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We met in a death trap down in Cartel Country, Mexico. We were subterranean deep in an arena this bruja asshole carved out of what had previously been a fully functional Flying Saucer. The situation was ghoul-rillas. As in six zombie gorillas, parallel universe imported, COCAINE pumped, and with their faces peeled away with a scalpel just to crank up the you're-truly-fucked-now factor. For the moment they were cage locked, frenzied, gesticulating in sign language the same word over and over again - "Brains!" Around us was one round wall of onyx material polished mirror smooth and desecrated with graffiti and arcane symbols spray-painted in red. Above us, said bruja asshole is praising Santa Muerta before a shrine built around the radioactive alien skull of the saucer's pilot. Around the bruja the faithful gathered, primarily drug wired goons and homicidal ex-strippers, all genuflected in unified devotion. I didn't exactly have to habla the rite to pick up its gist. We had both apparently pissed off the wrong asshole, one with a cocaine powered UFO-Death cult, and we were to be fed to the zombie gorillas all in the name of some holy Space Grim Reaper or whatever.

So, who were we anyway to warrant death by an act of undead simian cannibalism and how did we get here?

Good question.

My companion in fuckedness, that would be the lady besides me dressed in commando black and with her face painted up in the colors of a luchadore mask, well, she didn't give me her name. However one look at the blood on her tattooed knuckles and the teeth lodged in the treads of her boots told you she didn't get this far without initiating many suckers into the dark mysteries of the morgue on the way.

As for me? I had been found passed out on hashish and mescal in a whore house not but three miles from here. How I got there will have to remain one of the life's smaller mysteries . Last thing I remember was attending a Ted Séance in New Orleans where Tesla's ghost lectured through a floating medium about some new ideas he'd been working on involving an app that periodically electrocuted you through your phone in order to boost your intelligence. Later, there was a party at a hotel room and a game of strip poker with Tarot cards. Next thing I know... bam! Here I am hung-over and south of the border ready to be fed to the undead in a flyer saucer. My performance enhancing talisman and pack of all lucky cigarettes confiscated, down to naught but my boxers, my chucks, my Kirlian goggles, and fez. Still, no reason not to be civil.


"So..., " I ask my partner in doomed through a goggle obscured wink, "come here often?

She doesn't say anything, her attention focused on eyeball fucking the zombie gorillas.

"Yeah, well, I'm new in town, so my first time here too."

She snorts and searches for something she can use as a weapon.

"Still, been in one flying saucer you've been in them all ... or so you'd think, right?" I smile striking up the air of an experienced connoisseur. "For example you can tell by the Kether Engine suspended above us that this is... well, was, the engine room. The Kether engine also means you can rule out your Hollow Earth Nazi saucers or run of the mill Sirius Empire scout cruiser. No, this vessel wasn't meant for traversing between star systems, but rather something bigger, nastier, something that could travel vast swaths of possibility..."

She clears her throat and with a bob of her chin motions towards the bruja and the faithful circled above us from the 25 foot ledge of the engine room. The bruja throws down two items that land at our feet. One is an aluminum baseball bat and the other is a silver flask.

She takes the bat, I take the flask. It's filled to the brim with mescal and the swig burns down the throat evaporating the hangover. The alcohol isn't for us though. It's for the ghoul-rillas. Don't ask me why but when undead types get a hankering for brain, it just tastes better when that brains had a few or even a few too many. Gives even the basest zombie a buzz.

"Don't s'pose you got any... like, I dunno, super-powers or some shit?" I ask her.

She shakes her head and finally breaks the silence, "You?"

"I have the proportional sense of humor of a radioactive spider and I'm fluent in Language Zero."

"Useless," she mutters with a roll of her eyes giving the bat a test swing across the air.

"Okay, that's cool, uh, maybe you got a plan then?"

She snags the flask from my hand, glugs back some liquid bravado, hands it back and says - "Yes, my plan is to crack the skull of anything that gets in my way, then pile up their corpses, climb them out of this... engine room you say? ... and from there just generally kill each and every last mother-fucker on this saucer. Present company excluded of course."


"Appreciate that."

"I figure you'll at least be able to distract one of the beasts while they feed on your brain."

"See... and you thought I wasn't bringing anything to the party?"

The bruja shouts down at us holding the glowing alien skull over the engine room arena to look down at the meat to be sacrificed in its name. Don't know exactly what he's saying, some bullshit about his plans for feeding our souls to the skull in order to power the ship.

"Yeah," I snort to myself with the derisive confidence of a fanboy, "that's not how it works."

The bruja points the ET skull at me and shrieks at me too fast to comprehend.

My partner in fuckedness translates: "Apparently the UFO skull demands that you speak up like you have a pair when you dare make snide remarks about its priest."

I nod thoughtfully, contemplating what will no doubt be my final words, cup a hand around my mouth, shout up towards our captives - "Fuckin' Noob!"

The bruja's eyes widen with shocked offense. He jibber-jabbers a command to the gasping flock. In response one of the goon-acolytes comes scurrying up and pulls from their robe (did I mention they had robes, I mean it just seemed so obvious that they would, you know?) a big old wooden spoon filled with a measuring cups worth of cocaine. The acolyte holds the spoon up and the bruja dips the skull's nasal cavities into the mound. The bruja wiggles it a little, then pulls it out of the spoon's mound of super-snow and working the jaw has the skull say in a high pitched voice - "Gracias."

"De nada," the acolyte grumbles in a voice that would make Tom Waits sound like a choir soprano and offers the bruja a bump off the spoon.

The bruja partakes with an elongated snort that takes much longer than humanly possible. When he pulls out his eyes are ready pry themselves from their sockets and the clenched teeth grin glows up there in the candle gloom. He looks at the skull and holds it to ear where it whispers something that drives the bruja into hysterical laughter. Then the bruja whispers in the goons ear and the goon nods solemnly and whispers into a hooded ear and that goon in return makes a motion to a robed helper monkey who nods solemnly and pulls a lever.

Cogs grind into life, pulleys drop, gears crackle. A moment passes. My partner looks at me to see if I'm ready. I shoot another invisible wink from behind the goggles. The caged doors rattled open, six simian ghouls coke fueled and cerebrum starved bound out towards us roaring through their peeled.

Zero hesitation, she moves up on the beasts bellowing through their skinned faces, two hands on the bat with all the confidence of a New York Yankee stepping up to plate.

I step back to let her do her thing all the while continuing my previous thought.

"As I was saying, this isn't a space-ship, it's a trans-dimensional reconnaissance skimmer...," I look up studying the Kether Engine, "matter of fact this is angel tech by the look of her."

"Uh-huh," my partner grunts trying to focus on the situation at hand. One of the ghoul-rillas, smaller than the others but much faster, comes at her in a shambling charge. She waits for it, waits for it, waits for... and swings! Crack and shattered fangs spray from a broken jaw. Pivoting off the momentum of her swing, she sidesteps from the beast's grasp and ducks down to deliver an expertly delivered shot of bat to shatter the creature's kneecap. It buckles at the blow and she comes up out of the crouch to kick it straight into a second brute tangling them up into a crash. A third dives for her arms outstretched and roaring madly. She braces for the assault flipping the bat in hands so the handle faces forward. When the diving ghoul-rilla is upon her she thrusts the handle straight through the roar to puncture the roof of the mouth and strikes what's left of its brain. Simultaneously she collapses backward, rolling beneath the flying weight of her now dead again opponent. The inert beast slides across the floor and comes to a stop just before my feet.

"One down five to go," I say swigging back mescal, "cheers."

She comes out of the roll beside me and plucks the bat out of the thing at my feet. The other ghoul-rillas are jumping up and down. Furious, scared, drug rattled. Ghouls are different than zombies in many respects one of which is that they still feel things such as aggression and fear. They're stalled, looking at one of their numbered down and another hobbled. They sign to each you other - "You can't 'em!"

"Fuck that, you get 'em. I'll back you up."

"No, you both get 'em and we'll back you up."

"We got a few seconds before they figure out to rush us at once," she tells me as if I didn't already know, "so if you know how to do something besides drink mescal and talk smack now would be the time to do it."

"I don't just talk smack, lady...," I say stepping forward, "I talk Language Zero and as I was trying to explain to you earlier this is angel tech we're looking at, meaning we're inside an Enochian 'Chariot'."

"Meaning?" She asks.

"Meaning it responds to Enochian voice commands and Enochian is just bastardized Language Zero...," I smile and pass her the flask.

A few yards away the pack's alpha ghoul-rilla pounds its chest signing that they will all charge at once and even if the 'Life-Meat' kills another of their tribe then at least the others will take her down. The wounded ghoul-rillas asks about me. He's just some asshole the alpha assures them. The others nod and jump up and down approvingly. Then with a wave of the alpha's hand the entire ghoul-rilla squad comes at us shambling at us from across the arena, slowly, spreading out wider.

"Chariot," I vibrate the word through a growl that ends in shriek , "activate Kether Engine."

Vibrating from every wall of the saucer a melodic roar similar to that of the song of whales as the Kether Engine awakens. Above us the 72 sided tesseract casing the Kether Engine begins Rubik cube shifting its sides into impossible patterns, faster and faster until with a crackling Kirby dots that illuminate the arena in shades of day-glow poster it comes online. Rattled but undeterred, the ghoul-rillas rush us at once from all sides.

"Chariot," I command calmly taking the flask back for a sip, "exterminate hostile life-forms."

A white light sweeps through the engine room - arena in a sweep. When it reaches the ghoul-rillas they freeze up in terror and wonder. Then the wall of white light vanishes.

The 'Chariot' speaks back in electric Enochian - "Scan complete. No hostile life-forms located."

Shit... and that's about as far as I get before one of the brutes barrels into me sending us crashing down to the ground. It lounges its screaming jaws at my face and jackrabbit panic quick I shove the flask between its fangs just as it bites down. It howls with unmitigated agony trying to pry the flask embedded into the roof of its mouth. But it don't matter the rest of the beasts are ready to pile up on me.

"Chariot," I growl the letters of Language Zero burning in the air under the light of the Kether Engine, "exterminate all hostile post-life forms."

The light of the Engine Room blinks out and there is the vooooom of a black hole no bigger than a baseball sucking itself out of existence.

Nothing...

... and then there was light. Those strange head-shop colors once again flooded the engine room and around us the ghoul-rillas laid collapsed. Looking almost as if they had all suddenly fallen asleep.

I turn to my companion and with a grandiose flourish of bow saying the magick words - "Ta da!"

She gives one of the ghoul-rillas a test kick to the skull and nods with a modicum of satisfaction.

Above us the bruja can be heard screaming and babbling incoherently from a silhouette burning in shades of ultraviolet tinged orange, holding up the alien skull before the engine. Throughout the saucer the faithful can be heard chanting or shouting praise of their UFO Death Goddess. The skull begins to glow brighter in the hands. Until it flares up bright enough to illuminate the skeleton within the bruja's shadow before reducing them to ashes.

The skull falls down into the arena and shatters across the floor.

The praises and chants of the faithful evaporate into nervous murmurs and curses. Then, at some collective signal known only to their ranks, they begin to trample and scream their way free of the saucer.

Within a minute there is no sound but the whale hum of the idling Kether Engine.

"Now what?" My companion asks, bat slung over shoulder, taking in the shifting tesseract casing and the evaporating Kirby dots falling down upon us.

"You tell me your name, maybe." I say adjust my fez back on correctly.

She walks over with all the time in the world, stepping over inert ghoul-rillas, bat slung over shoulder and she grabs me by the back of the head to pull me into a kiss.

I close my eyes and what I taste is nothing more than the air.

I pull off my Kirlian goggles, opening my eyes to confirm what I've known all along. That I stand alone in the arena, the bat in my hand, the ache in the muscles, the ghoul-rilla gore splashed all over me. My 'companion' was no more than an imaginary friend, an artificial side-kick, one hypnosis buried, and emergency triggered. A 'friend' who could do all that cool shit normal me wouldn't dream of trying.

An order to the 'Chariot' cleanses me of the gore, a second retrieves my clothes along with confiscated personal items, the third takes me to the 'Throne' or command center of the saucer. There's not much juice left in her now, the Kether Engine is running on the fumes of fading ideas, enough for a last jump.

"Chariot," I command, "take me home."

The Kether Engine rattles a last gasp and with great agony a last shower of Kirby dots shimmer in and out existence. Watching the tesseract casing begin to spin faster and faster, sucking in all the light it has shed back into itself. Darkness descends...

... and retreats around the whirling of a ceiling fan, where gunshots ring out down on Line Street and a cell phone sits loaded with an alarm that will go off much too soon. As somewhere the Chariot, along with all remnants of its adventure, disperses in a puff of impossibility.

... 00000000001
jack_babalon: (Default)
Of course I drop the $5 bill just as my bus pulls up late and of course the wind snatches it from my reach before sending it fluttering into traffic. A harrowing round of human Frogger in the rush hour traffic ensues and after narrowly dodging headlights backed by a few tons of velocity I return back to the sidewalk no richer for my efforts. At the bus stop I watch the 124 ramble off and I've got 40 minutes until the next one.

Immediately I begin shouting at the Big Hippy in the Sky to vent some frustration. I wave a fist as big as a challenge to the violet clouds and setting sun. It was a fair fight I demanded from the Great Impossible Above, one on human terms with none of that omnipotent bullshit.

The Great Impossible remains silent but in its place wailed a police siren as my world began to strobe pulses of red and blue panic.
Rewind a half hour ago. Work done, clock out, no car, and huff it on foot a few miles to rendezvous with the Contact. The Contact has a sack on hold for me and a deadline with which I can reach it. No worries, I know a shortcut down the tracks known to professional taggers and hobo lifers exclusively. Shave a few clicks off the hump.

Arrive on time, make the deal, stash the sack in an empty bottle of athlete's foot powder treatment, sample the wares - Blueberry Kush rolls down the throat smooth and the drama goes numb in my head. Contact has places and people to do, s/he shows me the door with a smile and off I go. Two miles and 45 minutes later I'm losing my last 5 to the wind with the Law wanting to know what the bald headed guy is doing shouting at the Big Hippy in the Sky.

I give my spiel to the law about losing the 5 and missing the bus and how I next lost my shit but I'm all good now requiring neither service nor protection from those sworn to do just that. The cops aren't impressed with my plight though. Word is that there's been a male prostitute who fits my description (bald, beefy going on chunky, and prone to shouting on the side of the road). Word is there's some maniac who was running around the traffic like a damn fool and wearing a t-shirt that seemed suspiciously tight.

Well of course I've been many a things in this world but I've only whored myself out twice... one to Uncle Sam and that other time, you know, when the countess wouldn't give me back my soul otherwise. All of which I begin to explain to the good officers assembled but none of which seems to sway their opinion that they've got their man cold.

"If you're not a man-whore why you talk like one?" The younger of the two cops demands.

"Years in the customer service industry, Sir." I answer with a platinum rewards worthy smile.

"Oh yeah, well if you're not a mad cock for hire then prove it." The older of the two cops sneers at me and one cannot help but notice the slow reach of his hand towards the holster.

"How?" I ask shrugging helpless one would to a non-platinum rewards card member.

"Dance sexy for us." The older cop answers sans delay.

"Whuh-what?" I stammer.

"Dance sexy for us... if you manage to not turn us on we'll know you're telling the truth." The older cop explains with an eye roll as if it was all so obvious.

"I... I don't have any music."

The older cops gives a nod to the younger one who grasping the situation runs back to the squad car, hops in, and a moment later the latest Psy single is blaring out over the PA.

"But... but I'm not sure how this disproves my being a sex worker, Sir."

The older cop quick draws the pistol out of his holster, "I said dance you son of a bitch. Dance sexy like you mean it."

"'Kay." I mumble and start to do me the Caucasian Hustle like it's Lady's night in Nowheresville, Wisconsin.

The older cop cocks the hammer back on the pistol, "No! You're not trying hard enough. I said sexy and you're giving me Prom Night for the Short Bus."

I gulp and amp up the nasty. Shaking my flat ass up to the older cop, gyrating my hips, shimmying up and down as I pace around him with the eyes of the matador upon his prey. I go all out, grinding hips up the bus stop sign, swinging around it with wild abandon, only to let go at the song's end and land before the cop in a pounce from which I rise up like smoke a whisper's distance from his lips.

The older cop doesn't so much as blink, the gun remains steady in his hand a long moment before reholstering it.

"Alright," the cop says stoically, "I wasn't turned on at all. You, Doug?"

"Na-uh," the younger cop says shrugging bored as he returns from the squad car.

"Yeah, don't quit'cher day job, asshole." The older cop reaches behind, pulls out a wallet, tucks a crisp, clean $5 bill into the collar of my t-shirt and orders, "Now I want your ass on the next bus out of here and next time try not to dress like a total meat-slut, huh?"

With that the cops depart, twenty minutes later the next bus shows up, and I board it exhausted. From the window of my seat I watch as across the road from us there's a bald, heavy set man in a thong who stops shouting at the passing cars long enough to pluck a $5 bill that just blew in out of nowhere on the wind.

And so the story goes...

jack_babalon: (Default)
Thunder rolling from the mountain, that's how I arrive back in town, disembarking from the Greyhound after being canned for two hours with the other slices of Third World Murica. Sat next to a woman who felt relaxed enough in my company to kick off her sneakers and curl up into a ball with bruised bare feet pressed against the seat in front of her. Meanwhile the space barbarian war chief that, after a most gruesome and violent death, had reincarnated into the baby behind me screamed out the last memories of her bloody conquests. As for the man sitting in the seat directly across the aisle, he seems to content to whisper apologies and death-threats into a candy bar doubling for his phone.

I close my eyes, reach a few hours back through the growing south between us, and snatch at the Space Wifey's kiss goodbye at the station. Adjacent to us is an unmanned prisoner transport van, its driver watching us without care along with my future fellow passengers. But something always pulls me back north into the now. So I stare out the window, watch cold highway sunlight sparking between the last flames of autumn foliage clinging to the skeletal trees. The weight of her absence always heaviest the first few days I prep for melancholy ops and take the dollar store horror around me in rolled eye silence.

Ah, but then the bus takes a turn onto 85 and after a few minutes it begins. The first signs of graffiti bubble out across the husks of abandoned buildings lining the asphalt shores. NOPE! SEVER! HENSE! The forests fades into clusters of strip malls, apartment blocks, empty lots, garages, cluttered porches dead lawns, wing shacks, countless doors concealing the wonder and tragedy of everyday life. Then she rises up before us through the front window and if I see this view a thousand times it instills no less a charge of electric magick than it did the first time. My skyline nowhere near as vast or as packed as the one I was born under but just as strong, just as defiant, born like London from the flames, born like the old West from the rails she launched, born like all the great cities of the world on hope and horror.

So yes, it's thunder rolling from the mountain when I step off the bus, here where they sell drugs down the block from the very jail they put you in for selling drugs, where the solider stands with a fatigue equally valiant as the single mother nursing her baby behind him on line, where the couple huddle against the odds even as their child dance victorious amongst the luggage. Here where tragedies, absurdities, fuck-ups, adventures begin and end unseen a thousand times a day. Here, where I made my stand against the past and gambled on being one day able to tell a great story knowing that even if I should fail I would have lived a great one in the process.

2015-11-22_08-18-46

Tammy Know

Oct. 23rd, 2015 01:14 am
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Vampire Country, L5P. The Admiral's Grave, where the regulars drink hard and love harder, a slice of old Terminus eternal carved from the frozen shore leaves of a hundred phantom sailors lost from their watery graves. Here old wounds are covered in tattoos, here cold dispositions thaw over the heat of old stories, here laughter is served strictly in grunts of bitter wisdom or with blind inebriated cackles. For twenty-one years I've drunk anonymous amongst her punks, skins, skaters, bikers, poets, artists, stage-sharks, nomads, bar flies, college students, tourists, and the occasional random human catastrophe.

But of all the souls I've encountered at the Admiral's Grave, none haunt me more than the one named Tammy Know. Tammy offered the world, along with those willing to claim a place within it, neither grudge nor gratitude. Whatever fucks she had to give were solely of the literal kind and blessed are those who have been awarded that honor.

"Right there," she spoke her first words to me with a nod to the stool at the bar I was hunkered at, "is where the whirlwind has been known to touch down."

"I'm sorry," I said turning to her from the novel splayed beneath my attention.

"Whirlwind," she repeated, Crumb by curve and looking very much like what Nancy Drew might look like if she had been re-imagined by Russ Myers, "sweeps you right up when you're not expecting it and drops you off the last place you expect to find yourself."

"That right?" I asked not in that detached cool way a private eye might ask but rather in the manner of a wallflower who's caught the eye of the loudest drunk at the party.

"You can ask the last guy who was sitting where you're sitting," She smiles and sips her drink, dark eyes framed in Flannery O'Connor spectacles drilled on mine, "that is if he was in any shape to walk over here and tell you."

"What happened?"

"He landed hard," she finished her drink and without a word or a look to the bartender had another set down beside her.

"Ouch," I finished my drink, held up my empty glass to the bartender, who promptly ignored me focusing instead on Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster shambling across the screen mounted in the corner of the ceiling. Since she's still staring at me I figure I'll play along, "So where was that exactly?"

"Beneath me," she gives a bob of her chin to my empty drink and without a word of acknowledgement the bartender reloads my Jack and Diet.

I laughed and that's when she had me. You can drop jaws, stun rooms, solve philosophical riddles, quote the Romantics, karaoke the Ramones, have a black belt in ass-whooping and a gold medal in Tantric acrobatics... but if you can't make me laugh there is a place in me that will never be yours. Not that I'm saying I deserve any of the above, it's just how I'm wired, s'all. Things never did work out between Tammy Know and I though. In truth I was between ghosts, psyche crippled, and illusion locked on the specters of what should be. She deserved better and soon found it in the arms of a younger adventurer.

Just as it should be.

Some nights however, usually in the fall or winter, we find ourselves docked together at the Admiral's Grave together, with all of Vampire Country disembarking or arriving into her many crowds. There we talk and share a drink surrounded by a world too busy to notice we're there. She smiles, her voice all antebellum aristocrat and she tells me of those electric whirlwind nights that could sweep you off your feet and land you far from home in the skin of a man reborn.

I always finish mine first, make my farewells, a kiss to the cheek, a hug against a warmth mine only to visit briefly and then gone. Back into the silence and the speculation of a life that could have been.
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Traffucked on 285, three lanes closed around a collision, riding the brake at a steady 5mph down an American Dream that has been downgraded to a roof over the head and a job to keep it there. It's cigarettes and NPR until the stories repeat and I'm in no mood for music and what the fuck does this asshole think he's doing? Fuck me, it's the new math over here: Jesus Fish + Stick Figure Family Sticker/ SUV = the Right of Way. Hold up, now there's a tanker co-piloted by what appears to be a blowup doll signaling to scooch over and what else can I do but yield? Meanwhile there's water on Mars on the radio and sirens screaming over the horns. I need quiet, stat. Kill the volume. Piledrive an American Spirit into an overfilled ashtray. Roll up the window. Crank up the air. Slip further into the steel womb migration crawl and as Dave Gahan would preach, I enjoy the silence.

"The large white spider that lives in my dreams asked about you again, Jack." Violet Larue speaks from the passenger seat. I shoot a glance her way. She's aged well, physique and face pretty much the same as when we dated in the twilight of the 20th century. The black Bauhaus t-shirt now a white sundress, the vinyl jacket a comfortable button up sweater, the nocturne makeup faded to a healthy tan, the empty arms filled with her newborn little girl.

"Heh," I answer focusing back on the tanker before me. Along its shell crawl a band of bandana and goggle masked punks, making their way to the cab where the blowup doll copilots instead of Jesus. Behind me a suit openly does a bump off the steering wheel of a BMW framed in the rearview mirror hell behind me.

"I told it that you were fine, that I read all your posts, and how they make me laugh sometimes." She continues and from the corner of my eye can see her rocking gently her baby.

I give a distracted nod. On my right an old man who has been blindfolded by the palms of a wild gorilla crouched in the backseat begins pounding on his horn before bolting off down the emergency lane.

"But then the large white spider that lives in my dreams told me it was worried about you," and her child gives the faintest of whimpers from her arms.

"Oh no," I mutter under my breath without looking at her. The punks crawling along the tanker are vandalizing its shell, wildstyle tags bright in fresh spraypaint begin to appear against the rain gloom commute.

"Yeah, I know, right? It told me that whatever it was that happened to you a few weeks back might've messed you up." She says and I can't help but see the worry in those big eyes of hers. "That you were afraid to write now after..."

I pound the horn in rage at no one at all.

A long, glorious blare into the chaos I've been jammed into as part of my begrudgingly given signature on the Social Contract. The punks on the tanker freeze in their tagging, the BMW suit behind me looks up mortified with a face caked in powder, even the blowup doll has peeked its face out of the passenger side window to regard my commotion.

Yeah, well fuck the punks and the suits and fuck you too, Rousseau for dreaming something grand enough for lesser men beat their betters down with.

I release the horn with a post-orgiastic grin.

There is but one asshole all men will forgive and that is their own.
But listen, now the baby's crying and Violet's hushing it with the coo of the mama phoenix to its young.

It's a long one hundred feet before she speaks again.

"How come you don't write about us anymore?"

I snort, catching first glimpse now of the wreck. A truck overturned, a plume of smoke, sirens, cops, EMTS, a man paid by the State to dress up as Death's Sad Harlequin holding up a cardboard sign that reads - NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

"Remember that night we tripped acid?" She says smiling down at her daughter. "The time you read our future with your tarot cards and I asked about our future and it came up with Satan?"

"Devil," I correct reaching to light up a cigarette until remembering the child.

"Right, 'Devil', that's what I meant, but remember what you did next?"

I don't answer, shit, I don't even so much as blink. Ahead of me one of the punks has finished his tag and is rappelling to the side of the tanker. In big red balloon letters the word - NOPE - burns before me.

"You scooped the cards off the coffin we used as a coffee table, remember that coffin, the one you and Bud grabbed from Masquerade?" She laughs and her daughter takes hold of her finger. "Anyway, then you grabbed me by the hand, dragged me into the bedroom, threw the entire deck onto the mattress and then threw me down on top of them . Remember what you said next?"
I focus on the spray-painted NOPE and pace my distance off it.

"You said - 'Fuck the future!' - and you tore a hole in my stockings and you laughed like a maniac doing it then you..."

The Baby cries again silencing her.

Another hundred or so feet until she quiets back down and her mom starts back up.

"The large white spider that lives in my dreams likes it when I tell him about the old days, it makes him smile when I talk of Bud and sometimes, when I follow the... the y'know, the what do you call it?"

"Strands?" I sigh as a black dirigible descend down above the tanker, dropping a series of ropes down from its mirrored canopy that the punks grab onto. The dirigible lifts and the punks rise like ninja angels with them. "Threads, maybe."

"Strands," she chooses, "when I follow the strands they lead me to him. He's right there in front of me laughing or screaming or on bad nights... crying."

The dirigible vanishes - all I can see left of the punks is the NOPE while the suit behind me shadowboxes his dashboard between key bumps.

"Then I wake up and I'm confused because I'm no longer the me who can talk to the large spider that lives in my dreams and my friends are far away or dead or different now... then I get scared that it was all just a dream and I've always been a boring old mom telling her kids no this and no that. Do you ever get that feeling?"

The tanker is picking up speed now, the catastrophe fading from the peripheral, up ahead the closed lanes promise an end.

"Was it real, Jack?" She says on a precipice of tears that she will not cross so long as she cradle's the life that she has carried.

"Where we? Real I mean."

"No Baby," I say by habit, "we were better than Real. We were vampires and supervillains, we were noble though often overly dramatic freaks. The inheritors of a post-apocalypse that never bothered to show up, the last chance at a fight that never happened, the children of the HIV 80s who grew up too fuck in gas masks and use safe words our love letters. We were too weird, beautiful, and full of ourselves to be believed much less real. Fuck real. You wanna know what real is?"

I take a hand off the wheel to motion outside the window. Traffic's a swift 20-25mph, the dull sheen of the tanker remains graffiti free, the suit in the BMW is on his phone, the wreck well behind me now as the lanes begin to open up gradually.

"That's reality." I scoff. "And for awhile there it was our unique privilege to have nothing to do with it."

But it's too late.

In making my point I banished her back to her back to the real world and the dreams of the large white spider that lives in them.

Free at last to indulge in my bad habits, I light up a cigarette and merge my attention back into reality.

Metrovert

Aug. 26th, 2015 01:52 am
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Some folks reckon me for an introvert, at least until drunk that is, then I become an introvert who looks at other people while talking to myself loudly. Others figure me for that unique brand of extrovert known as the Wise Ass, which is really just shorthand to them for an Asshole with passive aggressiveness issues. Fair enough. But honestly though, I see myself more as a Metrovert, a person who thrives when submerged into the ebb and tide of the city crowd. You there, the Northbound Crazy talking about how our cell-phones are allowing intangible aliens to incubate in our brains - to you sir I listen keenly knowing full well a man shaken by Enochian angels. You, the two giggling teenagers dressed in fast-food uniforms with Cleopatra make-up who wanted to see, then touch my tattoos right there on the bus - I offer assurance that doing so won't get you in trouble with God though your parents are another story. You, the kid in the red hoodie on a skateboard held together with band stickers who shot me the devil horn salute when he saw my Baphomet shirt before rolling down the road - I wish you safe travels in your infernal adventures ahead. You, the old man behind me on line who told me about his grandson in the Marines and the miracle of Jesus that bought him back alive to you from Afghanistan - thank you. You, the little girl in the Iron Man mask who on a street where the sex workers scream death threats at each other, wave triumphantly at me before soaring back off into invisible adventures - I salute you.

Around you all I feel welcome to the party, an honorary member of the tribe, a man worthy of your consultations and confessions. In the city I am pulled from headphone soundtrack and flow of introspection's narrative by your random charms, by the ambush of your vulnerabilities, by the raw weird sharp in your eyes.

I am a Metrovert and in the city I am never alone amongst her strangers.

Metrovert
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At the Farmer's Market, killing time between trains and scoring milhojas from one of the best Panaderias on Buford, when I wander down the cleaning supplies aisle only to discover that this is also where they apparently stock all the magic.

Down here with the mops and sponges and ammonia there is a wall of tall glass candles, each an incantation sealed in crayon colored wax with a wick charged like a fuse's promise. They are marked with a wide array of martyred saints, with a Jesus who shoots rainbow laser beams from his perpetually burning sacred Heart, with a Mother Mary who seems wiser than her son and more merciful than his father, with a regiment of Santo Muerte's ready to bless those secret endeavors that the other saints are powerless to do anything but forgive. Here are spells for warding off hexes, for summoning money, for winning a lover or driving an overbearing one away, for protection of family, for a little luck, and yes, occasionally that means bringing the bad kind down on some poor fool's head.

There is an excited wonder I feel here. A goose bump shiver of pure uncut 'privileged moment' ("Shhh... my Proust Senses are tingling!"). The scene hits an itchy trigger warning and I slip into flashback. Getting processed out of the Navy, I was in Philly, checking out one of those occult bookstores that used to exist in, like, every major North American city until the Internet and the 21st Century reduced their ranks to a handful of remaining New Age crystal and Spirit Catcher boutiques. There both an armchair mage and earnest adept alike could wander idly, perusing a wide range of initiations and enchantments to the pantheon of her choosing, to the path of his calling. On a whim I bought a copy of the Book of the Law and since I was getting discharged soon bought a dime of weed that I smoked in an alley off South Street. From there I sat in a fine Italian restaurant in a new outfit that I bought on a whim, bluffed my server into serving me wine a full year before my ID would let me, and over my first decent meal since arriving back stateside read of the coming of the Age of Horus.

I saw it all so clearly, where my life was going to go, I was going to be this magical poet ala Yeats and all I needed was a Maude Gonne of a muse ready to start some fires and a covenant to come knocking at the door of opportunity.

Which, the later it turns out, did just that. The next leave off the base I was granted I went to a more conventional bookstore and the kid working behind the counter hipped me to an OTO meeting that weekend. From there... a very different story gets told from the one I expected.

But back here at the Farmer's Market, down in the aisle where they all the magic, there is a young lady a good half my age decked out in a, Bela Lugosi bless her, brand spanking new Bauhaus shirt. She's got chemical black hair with a regal lack of smile or concern in eyes and scuffed stomp boots. She studies the array of candles, selects a few Santo Muerte's, plops them in a basket with a bottle of apple soda and a few packs of incense. She walks right by and had I been a ghost maybe she would have seen me, but no, age and fat render me invisible.

Nevertheless I smile.

Because somewhere tonight or tomorrow or this weekend I know there's someone in this city trying to hack into reality with a little magic and no matter its purpose the act makes our world a little stranger. A little more mysterious, a little wilder.

As for me, all the magic I need nowadays is in these milhojas and in the words that wait for me at the end of the night.

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Not sure how it happened but for some reason I remembered Murder, Inc the other day.

They were the first CD I bought when I moved to Terminus. I was with Sinn who I had moved here with. He was showing me the sights. First up Vampire Country, L5P. In the course of our wonderings we ended up in this small hole in the wall record shop next door to a secondhand clothes store. A South African Goth Girl working behind the counter caught the Ministry shirt beneath the leather jacket and recommended Murder, Inc. She called them an industrial super-group and worth checking out especially if I dug Pigface or Killing Joke. At the time I was eyeballing the used music bin - where no job and dwindling savings navigated a tin frugality. However record shop girl had that crazy Afrikanner accent going for her and film noir good looks to boot that made saying no to anything she recommended damn near impossible. At least for a 21 year old rivethead poet scrawling unreadable verses that were inevitably about how some other 21 year old he wanted to fuck reminded him of roses. Or of shadows. Or the rose of a shadow whose petals shivered in the midnight rain.

Yeah, I'd bootcheck me too back then.

Anywho, along with a Christian Death shirt with a picture of Jesus Christ mainlining in agony, a pack of gas station incense, some rolling papers, and a dinner of Little Debbies I made my way down Euclid. Back to the House of Ares - where I slept on a couch and did the roommate thing with two old navy buddies. From there I ate my snack cake supper, packed a bowl and put on the first song - "Supergrass" - and just kept playing it over and over and over again, stomping around the living room that was also my bedroom.

The song was still playing when the three of us pulled up into the parking lot at Spring 4th. Sinn did some Jedi mind trick with the doorman to weasel us in on the guest list. The club was 688, the dress code was gutter punk slut and thrift store ghoul. Illumination black-light minimal. Rancid clove smoke heavy in the epileptic strobe cascade. Red black checkerboard dance-floor cracked and slippery with spilt drinks. Back when I was a kid, I used to love watching all those low-budget post-apocalyptic films piped into the cable TV sets of suburbia to entertain Reaganomic fattened little shits such as myself. This place looked like what a bar would look like in one of those flicks.

So basically I was in heaven really.

In the course of our night there, one shipmate - Sinn - mingled with the children of the nightlife gloriously while my other shipmate - Gallant - sat there monk silent and smiling at the spectacle. That left me to fend on my own.

First I did the mating dance of angry young white men in combat boots that were so abundant in the dusk of the 20th century. Punch, punch, punch, kick, kick, kick, pause, light cigarette dramatically at slow part of song, resume with the punch, punch, punch, kick, kick, kick. This was done mainly to impress a zaftig sex-tank whose dance involved a complex mime of a sorceress invoking an angel.

Unfortunately all she summoned was me - in all my toe-stomping, blind elbow to shoulder glory, that ended with her dousing a cigarette into my drink and storming off the floor.

Then I tried drinking as much as possible hoping the alcohol could launch me out of my stoner inhibitions and take a stab at talking to someone. This resulted in two things. Me hitting on them and them hitting the other side of the bar.

Finally, I gave up, ordered another drink (Nuclear Ice Teas back then as I liked the way they glowed in the black-lights and allowed me to pretend I was drinking some Doc Jekyll concoction that would turn me into some sort of American Hentai Ape.

That's when this pretty little goblin with melted eyeliner took the stool next to mine, tapped me on the shoulder, and asked sheepishly - "Excuse me, I know this might sound stupid, but are you... *nervous giggle*... Chris Connelly?"

"You mean the lead singer for Murder, Inc.?" I asked trying not to look at her directly.

"Yeah..."

It was a sign from the Dark Gods. My LBRs and amateur invocations had finally paid off. For some reason I looked like the dude in the band of the CD I just bought and somehow this sexy goblin was a big fan of. I smiled at myself in what little of my reflection could be made out in the mirror behind the bar and turned that smile towards those Manga wide eyes floating in puddles of black mascara. "If I say 'yes', do you promise not to tell anyone?"

A few more drinks (she paid, she insisted), a few half-remembered verses of 'Stowaway' sung in tones of mock Bowie into her ear, a few dances on the floor and the next thing I knew we were making out in the Ladies Room until security kicked us out.

She gave me her number. Told me to call it while I was in 'town' (researching a new album called 'Terminus'). Got home elated. Phantom goblin kisses still warm on my lips. Smoked another bowl. Gallant smiled, Sinn too... and it grew wider when he asked what I was going to do when she figured out I was just plain old Jack Babalon and not in any form.

Knowing he was right, I stared at the number, lit it on fire in that dramatic way 21 year old poets do things that could be done much simpler otherwise, and leaned back into the couch that was my bed. My roomies exited and ashamed I couldn't even conjure an image of her to masturbate too. Couldn't sleep either. I met the dawn knowing two things.

One, today was not going to be the day I looked for a job.

Two, that if I was going to get what I wanted out of Terminus it would take more than bad poetry, good music, and a few well placed lies. It would take more than me pretending to be someone else. I would have to become something bigger, something stranger, I would have to become the man I always wanted to be.

In those morning shadows that rose across the living room where I slept, I put on the CD again and with a chuckle said goodbye to my brief life as Chris Connelly.

But the last laugh belonged to the Whiplash Boychild after all... as 21 years later, I never again saw that pretty little goblin girl from that night.


0.1
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Just another Friday Night Vampire Country Rendezvous. Rallied up at the Cafe Perilous with the Magpie and Bob Dracula. Around them sat a flock of geisha eyed and tattooed vampiras who giggled as children giggle when they first learn how to play with matches.

They were ahead of me drink wise so I did my best to catch-up.

The plan was for us to sneak into this show next door. An aerial dance interpretation of Dante'S Inferno. "Come hear angels' trumpets and devils' trombones" and all that. Which is exactly what we did, cloaked by my companions unflappable confidence we snagged seats way up in the Gods while the doorman struggled to articulate a gasp. On stage 'prutty' aerialists dangled from loops, snapped whips, clown tumbled, weaved provocatively while trapeze perched, or simply plummeted down tangles of white silk before landing with feline grace.

Needless to say after the show everyone was amped up on the performance.

I mean Jesus Christ, a decent, law-abiding church-jockey can only look at lithe, ram horn crowned youths and goat-toe packed lycra spread open to the heavens before something in them snaps. But when you put up such a spectacle before a crew of experienced deviants and there's no end to the inspired mayhem to come.

It was too much, even for us and the only solution was to hit the Yacht for the Nosferatu Disco to do a little dancing of our own.

At this point folks have come from all over the city to see the Magpie or at least hitch a ride on his whirlwind for a few hours. Some old friends, some new, laughing, goofing, talking shit, dancing, drinking, spending a few dwindling moments on the illusion of our immortality.

Or at least that's what I did.

I got drunk, I got high, and then I got down. Danced the way I write I suppose, clumsy, wild, and with a sprinkling of grace in between. Danced to the Stones and the Violent Femmes, to the Jackson Five and Queen. Danced theatrically, danced stupid, danced dapper and danced blind.

It's been way too long since I last danced. New Year's Eve I think. Same place, same DJ, same crew when I did. Men living as loud as the thunder to come, women who you can't stop looking at even hours after they're gone.

Finally, after exhausting myself, I managed to bum a ride from Elvis and Kat. Got home. Stripped down to boxers and bare gut. Collapsed on the bed. Lit up a cigarette just as the rain opened up across the roof.

Just another Friday Night Vampire Country Rendezvous I suppose and I much obliged for each one it is mine to part of.

Ain't no party like a Satanic Party
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Standing in the rain, the lightning flashes between the white petal bloom of the dogwoods lining the 2am Vampire Country streets and I'm rolling electric. Tonight was all titties and thunder, drunken tattooed ladies making out with each other in the cigarette haze while we pitched each other fever dreams as projects to be all over chilled whiskey. Ran shotgun with Teddy Bear to attend a birthday bar hop across L5P. Rock Star royalty abound - Amber and Bob Dracula and Katya - sitting throned around the chaos. Pretty knees pressed against mine under the bar table, drunken eyes linger, and body heat generating the promise of sweet frictions. Got Magpie drunk, but remained diplomatically aloof. In the process remember a dozen stories never old and began to burn up with need to lay down a little word.

In the rain time falls different, its drops splatter against stubble semi-shaved head and bomber jacket in fleeting now and drives me back to the same spot decades ago. Shaved head and bomber jacket me - less fat and wrinkles of face - jacked up on my physique and drunk goth nibbling vampire kisses down the neck. I bullshited her something fierce thanks to Bud's help, got her thinking I'm a published poet with a three book deal and Christ, lady, how I'd love to write a little prose about you if given the right inspiration. Briefly, in her eyes, under the light of the lie, I shine all palooka laureate and in twenty minutes my face will fall between her lap in her boyfriend's car.

"He'll know." She warns.

"After me they always do." I smile all bravado and bluff, a joker in a wolf pack of wildcards.

She purses lips, she rolls eyes, she starts the car, she wears no panties under the 1990s night and her hand on the back of my neck enlightens me to the peace that only the hunting dog knows as it drags me down to a fishnet promise.

Manifest, reappear, back in the rain of now as Teddy Bear tells Camera Angel about a script we worked on years ago, eager to rope her into a future project. Drunk-ish. She laughs, he laughs, I smoke my cigarette watching the lightning through the dogwood petals bloom - Samurai Weather this - and remember standing out in a monsoon in boot camp. Sky pouring like we were doing basic in Vietnam. RTC blue. Push-up dizzy. Five mile run fatigued with each breath coming on a fast burn as a uniformed fat man with a red rope looped around the shoulder screams at me - "Babalon, I know you got more in you, boy. Now drop and give me another fifty!"

Now I'm lucky if I can muster 40 on a good day. But that's the way it goes. Sometimes you think the initiation has long passed, sometimes you think the drowning waters of the baptism have receded, sometimes you think the burn of the fire that drives you has begun to scab over.

And then you watch the lightning through petals and the titties and the thunder shake the world around you before realizing this life has yet to witness your best hidden under a quiet smirk.

You know what to do
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Some kid's on line in front of me at the Publix with his ear-buds plugged in and karaoking the part of his jam where the rapper name drops his whole crew. "Big shout out to So & So in Philly. My man from Phoenix, Such & Such" - you know, that sort of thing. Only this part of the song is taking an inordinate amount of time that along with the old lady counting pennies on the tab of a 100 bucks worth of groceries is wearing thin a marginal grip on reality as it is.

So I just start name dropping my own imaginary crew along with and unbeknownst to the kid in front of me.

"This one also goes out to my man Dick Whistler the Minister of Defenestrations, to Bill Dollar-Dollar Bill running with the Real Lost Continent of Mu Crew. Shouts,kudos, bravos,and mad accolades as well to the Westside Taint-Puncher, to Yuri the Break Dancing Robot, to Doctor Moodswing up in East Latveria, to the Six Shao-Lin Fists of Danger,to Sister Lysistrata who broke my heart for all the right reasons, to the fucking Moon Alice... to the Fucking Moon!"

"Sir!" The cashier damn near shouts, "Is everything, okay?"

I look around and pretty much the whole front of Publix is staring at me slack-jawed and panic eyed.

"Yeah, sorry... just... got into the flow." I tack on a helpless shrug with the apology and smile over at the lady behind me. In her cart is a little boy with a shaved head who looks over at me baffled.

"'Dick Whistler'?" He asks me.

"He's the Minister of Defenestrations." I explain.

"Don't talk to that man." The lady orders the little boy riding in her cart before he can ask about the rest of my imaginary crew (the only kind I have to be honest). I turn around so as not to enable anymore hijinx from the little boy. Ahead of me Grandma Penny finishes up emptying her piggy bank to eat another week and the Kid steps up to make his purchases - he was the only one oblivious throughout the course of my stream of consciousness rant.

The little boy giggles behind me. "Dick Whistler."

"The Minister of Defenestrations." I say casually to an issue of Archie Digest.

"Hush now." The Lady orders and I don't know if she means me or the little boy but either way that's exactly what I do.

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What I should have told you about yesterday was a brief encounter with Bicycle Po-Po at the Vampire Country Chevron. It began when I was walking out of Criminal on my way to the gas station to grab a fresh pack of Apache Chief's. I had my headphones piping Closer to give my visit to L5P a retro soundtrack. Decades. I karaoke along crossing Euclid. "Here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders/ Here are the young men, well where have they been?"

Those lyrics must've hit the air like an invocation. I'm at the gas pumps of the Chevron lot when from the corner of eyes cloaked in sunglasses I catch a frantic blur waving at me. I pop off my soundtrack and decloak my shades. It's some gutter-punk camped out by the wall of the Chevron. He's shouting at me as I approach closer.

"Hey you look like you're having a good day." His voice is young, confident, there's a natural salesman just waiting in there for the right opportunity to knock. "Think you can help me with a dollar to get something to eat?"

"All I got is plastic." I shout back not breaking my stride, "But tell you what. I'll buy you a hot-dog."

"No relish." The Kid shouts back with hands cupped around mouth. It's as if he's stuck on a deserted island bellowing at passing ships not for rescue but for whatever scraps they can throw overboard.

I snap my fingers into a pistol and shoot him a confirmation of his request. Then I snap back on the soundtrack and walk into the store. "Where have they been?/Where have they been?"

When I step back out of the Chevron, I walk over with a hot-dog - no relish - and give it to the gutter-punk.

"Aw, shit man." The kid says staring at the hot dog with disbelief and it occurs to me he didn't think I was serious.

He takes the hot dog gently as if I just gave a glass rose and still talking to it mutters. "Thank you, thank you."

A brother in alms of the gutter-punk comes over out of nowhere, his attention hot dog locked as well and the kid tears it in half immediately offering it to his fellow traveler. I get a good look at them now up close. They're all in black denim, tattered and patched in motley punk logos. They have unkempt beards and suntanned faces smudged in dirt as if they had just come out of a fresh tour in some coal mine. Lean of physique with the sum of their prospects jingling in the pockets of passing strangers or growing cold in Styrofoam containers of discarded leftovers. Yet undiminished in their eyes and smiles burns an enthusiasm that betrays their fortunes, this whole spare-change gig of theirs just one part of a strange adventure.

Smiling I turn around and make my way back to the car parked down on Seminole.

Get a total of three, four strides when I see Bicycle Po-Po doing a series of loops on his 21 speed in front of the gas pumps. The decades long militarization of the police have done little to make the bicycle cop a more menacing figure. The athlete build, the mirrored shades, the black uniform and large iron strapped to the hip are robbed of their fascist mystique once accessorized with spandex shorts.

He's looking at me and as I do of late to the world at large I look right on back.

The cop hits his brake, gives me a once over and with a bob of his chin to the gutter-punks behind me says, "You shouldn't feed them."

Just like that. You would've thought I was at the zoo tossing popcorn at a pair of monkeys.

"My apologies sir, I didn't know it was against the law for a Christian to give a hungry American a bite to eat." My words come the way I delivered them in the Navy, disarming and respectful as if talking to a child who somehow found mommy's gun hiding in her purse.

"No." Bicycle Po-Po answers not looking at me but the two gutter-punks most likely scoffing down their shared hot-dog and then at me gives this evil shit-eaten smile. "But panhandling is."

With that he kicks off on his bicycle towards the gutter-punks. I turn around to watch the kids jump up anxiously shoving as much of the remaining hot-dog as they can into their mouths as if the cop was going to make them give me back the rest. Bicycle Po-Po starts to give them the whole strong arm routine. States they've already been warned once about hassling good citizens today. He orders them to vamoose their sorry asses down along 23 and with no argument they pack up their bundles to do just that.

Satisfied Bicycle Po-Po hops back on his mechanical steed and zips right past me. Passing me by, he looks over his shoulder and with that same evil smile plastered on a square jaw tells me, "You be sure to have a good day now, Sir."

This brazen act of authority for authority's stake freezes me up. Helplessness hits in a wave of cold nausea. In that moment, all the petty anger and foulness of mood I've suffered of late, implodes down to a phantom punch to the gut.

It takes the realization that I'm holding up traffic as a sport's van is trying to leave a pump in which I've been blocking and is now pounding their horn furiously. When I step aside the vehicle squeals out zipping by me with inches to spare.

Welcome to Fuck City, as Ari and Kid Hemingway have rechristened Terminus, and I take Decades of pause, singing along with Ian C's ghost. "Weary inside, now our heart's lost forever/ Can't replace the fear, or the thrill of the chase."

With frustration ebbing into endurance, I make my way back to the car to make my way home where I'll hide from an ugly future that has come to soon in new comic books and old songs.

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The Lawn Work Months have come early this year, five days shy of Spring official and the backyard's got weeds hitting knee high already. It's 84 degrees after work and the day has plenty more light to offer. The backyard lawn is the size of a modest playground, wide and empty. The first mow of the year is always the toughest. The mower's been hibernating in the basement for the last few months and will need some arduous if not patient coaxing before waking. Conversely the muscles, even as half-assed gym flexed as mine are, have to learn to remember the unique strain the lawn demands of them.

I remember last year when I took on a similar task. It cost me a good thirty minutes of yanking and screaming before I got the Toro roaring. In fact I hadn't yanked and screamed that hard since my last six month cruise in the Navy. *snare & high-hat roll* Anyway, once I had the beast rumbling, I'd start to get three, four yards in before she'd sputter to a stop. I kept having to prop her up, pull wads of pureed green by the fistful from her blades before having to fire her back up again with a rip of the cord.

Three hours later of sweat and shouted curses I zombie staggered back into the house. Feet throbbing, brain frazzled and reeking of gasoline I sat at this computer to update the Shit List files, moving Mother Nature up a few notches.

Standing on the deck of the backyard earlier I did not look forward to repeating the experience.

Still, if not today, when? If not me, who?

So I get to it.

First thing I did when I pulled her out from beneath the basement was clean the blades. Then I adjusted the wheels to compensate for the initial height of the weeds and patches of feral grass. I checked her oil and fed the beast some oil along with capping her off gas wise. Between attempts on firing up, I let her rest so as not flood the engine. Doing this had her up and running in under five minutes. Along with that I have a phone that plays music now and I blast Death In Vegas and the Gorillaz to keep my brain from chewing on fresh grudges. It also doesn't hurt that I borrowed the bosses weed- eater this time and was able to trim down some trouble spots beforehand. This allowed me to knock out the lawn twice - once horizontal, once vertical - in an hour, ten minutes.

Finished I survey my work from the elevated back deck, leaning against the railing, cigarette smoke keeping the bees away and for a minute I'm back on the fantail of my ship. We're docked in a land surrounded by grass green waters, smooth and impenetrable. The sun's still bright and there's time enough for a shit, shower, and a shave before hitting shore leave as hard as a drunk hits a bottle.

"You should write that down." My friend's astral-hologram beams out from the area between memory and imagination where the real magick happens. He's standing behind me. I don't need to turn around and see him. I can feel the Midwestern wide smile and the gun-fighter gray eyes on my back as sure as I can feel the sunlight on my face.

"What would you know?" I laugh. "You were too smart for the Navy. Remember?"

"I do indeed, brother... just not quite as uniquely as you seem to."

"You'd be surprised how often I get that."

"Hey, I'm just what you think I'd say." His Midwestern smile broadens... I can just feel it as sure as he's lighting a cigarette up even though he's practically quit, "Can't shoot the messenger without putting one in your own head."

"Karma hostage." I grunt to myself and then to him ask. "So what do I need to tell myself this time that I'm not hearing otherwise?"

"You're pissed off."

"Hadn't noticed." I smirk.

"Yeah, well it's nice you're not slitting your wrists online about it or bitching like a..."

"... a bitch?"

"Hey you're the writer, but yeah, a 'bitch'. So congratulations on that but something's eating at you and you need to say something to someone before you explode in someone's face. Which knowing you will be your own."

"What do you want me to say? I'm pissed at the situation not the circumstances." I shrug, partially distracted. Facing westward, the sun hangs lower and the light through the trees slices down to the earth in long shafts of orange and gold. Down below shadows have grown along the lines mowed into a slightly wavy chessboard where every square is a shifting tone of green.

For a moment I almost forget I'm not alone and continue. "And being pissed at the circumstances don't do anything but piss off other people. Only thing for it is to ride it out. Sweat out the mood poison. Spit out the bad blood. Walk it off or man up or whatever it is I'm supposed to do in lieu of meds before I can offer a modicum of pleasant company. Until then I just, I dunno I guess I just don't want to be around anyone. I don't want to talk to them. I don't want to hear anyone tell me what to do or what not to do. Just for once I want to be left alone on my terms, not theirs."

"In that case, Mister I-Want-To-Be-Left-Alone... maybe you can tell me why I'm here then?" My friend chuckles and I turn around as if just slapped but of course he's not there.

Hnh. That Batman shit never gets old as far as my psyche's concerned.

I gaze back down at the lawn.

This time I see what I see when I step away from the page. The lines now patterns carved from the unappeasable chaos of life. In their shadows what all of us who are artists do - to carve a little truth and beauty out of the wild. I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not. But they're nice to look at it in the right light and the process does untangle the nerves better than jerking off or staying stoned 24-7. So I got that going for me.

Now if only I could learn to write as well as I mow lawns.

Meantime dinner's been long ready inside. Meantime I still got to run up to the store to get more smokes. Meantime this cigarette's gone long out and the insects are buzzing around my face in droves now.

But I don't move away from the railing or my view of the lawn. Not yet. Instead I pull up something I saw the night before on my smartphone before bed. Dostoyevsky. A letter to his brother that he wrote when he got a last second reprieve from the wrong end of a firing squad. I read it out loud to no one at all.

"I did not whimper, complain and lose courage. Life, life is everywhere, life is inside us… There will be people beside me, and to be a man among people is to remain a man forever… that is life, that is the task of life…"

Nothing left to be said, I make my way back inside and back to all that life goes on bullshit.

Good Night
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It's true, I'm a wicked liar and nothing gives me more satisfaction than plucking a full moon from behind your ear before you realize that you're a silver dollar short of reality. But you have to believe me when I tell you that it was within a whore house in Sicily, when an old sex worker taught me the secret of immortality. It was simple really and worked as follows - whenever someone masturbates to you for that time that they do so you do not age.

This, she insisted, was why the Good Lord ensured masturbation was a sin. Jealousy played a good part of it, the other was there was no telling what shenanigans a race of ageless primates spending eternity wanking off to each other would get into.

Now it could have been the hash oil she lubed my cock with before going down on me or it could be the voices in my head that speak for people when people are silent, but I really thought she was on to something. Later, curled up in a ball in the backseat of a maniac cab driver who was being chased by his dealer, I contemplated how I could best go about stealing me a few minutes of immortality. By the time I got out of jail the next morning I had the answer. A career in the arts. My only other option was porn and I just don't have the physique to pull it off. Maybe in the 70s, sure, when a potbellied sasquatch could get some love, but in the Clinton 90s... fuggadaboutit.

No, I would have to gussy up in what I called 'Avatar Drag', create a persona worthy of those attentions that would steal me a few precious minutes, seconds even, from impending death. A nimble Jack leaping over the candlesticks of reason and possibility dazzling many a lady (and not a few gentlemen) along the way.

Yet as I greet the mirror in the hangover morning the lines in my face, the fat that melts slower from the chin, the dark bags hanging under the eyes and the receding stubble of my hairline it becomes perfectly clear that somewhere, somehow my plan backfired. That Jack remains as spry as ever, the years of absurd misadventures have not dimmed the stars burning in his gaze nor slowed his steps any towards the next one. While, in the meantime, I can only sit here and rob from his confessions to feed the page as the days meet the body the way the waves meet the mountain.

I'm a wicked liar, it's true and no doubt a long time has passed since anyone stopped the clock with thoughts of me. Still I persist, with grand dreams and clumsy art fueling visions of a brief immortality.

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Since I'm no Elmore Leonard I guess it's safe to start with the weather. Drove home through the kind of fog that sweeps down those hills on which graveyards and haunted manors rest. Down through the side streets with the trees and power lines half-erased against the roiling white, as if the whole world was the opening line to a poem that had yet to find the right words.

"What do you want me to say?" I asked her the night before last. We laid in bed talking, our faces lit the blue glow of the laptop's monitor across the room. I had been telling her things because the bed of lovers captures those harsh truths that can evade even the sternest of confessionals and interrogation rooms.

She didn't 'want' me to say anything. She wanted me to think instead. About how at times I carry something heavier than guilt and uglier than grudge - the Victim's Badge. I wear it well. Better than most, truth be told. I wear it funny, I wear it deep and in the right light you might see the gleam of empathy shine off it. But the Victim's Badge works opposite of most badges, it doesn't grant you access into the scene of a crime but rather locks you inside it.

And the crime scene I had locked myself into belonged to fresh misdemeanors at best and tragedies long since past at worst.

It keeps me from seeing the friends in people I've known for awhile now and the opportunities waiting outside my comfort zone. If more men spent more effort getting out of that zone instead of the friend one, they might find themselves a little happier she mused.

Stepped out of the car and instead of mechanically walking down to the Oakhurst mart from which I had parked two blocks away from, I sat on the hood of the car watching the fog that was where the sky should have been.
I wanted a cigarette and had one on me but told myself no. I wanted a Little Debbie, I wanted a Jamie on the rocks, I wanted Internet porn shot through a Kenneth Anger filter, I wanted a grimorie of bounded silver age comic books, I wanted to fire up a bowl of weapon's grade skunk, I wanted to shave my balls since my scalp was shaved already so I could run away to a Buddhist monastery and learn how to not think about wanting things.

I wanted her back and if you couldn't see that coming then you must be looking through a thicker mist than the one I sat in today.

But it wasn't about what I wanted, it was about what I had and that was the chance to lose the Victim's Badge. I hopped off the hood of the car, smiled to myself with those lips that could still feel her kiss and clear of mind walked straight into the fog.

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Terminus: Cold wave on the silver dusk. It's thirty degrees and the wind chill drops it to a steady Fuck This. Here at the Y fighting the fat, poison, and the quick years' toll on the vanity. The arctic gusts outside have scattered the New Year's resolve from the crowds that have packed the weight rooms, yoga classes, and stair-climbers. Only a skeleton crew of the wind-whipped and bone-chilled hardcore have mustered for Better Me Duty tonight.

You got me, still high from the bowl I smoked after work with the Little Baller before the Mad Max commute down 85. I'm not here to look better, no matter how much I might wish I did, I'm here to burn rage somewhere where I won't get arrested or get my ass kicked.

You got the Meat Squad regulars. A cadre of brothers with the physiques of old He-Man action figures. They huddle around the free weights, bench 300 to warm up and take glugs from plastic milk bottles filled with brown-green protein cocktails. They talk grid-iron ballet, vitamin supplement immortality and the latest innovations in the delicate art of repetitively lifting heavy objects while grunting.

Then you got the Amazon MILFs of Decatur and they're a different story. Whereas the Meat Squad workout with a recreational camaraderie these ladies of savage tattoos and punk riot dyed hair, hit the machines with the single minded-focus of martial arts film protagonists training during montage sequences. They do not grunt. They do not laugh. They do not allow a single crack in their stone facade glowing with sweat. They clearly did not come here to make friends or fuck around. They did not come here to simply workout but rather they came here to work.
And looking at the men and then looking at the women who outnumber us four to one I begin to see why.

Men workout normally so they can look better... but the women workout so they do not become invisible. They are fighting to be seen in a world that grows blind to them a little more with each passing year and while I live in a world that tells me to be confident, they live in one where they are told to be eternally as beautiful as they were when they were young. When they were thin. When they didn't have kids or bills or an accumulation of experiences that register as history for a guy but gets labeled baggage once the ownership of a vagina is involved.

Such are my musings when I pop off the elliptical after three miles and the entirety of the GZA's Liquid Swords only to collide into one of the Amazon MILFs of Decatur. She's got some mass on her, enough to make our impact mosh worthy and send me sprawling back. I try to regain my balance, stomp on a loose shoelace with the other foot and almost go sprawling ass first to the floor.

But I don't.

I'm hovering off the back of my heels at a 45 degree angle and I look down to see she's got a fist clenched around the collar of my t-shirt keeping me from plummeting.

With a heave on her end and some dance floor muscle memory activated off the lizard brain, we both manage to get me back on my feet.

I go to apologize and then realize I can't say a word.

Her eyes. Pale gray. Gray as the winter clouds. Pale enough to shine full moon luminescent, two glowing pearls clutched in black mascaraed crow feet. Pull back. Southern face, rounded but sharp chinned, full of cheek, wise-ass smile that the belles here wear no matter how the fashions or the times may change around them. She's a plucky juggernaut, long black stringy hair, thick curved and a candy colored winged scarab sits tattooed beneath the v-neck peek with mandibles ready to bite stares that wander to deep down its lair.

Her fist remains clenched around my collar.

Blink.

She pulls me into her. We kiss. Hard. As if it's been years since we've kissed anyone outside of a ghost or a memory. As if it was the end of the world outside. As if the cold was dropping, faster and faster, icing over our inhibitions until the possibilities glitter off their surface . Outside the world has frozen over. We're trapped inside the gym with no source for heat but each other. The Amazon MILFs of Decatur take over the Y. They exert their dominion over the few men within their ranks. They divvy us up between their attentions. Most of them go for the bigger and younger guys in the Meat Squad. But a few, not many, choose me.

They are the mother of two who still remembers knocking a molar out of a skinheads jaw at a Corrosion of Conformity show back in '88, the frustrated sales rep who at night opens up a bottle of cheap red and wages war with a diminished but not defeated talent across the empty canvas, the rockabilly demonette who buried a good man too soon and left her with a bed that's been empty too long since.

And her, my pale eyed savior, my champion.

Who tells me after another feral night of slaying frost giants and lovemaking...

"I'm sorry I didn't see you there." She lets go of my t-shirt sending me to plummet vertical back into reality. "You okay?"

I nod. I smile weakly at the wall behind her. I apologize and hit the lockers.

I don't stop trembling until I'm in the car lighting up one of the cigarettes I was going to quit smoking this year. It's twenty degrees and I'm still sweating.

Deep breath. Start up the car. Blow it off, let the cold grow until it freezes dry these visions of a MILF uprising at the Y.

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At the Quick Trip picking up some serious white-noise off this cracker asshole two souls ahead of me on the checkout line. He's obviously got some kind of problem. One much deeper than the price of a mustard splattered country sausage on a bun he's haggling about. They're two for two dollars and twenty-two cents, he barks to the cashier by way of explanation, says so clear as day on the hot-dog tray stand from which it came. So, since he's only buying one, that's ONE, sausage, that means it should cost half that amount. An amount he's labored with great effort and pride to arrive at. Got it down to the tax and the last pennies counted out with the rest of the spare change scraped out of his pockets.

"It's math." He throws the word down as if it was a rabbit plucked out of a top hat, "Or don't they teach that in whatever country you're from?"

The clerk patiently explains that they do indeed teach math in the country he is from, which just happens to be this one. He then proceeds to address the customer with the smiling diplomacy of a hostage negotiator who's discovered that the throat the knife rests on is in fact his own. This is a skill we demand from all who toil in the service industry, for it is not just commodities, services or perishables we pay for. No, what some of us truly pay for is the experience of encountering another human being who briefly is forced to put up with our bullshit no matter how inclined they may be to do otherwise. So as if diffusing a glass time bomb, he gently, with mannequin smile, points out that the two for two dollar price applies only when buying two hot-dogs, hamburger rolls (whatever the fuck that is), egg rolls, taquerias, or in his case country sausages. However, individually they're a price of one dollar and 42 cents... plus tax.

"That's not math!" The customer shouts. "I want to talk to the manager."

The cashier taps his name tag and confesses he is the manager.

"I want to talk to your boss then."

That's not going to be possible as he won't be in until 6 tonight.

"This is bullshit." The man huffs reaching into his pockets to scrounge up more change to pay for the no doubt now lukewarm country sausage. Along with the needed fifty cents he manages to pull out an epiphany. "No. This is worse than bullshit. This is... this is some 'Black Privilege' is what it is."

In the movies this is the exact moment the needle would be scratched across the vinyl soundtrack.

There's that silence before the outrage settles in and before it does fucking Mister White Noise turns around, sees me - as in white and bald-headed me - and gives me this knowing nod. "Yeah, you know what I'm talking about, don'cha?"

Which would be the exact point every head in the Quick Trip spins around to settle their attention on yours truly and his angus bacon burger that had gone as cold as the room.

"No, man, I don't what know you're talking about actually." I tell him in that doorman voice I use when in public situations that are about to go 'Fuck You' shaped on me.

White Noise's face twists up in that way you do when a hungry man bites into an apple he didn't know was rotten. "Oh yeah you do. You just to afraid to say otherwise. They got you all scared."

"Dude... I'm not scared." I say in my normal exasperated with the general public voice. "I'm just not... not angry, okay."

"Yeah...," the man snatches up his country sausage ignoring the change the way everyone else in the store is ignoring anyone who isn't us. "Maybe you should be. Because this ain't the way things should be. It don't add up. The math's all wrong."

He storms out and all the eyes remain on me a long moment before the clerk mechanically announces - "Next customer please."

I wait my turn. I buy my tepid burger. The clerk mumbles a perfunctory apology for the inconvenience. Sitting in the car I find myself unable to swallow the cold meat I mechanically chew along with those words White Noise dropped on us by way of goodbye.

I come to the conclusion that he's got the right answer nailed to the wrong problem.

This is indeed not the way the world should be and yes, I should be upset. No, angry. Livid. But not at a bunch of 'black privilege' bullshit being preached by White Noise. I should be pissed at those who put those thoughts in his head and make no mistake a lot of time, effort and money went into ensuring they were put there.

And instead of standing my ground to affirm what I am not I should have called him out for who he was.

Too late, I swallow the cold meat without tasting it and throwing it away.

At least this time, I start up the car and head home.

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With all the earnestness of an Agnes Scott freshman ready to make their first lap dive into Clam Cove, USA, folks keep swearing that this is going to be the year they make bold mistakes & grand new failures. They recite the oft quoted Beckett chestnut about 'failing harder', which to me just reads like the world's worst half-time pep talk, one given to a team long beyond any chance of making the spread much less winning. They hold their chin up proud when they drop Gaiman's consolation speech on the importance of dropping the ball, as if nothing else it proves they were at least in the game. Know this - they swear, make no mistake - they vow, great things are about to go down... and by down they mean in flames, Daedalus style.

To which I can only smile at these friends and other strangers with complete admiration for their courage even as I mutter unheard in their ranks - "Amateurs".

I was a fuck-up artist long before being a fuck-up artist was the new black. Offering, if not a beautiful loser, then at least one not too hard on the eye or ear. Why some folks I know will tell you that it was the role I was born to play. Shit, even got me a whole 320 pages of first draft about it called "The Life Unreadable".

But here's the thing. I'm not just tired of failing, I'm not just sick of failing, I'm fucking bored of failing. You guys, gals and post-gender entities want to roll up your sleeves and raising your hand high to volunteer for Operation Lose, well good luck with that. Though really, I suspect I should be wishing you the opposite.

Me?

I need a new gig and not making mistakes sounds like a pretty sweet one to me.

So that's my resolution for this year and hell even if I only do a half-ass job of it, I'll be exactly one half-an-ass further along the road than where my ass is now and that's the state of 'Sorry'.

What can I say? I've been a little win-curious for awhile now and who know knows? With the right absence of alcohol, inner-doubt and outer-loathing I might even go all the way.

Either way wish me luck.

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There's a hole in my Christmas the size of my father and every year it gets a little easier to fill. The first Christmas was the hardest. His absence was an implosion, a black-hole where he should have been and it was truly strong enough to suck all the light out of those closest to him. The second Christmas was like a boxer entering the ring with a phantom limb firing left hooks off the stump at the end of their shoulder. It's a match you know you can't win but fuck if there aren't so many people who cheer with blind love for you to give it your all.

This year was different. This year for me the hole in my Christmas the size of my father resembled a silver-age comic book version of himself. Think Curt Swan drawing Invisible Kid or Phantom Girl, a silhouette version of him blank as an uncolored page and outlined with dots that look as if to aid a pair of unseen scissors ready to slice him back out of reality. He loved those old whacky Legion comics from his childhood. Used to tell me how he and his school boy chums would run around in the empty lots of early 60s Brooklyn playing out the latest epic out of Adventure Comics. He was always Cosmic Boy, he insisted, but as a child I suspected he would be Brainiac Five with his still lingering English accent and already formidable book smarts.

So it was easier this year to see at the edges of my sober imagination - (for mom I promised not to get high today... at least until we watched the new Doctor Who) - my father's ghost in silver-age glory. Briefly, when I opened up one of the gifts mom got me. The first two volumes of the collected Grimjack by Ostrander and Truman. This was the one gift I didn't see coming. This was what comics where like when I was my father's age when he was pretending to be Cosmic Boy or Brainiac 5. Grimjack was the game I played in my head, alone in the woods of Van Cortland park, swinging a sword branch and a pine needle in my mouth that heralded a future cigarette. In Yo-Town, Yonkers, New York I was just a creepy kid. But for brief afternoons alone I could be the hardest mercenary in Cynosure, the magical city where parallel dimensions meet.

It stuck with me so much so that I basically wrote my first novel as if Timothy Truman was drawing it in front of me as I typed.
Ah, but that's not what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say is that at some point the hole the size of your father, or your mother, or that person you will never love as much as anyone else before or after, it eventually gives you something back. A memory unlocked the way a cut scene might be unlocked from a video game. Or it won't even it be that, it may be as simple as even as seeing something you just know that missing person would love. You'll have this moment as if getting a bittersweet joke that now it is yours alone to laugh at.
Eventually, you even start to realize deeper than surface logic, that there are still people you love who need you now and it will suck because you will worry about them in ways you never worried before.

The hole in our Christmas the size of our love is not just a traveling grave that cannot be buried, it is also an escape hatch, one leading from the world we live to the one we once lived in. There, briefly amongst the growing shades, what is lost waits briefly for you again.

Sometimes, though, it just takes a few tries to get it open.

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The school bus is never so slow as it is on that last afternoon ride home before Christmas vacation. I'm of the age when I wore a Harlem Globetrotter worthy afro along with my Captain America Underoos that acted as a shield against the taunts of bullies. 4th grade and the class mates with whom I share a bus route to and from home easily stand a good six to eight inches on me and that's counting the 'fro. They weren't born local, but rather came with their parents when they fled Mother Russia. These were kids with names like Boris and Yuri, Jewish kids who though outnumbered three to one walked away the victors from many a basketball court rumble with Catholic school greasers.

Oh if those Nazi skins from my later days of pits and combat boots could have seen these kids they'd think twice about acting upon their wicked ignorance let me tell you.

However I was the quiet type in class, smart but with no ambition to apply it and big but with no interest in games that involved teams. So usually they just ignored me. So I was free to doodle in peace the flight of a Millennium Falcon (resembling a bloated horseshoe) against a swarm of tie-fighters (which looked like a cloud of impregnated letter H's) in the back of my text book. But earlier in the year it was revealed that like my parents I was an atheist and it was atheists that had drove their parents from their homeland.

They rechristened me 'Bob Moscow'. They launched paper airplanes whose points embedded themselves into my afro. I deflected spit balls the way Wonder Woman deflects bullets off her wrists. Pting! Pting! Pting! They sent me sprawling across the floor of the school bus with thrusts of Converses and slapped books out of my hands with barking guffaws. Their biggest, their champion, would pin me down sometimes and swing wild punches to my everywhere but the face, leaving that only so I could hide it in shame as he knew I would do. Around him his friends would look down and tell me this is what happens to those who do not believe in God.

But then one day something in me did something different. The details a blur now, but mainly it involved me walking behind their champion on the playground, tapping them on the shoulder and smashing their face in with the side of a Dukes of Hazard lunchbox. Repeatedly. Then I may or may not have ended up in a rolling ball of punches that ended me maybe accidentally biting the kid on a wrist that was choking me.

"Animal." The teacher spit in instinctual fury at me and dragged me off my opponent.

I was suspended. I was in trouble. I made mom cry and dad curse. I sat in the Grey Room and listened to the principal tell my folks I was need of serious psychological help. They refused outright but when we got home none of them said more than necessary to me for the rest of the day.

When I came back to school I was left alone... not just by the bullies but by the few friends I had made as well. They're parents had heard about me. About what I had done to that poor child. About my parents being godless. I lived neither in peace or in fear and my only friends for the rest of the year ended up being my parents.


And on that long school bus ride home I stared out the window. The other kids would mumble and cast furtive looks my way before bursting into giggles. But after an eternity of wait it pulled up to 1708 East 4th Street. An apartment that only a child could mistake for being big enough to fit a hundred made kingdoms within. Outside, sitting on the stoop reading a book, waited my father. The door slid open. I got up out of my seat ran down the aisle of the school bus, rabbit hopping over the jut of a shin and even as the bus driver told me not to run I leapt out of the vehicle and landed in a squat with palm thrust on the ground the way they do in the comic books.

When I looked up my dad was standing there smiling and he'd dismiss the driver with a wave as if he was one of the dukes or barons from his books and the bus would rattle off in a sulk.

I'd bound up for a hug and that day dad swooped me up into his arms.

"Welcome back, Flight Commander Wildstar." He told me. "I see you've successfully dodged another dogfight with the Comet Empire."

"Yes sir." I told him as his clothes instantly resembled those of the Captain of the Battleship Yamato from the Star Blazers cartoon we watched together. "I lost them on the edge of a black hole and they all got sucked into it so now they're all squished."

"'Squished', huh?" Dad laughed and carried me towards the apartment with one arm. "Sounds like you've earned a two week vacation and a trip to the comic shop."

And damn near thirty years later and one commute home in a Toy Yoda piloted down 85 like it was Type-O Model 52 space-fighter plane I pull into the driveway. I step out with a salute to the empty porch where I know my father isn't standing there waiting. I salute where he is not. I smile, bittersweet and mock-cocky, - "Flight Commander Wildstar, reporting back to base for duty, sir."


My mother's dog barks in reply from behind the locked door of her empty home. Behind a Mustang rumbles bass in a slow cruise behind me and the dead leaves count as numberless as the planets I once swore I'd visit.
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At Ghetto PCS, as I've eavesdropped on some of the locals calling it, I'm in the process of getting a much needed new phone. Not that I want one really. Their presence has at times made going out with friends the equivalent of hitting a university computer lab that serves alcohol. But when the old phone starts turning itself off during work calls or prescreening my allies texts into oblivion then it was clearly time I reluctantly joined the second decade of the 21st century.

So there I am on the customer end of the counter, 'Chump Side' if you will, and the young man in his Ghetto PCS uniform - a uniform that somehow has managed to make purple a bland color - is dutifully going through the process of transferring my contacts from one phone to the next. In the process he scrolls through some of the names I've got stored in there.

He pauses at some of them, scroll back up and then back down, even utters a few of them more to himself in disbelief rather than to me for their confirmation.

"Bob Dracula. Elvis. Fightin' Mike. Lil' Baller. Magpie. My Money. Nurse Feisty. Princess. Teddy Bear. Virtue Victoria."

He looks up at me from the phone. He checks out the bald head. The tats. The neon green luchadore t-shirt. Half amused, half awed asks - "You're in a rock band aren't you?"

I can't help but laugh at the Kid's question but nevertheless can't help but answer - "Yeah, man... I'm in a rock band."

And when he asks me what I do and what's the name of the band I do it for I lay it on him as casually as if I was giving him the time. "I'm the lead singer for the Fist Thugs. On stage I go by the name of Jack Babalon."

When he snaps his snaps fingers and mouths an 'oh shit' at me he next asks me what kind of music the Fist Thugs play. I don't miss a beat when I say - "Life-After-Death Metal."

From there I'm prompted to explain that Life-After-Death Metal is basically Death Metal with more sitars and monkey chants. I'm basically describing Mister Bungle's 'Goodbye Sober Day' as covered by Venom to someone's who's heard of neither. When I'm told that sounds crazy, I tell him that that's nothing. How our stage show has folks hanging from hooks out of their chests and vampire girls twirling fire and mother fuckers who be walking on stilts in demon masks... and that's just the audience.

The Kid blinks at me. So does the other two kids down the counter and the mid-afternoon customers. The Kid sums up everyone's thoughts there when he asks his last question which paraphrases roughly to - "You got all that going on and you got this raggedy-ass phone that's just two steps above two cans connected by a string?"

I shrug, I tell him we got a drummer for muscle, we got a bassist for the groupies, we got a lead guitarist who can get the best shit in town and we got a manager to make all the important phone calls. So I figured why did I need to blow valuable stripper money on a phone I spend half my waking hours ignoring. But alas, when I ended up missing a gig at the Masquerade the rest of the band told I had to get a new phone or they would find themselves a new lead singer.

So here I am, I tell him, and kindly point out that I have band rehearsal in an hour.

The Kid digs it, finishes up the transfer, answers my noob questions, sets me straight and wishes me good luck with the Fist Thugs.

"Never needed." I wink and salute him with a pair of Satanically charged devil horns, "But always appreciated."

With that I exit the Ghetto PCS a soon-to-be rock star and step out into the real back into my life as a struggling writer/ office manager. There was still a Kroger to hit before I returned home and who knows who I might find myself becoming in the curiosity of a clerk, cashier or fellow customer.



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"What are you getting up to this weekend?" The Little Baller I work with at the office asks. "Hanging out with your friends?"

"I don't really have friends anymore." I muse looking up from the bills. "Just people who agree that we know each other in public."

This gets the chuckle I was hoping for but the kid presses the point. "C'mon everybody needs friends."

"Batman doesn't need friends." I wink. "Friends need Batman."

More laughs and the Little Baller just shakes his head walking away back to the job at hand.

Hours later. On the Southbound sitting next to some exuberant young man living in his ear buds singing along to the beats playing off his phone. "... 'cause if your ass ain't bigger than a yardstick... then you can't get none of this hard dick!"

The ancient gnome of a woman sitting across from us peeks over a tawdry paperback thriller and looks with horrified amusement at the impromptu MARTA karaoke going on. The train stops. Mister Yardstick gets off. I try to focus back on the Chandler when next to me sits a ghost. Tall, lean and with a gunfighter's squint.

"What brings you out to these parts?" I smile amused staring at the page of the book I can no longer focus on. "Got bored kicking around the same old memories."

"Well," the ghost chuckles lighting a cigarette up at the MARTA with an impunity afforded only to phantoms and hallucinations. "Since you're too 'busy' to call me, I guess this is the only way I can talk with some 'I agree to know in public'."

"Tch," I roll my eyes still refusing to shift my focus out of the peripheral knowing he'll disperse if I do. "You're not a 'friend', man. You're my brother."

"Yeah, well what about the Princess?"

"If Jughead and Veronica Lodge were ever brother-sister..."

"Yeah, I'm starting to see a pattern here. Okay, then how about Magpie?" He blows a ring of smoke into the face of a napping executive, "Or Teddy Bear?"

"Magpie's my... Magpie." I say as if I shouldn't have to explain this again. "Teddy Bear's, Teddy Bear. They're allies of the secret heart, fellow soul gangsters and collaborators of the absurd fuck you to the powers that be. My appreciation for that goes way beyond 'pals' or 'buddies' or..."

My congenial apparition laughs good naturedly and chides me. "Alright take it easy there, Baudelaire... you're forgetting to talk to me with thought balloons."

I mouth a 'shit' into the page when I see the alarmed gazes beaming off the other passengers around us.

"There have been others." I smile into the page silently. "More than I deserved. A time dispersed squadron of guardian angels with hidden scars where soon their wings will grow. A lot of them the friends of friends now gone. Men and women who've been there for me during a dark time. They know who they are. If the time comes and should I be needed, I'd be there for any of them in a New York Minute."

"Sounds to me, like I dunno... maybe you have a lot more friends than you think."

"I hope not. " I whisper to the page. "Friends are people who at some point will have no choice but to say goodbye to you one day. Friends are people who have to move on or they'll be trapped in the dream of what they could have been. Friends come and go. But brothers? Sisters? Allies and Guardian Angels? If you cherished them right, if you held them close in your heart without regret... then in one way or another they'll be there until the grave... even if they should have arrived there before you. Even if age should steal our memories of them, their influence on us measures our lives in ways beyond recollection alone."

I wait for the ghost to say something and when a moment passes that he doesn't I close the book. Knowing he's no longer there, faded back into the realm of memory and imagination, I shrug a 'see I told you so'. Still, unable to stop smiling I shut my eyes, lean my head back against the train's bulkhead and count down the moments until tomorrow night when I see her again.

It doesn't matter what I call the people in my life, what matters is that I'll be there when they call.

jack_babalon: (Default)
It's five to four and I've been on the road since a quarter after three, a forty minute commute the last twenty of which I've spent stuck two cars behind the apocalypse of the day. I'm on cigarette #3 of a one cigarette trip trying to drown the police siren and helicopter disco out of the ear with AM country music cranked to full holler. I'm at the abandoned Dairy Queen by the train tracks across the street from Agnes Scott stuck with all the other assholes who picked the wrong route home today. I'm watching the men in the hazmat suits work in conjunction with the local authorities to get everyone back in their car or failing that to at least take off running the other direction. Their efforts produce exactly the opposite result. Everyone's standing on top of their car or trying to sneak by the alarmed men in their bee-keeper from space suits each brandishing camera phones set to record.

And really who can blame them?

For just up ahead, standing on a MARTA bus that's now stuck dead center over the tracks, is a naked man waving around a large stick with what he claims to be a howler monkey infected with the kind of life-threatening disease that no one should even be joking about it at a time like this. The man, like the tragically infected howler monkey, both wear fake beards for the purpose of this dispatch in order that their identity may be protected until the results of the official report have been made public.

The man is clearly upset. He is just one more tax paying American who when he found it his turn to reach the top of the Golden Ladder of Eternal Liberty peering down not on perpetual capital and progress but the Shit Slide to Hell. Whether from there he was pushed or took the kind of leap of faith that only comes with hijacking a bus with a highly infectious primate, who can say?

Not me and even now the marksman hanging out the door of the chopper has the naked man in his sights. Even now the crowd chants take the shot along with the defiant naked man. Even now Dolly Parton sings about the 'lonely comin' down'. Even now there is a crack of thunder across the dry sky and a halo of blood puffs behind the skull before the naked man falls backwards off the bus before a candle light vigil of cell phones.

"Then I felt the lonely dripping down my face." One of the men in the hazmats suits sings through the electric speaker attached to his hood. "As I realized no one could take your place."

Everyone was so stunned they didn't notice the highly infectious monkey had escaped the stick it was bound to and had taken this moment to escape. A fact I was aware of only because the monkey now sat in the passenger seat beside me.

The howler monkey looked at me. I looked at it. We both sat there staring for another moment as the piano keys fall like raindrops and everyone around me begins to get back into their vehicles. The spectacle along with the show long over. Slowly I turn aside to the man in the hazmat suit humming along with the last chords of the song and yell for him to come here.

The man in the hazmat suit shambles over, leans down into the car and with a Darth Vader voice asks me what the problem seems to be?

I nod over to the monkey.

The monkey nods back over to the man in the hazmat suit.

The man in the hazmat suit nods to me.

"What should I do?" I ask.

The man in the hazmat suit yanks off his hood and it's not a man at all but a woman I am completely unaware of having a 83% compatibility score with OK Cupid. Her eyes are bright, her lips are full and the hair a crisp shade of anime.

"There's only one thing you can do." She tells me.

"What's that?"

And it is then that she grabs me by the back of the head and kisses me in a way that of late I've dreamt of being kissed. Long, deep as if there has never been a moment before this moment nor will there be another after. When she pulls back she smiles, slaps me in the face and orders me get out of here.

"What about you know who?" I whisper with fingers still pressed tenderly against the sting of her slap and nodding to my passenger.

"You look out for him." She says. "He'll look out for you. It's more than most men get in this world much less a kiss from a pretty stranger. Now get out of here the two of you before I order you probed, quarantined and executed. Not necessarily in that order."

She dons the hood back on. I roll up the window. The radio sings a jingle for a plumber. The monkey is staring at me. With a sigh I offer him a cigarette. A light and a lift to wherever he needs to be. The monkey takes off his false beard and with the car ahead of me finally moving I put the show back on the road.

Time. 4:08pm.

1.1

COCKTORIS

Jul. 24th, 2014 01:11 am
jack_babalon: (Default)
Coming out of the store with my arms packed with all kinds of shit I don't really need except maybe to kill me a little quicker when first thing I see is some cop over by my car in the parking lot. Buzz cut and badge wearing white boy with muscles bulged from hours of steadily applied oppression and other forms of community service. Mother fucker's writing me up a ticket. Immediately I hand over my bags of shit I don't really need to a random stranger. I give him orders to take what they need and to burn the rest, before jogging over to my car in order to address the situation.

"What seems to be the problem there, officer?" I ask using that voice I give cops and armed toddlers exclusive.

"This your vehicle, sir?" He asks without looking up at me and continuing to fill out the ticket.

"Yes, officer that it would be." I answer proudly glancing at the aerosol painting of a bare-chested Michael Landon head-locking the devil and smiling beatifically out upon the world.

"You are aware that you're currently parked in a handicap spot, sir?" He asks unimpressed with neither the masterpiece depicted across the hood nor the twenty-three Virgin Mary bobble heads lined along the dashboard.

"But officer...," I laugh relieved as you do when the source of a great misunderstanding has been discovered, "... I AM handicapped."

This manages to peel the cop's attention out of the ticket and upon me for the first time. The act requires him to un-holster his full glare from the wrap around Ray Bans that clearly shielded not his eyes from the world but vice versa.

"Come again?" He demands in that strange variation of Cop-English where every statement must end with a question mark or an exclamation point.

"I'm lucky if I can once." I smile helplessly now. "And that's just part of the problem. For though my plight might not be as obvious as the physical or mental burdens some must bravely carry in this society, mine is no less a tragedy for the ease in which it's concealed. For I suffer from a monstrously small penis. "

Well naturally enough this sends the cop to start spitting and sputtering mute before the word - "WHAT?" - finally manages to stumble through his lips.

"I know it's hard to believe a man of my manly physique and gentlemanly swagger would have to bare such a tragedy, but such is the trial the All Mighty has set upon me, fucking me well and truly as I will never well and truly fuck myself."

"Excuse me, are you saying... that a small, um, 'member', is equivalent to..."

"Gosh all graham crackers, no!" I laugh, "Not small... God, the things I could do with 'small'. No, sir. I'm monstrously small down there. Not thumb-sized, tip of thumb-sized. What some have cruelly branded as a 'Cocktoris'."

"A 'cockasaurus'?" He repeats incorrectly.

"Cocktoris, officer." I explain with the gentle patience we must give the slow, "As in a cock bigger than a clitoris. Now where as most men would try to hide or deny this terrible debilitation I have decided to proudly embrace what the Good Lord has seen fit to short change me. I am no less a man for my impairment... wait are you laughing at me?"

The cop's eyes bulge wide in shame and horror, not that he was laughing or even smiling, but he's not sure if he was doing it unconsciously or not now.

"You were smiling though."

"What?"

"Just now." I step back with flat of hand clutched to chest in indignation. "You were smiling. You think having a monstrously small penis is funny? Do you think this is easy for me? Standing here having to explain to a complete stranger along with who knows who else about my cocktoris."

"No," the cop shakes his head as if trying to shake out a bad thought, "it's just, well, sir... while I do sympathize, I mean not sympathize, I mean not 'sympathize' exactly as that would imply... well, anyway it's just... is that REALLY a 'handicap'?"

"Let me answer that by proposing to you a hypothetical situation." I say pausing only to light up a cigarette. "Forced to choose between the two, would you rather lose a limb or have a penis you could hide behind a dime. Yeah, even at full mast and for the rest of your life?"

The cop just stares at me, confusion and revulsion wrestle openly across the face.

I take a drag off the cigarette.

The cop finally puts his shades back on, tearing the ticket off the pad and hands it before me.

I'm about to reach out and accept it when suddenly he begins to folding the piece of paper between his hands. Fingers dance quick and precise as the ticket becomes an origami tiger. He hands me the tiger, then plucks the cigarette out of my mouth to take a long drag off it before handing it to some random stranger walking by. With a puff of smoke he tells me -

"I'm going to let you get away with this once. I don't know if you're story's true or not but anyone who owns to having one that messed up must have a serious set of balls on him even if he lacks the rest of the necessary package to go along with it. So once but only once. Because I don't ever want to see you here again, understood?"
"You know, officer." I smile not-so helplessly now and wink, "That's what she said."

Against his will he cannot help but laugh and he makes his way over to the squad car that he parked in the adjacent handicap spot and takes off. I get in the car. I pat gently on the head each of my 23 bobble-head virgins. Then I start the engine, roll down the window, light up a cigarette and begin whistling a song my grandfather used to whistle when he shaved. From there I pull out nice and slow, with the no-rush satisfaction of an experienced lothario.

1.1
jack_babalon: (Default)
Didn't get shit for sleep this weekend. So of course it's the serotonin deprivation speaking. It's the up with the first piss of dawn no matter how hard I toss and turn in bed speaking. It's the three dollar ATM fee to pull out a 20 dollar bill that I then have to break at a convenience store whose digital slot machines are fully manned at 8:30 in the morning speaking. It's the spastic in front of me arguing with the man behind the bullet proof glass about whether or not the half a torn dollar bill he is offering is legal tender for a twenty five cent bag of chips speaking. It's the bus I needed to catch rumbling off for the first time in my history riding it on schedule speaking.

But it was that at that point I slammed the two dollar bottle of water I was going to break my twenty with into the plexiglass window and scrambled up the counter to stand on it facing the stunned shoppers, KWIK staff, and gamble-holics anonymous that gathered slack-jawed before me.

"My fellow citizens here in the Fall of New Rome, spare me but a minute fraction of the decades of my time you have squandered with an inability to comprehend the most rudimentary aspects of the social contact. A conduct so mind-bogglingly absurd to behold at times, as to border as a collective, if not subconscious, act of performance art to the casual observer."

I was answered by the cashier who began banging on the plexiglass with the flat of his fist behind me while shouting for me to get down. The crowd before me stared at cell phones and started murmuring their anxiousness to buy their three dollar loaves of white bread or two dollar rolls of one ply toilet paper and get on with their day.

"No listen, you've all been duped! Has it not occurred to at least some of you that there might be a better way! Isn't it at all possible that perhaps we could all universally agree to read those little stickers with the price printed on them instead of attempting to swap shop haggle for our blocks or cans of flavored corn-syrup when it's our turn before the register? Couldn't we, with great effort and will power no doubt, count out our change before getting on the bus and deciding you're a few dimes short of the fare you've already begun to pay for and spare the rest of us sitting in a lane of backed up traffic from getting to where we need to get to on time? Isn't there some remote universe we can conceive of where we have one line for lottery tickets and another for everything fucking else so those of us who just want to get a tank of gas aren't stuck behind someone trying to decipher the works of Nostradamus because tonight's the fucking night the fates have decided this asshole's finally become a millionaire?"

At this point the cashier along with his manager or his assistant are below me and trying to prod me off with a mop for one and a push broom for another. I swat away at their blows even as they curse me in a language beyond my comprehension. Even as I block with my forearms the random snack cakes, small sized instant coffee jars and one-liter bottles of off-brand diet cola I continue undaunted.

"There's a better world out there and it is not some top-secret cabal that hides it from us, but rather they sit back and benefit from a prison whose inmates gladly act as each other's guard, warden or attack dog. We deny ourselves a world, no a paradise, where with a nominal amount of cooperation and a pretense of civility, where each and every one of us can get to where we need to be without it turning into a test worthy of the initiations of monks and mystics. Imagine living in a land where walking into a convenience store isn't a rite of passage or require the skills needed to barter in a post-apocalyptic bazaar for much needed supplies. It's there... it's waiting for us all... and at long last I can tell you what you, and you, and you and me need to do..."

Everybody finally stopped pelting me with canned devil food or trying to hook me by the back of the neck with a push broom. They had heard me this far and were at least now curious to hear what the hell this fool was babbling about.

But it was at that moment I saw it. Right there, out of the corner of my eye and thanks to my elevated height, I could glimpse the #21 rolling down Memorial towards the stop just outside the mart. Wasting no time I hopped down, barreled through the staff, shouldered through the crowd, kicked the door open, vaulted over the splayed out legs of the wino and sprinted to the bus stop just as the bus pulled up. I fed the fare machine the 20 dollar bill figuring fuck it, I'll use up the rides sooner than later, and before I could pick one of many empty seats we were on our way to Kensington Station which would take me to Five Points which would take me to Doraville where I would catch the #124 to a park, walk through it, then up a hill and arrive, if lucky, no more than a few minutes late for work.

As the bus departed from the stop, I could see the broom and mop baring staff standing outside their mart. Behind them the crowd milled through the open door behind them, staring at me with wonder, confusion and not a little bit of pity.

To them all I gave a solid middle finger pressed against the glass and as we sailed past the next light, I closed my eyes to quickly try to steal back a few minutes worth of the sleep I lost.

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