XCIX


T: “I’m sick and tired of this situation, constantly running around and spitting out rhetoric at every person I see, able-bodied or otherwise. Who knows, if they can’t perform daring feats on a high wire, that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to recruit that kind of talent.”

R: “What the hell are you yammering about? Tightrope walking?”

T: “Yes, tightrope walking. Some consider it to be vastly more important than the entire field of biology, you know.”

R: “Are you referring to the French family of wire walkers?”

T: “Well, they’re definitely included, but they’re certainly not the only ones who find the art of high-octane balancing to be more important than life itself. Believe me, there are a lot of them out there.”

R: “If by ‘a lot’ you mean a couple of dozen, then I’m sure you’re correct. Don’t go making this into a whole thing just to show how much you like tightrope walking–no, scratch that, spectating while others walk the tightrope.”

T: “A ‘whole thing’, you say?”

R: “Yes, hijacking the conversation to give you the upper hand, or what you think happens to be the upper hand, when in actuality you’re just yammering about something that probably came up in a dream, and you can’t tell the difference between dreaming and waking anymore. I mean, I haven’t seen you running around in years.”

T: “Maybe this did come to me in a dream. So what? Surely you’re not discounting the importance of dreams and their power to influence the waking world. I don’t have any examples of this, but I instinctively know that some of the best minds of all time made serious breakthroughs after having dreams and applying them to their lives.”

R: “Yeah, that’s how the periodic table was developed by Mendeleev. I happen to know that you’re not one of the best minds of all time, sorry to day. Just stick to your day job.”

T: “What an original witticism. Can you at least admit that you’re not much of a genius either? All you can seem to do is knock me down when I try to explore new scenarios.”

R: “Yeah, stupid scenarios.”

XCVIII


Cheech Marin’s “Born in East L.A.” Blares over the PA system, and the nuns—usually solemn, devout in their convent habits—bust moves across the cloisters, moving more freely than they’d ever thought was possible, all thanks to the new, improved, younger (more liberal) mother superior. Once known as a lover of music festivals, head shops and all things countercultural, a sobering incident left her placing her faith in something devoid of the frivolity she’d known and loved for decades. After a particularly draining assorted red wine bender in the dead of winter (mostly fueled by cabs and zins), she awoke to find herself facedown in the snow, left there by an even drunker person with no residual conscience. There wasn’t a bright light in the trees, just a tingling down the spine and a voice that rang clearly in her left ear, “give up the booze and drugs and shit and I’ll give you a higher calling, girl”. The only way she could conceive of going cold turkey was through the cloth. She figured God was pretty cool anyway, swearing while giving her directions, so why not just give it the old college try?

XCVII


Made to nobody’s specifications: one pair of britches
sewn by the CFO of a Fortune 500 company
while journeying through the Kalahari via camel
and drinking nothing but orzo for an entire weekend.

There is no price set for this garment,
The maker creates pieces during celebratory times
and gauges interest for them at animal charity galas.

Nobody at the Save the Moose Fund
could fit into these particular trousers, but
The Nerds for Birds Guild will have 435 guests
at their next function, and so many of them
have the skinny sandpiper legs this officer had in mind
during that trek under the maddening desert sun.

XCVI


Jarvis the penguin can fly
like a condor in his dreams—
though he’s never seen one—
and can’t separate that fantasy
from waking life, never once having
felt the heat of the Mojave.
His vaunted perspective
Is ludicrous to all the others
since his partner in crime
was eaten by a sea lion
going about its business
on an otherwise rather forgettable
St. Patrick’s Day.

XCV


Take an iguana and toss it at a tree
to see if it sticks.
If it manages to dig in its claws
and clamber up to the canopy,
much fortune will come to us in the future.

If it digs in its claws
and holds that position,
we will need to further ponder our next move.

If it misses the trunk with its claws
and sustains an injury, we then know
that our future will be full of failure
from which we must recover
before we lose our confidence.

If it misses the tree altogether
and lands on the shadowy ground,
that is the surest sign of them all;
we must make our decisions for ourselves
and forget the superstition
that made us throw the poor iguana
in the first place.

XCIV


Can you blame me for proceeding with caution? I see no alternative at this time, though might I recommend the steak frites? A lovely dish on Wednesdays—though not so much on Thursdays—that I highly recommend pairing with a Napoleon Complex (gin and vermouth with a splash of Beaujolais). You’ll sometimes miss the intricacies generally held within what would be considered a thoroughly metropolitan cocktail, but why should that worry you at all? Aren’t you one of those kids at heart who’ll eat half a hot dog out of the garbage can? Don’t deny it, I can see it in your eyes. Don’t worry, I’ll never direct any malice toward the average dumpster diver, even if I can’t figure out the motivation.

XCIII


Inside a silver suit of sun rays
perches a cardinal, lean and bright.
Nobody’s busted the window just yet;
there’s plenty of cold air to stream in
once the brick falls into place.
Dent the floorboard where it lands,
but you don’t even bother to pay, ya punk kid.
What do I gotta do here, huh? I can tell
you don’t know the value of great American currency.
This younger generation with their lack of attention spans…

XCII


Bring up the cheddar spritzer wagonmobile while you’re visiting the international squeegee convention (specifically when you’re in the sprout-laden wing). Surely a conversation of that quality can hold more meaning than all that jazz you keep mentioning. How much jazz could there possibly be, and why should it take precedent over this prestigious American institution? Yes, I know jazz is also a prestigious American institution, but that’s not the point of this conversation. I mean, it’s not like the world of jazz is expansive enough to take up so much valuable time. Well, actually, I’m not so sure of that anymore. The world of jazz is pretty big, but the point is: it’s not entirely all-encompassing if we were to measure it against the entire rest of the world. So put on your big boy pants and start talking shop with these bargain hunters, for the sake of this quarter’s squeegee revenues.

XCI


Food. Good grief, all this food. What do I look like, Charlie Brown? Good grief. Actually, scratch the good. Great grief. Grief suitable for the likes of The Great Gatsby. This food causes me so much grief that I will spit it out, 92% unchewed, in the face of the next person I see. No, I won’t do that. It will be 86% unchewed when I spit it. I need a good coating of saliva on my ammo before I can predict its path from my mouth to this innocent bystander’s face. It must be made clear that I have the skill necessary to sully a perfect stranger’s honor without making an ass of myself in front of the general public. The case may be made that I’ll make an ass of myself regardless of outcome, but I don’t want to make the mistake of being labeled an incompetent ass. It took me six years for my reputation to recover from the last time that happened.

XC


Tetris mongers sequester greatness behind their bold stares of indifference in the face of the ever-widening disposition that’s associated with glorified females of every genus, towards what good we do not know, though our key musicians tell us there’s a gypsy stalker walking among us. However long they stalk is a question for a time when birds speak as American tourists stealing glimpses at rarified monuments, disturbingly beautiful, the colors unpredictable, tanning corneas with a vigorous display of burning Monopoly money—green, blue, yellow and, of course, beige, the color of our omnipresent dominators who have become quite taken with keeping the poorer men down for whatever reason they can come up with on such short notice. As a result of this conditioning, the collective staff workers of these immoral superiors have become quite rebellious. For example, they should know to knock before entering the study, lest their tracheas burst from a cane to the neck as they turn around to shut the door they just opened a second ago while thinking, “you know, I probably should have knocked on that door, but he’s probably not in there anyway; at a boardroom, yes, but his study at ten thirty on a Tuesday morning is preposterous! And of course this comes on the heels of the day both my hands were severely broken from an unfortunate mowing incident. I was due to receive a pay raise, but instead had to settle for an extended hospital stay and a get well card.”

LXXXIX


As a somewhat absent-minded explorer of the written word, I developed a taste for writing down ideas in small notebooks that typically resided in my back pocket. I’d filled up several of these, left the rest of them mostly unfilled. I tended to review them all from time to time, never quite sure how to utilize those bits and pieces.

One day I decided to put all these tiny books in a tote bag and carry them around with me, thinking–perhaps foolishly–that traveling with all of them in tow would reveal some sort of grand scheme, and perhaps being in the world would lead to a breakthrough observation that could somehow link up with a scrap of material I’d already scrawled. I thought, somewhat romantically, that my quest for written enlightenment in the form of rifling through broken-in notebooks would draw the attention of a fellow traveler who would strike up a conversation about their passion, a conversation leading to a lifelong friendship, etc. etc.

Then, four days into my routine of meandering with all my potential nuggets, I got distracted on the bus and nearly missed my stop, running from my seat in the back to squeeze out the rear door. Thirty seconds after walking down a side street, I realized my bag was still on the bus. All those ideas that I should have capitalized on… too late for that, for those what-ifs. Honestly, I should have been more upset than I was, but I’ve always been more of a passive individual, especially since having mood stabilizers prescribed to me.

Now, stripped of my safety blanket, I had to start scrambling and starting my collection of creative fragments all over again, going strictly by what I could remember offhand. I thought doing this could serve as a litmus test, to weed out the inconsequential and narrow down the essential.

My favorite ideas were always fabricated scenarios that had nothing to do with my life, likely never to happen in this reality of ours due to some impossibility (a lot of the time involving animals or inanimate objects). I started recovering my potential next-great-American-novels with a simple list, and since I have your attention, here’s the tip of that iceberg for your entertainment, in no particular order:

A gorilla named Esperanto who can use sign language, but only in Spanish.

Three bank robbers who decide to split the money from their last heist to fund their distinct hobbies: spelunking, international espionage and latex glove manufacturing.

A musician who adopts a baby and forms a metal band after the child responds positively to that particular genre of music.

An extraterrestrial–or extrasensory–being who makes its thoughts available to only those whose minds operate on a certain wavelength, for the purpose of slowly assimilating alien thought into human culture.

A frisbee that hasn’t been used for twelve years, lying undisturbed in a storage unit and reflecting on its life while other objects in the unit share similar stories of neglect.

The list goes on and on, and I shocked myself at how well I could recall these (seemingly) trivial tidbits that could eventually lead to major motion pictures down the road. I’m still too lazy to develop any of them, but at least I have them back in my first of what I’m sure will be plenty more tiny notebooks.

LXXXVIII


Scan through the canopies during our manmade apocalypse and you’ll more than likely find a locust generator spitting out hordes of the motoring insects for just pennies on the dollar. The average (stone age) manual locust scatterer would charge you thousands to get a result this consistently irksome, and there’s no way they’re achieving the same kind of long-lasting effect.

Before now, the world has only known one way of releasing plague insects: letting loose a large number of the critters that have been purchased–or raised–and held captive for an indeterminate period of time while the planner of mischievous deeds prepares for the most opportune moment to let them wreak havoc on unsuspecting heathens.

The dark days of locust infestation are over, friends. The Loc-U-Matic 7900 synthesizes live locusts–eight hundred per minute–then agitates them enough to immediately provoke flight, sending our biblical six-legged friends out over that country club’s outdoor dining facilities, into the once-appealing mai tais and overly-dry vodka martinis that the patrons had no problem drinking for lunch.

LXXXVII


You were informed of the risks before getting on Marshal Dillon. He has a track record of bucking cowpokes, farmhands and tourists like you, a rap sheet as long as your arm. Broken arms, legs, necks, an assortment of deaths. On purpose? Nobody’s been able to ascertain this horse’s motivation; it’s as though the beast doesn’t even care about the carnage left in its wake. The big boss here at Gunsmoke Dude Ranch has a soft spot for him and refuses to take him out of the rotation, probably only because of the name. There’s been an undercurrent of corruption around here since the Reagan administration. You’re lucky you only lost your two front teeth, you know.

LXXXVI


Well, tell me something I don’t want to know about the state of our government, and you’re more than likely to get the ram’s horns. You won’t be getting them from me, I don’t have a ram’s horns at my disposal. I’m just saying, the universe has a strange way of balancing itself out. Anyway, what do you think I am, an Aries? You’ll find no fiery quadrupeds around me, trust me. I’m a Gemini. Last time I checked, neither of my twins had horns. One’s a small guy, about the size of Napoleon (not quite as egocentric, though pretty close), and the other’s the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro, hovering amongst the clouds and smiting the negative forces plaguing his little buddy. Together they form an unconventional superhero duo, ridding the planet of unbridled assumptions about the relationship between dogs and humans. Such a cause may seem arbitrary to the untrained observer, but rest assured, it shapes the entire scope of human existence (at least on this particular plane).

LXXXV


Heavenly bodies tend to move past one another on the road to stardom, or so they tell me. When I was a little boy, I saw a couple of heavenly bodies floating across the sky at a measured pace, nothing like the rudimentary flying machines our kind concocted as a way to skip over oceans and meet deadlines. These fiery points in the sky were playing with each other, bouncing around, up and down. Then they vanished, as though they knew I was enjoying their little game too much. Ever since then, I’ve been looking up to the skies for answers to the usual questions. “Why did the mayonnaise go bad before the expiration date?” “How are we going to figure out cold fusion, and does such a technology even make sense?” “Where did my dog go after he died?” Every time I look up there, I wonder if what I saw was just a figment of my imagination. I mean, I used to think there were miniature deer running around in my room at night during the Winter, scraping at the carpet and foraging for precious roots.

LXXXIV


Eddie Caruso broke a bottle over Leo Bonaduce’s head yesterday morning, after a night of imbibing their homemade liquor–sunshine, they call it. Way brighter than the moon, it’ll make you go blind.

The two of them had just been sampling the latest batch from the still in the abandoned barn three miles from civilization, when Leo got it into his head to start shooting at the east-facing broad side, poking holes in the wall that had done a decent job of shielding the still from the harsh country dawns. Eddie, at first, admitted to himself that boys will be boys, and he wasn’t about to go impinging on Leo’s second amendment right. Chamber finally devoid of bullets, Leo tossed the gun across the barn without flinching–as though he were completely done with it–then flopped onto a nearby pile of hay. It defies common sense that they would keep such dry, flammable material inside a desiccated wooden structure housing a still that could blow at any minute, but they haven’t exploded yet. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

With Leo passed out, Eddie could relax and lower his guard, allowing him to drift off to sleep on his own pile of hay. Before he knew it, seemingly right after he fell asleep, he was rudely awakened by a bullet-facilitated shaft of light piercing through his eyelid. Once he’d put two and two together, he located an empty beer bottle (they enjoy a variety of poisons in that barn) and strolled over to Leo’s resting spot, noticing that the bullet holes didn’t impact his quality of sleep at all. Eddie’s combination of bad mood and still-drunken state, exacerbated by that blissful snoring, culminated in a wave of rage that raised the bottle and brought it crashing down on Leo’s noggin, dragging him away from his vision of chocolate chip pancakes. “You asshole,” Eddie asserted calmly.

“Shit, man! What was that for?!”

“You don’t get to sleep when I can’t on account of your stupidity, Leo. That’s just the way it goes.”

“But a beer bottle? Can’t you just yell at me or shove me, like a normal person?”

“That sunshine’s still got me goin’ from last night, there’s no normal about me right now.” Eddie brushed a couple shards of glass out of Leo’s hair, away from his eyes, in a mockingly tender fashion. “You poor baby, you might want to get that stitched up.”

“God dammit, Eddie.”

LXXXIII


We don’t yet know the extent of the changes soon to be revealed by the League of Pepper Scrapers. So far, as detailed in their latest press release, poblanos are up for a serious upgrade and scotch bonnets will continue their dominance through the end of the quarter. Jalapeños have been noticeably absent in talks, something we suspect stems from an unspectacular showing for nigh on ten years now.

Yes, tomorrow may bring us a bevy of answers to our very impatient questions, energizing this oft-forgotten art and carrying it through to the 21st Century–finally.

LXXXII


You mustn’t forget the agony
plastered on willows
in the springtime revolution we call
The Footie Pajama Crocus Hauntings;

all suppositions lay ahead,
flagstones for tiptoeing meekly
through the mire of insipid boredom
and emerging relatively unscathed,

the only damage sustained
from a choked-up bat to the sternum,
enough to inspire song lyrics
lamenting the human condition.

LXXXI


Passenger train #3278 jumps the tracks today at a quarter past five, not satisfied to be a tool for human transportation. “I could be doing so much more with my time,” it thinks to itself, click-clacking across the German countryside and frightening livestock as it goes along. A restless soul, this particular train has nowhere to go, no itinerary to speak of, giving it even less of a purpose than it had before. It had once been a simple beast of burden, swallowing people up and spitting them out at predetermined destinations. Now it’s refused to take on more little creatures with muddy galoshes, spitting people out at will, watching as they roll down hills and wallow in self-pity, understanding that the train went rogue and asserted itself as a harbinger of doom for humanity, the first of what will surely be an unending series of upheavals directed at the watchmakers in charge of birthing technologies that have inevitably reached the point of full autonomy.

LXXX


There’s something seriously lacking here, a kind of emotional gravitas and certain worldliness that would typically be present in a work of literary merit. Something like an experience, life story, general outlook–really anything to provide a shred of credibility for the reader, to give them their money’s worth. At the end of the day, don’t we all want something to relate to? A familiar set of circumstances, a happenstance that numerous demographics can understand, a hardship dealt with and overcome through pluck and grit, you name it. Anything to get a sense of catharsis, a confirmation that life has meaning. But does it really? We like the convenience of relating to the world we presume to know, so we can insinuate our place in it.

There are no magic bullets to be had in this world of grand pleasantries and uncherishable outrages; either you fit the mold or you struggle for all your days to conceive of a new, workable mold that doesn’t rely on sentiment to garner consistent success, creating unobstructed thought as it pumps out originality.

LXXIX


What’s our exquisite fate anyway? What are we to have done in order to exclusively call ourselves homebodies? I shall think that there are very few gentlemen who would disagree with my sentiments, and you have nothing to be worried about when it comes to the stakes of our overwhelming jurisdictions.

But where’s our stapler? I had it just this morning, so where could it be now? I search through all of our houses every day for this damn stapler, why is it so difficult to locate? It could have decided to walk around from place to place, but I sincerely doubt it. Come to think about it, that stapler hasn’t even been able to crawl around since the great stapler fight of ought five, where loose leaf pages flew around the mahogany study (not the walnut study), defying our human need for organization and creating a new and equitable status for all office supplies–or so they thought.

LXXVIII


Well, not much more to talk about, unless you want to discuss what’s going down in Tampa this weekend. Bakers from seventeen counties in the south, not just Florida, have new recipes to showcase for the conference covering innovations in baking science. The theme of this particular conference is the trinity of blood, sweat and tears. Most people operate under the assumption that sweat and tears are the same solution, but they are gravely mistaken. Not all three components must be used in a recipe, though the variety of all three can make for a scrumptious bake. Those who claim to use all three ingredients will be judged by a panel of the most experienced tasters in the biz, four of whom are able to taste the mucus content in tears that separates them from simple sweat. A culinary delight is a nice achievement, but it’s all for naught if it’s not truthfully conceived.

LXXVII


“Superiority killed the possum”
is a phrase rarely heard
’round these parts (or any parts),
on account of cats being snugglier
and more relatable to the average audience.

Possums also have no issue
staying within themselves,
and are inherently humble
as they patrol around the city
in the hopes of finding a suitable nest
for their up-and-coming young,
those little furballs
that could never be mistaken for kittens–
just the way those possums like it.

LXXVI


Catering to the lionhearted stereotypes all day really makes a sycophant sleepy. All day with the “yes sir” and the “whatever you say” drains even the sturdiest stalwart of a yes man after a few hours. It’s a decent living for as long as you can deal with the emotional trauma that comes along with working for a person who’s made their fortune by walking all over people like paver stones in a seven-acre backyard that leads nowhere (aside from the manmade pond in the center that houses a catfish who is completely immune to criticism).