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, UfOFofO ,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 8/31/99 tahw ro who gniwonk to think. You are in FiFTY-SEVEN ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
You'll be happy to know that we've saved the world.
Now, I know what you're thinking: how? How did State of unBeing save the world?
It was simple, quite really. See, we normally don't have an August issue. It's a tradition guaranteed to bring longevity. But we've known about July 1999 for a long time. Many prophets have spoken of that month as the period of the end times, and even Nostradamus earmarked July 1999 for the big kahuna.
So we switched months. You actually went through August last month and this is the last day of July. But since the months are out of order, the prophecies got all confused; hence, no end of the world. You can thank us in any way you desire.
Some people out there might be a little bit pissed off that the world didn't end. I know I had doubts about saving the world. But I think you'll be happy we did.
Strangely enough, a strange convergence of sorts has occurred in this issue of the zine, and it centers around the number two. Some occurrences are obvious while others are a tad more subtle. I'll leave it up to you to figure it all out.
Now that you know how close you were to horrible, horrible death, you should take some time out and solve a puzzle or two. Besides, sooner or later, we won't be able to save the world, and then we'll all be left huddling in the same hole waiting for whatever it is that's supposed to happen when the big event comes.
From: MARYANN AND JOE KILLIAN [firstname.lastname@example.org] To: email@example.com UNSUBSCRIBE US
[jeez. i'm not a damn list bot. i have an e-zine, and i will show some goddamn emotion. it's not like writing "unsubscribe us" would even work if i was a listserv. you'd get a nasty error message and have to figure out the correct commands. i'm a human being, and i can already tell that the tv you sit in front of is sucking away at your soul. do you think it helps to put extra boxes around it? vcrs and tuners and dvd players and even webtv? haven't you gone crazy from the resolution yet? bah.]
From: Bob O'Connor To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: familiar name Pardon me, but why is the name Kilgore Trout familiar? You must have been asked that question before. Is it from a book? Thank you. I do appreciate your time.
[actually, i believe you're the first person who has brought that up, so i'll tell you. when i started this zine five years ago, i was a big fan of bruce willis. i mean, i watched die hard like every 12 hours. and i had this vision while watching the movie, you know, the part where he's killing terrorists and being a smart-ass? well, at one point where's he's shooting a gun, i saw bruce willis turn towards me and say, 'one day, i will star in the movie version of breakfast of champions by kurt vonnegut.' i was like, whoa, john mcclane just spoke to me. so, i went out, bought the book, and decided that kilgore trout was a much better handle than dwayne hoover. besides, i could never take the handle of dwayne hoover and live up to the image of bruce willis. albert finney is playing kilgore trout in the movie, and we all know he's such a hack.]
From: Sandlin Preecs To: email@example.com Subject: maybe i'm just a loser hello, i'm inane. right now there is no good reason for me to inflict this on you, except today i have an excuse. i have a fleeting awareness of personal ineptitude, god knows all i wanna do is read the latest sob. so today i decided instead of forcing my only friend to forward it to me every month so i could make a feeble attempt at having skills, i would subscribe and make you give it too me. to get to the point, i a m just a touch to lame for that, and can't actually figure out how i would go about doing that. if you could just tell me what to do or send me a virtual miracle, i would build you a shrine. happiness Sandlin Preecs firstname.lastname@example.org
[you are happily subscribed. now, we expect plane tickets to the shrine once you complete it so we can grace it with our presence. you will be granted karma (good or bad, up to the folks upstairs) for our visit.]
From: Shelley Brooks [email@example.com] To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Trade links? Dear State of unBeing: We just visited your site. Would you be interested in trading links with us? We are JobBank USA. We help job candidates find employment by use of a multiple database MetaSearch. http://www.jobbankusa.com/search.html We will gladly post your text link, and a description of your site- if you will reciprocate. [snipped a bunch of linkage html code.] Thanks and have a great day. Best Regards, Shelley Brooks JobBank USA LINK@JOBBANKUSA.COM http://www.jobbankusa.com
[gee, thanks shelley brooks. i'm glad you visited our site. i can see you spent a lot of time at the apoculpro webpage since you figured a junk email to try and get free advertising would fit in with our zine. well, i can't speak for everybody, but if you aren't selling headless children products, i'm not interested.]
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Cell phone guy on plane. Not even a real phone -- square, box, cylinder as mouthpiece. Pre-flight.
"Well. Here's a suggestion. Comfortable, comfortable t-shirt -- long sleeve t-shirt is what I'm thinking. But here's the catch. Uh-huh. Well. Long sleeve shirt, is what I'm thinking, but here's the catch -- make sure it is easy to take off. Right. Huh. I have dirty thoughts. Right. Uh-huh. So. I'm thinking of someplace, uhm, scenic. Wine. Scenic. Yep. And -- right. So, I'll see you. It's, uhm, 8:05, so I'll see you in two hours and twenty minutes. Uh-huh... I have a first meeting on Wednesday. Have to call the man. Damn the man."
They won't get off the phone. It's still 13 minutes until takeoff, and they won't get off the phone. Oh. They got off the phone. Now he's talking to himself, the way uncomfortable negotiated 17-year-old gapped boys do. But, see, he goes to the University, majors in marketing. Of course. And he's a freshman. Antibashful freshman, googly-eyed, tan and slick short perfect blonde male hair, Nordic blue-eyed whom I shouldn't poke at, because I am all loving, right? And, the girl he shouldn't be talking to talking to him graduated from Southwest. He was running track, training, competing in the summer. Got to the U.S. Nationals -- received 4th. He reminds me of Jordan a small amount, who really isn't altogether that bad at all. But this is early Jordan before he caught some of the fortified Captain Nemo next door -- ballistic foot movement telechatter chatter machine. Can't sit still for two seconds. Can't not talk for four seconds. Tapping, tapping, waving hands, chatter anecdotes with exaggerations -- there is a term for such a thing, a tall tale, but more stylish. She's invariable charmed by such things, you see the foot movement, eyes glancing, giggles and gasps. "Well, she went out with him, you know, just hanging out, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night. But she says they are just friends." Gasp is not quite -- too stiff, half-gasps -- gahs, lots of gahs.
There were three seconds of silence until he returned with "Do you know what's so weird? Like. All the other girls..." He doesn't even look at this girl he is speaking to. Diagonal face towards a lateral person. And I believe he could not make many more hand gestures, it is just not possible, considering the amount of gestures he is making in seconds, both hands, sweeping, lurching hands. She's done with school, and she looks to be eleven. He's just beginning. He's taking 12 hours. She took 15 the first semester, summer sessions. He interjects with a quick sound effect toppling stories -- he has a close friend who took 18 hours and another beelined anecdote about this girl and her professor.
The only book I can see open is on chapter 23. He sits on row 23. Seat E. E=5. Only myself and four others sit behind him. Himself and four others sit on the same row. Bright Eyes is in my head. Still. The plane is full of Austinites -- you can tell. I can tell. And the droning Viking engines drown out everything but J.J.'s voice. And Conor's. They make him pure. He really is going to talk for the next hour and a half. There are 148 women on board without their natural hair color. There are only 120 seats. Just a continuous Viking horn yawp, low extended Ricola horn. One five feet to my right, another six feet to my left -- intense motoring electric Viking horns. This poor gentleman near the window to the right. Shy, shy. Balding male. 40-something. Slightly pudgy, checkered buttoned shirt. I hope he is married. I feel bad for thinking such. He must be married. Stewardess, or. Flight attendant asked him of weather in Austin. He shyly, reluctantly answered. Small sentence. Short, quiet quiet sentence. About. If it was a weekday, he could maybe call someone.
The guy up and to the left -- 23C, should have been in 23D or something -- reminds me of Greg. Somewhere-in-Montana Greg, the last I heard. Six seconds of silence and he talks again. The couple up and to the right, 23E-F. Guy with chapter 23 and a goatee and a blonde girlfriend, practically making out. Now the man whom I feel pity for, whom I hope is married, next to me, brought out his notebook computer, now flipping through stapled pages columns upon columns of figures looking spreadsheet accountantesque. But. Means anything. I wish you were here. There is an empty seat. Right there. Between the 40-something maybeaccountant and I. I don't greatly enjoy people trying to read what I write from a seat over there as I write. Oh. This accountant is wearing a ring. And I am sad.
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 14:33:04 -0500
One time. i read him. and i was living with my boyfriend, you
know how that goes -- you say, "no, we're not ready to live
together" but you wind up at someone's apt. every night together. And he
made these smackclicking noises in his sleep. He was very possessive of his
sleep and i'm never the one to sleep the whole night thru: get up in the
middle, read a story, write an email, go online: i take a series of naps.
esp. during the school year. So in my little inefficient efficiency for this
lifestyle i sat in my bathroom with a pillow and blanket and i read him. It
was February, maybe March. And i was so affected/enraged by him. He was
everything i understood to exist and didn't want and i've been waiting for him
to exist in front of me so i could scream at him for all the unfair shit that
ive been put thru. He was the problem, he was my problem, he was why i was
stuck in this apt. with this boy who did not read poetry, who only liked Kafka
but never understood it; it was his fault. And i wrote a long long time
against him, i said many horrible things to him and i was going to make sure
he read it. But then, when i got done, i turned off the light and walked over
to my desk and put it in my drawer and i laid down next to that thing that
went smackclick and i thot: what calm, what peace this boy is to that. and i
felt so much relief that i did not have to deal with that life, that past,
that pain anymore, that eventually i threw out that long ramble. And as i
made dinner and watched Moneyline with my boyfriend the next day, i quietly
and soundly and practically decided i had overreacted because those boys
always affected me that way, and that's why, i thot, and looked over at him,
that's why i'm living the right life now.
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 14:25:31 -0500
X-UIDL: 4514707449821586889921b258912073 Status: RO
If one were to read my stories from years ago, if one were to
read my stories from 1996, wouldn't i cringe if they equated them with myself
now? or maybe not. while leafing thru an old diary from 1995, i found the
same thots, no doubt these thots in my head, on paper. same whinings, same
wailings, same desires and truths supposedly known and supposedly mocked by
myself for thinking that truths even in plurality exist -- for then truth the
word has lost its meaning and for thinking... well i've lost my train of thot.
But then you think of all the anthologies, all the literature classes you've taken where authors lives have been chopped up into 5 year plots...
He asked me once, and i dont know why or what posseses me to dive into it like this... perhaps the line of thot is similar. He asked me once: the artist or the man. and i knew... No. He asked me once, did you ever see Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway and i knew he was talking about the artist or the man. i knew that's why he brought it up. so. you see.
It's one thing, you know. It's one thing to fall in love with an artist, to fall in love with a man because of what he has created, i have done that, i know you see it as some sort of tip of glacier some sort of sign or symbol of his soul and i have found out that such... seeming complexities mean nothing about the man.
But if you know the man? But if you know the man, and you were to go back, and read him as an artist, and then it clicks in your head that which you have been denying, and if he had been the one to say to you, "the artist or the man," well, you can't but help but see the irony in life now can you?
Words. There is this poem, and i dont remember by whom, but the poetess, such a honorable word, makes it sound like such a noble profession, she writes that you should beware of those who have the power of words. And i knew that then, see. i knew that then, so can I? can I? Read these old scraps, these old scribblings and think that they represent a person, and represent him now? When we love a person, do we love the person they were? Do we see that?
Oh this bother about words, about the word love, this bother with it, we hate to use it, the connotations, it has be the most heavily connoted word in the english language, and once you throw it out there out into your heads, who knows what objective correlative you're accessing.
i hate fiction. i want you to know that. i loathe my fiction, but i have to write it because first person, i was told, was not respectable. So i take my life and put she. And then i allow for some unfortunate Ally Mcbeal imagery and there you have it: a sorry piece of fiction. It's somehow more honest and therefore more respectable to just write an essay. Of sorts. But not an essay. In my day we'd call it a ramble. Perhaps Kilgore should make that a new section... for Clockwork, for Nathan's intermittent confessions? And for mine.
i haven't the patience for fiction any more. The summer is long and cruel, leaving me here on my own, and i dont know if i wish to communicate or express but i can tell you this: i dont want it. i dont want it. The aching, i'm begging you out there, please not again, i can't i cant go thru it again i swear this time i shall surely perish from it. From the loss of love. i can't bear it i cant watch this one this man, this man whom ive grown to -- i cant watch this man become an enemy -- become part of me, then become an other because i knew he can never be part of me. i cant watch it. i cant go thru it over and over. i can count, perhaps on one hand the great loves of my life and i swear i'm overloaded with them. They have overloaded me i'm too full of post-love. And every time, you're with me on this, readers, arent you? i'm writing this for SoB simply because i need to... communicate this time, no pretense of art here, why is it we convince ourselves that each time it's different? i've never met any one this intelligent i've never loved this way before i've never communicated like this before, as if there is anything novel, as if contained in my first great love there wasnt the template of all loves to come. As if. There can be anything new? i've had great loves. i have had great romances, readers, i can say that i have, and now what? Why do i continue, as if i have never had it before? And why do we convince ourselves that it's different?
i invite a response. But do submit it, please, for love of SoB.
It's escape, mostly, i think, the great loves of my life have been escapes, great escapes, which follows, as my boss recently tapped me affectionately and said, "you have wanderlust." i do, i long to wander in someone else, to find refuge in someone else, and perhaps that is why i am so harsh on those boys who succeed? With their blondes and their innocents, and their young girls with wide-eyed devotion and their light laughs...
i wrote a story which i did not submit. For the last issue, i went over it, readers i assure you, with yours and my best interests at heart. i slaved over it and it was awful, quite awful, when it was done. Because it was my life. it was my life and i had tried to make it prosaic. But in it, Erica, rightly pointed out by Kilgore, who is a returning character, i write for her as i write for myself, she sat at a table in a coffeeshop with Ben. You neednt know. And Ben kept getting refills because some sweet innocent mildly interesting girl who played Nick Drake or Nick Cave or Tom Waits was laughing pleasantly, sending out good vibes. And Erica walked out. She walked out of the coffeeshop and thruout the whole story, you saw her do this: she just got up and left. i used to do that. Still do , but even more so, i'd leave school, family functions, parties, at the sight of something which confirmed my fears, which just made my fears more real. And a week later, after writing that, at dinner with friends, i met the girl i had written about. Of course, i hadnt known her before, but here she was, the exact girl, she kept talking about Tom Waits.
i stopped writing a long time ago because i hated to see my worst fears confirmed in real life. So instead of walking out on life, i just stopped trying to see.
i assure you, it was an awful story. And at the end Erica ended up alone. But this time triumphant, after finally renouncing everyone but herself. There was even a neat de Beauvoir quote in the beginning.
i played at writing a parody of a Kilgore Trout story. For a morning. i looked up some terrible and obscure mythological creatures and places, thot it would be funny to break it up into paragraphs as he is prone to do, and then every other paragraph would be Kilgore, actually writing it. And it would show the irony between what he writes and what he lives. i had a literature teacher who said that a great writer shows, not tells. i did not write that story. However, i have told you about it.
If you were, tho. to go back afterwards and read him, if you were, to go back and read her. After knowing. Would it be clouding the issue to allow that to affect your -- feelings?
i wonder how we dont get tired of masks that we wear. It's quite fine to reveal yourself, but make sure you have pretense of a veil, make sure you just don't go shout out who you are. Hide it in fiction, hide it in theory, but hide it for gods sakes so that when you are rejected you can hide behind it and say, "well see, what you were reading was filtered thru, it wasnt really me, you see."
We see. i am a reader, first and foremost and i have been accused of many things, of taking this job too casually of taking it too seriously. i am a reader. First and foremost, not a writer. But writers, they dont listen to their readers, do they? What do readers know, really, they're just readers?
So i had to be a writer. Because writers slip into each other's consciousnesses, surreptitiously, you see, but i have not managed to do that. Because, perhaps, i am too... readerly.
This is a digression from my original digression, which allows me to tell you, readers, is being written in an email to myself.
i cannot do it, i will go running into the hills i will throw myself into an ocean, i will do anything to save me from this connection to another person. i cannot have it. i cannot have it -- it will eventually destroy us all, this loss of hope, this loss of love, a friend wrote to me and he is correct, to some extent: we believe it to exist and then we have to watch it die. And i have to usually watch myself kill it in the name of self-preservation, paradoxical and not even interestingly so. writers kill us with their words, i cannot get thru to the artist and i cannot get thru to the man, i am stuck here in some sort ridiculous Camusian farce persistently trying, knowing it will never succeed.
Dont you understand, you are no different than the rest? i am no different than her, she me, you him, somehow we're all pronouns, we collapse into the past and eventually there is no more of us. There is nothing different about me, i am not different than what i was and you, you are not different than them or what you ever were because people in love, are always the same.
Only one book need be written it's the same story and ours will not be any different. i don't want to write it. i dont want to read it. But i dont know how to stop it.
I was thinking the other day. I'm not sure why; I think something was on the radio about soldiers with blank spots in their memories. Anyway, it got me to thinking.
I was thinking about that time I happened to have a couple of girls, that one attractive high school girl, and the younger one whose mother made her up so she looked like an adult woman's head had been ripped off and pasted on an ambiguously gendered doll a few feet tall, like some kind of perverse Ganesa. Remembering how, when the older one, Je., was unconscious, I fashioned her a kind of bra from the severed hands of her little friend. I was remembering the way it looked, mostly, and for some reason I couldn't remember the look on her face when she came to. I'm reasonably certain she saw her friend first, though, sitting on the floor, oozing blood and tears, covered in clotting blood.
I think it's funny. When you rape a little girl, she covers her eyes, as if by not seeing you, she can make you no longer exist. I suppose it is the only sense she still has control over. But, if you have first cut off her hands, she can't cover her eyes. She can only smear blood all over her face. And I imagine the tears sting in the wounds.
If you put your phallus in just the right spot, you can close a girl's epiglottis, and cut off the air supply. If you've got her bound, you can feel her struggle, and watch her turn blue and pass out. I suppose you could even kill her, if you were mean. But it only works if she loves you, and won't bite.
I have been thinking about the coming fascist government. Sooner than we think, and all that. I've been wondering how I'll act. I could act out, and be killed or interned. That might be interesting, and would certainly be exciting. Or, I could accept the government as background situation, one which closes off some directions of action. Then, freed from the concerns of politics, I could turn to "pure art." After a while, maybe I'll even start to believe in it. In that case, if people imagine I am an artist, and that an artist is somehow different from a normal person -- a bourgeois prejudice transparent to the simplest Marxist critique -- I would benefit from a fascist dictatorship. For those who actually believe the world is made better from art, then, the whole world would be made a better place because I live under a fascist dictatorship. If I choose to live in a fascist dictatorship.
Impotence is a kind of liberation. Freed from the ability to act, one is freed from the obligation to act. Pain is caused when one chooses to hold expectations beyond one's capacity.
The other day, I was driving. In the middle of the road I saw a raccoon, sitting up and holding a piece of meat in both hands, eating the corpse in the middle of the road. It was disturbing, because it looked like a person. I could tell it was an animal, but then so are most people. I almost hit another one as I drove off, but I slammed on the brakes in time. I think the raccoons were even more disturbing than the opossums. They are all vicious creatures, but the raccoons look less the part.
I finished State of unBeing number fifty-four today. I am now only two behind.
Workplace conversation these days revolves around how Greenspan and his policies are threatening our company, and the jobs of our coworkers. I don't find it too surprising, though. Greenspan is raising rates because too many people are getting jobs. The ruling class needs unemployed people to force down labor rates, so increasing profits, and needs to avoid inflation because they need the working class to be indebted to them, and debt gets cheaper over time in an inflationary environment. They say the economy is good, and these actions have to be taken to keep the economy good. When one considers keeping the economy good means making sure enough people stay unemployed, one can easily determine whose economy Greenspan works for. And yet some people fail to see it.
History proves Capitalism is not a viable economic system. It simply does not work. Only ideologues and those who stand to gain from Capitalism pretend otherwise. And those poor saps behind the iron curtain who don't know any better, because all their life their governments and propaganda machines have hammered into their heads the claim that their system is best, and the other system is the evil empire. All one has to do is look at the former Soviet Bloc to see the results of Capitalism: Life expectancy in Russia has dropped by a third; meningitis is endemic in Romania; fleas, locusts, and the Black Death are on the upsurge in Kazakhstan and across central Asia because the countries can no longer afford immunizations or pesticides. Alcohol use up. Drug use up. And the United States could never come near the smallest SSR in literacy rates.
Why is this? Even if we adopt the most brazen of Capitalist tall tales -- the mythology of the Capitalist high priests, who don't mind sacrificing a few thousand Russians on the altar of Big Business -- we are told the system was looted, the people cheated. And they have the audacity to say that is not a free market.
Where there is no law, the market is at its freest. To be a Capitalist is to have a very distorted, hopelessly optimistic view of human nature. A Marxist will say, under Capitalism, it is human nature to be selfish and grasping. Given the chance, people won't work. They will make other people work for them, and take their stuff. Marxists call this the Ruling Class, and have no problem accepting that, given the chance, the Ruling Class will take everything that isn't nailed down. Whatever wet dreams Homo Capitalistis may have about liquidity in his market won't stop him from grabbing what he can as the ship goes down. Capitalism functions as expected: The rich steal what they can; diseases skyrocket; the people die; cultures decay.
If the intent of Capitalism is to impoverish as many people as possible, to dismantle cultures and murder people, to destroy literacy rates and artistic development, than Capitalism may be the most efficient invention of the human mind. In that sense, Capitalism "works." In the way cyanide pellets "work." They kill you, but that is generally not a goal worth struggling for.
But what to say to the braindead and the brainwashed, the masses of the petit bourgeoisie who are making fascism a reality once again. "Too many poor people; let's give the Ruling Class more of our money so they can put those poor people in jail. Better make those jails as Spartan as possible, too. Those prison industries have to be profitable, or the Ruling Class won't invest in them."
The Ruling Class: Crabs on the virility of the working class. The essence of Capitalist Man. Not an aberration; the commodity the Capitalist Machine produces.
But I am babbling, and I have to get up for work in two and a half hours. So I shall sign off. More later.
I forgot to mention yesterday that the elder of the girls I was writing about fell and broke her arm. And dislocated it. When I saw her, she was being splinted and rushed to the emergency room. I didn't see the injury.
I found it ironic, in the context of my musings about arms and her. I thought for a moment I had caused it, though misdirected energy. I could see that, while I could not rule it impossible, it was unlikely and not useful to believe, so I stopped believing it. This took less time than I took coming to cease believing I had caused the Columbine massacre, largely because I didn't realize for some days that I had come to believe I had.
I forced myself to take a nap this afternoon. It took me about half an hour to fell asleep. One would think that with the schedule I keep -- about two to three hours of sleep a night -- I would have no problem falling asleep. One would be wrong, though.
For one, the ringing in my ears is worsening. I still hear not only clearly enough to pass all the tests the doctors can throw at me, but clearly enough that I hear things -- watch alarms in other rooms; people's headphones -- more intensely than other people do. Sometimes I think the ringing is in the nature of the universe, and I can hear what others can't, like Crowley talking about the pain the light causes a meditator. So, when I sleep, I have to have noise around me to drown out the ringing of silence.
For another, the voices in my head are louder. It is strange. It is not unusual for the voices to get louder when I get tired. Sometimes I am exhausted but kept awake because I hear people shouting incoherent things at me, so I put on some music or something to drown them out. But I seem to be hearing the voices louder even sometimes when I am relatively rested. This is throwing me for a loop; I had always understood the voices petered out as one outgrew adolescence, but this doesn't seem to be working for me. Oh well, the important thing is being able to tell the difference between the voices inside and outside your head. So long as I can generally tell the difference, I figure I'm fine.
(Sometimes I think the calm manner I have is influenced by the fact I have so many visual and auditory hallucinations. I have learned not to jump or flinch or in other ways react too dramatically to sensory input, since I can never be sure it is real. I have also learned to be constantly aware of everything around me, so I will be able to tell if sensory input is believable or probably hallucinatory. Between the two of those, I have a relaxed manner and a constant awareness of the world around me.)
I'm rambling, and don't remember where I was going with this.
When I was sleeping, I was dreaming something about the British Punk Rock scene. I don't remember what. Two mornings ago, I was dreaming I was in Armenia. I had some difficulty getting up that morning, as every time I closed my eyes I thought I was back in Armenia, and every time I opened them again, I thought I was back in the United States. Not the least of my concerns was how I was traveling so fast, or if I was literally in both places at once.
But that is in the nature of dreams, and is not a unique -- or even particularly interesting -- experience.
What else is there to talk about? I go to work. The Fed raises interest rates. I go home. I read. And now, I go to bed, because in about three hours, I get up again.
put them on the breezeway? what the hell is a breezeway?
--i'm not saying you're not watering them. i just want to be sure they get some water this weekend.
is that some floridian term? breezeway? causeway? walkway? what the hell is that?
--and it's as slow as molasses, i know. now there goes my hour of overtime, since i have to do this at lunch.
The ratio of women to men in this department is about 1 in 40. There are about four women here. About. There's a gentleman who has an enlarged picture of a clairvoyant woman from star trek in his cubicle, but we're not really going to count that. When a female arrives unto this department -- one female in a training class of 25 or 30 -- it is like a scene from those prison movies when the new guy enters the cellblock. She steps off the elevator, walks down the aisles to where her small gray area lies, and behind her, people stand and stare and gawk -- heads pop around corners to try to catch a glimpse of her -- being in an acre of male geekdom, they can easily sense the presence of a female of course. I sit here. And watch one of those females who sits 15 feet away, another aisle, another row of cubicles and males. And. I watch as no less than 2 guys walk up from other worlds, walk up to her and engage in conversation. Two guys an hour. At the least. And. All different -- dozens of guys going out of there way to talk to this female. And. She enjoys this, or seems to, plays along. And. If she really does enjoy talking to all these guys, that is great. I can not see. How this is real at all. These guys. All. Egooverconfident. Technical. Geek. Awkward but not reserved or shy -- is that awkward? And they speak. And make jokes, flail around a bit. More than a bit. Out of their way. Flailing out windows. Over themselves to be something with this girl.
I don't have pity for her. I have more pity for these guys. Who do this whatever. For whatever. That's pity. I have no pity, tho. They are all where they are. And they put themselves there, and that is what comes in. I should not observe these displays each day, to avoid the commentary, really. What right do i have to count and analyze and spur and wrinkled brows hiphops -- is everything going alright? Can I help you out at all? I know you've worked here for 4 months, but. That's enough for me, really.
progressive civilization? civilization. species. weaken the progressive life. progress of life. life progresses when life can live. living easier is progression. survival. survival with minimum struggle? the case in which one survives. in correct. ease of survival would promote laziness stagnant life -- why change the ease of life or alter such easy. stagnant utopian existence. however. even those who -- humanity -- still a drive to make progress. definitely of the mode called drive. human drive to shape and still. drive. create? make marks perhaps. that is all that is necessary? create. create on top of creation. progress?
Most incredible thing really, wandering down the stairs, avoiding the elevator for some whatever reason, and down the stairs, 3 flights, enter the ground floor, towards the room which holds coffee and cake and pastry and treats, biscotti, bagels, nuptial agreements, fruit water and tea -- large coffee, normal coffee, normal. But a large must be grande, and a small must be tall, and why have something normal such as house, a house, something that is standard and strong with walls and sturdy and reliable, you must and can depend on the house, and yet all the tantalizing modifications of stucco and reprefab ironsides sears siding, wooden logged a-frame cabin, Spanish tiling, on top of the house. But a large coffee, and a bit of cream and pink and around the corner back towards the stairs. Cross the path of a built-up cleanwhiteshirtandtie man, head shaven, round tinted lenses, and I glance, he glances, and I walk around and on. And there he is again, and as I open this dirty abrasion door to crawl back up the stairs he speaks from across the room, "I think I know you."
I am perplexed and intrigued, not by the fact he may know me, though this in itself is intriguing, him looking like a new hire, or one from the sales regions, and I try to guess and place a face or voice or anything really, and can not.
"Is your name Kerr?" he asks.
"Yes," and I slowly walk towards him curious strange drawing to an apparent known stranger that is not known and was known sometime, perhaps, unless he had known me and not I him.
"How do you know me?"
"Were you hired in 95?"
"I think we were hired together."
And I blink, "What's your..." and he pulls his badge into my line of sight, Jeff, he is, and he looks familiar on his badge, thin scrawny boy with long hair, young and anxious as I was perhaps anxious and young. Was I anxious? Did I know what anxious meant? I was young then, I'm young now, but much younger then. Anxious. It comes with youth, anxiousness, and dreamy -- anxious for your dreams.
"My god. I didn't recognize you. You have no hair," I responded with honesty. And this anxious boy had grown in the years we were separate, bulked and matured, and lost his hair all through will and environment. He recognized me and I am moved by this, felt appreciated and worthwhile, someone around me for a few months 4 years ago recognizes me.
Is that normal? I think I may recognize most people in that same class all hired on at once, all strangers thrown behind tables in a room, locked in for eight hours or more for five days each week, and you can call it forced naturalization, forced socialization, or adjustment, adaptation -- who came with a desire to sit down and try with honesty and determination to befriend all their coworkers to be, to fall in love with one of them, to save the life of another's child one weekend at Lake Pontifloppi, love and be loved, or to love and expect nothing else.
"This is very odd," I said, not wishing to sound distant or unappreciative or empty, hoping it had not such a tone.
"See you later, nice seeing you again," was his response, as he jumped and slid out the door with some smile and, something else not quite detached but very close.
"Yeah, take it easy," and I dazed back up the stairs.
The young green man paced nervously around a collection of signs nailed to the street corner post and appeared to be trying to decipher them while maintaining some semblance of aloofness. He was failing, head turning to follow a sudden sheet of newspaper fluttering along the curb, turning back to scowl at one handwritten name whose arrangement of letters seemed to defy generally accepted standards of syntax. I can neither affirm nor deny that assertion, for I cannot read the language.
An older man will approach the green man and talk to him under pretense of impatiently moving him along on his way, but will actually have an interest in his story.
Of these signs, some are shaped like arrows and appear to point in a direction akin to that of a compass, north being upwards, and so on, but others of the arrows are arranged in a circular path around the signpost itself, including those with upward or downward attitudes, leading the unfamiliar traveler to wonder if indeed the destinations reside some distance off the ground, or if perhaps, invisible to the naked eye from the shrouded perspective of the tenement-enclosed street corner, the surrounding geography includes hills, small mountains, valleys, or caves.
Two signs with texts formed of the same arrangement of characters point in completely different directions.
An elliptical translation of the conversation follows, which will become obsolete before it has even started.
"I place out on the table for consideration a recollection from my memory in which a town dweller encountered, much alike this, a series of signs, in which yielding little to his native powers of discernment, blossomed a state of confusion, they being in the instances of a white chicken clucking near a barrow and an earthworm tossed to the ground from rejection, fattened not with meat but with a disease resultant of such," the older man said offhandedly, as if to himself, perhaps as in dementia, but directed more obviously to the green man as he continued;
"The motions and facial expression of the town dweller revealed on the surface the troubling confusion habitating and overruling the ordinary quiescence of his thoughts, occasioned by his encountrance [sic -- n.] with the aforementioned chicken and diseased earthworm. Our city's indwellers afforded his situation little thought but for that end which would have him leaving, his maladapted stature tending to discolor their own comfortable teeth. Along a similar thread in this familiar patchwork, I have been and will continue to ask you to leave this place."
A remastered translation from a competing source text will follow at this critical juncture.
"You know, kid, you remind me of some galoot we found wandering about our farm many years ago. He was lost and completely overwhelmed by his surroundings, because he didn't plain belong there. Nothing makes people more nervous than a stranded tourist. Are you going to get on your way or do I have to kick your ass?"
The young green man turned sharply at this point, surprised at having been addressed so rudely, and made a weak gesture at the menagerie of signs he was trying to comprehend.
I am told that, if he had also pointed at his mouth as an indirect explanation of his inability to reply with any degree of verbal sophistication, this would have been interpreted as a blatant sexual insult, and would have cost him dearly. Pointing at the signs, on the other hand, was a different blatant sexual insult, which the older man was compelled by self-interest to ignore.
"You want to know how to get somewhere, I fancy? Where? Let me guess. There's only one place anyone as out-of-place as you can be trying to go, and that's Silence."
The green man nodded frantically, understanding that the man understood his plight.
"You've made a dreadful mistake, kid, because you were already there, and now you've destroyed the town. I'll tell you how. You were walking along the path, it must have been for quite some time since it's a long way to here from anywhere -- or at least was -- and you were in Silence. Then, you realized where you where, and lo and behold, you were lost again. That's the mistake. You can't act like a tourist in Silence. You enter; you keep walking; you enjoy it even, and hang around; but you must get through. If you point out to yourself where you think you are, that changes everything. The outlook is different, the purpose changes, and all is lost. Yes, in those signs, there are at least two arrows pointing back to Silence. Actually, there are more than two, since they're written in all kinds of languages and dialects. Take whichever one you want, and get the hell out of here."
A neutral arbitrator has reported to the board that the alternate source text is an obvious reprise of a well-documented fragment of history housed in the Archives, which was found by a small girl in her backyard after a twister, reframed in loose Buddhist allegory by an itinerant bartender at a bus stop while waiting for his LSD and trip to start.
The "young green man" in both stories is usually taken to be the hallucinatory peyote spirit Mescalito, or alternatively the local wonder boy Tommy Thursday, who dyed his skin green in a protest of his parent's impending divorce, subsequently entering a state of dissociated consciousness and wanderlust for "twelve great hours," as the refrain of local band Imenhotep's famous ballad goes.
Common sense dictates that the entire parable is incomprehensible, even to its current author. We withhold our judgment and allow the reader to decide; that is, his appropriate punishment. As reported recently, he has again tried to pass off five minutes of bemusement as a serious submission to the Scrolls. Even a brief review by the ever charitable and salutorius Chiefs would result in a swift beheading, or, failing the procurement of a sufficiently sharp and frightening blade, an annoyingly slow and powerless wedgie by a little girl, the fourteen-year-old Chiefs being especially fond of the prank, as well as perversely entertained by seeing it performed badly.
The reader, without such resources at hand, would have to be satisfied with fretting to himself and looking for something better to read, or with writing a snappy whizbang flame-boy gripey letter to the editor, or to "[--ed]", as he often calls himself inside those brackets. None of this, however, will reverse the spin of the wheel of history, which leaves this document in its wake. Oh, young green man! Oh, humanity!
"Excuse me, ma'am -- alright. Yoo-hoo. Right."
"You have to me more assertive, speak up more."
"Speak up more? Was I mumbling?"
"Well, not exactly mumbling, but there was no force in your voice -- you didn't proclaim your presence with strength, gusto. It was kind of a weak, dribbling cry for help."
"I wasn't mumbling."
"I didn't say you were mumbling."
"Weak? I'm weak? And dribbling?"
"Well, really, you just don't speak -- look, here. Try again, and be more -- oomph. You just need--"
"Excuse me, do you think it would be -- and. Coffee? Can. Did you see that? Did you see?"
"I oomphed, I enunciated, I began to proclaim and declare, and she walked by. She clearly saw me, she looked right at me, I was looking right at her, and I had this hand, this hand going, in a miniature wave-down motion, which a waitress, if anyone, should be able to recognize. And she walked right by -- right on by."
"Well, really, you still had no volume, no strength. That was better, but, you really must put some effort into this."
"That was effort. That was more effort than I think was necessary, and it got me nowhere. I could leap up and down screaming about Groucho Marx possessing my body because of his need to act on his strong attraction to the cashier, and not a single person would pay attention. I'm invisible, Frankie. Invisible."
"You're not invisible. Here you are, right here."
"Of course I'm not invisible to you, you are you and I'm me, and we're here, across from each other, and we've had this thing, for years, you and I, and so of course I would not be invisible to you. But to the waitress, one whom I do not have this thing, this repertoire, with, or -- remember on the way here, the sidewalk celebration going on?"
"Right. With the tables and flags and streamers, in front of the Chateau."
"Yeah, the Chateau, with the streamers, flags, and tables, fluorescent FOR SALE signs slapped up at disturbing angles -- a very gaudy scene, makes one nauseous, really, all the scattered goods and plastic coverings, the post-middle aged scavengers hovering over it all."
"Right, and where did they all come from?" asked Frankie.
"I have no idea."
"The normal ratio of post-middle aged folk in this area to any other age group? 1 in 50. And yet, here they come and there they are -- ratio suddenly 1 in 3."
"Apparently someone had advertised a dead celebrity clothing auction."
"So there we were, entering through this brazen circus of consumerism, side by side, having a nice discussion on whatever we were discussing--"
"Right, this nice discussion about tortellini, walking side by side, am I right?"
"You're right, Joe."
"And as soon as we enter this Chateau celebration zone, you're suddenly 10 feet ahead of me, and I'm stuck in the middle of this gooey mess of... of..."
"Yes. Exactly. Middle-aged consumerism. And why did I get stuck?"
"I entered that area, crossed some unmarked border, and instantly, I am invisible -- wife and husband teams walking straight at me -- straight at me -- I don't know how they can not notice this solid human being form right in front of them. And what do they do? They keep on walking in the exact same direction they had been, right through me. They were looking through me, past me, down the block to Chez Mous, and would have smacked into me head-on if I did not duck and dive out of the way."
"Stick and move, I saw that."
"You know why I had to stick and move, Frankie? Because I'm invisible."
"Ma'am? Can we get some more coffee here? And cream? Thanks."
"What was that?"
"What do you mean?"
"What was that?
"How did you do that?"
"I told you--"
"I'm invisible, unequivocally invisible."
"It's coffee, Joe."
"This is not just coffee. This is an assault on me as an individual, this is a statement on my very being, my very existence. I do not exist, Frankie. That is what is being said here: I do not exist."
"Of course you exist, in so much as anyone or anything exists, physical, spiritual, or otherwise -- whatever it is that determines the state of one thing or another, deeming something as existing, and another not. Disregarding the fact if one object is deemed as being nonexistent, the very act of deeming its nonexistence would state its existence. Nonetheless, you just need to speak up a little more."
"I would feel like the guy who continuously yells at everything."
"Are you attracted to the cashier?" asked Frankie.
"No, I'm not attracted to the cashier."
"She does have incredibly beautiful eyes."
"Oh. Beautiful eyes?"
"Astounding. Did you see her eyes?"
"You can't say that."
"Can't say she has beautiful eyes?"
"Right, not allowed to say it."
"Why is that?"
"In stating the cashier has beautiful eyes, you are stating you do not find her attractive."
"This means I do not find her attractive?"
"How does that work exactly?"
"Well. Around 726 million men have used the words 'you have beautiful eyes' in about 310 million bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, street corners, theaters, all over the globe, with the underlying intent to seduce the women they were speaking to. The intent is to get this woman into bed, not to compliment her on the beauty of her eyes."
"And this deems her as unattractive?"
"There is no deeming. This woman could have beautiful eyes, could have the most luxurious, enchanting eyes around, but this is not the point. The intent is to get this woman to rip her clothes off in response to these apparently flattering words. There is nothing being said about her eyes -- it is an empty statement."
"And because this statement is, on the surface, commenting on this woman's appearance, but beneath is an outright lie because of the underlying intent, this would imply one is generally lying about being attracted to her?"
"Something like that."
"And this has just been slowly seeping into the culture of relationships over the past 14 centuries?"
"Are there any modifications when it comes to the recipient of the statement?"
"Such as, does this apply in the same manner if it is said to a complete stranger, as opposed to someone you'd been dating for two months, or your wife of 12 years, or your sister, or local deli counterperson who you regularly visit three times a week, know on a first name basis, have friendly conversations with, but have no relationship outside of the business establishment?"
"I have no idea."
"I don't see how it could."
"I have no idea."
"So you're telling me that because a line has been used by 726 million men to pickup women, it completely invalidates any comment someone could make on a woman's eyes?"
"If I had never used such a line to pickup anyone, and I told a girl with incredible honesty and sincerity 'I love your eyes,' and I do truly love this girl's eyes, the only intentions being to convey an honest feeling on her eyes--"
"You had just delivered a traumatizing insulting blow to her psyche."
"Welcome to the patriarchy."
"What happened to the 'you have a great personality' being synonymous to stating 'I am not attracted to you?'"
"I can only assume it still exists and is still valid."
"Jesus. And I'm an eye guy."
"An eye guy?"
"I love eyes, I really get into eyes. A lot goes on there, so much passed on and shown and... truth, lies, love, death, pain--"
"Where is an actor if he can't communicate with his eyes? If an audience can't see an actor's eyes, where does that leave the audience?"
"In the dark."
"Incredible. And me -- me being an eye guy, what does this mean now?"
"This means you have an incredibly complex set of psychological issues dealing with eyes, sexuality, and the role of women in our society, and you are probably very, very, very sick."
"Is that Liza Manelli?" asked Frankie.
"No. I think that's -- huh. Well. That could be Liza Manelli. I am not completely sure what Liza Manelli looks like."
"Where did you hear this?"
"Well, I didn't hear it. It is simple logic that if I do not know what Liza Manelli looks like, I would not--"
"No. The eyes."
"From the woman I'm attracted to."
"Three thousand five hundred miles away?"
"One thousand two hundred."
"To whom you have said, 'I love your eyes.'"
"This is correct."
"And you find her attractive?"
"Yes. More than attractive. All-encompassingly attractive -- physically, mentally, emotionally -- this woman inspires me, makes me want to feel."
"And. I feel."
"Huh. That's great."
"Right. Exactly. More than. How I feel when with her, speaking to her, this mounting, driving, propelling energy that spins and whirls around, how I can see and hear more things, how we communicate so effortlessly -- effortlessly isn't even the right word, though. The means in which we communicate, the level on which we communicate... thinking about the level on which we communicate moves me. It's unimaginable, really, something I haven't encountered before."
"Yes. It's very -- I've listened to 'Rhapsody in Blue' about 80 times in the past month. Gershwin, ya know?"
"And each time I listen to this, there is new detail to be heard, new sounds and instruments -- instruments I never even noticed before, notes and rhythms and this incredibly astounding piece of music, and I am propelled each time, amazed on how this man came up with the things that occur in this song. Absolutely unfathomable how he can come up with this...this brilliance. And each time I feel this in a new way, completely different way than before -- sometimes a way built upon a previous compelling feeling experience two weeks before, but still different, still propelled to these heights. And this occurs each time. The 59th time I heard the song, the 12th time, the 80th time -- occurs each time. That's how I feel our relationship is, her and I -- that's our dynamic."
"Right. Well. I know for a fact Natalie Portman is here, in this city, right now. And she has been hanging out within three blocks of where we are. And I don't care, Frankie. Do not care."
"You have no desire to walk three blocks down to Nixon's, with the high probability of running into Natalie Portman?"
"None. None at all."
"This is serious."
"You even used the word 'the.'"
"THE woman you're attracted to."
"You did. This is serious."
"This is what I'm thinking."
"Well, hell, if you have no desire to track down Natalie Portman, Joe, what are we going to do?"
"Or. Sure, or, sometime tonight."
The world is the place where God wanders in exile.
A girl wearing a red bandana, a yellow t-shirt, and faded blue jeans stood on the double yellow line in the center of Guadalupe Street, pausing to cross. The lights in both directions turned red, and traffic came to a halt. She didn't move, and when the lights turned green, she continued to wait in the middle of a moving, metal sea.
The clock tower struck a bell six times in the distance, and Albert, unshouldering his backpack, sat on a bus stop bench and waited for the street lights to come on.
When I was eight, I asked my father who killed JFK.
"Lee Harvey Oswald, son," Dad said. "He shot the president."
I asked him if he remembered where he was when JFK died.
"I was driving around downtown, skipping school," he replied, "and my hands were dirty from planting firecrackers in the neighbor's flowerpots."
"That wasn't dirt, Dad. Those were powderburns. Your alibis always sucked.
He woke up and found her sitting at the computer, still in her pajamas and typing furiously to someone in a chatroom. She softly laughed at the screen, turned around and noticed him watching her, and came back to bed.
The E and A strings snap at the same time while Benny is playing, so he sets the guitar down on its stand and opens his closet. He lugs out a battered case, unlocks it, and pulls out his old trumpet. After oiling the valves and greasing the slides, Benny plays a few bars of "Amazing Grace" before his lips go numb.
She is treading water in the middle of the English Channel, smelling the cool, morning air and licking salt off her lips. The sun momentarily breaks through the clouds, and she floats on her back, pulls down the left shoulder strap of her swimsuit, and bares a breast to the burning star.
Jacques DeMolay died for your sins.
"Where's your watch?"
"I left it at home because the battery is dead."
"How do you survive without time?"
"How do you keep up with it?"
On the last Friday of every month, Lamar takes fifty dollars and goes to the local titty bar. There, he drinks himself into a stupor, watches naked flesh cavort around him, and touches nothing. The next day, his head bleating from a hangover, Lamar takes a cab to St. Mary's and confesses. "My sin," he tells the priest, "is wishing."
Self-promotion is an important skill for candidates seeking employment. Learning to make yourself appear better than you really are begins in kindergarten. Those who can fake being asleep during naptime will have no trouble lulling employers into giving them lucrative signing bonuses.
A bruised lover's quetions:
"Hi, God. Chris here. Remember me? I accepted your son into my heart when I was ten. How come you never return my calls? You never let me know where you are, and sometimes I worry about you. Even a card during the holidays would be nice. You know where I hang out, and you've got my number, so don't be a strange. The drinks will be on me."
"It's not so much a question of whether you're right or not," Jimmy explained. "It's like choosing a blouse that goes well with a black skirt. Everything looks good with black. Even that bad rap/heavy metal band t-shirt you have, while being unaesthetical in a musical sense, still corresponds to a harmonious color schema. You should start listening to the colors."
The lake near my parents' summer house is home to a large catfish with enormous whiskers. Anytime I catch him, I throw him back in. One August I must have reeled him in seven or eight times. He lives for the worm.
"Shalom Shabbat," Lisa said, soaked from the rain.
"Don't you have an umbrella?" Joan asked, tilting her umbrella forward a little.
"Not on the Sabbath. That would be considered erecting a dwelling and a violation of the Law."
"Does God want you to get wet?"
"I look on it more as a chance to experience nature."
"But I'm dry and comfortable."
"And I'm wet and happy."
She knew everything. She was talking to someone about blackholes and how not even light can escape them. Gravity. Event horizons. A singularity. Spaghettification. She said that everyone was a collapsed star, and that they just waited for a chance to suck other people in. I kept listening from the next seat over because she knew what I wanted.
"You have a quiet, well-defined mouth," Maynard told Roscoe before socking him in the jaw. He went down hard, his left shoulder landing squarely on the corner of the table, and blood-taste hit his tongue. Maynard towered over him, arm extended, and held his patented smirk-if-you-please look on his face. Roscoe grabbed the offered hand and pulled himself up, instantly backing away in case Maynard tried to attack again. Maynard, however, drained the last of his milk, wiped off his mouth, and walked out of the bar.
When you're sitting on the edge of an oil rig in the Gulf watching the sunset, and you hear the whir of helicopter blades getting closer, you know that the hurricane is headed your way and that a small whirlwind is going to take you away before a larger one takes everything out.
Her dress flew up briefly as she rode her bike down Congress Avenue, almost causing her to wreck as she tried to cover herself up. I settled back into the limo seat, tapped the tinted window a few times for good measure, and then stripped off all my clothes and rode home naked.
"Hey, would you come pray with us?"
I turned toward the direction of the voice and saw a woman waving at me. She was standing in a circle of about fifteen people below the steps leading up to the administration building. Flicking away my cigarette, I walked over to them.
"I'm afraid I'm not a Christian," I apologized.
"All the more reason for you to join us," she said, dropping the hand of the person next to her to make room for me.
Apparently my polite hint at refusal was now an invitation to try and save my soul. I took her fingers in my right hand and held the hand of the man to my left, completing the circle. Small goosebumps appeared on my forearms as we held hands, and I always thought that the physical contact did more for people than the actual praying. For a moment, I felt like I was fifteen again at the end of a Sunday School session before I learned about doubt.
"Let us pray," she said, and everybody bowed their heads.
Nobody said a word. I remembered stuff like this from a junior high church camp where no one wanted to be put on the spot, so everyone silently prays -- figures out what they're going to say -- until somebody finally gets the nerve to speak. You don't want to start off praying that you'll do well on that big statistics test and then have Josie ask God to make her mom's cancer go away. Then everyone's praying for Josie's mother, and now you've actually got to study just because you got stuck in a group with people who have real problems.
"O Lord, we beseech thee," I began, feeling a few eyes peeking at me, "help up in our times of need." Good start, though a bit pompous. "You sent your son, a poor carpenter, two millennia ago to save us from ourselves. He eschewed woodworking, a respected profession, to become a fisher of men. Jesus was killed because he was a heretic, but now he is a member of the establishment, and everybody knows how uncool that is. We ask you, our Father, in these troubled times of moral decay, to give us a new savior, a hipper Jesus. One who listens to public radio and watches underground films, one who drinks imported beer and is web savvy, and one who isn't afraid to say, 'I don't know.' Amen."
I opened my eyes and found fifteen people staring at me. When you think you're the new messiah, you learn pretty fast that converts don't come easily.
Jacob was out playing in the woods one day when he came across a rope hanging from a tree. Being an adventuresome tyke, Jacob grabbed ahold of the rope and hoisted himself up into the heights of the large oak. He climbed and climbed until he could climb no more, and, balancing himself, stood on a branch and poked his innocent head up through the leaves. Off to the west, he could see the city with its metallic towers and smoking chimneys. Jacob knew that, when he was grown up and working in an office in one of those immense structures, he would look out a window to gaze on his forest, and it would be gone, replaced by another urban sprawl.
It started off with a simple mistake, just like creation. God said, "Let there be light," and the world never had a chance. Placing that tree in the garden was pure idiocy, and nobody could have ever resisted. My lapse in judgement came when I let James sit down and bum a cigarette. I should have just kept reading my textbook on post-colonial criticism, but instead I let him blather nonstop about government conspiracies and alien abductions and contrails and secret societies and how we were being plotted against. I didn't believe him, but I got sucked in because he knew what I wanted.
Ramon bartered his way onto the trawler in exchange for cleaning and gutting fish. He needed to get off the mainland, to get away from solid ground and live on the water. Ramon wanted to feel the waves toss a boat about and be able to look around and see nothing but the sea. He would be afloat in something that could swallow him if it wanted. Back on land, Ramon had discovered, you could only swallow yourself.
You are not beautiful, the pianist implies with his minor chords and discombobulated melodies as you lean against a stop sign, hair tangled in knots and a t-shirt stained with Southern Comfort. He holds the sustain pedal down with his right foot and begins to randomly mash keys, causing diners at the outdoor cafe to stare uncomfortably. You run, pushing people down as your eyes turn bloodshot, and find solace in an alley behind a dumpster, waiting for the sun to go down.
"You still have a thing for Deborah?"
"No. I found out she's moving to Juneau."
"Why is she going to Alaska?"
"She said she wants to be close to the Bering Strait where prehistoric man first came into the continent."
"She's an accountant, not an archaeologist."
"Deborah says she needs to be near the point where she came from."
"Sounds like a bunch of crap to me, considering she's Irish. Why doesn't she just move to Dublin?"
"I dunno. Maybe she's just attracted to the past."
"I think she wants separation. Don't we already have enough of that here?"
When the drugs kick in, you don't mind the light so much.
Giancarlo held his breath in the deep end of the pool, watching the other swimmers pass above him. He had built up his endurance enough that he could stay down at the bottom for two minutes at a time. Watching his exhaled air slowly bubble up to the surface, Giancarlo was startled when a small boy dove into the pool and swam down to him, tugging a cylindrical object behind him. The boy pushed the oxygen tank towards Giancarlo, who put it on and waved as the boy swam up.
When Jaleel was twelve, his parents took a trip to Mexico and brought him back a wooden chess set and a bullwhip. At night, his father would teach him how the various pieces played and opening moves. Jaleel listened intently as his father explained the beauty of the game, the elation of a successful strategy carried through, and the importance of thinking ahead. The bullwhip gathered dust on a shelf in the closet, waiting for pre-teen hands to grasp and use it.
The salesman finished tying the laces and looked up at Gordon expectantly. Gordon wiggled his toes around, making sure the shoes were snug but not too tight. He stood up, almost stepping on one of the salesman's hands, and tried to walk naturally over to the floor mirror. "These won't do," Gordon said, pulling the shoes off without unlacing them. "I need shoes that I'll never know I have on."
The canvas rested on the easel in front of me, slightly quivering from the wind blowing through the open French doors. It longed for the stroke of my brush, the infusion of paint upon its barren face. I reached out with my left hand and slowly ran my fingers down its rough surface. The canvas waited, ready to be transformed into a work of art. Picking up a large brush, I dipped it in forest green and swabbed my cheeks and forehead with paint. The canvas continued to shake in the breeze.
The worst part about Danny's death was he still came to church every Sunday. None of the parishioners were too happy with the smell of rotting flesh while they listened to the sermon, but the pastor didn't think he could forbid Danny from attending and still proclaim that the gospel was for all. The theological dilemma that Danny's presence presented was never brought up publicly, primarily because no one had any answers about the salvation of the undead. Still, even the hardest of hearts had to break into a tiny smile when Danny, standing alone in the back of the auditorium, would join the congregation in signing hymns: "We are washed, we are washed, we are washed in the blood of the lamb."
"You wanna see something impressive?" he asked. "Have you been amazed today?"
I looked up from my book. He was covered in sweat from the humid, Texas heat and smelled like he hadn't bathed in weeks. The stained, white shirt he wore was more holes than cloth.
"Not today, no," I replied, sipping my iced coffee.
"Well, you're about to be," he said, pulling out a pocketknife. I'm with the Temporal Space-Time Traveling Circus. The pay is shit, but we get to see the world. Now, this isn't a trick knife or anything. This is Swiss craftsmanship at its finest."
He unfolded the knife and jammed the four-inch blade into the wooden railing.
"As you can see, this is a real knife," he said.
I nodded, waiting for the setup of the trick to be over. He grabbed the knife, tilted his head back, and slid the whole blade up his nostril. Stretching his hands out from his sides, he bowed deeply and withdrew the knife.
"How's that for amazing?" he asked.
It was nothing I hadn't seen before, but I was in a good mood.
"Wow," I dryly remarked.
"Like I said, they don't pay us much, so any donations that you would be willing to give to the circus would be greatly appreciated. My name's Pierre Pressure, by the way."
"Always nice to have a punny name."
"Yeah, funny names are good," Pierre replied, misunderstanding.
"Listen, Pierre. Instead of a monetary offering, what if I amaze you?"
"Are you sure you can do that?"
"See, I'm on a diet, and I take these pills that expand in your stomach to make you think you are fuller than you really are. I'm not sure they're all that safe, but they seem to do the trick."
I leaned my head back, shoved a hand down my throat, having to contort into an awkward position to keep from falling off the stool, and pulled out a spongy mass of wet foam.
"It's kinda like those little capsules that would expand into animals when you put them under running water," I said. "What animal does this look like?"
"Uh," Pierre stammered, "a dead jellyfish?"
I turned it over in my hands and nodded in agreement.
"How did you do that?" Pierre asked.
I grabbed the wet shape with both hands and wrung it out like a wet towel. Slimy liquid fell on my notebook, curling the pages.
"The same way you put that knife up your nose," I said. "I did it with my hand."
Pierre ran off before I could describe the benefits of being able to reach down inside yourself.
Jenny stood barefoot on the beach, resting her chin against the stock of the air rifle and steadying her aim. The daisy gun had a scope on it that Jenny had bought yesterday, and she patiently swept her sights over the water looking for a target. She felt a crab crawling across her foot and ignored it, focusing her open eye into the scope and out onto the waves. Finally, she saw a purple bubble floating in the distance and fired. She watched the jellyfish pop and forcefully blew air through her teeth to simulate the sound of air escaping that she was too far away to hear. Jenny lowered the rifle, pumped it ten times, and leveled it once again at the distant waves.
He slammed the door, ripped off his clip-on tie, and tossed it on top of his cat that was sitting attentively on the recliner, ready to bolt at any moment. His boss had fired him that morning for his poor work ethic and losing the Donaldson account. The cat came over to him and rubbed against his leg, signaling that she was hungry. He grabbed two cans out of the pantry, opened them, and poured them into a bowl. He watched the cat devour her meal and wondered why his life wasn't that simple.
The view was magnificent from the top of the mountain, and I wiped my wet face with my shirt. I sat down on some rocks and pulled a copy of Hammurabi's Code out of my bag. These were some of the oldest known laws ever codified and written down. They comprised the fullest and best preserved recorded attempt at structure and organization, and I read them all, because even four thousand years ago, he knew what I wanted.
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