Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Craven

Once upon a journal browsing, after dinner and carousing,
just before my nightly drowsing, drowsing on my office floor;
There I spied an odd remarking, ‘twas a challenge lightly sparking,
Chester on some quest embarking, harking to a treadle lore.
Sexy Feet and Friday were the only words the notice bore!
Only this, and nothing more

Only yesterday he posted, “I’ve a theme to use” he boasted,
“It will be a party hosted like no party heretofore”!
“You must photograph your steppers, whether models or mere lepers
spicily, like ten toed peppers, standing there upon your floors.
Sexy shoed is preferable, but any way we might adore.
Make us lust for evermore!”

Suddenly I heard a ticking, like a pair of tap shoes clicking,
then a horrid, roundhouse kicking, kicking at my closet door.
I stepped forward, stomach quivering, grabbed the handle, fingers shivering,
yanked it open! Then delivering freedom to the ghostly corps!
“Who are you and tell me quickly” there my stammering voice implored.
All they said was, “Nevermore”.

Shoes of suspect peerage flew across the room like cats might do,
and jumped as if a kangaroo to land above my bedroom door!
Perched upon my statue there of me back when I had more hair,
they shuffled and they squeaked, I swear, like vampire bats at war.
And then they shouted “Find us sexy! Or we’ll haunt you, priggish bore!”
This they said and nothing more.

“Sneaker fiends!” I screamed in terror, “You have made a frightful error,
you are but a sweat sock bearer, sexy like a toilet store!
If I were to pose for pleasure you would be no lusty treasure
by your make and by your measure you are naught but underscore!”
“Stop!” they cried, “You’ve crossed us clearly, soon your head shall suffer dearly
we shall stomp you quite sincerely, you shan’t mock us heretofore.
Quoth my Reeboks “Nevermore”

Now I crouch behind my telly, sucking in my bulbous belly
hidden from shoes old and smelly, clomping ‘cross my hallway floor
All for want of Chester’s musing, I may take a foot fed bruising
this I’m sure he’ll find amusing, add it to his Friday lore.
All for feet he might explore!
Only this, and nothing more.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Oh to Wish Upon a Tyre

Jonathan Wayward Smyth was beside himself. He’d never before been dumped in such an egregious manner, for such an incomprehensible reason.

Had it been that his wife of many years had found another lover, through her own adulterous conjuring or by mistake brought about by spirits or narcotic smoke, perhaps he could learn to live with the outcome and forgive her trespasses. It would at least be common, acceptable, the marriage’s demise easily heaped upon her shoulders. But it had nothing to do with another man.

Had it been that she’d suddenly discovered her true gender identity and sadly could no longer entertain a life in the arms of a man at all, but instead was moved to search out like women with whom to spend a lifetime, he could at least point to her biology, or her insanity, depending upon the audience he was addressing at the time.

Were it financial in nature, that she’d embezzled her academic employer and was on the verge of being upended by the FBI, therefore needing to disavow her life as it was and quickly, stealthily move to Argentina where she could live out her days in the company of third generation Nazi expatriates, perhaps he’d be able to make a profit from the story and so, mitigate the pain somewhat.

Or had she learned that she’d contracted a horribly disfiguring and certainly fatal disease, and had filed for divorce on the premise that she would save he and their family the agony of watching her slow and awful plunge into vegetation and finally expiration, he would understand in some minimalist way and be satisfied that at least he had not been the focal point of the change.

But as the truth would have it, she’d left simply because he was “a jerk”. He’d “been a jerk” over the course of their entire relationship, according to her, and she had once and for all tired of his “jerkiness”; enough so that she’d been moved to give him the final heave ho.

This… was unacceptable. And so he plotted, and planned. He harassed and manipulated. He squeezed and shredded. He badmouthed and potty talked. She would pay for his humiliation. She would come to say “Gosh Jonathan Wayward Smyth, I am so sorry that I dumped you! It was a giant mistake on my part and I truly wish I could recall every word spoken so that you might see clear to come back to me and once again be my protector and lover and friend!” Regret… was everything.

And so on this last day, he spent six hours at a window table within the confines of “Jack and Jill’s Falling Down Bar and Grill” putting the final touches on what would be his return to magnificence, his tour de force; a plan so complete, so clever, so brimming with logistical malevolence it would absolutely show his superiority, her simple minded, uncompassionate irascibility, her total and unending deviation from all things truthful and his absolute innocence. He was NOT a jerk. And through this brilliantly conceived conspiracy, he would prove that; not only to his in laws…. but TO THE WORLD!!!!!

So focused was he as he left the “Falling Down” and began the crossing toward his car, there’d not been a chance in hell, the very hell he’d created, that he’d have seen much less heard the eighteen wheeler barreling down Main Street.

They say he was so flattened, the medical examiner needed to use a giant spatula to lift his remains from the street. And yet, though his body measured the thickness of onion paper, his head remained engorged. “Vitriol”, some doctors speculated. “Self Loathing” said others. “Ego” I figured. But then, what would I know; I’m just the truck driver.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Flashes of Woe

The Price of Change

Jack had never required a clock to wake him. At six A.M; for 55 years, he was bright eyed and ready. So when the beeping began at five A.M. it took Jack's brain a few minutes to determine a purpose to the sound. Being dragged from REM to reality would leave his decision making prowess unbalanced. If there was a moment's hesitation to be had, it would be lost in the cusp between consciousness'.

In that fog Jack gripped his destiny, setting the barrel to his lips.

With a squeeze of a single finger, Jack’s lifelong pain peaked, then passed.

The Best of Intentions

It hadn’t been easy to poison entire populations; for any of them. But at last the human race dwindled, until only the 64 of them remained. One would think they’d be somber, yet to a person, the last living homo sapiens on planet earth were pleased, some downright joyful.

“To the mother”, Hetta Jones, the leader of Earth First said as she raised her cup skyward. “The Mother” replied the rest as they swilled their own poisons, willing the planet to the animals.

An hour past that noble gesture, the previously unseen asteroid C3217 slammed into Earth, and it imploded.

Can't Take it With You

Kathy had fought her soon to be ex husband Donnie tooth and nail for her share of the family wealth. That she’d been a member of the family only 12 days before beginning divorce proceedings was moot. She’d suffered; she deserved.

Two thousand people were fired as Ferris Industries was dismantled and sold to satisfy the court’s demands. A rift swallowed the blood relatives involved, as people vied for position on either side.

Donnie took his life in the end. Kathy, overjoyed to snatch her first check from her mailbox, never saw the careening, out of control garbage truck coming.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Animals are People My Friend ~ Mitt Romney

"Let us in" said Deer.

"Sorry, can't" answered Cat.

"Why" asked Deer snottily, "your HOOMAAN wouldn't like it?"

"No" replied Cat; "Deer are big and clumsy. You'll step on me eventually, accidentally of course. I. Hate. Pain!"

"Deer aren't clumsy" retorted Deer. "We're light and graceful! Didn't you see Bambi?"

"If Bambi is my gauge, deer with antlers are DEAD!"

"I see your point. But you know what I mean."

"Yea, you're a zombie and you want to eat my brains!"

"Very funny. Please let us in!"

"No way Jose."

"I'll break the door down!"

"No you won't."

"What makes you think so?"

"Cuz unlike cats, deer are civilized."

"I will so break it down!"

"No you won't"

"Will so!"

"Will not."

"Will SO!"

"Will not."

"Damn you! Please, please OPEN THE DOOR AND LET US INNNNN!!!!!!"

"Nope, sorry."

"Ok then, we'll just have to wander off into the woods where we'll freeze to death. It'll be on your conscience."

"Cats have no consciences... but nice try."

As deer turnefd to wander off, Cat suddenly shouted "WAIT!"

Deer was tickled, assuming Cat had been kidding and would now let he and his sister inside. "What" he asked.

Cat grinned. "Do that deer in the headlights thing for me before you go. That cracks me up!"

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Superior Suckage

He’d been working three jobs and was still not getting ahead. While there are plenty of folks who likely make more for doing less that think Postman is an overpaid position whose union should be abolished along with their benefits and safety regulations, my dad’s mailman salary was obviously going to keep him tied to the upper edge of the poverty statistical charts as long as he held it. Though he’d determined at a young age he just wasn’t smart enough to have a complex career as opposed to that of the common mule, he was just frustrated enough with the state of things to attempt to move up. “Suit people” he called them once, those bright and bushy self-confident paper pushers who earn money for blowing smoke from their asses; he would need to become a suit person.

I’m not sure how he found the “Sales Training Institute”. I’d guess a television commercial during a suit person program, like Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver where the men of the household seem to do nothing at all and yet their families have everything they’ve ever wanted. Then, it might have been a matchbook cover as well, like the ones that said “Draw Winky” and send it in to see whether within your mundane, poverty stricken and hopeless exterior there lived the next Norman Rockwell or one of a dozen other “Commerce Artisans” popular at the time. Whatever it was, one day my dad decided that he couldn’t beat his brains against the brick walls surrounding the big kid’s houses any longer; he was gonna be a Salesman!

I remember the first time I saw his “schoolbook”; the biggest freaking three or more ring binder I’d ever seen in my life. It was so tall while lying on its side that I used it now and then as an ottoman. It surely was taller than our living room ottoman, though a damn site less comfortable.

It was so cool, with its seemingly gold leaf embossing on its faux leather cover; it was just like the Sunday Mass book that I would need to read along in during my weekly “Godbligations”, or would have been if the missal were written to cover a different mass for every day of the year and each volume held ten years of devotions within its covers.

It was tabbed and color coded and had really groovy chapter titles that gave meaning to the term “propaganda” beyond its normally commie roots. It was a very serious book for very serious students wanting to make some very serious cash. Dad never spoke of it. I can only assume he absorbed it, on those occasions he’d disappear into his bedroom for hours at a time that were neither simply attempts to get away from my mother, or quite the opposite. (Something I shudder to think about even now)

Then one day he announced he was newly “diploma’d” and certified as a “Salesman”, presumably, “extraordinaire” or “of the highest order” or “Commercialist Cum Laude” or whatever the “school” thought would make the new graduate feel as if they’d not in fact been ripped off by “a sales pitch” proclaiming this home study, no overhead but an ottoman’s worth of paper in a shiny binder” “school”, to be the answer to their prayers.

Of course there was placement; what would an education be if not a job shoehorn. He was treated to his first gig the moment he stepped from the mailbox where he’d received his diploma to the phone where he’d received his first call to arms. He would be the Kirby Vacuum Company’s newest recruit.

I sort of wish he’d looked for his own job and not, mostly out of self-doubt that he could do sales full time and risk everything, take the position offered. I suspect now that the “school” was actually owned by whatever bloated corporate conglomerate owned Kirby and a hundred other icebox to Eskimo’s snake oil operations, and used as a cynical grist mill that took money from desperate people and then had these people sell crap to desperate people until their desperation overwhelmed even them; but hell, what do I know. To hear one side tell it, companies are just benevolent people who have civilization’s best interests at heart, so maybe I’m just full of commie propaganda myself.

Dad was pretty pumped as I recall, and his product, The Kirby Dual Sanitronic 50, was an absolute wonder. You may know already, and may have drooled at the thought of it, but the Sanitronic 50 could do damn near everything you ever wanted to do that required machinery, except print a list of those few insignificant things it couldn’t do, AND it was the finest, most powerful dirt sucker ever invented. My father delighted in showing us his pitch, a little demonstration that included dumping crap on a floor and then, yup you guessed it, zooming it right back up into never-never land. Then out came the accessories; the knife sharpener and meat grinder and all the cool crap that made the Sanitronic so much more than an ordinary, inferior, commoner’s cleaning utensil.

Then, the blessing of his lifetime arrived in the mail; a prospective client list. He called the names on the list as drawn until one answered his request for an appointment in the affirmative. This was his moment, his test, the first day of the rest of his less impoverished life… “Suit People” day! And this is where he accidentally taught me his, and now my definition of right and wrong, of the concepts of ethics and morality, of the meaning behind treating those as we’d like to be treated; and sadly at the same time, the genetic calling to give up, where being creative with adversity might be more advantageous if less comfortable.

I saw him on his return, lugging his 9 billion pound demonstration kit up the incredibly steep hill in front of our house and then up the porch stair. I heard him bang around the cases and bags that accompanied each promotion, until he had the goods, the very vacuum with full accessories that he had to buy in order to do this wondrous job, secured into the back porch mud room. I was smart enough to not greet him with a big smile and a backslap; I could see he was not in congratulations mode. I did though ask him how it went.

It went perfectly he said. His charisma was at super power level, his pitch, perfect. The machine performed every task asked of it and then some, and the woman that he was trying to save from housewife hell with the product of the century was near peeing her pants. She wanted it all, every freaking accessory and a guarantee that if more cool crap that could attach to the Sanitronic came on the market, he would be at her door posthaste where she would buy two of each innovation, so as to have one extra to keep unused, polished and in her closet for those moments when she needed to believe in the concept of heaven on earth.

He was just about to have her sign the contract committing her to modest payments of a little too much for most working people pretty much until hell freezes over… when he asked about her husband and his employment situation. Oh she was without a husband she said, and as for work, well she collected a check, from the government; but that was no problem because the feds didn’t care what she spent her money on and BY GOD she wanted that magical device he was holding in his gypsy wagon tinkerer hands.

I can only imagine the look on his face. I can imagine it from the look on his face as he told the story. He had no bigotry toward people that needed help and found the government their benefactor of last resort. She seemed a lovely woman; her kids seemed fairly well fed though a bit ragged, her house was clean enough though decorated in a sort of early junkyard toss off style. He stopped speaking for a moment and thought; thought about his years and years trying to make chicken salad out of the chicken droppings the world had offered him. He thought about how often he become so blind to the future and so needing to be like everyone else in the present that he’d bought something on credit that haunted him while eliminating actual fiscal progress for years at a time. He thought about what he was doing, selling a refrigerator to an Eskimo, an Eskimo that was already living hand to a half dozen mouths.

Granted, he figured, he wasn’t her dad; and it’s not like he considered himself her moral or intellectual superior. I don’t remember my dad feeling superior to anyone for any reason actually, which is a shame because I believe he was superior to a hell of a lot of people I’ve known; but that’s for another story. What he did know is that he could not sell The Kirby Dual Sanitronic 50 to this woman who pretty much had nothing but a boatload of dependents counting on her to always make the right decision so they’d not have to go to bed hungry, ever. Whether his pitch had worked so well that she’d demand another salesman to stop by her home with another contract, well that was now out of his control. He could only walk away from his very first sale with a little speech that in the end convinced her that it would be too expensive and that she really should sleep on it for some time before making a decision; and then he left after deliberately, secretly picking up his newly printed, presumably gold leaf looking embossed business card.

It was one sale, one he let go, surely there would be others, surely he had the gift. But he never got that taste out of his mouth, the taste of that moment when he realized that in order to be a real salesman, to make his degree and all the work that went into it pay off, to make his and his wife’s and his children’s lives better, he would have to disassociate the word “customer” from the words “human being”; he would need to choose success over compassion, or he would himself go to bed hungry. He gave up all that time and fortune... to go back to the slave pits, where he spent the rest of his life making do.

Sure, I’ve no doubt that there are plenty of sales folk that care, that dump a sale to do the right thing. I haven’t met any and I’ve known a shitload of salespeople, have traveled with CEOs and CFOs and other execs for 30 years during a career boasting what amounted to sales support, helping bosses convince underlings that the sale is ALL that matters and anything else is treason. I suppose it’s a big reason as to why I’m crazy, having hated myself all those years I did the wrong thing because I was good at it and it made me more money than schlepping bales and toting barges.

But still, I have this huge torch burning in me that is like that of the grave of the unknown soldier, except I know the name; it’s the name of the guy that taught me that there are more important things than money, more precarious existences than mine, more honor ofttimes in an ounce of “won’t”, than a ton of “if I don’t someone else will”.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Price Paid for Being Perfect

It’s difficult to counsel one you love. You have to wonder if you have any objectivity at all, if your vision is blindered by mutual history, if everything you say isn’t just bs masquerading as logic or importance or even… hope.

With my mother it was easy; I was too young to recognize I knew pretty much nothing, and too believing in my charisma. When I sort of became my gang shrink by mistakenly spitting out a few too many profundities to someone in trouble, I grew accustomed to my lot. I didn’t have to be educated to listen, I didn’t need a degree to guess and though these were friends of a sort, they truly were strangers in the end; I didn’t live with them, if they imploded whether on the basis of my advice or in spite of it, I would suffer no true consequence that I didn’t make for myself in the form of self-hatred. I had permission, in fact was encouraged to practice mental medicine without a license.

Years went by that found me devoid of relationships deeper than a drop of dew on a piece of concrete. I fell far out of practice and when again and again pressed to “be there” for someone, I doubted myself, exponentially now, and I tended to do my requested patting on the head by actually patting people on the head; and they seemed to drop like flies in an insecticide test kitchen.

Then the big one happened. My father went nuts. Where mom was all nature, dad was all nurture; his was as dysfunctional a childhood as anyone’s and that was the foundation of his angst but he’d been mostly ok until circumstances drove him over the edge.

I’d never seen him “weak”. I’d never known him to tremble, to stare into nothingness. It had taken 18 years of my life before I’d seen him shed a single tear, and now he was weeping, uncontrollably, day after day.

He was staying at my house, on a visit, for a few days. He’d been at my sister’s and was going to my brother’s soon, but was here three days. It was a surprise visit; I’d not been able to prepare. If I’d had notice I might have been able to shuck some work onto either side of his time but as it was I had deadlines and creative work takes time, no matter how incredibly gifted and vastly superior one is as compared to the rest of humanity. But I kept it to business hours and spent as much time as I could with him, even though he spent every moment of those waking hours and sleeping hours as well, unloading, pleading for my help, begging me to fix him or at least agree with him that taking his own life was an appropriate end to what had turned into a quite miserable life.

And at the end of each of these longer than any ever before days I honestly believed I’d had the bull by the tail; I’d bought my own press, and his little white lies that all would be well for another 8 hours or so, so I could once again create crapola for cash during daylight.

And each night I would walk into my dining room and see this broken human being at my table, slouched over, shaking from some horrible self-loathing fever; and we would start again, pleading and weeping and reliving every slice of the pendulum blade. Only this night, the second of three… he touched me; grabbed my hand and held it, as if I were the blade of grass that would keep him from falling off the anti-gravitational earth and to his infinite death defying existence in outer space hell.

I can’t be sure why I was so freaked out by the touch, though I have my ideas. I don’t believe he’d touched me since I was a child and he’d need to pick me up or put a boot up my ass. We were just not a touchy peoples. I didn’t hug my mother ‘till I was in my 30’s and she kinda forced me on a birthday and I’d have looked like a total idiot if I….  One of the reasons my 2nd wife used for divorcing me was that I didn’t hug enough, cuz, like, I spose, there just wasn’t a boatload of other stuff she might have used instead.

He grabbed my hand and he looked at me with tears in his eyes and in my freaking out head I heard the word “daddy?” and suddenly I was on the wrong freaking end of this freaking relationship and I was immediately sucked dry of anything resembling a soul. I was stupefied. I was mortified. I was finding it damned hard to make this ok because it was not the time to act like anything but a fucking granite obelisk that he might set his bolts into and clip on his carabiners and tie his ropes and hang on for dear life; and yet for the first time since he’d come I was afraid. I’d. fail. him.

We got through it. Another night, another session, off to my brother’s where he did try to pull the metaphorical trigger.

I did not make it about me, it was all about him, and my poor sister in law that had to deal with finding him. But later, once he’d been released by the health system and had found his way back to what he wanted to believe was his paradise, I made a note to myself; I’d given it everything I had. I’d once again pretended I had some gift, that I could make chicken salad out of chicken waste, that the difference between myself and any old 300 dollar an hour shrink was a piece of paper in a dime store frame on a modestly appointed office wall. The moment I knew he was in trouble I should have…. almost anything except what I did; and I knew he was in trouble from the first moment I saw his eyes peering up at me.

It’s been years since then. In the meantime I’ve had one saved and one lost. It’s not pleasant when you need to take solace in the fact that while you had some small part in someone’s self-created finale, you also had a small part in someone’s continuing onward in spite of their best wishes. My record isn’t really all that good, those that have had the misfortune of turning to me for help have a 60/40 chance of surviving yet another year, and that’s a whole lot of overdose and suicide packed into my baggage.

Now I’m playing doctor again, not because I want to, but because, as always I was specially selected as boy wonder. I don’t need to worry about a trigger this time, but I do, perhaps pointlessly, yet I do, worry about an implosion, a nuclear option, an implosion that will take an act of some minor deity to recover from if indeed it can be done at all.

I am told I’m a lifesaver, that I’m brilliant, that every one of my ideas have helped, that I am needed, needed…. needed.

I could walk away from a stranger or even a friend if the connections aren’t rock solid; though I'd always risk the end of the story having a bullet buried in it as has happened. But how the hell would I walk away from the person I share my life with? Beyond compassion, beyond love, it affects every future minute of my life too; not that my life is worth much at this point except for my burgeoning career as an amateur psychiatrist.

Every day I hear about how incredibly helpful I am, in a world where nothing changes. Every day I find myself a bulletin board, filled with tiny holes that mark the days people have pinned their hopes on me. Where once I could just cut the rarefied air around me, spread it on a piece of angsty bread and eat it all up like the good little boy I’ve come to be, I am filled to the brim with flour and water and have trouble choking down yet one more bite. So I write it down instead, and put it where if anyone would see it, it wouldn’t be more than a dozen or so human beings; because I have to pretend at least… that I’ve said it aloud.

Because if I go crazy, who’s gonna be there to drive this bus. I am the eggman, coo coo cachoo.