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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The Rainwalker


(the following was written while listening to Closer to the Edge by Yes)

When you live in Los Angeles and you tell people you walked somewhere, they look at you like you just told them you own five copies of Mein Kampf, one of which is signed.

“Why?” Is almost always their first question.

“Are you okay?” People sometimes ask, as if you something might have slain you while you perambulated around the city.

“Are you crazy?” Still others say.

L.A. is a city of cars. You need one of two things to get around: a vehicle or a lot of extra time. A ten minute car trip can take an hour on the bus.

The buses smell. The people on the buses smell, but in a different way then the bus. The places where you wait for the buses smell, but in a way other than the other two, so that on any different bus trip you have to put up with at least three different kinds of smells, all different, but all similarly colored in varying shades of urine and body odor.

They’re all bad.

So when my registration expired and I was waiting for my tax returns to re-register my car, I decided to not ride the bus, but to walk places. I had become very hermit-like and inactive over the winter months. This happened because I wrote a novel (I’m now in the process of revising it and preparing to send queries to agencies!) and any free time I had not writing a novel was spent sleeping, working, or feeling guilty about not working on my novel.

I was fat and happy so I decided I needed to be unhappy and thin. I would walk to work. It was two miles. Then I’d walk back from work. That was also two miles. All in all, I would walk four miles every day, which I judged to be a sufficient amount of exercise for someone who never exercises.

The last time I walked to work Julian, a co-worker complemented me on how tan I had become. “You look great!” He said. “What’s your secret?”

“Oh, you know,” I lied, “I’m just a creature of the outdoors, really.”

He gave me a shifty look.

Ah, my co-workers. Thou knowest me too well.

“My car broke down so I’m walking to work.”

“Oh,” Julian said, “Why?”

The city is different when you walk. You catch the breeze, the smells, the sounds. You get to witness first hand the furtive looks people give you as you pass them; the quick, downward glances that practically beg you not to murder them.

“Oh, please,” their eyes beseech, “take whatever you want, stranger walking beside me, just don’t take my life.”

I don’t look frightening. I have long hair and wear all black, but so do lots of people. Maybe I achieve alpha street villain status because I sing along to folk music and David Bowie as I walk down the street. Maybe that’s something only crazy people do.

I waited for my refund and I walked to work. I loved it. It gave me a break form writing that I didn’t have to feel guilty about. Sure, I had to leave an hour early and get home an hour late, but that didn’t matter. The stress evaporated from my pores as I walked. It floated up above the power lines and past the clouds. It wafted into the stratosphere and drifted away, eventually becoming not a thing. Nothing at all.

One day it rained.

It was a drizzle. They would have said it was spitting if I was in London.

I wasn’t, so everyone said it was raining. They warned each other to drive safely and, god forbid, no matter what you do, don’t go outside unless it’s absolutely necessarily.

I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never met people that could be so blase about terrifying natural disasters like Earthquakes, sometimes even bragging about how they slept through it.

For a native Californian, I suppose, water is a thing that stays in the sea or comes out of sprinklers. Anything else is just unnatural, proof that the spirits are displeased with us.

The rain doesn’t scare me. I’m was born in Oklahoma, a place where tornadoes wipe out whole towns.

I grew up in Florida, where the rainfall in July would bust California’s drought. I’ve swam in the rain. I’ve drank in the rain. I’ve walked outside in the eye of a hurricane and looked up at the solid black walls of cloud and wind and lightning and water and I’ve laughed, not at the storm, not in any mean way, but just at how utterly bizarre it all was.

I’ve been on top of a mountain on the Appalachian trail during a thunderstorm. Lightning was striking so close that I thought my ears would split. There was so much electricity in the air that all of my body hair was standing at varying degrees of attention. My Dad and I avoided stepping in puddles for fear of getting blasted.

You’re supposed to lay down in lightning storms. You dot this so your less of an attractive conduit for the lightening. I remember my dad looking at the flooded trail as the storm started and saying “Well, we’ll just have to keep going. We can’t lay down because if lightning strikes any of this water, it’ll kill us.”

So we walked up a side of the mountain in the lightning and the rain.

So I decided to walk to work in a drizzle.

Everything is different in the rain. It’s darker, not just because clouds block the sun, but also because the water stains everything it touches a darker hue of whatever it was before.

There’s a smell in the air. It only happens right after a rain, or during the first rain in several days. It’s a crisp smell, a clean smell. The smell is amplified in Los Angeles. The air is so dirty that when the rain knocks some of the dust and smog away it smells like you’ve been transported somewhere else all together.

I put on Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” and walked to work.

It was wonderful. It was the best walk I had in a long time.

“Did you catch a ride?” Steven asked me when I got to work.

“No.” I said wetly. His eyes widened.

“You walked?”

“Yeah. It was nice.”

He blinked. “But it’s raining.”

“Yeah.”

“And you walked.”

“That’s right.”

“Why?”

I could hear the rain hitting the skylight thirty feet above me. The pattern was soothing in its irregularity.

The thing about rain is that it falls all over the place. It doesn’t aim. It just hits a bunch of spots in the concrete. When it hits, it makes them darker, makes them smell fresh, makes them more interesting.

I ran a cross country race in the rain about ten years ago. It was at the park in the Vineyards. It was raining so hard that when I tried to breath through my mouth my lungs would fill up with water and I would have to cough it all up. I had really bad allergies and sinus problems back then so I couldn’t breath through my nose.

I coughed up a lot of water that day.

I was near the back of the race. All the grass was already obliterated. Instead of a well marked path, there was just a river of mud. There was a canal to my right that was about to overflow, and I wondered what would happen to the alligators that lived in it when the canal suddenly became the whole park.

Back in college, I walked in the freezing rain over the bridge into Beeson woods. I made the mistake of betting against the weather and showing up to German lab. I couldn’t afford to miss anymore. I had arrived just as Caitlyn was leaving. “Haven’t you heard?” She asked me. “Classes are cancelled. It’s not safe to drive.”

It wasn’t safe to walk either. I lost traction halfway down the bridge and almost slid into the ravine over which the bridge spanned. I managed to grab the sign that said welcome to Beeson Woods, and vowed to never leave my dorm again if it was twenty eight degrees and raining.

I walked in the rain down Tottenham Court Road with my friend Erich. We popped into a pub whose name escapes me in order to rewrite his whole screenplay. We got drunk on some fine English beer and by god we did it.I still remember laughing all the way home. I turned up my collar against the stiff wind and all that was in my mind was a cup of Earl Grey and some toast with Nutella and butter.

I walked in the rain on my last day in Florida. My flight had been delayed because of the storm. It was a short walk, just down the driveway to my Dad’s Nissan pickup truck. The driveway was covered in old shells we had brought in years ago. They would always get stuck between the treads in your shoes so that you’d click across our cheap tile floor.

I stopped outside the door and stood in the rain. My dad was doing something in the house. He’s notoriously hard to get going, but once he’s ready everyone else better be, too.

I stared down the driveway, out to Golden Gate drive. I looked over the palm trees and the pines. I remembered all the hot summers I spent walking in between them with a broom to knock down the plate-sized banana spiders who lived in our yard. I didn’t want them to ambush me when I mowed the lawn.

I remembered riding the shiny black lawnmower my grandfather bought me. I remembered the sound it made as it tore up pine cones.

I almost exclusively mowed in the afternoon, and I remembered the pretty, yellow-green color the leaves would take as the setting sun blasted through their chlorophyll.

I remembered imagining whole kingdoms in the grass, and wondering what they would think of the mower as it cut the grass.

I remembered sitting at the bottom of the pool with my sister. It was raining, and we watched water drop onto the top of the water. The ripples made the sky look like quicksilver.

I remembered that the next time I came back to Florida the bank would have repossessed that old house and it would probably be torn to shreds.

I stood there and it was raining. It was raining and, for the life of me I couldn’t think of a better send off.

The house might fade. The yard might disappear just like tears in the rain, but I’d remember. We’d all remember the fights and the love and the laughs and the everything all rolled into one glorious feeling.

It’d feel like home.

And the best thing about that feeling is that you can take it anywhere you go. You store it up in a little box and you walk to work in the rain and you bring it with you, because when you meet Steve at work and you tell him you want a latte and he asks you if you walked in the rain and he says why you can lift the box up.

It’s brown and sort of bowed out in the middle.

He asks why and you open up the box and you show him.

You’ll just show him.

You know… in movies and TV whenever someone opens a box and there’s something magical inside it glows gold.

Not this box.

I opened this one, and it was blue. Blue like water.

Blue like tears in the rain.

I had a professor tell me that that line is the sappiest line ever written in film.

You should take Viki’s word for it. She a genius.

It’s not sappy to me, though.

Don’t take my word for it. I’m not a genius.

I’m just a Rainwalker.

And I know exactly what Rutger means.

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A little bit of housekeeping:

I’d like to thank My Messy World for nominating me for a blog award. I’m very bad about responding to people’s awards. There’s actually been a few I didn’t respond to until months later and the person who gave me the award had shut down their blog.

How embarrassing.

I’d been meaning to blog for a while, but my novel keeps eating my soul. Messy World gave me a wonderful excuse to come back.

So thanks for that.

You guys should go check out her (her?) blog.

Anyway, I’ll hopefully be blogging more often soon.

Maybe someone cares about that other than me.

Maybe they don’t.

I guess we’ll find out.

It Started


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It started like any other day.

The Sun rocketed toward Lambda Herculis at 45,000 miles per hour. The earth continued to rocket around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. Any given point on the earth spun around in a circle at 1,000 miles per hour.

It gave the appearance that the sun rose. The sun does not rise.

Rather, we do.

Sabrina Adams rose from her bed at 5:53 A.M. She had only hit the snooze button once. For some reason it only let her snooze for eight minutes at a time. She had never gone into her  iPhone settings to adjust the snooze length. It was not something she had ever considered doing, or even thought was possible.

Outside her window, she was slowly rising to meet the sun.

Toilet Urine Water Soap Foam Teeth Brush Foam Water Deodorant Clothes Shoes Beans Water Mug Keys and she walked out the door and down the part of the hallway’s carpet that is a slightly lighter shade of putrid grey than the rest. It’s the part in the middle, where she always walks.

It wasn’t until she was halfway down Ventura Boulevard that she woke up. The road was clear, and she had somehow kept the Mazda’s wheels in between the narrow, white lines. She set the radio to a station that was playing something, and outside her window…

Outside her window she met the sun over the San Gabriel.

Rays shot past the peaks and made the orb look like the imperial flag of Japan. The pollution in the air glowed orange and pink. It had rained quite a bit recently, and she could see a peak that had some snow on it.

And she wondered.

She wondered what it felt like

And then she was at Van Nuys, driving past her turn, heading East. Her ear lobes tingled. She hummed along to something nameless and elusive.

Fifteen minutes later she was in Burbank, and the passenger seat started to glow. She looked at her phone. It said ‘work.’ She pulled over, stared at the buzzing metal, and then, after one second more, silenced the call.

The next time her phone rang, it was accompanied with the slamming of a door and the sound of no-slip shoes padding out of a parking lot and up a hill.

She’d never touched it before. Not really. She’d touched ice cream. She’d touched freezer burn. One time, when she was very young, she’d even gone to the park and ice skated on a frozen pool. They had to stop skating every fifteen minutes to refreeze the ice. No one there was any good at ice skating. It made clearing the ice problematic.

She sat on the wall next to a teenager who was tall enough to scrape the ice as they waited to skate again. She smoked a cigarette someone else must have bought for her and made a pile of shavings, and then slid it against the wall. Sabrina had touched that, later, when the teenager wasn’t looking. It felt like what she imagined snow would feel like.

She had to be sure, though.

She just had to be sure.

It was one of those mountains where you find out that you and your tinder date aren’t as athletic as you both pretended to be and, hopefully, that neither of you care. The specific geographic coordinate she currently struggled across hadn’t even traveled two hundred miles closer to the sun when she had started to sweat, and there was still most of the mountain to go.

She tried to see the snow, to get inspiration, but when you’re dealing with a mountain, you can only see the top when it’s really far away. Once you start climbing it, you can’t see the summit until you’re almost there.

So she walked, and she breathed in the fresh air, and felt the sunlight pelting her face. She heard a bird chirp from somewhere not too far away, and she was relieved to know that not all of them had left for the winter.

Come to think of it, she hadn’t paid attention to birds in a long time. She’d been working so much, rising to meet the sun and not going home until she had left the sun behind, she hand’t really noticed birds but now, now they sang, and she listened. Their song was nameless and elusive. Sabrina liked it. It made her nose itch. It’s normally a bad feeling but out here…

Out here it made her feel like she could climb a mountain.

Her phone rang a thousand feet below her. It said work

Thirty minutes later, she started to shiver. She hadn’t brought a sweater, so she just kept going .

She ran out of mountain an hour after that.

And at the top, there was snow.

She knelt in it. It was cold on her ankles. Her ankles didn’t count as touching it, she decided. Touching it only counter with her finger tips or, maybe, with her face.

She did both, just be sure. It melted and ran through her fingers. It liquefied and ran down her cheeks. It was just water, but oh, what water. It was hard, and it was cold, and it was solid, and it was wet, and it was white, and it was colorless and she finally just dropped down and rolled in it, covering her black jeans and shirt in white powder, and she hummed a song both nameless and elusive and a few thousand feet below her a phone rang in the passenger seat of a Mazda travelling approximately 1,000 miles in a circle that was spinning through a vacuum at 64,000 miles per hour caught in the orbit of a burning ball of gas that hurtled through the galaxy at 45,000 miles per hour and it started like any other day.

It had just started like any other day, when Sabrina Adams rose at 5:53 A.M. because her snooze only lasted for eight minutes and she met the sun.

*****

And this is me avoiding working on my screenplay.

Ah, well.

My mountain is now climbed.

Perhaps I’ll make that turn onto Van Nuys tomorrow, after I’ve slept through rising to meet the sun.

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Ten Minutes With A Dumpster Woman


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I hate taking out the trash at home, but when I’m at Starbucks, I absolutely love it.  It’s my favorite thing to do.  On any given day I’ll clock in and then immediately approach the supervisor and start trash talking.

“Can’s lookin’ pretty full,” I’ll start nonchalantly.  If they don’t ask me to take the trash out, I give them a little nudge.  “It’s going to overflow soon, probably.  Big mess.  I’d hate to be the one to have to clean that up.  Could attract rats.”

That usually works.  If it doesn’t, then I can wait.  Someone’s going to have to take it out at some point, and I’ve already planted my seed.

The reason I love taking out the trash so much is that it’s like a mini break.  Since I work at a Starbucks in the mall, the dumpster we dump our trash into is a few hundred meters away.  Maybe a two or three minute walk.  Getting the bags in the dumpster takes another few minutes, and, before you know it, your coming back eight minutes later, feeling refreshed.

Eight blessed minutes without having to talk to another human being.

If only it were that simple.

By it’s very nature, a mall is a communal institution, the dumpster pit doubly so.  Everyone in the mall uses the dumpsters.  Sometimes you have to make small talk.  Dumpster small talk.

It’s as uncomfortable as it is banal.

“Oh, hi!  How are you?  Yep, just taking out the trash!  Yes, I know.  Can’t wait for winter!  Work sucks, right?  Yeah, we’ll get better jobs one day!”

How I hate it.

It was night, and I had was bringing a bunch of cardboard boxes to the recycling dumpster, which is right next to the trash one.  I wheeled my cart up the ramp and threw a box in.

“Ow!  Hey!  Stop it!  Somebody’s in here!”

My heart seized up.  There was someone in there.  There was someone in there!  Both the dumpster have pneumatic trash compactors that could easily, easily crush anything left inside.  To death.

“Sorry?”  I asked.  I stared into the dumpster.

A head popped over the inside ledge.  A pretty head.  A woman’s head.

There was a woman inside the dumpster.

Meeting women by the dumpsters is not uncommon in my line of work, though most of them are pale, thin, and utterly unresponsive.

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This one was different.  She wasn’t a mannequin.

So I asked the obvious question.

“Oh, you know,” she replied, “just looking for stuff.”

Stuff?  “This dumpster is for recycling only.  It’s mostly just cardboard boxes.”

“Well, that’s great.  You can never have too many cardboard boxes,” she said with a smile, and the disappeared again.

I looked over at the big, green button on the railing.  The one that started the compactor.  The one that would compresses her to a pulp.  The one that literally any unknowing passerby could press.

It’s loud.  The pneumatics would drown out her screams.

“They’re all squished!” she lamented

“That’s because you’re inside a trash compactor.”

The head popped up again.  “Really?

“Yeah.  You could die.”

“Huh,” was all she said.  She looked at my boxes.  “Are you gonna use those?”

I shook my head, and the woman climbed out of the dumpster.

I don’t know what I expected, but It wasn’t what I saw.  Here, crawling out of a dumpster, was a gorgeous twenty something woman in very chic clothing and, I kid you not, high heels.  Her hair was perfect.  Her nails divine.  She even had makeup on.

I stared.  She noticed.

“Sorry,” I said, “I just thought that someone… of the dumpster… wouldn’t look like…”  I took a breath.  “Aren’t you nervous someone might see you?   Someone you know?”

“Hey,” she said, “everyone needs boxes.”

Again with the boxes.  Who was this woman? Did she live in a box?  Did she and her lumberjack, rugged, cover of Men’s Fitness husband construct a house out of used cardboard?  Do they sleep on a cardboard bed?  Eat cereal out of cardboard bowls?  Did she send a lot of packages?

“I guess…” I said, as the woman picked up all of my cardboard and carried it to an infiniti CRV not too far away.

She left me alone with my thoughts.

Why?  Why would someone who didn’t have to climb inside a dumpster?  Who would do that?

She stayed on my mind as I walked back to the store.

I was mopping the floor when my friends showed up.  Nate and Britt had just graduated from the same graduate film program I had, and had made the move to LA less than a week ago.  Nate has two internships and film production companies.  Britt has some set jobs lined up.

I was in a green apron, mopping the floor, and I’d been here for a year.

Time flies.  When I first moved out here,  lived in a beach house thanks to a mix up with the apartment I would rent.  I stayed there for a week.  I was interning at a production company, the same one Nate was interning at now.  I was living the dream.

beach house

And now I’m mopping floors in a mall, taking trash to dumpsters, talking to strange women who dwell within.

At this point, I thought I’d be writing for TV show.

“There he is,” Nate said as I walked around the bar, “Looking good in that apron.  Has it been a good day?”

“Sure, it was busy earlier, but it slowed down now.”

Nate looked around, smiling.  “So do you like it here?”

I looked at my mop.  I thought about Starbucks.  I thought about the customers.  I thought about bills, and paychecks, and rent.  I thought about student loans.  I thought about fixing my car.  I thought about my health insurance, and my free coffee, and my computer, and my writing, and the industry, and movies and TV and socks and money and beer and people and friends and life and death.

Most importantly, though, I thought about a woman in a trash compactor stealing cardboard.

Hey, everybody needs boxes.

“Yeah, I do.” I finally said.  “What can I get for you guys?”

He got a very berry hibiscus.  Just like I knew he would.

very berry hibiscus

 

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 #2: A ghost Story


Here’s the beginning to a new short story I’m working on.  I’ve decided to post the first 8 lines for Weekend Writing Warriors  What do you guys think?

* * * * *

I saw her.

She was there, a brief moment, ah!  But too brief.  There, on the stage, smiling, her perfect teeth glistening in their perfect rows, the dimples and freckles, her wide eyes and perfect skin and oh!  Be still my hear, but I saw her.

And then it was there was a blackout, a lowered curtain; the interval, and she was gone.

I decided to complete the ritual and purchase a gin and tonic from the third ring bar.  London’s National Theatre has expensive drinks, but it had become part of the pattern, and I daren’t break with tradition.

* * * * *

On a side note I’ve finished my screenplay (finally).  101 pages of glory.  Look for it in theaters in the next two years (he said hopefully).  It’s called “A Stellar Holiday” and it’s about aliens.

-Corngoblin

Travel


~On Traveling~

I started out this post wanting to prove to the world that traveling isn’t as good as everyone lets on.

Image

After looking through all these pictures, I’ve completely changed my mind.  It’s worth it.  It’s totally, unequivocally  irrevocably worth it.

dover castle

Now, you might think you can get away without traveling.  Take food, for instance.  One of the troubles with Europe nowadays is that the food is almost universal, at least from my experience.  Sure, the French food in France is better than the French food in London, but I can still get French food in London at far less cost, and they speak English, or at least I don’t feel quite as dumb when they don’t.  Same thing with Italian, German, Spanish, Russian (which I’ve never actually sampled.  Anyone know what russian cuisine is like?), it’s all there.  So that’s one less reason to leave.

churhc

All of this true, but when you eat a croque madame in a cafe in Paris, looking out the clear glass window into the bustling, twisting streets, and everyone is speaking Frech, and your completely happy to munch on your meal and play at guessing what they’re actually saying, you begin to understand a little bit more about France than you otherwise would have in your neighborhood pub with a croque monsier.

Travelling can seem daunting at times, though, and it can sometimes seem a bit boring, though it is, in fact, anything but.  Things just lose their glamour after a while.

Paris

Versailles, for instance, is great.  It’s a bloody huge palace that removes any pity you may have had for Marie Antoinette or the French aristocracy, because it is nothing if not absurdly opulent.  I Mean, look at this:

versailles chapel

My God!  Or try this one on for size:

Hall of mirrors

Now you can’t tell me that if you were a french peasant who had recently lost his favorite mound of dirt to a royal tax collector, you wouldn’t be more than a little upset when you saw this place.  Makes sense, right?

But that’s not really my point.  It’s actually the opposite of my point, for as I walked through Versailles, through room after disgustingly opulent room, I began to marvel less and less at the richness of the place.  Indeed, by the end of the tour I was quite blasé about it.

“Oh, look.” I’d mutter in a monotone to Jared, “Another jewel encrusted doorway…”

“Gee,” he’d say, “Havent seen that before.”

versailles ceiling

Just imagine how boring the world must have seemed back then if you were a king.  You’d be bored with Versailles, which was probably one of the most beautiful places in the world at the time.  What else is there?

Especially when you have statues of yourself looking like apollo enshrined all over the place.

Especially when you have statues of yourself looking like apollo enshrined all over the place.

And it kind of goes that way everywhere you travel. Another beautiful lagoon (BVI’s), another ungodly huge graveyard (Ypres), another monstrous church (Rome).  You get used to it, and pretty quickly I might add.  It’s not that the things are suddenly less good because you’ve seen a bunch of them, it’s that they just begin to become part of the scenery, to the point that you never notice them, and that if a tourist were to ask you where St. Paul’s was, you’ respond with “Well, i think it’s over there.  Not really sure why you want to go to that place.  It’s just a beautiful cathedral.”

st. pauls

But if you only go to these big places, you miss some of the other things.  The things that really make the trip special.  Like this.

amelie

It’s the cafe where they filmed Amelie.  Cities like paris are full of little treasures like this, hidden away from you as you run by, sprinting from Notre Dame to the Eifel Tower, a tattered map in one hand, fifty euro clutched in the other.

thames

So what’s my point?  I don’t really know.  Sometimes, you just write about something you love simply to write about it.

horse on hill

I guess my point is this: I’d encourage anyone planning a trip to take a step back and think, really think, about what it is you want to do.  Nine times out of ten I would bet it’s not run yourself ragged seeing every single big, famous thing in the city, because when you rush through, you miss the little things, the tasty things that make traveling worth it, and make life worth living.  You miss wandering down the alleys that only locals use, and watching street performers, and rushing off before the end because you don’t have the money to pay them, or leaning against a brick wall and sipping on mulled wine in Covent Garden Market as you people watch, or simply sitting on a bench and watching the river flow on by..

I'll leave you with a caption from the best worst movie ever, "The Room"

I’ll leave you with a caption from the best worst movie ever, “The Room”

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