But, even when my shitty little crank was not attached to anything, I did keep cranking. Because, Dads do their job. It’s what they do.
They crank. They crank and crank and crank and crank.” —http://www.43folders.com/2011/04/22/cranking
Remember when you came up with this great plan to cut yourself just to feel _something_? Only, after you finally got the rasor out of your mom’s leg shaver you chickened out and so instead you went into the little secret hiding place you made in the back of your closet and cried yourself asleep?
Ok. That never happened.
But remember how you figured all that out. That you would like that to happen? Remember?
Remember how you said when you broke up with her, you would feel like a building was faling down around you? And when she broke up with you, you didn’t feel anything? Remember that?
Remember how you cried and cried, but you didn’t really want to cry, you just thought you were _supposed_ to be crying so you did? Remember how you really just wanted to stay in your room for the rest of the month, not crying? Remember how you used to hide in the garden shed for days at a time so your parents wouldn’t know you weren’t going to school, but you didn’t want to go anywhere where you might have to see someone, so you sat in the garden shed for weeks and weeks reading through four years of playboys from the mid 1980’s? Rememer how you couldn’t find the June 1986 edition, and it kind of pissed you off becuase that had the conclusion of a long running short-fiction story you’d really enjoyed reading.
Remember how you started smoking then, and you couldn’t believe how much you liked the way the cigarettes tasted, but not the way they smelled.
They never just went bang. That was the problem with them. They always sizzled or beeped first and that was not nearly as satisfying as a simple staccato report would have been.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, there was no need for the bang. It was just a simple little burst of sound that augmented the whole proceedure. And it was kind of scary. But mostly, it was just a bang. Disapointing.
Nobody asked after the Bang. When the bang stayed up late nights he stayed up alone. He sobbed gently into his hot green tea, served at just pre-boiling temperatures and steeped for exactly three minutes— and not a second more. HE had a special timer just for his tea, did Bang.
“It’s not that simple,” I said.
“Oh, this modern age,” said she.
I am sitting on an overstuffed love seat. It feels freshly uphoulstered, but not new. The fabric on the cushions has the faintest smell of bleach. She, my therapist, is sitting on a well worn wicker rocker. It’s upholsterery— a couple of threadbare seat cushions, is obviously not new, and probably smells not of bleach, but of years of wear and tear, especially on the part where she rests her elbows when she leans in to give the appearance of paying her clients rapt attention.
She’s leaned in on her elbows now, and I assume she’s paying rapt attention to me— because that’s what her body language tells me. And, I assume, that is actually what she’s doing, too, or else what am I paying her for?
I am, I should note, not crazy. I chose to come to see my therapist. For me, it is a great value. As she was lamenting the modern age with feigned distress, I might have guessed she was frustrated with the back seat that her profession had taken to technology in recent years, but I thought I knew her better.
In todays world mood regulation was a product bought and sold freely, and, for the most part, without regulation. Calm. Serious. Studious. Compassionate. All brand names of highly regulated super drugs. Party sold best on Thursdays, oddly enough— but I digress.
So, why then, do I find myself, week after week, returning to my therapist- when a simple twice-daily cocktail of Relax and Work Hard would probably suit me just fine. Oh this modern world.
I already said, I find it a great value. I like to pay someone to listen to me. And I think she likes to listen. Or, at least, she does a great job of _appearing_ like she likes to listen.
“It’s not that simple,” I say again. “I just want to know who I am.”
“We all do, Peter,” she said. “We all do.”
I notice that there is a new box of tissues on the counter between us. It carries the Ely Lilly logo on one side. I wonder what this could mean, but then It comes to me.
Dr. Rivers leaned back from his terminal, flipping the pen across his desk and spinning the thumbwheel to make the screen whirl back and forth.
“Yeah, See. There’s nothing there. It’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s a crime.”
“Sure it is, Pete,” said Robert Grinder; “They don’t do have of the great stuff we do here.”
I looked across at my liaison and raised one eyebrow. Was this guy for real?
“See,” said Dr. Rivers, leaning in to me and lowering his elocution level as if he were speaking to a small child, “They think that they can say they’ve got it all made because they run a battery of tests, right?”
He paused, waiting for me to acknowledge him. I nodded him on.
“But I don’t need 40,000 credits worth of tests to know that there’s something wrong with this kid, right?” Another pause. Another nod. “He wouldn’t be coming here if there wasn’t something wrong with him.” He looked over to Grinder for confirmation and Grinder shot him back a loud, raucous laugh, confirming my first and primary suspicion about the man; he was a suck up.
Science had solved man kind’s medical problems— but no matter what kind of genome mapping, rotovirus RNA-implanting stem-cell regenerating bio-nuclear petri dish mumbo jumbo you threw at mankind, some people were still assholes.
Water dribbled across the yard, slowly slopping across the gardens and flooding out through the mulch and landscaping. When it hit the large flat concrete surfaces it traveled more easily— less organically— and faster too.
It was at the sidewalks, Rose Kingsford thought, that we shall put in our boats. The sidewalks, she hoped, would carry her ship, the supply barges that followed it, and her people outside the walled confines of the yard and beyond. What lie behind she couldn’t know, but she alone had decided it was time to move her people, and she alone would make the choices that would either lead to their doom or salvation.
She had, of course, every reason to believe that beyond the walls and fences there were places where her tribe could flourish. She’d been shown those places by an anicent mystic— the same one who had delivered the proficy of distruction that woud befall the yard.
She allowed herslef a rare smile as she watched the water dribble out of the grassed areas and into the concrete sidwalks where it gained speed and purpose. This was going to be a hell of a ride. While in the grasses, the onslaughts of water were crushing, slow moving death and entrapment, on the sidewalks, the waters unstoppable power would be their ally. And, she chuckled, it might even be a little fun.
She decided to head back to the vilalge to tell her advisory council what she’d decided. The sidewalks would be their savior, and barring any nasty surprises beyond the gate, she was certain that her people could find a new yard to call their own. One free of th e plauge of the unending waters. One free of the infestations of insects. One free of random shifts and changes of the great mountains. But most importantly, one free of the great devil who’s shit clung to her asshairs.
Marion looked down at her hands, which were dripping with blood. Maybe she’d pressed a little too hard. Yes. that was it. She pressed to hard. She just needed to get the blood cleaned up and someone would fix this for her. She just needed to get the blood cleaned up and find her phone and it would all come out ok. She just had to call.
Her heart raced and the bottom of her feet felt disconnected from her legs, almost like floating, except on pilows of panic. She felt like she could run away— she wanted to run away, but she had to try to fix this. She hadn’t meant to press so hard. Who knew? How was she supposed to know.
“I need to find my phone,” she said, absently wiping her bloody hands on her thighs. Streaking burgandy stains from kneecap to mid thigh. “So much blood,” she said. Nobody was near to listen, but her voice waiverd and cracked when she spoke. She was breatless and skittery, clinging only to her need for her phone. Get the phone. Clean the blood. Save the world. It will all be ok. We’ll get through this, she thought. It will be ok.
Monkey on my leg, I tried to stand brave and tall as the swarm enveloped me. It was hard. I didn’t want to be left behind, but traveling via the swarm was so weird and uncomfortable.
A countless number of pearly beetles swing around me, enveloping me as they traveled in a cyclonic fashion. I closed my eyes to try to keep from freaking out about it, but as soon as the bugs tiny metallic feet and wings started tickling my bare skin, I opened them. Yes. It was defiantly better to keep your eyes open and get visual reassurance that this creeping crawling swarm was the nano-tech I knew they to be, and not some imaginary squirming flock of real insects.
As soon as my entire body was covered— face too— the swam coalesced. I could feel the airy spaces on the bugs disappear and meld together. At that point, I was encased in a shell of swarming writhing beetles and was nearly panicked when the drugs kicked in. Mmmm. drugs.
I was unaware now, as the swarm lifted my and the monkey’s body off the soil, tugging me up intot he sky and away from the ground by my shoulders and waist. After they’d reached a significant altutude— I was too high to really see or estiamte how high — they took off like a shot, pulling my bug-encased body through the atmosphere, rocketing me to my desitnation. Warp bugs. How I hated traveling by the warp bugs.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said, standing above me. I shook my hand feebly at him, reaching, clawing for a way to get at him, to hurt him. To break him. It was pointless.
“It was pointless,” he said, grinding his boot on my temple. I could bearly move my hands; I twisted and grasped but I was spent. My arms didn’t move where I tried to place them, and my fingers bearly moved at all, regardless.
He stepped off my head and I rolled away from him as best I could. I got over onto my back and the pain in my hip stopped me from continuing to try and roll. I coughed and sputtered, and he leaned over me, bending down to look into my face.
The light focused around him then, white and hot, fuzzy around the edges— I could tell I was slipping out of consciousness.
“You’re not gonna pass out now, you little fuck,” he said.
And, in spite of my mind and body screaming back at me, “Yes, yes you are,” I stayed concious. I stayed with him.
“This is mine,” he said. “This moment is mine. I earned this.”
He reached down and grabbed my head with his hands. His giant hands reached easily around my head, and it was equally as easy for him to pick me up and stand me up against a wall.
My legs gave out and I slummped back down the wall— the hip screaming in pain again. Where he’d stabbed me. Kicked me, Burnt me, and then shot me. Not nessessarily in that order.
I was a mess. I could see that. I had no feeling— no sensation other than the pain in my hips. Why didn’t my body go into shock? I’d always belived the body was supposed to shut down in extreeme cases like this. Why did I have to be awake for this?
“I suppose you’re wondering why you have to be awake for this,” he said. He walked up to me, kicking one of my folded legs out from under his foot with his toe. He crouched and looked directly into my face.
“Because this is mine.” He laughed and I could feel his hot breath on my face. “This is my right. To make you see this. To make you feel this. You deserve this— and I deserve it more.”
The ringing in my ears abated for a second— as I realized that the single poke I’d taken at him— the single, awkward hamfisted haymaker I’d thrown durring the tussle that had left me this boroken and beaten, had connected.
I smiled and started to chuckle back at him— and he flinched. I had him. “Your lip,” I said.
“What happened? Who did that? What happened?” She asked again and again, only less enthusiastic each time. “I don’t want to spend the day,” finally she siad.
“You don’t want to spend the day where?” I asked.
“You don’t want to spend the day where?” I asked again.
“I don’t want the clock to ring. I don’t want the egg to ring.”
“She never wants the egg to ring,” her mother told me once. I’d forgotten, but it was true.
She, in fact, hated it when the egg would ring. It told her that time was up. And time should never be up. Time moves downward, spirals. In circles. To the left and to the right, but never up.
In fact, the only thing that moved “up” were ladders and stairs. And hey didn’t move up, they simply went up. It’s a zen thing, I think. I tried not to think about it.
The egg rang.
“DOn’t ring that!” she said.
“Who said that?” she asked.
“The Egg,” I said.
“I don’t want the egg to make that noise,” she said.
“It’s done now,” I said.
“Roses have never grown like this on this plat of land before,” is what I would have said, had there been any roses growing. I’d spent most of my morning getting geared up to be impressed and overwhlemed by the sheer volume of roses my students had nurtured to beautiful, living works of art on the abandoned plat of dry, dusty land I had left them in six months prior.
As part of their final exam, I’d left them in an airid patch of land owned by the university just southeast of the South Dakota Badlands. They had been given room, board, and ample bandwidth for communication and educational purpoeses. Each student was allowed to select six strains of rose to bring with them, and they were to, by the end of their six month sabattical, have created a rose that would prospoer in the Badlands climes.
They were given access to anything and everything the could need horticulturally, no questions asked — It was a landmark grant that I’d won— funded by the South Dakota Rose Foundation. We only needed one student to succeed to secure the conditions of the grant— and it appeared— at least by first glance— that none of the students had.
“There is not one among you who has grown a rose of any sort?” I asked my seven most promising proteges. They didn’t need to answer. I watched them paw at the grond with thier toes, and stare vapildy at the dusty sands blowing across their boots to know that noen of them had. “NO roses? Not one rose?” I repeated.
Kelly Sanders, one of my most promising students up until this point, steped foraward. Not daring to look me or any member of the presentation board in the eye, she scrunched up her face before she spoke— as if squinting would somehow make it all better.
“It’s just that,” she said, hesitatating, a little, and then spitting out, “It’s just that growing roses, is, like, hard and stuff.”
She stepped back in line and continued her study of the top of her boots.
My rage and shock stole from me then, my ability to speak. I gasped, I squeeked, but I could not speak.
The dust was blowing in streaks across the dissheveled blocks of cement that served as sidewalks along the pow-wow bowl. A man and a little girl stepped out; her hand reached up and grabbed his finger, and they walked along. Across the street, and over the field of crushed and mangled white clovers, a set of girls watched them cross the street. Nobody smiled. Nobody laughed. Everyone loitered. More dust blew.
Space travel had always been possible, easy even. You just had to get over the initial difficulty of ascending the earth’s gravitation. Some ancient people of what are now know as the south americas mananaged to do it by constructing what ammounted to, esentially, a very long ramp.
To these people, the challenge of traveling to the top of the earth was no less a multi-generational effort than today’s cross-solar system travels. Generations completed the work of generations before them, unsure why, sometimes, but always making progress of one kind or another, Building upward. They made offerings to the skies above them and received offerings from the lands below. And so on.
These days, Sol Langstrom thought a lot about those ancient people. For years eons even, the people of earth believed that ancient beings from beyond the solar system had sent down secret knowledge to the South Americans. They couldn’t fathom that the giant circular structures and markings left behind, long after the tower had collapsed and their culture, as all cultures do, had dissipated into the ashes of time.
The people of earth could not accept that ancient men, just like themselves, had built giant structures, climbed them until the air became poor and the sun would not heat their bodies or grow their crops, and then fell from them, destroying untold generations of work in the process. It was easier to belive that outsiders had been here. They even had folklore that described the collapse of the tower.
The tale of the Tower of Babel, which told of an angry deity that punished and lashed out against those who dared to go against his greatness. In a way, the folklore was kind of right. Except the angry deity and simply been time, and technological progress. Civil unrest and questioning the old ways caused the tower to collapse.
And really, the whole thing was a pretty sketchy idea anyway. Just what did they hope to achieve by poking their ancient heads up over the top of the earth’s atmosphere and taking a sad and empty look around the vacuum of space? Sol didn’t know.
Sadly, the reasons for the tower’s development had not been handed down. The histories had been lost. And without knowing the history, Sol shrugged, the people of earth were probably better off thinking so little of themselves, that it just _had_ to be outside forces that caused the tower to topple and erase itself from he earth. He shrugged.
They had a Wii on the shelf of the IronWood Michigan Super Wal-mart. I saw it. I looked at it through the glass. It was so cute and innocent. It looked up at me with it’s little sad Wii eyes and begged me to take it home with me. “I already have a Wii,” I said, more to myself than to the Wii behind the glass, playing with the other consoles. It stopped and scratched one of it’s corners with it’s hind leg and tumbled over awkwardly.
“Do you think it would be alright,” I asked my wife, “if we just took it out and played with it a little?”
“You always get so upset,” she said. “You get weepy for days. ‘Oh, Dana, what do you think happened to that little Wii? Wasn’t it cute? Do you think It went to a good home? I hope it went to a good home.‘“Wiis
I shrugged. “Yeah. But look at him,” I said. “He’s so cute.”
“Or,” she continued, “you get that look in your eye and you, even though you know better, buy him and bring him home. What do we need with two? It’s a bad situation,” she said. ‘You can’t take him out and just play with him without getting attached and you know it,” she said. “Or did you forget the fiasco with the Saturns?”
“You’re right,” I said, sticking my hands in my jacket pockets— like that would somehow quell the urge to cuddle and snuggle the little Wii. “It’s so sad that they have him penned up in here, though,” I said. “He’s so cute, and he deserves a better life than this.”
“Honey,” she pleaded,exasperated. “Why do you even walk through here. You know you go through this every time you see one in the case.”
“I know,’ I said, “I just like to see them; I like to know they’re out there, you know?”
Would it really make you happy to bring him home?’ She asked.
“Probably. For a little while. Think of how the pair of them will play together. That would be kind of fun. I bet they’d really get along.”
“But can you really give both of them the attention they deserve.”
I didn’t say anything. She knew the answer to that. Between our daughter, my work, and my side jobs, I didn’t have time for the one Wii we already had. “Maybe we could just by a new controller, instead?” I asked.
“Ok, sweetie,” said Dana. “But no numb-chuck, Ok? Just a wiimote.”
I smiled, took a longing glance at the little Wii tumbling over a box of Wii-Fit and prancing around some Wii-play bundles. It had already forgotten me. “Good luck, little guy,” I said. “I sure hope you don’t end up on eBay.
It was a g-sharp on a g: held indefinitely. The buzzing and cracking of the failed streetlight outside his bedroom window hummed at a discordant g-sharp on G cord. Nearly impossible to ignore. UNless you were Public works, it would seem. Francis Carmina figured he probably ought to complain; it wasn’t reasonable to expect someone would just come along, hear the baleful chord, and fix the busted bulb, or starter, or whatever it was that made the damn thing drone on one lone set of unhappy notes all night long, throughout the night. It would come on at different times each night, dependent on the time that enough daylight faded to activate the streetlights on the block. He’d noticed that all the streetlights blinked on at the same time the sound started. He assumed that there was a master streetlight at some point on the block that told the other streetlights when to activate. It just didn’t make cost effective sense to put a photo-sensor in each light. And then each light would come on at a little different time, right? and wouldn’t the lights cancel each other out if each one was photo sensitive to the other? But a master light could be programmed smartly. And it explained the lights on the street’s unison behavior. But why didn’t the light outside his bed room come on? Why did it, instead, drone on a sustained, never ending g-sharp on G. Always humming. Forever Humming. Never stopping. He’d tried throwing things at it, but his aim was poor and his arm was weak, so even when he did hit the light, it changed nothing. He thought about getting a slingshot or making some kind of a potato gun or somehting, but his nanny would certainly punish him severely if she ever caught him with anything as foolish and dangerous as a shooter. So the droning carried on. Never ending. Never slowing down, except with the new day’s light, it was g-sharp on G untill the wheels fell off.
Floating down the river, floating floating. The trick wasn’t to tame the river. That would be stupid. The trick was to use the river. To befriend the river. To speak sweetly to the river and convince it that its in the best interest of everyone that you reach your destination. That’s what the old man taught him.
Speck Rohmsfortina had been under the tutelage of Henny Irgania, one of the enwisened elfkind of the Old World. Speck had never seen Irgania do anything of particularly elvish quality, and aside from the slight point to his ears and his slender build, there wasn’t anything elvish about the old man.
ANd he spoke in riddles. Did he ever speak in riddles. So much so that Speck wondered on more than one occasion if Irgania was retarded— not enwisened. Irgania, for his part, it must be noted, felt the same way about Speck.
“What kind of a name is Speck?” Irgania asked the boy, once during a particularly frustrating training session wherein Speck demonstrated that he was completely unable to wield a fencing rapier in anyway other than what would charitably be called awkward.
“It’s a name, that’s all,” said Speck. “What kind of a name is Irgania?”
“A surname, Speck,” Irgania said. “Irgainia is the name handed down along the enwisened for eons. It’s a title of respect and honor— things I’m certain I’ve lectured you about, but sadly appear to have failed to sink in,”
“Yessir,” Speck spit out automatically. A moment of silence followed, and then, after a guttural harrumph from Irgania, the lessons began again, as if the digression had never occurred.
Things did sink in with Speck, however. In fact, most things did. He was exceedingly clever and, often to his own surprise, was able to recall with nearly photographic memory every lecture Irgania had heavier subjected him to. With time and training, Speck’s physical form started to catch up to his mind, and after a long seven years under Irgainia’s tutelage, Speck was very nearly a picture of the enwisened elvenkind. Except, of course, for the sarcasm and sour wit. That came from his mother’s side. And the less said about that, the better.
I don’t have to be an orphan, but I choose to. Does that make sense to you? it should. It’s my choice. I thought it would help my story. I’m a teenaged adventurer.
I didn’t start out that way. I started out a regular guy. I was into Facebook and that— hanging out with my friends. I smoked marijana once or twice but, hoestly, it didn’t get me high. It just made my head feel swimmy. I like cigarettes though. It’s just cool to smoke cigarettes. That, and smoking cigarettes really— really- pisses my mom off.
She bought me a bunch of Nicotine gum and told me that I was not going to get anymore cigarettes. I told her she was going to buy me cigarettes and it wasn’t my fault that the law makes it illegal for me to smoke cigarttes. She stopped buying them, but said she’d buy all the nicotine tea I wanted. So I drank the shit out of that tea, and in the short term, it upped my smoking by almost a pack a day. Seriously. I was smoking 2 and a half packs a day at that point.
SHe and I got into a big fight then, the day that adam and I stole that car. It was really borrowed, really, but someone reported it stolen, and I guess the cops go by what neighbors say over what kids who have been busted by them for smoking and skateboarding before say. Funny that. Not really funny in the ha=ha sense, but funny nonetheless, I guess. Whatever.
So after that fight, I packed my rucksack, took all the cash out of my mom’s wallet— don’t be impressed, it was only about $400 and set off on my own. First stop— the mobile station on the corner where I knew the clerk would sell me a carton. I figured a carton of cigarettes was really all I needed to get me to the next town.
Then, with the 20 packs of class-a’s packed in my bag, I started walking. I figured I’d get to the buss terminal in MIlwaukee in about 4 days if I concentrated, and i did’t want to get any of my friends in trouble so I had to walk or there would be something that pointed my way. Maybe I could steal a car once I got to Oconomowoc. THat could save me some time— but really, just walking was probably best. Nobody would think twice about a stupid kid and a backpack walking.
I was, of course, picked up about 15 minutes later by the cops, who had already been called by mom, who I guess saw me heading out with the cash. Or maybe it was my sister. She’s a bitch like that. She’s stolen money from mom lots of times — so many, in fact, she seems to think it’s her exclusive right to dip her hands into mom’s pocketbook. That’s a bunch of shit, that’s for sure.
So, when the cops took me downtown, my mom pressed charges, and she didn’t bail me out, and so I got sent to Juvie again, and as far as I care, I’m an orphen. My mom is dead to me, Ok?
THere were almost seven ways he could think of that would make a strong metal twist and bubble like that, and three of them were not possible outside a laboratory. The other four involved a lot of heat, and if there had been that kind of heat, the snow wouldn’t be here anymore. Hell, the planet might not have been here anymore. It took a lot of heat to melt starship grade metals— they tended to burn up otherwise.
Stephan swung around to the other side of the crash site, watching his feeder hose and safety cord swing around the jagged parts of the tower as he dropped a little lower. Didn’t want to cut the safety line. He could probably live long enough on the Life support systems of his suit without the feeder tube, but if the safety cord snapped, he’d never get back to the ship. Maybe it would be wise to put of a second safety cord. He’d mention it once he got back on ship. Again, on a starship most backups and redundant backups— it seemed unfathomable that he would be tethered to something by only a single fail-safe.
Then again, that he was investigating this tangled and wrecked crash-site was unfathomable, too.
UNder him lie the crumbled remains of a two seater starship. front panels smashed to an almost unrecognizable level. IN fact, the only way Stephan had been able to identify that the craft was a two seater was the fact that the emergency crash beacon had sent the ships ID codes for a brief moment before it, too, was damaged beyond function in the crash.
Stephan’s ship, a small freight crew of 8, picked up the SOS about a half-a-day ago, and was all set to ignore it when they got word from the foundation home world that they were being commandeered and that they were to investigate immediately. Such was the mechanism that afforded space travel— nearly all space-going vessels operating in and around the Sol system had accepted subsidies on their liscensure from the regulation militia. IN exchange, the vessels and their operators agreed to voluntarily give up their ships when they were commandeered for militia requirements. It happened just often enough to be annoying— but not often enough that anyone ever felt they were being unfairly burdened.
Actually, it happened just often enough that nobody— nobody— would underwrite an insurance policy on a melitia-consigned cargo.
I may not have mentioned this, but you might want to make a note of the fact that I have a bad leg. A particularly bad leg, in fact. One with murderous intent.
This is important for you to know because I can tell you that many times, only after I become close with someone, they learn that my bad leg wants to kill them, and then we end up not being able to work things out.
Or, and this is arguably worse, my bad leg ends up killing them. That only happened once, actually. It was pretty ugly though, and it took me a long time to come to terms. I just don’t want to get hurt again.
Surely you can understand that. You certianly have your own picadillos, do you not? Are there not sordid details of your life that you think I should know at this point? Rather than wait around and be disapointed with one another later, I would like to get these things out in the open, here and now. We can discuss them like adults and come to a rational decision.
Oh, I’ve upset you. I can see that. I’m sorry. I can tell you honestly, It’s not me that wants to see you dead. It’s my bad leg. It’s got some kind of a compultion. It’s genuinely bad. IT’s a bad leg. A murderer, you see?
Are you sure you’re ready to talk about this?
What do I mean? It’s just that you seem kind of upset. Maybe it would be better if we talked about something else. Have you heard any good songs on the radio?
No, no, no. I don’t want you killed. I like you quite a bit, actually. It’s my bad leg. It wants to kill everbody. YOu’re not special. It’s just a bad leg. It has a dagerous compusion to murder people. That’s why I like to get it in the open right away. You need to gird yourself against the fact that you may never really be able to trust that my Leg might not one day attempt to stab you with a knife or put poison in your drink.
Oh, you’re crying now. Was I too graphic? I’m sorry. It’s my damn leg. It gets me upset too. Look at it! It’s laughing at us. It takes joy in the discomfort and upset it’s created between us. Oh my damn leg! Damn you leg!
I will go then. I’m sorry. I was only trying to protect you. I never meant to hurt you. My leg did, yes. But Not I. I was thinking of your best interests. I could have loved you. We could have had something special. I understand. It’s my leg. Who could love one with a leg as bad as mine.
Don’t feel bad. Science will provide a solution, one day. REhabilitation, not prison, and all that.
I will take my things and go, then. I am sorry. I wish things could have worked out. It’s my damn leg. It takes all the best things from me. You could have been very special to me. You have no idea how I hurt. My leg hurts me.
Do you remember the old Love and Rockets song?
We’re going to stay awake…. I always listen to that song when I’m driving alone at night for hours on end. I’m surprised I”m not dead. But I’ve had a few close calls.
Odly enough most them don’t have anything to do with driving alone at night for hours on end, but nearly all of them — my near death encounters — involved Love and Rockets.
The first one was what I call “the Bubble head Incident.” HOnestly, the less said about that, the better.
The second one involved that one Daniel Ash solo album, so it may not really count, but the third one? The third one is a doozy.
So here’s the thing. I was headed out for the night. And in those days, I’d leave at 10 p.m. with my skateboard under my hand and a couple of bucks in change to buy sodas at the vending machines around town. I’d come home at 8 or 9 in the morining, see my parents off to work, and then crash until 4 or 5. And then I’d get up and get high.Then I would go down to the basement, plan out my day by doing some laundry or watching MTV, and make phone calls until I’d start the whole cycle over again.
One morning, I was so goddman hungry for breakfast. All we had was MIlk and a bag of stale doritos. Have you ever had a peanut better dorito sandwich? They’re fucking delicious. You know what’s not so delicious? Doritos and MIlk eaten like Cereal.
Anyway I call this point in my life my “So Alive” period. So the connection to Love and Rockets should be pretty obvious.
Leaning over the quarterdeck, and looking down the railing at Jeremy Jacobs, Braided Bill sneered and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “That little one has no idea what he’s in for,” He muttered to his Mate, the capable but shifty man of 25 who he’d sailed with since he first set out a privateer some number of years prior.
“Yessir,” said the ever agreeable bosun. “He ain’t got a clue.”
Braided Bill smirked and reached into his pea coat, found his pipe, and placed the mouthpiece between his lips. He couldn’t light it, not in the misty breeze on the quarter deck, but holding the ebony stem in his lips and inhaling the musty burnt smell of the bowl gave him comfort, and eased his restlessness enough to give his plan a good mulling over.
For his part, Jeremy Jacobs was sitting on a cask of salt-pork, watching some of the lower ranked crewmen taking in some of the wet night air. “The difference,” explained a particularly knotty old crewman to Jeremy, “between the air out here and the air below decks is the peculiar lack of death about the air up here.”
Jeramy watched the crewman nodding at him, waiting for some kind of response from the youngster, but Jeremy just stared absently at the man. This sucks, he thought. This sucks sucks sucks sucks. A pirate’s life indeed.
You’d think it would be more fun, this. But it’s not. It’s not fun to give it all up. TO walk away. How man stories end that way. The grass isn’t always greener and all that. So frustrating.
This isn’t happening tonight. It’s just not. I’m a festering ball of doubt, self-loathing and morose. I’m petered out. I’m a stubb. A candle burned down to a waxy grime. I have guilt. Oh yes. I have it. Guilt.
THis daily thing is hard. You’ve got to keep it up. But why? Why daily? What is so important. YOu can’t only do it when you feel good. YOu have to be able to do it all the time, no matter what. I have a better idea. Be relaxed.
You can’t be relaxed all the time.
Black Plastic. A solid thick casing. With a nice pattern— textture even on the top part, the pushing part. it’s a grip-making texture. So your hands don’t slip off. Ca-chunk. That’s the sound it makes. They don’t make them like they used to. They used to be all steal and solid. Now they’re plasti c and cheap. They have little rubber feet.
I’m out of time.
I came back. I wanted to tell you about this concept: I’m having a bad night. Numerically. Fighting with numbers. Struggling with numerics. The numbers do not fall in my favor tonight. When that happens, numerics fail. And you’re best bet is to sit under an umbrella making beersmores until it blows over.
He hacked and out came green-black phlegm; huge wads of it flipped from his mouth as he spat, cracking through the air, announcing their substantial weight and heft in the subtle way it changed the exhalation breath.
And splat. It hit the pavement with that same wet solid heft. Spat. No bounce, no splatter, no elegant crown of droplets like spilled milk. Just a sticky pool of green and white sputum mixed with rotten globules of blood and pus.
“It’s hard for me to talk sometimes,” he said. “I get these horrible things in my lungs.” He hacked and coughed again, holding this time, a substantial mass in his lower jaw. His mouth hung open and he tipped his face forward as so to not accidentally swallow. He held up one finger, as if to say, “One second, please,” and leaned over and dropped the loogie slowly out of his mouth. A long stringy clear sputum dribbled down from his pursed lips and as the long string reached to the ground, a giant green phlegm, almost appeared spun onto the string like a cocoon, slid down the length of the string, like some kind of disgusting cable car. “I think I peed a little bit when I hacked that one up,” he croaked as he turned back to me. “What did you want to talk about now?” he asked.
I wasn’t sure anymore. Delicacies, I think. Foodstuffs.
“You used to be a famous chef,” I said. He croaked a response between panting breaths, worn out now from his retching and vomiting. “I still am,” he said with more than a hint of hurt in his tone. “Just can’t go into the kitchen,” he said. “Still as famous as ever, though.”
That was true. Not a concession to admit it. He was still famous.
Fame is a funny thing, that way. It sticks to some, it sluffs off others. However, how famous is someone who has to go to great lengths to define the scope and caliber of his fame? Not very, is my guess. Still, the Chef had been on Daytime Public TV for years— granted the last several years most of the cooking duties had been handled by his expertly cast protege. In fact, in the final seasons of “Home Cooking,” directors had been explicitly told to avoid cutting to the chef for almost any reason. He was already having trouble with the drooling and slobbering.
There are twenty five little tiny guys sitting on the top of his cube. They’re some kind of counter-culture thing, everybody is sure. They assume that he’s popping quarters into some kind of plastic bubble vendor and then putting them up on the ledge between cubes. They assume that he’d been doing it for a while.
They didn’t notice the little tiny guys popped up overnight.
He thought that someone was messing with him. All the sudden, he comes in to sit at his cube, and there are 25 little guys sitting along the top ledge. Little gangster guys. Urban, you might call them. They wear “street” clothes and look stylish and cool. He thinks they’re kind of funny, but he doesn’t touch them because he didn’t want them put there, and he wasn’t consulted or anything. And he wanted to be able to tell people that he’d “never touched the stupid things,” if someone asked.
Three weeks after the little guys appeared, they disappeared. His office workers didn’t ask him about them, and he didn’t ask his office workers about them. He did, however, sweep up the stuff the little guys had left behind. He found the top of his cube was littered with cigarette and cigar butts and empties in paper bags. The top of the cube smelled like a little tiny bar at closing time.
Three weeks later, six weeks now after the little guys had appeared, a little tent appeared at the top of the cube. It was small, green, and looked like the simple canvas tents that are only used by the military and by boy scouts. He looked closely at the tent. The detail was meticulous, and he thought it was especially clever the way the little tiny steaks and ropes seemed to actually be holding the tent up.
THe next day, a little cooler and a small grill appeared. Then a small RV parked next to the tent, and two days later, someone strung a line of colored lights between the RV and the tent. On friday, there was a second RV, a bunch of coolers, and someone had parked a small golf-cart along side the original tent. There was also a dome-style tent popped up on the top of his monitor, near, but not quite on the camping site that sprung up on his cube-top.
On tuesday, after a long holiday weekend, the tents were gone, but a smokey residue hung in the air. There was a lot of litter on the cube ledge— wrappers plastic bags mostly. And there appeared to have been some kind of bear attack.
Nancy pressed her back against the rear wall of the old curio she’d crawled in. “Well, this is it,” she thought. “I’m done. He’s got me pinned.”
At the same time, another voice in her head, the one who was quieter, but that Nancy liked quite a bit more, told her not to be stupid. “They’re not intelligent. If you keep your wits about you, he’ll give up.”
Nancy hated that she tended to listen to the former voice more often than the latter. It’s just how she was. She wondered how long she could hold her breath. The thing chasing her came into the room. It moved with a slow, deliberate step, Click clumping as its shoes shuffle stepped across the hardwood. Click Clump. Click Clump.
“He’s drawing a bead on you right now,” the former voice said. “You might as well scream and get it over with.”
Nancy agreed. She would have screamed, but something caught her breath in her throat. She wanted to flail her arms and kick and shriek, but something—probably terror—or a deeply engrained paralyzation reflex—like those fainting goats on the BBC—held her steady. She wished the latter voice would say something reassuring. Thinking about the later voice gave her enough pause to breathe again.
Click clump, Click Clump. The man—creature- thing—whatever it was— it was probably a man once— shuffled around the room. The click clumping moved away from the curio momentarily, and then moved closer again. Then the thing walked into the credenza on the wall next to the curio, spilling the liquor bottles set out on top of it. They fell with a crash. The thing never missed a step. Steady click-clump Click clump. Now it was moving toward the curio again.
Nancy froze once more. It was stupid. They—the things, the once-dead, or zombies, or whatever they were—weren’t smart or determined. They just stumbled and bumbled, bumped. Driven not by thought or even instinct, Nancy reminded herself—or was it the later voice reminding her. She was too scared to really think about it.
The undead. Once dead. Whatever— They didn’t so much even act on instinct, as much as they did on routine. They walked around where they’d walked in life. They bumbled and tripped over things that they were unfamiliar with, but they moved with elegant precisions over things they’d done repeatedly in life. Before.
Before the toxins, the former vice sneered in Nancy’s head. Before the world went mad and the people fell over and then started walking again. And weren’t you glad they did.
At least I got out of going to work, Nancy thought. Or the later voice thought for her. It wasn’t like the later voice to be sarcastic. At some point, she figured, this would all start to feel normal. And, seriously, her job answering phones at the machine shop was really awful. She couldn’t help but wonder why she was out taking her chances with the walking dead in order to get there.
“The portrait,” she reminded herself, under her breath. “I have to get the portrait.”
The thing suddenly stopped click-clumping, and she could hear it whirling its head around. They don’t hunt, she reminded herself. They don’t hunt. Then the thing in the room slide directly—meaningfully— toward the curio. It was moving so close now; it had to be on top of her. The door rattled as the thing bumped up against it, shoved twice into the curio, as if it were trying to walk through it. Nancy tried to imagine herself falling through the back of the curio, as if in some children’s fantasy novel. She pressed and pressed her back against the wood paneling, willing it to fall away.
No such luck.
“3.141592654The number occurs in nature. That’s what the big deal is. This isn’t something fucked up and uniquely a sign of intelligence. This is a natural number. Any circle, get it? All circles. It’s as natural a number as you can get.
“Some numbers are unnatural. Like One. And Everything in between. Or divisible by it. The whole numbers anyway. Very spooky. A man made thing. Only Man gives a shit about the whole amout of things. Nature, just is. And that makes for very unclean, unround numbers. Like 3.141592654
“Other numbers are part of the landscape around us. That gets us to this discussion. Let me explain.
“Yesterday, my team was called in to investigate a crop circle. Two things were unusual about the circle, reports said. First: The Circle is a somewhat a-typical geographic representation of ‘pi’ to ten decimal places. Well, no shit, huh? Big fuckin’ deal. If that’s all it was, they’d never have got me out here to investigate.
“No, it’s the second feature that makes this crop circle worth watching. It’s in the middle of a fucking swamp in Louisiana. Nobody makes fucking crop circles in a swamp in Louisiana. Pranksters and viral marketers use ropes and boards to smash out crop circles in barley fields in England because first, of all, it’s fucking boring in England, and second of all, no fucking alligators are likely to eat you while you’re dancing in little circles in a United Kingdom Barley field pretending you’re a druid and holding your pecker in one hand.
“Standing in the swamp, I had five guys with shotguns trained along the visual perimeter, and I still wasn’t positive I wouldn’t get my legs torn out from under me the first time I stepped off the muck and into the bayou.
“So, to your question, I respond this way: No. It’s not a fucking crop circle. It’s a bog circle. And No, I don’t think the fact that it’s supposed to represent the first ten digits of pie is significant. If someone or something wanted to show us how fucking smart they were, they’d fucking go to 100 decimal palaces, Or two hundred. Or a fucking thousand. Or they would write words like, ‘I’m a fucking significant sign of extra-terrestrial intelligence, you dickwads.’
“So get the fuck out of here and let me work. And you can quote me on that.”
I leaned away from the podium and lit a cigarette with my brass Zippo. “Any other fucking questions,” I asked the assembled press corps.
They all started shouting the same goddamn questions at once. You just can’t fucking intimidate the press. They’re too fucking stupid. The Louisiana Deputy Sherriff that had been assigned as my escort stepped up onto the dias and in between me and the microphone and said “That’ll be enough questions for today. Mr. Sandstone will not be taking any more questions.” He turned and put hands on my shoulder and tried to walk me away from the stage.
“You said you’d tone the language down,” he hissed and he hurried me behind the curtain and away from the public eye.
“I fucking did.” I said, exhaling. “You want me to tell them what’s really going on? Fuck you.”
I smiled watching the lightening bolt snap from one end of the sky to the other.
“I see the ocean,” my daughter said, pointing at the roiling sky in the distance.
“Oh,” I said. “I guess that could look like the ocean.”
“What’s it doing up there?” she asked.
“Not sure,” I said. “Maybe the mermaids wanted to have a look at the tops of the buildings for a change.”
She was quiet for a moment, like she was considering that.
“No,” she said finally. “I don’t think the mermaids care about buildings.”
“Why do you think the ocean might be in the sky?” I asked.
“I think that God is mad at us and is going to drown us all again.”
Now it was my tern to be quiet for a moment. Where the hell would she even get such an idea?
“That’s what the story that Auntie’s preacher told us said.” She continued.
“It’s just clouds,” I said. “God’s not mad at us.”
“No, he did it once. He killed everybody with water. It fell from the sky and drowned out all the men and women and chickens and dogs and everybody.”
I swallowed. “Yeah. Some people believe that,” I said.
She waited for me to talk again, but I wasn’t sure what to say, so I kept driving. My eyes watching the dark cloud shelf rolling in from the west. It really did look like an angry ocean moving over the city, priming itself to drop.
“There was a man,” I said to my daughter, peeking at her in her booster seat behind me in my car’s rear-view mirror. “Who saved some of the people, though.”
“Yes. He was a nice man,” she said.
“He was a wine-maker. Or a grape grower, or would be eventually,” I said. I peeked again and saw her small face fixed on the back of my head, listening quietly, but her giant dark eyes taking in every little detail of the ride. “Anyway. He saved a bunch of people. His family mostly.”
“Yes.” She said. “And two of each animal.”
I watched the clouds roil again, and then she spoke.
“It would be nice to have two of each animal. God made it so that the animals all got along with each other. Not like our dogs who are always fighting. God made the animals all behave.”
“That’s what the story said,” I said. “Why do you think that is?”
“Because,” she said, “I don’t think he knew that he could make the people behave too.”
He leaned back in his chair and patted his bulging belly with his left hand. He laughed in his boisterous, deep staccato way, and then leaned over his legs and peered down at the spot on the floor where I stood.
“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, honestly,” he said, his voice booming. The giant leaned back in his chair and rummaged around in the chest pocket of his flannel shirt. “Probably some kind of a financing thing, is my guess,” he shrugged in his slow, deliberate way.
“But, you have to save your receipts,” I said, standing tall. I’d been his tax attorney too long to give in to his casual indifference toward accounting. We went through this every April. “If you don’t have the receipts, I can’t make your deductions,” I had to speak very loudly just to be heard. His giant head was a long way from the floor. And I was a small man to begin with. That’s probably why he liked me.
The Giant peeked over at me only for a flicker of a moment, the only indication that he was paying any attention to me. His eyes were on his chest pocket, still rooting around in there, trying to get his lumbering fingers even into the pocket, let alone find whatever it was he was trying to fish out of there.
“Sam. Honest,” I said. “They changed the laws this year. You have to have your receipts to deduct charitable donations.”
He grunted and his eyes flicked away from the pocket and back to me for another half-a-second. He was unaware that tip of his tounge was sticking out just a bit as he dug in the pocket. He did that with his tough whenever he concentrated. Which meant that I wast going to get proper attention until after he’d come up with whatever was in his pocket. I wish I could stomp around, throw a fit, make some kind of a statement to get his attention away from his damn pocket— but there’s a limit to the kind of line in the sand you can draw when your adversary is 7 stories tall.
His furrowed brows shot upwards as his shirt pocket flexed and strained under his pushing. “Aha! he shouted. The sound of his voice nearly knocked me off my feet.
It was as strange a place as anywhere to sit down for a few moments to get some work done. His car was parked in front of the lake-house, and now that he was sitting in the gazebo he felt kind of silly.
It would be easy to stop working and just stare out the windows and watch the lake for a the half-hour he had to wait before his wife could be released to go home.
It would be easy, but he didn’t want to stop. He had a rare chance to spend a few minutes writing out some of his thoughts, just kind of doing a one-dimensional writing exercise. The famous “keep the pen moving’ bit, you know? Just writing to write, to get in the mental space for constructing lines and words.
Stale coffee on his breath, he sighed and looked out at the floating dock. IT was too cold today for swimming, but that’s not to say it was cold. Overcast, maybe, but not cold. Maybe he’d pull his sweater on a little later. It was in the back seat of the car.
He wondered if he should publish this? It might make an interesting exercise. Actually journaling— but if he was really doing a 10 minute writing exercise, he had to be free from the constraints of publishing and public consideration. If there were things that he wanted to write that weren’t suited for publishing, he didn’t want to feel the need to stay away from them.
I wonder if 10minutewriting.com or something similar exists. That would be a really cool idea for an online journal. MyTens.com or something. A public place to park 10 minute writings, edited after the fact for publish-ability and maybe then tagged. How could would that be? Especially if you wanted to go back and check on them later.
He was carried away with that thought now, and he shook his head somewhat involuntarily in oder to refocus on the 10 minute task at hand. That kind of thing would be an interesting thought for later, but right now, he was supposed to be writing.
The trees shimmered in the light outside the gazebo windows as the wind gusted in playful bursts.
The gazebo is nice. It would be a very nice place to have a party. Of corse, so would the back porch. By the rabbits. Don’t we all love the rabbits.
I’m revamping my tumblr site. I have this idea to create a place to park 10 minute writing exercises. Here. Regularly.
Crazy, I know. Defeats the whole point of 10-minute writing exercises.