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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stupid Humans

We went on a group trip
You were mad at me
We sat separately on the bus
We saw Board Game Land World
We met someone from Fox News
He invited us inside a building
He murdered us with xenomorph blood

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Fire and a Checklist

We were on our way to visit my parents for the first time.  We were a new family.  Life is funny, how things can change so quickly.  I had been devastated just weeks before when my wife of 3 months died.  We had found out she was pregnant just a few days before.
Then I ran into an old friend whose new husband had also died recently.  They'd been married for just 2 years and they had a new baby.  Now she just had a baby.  She and I found support in one another, and lately, I'd say we've been pretty happy together.  My parents wanted to meet Celli and baby Emily, so we decided to make a road trip out of it.
About halfway to my parents house, we had to find a place to stay the night.  The fog was so thick that visibility was next to nothing.  We found a tall, skinny, local hotel, and went inside.  The lobby was futuristic completely automated, which was a nice surprise.  I had half expected Norman Bates to greet us coming in from such foreboding weather.  We got room keys and went on up to the room listed on the keycards.
The night was uneventful, apart from one disconcerting detail.  A camera was mounted near the ceiling on the wall.  Sometimes it seemed to motion sensitive, but often it would stop and stare at Celli and Emily.
In the morning, I was startled to find a checklist on the nightstand:
Wife and Baby
Questions
Money to the poor
Fire
I had no idea where it came from or what it could mean.  I stepped out of the room and caught a heavy guy, balding and bearded, coming up the stairs with a pitcher of coffee and quizzically showed it to him.
"Oh, yeah, Clark," he told me, "You stayed in the checkered curtain room last night.  The fire's got an eye in that room.  I'm sure you noticed the camera.  It's a little game that the fire plays.  It chooses a prize, in this case 'wife and baby', and it gives you a chance to complete the checklist before it takes them from you."
At the time, I barely noticed that the stranger inexplicably knew my name.  I turned around, startled, to see Celli and Emily going back into the room.
"When did you get up?"
"Just after you did," she replied.  "I went ahead and loaded the car.  The fog seems to have lifted some.  We should be able to get out of here soon."
Nervously I showed her the list and told her what the strange man had told me.  She paled.  We had each lost a spouse to a fire recently, so the threat really hit home.  I looked at the list again.
Wife and Baby
Questions
Money to the poor
Fire
I was shocked to see two of the items checked off and scratched out.  I didn't even have anything to write with.
"In the parking garage," Celli blankly told me, "I dropped a dime.  A man picked it up.  I was sure I'd seem him before, but I couldn't place him.  He's a panhandler from back home.  I told him to keep it.  He smiled and thanked me."
"Apparently that counts as money to the poor.  You may have just saved your own life back there.  Let's go find this fire."
Hesitantly she followed me down the stairs, where we ran into the balding man again.
"There's an old bowling alley in this building that you folks might be interested in seeing," he said, winking at me and glancing at the checklist, smiling.
We hurried along.  Around the third floor, we heard the sound of rolling bowling balls.  We followed the noise and ended up at a dead end wall.  A scrawny boy with a large nose and larger head popped raced around from behind us and opened a door in the wall with a keycard.  We slipped in behind him and found ourselves in an enormous and surreal bowling alley.  There were only two lanes, but each lane was about thirty times the size of a typical lane.  Between the lanes was a fireplace with a fire about to burn out inside, and with firewood in a pile nearby.
I raced over to the fireplace, threw some wood inside, and glanced back nervously at Celli.  She looked up from the checklist, smiled and gave me a thumbs up.  We ran from the bowling alley, down the stairs, out the door, got in our car, and drove away in the still-dangerous-fog, relieved to have survived the morning.
About an hour into our drive, on the radio, "Breaking news: a historic local hotel has burned down, reportedly killing a woman and her unborn child."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bunker Buster by Jerry Carpenter

The orange sky reminded me of your hair and smelled twice as crisp. I peeled my shit box car down that desert interstate as fast as the little four-banger would allow, and when I felt the tranny bottom out I coasted for what seemed like forever and then drifted onto that depressing shoulder. I was going just fast enough at the tail-end of my speed run to kick up some red dust that dissipated into nothing against the back drop of a mesa that gave up trying to stand up straight.

The horizon held my attention for a few seconds, then I twisted the key out of the ignition, got out of the dead car, leaving the door open. My short stroll to the trunk was accompanied by the sound of a howling coyote. It wasn't a lot time between my walk from cab to the trunk but in the interim I gave that coyote a back story:

Coyote Chris had lost his way on a peyote fueled trip to wherever a coyote goes to get a decent cheeseburger, and told Coyote Candy that he was only stepping out to get that cheeseburger, and because he had the worst sense of direction of any coyote he knew, he couldn't find his way back. Hitchhiking wasn't much of an option, and it was going to be a long walk back unless he was going manipulate some forced perspective and hop back on the mesas that spotted the desert. So he howled, hungry and lonely and wondering if he was going die and be found by coyotes that hunted rather than ate cheeseburgers.

I popped the trunk and then threw the keys into the desert. I reached in and grabbed the last roman candle the fireworks stand had. "Bunker Buster". I doubt it, seeing as I saw what a real bunker buster does, up close, and nobody stands in awe of the pretty lights, unless you really think insurgents broken down to a molecular level is your way to spend the Fourth of July.

I placed Bunker Buster in the middle of the road. I lit a cigarette. I took your "Dear John" letter out of my back pocket. I burned a whole in the middle of letter with the cigarette. I carefully pulled Bunker Buster's fuse through the hole in the letter, and lit the fuse with the cigarette.

I didn't have the college loan receipt, paid-off so Daddy would shut up. I didn't have the photo of my Hajji dog. That was in the chest that blew sky high when a dumb private thought hugging a grenade in the empty barracks was a better way out than court martial. I didn't have my old Mickey Mouse pendant. That went in the ground with the dead kid who someone loved enough to decide he was human-shield-suitable.

I had your letter, the one that said you moved on, that you were sorry, that you didn't know what else to say. I didn't make me mad. It wasn't like I was up for any "Awesome Boyfriend Contests" when I shipped out. And the world doesn't just stop because I'm halfway across it. It was only hard when I realized the whole reason I blazed across Satan's Sandbox wasn't a reason anymore.

So when I got back, I decided I wanted see some fireworks that didn't signify dead people or indiscriminate destruction or another obstacle to making it through one more day to get to you. I wanted random, bright lights, that whistled and whizzed and gave me a rainbow and took one bittersweet reminder with it that you did get me back home, and my life here was my own to mold again.

The fuse burned, and some sparks hit the letter and burnt its way up from the center, and then I waited.

It was a dud.

I stared for a bit, then laughed. No, it surely wasn't a Bunker Buster.

I turned and looked out into the desert. If Coyote Chris could find the keys and fix her up and get her started, he could have the car. I held out my thumb as I saw headlights approach.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Antenna


Antenna
by Jerry Carpenter

Love will lead us, alright
Love will lead us, she will lead us
Can you hear the dolphin's cry?
See the road rise up to meet us
It's in the air we breathe tonight
Love will lead us, she will lead us
--Live, “Dolphin’s Cry”

White noise, snowy television. It didn’t help the room was so goddamn cold. He stood by the rotor box. He turned it left. Buzzing. The snow drifted to the right. Nothing. He turned it to the right. The snow drifted left. Nothing. More white noise. He felt it in his fillings. Why is this room so goddamn cold? He slammed a shaky hand down on the box. Blood ran down his leg. The last painted seagull, this one painted blue with red spots, fell off the wall and behind the TV.
TV’s getting nothing. He whispered as he peered down the hall. The gray door at the far end of the hallway was only opened a little bit. I think the rotor box isn’t working. It’s called a rotor box. Why do you have to make me feel stupid? Whispers got softer. WHY DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE ME FEEL STUPID?! I JUST WANTED TO SEE YOUR HEART! He fell over.

I love you. She smiled as she said it. Half her hair caught the red pillow in its thin brown tentacles. I love you, too. She leaned in and grabbed his face and kissed him. She pulled away. I wish you could see my heart.

An antenna crashed off the roof. He had pushed it. Some of the thin metal bars broke off. He stared from the roof at the broken antenna. It might still work. I don’t need those little pieces. Just the big thing. Just one of the big rods.

She was crying, he was shouting. What’s the, I mean, how the name of sweet fuck all could you do this to me? Huh? I was so fucking good to you! So fucking good, and sweet, and gentle, and all the fucking piddly ass shit the books told me to be. I was your textbook fucking mate! Is he bigger than me? Answer that question goddammit! How big is he? She was crying, wouldn’t answer, too proud to answer, he thought. Are you too goddamn proud to answer me? You got nothing to be proud of, you cheating. Fucking. Whore! I wish you could see my fucking heart! I was your fucking textbook boyfriend!
He ran out of the room. Her sobbing filled the room. He loved her so much. He loved her sobbing. He was an idiot. He walked outside, grabbed the ladder, walked to the roof. I want you to see my fucking heart. How many wavelengths are in a fucking heart beat?

She giggled. It’s called a rotor box, sweetie. Not a rotator box. You’re cute. He looked hurt. I’m not a goddamn kid. Her brow furrowed. Don’t take it that way. I was just saying. Well, Miss Smart Woman, I set-up this damn “rotor box” while you were finishing your ohsospecial seagulls. He wanted to hurt her. He didn’t want to feel stupid. I just wanted something special above the T.V. It doesn’t matter how they look, we painted them together, I wanted them above the T.V. What’s on that screen isn’t always as important as what’s around it. She was crying. She walked to the kitchen.

He lay in the middle of the living room. The large conductor stuck out of his side. He bled on the floor. The carpet soaked up the blood. It spread out in front of the TV. He blinked. Where’s my heart? I can’t see it.

I don’t love him. But I don’t love a textbook either. And I didn’t ask for this shit, and I didn’t ask for you to put a fuckin’ antenna on my roof, and I don’t want constantly be reminded of shit I didn’t ask for. I love you. I don’t love a fucking textbook. What is that fucking rod in your hand? Am I supposed to be scared of you knocking an antenna over? Or threatening me with that? Don’t fucking come near me!
They had wrestled and fought and in the thick of it all she had stabbed him and she hated herself for it and ran to the bedroom to call the cops.