Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Friday, July 29, 2005

Bad Writing Awards

Bad Writing Awards

I just read a story on CNN about the winners of the annual bad writing awards. I'm cracking up. This is worth your time. I promise. Go read it. One example:

"Captain Burton stood at the bow of his massive sailing ship, his weathered face resembling improperly cured leather that wouldn't even be used to make a coat or something."
12:03 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Amyl Nitrate Science

When your name is plucked from the hopper, you must answer the call. You must stand and be true. Such was the scenario yesterday afternoon at my place of employment. The company president summoned me to his office, his tone grave.

"Steve, the time has come to burden you with a critical mission. Our professional reputation is at stake, and the exacting Japanese have requested we represent ourselves in the form of physical presence. In this case, yours. Go forth to Round Lake Beach, IL. There you will tin many wire tips with sotter, disassemble drive-thru posts, mount headset transmitter modules, and most of all, submit yourself to their queries, lectures, insults, and imperial commands. Be brave. Wear your proud face, but speak with humility. The continued patronage of this vendor is essential to our survival in the harsh world of the restaraunt register business.

Take my tools. If you lose any, I'll dock your pay. Good luck."

Equipped with a stunning array of grimy hand tools, I fired up my vehicle and shot north along the highway. I zig-zagged past many an automotive, slunk by many a squad car, raced a Metra train or two, and finally arrived on location at six in the evening.

It was a piece of cake. I aced the fucker. Everybody went home happy. Except me. What I mean is, I was happy, but I didn't go home. No sirree.

My former roomie was grandma-sitting. His task was too look after an elderly woman suffering from moist pnuemonia. Feed her dogs, cook her dinner, administer suppositories, vaccuum her floor. Stuff like that. It was happenstance that he was sequestered away in the same region I was due to visit. Far from the city in the northern boonies. Nearly Wisconsin.

Naturally, we decided to drink some beer. We called Megan, a friend from years past who we hadn't seen recently. Three years ago she left us to hide deep in the woods with an obsessive mechanic.

Upon completing my work, I bought a twelver of Beck's Dark and wandered my way under the starlit night, arriving at the mechanic's woodland home at ten at night. We stood on the upstairs porch, where we engaged in convivial revelry.

Things got weird. A jolly fellow named Justin was aggressivly inhaling smelling salts. He was not unconscious, nor was another person waving it under his nose. He was administering himself. I inquired.

"Splain it, share it. Ammonium Nitrate? You afraid of passing out, Justin?"

"No no no. These are poppers."

"I see no cheese, crunchy breading, or jalapenos."

"Amyl Nitrate, dude. Poppers. They get you high. They're like nitrus for beginners."


"Sure. Want one?"

"I most certainly do. You raid Hunter Thompson's briefcase or what?"

"Okay, here you go. I'll warn you, these things will make you need to shit. Bad. But they feel great. You get light-headed, kind of fuzzy wuzzy, and relaxed. Real nice."

I took one. So did a few others. We stood, a circle of four, and we tapped our white ampules together as a toast. "To idiocy!" Following Justin's lead, we jabbed our fingers into the red dots at the center of each popper, and from each a quiet pop and hiss escaped. Making loose fists, we snorted the inhalants with nose chuffing abandon. Our snouts wriggled. Soon we were all wobbly and chattery.

"Whoa. That's..This is... Neat."
"I feel like Weird Al." (group giggles)
"This stuff thins your blood. Isn't it great?"
"I gotta poo." (guffaws and giggles)
"Squeeze your sphincter shut until you're done with that. Don't waste it."
"My brain is expanding. It's trying to make my eyesocket give birth." (hysterical giggling, stomach clutching)
"Shit on a stick, Wilbur."
"Where's a stick?" (contagious chuckling)

Soon we were all laughing uncontrollably. We pooled all the ampules together and passed them around, taking turns breathing in four and five at a time. We were out of control. Soon we'd cracked fourteen of them. We drank a bunch of beer and inhaled a ton of amyl nitrate. We had very thin blood, severe susceptibility to laughing fits, and no logical thought whatsoever. We were speaking nonsense phrases and loving every second of it.

Alas, all good things must end. We left Megan to giggle herself to sleep and Justin to finish the beer and bratwurst. We parted ways. I got lost on the dark streets of Fox Lake. Eventually, I found home. I feel normal today. I think.

3:40 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Secret Diablo River

I went on vacation in California when I was thirteen years old. I was friends with a kid whose father was an oil executive for Unocal, and they lived in a beautiful house on the edge of a golf course in San Ramon. In addition to touring Alcatraz, eating in Jack London Square, and hiking through Redwood National Park, I had the opporunity to explore Mt. Diablo State Park. The prescribed hiking trails were lined with trees, shrubs, and wildlife. This was no barren rock.

I got lost at three in the afternoon somewhere on Eagle Peak. I'd raced ahead of my friends and climbed up from the spiralling path. My idea was to lurk above and spit on them. I was crouched on a rock overhang a hundred meters above the path, waiting, when I felt a sting on my ankle.

I had disturbed a strange colony of ant-like insects during my upwards scramble. They were larger than ants, the color of caramel cream, and mean. Hundreds of them were marching for me, commanded by their hive queen to exact a thousand tiny nibble gougings of revenge for my callous kicking of their carefully constructed dirt portal. I was wearing sandals.

I swatted away those attacking my feet and stood up. Looking back whence I came, I realized my return climb would be far too steep to scale quickly, and furthermore, if these bugs were truly dedicated, I'd award them a prolonged opportunity to crawl on my face.

I didn't want rabid antlike meanies scurrying on my eyes. I didn't want them prodding my tongue, tickling my nostrils, burrowing into my pores, or tumbling into my shirt, either, where they could chew my nipples off, millimeter by millimeter. Not in my Team USA Olympic basketball jersey. No sir. It would get bloody. Mom spent fifty dollars on this at Sears.

So I kept going up, stomping and hopping all the way. Like ants, my little enemies used scent trails to mark their progress, and when I slapped my rubber down on a large cluster of the hungry little bastards, it was like I'd released a bomb. The following critters went nuts, running in circles around their flattened brothers. Soon enough they would use their mandibles to peel up the corpse jelly and bring it back underground for dinner.

For the moment, I was safe. I continued my climb, certain I'd reach the spiral path where it next circled the enormous mountain.

Ten minutes later, I saw an opening. A cave. I love caves. Ever since I'd explored Eagle Cave in Wisconsin, where I stole chunks of onyx and got shit on by bats, I've never ignored the compulsion to delve into a dark, sunless chamber of rock teeming with creatures of dubious reputation.

The opening was twice my height, so I entered standing. Using my fingers and the dim light seeping in from the entrance as guides, I stumbled deeper, wondering how long had passed since the last explorer had the good fortune to discover this cavern.

Deep in the dark, I could see a red glow emanating from a jagged opening. I made for it. I found myself in a tall cavern ringing a deep gap in the rock. Far below, I saw a river of molten lava. The air was still and hot, and I began to sweat. I laid myself flat on the edge of the precipice, and I watched the churning red river weave through the rock below. I was in awe, totally transfixed, elated to have found a window to watch the secret blood of the earth.

"Who are you?"

The echoing voice was quiet, deep, and full of gravel. I flinched. Glancing about, I saw nothing but the liquid red glow reflected above and the angry light of the lava boiling below. It spoke again.



"Why are you in my mouth?"

"Y...your mouth?"

"Yes. Why?"

"I don't know."

"Get out. Now."

The cavern shook. Pebbles clattered. Stalactites fell and shattered. Terrified, I began to inch away from the edge of the drop. With the earth below me shaking so ferociously, I didn't want to risk a fall. Safely away from the molten stream, I stood and ran for the exit. I heard loud hissing and crackling behind me. I felt the temperature rise, and the walls surrounding the exit were now glowing orange. I flew out the entrance and skidded to a stop. I looked back inside the cave. Lava was streaming towards me. It was dripping from fissures in the walls, cracks in the ceiling, and probably from the sunken river. I fled the rock mouth and clawed my way further up the mountain.

Soon I found the path, and eventually, my friends. I explained how I'd gotten lost, and about the insect colony. I kept the story of the burning cave to myself. It was too strange, and even I didn't quite believe it. I was aware of my own overactive imagination. My mother was always telling me not to make up stories for attention.

We left, keeping to the spiral path religiously. We bought ice cream cones on the ride back to San Ramon.

The next day, Mount Diablo was burning. Engulfed in wildfire. I brought the newspaper clippings home from vacation.

11:18 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Center In Grey

Before The Abduction, Lawrence Beach, 7/10/05
10:51 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, July 25, 2005

Girth Birth

I've been waiting for a long time for peculiar symptoms to affect my body. Ever since those mad Hungarians kidnapped me from Lawrence Beach and injected me with used cereal milk and boiled camel marrow, I've been spending my mornings staring in the mirror, watching for my eyes to wither into raisins, my hair to become pasta salad, or my teeth to sharpen and squirt venom. Standing there naked with a razor in my hand, I'd often mutter at my steam-obscured reflection, trying to exert my will to steer the rewriting of my DNA. I was hoping I'd magically learn juggling, hapkido, and teleportation. No such luck.

I was beginning to think the whole episode was a hallucination, perhaps induced by accidentally swallowed bilgewater or LSD dropped in my sodapop. In a month's time I should have noticed some difference in biology. Maybe paisley pattern poops. Maybe miniature ice cubs ejecting from my pores, transforming me into a walking hailstorm. Maybe sharp projectile fingernail boomerangs. Anything. I gave up and decided to put the unsettling incident behind me.

I drank a lot of bourbon on Saturday night. We all did. My friends decided to climb on industrial park roofs and hang from the edges as long as their arms could hold them. I decided to stay at the apartment and vomit. The shish kebabs had been overdone, and I'd eaten the most. My stomach was full of booze and leather, and the base provided by my steady weekend diet of jalapeno jerky was thickening the batter into Quik-Crete.

While my friends stumbled away to clutch at brick precipices, I went to the corner of the backyard where the rat traffic was highest. The rats often ran between the small trash bins at the base of the apartment building and the massive dumpsters in the Burger King lot adjacent to the backyard.

I used my index finger to tickle my uvula. While I fondled the pendulum hanging in the back of my throat, desperate to empty my stomach of its murky pudding, I heard an agitated squeal from below. Rats. Two were fucking right there in the dirt, dead center in front of me. That helped. I puked, splashing their hedonistic display of rodentine thrusting and bucking with a gallon of meaty amber lacquer.

They screamed and fled, slipping and splashing away, tracking bourbon soup back to a darker, safer place where they could lick each other clean. I kept puking, wave after wave of churning pulp eroding fissures in the cracked earth.

After the seventh heave, I rested.

Since I was hungry again, I went back inside to wash up and fix a plate. Something besides shish kebab. Sliced pork tenderloin and Pabst Blue Ribbon won the day. ($9.99 for a 30 pack!) Mouth full, I sang U2 b-sides, shreds of pork and rivulets of beer cascading upon my shirt. I looked out the windows and witnessed my adventurous friends kicking an air conditioning unit atop the building across the alley. I was happy.

It wasn't until I belched that I felt the baby kicking. Maybe punching. Oof. I was overcome with joy. My own child. A special child, which I knew instantly must be the joint offspring of me and the mysterious intravenous insemination. I grabbed another beer to toast. Maybe I would get an epidural. If I got lucky.

I sat pondering. Would I grow a vagina? Maybe split asexually like an amoeba? Perhaps I could vomit my baby up just like the ill-cooked kebabs. I didn't wonder for long, because when my belly button distended, I knew the kiddo was travelling down my old umbilical road.

It was strange watching my navel balloon out in the shape of a chubby hand. I wished I could make it wave, but it wasn't part of me. It was other. There was no pain. Thanks, Jim Beam.

A fat black guy crawled out. My stomach portal was loose and withered. I felt like a donut. I stapled my skin up nice and tight like the face of a fading actress with delusions of youth.

The fat man was about four feet tall, fat like a twinkie hound, and his eyes sparkled with glee. With a booming baritone, he introduced himself and shook my hand. He was inflating and growing before my eyes. Soon he was six foot five.

"I'm Glen. I thought the kebabs were pretty good. You shoulda kept 'em."

"Hi Glen. Pleased to meet you. I'm Steve. Where are you from?"

"I'm from Scotland. I've been living in the U.S. for about twenty years. I was getting tight on cash, so I volunteered to guinea pig for some crackpot doctors doing weight loss studies. The pay was good, and my wife was always bugging me to up my income. So I did this. Turns out, I got a free vacation out of it. I've never been inside a spleen before. You drink too much, by the way."

"Was it unpleasant being inside my guts?"

"Naw, it was fine. Thanks for tuning me on to Thai food."

"So what now? I guess I could call you a cab. You live in Chicago? I know - we'll eat dinner."

"My wife must be worried sick. They shrink-rayed me about two months ago. Good thing she's fat and short, or she prolly woulda found herself a new man by now. I'm sure she's sitting at home watching All My Children, not out finding herself a new amateur meteorologist. She can wait a bit longer."

"So these docs, they shrunk you. Then they injected you into me. Wow. That belly birth didn't even hurt. Apart from the needles when they first jabbed me. Pretty neat, what they managed. They'll make a fortune smuggling illegal immigrants and covert operatives. I wonder who else is lost in my bloodstream, trying to find a way out. Maybe I have dinosaurs and supermodels, too."

"If you're lucky. I didn't see anybody else, but when you're shrunken, every capillary is a hell of a long waterslide. There coulda been a whole bunch of other folks in there."

"Waterslides. Huh. You hungry, Glen?"

"You know it!"

I put some fresh charcoal on the grill. I made Glen a lot of food. He was pretty damn hungry. So was I.

3:20 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, July 22, 2005

Alcoholic Review

I had a friend for a few years named John Tacopina. We called him Taco. Computer game type guy, really skinny, smoked menthols. He moved to New York to be a restaraunt host or something. His uncle is a famous lawyer who goes on CNN all the time, so he wanted to be around the successful branch of the family, I guess. One night when I was drunk and pissy I told him the only reason we were friends was because we were worthless shits who didn't want to smoke marijuana by ourselves. He took offense. Never spoke to me again. Fast forward five years. Somehow he tracked me down.

Dear Steve,

Been a long time. I heard Tim wrote you a letter to reconcile your differences and make up. How sweet. I'll do no such thing. I'm writing to shit on your carpet. I remember back when we used to sit in your garage smoking joints, playing Star Wars CCG, listening to your crap ass music. I guess I had nothing better to do. I shoulda stayed the fuck at home.

You'd try to convince me that Sigur Ros' music was ethereal heavenly genius. You know what it was? A bunch of castrated Icelandic fucks mourning their severed cocks. That's what I think. You know what else? Sleater Kinney and Le Tigre are for butch lesbians, not you. And Bono is a cunt, and U2 sucks. The Clash is fucking noise, not music. You need a lobotomy. Badly. And what's with all that Motown shit? I don't even need to explain what that says about you.

You were always such a loser. Who pops pills so he can chug a whole case of Budweiser in a single sitting? Who buys comic books and passes them out to strange kids who wander up to his garage to try and steal his marijuana? Who gets so drunk from gin that he tries to wrestle with police while his mother watches, crying, asking him to stop? You, that's who. What else? Okay. I'll tell you.

Who dirty dances with middle-aged women who stop their power walks to gawk at the drunk moron dancing to old Talking Heads calypso songs? Who pukes his gin so he can switch to beer? Who drinks cups of microwaved nacho cheese and burps up preservative heavy green pepper chunks? Then sticks them out on his tongue, amused at his digestive genius? Steve Fucking Giles, that's who.

Plus, you almost never cleaned that place. You had that nasty old green chair with burn holes and puke stains all over it, and you were proud of it, too, like a baby with a full diaper. You just threw all your trash on the floor, and it stacked up halfway to the ceiling. That is fucking horrible and you know it. That throw rug was glued to the floor, man. I bet it took a paint scraper to get that thing up after all the piss and beer that soaked that thing.

The worst thing about you was the spiders. Letting your tarantula crawl on your face ain't cool. You tried soooo hard to be weird and different. It was pathetic. I bet that thing hated you. Not to mention the purple spider living on the ceiling by the light bulb. Sure, I may have swatted the occasional june bug in there to watch the spider trap it and eat its brain, but you did it every single night. You really enjoyed it. Why don't you find a spider to fuck? You're not getting any chicks with a wardrobe you sewed together yourself. Slow down on the action figures and maybe you'll be able to afford some threads. Oh, and keep voting for Ralph Nader. Dipshit.

Keep getting drunk. Stay the same. I want your life to suck. I hope you hate yourself right now. I'll bet you never even learned to drive yet. One day I'll come back, point my finger, gloat, and say I told you so. Fucktard.

Eat shit,
John Tacopina
3:17 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Ultraviolet Incubator Part Three

I spent all afternoon zooming about the house looking for my scurrying love lizards. I used tongs to scoop them up, one by one. I placed them in an old terrarium my father had bought me five years before to contain abducted insects. I found six of the seven escapees in places like the kitchen sink, under the sofa, on the family room curtains, and behind the refrigerator.

I found the seventh in my mother's greenhouse. It wasn't the same pet that had escaped, however. Now its skin was oscillating between radiant gold and fluorescent magenta, and it had doubled in size. It sat upon a vine tomato in direct sunlight, and the sunbeam appeared to be causing the biochemical reaction under the creature's skin. While it glowed and grew, it nibbled on the tomato. Fast growth, fast digestion, fast defecation. From its little tapered butt it excreted a liquid silver poop that sizzled on the tomato's skin before burning a corrosive hole straight through it. As I watched, the silver defecation dripped upon the tomato's vine, severing the fruit from its hanging perch. The mauled tomato fell to the dirt with the salamander upon it. Alarmed, it squeaked a curse and scooted away.

I was smart enough to stay away from the silver poison and its maker. I enjoyed wearing skin, and therefore had no interest in risking melting mine away. I made the easy decision to kill the sun lizard and keep the others. Unfortunately, perhaps luckily, by the time I returned with a baseball bat, I could no longer find the little bastard.

One week later I learned he'd escaped the property.

By this time I had developed a tolerance to the bite of his siblings, and each time after creaming my pants and riding the buzz, I'd regain my bodily autonomy mere minutes afterwards. My fingers were damaged with constellations of tooth holes, and the wounds were closing more slowly than before. Some were beginning to infect, and I'd begun to wonder how I could get my pets to bite elsewhere on my body without letting them escape.

I'd hide my little adventures by locking my bedroom door. Mother was still distracted by grief, and she didn't pay much attention to my relative silence. When she wasn't moping around or watching soap operas, she'd be sitting at the garden window, staring into the distance, blank and empty.

I'd learned another way to hide my new addiction: I'd take my clothes off to prevent staining my shorts. Looking back, that wasn't necessary, as I was at the right age for puberty. I doubt she inspected my laundry anyways.

One night my mother and I were watching the evening news over dinner. On came a report about a mysterious affliction plaguing the wildlife in rural Virginia. Animals of all kinds were found dead, burned by a mysterious flesh melting acid. Three children had become infected upon touching a rabbit corpse in their backyard, and all were in the hospital on the brink of death. Quarantine measures had been taken, but the new disease was already spreading rapidly throughout the human population. Doctors described the highly contagious malady as a degenerative virus, a bioengineered ebola-leprosy hybrid. They claimed the new disease was man-made, not naturally evolved.

Revelation. I knew right away. Dad had been working on biological warfare for the government. My pets were a delivery system. Instead of the Black Plague, the Silver Plague. My father had been helping the government eat their enemies from the inside out, melting their kidneys and livers and intestines. Helping them wipe the face of their enemy clean off his skull.

I felt guilty. My father must have discovered the pleasure drug produced by the pre-mutation version of the little animals. He wanted to use it. Yet he hadn't been one for alcohol or tobacco. The only other reason to smuggle home the creatures would be... To reverse engineer an antidote?

As the weeks passed, people began dying all across the eastern seaboard. The contagion was spreading, and the cure was nowhere to be found. The media called it the Silver Streak.

I was in the front yard one day when the door across the street opened. Charlie, the middle aged widower who lived there, came limping out in a robe and slippers. His face was pink and red and missing important features. He was infected. He was beyond that even, he was in his final stages. He stumbled towards the street, hollering and choking.

"The gov'ment done this ta me! Bassards! I'm dyin'!"

Pancakes of sticky bleeding flesh fell from his legs and shoulders. The strain of the jerky movement loosened the weakened molecular bonds holding him together. He fell apart, chunks slipping away from bone. He finally died as a puddle in the middle of the street after tripping on his own dropped fingers. His flesh continued to liquefy, running in purple streams to the gutter. The ligaments connecting his bones lost their collective grip, and two minutes after Charlie had emerged from his front door, he was a gleaming pile of bones.

That was too much for me. I told my mother everything. She called Mr. Muller at the USNDU. He came to my home and took my pets away. (He didn't know about the fresh eggs I'd buried in an old flag.) A cure was soon announced, and although the damage could not be repaired, the virus could at least be halted in infected patients. When I went to get my immunization a few days later, I recognized the buzz right away. I came in my pants right there in the school gym.

11:25 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Dead Letter Shrapnel - Karol

Yay! It's time for another letter from from a dead guy.This time: Pope John Paul II. This one goes to some chap named Phillip. I don't know Phillip. He's a friend of a friend. All I know is he has a secret gay crush on some dude and considers himself a thinker. He doesn't have a job. I'm forwarding this to the girl who will send it. I have faith that she'll carry through with this devious assault.

Dear Phillip,

I'm writing to you today from beyond the majestic curtain of death. God is merciful in bestowing this divine honor upon you, and I am blessed to be God's Hand in ushering these urgent messages before your sinful eyes. You are doing your Polish ancestors, contemporaries, and your Christian brothers and sisters a great disservice with your desires, words, and actions.

When I was the holy figurehead of the one true church of Catholicism, you were one of millions among my flock of believers. Now that I have passed on, I may confess without sin a preference for my own countrymen, the Poles. I count you among them despite your citizenship in America. My death was long and slow and painful, but it served to honor God in that it banded together Catholics the world around, and focused the peoples' attention towards the Vatican. My death reminded them of the everlasting glory of God and his Son, Jesus. In no way at any time did I feel slighted by the fact that God saw fit to provide that vacant cunt Terry Schiavo with a more pimpin' feeding tube than I, and that he gave her diapers with higher absorbancy. Excrement just smears on pure white cotton. I really needed feminine products for that sort of thing. Sorry. I'm rambling. I'm not bitter. I love God. When I was dying I just thanked Christ that I wasn't drooling on my robes. Much.

Back to the subject. You, young Phillip. How can I continue to speak well of you before his holiness God when you covet the anuses of men? You have not yet wiggled a sphincter, so your soul still has a chance at eternal glory. I write now to tell you that you must stay such homoerotic desires, and turn instead to the flesh of women. You must marry and be true and ride bareback and have many glorious children, who must all be taught the way of our Church. Sex with men is not permitted under the rules of the Catholic Church unless he is 13 or younger. (Even Catholics can baptize, hee hee.) You want a full grown hairy man with a gruff voice. That does not qualify.

Your dedication to your faith is also challenged by your lack of labor. The grueling pains of a farmer are the best builder of faith, but in this modern world not all can dedicate their lives to growing food and thanking God for his infinite mercy each time it rains. Substitutes are plentiful and easily found, and if you are not a dedicated scholar actively using your education to spread the news of Jesus, you should be honoring your father with daily toil. By that I mean: Get a fucking job, you lazy leeching punk. Your daddy won't let you suckle from his milky nipples forever, and your friends will stop bumming you smokes and instead jab theirs out in your eyeballs. Trust me, back when I was rimming kids behind the organ in Warsaw, my fellow church buddies stopped giving me free fags after I stopped giving them sloppy seconds. So trust me, it's true.

I hope God doesn't read this. He knew I was gonna be Pope so he gave me a free pass. I guess all us Polocks were easy desperate targets so I was the only practical choice. But I know he wouldn't like me bragging about it.

Anyways, shape up if you want to stay Catholic. Stop thinking, start believing. Be nicer to friends. Especially the women. I'm praying for you. Go confess. You need it. Bad.

With grace and illumination,
Your former figurehead,

aka "Hot Karol" Wojtyla
4:30 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Ultraviolet Incubator Part Two

I carved up an egg carton and made a cushioned perch for the egg. I sat it upon the center of my father's desk and stared at it. It failed to speak, hatch, or explode. I needed a catalyst to crack the mystery. I decided to inspect the egg further for clues. No smell, apart from the earth under which it had resided for an undetermined length of time. No sound when shaken. The only marking upon it was the heavy brown speckling.

I wanted to turn to my missing father for inspiration, but he was absent and silent. I couldn't ask my mother for help. She'd likely take the egg, turn it over to the government, and forbid me to speak of it ever again. Nope, this baby was all mine.

I did what any student who'd hatched baby chicks in kindergarten would do: I put the egg in an incubator, following the included instructions to the letter. I hid this in my closet, the only evidence of its existence the power cable running from beneath the door.

For two weeks I watched the egg with fascinated captivation. It didn't twitch, shake, or crack during that period. Nothing. Despite this lack of activity, my enthusiasm never waned. Finally, on the 15th day, a tiny little claw poked a tiny little hole in the shell. As I watched, the shell broke open further. Seven creatures extracted themselves from the toasty container. All were small slimy little guys, like short snakes with legs. They were striped in brown and yellow and they blinked a lot. A whole family of the cutest things I'd ever seen, and they were mine.

As a fourteen year old, caution and prudence had no place in my vocabulary. I didn't stop to wonder why my father had hidden this egg at home. I didn't ask myself what the government was doing with nimble little amphibians. I just ripped the lid from the incubator and stuck in my hand.

They had teeth. Small, sharp teeth. One of the lizardly babies padded its way toward my hand. It took a quick sniff. Awww. The little fella was curious. When it sunk fangs into the skin of my index finger, I cried out and ripped my hand from the tank, shocked and dismayed. As I landed on my ass, I felt burning heat run up my arm. Fast. When it reached my brain, the pain in my finger went away, I had the first orgasm of my life, and I collapsed onto my back. Waves of pleasure massaged every nerve in my body. I was floating. What great pets.

I was also paralyzed. I discovered this when I tried to move my arm to reach into my shorts. No response from the left limb, none from the right. I was helpless. I didn't mind until the pleasure ebbed away. When the euphoria was gone, I lay there prone for an hour before bodily control began to return. It took me another hour to completely regain my motor skills.

My first thought was to have another go at the glandular sex sauce. I reached for the incubator, but it was toppled over, and the seven hatchlings had all escaped.

More? Maybe. Okay, probably.
3:24 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ultraviolet Incubator Part One

When my father was alive, he conducted secret experiments for the government. Growing up, I never really knew much about his line of work. I didn't become interested until he disappeared one day. I was 14 years old, and at the time, my father was just a distant bespectacled man who spent the weekends at home secluded in his study scribbling on a chalkboard. Occasionally he'd pat me on the head or mutter a succinct "Excellent" while feigning interest in the straight A's on my report card.

During the weekdays, I never saw him. After a few years of asking Mom where he was, I learned to stop asking. "Busy with work, honey. Daddy does important scientific work that takes lots of time." I grew accustomed to my father's perpetual weeklong absences, just as I got used his distracted inattentive presence on the weekends.

One weekend he didn't come home. My mother was tightlipped about this change in pattern. All weekend long she sat expressionless watching the garden window, clutching a telegram in her lap. It wasn't until years after she died that I found that telegram.

"Dear Regina Glenn,

We regret to inform you that your husband, Elmer Glenn, died on August 2nd, 1977, while under the employ of the United States National Defense Research Unit. Due to the sensitive nature of his work, we are unable to provide the details of his death. Please know that Elmer gave his life serving his country and that his sacrifice honors the freedom enjoyed by all citizens of the United States Of America.

Elmer was a gifted scientist. He was admired and respected by his peers at the USNDU, and his contributions will be sorely missed.

Please accept our sincere condolences. Financial arrangements will be made to secure the future of you and your son, Bernard.

Robert Muller
Vice President Of Special Projects Unit
USNDU Virginia"

The Monday following that weekend, men wearing expensive suits, holstered guns, and dark sunglasses visited the house. One whispered quietly with my mother while the others rifled through my father's study. They emptied file cabinets, bagged stray looseleaf paper, and inspected knicknacks decorating his desk. They even held napkins up to the light to look for indentations or stains. I'm not sure which. I spied on this from my bedroom down the hallway.

When they left, I asked Mom where the quiet men took Dad's things. "Hush honey, not now."

As the offspring of an inquisitive scientific genius, it was a natural progression for me to investigate the matter myself. As a teenager, it was a natural progression for me to poke around every nook and cranny in Dad's study to satiate my curiosity about the silent scribbling and muttering pondering that he had engaged in for so many weekends while I grew up. I also wondered if the polite ransackers had left behind something important.

It didn't take long for me to find the folded sheet slipped underneath the old daguerrotype photograph of my great-grandmother. I quickly unfolded it and read the brief scribbled note.

"Incubaspora Leprose 3 ft. at Cardinal"

Mother was an amateur botanist. Since I knew all the local fauna, I realized "Cardinal" must refer to a plant in the garden outside. I scrambled out there, hunched down, and began to dig. It didn't take me long to find the strange speckled egg wrapped in the old flag.

I'll finish this later. I'm leaving work now. I'll clickety clack up the next bit late in the afternoon tomorrow. Hopefully.
5:15 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, July 18, 2005

Fish Hook Sword

This is the second story about sudden death. While this one is not an intentional suicide like Rodney Ginter's, I think think the two tales go together nicely. I think I'll do a series of stories and call them collectively, "Suicide For Beginners."

No stolen pictures today, for a good reason. Any picture I could add to this story would be too damn ugly to look at. So you see, I have a notion of mercy, albeit vague.

Oh, and I haven't forgotten your letters. All in good time.

Tank never ate fish. His tastes were safely landlocked. Staples like sirloin burgers, ribeye steaks, chicken drumsticks, and pork tenderloins often graced the surface of his charcoal grill. "Meat should be red or white, not see-through. It should sit in your belly like a rock, not a feather."

When Tank was invited to a barbeque at a downtown Chicago highrise apartment with a spectacular balcony view, he quickly accepted the invitation. The barbeque was a social event of the finest kind. It presented an opportunity for Tank to dazzle the palates of his coworker's rich girlfriend. And her fancy frou frou friends. He'd show those folks a thing or two. Always a cooking crusader, Tank relished every opportunity to educate heathens unschooled in the art of cooking range animals. He considered himself a charcoal maestro, and would often arrange briquets in varying patterns to carefully distribute heat. Under his watchful eye, precise temperatures seared meat and boiled blood for exacting savory effects.

He arrived on the 16th floor with a bag of Kingsford and several stryofoam platters of meat. As he set himself to marinating and spicing, he looked around the expensive apartment. His quick survey yielded surprises: polished wood trim and tables, walls painted in subdued blues and reds, "Bless This Home" needlepoints, and the occasional antique farming implement hung from he walls. Rustic. Very American colonial. The home decor was unusually domestic suburban for such a posh location. This reassured Tank. His kind of people.

Tank stood at the counter inserting whole peppercorns into a pork tenderloin when the hostess approached.

"Hi! I'm Kathy Appletine. Welcome to my little suaree! You're Gary's friend from work, right?

"Yep! Tank Fenton, pleased ta meetcha. Gary talks about you all the time. Nice things, believe it or not. Thanks for having me over. I've been boasting to Gary all summer long about my grilling acumen. Finally I get to show it off. I consider myself an expert on the grill."

"I'm glad you decided to come."

"I like your place. It's pretty down to earth. I gotta admit, I didn't expect that."

"Why thank you! Make yourself at home. I see Gary already showed you to the kitchen. The bathroom is right over there, and the balcony is right through there."

"Duly noted. I brought some skirts steaks, peppers, cheese, and torillas for some tacos. I also got some tenderloins here. I figure I'll chunk 'em and stab 'em with toothpicks. Make a nice starter."

"Sounds delicious. Gary and I are doing fish. We've got salmon, swordfish, and tuna. I'm also doing red pepper bowls filled with smoked salmon and smoked gouda. They're fabulous. There's plenty of wine, too, so go ahead and pour yourself a glass."

Tank hated fish. Kathy's menu gave him pause. To his tastebuds, fish tasted like congealed latrine overflow. Despite his disdain, he decided he would nibble on the minimum polite portion. Maybe he could use some hot peppers to drown the tastes of mud and kelp. Then, of course, return to his taco gobbling marathon. Tacos laden with good old-fashioned red meat rendered from animals that blink and scream.

So he lied. "I heard swordfish is great with a glass of white wine. I can't wait!"

"We're all out on the balcony, come on out as soon as you're ready, Tank."

"Will do."

- - - - -

Tank leaned back in his deck chair and patted his stomach. His food had been well received by the gathered party. Gary had given him the thumbs up while chewing a mouthful of taco. If he couldn't wait to swallow before doling out the compliments, Tank must've succeeded. As he sipped from a glass of wine and enjoyed the murmur of conversation, Kathy walked up to him with a small plate.

"Everything was just delicious, Tank. Color me impressed. I see you haven't tasted my swordfish yet. So I brought you a little bit. Any advice on improving it would be very, very welcome."

Kathy stood expectantly beside Tank. Cringing inwardly, he accepted the dish and cut a portion of the pale meat with his fork. As he lifted it to his mouth, the pungeant briney aroma raped his nose, sending his stomach into churning dismay. With resigned determination, he shovelled the first bite into his maw and chewed.

Tank was in trouble. He felt as though fish were fucking and pooping on his tongue at the same time while flailing and hemmoraghing their wet stinky little guts. The swordfish tasted like thrice used denture cleanser mixed with garlic afterbirth.

He swallowed, unable to muffle the slight gag reflex. Kathy look alarmed, insulted, and horrified all at once.

"It's ehm, hurk, khaa,.. excuse me. Pretty damn good, I must say. I just -whew- swallowed down the wrong pipe. Hate when that happens. Gimme a sec to recover."

"You poor dear, here, let me fill your wine."

Kathy filled his glass and went back to sit next to Gary, her cheeks flushed and eyes cast down. Tank was a poor actor. The other guests looked at the hyperventilating, neck-squeezing Tank. Some held hostile expressions.

He thought the offending critter must've been pregnant with eggs when it was cooked. He was almost positive there'd been litte black peas of something speckled within the white carcass. Tank kept breathing, one careful and deep breath at a time. His stomach had not forgiven him, and soon the stabbing pains began attacking his organs.

"Tank?" It was Gary. "You don't look too hot. I think you might be having an allergic reaction."

Crimson splotches and bumps nudged Tank's skin from underneath, protruding and swelling with alarming rapidity. The population of swordfish pox quickly multiplied, polka dotting Tank from head to toe. His ears rung. His eyes dried. His stomach lurched. Torrents of bile lapped at the bottom of his esophagus.

"I... I... Excuse me."

Tank stood from his chair and stumbled towards the railing. He reached it, and up from his stomach exploded a wave barely-digested sludge. Through his mouth and nose the foamy chowder spurted as Tank cried and vomited. Shreds of wet tortilla and steak went over the railing, pinwheeling in the breeze on their way down to the sidewalk. Cheesey pepper followed, punctuated by fine wine. For three minutes Tank chucked. After the food, glistening strings of percolated bile flung out, splashing his sandalled toes when they didn't clear the porch edge. Even when he was completely empty, the heaves continued. He grew weaker. Finally the reflexive jolts subsided.

The other guests' reactions were as mixed as the stew emitted from Tank's gobble. Several had gone inside, hoping to prevent the spectacle from sparking a contagious puke party. Some stayed outside, not too close to Tank, but close enough to whisper words of encouragement. "Easy, Tank, just breathe."

Gary took the initiative and walked up behind Tank, patting and rubbing his back, speaking soothing repetetive encouragements.

Tank stopped. He would be okay. He clumsily fell back from the railing, barely maintaining his balance as he wobbled back.

"Huh. Glurk. I. Aaah. Okay. Mm okay."

"I'll get you some water, Tank. Just have a seat."

Tank sat hyperventilating, pawing at the slime around his mouth, continuing to break out in hives. He lasted there for about a minute.

"--nnnh! Oh!"

Tank's biology was back, and it was still angry. He cradled his stomach with both arms. Invisible skewers pierced his digestive tract once again. He lurched back to the railing. Clutching his stomach, he leaned hard on the rail as he heaved another blank. The momentum of the empty vomiting folded him in half over the top of the railing. At the same time, his sandals slipped in a patch of vomit that had caught the edge of the porch. Tank lost his traction. He went over the railing, following his spoiled dinner sixteen floors to the cement, where he added a few more ingredients to the tummy puddle.

Grill that up.
2:57 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, July 15, 2005

Suicide For Beginners

Rodney Ginter had been drinking peach schnapps for three straight days when he decided to commit suicide. His life was a rotten stew of pathetic experiences coagulated in a stryrofoam bowl. The recipe included teeth broken in bar fights, an ugly ex-girlfriend's hateful spittle, overalls stained by potato chip vomit, a mostly blank birth certificate, and hair shed during an early twenties receding hairline. Rodney was a lonely, ugly, dirty man, and he'd just lost his job.

For eleven years Rodney's life smelled like ripe diapers. He'd gotten evicted from his rented trailer three years ago due to spending all his income on alcohol, cigarettes, and fast food. Desperate for shelter, he snuck a key from the rack behind the counter at the local Motel 6. Ambrose, the deaf old codger who manned the counter, frequently needed to hobble off to the can to urge out dry little turds from his skinny ass. He'd leave the lobby unattended while working his bowels. On his second night homeless, Rodney tiptoed inside and snagged the key for room eight.

Ambrose never rented out room eight. A whore had been murdered in there ten years past. Her body had not been discovered for two weeks, and despite a halfhearted cleaning effort by the staff, stains and stink still permeated the walls. The furniture was all gone, and the maid no longer opened the door every morning to refresh the sheets and scrub the toilet. The room was forgotten, mostly.

It became Rodney's home. From work he scavenged the entire contents of his modest abode: On the floor lay an air mattress and a pillow. Atop a rickety card table sat a little lamp and an ashtray. The only other objects Rodney owned were a small television, an alarm clock radio, a can opener, a large garbage can, and a rusty bicycle leaning against the wall. He hung loose cardboard behind the curtains to prevent any telltale light from escaping. The room was shabby and dirty, but it was his.

Since the room was at the far end of the motel from the lobby, Rodney had little trouble sneaking out each morning to head for work. He'd mount his ten speed and pedal a mile each morning to the shoreline landfill. He'd worked there for eleven years compressing loose trash into managable cubes. It hadn't taken any fancy credentials to get accepted there. In fact, he was the only native citizen under the dump's employ.

Years of stench and monotony passed. Day after day Rodney raked the discarded flotsam from other people's happier lives into massive metal bins. Once full, he'd yank a lever and listen to the rumble of heavy motors. He grew accustomed to the song of piercing screeching when metal from car parts and rusty swingsets would twist and collapse under pressure from the mash plates. He got used to the tickling at his nose from the sweet fruity odor of decomposing food. He became apathetic towards the thick clouds of hungry insects that would flee the foul mounds of garbage during the compacting process. Rodney became numb to a life that stunk.

At the end of his shift one hot summer day, Rodney was threading his way through the garbage mounds towards the dump's office. Like every other day, he intended to take his cash pay to the bar, where he'd drown reality and his own sick odor under heavy splashes of whiskey and country music. As he approached the landfill office, a voice called out to him.

"Hey! Homes! Ju wanna play a game wit us?"

Three immigrant dump workers stood in a clearing amidst fresh arrivals of green trash bags, refrigerators, water heaters, and ruptured tires. One was holding a broken off toilet seat of the U-shaped variety.

"We playin shoes. Ten dollars a game, yo. Three pegs wins."

Rodney considered this for a moment. Ten yards beyond the Mexicans he saw a signpost driven into the dirt. On the ground next to the horseshoe players lay a pile of extra toilet seats.

"Sure, I s'pose."

Rodney lost thirty dollars flinging encrusted ass gaskets before he nearly won a round. When his third seat circled the post, it boomeranged off and fell to the ground, the tips of the front of the seat just inches from the signpost.

"I win! Haha-haa!"

"No way man, ju gotta keep it on the stick."

"Fuck you man, that fucking counts and you know it! Pay up!"

"No way, ju no get the shoe. Eet come off. Ees my turn now."

Rodney, flushed and enraged, charged Jesus and wrung his fists.

"Pay me or I'll break your goddamned face."

Jesus's pals, Hector and Jorge, quickly stepped forward and stood beside their threatened amigo.

"Three to one, homes, three to one. What ju gonna do, huh?"

Rodney wasn't just ugly, he was stupid, too. He lunged for Jesus, punching him dead center in the nose. Jesus fell, clutching his face as blood ran down his chin. Hector and Jorge jumped Rodney, quickly removing him from his feet. As Rodney lay on the ground covering his head and face with his arms, the standing assailants kicked him repeatedly in the ribs, cracking several. After a while they tired. They collected Jesus and went to the dump office to lodge a complaint.

Rodney was still curled up next to the pile of toilet seats when his supervisor walked to up him, expression stormy, posture stern, finger wagging.

"You drunk fuckin degenerate, I knew you was a sad case when you still worked here after five years, but I didn't know you was a violent mean son of a bitch, too. What in the blue fuck are you thinking tryin ta take on three spics all by yaself? You deserve every last bit a poundin they gave ya. Get yer dirty ass outta here, you sad fuckin sack. I pay 'em less'n half what I pay you. Get fucked, dumbshit. Yer fired Ginter!"

With that, Rodney Ginter hauled himself to his feet. He collected the scattered cash his former boss had flung at him in disgust. His final day's pay. Rodney moped away. After a quick visit to the liquor store, where he bought all the five dollar bottles of schnapps he could afford, he snuck into his Motel 6 home and set himself to serious drinking.

Three days later, drunk and soaked in vomit and urine, he rode his bike back to the landfill. His mind was made up: Suicide. He cleared a lane up to the center of a compactor. After he started the machine, he sat on his bicycle, waiting. The timing had to be just right. Rodney didn't want to crash into the compactor and lay there dazed, waiting to be crushed. He wanted to barely fit between the plates, his death immediate.

When the moment was perfect, he began peddling furiously. Crying and laughing, he plunged into the shrinking metal compartment. One minute later, Rodney and his bicycle were wet, red, and flat.
7:00 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dead Letter Shrapnel - Dale

You know the drill. Prank time. I'm sending letters from dead people to my friends. First batch goes out tomorrow. I have their actual mailing addresses now. This one goes to a coworker.

Return Address:
Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Jeremy ******
** ***** **
Schaumburg, IL *****

Dear Jeremy,

My big country heart is filled with joy when I see fellas like yourself takin a interest in NASCAR. We need more like you up there in the northern half of The United States Of America givin our racing sport its just due. From places like your home in Illinois we can spread the word about NASCAR like grits on a plate.

This fine sport has grown mighty popular over the years. When I first raced in the Winston Cup back in 1975, most folks was paying attention to Indy racing and never heard a damn thing about stock cars. In my humble opinion, it was downright silly for upstanding Americans to be laying all their adoration down before them funky I-talian pencil cars. I did every dang thing I could to promote the true patriotic automotive sport, NASCAR. I did it the whole time I was down there among y'all. Hell, my daddy done it, and now my son does it too. NASCAR was my life.

Some folks just don't see what you do. They don't see sleek high performance machines flyin like lightning across treacherous pavement. The danger don't strike their sense of awe. The rumble of revvin' engines don't sound like God's own thunder. The smells of exhaust and smokin rubber don't give em a nice buzz. They just don't get it. They don't feel the drama.

They just see brightly painted buckets o bolts zoomin in circles. They think we're a buncha chaw-chewin yokels in dirty underwear trying to drown ourselves in cheap beer and motor oil. They say we're slack-jawed good ole boys livin without the benefit or runnin water and 'lectricity. Hell, they prolly think we're still eatin' squirrels.

You and I know that ain't so. We got glory runnin in our blood, and we share a love for the greatest sport ever to grace this fine earth. I may have died in a ball of burnin gasoline and shredded steel, but I would not change a cotton pickin thing. I would not trade a single moment of my life in NASCAR.

So keep on enjoying the race. Keep on telling folks how great this is. Keep on rootin' for my boy, #8 in the Budweiser car.

Pedal to the metal good buddy.

Your pal,

P.S. Jeff Gordon really is a faggot. God told me so.
12:55 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Rainbow Syringe Gallery

Even the nice neighborhoods in Chicago can be ugly, dangerous places. Last Sunday I went to the beach at Lawrence Avenue. While I managed to escape from persistent mango salesmen, drunken spatula wavers, children with leaky diapers, and glass shards protruding from the imported sand, I was not able to escape from a roving band of backalley doctors in dirty lab coats abducting healthy specimens for experiments with mysterious compounds.

With Chicago policemen blocking off the few streets and parking lots east of Lake Shore Drive, I didn't give a second thought to safety and security. I thought the largest risk posed to my health would be stray frisbees and floating turds escaped from lazy bovine middle-aged women with stretchable one-piece bathing suits. Little did I know that angry Hungarians toting corroded syringes and Powerade bottles of chloroform would be slinking about public recreational areas trying to seize unsuspecting swimmers for genetic manipulation.

I was wading through waist deep greenish water, enjoying the bikini girls and the sounds of splashing and laughter. I'd arrived later than my sizable cadre of friends, and they were taking a break from swimming to char burgers and sausages under the shade about a half mile from the crowded beach. So I was alone in the water apart from the throngs of strangers paddling about babbling excitedly in Spanish and Polish. I dug my toes into the sand and let myself fall backward into the lazy tide, allowing the water to carry me around at physics' whim. The air was warm and the sun was strong, and I could feel my skin converting the ultraviolet light, shading my skin to bronzer tones. Life was perfect.

When strong arms sezied me by the shoulders and a dirty rag was clamped over my mouth and nose, I thrashed about, trying to see what strange public assault had caused my day to be ruined. Unable to emit a single sound, I struggled for a few more seconds until black fuzzy fireworks overflowed the light, forcing sight and consciousness from me.

I can only assume they used the old sheepish drunk friend trick. "Sorry about our friend, he had too much drinky drinky, you know? We take him home, he sleep it off, nice and fresh for work tomorrow, eh? Haha!" They got me out of there somehow.

I awoke in an ambulance, my memory clouded and my lungs burning. I was strapped tightly to a gurney. The buckles dug into my legs and chest, scraping skin from me when I tried to move.

"Good morning!"

The voice came from an ugly, greasy man with a thick Eastern European accent and a bulbous nose. Joy radiated from his smile. Sadism lit his eyes.

"You will have fun today, my young American friend. Nice and strong you are! Your mother must have fed you good when you were a little beet! Better for us!"

The comedian rubbed his nipples, eliciting laughter from the other crude Hungarian mercenaries. He was pleased with his maternal humor and the buffonish cackling of the other gorillas in the vehicle.

"Today we try something new, yes! You are in for a special treat!"

More laughter.

"Open your eyes, boy. This will only hurt a lot."

I squeezed them shut. Meaty fingers pried them open, scraping my eyes with filthy ragged fingernails in the process. With a dropper one of the imposter doctors dripped three drops of a clear solution into each eye. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt at all. I exhaled. I'd been holding my breath. I relaxed for a moment. Then came the needles. Those did hurt. They stabbed serums into me all over my body. The mystery fluids came in many colors, from grey milk to green foam to blue ooze to thin red syrup. They jabbed these into the soft pads of my feet, the arteries in my neck, the meat of my ass, and between my ribs. My heart sped up faster than should have been possible, my ventricles fluttering like hummingbird wings. I dry heaved, my stomach flopping like a fish on a sharpened stick. My legs clenched, cramps sending agonzing jolts up and down my nerves. I cried out.

"Hush, my sweet prince. We finish now."

With that, a savage blow to the head. I woke up in a lawn chair on the beach a mile away from my friends. The sun was setting. I'd been gone for hours. I looked myself over, poring over every inch of skin my eyes could reach. Tiny red welts like flea bites dotted my skin where deep bruises radiated waves of aching pain to my brain. I felt exhausted and pounded.

I walked wearily up the beach back to my friends' circle. They laid about watching the sunset, belching and farting amidst scattered beer cans and styrofoam plates.

"Where the fuck have you been, Steve? We thought you took off without saying goodbye again. You meet yourself a cute little chickadee and go for a walk?"

"You got it."

I swiped a beer from the cooler and collapsed into a lawn chair. I managed to fake a smile and accepted the hooting congratulations of my crowing friends.

I wondered what I'd be when I woke up on Monday. Still human and healthy, hopefully. It's Tuesday now. Apart from some pleasant tingling during urination and some odd dreams about hovering and lightning, nothing weird. Still, I know some secretive cabal is out there is observing me, and they're waiting for my biological metamorphosis to occur. I might even get superpowers.

At least, that's what I like to think. If they wanted to spread diseases, why not just inject people right there on the beach and take off running? No, that can't be.

I'm special now. Yup.
4:05 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Dead Letter Shrapnel - Tupac

This is the third letter. I was chatting with Michelle on Sunday night when I hatched this idea, so I promised her a letter from anybody she wanted. She chose Tupac. So this is the third personalized letter.

Return Address:
Tupac Shakur
Heaven Got A Ghetto

Michelle ********
***** ********** **
Arlington Heights, IL *****


Tupac here, straight up. I know you think it's whack gettin a letter from a dead thug, but it ain't, trust me. Everything in this life has a purpose. Even weird shit in the mail like this. I gotta holla at ya. I got a whole new perspective from chillin here beyond the grave for nine mothafuckin years. After those bustas shot me five times in 94, I told the whole world real niggaz don't die. Now I know that shit ain't true. Now I know that life is precious. That's why I gotta lay it out for ya.

Don't get me wrong. I'm proud of my life. I was a boss playa, fuckin bitches, blazin shit, livin life raw. Thug passion was my way. But that shit ain't for just anybody. And before I was up on that, I was learning ballet and performing in theatre. No bullshit, baby. I know both sides of the tracks. And if I had any little children, any little Tupacs, I woulda rasied em right.

We need more folks like you helpin sheperd those young ones on the right path to choose in life. I know you school little babies and shit at the daycare, and that's good, cause you gotta start em young. You gotta teach they ass to study hard and obey they parents. You gotta teach em love and compassion, not playa hatin, ballin, and gettin over. Nurture that shit. Steer them away from the life of an outlaw.

Now I know you're a skinny pale ass little white ho, but I gotta say DAMN! Bitch you fine as hell. If I was still rollin, I'd be all up in that ass all across ya crib. If not, I'd be writin you some dirty ass letters like this one from Clinton Correctional Facilites. If the police peeped me cappin Stretch Walker. They didn't though, cuz they can't see me.

Even if you decide to give up on those children, I want you know I ain't mad at ya. You already made a big difference out there. So keep ya head up. Go get yours, if that be the case.

Mad love to you baby.

Picture me rollin,
10:32 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, July 11, 2005

Dead Letter Shrapnel - Bob

This is the second in the series of secret letters I'm writing from dead people to my friends. Noah lives with Patrick, so hopefully these will show up on the same day. Yes, this is the same Noah famous for shitting in the sink at JoyBlue.

I tried to keep the Jamaican accent flourishes to minimum, but there are some. Sorry. It was necessary. Hopefully this is still readable. I managed to restrain myself from taking the H out of hospital.

Return Address:
Bob Marley
Jah's Divine Garden

Noah *******
**** * ******* *** **
Chicago, IL *****

Noah my friend,

Time has come and I write to share wit you some mystical connections we be sharin. Now I know you listen to my music. Lotta people been helped, healed, and guided by the sounds of Rastafari. You no different. But wit you, there's more. I tell ya in a pinch. First, I gotta tell you why.

I'm dead. You know dat. My assassins couldn't kill me wit a gun in 1976. My oppressors couldn't kill me wit hate through my whole life. But I got that mean old cancer, and he done me in come May 1981. Right around when you was born. I left the dirty Babylon and made me exodus to Jah's heaven, where I rest today.

The day Jah welcomed me, I was laid out in a Miami hospital. I tried to go home to Jamaica, but I never made it. So from there in Flordia I passed through the still waters to my spirit home. When the light shone and Jah took me in his arms, he whispered a few words.

"One day you must send a message. Another comes after you. Your soul twin. You must guide him. Later. Now, ascend with me. Welcome, my son. Enter my kingdom."

So I did.

Now I be jammin every day on clouds of ganja smoke, happy as a dreadlock in sunshine. I sing, dance, and rejoice. Some of them Tosh boys come up here to play backup. The kingdom is a great holy place, and the rewards of a Rasta life lived well are wit me forever. I be clean and smilin.

This morning Jah come visit me for a mighty big spliff, like he do every mornin. And he say the time be now.

He say, "Robert Nesta Marley, the time is now for you to send the message of hope, peace, and guidance. The time is now for you to send the message to your holy soul twin, the man I told you about on the day you came to Jah. Let me tell you about Noah *******."

So he did.

I learned all about you, and we gotta lot in common, we do. You and your darling Vicki love to smoke ganja and go play frisbee golf on Sunday mornin. I used to smoke ganja and go play football on Sundays. You call it soccer. I know from TV dat America has their own football game. I'm a big Green Bay Packers fan. Didja know that I got a toe injury from soccer, and that I never fixed it right up? It infected and I got cancer from it three years later. That's why I never lived past 36. Jah's will.

I also learned that you do buyin for a livin. Purchasing be the fancy word. I know a ting or two about buyin. Well, at least I did, until we started the Rasta religion and grew crop ourselves. You might be buying bulk gizmos and gadgets, but I'll bet you know a ting or two about getting good deals on them bright greens. Keep on smokin young man. Enlightenment be findin you soon now.

I know life may seem hard sometimes, and dat things get you down some days. I know how it be. I grew up in Trenchtown. Be strong. You gotta lotta joy to spread yet in Babylon, so you stay livin down there. One day you'll find your message, and a great prophet you will be. Jah's will.

Be good my soul brother. Let the Ragga and Rasta be your guides.

One love,
4:27 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Dead Letter Shrapnel - Kurt

I have decided to write and mail letters from dead people to my friends. They are not aware that I have decided to embark upon this mischievous quest. Unfortunately, they'll figure it out rather quickly. Hopefully they'll join in and suggest new victims.

In some cases, the dead people will be deceased rock stars. In some cases, historical figures. In others, random folks I find on the obituary page. My former roomie is a big Nirvana fan, so he gets the first one. I have a book of really pleasant floral stamps I'm using to mail these.

Return Address:
Kurt Cobain

Patrick *******
**** * ******* *** *** **
Chicago, IL *****

Dear Patrick,

Hey. It's me. Kurt. I'm sitting here in heaven strumming a Danelectro Hodad guitar. It's a weird one. When Krist and I used to get drunk, I'd play his drums while he played this. We sounded awful. It was great. Anyways, I'm just dead and relaxing. Retirement is very pleasant. No sales numbers, tour squabbles, or video shoots. Still, heaven isn't quite what I expected. Instead of fluffy clouds and angels with halos, it's more like a long street full of coffeeshops. People huddle in dim cozy rooms with torn furniture, rocking chairs, and old pianos. They play checkers, listen to music, and recite mediocre poetry. It's a lot like Seattle, except it never rains.

I miss being alive. A little. But mostly not. The thing I like best is there's no pressure here. People are just "Hey Kurt" instead of "Kurt, Floyd The Barber changed my life" or "Negative Creep is me exactly!" or "Kurt, I'm gonna be just like you one day!" So it's a lot smoother here in heaven. I guess.

The reason I'm writing is a little complicated. You see, we can watch living people from up here. You're all on our televisions. If we want. Not only can I snoop in on your life, but I can watch what you see, too. I know it's gonna sound weird, but I like hanging out in your front room. I like all the plants, cats, and sunlight. It reminds me of my grandmother's house, but in a good way.

Even though I'm dead, I still sit around all lethargic and mopey. I guess it's just my personality. Kind of like you, except you're social and cheerful. I guess not like you at all really. Anyhow. The point I was gonna make was that I like watching horror movies with you. Even the bad ones. Sitting there smoking a pipe and sinking into your couch is nice and sleepy.

I'll tell you a secret. When I'm watching them with you, sometimes I pretend I'm the guy with the chainsaw, and the dumb kid getting chased is Courtney. You know? I wanted to bring her with me. A shotgun has two barrels you know. But I had to leave somebody to take care of Frances Bean, and that coked up whore I married was the only one to do it. She is the mother, so I guess I made an okay choice. Maybe. We'll see.

I never watch Courtney from up here. I hate that cunt. But my dear Frances I love so much. I wish I could say hello to her, but they've got pretty strict rules up here, believe it or not. No haunting family.

Most of the time I just haunt strangers. I don't do any of that spooky bullshit like making your air cold or rattling your windows. I just hang out, watch movies, and pretend I'm stoned on heroin. I never really wanted to be famous. Hanging out in your joint makes me feel kinda regular. Like a normal guy. Which I like.

So thanks man. Have a great life. I'll be around. You just won't know it. But I will be.

Keep rockin, fuckin, and screamin.

Your friend,

11:58 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, July 08, 2005

Galactic Bio-Electrical Chemistry

Dear Steve,

It's been a long time! Since we last spoke, I got a job in Seattle beta testing video games, caught pneumonia, accidentally burned down three McDonald's, got married to a hippie girl, got arrested for trespassing, got divorced, and moved to a trailer park in New Mexico to contemplate my place in the universe.

That's where I am now. I'm writing for three reasons. The first? I decided to write to forgive you for the way our friendship ended. I'm sure you remember telling me "Call me when you've had your fiber" and "Everybody else only needs one day to celebrate his birthday, why are you so special?" I was an uptight, angry guy back then, and I took everything far too seriously. Sure, you were an asshole, but who else would help me move back to my mom's house after my suicide attempt? You didn't flinch when you walked into my filthy Chicago apartment and saw the dark blood stained on the mattress and the walls. You didn't laugh (too much) when I shit my pants after you and your other friends goaded me into drinking all that gin during that game of spades in your garage.

The second reason I'm writing is to kickstart our friendship. I'm going to return to film school, and I'd like to start a correspondence with you. You're not as good as I am at dissecting films or understanding directors, but you always had a weird take on films that helped me see them from a different perspective. In addition to my technical work and short film directing, I could use your help with the comedic aspects of scripting. You always had something sick, deviant, or bizarre to say, and I need to inject an added element of absurdity into my screenplays. I'm trying to go for something like David Lynch, but I need more than strangeness for its own sake. I want my weirdness to be funny and revolting at the same time. That's you exactly. Would you mind if I sent something your way for suggestions? I would appreciate it. My vulgarity is depressingly pedestrian.

The third reason is the meteor. It crashed about six miles away from my trailer. It was about two in the morning on a Tuesday night. June 21st, to be specific. Everybody else in this park was drunk, fucking, or dead at the time. I was outside staring at the sky, like usual.

At first I thought it was just another shooting star. It wasn't until the arc of descent angled sharply earthwards that I realized it was plunging straight for the ground, seemingly right at me. I could see the fire around it, and when it reached the horizon, it landed with a low rumbling "THOOOOMSH!" sound. I hopped in my VW bus and made straight for it.

The crater was pretty big for a rock so small. The meteorite lying in the center was still glowing hot, but not the usual reddish color. It was a strange blue light that oscillated from it in pulses. I didn't want to touch it and burn myself or catch space flu or cancer or anything, so I went and got some water and a tarp. I poured the water on it. It didn't steam. I guess it had cooled. It was still glowing blue. Next I rolled it into the tarp and brought the malformed chunk back here. It's out back next to my grill. I've been tempted to crack it open several times, but prudence holds me back. I don't want to be the guy that released space AIDS spores into our atmosphere.

I just thought you might be interested to hear about this. You were always the whackjob going off about evil extraterrestrials. I never took you too seriously, thinking you were putting us on, but sometimes you did seem halfway serious about it. I'm curious what you'd make of this. It's a tad strange.

Anyways, I hope to hear from you soon, and I hope all is well.

Jim Fawler


Dear Jim,

It's great hearing from you! I'm glad to hear that you've had a lot of excitement and done plenty of travelling up and down the west coast. I must admit I'm jealous. I've switched from working for a big corporation (Compaq/HP) to working for a small company in Schaumburg that does touchscreen restaurant registers and closed circuit cameras. I'm still single and I live on the edge of Chicago in River Grove, which is sandwiched between Elmwood Park and Franklin Park. I still spend a lot of time drinking to excess, often in public. I started writing again and I've forayed into fiction recently. I'll send you a few favorites of mine. I'm sure you'll enjoy my stories. They're right up your alley.

I'm sorry about the way our friendship ended. Thanks for forgiving me. What can I say, I've always been selfish. I'm glad you tracked me down and sent me a letter, and furthermore, I'd love to take a crack at your scripts. Send one or two along and I'll do my best to make them meaner.

As for the meteor, I have good and bad news. The good news is that you're probably not in danger of radiation poisoning or space flu. I believe the meteor is merely a vessel, and that if you were to crack it open, inside you'd find a glowing blue orb. The orb contains a chemical not found on our planet. I've found cracked open meteors in a dumpster behind some restaurants near my house. In the same garbage are empty orbs that fit exactly inside the center hollows of the meteors. I've seen the translucent blue residue lining the inside of the empty orbs. Also in the trash, strangely, are dozens of used hypodermic needles, all of which look slightly melted. More on the meteors, orbs, and needles later.

The bad news is the reason it was dropped to the earth. There's an army of extraterrestrials disguised as humans here on earth. They use this stuff in conjunction with brain chemicals they extract from captive humans. Different emotions create different flavors. They capture us and tinker with our perceptions to produce different emotions, and hence, different extractable fluids and electrical impulses.

They monitor us with remote devices, radios of a sort that tune into emotions instead of broadcast frequencies. When they find a person with they right mental makeup, they kidnap the vulnerable victim and spirit him or her off to their hideout. There they hook their machines into the brain, using certain nodes and lobes for input, others for extraction. They combine whatever they extract with the blue chemical, creating a potent injectable. (I think, based on the needles) I'm not sure if the end products are different flavors of galactic heroin of if they are used for something else completely, like medicine or fuel. They might even use the stuff on people. I don't know. I'm still investigating that.

I've been procrastinating on assaulting two local restaurants here in River Grove that are both closed on Mondays. I believe they're making their blue combo serum weekly in the adjacent basements of those facilities. I've been a tad cowardly and haven't gone in yet.

I will soon. I need to know what's happening. I want to see their machines. I must learn how widespread their presence is, and whether they pose a longterm threat to our species. Plus, you know me. I want to try that blue stuff, if it is, in fact, a drug. I'll try anything twice. My motto.

The fact that they're hiding and being sneaky gives me hope, because it follows that they don't have the power to subjugate an angry and aware human population. As for your situation, I'm guessing that they miscalculated a trajectory, or some butterfly wings altered conditions, and one of those suckers got flung the wrong way and happened to land in your patch of desert. I'm not sure if it has a transmitter or not. Maybe you should bury it. I don't know. I'm going to attack these aliens locally. If I survive, I'll tell you all about the blue goo.

Great to hear from you, Jim.

Be good,
8:10 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Can Of Corn

Break time. Lighthearted fare impending. I'm not trying very hard today, so this might bore you stupid. Fair warning.

I've been a Cubs fan my whole life. I grew up watching players such as Ryne Sandberg, Shawon Dunston, and Leon Durham. I heard Harry Carry mumble through foreign names and splash his Budweiser on the microphone. I collected and traded baseball cards. Fast forward.

The statue of Harry outside Wrigley Field. Kinda creepy, if you ask me.

I watched, shocked, as the Marlins stole the National League Championship Series two years ago. I saw the promise of the 2004 season degenerate via injury, apathy, and malaise. I've watched the current season seesaw up and down. Down right now. Through it all I've always treasured the pastoral splendor of the holy triumvirate: baseball, beer, and peanuts.

Over the past five years, I've been to Wrigley Field about twenty times. I've hollered until my throat was dry and raw. I've seen home runs and wild pitches and even a few stolen bases. Wrigley has long been my favorite outing on a summer day.

Midway through the 2005 season, my baseball fandom is changing a bit. I've become a White Sox bandwagon jumper. Before you heckle me with midnight conjured voodoo hexes, let me explain.

I've always jokingly referred to White Sox fans in derogatory terms. I may have uttered cracks about toothless air conditioning repairmen and tattooed white trash on occasion. I've certainly grumbled about their inferiority complex. So many of them are more interested in slamming the Cubs and their fans than actually rooting for their own damn team. I looked down on the Sox.

One of two White Sox fans who, cranked up on speed and whiskey, charged the field and violently assaulted Tom Gamboa, a Kansas City Royals base coach. This was two or three years ago. The two fans were father and son.

My opinion was mixed after attending opening day at U.S. Comiskular Field two years ago. Afterwards I thought better of the fans but not of the stadium or the team. It was a rainy day and the game was delayed for three hours. I drank in a neighborhood southside bar. Despite my Cubs garmentry, the locals were friendly, polite, and even bought me a beer or two.

U.S. Cellular Field from overhead, formerly known as New Comiskey Park.

The park was soggy and the game was boring. I was annoyed by the scoreboard prompting me to cheer. Fans shouldn't need cues. I hated the chants for the players.

"JOSE, jose JOSE jose!" (set to the Ole! soccer song)

Annoying as shit shrapnel. I vowed never to return. My assumptions and judgements were upheld. Fast forward.

The White Sox are great this year. Even better than the hated St. Louis Cardinals. They no longer have annoying strikeout victims saturating their lineup, guys like Jose Valentin and Carlos Lee. General manager Kenny Williams traded for speed and contact, and the results are astounding. The White Sox are a fun team to watch.

I sat in center field last Monday.

I went to the Sox-Rays game on the 4th of July. Another rain delay, this one a mere two hours. Free White Sox towels were awarded to people who filled out credit card applications. I took advantage, and my seat was kept dry. A grand total of 18 runs scored during the game, and three or four home runs were hit. (I nearly caught the Jermaine Dye grand slam in the first) I scarfed curly fires, pizza, and italian beef. Whenever Nick Green from the Devil Rays came to bat, the organist played songs like Green Onions, Green Eyed Lady, and Little Green Bag. Subtle inside jokes for fans of oldies music. I'm not sure why they played Living Dead Girl for Joe Crede. Maybe he has rockabilly groupies.

I was a happy camper. When the game was nearly concluded, I snuck around from center field to first base. I could see Dewan Brazelton's nosehairs. A nearby horde of hecklers shouted "Brazeltov!" whenever he wound up for a throw. When the White Sox won 10-8, Mark Buerhle snapped up a microphone and urged everyone to vote for Scott Podsednik for the All-Star Game. I actually did that. Not as many times as I voted for Derrek Lee last week, but a few times. He won last night, beating out two very popular Yankees.

After Mark finished his speech, the lights went out and the fireworks began. I've never seen fireworks set to music before, and it was pretty damn neat. I could've done without "Proud To Be An American." I hate that patriotic bullshit song about dead soldiers and god. The classical stuff, however, was tremendous.

When I departed, I walked right past the red line train and took a short stroll through the empty ghetto to the green line train, which was empty and comfortable. I got home around two in the morning, tired and happy.

Last night, I decided to watch the White Sox instead of the Cubs. The Cubs have lost six straight and eventually were rained out yesterday, but that doesn't matter. It's the decision. I picked the Sox over the Cubs. And I like The Cell better than Wrigley. And their announcers are better. Shit. I'm kind of embarrassed.
2:41 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Accidental Taxidermist Part Three

The branding line reached its end. I counted thirty-seven raccoons. Each one had singed a mark on my left torso. I was now a tapestry of blister calligraphy. As I felt the juices of my body well under the charred skin bubbles, I began crying silently.

What grievous torture would I endure next? By what process would these awful creatures render my bones apart? Perhaps another rock would fall, and my end would be unconscious dismemberment. Perhaps they would eat me alive, teasing my intestines out like tree roots. Maybe they would tear my extremities and vulnerabilities from me first: eyes, penis, ears, tongue.

Slow death was imminent. My scrotum contracted. My fingers trembled. My throat dried. I could think only of sharp little teeth. Hundreds of them, scraping away my skin in matchstick strips.

Their talkative chief barked and several coons circled my head, out of vision. I felt paws in my hair. Teeth on my scalp. They began tugging. My hair came out in tangled clumps. My scalp was nibbled raw. My head was soon a ruptured mess, a skinless fruit lying in a puddle.

I could no longer hold my voice. I began to scream, cursing giving way to begging. The bloodthirsty beasts bean to cheer and laugh in yippy bursts.

Unbeknowst to the rabid devouring scavengers, their twittering cacophony masked the agile hopping approach of another mammalian army. Into the chamber bounced a single squirrel, a scout delivering a message. To the dirt it dropped a skinless chunk of ginger root, a gauntlet thrown, a declaration of war.

The raccoons screeched. They abondoned my desecrated body and made to charge for the lone squirrel standing in the entrance. Before they could attack, hundreds of squirrels poured in behind him, launching and leaping at the aggravated raccoons with gleeful hatred.

Raccoons swiped at squirrels, biting their tails, beating their heads. Squirrels wrapped themselves around coon heads, blinding them while others sunk their acorn sharpened buck teeth into exposed paws. Animals from both groups fell into the firepit, sending keening cries to the echoing walls. Blood and fur struggled throughout the room. The primal battle was a clash of size versus numbers, raccoons versus squirrels.

The squirrels were intelligent, too. Recognizing a potential ally, several set to work gnawing the twine that held me tight to the earth. As more and more lines snapped, I added my effort. Soon I was free. And I was angry.

I rose to my feet and set myself to violence. I kicked at surprised raccoons, sending them head first into the walls. I grabbed them by their mangy collars and held their faces to the fire, igniting the dark rings of fur circling their evil eyes. I bashed them with rocks, breaking them open, spilling their brains and guts. I wrenched their jaws apart, ripping their dirty mouths open forever.

When I saw the leader of the raccoons batting away squirrels with dismissive ease, I lunged for him. I grabbed him by the neck scruff and howled at him. I think his eyes glowed with shock and fear. I might have imagined that, but I doubt it.

He chewed into my hand, but I would not let him free. I wanted his death. I wanted his life. I slammed him to the rocks, snapping his weak little mammal spine. I sunk my teeth into his brown furry belly, and clenching my jaws with all my might, I tore. He emitted a choked crying bark. The song of his agony summoned raccoons from all about the room. They shot towards me, desperate to protect their fallen commander. As they nipped at my blisters and clawed at my pulpy scalp, I reached in once again with my mouth. Again and again I seized his guts with my teeth and pulled them out, spitting them by the mouthful into the fire. Tangled ropes of intestine and unidentifiable clusters of organs crackled and fried on the fire.

I had broken the will of the ambush raccoons. The squirrel rout was on. The coon horde fled their burrows as pissed off gangs of battle squirrels chased them up through holes in the ground and out into the fields. One last squirrel stopped before wagging his tail in thanks, and off he went. I was alone. And hungry.

I ate most of the cheif coon. He had a lot of good meat inside him, and although it was a bit gamey, slivers of the ginger gauntlet accentuated the wild taste quite nicely. I was careful not to damage the outside of the corpse. I wanted to keep him.

Before leaving, I used the fire to ignite the intricate jungle gym of branches the raccoons had used to scoot about their hideout. Even if the dirt wouldn't burn, I could at least destroy their construction efforts and leave the smell of smoke to mingle with the decay of spilled blood. I tore down the shrine of human bones and skulls and scattered them across the floor.

As the little fires burned throughout the den, I made my departure. It took me a while to find a good place to crawl up and out of the ground, but I did. I laid in the grass under the moonlight next to my big dead raccoon skin for a while. I was thrilled to be alive, mangled or not.

After a while, I got up and went home. I had a long day to look forward to the next day. I needed to go shopping for a taxidermist and a toupee.
12:01 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Accidental Taxidermist Part Two

Raccoons breathe like babies, high and soft. Their little panting breaths popped the bubbles of saliva left by their eager tongues.

I flinched, squirmed, and bucked. The raccoons backed away. I could not raise my arms to protect my face or inspect my wound. I was bound, pinned by a crosshatched weave of fine twine tied around gnawed stick stakes. The stakes were planted in a rectangle around my bruised body.

Peripheral vision revealed a dirt cavern lit through a hole at the apex, no doubt the same hole I tumbled down. A haphazard grid of twigs and sticks were woven into the walls, some protruding, others lashed to those. On the dirt floor sat thirty or forty raccoons in small groups, families sharing an evening social in the community center. Many wore little bamboo hats. They chattered in yips, grunts, paw claps, and tail thwacks.

They formed a loose ring around me. I was the topic of discussion. When you're tied to the ground in an underground chamber by an army of intelligent scavenger animals, their human-like behavior is not cute. The chin-rubbing ponderous thoughtful meditation does not reassure. The hateful glare of urine-colored eyes does not fascinate. I wanted out. I wanted a hot shower. I wanted a band-aid. I wanted a salami sub with bannana peppers and spicy mustard. Pronto. I wanted reality.

Instead of straining at all the strings at once, I began to wriggle and pull gently at those binding my right arm, hoping to buy some slack. Punishment was immediate and painful. A massive raccoon, likely the leader, seized my index finger and stabbed underneath my nail with his claw.

"Gah! Fuck! Ow! Stop that, you furry fuck!"

Unintelligible chatter babbled from all around. The fat fuzzy sadist barked, quieting the assembled tribe. He gestured towards a dark passage I had not noticed during my initial glancing survey. Four raccoons bounded up a rickety twig trellis and into a high tunnel. The rest remained around me. They peered intently at the skyhole.

I did the same. Gazing through the hole, I wondered what sort of ill-conceived radioactive laboratory mishap had spawned these angry mutant coons. I wondered how many people had been captured by them. They obviously had practice. I wondered why they'd lured and trapped me. Was I to be food, clothing, or fertilizer? Worse?

I was looking up at hole when the light began to dim. The fading light betrayed the dying of the evening. I considered my options for escape. I had nothing to work with, yet. As frustration set in and I began to panic, the eclipse began. The hole above was closing, the dim light obscured, inch by wobbly inch. I decided I did not like the raccoons' false eclipse. Darkness was my enemy.

Then, the hole fell. They'd pushed a large rock over and through the hole. I shut my eyes. It was all I could do. It struck my right temple. Blackness again.

I awoke in another chamber, tied again to the floor. Most of my shirt had been removed, leaving only a t-shirt collar with loose scraps trailing away. The glow of fire lit a wall of human bones and skulls, lashed together with human hair.

A procession of raccoons used nimble paws to poke sticks into a pit of glowing embers. One by one, they marched up to me and stabbed at my side with hot glowing tips. Their weak jabs did not break my skin, but they branded a constellation of blisters up and down my ribcage. Throughout the ceremony I remained mostly silent, panting, grinding my teeth, trying to find a weakness in their twine restraints.

I began to realize that I would not escape.

Conclusion tomorrow. I'm too busy to run the last lap on this tale today. Sorry. Again.
12:45 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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