“Hobo Bird Man”
by John Pavon
by Isa Hopkins, editor-at-large
The drug war is a hot topic these days: Mexican drug violence has made it to the front pages of everyone from The Economist to The New Yorker. Most stories focus on the interplay of police and cartels, the political geography of Mexico’s capture by organized crime; it is taken as a given that the massive American drug market cannot be subdued, at least not nearly as easily as the massive cartels which not only profit off of American drug use to the tune of billions of dollars a year, but also murder thousands in increasingly grotesque fashion.
It was this rather lopsided equation, in which the Mexican economy must bend to suit the destructive behaviors of the first world, which first sparked the curiosity of Adam Newell, twenty-nine, when he was a young activist and graduate student in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. In May of 2007, Newell posted a meeting on an electronic bulletin board to discuss America’s complicity in Mexican gang violence.
“It was kind of a shot in the dark,” Newell admits. ”I sent it out to all the schools in the DC area, just to see what would happen.”
What emerged from that fateful night was a kind of rainbow coalition: Letitia Hughes, then a law student from Howard University, has been active in inner-city anti-drug programs since she was in middle school; Yvonne Hernandez, then a senior at Georgetown, is the daughter of illegal immigrants from the now-bloodied city of Cuidad Juarez; and Peter Syzmanscki, a recent Harvard graduate, was an analyst at the Treasury Department, specializing in international trade and currency flows.
“I’m an enlightened rationalist,” says Syzmanscki. ”Which is to say, I believe people will make rational choices based on the information available to them, and the most rational decision can be made only with the highest levels of transparency. We have such easy access to so much information, but there’s much of it that’s still difficult to trust or to verify. That’s why FTCA is so important.”
FTCA is the final product of this brain trust, a multi-year effort that has recently won recognition by the United Nations and a contract with the government of Portugal. Fair Trade Cocaine in the Americas has also earned some prominent enemies: namely, the United States government, where Syzmanscki has lost his job and Newell, Hughes, and Hernandez have found employment impossible.
“It’s absurd,” says Hughes. ”Cocaine was legal until 1970 in this country, and what you see after the passage of the Controlled Substances Act is a skyrocketing of drug use and particularly imprisonment. It’s easy to create soundbites that make us sound like criminals, but the truth is, we’re actually working to improve people’s lives, instead of just locking up end-users and letting producers and drug mules get killed for this product.”
The certification process is itself straightforward. As Hernandez notes, “the infrastructure for certification and oversight of growers is there — cocaine-producing countries are the same ones growing coffee and cocoa, and fair-trade programs have been successful with those crops for decades now. That part is a cinch, and we’ve had a lot of cooperation from the governments of Peru and Colombia.”
What, though, of the all-powerful Mexican cartels? Newell can’t help but grin at the mention. “They fucking hate us,” he says. Last month, Newell and Hernandez met with El Chapo, legendary head of the Sinaloa cartel, often regarded as Mexico’s most powerful man. That the two Americans lived to tell the tale is itself a testimony to their impact.
“He was concerned about losing market share,” Newell explains. ”And we said, look, if you carry product that we’ve certified in Colombia, and we can verify that it was carried without any violence, then we’ll stand behind it. Really, a cartel is just a business, and fair-trade certifications are about promoting businesses that don’t do harm. We were very matter-of-fact about it, and he respected that.”
“There are a lot of Mexicans who make their lives off the drug trade,” Hernandez says. ”Innocent Mexicans, too. And the whole American response to it is such a mess — we have this giant market that just grows and grows, and instead of working seriously to reduce demand, we just punish those who supply it. We’re talking out of both sides of our mouth, and it’s insane, and people are getting killed. So we just said, why not work from the supply-side? Why not give consumers a better choice? And those were terms that El Chapo really understood.”
FTCA has normalized select routes out of cocaine-producing countries to a handful of dealers in New York and Los Angeles. And, contrary to the popular depiction of the cocaine user as a mindless addict, their certification has become a hot commodity. One California dealer, speaking anonymously, told us plainly that it was just a better product. ”When it’s got a certification like that, there’s accountability built in to the system,” he said. ”Cokeheads know they’re getting something pure, that’s not messed with. A lot of my clients are people who eat organic and get acupuncture and shit. They’d get their coke at Whole Foods if they could, and when I sell with the FTCA label, it’s like I’m suddenly the Whole Foods of cocaine, and nobody tries to bargain me down from a premium. It’s pretty fucking brilliant all around.”
“Look,” says Hughes. ”It’s not like we’re promoting cocaine use — the use is there no matter what we do. But tobacco use is terrible for you, too, and we don’t let thousands of people get killed for that just because we don’t know how to frame a sane tobacco policy.”
Syzmanscki points to the evolving marijuana policies of Oakland, California, as a promising example of positive, progressive drug law. ”What you see there is an increase in domestic sales — once you decriminalize and regulate, and build a system with accountability, you’ve got people who only want Humboldt bud and who can demand that. And in that case it’s mostly about the quality, that it’s better than Mexican weed, but it improves the local economy and reduces incentives for drug crimes in Latin America nonetheless. We can’t have Humboldt cocaine, but we can have trustworthy cocaine, and people will buy it.”
The system is imperfect. ”Fair-trade production and commerce doesn’t erase the public health impacts of drug use,” Newell admits. ”But it does go a long way to stabilizing some of these Latin American countries that have been torn apart by the drug trade. Fair-trade chocolate doesn’t fix the obesity epidemic, but nobody takes that as a reason not to pay fair wages to growers.”
In the meantime, the very future of FTCA is in doubt — and the danger comes not from a hit by El Chapo, but the United States government. The organization has already had to move from its first office in Washington, DC, to one in San Francisco, and they are now contemplating a switch to Vancouver (Canada’s drug laws are slightly more liberal than America’s). ”Ultimately, we’ll probably end up in Lisbon,” says Newell. The Portugese government decriminalized all drug use in 2001, and has proven the friendliest to FTCA’s stated goals. ”But our real aim is in the US, so hopefully we can find a way to stay without each one of us getting audited each year. How does the NRA get to cozy up to presidents, and yet when we try to save lives with a rational approach to drug policy, they try to run us out of the country?”
Regardless of where they end up, the FTCA already has some devoted fans. In an informal survey taken over dinner at Princeton University’s Tower Club, undergraduates were impassioned in their opinions. ”I don’t care where the hell they go, as long as their product stays here,” said Chelsea, a twenty-year-old double-major in chemistry and East Asian Languages. Paul, twenty-one and on track to graduate summa cum laude in classics, declared that FTCA cocaine was “better than Adderall” and “better be easy to get at Stanford”, where he will be earning a PhD next fall. Meanwhile, two entire tables of economics majors high-fived. ”We hear Goldman has an expense account with those guys,” they told me. ”IBs” — investment bankers — “love that shit.” As in all things in America, if Wall Street is in favor, the government can’t be too far behind.
“Don’t Tell Me Not To Take A Puff”
by Elizabeth Oehlschlaeger
don’t tell me
not to take a puff….
if anything your problem is
that you don’t toke enough
cause what’s killing you
is your lack of sense of humor man
and don’t tell me
when i’ve had enough to drink
it never is enough
if i’m still hearing myself think
and what you think is me retarded,
is me just getting started, yeah
i get down sometimes
i don’t try to knock it
i write a little rhyme
and i see if i can rock it
i don’t really mind
if it’s not what i’m supposed to do
i grow up sometimes
i don’t think i like it
i know life goes by
but i can still try and fight it
i don’t have the time
to be doing what you’d like me to
so don’t eye me
if you don’t like the clothes i’m wearing
i’m sorry if you haven’t gotten past the point of caring,
but i’m sure that donna karan
would be happy if you shared your views…
and don’t expect me to state my opinion
in your great debate on what could be or is or isn’t
i say don’t jack shit up, man,
if you can’t back it up
with what you do
so tell me, baby,
tell me why you’re blue
is the big corporate world
not doing it for you?
well there might be a fix in my little bag of tricks for you…
hey honey, why so sad?
could it be your destiny
is not precisely as you planned?
well i might know a place where you can find a friend…
and that’s Zen….
i see your girl sometimes
i don’t know how she does it
think i’d like it sometimes,
but i know i wouldn’t love it
i got hurt one time and man, that blew it
i see the world sometimes,
i don’t know how we do it
half are trying to help it
while the other half pollute it
got inspired one time,
and thats why now i just say screw it
’cause i love me some absurdity
some anarchy and debauchery
some bittersweet melancholy…..
and when i wake up,
i try to ignore it
if not, well, hell, i’ll just take something for it
i may not be euphoric but i’m sure i’m better off than you
and i downgrade sometimes to the wrong situation,
but half the fun in life is making our mistakes…
and if we all make ‘em, well i wanna be sure
that i make mine good
i’ll be sure to make mine good!
in abscess of intimacy
By David Haase
pink blade s
delicately fold then
soapy clipp ingsin
you never let me solly
dalivate your armpit
emotional intelligence at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
by David Haase
very good sir,
and what would you
like the card to say?
Hmm, how ’bout this:
Think not of these
As promise ring candies
A territorial spraying
Of chocolate urine
“Hits and Errors*(*He Took It In The Asterisk)”
by Jeff Santosuosso
Manny took it in the fanny
And got his 50 games.
The female version, nearly perversion,
The ‘man’ still knows no shame. It was the shots made him happy, not Big Papi,
Or the nappy on his noggin,
With no hits at the plate or in his mouth,
He’d be doggin’ it.
McGwire, the liar,
Now retired, trying to inspire the Cards
To hire him as hitting instructor
Took lady love, our heroine and fucked her,
And Sosa, the heavy doser,
Who in right field stood closer
To his fans, shrunk his two little glands,
Slugged it out one summer.
Attendance rose, they’d pose together
Heroes once, now dumb and dumber.
And Raffy, like a mafi-oso
Testified to Congress,
“I didn’t take ‘roids. You know so!”
Then slunk away in shame.
Former Viagra pitchman, reputation in a ditch man,
No place in the Hall of Fame.
Barry’s denied it. “Never even tried it!â”
Though Conti says he supplied it.
The bigger head, larger shoes instead
Of his earlier days. Nothing fazed him,
Accusations aMaysed him (but not his godfather,
He, the natural bod-father),
His outsized jersey, his maple bat
His size nine hat.
Selig showed him no mercy
When he coercied
With the league’s elite to keep him on the street
And closed the strings of the pursie.
Old Bud, the records fell thud
As the gate take grew like the studs
Whose bodies swelled and wouldn’t tell
On each other.
And Bud soaked up the praise, to raise
The money in summers sunny
And restore the baseball craze.
Old Rocket Roger, pocketed larger
Sums and testified too. He specified
He never took from Brian M.
But Mac said he was lying then.
For MacNamee supplied the stuff
Though Roger denied it and tried to hide it.
Their tired dispute, the facts are moot,
Will end who knows when.
The game endures, our hearts are pure
And unpricked by needles or syringes.
We stick to the game,
Which seedles our dreams and hinges
Only on our ideals.
From Black Sox to Pete
Nothing can defeat
The game that always heals.
Jeff Santosuosso is a business executive and amateur poet (aren’t we all?!) who is trying to sublimate his impulses through poetry. He calls Dallas/Fort Worth his home for now.
“Rage Against Causality”
by James Fluty
The soft tapping of computer keys wrap around each languishing second
Surrounding them like a fog of white noise
If physicists would spend more time in the realm of the spirit
We might explain the mathematical inconsistency of tedious work moving so slowly
Yet destroying one’s life so quickly
And despite this scene rightfully inviting the action
I am none the less surprised by the sound
A co-worker yawns
Following the natural impulse to repeat him comes a feeling of intense, unspeakable anger
I must refuse to return this yawn
I feel the resistance between my temples,
Behind my eyes,
A ball in my throat
A small pocket of chi that make my eyes sting
It would be one thing if he had tied me down
Putting to good use those years of interrogation training
He managed to keep secret from the rest of us
With the use of bamboo shoots and electrodes he would force me to submit on video
Declaring to the world my allegiance to the yawn
But there was only this involuntary suggestion at play
And it alone was enough
to control my actions
This is more than a man needing coffee,
This moment is every moment spent wondering the nature of stimulus
have I never made a single choice in my life?
Do I rationalize as means to my own end?
If these decisions are not my own what meaning,
could I find?
My life’s works would seem
Stolen by impulse
My jaw begins to quiver
The first soldier to see defeat ahead
knowing the battle lost
My mouth opens, reluctantly
Exposing to the world
Off-white enameled flags of surrender
I bury my face in my hands
And feel my life mildew and rot around me
The pain is mitigated for a moment
In my daydreams of self slaughter
But, I realize that these thoughts of taking my life
May simply be the result of eating too much sugar
The yawn has stripped even my suicide of meaning
Though it has given great significance to that muffin I ate this morning
As my defeat settles on me like dust
The systematic shutting down of my organs is interrupted by the coworker’s sudden declaration:
“Can’t seem to wake up this morning. Mondays, am I right?”
“The Blue Item”
by Andrew Hogan
Officers responded to a report from the central campus administration of a woman with “a blue item on her head” monopolizing the admissions desk personnel by speaking incoherently. She claimed to have several names, to be on medicine to combat hyperactivity, to be a prophet, a medicine woman, a shaman and a nurse of 30 years, to be able to divine the future and to be the victim of six failed marriages. She said her grandmother, who supposedly had left her $7 million, sent the campus police to check up on her. The officers found she had no warrants, so they told her to leave the admission desk staff alone unless she was going to register for classes. She left the campus.
AlwaysReadyForDinner said: Admissions Desk Personnel Are Idiots! Have you ever tried to talk with the people at the admissions desk? Sure, if all you want is to register for a class in person instead of going online, and maybe you were looking for a little human interaction in an otherwise cold and uncaring world (big mistake), they’ll get you registered just fine, with a contemptuous comment about how you could do this more easily online “and not bother me so I can keep sitting here picking my nose. If you have any kind of problem out of the ordinary or want to explain why you’re taking Food Prep 106 because you hope the girls in the course will be more mature and interested in an older, more mature guy who really appreciates food, well just forget it. They’ll claim they need to move on to the next person in line, who just happens to be a hot chick, and they’re all smiles and small talk, and while the hot chick gets lots of attention, the geek behind her can just keep text-messaging his mom, who’s sitting in her car out in the turnaround waiting to take him home for supper. I just hope the lady with the blue diamond on her head is a shaman and that she got to put a curse on their sorry admissions asses before the storm troopers ran her off public property.
March 18, 2007 at 1:51 pm MDT
June P. Weaver, Associate Director of Admissions, Central Campus said: Admissions personnel are properly trained. We receive very few complaints about admissions desk personnel, and most of the complaints are baseless, usually resulting from the failure of the student to bring proper documentation. The Central Campus is especially difficult for admissions desk personnel because of the large number of homeless or vagrants living in the vicinity who enter the admissions area looking for empty aluminum cans or shelter from the weather. All Central Campus admissions personnel have gone through sensitivity training to handle cases of non-students approaching the admissions desk with inappropriate requests. Mace canisters are used only in extreme situations, in fact, they have never been discharged on the Central Campus, except once when a clerk accidentally dropped the canister he was showing to his girlfriend. Admissions desk personnel can request assistance from campus security by pressing a panic buzzer under the admissions desk, which is what was done in the case of the woman with the blue item on her head.
March 19, 2007 at 3:21 pm MDT
MopedMakeOutMachine said: Central Campus is a Zoo. You wouldn’t even believe the weirdoes who slink onto Central Campus! You’re trying to eat your lunch fast, right, because you got up late for class and you had to type your report at the last minute, and you’re trying to read your textbook while you’re eating before class in case you get called on by your rat-bastard teacher who thinks you’re never prepared, and along comes some homeless guy trying to convince you that God wants you to give him money or the rest of the burrito you’re trying to choke down, and the stench of the homeless guy is so bad you’re losing your appetite, but it’ a two and a half hour class and you know you’re going to get so hungry that you hold your nose so you can stuff the burrito down and you can’t tell the guy to fuck off (Can I say that online?), so you give him the finger but you start to choke and have to hock up most of the burrito, and then being a good Christian you ask the homeless guy if maybe he would still like it, and the ungrateful bastard gives you the finger. I mean, why do the cops let these guys on campus to bother serious students like us who are trying to study? I’d like to move over to the Southwest Campus next to the rez, where the Indian cops just chase off these homeless guys, because, you know, all the shit the Indians had to put up with from the cavalry and rustlers and all, so they don’t take no shit (Can I say that online?) from homeless guys, but I can’t get my classes in moped maintenance and repair except on the Central Campus, so I’m stuck here with these crazy assholes.
March 19, 2007 at 4:57 pm MDT
Roslinda LeeAnne said: Ridiculing the mentally ill is wrong. My sister is schizo, and I think it’s wrong to make fun of people like her who can’t help themselves. She’s had delusions about being somebody else, somebody other people wouldn’t just blow off. But then it turns out people don’t like her OR the other person she imagines herself to be. She understands, kind of, what’s happening, that people are making fun of her and the other person she thinks she is. So now her feelings are really hurt because she couldn’t even dream up a person that other people would like. In case you’re wondering, she’s not the lady with the blue item on her head. My sister hates blue and would never wear a blue item. AND she hates Central Campus because of all the freaks down there. She stalks around the Foothills Campus, where they’re all Republicans, walking around talking on their cell phones as soon as they get out of class. My sister has my old cell phone now; it’s broken but she can talk to the other person she imagines herself to be about how slutty the other girls dress for the classes that the other person whom my sister imagines herself to be is taking.
March 21, 2007 at 1:51 pm MDT
Homer Brauhaus, Director for Advocacy said: Please be compassionate. The TCC Central Campus is situated in the principal roosting area for Tucson’s homeless and mentally ill vagrant population, roughly a third of whom are veterans with untreated service connected mental illnesses resulting from the current and previous disastrous misadventures in the Middle East based on fabricated reports of weapons of mass destruction. Services to this population are woefully inadequate, causing a vagrant life style that occasionally impacts on other public services, such as public transportation, recreation areas and higher education, even while fat cats keep piling on one tax deduction after another to finance their home construction projects that are destroying the desert around us. Rather than whining on this web page about the behavior of these unfortunate mentally ill individuals, some of whom have risked their lives defending our way of life from allegedly Islamofascist terrorists and dictators with imaginary weapons of mass destruction, readers should redirect their complaints to the Tucson City Council and the state legislature who have failed to appropriate adequate funds for programs to help the mentally ill homeless. Please check our web page for the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of these city and state officials. http://www.homesforthehomeless.org/
March 21, 2007 at 10:33 pm MDT
Captain Santake, the Imperial Guard of Zardok said: REPENT HUMAN SCUM! The despicable treatment of the shamanic representative of the Zardok Imperium by the temple palatines shall be avenged on all temple functionaries who do not repent before the commencement of the next Jay Leno broadcast.
March 22, 2007 at 9:44 am MDT
FredU said: Islamofascists disguised as extraterrestrials! It’s bad enough that we’ve got bleeding hearts running around the desert picking up illegal aliens who are crossing the border through our national parks and monuments that would be better off in private hands who could defend them relying on their constitutional right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment, and taking them to Starbucks for a latte before letting them infiltrate the workplace of American citizens who lose their jobs and have to resort to selling drugs to make ends meet, BUT NOW they are posing as extraterrestrials to scare law-abiding citizens away from speaking out against them for fear of being sucked up into a flying saucer and subjected to bizarre experiments that will leave them incontinent and impotent, and believe me, I know this from personal experience.
March 22, 2007 at 1:56 pm MDT
June P. Weaver, Associate Director of Admissions, Central Campus said: Further investigation of the incident involving the woman with the blue item on her head has called into question the version reported in the March 18, 2007 Olmec Press “Police Beat.” Coworkers and onlookers have failed to corroborate the account given by Giles Neiderberg, the admissions desk clerk at the time of the aforementioned incident. Further questioning of Mr. Neiderberg resulted in an admission that he had returned on evening prior to the incident from a weekend of drunken debauchery in Puerto Penasco, most of which experience he was unable to recall, including the citation for public nudity found in his trash receptacle. Mr. Neiderberg agreed to immediately enter an alcohol abuse rehabilitation program, subsequent to which he met Brittany Spears, the pop diva, and decided to terminate a promising career in higher education administration to become a roadie for Ms. Spears future concert tours.
In addition to the vacancy created by Mr. Neiderberg’s resignation, the Central Campus admissions staff suffered the loss of half of its personnel because they refused to apologize for Mr. Neiderberg’s mistreatment of the shamanic representative of the Zardok Imperium; Mr. Neiderberg was himself unavailable for annihilation due to his institutionalization in the Slippery Palms Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Center in Santa Monica, which lies outside of the sphere of influence of the Zardok Imperium.
March 29, 2007 at 3:21 pm MDT
Felicity J.W. Farnsworth-Symthe, Director, TCC Institute for Creative Writing Grammar and Punctuation said: Whilst the false shadow falls astray, the seed is germinated nonetheless. The woman, her head emblazoned in a blue aura of light, whose mental state has been characterized as infirm in the Olmec Press post because of her seemingly fantastic tales to the admissions clerk whilst she sought to register in the Fantasy Fiction Writing Workshop, WRT 2065, for which I am the humble and happy pedagogue, and in which the blue-auraed woman has participated as a student for nigh on four years, with great success in her academic achievements, but her way was blocked by the aforesaid admissions clerk, who believed her unfit for such intellectual rigor due to the red flag caused by the new writing competency examination requirement, so designed to prevent fledging students from partaking of advanced writing courses for which they lack the adequate preparation, so recently imposed that the blue-auraed student was not forced to engage said requirement whereupon she first registered in the workshop those many years ago. So warmly did the blue-auraed student attempt to bring about understanding in the mind of the aforesaid admissions desk clerk regarding her current enrollment and successful performance in the fantasy fiction writing workshop that the admissions clerk, mesmerized by her blue aura, was struck dumb and dumber and was thereupon made unwilling to override the red flag preventing the enrollment of the blue-auraed student, who then attempted to convince the admissions clerk of her suitability for the course by spinning again the tales she had composed in previous semesters, including stories about a woman who was a nurse, another who was a shaman, a medicine woman, a divinator of the future, a malapert who had had six failed marriages, and a beneficiary of a grandmother’s gift of seven million dollars, etc., and the blue-auraed woman being a compelling story teller, the weak-minded admission clerk became confused and misperceived her animated discourse to profess she had herself enacted all of these roles. And so it came to pass, the confused admissions clerk thought it more prudent to refuse to override the red flag, thereby preventing the blue-auraed student’s enrollment, on the grounds that he “didn’t want her getting in over her head in a course she wasn’t prepared for,” although he did magnanimously offer to discuss it with her further over drinks at the Rancho Pustulario Bar on Second Street after his shift ended. The blue-auraed student, now in great distress over the shambles of her academic career laid waste by the weak-minded clerk, did unfurl multitudinous insults upon him, casting aspersions on his intelligence and ancestry, implying excessive progenitary inbreeding, whereupon the admissions clerk, though weak-minded but still a sensitive heart beating in his breast, took great offense at these calumnious characterizations of his ancestry and forthwith summoned the campus constabulary, who, accustomed to dealing with the deranged and mentally infirm in the thereabouts of the Central Campus admissions desk, escorted the blue-auraed student from the building. Gentle readers, I beseech you to take note that the blue-auraed woman does pay out-of-state tuition and that no state law or college regulation exists to prohibit the enrollment of extraterrestrial species in TCC classes. The blue-auraed woman has over the course of seven semesters brought to my fantasy fiction writing workshop a special perspective and contributed unique information to the benefit of many of the younger students whose experiences in matters extraterrestrial and aetheral is often limited to the chemically induced.
March 30, 2007 at 4:35 pm MDT
Giles_Servant_to_the_Diva said: Dudes, dweebs, airheads, behold the tripendicular dawn! Learn, learn, LEARN from my mistake. Never, never, NEVER dis an alien with a hangover. I mean, when you’ve got the hangover, don’t dis an alien, thinking there won’t be payback. Yeah, I had a bitchin’ time at Puerto Penasco, at least so I’m told by my homeys, but I totally misdug the chick with the blue diamond on her head. The blue light made feel me like I was still wasted. I totally tried to get the chick into the freakin’ class, just so she’d shut up and go away, but the freakin’ computer kept beeping at me and flashing a big red X that fried my eyeballs. Finally, no choice, I pushed the panic button, and the Barneys came and drug off the chick after I laid on them all the crap she’d babbled about herself. Was I wasted? Duh! Did I know my coworkers would be nuked by some alien death ray for what I did? Clueless! Jainey, Butch, Xavier, Molly, they could’ve sucked it up to the Zardok Imperium and repented for me. Instead they act like I’m groty to the max. And Miss Weaver makes out like they were nuked for standing on principle. Earth People Don’t Kiss Alien Butt. Where’s that written down!
Yeah, so maybe I was lucky to be hanging with Brittany in rehab when the death ray sizzled my Admissions Desk compadres. I’m mellow now, baked out in the sun and cooled by ocean breezes. Two lounge chairs down from the Diva, and I can smell her tanning oil. She looks at me, and there’s no frown, no little siren going off in the back of her head warning her to move onto to somebody more reliable who smells better and doesn’t burp so much. Okay, we’re not exactly like tight or anything. I’m not going to be her main squeeze, we’ll probably never hook up, but when I carry her bags to the bus or get her a slurpee from the Fat-&-Sugar-Quick-Mart, she’s got a kind look in her eyes. I’ve found my mission on the road; every night, me and the Diva in a new town – anything to get away from the constant stream of freaks at the admissions desk. Boise, Pierre, Ashtabula here we come!
April 1, 2007 at 12:03 am MDT
“The Chivalrous Cavalier”
by James Neenan
I watch my companion, Jerome Beaman sip his chocolate milk in front of a cavernous fire. In just twelve short years on this planet his face is distorted with signs of torment and anguish. The tarnished looks of fifth grade are beginning to take their dreadful toll. I have brought Jerome to my home on this fateful night to unwind. For it is to be a slumber-party of sorts, and my dear mother has been instructed to put out the chocolate milk and retire to her respective quarters, leaving my companion and I to unwind and brood, solemnly, in peace.
Why, you ask, is it necessary to console my disrupted companion with a creamy glass of thick chocolate milk in front of a roaring fire? The answer to that, dear reader, can only be captured with a tale of grave misfortune. One can obviously guess that there is a girl involved. For even in one’s greatest moment of triumph the simple downward gaze of a doting maiden can pierce one’s heart like a Rhinoceros tusk through a nobleman on safari.
Now, sit, dear reader, and allow me to recollect the fateful afternoon in which our beloved Jerome attempted to woo the hardened heart of one, Abigail Foster. For this tale is one of dark, iniquitous tidings of love lost, never to be recovered. This is the tale of the hopelessly romantic, heavyset gentleman, whose bride was never caught, and whose soul will forever pine.
It was an icy December afternoon when Jerome took his seat next to me in Mrs. Kelly’s history lecture. He bounced into the room five minutes late from recess, taking pains not to disturb the class, as was his custom. Mrs. Kelly was going over slides on westward expansion and the Polk administration. Though, as scintillating as the lecture was, I could tell Jerome’s attention lay elsewhere. It was apparent that Jerome had his own destiny to manifest later on that very same day, though, what grave tidings were to await my brotherly comrade, not even I could guess.
I sat and watched as he lusted after the shimmer of Abigail’s silky blonde hair, held up in all its perfection by a patterned velvet scrunchie. She possessed the sexual prowess of Aphrodite, and the budding beauty of a young Drew Barrymore. Unfortunately, Jerome possessed the looks of a recently blinded Cyclops. He later confessed that he knew it was the proper day to begin their courtship, for the god’s had professed such a message that very morning as he gazed at his well-sculpted hair in the vanity of his bathroom mirror.
Elaboration aside, I must admit, that on that particular day Jerome did appear quite fetching. His hair was perfect and elicited the all too enticing aromas of lilac and geranium. It gleamed in the noisy fluorescent lighting of the classroom like phosphorous on moonlit stillwater. As if chiseled from of a block of marble, extra body styling gel held each singular strand perfectly in place.
I noticed he had managed to prep himself unto the likes of an English nobleman, ready to release the hounds prior to the master hunt. He confessed to sitting before his vanity like a king ready to execute forty commoners in the name of pestilence. Eyebrows slicked down, hair gelled and combed to perfection, nails trimmed, teeth flossed, he was ready to conquer anything set before him. Anything, that was, but his own girth.
I do not wish to dwell on such a miniscule issue as one’s corpulence, however, in that fragile state of adolescence it was a problem that he constantly reverted back to with hatred and angst; one that consumed him like a raging torrent of napalm, set to ingest a village. I can remember endless nights spent together when he would wax on about Greco-Roman aesthetic conceptions of beauty, as if through simply discussing it, his own body would transform into that of a young Hercules.
But let us not wallow amongst the tedium of mere appearance. For Jerome was a linguist sculpted out of the ashes of the immortal bard himself, held together by the romantic charisma of Johnny Keats and the sensual sensibilities of Percy Shelley. If anyone could swoon the hardened heart of the lovely Abigail, it was our dear protagonist.
Now, dear reader, listen as I explain the situation as best as I remember it. I peered on with interest as Jerome cautiously withdrew a singular chocolate rose from his backpack, and oh, what a rose it was. Only the largest bag of Reeses Pieces one could conjure rivaled the unadulterated magnificence that was carved into the delicate petals. He must have paid nearly six dollars of his hard-earned chore money for that rose. It was clear, his sweat and blood went into the purchase of such an item of tenderness; sweet sultry chocolaty love, all of which foiled by a girl who knew better than to date a handsomely romantic porker such as Jerome. It was meant to capture her heart like a moth to a flame; she was to be his mosquito, and he, her bug-zapper.
He stroked the token with loving affection, and put it back into his bag. There was no question about it. Cupid’s notorious arrow had struck our dear Jerome in the backside and that was that. Then the bell rang. I watched as he slid from his desk like a tender piece of veal down a lord’s gullet and shot toward the hallway. I gathered my bag and various schooling devices, careful to linger just inside the doorframe, poised just out of sight, ready for any mishaps that might befall my well mannered brother-in-arms.
As the class filed out, I silently pondered what sort of gentrified banter Jerome was planning on thrusting to Abigail’s lofty consideration. Jerome and I were of the same mind, and very often, thought alike in times when the brain’s faculties are extended to the farthest reaches of thought. I sat and considered which routine Jerome had prepared for this particular afternoon.
Perhaps he was to give her the Superman, Lois Lane, routine in which he catalogs and diagrams his worth in terms of strength and courage. Then again, perhaps he will launch into the noted “grow old with you” routine, detailing fanciful incidences, of soaking each other’s dentures in the same solution, or lovingly changing out each other’s over-filled colostomy bags. What brass that kid had. You scoff at such propositions, but really, what did our dear Jerome have to lose? Really, what could be more romantic than a cute elderly couple happily changing out each other’s personal waste receptacles as if they were simply taking out the trash? In my mind, nothing. Then again, I too reside in a state of unreturned affection and will probably never find my own, dear, sweet, beautiful, Lois Lane. But alas, it is Jerome’s fate we are discussing here, and I shall do my best to stay with our portly protagonist.
I lowered myself calmly inside the doorframe, just between the abridged door and the wall so as not to be seen. She brushed past me out into the hallway. I knew from her first step out the door that this was going to end poorly for our dear hopelessly romantic companion.
And so I sat, and listened.
“Hey, Abigail, can I talk to you for a second?” It sounded like a kazoo solo plunked into the middle of a Mozart concerto.
“Hey, Jerome, what’s up?” Her voice seemed to lilt for a moment, then falter. The tension was so palpable it was beginning to grow legs and prance around the room in mocking joviality.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about this, my dear, sweet, candylicious, cherub of Eden.” (He actually talked like that.) “And I think that it is about time for us to begin our courtship indefinitely. For it is written in the stars that we are destined to be together. Our separate paths are predetermined to cross like Peter Parker and Mary Jane.”
What a routine choice! Bravo, old boy, I thought.
“Of course,” he continued, “our love will not include that whole emo phase that Parker went through, which was totally lame, but I digress.”
Agreed, good friend, but you seem to be faltering a bit. Stay the course.
“Now, what do you say, my dream among dreams? Will you take this rose, in acceptance of my love and fortitude, so that we may remain together, forever?”
Although the thick classroom door shrouded my vision, I could clearly hear Jerome get down on one knee and present his crown jewel, his Excalibur. He gave her the chocolate rose. (And no, the Bachelor had not been invented yet- those dogs possess as much romantic sensibility as a fraternity brother set loose in a Guadalajaran stripclub)
I sat, with bended knee and bottled up breath, considering what sort of look our fair Abigail would display for our
“We’re in fifth grade, Jerome. My parents won’t let me date until sixth. And why do you talk like that? You are so weird,” she said.
Jerome’s silence was all that followed his tirade of sentimentality. It spoke volumes.
I could vaguely make out the sounds of her footfall, as she strode off down the hall. I got up off my knee and entered the hallway, only to find Jerome, sitting, back against the wall, in disbelief. Not a word was exchanged between us. We were of the same mind, and any conversation would have been frivolous in his current situation. I helped him off the floor and escorted him out into the sunlight of the parking lot, where we entered my mother’s mini-van; heads held a bit lower than usual.
A thousand fiery suns could not have blistered his heart more than her rejection of his token of affection. The wind was out of the sails, the pooch-screwed. In that instant, our wonderful little blubber-bubble was but another fifth-grader, internally sobbing to himself at the rejection before him. I knew at that moment, how young Keats felt at having the lovely Brawne slip from his fingers like a perspiring glass of sherry from a debutante’s grasp.
In Jerome’s case, I blame courage, as it was the dreadful proprietor on that fateful afternoon. Without its blinding hopes and glimmers of a beautiful future, he would have relented prior to his embarrassing escapade of foolish self-mockery.
I wish she wouldn’t have shrugged away from him on that fateful Wednesday afternoon after he handed her a proclamation of undying love manifested in the form of a rose made from the finest silk-chocolate; but such is life. The deck was obviously not stacked in his favor.
The logical question at such a juncture would be to consider the emotion of embarrassment. Was he, your dreadfully handsome protagonist, embarrassed at having his hand rejected by the one he loved? Pah, certainly not, dear reader. For Jerome possessed the strength of ten men in the face of adversity. Fie every cretinous dog that turns in glee at the onset of another’s torment. For those willing to naysay the bold actions of the hopeless romantic are not fit to gorge upon the same sloppy ground beef concoction served in the lunchroom. Those willing to harp on one’s failed chivalrous conquest should be drawn, quartered, tarred, and feathered, all at once, if possible. The loathsome hags, hell-bent on relishing in the mockery of another are not fit to change the piss-pot of a kindergartener! At least our good friend Jerome had the courage, nay the strength, nay the cold-blooded cajones to say what he felt at the time and mean it. To be a romantic is no mere walk among the primrose path. It is a quest for the undying love of another, it is a lash along the chest at every heartbeat that beats for another; and it is a kick straight to the balls with every sentiment not returned.
It is now that I express my wish to encourage any and all dire Romeos to persevere in their own conquest for their personal Juliet. It is a long and frustrating world that must be taken with care. The road is dangerous and wearisome, yet is one that must be undertaken by those who possess the gumption to tackle even the most radiant of beauties. For who among us does not wish to share a gleaming, dentured smile with their significant other, well into the future? After all, an existence without mutual deterioration among couple’s body parts is frankly, an existence not worth fighting for. We should all aspire to grow old with one another, saggy paunches and all, and for that, I say persevere in the name of love.
And so we sit and gaze into the crackle of the flames before us. I watch as Jerome gulps down his glass of chocolate milk- so sugary, it could rot the steel frame of a tractor-trailer. Wrapped in the shrouds of his Batman pajamas, my dear friend Jerome is a man in recovery.
I watch as he pours himself another glass of the silky ambrosia and slams it back with ease. He nods and signals for the yearbook. I carefully set it in his lap. I suppose it is time, after all. Flipping through the book at random, I gaze on in admiration as a smile plays out across Jerome’s lips. With an extended forefinger directed at a young girls portrait, Jerome holds the book up for my approval.
“Lauren Ramirez?” I say.
“Do you doubt my skill after my most recent floundering?” He says.
I slam back my glass of chocolate milk. It is so sugary it stings the back of my throat. I cough and regain my composure.
by Scott Oglesby
Let’s face it, we all have demons. My demons are the same as your demons; they probably just use different Facebook accounts. It is my sincere hope that by sharing my story, showing you my moments of weakness and sharing with you my hard won victory, you will have an added strength when you need it most. Luckily for me, the dreaded demons only attack “sometimes.”
Sometimes they come, hungry, in the middle of the night eating away at the back of my brain until I give in, turn on my computer and vigorously masturbate to midget porn. Lately the midgets are able to take me where the “strap on lesbians” no longer will.
Sometimes they arrive as I’m eating my breakfast and strongly suggest that I throw my one hard boiled egg and half a fucking grapefruit at the nearest wall and just eat the frozen sausage and pancake on a stick that I was supposed to throw away when I started South Beach three days ago, but didn’t because, well, nobody stays on a diet forever and why waste food? The demons tell me that I could even dip my Jimmy Dean delight in the Baconnaise sauce that I love so much. Those fatty, sugary demons are dastardly demons indeed.
Sometimes the demons show up mid-morning, tapping my shoulder when I’m feeling really lethargic, probably because I gorged myself with a ridiculously heavy breakfast, telling me to see if Rick from copywriting will front me another teener of blow to get me through the day. They tell me that I can quit again next week, when I’m back on my diet and feeling peppier.
Sometimes they come during my lunch hour when I realize that I did way too much coke and it turned out to be really, really good, which is unusual for Rick’s shit, so the demons insist that I need a taste of the brown, junk, chiva, smackdaddy- heroin, (God, I even love its nicknames) because I urgently need to come down a notch or two or I’m likely to suffer cardiac arrhythmia. I did eat all that fat and cholesterol this morning. Oh God damnit, I don’t want to die like this. Agh! But then I tell myself not to let the blow make me paranoid, that I always let the blow make me paranoid and I’m just beginning to slip into cocaine psychosis, like always. Then that particular demon speaks up again and asks me why I’d take the chance? I mean it’s my heart we’re talking about here. Besides, the detox from last time wasn’t as excruciatingly painful as I told people it was. That was just me trying to garner sympathy, like I always do. It was no worse than the common flu. I won’t even need to detox if I only do a little. Rick will understand; he didn’t give me the heads up on the purity of that coke so he kind of owes me, honestly.
Sometimes they come at night, after I realize that I’ve been nodding out at my desk for the past 7 hours, and they merrily inform me that this would be the perfect time to pick up a fifth of scotch, call the escort service and order my specialty; the midget.
Sometimes they come while I’m lying in bed, worn out from a hard day at the office and utterly spent due to indescribably awesome sex with a midget, and they are screaming in my ear to just have one cigarette. The midget is having one right now, surely I can give myself over to this one, small, harmless pleasure. I tightly close my steel trap mind to those manipulative, demonic voices however, because I’m so much stronger than that.
Scott Oglesby lives in Southern Spain after being exiled (yes exiled) from the United States after a series of unfortunate incidents involving C list celebrities and duct tape. He is currently hard at work on his third attempt to cook eggplant parmesan to perfection and thus, satisfy the judges.
by Scott Erickson
My main problem with working is that it requires work. Rather than think of myself as “lazy,” I prefer to think of myself as efficient. If efficiency is defined as “how to get more as a result of less work” then maximum efficiency would be “how to get everything as a result of no work.”
Thus, maximum efficiency became my life goal. But how could I achieve it?
Someone in a New Age bookstore introduced me to the book Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. According to the book, all you need to do is visualize your goals, and then your “thought energy” conspires with like-minded energy and manifests your goals in the material realm. No work required!
I visualized night and day. I visualized till the cows came home. I visualized while the cows hung around. I continued visualizing as the cows took off again.
I visualized myself standing proudly in front of my huge Hollywood mansion. I visualized a gold stretch-Cadillac limo pull up the driveway. I visualized Scarlett Johansson stepping out of the limo. I visualized Scarlett Johansson shedding her clothes. This led to further visualizations that went on for hours and hours, and eventually include Liv Tyler.
But no matter how much I visualized, none of my thought energy manifested in the material realm. I felt betrayed. I wanted to write an outraged letter to Shakti Gawain, but I couldn’t afford a stamp.
As I was attempting to visualize a first-class postage stamp, I received the insight that changed my life. It struck me with the force of something really forceful that all the effort I was expending to avoid work was “in itself” a form of work.
But what were the implications of this insight? I couldn’t decide if it meant I had to accept the necessity of doing work, or if it meant I had to give up the work of not-working. But could I give up work without working at it? Would it be possible to not work at not working?
At this point, my mental processes looped themselves into self-perpetuating feedback, kind of like amplifier feedback inside my head but with ideas instead of guitar noise. Imagine one thousand Jimi Hendrix guitar solos all at once, but with no sound. Weird, huh? Then everything got quiet. Then everything went dark-for a long time.
Things are better now. Every day I get three decent meals and a clean change of underwear. Someone cuts my hair and trims my nails, since they don’t trust me with sharp instruments. For some reason they also don’t trust me to bath myself, so I’m bathed by a nurse who slightly resembles Scarlett Johansson if I squint my eyes a certain way and ignore that it’s a male nurse.
But the important thing is that I have finally achieved my dream of not working. I have finally achieved maximum efficiency. Although, as is usually the case with achieving dreams, there were ramifications I had failed to take into account, such as I’m not allowed to play with Legos because of the choking hazard.
I feel like there’s a moral here-something about how the true purpose of dreams is to transform the dreamer, or maybe something about being careful what you ask for because you might get it, or maybe something about being careful of any dream that involves Scarlett Johansson.
by Jack Bristow
Pastor Donovan sits on his couch with his family grimly watching the Channel Four News. Newsman David Monore is doing an expose on his church, The Christ’s Merry Follower’s Congregation on Topika Street.
Each word that comes from the newsman’s mouth pierces Pastor Donovan through the heart like a steel dagger.
“We were first tipped off about allegations of Mr. Tyrone Donovan’s sexual misconduct in September, when a congregant of his church who wishes to remain anonymous first contacted us.”
It cuts to the parishioner’s bleary face and deliberately distorted voice. Though her face cannot be seen clearly, we can
tell she is a young woman of generous proportions.
She starts to speak. And as she does Pastor Donovan’s wife Claire, his teenage boy Robbie, and adult daughter Marcia boo lavishly the blurred form in the television set.
Pastor Donovan, in his fifty-dollar leopard-color pajamas thrusts his finely manicured finger into the air, demanding with this small gesture silence, so all in the room can hear sister Lambert’s outrageously demonic allegations.
“…and that’s when Pastor Donovan started showing me a lot of attention.”
“What kind of attention?” The newswoman asked.
“Well. He told me I needed to work on my love for the congregation. So he invited me over to his home for Bible study. He told me he invites a different congregant over every week,” the monster- sounding voice said. “And when I got there,” even the muffled voice gave way to emotion, “his family wasn’t there. He told me they went shopping. He left and came back out wearing an exotic-looking robe, with two glasses of wine in his hand.”
“She be goin’ to hell,” Claire hisses, shaking her fist at the TV.
“SHHHHHHHH,” the revered patriarch decrees. “I wanna hear what this little hussie-liar has to say.”
“…when he handed me the wine, I explained I was only eighteen, and as a Christian it was my duty to adhere to the laws of the land. He said ‘Don’t worry ’bout it, baby. Jesus turned the water into wine. So let it make our faces shine!’ We sat near the couch, and he pushed the buttons to a remote control, and on went Barry White’s ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe’. I told him, ‘Pastor, right now I’m feeling very uncomfortable. I want to leave’. He replied, ‘You sound tense. Jus’ calm down baby, and let me handle things….”
“Oh Lord!” Pastor Donovan exclaims after hearing her words. “Forgive her. Forgive her of her lies! We all know it’s Satan doin’ this! He the Father of the Lie!”
“Amen!” The pastor’s family sings in unison.
“Then what happened?” The reporter asks.
The Donovan family gasps.
“And then I said, ‘Pastor. Your wife. Claire. I’m not about to commit adultery and go to Hell!”
The newswoman: “To which he said?”
“Don’t worry, baby. Love covers a multitude of sin.”
“And after that, I slapped it,” she says proudly.
Pastor Donovan cringes.
And at that Pastor Donovan flicks off the TV abruptly.
“Kids,” he says solemnly. “Go upstairs. Say your prayers for sister Lambert. Ask God to help her find her way. Then call
your friends or somethin’. I would like to speak to your mother privately about this slanderous, deviantly sick individual!”
Marcia and Robbie sprint upstairs.
The facade is now gone.
“Oh Claire!” Pastor Donovan falls submissively to his wife’s knees, begging her to believe him. “I swear! I didn’t do it! I swear to God Almighty! I’m one hundred percent innocent!”
Claire stares down at her husband, blankly.
“Honey.” She says reassuringly, as if his mere implication that she would believe such a bogus accusation deeply offends her. “Of course, I believe you,” she says, clamping her thumb and fingers on each side of his cheek, making him look like a big, fat middle-aged baby.
Pastor Donovan, clearly relieved by her words says, “Thanks baby. It’s jus’ that…” he explains, “Everyone who once loved me and was my friend is turning against me! The news. They used’ta praise us on Thanksgivin’… how we’d make sure nobody’d go hungry on that blessed day. And the congregation! Lord have mercy on them! This little hussie has brainwashed them all!”
Claire kisses his wrinkled forehead and gets up, saying, “This will all blow over, baby. Don’t worry. You got the most powerful ally on your side. He knows the truth. That you didn’t do it. Why don’t I leave you alone so you can talk to Him? He has never let you down yet, has He?”
“Yeah, yeah! You’re right!” The Pastor shoots his back up, as if his wife’s words sent a massive charge of electricity that shocks his depressed circuits back to life. “Yes, babydoll! Please leave me alone a minute. I gotta talk to my Heavenly
Father,” he winks.
“I love and trust you,” she says and leaves.
And he passionately drops back down to his knees. “Jesus, please, I implore You,” he says. “I ask of you only two things. One: a miracle. And two: one hell of a really fine lawyer.”
Jack Bristow has written for The New Flesh Magazine and has a new short story, “Our Bus Driver, Fred,” which will be featured in the next issue of CANTARAVILLE magazine.
“A Modest Proposal From A Parallel World”
by William H. Libaw
(Note to the reader: Most blogs that list a version of this narrative say it came from somewhere in our own cosmos. The variant below is this writer’s editing of a blog that makes a broader claim: The message emanated from a different universe. Although all such claims may be unlikely, the basic message implicitly suggests it came from a society where the language is like our own. The words that follow, including those that are vulgar, are understandable to us, so it is conceivable that they came from a parallel world.)
We send here our output through the coils of time and space so that it may go to other worlds. The Spirit willing, on some fair day our message will become input for other humans. Future receivers of our story, tersely we will tell you the following: How we were created, how we found our Savior, and how other events brought us to the present.
Before we tell you our story, we offer this modest proposal: If you find these words of interest and comfort, we ask that you return to us an account of your own history. By the Redeemer’s coils, we request that you be swift to send us your words, as they may provide some fleeting relief from our human condition.
For, as with all flesh, all too brief are our days. And too long are our nights, filled as they are with gaseous eruptions that toot all too loudly of kinks in the bowel and worse. Each of us here knows that too soon comes the night when the coils burst and we depart from our flesh.
Then do our souls go to our redeeming Savior, Croesus, who will inspect each of us. Although we who compose this message believe we can pass that dire screening, none can be wholly confident. Once in His presence, each must voice the dread question that sticks in the throat even as it comes out. “I pray, Sir, that you find in me fragments that glisten like gold; else, is it wholly shite that I am?”
The Redeemer will then peer into the questioner for sparkling specks midst the massive waste. If He finds not enough that brightly gleams, then in an eye-blink the inquirer disappears and is forever nothing. Else what, else where? Else Croesus sees of gold there glitters within us dozens of dappled flecks. Then blessed forever shall we live on with Him.
Our fate apart, here now we tell in utter brevity the story of our kind. Long before the time of our Savior, our original ancestor came forth from the Spirit. That primary creature ate first the fruit from the Tree of Life. Thus it was that the first human learned to enjoy the flesh from the creatures living before him. All too soon, however, there was not more pleasure for that first man. Instead there came distress, his bowels remained unmoved. From his fundament came forth naught but endless toots of breaking wind.
To comfort and aid the primary, the Spirit then made a secondary human. Before she ingested the fruit of the Tree of Life and then some flesh from the animals near her, she ate some of the yield from the Tree of Good and Evil. That Tree’s sweet and sour fruit pressed quickly through her coils. Then, as it departed from her body, it release its pungent aroma. That barbed scent induced the secondary human to consume some of the fruity product of her own fundament. After that, she ate the fruit of the Tree of Life and then ate flesh. And behold, no evil blockage of her gut resulted, it freely deposited the remains of the flesh she had digested.
Then it was that she gave some fruit of that Tree of Good and Evil to the primary creature. And before long, he followed her procedure and then gained the sweet release of sour shite. Soon after that, those first human creatures had issue. Our numbers began their increase. In utter briefness, that is the story of the earliest of our kind.
When much later came their time, the humans who were called Wedges were chosen by the Spirit. They were chosen to record early events, and also chosen to obey the first law of purity, purity consisting of eating meat on none but the days of rest. Then it was that they drove the wedge of the Old Fundament to separate themselves from others by their virtue.
All of us present leaders here who send you this message do most strongly agree about all of the Old Fundament. Nonetheless, we can not agree about the nature of our agreement. Instead, we suffer cycles of gut-growling gas as we consume each other’s shite without producing any common stool about the Old Fundament. For this message, however, hard labor has brought us to agreement about which piece from the Old Fundament will be sent to you. Here, we shall provide you with the first law of purity.
“On the days of thy labor, thou shalt not add flesh to the grains and greens that are consumed with some of the product of thy fundament. Only on the days of rest between the labor days may thou enjoy meat. And swift shall be the punishment of the one who disobeys this limiting law. For, if he continues to defy, his flesh shall be stoned, stoned until soft are its fibers.”
Much later it was that came the New Fundament, which provides us with accounts of Croesus, our glorious Savior. Croesus was a mineworker. Through the earth He dug, His purpose to extract from its bowels precious metals and minerals, some of which He instructed us to consume daily to help relieve ourselves. Without His wisdom, frequently would we all be shite-sick, even as were so many of our ancestors before Him.
So that you may see a bit of His gleaming product, we leaders have labored long to reach agreement to give you here a few of the words from Croesus.
“The Masters of the Temple tell thee to consume grains with greens on workdays, and flesh on the day of rest. But I tell thee that it matters not if thou hast not flesh to eat on each restday. But heed you this. If thy body does not produce the fundamental product that it must, thou shall ingest minerals or metals from the earth’s bowels. When of blockage thou art thus relieved, then must thou devote thy efforts not only to the good of thyself, but to others as well.”
You in the far firmament who will someday receive these words, now do you understand the power of Croesus the Just?
On the fateful day when to Croesus came the knowledge that His body’s life would end, He spoke to His followers.
“That those with faith may from blocked bowels be given deep relief, I tell you this. Within all of the earth’s coils shall I disperse my body. For the truly faithful, it shall be theirs to consume when needed. Thereafter shall they devote themselves to good for all others as well as themselves.”
Thus it is that all of us Justians share this belief: Our Savior diffused His body throughout the earth so that His truly faithful followers could forever get from Him relief from the blockage of the gut.
Now do we tell you about a later time in our human history. Long indeed it was after Croesus vanished that his legacy changed hands. Then the huge remainder of the power that was His came into the grasp of the monastic leadership of those who were and still are called Cathartics. Those austere leaders did their duty as they saw it. The Cathartic leaders agreed to provide relief from blockage for those Justians who agreed to reduce their consumption of meat. Of course, agreeing believers had to pay that Cathartic leadership for the purges that they sorely needed.Â And there was more, the believers paid still more for the salves for which the swollen backside cried. Nor should we fail to mention the ointments that consenting Justians purchased to ease the detachment of the tootle-berries that so quickly grew firm around the fundament.
About such payments, there grew increasing discord. Finally came the day when the ever-louder complaints were orchestrated by the leaders of the newly formed Protestnicks into a dissent. With that leadership, many of the people revolted. Indeed they exploded. Then it was that men on each side showered men on the other side with shite, with gaseous, liquid and solid shite. On all followers of Croesus fell foul deed and noxious slander. In those struggles, both long-standing Cathartics and newly-risen Protestnicks harassed and hammered the others. Many Protestnicks did more. They pounded the fallen enemies with stones, pounded until enemy flesh was soft. Then, as those on both sides paused on the days of rest in those times of trouble, the Protestnicks strengthened themselves by consuming the tenderized flesh of the fallen.
We pause in this narrative to provide assurance for you who will receive it. Unlike others elsewhere on this planet, those in our community have learned the value of moderation. Now, none of us unlawfully take the lives of others and then stone them to make tender their substance for consumption. Indeed, our equity is so great that we leaders now allow even negative-minded Untheists to safely speak their willful nonsense. Vacuous Untheist words say that many of our laws are no more than the means for the creation of criminals, so that felonious flesh may be captured and stoned until it is soft enough for consuming. Far worse is their claim that we seize criminals’ children only because young flesh needs little tenderizing. Well do they know that we never allow the idle taking of lawbreakers’ young. It is only with rueful regret that we call for it when we must, when doing so undisputably deters future crime.
Comes now the time in our narrative when we no longer need to output the stale shite of others, blessed Croesus excepted as His words are ever fresh. We leaders will now provide you with some of our own product. Like the majority of our followers, we rulers who send this message are Protestnicks, not Cathartics.Â However, we are Protestnicks of the variety known as Fundamentists. Which is to say that we are not like other modern Protestnicks. For example, members of the Unitary Church, which insists that soul and flesh are one and the same, but does not explain how that could possibly be. Nor are we comparable to the Protestnicks of the Intended Frail Intestine faith. Those IFI believers postulate that if the Spirit gave us delicate coils, it was done to assist us. It was to remind us that, as life is brief and difficult, we must use our time wisely, to do right for others, not just for ourselves. No, we who are Fundamentist Protestnicks are not stuffed and puffed with such unproven ideas. Instead, we recycle back to the matter-of-fact truths of the New Fundament and the Old Fundament.
We Fundamentists recall to ourselves the days described in those Good Books and earlier. In those days there was animal flesh for all to eat frequently. That early flesh was nothing like our own tough stringy human substance, such as the pounded meat of the adult criminals that we provide to sweepstakes winners to excite the multitudes with hopes of winning. That long-gone animal substance was luscious soft flesh, flesh that was taken from creatures simpler than humans, from animals that no longer live. That early flesh could be eaten almost without chewing. Indeed, it must have been gobbled by the mouthful. Gulped daily it surely was, devoured until the burdened intestine groaned for respite by fiercely fluttering the fundament. Thus we Fundamentists know this truth: Flesh-eating is not mere self-indulgence, as the Cathartics believe, it is a basic need of our human bodies. So if we cannot provide ourselves with flesh from animals, and if now we do not kill humans for meat, we do what we can: We supply our bodies with the flesh of dead parents and other ancestors, which is frozen when life ends. Such parental flesh we Fundamentists lifelong ration out to ourselves, a chewy morsel on each restday.
Untheists, who say anything but understand nothing, claim that our Good Books have become leached of all value, fossils is what they call them. We sniff out what those both-ends-blowing gas-guts really do with their own found fossils. Untheists, or rather what they call their life-scientists, search for the bones of what they claim are ancient creatures. When they find enough of those postulated fossils, they send some to museums, which are now free to display them. The many fossils that are held back by the Untheist scientists are crushed and crumbled as if they were frozen flesh. Then the Untheists mix that mash with what they claim are pulverized fossils of ancient shite. Of that blended result, they sell pricey bits and pieces to those who hope it will empty their bloated ever-tooting guts.
The unthinking Untheists, or rather, their self-named life-scientists, are rumored to have schemes to grow flesh as though it were grain. They would take aborted infants, those whose lives are too soon terminated by their proximity to the stale shite in their mothers coils, and add to their number with induced abortions. Hearsay says that, starting with such untimely-taken flesh, Untheist life scientists would then seek to grow flesh in factories. All that, of course, would be done to increase Untheist numbers, wealth and power. Nor, by the coils of Croesus, shall we allow such abominations to become real.
We leaders have told you here of Wedges, of Cathartics, and of Protestnicks with many sects such as we ruling Fundamentists. Even of Untheists we have told you. About the other kinds of people in our world, we could agree to tell you only that they have not learned the value or of temperance and moderation.
About the transmission of this message, we tell you this. Our scientists have mastered the hot center of a star near our own. We have only to squeeze that sizzling gut with our gloved fingers, on which are imprinted the images of these words. Then, in every direction as that star turns, its poles will broadcast this story through the fundamental openings in the void.
Our Redeemer willing, these words will reach your world. We hope this message will provide you with brief diversion from the human condition of discordant life with insufficient product. When you have digested these words, accept our proposal and tell us your story.
William Libaw’s published work includes the books “How We Got To Be Human” and “Painting in a World Transformed.” Prior to his present work as a writer, he worked as an electronic design engineer.
by Katie Hackmeister
The tink of silverware and clink of glasses is heard over the awkward silence. “Pork chop?” a brother asks sarcastically. “Sure, sure,” another brother responds as he stabs a pork chop from the offered plate of meat. The plate of dead meat is laid to rest as the last brother farther down the table suddenly giggles. He quickly feigns a throat clearing. This dinner is strife with smothered smiles. Eyes dart around the table both hoping and dreading an outburst between my father and my new boyfriend.
My mother sits next me, politely ignoring my boyfriend as she plays with the toddler of my brother’s friend. This interests me for two reasons: a) my mom dislikes children that she didn’t bear and 2) this child is a bastard. I realize something else, as I chew my baked beans. As if this dinner isn’t intolerable enough, I’m on a liquid and soft food diet due to a recent tonsillectomy. I notice the child sitting to the left of my mom is also a bastard. My brother’s stepdaughter was born out of wedlock. And in fact, as I wash my shitty dinner down with a swallow of iced tea, my oldest brother was conceived out of wedlock. Mom and Dad had a shotgun wedding. This Sunday family dinner is littered with fornicating bastards and the bastards that fornication has produced. I realize this as the last of my insipid supper slides past my cauterized wounds. I wince. This wincing has become an involuntary movement.
My parents hate my boyfriend. Recently (the previous afternoon), they deduced that their daughter has sex with men. A fact they have yet to deduce about two of their sons. How did these sleuths unlock the mystery behind their sacred daughter and the sexual deviant that they are currently housing for the duration of the weekend? We slept in the same bed with the door open. As their youngest son sashayed around the house in skinny jeans, a facial mask and a propensity to end his sentences with a higher octave, these detectives were on my case.
The blueprint of tension for this dinner was created the night before during another dinner. That dinner was interrupted by a phone call from my father to my brother. My father screamed into the phone, asking what my boyfriend’s intentions were with me, all the while dropping f-bombs with every meaning to the word behind them. My father is bipolar. This dinner, this Sunday family dinner, contains the potential to explode worse than all the worst dysfunctional family dinners combined. A mentally unbalanced father breaks bread with a man he thinks is fucking his sick little girl. Ka-boom.
That night, that Sunday night, my dad will apologize to me and tell me that he didn’t think Brian was a bad guy; he is simply concerned. This is my dad in a non-maniac phase. In the car with my mom the next morning, she and I will talk about why my parents dislike Brian. Her reasoning will be partially based on her communication with him. That consisted of, “Hi”, “How’s your finger?”, and “Would you like some eggs?” This is my mom in her logical phase. Her concern originates from crimes as grievous as we were “lying all over each other on the couch and you don’t do that in someone else’s house!” and the aforementioned sharing of a twin bed. I remember the first time my mom hugged me. I graduated from high school. I remember the first time she told me she loved me. I was moving to Chicago and I was twenty years old. It took my mom twenty years to muster up the courage to tell her daughter she loved her. I’ve read about parents like these – in Victorian literature. For her to see me holding hands and throwing my legs in Brian’s lap while I read a book is unfathomable. A display of genuine love and affection? She didn’t raise her daughter that way. Something is amiss.
Brian’s chances with my parents were fucked before he met me. Fucked even before I sent him this text message:
Hi! This is Katie, Jeremy’s friend. Your brother thinks we should bone. Bone like wild animals. Like the coyote. What have you?
Brian’s chances were fucked in the summer of 2004 when my parents watched their only daughter retain a restraining order against her bloated sociopathic ex-boyfriend.
That morning, that Monday morning, my mom turns to me and says, “Katie, your father and I don’t want to see you end up with someone like your ex-boyfriend or worse.” Does this have anything to do with my ex-boyfriend? Really? Or does it have to do with my mom’s fear of men that she had been trying to instill in me all my life? In high school, my younger brother’s curfew was later than mine. When I complained, she told me, “Women aren’t respected in society.” This was her excuse for everything “women aren’t respected in society.” This is also the reason burkas are big out east. My mom thought she could protect me by acting like a drill sergeant. Instead, I went out and fornicated with the enemy. Children are a reaction to their parents. This has everything to do with my parents rather than with the bloated sociopath. He was a reaction and he misfired.
Standing outside my parents’ house on that night, that Sunday night, Brian and I say good-bye. By the way, Brian is leaving a day early. The tension is that bad. I’m genuinely worried my dad will do something irrational. As we left the house, I made the entire family say good-bye to Brian. They did – gleefully. Good decision. Good decision.
“I don’t get it,” he tells me. “I didn’t do anything. I behaved the way I would at my parent’s house [who are Christians. Serious Christians.] They never talked to me. They were just fucking rude. I just..I don’t fucking get it. All I did was love their daughter.”
I don’t know what to tell him. Was it the stubble and the tattoos? His smoking and love of Jameson? Because my mom’s beloved animals loved him? Or because the way he absolutely adores me? No. None of that. He has a dick. Case closed.
Brian’s face is creased with anger and hurt. This makes me thirst for vengeance. I want to repeatedly punch the perpetrators in the face. They are in the house directly behind me. And they fucking look like me.
This morning, this Sunday morning, I wake up at the hotel, the hotel we had gotten on Saturday night after my father went ape-shit. Brian walks in from smoking with a bowl of oatmeal for me. Even though I was asleep, he had gotten my food first and now he is going back to get, “Waffles! Yay!” He kisses me on the forehead and leaves. I doze. He returns. I wake up again and watch him walk across the room. I smile. He sits down and prepares his waffles. He apologizes for eating solid food in front of me and I tell him it’s okay. And it is. I sit up as he tells me about an elderly couple he encountered while getting breakfast. The wife kept yelling into the deaf husband’s ear, “Did you get enough to eat!” over and over again until he responded. I laugh and ask how his waffles are. He says okay and shows them to me. I decide not to eat the oatmeal. I opt for painkillers and a Popsicle, which Brian brings to me. A smile is on his face the entire time and mine as well. This is one of those mornings when you think, “Fuck. I completely love this person.” You both want and know that this morning will happen again and again. This is a great feeling.
That Monday morning, my mom finishes her rant. I remain pensively silent for awhile. Then I tell her, “Mom, I have been unhappy to some degree my entire life. But for the past two months, since I have met Brian, I have been happy. For the first time I can remember.”
“What about your childhood,” Mom asks in a stunned tone.
“Dad manically destroying the house on a weekly basis and punching my brothers didn’t make a very nice childhood,” I respond.
She doesn’t say anything. She looks in her rearview mirror and merges lanes. I hope she takes an extra second to look at herself in that mirror. This car ride will last forever.
by Chelsea Gopaul
I never used to be much of a people person. Just never had much use for them. I just found them
rather animalistic, rather repulsive. However, I’m now highly friendly and people-oriented. I can thank
the night I was outside of a bar right after closing. Threw down a few too many Jack Daniels, and had to
throw down a white-livered hippie. Don’t call me a murderer just because I stand for the 2nd
Amendment. I showed this guy that murder can be done without a pistol. He made the dire mistake of
stepping up right in my face, and OFF I bit his greasy nose. As I was chewing, I was propelled into
orgasmic bliss. Oh, the deep, mellow flavor of the sebum swimming around his chewy, meaty cartilage!
Oh, the thick layer of skin wrapping around my tongue in a tango! O bliss, o joy! O bliss, o joy! O bliss,
o joy! One chomp and I couldn’t stop. I knocked Woodstock unconscious and dragged him to the back
of my van. Drove home, parked and carried him inside, with his gaping bloody nasal bone jutting
upward. Tossed Woodstock in my bathtub, ran to the kitchen and returned with a cleaver. And A1
sauce. Who knows if he was dead or just unconscious, but I always preferred meat well-done, so I
turned the water to scalding hot. I carved out the pieces I wanted to sample, and allowed to water to
carry away his blood and broil him. I slathered sauce on his forearm and took a bite. Orgasm, WOW!
His drumstick was so tender and fragrant with the herbal scent of flax and marijuana. He was preseasoned
already from the inside! I didn’t need my sauce, it’d overwhelm the flavor!
Well, so I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to regularly supplement my diet with protein. The next day, I
spent my day shopping- that is, I created a list of people who were irritating me. My ex-girlfriend, my
co-worker, my landlord. Luck would have it that I received FREE DELIVERY within an hour. My landlord
pounded on my front door, complaining about my excessive water use. I promised her that it wouldn’t
happen again. Minutes later, she was inside my oven -indeed, no water usage!- and I sat waiting for
the “ding” ready sound. I removed her, and took a bite of her knee â€“ with no seasoning â€“ and spit out
the chewed remains, gagging. Oh, the horrific bitter, spiky, medicinal taste! However, her blood was
still fit to drink. Although still tainted with medicine, the 0.15% gimlet composition of her blood masked
the taste and got me drunk enough to forget the experience.
I have hence decided to open a health food store. My mission is to reduce the number of humans
reeking of Prilosec and Prozac! No more will people slather chemical Jergens slop on their skin! I
recommend fragrant herbs for their ailments, I recommend delicious coconut oil to be applied topically
for eczema cases. I also collect customer addresses, so I know where to find them once they’ve been
continuously purified and re-flavored. The addresses are also useful when I’m dealing with delinquent
customers on account. I need them to pay me the money they owe me so I can eat. But in the event
they don’t, I find them and get my food directly.
It’s now 8:47 a.m., almost opening time. I straighten out the pile of vegan lifestyle magazines at the
front counter, and inhale the lingering scent of parsley-shampooed hair. Ah,Â garnish. I can already smell
the difference. I love people. I. need people, dammit.
“Why do you look so worried, sweetheart? For anxiety, I highly recommend lavender massage – me. A
tube usually costs an arm and a leg, but right now I’ll offer it to you for half that. Come on over.”
by Phil Lemos
It’s illegal to pump your own gas in Summitville, and I’m the reluctant enforcer. As the attendant of Summitville’s only service station, I’m responsible for ensuring that Kwik-Mart complies with Town Ordinance 14-1989.
Every day I have to deal with Charlie, our station manager, yelling at me for not tackling and wrestling the pump away from “rogue motorists.” Sometimes I ask what happens if we get caught letting the customers pump, and he says nothing. Instead he points to the quarry across the street where he claims either the police chief or fire marshal (it changes every time) watches us, and shudders as if he could face the firing squad. I’ve never seen anyone parked there.
The town can’t be spying on us that closely. We have eight pumps and occasionally they’re all occupied. People get impatient and get out of their cars to swipe their cards and start pumping. Then they jump back into their cars as they screech their tires and slide back onto Route 26, screaming “WOOHOO!” after successfully evading compliance. Charlie comes sprinting out of the store, belly jiggling in his shirt while he shakes his fist and shouts, “Punks! Don’t come back!!!”
Everything changes the day the silver BMW 135i convertible pulls into Pump 7. A beautiful woman with dark, flowing hair down her back, clearly not from around here, is at the steering wheel. I pop open her fuel tank while she’s applying mascara, hoping to make eye contact, flirt and ask what she needs. I start unscrewing the cap and still haven’t caught her attention because she’s texting.
Finally, I rap at her passenger’s side window.
“Fill it up,” she says, with some sort of European accent.
“Cash or credit?” I ask.
“Cash,” she says, before popping out of her car.” I admire her backside as she saunters into the convenience store in her heels.
I punch the red button to notify Charlie to activate Pump 7. I pull the nozzle out of the pump and insert it in her car, then gently squeeze. While I’m pumping, I’m wondering if she’s a supermodel and thinking about how to start a conversation with her after she emerges from the convenience store.
The nozzle clicks and I’m about to pull it out of her car when I get the scare of my life.
“What are you DOING?!?!?”
I turn around and it’s BMW Supermodel, waving her hands and racing toward me as if I smashed out her windows with a crowbar.
“What are you DOING?!?!? You put regular in my BMW!”
Shit. When someone says “fill it up,” 99 percent of the time they want regular grade gas. The one time I don’t ask…”
“I wanted PREMIUM! This is a BMW! You don’t put regular in a BMW!” she says, emphasizing the W as if she were teaching me remedial English. She’s enraged as I continue to stare blankly. She probably expects me to grab a straw and siphon the common man’s gasoline out of her tank with my mouth.
My paralysis leaves me just long enough to blurt out one thing.
“That’ll be $28, please.”
She recoils as if I grabbed her ass.
“What? I’m not paying!” she says. “You put regular in my car and I wanted premium.”
“Your car will still run. It’s not like I put diesel in your tank.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see people beginning to stare in our direction. Gil Desjardins, my neighbor, is patiently waiting at Pump 5 and chuckling as he observes my predicament. Inside, Charlie is panicking at the cash register as he reaches for the pump intercom microphone that always garbles his voice.
“Szzqzzh kzzszxzz shzzghzz,” the intercom says.
I shout at the pump. “I got it under control, Charlie.”
“I’m not paying!” BMW Supermodel says.
“Look, I’m sorry I put the wrong grade in your tank, but you saved money. It would’ve been more expensive for the Premium.”
“I’M NOT PAYING!”
She opens the door to her car, slams it shut and fumbles for her keys. If she gets away without paying for gas, Charlie might take it out of my paycheck. I pound my fist inside her driver’s side window and flash a look that would cause Charlie to piss his pants.
“Listen,” I say. “This can go one of two ways. You can pay me the $28 you owe. Or I can call the police with your license plate number and report you as a gas drive-off.”
At that precise moment I glance across the street and see, for the first time ever, a police cruiser stationed in the quarry. BMW Supermodel’s eyes follow mine and sweat beads down her forehead. She reaches into her wallet, pulls out a $50 bill so crisp it looks like she minted it herself, and throws it at me. I look silly trying to catch it as it flutters around my head.
She begins cursing me. At least I think. I don’t know for sure because she’s speaking in another language, but the tone is venomous. I doubt it translates in English to, “I respect you! You stood up for yourself when I tried to bully you!”
I run inside to make change, but when I emerge she’s already burned rubber onto the road and left. I laugh as the customer from hell leaves me my biggest tip ever.
I walk over to pump Gil, but he’s also left the scene. Things get busy again and I forget the whole thing. Two days later, I’m punching out for the day when Charlie calls me into his office.
“What do you know about this?” Charlie says, shoving a letter at me.
From: Roland Dumont
Chairman, Summitville Board of Selectman
On Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 11:46 a.m., Police Chief Humphrey spotted your attendant allowing a resident, Gil Desjardins, to pump his own gas.
Please be reminded that because of the potential fire hazard, Town Ordinance 14-1989 prohibits non-employees from pumping gas at service stations. Station owners may be fined up to $1 per occurrence.
We hope this was an isolated incident. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
“I can’t be getting nailed for a whole dollar every time you get lazy and let someone pump their own gas,” Charlie says. “If this happens again, you’re fired.”
“That’s it. Now go home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Things haven’t been the same since. Charlie runs out of the store now every time there are more than two customers at the pumps because he thinks the selectmen are out to get him and doesn’t want to write a $1 check to the town. At this rate he’ll drop dead of a heart attack within two weeks. Meanwhile, I’m looking for another job, because even if Charlie doesn’t fire me, I refuse to let him suck me into his world of panic.
Tonight after work I flip on the TV while scanning the help wanted ads when my jaw drops to the ground. There she is, the BMW Supermodel, hosting a reality TV show where potential models are judged on how much of a prima donna they can be.
That’s what I need, I say to myself. I need a job where I can be self-absorbed like BMW Supermodel, and get paid obscene sums of money to bitch people out for no particular reason.
by Matt Black
“My eggs are cold,” said a raspy voice, “Do you like that, baby?”
Jerry used his clam, relaxed tone, “I do, I really do, honey.” He slouched in his chair, his small frame made him look like a child when he sat any way but perfectly upright. There were dark circles under his eyes, and he was very pale. He had short dark hair and his youthful face could not resonate with a haggard twenty-five-year-old body.
He let go of his mouse and laid his chin on his fist, stumped after his last solitaire move. He reached over to his coffee mug and took a sip of the murky brew.
“You’re making my eggs warm.” There was some heavy breathing in the earpiece.
“Oh, I’ll warm up your eggs, honey. I’m gonna take my warm body and mount you so your eggs stay warm. My heat will go deep into your eggs as I thrust.” He opened his inbox and began skimming e-mails.
“I’m thrusting.” On his screen he read: Would you like to increase length and girth?
“Oh my God, my eggs. My eggs.”
Jerry zoned out and agreed with the voice. He went back to solitaire and won on the first try. Eventually the voice became quiet and stopped clicking his mouse.
“Thank you,” the voice whispered.
He leaned back in his seat and stared at the blank walls of his cubicle. After placing his headset on the desk, Jerry put on his blue United jacket with the faded logo. He grabbed his empty mug and proceeded through the narrow hallway between the stocky cubicles. A hairy arm stopped him just before he reached the end of the dim maze of desks and telephone wires.
“Hey, man, you’re just leaving? How long did that last caller take?” On his desk was a small framed picture of the man with his arms around his wife and a young child. In silver ink, “We love you Mike” was etched.
“Twenty-three minutes.” He stared at the floor in front of Mike.
“Yeah, well, I need the money.” Jerry shrugged his shoulder. “Plus fetish calls pay a lot better than those bullshit lonely heart calls.”
“Whatever, man. Fetish people are weird.” Mike started scratching the neck stubble underneath his pasty rolls of chin fat.
Jerry checked his watch, “I gotta go. I’m late.”
“Alright, man. I’ll see you later.”
He sauntered out to his car.
After fifteen minutes of chilly driving, he arrived at the airport. The sun still hadn’t fully risen. Bright silver and white clouds hung over the gray air.
Jerry clipped his laminated badge onto his jacket and hurried to the baggage claim. He waved at the mannish female security officer who promptly buzzed him into the baggage handling area.
After a quick glance at the employee chart, he walked up to carousel four where Alan was already hoisting bags from a line of carts. Alan’s pale blonde hair glowed under the orange industrial lamps.
“Hey, Jerry, where you been?”
“Sorry I’m late, got stuck talking to some woman.” He grabbed a brown leather suitcase and dropped it onto the carousel’s sliding belt.
“Was there anything kinky, or was it just normal boring shit?” Alan flung a green duffle bag onto the belt.
“There was this lady that had a thing for eggs.” He then dumped two black bags onto carousel.
“Eggs?” Alan asked between lifting two particularly heavy cases, “Like eggs as in ovaries?”
“I’m not really sure; she might have just been talking about regular eggs. While swinging a bulky brown bag, one of the handles snapped and the bag fell on the pavement. Jerry squatted down to heave the luggage onto the belt.
“I’ve seen some weird egg shit before, man, like on the Internet. That shit is not cool.” Alan grabbed the last bag and laid it onto the belt. Both of them leaned up against the carousel.
“Whatever. I don’t really pay much attention anyway.” Another truck pulled up with five more carts of baggage. The earmuffed driver grinned as he unhooked his truck and rolled off. Jerry and Alan each gave the driver the finger and returned to lifting.
Alan smirked as he shoved several bags onto the belt. “You don’t get off when you’re working or any shit like that?”
“Not really.” Sometimes I have to shut my mic off so they don’t hear me laughing.” He grabbed a bag without a ticket and placed it on an empty cart.
On his drive home from work, the early afternoon sky was still bleak and gray. Jerry’s apartment was simple and cramped. There were no paintings or pictures on the walls, and the only light was the blinding ceiling fixture. He had nothing on his coffee table or the kitchen counter.
His refrigerator had half a dozen notes on it including one written in purple marker that stated, “Call Mom.” Other notes were mostly recipes for various single serving meals.
For dinner, he cooked a greasy omelet. While frying it, he thought back to his most recent phone sex client and threw the whole pan into the trash. That was his only pan. He ate Corn Pops dry, out of the box.
After a shower and a shave, Jerry went to bed. His thick blinds shielded against the glow of 3PM.
It was dark when his alarm began hissing at him. It read “9:00PM” in narrow red bars. He got dressed, made a quick cup of coffee and rushed out the door.
On his way to his cubicle, he waved to Mike who looked especially entranced in his conversation. Mike offered a nod and pressed his hand onto his headset.
Jerry took off his blue coat and sat at his desk. Gingerly, he fitted his headset. He then tapped a flashing button on his elaborate looking phone. In his calm, casual voice he spoke, “My name’s Big J. and I’ll be taking care of you tonight, honey.”
“Hi Big J. my name’s Annie.” The voice was soft and sweet.
“Tell me what you want me to do to you, honey.”
He spoke for his usual three-minutes and ended after the moaning was so loud he had to hold his headset away from his ears. In his earlier years, he might have pushed another couple minutes out of her but there was a professional courtesy when people paid by the minute, at least there was for Jerry.
A five-minute coffee break and Jerry was back on the wires. After pressing another flashing button, a new voice was on the line.
“My eggs are cold.”
Jerry jumped at the raspy voice. He peered out of his cubicle to see if Mike was waiting with a smirk and a hand over his mouthpiece.
“My eggs are cold. Hello, are you there, baby?”
“I’m here, honey. It’s Big J. Tell me about your eggs.” Jerry did not open a solitaire game. He leaned his chair far back with one hand behind his head.
The voice wheezed in excitement. “You’ve had my eggs before.”
Jerry sat up in his chair. He held his breath and tried to stay very still.
“You had my eggs last night, and you took good care of them.”
Jerry ducked low in his cubicle and covered his microphone with his hand. He carefully leaned over toward his telephone and rested his finger on an unlit button.
“Maybe you want somebody else. How about my buddy “Todd: The Rod.”
“No baby, I want you taking care of my eggs. You do such a good job with my eggs,” the rasp moaned.
Jerry did not move right away. His hand rested on the telephone for several seconds. He moved his hand away and leaned back in his chair again. “Alright then, let me take care of your eggs.”
Alan was already packing the plane when Jerry showed up. It was starting to get lighter outside. Both of them were wearing day-glow yellow vests and earplugs.
“You’re late,” Alan shouted.
“Sorry, got held up again.” Jerry climbed into the plane and started stacking bags.
“Another fetish?” He scooted a bag up against a wall.
“Same lady.” Leaning on a red suitcase, he motioned for the ramp attendant to slow down. “We talked for almost six hours. I had to skip my lunch break.”
Alan looked up after breaking a wheel off a suitcase. “That is deeply disturbing.”
“I kind of got into it, but I still don’t understand what “eggs” she was referring to.” He kicked one of the bulgy bags until it was flat enough to lock the cargo net in place.
The ramp attendant waved for the two to get down after they finished with the baggage. “We need to ditch about ten or fifteen bags. The captain said they’re too heavy.”
Alan offered a fisting motion to the attendant, and then he and Jerry climbed back into the cargo hold. They unlocked the first cargo net and pushed a pile of bags out. Most of the bags fell off of the loading ramp and onto the tarmac.
After work, Jerry went home and made dinner. All he could think about was if the egg woman would call again. He decided against the eggs for fear of them being somehow tainted by phone sex, and his only pan was still in the garbage. In the freezer was half a box of Eggo waffles. He cooked them all. The ones he couldn’t stuff into the toaster he microwaved. He wolfed them down, showered, shaved and went to bed.
The alarm went off and Jerry sprung out of bed. Turning in early had cured him of his usual drowsiness. The dark circles under his eyes had vanished, and he was not as pale as usual. With a quick cup of coffee, he put on his blue jacket and headed to work.
Mike was already leaning on Jerry’s cubicle before he arrived. The walls leaned under his chunky frame. Jerry quickwalked to his seat and took off his coat.
Mike had a goofy grin and was winking at various operators passing by. “So what’s the deal with the egg chick?
Jerry jumped. “What?”
“She called earlier asking for you.”
Jerry refused to make eye-contact with Mike. “I have a repeat client, so what?” He tried to sit down casually. His heart was beating so hard it made him twitchy.
“She said only wants you.” He was still grinning.
“Did she?” Jerry’s face went hot, and his arms turned rosy.
Jerry put on his headset and took a few short calls. He failed eleven times at Solitaire. Then he pushed one of the flashing buttons and heard a raspy voice say, “My eggs are cold.”
His face went flush. He didn’t say anything.
“Big J. my eggs are cold.”
“I, I think I love you.” Jerry sighed heavily but could still feel his pulse pounding in his arms and chest.
The line went dead.
“Hello? Shit.” His pulse quickened further. He scrambled to the receiver and checked the dial tone. Jerry pushed a few lit buttons but hung up after not hearing the rasp. He slid off the headset and put his palms on his face. He lay there for only a few seconds. With his blue jacket under one arm, Jerry ran out of the building and to his car.
His apartment was dark. Jerry didn’t turn on the ceiling fixture. He sat in silence until everything became faintly visible. The bare walls were blue in the low light.
Jerry walked over to the trash and pulled out his pan. He laid it in the dingy sink. The white refrigerator had a smattering of square, dark notes. The “Call Mom” note was the only legible one. He peeled it off and picked up the phone that lay on the counter.
Jerry rapidly dialed and leaned on the counter with both elbows. He had the phone in one hand and the note in the other. It rang twice and a voice answered.
“Hello?” The rasp was as heavy as ever.
Jerry didn’t say anything.
The voice coughed. “Hello? I’m up. Is someone there?” the rasp had tapered off and now the voice was soft.
Jerry hung up. He threw the note in the trash and went to bed.
His clock read 12:00PM when he got up. The blinds had a bright yellow aura, but his apartment was still blue and dim. In his kitchen, his answering machine was flashing. Jerry pressed a button and, after a beep, the voice spoke.
“Jerry, this is Carl. I don’t know why you didn’t show up to work today. Also you’ve been late a lot recently. We can’t have our baggage handlers just decide when they want to show up. We’re going to have to let you go. Your last paycheck will be mailed to you.”
Jerry wrote a note in marker and stuck it to his refrigerator. It read “Find New Job” faintly in the blue light.
Matt Black was born and raised outside Denver, Colorado. He graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a BA in Creative Writing in 2010.
“The Lemming Sisters”
by Toni M. Todd
It’s a common misconception that lemmings are suicidal. That Disney movie from the
1950s? A construct. False. To be a lemming? Nothing finer. We are adorable, prideful, horny.
We want to live!
Our elders had done it. Now, was our time. That Spring morning, the colony felt
crowded. On impulse, the dawn’s light our starting gun, we ran, Clara, Peaches, Betty and I –
best friends, like sisters — plus thousands more. We ran, toward dreams of frenzied fornication
with strapping males, resplendent with thick coats, clear eyes, strong teeth, lemming men among
lemming men, the kind you ache for to father a brood. We were willful, flirty fluffs of brown and
gold, tight tails, twitchy ears, randy as rabbits. Scratch that. Rabbits are prudes. Lemmings are
breeders extraordinaire, the envy of all rodents. Our utopia was across the river, where grass
grew tall and sweet and the best mates were not our brothers.
Stay close to rocks, the elders said. Avoid unnecessary exposure. But we were restless,
and in our adolescent minds, invincible. We ran, swift, true, but not so swift as the hawk who
caught sight of us moving, en-mass, an unstoppable lemming tide toward the river. I heard a
chirp and looked up. Clara dangled above me, tiny legs flailing.
We ran on, all out, full-throttle, Thelma and Louise, Peaches in the lead. She had always
been the fastest among us. She would be first to the river.
Peaches’ scream faded as she dropped over the edge. We had expected a placid stream, a
gentle, sandy entry. We’re all excellent swimmers. But a canyon swallowed Peaches whole,
three-hundred vertical feet onto the flicking tongue of class-five rapids. We heard her cry, but
ran faster, driven by forces of lemming lust and amour-propre, not to mention scary predators
determined to eat us for lunch. Adrenaline flowed like the river.
We neared the edge and insanity ebbed. I changed my mind, resolved to go home, screw
cousin Frank if I had to. All four feet jammed into the dirt, skidding, skidding, but my
momentum — our momentum — was too great. I was flung, like shot from a sling out and over,
limbs pinwheeling frantic, reflexive circles. An invisible pillow of warm, rising air lifted me
upward to float, flying, a sensation of pure joy! But something had come to block the sun, a
shadow, looming wider and wider. A cloud? A jetliner? A blimp?
An eagle snatched me from the sky. Lemming brethren plummeted from the precipice toward the water and rocks below. I listened as my own peeps blended in echoes of solidarity with theirs. For all my carnal ambition,
my confidence and pride of species, I had to admit, dangling there, above the cliffs, ravenous
river below, hungry hawk above, talon poking me in the ribs, yes, I had to concede; sometimes, it
sucked to be a lemming.
by Tom Schneider
Well, this is my essay. It’s an essay about the way life is, and how to deal with it. Pretty important stuff, right? Sound impressive? It’s not. That’s basically what every story, book, song, poem, movie, television show, commercial, billboard, poster, public service announcement, and set of hieroglyphs (or cuneiform, I’d hate to be considered racist) has been about since the beginning of history. (Human history, anyway, since God alone knows whether or not there are any other intelligent (or even relatively dim-witted) beings out there (including God, which makes for an interesting conflict of interest) (If you’re looking for the purpose for that last parenthetical aside, try to find the last reference to God, sorry about the confusion) who have at one time or another made their own public service announcements about a subject other than the one about which, I swear, I plan on talking about in this essay. Eventually.) But to the point.
Ha! I bet you thought there was going to be a point in this paragraph!
This is the paragraph wherein I set up my dramatic persona. Ahem. It’s been a long time (maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe forever, time is so irrelevant, except of course for the part where it controls and regulates every infinitesimal part of our lives) since I talked to anyone else about anything. People don’t listen to me anymore, not when I’m talking about something that makes any difference (If I ever do). They don’t like what I’ve got to say (Actually, several people agree with me, and the rest are mainly just indifferent, but if I put it that way it’s so much more martyresque, don’t you think?). And itâ€™s a good thing, too. If anybody agreed with what I had to say, I’d kill them. It would get me that upset! Well, actually, if you were paying any attention to my interior monologue (between the parentheses, lines 19 to 21, in case you were wondering) you’d know that I wouldn’t actually kill anyone, since I actually do know some people who agree with what I have to say, but it makes me sound so much more like a passionate person deeply opposed to my personal beliefs (which of course I am, but only the ones that I don’t actually hold at any given period of time). So when I say that I don’t talk to people, I mean that while I say words to them, they don’t mean anything in particular. Of course, that’s true for most people most of the time.
There. I think that was appropriately wandery and unworldly. Of course, everything in that paragraph is trash, complete balderdash. I wrote that a good ten minutes ago, and so of course by this point I hate it fervently. I mean, for God’s sake, if I believed the same thing for ten minutes at a time I’d never get anywhere!
A wise man once said, “I’d like the hamburger combo with Coke, please.”
So much in this world is done for effect, you begin to wonder if maybe it’s more important than reality. I sure think so. The effect is the only thing that affects us. (Note my proper usage of some frequently confused verbs there.) Reality matters only where it affects us. Duh.
By the way, folks, this upcoming section is not related to the ones before. The second and third sections were related, and each were related the first, although a bit more tenuously. This one on the other hand, is out of nowhere. I don’t even know where it came from.
Don’t think I believe a word of what I say. Never think that! That is one thing that really will get me mad. I’m a random idea generator. Want to know how to cope with the world? Ask me! I’ll give you an explanation, different every time, and passionately believe in it! My hope is to someday be right, and at that point I’ll stop. I’m one of those trillion monkeys, typing away and hoping to come up with Hamlet. So I’ll keep throwing out ideas at a furious rate, because only then will I have any chance at coming up with the truth. (Yeah, right.)
The truth is all-pervasive and completely nonexistent. It is as inflexible as steel and as constant as sand slipping through your fingers. Have you ever wondered why so many people use paradoxes to say things, even though we just know that they are inherently untrue? It’s because we’re wrong. Truth is a paradox. That’s why so many paradoxes seem true. Humanity has been cursed with the ingrained belief that if two facts are inherently contradictory, one of them must be false. Not at all!
There once was a boy who grew up in a poor family. He never had any comforts when he was a child. Everybody he knew lived miserably. He wasn’t very smart, he wasn’t athletic, he couldn’t do anything particularly well. But he thought that he knew a way that he could improve his life. He would be a painter! In his head, he saw pictures of breathtaking scope, infinite grandeur, of fire and ice and quietly talking on the front porch. Finally, he saved enough money to move to a city and buy some painting materials. He began painting furiously, turning out an amazing number of pictures and put them up for sale on the street.
He used up his paint in a week. He died in the street two months later, having yet to sell a painting.
He couldn’t paint worth a damn.
Why do we always try to find the deeper meaning of life? Nobody’s really succeeded yet, and there have been some pretty smart people out there trying. Why do I presume I can improve upon Jesus, or Buddha, or Confucius?
They knew what was going on.
And yet here I sit, trying to explain everything in a simple, easy, bite-size form. I can’t understand the whole truth; I just have to find a half-truth I can live with.
“Forty-two” (The answer to the great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything)
It didn’t help, did it? Well, I’ve decided that the purpose of life is not to cut out everything that is meaningless. Some meaningless stuff is essential to life as we know it. Row, row, row your boat. (By the way, I have decided to mark all my paradoxes from this point onward with segments of popular songs. This is because, for one thing, the paradoxes are the key points of my paper, and for another, I feel that far too much stress is placed on literary analysts by authors who hide their messages. Have a nice day.) Some of it, of course, really is meaningless and stultifying. Who can tell? Does it really matter? I sure don’t care.
Do you know that my computer will not let me put the letter “I” by itself without being capitalized? Some computer programmer has decided to put his understanding of the universe up against that of e.e. cummings.
He knew what was going on.
I should warn you that all of the opinions stated in this little story of mine only exist for approximately five minutes. They are completely and utterly correct, and I will stand by them until I change my mind. Gently down the stream. Keep in mind, though, that all of them are true, and all of them will always be true, even when I stop believing in them. Everything is true, no matter how contradictory any two parts of it may be. Twinkle, twinkle, little star. Of course, everything is also a lie. How I wonder what you are. Think about it. If everything is a lie, then the statement that everything is a lie is also a lie, which means that not everything is a lie, which again opens up the possibility that the original statement is true. Up above the world so high. The mind boggles at the beauty of this cheap paradox. Of course, the mind only boggles if it cares. I don’t particularly care. I only made up that paradox to get across something which I believed at that time, and which I now believe to be completely false.
Of course, it is still true.
Like a diamond in the sky.
A lot of people look at the world and say that the people who followed people like Hitler were really stupid. They’re wrong. People are just trying to cope with the fact that the universe they’ve been shoved into against their will is unbelievably confusing. That’s a pretty hard thing to do. So anybody who’s smart enough to take advantage of this and can convince everybody that they know what’s going on will instantly develop a huge following of people who are sick of trying to figure things out. So they let somebody else tell them what’s going on. Forty-two. Why not? It sure makes my life a lot easier.
Somebody once told me that they couldn’t believe that, in years designated by somewhat lower numbers than this one, public hangings were festive events. Weren’t they horrified by the fact that someone was dying? Why? The people they let control them said it was right, and if you disagree with the people controlling you, you have to do something about it, and quite frankly it usually isn’t worth the effort. So don’t worry about it, they’re killing a criminal, not a human, and let’s take the morning off work, which I don’t really understand the purpose of anyway.
You know how when you’re in a line of cars at a red light, and one car moves up six inches, and every other car all the way back moves up six inches to fill up the gap? I hate that!
“Bad Bones and Baklava”
by Pania Oz
A baklava. One baklava. It wasn’t large. And P told me it was honey and not oil that made it glisten so. Oh but it all falls by the wayside in digestion. I swear that within the hour my hips had inflated like one of those nasty plastic beach contraptions. Oh, ick, the bloat. The agony! I finally sighed, “okay,” I growled on the way home. There was a moment of silence before anyone asked me, “What the hell was that … growl?” From behind the steering wheel, even without looking down, I could sense the closing of the gap between my thighs. The thickening of my ankles, my toes even. Fingers looked like sausages wrapped in an awkward grip, not quite right, not right at all. I break down. “Faaaat!” I wail.
I explained it to my nutritionist this way: I’m willing to eat. I like to eat. I feel better. But then I don’t look like myself anymore and it freaks me out.
It doesn’t look like “you emaciated,” you mean.
Right. Same thing.
So I’m fat today. Because … well, because of baklava.
I’m not crazy. (I mean, I am, right? But …) The first doctor I visited, well-meaning, I’m sure, told me the following: “You can gain the weight. Hey, it’s only a few cartons of Haagen Dazs.” Cool. Good advice. As if I don’t already think I’m always just a pancake away from overweight.
I should have stuck with that doctor, come to think of it.
Now my doctors don’t believe me when I tell them I gained ten pounds over the weekend and then lost it all by accident between Sunday and Monday. [Note to reader: this happens every weekend, I swear on my dusty cross-trainers.] “It’s a long, slow process,” they gently remind. Oh, God. I can guarantee they wouldn’t say that if they’d had the opportunity to witness my exploding pockets of knee fat yesterday afternoon.
But, as I unleashed my angry inner animal in the driver’s seat, P and S couldn’t see it. I wanted to pick up one leg and dangle it over the center console for them to see. I wanted to reach over, grab their blind little graspers and demonstrate my abdominal flab to their unseeing minds. But no dice. “O-M-G,” P acronymed. “T-F-M” (our private jargon indicating an individual whose behavior is too effing much).
It doesn’t make sense to me. My bones are disappearing so fast that I can’t remember what they looked like anymore. They’re nowhere to be found. P sighed and pointed them out to me when we returned home. “I can’t even touch you without poking myself,” she insists. Poke. She demonstrates. Poke. An emphatic “Ouch!” I remain unconvinced.
It just doesn’t make sense. I miss my bones. But no one will let me have them. Bad bones. Bad, bad bones, they think.
But what if I like them? Doesn’t that count for something?
All anyone wants me to do these days, it seems, is join them for fries and a shake at Chubby Freeze. I’m the selfish one for not participating. And no one gives a hoot about my long-lost bones.
I only ate half my dinner last night. My bones came back this morning. Phewf.
“Trust, Cigarettes And How To Travel With Someone You Hate”
by Jessica Quick
I spent four months in Southeast Asia riding out the ending entrails of a five-year-long relationship. During this time with said mistake, I kept a travel blog by request of his curioso family. Now let me set something straight: blogs irk me. Especially the kind that is regularly perused by all my then-boyfriend’s relatives, who of course, were clueless as to how much deep hatred had culminated underneath our relationship over the years. After all-night arguments and dramatic (yet consistently disappointing) make-up sex, I was obliged to sit down and weed out all the unsavory details that punctuated nearly every travel experience for this blog. It was a self-delusional and strangely cathartic accent to my vacation. Post break-up, I contemplated writing an entirely real account of my time spent in Asia, outlined by all the bizarre situations I got myself into as a result of our arguments. Needless to say, that would have been a bit obsessive and weird. So, let me just tell you about one.
We were trekking through a small village three hours outside of Chiang Mai in Thailand, equipped with only our backpacks, a tent, and a friendly Thai trail guide named Kavi. We were finishing up an eight-hour long hike through moderately dense jungle and nearing our camp spot for the night. Extreme heat, self-loathing, and all-day physical exertion were the catalysts for an equally strenuous four-hour long argument we had launched into mid-hike.
“I just can’t (pant pant) trust a person that smokes,” he said.
“Alright, but it’s okay (pant pant) for you to smoke a few cigs (pant) after you’re sufficiently wasted,” I replied, shrugging up the weight of my backpack.
“I’m not a smoker.”
In my backpack, I brought one change of clothes, a flashlight, a bit of baht, my toothbrush, and absolutely no cigarettes for our four-day trip. I’ve been a smoker for about six years and during the last year of this relationship, I was mentally the furthest I’ve ever been from kicking my dirty little habit.
Our nimble guide, who had shimmied up uneven cliffs and dense foliage in flip-flops, turned to us with a big grin.
“Okay, we here!” he shouted, some 30 yards ahead of us.
We caught up and dumped our backpacks in the clearing where we would set up camp. Our guide was already circling the perimeter of the site and gathering branches for our fire. I sat beside my boyfriend drinking water, as he struggled (per usual) with pitching the tent. I knew not to ask him if he needed help during the onslaught of curse words muttered under his breath.
With the tent set up and Kavi working on the fire, we sat in silence a comfortable distance from each other on separate rocks.
“I think I’m going to ask Kavi if he knows where I can get some smokes after dinner,” I said to him.
“Whatever, it’s your funeral. Just know I think it’s disgusting,” he replied, idly smacking the ground with a stick.
“Wonderful. Duly noted.”
An hour later, Kavi prepared a green curry and we ate in silence with only the hum of the woods around us. The sun was still out, but the sky was darkening. We finished eating and Kavi left the fire to presumably gather more wood. I stared at my boyfriend, who had been successfully avoiding any direct eye contact or communication for the past two hours. He looked up and caught my gaze.
“I’m going to lay down. I’m fucking exhausted,” he said.
“Ok, I’m going to stay out here for a while.”
“To ask about your stupid cigarettes?”
“To ask about my stupid cigarettes.”
He said nothing and walked away from the fire. He shot me his best death gaze before attempting to slam the cloth door to the tent behind him. I walked up to Kavi, who had returned with more wood and was sitting by the fire.
“Hey Kavi, this may seem like a stupid question, but do you happen to know where I might find cigarettes around here?”
“For smoke? Oh yes! My sister house close. Not too far. We walk little way to get there and she sell cigarette. She always have for foreigner,” he replied with a big grin.
My heart was racing in anticipation as I fantasized dragging off a ten-foot cigarette after the argumentative shit show of a day.
“Really? Could we do that? It’s not far?”
“Not far. You want go now?” he said and stood up.
“Okay, we go now.”
He hastily launched into the woods and after ten minutes, I realized I forgot my flashlight. I tried to follow as close as I could behind him. The setting sun was enough motivation to forget how tired I was and keep up pace. With hair whipping behind him and easily dodging rough patches I tripped over, I could only think of scenes from the Jungle Book while I followed my Thai companion. And how clumsily American I am in contrast to dexterous Mowgli. We wove through the darkness for about an hour until we came up to a dark clearing and a small bungalow.
“Is this your sister’s house?” I said, still huffing heavily from our brisk romp.
“No, no. We go from here by moto,” he said.
It was perhaps not the wisest decision to trustingly hop on the back of Kavi’s precarious tuk-tuk, but it was definitely the most interesting at the time. Besides, it wasn’t like I was in a position to let out a plaintively white “Are we there yet?”
We drove along a bumpy dirt road for a few minutes in silence. It was completely dark at this point and with no headlights, we roamed ungainly through the narrow dirt road. I tried to remain as nonchalant as possible with unseen bushes periodically whipping me in the face.
“When you marry?!” Kavi shouted at me from the steering wheel.
“What?!” I wailed over the squealing engine.
“You boyfriend?! When you marry?!”
“Oh, I don’t know!”
“He handsome man!” Kavi shouted with a wide grin.
“Yes, he’s got that.”
“I bet he make good bang-bang!
he shouted back at me with a maniacal guffaw.
After a forty-minute jostle, we pulled up to a small clearing of shanty houses. There were three women standing outside, smoking and loudly laughing with one another. As we approached, two of women went inside one of the shanties and Kavi shouted something in Thai to the woman remaining.
“That my sister!” Kavi shouted back at me with a grin as we parked.
We stepped out of the truck and approached Kavi’s sister. She was wearing an outfit that seemed out of place for our rustic surroundings: a short miniskirt and a sparkly pink shirt that read “True Princess” with a large pair of lips smacked on the side.
“Hi, my English name Jenny. Kylie sister,” she said and put two hands in the customary Thai greeting in front of her face.
Kavi introduced me and Jenny nonsensically giggled in response. They talked in Thai for a few minutes and I stood there not trying to feel awkward. They switched back to English and Jenny told me that she lived in Chiang Mai, although she was spending a few weeks in the jungle where they have relatives. She pulled out a rolled cigarette from her purse and handed it to me.
“This one special,” she said with a wink.
I looked down at the roll in my hand, disappointed that in my quest I would be met with a crappy rolled cigarette. However, I wasn’t about to complain. I lit the end and took a long drag. My exhalation ended in an unexpected bout of coughing as I realized this was a familiar brand of skunk. Still hacking, I passed the joint back to Jenny and she giggled before taking a drag.
“So, where you from?” Jenny asked me, passing the joint to Kavi.
“The U.S., California.”
“Ah, California girl! I have some California boyfriend in Chiang Mai. They good honey.”
I didn’t quite know what she meant by “boyfriends” or “honey,” but I laughed and nodded in feigned agreement.
“They pay good money for Thai princess,” Kavi said with a secretive smile and handed me back the joint.
“They give me more money dan you ever, Kylie. I pretty. He not when he girl,” Jenny shouted and laughed toward Kavi.
It might have been the darkness, or perhaps my exhaustion, but there were features of Jenny that I hadn’t noticed before she said this. Her largish calves. Her oversized pink flip-flops around oversized feet. Then it dawned on me.
“He tell you? Kylie used to be girl like me!” she said with a giggle and rushed at Kavi, struggling to tear at his shirt. Kavi laughed in response, playfully fending her off.
“He take pill. He has nice nom! Show!” Jenny said, still wrestling Kavi.
Kavi smiled wide and took off his shirt to reveal two fleshy gobs of loose skin on his chest.
“Dey were big, but I stop take pill when I come back man,” Kavi said, shirtless and smiling.
“I take same pill, but my nom not big. My kuai verrrry small though. Almost like woman! See!” Jenny said, and to my horror, lifted up her skirt to reveal the not-so-king cobra show underneath.
So there I was, in the middle of the jungle in Thailand, gazing stoned at a pair of hormone-induced man-boobs to my left and a shrunken penis to my right. I had gotten myself into situations en route to cigarettes in the past, but this one really took the awkward cake. I smirked and turned my head.
“Wow,” was the only thing I could muster in response to the impromptu peep show.
Jenny thankfully pulled down her skirt, still wearing a mischievously defiant grin. Kavi, still shirtless, giggled and took out his flip cell phone to find pictures to show me of when he was the “Thai princess” of Chiang Mai.
“Foreigner love me. Dey really love Kylie,” he laughed and waved pictures of a garishly made-up Kavi, decked out in loud tube tops and a long wig.
Jenny rolled her eyes and seemed to lose interest after the sixth or seventh photo of Kylie/Kavi.
“You want smoke, right?” Jenny said, searching through her purse. She took out a pack of L&M’s with the obligatory image of lung cancer that dons every cigarette pack in Thailand. It’s possible to start salivating when you’re standing inches away from discovering the cancer-wrapped Holy Grail of addiction. I reached into my pocket and practically hurled all the baht I took with me for the trip at Jenny. She took it and winked at me, placing the cash neatly inside her sparkly wallet.
Kavi snapped his phone shut.
“Ok, we go back now. Fall is far. We go early,” Kavi said, while putting his shirt back on.
We were scheduled to leave at five in the morning the next day to trek for eight hours to a waterfall. I might have been a bit stoned, but I was pretty sure that we had spent at least three hours on this journey for cigarettes, which put us at about four hours from our ambitious departure time.
Kavi spoke in Thai for a few minutes with Jenny, as I contemplated silently about whether they were actually related and not “sisters” through a former profession. They laughed loud and Jenny patted me on the shoulder.
“You go marry boyfriend, ok?” she said.
“I will. Thank you for the cigarettes. It was nice meeting you.”
“Yes! Nice meeting beautiful woman! Bring baby with you next time!”
We stepped back into Kavi’s truck and I prepared myself to make the trek back to the site completely high and paranoid. We drove away from the shanty houses and I gazed back at Jenny, the red dot of her freshly lit cigarette barely visible in the growing distance. I took out my first cigarette in two days and deeply inhaled. A lightheaded rush zipped to my head and I thought about trust, cigarettes, and lady-boys in a way that could only be described as very high.
I’m not much of a talker when stoned and conversation with Kavi on the way back was minimal. The route on foot was obviously slower than the venture out and I stopped several times because I thought I saw or heard fantastic delusions in my blazed glory. The weed thankfully slowed Kavi’s gait as well and he patiently waited for me each time I abruptly halted and never asked why the hell I was laughing so much.
We neared a familiar clearing of trees and I knew we were finally close.
“Ok, we here, honey. Go sleep now. No boom-boom tonight!” Kavi laughed and went to relieve himself in a neighboring stream.
“Good night, Kavi. Thank you,” I said.
I fumbled my way into the tent, still a bit stoned and bewildered by my outing. I stepped over my sleeping boyfriend towards my backpack and flashlight. According to my watch-less estimation, it had to have been at least five hours since I left our site to go cigarette scouting.
“Where were you?” he groaned from under his sleeping bag.
“I went to get cigarettes,” I replied, pulling out a cigarette and clicking on my light.
“Can you do that outside the tent? I don’t know where the fuck you were, but your flashlight is annoying and I’m trying to sleep.” he moaned.
“No,” I answered, striking and lifting the match to my lips.
I pulled out my notebook, on which I kept track of our censored relationship. As much as I tried to forget, the image of Kavi’s tits swam around in my brain.
Had an eight-hour strenuous hike today in the jungles near Chiang Mai. We’re having a blast taking in the outdoors and really getting to know our helpful and informative guide.
I stopped writing and looked over at my boyfriend, who dramatically tossed in his sleeping bag. I exhaled.
“To Whom It May Concern”
by Mike Jackson
for all that you’ve done. The hand-jobs, the booty calls, the pancake make-up. Thank you for the lotions; they were weird, smelled funny sometimes and occasionally took multiple washings to remove, but they were appreciated. The pole dances, the threesomes and the glitter shall all be missed. Well, maybe not the glitter. My co-workers are still perplexed as to why my face was shiny every morning. At any rate, I’ve decided it’s time to grow up. So one less walk of shame for you every week (just kidding, I know you’ll have to replace me quickly). But like I said, big ups for the hand-jobs. I’ll miss you all almost as much as you’ll all miss my wallet.
Bob “Pokey” Richards
Hey Ma, guess what? No more whores! You read that right; I’m giving them up. You may feel free to use the key
for my apartment again. Candii still feels embarrassed you caught us in that sex swing. Only you could embarrass a working girl. You’re the best Ma. Anywho, I’ve decided to go find a “good girl.” And you know what that means. Grandkids are back on the table. And no, not the table you caught me on with the Preston twins (Mindy and Mandy), I gave that table to Goodwill.
Dear Dr. Flinders,
Good news. I’m giving up whores. As such, I would like to cancel my standing 4:00 Monday swab time. Obviously, we’ll need to keep the monthly, 5:00 Friday session for a while. Who knew the Clap was still around? Well, besides you anyway. I’ve never met anyone who could diagnose so many varieties of herpes so quickly. Oh, by the way, on account of the whore purge, I’ll be in the market for some nice, quiet, Friday night library type girls. Does that describe Jen, your assistant, to a tee or what? Please put in a good word for me Doc.
Customer of the Year
P.s. Could you order me some more of the Chlamydia meds? I’ve only got 1 bottle left.
This is the big one guys. The day you’ve been fearing would come. I’m quitting whores. No more stories from me. All you fine, married, family men are going to have to subscribe to Penthouse like everyone else. But, since you’ve all been such good friends over the years, I’m going to leave you with one last story. This happened last week and was/is the main reason for the ’09 purging of the whores. So here goes fellas, and as always, DON’T tell your wives (I still enjoy the home-cooked meals they send to this poor bachelor).
So, last week I met this gorgeous 20 year old at Scatters, the hot new college bar. We had a few drinks, chatted, felt each other out for the craziness test (we both were) and exchanged phone numbers and fake names. The usual drill it was, you are obviously familiar with it. So, a few days later she rings me up and invites me over to her dorm for drinks that night. I got there, we said hello, she made me a 7 & 7, blah, blah, blah.
And then she opened her closet. Hello Dolly! Dominatrix gear everywhere. As you know, I’m no stranger to S & M,
but not really my thing. But hey, she was cute and, let’s not kid ourselves, 20. We had a couple drinks and worked out the details. Chaps, face gear, cuffs, etc. The usual. We also picked our safety word for the evening, bananas.
We got all dressed and were going to town, sweatin it out and then something started to go wrong. I don’t know if the collar was getting too tight or what but my breathing fell off. So I dropped the safety word, bananas. But she didn’t hear me. So I said it again, bananas. But she (I think her name was Michelle) didn’t hear me, again. Now I’m starting to get a little worried.
Then I realized, duh, she’s got the hood on and the rubber on those things is tight enough she probably has trouble hearing. So I screamed, “Bananas!” Nothing. Now I’ve got a real problem because she’s facing the other way and lip reading is out of the question. And I can’t grab her because I’m cuffed to the bed. So I start bucking like a stallion trying to get her off, but she thinks I’m still into it and keeps whipping me. I was really freaking at that point and between the tears I just kept screaming over and over:
I’m losing my damn mind for what has to be 10 minutes, just belting out bananas when all of a sudden the door flies open. In the doorway was a highly irritated RA throwing a bunch of bananas at me while simultaneously telling me to shut the fuck up and realizing what she is seeing and letting out a blood curdling scream that brings half the girls on the floor down to this chick’s room to investigate.
Anyway, we made the campus police report, the local paper and the News of the Weird. I had always wanted to be BMOC but I don’t think this is what I had in mind. Hope this tides you over guys. The whore purge has officially begun. I’ve included one-year subscriptions to Penthouse for all of you.
Bob “Bananas” Richards
Hello Ladies! As you’ve by now heard I, Bob Richards, have cut the whores loose. I am now in the market for you; good-natured, well-read, domestic goddesses. FYI, I enjoy cooking, romantic comedies and giving foot rubs. I have sworn off S & M for good (long story) and will be disease free in 6 months. Please respond only if you are interested in
a respectful, committed relationship. I can be found at Eharmony, Cupid.com, Match.com and Yahoo! Personals.
Unattached and ready to cuddle Bob
We don’t remember you.
I have a weak heart, thanks to you. Do not fuck with me. If I see you with one more whore, I will slash your tires.
P.s. Easter dinner will be served at 4:00
You accidentally sent this to our wives. We are no longer allowed to invite you over.
P.s. we’ll miss you crazy like bananas buddy (we poured a 40)
Jen? I don’t think so (meds are on there way).
Please leave our dating site immediately.
“Recipe for Water Cake”
by Daniel Smither
Ingredients and Materials
1 pound cake bowl
Fill pound cake bowl with water and place in freezer until water is frozen. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. When water is frozen, remove from freezer and bake for 20min.
Daniel Smither is trying to lose weight.
“The Future of Literature”
by James Fluty
I started out very excited to read Mr. Robert Brown from Tampa Florida’s newest tweets. I had, like many literature buffs before me, been a huge fan of his work for many years. However, I’m afraid Mr. Brown has fallen the way of so many greats; he’s tragically become predictable and banal in his old age of twenty-seven.
Many consider Robert Brown to be the father of modern Twittering. There were those who brought it to the main stream; Stephen Colbert, Charlie McDowell and the Shit My Dad Says guy, are all examples of those who were able to bring the focus of writing into the short concise 140 character limit that it so deserved. But later writers like Robert Brown, Gina Hunter and Gedde Watanabe left the overly clever updates and braved a far more subtle and natural feel to their prose.
But I’m afraid that it’s possible all the praise for Mr. Brown has left him no longer putting the effort it takes to seem effortless. The skills he once possessed seem either lost or unused.
I remember being filled with a visceral excitement when I would read such updates as:
“Its Friday and Im gettin the helz out of here!”
The use of “Helz” when referring to the joy of leaving his job demonstrates the terrible wanting that many adults feel to regain the innocence of childhood. The use of Friday obviously signifying the day that ends a traditional work week coupled with his longing to leave work and accented by the replacement of a “z” instead of an “s” shows a deep longing to return to the womb.
Or the heart wrenching sadness I experienced when I read:
“My goldfish died and I don’t know why ”
I can still recall the feeling of my soul breaking, not only in empathy for the pain he felt but also for his beautifully perfect use of the emoticon.
I can’t say that the sadness I felt then isn’t matched by the sadness I have now, expressing my regret that Brown has become just another voice spouting trite ineffectual thoughts that, as of late, seem all to ubiquitous in that once great realm of intellectual discourse that was Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook, but never Myspace. In another uninspired post Brown writes:
“I’m ordering a large double shot espresso and it’s taking forever to make! ”
The first thing that stands out to me is the tragic misuse of the emoticon (in comparison to his early works, where they seemed to flow through him in such inspired ways), surely this should have been an angry face and not the easy and lazy, frowny face. It also reeks of the all too common, ego driven, overly descriptive prose that often come in an author’s later works. “large double shot espresso…” I was yawning by the word “double”! We get it, you’re ordering coffee, move on. I wanted an update not a life story. You see Mr. Brown, like the rest of society, I generally have 13 to 27 windows open on my laptop at any given moment, I don’t have time for Tolstoy! And to add insult to injury it’s an update about a coffee order, the most overused and tired of all tweets. When I read this I couldn’t help but LOL at the lack of originality.
Another update reads:
“Who’s going to karaoke tonight? ”
Here Brown finally uses a decent emoticon but fails to tell the reader why he is asking about karaoke or what the motivation behind going to it is? Where is the growth? Where is the development? Too many times, Brown leaves us guessing.
I would understand a wanting to follow Brown. He has inspired many present day authors and (for me personally) he is connected strongly to my own development as an appreciator of fine literature. But I can’t see anyone gaining anything from Mr. Brown’s work outside the contexts of history or nostalgia. He has, for the time, become too complacent.
As the great author Brittani Applebaum from Beverly Hills California once said:
God is everyone a total douche today or what? #FML
And that, Mr. Brown, is real writing.
“My Grandson, My Computer and My Office (Letter to the Editor)”
by Charlie Britten
It is with consternation that I write. In fact it is remarkable that I write at all.
My computer is six years old and my grandson ten. Last week the latter installed on the former the latest Microsoft Office and one of those antivirus thingies. Because I am a responsible adult, I got him to set up the parental controls before he returned to Scotland where he lives. Fortunately, my grand-daughter happened to come round to see us yesterday so she was able to show me how to get back on to the internet.
But I digress. Microsoft Office. What have they done with it? What do I want with a ribbon at my time of life? Where, oh where, is the Formatting menu on Word? My wife refuses to print. Anything. She doesn’t buy clothes without trying them on in the fitting room, and she won’t print documents without seeing them in Print Preview.
Why did we make this change? I don’t really know. It sort of crept up on us, you know, that sinking feeling that you’re old fashioned, then a cheap offer on the internet. We were fine with Office 2003. Do you remember the Drawing Tools at the bottom of the screen, with the lines and the arrows? The text box was on there – my friend the ordinary text box, not these stupid preformatted ones. Who’d format them like that anyway, Bill Gates? No wonder you left Microsoft.
Coming to think of it, Office 2000 was even better, and Office 97 better still. And what’s this I hear, that there’s an Office 2010 as well?
In a corner of our attic is my wife’s old manual typewriter, which does carbon copies and envelopes.
Charlie Britten has contributed to “FictionAtWork”, “The Short Humour Site”, “First Edition”, “Mslexia”, “Linnet’s Wings” and “Delivered”. In real life, she is an IT lecturer at a college of further education.
by Kelly Anneken, managing editor
Hi, I’m Kelly. I’m the managing editor of Hobo Pancakes and I’m a drug addict.
There, Isa, I said it. I’m sure our readers can tell that I didn’t mean it, just like my sponsor and all the other losers at Narcotics Anonymous. They said they can’t kick me out, but I am calling their bluff. Ten bucks and an eight ball says they give me the boot by Thanksgiving, especially once I dump a whole bunch of laxatives into the samovars.
If you recall, dear readers, in my last “No Comment,” I suggested that human effort could only be sustained by copious amounts of uppers. Never one to back away from following my own advice, I obtained an illegal prescription for Adderall and made friends with my local coke dealer, an adorable spinster named Maybelle Von Triers. Fueled by hubris and amphetamines, I made my way to Florida on foot to work on my new novel, Our Cheetos, Our Selves.
Though my supply of hubris quickly depleted itself, Maybelle made certain that I had access to a friend of hers in Pensacola to keep me up to my nostrils in the white stuff, and Target’s $4 generics plus my bogus scrip ensured a steady supply of Adderall.
It’s hard to say what happened next. My last conscious memory is of swimming laps in the hot tub at a Motel 6. The next thing I knew, I was being manhandled into the back of a squad car by some of Mobile, Alabama’s finest. Evidently I had been curled up in a booth at a local Waffle House for thirty-six hours, mumbling, “All Original and no Cheddar Jalepeno makes Chester a bad cheetah!” So instead of realizing that I was merely mulling over my research, the Waffle House management felt the need to hand me over to the fuzz.
And that’s how I wound up in this Mickey Mouse operation known as NA, where they say that the first step to conquering an addiction is to admit you have a problem, which, okay, fine, maybe I got a little too enthusiastic with the drugs. But then they make you hang around and do eleven more steps, like I don’t have an entire season of Mad Men to catch up on from my blackout down south! Who has the time to sit around listening to a bunch of burnouts named Debbie crying about how they spend their rent money on crystal meth? Hello, just marry some dude who will pay all your bills like I did! I could solve the problems of every single person in my group in a snap, except the leader was all like, “You aren’t allowed to talk in meetings until you get an attitude adjustment, young lady, and I was all like, “You’re not my mom!”
I couldn’t even do more drugs if I wanted to. While I was gone, the Feds caught up with Maybelle and now she’s serving 25 to life, which for her is probably the same thing, and Target Pharmacy put my face on their “Do Not Fill” list after the cops reported my scam. And then Isa got them to put one of those substance monitoring anklets on me like Lindsay Lohan to make sure I don’t start using again, which is ridiculous, because I don’t have willowy, anorexic ankles like LiLo and it just looks all wrong. Have you ever seen a monitoring device on a cankle? It is truly one of the Seven Horrors of the Modern World, right up there with Madonna’s veiny hands and Kobe Bryant’s continued evasion of the justice system.
Anyway, the real tragedy here is that I lost all the work I did on Our Cheetos, Our Selves, which, if my feverish, gap-ridden memory serves me correctly, was a masterpiece on par with Finnegan’s Wake and Pat the Bunny. So I guess the lesson is that you should definitely get super high if you want to write an amazing book, just make sure that you keep some sober loser around who can keep track of your writing and won’t narc on you like one Isa Hopkins. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put my cankle in a plastic bag so I can go do laps in my neighbor’s hot tub. That’s one thing they can’t take away from me, goddammit!
“NetFix: You’ll Flip Your Lid Over It!”
by Paul Lander
NetFlix today announced plans to employ its highly successful sales formula in the field of marijuana distribution with the opening of NetFix. For a fee of just $250 a month, NetFix will mail out an initial packet of seven marijuana delivery systems (or, joints, as they are more commonly known.) Customers will then mail back the used marijuana delivery system and another one will be sent out immediately. For $350 a month, the customer can opt for the Bob Marley special package – “Rasta Reefer Madness” – that will include extra large-sized individually wrapped 100% Jamaican product and a collectible Marley commemorative “Roach Clip.” Buyers will also be able to mix and match product from around the world. Choices include: Maui Wowie, Tijuana Grass, Congo Cannabis and a special brand just for the ladies, Mary Jane Lite. NetFix plans to begin advertising next spring with the slogan: NetFix: You’ll Flip Your Lid Over It.
Paul Lander is a partner at the Comedy Community iJoke.com
The Last Mento in My Pocket: Two Thumbs WAYYYYY Up
by Wade George
Originally located on the sweatiest portion of my inner thigh, the last Mento in my Pocket came as a complete surprise as I reached in to pull out my car keys. The body-heat emanating off my genitals did little to detract from the sweet, succulent flavor of “ripe melon” quite the opposite, in fact; the slow cooking that caused a running of the outside casing gave the delectable impression of attendance at a luxurious Hawaiian Luau. Likewise, the strands of lint woven into the sticky sugar gave one the impression that’s far from being forgotten the delicate treat had been carefully wrapped in soft bedding, just waiting to be awoken when the clock struck “yum.”
Wade George is a graduate from the University of Illinois English Department and a writer for The Chris Tabb Show.
This issue marks a record low in “Letters to the Editor” submissions–and we mean low. DrKovacsFL didn’t write us any passive-aggressive limericks, no Nigerians asked us for any money, and no one even wrote in to complain about Jason Henry McCormick! Still, even with a lack of letters, we managed to make letterade by culling the Direct Messages from the Hobo Pancakes Twitter account. We are replying to them exclusively via this issue of Hobo Pancakes because we’re OG like that. Enjoy!
Hi Hobo Pancakes, great name by the way, look forward to Tweeting with you.
Yes, it is a great name, isn’t it? Please do tell all of your friends to follow @hobopancakes on Twitter! Unless that NJ in your name stands for “New Jersey.” We don’t need Snooki and her ilk mucking up our Twitter feed with all their self-tanner and Italian food. Ick.
The Hobo Pancakes Team
Thank You ! I’m a steampunk jewelry Designer on ETSY: www.CatherinetteRings.com
Well, whoopty-freakin-doo. We don’t know what a steampunk is, but it sounds damp and annoying. Besides, you’re not the only one with an online store. Hobo Pancakes sells t-shirts via a partnership with Spreadshirt. Go to our website and click the “Glad Rags” tab to check it out. We’d go to your Etsy site to laugh at it, but we’re prohibited from visiting any Etsy-owned pages. Court order. Long story.
The Hobo Pancakes Team
We’re sorry, we don’t speak tinyurl.
The Hobo Pancakes Team