Thursday, December 30, 2010

How We Met

The Geek loped in circles after the chicken. His gangly arms and legs swung in clumsy arcs. Thick drool trailed from his chin. When he ran, translucent plumes of snot and saliva erupted from his face as he gasped and laughed. He would jump towards the chicken, the chicken would veer off at the last second, and he would grunt as he hit the dirty ground, sending up a cloud of dust.

The gathering audience laughed and cheered.

The chicken ran in circles while it clucked with terror.

Bawk. Bawk. Bawk.

The Geek smiled and followed the clucking chicken with his eyes which were large, glassy, shining, black, and empty. His pupils contracted into tiny condensed dots full of darkness. The crowd could see The Geek’s posture shift as he made slow calculations with whatever it was he kept contained inside his large, conical, and bald skull. The Geek crouched low and leaped. The chicken clucked. The Geek grabbed it tight and pulled it up towards his open mouth and revealed jagged, uneven teeth.

Bawk. Bawk. Wet crunch.

The Geek chomped the tiny skull and smiled. A thin trail of blood and spit coursed fresh rivulets down the thick layer of dirt and dust coating his filthy chin.

The crowd groaned because it was expected of them to be disgusted, but their eyes still smiled. They feigned horror and pulled out their wallets, hungry for the freak show to begin.

I saw it happen. I was there. I was eating fire. My mouth tasted like gasoline spiked with cheap vodka. My tongue burned. My inner cheeks burned. My eyes and lungs burned thanks to the harsh chemical fumes wafting off my torches. I saw you, and I felt everything. I noticed everything. Through the haze, I found something resembling clarity.

You know because you were there. I noticed you because you cried. You were the only one who cried, and right then, I knew I wanted to leave the freak show behind. I just wanted to drink your tears. I knew they would taste sweet. They would be cool and refreshing. They would wash the chemicals and fire from my mouth and leave me healed. I would be baptized in the purity of those tears and reborn as something better.

I approached you. You took my hand when I offered to help you up. I saw the faint hint of a smile borne from my own act of kindness and felt a real sense of purpose for the first time in my life. I could show you kindness, and through my kindness, help you forget, or at least forgive.

For you.

My heart. My love. My wife.

We left the freak show hand-in-hand.

Sometimes, in the years that followed, I would turn around. I would hear the applause, the jingle-jangle of loose change, the laughter from The Geek, the shout of The Barker, and I would consider returning. I would remember the taste of fossil fuels and alcohol and fire. Sometimes, I wanted to taste those poisons again. But always, your hand was there – and then other hands, smaller hands – and together, you and the family you gave me would pull me back so I could remember what really matters and understand.

My heart. My life.

The Geek smiles only because he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

You know. You care.

And now I do too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Running in Circles

George Orwell ran inside his red plastic wheel. The metal bits had not been oiled in quite some time, so it squeaked loudly as his little paws pushed the wheel round and round and round. He enjoyed running in circles.

Margaret Catcher, a rather obese orange and brown tabby, rubbed up against Orwell’s cage. “Good afternoon, George.”

“Afternoon,” Orwell replied. He breathed heavily and the word came out as a rush of air. He almost turned the word into one syllable instead of two. He slowed down so that he might speak more clearly. He enjoyed Margaret’s company. He knew this was odd, with him being a gerbil – a rodent not too much different than a rat, really – and she being a cat and all, but still, they tended to get along rather marvelously. He had known her from the time she was a wide-eyed and innocent kitten. He remembered when they first met. She had not been much larger than himself at the time, after all.

Margaret stretched out her front paws. Pearly white claws extracted and retracted as she stretched. She had never been declawed. She had learned to scratch her post instead of the furniture at a young age. She rather liked her claws and was not too keen on the idea of losing them in the event that she ever had to defend herself or was forced to catch her own food. The lady who owned her was a silly, delirious old thing, a wannabe writer who lived most of her life inside dusty old books, and Margaret worried the poor old bag of bones could fall over dead at any time at the slightest provocation due to her numerous nervous conditions, and then where would she be if she did not even have her claws? This was a dreadful thought, more than enough to motivate Margaret to scratch the post instead of the sofa.

“Why do you run?” Margaret asked.

“Because I like it, of course,” Orwell replied. His breathing was steadier now as he had slowed down to a steady jog. The squeak of the wheel quieted some but remained audible. It released a metronomic screech, screech, screech, as it went round and round in an endless slow circle.

“But why? You’re not really going anywhere, are you?”

“Perhaps not,” George admitted thoughtfully. “I guess it’s not the destination that matters, however. They say it’s the getting there – wherever there is – that matters, but really, I don’t think that matters too much if you get there in the end. Once you get there, the journey stops and there’s nowhere to run. And if it is the getting there that matters, than why should I worry if I never get there? What’s the point of even having a destination if getting there is the good part? Perhaps we’d all be better off if we forgo destinations altogether and just enjoyed our rides? Besides, I’ve seen some of the destinations of my brethren. I’ve heard stories, you know: crushed under rockers; starved to death; no offense, but some I hear have been eaten by cats; embraced too rigorously by small, well-meaning children with strong, chubby hands; and then don’t get me started on what I’ve heard some adult humans do with us … where they, uhm, put us.” Orwell stopped running and shuddered visibly. “Yes, there are worse things in life.”

Margaret had grown bored during Orwell’s diatribe, no matter how brief it might have been, and began licking her paws. His speech had not once mentioned her or cats at all. It was all about himself and gerbils. This was quite a boring speech for a cat to have to endure, obviously. Once he stopped talking she looked up at him and decided she needed to say something, just to remain polite. George was her friend, after all, even if he only talked about himself and his kind. “I suppose so.”

And that was that. Margaret Thatcher walked away to rub up against the legs of the old lady sitting in her reading chair. She had not moved in quite a long time, and Margaret rather hoped that the old bag was still alive. Not that Margaret was worried about her owner’s well-being, mind you, but because Margaret was a fat, hungry cat and hoped the old woman might open a nice tin of tuna for her to eat.

George looked at the cat as she walked away and was grateful to have a friend, no matter how self-obsessed she might be. She was still his friend, and that was quite good enough. The entirety of his life was rather good enough, he decided, and he began running again. The inadequately oiled metal parts of the little wheel screamed as it worked itself round and round and round while going nowhere.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A (Kind of) Fairy Tale

Sheila clutched a Swiss army knife in her hand. She extracted a small blade to carve an opening in the cardboard box surrounding her. This released a blinding stream of light that poured down like a phosphorescent waterfall. She closed her eyes and then opened them slowly, allowing them to adjust to the new light. It had been a long time since she had looked outside. A very long time.

She peeked through the new opening and saw that the world had not changed. It was still the same as it was before. The river coursing over the rocks had straightened a little. It no longer curved the same way. The white water had calmed somewhat, but other than that, the world was no different. The leaves were still green. The sky remained blue. The birds still sang.

Then the leaves fell and then winter came and snow collected on her new window. Translucent stalactites of ice dripped over her opening and distorted her view. She shivered, decided it would be better to hibernate, and fell fast sleep.

The world was her bed and it was soft and comforting. It made sense when nothing else did. She woke as the snows began to thaw, and she tried to remember why she was here, where she obtained the Swiss army knife in her hand, why she was in a box, but decided that these were worthless questions. She was here because she was here and that was all. This is no different for anyone else, no matter how strange or sensible or senseless they might happen to be. People aren’t all that different, though they often like to think they are special. She had had time to think and no longer clung to false notions. Maybe she wasn’t special, she decided, but at least she was free. She said, “Freedom is in the mind, not a physical state of being,” and she chanted this over and over and over until she almost believed it, but not really, because she was a protagonist, and this, by default, made her special. At least it made her special in her own self-contained universe. Without a character there can be no story, after all, and without a story there is simply nothing to tell.

Then the box dissolved with the raging rains of spring and she emerged during a storm. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, but then the winds swept the storm – and the dissolving remains of her box – away. As the clouds broke apart to reveal the sun, she outstretched her arms. Her joints popped. She ignored the pain and bloomed. Delicate and colorful petals flitted with a soft breeze. She was beautiful and fragile and, ultimately, meaningless.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Sitcom

Ted fought against the metal mountain as he climbed. The thick cloths and leather straps wound around his hands and feet grew snagged and tattered and worn as the level ground – covered only by a thinning blanket of dead grass and glittering permafrost – fell away beneath him. As he climbed upwards, the smoldering heap of rusting steel smoked in places. Red lines stained crags and eddies. Ted was unsure if the stains marring the mountain were rusted iron or ancient blood. Both had been offered over the years to appease The Monster. Yet, The Monster was never appeased, not fully. The Monster looked down on what was left of the world with a toothy smirk. The Monster’s giant lips frothed with blood. Tremors rising from deep inside the core of the earth told Ted that The Monster hungered. Wings creaked overhead and blocked the pale light of a dying sun as The Monster stretched.


“Why must you do it?” his mother asked him. She ran around the kitchen. The spotlights overhead and the yellow flowers on her wallpaper kept her cheerful, kept her smiling. She whisked something in a bowl. Scrambled eggs maybe? The beginnings of a cake? Cookies?

Ted did not know. He stared down at his hands. They were caked with dried blood.

His mother tsked. “Ted, you tell me right now, what is it you want to prove?”

He looked up to his mother and saw her. Really saw her. She was beautiful, radiant. Light streaked out of her eyes and warmed the chill in his soul, but he still felt cold. His brother was gone. His mother tried to remain happy, wore a permanent smile, but even as young as Ted was he understood this was her front, an act. He knew she was lonely. Since The Censors invaded she had been forced to sleep in a tiny twin bed. She no longer knew the embrace of her husband. She no longer knew what it felt like to be kissed with the exception of chaste brushes of indifferent lips against her cheek. The Censors wanted her pure. The Censors did not care if that false purity killed her soul.

“Mom, I just killed my brother. Dad made me do it. He said it was in the damn script!” Ted tugged at his crew cut hair. “I need answers!”

The laugh track erupted into a joyful cacophony of canned emotion.


“Why do you climb, boy?” The Monster asked. He had no name. He was simply The Monster. That was enough.

Ted lay sprawled out on a small metal platform. His hands and feet pulsed and wept with blisters and blood. “Because I have to know.”

“What do you want to know? How do you know I have the answers? How do you know, if I do have the answers, I will give them to you? What makes you think I can be trusted?”

Ted laughed. “It’s not about trust. It’s about truth.”


His father never came home from work. No “Honey, I’m home!” or tumble over furniture, no canned applause for his clumsy, over-stylized entrance. Instead, the house grew silent.

Ted looked at the fourth wall. The cameras had stopped rolling. The studio audience had been left deserted. A tumbleweed from the western that was filming on the set next door rolled across the linoleum kitchen floor.

“Why do you do it?” his mother asked again, softer this time. She fell over and shivered.

Ted wanted to rush over to her, to hold her, to cry over her. Instead, he sat at the kitchen table and ate his cereal, trapped by an unforgiving and unyielding script. His mother died as she slept: alone.


Ted spoke between clenched teeth. “I just want you to answer one question, you sick bastard. Who are you?”

The Monster smiled. “I think you know.”

“Why do you do this?”

“Just to see if it works.”

A shock of lava and smoke erupted near Ted. Some of it splashed down against his outstretched arm and left instant whelps and burns. “Well? Did it work?”

Sheets of typed paper were crumpled into a ball before being tossed into a trashcan littered by empty beer cans.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Family Portrait


There was one man in a room. He sat alone and looked out a dirty window. There was nothing outside besides parked cars lining a quiet street. The stoops in front of the duplexes were all empty. Behind the man, the filter of his nasty aquarium whined while lumps of algae and dead fish floated and twirled in the artificial currents. He poured himself a glass of cheap whiskey and adjusted himself on the couch because his left leg had fallen asleep. The motion sent a spray of dust mites into the air. They twirled in a slant of sunlight like pixies, but they weren’t pixies. It was only dust.


The mother sat at the kitchen table. She pressed her hands against her temples as she stared down at a pile of unpaid bills. Some of the unpaid bills were written in red print. Far too many of the bills were written in red print. She pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes to dam up swelling tears.

In the next room, something crashed to the floor. The sound startled her. The mother looked up and saw that her boy had broken a lamp. His dirty bed sheet was tied roughly around his neck like a cape. He had been pretending to be Superman again. He told the kids at school that Superman was his father. When the other kids asked the boy where his father was, the boy explained that Superman flew away.


There is a picture on a wall showing a happy family. The family is posed in front of a lake, framed by trees, and the sun casts a golden glow as it sets behind them. The mother, the father, and the boy all wear smiles. No one would know it by looking, but the smiles are fake. At least they are for the father and mother. As for the boy, his smile was real enough, just all too fleeting. Shortly after the photograph was taken the mother’s eye would be bruised and black. The father would be drunk and screaming and throwing furniture around. The boy would be cowering under his bed, reading his Superman comics, and thinking about his own father’s strength as furniture crashed against the wall.


The boy is now a man. He sits in a small economy apartment. He sorts through stems and seeds on a dish looking for any decent leaves for his pipe. The pipe is stained with thick resin. The past stains his mind. He wants to fly away like Superman. He looks at the crooked spot on his finger where there had once been a wedding band and thinks about his father. He thinks about his father’s fists. He thinks about his own fists. He really was Superman’s son. He releases a clipped chuckle and throws the glass pipe against the wall. It shatters the framed picture of his family vacation. He looks at the fresh shards of glass and hopes they don’t cut him too badly once he eventually feels motivated enough to pick them up off the floor.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Navel Gazing


I was born in a pickle jar. My first view was of the inside of a kitchen cabinet. Stubborn bits of label and glue that would not wash off the jar obscured my vision. It was dark, but my developing eyes didn’t mind. Enough light filtered through the cracks in the doors to see all I needed to see: a coffee cup hand-painted with a beach scene from Mexico City. It was paradise. I contently swam in circles.


I smoked my first cigarette at two years old. I was outside a Laundromat beside the dumpster I called home after being tossed out by my parent who was an inconsequential and slovenly short hunk of hairy man. I had been a mistake, apparently. My parent had tossed me out, jar and all, two years previously. The jar broke, and I was born, and now here I was contemplating. While toddling around, pondering my fate, I found a crumpled pack of cigarettes on the ground. There was one lonely crushed up cigarette inside. I lit it with a Zippo lighter I carried in the chest pocket of my dirty OshKosh overalls. The lighter was decorated with a Confederate Flag. It said: “The South Shall Rise Again!” I inhaled and coughed, inhaled and coughed, inhaled and coughed again. Yet, by my fourth toke, I found I was already used to the process. A thin blue trail of smoke wafted up from my chubby hand as I waved the cigarette in lazy arcs. I cleared my throat. “The contemplative life is often miserable.” This was from a book of Chamfort plays I had found beside the dumpster one pale afternoon. I decided to follow his advice then and there to “act more, think less, and watch oneself live.” I found a tattered beret and placed it on top of my head.


By the time I reached my teens, I realized that everything came in threes. There was me, my beloved, and my beloved’s beloved. There was a fight. I won the fight but lost the war. My beloved’s beloved fell in love with my beloved as she nursed him back to health. They went away together. Then I was alone again: two and one, one and done.


A priest gave me a copy of his Latin Primer. He said it had been his only book as a boy. He said this in Latin of course, so I did not understand what he said at the time. I loved that book. I was in my twenties and trying to find my place. I had left the dumpster behind and moved into the Laundromat. I liked the big glass windows. When I leaned my face up against the cool glass and looked out at the cold world, it felt something like being home. Domis dulcis domus.


By the time I reached my thirties, the Laundromat had been torn down. I heard they were going to turn the shopping center into a Walmart. I wasn’t sure why they would do this – there were already three Walmarts within two miles – but sure enough, that’s what they did. So, I left for the woods. I found some people out there with long hair who were very nice at first. They welcomed me, called me “Brother.” It brought tears to my eyes. They said they were Rainbow People. I liked them. They asked me if I wanted to be one of them. They said according to Rainbow tradition, there is only one prerequisite for joining the Family: a belly button. Once they realized I had been born in a dirty pickle jar with no umbilical cord and therefore no belly button, they apologized and left me alone.


By the time I reached my forties, I was coughing constantly. After years of smoking, the air I breathed was a consistency more like razorblade-infused syrup than a gas. I knew it wouldn’t be long. I walked towards an apartment building. I snuck in through an open window. I moved straight towards the kitchen. There was an empty pickle jar. It stunk inside, but I was pleased by the organic funk. I filled it with my own urine and sloughed off tiny flakes of dry skin with my dirty fingernails. I blew in a puff of cigarette smoke before closing the lid. The conditions were perfect. I smiled and watched as the fragments of myself danced in the dirty water. They came together, one by one, and coalesced into a swirling fetus. I placed the jar inside a cabinet and turned it so it would face the coffee cups. There was a nice cup in there with a hand-painted beach scene from Mexico City. I looked in the mirror and realized that I had grown into an inconsequential and slovenly short hunk of hairy man. C’est la vie.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Man in the Bar

Man left the bright off-white daylight of a stormy day behind and let the heavy oak door slam shut behind him. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the blackened smoky interior of the bar. Man wrinkled his nose. The sudden change in atmosphere came as a shock. He took small breaths – he did not want to smell everything all at once – as he adjusted from the scent of the ozone and rain outside to the acrid and condensed scents of burning tobacco and spilled beer and body odor confined within this tiny den of despair.

Man took off his funky green hunting cap – a reference to his literary hero – and swept back strands of greasy black hairs so that they were plastered over his spotted, bald head. But no one would call it a comb-over, a comb-over is something done on purpose. This hairstyle wasn’t exactly a style. It didn’t look brushed or washed. In short, it fit Man exceedingly well.

No One looked up as he entered.

There was a bartender. He was an obese man with a large gut extending over the tie of his dirty apron. He spit into wine glasses and shined them with a soiled red bandanna. He finished washing and then tied the bandana on top of his shaved white head. Rolls of fat and tufts of curly coarse hair sprouted up from his dirty white t-shirt. There was a stain just to the right of his armpit – on his chest, next to his heart – that looked a little like America.

There was a woman. She sat with her legs and arms crossed; inaccessible. The slit of her skirt exposed a hint of bare skin and the lines of garters which held up frayed nylon stockings. She smoked a cigarette, sipped from a martini glass, and stared at herself in the mirror. Her reflection scowled back at her, as if angry over the heavy toll exacted by years of self-abuse on her once youthful and perfect body. She looked away from the mirror and stared down at her dingy shadow on the floor and could still see the outline of the girl she used to be. She dropped her lit cigarette down onto that shadow and smothered it with a violent twist of her high-heeled foot.

There was a kid with a mop and a bucket. He was tall and lanky. The sweet, almost rotten smell of marijuana followed him. He danced a little as he pushed the mop around, nodding his head to the unheard music being broadcast from the ear buds of his personal MP3 player. Inside his bucket, bits of food – perhaps vomit – twirled on the oil-slicked surface of the murky mop water. It seemed the more he cleaned, the dirtier everything became, but he was unaware of this, lost in another world, dancing to the sound of a song only he could hear.

There was an older grey man looking into a beer. His mind raced with fragments of memories. Most of these were bad, but the good ones were the worst of all. The good memories were a reminder he had once had something else, something better. He had once been someone better, but that was years ago and far away; in another time, in another marriage, in another city. There had been a bar in that other city, too, he remembered. It had been much the same as this bar. He knew for a fact that the view was the same as he watched the carbonation bubble inside his warming beer. His last beer, he promised himself before taking another gulp, drowning himself with the warm remainder. He quickly and purposefully forgot this promise to himself as he asked the bartender for yet another beer. He felt a moment of remorse, but just a moment. After all, it wasn’t his first broken promise, not by a long shot.

Then there was Man watching it all. He noted each face, each posture, and each sordid article of clothing. He noted the lonesome wail of steel guitars in a country tune playing softly from a jukebox hidden behind a well-worn pool table. Man smiled with the knowledge he had found his place, had found his people. This was where he belonged. Here, he wouldn’t have to feel self-conscious. Here, he didn’t have to feel ugly. Here, he could be King!

He straddled a barstool, held up a chubby finger to get the bartender’s attention, and asked for a Shirley Temple.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Am the Princess

Officer Dawes touched the walls of the tiny attic. Rough wood was splintered with tiny lines. The lines formed letters. The letters formed words. The words formed sentences. The sentences formed paragraphs. The paragraphs formed a story:

Once upon a time there was a fairy princess in a dungeon. I am the princess. My name is Elizabeth.

It feels like I born in the dungeon. I was there because my mommy who was pretty and nice died when I was a baby. My wicked stepmother Denise hated me because my dad loved me, so I was put in the dungeon and kept there. She was jealous of me so wanted me gone.

One day a prince would come to rescew me. I know this to be true. I can see him when I close my eyes. He is on a white horse that likes to eat apples. The prince and the horse named Pearl because hes colord like a pearl both wear silver armor with dimonds that shine with light.

Theres no light in the dungeon. Its always dark, but I can see okay. I just close my eyes from time to time and it helps everything seem a little brighter when I open them back up. The only time I see light is when they feed me and open the dungeon door. I’m sick of SPAM and greenbeans, but thats all they feed me.

Sometimes I smell myself and I stink. I hope my prince is okay with that. It stinks up here because I don’t have a potty…

Officer Dawes had to pause. He called over his shoulder. “Hey guys, get someone to transcribe this stuff down and take lots of pictures.”

Another man, wearing a white doctor’s coat nodded his head and walked over and began snapping pictures. Officer Dawes touched his hands to the wall again and sighed.

There was more writing, much more. Some of it was about a stepmother who could turn into a dragon and a father that grew evil and began fighting off princes, killing them, and feasting on them. Much of it was a day-to-day account of life in the dungeon. The parts that seemed the most realistic hurt the worst of all. He read:

Everything is dark today. The dragon ate the sun. The princess hurts. Almost to much but not qwite to much to write. But she knows she must write. It is the only way to keep the shadows away.

Officer Dawes turned away and faced the tiny limp body being outlined by investigators. He looked at an arm that was much too thin and wiry with muscles. It was clear the little girl forged those muscles while carving these scrapings into the wall with the broken wire laundry hangar still clutched tight in her stiff, clenched fist.

He turned his attention back to the wall where the writing ran out. The paragraphs grew shorter, became fragments of images; the words less understandable, sometimes made-up; and the letters lost coherence, becoming random scrawls and scrapes.

There was no happy ending. There was no ending at all.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nike's Resignation

Nike soared into the sky. Her large wings caught updrafts and lifted her higher. She felt the winds grow cooler and more refreshing as she ascended towards the condensing presence above her. The nothingness solidified into darkness. The darkness became solid and welcoming. She flew upwards and flapped her wings a little harder, hungry for home.

Beneath her, the clouds were small, insignificant. Prismatic shifts of reflected sunlight filtered between the nothingness below. She saw right through those clouds and their superficial beauty. Below the meaningless wisps of condensation lay a sea of deep blue and aquamarine dotted by sandy brown and green islands. There was a flash and one of the islands erupted into a mushroom of smoke and fire.

She turned her attention upward. She decided enough was enough. No longer did she want to be among the miserably congested anthills, unthinking bee hives, or diseased roach nests of humanity. War had evolved with these insects and their own self-defeating stupidity.

The skin of her face stretched taught as she ascended towards Olympus. Her robes flowed down in her wake until they were pulled free from her body. She smiled as her skin fell away leaving only her incorporeal essence: her true self, a star entering the massiveness of the night sky where she might find her place in the unending space of the universal. The skin and cloth she shed floated downwards, became a cloud, and then rained down on a blood-soaked battlefield to wash a moment of pain away. Then the corporeal shell rotted with a sea of smoking gore and viscera. Naked now, she glowed a little brighter as she ascended into the Pantheon.

She looked down. She watched as the skies of Earth burst with unending fire. The world burned and she shook her head. Drops of her essence fell down beneath her like tears. She turned her attention upwards and worked her way through the cluttered debris of dead satellites.

There were no victories left to herald, no new songs to be sung of the glories of war, at least, none she could recognize.

"I quit damn you!" Nike yelled down towards the embers of fading civilizations.

"It's okay, dear."

Nike turned around to face the song of another star. Athena moved towards her, their lights connected in a loving embrace, and Nike trembled, overtaken by the sensed impact of an infinity of gentle kisses.

Athena drew Nike closer and the two stars merged into one. "Shh. It's okay. You did your best. You hung on as long as you could. I gave up on them centuries ago. I saw the signs. It wasn't the first time, after all."

The stars shined with their timeless and unchanging beauty.

Back on the wreckage of earth, a man and a woman stood upright. They emerged from the soot and gore and waste of another lost time, of another lost city, of another lost world. They looked up to the stars hoping to find warmth there, but only felt a chill. The man and woman frowned, turned their backs on the stars, and focused on one other.

They began to love. They began to rebuild.

The world continued to spin. Hope continued to burn along with their passions.

Athena and Nike danced overhead. They circled in joy to the tune of new songs that sounded like the old songs but were still their own songs, somehow.

Friday, October 29, 2010


The Mother stood and looked out her kitchen window. Her hands mechanically washed dishes and scraped away bits of dried gravy and beef: the remnants of last night’s meal. Her hands were protected from the scalding soapy water, from the dirt, and from the waste caking the inexpensive china by the thick skin of her pink rubber gloves. She looked out the window towards the clouds and watched them march overhead, marking the passage of time, and so much seemed wasted. She didn’t think about her hands. They moved on their own with an ingrained knowledge borne from endless repetition. Instead of thinking, she dreamed.

“Momma, I made a friend.”

Startled, The Mother turned around to face The Daughter. “Oh, really? That’s nice, sweetie. What’s your friend’s name?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’ll call her Piggy. That’s kind of what she looks like. She’s got a curly tail and everything. She’s pink!”

The Mother rolled her eyes. She thought it might be a real friend this time but knew this would be too much to ask for. “So, she’s not real then?”

The little girl laughed. “She’s real. Why don’t you come outside and see her?”

“I’m busy washing dishes, honey. You go on out and play, okay?”

The little girl looked down at the floor. “Really, Momma, why don’t you come out and see her. I don’t know if I trust her all the way. She’s kind of weird. She walks on her hands and knees. She’s got a pig nose. She’s got a bunch of ninnies all up and down her tummy like a doggy. She lives in the gutter.

“I’ve told you about that gutter! You don’t play there! You’ll get bit by a spider or a snake or something.”

The little girl looked outside. “She’s calling me. Should I play with her? Would you like to meet her?”

The Mother turned her back to the child and rolled her eyes. She looked up to the clouds, remembered her daydreams and smiled to herself. Her daughter was just like her. She turned back around to face the child. She knelt down to her level and planted a kiss on her forehead. “You can go on out and play with your new friend. Just make sure you stay away from that gutter, okay?”

The child looked outside. She turned to look back at The Mother. “Okay, Momma, I got to go. It sounds like Piggy’s in trouble. Can I have a knife?”

The Mother smiled at her daughter. “No, honey, you can’t have a knife.” She left the sink and walked over to the cutlery drawer. “But you can have this.” The Mother handed The Daughter a wooden spoon. “Here’s a nice sword for you, okay?”

The Daughter looked at the spoon. “This isn’t a sword; it’s just a spoon.”

“It’s whatever you want it to be, right? Remember what we talked about?”

“Imagination, huh?” The Daughter shook her head and walked outside.

The Mother resumed washing dishes with her hands while her mind wandered to strange vistas. She lost herself.


“Sweetie! Honey! Where are you?”

The Mother turned around in frantic circles. She looked behind shrubs. She looked in the storage shed. She held her hands over her eyes to block the sun as she stared across her lawn. A chorus of grasshoppers infiltrated her mind, and the beginnings of a migraine formed just behind her temples.


She decided she should check inside. Maybe she did not hear The Daughter enter the house? Maybe she was just in her room playing? She scanned the yard one more time with her eyes. Then she saw it.

There was a strange darkness in a corner of the gutter. Where a concrete drainage pipe had once been, there was only a massive opening. Bits of asphalt from the road crumbled down into the newly shaped hole. It looked to be about ten feet across. The Mother ran to the hole and looked down. She could see nothing but blackness.

The Mother fell to her knees and cried out at the empty sky. Clouds rolled by overhead, but she did not notice them.


The Husband grew concerned. Every day when he came home from work The Mother would be standing on the edge looking down into the darkness of the sinkhole. Once the rescuers stopped searching, The Husband hired a contractor to fill the hole, but The Mother would have nothing to do with that. She wanted it to remain open. She still believed The Daughter would emerge unscathed.

Best estimates provided that the depth of the sinkhole was over fifty feet deep, at minimum. They learned their land was built on top of an old iron mine. The ground had shifted and revealed a network of long-abandoned mine shafts.

“It’s dangerous. We need to fill it up.” He said to her one day while she stood looking down over the edge. He stood behind her and held her shoulders.

She shook her head. Tears dripped from her face and fell into the darkness.


“Do you hear that?”

The Mother looked at The Husband. It was dark in their bedroom. The lights were off inside the house. The Husband rubbed sleep from his eyes, sat up, and leaned over to turn on the bedside lamp.

His wife’s eyes were large and bright. She turned her head quickly, her hair whipped around her face. “Do you hear it?” She grabbed The Husband by the collar of his faded TOOL t-shirt.

“Hear what?”


The Husband frowned. He held up a hand to silence The Mother. He listened. There was the tick-tock of the antique clock in the living room just outside their bedroom. There was the whir of the air-conditioner. He focused his ears for anything that might sound out of the ordinary and jumped as the ice machine clinked out a fresh batch of cubes in the kitchen.

He shook his head. “I don’t hear anything. Can I go back to sleep now?”

The Mother nodded her head.


Time passed. The Mother's sleep grew restless. She often awoke to the squeal of pigs. They sounded both far away and nearby at the same time. She'd lay awake with her glassy eyes trained on the popcorn ceiling. Sometimes she connected the dots on that ceiling and imagined the profile of The Daughter's face. The Daughter was never smiling. The little girl's mouth was always open wide in terror as she released a silent scream.


The Husband snored. The Mother did not mind. This helped her stay awake. She wanted to stay awake.

Once she knew The Husband was good and asleep, she slipped out of bed. She wrapped a robe around her shoulders and slunk her feet into a pair of flip flops she used as slippers. She walked slowly and carefully, not wanting to make any noise, trying her best to avoid the spots in the wood floor that creaked if stepped upon. She did not want to make a noise. She wanted to be alone.

The sound had been for her. The Mother was the only person The Daughter had told about Piggy. Piggy was waiting. Piggy would have answers.

She slipped out the door and into the humid night. A thin layer of fog clung to the overgrown lawn. She rushed towards the sinkhole.

She looked down over the edge.

A pig’s squeal rose up from the darkness to greet her. Tears fell down The Mother’s cheeks.

“I should have listened, baby. I should’ve come out and met Piggy for you like you asked. Why didn’t I listen?”

Clouds moved overhead. A shaft of moonlight revealed something on the edge of the sinkhole. The mother squatted down to see what it was.

She saw the splintered remains of a broken wooden spoon covered in dark stains.

The Mother reached for the spoon and held it in her hands. She imagined The Daughter’s final struggle.

A pig squealed and The Mother looked up. A large pig stood upright directly in front of her. The pig's eyes were endlessly dark. The beast’s chest and stomach were lined with swollen teats which seeped a dark liquid.

The Mother growled and ran at the beast. She stabbed and stabbed and pushed against the weight of the monster.

Earth shifted during their struggle.

The Mother slipped. She fell. The sinkhole ate her.


The Husband hired a new contractor. This time they filled the gaping hole in the yard without protest. It hurt The Husband too much to see the sinkhole. It was a constant reminder of good things lost.

One night he heard pigs squealing somewhere beneath him, somewhere deep down below. The sound made him shiver. He rolled over and went back to sleep by focusing his attention on the mundane reality surrounding him: the whir of the air conditioner, the song of crickets, the tick-tock of an antique clock, the fresh ice cubes crashing into their container. He knew these sounds. He understood them. He never was much of a dreamer. He thought the squeals were just his imagination – they had to be – but still the sound disturbed him. He eventually fell back to sleep that night, but the sounds continued.

Other oddities made themselves known. The sinkhole in the yard refused to be filled. Every few weeks another truckload of fresh dirt was needed to fill in the hungry hole.

One night his bedroom grew unnaturally quiet. He woke up alone in a pool of his own sweat. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom of his unlit room he could make out a shadow: the outline of a large hulking beast. In the cool blue glow of moonlight, he saw the impossible: a large sow with seeping teats. It stared at him with black, uncaring eyes. The Husband closed his own eyes. When he reopened them, the beast was gone. He heard the echo of a squeal.

The next morning, once fresh sunlight cast a measure of sanity onto the room around him, he washed a brown liquid out of his carpet where he told himself he had dreamed the figure of a beast stood the night before. He scrubbed and scrubbed and applied more stain remover. He spat into the rug and cursed the impossible stains that refused to be impossible and refused to let him forget.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Problem With Folks These Days

I guess this is the type a story I expect you might not believe. In fact, I expect you might wonder if I actually believe it myself.

Well. I do.

It’s the kind of story that starts on a deserted road. That’s always where this type thing begins, ain’t it? And as you might expect, I was all alone. Just me and the trees and the sky and the asphalt beneath my Firestones.

I was down on Route 40 down past the city limits. I know this to be true because I remember all them potholes. I’ve gone back a time or two and those potholes don’t start up till you get past the city. I guess the state or the county or whoever don’t care much about the state of that road once it gets past where all them voters live. It ain’t used much, I know, but still, it just seems a waste to let a perfectly good road go outta shape thatta way. It’s just a dang shame. I never been much for letting things go to waste.

That’s the problem with folks these days. Everything’s disposable. Heck, just look at the divorce rate. Even spouses are disposable these days. Ain’t nothing sacred or meaningful anymore. It’s all just recyclable.

But,you know what? It really ain’t. Nothing’s recyclable. Once it becomes waste it’s waste and will always be waste and there ain’t nothing you nor no one else can do about it.

But people these days don’t think thatta way. Nothing’s worth preserving to this generation except maybe some danged old swampland or forest full a nothing but rodents and reptiles. I just don’t get folks these days. Animals and plants and stuff like that matter while people don’t? Seems a self-defeating philosophy the way I figure.

Anyway, everything made by us people is disposable. Or at least that’s the way most people think. But I don’t. I don’t think that at all. Just look at my truck. Now, I reckon to you it don’t look all that good. I’ll admit it was once much shinier than it is today. It don’t look much like it did off the lot thirty years ago. But, all the same, it’s a good truck. That commie Obama and his Washington cronies said they’d give me a tax credit for it if I traded it in a while back. My boy told me I should get one of them hybrids, can you believe that? But that’s just a waste. It’s been a dang good truck. It still is. It gets me where I need to be anyway. That’s all I ask for.

Besides, it’s packed full of memories. I know you don’t get that – the past don’t matter much to folks these days – but I can remember taking my wife and our oldest son home from the hospital in that truck. My boy had just been a little blue bundle at the time. He had the tiniest fingers. It’s hard to believe that anybody could ever be so small, but I guess we’re all tiny at one point or another the way I figure.

Some of us live our whole lives thatta way. Small, I mean. Some never want to grow. They live like children and die like children…

What’s that? You want me to get to the point? Dang it, I’m getting there! Just wait. Some things are worth waiting for. Now, I don’t know if the point, as you put it, is worth getting to or not. I reckon I got no way of knowing what you’ll feel or how. That just ain’t the way it goes, but all the same, sometimes it’s hard to know what to leave off and what to put into a story, you know what I mean?

No. I guess you wouldn’t. Your whole generation’s forgotten how to talk, I reckon. It’s all text this and email that. Sometimes there needs to be a little back and forth. You just can’t get that the same way on that there smart phone in your hand as you get it on a porch. I don’t know if it’s better or not. I don’t really care, but I know one thing: I’ve never had that carpal tunnel my boy got a year back. The Good Lord made us to talk with our mouths and not with our hands the way I figure.

Well, as I told you, I was out there in my truck. I was just taking a drive and hoping to catch a few catfish from a small pond down in the wildlife management area. There’s good fishing there at night, you know. I just toss out a few lines with some Oscar Myer’s and reel ‘em in till morning. The cats out there just love them hotdogs. But then again, catfish will eat just about anything, and I do mean anything.

That’s when I saw it. It came out of the water. Dangedest thing I ever did see. Like an octopus with the face and body of a man. Maybe I should say it looked like a man with a beard made out of squid. Hard to describe, he was. I studied him long and hard and think he had to be the most peculiar sight I ever did see.

Well, he came over and talked to me. I didn’t see his mouth move none, but I felt what he thought. He told me some of the craziest garbage I ever did hear. All about crumbling galaxies and hidden cities and people he called The Old Ones – they sounded kind a like politicians the way I figure – and he went on and on and on. He talked about worlds beyond worlds. I knew just by looking at him that he was crazy as a loon. Talking about other gods and such. That’s blasphemy the way I figure.

I told him I don’t believe in no God except the one I sing about on a Sunday.

The world kind of shimmered then and I saw things I reckon no man ought to see. I saw the sky itself as what it was. What it really was, I mean. He explained it in my head as the space between elements, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I tell you what it looked like. It looked like nothing at all. That’s the best way to describe it.

I told him that if that there was what he was selling I’d have none of it, and then I started telling him all that I thought was wrong with the world.

Eventually, he just left. He just up and walked into that nothing space and kind of drifted apart. He held his hands over his ears as he walked away.

That’s what’s wrong with folks these days, the way I figure. They just don’t want to listen. Let me tell you, there was this one boy who…

Hey! Where ya going? You ain’t even finished your tea!

Young people today just let everything go to waste, I tell you...

Friday, October 15, 2010

That Cold, Dark Womb of Stars

Davis stared up at the sky. Lying on his back, his shadowed form resembled a pincushion in the gloom of twilight. The fading light from the disappearing day reflected off glassy eyes. He reached up a bloody hand – he wondered how much of that blood was his own and how much had once belonged to others?—and grasped the protruding shaft of an arrow. He grimaced as he pulled it free.

He pulled out arrow after arrow. The notched heads tugged and ripped at flesh and fiber. He ignored the pain. He held his breath as he yanked out each arrow, gasping with pain with each gush of fresh blood. He knew no sorrow. Each revealed seeping wound brought him one step closer to something resembling freedom.

His open wounds bloomed upwards into roses of red. They unfurled above him and rained down blood-soaked tears. Their scent reminded him of love, of something not quite but almost forgotten: another time, another place, a much more comfortable bed, soft skin like rose petals.

He gasped and felt his heart shudder. It shook like a frightened bird unable to extend her wings because the cage was much too small. Those unfurled wings ached and grew stiff from lack of use until the bird found itself paralyzed. He sucked in a draught of air and tasted the roses blooming above him in the sky. Unlike the wings of the bird in his chest, the roses growing from his seeping red wounds could unfurl. There was no cage up in the sky above him. It was wide open.

The night grew dark and stars emerged. He watched the stars dance across the horizon and tried to remember the names of forgotten constellations and saw revelations: glimpses and hints of the now lost stories the images in the sky above him represented once upon a time for another race of man. He smiled and listened to the stars sing a song that only the dying get to hear – a small consolation to offset the fear.

The sky tugged him upwards, and he felt free. The sky was open. There were no cages, but there was a chill. Stars shined, increased in size, and then receded.

Davis blinked, found himself back in his body, and tears rolled down his cheek. His breathing resumed. A sudden awareness of pain shook him to his core, and he cried out. He prayed he might soon return to that cold, dark womb of stars. The shell of his body seemed much too constricting. His roses withered and joined the dust of the desert surrounding him. The wings of his heart cracked as they were bent back and broken. A medic called out his name.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Jelly watched the shadow orbs bounce around the room. They transformed her perceptions, changing the soft lighting and filtering it into a pale glimmer. She helped her mother paint the room a soft pink last summer. The pink resembled maroon in the half-light.

It looks like blood, she thought to herself.

The orbs continued their clumsy dance. Her bedroom resembled a life-sized lava lamp. She knew she should be afraid, but she wasn't.

It had grown familiar long ago.

She turned up the Lady Gaga playing on her IPod, laid back, and smiled.


"Momma got run over by a reindeer," Jelly would reply to any idiot dumb enough to ask about her mother. In reality, she had succumbed to cancer. For Jelly, however, the why didn't matter so much. All that really mattered was the finality of it.

At times she had felt sorry for Momma, seeing her pain as her cells degraded and her body wasted away. At other times she did not care so much that Momma had hurt. At least Momma had been there. In pain or not, Momma survived and was willing to hold Jelly's hand while she described her pre-pubescent soap opera tragedies. Momma would nod and smile and stroke her hand.

Aunt Grace had said it had been for the best, but Aunt Grace was a poop-for-brains, as Daddy would say. Except Daddy usually said that other word.


It was the night after the funeral that the shadow orbs had first appeared. Jelly was terrified. She screamed into the night for her mother, having forgotten that Momma had passed on.

Her father came in place of her mother. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he asked what was wrong.

Jelly told him, but as the words came out, even at her young age, she felt ridiculous. The orbs bobbled through her room, soaking up the light of her Princess Barbie night light. It was clear her father couldn't see the dark bubbles.

Jelly had called Daddy in a few nights after that before she accepted he never would see them. The orbs – whatever they were – were hers and hers alone. A vision she could share with no one.

Over the years, she discovered they seemed to like music, or at least when she listened to music. Even while wearing the ear buds from her pink IPod, when no living soul other than her could hear the songs streaming through the wires, the bubbles seemed to be in tune. They pulsated, varying between differing shades of grey and black, soaking up the light in different frequencies.


The therapist asked her about the bubbles. Jelly felt anger towards her father for betraying this secret. She would never talk about the orbs to her therapist, she decided. He creeped her out, and the only emotions she dared to share with the bespectacled weirdo were imagined. Her reality was her secret. Besides, her fantasies and daydreams were realistic enough. The therapist never questioned her honesty.

Whenever the bubbles came up during their sessions, Jelly shifted the discussion. She would talk about the confusion caused by her budding sexuality. She fabricated stories of pillow fights with girlfriends that went too far. Her therapist didn't seem to mind. In fact, he always forgot all about the bubbles. He would blush and dab the sweat away from his forehead.


Night after night she looked up to the ceiling, listening to music, awaiting their arrival.

They bounced and danced for her. They soaked up the light. They vibrated and hummed. Sometimes she imagined words and symbols. Jelly felt the bubbles communicate, but meaning eluded her.

Accustomed to their presence, she grew bold. Listening to a mix tape of gothic dance music her friend Shanna had given her – mostly a collection of remixed Cure and Evanescence songs – the orbs grew around her.

Eyes wide and with a feeling she could not describe, almost a hunger, she reached out her hand.

The orb enveloped her flesh and caressed it. The orbs closed in around her. Invisible fingers stroked through hair. Nonexistent legs wrapped around her. She sucked in a deep draught of air as her lungs tightened. Something held her tight in a bear hug. She held her breath as an orb descended over her head. Inside looking out, everything wavered. Her hair billowed around her head as if she were underwater.

The grip around her, holding her down, relented. The urge to breathe took hold, and she relaxed. She sucked in a breath of…

Suddenly, the bubbles were gone. She was on her hands and knees, coughing, gasping for air. She knew what a fish out of water must feel like.

She purged out a thick puddle of black goo. It bounced and jiggled on the floor like Jell-O spilled from a mold. She shivered. Her body convulsed. She rolled around and felt the texture of the carpet pressing against her bare skin.

"Jelly? You okay in there honey?" she heard her father call from the other side of the door. His voice was muffled by the wood and the distance between them.

She tried to reply that she was fine, but couldn't gasp in enough air to say anything.

She attempted to breathe in but the air felt too thick to enter her lungs. She thrashed and crawled on the floor. Using a dresser, she managed to pull herself upright.

Looking back at her in the mirror was someone she did not recognize.

"Jelly, babe, I'm coming in!"

Thud after thud sounded out as the door shook in its frame.

Jelly was only dimly aware of the rattling door. She was transfixed by her reflection. After the initial shock, she was able to see herself in that stranger's face. Her face had aged fifteen years since she last saw it.

Her hair hung sticky and wet around her. The face was covered with wrinkles. Deep frown lines marred her lower face. She was bruised and battered. A tourniquet was tied around her arm, and a half-plunged syringe stuck out of a vein. She looked into her eyes. They were lined by wrinkles. The pupils looking back at her were black holes on a bloodshot canvas. She was naked and withered. Loose skin hung from her skinny frame in places. Smallish breasts drooped over an exposed ribcage.

The door crashed open and a man she did not recognize entered. He was tall and lanky. Blond dreadlocks hung around a yellowed and acne-covered face. The man's build was nearly as withered as hers.

"Jelly? Baby? You okay?"

Jelly felt the man rush up and embrace her as she fell.

She saw the orbs again and smiled. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she felt her heartbeat shudder. Death embraced her with the stranger.

*Originally appeared in Sand: A Journal of Strange Tales, Issue #2, Fall/Winter 2008.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Jogger & The End of Everything &

I. The Jogger

Leaving the red and heat-scorched road behind, he veered down the trail into the shadows of the forest, grateful for the respite from the sun’s relentless burn. Tall, slender pines swayed with a breeze. Cicadas sang. Off in the distance, he heard the ancient warning of the rattlesnake, but he ignored the primal fear rising on the periphery of his senses. The bulk of his focus placed on his pulsating heart and the steady beat of his feet hitting earth as he jogged. The wilderness was just a passing landscape: a fading entity less real than the internal thrum of blood pumping through veins.

The humidity pressed down upon him. His sweat-stained shirt stuck to his chest and back. He felt movement all around, but shrugged it off, assuming it was the flock of wild turkeys he knew frequented this forest. There was a rustle in the wild blackberry bushes lining the path, but he left it behind without giving it any thought.

The kudzu laughed as it entwined itself along the trunks and branches, an exotic import dominating a new home. Dragonflies gathered together, forming thick clouds which hummed with the beat of millions of lacy and translucent wings. The ghosts of empires long gone – hidden beneath centuries of ancient hard-wood forests which preceded the current pines – whispered riddles in languages lost and forgotten.

And he jogged, oblivious to it all.

The mystery surrounded him, shimmering like heat waves on asphalt. There are windows into other worlds and realities that all too often go unnoticed as we run past them at a relentless pace. He left his past to find a temporary present sparing no thoughts for the darkness ahead.

II. The End of Everything

“We are nearing the end,” she said. Her hair shimmered beneath the sun as it waved, wind-swept and disheveled. I had never seen her look more beautiful.

“The end of what?” I asked as I pushed the throttle forward. The boat sped up and I squinted despite my sunglasses because the sun was magnified and fractured by the ripples all around us.

“The end of everything.” She smiled at me, her teeth fell from her mouth, and her beauty melted. She aged and degraded from beauty queen to corpse to dust, and then she blew away.

The lake became primordial ooze, and it stunk. It stunk with the rot of life, the stench of reproduction, a hint of honeysuckle beneath it all. With the stench there was beauty, the promise of spring, the rebirth from the wreckage. Roses fertilized by manure.

The vision passed quickly like a summer storm and I saw her again. Smiling and beautiful, she rubbed a swelling and exposed belly pulsating with new life as she lounged on the padded seat next to me in her maternity bathing suit.

“Or is it the beginning?” I asked.


Beneath open skies, flowers bloom and sway with a delicate breeze while casting shadows in silence.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I understand how the person I used to be shaped the person I am today. I see it now as I look at myself in a distant time. I’m awkward. My hair cut is terrible. I reek of cigarette smoke and other kinds of smoke. My breath stinks from cheap malt liquor. I hear the words coming out of my mouth and cringe at their crudity and sometimes downright idiocy, and I remember self-righteously believing that I was absolutely correct about all that crap and venom spewing off my wagging tongue at the time. Obviously, I was wrong. I know that now that I am looking at myself through the clarifying filter of time.

Is it wisdom that changed me? I would argue this, or would like to, but I know that it would be untrue. I am no wiser. I understand that now. The only truth I’ve learned since then is that I don’t know it all. I can never know it all. There is simply too much to know.

So, I sat down and asked him (myself) questions. He (I) was sullen. I remember this day and know I did not want to talk to a creepy old guy in a stained white polo shirt with long curly hair and a beard full of potato chip crumbs, not when Tansy was there with me, halfway drunk and emotionally vacant.

I had lusted after her then. I could not see the bloated burn-out of an alcoholic she would soon become. I could not know the regrets she would feel daily because of her misspent youth that I myself helped misspend. Could there have been something like love there? I like to think so sometimes, but I know better. My vision was limited then as it still is now. Maybe when I get back I should call her? See how she’s doing. Last I heard, she was three months sober. I clapped for her at that meeting, but it was my last meeting before figuring out time travel. Not that I could go back to the meetings now. I’m not exactly sober these days.

I called him (myself) over again, offered him (me) a pack of cigarettes – I knew his (my) weakness – and finally he (I) came over. I sat down on a fallen log on the stinking exposed bank of the riverside. It was fall and the river was at its lowest point thanks to the hydroelectric dam upriver. The air was full of the scent of falling leaves and rotting fish: a pleasant and nostalgic mix for me, even if the city folk back home would find it offensive. He (I) snatched the cigarettes from my hand and moved a couple feet away from me. He (I) lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply, and exhaled. He (I) nodded his (my) thanks. I motioned for him (myself) to sit down. We had a lot to talk about.

I asked, “What do you plan on doing for the rest of your life?”

He (I) released a bitter laugh. “What the fuck do you mean? I don’t even know what I’m doing this afternoon, man.”

“Trust me. I know exactly what you mean. I still don’t know what I’m doing myself. We’ll never know, will we? Not unless we find direction.” I sighed. I placed my hands on my knees and pushed myself up to a standing position. I looked down on him (myself). “Remember this moment. It will happen again.”

He (I) shook his (my) head and tossed his (my) cigarette butt into the river. Together, we watched it wash away with the current until we could see it no longer.

I turned and found myself gone. Tansy walked over with a lit joint in her hands. “Who was that guy?”

I shook my head. “I have no idea.”

“What did he want?”

“Directions, I think.”

I thought of the cigarette rolling downriver. It would eventually wash up against a distant shore with the flame long extinguished never to be lit again. There was a sudden burning in my eyes, the threat of tears, and I turned away. I wasn’t sure where I would go, but I knew it was time to leave the riverside.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Her pain tore through her insides like a serrated blade, yet she smiled. She refused to cry out. She refused to be bowed down by that which she could not see. If it was unobservable, it could not possibly exist. To admit the pain was there, that it was real, would be to accept that unseen things were possible. It would mean the unseen could be real, even if unquantifiable or otherwise indefinable. This opened up too many possibilities she shuddered at internally. She remembered believing in ghosts and curses, but that was long ago, in a time much less rational than today.

Every test had been performed. Every sonogram and ultrasound came back clean. Various probes entered her through various orifices. There was no physically identifiable reason for the pain per her lab results and multiple examinations. They called it fibromyalgia. She accepted this diagnosis. It seemed to fit, but she held her doubts. She understood her doctors were simply classifying the unclassifiable. The doctors’ little checklists best matched up with this diagnosis based on questionnaires and spoken (if intangible and unseen) symptoms. The symptoms pointed towards a diagnosis, and the doctors prescribed treatment.

Yet, none of the therapies helped. None of the medicines worked, not even nerve blocks. The pain refused to retreat. It clung tight to her joints and abdomen like “white on rice” as her mother liked to say. Her sick days – once so plentiful – began shrinking away.

She wanted to know so much. She had so many questions. What was the pain? Where did it come from? Why was it here? And, most importantly of all, how could she make it go away? The doctors provided no answers. The medicines offered no solutions.

So she kept smiling as she lay in bed and stared at the ceiling fan. The blades twirled in cycles. She thought there might be meaning there, but could not fully decipher what it might represent. It could mean so many things. Her thoughts twirled with the fan.

The days grew long and the nights longer. The pain increased until it hurt her too much to move at all.

Her sick days disappeared. She stopped answering her phone.

She lay still. She refused to move. Movement only made things worse. So she remained motionless.

The fan spun above her in an endless loop.

She thought again that it might have meaning, but then decided that this, too, must be meaningless.

She lay still and grew stiff. Her smile remained as she turned to stone.

When the landlord eventually found her, he was moved to tears. He wanted to pay his respects. He wished he had thought of her sooner, but last time he saw her she smiled. He assumed she was okay.

To assuage his guilt and pay his respects, he put her on display in the playground in the center of the apartment complex. It seemed the only sensible thing to do. Now, she smiles throughout the day as children play. The kids twirl on a multicolored steel merry-go-round in cycles while tight clusters of their laughter crowd upwards towards an open blue sky. At night the stars cycle above her. Inside the statue, her ghost imagines it all means something, all these cycles, even if these hints at meaning sometimes grow confused and indefinable. Yet, she learns to accept these hints as something resembling meaning.

She smiles now, not to hide the pain, but because the pain is going away, replaced by mystery.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Death of Orpheus

Orpheus looked up at a circular clearing in the ceiling of the forest. Wisps of chilly fog clung to the dirt and long grass swaying around him. Bumps rose on his bare ankles from the cold. He stared heavenward and waited for Apollo to appear. In anticipation, he tuned his lyre then began singing out psalms to meet the rising sun. Wild animals gathered around. They grew tame and peaceful and listened.

The sun appeared, flaming and orange and bright. Its light began to break the chill. Orpheus smiled. He paused in his singing. He heard another song, a darker chant, rising with the new dawn.

A woman emerged from the forest. Bare skin covered in dirt and leaves. Thick tresses of wild hair – that may have once been blonde, may have once been black, but were now a muddy brown – splayed out around her head like Medusa’s serpents.

“Will you join us? Will you play your lyre to Lyaeus? Will you dance with us and succumb to wonderful oblivion?” The woman gyrated her hips and ran her hands down her body. She began to gasp. A smile crossed her face. Her eyes rolled backwards to hide her iris and reveal only whiteness.

“I am Apollo’s poet. I only sing his song.” Orpheus ignored the woman and resumed his song to the sun.

The woman stopped her ecstatic dance and stared at Orpheus. She snarled. “Have it your way!”

A spear rushed at him. The man sang harder and the spear, tipped with leaves, passed him by and left him unharmed.

Other women emerged from the forest. None of them were clothed in robes. They were only clothed by dirt and filth and dried blood. They chanted and sang and danced and laughed. They rushed at Orpheus and attempted to tickle him and seduce him with leaves and flowers and hinds.

Orpheus ignored them and continued his psalms. The sun became brighter as it rose higher in the sky.

The women grimaced as they touched Orpheus and found his body unresponsive. His discipline, his song, carried his concentration.

“This is the one who scorns us!” the first maenad cried out.

The women laughed and picked up stones. They threw them at Orpheus. He sang as rocks bounced off his skin, leaving him cut and bruised and bleeding. But he would not be broken. The attacks only strengthened his song. The attack gave him something new to sing about.

But soon the Bacchantes emboldened their own song. They beat their own drum at an opposing beat. Orpheus lost his way and lost his song. Once the psalm ended, he cried out to Apollo for help as the women rushed him. They tore skin with tooth and nail. They ripped flesh from bone and rendered organs to one another, presenting them as flavorful offerings to Lyaeus himself. Blood dribbled down filthy chins. The God Who Releases appeared pleased as the women danced in abandon in an embrace of primal ancient rite. The world as it was faded and shifted around them. The world devolved into a depraved feast.

The animals of the field, those innocents who had gathered to hear Orpheus’s songs, became prey. They were ripped and torn and devoured while still crying out. The brays of fallen oxen became part of the maenads’ song. Beating hearts, extracted from chests, beat to the rhythm of their drums. There was laughter and ecstasy within a riot of terror, and chaos danced in the light of the newly risen sun.

Orpheus was ripped apart, tendon by tendon and bone by bone. The echoes of his song were lost in the mindless maelstrom of abandon.

Orpheus's now silent decapitated head eventually floated on winding streams to Lesbos. Apollos rescued the silent head of his poet from a hungry serpent.

But this was all above. Below, Orpheus’s ghost sank beneath the blood drenched soil.

Orpheus now looks to Eurydice with confidence. He knows they are together, they will be together, and they will stay together. At last, he no longer fears looking back. He stares at her and smiles. She remains by his side and they love each other. Orpheus no longer feels the need to sing to Apollo. He finds eternal contentment with Eurydice as his new sun, and she loves him in return even without the glamour of song.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Blank

A tick-tock mechaman wandered around the shining metal room trying to plug into anyone. The machine was drunk on data, greedy for more. He wandered over to me. His iron wheels screeched and scratched steel floors. He rolled in my direction with his lead thrust outward. Sparks flew from his vision processors. I knocked him away, but he pushed harder against me. I took his lead and jammed it into the punchbowl and laughed as acidic smoke poured upwards from his circuit board. I poured myself a glass of punch and sipped. I received a fading glimpse of a million stolen memories. None of them meant anything to me. None of them were mine. At least there were none I recognized.

I was a blank. There was nothing left.

The data junkies had already taken me. Or rather, I had already given myself to them. At least that is what TomTammy told me. She was my best and only friend. She was the only other organic. It didn’t matter that we did not share the same mold of flesh. She was short and squat and walked about on a multitude of jointed appendages. Her pitch black exoskeleton shone underneath recessed mercury bulbs. It was only because of her that I knew who I was. I saw my reflection on her back and in her compound eyes. I saw many sides of myself reflected in those eyes. I was tall and pale with long legs, long arms, and a sprout of coarse, wiry, salt-and-pepper hair sticking out upwards from my head. A splotchy beard marred my face. My loose flesh was pockmarked and scarred. I looked nothing like TomTammy, but this did not matter. In my way, I loved TomTammy, and based on how fully she saw me, I liked to think she loved me, too. We shared something special being organic. The rest of the ship, the other occupants of this isolated place, rusted around us.

TomTammy walked over and told me my story:

“Once there was just me and the mechas. Then there was you. Then I wasn’t alone. We spoke and told each other our stories. We spoke of our homes and where we were before we came here. You were from a place of light and land and water. You came here to find out more, to learn, to study. Like the mechas, you were addicted to data. You came to converse, to learn. Then you drank with the mechas. Then they plugged into you, and you fell. I sat back and watched and hid. They had tried to plug into me previously, but my shell held me safe. They grew drunk on you. They pushed their leads into every available opening. Once there were no available openings left, they made their own. They cut into your flesh until you were slick with blood. I drank some of this – I am sorry, but I was thirsty. Then you lay still for a very long time. I thought you were dead. I came over to drink the rest of you – I am sorry for this, but I was hungry. Then I noticed you still stirred, if just barely. Your chest moved to take breath, so I carried you back to my web and wrapped you in fibers and sat next to you, watching you, feeling you through my strings. You awoke, you spoke, and I knew you had forgotten me. You had forgotten where you were, where you came from. You had forgotten yourself.”

So, TomTammy rescued me and reminded me of myself, even if I was forgotten, and for that, I owed her my thanks. I did not remember any of her story but knew it was true. I trusted her. She was the only other organic. I had to trust someone. Without someone to trust, there is no life – or no life worth living anyway.

I took another sip of punch and felt inspired. “Are you still hungry?”

TomTammy pulled up on her tiny appendages and rubbed her mandibles. A viscous liquid dribbled from her dark, gaping mouth. Her compound eyes blinked and twinkled. “Come with me.”

I followed. We pushed hungry mechas out of our way and walked to her web.

“Just lie there.”

I did as she said and balanced on a network of strings. The lines clung to my skin. They seemed insignificant and fragile but held my weight. She wrapped me tight with more strings that emerged from her abdomen, and I felt hugged and loved. It was good to feel contact, to feel pressure from something outside myself holding me tight. It was like the embrace of a mother or a lover or both. She hummed a song out from her carapace as she worked.

Once I was wrapped tight, she looked at me. She ran her appendages through my wiry hair, gently taking out the many knots. I closed my eyes and enjoyed her touch. “Are you sure you want this? You give of yourself with willingness? I would never take that which isn’t given freely.”

I nodded my head. “I love you. I want to be a part of you forever.”

“I loved you, too.”

She dug her mandibles into my neck, and I smiled as she drank me away.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Letter Found Near The End

Dear Them,

In the beginning, we believed the fairy tales, the myths, the legends. We took all of the stories, processed them, embraced them, and savored them as Truth. This was in the days when The Light seemed to go on forever, when the sun stood overhead as a silent sentry watching over us and protecting us from the darkness on the edges of our enchanted places. Those were the days when we did not know any better.

But those days ended (as we always knew they must), and we were cast outwards into the unknown, to places where not even moonlight could break through to light the shadows in the underbrush all around, where unseen things crept ever closer. We jumped at the sound of breaking branches and shuffling leaves. We turned in circles, blind. We entered the night without dreams where stark reality ruled and cast away our visions and pleasantries, where nightmares replaced dreams, and horrors replaced fantasies.

We learned of murder, rape, and thievery. We committed necessary acts hoping to survive in this new world, the real world, where we never smiled. We missed those days of before when this present was the only thing we were incapable of imagining.

We despaired over the loss of daylight, the lack of kindness and happy endings. That was what led us here into this place beyond the fringe, to the land where stories are never told, and where books are used as kindling.

Our legends faded. The myths dissolved like vapors. The stories … We missed them. Once forgotten, we buried them in the mulch. Worms ate them, and we tasted rot in the air. We found it a sweet stench: earthy, real.

In the end, we lay down with our fading stories as our memories drowned. We fell down onto a mound of water-stained pages and inkblots. We closed our eyes and went to sleep, knowing that our sleep would be dreamless.

We stared upwards, watching, as clouds hid constellations whose names we could no longer remember.

And when The End came, we embraced it.



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Socrates at the Strip Mall

A class of children sat in a circle at the back of a parking lot. In the center of this circle, a man stood and talked to his young congregation. The man swept his arms behind him with a dramatic flourish. “You see, our story is indelible, written into the very fabric of this world. Look at this cliff. Look here at the layers of stone in this spot revealed when they blasted away a hill to make room for this shopping center. You can see our history. It is written in fossils, obviously, yet also in languages more subtle, if not downright obscure. Notice the striations in the rock, the shifts of color in various layers of soil. Yes, there is writing here. There are stories. You just have to look.”

“I see,” said a broken prepubescent squeal.

“You do? What do you see, Tye?”

“Uhm. What you told me to see.”

“Ah. What if I told you the earth was flat? Would you believe me then?”

Ginger Farrell raised her hand. The teacher lifted his head and pointed his thin chin in her direction. “Yes, Ms. Farrell?”

She swished her head and moved a lock of blonde hair away from her eyes. She held her pen in her hand. The pen sat poised and ready over the colorful notebook in her lap. “Is the world flat, Mr. Jenkins?" She asked the question without a smile. Her face wore the vacant look of sincerity.

Mr. Jenkins slapped his forehead with his palm in an overtly dramatic gesture of frustration.

The children laughed uneasily.

Mr. Jenkins wondered if they even understood the joke? He doubted it. If so, they wouldn’t laugh. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny at all.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mirror Image

The first time I saw him, his face was pounded in. It was nothing more than bits of bone and flesh and a pool of blood. He was beautiful in his way, a masterpiece of the grotesque, but he wasn’t my type, so I ignored him. He croaked like a toad and gargled fluids.

The next time I saw him, he looked much better. His face had mostly healed. Scars crisscrossed his cheeks and forehead. Yet, his skin was a bit too pale and swollen, unnaturally so, almost like a mushroom. I thought if I touched his face that my hand would sink right in, leaving an impression, like a mushy foam pillow or something. He smiled at me, and I shuddered. I didn’t like the way he looked. Not at all.

The last time I saw him. He was immobile. He was still. He was dead, or at the least, he was dying. A pool of blood originating from a slit neck spread outwards around his head like a strange, gory halo.

My mirror fell forward and shattered into a million reflections. I never knew his name, but at that moment, I knew he meant everything.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Seth was not sure how much time had passed. The sun had set and risen and set again and again. He lost track of the days. Time did not seem to matter. The shipwreck was already a fading memory. He only knew it had been a long time ago.

Seth’s lips always felt dry no matter how much he licked them with his swollen tongue. His skin was burned. The sun beat down against him relentlessly in the morning until early afternoon.

Luckily, rains fell frequently in the tropics. During the afternoon showers, he sat in the boat with his head turned upwards and mouth open. He drank in the salty sky during those afternoon storms while clinging to the sides of his boat as it rocked and rolled to a soundtrack of thunder. When he was hungry, he gnawed on the bones of his friends.

He survived.

And the sky told him stories when he decided to pay attention. Clouds shifted into the shape of girls, and sometimes, he would smile and feel himself when he had the strength. He remembered the touch of a girl back on the mainland. It had been a long time ago, in another life, in his old school, but the memory was enough to stir him. He sometimes almost felt alive.

He began talking to the gulls until one day they answered him. He did not like the stories the birds told, however, so he blocked out their prattle. He tried to forget their language. One of the gulls grew annoyed with him as it screeched out for attention. Once the gull realized Seth was ignoring him, it dropped a big, wet, white bomb on the boy’s head. Seth laughed, leaned over the wooden sides of his lifeboat, and rinsed the excrement from his shaggy unkempt hair in the ocean.

Underwater, he opened his eyes. He saw mermaids down there, but they were all being raped by sharks. The mermaids screamed up to him for help. Those cries for help soon turned into bubbly terror as the waters became pink and then burgundy. The sharks looked up to Seth through the clouded waters with dark, beady, uncaring eyes. There was no hunger there – just hatred. Seth pulled his head back out of the water and spent the remainder of the afternoon watching shark fins circle him. He tried to decipher the patterns of their movement.

Seth gnawed on John’s femur one night. Upon reaching the marrow, he heard John talking, but the words were obscure. Seth turned around and there was John. Seth’s best friend’s face was distorted. It was pulled too taught, as if it were an elastic sheet stretched over a crudely shaped metal frame. There were no arms on the figure, no legs. It was as if John were made out of transparent gauze. John was nothing more than a distorted face and bare torso. Seth reached out for John. Seth said he was sorry, but John wasn’t really there. John faded into the clouds and rose upwards. Eventually, the cloudy thing that was not John blocked the light of the moon.

Stars swirled above Seth in the darkness, and he traced their lines in the sky. Once the stars provided direction to sailors, but Seth did not know anything about that. The GPS ran out of batteries long ago.

The shark fins circled in concentric patterns.

Seth looked towards the pile of bones. He grew sick and vomited over the side of the boat. Gulls descended out of the darkness of sky and lapped up the slick of his sickness from the swelling surface of the endless ocean.

Seth asked the gulls if they were hungry in their secret language. The birds regarded him with darkness in their eyes. Their squawks became laughter as they descended and tore away flesh with hard beaks.

He survived.

A ship emerged. It ascended from the distant horizon and grew larger until it towered over him. Seth was brought onboard. The men on the ship asked Seth his name, but the boy could no longer speak their language. The gulls stripped his humanity away, leaving him a shark. Dark eyes gleamed under the moonless sky. The boy bared his teeth, rushed at the men, and began to bite.

Above him, the thing that was not John smiled.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Caveman in the Flowerbed

I found the first of the cavemen in the loose ground behind Momma's flowers. All around me, the roses bloomed in hues of red, white, yellow, and pink. Between the blooms, between the thorns, I saw his hand sticking out of the dirt. I only got scratched a little as I crawled on my hands and knees to make the discovery. A line of ants crossed his skin. A few bit me on my knees and ankles before I swatted them away. I touched the grey skin of the hand and it felt cold and hard. That's how I knew it must be a frozen caveman.

I went inside to get my shovel. Momma was upset.

"What's that dirt on your new dress?"

"I'm digging up a caveman, Momma."

She made her eyes look big and said, "Really? A caveman?"

"Yes, Momma."

She smiled at me and patted my head. "In that case, you go on up to the bedroom and change into some play clothes, okay? You don't need to be getting your school clothes all dirty."

I nodded my head and ran up to my room where I changed into my pink shorts and a cranberry juice stained i-Carly t-shirt. I grabbed the small plastic shovel Daddy had bought me last summer at the beach and rushed back downstairs.

"Be careful of black widows!" my mother yelled to me as the screen door pulled shut behind me with a hiss.

Digging in the dirt, I was able to reveal an arm. Parts of the skin moved a little, and when I touched those parts they felt gooey. I worked my way up the arm and revealed his body. The caveman wore a t-shirt with a black Metallica logo. Then I dusted off the dirt from his face, and open eye sockets looked back at me. There were no eyeballs. Curious, I poked an empty socket with a stick, and little white bugs were on the stick when I pulled it back out of the hole. Despite his lack of eyeballs, he looked kind of like one of the older guys in my school. Like one of the kids who had moved on to the middle school last year. I think his name was Trent.

I looked at the throat and it looked funny. There was a black line across it, and more of the little white bugs were inside that line. They seemed to have found a home there. I started feeling sick. But I was excited about my discovery and ran inside to tell Mommy.

She did not react the way I expected her to. She came out smiling, letting me lead her by the hand. "I have revealed the caveman!" I yelled while moving my arms around with a dramatic flourish like that magician at school did during his show that one time. Then I stood back and noticed her face.

It turned white, really pale, almost green, and then she fell to her knees and began throwing up all over her flowers.

"Don't dirty your dress, Momma," I told her.

She waved me away. She wiped the spit trails falling off her nose and mouth and pointed to the house. "Get inside, baby! And don't look back out here."

She stood up and grabbed the upper part of my arm. I tried to wiggle away, but she grabbed me tighter. "C'mon! Get inside!"

"Don't you like my caveman, Momma?" I asked her. I looked up to her face. She didn't look back at me. Her eyes were wet with tears and focused on my caveman.

"I've got to make a phone call. Now! C'mon!"

She jerked me so hard tears formed in my eyes. I had a bruise from that yank for a few days afterwards.

She sent me up to my room. I heard her make a phone call. A few minutes later there were sirens. I looked outside and watched policemen talk to Mommy. I saw some men in orange suits take my caveman. They put him in a black plastic bag which they loaded into an ambulance. Mommy signed a piece of paper, and some people in white suits began digging at other places in the flower bed. More cavemen were revealed. All of them looked like boys I knew from school.

When Daddy pulled into the driveway, he started shouting. A policeman grabbed him, leaned him over his Buick, put a bracelet on his wrists, and took him away. I asked Momma that night where they took my caveman and where they took Daddy.

She never answered me. Anytime I brought it up, all she could do was cry.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Despite the significance of her name in the Hindu religion, dreams never really sat well with Maya. In fact, the more she attempted to ingest, the more frequently she choked. Her throat burned and blistered every time she tried to swallow another new idea.

Yet this never stopped her father from trying to force another dream down her throat. He would make her stay at the table until she cleaned her plate. He took no excuses. Never mind she just really wanted to watch her favorite cartoon show on television, read her story book (she liked that one about Disney Princesses), or perhaps even work on her homework – anything was preferable to trying to swallow down yet another dry and lifeless dream, and all dreams are lifeless, or at least it seemed that way.

But on this night, her father promised something different. He brought her a dish of greenery. Out of this sea of green, a lotus flower bloomed. A man walked towards her. He stepped lightly across the soft petals.

This man was tan and well-muscled. When he looked at her, a shy dimpled smile cut across his face. A glimpse of white teeth and pink gums. She was hungry. She pinched him. She lifted him. She opened her mouth.

He screamed, and she salivated. She began to chew. She chomped and chomped until his screaming ceased. A line of reddish spittle and blood dribbled from the corner of her mouth.

“Delicious!” she said with a smile. Then she tried to swallow. “Water!” she cried with her cheeks puffed out. The lump of dream lodged itself against her hard palate.

Her father smiled and poured her a glass of water. It was clean and clear. She took the glass eagerly and poured the contents into her mouth. She could not swallow.

She gagged and coughed. A tiny arm landed on the white table cloth and left dots of blood as it bounced. She coughed again, and a small leg landed in her mother’s dinner glass. It swirled in the pinkish hues of her plum wine. Her mother scowled at her.

Maya wanted to say she was sorry, but all she could manage was another cough. A tiny head struck the tabletop with a small thud and rolled away like a misshapen marble.

Maya’s face turned red. She broke out in hives. It became impossible to breath.

“I’ll get the Benadryl,” her mother said with a sigh. “Seriously, honey, why do you keep trying?”

Maya’s father shook his head and sat down heavily in the massive wooden chair at the head of his family’s table. “Because we are what we are.”

“But just because we are what we are doesn’t mean that she has to be.”

He nodded his head. “But we’ve been this way for so long.”

“Times change. People change.” Maya’s mother stole a glance in her daughter’s direction.

Maya grabbed her napkin and began spitting up the gory mess inside her mouth. She dared not look at either of her parents.

Maya’s mother looked back to the father. “Everything changes. Roles change.”

“But we are the unchanging.”

“Nothing is unchanging.”

“Then, who will destroy the dreams?”

Maya’s mother left the room and returned with a cup full of Benadryl. Maya hated the way the medicine tasted. It burned her already sore throat on the way down.

Once the hives receded, once her breathing was easier, Maya asked, “Can I be excused now?”

Her mother gave her a sad smile. “Sure, dear. Clean up your room before bed, okay?”

“Yes, mother. And father?”

He looked up at her. “Hmm?” A forkful of naked young women were impaled on the tines of his fork. They screamed.

Maya had to shout to be heard over their screams. “Father, I think I know the answer.”

“The answer to what, dear?” Her mother smiled at her from across the table.

“You know, his question. About who will destroy the dreams.” She paused and looked at the lavish dishes spread out across the table. “If you just give them time, dreams have a way of destroying themselves, don’t they?”

Her father shrugged, said “Maybe,” and stuck his fork back into the bloody rose on his plate. A chorus of tiny young women screamed. “Who knows?” he said over their terrified cries. He looked off into the distance and started to chew. The screams soon ceased.

Feeling ashamed, knowing she could never meet her father’s lofty expectations, Maya turned away.

Friday, July 16, 2010



Sadie looked around for the source of the voice. She looked under the bed, in the closet, leaned her head out the bedroom door, and peered down the narrow hallway of her trailer towards the small kitchenette and living room. She was alone. She was always alone. His crap still filled the closet, his tools still cluttered the back porch, but he had been gone for a long time. He never entered the trailer anymore. He knew his place.

She unscrewed the top of her Wild Irish Rose, tipped it up, and tried to forget.


Morning struck her like a sledgehammer. She opened one eye and then another and found herself looking sideways at the dirty orange shag rug. The world seemed to have tilted on its axis. She put her hands beneath her to try to sit up, but a wave of nausea rolled through her. She fell back to the ground and breathed in the scent of dirt, of dust, and mold.

The thought of mold sent an erotic shiver up her spine, but she lay still and resigned herself to rest a little longer. A sharp pulsing pain which matched the erratic beat of her heart threatened to split open her head. She closed her eyes again and tried to sleep. It wasn’t as if she had anywhere to go anyway. The bills were paid. The state made sure of that.


Hours later, an eager knock echoed across fiberboard walls and flooring.

She sat up and looked at the clock: 3:15. He used to get off at 3.


She ignored the pain in her head, ignored the sour taste of bile as it rose in the back of her throat, and wrapped her stained robe around herself. She stumbled down the hallway, using her arms against the walls to hold herself upright.


It was a whisper in her ear.

“Not now. You’re at the door. Hear that knocking? It’s real this time.”

She thought something grabbed her around the ankle. She tumbled forward and nearly tripped and lost her balance. She looked down, expecting to see she had tangled herself in the belt of her robe, but the robe was untied. The belt was not there.


She waved her hands around her head as if trying to knock away flies.

The knocking on the door became louder, more insistent.

She rounded the corner. She opened the door. No one was there. A shaft of sunlight poured through the clouds overhead. It lit the stretch of clumped, overgrown crabgrass that served as her front lawn. The gravel driveway was empty.

She stepped outside. “Hello? Wayne? Baby?”

The wind rustled the weeping willow on the corner of the lot. Silvery green leaves danced in the bright sunlight.

Sadie fell to her knees and cried. She yelled out a string of curses which echoed back to her. There was no one to hear. There had been no one to hear her for a very long time.

She walked back inside and looked at the clock on the microwave. It flashed 12:00.


She tried to find something to eat. Her supply dwindled. There was a can of corn, sweet peas, an unopened bag of saffron rice, two cans of turkey SPAM, flour, and cornmeal. She took out a can of SPAM, the peas, and the bag of rice.

“How about a nice little casserole?”


She dropped the can of SPAM. It burst open. The contents bounced, leaving spots of grease like a slug’s trail on her dirty faux linoleum vinyl flooring.

“I had my reasons, Wayne!”

She felt a hand touch the back of her neck. Fingers moved upwards and caressed the back of her head. She leaned into the touch and felt him comb out her tangles. She turned around to face him, wanted to embrace him, but he wasn’t there.

She didn’t cry this time. She expected it. This wasn’t the first time; it wouldn’t be the last time.

Why? Why? Why?

The soft voice was a relentless echoing whisper in her ears.

She looked down at the floor. She saw a rectangular outline in the floor. She thought about mold and fungus and worms and maggots. She looked out the window, checked to make sure there were no cars on the long mud lane leading to her house. She lifted back the thin vinyl flooring, pulled up a hidden door cut into the fiberboard floor, and dropped down into the crawl space below the trailer. She lay down next to him. She smelled mold. She kissed his dry bones.


She whispered her replies between delicate kisses. “So you won’t never leave me baby. So you won’t never go.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010


According to a book I read, kudzu is edible. I laughed when I remembered this. Thanks to my datagraphic memory, I was able to pull up the image of those pages in my head. Flipping through the file, the pages even included recipes for various salads and sautéed delectables.

At least the kudzu might be good for something, I thought. I hated the way it grew over everything. It had completely taken over. It even suffocated the trivets – that other hardy foreign botanical invader – where the blackbirds had once hid, jumping from branch to branch. Now the birds, even the black ones, had flown away.

We were so lost in ourselves -- lost in our data -- we ignored the vines growing wild around us. I don’t know what happened to the rest of the world. All that remained was the kudzu, the whirring of hidden cicadas, and me.

And I had grown hungry.

When I tore off a handful of leaves, amber blood pulsed from stems as if they were green arteries. I thought I heard a scream and then stifled laughter, but I ignored this as I shoveled the leaves into my mouth.

They tasted sweet and reminded me of a tender rare steak that Jon had once bought me on a Valentine’s Day date long ago. There had been some effort on his part to make his messy apartment romantic. He even decorated the table with flowers and candles, but it was the steak that won my heart. I remembered having to struggle to leave those last few bites of meat on my plate that day. I wanted to eat it all, but did not want Jon to think I was a pig. We all wear masks like that, especially for those we love. At least for those ones that we want to love us in return.

Like that steak, there was a metallic aftertaste to the greenery, like iron. This was complimented by a hint of something citric or maybe minty on the back of the tongue. I shoveled handful after handful into my mouth. Drool dibbled down my chin. I ignored this and ingested more.

Then the whirring of cicadas buzzed inside my bones. Their song pounded in my head. My vision went spotty, then black. I doubled over in pain.

Vines erupted from my skin as the kudzu grew out and over me. My leaves rustled with bitter laughter.