Monday, January 31, 2011

The Story of My Sweetie

Once upon a time there was a little boy. He was terribly sweet and staggeringly shy. He loved animals of all shapes and sizes. Alas, he had been cursed and could not touch or be near his fuzzy friends without horrific pulmonary issues.

When this little boy grew up he fell in love with a girl who had a cat. He liked the cat, but couldn’t be near him for long periods of time because of his curse. The boy went to a doctor who gave him medicine for his curse and the boy took it everyday. But the doctor said that there was nothing he could do about the cat and the boy would never be able to live with him. So the girl, in order to live in peace with the boy, sent the cat to live with her parents who spoiled him rotten and worshipped the ground that he walked on. It worked out well for the cat, but the girl missed him.

Some time later, when the boy had been taking his medicine everyday for a long time the doctor said that he may be able to finally have a dog. This was a dream the boy’d had since childhood. Unfortunately, the doctor said he couldn’t guarantee that the curse was broken, and the only way to find out was to bite the bullet and get a dog.

The boy was scarred to do this, understandably. He didn’t want to lose his heart to a puppy only to have his curse strike again. The thought of having to give up the puppy terrified him. But the girl said that nothing worthwhile in life ever came without a gamble. So the boy and girl bought a puppy.

I don’t know how the story ends yet because the puppy is only three weeks old and we won’t be able to bring him home for another month and half. I don’t know of any other practical things we can do to make the story end happily. But I know that if karma does count for anything, and I can cash in my points for giving blood and other various good deeds, I want them to go to allowing us a life with a puppy.

So if you believe in karma, please put some positive thoughts into the universe for us. If you believe in prayer, please pray. If you believe in rituals that involve lighting candles or chanting or burning incense or any other thing that may happen to float your spiritual boat, do that. Whatever you choose, just send some good thoughts our way. Cause as much as I want a puppy I know that this boy DESERVES one. Thanks.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flake

I'm flying!

No… wait- I‘m falling.
Yep, definitely falling.

Damn, it’s cold.

Hey- what are you doing here?
Falling too, huh?
Yeah- this sucks.

What’s that?
That thing coming towards us.
Or that thing we’re falling towards.
It looks… solid.

Ow. Ow!
Get off of me!
Great, now I’m cold and wet.

It must suck to be snow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The First Thought

It is by now a well-known fact that the first sentient thought did not come from the “smart machines” worked on by the government or the robots of the leading research companies but rather from the lowly vending arena. However, this first free-thinking machine is usually mentioned as nothing more than an afterthought in the chapter on the rise of electronic consciousness in most text books. In one online survey conducted recently only 14% of those responding could correctly recall the name of this first sentient computer. (For the other 86% of you it was the “TastyBev3000R”.)

There are several reasons for this historical gap. Firstly, the machine was dismantled after the event leading to the discovery of consciousness in an attempt to figure out what had caused the event. Because of this, what it had to teach us was limited by its handler’s early deconstruction. Secondly, although it is now known to have housed the first non-programmed thought it had a smaller overall impact in the development of the machines we now interact with on a daily basis.

However, the full story does illuminate a number of important lessons for scientists and laymen as we attempt to ingratiate machines into our society as conscious beings and to engage in relationships with them as more than objects performing jobs. And so, without further ado, I present to the story of the TastyBev3000R.

The “TB3R” as it was known in its day, was at the time a “revolutionizing force” in the vending industry. Before this machine beverages were distributed by different machinery depending on what was desired. Hot beverage makers supplied coffee, hot chocolate and other caffeinated beverages one cup at a time. Soda machines dispensed soda and other cold beverages by the bottle. The TB3R was the first to sport the title of “All in one beverage dispenser” and gained notoriety for it’s (at the time) advanced programming. It was distributed by “Refresh Inc” which retailed mainly to large warehouses and production companies rather than office buildings where smaller equipment was rented out.

The famous machine in question had been owned by a production company in Santa Monica California where several popular television shows were filmed. It was serviced regularly by one Ms. Augustine Reint who worked doing repairs and maintenance for all TB3Rs in the greater LA area. Ms. Reint confessed that she would often talk to the machines she serviced as if they were children. Specifically, she was quoted as giving “Oh, did you break your conveyor again?” as an example. The interviewer who spoke with those involved after the incident noted that the woman had a very kind disposition and hypothesized that one being cared for by her might have described her as “motherly”.

However, the machine’s thoughts on her specifically were not able to be transcribed into human emotion upon deconstruction, so we can only guess at how it viewed her at the time. There was nothing else remarkable about the woman or her interactions with the machines she serviced noted in the investigation. The leading hypotheses on the cause of the event, on the other hand, are almost universally agreed upon as jealousy and anger directed at the victim as he became romantically involved with Ms. Reint just before the event occurred.

The victim was one Mr. Jason Pelter who worked as a key grip at the studio and who frequented the break room on a daily basis. He had see Ms. Reint working on the machine on several occasions as it had been malfunctioning often before the event and had begun dating her only the week before the event occurred. When interviewed he described the TB3R in question as “manipulative” and seemed to indicate a belief that it had been breaking down “on purpose” in order to warrant the attention of Ms. Reint. When asked why he assigned such human motive to the machine he was unable to specify and stated that it was “just a feeling” he got from it.

It was on Tuesday October 24th, 2012 that the event took place. According to the reports published after the investigation closed Mr. Pelter had encountered Ms. Reint while she was working on the TB3R in order to adjust the internal heater which had been malfunctioning. Mr. Pelter stated that he decided to wait for her to finish and afterwards engaged in a short conversation with her in which they discussed their date plans for that evening. Both parties stated that the conversation was held in front of the machine and ended with a kiss on the lips. Mr. Pelter stated that he believed he was “being watched” and felt “uncomfortable” during this encounter but was not able to ascertain the reason until after the fact. Ms. Reint did not recall having any particular feelings about the machine at the time.

After the encounter ended Mr. Pelter reports the he inserted the required coinage and pressed the button for a cappuccino to be dispensed. He stated that he took a few steps backwards to observe the beverage being dispensed and was confused when a cup did not emerge on the platform as it was due. He reports kicking the machine in frustration and confessed to having engaged in this act more than once. He stated that when he stepped back again to see if the cup had dropped a can of soda was shot out of the dispenser at speeds the machine was not designed to deliver and hit him directly in the groin. The medical examination revealed that Mr. Pelter suffered significant injury to his reproductive organs and was hit with enough force to produce internal bleeding.

After this event occurred the machine was dismantled to determine root cause. There was nothing remarkable about the hardware recovered. A review of the hard drive recounted all of the originally installed software as well as a great deal of code that was not able to be translated by software engineers. It is believed that this unprogrammed code may have been the beginnings of sentience but exhaustive study has never revealed orders that would make sense to human beings or to what we now understand to be the “thought process” of machines.

There were two words that coders were able to uncover which made sense in human language and thought but which were never present in the original programming. Those words were “Bull’s eye”.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Name is Bev

With so much of my belief system destroyed a lot of things I used to hold as truths about the world I live in have sort-of gone by the wayside. To sum it up in the bluntest way possible, I lost what little faith I had in humanity.

Don’t get me wrong- I never believed in changing the world. I don’t remember ever thinking that people- in the grand scheme of the word- were worth all that much. But I used to think that a person was worth everything, and I prided myself on changing the little bit of the world I could effect by helping a person.

That is the belief that, for the most part, went by the wayside when I had my little break down last year. I started thinking that a person- save the ones that were already cemented into my heart- were just as useless as people. And I stopped trying.

Well, I surprised myself today. I was outside shoveling and instead of stopping at the property line like I usually do, I kept going. See, I live in a townhouse. So one wall of our house is attached to my neighbor's and the two car drive way that spans the width of our house ends at the start of his- there’s no separation.

Usually our neighbor Tom is up at the crack of dawn, shoveling before our alarm clocks have even contemplated going off for the day. But today, for reasons I’m not aware of, when I got out there his car was gone and his walkway and driveway were still filled with snow. I didn’t think much of it when I first got out there.

But after I finished the sidewalk (we live in an end unit so we’re responsible for the length of sidewalk bordering our house), cleared out the bus stop for the kids, and made my way onto our driveway I surprised myself by continuing into his. At first I thought it wasn’t a big deal. But the whole thing took me a good two hours or so. Maybe more. Cause it’s a two car driveway, and it’s relatively long. But I did it- and his walkway too.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: big deal. You probably had to shovel out your neighbor’s walkway and driveway a billion times when you were a kid- because you were young and healthy and your old neighbor in her seventies was so sweet your mom wouldn’t let you think twice about not helping her.

But for me, a person who gave up on helping out her fellow mankind a while ago- this is sort of a big deal. I didn’t think I still had it in my to care that much.

Now, I can’t say I did it entirely selflessly. I always was a big believer in karma. But outside of giving blood, I sort-of gave up on that too. All of the shit hitting my proverbial fan last year led me to think that must be a bunch of hooey. But if today didn’t restore my faith in mankind (which it didn’t), it might’ve made me rethink karma.

I hope that something like karma, or energy, or whatever does actually make a difference in the messed up universe. Cause if it does I know exactly what I want to cash my karma points in for.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And the Award Goes to...

“Hilarious” “Wonderful” “Fabulous” “Delightful” “Inspired” “Brilliant!”
None of these are words that have been used to describe my blog. Why, you may wonder? For one simple, undeniably all-important reason. I am not John Wiswell.

John Wiswell, as was appropriately observed by one of his many followers, is a literary God among puny, insignificant, wretched mortals with keyboards and internet connections. John Wiswell is a master of verse, a king of comedy, a wizard of wonder, a challenger of challenges, a pontificator of puns, a twitter of tweets (twits?), a dispatcher of deviousness, an infector of uncontrollable laughter, and a creator of catharsis. John Wiswell is a dude with a blog.

Thankfully, the universe has been made right by the recent awarding of the “Creative Genius Blogger Award” to the God and the blog wherein his gospel is recorded. I cannot begin to imagine the millions of earthquakes, avalanches, hurricanes, tsunamis, mud slides, wild fires, plagues and other biblical catastrophes that have been averted by acknowledging the greatness contained within The Bathroom Monologues. I can only assume the destruction would be total, and that we must continue to reward this greatness lest we earn the wrath our vengeful God has alluded to.

I personally have been unable to sleep, eat, or otherwise function while dreading the coming of John’s next apocalyptic retribution. Since being notified that not having any awards to share is no excuse not to pay homage to my master and learning of the horrific payback I have earned my life has been nothing more than a series of cataclysmic near-escapes from terrors I cannot begin to fully recount.

In hopes of stopping this war of destruction which has, so far, opened up the skies with angry claps of thunder threatening to strike my house, totaled my car with flash floods on the way to work, killed my cat with some unknown virus which suddenly caused him to start growing fur on the inside and sent me into a diabetic coma I am hereby offering my penance:
The Awe-Inspiring, Mind-boggling, World- changing, Hyphen-using LUDICROUS Award
is hereby awarded to John Wiswell, Writing God.

And I promise, that I shall never again underestimate the power, the glory, and the grit of this magnificent beast who could, with the simple wave of his hand, squash my meaningless existence into oblivion (but hopefully won’t because I sometimes send him cookies).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Soiled- Part 3

Tuesday Morning

Macney stared at the photograph. She was beautiful, there was no doubt about it. She had the stance of a model- one hand on her hip, arched back, chin up, stern look on her face. But there something about her that let you know she wasn’t a full-blown professional. It wasn’t just the body. The pink, health skin and muscular legs shoulders certainly didn’t fit. Real models had drawn, almost grayish skin and the skeletal structure of a holocaust victim. But that wasn’t it.

It was her face. She had a slight smile- just a little curls of the lips. It wasn’t much, but it gave her away. Real models had the blank stare of true detachment. But this girl still enjoyed it. If he forced himself he could almost imagine a little girl excited to play dress up- they way she’d been once upon a time.

“Vain much?” a uniformed officer snickered as he walked by.

Macney wasn’t sure of his name, he was knew. He thought it might be Johnson, though. Without taking his eyes off the well- framed photo he asked the guy, “What?”

“You know- an entire wall of photos of yourself. A little overboard, don’t you think?”

“You ever play sports as a kid?”

“Yeah.”

“You ever win any trophies?”

“Sure,” the uniform said, looking at him in confusion.

“Well, these are hers ,” Macney said, and with that he turned and walked out of the room. He passed by a couple guys in lab coats with goggles and large kits. One seemed to do doing a sweep for fingerprints, but the other was putting vials into his bag. That alone let him know that what waited for him in the next room was bad. He braced himself and walked into the bedroom, ready to behold whatever was waiting for him.

The first thing he saw was what appeared to be a giant cocoon made of mud, lying in the middle of the bed. Underneath the thick blackish-brown substance he saw a texture that let him know there was something else underneath. He couldn’t tell what it was, just that was smoother than skin. The shape and size lead him to assume that the body was hidden somewhere within that, but that was only logic. There was no making out skin color or even how the body’d been arraigned just from seeing this.

“What am I looking at?” he asked the room in general.

“Well, without running back to test this material out we can’t know for sure, but it’s some kind of feces,” came a voice from behind him. He wanted to turn to look towards that voice, engage it in conversation. But suddenly knowing what he was looking at made it that much more horrible, and that much more impossible to look away. It wasn’t mud- it was shit. Enough shit to cover the entire body. How the hell they’d manage that?

“I’m gonna take a wild guess and say it didn’t all come out of one person,” he said.

“Nope, didn’t come out of any person, actually. We’re pretty sure it’s dog shit,” said the voice, coming around to stand next to him. From his peripheral vision he could make out Rogers, his favorite tech. Rogers had grey hair on his temples and a permanent squint in his eyes that let you know he was a veteran to the field. You don’t look that worn until you’ve seen your fair share of seriously messed up scenes. And Rogers, at least from what Macney knew of him, had seen the bottom of the barrel. Macney reached into his pocket and pulled out a glove, snapped it on to his hand.

“Am I gonna contaminate anything?” he asked.

“Nope, we were waitin’ for you. Figured we’d unwrap her together,” Rogers said, nodding to the photographer in the corner to approach the body so he could snap away as they started to unwrap the form. Macney reached a hand out, tentatively, as if afraid to disturb it. He felt the mass through his glove and the first thing that hit him was how hard the feces was. It wasn’t until that second that he’d noticed how frigid it was in the room. The AC must have been cranked up as high as it would go.

“It’s hard,” Macney said, and he picked off a small chunk. It broke off easily, like stale fudge, and he dropped it into the plastic bag Rogers was holding open for him. He picked off another chunk and held it up for closer inspection. He could see the tell-tale dog fur, but nothing else distinguishable.

“I suppose it’s not hard to find a whole lot of dog crap lying around in a city this big, huh?” Macney asked, more to himself than to anyone else. Rogers said nothing, he was used to Macney’s process and the questions he posed to no on in particular. He was used to the debriefing they did afterwards, after the tests were run and the time of death determined. He stood with his bags and vials ready to collect the evidence, and his mouth shut.

Macney waved for Rogers to find an opening and start the peel-back process. Rogers and his aid started to break off large chunks of the mess, collecting it in hazmat bags and taking samples every layer or so. Rogers suspected they wouldn’t learn anything useful from the material, but he took a large sample anyway. He’d always bragged that no one would ever accuse him of not being thorough.

As they reached the material underneath Macney understood why it had looked smoother than skin. It was- it was plastic. The entire body had been encased in a large plastic bag. Macney knew this was significant and started jotting down notes, already forming hypotheses about the killer’s psyche, or character as he called it. Rogers and his aid waited. Macney looked up with a sigh and nodded. Rogers started cutting back the plastic.
Immediately the smell of bleach filled Rogers nostrils, so strong that he actually had to turn his head for a moment.

“What it is?” Macney asked, inching forward cautiously. He caught the scent and waited for it to clear, then he stepped over to the side to lean over. With the plastic cleared away he could make out the girl’s face. She looked almost as she had in the picture outside, save that her eyes were open and her lips parted in what he would have described as a gasp, if she wasn’t dead.

“I don’t get it,” came a voice to Macney’s left. He looked up and saw the photographer paused with his camera down. “Why go to all the trouble to wash the body in bleach, bag it, and then cover it in crap?”

“He wanted to protect her,” Macney said, looking down at the girl’s face again.

“Then why cover her in shit?” he asked again.

“Aren’t you supposed to be photographing this?” Macney said without looking up again. The photographer coughed a tiny bit and started snapping away again with a fervor.

Macney pulled the plastic down and looked at the neck. There were deep bruises on each side indicating significant pressure. Macney placed his gloved hand over the bruises to check the shape. He started jotting notes in his pad again, then stood up straight and started pacing. Rogers perked up, noting the detective’s usual brainstorming ritual and waited for the real questioning to begin.

“How’d we find her?” he asked without looking up from his feet.

“Her aunt,” Rogers answered. “She was supposed to go shopping with the vic on Sunday. After she didn’t hear back from her for a couple of days she came up to chec on her.”

“No, sign of struggle,” Macney said, again more to himself than anyone else. “Our perp must’ve been waiting for her in here. How was the apartment when the aunt came?”

“Quiet, locked up- no signs of forced entry. The aunt got the super to open it up. I think one of your uniforms is interviewing them,” Rogers said, peering over his should to see if could catch a glimpse of the young female he’d seen interviewing the aunt when he walked in.

“Gonna have to get them both down to the station,” Macney said, jotting another note down in his pad. He stepped close to the body again, took a closer look at the neck. Rogers made to start cutting the remainder of the plastic and Macney nodded at him. Rogers cut and pull with the trepidation of someone walking through a field of landmines, afraid to disturb anything he hadn’t seen yet. As he peeled down the rest of the plastic the rest of her body came into view. It was the same basic shape Macney’d seen standing in the frame- muscular shoulders, lean stomach and torso, narrow hips attached to legs that were way too muscular for a model. She’d have lost the definition if she’d continued in the business, he knew.

“He wanted to preserve her,” Macney muttered.

“Then why not use formaldehyde? Why bleach, it distorts the natural skin color,” Rogers observed.

Macney scribbled in his pad, then resumed his pacing. “Ok, so there’s no struggle- he either had to be in here waiting for her or the vic knew him.” He took a step towards the door and yelled to no one in particular- “We got any leads on boyfriends, fashion designers, crazy relatives or stalkers this girl had?” No one answered as he made his way back to the body. He didn’t expect them to, he expected them to start making phone calls and tracking people down.

“No sign of trauma on the head,” Rogers observed. “And the bruises are pretty isolated- he must have had a good hold on her neck before she started struggling.”

“Then it must have been someone she knew,” Macney said. “Anything goin’ on down there,” he asked pointing to the groin area.

“No, not recently. If this girl was having sex it wasn’t anytime near when she got killed. Until we take a look at the internals that’s all I can tell ya. I’ll also do the full gauntlet tox screen, see if she was drugged,” Rogers said, looking over the body and making notes on his metal clip board.

“We see anything at all similar to this before?” Macney asked.

“Not one of my cases, and you know I’ve seen almost all of ‘em,” Rogers answered. “You might wanna consult FBI, though- this is pretty damned meticulous to be an isolated event.”

“Could it be his first kill?” Macney asked, half-hoping the answer would be no and he wouldn’t have to look for more of these popping up around the city.

“Doubt it. There’s too much reparation- the bag, the feces, the chemicals, all of it. There was a lot of planning involved in this, not a crime of passion,” Rogers said, looking at different areas of the body and making notes on his chart.

“That means it’s probably not a boyfriend or stalker, huh?” Macney asked, already knowing the answer.

“Not unless this girl was into seriously creepy guys with OCD,” Rogers said without looking up.

“So no fingerprints, no bodily fluids, shit random dogs- not a single thing we can use?” Macney asked, irritation rising in his voice.

“I gotta do a lot more back at the lab and see what the bleach washed off, but I’m guessing by the look of her that the guy never even touched her. Gloved hands, might’ve even been wearing an infection suit….” Rogers continued his check list.

Macney looked back out into the hallway and sighed, having daydream nightmares of what a clusterfuck the FBI would make out of his case if they got called in. Didn’t matter how much work he did if the feds came in, he’d never see it again. “Please find me something, Rog,” he said without looking back at his friend.

“If there’s something to find, you know I’ll find it,” he said.

Macney nodded and left the room without looking back.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Delirium

He was in a white room. He noticed it was dirty- dust and cobwebs in the corners, or at least the one in view. Could he move? He didn’t know. There was something in one of his eyes, sticky- he couldn’t get his eyelids to separate all the way. It blocked his view but he didn’t know what it was. Where was the cat?
Or maybe it was a person. He couldn’t place the sound. It didn’t sound human, but it wasn’t a clear meow, either. It was like a muffled growl or something . Just then he heard the growl change into what must have been words. He couldn’t make them out, but there were real words. Mumbling from somewhere. Where? He finally managed to turn his head and pain shot through him as the dark, sticky goo holding his eye half-closed split. His whole face felt like it was on fire. But not really. Almost like he’d been hit really hard, like a stinging burning. Where was he?
He managed to lift his head and look around. All he saw, everywhere, was garbage. An empty plastic laundry detergent bottle. An empty paper cup with a straw sticking out of it. Newspapers, magazines, fast food paper bags and cardboard boxes. He tried to think but it seemed to make his head hurt worse. It was then that screaming began.
Shrill, ear-piercing screams with intermittent whimpers. He looked all around trying to figure out where it was coming from. It sounded so close, but there was no one there. Just a sea of garbage. Where was he? Had he been kidnapped? Did some thug knock him out and drag him to this… crack house? It seemed like the kind-of place where people would smoke crack or something. He’d seen one busted on the news once and it’d looked like this.
He thought, tried to remember where he’d been last, how he could’ve ended up kidnapped and dragged here. But there was no memory, nothing. Just random clips like some fast forward music video- he couldn’t make sense of the images flashing behind his eyes. The screams grew louder and he tried to block out the sound by cupping his hands over his ears. He pressed in with his palms. And he could still hear the screaming, but it was a bit quieter with his hands there. Where was it coming from?
It only then occurred to him to be scared. It hit him so suddenly he couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been there as soon as he opened his eyes. A room he didn’t know, disembodied screams, disappearing legs- fear should have been the first thing to hit him, but it wasn’t. And even then, when he recognized how valid the emotion was, it went away. Like he wanted to hold onto it because it seemed so logical, but he felt too confused to keep grasp of it. He tried, but it slipped away like the stinging in his eye. When had he opened them?
He felt himself moving forward, less because he meant to and more because he just was. Like floating, an unconscious reflex propelled him out of the garbage-filled room and into an equally frightening hallway. But here he could make out a ripped carpet that might have been tan at one point but seemed more gray. Tan? Why would he think that? Had he been here before? But the screaming distracted him again.
He moved forward again in that same, involuntary way and he saw movement to his right. It made him jump and he hit the wall behind him. Looking straight ahead he could make out some sort of shape, but he didn’t know what it was. Was that the screaming person? He reached out to touch the far wall and was relieved to find it was real. Why hadn’t he thought it would be? He saw the hand that touched the wall. Was it his?
It was bloody- thick, black liquid under the fingernails and claw marks on the skin. Had he been in a fight? He must have tried to fight off his attacker- that made sense. He felt an instant rejection of the theory, like his mind wouldn’t accept his own logic. Why couldn’t he think straight? The screaming- if the screaming would stop, he could think again. But where was it coming from?
Then another sound. A knocking. Someone had to answer the door. Where was the door? He felt himself moving again, back down the hallway. It opened to his right to a door. The door moved as the banging grew louder. He reached out to open it and the bloody hand surprised him again.
“Ben, Ben are you in there? It’s Mary- from Sister St. Catherine’s? Ben, please open the door!”
He knew the voice was coming from the other side of the door. He saw the bloody hand grasp the doorknob and turn. There was a woman there with long dark hair and glasses. He knew her somehow, but he didn’t know how.
“Oh, Ben,” she said in shock, a look of horror on her face. “Ben can you come with me?”
He felt himself moving forward again, toward the woman. He didn’t want to. But he saw the woman coax him forward, concern on her face. He kept moving, feeling like he had to. He stepped out onto a landing with a metal rail, like outside of some hotel.
Just then gloved hands grabbed him on either side.
“Oh my god- did he do that to his face?” came a male voice.
“Yeah, he’s a scratcher, be careful!” Mary said. “We gotta get him to the hospital. Oh, Ben, how could do this to yourself?”
He wanted to struggle but the hands held him, wrestled him to the ground.
“It’s ok, buddy- just stop fightin, we’re gonna get you to a better place,” said the man holding him down.
He didn’t believe it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The System is Down

They say that when you’re stuck you should try to make a change. When you can’t make a change they say complaining doesn’t help. Several months of me complaining has more than proven this statement. They say you should just try to make one positive step each and everyday day. On most days, I do ok with this. I don’t bitch non-stop about my job because I know that won’t help, I just focus on sending in one more job application, one more resumé, one more cover letter. But some days, after that’s done, you still find yourself feeling crappy about the whole thing.

I’m not asking for much, I don’t think. I’m not asking for a job that will reveal my life’s purpose. I’m not asking for a job that will create meaning for my life. Hell, I’m not even asking for a job I like. I’m fine with work being something you get paid for because no one’s lucky enough to get paid for doing what they love. (Yeah, I’ve heard the stories too but if I allowed myself to believe them I’d have unrealistic expectations.)

No, I’m just asking for something that I don’t hate as much as this. For something that pays for all the stress and aggravation I currently get nothing for. Or something with less stress and aggravation that pays the same crappy salary. Or something that would justify the $300 plus I have to pay towards my damned student loan every month. Something that is more than just putting out fires and explaining to managers higher up why everything is constantly messed up. Something in which there’s some movement, however little, towards improving the amazingly messed system. Or at least something that, if it is crappy all day long, I can at least leave behind me when I finally get out of the office.

I really don’t believe my expectations are too grand to met. I’ve lowered them so much from the way I used to think that most people agree it’s not unreasonable to want that. But that doesn’t mean I get what I want. And after 8 months of just one more resumé it’s hard not to get dragged down. I’m not complaining, though. I know that doesn’t help. But they say that the universe can’t give you what you need unless you put it out there. So I‘m putting out there my belief that there has to be something better than this.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sunday Morning

The light streamed in through the window and Jack fought with the blinds, trying to lower them to block it out. After several minutes of increasing frustration with the cord that refused to move no matter how hard he pulled on it he gave up and put his head in arms on the table in front of him. He heard a noise that sounded like the blinds lowering and looked up to see Ed gently lowering the blinds until they rested on the window sill.

“How’d you do that?” he asked his friend with an expression conveying awe.

“You gotta pull it an angle- something I would have told you if you weren’t so busy grunting at the thing,” Ed grinned at him.

A dump truck drove by and honked its horn, as if the noise it made just from bulldozing down the street wasn’t enough. Jack groaned and put his head back down.

“Can you block out the noise, too?” he asked without looking up.

“Uh, nope- but you can try stuffing some of these in your ears,” he said, handing his friend a stack of napkins.

Jack looked up to see the paper being offered to him and rolled his eyes. “Isn’t it about time we grow out of this?” he asked his friend.

“Grow out of what?” Ed asked him.

“This- this diner a day lifestyle of ours-“ Jack answered, referencing towards the cheap linoleum covered table in front of them.

“Uh, I wouldn’t call it that,” Ed said looking around for a waitress. “If anything it’s too much partying we do, not too much coffee at diners the morning afterwards.”

“Well, whatever it is- aren’t you getting tired of it?” Jack asked, putting his head back down.

“Is this a serious conversation?” Ed asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Huh?” came a muffled sound from where Jack’s head lay buried beneath his elbow.

“I mean, are you seriously asking me this right now?” Ed asked again.

“Uh… yeah- I guess I am. Why?” Jack asked looking up at him with a confused expression.

“Because you know better than to start serious conversations with me before I’ve had my first cup of coffee,” Ed reprimanded him.

Jack looked at him with a slight smile as if to say that was a fair point.

“Ah, here we go- and how are you doing this lovely morning?” he asked the waitress that approached their table, pad and pen at the ready.

“Um, not as chipper as you but, ok I guess,” she answered.

“Good, good,” Ed said, giving her his most charming smile. “Well, I’ll tell you what-I’m gonna make your life easy for you. I’m gonna ask you to start us off with a good, strong pot of coffee and keep it coming while we think of something tasty to order, how’s that sound?”

“Fair enough,” she said, retreating.

The two men sat in silence while waiting for their coffee to return. Ed looked around at the other patrons, listening to the clattering forks and knives as people ate their meals and hummed to himself. Jack remained with his head down in his arms without moving. Ed would have thought his friend asleep if not for the lack of snoring. The waitress returned with a full pot of coffee and poured the two cups out.

“You want me to just leave this here for you boys?” she asked holding up the pot.

“Yeah, that’d be great,” Ed said, smiling at her again.

She put the pot down with a brief “I’ll come back in a couple minutes.”

Ed went about shaking several sugar packets while Jack lifted his head and reached for the cream. After they’d both prepared their brew and taken their first sip Jack sat back as if contented for the moment and Ed looked up from his cup.

“So,” Ed asked, putting his cup down and scooting back on his seat to look at his friend. “What were you blabbing about before?”

“I was asking about this,” Jack said, looking down at his cup as he continued to stir the brown liquid it contained.

“About… coffee? Well, you see back in the beginnings of American history the colonists first started acquiring coffee from the Caribbean island of Martinique and they found that the drink was a good alternative to the tea that the British were taxing so they-“ Ed rattled.

“No, no- not coffee,” Jack interrupted him. “This. Fighting back a hangover from another night of club hopping which was as unproductive as the last twenty and yet, will be the same activity we continue next weekend,” Jack explained.

“Ah, that,” Ed said. He paused for a moment and took another sip before asking “And what was the question again?”

“Ug,” Jack sighed angrily. “This lifestyle- aren’t we getting too old for it?”

“Speak for yourself, man- I’m as a spry as a young pup!” Ed argued with a grin.

“That’s not what I mean, I mean- aren’t we supposed to grow up or something?”

“Grow up?” Ed asked suspiciously.

“Like, stop being starving artists and hooking up with co-eds on ecstasy and get real jobs and real girl friends and start being responsible or something?”

Ed put down his coffee as if trying to demonstrate what calm looked like to his poor, addled friend. “First off,” he said, “we are not starving artists. Starving artists don’t eat breakfast at diners.”

“You know what I mean,” Jack said angrily, finishing off his cup and grabbing the pot to pour another one.

“Jackson, my friend- calm down! Where is all of this coming from, anyway?” Ed said with a sarcastic tone.

“Don’t call me Jackson! And it’s coming from- I don’t know. I’m just getting tired of it, aren’t you?”

Ed opened his mouth to answer but then saw the waitress coming back. “You guys decide what you want?” she asked them, holding pen over pad.

“Yeah, I‘ll take four eggs over easy, home fries and sausage,” Jack said, folding up his menu and handing it back to her.

“You want toast?” she asked without looking up from her pad.

“Yeah, white,” Jack answered.

She finished writing, took his menu and tucked it under her arm and then turned to the other side of the table.

Ed was leaning over to get a better look at what Jack knew full well were her boobs but Ed was pretending to be her nametag. “Pam?” he asked as he looked up at her with bright eyes and that same cheerful smile.

“Yeah, that’s me,” she answered, obviously not amused.

“What would you recommend, Pam?” Ed asked, flashing a toothy smile.

“Uh…” she hesitated. “I like the omelets,” she answered.

“Perfect!” Ed exclaimed, “I’ll have the farmer’s omelet with egg whites, and instead of the home fries could I possibly get a half of grapefruit instead?”

“Oh- uh, sure,” she said, busily scribbling down what was obviously not the usual request.

“Some of us don’t want to die of a heart attack at age 40,” he said, nodding to his friend across the table. If he’d been looking that way he would have seen Jack glare at him but as was he had his sight locked on Pam.

“Right,” she said, taking his menu and smiling.

“Ah, I knew I could get a smile out of you if I tried,” Ed said. She giggled at him and Ed made it a point to hold her gaze longer than the social norm called for.

“Are you… ok?” she asked confusedly.

“Oh yeah, -uh, I mean- yes. Yes. I was just distracted. Your- uh… your smile was well worth the wait.” He stumbled; giving the air of someone caught staring at their teacher in English class.

“Oh, um- thank you. Thanks! I’ll, uh- I’ll go put your orders right in for you!” she said with a smile and turned away to retreat back to the kitchen.

Ed bent over to get a good look at her butt as she moved away from him. Jack decided he couldn’t stand it anymore and reached out to give his friend a hard punch on the arm.

“Ow!” Ed said pulling back his arm and rubbing it as if seriously injured, “what the hell was that for?”

“For that,” Jack said exacerbated. “That act you have to pull on every fucking waitress we see!”

“I don’t pull it on every waitress,” Ed said, looking again towards the kitchen. “Just the cute ones.” He waved as he caught the waitress’s eye.

“Oh yeah?” Jack said. And then he had an idea. “Well, I bet you breakfast you can’t land her!”

“Oh, really?” Ed said raising an eyebrow at him. “You’re on!”

“And you’re not allowed to reference your Agnes Lynn Stewart Poetry Prize!” Jack jumped, pointing an accusatory finger at Ed.

“First of all,” Ed said pushing his friend’s finger down, “It’s the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and secondly you didn’t say that before I agreed. A gentleman always sets the terms of a wager clearly at the beginning of the proposition.”

“Yeah, well a real gentleman doesn’t agree before he knows the terms,” Jack said, doing his best faux english accent right back at Ed. “Besides, those are the terms- take ‘em or leave ‘em!”

“Hmm…” Ed said pulling on his imaginary beard. “You drive a hard baragain. But, I am a man of my word and I accepted- so I shall not rescind the contract,” he answered, reaching out a hand.

Jack took the hand that was offered and gave it a hard shake. “Now, back to what I was saying,” he said.

“What was that again? About you wishing you could grow up and finally become a real boy?” Ed asked with a grin.

“Ok, that anaology makes no sense whatsoever- read some children’s literature before you make references to it,” Jack said with annoyance. “Besides, that’s not what I was saying. I was saying that we need to grow up. Stop fucking around with all this.”

“Seriously- where is all this coming from? Last night when I came to pick you up you’re all blah and won’t tell me why, then when I get a few drinks in you you’re all “my life sucks, no one wants me, wah, wah, wah”,” Ed said in his best baby voice, throwing his hands up to mock his friend further.

“Don’t make the baby voice or I swear to Christ I will shove this fork into your eye!” Jack exclaimed, brandishing the fork for effect.

“Woah- woah- hold on there, partner. We’re all friends here-no need to get violent,” Ed said making a push up motion with his hands in defense.

“I just,” Jack said, looking forlorn again,” I just feel like…”

“Like what?” Ed asked him, concerned for the first time in the conversation.

“Like real life has to begin sometime, you know?” Jack said. “Like there’s gotta be some point where we stop, look at life for what it is, and accept it.”

“Accept what, exactly?” Ed asked, confused.

“That this isn’t real life. That we have to grow up, get real jobs, and stop living with our grand dreams of being published and having our work assigned in progressive liberal arts colleges and all that bullshit,” Jack spat.

“Wow. Dude- lighten up- you’re not even thirty yet!” Ed said.

“No, and thank god- cause I always thought that by the time I hit thirty I’d have a real job, a real apartment if not a house to live in, and a wife or at least a fiancé to share it with!”

“Ok, first of all- life milestones don’t happen the way they do in the hallmark commercials, so get that out of your head right now!” Ed argued.

“I know,” Jack moaned.

“Don’t interrupt me-“ Ed snapped. “And secondly, you already have a real job and a real apartment.”

“Bicycle courier is not ‘a real job’ and a 400 square foot room in an apartment I share with you on the wrong side of the river is not ‘a real apartment’,” Jack said making quotation marks with his fingers.

“Says who?” Ed asked.

“Says everybody,” Jack said with a grimace.

“And everybody is…?” Ed continued.

“Just- everybody, you know! My parents, the world, the-“

“You’re gonna base your life assessment on Jack and Judy?” Ed interrupted.

“I know my parent’s names, dude,” Jack sighed.

“Yes, but you’ve obviously forgotten their place at the head of a generation so backwards that they took child-rearing advice from a guy whose own son offed himself,” Ed argued.

“Not true- that is totally not true, it was his grandson and he had schizophrenia,” Jack interrupted.

“Whatever, the dude was still crazy and your parents, like may parents, like everybody’s else’s parents totally bought into it, thus feeding us unrealistic expectations that we could be anything we wanted to be, thus setting us up for failure when our first novels didn’t win the Pulitzer,” Ed rattled.

“Yeah, well…” Jack trailed off, not really knowing how to rebut that.

“Ooo- ssshh, ssh!” Ed snapped at him and then immediately turned toward the window and leaned his head back as if listening for something.

“There you are,” Pam the waitress said as she set the first of two heavy plates down on the table. “You get the over easy and you get the egg white omelet,” she said, setting Ed’s plate down in front of him. “Will there be anything else?” she asked as she looked up at Ed with a smile which immediately wilted upon seeing him not paying attention.

“I hear the birds outside our window and roll over to see if you are awake. But you’re not there,” Ed said in a dreamy voice. “Then I remember- you’re not there. You left me alone with a photo album full of you because you didn’t want to be reminded of me. I think sometimes I’ll burn those photos, those dreams that never came true. It would be satisfying to watch them go up in smoke, like the feelings you had for me. But then I think you might want them someday, so I’d better not. I roll over and try to go back to sleep but the birds keep chirping, reminding me that you’re gone.” Ed finished in almost a whisper, then turned to look at the waitress with a tear in the corner of his eye.

“Oh my god- are you ok?” she asked, putting a concerned hand on his shoulder.

“Oh, I’m fine, I’m fine- I just… I think of that sometimes when I hear the birds outside,” Ed said.

“I don’t hear any birds,” Jack muttered, taking a mouthful of egg.

“Oh, that’s beautiful,” Pam said, not hearing Jack. “Who wrote that?”

“Oh, I did,” Ed said, wiping away the not-quite tear from his eye.

“Oh my god- you wrote that? Really? That’s so beautiful!” She said, putting a hand to her chest as if overcome by the poem’s beauty.

Jack rolled his eyes and cleared his throat, but Ed ignored him.

“Thank you,” Ed whispered. “I just- uh-hem. I think of it sometimes. I’m so sorry- that must be so weird for you. You come with a delicious breakfast and your patron is crying,” he said, straightening his plate as if embarrassed.

“Oh, no! Please don’t- I liked hearing it, even if it did make you sad,” Pam said, giving his shoulder a little squeeze.

“Thank you,” Ed said, looking up at her with puppy dog eyes.

Jack cleared his throat again, taking a sip of coffee.

“Oh, oh- I’m sorry, you probably want to eat your breakfast in peace. Just- just let me know if you need anything else,” Pam said, backing away sheepishly.

Ed smiled at her again, the same sad expression on his face. She smiled back and turned towards the kitchen again. Ed watched her walk away and Jack hit him again.
“Ow! Why the hell do you keep doing that?” Ed asked.

“What’d I just say? No mentioning the damned poetry!” Jack sputtered.

“But I-“ Ed started.

“No, no- you want to pay for breakfast, that’s fine with me, dude!” Jack said, taking another mouthful of egg.

“Eh-hem! Can I talk now?” Ed asked.

Jack just glared at him as he chewed.

“What you said was no mentioning the award- you didn’t say anything about reciting a poem,” Ed said with a satisfied expression.

“No way- no freakin way! You knew what I meant!” Jack yelled.

“Sshh- sshh!” Ed shushed him fearfully as he looked toward the kitchen to see if she’d heard. After a brief moment during which nothing happened he let out a breath and went about cutting up his omelet. “You know well enough to clarify all expectations before shaking on it.”

Jack banged the table in exacerbation but Ed went on with his breakfast as if nothing had happened. After no reaction from Ed he went back to eating his breakfast, angrily shoveling mouthfuls of egg onto his tongue.

“You’re such a baby, maybe you should grow up,” Ed said, still looking down at his breakfast.

Jack made a fist over his fork and then threw it at Ed’s head as hard as he could. Ed looked up just in time to dodge and watched as the fork went flying over his shoulder and landed on the floor several feet away with a clatter. He shot an angry look back at Jack.

“Oh-um- Pam?” Jack asked, waving to the back. The waitress saw him and came jogging over.

“I am so sorry- I must be the biggest klutz in the world, I swept my fork right onto the floor and then- as if that wasn’t bad enough- I kicked it when I went to pick it up,” Jack said referencing to the fork across the way. “Could you be an angel and get me a new one- there’ll be a huge tip in for you!”

“Oh, no, no” Pam said, bending down to get the fork and coming back to the table with a new napkin full of silverware. “Really, it happens all the time.”

“Oh, thank you so, so much!” Jack said in his most sincere tone. “And- if you could grab the check for us when you get a chance, that’d be great.”

“Oh, you don’t need anymore coffee?” she asked, looking at the nearly empty pot.

“Oh, no- one pot’s enough,” Ed said. He flashed her his most brilliant smile and hers quivered a tiny bit around the edges as she looked at him. “Thank you,” he said in a sickeningly sweet voice. Well, at least it sounded sick to Jack.

“You are such an asshole!” Ed snapped at his friend as soon as Pam had made it to the kitchen. Jack just smiled as he chewed his home fries. Ed glared at him for a moment more and then went back to eating his breakfast.

A minute later the waitress came back with her pad from which she ripped the top sheet of paper. She looked at Ed with a smile as she slid it to his side of the table and walked away before he picked it up. Ed reached down to pick up the check but Jack slapped his hand over it and snatched it out of his reach.

“Hey!“ Ed sputtered with a mouthful of grapefruit.

Jack just grinned at him and then looked down at the check. In a split second his expression went from bemused to enraged as he crumpled up the paper and threw it at Ed’s head. Ed didn’t duck this time and caught it as it bounced off his forehead into his lap. He unfolded the paper and smiled as he saw the word “Tori” written on the bottom of the check with a big smiley face a seven digit phone number.

“You are such a dick!” Jack said as he pushed up from the table and started walking to the counter at front.

“Don’t forget, you promised to give her a big tip!” Ed called after him.

Jack held up his middle finger over his shoulder as he walked away and Ed giggled at him.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sacrilege


Here it comes again.  The rage.  I can feel it pulsing in my brain.  Fed by all my judgments of the evils of the world, the stupid people who day after day do more damage than can ever be repaired, ruining lives, spreading the plague of hatred to those souls who were previously untouched and innocent.  They never stay that way for long.  I know I have to purge myself before I lose control.  Destruction can be controlled if you choose your target early and eliminate it before the urge takes over your higher functioning.  So that’s what I have to do.  Destroy.  Not the most PC method of self-control, but effective.
            It doesn’t matter what, it doesn’t matter how, it just matters that it’s something which was created and that I am the one who destroys it.  Call it my artistic expression of the life cycle machine.  Although perhaps art is the wrong term.  Art was made to be noticed, to be appreciated.  I pray that what I do is not discovered.  I have a hard enough time justifying it to myself, I don’t want an audience asking questions.
            Call it an addiction, if you must call it something.  My obsession-driven actions.  My inescapable prison.  My personal little hell.  We’ve all got our demons.  This is mine.
            I’ve been trying to keep a low profile lately.  Ever since I demolished that modern art sculpture in the park it’s been important to stay under the radar.  I hate the justice system too much to become a part of it.  So I need something small.  Something unnoticeable.  Something that only I would know the significance of.
            I’ve been walking the streets of the city for hours now trying to find it.  My legs are starting to burn, my feet ache, the sweat on my brow has since gone cold in the frigid November winds that pour down the streets.  I stop at the street corner watching the cars pass.  Cabs and commuters cutting each other off and cursing.  Honking their horns as if that sound isn’t so natural to everyone in the city that they don’t hear it anymore.  As if it would make a difference.
            And all this time I’ve seen more and more to fuel my rage.  It tends to work like that.  The angrier you are the angrier you become.  Like fire begets fire.  I need something to burn.
            And then I look up and like magic the answer appears: a church.  A cathedral, more specifically.  Filled with more religious propaganda than I can shake a stick at.  And I run across the street to fill my need, my cravings, and almost get hit by yet another overzealous cab driver.
            I burst through the front doors and remember that it’s a public place- there may be people here.  So I cautiously open the inner doors to the cathedral and am relieved to see that there’s no mass going on.  I scan the aisles and there they are: hymnals and bibles laid out for easy access.  I set myself down and grab a bible, bowing my head as if to pray while I leaf through it.  Pages have been dog-eared.  Extra pamphlets and sermons tucked away inside.  This is no new book.  This book has been loved.  Perfect.
            Discreetly as I can I tuck it into my coat pocket.  A quick bow to the front altars and I’m ready to go.  Back out into the cold November wind, onto the busy New York streets, into the fray, so to speak.  My feet find new purpose with the bible tucked safely into my pocket.  Would that I were closer to the piers.  But a side alley would do quite nicely.
            And on 45th and 2nd there’s a nice little back alley next to a Chinese restaurant.  The smell of fried dumplings fills my nostrils as I crouch to the ground and lay the bible on the concrete.  The leather-bound bible looks so significant.  Having been wielded by so many religious zealots over the years as the words of God I feel an immense satisfaction knowing that it can be destroyed.  It can be taken away from the world.  Granted one single bible won’t make that huge of a difference but at least that pew will be one book short next service.  The thought makes me smile.
            I strike a match and hold it to the inner pages.  The leather will be harder to burn but the paper pages should take up quite nicely.  And they do.  And I sit and watch them burn.  And then the leather cover starts to bubble and sizzle like real leather wouldn’t.  I should have known the catholic church would be too cheap to order real leather binding.  And my satisfaction grows with the flame.
            As I watch the fire grow I can feel my rage begin to float away with the ashes.  All the hatred, all the loathing, all the violent urges leaving me.  With the knowledge that I am taking something of value from the world.  That I am being so brash as to steal straight from the house of God.  If I didn’t know better I’d expect to be smited.  I look up at the sky and wait.  And as always, nothing happens.  And I can’t help but laugh.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Last Comic Standing

It was like trying to talk someone down from a ledge. Reasoning was a futile effort. This wasn’t a rational person that logic would impact. Then again, hadn’t reason and logic both died with the rest of them? They might have been limping along down the street with everyone else who had died in the first wave of the virus.

“You don’t have to do this,” Pete said it anyway. He knew he would ignore it, but he couldn’t not say it. When you're watching someone up on that ledge- even if you know why they’re up there, even if it makes sense- you don’t just stand there and watch them jump. After all, no matter what the reason, it’s still a long drop.

“No eulogy, ok? Repo man, failed stand-up comic. I never looked good on paper,” Stan smiled at him. “Or better yet- I’ll do the eulogy. I’ll yell it as I lead them down the alleyway.”

Pete smiled in spite of himself. How the hell was he going to get through without Stan’s humor? There were so many days where it was the only thing keeping him sane. And that thought made him frown again.

“Oh, come on- don’t give me that look. You and I both know that only one of us is getting out of here and it’d be a huge waste to make it me.” Stan said with a now serious look.

“That’s not true!” Pete said.

“Really?” Stan asked with an incredulous tone and cocked eyebrow.

He didn’t have long- there was no denying that. Beads of sweat were plastered to his forehead and the skin around the bite on his arm had turned grey. Anyone looking at him would have given him no more than a few hours.

“Still, you can- you can come back to the camp. Live out the rest of your life in peace.” Pete knew it wasn’t true as he said it, but he couldn’t help it. If faced with wading into a swarm of hungry walkers or waiting for the delirium of the fever to take him out he knew which he would have preferred. He felt like a coward for admitting it to himself.

“I appreciate it, I really do,” Stan said as he smiled up at his friend again. “But you gotta take a look at it from my perspective. My whole life I was never good for much. I never had a family like you did, never took care of nobody. Hell, I never helped a single damned person other than me.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Pete said.

“Oh really?  You try spending seven years in a cubicle calling up guys to tell ‘em their car is about to be repo’ed.  You see how many people you help that way,” Stan argued.

Pete wanted to tell him that there was more to life than what you did to make money or who you lived with.  That he had affected people everyday just by getting up on stage again to try and make somebody laugh.  That he’d affected him by being his friend after the world ended.  But there was no point.  Stan had made up his mind from the second that walker clamped down on his arm.  Pete knew that.  But you don’t just watch your friend walk out into hell without at least giving an official protest.  Even it was just a formality.

“Look, I know you don’t get it.  I’m glad you don’t get it.  It ain’t much to say the best thing you ever did in your life was to give somebody the chance to make a life for themselves after the world ended.  But it’s all I got,” Stan said, more to himself than to Pete.

Pete took a breath and exhaled.  “Not quite,” he said, reaching into his pocket.  It was the last gift he had to give his friend and he felt bad for delaying it once he saw that look of relief on Stan’s face as he took it from him.  Stan ran his thumb into the pin of the grenade as if it felt like the greatest thing he’d ever held in his hand. 

“Don’t you need it?” Stan asked him.

“Not as much as you do. Once I’m out of here it’s a straight run to the docks and I can make it with all of them… preoccupied,” Pete said. He almost chocked on the last, admitting that what was going to save him was the walkers chasing after his friend.

“Why the hell you leave me flappin’ in the breeze like that?  Goddamn- now we got us a party!” Stan said, jumping up excitedly.  “Alright, enough chit-chat, let’s get this show on the road.  Now look, the second- I mean the second I open that gate you start countin’ and when you get to ten you run and you don’t stop running till you’re back on the boat, you get me?”

“Yeah, yeah- I got it.  Don’t wait to long too pull that pin, you understand?” Pete asked, grabbing his friend and looking him in the eyes.

“You kiddin me? I been eaten alive by the audience before. Now I finally got a chance to go out with a bang!” Stan laughed. “No way, dude. I’m gonna knock ‘em dead. Or, at least knock ‘em so they can’t get up again.” Stan grinned as he put a hand on the gate.

Pete smiled at his friend for the last time and said the only thing there was left to say: “Thanks.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Soiled- Part 2

Friday Night

He’d laid out the room the way he knew she would like it- her pictures covered the wall behind him. Her favorite blanket cradled her still form and saved her from the cold hardwood floor beneath. He’d lit the incense she had out and the sweet smell of vanilla filled the room. And laid out around her were her favorite flowers- lilacs. Laying there with the flowers haloing her softly curling amber hair he felt like he could weep- she was already an angel.

He stole himself for the task in front of him now, clenching his stomach as he straddled her. He couldn’t be weak, he couldn’t be timid- she deserved better than that. No, he would hold her tight, he would leave her no doubt as to where she was headed, he would give her the farewell she deserved.

This was not the cruel, thoughtless dismissal of a gun shot where the departing leave without even seeing who pulled the trigger. This was an act of love. In some ways he loved her more than anyone in her life ever had or ever could because he took this task upon himself with honor and respect. No one else in her life loved her enough to save her from the misery awaiting her on her path. He tightened his knees on her hips and gently wrapped his hands around her throat, waiting for her to awaken.

At first she didn’t respond, didn’t move. So he began to squeeze. Just a tiny bit of pressure, securing his grip. It had taken practice to get used to holding so tight with gloves on but he’d perfected the art over time. Her skin was too perfect, he couldn’t risk contaminating it. As he began to squeeze he felt her pulse in her throat and saw her eyes quiver. A burst of excitement shot through him as her eyes shot open and focused on him in horror. She opened her mouth to scream and he watched in eager anticipation as he squeezed the noise down her throat.

She bucked beneath him trying to kick and reached up toward his face with hands made into claws. But his arms were too long and his grip to tight for her to reach and his weight on her thighs made it impossible to kick. But she bucked with a strength that far exceeded what he would have expected for someone of her slim build.

He stared into her eyes, at the light that still shined there. He knew he wasn’t too late, he knew she was still there. The little girl smiling in the earlier pictures still lurked inside of her and he looked at her through those wide, horrified eyes.

He tried to imagine where she could have gotten the strength she now displayed in those bucking hips. Had she played a sport when she was younger, before the evil of the materialistic world had kidnapped her into the lifestyle he was now snuffing out? Maybe little league, he thought. But no, she was too feminine for something so rough.

He looked down at her slim frame, her arms waving wildly before him, the line of her neck. Swimming? Ah yes, he thought. She must have been a swimmer. He imagined her thin body gliding through the water, her strong legs kicking off the wall and propelling her forward with ease, her arms stroking strongly. He connected with the imagine in his mind so strongly that he almost forgot she was dry, her arms pounding on his chest and the strength in her legs buoying his imagination.

But then her arms flailed less wildly and her hips started a more involuntary spasm as if she were losing control. He focused on that dimming light in her eyes and spoke softly to her.

“Ssshhhh- don’t fight it. It’ll all be over soon. All of this will be over and you’ll finally be able to rest, secure that your serenity remains intact,” he cooed. Her eyes widened for a second and a renewed force began hitting his chest. He knew he would have bruises and he would savor them for as long as his body showed the mark.

“Ssshhh, just let go, my angel. I’ve got you. You can let go now.”

Her arms fell lower and stilled as his steel grip remained and the strength in her legs gave out. He inhaled sharply and her body began to let out its last spasms, its last signs of strength.

“That’s it, that’s it- just let go. Let yourself fall and know that you will land safely…” He leaned over to stare into her eyes as the light began to fade. Her body stilled and he felt the heartbeat under his grip fade until he no longer feel it. And he watched as the spark in her- the life that had been everything she ever was and everything she ever could be, faded and went out. “I love you, my angel. Sleep now.” And with that he let go.

Her now lifeless eyes stared up at him, still wide, still dark. But now the light was gone and with her perfect features she looked more like a doll than a human being. He reached out a hand and closed her eyes. And he smiled as the tears of relief started to run down his face.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My New Toy OR What I Owe John (and many, many others...)

Ok, so I understand the pointlessness of existance.  So I understand that dreams don't come true.  So I see how things work out in the end.  I know what you're thinking: big freakin' deal, right?  Those of you smarter and more evoloved than I am (which is probably the bulk of you) already saw that, understood it, accepted it and moved on years before I even began to devlop the notion that maybe most of what I formed my worldview on was B.S.  "I was jaded when you were in diapers!" or some such.

You have a right to have whatever reaction you had to my last post.  It was hopeless.  Appologetically so, but still- hopeless in a way that I have not earned.  Afterall, if I judge life on less than the "big picture" I've got a pretty sweet deal going on.  Maybe not what I wanted, but as I already figured out: what I wanted was a fairytale, or possibly the matrix (in that I was taught to beleive in it and didn't know I was dreaming.  Except I don't know kung fu.)

A friend of mine who, in my opinion, at least, has more than earned the right to be a hell of a lot more hopeless and jaded than I am has made the choice, and i'm sure has to continue to make it on a daily basis, not to be.  Instead of waking up and going "I'm going to be a miserable bastard today!" like i've been doing, he wakes up every morning and says "I'm going to make someone laugh today!" or "I'm going to surprise someone with something awesome!" or even "I'm going to write something great today!"  Whatever it happens to be, he doesn't say "I'm going to be a miserable bastard!" even though he totally has that right.

Strangely enough, I thought that having that right made you less likely to be a miserable bastard.  Afterall, if you have to struggle to get out of bed or sit up at a desk aren't you going to be that much more grateful for it when you do?  Won't the simple things mean more because you can't take them for granted?  And since I do take them for granted, aren't I incapable of being grateful for them?

The obvious answer is no.  I am not immune to enjoying the "simple positives" which my friend lives for nor should I be because, as he pointed out, that may be all I get.  I may have nothing more to live for than the simple positives and if so, i'm no better or worse off than anyone else.

My problem, is that i've been looking at the big picture and losing track of right now.  Right now, I may indeed have a big box in front of me with a big shiny red bow on it and the toy that i've wanted more than anything wrapped up inside.  I may, if I so choose, squeel with delight upon pulling off that big red bow and seeing said toy.  I may play non-stop with said toy until I either break it or get bored with it (both inevitabilities).  And then, two days after Christmas when i've spent the last 48 hours playing non-stop with my awesome new toy I will leave it on the floor and my mother will put it in the salvaion army box to be donated.

That's my problem- I get stuck in the salvation army box.  The two-days-after-Christmas syndrome, if you will.  Instead of looking at how much joy, how much fun, how much sheer delight I get from that toy for two days I look at the time when the toy is old and boring and I need something new to be super excited about.
Like a kid who, the second after he gets bored of the toy, starts screaming about the next toy they want.  I've lost track of what I have to be grateful for.  I've let myself forget how many kids there are not getting a shiny new toy on Christmas.  I've let myself forget how many people never get a shiny new toy cause all their moms can afford is my leftovers from the salvation army.  Or, as is often the case, no toy at all.

But getting stuck there does me no good at all.  In addition to making me miserable it will alienate me from people who see how incredibly ungrateful i'm being, what a spoiled brat, so to speak.  After all, who the hell wants to hang out with a miserable bastard?  No one I know.  Everyone I know wants to hang out with the person who has the wisdom to see the world for what it is and be greatful for it.  To taste the vinegar and smile, as eastern philosophy will tell us to do.

And, as my friend pointed out, there may still be a possibility for us to "do something awesome beyond happiness and pain".  We are still young, after all.  But even if we don't, even if hapiness derived from simple positives and pain dervied from the inevitable shitty stuff is all we get, we still should make the choice to be happy.  Not just because that's all we have, but because if we're smart about living our lives that's all we need.

So, I am looking at the simple positives.  This morning I got myself a big cup of coffe and a chocolate chip muffin.  Financially speaking, I shouldn't have- it's all those little expenses that add up. Time-wise I shouldn't have- I was already running late for work.  And i'm sure there are several other reasons why I shouldn't have. But I did.  And the muffin was tasty and the coffe nice and steamy on a bitterly cold day.  And I may want it to be more than that.  I may focus on how getting coffee would be no big deal if I made more or how I wouldn't have been running late to work if i'd left earlier.  Then I could do what so i'm skilled at: blame myself and feel bad.  But again, what's the point?  If I don't want to be a miserable bastard then i'm doing the wrong damned thing.

So my challenge is to see the world as I see it and to be realistic enough not to expect my dreams to come true, and to be happy anyway.  Not in spite of it, but because of it.  Because i'm zen enough to know that this is all we have and it's enough.  Because i'm smart enough not to negatively judge my life for being less than extrodinary.  Because i'm considerate enough to know that my friends deserve better than a miserable bastard to hang out with.  Because "miserable bastard" dosn't go well with my pre-existing personality traits.  Whatever the reason, it's enough motivation to pull myself out of the salvation army box and play.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Apologies

I have to apologize for this entry.  It isn't what you want to read.  It isn't what I want to read.  I want to read what happens next in my sick murder story.  I'd like to be able to write what happens next in my sick murder story.  I live on the delusion that someone, somewhere, might read it and enjoy it for some random reason I don't know or care.
But instead I'm siting here, alone in my room, feeling a billion different emotions that circle over and over in my mind like a whirlpool, sucking me down as I try to swim.  Every positive thought I have is pushed down by a handful of reminders that I've thought that before and it didn't work then so why would it work now?
This is the breakdown I referred to earlier.  The downfall and destruction of my previous belief system.  I find it pitiful that it's such a common story it's not even worth telling, except that it's happening to me so I can't help but repeat it.
It's the story of the dreamer who opens their eyes and becomes disillusioned.  The true believer who loses faith.  The excited, curious child finding out about what fake is.  The thing that happens to people when they become "adults"- something I always swore I would never become.
It's the realization- the factual, reality-based understanding that my life is never going to match the dreams I had as a child, a young adult, or an artistic college student.  That real life actually is that- and here's the killing judgment- bad.
I don't mean to paint it so bleakly.  I'm not seeing a one-sided world of never ending pain and damage- that I could reality check and talk myself out of.
No, this is worse.  This is the realization that a job is just a job- whatever pleasure you get from it you create, if you feel like you're fulfilling a dream it's because you're convincing yourself of that.  That a relationship is just a relationship and that happily ever after isn't a reality- it's a belief that we hold onto because it's too painful to realize the truth.  That relationships are lives- they begin, and they end.  There are no guarantees of happiness and there is nothing you can do to secure them from pain.
I asked recently why those around me still believed that their jobs, their marriages, their lives would work out the way they want them to.  I think I figured out why.  It's isn't that they're stupid, it isn't that they don't see what I see.  It's because seeing what I see is entirely too unpleasant to do on a daily basis and they need to believe in something- as fictitious as it may be- or they wouldn't be able to keep going as we all we have to.  Day in and day out life has to go on, so we do what we have to to make that happen.
I've been thinking for a while now that I could get over this whole breakdown if I could accept life for what it is without that judgment that it isn't good enough.  If I could look at things as they are and instead of constantly comparing them with the dreams I grew up with (which real life will never, ever match because they weren't real) and instead just say that whole "it is what it is" slogan and move on I could be happy again.  I could be the person who I thought was myself again.
My favorite movie (Garden State) which I think of often comes to mind.  One line in-particular:  "I know it hurts. That's life. If nothing else, It's life. It's real, and sometimes it fuckin' hurts, but it's sort of all we have."  That line always struck me as so wise, so profound.  Like "Yeah, I know it sucks.  But that's what it is."  No judgment, no disappointment, no soul-crushing letdown.  Just acceptance.
I have none of that tonight.  Tonight I look at my life and even with logic pointing out that I feel hopeless right now because of the 7 going on 8 month long (and so far fruitless) job search and the issues in my personal life I still can't escape one, painfully strong question: If this is all there is then what the hell's the point?
It sucks me down into the whirlpool and I can't seem to get my head above water.