Monday, November 22, 2010

The Predicament of Pepperidge Potts (excerpted from "Short-Lived Correspondences")


Hello my dear brother. You must be closing up shop for the night by now. Funny, that phrase, “closing up shop.” Makes me think of daffodils withering in a gully desiccated by drought. I’m not sure why.

I got a phone call last week from a man named Ron. He claimed some man named Demetrius told him I was looking for people to hand out fliers for my business. As you well know, I have no business. Well, other than the weekly humor column I write for the local paper. But, needless to say, I’d never imagined needing somebody to distribute leaflets extolling my virtues as a humorist. This Ron person was very insistent though, and said his name and phone number multiple times on my answering machine. I thought, ‘What the heck. I’ll give this guy a shot. Maybe he knows something I don’t.’

A few days later we met at a coffee shop. I was rather nervous, but was wearing tweed, which usually bodes well for my social interactions. You know how anxious I can get when meeting somebody for the first time. I’m always afraid of mistaken- identity situations as well. Remember when I killed the mailman because I thought he was dad coming home early from work to spy on me? But I digress.

There was no mistaking this Ron character. He’d told me he’d be wearing silver nylon stretch pants, and he was. My sigh of relief was noticeably dramatic. This Ron was very astute. He knew what a ziggurat was, and was well versed in all things riparian. I have no idea why this mattered in the least to somebody who was wanting to pass out flyers for a company, but it didn’t detract from my interest in him as a potential employee.

I asked him a few getting-to-know-you questions. His responses were adequate.

A point came in our conversation, just after my coffee was about half gone (his being already gone and refilled), when juxtaposition’s peppering pang, almost like rain pattering tin, became overwhelming. He dropped trou, in the midst of the coffee-shop crowd mind you, and screamed, “I am monstered with moans and sedentary chimes!” I hired him on the spot. Both of us were asked to leave, and did so with a security escort.

Some colluvium’s been gathering in my thoughts of late. I hesitate to call it detritus, though that is precisely what it might end up being. One thing: It matters less what we do in this life than with whom we do it. Obviously, grey fogs of confusion prevail. I make lists. I use less sugar. My cares like cats come crawling through the carpet’s crumbs and whine for water.

I don’t remember what mother used to call hamburgers. Was it greebers or gloobers?

Please write. I am desperate for attention. Send your regards. Mail me a poem or a rubber garden snake or some plastic green army men or a rental agreement for a timeshare in New Zealand. Anything will suffice.

Ron is doing well so far. He passes out fliers with my byline, some quotes showcasing my acerbic wit, quite a handsome headshot of me, and my business address on them. To the far corners of the city he treads, giving paper to passersby, chatting about my column, and giving credence to my better half: the funny one.

When we were young we read paperbacks. There were times though, if I recall accurately, when you chose magazines from the rack at the supermarket and snuck them into mother’s cart. What were those magazines? Time? Newsweek? Vanity Fair? I never asked you for some reason. I let you alone with your secret vice. Now I stay up nights and wonder about such things. Could it be that I am becoming soft?

It would surprise most people how melancholy a man who writes humor for a living is. I wear depression around like a cloche hat. Insomnia drives me mad, and makes my matins habits preposterous. After all, the rising sun is better to wake to than fall asleep to. I am not prince Hamlet, but might care to be would I could. For the time being I’d be satisfied if I could make coffee that didn’t leave me with a mouthful of wet grounds.

I gained a dishtowel at the Laundromat yesterday. Is this a sign of me having a good life? I hope so.

A new idea sprouted today: making t-shirts of classic literature book-jacket-cover illustrations. Just think! Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Journey To The End Of The Night, Groucho Marx’s letters. Wouldn’t it be grand? I think people in droves would buy them, and, I hope, wear them outdoors.

My Time In The Shower (TITS) is increasing of late. It’s gone from 11-12 minutes to almost 18. I’ve taken to bathing myself in long, luxurious swaths. I will try to cut down soon, but I foresee it being difficult, as I’ve become accustomed to this ablutionary indulgence. Do not fret my dear brother, for my attempt will be a valiant one.

I fear that I’ve lost the ability to have empathy for myself. This may have occurred between 3:13 pm and 3:17 pm last Wednesday. It is a small space in my life that I cannot recall.

Tell that wife of yours to remember me fondly. I beg you. As for me? Well, it has come to the point where Matilda yawns during the Love-Act. I believe this stems from her lack of enthusiasm for my chosen profession. She wondered aloud one rain-swept evening, “What’s the point in being alive if you’re just going to laugh your way through life?” I had no response. I rarely do.

The moon is goopy tonight. Sometimes I think it’ll get in my eye if I look too long.

Take care of Cid and Wilkie for me. Tell Tin-Pan Sam I say howdy. Will write again soon when I know more about my circumstances.


*


Hello again dear brother!

I was heartened much by your last letter. So compelling yet not overwrought. Thanks for the timely response.

As you advised I’ve been trying to get Ron to say what he means more often, instead of letting his inhibitions sway him into hording up his emotions. I tell him to say things like, “I need nourishment in the form of Nilla Wafers, damn it!” This strategy seems to be paying off already, as his flier-passing-out promotional skills are becoming finely honed. I don’t think he will be absquatulating any time soon.

Heavy clouds like dirty socks this week but only a smattering of sprinkled rain to show for it. Next week I will pray for sun.

So I bet you’re wondering how slick Ron’s becoming at being my numero uno proponent. Well, he’s prone to fits of lackluster fury, and gets teary eyed when his shoes come untied, but we’ve started making bets on when the various formicaries in the yard will implode. You know me; I’ve always been a sucker for the doings of ants. All in all I must say Mr. Ron is meeting all expectations quite well. He’s got strangers chanting my name underneath the huddled shacks of boredom. He makes shopgirls go glitter-eyed with doting woe over my funny lines. I think I’m going to keep the silly bastard around for a while.

Do you remember mother’s maiden name? It’s slipped from the dewy banks of my present tense.

Will write again as soon as is mammaly possible.

*


Oh woe is me my dear brother.

How I wish I could rinse the eyebrows of loss from my cerebral gutters. My business relationship with Ron is officially kaput. Do not worry over the prospect of a decapitation though. This time I kept it simple and clean. Very little blood loss.

Why have you not written since my last letter? Are family needs pressing you in to the jackhammers of sorrow? Do not leave me guessing. You know such things trouble my will.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Tell mother I have a cup of sugar for her, if she’s got the time.

*


Brother!

It seems my life is only a chilled champagne flute, empty and awaiting champagne that never arrives. I wouldn’t recommend cranes that swing wrecking balls smashing in the walls of the past. It opens up too much. Too much for others to gander. It is too late for me. Save yourself. Get a cat. Make pasta from scratch. Wear robes and trounce the dust to death.

Is that avocado tree in the backyard of mother’s place still producing? How I dream of fresh avocadoes lately. Please, if you can muster up the brio, send a few of those old green boys along to me. It would lift my spirits some.

We’ve got nothing to lose. I am free enough. I pound the rats from the basement walls. Hot chocolate has gone out of style again, and spring has come too early. Look out for kites. Your hair, like mine, is still a delicate mess.

Maybe I’ll get cat. Their company can be vastly misunderstood, but I feel it is something I might come to know and cherish in time. For now there is sleep to catch up with before it dashes off into the unknowable again.

Don’t forget about the avocadoes.

*


Brother,

What a delightful surprise to find a dozen ripe, not-too-soft, not-too-hard avocadoes on my doorstep! Just the tactile delight of their cratered skin sent shudders trembling throughout my being. I will rainy-day them for now, and tell Matilda to do with them as suits her. She is hard up for daily tasks around here. The whole of our life together is jaunting away on the fritz.

Success alludes me. Not that I seek fame in the form of worship, or rewards in the senseless parade of dollar signs. To be myself always, without fail, in whatever capacity that allows me to do that, in regards to the kinship of others, well, that would be fine by me. For now I am toiling away in obscurity’s tenebrific lair, with no flashlight.

Matilda jokes with me about the rotting, sweetly sour odor emanating from somewhere below our abode. She plays our answering machine in hopes of answers. I tell her that my voice is on fire, and to forward all messages to The Great Beyond. She yawns and fly-swats at the empty air.

Rumors abound. Police sirens chase their own dopplered sound. Being alive can be a tricky endeavor, but I am glad we get to have it at a contemporary time. My urine has begun to stink of cabbage.

*


Oh brother,

Once again I find myself skidding across the thin ice of the world. Also, there is something about the smell of my shower curtain that’s hauntingly reassuring. Another example of me crying wolf to myself? Perhaps. You know my furious miscalculations when it comes to self-examination. But I won’t bore you with freedom’s lost art. Unknown pharmaceuticals practice synchronized swimming routines in my bathtub. I vomit mothballs. Of course you of all people understand what I’m coming to. Let’s not drown the kittens just yet though. I believe there is more noodling to come over the next few nights, and somewhere a grazing lark will be traumatized by harsh disciplines of muted contentedness.

I fool nobody.

Kiss your wife’s forehead for me. Your arthritic whims are nothing new. And please note that I still have much bravado left to fill my mornings.

*


So, brother, here we find ourselves again: bemoaning participles, lengthening delays between after-dinner drinks. Your last letter (I almost wrote “late letter.” More apt? Perhaps.) filled me with mischievous doubts as to your whereabouts. While I perform these Flying-Wallenda acts in my mind, tripping over moldy tombstones of regret the whole while, you fasten purblind chance to run-away-with-me novelty. Can I clip the wind’s earhair? Can I rain?

God moves and retreats without harming anybody but herself. At least that’s what I’ve inferred from your letter. Are we not blood-clung? Are we not singing the same tune but in just a slightly different key? Of course, these questions don’t touch harmony. We have that. Of course, brother. Who can deny this?

Have you ever tasted my wife’s guacamole? It’s tangy sweet and delightful. I think you should.

Brother, there’s so much we never say. Half-a-night away we live in our own isolated darkness. Bend a river and the fool will swim the softest route. Let’s pound back at our bête noires for once. Give a name to our fears so we can rip ‘em a new one. That’s dad’s old talk. I know. But we can still get something from it, can’t we? Just a thoughtless suicide note if nothing else, right? It’s on the tip of my tongue.

Tag.

*


Brother, brother, brother…

Where will I rest when I am living below the rising tide? Cooking is rare around here. I keep talking to myself, saying things like, “Come back.”

Directly, there are mules around the corner shaggy with greed. I am getting it straight, pulling the threads back together.

The Mrs. has gone missing.

So, redirect all of your mail. Sleep will no longer be necessary.

I miss the smell of cookies baking in mother’s kitchen. Soft chocolatechipmacadamianut swirls lifting pressedheads from concretebeds.

Brother. Let me bow my head, but not in shame, not in hopes of some irreconcilable redemption, but in honest kinship with the natural state of affairs. Remember, the person who you see is not always the person who you get. Let’s leave it at a handshake.


*


Brother?

Do you whisper in the night, “It is raining. It is raining. There, there, now.”?

I often contemplate minutes not attaching to each other, each one separate from the last, each its own eternity, nothing connecting to the last thing.

By the way, spells don’t work. Conjuring just brings minds to an unsteady ease.

I have grown fond of concord grapes. Do they grow in mother’s yard still?

It is not lonely here at all.

I don’t believe in me

brother?

hello?

please help

please

please

brother



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sonata Epistaxis


I am in high spirits as I’ve just doused my brain with a boatload of caffeine, and now will relate to you in the most roundabout and senselessly obscure of ways, with myriad digressions and saliva-inducing moments, something that happened to me about four years ago, back when I could still drink whisky all night and not suffer horrible suicidal consequences the following morning. From the fucking shores of Tripoli, my friend. Ah. But it was not the first time I’d broken furniture. No. I’ve punched my fists through and kicked over my share of coffee tables and the likes. Buying brokenness? Hardly, hardly, hardly. It doesn’t take tulips in the glove compartment to drive the final nail in. It’s more of an accretion, of becoming unmoored to the rhythms and conditions of everyday life. My temper’s as short as you’d live shot into outer space with no spacesuit. Entropic concerns notwithstanding, well, plug, plug, plug. Ever the mind wanders, huh? Got a light? Ya, ya, ya, ya. Dank Cha. Muchos. So, there’s this only, well, once-in-a-…….decade? Maybe. Something more than less often than cockroaches die. So, then there’s this guy leaning against the railing on the balcony. He’s doing a great impression of a trapeze artist or something. This guy? Well, he seems like he’s about to go plummeting ass-over-weedwhacker to the floor. I don’t want this to happen, you know? Who would? I mean, I’m like you and me, and me and you, and all of us, and we all go in for the same types of dismantling gestures from time to time, right? Where there’s this feeling called loathe, and lisping doesn’t squirt mustard at the speed of light. Well, we all get down with the times in the now and now. And playing comeback is better from behind a windscreen. Cigarettes and my old lady. Yep. So, there’s this kink in the fixations of my wayward loopiness that’s catching me off guard here and there. But, be sure, I will continue. Oh. And let me tell you all about the bar. You know, it was one of those Thomas-Pynchon type places. They’re showing a subtitled 50’s sci-fi B-movie on a wall, and the bartenders are dressed like doofuses, and they’re slobs to boot. I’m pleased as a prince though. I’m trotting around and picking my boxers out of my ass without any self-consciousness at all. Surfers and boombox salesgirls in bandanas were wandering in and out. Purity had jet out of style. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, getting broadsided was imminent. A garage-band cover of Neil Diamond’s Solitary Man blasted. I couldn’t think of anyone who was having a birthday. I made haste for the potty station. Traffic of bodies in motion was crowding things up, and I was slithering through it all like a man in nothing but slippers and an overcoat, which is exactly what I was not wearing. In fact, if truth be known, I was duded up in golf-ball print Parachute Pants, a salmon-colored cowboy shirt with scared horses on the front, horn-rimmed sunglasses, brogued beige monk shoes, and a newspaper hat. Let’s all look at me folks. Look at me! Look at me! I’m weird. See? That kind of thing, you know? Any old how, let’s butter up some bacon and get this show on the go. Tempestuous gargling aside, I was trunking along a whole sheep herd of gewgaws and frown-weather inhibitions, so I wanted to, well, wake myself up a bit before I go-go’d. Playing catch-up with sleep is a battered slurping affair, and I showboated about it ‘til the band banged out the blues into reds and yellows, but the concoctions of better-off-dead weren’t wearing off so well, and, as if you really need to know, I was mustering up my pain threshold for the becomings of blotto. Grew up too slow. Got frazzled on the streets of Chicago for 11 days when it was doing nothing but rain. And now? Well, now I’m more afraid of trains than planes. That about sums it all up. Letter’s in the mail, you know, that kind of thing. So, I’m wailing on the inside, creeping along with duct tape covering up my wounds, and I dash off for a spell into the bathroom, where there’s running water, of course, and I make nice with the sink, and I rinse off my face and arms, ogle my features in the mirror, flat-out refuse to make exceptions when it comes to paper towels and soap, and then I’m all bug-eyed and awash in adjectival phrases, reflecting mood music from the whispers inside of my skull. I was making history. I was listlessly aware. So, move over Colonel Swanky, I’m parking my Chevrolet spirits right outside the door. Hold the door motherfucker? You know? Well, that’s the way it don’t go sometimes. It just don’t. I was starting to suspect that I never’d get my bearings back. Then it was, “Look out!” I mean, well, more like, “Wait here, please. I will have a silver trophy for you shortly, and, I give you my word, it’ll look swell on your chrome mantel.” Don’t get me wrong. I wash up after wiping my ass and all, but there’s just a Psychadelic Western movie playing in my head that’s more mean than moral, and also less normal than I’d originally thought it to be. Yep. Gobble it up, buddy. If it might be a rental purchased from the clutches of armchair mathematicians, alone, thinking and drinking, following the tail of nature around the corner to the nearest Catholic Church, or maybe a classy wheelchair, well, that’d be the slices-of-bread of the thing, wouldn’t it? Wise up. Get a corner to do your whimpering in. I give up a thousand times a day, sure. But I keep trying. Who cares about mustard-colored bananas anyway? I am not the hand-wrung colors of grief. I am not wilting, at least not in the knees. So the dolorous music plays, and I care a little bit about all the crabbing going on. The bar’s filled with jealousy and motorboat kindness. The sure-footed are on the balcony, and they’re cutting everybody breaks, and the floor’s got a bad case of jaundice. I fix my flat and swear my way out of a few conversations with almost-strangers. My eyes are x-ray machines. It was a sweetheart of a deal, cardboard style. You know that song Battle Hymn Of The Republic? Well, I prefer the Ellstein & Rechtzeit Yiddish version myself. But, at the time, with a plaid-coated vision of the propositions abounding, what I’m gunning for is a timely recounting of whether or not this song’s got sex appeal. So, I started humming the damn thing, and pretty soon I’m messing around with the words too. Mrs. Howe wrote them in her sleep, basically, and apparently didn’t even glance at the paper once while she was at it. A bit of inspired somnambulism to say the least. But that’s a paperclip’s load of pure bickering, if you hold all of your appointments and really do some recon. Jon Brown’s body ain’t rising from the grave anytime soon. And look, I was trespassing in truth’s realm at the time, and all this glory, glory, hallelujah and marching on was just more jabber to add to the pasta primavera sloshing around in my thoughts. Dying to make people free is not always so valiant. Let me tell you, I’ve buttered my bread with the gestures of being facetiously nice from time to time. Cop to it? Sure. The nuances of gypping weasels out of their unfair share is appling the orange of conviction, which I swear is my wont, especially on days spent shredding postcards and scissoring diamond-shaped holes into my socks. Well. You get the whole causality of my instance here. My ideas were morally bankrupt, and, at least in that instant’s Time Present, situational prurience was on the wane. So, then suddenly, and this is all pre-balcony, there’s this guy in wingtips with golf gloves on and he’s saying, “Hello. I’m here to talk to you about your life.” I found it strange that he said, “talk to you,” instead of, “talk with you.” His hair is like wet brown clay. Talking to myself, clueing my ears into what’s what, I fought off the impetuous urge to clean up shop and take my hassles out on this hoe-nest chair-ick-ter who was licking his chops to sway my at-attention salute towards his ship’s shore. I tripped over an ice cube. I thought about the girl in grammar school who always fainted. We called her The Fainting Girl. Vastly underrated as a stunner, she was. So, there’s this not-too-bright place that my mind kept dwelling in, and then there’s this momentum that tips and borrows addresses, this sinister-notioned thing, and it kept meeting up with my love at gas stations and bird stores. Lump me in with the corny. That’ll save a date or two. Or at least imprecate what fondness has now come to represent. Until then I’m, or was, cheating the night out of its moments. But this guy, this greaseball of a waiter’s uncle, he’s got some serious business to attend to with regards to me. He’s claptrapping at me big time. He’s going on about my wayfaring nature, the holes in my head letting sappiness drift in, and he’s even giving me grief about my overcoat being in not-too-top-shape. The landmass of me was flopping over beneath a mound of horror at what I’d so carelessly become. Griping wasn’t going to do any good. Maybe a beheading would’ve helped. There’s not a tinge of happenstance round those parts. It’s all over-hard eggs and church bells tolling If I Were A Rich Man. Kind of helps to stare back though. So I did. Glared right into those pea-sized eyes of his, made my mark, left the working parts of me for Good House Keeping to clean up. Casseroles of my cares put up Gone Fishing signs and spilt. These things I sort of hold to be other-evident, and by looking I made up my mind to splatter-proof my soul. This slimy specimen giving me all this trash to digest about living, well, he’s puttering about, side-swiping what I should be doing with the stilts of god-willing maneuvers. I tell him I don’t like the looks of him. He responds with the impishness of a stand-up’s forgotten punch line. Making movies was out of the question. We were talking. Damn. For a lack of a better term, well, we were associating. Like that. Just like that. And it was on to the races. So I’m thinking, ‘Why don’t you pipe down man?’ But he’s not looking me in the eyes anymore. He’s looking at the balcony above us. I’m stewing dodges and galoshes up in my pate. Just measly notions of getting by. I’m, you know, worn out by this point. For christ’s sake, my grandmother kept a 1964 plane ticket from Omaha, Nebraska to Louisville, Kentucky in her wallet until they shoved her under the earth forty years later. Some junk we keep. Some keeps us. Nothing was lending a decent name to my fractured manners. I tilted my head back and espied trouble a brewing up above. I thought, ‘I am not the sun.’ Everything changed. Dumbshit was my middle name. It was like finding an apricot in the freezer without the foggiest how it got there. Interesting? Perhaps. Well, the long and longer of it is that my vapid lawn-chair existence was fraught with peril. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I marched. I stayed assiduous. Not that patterning myself after a club-footed Demiurge was going to plink away at an understanding, but I held my ground nonetheless. Lying to myself was the only proposition I wanted to catch an earful of. And so, well, who’d a thunk it, huh? The grass here is cooler, but less green than it once was, you know? So, forget about battle hymns and bathrooms. Overlook the refinancing of good intentions. We live in a world that is fixated on visual and audio stimulation, gentle exfoliating visions that lull us into a dispassionate, brain-warped state. Well. Just get on with it. Looks like supper’s ready, and I haven’t heard a name like yours in years…

Monday, November 8, 2010

how death came to sandovar ruddly


You’ve got to hand it to the weather. Sometimes it just knows when to rain. Like today, when I don’t have an umbrella handy, and there’s no food here, and I’ve got to wear my nice wool jacket. Don’t ask me about the jacket. When it comes to the jacket I’ve got no idea. It’s got to be worn. I don’t want it to get wet. So, here I am, stuck. That’s about all you’ll get out of me. But if the circumstances permit, and when it comes to circumstances I don’t know much, I might get lucky and catch a cold. The circumstances have to permit it though. Permission must be acquired, like a new hat or a botched haircut. Let’s agree on principle. Here, let’s have at it then. When the whole bucks, and we part, then, of course you’ll see a marginal amount of detail in the differences between the color and loop. A barn burns so we like fire. It’s a matter of distinction. Pride and goofing off. Greed leaves us subtle. Then, also of course, a miserable amount of grief stomps in with two-by-fours strapped to its feet like skis. You’d be better off just splitting the returns. I know, when it comes to returns we’re more even keel. I understand this. Bottle caps scattered around the shore. I’ve got my scars too. Let’s talk equipment. If it’s necessary to be liked then we’d do well to wish for ailments. Don’t worry. When it comes to ailments there’s not a lot of aught to. If we’re talking ailments, well, call me a water hog all you want, but there’s thunder in my cereal. Nobody’s as funny as they think. Hell, there’s a mission statement in my coffee cup. I’d draw you a map, but my face will cringe. And I’m the one left pulling strings on the inside, hefting garbage bags down to the trashcans in the basement, and chinning up to the moon. Well call me Lady Day and tie a ribbon around my neck. I’ve got facts to figure out. I’ve got cases to explain. We’ve got to talk cases and facts at some point. Just like alphabets try on words for size. I’m going to test the bill. Exposition rendered precisely, in the minutest of ways, kind of positive in spending habits, that’ll do for me. For me, well, there’s no real try in it. Got to get mama’s house all sorted out. Of course there’s always that. That’s first on the list. Got to get those Jack In The Box burgers out of the freezer. Patch up the walls. Spackle the place up. Really, when the weather gets this way, well, it’s just like this. Quit. Get a job. Move the bulldozers over the hill. I can’t help getting needy in the wintertime. Sure, I’ve bricked my fair share of shots at getting ahead. Like being addicted to temporary tattoos, or being a little bit pregnant. For me lying is a rebellious act. I create this life, manufacture this person to be, and I wonder why people mistake me for a stranger. I won’t go on getting all morose about it. There’s no danger. It’ll be winter soon. All the drunks will come staggering in, ass-holing on about the spiritual side of things. After all, we’re lucky because we get to be humans and exist in the world the way we do. It’s just that my face doesn’t always make the right faces. That about sums up my adult life. Summing up? Well, that’s a funny thing. Like an umbrella being out of tune. I’ve done a few stints in the nuthouse. Can’t say anything too fascinating about it. Only thought about doing away with myself a dozen or so times a day. So there’s this patch of land in my head, this scrap of a thing, a borderline hysterical place that metes out parking tickets to bad memories and tries to restore peace. There’s just something about thinking that’s always eating away at itself. You go around. You come back. You bite off more than you could ever chew, and then get frustrated with your own cud. And so then you go and lop off a snake-like chunk of the thought that’s squirming here and there and everywhere, and pander to it some, and there’s only one place to go back to. Yep. And there’s always something lurking just around the corner like holy god bringing down his judgment on some specified day that everybody but yours truly knows about. I offered my condolences to the Hasblitt sisters when their daddy went AWOL and shot the moon with Francine Yeller that awful February night, and there’s no telling what exactly did happen to them both, though I’m sure Mrs. Hasblitt maybe might be able to offer up some. Nobody’s asking anymore, what with the aforementioned misses now being gone to the great baseball stadium in the sky, through doings all her own, mainly a shotgun’s last call. Now, I don’t mean to be implying that this lovely woebegone thing had anything to do with the disappearing of those two trysters under the moonless sky, but there are those whose suspicions were aroused, seeing that the petering out of Mr. Hasblitt’s amorousness for his dearly beloved wife were well known to me. He’d often gate around the yard, out where the wrecks rust and the feral dogs growl, and we’d stoop and squat and smoke hand-rolled cigarettes, Old Gold, and he’d get to yodeling on about some ripe young thing he was about to tear into. I’d let him talk. I liked the cigarettes, and it was nice to be out there getting away from my damn infernal solitude for a spell, and he had a hand pistol he’d use to scare the wild dogs away. He’d rave on about the tempest of his doings, the way his misses stunk, the hurt that was hanging onto his heart like a claw hammer. I didn’t pay it a whole lot of mind. Murder was thicker out there than in most places, and it got slimy and mucked around like week-old stew being dumped into the road. Oh, let me tell you. There was world enough and time for it all out there. People stood around and ogled. Sometimes it was like the stars were watching you too, and there’s plenty more than a lot of them. Let’s not dawdle around on the circumstances of me being close with that wily bastard. I’ll just say he showed up sometimes, and we shot the shit and smoked cigarettes out in the yard, and it was pleasant enough for a hermit like me to have some company nights. Sure, he talked rot, and was vile and rude and all what have you, but I didn’t put much stock in his ever doing much besides jabbering about what he wanted you to think we was doing. One of those talkers you just let slide because they don’t matter much to anyone except themselves. Me? I think too much. Too much cerebration. It makes me bad company. I count stars, read the bible, and gun down snakes with an old Springfield bolt-action rifle from my bedroom window. People seem to stay away. Moved out here in ’82, before the Paddington Stock & Rebar Co. moved in and sucked away a bunch of the land, putting up stakes, claiming land at next-to-nothing prices, and then trying to profit on the people who’d come to rely on that land. People got mad, but what could they do? Money won out in the end, as it tends to do. I got myself this junkyard. I did okay. I managed. Things just ended up in my yard. It was like ghosts were dropping them off in the middle of the night, and maybe they were. I never ask those kinds of questions. I just go about my ways, counting my luck on the three fingers of my left hand, the other two gone to a stray bullet when I was just scrappy kid, the where and why of which I know about none, since it was before my powers of memory reached their full potential, and, from what I was told, the pain of it knocked me out cold, and in fact my ma and pop thought I’d done gone clean dead on them. But I didn’t. I kept on breathing. And when I woke up there was my left hand all bandaged up by Doc Shivers, who mussed my hair and told me what a brave boy I’d been. Brave? Shit. I slept through the whole ordeal. I guess sometimes you miss the rainstorm but get credit for walking home through it. Anyhow, I turned out like this with eight digits, and some folks call me Mordecai still, recalling the great 3-fingered righty of the turn-of-the-century Chicago Cubs, and I took this as an honor, and now go by Mordy to most. Though what people call me isn’t a blister or a burp to me. I’m my own man. That’s obvious of course, but what it means is true. So my junkyard grew as people moved on, and the scarp heap blossomed into an eremite’s dream. Carcasses of rotting dodges flanked with sunflowers and moss-covered refrigerators. It was something to behold. Stuff just found its way to me, and stayed found for the most part. Television sets lost their knobs and dials. Glass splintered like spider webs in the sun, which bleached everything to a stale, desert hue. The rivers of rust ran wild, and like wisteria climbed over toilet bowls, lunch pails, VCRs, x-mas-tree tinsel, radios, aluminum siding, cookware and computers just the same. I had buyers from time to time, but mostly it felt like a giant tomb of things people didn’t want around anymore. Maybe I felt like I was one of those things. But I’m not one to get too sentimental over objects. They get made, and they’ve got to be discarded. I do my part to help them on their way. There was a guy at my door one day, banging on the screen, and I went out there to see what all the hubbub was. This guy’s grease-splattered and unshaven, and stinks like a brewery floor. He’s got on these gold-rimmed sunglasses, and his hair is all bunched up like a tumbleweed. I don’t want to let him in, or get too close, so I only open the door a crack, and I yell at him from behind the screen with the door still latched. Turns out he’s a scholar. He wants to talk to me. He’s on some kick where he’s trying to interview the old timers like me who’ve been around here and through some stuff. I don’t like the looks of him. He’s got holes in his shoes and shirt. It seems like he’s had his pants on for about a month without changing or washing them. I just know he’s not going to be nice on my upholstery or my carpet. But for some reason I let him talk his way in there, and we get to jawing, mostly him, about the old days when I first moved in here. At first I was kind of curt with him. Didn’t want to give too much away. And being laconic’s in my nature anyway. Most days I hardly say a word except when the mail arrives. But this tawdry scholar guy, well, he’s really trying to dig in for some information, and I’m curious as to why, but mostly keep that to myself, as is my wont. I’ve learned to play it close to the vest over the years. So I get to saying a few things I probably shouldn’t, and then he starts getting into a huff about it, and my mean streak comes out in spades, and soon we're cussing and throwing good-sized objects at each other, and I tell him to go fuck himself and all this, and he’s seeing red, and I realize that he’s not so small of a guy really, and that maybe he’d take me. I mean without weapons. But I’ve got weapons of all sorts. So, I run back to my bedroom and make sure to slam the door behind me so it thwacks him, because I know he’s coming after me, and it knocks his ass right down hard, which gives me time to grab my….well, I’m not going to go into all that. No need to implicate myself. Let’s just say, he got what was a coming, and what was a coming was a trip to county. That did him well I think. Lousy bastard. Never saw him after that. Heard he was living in Topeka, last I know, and had shacked up with a bow-tie salesman named Robert. It was odd, but I didn’t care. To each their each. That’s what I say. But me? Well, I’m done losing fingers. Let him take a shot at my head next time. That’d be okay by me. Until then? Well, it’s think, think, think. Collect junk and wonder about god. There’s nothing left I can do.


maximum room capacity

The star was 3/5 lit above Harry Denton’s place at the top of The Sir Francis Drake. But don’t worry about that; it’s of no concern here. Our story doesn’t take place there, though it’d be neat if it did. It doesn’t though. There’s nothing to be done about it, so there’s no use getting into a hissy fit over it. Maybe next time. But the mise-en-scène of this little ditty is The Tonga Room, which, if you really want to know about it, is the tiki bar located in the basement of the Fairmount Hotel. They’ve got a fake lagoon there; in a past life it was a swimming pool called the Terrace Plunge. These days a Don-Ho musical combo rides around on it aboard a boat playing pop standards. It’s a swell place if you like fruity drinks and a tropical atmosphere; rattan furniture, fake thunderstorms, Hawaiian shirts, and mist machines. Anyway, here you go…

The Tonga Room was rollicking with tourists and drunken work parties. Glasses were tipping over and hastily being refilled by diligent, mop-topped waiters in vintage, orange-and-white, floral-patterned Aloha pullovers. A tall, thin man wearing a black suit and tie spotted somebody he knew across the room. It was a woman. He became certain it was who he thought it was. He decided to go over to her.

He bent down and whispered into her ear, “There are curious things occurring in the vicinity of your eyes. But I am tired of cleaning up after the sloppiness of others.”

It was a woman whom he’d once dated. It was a brief and torrid affair which seemed a lifetime away now. They’d loved each other dearly for that short span: a period of months, not even half of a year. He still cherished the time they’d had together, but that was long ago. He knew this, yet something crept upon him in the most iniquitous of ways, and a certain pestering of his conscience seemed as if it were leading him out onto the proverbial gangplank of dalliances. He was not wearing the proper shoes for the occasion.

Lights were hunting strangers on the dance floor. A hurricane sneezed. A karaoke boat circled the rough waters of the fake lagoon that took up about as much space as an Olympic-sized swimming pool in the middle of the bar. People drank daiquiris with tiny umbrellas by the light of tiki torches as the waiters–whose fluid airy movements made them almost seem to be bounding about in zero gravity–hustled from table to table in their vintage pullovers and white slacks. Everything was rattan. The air smelled like barbeque and vanilla extract. A bald man with a hulky torso and skinny legs, who was wearing khaki cargo shorts and flip-flops with white socks, and who was having a hell of a time thumping the table with his thick-fingered hand, burped. The sound it made was, “Arrumpufff…ert.” His wife scowled at him. He smiled and watched the tiny Chinese man who was karaoking Summer In Siam on the boat. The Chinese man was making quite an effort. He was wearing wayfarers and had a bellowing alto voice that seemed to scrape the high ceiling with its maudlin resonance. “And the moon is full of rainbows,” sang the diminutive Chinese man. He had on a white suit with a blue tie. There was a heft and bulk to his effort. Tinkling and strings and a saxophone lingered in the air. Wherewithal strode through the room. Nothing happened.

The tall, thin man in the black suit winked at his former paramour.

“I haven’t seen you in ages!” she exclaimed.

“Darling,” he said.

“Nobody’s called me that in ages!” she exclaimed.

“Hadn’t noticed,” he said. “Is that a blue bow in your hair, or are you just sad to see me?”

“Both,” she said. “I’m not sweating anything. Not joy. Not this or that. Nothing. Pleased?”

He stood back up and glanced at where the moon should be, but it wasn’t there. They were indoors. The lights flickered. A sudden tropical storm passed. He moved away from the table and rubbed his hands together as if he were trying to stay warm. He thought, ‘Whatever happened to that old song? Whatever happened to…” He stopped thinking. It was pointless. He didn’t own an umbrella. And he always lost them even when he had them. It was pointless. The rain didn’t care.

She looked at him. She didn’t smile too much, but enough– mostly with her eyes. A crinkling. A squinty drop of joy squeezed out of hope’s last lap. He thought, ‘Is that enough? Can I dispel this petty annoyance and frustration with a moment’s infatuated lustful harpoon?’ She turned away and watched the karakoing man on the boat. It was a good show, very entertaining. Everybody at the bar was enjoying their beverage.

She thought, ‘Away. Get away. Stay. Just stay away. Don’t want to know you no more, no more, not no more. Get away from me forever stay away. Oh, just let me smell your scent one last time. I miss you. Come here. Come closer. Run away with me. Steal me away. Feed me rhubarb pie. Get away. Stay away. I can’t be alone. I can’t be with you. I can’t be here when you’re so near. Away. Away from me. Stay.’

“Ass over tit!” screamed a very drunk woman sitting at a table by herself all the way in the back of the place. She’d had six Mai Tais for dinner and a Diet Roman Coke for dessert. It wasn’t a pretty sight. After exclaiming, “For tis far better to part, though it’s hard to, than to rot in their prison away!” her shoulders slumped big time, her eyes rolled all the way back, and her head dropped like a dead battery to the table where it stayed, resting comfortably on her outstretched arms for a while. A waiter came by and checked her pulse, then wiped off the table with a wet rag. A mist sprayed from the misters attached to the tops of the totem poles arrayed throughout the tropical scenery. Nothing got very wet.

Outside, in the real rain, taking some shelter, nesting in the crook of redoubt under a cement balcony, a man in a moth-eaten overcoat was singing softly, “There’s something stupid about you I miss when I’m here alone by myself.” A cab went by blaring Sinatra: “You are but a dream.” The man stopped singing and wondered about bread.

Back inside The Tonga Room a bartender had the sniffles. He wiped his nose on the shoulder of his Hawaiian shirt while he was shaking up a cocktail. Some salt had been spilled on the counter. He looked at it and snarled.

A plump Home Depot manager stood leaning against the west wall, his mahogany shirt blending in with the wallpaper, making him almost invisible, except for his beverage, which was a Pina Colada, and which he was holding aloft in his left hand and gently shaking around, almost the same motion he would use to shake somebody’s hand, if, by chance, there were anyone who wanted to shake it, which there wasn’t, and there hadn’t been in quite some time, which made him sad, and he thought about stone corbels and bacon omelets and the price of a plane ticket to Macau, a place where he’d always imagined he would find his one true love, a girl who smelled like almonds and had an affinity for wearing cowboy hats, and who, of course, was most certainly anxiously awaiting his long-overdue arrival. A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead and slid across his nose. He felt hopeful. He closed his eyes, leaned against the wall, shook his drink around, and smiled. He was thinking back to when he was a kid, and about how it felt to stand under a waterfall, how the pressure of the water–that clean thick sheet showering down like glass–loosened and massaged the neck and shoulders; how the water crashed on your head and made you feel free and thoughtlessly clear-headed; and swimming in lakes, lunging out on rope swings and somersaulting into the algae-green water below, lost and dizzy and safe; and the way the soft loose gravelly sand on the lake bottom would feel as you toed around in it, letting the straggly conferva brush your feet and legs, treading water or backfloating with the sun warm on your face, the water cool below you. He opened his eyes.

“Shake it up baby!” howled a blond-haired Nordic creature: a man with a neck like a fire hydrant and a jutting-out jaw. His black, tight-fitting t-shirt read, “I AM NOT THE ALIEN HERE!” in bold yellow letters at nipple level. His pecs were impressive, and he had hairless arms thicker than most legs. He had a bad stutter, and was screaming the lyrics to The Beatles’ version of Twist And Shout, but the song playing on the karaoke machine was Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti. For some reason it seemed not to matter. The blond man was having all kinds of fun. His hips shook, his hair flopped around like palm tree fronds in a windstorm, and he eventually ended up curled in the fetal position on the ground with the microphone held between his knees as he screamed wildly into it, clicking his tortoise-shell shoes rapidly together at the heels the whole while. His voice was like Werner Herzog and Porky Pig screaming into a fan together: “Come on! Come on!” He let out a sigh. “Baby!” He held his breath and slipped out a silent fart. “Come on! And! Work it on out!” He rolled over onto his back, raised both arms and legs straight up in the air above him, and with the microphone now completely inside of his mouth he roared, “Ah! Ah! Ah! AHHHHHHHH! Ow! Ow! AHHHHH!” He continued like this until the song faded out.

A kindly gentleman in a stop-sign-red blazer over a white t-shirt with too much hairspray on his receding-hairline-almost-pompadour knelt on one knee next to a lovelorn lady with too much makeup and horn-rimmed glasses sitting with her gabbing coworkers, and told her, “Don’t forget the regret you almost gave back to the person whom you remembered to leave without thinking three times about what it would be like to just stay.” She gave him a look that meant, “Hurry up and kill yourself, why don’t you?” The gentleman stood back up and walked away holding his head high. The karaoke boat was between songs.

The table of coworkers, who were out for an after-work drink, were having a lively conversation.

“I’m all shook up already.”

“You’re a drink away from terrible.”

“Lazy, shit-licking cow-tipping motherfuckers! Ah. We look like nothing from outer space. All cooped up? Like this? Us? Ah. Fuck it.”

“I’m an alternative kind of girl.”

“I’m not that kind of guy.”

“Another one of these, please.”

“Waiters are just another form of obsequious companionship gone-to-pot. Move into a new house. Eat a rent check for breakfast. Butter my eggs and fry my toast!”

“Good luck? Well, we all get the same fringe of disaster to scrape wool off of. Do you believe? Do you believe in Steve?”

“He’s a pansy. As far as I’m concerned. Hey, well, we’re all pansies though, really…right?”

“Another round. And I’m not saying please.”

“Wish up deep into your cups!”

“Was that a toast?”

“To cree or not to cree.”

“They’s alls a deads now. Huh?”

“Rupture the turmoil with silent clapping hands. It’s just the weather. Forget about it.”

“I’m already late to the party. It’s no matter. It’s not now nothing.”

“Sing. Come on. Get up there and sing. I’ll put on a song for you. Huey Lewis? The News? Come on.”

“Okay. Shit. Why not?”

“Because.”

Some purple Bergamot mint fell to the floor. Nobody noticed. It might have fallen from the sky, but it was more likely that it came from the ceiling. A group of out-of-work stunt doubles sat at the bar and moaned about their lack of work. The bartender tried to ignore them while pouring some Malibu Rum into a cocktail shaker and gazing at the wide, fake-rock support column at the end of the bar.

“It started out with just an itch, right around the collar area, and then it turned into a sting, and then it became desultory, leaping from place to place on my skin. Here for an instant, then gone and moved somewhere else. I could never catch up to it in my scratchings. It was always one leap ahead of me. And the stinging came and went to. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t do anything to make it either stay or go away. Lord. I’m tired.”

“It’s the out-of-work blues. It’s hearing things differently. The touches change. The way the keys on your keypad sound when you punch at them, and the way they feel. It’s more sharp, more distinct…more real. Ring tones change. Dogs lose their bark. People’s eyebrows behave differently.”

“Life is not a drag today. We’re just dragging.”

“It’s only time going by. Can’t escape that, can we?”

“Bartender! Get this man a stiff drink, pronto!”

The bartender had let his eyes go out of focus. He saw Sal Mineo’s face in the support column’s fake rock. It improved his mood considerably.

A bunch of businessmen with their ties loosened considerably sat around their martinis chatting about fantasy basketball.

Movies were showing somewhere.

“We’re just living in the cradle of uncivilized matter-of-fact notions,” groaned a bicycle thief who was nursing a Scorpion Bowl with his bike messenger buddy Jem. “I need to stop spending so much time in my own head. My head. Bilk. Balk. Bilk. My head. Nothing but ester gum and dabs of brilliance. The damned finest ruins.”

Jem slurped up some of the spiked punch with his straw. “The world is wearing wings.” He swallowed. He sat up straight, jabbed a pointed finger all around as if poking at some imaginary circling predators. “You know what? Some girls, they only sleep at night. And some girls, they hope they don’t get old. This is not a fact.”

“I’m closer than a country mile to the end of the clattering of high heels,” whined the bicycle thief.

The tall, thin man in the black suit was up on the karaoke boat. He had his eyes closed and was holding the microphone very close to his mouth. Fortunately the large foam microphone cover had been replaced after the last performer, and it seemed as if this man were about to take a bite out of it. But he didn’t. Instead he held it to his lips and sang, “Well, why don’t you love me like you used to do. How come you treat me like a worn-out shoe?” His voice was deep and rich, filled with sorrow and longing, and it cracked at times like a young man going through puberty. It was somewhere between Elvis, Jonathan Richman, and Sonny Bono, with a hint of Frank Zappa. People stopped whatever it was that they were doing and watched him intently. Nobody said a word. “I’m the same old trouble that you’ve always been through, so why don’t you love me like you used to do?” The bartender just stood still and stared, transfixed on this miserable crooner on the boat. “Well, why don’t you be just like you used to be? How come you find so many faults with me? Somebody’s changed, so let me give you a clue. Why don’t you love me like you used to do?” A waiter dropped a hurricane glass to the floor. It bounced. The karaoking man’s voice pitched down into an even tenor, and then slipped back smoothly into a hearty gale of frustrated rage. He took off his suit jacket and tossed it over his shoulder, with much style and a wink, into the lagoon. His former lover clenched her hands into fists under the table. She didn’t cry. She didn’t laugh. She just sat there, stiff, watching. The man arched his back and sang to the ceiling, “Ain’t had no lovin’ like a huggin’ and a kissin’ in a long, long while.” A floor light went out. Somebody dropped some ponzu-sauce battered sesame tempura onto their plate. “Why don’t you say the things you used to say? What makes you treat me like a piece of clay?” A piece of devil’s food cake disappeared.

The song ended. Everybody clapped, and then stopped caring.

A laptop repair technician said to his girlfriend, “Life is just boiling water, letting it cool down, boiling it again, letting it cool down again, ad infinitum.” His girlfriend flashed him a mordacious smile and drank off a large portion of her Bay Breeze without using her straw.

“Sans straw,” she quipped. “I am a floating hybrid of plums and pearls on a cheap-shit burgundy sea. Shove your opinions up your ass.”

“The circle of love is complete, at last.” He sat back in his chair, cracked his neck, and blew her a half-hearted kiss. “I’ll be a bachelor until I die.”

A rippling stirred in the lagoon. The boat was still. Nobody was onboard. The tall, thin man in the suit had stepped back ashore. Everybody was done clapping. Conversations came and went. A tollbooth operator threw a penny at a ceiling fan. It nicked a blade and shot out into the lagoon, where it made a small splash and then sunk to the bottom. A big-nosed insurance investigator with a ponytail sipped his Bora Bora Horror and winced. Something made a noise like a skunk getting its tail chopped off with a machete.

A lonely stewardess stirred the ice around in her Hurricane and thought, ‘Why am I here and not there? The window is lights and snot streaks. Time passes.’

The lights flickered. A storm blew in. Thunder went out of style. A magician hid beneath a table and cried.

A table of jet-lagged lawyers toasted kamikaze shots.

“She was quite the tempestuous lady, and I had to hold myself back, man. She was like a sow in heat, and I was ready for some scooting, you know, or, hey, some leisure activity that required, you know, less than my full mental capacities, but for this particular situation it just wasn’t the most beneficial option. You know? Though what occurs between the liner notes of life is better left, well, in the sleeve of an unplayed record, if you ask me. Damn. Ask me. I’ll learn you a few things. Ask me? That’s a different story.”

“There’s bound to be more room in the density of the thing, right?”

“Lots’a leg room, if you ask me, is the deliciousness of waiting around for the right….opportunity.”

“Big breaks. Hunches. Going on. There’s, like, a piston scurrying it all up in there.”

“I’m a blender. I blend in with whatever I’m around. The colors of others become my own. My thoughts tumble along with the crowd’s. I’m nothing but a one-night-stand of emotions, a chameleon of poses, a plastic smile plastered on a passing fancy. Getting sucked into the personality of others is what I was made for. My opinions are not my own.”

“I take what I can. Giving’s for pussies.”

“Make a wig for the blind. Take off your pants and spend money on curtains. There’s nothing to it. But I’m a fucking space case, when it comes down to it. If you wanna come down to it, and you do, right? Well, when I come down to it, when we take a little gander under the hood of it all, well, shit, there’s more motor oil than motor about it. Life’s just a botched game of bingo, and we’ve got all the boards we could ever want, but, shit, we just can’t ever hear the numbers being called.”

“Shit. It's like being addicted to temporary tattoos.”

“We dance. We roll up our sleeves. We make believe we matter. I don’t know. I’d go insane, but I just don’t know how.”

“Yup.”

“The damn debris in my head is making me involved only in somebody else’s frame of reference. I don’t have a me to be anymore, just all these parts fishing around for a bite. Cancel all my appointments.”

“Do whatever the hell you want. Get drunk. Stay up all night. Do cartwheels on a float in the Veteran’s Day Parade. Miss somebody.”

A man with brown trousers, a white button-up, and bright green socks on staggered out of the bar. A waiter helped him, gave him somebody to lean on, and the man was very thankful, and the waiter was sad that he couldn’t walk the man all the way home. He thought, ‘Maybe there’s only so much room left in heaven. More and more, because is becoming my reason for doing things.” He started blinking a lot and went back to work.