Friday, May 20, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

The countdown has started; take a deep breath.

With every passing second, your life expands and contracts like a noble heart, pumping. There is a smell of ozone, and the sound of the rockets fills your whole body. No time for second thoughts now. You are off, as they say. 

You've been "off" for quite some time. People have noticed. Folks have been talking. The gossip has blossomed into something that no one can control. It has eyes and tentacles. It will devour you.

So, lean back. Let your body go limp. Try to be still, as it will be easier to administer the antidote. We try to avoid blood and scarring. It's easiest if you just understand. You are in our hands now. Your life is not wholly your own anymore. 

You are part of something bigger.

Friday, May 13, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

It's hard to say. Easy to think, but speaking involves overt action. I'd like to invert the whole scenario as a distraction. Look at the bird on the fence, smile, I'll stab you in the back with a ballpoint pen.

Meanwhile...

Your best friend betrayed you. Her actions dismayed you. The people who made you? Who knows what they do. Stay relevant if possible. Sit in the garden. Let the broad leaves shade you.

The good dreams you have won't come true. The bad ones might if you don't pay your dues. The ticket costs misery, but don't worry, it loves company. 

You can throw a bitch party, invite the whole crew. 


Friday, April 29, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

I don't want to do this. I don't want to be here. I don't want you to placate me or try to inspire me; I'm past that. Leave me hanging. The fickle wind will entertain me. The sounds of the night creatures will be my music. The moon will be my muse.

It's not that I don't appreciate it, although I don't. It's not that I'm over the whole thing, fed up, although I am. I am waiting for the hammer strike. I am spinning into oblivion with my eyes wide open. 

You are an artful conductor. That's something to be proud of, I guess. Quite an accomplishment. You are different than the rest of these two-legged fuck factories. Be the beast you were born to be. Rip flesh with your sharp teeth, and revel in the blood. 

When morning comes, I will be gone. You will be a shell of what you were, and that's fine. That's just all right, man. That shit makes some kind of sense. 

Not really, but whatever.

Friday, April 22, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

The birds greet the morning, damp and fetid. Rain slides off the cars, creating abstract art with streetlight glow. The world is still hitting snooze, denying that the night is over, keeping eyes shut tight. You are but a small piece of a large tableau. Do with this what you will. Run, hide, scream, laugh, sing, dance, die. The birds will keep singing. The rain will still fall. 


Friday, April 15, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You got your new shoes, got your fifty dollar haircut. You're looking fierce, feeling it. You got three drinks under your belt, and that last touch of headache is setting with the sun. You paved the road with well drinks, but you know that there's nothing at the bottom. Just more bottom. It goes on forever. 

I'd never ask you to change, too ambiguous. I'll specify. I want you to improve. No matter where you're starting from - everyone has room for improvement. Try looking up, not down.

Make sure you situate yourself just so - you are at a bend in the river. Pixels jam up the works like old wood logs. You want to watch it all burn, so be it. It's gonna get hot, hot enough to melt them fake eyelashes all the way off your fake face.

I feel like Bigfoot. Out of place. Lurching through the thicket of branches, soft light glinting off the special effects. I'm fertilizer. I will create a mound of new life. Just give me time.

Friday, April 8, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

I can't play the song unless you give me the key. I'm locked up. Perfect pitch seems like voodoo to me. But I'll take a swing at it. 

I fell down a few times, sure, but my motives were pure. There's just not enough of the stuff inside me. I'm a broken-wing seagull snatching opportunistic fries. The boardwalk is my hunting ground, where folks walk, bored. 

I wish I could see the things you see. I'm blind until I put everything into words, play with the sounds. I have to construct a metaphor to see things clearly. I get better at it daily. Yearly. I'm an ambitious snail climbing a wall, not that poor slipping fuck from the math problems. They call them word problems, but words have never caused me problems. Math did. 

You're zipping through life with blinders on, but I'm looking everywhere. Trying not to crash the car while I look for hawks in the shimmering air. You got a second? Man, I got none to spare. Time is stretched like a pregnant belly, full of promise, full of danger. Every day this shit gets stranger.

I wish I had your confidence. It's a superpower, that ability to crown yourself and not feel awkward. I feel like a phony even when I'm not. Don't give me a second thought. Cave my skull, and leave my body for forest rot. 

I don't sleep well - there are things in my brain that won't let me rest. Maybe that's for the best. This world was made for open eyes. Slip the needle, euthanize. Make it one last big surprise. 

Keep running. Don't stop. Momentum's about all we've got.

Friday, April 1, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Most of the time, we were happy. We danced through the day wrapped in freedom, whirls of emotion and song. It was easy to be happy when the sun was up. It was after the sun went down that we returned to a kind of uneasy stasis, like a demolished building between the blast of dynamite and the cloud.

Mom used to shimmer like gold, but he was the tarnish. Not a Dad, but someone playing a part. Only he hadn’t practiced his lines, and they never came out smooth. They came out like he was chewing rocks. Spitting out broken teeth.


Jimmy. That’s what everyone called him. He never suggested we call him anything else, but we did. Behind his back, we called him all the ugly words we knew and hoped he never heard us. My older brother, Jeremy, would talk back to his face, but he was the first born, which made him closer to our mother in time and space. 


The younger kids. Me and the twins. We just kept our heads down. Tried to sit like stone lions, the kind that live outside libraries. We guarded nothing and instilled no fear. We were decoration, an overly frosted cake. Our smiles turned stomachs.


The day he left, nobody cried. We crossed our fingers and tried not to jinx it.

_________________________________


The dock is old and weathered. Ancient boards with claws of old, twisted iron. Nails and hinges betray the history of the place, a place where old doors become docks where people fish and catch nothing. 


To catch fish, you need a boat. But no one I know has a boat. We use the boat ramp for skate tricks and dodge the boat owners who look at us like old bait. We are inconvenience. We are a knock in their engine, fouled lines, old nets with holes. 


The men with the boats laugh like gulls and grumble like earthquakes. They sit high in their trucks like God, the ones who can use the whole water. They feel superior to us, and we feel inferior to them. 


There is a natural order to it. 


Sometimes, the drunks who watch the boats will give advice. No one listens. They are focused on boat-having. Boat wanting. 


Boats bob on the distant waves like driftwood, sun stabbing their chrome.


When I die, I would like to come back as a raven. One who watches the boats, but does not care. One who knows the score.

______________________________________________________________



I am not one of those who throws pennies into fountains. I keep my pennies in a hole-free pocket. I stack them on the edge of my desk so they can grow into dollars. I do not carry crystals or consult the stars. 


My hope lives in stacks of old, worn copper. 


My grandfather was a great collector of coins and rubbish. He walked with his eyes on the ground like bloodhounds, scouting pennies, rubber bands, old bolts and pretty stones. He taught me to do the same. Made it a game. We were walking junk drawers on the hunt for treasure. 


My sister  would never play the game. She refused to keep her eyes down. She was the kind of sister who could talk to adults on their level. Not me. I was happy to have something to distract me. 


Someday, I will teach my grandchildren to keep their heads raised high, but their eyes down. Not in humility. 


In search of treasure.



_______________



She is the kind of woman who breathes sadness. She smells of sadness, and sadness fills the open spaces between her words. She jumps the steps when she gets home, but it is fear that drives her, not exuberance. 


She is someone we can make up lies about. She can be whatever we want her to be, because, really, we know that there will never be a confrontation. She has enough on her plate; it is stacked high like a potluck plate before it falls and splatters. Before the crash and the shaking grandma heads. 


People in the neighborhood call her Auntie, but she isn’t related to any of us. It is a sign of respect. We don’t understand the weight she’s carrying, but we respect it. There is  a certain strength to her posture, her ability to stand when the world is pulling her down.


She is marble, ready to be carved. 


To the uninformed observer, she is a much-maligned old woman, but we know things that we cannot express. There is truth, but there is also consequence, and they don’t always come together. 


If she is marble. We are play-doh. We are young, and we wear our youth like chain mail. She lets our opinions bounce off the callus of her skin. The pigeons don’t care about any of this; they are involved in dramas all their own.



Friday, March 25, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

He watched the sunlight fall in bands through the forest canopy, heard the scratching of small animals in the mulch. He tracked birdsong through the branches, content that he was the only biped in the area. Setting down his pack, he breathed deeply of the pine-scented air and smiled. 

It was a smile born of pain. And it didn't last. 

From the pack, he took a rough heel of brown bread and the last of his cheese. With his barlow knife, he sliced the cheese as thinly as possible and paired it with the bread. He chewed methodically, turning the bread to paste in his mouth before swallowing. His canteen was full, but he took only small sips. 

He had been in these woods before. He remembered the subtle bend of the deer trail and the trickle of a stream that was hidden from view. Stream might be an overstatement, he thought. Trickle. It was a trickle, but it was life, and it was for this reason that the deer came. 

From his coat pocket, he palmed his father's pistol, a .38 Police Special that his old man had carried for years and never fired. He intended to fire it, but first he needed to think. 

If he had to pick one moment when things had gotten off track, when the train of his life had derailed, then it was this: heartbreak. He was aware that he had no monopoly on the feeling, but it didn't matter. If he was honest with himself, he allowed that his heartbreak had been something special. Something extra. You lose your wife and your son and heartbreak becomes chronic. Leaden.

There was nothing holding him to life anymore. This is what he thought as he stared at the ground in front of him. He saw stalks of chewed grass, droppings from various animals, and the scratch marks where a predator had sharpened its claws on a tree. He saw life and death before him, and, once again, decided that there was nothing left in the life part. Not for him. 

His heartache had claws that were unbelievably sharp. They were tearing him apart. 

He heard a hawk cry in the distance, and the sound was so forlorn and empty that it made his chest ache. He opened the pistol and checked the loads. Fresh, shiny cartridges that looked out of place in the old gun. Like it was putting on airs. He chuckled at the idea that he needed a fully loaded gun. He didn't. 

He needed one bullet. The rest would rust and decay and be buried by time. Or found by some intrepid woodsman. It didn't matter. Maybe a deer would learn how to shoot and become king of the forest. 

It didn't matter. Not anymore. 

He pulled a cigarette from his pack and lit it with the Zippo that had also belonged to his father. The gun and the Zippo had been all he wanted from the tornado of "stuff" his father had left behind. 

He smoked the cigarette down to the butt and put the butt in his pocket. He chuckled at this, too. His whole life was about to become litter. 

It didn't matter. Not really.

The sun was just dipping in the sky when he firmed up his resolution. It was the golden hour that he loved, and it was fitting. 

The gunshot stopped the birds singing, and it drowned out the sound of the trickling water. But only for a moment. Soon, the birds were chirping and lamenting. The forest returned to stasis, the way it had been before he came. From the edge of the clearing, a buck raised his head and scented the wind, smelled something it didn't like, and bounded back into the thickest part of the woods. The sun dropped, and the night animals came.

All was right in the forest again.

Friday, March 18, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Man, it's an investment. You're buying in, not selling out. This is one of those opportunities you read about; don't let it pass you by. 

Kid, you see the writing on the wall, right? You see that guy? He plays video games on a stream and makes bank. Not that kind of stream...or bank...what, you think we're going fishing? lol

Lady, you need to put yourself in their shoes for a second. Stop fighting progress just because it doesn't include you. Won't someone please think of the shareholders?

Folks, you're here to see a show. The show will change your life. Sit back and relax. Put this headset on. You may feel a moment of searing pain. That's just your brain connecting to the metabrain. It's worth the brief hurt. Trust me. 

Self, I knew you before you were optimized and actualized. We had a few good times. Some unpleasantness. That's over now. 

Welcome to the hive. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You open your eyes and see the sun peaking beneath the skirt hem of low clouds. The ambitious birdcall pulls you in, and you track the conversation from pine tree to pine tree. No one else is awake yet, and that's just fine. This is a magic time, when fish are focused and hungry. 

Time moves slower. Tea tastes better. You breathe the pine scent deep inside you.

There are so many marathon days. So many days where you are content to place your feet and count your strides and check your mile times. This is not that kind of day. This day will be a leisurely stroll through high grasses. 

You know the fish are waiting, but you take a few minutes to just be still. To be part of the tableau. There is beauty in this, for you are but one small piece of an immense tapestry. Don't resist the pull of stasis. There are answers in the stillness that you didn't realize you were looking for. 


Friday, March 4, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

High in the branches, death is perched, waiting. You are being watched, for death watches all of us. It's easy to disregard this reality. It's hard to go about your life knowing you are under the laser eye of eternity, but that's just facts, man. That's the way it is. It will come when you least expect it, tear you apart with talons so sharp you barely even feel them. Like razor cuts. 

So, keep scurrying. Find places to hide if you can. Use the shadows to move.

Death don't care. That's what you need to wrap your mind around. Death will stoop and plummet, drive you into the ground with the force of its decent. That's how death works, but it's not personal. It's not a vendetta. It's just death doing what death is supposed to do. 

Circle, dive, impact, blackness.

You can go through your days in constant terror. You can flaunt your aliveness. It doesn't matter. Riding the wind currents, high in the sky, death is biding its time. 

So, do what you must. Brace yourself against the cold wind of time. Smile when you can and laugh as much as possible. Death doesn't care one way of the other. I'm telling you the truth. And when it comes, you'll be torn to pieces because death has not teeth. It doesn't chew. It just rips. Tears. Swallows. 

And the blackness lasts forever.

Friday, February 25, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Sirens cleaved the air, and the twist of red and blue made shadows jump in the darkened alleyway. He had followed the girl as far as he could. She, clutching that long flower box that seemed heavier than flowers. Pale skin and pretty face beneath flat, black. Her skin had been like a homing beacon, a glowing target to follow. The sirens were the answer to a question, but he wasn't sure who asked it. 

He had time to light a cigarette and take a few drags before it was smacked out of his hand. The cops were both white, middle aged. They had that military haircut that made them look like big kids. Round in the middle. Pants sagging with cop crap.

"What the fuck are you doing? We gave you a chance, motherfucker."

"Chance to do what? Suck cop dick? Kiss the boot while it's on my neck?"

"Your chance was to get free. But you didn't. She's still breathing, and you're going to jail. After we fuck you up a little bit."

He started to answer, but a backhand slap rocked him off his feet. It was fine. It would work out. He was done killing pretty ladies. Done before he'd even started. And maybe that meant prison. Maybe that meant that those heavy flowers got delivered. It didn't matter. He'd known he wouldn't kill her from the moment they said her name. 

Those grade school crushes never die. 

He wondered if she still dotted the 'i' in her name with a heart. It didn't matter. He was done being scared, and he was done doing dirty work for crooked motherfuckers. 

The more he thought about it, the better jail sounded. 

He craved sleep.

Friday, February 18, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You are not the sum of your experiences any more than you are the result of some cosmic confluence. You are inherently random. You are the result of a sweaty, grunting communion and nothing more. This is not an attempt to devalue you. Think about it; there is beauty in the chaos. Of all the flesh cells in the universe, you became you, and you will be you until you die.

No angels sang. No devils danced. It's all molecular biology and chance. So, you can view this two ways. Either it matters or doesn't. Hell, you can view it a million ways. Don't let me limit you; I'm just a sack of blood and goo. 

Like you.

If you want to believe that you are sprung from a supernatural fountain, be my guest. Put an old sage on a mountain and light some candles. But, to me, you're trying to simplify the magic. Is it not more amazing to know that you are one in a billion, and that the only reason you are here is because you got lucky? Or unlucky. That's up to you. 

I'm no prophet, but why not profit?

Why not make something of the ordered disorder that is you?

Friday, February 11, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

It was the smell that first put his hackles up. A pungent, sweet smell of rot and decay. It was faint at first, but his body knew that there was reason to be wary. His brain did not. It quickly grew stronger, and he found himself inhaling deeply, pulling the smell inside his head where he could tumble it and smooth the edges. But it wouldn't smooth. It grew more pungent and, gradually, he came to realize that something was drastically wrong. 

He was struck by an urge to turn around and head back to the cabin. Pretend he had never smelled it. Pretend he didn't care, that morbid curiosity didn't compel him to keep walking, keep sniffing. Some deeply buried part of his lizard brain was taking over. He could feel it happening. He wanted to rut the smell out. He wanted to roll in it until he was a part of it, and it was a part of him.

Still, beneath this curiosity there was a growing terror. He knew that whatever he found would demand action. There would be phone calls to make. The whole day would be burned into his memory. It would become something he dreamed about. Something that lived inside him. He wondered briefly if the smell itself would make him ill, corrupt him. Scramble the wires in him.

He was so focused on the smell, that he didn't hear the shuffling sounds - the reordering of dead leaves. It wasn't until a branch snapped that he realized he wasn't alone, and by then it was too late. He had time only to think, "I should have turned the fuck around and went back to the cabin." Then, there was a flash of pain, the sound of bone rending. 

And he became part of the smell. 

Friday, February 4, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Man, don't tell me you don't like money because I can smell it on you. You got the stink of it, like old dimes and tit-sweat bills. You got that look in your eye like you taste blood - like you're working the gristle out of your teeth with that forked tongue of yours. Speaking of which, I saw your bitch barking down by the bowling alley, chasing spares and looking for a dick to suck. Don't worry, she didn't suck mine. I don't dig on horse teeth.

You're the kind of guy gets a hard-on when his cousin sits on his lap. I know you got magazines under your bed that I ain't even heard of. Four-eyed-tit-fucker Weekly. Drunk, Horny Dwarves. You're probably half-chubbed right now looking for a tree to go rub yourself on. Scratch that itch. Before you even go home, which is probably good cause you know your bitch is tired. Throat worn straight out. Sperm in her teeth.

That car you bought is a woman's car. Got them soft leather seats so your vagina won't chafe. You got pinstripes, and you probably got a box of tissues in there, too. Air freshener making that shit smell like strawberry bubble gum. You got one of them little trash cans that hangs off the back seat, and you got Mardis Gras beads dangling off the mirror like you're hoping to throw 'em at the first pair of tits you see. Four cylinders of tepid bullshit, boy. Might be a tricycle would do you better, if I'm honest. 

It was good seeing you, though. Good to chew the fat and whatnot. Life ain't been kind to you; that much is obvious. Keep your eyes on the mediocrity prize, kid. Keep humping, and you'll get somewhere eventually. And when you do, write me a letter. Sign it Shitface, so's I'll know who sent it. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

You open your eyes, and the light is so bright it peels back several layers of eyeball. Disoriented. You are lost in light, and the sound is like a mechanical nightmare. They found you. Just like you knew they would. And now, they will take their pound of flesh. And then some. Carve you out and leave you down by the boat ramps for the gators to snack on.

You knew to stay away from the swamp bars, but 'drunk you' thought what the hell, and now you're about an inch from oblivion and tipping closer to it. The birds will get the pieces the gators and the fish miss. Some kid will find your bones. He'll try to freak out his sister by saying they're human bones, never thinking it's possible. Human bones. 

'Cause you couldn't stay the fuck away from places you have no business going.

You feel the bite of the bolt-cutters, and then an ear is gone. You can feel the not-thereness. You feel blood slick the side of your face, and you mumble through broken teeth. Just fucking kill me. But they haven't gotten their pound yet. They're taking their time. Enjoying it. 

When they're done, they'll drive your car off a bridge and leave Iris Baumgarter wondering. Wondering what she did wrong to make you leave without a note and never come back. 

That's the real pound. This wasn't even about you. Iris fucked around and found out. 

There are worse things than death.

Friday, January 21, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

  

You should be helping someone. You should care enough to reach out that hand and keep someone from slipping. I guarantee there was a time when you were about to fall off the edge, and someone pulled you back. You might have appreciated it. You might not have. 
But it happened. 

Think of it as an investment if you need to. Call it 'paying it forward' or make it like a t-shirt slogan. Golden rule if you must. Ideally, you just do it because it's the right thing to do. It's decent. 
It's hopeful. 

Check on a friend you're worried about. Ask the sad kid if everything is cool and understand that he might not have the language to tell you. It might take a little patience. It might be frustrating. Virtue signaling isn't helping anyone. 
Literally. 

Why not try being extra nice and see what happens. What do you have to lose? Worst case scenario, it just helps you because you start feeling optimistic. 
That shit is contagious. 

Don't put people inside cages. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

Through the walls, you can hear them coming. You huddle together; try to create some feeling of safety - it doesn't work, but it is the only thing you have. The walls bleed with mold slime and rainwater. You can smell death every time you inhale, but the fear cuts through the smell, and you are overpowered by the scent of your own misery. You have lost control. 

Through the windows, you see rooftops. They are distant enough that escape promises a crippling death. Still, you are tempted. 

In the walls, you hear the fetid scrape of small animal claws. If you die here, they will devour you. Feast on your corpse and revel in your meat. You will at least serve a purpose, but there is no consolation there. You grasp the hand of the child next to you and hope that you are the first to die. 

Footsteps. They are coming. You can hear them dragging their feet as they close in. You can smell them now - the smell of them is mixed with the smell of you and your heart pounds. There is a crash as they break down the door. You close your eyes so you won't have to be a witness to your death. 

It comes swiftly. There is that.