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18 November 2007

Leroy orders a turkey sandwich on wheat

Leroy slobbers. The sandwich set before him transcends food – this is a masterpiece. His starving eyes devour the thick slices of crispy bread. A meaty red tomato slice contrasts with the crisp green lettuce leaf but blends into the folds of pale pink turkey breast. Admiration restrains him from nibbling yet – and the man at the other end of the sandwich shop watching – and the dirt he notices beneath his fingernails when he goes to grab the delicacy. He darts to the restroom and sanitizes – he’d hate to debase such a miraculous meal.
Leroy returns to his table. Hey, kid. That’s a pretty spectacular sandwich you’ve got there. How about you let a poor old man take a bite? That man now hunches across from him – he must’ve snuck there while Leroy washed up. He reeks of steaming Porta-John and wears a wardrobe reminiscent of landfill. A halo of fruit flies orbits his matted crown. Leroy recoils. The man smiles.
Oozing sores dot his slimy worm lips, which unzip into a mutilated semi-circle. They frame his remaining teeth set in decaying white and brown gums. These teeth. They’re fuzzy. And yellow. And green. Through the hole where his two front teeth and left eyetooth aren’t, Leroy spies a geographic green-pink tongue enveloped by a milky white film. The man licks his lips with it and slurps. How about it? I’m so hungry, kid. I haven’t eaten in a couple days!
Guilt battles disgust in Leroy’s conscious like the warm smell of his sandwich scuffles with the man’s stench in his nostrils. Anything to get him out of here! He compromises. Well, okay. The man’s eyes pop and his jaw cracks as he reaches two arthritic hands toward Leroy’s dream. Long thick fingernails scrape at the toasted perfection as he draws it toward his cesspool mouth. A pearly strand of saliva stretches as he opens wide. Leroy looks away, and the man chomps down. Nearly a quarter of the sandwich vanishes. Thanks! That was amazing. Best sandwich I ever had! The man’s mouth overflows with semi-masticated delight. Leroy squints, repressing vomit. No problem. The man sets the sandwich back onto the plate and gestures toward it. It’s all yours, kid. He scuttles out of the shop.
Leroy gapes at the desecrated work of art: all smooshed and drenched in drool, and can only force a soft moan through his esophagus. Leroy’s eyes water as he stares. Bolts up and runs to the restroom, bends over a toilet and pukes. Again, he returns to his seat, but this time the man isn’t there – just the sloppy carcass of his lunch. Grabs the plate, he races to the garbage and chucks it. Explodes expletives and escapes the prison where he lost a chance at true gastronomical satiation.

10 October 2007

Oral Hygiene (Or: How to become a Literary Success!)

The worst type of writer is the Instant Hit, reflects Albert brushing his teeth. He spits, rinses and smiles. Elaborates no further on his profound revelation, satisfied with this stand-alone statement. Albert writes beginnings of stories. Takes pride in his conciseness. Brushes his teeth until his gums bleed waiting for the rest of the world to catch on. His prolific work consists of volumes of disjointed one-liners that he thought up while taking a shit or in queue at the movies. A fortune-cookie philosopher. In fifth grade he learned the value of mystery and, a true fundamentalist, took the lesson to heart. Since then he’s refused to write more than a paragraph, Let the reader wonder what happens.
Deirdre can’t decide whether it’s laziness or genuine artistic merit that drives Albert’s abruptness. She crouches in the corner of his room and leafs through one of his manuscripts, trying to imagine ends to a couple of Albert’s beginnings. But Deirdre’s not a writer – she can’t transcribe abstract ideas into widely understood signifiers. Why do you do it? She asks and turns another page. But he keeps brushing his teeth. She falls back into those short-striped pages and tries to understand Albert’s art.
He brushes harder. Now he realizes that eventual recognition will warrant his death. Navigates the freeway and sideswipes a semi-truck. Watches his body ejected through the windshield; upward toward the grandeur he’s dreamt of his whole life. Adoring fans flock to the scene – They suddenly understand! Or at an annual checkup the doctor discovers he’s ill with an incurable strain of tuberculosis (like many Great Writers before him). He suffers through the illness of passion and bids farewell to the world with a virgin white kerchief stained crimson fluttering from his fingers. The more dramatic his death the more famous he may become. Once my work becomes finite!
Now Deirdre’s overcome by terrible pain in her head. She strains to appreciate Albert’s staccato stories! The gentle swish of his toothbrush grates her brain like a block of Parmesan. She clutches, squeezes and oozes it from between her shaking fingers. What a mess she makes –
gray matter splatters the ground, staining some of Albert’s volumes. She crumples then in that corner but Albert will notice nothing.
He brushes still, his mouth dripping red. Postulating the perfect death to turn him into a gradually recognized classic.

The lowest class: A diatribe

Beware of the homeless. The lurching leeching poor infect the streets and prey upon our children. They siphon our hard-earned tax dollars into their welfare hands. Spending food stamps like Monopoly money at the local diner – disdainful ungrateful sons of pushers and prostitutes. Smell sour like sun-dried ketchup and sweat as they ravage our garbage seeking empty cans to support their alcoholism. Inhuman. Freaks. They destroy our downtowns with their perverted and pervasive personalities. They must be decimated!
Like Leon the cart-pusher. The collector. He gathers scraps to carry on. Even the bridge of his greasy nose balances piled-high pairs of glasses separated by a square of paper towel (layering is in style!). Leon traverses town daily shoving that cart – or hoists a shiny black garbage bag over his shoulder. Sports gray-blue sweat shorts with a small hole over the ass that reveals a pink peek of commando flesh. On the hottest days of summer he wears his black winter jacket with the hood up and drawstring tied. He babbles aloud – but nobody listens (not even he) – about turquoise raccoon and Bethlehem and silver drupes, squidly balloon. Leon smiles and reveals his two moldy teeth, separated by grapefruit-pink gum. Santa won’t return those chompers. He carts around downtown between the shelter’s great breakfast, lunch and dinner specials (God Bless the Free Market!).
Then Dennis zips by in his motorized wheelchair and parks beside an unsuspecting girl. He twists and slips his quadriplegic hand into the back pocket of his seat. Grabbing the laminated sheet printed with information, he points to his name and then to himself with stuck-shut hands – a graphic introduction. The sheet is full of useful words. His family’s names and dates of birth. Yes. No. Thank You. The alphabet and zero through nine. He seeks out the innocent girls. Pulls up beside them and spells out his tragedy about the seventeen year-old drunk driver who put him in the chair and the lawyer-father who helped the kid escape a sentence. I was supposed to die three times, he points. He spells about his complicated birth and Vietnam. Poor-speller-story-telling Dennis can’t laugh anymore (on account of the accident). But he gets excited sometimes and releases a blood-curdling squeal from his open-mouthed grin that scares away most girls already terrified. Oh look! An anthill! The girls exclaim and sprint in an opposite direction.
Dejected Dennis wheels off defeated past John the ex-computer programmer. He used to earn a hundred thousand dollars a year. But he blew it all on fancy cars and the multiple mothers of his many children. Squats every Tuesday beside the hot dog girl in front of the Federal building. Tells her she’s got dreamy eyes he’d like to kiss. Charms passersby and wistfully recounts better days. His tired black eyes droop as he smirks and laughs. They call him Uncle John. He’ll hook any brother up. That’s his side job – an entrepreneurial pharmacist. His main avenue of income comes through the mail to compensate his service to the United States of America during ‘Nam.
He talks about the war with his buddy, Doug the white-collar criminal, a convicted felon who discusses gonzo journalism and public radio. Makes his money as a lab rat since he can’t get hired anyplace else. Lives with other vets in a house just outside of downtown. He’s a broken man with parts missing. Like his eyeteeth (whose absence becomes instantly apparent to those he engages in conversation) and a snippet of his left ear. He complains of PTSD and raves about the latest book he’s finished (as an avid reader and member of the public library). Shows off a dated photograph of his daughter. Looks with yearning eyes at the picture he still carries in his wallet of his ex.
Just look at them – the scum! We want nothing to do with them – herpetic sores on our pristine community. Pussy ooze. Avoid them at all costs for they are heart- and soulless creeps who want to eat your baby. Think twice before surrendering that quarter.

An unfortunate family reunion

A nasty bout of homesickness overtook Evelyn, and she couldn’t recover that nauseating omen lingering in her abdomen. So, succumbing to the condition, she dropped all previous plans and battled through traffic back to her hometown. She burst, delirious, through the door. Saw a blotchy-faced family and the illness spread throughout her body. They cried It’s bad blood! A (we hope temporary) death sentence for her father. It makes no sense! They wept in unison. He’s feeling better than ever before. She looked skeptically at her newly defeated dad. Surrendered disbelief and squeezed him tight, sobbing into his sunken shoulders. Soon as she recomposed, daughters and mother rushed him to the hospital. Morbid Evelyn recited a eulogy silently and watched with eyes like tomato slices as a blind bottle-blond nurse stabbed at father’s veins. Together they cursed the patriarch’s toxic circulatory system.
They left late with reluctance and returned the next morning. Kept him company before the doctors pierced a port through his chest. I’m a tough guy. Whimpered sick and dying (at least for now) father. The telephone lines swelled with condolences and well wishes. Pots of pasta accumulated in the refrigerator from well-meaning outsiders but the girls back home (mother and daughters torn from their husband and father by that damned disease that translates like a death sentence) couldn’t even bring themselves to lift the fork.
For the first time in young Evelyn’s life, her father’s existence had proven transitory (just like hers, but she was too young yet to realize outside of isolated incidents late at night when she’d mourn her own mortality). She repented remembering too many occasions in which she’d declined his invitations to quality time, grieved the movies they never saw together and art galleries never visited. And mid-yearn she coughed. I’m sick! She gasped, and so she couldn’t visit her much sicker father – into whose body the doctors pumped a barrage of chemicals intended to murder his malevolent marrow.
Family from both coasts and both sides flew in. They’d planned their trips for a birthday celebration, but instead took the opportunity for a last visit. What an unfortunate family reunion! After the hospital, they went to the State Fair and pretended they didn’t think of that hourglass they’d seen in their father-husband-uncle-brother-in-law, or the complications that’d come when (if!) time ran out. At night, they played with their dinners and swallowed sleeping pills for dessert, exchanging sad smiles and passing out in their respective rooms not before praying for a positive prognosis.
When they said goodbye, they hoped it wouldn’t be their last. And sure enough, after only four weeks (hellish, though, for him, all chemoed in the hospital!) father came home, feeling bald but fine. All rising action and resolution, Evelyn smiled, Life is not literature.

28 March 2007

Gender Neutral

Mel swore off personal pronouns the day after the orgy. Sank into the couch beside Syd, and Syd noticed definitive jewelry – an indicator of possibility. Licked lips and sat together, locked eyes in the diner a day later and anticipated new beginnings; even ditched Significant Other for Adorable Blond. Something stewing inside Mel finally exploded and the truth blustered out. So long, pronouns! Shouting and dancing, fist pumping and grinning, Mel held Syd’s hand, walked together down the street.
But maybe Mel decided to abstain after the acid. Could’ve expanded Mel’s constricted horizons, broadened the expanse of possibilities, twisting Mel’s mind until pronouns turned cliché. Or maybe after the mushroom trip – a night of total dependence, the first night to realize any embrace would do. Or the ecstasy? The couple lines sniffed up on New Years. Felt desirous toward Chris, then, and then again with the alcohol.
Remember that time in Alex’s bathroom? Syd sets a hand on Mel’s knee and rubs up to high-thigh. Eyes narrow and hungry pupils glimmer. Feeling lusty, leans to lay the wet one, and Mel’s eyes glaze. Little green donuts.
A memory settled into moldy pillows and dirt-caked armchairs: a sweet mildew cavern. Mel and Syd leaned against the walls and sat in opposition. Busted out the beers and, of course, Mel sighs, so begin all love stories. A group of guests showed up, and in no time had checked out – thanks much, delightful drink. And soon, Mel and Syd had taken the mattress, and the onlookers kindly left the impromptu couple. All but the little mouse passed out in the chair beside. Will wake up and see, whispered Syd. To the bathroom?
Whether the two feasted fish or sausage in the sewage love-room remains a mystery, for Mel’s finished with pronouns. Wonders about the jokes made earlier in the year – laughs about the bathroom, and the two separate doors. Decides against settling on a skirt or boxers. Kisses Syd’s lips. Sweet androgyny.

27 March 2007

A case for more cautious driving

Poor Opal. Late at night she wrong-turned and drove her sleek new Subaru into the depths of an industrial waste-lake. She had plans to meet her mom the next morning at the yoga shelter for an hour of repose, but never showed. (Corpses cannot hold an asana – unless rigor mortis catches them in the Lotus or Downward Facing Dog). Their next reunion would take place in the morgue, where her mother rested twitchy eyes on the bloated cadaver. Fuck.
Mourners flocked to the funeral home. Opal glimmered, set in a poplar case on lavender satin. Their wide eyes lingered, hoping she might wake. Her father stood at the entrance, greeted the incoming bereaved. Focused his filmy stare toward the room where he’d set his dead daughter and pumped the clammy palms of passers-by. Flashed his sullen smile and thanked them for their condolences. Her sister stumbled across the parlor consoling family, friends and strangers. And her mom disappeared – ghosted off like her eldest daughter. Couldn’t bare her blotchy face to the well-intentioned crowd. Newcomers entered on unsteady feet; then tiptoed into Opal’s room while the elevator music played. Stewed there for half an hour, small-talked with long-lost acquaintances. Wept as the sight of Opal’s cold body marinated in their minds.
Grief overtook the tiny place again when the throng returned for services. They packed in tight. Some friends from high school boozed up before – stood in back, hidden by a shroud of whiskey. Wouldn’t confront the death with straight heads. So they blended into the bolts of black cotton, lace and satin. Watched the whirling precession and battled their unsteady eyes handicapped by cathartic gulps of ethanol. Opal’s stoic sister stood first at the podium. Read her eulogy to the hysterical audience and didn’t tremble once. Read the thing like she’d practiced it since the day she first understood what sister meant.
Then Lula Rose collapsed. She’d felt sick since she heard about her friend’s fatal accident. Came back home from school just to say goodbye. But soon started choking on the thick air and felt woozy from claustrophobia. Sweat greased her neck’s nape and white patches marred her sight. Breathed heavy as her body shook. Looked past the rows of heads to her departed friend and would’ve folded in half, if not for those living bodies cuddled in so close to her. Wobbled through the cluster and past the threshold of Opal’s room and dropped at the foot of the stairs in the room next door. Plunged her head between her knees and sobbed. Sat back up and listened to the two eulogies that followed. A poem by a friend, and an advertisement for the yoga shelter, where Opal’d been working. Last, the priest babbled on for an hour about things that Opal had never paid mind to like Jesus and the priest’s daily schedule. Sounded like he’d gone with those high school friends before the funeral for a couple swigs. Lula Rose clicked her tongue. Thought about who she might like to speak at her funeral – probably would want to hold auditions. Poor Opal, thought Lula Rose. If only she had known.

Lester learns the benefits of sobriety

Imagine the surprise.
Lester awakens, shocked to feel Geraldine’s sweaty ass sliding slowly up and down his back as her bulbous body oozes over the edge of his twin bed. She rolls over and swings a queen-sized arm around her trembling lover. He surveys the floor with his crusted eyes for the evidential prophylactic. And there it lies, and he inhales and gags on the burnt-rubber stink that hangs in the air. Tries to recall last night’s romance, but Geraldine murmurs into his ear, This is the start of something beautiful, breaking his concentration.
She purrs and licks earlobe. He winces. Snores and mumbles, hopes Geraldine won’t realize he’s up. Her loving caress persists; twirls the hair around his nipple ‘til it’s a taut little string and pulls the wound-up whorl between her chubby fingers. He jerks. Didn’t realize you were awake, darling, she coos. So he snores louder now, only rousing her to exert more forceful love.
Shoves Geraldine off of the bed. Thinks, poor floor; that must smart. Props the door open and rolls her out, leaves her in a heap on the welcome mat. Slams the door and sighs aloud. Good riddance, Geraldine! But she calls in falsetto through the thick mahogany, See you soon, sweet Lester!
Three weeks prior, his resolute gestures of unrelenting rejection were all for naught. Couldn’t make it stick in that lardy brain of hers. Seven grandmothers died in vain; Lester’s purity could not be protected. Against the odds, Geraldine had busted through his belt with an alcoholic jackhammer. Nothing could stop that hurricane! And Lester’d been devastated by the unnatural disaster.
The building shakes as an enamored Geraldine skips home. Gorges herself with pancakes and ice cream and bacon. Daydreams between chews and supposes it’d be sweet to sew a stuffed toy for her darling. Fashions a bear out of felt and stuffs the little guy with condoms and candy. Puts a mix tape in his pocket and decides to drive back to deliver him to Lester. He hears the knock, but she’s disappeared when he answers – playing ding-dong bitch. All that’s left is that damned bear, loaded with lubricated promises. He hits his head against the doorframe. Throws the thing like a hand-grenade about to blow. Goddamnit Geraldine! It explodes on the pavement, leaking licorice and latex.
He tries to break things off a couple times but the thick girl stays smitten, giggles, Look at that Lester, playing hard-to-get! Clasps her hands and pulls them to her heart as she swoons.
At last straw, Lester hops a plane to Havana and hides in-hut all winter. Hopes Geraldine’s forgotten their night of passion like he has and refuses the piña coladas offered by locals. Lesson learned, laments Lester.