Sunday, December 23, 2007

hard landing

A shot rang out in the humid night air, and a pigeon was startled into wakefulness by a stray bullet ricocheting off the wrought iron trellis beneath its dirty little feet. It took off into the sky, a panicked, nervous flight, seeking a more tranquil locale. It took off, and as it did, it let loose a big glob of runny white shit, narrowly missing the executor of the aforementioned commotion. There was a second shot, but by this time the shithawk was already safely out of the way.

Then, the blinding red-orange light like a wavering future sunset, a solid beam of killer energy.

I withdrew my raygun from the fat man's back, tucking it into my coveralls, and stood to my full height, allowing the charred rotund corpse to fall to the alley's wet pavement. I stood there for a moment, watching as thick black smoke curled up from the man's vast chest, and frowned at the ruination of perfectly fine French-cuffed shirt.

The wail of sirens already. Nothing gets by the sensors. I crouched low, making quick work of unburdening the corpulent gentleman of his riches. An exquisite gold watch, fine cufflinks, and tiepin. Like looting was instinct, I was through the pockets in a matter of seconds, relieving my victim of petty cash and coins. Then I struggled a little with the massive weight of the colossal body, heaving it up just enough to extract the fat wallet from its confines.

Flashing blue lights whipped by one mouth of the alley and then the other. I stood tall again, but couldn't shake the feeling that I was forgetting something. Holding perfectly still for a moment, finger touching pursed lips, I calmly inspecting my handiwork. More flashing blue light momentarily invading the darkness, this time tipping me off to my lapse – the glint of shining metal on the man's fat ring finger. I was relieved to find it slip off with no trouble at all.

“Guess you shouldn't have been cruising for whores, mate,” I said, giving the puffy cheek of my victim a friendly slap. “Whatever would wifey think?”

The fat man could not have been allowed to live. Not after witnessing my slow descent from the sky at the bottom of a parachute. He had stood there watching the entire fall, I could see him, fat face bathed in moonlight, fat, black hole of a mouth agape.

The fat man had watched as I leapt from the black helicopter. Watched as I plummeting through the night sky before pulling the cord. Watched as I fluttered slowly down, and watched as I missed my target, the warehouse roof, becoming entangled in the ironwork of the fire escape. The fat man had watched it all and could not have been allowed to live. Especially not after he had pulled out a gun and started shooting, missing me by mere inches with one shot. Luckily, I had managed to cut myself free before the fat man could load a fresh clip, and shot him, concentrating the beam on him, before my feet even hit the ground.

Cutting my chute down from the fire escape, I threw it on top of the fat man's corpse before dowsing the whole pile in lighter fluid and striking a match.

“Cheerio,” I said, setting it alight. Then, there was a loud chopping and the whooshing of air, and I looked up just in time to see the mysterious black helicopter float away. I couldn't help wondering who had dropped me, and why. And who were they and what did they know?

Purposefully striding out of the alley, small fire already becoming a blaze behind me, I glanced up and down the street. Then, with all the cool of a star athlete on top of his game, I crossed to the other side, casually strolling down the block. I didn't even flinch when a squad car slid up the kerb alongside me, flashing blue.

“See anything funny around here, then?” the cop grinned, leaning awkwardly out of the car's window. He was all gleaming white teeth set in a burnt brown face.

“Naw,” I said. “On my way down the block to tidy up some windows for the bank on the corner.” I drew attention to my coveralls with an exaggerated shrug, gave my nametag a casual flick. “Heard a few shots fired, but that's nothing so extraordinary for this area is it?”

“All too ordinary,” the cop snorted, taking a sip of coffee from a polyurethane takeaway cup. “You'll make sure you get out to vote next week, hey?”

“Ah,” I said, waving the remark aside, “voting's not for me. One man can't make a difference, can he?”

“You'll do well to get out and vote for General Montalvo.” It wasn't so much a suggestion as it was a command, and the cop sat there leaning out of the window, glowering.

“I guess I'll be seeing you at the polls,” I said grudgingly.

The cop smiled broadly. “We'll leave you to it, then.”

I nodded my appreciation and continued down the block while the car roared away.

“Goddamn cops,” I muttered. “Pigs, all of them. No matter what country a guy's in, grunting, filthy swine.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Played out–

A cool, crisp sky of winter blue,
she says he can't rhyme 'blue' with 'you'.

She: “Hey! You used it right there;
is this some kind of joke?”

He: “But it counts for naught
when trapped in quotes.”


Saturday, December 15, 2007


“I know
I'm gonna crash hard from this one.”

Dustin Bentall, Crash Hard, 2007

We just do what we do to help us forget. This type of tie-up. This kind of enmeshment. This awkward tangle of arms, and backs, and lips, and necks in the crushed corner of a claustrophobic, vinyl-clad booth at the back of a hole-in-the-wall bar. These are the times we remember. These are the times which we use to forget – one another.

These are not replacements. These times, these scenes, are not surrogates for the memories we made together. These short, sharp breaths in the ears of another are not stand-ins for what we once shared. No, these women are not replacements for you – but they do help me forget. Medicinal: they help me move on.

My arm slips effortlessly between the small of a feminine back and the gaucheness of torn, red vinyl. Smiles come easy now, even if they are induced. Words come even easier, even if they are not our own. She smells a little like you, and that'll do. Crashing waves of booze and smoke. Little ripples of strawberry and lemon twist. I say something half funny, and she laughs, a drunken giggle into her gin and tonic. Ice cubes clink coldly against glass, and I tell her we should take a walk. Find a quieter place to talk. To get to know each other.

And we wake late in the morning tangled in strange sheets. A harsh sun spears through a split in the drapes, and we concern ourselves with plans to let each other off easy; plans dampened by these mortal wounds. Aches in our heads, shades of black beneath our eyes, and guilt in our hearts.

Songs still play from the night before, while sketchy memories shake loose from jagged barbs of debauchery in our cavernous minds. Shaky images slipping from Jäger stalactites, building up in towering gin stalagmites. A haunted beat echoes maddeningly, resounding from the taut skins of a thousand primeval drums. We both know the other hears it, and neither can look the other in the eyes. Instead, there's an inelegant pulling on of rumpled trousers. A graceless fixing of hair. An artless goodbye. This, the parting of two strangers: a meaningless kiss across the threshold of a cheap motel in the crass morning light.

The worst part, I suppose, is not the regret associated with this long line of such insubstantial trysts. No. Nor is it the dead feeling brought about when one leaves his dignity on a barroom floor, or the empty spot where my heart used to be. The worst part, the very worst part of this whole thing is that it never makes me forget what we once had. You're never too far away.

I flag a cab, and tell the driver to take me home, and he asks me a question which doesn't seem to agree with me. My stomach turns as he steps on the gas, and it's all I can do do avoid retching onto the floor.

“Just waking up or going to bed?”

I take a few moments to compose myself, and to tumble the question about in my head. One hand clutches my stomach while the other covers my mouth, and I blink furiously to clear my watering eyes.

“I don't know,” I say at last. “I don't really know, but I'm hoping to hell it's the former.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

the myth of planning

“[I'm] happy enough. I don't expect much. I don't get much, I don't give much. I generally enjoy whatever comes along. That's my answer for you, summed up for your feminine consideration. I'm happy enough.”

-Cal, Waitress, 2007

You plan. Oh, you plan. You plan because that is how things are done, you were told. You plan to one day be at the top of your game. To work your way up that corporate ladder, to madly scramble over the aching heads and shoulders of your colleagues, to one day reach that top rung. From there, you'll take in the panorama with tired eyes and throbbing arms. An unblemished scene stretching before you, if nothing can be unblemished, you'll feel some kind of pride, some kind of accomplishment. An achievement to tide you over for those few years between goal and death.

You plan to one day find a nice girl and settle down. She'll be smart and funny, capable of making you laugh when you're down, and keeping you interested when you want to stray. She'll be perfect, you think, with her own life so she stays out of yours. With a solid career, and a passion for all things culinary. And she'll exist in a small space beyond beauty. There isn't a word for it yet, because nothing, so far, has existed to which such a word might apply. But you'll use it when you find her. Only then, will the dictionary be altered.

You plan; do you see it yet? You plan your route to work in the morning, choosing one snarl of traffic over another, thinking all the while, “If I had only gone the other way....” But this inconvenience allows you time to plan which complicated caffeinated beverage you will choose when you get to your destination. You decide on a non-fat, double latte and while sipping at the concoction begin to wish you had gone with the double short, non-fat, low foam latte.

You plan out your work day, but discard that manifesto at the first unexpected turn. Then, you plan to throw the week away to whimsy only to get drawn back into your original plan of structure when things begin to go smoothly. Plan, plan, plan. Wrench, wrench, wrench. The weekend is planned, but falls apart in a flood of cancellation calls and poor weather. Suppers are planned, but these plans, too, are rerouted by restaurant closures and out-of-stock markets.


You plan to be happy, but it seems that something out there is taking preventative measures against said plan. Yes, something is obviously working against you at this point. How else can the cancellation of your flight be explained? The breakage of your car? The death of your cat? These annoyances have got to be part of the well-executed plan of some other, benevolent, being.


Lying in bed one night, you suddenly hit on a new plan. You plan to toss out this passion for plans, to take things as they come, to never expect, because it is this absurd expectation of success which inevitably ends up drowning you in a sea of failure in the end. Yes, there is a new plan in place. A great plan. An infallible plan. You plan to just be... happy enough. And that should be all right.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


The barista tells me about how she doesn't believe in love, but I'm not listening. Instead, the metallic clank, clank, clanking of a spoon making the rounds of a cheap café coffee cup fills my ears and pilfers my thoughts. My caffeine-charged leg bounces to a relentless, phantom bass line. My nerves jangle.

Fingers tap furiously at the keys of my laptop, and the barista edges in a little closer across the table, still talk, talk, talking. Something about love. The end of love. Her obsession with it. Fingers tap, and eyes vibrate, taking in the string of words before me. These are my thoughts. Not love, but something else. An obsession, surely, but one different from that of the barista's. Not deeper, not shallower, just altogether—

“What?” I ask.

The barista stops dead in mid sentence, her eyes wide, pupils dilated, huge, like two cups of strong, black coffee.

“Pardon me?” she asks in return, a lock of chocolate hair slipping carelessly from behind a petite ear.

“You were saying something,” I reply. “I'm sorry, but I wasn't quite listening.”

Her candy cane lips effortlessly form a smile, and she tells me that's okay. “I know you're usually quite a good listener,” she says, obviously oblivious. “You must be working on something awfully important....”

Now it's my turn to smile, but I can't quite keep the pity out of it, I'm sure. Eyes flit to cup, and I notice I'm nearing the bottom. Hand trembling, vibrating, really, I clutch desperately at the cup, raising it to my lips and drain the last of the acrid black liquid. I slide the cup across the table toward the barista.

“Would you be a dear, and grab me another?”

“Of course!” she bleats, snatching it up and turning on her heel.

“Oh, and one more thing,” I say, meeting her dark eyes as she turns back to me. “Make it something really complicated. Have fun. Be adventurous.”

Take your bloody time, I think, and resume the tap, tap, tapping of keys. My leg continues its bounce. My nerves jangle still. I know it won't be long before she's back – and I wouldn't have it any other way.