"There's not much doubt in any of our minds that no complete idea springs fully formed from our brow,
needing only a handshake and a signature on the contract to send it off into the world to make twenty-five billion dollars.
The germ of the idea grows slowly..." - Walt Kelly

Friday, December 3, 2010

The other us

 
Drunk.
Stupid ill-conceived and mistaken.
All at once brilliant
And completely fucked in the head.
Minds are a distant maelstrom
Of colors and things that don't make sense
And are most likely mispelled,
Knowing our tendencies.

We are indeed broken, but we feel
So together so locked-in so perfect,
Oblivious to nature
Ripping our seams outwards
And pouring in gobs
Of discombobulation, still chilled,
Extracting half-aware moans
Of cloudy discontent.

Asleep.
Dead to the world and unsure
Of our desire to be alive again,
What with all the bloody temptations we find
Deep inside a whiskey dream world
Where we see all the good things
That have so deeply convinced us:
We are so much more fun stoned.
_________________________________________________

Quick Links! The "Thank Goodness the Weekend Is Here" edition:

Anthony Kirchner's The Rent Is High But At Least the Taps Are Out is a great little story.

A new poem is up on Peter Richter's Fictionaut - a nice piece chock full of great images.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gold Lion

Friday, November 26, 2010

Too far

 
when he bent and crossed
both ventricles,
bit down hard
into the rest of his life,
a long wait
until anything substantive
teased life out of his taste buds.

and in one violently nonchalant movement,
the bedrock is kicked
out from underneath us.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Talib Kweli, Never Been In Love

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sushi

 
A shout out to Melissa for giving me this prompt idea, albeit through a middleman.


"I want this thing to be legendary," Adan told me as he wiped flour off of the counter. "Like I told you, it's not about the statement you make, it's about how you make it."

Feeling like I had heard that somewhere before, I furrowed my eyebrows in mock consideration of his point as I watched him gleefully thrashing the batter about inside his Pyrex mixing bowl.

"So you're going to make a statement...with a cake," I said, half question and half rolling the sentence around in my brain to try and see why the hell it made so much sense to him.

Adan ignored me and began whisking faster, turning the bowl into a shopping mall-colored whirlpool, the material inside making sticky thwock noises as it passed through the metal whisk and smacked the glass.

"Okay fine, I'll bite: What statement do you plan to make?" I asked.

He looked up and shook his head. "Not important." He went back to his work. "Weren't you listening to me before?"

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, yeah, the point's not as important as how you make it, sure." I picked up the empty box of double fudge chocolate cake mix that was lying on the counter.

I stared hard at the very tempting picture of the perfectly cut slice of cake posted on the front of the box, observing the flick of the frosting on its top where the knife had departed and gone back to the jar for more. I tried to imagine the cake portraying some kind of message, but got only as far as picturing a devil's food homage to the same-sex marriage movement.

"You're still on about the message, aren't you?" Adan said in an obnoxious, know-it-all tone. "Do I really need to explain this to you?"

I shot him a displeased look, then glanced back at the cake box, pretending to be very interested in the nutrition facts.

"Fine," he said, misreading my signals and wiping his hands on some paper towels he had laid out near the sink. "Think about it: Let's say you go to all these lengths to make a really important, meaningful point. Once you make it, chances are that half the dumb-fucks who see or hear it won't even understand what you're getting at - but they'll sure as hell understand how you made your point. And nine times out of ten, that's how they'll judge whether or not to support whatever your cause might be."

I poked the side of the box. "Lotta bad calories in here, you know."

Adan wiped flour off the side of his nose and his face morphed into a reproachful glare.

"Funny," he said. "But do you understand why I have to do this now?"

"Sure," I said. I didn't.

"Good." He picked the whisk back up and shook it at me in a comically menacing manner. "Now, would you mind giving me some peace so I can finish up? Don't you have work to do or something?"

I dropped the cake box onto the counter in mock indignation.

"As a matter of fact, I don't," I said. "But fine."

I left him in the kitchen and walked around the corner to my room. I bent down and powered up my Xbox, then poked my head back out into the hall.

"You're a pompous asswipe," I yelled in a sing-song voice toward the kitchen.

"Fuck yourself," he shouted back.

*     *     *     *     *

A few hours later, my late-afternoon nap was interrupted by a loud crash. Five men in suits and sunglasses burst through the door of our apartment and, ripping me off the couch like a Band-Aid off someone's forearm, pinned me to the floor using maneuvers I was almost positive were outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

"Adan Ramirez?" one of the men questioned in a molten growl.

Struggling to breath with my chest still sandwiched between his extraordinarily pointy right knee and the twenty-two dollar carpet I had bought at Home Depot, I decided that shaking my head "no" was the simplest and least painful road to freedom.

I felt one of them reach into my back right jeans pocket and pull out my wallet.

"He's telling the truth, Fox," one said a moment later. "Not the target."

"The target?" What had Adan gotten himself into this time?

The one called Fox lifted his knee off my back slightly, letting up the pressure just enough that I could break out into a fit of gravelly coughing.

"Search the upstairs, find that son of a bitch," he told the other men, his voice drenched in disdain.

I heard four pairs of well-dressed footsteps rumble up the stairs to Adan's room. I heard his door slam open into the wall, and then a resounding thud echoed through the floorboards, at which point I assumed he had received the same warm welcome I did.

One by one the suited men walked back down the stairs, the last one prodding a handcuffed and clearly terrified Adan. When Fox saw this he let me up from the floor, but as soon as I was standing he put a hand on my chest and stared at me so intensely that I could feel it emanating through his shades.

"Don't move," he told me in two breaths, emphasizing how important it was to my well being that I do as I was told. I nodded my compliance.

Fox reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a badge, which he flipped open and flashed quickly at me before giving Adan a much richer view. My roommate's eyes widened, either in realization of why this was all happening or, as I suspected, simply an increase in dread.

"Mr. Ramirez? My name is Agent Lawrence Fox, and as you can see I am with the United States Secret Service."

"Isn't the Secret Service supposed to protect the President?" I asked abruptly, surprising even myself with the informality of my question.

Agent Fox slowly turned his head to look at me, the same fiery seriousness I had heard in his voice earlier very much evident in the look he gave me.

"What do you think we're doing here?" he asked. "Now shut the hell up."

He turned back to Adan. "Mr. Ramirez, you are under arrest for making threats on the President's life. Agent Carmichael, please locate and retrieve the evidence."

Agent Carmichael, a tall, thin man whose sunglasses were far too big for his face, rushed quietly by me into the kitchen, and I heard the refrigerator door open and the rustling of plastic bags. He emerged a moment later carrying a yellow Shop Rite bag filled by a large, square, dark object in one hand and licking the index finger on his other hand.

"I've got it, sir, we're clear for extraction," he said excitedly.

"Excellent," Agent Fox said. "Move it out!"

He held Adan while the others filed out the door. When they were all outside, he pushed Adan out onto the landing and grabbed the door handle. As he pulled it shut, he turned and looked back at me.

"Have a pleasant evening," he said, vomiting insincerity. I half smiled at him, hoping I was clearly transmitting my distaste for him and what had just gone on in my living room.

He slammed the door shut, and for a moment I just stood there, half angry and half something else, but wholly in shock. Then I remembered: the fridge!

I rushed into the kitchen and the door flew open before I even realized I had laid a hand on it. There, on the bottom shelf, was a chocolate icing smear that trailed off in a hand print that must have belonged to the overeager Agent Carmichael.

I guess Adan had made his point.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
J. Cole, The Autograph

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mutiny

 
In her grip, tightly wound like the vines that wracked her brain,
a lonely fellow - but by no means a loner - who sat and watched.
He pushed against the fingers and sipped gin,
the weakness of his one hand
unapparent, and he was sometimes tempted to resign to his fate,
let the wrinkles envelop his face, snuff him out mid-sip.

And in the winter it all smelled like antifreeze, but he froze
just the same, buried in warmth and drowning in the ice that
populated it. No shovels for this blizzard,
just lies and lukewarm cocoa
fresh from the living room table - all done in spite, or hatred
for the finish and it's smooth, caustic reverberation.

When it thawed he felt her grip loosen, capped the alcohol and,
swallowing, prayed for the motion and the violence, like before.
She had sinned for it all, draped herself in it,
and now the weakness in her
bled out, soaked him - and he was glad to feel it, know the sign,
and know that at last, it would all be the way it was.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Foo Fighters, Breakout

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hunted by the American Dream

 
Hope woke up in New York City, and despite the shattered-glass-gleaming of the Hudson and the miraculous, grey-pitched avenues leading to and from the homesteads of fate, she couldn't call it home.

Try as she might, the clock kept ticking, leaking seconds as it was throttled under the pressure of the necktie. Hope cried every midnight, trying desperately to learn to bear the first dark cuts the simmering blackness took at her sanity.

One afternoon, as Hope sat down to lunch, the clock still beating its loud, hissing rhythm, the gods spoke to her.

"How are you feeling today?" they asked, their efforts to feign interest evident in their drought-dry tones.

Hope barely looked up from her sandwich and replied, "Tired, and sick of this place."

"But Hope," the gods whimpered, "can't you look past the blistering monotony and see the possibilities?"

Hope took a bite of her food and chewed slowly, digesting this thought while her saliva slithered about, making quick work of her bacon, lettuce and tomato. She stepped back, out of herself for a moment, to try and find what the gods had meant.

She left herself behind - mid chew - and strode down those aged avenues, through the tunnels that latticed in the underground and up the high rise elevators to see what blinding magnificence lurked at the top.

She returned to her table, finished chewing and swallowed with an unglamorous gloick.

"I fail to see the promise you've instilled here," Hope bluntly told the gods. "Perhaps it was all used up by the immigrants in the early 1900’s."

The gods were stunned. "But didn't you learn any lesson at all?" they asked anxiously.

Hope wondered for a moment. "Well," she said, "I suppose I did." She paused to compose her thoughts. "I learned that you can shake the tree until the mistakes fall out, but then, it's always easier to grab up each morsel than to keep caring for the tree."

This is not the response the gods were hoping for, and they became most upset by Hope's refusal to buy into their optimism. One of them reached out a hand, pointing at Hope, and laid his finger to rest right on her heart.

"I'm sorry, Hope," he said. "You heard the horns trail in, but then you let them explode in sizzling grayscale and trail out. This makes you unacceptable for our purposes."

He pushed, and with a slight twitch of his shoulder some invisible projectile ripped through her, sending blood flying like crystals, shredding the peace of the still apartment air.

Hope's body hit the floor with an unfortunate thwack, and suddenly she was outside herself once more. She stared down at her body, still as a monument, and as she watched the blood trickle across the hardwood, she heard the clock slow and, finally, stop ticking.

"That was uncalled for," she said. Then her face curled into a smile. "But I much prefer flying to this shitty apartment."

With that, she turned and rocketed away, leaving the gods speechless in her wake, and before they could react and reel her in, she was gone.
_________________________________________________

Oh, the Quick Links I have for you today...

Anthony Kirchner has been busy lately, tacking all sorts of new things up on his blog, Not Microwaveable.

Glen Binger has two poems published in Camel Saloon.

It might have happened on a Monday, but it's still awesome: Peter Richter posted a very poetic new piece.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Rilo Kiley, Silver Lining

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Resale

 
I buried a thousand things in the yard the day you died. You always used to tell me, "No item is worth as much as the man who owns it," but you never explained what happens to said item when the owner dies. I assumed it goes up in value.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Dethklok, Thunderhorse

Monday, October 11, 2010

Good news, everyone:

 
Have you heard?
They've just done
The unbelievable,
But what many call
A necessary measure.

Have you heard?
We, the people,
Have been given license
To be crackpots.
Not that we needed it.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Brandon Boyd, Here Comes Everyone

Saturday, October 2, 2010

300 characters

 
This is something I wrote on my cell phone last weekend when I couldn't sleep and ended up being awake for 34 hours straight. In any case, the "Notes" application on my phone has a 300-character maximum, and that's how this spawned. Intro over.
_________________________________________________

Ache to the sounds of retch and spit and The Wrestler at six ante meridian layered over upstairs infomercials and feet sliding on hardwood losing what little traction they had to fits of slumber or sick or shuffling so wake up can be at eight and things can rest safely back on the handle for a week.
_________________________________________________

And what do you know! Quick Links for your reading enjoyment.

Glen Binger has a review of Eric Beeny's latest chapbook, Snowing Fireflies, at The Broad Set.

This month's issue of decomP brings us an eye-catching poem by Lucas A. Gerber.

Also from decomP (last month - it's old, I know) is a piece by Tres Crow that I can't stop reading.

Anthony Kircher's newest post - an insect-inspired haiku on his blog, Not Microwaveable.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Termanology, Watch How It Go Down

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shea Cornelius, please meet your party at the information booth

 
It sounds like hooves.
It sounds like they've been prodded into action by some invisible electrical pulse.
But I can feel it, staining the air around me like spilled coffee.
And I can see its aftermath, whims blurred in gentle pallor, colored like the inside of the Lincoln Tunnel.
And I stand and watch it whisper by, if only because I hope it will serve as a trail to my destination.

And the intercoms blurt my name in sudden, accidental ecstasy, like they've been waiting for years to help me find my way.

But it's no use, because my way has never been mine.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Neko Case, Deep Red Bells

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wheels

 

The spirals blurred
and whacked weeds
sown
out of necessity,
brain crops
in photo-editing software
overpriced
and wildly
underutilized
before 2 pm,
when it's
tea time and
the crowds gather and
rush
inside to escape the
automatic sky
firing hailstones,
layers of color
lost
between smiling faces
and cotton
stretched thick over the
tops of clouds,
hiding little
but leaving everything to
the imagination.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Paul Simon, Graceland

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Practice

 
All I could smell was leather. All I could see was what I could have prevented but didn't. All I felt was the slickness trickling from my bottom lip. What took a moment to feel needed only a second to register. My team heard the pain before I felt it.
_________________________________________________

Some more Quick Links, because I like to keep you busy:

A piece by Pete Richter up on his blog, Atlantic Refreshment, that I think is quite brilliant.

xTx brings us the latest installment of Zombie Summer, a great poem by Mike Boyle.

Andrew Kaspereen proves that our obsession with Journey ruins great moments.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Roots (feat. Mos Def and Styles P), Rising Down

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Parade day rain

 
The purplish sunset bleeds gray
Wired to blow
At the slightest touch of our
Beloved watchmaker

Then the rain falls
Each drop
Distinctly New York City colored
And tethered to the flood

Then the tide rolls in
Sweeps down fifth ave
Men watch until
They're forced to skitter to cover

Then they pile on
Ships bound for the heavens
It's been called off
But I'd rather feel the earth
Beneath my feet
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Kayne (feat. Kweli and Common), Get Em High

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sincerely, Toothpicks

 
To whom it may concern,

I write to you to express my concern with what I have noticed is an ever-growing trend. Note, however, that this is by no means a recent phenomenon - in fact, it would be difficult to even ballpark a start date.

My organization and I are dedicated to broadening into worldwide appreciation what is now a less-than-elementary understanding of our culture. Suffice to say that we feel we have a very long way to go indeed to get our point across.

We have long been a tool for all mankind, and yet, we do not feel appreciated or at all lauded for our worth. In fact, I would say that it is quite the opposite.

While there are few celebrations of our kind, modern parlance is certainly not lacking in metaphors that take complete advantage of our size and stature. For example:

"Snap like a..."

"Thin as a..."

"Flimsy as a..."

Keep in mind, sir or madam, that we did not submit to the various ends to which you employ us willingly. Our historians hold no record of a time when any sort of accordances were struck between our societies, and I don't believe yours do, either.

It is with this in mind that I urge you to convince your colleagues and contemporaries to treat us with more respect - any respect at all, I would say. We demand nothing from you but your consideration, but I will urge you to remember that there will be consequences for your inaction.

We pledge to summarily stop all service in the name of your people. We are good at many things, not the least of which are holding sandwiches together, keeping plastic wrap off of frosted cakes and serving as the key piece that makes chicken cordon bleu a feasible entree for the common family. We would hate to deprive you of these conveniences, but we see no other alternative at this point in time.

So please, kind human, keep these points in mind, and perhaps welcome us into a global community that includes an ever-increasing variety of cultures and beliefs. As the saying goes, "it takes all kinds," and we would be more than happy to help make the world a better place - if only with a few minor considerations from your people.

Yours very sincerely,

T.P. Forster
Vice-President,
The International Toothpick Advancement Society (ITAS)
_________________________________________________

Also, if you have a quick moment, check out these links:

An interesting and poetic piece about the old woman down the street, by one Andrew Kaspereen.

A look into what telemarketing might be like if there were zombies ("if?") by Pete Richter, hosted by xTx.

And a review of The American by Glen Binger (who is "not a movie critic") at The Broad Set Writing Collective.

For more by these three, and others, check out the "People" and "Links" tabs at the top of the page.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Billy Joel, Allentown

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To-do list

 
1. Continue to breathe oxygen.

2. Shower daily.

3. Shield your eyes from bright lights.

4. Walk forward three cars so you don't miss your stop on the train ride home, because no one is awake right now and even if they were, they wouldn't be even remotely interested in driving out to pick up your sorry ass.

5. Eat more carrots. You might get better night vision, which is awesome.

6. Write more.

7. Wash the car, it looks like shit.

8. Finally grow a pair and ask out that girl who works up on 14, because she's gorgeous and always smiles at you. Plus, she's seen you in a ridiculous chef's apron; how much worse could it get?

9. Move out.

10. Seriously, move out. Before you go batshit crazy.

11. Get promoted.

12. Spend less money.

13. Fight more crime. This may or may not require a sizeable dose of gamma radiation.

14. Get over whatever slight distaste for commitment you seem to have been stricken by. Otherwise #8 is going to be a lot tougher.

15. Start going to bed on time.

16. Apologize to people. You know which ones I'm talking about.

17. Keep your grammar tips to yourself. No one particularly likes to be corrected, you ass.

18. Pay back your parents for everything they've paid for over the past two years.

19. Start working out again. Wimp.

20. Realize, once and for all, that even though you think being atheist and liberal "obviously" makes you smarter than your ideological opposites, you are, in fact, a huge tool who knows exactly jack shit about how the world is, no matter how much you pretend otherwise.

21. Stop being an asshole on the road - regardless of how fucking stupid that d-bag from PA is being in front of you.

22. Don't give up on anything you really care about.

23. Relax.

24. Fall in love. Once again, refer to #8.

25. Don't complain about how things are.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Fall of Troy, Sledgehammer

Monday, September 6, 2010

Art

 
It was a face,
bloodied by paint and

shadowed in green mystery,
burdened with pride
and sinful foreshadowing,

if there is such a thing.
It vomited scorn and
held its eyes always in
a falling motion.

Fatal pretension, cast in
iron and worn like a dirty
mask, until, finally,

right hook.
Bang.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Portugal. The Man, Horse Warming Party

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wire

 
This is the beginning of something new I'm going to try: picture prompts. The way I figure it, I have zero time during the week to develop and work out stories right now (until I shift locales to get closer to work), so I'm going to take the first word that pops into my head, image search it and use the first picture that catches my eye. Here's the first one: Wire.
_________________________________________________


The city seemed to grow from all around me, keeping me awake where I stood like tiny pricks of the finger. I'd been here for years, but the miracle of human growth never ceased to underwhelm me. She pawed at my left hand, faint prodding in an attempt to move me to action - to move me at all.

"I've already seen everything," I told her. "This place holds no mysteries for me anymore - not in the daytime, not in the nighttime, not underground, not on the rooftops."

I left her and stepped further into the shopping bag-congested aura of life that flooded my sidewalk. My sidewalk. I'd laid claim to something I had never really even wanted. But this affront to my property offended me nonetheless. I was furious.

I felt her softness again, tickling persistence on the back of my neck and rubbing my shoulder.

"You can't control it all," I admitted to her. "That was my first mistake. I need to let it go."

Then my neck played wrecking machine, twisting my head in all directions as I sought my release. My physical cacophony settled high above my head, high above the rooftops, so high above my sidewalk.

I lowered my eyes and let them reach and rest on hers. She stared plaintively, eyes warbling interest - her need to know overriding her usual emotional sensibility.

"Just trust me," I told her. "It won't be a moment."

* * * * *

The city seemed to curl up from the edge of the earth, lulling me to sleep as it waved and wobbled to and fro, a silent plague that slowly crept from its focal point out into everything, stopping only to squabble briefly with tectonics. I heard her call to me, her sounds as cottony as her touch, urgent and calming, trying to keep me still.

"From here I know new boundaries," I spoke quietly to her. "This is what I've been pleading with myself to find for so long."
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Block Episode, Masta Ace (featuring Punch N Words)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Q's and A's

 
Q: What should I look for?

A: Watch the flash go; let it command you into any kind of evasive action.

Q: How will I know it's time?

A: Observe the easing winds like dotted lines passing on the highway - small blips of separation. Look for your inconsistency.

Q: How long will I have to wait?

A: The call has been made. Now it's only waiting for a sign - the final ingredient it needs to piece itself together.

Q: What do I need to know?

A: Patience. The flow of power and the pull of another person's destiny tearing you away from your own.

Q: But when will I know if I'm doing it the right way?

A: When you start doing it wrong.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Beautiful Bliss, Wale (feat. J.Cole)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The sun is just the whole world

 
She always kept the shades open, even when we went to bed. The first time I woke up next to her and saw the sun rising through the branches of the tree outside her window, I got up, pulled the shade down, and fell back to sleep. When her alarm went off in the morning, we had our first big fight as a couple.

No, the extra hour of sleep was not worth it.

I wondered why it was an issue. I tried to pry it out of her many times. I pleaded with her when, winter morning after winter morning, the only thing that was still alive out there burned open my eyelids and made me wonder how many thousands of tons of explosive I would have to launch into space to rid myself of its annoyance.

She seemed intent on keeping it to herself, whatever this secret was. She wouldn’t fight me when I asked. Se just shut down, went totally silent, ceased to function until I dropped it and tried to drag her back out of wherever she was hiding from me.

I eventually decided that my love for her overrode whatever tiny, prickly, angry sensation I felt when she denied another of my plaintive requests. I shut up, basically.

I loved her for three years before I finally got used to it.

One morning, I stirred at the buzzing of my work alarm, woke up startled, almost missed the hastily thrown together pastels of the first light as it burned off whatever sleepiness was left from the night before.

I stumbled my way into the shower, shaved, dressed, headed downstairs for breakfast. Lazily watched the coffeemaker go about its duties before realizing that I had burnt my toast and that my cereal was getting soggy.

By the time I finished yet another underwhelming breakfast, I was finally awake. I poured the remainder of my coffee into a travel mug. I could hear her starting the shower, and went outside to get the paper. Stamped on the front page was a massive headline:

SUSPECTED MULTIPLE KIDNAPPER IN POLICE CUSTODY

The story came packaged with one hell of an ugly mug shot, with the caption ROGER BURGESS.

“Multiple kidnapper.” For some reason this set me off, and I pondered how it could be that someone could perpetrate multiple kidnappings without ever being identified. I ran through the possible scenarios in my mind for a moment, but finally ended up shaking my head, sending that train of thought crashing off the tracks. I picked up the story and read:

“A man suspected of committing multiple kidnappings over the past 20 years was brought into police custody yesterday, following the conclusion of an extensive investigation.

Police revealed the man’s identity as Roger Burgess, whose known aliases include Carlton Greenburg, Joshua Forrest and Jonathan Bender.

Burgess, 57, was arrested in connection with the kidnapping of 13-year old Amanda Haynes, who had been missing for 23 days. Detectives with the state police discovered…”

I skimmed hastily through the article, searching for a how, any indication of how this man could have possibly done this for 20 years.

I found it:

“According to Police Captain Alan Bolland, Burgess used a windowless, soundproof room to house his victims, creating a completely dark environment in which he could operate without having the victim discover his identity.

‘The kidnapper made sure he was unidentifiable by any of his victims,’ Bolland said. ‘That way when he finally set them free for whatever reason, they were unable to come forward and bring him to justice.’

Authorities are still unsure why Burgess decided to release his victims, as he never made any demands and there seems to be no pattern in the timing of their liberations.”

I grimaced as I read the description of those conditions, trying to imagine how it must have felt for Amanda, or anyone else, to be in one totally dark, confined space for 23 days. I shook my head in disbelief.

I put the paper back down on the table and checked the clock. 7:13. If I didn’t leave in the next two minutes I was probably going to be late. Just as I put on my jacket she walked into the kitchen.

She looked at me as she poured herself a cup of coffee, head tilted sideways. “Shouldn’t you have left by now, babe?”

I laughed. “Probably, yeah. I’m in the process now. I just got caught up in this article on the front page of the Journal. Unbelievable stuff.” I pointed to the article.

She nodded as she took a sip of her morning caffeine. “Yeah, I’ll take a look.”

I picked up my briefcase in one hand and my coffee in the other. “Okay here I go.” I walked over and kissed her. “Have a nice day sweetheart.”

She grabbed my jacket as I tried to walk away. “Don’t forget to pick up the hardware we need for the bathroom. I’d like to get that all done this weekend.”

“You’re my savior, darling.” I kissed her again. “Of course, had I forgotten, you would have been my worst nightmare.”

She smiled and pushed me. “You have no idea, hotshot. Get out of here.”

I gave her a goofy look, tipped my imaginary cap and walked out the door backwards, pulling it shut on my way out.

* * * * *

I walked in the door nine and a half hours later to find her sitting in her chair at the kitchen table, still in her pajamas. The coffee cup was shattered on the floor, its once torrid contents long since cooled on the new linoleum.

The front page of the paper was in front of her on the table and she sat staring at it with what seemed like every singular fiber of her consciousness. I put down my briefcase and started taking off my jacket.

“Baby?” She didn’t move. “Sweetheart, you okay?” Nothing.

I pulled out my chair and, avoiding the sharp ceramic fragments of her favorite mug, sat down.

“Okay, I don’t know if Medusa walked in here or what, but you gotta give me something here, babe.” I smiled at her and reached out to rub her back. As my hand got close she jumped out of her chair, sending it sideways onto the floor. She stood up, staring at me.

Heart still racing at the surprise of her sudden movement, I stood up. “Hon, what –”

She held up a hand and stopped me. “You wanted to know why?” She pointed at the paper. “He’s why.”

I glanced at the paper. Roger Burgess’ mug shot stared back.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
No Love, Eminem (feat. Lil Wayne...yes, I'm actually listening to a song with Lil Wayne on it)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Negotiator

 
One day at work, we strained like cats and dogs. Buried up to our noses in regrets that we couldn’t go where we wanted, where there were things we wanted to see and to smell and to taste and to vomit back up afterwards. “It’s dangerous out there!” they would say to us, our watery eyes burning with pleas for freedom. “We don’t want you getting away, because we’d have to chase you and maybe put up posters.” So we languished in our pinstriped suits and mellowed leather briefcases, full of things that were of the utmost importance and no importance at all. We wished they would slip out, fall through the grates and drown in the sewers, pulp melting into the fabric of disgusting nonsense.

What would we do then? Handshakes and smiles, so we could sign the contracts at a reduced price and always – always – remember to lock the door after us. They weren’t kidding when they said it’s dangerous out there.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Time-Lapse Consortium, Come Back Boomerang

Friday, July 2, 2010

Well then...

 

It's been a couple weeks, huh? I've been busy at work, getting a $3,000 raise on my second Friday there. But since I have an extra day this fine Independence Day weekend, I will be putting some new things together (finally) to put up on my formerly very busy blog. We'll see how this goes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Notice

 
Vines once grew here,
from every crack
and every hole.
Bundles of sinewy green nonsense
babbling over everything,
runaway river.

Then we built it higher,
all of it,
financed and adored
with a catastrophe of riches.
It went up brick by empty brick,
snarling I-beams piled high,
daring you to ride
to the sterilized silver peak.

One day,
the buildings in this city
will grow tall enough
to block out the sun.
And on that day,
I'll consider getting a job somewhere else.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
MGMT, Kids (this has been stuck in my head all day)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flawed

 
Cool lies melt in the spotty shade,
all they have built collapsing,
overburdened by the secrets it hides.
Poorly designed, it was almost made to fail.
Symmetrical snowman,
doomed to tip and blur into its surroundings,
to melt back into the earth
and feed another round, free of charge.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Brother Ali, Preacher

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The proverbial Greek heel

 
Clatter and
commotion.

Raised it above your head,
smiled,
sent it crashing
to the ground.
Tin-can crash sounds
climbed
the decibels
like ladder rungs,
eager to reach the top
and deafen my spirits.

You found the blind spots
somehow.
I never saw
the glint of the sun
bounding
for my eyes,
orange signs covered
by trash bags.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Peter Gabriel, Big Time

Monday, June 14, 2010

Emergency exit

 
It's been a busy week at the new job, but a good one. This week I am pre-loading The Germ with some new stuff before I head off to be one of those fancy real-world types, so check in and there should be something to read most days.
_________________________________________________

Blood poured in structure,
alarms,
and all in the name
of a quick escape.
Wired for ease of use
up until this malfunction
rendered us incapable.
Consider this proof, then,

that in death sparks fly, and death sparks flies, humming like an
        airline engine thrown into overdrive, hungry for fuel and burning
        through it like it was still $1.85 a gallon, drowning piles of
        decaying flesh in legs and eyes, insect ratables.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
TV on the Radio, Wolf Like Me

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Big news!

 
An update for this week and probably next as well, as some cool stuff has happened:

I finally got a job! I'll be working for Edelman, a PR firm in New York City, starting next Monday. Should be good times. Only problem is, it's a 9 to 5 type job and I will be taking the train in and out of the city, so my spare time to write is going to get cut big time. So my posts might be much less frequent, but I will try to make sure that when I post, I post something awesome.

Second, the rest of this week will be sparse. I'm doing some work for my family tomorrow and Thursday, so if anything goes up it won't be until the weekend. But in any case, hope everyone had an awesome Memorial Day weekend!

Stay classy.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Indoors

 
Are there shadows? Or is it still too dark?
We've waited for the sun to rise for days, and nothing.
Almost, bear with me, as if it isn't up there anymore,
which would be uncomfortable, to say the least.
Improbable as it is, we agree it's a possibility
we can no longer ignore.
We will be investigating posthaste.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Broken Social Scene, Cause = Time

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hell and back

 
If the trip wasn’t almost $800 both ways, I might consider it. But unless I’m on my honeymoon and we’re going to Hawaii, no way are you going to catch me paying more than four hundred bucks for a flight. I’ll get my eternal damnation some other way, thank you.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Outkast, Rosa Parks

Friday, May 28, 2010

A cliche to end all cliches

 
"I guess it's time to face the music," Randall said, climbing down from the passenger's side of his father's pickup truck. He smoothed out his suit and then shut the car door behind him.

"Just bite the bullet, son," his father told him. "Better safe than sorry. And besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that if you spend this whole time lying through your teeth and they find out, that'll be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

Randall made a thoughtful face and nodded his head solemnly.

"And don't even get me started on the media coverage," his father said. "If you thought it's been bad so far, trust me, just the tip of the iceberg."

Now Randall felt nervous. His thoughtful face warped into something more terrified. Leave it up to his dad to take a delicately calm situation and inadvertently inject the heaviest dose of tension possible. He waited as his father put quarters in the parking meter, and he could feel every clank of the change as it rolled into the metal contraption.

Randall's father turned from the meter and saw his son staring at the pavement. He walked over and put a hand on Randall's shoulder.

"Penny for your thoughts, son?"

"I don't know, dad," Randall said, moving his hands from his belt loops to his pockets and back again nervously. "I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place here, and the only way out will be by the skin of my teeth."

"Well," his father said in a very wise tone of voice, "I won't beat around the bush, finding a simple way out of this will be easier said than done. Nonetheless, unless the prosecutor makes a killing with his evidence, really solidly convicting you will be like finding a needle in a haystack."

Randall nodded slowly and looked up at his father.

"Thanks dad," he said. "I'll play it by ear, I guess."

"That's the spirit, sport."

They walked up the steps to the courthouse, and the prosecutor was standing just in front of the stately, wooden double-doors, briefcase in one hand and Starbucks in the other. He smiled wickedly at the pair as they ascended the final few steps, then took one last long gulp of his drink and crushed the paper cup, tossing it into a nearby trash can.

He narrowed his eyes at Randall and pointed ferociously, as if redoing his stance and putting all his weight on his front foot would make the action more poignant.

"The buck stops here," he snarled. "Murderer."
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Foo Fighters, Skin And Bones

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Live

 
They were like bricks, all different colors, unsolved
and scattered like nomads. They twisted there and
back, side to side; attempts to connect somewhere
mutually beneficial. But when everything else failed,
they walked and talked backwards, wore the insides
on the outsides, fired enough heat to snuff out the
flame entirely. When in doubt, blame the humidity.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek (feat. Res), Back Again

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When does it stop being meaningful?

 
I don't know whose idea it was to start building monuments to people, but boy would they be sorry if I ever caught up to them in the afterlife.

Sure, you might argue that having a giant penis on what remains of the lawn of our capital city to memorialize our first president is "good for the kids, to remind them of what is important." You might argue that. And I might disagree. And our confrontation might end in me tossing you from the top of said giant penis.

The point is that yes, it did indeed start small. A building here, a statue there, yada yada yada. But now, these days, you can't even move.

They built an entire city in monument to one David Yenkoff, who invented the Materializer Microwave, designed to create entire meals out of a tiny cube of substance. They built a mega-teleporter just outside of New York City for moving massive quantities of people and objects at once, and when that broke down and the guy who built it died, they decided to leave it up in memorial to him. There are statues of people everywhere, some so inconsequential that their descendants don't even know that one of their ancestors was famous.

We have an entire generation of people who were pretty much born to walk sideways, like they are trying to get from one window to another on the outside of a building. Sure, you might argue that "this will improve dexterity and the United States will surely win every gymnastics medal at the 3016 Olympics, or at the very least the ones related to the balance beam." You might argue that. And I might agree, because honestly this country has some of the best balancers the world has ever seen.

One day someone will built a monument to me, probably, even though all I've ever done is blog and eat and work out and teleport around just for kicks. If I have any say in what my monument will look like, I'll put in a request to have it be a giant repulsor-bulldozer, so that one day my son (whom I will train to hate monuments as much as I do) can hotwire it and level every memorial on the continent.

And I will watch from the afterlife and laugh. Then, one day, someone will built a monument to honor him, and I will stop laughing.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Eminem, Despicable

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Death mask

 
She painted his face on the
biggest canvas she could find,
all in oil and color. The
blood seeped through the pores
and the face became a person.
She lied at times, brushed over
his faults, made him more a
saint than a sinner. By the
end you could see through his
eyes, awash in humanity, wild
with life, hope and faith, all
despite the emptiness of his form.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Circa Survive, Get Out

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Recorder

This is what I do when I'm sitting through a three-hour town council meeting that I already know isn't going to give me any stories: I write poems in the outline of my digital recorder.
_________________________________________________

                                         Fried.
                               Spilled out and
                       charred when someone
                balanced the upset. So sorry
               to hear it. Churn it into a
           violent rainbow built on
      warped pastels, crinkled
        red and boiled blue.
          All taste is
              gone.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Neko Case, Fever

Friday, May 14, 2010

Almost a home

 
Two tons of crushed sheetrock landed in a plume of dissatisfaction, showering us with dust.

“Wasn’t that going to be our bedroom?” she asked, looking backward toward the finished part of the house. I motioned my unhappiness to the driver. He peered out the side window and shrugged.

“Sorry bro.”
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Daft Punk, Around The World

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The wedding portrait

 
My parents had a portrait painted of them on their wedding day, and it had been hanging from the wall in the downstairs hallway for my whole life. I remember the one time that they took it down when I was seven - the entire rest of the wall looked unhealthily faded compared to that one bright spot, an upright rectangle of untarnished, lined wallpaper, almost as if their love had protected that spot from the usual wear and tear of a home with two kids.

That portrait never really held any significance for me as a child, other than to prove that my parents were really in love, no matter how much I heard them fighting over whether or not I really needed those fourteen action figures I had asked for on my birthday.

Now, at twenty-two and desperately searching for a way out of here, that portrait follows me everywhere I go in this house. The completeness of my parents' marriage - almost 30 years long - is scarily impressive, a stark contrast to the ups and downs of my own relationship history, a constant one-up to every date I go on that asks, "Why isn't yours this beautiful?"

Patti Andrews, three months. Sam Moore, two weeks. Andrea Jenkins, a year. Jordan Bradley, seven months. Mel Jameson, forty-five minutes or so.

And now, Kristie Rooney, going on a year and a half. And that might be as far as it goes judging by the conversation I'm having with her on the phone right now.

"You need to stop getting jealous every time I hang out with people! I need to have my own friends, Ryan."

"I would stop if those people weren't your exes, babe."

"Don't call me that. And no you wouldn't! You know as well as I do that if there's another guy around, you get all territorial and whatever and everyone notices and you pretty much ruin the evening."

"Yeah, sure, if you haven't ruined it already by flirting with all those guys right in front of their girlfriends."

"Talking is NOT the same thing as flirting, god! Whatever, I need to shower for tonight but we are not done talking about this. I'll call you back when I get out."

"Fine. Call me back."

I hung up and snapped the phone shut, dropping it onto my pillow as I reached for the beer I had brought upstairs with me. I took a substantial quaff off the liquid and as the slightly bubbly alcohol fizzed down my throat, I wondered. Where was our portrait? Where was my proof that we really loved each other?

I glanced over at the phone resting on my pillow and my muscles tensed as I tentatively reached a hand toward it, hoping it wouldn't ring before I got my hands on it. I flinched and lunged my hand forward, snapping it up and flipping it open.

I stared at it for a moment, contemplating the results of what I was about to do. I moved my thumb over the power button, pressed down as hard as I could and watched the screen cycle to darkness.

I finished the beer and got up and left my room, walking downstairs for another, or maybe two. As I walked down the hallway an uncomfortable heaviness settled in my chest, and I felt anger rising up inside me until my fist clenched around the empty bottle.

I walked past the portrait and put my hand up to the side of my head like a blinder, eager to avoid whatever judging gaze my 30-years-ago parents had in store for me this evening. In the kitchen I opened the fridge and took out two beers, popping one open on the countertop.

I stood at the entrance to the hallway, alcohol in hand, unable to move another inch forward. I stared at the side of the wooden frame hanging from the wall, and finally decided it might be a better idea to stay in the kitchen.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Roots (feat. Kweli and Malik B.), Lost Desire

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Science?

 
Bruce flipped the stove light on, crouching next to where Jeanie sat with her face against the glass. Inside, the plastic container sat quietly in the growing heat, not melting as they had expected it to.

“Good thing we’re in love,” he said, “or this would be really, really boring.”
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Curtis Mayfield, Move On Up

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Commencement Speech, Final Draft

 
Good afternoon. I am Brilliance Personified, but you regular jackoffs can just call me Danny. I spend my time doing whatever I want, because I am basically the single greatest human being who has ever lived. All of you folks are graduating from college today, and many of you probably hope to one day live up to the impossible standards I have set for every other member of the human species. I'm here this morning to tell you that it's never gonna happen. Don't like it? Tough bananas.

I had to do literally nothing to get to the point in my life where I am now. I was born rich and educated at the finest schools, where I excelled thanks to my naturally absurd level of intelligence. I graduated with my Masters degree at the age of twenty - and yes, I could have done it sooner, but I decided to spend two years on vacation in Hawaii instead. Don't know how many of you have been to Hawaii, but guys: hot chicks everywhere.

When I became CEO of my father's company at the age of twenty-two, the entire world banded together and decided that my tale of rich to richer was somehow inspirational, and that is why this is the thirty-second graduation speech I have done since last year. I still have yet to figure out why anyone thinks I am a good role model. I spend my free time drinking, reading Playboy and sleeping with every woman I see. But I guess that one time that I donated some money to my alma mater so they would build an awesome club on campus counts for something.

So since I'm supposed to leave you hopeless saps with some sort of inspirational sendoff, I guess this is the best I can do: try really hard, or be really hot - ladies - and you might get a job working for me, and then I might pay you an outrageous salary. Peace.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Incubus, Are You In

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Magnificent

 
Trickle-down
perfected.
Right turn on 43-degree heel
sped up
and fed to the brick wall.
We drowned
in splinters of the palace
we built to keep us safe,
coerced to burn
in frigid torchlight.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Black Thought, The Professional

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cross ways

 
Lines like fat white chalk beckoned, but the flashing orange “HALT” said stay put. Patience, he thought. Consent came, and he minded his path with face-down attentiveness. A shadow halted movement, turned the white to gray, and he looked into the face of familiarity.

“I still hate you,” it said.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Fashawn, Ecology

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reassurance

 
Well hello there everyone. I apologize for the week-long absence from the world of blogging, but apparently my house was giving off wireless interference and Comcast had to shut down my Internet. Yesterday they finally came and fixed it, so here I am.

This is a poem inspired by the recent passing of a friend of mine whom I knew since the fourth grade. This is the end result of a lot of different (read: unsuccessful) attempts to write something about it.
_________________________________________________

Dusk, a drive-by
And a salute.
Memorialize where he lived,
Not where he lies,
And the crickets sound.
Louder,
Louder,
The epicenter of an insect hurricane.
I tell myself he’s still here,
That this must be his doing,
But I don’t believe me.
I know the truth;
Saw it with my own eyes,
Cold and still.
Expected an image
Burned into my brain.
Isn’t that how it always goes?
But instead
I faced reality,
And emerged unscathed.
No lasting impression,
Just a memory,
Set to fade in time
Until the crickets
Sound off again.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Animals, The House of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chatham Station: Welcome Home

 
The mind plays tricks,
but this of course you knew
after see and saw.
No one won the series,
but a champion was crowned,
nonetheless.
This must be destiny,
I thought,
as I was dragged inside.
Sat in the swiveling chair
and stared at the walls,
clean metal statue in hand.
He spoke from behind horns
that curled to infinity.
You're so far
from where you belong.
Welcome home.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Foo Fighters, Monkey Wrench

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chatham Station: Years in the Dark

 
The gears clicked neatly into place
like they were tied to strings
and swung wildly by some deity
who couldn't care less
what happened after he was done.
They coincide and I feel the rush,
the stupid, bemused emotion
fizzling up my spine,
landing with a horridly satisfying squelch
deep in the frontal lobe.
It's nothing so significant, she said.
A feeling, yes,
but of a smaller caliber.
I couldn't help myself to answer,
not after the chase, the back and forth,
arms fired by the emotion
until the acid burned no longer.
Passion stemmed from one heart or another,
but never both at once.
Some lovely summer flower
lopped off, petals bent in anxiety,
killed in the shade.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Portugal. The Man, Kill Me. The King

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Prospective Homeowner

 
My house is already built.

I've seen it, inside and out, and it's beautiful. In the early morning of the spring, sunlight bleeds through the soft curtains that are a color of blue I have never seen before. The light gathers in pools on the glamorously red carpet, which, despite being quite lovely, is far too flashy for my tastes. I will probably rip it out and have it replaced by a more sterile gray color.

In the evenings when you sit on the porch, so long as it isn't overcast you can see just about every star in the sky. Oftentimes this results in a stiff neck, but the heating pad in the upstairs medicine cabinet takes care of that in a jiffy every time. Quality stuff, that heating pad.

And if you're a light sleeper? Not even a single worry. In the winter the whole area is deadly silent until people start getting up for work in the morning, and during the summer the crickets and katydids are fantastic at lulling one to sleep. And don't even get me started on the beds. Whatever they are, I'm keeping them, because when I wake up in the morning I always have the loveliest restful feeling.

The yard is full of small gardens along the property lines. In the spring you can watch the buds open day by day, the vibrancy of the environment growing much like the young blossoms that contribute to it. Having viewed their vivid colorings through my high-powered binoculars, I can safely say that the soil mixture here must be exquisite.

In short, this house, this yard, this neighborhood: all perfect. It's pretty much a dream home. Like I said, my house is already built.

If only those people would hurry up and move out already...
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Billy Joel, New York State of Mind

Monday, April 12, 2010

A plan involving steel and mortar and bricks and pie (Part Three)

 
Today brings the conclusion of what I'm going to call "the Bricks and Pie saga." If you want to read the whole story, you can bring up all three parts by clicking on the "Bricks and Pie" tag in the sidebar to the left. Enjoy!
_________________________________________________

On Sunday, April 29, Jeff went to his first Catholic mass. Even though he had spent most of his adult life as an atheist, he figured he didn't really have a choice anymore since, as of the start of the weekend, he was now working for God.

Jeff and his cousin Zeke arrived at the church early because Zeke insisted on introducing him to the priest.

"Father Andrew, there's someone who I would finally like you to meet!" Zeke said to the priest as they stood on the church steps. "This is my cousin, Jeff."

Father Andrew reached out a hand to greet Jeff. "I've heard great things of you, Jeff," he said. "It's a pleasure to meet you at last."

"Uh, yeah, you too," Jeff said. "Nice to meet you, too."

"Zeke is always telling me how helpful you always are to his projects," Father Andrew said as he patted Zeke on the shoulder. "So what is the occasion that brings you to our church today?"

"Jeff's had a change of heart, Father," Zeke said as Jeff opened his mouth to answer. "He had...an experience."

Father Andrew's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Really? That's quite interesting. I've heard some amazing stories about such occurrences. What was yours like?"

Jeff glared at Zeke, who responded with an apologetic shrug. Jeff sighed and thought for a moment.

"Well, I guess I just, uh...saw the light," Jeff said uncertainly, hoping the priest would accept his poorly formed explanation.

Father Andrew nodded. "Indeed," he said, pressing his palms together. "And did the Lord speak to you?"

Jeff flashed back to God standing outside his cubicle, changing instantly from a black man to an Asian man.

"You could say that," Jeff replied.

"Fascinating!" Father Andrew exclaimed. He glanced at his watch. "Oh my, almost time for the service to begin." He waved the men inside. "Right this way, gentlemen."

Jeff hadn't been inside a church since his father's funeral eight years ago, and it was exactly the way he remembered it: too quiet, too big, funny smelling and frightening in a kind of overly-somber, goat-sacrificing cult kind of way.

When they got back to Zeke's house after the service was over, the two men found God waiting for them on the front porch.

"Welcome home, my friends," God said, opening his arms wide. "Ezekiel, I have some blueprints in the basement for you to get started on. And Jeffrey..." He snapped his fingers and produced what looked like a scroll in his right hand, which he offered to Jeff. "...this is for you."

Zeke waved goodbye to Jeff and ran inside, and Jeff slowly rolled out the parchment. It unfurled all the way down to the patio, stopping just before it hit the concrete. Jeff scanned the list and looked up at God.

"Supplies?" Jeff asked.

"Correct," God said.

"And where can I find them all? Some of this stuff doesn't look like standard Home Depot fare, you know?"

"Correct again, Jeffrey. Some of these materials will require inquiries to industrial firms. Luckily my design will result in a relatively small construct, so mass quantities will not be needed."

"Oh." Jeff read down the list again. "Well that's a relief, isn't it..."

God smiled. "Good luck," he said, and then he disappeared.

Jeff looked around instinctively, sighed, and walked to his car. He rolled up the list as neatly as he could and threw it onto the passenger seat. He sighed again. This is going to take forever, he thought.

In fact, it did not take forever. With God's blueprints and Jeff's supplies, Zeke was able to complete the project in just over seven months. On December 15, God was back in Zeke's basement, smiling with satisfaction.

He ran his hands over the machine Zeke had constructed for him, which resembled a small car chassis, minus the curvature of the roof, sandwiched between two halves of a smokestack. There was a large hole on the top and bottom, and there were gears and pulleys exposed around the center of the contraption.

"Splendidly done, Ezekiel, simply outstanding work," God said. "It exactly matches every specification I laid out for you."

Zeke shuffled his feet bashfully. "Oh, well thank you very much, Lord, but I couldn't have done it without Jeff."

God looked up from his machine and over to Jeff. "Indeed, we cannot forget Jeffrey's assistance in this project." He walked over and placed a hand on Jeff's shoulder. Jeff felt as though he was being crushed under thousands of pounds of pressure. "My deepest thanks to you as well, Jeffrey."

God walked back to the machine and touched it, and then it was gone.

"Ezekiel," he said, turning back to Zeke and Jeff, "I would like to request your assistance with one more thing, if you would be so kind. I will need your help activating the machine next Friday."

Zeke nodded eagerly. "No problem at all, Lord. Just tell me where to be."

"Thank you, my son." God shifted his gaze to Jeff. "Jeffrey, your part in this is complete. You may return to your home, and I have arranged it so that on Monday, you will find your job waiting for you once again."

Jeff was taken aback. "Well, um, thanks, thanks a lot," he said. "But aren't you going to tell us what it does?"

"All in good time, Jeffrey," God said. He smiled again, and then he was gone.

When he returned to work on Monday, Jeff's boss, Jolene, was waiting for him.

"Good morning Jeff!" she said cheerfully as he swiped into the office. "I just wanted to tell you how glad we are to have you back. We were so worried about you after we heard about your accident."

Jeff expression twisted in confusion. "My wha-?" Then he understood. "Oh. Oh, yeah it was pretty bad, I guess." He smiled awkwardly. "Thanks for your concern." He hurried around her and made a beeline for his desk.

Jeff spent the rest of the work week in a daze, wracking his brains for any clues God might have dropped that could give away the purpose of the machine Zeke had built. He scoured Internet search engines for pictures of machines that resembled the one he had seen in Zeke's basement. It was all to no avail.

By Friday morning he was exhausted, having hardly slept all week. I've gotta figure it out before God gets Zeke, Jeff thought as he spun around aimlessly in his office chair. Wait...what day is today?

He spun back to his computer and looked at the calendar on his desktop, then typed the date into a search engine: "December 21, 2012." The search engine hunted the Internet, then displayed the results on his screen.

Jeff's mouth dropped open in horror. Oh...my...

He ran out of his cubicle and out of the office into the parking lot. He sprinted to his car, fumbling through his pockets to find his keys. He finally heard the familiar clanking sounds and felt the cold metal, and he closed his hands around the keys and yanked them out.

As he bent forward to unlock the driver's side door, he felt a slight tremor shake the ground beneath him. He stopped, almost paralyzed with fear, and looked up and behind him. He saw an intensely bright light on the horizon, and it was growing quickly.

Jeff dropped the keys to the ground and watched the massive explosion approaching. He laughed wryly under his breath and shook his head.

"Oh you have GOT to be kidding me..."
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
A Tribe Called Quest, Award Tour

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Momentum for the sake of momentum

 
Gaze up at those soft, velvet ribbons,
watch them fall in folds,
pieced together
and hemmed neatly at the bottom.

Listen to hymns spat into microphones,
leaked out in poisonous impulse.
A waterfall of life-canon
drying up instantly on glossed wood.
Venom, bred electric green.
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Neko Case, Maybe Sparrow (just a great live performance, ignore Letterman)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pendulous

 
I leave you lovely folks with this 50-word story as I'm about to go cover a Tea Party rally at my county courthouse. Can I tell you how much I'm looking forward to this? Not at all, that's how much.
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He dangled over the side, mind noisy with memories he’d spent years laboring to kill. He imagined himself as bait, bowing precipitously over an aluminum boat hull, waiting for something to cascade upward and eat him. He let the planet take hold, and it pulled him in close.
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Pink Floyd, Money

Friday, April 9, 2010

A plan involving steel and mortar and bricks and pie (Part Two)

 
Okay, so remember the other day when I said this was going to be a two-part story? Well apparently I lied. I apologize for my accidental deception. There will be a THIRD part that will probably be up sometime this weekend. As usual, please leave any feedback you have. Thanks!
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Jeff awoke on Friday morning to the soft buzzing of his phone vibrating against the carpet in his aunt and uncle’s guest bedroom. He rolled over to the side of the bed and opened his eyes slowly enough that he could almost hear them creaking in protest. The front of his phone lit up with the name, “Jolene.” It was his boss, probably calling for the umpteenth time this morning wondering why he hadn’t shown up to work.

Jeff’s pulse quickened and suddenly he was wide-awake. Frantic thoughts crazied through his mind like a disturbed beehive. Why didn’t I show up to work this morning? Why am I not sleeping in my own bed? Why did Scott Bakula call me yesterday?

Then Jeff remembered the truth:

“I’ve brought you back together to create something for me,” God had said. “I’d like you, Ezekiel, to be my personal architect on this project, with you, Jeffrey, providing him with the materials he needs.”

“So basically,” Jeff postulated, “we’re like Noah 2.0. Right?”

God thought for a moment. “Well, not precisely,” he said. “Your cousin Ezekiel would be the closest comparison to what Noah was, while you would be Noah’s financier, which, if I remember correctly – and I do – he did not actually have.”

Jeff’s gaze dropped to the floor. “Oh,” he said quietly.

“So what do we need to do, Lord?” Zeke asked.

“Well for tonight, all I ask is that you consider my request for your assistance and get some sleep,” God said. “I know this is all very shocking for you Jeffrey, and I want you to be comfortable with it all before we get started.”

Jeff became very nervous. “Yeah, uh, about that…”

God held up a hand to silence him. “I hold no grudges against those who do not believe in me, Jeffrey, so long as they eventually prove able to learn the truth. And despite your original reaction, I do believe you are able.”

“Oh…good,” Jeff said as a sheepish grin grew on his face.

“So,” God said, holding his arms open wide, “relax for the evening, gentlemen, and I will be back in the morning to speak with you further regarding our project.”

A loud, rapid knocking on the bedroom door brought Jeff back to the present. He scrambled out of bed and opened the door.

“Mornin’ Jeff!” Zeke said cheerfully. “Ready to go downstairs and talk to God?”

Jeff’s brain fizzled slightly at Zeke’s last remark, not yet completely adjusted to the fact that his cousin was not insane for saying it. Even though he now knew God was real, he could feel himself repressing an instinctive burst of incredulous laughter.

“Um, I uh…yeah…yeah, sure,” he answered slowly. “Can I have some breakfast, though?”

“Already down there,” Zeke said. “My mom and dad did some shopping this morning before they went out for their book club meeting. They won’t be back for a while now so we have some time.”

They started walking down the two flights of stairs to the basement, but Jeff reached out an arm and stopped Zeke on the first landing.

“Z, you sure we should be doing this?” he said nervously. “I mean, do we even know what he wants us – I mean, you – to make?”

Zeke shrugged his shoulders and resumed his path down the steps. “Not really, but it’s God, Jeff. Who would say no to an opportunity to help The Almighty?”

Jeff stopped him again. “I dunno, but I mean, why us, you know? Why not pick somebody who has a history of making stuff that works? No offense.”

Zeke waved it off. “None taken. And I’m not sure why us, but I’m honored that he did pick us. I think we just have to trust that he knows what he’s doing, which I’m pretty sure he does.”

Jeff sighed and nodded reluctantly, and they turned the corner into the basement, where God was seated in an office chair behind a desk that was neatly stacked with papers and engineering books.

“Good morning, Jeffrey,” God said. “Ready to get started? There’s some food on the table over there graciously provided by Ezekiel’s parents. You may feel free to help yourself.”

Jeff followed God’s pointing finger to the right rear corner of the room, where a plastic party table was stocked with everything you would find at a hotel continental breakfast. He walked over and selected a bagel with cream cheese and made himself a bowl of bran flakes. He walked back to the desk, where Zeke was now poring over one of the engineering books.

“Jeffrey, I have already spoken briefly with Ezekiel about his half of the project, and have provided him with all the blueprints and engineering knowledge he might need to get it done. As for you, I would like to know if you are officially on board with this project."

Jeff thought for a second and glanced over at Zeke, who was now looking up from his book, wide-eyed and nervous that his cousin might say "no." Zeke tried to nod his head at Jeff as discretely as possible.

Jeff saw it, but it didn't help his decision-making process. He ran through the situation in his head. God asks you to do something - YOU, out of all the billions of people in the world - and you say no. What's stopping him from turning you inside out and plastering you to the wall in the Natural History Museum?

"Yes," Jeff blurted before his mind could catch up to his mouth. "Yes, I'm in."
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Motion City Soundtrack, Capital H (watch the video, it's fantastic)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A plan involving steel and mortar and bricks and pie (Part One)

 
Greetings, my lovely audience. This is a story that began as one sentence I wrote very distractedly while watching the NCAA Championship game with Mr. Andrew Kaspereen. It has developed so nicely that I will be posting it in two parts, because it is too long and would take up the whole page. Here is part one, and part two will follow before the week is out. Enjoy!
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Every Thursday afternoon at one-thirty, Jeff goes to the bank. He hops on the bicycle he has been maintaining since he was in college and rides down Chester Road towards Main Street, making sure to swerve at exactly the right moments to avoid the cracks in the sidewalk at Meadow View Road and the giant pothole along the side of West Ave.

Sometimes Jeff visits the bank to manage his own funds. He is paid at lunchtime every Thursday, and he has an arrangement with his boss, Jolene, so that while he is out for lunch he can also stop by the bank so he doesn't have to worry about it after work. Other times, he deposits his check and then wires money to his cousin Zeke, who lives in New Jersey.

Zeke is continually calling Jeff and telling him that he has just invented "the next big thing" in whatever particular industry he takes an interest. Jeff could remember them all: salt mining equipment in 2003, letter openers in 1988, scratch and sniff birthday cards in 1991, lightsabers in 1977. Every invention inexorably failed in one spectacular display of ineptitude or another.

This Thursday morning, Zeke called Jeff at work just after Jeff got out of his daily morning meeting. Zeke called his cousin so often that at this point he had Jeff's schedule memorized.

"Hey Jeffy!"

"Z, I've asked you many times not to call me that. We aren't seven anymore."

"No, I guess not, but we're fifty-seven! There's a seven in there, so that counts, right?"

Zeke laughed. He was a good-natured fellow, but on average only had a good joke once in every one-hundred attempts. His favorite strategy with Jeff was to preface a request for money with a joke, which was almost always terrible.

"What's the plan this time, Z?"

Zeke paused for a moment before replying. Jeff figured he was trying to come up with a good way to word what was surely going to be another disastrous idea.

"Well I'll get to that in a moment, but have I ever told you how grateful I am that you support all of my ideas? I really mean that, you know. I'm just blessed to have a cousin that stands up and volunteers his help, you know? I feel like God, our praised Lord, has put you here-"

"Z, shut the hell up," Jeff interrupted. "You know I'm not a believer."

Zeke coughed nervously on the other end of the line. "Well, yeah, I know, it's just, well..."

"What, Zeke?"

There was a silence on the other end, and Jeff could hear Zeke's whispered voice humming just below his hearing range. A resonating bass voice answered from the background, and Jeff swore that he could hear it echoing through the receiver.

"Um, Jeff? Could you stay on one second? There's someone here who wants to talk to you."

Jeff sighed loudly. "Zeke I REALLY need to be getting back to work. Who is it?"

"Hello, Jeffrey." The bass voice now boomed loudly and inconceivably clearly through the phone. "I've been watching you for a while now, and I have selected you to help your cousin Ezekiel build something for me."

Jeff pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it suspiciously. He looked warily around the office and then placed the receiver back against his ear.

"Who is this? Is this Scott Bakula? Because if this is about that one time at Applebee's, I did send a letter of apology. A very eloquent one, if I may say so."

"Um...no," the voice replied. "This is the voice of God."

Jeff's eye's widened and he was silent for a moment before bursting into uncontrollable laughter. He dropped the phone and fell from his swivel chair onto the unusually plush office carpeting. Tears of amusement fell from his eyes with breakneck frequency.

There was a brilliant flash of light, and a tall, stately, black gentleman with white hair and a white beard appeared in the walkway between Jeff's cubicle and his neighbor's. Jeff stopped laughing instantly, and he thought he felt a warm moisture growing in the crotch of his pants.

"Wha-?" Jeff stuttered as he tried to form words that weren't curses. He continued blabbering for a few more seconds before the gears in his brain finally meshed and he spit out, "You're really black?"

God shrugged. "Sometimes." His features suddenly shifted, and Jeff found himself face to face with a respectfully elderly Asian man with a silvery Fu Manchu and long goatee. "If I feel like it."

He reached a hand out to Jeff. "Stand up, Jeffrey. I've come to bring you to Ezekiel's home so we may begin our project."

Jeff self-consciously covered his lap with his right hand and reached out his left to take the offered hand of God.

"What exactly are you having us work on, sir?" Jeff asked.

God smiled and pulled Jeff to his feet.

"It's quite simple, Jeffrey. You're finally going to finance an invention that is going to work."
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Radiohead, House of Cards

Chatham Station: Fathoms

 
Water pushed up sideways,
blurred in the beer haze five deep,
fathoms and otherwise.
When she finally saw I ran,
tumbled as fast as I could on all fours
but turned the wrong way.
It's all I have left to build,
trample it down in layers
to try and cross the sea.
It's a blue I built single-handed,
filled in the lines with crayon
when acrylics were within easy reach.
So here's to another one gone,
when I reached out my arms and grasped air.
What's another six feet?
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Coheed & Cambria, Three Evils (Embodied In Love And Shadow)

Monday, April 5, 2010

My little bird in a cage

 
It was all posted up in bright colors, red and green and
yellow and orange, because nothing rhymes.
Bottled up until it spilled out, dribbling waterfalls.

Currents carried cables calling captains careless,
burned with laughter until the letter
was meaningless, hard sound from the back of the throat
that felt like choking. Boats were piloted
straight into the docks, splinter showers
weren't forecasted, wrong again Channel 4.
Too bad you clawed out and up, work heel
right through the ventricle, just to be
lied to and killed.
Love it though. Don't we all.
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Shins, Red Rabbits

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chatham Station: Past The River

 
Winds send water in ripples,
movements wonderfully tiny
but more sure of themselves
than I think I've ever been.
I watched the liquid wrinkle
until I saw her face appear,
beautiful, but unhappy, the
only way I can remember it.
Mine once, until it started
to decay, blank check signed
and bounced. Now I hunt for
a remedy, hopelessly, because
she is the only antidote. I
feel as though I'm standing,
blank stare blank mind, before
a hundred outlets at a power
station, and the only way to
come back, feel alive, is to
stick a fork in each one.
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek
(feat. Jay Electronica, J Cole, Mos Def), Just Begun

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Take to the deep

 
This started as something bigger - and perhaps it will end up bigger at some point - but for now it is an interesting little 50-word doohickey. If you want to see more great 50-word stories, head over to 50 to 1.
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The saltwater frothed slightly at my waist as I turned in circles, as if I expected to start a whirlpool and go spinning around into orbit in the middle of the Atlantic. I stopped rotating and started thrashing back and forth. "Spin cycle," I muttered. "I'm a goddam washing machine."
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Third Eye Blind, Anything

Monday, March 29, 2010

When everything else is gone

 
The match lit in a flash of sulfur and red phosphorous, and Andy held it to the cigar in his lips for only a moment before throwing it haphazardly toward the pile of dead sticks and cardboard boxes amassed at his feet. The heap quickly combusted, throwing a grotesque shadow of Andy onto the wall behind him. He stepped back and enjoyed the situation for just a moment, taking a deep drag of the cigar and feeling the steady heat of the flames.

He exhaled a long cloud of smoke and limped out of his living room, past the bedroom where he and his wife used to make love and past his daughter's room. He stopped at the back door and turned to face back down the hallway, puffing steadily on the cigar as he ran his hands down the wallpaper he had installed when he and Sheila had moved in here.

Andy shook his mind clean and left the house, shivering at the transition from warm house to cold winter air. He stepped out on the concrete landing and turned to close the door. His hand grasped the doorknob, but refused to push the portal shut.

Andy's mind went berserk at his sudden hesitation, and he gritted his teeth and fought with all his strength to regain control of himself and force his arm forward. He looked up into the house and saw the orange glow of the growing conflagration leaping down the hallway toward him in bursts of furious hunger, lapping up the crown molding at the base of the ceiling and the picture frames hanging from the walls.

He flashed back to the wreck, the ambulance crew carting away their mangled bodies in zipper bags like leftovers. They picked him up, body perfectly still, and placed him on a stretcher to be taken to the hospital. He remembered feeling the signals, the abnormal spark-up coursing toward him like a shark sensing blood in the water, and then he remembered waking up full of holes, hospital administered and otherwise, and crying for two days.

Andy's parents washed and dressed him the morning of his court date, his father basically carrying him to and from the car before his mother got the wheelchair out of the trunk. They took away his license and sentenced him, though he didn't comprehend it until he could walk again three months later.

Andy wrenched himself back to consciousness like the paramedics had yanked shards of sheet metal out of his body, and it hurt almost as much. The flames were bursting out the windows now, and he could feel the warmth billowing down the hallway toward him in waves. He spat out the cigar.

He turned and looked toward the garage behind him. He could almost see the wreck sitting there, shredded metal and plastic spiraling in controlled insanity at deadly angles. Blood was everywhere, dripping from the car's broken pillars and pooling with shards of glass on the asphalt.

A particularly scalding blast of air hit him in the back, almost knocking him over, and then he heard and felt the explosion as the gas stove blew, catapulting wood splinters and drywall remnants in every direction.

He stared at the flames gathering in the hallway before him, and his hand finally relaxed and came off the doorknob. He stepped back into the house and walked straight through the flames. They tore at his clothes and hair as though there was nothing else combustible in the house. He stopped into the living room and stared at the ceiling. He wondered when the house would start collapsing in on itself.

He decided to wait and find out.
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Incubus, Nebula

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Add up what they subtracted

 
When I awoke on Thursday morning I wrapped the world in cellophane, desperate to preserve what was left of its dignity. I had to swing the meager plastic sheet around six times because The Empire State Building kept poking holes in my progress.

I peered through the mass of stretchy material. My view was slightly muddled by the multiple layers' clashing wrinkles, but I could still clearly make out crowds of people gathering in squares, schools emptying into playgrounds and freeways jammed with traffic as people gathered in the first-ever worldwide rubbernecking event.

The news media went wild. Glenn Beck warned America that this was the result of the spread of Progressi-facism, a new hybrid ideology he had created in the shower this morning. Jon Stewart made fun of me and had his design team create a graphic that showed me as a middle-aged woman browsing the paper products aisle in ShopRite.

I stared at humanity's loud confusion and listened to its wide-eyed misunderstandings of the situation.

"It's the apocalypse!" shouted fanatics across the globe.

"Shut up, it's probably some really weird science thing we haven't discovered yet," skeptics replied.

They argued for days. They theorized for weeks. They mourned the end of the world for months. They did it all, and they did it loudly.

I turned on my sound machine, careened into bed and waited for them to run out of air.
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Modest Mouse, The World At Large

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reading tomorrow!

 
- The Broad Set Writing Collective @ The Inkwell Coffee House, 665 Second Ave, Long Branch NJ
- Starts at 7:30 & ends at 9:00.
- Come out and experience emerging authors reading fiction, poetry & prose. Partake in our world famous grab bag! Take home a magazine. Enjoy some good food and meet Andrew Kaspereen in person.

Should be an exciting time, with readings by most of The Broad Set crew, if my memory serves me correctly. Hope to see a lot of people there!

Chatham Station: A Tunnel

 
It's every morning, I said
over breakfast, tossed and turned.
Platform littered with humanity
dragging by suitcases, briefcases,
head cases. You're one of them,
you know, nose upturned and
fork mid-dredge in eggs,
yolk runny like soaking sunlight,
I told myself. I was right.
Morning,
six-seventeen
bound for
wherever.
Heard horns,
saw but
couldn't reach
a blue hand
out to her.
Wanted to
spring up,
but glue
held strong.
Settled for the words' consolation,
theme park ride for those
who couldn't get off their surface,
dance to love. Stuck rigid instead.
Wanted to dive, roll down cylinders
after her, broad portals held open to
bring me somewhere new.
Sighed and threw a line to fish
for something bright, the lustrous way off.
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Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Eagles, New York Minute