Dating, simplified


aajsr

Eric stared into the mirror. The surface was speckled with white spots of toothpaste. His electric toothbrush had painted them on the glass over the course of two years.

He should get around to cleaning it. He really should.

He’s the only one who uses the bathroom, though. Gone are the days of the mad scramble when someone says the words “could I use your restroom?” The frantic, wet sheets of toilet paper swiping across the toilet rim have disappeared. The hasty swiffer across the kitchen floor gathers dust in a forgotten closet.

The dirty clothes hamper festers.

Life is simply the act of trying to appear not as dirty as you actually are. Death is too, in a way. It’s why morticians exist.

Eric moved from where he used to be to where he is now. He had taken wing, a promise of good fortune and new friends was the wind that propelled him to parts unknown. He flew on hope like a seed. He spun in lopsided circles and lost his way and when he landed he had no idea what to do anymore.

Plus someone had torn him from his flower and tossed him away.

It still hurt.

He shaved. He did it slowly. He savored the feeling of the cool steel on his skin. It felt fresh. It felt new. He raked the hair from his visage and he was eight years younger. He wasn’t broken. He wasn’t used.

He wasn’t even out of the box.

He was ready.

So Eric hopped in his car and drove to a field.

It was lit in a way you only get in movies, a sort of erotic, soft blue that signifies it’s night while still be lighter than the dark. Eric wore a suit and tie. He double checked his lapels to make sure they were appropriate and stepped out of his car.

And his breath caught in his chest because a glen beyond the field was full of lights, soft yellows that reminded him of lanterns and porches, of swings and flowing draperies and love, oh how they reminded him of love.

Men and women flitted around the field, bumping into one another. The lights came from their asses.

Like fireflies.

Their posteriors flashed messages, a Morse code of longs and shorts, love and desire. Eric saw a cute girl with a sundress and dimples turn her rear to a dashing gentlemen in a plaid shirt and flash off and on.

“Do you like cats?” her ass signaled to him.

“No,” his booty blinked back.

The girl frowned and walked away.

Eric couldn’t tear his eyes away from her. Couldn’t rip his pupils off her bottom. He sighed, watching the way the light faded in brightness. A sign of disappointment or resignation? He wasn’t sure.

He was going to flutter over to her when a beauty intercepted him.

She bent over and showed him her butt.

“How tall are you?” It signaled.

“Five foot eight,” Eric’s ass signaled back.

She stood up and made a face that was the exact sort of face she would have made if she saw Eric’s apartment and strutted away, her rump blinking its disapproval.

The first strikeout of the night.

Eric scanned for the cat woman but she was gone.

Eric dove into the crowd, flashing left and right, blinking here and there. “No, I don’t make forty thousand a year.” “Yes, I believe in true love.” “No, not yet, but my roommates are nice.”

And then he saw her, standing by a tree and watching the proceedings with an air of disappointment.

Eric scampered up to her. Their eyes locked and she put a hand to her chest in surprise.

Eric bent over and presented his butt to her.

“I like cats,” his ass signaled. He stood up and turned around, grinning like a damned fool.

He’d seen the look that was on her face before. It’s the look everyone gets when they open the fridge and find one, last beer, when they arrive the restaurant and get the last table, when they catch their train at the very last minute.

It was a waterfall spilling over her brows and eyes and cheeks and nose and mouth. It was a paper lantern in her soul. It was hope.

She bent over and showed him her bottom.

“So do I,” she blinked to him.

And Eric smiled.

In his head a song played. It was “kiss me” by Sixpence None the Richer.

Her recalled, faintly, a time, many years ago, when he met women in ways other than blinking at them with his rear. You had to talk to people. You had to sit down and have a conversation and get to know another human being.

You had to clean your apartment if they happened to come over.

It was great to get to know another human soul, but…

Her ass glowed so prettily this evening.

Thank god that German scientist had finally finished his catalog of the firefly genome. Thank god the UN had approved the human trials. Thank Christ glowing butts became mandatory.

“Kiss me,” her ass shined at him.

Then she stood up.

And he did.

And there was electricity as their lips met. Their bodies rubbed against one another and the moon shone above as their asses glowed in that magical glen.

And the lights of love swirled all around them as the rest of humanity looked for romance.

Flashing their asses at one another.

Just like horny semaphores.

Or aroused lighthouses.

Or sexy, back-lit phone screens.

Ah, mon amour . C’est la vie.

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Automaton


2a-orange

I sit in the shower with the heat turned up so high that the steam makes it hard to breathe. The mist spirals out of a small, sliding window high up on the wall. It must rise into the night like smoke from a 19th century train

I wonder what people walking by think.

“He’s a steam punk enthusiast,” a girlfriend says to her boyfriends as she points at the window. “He’s in there with red tented goggles and a dark leather lab coat. He’s trying to build an automaton to do his laundry.”

“If he’s really good,” the boyfriend replies, pulling the girlfriend closer, “it’ll do the dishes too.”

A car streaks by. It makes the girlfriends long shirt billow. The girlfriend scrunches up her nose and pecks him with a kiss. “Tonight’s your night.”

The boyfriend smiles. “I know.”

I don’t see any of this, obviously. Not only is the window too high, but the steam would obscure them. They’d just be silhouettes, and I’d only be able to snatch muffled words from their conversation.

I couldn’t see the caring way he holds her, nor the cheap watch on his wrist, nor the three scratches on his glasses’ left lens.

I couldn’t see her dark hair, or the way the skin around her nose crinkles as she scrunches it. I couldn’t see her bracelets or tattoos, nor he calf muscles bunch as she stands on her tip-toes to swoop in for the kiss.

I couldn’t see any of these things.

They might not have even happened.

“You know,” I tell Matt as I make a caramel macchiato for an Armenian woman who talks  loudly on the phone, “one day a robot will do our job.”

“They already do,” Matt says. He dumps some ice into the ice bin. “They’re like Redboxes but for coffee. You can do it all on your phone.”

I think about this as I hand  the woman her coffee. She doesn’t even notice me. My hand might as well be a metal claw.

She brushes up against my index finger and doesn’t even flinch. If my skin were smooth and hard and cold and reflective she would have reacted the same way.

She’d probably prefer it.

“So what can we do?” I ask Matt.

“What?”

“When we’re automatons.”

“We are?”

“Well, our job. We’ll still be Matt and Charles.”

“We’ll have better jobs by then.”

“Yeah, but they already have programs that can write songs and paint pictures.” Matt’s a musician. This hits him rather hard.

“Pretty soon they’ll write self indulgent blog posts too, and then what will I do?” I continue.

“We’ll get drunk,” Matt says.

This is Matt’s answer to everything. It isn’t a bad answer.

“Yeah, but for people like us, people who burn to express themselves, people who make things, people who demand to be noticed, what will we do to satisfy us?”

“Drink.”

“But if there’s a computer program that writes things better than anything I can ever dream of, no one will ever care about my book. No one will even read my blog!”

“I would.”

“Why?”

“Because I know you made it.”

He wasn’t kidding, either.

I looked across the bar. Debbie was there. She’s one of my regulars and always asks that I make her black tea for her. It’s just pouring liquid up to lines marked on a shaker, but she says I do it better than anyone else.

I don’t know if I do, but I know she likes it more because she knows I made it.

I smile at her, and she smiles back.

So I sit in the shower and craft my automaton. The steam makes me cough, but I like it that way. It adds mystery to the world. It’s so hot I sweat, and it reminds me of sweltering summer nights in Trevor’s front yard.

We had these green cloaks we had gotten from a renaissance festival, and my friends and I would play a game where the person with the cloak would run into the yard and just lay down somewhere. The cloak would be over them and it’s uncanny shade of green made it almost impossible to see them. We’d have to find the person in the cloak, and whoever found them first got to wear it next.

It would get unbearably hot under that cloak. Ants would crawl on your legs. Mosquitoes would land on the outside. I probably got West Nile half a dozen times, but you can’t move, you mustn’t move or they’d find you.

I know you can’t make an automaton for that, so I don’t bother.

The girl was right. Making one for laundry is just the ticket.

I craft it out of bronze and leather. It’s powered by a great billows that blows life into its limbs. It creaks as it walks on spider legs.

It does my laundry for me every day except Tuesdays, because on Tuesdays I get my tips and I can’t bare to give my automaton three dollars for the wash. Not when there’s so many other things I can buy.

I never tell it that I take the cash to the laundromat down the street.

I’m sure it will find me one day as it puffs down the street on some errand or other. It’ll do a double take as it passes the plate glass windows and sees its master sitting on a dryer, watching clothes spin round and round in a circle inside a washing machine.

I hope it’s not hurt.

I think it’ll understand.

It’ll lean up close against the glass. It’s vicious claws will hang meekly by its side, and it’s huge glass eye will watch me, and my automaton will understand that sometimes, sometimes you gotta do you’re own laundry.

Sometimes you gotta watch it spin yourself, because even though your automaton is perfect, you’ll never shake the feeling that you do your laundry better.

 

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How To Start Something


This is a post about writing, and about startin’ somethin’.

I wouldn’t consider myself a writing guru, but talking about the craft of writing is one of my four favorite things to talk about. My other three favorite things are stories, music and Vikings.

(after having been publicly shamed in no less than two comments, i have since capitalized every instance of vikings except this one)

I recall the first time I actually fell in love with Vikings. I had told my German teacher that I used to be a huge fan of pirates. I would read about them and write stories about them, and dream about being back in the days of swashbuckling. Then the Pirates of the Caribbean movies came out, and all of a sudden overweight people who worked at McDonald’s were getting skulls and crossbones tattooed on their shoulders, and I felt sort of robbed.

It wasn’t like I was a pirate pariah beforehand. I was never beaten up for liking pirates. I just felt like… I don’t know. It was just annoying.

“Pirates are okay,” Dr. Ferguson told me, “but Vikings are better. They’re basically pirates but with a crazy religion and way more violence.”

Well, well, well.

If your interested in books about Vikings, I would highly suggest reading the phenomenal Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell.

This is all beside the point.

I wouldn’t consider myself a writing guru, but I recently watched two movies, and the beginnings couldn’t have been more different, and so I wanted to write about it.

The movies were Labyrinth and Singham. They are, strangely enough, more similar than you might think.

Everything has to start somewhere, and it’s your job to pick how.

When you talk about acting, you’re supposed to say “I really like the choice she made” when referring to someone’s performance. That’s because acting is about making choices. Writing is about making choices, too. Nothing is unintentional in a film. Even less is unintentional in a book, because someone chose literally every word on the page.

So when you wanna be startin’ something, when you gotta be startin’ somethin’ you need to make some choices. Both Singham and Labyrinth made choices, and what’s really, really interesting is that they couldn’t have been more similar and yet, at the exact same time, more different.

When you’re planning the beginning of the story, your job is the same job you have when you break out a board game for your friends to play: you need to make sure all of the pieces are on the board. Some games are really complicated, though. They’ve got a lot of pieces, but you really want to play, so you need to make sure you get all the pieces down as quickly as possible, or your friends are going to get bored and go do drugs or something instead.

You don’t have to be thorough. In fact, you need to be as brief as possible. If you tell to much, you use up all your ammunition for later in the story. Character secrets are like bullets, and you only have so many. You can’t come out blasting, you have to bide your time. Wait for the perfect shot, and then you’ll blow your audience away.

So the trick is to be fast, and let people know what’s going on.

In the first ten minutes or so of Singham, we meet an evil mobster who makes a good cop in Goa kill himself from shame. It’s clear the mobster is an asshole, and then we come to this song:

And now, all of a sudden, you know everything you need to know about Singham, the main character. He’s a man. He does manly things. He’s religious. He helps the week. He’s super strong. He has the ferocity of a tiger, and he never spares evil doers. He’s dashing as fuck, and can wear the hell out of a denim shirt. He’s Singham, and he’s going to beat the shit out of some people in this movie.

This is how Labyrinth starts:

And boom, we know (almost) everything we need to know about the main character. Anything else we need to know happens mere moments later, when she runs home and we learn she has a baby brother who she always has to watch and she hates so much that she wishes the Goblin King would come steal him away.

Both films put their pieces on the board super fast.

Then Signham… Singham just fucking drops the ball.

Don’t get me wrong. The movie rules. It has fight scenes like this:

That’s just some good, clean fun. The whipping is… a little disturbing, but, I mean, come on, the dude called out Singham. Insulted his future wife! What did he THINK was going to happen?

This fight happens after maybe twenty minutes in, where we’ve learned even more about Signham: he’s the head cop of some village and guards the villagers with his life. They respect him and shit.

Then the tale spirals out of control with a forty minute long love story that has nothing to do with the main plot at all. It’s not a bad love story, but there’s a big problem.

What’s this love story doing in the movie we just watched two clips from?

Here’s the beginning to one of the greatest cinema masterpieces of all time:

You might think this beginning is stupid, and you’d be right. But it’s also perfect, because it lets you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger can carry a fucking tree, he can pet deer and they won’t run away, and he loves his daughter more than anything. This sets up the plot of the movie (his daughter gets kidnapped) and the tone of the movie (Arnold is a tank that kills everything and it’s insane) perfectly.

What happens in the rest of Commando? Arnold kills everything keeping him away from his daughter.

What happens in the rest of Labyrinth? Jennifer Connely goes to a magic land and rescues her brother from the goblin king.

What happens in the rest of Singham? We have a forty-minute long love story and then get back to the plot we all came here to see.

So now we’ll talk about beginnings.

You’re job as a writer is to let us know everything we need to know as fast as possible, and then deliver us an amazing thing based on those things you just let us know. Arnold loves his daughter? Good. She better get fucking murdered or kidnapped. Jennifer loves this weird old book? Good. She better learn that she lives in the real world. She hates her brother for no reason? She better learn not to hate him. Singham is a tough action man? He better do tough action things.

Watch your favorite movie or TV show. All the stuff you need to know show up in. oh, about the first quarter of it. Any fun surprises or twists happen later, and if they are done correctly, they play off or use things that were brought up in the first act.

So why did I decide to do this?

I read a lot of stuff on wordpress. I talk with friends about a lot of writing projects. Beginnings are hard. They’re hard to nail, and so when I see something that does it really well, like Labyrinth or (parts) of Singham, I just want to share it.

Lastly, someone, and it could have been Albert Einstein, but it probably wasn’t, once said that if you can’t explain something well then you don’t truly understand it. Therefore, if you learn how to explain something well, then you will understand it.

So this post has a twofold purpose:

  1. Hopefully it will help some of you start something.
  2. Hopefully it will help me be a better writer.

Oh, and one more thing: Hopefully it makes someone watch Singham, Labyrinth or Commando.

The Most Productive Procrastination


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So I finished the rough draft of a novel, and I find it increasingly difficult to focus on anything else.

There’s a screenplay I should be writing right now. I started this thing called “Shut Up and Write”. The idea behind it is that you get four randomized screenplay ideas, created by randomly drawing note cards with actors, genres, professions and locations, and the combining those into little idea clusters, and then you write a screenplay with no planning, no personal stake, and no strings attached.

The idea is to not care if it’s good. The idea is to shut the fuck up and write.

A lot of people worry that what they’re creating is good. I don’t have this worry, because I don’t write anything that I wouldn’t want to read. Therefore, the first fan of almost everything I write is myself, and so I’m almost always confident that something in any project I’m working on has merit.

This isn’t a delusion. I’m also pretty good about abandoning projects that aren’t working. I don’t incinerate them, though. I just put them on whatever is behind the back burner. Anything I’m interested has something cool about it, and at the very least I can cannibalize the ideas from a failed project for a new one. Maybe this scene is nice, but it would work better in this story. This character would be more fun here. Etc.

But a lot of people, especially people who haven’t written as much as I have, never get passed development because they spend all their writing time worrying about if what they came up with is good.

This is unacceptable.

Something about it is good, because you are a consumer of media and have a very discerning taste, whatever that may be. You know what you like and, unless you are Ted Bundy or something, there’s probably a group of people out there who like what you like too.

Novels exist that are basically big foot rape fantasies. They are, quite literally, about young women who wander into the woods and get raped by big foot. I have read one before, and it was horrible. Horrible in that it was morally horrible and also just poorly made.

There’s an audience for it. At one point, Virginia Wade was pulling in sixteen to twenty thousand dollars a month from her erotic big foot stories.TWENTY THOUSAND. A MONTH.

If there’s an audience for that, then there’s an audience for whatever the fuck you want to write about.

And I think that’s why I like writing. Sure, I hate Big Bang Theory. I don’t like Cum For Bigfoot.

But someone else does.

And the fact that I don’t like it doesn’t make the fact that they like it any less valid.

Who am I to say that Big Bang Theory is a garbage show full of stupid, not funny garbage jokes? No one, that’s who.

So goal one of shut up and write is this: just write. The die is cast on the first of January, and everyone will shame you if you don’t finish. Who cares if it’s bad? There’s something in there that isn’t.

There’s something in there that’s good.

That’s the second goal. We write, we don’t care and then we celebrate.

A lot of times when I get notes, I think people are too critical. I’m not trying to cushion the notes i receive by shouting “you’re mean and you’re wrong” to whoever gave them to me, but I think a good note is when you try to figure out what the writer wants to do, and then help them achieve that, rather than saying that something is merely bad. Everything is there for a reason. It’s your job as a note giver to figure out what the reason is, and then think about what you are going to say rather than giving your first gut reaction.

I see gut reactions so many times in notes. Gut reactions are seldom useful.

So we don’t give notes for Shut Up and Write. It’s the only time in the year we won’t give notes. Instead, we celebrate. We’re going to have a big party, where the wine and beer will hopefully flow like the Mississippi, and we will read the writer’s favorite scenes from their work.

We’ll assign characters, goof around, and laugh. Then we all clap and take a drink.

This isn’t softening the blow, though it may seem like it. If someone wants notes, they can send me their screenplay and I’ll give it the ol’ ruthless treatment. Instead, this is encouragement. Everyone needs encouragement, probably even Cormac McCarthy and JK Rowling. Hell, probably even Stephen King.

So that’s what we do.

And here I am, writing a blog post.

The cards I finally settled on were: Tom Hardy, The Everglades, Psychiatrist and Mockumentary.

I love Mockumentaries.

I love Tom Hardy.

I love the everglades.

This one practically writes itself.

Practically.

The practically is very important.

So here I am. I’ve got to head to work in three hours, and I’m participating in the most productive form of procrastination.

I’m writing a blog post.

I don’t really believe in New Years resolutions, but the first is as good a date as any to start something new.

So I’m going to try to blog twice a month.

Calm down, it’s only so I can trick you guys into buying my book later.

Ay yi yi… this post is a quagmire.

Maybe that’s my point, though.

Look at this mess above you.

I hope it’s a beautiful mess, because something other than procrastination gave me this idea.

There’s a kernel of gold among the mud. Can you find it?

I’m not sure I can, but it’s there.

So I’ll leave you with this:

I’m not sure what you’re doing on this Sunday, or whatever day it is when you read this, but today is your day.

There’s a new David Bowie album out.

The sun is shining, at least here in Los Angeles.

You’ve got some free hours.

Don’t fuck around online.

Don’t watch TV. TV is dumb.

Don’t read Cum for Bigfoot.

Don’t clean.

Don’t ___ .

Shut up.

Just Shut Up And Write.

And now….

Well…

And now, I think I’ll take my own advice.

And Shia’s advice, too.

 

In Line With The Coffee Girl


clueless

She wore a pink dress, the kind I imagined you would wear to a sorority recruitment party, or maybe a little soiree to a Connecticut country club. She had a pearl necklace, and smelled like lilacs. She was on the phone.

I was working customer support, restocking things, making whipped cream and caramel, and pre-closing the store, so I was walking by the register right when she said it.

“I’m sorry,” she said with that bitchy sort of lilt Emma Roberts would use in a Ryan Murphy show, “I’m with the coffee girl, one second.”

The coffee girl.

My manager is in her thirties, and she wears a special black apron that says Coffee Master. It’d be difficult to mistake her as the “coffee girl,” unless of course you weren’t even paying attention.

Which she clearly wasn’t. Which tickled me all the more.

Working the support role at Starbucks is kind of like being a ghost. You float around, doing things that people don’t really notice, and the troubles of the mortal realm (people on bar and at the registers) don’t really bother you.

They don’t just not bother me, though. They amuse me.

Here a fat woman complains about not getting her venti caramel frappacino fast. She flushes in anger. There, somebody spills their coffee after a pitching a huge fit that it didn’t taste right. Over there, a child screams in line, wanting more and more madeline cookies. If you were affected by these mini tragedies, they wouldn’t be funny. To me though, the friendly ghost, they are better than TV.

So I laughed. Out loud. My manager and the woman turned to me. My manager gave me a sort of motherly “what are you doing? Stop right now,” look, The woman looked at me like I was an unruly servant.

I looked back at her and tried not to laugh out loud. She wasn’t laughing. She still wasn’t even paying attention.

I wondered what her life was like.

She’d leave this land of the coffee people after she got her drink. Maybe she’d do some shopping at Bloomingdales, interacting with the clothes people, or maybe the makeup beings, in their natural habitat, before hopping in her Mercedes and heading over to the pet groomer, where she’d pick up her small, white dog from the dog person. On her way home, undoubtably, she’d stop off at another Starbucks to refuel with another trenta gren tea from the coffee girls, because a dry mouth is no mouth at all, as the cleaning monster used to say. She’d swing by whole foods on her way out of the valley, where the foodlngs and meat creatures would supply her with whatever she desired. On to the 101, where undoubtedly she would speed, a and a law thrall would pull her over and give her a ticket. It doesn’t matter, though. The number demons would have this sorted and paid for as soon as an assistant thing brought it to them.

Money was no issue.

Finally, back in Beverly Hills, where the civilized world lives, she would park in her driveway. Danny, the handsome actor, would wave at her from his yard. I bet his wife doesn’t have to interact with the northern beasts, she thinks to herself as her heels clack across the imported paving stones.

Inside, she passes off her dog to one of her many assistant things, and inspects the work of the cleaning monsters. Flawless, as usual, but creatures of their status excel at menial jobs.

She sits down on a perfect couch. After a hard day of shopping, who doesn’t need a rest?

She’d hear a squawk, and turns around. There, inside the gilded cage, would be the parrot her husband bought her last week. A cleaning monster finishes polishing the outside, and then bows to her and leaves.

She’d walk up to the cage, and gently pet the gold. The parrot would cock its head, look at her with one eye.

“I love you,” It’d say, and then she’d be sad.

She’d be sad because she didn’t know from whom it learned the word.

I clutched my mop to my chest. I was no longer laughing on the inside.

The woman was staring at me. My face just changed from comedy show to funeral in less than ten seconds, with no apparent stimulus. I must have looked incredibly insane. She ordered her drink and left.

“Coffee girl?” My manager laughed once the woman was out of shot. “Can you believe that?”

“This isn’t the 19th century,” Jac laughed.

I didn’t laugh. “She might not have meant it,” I sad. They both turned to me.

“What?”

I searched my thoughts, and then I gave up.

“Never mind.”

I kept mopping, stealing glances at the woman in the pearl necklace, looking for something other than sadness behind her eyes.

The Parrot Cage

Dogs and Babies Are The Same Thing


dumb ass dogs

My family is a dog family.  My parents have a golden retriever.  My sister has a pug.  If I were able to afford to feed another being other than myself, I would probably have a dog too.  Well, maybe if I didn’t live in LA.

Los Angeles must be hell for dogs.  Their acute hearing must ring with every horn honk and fire truck siren, the stenches of human secretion and garbage that grace the streets must ravage their sensitive noses.  The hundred-degree concrete can’t be good for their paw pads, and the only grass in my neighborhood is already so full of poop that it basically is poop.

Careless dog owners leave the poop.  I like to imagine they think they are doing the grass a service.  In this drought-ridden land, where water is scarce and sprinklers are basically outlawed, dog poop might be the only moisture the grass gets.  In their minds, I think, they are keeping LA green with a little bit of brown.

The poop thing doesn’t really bother me.  I live in an apartment.  It’s not my grass, and after my second or third venture into a plot of turf, I’ve learned just not to walk on the stuff.  City dogs don’t bother me, either.  They’re always on leashes and seem so blasé about every new stimulus they come across that I feel sorry for them.  Here comes a doberman pincher, its face droopy with ennui.  A squirrel crosses his path, and the doberman merely watches it trot along before wandering over to a three inch by five inch tuft of scrub to defecate.  Back it goes, into a tiny studio apartment, to sit on a couch and watch re-runs of Law and Order while it’s owner asks it for notes on her audition.

“Yeah, I wanted that line to be ‘bark’, but what if I tried it less ‘bark'”?

The only dogs that bother me are the dogs that people bring into the mall.  If I had to make a list of places where dogs don’t belong, the mall would be included, along with hospitals and the surface of the sun.

I saw one urinate on some of our fake plants one time.  Its owner told him “good boy” and then just walked away.  I’m supposed to call someone when this happens.  Mall security, I think.  I never do, though.  It’s not my fake plant.

Sometimes, when I can’t fall asleep, I wonder if dogs poop in the fake plants.  It’s why I don’t use the escalators anymore.  They’re just too close.

The only thing worse than dogs are babies.  You would think that babies wouldn’t be as bad.  You can leave a dog at home.  You can’t really leave your baby at home.  Babies are only good at a few things, and finding creative ways to injure themselves seems to be one of them.  “I have no idea how she fell down the trash chute, officer.  I had only popped over to the mall to walk my dog for an hour or, so.  Honestly, how did she have the time?”

Babies are worse because dogs eventually get tired of making noise.  Babies never do.  More often than not, I’ll be on register, writing down someone’s very berry hibiscus refresher on a trenta cup (no ice, extra berries), and a baby will be wailing.  It’s impossible to discern where the noise comes from.  There are dozens of strollers in line, and dozens more waiting for drinks.  Strollers prowl the walkways and block the elevator.  Strollers gently rise up and down on escalators, and jam up the exit routes.  If there were a fire, only people who ran hurdles in high school would be able to make it to safety.  The strollers would foil the rest of us.

I was cleaning the stores lobby when a baby barked at me.  I turned to its stroller, and it wasn’t a baby.  It was a dog.  The dog smiled, wagged it’s tale, and barked again.  It must have been two or three, and seemed to be in perfect health.  Its owner turned and looked at me.  The expression on her face said “well, aren’t you going to complement my dog?”

I looked next to her, where another woman stood behind her stroller.  There was a baby in her’s, and a young couple were fawning over it.

And that’s when I got it.

You don’t bring your baby or your dog to the mall for their enjoyment, or health, or benefit at all.  You don’t take them because you can’t leave them home.

You bring them because it makes you special.  It sets you apart from the rest of us.  Your a mother, or a father, a caretaker of some kind.  You want to be complemented.

You’re showing off.  That’s why you bought the bright pink, two thousand dollar stroller that has a mini AC in it.

The dog owner was still looking at me.  Her face still longed for validation.

I gave in.

“Dogs aren’t allowed in the mall” I told her.

She blinked.

Thirty minutes later, my shift ended, and I got to go home, to blissfully continue my life, free of both babies and dogs.

Because, really.  Can you tell the difference?

dog and baby

1800 Seconds at a Starbucks With No Line


StarbucksPic

I’ve often thought that opposites are the scariest thing in the universe.  What could be more frightening to a being accustomed only to light than darkness?  Only land than water?  Only existence than nothingness?

There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to ask himself the hard questions.  What’s he afraid of?  What’s his opposite?

I work at a Starbucks in a large mall. It’s not a bad job, and it’s actually a great break form writing screenplays and thinking all the time.  I never thought I’d have an existential moment there.

And yet I fucking did.

What’s my opposite?

I found it, this very night, while working the register during the late shift.  It all happened in the span of 30 minutes.

30 terrifying minutes where I had the opposite of a line.

Minute 1:

The two women stood about five feet back form the counter.  The squinted at the menu.  I asked if I could help them.  They didn’t respond.  They just stared.   I wondered if they even heard me.  They were probably going to order Very Berry Hibiscus Refreshers.  They had the look about them.  The thirst.

Minute 2:

They finally ordered very berry hibiscus, just like I knew they would.

Minute 3:

They went over to the bar.  There was no one else in line.  I drummed my fingers on the counter and let out a long sigh.

Minute 4:

Joe finished passing out their drinks.  I watched him do it.  His eyes were dead.  The smile was forced.  I could tell he couldn’t hang on much longer

Minute 5:

There still wasn’t anyone else in line.  Joe went to the back to do some dishes.  The shift was in the storeroom counting supplies.  I was all alone.

Minute 6:

I couldn’t believe it.  There wasn’t even anyone else in the mall.  The phone rang.  I picked it up.  There was no one on the line.  I crumpled up a receipt and tried to shoot it into a trash can.  I missed.  I picked it up and tried again.

Minutes 7 – 10:

I continued to miss.

Minute 11:

I heard a scraping sound coming from the somewhere by Bloomingdales.  It sounded like somebody was dragging a shovel on the tile floor.  The phone rang again.  There was no one on the line.  I walked out of the store.

Minute 12:

I looked toward Bloomingdales.  One of the overhead lights about 300 yards down flickered.  The scraping sound didn’t stop, but no one was there.  The phone rang.  I didn’t answer.

Minute 13:

Still no line.  I heard a splashing by the fountain.  The sound of a child’s laughter.  I wanted to go investigate, but someone had to stay at the front of the store.

Minute 14:

Things started to get weird.  A woman in a dress walked back and forth between the Disney Store and the Sporting Good store.  She carried an old, one-eyed teddy bear.  The phone rang.

Minute 15: I asked her if she was okay.  She turned to me.  She had no eyes.  “Today is National Hot Dog Day.” She whispered.  My heart seized up in my chest.  I told her I already knew it was national hot dog day.  Facebook told me.

Minute 16: The woman just stared at me.  I just stared back.  I noticed she actually looked more like a little girl than a woman.  Perhaps the girl from the fountain.o-BLACK-EYED-CHILD-570

Minute 17: This was certainly the longest I had ever gone without a customer at Starbucks.  The girl recommenced her wanderings.  She eventually walked away.  I went back into the store

Minute 18:  The phone rang.  I picked it up.  “It’s National Hot Dog Day.”   That’s when I started to go mad.

Minute 19 – 25:

I don’t remember much.  The phone kept ringing.  I think I stacked cups into castles on the counter.  I made sugar packet guards and used the drink sleeves as gates.  I laughed a lot.  The children kept laughing with me, too.

Minute 26:

I thought there was someone in line.  It turned out to be no one, though.

Minute 30:

I woke up on the floor.  An old lady looked over the counter at me.  She had a Nathan’s Famous bag on the counter.

“Are you okay?”  she asked.

I wasn’t.  I just asked her what I could get her to drink.

“What goes well with hot dogs?”  She asked.  There was a strange smile on her face.  “It’s national hotdog day.”

And that’s when I heard the phone ring.

And that’s when I started to go slightly mad.

But…

Ah!  Another person!  And another.  A line, a blessed line, and I was swept up in the moment.  The fear vanished and I told her, I told her…

I told her a Java Chip with an add shot would go great with hot dogs.  It was a lie.

creepy kids

Farewell


Farewell

 Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_Project

A twinkling star shone bright for me

One night I asked it why.

Its twinkling light diminished,

And then it vanished in reply.

I pondered long what I had done

To cause the star to go.

I ponder of it still today

Perhaps I’ll never know.

The Medallion


So, here’s a short story that I’ve been working on.  I’m a big fan of the man himself, H. P. Lovecraft, and so I tried to write a story in his style, but in third person.  Here he is:

What a happy looking guy!

What a happy looking guy!

I was hoping for something more awesome though.  Hmm….

What a happy guy!

What a happy guy!

Ah, yes.  Excellent.  Anyway…

This may seem like an unusual choice (lovecraft + 3rd person) to those of you who know that Lovecraft wrote almost exclusively in the first person, but I must also warn you that when I wrote the rough draft, the original Idea was to adopt Hemingway’s technique of drinking copious amounts of alcohol before writing something, and then trying to crank out a story.  I then opted out of the Faulker technique of continuing to drink until you pass out, and then wake up the following morning with a good drink and trying to edit.

Secondly, this story is meant to be a horror, and if you find it amusing, be warned that it was unintentional, and due to my occasional inability to slam together coherent sentences rather than any sort of concentrated effort.

Here you go!

The Red Medallion

The moon hung gibbous and eternal over the dark forest as Aaron crashed through the underbrush.  Tree branches snatched at his coat and urged him to stop and feel they’re spindly embrace.  He almost did it, too.  He almost just lay down and accepted what might come: death, an afterlife, oblivion.  It was all fine with him, but then he heard it again, the haunting, bestial howl. He restarted his panicked flight with a redoubled effort, one thought on his mind: it’s getting closer!

Trees, trees, more trees, roots and limbs.  The soft thuds of his footfalls were diminished somewhat by the peat on the forest floor, but the franticness in their cadence was unmistakable.  This was a man running for his life, they told you, a man running out of time.

He burst through a thicket of bushes and his footing came out from under him, sending him sliding, rolling down a precipice.  Down!  Down he rolled, down the steep embankment, over the rocks and roots that grabbed at his legs, sometimes threatening to break them.  He cried out as he tumbled, knowing full and well the futility of this action.  There was no one else around.  No one at all.  Just him and… it.

Splash!  He barreled into the rocky stream at the bottom of the ravine, and a searing pain in his left arm stabbed through his mind, keeping him alert and conscious, though he could feel the tendrils of darkness creeping into the edge of his vision.  He lay there for quite some time, in the mud and shallow water, waiting for the pain to stop.  It didn’t.

He stood and fell back down again.  His leg had collapsed out from under him.  He stood more carefully and managed to stay on his feet, at least until he gave his arm an experimental prod.  Bad Idea.  His vision swam and he nearly passed out as he crashed back into the water.  Fuck.  Fuckfuckfuck.

He looked up at the opposite side and scowled.  He knew, he knew that only a mile beyond that imposing wall of dirt lay his town.  Safety.  Struggling, he managed to right himself once more, and cross over to the embankment, taking special care to not touch his left arm.

The wall was too steep to simply walk up.  He would have to climb it, here and now, unless…

He looked left.  The stream stretched for miles, bordered on both sides by steep walls of earth and the dark imposing forest on top of the walls.  The right wasn’t any better.  No, it had be here.  He wasn’t even sure if he could walk much firther that night, not with his sprained ankle, but the thing following him, it certainly couldn’t climb a–

The howl made Aaron jump and almost fall back into the water.  This one sounded different, sort of anxious, like the howler was expecting this chase to be over and done with in the near future.

He threw himself bodily at the wall, cradling his left arm into his body and clawing like a madman at the dirt, trying to gain purchase on it’s crumbly surface.  He managed to snag a root that seemed relatively sturdy, and tried to haul himself up with it.

Foolish.

His right hand was not strong enough to support his weight, and it collapsed under the strain, sending him sprawling once more into the cold stream.

A howl broke the quiet of the night, bloodcurdling and, most frightful of all, close.  Ever so close.  Aaron cried, and banged his fist into the river bank’s cold, damp earth.

Why why why why WHY?  Why was the only thing he could think of:  Why had he taken the dare?  Why had he gone to that graveyard, that fucking gave yard?  Why did they do this to him?  It should have been easy.  It should have been easy.  It had been easy enough at first.  Tom’s map had led him straight to the graveyard, there had been a shovel behind the shed like Tom had told him, and the grave dirt wasn’t to packed.  It split apart like rotten meat to his shovel, and the coffin hadn’t even been buried that deep.  Once he pried the lid off and seen it… the red medallion.

Another howl snapped him out of his reverie.  Shit.  He stood and began to hobble down the stream, hoping that there was something, a ladder, some stairs, something he couldn’t see further along it’s course.

If I make it out of this, he grimly thought as he looked over his shoulder at the moon, which seemed even larger and more intimidating than before, I’m never going to play truth or dare again.  At least not with my friends.  He laughed at this, a cruel, barking laugh that was unlike him.  Friends…

High school had been so hard that Aaron had jumped at the chance to hang out with anyone, and positively wet himself when the popular kids had invited him to a party Jerry was having at his uncle’s house.

All the best looking girls were there.  Ashlee, with her long, dark hair and curvy hips.  Lilith, with her prodigious bosom and winning smile.  Rachel, with the dimples and the jade colored eyes.  All of them, and they turned and smiled at him when he walked in.  Rachel even said his name, his name, as she passed him a drink.  It was heaven.

They had started off the night with some drinking games.  Aaron hadn’t known any when they started, but he got a good hang for them by the time they finished.  He hadn’t ever drunk much alcohol before, so it all hit him rather hard.  He had thought he could handle it.  His father had occasionally snuck him sips of beer while his mother wasn’t looking, and he had thought that his would somehow prepare him for copious dirnking, but he had been wrong.  It seemed that it was always that way.  Wrong.

They had played beer pong and kings cup, flip cup and quarters, and once he had become too drunk to think clearly, they had settled down to play truth or dare.  He was between Rachel and Lilith, and counting himself rather lucky.  Tom had started off with a truth, and told everyone about the time he lost his virginity, much to everyone’s chagrin.  It seemed like they had heard it before.  Rachel took dare, and had to kiss Aaron on the lips.  It was the single greatest thing that had ever happened in his life, and probably ever would.  It got to Aaron’s turn, and he was still swooning.  He dumbly looked at Rachel, who mouthed the word “dare” with he perfect lips.  He obeyed, and they dared him to dig up a grave.

Aaron splashed through the stream, tears streaking down his face.  He was crying again and he wasn’t certain why.  It had just happened, like a summer storm, sudden and violent.  He hoped it would break soon.  He felt like it was slowing him down.

He wasn’t sure what they had planned.  Surley it was to scare him in some capacity or another.  Maybe dress up as a ghost and hide behind a grave, or wait in the woods until he had dug deep into the grave dirt, and then pushed him in the grave and pretended to bury him. They had never gotten the chance.  Once he had locked his hand around that medallion, once he had taken it–

A splash of fast approached feet drew Aaron out of his reverie.  IT was hear.  Run.  Run.  Run as fast as you can.  Sprint god damn it and… ah, but there was never any hope, was there?  He fell, like so many others before him, crashing down into the stream.

He rolled over, and it was on top of him.  The fangs.  The claws.  The rancid stinking breath, like the breath of a corpse, or perhaps the breath of something made of corpses.  It was hard for Aaron to tell.  He had never smelled either, but for an instant, just an instant, he had seen something in the beast’s hide, something that looked eerily similar to Rachel’s face, screaming in pain and horror as it pushed against the creatures pale, hyper stretched skin.

It tore into him, ripping his throat in one clean bite.  Aaron struggled briefly, and would have been proud to learn that he damaged the beast’s leg.  It didn’t cause too much trouble, but it was a badge of honor that few of it’s past victims would be able to claim before they went.

He felt it rummage through his pockets and take the medallion, and then it was gone, and Aaron was left with nothing but the cold water of the stream, and the moon, which cut through the encroaching darkness like a beacon, golden and lustrous, almost as if it were made of metal.

*****

Oh, and I almost forgot to thank Ronni Noyce, Kathryn Jenkins and Kristy J. W. for nominating me for the “shine on”, “sunshine”, and “versatile” blogger awards, respectively.  I promise you, I’m gonna do one big fucking awards post some time this months and it’s going to be utter madness.  So get ready, readers, I’ve got like 5 awards to give out, and one might be coming to you!

WeWriWa #3: The Game


Here’s an excerpt from a new story of mine for this weekend’s weekend writing warriors  I’m hoping to send it off to a sci-fi/fantasy mag.

********

The problem with most people, Ma’lark the Halfling thought, as he applied buttermilk colored foam to the bank’s plaster wall in front of him, is that they’re stupid.  They think, for instance, that just because the most advanced machine around is the crossbow, people shouldn’t know how to make explosives.

He smirked and finished placing the foam.  He stepped back to admire his handiwork, and couldn’t help but smirk even wider.  The foam was arranged in a pattern to look like a caricature of him, giving a very condescending thumbs up.  He chuckled to himself as he took a fuse out of his rucksack and stuck it into his foamy doppelganger’s foot.

It’s ridiculous, really.  Explosives are just simple chemistry. 

******

Thanks for reading!

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