Tuesday, December 20, 2011

He had been amazed when she had agreed to go on the first in what would become (to his continued amazement) a considerable number of dates. He had been amazed further still when she began to spend hours at a time with him in his small apartment, which, for the last fifteen years, had held only himself and, for the last ten, his increasingly obese dog—except for occasional visits from his elderly mother who came primarily to make dire comments about his failure to produce grandchildren. Perhaps most amazing of all was the moment he realized that she was not opposed to the idea of him making love to her, which he did, like a clumsy, asthmatic turtle. So when he found the note on his kitchen counter, folded neatly and initialed in her flowery script, he was expecting anything but the message he found inside, which read simply:

It’s just not working out. I’m sorry.


The note delivered a blow straight to his argyle-checked stomach. He sank to the floor, where his dog trotted over and watched him nervously. He buried his face into the soft dog tummy and cried. Cried like an infant with his round shoulders squared forward and shaking with sobs. The dog, mildly interested, lifted its nose to snuffle wetly against his sweater, leaving an abstract dark blot as evidence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

She hit puberty like a car on a train track.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The best way to be is dreamy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

There was a door in the wall that was just big enough to fit someone very small. When he felt sad, he liked to climb into the unfinished niche and shut the door behind him. He would sit and suck on his thumb and rock back and forth as much as the small space would allow. Occasionally, when he would turn the knob to try to leave, it would stick stubbornly and he would fear that he might be trapped. But it always opened, and it was never enough to keep him from coming back.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

He sat up somewhere new. Was he awake? It was hard to say. The ground below him was cold and hard and he could feel a gulf of dried saliva tightening the skin of his cheek. His head hurt, but his head always hurt. He was surrounded by nothing. No stars, no trees, not a single sound. Just dark, and the dull throbbing in his head. He sat up.

“Can I please go home?”

There was no response, but he hadn’t really been expecting one. He felt the blood rush to his temples as he pushed himself up off the ground. Thoroughly disoriented, he felt like he was hanging upside-down.

“I’m asleep. I know I’m asleep. Please just let me wake up now.”

He jumped up and down a few times, feeling the packed ground beneath his bare feet.

“I know I wasn’t supposed to fall asleep. I’m sorry, just please let me go home.”

No response. He sighed heavily and then started to walk. The sky was beginning to turn a bruised shade of purple and he could see rolling hills on the horizon. There was nothing to do now but walk, and wait to wake up. So he walked.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This one is an exercise I recently did for my creative writing class. It's out of my usual canon in that it's both slightly graphic and wildly inappropriate, so read at your own discretion.

The old man sat down heavily, wiping his hands on the tops of his tweed pants before producing and lighting a cigarette. He sighed before beginning to speak, sending out a long flume of gray smoke.
“It was hell on earth. I saw my best buddies get blown to pieces, and the ones that made it out ended up on enough pills to run their own goddamn pharmaceutical companies. I was one of the lucky ones, if you can call it that. Never was injured. But I tell you, the worst day of my entire life happened in the fall of ’68. I was posted with another man from my regiment, one of the best friends I ever had. All of a sudden I hear this sound, this gunshot, and my heart’s racing a mile a minute because I hadn’t seen anyone around us for what seemed like miles. Once I stop looking for who fired the shot I turn back to my buddy to ask him if he’s seen anything. Well, he’s sure as hell not seen a goddamn thing because he’s been shot clean through the eye. Nothing but a smoking socket left, and his body’s gone limp except for his legs, still twitching like a cockroach on its back. Before I can even begin to process what in the hell has just happened, another shot hits the tree behind me not feet from my own head. I’m so goddamn scared I piss my pants, and I’m running through the jungle with pants soaked in my own piss and my buddy’s blood for so long I start getting delirious from exhaustion. The worst day of my goddamn life.”
He stamps out his cigarette into the last bit of milk in a yellow plastic cup sitting on the nearest table before refocusing on his grandchild, who had begun chewing on the sides of her playpen. He leaned back in his seat and contemplated the ceiling.
“Worst day of my goddamn life.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The concept for this one was a collaboration with Parker Feierbach.
It's a draft that I haven't been particularly stringent with on the editing, so forgive me if it's a little patchy.

The door of the diner creaked open reluctantly on its too-tight hinges. A family of four led by a timid looking father and a beleaguered mother made their way into the fluorescent buzz. Waiting patiently but not without a certain air of desperation, the father maintained a painful looking smile as they stood silently near the front of the diner. Realizing that nobody was coming to seat them, the mother strode off towards the nearest booth, stabbing the linoleum with her heels with each step while her children, shoving each other along the way, stay quick at her side. The waiter, shaken from his reverie behind the counter, made his way over to the table, ignoring the look of obvious distaste the mother is wearing as she wipes off crumbs with an unnecessarily thick stack of napkins.
“What can I get you folks?” the waiter asked, nervously eyeing the kids who had begun to pour splenda packets directly into their mouths and onto the floor.
“Well, we haven’t quite made up our minds here yet, think we could get a couple of coffees and a few more minutes?” replied the father good-naturedly.
“Sure thing. I’ll be right back with that.”
The waiter quickly retreats to the counter where his gum-snapping coworker is leaning and daydreaming with her mouth falling slightly open. Grabbing the coffee pot and two of the least chipped mugs, he makes his way back to the table and silently fills the cups. The father thanks him graciously while the mother continues to stare out of the window at the great, flat nothing outside.
Replacing the coffee pot in its customary place, the waiter rejoins his coworker leaning on the counter with a suppressed sigh. The waitress, shaking her unruly hair out of a large sunflower scrunchie and then wrangling it back in, turns to him with a look that says she has a topic that she’s eager to gossip about.
“So guess what Davie tol’ me last night?”
“I have no idea, Darleen.” The waiter rests his head on his hands, ready for a storm of brainless chatter.
“He told me that those people, you ‘member me telling you about them big-shot LA guys that came saw him do his magic show? Well he says that those people are considering giving him his own show on cable TV, doing his tricks and stuff. I told him, I says, I’m happy for you Davie, but where’s that leave me if you’re gonna run off to LA? And he told me I was worrying for nothin’, and he’d make me his assistant on his TV show, y’know, like the girl he saws in half and stuff. You know how men are, though, Jim, right, because you’re gay and all. They’ll promise you the moon and back and not mean a damn word of it. You know what I mean?"
In truth, the waiter has not listened to a word that Darleen said since she opened her mouth. While normally distracted when Darleen begins her tirades that usually end with an allusion to him being gay in a way that suggested that she felt she deeply understood what he, as a gay man, stood for, today he was particularly so. He was focusing his attention on a man in a gray coat seated in a booth in the far corner who was thumbing through the paper leisurely. The man had been coming in every day for months, and yet the waiter still knew nothing about him. He liked that. In a town where people will tell you their life story as quick as their first name, it was hard not to appreciate a glimmer of mystery. Anyway, it was better than most of the asshole regulars that the diner attracted—the scumbags who spoke to him lewdly and the bible-thumpers who wanted to save his soul. When he saved up enough money, he was out of there—his parents would be glad to be rid of him, God knows. He was quickly and literally snapped out of his reverie by the mother, who had begun to snap loudly to get his attention, long red nails flashing.
The waiter made his way over to the table where the surly woman had sunken back into her seat.
“Ready to order?”
The father was the first to respond. “I think we are. I will have… give me the scrambler plate, I’ll have that, and the kids’ll both have pancakes. You kids like pancakes, right?”
“I told you I want a fucking milkshake, dad!” yelled the son, snatching the menu from his hands.
“It’s seven in the morning, Michael, you can’t have a milkshake,” replied the father, in tense good humor.
“You never let me have freaking anything! Kate wants a milkshake too, don’t you?” The little sister nodded firmly while wiping her dripping nose down the length of her sleeve.
“You’re going to have pancakes, kids, and that’s, that’s that!” The father plucked the menu from his scowling son’s hands and handed it back to the waiter.
“And you, ma’am? What can I get for you?” The waiter was interrupted by a long yawn from the next booth. A prostitute sat up on the bench seat, rubbing at the reservoirs of mascara under her eyes and adjusting her red wig, which had gone slightly askew while she slept.
“More coffee.” The woman stared down at her hands, clenching and unclenching the manicured fingers.
“Alright, I’ll have that out for you in a few minutes.”
The father looked across the table at his kids, who had begun to hit each other in an argument over the last splenda packet. He wondered how he had let them grow up to be such unpleasant creatures. He had always thought he would never be that kind of dad. Then again, there were a lot of things about his life he never would have thought. That was what this road trip was about. Taking the wife and kids up to Chicago to see his family and where he had grown up, and maybe even breaking through the icy fa├žade his wife had carefully constructed over the past couple of weeks.
He looked over at her. She didn’t turn to meet his gaze. Instead, she began fussing at the children—their son had been punching their daughter in the arm, and her little face forecasted rapidly approaching tears.
He’d never meant to hurt his wife. They had gotten married so young, and so in love that he had never considered the possibility that it could, and would, fade over the years. Then there had been the tension between he and one of his coworkers for months-- he never really considered it much because he was so much older, but he felt it, and he was fairly sure she did too. He never would have done anything about it, but there was that damn company party, and she had had far too much to drink, and he couldn’t have let her drive herself home. He wished he’d dropped her off at the door. He wished they hadn’t sat talking for over an hour. He wished she weren’t so beautiful, and so interesting, and so young. He wished he wouldn’t have kissed her back. He never thought he would be the type of man to cheat on his wife. He regretted dragging his resentful family out on this roadtrip—he regretted just about everything.
He refocused on his surroundings. The waitress was handing a man in a gray coat a plate of toast. He thought it looked so peaceful, being able to sit and read the paper uninterrupted. It was a thought he often had; what it would have been like if he had never gotten married. He liked the idea of himself as a free agent—nobody to disappoint, nobody to hold him accountable. He thought the man in the gray coat had the right idea. He looked down into his empty coffee cup. He needed a refill.
The waitress, still holding a pot brimming with fresh coffee, had made her way over to an adjacent table where a stony-faced pastor sat, making notes on that day’s sermon. The pastor looked up at her chipper face, hidden under liberally-applied blue eyeshadow and pancake foundation, and shook his head.
“You women, always trying to flaunt your looks in defiance of God. Take my wife for example!” a thin projectile of saliva shot its way through his clenched teeth onto the table.
“I know pastor, you’ve told me. Sounds to me like she was a real nut.” The waitress winced inwardly, knowing full well what was about to happen.
“Ran off after a holy cow of all things! She was a worshipper of false idols, that woman, and it was the death of her! She was always getting those crazy ideas in her head. You women always are. I never’d thought that she’d up and leave one day, but sure enough, one morning I wake up and what do you know but she was gone. Left a note saying she’d gone to follow some cow with a bunch of other loons runnin’ after a false prophet. Got her killed. It sure did. You women are all alike. Tell me, Darleen, have you ever read the good book?”
“Sure, I’ve read parts, but it’s real long. I sure am sorry about your wife, Pastor,” the waitress repeated, as she always did when he began his tirades. Her mind began to drift off, as it always did, but this time she was thinking about the man in the gray coat. She had never noticed before how remarkably handsome he was. In fact, now that she was thinking about it, she was willing to bet anything that he was some kind of movie star—or television, at least. She figured that was probably why he’d never said much, trying to keep up his cover. She read celebrity magazines and she knew how they like their privacy. A real celebrity, she thought. She could hardly believe it.
The pastor continued to talk of vanity and hell-fire and his wayward, sinning wife, while the waitress intently watched the man in the gray coat stand up, place a few bills on the table, and slowly make his way towards the exit.
“You have a nice day, now!” She called after him.

The man in the gray coat made his way out to his car. The weather had gotten a little colder than he had expected for this time of fall, and most of the leaves had already settled onto the ground. He drove in silence on the way home, not bothering to turn on the radio and search through the handful of static-filled stations. When he arrived, he could make out the faint blue glow of the television through the slightly gapped blinds of the front window. On the way up the door, he could even hear the electric voices and heavy-handed music coming from inside. He was not surprised when he came in to find his elderly mother quietly snoring in front of the blaring television, but still felt a small pang of guilt. She must have slept there all night. Switching off the TV, he turned to her and gently hoisted her up enough to transfer her onto her wheelchair. He rolled her into her adjoining bedroom and placed her onto the bed, half-awake and blearily inquiring into his night of work, pulling the covers up to her chin. He gave her a small kiss on the forehead and left the room, shutting the door softly.
He settled down into the chair she had been sitting in, still warm from her body. The windows rattled softly with the wind. He fell asleep.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thomas lay in bed watching the silhouetted shapes of cowboys and buffaloes play across the walls, the work of a rotating luminary serving as a night-light. Breaking through the white static sounds of the house he began to hear a low rumbling coming from across the hallway. Gathering his willpower, he quietly stepped out of bed and padded across the way to his younger brother’s room. The door was slightly ajar and, coming from somewhere inside, a dazzling light illuminated the adjacent wall. Thomas knocked softly before pushing open the door.

His brother, hanging halfway out of the window, was tightly gripping a fishing rod, knuckles turning white and bare feet grappling with the bottoms of his too-long pajama pants. A blinding white glow streamed in through the open window and Thomas had to struggle to keep his eyes, which were involuntarily fastening shut against the glare, open enough to see what was happening. At the end of his brother's fishing line, inches from the windowsill, was the moon- dusty, pockmarked, and looming enormous. For a few moments the two stood that way as if frozen-- Thomas still in the doorway and Steven quietly struggling with the catch at the end of his line.

“Steven, what are you doing?” Thomas whispered sharply.

“I’ve caught the moon.”

“You can’t catch the moon right now, do you know what time it is? You'll have to put it back.”

"I'm sorry. I couldn't sleep. Please don't tell mom and dad."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Billy adjusted his makeshift blanket of tattered jackets so that just his eyes and the very tip of his freckled nose were exposed. He kept his eyes trained on a flash of black that continuously appeared and disappeared at the end of the alleyway.

“Probably just bats, is all,” he thought warily.

Each time it reappeared, however, there seemed to be more substance to the form, and it even appeared to be making its way closer in a sort of sporadic and roundabout fashion. Billy strained to hear the faint slosh of wheels through grit over the cobblestone, as well as an eerie high-pitched wheeze of laughter. There was no question that the thing, whatever it was, was soon to be very close. Billy pulled the jacket down the rest of the way over his eyes and clenched his hands tightly together, not even daring to breathe. He’d heard stories about what happened to children in the dead of night while the rest of the world slept and, remembering them now, he felt the fine hairs on the back of his neck and arms rising. He waited in total silence until the air under his jacket became so stifling that he dared to raise it up just an inch to steal a breath.

Billy, freed from the stuffy cocoon, looked up expecting to see only the milky darkness of the alley. Regrettably, this was not to be the case. Instead, he looked directly into two enormous, looming eyes, accompanied by an implausibly thick unibrow. The man bent down low at the waist, twig-like legs bowed, hands resting on a small and crooked black bicycle, while the tip of his misshapen, hooked nose nearly rested on Billy’s own. The man spoke, his mustache twitched, his fingers curled,

“Tell me, little boy. What is your greatest fear?”

As he spoke he reached for a small glass jar in the basket of his bicycle, long fingers slowly unscrewing the lid.

“I…I don’t know sir.”

“You don’t know? I’m afraid you misunderstand me. What are you afraid of, boy? What wakes you up in the middle of the night? What sends a shiver down your spine? What slithers about in the dark corners of your mind? Hm?”

“I suppose I’m afraid of spiders, sir, and…” he hesitated before continuing, “bogeymen, kidnappers, you know.”

“Yes, that’s all very good. And are you afraid of me?” He took one step forward, and placed the glass jar just under Billy’s nose.

“Well, yes, a little.”

The man drew up to his full height, eyes glinting dangerously as he leered down at Billy.

“You’d be very wise to be afraid, very wise indeed. Can I trust you to keep a secret?”

Billy nodded nervously. The man leaned in close and whispered,

“I am the bogey man.”

The inside of the jar became fogged with Billy’s short, panicked breaths. The man screwed the lid back on tightly and immediately. Strangely, at that same moment, Billy ceased to fear the him at all. He looked up at him in wonderment as the man quietly and carefully replaced the jar into his basket.

“What…what did you just do that for?” asked Billy, feeling emboldened.

“I’ve just bottled your fear, my boy. I am a collector, a purveyor, and a protector of fear. In my home I have thousands of different fears, bottled up and shelved alphabetically. I appreciate your assistance. Now if you excuse me, I need to be going.”