Category Archives: Fiction

The Age of O

Q: I heard you wrote a novel.

A: Yes, yes I have. Well, I am. It’s actually a novel in seven parts. I published the first part.

Q: Where can I buy this novel?

A: Well, you can buy it on Amazon right here: Link to Amazon, Age of O Page!

Q: What’s it about?

A: Well, that’s a spring loaded question. It could be answered in many ways. It’s about a man named Gregory Facilovich who has decided to leave his wife and child at the end of the current week. For some time, he has been writing his memoirs, and over this final week he’s making his final edit. He is writing the memoirs for a specific person. Greg also has the ability to drink any amount of alcohol and never get drunk.

Q: Wait, really?

A: Well, yes. Really. For serious.

Q: This sounds boring.

A: Well, that’s technically not a question, but that’s alright. It’s not boring, I assure you. There is some exciting stuff in there. And some funny stuff, too. Some parts could be considered boring, but that’s okay, they’re necessary. Also, he doesn’t tell anyone about his ability.

Q: I don’t care about that part anymore. Did you say this is the first of seven?

A: Well, yes. Over the last two years, I wrote the first four, and am editing and preparing these others for publication. I was going to wait until all seven were done and publish it as one whole book, as I planned it, and then I realized nobody wants to read a thousand page book, period.

Q: Why did you call it The Age of Zero?

A: Well, I didn’t. It’s actually called The Age of O, like the letter, though I could see how you could think it was the title if you had only read it.

Q: Did you just write a book with the narrator being a thinly-veiled version of you?

A: No. Well, I love baseball and alcohol gets me pretty loaded, last time I checked. And my protagonist is thirty and married. I am twenty-four and unmarried, last time I checked.

Q: Did you start this ambitiously big project with no idea where it was really going?

A: Well, no. I know exactly where it’s going and how it’s going to end, and have known since (before) I started. This isn’t Lost or The X-Files. There is a map, and it’s in my pocket at all times.

Q: Why did you write this novel?

A: Well, a fairy spoke to me one day while I was living in a farmhouse, and I wrangled it into this cage and talked with it until it gave me the whole plot. You have to argue with these fairies, show them you’re serious. Also, I decided to write the novel I always wanted to read.

Q: So, I’ve gotten this far in this imaginary interview. What is the book really about?

A: Well, it would be accurate to say that this is my attempt to write The Great American Novel. It’s about experience, pain, reform, education, health, war, marriage, art and America itself. Not too sound heavy.

Q: That sounds really heavy.

A: You’d think so. But, well, at certain parts there may or may not be cowboys, explosions, shootings, poisonings, an Olympiad, holes in the earth, golfing, a wedding, extensive drug abuse and a movie. There also may be none of these things.

Q: So, this is all told in first-person from this characters point of view?

A: Well, large parts of it. The rest of the story is told through third-person documents.

Q: Now, I saw somewhere that this is set in an alternate America. What does that mean exactly?

A: Well, there are a few noticeable differences, but those are largely fictional conceits. This isn’t sci-fi or some wacky Marvel alternate universe or some dystopian zombie infested thrillride. Consider this your current, everyday America, circa 2010.

Q: Is every social institution corrupt or run by unqualified invalids?

A: Well, yes. Laughably so. I mean, really. Look around. C’mon now, let’s be adults.

Q: That cover looks sharp. Who designed it?

A: A toothless trucker I met in Culver City named Harrison Langohr. He runs a magazine called Haz-Mat. He’s an animal. And a lover of fruit baskets.

Q: Who are your influences?

A: Well, I have many influences. When I began this project, I intended to mix themes and ascetics from certain works by Mann, Ford, Camus, Tolstoy and Vonnegut. In large part, those ideas remained intact. That is, if they were beaten in the head with a billy club and fed exclusively aluminum cans and ketamine for a good five months.

Q: When is Tuesday going to be released?

A: Whenever, I darn well please. I imagine Summer 2012 realistically, but promises are meant to be broken. Or is that rules?  I am contemplating pairing Wednesday and Thursday into one volume.

Q: You do say “well” a whole lot.

A: Well, I am glad you noticed.

Q: Are you writing anything else?

A: I am in the planning stages for a novel about a fictional baseball league.

Q: Is this book even any good?

A: You can begin gathering data for your subjective opinion by reading the free preview on the Amazon page.

Q: Can I get a free copy of your book?

A: I don’t even get a free copy.

Advertisements

Job Interview/Casual Encounter

WOMAN: Hello, thanks for meeting me here, I hope it wasn’t too far out of the way.

MAN: No, not at all. Coffee was a great idea. You look great. Did you just come from work?

WOMAN: Um…thanks? Yes, yes…I did.

MAN: Cool.

WOMAN: Right, let’s get started.

MAN: Whoa, you’re got a clipboard? You must be taking this pretty seriously.

WOMAN: Well, I think it’s important to take notes of all the candidates. It helps me remember.

MAN: Well, if I do this right you won’t need any notes to remember me.

WOMAN: Haha, well I suppouse you’re right about that.

MAN: Yeaaaaa.

WOMAN: So why did you apply for the position?

MAN: Um, well I guess like anyone else, I saw the ad on Craigslist and it just seemed like a good fit, you know.

WOMAN: Sure, sure. I will say, your application stood out, and not just because of the attached image of you posing shirtless.

MAN: Thanks! I feel like we could accomplish something with our time together, maybe make life a little more meaningful.

WOMAN: That’s a profound goal for the position – most people are all business, in-and-out, just showing up for the benefits.

MAN: That’s…understandable. Well, you should know, I’m good at the, you know, business ends of those things anyway, I’m very experienced.

WOMAN: How old you when you found your first position?

MAN: That’s a very forward question.

WOMAN: Doesn’t seem strange to me.

MAN: …I was twelve. It was at the local theater.

WOMAN: That’s quite young. I imagine there would be some laws against that.

MAN: Yeah, you’d think…it had a pretty…profound impact on me.

WOMAN: I imagined it instilled a strong work ethic for future positions?

MAN: Oh yeah. Totally. You could say it became sort of a fixation.

WOMAN: Now that’s the sort of drive we’re interested in!

MAN: There’s others?

WOMAN: Oh yes. We’re a group, it wouldn’t be a one-on-one or assistant job.

MAN: …assistant? Does that mean….?

WOMAN: There’s about a dozen of us all together. It’d be a group thing. We’re all pretty committed.

MAN: Wow! I’ve never held a position with a group that large. That’s incredible you’ve all found each other.

WOMAN: It did take some time. We’re pretty close knit. Some of us even live together.

MAN: That’s hot.

WOMAN: Uhh…sure. Are you interested in the compensation package?

MAN: I mean, I can imagine, there’s only so many variations of…compensation, that’s a strange way to phrase it.

WOMAN: What would you call it?

MAN: Uhh…benefits? I dunno. I guess I never thought about it.

WOMAN: Well the hours are between 12 and 4. You’re free to use the break room and the staff fridge before and after you’re shift.

MAN: You’ve got it all organized into shifts?

WOMAN: Oh yeah, people come on, people come off, it’s all very organized.

MAN: Awesome.

WOMAN: Yeah…sometimes people bring their kids in.

MAN: What?!?!?

WOMAN: Oh yeah. It’s no big deal. Have you never experienced something like that before?

MAN: Uhh no…that’s pretty out there I have to say.

WOMAN: Oh well, that’s odd you’ve never seen that. I was exposed to my parent’s positions at the office quite often.

MAN: ..

WOMAN: ..

MAN: I guess I’d try anything once.

WOMAN: That’s great. You get more comfortable with the kids the more you do it. Anyway, like I said we’re kind of one big family. Though you’ll be new and still being trained,

MAN: What are training me on? I think I’ll manage.

WOMAN: There’s a fair amount of improvisation, but there are some strange things, some strange messes basically, that you’ll have to clean up that might surprise you.

MAN: Wow. I guess that’s cool. This is pretty out there.

WOMAN: The position does seem weird but you’ll get used to it fast. We all did. Pretty soon it’ll just become the daily chore.

MAN: Cool.

WOMAN: Yeah, so anyway, we’ll train you  but don’t be surprised if someone expects you to just jump in there.

MAN: Hot.

WOMAN: Yeah…sure. So would you like to accept the position?

MAN: Well,

WOMAN: What are you doing?

MAN: Why don’t we get a room and start training there.

WOMAN: Oh sure, but just let go of my hand first. That was…odd. I do have a boyfriend, so let’s keep this professional and contain it to the office. You know how it can seep into your personal life.

MAN: Yeah, I know.

WOMAN: I have some training materials and some exercises we can do in the car, this is just perfect.

MAN: Do you have lube?

WOMAN: …whatever for?

Letter from the Stalked

Dear Mr. Case,

First of all, we would like to thank you for the volume of letters you have written us. We happened to be on holiday during the previous three weeks, and were surprised to find the generous correspondence in our foyer. We were impressed that you had chosen to color-code the envelopes based on the day of the week you anticipated them to arrive for our filing system. We were impressed and well, frankly alarmed that you were cogent to our filing system, which my wife and I had elaborately constructed to help with her budding neurosis surrounding her well-publicized aphasia. She wanted to write this letter but she was well – to be frank – shaken by what she is beginning to consider an invasion of privacy. Now, she has contacted our lawyers about her concern, and it is clear, as I stated to her, that you have broken no law. You seem to be simply very observant, caring even, of our mail patterns. There is nothing illegal about this, but it is impressive, in a sense my wife  didn’t imagine once we began our correspondence with you. To be frank, she is the one who is concerned, I for one am flattered, though simply because we write our books together doesn’t necessarily always mean we are on the same page, haha. Yes.

Anyway, we managed to enjoy the majority of your letters, however we had trouble picking up specific words in the ones that you wrote presumably in crayon. There is also the matter of the pictograms drawn in what appears to be a reddish brown paint, that we are preparing on mailing back to you for clarification. I am flattered by your overall good nature and pleasant intentions in your correspondence. To be frank, the volume alone is somewhat overwhelming. Do not be alarmed if it takes my wife and I at least two-to-six weeks to fully respond to your proposals, suggestions and light-hearted demands contained in your letters. As I mentioned earlier, we have just returned from our holiday, and have a multitude of other unrelated concerns to deal with. You know how problems stack once you look away, yes? Also, due to other unrelated circumstances my wife and I are speculating whether to relocate our permanent residence. I promise you, that we will keep you informed of our mailing address, as we look forward to the great regularity of your letters. I have already drafted a letter to the postmistress regarding forwarding the parcels that originate from you with the utmost expediency. I would be happy to mail you a copy of that draft. However you should know that the postmistress is rather long in the tooth and has been to known to well…you know, forget things. So don’t be alarmed if we don’t respond immediately or if by some unfortunate circumstance we don’t receive one of your cherished letters. It would not be of a malicious intent. But of course you know that, haha. Yes.

Anyway, while I have your attention, don’t be surprised if my wife answers well, rashly while answering any interview questions regarding rumors of her well, chaotic inner life, and she makes reference to you and our larger correspondence. Do not take it the wrong way. My wife is under considerable stress and she tends to project internal issues onto external forces. She is not trying to victimize or embarrass you. And though we haven’t ever met you, we have taken to you rather fondly. You know women, hurting the ones they love.  Don’t be surprised, and don’t say I didn’t warn you…don’t be surprised if it happens around the twentieth, it’s that time of the month for her, and she gets most persnickety. If she mentions anything about a restraining order I know nothing about it. I imagine she would have simply misspoke.

Alas, Mr. Case my wife and our troubled Doberman and poorly trained Tibetan Mastiff require an unleashed walk past the confines of the highly-charged electric barbed wire fence that surrounds our  compound featuring remote survelliance. I hope your white Bentley gets out of the shop soon. We do miss seeing it across the way from our driveway!

Take care!

Sincerely,

Roosevelt P. Sternum

Edna Sternum (unsigned)

Horace Was a Girl

(Note: This was written for my sister on her most recent birthday. Some good people (women-folk) are apparently working on an illustrated version of this story. If it meets the light of day, How Far is Ohio will let you know. Enjoy the story.)
1.

Horace was a wiener dog. The other dogs made fun of Horace because her name was a boy’s.

She was pretty though – as far as dogs go. Nobody cared though, because of her name. They heard her name, and she disappeared.

Horace never understood why her parents named her Horace. She told herself if she ever figured out where they were, she would ask them. Horace was probably homeless but since she never remembered where she slept, or the patterns of her movements, no one could say for sure.

At the dog school, nobody acted like she existed. If she was late to class, or attempted to answer a question, it was like she was a ghost.

Her homework (when she pulled it from the teacher’s trash can) always got good marks, because once the teacher read her name, she cringed and marked the paper as quickly as possible, closing her eyes and slash red marker gibberish on her homework, an A+ scrawled at the top.

Since Horace was horrendously stupid, this was how she passed each grade. This was also how Horace remained so horrendously stupid.

One day she found her mother. This was a good thing.  Unfortunately her mother was remarkably stupid as well, as most wiener dogs are. So it went.

When she was two (fourteen in dog years), Horace grew a pair of wings. They were white, and thick, naturally strong, billowing out with brilliantly white feathers. They were like the wings of a swan.

Horace was at first mystified by the presence of the feathery materials among the usual auburn sheath of hair on her bed. Had she been sleeping beside an ostrich? A seagull? She did not know. After the first five minutes of each morning, she forgot about the presence of the feathers.

Nobody at the dog school said anything about her gorgeous wings, because they despised her so much. Her mother did not say anything. Her mother figured it was best to not make waves. Weiner dogs are short. So it went.

One day, Horace was shopping with her mother at the local dog mall. One of the many vagrant tabbies (the cat homelessness issue becoming a growing thorn) went to approach Horace and her mother for change to score cat nip when the cat noticed Horace’s wings.

“Young lady.”

Horace looked back and forth, confused to be addressed, but more confused to be accurately addressed as a young lady.

“Yes you,” the cat, who was named Arnold, said to Horace.

“What, what is it? Do you want my money?” Horace replied. She noticed her mother had disappeared, abandoning her once again.

“Your wings. They’re absolutely filthy.”

“What wings?”

Arnold swatted at the (admittedly) filthy wings with his own filthy paw. Cats typically criticize the very things they should be criticized for. Cats are hypocrites. And bad with money. So it went.

“The ones growing out of your sides you silly girl.” Arnold said.

“What wings? This isn’t funny.”

Arnold realized that this wasn’t an ordinary stupid dog. This dog was exceptionally stupid. Arnold applied his scuzzy mitt to Horace’s long jaw and gently tilted her head to each of her side.

“Do you see your wings?”

“I saw something. Were they brown?”

“No. Lord no.”

Arnold repeated the process with Horace. Horace had finally noticed her wings! She became very excited and ran in a series of small circles and barked. She did not know she had wings. It was exciting. This was new.

Horace extended her wings, moving them in the air, brushing them against the ground.

“I have wings!” Horace exclaimed.

“Yes, yes you do young lady.”

“Oh my! Do you think I can fly?”

“I gather that there could be a chance.”

“So I can fly!” she yelped with excitement.

“Well…maybe, but you’re awful short.”

“Wow! Have you seen my mother? She will be excited too, to know that I can fly” Horace asked.

“She went inside the mall.”

“OK! Thanks!” Horace said and turned towards the entrance, excited to show her mother her new wings, which were not new at all, which were actually quite tattered and old looking.

“Wait,” Arnold said, rubbing his dirty paws against his dirty t-shirt.

“What is it Wing-Shower?”

“Do you spare any change?” Arnold asked.

“I am sure a change will come, Wing-Shower.”
And then she left, promptly forgetting she had wings.

2.

The dog school was in a brick building. Naturally, all of the entrances were dog doors. It was a two-room school house. One room was for what they considered the “normal” dogs which was the room for Horace and her class. The other room was for the “irregular” dogs, but no dogs went in there, and the teacher sat in the room each day, each and every day and waited for a dog to come in. No irregular dogs came. She figured a dog would come eventually. None ever did. The teacher just watched the door and thought of nothing everyday between eight and five. Thinking of nothing didn’t bother her. Time passed rather quickly as the years went on. She took lunch with the other teacher each day.When the two teachers talked shop, the irregular dog teacher made up dogs and dog anecdotes about her ficticous class to make it seem like she had a class. The irregular dog teachera greed with the sentiments and observations of the regular dog teacher so she wouldn’t catch onto the fact that she really wasn’t a teacher. She was just a dog sitting in a room waiting for irregular dogs to come in. She liked that life.

And besides, it would’ve made for an awkward conversation if anyone ever figured it out. Nobody did. The irregular dog teacher was happy.

In the normal dog classroom nearly all of the dogs had a desk, except for Horace, and a one-legged whippet named Diego who continued to fall over whenever a small gust of wind came through  the classroom. Some industrious dogs fashioned a cardboard box to support Diego. He couldn’t see the blackboard and failed out of school. Nobody knows what happened to Diego.

Anyway, since Horace didn’t have a desk, as she was too short for her stubby arms and legs to use the provided chair. Other short dogs could use the chair. The wiener dog had no use for a chair.

The shortest one  was a foot tall. Horce couldn’t even see the top of the tallest one, which was three feet, and reserved for danes and wolf hounds, due to the limited flexibility of her neck. Horace did her work from the floor and held her pencil in her mouth because her arms were too short for her to write. She concocted a scheme where she held paper with her paws while she wrote with the pencil in  her mouth. Her scribblings were illegible, but it made no difference because her teacher didn’t read her homework anyway. The whole system was very inefficient. It went on like this.

Horace’s mother had disappeared again. Horace hadn’t noticed. One day the phone rang.

Horace managed to kick the phone off the receiver and yell at the phone. She didn’t have the physical abilities to lean over to hear the receiver. It was her mother. She was calling to tell Horace she had no idea where she was. Horace couldn’t hang up the phone so she didn’t get anymore phone calls. This was the same day that Horace figured out that her house was actually two overturned wheelbarrows leaning against one another. She was proud to have figured this out. Horace had heard of wheelbarrows before.

One day, the school went on a field trip to the ocean, and Horace snuck onto the bus. The other dogs were learning about sand, and the art of fetching on a beach, and nobody noticed or cared when Horace wandered off down the beach on her own, as everyone despised her. As she walked down the beach, a tennis ball fell in front of her. She looked at it for a moment and then began barking at the ocean, which she had understood had thrown the ball at her.

Once she got tired of barking, Horace noticed that she was hearing a distinct, squeaky voice coming from the water. There was a dolphin standing a few feet away from her.

“A little help, young lady?”

“With what?”

“Why, that yellow ball that fell in front of you. Would you be kind enough to toss it my way?”

The dolphin knew that Horace was not well-equipped. The dolphin knew this in advance. The dolphin knew the ball would fall in front of Horace. The dolphin knew all that was to pass between him and Horace. The dolphin knew the future, and was wise enough to know he could not change it. Things go the way they go.

Horace picked up the ball with her mouth and tossed it towards the dolphin.

“What is your name, miss?” asked the dolphin, fully aware that her name was Horace.

“Uhm….my name?” Horace could not remember her name. It had been ages since anyone had asked.

“Take your time.” said the dolphin. Dolphins are exceedingly patient. They also smell wonderful.

Eventually Horace remembered her name and told the dolphin.

“That is an odd name for a girl dog.” said the dolphin, feigning surprise. Dolphins are the only species that can pretend to be sincere sincerely. Again, the way of the dolphin.

“Yes, the other dogs all hate me.”

“That is too bad. Dogs are stupid you know.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh nothing. Just a buzz in the air I think.”

“Oh.”

“Yes.”

“Well what is your name?” Horace asked.

“My name is Luke.”

“What a nice name.”

“Yes, I think it suits me.”

The bus made a honk, and the other dogs moved back towards it. Horace figured out that the bus would be leaving without her. She was surprised that she had comprehended something so quickly. It was as if being near the dolphin made her smarter.

“I need to be going. It was nice to meet you.”

“Yes, and you as well.”

Horace began to walk away.

“Horace. Come back for a moment.”

“Yes?”

“I think you should come back here tomorrow. I will teach you. I don’t think that school is helping you.”

“But how will I know how to get back?”

“Remember which way the bus turns on the way back, and make the opposite route to get back here.”

“Okay.”

Luke remembered what would happen in the future and added a note to Horace.

“Oh and Horace, for the love of Christmas, you need to write it down.”

“I will.”

Horace left. Luke giggled at the thought of Horace writing with her mouth. Luke could not help it. He did not feel bad because he knew it would happen.

3.

Horace wrote down the turns the bus made and where just as Luke instructed. Horace felt she was getting smarter even just on the ride home.

The next when she made her way back to the beach, she found she had remembered most of the street names, and some of the turns without looking at her chicken-scratch directions.

Horace walked out on the sand to the shoreline. Her short legs sunk into the sand with her steps, spooning sand into her mouth.

“Luke!” She called.

There was no response. She resumed spitting the sand out of her mouth. Twenty minutes later, as Luke knew, a dolphin emerged from the water and came towards the shore.

“Luke!” Horace called, having spotted a dolphin. The dolphin came closer to her.

“Yes? Do I know you?” The dolphin asked.

“Aren’t you Luke?”

The dolphin certainly did resemble Luke.

“Yeah, I’m Luke, what do you want about it?”

This dolphin was surly. He looked up and down the length of the beach, like Horace was wasting his time. This dolphin seemed like he would even fight Horace, if the circumstances came down to it. Horace started to shake.

“Aren’t you my dolphin friend? I….I….I’m looking for my friend Luke.  It’s me, Horace.”

She started to tear up. Horace had realized on the trip there that Luke was her only friend. This thought at once overwhelmed her, because she had realized she had been alive for so long (which wasn’t so long) without knowing she didn’t have any friends.

“Oh. You want Luke. I’ll go get him.” said the other dolphin Luke.

“What? I thought you said,”

But before he could explain, he was gone. Within thirty seconds, another dolphin emerged from the ocean. He looked practically identical to the previous dolphin. If Horace was capable at that point to getting suspicious, she would have gotten suspicious. But, so it went.

“Hi, Luke!”

“Hi, Horace!”

“Luke, was that your brother?”

“Who? Oh, Luke?”

“Yeah, the other dolphin I just talked to.”

“No, that’s just Luke. He’s friends with my friend Luke.”

“What?”

Luke remembered that Horace wasn’t the shiniest spoon.

“Oh. Don’t you know the story?” Luke knew that Horace did not know the story.

“No.”

“Well, I’ll tell you. Sit down.”

Horace was already sitting down in the sand because her legs were so short. She looked apodal. She shrugged at Luke.

“Well, the King Dolphin, Luke, that is, to his friends, realized that all of the dolphins looked alike. Strikingly alike even. The similarity in the dolphins, at least the ones in his kingdom, made such an impression on him that he decided to commemorate it. So he concluded that since all of the dolphins look the same, that we should all have the same names too, to make things simpler.”

Horace didn’t understand any of this.

“Every dolphin is named Luke.”

Horace understood then.

“So the King Dolphin changed his name to Luke as well.” Luke said.

“Why Luke?” Horace asked.

“Why not Luke?”

“I think it’s a good name.” Horace stated.

“It is a good name.” Luke said. It certainly was a good name.

“How do you tell each other apart then if you all have the same name?”

“Oh, it’s really easy. We know who we all are. There’s not too many of us.”

“How many?”

“Seventeen thousand six-hundred and twelve.”

“Oh my. That’s a lot.”

“Oh it’s not too bad. I only know maybe sixteen thousand of them.”

Luke was lying here to protect Horace’s feelings. In fact, Luke knew all of the dolphins intimately. He knew he would know all of the dolphins intimately. He also knew he could overwhelm Horace with his knowledge, as he would do it later in life. So it went.

“You dolphins are pretty smart. Do you think you can teach me things? My teachers ignore me or burn my homework and start screaming  in front of the other dogs.”

“Hmm, I’d have to talk to Luke, Luke and Luke to arrange something but I imagine we could tutor you. You don’t have gills do you?”

“I don’t think  I do.”

“That may hamper things. I’ll talk to Luke and see if he will ask Luke to outfit Luke and I with something that can get us on shore.”

Luke knew that was impossible but found himself saying the words anyway. His life was rife with contradictions such as these. Luke tried not to think about it too much, because the last time he did he fell down and hit his head and woke up in an alley, and a cat using a wheelbarrow had to take him back to the ocean. The cat said his name was Arnold. He was very dirty and smelled like tuna, which disturbed Luke greatly.

“I’d like to learn more.”

Luke paused and looked at her wings. They were looking weak and frail. He remembered that Horace had no clue she had wings.

“Horace, you need to strengthen your wings. That will be your first homework assignment.”

“I don’t have wings! That’s silly.” She said.

“Yes you do. Just think about it for ten seconds.”

Horace thought about it for ten seconds. It was ten times longer than she thought of anything else.

“Oh my Christmas! I do have wings.”

“Yes. You need to make them stronger. Wings are like a garden – a muscle. You need to make them stronger.”

Dolphins have no concept of agriculture. They also have no concept of combustion or atmospheric pressure. Nobody is perfect. Dolphins are pretty close.

Horace went home, and was surprised to see her mother. She waved at Horace like she had never left. Horace ran around the yard, flapping her white wings. She got very tired very quickly. But she came back out each day and worked a little harder, and was able to exercise a little longer. Pretty soon her wings became very strong.

She returned to the beach to show her friend Luke how strong she had become. She didn’t even need to look at the roads on this trip, or think about the turns.

Luke was waiting for her beside the shoreline.

“How’d you know I was coming Luke?” she asked.

“Luke told me, he saw you crossing the river.”

“Dolphins hang out in rivers?”

“We have agents.”

“Oh. Cool.”

“How are your wings?”

Horace showed him how strong her wings had become. He told her to try to fly, and explained how fast she would need to run. Luke had forgotten that he would later learn that her legs were too short for to gain ample velocity in order to fly, no matter how high of a dune she had leapt. Unfortunately, Luke remembered this useful tidbit after twelve failed attempts and a number of bruises.

“I don’t think you can fly.”

Horace began sobbing uncontrollably. She had invested so much time in improving her wings. And although she did not know that she could fly with her wings until Luke explained it to her at the beach that day, she became emotionally attached to that idea very quickly. The memory of dogs. So it went.

She continued to sob and flail and scream and began trotting into the water, which Luke heavily protested, but Horace did not hear, even with her huge, floppy wiener dog ears, and she ran into the water. She began swimming with an inherent violence, an extreme flail and found herself far, far away from the shore. Horace began to get weak. She could not see Luke. She went under the water.

As Horace slipped farther under water, she was met by Luke, who was smiling with a purpose, grinning ecstatically. Horace began to panic. Luke held her still with his fins. Horace found she was able to breathe.

It turned out she had gills after all.

Horace and Luke were married. They had their first child, Luke, the following year.

And that is the story of the how the first winged dolphin came to be.

THE END

Touchdown City

Coming in hot, bright and flashing like light breakin thru the wicker shed into daylight into feeling into grass into heads, into daylight, back here, into room. Flash flash flash they flash flash. Burned circles floating through the particulars. Hit em hard, hit em loose, coach said, hit em good, hit em high, square your shoulders. You know the center when you find the center. Move with your legs, not with your mind. Hit your spot, hit the next the next the next. Sunshine Angel in a suit stending his hand in mine, wet and deadfooted in a suit I borrow from Uncle Charlie and the Bratigan Gang down Mortimer Street where they sit on der porch crossing der legs, spitting seeds or chaw, looking downward or angelwise, low hat and most gumption and they white like I white. Sit in the back, keep it low, play the numbers, smile a lot, smile more, smile more, thank god, hit the spots, sit in the back, smile more. Don’t raise no stink. Don’t go out with the raised tire boys, and the slow moniker dribble den, keep it on the backburner, stay in, watch a movie, relax. Hit the gym, hit the marks, square  your shoulders, keep it low, keep it high, hold the ball, both hands when you want to close yur eyes, sign your name, hit the gym, hit the dorm, keep quiet if you’re make it loud. Wear a rubber, if not, deny. Don’t let anyone take pictures, don’t be in a place you woodn’t want yur picture shot, keep your hair cut, keep it clean, keep it low, square your shoulders, lean back, mark your counts. Sit in a chair in your borrowed suit and thank god and smile and wear the cap, nod the breem, nod forward, smile a lot, thank god, meet the coach, get the playbook, think of hotels and women and nights and try to smile while they flash the big brassy cold shoulder lights of day, the people more then you know, hundreds, thousands, people in the nether sections, people who wear a jersey, people, people, people, people, with their voices, saying keep it loud, keep it fresh, don’t forget wher eyou came from and slip a little extra ditty underneath the backpen of the microscope, and member you came from a dubble wide, and don’t forget about Lisa, or Denny, or Mark or Corey or Lou or anyone, never, never forget anyone, never forget to square your shoulders, hit your mark, sit in the back, smile a lot, learn the play, don’t frown at coach, run until you cayn’t breath any, feal the blood, littler still, hit your marks, don’t let the bright lights burn you, don’t be nevrous, only once, only once, only a thousand rabblerousing hit em sleep and run meetings with film and worksheets already filled just need a name, longsleep in the back of the bus, last in the shower and first out, swallowed up mash and string and folding chair meeting where we smile and introduce and you see the men out in the stands with their sunglasses and biknocks trying to get a handle on something they couldn’t handle demselves, fat old and spindly, seeing dollar signs between faces, like an eregular horse and harry, drawn up gold and gloading and massive and and drumming some war sung Uncle Charlie used to huff out when he was dankered out spitting on the side of clay marble pool hall gut fuel running on empty. First one to go to college. First one to make a mark. First one to slab and piss and stink all over the dry counties and set a running record and they tore out the field goal and made it the school masthead. You hit em hard, you hit em loose, you geet the smile from the bucktoothed gap happy club, nodding balmy shit through some cocktails and lunches paid in cash, slipped in cash, cash in every unknockered place in existence, and they are showing you with the Sunshine Angel right before he saids your name, watching you and the familys look at each other and holler at the table, hugging and smiling, the lights coming on bright and strong like the light breaking thru the wicker shed with the barbells and the deadlifts and the weightbelts, and Uncle Charlie stutters into your ear, you made it kid you made it, so hit it hard, hit it loose, hit it square, don’t ask questions, hit it hard, hit it loose, shake some balmy sweat stocked dollar sign seeing living breathing dying with it in the box between you and the lord hands, breathe it hit it, shake it, stiff it, stutter it, stretch every dumb minute of yur body out towards the unregarded eighteen feet tangle before your hairy hairless body and make sure the cleaner cut gentleman got the big bulb in because its time for showtime, hit it hard hit it fast, hit your gaps, break your name, break your back, bequeath yourself to the Sunshine Angel and bring it home to Mortimer to daylight to touchdown city.

Observations Lifted from a Functional Heart

I.

You have become an inert person.

This was not your intent.

You are stuck, in the slowest form of denial.

You note, over now-cold coffee at a local cafe, typing on a MacBook,

letting your eyes do all the talking, picking at banana bread,

you note nothing.

II.

On the side of my hip there are thumb-prints, in gray dust

from the ghosts of the cities I used to live in,

tacked bus schedules and rote cross-street memorizations

histories remade over blood-red happy-hour specials slipped in plastic,

left on wooden tables, in the booth a ghost and I claimed as our own,

telling stories of routine failures, dire circumstances

and strange encounters.

The best minds of our generation are not beset

by something as formidable (or interesting) as madness

but defined, and then encouraged

by something as temporarily beatific

and ultimately meaningless,

as hollow-armored irony.

A generation with nothing decimated,

no deserved, punctuated vociferous death-rattle of your life,

(yes, you)

no screaming, no curdling remorse and disavowal,

there was a shrug and a laugh,

and since  nothing impersonal has value,

you figured it was about time to step outside for a smoke.

III.

The parting gifts you left me with:

treasure shocks, drunken sketches on napkins

fall-down laughter, photographs of the house with crooked walls

and crooked floors.

Promises made with no eye contact, a half-smirk and a nod,

a tennis racket or a skateboard borrowed from the trunk of a car,

or waif’s spun quarters on a drumhead,

humming a nonsense tune

(they are all nonsense tunes, that why nothing is remembered,

there is no evidence, no declarations)

and identities shift just like the cities,

the boundaries and zones identical, the names shifting

and the ghosts are like a prolonged Polaroid,

developing for months after their last appearance,

all deeds brokered different in the magic-world of hindsight:

because just yesterday I was reminded I once had a different name.

IV.

My personal expiration date on my milk-carton-environment is typically one year.

It takes only a moment for the sour smell to invade the room

and I can’t even walk into the house,

it’s like trying to talk to atheists about something they don’t know about

but they are sure they do (they are always sure),

behaving like a twelve-year old denied chocolate before bed

to the point they go deaf as clocks,

a showing silver of this uncommonly recognized personal observation

of this still-functioning heart:

that people infallibly, (1) trust their senses to the degree

that they believe they know everything about you

but actually only know traces of facts,

the way a seldom seen uncle’s opinions depend on secondhand-information,

and this hypothetical uncle gets an ego rush over this inside knowledge

more involved with their own knowledge, than the knowledge itself,

the way people prominently display overly long or obscure books on their shelf

not knowing much about the contents,

the blurbs on the back: the best parts.

or  (2) with nothing beyond an acquaintanceship, a minor meeting,

tangibly knowing nothing about you (no intellectual kinship or biographical etchings)

(they don’t know about that one time, or that one place, or who you were two years ago)

they can even just watch you have a conversation,

and can sense everything about you

with nothing to say.

V.

The estrangement from your body has been under no certain terms.

It began with a lifestyle screen-test on a mandatory vacation,

and well

just sort of stuck.

The progression now inert like your nature

like a candle without a wick

irreconcilable and dull

with hesitations built around appearances and briefs

weeks-old hand-written letters of protest written to your body,

gone and abandoned, somewhere in hiding,

your body off the grid

likely stumbling on the shoulder of some unknown highway

piss-drunk and hungry again (this is what it has come to expect

because of your behavior)

because you were too busy thumbing through records,

and corrupting your posture in front of a screen,

instead of doing your body a favor

and planting your feet into the sea.

VI.

Love turned into wake-up calls from the front desk:

you’re late and you’re not sure if it ever happened.

Some left impregnable expectation we give each other

to act as if we care about one another more than we care about ourselves

and if you balance it wrong (which you do)

because everyone is horrible, and not worth that much attention,

so in effect

you lose sight of yourself, an orphaned seal

gliding through murky uncharted waters

and then you’re walking out of a hotel

slumped shoulders and unkempt hair

desperate to be moving,

unsure of the day of the month or the year

or the nature of your natural interest

why your hands sweat and shake

why there is a gulf in your stomach

why the physical overcomes the mental

the way eating pie or chopping wood

eradicates doubt and nagging thoughts.

Fashioned appearances become transparent and silly

like walking dolls made up to play house, or other games

brought to life by bigger hands.

Your senses are telling you not to trust your senses.

VII.

I prefer the company of my future self,

but when he is present,

he is anything but.

He smells and he is hungry. He says the wrong things.

He’s impatient. He doesn’t floss.

He’s cynical and out of shape.

He smokes though he promised he wouldn’t

but he mostly doesn’t though he still does smell.

He wastes his time.

He reads Nietzsche and eats horrible things

and pisses off the balcony facing Lake Union

onto passing cars and umbrella-less pedestrians.

He is of no use to anyone but himself.

The future self looking more and more like the past self.

So I give myself another chance

purified myself of my mistakes and regrets

catalogued my anxiety under a microscope

and classified them with tape and a black sharpie

“bullshit” “ridiculous” “usually while high”

and I redrew myself as myself,

the one you know me as,

in my new bedroom

by the beating light of a coming day,

walls affectless, bare, for you to fill.

VII.

You had made written arrangements

for the passing from you to yourself.

From known hypocrisy

to daily chore.

The keepsakes of a sidewalk,

bartering its own gifts for my presence

an open fire hydrant,

wind uttering on the surface, in a sequence

like coasters at a bar.

Making yourself more distinct, more personal

than trash bag purchaser #46 from store #302

on whatever day it was you last bought liners.

Sympathy should be something no bigger than a breadbox,

if you have anyone to share sympathy with

besides your parents of course

who are always a simple phone call and 3/4 tank of gas away

which is what I am thinking

during the hollow moments of our last phone call.

So, how is it that you define the word

When you say no one will take care of you?

Do you mean no one that you want?

This is the inertia

coursing through your bloodstream

taking hold of you

pinning you down the way my old ghosts

know my once-sore heart

and relapsed territory of youth

wearing dunce-hat labeled helmets

the morning after,

when I mock myself and everyone,

my heart and skin sheared and shorn

worn socks and missing money

and we are laughing like children

the way everyone does in the morning.

Pinned down because

we let our definitions only be one thing

and today you understand

you have to become empty

in order to understand

what it is to be wholly fulfilled.

And like the night’s my ghost slept in the city street,

like the nights your pulse travels into your stomach,

I understand now it’s worse to watch someone suffer

then it is to suffer yourself.

So go easy on your inert heart

if nothing else.

The Last Ten Tenants

The last ten tenants lined up on a purgatory field with sweaty palms and frosty feet because they were floated here into this field as part of a small unseen part of their lease, moving them against their will, which they eventually accepted.

And I see strangers mimic other strangers, clued in the supposeda’s, well versed in the dark of eye contact avoidance rituals and feigned all-consuming cell phone business, pretending to be just looking, happening to see but not watching when you notice us pointing and laughing at you, but we are clearly pointing and laughing at something else entirely and you have nothing to do with it, of course, uninvolved, the way we interact with commercials and pretend they don’t dig in, and the last ten tenants reading, murmuring, excerpts from “their” journals, though not written by them, a sort of passive narrator describing their lives, and it shows in their tones when they read it out loud, wary and confused, uncomfortable, pausing over unfamiliar mechanics and cutting words, describing things in a way they would not choose to share publicly or even confidently, using words like soul-mate, gratitude, psychologist says, important friendship, incarcerated brother and a queer choice of saying Brooklyn, and not just Bed-Stuy, and there, the young grocery store clerk, the newly-promoted account specialist, the receptionist who cannot cook and always orders out, the newly-married, the newly-not-young family holding their breath underwater while the man goes through tech school to learn how to make bread and win it too, the unpromised, the unfettered, the never disappointed, the forced limited coding focused on survival and not some mystical left-handed transcendence; a privileged undertaking, the last step before misanthropy for the privileged suburban-raised white kid, and the last ten tenants continue their séance as we open up the box labeled board games, and pull out Settlers of Catan, drink soda from a glass with ice in it, the minute after we drag in the furniture.