Terrence At Two

It’s two in the morning and until the break of dawn, man is an island. The still air breaks and the sound of leaves could very well be rushed steps. Pitch black wraps around the florescent halos of street lamps and it’s all too much. The world seems to invite paranoia and Terrence finds it’s a rather courteous guest. It sustains him with the absolutely false knowledge that murderers, rapists, and darker shades of Satan lurk in the shadows. There is no uncertainty. Terrence lives and breathes in 2am.

Twenty seven hours ago, Terrence awoke and swore off sleep as he tended to do between getting his fix. He is hopelessly addicted to the stuff and he often fears it will be the end of him. Terrence is the kind of guy who thinks that being conscious keeps you safe. He’s wrong but he does feel safe. He is also starking raving mad and roving Market Street with a fillet knife. It’s neatly tucked away in his messenger bag but in his current state, that is much too close.

The shadows are creeping in and Terrence is feeling cold sweat coming over him  again. He mistakes the feeling for premonition. He’s toying with the towel inside the messenger bag. Inside his towel is his knife. Inside his head, are scenarios where he would have to stab, slash or thrust. They’re incredibly detailed and all worked out carefully so he is always the prevailing hero.

He hears steps and things get out of hand. In his right and lucid mind, he’d know that those steps were most likely high heels. That mind left fifteen hours ago and hasn’t been heard from since. He’s got his hand on the hilt, the threadbare towel sits at the bottom of the bag. The click clack keeps coming and Terrence is sure the bell tolls for him.

She’s four paces behind him and Terrence eases his hand out of the messenger bag.

“Where’s the bus stop?”

He turns to find a slender pale woman in a little black dress with her feet crammed into a pair of stilettos. She’s a martini short of falling down and obviously a stranger to the city. She’s also apparently out of coverage range or at least her outward and upward right arm could construe that. Her phone may be off.

“Anywhere there is a blue sign with a yellow dot.”

“Okay, when is the next bus?”

“Four hours, I think.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah.”

She leaves furious towards a bathroom that she is sure exists despite it’s refusal to. He feels that chill again and hopes the four hour pass without incident. He’s got his hand back in the bag. Things are getting out of hand again.

The Buddy System

You can’t save someone from drowning until they’re in the water. You can stop them from going to the beach or the pool but that’s not really the same thing.

Amanda was a friend of mine, a bad friend but close to a best friend. The strings that bind us tied me and her closer together. If I fell, we would be thrown into a spiraling unpredictable spin. If she fell, the same but more likely. I wanted to get loose of her so badly.

As my Fiesta sputtered down the road, I knew these were the precious last miles that the brakes would take. After the brakes were gone, the car was officially worth less than the parts it needed. These were the last breaths of my car and I was using them to take Amanda to a party. I realized that if I wanted to be snipped from her all I had to do was not go in.

It was only a matter of taking a walk along the beach, letting go and letting George. He was twenty five, three years her senior and inferior to every human being in a two mile radius. He had eyed her in every party we had ever attended. I’d heard about other girls he eyed. They could never prove anything but everyone knew. The bruises were his trademark.

While Amanda got blotto, I usually played a more literal wingman. I watched her 3 6 9 and 12. If anybody else wanted her, fine as long as she didn’t sound an alarm. If George tried, I was fully ready to shoot a sidewinder into him. That’s what I did at parties, I played white knight to her tipsy king. She never thanked me, don’t think she knew it could be anyway else.

Soon, I found myself sitting on the beach trying desperately not to look back. In the moon’s light, I could just make out the waves as they ate the sand. The party raged inside and I could hear it a football field away. What I was doing wasn’t exactly fair. Sure, she should know how to swim by herself but I had always been there before. It wasn’t fair to suddenly expect her to have fins. Truth is, I wanted her to drown, just a little.

That truth sat uneasy in me and suddenly I was jogging back to the party. The jog turned to a sprint as I saw George was running away. I was at the stilts first, then the stairs. Amanda was leaving and trying for casual but I could see that twitch in her eyes. That was same twitch she had in ’02, when Deborah K. called her slut and she exited the locker room with “lost time” or so her defense to the principal went.

We made it to her house without incident. The car started sputtering and dying. I found a parking lot to abandoned it in and started walking. The second after I shut the door, the sky opened up. I was soaked and feeling karma. We never did recover what we lost, what I had thrown away. We got better, but never quite where we were before.

The Tinker’s Dilemna

The final shot of the bottle sat in his glass and Jared was no closer to knowing what to do. Carol was sitting in the basement, some ten blocks away, probably playing with some slight entertainment that Jared had left about. She was always easy enough to please; dvds and video games all seemed so new to her. It was new, but then again so was she.

“Mister that’s 151, how are you still sitting here?”

“Constitution has never been my problem. My problem is and will always be,” The last drops left the shot glass down his gullet “My problem is indecision. Anyways, the bottle only had three shots.”

“That’s still a lot.”

“So is she.” He pulled out his wallet size photo of Carol.

Her mouth was gaping wide and barely shaped into a smile. Jared remembered the moment before flash, she was caught in one of her strange fits of laughter. The camera was something new and she was about three seconds from pouncing him and dissecting. It was really amazing that he was able to retrieve the memory card later.

Pain being an alien thing to her, she paid no heed to her quickly tossing breast. She was tackling him and leaving him just as promptly. She held her new toy to the light of the small window overhead, trying to catch a glimpse of the magic situated inside. It was always magic to her.

As she walked through the light, her red hair ignited into vibrant hues. She retreated back to her workbench, an old desk Jared had rescued from an economy apartment about to be demolished. That’s what Jared use to do, he was a scavenger.

He was a scavenger until Jared came up with the bright idea of Carol. Back then, she was more of a vague blueprint and four boxes of mismatched parts. Her powerful but slender legs could find cousins in any number of cities, helping soldiers, policemen and hot dog vendors alike. Same with her eyes, her arms, and even her hair. No matter how many side projects he had though, he still took at least twenty hours of his week to work on her. Along the way of building her, he found a fortune which was indeed fortunate, because that’s what she cost.

When he was a scavenger, no woman wanted him. During his life as an inventor, he did romance a few women. With them, in their folds he was quite happy. They seemed happy too, although as the stereotype goes he didn’t much care about their enjoyment. Even on his best nights, he was thinking of the hypothetical ideal sitting in his basement.

Carol was the driving force in his life. Every new invention, every dollar, it was for her. By the his the time he turned 30, she had a rudimentary face and was developing a mind. He wanted to make such things grow naturally. He would talk to her, teach her, play with her. She had a childhood, but a skinless one.

On his 40th birthday, he completed her. Six weeks past and he realized he had a problem. When he embraced her, he did not swell. It suddenly seemed impossible to make love to her. It was a cruel time to gain perspective. Ten blocks and three shots later, he found himself holding a picture of her up to a bartender he barely knew.

“Who’s that beauty?”

“My daughter.”

Public Speaking

The rifles are already aimed. Four soldiers are on a knee, ready to fire once the order is given. Once ordered, they will fire into Kenneth Mariner until their magazines empty. Judging by the rifles, that’s either sixteen or twenty shots. Finally, the officer will deliver a coup de grace with his sidearm and inspect the body. Kenneth is looking right down the third soldier to the left’s iron sights, into the soldiers blinking nervous eye.

In the surrounding auditorium, Kenneth Mariner’s peers sat, their parent close to them. They were all dumbfounded at the oddity. Here stood a boy eleven years of age standing as tall as he could, as strong as he could. He stared at a point somewhere beyond the projector. He was waiting for the perfect words to form. Fifteen seconds of silence passed as if hours, then he spoke.

“Cuba is an island slightly smaller than Pennsylvania. Seated adjacent to Central America, it is the largest island of The Western Antilles. The country’s official language is Spanish. The 11 million people who live there enjoy basketball and baseball. Their main export is sugar.”1

“Very good, Kenneth. What kind of delicacies have you brought to your table?”

“Deli ham wrapped around a pickle slice.”

“Sounds scrumptious. Let’s give Kenneth a hand.”

Mrs. Tran was always nice, but she couldn’t stop what’s coming. During the ovation, Kenneth sunk down the podium and the bandstand, towards his table where he was sure his fate awaited him. Peter Mariner secretly wondered if his public speaking technique didn’t quite translate right. He watched his son make a rosary and Pete was assured that he had been a bad father. Luckily, their health insurance covered psychiatry.

Never again would Pete watch Paths of Glory without feeling slight amounts of shame.

1. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cu.html

Under An Unlucky Moon

Behind the blackened gums, between the yellow giant teeth, there was a large tongue writhing. She stood hip to Jacob’s head, making her gender apparent. Her long snot hovered above his hair, sniffing a faint unnatural odor. Jacob thanked whatever god’s maybe for the volume enhancing product on his head. She was angry and losing patience. She was judging him.

If there were other witnesses to this incredible sight, they were keeping quiet. For all intents and purposes, Jacob and Janet had the alley all to themselves. Jacob would later rate this date as his personal worst.

While she was probably slower than her four legged brethren, running was still not an option. Her long gawky arms would get him before he could have a good start. Short of suddenly summoning a Browning Automatic Rifle, he couldn’t fight her. Her claws, her teeth, they could pierce everything. He had one move, and it made little sense.

“Bad dog.”

He looked right into her eyes with as much condemnation as he could.

“You don’t eat me!”

He was stern, he was stoic and he was still at looking her right in the eyes.

“I’m so disappointed in you.”

She sunk down, her back to the ground, her legs curled. Thirteen foot tall and submitting, it was an odd sight. Soon enough, Jacob had found a milk crate to sit on and his date for the night was weaseling her way into his lap, where her head couldn’t possibly fit. The sun would rise in six hours. Until then, he sat without tennis ball or rawhide with a very big dog in need of entertainment.

Somewhere around four, it occurred to him that wolves rarely attack humans. Girlfriends are much more likely.

To The Next Ruler of The Universe

To the next ruler of the universe,

I left the key in the fake rock. Well, it was a fake rock when I was there. You might just up and decide it’s a satellite phone. That’s your prerogative: a man’s home is his castle and from your castle you will shape the universe as you see fit. Just remember, if the deadbolt still exists, the key is in the fake rock or satellite phone.

My tenure as ruler of the universe was mired by  my having no idea what I was doing. Fifteen seconds is an awful short term, even with dilation. I kept on look at the clock, which I created. Man, that was self defeating. I tried my best but I don’t think I got everything I wanted done.

If you want my advice, focus on happiness not peace. The only peace you have in this universe is the eternal kind and that’s really no fun. Least no one I observed liked the prospect of dying. I quite frankly could have live without knowing what happens after. Yeesh.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people, amoebas, and what have you relish the chance to talk to someone in charge. I think some of them expected favors, too bad the electoral college doesn’t allow you to garner many connections. I did promise somebody I’d help him move. I intend on helping him, just don’t know how I’m getting to Taiwan.

Anyways, I left beer in the fridge, porn in the bread box and the bread is somewhere too, I’m sure. If you fancy my taste in women, potent potables or bread, you’re welcome too it. Mi casa es su casa. Always to do that, never thought I’d get a chance to use a foreign language with a universal translator. If you ever get to Earth, tell me what the third sentence says. It would be a hoot.

I’ll be flipping burgers in Skokie if you need me. Not as prestigious a job, but rent’s due and I never got a paycheck from the universe. In all it’s vastness, I never thought stingy is how I’d describe it. Cheap place we live in.

Your former ruler,

Dale

The Crashing Men’s Requiem

I look down at The Crashing Men who stand far below the nosebleeds but above the whole arena. I am eighteen again and in the middle of my worship. The pounding drums, the crowing voice, the intricate and labyrinthine guitar: where the tread none follow, no one could.

I am always here in the lulls of my life, when tax season comes especially. The Crashing Men are pushing fifty but then again their forever and beyond such concerns. They haven’t been alive for some time in the view of forty year old me, but eighteen year old Ferris knows they are immortal. He knows so much. He’ll know a lot more in twenty minutes.

“Hold every god damn cheap ass recorder up high, you’re going to want to hear this. This our requiem and we expect it to be played.” Harold Shocker, lead vocalist.

It starts with a scream and Ferris is crying without any understanding for why. The scream dies and Harry falls to the ground. Everyone is sure he’s dead but for the building drums and then bass line. We realize this is a resurrection as he somehow climbs the mic. He starts low and in odd tongues we can’t quite decipher. He gets higher and we know the words but we can’t say exactly why.

We start singing along, no longer burdened by understanding. We are lost in The Crashing Men and as the fire starts on stage we stand. Harry kneels and our vision of him is lost in the fire. The music continues louder, higher and faster. As the flame turns white, the song lives. Then the firemen come.

They later say the whole song was inaudible noise. They always do. We know better, we know it to be magic, dark as the night. Lyrics are burnt into us and we are shaped by their passing. I’m back to my W2 and three children. I smile slightly and hum.

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