Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh Well, Fuck It

I. (Oh Well)
They played the game often. Not a game really, for there never was a score. Never much in the way of winners and losers. More an ongoing conversation. But unlike a conversation, where one subject begets the next and onward. The way tides wash ashore but no two waves contain the same water. Unlike a true conversation, the topic never changed. Stagnant.

“How about this one,” Dan led. “Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe.”

“Excellent,” Tommy now. “Both creepy middle-aged dudes.”

“Emphasis on the creepy.”

“Totally. Also, bonus points since each has played a whacked-out Vietnam soldier.” Of course, there never were any points.

It went like this: name two actors who are exactly the same. That’s all. Where one makes the other redundant. Unnecessary.

“Okay, my turn,” Tommy says. “Brad Pit and Matthew McConaughey?”

Dan squints like he’s reading the fine print, then “Naw. I can’t give you that. Certainly you have the beefcake, eye candy thing going…” (At this point, it should be noted, Tommy squints right back at Dan). “But really they play completely different roles. Brad Pit has some chops. McConaughey, he’s a bum.”

“Okay, Matthew McConaughey and Keanu Reeves?”


And the two sit for a while, mull it over. Neither comes up with a new pair. Maybe because both are out of ideas. Maybe this. Or maybe sometimes, giving up makes you less a failure than continuing on. Sometimes.

II.(Fuck It)
It was a total chicken-shit thing to do. Ronny figured this much. Anyway he sliced it, they had fucked him so hard he couldn’t even walk right. Metaphorically of course. Literally, they had fired him at a completely inopportune time: the Friday before Thanksgiving. For them, a good move saving some paid holidays. For Ronny, a majorly shitty Turkey Day on the horizon.

So after stewing for the whole of the weekend. For the whole of the weekend plus Monday. Plus Tuesday. After stewing, Ronny boards a downtown bus heading toward his office. His ex-office.

What he meant to do was this: let his former boss know exactly how heartless Ronny’s termination was. Because really, even if he was a horrible employee. Lazy or rude or smelly. Even if he were all these things, to fire him on the eve of Thanksgiving was just plain fucked. And Ronny would let the boss know and Ronny wasn't about to mince words. It was not like he had been counting on the reference.

But when he enters the tall building’s lobby, the grizzled security guard greets Ronny same as always. Ditto the young (and Ronny always thought cute if it weren’t for the buzz cut) receptionist on the eighteenth floor. In fact, on his march to the corner office, no less than four of his ex-coworkers smile and welcome Ronny like nothing happened.

And then the realization: whether or not he was around, these people noticed no difference.

So Ronny turns and moves in the direction of the elevator. Maybe he lost his nerve. Maybe this. Or maybe sometimes giving up makes you less a failure than continuing on. Sometimes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Work That We Do

The kid drove down the block at a crawl. Entering license plates into his phone, not every car but just those likely. For the most part anything manufactured in the past five years. Nobody’s going to owe much on some ancient rust farm.

Outside was gray and threatening rain. Late autumn, but pretty much winter already. It was so damn cold. The kid loved this weather. All calm and peaceful. At the stop sign, he sent a text to dispatch. Stating the area—seven hundred block of Cedar Drive—and a list of license plates.

Out of maybe fifteen cars on the block, only five had been worth listing. Out of five, the kid would be lucky if even one hit. Still, there was always the eight hundred block. And the nine hundred block. And after Cedar Drive, there was Maple Lane. Twenty-five bucks a hit and the kid was set on recouping his gas money today. At least that.

* * *

The truck left the yard, heading north on the Boulevard. “The fuck are you listening to?” Chester, he was in the passenger seat, kicked the tape deck. Lightly. But still. You don’t do that.

“Bob Marley, man.” Arnold pronounced it “mon” in some sort of wannabe island speak. Really, the dude was fifty-six and so white his undershirt looked tan. He sounded foolish but at least he didn’t go off about Chester’s kick. “Everyone loves Bob Marley. He’s like the pizza of the music world.”

And when Chester didn’t say shit, just looked straight ahead, Arnold asked him, “Seriously?”

“Gluten allergy,” Chester said. “Pizza rips my insides apart. Same with all sorts of breads and cakes and crackers and…”

“Well, fuck me. If you aren’t the most anti-American bastard ever to ride shotgun in my tow truck.”

“Anti-American because I don’t like Jamaican music and Italian food?”

So Arnold only nodded, acknowledged the point, and drove ever northward. Eventually, “I hate making pickups way out here. In the city you jut nick some car right off the street and the shithead owner will spend three hours trying to remember where he parked. Here, you’ll likely get shot just walking up the driveway. Fuck me.”

Chester agreed, but didn’t ask for further exposition. He had heard the speech before. Then finally he called out, “Target on the left.” This just as the tow truck lumbered onto the 700 block of Cedar Drive.

* * *

Parked at the bottom of the driveway, the tow truck of course, blocking any hasty exit. And this is where Chester waited, looking to the cloud covered sky and leaning against the rig’s front bumper. Waiting as Arnold walked to the house, knocked on the door, maybe convinced the owner to submit easy. Maybe. If they were lucky. And maybe the owner wouldn’t be home. And they could nab the car and go without static. Maybe. If they were really lucky.

But no. Chester saw the door swing open even while Arnold still knocked. And though he could hear but bits and pieces of the conversation, what with posting up thirty yards from the house, there was no question the owner wanted to keep his automobile. Arms in the air and the dude was babbling without pause, no opening for Arnold to work with. So this would take time. Chester reached into the front pocket of his shirt and removed a cigarette. He blew smoke straight up and the plumes disappeared immediately, camouflaged by overcast sky.

Always, Chester had liked the crossbars on back of the tow truck. He couldn’t help but think of a crucifix every time he looked at them. Each time they hoisted a vehicle up, it always felt so damn poignant. What this meant, Chester could never be sure. Maybe machines are the gods of our time. But no, he didn’t like that. Maybe he sacrificed these people, displayed their troubles on the cross. They suffer in order that he be saved.

Then, “But I need my car to do my job!” This the owner screamed so loud as to be perfectly audible across the yard.

“No.” Arnold, just as loud. “I need your car to do my job!”

Even if they had to call the police, Arnold and Chester, no matter what, the car was theirs. Another sacrifice. Another payday. And Chester asked himself, why? And Chester answered himself, because of the times.

The owner, trailed by Arnold began out into the yard. Further from the house. Closer to the car. Overall, Chester took this as a good sign. “Listen buddy,” Arnold to the owner. “We got no real use with your car. We don’t want it for keeps. Just make a couple payments and it’s yours again. Simple like that.” And the man nodded and bowed his head and handed his keys to Arnold.

Chester pulled some leavers. Lowered the crossbars.

* * *

A couple chimes sounded when the kid entered the convenience store. He walked to a cooler in the back and removed two large cans of beer. At the register he handed a twenty to the clerk. Covering the drinks and a few gallons of gasoline.

Back in his car the kid held up a crisp white envelope. Inside, the remaining few dollars. His sack of gold. His day’s work. Then, he kissed his cell phone gently and drove off down the boulevard.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Drunk Tank

The crust rubs from my eyes and I crumble it to the floor like a clump of granola. My mouth tastes sour, gummy saliva. I roll around from my back to my side to my belly to my other side. No matter how I lay, I’m thirsty as hell and really have to pee. I wonder why these problems don’t cancel each other out. Then I push myself into a kneel, eyes still closed.

And when finally I peel the lids apart and look around, I want to lay right down again. Me on a smooth, cold, concrete floor. A drain right smack in its center. Cinderblock walls dimpled where people have tried to carve initials. Or punched over and over. A deep sink and a rusty faucet. And of course, the bars. So I cup my hands and slurp from the sink. So I piss into the drain and it leaves me winded. Then I collapse back to the ground. And I try to sleep. Hope to wake someplace other.

But nothing. I crawl to the cell’s corner and prop myself against the wall. I cough hard and deep and feel like something’s about to come up and nothing does and I try to spit toward the drain but mostly it runs down my chin and my neck. Must have had a massive night.

The air was cold and sharp and even though there wasn’t anything in the way of a breeze, I ran so fast my hair blew wild behind. Whatever they spoke of, now it was so far back. And now even further. And now further. Sucking wind but still not about to slow down. Did I tip enough? When will they look for me? Will they look for me? Further.

So at the stoplight I stopped. Not because I had to, I was on foot. Not because I was tired, though a tightness gripped my chest and soon weaseled outward. Why I let up there, the sunburst of traffic light grabbed me. Needed inspection. Like a red, glowing sea urchin reaching out to puncture. Some crazy stuff. And I huffed hard and saw my breath float before my face and swatted it and only tired myself further. Then, when the burning in my lungs became a sinking in my stomach, I leaned down and puked on the candy-apple red hood of a parked car. Chicken wings and liquor and stomach acid.

For a second I stood. Cocked my head and looked at the lumpy mess. Like pink oatmeal with brown curds. Something like that. Then with my finger I swirled it around, spread it out. Like a big sunburst, like a sea urchin. Something like that. And the paint, it was eaten away. Beneath was dull metal and nothing more. I sunk down against the car. Tried to recuperate, find my bearings, rest. And maybe I slept some, I can’t recall. But next I knew, a police officer was hustling me to the back of a squad car.

“My problem is this: every time I shit, I masturbate. Because, you know, I’m just sitting there and I’m bored.” This was what I had to listen to. This was an interesting conversation. So I flagged the bartender, I ordered another drink. “Dude, ever heard of reading?” Another friend asked. “Okay, okay. But check this out man. I think I’ve trained myself into a fecal fetish. Like, I’ve done this so many times that now, turds get me horny.” And this was an interesting conversation. So I drank.

“Get this dude,” one of my friends, it matters not which, said this. “How come when something is child proof, it means a child can’t do it. But when something is fool proof, it means even a fool can do it?” All sorts of intellectual musings. So I drank. This was what I looked forward to all week. At my desk. With my reports and my coffee breaks. The thought of Friday night. This was it.

So I drank. And when someone, it doesn’t matter who, when someone asked me what I was thinking, all I said was, “I gotta run.” Not like a euphemism, I just had to. So I chucked a fistful of ones onto the bar, a tip. And I walked into a jog into a sprint and out the door. And my friends’ eyes, they burned holes in the back of my head. Blistering, hot, warm holes. Just holes.

Monday, November 3, 2008


You say, don’t vote. That nothing good ever comes from it. You say, when somebody votes they’re just cannibalizing themselves. Like eating fingers right off one’s own hand, it might provide some nutrients. But the short-term benefits don’t equal the never-ending inconvenience. I ask you, like sticking your foot in your mouth? But you’re not amused.

When one votes, no longer can they complain. You say this, but I beg to differ. No, no, you raise a hand and shut me up. Then, if you didn’t vote, you’re not responsible for any problems, the mistakes of those elected. It’s the other way around… I start but you’ll have none of it. Think if nobody voted? Nobody at all. What would happen then? And while the prospect frightens me, you just smile and gaze at the horizon

If I must vote, you tell me, if I’m too brainwashed by all this ‘civic duty’ bull. If I’m caught up in the whole ‘make my voice heard’ scheme. If I must vote, you tell me write-in candidates are the way to go. Instead of throwing my lot in with the narrow choices provided, pick the real best person for the job. You say, vote that friendly grocery store bagger for head of the Tourism Bureau. You say, vote Jesus for president. You say, only if I must vote.

While we’re on the topic, while you’re on a roll, don’t pay taxes either. Refuse to buy bombs for wars you don’t support. Refuse to bail out companies that would never bail you out. And I say, that’s illegal and you just shrug. And I say, what about building hospitals and paving roads. And again you shrug. So what if we build hospitals, you declare, not ask. Paying taxes won’t cover our health insurance. And roads? You say that you don’t own a car.

Sounds like you have a problem with democracy. I say this to you. I say, maybe it’s not perfect but surely it’s the best we’ve got. And you thank me for that chestnut. You ask, did I eat a big bowl of cliché this morning? So what, I scream, what is any better? And, acting all cool, you say, anarchy. Like riots and violence and lawlessness, I ask. You tell me I’ve listened to too much punk rock. You say, true anarchy, everyone governs themselves. Responsibly. It’s the ultimate one-man-one-vote. Anarchy, it’s the ultimate democracy.

Closed minded, you call me. Ignorant and naïve. You ask me what I studied in college and you shake your head when I answer chemistry. Even though you knew this already. I say, what about you and your liberal arts degree? And a smile on your face like this was all set up, you ask if I know what liberal arts means? You say, it’s not painting pictures of blue states. It means the processes and disciplines used by free peoples in order to remain free. And you chuckle like all that crap you said before is now gospel.