Friday, March 24, 2006


A sharp blow to the back of the head with a blunt, heavy object does not, in real life, produce the same result as it does in a Hollywood movie. Your victim will not swoon, sway, nor stagger. And, chances are, your victim will not fall dramatically to the ground perfectly unconscious, ready for you to do with him as you please. No, this is not what really happens. In real life, your victim will most undoubtedly become very, very angry. He will then turn on you, enraged, and will likely proceed to fight back, and, riding a wave of adrenalin, may actually come out on top in spite of his newly acquired mashed cranium - and won't you be embarrassed then?


Surprised at the sudden turn of events, you don't even have the sense to ditch your weapon - dumb shit. You may be light on your feet when full of the fear, but you're not so quick carrying a - what is that? A crowbar? Length of steel pipe? Doesn't matter; it's working to my advantage now. My head may be starting to sting, but this little bit of pain won't keep me from tracking you down and making an example of you.

Tearing through darkened alleyways, my breath is heavy and my lungs are about to climb out of my fucking throat. With each breath, I can feel them clawing their way a little further up the soft flesh of my pharynx. But I keep going. I'm thinking about the terror. It drives me. Your terror. The terror I will bring when I catch you.

Closing in - little prick. I register a clang as you finally think to ditch your tool, letting it fly into a brick wall. But it's too late; you're tired and I'm right behind you. There's the desperate shuffle of sneaks on gravel and the metallic rattle of a chain link fence.

Me? Well, I'm just getting started.

All at once, my hands are on the back of your coat and I pull you off of that fence and onto the ground in one fluid movement. Kick dirt in your eyes, throwing you further off your game, and my hands are at your throat crushing your Adam's apple. I feel your heart beating faster and faster. You plead, but I'm not even hearing you.

Each punch to your face takes me further and further away from the pain in my own skull - and I'll only stop when I grow tired. All through, I'll wipe my hands off on your blue jeans, stand up, and take a moment to fancy the slight glimmer of moonlight in the shiny mess of groaning flesh that was your face.

I'll let you know that you messed with the wrong guy, and add that I could have told you right from the start that you weren't going to get the outcome you were hoping for. Was never in the cards. I'll tell you all about biology, and how it actually takes quite a lot to bring down a fully grown man. I'll stick around to tell you these things because I care. And I care only because I'd hate to see you make the same mistake again.

Next time, you might find someone a little less understanding.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

these days, barely here

"The interesting thing about painkiller addiction is that you're addicted to, totally dependent on, drugs which make you feel absolutely nothing." I pause to let the waitress warm up our coffees and take away our plates. I smile my thanks, and you wink yours; she misses both of our gestures and moves onto the next table. "See, you'll pop pills as soon as you wake up without even a second thought. The day yawns, and you're greeted by the orange and purple horizon of Morphine Sulfate, the soft yellow of an Endocet sun set against a pastel blue Diazepam sky with puffy white Vicodin clouds."

You smile in that way, half-taunting. "You paint a beautiful picture."

"The way it is, that's all. And as made-for-television as this sounds," I say, "the thing that gets me through this life is the knowledge that I'm not alone." Cream spirals into coffee. "Freud was a cokehead, Fitzgerald was a lush, and Burroughs, a morphine addict. Me, it's these fucking pills. No big deal, right? We've all got our battles to fight. Unfortunately, this is such an easy one to lose. You start using to cure. You keep using to cope. Then comes the craving. All by prescription from a physician, so it carries that unique illusion of legitimacy."

"But you've got to be careful that it doesn't seep into your writing and work life," you tell me, always informative.

I'm hypnotised by my coffee being stirred, watching the spoon make languid trips around the cup. I'm window shopping, choosing my words. Taking my sweetass time.

"I'd be surprised if it wasn't there already," I say, at last. " A few months ago, I was speaking with a colleague and she mentioned how she visualised my body of work as a giant wave of loss. 'But loss of what?' I asked, and she told me she didn't know. 'Just kind of a loss of everything,' she said. Was it hopelessness that she found in my words? I could live with that."

"Perhaps that's what she was getting at," you say, adding, "and waves do come crashing upon shores. See, and if she noticed it, perhaps others can as well. And that's all you need is for your-"

"I know what you're going to say, and I'll just tell you right now that you needn't worry." I take a sip of coffee and the bitter leaps immediately to the back of my tongue. "That's the wonder of these drugs: I can be standing there talking in class and my students remain completely oblivious. Oblivious that I've a head full of fuzz. Oblivious that I reside four degrees offset from their own dimension. Oblivious that I'm numb."

"Numb - there, that's what this addiction gives you: numbness, unfeeling, detachment," you declare, satisfied that you've achieved some kind of upper hand.

I look at you in that age-old way. A smirk creeps. "Numbness – and who wouldn't want that?" I ask.


At the pub, listening to you rail against the new new. This modern life, chockfull of conveniences. I offer little to the conversation, choosing, instead, to allow myself be swept away in your speech tsunami. Sipping pints. Hypnotic, your smooth wash of words has me almost in another place when I'm suddenly brought back to now by the emergence of a figure at tableside. You fall silent, and I look up to find a face from the past. A former classmate. A real disingenuous fuck.

"My god, look who it is!" he says, his voice harsh with that typical topboy timbre.

I smile, as I indulge in a flash fantasy involving me leaping up and strangling him with his Gucci tie.

"I haven't seen you in, what, it must be close to eight years?" he continues. "Not since first-year uni, I think."

"Something like that," I reply. "Yeah."

"So, what sort of excitement are you up to these days? What do you do for work now?"

I chug back a bit of beer. "Eh, labour, you know..."

"Well, that's cool," he says, trying to keep the disdain from dripping into his voice. "Cog in the machine, right? It's all good."

After this, there's the usual promise of drinks sometime. To catch up. That whole thing. Pure shite, all of it. After he's gone, I'm met with your look of disbelief.

"Why do you do that?" you ask.

"Do what?"

"Like you have to ask. Feeding that bunch of garbage to everyone you meet, that's what. Why not take a little pride in your life. Stand up, be proud," you instruct. "Eight years of school to get where you are. You put in a lot of work and a lot of time."

"Don't need to tell me that."

"So why do you do it?"

"It's how I identify myself."

"Seriously. Let's say you meet an interesting young lady at a party, and she asks what you do for a living - what do you tell her?"

"I tell her the truth: that I work for the government - a labourer, like. In maintenance."

"You are fucking unbelievable. You consider the education of those young men and women maintenance?"

"It's how I reconcile my position in the echo chamber, that's all. I assist in maintaining the status quo. Nothing more."


"Ma, it's not a problem! Really!" I'm shouting into the telephone. "I don't know what that little prick told you, but I don't have a problem."

Her voice runs the gamut from rushed babble to frantic whine before settling into a pathetic blubber. She's going on and on, telling me about how sick I was as a little boy, all the fucking drugs they had me on. She tells me that I don't need this. Not now. That I've got a good job, talent, people who love me.

"Ma, you gotta listen to me now. I-" The word, the letter, crumbles a little at the edges. I can't even say it anymore. The lies. Not to my own ma. She's completely broken down now, sobbing and all that. I'm at a total fucking loss.

"I just don't know what to say, ma. These drugs, these little pills, I don't even know how they seduce me so easily. Other drugs - ma, are you listening? Other drugs I understand. Cocaine, for example. Coke give you that edge. A little posh and you're on top of your game. Psilocybin, magic fucking mushrooms, ma, that’s what I’m talking about - I understand those. Give you a little insight, a little peek into another world. These pills, though? They don't give me fuckall, ma, do you hear me? Fuckall."

She's silent now, and what it brings is the realisation that I've become a major source of disappointment and heartache for my folks. My poor ma. And I can see my dad sitting there in silence, listening to the call. His jaw tightening, eyes watering. Even if they feel half as bad about me and my situation as I do, then I am truly fucking sorry. I need a change. Need to feel.

"These pills, ma, they don't give me anything,” I say. “Nothing at all. It’s hardly me taking the drugs anymore, ma. More the drugs taking me. Yes, that's what it is - the drugs taking me. These pills only take and take."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

sweet time

The box of leftover pizza positively dominates the inside of my refrigerator and my thoughts. A vibrantly printed box, growing a little soft on the bottom as it saps moisture from its previously delicious contents. Supreme Meat: salami, pepperoni, ground beef, Italian sausage, and bacon amidst layers upon layers of gooey cheddar cheese on a soft bed of dough slathered in pizza sauce. That was last night. Today, the box contains little more than basic sustenance, a congealing agglomeration of proteins, micro-nutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids; a few wedges of petrified cholesterol stuck to the bottom of a ratty cardboard box. Lunch. Something to get me through this day.

This day, a day, a very normal day for normal people. A few hours ago, the sun rose as it should and most of the citizens of this city woke up, stretched, yawned, and some of them kissed their loved ones good morning. Indeed, cats, dogs, and children were fed. Televisions were switched on and newspapers, read. There was no real cause for alarm. The usual murders and home invasions were reported in the usual neighbourhoods, and everyone tsk tsked and said, "well, at least it's not my neighbourhood." Corporations were still corrupt and politicians were still crooks; government continued to be big business. Everyone glanced at the international headlines and skimmed the articles they found vaguely interesting before settling into the comfort of the sports or entertainment sections. Clocks ticked. Cars were started. Commutes were made and work was performed.

But for those in my field, this is not just a day - this is a very special day. Around a month ago, my colleagues and I switched off our televisions and put down the newspapers because they could tell us nothing that was really important. We began to spend more time with our friends and families, and regretted, a little, that we could not fill them in on the impending situation. We spent more time doing the things we loved, and regretted, a little, that we had only a finite time to enjoy them - an amount of time that we were very familiar with. It was a countdown of sorts. A countdown that was not filled with dread, as our dread had run out long ago. A countdown that was not filled with hope, as we had never had any to begin with. No, this countdown was one filled with little more than sadness, for that was all that was left after all this time. This is a day we - those in my field - have been expecting for nearly seven thousand years. A day which has now come.

They initiated the attack against us all that time ago by launching a fleet of warships towards our home system. Initial transmissions, picked up some six thousand years ago, indicated little more than the vague intent of general hostility, and our continued efforts to contact the fleet have been met with silence. Intelligence confirmed that at least one squadron of four scout ships arrived in the skies over our planet two hundred, fifty-seven years ago. A sighting was made, but an attempt to engage the ships was unsuccessful to say the very least. Forty-four years ago, we sent up a reconnaissance ship, Mediator II, with the intent of intercepting the fleet, gathering information, and potentially making contact. Twenty-three years after launch, our ship arrived and was able to send back stunning images of the alien fleet. Several millennia worth of fears were confirmed, as many weapons were clearly identifiable in the photos. After only six minutes, fifty-one seconds amongst the fleet, all contact with Mediator II was lost.

So, it's like this that I find myself on this day: waiting, but hardly waiting. Day-old pizza bakes in the oven, the rich aroma of garlic filling my house. The sun has been let in, and my cat is stretched out in a warm patch on the hardwood floor. An alien fleet of warships is a mere ninety thousand kilometres away, hungry for our annihilation. Waiting, but hardly waiting. A book lies open in my lap, and my greatest concern at the moment is that I make it to the end. Would I be a wiser man to dread the unstoppable, to fear the unavoidable? Maybe. But after seven thousand years, many layers of emotion have been stripped away until all that is left is sadness. Sadness at our slow rate of maturation. Sadness at our lack of apperception. Sadness at our inability, our refusal, to communicate. With one another.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

bordertown can the distance remain so far for so long? ...the bordertown, ever on the horizon...

There was a time before this time when memory seemed just that much closer. You never felt, then, any need to gather things around you in the event that you may one day forget. Age did not exist. Adulthood, a myth. No, you had no need to hoard reminders, no need, then, to build a personal museum. Your memories could be conjured up, effortlessly, at any moment. Second nature. The past was always close at hand - but that was then.

...could it be? ...already? ...your first unsteady step on the shifting streets of this phantastic town delivers a jolt to your system... the winds pick up... dust gathers in the wet of your eyes...

In your early twenties, you were a collector of bird images; images either stolen by automatic imaging machines - cameras - or borrowed by talented rendering - drawing, painting, sculpting, and the like. At the time, with youth nipping at your heels, you began to question your own actions. Like all collections, yours had no known beginning and you could foresee no end - and this, queerly enough, caused your young mind great discomfort, and was enough to prompt you to take action.

...turn back... turn back...

Failing to think of any reason at all for the preservation, the continuation, of your vast collection, you grew tired of asking yourself why, and decided to at once disassemble the freakish assortment. Over the course of a single week, the images were either given away, sold, thrown out, or simply lost in the shuffle. In the end, not a single image remained.

...once here, you will never go back... more a promise than a threat, really... wrap that coat snug around you, son... pull your hat down tight... lean into the wind...

You can only recall, now, the images from your collection that you really cared about. And you regret, now, the loss of those tangible images you truly loved, for to have them committed to an untrustworthy memory is to have their integrity perpetually debased. Presently, the entire collection rests in a place between; a place neither quite remembered nor quite forgotten. Slowly, each of those images shall grow increasingly distorted in your weakening mind. Slowly, each of those images, those memories, shall die alongside you. far to the next town? ...years... how do I get there? ...the same way you got here... how will I know when to leave?'ll know...'ll just know...

Friday, March 3, 2006

latest swing

Long drive. Chose a crackling AM station over the hiss and pop of an aging cassette tape. Stuck to a road I know better than the inside of my own eyes. Made it home in time to catch up on the nothingness of world events. The television casting flickering blue and grey light about a darkened living room brings a particular numbness. Talking heads tell me more and more: chaos and cruelty in the Middle East, corruption in America, conspiracy in a former Soviet state. Remote in hand, the power button calls: Turn me off. S udovol'stviem!

Match point. Made a nest of blankets in the bed, and piled my books around me - stayed up late with Žižek. Tripped over identity, and watched a car crash of words - rubbernecking. Fought off sleep for a time by drinking strong Turkish coffee until my eyes got that peculiar wiggle and words became unreadable. While my eyes closed, I thought about that word, wiggle, and I did just that while burying myself amongst the great heap of blankets. Finally, I jumped the fence between Freud and Jung. Bought a vowel. Went to sleep.

Set apart. You can't come near this - not even close. In the great expanse, I'm busy running through a series of lines. A screenplay from another universe. Dialogue filters in from elsewhere. Two talk. To talk. They say nothing, but they listen closely to the sound of their own voices. "I guess the first thing you have to do is ask yourself why you want to become a writer," one suggests. "That's easy," the other replies. "Becoming a writer will make me interesting." Taking honesty into account, I hold up a score card with the appropriate number. All tallied; the other judges were not so kind.

Long drive. That strange, drawn-out commute from sleep to wakefulness. I dig in to a large bowl of Cocoa Puffs with soy milk, and spread out the morning paper on the table in front of me. The cat brushes against my leg reminding me that I have someone else to feed, and a ray of sunlight peeks in through the window, landing on an article about the dullness of Canadian politics. I quickly scan the words, and discover, to my amusement, that the article itself is dull. Clever writers these days, I think, and close the paper before tossing it into the trash. Clever writers indeed.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

slow rot

I'd like to tell you about something before I forget - again. Just a little story I'd like to recount while I'm thinking about it. A story of a story, really. Uncontrollable, unexpected, fragments of thoughts like these float up from the murky depths of my memory like fat, bloated bodies rising to the surface of a placid lake. Legs tangled in weeds. Arms bound by cord. Eyes and genitals eaten by fish. As bodies decay, so, too, do memories, until all that is left are the words one remembers them by. Mere words, bleached white, skeletal. These memories, one day, shall be little more than bones.


La Vid public house, a number of years ago. Peeling wallpaper, bare floorboards, and a ceiling stained by four decades of bullshit. We were sitting at the same table we always sat at: a dark corner booth, nice and out of the way, but situated perfectly in the waitress's line of sight. It was the usual crowd that night. A row of bikes outside indicated a row of riders inside downing beer after beer at the bar. Tables of labourers sat drinking their troubles away in oil-stained coveralls and steel-toes. And the slot zombies, with their too much make-up and hair piled high, sat plugging a seemingly endless supply of quarters into machines. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Our own table was filled with pint glasses in various stages of emptiness and cigars burning in ashtrays. The Fucilla brothers, Adrian and Tony, had their dominoes spread out and were trying to sucker old Jozef into a game of Matador.

"I wouldn't even play catch with you two scoundrels," he said.

"It's just dominoes, Joe," Adrian said. "How can we cheat at dominoes?"

"You two would cheat your own mother out of rent money if you could find a way," Jozef said.

Adrian and Tony played at being hurt. "Joe," Tony said, "do you know us at all? We'd never cheat you."

At this point, an eager young kid appeared alongside our table, all big eyes and tousled hair.

"You look familiar, sir," he said to Jozef.

"I'm not, kid."

"But I swear I've seen you before. You look really familiar - like I know you from somewhere," the kid added.

"Listen kid, you don't. You understandin' me?"

The kid blanched. There was something about the way Jozef looked into the kid's eyes that made him understand, and he evaporated as quietly as he had appeared. Jozef turned his attention back to the brothers Fucilla.

"Now, as for you two. I can tell when I'm gonna be cheated even before I'm cheated," Jozef said. "You'll have to find someone else to toy with."

We all laughed.

"Listen," Jozef said, "did I ever tell you guys about that time in the desert?"

He had, but we were always willing to listen again.

"I was a little younger then," he went on, "so, as you can imagine, I was a little more, how do you say, hands on if you know what I mean."

The waitress came into view, and I signalled for another round.

"Nevada, a number of years ago," Jozef began.

We settled in.

"It sure was a different world back then - you gotta believe me."

You gotta believe me. Old Jozef always started out his stories with that line. Like maybe we wouldn't. Like maybe we had a choice. Like maybe it mattered.

We sat and listened, and were every bit as interested this time around as we were during the past countless tellings and retellings. His story floated up from the depths of the placid lake of his memory like a rotting corpse all pale, tattered flesh and exposed bone. It bobbed on the water's surface for a time, picked at by the fish below and by the birds above. Then, almost as quietly as it had appeared, the body slipped beneath the water's surface, and settled, yet again, into the soft sand below. Closer, still, to becoming mere words, closer, still to becoming a skeleton, this memory slipped away once more.

"Sorry," Jozef said. "Seems I can't remember, right now, what happens next."

He closed his eyes tightly for a few seconds while he rifled through his memory.

"Nope, sorry, it's gone," he said, shaking his head. "It'll come to me, though, when I'm least expecting it. I'll be sittin' on the can or something, and it'll just come to me out of the blue." He chuckled, and took a long pull off his cigar. "I'll remember when there's no-one around to tell."

Puff of thick, white smoke.

"And then, as suddenly as it came, it'll be gone again."