Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baby Fever

She waited until his video game character died, and acted quickly enough to snare his attention before he could select "Continue."
"What if ..." she bit her lip, a nervous trait she'd developed, but also an effort to amplify her cuteness, here, "I told you that ... I dunno ... I've kind of got Baby Fever?"
He stared quizzically back at her, glossy, narrowed red eyes numbly scanning her as if searching for the remainder of her statement, and then burst out laughing in the manner only a stoned person can.

In their three years together, on-and-off, he had never hurt her feelings so much as he did now, making her cheeks blossom so hotly she felt that she might melt and sink into the futon cushion.
He caught a breath, finally, sliding his finger across soggy eyes, "I'm sorry, I'm just picturing you being bitten by a baby; it's funny."

She passed on each of the several statements that came to her mind in the ensuing fury of seconds, realizing that none was even worth the effort, except for, "Don't worry, I think it's breaking."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Almost Never

His breath today is noisier than he remembers it ever being before, and he notes this with all due significance. The crackling wheeze feels like it's rolling in a ball between his nasal cavity and throat.

His daughter's first day of school; her standing at the bottom of the stairs, big yellow bow covering her head as fully as her smile does her face. Years later (or the blink of an eye), he opens the envelope and sees the pictures of her daughter's first day. Just like her mother.

He leans against one of the six small trees lining the walkway, his chest drawing into one spot in an agonizing crunch. His scant white hair vanishes as every inch of his pale bust reddens and sprouts beads of sweat. His car isn't far, his office just as close, but distance is relative. Everyone else has been gone for at least an hour. He shouldn't have even been here today. He should've been retired years ago; this is exactly why everyone has been telling him so for better than a decade now. He thinks quickly of the OnStar commercials, that blue button above his windshield is his beacon.

He's been on the football team for four years before his first snap. It's the last play of the last game of his senior year and all he does is run into some other kid from Troy High, but it feels -- so -- good.

Two steps and he stumbles, his breaths now come in skin-crawling gulps only. He pushes up from his knees as well as he can.

Christmas Eve 1964, he's Santa for the first time. He hasn't giggled like this since he was a boy.

His car is maybe ten feet away. He stares at the panel hanging above his dash, thinks of that button. Tries to see it. His vision fails him. Everything is black.

Grits, just cool enough that they start to harden, mixed with sausage gravy.

Lying on his back, he consciously accepts this is the last time he'll do so, and parts his eyelids.

The way the shoreline sand disintegrates between your toes as the waves wash over your feet.

The night isn't here yet but the stars have made an early appearance just for him, and in concert with the waning sunset and swaying treetops, they seem to sing him on his way.

His first wife. She is so sweet, so exciting, so perfect as she stares out the window, sipping a root-beer float on a Saturday morning in their booth at Hannigan's.

It's all there. In him, around him. There was no purpose to seek, the seeking was the purpose; his elusive goal achieved all along. He realizes it now. "Better late than never," he thinks with the same satisfied smirk he has worn in every posed picture since he can remember. In the same way one nods off in front of the television, a sort of trance sneaking over him, the picture fades as the sky sings its last note.

You'd have to see it to believe it.

Monday, May 9, 2011


A stagecoach was parked not far from where he stood, his left hand shadowing squinted eyes against the midday sun and the sharp desert sand riding a constant gale. He looked over at it every few minutes, regarding with somehow removed fascination the two women who sat just inside the shade on the driver's box, talking. The whole time, talking, never looking up.

He wondered if he could do it; just stand in attendance as all decent folks did, but not watch the man being led to the noose, to simply not look as his legs went rigid, tossed abruptly, then swung whichever way the wind may will.

"You just have to look at the family of his victims," he'd heard in whispers when the bottle had brought him to admit his uneasiness, and so now he did. He could understand their satisfaction, and hell he could completely accept their delight, but be that as it may, jubilation at death just made his stomach do a strange little dance, each and every time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Six Things I've Learned

One should be careful not to confuse another's failure with his own victory.

Everyone else is just as scared and confused as you are, and the less they seem to be, the more they are.

A sly smile and good manners will take you anywhere you want to go.

If you can laugh off insults, you win.

All rules are made up, laws are just opinions of how to keep safe, and theories are bandages to help curious people sleep at night; they are just imaginary things and, while we must respect them for the sake of peace, they should be applied with that in mind.

You can't prove a damn thing to someone who doesn't want to be convinced.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Simply Magic

Brave King Marcus felt an alien twitch in his chest at the sight before him; the storied knight trembling ever so slightly, a convicting jingle emanating from his armor.

"What have you to report, Sir Liam?" the king's words sounded more patient than was to be expected.

The knight, who had watched the floor since entering the room, faced his king, though not so courageous as to meet eyes, and unable to find the words dropped his head once more, like a man on a noose. Perhaps he was rehearsing his inevitable reward for failing King Marcus.

Slowly, but lacking any patience now, King Marcus persisted, "What have you to report of the blasphemer? Have you found him?"

Sir Liam answered to the stones at his feet, "Yes, my Lord."

Like thunder from a clear sky, "You will look at me when I ask you to address me!" King Marcus demanded.

"Yes, my Lord," he replied. One who did not know of his greatness might have believed those to be tears swelling in the eyes of Sir Liam the Bold. Impossible.

"I believe there was to be a pike with his head when you returned to me. Where is the head of the blasphemer?"

"It is here your majesty." He thought better of whatever he had considered saying after this, and closed up tightly with a resonating gulp.

"I am not a man with time for puzzles, Sir Liam. I believe you to be wise enough to know that. So I will give you one last chance; bring me his head." He stared through Sir Liam's eyes into the softest spot within him, and squeezed it as though wringing its juices. The room had fallen so silent that it seemed to shake the walls as the king whispered, his words sizzling like a cannon fuse, "Now!"

The knight trotted quickly from the chamber like a guilty puppy, and moments later returned, the blasphemer leading the way, his still-attached head held high. He was an old man with a long grey beard, and soft hazel eyes. He looked pious, dignified, and above all, unnervingly calm.

King Marcus swelled to his feet, roaring, "How dare you bring this villain into my chamber! Knights! Seize him!"

The knights, some dozen posted about the room like tapestries, did not move.

"Your majesty, if I may..." spoke the old man.

"You may NOT!" The king's eyes could have lit torches.

"Tell him!" shouted one of the faceless knights, safely behind the visor of his full set of armor.

Sir Liam spoke reluctantly, "Your majesty, he is no blasphemer. What he says is true: he is a sorcerer."

The king forgot every word in his vocabulary in the wake of being contradicted, for what he was convinced was the first time in his life.

"We found him in the tavern, had him surrounded. He didn't even flinch, sire. He looked in my face as calm as I've ever seen a man and he says 'No need for that,' and he pushed away my blade. It was like I couldn't control my own body anymore. And he says to me, 'Have a drink at my courtesy.' Then ..." the knight looked to the ground once more, scanning to see if maybe that's where he had dropped his courage. Not one scrap anywhere to be found, he looked up, his eyes apologizing for what he was about to say, "Your majesty, he ... He reached up and ... he pulled a gold coin out of my ear. As I live and breathe your highness, I've not seen a sight like it in all my days."

The king looked about the room for any sign of sanity, but every person stood still. No outrage at the preposterous statement. No objection from any of these knights, each a member of a swift channel of gossip by which the story no doubt had already traveled in great detail.

"If you are," the king challenged, and then continued as though vomiting the words, "some sort of sorcerer..." He spread his hands, presenting the floor to his unwelcome guest.

The strange man took several casual steps toward the king, as though on a stretch of his evening constitutional. As he reached in his robe, the chink of swords flying from sheaths poured over the room. But none was so brave as to step toward the reputed wizard.

He withdrew his hand slowly, as if he'd not heard the blades calling for his blood, and revealed a thick stack of stiff squares of parchment, bound by a small ribbon. He tugged one end of the string and let it fall to the floor, looked the fearful king in the eyes and spoke with a mystic lightness, "Pick a card. Any card."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pure as the Driven Snow

Why do we do the things that we do? I don't know that there exists a lazier legitimate question.

It would be easy enough for me to say, "Well, it was snowing for God's sake!" Or, I could say, "I would have picked up anyone," or "How could I know who she was?" That's ridiculous of course, to not know who she was, professionally speaking. And, while the other two attempts might be honest, let's face it, anyone knows why I picked her up. Anyone but me, I suppose

Farrel, she told me was her name. I'd seen her on the billboard out near the airport. You know, the one with the lady in a top hat, lying lengthwise so that the dimples of her lower back stop midway off the right side of the board? If you'd seen it you'd know it.

I'd never been to that particular establishment. But, even if I hadn't seen that sign before, I could have ventured a guess at who--I just don't feel comfortable saying "what"--she was; there just aren't too many ladies going down that street who aren't visiting one of the intimate apparel shops or... well, working. And--I figure this was the kicker--she was wearing a latex naughty nurse uniform. A white little number that didn't completely cover her rump and a top that didn't completely cover anything, and of course a nurse's hat that read "Head Nurse." Cute.

So, I pulled alongside the snow-banked curb, rolled down the passenger window and asked if she needed a ride. She hurriedly accepted.

"What the hell is your problem?" my wife nearly bit my ear off as I leaned over her to offer; a rather uncharitable nature, I thought.

"Wha-at?" I defended feebly. "There's room... right kids?"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It Was Not a Fart

"Forty-eight years is a life time, and this company, Mr. Holderman, will forever be reflective of that life you gave it." I had been petrified when they asked me to conduct Mr. Holderman's retirement presentation, but I was the only one with any real media editing knowledge, and not a body in the firm had ever been the stand-up-in-front-of -people type; that's why we lived in cubicles.

I wish so many things, given the advantage of retrospect, but chief among those is the simplest: pick any other moment in my entire life to turn around to face the screen instead of the audience.

I had stepped beside him and placed my hand on his shoulder. Suddenly, possessed by the feeling that this was going so much better than anticipated -- a terrible, terrible mistake, every single time -- I paused after a solemn, crowd hushing remark, and faced the video montage projected on the wall.

Then a horrific little creature I remember vividly from my grade school days, bunched up behind my belly button and gave me a catastrophically resonant inner-raspberry, as my backside stared, dormant yet guilty looking, right over dear Mr. Holderman's shoulder.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Six Stages of Ownership

First, there is the Idol stage where we recognize there is an item we want and unlike those before it, this is the possession which will finally make us whole.

Second, we bring home the Ornament, for that is what it will be; we will not use this thing, or not as much as it seemed to us we necessarily would upon taking ownership of such a jewel.

Third, it is The Damn item, for wherever it is, it is not in the right place and someone needs to retrieve The Damn item before it is thrown away.

Fourth it has become a seasoned veteran of our home and now becomes the Chameleon, as it will suddenly be able to blend so perfectly that each member of the household can stare at it without finding it, so as to return it to its home.

Fifth, it is Clutter, and we must throw clutter away, however on the way to the garbage can it undergoes instantaneous metamorphosis for its last stage.

You see, it is no longer Clutter which might become Trash, because en route to the trash we have realized that this irreplaceable member of the family is now an Artifact, and must be stored (likely in my closet) until we all return to dust no thicker than that which coats our other Artifacts.

Friday, February 25, 2011


"You may know him from the glass encased cubicle behind customer service, or the slanted, dusty photograph on the wall by the exit. Standing five-foot-nine and weighing in at 193, he is the Manager of Mayhem, the Retail Rapscallion, the John Wayne of the Checkout Lane. The man who's so bad that when he blows out the candles on his birthday cake, or sees the first star at night, he wishes a motha fucka would."

He flips the light switch with his right hand after holding for just the right moment, meanwhile echoing an airy hiss from his throat that reverberating from his hand somewhat resembles the white noise of a roaring crowd. He looks himself over, red-vested and dressed for work, in the bathroom mirror and inhales enough air to displace the stress.

He wonders, until he can stop himself, when this ritual became necessity more than game and more parody than boast.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Great Impasse

"Sweetie," he begins in a voice he hopes will entice his five-year-old daughter's sense of reason, but the skepticism on her face holds up against his words like a concrete slab, "you'll like this, I promise you. When I was a kid this was one of my favorite dinners."

She looks at her plate and gags audibly, her eyelids fluttering as though the mere sight of the dish is strangling her. She looks back at her father and realizes that he truly believes what he's saying, but this is the man who tells her that "gh" can make the "f" sound, the "h" sound, or no sound sound at all; sometimes it's just there for decoration. He is a man who believes very silly things: "who", he claims, begins with a "w."

Time passes and veins emerge in his forehead, red-faced shouts about starving children in far-off lands, and his daughter is now thoroughly convinced this man is absolutely insane; a credibility deficit he will never restore.

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