November 8, 2013
Everything about the show is glitz. I have some sympathy for the writers involved who have to go through this ordeal. Its like a spoof from Second City.
July 4, 2013
New novel. Thought I’d workshop it on the blog. Gives me a better feeling for it. I think its about a serial killer. Or a killer who eats cereal. (stupid joke or no joke at all.)
Chapter One: The Bench
I don’t know if this is the start of my story. Only know this is how I have to tell it. I have a bench on the sidewalk in front of Millers Restaurant. I liked to stand behind it. Sometimes I would sit but mostly I liked to stand there. There is an empty lot across the street with a makeshift snow fence around it. There is nothing on the lot except weeds, some stones, and a scattering of bricks from the building that stood there. It had been a grocery store for fifty years but had recently been torn down.
Occasionally a car, truck or bus would pass along Dundas Street but the scene was basically stark, the bare essentials. Which is the way I write. Which is the way I live. Which is the way I think. The bare essentials. Hopefully I will be able to pare everything down to two elements. Me and God. And then the real conversation would begin. If I could get out of the quick sand of my first page.
It’s a good place to think. To mull over ideas. That’s my madness. Everywhere I look I see patterns. Patterns are someone’s idea, someone’s creation. Order is recklessly rearranging the furniture around us. Giving birth in the ashes of death. Music and discord are the same notes. There is a certain chaotic frenzy in order. Order is my God. Patterns are His skin. I need a universe in which everything makes sense. What else is consciousness for? Why does God need us as witnesses? Why does God need us at all?
Things like that.
I took a seat on the bench.
“You look like a man whose been left behind.”
I looked up. A thin young man, well dressed with a swath of wispy blonde hair that fell over his eyes, took a seat on the bench beside me. I looked at him suspiciously. Creeped me out, to tell you the truth.
He smiled. “Supposed to be another hot one.”
He had an odd accent that I couldn’t place. American, I thought. Somewhere down south.
“Summer is going out with a bang,” I said.
The strange young man looked across the street at the empty lot.
“It was a grocery store,” I said anticipating his question.
“I was going to say that it looked peaceful in a odd way.”
“You’re from out of town,” I said, stating the obvious.
“A strange place for a tourist,” I said. “Not many people are attracted to the sights of the Six Points.”
“In town on business. Thought I’d go for a walk. Get a lay of the land.”
“What do you do for a living?”
He turned to me. “I’m a hired assassin.”
My mouth dropped.
He laughed. “You’ll have to forgive my sense of humour. I’m a professional photographer. Magazines. Fashion mostly. Looking for shooting locations. And new talent. How do you turn a dollar?”
I hesitated for a minute. “Work at Shopper’s. Wanna be a writer.”
The young man nodded. “Write anything I would know?”
I shook my head.
“What do you write?”
“Murder mysteries,” I replied.
He laughed. “That’s certainly a popular genre these days. Murder mysteries all over the newsstands. Cheap novels written to scare the pants off middle-aged women. What do you figure is the attraction?”
I shook my head.
The stranger smiled. “I think everyone wants to be murdered. And survive to talk about it.”
June 22, 2013
A small episode from my novel SNOW. You can download it or have a look. Its free. A bargain at twice the price.
SNOW is part of a series of novels involving an aging police officer in the suburbs of Toronto. In this novel weather plays a key role in the novel. In the previous novels The Hole and H&R (HER) a bottomless well and a asteroid play key roles. There are a couple of short books that have evolved from this. One is about serial killer. But I haven’t gotten my head around that one yet.
25. Brothers and Partners
“Did you notice the Chrysler following us?” Michael said as he laid his clothes carefully out in the dresser drawer.
David was playing with the television. He slammed the top of the set with the palm of his hand. “Cable is out! Must be this fucking storm.What Chrysler?”
“The one that was sitting on our ass all the way here.”
“Who would be following us? And what was all that Irish accent stuff in that bar? I felt ridiculous talking like a Mic. And Sean. What kind of name is that?”
“It’s all I could think of at the time,” Michael responded, continuing to lay his clothes in precise rows. “Why’d you call me Michael? The idea was that we wouldn’t use our real names, brother.”
“Well, you could have told me that before we walked into that dump.” David kept pushing the buttons on the remote. “If we have a plan, tell me the fucking plan. And that bar! Zig Zag? What kind of fucking name is that? And the smug look on that bartender’s face. I’d like to wrap his grin around my fist.” David threw the remote against the wall. It smashed into pieces.
Michael turned and looked at the pieces of the remote on the floor. He grinned.
“Fuck!” David roared. “Are we going to be locked up in here all evening with nothing to do? I hate being bored. I don’t know why we couldn’t have stayed downtown where there’s a little action. Out here in the sticks! God! We should have brought that girl back from the Zig Zag. She looked like she was up for a party.”
“She’s old enough to be our mom,” Michael responded.
David got up from in front of the television and walked over to the window. He parted the Venetian blinds and stared out into the snow at the car parked across the street.
“And this weather! I thought we left this shit behind in Russia. Your Chrysler is sitting across the street.”
“What’s he doing?”
David pressed closer to the window. “Nothing. Maybe I should go out and ask him what he wants.”
Michael picked up several pairs of dark blue socks and placed them like napkins in the top drawer. “What if it’s a cop?”
“Why would it be a cop?”
“Why would it be anyone else?” Michael responded. “Right now the cops have nothing on us. Let the fuckers stay out there all night and freeze their balls off.”
“I don’t care if it is the cops, I don’t like to be watched. Never liked it. This is the New World.”
“Stay focused, brother. We’ve got other fish to fry. We’ll check out the other motels on the airport strip. This Lombardo guy has got to be hiding somewhere.”
“You think he’ll be signed in under his own name, Michael?”
“No. But what else can we do? Let’s check around and see if there are any games. Guys like Lombardo are addicted to gambling. Someone must have seen him.”
David looked back from the window. “What are we gong to do about Mazudo?”
“I told you not to play with that cocksucker,” Michael responded.
David returned to the other bed and opened his bag, dumping his clothes into a drawer. “Shit! I had some good dope here. How was I supposed to know that Mazudo was holding a flush?”
Michael shook his head. “Because it was his game, brother.”
“You think he was cheating?”
Michael glanced at his brother’s clothes piled in his dresser drawer. “Look at the mess you’ve made. Why can’t you pack your things away neatly like any normal human being?”
“I had some good dope in here,” David said rummaging through his bag. He laughed. “Here it is.” He took out a lunch bag of dope and papers and started rolling a joint. “So now we have to find this Lombardo prick to pay off our debt to Mazudo. I’m getting tired of doing other people’s laundry.”
“Your debt,” Michael corrected David.
“There is an easier solution to all of this.” David lit up a joint. “Let’s just whack Mazudo. The guy is a slime ball.”
Michael closed the drawer to his dresser. “That’s plan B, brother.” Michael looked at the joint in David’s fingers. “Let me have some of that.”
April 22, 2013
Sex is awful when you’re too young. Its power over you is tyrannical. It can be devastating. This combined with one’s naivity and innocence make for a dangerous brew. This is a story from my book The Bicycle Thieves.
Judy, Marcus’s younger sister by a year, sometimes sat watching television with them in the O’Reilly basement. David didn’t know if she was pretty but she had an unsettling affect on him. Anytime she was around David felt butterflies in his stomach, and his mouth going dry, and a certain weakness in his knees. As much as Judy’s presence made David feel uncomfortable, he missed her when she wasn’t there. Sometimes when Marcus wasn’t looking she would rub her leg against David’s. When she was doing this, David would pretend that her attentions were having no effect on him while at the same time praying that they would never end. David did not know what to make of all of this. He couldn’t talk to Marcus about his sister and certainly couldn’t talk to his own sister. In truth, he didn’t know what to do. But in his heart he knew that sooner or later something would happen. And he was afraid of what that might be.
David loved to listen to Judy laugh at his jokes, loved to watch her shake the long black hair that ran over her shoulders. He wondered what it would be like if they could be alone. Maybe they would talk, just between themselves and not in the crowd that always existed at the O’Reilly household. Maybe they could be friends. But David didn’t like to think about maybes. It made him feel queasy.
On afternoons when the boys were playing horseshoes, Judy would watch, cheering David on. Marcus would tell his sister to shut up but when his back was turned she would smile at David, running her tongue along her braces.
“You shouldn’t talk to your sister like that,” David said when the two boys had taken off for Apache Burger. Marcus had a yen for a strawberry milkshake. Marcus was always hungry.
“Why not, she’s my sister,” Marcus said shrugging David’s remark off as inconsequential.
On one occasion Terry was playing horseshoes with the two boys. He pointed out to Marcus the attention that his sister was paying to David. Marcus complained to Mrs. O’Reilly that Judy was bothering them. Judy stomped off, banging the back door as she entered the house.
David was no longer in the mood to play horseshoes.
“He’s got a crush on your sister.” Terry pointed at David.
“Do not!” David protested.
Terry laughed and taunted David. David turned and flew at Terry knocking him to the ground, and kneeling on his arms.
“Take it back,” he cried, raising his fist above Terry’s face.
“Okay,” Terry cried. “Just get off me! My mother’ll kill me if I get this shirt dirty.”
On hot days the O’Reilly kids would wade in the huge outdoor pool that Mr. Marcus had constructed in the backyard. One day as Marcus and David sat watching television, Judy came down the stairs soaking wet with a towel wrapped around her. She retreated to the back of the basement in a location where only David could see her, and changed. Did she know that David could see her? David tried not to look but he couldn’t keep his eyes off her long and slender boy like body as she slipped out of her bathing suit. Her nakedness tied David’s stomach in a knot and made him feel sick.
“Let’s go to Apache Burger,” Marcus suggested. “I’m hungry.”
Another day watching the Loretta Young Show in the Marcus basement, Judy sat with her leg slung over the arm of a chair. Marcus had gone to the corner to buy his mother some ginger ale. David was delighted to finally be alone with Judy but he didn’t know what to say.
“She’s beautiful, don’t you think?” Judy said referring to Loretta Young.
“Ya,” David replied. “I guess.”
“I wish I was that beautiful,” Judy sighed.
David’s mouth went dry. He wanted to tell Judy that she was beautiful, that she was much more beautiful than Loretta Young but the words wouldn’t come out. Upstairs Mrs. O’Reilly dragged herself across the kitchen floor and called down to Judy. Judy’s face was wrenched into an ugly glare.
“Why did she have to get pregnant! Don’t I have enough to do?”
Judy stomped up the stairs.
One morning David sat in the living room waiting for Marcus to come out of his room. Marcus stumbled from the kitchen, a bowl of corn flakes in his hand, and still in his pajamas. Mrs. O’Reilly called him from the basement where she was doing a load of laundry.
“Jesus!” he cried. Marcus put the bowl of cereal on the floor, slid it under the couch, and stomped out of the room.
David sat alone in the room for several minutes. Except for the roar of the washing machine in the basement, he couldn’t remember the house being so quiet. When Marcus returned he turned on the television and fell onto the couch, forgetting all about the cereal.
“Go wake up, Judy,” Marcus commanded. “My mother needs her.”
“Send one of the kids,” David muttered. David resented Marcus’s tone.
“They ain’t around. She’s upstairs sleeping. Sneak in and tickle her feet. She hates that.”
Reluctantly David climbed the stairs to the bedrooms. He felt like a thief moving down the hallway. Never having been upstairs before he was not sure which room was Judy’s. He checked one room after room but each was empty. What if he walked into her room and she was naked? What would he do? Ever since that day he’d seen her remove her bathing suit, David couldn’t get Judy out of his mind. I should go back downstairs, he said to himself. This is all wrong. He entered the last bedroom.
Judy was lying in bed. A naked leg hung out from under a bed sheet, dangling over the side of the bed. David’s mouth turned dry.
“I should get out of here,” he muttered to himself but his legs would not move.
Judy began to wake up. David took a step toward her. She rubbed her eyes, sat up in bed, looked at David, and screamed. David ran. He ran out of the bedroom, down the hall, down the stairs, out the front door, up the street, up his driveway, into the backyard, and hid behind the hedge at the back of the lot. And waited.
“What have I done?” he kept repeating over and over, tears running down his face. “I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have looked. I’m going to hell! I’m going to prison! God, let me disappear!”
David waited and prayed.
“Oh, God, I’ll never go near a girl again! I promise! I promise I’ll never do nothing again.”
Hours passed. As the sun began to set and the shadows stretched out along the lawn before retiring, David slipped into his house and up to his room. And waited, laying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Each minute seemed to drag on for an eternity. He heard Chico barking out in the street. Maybe he should go talk to Terry. But wasn’t it Terry who had taunted him about Judy having a crush on him? He couldn’t bear to be taunted again. David saw images of himself being dragged from the house and thrown in a police cruiser. He saw Judy on the sidewalk with her father, pointing at him. He heard the jeers and laughter from all the neighbours and then the weeping from his mother, and the look of sad resignation and disappointment in his father’s eyes. And then he fell asleep. When he woke the next morning and heard his mother vacuuming downstairs he knew that his prayers had been answered.
March 9, 2013
I’ve always been interested in found art. That is the mystery of the story told is the mystery of the author who made it up. I wrote a book which is supposedly written by someone else. It is called The Moron. It is about the ownership of ideas. The ownership of a culture. Shakespeare didn’t write his plays; Ayn Rand did.
My father said that we’d all end up in a box. Buried in memories. Death is no mistake. Life was an explosion that we live in. Everyone was headed in different directions with a common goal. Nothing makes sense in the unexamined life. What counts are the lies you get away with. Father was one of those young men called the baby boomers who never had to prove their metal in war or desperation, and thus remained eternally angry. And their anger ate them up inside, made them hungry and dissatisfied. I hated my father. He never thought I existed.
I was nine years old standing in the middle of the living room in front of the television.
“Don’t stand so close to the set!” my father barked. He took a seat on the couch. I stood in front of the set.
“You seen my cigars?”
I shrugged. I was nine years old. What did I want with cigars?
“Where are my cigars?”
“I don’t know where your bloody cigars are,” I cried. I just wanted to watch my program.
“I don’t want to hear that kind of language young man. Now I asked you a simple question and I expect a civil response. What are you watching?”
“Heman,” I responded.
“Get back from the couch. You’re going to ruin your eyes.”
I moved back to the couch.
“What else is on?”
“Nothing,” I replied.
“You’re too old for this program. Heman is for little kids. There must be something else on. Where’s the remote?”
“I want to watch Heman,” I said.
“Give me the remote.”
“I don’t have it.”
“Who had it last?”
I shrugged and sat down. My father stood up and fumbled through the cushions looking for the remote. He made me stand up. Unsuccessful he got down on his knees and looked under the couch.
“Where the hell…” he cried.
“Mom said I could watch Heman,” I said taking my place back on the couch.
“Your mom’s not here.”
“I was here first,” I declared.
“On the planet?” he asked then roared with delight as he pulled the remote from beneath the armchair.
He turned and pointed it at the television like it was a laser gun from a sci-fi film. Nothing happened.
“Mom took the batteries out,” I grinned. Mom hated the remote. Said that it was impossible to watch television when father was touring through the stations. It was like watching clothes in a tumble dryer, she said.
He left the room. I knew it was only a matter of time until he returned with batteries. I wished that I had a remote to turn him off.
January 22, 2013
I wrote this book in the format of Kierkegaard. That is I created the author and let him write it. The painter/poet is a personality that I engaged within myself and met many times as I visited galleries, art openings, poetry readings. He has suffered much more than I have. I would say that outside of dentist offices, hemorrhoids, and existential dread, I haven’t suffered much at all. From love of course. But that is sweet suffering.
This poem comes from a book, Hard Brush Soft Paint. You can download it for a very efficient transactional fee of … nil.
One part of the world suffers from hemorrhoids while the other half steps silently into death. One part is on a diet; the other part is losing weight. One part is blind; the other part can’t read. One part has calluses on its heart; the other part has calluses on its hands. My ideas aren’t fit for general consumption. Perhaps my work should be exported to some third world country where they will swallow anything. Turning on the television to a talk show. Someone mentions pornography; everyone laughs. I am seasick. God is the sea is the sky is my stomach rising and diving and screeching in my ear like a gull. Handel’s water music spews out of the tape machine, threads of plastic dripping through my fingers. Our genocide of happiness is destroying the planet. The other part applauds.
January 5, 2013
I worked in a pastry as a part time job in my teens. The baker thought of himself as quite a tough guy. He had a honey on the side (which I learned about years later when he divorced his wife.) My dad warned me about tough guys, guys who boasted and bragged. They were the first ones to start crying when the shells began falling and your buddies began dieing.
This story is from a collection called The Graveyard Shift. It is the third of a series. The first two have already been e-released.
BOB’S CAKE AND PASTRY SUPPLIES
“Your heart sounds fine,” the doctor said. He wanted to say jolly. But jolly went out with black and white television. He put away his stethoscope. The doctor has a slight lisp. And limp. But only slight.
Mr. Chambers smiled. Well you wouldn’t call it a smile. He was almost laughing as he put on his shirt. A nice plaid shirt. That he wore with a nice plaid tie. Different clans. Mr. Chambers was a grey haired man. Grey hair on his head and his chest. Short tiny grey hairs in his nose. And ears. Heavy set with a quick pointed nose. He would have been described, even in his sixties, as a handsome man. A distant cry from the toad like appearance of his younger days. When he was compared to all sorts of low life. No, there had been a flattering evolution in Mr. Chambers’ appearance. Life liked Mr. Chambers. It always had. He was no cream puff. Granite. Truck tough. There were muscles in his face.
“The two little buggers thought I was a goner.”
Mr. Chambers shook his head. And smiled.
“Out there. Right now dividing up my garments. Their rosy cheeks filled with chipmunk ambition. Fighting like two old women. Who was going to replace me. Take my dough. Spend it on broads. Booze. At the track. Leave their wives at home. Oh my sweet little boys”
“Ironic. Peggy and Theresa, their wives, look a bit like horses. Should hear those two whinny. When they’re in the thralls of making love. As they like to describe their machinations. Their legs up in the stirrups. Ninnies.”
“Nothing I abhor more. A spouse complaining. About their men’s wild ways. Wives want me to put them in their place. I wasn’t the one that bed them. Don’t ask me to do your work. My sons are head strong. Not that I don’t understand. They’ve got their wild oats. To spread. Had my own. Still up to do a little spilling. Nothing wrong with that. Boys better watch themselves now. I’m back. They ain’t going to get their share. Not yet. Have to wait. I might outlive them both. Just for spite. No, they want to have a time. It won’t be on my sweat. Not on my time. Not with my hard earned cash. You can put that in the bank. And smoke it.”
Mr. Chambers did up each button like it was the period at the end of each one of his sentences in a stump speech by a politician who realizes that no one would dare run against him. His jaw set. His chest pumped. Shoulders expanding. Hands in his fists.
“I have only myself to blame. Boys are spoiled. By their mother. I was too busy working. Well, hey. You want kids. You take your chances. Like a lottery ticket. Maybe I should have had daughters. They might have had more balls. Gone for breeders instead of rodents. My poor boys. My sons. Weasels.”
“Shows they care,” the doctor said. He rolled up the blood pressure wrap. Nice and tidy. He liked things neat. It made him feel that all was well. His summary. The compendium of things previously stated.
Mr. Chambers shook his head.
“Well, some times even death can be an eye opener. I never thought that the threat of my demise would make things so clear. Mortality has awakened the lion. Clear to me now. Used to walk in the shade. How refreshing is the sunlight. Before I was clouded by sentimentality. I wanted my boys to be like the old man. Now I can leave all those thoughts behind me. Neither one of my sons is prepared to take over the reins. They don’t have the balls. They have the power of their kidneys. But not of the will. Taken me a lifetime to build up my business. You’d think that a man like me would have spun some sons with a backbone. Do you know what I did when my old man died, doc? I laughed. He had a full life and now he was dead. What a joke, eh? No tears for my old man. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It wasn’t avarice on my part. But drive. Now these two marshmallows are fighting over my empire. Like it was carrion.”
Mr. Chambers fell into his own thoughts. What if I started over again. With a new woman. Younger. New sons. I might get lucky. Mr. Chambers turned back to the doctor.
“What do you think it was that gave me the scare?”
“Indigestion,” the doctor offered.
Mr. Chambers laughed.
“I guess that’s why they call it heart burn, eh doc?”
The doctor nodded. “You might think about losing some weight though, Mr. Chambers.”
Mr. Chambers stood up and stepped toward the doctor.
“You think I’m fat?”
The doctor stepped back. He looked down at his clipboard.
“I think you could lose a little weight, Mr. Chambers. Hard on the heart carrying around extra pounds.”
Mr. Chambers laughed as he shook his head.
“You really think I’m fat. You don’t know a real man when you see one, doc.”
“I wasn’t trying to upset you, Mr. Chambers.”
“Is that right?” Mr. Chambers responded. “I’m not fat, doc. I can do the work of two men any day of the week.”
“I’m sure you can.”
“What the fuck is this all about then?” Mr. Chambers moved toward the doctor.
The doctor put out his hand to stop Mr. Chambers approach.
“Telling me I’m fat!” Mr. Chambers continued. “I think you’re stupid. Do you like that?”
“I think we’ve had enough of this conversation, Mr. Chambers.” The doctor holding his clipboard in one hand, crossed his arms in front of him. Waiting. For what he was not sure. Except that it was sure to be unpleasant.
“Can’t take it when it’s tossed your way, eh doc? I swallow guys like you every day, then spit them out.” Mr. Chambers chuckled.
The doctor sighed.
“You’re a bully, Mr. Chambers.”
Mr. Chambers leaned threateningly forward, clenching his chin like a fist.
“You’re calling me a what?” he cried.
“A bully, sir.” The doctor held his ground.
Mr. Chambers stared at the doctor for a moment. Then he stepped back. He laughed. He reached out and slapped the doctor affectionately on the arm.
“You’re alright, doc,” he said. “I was just having a little fun. You’ve got to lighten up.”
Mr. Chambers stepped past the doctor and out of the room.
Outside in the office his two grown sons waited. Terry, the youngest stood up when he saw his father.
“So what’s the verdict, dad?”
Mr. Chambers laughed. He put on his jacket.
“I’ll outlive both you bastards,” Mr. Chambers replied.
The doctor trailed Mr. Chambers. The boys looked at the doctor.
“Your father is as strong as an ox,” the doctor said.
Both boys looked dismayed. Mr. Chambers grabbed both of his boys by the necks and pushed them out the door. He followed behind. Bob’s Pastry and Cake Supplies. Written across his back.
December 27, 2012
The first time I saw Bogart on television was an interview he and his wife Bacall did with Edward R. Murrow. It was floss. But there was something about the actor. I’ve seen most of his movies that are easily available. I’ve watched The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca over a 100 times. And some of his other films like Sahara, The Big Sleep, etc dozens of times. His characters always exemplify something weak, incredible flaws, as well as redeeming strengths. He is a romantic hiding under a cynic.
This excerpt is from my book The Black Bird. Have a look.
excerpts from bogart’s diary #1-37
huston decided to hold a costume ball before we began shooting the falcon . we call john the ambassador of dreams eyes in envelopes, umbrella prays for rain (so she won’t feel so useless) . bullet proof ears. he cannot hear death—he only knows it by smell he met each guest at the door. dressed up as fatty arbuckle & holding a jar filled with oysters anyone know i asked. the ambassador winked winked & sprinkled stardust on each of us as we entered while singing WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHO YOU ARE. i was dressed up as the invisible man . no one noticed … sydney stayed close to the bar or was it the reverse . he looked like the election returns . he said he was disguised as mt. everest . several young starlettes were clustered like small villages around his feet. one was wearing skis and reciting the koran . backwards . another wore two tablets and a long beard that began below the waist … mouth open oven a creampuff danced around the room looking for horny dps especially tall first lieutenants from toronto who read ts eliot. jeffery longstreet said he had a cake for her throat. unleavened, bruised, and circumcised… lorre sat at the piano playin’ popular tunes with a german accent. dressed up as hitler’s bitch in heat. his tail kept falling off. the great dictator received his instructions from his dog . the bitch would open her mouth and hitler would bark … the apaches are waiting at the edge of the desert waiting for the storm to pass . dying of tb . & learning how to square dance … cattle lena in a tux. practicing her courses. digging a plot in her pocket. spitting out cigars. & pinching any ass that grazes by… a pageant of people bursting with beginnings . yankee optimism . parmenides was right we never leave the beginnings, unless you put up your wrist and slash for permission to leave . there is only this solid mass of oneness . we are like creatures, extinct, & frozen in me NOW … why do i always feel like i’m sitting on the edge of the world spitting seeds into the emptiness, flushing the nothingness out of my soul … two colored girls showed up. or was it a costume . everyone gathered around to see them make love in the potato salad. i spent some time in a closet with one of them . she had eyes like a cathedral. i felt like st. francis begging on the front steps for one chance to light a small red candle. i told her she was very tight. she said she felt claustrophobic . being colored is like living in a box. all white women should be blind, peeling off her skin she placed it on a hanger. that i could hardly control … someone handed me a manhattan. i finished a cigarette and flew around the room , solo. i was hoping that it wouldn’t rain. i asked if everyone would mind cease burning their words until i could clear up this mystery. i ran into sydney who was rehearsing as a zeppelin in a bath tub. he asked me to leave . he already had some passengers . easy flo said that she now understood . everything i promised had been part of some plan . to lay her out like an airport and then land… laughing from the chandeliers tequila dorothy in feathers that fell off like snow swung above the drifts of faces. raymond the parrot told her to be careful . someone else screamed — melt … is there any alternative to feeling haunted . a little kid staring out through dusty windows, broken glass on the floors . mice in the rafters . eaves troughs filled with tears. perhaps it is my work . am i nothing more than a series of poses. movement is the illusion they love. i am the offspring of magic and mechanics . cameras have cataracts. they see only what they wish to see … is god some machine projecting home movies in his basement. he is in almost every shot. boring us with the details . all i want to know is, if i slept with you would it make any difference … i feel layered. schizophrenia is an oversimplification . consciousness is not the census taker asking embarrassing questions about your health & the brand of toothpaste you wear. consciousness is a series of skins . i am the latest skin . the snake is crawling back toward paradise
another cigarette … another drink … who is this woman leaning on my arm dressed up as robespierre . she says leave everything to me . i have sharpened my teeth. the basket is ready for your disbelief … i hardly know how to love . only the innocent can love. the rest of us are just flushing out our hearts … a guy called trotsky served champagne. said the revolution was a mistake. people’s stomachs were bored . there was nothing for them to do … beyond all this negativity i keep looking and smiling . smiling has become a task. my agent says that when i laugh on the screen it looks contrived . he wants to have my grin lifted … people swallow answers like pills . kills the pain for a while . once in a crowd of fans i was almost swallowed whole … all i want is flesh between my teeth. fingernails tracing the veins in my vanity. something fragile and warm . a dress thrown over a chair. legs wrapped around my spine . feel the darkness sleeping beside me … is comfort all we are to each other… a child star dressed up as a fire hydrant showed up with her mother. the mother was bela lugosi . huston said that he was offered the kid spread eagled for the weekend if he could find room for her in the falcon . said the mother had a bunker between her legs. louie said it was a machine gun nest … mary asked if i read the script . one scene was being cut. censorship . would i like to shoot it privately.., dash showed up. a head like a silver porcupine, he was not in costume . all he talks about is the war. hitler is the devil’s fallen angel . acting ,he remarked ,was protracted suicide. burying yourself six feet beneath someone else’s dream … does anyone still believe in the self … i remember the first time i gave up myself. she was a big girl . i was seventeen, said i was a saint as i knelt down beside her. i could not stop praying … someone asked me to dance. my feet ran away…
Bogart. Actor. Celebrity. Husband. As Sam Spade. In the movie The Maltese Falcon. Baring of a soul. Stripping down of a life. Reaching beyond the point of death. To Bogart as a boy. Steeped in mythic reality. Originally published in 1982 by The Porcupine’s Quill. Finalist in the 2004 Eppie Awards for Poetry.
December 24, 2012
When my nephew was born, many years ago, I wrote several short stories for him about a brother and sister named Raymond and Christiane Chocolate. Two publishers went broke before publishing them. So I retired the stories for the last couple of decades.
THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
It was the day after Christmas and Raymond Chocolate was very depressed. He was uncommonly quiet. His long face got on everyone’s nerves so much that Mrs. Chocolate was forced to tell Raymond to play outside until he was in a better mood. Raymond was so depressed that he didn’t even object to wearing the pink tuke his Aunt Molasses had sent him as a present.
When Raymond stepped outside his breath came rushing out of his mouth and formed a nice round ball. Usually Raymond liked to take these balls and throw them at Ludwig Van, his invisible dragon. This day Raymond just looked at the ball. The ball waited a moment longer then usual, shrugged its shoulders, and fell into the snow.
“You are depressed, sir!” Ludwig Van said. “I was depressed once. I went to a dentist and had it pulled out.”
Raymond mumbled, “Isn’t nothing.”
Ludwig smiled and added, “It was a wisdom tooth. The only one I had.”
“Ya, right,” Raymond responded.
Ludwig Van became quiet. He was trying to mustard all of his courage together. He put his courage into his mouth like a hot dog and ate it.
“Sir, I don’t mean to be nosy, never have been nosy as you very well know, but what’s got you so sad?”
Raymond turned to the invisible dragon who on such a cold day was almost visible and sighed.
“Ah… you wouldn’t understand!”
Ludwig Van sighed. “I suppose you’re right. If it’s as bad as you say perhaps you could have it pulled out. I was once depressed and I went to a dentist… Oh, I told that story already.”
Raymond took a deep breath and then poured out his heart.
“I’m sad because… Okay, first, there were those socks Christiane got me as a Christmas present. Socks! Socks aren’t presents! And then there was the way everyone found Baby Alan so cute. Since he started talking there’s no way I can get a word in edgewise. I used to be the one that said the cute things. And then of course there’s always the big question?”
“Big question?” Ludwig Van gulped.
“Will there be another Christmas? I heard mom say that the bills were piling up. She wondered how we would make ends meet. And I heard dad say that he didn’t know how the country could be held together. So many people don’t have jobs and so many jobs need to be done. And I heard Christiane say that there might be another ice age and that it started yesterday.”
“Another ice age!” Ludwig Van cried. “That is depressing. I remember the last ice age. Everyone slept a lot.”
And so Raymond Chocolate and Ludwig Van trudged aimlessly through the snow, which had freshly fallen the evening before. Raymond Chocolate sank up to his knees with each step while Ludwig Van walked on top of the snow. Invisible dragons are able to walk on top of the snow because they are born with snowshoes built into their feet.
As Raymond and Ludwig Van trudged down the street through the snow they heard a voice.
It cried, “Hey!” Raymond turned to the invisible dragon.
“Did you hear that?”
“Yes I did,” Ludwig Van replied. “But, I can’t remember when. Was it Tuesday? No, that’s impossible. Tuesday is tomorrow at least for today. Maybe it was Wednesday.”
“Hey!” a voice cried again.
Raymond looked around. “I heard it again.”
Ludwig Van scratched his chin with the end of his tail. “Maybe it was an echo.”
“I’m here under the snow!” the voice cried.
Raymond stepped over to the side of the road and pushed snow off the top of a mount of snow. Underneath the snow he found a beaten up old jack-in-the-box. The head lay out of the side of the box like a tongue out of the side of a mouth.
Raymond asked. “Whet are you doing out here?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” the jack-in-the-box snarled. “Getting a tan? Of all the people in the world I could have been rescued by, I have to pick a kid. I hate kids! What am I doing here? How many times have I asked myself that question? Why am I out here? Because I’m last year’s toy. Oh, the little monsters, they were very happy with me last year. Last year they couldn’t keep their grubby little hands off me. But now, this year, they say I’m no fun!”
The jack-in-the-box turned its head, looked up at Raymond and hollered. “I am fun! I am! Test me and see. Go ahead, why don’t you!”
So Raymond stuffed the jack-in-the-box in the box and closed the lid. Then Raymond turned the little arm on the side of the box. Raymond warned Ludwig Van to take cover. So the invisible dragon hid behind his master and put his hands over his eyes and gritted his teeth in anticipation of a terrible scare. Very slowly the lid of the box rose up and the jack-in-the-box crawled out ever so slowly and whispered in a very tiny voice, “boo”.
Raymond stared at the jack-in-the-box. Ludwig Van took his hands off his eyes and looked at the jack-in-the-box and puffed out his chest.
“Nothing scares me!” the invisible dragon proudly declared.
When the jack-in-the-box realized he hadn’t frightened anyone he began to cry.
“Oh, I’ve got to face up to it. I’ve lost the magic. Good-bye showbiz. So long world. You’ll never have this jack-in-the-box to kick around anymore.”
With these words the jack crawled back into his box. Raymond closed the Lid and covered him again with snow. Ludwig Van began to weep, his tears turning into icicles, the icicles slipping from his eyes and sticking into the snow just missing the invisible dragon’s toes.
“Maybe things will pick up in the spring for the little guy,” Ludwig Van said.
But Raymond didn’t hear his friend. He was too depressed.
The X-Christmas Tree
Raymond and Ludwig Van continued on down the street. The streets were empty. Everyone was inside being happy, Raymond thought. If only they knew. As Raymond and Ludwig Van turned the corner onto the street that led to the town dump, they heard someone sneeze.
“Was that you?” Raymond asked his invisible friend.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised, sir,” Ludwig Van replied. “But, I don’t remember sneezing. Of course I have a short memory especially when I’m not warm.”
Another sneeze. Raymond turned and saw some snow fall off a tree. It was a Christmas tree stuck in a snowdrift, still dressed in tinsel, and Christmas balls, and colored lights.
“Was that you who sneezed, Christmas tree?” Raymond asked.
“X-Christmas tree,” the tree responded before it sneezed again. “I think I’ve caught a cold.”
“Shouldn’t you be inside?” Raymond asked.
“Yes of course I should. But they couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Christmas is barely over and here I am, abandoned, stuck in this snow bank and feeling… Haa Choo!”
“Bless you!” Ludwig Van said.
“And it all started out so beautifully,” the tree sniffled as its ornaments shimmered. “Last week when they bought me and put me up in their living room I felt wonderful. They treated me like a queen. Dressed me up, laid gifts at my feet. Well, I can’t begin to tell you how glorious I… Haa Choo! I thought that being a Christmas tree would be so glamorous. But, look at me now. I feel like crawling away somewhere and… Haaa Choooooo!!!”
And with this the Christmas tree began to cry and because it was so cold the tears turned into icicles and because the icicles formed only on one side of the tree, the tree began to lose its balance.
“TIM—BER!” cried Ludwig Van who just managed to get out of the way of the falling tree.
“I’m getting even more depressed,” Raymond said as he turned away from the fallen tree and trudged down the street.
“Well, sir,” Ludwig Van said as he followed behind his master, “judging by that x-Christmas tree and the jack-in-the-box you seem to have lots of company.”
When Raymond reached the jungle, which his father insisted was the town dump, he stopped. Raymond informed the invisible dragon that he was going deep into the jungle never to return. It was Ludwig Van’s decision whether he wanted to follow him.
“We’re a team, sir,” Ludwig Van smiled as he stretched his arms to three times their normal length and wrapped them around his neck like a scarf.
The two friends plunged into the jungle. Because of the numerous snowdrifts they were at times forced to take curving and sweeping trails. But none of this mattered since they were headed nowhere in particular. As they walked they passed half buried pickup trucks, telephone booths, rolls of fencing. A long green hose rose out of the snow several yards ahead, looked at them for a moment, than sank back into a snowdrift. Occasionally the heads of television sets and washing machines were spotted peaking out at Raymond and Ludwig Van.
Ludwig Van said. “This must be the end of the world, sir.”
The invisible dragons’ teeth began clattering together with the cold.
“Don’t you think we should turn back, sir?”
Raymond did not respond. Instead he turned his head and pointed his ear to the east.
“Did you hear that?” Raymond asked.
“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Ludwig Van replied in a cold mousy voice. “I’ve bean hearing things all morning.”
“Someone is singing!” Raymond said.
Raymond looked around. The singing was coming from an old abandoned car.
“Over there,” Raymond pointed.
When Ludwig Van found himself alone he hastened to catch up to Raymond who was headed toward a long very black car.
Raymond and Ludwig Van gazed into the old automobile through the windows but could see nothing because all the windows were frosted up.
“Oh, Iwish you hadn’t done that, sir,” Ludwig Van squealed.
“Yes,” a voice from inside the car replied. “Come in.”
Before Ludwig Van could stop him, Raymond opened a door and looked inside.
“Come in arid join me,” a hurtle smiled. “My name is Reginald Clifford the Third, but my friends call me Sam which is what you may call me.”
Raymond And Ludwig Van climbed into the front seat of the car. The hurtle had been enjoying a cup of tea and he offered Raymond and Ludwig a cup to help them warm up.
Ludwig Van swallowed his tea quickly and sighed.
“I never thought I was going to feel warm.”
Raymond asked. “Why were you singing?”
“Why?” Sam smiled. “It’s Christmas time my boy or at least that’s what we cell it in this neck of the woods.”
“But,”Raymond protested in a sad voice, “don’t you know what’s happening?”
“What’s happening?” Sam asked looking quite concerned.
Raymond proceeded to tell Sam about the jack-in-the-box, and the x-Christmas tree, and the socks, and being the lost kid in thefamily, and the bills piling up, about all the jobs that had to be done, about the ice age, and about the sorry state of the world in general.
“Enough! Enough!” Sam begged laughing. “I know all about those matters and serious matters they are, especially about being the lost boy in the family As far as the ice age is concerned, I thought it started yesterday and you can never have enough socks in an ice age.”
“Does it all make you feel unbearably sad’” Raymond asked.
“Yes,” Sam responded shaking his head, “if I let it. But today, I’ve taken a holiday from all those cares.”
“You mean you don’t want to face the truth,” Raymond scolded the hurtle.
Sam giggled for a moment.
“You are a very serious young man, aren’t you? I haven’t seen someone so upset since my brother Louise woke up one morning and found that someone had painted his shell pink. I thought it was a harmless prank myself.”
Sam reached over to the glove compartment and pulled out a small package wrapped in Christmas paper. He handed it to Raymond.
“For me?” Raymond cried.
Quickly Raymond unwrapped the present. It was a mirror.
“Thank you,” Raymond responded. “But, I don’t understand.”
Sam smiled. “The real present is inside the mirror.”
“That’s me,” Raymond replied.
Sam chuckled. “Isn’t that wonderful? You’re here. It’s better than not being here. My brother Velma was never here and he always had trouble doing up his shoelaces.”
“I know the feeling,” the invisible dragon sighed.
“You see,” Sam explained. “It takes courage to he here. And it takes even more courage to see all the problems of the world and stay here. And it takes even more courage then that to smile and maybe to even change the world a little, to make it a better place for everyone.”
“You mean there’ll he Another Christmas,” Raymond said.
“Of course,” Sam grinned.
“But the way people talk…
“Oh them,” Sam said shaking his head. “Sometimes adults talk very foolish. You’ll understand that better when you grow up.”
“Did you’ hear that Ludwig Van? There’s going to be another Christmas.
“Yes, sir,” the invisible dragon shivered, “But maybe they could hold it in the summer next year.”
Sam laughed. Raymond laughed. Ludwig Van laughed. And then the three friends began to sing Silent Night even though it was early in the afternoon.
December 14, 2012
This is an excerpt from my novel ‘Snow’. The book is written from many viewpoints/voices. This section is a young teenager who had his father shot by his mother. The stories themselves move through genres. Murder mystery, to mainstream, to surreal. Snow is the last in a series about a cop, solving crimes at the same time as he moves from bachelor to married man to father.
I’m always being dragged down to the counselor’s office. Like talking to me is going to bring my old man back. Always asking me if I sleep all right. Course I sleep, I tell them. What do they think I’m going to tell them? And why should I? What did they ever do for me before my old man got knocked off? I was one of those invisible kids in school until I did something wrong. You could be the biggest asshole in high school and as long as you’re showing up for class and doing your work, everyone is happy. Jumping through hoops, that’s what school is all about.
They said I stole an essay off the net, that I plagiarized it. There wasn’t any proof. Just figured that someone like me couldn’t write that well. Mr. Brennan has always had it in for me. Who knows why? Maybe cause I didn’t suck up to him. So I get dragged down to Mrs. Fleming, the VP. Old lady Fleming started ranting about the theft of intellectual thought. There’s a bitch who never had an original idea in her life, not even one that was stolen. She shows me my essay on Martin Luther like it was a smoking gun. She asked me where I stole the essay. Like I would have given up a friend to her. I ain’t no rat. Okay, maybe my sister helped me, but it’s not like she wrote it for me. Mary is an A student and she helped me with some of the ideas about the Reformation. I told old lady Fleming to go fuck herself. Suspended! For what? Telling the truth?