Archive for October, 2012


cattle royale

The lady from the Himalayan Institute Neti Pot Demo video rises to greet the sun each morning, giving thanks while reflecting the orb’s subtle, austere beauty back to it in equal measure as it climbs in the grapefruit-colored sky. Her placid expression remains fixed even as her morning coffee scalds her lips, tongue, and esophagus. The discomfort of this world is only temporary, an obstacle to be overcome, she thinks to herself. She returns inside to complete the rest of her morning rituals, basking in the tranquil southwestern colors of neutral sand tones, muted terra cotta reds, and vibrant Taos blues to undertake each of the day’s tasks. Her mind is at peace, secure in the knowledge that using distilled or filtered water, not tap water as had once been commonly practiced, to irrigate her sinuses reduces the risk of amoebic infection while keeping her breathing passages clear. From there she goes on to work, where her pastoral demeanor soothes her co-workers and blesses the office with calm. They view her as a leader, universally admiring her unflappable approach to even the most formidable challenges, even as they find it difficult to bond socially with her at times. Her cubicle sits adjacent to the lunch room, as she alone can muster discipline enough to cope with the nauseating smells that emanate from the microwave in an unbroken stream from 11-1, soldiering serenely on among the fumes of tuna noodle casserole or saag paneer, and at odd intervals on those afternoons when Bryan from accounting makes popcorn. He never, ever doesn’t burn it. It is no surprise, then, that when the gods voice their displeasure for their iniquities, that the high priest would approach her as a candidate for a blood sacrifice to appease their wrath, so that they might end the years of famine and pestilence. It is not necessary to bind her. She climbs onto the platform with stoic courage, silent and strong like a reed resisting the wind, resolute not to betray any emotion before the grieving lookers-on as she is lowered into the volcano.


battle of the network sycophants

Sgt. Jack McMaster leaned hard against the wall of the cold metal corridor for support as the alarms wailed. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of sand and cast it toward the opening at the passageway’s end to make sure no web of infrared trip wires lay waiting for him ahead. His path cleared, he proceeded forward, his blood-filled left boot making a sickening squish sound with every stagger toward the white light beyond. Suddenly, the sound of frantic footsteps made him grasp reflexively for his weapon, as two terrified men wearing the black berets and fatigues of Lassiter’s militia sprinted past him into the hellish maze he had spent the last 30 hours navigating to reach this point. The pair were unarmed, having abandoned their submachine guns along with their loyalty to Lassiter in the chaos that reigned in the minutes since McMaster shut off the base’s reactor core. He didn’t even bother killing them; this close to his mission’s culmination, he had to conserve not just his strength, but his bullets.
At the mouth of the hallway, he made quick work of the two swiveling guns on either side of the entrance to the control room and entered cautiously, his M-16 trained on the back of the chair at the room’s center as he advanced up the steps toward it. A faceless voice greeted him.
“Welcome, McMaster. You’re right on… time.” Behind him, a clock three stories high counted down the few minutes remaining until Lassiter’s lunar-mounted heat ray was set to melt the Golden Gate Bridge, Great Sphinx, and Big Ben simultaneously. The chair rotated slowly until McMaster found himself finally face to face with the international criminal mastermind.
McMaster, having never seen Lassiter in person before, was caught off guard by his visage. The black and white photos given him in the classified documents had all been from the neck up, failing to disclose the fact that Lassiter was maybe four foot nine. The small man’s feet dangled above the floor as he struggled a bit to push himself out of the chair.
“You’ll find your carbine quite useless here in this electromagnetically sealed room, my friend,” Lassiter hissed. McMaster pulled his trigger futilely, then cast the rifle aside. It clattered on the steel floor, its firing pin disabled by the infernal interfering force field. “If you are to stop my plan from unfolding, I’m afraid you’ll have to kill me with your bare hands.”
“No problem, asshole. A quick death is too good for you,” McMaster spat as he cracked his knuckles in anticipation. The battle-hardened commando’s prodigious biceps gleamed with sweat, but as he got closer, he found himself hesitating. “You even weigh a hundred pounds, small fry?”
“Ninety-one, to be precise,” Lassiter crowed. “I suppose after singlehandedly killing your way through 200 of my best men, outsmarting my robots, and braving my secret lair a mile under the earth’s surface, crushing a gnat as tiny as me would prove most… unsatisfying, wouldn’t it?”
McMaster paused. “What is this, some kind of trap?”
“Now why would I do something like that? I’m sorry if I prove to be an unworthy challenge,” Lassiter wheezed as he pushed his thick glasses up on the bridge of his nose for like the fifth time in the last minute. “Though it hardly seems a good use of all those muscles to just kill me, wouldn’t you say? You probably wouldn’t even break a sweat. Hell, I don’t even think I could hold my own in a fight against a seventh grader.”
McMaster ruminated briefly and checked the clock. He only had a few precious seconds left. Had he really hot-wired a tank, wriggled through hundreds of feet of razor wire-lined air ducts, and cauterized his own wounded thigh with a blowtorch, just to complete his task by exerting less effort than would be required to tear a sheet of paper? Somehow it no longer really seemed worth coming out of retirement for anymore. Lassiter looked as if he might collapse under the weight of his own clothing at any time.
“Look, McMaster, you’re as big as a goddam grizzly bear. What is disposing of me with a single punch gonna prove, when just breathing on me too hard would probably leave me spending the next year in a full body cast?”
“I hate to admit it, you son of a bitch, but you’re right. Got anything around here that’s a bit more man-sized?”
“Sure. You really want to be a hero, see if you can lift that big heavy garage door,” Lassiter said, pointing to the only obstacle preventing him from reaching his escape pod.


they came to the city five years ago looking for the best oatmeal cookies on earth. they left with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a lesson in how to survive in an old man’s dungeon

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been, well, too many days to count since my last confession. I accuse myself of the following- listen Father, I have a lifetime of regret to atone for; would you mind if I just talk for a minute? Thank you. I knew from the time I was young that something was wrong in my soul. Fear of hurting my dear mother kept me in line while I was growing up, but something happened once I became a man and found myself surrounded by temptation. I first compromised myself when my co-workers in another department gave me donuts in exchange for information to help them come up with funnier nicknames for co-workers in my department. As I advanced within the company, I became addicted to power, chasing the twin false idols of wealth and pride, selling off my soul a piece at a time to achieve these futile goals. I crushed my enemies, holding hostage the only existing recording of Don’t it Feel Super Nice, the 1983 album which comprises the entire discography of my division manager’s smooth jazz band, until he found room in the fiscal year 2009 budget for a massage chair. I discarded people once they ceased to benefit me, often employing derision and ridicule to assert my power over them. On one such occasion, I publicly berated, as is my custom immediately before I fire someone, my elderly secretary for ordering me a sandwich with a simply unacceptable amount of mayonnaise on it. As a crowd gathered, I grew more detailed and elaborate in my impression, even going so far as to borrow one of her scarves and draw a keypad on a banana with a Sharpie to mock her aged voice answering the phone. Justice was served me that day as I, drunk on their adoration, ate the banana to wild applause in that classic prim, Gertrude style as she ran crying from the room. My subordinates’ peals of laughter became shrieks of terror as I fell to the ground, a victim of the acetone from the marker, which had been absorbed into the banana through its peel. Though the doctors said it was likely a hallucination from the poisoning, I was visited by an angel and resolved to turn my life around. The results, well, you see them before you: a humbled but happier man wearing a $40 suit and passing out pamphlets for his new religion. Well, I’d better let you get back to work, the line behind me is getting pretty long. Apparently your “Beef and Cheddar Melt” is very popular. Oh, and thanks for letting me ordain you earlier. Where’s your bathroom?


this time i’m gonna drink the entire bottle of steak sauce

Yeah buddy, don’t buy into that crap about Superman being the so-called “Last Son of Krypton”- I believe our run-in a few years back with a fella named General Zod debunked that pretty thoroughly, wouldn’t you say? Course, you won’t hear any mention of that in our town’s selectively amnesiac, blatantly pro-Superman media. Buy you a drink? Yeah, like I was sayin’, he wasn’t the only one to make it off that rock and land on earth, there are others out there. Like, for example, keep this to yourself, but uh, yours truly. Just cause I’m not a big showoff- yeah, sweetie, two of those, and could you put an umbrella in mine? On my tab; name is Superbman? Thanks, doll- some of us choose to keep it under the radar, you know? Course, I have on occasion made a few bucks on the side appearing as the big fella at rich kids’ birthday parties. After the plant closed down, I charged $300 just to do a flyover, and from that far away the kids can’t tell a genuine forehead curl from one drawn on with shoe polish. Not to brag, but one time I got a cool grand for a girl’s quinceañera. Pretty straightforward gig- land in the yard, shake a few hands, wave and fly off- so I figure as long as I keep my mouth closed when I smile for the photos it’s easy money, but it was right in the middle of July and I thought I was gonna pass out from holding in my stomach that long. Of course, the assholes on Metropolis city council put a stop to that. Typical; they just want to sweep me under the rug and make me go away, like I’m Roger Clinton or something. In an secret midnight session they crammed through this measure to forbid me from ever using my powers, passing it by unanimous vote without even bother to read my statement that I have never abused my x-ray vision while pretending to read a magazine on a bench at the mall specifically chosen for its unique vantage point of the dressing rooms at Coldwater Creek, which is more than I can say about certain key to the city recipients I know. So unfair. Before the accident, my heat vision-seared buffalo wings were famous. Now, my wife won’t talk to me for a week because nobody came to our Super Bowl party, which was also gonna be the debut of our new, rebuilt kitchen. This court-ordered kryptonite ring custom made for me by the nice folks at Jostens may look good, but it takes me a few extra cups of coffee to get going in the morning, and lately I’ve had kind of a weak stream when I urinate. Their golden boy’s got them in his back pocket while I’m getting the shaft. Course, that didn’t stop the powers that be from crawling back to me the next time they were in a jam. Yeah, pal, how else you think Superman was singing with Michael Buble on a float at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while simultaneously flying over the Daily Planet Turkey Trot 5K race?


yawn solo

“Actually, I suspect the future will in many ways resemble the world of the Jetsons, but while also containing aspects of the world of the Flintstones,” the mysterious academic elucidated before his rapt audience. “For example, flying cars seem practically an inevitability, but it is conceivable that due to water scarcity, people as soon as the year 1995 could very well be bathing in the spray from an elephant’s trunk.” Who was he? She found something magnetic about him, and she was hardly alone. Two palpable elements permeated the Upper East Side penthouse soiree that evening, with the charisma of the newly published psychiatrist Dr. Albert Elias a slightly greater presence in the air than the garishly dressed guests’ cigarette smoke. Later that week, she scheduled a lunch date with the party’s host to ask her confidentially if the doctor was seeing new patients. A card with a phone number on it came across the table.
The terse woman that answered her call placed her name, Janet Bonneville, on a waiting list and told her not to expect a call for another eight to ten months. Janet, who didn’t usually have many phone calls, asked her roommates to make sure and give her any messages from Dr. Elias’ office and in the intervening time attended a few of his lectures. By sheer coincidence, a few weeks later they both happened to be exiting art exhibitions next door to each other simultaneously, each hoping to beat the rain. Dr. Elias gallantly offered the first approaching cab, but upon hearing lightning strike a few blocks over, she suggested they split it. On the ride across the park, she told him she was a prospective patient of his.
“Don’t waste your time, my dear,” he told her flatly. “My psychiatry practice is a sham. The primal scream therapy I methodize is only a front for my lucrative career as a talent scout for local bands and horror movie casting directors.”
“How shall we stay in contact then?” She asked, surprising herself with her boldness.
“Let us leave for Europe tomorrow,” he said.
“Silly, I have work in the morning,” she laughed, believing he had been kidding.
“Call them in the morning and tell them your grandmother is dead.”
“Lie to them? Oh, I’m afraid I couldn’t.”
“Is it a lie? Are both your grandmothers living?”
“No, but..” she laughed again, this time not quite as confidently. Though these signs of unpredictable behavior made her feel a bit uncomfortable, he had an undeniable appeal.
The cab stopped at a light and she made a point of breaking her gaze, looking out her window to spy a ridged bank of soaking wet leaves under a tree across the street before turning back to him. In Iowa, her father had forbade Janet and her siblings from playing in the hip-high mountains of leaves they raked this time of year, insisting they burn them in a steel barrel immediately after collecting them. Pile of leaves after a rain might have a snake in it.

October 2012
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