Thursday, June 6, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

You on the team? Everybody’s on the team. Everybody gets a slice. You’re like a shitty general manager who doesn’t get paid. I’m like, sitting in the outfield, laughing. Your sense of allegiance is misplaced. Your anger is tangible, but you’re not angry about this. This is supposed to be a release valve. You’ve turned it into a bar with premade beef. Other people’s beef. Brother, you are NOT on the team.

The sun hits everyone and everyone dies a little as the hours pass. Get you a hotdog. You can tell folks at work on Monday that you played an integral part. Half-drunk-idiot in the nosebleed seats is an important position. I get you.

Pre-recorded rivalry is a stupid reason to die. Stupid reason to fight. Stupid reason to argue. You can’t care enough to get invested in human welfare, but you’ll die if your rival team wins because, well, you were told they were the enemy and that was enough. Get the pitchforks.

How much does the team care about you? About as much as your season tickets cost. About as much as the merchandise you overpay for. About as much as I care about you and your Sunday rage-preach. There are children dying in cages.

Did YOU see the game.

Open eyes, face on soft velour. Flash of neon in the rain, smears as you drive. Radio playing bad hip hop. The road is smooth, then a washboard. Your body is chilled, soaked. There is a sense of panic as your eyes focus. That smell. Don’t think about it. 

Time passes and you wonder. Wondering is risky. Risk is aversion. Avert your eyes outward; introspection is not your friend. 

Go back and construct excuses from what you recall. Cover your trail in hypocrisy soaked in convenient half-truths. Crack the window. Drink the soggy air. Hear the music, stunted and guilded by the sounds of the city as it flows by


  1. "Vignettes from the Dark Side"

    When did we stop talking about Elvis, do you know?

    I lean forward to type this and move out of the umbra of relative cool thrown by this hand-sized fan into a sludge of heat.

    But yes. Elvis was from another America, an era even our parents are deeply skeptical of. When they came with their questions, I tried to focus on cornfields and tractors, resisted the confluence of Southern-fried pain, of racism and refusal, humidity and animosity, the way old white men got us all to pretend we were friends until we no longer were and they’d taken it all.

    Note this if you're passing. Last time I saw Emma was the last blue sky, as now all skies are charcoal grey at night or burnt orange on a good day or corpse grey on a bad one.

    Funny how you miss the things you once hated and how when they stopped asking their questions I wondered where they'd gone.

    All things now aberrant formerly renowned.


    “Cute as a button.”

    Yes. If the button dripped with gore.

    What a life we’ve led. What a world we pretend is normal. Though there is no normal. There’s never been a normal.

    He said it again—to her serious face, can you believe?—and Malone swallowed more puke. “Cute as a button.”

    Her face said smile while her fervent heart wished ugly death.

    Because there was no outright soliciting, what happened on the strip wasn’t really thought of as street trade. Word of mouth, usually in the tight and grimy little bars, led the johns to prearranged rooms in the many cheap motels, where the girls would ask for a code through the door. Motel owners took a nice per-hour cut. Neat. Cozy.

    Cheap Vietnamese and Mexican food, a convenience store at a Chevron, pawn shops, boarded and shuttered places of unknown origin, low-end motels and third-rate bars. Like so many others, often indistinguishable, it was a street built upon the pragmatic truculence of despair.

    Malone sat alone in one of those third-rate bars. She knew she should’ve paid attention to the omens when the M in the neon Miller sign flickered and died.


    “Dead man walking!”

    I’m arrested by a line of tiny ants. Stop. Let me watch ’em. This column of infantry are returning to the castle to inform the watch of an approach by possible hostiles. I want to see how things turn out. Please wait. We have all the time in the word, right, fellas? We’re not exactly on a schedule… Oh, we are? My bad. But what will happen to the ants? Let me see what’s up with the ants, please. Hey! You got no right to take liberties like that, son. I just wanna watch the ants. Git your hands off of me. I ain’t going’ nowhere. Just going there more slowly than perhaps you like. What is it? You wanna get home to watch the game? For fuck’s sake, and ’scuse my damn French, but get your wife to tape it on one of them PVC machines they got now. Ain’t no reason for you to be acting this way.

    And you wonder why I did me some killin’? Ain’t no mystery there, son.

    1. Loving these grim little snapshots. Especially the last one.

  2. He’s not too bad a guy. He has feelings as deep, sore and soaring as anyone else’s, I guess. Maybe even more so, we just don’t know. Few have ever seen them as he moved through the vacuum of his days.

    I once caught him in one of his brooding moods, the ones maybe you’ve seen or you’ve felt. He broke through the 1,000-mile stare and wall of his self-imposed isolation to look up at me, half-grinned and raised his chin in greeting. He hummed his shrugged-shouldered humph when I inquired how he was.

    “So how you doing?”

    “I’m doing. Wondering if all this is worth it.”

    “All what?” I asked.

    “Just doing, being, thinking. You know, like that Descartes guy said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Maybe I should just stop thinking so much.”

    “That’d be no fun.”

    Then he surprised me with, “I’m sorry.”

    “What are you sorry for? You haven’t done anything to me,” I said.

    “I’m sorry because I’ve never expressed to anyone my regrets for my sins and omissions, never cried at their funerals, never spoke up about how I truly felt, never professed my love to those I should have and never moved on from the ones I shouldn’t,” he said.

    “Why are you telling me this?” I asked.

    “Because you’re the only one I can and that’s what I lament the most,” he said as we each turned away from the mirror and switched off our bathroom light.

  3. Chris had planned their stops carefully. Nowadays that was just what folks had to do. He pulled into the recharging station situated in the middle of the desert and watched the kids scatter.

    Ever since the Green Meanie Deal went into effect, the world had changed. Well, his world had changed. No more tossing everything in trash cans without bothering to separate the reusable from the straight-up trash. No more gas-powered cars. Power plants had been replaced by windmills. Hundreds of thousands of windmills covered the land from sea to shining sea.

    Other changes were less weird. Pleasant, even. Like this here recharging station. He and his girl had a chance to rest and look around. The kids could run around on the nearby playground or tear through the museum or interactive adventure that had been put there so kids could get away from their damn tablets and phones without getting bored or bugging their tired-ass folks.

    Chris hooked an arm around his wife and walked out towards an open area so they could enjoy a walk and a peak at the mountains they were driving towards.

    "I don't know if I can get used to the new world order," he said, shaking his head for the millionth time. The state of the world was one of his favorite topics.

    "Baby, we broke it," Camiliia said. "Now we have to try to fix it. We can't. Not really. But don't you want to leave the world somewhat in tact for them?"

    She indicated their kids with a toss of her head. Chris grunted in response.

    "Why does it have to cost so damn much to leave something for them?"

    "Because we made it so that was the case," she said. "It's just like every other relationship you'll ever be in. We treated the Earth like crap. Now we're paying the price and she's still breaking up with us."

    Chris laughed a rusty little laugh even though he really wanted to cry.

    Yeah, he knew all about fucking up relationships. Camilla knew that, firsthand. So did the kids. But maybe Seattle would be different. Maybe he could be different. His therapist had said he needed to constantly take small steps. He'd taken one in listening to his wife.

    In the process he'd found out that she could be funny. There were worse things.

    1. Interesting... I want to know more about these people. I like the "unintended consequences" that the kids have more to explore and discover as they all "recharge."

  4. Moon

    It’s a sound and a smell, unraveling,
    The beginning of it all, unstaged,
    A ring of a bell, an iced knell,
    A silencing of words held in stasis.
    The reconfiguration torn, time
    Spends itself in a reordering of mime,
    Chaos reminisced, and so it stops
    Still, a grin marking skin pulled
    Tight, this sense of ages spun,
    Reborn in the morning, figure none.
    We all begin to rebegin amid waste,
    A mind creeping, begging to explain,
    Eager to foul, dismembered to fall.
    She cannot explain, she cannot see it.
    We are existence twisted, left, lone,
    Seeking a guide without a true path,
    And in finding one we call it home.

  5. War puppets

    I can reorder time,
    We all can,
    See it slither in your grasp,
    Catch it, scoop it up,
    Taste it on your tongue.

    Will it make you lie?
    Can you lie here with me?

    I catch a star,
    It glistens; I catch a fly,
    It dies so prettily.

    This purpose humours none,
    I honour my life in futility.

    They despair, longing nightly
    For the curtain beyond this,
    The days laid out as counting beans,
    Miniscule ages ripped away,
    And thus they file out,
    Aching feet sullied by mud.

    I hear a dim cry in the light
    But it’s buried under sound.

  6. One of the quartet of alter cockers who sat at their usual table in the back of the deli, sipping tea Russian-style with sugar cubes in their mouths, told Pop the latest news, that certain Jewish-owned businesses in the neighborhood were being shaken down for protection money. It was one of the few times Eli had seen his father angry. His expression, usually so sunny and welcoming, went dark, and when he came back behind the counter, where Eli was slicing corned beef, he shook his head and muttered, “This is why your grandfather left Poland.”

    In fact Pop hadn’t even wanted to believe it could happen in his beloved land of milk and honey until he saw the plywood nailed over the broken front window of the appetizing store across the street. Old Mr. Katz was fine, though, just mad about the window, which would be expensive to replace. His late wife had painted their sign on the window herself. The local business owners took up a collection; Eli’s cousin Artie offered to paint a new sign. It was beautiful but it was never the same. And when they broke it again, old Mr. Katz dropped dead from a heart attack.

    The new owners paid the money and sold their pickles and olives and cream cheese and nobody touched their window.

    “You see?” Pop said to Eli, and pointed across the street. “That’s what they want.”

    But in the back of his mind, Eli always worried if their deli would be next. When a brick would come sailing through their window. When some goon in a slick suit would threaten his father into paying up. Giving in. Eli was afraid to express his fears to his father. He didn’t want another history lesson about what the Cossacks had done in the old country. He also didn’t want to know if his father had already had a run-in with one of those goniffs. Or if, god forbid, money had already been paid.

    Then one afternoon Eli was working the front counter, wrapping up Mrs. Zimmerman’s order—a pound of pastrami and their remaining quarter-pound of lox—when he saw a Packard pull to a stop outside. For the longest time, nobody got out. Eli’s stomach was in knots as he kept a smile on his face, chit-chatting with Mrs. Zimmerman about the weather and how good the lox was and when they were expected to get more, until she finally left. It was typically slow this time of day, and it was just him and the alter cockers now. They were regulars, good customers, so Eli went back to check on them. As usual, they were gossiping in Yiddish—Eli understood most of what they were saying—and laughing. At Eli’s approach, Mr. Moskowitz, their ringleader, broke into a big smile, deepening his wrinkles, and said, “Ah! Eli! There’s our boychik! Another pot of tea, when you get a moment?”

    “Sure,” Eli said. With his father out on deliveries and Sam in the basement putting up a new batch of pickles, Eli was reluctant to be in the kitchen even for the length of time it took to boil fresh water and bring them a new pot.

    Waiting for the water, he hovered in the doorway between the kitchen and the tables. Still, no one had gotten out of the Packard. Soon, he could wait no longer. He ducked back into the kitchen and just as he’d finished pouring the water, he heard the front door chimes jingling.
    When he came out, Mr. Moskowitz was escorting, almost pushing, a man in a sharp suit out the front door.

    Then he toddled back to the table, where Eli stood, transfixed by what he’d seen, and still holding the teapot.

    “He won’t be bothering you and yours anymore, boychik,” Mr. Moskowitz said, reclaiming his chair. “We speak the same language. We just speak it a little softer.” Then he grinned again, and looked at each man around the table. “Anyone hungry, gentlemen?”

    Eli whipped out his order pad. “Whatever you want,” he said. “Today it’s on the house.”

    Maybe it was only a different kind of protection, but he had a feeling his father would approve.

  7. So you want a story, huh? Well, what if I don't want to give you one? See, what I want to do is tell you about Ted. But you don't want to hear about Ted. How do I know? Because no one wants to hear about Ted. But I'm going to tell you about Ted anyways.

    Where to start, where to start? Well, Ted is smart. He's dependable. He's so good at his job that he gets things done early on a regular basis. But he's a bit lazy. He has given up on trying to be challenged, so he does what is expected of him, which is in no way what he's capable of. He gets by. He skates a bit. No harm in that, though, right? He tried to get them to give him more and they just didn't get it, so he gave up a bit, in that area of his life.

    Ted is loyal to a fault. He's sweet, kind, and so damn loyal. His friends always know he'll be there for them. Whatever they need. Whenever they need it. He's the go-to guy. He hits the scene with his friends almost every night and he's up for a good time. But he's shy. Quiet. A bit reserved. Oh, he's interesting and funny if you put in the work to get to know him, but he's not one to put himself out there. His friends are always trying to hook him up, since he's such a good friend. He keeps shutting it down his own damn self.

    Ted is not bad-looking. The problem is that he's also not good-looking. In fact he's a bit nondescript. Not overweight. Not underweight. No real muscles to speak of.

    The biggest problem with Ted is that he's nothing special, and he knows it. It pours off him, in waves. He's mediocre. He's in the middle. There are billions of people like Ted in the world, and he's all too aware of that fact. So he doesn't try. He doesn't try to get farther in his career. He doesn't try to find a romantic partner. He doesn't try to get to know people. It's not that he's boring, not really. It's that he thinks he's boring. So he gave up. On all of it. He does what he needs to do to get by, but he doesn't try for more. Because what's the point, really? He won't get it. He knows that.


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