For Shame, People


Delicate breakfast sandwiches rarely win the race for bubblegum’s affection (or even attention for Christ’s sake), but I’m not so sure we should be concerning ourselves with that in the first place. Why would such a substanceless substance call the shots over a much more qualified and fortified adversary? It makes no sense, and these meddlesome “critics” are letting their imaginations run wild. Are we really that disconnected from what’s good for us?

Well this reporter simply has no time to bandy this mincemeat word stew about, to and fro, over the graves of countless visionary gourmets past. I’m shrugging and moving on. Don’t you realize that we have more pressing matters at hand?! I’ll be damned if we get into a candy vs. food argument for a third time this afternoon. It’s disturbing to think that an entire subset of the economy is devoted to this pointless dreck. We still haven’t addressed the mosquito net shortage in Lesser Zambiblia. It’s been nigh on seven weeks now without so much as a stitch sewn. For shame, people.

Taken Care Of


Listen up, people. The latest intelligence is just rolling in now, and we’re in a bit of a pickle (to say the least). We may only be certain at this time that the entire town proper unknowingly lies in unprecedented peril. The warning signs have been more subtle than we, the clean, god-fearing citizens of our great nation-state could have ever imagined–or even dreamt. Damn it all! If it weren’t for our massively-overfunded team of quantum physicists, we wouldn’t even have the means to begin strategizing. Money well spent, gentlemen–AND WOMEN (apologies)!

I need to be blunt, as time is of the essence. We must to gird ourselves for the continuous unfolding population of non-native spongemonkeys, who have been granted the upper hand in lower east side pedway algae management. Since they have no natural enemies in this particular environment, they will continue spreading through all urbanized environments, unabated, until someone develops a plan of attack to at least curb their reproduction.

Every man, woman and child currently tasked with this difficult (some would say oppressive) undertaking have overwhelmingly speculated that at this current pace, it could take several decades for the infrastructure to accommodate a well-regulated spongemonkey population in balance with the area’s indigenous species. The first several generations of these… things… will serve as a barometer for the viability of future population management. Left unchecked, these godawful walking carbuncles could render urban inhabitance more of a bother than it’s worth.

Are we or are we not the most important invasive species on this planet?!

Damn straight. Let’s get this taken care of.

Meanwhile, in the Depths of Space [III] – Fred Radlers, DDS


We enter upon the peculiar timeline of one Mr. Fred Radlers. Well, he actually prefers to be addressed as Fred Radlers, DDS (or simply Dr. Fred if you’re not into all that formality). Once universally-acclaimed as a top-notch oral surgeon and overall consummate professional, he doesn’t earn a living that way anymore, and most likely never will. Any friend or loved one (hell, even any basic acquaintance) of his will be the first to tell you–in an attempt to save you some time and sanity–that he’ll never let you forget that he is and always will be a masterful doctor of dental surgery. There are numerous theories floating around as to the origin of this personality trait, but it’s all conjecture (and makes for rather dull conversation anyway).

It’s commonly known that Dr. Fred once attended regular psychotherapy at the peak of his rat race involvement as a measure of forestalling a sizable psychotic breakdown (which we’re not sure was averted anyway). It’s quite probable that he used those sessions to unpack the underlying condition responsible for the inevitable failure to relinquish that irrelevant arrangement of capital letters after his name, but he has very clearly chosen to keep that information close to his chest these days. Hey, to each his own.

The overwhelming majority of folks facing Fred’s predicament would simply drop the professional distinction as a measure of removing any unnecessary hassles or hindrances from their overarching tranquility while they navigate the remainder of their compromise-laden lives, but good ol’ Dr. Fred has held steadfast to his vision ever since he made a promise to himself in a vivid dream involving the darling buds of May and sugarplum fairies in a strange kind of pageant/dance-off judged by three carebear-esque beings of contrasting colors (so you know they’ll be fair and impartial). I recommend that you don’t bring it up with him, unless you’d like to be berated with his ideologies for a solid ten minutes without the ability to sneak a word in edgewise.

Dr. Fred now spends his time as a rogue backpacker in the Belgian countryside, sampling magnificent beers along the way. His teeth remain immaculate.

Whims


Threatened marsupial populations instinctually flock to higher ground to avoid becoming dinner for frenzying snapdragon yarn munchers.

Most people will tell you that they obtained this particular knowledge from watching one of any number of educational nature programs, because they choose to take in the world through someone else’s lens, satisfied with a few pretty pictures and a soothing voice to assure them that they’ve made the right choice.

Well, I’ve personally witnessed this phenomenon on more than one occasion, and I’ll be the first to tell you that it is most certainly preferable to stay home and leave it to the professionals. I’m just plain tuckered out after all that adventuring and subsequent hiding from those malevolent snapdragon yarn munchers, the inconsiderate beasts. Take my advice, kid: we humans aren’t equipped to withstand Mother Nature’s whims the way we used to (when we had no choice in the matter anyway).

Cute to Be Clever


A clunky oxford comma won’t save your hide this time, youngling, I’ve personally seen to that. My crack team of professional writers and editors has just completed debriefing your current (and long-suffering, from what I understand) creative writing instructor on the grammatical and stylistic negligence running rampant through your work, and all she could do was shake her head. Apparently you’ve only ever provided her with “disjointed exercises in irrelevant futility” (her words), and haven’t even attempted to link your compositions to the innovative writers before you. You know who I’m talking about, those mental giants who made your layabout lifestyle possible in the first place. We are all appalled, to put it mildly. This will most assuredly sound harsh to you, seated right in the midst of the most comfortable generation, accustomed to automatic rewards for any and all efforts regardless of actual merit.

Sure, I can accept your indignation. After all, you’ve never met me and probably believe in your heart of hearts that this intervention is unwarranted, but listen carefully, buddy boy. Having written three iterations of the great American novel, I would say I have some sway in this arena.

Now before you get smart with me here, I’m going to level with you in the hopes of changing your mind (or at least getting you to listen). When I was young and impressionable, probably just about your age, I was perpetually writing my guts out and getting nowhere. My very finest examples of literary achievement were all uniformly rejected by “The Man,” and I had absolutely no recourse. It was the absolute darkest time of my life, let me tell you. It was only then, when every day seemed like an endless moaning trudge through a soundproofed cave with no entrance or exit, that I began listening to reason. I snapped out of my loathsome little pity party and made it my new duty to read every example of classic literature that I could get my hands on.

Some time into this ritualistic behavior, I once again took up the immortal mantle and began emulating these immortal techniques as though my life depended on it. Only after three solid years of daily classic consumption and imitation did I have any basis for penning my own opus, and even then, I had no idea where to start. Six more years passed before I’d amassed enough material to complete my first manuscript and submit it to all the most prestigious presses for consideration, and it was uniformly panned as “uninspired and unoriginal.” I’d spent so much time absorbing previously-written works that I essentially boiled them down into one book of derivative nonsense that felt like twenty well-known stories smashed together. Now, in this situation, where nearly ten years had passed and I had virtually nothing to show for it, you’d think that I’d just want to hang up my gloves for good, never touch the stuff that brought me so much abject humiliation and self-loathing. Well then, you clearly don’t know me well enough. It was then and there that I sprang into action, dissecting my 1,200+ page manuscript and reassembling it into the three seminal works that have buttered my bread ever since.

Throughout that decade or so of tedium, I circled around the ultimate truth of craft so many times that it eventually became my every thought: “nobody wants to read your overly-complicated contemporary stuff, so just write something vaguely reminiscent of the literary canon and pretend that you organically reached those concepts.”

I know that most young people will stand up and scoff at such a notion, but they’ve never lived through a dark period of endemic illiteracy. So before you write me off as just another handsome eccentric on your eclectic road through life, remember that you’ll never get anywhere if you think it’s cute to be clever.

Management


PLEASE DO NOT TRY ON THE FLOOR MODELS!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION! :)
-MANAGEMENT

I apologize, but I’m simply unable to consider purchasing this hat before trying it on to see how it frames my face. Look, Darryl–can I call you Darryl? Oh, it’s Steve? My mistake. Listen, Steve. I know what you’re thinking. I’m not really that kind of guy. Man to man, I personally would have no issue letting that floor model policy slide, but I have certain principles to uphold in front of my son, and smart shopping is right up at the top of that list.

I promised my wife from jump street that I would be an equal partner in upholding certain principles in order to prepare our Montavius for the rigors of the wider world around him. Now that she’s gone, I’m doing my absolute best to honor her wishes.

How about it, Steve? Do you think you could let it slide just this once? If it helps you make the decision, the natural oil content of my hair is pretty low. I shampoo it practically every day, which I know they say is bad for it, but it’s become such a routine at this point that I don’t even think about it anymore. Point being, you can tell your manager that their precious floor model chapeau has nothing to fear when it comes to my head.

-One brief storeroom chat later-

No dice, huh? And they wonder why brick and mortar hatteries are going the way of the passenger pigeon. Another perfectly good father-son Sunday wasted on account of out of touch merchants. I didn’t think it would have to come to this, but you forced my hand. Let’s go, Monty. Dad has no choice but to order a so-called vintage fedora from someone’s arts and crafts website.

I didn’t think it would have to come to this, Steve, and I know you didn’t have any say in the final outcome here, so I’m gonna level with you. I can tell that you’re basically a good kid, and I wish nothing but the best for you in the future. A bit of advice for you, young man: Don’t let the establishment stand between you and your happiness. Just remember that.

Brought to the Fore


Isn’t there a smugness associated with camping out in the corner of a neighborhood coffee shop, where the people truly don’t give a leech-tempered scrotum nodule about appearances–if you’ll pardon the indiscreet language–and even if they kinda do, it’s only surface level and they understand the insignificance of such a worry?

The answer does happen to be yes, but don’t you worry about wondering why such a question was even brought to the fore. All you have to do is sit in your favorite chair and estimate how many jelly beans I can stuff up my nose before the Willie Nelson impersonators have their semi-annual hair tie clearance sale.

Now,
all of our futures are riding on this predictive ability, mind you. You think I’m joking? Cute, Delores, cute. Just wipe that smirk off of your face and give me something–anything–to keep me from strangling this piece of string cheese. Why? Trust me, this shifty little dairy twine segment gave me a weird look just a second ago (while your back was turned, no less), and I’m just about this close to dancing the bifurcation mambo, givin’ it the ol’ squanta-manoo, tearing up the sheets and declaring war on the irresponsible regime impoverishing a resource-rich nation with a notoriously-underserved and widely illiterate populace.

You know, a beheading. Do I have to spell everything out for you? I don’t know why I’m surprised, It’s just like you to space out when I’m talking about capital punishment. You really remind me of your mother right now. I remember I would used to see her standing out on the balcony trying to count the pigeons down below on the sidewalk–67 stories above the ground–pointing out that they looked even more minuscule than ants, those pointy-headed fucks.

I know, I know, I’m projecting here. She never called them pointy-headed fucks, but she did seem to have a particular tone of voice when referring to those little exoskeletal drones.

At any rate, she’d be standing there on the balcony, looking down at the majesty below her–she should have been looking up–and that’s when the muse would visit her. One time in particular has been seared into my memory. I was doing my daily toe-touches by the open door when I heard her mutter “I really should have canned that giardiniera about a day or two earlier if it’s going to be ready for the September to Remember sockhop/bar mitzvah/charity ballyhoo, but that’s okay, because I have my man and my Delores.”

It damn near broke my heart, were it not made of secondhand galoshes hastily stitched together during Frankenstein’s monster’s greatest time of need.

Perfectly Honest


The very notion of blending a stereotypical extra-helping son-of-a-gun with a monkey’s uncle, if disseminated properly, should just about rehydrate the masses with the piss and vinegar they’ve been sorely lacking in this age of interpretive incontinence (one would think). There’s really no excuse at this point to bank on any other outcome, if we’re to be perfectly honest with one another.

Sure, there are plenty of other theoretical outcomes, but when practicality comes knocking at the door, the ensuing scramble for pragmatism will inevitably result in the mating call of the perpetual compromiser: “let’s just call it a day, shall we? It’s not as though anyone else is really doing much to stall this circus of mottled indiscretions anyway.” Okay, so maybe that’s a bit too contrived to be the universally-accepted mating call, but you get the picture.

Each generation faces the ever-present tumult of failure-studded progress; the wisest among us will inevitably batten down the hatches and continue practicing their craft, content to further their own life’s work while the turbulence around them blows itself out.

Nothing Quite Like


Checking all the AC units in an underfunded public school for gremlins
or
building a steakhouse out of cotton swabs and earwax
or
charging a rhinoceros with grand larceny for the theft of pretentious stereo equipment
or
engineering the perfect dinner party, only to lose your sole lucky sock twelve minutes before the first guest’s arrival
or
a quick spritz from the produce section while you’re on your way to the local rock opera group’s weekly public dress rehearsal
or
notching your belt for no reason in particular, other than to impress strangers who are peculiar enough to examine your belt for such markings (you run in a strange crowd)
or
listing the daily indignities experienced by your average woman artist as you’re also trying to figure out the way to San Jose
or
just being the stagnant kind of person who won’t listen to reason when faced with the unfettered opinions brought forth by the more stable individuals in your life.

Afire


We lit afire a pile of tires.

Now hear us out before you pass judgment. We figured there was no other way to adequately dispose of them in here this neck of the woods, having already thrown together a hasty pop-up shop in an attempt to somehow sell those tires (in the wake of that huge indy car race to end all indy car races–I’m sure you’ve read about it somewhere, what with all the invasive media in our modern lives). We knew we definitely had the market cornered when it came to tire-related memorabilia, and seeing as how there would be no more of these particular sporting events (primarily due to environmental concerns), we figured it would be a good enough idea to set up shop and see what kind of interest we could generate with a genuine tire fire sale.

It was almost as though the universe had pre-ordained this turn of events. We didn’t have anywhere in particular to go for a couple of weeks, since our boss basically gave us no choice other than to take a bunch of PTO hours for the sake of our sanity. I suppose we’d been burning the candle at both ends while balancing on a tightrope suspended over a lion’s den, so he had a point there.

Anywho, we gave the fine local people eight full days to come over and check out our wares, but not a single customer even graced us with their presence. In retrospect, they really would have had to go out of their way in order to find us. There was probably a better chance of someone stumbling upon us accidentally while hiking through the woods, though that sequence of events didn’t transpire either.

There were thousands of tires left lying around in the aftermath, resigned to living out their years ensconced in weeds. No way, we thought. We had to rescue as many of those fallen warriors as possible, to give them a grand send-off. Now, without a large body of water on which to conduct a proper viking funeral, we just looked around for locations where we wouldn’t inadvertently start a forest fire due to our shenanigans. It took us–working in perfect harmony–about three days of scouting and schlepping, to the point where if there were only one of us to undertake something so ludicrous, it would probably never have gotten done.

The actual ignition of the blaze was rather anti-climactic. We’d been anticipating it for so long at that point (not to mention working ourselves half to death) that we were just plum out of accessible emotions.

We still had a couple days left before we had to retreat to the city and our anthill tendencies, so we tossed a dead raccoon atop the smoldering rubber and burnt some rubber of our own, back to Metropolitan Anyplace, USA (home of the ever-wilting inner-child disposition). We envied that raccoon.

Ahs and Ums: Coincidence?


Intermittent ingenuity from industrial interchangers investigates inebriated inchworm investments, though we hold these truths to be

so self-evident

that any other painstaking rendering of rhetoric could possibly stall the rising tide of jumbled up (or jumbled down) cookie cutter manufacturers–finally represented in the florist’s factory of flour fandangos–fired up for the filet mignon we’ve justified as the most important, least-treacherous teachable moment perpetrated to generate genuine love of the written word as less of an unnatural amalgamation of sounds and sorry emotions, and more a living canvas of the interchangeable ideas that could, in proper combination, ring up the governor and slap him in the face with his own stupid ahs and ums.

Just try to think of that the next time you’re third in line at the convenience store and all you want is a candy bar–so you think you should have the top priority among these other schmucks–but you have to follow the traditions set forth by our more civilized foreparents; such an unexpected period of time in line leads to thoughts of buying a pack of cigarettes for the first time in something like five years, and all of a sudden you’re diverted into thinking about the capitalist structure you’ve been bred into, with a certain cigarette supply being sold in the same location where candy bars are also widely sought after. Coincidence?

Still Unknown


Belly extravaganza profundities topple otherwise insatiable plethora-averagers, which is no small feat in and of itself. Anyone who’s tried already knows that attempting to persuade a passionate professional to cease determining the median amount of objects or entities in an absurdly large grouping can never end well. On paper you can theorize all day about the efficacy of diverting attention away from pervasive pet projects, but not until they’re put to the test may you then see the sheer pragmatic impossibility of such a notion.

Only at such a juncture may an enlightened individual step back and re-evaluate. This is a state in which all manner of solutions have been reached throughout human history. You know, those moments that could only have been reached through sheer trial and error–with some luck tossed in (if you want to call it luck).

Benny Goodman (no relation) was one of the unfortunates tasked with upending those pesky plethora-averagers, and he knew all-too-well the dangers of intentional plan-making in this particular arena. Benny was provided the impossible project because of his special ability to judge all passions and purposes objectively, separating societal expectations and mores from what is ultimately to be determined the optimal conclusion. With all this in mind, he took a page from his namesake’s book and let the solution come to him through improvisation. We may never know whether it was a stroke of genius or just sheer dumb luck that brought him to the doorstep of the belly extravaganza profundities; we can only be certain that Mr. Goodman was the right man for the job.

Why all this plethora-averaging had to be stopped is still unknown.

Sweet Lady Science


Where do I even begin? Well, we stopped dropping the snakes down the hole and letting them just smack their bellies on the ground because this here sarcastic douchebag decided to get sensitive one day and say “geez, we sure do like hurting snakes!” We all looked at him like he had three or four heads, the favorite number of heads to picture an alien having when you’re gawking at this here guy who all of a sudden gives a damn about snake welfare.

They’re just damn snakes, they’re cold blooded. They’ve lived unchanged for millions of years now and they don’t give a damn about being slammed on the slab if it means we can sleep in peace. That’s right, sentient snakes who have been telepathically communicating with me for a good… seven years now. Wow.

So anyway, go on ahead with your little protest, we ain’t changing these rules for nothing or nobody.

—-TWO WEEKS LATER—-

BREAKING NEWS: SNAKES FEEL PAIN
Scientists Everywhere Urge Citizens:
“Discontinue Dropping Snakes on Slabs”

Jesus, what are the odds? We’ll probably never find out just how this study was started or funded, or how it coincided so perfectly with that sensitive douchebag making his impassioned plea down at the firehouse, but Sweet Lady Science has spoken, and we must heed her words.

Executive Decision


This particular set of tambourine excruciations lacks the comeuppance factor that my quarry companion would typically dish out. I’m so used to thinking of my submissive bud as “not without its sassy comebacks,” but this time it’s waxing heavily depressive, not even bothering to mount a modest reprisal.

I’ve made the executive decision to leave it to its own devices; I don’t need a triggered sidekick lollygagging around and confusing me more than normal. Such a distraction could undermine the very essence of my oh so lucrative pastime. I’ll just let it take a little time to itself (I’m generous that way) so it may sort out its existential concerns of its own accord–mainly because I just don’t want to be subjected to the ceaseless whining. And when I say whining, I mean good ol’ fashioned day-in day-out grumbling unlike any other you’ve ever seen, the very peak of which generally verging on psychosis.

Boy, I sure do know how to pick ’em. Of all the quarry companions made available to me, I just had to choose the one with the watery puppy dog eyes. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now I have a flat out martyr on my hands who professes to be a beacon of emotions for its less-gifted brethren of the oft-neglected sedimentary sidekick school. All I want is a cheerful little buddy that I can count on to occasionally get me out of scrapes. Is that too much to ask?

Far-Fetched


Stern army fandanglers initiate the bizarrest of letterbox rituals as a way to compensate for their minimal internal squawking about where in the hell to buy a caramel macchiato during a Thursday afternoon rush hour—it’s definitely the most congested freeway seen around these parts in quite some time, the rubbernecks all out in force and jamming up the left lane to catch glimpses of a minor fender bender where the only detail of note would be the involvement of a clown car. Fortunately, no actual clowns happened to be in or, indeed, even around said automobile, or traffic would surely would be at a complete standstill.

The question remains: why is there a clownless clown car on the road? A rational observer would surmise that it’s headed to the shop, getting an oil change or tire rotation, or perhaps being treated to the periodic hand car wash and wax (one of Flopsy® the Clown’s numerous contract stipulations). Suffice it to say that none of these scenarios would benefit from the presence of a real live clown, unless some sort of clowning industry discount were to apply to these local auto-maintenance establishments, which seems utterly far-fetched (yet plausible if our society only knew who pulled the strings).

Never gonna get that got damn macchiato…

By All Accounts


As a younger man–though old enough to know better–I once navigated a rather cryptic epoch during which I chose (wholeheartedly or pigheadedly) to stick with my plague-rich mentality of promotional ice cream lotteries, confident in my god-given ability to strike it rich. With my trusty two and a quarter inch nail at my disposal, I scribed the five luckiest numbers ever known to man and beast in my favorite subterranean cave, positively declaring an end to the ceaseless turmoil of fumbling around in the cosmic muck for a few measly digits that–at one of my lower points–I thought would elude me as long as I were to inhabit this particular body. I then hastily chucked good ol’ Rusty (that’s what I called my long-suffering galvanized friend, knowing that his kind doesn’t rust for decades–a joke we shared on countless occasions) into the nearest ravine, a flourish that would–by all accounts (payable or otherwise)–bring this self-imposed trudge to a meaningful conclusion.

Boy, what a boneheaded mistake. No sooner than I’d comforted myself with that symbolic nail toss, a magpie hopped on by and casually reminded me that the most lucrative lottery drawings typically have six numbers. I wept, knowing that I’d severed the most rewarding relationship of a lifetime under the false pretense of a free scoop of rocky road at a participating Neddy’s® Frozen Custard.

I shaved and went back to my old CPA job.

Chèvre Chaise


It’s become more and more fashionable to sink capital into transforming your obedient pupperoo into a live-action cartoon pooch. Breed is neither here nor there; folks are more concerned with accuracy of likeness than anything else, often times leading to bizarre combinations of aesthetics.

What would happen if you were to combine a beagle and a toaster? Well if you can believe it, Permissia McSimmons has done just that! After getting the idea to construct a bagel costume for her constant companion, Chèvre Chaise, she took the theme one step further with a top-loading polished chrome car carrier. Her social media presence vaulted forward and never looked back from there.

Name-Dropping


The kids are doing their kidly things again today, just the way they always do (until their hormones start flaring and they become walking orbs of self-pity just wallowing in their existential dross for as long as would be necessary for humans working on that whole enlightenment bit while also losing faith in the authorities once-espoused as the be-all end-all for retrograde composition of exquisite fanfare technology (though very little else when you actually think about it for longer than 10-15 seconds at a time)). Our lord and savior once said “you know, when it comes right down to it, I’m the one who created everything, so you can just go ahead and sell that model train collection, Deborah.” I don’t know who Deborah is in this particular verse, to be honest, but the statement still carries plenty of weight even if you don’t engage in any specific name-dropping activities.

Family First


Gee willikers, Ebony! I sure as sugar won’t be able to make it out to that party tonight. Look–believe me–it’s not that I don’t want to. You know that! It’s just that I have so much cleaning up to do around my place. I’ve been putting it off for ages, and now my roommate’s dad is going to be in town for a few days–spur of the moment thing as usual–and he’d rather stay with us than go to a hotel because he wants to be closer to his son. I mean, I get it, they have a very strong relationship. I admire that dynamic, but of course also resent it at the present. Why do I have to be the one to pretty up our sty before he gets here? Just because I made 90% of the mess doesn’t mean I should be cleaning a full 100% of the space. How is that fair? The displaced 10% probably represents another 40 minutes of cleaning that I’m going to have to do instead of living it up with you! Trust me, I’ve tried getting around this, but there’s just no possible alternative. The next time your brother’s having a going-away shindig before shipping out to do a tour of duty in a war-torn expanse of the Middle Eastern desert, I am SO there.

Thanks, Dad


“Parallel entities befit madness, my son.

“You should never turn your back on those other dimensions our forward-thinking predecessors have been touting for some time now, or your attention will lose its cosmic importance, the aggregate of local souls gradually easing you out of their observational patterns–though it’s the last thing they would do if given the choice.

“While you are charged with keeping your attention beyond the present actions contained within our visible plane, you mustn’t let the responsibility weigh on your consciousness too much; although you know everything is simply an illusion, you are an integral part of the chain of illusions keeping our earthly consciousness afloat.

“When you shudder, know the implications. When two birds meet on a wire and appear to converse, understand that their dialogue fits into our space on a level wholly undisturbed by our own idea of language. No need to fret over payment, my first lesson is always free.”

“Thanks, dad.”

——

First draft posted on 10/12/11,
originally entitled #40

(#373)


We are the TOXIC Group:

Tastemakers
Obligating
Xylophones
Into
Conversation

Our meetings typically consist of 30 seconds of clever xylophone-related banter followed by 48 minutes of unbroken claptrappery (occasionally punctuated by a sneeze or self-important cough that reminds folks in the group of their own flimsy mortality). The list of covered topics is indeed long and tedious; an indeterminate amount of talking points is covered multiple–sometimes numerous–times, with very little ceremony.

The talking points typically meander around with little consequence, and our staffers have learned to endure them long enough to get to the meat of the meeting: attempting to reach a quorum on where to go for pizza afterwards. There’s been a glut of new “artisanal” pizza joints in the area, not to mention the existing restaurants who need gimmicks to keep up.

Gino’s Northeast: an old school pizzeria with a hint of sports bar (now with 25% more sass back)
Donnie’s Bunker: war hero’s spot with authentic Vietnam War memorabilia
Skip’s Dugout: retired baseball star’s spot with authentic ’60s and ’70s memorabilia
Gugliotti’s: Sicilian-themed ristorante
Chunkster’s: Most Toppings Around!®
Steggo’s Dino-mite Pizza: self-explanatory
Jeffrey’s Tamborine: adults-only gaming and entertainment-related eatery (wine allowed in the ball pit)

This particular installment of the TOXIC Group (#373) eventually ended with a near-unanimous selection of kofta kebab, since there’s only one local option for that cuisine and we were rapidly running out of time. For the record, a good portion of the group rallied for the adult play place, but Susie’s new around these parts, and we want her to stick around for a month or two before we test her patience with a drunken happy hour.

Ramshackle Paradise


Onset guerrilla warfare builds a stun gun for us all to accept the northern aggression as nothing more than an attempt to belittle the profession of soothsaying. But very little can persuade the sanctimonious union soldiers to just stand in line with a musket and a lollipop, each one hoping they’ll be the lucky one-and-only who gets an extra-long exposure in the makeshift photography tent.

Meanwhile, in the ramshackle paradise of our own inclusiveness:

Enraged and otherwise narrower than an encumbered and intuitive giraffe whisperer, Ralph decided that now would be the time to really just go for the gusto. “I mean, come on. I get so many chances to stand up for myself, but what do I do? Settle for omnipresence like a jerk. Man, I would kill to have omnipotence! Whatever, I’d probably just screw it up anyway. I mean, I seem to have this innate method for sensing how people around me are reacting at virtually all times, but I can’t for the life of me seem to get with the capitalist program and ascribe a monetary value to that skill. Chalk it up to laziness, or perhaps genuine concern coupled with an unwillingness to contribute to our species’ unfolding downfall. Jeez, I need a lollipop.”

Appetite for the Absurd


Heralded as the Jonestown Network alternative to Stem, the Fruitful Terrier Sitter Extraordinaire, Pango Pango Junction packs quite the wallop when it comes to pure, unadulterated edutainment at a reasonable price. Parked at the intersection of broad leaf swelling and matriarchal patronage, I defy anybody to come away without some kind of interesting new trivia in their noggin by the end of each episode.

Before I agreed to subject myself to the bizarre ritual that is test-viewing a public television program for the determination of proper demographic distribution, I thought “oh jeez, here goes another several hours of my life that I’m never getting back. And right on the heels of finishing up my kite-flying apprenticeship at Old American [for Profit] University, too.”

But, being the good sport that I am, I didn’t even balk at the dubious honor. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that the show’s producer and I had a bit of a fling a few holiday seasons ago, and that we still flirt pretty heartily with each other. I’m a real sucker for shallow intimacy, especially if it’s spread out over the course of several years, where I can put the person/people out of mind for a while and reconnect with that polarizing animal magnetism as though we’re on a sinking ship/divebombing plane/bucking bronco… I guess it would be tough to get two of us on one of those beasts at the same time, but you get my drift.

You know, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this topic. Not to wax depressing, but living alone has afforded me the time to step back and reflect upon the foundation of relationships at their very essence of innate human fragility. I’ve come to develop the inconvenient understanding that I was never meant to settle down with any one person, and the fairy tale love affair might as well go the way of the dinosaurs–at least, as far as I’m concerned. Damn, now I’ve gone and gotten myself all glum again! What the hell?!

But anyway, I promised Gwen I’d do her a favor by giving my unvarnished opinion on the latest project, so I borrowed her official showbiz flash drive and gave the first few episodes a spin. Yes, plural episodes. Just shooting a pilot clearly wouldn’t have been enough doing to properly showcase their dean’s list-caliber aptitude for creative enterprises. One could chalk it up to insurmountable confidence or simply an arrogance that never got flushed out of the system by regular beatings/embarrassments, but I reserve such judgments for the critics of the world.

Well, this review got a bit out of hand. Suffice it to say that I recommend Pango Pango Junction to anyone looking to spend some time on a contemporary spin of the “one-size-fits-all daytime head-scratcher” subgenre. Or simply anyone with a healthy enough appetite for the absurd.

Until we meet again, gentle reader–

Sardonicus Q. Jellyknife, Esq.

DFM


Enter our eternal and infernal friend,
Deflatermouse–
careful about the point he makes when scrimmying across the kitchen floor in a fairly affluent suburban subdivision that would otherwise say it’s been treated well by the rodents and mongrels of the world. Only DFM (as the folks in the know have referred to him) gets a pass–you know, for sheer name novelty that has nothing to do with his aptitude for deflating himself (or others) and everything to do with occupying the (then) hovel of Fretful Fred, a beleaguered baritone at the peak of malaise and circumspection.

“Well hello there, little fella.” DFM pauses, startled to be addressed in such a cordial way.

“You’re the first visitor I’ve had in quite some time!” DFM appears to be intently listening to Fred, if only to take in the sonorous quality of his voice.

“Take a load off, friend! I don’t have much of anything to offer, but I’m sure you’re fairly adept at fending for yourself at this point.” DFM then immediately proceeds to scrimmy away, marking the exact moment in which his fabled moniker first graced Fred’s consciousness.

Fretful Fred considers himself a bit of a wordsmith, in addition to his accomplishments of the stage and screen. It took about two to three seconds to formulate the nickname, during which time there were numerous cognitive connections taking place, not at all dissimilar to the series of adjustments that a world-class athlete must make while performing the repetitive tasks that put them in that spotlight in the first place.

Our tiny rodent companion lit the fuse that led to a lightning-quick series of self-deprecating blasts. Every moment neglecting my life’s passions seems to just fuel the bonfire of self-hindrance, perpetuating a “woe is me” mentality that only spirals as the moments compile. My pesky new pal graced me with his presence at the intersection of doubt and fear, giving me the semblance of camaraderie, no matter how fleeting. But, just as all moments ever experienced by we, the mortal folk charged with hoisting the weight of the cosmos (whether or not weight is an accurate measurement), our fledgling friendship seems to have vanished as suddenly as it appeared.

“You’re a real Deflatermouse, you know that?” Freddy knew that an intellectual connection couldn’t be made, now or ever, but he continued to consciously deny the existence of a language barrier for the sake of infusing any wonder into his underwhelming existence.

Done with It


I leapt atop a cereal box
then realized
it wouldn’t support my weight–
I sank into the Cap’n Chocula,
lucky to miss scraping my knees
on the crunchy saccharine goodness.

The issue of scale
then presented itself
and I burst forth
from the cardboard capsule
(mysteriously missing
the plastic liner recommended
by the FDA and all those smart folks
protecting our health
and personal liberties), unscathed.

I guess I owe my roommate
a new box of cereal, though
I think I would offer more value
by illustrating to him
the sheer improbability
of spontaneous size-changing
without understanding the principles
behind such a mind-melting scrap
of anecdotal fodder.

Ultimately, the attempt to voice
my impression of the event
would see me chasing my tail,
flapping my jaw until creakiness ensues.
Nope, forget it. I’m just gonna
clean up this mess, get some more
fudgy grain poofs
and be done with it.

Sailor Parry


In the midst of a blight
brought forth by injustice,

Sailor Parry
abandoned his bow

in favor of an idiosyncratic approach
buoyed by the near-legitimate agency
with which so many people
squabble on a near-daily basis.

Suffice it to say that he’s miserable now.
The life on the sea was a demanding one,
but nothing he couldn’t handle
(with a nice snifter of scotch
warming in his palm).

He’s not as much of a red tape connoisseur
as most folks sharing the cubicle farm,
and his frustration tends to surface
in the form of a lighthearted jibe
(sometimes misconstrued as unobstructed malice).

As the weeks and months pass,
Sailor Parry begins to doubt
the instinct that drew him
from the briny depths to the skyscrapers
of those self-professed modernographers
who derive satisfaction
from pushing the 21st Century agenda
as far as it can possibly go–and then some.

“All the world’s a sea, but some of it
parades around as a c-word.”

Two Different Languages


Gratuitous vomiting noises seem to have permeated this otherwise lovely air today. But you know what? I could care less! It’s a gorgeous day and I’m out here walkin’ Stormin’ Normal, the long-haired dachshund. Believe you me, Normal is nothing but. He’d much rather prefer to chase rats around in the sewers than cultivate an image of military impunity and historical nickname significance. He does know how to storm about the neighborhood, but when it comes to commanding hundreds of thousands of troops, you might as well send a beagle out there in his place.

The vomiting noises have yet to cease here, I don’t quite know what to do about this. On the one hand, someone could be violently ill, necessitating first-responders on the scene. On the other hand, even if I were to be at the right place at the right time, there’s no way I could do the same good work of an EMT, and all I could do is hold their hand (if it’s not covered in vomit) and try to comfort them while the professional health-perpetuators make their way over.

Normy doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. The way I figure, if we can hear gratuitous vomiting noises from here, Norm should be able to smell the ensuing vomit and tug on the leash like there’s no tomorrow. Don’t ask me how I know, but Normy’s a bit of a vomit connisseur. He really digs it, in other words. I’ve tried countless times to break him of his obsession, but it’s like we’re speaking two different languages.

So unless Norm’s lost his incredible sense of smell, I’m certain that this person making the vomiting sound-effects really has no problem whatsoever with their digestion. More than likely, they’re trying to make a scene in front of their friends for money. Well, that’s just my assumption, since the only times I’ve acted up like that in front of my friends, some quantity of money was involved. But then again, if we were to go by the old adage that pushes the “friends are forever” line, I never did have any friends in the first place.

Plane


Well, what can we really do
at the end of the day,
aside from stapling our sorry sacks
to a sphincter of solidarity?

Ooh, that’s nasty. I shouldn’t be
unleashing such filth when
children
possessing such youth
are within earshot. I remember–
back when I was a child–when
that kind of filter just wasn’t
present in my mind’s eye.

I indeed regret that I didn’t
have the temerity to tell folks
(and, indeed, even my parents)
how their off-color language
off-put me. Every damn,
dang and darn chopped into me
like a rusty old hatchet–and
let’s not even mention
those other four-letter doozies.
But those were different times;
I was 23 then.
I’m 27 now, and my perspective
has matured magnificently.

What changed, you ask? Something
about my regular reading of
horoscopes and astrological charts
allowed me to unpack
my cognitive dissonances, yet
left me wanting more
from the universe and the planets
and the alignments and the
what have you. Is it all there
as a way of making us feel
more comfortable not knowing
the grand scheme of things,
a la benevolent overlords?

I reckon if we can’t truly see
the full picture, we might as well
get as large-scale
as we possibly can
while affixing as much
mathematical logic to it,
keeping in mind that everything
is more likely than not
an amalgamation of chaotic particles
flinging themselves at one another
at variable rates, and we’re
the unnecessary end result.

See, these are the kinds of thoughts
that can be had without
such a potty mouth! Now, if only
our president
could understand that, we’d be
in much better shape. But
you know what? I’ll leave
that speculation to the birds.
What kind of birds, you ask?
Gee willikers, I don’t know!
You pick one! I guess
I’m partial to crows
at the moment,
though I do like them egrets
and fincher-pinchers.

Okay, you got me, fincher-pinchers
aren’t actually animals—
that we know!

Well, at least in this plane.
There are no fictional
passerine passengers
allowed on flight #38674-012
to Fallas-Dwort Earth.
Truly.

Stu


Stu has an irreverent tone to him today. Was it the pineapple liqueur we plied him with before the road trip to Tijuana? I guess it could have started there, but the tequila probably sealed the deal. Whatever the cause, this man certainly doesn’t know the meaning of off-switch. He’s off, don’t get me wrong there. I suppose the main discrepancy lies in his knowledge of what it means to be “on.” He has his own notions, which all point toward an absence of critical thought and an inherent acceptance of the status quo, which definitely do not endear him to the youths of today. And after all, who pulls the strings around here? There are two answers:

The financial benefactor who supplies the dollars and necessitates prudence through their old-world viewpoint that relies on fear-based tactics

and

The youthful tastemaker who takes it upon him/herself to challenge whatever position may have formed over the past quarter-century and invent a hybrid form of expression that (over the subsequent quarter-century) pervades all social conventions and leads to the same cycle of adherence as with what had been previously-established–ironic, yes? This process will be repeated ad infinitum until either (A) the species evolves and outgrows such petty matters, or (B) we all die horrific, gruesome deaths at our own hands.

No matter what transpires, it’s important to remember that, to our tragic figure Stu, everything is relative, and there’s no point in making any more friends if it’ll just lead to pointless poisonings.

Liberties


I left a gorilla in Hamelin’s office tonight with the intention of checking the results on the security camera tomorrow morning (after a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood and well-crafted latté at my favorite local roaster). I don’t have anything against Hamelin, other than the fact that he micromanages me and I feel trapped in a corner wearing a straitjacket half the time. Okay, maybe I do have something against him. But back to the gorilla at hand here. I won’t bore you with the logistics of just how I managed to transplant a 350-pounder into a 27th-story corner office without sustaining so much as a scratch (though I know you’re impressed). I’d rather get down to the nitty gritty of my thought process. As far as I see it, our hirsute cousin will react to Hamelin’s plants that I’ve strategically strewn about as though a silverback counterpart had already been there. Could it possibly think–after coming to–that another gorilla had already taken liberties with the decor? And if so, would our friend (let’s just call it Chip) leave well-enough alone? Or would he want to contribute his own personal flair to what he thinks is a radical statement of primate interior decoration? Would a gorilla even contemplate matters on such an elevated level anyway? It’s doubtful, improbable and impractical to think such a phenomenon could exist, a magical realism that extends past the bounds of human domain and into the advanced psyche of a less-cerebral species. Anyway, you’d better not tell anyone I did this. There’s no way I’m going to be liable for any damages after the way old man Hamelin treated me. I figure I’m due a few grand for my troubles, even if it doesn’t present itself in the way of a manila envelope filled with hold card cash.

Hold card cash? Jesus, I need to get more sleep.

Begs Ennedict


Begs Ennedict was once (and hopefully will soon once again be) a friend of mine. I met him after the turning point in his life where he legally changed his name to resemble the popular breakfast dish. To this day, I’m still not sure if he meant it to be a statement, a joke, or a cross of the two. I may never get the chance to find out, either. He moved away one day without telling anyone. He left his things behind in the apartment. He must have gone off the grid too, because he broke his lease with seven months to go.

Of all the people he let into his life, I was likely closest to him. He didn’t even talk to his parents, and they seemed to just understand and accept the circumstance. When Begs left, I called up his mother. She didn’t know he left, nor had she spoken to him since her birthday from a few years back. She didn’t seem surprised to hear it, and, frankly, I wasn’t surprised by that lack of surprise.

The only surprise I got as a result of Mr. Ennedict taking an indefinite leave was the letter he left to me on the kitchen counter in his apartment. He’d given me a spare key for emergencies, and knew I would be visiting his pig sty once he left. Oddly, he left it much cleaner than I’d ever seen it, a la boy scout camp. He was always a strange sort of gentleman.

I could go on about my various impressions of the man, nut I’ll just read you this letter. It will resonate his voice more strongly than I ever could.

——

Dear Chippy,

I’ve given her all I’ve got, and I can’t take her no more. It is now time to uproot and look at myself in this world, weigh my flaws against the flaws of our esteemed brethren. I can’t say what brought about this sudden consciousness shift and grinding conscience. Honestly, this has been an unwieldy last several years, and all I can do at this point is thank you for your thankless work. I will leave it at that, in case anyone reads this before you.

You know I’m not one to express fondness, so I choose instead to share with you my state of being at the time of writing this. I can only tolerate city living for so long, and I’ve reached my long-overdue breaking point. It’s a marvel that I held it together for as long a period as I did without having multiple meltdowns, and I’m cashing in my chips while I’m still beating the house.

So what does that mean for my immediate future? I can only say so many things without incriminating myself of betraying my new location, so I will instead give you my impression of what I hope will transpire (and indeed what mind frame will put me there) in my coming passage of time on this planet, written as a monologue filled with non-sequitur. You know as well as I do that I am best able to express my purest intentions and subconscious developments through this medium. Frankly, that is the reason why I’ve always trusted you so much.

    The Dew Drops of May

Heaven told me one day, “It’s as clear as a rose in an egret’s beak that you may fly away from here, and returning will be dictated by the phases of the moon.”

So I packed up my bindle and planned my marching orders, step by step. I accumulated about seven pages of detailed itinerary, then ripped it all up into incomprehensible shreds and sprinkled them out the window, victorious. No road map can exist; you may only bring your conscious mind with you wherever you go, and the great floating consciousness in the sky will take care of you.

All of this pondering brought me back to that famous God question again, but I chose to drink a liter of water instead. We are as we have been and will be, built from the fungus that made life possible, designed by accident over billions of years, a happy mistake that somehow pushed itself along, defying extinction with nothing but separatist intentions.

Now that we (myself specifically) have reached our peak of evolution by default, I must do something new, something that will impart to you and the rest of our peculiar species a glimpse of that purest form, a streamlined vision of the cosmos translated into abstract symbols as a means of enlightening as many as possible. You may choose to share this, or you may choose to destroy it (after all, it’s only paper), but you would likely regret its destruction.

Sheik shrieks siphon belly aches through tubes of transient melon baller coordination, and the audience stands in confusion. Has the performance already begun, or are we still just warming up? Will there ever be a time when our instruments will be perfectly-tuned, or is that a futile concept altogether? We’ve roughed it and toughed it out through epochs of predetermined insignificance, assuming a finish line exists just over that next horizon of indeterminate luminescence. I may say with utmost confidence that stellar inoculations numb us from the pointlessness, and indeed create determination, an invention that will allow us (eventually) to sample the infinite wares the cosmos has to offer. We are living, but have reached a collective bargaining agreement with fate. We sold our souls at the railroad tracks to pretend we call the shots, and have been met with mixed results. On the one hand we have art, and on the other we have genocide. Out hubris causes confidence that exists nowhere else in Nature, and we never stop to think how that’s even possible. Thus, we continue improvising with untuned instruments, hoping to one day strike a chord that rings with harmony in perpetuity across all of existence itself. We’ll never make it with that attitude, boy.

Chippy, please join me on my solitary journey. You know what I mean. It has been a pleasure spending time and space with you, and I will think of you often (and for you, if necessary).

Love,

Begs Ennedict
(AKA Begsy, Begs-E)

——

I still have not shared this letter with anybody (well, until now), but I have vowed to accompany Begs on his journey across time and space, to be a good steward of evolution and, most importantly, to honor his wishes to the best of my ability.

I do not know who Begs Ennedict is, and I’m not sure if I believe in reincarnation. Would a more sentimental person call him a great spiritual leader? Would a more conspiratorial person call him a changeling? Begs would discourage any labeling anyway, but I enjoy pondering those intangibles nevertheless.

Empire


Well, as far as that’s concerned, Charlene kicked the bucket about eight years ago, givin’ birth to our youngest of seven young’uns. I named him Squiggy; that’s probably what she would have named him. She created a fashion empire, one clothing line for every chillun we sired; left behind quite a fortune with the Brandon, Stephen, Kalen, Armbruster, Eddie and Sherry labels. Squiggy’s just starting to realize that he has no clothes named after him, so he’s started making a point of wearing burlap sacks every day. He just wants to piss off his fashionista siblings. They don’t much like it, but they’re a bunch of snobs now anyway, with that fancy Hollywood upbringing. I never much cared for that methodology, and my ditch-digging career is just about all that keeps me sane these days.

I figure nothing’s bringing Charlene back, and she’d still be here spoiling them kids–if it weren’t for Squiggy’s breach birth. I loved her to death, never gonna remarry. I figure I’ll just get a few more dogs and move on with my life. So far I have Scruffy, Tipper, George and Sheila. They aren’t allowed to come into the house because of those damn kids. My best friends and I spend most of our time out there digging ditches. Squiggy’s going to take up the family profession soon, just like his ol’ dad, dad’s dad, dad’s dad’s dad, etc. If I were a literate man, I’d come up with some clever autobiography–“Life’s a Ditch” or some sort.

Celebricheese®


Hey! You there! Come on down to our brand new wax museum of cheese celebrities, Celebricheese®! For a nominal (suggested) $15 fee (non-refundable), we offer you the full experience of observing your favorite celebrities in cheese form, made with realistic wax that will preserve the likenesses for much longer than statues made of pure cheese. We know what you’re thinking: why have a museum dedicated to cheese that doesn’t actually have any cheese in it?! Well, you’re a shrewd interpreter of the creative process, my friend. At the core of each celebrity resides a canister of the (freeze-dried) cheese represented by his/her/its likeness, where the dry ice is replaced every day. Our celebricheese® include, but are not limited to:

Monterey Romano, Fontina Turner, Blue Cheese Man Group, John Cheese, Eddie Muenster, Pepper Jack Black, String Cheese Incident, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozzart, Al Roquefort, Brie Larson, John Goudaman, Parmesean Penn, Alan Brickman, The Provolone Ranger, Fondoogie Howser, Danny Velveeta, Taylor Swiss, Colby Bryant, and Edam and Eve.

Come on down, we’d love to see you here! We’re located on the same lot that once held that abandoned eyesore of a cracker factory in historic Old Shireberg! Admission is on a first-come basis, so beat the traffic and you’ll receive one of 1,000 commemorative holographic Elvis Pretzel-y refrigerator magnets! Everyone knows cheese and pretzels go together like gloves and mittens! Come on down!

Inherent Value


Poet: I got a steal of a deal on turkey today! I’m unreasonably happy right now.

Accountant: So… why’s that? It’s just turkey.

P: Well, someone dropped one of those shrink-wrapped breasts on the floor, and it had already been opened, so their policy was that they had to toss it.

A: Let me guess, you–

P: Yup, got it for free! Gino was working behind the counter today and came out back on his break to “dispose of it,” i.e. let his buddy have an ample supply of salty fowl meat.”

A: Gross.

P: I didn’t see it fall, but Gino said it got picked up in about a second, and the floor was pretty clean at the time.

A: Pretty clean?

P: Come on dude, I get floor food all the time and yet never get sick. Coincidence? I think not.

A: Well… you might be onto something there, but you’ll have to walk that tightrope without me.

P: How very cryptic, yet obvious. Did you think I was going to try to share this miraculous bird boob with you? Fat chance, señorita.

A: Señorita?

P: Yeah, I’ve been starting to call white cisgender males señorita lately, to get them to question their binary perception of sexual and social roles (unless they already think about these things, in which case they’re cool with it anyway).

A: Good to know.

P: Back to the point at hand: you were insinuating that it’s only a matter of time before I ingest a floorbound grape and contract some horrific illness. Sometimes I wonder why it is that you actively root for my destruction.

A: Geez! Where did you get all that from?

P: Tonality, body language, eye movement, the usual.

A: Well it’s not true, dude! You really take things too far sometimes.

P: Yeah, whatever. That’s what they all say. All those… “people.”

A: People, sheeple, I know where this rant is going.

P: Fine, then let me localize my argument to this room and the mind straddling the body in my vicinity at the moment. I have been observing for some time that you repress your instinctual side, and the passive-aggressive comments you make on a fairly regular basis are vessels for your packing-up of creative frustration. You lob them–like grapefruits–right down the pipe and I hit tape-measure blasts from time to time, depending on my energy level at the particular moment of said pitch. My diagnosis: Boredom-itis. Prescription: Weed and painting classes.

A: Ooh, ow. Oh yeah, you really pegged me, you bedraggled son of a gun, you.

P: Glad you at least acknowledged it this time.

On the Hill


Kippers make Kipling seem somewhat soft, though I rarely worry about such judgments in the wake of our darling petri dish disposal repairman’s birthday. It just wouldn’t seem fair to rob our poor dentist’s cousin of his day in the spotlight; his daughter just graduated from college last week and he needs to figure out how she’s supposed to make a living in this city. From observing her through the years, it’s clear that she won’t be following him into the family business–and he’s just fine with that. He’s also fine with keeping a roof over her head, but hopes she has plans of leaving the nest. His inner philosopher has been craving some peace of mind and thinking space for years as he couldn’t help but notice her stumbles and bumbles through school.

Our beloved petri dish disposal repairman will be quite surprised–even baffled–next Tuesday after work; his spousetess with the mousetest, herself a successful clinical psychologist’s psychologist, has put together a shindig with a guest list of the most prominent thinkers in a four-neighborhood radius, in hopes of inspiring questions that will invigorate the remainder of his life. If he’s wise, he’ll cooperate with her plan–she always makes the best plans.

Trousers


I didn’t put on a belt today, even though my trusted toad in residence screamed at me, “please do wear something that will hold up your trousers, you know how much you need that kind of support.” That kind of support. That kind of support. The statement cut to my core. How could a simple amphibian surmise how using such obviously leading language would end up with such a visceral reaction? I must concede that he has been with me for most of my adult life, a fact that I tend to overlook in my times of angst. He just has this way of seeing how my psyche copes with everyday life and the human-to-human disappointments that never fail to pile up when I venture outside of my hovel. Yeah, I’ll chalk it up to that.

Not one to quickly withdraw into self-pity (it usually takes a few minutes), I shot back. “Bah, you old-fashioned reptile! I rather enjoy a somewhat droopy trouser. It’s not my intention to be lumped in with the old fogies of the world, thank you very much. You know as well as I that I tend to shuffle my feet and speak in an exasperated tone about how things aren’t the way they used to be. Don’t rob me of my freedom of expression!” I called him a reptile, knowing full well that his species spawns in water. I’d recently taken to jabbing him with barbs designed to rock his steady demeanor. He has never once taken the bait. The cold-blooded bastard.

“Well sir, have you ever considered being the individual who brings belts back in style? Perhaps even suspenders? Your species really relishes bringing fashion back after an arbitrary period of time has passed, and maybe this time you can be the one to inspire the young men and women of the world that trousers sitting comfortably upon the waist are truly the change that they’d wish they started clamoring for, had they known someone of your immense tastemaking abilities.”

Speechless. Just speechless. That blasted earth-toned hopper had me stymied once again as I hiked up my pants for what must have been the twentieth time since making an excuse to “get fresh air” around the neighborhood (mainly for the purposes of people watching and escaping my inner turmoil as much as possible). I’m still confounded to this day as to how a little guy like him–with such a tiny little brain–could be my intellectual better. Oh well, no use in beating myself up… I think.

What Comes Next?


The floundering tapestry merchant scrapes his knee on the palm tree he’s come to take for granted since moving to Tampa. As blood begins pooling, he ponders if this will mean his end–as a tapestry merchant, sure, but perhaps also as a living organism, once free to scrape his knee wherever he so chose. But no longer. In earlier times he’d have easily become infected, luring death ever closer with his septic charms. How romantic, he thinks, to live in a time of no antibiotics, teetering between states of consciousness, vulnerable to roaming apex predators, begging kin to keep his fire burning instead of fending for themselves.

Standing there in the shade, the pain has already subsided, blood no longer rushing to cover the wound; just another in a long line of false alarms. Now he can get back to fretting over his inevitable bankruptcy and extended stay under a viaduct.

Anonymous in Chicago


Stellar calligraphy adorns a battered page
that once belonged to a fastidious girl’s journal.
The loose leaf flits about
the intersection of Halsted and Lake,
dancing above and below cars as they pass by.
I risk life and limb——
actually, I just grab it as I go through the crosswalk——
and hold it up with both hands like a scroll.

It reads: To anyone who’s reading this, don’t act like you’ve found something special. I practice calligraphy at least twice a week and scrap the page when I’m done. You are holding Calligraphy Practice Page #46. The first 45 have all met the same fate as this one. Only time will tell if this or any other of these will be read at all. This may very well be an exercise in futility, if you don’t take into account all the hours of calligraphy practice I’ve been afforded. Doesn’t this script look good? It sure is a hell of an improvement from Page #1, and almost imperceptibly better than #45. I’ve scattered these pages across the city, so good luck finding other ones for the purpose of charting the improvements in penmanship.

Yours truly,

-Anonymous

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.

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.”

Andre and Farley


He grabbed the salt shaker and gingerly sprinkled several granules upon the sweet potato fry he clutched in his other hand. He preferred not to drown his entire serving in higher blood pressure, though he failed to consider the possibility that portioning the seasoning out to individual fries would eventually surpass an initial liberal dumping before he took his first bite. About halfway through, however, he noticed that the spill-off from his deliberate salting was enough to flavor the remainder of the fries, which he found to be quite convenient, because it afforded him to put down the shaker and proceed to shovel the fried goodness into his mouth at a highly accelerated rate.
Upon completion of his snack, he looked up from the grease-stained paper basket and immediately chastised my gastronomic efforts. “Wow, you’re still only halfway through that sandwich? How is that possible?”
He hiccuped and gulped about six ounces of Dr. Pepper.
“We’ve been eating for three minutes, Andre. Are you kidding me? Apart from that, I’ve actually been enraptured by your shameless display of gluttony. I saw your whole process, and I have to admit I found it rather amusing.”
“No, you’re just a girly man. What’s in that sandwich, anyway? Are you still a damn dirty vegetarian?”
“Eh, it was too difficult to deprive myself of the animals I know and love, even though I know exactly how they get from those sweat farms to my plate. That just shows you how much of a man I really am.
Oh, and this is a turkey club. I mostly just ordered it to see if they’d stick those plastic-frilled toothpicks in the individual quarters of sandwich to keep them from falling apart, and I’m not disappointed. They even varied the colors of the plastic! Two orange and two green! I believe a large tip is in order.”
“Remind me why we hang out so much.”