Like Wildfire

Figurine damage indication is just one of the important areas [here at Gareth Laboratories] where I’ve made myself indispensable. I’ve trained 54 associates–and counting–to specialize in the sixteen elements that directly contribute to the continuation of our great institution. I’ve created a simple mnemonic device for them: HOME SMELLS FUNNY P. I’m not very good with anagrams, so that last P is just kind of sticking out there to the side. But that doesn’t matter very much to me, because it serves as a reminder of the absurd penguin amendment to the corporate charter that Lance’s nephew added as a joke (but then ironically caught on like wildfire when I unknowingly passed out invitations to the zoo’s new special penguin house later that afternoon). Coincidences sure are a bitch.

Chin Up

A piddly little posy of pansies
left the station an hour ago
(off to Cleveland of all places),
running late. All alone,
the colorful collective thinks
to itself, “I should have had
a better breakfast.” A freight train
is no place for a flower
to be lollygagging around, fretting
about its appetite and desperate need
for sun rays, but that’s neither here nor there
at the moment. This bundle has an agenda,
and time is of the essence.

There’s no window in the car,
just that played-out open sliding door (the one
that may have Woody Guthrie’s initials
carved into it, whether by a fanatic,
the legend himself, or
just some schmo with the initials “WG”).

The posy, steeped in darkness, wonders
if it can gather the strength to flit
over to that certain patch of light
(the one there always seems to be),
when a breeze picks it up
and slaps it against the door,
just inches from being jettisoned.

A crash landing
in this stretch of rural Pennsylvania
would almost certainly mean a grisly death
at the hooves of the local Holstein population.
But now is no time to panic. Anxiety
will get you nowhere
in the face of a looming deadline
and quarterly financial report presentation.
Chin up, fair posy. We’re not giving up on you yet.

Figuring It Out

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Well, another day, another dollar. Aren’t I just the greatest thing that ever existed? The peak of existence, I tells ya. Yeah, see. I’m just so great… well, maybe. Or maybe I’m just full of shit.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Well, don’t you know it, a woman with a stroller is getting on the bus. Is this going to fuck up my routine, my rhythm? What the hell, she’s taking forever!

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

But her face is strained, she looks tired. The kid isn’t really paying attention to anything that’s happening, and this poor lady is just trying to figure out how to get to her destination without completely losing it.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

This mother is doing everything she can! Look at her, taking the bus on her own with a big-ass stroller that’s taking up way more space than she would care to take up in the first place.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I make brief eye contact with her and we exchange knowing glances, even though I know absolutely nothing (first-hand) about being a mother or providing for a family. Even being a woman, for that matter.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I get a look at the kid in the stroller, their eyes darting around to see the new sights, soaking them in like a sponge. Inquisitive. Colors everywhere. Information streaming in that may never leave.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

We lock eyes. I grin from ear to ear. He/she/they smile back, and keep the eye contact going. I have to look away after a couple seconds, for fear of other people noticing this interaction with a small child.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I think that this person could be a leader, a future president. I don’t want to spoil their innocence by selfishly avoiding their gaze. Their innocence can only stretch so far in the face of cynicism. I put my hand in the air and wave.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I look at the time, and it turns out that I’m going to make it to work without delay anyway. All that worrying, all the hand-wringing for things that were ultimately out of my control.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Where is this kid going, anyway? What are they going to want to do with their life? They obviously have a mom who wants the best for them. These are all things that probably won’t be reckoned with for some years (hopefully, if ever).

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Was I like that bright-eyed kid on the bus when my mom was taking me to work with her on my days off from school? Hopping on the blue line and talking about the little things we noticed on the platform and in the tunnel? Were there older people on the train making that same kind of eye contact with me? Did they avoid my gaze after a couple of seconds?

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Here’s my stop. One last glance at the mother and child is enough to charge me up for work, to give me that one last pause before I have to deal with the deluge of humans who may or may not know what’s good for them. But hey, we’re all figuring it out in our own time.

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.

Impression

How many twelfths
do we need
to fit into a sixty-fourth’s
meatball hammer sharpener?
The answer may surprise you.
For you see, not too many
efficient affluent
fling mellifluous melodies,
seldom slaloming on slip ’n’ slides.

The humble technician
patiently asks: why
must I lose my trains of thought
on the bus, instead of losing
my buses of thought the train?

There’s really no dice
to be thrown about at this hour,
I checked. Monsieur Gary prefers
a more effervescent
state of tumult
for his emperor penguin’s
chagrined porcupine impression.

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.