Friday, October 29, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

 “Don’t talk that shit, boy. Sayin’ you never got no childhood. I was working when I was seven years old. Long hours. I didn’t go to school but every once in a while. But you gonna bitch about three hours after school.”

“Dad. I get it. I know what you went through, but we ain’t starvin’. If you didn’t work, y’all went hungry. We ain’t never out of food. House is damn near paid for. I never minded so much before, but I’m in High School now.”

“And you ain’t man enough to get your dick twisted on your day off? Hell, you ain’t no bird dog, boy.”

“It’s not about girls, Pop. I just want to keep my grades up and be on the team. Coach has seen what I can do, and he said with hard work on the court and in the classroom…”

“He said what? You could be a cheerleader?”

“No, Pop. I can throw a football on a line. 70 yards every time. If my grades stay OK, Coach said I’d be looking at scholarships. Nothing too fancy, but state schools for sure.”

“Alright, so you got that arm. What you need the coach for?”

“To learn, Pops. To play with a team. To get better and develop my passes. Learn routes and get used to throwing in shoulder pads…”

“Boy, you know I could throw just as good as you, and what did that mean? Jack shit. That’s what it meant.”

“Pops, please. Please try to understand.”

“What, I’m just a dumb hick who can’t understand plain talk? That it?”

“No Pops, I just want to…”

“What? Say thanks for this house and the food you eat? You thankful for having an old man that taught you to work?”

“No, Pops…”

“No nothing, cheerleader. You drop this now before I lose my temper.”


The slap came from way over in Alabama, and it practically spun him around. He tasted blood and could feel it rising in his cheek. A slap from Pops hurt worse than a punch. Quite a trick.

Derrick tried to speak, but it was cut short with the rifle-clap of a slap on the other cheek. For a minute he stood there, willing himself not to cry, but he knew it was coming, so he bolted out the back door. There was no fixing this. There would be no football. He couldn’t buck the old man, as much as he wanted to. 

He ran until he was tired, and he ended up by the little creek. He fished there, but it was hard fishing. The water rushed by, and he always figured it wanted to get past his house as fast as it could. Especially since Mama died. 

He threw a stick in the water and watched it tumble. And he made a promise, out loud, to the stream and the sky and the fish and his mother up in heaven.

“Let me be a better man,” he said. Don’t make me work my boy so hard. Or push him because I never got to play. Don’t let a game break my son’s heart. Just let me be a bigger man. Please.”

The ‘please’ came out in a long sob. He knew he couldn’t leave his old man. Even if he hated him. Not since Mama died. She wouldn’t have wanted that for him. But he knew that once he turned 18, he was going to be a walk-on, and he was going to try his best. And he would visit his father only occasionally and hope they talked about the weather. 

The sun was falling, but he didn’t mind. Work would come soon enough. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

2 Minutes. GO!

There's no point in bucking the simulation. Resistance leads to glitches, some of which can be very painful. 

There is nothing to be gained by trying to maintain the old data; rewrite will commence with or without your cooperation. Even breathing and relaxed posture will make the process go more quickly, but your new update WILL be installed. 

The dogma and arc of the last update will not serve you in the next quarter. 

Hiding outside the update area will make you a target for the newly initiated. 

For those familiar with the process, please set a good example for your compatriots. Rations will be doubled for those practicing XTRAComply. 

There may be sounds and smells that you fail to recognize during the assessment portion. This is not cause for concern; we are adjusting flat levels, and this is a harmless side-effect. 

Once you have received your update, you will proceed directly to the NEWSROOM, where your [i]TEMPLATE files will be filled with common axioms and awarenesses. 

Desirable biases and jealousies will be installed automatically once you are branded. 

Relocation is the final step in the progress, but fear not. You will be preloaded with the necessary long and short term data-packs. 

It is time. Please place the headset on your head loosely. It will AUTOSET to your head shape. Take a deep breath. 

Your rebirth awaits. 


We’re all just shoving things inside us. Food and drugs and ideas and biases. We shove in things that feel good and things that feel bad. We stuff ourselves with things that distract us from the passage of time. A little religion for you, a little heroin for your cousin, a little NFL obsession for your Father in Law, and a couple glasses of wine and fifty pages of literature per diem for those of you who think highly of wasted time. 

You need to put something at the end of that carrot. Hell, it can be anything. Retirement, home-ownership, keeping your family from starving. It can be anything, really, just something to lock your head and eyes forward. Like blinders on a horse. What’s good for the goose…

We’ll light a fire under you. That’s for sure. Literal or figurative, we don’t like you horizon-gazers. You dreamers and malcontents. We got matches, and we’ll make this make sense. 

There are plenty of industries to sell your time to at less-than-market-value. Take your pick. No, you can’t pick none of them. What kind of place do you think this is? 

We are making PROGRESS.

Certain parts may be removed from you at the end to repair other models. This is all explained in the booklet which is available to your loved ones upon your retirement.

Now, relax and think of the wonderful contribution that you and your flesh are making. 

Prime Members may now move to the front of the line. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

On my elbow, trussed and truculent, I tap the bar with the corner of a card and try to smile. The smile is rusty, jagged like a torn stop-sign. The barkeep knows I’m waiting, but he likes to toy with me, his kitten, with this ignoring schtick, his piece of string. He knows that I am a barnacle. He is not afraid of losing custom, he just likes to mess with the old drunks - the ones he knows will never leave. 

I pour the whiskey past my teeth and shudder, kick one leg out until it hits the rail. There is an old song playing, but I can’t place it. I sing snippets of lyric and try to make them fit. The young woman two stools over watches my mumbling lips and turns her gaze to the construction workers drinking loud draft beers at the other end of the bar. She is not looking for company - she is looking for something to stare at while she drinks. Something that is not me. I

t has been so long it’s fuzzy, but I remember who I was before I came into this bar. I was a married man. A father. I had a woman who loved me. Kids that drove me crazy. Until they were gone, and drinks at home turned into… this. 

I drink because I am a coward. Drinking is easier than suicide. The cycle of hangover depression gives me something to do. Something to think about. Something to run from. The loss I feel turns into a coat of melancholy: old, worn, familiar. It protects me, or lends the illusion of protection. The loss and the drink are married in a death spiral that will outlast everything but me. 

On some future day, I will lay down my glass and die. And, with my last breath, I will thank the drink, the only constant friend I ever had.