Scene from an Italian Maturbation

      It goes from togas, to tunics, to tshirts, stopping ever so briefly to acknowledge that time when they wore black shirts and went mad. There are the ruins of Rome littered through out, even in the part with the togas. Perhaps the artist was giving the people what they want. Perhaps the artist didn’t think anyone knew the difference. It is vibrantly colored though, and the landscape is breathtaking but the faces are flat and uniformly pensive turning towards anger. It really seems to denote a lack of emp… Bernard is trying to be better, trying to be nicer. Trying to stay in the moment and…

     not get distracted by the mural on the wall of the Italian restaurant while his date is trying to make eye contact before the breadsticks arrive. Bernard’s gaze rises from her big strong hands to her lovely blond hair that will soon enough turn back to red if he doesn’t work on those roots. The contacts she’s wearing create the most beautiful emerald eyes. She lets out a small uncomfortable grunt as she gives a toothless closed smile, perhaps alluding to a quirk leftover from preteen braces. He could just not be happy with her date.

     Really though? Who wouldn’t want Bernard? He’s got bad breath, an expanding midsection, receding hairline and a pair of glasses thicker and squarer than a nerd appearing in a John Hughes film. He’s got a mean cold exterior that should make him untouchable to the under 18 crowd. Yet he’s here, in a restaurant that costs more than he pays for groceries.

     “Linguine carbonara for the gentleman and water for the ahem other gentleman.”
     “Wait, we haven’t gotten breadsticks yet.”
     The waiter is already gone.
     “What? Regretting your dining choices Bernie?” Leslie is playful in tone but obviously self conscious about being the only person eating at the table.

     Bernie’s eyes wander down to the plate as the fork meets the thin slice of sausage drenched in thick red sauce. Leslie brings it up to his mouth and as her pearly white teeth bite, mercilessly tearing into the meat. Her lips were… that dark red she wore was… it had a way of breaking men down to their base. He’s about to jump across the table and take her but then she repeats and oh god, it’s even better. Again, and again until Bernie is left limp and flaccid and desperately glad that Leslie left for the little girl’s room.

     In his post vicarious carnivorous ecstasy he turns round to see if anyone else is having nearly as good of a dining experience. He finds a skinny 14 year old boy in a black flat top glaring at him while nursing a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Bernard knows the boy to be named Jessie. He knows Jessie from school. Jessie used to be quite the bully when Bernie was 12, when Jessie was 14. The thought occurs that Leslie has been switching genders. Bernie might be willing to let that go and let that night ride out into a new satisfactory conclusion.

     “I really don’t know anything.”

     She’s not even at his table yet, but he can hear her heels click behind him. He’s not going to turn around. He knows what Leslie looks like. Leslie is the type of girl who only agreed to go to the fanciest restaurant in their town on his dime because she liked him and she was still being charitable. She was a good 3 ranks above him in any order that mattered: beautiful, witty, charming. That was 17 years gone and she’s probably even better now. She’s sure as hell not still 15 and not reliving that time she
     “You know after this, I went down to the gas station, horked down a microwave burrito, went to my house and cried myself to sleep. We going to revisit that too?”
     The flesh draped over his shoulders was close enough to how he remembered Leslie, from that time he received her after her prom date was done with her. She puked on Bernie’s Burberry coat and Bernie in turn thought maybe, just maybe he was owed a go. Good times. The voice wasn’t hers, no that was probably the real voice, too many cigarettes smoked to be Leslie proper.

     “You know what we want.”
      “No. I knew. Then they erased it. I wouldn’t be a trusted courier if I kept the cargo.”
     “Well, I know what you want”
     Bernie sighs wishing that dreaming really could be enough for him.
     “You will soon.”
     The courier business is all about fight and flight. Bernie’s been told that it helps to have a friend. Bernie has Jessie which is something like a friend but at this point Jessie is just something scarier than Leslie and he’s switched open a curvy stiletto. Quieter too. Soon Bernie and the man who played Leslie will wake up in a motel bathroom but for now Leslie is crying and dying while Jessie begins to carve into the girl that isn’t. Bernie turns away helpless in the presence of his own devices, desperately not thinking while residing in his own mind.
     The breadsticks come as Bernie is leaving up the rabbit hole.
     His eyes open and there’s a man twitching next to him on a pink tile floor in a plush blue bathrobe. They had had a $300 night in a decent hotel and for a moment Bernard feels guilty about underappreciating the taker on the floor. Then he remembers what they do.
     Never feel guilty, don’t begrudge them because this is the work you do but never feel guilty for hurting a taker.
     He’s out the door and soon to call an ambulance because there is a man twitching on the floor and these things call for an ambulance but these things do happen. The man will be fine. The man will surely be fine.

     These secrets are getting pricey.


The football, the Calculator and the Terrifying State of the World

    Some sort of escalation was necessary. The only option was nuclear. Just take out the calculator and the football and let everyone else know that this time, things are final. The bill will be divided and any conflict will end in perdition.

    Do you normally carry sporting equipment?

    No, that’s a colloquialism for a briefcase that carries the means for arming a nuclear device.

    And it’s called a football why?

     Because it’s very important that you keep a hold of the football.

     So, you’d be the goalie?

    Sure if you’d like.

    I don’t think I would, me mum protested the Tridents.

     Well if I had my druthers I wouldn’t be carrying such a burden but you can only have so many off balance checks before you just get fed up and join the ranks of Israel, France, Iran and Donald Trump.

    Donald Trump, really?

     Well, I assume.

    Hmm. So how did you get a hold of it?

    The football? I made it myself.

    Found the schematics online?

    Ducktaped a universal remote to the inside of a briefcase.

     How is that going to arm a nuclear device?

    Well all I’d have to do is wire up the nuke to an ir sensor that was coded to accept commands as if it was a Samsung 27 inch 720p with wifi.

    Like picture in picture?

     On/off, maybe a timer if I felt honestly productive that day.

     I think I see a flaw in that plan.

     Well I was going to upgrade to 1080 sooner or later and I’d have a remote to go with that one.

     No I meant, well, did you actually have a nuclear device?

     Ah, but you see, that’s not a flaw, that’s a solution. You see the theory mutally assured destruction hinges upon the existence of weapon mass destruction. Some of these weapons are quite complicated machines and all of them by their very nature are dangerous. It turns out that absolute bullshit is considerably safer and more cost effective, as long as you don’t get name brand luggage.

    So, the device did it’s intended action of terrifying your table of friends who love you in to dividing up the check fairly and you went home and blew up an apartment 2 doors down.

     Actually, I just turned on the television. I had no idea that Maurice had the identical model, with a pound of C4 wired to it. Nice guy, really miss him.

    Is that common in the States?

     Nice guys? Lord, no. Most of them are assholes that would kill you soon as look at them. Not like here, why I’ve only had to pull ot a gun once sice I came.

     For your sake, I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that. I meant televisions with jury rigged explosives.

     It’s not like it’s a feature per se but it’s well within the spirit of the second amendment. Seeing the addictive nature of television I can understand why you’d booby trap the, telly(?). You can’t let yourself be a slave to the tube. I mean if I hadn’t been watching television I would have become a proper superpower.

     A superpower made of, what did you call it, ah yes, absolute bullshit?

     Aren’t they all?


     So do you think they’ll extradite?

     Have you infringed upon any American copyrights during your time in Corby?

     Not to my knowledge.

     Nah, you’ll be fine.


The Barber of Dis

        My world had shrunk in the last 3 hours, but I could feel it growing from the black veil closed tightly around me. The strange disordered rainbow that was dancing behind my eyelids was most likely thanks to the invasive light beaming down on me. I finally relented, opened my eyes and beheld a classic gray humanoid straight out of fake autopsy footage. I squirmed against the restraints in that tied me to the dentist chair. He had his back to me as he scrubbed up. I swear he was whistling Lovely Ladies.

        Around me were jars filled with life. Eyes, guts and teeth, leeches, mice and chihuahuas were suspended in a sort of goo. Before I had found myself a refrigerator, I used to use that funny goo a lot. The flavor keeps but your mouth always feels a little numb afterwards. My eyes focused on a rather large jar with a familiar animal and I felt winded.

        He turned back to me and followed my gaze to the jar holding a baby.

        “It’s pretty much intact, I think it might have whooping cough or tb or something. I’m planning on fixing it and finding it a new home with some parent in waiting. It’ll be a fun summer project.”

        As he rolled the r in pretty his voice went where my ear couldn’t follow for a second but he came back down to finish the word. He took to inspecting his implements preparing for a procedure that I was quite sure I didn’t need. There was a doorway in front of him from which the aroma of fried chicken livers lazily wafted. Behind me, I heard the sounds of loud angry German as another lone hero endeavored to win World War II muffled by a door that was very nearly closed. Mom would soon yell at the young boy and tell him lunch was ready. Another knock came to my gut and my torturer wasn’t even noticing.

        He returned to me with a curious little creature that could maybe extend to a 3rd of my thumb. It looked to be an iguana that had until recently lived inside a cockroach.

        “This is Apoon, he’s what we call a painstealer.”
        “Pain does not tend to die.”

        He had a point, well quite a few actually. There were all neatly arranged on trays around me along with a yellow drill and a reciprocating saw

        “What are you going to…”
        From under my chin he pinched my jaw and shoved Apoon right into the roof of my lip.
        “Sh. Now let’s get rid of those violent tendencies you harbor.”

        My stungun was still on the coffee table on top of my coat and that letter I delivered him. I tried to reach the four feet but try was in dwindling supply and my body wasn’t elastic. Apoon was good at his job. I began to quietly giggle about how absurdly fucked I really was. My eyes grew heavy and the world got distant as the drill began to whir.

        Sometime later, no less than 10 seconds, I heard my boy Zappy sing. I awoke to find a colleague of mine named Haley standing over the gray doctorish person. Her long bald head, her almost square flattened breasts, her stocky tall physique, she was by far the most beautiful thing I have ever known.

        “You know bullets are more effective.”
    “Well then by all means byob. Please help me out of this.”

        She bent over and checked the top of his head for a pulse. Once satisfied, she withdrew a bowie knife from her rather large bag and destroyed the harness trapping me. I quickly but poorly evacuated my recumbent prison. As she grabbed my coat the catalyzing envelope caught her eye. The letter was sitting adjacent. Quickly she skimmed it before handing me my possessions. I stood their somewhat afraid, somewhat tipsy but mostly stoned.

        “This is a death threat.”
        The knife was still in her hand, she wanted me to know that
        “Have you been selling insurance Amber?”
        “I thought it was a subpoena, I swear.”
        She sighed.
        “How much did they pay you?”
        “Kilo of Heroine and a pair of Keds. Bright purple, didn’t even know there was such a thing.”
        She shoved my trenchcoat at me.
        “Honey, when you going to learn? If it was something official they wouldn’t pay you in drugs, they’d probably use blue jeans or gold or something.”

        I felt sheepish and stupid and giggly as I put on my coat. I was 2 steps to the door before I realized that poor Apoon was desperately clinging to my teeth. For a split second I actually did think to squish him but if killing a mockingbird is a sin then I don’t want to think what awaited me if I killed a creature that only took pain away. I returned him to his ill barber who was just realizing that he needed Apoon desperately. I whispered in his ear my rushed apologies and ran to the door where Haley awaited.

        We ran out into the pocked streets of Lower Celestia and back towards Dis proper where home and bed awaited. Haley was sleeping over that night, so bed would keep waiting and couch would be my home.

The Explicated Mormonic Woman

Wow, that scone looks good.

This seat taken?

I asked because I’m a gentleman.

I sat here before asking because I’m sadly impulsive.

I’m not one to pry but I must ask, do you know you’re a Mormon?

I don’t know why you are, you just kinda look like a latter day type.

I think it’s just that I think you’d be at home in a tabernacle.

Yes, I understand that you’re waiting for someone. I just thought you looked lonely and Mormonic.

No, I said Mormonic.

It means pertaining to Mormonism.

So I made the word up, doesn’t mean I don’t know the definition. I mean if anyone knows, I would.

Well, weightlifting and gun collecting are both quite engrossing hobbies. I’m sure he’s very satisfied. I for one would like to collect model trains, after I meet Misses Right.

Ah yes, well, I guess I should get back to the point. I just think that you and your boyfriends would be happier as Mormons. I’ve got some pamphlets somewhere.

Okay, have you perchance considered the loving guidance of Ahura Mazda? He’s really in with the indy crowd.

Of course there are indy gods: you have your Cthulu, your Spaghetti Monster and let us not forget MacGuyver. Oh and Bacchus but really he’s more a frat thing.

Oh no ma’am, I’m an atheist.

Well I assumed, you do look like a Mormon.

Fine ma’am I’ll leave, but you don’t have to be so rude.

The Mosque of The Trickle Down Country

    It was another damnable time in the city of Dis, which had earlier been gray and not quite hopeful but maybe pleasant enough. Water was pouring from heaven and I swear the universe was mocking me. A lone yellow galosh sat in the alley that meets Appianway and Nowland. I checked but no blue house paint, no little rough places where it tried to melt. I didn’t know the boot and I did not own its twin. I sighed and turned back to Appianway down a cracked glass laden path, far from Dorthy’s vision. Me and my flip flops continued on.

    I saw the dome first and then I saw the closest spire reaching upwards. As I came closer I remembered that my fair city has no plan. Before the building, was twenty skinny shabby two story row houses and after it twenty more. There was enough copper to make a hobo cry, enough beauty to make anyone weep. In the dreary drenched dark it wasn’t much but at noon with the sun high, it can just catch fire. I walked up the steps and read the sign’s message which was written in 5 languages.


In The Sixth Millenium, There is an Answer to an Old Question

“Anyone ever ask you what the measure of a man is Aiden?”

The answer was sitting on the table to the left of a tape ruler. The rest of him was on scales all around the sterile white room. Amber Banes was diligently disassembling as much of the man as she could. 2 liters of blood were sitting on the ground in glass jars. With a plop, the kidneys were put aside to be inspected later for viability. Briefly she glanced at Aiden who was standing at the edge of the room trying to muster up some emotion for the proceedings. She turned back to the body, revealing the red highlights of her black bobbed hair.

“Well Granddad?”

“ Stop calling me that. I’m ten years younger than you.”

“No honey, you just lived ten years less than I did. The birthday still proves you’re my senior.”

“That’s fine. Is that Trevor Ashton?”

“Says so on the chip.”

“Trevor Ashton, awarded Hero of Earth in 2166?”

“As far as I know.”

If Aiden had his druthers, he’d be smoking and pacing up and down the ten mile compound. A troubling thought could always be beaten down with the proper medication. Sooner or later, he’d out pace it and find a rational, comforting answer. This was not to be as the fruit of Kentucky had died long ago and Aiden had work to do.

“ How does a man who survives impalement, plasma discharge and two painful divorces die?”

“A steel beam removes his head apparently.”

“So you’re saying that he’d be a poor recruit for an army?”

“ I would be if it was 4000 years ago. Now, we’ve got capabilities that… it’s magic. I got frozen a doctor, now I’m a shaman.”

The scalpel was put on a tray so that she could grab a pair of hedge clippers.

“ Why did you leave?”

“My arthritis got to the point that I couldn’t tie a knot: couldn’t work. Turns out all I needed was a cream.”

Plop. The heart was pretty big for a small man. Out of its element it was a rather unimpressive piece of meat. It might just save someone else’s life but that was potential. At that moment it was a bloody junction. The salvage mission continued onwards.

“Well Mr. Smith, do you need him or not? I really don’t want to remove his intestines if I don’t have too.”

“No, I kind of figured I’d get the whole package.”

“Wouldn’t be so picky myself. I’ve got sot some natural born killer heads back there.”

“I’ve got better prospects.”

“Do you need a new kidney?”

“Three’s sort of crowd.”

“Picky. Picky.”

Plop. The liver was now weighed. If you were one to subscribe to the idea that this was where the soul resides you might think Trevor had some serious evil inside him. Could very well be a symptom of the toilet wine.

“I was suppose to go somewhere else.”

“Senior moment?”

“I was told when you stop living you go somewhere.”

She stopped for a second. With her right hand she maneuvered to touch his shoulder but remembered the blood at the last possible moment.

“Do you dislike where you are?”

As if the patron saint of awkward moments, Ikay bust into the room with what looked like a tricorder and an insanely cheery smile.

“What’d you get me Amber?”

For a moment the two regarded Ikay like she had horns growing out of her bald head. Her cheerful disposition could be so irksome. Problem with that was, Ikay just wanted to save someone. Try as he might, Aiden couldn’t fault the kid for that.

Trevor Ashton died at the age of 60, 1.65 meters tall, 65 kilograms heavy. He had 155 confirmed kills and in his life he saved 20 men. In his death, he saved another 21.

The Snipped Red Whip

I saw her first on the bus at dusk on a Monday. We were sitting parallel to each other in the seating arranged for the disabled and the elderly. She had pouty lips with bright red lipstick and long thick red hair framing a pale face. The length of the hair was a theme, coinciding with her long legs and long arms. She stared into me and I thought I had a chance.

Meeting her eyes sheepishly, she smiled and when she smiled the world seemed to light up despite the setting sun. My eyes are a dull gray that’s never been able to move a woman any further than a millimeter either way. There was nothing in my eyes worth a second glance. Her eyes were a deep blue. If I were to stare into her eyes deep enough, I imagine I could see waves and maybe just a little bit of the Ivory Coast.

She was sitting next to Sabrina Waller. Age had shrunk Sabrina 2 inches since I first met her. Her green eyes were slowly turning to milk from behind a pair of thick glasses. Her clothes were walking the tight rope between apathy and neglect, shown apparent by the two month old coffee stain still on her blouse. Sabrina was a friend to anyone and had been for all her 80 years but right then she was listening to Gershwin and removed from the world at large.

5 minutes from my stop and the red headed woman was still staring at me, growing a large toothy smile. From behind Sabrina’s thick braided hair she pulled what seemed to be a piece of red licorice. Dumbfounded, I stared as she retrieved more and more confectionery. Then she bit into the candy and pulled with her teeth until the whole meter long piece was ripped from Sabrina. With an impossible slurp, she sucked it in. I could have sworn I saw it wriggle, resist.

Sabrina fell to the floor and never got back up. Two days later, (if her daughter told me the truth) the doctor declared her dead. I thought of mentioning the redhead with the powerful mouth but I realized no one would believe me. I had been up for 72 hours and I think I’m the only one who saw her. Maybe that’s why I saw her; she’s something that’s always there but it takes a tired mind to see.

When I think of her picking the strands of all those innocent people, I shutter. I’m pretty sure I know what she is and quite frankly I do not appreciate the service she provides. It’s been 48 hours since I last slept and I’m riding every bus I can with the hopes of finding her again. She’s probably looking for me too as my health is not what you’d call good. I thought about just sitting in that comfy chair in my living room and waiting for her to come to me but I feel I must be proactive.

The pistol feels heavier in my bag than it did in my hand.

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