Carnage was a classic wolf. That much is obvious. Death or life was for her a matter of quiet and violence, no more worthy of philosophic rhapsodies than rain or snow.
Deliberation was another issue, there was a well of patience and caution in her that belied scientific evidence proving correlation between inbreeding and intelligence hindering disabilities. However, this patience was never altruistic, showing itself when she was, say, stalking a killer who quietly hovered beyond sight in the evenings or if one of her kind, of no particular threat to her, playfully nipped in. Never when her authority was questioned though.
Of course, before the joke wears thin, Carnage was actually a dog.
“Carni” was snow white, easily spotted in the dark or driving rain from an ATV. The coloration also proved an effective ruse to lure desperate adolescent or sick predators into launching single or double attacks that were effectively dealt with by Carni, with so many other animals around the attacker would rarely get a scent of her. Instead of turning to flee with a terrified “BAA!”, Carni would run towards the threat, typically snapping the creatures neck if she managed to nab it between her jaws as they sped toward each other.
There were few instances where she was amongst other dogs of her own kind, there would be smaller dogs bred for sheep herding, border collies or heelers, that she saw and sniffed every day, but from her massive kin there was little in the way of interaction. So it was rarely even a benevolent patience, but one born from a drive and requirement to kill.
Which isn’t bad, I mean, the sheep were as defenseless as they come, no rams in amongst them and babies not two months old. If a decent enough pack, say 6 to 8 coyotes or wild dogs got themselves organized it would be a bloody and long stand off. There aren’t any prizes in the animal world for second place, so it makes sense that notions of decency are also absent.
Carni didn’t even particularly like sheep, their existence was merely a prod with which to stimulate the dance she was so used to into being.
At least that was the case when she was young, later as she learned the travails that winter would bring with the whole operation; sheep, Peruvian sheep herders, and dogs all transported en masse a hundred and fifty miles north, onto real rural land where the sheep were kept close together and the men often took rifles with them to round them up. Once she had learned of the difference between summer and winter, she welcomed the contented but still annoying bleating of the sheep and the sometimes miserable heat that doubled in ferocity just before the season faded. It meant boredom but the cold meant aches and danger.
Were it another creature, another type of canine, there would be the question; which was preferable? Was the boredom and dulling by heat of senses sharpened out of necessity better than the freezing rain and sudden need for violence that winter brought? Another animal might have an answer, however, a dog bred only for work has little desire to exercise the part of the brain required for specious comparisons, it is an expenditure of energy with no tangible benefit, a trait long excised by evolution. And if it wasn’t something ingrained in Carni, why would anyone teach her that?
To be sure, nobody took much time to teach anything to a working dog, it was just assumed it was something that was innate, or, on the other hand, unlearnable.
On the other hand, Frankie, short for Frankrietta (I don’t know why Francine wasn’t brought up as a possible name for a female dog someone had already dubbed ‘Frankie’) was the sort of dog for whom it was impossible to stop thinking. She was a small black and white border collie that, once we were introduced, I realized immediately, did not want to be a work dog. She would kidney bean at the slightest hint of affection, which her Peruvian owners rarely if ever gave (it would be like a blacksmith hugging his anvil, or, more accurately, if they decided to start petting their ATV’s) and if you persisted in giving her attention, she’d squirm around in circles, half standing, seeming like she’d had a stroke.
She probably had fleas, but once she knew we were right around the corner during the two or three hours between when she was done working and when she got fed and went to sleep, she’d come over and get some attention and after a few times, pretty much everyone was singing the same tune,
“Aww, let Frankie come in and hang out.”
I was onboard from the word go, but I was glad Lauren had said it, somebody to rib about getting fleabitten if I fell asleep on the couch. Frankie wandered about smelling things but with the sort of manners you’d expect at a Connecticut finishing school. Fifteen minutes later, we’d nearly forgotten she was there until she wandered back over to the door she was let in through, raised a paw and clearly went
not loud but enough to look over and go,
“Oh, Frankie wants out”
So I walked over and let her out, only after I had closed the door marvelling at how she seemed human in her ability to comprehend exactly what the appropriate amount of noise to make was and how she ought to behave indoors, actually I thought to myself that I knew people whom I’d less prefer in my house than her, even if she did have fleas.
Where we were living seemed like a paradise and in many ways it was, but after about four months it started being shot through with moments of almost haunted-carnival trite moments of indignity, neglect, stupidity or pig-headedness.
Part of that is a pun, herding a pig can sometimes only be accomplished by tying an extension cord around one and having three grown men set themselves against him. No one can tell you after the first one being led down the chute that they don’t recognize what is coming.
That was later, when I was about as deep as felt comfortable in the quasi-cult farm culture that always adheres to operations like this.
Earlier days, when it did happen that I stumbled onto where the herders had been dumping the bodies of sheep and goats that happened to die during the winter I was taken aback, but it was an expected deflation. Almost like someone who suspected they were dreaming because of the constant supply of goodwill and generosity around them. The carelessness regarding location was that they were doing this in a creek bed that ran year round, feeding a reservoir that provided water for the vineyards and vegetable crops (strictly in that order). It was unlikely anyone would be drinking this water, but it was difficult to imagine a less desirable place to have rotting animal carcasses with the resident bacteria and microbes than near a source of irrigation water.
The impression that I gathered from the initial six months at the farm was that there was little involved in the “theory” of all of this, and months later, a genuine genius in the field of soil science and agronomy changed this impression somewhat, however, I continued (and continue) to see farming, cultivation, animal husbandry and the like as extensions of an ancestral largesse, so much more than other, more “modern” jobs or careers, it seemed like drawing from a well that was at the most basic level, available to everyone. Stopping to consider that around the world, in sometimes extremely adverse conditions, farming was possible was reassuring, but as in everything else, repetition either deterred dilettantes or transformed them into more saavy practitioners.
And personally, as a dilettante, most days I felt like a mouse on a velodrome.
That isn’t to say that there weren’t countless moments of introspection. For instance, February, two months later, the house emptied and rain pouring down as I smoked weed in the upstairs bathroom, a sliver of arboreal life poking it’s branch in the window, seemingly enticed by the resiny smoke.
It was simply that the part of my mind shaped most effectively by fatherly admonishments to be a useful contributing member of society didn’t allow me to simply sit back and wait for the responsibilities to come to me, the work to be presented along with instructions on how best to achieve said goals.
I wept during the first week we were at the farm, everyone knew how to do their tasks, I couldn’t help and it got to the core of me, I felt useless.
One evening I took a bottle of complimentary wine into the bathroom where I had drawn a bath, half sitting and half reclining in the too small tub and reading something that reassured me that my place in the world was little else but temporary, I realized only too late that I’d drained the entire bottle. I emerged carefully from the now lukewarm water twenty minutes later and walked through the door into our downstairs bedroom. Lauren asked how I was and it all came tumbling out, I admitted I’d downed the bottle and she chided me, I’d reacted childishly, I knew, but admonishments were the opposite of what I needed.
I fell asleep early, remembering the tactic from times in the past when I’d been unabashedly depressed.
This, however, meant that I woke up at 3 am feeling ready to start the day. Although days on a farm do start fairly early, there was nothing at all to do but sit on the big sagging couch in the living room, pondering the sort of things that seem to only present themselves while awake in the middle of the night.
Thankfully, a bookshelf full of books I had not read, or read very few of, sat in the corner. I’ve always considered it a wonderful diversionary tactic: give me scant information about a person but let me loose in their home to appraise their book collection, I will know real fast who they are (or who they think they are). In this case, the books were conglomerated seemingly randomly from those involved in education at the farm and so there was little voyeuristic thrill in discovering say, an indulgence in trashy romance novels (there weren’t any), or bombastic political hardcovers ranting about it being somebody else’s fault (also none). But there was genuine interest, this was a entire field which I’d purposely avoided my entire life, I relented once it was clear that self imposed ignorance was the worst sort and came, penitent to the bookshelf full of Ag books I’d never thought interesting enough to read.
This is also how I discovered that the big saggy couch in the living room was extremely easy to sleep on, and that Frankie did, in fact, have fleas.
. . . can be found in the MAKE YOUR YOUNGER SELF HAPPY IN A TIME PARADOX 2016 FPM Music Zine available for a limited time at Seventh Seal Music Collective in Denver, Colorado.
Just off International, down from the auto-glass place on 23rd is where I used to live. About a month after moving in, the one neighbor I had spoken with, Yelena told me about this guy, Sandro who’d open people’s mail. Never maliciously, she claimed, he would tape the envelope closed after taking out, inspecting and replacing the contents and write a sloppy but thoughtful “THANK YOU” in all capital letters, next to the re-sealed flap. He’d choose an address and open one or two items a day for a week, sometimes two, then move on, keeping to one side of 23rd street for a mile or so.
I only halfway believed her, partially because of how odd it sounded and partially because she was slightly spun and would gnaw a fingernail every five minutes or so nervously. Nobody used the mail for shit anyways but I noted this in the back of my mind, figuring I could request signature confirmation if anybody was to send me anything care of the USPS, UPS or FedEx. It wasn’t until two months later that I ran into Sandro one morning after finishing the delivery route I worked. 8 AM and here he is, hunched over the mailbox in a way that seemed to vaguely suggest of onanism.
“Hey-” the word was short and meant only to convey that I was there.
“Me llamo Sandro! Ok- Bah.” as he turned and quickly walked away with two letters held in his upward facing palms, his eyes fixed on the gifts held there and the ground immediately in front of him. It was all done in that way that suggested a mental disability and I didn’t want the junk mail anyways.
He would pop up around the neighborhood around breakfast mostly, sporting an old tank top and shuffling holes in his house slippers and A’s cap, telling everyone his name no matter how many times they had met him before, I’d imagine if i ever saw him interact with his mother it would unfold the same way.
Anyways, one night, early in summer, Yelena finds me walking to the liquor store and goes
“Sandro is gone! He sent me a package that had an orange, his A’s hat and an old school tape...the postmark was some-fuckin-place in Florida!”
It took about a week to track down a functional tape player, about the same time I got contacted by my credit union asking about a credit card taken out in my name. I responded on the phone and spoke a representative who told me a card had been opened, charged for twenty dollars and remained dormant since the initial small purchase. Smiling to myself slightly and muttering “What the fuck, ‘Dro?” I pushed play on the Talkboy I had found in some smelly thrift store.
Hi, Yelena. I only want to tell you I’m ok. I needed money for a bus here, so I took some from people, but not very much. Tell them for me please that I’m sorry. Thank you!
Inside the cassette tape box was a small picture of Sandro with a tank top and straw beachcomber hat waving as someone else took his picture, accidentally covering the top left corner of the frame with their finger.
These illustrations come courtesy of Rio Davies, who gave Fake Publishing Millionaires a set of MY JOKES SUCK strips a few months ago in August and helped shoot multiple Filmtime with Ray episodes this season. She is opening Howling Gypsy Tattoo's first brick and mortar location in the Bronx soon (early 2016). Hit her up if you like what you see and the prospect of putting it on your body titillates you.
HOPE YOU ENJOYED OUR BEATING ON THE BIGGEST BRAT IN THE BEAT GENERATION! "We got the beat, we got the beat, we got the beat . . ."
RIO DAVIES IS UNRELATED TO DAVE OR RAY DAVIES, THE KINKS BROTHERS. WE KNOW, THAT WOULD'VE BEEN COOL.
Last time I’d been there, France claimed first blood, that sounds overly dramatic when in reference to a mere nosebleed, but as a know-nothing seventeen year old it was exactly the sort of story I’d hoped would result from my first trip to Europe.
“The first copy of ‘On the Road’ I ever owned was purchased in London and bled all over in France.”
“How worldly!” would be the obvious reply.
The paper airplanes thrown from the Eiffel Tower had a few words in English, nothing about the nosebleed, which had happened on the bus ride from the French coast to Paris when I fell asleep and woke to a young family gawking at the book in my lap and chest now spotted with blood, “a bit of claret” as the English would say. Except this time it wasn’t them, it was you.
The veil of sleep must have a universal translator, despite not being quite aware of the unreality, I remained confused as to how I could understand you.
“Oh dear, what happened to you?!” you said, with a coquettish hand to your mouth.
“I don’t know, what the-” sitting up now and seeing the blood caused only momentary concern, that is when I knew it truly must be a dream, as the nausea of uncertain injury, akin to orgasm has no equivalent there.
“Oh, it’s only a nosebleed.”
The shirt I was wearing was a un-monogrammed bowling shirt, one broad stripe of white up the middle third with black surrounding. Looking down at the blood stain meandering on the central field, it blurred like a white dissolve in a movie, until I was looking downward at clouds and the Seine on approach to Charles de Gaulle. Having again, just woken up.
Looking around briefly and then down at my shirt, a clean Oxford with no tie, I realized there was blood on this shirt, as well, presumably from another (the same?) nosebleed.
“Mon dieu!” the elderly lady across the aisle from me exclaimed as she turned to see me.
“Wait, no, it’s fine. It’s only a nose bleed, I mean un saigne...sagne. Something de nez!”
It was no use, she started screaming and looking around wildly.
“Mademoiselle, quel est le probleme?” Now the issue wasn’t as clear, this was French and I could understand you...perhaps merely because of how simple the sentence was, indeed the situation itself lent little mystery to what you could possibly say.
You looked at her (I named her Clotilde in my mind, a vaguely bovine name to befit her girth) her hands gesturing wildly and followed them to my poor shy nariz.
“I’m OK, it was just a bloody nose, I fell asleep and woke up to it, she must not have noticed until I sat up.”
“Let me get you some towels then, sir.” You glanced at me askance, unsure of whether I could be adequately blamed for the situation enough to loathe, or was merely a victim of circumstance. After four or five seconds you started to walk away.
“Are you sure you are alright?” said from two aisles down I could barely catch it over the sound of my own heavy sigh, you looked over a uniformed shoulder towards me. In doing this you were completely aware that it was impossible to avoid, when I leaned into the aisle to reply, notice of your shapely ass, ineffectively masked by the attempts of the most repressed British Airways lawyers that could be mustered to stir no desire to waywardly grope.
“I’m fine, tissues would work better than a towel, this shirt is already done for and I need to put something in my nose to soak up the blood. Thanks, and I’m sorry…”
Now it was your turn to sigh, a nearly invisible one that served in lieu of a reply. Probably the best I could hope for, I thought with the mind of a person who logs financial irregularities that happened fifteen years ago to feed into projections that have somehow already been made about the myriad things my nose would be added to in the list of things you, against your will, must now care about.
Putting my head back onto the headrest I felt the slow trickle resume and angled my nose up to avoid any further sullying of what seemed quite a nice shirt. Before you could return I had drifted off again.
Thirteen years prior, my whirlwind trip of Europe had hit the highlights in London, Paris and Rome but what had stuck with me as the aforementioned know nothing teenager was the interstitial spaces, getting lost and finding ourselves in St. Peter’s Square at 3 A.M. or hiding from disposable camera flashes under a rough blanket atop the half-decrepit London hotel our tour group was staying in.
Now one of these spaces, one I’d nearly lost to the vagaries of memory, gently woke me. The first thing which I did was check that I had, in fact, stopped bleeding from my nose.
“Thank god, my nose finally stopped bleeding.”
The query, soft and made without opening your mouth, came from very close behind my head. I lay on my side with one of your hands draped over my arm, the intention of your reply being obviously thus,
“What are you doing? Go back to sleep.” Unspoken but conveyed nonetheless.
I was wary of falling back asleep again, as each time previously had produced sanguine nasal effluence and I saw no towels to staunch it nearby. So I tried to roll over.
Now you really did speak up, “NO, you can’t. There’s not room on this damned thing to roll over, you gotta jump down if you want to switch sides or turn over…”
Performing a brief recce of the small sleeping compartment aboard what must be a train judging by the motion and barely audible click-clack of rail ties beneath us, I adjudged the distance and landing area to be acceptable and leaped down, curiosity, rather than a real need to change position motivating me.
The room was dim, the beds all seemingly full, my leap from the third bunk up had only awoken one middle aged woman, who muttered a Roma curse, or maybe she was merely clearing her throat. Padding towards the exit in socks, I hoped against hope that the door mechanism wasn’t some arcane Byzantine lock and that I would be able to remember which compartment was ours and how to regain entry.
Once in the corridor I realized that the view on the side opposite our compartment window was beginning to lighten, a imperceptible thing only hinted at by the difference in shades between the solidly dark and quiet land and the quickening sky.
The silence drew me down through the slowly purpling train cars, few if any people awake as I alternated between squinting out the window at swiftly passing landscape and observing the sleeping compartments which must have been more expensive as I moved up the train toward the engine and they grew in size.
Of course, once this sort of thing becomes noticeable there is a gentle interruption of the train cars with a now-inoperational dining car and the blockage of passage any further forward. I acceded to this suggestion and leaned against the partition across from the long series of windows, attempting to will a revelatory quote-worthy sight into being ‘daylight hitting now on a peak far off but looking so close in the freezing mountain air’, yet truthfully merely dozing as much as standing allowed me at the moment.
After the fourth or fifth time catching myself on the way to the floor, asleep, I decided to concede that, without cigarettes or coffee, I was done for. A few seconds after I started back to our compartment the gentle lull of the train plunged quietly into darkness. Rail tunnel. I stood stock still, despite knowing there was only empty corridor ahead, the layout unchanging for at least three cars. After only a few seconds of seeming interminable black the landscape returned and I was filled with an urge to be away from the cold empty distance of the European countryside trundling past.
Only one of your eyes opened but barely when I slid open the compartment door, the slightly fetid air and warmth of the room tangible upon returning. I was too far away and the light not enough for me to ascertain it’s color, but you quietly sighed and moved your head slightly to beckon me to you.
Twas the morn of February the 14th when Gregor Samsa, our mild-mannered protagonist, awoke to find his countenance shifted. No longer was he the mustachioed, mid-level accountant who’d slumbered in his parents’ apartment the night before. Now, through some strange sort of metamorphosis, he’d been transformed into John Cusack.
Assessing the situation, he compiled a thorough list of the top 5 superlative attributes his new-found condition allotted. Despite the loss of a prize-winning mustache, Gregor found himself unexpectedly satisfied with his teen-heartthrob appearance and set about scouring his record collection for a tune befitting what he could only describe as a “film-opening-montage.”
Settling into a particular Phil Collins number, Gregor’s body began making musically-synced kickboxing poses for the sole entertainment of his Bureau mirror. To the best of Gregor’s knowledge, his life prior to this fantastical instance had involved scant, if any, involvement in the art of boxing. Further, he could remember having no particular affinity for the synthesizer-laden schmaltz of the band Genesis. But as the down-tempo 80s pop stumbled to a ham-handed crescendo, Gregor felt an uncontrollable urge well within his very being. For reasons unbeknownst, Gregor needed to win back his high-school sweetheart. and though he’d had much planned for the day, he knew his body would allow him nothing else.
By sheer happenstance Gregor’s car was in the shop this day awaiting the mechanical equivalent of a facelift The morning’s excitement had superseded this inconvenient remembrance and left Gregor scratching his head at the empty space his vehicle usually occupied. A pang of urgency whipped through him, sending his bandy legs bounding down the tarmac with outdated cassette player in tow.
The better part of a meter down the road Gregor was signaled by a passing motorist. From the passenger-side window Gregor could observe it was another John Cusack.
“Where to, mac?” pronounced the other Cusack.
“I’m heading across town to win my highschool sweetheart back with this Phil Collins cassette,” ejaculated our hero.
“That’s stupid,” chortled the other Cusack, “I’m a freelance hit man on the verge of developing a conscience that will one day win his prom date back at our 10-year reunion.”
A clabbered silence hung thick in the air without the car or Gregor making the proper motions to leave. The moment’s agonizing tension was near to give Gregor a case of the Existential Nausea. Then the other Cusack pulled out a gun.
“See, I’ve got a gun,” he said, “I’m a hit man.”
Gregor could find no fault in this logic and thus accepted a ride from the gentleman out of admiration for his reasoning skills.
No interesting tidbits of verbal intercourse exchanged sides within the journey’s onset, though thanks to the admirable logistics of Gregor’s new companion, a bewilderingly conceivable revelation was reached. Both parties were, in fact, John Cusack. But were they the actor, an assortment of his characters, or just surprisingly convincing doppelgangers? Conversation was quickly dropped in favor of quiet rumination. Finally, Gregor was moved to speak. “I don’t know why I’m doing it,” he proclaimed, “the whole chasing an ex-girlfriend thing, I mean.”
The other Cusack craned his neck unsettlingly away from the road. “It’s because you’re a Romantic,” he responded with surly grandeur, “a real Romantic, and that’s something you don’t see every day.” The car began to veer but the driver’s speech wavered none. “My ex-girlfriend, she isn’t a Romantic . . . well, I don’t know, I haven’t seen her in 10 years. But she probably isn’t. You don’t just wake up one day and become a Romantic. You’re always, deep down, a Romantic . . . if you’re a Romantic, that is.”
He clapped Gregor on the shoulder, asking “You ever cry yourself to sleep?”
Gregor, shocked at his compatriot’s candor, replied honestly “Yeah . . . I never thought about it, but I guess I do.”
“It’s all that sleeping alone,” the other Cusack knowingly declared, “folks like us can’t handle loneliness, not even for a second. It’s a Romantic’s Kryptonite. But who can you trust to bring into your life? Most ladies’ll just break your heart. I mean, how many of the girls in your life would come to your wedding, burn a heart into the church lawn with unleaded gas and beat up the bride-to-be so you wouldn’t marry the wrong gal?”
“Wow,” Gregor marveled, “that’s pretty romantic.”
“You know it!” laughed the first Cusack as he cracked a beer, “Now that gal you’re chasing back today, she ever do anything like that?”
Gregor vaguely remembered a passionate semi-formal bathroom tryst between the two, but was quickly reminded he’d only seen the events in a film. “No,” he finally admitted, questioning his objective for the day with a mounting defeat.
“Me neither!” the driver laughed. This put Gregor at ease. The car nearly sodomized a lamppost as the other Cusack took a deep pull from his brew, but Gregor failed to notice. He was staring at the driver’s face. It was as though looking through a mirror. Gregor couldn’t explain his feelings. He felt as though previously dormant glands sprung to life within him and were pulsating doubly fast to make up for wasted years.
“She doesn’t know what she’s missing,” he sighed, unaware the words even escaped his mouth.
“Who?” gargled the driver between hearty sips.
“Your girl,” said Gregor.
“Oh,” the driver pondered, “but you see, I haven’t seen her in 10 years. For all I know she DOES know what she’s missing and . . .”
He looked down at his thigh. Gregor’s hand was tenderly working its way towards his pants seam. Looking back up, his eyes met with the affectionate passenger’s as he reached to pull him close. Hands groped, venturing recklessly over stickshifts and emergency brakes. Beer flew everywhere. Carefully gelled 1980s hairstyles were disheveled savagely.
Then the car crashed into an apartment complex.
It never struck me as ridiculous to assume I’d grow and be an X-man. Sure I'm not big on tights, but you know, there's a whole uniformity thing to it. I get that. I mean, it was either that or get killed by giant government death robots. Saying it like that, I really don't know why we didn't all move to Canada when we said we were going to. But I digress.
The day that my mutant powers manifested I was working as a line cook at a pretentious French brunch-a-torium for pregnant mothers and nursing newborns. The place had an open kitchen right by the bathrooms so people could see just how we handled their fifteen dollar entrees as they waited to pee out their five dollar cappuccinos.
I've always been a stress-filled person, ever since I was a kid and had a nervous breakdown because I left a toy at school and couldn't go back for it until the next morning. I mean, something could have happened, you know?
But there I was, hungover as shit after another rent-fueled fight with the coke-fueled girlfriend. A stressful job was all that I needed. I hadn't even showered in a half-week and was stress eating cucumbers out of the cold storage.
Tickets were piling up, too many for the clips to hold. Some fell into the convection oven and became smoke. “That better not be mine” grunted customers. These mouthy souls literally dangled over the counter where we placed the plates. As they stared holes through our sweaty aprons, pregnant patrons demanded we move the microwaves since the cashiers’ lines were too long and they wanted to complain directly to the cooks.
Nursing mothers stood in the same queue. Their indignant tones suggested that I dare not comment on their exposed mammaries while respectfully averting my eyes inferred that I found them entirely unattractive. There was no winning.
“My eyes are up here!” they would demand with shirts pulled up to their necks and a baby’s head where a nipple would be. All this dangled right above where I was poaching eggs, a pit of boiling water. “Hey,” another nursing woman would always join in “Quit staring at her, you pig!” Entitled women breast feeding in public places had a domino effect to them.
I could feel something welling up inside of me that I hoped wasn't vomit. I'd blown way too much of my rent at the bar the night before to miss another day of work. Stupid coked out girlfriend. Co-workers usually vomited in the compost bins in the back but there was no way to make it there with things so busy.
Suddenly this ball of kinetic stress energy burst forth through my chest and immediately attacked a fussy baby at table 7. The glowing mass of blue light, crackling electricity into the air, grew arms and a full body. It developed a mouth too.
With one of its newly grown arms it backhanded that infant right through the sheet glass window and into a post full of restrained purebred puggles from puppy mills that were too stupid to stop barking while their owners neglected them over tea lattes inside.
"I’M HUNGOVER AND ANGRY!" screamed the energy mass as it kicked through another table I’d been made to discreetly remove the termites from earlier in the month.
My boss, ever the levelheaded pragmatist, turned to me and said "Frank, you better go take care of that thing."
"But Sunny," I pleaded, "c’mon man, what makes you think I know anything about this? Besides, I'm like about to go on my break."
"I AM A PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF THE STRESS ENERGY OF FRANKLIN PHILLIPS, PROFESSIONAL LINE COOK" said the kinetic mass to my boss and the rest of the room.
"See Frank,” said Sunny. “You're really going to have to take care of that. Corporate’s been cracking down around here lately. We just suspended someone for coming in late. I don't even have time to think about what something like this could do to your future here, pal. So you’d better take care of it. If you value this career path, that is."
The kinetic mass smashed a window and yammered something into the face of an old couple about having to take a shit for 4 hours and not getting a break.
I was embarrassed, so I tried to address it.
"Hey man," I said to the revolting thing, "Could you stop doing that? It's really not helping."
"BRO," said the energy mass with the human limbs, "YOU USED TO LIKE PUNK ROCK, BUT NOW YOU WORK AT A DEAD END JOB. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?"
"He's got a point," chimed in the guy refilling the soup, "you used to be cool, Frank"
"SHUTUP," screamed the kinetic man as he stomped a hole in the floor.
"Feh," responded the soup chef, throwing his hands in the air and trudging back to the basement.
All and all, people were a lot less shocked about the whole thing than you would believe. One woman with a baby flung over her shoulder actually asked the creature to move so she could access the condiment bar.
That's when the giant mutant-hunting government robots tore the roof off the restaurant. "ACTIVE MUTANT PRESENT, ONE FRANKLIN PHILLIPS, PROFESSIONAL LINE COOK."
Sunny seemed to find the term “professional” funny when used to describe me. The energy mass set fire to his waxed mustache.
"Goddamn it," I said to the riotous creature, "now look what you did!"
“IT IS A FELONY TO IGNORE THE GIANT ROBOTS, MUTANT!” declared the automatons who were continuing to remove pieces of the building’s structure to fit inside.
I looked over at my boss and found that instead of yelling at me he was under a pile of rubble, totally dead. I must admit the first feeling I felt was relief. We wound up getting some pretty cool unemployment benefits from losing our restaurant like that, but every time the government sends me the monthly check, all these giant robots come to my damn apartment and try to kill me. Truly a catch-22.
Anyhow, the usual stuff happened after that, superheroes showed up to save the bystanders, I gained enough control over the kinetic mass to throw some punches at the robots, we all drank coffee and went home. Then I came here, to be an X-man. They have a surprisingly easy application form and don’t make you pay for your own uniform or work the first couple weeks without any pay like a standard restaurant.
Like I said, I don't like the spandex thing, but the exchange is they cover my rent in a secret location that not even my cokehead girlfriend can find. That is, when the facility isn't being blown up (which is like all the time).
One of the only benefits of growing up in Vegas hotels is that you acquire the ability to discern AM from PM off of the slimmest of clues. When both of my eyes manage to open, I see that the two meals we’d ordered still lay skeletally on the top of the room-service cart. Definitely AM. Then I look at the vibrating phone on the the thin resonant wood of the bedside bureau. 2:48.
Whether the decidedly witty banter I managed to spout at 2:48 AM or the steadfast fire of her drunk horniness was to blame I doubt I’ll ever fucking know. What I remember more than the desperate stumbling fuck it must have been is the strangely calmed conversation afterwards.
“The times I realize I miss you seem the most wrong...or not wrong, but inappropriate times to call you.”
“I’m sure if I did call you I wouldn’t have a thing to fucking say. I mean, I don’t now, either.”
“What..” I can’t see this question in my mind. “Er, fuck...why do this?”
“I made a decision, I had to prove to myself that I could fucking do that.”
“This is me second guessing myself, like I always do, I’m sorry but that’s it. Whatever you feel for me, or whatever you think you feel for me, it isn't love.”
In the minutes leading up til noon we both wake again like hotel checkout alarm clocks are ringing loudly. We get out of bed separately and I leave after a shower and a quickly scribbled note that curls up in the humidity of the bathroom.
I get into LA that night, with the rehearsal dinner two days away. The night before the rehearsal dinner I can’t fall asleep and instead sleep most of the day through. I wake as a cellphone rings on a similarly resonant bedside table in his guest room in North Hollywood.
“Shit man, the rehearsal is in an hour...were you sleeping?”
“I’m picking up some food, can you get some bottles of decent wine and meet me at the church as soon as you get dressed.”
“Aright, gimme a half an hour.”
I get changed quickly, jumping into the same pants i was wearing four days ago. I make my way into the bathroom to wash my face, vaguely recalling the demise of my glasses the night I fucked Colleen as I notice their crumpled state on the bathroom counter. Going downstairs I grab four decent bottles and put them in a Christmas gift bag he had in the closet. Seconds before I close and lock the front door I realize champagne would probably be appreciated and run back inside remembering the Veuve in the refrigerator.
Colleen runs late to the rehearsal and arrives looking harried and anxious. I’m melting into the background as I compare hangovers with a kid cousin of hers I met once four years ago.
Both Colleen and her fiancee Oliver leave as soon as the polite dinner conversation ends. A few people drift around for ten or fifteen minutes afterwards but it’s pretty much just me and Roland left to clean up, putting away tables and stacking chairs. The Veuve Cliquot sits unopened amongst the other bottles gone missing, knocked over, or drained.
“You know that shit was fucked up, waking me up and telling me the dinner was in an hour.”
“I didn’t expect you to get moving unless the time was fucking short. You know that’s what you do.”
“Shit I would have gotten moving if you said an hour and a half. Fuck, I didn’t even eat anything.”
“All you have in your refrigerator is months old chinese takeout boxes, condiments and bottles of Stella” I grab a few tortilla chips and dig into the seven layer dip. With my mouth half full of chips and dip I point out what Roland must have already noticed.
“Nobody even touched the food, just downed wine and split.”
“Fuck, well Colleen and Oliver disappeared right away, why the fuck would everybody else hang out for a rehearsal dinner?”
We finish putting away the mess from the party a couple minutes before ten. “Hey you wanna wait here for a bit, I’m gonna go upstairs and have a cigarette, I'll be back in a minute.” I sit down facing the piano in the corner and say that’s fine, I’ll chill here.
I’m barely managing a decent rendition of the piano melody in the middle of “Perfect Day” when he gets back.
“What do you wanna do tonight?”
I turn to see him collecting and hanging wine glasses on their racks in the corner of the banquet room, and know for some odd reason that it has to be now, sitting at the piano, plucking random keys.
“I fucked Colleen last weekend in Vegas.”
A wine glass explodes as it hits the bare wall five feet to my right.
“What the fuck man! For fucks sake, WHY?”
I turn around and stand up as his voice rises.
“Fuck man, it wasn’t my idea, she called me drunk at three in the morning!”
His face screws up quickly with his eyes on the ground then abruptly looks at me.
He walks towards me grabbing the bottle of Veuve as I push the piano bench out of the way and make for the door, tripping as the leg of the bench catches my pant leg. I fall hard onto my elbows and forearms, instant pain shooting through my arms and a strange mist of champagne and glass shards blanketing me.
The next day, the day of the wedding, I have my arm in a sling and a nasty looking black eye from the piano bench, Roland pulls up to the tux shop where I’ve picked up both our suits and writes me a check for his half of the seven hundred dollars we are charged by the church for destroying their piano.
“I can’t believe they tried to charge a grand for that fucking piano, it was a piece of shit" he says as I get into the car.
I buckle my seatbelt as he pulls off down the street. We get on the Hollywood freeway and traffic is fairly light as he shifts into fifth gear. He looks over at me for a brief moment and says, “If you can believe it, it wasn’t even the fact that you fucked her that made me do that...” A black BMW doing a steady sixty five passes by my window as he cruises by at eighty, two matronly looking women glare at me. “My parents decided she oughta know she was adopted before she got married.” I turn back from gazing out the passenger window. “Her party-” “Wasn’t planned, she bolted the night my parents told her, called friends and told them she was on the way to Vegas and for them to meet her there.”
I could have told him I didn’t know she had just found out when I fucked her, he could have forgiven me, but everything that needed saying was said. We get off the freeway on Gower and park five minutes later at the church.
Standing up for the procession as the mass begins, I ruffle my pockets looking for my sunglasses to avoid the inevitable questions as to where I got the black eye and smile at her mother going by, looking somehow uptight even with tears in her eyes. When the priest reaches the part about forever holding my peace, I'm going to hope I'm the only one with a knowing smile on my face.