Living in such a state          taTestaTesTaTe          etats a hcus ni gniviL
 of mind in which time         sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA         emit hcihw ni dnim of
 does not pass, space         STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE         ecaps ,ssap ton seod
 does not exist, and         sTATeSt        oFOfOfo         dna ,tsixe ton seod
 idea is not there.         STatEst          ofoFOFo         .ereht ton si aedi
 Stuck in a place          staTEsT            OfOFofo          ecalp a ni kcutS
 where movements           TATeSTa            foFofoF           stnemevom erehw
 are impossible                              fOFoFOf             elbissopmi era
 in all forms,                             UsOFofO                ,smrof lla ni
 physical and                            nbEifof                   dna lacisyhp
 or mental -                           uNBeInO                      - latnem ro
 your mind is                         UNbeinG                      si dnim rouy
 focusing on a                       unBEING                      a no gnisucof
 lone thing, or                      NBeINgu                     ro ,gniht enol
 a lone nothing.                     bEinGUn                    .gnihton enol a
 You are numb and                    EiNguNB                   dna bmun era ouY
 unaware to events                                            stneve ot erawanu
 taking place - not                  -iSSuE-                 ton - ecalp gnikat
 knowing how or what                 NINETEEN               tahw ro woh gniwonk
 to think. You are in                10/31/95              ni era uoY .kniht ot
 a state of unbeing....                                  ....gniebnu fo etats a



EDiTORiAL by Kilgore Trout



by Kilgore Trout

Wow. Once again we're back, late as usual. I was waiting on some articles from a few people, hence the delay. Those articles did not materialize, but the authors assured me they would be in the next issue. But that's okay. Only three contributors, but it's still a great issue. And your illustrious editor even wrote two pieces for one issue. If that doesn't get you into submission mode, I don't know what will.

A few people raised some concerns about the scrapping of the poetrie section. Well, to make a long story short, it just wasn't working for me. So, in the Kilgore Trout method of solving problems, I killed it. A few days later I found some incredible poetrie that knocked me over. So if you're wondering, yeah, I will begin accepting poetrie once again. I will be more selective than I was in the past, though. I also need to apologize to someone who just recently sent us three poems. Hagbard sent them to me, but in my haste to get everything off of my account, I kinda killed the message without downloading it. If you could resend those, I would greatly appreciate it.

As for me, well, trying to put an issue together with a bunch of children dressed up in costumes screaming for candy isn't exactly the best thing in the world. We didn't have too many, probably due to the extensive rain in Austin melting the majority of witches out there, but it was enough to get annoyed. And we didn't even get rid of all the damned Twizzlers.

If I can teach you anything in this issue, it's to make sure that when your roommate buys candy for trick-or-treaters, he buys candy that we like. And with that profound bit of wisdom, I give you issue nineteen.

Okay, maybe not right away. Issue 23 is only a few months away, and well, considering the issue number and all, we at the Apocalypse Culture Publication offices thought a thematic issue might be in order, dealing with strange occurrences that have happened to you. Synchronicities, alien abductions, falling frogs from the sky, that type of thing. The weirder, the better. If you've got anything you'd like to submit for the 23rd issue, make sure you mark that you want it to go in that issue, or I'll most likely stick it in another one.



Kilgore Trout

Brandt Ryan
Drew Feinberg
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Kilgore Trout


[=- ARTiCLES -=]


[Editorial | Next]

by I Wish My Name Were Nathan

Yeah, it's been almost two years now that I've been writing for SoB, and whoo hoo, has it been a blast! I've always tried to get something in to Kilgore for that month's hurried cut-and-paste-together of the zine, but some months I fail. These are usually due to those damned inevitable cases of writer's block, or plain apathy, or other circumstances, which have made me scrap possible articles or stories before their time. For the benefit of my fan, I present a collection of these submissions and the reasons they never came to be.


"I think I'm going to go insane."

"Nice day for it," said a passing maniac.

"Who was that?"

"Who? The man with the two heads and the elderberry bush full of kippers?"


"I don't know. Just someone."

--Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy"


[Prev | Next]

by Kilgore Trout

[rant on]

You're always thinking about how you like cute little fuzzy animals. Well, what about me? Or am I not good enough for ya? Don't I meet your specifications? Observe:

1. I am cute. My mother says so. Mothers don't lie.

2. I am little. I have to stand on a stool to reach the cookie jar.

3. I am furry. Damn furry. I have to shave my ass three times a week.

4. I am an animal. Grrrr.

So what's the problem? I sound like your perfect man. I'm house- trained, declawed and neutered. I can protect the house from intruders and fetch your morning paper. Or were you lying, spreading false hopes like peanut butter on my moldy-breaded ears? You're just one huge put on, a tease. Well, I've got an act too, sister, and my clowns ain't too fucking happy.

[rant off]

it seems to me that i fuck myself over anytime the opportunity arises. i'm not sure if i have lost plain common sense or if this is some cruel psychological experiment in self-degradation that i've decided to endure. in any case, whatever the cause, the effects are evident, and this presents a major problem to my so-called existence.

i appear to be occupying some nether region of the mind, where i am relegated to the position of an observer. time moves in a linear fashion, life goes on, and i experience it. yet the experiences that i have are so detached and unpersonal that life takes on a surrealistic essence, devoid of any real meaning.

could it be that i've stumbled on the meaning of life, which is meaninglessness? surely there is something more. my hum-drum existance begs for direction, but if life is truly without meaning, then isn't it a lie to give life meaning?

or is the deluded man the happy man?

[rant on]

Listen up, kiddies, cause you've been lied to. Technology was supposed to lead us into utopia, freeing us from mundane labor and desolate poverty. Has that happened? I don't think so. It has done some good things, but it has also turned the majority of the populace into blithering, illiterate idiots who are spoonfed television sitcoms and emulate the status quo. The Unabomber, however distasteful his actions, was right about a few things. Scary, huh? A mad bomber whose views on the mechanization of society were based in reality? Stranger things have happened.

So why hasn't technology delivered us from our mediocre day to day lives? Because people are making money, and they need you to continue. If I may paraphrase Smokey the Bear, only you can prevent wealthy bastards. It has been said before that unemployment is not the disease -- it is the cure. When you don't have to worry about ay to day survival, nasty habits like creativity and self-education start to creep in. Unemployment starts in the family, folks. Your kids will thank you for it.

[rant off]

i've tried to lie to myself, and it just doesn't work anymore. the truth is my forte, and truth sucks. i live in camus' world of the absurd, where i crumple up my piece of paper with all of my experiences until it's got an infinite number of folds and creases. yet when i smooth it out, it is still the same piece of paper.

the only solution is to do away with the paper itself.

we're not talking about suicide here, though. it does seem like a decent alternative some of the time, but it solves nothing. getting rid of that sheet of paper means seeing and understanding life for what it is -- an illusion, a construct of your own perceptions. once you understand this, it's time to map your own reality. and it's a helluva lot of fun, too.

[rant on]

I hate cookies.

Gimme some Pop Tarts anyday.

[rant off]

when you figure out that, as J.R. "Bob" Dobbs would say, reality is what you can get away with, anything becomes possible. naturally, this doesn't mean you can bend space-time at will. that would be impossible. of course.

delete your dogma and the rest will follow. play with your mind and the minds of others. meme yourself to death, and examine all the possibilities.

and who knows? maybe one day you'll be able to make a whole lot of gibberish sound insightful. usually it just turns out sounding pretentious. then again, that's part of the pleasure.


"Confidence is simply that quiet, assured feeling you have before you fall flat on your face."

--Dr. L. Binder


[Prev | Next]

by Drew Feinberg

Halloween is almost upon us, coming quicker than Hugh Grant in a BMW. As Meg Tilly so brilliantly asked in the cinematic disaster known as Body Snatchers, "Where ya gonna go? Where ya gonna run? Where ya gonna hide?" Eloquently, she voices the dilemma of millions of Americans every October 31. I've done them all, with less than optimum results. Let's run through the options, shall we?

Okay, first there's trick or treating. Being a greedy bastard and visiting every house within a 20 mile radius, hitting them up for the goods, is socially acceptable as child, but, three years ago, when I was dressed as Zsa Zsa Gabor and asked all of my neighbors to "Give me some candy, DAHLING, or I'll give you a slap," the results were less than desirable. From what I can remember I got assorted candy bars, candy corns, rocks, kitchenware, lollipops, and a jack o'lantern, still lit-- THROWN at me, with great velocity. I can't even spell the names people called me, and I was told to do things to myself that aren't even physically possible, lord knows I've tried. One grandmotherly looking woman was actually kind to me, and gave me some popcorn. My faith in mankind had been restored, that is, until I heard the muffled call to her husband "Come see this poor slow boy. It's lovely to see the mentally challenged out and about." At the tender age of 23, I retired from trick or treating forever.

The next year I opted to stay home, watch some scary movies, and give wondrous candy to the the legit trick or treaters. The candy aisle at the supermarket was pure pandemonium. I might as well have been looking for the last green Power Ranger on Christmas Eve. I didn't want to be one of those houses that gave out nickels, fruit, hard bubble gum, cream soda Dum-Dumms that stuck to the paper, black licorice, those awful dark chocolate Hershey's Miniatures, or Smarties. Honestly, do people ever BUY Smarties for themselves? I made a quick scan of what was available, and I saw some variety packs of assorted good chocolate stuff that the others had apparently not seen. I made a mad dash to get two packs. I popped 'em in my cart and very confidently strolled to the checkout counter. The line was huge, and I noticed the elderly woman behind me had nothing in her cart but a box of Metamucil, so I let her go in front of me. I started to sing along with the muzak... "Precious and few are the moment we two can shaaaaaaare..." CRASH! I looked to my side and saw this huge pyramid of canned beets topple over. "Hope that wasn't my singing," I thought to myself, then turned back. Quicker than I could say "The cast of Wings should be sterilized," my treasures were GONE! I was completely bewildered. I was shocked when I looked in the cart ahead of me. The woman I had sacrificed selflessly for, had two bags of assorted chocolates along with her Metamucil. I tried to conceal my anger and kindly said to the woman "Excuse me, I think those are my Halloween candies there." I believe she mouthed the words "Bite me." I walked right up to her cart and reached in and picked up what was rightfully mine. That's when she started bawling hysterically, which caused the entire supermarket to glare in my direction. I was frozen like Jennifer Tilly would be if you aimed a flashlight at her eyes. I was never so furious AND so humiliated; I just stood there with my hand in the metaphorical cookie jar. I slowly backed out of the store, and still candyless, I decided to go to a convenience store, where I bought 50 Chunky bars. A mixture of chocolate nuts and raisins makes my stomach turn, but hey, I didn't have to eat 'em. I had enough Chunky bars to feed a small South American country, or Marlon Brando. I sat down and started to watch Halloween. Before the opening credits were finished, the doorbell rang. "Trick Or Treat," I was greeted by a child and his mother. "Here ya go, fella," I smiled as I handed him a Chunky. The child glowed; the mother frowned. "Michael is ALLERGIC to nuts. Don't you have anything else?" she inquired. "Umm...n-n-no..." I stammered. The mother ripped the treat from her son's hand and handed it back to me, setting Michael into a temper tantrum. "I'm really sorry," I managed to say. "Thank you, thank you VERY much, it was his first Halloween and you ruined it for him. Aren't you proud of yourself?" she sneered as she stormed off. I sighed, shrugged, and went back to my movie. Five minutes later, more doorbell. Two teenage girls dressed up--looked like the girls from Clueless, gum chewing and all. "Like, trick or treat." I handed them two chunky bars, which appalled them. Clueless #1: "Like HELLO, do you KNOW how many grams of fat are in a Chunky? Only like a MILLION!" and she handed it back to me. Clueless #2: "Geez Louise, don't you have any like Snackwells or fat free potato chips?" and deposited El Chunky back in my hand. And so it went all night. Kids whining about chocolate, kids complaining about raisins, kids bitching about options, in 4 hours I got through about 15 minutes of my movie. And got stuck with 45 Chunky bars. Hey, you want a Chunky?

Last year I tried another great Halloween option--the costume party. I bopped on down to "Costumes R Us," to rent one, which was oh-so-wise to do on Halloween day. Sparse selection? The place was emptier than Jennie McCarthy's skull. Let me tell you, all eyes were focused when I stumbled in the door as a huge orange box of Tide. I felt about as mobile as Gilbert Grape's mother. I scanned the room and saw assorted Beavises, Ticks, Shannen Doughertys, Newt Gingritches, and one big orange blob. I went straight to the punch bowl and then mingled about. Everybody bored me, and they allseemed to be staring at the monstrosity that was my costume. Then I saw her, the woman I would spend forever with, the woman who wouldn't bitch at me for drinking milk out of the carton. She was a twin of Mia Wallace (a.k.a. Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction), and she looked me straight in the eye, walked up to me, and what followed was a few hours of engaging conversation; this and my never empty punch cup kept me in seventh heaven. In the middle of debating which was more torture, watching the OJ trial or watching a Mickey Rourke movie, she blurted out "Do you always talk so much before you a kiss a girl?" That was all the invitation I needed. I wrapped my arms around her and kissed. It was just like the movies...the world started to spin in a little circle, like in a DePalma film, except it made me dizzy, and I suddenly realized it wasn't the kiss, but the heavy imbibing at the punchbowl. I lost my balance, which is not a smooth thing mid-kiss. The huge Tide box caused me to stumble and I held my love tight, knowing she would be my rock and prevent my imminent falling, but my feet became entwined with hers and I fell forward, taking Mia Wallace with me. I could see her expression of horror; the girl I so wanted to impress was being crushed by Mr. Tide himself. I believe the words that she used were "Jesus, I can't feel my legs! I struggled and squirmed, as Batman and Thor managed to pull me off of her, but by then it was too late. Physically, Mrs. Wallace was fine, but she was none too pleased with my squashing her, inadvertent as it was. In fact, everybody at the party just sort of glared and pointed at me until I left in utter shame. No more Halloween parties for ME, thank you very much.

Don't walk down the same unpaved road as I did. Learn from my mistakes, my friend. This Halloween, hide out with some friends, turn off on the lights and rent some movies. Try a couple of these, you'll thank me later. Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street, Frankenhooker, Carrie, The Shining, Evil Dead 2, Dead Alive, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Exorcist, and Re-Animator. When the doorbell rings, don't answer it. There's no shame. In fact, I've found that detaching the doorbell all together makes things much more pleasant. And if you turn the volume up really loud, you can't even hear those little fists knocking.


[=- FiCTiON -=]


[Prev | Next]

by Brandt Ryan

Human beings are curious, odd, and funny things. The "older" generation always says of the "younger" generation: What is that? Whether it be music, clothes, attitudes, or the way we order pizza, the question remains the same: What is that? And the answer to the question is also always the same: What is that? Yes, the younger generation answers the older one with the same question -- some substantial evidence that one's surroundings has something to do with the way they view things. I must admit, though, that I simply can't understand why kids these days wear their pants around their knees -- I mean seriously -- they weren't made that way.

I am from the so-called generation "X". And I am here to clear some things up. Because I for one have finally discovered what the "X" refers to After all, it is merely a symbol, one used often in algebra, geometry, etc.; it was just a matter of time before someone figured it out -- just as is the case in your basic algebraic equation. I have come to the conclusion that the "X" refers to 'the absurd'. And no, I do not mean "funny". I ironically retain the meaning of the word as it was used by the "older" generation: lacking meaning. This generation lacks meaning like Ethiopian children lack food. I mean, its too bad some far-off land across the ocean is not stockpiling meaning in huge silos, as we do with our grain. They should air the same commercials as we do: "for only 50 cents a day, this generation X'er could have meaning in his life". They would show pictures of the typical X'er young adult, not sure whether to wear a flannel shirt, or a leather jacket, or no clothes at all. In the background would be the all too familiar shot of the courtroom in which OJ Simpson attained more recognition than the Queen of England, or even the Pope. Yes, this is the setting in which my story takes place, constantly changing, consistently meaningless, and courageously frightening.

* * * * *

There is a young man, Thomas, who is part of this meaningless generation. He is fairly handsome, not extremely so -- but just enough to get noticed. But once one gets a good look though, he appears a little drained, sort of just there -- no evidence of life within, etc... He is of medium height, and constantly stands up straight, to the point of straining himself, so that he appears to be on equal footing with those around him. He always enjoys being in rooms where he is the tallest, because in such situations he feels a sort of confidence, and will tower over the others in the room that much more to increase his pleasure.

But on a bright, breezy fall morning, entering the Super Seven, he realizes he is the shortest. "Not a good way to start the day," he thought (yes, he even found his height advantage, or disadvantage in this case, important at Seven Eleven at 7:00 in the morning). Every morning he would go to the Super Seven and retrieve a Big Gulp, some crumb cakes, and a pack of Camel Lights. This morning, as he approached the counter, he noticed that the clerk was watching the Black Entertainment channel. It made him feel uneasy.

"Just this stuff, and a pack of Camel Lights-as usual."

"Hardpack?" The clerk was more interested in the T.V.

"No, softpack, if you have it". The clerk knew that he wanted a softpack, but liked giving him a hard time. For the past 2 years he had requested a softpack, but every morning following, the clerk would pull out a hardpack. It was kind of a bonding thing -- as close to a bond as one could get between two young strangers from differing backgrounds. If he was the sole customer, they would exchange pleasantries, but if there was anyone else in the store, it was strictly business. No greetings, but mere grunts of approval. A "thanks" followed by an "uhh huu". Sometimes, though, he was required to talk with the customers, that is, when his manager was there. "Would you like to try a free sample of our gourmet coffee?"

That coffee had probably been there for two weeks.

"No thanks, I'm trying to quit." He walked towards the door to exit, and noticed himself in the security camera. He briefly contemplated a career in the movies as he unwrapped the crumb cakes.

During the drive home, he nibbled at the crumb cakes, not really hungry at all, but knowing he had to have something in his stomach. After his first bite, the thought of the first cigarette of the day immediately entered his mind. He knew though, that he would not light one up -- this was the first of three of four cravings before he made it actual. After three crumb cakes and a healthy slurp of his coke, he made the definitive choice -- no cigarette until lunch. He had a big day in front of him: his first day at a new job. He had been fearful about it for the past two weeks, though there was nothing in reality to justify his anxiety -- except the real thoughts that raced unorganized through his head. Those are real. He started to feel a little strange as he looked ahead at his day. He realized that he would meet new people, people that would meet him, and started to feel a large lump in his throat. He tried to ignore it, but he knew what was coming. It always started this way. When he had arrived home, and opened the car door, he started to gag. He knew exactly what he had to do. Staring dead ahead at what ever was in front of him, he began to think of good things, and good people, Jesus Christ, etc... This provided him with a temporary moment of relief. But an instant later, he winced again. He was already terrified of the day in front of him. Another brand new day at a brand new job. Of what he was terrified of he had no idea -- except maybe the fact that he had to go there. It wasn't going to work that bothered him, but that he had to go. Such are the thoughts that race through the mind of our main character.

He made it. To the front door that is. He fumbled for his keys, noticing the powerful heat of the morning sun that was beating on his face. Man, he thought, the sun is strong. You know the sun is there, for it reminds you with unavoidable heat. He was glad that the sun was there, and that he was noticing it. The sun was something very real for him, real in the sense that it affected his life, not like, political correctness, or talk shows titled "Bisexual mothers that beat their HIV positive children". He hated talk shows. Talk shows, he thought, will be the down fall of our society. A pretty bold statement coming from an accounting major. More often than not he would argue with his classmates and professors on the subject, or better yet, someone watching one at that very moment. Let me recall to you the last conversation he had participated in. This discussion took place at the school cafeteria, where the truth was supposed to be dished out along with all of the menu items.

He directed his statement to a highly respected genetics professor known for his willingness to engage in good-faithed, cafeteria debates.

"You see, the whole issue, any issue, comes down to one basic rule: if there are opposing positions, both of them cannot possibly be right. But the hosts of these shows, and most of the audience agree that they can both be right. Because today, everyone's opinion is accepted as valid."

The genetics professor was ready and willing to argue. "That's right, everyone's opinion is valid. What right do you have to say one opinion is as good as another?"

The rest of the table felt obliged to affirm this accepted axiom. In unison, as if rehearsed, the table let out a defensive, "Yeaaa, what right do you have?"

Thomas was prepared to take them all on. "Just look at the world around you! It seems to me that things exist in one way at one given time. After all, a cat is either a cat or not a cat. It could not be both at the same time!"

The genetics professor thought for a moment. "But it could be both. Someone may have the opinion that it could be both a cat and not a cat at the same time."

"So that opinion would be as valid as the opinion that, for example, it could only be one or the other?"


Thomas started to get uneasy. He scooted around in his chair, and started picking at the scruff at his neck. "Well then, if both opinions are valid, whose position would prevail, if for instance, a decision had to be made?"

"What do you mean, if they had to make a decision?"

"Like, a law for example."

"The guy with the biggest guns will win. That is, the majority -- such is the law of our own United States." The genetics professor was extremely satisfied with himself, and his reference to the way in which a democracy works. He looked around the rest of the table, basking in the approval of his comrades in arms. But Thomas knew how a democracy worked -- that was his entire point -- the strongest position, in numbers, will win. An essentially violent position. Nevertheless, he thought, it is a necessary condition if the truth is to have a chance to submerge. He figured he would just let the whole argument go; no need to ruin anyone's appetite. He gave up just as one of the mothers in the talk show had to be taken from the set as a result of her backhanding the mother next to her. Just let it go, he thought.

In the end, though, all of the cafeteria discussions had taken a toll on Thomas. He actually started to believe that everyone's opinion was valid, and that no one had the right to say otherwise. And though ignorant to this fact himself, there seemed to be a direct connection with this belief of his and the following deterioration of his mental state of being. He noticed that everything was constantly changing. Absolutely nothing remained the same. Love came and went in the course of one night, right along with the stars. Of course, he knew that the stars were really there the whole time -- they just didn't appear to be. Friendships were of utility, as was his relationship to his parents. Everything he acted on was an attempt at attaining one particular self-interest or another. It started to seem natural enough. After all, it just felt right to him; he felt like using a friend to get to a girl, and felt like getting a girl to satisfy his feelings of sexual appetite. Likewise, he felt like asking his parents for money that he really did not need. In any other case he would not be around them. He felt like partying instead of studying. He reasoned that those that studied now, only did so because of the award of high paying jobs later, so that then, they could do what they felt like doing. Feelings, he thought, were big in this day and age. Everyone gives and listens to the following advice: don't hold those feelings in, let them out, let them out in a big way! Just like now, walking through the dining room, he didn't feel like going to this new job. But he knew that he had to -- he knew that it was the right thing to do. His intelligence told him this -- that part of him that would wage war on his feelings, and never give up until consciousness itself did.

His psychiatrist never recognized the battle. He ended up having an affair with her after only three short sessions. She prescribed drugs to engage the battle inside Thomas, but there was no war at all -- only a gathering of allies, a covering up of feelings, with new, better sentiments. Somewhat like the United Nations. The first day of sessions, Thomas asked her if he thought that there was something wrong with him...

"Why yes, otherwise you wouldn't be here, would you?" The psychiatrist wanted to be friendly to her new patient, already imagining their first passionate kiss, and diagnosing him immediately, knowing already that he was Prozac bound. The wonder drug of the nineties, Prozac, never failed, she remarked to herself. She was on it herself. In the beginning she would joke with Thomas here and there, trying to break the ice. Yes, ironically the very root of his problem sprouted up then, upon their very first meeting. The problem was, the ice never was broken. The ice was precisely the reason he was there. But she failed to see this. She had her own diagnosis, and her own remedy. And the supplement prescription, actual, real life pleasure, she thought, was the only thing missing. The patient and doctor ended up making it on just the third session -- whereupon the patient disappeared. She was good though, he thought, real good.

He often thought of her as he walked past the dining room table that they had eaten dinner on, and then made it on. Merely the principle of association, he thought. But right now, association scared him, not the reference of the word, but just the word itself. For no particular reason at this moment was he scared -- just the fact that there was a word out there, existing independently of his mind. It was that the word would be there without him. It didn't need him in order to be. His mind raced with these jumbled thoughts, along with ones of self-analysis that told him to get some help. He made a promise to himself that he would -- but not with a psychiatrist. He would look for a priest.

Presently though, he had to get ready for work. He stepped into the shower and felt the hot water slowly work its way down his body. It felt good. He wished that he could stay in this moment for the rest of his life. An eternal now would suit him just fine. He pulled the water through his hair over and over again until every ounce of pleasure was extracted from his person. And sure enough, following the pleasure came the numbness, and then the dull anxiety, soon to be panic. He noticed that the heat had substantially changed. Before it was soothing and refreshing, almost ecstasy. But as moments passed it had become just plain heat. So much for the eternal now, he thought. He finished his shower and reached for his razor.

Thomas really didn't want to go to his new job. He wanted to just sit there, not bothering anyone but himself. He wondered what his parents would think if they knew that he was afraid to go to his job. He wondered what his friends would think. He wondered what the kid that he had picked on in high school would think. That one truly scared him. What if he did find out? Was it possible? He checked his level of anxiety and thought, Anything is possible.

Right then though, in the midst of his anxiety, he had a sort of vision. Thomas really didn't know what the hell a vision was, but was sure that what had just happened was close. Here's what happened. When he was thinking of the possibility of the kid from high school knowing about his fear, he thought "Anything is possible". Right? Well, when he looked in the steamy mirror, and gazed at his profile, he realized that if anything is possible, then so is the possibility that he could face his day without fear. Just like when he was a child. No worries. Just do it! He felt a confidence surge through him that he had not felt in a very long time. He smiled back at himself in the mirror. But this time it was a real smile, that is, a natural one, not like the fake ones he usually displayed. At that moment, he thought that he could strut right into the Oval Office and take the reins. No problem. He was extremely excited about going to work. He would meet new, fantastic, and good people who would like him, and they, in turn, would think that he was fantastic and good. He really couldn't believe that he was afraid just a moment ago. He was just fine.

Thomas smoked a cigarette as he put on his clothes. First the pants, then the socks, shoes, undershirt and belt. He wore these clothes as he ironed and starched his shirt. An extra starched shirt pleased Thomas. If done correctly, the shirt would come out rigid and firm -- just the way he liked it. This, he thought, is going to be a great day. He called his girlfriend before he left, to make plans to celebrate his new job over dinner tonight. Now he was ready to go.

Passing cars left and right, speeding by strip malls and billboards, Thomas believed he was above the law. Speed limits and traffic laws certainly didn't apply to him -- not the Thomas in this moment of time. When he drove to the interview, it had taken almost a half an hour. But today, it had only been about 13 minutes, and he was almost there. He was above it all. Pulling into the parking lot, he winked at those employees that he would soon meet. Those new, fantastic, good people who had come before him. His adrenaline was racing. He explored the parking lot, searching for a space in which to leave his car.

The parking lot was of the standard kind, placed directly in front of the building in which Thomas was employed. Lanes ran perpendicular to the building. He had just turned left directly in front of the entrance, and proceeded down another lane away from the building. For a moment, he thought of parking in a handicap space. He passed them up though, and turned deliberately back towards the building in the center lane. He could see in the distance, four or five employees working their way through the revolving door at the entrance.

But things changed. With absolutely no warning, thoughts started to scramble in Thomas' head. Literally one moment he was fine, and the next, not fine. What am I doing here? What are all of these other people doing here? What is that building doing here? There is no way in hell I am going to park this car. But he knew that he had to. When he tried to control the car, his limbs would not respond. He miraculously made another left turn towards the building. He had to go through with this day, even if it killed him. Even if he made a fool of himself in front of the whole corporation. Even if he was fired the moment he made it through the entrance. He would make it through the entrance. But his body was not responding -- only reactions: profuse sweating, blood-shot eyes, and lumps in his throat. All of these reactions came on instantly. No bodily actions came from the agency of Thomas. Nevertheless, he was still determined to enter. He would do it, even if it was necessary to persuade someone to physically drag him through those goddamn revolving doors. His mind desperately tried to control his muscles, but to no avail.

He was approaching the entrance with great speed, though to Thomas, it seemed like an eternity. No, he thought, it didn't seem like an eternity, it was eternity. In such moments in a persons life, strange thoughts enter their minds. His mind was at complete ease. He mused, "Is it possible to have one moment that is both a moment and eternity at the same time?" This had been Thomas' last thought. Just in time, the employees in front of the building got out of the way. Thomas had made it.


[Prev | Next]

by I Wish My Name Were Nathan

Henry was sitting on his bike waiting for the chance to cross the busy street. The northbound lane was empty while the southbound was teeming with eager speeders. He waited quietly, knowing that the pre-rush-hour traffic was the weirdest.

Seeing a chance, Henry became poised. He struck the right pedal, watched it twirl around, and caught it perfectly with his foot, almost like cocking a gun. It made him feel important, like a bike rider with a mission. He saw that a lone Ford was approaching from the north, and on the south, the only action was two vehicles far away. He clutched the handlebars, racer-style, and waited for the lone car to pass.

"Okay now, car, pass me," he mumbled, making conversation with the traffic. The Ford was still moving but its projected time of incidence had long passed. He sneered. The Ford was slowing down, maybe to turn, but noting the lack of a turn signal, God only knew what it would do. He glanced at the other lane and the two vehicles passed by. A truck was about a hundred feet behind them, and the other lane was still clear. Henry grinded his teeth, waiting for the damned Ford to complete its turning maneuver. He could see the outline of a huge blue wig on the driver. Glancing both ways yet again, he took off.

Henry concentrated very hard on getting to the other side, trying to ignore the horribly close truck (...passed it!) and the two cars that had appeared out of nowhere (just far enough away). He closed his eyes tightly when he heard the two cars pass by in unison, and took a deep breath.

"I want a car," he muttered.

Not much appreciating near-death experiences, Henry became peeved. He made a sarcastically large allowance for the girl entering her car who would back out in two minutes. He covered his head while an old lady in a Camaro drifted by. He came to a complete stop at every intersection, acting overly cautious when a car approached.

After about two minutes, he felt vindicated and went on at a normal speed. He was hungry and wanted to get home. Henry felt a little silly for his acting and looked behind him to make sure no one was giving him strange looks. He didn't see anything special until he turned his head back and watched himself run into a car parked in the middle of the road.

Henry flew over the car, barely missing the other end and landing instead on the bare road. He heard his bike fall to the ground an infinite distance away. He moaned, not because his bike fell down, but because he had, and had hit the road rolling on his back. After the momentum wore away, Henry ended up flat on his stomach. Breathing wasn't an option for the few seconds that he considered his new situation. Then he started to cough.

He lay there for several minutes, considering his left hand, which lay in his line of sight on the street beside him. He had never thought much about his hand. It was one of those appendages he took for granted. He studied the strange folds in the skin that formed where his joints were, and pondered how odd it was that he always bent his hand and fingers the same way to make those lines, and if they would ever return to normal again. He wondered if it was a genetic thing, and if it was impossible to get rid of them, and if babies had these lines at birth. All these questions tumbled around in Henry's mind in a sort of serene and playful ease he hadn't known recently.

He heard footsteps approaching. It was Henry's art professor from last year. He nudged Henry's head with his shoe and said, "Hello, Henry. How's your year going?"

Henry blinked once and then again before answering. "Uh, I just ran into a parked car, but overall I guess it's okay," he said matter-of-factly, his face pressed into the road, trying to avoid tasting it.

"Oh my," his professor said. "This is a bad situation, then."

"Err, yes."

"If you lift your head a little, you can copy down the license plate number. Then they can catch whoever did this."

Henry saw reason in that, but didn't nod lest he crack his skull. "I can't. Lift my head."

"Oh, I see. Say, I'll go see if the owner of the car is at home," the professor offered. He stepped over Henry and walked up to the house the car seemed to belong to. He rang the doorbell a few times but no one answered. He walked back and told Henry the news. "Sorry, Henry. No one's home. I guess there's nothing you can do."

"Thanks anyway," Henry said.

"No problem. Well, I've got a class. Visit my office sometime and we'll talk about Postmodernism," the art professor said, and walked on.

Henry waited around. He heard a few cars go by, but that was it. Someone else was bound to show up, and half an hour later, she did. It was Henry's girlfriend Jackie on her bike. She nudged Henry's head with her front tire and asked, "So, how's it going, Hen?"

Henry's left eyebrow rose slowly. "Do you see a car behind me?" he asked.

Jackie checked, and came back. "Yup."

"I ran into it on my bike."

Jackie's eyes widened. "Holy shit! That sucks!"

Henry agreed with her.

"Well, Henry, you know you can't go anywhere with your bike busted up like that. I'm going to go get you a new front tire, okay?" she offered. "Wait here."

Jackie headed off. Henry started coughing again. Each cough sent bolts of pain through his shoulder, knee, and head. He eventually got over the spasms and occupied himself with the little rocks that made up the road. They held his interest for a long time. He was amazed at how resourceful the city was this year around in repaving the roads. In the years before, they would lay on a new coat of hot tar, and then gravel, and then asphalt. This year, they decided the taxpayer's money was too good for such things as paved roads in residential areas, and skipped the asphalting. Henry closed his eyes and could count the number of sharp little rocks poking into his cheekbone.

A sudden loud solid thump shook Henry from his meditation. It was followed shortly by a loud hollow thump. He heard the sound of a bicycle falling on his an infinite distance away. He moaned, not because another bike fell on his, but because the fright caused him to pull a muscle in his back.

"Hey! What's up, dude?" Henry heard someone saying. He painfully turned his head and looked upward. He saw a junior high kid sprawled on the hood of the car. He was grinning eagerly.

"I ran into a parked car," Henry said.

"Yeah, I know! Me too! I saw your bike. I wish I could have one like it. It looks cool. I mean, when you get a new wheel and all. I just have this stupid one-gear thing," the kid explained.

"Didn't you see the car?" Henry asked.

"Of course I did! But I also flew over it. Now I have something to tell my friends about. They'll think I'm cool."

Henry blinked. "Cool?"

"Yeah! Usually when someone says they'll do something cool like fly over a car, they're just lying out their asses. And even if they do, you can't be sure unless you actually saw it. But I have my bike to prove it now. And, I didn't even tell anyone I'd do it! Just came to me. I did it on impact."

"Your mouth is bleeding."

"Yeth!" the kid cried, spewing blood on Henry. "Even more proof!"

Henry wrenched his head back toward the street and tried to relax. Although it was the middle of the afternoon, the sun was still beating down on him, and his head started to sweat. Trickles of moisture ran down his forehead into his eyes. This and his feeble drooling would soon drown him in a puddle.

He heard a door open from the house behind him. A loud burly voice cried out, "Hey, you kids! Get the hell out of my road! You're wrecking the property value!"

Henry twitched a biceps and fell numb with pain.

The man from the house continued, "I'm warning you! If you don't move on the count of three, I'll call my realtor!"

Gravity overtook the kid on the car: he slid a few inches, catching the hood ornament in his eye. "Whoo hoo!" he yelled.

The burly man continued. "One... two... three! Okay, I'm calling right now! I'm not kidding! You asked for it! I'm still punching buttons!" He paused for a few seconds, and hung up. "Well, all right. I'll let you off this time. But the next time I come out here, you better not still be on the street like that!"

"Screw off, old man!" the kid cried. The man returned inside, slamming the door. "Huh-huh, old people," the kid said. "We're the new generation. He has to listen to us."

Henry agreed. He screwed his eyes shut trying to wring out the stinging sweat. His head hurt. He coughed again. He listened to the cars go by. Sometimes when they sped by, pieces of gravel struck his face. Finally, he heard Jackie's bike come back. He could recognize it by its squeaky brakes.

"Well, there you are!" she scolded him. "I've been looking all over for you." She stepped off her bike and let it fall on Henry's legs. "So, I found a tire, although the hardware people say it's technically a wheel. Also, while I was searching high and low for you, I picked up an adjustable wrench and some other stuff. So, are you gonna put the wheel on or what?"

"I can't move."

"Oh, is that the case?" Jackie asked. "Oh, all right." She dragged Henry's bike out of the pileup behind the car parked in the middle of the road and started working on it. "You'll thank me for this someday."

Henry watched Jackie work and his heart grew warm. Since he was baking under the sun, he didn't notice. The street was baking too, emitting the wavy streams of heat from its surface. Henry soon saw his bike posing majestically on the street, standing out from the surroundings as if revealed in a miraculous vision. Jackie had finished the wheel exchange.

"There!" she said, walking back over to Henry. She nudged his head with her adjustable wrench. "So, you wanna ride it now?"

He grinned. "I guess I could walk it back home."

"Yeah, you could. I'll help you up. C'mon." Jackie grabbed him under the arms and pulled him up. "Here's your bike, good as new."

Henry smiled, maintaining his balance with the help of the bike. "Thanks."

Glancing down, he noticed that he too was bleeding, from his right hand, where he had been holding the brake lever in his bike-riding days. He smirked. He would have something to show off to his friends.


"Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand."



[Prev | Next]

by Brandt Ryan

An unknown man walking through the streets of Washington D.C. was feeling tormented by something, as if something or someone was following him. When the man reached the Lincoln Memorial he was confronted by his tormentor who was nothing less than the eternal tormentor, Satan himself. The Evil Spirit asked the unknown man why he lacked followers, and the man replied:

"They are blinded from the truth."

And Satan made an offer, "I have access to all of the money in the world, and it is this that the masses seek. If you accept this fact, all will follow you." And the unknown man accepted.

The masses of persons followed but they became not what they are.

* * * * *

An unknown man walking through the streets of Washington D.C. was feeling frustrated by something, as if he was going about things in the wrong way. When he reached the Jefferson Memorial he was confronted with the eternal frustrator, Satan himself. The Evil Spirit asked the unknown man why he lacked followers and he replied:

"They are blinded from the truth."

And Satan made an offer. "I have the ability to bring all of the world's nations together under on unified state, and it is this that the masses seek. If you accept this fact, all will follow you." And the unknown man accepted.

The masses of persons followed but they became not what they are.

* * * * *

An unknown man walking through the streets of Washington D.C. was feeling angered by something, angered because people could not see who he really was. When the man reached the top of the Washington Monument, he was confronted by the eternal rage, Satan himself. The Evil Spirit asked the unknown man why he lacked followers, and the man replied:

"They are blinded from the truth."

And Satan made an offer. "Leap from the Monument, for when the angels catch you and save you from falling the people will be bewildered and amazed, and it is this that the masses seek. If you accept this fact, all will follow you." And the unknown man leaped.

The masses of persons followed but they became not what they are.

* * * * *

An unknown man walking through the streets of Washington D.C. was feeling anxious about something, anxious about what he knew would happen to him later in the day. When the frightened, unknown man reached the podium at the base of the Washington Monument, he was confronted by the source of his anxiety, for he knew that when he began to speak he would be shot. The eternal tempter, Satan himself, approached the man, and asked why so many had gathered to listen to him, and he replied:

"Because they hear something that rings true."

And Satan made an offer. "But you do not have to die, for if you die, who will proclaim the truth? Come down from that podium so that you may continue your ministry." And the unknown man accepted, and saved his own life by doing so.

* * * * *

A middle aged man, not known by many, trekked down the Pacific Coast Highway towards a densely populated city in southern California. He had hitchhiked most of the way from his origin in the north, depending on others for his transportation. Although many of his fellow hitchhikers protruded their thumbs horizontally, this man chose the vertical style, pointing his thumb upwards toward the cloudless, blue sky. In his experience, the vertical style caught the attention of the drivers much more efficiently, and as a result, this classic version passed the test of time, as one almost never sees the horizontal style expressed any more across the weaving interstates in our land. And sure enough, just as he had confirmed the truth of the matter, a produce truck pulled off onto the shoulder of the road, beckoning the unknown man to his cab.

The driver rolled down the passenger side window. "Where 'ya headed?" Even though the driver could not even see the man underneath door, the unknown man replied, "Los Angeles, or as far south as you can take me." With about just enough hesitation as one could perceive, the driver replied, "Fine, hop in."

As cars speeded passed the truck, children would stare into the cab and see the stereo-typical truck driver, that is, a big, burly head and face, both covered with enormous amounts of hair, with a non-filtered cigarette, barely perceptible, sticking out from somewhere in the bunches of facial hair. The interesting thing was that all the cars could see was the man's head, for if they were to have access to a more complete view of the man, they would soon be surprised to find a midget behind the wheel. But the passenger didn't notice.

The driver took a long, full drag from his cigarette and blew smoke rings into the windshield whereupon they would expand into hazy circles covering almost half of the reinforced glass. As he did this and other things, including sipping his coffee, flipping through the channels on his radio, and eating a day-old ham sandwich, he asked the passenger what he did for a living. The passenger replied, "I'm in the construction business."

"Is that where you're headed then, to a construction site?"

"Not exactly. As I was finishing my last job I had a sort of calling to preach. I've decided to start on the west coast and work my way across the nation to Washington D.C. The words just seem to come right out of my mouth -- pretty strange, huh?"

"What sort of stuff you preachin'? You one of them end of the world guys?"

"No, not really. It's all kinda new I guess, but it addresses the needs of our present situation."

The driver was surprised by his new passengers occupation, and for an instant, thought about dropping him off at the next exit. After all, he thought, you can't be too careful, especially in California. But for some reason this stranger seemed safe enough, and so he decided to keep going. He explained to his passenger that he drives a set route that starts to head east right at L.A. whereupon he drives to Nevada, then north through Nevada and finally back west to northern California. When the driver started to head east he dropped his passenger off and let him know that a few groceries were to be built near there, most definitely in need of construction workers. The passenger thanked him for the ride and advice and stepped down from the truck.

At first, almost nobody listened to the unknown man, but soon enough, his popularity grew. Most of his followers were people who had been oppressed in one way or another, although he attracted a few from almost every walk of life. He offered the people nothing tangible, he was not in favor of a revolution against the oppressors; on the contrary, he asked his followers to forgive their oppressors. But he did offer them a "new way of life", on leading to "the only true happiness".

The authorities saw the unknown man in a different light, for their attention was caught when he declared civil law as unbinding and subordinate to what he established as law, that is, "Divine Law" as he called it. The authorities thought he sought to attack the unity in the country, for the law was the only thing that produced that effect, however remote it was. Thus, from the beginning of his ministry, the authorities kept a disciplined eye on his whereabouts and doings. Finally, when his popularity seemed to peak, he disappeared, leaving a message behind to his followers to wait for him in Washington D.C.

After having preached for his first time, the unknown man made his way to the desert whereupon he spent much time thinking about the words that seemed to spring from his tongue. As he walked down the blazing highway, a bright red Budweiser truck pulled off the road and asked him if he needed a ride. He accepted and took his seat next to the driver. As they started on the highway the driver offered him a beer, "After all, I'm allowed a few damaged cases, and if I'm careful I can do with them what I please." The unknown man declined and the driver shrugged, "O.K., but it can get awful hot through the desert." As they continued on the driver would periodically gaze at the passenger inquisitively, as if he could see straight through him. This bothered the passenger. When he looked directly into the driver's eyes he identified him immediately.

"Satan, you are Satan."

"Pleased to meet you, looks like you already caught my mane. Where are all of you followers?"

"I've left them all behind, but they will find me."

"Maybe so, but you only have a few thousand, and there are millions that reject you -- how do you plan to penetrate more? For surely a few thousand will not do, especially if it is true, that as you say, 'the kingdom of God is in our midst.' Don't you see that it is passion that drives the masses of people -- for it is pleasure that they seek -- give them pleasure and they will follow you in great numbers." The cab of the truck was getting hotter and hotter to the point where it was unbearable. Just one sip of something cold would alleviate the pain -- just one, small, thirst quenching sip.

"Are you sure you don't want a drink? You're soaked through with sweat, surely you must be thirsty? Here, I'll open it for you." As the can slushed open, the unknown man winced. Satan continued, "If you don't believe me, look and see how Budweiser's doing, and for that matter, look into all the companies that address the luxurious needs of man -- you'll find that such corporation are doing very well indeed, for they know what I'm trying to tell you. And cash runs the whole show, for money is no longer a means to distribute goods and services, but an end in itself, something to be sought for its own sake and then stashed away to reproduce and reproduce and reproduce... And I offer you this powerful currency, all that you will ever need to control the masses, just say the word and it will be done."

The unknown man smiled at the driver and asked him to stop the truck. As he exited the cab he turned to the driver and said, "Budweiser only has fleeting commercial spots, and I require a feature-length film." He jumped down from the truck and sustained himself in the dust that the truck spat at him as it sped away.

* * * * *

The traveling man found himself on the side of the road in the middle of the desert, far away from the place he called home. He was now a foreigner. And primarily two things characterize the foreigner, one obvious characteristic being that the foreigner is not at home, the other being a result of the first, namely a yearning for the return home. Although he lived most of his life in the northwestern United States, he never really felt at home; as a matter of fact, he never really felt at home anywhere. But now more than ever, while traveling across the landscape, he felt further away from anywhere that he could call home than ever before. The foreigner did not know much about the desert, but very quickly he learned the most important thing about it: there is absolutely no escape from the dreadful heat. He felt like an old, dry sponge that had been twisted and turned so that every last drop of liquid had been literally sucked out of him. And just as at it seemed like the last drop had been extracted from his person, he remembered watching something on the Discovery Channel that had let out to the public an age-old secret that the cactus plant produced a sort of milk. Of course, this didn't help him much because there was not a cactus in sight, and worse yet, there was not one within fifty miles of his present location. As he scanned the horizon for cacti, he spyed an image of what seemed to be a sea shell, and assured himself that there must be a lake or ocean within the next few miles. Contrary to his belief, there was no ocean or lake, as the shell was a mere sign designating a gas station. Nevertheless, he achieved his goal and took in some water slowly, careful not to put himself in danger as he had seen in the old west movies. Too bad the Discovery Channel didn't offer up this valuable information to the masses, one has to be a Clint Eastwood fan in order to be privy to such life-saving knowledge.

The man away from home made his way to the counter whereupon he laid down his supplies. The clerk scanned the items carefully, making sure that none of them were on special. Not that the store's special had changed for the past year, a free "Rock 'n Roll from the Fifties" cassette worth about as much as the candy bar that came with it. The clerk noticed that the man indeed had purchased the candy bar in question, and reached under the counter for the customer's free, Rock 'n Rollin' tape. The foreigner thanked the employee of the month for the tape just as a bright, white, limousine pulled into the fill-up station.

As the away from home started back on his journey, he passed the lengthy limousine and noticed its Texas license plate surrounded by political bumper stickers. In fact, slogans such as "Hank will take you to the bank," and "Re-Elect Hank Rogers For The Senate" covered the entire bumper.

Apparently, "Hank" thought that our man was a gas station attendant.

"Hey there partner, how 'bout a fill up?" He was from Texas all right.

"I'm sorry, I'm not who you think I am. I don't work here." The unknown man wondered why he had asked for service when he had clearly pulled next to the "self serve" pump.

"You don't work here? I'm sorry, but if you don't work here, where's your car?" The Texan's logic was sound. There was not another car in the entire lot.

"Oh, I don't have a car. I travel mostly by foot."

"Well I tell 'ya what son, if you pump my gas for me, I'll help you knock out a few miles. How 'bout it?"

The foreigner accepted, knowing that the individual behind the drawling accent was pure, unadulterated evil. As he pumped the gas he noticed that there was not a driver -- but he was sure that the Texan Senator had stepped out from the back of the limo. While he tried to figure out this mystery, the fat Texan paid for the gas by way of the credit card console conveniently located at the pump. The Senator opened the door for the unknown man and practically shoved him into the vehicle.

"Why don't you put in the cassette?" Somehow the Senator had known that the foreigner had received the free tape. He pulled it from the inside pocket of his jacket and started to insert it into the cassette player. The Senator stopped him just as he was about to play it. "Hold on just a second there, partner. Let's take care of some business first." Strangely enough, as the foreigner looked out of the window, he did not see the gas station as he had expected, but had just passed a sign that welcomed him to St. Louis.

"I think you know who I am, and I surely know who you are, so let's cut to the chase." The fatter of the two poured himself a scotch and water, shaking the drink back and forth so that the ice cubes would rattle. "Now son, where are all them followers of yours? It looks like you's all alone."

The foreigner replied, "They will meet me in from of the Washington Monument. In fact, some are there as we speak."

The fat man squished his way around the seat, straightening himself up. "As a matter of fact, that's the reason I came to you -- that is, you're speaking. You see, that there tape you're about play don't have no Rock 'n Roll music on it. That tape is very valuable -- especially to someone like you. Don't you see it son: if you just listen to that little 'ol tape, you'd be armed with one hum-dinger of a speech when you reach the capital. In fact, if you give that speech, I can gare-un-tee that you will be elected President for the next two terms. And better yet, during your last term, the countries of the world will be united under one democratic rule, providing the very unity that the world craves. And if you've been reading the papers lately, you'll know that I, myself, am working my way up the political ladder. I'd be your right hand man. We'd be partners." The Texan lit up a juicy cigar the size of a banana, as if confirming the deal. "Well, how 'bout it? Just pop in the tape and let nature run its course."

The unknown man looked the Senator directly in the eye, and then turned to look out the window. The St. Louis Arch soared into the heavens, rooting itself paradoxically at the base of the earth, while finding its completion in the sky. He turned back toward the Texan and glanced at the cassette reflexively. The man away from home really wanted to take the cassette. After all, it was his tape. As he eye-balled the cassette one last time, he noticed a grin on the Senator's face that was as big as the lone-star state itself.

"I really don't have any political aspirations, but thanks just the same." The limousine stopped abruptly, almost before he had completed his sentence. The door opened of its own accord, and the foreigner stepped out onto the searing pavement. The limousine started away slowly, creeping its way down the road until it disappeared from view completely.

* * * * *

The foreigner found himself in a strange place once again. He was walking through the streets of St. Louis, stopping here and there to speak to those who would listen. He wondered where his next meal would come from as he passed luxurious restaurants, smelling the delicacies that were being carefully prepared. He imagined the cook meticulously placing the garnishes onto the gold-rimmed plates as if they were rare pieces of fine art. Art that would be scarfed down some ungrateful throat, destined to find its resting place in the bowels of a hungry consumer.

The stranger turned the corner, re-oriented himself toward the east, and noticed a few isolated men resting against a worn down building. He asked one of them where he could get something to eat. The lonesome man pointed to the entrance of the building and grumbled a few unintelligible words. The stranger made his way through the entrance and recognized the place as a "soup kitchen". He greeted the server and gratefully accepted the hot meal that was offered to him. When he had finished eating and had left, all of the inhabitants of the soup kitchen looked at each other in bewilderment. For everyone, including the men outside on the sidewalk, had a feeling that they had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner. Their breath actually smelled of turkey and cranberry sauce.

Full-bellied and ready to proceed, the unknown man walked off the exit ramp and onto 70 East, with a purposeful look on his face. This time he got to know the highway well, for it was a few hours before anyone would stop to pick him up. He noticed that the road looked entirely different from his present viewpoint; the pebbles on the shoulder of the road seemed more real, as did the corn that he could smell to the left and right of him. He wondered, as he did often, if anyone had stepped exactly where he had stepped; he wanted to know if anyone had ever placed themselves in the exact spot in which he was presently situated. Millions of people had passed this spot at a rate of 65 miles per hour, but probably no one had noticed it. It was now his place, and he decided to rest there.

After a while, as he looked searchingly down the interstate, he spyed a caravan of trucks that seemed to be traveling together. All of the trucks were red, with flamboyant colors swirling in and around the trailers. It was the carnival. The driver of the first truck waved to the stranger as he picked up his CB to communicate with the last truck. As each one passed, artificial faces and bodies acknowledged the stranger. The last truck in the caravan pulled off onto the shoulder of the road, crushing the pebbles that only just a moment ago had seemed so real. The traveler hopped into the truck and greeted the sole inhabitant. Immediately he identified the driver as the carnival's magician; the magic wand on the dash board gave it away. Decks of cards were strewn all around the cab, together with false coins, bits of string, and oddly shaped jewels imbedded in cigarette-sized sticks of wood. The only thing missing was a rabbit and a hat.



"Sorry 'bout the mess. As you might have guessed, I'm the magician. Sometimes I practice my tricks while I'm driving -- it helps pass the time." He said this while he carefully, yet thoughtlessly passed a quarter across his knuckles. "Where's your final destination?" he asked the man without a home.

"Washington D.C."

"You're in luck. It just so happens that our next gig happens to be there. You're welcome to ride along the whole way if you like."

"That's very kind of you. Maybe you could teach me a trick or two along the road." The magician showed the stranger a few tricks which he, the stranger, seemed to have a natural disposition for. Oddly enough, when the stranger looked out of the window, a sign their entrance to the famous Pennsylvania Turnpike. Before he knew it, they were entering Washington D.C. Seeing that he was almost out of time, the magician made his offer

"You seem to be a natural with magic. What would you think of joining the gang?" The stranger didn't answer; he had revealed himself. "I've been thinking of taking on an apprentice. All you have to do is perform a few tricks -- you know, amaze the crowd and all that. You're sure to be a success. Listen. Be sensible. You know as well as I do that they will follow you if they witness the power that you possess. Right now, those bums you fed in St. Louis are waking up early to attend communion service.

The unknown man was angered. "But that was different. That was not a trick. There was a good reason for doing that, a reason that has to do with people becoming what they are. They were hungry, and deserved a good meal. What I did was not an end in itself, or a means to gather followers. They were hungry. I fed them." He wondered why he even bothered to explain. The magician started to tell him that they expected a sell-out crowd, but before he had finished, the stranger had stepped out at a red light. As the man away from home walked down Constitutional Boulevard, he saw glimpses of a crowd forming. They immediately recognized their awaited speaker, and led him to the Washington Monument. He was sweating profusely.

* * * * *

The unknown man walked through the streets of Washington D.C. feeling anxious about something, anxious about what he knew would happen to him in a very short time. When the frightened, unknown man reached the podium at the base of the Washington Monument, he was confronted by the source of his anxiety, for he knew that when he began to speak he would be shot. The eternal tempter, Satan himself, approached the stranger, and asked why so many had gathered to listen to him, and he replied:

"Because they hear something that rings true."

And Satan made an offer. "But you do not have to die, for if you die, who will proclaim the truth? Come down from that podium so that you may continue your ministry." But the man, soon to be home, declined the offer. When he began to proclaim the truth, a shotgun blast sounded off from the front of the crowd. The bloody scene that resulted made possible the salvation of the human race. That blood cleansed the world of all wrong. Three days later was the first day of Spring.


"God doesn't play dice with the Universe."

--Albert Einstein


[Prev | Next]

by Kilgore Trout

I'm Max, and I've got the mark. I tried to tell them, but they went ahead with the hit, and now they blame me. "How were we supposed to know that God Almighty himself was gonna save him?" they asked me. Fuck, guys -- it's the Pope. Have some common sense.

So now I'm hopping buses, going through alleys, anything to stay on the move. I can't leave town cause they've got the city surrounded. They're looking for me, and they'll find me. It's just a matter of time.

I saw it all happen this afternoon, you know. If they were gonna go through with it, I might as well see them get their asses kicked. I could make out three snipers -- with missle launchers, that is -- on the rooftops. We had already bought the police and the various three-letter agencies, so everything should have gone smoothly. The only problem: the Pope's got this really powerful bodyguard. Three missles hit the Popemobile almost simultaneously, sending up an enormous explosion. But when the smoke cleared, there was the Pope, standing among the flaming ruins of his vehicle. He was waving to the hysterical crowd and had a huge grin plastered on his face. Hell, I would too. Over my headset, a message came that Bradley wanted to see me. I started looking for a good place to hole up.

Word spreads pretty fast when the Pontiff escapes imminent death unscathed. Every television station is showing continuous replays of the event, without commentary. None of the newsmedia wants to admit what the masses have already figured out -- God exists, and he likes the Pope. Oh, sure, you can't prove that God saved the Pope, but how else could he have survived? All I know is that I planned the assassination, so I'm pretty sure he's not too happy with me. Course, neither is Bradley. Everybody is on my ass today.

I get off the bus and head down the first alley I get to. At the end of the alley three men surround a young woman. Not cool. Usually I'm not the chivalrous type, but I figure any good I can do now will make God a little less pissed.

"Excuse me," I say, "but you really ought to leave the lady alone."

The three men turn around to face me. They are in their forties, dressed in business suits, and look extremely agitated. The one closest to me steps forward.

"You do not understand, brother," he explains. "This woman is a prostitute. She lies with men for money. She must repent of her sins or be executed."

"Now, hold on guys. You aren't going to do anything except walk out of this alley." I pull open my jacket to reveal my handgun. "Leave before I get really angry."

The men slowly file out of the alley. As the last one rounds the corner, he turns to me and yells, "You have the Mark of the Beast! I hope you are prepared for eternal damnation!" Apparently everyone's an evangelist now. Great. Just what this world needs. I go over to the woman who is now sitting on the ground, sobbing.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

"Yes, thank you," she replies. "You save my life. I am forever in debt. Whatever you require shall be yours."

Ah, bad english is always attractive. Add to that the fact that those words came from the mouth of a petite, dark-skinned girl with jet-black hair, and things couldn't get any better. Yeah, it's the wrong time tto be thinking of carnal pleasures, but since I'm already fucked, I might as well enjoy it.

"What's your name?" I ask while helping her up.

"Fatima," she says, "but friends call me Fifi."

"Well, then -- uh -- Fifi, I think we ought to get out of here. Know of any good places we can go to?"

"Pimp help us. Follow me."

* * * * *

Fifi led me down a number of back streets until we reached a decrepit looking apartment complex. She knocks on the door, which cracks for a second and then fully opens, revealing the hugest man I've ever seen. He's wearing black shorts and a red t-shirt, and I doubt I could put my hands around his arms.

"Fifi, you know the rules. You can't bring customers here."

She shakes her head. "No, this man save my life. He okay."

The man rolls his eyes in disgust and turns to me. "Alright, buddy. Turn around so I can frisk you. You got anything that's gonna stick me? I don't want to catch some godawful disease cause you've got a needle in your pocket."

I smile. "I've got a gun."

"Well, hand it over or you ain't getting in."

"I don't think so, guy."

"Either you give me he piece or I'll take it from you."

He doesn't look too happy with me. I can understand that need to protect one's own turf, but it still sucks being armed. I reach under my jacket, pull out my gun, and hand it over.

"Thanks for being reasonable," he says. "I mean, you just saved Fifi's life and all, but I ain't taking no chances where the boss is concerned. Come on in."

Rationalizing thugs. Hah. You don't explain what you're doing, you just do it and beat people into submission. At least, it works for me.

* * * * *

When Fifi said pimp, she meant The Pimp. This guy is decked out in some horrendous tiger-striped leisure suit that just makes my skin crawl. The matching fedora isn't exactly an attractive touch either.

"This damn Pope business is ruining my business," he tells me after sending Fifi away to get cleaned up. "The bastard survives a goddamn missle attack and now everyone's gone religious. You haven't seen the news recently, have you?"

I shake my head.

"Dig, man, this is the end of the world. Has to be. It's some crazy shit out there. Four of my girls have been beaten within the past two hours. Vigilante groups are springing up everywhere to save people or kill them. In the name of God, no less. I like God as much as the next guy, but his followers can suck my dick."

"How widespread is this?" I ask.

"All over the city, man. Times Square is a bloodbath. The fags are getting their asses kicked in the Village. In Harlem, drug dealers are being shot on sight. Guess they figure they're too far gone or something. And the cops are all looking for the guy who tried to kill the Pope, some guy named Max Hauer. I'd hate to be him. His ass is gonna get crucified, literally."

I give the pimp an uneasy look. "That would be me."

He just stares. Okay, so it was stupid admitting that I'm the reason this guy's whores are getting beat up. But I don't have any friends right now, so it can't hurt to make some, if that is possible.

"Listen, I told 'em not to do it. I found out too late."

He smiles. "The cops are willing to pay a hefty price for your head. But cops are bad all the time, and I don't deal with cops. Besides, you saved Fatima, which is something I doubt a lot of people would have done. Don't get me wrong: you are not staying here. But I'll give you some things to help you out."

"Thank you."

"Don't thank me. You have no friends. Remember that."

* * * * *

One of the pimp's thugs gave me a new set of clothes and a tennis bag with an Uzi and my pistol. Me against the city of New York and the Pope. My kind of odds. Oh, fuck that. Those bastards in the movies can't really mean it when they say that. This sucks hard.

I leave the building and start walking down the street, looking for another place to hide. People swarm all around, singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" and toting guns. These guys mobilize fast. I smile and wave, wondering how many of them realize that if God saved the Pope, then God is probably Catholic, and most of these people are probably Protestant. Heh. Gotta find humor where you can.

"Wait! Max!" someone behind me screams.

I turn around and see Fifi running towards me. Unfortunately, the crowds all stop singing and fix their gaze on me. Shouts of "There he is!" and "Capture the sinner!" ring out from all around me. I pull out the Uzi and start running toward Fifi, firing behind me.

"You stupid bitch!" I scream as I grab her arm. "Now we're both gonna die."

The hail of my bullets hits quite a few people, causing panic in the crowds. Just cause they have guns doesn't mean they know how to react in a firefight. Most of them run and duck for cover. Fifi and I keep running.

* * * * *

Somehow we make it into an abandoned tenement safely. I used all the ammo I had, so all I've got are my fists and my head, which isn't doing me a whole lot of good. Oh yeah, I've got this two-bit hooker who isn't doing me any good either.

"How the hell did you know who I was?" I ask Fifi.

"Pimp told me," she says. "I could not be without you. I am yours forever."

"Forever isn't going to be for too long, honey. You should have stayed where you were. I am a marked man. I am a dead man. Do you understand that? If you stay with me, you will die. Don't you get it?"

"Yes. I die with you. I am yours forever."

At least there's one person who likes me. Too bad we aren't going to last too long. I sit down on the floor and put my head between my knees. I hear her walk over and sit down beside me. She runs a hand through my hair and kisses my neck.

"What are you doing?"

"Make you happy," she says. "I make you happy."

"No, we can't," I say, pushing her away. "We have to figure a way out of this. We can't pretend that everything's hunky dory. The whole world--"

She puts a finger to my lips. "We die, but we die happy."

Common sense doesn't make too much sense in this crazy world. Maybe she is right. Maybe that is all we have left, a quick fuck, and then we're going straight to Hell. I pull her close to me and kiss her, cupping her breast and feeling her heart beat. Being alive for the moment is all I can ask for.

Afterwards, we fall asleep on the hard wooden floor.

* * * * *

I open my eyes and see Fifi's head resting on my chest. Her bare stomach rises and falls with each breath. She is beautiful, something I'd never expect to see during a time like this. I nudge her arm, and she wakes up. Her eyes are only full of love.

The door flies open and men in flak jackets rush into the room. Fifi jumps up and is mowed down in a hail of gunfire. Her body flies back and hits the wall. Blood covers the floor. I crawl over to her and hold her in my arms.

"How touching, Max. You always did say red was your color."

I look up. Bradley stands over me, grinning.

"Goddamn you, Bradley," I curse, standing up. "You didn't have to kill her."

"Careful there, Max. You shouldn't take the Lord's name in vain. She was a whore, a sinner. She deserved to die."

"Bullshit. She didn't understand what was going on. Fifi only wanted to be with me. Is that a crime?"

"Considering you tried to kill the Pope, I would say yes. You're a bad boy, Max, but maybe there's hope for you yet."

I backed away and crawled over to the tennis bag.

"I told you not to do it, Bradley. I tried to warn you, but you were the one who gave the go ahead."

"Well, be that as it may, I have had a change of heart. You always side with the guy who is gonna win, and that certainly isn't you."

I reach into the bag and pull out the Uzi.

"Max, be reasonable," Bradley says. "You don't have to die."

"Those people out there want my blood. They want to make me a symbol. That isn't gonna happen."

"Now, Max, come now. I think--"

"Fuck you, Bradley. Fuck you."

I raise the gun towards Bradley.

I hear every trigger depress. It is almost as beautiful as Fifi was.


"It's me and you against the world. So when do we attack?"



[Prev | Footer]

by I Wish My Name Were Nathan

Sam was sitting at a table in the local university library at 10 p.m., doing some minimalistic research on transcendentalism. Upon glancing down at the notecards onto which he had plagiarized the introductory paragraphs in the encyclopedia entries, he deemed it good and set down his pen. He decided resolutely that high-school research papers were cheezy. He had a set of working encyclopediae at home, but his assignment forced him to have three references. A quick glance at the card catalog terminals fulfilled that duty. The rote copying was merely to make the trip worthwhile.

He shoved his papers and folders into his backpack and headed downstairs for a look at the snack machines. Along the way, he passed several real-life college students sitting at study carels. Their shoulders peeked out from teetering stacks of heavy books and sheaths of scribbled-on papers, which were made steady by the sheer force of gravity. The students didn't notice him pass by, which Sam considered strange, as he found that anyone within earshot easily distracted him.

Walking into the student lounge, Sam was startled to see even more students, two or three to a table, studiously reviewing calculus-type problems and murmuring chemical equations. He shoved sixty-five cents into the vending machine and selected a Twix. Snatching the candy from the slot, he breathed a sigh of relief and strongarmed his way out of the room.

The intense mood within the library drove him outdoors. It was fortunately a somewhat cool late-summer night. No longer having anything important to do, he decided to delay his inevitable bike ride home and walk around.

Regardless of the somewhat terrifying diligence of the students he saw, Sam looked forward to going to college. Even starting high school sucked. The principals seemed to become more and more totalitarian as the years went on. Last week they turned off the Coke machines because of a stupid fight, and only today turned them on again. And there was that zero-tolerance policy which would get you suspended for using "bad words". The policy itself was a reason to cuss. Sam was pretty sure he knew what college life was like, and wondered how on earth the highly-disciplined and restrictive atmosphere of his high school was preparing him for this. He decided it was probably an incentive to graduate.

Sam took in a deep breath of the moist air and peered resolutely at his surroundings. A sidewalk drew a path from his feet toward the student building which glowed a dim yellow. He looked up and saw that the moon was probably the cause of the eerie glow, but upon looking closer, he realized it was the work of several floodlights. The floodlights were placed at several points on the student building, and on the library too, Sam noticed as he glanced behind him. The shadows falling across the features of the buildings gave them a slightly gothic look.

The lamps lit up the stone walls of the buildings, but not the sidewalk. Sam was happy for this, because he disliked garish lights, preferring to have the night natural and dark. Except for the auras around the buildings, night displayed itself normally, leaving the sunless day dim and mysterious, as he liked it.

Sam descended the steps onto the sidewalk and so headed across the expansive sea of grass separating the buildings. He could make out the sidewalk only by the faint contrast between it and the greenery lining its sides. Concentrating so much on the sidewalk, Sam almost forgot his purpose in wandering out here, which was to look around. He raised his eyes and scanned around him. Much was blurry through his uncorrected vision, but the sharp contrasts between light and dark diminished the problem.

It was in exploring these contrasts that Sam looked up and saw a massive round disc of light hovering above the ground. He hitched for breath at the sight, and realized embarrassedly that it was a tree, its limbs lit aglow by another floodlight specially mounted on it.

In having such an adrenalin-inspiring brush with nature, his interest became attached to the trees. There were about ten or fifteen trees within visible range, each lit up with its own lamp. Sam marveled at the clever device, and in a rush of childhood memories, yearned to get a closer look; namely, from the viewpoint of the tree itself.

Sam walked across the grass toward the nearest arbor, his shoes shuffling in the robust lawn. As he drew closer, the white light of the floodlamps brightened his eager face, which then suddenly fell dark with despair. The limbs were too high. He couldn't grab hold of the lowest branch, much less climb it. His face brightened again as he decided to try another promising tree. Before walking halfway, he saw that tree was also of the unclimbable persuasion. He circled around on his heel, scoping out the other trees within range. All too tall.

Driven by a dim hint of injustice, Sam turned back toward the closest tree, an oak, whose arms grew perpendicular to its trunk and parallel to the ground in a taunting game of keepaway. He stood contemptuously on the grass and examined the trunk. There he saw it. Nubs of cut-off branches were clearly visible. Someone had deliberately sawed off accessible branches to prevent people from climbing them. Sam extrapolated the extent of the highest nub and saw that he could easily have climbed up had only it remained.

He whirled, incensed, on his heel and headed back to the sidewalk. He decided he'd sit and rest a while outside the student building and eat his Twix before going home. As he walked along the sidewalk, he noticed that his aggravated state made his eyesight dazingly lucid, overflowing with vitamin A to the point of making little fireworks shows blast off in the corners of his field of vision.

Sam came to an ungraceful halt in the middle of a step, forcefully stopping himself from becoming any angrier. He had been consciously trying to eliminate, or at least suppress, his awful temper for the past few weeks, an effort which often seemed fruitless in light of the emotional spasms he was overgoing at the moment. He felt exceptionally humiliated at this breach of tranquility, an immature reaction to a happenstance of campus landscaping, and wondered briefly if he had any good reason to control a temper which all too often seemed natural. He decided to forget about the whole incident, and quick, because a headache was brewing.

Outside the student union, there were several metal tables encircled by several metal chairs. The chairs certainly weren't to be considered the height of comfort, but at least they could be left out year-round. Sam appreciated the gift of the chair, thanking the benevolent souls whose idea these outdoors furnishings were, wholly overcompensating for his ill will toward those who vandalized the trees.

Sam once again got the chance to enjoy the moist air, noticing that his increased rate of breathing had resulted neither in a dry throat nor a soggy trachea. He noticed that even inhaling heartily through his nose bore no ill effects.

He smiled graciously and set his feet up on the table he had selected (over in the corner of the veranda, away from the floodlights' glare), and slouched into the chair, which belied its rigid appearance, comfortably supporting his body.

Sam fished the Twix out of his pocket and lay the two bars on the wrapper in his lap. With the pretentious air of a casual smoker, he lifted a bar to his mouth and took a bite. Excellence. None of the inconveniences associated with chocolate and summery weather transpired on this night.

He returned the bar to the wrapper in his lap and scanned the horizon. In the distance his relaxed gaze made out two figures heading his way through the grass. Sam realized how strangely few people he had seen outside this Sunday night and came to the comfortable conclusion that they were all off doing more interesting things, to keep away from the demoralizing diligence of the students inside the library. Sam knew how to spend the last precious hours of the weekend, and he was doing it now.

The two girls scaled the distance and walked into the student building, laughing loudly at a private joke. Sam smiled, remembering a good joke he had once heard, in trying to imagine the girls' discourse. He again partook of the Twix bar, leisurely breathing the air and scanning the horizon.

In the distant library building, three people were in a lit-up room in the far left corner of the building. Sam knew that the room was off limits to ordinary traffic, being locked-up most of the time. He saw them walking about, as if trying to decide where to stand, one of them gesticulating wildly the whole time. Drama students, he thought, laughing out loud.

Sam's interest was piqued. He wanted to hear what the students at this school talked about. He was sure that the serious scholars in the library were simply decoys to scare the visiting high-school students into polite silence; where were the real people?

Hearing footsteps, Sam realized some more people were coming his way, this time from the sidewalk which looped around the campus. It was two guys, and Sam was eager to hear their words, being of the male persuasion himself.

The taller one, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, was dominating the conversation, and dominating the volume, which Sam was glad to hear, leaning forward. He was gesturing audaciously with his hands, explaining, "Man, you wouldn't just believe how fuckin' 'faced I was! I didn't know just three of them Zima-Sprite-things would fuckin' blow my mind like that! Damn, I couldn't find the bathroom! I hadda so secretly puke in Laura's yard!"

The shorter one, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, cackled wildly, interjecting, "What secret?! We all HEARD you! It was great!" He proceeded to imitate the sounds. " bleeeeeecccch! hoooooorrrrrrk!"

"Aw, fuck you! I was all over in a corner!"

"All over the corner of the yard, man! whooooookkk!"

Sam's face bore a disgusted frown. He leaned back in the metal chair, which suddenly started to feel uncomfortable, and rolled his eyes. His luck to be imparted the wisdom of drunks. A mere oddity, he was sure.

After he was sure that they had gone, he again heard the crude puking noises of the stupid student. Irritated, Sam leapt from his chair, meaning to broadcast his criticism of their conversation by expelling a boisterous brassy belch. Upon facing the direction of the idiots, he found himself staring into the leaves of a domineering pecan tree. He almost brushed the leaves aside in agitation before realizing his find.

Sam looked dumbly at the tree and wondered why he hadn't noticed it before. It was a mere eight feet away, and the branches were all extant. Curious, he stepped back aways and examined the branches before him. They were thick. This was a real climbing tree, a pecan tree, crawling with paths upward. He smacked his forehead for comic effect and, in a frenzy of excitement, ran to it and started climbing.

There was no floodlight in this tree, but Sam was no longer concerned with effects. The glow from the student building and the moon illuminated his path and somehow calmed him too. His mind was completely absorbed with climbing, finding a good footing, grasping the right handholds, pulling himself upwards. Before he realized his accomplishment, he was at the top of the tree; there were no more handholds but the skinny neck of the lone shoot he tenderly held.

Sam chuckled to himself, wearing a boyish grin, and retreated a few steps and sat down amongst the limbs. He removed his backpack and hung it on a nearby branch. From his viewpoint he could see even more of the landscape, over the student building and beyond. His mind began racing with euphoric childhood memories of exploits like these, of the first time he had climbed the tree in his back yard to see over the roof, of the several increasingly impressive tree forts he had built in the others, of the sheer joy of being so high and looking down on so much. His headache was gone. In celebration of the fact, he reached in his pocket and withdrew the remaining Twix bar and started chewing on it. His face glowed with exuberance and his feet rhythmically kicked a lower branch in childish excitement.

He meditated for several minutes upon his surroundings, happy to have climbed the tree. Sam was even so serene as to disregard the few ants he saw crawling about; he felt assured that they wouldn't bite him without due cause. And as far as he could tell while he sat there, they didn't.

After a while, the due necessity to return home impelled him to descend from his mighty loft. It was not without some sense of regret that he put on his backpack and climbed down.

Upon reaching halfway to the ground, Sam stopped himself in midstep. He realized that there were people sitting at the table immediately adjacent to the tree, and decided smartly not to complete his descent, lest he startle them. The night meant many things to many people, but he knew that most people's opinions held the sudden appearance from a tree of a giddy high- school student in low regard. Sam rejoiced the excuse to linger in pleasant surroundings.

The students sitting below had been silent while they were drinking some Cokes, and upon finishing them, they started to talk. Again, Sam saw a golden opportunity to learn something about these people, and he listened carefully.

"Shit, Tony, I dunno if I did that Cal assignment right. I only got through about four problems before I said fuck it."

"Ah man, you too. I didn't like it at all. I could've sworn Jansen never said a thing about partial derivatives. Oh well, another F!" he said, causing them both to laugh cynically.

"God, I've like failed every assignment so far, but it's only been three -- well, four now -- and unless I get my ass in gear..."

"Man, you oughta just drop it then, like an itchy turd."

"Nofuckinway, Tony! I gotta have the credits. Only this, and three more advanced math classes, and I have my minor. Then I can drop the whole subject."

Tony nodded solemnly, saying, "Yeah, that's true."

"Damn. And that wasn't even the worst thing that happened today."

"Naw, what?"

"Aw, going to the store. I was dying to pick up the latest Penthouse, you know, with Drew Barrymore in it?"

"What does Sarah think of that, huh, huh?"

"She doesn't have to know. That's not the point, man, anyway. I was gonna read it --"

"-- For the articles, huh, huh? Yeah right. That thing doesn't even have articles, does it?"

"Uh... I dunno," he said, chuckling. "Seriously, though, Drew Barrymore is the only other woman I look at."

"Spare me, man. Get on with the story, I gotta go to sleep soon."

"Oh, fuck off, and listen. So I get in my car and start to drive down there, and everything's goin' smooth, then I hit this red light. Alright? Normal red light, but I'm like six cars back. So I wait for five minutes, and then it finally changes. But the assholes in front of me don't move in time! Only three fuckin' cars got through before it changed again. You won't believe how pissed I was. I was ramming on the horn, begging the dumbfucks to press the accelerator, but no, it's like grandmother derby."


"Fuck yeah! So finally I get through, and I pull up into the One-Stop, but whaddaya know, my favorite spot is blocked by these two cars parked funny. I coulda got in there on a motorcycle, but no, it's blocked. But I see one of the asshole parkers come out of the store, and I wait there for her to move her fucking car so I can get in."

"-- Weren't there other places?"

"Sure there were, but they weren't in front!"

"I getcha."

"Anyway, I'm waiting there, and the sun is baking down, and I hadn't turned on the air conditioner yet because I figured it was a short trip, so I turn it on full blast. Of course it's spewing out hot air on me for a few minutes, while I'm waiting for this woman to get her car out. But no, she sits there for like two minutes doing God knows what while I'm waiting patiently. I blink my headlights at her and honk, hoping she'll get a clue, but she's just sitting there. Turns out she fuckin' thought I was in her way!"

"Shit! Whatta cunt!"

"Exactly! So she finally starts backing out of the spot, being oh-so- exceedingly careful not to hit anything, even though there was like fifteen feet of space to work with. After five minutes of this annoying shit, she leaves, and I zoom in and claim the spot."

"Wow, good going."

"Yeah, thanks. But, that's not the end of it! The fucking cashier carded me. Can you believe it? Do I look like some little jerkoff teenager to you?"


"Thought so, but the cashier didn't. Anyway, I finally got the magazine. Oh yeah, and he shortchanged me by a quarter."

"Shit! Sue him!"

"Sheesh, if I had that extra quarter..."

The two students faded into a thoughtful silence. Sam's mood faded into disgust. He had never heard such whining before, even from the presumably more immature students at his school, whose complaints were raised mostly against the established annoyances which they could do little to quell. Sam had finally decided to deal with the shit -- his life had been tough for a number of years and he decided he'd work around it instead. It had only been a short while he'd been actively pursuing his new philosophy, but at least in the most part his youthful imagination -- and not his temper -- were controlling his whims. Judging from what he'd heard tonight on the college campus, life didn't seem about to get better. Although this dampened his high aspirations for the future, Sam simply decided he'd have to work harder to overcome the irritations of daily life. And this he would do.

Sam resumed his descent from the tree, being careful not to be too silent, making sure his presence was known. From the bottom limb, he jumped down onto the pavement to the amazed eyes of the students at the table. He smiled contentedly, nodded, and walked off to retrieve his bike.


State  of  unBeing  is  copyrighted (c) 1995 by Kilgore  Trout  and  Apocalypse 
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