Thursday, November 29, 2007

My internet is being fussy. Have an image macro and hum Girl From Ipanema until I return.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Offices Can Be Unfulfilling

Dust motes dance angelic in the light of the projector, giving a mosaic quality to the gospel on screen. Dark fingers shadow it occasionally as our minister gestures to make a point, and I glance at her hands. They glow, tips pink with polish, as they flicker over the little halo of light.

Sales figures are our Numbers, clickthrough our Deuteronomy. Case studies for tie-ins are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Maybe Editorial's the gospel of Thomas, grudgingly mentioned and done away with when unnecessary.

We watch it all with rapt attention and greasy fingers; our Communion of pizza grows cold upon the table. I look from screen to Preacher to middle-aged, hardworking flock; Sales guys, Managers, Interns, pressed together tight in this too-small Church of the Lunch Meeting. Some are enraptured, two powerpoint slides away from speaking in tongues; others blink rapidly with that practiced half-sleep you only see in corporate offices. None speak save Her; none smile, none stretch, none whisper.

And pressed in with them, clutching at my notepad and my pizza, I want to scream and scream and scream.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"You know what the nice thing about wine is?" He asked, continuing before she could answer, his glass wavering just as unsteadily as his voice. "The nice thing--the nicest thing--is that you can drink something that's 30 proof any old time and you'll look sophisticated." He waved it gaily, and Mel watched the red wine slosh over the side, drops falling interminably towards the carpet.

Dutifully and with the swiftness of The Flash Jen appeared, blocked it with a foot. Mel winced at the splash of tannin and grape--those shoes had been expensive--but silently thanked her and reached with one hand to stop the waving glass. Its holder stared at her, betrayed, for a moment or two; then he laughed and made an exagerrated bow.

She hated him.

"I know I'm a drunk," he said happily, "but I'm a charming one, no?"

Well, she had to give him that.


It all reverberates when you're tired.

Take a step on a tile floor and the little "pat" of your heel hitting the ground resounds, "tap-ap-ap-p-p-p," against all those little bones you can't name in your ear. Lean on your desk and hear a creak that goes on for centuries, seeming so deafening it's a miracle you don't get fired. Or, for real fun, just close those tired, swollen eyes and breathe deep.

We so often forget there's a bellows inside us, constantly sucking in and blowing out vast amounts of air. When we're sedate that's about the only bodily function we can hear, and every heavy breath is both a strain and a blessing. A long sigh, laborious though it is to the insomniac, cleanses, too. Exhale all that weariness, if only for a moment, and feel your muscles lap up the air.

But this little respite is forgotten immediately as you force open those damn tired eyes. Watch your peripheral vision flicker, watch the words on your screen blur; feel a weight on your eyelids so heavy God may as well be blinding you. This is your punishment, you fool, for being so nocturnal--


She stopped typing, the keys clattering into silence, and looked to the flicker-blur shambles of pajamas and tears in the doorway. The mosaic of color--pink top, blue pants, yellow stuffed bear with half a head--slowly resolved itself into her sister, who rubbed at sleepy, unhappy eyes.

"Hey, kid," Mel yawned, rising from her chair, setting it wobbling just like her thoughts. She hip-checked it away; the cheap plastic wheels scrabbled angry on the tiles. "Bad dream?"

"Your computer's loud." Petulant, accusatory, with a glare towards the offending monolith; Mel wasn't sure whether to defend her old Gateway (with its 10dB keyboard) or bemoan its necessity. She strode to her sister and settled on an apologetic hug, crouching down to fold around the girl.

"The laptop is in the shop," she soothed, smoothing the unkempt blonde wisps kicked up by Jenny's pillow. "Otherwise I could work in my room."

"S'okay." This Jenny mumbled, staring at Mel's knees. A pause, and grumpily she added: "I did have a bad dream."

"What about?" Bathed in the monitor's firelight Mel considered Jenny's phobias: buses, flytraps, Jack Skellington, nuns, what was the last one?

"The funeral." So soft Mel felt it more than heard it, and yet for all its quiet booming in the apartment, for all the apartment's size carrying like they were in St. Peter's. Then, choked off, as Jen buried her face in Mel's shoulder.

Mel blinked through newly-blurring vision, held her tighter, was glad she didn't look up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

From the Vault: Mendi

I could go into the lovely soreness at the back of my throat and the utter doneness I feel slumped in front of this computer at 3:38 CST, but instead I will simply post an old snippet I wrote for a friend and describe Karaoke Night tomorrow.

He is inconspicuous. At the table of the Gods, he is in the background, the silent one sipping wine, radiating disinterest in any and all. Those who pay him any attention quickly stop doing so, and that is when he smiles.

His teeth are gorgeous white, spiking out past his lips on the top and jutting up from the bottom, but there is falseness there, the faint scent of bleach and urea; he has colored these teeth, colored and recolored, and if one were to break one off one would see the ring of crimson he's tried so hard to hide.

For he is Mendi, the Dragon God of Lies, and his every move is falsity. He finesses through the world, sidling past everything, his body long and lithe. His scales are a dull silver, but like a chameleon's. It's rare they light up, and when they do, you may as well close your eyes for as well as you can see him. Those times he is colored are the spectacularly engineered lies, the deceptions that fuel wars and peace. They momentarily fill him with beauty and delight, making him one with the world around him, and his pearly claws--those, too, concealing ages of blood and deceit--clench into the minds they can reach, spreading more of him.

Spies, theives, con artists, kings, paupers, any who decieve to control, answer to him. The truly gifted liars, the silver-tongues, the controllers of nations and worlds, are absorbed into his being at their passing; when the lie breaks and the hard, dark truth forces through the cracks in their tapestries, he is there to take them.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Nowhere but a community theater audition can some hippie with wild hair and huge eyes sit staring at his faded jeans and whisper about serial killers and look less crazy than other people in the room.

Beside him a man so fat as to be ovoid twists his too-long moustache and murmurs inaudibly, the only words I catch being "mother" and "guns." Beyond him sprawls a lanky woman of indeterminate age with cotton candy hair and smile wrinkles everywhere, almost falling out of her seat on the Community Center Couch. Maybe it's the exposed springs hooking her in place, or maybe as she lazily drawls about gender relations in This Modern World she just melts into the couch.

They're characters when they're out of character.

I'm competing with these people?

I stare down at my lonely little resume, my quickly-printed headshot. I make a note on my monologue; the O comes out an E, and trails off into oblivion. My knee bounces, heel tapping staccato on the linoleum floor.

What do I do, what do I say, remember to pause for commas, speak naturally, feel what you're saying, Jesus fucking Christ what am I thinking--


Everything stops. The droning crone is suddenly soothing.

"We're ready for you."

I rise and stride and wonder: how much can you screw a two-minute monologue up?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What a Productive Week

Once a day! Honest. Starting tomorrow.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


I wonder how long it has been.

The sky moves in stop-motion, stars and planets jerking across the black like King Kong jittering through 1930s New York City. There are three pulsars which used to blink in sync every night; now, they're solid bright. The switch would make me laugh if I could. You need oxygen to laugh, you see.

Occasionally a piece of debris drifts by, moves in star-strobe through my field of vision. Every start and stop in time with the relentless thuds in my chest. The thuds are maddening, but even in my state I know not to try and stop them. Every concentrated pulse of electricity, every shoot of agony, every flick on and off of some immortal switch--

They are why I'm still alive.

Well, alive, then dead, then alive again.

Oh, how proud they must have been. The cardio paddles and cart of old condensed to a tool the size of a stethoscope, sitting ready and Aware above the wearer's chest. Too rugged to break, too smart to activate unnecessarily, and--thanks to the almost atomic-scale battery inside it--too vital to ever, ever die. No more lost sailors, those planetside cried; how well we answered their calls! In this suit a man adrift in orbit will die of old age before he'd go from heart or brain failure.

I wonder how long that will be?

The thinking is, you will be rescued. Any sailor of the vast black sea will eventually see a new galleon floating towards him, ready to give grog and food and an insanely thorough bout of medical treatment. The soft bleating rescue becon, tied to that same miniscule battery and timed with every electric thud, is a guarantee.

Thud. Beep. Thud.

They are not exactly Holst's The Planets, but they are my light show's musical accompaniment. I try to hum along--feel the utterly alien feeling of truly empty lungs. There is not even carbon dioxide to poison me; the suit has jettisoned it.

I wonder, in fits and starts, if I can roll over. Let the vastness pan out of view, look down towards the rock I'm slowly puttering around. Maybe I'll see more than the Universe frame-by-frame. Maybe a ship flickering closer, flying my colors!

Maybe I'll see the blackened craters I assume are really there.

Ah well.

I'll find out eventually.

I have plenty of time.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Papers: an excerpt

I’m standing in an amateur library, watching an extremely wasted physicist discuss the weighty issues of life. This is not the first time I’ve done this. I do it now, eyeing his weed, hoping it’ll be worth the conversation. His name’s Clive; we went to school together. I graduated with an English Bachelor’s, while he went into Physics. Fitting that he’d spend so much time around protractors—his hair is all angles, shaped by years of gel and falling asleep at desks. A joint in already, he’s trying to light a new one, but keeps talking with his hands. I worry those angles of hair will catch fire.

Success. Somehow, the lighter ignites the rolling papers and not the tangle of hair and gel a bit above it. He gestures with his joint, red ash falling to land and gently smolder on a Tribune front page from 1995.

“The point,” he says, eyes hazed by smoke, “is…” He trails off, watching that joint loop in a complicated double-figure eight, which ends back at his lips. The next minute is all inhaling. Clive is insufferable when high.

“Is?” I prompt.

Clive stares at me, nostrils fuming smoke like some very mellow dragon’s. I push back my hair, and his eyes follow the motion. “Is…” he repeats. “Is what?”

“The point,” I dutifully remind him. We’re in his labyrinthine basement, among stacks of the Tribune and Time. The collection goes back decades—were the pages not imbued with the scent of a thousand herbal jazz cigarettes, he could sell it to an archive.

“Oh, yeah, the point is, you’re not doing anything with your time. Neither of us is. Fuck,” he says, as a pile of old news hits the floor. He sinks halfway to his knees, stops, and rises again. “Fuck it. Been three years since college?”

“Four.” I hold out my hand for the joint, but get nothing; Clive’s marching off through the stacks, slamming his hand on one marked ’87.

“Four, fuckin’ four, and I’m here…” he trails off, starts laughing. “Like a goddamn hermit, and you’re working in a bookstore you hate.”

“I don’t hate it,” I say. Irate customers and endless re-shelving call me a liar. “It’s just a job. And you’re not a hermit, you’re a…” I look at Clive. The bent hair, the newspapers, the tan slacks and stained t-shirt. “Okay, you’re a hermit, but you’re a scientist. You’re all like that.” I page through a copy of Popular Mechanics from our junior year at [college]. “Eccentric.”

His eyes dismiss the term. He stumbles past another doomed stack of papers. My eyes catch on the dates in this one—they’re all out of order. He’s got them organized by headline letter. I’ll never understand smart people.

“Dan,” he says, “I’m a sellout. Remember Jerry Schriever?”

I wrack my brain, forcing my thoughts away from the dwindling joint and remembering a chubby man with a 4.0. “The guy you punched?”

Clive glares as menacingly as red eyes allow. “I didn’t punch him, I pushed hi—not my point, okay? You remember him.”

I sigh. “Yes.”

“He’s working on superconductors at Notre Dame right now. Michelle Kurtti’s doing—doing—“ he flails a little, like he can grab the words off his collection. “Important stuff. Everyone else I knew in that class is, is contributing. I’m making sure a test lab at NiTech doesn’t catch fire.” Slowly, he sinks to the basement floor; long-forgotten somethings crunch noisily as he settles. He’s just below the window, bathed in sunset light, staring at nothing and letting smoke rise to mingle with dust.

“Clive?” I ask, crouching beside him. The joint is almost gone.

“I haven’t gotten laid in a year,” he says, but he sounds like he’s happy about it.

No weed is worth this.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

On the subject of cupcakes

An old drawing of Deia by a talented friend.

Opening Shot, or This is A Dire Situation

What do I remember?

I remember the globe, which she cuddled like a doll. Rudimentary at best but somehow more real than any satellite photo, crude continents and ersatz oceans housing every story offered by mankind. To touch it was forbidden to all but the goddess herself, and for good reason. Unless you want to hear everything at once, best to leave it to Deia.

I remember the Matron, quiet and tall, laying a gentle hand on her charge’s shoulder whenever it was time. She’d listen to Deia’s repeated stories with the faintest smile, watch the little goddess’ globe spin with the slightest awe.

Most of all I remember the stars.

They surrounded her, enveloped her, were part of her—and I mean that quite literally, because they shifted when she moved. A trillion points of light, so vivid they seemed painted on, twisting and rearranging endlessly around this little blonde girl.

Those were the first to go.

You didn’t notice it at first—how could you, when they were so many?—but little by little the bright lights winked out, darkness spiraling inward, Deia refusing to notice. When she thought no one was looking, she bunched up her cloak, glared at the dark patches. She willed the stars to return, and yet they did not.

In increasing darkness the globe grew quiet. What Deia could hear with the touch of a fingertip became what she’d press her ear to world to absorb. I saw Matron crying, watching her charge clutch the globe. Her tears were silent. Deia’s were not.

“Please!” She cried, flailing her fists in tantrum, hammering mountains and forests to rubble. More stories silenced, and she wailed even louder, struck even harder, got even less.

From ten billion stars, fifteen remained, haloed on the hood she now pulled above her head. Wisps of blonde hair trailed across the world, its south pole bumping into her pulled-up knees; one or two lone voices spoke, feeble and bland, but she didn’t bother repeating them for the Matron.

“Please.” That’s all she whispered, fainter and fainter all the time. “I want the stories back.”

I said most of all I remember the stars.

That was a lie.

Most of all I remember her, the once-grinning goddess of imagination, curled weakly around her dying little world. Wanting everything, getting nothing, begging softly, while Matron faded with the last of her stars.