Archive for September, 2012


them strays

I punched a bully in the seventh grade. Twenty-two years later I remember it only occasionally, but when I do I can replay the whole thing in my head. My friends and I walked into the bathroom together during lunch, and this bigger kid from my math class was already in there. Not going to the bathroom or anything, just hanging out. He didn’t have lunch, I guess. One of our group said something to him and he responded by shoving me, the smallest, a few times. He had shoved me before earlier in the year, like numerous other bullies had since I had moved to that town, and I hadn’t done anything about it, so he didn’t expect me to punch him. But I did, though I never would have if I had had to make a conscious decision to do it. I was really surprised that it didn’t land that squarely; I had only ever punched my brother in the arm before that. The underside of my fist made contact with his cheek. Of all things, my thumb was what was sore afterwards. We wrestled for a few seconds, the sounds of our scuffle echoing off the cold tiles, and just as I thought I was starting to get the better of the bigger boy, he got a decent punch in and ran off.
That’s how I remember it happening anyway, but I know that that’s probably not what happened. Our memories don’t work the way we think they do, as evidenced by the four wildly divergent accounts of the fight, none of which made me look good, reported to the others seated at our table in the cafeteria while I remained in the bathroom to assess the stretched-out neck of my shirt. I didn’t cry, as one kid had said. Of course, there are no recordings to dispute or confirm my version of events. In fact, I’m probably the only person on earth who still remembers it. It’s only an approximation now, a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, faded and washed out in places where my own biases seeped in and refilled the blank spaces, then shoved aside by two decades of newer and mostly more pleasant memories. I know I eventually got better at fighting, but I don’t remember as much about any subsequent fistfights I was in, partially because alcohol was invariably involved. It’s weird what you remember. I distinctly recall a couple tiny moth-holes on this kid’s too-small blue sweatshirt, which I fearfully focused on while unable to muster eye contact as he was goading me on before, but even that specificity, so prominent to my mind, I wouldn’t swear by. There’s really only one detail of which I’m absolutely certain: that among the four other guys with whom I entered that bathroom, dressed though we were in the thin macho posturing of black t-shirts touting skateboard manufacturers and metal concerts, ripped jeans, and earrings, not a one stepped in to stick up for me.


more ralk, less tock

One afternoon this really good looking lady boarded the crosstown bus carrying a bag of groceries. Not to brag or anything, but I couldn’t help but feel a little flattered that among the three or four guys who had stood up to offer her their seat, she chose mine. Spying a small sliver of beige strap peeking out from under her green shirt as she sat down, I thought to myself, Oh man, what I wouldn’t give to trade places with that bra. Not wishing to be more of a creep than I was already being, however, I wrapped my elbow around the pole, returned to my book of intermediate level word find puzzles, got out at East 20th, and thought very little of the bus ride for the rest of my day. So, needless to say I was quite shocked to awaken the next morning to find myself being removed from a dresser drawer by this very same lady from the bus. My wish, albeit one that I had obviously not intended literally, had come true.
So I guess I’ve been at this whole bra business for about eight months now, and altogether it’s not a bad gig. To bring you up to speed, the lady’s name is Evie, and she’s a 33 year-old paralegal who’s originally from Eagle Rock Mountain, ID, but moved to the city after graduating from Bowling Green University in 2001. She’s a very nice lady. And if there’s a way to say this without being terribly crass, the cargo I’m charged with supporting is considerably more impressive than anything I could have imagined on the bus. I’m tellin you, friend. Absolutely breathtaking. Of course, not that I have any significant gripes, but there have been a few minor things I’ve had to get used to. For example, I realize it’s nothing personal, but admittedly it was a small blow to my ego to learn how eager she is to get rid of me at the end of a long day. I was definitely not prepared to spend this much time hanging on the bathroom doorknob; sometimes entire weekends. Plus, she’s got this one kinda itchy sweater that I’m not too keen on. Fortunately she doesn’t wear it too often, but it is difficult for me to stay properly focused on the otherworldly soft, supple flesh on the inside of the cup when I’ve got this abrasive, grating sensation on the outside that can only accurately be compared to fiberglass or steel wool. There’s also the matter of her boyfriend. If I had eyes, I swear I would roll them every time this doofus fumbles with my hooks in the back. He just doesn’t seem to get any better at it, when just the slightest bit of, you know, effort? would make all the difference. Ugh, what an idiot. The fuck kind of name is “Greg,” anyway? Also, as I get to know Evie better, I find myself wishing she had purchased me after a professional custom bra fitting instead of at Sears. Yeah, I realize it’s a little more expensive, but she’d be so much more comfortable and maybe a little less likely to slouch. Overall though, I can’t complain. Hey, nobody expects every minute of every day to be spent gratefully absorbing delicious, lightly fragrant underboob sweat, right? I’m not sure exactly what the long-term future holds, though it seems like the best case scenario involves me getting shredded and reused as eco-friendly home insulation, but until then I’m just going to live in the moment and enjoy the ride, because it truly is a privilege. Surprisingly, my enthusiasm has not dimmed in the slightest the whole time I’ve been on the job so far; if anything, I’ve actually gotten more devoted. In fact, if I had it to do over again, I guess the only thing I’d change is maybe to have instead turned into a pair of her drawers.


old sea trick

Beset on all sides by surveillance, usually from the cops, but increasingly the work of rival syndicates looking to get the jump on a competitor, the ancient track suit-clad mobsters each took seats on separate city paratransit service shuttles to the senior activity center. They arrived 45 minutes early to assure themselves a seat on the first row, used aliases on the sign-in sheet, and took copious notes. By the time an hour had passed, the hoary capos had passed Accessing the Internet for Nonagenarians and now had their first e-mail addresses (not including the forgotten Hotmail account Freddie Eyeglasses’ granddaughter Karen tried to set up for him in 1997), a rudimentary grasp of how to type things into search engines, and a new way to covertly communicate.
The elegant simplicity of the plan pleased even Benny False Teeth, who had seen everything in his seventy-eight years in the business, as he was shown the laminated cipher he would use to decode each encrypted message. Thanks to their inside guy at the paper’s editorial page, every crank e-mail from “aquemini_jammin”, “billandmargaret1965”, or “ultramarathondad” got published in the “From Our Inbox” sidebar in the “Local Views” page on 24A. A scathing screed regarding the ongoing pothole problem on the north side meant Arrozco was willing to do business, an evisceration of the zoning ordinance approved at the latest city council meeting signified the boss’ displeasure with the condition of the Barcaloungers from the truck Little Myron’s crew had knocked off, and a fair, reasoned argument for ending the war on drugs meant the consiglieri had given his approval of the new heroin supplier.
From there they moved on to emailing digital pictures to the local news, which would then be televised when the newscasters threw to commercial. The grizzled mafiosos called in an old favor to employ another mole, who made sure the pictures got broadcast at the appointed time. For example, a picture of a sunset at the five o’clock news alerted the Croatians that a shipment was in (a shot of the moon over the night city skyline at the eleven o’clock news meant something else entirely), airing during the second commercial break before the weather meant to take Golden State and the points, and nattily attired news anchor Melissa Jethcoate thanking “Calvin Middlebrook of Meadowlake” for submitting it indicated that the rat had been dealt with.
Emboldened by their success, the hyperannuated racketeers soon found themselves pissing away all their time online. With the money coming in so easily, perhaps it was inevitable they would get sloppy. The 12-18 score at the top of the video “Epic Pong Point!!!!” that Cousin Sal submitted to Youtube under the username “shrubzblazer666”, told them which storage locker at the marina the product was kept in. The first sign of trouble didn’t surface until the pickup man called Jimmy Sandpaper on his Jitterbug phone to report that the docks were swarming with agents.


if you can read this, the huge stuffed pokemon i won at the ring toss fell off

“Hey man,” the old timer wheezed. “You guys play any blues?” They saw he wasn’t really an old-timer once he got under the light; he was probably a couple years younger than their dads. They murmured a noncommital response and went back to packing up their equipment. He lit a cigarette, and in lowering his arms to his sides revealed in slow motion the Blues Fest t-shirt they all knew they were gonna see behind the ghastly pale limbs. Tattered and weathered, with a cartoon dog in a fedora above the headliners’ names from that 1998 summer afternoon where a younger, spryer version of this man had danced away a whole summer Sunday afternoon and evening, probably by standing in one place on the grass and kinda moving his arms a little bit so as not to spill his beer. Dr. John, Taj Mahal, Eric Johnson, all in Arnold Böcklin typeface. The residual suds slid down the inside of his empty mug as he set it on top of the stool beside Denis’ water bottle, then wiped his newly free hand on his black jeans before giving a tug to the brim of his Indiana Jones hat with a braided leather belt for a hatband. He looked elongated like a scarecrow, but his arms and legs were the only parts of him that were skinny. The guitar player Colin was the only real fat guy among the five of them. Before any of them could answer, but after several interminable seconds had passed, he began to answer his own question. “What was that one you did second from the end?”
“Menudo Desnudo?” Colin helpfully offered. Why the fuck not, nobody else under the purple and green lights was coming up to the stage. Behind the sparse crowd a banner with NFL team logos hung in front of the tinted black glass of the strip mall windows. The games of the 2009 season had been available for viewing here.
“Yeah, that one,” He kinda halfway stuck his chin in Colin’s direction. “Well, in the bridge of that song where you start out in G, that’s essentially a modified 16 bar blues progression you’re playing there. Every kind of music comes from the blues. There is no music more… soulful, you know? than the blues. The blues themselves, uh, it-self rather, has its roots in Negro spirituals and field songs.” It felt weird, maybe a little transgressive, for them to hear a white guy talking about this stuff, and they were glad he didn’t stay on that point before moving on. “Blues is universal. Country music? Blues. Rock and Roll? Black Sabbath? Blues. Even rap, you know?” The young men got real tense again. “Blues.”
He motioned up at the satellite radio rock station playing from the ceiling speaker. “Blues.” He cocked an eyebrow. “Ninth-century liturgical Gregorian chants? Blues.” He reached behind Damon’s ear and produced a half dollar, then upon inspecting it, croaked “Blues.” He picked his nose and ate it. “Blues.” He jumped behind the bar and started pouring drinks like in that movie Cocktail. “Blues.” People started to back away once they noticed he was getting bigger as he fed off their lifeforce, then they ran once he ripped a pay phone out of a wall. “Blues.” He blocked the exit with his tail. “Blues.” With his enormous insect-like claws he gathered toward his drooling maw his first human victim, who wriggled helplessly as the thing crushed him in its machine-efficient mandible before staring menacingly at the gathered others, who saw no glimmer of humanity in its huge convex silver eyes, only their distorted but terrified reflections staring back at them. They would watch themselves die tonight. Issued in a voice whose frequency was inaudible to human ears, they never heard their final sentencing, a single word.

September 2012