My parrot sits,
on the balcony rail
far above the bustle
turning a wry eye
to watch me eat my omelet.
LOOK! AWWKK! I’M A HUMAN!
His sharp beak scratches at me
Then . . .
I’M SO DRUNK! AWWKK!
His mocking beak spits at me
tottering drunkenly, slovenly
side to side
on the precipitous rail.
Another fluffy bite of chorizo
MY! BEST FRIEND! AWWKK!
His pointed beak darts up and down
SORRY MARK! AWWKK! SORRY MARK! AWWKK! SORRY MARK! AWWKK!
His broken record hawks at me.
The wind whips around the building’s corner.
A tasty sliver of sausage
riddled with fat
slides past my tongue and gets
sideways, my eyes wide
OH GOD! AWWKK! MARK PLEASE! AWWKK!
His insinuating beak accuses as he
falls backward from the rail.
The attenuating wail becomes lost
as I hack the fatty pork
back atop my omelet.
I stare with tears at the plate
and my sarcastic parrot
on the rail.
Death walked amongst the tombstones in no particular hurry. His cloven feet had been specially fitted only a week ago, but now his shoes were rubbing. He should have broken them in. No use in whining about it now.
He looked down at his legs. As it turned out, duct tape did not fix everything. His flesh was still strung together haphazardly, with the bones exposed and shinning a bright white here and there. No matter how many times a day he ate, no matter how many plates of Burrito Supremes with extra beans he put down, no matter how much he lie around and took whole weeks off at a time (in which no one on Earth died, not that anyone noticed) he was still skin and bones. Literally. Still, after hanging out with Famine for a few days last spring, he couldn’t really complain. He was a pot-bellied pig compared to Famine.
Reaching his boney hands into a small, black sackcloth, Death grabbed a vial. It was about the size of a baby turtle minus the shell. Never seen a turtle without its shell? Never mind, it’s a little underwhelming anyway. To better explain, it was about the size of an Argentinian, three toed sloth in its twelfth week of gestation. Give or take a few ounces.
As Death glided silently through the dew-ridden grass and past numerous fake flower arrangements, he uncorked the vial. Maybe that’s a misnomer. It wasn’t a cork that was holding things inside the vial; it was actually the souls of one thousand and four Billy goats born on a summer’s solstice. Cork, you see, is slightly porous over millennia, and the souls of Billy goats are not.
The nubby carpals held slightly over the opening while those souls scattered in all directions with a panic that was devoid of any real purpose. Every so often, one of the souls would come across a train or screaming child and the goat soul would suddenly go stiff and fall over. This is because they were fainting goats in their past lives. Old habits die hard. At any rate, no one living noticed, and after a few seconds the goat souls hopped back up and continued on with their panicked travels.
There were only four million, seven hundred forty six thousand, nine hundred eighty eight drops, so he would have to choose carefully. It sounds like plenty, but there are a huge, huge amount of dead people all over the planet. Like billions. Probably a lot more than that, but I don’t want to sound braggy or pretentious by spouting off arbitrarily large numbers. Fine, I don’t really know the number, but it is really, really more than you could imagine without thinking about it for an amount of time that would also be so huge you really wouldn’t want to take the time to think about it, and then, well you see where that could end up going.
When Death chose a plot, he tipped the vial and let one drop of viscous, glowing purple liquid fall from the its open mouth. There was a moment of silence as time stopped and the lavender droplet fell through a vacuum of anticipation. When it finally passed through the Earth’s epidermis, there was a sound akin to a miniature, clown’s motorbike slamming its brakes on. A parade squelch of tiny rubber tires finding purchase on a summer Main Street in a small, Midwestern town. It was quite counterintuitive and very unnerving. He wasn’t sure of the physics involved, but was certain that said substance had no actual mass in this plane of existence and should therefore not make a sound at all. So the fact that it did made him question the one who had sold him the concoction. But that was a few thousand years ago and to tell the truth, he wasn’t certain if he still had the receipt, having kept it in a corked vial.
Death wondered to himself what the sound should sound like. What kind of ring it would have to have to please the ears or, at least, make sense based on the drop’s apparent liquidity and the grounds limestone mix. Like a heavy rain drop slapping some mud? A small, seedless grape being hit with a tennis racket? And if it didn’t have to make sense, as apparently it did not, then why not something more fanciful? Something like a woman’s quick, orgasmic moan, or the mischievous laughter of three dead children? Or for that fact, what about something you could actually listen two over and over again, millions of times, without getting bored out of your mind with it, like John Lennon’s Mind Games. And wouldn’t that be appropriate and fitting?
Another teardrop of magenta lightening passed from the chilly graveyard air to the casket below. Squelch!
“Fucking seriously, then!” Death raised his voice, and then quietened, looking around and feeling at once embarrassed with his outburst.
Death continued into the night. In his wake, no pun intended, the grounds began to loosen in places as the dead clawed their way from their claustrophobic, little resting places. And if you thought about like that, it was more of a rescue really.
We laughed and played and laughed
As the waves broke on the shore
And the Sun baked the sand
And the children screamed for more
Seagulls clustered here and there
Awaiting special treats
We played until our skin burned red
And sand crept in our seats
Then the growing ball of Orange
Slightly touched the ocean
Testing the water first,
It seemed to cease its motion
“Time to go,” I yelled and
shoulders slumped in sorrow
“No fussing or complaining
And we might come back tomorrow.”
Then the children smiled
A new light in their eyes
“We have something to show you.
It’s a really big surprise!”
They know I love surprises
As I follow them to the spot
Where they’ve dug a rather large hole
For such a tiny tot
C’mon dad they beg
We’ll do it really quick
So I climb into the hole
That they’ve hollowed with a stick
They pushed the sand around me
I played along with a giggle
Until the sand was packed so tight
That I couldn’t hardly wiggle.
One last tip of Orange
Cast a faint glow to their faces
And they smiled even wider
As they ran back to their places
They laughed and played and laughed
As the waves broke on the shore
And I screamed until I couldn’t
My throat raw, and sore
I looked up at the Moon
Brilliant in the sky
And couldn’t move my arms
Though I try and try and try
I cried until I laughed
Then I laughed until I cried
Then I smiled to myself
And giggled by and by
Hours came and went
And boredom took its toll
Monotony crept upon me
In my sandy little hole
I laughed and laughed and laughed
As the waves broke on the shore
Then I laughed and laughed and gurgled
And then I laughed no more.
So when it’s time to leave,
And they wanna stay and play
Don’t put off ’til tomorrow
What can be done today.
There is a pillow between us.
just a fluffy puff of cotton and foam
lying nonchalantly, lengthways,
pointing carelessly at the headboard
and forming a T with the other pillows,
a circumspect intersection of downy
hiding its shameful face under the covers.
You are no further away
and yet I can not seem to reach you.
It lies motionless and silent
as do we,
but I can hear it’s muffled laughing.
A feather-light wedge.
The softest of simple machines
prying our sleepy bodies apart
with no effort,
save its cottony presence.
You roll over and I can see
the soft outline of your face.
You embrace the barrier
dividing us and pull it close.
I take a moment to reflect
on the silliness of pillow envy,
then I grab the pillow and cast it
from the bed.
You are startled, but none the wiser
to the melee that has ensued.
I slide to the center of the bed
in victory and gloat myself to sleep
with your arm around me.
The small plastic balls of varying color bounced around inside the nets as small hands flailed, a few of the balls breaking free and rolling past our feet. My son of three, smiling away, crawled out of the balls and disappeared quickly into one of the tubes, as did many others.
People abound and pigeons galore, we looked away and chewed our burgers slowly, trying to keep the wind from carrying the fry bag away. Sprinkling salt into the puddle of ketchup. Talking about the weather, my job, and bills to be paid. Then a scream. It is my child’s scream.
Terror. He’s hurt. Perhaps twisted an ankle and fallen down a tube? A busted lip? In a fight with a larger child? Following the scream from outside we see his face through the clear plastic of a corner section.
The others had left and the maze had turned thick… dark, empty. He had probably circled once, maybe twice, with nothing familiar, the walls of the labyrinth impenetrable. Trapped with no way out.
We pointed out directions as we tried with calm voices to settle his heart, elephant tears rolling from his cheeks. As my wife walked to the tunnel entrance and hollered to provide direction, I couldn’t help but realize the silliness of it all.
A small laugh giggled its way up in spite of his tears and terror, and as he turned to follow the voice I wondered how he could be frightened at all. In the mind of my child it was the end, with no way out and no hope. And there was no one else around to help. His fate had been sealed by a colorful tube with a bubbly, convex lens through which he could see the outside world but never reach it.
Safety couldn’t have surrounded him more that day if it tried and the unnecessary screams were calmed in a short time. His tears and terror soon forgotten as he attacked another section of the playground. We settled back to dipping fries and I couldn’t stop laughing.
As a result of this encounter with terror and loss of hope, I wonder if in my most pitiful of states, my darkest of hours, in which all of my hope is gone and there seems no way out, if God is looking at me and wondering why I’ve lost all hope and given up. Why I am crying at all. Why I can’t just stop and listen.
God is whispering through that dark tunnel so I can find my way.
He is watching from very close by.
And my tears and terror will end soon enough.
And I wonder… no, I’m certain.
He is giggling all the while.
We both have deadlines
he and me and
we’re not so different really
except he bangs his head against his desk
like a ravenous djinn gone mad inside
his emerald coated bottle of a cubicle
and he does this for three minutes
and then a small hole forms
just an eggshell patina break
and he uses his teeth to snag
some object in it…
A wadded, rolled up, already stapled and collated
report for the boss
and I just stare at him and then
I stare at my monitor as he
pulls it ex nihilo from the mini-fissure
in his desk.
Everyone skips to lunch and
I’m alone and behind and
so I bang my head
like he did
really, really hard
but can’t make three minutes worth
and then I wake up on a nightly vacuumed carpet
and see a circle of eyes peering down
and feel crimson running from my forehead
and I think
just like a Robin
that a Woodpecker
is just a crazy bird.
Mr. Bachenstein was quite fine
walking home from work,
a light stroll until he suddenly
flew into the air and sped like a rocket
into the bottom of a dangling piano
nine floors above.
And birds, well… they just had to
learn to eventually fly upside down
and build their nests on the underside of the branches.
And fish, well… they rode the largest
blue flying amoeba ever to the exosphere
where the oceans splashed against nothingness
and formed a blurry prismatic shell for those of us
clinging to lamp posts and
clustered, confused on ceilings.
And Remi and Ted’s Pinto
lifted off like at the end of Grease
but they weren’t singing,
just screaming for some long minutes
until, as they suffocated slowly,
they saw a tidal wave coming to swallow them whole.
And so with differentiation at work again
we’re all finding it hard to breath
and so if you find this note in a bottle years from now
know this: it was dropped by a scientist from the doorway
of a lab in Switzerland into the seas above
and we found the Higg’s boson
and we are sorry about the Gravity thing.
In our defense, it was an outlier, you know.
So as I’m walking back to my car the other night, I see this young couple getting in their car. Dude gets in his side and their car cranks up. That’s when I notice he’s left the buggy right next to his car like myriads of other douchebags who can’t at least run it up on a nearby median or something. They finish with their groceries and don’t even bother to look around for the buggy corral.
I’m stopped about 15 feet from their bumper, and openly watching them. I’m watching because this guy has topped all the other douchebags who do this. He was too lazy to move the buggy away from his car. The car-buggy gap was only two inches. I was parked to the right of him, so I had an excuse for standing their waiting. Sure enough, when he starts to back up, his car slides against the buggy, which catches on the back door of his car and gets dragged a foot or two. He looks at me with a stupid ‘aww-shucks’ smile. “Shit,” he proclaims, in what I imagine is a daily mantra for him.
My first impulse, even in this situation, is to help. To grab the buggy for the idiot. And although I can’t be certain, I think for a split second he was thinking the same thing. Maybe this complete stranger will come take care of this for me if I wait long enough. I stand still and smile back at him. He stops the car, and since the buggy is now next to his door, he has to carefully edge out of the driver’s door so as not to scrape it on the buggy. I begin walking to my car now as he grabs the buggy and takes it to the corral that is, are you ready for this, in the parking space directly opposite him. I hold back when I start to shout “INSTANT BUGGY KARMA!”
He’s only one ladder rung away from the people who pour drinks out next to their cars. Sticky veneers of high-fructose corn syrup and caffeine just waiting to make every step I take though a store a duct-tape ripping noise. And those shmucks at the very bottom; people who leave diapers in the buggies. This is especially disturbing because you know the Walmart employees don’t do anything but pull it out with a stick or something. Then you wonder in and set little Sarah down in the turd buggy.
These are the same people that drop their screaming kids off at the three dollar movies for five hours on Saturday night. Whose houses burn down because their Christmas tree was still lying in the corner in March. Who pee on toilet seats. Who watch the same channel for six hours straight because they left the remote on top of the TV (Okay, I’ve done that, but only a couple of times. It’s not a habit.).
I’m so irritated by all this I can hardly think. I stand next to my car and take special care to aim my urine directly into the drain below, being careful not to splatter, then drive home, trying not to think about all the idiots in the world.
In the past month or so I’ve managed to be the most insulting, racist, and creepiest person I’ve ever been in my life.
The Creepy incident was at a sandwich shop. I was ordering and something was mentioned that I didn’t like, so I said,”Eewww, no. That’s nasty.” And then, because I think of things all the time that sound witty in my head, but come out like a spastic with Tourette’s, I say with a knowing smile, “The only nasty thing I like is a nasty groove.” For those of you as old as me, you probably got the Janette Jackson reference without hesitation. That’s when I realized that the girl in front of me was lower 20s at most. The look on her face had turned from Can I help you, sir to Am I safe now, even with people around? I felt like Ron Jeremy must feel all the time. I was, for the moment, the creepiest guy on the planet. Before she could press the panic button, I dug my way out of this one by acknowledging my failed attempt at humor and explaining the song. Luckily, my wife was with me to reassure the girl that I was safe while off my leash. I followed up by pointing out the name of the singer who was currently belting out I want to party all the time, party all the time, party all the tiiiiiime. That earned me some 80s cred.
But that wasn’t horrible enough, my subconscious thought. Surely you can take it to the next level. So I did.
Me and the crew were outside a Wal-Mart. Where this one is located, there is always someone outside with a sign. I always give something. Money, food, something. And most of the time, the people standing out there look the part. A little worn and scraggly. Their dress and the wrinkles in their face reflect their hard times. Not this fellow. He was maybe 19 or 20. Same age as my boy. He looked well kempt, but really down. Really down. We pull up and roll our window down. He hesitantly eases forward and as I’m reaching in my pocket (it’s hard for fat people to get things out of our pockets when we’re in our vehicles), I look up into his downcast eyes and say, because it’s reflex and I say it to everyone I meet automatically, “How’s it going man?”
That’s right. I asked a kid who might be homeless and destitute how it was going. I guess I could have followed up by slashing his arms with my pocket knife and sprinkling some salt in the wounds, or maybe running over his foot when I pulled off. I didn’t even realize what I had said until after I pulled off. I went low for a minute. Really low. I’m sure that if there are events in our lives that might send us straight to Purgatory when we die, I just earned myself a couple hundred years there. Then, because it was so horrible and there was nothing I could do about it, I began to laugh hysterically at myself. Because I’m a horrible person.
That was next level, sure. But was it worthy of a trophy from Hades? No. I had to one up that. I had to climb to the summit of Mount Horrible and pledge my soul directly to the God of Shame.
A few weeks later, the wife and I are doing the yard sale thing. We stop at one that’s half in and half out of a garage. I walk into the garage and a lady to my left exclaims loudly that, “Everything in this room is for sale!” Since I’m a smartass who overanalyzes everything, I immediately notice that she herself is in the room, so without thinking, I blurt out, “So are you for sale?”
Then it hits me . . . she’s black.
That’s right. I just asked a black woman if I could purchase her. I’m in Alabama. I’m white. I would normally immediately point out how racist that sounded and make a joke about how oblivious and aloof I am. But I am too flummoxed this time. I’m waiting for this woman to put me in my place. I’m speechless. As I stood there with my mouth open and eyes wide, I might have drooled a little on the concrete. I still don’t know whether she caught it herself, because she says, “Oh, no. My husband wouldn’t like that at all.”
I am blubbering. Can’t mind working not think doodoo duh. I hear myself say, “Oh, he’d probably pay a lot of money to get you back.” Okay, now I’m just saying stupid shit and I can’t stop. I continue to move robotically around the garage and then make for the car. As I leave, she calls out behind me, “Didn’t see anything you wanted to buy?” I don’t know if she is screwing with me now, or just trying to sale stuff and oblivious of social faux pas. “No mam. Thank you. Have a good day today.” I get in the car and look in the rearview mirror to see if a swastika has spontaneously formed on my forehead.
I am paranoid now. Moving cautiously through each day, fearful that I’m going to accidentally knock some kid out of their wheelchair or run over someone’s new puppy on the way to work. Please, if you see me out, know that I am a good person. Hold your children closer, yes, but know that I mean well.