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 1/31/01 tahw ro who gniwonk to think. You are in SiXTY-EiGHT ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Okay, tip number one for zine editors. Pico, as quick and dirty as it is, is not the best option for putting together a damn zine. But, like the stubborn ass who brays until he bleeds, I stuck with it. Next time, though, forget it.
I also booted into Windows for the first time in a long time today. There were tons of old emails. It was scary. I need to find an Outlook -> Mbox converter. I mean, I wasn't expecting that stuff there. I thought I had cleared everything of importance out, except for the bajillion mailing lists I subscribe to, but who really cares about those?
Oh well. One day I shall catch up. One day prompt replies will occur. One day my hands will act with the speed which my mind thinks. But, until that day arrives (upon the succinct fulfillment of seven dire and ominous prophetic dreams), I have something else to talk about.
Laundry. Let's face it. Zine night for me is a bit of a stresser. I've got all of this text I have to order and put together. But tonight was laundry night. So I did laundry while I worked on the zine. But my laundry isn't just any laundry. I wait until the last minute. Four loads. Four loads of clothes. Sure, I wash the necessities (socks, undies, towels, sheets) before I run out, but most of my daily wear is dry-cleaned (thanks to the great dress requirements of my job), so it always seems like I have more than enough clothes to go around.
Washing four loads at once isn't too bad. In fact, it seems like a damn good idea. Four washers, four dryers, four loads. It's so fast. It's so easy. Except for the hanging. That's a bit of a pisser, having to put a bunch of shirts and pants on hangers, and then carry them back to the apartment. That ordeal is bad, especially when I'm in the middle of going through a submission and have to walk across the apartment complex to make sure my sheets don't get too wrinkled.
I hate wrinkles. Irons are for sheets and old people's faces. I don't own an iron, based on a stipulation of my parole. I never stay too long in the bathtub, either. Prune skin is a sin.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't that important. But this issue is. For one, it's Clockwork's birthday, so everybody get your crappy mono microphones out and record your best rendition of "Happy Birthday" as a .WAV, .AU, or .MP3 and email it to him.
Well, actually, don't. That would not be bandwidth friendly. Just sing it loud enough from where you are so he can hear you. In Tulsa? You may rip a vocal cord, but at least you aren't trying to carry a tune all the way from South Dakota to Austin. Watch out for that jet lag.
This is also the first issue issue of the new millennium. Hurrah or shizzit. We kinda silently passed through the end of the fake millennium as if nothing was going on. Which it really wasn't, except for this five hour blank space in my memory on New Year's Eve where I am not sure if I was abducted by secret government agents who drugged me or if I was just totally hosed. Inspiration did not come from that event, so it doesn't really matter what the truth is, I suppose.
So, what can you expect from the zine in the next 1,000 years? What, you say? 1,000 years? Isn't that a bit too far into the future to be planning? Well, no, of course not. Think about it. If we don't plan the next 1,000 years, who will? That's right. The people who are alive in the future. And we can't have that, because we all know that they will be not be the smartest lot in the history of mankind.
We need a quick history lesson. First, came the dinosaurs. Then, God tossed Satan out of heaven, who turned into an meteor and crashed into the earth, killing all of the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs were smart. They planned ahead. They got movie deals that ended up making millions of dollars. Who's making a movie about you, huh? And you're still alive.
After Meteor Satan killed the dinosaurs, God created Man and Woman. They were dumber than the dinosaurs because they disobeyed God. They thought they could be smart, and where did it get them? Getting kicked out of Utopia isn't such a great legacy to start the human race, ya know? The dinosaurs didn't disobey God -- they didn't even believe in God. Why? Like giant lizards would think there would be an even bigger lizard in the sky who made them all in its image. Puh-leaze. Besides, they were from a distant planet. They could fly in spaceships. Who needs God when you can travel in outer space?
And that's why the aliens are here (see also movie deals). Because God, by casting Satan out of heaven and annihilating the dinosaurs, started a war with all of the alien races in the universe. Aliens don't like genocide. The dinosaurs were their friends, and let me tell you, a T-Rex's space cruiser had the finest detail job this side of a Texas truck convention.
That's why Jesus came. To make peace between God and the aliens. But there we were, the dumb humans, who killed Jesus and kept the war going. Jesus wasn't supposed to die: he was supposed to sign on the dotted line.
Adam and Eve were idiots. The people who killed Jesus were idiots. Ever been to England circa 1050AD? Idiots. Turned on your television lately? Idiots. So, in the future, it's gonna get stupid fast. Can we prevent it? No. But we can march on triumphantly knowing that we may be some of those stupid humans, but at least we're comfortable with it.
Besides, at least we're not God or the aliens. They've been fighting for what, millions of years, and nobody's won yet? Christ, choose a winner already. My dead aunt couldn't even hold a grudge that long.
Maybe God, being old and wrinkled, just needs a nice iron to smooth him out. And that's what we'll be doing for the next thousand years. Building a giant iron, flying it into space, and doing some steam cleaning of the universe ourselves. The future has been written.
From: emksa To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Death to HOE Dear Kilgore, sadly enough, it has been reported that the zine HOE (www.hoe.nu) has finally died after six years of semi-continuous production, leaving a shameful 600k issue (hoe-1110.txt) in it's wake. With so many writers left drifting in the wind, could there be any connection to your recent boom of submissions? Any comments on this sad state of affairs? Long time reader, Charlie Gordon
[ah, hoe. it's always sad to see a zine give up the ghost for good. especially since there aren't really very many of us text bastards left. who knows what mogel will decide to inflict upon the world next? the world can only wait and prepare. i don't believe the submissions we've been receiving lately have been from hoe alumni; however, like all good zine editors, we'll leech from them if they come.]
Dark Crystal Sphere Floating Between Two Universes
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
We have had stolen elections before in this country. So that's nothing new. What we have never had is a Presidential election stolen so blatantly and by the Supreme Court working for the thief. It is remarkable the audacity with which the Republicans worked from the beginning. They were going to win at any price, and they surely paid a great one.
The Constitutional system works only because the higher up the election goes, the more visible it is, the more officials are involved, and so the more likely that someone will put a stop to undermining the government's processes. This time no one really took the important step of stopping the shenanigans. Gore came closest of all, but even he was primarily concerned with gathering more votes for himself. Hence, lest he create more ill will among white males, he stayed away from the dreadful antics against black voters in Florida. Had he joined forces with them, the Supreme Court would doubtless never have touched him for fear of appearing racist.
We are at a genuine crossroads. If we continue as we are, we will lose the Constitutional system that under-girds our Democratic Republic. Unfortunately it is clearly the case that most of our public officials would not care. It is even clearer that most of the citizenry wouldn't notice or understand what had been lost. We have relied too much on the mechanics of a system rather than on generating the public virtue in a knowledgeable citizenry to protect what we have. As someone who reads extensively about and has also taught Government and Public Virtue, I have very little hope of our enduring. I fear that in times to come, when we speak of democracy and its power, we will be pointing to places other than our own. Like the Romans, we have come to be far too preoccupied with private things.
That said, in case any of you were as confused about the Supreme Court ruling as the talking heads were, let me offer one, just one, explanation.
Q: I'm not a lawyer and I don't understand the recent Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. Can you explain it to me?
A: Sure. I'll try. I read it. Then I read it again. I laughed out loud. A few days later I read it to myself, aloud, then threw it away. It says Bush wins, even if Gore got the most votes.
Q: But wait a second. The US Supreme Court has to give a reason, right?
Q: So Bush wins because hand-counts are illegal?
A: Oh no. Six of the justices (two-thirds majority) believed the hand-counts were legal and should be done.
Q: Oh. So the justices did not believe that the hand-counts would find any legal ballots?
A. No, not at all. The five conservative justices clearly held (and all nine justices agreed) "that punch card balloting machines can produce an unfortunate number of ballots which are not punched in a clean, complete way by the voter." So there are legal votes that should be counted but can't be.
Q: Oh. Does this have something to do with states' rights? Don't conservatives love that?
A: Generally yes. These five justices have held that the federal government has no business telling a sovereign state university it can't steal trade secrets just because such stealing is prohibited by law. Nor does the federal government have any business telling a state that it should bar guns in schools. Nor can the federal government use the equal protection clause to force states to take measures to stop violence against women.
Q: Is there an exception in this case?
A: Yes, the Gore exception. States have no rights to have their own state elections when it can result in Gore being elected President. This decision is limited to only this situation.
Q: Please, the Supremes didn't really say that. You're exaggerating.
A: No, not at all. They held: "Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, or the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities."
Q: What complexities?
A: They don't say.
Q: I know the reason. I heard Jim Baker say this. The votes can't be counted because the Florida Supreme Court "changed the rules of the election after it was held." Right?
A. Wrong. The US Supreme Court was clear that the Florida Supreme Court did not change the rules of the election. But the US Supreme Court found the failure of the Florida Court to change the rules was wrong.
A: The Legislature declared that the only legal standard for counting vote is "clear intent of the voter." The Florida Court was condemned for not adopting a clearer standard.
Q: I thought the Florida Court was not allowed to change the Legislature's law after the election.
Q: So what's the problem?
A: They should have. The US Supreme Court said the Florida Supreme Court should have "adopt[ed] adequate statewide standards for determining what is a legal vote."
Q: I thought only the Legislature could "adopt" new law.
Q: So if the Court had adopted new standards, I thought it would have been overturned.
A: Right. You're catching on.
Q: If the Court had adopted new standards, it would have been overturned for changing the rules. And if it didn't, it's overturned for not changing the rules. That means that no matter what the Florida Supreme Court did, legal votes could never be counted. Is that right?
A: Right. Next question.
Q: Wait, wait. I thought the problem was "equal protection," that some counties counted votes differently from others. Isn't that a problem?
A: It sure is. Across the nation, we vote in a hodgepodge of systems. Some, like the optical-scanners in largely Republican-leaning counties, record 99.7% of the votes. Some, like the punch-card systems in largely Democratic-leaning counties, record only 97% of the votes. So approximately 3% of Democratic votes are thrown in the trash can.
Q: Aha! That's a severe equal-protection problem!!!
A: No, it's not. The Supreme Court wasn't worried about the 3% of Democratic ballots thrown in the trashcan in Florida. That "complexity" was not a problem.
Q: Was it the butterfly ballots that violated Florida law and tricked more than 20,000 Democrats to vote for Buchanan or Gore and Buchanan?
A: No? The Supreme Court has no problem believing that Buchanan got his highest, best support in a precinct consisting of a Jewish old age home with Holocaust survivors, who apparently have changed their mind about Hitler.
Q: Yikes. So what was the serious equal protection problem?
A: The problem was neither the butterfly ballot nor the 3% of Democrats (largely African-American) disenfranchised. The problem is that somewhat less than .005% of the ballots may have been determined under slightly different standards because judges sworn to uphold the law and doing their best to accomplish the legislative mandate of "clear intent of the voter" may have slightly different opinions about what constitutes voter intent.
Q: Hmmm. OK, so if those votes are thrown out, you can still count the votes where everyone agrees the voter's intent is clear?
Q: Why not?
A: No time.
Q: No time to count legal votes where everyone, even Republicans, agree the intent is clear? Why not?
A: Because December 12 was yesterday.
Q: Is December 12 a deadline for counting votes?
A: No. January 6 is the deadline. In 1960, Hawaii's votes weren't counted until January 4.
Q: So why is December 12 important?
A: December 12 is a deadline by which Congress can't challenge the results.
Q: What does the Congressional role have to do with the Supreme Court?
Q: But I thought--
A: The Florida Supreme Court had earlier held it would like to complete its work by December 12 to make things easier for Congress. The United States Supreme Court is trying to help the Florida Supreme Court out by forcing the Florida court to abide by a deadline that everyone agrees is not binding.
Q: But I thought the Florida Court was going to just barely have the votes counted by December 12.
A: They would have made it, but the five conservative justices stopped the recount last Saturday.
A: Justice Scalia said some of the counts may not be legal.
Q: So why not separate the votes into piles, indentations for Gore, hanging chads for Bush, votes that everyone agrees went to one candidate or the other so that we know exactly how Florida voted before determining who won? Then, if some ballots (say, indentations) have to be thrown out, the American people will know right away who won Florida.
A. Great idea! The US Supreme Court rejected it. They held that such counts would likely to produce election results showing Gore won and Gore's winning would create "public acceptance" and that would "cast a cloud" over Bush's "legitimacy" that would harm "democratic stability."
Q: In other words, if America knows the truth that Gore won, they won't accept the US Supreme Court overturning Gore's victory?
Q: Is that a legal reason to stop recounts? Or is it a political one?
A: Let's just say in all of American history and all of American law, this decision has no basis in law. But that doesn't stop the five conservatives from creating new law out of thin air.
Q: Aren't these conservative justices against judicial activism?
A: Yes, when liberal judges are perceived to have done it.
Q: Well, if the December 12 deadline is not binding, why not count the votes?
A: The US Supreme Court, after admitting the December 12 deadline is not binding, set December 12 as a binding deadline at 10 p.m. on December 12.
Q: Didn't the US Supreme Court condemn the Florida Supreme Court for arbitrarily setting a deadline?
Q: But, but--
A: Not to worry. The US Supreme Court does not have to follow laws it sets for other courts.
Q: So who caused Florida to miss the December 12 deadline?
A: The Bush lawyers who first went to court to stop the recount, the rent-a-mob in Miami that got paid Florida vacations for intimidating officials, and the US Supreme Court for stopping the recount.
Q: So who is punished for this behavior?
A: Gore, of course.
Q: Tell me this: Are Florida's laws are unconstitutional?
Q: And the laws of 50 states that allow votes to be cast or counted differently are unconstitutional?
A: Yes. And 33 states have the "clear intent of the voter" standard that the US Supreme Court found was illegal in Florida
Q: Then why aren't the results of 33 states thrown out?
A: Um. BecauseàUmàBecauseàthe Supreme Court doesn't say.
Q: But if Florida's certification includes counts expressly declared by the US Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, we don't know who really won the election there, right?
A: Right. Though a careful analysis by the Miami Herald shows Gore won Florida by about 20,000 votes (excluding the butterfly ballot errors).
Q: So, what do we do, have a re-vote? Throw out the entire state? Count under a single uniform standard?
A: No. We just don't count the votes that favor Gore.
Q: That's completely bizarre! That sounds like rank political favoritism! Did the justices have any financial interest in the case?
A: Scalia's two sons are both lawyers working for Bush. Thomas's wife is collecting applications for people who want to work in the Bush administration, and O'Conner has publicly stated she would like to resign but will only do so if a Republican is President.
Q: Why didn't they recuse themselves?
A: If even a single justice had recused him or herself, the vote would have been 4-4, and the Florida Supreme Court decision allowing recounts would have been affirmed.
Q: I can't believe the justices acted in such a blatantly political way.
A: Read the opinions for yourself, especially Justice Souter's dissent:
Q: So what are the consequences of this?
A: The guy who got the most votes in the US and in Florida and under our Constitution (Al Gore) will lose to America's second choice who won the all important 5-4 Supreme Court vote.
Q: I thought in a democracy, the guy with the most votes wins.
A: True, in a democracy. But America is not a democracy. In America in 2000, the guy with the most US Supreme Court votes wins.
Q: So what will happen to the Supreme Court when Bush becomes President?
A: He will appoint more justices in the mode of Thomas and Scalia to ensure that the will of the people is less and less respected. Soon lawless justices may constitute a 6-3 or even 7-2 majority on the court.
Q: Is there any way to stop this?
I was disgusted with Ralph Nader during the campaign for putting on an egomaniacal tantrum in public, as well as propagating that goofy idea about the great numbers of activists that would be born in a Bush administration. The first shows he is past his time; the second that he thinks it is 1912. He should know that the American people are in no condition -- mentally or morally -- to form great coalitions of activists. If Bush does his worse, most of us will suffer in silence. Certainly, Nader won't help. He speaks well only to those who already agree with him. To others he drones pointlessly. Our main problem today is not the corporation per se or shoddy products. We don't need a consumer advocate. What we need is a political visionary who can speak effectively to people with no vision. That leader is not to be found. As Kafka said, "There is hope, but not for us."
"I gave up on new poetry myself 30 years ago when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens in a hostile world."
A new sun rises in the pale sky, dispersing night mists in a golden dawn. Light and shadow play in the verdant hills. And, as I gaze about me, I am denied even the satisfaction of an object for my hate.
- four -
Have you ever heard a train play "Ode to Joy" with its whistle? I was almost convinced that was happening this morning when I was awaken from my light sleep by the rumbling crashing sounds of the dumpster trucks oozing over the speed bumps in the parking lot. This clanging noise doesn't bother me enough to disrupt my sleep, but I was startled awake when I later heard one lone punctuated clang, which I thought was due to the truck's leaving, but nothing else. Surely the effect of sleepy unconsciousness stealing my senses at inappropriate moments. Or did the truck simply transform into a bump truck and propel itself into the stratosphere as a protest against the dictatorship of velocity?
I lay in bed for a few minutes listening to the "Ode to Joy," or at least various notes thereof, blared proudly through the distant train whistle. A perfect octave -- not too interesting, but somehow colorful, like saturated red and blue rays of light.
I remembered being caught off-guard one night walking across the concrete slab of a second-story walkway to my old apartment, when I thought I saw a baby carriage propped up next to a neighbor's window, swathed in the purple glow of an indifferently attendant television. In direct conflict, the baby was being trained to make a choice for life, differentiating between direct access to the world outside and indirect incest with the mediated world that was its guardian.
Upon seeing this, a different train on a different track sounded its whistle, a glaringly minor chord, perhaps a second or a fourth, and let it ring. The clouds were scattered, thick, dual-toned by the shine from the moon and the dark of the dusk. The moon blared at me from her station in the sky -- "I am full, you are the father!" she accused. I stood in awe, briefly, before propriety overtook me and shoved me past the window to unlock the door to my sanctuary.
- twelve -
We coerced him to watch the film we had constructed, ignoring his excuses and desires to leave the apartment to play foosball and get laid.
"Come on, you've got to see this. We made it from Ed's old floppy disks."
"It was a stroke of heat. The floppies got warped so he decided to stuff them in the VCR. And all those little dots must have gone to work and --"
"Don't talk about the little dots."
"I find them all the time, from record needles and modem connection failures and fifteenth reminders and --"
"Cut-ups of Cher and Joan Baez and a brilliant parody, did you see it? On the Teletubbies, where their set-in-stomach reality trip television screens display scenes from Aliens and the aliens tear themselves out and it blows the Tubbies' minds and the baby head in the sun goes gurp gurp hurl?"
"It was a travesty of jaundice."
"By the way, didn't I tell you that Battlefield Earth was a travolting experience? The plotline only barely hubbard above incomprehensibility."
"Wait a second, wait a second. This has to stop."
- five -
They waited, suddenly drowned in the silence, their good humour snuffed out in a wave of self-consciousness and acute awareness of time. They shuffled their feet nervously, expecting the rustling sounds to substitute for the lack of conversation, or somehow justify it. Then she said,
"My tooth hurts."
"Get off your fucking cross!" he screamed. She watched his face betray a brief but overpowering moment of compassion and regret, which he washed away in a savage refueling of his anger. She backed off, eyes cast downward, afraid and thrilled.
He launched into an epiphany of epithets. "Your unexpected return has ripped the lid off my sanity, torn a hole in my heart, and rattled my nimble wit around the vast empty expanse of my head without as much as a nod to stick to. What you don't understand about me is matched only by what boredom I feel in enumerating and pointing out your inept habits. I take one step forward, you take two steps backward, and we both fall off the see-saw, but it only scrapes my knees. I sing you a love poem and you respond by mouthing words from 'N Sync. Our utter lack of compatibility prompts people to ask what we are selling. And did I mention that you always leave exactly one egg in the carton? What the fuck?"
A nasty exchange followed, consisting of a lot of kissing and groping and such. Grody. I'll never understand love.
- fourteen -
"I already came up with that idea."
"Of the little dots --"
"Don't talk about the little dots."
Startled, I paused, groping for words.
"I could have sworn you said that before."
"Yeah, twenty paragraphs up."
"No, I meant 'don't talk about the little dots'."
"Hey, that's my line."
"What?" I cried, flustered. "Wait a second, this is all wrong."
"No, that's my line."
"Could we just call the whole thing off?"
"I already came up with that idea."
- six -
I spent the whole night seething at my inability to get drunk. I'd had a good-sized glass of wine at the restaurant, but probably smothered that with the meal. Then I had a few glasses of cider later that night, but even I knew it packed no punch. With my full stomach, slightly upset by the intrusion of the warm cider, I didn't want to risk drinking anything stronger, adding to my discomfort.
"Hey! I'm... from Mars!" the lush cried out, stumbling over the coffee table and sending an artfully constructed M&M sculpture of JFK's exploding head flying across the carpet. "I can't... see!" he announced, laughing warblingly, "so no'un will mind if I... take off my pants!" In reaching for his belt, he released his deathgrip on the bannister and plummeted forward into the ground. "Seize the day!" he shouted; "seize my... missiles!"
I reached over to the bookshelf where an unguarded bottle of Tanqueray was propped up next to a logic textbook bookmarked at fallacies of ambiguity, and took a swig of discourse. The passing of the New Year had once again failed to evoke any discernible worldwide mystical change, as millions of drunken bastards across the country were expecting.
Or maybe it was just this particular party.
"Someone turn him over, so he doesn't choke on it!"
What was it Sartre said about hell?
This disappointing party was supplemented by one in my head. At eight in the morning, or a few hours after collapsing into bed, I was at a different party, with a theme. All the same people from the original party were there, and I was perturbed with visions of an acquaintance who I'd recently learned had but a few hours to live.
His name was Carter, or Cary, or something, and he'd graduated college a few months earlier. I didn't know him that well, but upon first meeting him, I'd been struck deeply by a profound sense of sadness in his being. He always managed to have a half-smile, a polite expression, but this was betrayed by the downcast eyes hidden under his floppy hair. I would try to meet his eyes as he talked, working my gaze up from his chin, to his sumptuously grinning mouth, to his nose, darting up to the hair, tracking down, only to be dragged into his eyes. They were iridescent, magnetic, deadly. They took me down where I didn't want to go. Things shifted inside me when we connected like that, and it terrified me. With a forced blinking of my eyes the trance was broken, and I had to shake my head clear of it.
I remember now, his name was Corey. I remember that thinking about him always made my pants get tighter, and I felt bad about this, because I knew he was going to die. Maybe that was just the dream reality rewriting history. How could someone always be just a few hours away from death....?
This party was set in a room upstairs at the same house where the previous party had been. We had all brought our computers over for a LAN party, for the facetious purpose of setting up a small Beowulf cluster to aid us in making psychic predictions for the third millennium. Of course, all of the same liquor was present at this party, so no one was taking this quest seriously; everyone had lugged their hardware over to the house, though, so we felt it at least worthwhile to babysit it.
Anyway, it during this conveniently lighthearted part of the night when I started catching visions of Corey. He was alone in his room in the dark, hunched over his computer, typing. On a surface level, of course, he was like us; but it was the dance with death that set him apart. It was that essence of his being that simultaneously attracted and repelled me -- the gaunt pallor susurring over his face, the duet of dark patches under his eyes, the murmuring waving hair over his bass clef ears, and the eyes themselves, the sound made visible of the night striking against jade.
I became uneasy at the unexpected sight, guilty of the lustful way I imbibed of his features while avoiding acknowledgment of his dark, raging undercurrents. At this note, the waking-dream image of his face turned toward me, eyes open wide -- then interrupted by the doorbell. I looked around, counting heads, and wondered who else might be arriving, playing this intellectual game merely to distract myself -- before I could turn around, Corey, I knew, had stepped in.
I was sitting down and my back was to the door; I gauged the reactions on my friends' faces: each of them, even he who'd introduced Corey to us, showed the briefest glimpse of terror, then just as quickly, forgot about him and resumed their tipsy banter. That meant he was my problem.
-- And I mean that as it sounds: I'd only talked to him once, maybe twice before. My eloquence of memory and description spring from a well of imagination and desire, but the object himself was in no wise aware of this. Knowing that he now stood in the computer room, hovering at the entrance, having just witnessed a nearly unanimous dismissal, could I actually ignore him as well, by all accounts yet unaware of his presence?
Corey let me know the answer himself. He stepped forward and brusquely collided with my head -- "Nathan," he said -- I, catching a glimpse of his teeshirt billowing above my eyes. My pants suddenly became tight; I drew one leg over the other, preparing to turn around and greet him properly, but he took the initiative and cradled my head in his hands and turned it up to meet his gaze.
The terror struck me. I tried to clamp my eyes shut against it to no avail; something deeper kept me staring, fidgeting with my hands, making ineffective attempts to straighten out my legs, to stand up, to turn away, .... I finally acquiesced, and understood. I became calm.
He sat down askant from me against the wall, and I turned to face him, our knees touching, our interlocking contemplative gaze unbroken. I knew he was going to die. I'd had that weird sense that he was always a few hours away from death, and I guess it was true, through tonight, when his time, his distance, was closing in on him. What was this strange bond we shared? How could I feel I knew him so deeply, with but the briefest interactions?
I already knew it all as I asked these questions of myself, these awe-inspired inquiries serving merely to underscore the answers that spawned them....
"Corey," I said. "You're dying."
"How presumptuous," he said coyly, "that you'd have me act it out."
"You could stay off death?"
"Tat tvam asi." -- I am that, he replied, grinning.
Then it was clear, crystal, jade: I looked again into his eyes and it was reflected back at me. Who was I? What was my role here? O, the delusion of looking only outwards, confounding the simple explanation. Let me elucidate: in dreams, they say, the characters are all aspects of the dreamer. In this dream, Corey was thanatos -- and I was...
"Shall I take you now?" I asked, burning.
"If you can stay asleep," he murmured.
But how could I snooze?
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress, I called to the Lord....(Psalm 18)
Mid-October. Black dogs howling at the moon, but I'm safe inside this one-story on the edge of town. This is the time of year when Grandpa Jeff took me fishing. Those trips were the best part of my life.
Shortly, I'll drive to Western Ribs to see Dara, who never met my grandpa. Still incredibly beautiful, Dara will not see me. Nor will she forgive me for failing Jenny Sparks. I have written Dara, explaining no one was to blame. How could anyone except God engineer such malevolence? But Dara is unrelenting, and I burn in the dark pit of my own conscience.
Allow me to pour myself another drink while dark things filter from my mind. Then I'll tell the story and let you decide.
I liked Jenny Sparks. Jenny had always been there for me: when I received the science fair award in grade school, Jenny helped me put together my a solar-powered flashlight; in the eighth grade, we went through confirmation at Good Shepherd Lutheran church; she stood with me, tire iron in hand, when Duke Kennedy jumped me one night after a high school football game; when I pitched a no-hitter in high school, Jenny cheered; we spent the night of our high school graduation together in the suite of a prominent hotel on the Strip; during two years at community college, we took every class together. She wanted us to go away to college, somewhere on the East coast where we could start life over.
After community college, Jenny turned to nude dancing while I continued onto the university. She stayed in touch, calling me every other day. Finally, when I approached graduation, she invited me to her club so I could meet Dara Collins. That was the night I met Rick Spenser, a tall, thin red-headed man with perfect teeth and squinting eyes. Rick and I seemed to hit it off; we liked hockey, girls, and Irish beer. And Rick fell in love with Dara. A Wyoming girl, Dara was tall and thin with long dark brown hair cascading down her back; her eyes were wild blue; she had a lizard tattooed on her left butt cheek. Jenny told me Dara had killed a man once, but I didn't believe that. Dara was as beautiful as I had expected and that night sat on my lap when she wasn't dancing.
As for Jenny, she was a medium-sized blonde with a perfect figure and beautiful features that required no make-up. Jenny was one of the most popular dancers at the club and had been in several adult films. In high school, she had told me she dreamed of being a porn star.
On the girls' night off at the end of June 1984, Rick and I met Jenny and Dara at Denny's on Sahara just off the Strip. I had slept with Dara several times since our first meeting, and Dara and I had come to view Rick as obnoxious and stupid. But Rick continued to hang around with me. Maybe he admired me.
Having aced my college finals in the spring, I was headed for graduate school in Southern California, hoping to take Dara with me.... When Rick and I walked into the restaurant, we saw the girls sitting at a table near the back. Dara waved at me, but Jenny didn't look our way.
When we sat down, Jenny gave me a cordial hello. Rick zeroed in on Dara, who couldn't take her eyes off me. After our food came, Jenny drank her coffee and ate her cherry pie in silence, occasionally glancing at me. Her hair was disheveled, and she wore tight blue shorts and a blazing red T-shirt. Perhaps her past was catching up to her: she had been thrown out of her mother's house four years before, she had given up on college, and her sister had been shot to death in a grocery store parking lot six months before.
"What's wrong, Jenny?" I asked, putting my arm around her and kissing her lightly on the cheek.
"I dunno," she mumbled, smiling weakly.
"Tell me. What's the matter?" I said. Dara and Rick were listening.
"Everything, Jeff," she said.
"Like what?" I asked.
"Like, I'm sick and tired of Vegas," Jenny said, running her fingers through her long, stringy hair. She was near tears. "Jesus, I'm sick of this town. Is there a point?"
I paused. Years ago, we had believed in God. We'd believed that for everything there was a purpose.
"Maybe not, Jenny," I said.
Jenny fixed her eyes on me. "Y'know, Jeff, all I've ever known was bars, strip joints. My mom worked in one. Loved to dance, she said. Grandma worked in one, but I never met her. Just for once, I want something different. I don't wanna go to New York. I don't want L.A. Shit, what is there? Sometimes I think I'm dying here. Jesus, I'm so empty I could die."
We sat in silence. I knew about Jenny's mom. I didn't know her dad, but neither did Jenny. We'd had sex on several occasions. The last time, toward the end of our second year at community, she had told me she loved me.
"I dunno," I mumbled. "Maybe this is as good as it gets. Which isn't bad. I mean, I'm goin' to grad school. And you got a career."
Jenny took a bite of pie and drank some coffee.
"Yeah, I'm impressed with you Jeff," Jenny said, looking at a point on the ceiling. "I dunno. Maybe I like gettin' my brains fucked out on the screen. Still, I want something different."
I said nothing.
"Whaddya have in mind, Jenny?" asked Dara, who had pointedly ignored Rick.
Jenny sighed. "Anything but Vegas."
"Maybe," I ventured, "you should go to the mountains. Go to Mt. Charleston." Mount Charleston was about thirty miles northwest of the city. Jenny and I had been there together three years before. "Mt. Charleston is nice."
"More than Mt. Charleston," Jenny mumbled. "Mt. Charleston is just more Vegas. Let's go to that place you and your grandpa always used to go when we were younger. That place I always used to ask you about? You remember, right? I mean, let's all of us go."
"Of course I remember," I said. I hadn't talked about the place for several years now.
In fact, I hadn't visited the place since my grandfather had died of a brain tumor seven years before. When I was growing up in Las Vegas, every autumn, Grandpa and I would journey to one particular campground in the far northern part of the state, pitch a tent, and fish the stream adjacent to the camp. While I could always feel a brooding darkness hanging over the camp, I could only see the place's beauty when I was with Grandpa. The green waters of the stream were always ice-cold, the pools dark and deep and lovely. At midday, when the fish weren't biting, Grandpa and I would swim those pools. The night Grandpa died, I had driven over to Jenny's house, and Jenny had held me all night. My own parents had died in an airplane crash when I was twelve.
"It would be the perfect place," I conceded. I remembered it as a place of haunting, unearthly beauty. "It's back in the mountains, up north past Wells. Some of the most beautiful country you'll ever see. Air pure and fresh. If you like to fish, there's plenty of that."
Jenny smiled. "That sounds great. I've always wondered what was up there. You and your grandpa never took me."
No, I had never taken or even invited her to the place my grandpa and I had considered the most sacred place on the planet.
I looked at Dara.
"I been fishing before," Rick boasted. "My brother and I used to go to this little lake out of San Bernadino. Caught a shit-load of fish."
"This place isn't the same," I said. I looked at Dara, who had rolled her eyes when Rick spoke.
"This place is little more remote than San Bernadino," said Dara. "I'm not sure I wanna go to Northern Nevada."
"Why?" I said. Of the four of us, Dara was the only one who had been raised in the country.
"Stories," Dara replied.
"What stories?" I asked. I had heard stories long ago, told by locals grandpa and I had met at the campground, but nothing bad had ever happened when my grandpa and I used to go.
"Just stories. About evil. Wild black things coming out of the woods and killing people," Dara said.
I felt something twist in my gut.
"What?" Rick laughed. "That's kid stuff."
I glared at Rick. At times, I found Rick unbearable.
"How old were you when you heard the stories?" Jenny asked.
"Four or five," Dara answered.
"Jesus," I breathed, dark images flitting through my mind like bats.
"But they were just stories is all they were, Jeff," said Dara. "No big deal."
Rick burst in. "We all got stories from our childhood scare us to death. My momma used to scare me with bogey man stories. I say we go."
"Yeah, let's do it," said Jenny. "C'mon, Jeff. C'mon, Dara."
"All right," I said, resigned. I honestly figured we'd be all right. "But it doesn't have to be northern Nevada. We can go somewhere else," I commented, temporarily feeling the fear that tales of northern Nevada used to awaken in me. "Dara?" I said.
Dara smiled at me. "I dunno. What do I wanna do?" I suspect that Dara just wanted to be with me.
"You wanna go," Jenny said, reaching across the table and taking Dara's hand in her own. "We all wanna go."
I looked at Dara and smiled, and she smiled back.
"I guess," said Dara, shrugging her shoulders. "Let's see what happens."
Two weeks later, at six am, we headed north. It was a long drive through an unrelentingly hot desert. I felt good about going; time had come to accept my grandfather's death. Besides, I was going to have a weekend with Dara. I wasn't giving much thought to Jenny.
At one in the afternoon, I turned onto the dirt road that led to the campground. I hoped the place would be the same. When we arrived around two thirty, we pitched our tent in the abandoned campground, took our fishing and camping gear out of my car, and sat on a log to drink a bottle of wine. As we sat, I glanced at the fire pit and beyond where I saw the skeleton of a large mammal. I remembered that the campground had always been clean when I was with Grandpa. I suggested we walk down to the river to fish, and everyone agreed. Picking up our fishing gear, we crossed a field to get to the forest and the stream.
The forest was as dark as it had always been; trees grew so tall and thick that you couldn't see the sky. Creatures who lived in the forest made constant sound flitting through tree tops. The creek on the other side of this dark wood was as I remembered it: ice-cold water exploding over huge rocks and boulders and heading to the valley miles and miles below. Cool mist mixed with the fresh pine scent. As we stood on the trail looking down at the stream, the water was still high enough to form deep pools.
I cast a sideways glance at Jenny, who stood next to me.
"Well?" I said.
"Holy Mother of God, Jeff," exclaimed Jenny, breathless. She was dressed in a flimsy gray halter top and tiny tight shorts and wasn't wearing a bra. "Is this where you and your grandpa came? Shoulda taken me here years ago, Jeff."
I looked at Rick and Dara, who stood on my other side. Keeping her eyes on me, Dara hadn't said two words to Rick all day.
"Jesus, this is somethin'," said Rick. Originally from LA, Rick had never seen a stream like this.
The four of us stood, surrounded by thick dark pines on both sides of the creek, felt the mist against our skin, and let the thundering water drown thought. I closed my eyes and imagined Grandfather next to me. Then I opened my eyes and looked at Dara, who was hungrily looking at me.
"It's like what you want heaven to look like," Dara said, moving away from Rick and closer to me. Dara wore a black T-shirt and skimpy red shorts. "This won't be bad."
In my mind's eye, I could see Grandpa telling me to throw my line in. It was then that I felt Dara brush up against me and place her hand on my back.
"Let's fish," I said.
"God, yes, let's do that," Jenny said. In a file, holding our fishing poles, we walked down to the creek. When we got to the water, I said that we'd need to spread out a bit.
Dara didn't need any help. I watched her as she walked upstream a bit and expertly cast her line across the stream. I took Jenny downstream and showed her what to do, what kind of pools to look for, how to bait her hook, weight her line and cast across a pool. We were kids again, and she learned quickly and enthusiastically.
As I looked over my shoulder, I saw Rick walking up the path we had just come down and moving upstream.
"Hey, Rick!" I shouted over the sound of the stream. Rick turned and looked back at us. "Let's stay together."
"I'll be right back," Rick yelled. "Going up the stream a bit."
"We should all stay together," Jenny said, holding her pole over the water.
"Good riddance, you son-of-a-bitch," Dara muttered as she crouched and fished along the shore. Dara's response surprised me, and we smiled at each other. We both thought Rick would return; we were just fed up with him.
"Jesus, yeah, why not let him go?" I mumbled. Rick got on my nerves. Anyway, I figured that Rick would be fine. In all years my grandfather and I had come to this place, nothing unusual had happened. Of course, I had never been allowed to wander upstream. "If he follows the stream up," I said, "then he has to follow the stream back. Don't worry. I've been up here dozens of times."
While Rick disappeared from view, the girls and I fished, moving downstream to the pools. By the time the air began to cool and darkness began to fall, I had caught three, Dara five, and Jenny two.
Jenny seemed happier than I'd seen her for years.
"If we were in Vegas," Jenny said, studying the water, "we'd be working now. Twenty-four hours ago, we were dancing. Jeff, you are a genius."
I looked at Jenny.
"Sure is beautiful," Dara replied, crouched along the back land holding her line with her left hand and using the other to drag the baited hook through a dark pool. "Back in Vegas, we'd be dancin' and drinkin' and gettin' screwed up for one more evening."
The course of one's life can turn in an instant: one minute, you're in heaven; the next minute, you've dropped into the pit of hell.
I was going to tell about the afternoon grandpa caught twelve fish when the whole universe went dead silent, the sky went momentarily black, and I heard the sounds: a cracking of dry wood mixed with faint, mournful howling. At first, they seemed to come from far away, but the more I listened, the closer the sounds seemed. Suddenly, all sounds stopped. Something was listening.
"Jeff," Jenny said, "what was that?" Jenny looked upstream in the direction of the sounds.
"Probably just some deer," said Dara in a hollow voice. Dara was still fishing but was staring directly at me.
I struggled to find an explanation.
"Maybe Rick coming back," I commented. "Sound really travels in the forest, particularly near a stream like this."
"Maybe so," said Jenny.
As we waited, we heard sounds again, only much, much louder this time: the sharp, hollow snapping of dried, dead wood, indicating something heading our way. An image of dark wings and pounding feet filled my brain. I heard the sound again and again. The sounds were growing louder.
"Sounds like a bunch," said Dara, pulling her line form the water, wrapping it around her pole, and walking toward me.
"Of what?" I began, as low howling began from all points directly in front of us. The sounds were almost on top of us.
Wondering what Grandpa would do, I said, calmly, "I think we need to head back. This isn't Rick coming."
I looked at Dara.
"That's a good idea," said Dara.
I looked at Jenny, who stood motionless. Jenny was scared.
When we heard the cracking again, followed by low throaty snarling, this time just beyond the creek, Jenny began to panic. "Jesus, that sounds fucked up. I don't wanna be here. Please, Jeff, let's hurry and get outta here." Jenny sounded like the frightened little girl I used to know. She'd already pulled her line out of the water and was walking alone back up the path.
While Dara waited, I pulled my line out of the water and wrapped it around my pole. Dara and I turned and headed up the path when we both heard the loud cracking of wood just across the stream. This time, no howling. We stopped, looking across the stream. We heard it again, then an explosion of sounds, like quick shots, coming from a wide span on the other side of the creek.
"Feel it?" Dara asked.
"Yes, I feel it," I said, "but I didn't expect this." My voice sounded hollow. We were being watched. In less than a minute, we had caught Jenny, walking pole in hand, hook and line dangling wildly in space.
When we reached the tent, we looked at each other. Dara and Jenny were sweating profusely. I looked back towards the woods. Waiting, I saw nothing and slowly relaxed. Remembering words of my grandfather, I was ashamed of myself for being frightened.
We decided to pop open some beer and light a fire as we waited for Rick to return. As we drank, I watched the forest separating us from the stream.
"Maybe I should get Rick," I said. "It's getting late."
"What about the sounds, Jeff?" Jenny asked, still shaken.
"I dunno," I said. "The forest is filled with sounds you never heard before."
"He's right," Dara commented. "I remember camping when I was little. There's all sort of sounds in the woods at night."
"Well, those sounds were creepy," Jenny said, forcing a laugh. We were drinking beer from cans.
We drank some more.
"Well, then, I guess that settles it," Dara finally said.
"Settles what?" I asked, darkness falling, the night air cooling.
"That we go into get Rick," she said. Dara's statement took me by surprise. I wondered if she were drunk.
Jenny reluctantly nodded. She was slightly buzzed from the beer.
"All right," I said, "let's go."
It was maybe fifty yards from our campground to the forest. We began the walk across the field. As I looked at the point where we would enter the forest, I saw something in the shadows. I could tell it was a man. He was watching and beckoning us, and now he turned back into the forest. It couldn't have been Rick.
I pushed forward, the forest looming ahead.
Short of the entrance to the forest, we stopped.
"See him?" Dara whispered to me.
"See what?" Jenny asked.
"Something," I said. "Maybe a ranger."
It was just as Jenny turned to me that we heard the cracking of wood, the rapid padding of heavy feet on the ground of something running, and low growling directly in front of us. Standing in the clearing just before the forest began, we watched large black shapes emerge.
There were six of them: huge black dogs, slinking out of the forest, forming a semi-circle in front of us. I looked back at the campground and noticed that the fire was still going.
I grabbed the two girls and pulled them to me. I'd been around forest animals before and removed my knife from its sheath. "We have to stay close," I said. "They're less liable to attack if three become one." Holding the girls next to me, I watched the dogs position themselves, their yellow eyes fixed upon us. The hair on their necks bristled, and the low throaty growl that said attack was likely.
Jenny struggled to break free of my grip and shouted, "This is stupid, Jeff! This is stupid, stupid, stupid." She began crying. "I didn't ask for this. I don't wanna die."
"You're not gonna die," I assured her. "No one's gonna die."
The dogs crept closer.
"Jenny, please," Dara implored, "he's right. Stay close. They won't attack...."
"But they're coming..." she sobbed.
The beasts continued to move towards us.
With a strength I didn't realize she had, Jenny jerked her arm away, turned, and broke towards the tent.
"Jenny!" I shouted.
I'll never forget this: Jenny sprinting in the twilight, crying hysterically; one animal separating itself from the pack and catching Jenny in seconds; Dara shouting at me to do something; Jenny screaming and falling as the beast grabbed her ankle in its teeth; two other dogs springing forth and attacking Jenny as she fell, all the while yelling for me; one dog biting her face and seizing her cheek, another seizing her arm in its mouth, the third taking her leg; the blood from the wounds as the dogs tore into her; Jenny screaming for me and for God.
We watched as the three dogs dragged Jenny, her face, arms and legs bloodied and her clothes torn from her, in the direction of the forest. Two grabbed her left arm and one her right as they dragged my oldest friend. As Jenny disappeared, the three dogs who had been watching us turned and trotted back into the forest.
I couldn't move. I couldn't speak. I couldn't think.
Dara broke the spell. "We gotta get Jenny!" she yelled. "Jeff, goddamn it, goddamn it, Jeff, we gotta do something!" She yanked my arm as she set off to the woods and I followed.
I wanted to die. My mind blank, I moved into the forest.
It was almost dark. So, guided by the sound of running water, we moved down the path to the stream. Scaling a small rise, I noticed that small shafts of sunlight still filtered through the trees, allowing us to see the dark, glistening stream. Without saying a word, Dara and I first walked about fifty yards up stream, and then came back down the stream,
It was Dara who spotted Jenny, face down in dark shallow water, her body half in and half out of the stream just on this side of the large boulder marking the pool where I had caught my fish. In fading twilight, I ran to her, knelt in the water, put my arms around Jenny, and turned the body over. Her face and body were a spider web of cuts and gashes, and her halter top had been torn to shreds. Her wounds continued to bleed into the water, onto the rock on the shore, and onto me.
"Jesus," I whispered. Jenny's eyes were wide open, staring imploringly at me.
"Is she still alive?" Dara asked.
"I dunno," I answered. I looked into Jenny's eyes, saw life, and knew Jenny was trying to communicate with me. "I think so."
"Please forgive me, Jenny," I whispered.
We both knelt as I held Jenny. As she bled, her eyes pleading, she slowly died, giving one last gurgling sigh. Jenny was gone. If Heaven exists, that's when its door must have shut on me.
After closing Jenny's eyes, I stood, holding the body, and Dara stood with me. It was dark. "Let's get outta here," I said.
Dara said nothing. I can't remember how I felt as I walked through the darkening forest, whose trail I knew by heart, and across the field to the campground, carrying the limp body of Jenny Sparks. Maybe I didn't feel anything.
When we arrived at the campfire, Dara moved over to my car, thirty feet away, opened the back door of my car, and I lay Jenny inside.
"What the hell we gonna do about Rick?" Dara asked, hostile. "Can't just leave him like this."
I didn't want to think about Rick.
"Forget Rick, " I mumbled.
I looked at Dara, who stared at me in disgust. "We can't just leave Rick, you chicken shit," she said. "Besides, Jenny's dead."
"I can," I said. "Get in the car. We're going down to Wells."
"You miserable, fucking little chicken shit," Dara said. "You saw what happened. You stood and watched."
"So did you, babe. Now, get in the fuckin' car," I said. There was nothing else Dara could do since I had the keys.
When Dara opened the door and slumped onto the passenger seat, I walked around to the other side of the car, praying that God bring Jenny back to life, opened my door, got in, and started the car. Reaching eighty at times, I sped in darkness down the mountain.
In Wells, when the police came to the hospital, we gave our story, emphasizing that one of our party was still up on the mountain. The officer questioning me gave me a chilling look, reminding me of my failure, and then walked out to his car and called in his report.
Local police and highway patrol began searching for Rick the next morning, and for two weeks combed every inch of the land for one hundred square miles. In the middle of the third week, towards the end of August, the hunt was called off, and Rick was pronounced missing and probably dead.
That November, a farmer and his son found a body wedged in between to large boulders in a river that ran one hundred miles to the north of where we had last seen Rick. The corpse was badly decomposed, parts of it completely eaten away, but a dental exam confirmed that the body belonged to Rick. During the autopsy, the medical examiner determined that Rick had been bitten repeatedly all over his body, his head nearly torn from his body. Both hands were missing.
So there you have it. My grandfather, the only totally good man I have ever known, would not hold this thing against me. Yet, to this day, fifteen years later, Dara doesn't talk to me. We both live in Las Vegas, where I work as a substitute junior high English and math teacher, and Dara owns and runs a spare-ribs restaurant in Summerlin. Several times a year, I phone Dara to talk to her, but she never picks up and never returns my calls.
Since Jenny's death, I have read everything I could find related to that area in northern Nevada. Last year, I found one article about a group of huge black dogs that roamed with a solitary man through a southern Idaho campground for seven straight nights before finally attacking a mother and her three daughters, who were on a summer vacation nature hike. A witness reported that the mother and two of the girls were mauled beyond recognition. The body of the third girl was never found. In moments of inebriation, I find myself wondering if the man that Dara and I spotted before the dogs was the devil. Sober, I realize that Rick, Dara, Jenny, and I had an encounter with something evil.
As soon as I finish this drink (What? My seventh? My eighth?), I'll drive down to Western Ribs, hang around, order some food, and see if Dara will speak to me. Come with me if you want. She will look right through me. She's done that before. I don't know what I'd say to her anyway. Would I say, "I'm sorry"? Would I say, "How've you been?" Or would I get to the point and ask, "Do you ever think about Jenny Sparks? Or Rick?" Would I ask the question that has haunted me for years: "What do you think Jenny was trying to say to me when she was dying?" Maybe I should shout, "Why don't you blame God?"
I like to imagine that Dara thinks about these dark things every night, just like I do. But, then again, maybe it's better not to think about anything at all.
5pm -- you are riding with your best friend on interstate 40. you are 76 miles from memphis. it is new year's eve. on the last day of the year 2000. you were here exactly one year ago. without your best friend. with your now ex-. hoping the world would end. but it didn't, and maybe you're glad it happened that way even though you knew it probably would.
you love your best friend because, like you, he buys notebooks he doesn't fill. you write him a letter in the back of one of the notebooks, a eulogy for the year passed. you use words you don't know the meaning of, but he doesn't know either, and this is another thing the two of you share.
everyone in the car is hung over from the night before. the conversation is filled with non sequitur. this is how you communicate -- precision of meaning defined by the context of experience. you are most comfortable this way.
it is not unlike you to act this way, pulling yourself out of the conversation to think alone and have a dialogue in your head, pen to page. the mood of the car comforts you, of course, but it does not fulfill you, and you are more adept at feeling the difference than others. and you reflect on the changes of the year. you draw a diagram in the margin of the page talking about your lack of courage. small gains and serious losses and major changes and much remaining the same and in the end it seems to have evened out, maybe declining slightly, and this is how the world works.
[6pm - explanation of an inside joke + a movie review]
the humor of language when applied to a small group of people exists on multiplicity of meaning outside the common signifier and signified relationship established in the larger culture. the humor of the redefined signifier rests solely in the space created between the old definition and its cultural significance and the new definition. one person may use the phrase "going to wal-mart" as a reference for initiating physical violence in the back alley. the signifier has now been redefined, the meaning of words shifted, toward a new signified meaning, and it is only poignant to the members who exist spatially and chronologically as to catch a) the absence of traditional signified meaning; b) the implications of this redirected meaning; and c) the sub-points of old and new meaning. furthermore, only those present at the genesis of this redefinition between signified meanings will find the new relationship humorous or meaningful, as it creates the intimacy of a redefined society amongst them. when the redefined signifier is employed, only a select few will comprehend the new relationship, and any attempt at explanation will unmask the signifier, eliciting a nonplused reaction from an outsider to the newly formed paradigm and uncomfortability from the enlightened members. this uncomfortability is the disparity between a connection of shared experience and context and the newly formed reality which has redefined the old reality, or at least the language thereof. at some point there will be an attempt to alleviate this awkwardness with the neutralizing cue "i guess you had to be there." a more accurate expression has yet to be spoken. finally, a type of word play will begin to deconstruct the earlier formed signifier, its meaning becoming malleable. the signifier will be conjugated in as many definitions and expressions as possible until it is rendered meaningless and banal. once exhausted, the inside joke will be buried. wes craven's dracula 2000 operates outside of any boundaries which might give it relevance or poignancy, and thus relieves itself of any value whatsoever.
"a wild pack of family dogs" [previously titled "written in a heavy serif font"]
sometimes i wish i could change my life. on the way to return a video in the more suburban part of town i imagined myself in a different context. making more money. dating a woman who owned enough hair and skin care products to necessitate separate space in the bathroom, a small shrine to the glories of youthful preservation. i imagine myself getting high and watching the discovery channel in a black leather recliner, wearing a button down shirt open, exposing olive skin and a six-pack. most of my hair would still be on my head. i would wear those sport slippers around the house and use anatomy to rename my friends, referred to as "buddies" or perhaps even "posse." i would not be bothered by fluorescent light, but instead be its master, learning to wield it in any room so as to create an atmosphere of young success and achievement. my furniture would be metal and glass and be surprisingly comfortable for being made from rigid elements. i would drink beer with my dad at my parents' house on sunday and talk about cars and football, but with a sure cock, even though his reaction might be the same -- a grunt and a wave of his thick hand. my girlfriend would apply make-up in front of a mirror naked, her ass would be tanned along with her breasts and she would rather hear about me fucking over some guy at work than why i wasn't feeling well for no particular reason. we'd both take valium from time to time and chase it with a beer, with a corona. she would make casseroles that substituted velveeta for cheddar and i wouldn't know the difference. i would grill steaks or fish. they would come out perfect. i would drive a practical car i bought in college but have a truck. i would have a garage to put it in, along with the lawn mower and power tools. my girlfriend would be named sarah or mindy, and would have blond hair and green eyes. she would work out in a pink sports bra every night and we would watch syndicated television and it would make sense because we'd both need to talk about it at work tomorrow. sometimes we'd fight and she'd go stay at her mother's and i would sleep with her stuffed pink bear given to her on an anniversary. she'd wear one of my oxford shirts and we'd call each other late at night. we would have forgotten the argument. it couldn't have been that important. i would say i love you less, but would look at her like i was james dean, and she would know, she would know i was a stoic but good man. i'd buy a boat. it would be an impulse buy. it would max out one of our credit cards. we would fight about it, but then we'd plan a big party on the boat and that alone would make it worthwhile. i'd like my job and feel as if i made a difference. even if i was sometimes mean to certain people. i wouldn't feel so bad, because i would know that there is a right and a wrong and some things are natural and the fact that i have a blond girlfriend that likes to fuck in the shower and you don't means i am better than you on a fundamental level. i would like to go to dance clubs because i would look better in club lighting. i would be able to come up with a dumb joke faster than my other friends. and i would buy new socks every day, because nothing in the world beats the feeling of a pair of new socks.
target.target.target.target.target.target.target.target.target.target.target -a snapshot-
she was a caricature of a pretty girl. she had the right features, bee stung lips, ample breasts, golden hair that fell in ringlets around brown, smooth-skinned shoulders, almond shaped eyes. but they were out of proportion. a caricature of a pretty girl. her boyfriend was with her and looked at me like i was an asshole. i guess i was staring. but not out of lust, out of interest. it is not everyday you see a girl who is supposed to be pretty and is, well, just odd looking. besides, he had lipstick under his jaw. what an awkward place to kiss someone. this is only one of the reasons target is interesting. a mecca of people and events. the bazaar of the old world, in a sense, but with red plastic shopping carts on unbalanced wheels. they were in line behind a normal looking couple. both were slightly dull, their hair was dull in the light, their skin slightly oily. they were wearing sweats and dingy tee-shirts. they were buying a mop and some kitty litter and a planter. the caricature of the pretty girl and her ape boyfriend were buying a lamp. one of the new lamps featured at target as to differentiate it from wal-mart. it was still cheap as hell -- i know, i had the same one -- but it looked nicer than the cheap shit at wal-mart, which is sort of dishonest. for all the evils committed by wal-mart, at least they wear their hearts on their sleeves, or their shit on their lamps, or something. anyway the girl in front of me wore black. she was one of those girls that wore black. nothing but black. i knew this because of the condition of her clothes. faded and in various states of disrepair. they ranged from still mostly black to almost grey (her socks). she wore black tennis shoes and died her hair black. people that wear black are usually combatitive for no reason whatsoever and generally high maintenance. but this isn't always the case, just some of the time. especially with the dyed-in-the-wool black wearers. she was buying a set of gel pens. i imagined her to be going home to write a suicide note on black paper with a gel pen. somehow, that'd redeem all chronic wearers of black for me. that'd have style and substance, where as most girls doomed to wear black are only interesting because they've started to unravel thanks to a therapist who has picked apart some nice little (black) bow they've tied. then they can be a glorious mess. the dull couple has shifted the contents of their cart before moving forward. the checkout girl is not smiling at me. i wasn't here for the smile, i tell myself. i was here for the 2 for five dollar deal on pepsi. still, i am troubled i didn't merit a smile. suddenly my ego goes into overdrive. "the reason you didn't get a smile, man, is because she connects with you. she feels like crap and she identifies with you so you see the real checkout girl, not that fake ass smile bullshit" (my ego listens to wu-tang clan). i doubt this is the case, but it comforts me. i make a point to count out change prior to giving it to her so as to expedite my transaction and further reify my sensitivity in this matter. it is of no help, though, as i drop three pennies, a nickel and a dime on the floor by her feet. she rolls her eyes. and then bends over, exposing the lower part of her back. there's green ink and some blue ink and maybe red but that may be her target smock. she's up again in a hurry and has pulled her shirt down lower. i think it was an automatic reaction, she felt it ride up and just, unthinking, pulled it down. but i feel bad suddenly and apologize. i get the cursory "have a nice day." the girl wearing black drives a powder blue car. i bet this troubles her. i wave to her as she pulls away from the front of the store. no response.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 2001 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 2001 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: World Wide Web http://www.apoculpro.org irc the #unbeing channel on UnderNet Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <email@example.com>. The SoB distribution list may also be joined by sending email to Kilgore Trout. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--