GENRE • poetry / fiction
STYLE • familiar / non sequitur / surreal
 • STOPGAP
Chernicia and her loyal band of roving youth choir administrators saw no choice other than to take up stopgap freelance work. Due to a general malaise and rapidly-growing apprehension toward patronizing or participating in the performing arts (the anti-exceptionalist herd mentality showed absolutely no signs of dissipation as professionals of all stripes traversed the barren corporate landscape (a hell to be wished upon no soul)), all hope seemed lost on the fearful.
Interest in the once-alluring middle and high school competitive circuit had been waning steadily for a generation or so, to the point where even the most stalwart paper-shuffling masochists out there had to admit they were licked. In this devastating climate, Chernicia figured that some places out there must still need to enlist the services of highly-competent youth choir administrators. They took an oath in front of the children, for Christ’s sake! They vowed, on bended knee, to make themselves available for freelance filing (and HR concerns) at the drop of a hat, whenever duty may come calling.
So just like that, they picked up and left– no matter what their guts happened to be telling them (the group’s average duodenum could paint you the idyllic picture where they’d carved out a sort of haven in this life of more uncertainty than trust). Many tearful (and gut-wrenching) goodbyes after they developed the steely resolve to give up their past selves (for the children, dammit), the brave and intrepid band set out on their first assignment: Gurnee, Illinois. They never did look back. And to this very day, rental cars and hotel rooms still serve as their only refuge from the vast desert of abandoned office complexes.
 • FAUX PAS
Bajillion Peregrinus started his day off right today–with a succulent cobb salad and a couple of margaritas. Slippery slope, margaritas, but as a denizen of the night, Baj has always managed to avoid that whole “too early in the day to imbibe” faux pas. However, considering the depth of his late-night cavorting, he often finds himself breaking that rule by pulling all-nighters and keeping the party rolling well past dawn.
This particular day wouldn’t normally prove to serve Baj’s personal agenda, seeing as how he needs to knock out some domestic drudgery and then immediately tuck into a full-blown work shift. Not very much time to himself at all. Just another one of those days. It’s not like he’s not used to this kind of treatment; he’s become quite accustomed to it at this point. Bills and impulsive expenditures (food delivery and designer headphones) necessitate his daily drudgery–for the most part. The remaining part of the pie chart (as far as he could figure): his intense, immense sense of self-loathing, which he quietly carries around on his shoulders like a hobo’s bindle–not too heavy, considering the unbearable lightness of being, but always noticeably uncomfortable.
As far as he sees it, he figures that the self-deception is a byproduct of his unfulfilled human potential. Well, not his own perception of failing, but the societal norm facilitating the “us vs. them” mentality that sends the vast majority of rat racers into skill corners, where they’ll proceed to bang their foreheads against brick walls for the rest of their lives, restricting whatever semblance of freedom to a 15-minute meditation session sometime between breakfast and work (otherwise known as their morning commute). The mental elasticity of previous generations is systematically eroding.
Baj is rather sensitive and internalizes most everything he comes across; most of the time he has no idea how it will surface, since the nature of the universe is that of uncertainty and chaos. In the case of human devolution, however, Baj knows for a fact that people are losing their sheen at a rapid clip. Because of all this, Baj understands that, no matter what he does, he will always come up short in a financial sense. Just as his mother and father had, and their mothers and fathers before that, and so on and so forth. He’s recently begun to trace back his lineage on one of those newfangled ancestor websites, all the way back to a point in medieval Europe where some sort of town fool or drunk owed a debt to the local magistrate, and the interest is still accruing to this day.
 • FUN THINGS
The more senior members of the corn-fed trophy mounting union (local 1776) always manage to find opportunities to regale their greener counterparts with talk of a simpler time–when common salmonella held a place in all of our hearts and opinion-dominated politics held sway in the public arena. The information age was still in its infancy and the shady web traffickers used all their powers of persuasion to convince the good ol’ god-fearing people that doom was just around the corner for all non-believers (when a quick search would reveal that the sedentary nature of these chosen-by-default disciples was actually the exact behavior leading us all to armageddon).
The billionaire false prophets for social normativity laughed all the way to the bank, just the way they always had (and always would, assuming the government they’d purchased would continue to carry out their various people-crushing biddings). Nobody with enough influence could get the gears of social justice turning, due to their lack of tenure as stock market manipulators and robber barons; the folks who figured they could inspire a positive change in discourse were all too late to the party. Or that would be the narrative that Joe and Stu want to perpetuate at social gatherings (sock hops, ball games, charity galas, what have you), usually after a beer or two. I wish they would talk about fun things instead.
 • FLESH AND BLOOD
Mannequin rest is a sign of weakness and cheap plastic. My stock at the Sears downtown believes that since they look human, they should receive pay and benefits like my flesh and blood employees. I’m so tired of emphasizing to these hollow Betties and Bernies that they were designed, built and purchased for the sole purpose of displaying garments. I’m not the one to blame for their poor quality of life.
Even if their plight was real or at all justifiable, how am I supposed to provide services for company property. I’m just a shift manager! I’ve tided them over for now by letting them form an in-store mannequin union in the basement (Thursday and Saturday nights from 7 to 9), but until they’re legitimate, I’m not breathing a word of this to the higher-ups.
 • TO AND FRO
Suppose you start stammering at these shimmering jewels on your nightstand, as though you’ve established some sort of language connection in the realm of Greater Jewelese. You do innately understand that jewels possess no mental capacities, but that seems only to fuel your curiosity as you divulge your deepest secrets to their faceted surfaces (eg. the state of your psyche, regardless of stymying ethics preventing your profits, etc.). It beats talking to a therapist, you tell yourself as you realize that a counselor would only cost a fraction of what your precious stones just ran you at the jeweler’s stand (and then it dawns on you that you never left home this morning, and you’ve been hallucinating those jewels all this time). You take the opportunity to sit up in bed, wishing that you could at least have some kind of shiny bauble to stare at (cursing the day that you broke your bedroom window while throwing your weight to and fro, resulting in a cardboard and duct-taped mess).
 • MANY MEANS
Incendiary pickled herrings have been convinced to roost regardless of aggregate happiness in the face of comportment as jackal vendors on the fourth Thursday in June (at least the one where the werewolves play without the convenience of a full moon). Bobby Friday wanted more than anything els e to be looked upon with favor, that’s all. Anything requiring more involvement would surely end in disaster (from where he stood, at least), so he would only dare tread lightly through the footpaths mercilessly trampled for generations. He concluded, unceremoniously, that human interaction has many means for existing, very few of which actually entail anything enriching. It was just at that moment that he noticed the bricked-in windows lining the building adjacent to his friendly neighborhood train station–the day before his birthday, of all days. This year it fell on a Thursday. What convenient bullshit, he thought.
 • LUCKY DUCK
Cheatersley Everington has never had much reason to spout drivel from the tip of his dorsal fin, mainly because he never inherited one of those peculiar things from his most recent mammalian ancestry. Perhaps a few hundred million years ago he would have still had a bit of a vestige from where he needed to propel himself through the water in a somewhat graceful way, but these days it would be silly to expect such an outdated mode of transport to have any trace elements remaining. But with all that aside, Cheatersley never made much of a fuss about the dorsal shortage. He would be the first one to tell you that such science fiction elements hold no significance in his day-to-day existence. In fact, he exists during a time in the “modern” human epoch when science fiction is not a term that people bandy about. He has been afforded a blissful existence of technological and historical ignorance simply because he happened to strap on his feed bag in what we commonly call the 19th Century. Lucky duck, basking in a world of intellectual stagnation and limited upward mobility (well, until he dies of dysentery, at least).
 • THE PINE BOX OF SHORTITUDE
Curatives of antiquity are now more necessary than ever before. We–the re-appropriated and inexplicably-gifted tree apes–think that through modernity (what a troublesome word) we have relegated the works of our ancestors to the obscure corners of the proverbial curio shop, when we have in fact abandoned the principles that caused our species to rise out of our loathsome bed of mud and shit in the first place. Ergo, the abandonment of these principles will ultimately result in our return to the mud and shit (but hopefully not all the way back to the trees). We must be ever vigilant in the observance of the works of our world’s remaining unbroken cultures. It has been made abundantly obvious that these peoples have maintained their distinct civilizations through adherence to natural laws and at least an attempt to maintain a semblance of harmony.
Exhibit A: The Pine Box of Shortitude
Any time a recipe, technique or method becomes too effective for anyone to emulate without said act becoming an unbearable faux pas, the elders of the community must combine forces to capture its most essential components, record them into an intelligible (tangible) script and carefully lock it away in what has come to be known as, you guessed it, The Pine Box of Shortitude.
Why pine– Longleaf Pine, to be more specific? Its connection to dinosaur days and its subsequent shortage of specimens due to a variety of human-studded reasons are just two important takeaways. When the box was originally crafted, Longleaf Pine were abundant across the entire landscape. The progenitors of this curatorial tradition really could not have predicted such a significant shortage within the span of just a few generations, but as time passed and the omens became more clear, the box’s preservation inevitably became a top priority not only for its contents, but the vessel itself. Hopefully this particular artifact will shed some light on how dire a situation this has become, where humans appear to have become at odds with the natural progression of this planet’s ecology. And if not? Eh, fuck it.
 • IN RETROSPECT
Fetushead was a teacher of mine who usually kept his temper in check, but one day he lashed out at our class when we weren’t paying attention to him (we couldn’t answer the questions he asked). There was something going on in his personal life that caused him substantial stress, but we students had no clue, being dumb kids at the time. In retrospect, perhaps the fetus for a head would have contributed to his overall grouchy demeanor in that situation (and every other he would come to navigate). That he kept his cool for so much of the time was taken for granted by we, the snot-nosed punks of Lower Utilitaria, the hallowed gated community founded by J. Rick Rubins, the only exalted LEADER that our planet can trust to usher us into the 22nd Century we deserve.
 • PICKLE MAN
Please do not panic whilst amongst the pines, the savory pigeon screams floating from bough to bough. And we, all along (as it turns out) have the seat to a thrill of a cheap movie quote tucked neatly into a blender and rather liquefied, I’m afraid. First, the lack of effort and segmented pinstripe suits are not a good combination at all. Pretend I didn’t tell you that was a good idea. Oh, whose idea was it? Probably the Pickle Man’s. The Pickle Man has lots of ideas from time to time. Come to think of it, he was the fella who invented the ladder so I could get my cat out of that tree last Tuesday. Praise his ingenuity and impeccable timing–he surely [surely SURELY] must be a good and decent man.
And so, the Pickle Man jotted off in his notebook and came up with methods for legal gambling that no one would ever suspect. There’s no loser (aside from the mark), and I’ll never have to go paycheck to paycheck. Not once, certainly not again, you understand me? I sure hope you can recover your sense of decency while I’m lecturing you, young people. I have seventeen issues to share with you regarding class warfare from the Middle Ages. In this unit, you will learn to conquer your fear of dissection. Here’s how I was able to dissect my first frog, boys and girls–a spritz of balsamic vinegar to make the air more culinary. Isn’t this place just stale and offensive? Are there any windows down here at all? Are we in the basement? How far down are we? Pickle Man?!
All of the above compositions are the sole intellectual property of Aidan F. Badinger and WHARVED.com.