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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Stopless

He comes home, doesn't want to stop. He keeps going. He takes a screwdriver, unplugs the TV set. One moment he is looking at the people on the TV. The next he is getting into it. He removes the back of the set, then starts on the innards.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Cocktail Place Mat Brooklyn of the Mind

I take a sip from my juicebox and I stare down the road, which is a long highway free of traffic. I'm a wanted fugitive from a chain gang. For the first time in 6 years I am free, and I am feeling desperately parched.

Every day they would take us out to the highway and let us run around helter-skelter, all chained up together until late at night. The men on the chain gang were into different things, like breaking up rocks into smaller rocks, and murdering other members of the chain gang. The heavily sedated (though still violent and angry) bears on the chain gang actually had very few interests besides goring and mauling the other members of the chain gang.

As a birdwatcher, it was terribly frustrating. Often I would catch sight of a rare bird, after several hours of staring intently at one spot in the distance while being dragged around by my chains, only to be shivved or mauled just as I pointed my finger up in the sky and announced, "It's the Rib-Crested Weaver!" I can't tell you how many times that happened.

Somehow I got away, snuck out in the morning when the bears do their business in the woods. I'd been going nowhere. That chain gang just wasn't for me. The men said some things that couldn't ever be taken back... and it seemed to me that the bears just didn't understand. Perhaps they'd never understood me at all.

I packed three juiceboxes and a turkey roll, because I had a map and Brooklyn was where I wanted to go. I gathered the rest of my things--I have a vintage edition of A Guide to Northern Field Birds, and I wasn't going to leave it behind so some doped-up, drooling bear could glance at it a few times before using it as toilet paper. Also, there's a chainsaw that I'd been carrying around with me for... going on 9, 10 years now.

Now, a lot of men would say carrying around that chainsaw is what got me put on the chain gang in the first place. A lot of men, and a lot of bears. But those men and bears are dead now. They're all hacked up and their pieces are scattered all over the woods, just off the highway that I'm on now.

I figured I'd be alright, once I got on the right track to Brooklyn. But this map isn't much, it's just a place mat from an old seafood resturant with pictures of different cocktails on it. Down at the bottom, in rather small print, it says, "Printed in Brooklyn, USA".

See, this highway stretches on, like, really far out there. And there don't seem to be any bridges or tunnels in the distance--just a lot of rocks that probably need to be broken down into smaller rocks, just so I can get over them. But once I'm over them, well then I should be just fine, I think.

I wonder how I'll be accepted in Brooklyn. What is Brooklyn's position on birdwatching? Do they have juiceboxes there? How do they feel about folks who walk around with a constantly buzzing chainsaw?

How will they greet me--a giant, unmedicated bear, covered in blood?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The 5 Year Burn

A good long time ago, when I'm in school, me and Rick are walking from the apartments back to the dorms. It's a pretty calm night, a long night, and we aren't too interested in talking. We walk the 20 minutes or so, past Lake Fred, in silence. It's gotta be 2, 3am in the morning.

Then all of a sudden, Rick says, "This sucks."

"What sucks?" I ask, to no response... "What is it?" I say again. "Is it me?"

"Nah," he says. "Just--it sucks."

"Oh yeah," I says, cause it does.


Like 5 years later, me and Rick are sharing this house on Brigantine Island, down by the shore. We're sitting on the couch, just sitting. We don't have any cable reception, just a blue screen on the TV. We like the blue screen. Rick says it's calming. I don't even think about it. To me the blue screen is just as good as TV.

I'm working as a landscaper, which means that I mow lawns all day. My boss won't let me near the tree trimmer or the weed wacker. I dunno how to use the hedge clipper. Boss says I'd cut myself wide open if I try. I don't care much anyway. He pays me $7 an hour under the table, so what's he gonna do, pay me more?

Thing is, toward the middle of the Summer, I goof up every once in a while. Every day I ride my bike to get from Brigantine Island through Atlantic City to Margate where we start out for the day, something like 5 in the morning is when I wake up. Boss used to tolerate my ways, but now he's getting all upset, because every once in a while I mess up. One time I get hit by a car and get late to work, had to have a few stitches put in my neck. Another time I'm mowing a lawn, hit a big pile of dog poop, spray it all the hell over.

I gamble away my paychecks on craps at the Showboat. I'm terrible with gambling. It doesn't bother me much because I have another job. I'm a local reporter with a beat, writing up the town meetings for the Brigantine Beachcomber, which is the local paper. Except as the Summer wears on, I start to mess up. People are calling in to the paper, saying that I wrote the wrong story. They say maybe I wasn't at the right meeting, like I wrote up the wrong Town Hall meeting. Or maybe I wrote up some meeting that never even happened. Like, maybe the article I wrote was part of some other story I'm working on, or a novel. I have to admit, it's possible. But the people at Town Hall like me, they want me to keep coming around the meetings, to report on the things they say.

So, after work, after I'm done mowing lawns from 5am to about 5 in the evening, I pedal over to Town Hall in Margate, Ventnor, Atlantic City, or Brigantine. If I'm late, the local mayor waits for me before he commences the meeting. I come in, in my t-shirt and cut-offs. I smell pretty richly of grass and dirt. I sit down, they start the meeting, I write down what they say in my shorthand. I go home, go to sleep, then start the day again. On Saturday I transcribe my shorthand, try to make sense out of the marks I scribbled earlier that week. Sometimes I get stuff right. I submit it all to the Editor down at the paper. Rick used to date her, so that's why she gave me the job. She's the one that tells me that the people at the Town Hall are confused by what I'm writing, but they like me.

Later that Summer, my boss at the landscaping company gets a job on the Atlantic City police force. His girlfriend takes over as the boss of the landscaping company. Sometimes I show up to work late. One time, I get there about an hour late, and she fires me. I get upset, and I go get drunk. Then I go around, throwing bricks and rocks into car windows. I walk up the street, breaking every window in every car.

The cops come and get me, and they arrest me. I spend a few hours in jail, then I go home. A week later, the Editor at the Brigantine Beachcomber tells me that I was in the police blotter. She says they have a policy, and I can't work for them anymore. Their policy is that you can't work for the paper if you've appeared in the police blotter of the paper.

After my last day of work, the day before I was an hour late, I take a very long bath.

That's when I felt so tired, I filled up the bathtub and brought the radio in the bathroom, and played my music while I soaked in the bath for a long time. The bathtub filled up with grass and it drifted away, off my body, and the bathroom filled up with that good smell of fresh cut grass and dirt. I just leaned back in the tub, in all that grass.

We're sitting on the couch, in our house, looking at the blue screen. Rick says, "You remember when we were walking, about 5 years ago? Walking down by Lake Fred, back at school?"

I say yes, because I do remember.

"Remember when I said, 'This sucks,' and you said, 'Is it me?'" he asks me.

"Yeah," I said. I remember that. I remember that even though it seems like a long time ago.

"Well," he says. "It was you."

"Oh," I say, and I smile.

I am thinking about this Summer, and all the time between those days at school and now. And Rick has a funny look on his face, and when I look at him, I scratch my head and I smile again, bigger, because that is so funny!

Then, I am laughing. We are both laughing. I am laughing so hard, so long, that I'm a little worried I'll suffocate because I can't breathe. But if that happens, I think, then that wouldn't be so bad. I laugh for so long that I can't even remember. I can't remember anything, except for laughing. And eventually, I just have to stop. I have to wipe the tears away, because it is just so funny.