Friday, September 30, 2005
Gilroy's Afternoon Hallucination
I almost knocked that nun clean off her bicycle. If I'd hit her, her old pudding body would've splashed out of her habit. Her holy vessel would've sprung a leak. Or two. Hell, she'd smear across all three lanes. It didn't happen, though. So I get to laugh. What's black, white, red, and silent?
What was she thinking? Everybody knows it's dumb to ride a bicycle on the main streets during rush hour. She took the idiot concept to a higher level. That old leathercrotch took her ten speed out on the highway. The highway! She shot across three lanes of screaming semi trailers to the concrete median. I didn't see anybody in the breakdown lane, and even if somebody did need help, what could she offer? Nothing. There's no way that old crone could change a tire without osteoporosis reducing her bones to rubberbands the first time she tried to crank the jack.
She's religious and old. Possibly senile. Something set her off. Broke her mind, snapped her sanity. Had to. It's certainly no stretch of logic to imagine she was kneeling, praying to one sideshow Saint or another when she was suddenly visited by a holy presence. It could be that Lucifer himself appeared in a cloud of red smoke and ejaculated blood all over her favorite stained glass depiction of the three wise men. I know I'd soil my diapers if that happened to me.
It could've affected her fragile psyche. What if he touched her there? That could've been the trigger. I was driving too fast to see if she was screaming, laughing, or riding with her eyes squeezed shut. I thought nuns weren't supposed to commit suicide. Right? Maybe she quit.
Maybe it was something nicer, something sweet. Even God. If he gave her The Sight, maybe she could see invisible things. Maybe the highway is full of lost children, choking their soft children's coughs with each whistle of gasoline exhaust that scrapes down their young throats to stain their pink lungs. Maybe they're already dead, accident victims, lost wandering souls, and she wants to lead them to Jesus. What better way to meet car crash ghosts than to get pureed by the front grill of my crappy Detroit four door?
I don't care why she did that. Don't care what caused her problem. I still have payments on this thing. I can't afford to have my insurance premium rise. I hope somebody else mangles her. On a motorcycle. That would be cool.
I'm not going to let this strange experience bother me. It's daytime, and my headlights are off. 5:37 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Dear Eric Muehlhausen,
Do you remember Wildcatter? Those old computers sure managed to entertain the hell out of us. It didn’t matter that cyan, magenta, black, and white were the only colors they could pull off, clumsy pixel by clumsy pixel. Drilling for imaginary Texas oil on ancient buzzing computers drove my lifestyle until I hit puberty. That and preposterous heavy metal songs by cartoon men with frizzy perms. Same as you. I know.
I was considered a smart kid. You know, the one who could skip all the homework and still ace the test to pass the class. My teachers adored me. Unfortunately, I was (and am) a lazy shit who thought he could coast through with minimal effort and still reap all the rewards. It wasn’t until I leeched onto politics that I realized life is a cruel bitch. Dad always told me life ain’t fair. I had to learn that myself. This was years after I last saw you.
You knew better. I don’t know if that came from your parents’ teaching, their genetics, or was something you knew by instinct. I suspect it was a combination of all three. When I dropped out of high school to smoke pot and rebel gloriously, you kept on, skipping grades, teaching yourself Cobal and C++, torching the so-called competition. You worked hard. You loved it. I could tell.
Last I heard, after you made Eagle Scout, you joined the prestigous Illinois Math & Science Academy. At the time, I was probably taking my first sip of hard liquor. After your dad got into his first motorcycle accident, he talked to my father. He told my dad you moved to Japan, married a Chinese girl, and now you work for Motorola, busting programmers’ balls for incompetent coding. I’m proud of you.
I did okay for a lazy shithead, I guess. While the rest of our class was graduating on schedule, I was an arrogant dropout accepting a job with Digital Equipment Corporation as a shipping clerk. I got promoted within a year to facility supervisor. There I was, working for a global computer company, 18 years old, doing a job that had absolutely nothing to do with computers. Go figure. I kinda lost the thread after DOS died and operating systems evolved to graphic interfaces. I loathed Windows 95 when it got big. I was always more comfortable with hexidecimal and text computing. I certainly never caught up to you, and I never will now. I’m okay with that.
That job didn’t change much during the five years I spent there, but the company name sure did. Digital got swallowed up by Compaq, which then got swallowed up by Hewlett Packard. I was a contractor, and the company I worked for, a facility company out of Pittsburgh called Affiliated Building Services, got bought by Enron. Yes, that Enron. The criminal energy vampire bastards that raped the retirement accounts of a hell of a lot of folks. When that scandal went down, ABS managed to separate from Enron. Supposedly we were merely partnered under the Enron name umbrella, but not really one of their cogs. We didn’t get liquidated. I remember getting letters from Kenneth Lay encouraging me to buy stock. I never invested my complimentary stock options. I wasn’t 21 yet. Lucky me. I still have the option certificates.
Now I work for a little company in Schaumburg, our hometown. I fix restaurant registers and order closed circuit cameras. We’re informal, very family oriented. I like it here, even if I am perpetually broke.
I finally learned to drive when I was 22. I moved out from under my folks roof the same year. I ended up going back a little more than a year afterwards, right after I left Hewlett Packard. Being back under my folks roof was rough. I was attacked by fleas. Dad was attacked by unemployment. And prevailing alcoholism. You knew he was a drunk, right? We all got evicted. We all split up. It was ugly. Now I live with a roommate in River Grove, right on the edge of Chicago, next to O’Hare Airport.
I’m starting to find myself, finally. I love writing. So that’s what I’m doing. At first it was easy, but lately it’s been frustrating. I like that frustration. That challenge. I know now that anything that comes easy is cheap crap. Sometimes I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall, leaving skin and eyebrow where I impact red brick. When that happens, I step back, take a deep breath, and write a letter to somebody I haven’t seen in years. To put words out. Therapy.
Hello, Eric. What’s new with you?
Steve Giles 9:46 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Seeking Bulldozer Rentals
Elgin, Illinois was designed by moonshine addled muskrat poachers. The urban architecture, that is to say, the layout of the streets, is a bucketful of dumb. An assload of stupid. Those primitive jello-brained mammal rapists laid these streets out like a drunken spiderweb.
I like triangles. I like serrated knives. I like panel siding. Jagged edges are useful and often fun. This statement does not apply to urban planning. I don't like seven intersections in a trapezoid that sport stoplights timed to cause gridlock, forcing frustrated seniors to abandon their vehicles and hobble to the riverboat to gamble away their pensions before hurling themselves overboard into the murk to sink like illegally dumped garbage bags to the bottom of that polluted river. If I wanted to go fishing for spare dentures, I'd cast a line there.
This busy little hilly conglomeration of suburban fuck has single lanes on most streets. The avenues and boulevards crest up and down over hills, curbless. They're jammed with single file cars far beyond the horizon. Great chunks have been shattered from the pavement by rickety freight trucks with imbalanced cargo. During rain, these holes fill up with water, and in the few places traffic is light, the desperate zooming cars shoot tidal waves into the oncoming lanes. I had my window cracked as I drove, and one such wave broke on my face.
When, inevitably, you become lost, the local rubes gurgling ketchup at a McDonald's nested within a gas station will give directions that betray the contents of their skulls as pudding.
"Excuse me miss, which way is St. Charles Road?"
"I uh... It's uh..." She was looking around, hapless and confused, when a booming voice assaulted me from behind. I turned to look. Holy shit. Strom Thurmond is back. They resurrected him, and now he's a salesman for 7-UP.
"St. Charles Road? Shore, shore, thass rot ovuh theyuh young man."
"Um, you're pointing at the sky. I don't have a plane. Which way?"
"Jess drive yonda down Spring Avenue, take a rot by the Sunoco, an when ya see the yella house, drive between the pines in the front yaad. Go through the living room, over the back porch, down throo that ol culvert, and whip snap daddy, you dere."
"Fuck you. Fuck you very much, and fuck your backwards little fuckpit. I hope the undercooked frogs your wife is cooking for dinner have gangrene. I hope you get cancer."
"Dang. Sufferin succotash."
"Eat my fuck."
I'm going to arson school this fall. 4:29 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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No Paper This Time
The Britain based e-zine Unholy Biscuit has accepted Praying For Ammonia for their next issue. I'm on a roll!Tuesday, September 27, 2005
I've completed two reviews over at my new site. Last week I reviewed a short story from StoryQuarterly 40. Last night, an essay on ballet from The Southern Review. Shoot Straight. 9:02 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Here's two from last December. I'll have new content soon. (I hope.)Thursday, September 22, 2005
Vile Creatures 12-13-04
I hate most pets. A friend has a ferret and a cat that was, until recently, a kitten.
First, ferrets. They smell awful. I think of it as shit musk. If you boiled some cologne in a dead monkey's ass, added flour for coagulation, distilled the flour back out after three years of storage on a restaurant foodwarming tray, mixed that with jalapeno corn dog diarrhea, and finally sprayed it from an old Aquanet hairspray can, you would have the equivalent of what a ferret smells like.
Now for cats. Even I am susceptible to cute kitten adoration syndrome, but I am not fooled by this display. I know that they grow up to knock over beverages, scratch up couches, and claw your sleeping eyeballs open when they are hungry. My friend's cat likes me, so it keeps trying to cuddle or use my head for a napkin. I keep knocking the damn thing away. Not violently, but forcefully. The little bastard thinks it's a game now. I cannot win with this cat. If I had a bottle of ferret spray I bet I could chase it away quickly.
Now for the worst abomination, which thankfully this friend does not own. Dogs. I cringe when I see people play licky smoochy with their dogs. That tongue was licking its own asshole right before it licked your nose. I know you can smell it. You're probably used to it because dogs have horrid breath anyways. That comes from gnawing dehydrated bones, chewing on squirrel corpses, and licking their own assholes. In that order. Don't get me started on the drooling, the shedding hair, the genealogical pathology for attention, or the barking at insects.
I once had a tarantula. It ate and shit crickets only in the dark. I had long hair at the time and my neighbor got tired of untangling it from my ponytail when I let it crawl on my head and face, and my mother was terrified of it, but it's an ideal pet. That and fish. The spider sheds infrequently, and unlike hairshedding mammals, it sheds in one piece. It only makes messes in your terrarium. (Because only a madman would allow it to roam freely. It could get lost!)
Did I say fish are okay, too? Yep, I did. Other acceptable forms of vanity lifeform ownership include: small lizards (not igunanas they are shit geysers), small rodents (caged!), and electronic Japanese pet simulators.
I don't like children either.
Fondue Le Fontanel 12/28/04
I found myself at the supermarket the other day.
Who eats headcheese? This is the fruitcake of organ meats. As far as I can tell, brains and guts are mushed together into blocks and sliced as a deli meat for elderly people. Go ahead, replace your cheese on crackers with brain putty spread on toasted ligament chips. Tell me how it tastes.
For all I know it could be a delicacy on par with caviar. I've heard that most caviar tastes like mold or mud, and rich people gobble that up.
I'm considering starting a business/community service. The service? I would round up all the homeless winos and scrape them off. All the layers of dead skin, alley grime, caked vodka vomit, and shavable scruff would all be removed, gently of course. The business? Mashing all that crap together into blocks, and selling it at the deli. The meat slicers might get caught on the occasional fingernail trimming, but the outrageous price I would charge for this carefully cultivated gourmet cut would offset the costs of an occasional slicer breakdown. I proudly present: Hobo Scrape.
If you are among the poor who cannot afford such a luxury as hobo scrape, you can make your own. Go to the supermarket and look for the Salvation Army santa ringing the bell outside. Brain him with a heavy object. Peel his santa outfit off. Gently scrape him off with a butter knife, paying special care and attention to the feet, particularly underneath the toenails.
Repeat as necessary. It may take several assaults before you have a cupful. Take this mixture to the produce section. Hold it under the moisture sprayers that keep the lettuce dewy. Three spritzes should be sufficient. Grab some potatoes and butter. Run like hell to the 10 items or less line. Fight your way ahead of the blue-haired old lady reading the National Enquirer article about Princess Di's last crap in a toilet. Go home, studiously avoiding the ambulance treating the naked santa out front. Shred potatoes into a hash browns like substance, and butter fry all of it together. The poignant taste of the scrape should inform the blank culinary canvas of the potatoes, providing you a cheap yet plentiful taste of the high life. Add foot cream for a smoother texture. Goes well with Cabernet Sauvignons or Pinot Grigios.
If I succeed and become a food product magnate, my second nutritious gift to mankind will be placenta pancakes. Abortion doesn't have to be wasteful, nor does miscarriage. Why let all the vitamins and minerals from that third trimester midnight pickles and ice cream binge go wasted? Just imagine umbilical jerky! Pickled in garlic! Stem cell salad! I promise not to hurt any dolphins. 11:03 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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I've been writing horrible nasty things lately. No redeeming characteristics whatsoever. Gleefully. Shame on me.
Here's more, this time over at the Handsomes:
Unabashedly Sophomoric 5:21 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Alleyway Ribcage Rumble
For Travis and Mustafa.
I puked up one last wave of tequila.
“Hey. Over here shithead.”
I wiped away the slick yellow strands hanging from my mouth and looked up to the voice.
“How’d you like to lose a few teeth, alkie?”
He cracked his knuckles. His lip curled upwards.
“Um… uh… who are you?”
“I live in this neighborhood. Planning on staying, too. I’m disgusted by fucks like you comin around here, gettin fucked up, makin this place a dirty cesspool. I own property here. This is a nice place. Or was, at least. Before this honkeytonk shithole here opened and creeps like you started wandering up from the west side to drink cheap beer, drive plastered, and sell illegal drugs.”
I tried to focus on him, but my eyes insisted on looking in different directions, so the mean voice remained a pair of bright blurs dancing before me.
“Uh… I’m so duh… der… drunk. An’ sick too. I don’t want trouble. Got enough as it is.”
“Well, you got plenty a trouble now.”
“Listen. Mister. I’m real sorry. I was just leavin anyhow. I won’t come back.”
“That so, alkie?”
“Yeah. I promise.”
I hiccuped, retched, heaved a blank, then wobbled my way back upright. I loped towards the angry man, hoping to weave past him and get the hell out of Dodge. Of course, it would never be that easy.
He stopped me with a hand to the chest and shoved me back into the alley. I stumbled and fell, landing assfirst in my own puddle of Cuervo. My vision cleared up. The guy was built, ugly, and younger than I am.
“Listen, I’m real sorry. Real sorry.” Slurring.
“Sorry ain’t gonna cut the mustard, scumfuck. Somebody’s gotta clean up this neighborhood, and that might as well be me. I gotta start somewhere, and that might as well be you. You’re gonna regret comin round here, boy. Regret it real bad.”
Crewcut was spoiling for a fight. A character like him didn’t give a tin fuck about property values or morals. All bullshit, for sure. The guy was a walking talking cliché. He just wanted to talk and dance as an appetizer before his violent eruption, his gorilla catharsis. I suppose he figured an easy target like me would be a good way to vent some steam.
Thing is, I just looked like an easy target, kneeling there alone, puking and moaning. Truth is, I’m a demon. In the ring, on the mat, in an alley, drunk or sober. I may be a short guy. And so what if I’m almost over the hill and starting to go bald. I still got it. Now, I don’t like fighting for its own sake. I consider myself a good guy. I used to fight for sport, or to stick up for my friends, but never to bully.
But if this hard-on wanted trouble, he’d found it. I gave him once last chance, though I already knew the inevitable would happen.
“I’m leavin, guy. Obviously I don’t belong here.”
“Like hell you’re leaving. Not till I’m done with you.”
“Okay, you know what? Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, Crewcut.”
“Crewcut? You got a pair a balls, ya drunk fuckface. Oh yeah. I’ll give you that. I’m gonna mash you into paste.”
He rushed me and swung. My drunken instinct took over, and instead of dodging and jabbing him smack on the jaw, I rocked backwards from his swing, and as I felt my balance give way, I swiped at his outstreted arm and grabbed hold. I fell and he came down with me.
That macho asshole looked awfully surprised when my knee flew out between the two of us. As I landed on my back, bouncing my skull from the pavement a little, he landed on my kneecap, impacting him at the bottom of his ribcage.
Based on the sound he choked forth as the wind rushed from his lungs, I got him pretty good. He flopped off me and landed flat on his back. This time it was his turn to end up in my puke.
I stood up weaving and looked at Mr. Tough Shit writhing on the ground. He was clutching himself, grinding his teeth, and muttering profanities. He look pissed off. A bit green, too.
“Want some more?”
“You fucking shit you- you broke my ribs. God damn it. You little…”
“You fucked with the wrong guy this time around, didncha? Got you good.” I laughed.
He panted. I wondered if I’d snapped off the sharp little bone pointing down from the center of his ribs. If I had, that little arrowhead would prance through his guts like a gingerbread scalpel. He’d be shitting blood in no time.
I laughed again. Adrenaline jolted my queasy guts and this time I didn’t fire a blank. I retched so hard I swear that muck came clear up from my intestines. Thick brown acid gumbo broke on his chest and neck, some splashing and speckling his face, some rolling off his shirt leaving gravy trails where it slid off.
“Whew. Eat that.”
Vindicated, drunk, and rubbed down in puke and gravel, I stumbled my way home. My wife was gonna be pissed off, but I didn’t mind.
I was a winner. 11:11 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Shoot Straight You Bastards!
I started another blog to post reviews. As my creative outlet, reviews don't belong on this particular page. Since I'm trying to get my stuff published, I'm reading a lot of genre magazines and literary journals. Hopefully this review site is worthwhile and not some crackheaded ignorant version of a literary review. The URL is storykiller.blogspot.com. Here's a hot link:
Shoot Straight You Bastards!
In other news, I'll be posting a fight scene story tomorrow. Stay tuned, and thanks for your continued patronage.
-Steve 3:08 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Drop Ceiling Cemetary
"Steve, call me back. It's the President. I really need your help."
The voice was a droll Midwestern growl. It was my boss, not the guy on perpetual vacation in Texas.
I had planned a leisurely day of rosemary triscuits, smoked gouda, and cheap beer, but these idle pursuits were violently cancelled when I heeded his beseeching cry for assistance.
"Randy is slower than turtle shit in wintertime, and he just bugged out. I think he has a diarrhea problem. You'll go finish his job. Stay put for now. I'll bring you a bevy of implements, only those you'll require."
"Yes sir." I waited, pissed off.
He arrived at my home in the cab of an F250, a masculine pickup truck with the engine of a vanity aircraft ensconed within its armageddon proof titanium shell. From its weathered bed he withdrew the entire contents of his garage: ladders, drills, wheel saws, hand tools, and maybe even a jackhammer. I conveyed these items into my midsize four door, cramping it with all manner of sharp edges and blunt knobs. I felt like a Halliburton contractor without the paycheck.
It didn't take me long to reach the restaurant at Harlem & Cermak. A ramshackle strip mall was scattered around the edgs of a parking lot. Walgreens customers scavenged about, fighting for the few remaining shopping carts that hobos had deemed too shoddy for a lifetime of possesions.
A monument was erected in the center of the parking lot: a lone spike with eight automobiles impaled upon it. It appeared to suggest something negative and humorous about cars with its piercing violation of their undercarriages. Certainly passengers riding by on busses smile upon this tower, smug in their economic wisdom. A futile dream flickered across my consciousness, that this monument was only the first statement, that every night cars would be immolated then pounded to scrap right here in this lot. I never liked cars, even mine.
I waltzed into the restaurant with the accumulated collection from my boss's garage weighing me down, straps digging grooves into my shoulders and fingers, blades and screwdrivers gouging my ribcage. With a wheeze I let it all fall to the floor. I stood straight, planted my hands upon my hips, and bellowed to the Mexican fast food laborers:
"Hark! I have arrived upon thy shores. Forthwith I shall endeavor to resurrect thy failing magic devices, so that ye may ring up McCorpsePatties with nary an ill electronic chirp, so that ye may squirt thy mustard guns with fervent loinbursting joy, so that thy corporate masters will trouble thee with whips no longer. Forevermore ye shall pollute the arteries of bovine pickle perverts. I proceed presently. Amen."
They glanced among themselves, bewildered and unsure, slightly afraid, frequently blinking. In their eyes I read their collective response. "Who the fuck is this guy?" and "Are we safe from harm?" and "Minimum wage for this?" I took this in stride, and with pomp and gusto I began my toil. I arranged computers, registers, credit card machines, printers, and monitors. All went swimmingly until it came time to run a cable from the front counter to the back drive-thru booth.
This task entailed a foray above the chalky drop ceiling. After scaling a ladder and popping open a tile, I continued my ascent until I stood upon the apex of my six foot ladder. My flashlight revealed nothing but fiberglass insulation that wove around heating ducts and wooden beams. I tied my cable to a broomstick and heaved it javelin style through the dark space towards the cash booth.
I noticed the smell right away when I climbed up above the booth. It was animal feces, sweetened by age, dehydrated by the absorbent insultation until it had dried into dust. Forced to beat the insulation away with my arms to clear the cable's path, the shit dust breathed forth from the fiberglass, settling into my hair and upon my face. It crept through my mouth, down my throat, and into my lungs. The filth moistened where sweat ran down my wrists and face. The dampened poo became a dark grey goo.
I won't dignify those particular moments with further descriptives, for I wish to keep this afternoon's barbeque lunch within my confines. Instead I will skip ahead to the bathroom, where afterwards I performed a convulsing dance. I washed my skin to the best of my ability, flapped the scum from my shirt, and sneezed several rapid fire staccato bursts to clear my nose. I held back vomit. Barely.
I found the store owner. "I think mice have been fucking and shitting in your ceiling. There's an awful mess above the back booth." This was a very unprofessional way to express myself, but I was compelled to share the roiling filth with its proprietor.
She laughed. She fucking laughed. "We haven't got any mice, but some pigeons got trapped and died up there a few years ago. We found twelve skeletons, but we had them removed. That was while back. We just found three more corpses last week during this current remodelling project." She smiled like a kid with a new bike. "Wow! Neato! Super-Duper!" her grin said. I would say her shit-eating grin, but it was me eating shit that day.
Well, not shit, not exactly. Certainly some of the floating powder was pigeon crap, but some was fiberglass puffs and shards. Most of it, probably the sweet-tasting part, was a mixture of dry crumbled bird flesh and dusty feather strands. When the pigeons died, their bacteria ridden corpses had liquified onto the tiles and into the insulation, where it dried and began to swirl when the air changed temperature. Seasons passed and the foulness multiplied as it waited for my arrival.
I'm getting overtime pay for that. 4:32 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Penny Dreadful Part Three
“What are you gonna do if a nickel shoots me in the stomach, Clay?”
“That ain’t gonna happen.”
“But what if it does? That’s why you brought me, right? To stand real close.”
“I said it ain’t gonna happen, shrimp.”
From the horizon a mighty whistle blew, masking the constant chirp of woodland sparrows. Clay stood on the railroad ties laying coins on both rails. His line of coins grew in size on one rail, dimes closest to the engine’s approach, quarters furthest from. On the opposite rail he built a stack from the bottom up: quarter, nickel, penny, dime.
“Why’d you do that, Clay?"
“That one’s special. Four together. I’m gonna keep it for me.”
“I want one, too!”
“Not enough time. Here comes the train! I’m gonna hide in those weeds. You stay there.”
Clay retreated to a patch of weeds beyond the edge of the gravel. Gregory stood six feet from the edge of the wooden ties and gazed up the rails to the approaching train. Even in daylight he could see beams of light spraying from the engine’s big single headlight. He looked at the coins arrayed before him. The stretching and flattening of coins failed to excite him as greatly as the notion of firing a gun. He was impatient for the train to roar past and perform its strongman magic. He clenched his fists and held his breath.
On came the train. The chug of massive wheel trucks huffed and puffed, cycles of thunder eating the silence. The procession shot by Gregory, velocity blending boxcar panels together, a streaking tapestry of rust and yellow, of gunmetal grey and florescent graffiti.
Under the roar rang a high sharp sound: SSPING!
Gregory felt a hot knife burn through his pocket and across his hip. Shocked and dumbfounded, he sat hard on the gravel. He reached and looked down at himself at the same moment, and as his hand and eyes landed on his left pocket, he saw blood seep from the ripped shorts, staining a thin line across his side. It didn’t hurt yet, but between the blood and pounding noise, Gregory began to cry anyways.
“Clay, I’m hit! It got me! I’m bleedin! Help! I’m gonna die! But I’m gonna get grounded first! Oh jeez….
Gregory thought perhaps Clay couldn’t hear him over the passing train racket. He discovered he could move and craned his head to the weeds behind him. Clay was not rushing forth to help Gregory. Nor was he crouching, peeking through the weeds, greedily awaiting his bounty. He was lying flat on his back, two hands to his throat, little waterfalls of red trickling from between his chubby little fingers.
Gregory hoisted himself up and scrambled to the weeds. A caboose marked the end of the train, and the freight escaped south, leaving a shocking quiet for Gregory and Clay.
“Clay, oh my god! What happened? Did it get you too?
"Move your hands, I can’t see it. We need band-aids Clay, maybe even stitches. My mom is gonna kill me.
"Come on Clay. Clay?”
Clay’s eyes bulged. He hitched for each breath, wet noises thickening with each stabbing intake of air. As the sound began to resemble a straw in a nearly empty cup, Clay began to roll and buck. He loosened his double-palmed clutch and tried to speak.
“Ulgk! In… mby… droat.”
After the words, which sounded both wet and dry at once, a great wave of blood gurgled forth from Clay’s mouth, washing his entire face red. It even got in his hair. As his drowning commenced, blood bubbles grew from his gaping mouth, where they met with smaller bubbles from his nostrils. Then all would pop and start anew.
“Oh no! No no no! I gotta get help! What do I do?”
Gregory paced, jumped, and squeezed his meager wound all at once, freaking out and totally bewildered. Terrified, too.
Clay still struggled with his neck. A puddle grew under his head. He waved from side to side in it, a jackhammer seesaw in the blood. As his lungs filled up, he began to convulse more violently. Desperate for air, he let go of his throat, his arms waving wildly about pawing at nonexistent wisps.
From a nickel wide diagonal slit in his exposed throat, air began to rush in and out, a sprinkler farting wet raspberry rain with merry immaturity. Clay sat up and then stood, wobbly and unbalanced, his eyes nearing explosion. He looked for Gregory and reached out to him. Gregory stood still, out of reach, looking dumb.
Clay’s eyes rolled up. He pitched forward, dead. Blood kept leaking.
Gregory looked at Clay’s facedown corpse. Under the skin at the back of the neck, he could see the sharp edge of a coin pushing out, stretching the skin nearly to breaking point. The penny had stopped there after ricocheting off the spine.
Gregory thought about his parents. 8:15 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Penny Dreadful Part Two
Gregory never got the chance to duck his promise, if he even considered it. At the bell’s ring, Clay rose and raced from the classroom. As soon as Gregory walked out, Clay grabbed him by the ear.
“You’re mine now, shrimp. This is gonna be fun. Don’t worry, I ain’t gonna hurt you.”
Gregory wasn’t sure what he dreaded more: Clay’s mischievous games or the punishment he’d get when he finally managed to escape home.
They walked down Church Street to the forest and Clay led the way to his so-called fort. It was nothing more than scrap wood nailed to a few close set trees, enclosing a small roofless room. Inside Clay had displayed his mastery of feng shui by adorning the rotting plywood with animal corpses. They were nailed to the wall according to Clay’s careful categorization: squirrels, beavers, and rats on one wall, fish and frogs on the opposite. The fish and frogs had decomposed to bone and cartilege. The mammal corpses had dried stiff, the blood now black, the fur missing clumps where birds had visited to forage for nesting material. The smell in the enclosure was rather unpleasant.
“How did you catch all these?”
“BB gun. I stole it from Benny. I got sick of shooting cans and bottles. Animals are better. They bleed and shake when you shoot em. If you play along with my idea I’ll let you try.”
Gregory was fascinated by the display. His parents’ gruesome admonishments often visited him at night, both before and after he fell asleep. Seeing blood and death pinned to the wall in small helpless packages, he felt an inkling of freedom. Why fear the dangerous world when he could be the danger?
“You like it? Really?
“You got anything like this?”
“No way. My parents won’t even take me fishing. They make me read Mother Goose and go to church. I never get to do anything fun. But at least I’m safe.”
“Safe shmafe. You stick with me and I’ll show you the coolest shit, shrimp.”
“I don’t know, Clay. What do you wanna do, anyways?”
“Ever play over by the train tracks?”
“What do you think?”
“Don’t get snotty with me or I’ll pound you.”
Clay reached into the pocket of his grimy lure vest and fished out a plastic baggy full of loose change. He held it aloft and winked at Gregory.
“We’re gonna smush these flatter.”
“Because, dumbass. I’m gonna sell em at school and get rich. I’ll tell everybody I had Superman squeeze em in his butt. Those dumbells’ll think they’re neater than a fart in church.”
“How are we gonna smush em, Clay?”
“The trains, ‘member?”
“Why do you need me?”
“I’m gonna put em on the tracks when the train is coming. You’re gonna stand real close and watch where they go if the wheels send em flyin.”
“Isn’t that dangerous? My parents wouldn’t want me doing that.”
“Are you gonna do everything you parents say? Don’t be a candyass. I told you I’d show you how to have fun. When we’re done I’ll give you ten BBs and let you shoot at anything you want with my air rifle. Trust me.”
“I guess so. Sounds okay.”
“Of course it is. C’mon, let’s go.”
Conclusion tomorrow. 6:33 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Penny Dreadful Part One
Little Gregory knew not to play on the railroad tracks. His folks had always had a macabre streak, and were not above using fearsome grotesqueries to hammer home important lessons.
“Gregory, never talk to strangers. Especially strangers offering candy. They’ll try to steal you into their cars with promises of candy, and then they’ll take you to their castles, tie you up, and let their pet bats nibble your eyes out.”
“Gregory, you must always, and I mean always, look both ways before crossing the street. If you don’t, a giant truck will drive right over you, spreading you all over the pavement like jelly on toast, and I’ll never know what happened. You don’t want to make your poor mother cry, do you? Wondering where you went, not knowing that she’s walking over you every Thursday on her way to the post office.”
“Gregory, you better be home in time for supper. The only folks out during dinnertime are nasty monsters with no families. Werewolves that’ll eat the meat right off your legs, right down to the bones. Vampires that’ll peel every last inch of skin off your body until you’re all pink and wet. How will you hold your fork with blood seeping out from between your fingers? A boy needs dinner to keep his skin on, young man. You be here. Or else.”
For the longest time, Gregory was a terrified and obedient boy, a well behaved kid with bulging eyes. This earned him daily mockery from his peers, adventurous children who shot squirrels and broke windows.
Like many such children, Gregory was thoroughly gullible and easily bullied. When the first day of third grade began one late summer morning, Gregory suffered a great misfortune. He was assigned to sit next to Clay.
Clay was taller than Gregory, and louder, too. He was the most frequent recipient of ruler spankings from Miss Criss, usually for uttering ill-conceived insults about Miss Criss’s ample posterior at a volume Clay thought could only be heard by his classmates. Other times he was punished for yanking hair, shooting spitballs, and farting with gleeful enthusiasm. He was a natural born buffoon with a bully’s tendency for cruelty.
Recess arrived on the first day.
"Hey shrimp! Yer parents squeeze you in a bottle at night to keep you small, or were you just born little?
"Everybody is born little, Clay."
"Shut up! I know that! You just never got bigger. I could throw you like a football."
Gregory walked off to the swingset. Clay followed.
"Hey shrimp, wanna see my fort? I got dead squirrels."
"What, you got other friends to play with?"
"No. I have to go straight home after school."
"I need some help today. I'm gonna try something."
"I'll get in trouble. I can't."
"Oh yes you are. If you don't, I'm gonna rub sand in your eyes. You ain't got no choice."
"I really can't. I'm sorry."
When Gregory swang forward, Clay grabbed the seat and held it. Gregory fell backwards off the swing, striking his head against the hard ground under the set where the sand was thin. His eyes watered. He tried not to cry. Clay straddled him, scooped up some sand, and held it over Gregory. He pulled Gregory's jaw open and held his handful of grit over it.
"Change your mind. Say yes. Say yes or I'm gonna feed you lunch right now."
Gregory gave a slight meek nod.
"Don't shit out on me, shrimp, or it's gonna be long year for you."
Gregory knew it would be a long year anyways. He wondered what awful mischeif Clay had planned for the afternoon activity. He dreaded the end of the schoolday. 12:17 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Dead Letter Shrapnel - Sid
Good afternoon, heathens and degenerates. (I say that with affection.) As most of you are aware, I've mailed out several letters from dead people in heaven to earthbound souls such as ourselves. You know, as a prank. This one is the 1st I've written from the fiery pits o' hell.
Hell (9th circle)
**** * ******* **
Hoffman Estates, IL *****
Listen up yeh daft knobby bird. I’m not doin’ this twice. See, I’m deader than the stink off the Queenie’s panties, but I still gotta write some wee cunt still breathing to give her some kinda fookin’ spiritual learnin’. I ‘spose thass you then. What shite. I gotta have dope, see, even down here in the fiery pits o’ hell, so here I am with a fookin’ feather quill writin’ this gob down so ol’ two horns’ll gimme my fix. So fuck him and fuck yez too.
Roit, roit. So what’m I gonna say to yeh? Oh roit, I know. This’ll do. Here goes another steamin’ pile. Eat this up, lassie, and take it to heart.
Why’re yeh listenin’ to them leechin’ bastards done ripped off me sound? Just cuz I wuz a mean shite with a crap attitude and scads of good luck (for a time) don’t mean I’m fair game for every nancy little rich suburban tommyboy with dodgy hair and clean tattoos. Tell them fookers to try disco or maybe some balladry. Nasty mean punk choons like mine should only be played by poor dirty scamps takin the piss outta socialism. Least thass what Johnny always said. He was the smart one. I gotta say he was right. Listenin to johnny-come-latelies like Blink 180-fucking-2 makes me want throw myself from Big Ben an splatter on the walkstones. Songs about girls and parents are weak trite shite. And no self-respecting punk makes a song you can hum along to. Punk’s for screamin, killin, and shitting your leather pants. Thass it.
Do me a favor, love, and go jab them scabby cunts with dirty needles. Needles full of ammonia an dope. Put ‘em down all messylike, for the sake of honesty. You wanna know what punk is? It’s dirt starvin poor. It’s broken glass, it’s fookin riots, it’s a ragged throat scream of rage. It’s givin up, deciding life is load of shite. It’s bout not giving a tin fuck about nuffink.
Tell them namby pamby tinkerbells to fuck off or ol Sid’ll come back and give em a rough ride. I’m a mean bastard with me turkey knoife.
I fookin mean it.
Anarchy an blown speakers, lassie. You unnerstand, doncha?
Sid Vicious 1:30 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Too much honkeytonk.Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Once upon a time my head exploded
With bright gory splashes of neon blood,
Green grey matter sticking like spaghetti
To rubber matted nightclub floors.
Now I leak slow grief,
Warbling croons seeping from my pores like whiskey sweat,
Down to the light sawdust jukejoint floors,
Saturating the pine shreds a dark amber.
My love was always absent,
Starved slowly by the quiet poison.
I replaced it with idealism,
Utopian dreams painting my sky in Sistine majesty,
Brightlit future hopes crutching me up.
No dice. Nothing there. Shit or get off the pot.
Either way, there’s nothing but flushables.
Like I said, I'm not one for poetry. I find it weepy and melodramatic at worst, vague at best. I'm posting this anyways.
This poem isn't really about anything. It's pointless stream of consciousness bullshit. Shame on me. 1:28 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Happy Happy Joy Joy
Finally, an opportunity to pat myself on the back. My short story "Trepanning The Obese" was accepted by Theatre Of Decay magazine. It's a print magazine, not an online publication. This thrills me. Actual paper. Dead trees, hooray! I'll be in issue #2 due for publication on 1/1/06. Go visit their website and take a peek. Just click on that cover. Due to this fortuitous event, the story is no longer here on my website. I plan to make it available again here six months after publication.11:45 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
Aside from that, I'll be posting a dead letter tomorrow. This one is from Sid Vicious to a punk girl I know.
I've been lazy the last week. I wrote a little bit of my dark magic railroad mystery. I began another story about a boy who always obeys his parents. I even wrote a poem. (I was drunk, you see, in general, I find poetry to be vaguely embarrassing.) I will have content posted this week. That's a promise.
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Shit Turtles & Hacksaws
Here's another archived journal entry from August 2002. Reflecting back upon that year, I can see that I was an upstanding young citizen who made prudent decisions geared toward furthering his bright future prospects in commerce and industry. I fixed the worst examples of awkward, clumsy syntax in this entry, but I left the gleeful tone of giddy retardation intact.
New content will be posted soon! I'm halfway through a dead letter from Sid Vicious to a punk rock girl. My railroad story is progressing slowly. Planning a story seems to be a lot more difficult than spitting one out on a whim. Thanks for bothering to check in. I appreciate it.
There lies a property on unincorporated land at the edge of Schaumburg. Its backyard fence is also part of the outfield fence for the local minor league baseball stadium, home of the Flyers. In this backyard there's a stable and a horse, a trampoline, an above-ground pool full of muck, 10 or 11 broken-down cars against the back fence, and a large firepit.
Before the stadium was built, about 3 or 4 years ago, I got drunk on the 4th of July at this fine household. Leo, Bill, and I decided to get up to some mischeif. Armed with 4 or 5 M80's, we strolled over to the local Metra train station, about a block away through some backyards. After blowing up some potted plants, we wandered over to the port-a-potty. It was on high ground in the parking lot, which was perfect for our intentions.
If you look at where the walls meet on a port-a-potty, you'll notice that the front right corner is rounded, whereas the other 3 corners are right angles. That's because there's a tube running from the septic tank up to the roof to vent foul odors, improving ventilation. On most port-a-pottys, there's no grill or screen at the top of this tube.
Leo lit an M80, and at 6' 5 or so, he had no difficulty dunking it right into the exhaust tube. We all ran. After a muffled thud, a green tide washed out in every direction from underneath the shithole. Amateur lincoln logs went atumble down into the parking lot, taking parking spaces and not paying for them. The sludgier wastes moved like melting turtles, causing erosion that split the green rivers into tributaries.
By god that smelled awful.
The parking spaces are all numbered, and there's rows of wooden boxes with little numbered slots in them at either end of the lot. People shove dollars and quarters into the slots to pay for their spots. Leo and I went there after dark with some saws, boltcutters, and screwdrivers. The plan was to either break into one or take a whole box home. Hey, I was drunk. Don't look at me like that. Please?
After a lot of effort, sweat, and grunting, we sawed one off the shitty metal pole it stood upon. As we were hauling it away to pry it open for spare change, headlights shone upon us. I saw the bar atop the hood, and I knew it was cops. "Cops!" I dropped everything and so did Leo, and we ran. Leo knew the neighborhood well, so he went through all the shortcuts and got home quickly. I, on the other hand, was stuck in open space and I panicked. I hid behind a small pine bush along somebody's front walk. The police circled me many times, and I heard their dogs barking angrily. They couldn't find me. I got bit by a few spiders in that bush. After two hours, when all was quiet, I went back to Leo's. He was glad I didn't get nabbed.
There were about forty animals inside that house. Raccoons, fish, rabbits, weasels, birds, dogs, cats, gerbils, snakes, frogs, and a few others. When the house burned down last year from an electrical fire, most of them died. When rescuers brought the cats out, the cats kept running back in. There was nothing anybody could do about it. Leo and his family still live in that shell of a house to this day. 4:58 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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