I was so much more than a wordsmith. I was an alphabet alchemist; a metaphor magician. I had, of all things, sifted through the English language to put together the most comprehensive instructional manual our institution had ever seen. It'd taken months - nay, seasons! Spring, Summer, and Fall - to bring this piece to fruition. It wasn't so much a project as bringing a baby to term and today was its birthday.
"After all these years, I can't believe you've never brought me back here before today," the woman said, leaning into her husband's arms. The husband, for his part, eyed the bags of trash and chemical foam frothing in the surf and said nothing. He just held her closer. Scenery aside, the waves made for a magical, musical moment.
"We should have come back sooner, honey," the husband finally agreed. "We could have made time. We had time after our bundles of joy grew up. Hell, I could have taken a long weekend off blacksmithing - I could have trusted one of the apprentices for a few days. I'm sorry hon."
And lo, the gods and demigods, mages and learned men all gathered for the wedding of the sun and the moon. It was a great feast - a divine feast - and the ceremony was like nothing the mortal men had ever seen before. The sky had turned black as the sun and moon kissed. They gave birth to the stars in the sky. It was over too soon, however, and both were off to count down the days until they could renew their vows again.
Their parting, however, was a signal to those assembled. The cosmic event vouched for many years of good luck until the two grew too lonely. In the spirit of good luck, the god of war proposed a toast - to soldiers, of course - and the feast moved from largo to allegro, from gridlock to expressway. Drinks and merriment abounded and toast flew fast and heartfelt.
This time it was different. This time everything would change. Robert held his head high as he walked into his boss's office. In a way, he was right. He walked out like a dog with its tail between its legs. The watchwords his friend had beat into him - "confidence is key"; "demand, don't ask"; "you're worth it" - echoed in his head as he slunk back to his desk, all while trying to ignore the stares of his colleagues.
He'd asked for a raise. His boss opted to conclude their relationship. This had been unexpected and Robert had stared at his boss as if hearing an alien who'd teleported to the office. Reality raced back to him, however, and he nearly moonwalked out of the office, dragging his feet and walking backward.
Glenn's fork plunged into his salad and, like out of a Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon, an eruption of fire and smoke bellowed out of the cafe's kitchen. While the causality was a bit shaky, Glenn's date, Brad, looked across the table with his mouth agape.
"I promise I didn't have anything to do with it," Glenn said quickly, before the idea of evacuation had entered either man's mind. The idea did rush in, however, as a small series of pops and bangs rang out. Glenn made the choice to grab his salad.
I was hot on his heels as we both crashed through the woods. If I could keep up the pace, I knew I could catch him. The man ran like a demon though, so it was on me to not tire before he escaped completely. I hoped he'd hit some obstacle like a wall or a ditch soon though.
The man, a raider from the next village over, was participating in one of the oldest traditions in our region - he'd snuck into our town hall and stolen a golden parakeet. The object, made some centuries ago, was part of a larger collection of singing birds. When water was added to the top of a great sculpture the various birds fit into, the device would create birdsong through some ingenious interaction between fluted pipes and the dripping water. Every town in the region had one bird and they were reunited at Easter in the big cathedral. The tradition of course, was to show up with two or three birds that you would then "ransom" back to the home town.
My computer screeched through its dial-up routine as I raced the progress bar with slow, steady movements of my cursor. It didn't matter who won - the game was out of mind the moment the warm "Welcome - you've got mail!" played over the speakers.
Today's batch of emails was a newsletter and a message from my penpal in New York, just as I'd hoped. We had symmetrical schedules, usually checking and responding once before school, once after school, and once before bed. This one had me reading her email tucked up in a borrowed oversize hoodie with moonlight coming in the window. It was still so cold here that I had to read her section about a new swimsuit and sunglasses twice before I remembered that she made a reference to a family trip to Disney World a few emails back. I forgot that would be a big deal for here - Disney Land was a few hours south, so my family went several times a year.
It was a Sunday morning like any other in the Poste household. Mom made breakfast while Tina, the youngest, bounced around like a possessed rubber ball. Her sister, Meg, slowly emerged from the nest of blankets and teddy bears she called bed. Dad was conspicuously absent from the table; it took the girls a full five minutes to find him to tell him breakfast was ready. He arrived on the scene with a tattered notebook in hand.
Tony smiled an impish smile for no one as he waited behind the curtain for the interviewer to finish the introductions. Jane was less comfortable, squirming at the thought of the hot lights and the implied attention. Neither had a good sense of the crowd that could occasionally be heard coughing or shifting until, with the announcement of their names, the crowd exploded into applause.
The two waved and smiled and looked around at the cameras, not sure which to focus on. Eventually they were herded like sheep down a path to where the interview was to take place - a standing table with a jet black top. Their product - accentuated in neon colors - stood out like brilliant Emerald City from sepia Kansas. The interviewer, with his big bleached smile and caked makeup, asked them a couple perfunctory questions. How they met. Did they ever see themselves being on live TV. Did they try the drink on any pets first. Questions meant to soften them up and make the audience laugh.
"Does that couple look a little... peculiar to you?"
The bartender didn't make enough money to consider "observing passengers" as part of his list of duties, but he was willing enough to indulge his manager for a moment. He made a big, dramatic sweep of the hundred or so people in the Deck C Aft Bar both to placate his boss and to make his eyes falling across the couple seem less planned.
"There! In the yellow!" His manager spoiled whatever element of unintentionality there might have been by hissing into the bartender's ear and pointing across the way.
"They seem normal enough to me," he said with a service-industry smile. "Is there any reason to be nosy?"
James sat in his padded wheelchair, looking at nothing with an angelic expression.
"Did I ever tell you about my honeymoon?" he asked the attendant who was carefully cleaning the room.
"No, never," she lied. It wasn't like she had to pay attention.
"Oh, it was wonderful. Beth and I went to Italy and got to explore all over. Our favorite little spot was a restaurant just off the piazza and away from the crowd. After a few days they knew our tastes and surprised us with something new and interesting every day after. It was wonderful."
The doctor looked over the man sitting on the examination table. She looked at his wife, who had accompanied him. It was a strange match - some blonde model and a gross, blob of a man. A blue blob.
"How exactly did this happen?" the doctor asked, doing her best to keep a neutral tone. The two were quick to blame each other, each pushing into the story before the other had gotten even a sentence out. The doctor was patient though, and the story emerged gradually.
A little dust glittered in the sunbeams that shot through the cracks in the boarded up windows.
"Did you hear that?" Billy, the resident expert on the invisible and the intangible prodded his friend.
"I didn't hear anything," said Jack. While he'd expressed a healthy skepticism at the outset, his eyes now darted to every crack and nook as if some creature might shoot at them like a missile. So far the house had been devoid of any creature, living or dead.
"I heard on the news that there's a stuffed grizzly bear that comes to life during the full moon in one of the rooms." Billy stated.
I awoke in a cold sweat. Were they after me? Had they found out my secret? My mind was a wild ride for a minute as I tried to get my bearings in the dark room.
Nightmares were an occupational hazard.
I'd moved into the "subway squad" eight or so years prior after I'd shown how well I could blend into any situation. I'd never been caught - not even suspected - by any group I'd infiltrated. My silver tongue opened gates some of our best inspectors had had slammed shut in their faces. The nights, however, never got easier. Dreams of ferocious men who could "smell a swine" were common in my life and I feared for the day I'd be discovered.
A brown papered cube with twine fastenings and no labels sat outside Mr. Arrow's house on the porch. The aforementioned man had nearly tripped on it as he attempted his usual routine: out the door, down the pathway, and onward to the metro which would deposit him one block away from his place of employment. Luckily he'd seen the obstacle prior to tripping as he looked at the bottom of his paper were theater reviews were printed. He would later recount a column titled "Mamet Mangled" had saved his life.
"You're going to have to put that down," Chuck pointed first at Brenda's phone, then at various classmates' devices. "This is a no-phone-zone for the next eight hours. They're a parasite that will leach your attention from the task at hand."
There were groans as the kids put their phones away, but all of them did it; they knew they were lucky to be here on this particular assignment. Other kids in their class had to do harder work, or worse: attend lectures like "an introduction to non-Euclidean geometry."
The man was red-faced and out of breath as he slammed up against a chain link fence. He mustered enough breath to curse the universe as he gripped the fence as if his legs would fail him at any second. His flight had only been a few blocks, but the man was heavyset and had never tried to remedy his condition. His physical deficiencies mirrored themselves mentally; a mind so "made up" it was a bed with sheets made of steel. Behind his back, his coworkers called him "Ed" because he was "past tense". Any change in his routine, however small, threatened to destroy him - to split him a hundred ways and down a hundred alleys. Especially when it came to money.
The first sign I noticed was a flicker of the lights in the local history museum I was in. A moment later they'd gone out and my pocket felt strangely hot. A dozen or so of us came to the same realization and our cell phones were soon on the ground with small lithium-fueled fires lighting up the place. A few of the women weren't so lucky - their purses were on fire along with the phones inside them.
I wish I'd been a bit more aware and had tried to put the fires out, but I panicked and rushed outside. At first I was struck by the chaos - people were rushing about and yelling all sorts of things - but after a second I noticed only people were moving. Every car was stopped, building air conditioners had ceased to hum, and every light I could see was out. A solar flare had hit and I had been in the blast zone.
In the dumpster behind Pravda Beer Bar, illuminated by a single overhead light, a raccoon foraged for a quick meal. It near about jumped out of its skin when it was assaulted by a great metal-on-metal clang.
"Scram!" the man with the shovel yelled as the raccoon was already jetting across the parking lot. He muttered a bit to himself about pests and how lazy the other workers were as he heaved a few bags in the bin. He performed the act his predecessor had failed to do. The flip of the lid as he closed the dumpster generated just enough of a wind to push a small scrap of paper out into the light.
The man bent down and picked it up. The writing looked Russian to him, but one bit was certainly decipherable: a time and a dollar figure of five zeros following a one. He took it into the bar.
"Come, comrades, it is time for us to do battle," Arthur, King of All he Surveyed, looked at the lumps of men and scattered beer cans on his living room couches.
"To Avalon?" hiccuped Lance.
"To Avalon!" Arthur proclaimed. This was met with groans. The groans were met with prodding kicks and small pushes as the King mustered his men.
Eventually the four of them piled into the more-rust-than-car 1977 Caddy Deville ("with electronic fuel injection and quartz digital clock") and began the great journey across town to Avalon Lanes. It took twenty minutes, as the main road had a DUI checkpoint, but they made it nonetheless.
Bill had spent the better part of the past 48 hours driving on emptier and emptier highways until he got to the sandy ruts that signaled the penultimate part of his journey. Another hour of bends and bumps was the icing on the cake of the exhausting journey. Finally, however, he came to a cabin with one lit torch burning outside. Bill parked, approached, and paused.
On the left side of the door frame there was an unlit torch. Above the frame; a rune of some ill-portent. Bill knew his part, but we've all gotten cold feet before. He took several deep breaths to steel himself before lighting the torch and stepping into the cabin.
It's a new keyboard! Mechanical. Makes lots of noise but not as much as them MX blues do, man. So naturally what's the first step? Gotta ramble on Simon's blog. Just a stream of consciousness. Just typing away. Know what? My eyes aren't even open right now. Just loving this fucking keyboard. MMMMMMm yeah. Will I ever stop? Yo - I don't know. Turn out the lights - Keyboard glows! And only at the end of this ramble do I remember how much the editing tools on Blogger suck major donkey balls. But typing out that thought feels a shit ton nicer on this clicky keyboard! Final thoughts: the world needs to see Simon dressed up as a combination Fidel Castro and Prince Vultan. That would be rad. I'll type out the screenplay on this badass keyboard right here. Seriously, it's very Zen-like just typing away and hearing them clicky keys. I dig it.
"What do you mean I have to kiss you?" the little girl asked of the frog she held in her hand. The frog, for its part, stared blankly ahead.
"Well, if you insist!" the girl puckered up and gave the frog the tiniest peck. A moment passed and nothing happened. The girl placed the frog on the ground and it hopped into the underbrush, certainly as confused as a frog can be.
The girl left as well, going to find her favorite spot - a little stump in a small grove where she could stoke her imagination. Normally it was her castle or tower or (on one occasion) a giant mushroom complete with talking caterpillar. This time, however, it was her place to mourn.
I stared at the blank page in front of me. After four hours of torture, I knew I was chasing the horizon - I'd make no progress as long as that no good jackass across the street kept screaming like he'd stuck a cactus up his ass. To be fair (not that I want to be) it wasn't him screaming per se - it was his patients. The nut was a dentist who liked to drill a little too deep or go a little too light on the Novocaine. The only time his clinic wasn't an explosion of screams - and therefore the only time I could consistently write - was on Saturdays. Saturdays were reserved for the clients that kept him in business.
My pen met paper for two words in a row before another screech erupted from the place, breaking my concentration and sending my pen skittering across the page. It was the random timing that was the worst part - anyone can ignore regular phenomena, but the bursts of noise at unknown intervals was torture, plain and simple.
The heat was obscene for this time of year. Pam and Miles lay on their mattress, fingertips the only skin they had in contact. Both were awake, naked, and hoping the sounds of spring peepers might induce sleep. They'd done all they could - sheets were on the floor and the fan was on high - but the heat and the anxiety were a bit too much for either.
"Big day tomorrow," Miles couldn't help himself.
"I know," Pam replied plainly.
"Will I have to call you Doctor Sweetheart?" Had either been keeping track, this made the hundredth time Miles had made this joke.
"Whatever you want, as long as you pay off my loans." Reply number seventy one. Sure the repetition bothered Pam, but she knew that, truthfully, it spoke to Mile's consistency. The man she married was a stone wall like that of Hadrian - if the human body allowed it, he'd be standing for centuries.
(To push myself to write a bit more, I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of July.)
The Huntress awoke to the sound of her door clacking against its frame. Thoughts splashed into her mind like a bucket of thrown water; did I lock the door? is someone here? is someone trying to kill me? The darkness provided no answers.
After a minute of careful listening, the Huntress lit up the oil lamp she kept near her bed. Everything in her room was in its place. The antlered elk-head trophy's eyes reflected the light from the small lamp. So too did the polished rifle leaning against the wall she had used to claim the elk's life. She slid out of bed and chose to take the light instead of the rifle as she entered the main room of the cabin.
Roadblocks, hurdles, language barrier
Thwarteed requests or something scarier
What do I do when smiling breaks down
Do I display my internal frown?
Tunisia's thrown flags on every play
Tollroad or detour or wrong way
I looked in the mirror and a woman looked back. I cried. Fat wet drops mixed with makeup and snot made their way into hastily bunched tissues. I laughed. I’d have to redo my face - not the thought I thought I’d have.
My housemate at the bathroom door. I assure them I was okay. A goofy smile. The sort of smile you’re supposed to hide because it’s genuine. I was okay. I am okay. I am genuine.
A deep breath and I had control again. It would be a series of steps. Wipe. Wash. Work. I had found that woman. I would find her again.
So there I was, string tied to my dick as was the local custom, when I felt a great grumbling rumbling in my stumbling. I mean stomach. Why’d I say stumbling? Weird.
Anyhow, my stomach felt like two cats fighting in a burlap sack. It was rough - and I didn’t feel like dealing with whatever was going to erupt. Sure, I’d have to - by accident of anatomy my guts were linked to my mouthhole and my asshole - but it wasn’t going to be the highlight of my day. As the metaphorical cats continued to wrestle, I knew it was time to take decisive action. And decisive action I certainly took. Decisive action I will certainly describe.
I rushed to the door and grabbed my rice paddy hat on the way out. It’d be a real social faux pas to be seen in the streets without a hat and I didn’t want to challenge the local norms. I half-ran, half-waddled my way through the streets as I fought the urge to birth the demon inside me. A real bad butt birth was coming though and there was little I could do to stop it.
I think of you most every day
I almost send a text your way
Stopping me, an ugly truth
More of me pushes most away
</3 </3 </3
You said you're sad to see me go
Yet I would gladly stay
After all these days I hope you know
Three words you have to say:
"Stay for me"
</3 </3 </3
I have the dumbest wishes
Like to kiss your neck while doing dishes
Or hold your hand 'neath a table
While listening to a fishing fable
I know I'm weird, I'm sure to get looks
Should our feet touch when we read books
But that's who I am; I don't think I can change
In a world so bestial, is being tender strange?
The Warden had dozed off in his chair again and I had to take the chance. I had spent hours upon hours, days upon days, chipping, rubbing, wiggling, and otherwise accelerating entropy in the joints, anchors, and locking mechanism of my cell door. The effort was the only thing keeping me sane and, now that the opportunity presented itself, I had to make use of it.
Taking the door off its hinges had been relatively straightforward. What squeaks and thuds the process caused didn’t wake the Warden, inshallah. I approached his little booth in the center of the cells and worked my way in. Quietly, oh so quietly I relieved him of his keys and unlocked the trap door.
The Warden’s booth sat in the center of a dozen cells in a classic panopticon. Prisoners in those cells had a wonderful view of the city from twelve stories up; to exit out the window meant certain death. the panopticon design was a stroke of genius - one guard could watch many prisoners if they never knew exactly when he was watching them through the shaded glass. Unfortunately for the guards and fortunately for the prisoners, the Warden snored.
I wish I had some gum right now
On which I could be chewing
A small distraction for my mouth
While my mind is brewing
My focus now: a million things
Wants and needs be done
Mastication might slow me down
And allow a moment's fun