. “I’ll cut her damn throat if you don’t put that gun away.” The writer watched the man’s hand shake and he could feel the resolve slowly dissolving from the man’s rattled brain. He picked the wrong store to rob.
The thief’s eyes were making universes thought the writer. They revealed so much and yet disclosed so little that could be told. “So this is death,” thought the writer, “a withdrawal of all thought to a small pinpoint of what might be called fear.” He reacted, fired the gun, and saw blood spurt everywhere. “What did my eyes look like at that moment?” he thought. “They must have been larger than the Milky Way.”
The musician had a half an hour before he performed. He watched the news with arms rested on the rail of the bar. The newscaster on scene reported a robbery gone awry and one dead. They wouldn’t release the name of the girl. The camera flashed back to the newsroom. A newsman gathered his papers and stamped them flush. A picture of a crumpled car appeared in the corner of the screen. “In other sad news,” said the man, “a local author has been pronounced dead after apparently losing control of his car and ramming it into a concrete divider. He was not wearing a seatbelt. We will have more on both stories at nine.” The musician took the last sip from his bottle and murmured, “Guess I won’t be seeing you in two years.” He put the bottle down and rehearsed some of his music in his head. It was unoriginal, non-extreme but authentic, he thought, and found no contradiction whatsoever.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
He put his grease-stained hands under the water and scrubbed the course grain of orange goop in the crevices, but the grease never left certain spots, no matter how hard he scrubbed. It acted like an agent of society, forever branding him a laborer, a mechanic, a man who worked with his hands. He turned the water off and wiped his hands dry on a towel. He looked at his scraped knuckle. The flap of skin uncovered a bright pink layer of skin that would harden over time then peel and reveal yet another layer waiting to callous and bend and get those wrinkles in the shape of an eyeball and grease in each crevice. He turned out the light to the shop, but not before turning off the open sign. The car left on the lift, with its rear axle disassembled and waiting for ordered parts, appeared like a robot left on an assembly line waiting for a heart in a manufacturing plant gone out of business. He walked away.
At home they ate a microwavable meal not suitable for the gourmand, but they sat as a family, and John’s boy told him about football tryouts, and his wife expressed interest in teaching. She already had the certificate and degree, and the elementary school would need a fourth-grade teacher, seeing how Mr. Gordon killed over in his sleep from a brain aneurysm. “He was fifty seven,” his wife declared in disbelieve. “Fifty seven.” John turned forty two three months ago.
After her shower and putting on her pajamas and climbing into bed and under the covers, John told his wife she should take the job. She said “Really?” four times and asked him why then said “Really?” one more time. John cleared his throat and swallowed his own phlegm, a habit he had ever since he started chewing in junior high, then said, “Because I am done working. I am not going to work another day in my life.” His wife objected, asked him what he would do with his body shop, what he would do in his spare time, but John told her in his cold-sober voice that he would be fine, and they would be fine, and perhaps it was time she experienced work and he stayed at home. They argued but agreed in the end. She started work the next Monday. John sold the shop to an out-of-towner named Rowley and started his first day of freedom from five to five existence by sleeping until six fifty nine. He stretched his hands to the air and feeling it good, the air of nothing to do, the difference of his bedroom air from the stuffy air of his shop, with its effervescent smell of greases and work, and the difference from the stifling air he always choked on when he stood over his father’s grave, breathed in as deep as those ladies in leotards did at the yoga class he went to once with his wife.
After her third day of work and John’s of leisure, she came home and found him draped in her calico cooking apron. He had prepared a potato salad, pork chops, and broccoli. The aroma filled the room with a smell made to break even the abstemious. His wife sat down and said, “Let’s eat. It all looks so good.” John had aesthetically prepared each plate so that the colors appeased the eye as well as the stomach. His wife tasted the potato salad as John took off the apron and sat down. He watched her with the enthusiasm of someone who has slaved over something and thus values it far more than the other. “This is delicious” his wife said with her mouth still full. “What did you put in it?” John hesitated to tell her his secret but felt too much anxiety over her pleasure to leave it alone. “You know Sally Johnston who is famous for her recipes?” He didn’t wait for his wife to reply. “Well I got it out of her at yoga class today. We were sitting on the bench putting our shoes back on when I asked her, point blank, what the secret was. She laughed at first then realized I was serious. She got this real serious look in her eye like the information she was about to divulge could cost a life. She leaned real close and then told me the specific vinaigrette to put on the potatoes and that it must be done while the potatoes are still hot. She leaned back and smiled at me and told me she only shared this because she knew I wouldn’t ever try cooking her potato salad. Imagine a mechanic trying his hand at cooking. She laughed. This time I leaned real close and told her I am no longer a mechanic. I am a stay at home dad who does try his hand at cooking, and I love it. You should have seen the look on her face.” John laughed then tasted his own concoction and shook his head approvingly. Their boy ate on in silence, scarfed down his meal then asked to be excused. When the two were alone, she looked at John while twirling the water in her glass. “So you really like this gig, huh?” she said inspecting his face. “I love it,” John blurted out. She got up and put her plate in the sink, leaving it for John to put in the dishwasher then walked away asking, “What do you think your father would say?” John knew she had left the room, but he blurted out, “My father can’t say anything. The dead don’t speak.”
After three months, and much to his wife’s chagrin, who grew tired of the long hours at work and the tedious task of managing little kids, John’s face began to soften around the eyes, and his skin, especially his fingers appeared well groomed, almost manicured. He had nice hands and cuticles once the grease chafed away. This, in particular, these hands of a man turning so soft and the cuticles looking like buffed and glossed pearls, and to find out he put polish on them, drove his wife to a rage. Would a man with the will of Faulkner’s Thomas Sutpen and the hard lines to prove his very existence ever repudiate those lines, or would one of Cormac McCarthy’s cowboys, whose blood boiled with primeval manliness and the wish to fulfill only that part of his destiny which is granted man, would they ever leave their shop and turn so, so womanly? It is impossible to conjecture if what the mold has cast can reshape and form its own mold unless the anvil of consciousness beats out a new schema against the nature of the very brain it took eons to beat into it suited shape. John would return to being John his wife consoled herself. Biological mechanisms always win out in the end.
Three months later she doubted herself. John’s physiognomy had changed, and so had hers. John remained muscular, though more ripped, and his veins bulged in his arms like those gymnasts who do the rings, and his shoulders were comparable to the same metaphor, whereas she had turned flabby. Her underarms, the triceps, shook like sails in the wind when she raised her hands; so much so, she took to wearing only long sleeves, even in the heat of spring. Her face, once crystalline and as smooth as their granite countertops had three ungodly whiskers poking out at the bottom of her chin. “I’m a witch,” she proclaimed to John in disgust one night. No, this had to end. She walked in after a hard day of work and approached John. He sat on the sofa reading from Better Homes and Gardens. “Did you hear, John? Your boy has quit the football team. It’s your fault.” John put the magazine down, dog-earing his page. He stared up at his wife and smiled at her frantic face. “Calm down. The boy will be fine. He has other hobbies.” She put her arm on her hip and tapped one foot to display her utter displeasure. “What? This bird-watching Audubon crap you’ve got him interested in. That isn’t what normal boys his age are supposed to be doing.” John stood up and put a calming hand on his wife’s shoulder. “He’ll be fine. Football just wasn’t for him.” John began to walk past his wife when she turned on him and grabbed him by the shoulder with a firm grip. “It was for him,” she shouted, “until you started staying at home.” John removed her hand without force. “My staying home has nothing to do with the boy’s dislike for football. Maybe he didn’t like wearing the tight uniform or showering with a bunch of other boys. Did you ever think of that? The camaraderie of football is an ass-slapping with a wet towel. That doesn’t sound like fun to me.” She calmed down but still threw his magazine to the floor as she walked through the living room.
Two months later, leaves changing colors, and his wife entered the house to find John sitting on the couch reading from the same magazine, different issue. As he heard the door shut he jumped up to greet her. “You wouldn’t believe what we discussed at our reading group over at Mrs. McMurray’s today,” John could hardly contain himself. “Enough of this bullshit,” his wife screamed and pushed him back down on the couch. “Enough of your reading groups, enough of your yoga, enough of your cooking, enough of your silly behavior, I’ve had enough. Do you understand me?” She stood over him like an enraged Olympian Goddess flushed down Zeus’s toilet, but the heavenly fury still shone in her shit brown eyes. “What’s the big deal?” John asked, not ready for her diatribe. “What’s the big deal? What’s the big deal? The big deal is you have totally taken this not working gig to a whole new level. I don’t even recognize you anymore. You are like a woman. The big deal, John,” and she spoke sharp when she used his name, “is your son is out raking up leaves with a dress and high heels on. The big deal is the whole neighborhood is gathered across the street watching your son skip through the leaves like some transvestite Dorothy, while he puts the leaves in bags. That’s the big deal, John.” John stood up, so as to be face to face with his wife. I’ll call Rowley,” he said without any emotion in his voice. “Maybe he needs an expert mechanic to help him in the shop.” John brushed her shoulder as he walked by her, hitting her just hard enough to make her move. Some spots never come out, she thought to herself, happy he had bumped against her.