Tuesday, October 17, 2017

WHY THEY LOST THEIR DEPOSIT by Lee Blevins

Stephanie sat her map to the side. She stood up, walked across the room, placed her nose against the paint, reared back, and slammed her forehead into the wall. There were no pictures on it to jilt, fortunately.

Robert looked over at Miranda and asked her.

Miranda shrugged.

"It's part of her process," she said.

Stephanie turned around and walked back to her chair and sat back down again. Then she picked up her map and started her search anew. Her forehead was red but it wasn't bleeding.

Robert and Miranda weren't watching the television very intently. Miranda kept checking her Facebook feed and Robert kept checking Miranda's Facebook feed. He also kept softly rubbing his left leg against her right leg in hopes that he could start a fire. But he wasn't a very good boy scout.

One episode ended and another began. Richard went to the refrigerator to get something to drink but the girls didn't keep anything in there except for a pair of frosted booties that they took turns wearing in the height of summer. He had the most minor foot fetish, so he lingered looking at them for a couple seconds. Then he shut the door wistfully.

Stephanie waited until Richard sat back down before she stood up. She was halfway across the room before she remembered that she was still holding the map, so she backtracked and put it down on the chair where shortly before her butt had been. (Booty booty). Then she went to the wall and bashed her head against it.

"That can't be good for her, right?"

"Maybe," said Miranda.

Stephanie turned and placed one palm against the wall and shook her head at it. Then she went back to the couch and sat down. She remembered to pick up the map first but I didn't remember to describe that.
The tv show was suddenly very melodramatic. Miranda couldn't help but pay more attention to it because she had always been taught that you needed to listen closely when a nun is frying bacon.

Richard wanted to pull her close to him and tell her that she was the type of girl he wished he’d fingered in middle school.

Stephanie held her finger tips poised over one particularly suspicious x on the map. Her head hurt and her ears were ringing and she was late to the acid test but she had spent far too many seconds of her life searching for the spot to give up now. She was near, though, she could smell it, like the overall odor at an orgy.

Miranda shifted in her seat and settled the rounded point of her shoulder into Richard's remarkably dry armpit. The proximity set his leg a-tappin' and the friction caused a small spark between their kneecaps. Richard put his own fire out first and then he kept his hand on Miranda's knee for an indecent amount of time.

Stephanie flared her nostrils. She was distracted for a moment from her emotional state because she had never flared her nostrils before and she felt that it felt quite nice. But the mysterious map was staring at her even once her nose had relaxed.

So she stood again and went across the room. This time she took the map with her because it has grown increasingly annoying having to describe her putting it down and picking it up again. She considered the wall for some time. Her forehead had left a nice little indention there, like a tectonic plate that, if licked, could cause lead poisoning.

"Stephanie," said Miranda, "I don't know if that's a good i-"

Stephanie bashed her head against the wall again but she made a mistake in her head tilt calculations and managed to break her nose. The previous indention spread up and out across the wall, running from the corner to the open door frame, and then the top half splintered into a dozen asbestos-filled chunks.
Dark dust swirled around Stephanie and several cough drops were needed but it soon cleared and left, revealed to them all, a view into a secret room that had long been boarded up. There was all manner of treasure and trinket therein, as well as one particularly attractive, toboggan wearing skeleton sitting astride a seesaw.
Stephanie looked back at Miranda and Richard with a fey smile. Her nose was bleeding profusely.

"I knew I'd get somewhere eventually," she said.


THE SUPERMARKET CLERK by Eric Suhem

“Well Oscar, your qualifications are a good fit for this position. Welcome to the supermarket team!” says the hiring manager at the conclusion of the interview. Oscar is just happy to have a job.  
Day 1

On his first day of work, Oscar is stacking apples in the produce section, when he is called into the dried noodle aisle for a cleanup. “He was such a nice boy,” says an elderly woman of the fallen Mafioso, sprawled in a pool of blood, a knife in his back and a box of lasagna noodles in his hand. Oscar cleans up the aisle with an extra-large mop.
Day 2

Oscar is informed that a technician will be repairing the cooling system beneath the meat section of the supermarket. During the process, the technician sticks his arm out amidst the packages of hamburger and chicken, attempting to connect a thermostat. A couple with cannibalistic tendencies and a shopping cart full of limbs, appears and quickly severs the arm. They toss it into the shopping cart, mumbling purposefully about coupons. Oscar is called in to clean up the blood that is obscuring the price labels on the hamburger packages.

Day 3

Oscar observes the customer Mrs. Seed immediately. She seems to have a strange power about her. Mrs. Seed moves quickly to the produce section of the supermarket, flower seeds falling out of her hair. “I could relate to Mrs. Seed more effectively if she didn’t have an apricot lung,” thinks the manager of the produce section, who has a peach pit for a heart, and a ripe cantaloupe brain. As he tends to a stack of kumquats, the manager slips on a seed and falls, cracking his head open on the linoleum floor of the supermarket, blood mixing with the cantaloupe rind. Mrs. Seed takes an apricot breath, and moves to the next aisle.
“Oscar, cleanup in aisle 6,” says the intercom speaker.
Day 4

A customer named Hugo walks the supermarket aisles in a black cape, leaving vibrations of evil in each aisle, causing lettuce to wilt and milk to curdle. The recently deceased produce section manager has been replaced by a new manager of the produce section. He approaches Hugo, and tells him to stop making the lettuce wilt. Hugo stares in response, inflicting dark rays of menace, causing the new produce section manager to explode.

After cleaning up the detonated produce section manager, Oscar smokes a cigarette outside with a coworker. “You know, this is a strange supermarket filled with death,” says Oscar.
“Yes, but the pay is good,” says the co-worker, who has just cleaned up a double homicide in aisle 3.

After work, Oscar goes home to a small chaotic apartment. “Oscar, can you help me catch the bird and return it to its cage?” asks Oscar’s endearingly misshapen wife Oona, who is chasing the frantic escaped bird around the living room. Oona is constantly bringing home new pets, and the bird has been a recent addition to the household. Before that she brought home cats, hamsters, and turtles. Oscar chases the bird around the apartment in joyous pursuit, feeling a heightened appreciation for all the life swirling around him at home, after being around so much death at work.
Day 5

Oscar arrives at work to find another produce section manager is dead, lying in a pool of blood near the eggplants. Before he can clean up the gore, Oscar is called into the office of the store manager, who says, “Oscar, I just wanted to let you know that you’re doing a great job, and we’re considering you for promotion to the position of produce section manager. Keep up the good work!”


RUPERT’S IMPORTANT MISSION by John Gerard Fagan

On a fine winter’s evening, Rupert was in his tree house staring at the sky. A hangover gripped his body. His legs felt wet and stingy – pissed himself again. Too many brandy and apple juices at Murf the pigeon’s leaving party that afternoon. He coughed and a string of sour vomit dripped out, but luckily he managed to sook it back before it touched the ground. He took a swig from the emergency gin and everything became clear. He pulled on his five-X hat, slipped his hoofs into four boots and climbed out. In a dream, a mission was given to him by an angel. He finished the gin in nine gulps and galloped off into the night.

Rupert arrived at his local time-travel station a little after nine. It was empty except for Terry, a homeless pirate lying by the heater. Terry was sporting the same piss-stained jeans look as Rupert. Terry threw him a ‘piss brothers’ glance and followed it with a thumbs up.

Rupert was scanned, and after a few seconds a ticket popped out.

Name: Rupert. Species: Giraffe cowboy. Previous trips: Eight.

You are authorised for travelling.

“Where this time, hun,” Carla, the purple-haired gypsy said from behind the processing desk.

“Hawaii, July 5th 1961.”

“A mission?”

“Well, I’m jest takin a gift back to one of my heroes.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes, ma’am, that’s right. I had a visitation earlier this evening.”

“Who visited you?”

“Toby.”

“Toby?”

“Yes, ma’am – an angel called Toby. He looked like a reindeer or a sneaky camel, but he told me he was an angel from heaven. Luckily, I woke up remembering my mission.”

Carla looked at Rupert like he was an idjit. He leaned in closer and almost lost his footing.

“My mission is most important. If I don’t do it, Toby said there’s a possibility the world might cease to exist.”

“Tell me. I can keep a secret.”

Rupert closed one eye, and took another step forward. “You sure?”

Carla nodded, eyes widening. Blue varicose veins squirmed all over her now visible ankles.

2

“Well he…” Rupert cleared his throat. “See—”

Terry was standing beside him.

“Shoo now. We’re having a private conversation,” Carla said. Terry smiled and held a finger in the air.

“Did you get my blood, Rupert? I sent you a cup of my blood,” Terry said, eyes fading in and out of focus.

“Nope.”

“Well, I sent it to you last year.” Terry staggered away, shaking his head.
“I best be off now,” Rupert said.

“Ain’t you going to tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“Your mission, hun.”

“Oh right. The thing is... well...” Rupert stopped and leaned in even closer. “I got to go back in time and give Elvis Presley the AIDS.”

“The AIDS?!”

“Shhh. Yes, ma’am, but it’s top secret.” Rupert swung his head around – the place was still empty bar Terry, who was now busy talking to his reflection in the window.

“Why?” Carla whispered.

“I ain’t real sure why, but Toby told me that if I give Elvis the AIDS, Jesus will come back.”

“As in bible Jesus?”

“Yes, ma’am. He’ll be moving into the tree house next to mine. See it’s empty now since Murf the pigeon is leaving for Mexico. In fact, Jesus will sing Blue Suede Shoes every night as a special treat jest for me. Now, wouldn’t he be the greatest neighbour ever?”

Carla raised an eyebrow. “You drunk, hun?”

“A little. But I’m thinking clearly. Look here, I’ve got an AIDS rifle that will do the job.”

“That jest looks like an empty bottle of gin.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m going to throw it at him. If it hits him Toby reckons he’ll have the AIDS.”

Carla’s face was looking at him funny.

“You don’t believe a fella?”

“I ain’t sure.”

Rupert staggered backwards. He felt like vomiting again so would have to complete the mission real soon. “I have to go.”

3
“Alright, hun. Booth eight is ready whenever you are. Good luck.”

“Much obliged, ma’am, much obliged,” Rupert said, dipping his hat. He composed himself, galloped over to the booth and sat down.

After a quick trip through the portal, Rupert arrived backstage on the film set of Blue Hawaii. An old man fainted when he appeared – must not have been used to seeing giraffe cowboys.

Rupert felt hungry and decided to eat a part of the man’s leg. Didn’t taste so fine – too chewy.

Across the stage, he saw Elvis practicing dance steps in a hula dress.

He took out the AIDS rifle and aimed.

“Easy now,” he whispered and steadied himself with his back legs. Crooked his long neck as low as possible.

“Do it for Jesus, Rupert, do it for Jesus.”

Fired.

Missed.


OOH, WHATCHA LISTENING TO by Willem Myra

On the third week since the labyrinth had materialized in the undergrounds of the abandoned slaughterhouse, & after eleven tributes aged fifteen at best & three venturesome policemen armed with knives & wasted on alcohol had lost their lives to the beast inhabiting - nay, dominating -- the non-branching rotten-walled construction, Theo decided to give it a go, so he entered the Daedalic knock-off trap carrying a pistol with one bullet left (as per the game's rules) which he had hid in the pocket of his jacket, confident he wasn’t going to need it, & also carrying his most precious boombox that he, as any other connoisseur of trendy music, held up on his shoulder & used to blast rhythms + emotions + adrenaline all around, & it was precisely this boombox the reason for Theo’s swagger, for he had fed it the most danceable songs he'd ever heard in his short-yet-intense sixteen years of existence, & was now flooding the labyrinth with them -- English & American-made rhythms & emotions & adrenaline -- attracting, as it went, the walls & the ceiling & the ground -- which shook & bent & grew brick ears & grew stone feet moved by the overpowering need to listen, listen, listen, & dance, dance, dance; & of course, also attracting the sovereign of it all, the Asterion of Borgean fame, who arrived, trotting on his human hands & bovine legs alike, who bellowed & headbutted anything in his way, & who, as Theo’s confidence started wavering seeing the beast not slowing down for the life of him, was compelled to use his mouth not to bite or spit or curse the gods’ names but to speak, oh, speak, like mortals did, erstwhile oblivious to him & as he taught himself to speak he understood the wrongness of what he had done & stopped short of killing the heavily-sweating, limbs-shaking Theo, asking him instead, “What song was that? The one that went dum, dum, dum?” & also, “Where can I find more of them? Please, tell me, young soul,” & thus Theo told him their titles & artists, & they decided, kid + man-bull, to leave that spawn of monstrosity that had terrified the suburbs for three weeks straight & go back to Theo’s where they listened to hip hop, rap, & jazz, & in time the minotaur learned to behave (he even apologized to the families of those he had killed, offering to become their slave for one month at a time, but the families refused both because they thought it a barbaric sentence & because they were still deeply & understandably scared of him) & the minotaur learned also how to write & make music which, after a decade of ups-and-downs, of tries & fails, allowed him to become a big L.A.based world-wide-recognized music star, & he immediately fell in love with this new diversion of his & never again killed one soul one, effectively adverting what would have otherwise been described as a intrinsically Shakespearian fate.

Monday, April 24, 2017

FEATHERS by Brenda Anderson

Outside the Möebius Strip, a bouncer eyed Floyd. “A geek, huh. On Monster Night, geeks go in the corner, behind the chicken wire.”

Floyd peered up at him. “But I’ve got a personal invitation. Tell the manager it’s about a feather.”

The bouncer sighed and led him inside. A tall, sallow-faced man studied him. “Feather? Explain. Fast. I’m busy.”

Floyd swallowed. “There used to be a playground near here. When I was a kid, we played a game to see who could swing the highest. One particular swing was different. More than once I swung up and over. On the way down, I changed into feathers.”
The manager looked bored.

“Then I’d change back into a small boy. But one day, someone stole two feathers. Next I knew, they razed the park and put up buildings. And yesterday I got a handwritten note. ‘You want your feathers? Come to the Möebius Strip.’ So here I am. Here’s the note.”

Floyd fished it from his pocket. “It’s signed Monster Me.”

The manager shrugged. “He’s up next. Go nuts.” He turned and left.

Floyd looked round. Beyond the bar, the large, noisy main room opened onto a stage. On the left, what looked like art students huddled over tablets and sketchbooks. On the right, squashed behind the chicken wire, the geeks swapped notes. Floyd joined them.

“Here for the mind reading act?” said the guy next to him.
Floyd shook his head.

“The fights were unbelievable. Wormhole Monster just beat Sinkhole Monster. The mind-reading comes next.”

“Not interested.”

The guy frowned. “What are you doing here, then?”

The lights dimmed. The manager strode onto the stage, paintball gun in hand. “The winner of the last bout will now select a volunteer for the world-famous monster mind-reading act.” He raised his gun and squirted purple ink in the air. Two huge shapes purpled into view. One squished forward.

“It’s the winner, the wormhole monster,” whispered Floyd’s neighbour. Floyd opened his mouth to reply.

Purple Monster extruded something that looked like a thin trumpet. “I see a man who’s looking for a young girl from his playground days,” it intoned. “Step forward, sir.”

Floyd flushed bright red. Everyone turned and stared.
Purple extruded a finger and tapped him on the shoulder. Bouncers descended, propelled Floyd onto the stage and turned him to face the crowd.

“I will now read his mind,” intoned Purple. “This man came here to seek two feathers, and perhaps the then-young girl who stole them. How do I know this?”

The crowd sucked in its collective breath.

Purple waited for silence. “I ate her.”

The crowd gasped, and cheered.

“Wait,” said Purple. “This man can find that girl about a third of the way along my intergalactic intestinal tract. Do you want to?”

Floyd opened his mouth to speak. That girl. He remembered now. When the prostitutes used to file past the park on their way to work, a young girl had accompanied them a few times. The girl had taken two of his feathers. He’d never been the same since.
He cleared his throat. “Er, yes.”

The crowd cheered.

Purple quivered. “Good.” It seized Floyd and popped him into one of its body cavities. The noise of the crowd faded as he slid faster and faster down a long slippery tube. Without warning, he slammed into something hard, flipped head over heels, and once again turned into feathers.

Floyd drifted downward, all wisps and fronds, and hit bottom. A young woman knelt and looked down at him. The same blue eyes in a piquant face, a little older now.

“You’re that kid, aren’t you? I’ve still got two of you ... I mean, your …” She grinned. “Do you want them back?”

Floyd nodded.

She giggled, pulled two feathers out of her shoulder bag and solemnly added her two feathers to his. Floyd did a cartwheel and as he landed, regained his human body.
He checked his arms and legs. “Thanks. Uh, long time no see. I’m Floyd.”

“Zadie. How do we get out of here?”

Floyd looked round. Nothing came to mind.

“We need a good propulsion system. Let’s tickle him,” said Zadie.

“You mean …?”

“Yep. You change back into feathers. I do the rest.”

Purple coughed and gagged. Floyd and Zadie spun round. The wormhole monster coughed them up on stage, and faded from sight. The crowd leapt to its feet. “Where’s the monster?” shouted many. “Bring him back!” shouted the rest.

The manager hurried them to a back door and pushed them onto the street. “Go ruin someone else’s business,” he hissed.

“But …” began Floyd.

“We’re going.” Zadie led Floyd away. “You’re so cute when you’re angry,” she whispered in his ear.

This time, Floyd knew not to say a thing.

POLAROID by R. E. Hengsterman

On a day in day out basis, the universe does its damnedest to maximize good coincidence. And in opposition, unfortunate or tragic happenstance comes with a hefty price. Because of this invisible pursuit of balance, I find myself trapped, the byproduct of a cosmic mishap. Often, I end up on the wrong side of these equations. Today I'm in a Polaroid. And I'm not talking about being in a Polaroid - as in I've had my picture taken.

No, this is much, much more problematic - a circumstance of irrational proportions, if not inconceivable, absurd, crazy, or even improbable by any stretch of the imagination. My ability to even speak of these events is a minor miracle.

At the current moment, I'm floating in a bath Silver bromide (Ag Br), cyan, yellow, magenta, and dark blue pigments. How did this all come to be? It's simple. I broke one of the fundamental laws of the universe. And once you do such a thing there are consequences.

It all started three weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon. The house was empty, and I was on a mission to replace my worn-out copy of Hustler. I headed to the basement looking for something new to stimulate the expulsion of my youthful vigor. Our basement, dank and murky, was a treasure trove of goodies. You never know what you'll find. So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. There were boxes of old vinyl records, grade school photos, unmatched shoes, youth trophies, baby clothes, and the occasional Cosmo; the issue with the cover that screamed - "The Craziest Sex Tips We’ve Ever Tried," and
"How to Make Him Feel More Pleasure" in big block letters. A decent start, but the wow factor wasn't there. I needed more.

Forty minutes later I came across a stash of old Playboys; spines covered in black mold, centerfolds gummed together - downright nasty, a whole box of wasted potential if not outright carcinogenic material. I avoided those.

I rummage until a small metal box catches my eye. Gunmetal gray and a lock pickable with a standard paperclip. Inside, a 6x8 inch sealed Manilla envelope. On potential alone, my heart races. What I found were a dozen nude Polaroids. A brunette, vulnerable and beautiful.

With my stash in hand, I headed to my room and exercise a few demons. This exorcism goes on for a week or two, each day a different photo and each day a new fantasy. The celluloid edges peeling on the abused Polaroids. And then the unthinkable; please pay attention because this is where the story gets a little complicated.

It's midweek, and my Mom is shoveling the dirty clothes at the foot of my bed into the laundry. On this day, she finds the motivation to do a little additional digging (cleaning).

I come home from school and find my mother, crooked smile and hips cocked, perched at the front door. And I knew trouble was coming. Maybe she found my stash of weed or my calendar with all the blowjobs marked BJ in red.

But it's worse. She found the photos, hidden inside an empty Chuck Taylor shoe box.

What occurred next is impossible to describe - jaw-dropping, life-changing, laws of the universe psychological apocalypse that ripped in whole the cosmos and expelled me from my world. And that's how I ended up in a Polaroid three days ago. Not sure if anybody's looking for me, but I'm here, in the envelope, wedged between two naked Polaroids of my mother.

EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH by Matthew Lyons

He smiles at everyone, and God love 'em, everyone can't help but smile back. He's the sweetest old guy, never forgets a birthday. Gets everybody a card, something meaningful and heartfelt, every time. Some of the folks at the office have worked with him for twenty years, more. They know all his stories, but love to hear him tell them anyway. Even the ones that are a little sad. He talks about his wife Marjorie like she's still around, still gets all misty-eyed when he remembers her, which is a lot.

He goes on at length about bands he saw back in the day, movies he loves. He never discusses politics or religion and thanks people to afford him the same courtesy. At Christmas parties he only ever has two drinks max so he can make sure everyone's staying safe and has the numbers of three good cab companies stored in his phone.

When he calls out sick, everyone talks about how they hope he'll feel better soon. He never invites anyone over to his house because he values his privacy and so did Marjorie and he feels like he owes that to her, still.

He has three heavy locks on every door and spends an inordinate amount of his free time cutting tangled clumps of hair and teeth from the rollers of his vacuum cleaner.

Eventually he decides to just go ahead and buy a shopvac and not long after that most of the pretty high school girl who sells it to him ends up inside it. She was right, the cleanup works like a dream. He can't even see the stains of her on the basement floor when he's done.

When he screws up, it's something tiny he wasn't even paying attention to, fucking typical. The cops come calling and his lies are just shitty enough to make them return in force, peacocking with rifles and riot gear. He waits for them to come back, armed to the teeth inside the foyer, dragged in homemade armor. He knows how this is going to end.

He makes them storm his house and when he goes, he goes messy; takes six of them along with him. When they find the toy he made out of the pretty high school girl's head, a couple of them puke right on their boots. The stink is so awful in his stuffy little house.

The next day at the office, the news spreads like herpes and everyone he had fooled lies and says they always knew there was something wrong with him. In the dark, they cry into their pillows and wonder how they were so wrong for so long, and when they think about how much they still like the person he pretended he was, it's like an enormous rotting mouth has opened up underneath to devour them whole. Just because they don't feel the chewing doesn't mean it's not happening.

STYLOMETRY by Tamara K. Walker

“Algorithms are musical,” you thoughtfully articulate, munching on air with your daily snack of posters and sandwiches. The classroom is empty, and you yearn to grasp the naked spokes of the dry-erase asterisk on the whiteboard and turn it like a ship’s wheel.

“That’s trite,” I say, abruptly but patiently, dismissive in the way you know I’m not being cruel.

“Music is algorithmic. Beat is procedure. Melody is function. Evident.”

“Yes, music is composed of algorithms, but in the other direction,” you persist. “Are algorithms, writ large, music? I think there’s more to be gleaned from that mapping, much more.”

My contemplative silence yields the point, as cursive mice etch wavering borders around the room with their bodies. Just a moment ago you were considering the repulsiveness of larvae, chalking speculative skeletons around the aversion to early forms of insects and animal life, by extension. The skeletons led you down the hallway to alpha and beta versions of software, and from there, to algorithms.

A textbook entitled Forensic Linguistics sits on your desk, your light reading, the cover so glossy new you could see your face reflected in it, except that it always shows reflections of someone else’s face, and never anyone you recognize or have ever seen. You’ve taken exactly one bite out of a honeycrisp apple and set it on the book on your desk on the floor on the fireplace, and I silently admonish you to not bite it again, lest you suffer Turing’s fate, which I am certain is inevitable based on the random patterns of the mice.

“You know about stylometry.”

“Yes.”

“Authorship attribution. How to tell which author wrote what. I’ve been thinking about metastylometry. Instead of algorithms and methods to recognize an author’s style, this would enable one to predict the evolution—which distinctive features will develop.”

“So you’d not only be able to discern which author wrote a given text, but what the texts a given author would be likely to write in the future will look like.”

A snowy electronic silence pervades the room. Your desk dissolves in a flurry of mahogany particles like a malt ball core in saliva after the chocolate has melted, visually revealing the salient denuded truth: you are no longer my pupil, and I have ceased to be your teacher. We frantically struggle to wrest control of the exposed underpinnings.

I win, or you gain the upper hand; we can’t say for certain which one of us I am now that there’s a victor and that victor is me. I hastily interrupt the algorithm, excise our function, and run the modified version in safe tranquil perpetuity. Genuinely endless loops of you, as a little one, a larva, playing in the sandbox.

Monday, January 23, 2017

THROAT BABY by Edward Morris

My girlfriend says I snore, and stop breathing sometimes. She keeps recommending I go do this Sleep Study, and I keep rescheduling. Sucks dating a paramedic. Can't hide nothin'.
She says it sounds like I was drowning. Or there's something trying to swim up out of me. I am hard to sleep with. The whole right side of my pillow is usually covered in drool when I wake up. Part of life, I thought, but that changes when someone else starts to live with you.

I spit in a spiderweb this morning, by accident, in the hedge out front. It wound around the web, down and through, glittering. It stayed. The spider moved. I saw later. But that part stayed.

I'm trying to quit smoking cigarettes. Too many other things fucking with me, and I know it's never going to get any easier. It's just time. It's time. I'll go do that study. I will. I'll see what is putting the a in my apnea. But not this week. I'm free next week.

Always next week.Each time I spit, I feel like it wants to go back down. Like it wants to swim back home. There'll be a string of it hanging out, when I just spit on the street, and I have to pull and pull and pull.It comes off. Nothing weird. It eventually comes off.

My Grandpa smoked cigars when he was middle-aged and had allergies all his life. And that otolarynologyst (so funny to hear the word in Papa's North Georgia accent,)why, “He done took so many of those polyps out of my sinuses, he said he could have made me a little brother.”

They weren't cancerous. That doc, and others, said our family was 'chromosomal,' which was a fancy way of saying, 'Probably inbred way back, and just all kinds of neurofibrowhatsis brewing in the wings.'

I have an ecig. I love it. Tastes like ice cream and Otter Pops. I'm almost used to it as the go-to habit, because I feel suffused with nicotine when I'm done smoking it proper,which is different than the way you smoke a regular cigarette. Just a matter of switching habits. Of learning to embrace new mutations. Learning to learn to.

More strings. More strings this afternoon. The last one was hell, and when it split,there was a little blood. Not painful hell, just awkward hell walking around looking like a dork trying to get it off. Like I was puking on the sidewalk. Some old Grandma gave me a wide berth and goes, “Shoo. He still feelin' it.”

It is painful to live in cities, now. Painful to look at everything you can never have, to choke and choke and nothing comes up. The whole way home, I couldn't look at myself in any shop-window glass. Not even the mirrored front of Nike. I hung my head. I didn't know why. I didn't need to see.

My boots had a new crack in each one, I saw when I got up on the doorstep. There was no more money. I gagged, like you do when you brush your tongue. Down in my throat, something gagged back. That part seemed natural. Like it was just time.

The house drowsed on into the quiet. It was a safe place, or it used to be. Nowhere felt safe now. I was sorry, to the house. Sorry for what might happen.

Rushing into the bathroom, I selected my instrument tray at random. A Popsicle stick. Two fingers. An ear-syringe left over from a baby cousin's visit. A sense of the random. Timing. Something--

*

Something makes sense, for the first time. The world is about to change. I open up and say Aah.

Ah. AHHHHHH. Everything, maelstrom, suction, the whirlwind. My jaw cracking farther, wider.The walls begin to crackle, bloop and bend. I... fall. I am...Pulled. Upward. Thrust. Toward the ceiling. Dreaming---

Dreaming free. Free. I follow the push, and swim. And swim to---

*

PLOP.

*

“Jesus Christ, what the hell is it?”

“I dunno, man. It was just floating there in the sink. What's your roommate's name...Charlie...Charlie sick?”

“Dunno.” A long pause. “Haven't seen him around.”