Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So many short stories it would make you shit yourself-- and I'm just giving them away like kittens.


Doldrums

“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 man.”
“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?”
“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.”


II

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.”

III

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. 

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