Category Archives: Society

Ravioli River

Photo by Bethany Hicks on

He had a wandering image that followed him, something about ravioli in a lonely café somewhere on the other side of the world. Light rays harken down thin alleyways, the sun an orange ball in the sky, the clouds clotted with heat, melting like a sorcerer’s tongue on acid, leopards and leprechauns leaping over the moon, shirt tails caught on the quarter point that hangs down, a broken piece of cheese, a nightlight. “Right, right,” Alex says.

Fright night. The nerves are ticking like wax paper snuffing terminal electrical anxiety lamps. The rain patters against the window, a crazy man in gloves comes for a visit at midnight. The rotten guts of a warlock wreak havoc on a Long Beach bungalow. Crystal quartz hearts conduct energy like a psychotic maestro.

Daybreak den wake. He slithers out of a chair like a pale snake, a voided king at the precipice of gigantic sin. He puts two quarters into the coffee machine and waits for the dark brown dribble to come out of the hole and flow into a red cup. He preps his mind for complicated mathematics, genital schematics. He sits down at his worktable, clicks on a lamp, readies his chisel and hammer, and goes to work carving a notorious-bound puppet.

Once fully formed, the man fills the puppet with fear and anxiety. He stuffs it in like seasoned ricotta into a pasta shell until overflowing. He zippers up his flesh, sets him on the ground and winds him up like a pure machine. He watches as the young and inexperienced toy soldier marches off to war, the battle with life, the battle with God. Explosions abound in his wake.

The man breathes a sigh relief as his new creation disappears beyond the horizon. Now, it is time to rest, to eat some ravioli on the banks of Ravioli River, to drink some wine, to dream of more fiendish things about love and life, to look out upon the street and simply watch the ripple of time pass by.


There stands a window of gray, impenetrable. Clocks sway like soldiers’ hooves. The popping of the bombs as they hit the ground wails on and on outside. A flagship mothership spins like a top in the sky. Beams of fire rain down. The extraterrestrials have finally decided enough was enough. Earth had to be eliminated. The humans were tainting the universe with their bric-a-brac ways.

Years before, inside an auto parts store in Morlockowoc, Wisconsin, a new employee named Finnian Lake stood behind the counter. He was so nervous he was shaking. He didn’t know anything about auto parts, yet there he was. How? Why? Societal pressure to earn money. Familial pushing. A jackass father-in-law who thought he was George Jones. He had entrenched in Finnian that it was in his best interest to get in on the ground floor of an up and coming auto parts chain store. The company eventually went under due to poor management.

“But I know nothing about auto parts,” Finnian tried to tell him.

The father-in-law looked at him with disgust. “Then learn.”

On his very first day, someone called the store wanting to know if they had a certain engine in stock. “An entire engine?” Finnian asked. “Don’t you maybe just need some windshield washer fluid?”

The tool on the other end of the line rattled off some numbers, some dimensions, some code. Finnian scrambled through a thick catalog to try and find what he was talking about. He waited a few minutes. “Nope. Sorry. We don’t have it.”  But maybe they did. Finnian had no clue. He didn’t ask anyone else. He just simply gave up because to him it was all utter bullshit.

Years later, it was a blustery Sunday in Morlockowoc, Wisconsin, and Finnian Lake was inside a Piplee’s fast-food restaurant eating a spicy chicken sandwich and fries with an orange soda. He was suddenly bamboozled by a loud commotion up at the front registers. A woman was arguing with one of the managers about how her order was all messed up. She was being real nasty about it, but the manager was being nasty back.

He was a big black guy who barely fit into his uniform and Finnian thought to himself how much he resembled a professional wrestler—The Fast-Food Force of Evil they would call him—and then the customer came on with a barrage of racial slurs and that’s when things really went up a notch or 13.

This was when Finnian retrieved his Canon EOS R10 mirrorless camera and began filming. He was shocked as the manager dragged the screaming woman outside to the parking lot. He smacked her around with his big hands a few times until she fell to the ground. He kicked her in the gut. He then picked her up, lifted her high over his head, and body slammed her onto the pavement. One could almost hear the crunching of bones. She barely moved after that.

Finnian went out to the parking lot and joined the gathering crowd looking down at her. He pushed in and stood right above her; the camera zoomed in on her aching emotions. She was all whacked up and battered and moaning like a bitch. “Seems like you got what you deserved, misses,” Finnian said to her, and he dropped his drained paper soft drink cup down on her. Some of the other people clapped and cheered and Finnian smiled to them before getting into his car and driving off.

When he got back to his small abode of yellow brick that rested in a nice neighborhood near the shore of one of the Great Lakes, he set up his Canon EOS R10 mirrorless camera and other vlogging equipment in the front room. His latest episode on Tik Tok would be about the woman being body slammed in a fast-food restaurant parking lot. Great stuff, he thought. Really great stuff. There’s nothing like witnessing the pain of others. Especially when it is perfect strangers in agony, he oddly thought.

He edited the footage he had shot earlier and then went to work recording his introduction. He took his stance and smiled at the camera. “Hi guys, welcome back, Fabulous Finnian here. I’ve got some crazy ass footage for you today. That’s right. Seems one of the manager’s down at Piplee’s doesn’t take too kindly to unruly customers who complain about chicken and berate him with bigoted slurs. Check this out… Whoa. Slam. Damn! But if you ask me, she had it coming to her. She was being a complete racist bitch! Just goes to show, it doesn’t pay to be a whiny asshole. Thanks again for watching, guys. Make sure to share, subscribe, and have a great day.”  

“Now this,” he said to himself proudly. “This is what I was meant to do… Not struggle to sell god damn auto parts!” he said that last part with gusto and then flipped up his middle finger in the direction of bad memories.

He packed up his video blogging gear and stowed it away in the proper places because he was an organized person. He sat down in a chair in the front room and looked out the window. It started to rain and so he decided to take a walk. He filled his backpack with imported IPAs and a ham sandwich.

He went out the front door and across the street to the nearby park. The rain was overly wet and slightly cold. He went down a hill and across an open field of neatly cut grass. At the other end was a clump of forest. He wandered through the trees, paused beneath a wide bough to get out of the rain for a moment. He went down a steep hill and came out to the shoreline of one of the Great Lakes. The rain was filling the basin even higher. Waves wrapped around themselves, dropped, spilled their energy.

He found a large, white rock that resembled a table and sat down on it. He reached into his pack for a beer and cracked it open. He took one long drink until the can was completely drained. The rain lessened and felt warmer. The sun was trying to force its way through the gray clouds. Birds were chirping. Ambient cyberpunk meditation music dripped from the air. It reminded him of Blade Runner. He wondered if he was merely a Replicant.

“A replica of what?” he asked the gods of the mountain. He reached for another beer and drained that as well. He unwrapped his ham sandwich and ate it. Sea birds tried to make a dive for it. They were white angels with horizontal wings, squawking, demanding, chittering like loaded dice.

Someone suddenly appeared on the surface of the water. They were walking toward him. It was a large man with a scowl. He glowed. He stepped onto the shore. His feet were bare and wet. “You!” he said to Finnian, and he pointed. “You bamboozled me years ago when I was trying to find an engine for my truck. Why did you lie to me!?”

“What!? What!? What is this!?”

“You once worked in an auto parts store here, did you not?”

“I did, but only for four days.”

The engine ghost man laughed. “Figures! You sucked at it!”

“I’m sorry I deceived you… I was so far out of my element that I barely existed.”

The engine ghost man came over and sat upon the rock with him. He sighed, looked at the empty beer cans on the ground. “You litter, too?”

“I was going to pick them up and pack them out. I would never do such a thing to this glorious place.”

They both looked out at the churning, wet water. “Where did you come from? How did you do that… Walk on the water,” Finnian wanted to know.

“There’s no special trick to it. You’ll be able to do it once you’re dead.”

“You mean I can walk wherever I want, and I won’t drown?”

“As long as you don’t want to, you will not drown.” The engine ghost man looked at him. “You know that truck ended up rotting away in my driveway because of you.”

“I’m sorry. I really am,” Finnian said. “I was pushed into it by oppressive forces. I should have never been there. Believe me, I suffered greatly for it.”

“I’m sure you did. But none of that matters now… Hey, do you have any more beers?”

Finnian reached into his pack and pulled one out for him. “Here you go.”

The engine ghost man studied the shiny can. “Hmm, high gravity. Excellent.”

Finnian thought for a moment, and then asked him. “Do you want to come back to my house and watch a bitch get body slammed?”

The engine ghost man chuckled through a tilt of the beer. “You bet I do.”


Baguette Ragdolls

Photo by u0410u043du043du0430 u0413u0430u043bu0430u0448u0435u0432u0430 on

Broken wanderers. Space mice. Toe signals. Crap melons. Divided thesaurus. Purple dinosaurs. Egg cabbage. Lettuce wraps. Feet sores. Mice house. Calm attack. Divine moons… Nine moons.

There was:

The Conch moon.

The Devil moon.

The Gun Barrel moon.

The Black Button moon.

The Radial Eye moon.

The Turkish Comet moon.

The Phone Dial moon.

The Blood Smear moon.

The Red Chili moon.

They were all displayed on a window tapestry in a room of all red and gold. It was the place of tomorrow. It was the place of two weeks ago. It was the place of leftover laundry and moans. The world was becoming different out there. He stared at the door many times a day. He would crack it open for just a moment and peer out. The traffic was too much. The noise was too much. He wanted to create a real living being. He wanted a character that would move somebody, a character more than just a slice of cardboard.

He returned to the typewriter table, sat down, and stared at a piece of bleached paper. It was brighter than the sun. An ape came out of the fibers. He was white, too, with red eyes. His name was Grant, and he was reminiscent of Grant Goodeve. Think about it. Eight of them, but nine moons.

He sought a calm device. He sought a miracle drug and blue soda fizz in the window of the dime-store soda pop shop with its white counters with gold flecks and the silver stumps for the stools topped with red vinyl discs that spun like the galaxies.

Everybody AI now, creating with AI, the cheap gauntlet texts unfurled like red ribbons. Gibbons. Another sort of primate. Gate keeper. Toast peeler. Potato roaster. Midnight coaster. Soul tingler. Tiger sauce. Scrambled eggs for brain trains.

Baguette ragdolls pirouette like cold river salmon. Bear claw swipes, a rabid bite. The hurricane of the heart stretches out like pink taffy in the summer sun. The odd roofer carries a hammer and a satchel. He’d rather be walking with a scythe for all the stupidity the world reflects.

Breathe through the pineal. Hope stirs like a West Texas sandstorm, shitstorm, trash cyclone. Fast-food bags skitter across the landscape because people just don’t give a damn. AI hoot owl will clean it all up. Trash the planet, trash the kids. Trash the hearts and souls of men. Sick to the stomach via the most senseless things, those that should be senseless.

Hobbled voodoo at the crack of dawn. There it is. Another day.


The Morbid Mind Correctional Facility (3)

Photo by Kristal Tereziu on

Magda Balls looked at her two new guests, her back was up against the stove in the kitchen, a cigarette smoke stream trailing from her shapely hand. Rosalina and the Huffing Man were sitting at the table in her lakeside bungalow eating tomato soup and oyster crackers. The man had an iced tea to drink, the girl a milk.

“Did you know MILK in Dutch and Norwegian is MELK,” Magda said, looking at the girl.

Rosalina crinkled her nose. “Huh?”

“MILK is pronounced MELK in both Dutch and Norwegian… I’m studying new languages.”

The Huffing Man wiped his mouth with a paper napkin and looked at her. “I spent some time in Amsterdam, but I never drank any MELK there.” He just as quickly went back to eating his soup and crackers.

“They have naughty peep shows in Amsterdam,” Rosalina said. “And marijuana is legal. Did you get high and look at boobies?”

“No,” the Huffing Man insisted. “I was there on business… Back when my life wasn’t a shattered mess, or was it?” His thoughts trailed off into the air and he watched them bounce away.

Magda laughed at the girl. “How do you know about all that?”

“I know a lot of things. I read, surf the net, watch movies, things like that. I’m very worldly for 10.2 years old.”

“I can tell,” Magda laughed. “If you two don’t mind, I’m going to hit the shower. Make yourselves at home.”

The Huffing Man looked up at Magda and gave her a shy smile. His face, with its sandpaper sheen, was tired and haggard. “Thank you… For the food and for helping me out.”

Magda smiled back. “You’re welcome.”

Rosalina plopped herself down in a comfy couch in the front room and played with a remote control. The Huffing Man joined her. She looked over at him sadly. “Can I ask you something?”

“I suppose you can.”

“Why do you huff gas?”

He sighed. “Well, it’s a long, sad story I’m afraid. I don’t want to trouble a young girl with such adult things.”

“It’s okay. I can handle it. I’m very mature.”

“Well, let’s just say I have a lot of personal problems.”

“Like what?”

The Huffing Man laughed at her innocent inquisitiveness, then sighed. “I feel incredibly invisible to a lot of people in my life. I suppose I don’t feel very loved.”

Rosalina looked down. “I know what you mean. I don’t feel very loved either. That’s why I ran away from my foster parents.”

“Foster parents?”

“My Pee and Em were killed in a hot air balloon crash in Arizona.”

“Pee and Em?”

“My dad and mum. I got the words from A Clockwork Orange. It’s my favorite movie. It’s part of this weird language they speak that’s sort of like Russian slang mixed with Old English. I bet we can find it on Netflix or HBO if you want to watch it with me.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“What! Where have you been, living under a rock?”

“Yes, I suppose I have been.”

It’s a brutal and satirical look at the crisis of crime and subsequent punishment in a withering dystopian society… The story revolves around the strange life of a young hoodlum and his gang of droogs. But it goes far beyond that. It’s a mind fuck, really,” Rosalina said. “A total mind fuck.”

“Oh, really? I’m intrigued.”

Rosalina excitedly sat up on the edge of the couch and scanned through channels until she found the movie. “Here it is!”

The Huffing Man gestured with his head toward the sound of the running shower. “Do you think she’ll be okay with it?”

“I don’t think she’ll care. She’s pretty cool.”

“All right then. Fire it up.”

“Doobie doo,” Rosalina said with a giggle.


“Just watch.”

The chilling close-up image of Alex DeLarge in the Korova Milk Bar suddenly appeared on the screen. The gonging synthesized opening soundtrack filled the room.

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milk Bar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova Milk Bar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet, or synthemesc, or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence…

Rosalina looked over at the Huffing Man and his eyes were wide with wonder. “Freaky, huh?” she whispered.

“I’d say,” he whispered back.

Magda Balls came into the room with wet hair and fresh summer clothes that clung to her tall, svelte body. “What are you two watching?”

“A Clockwork Orange,” Rosalina told her, and then she pressed pause on the remote. “But we can’t have disturbances. We need to fully concentrate on the film in order to absorb all its subtle nuances.”

Magda laughed. “Okay. I’ll just go out onto the deck and read then. That okay?”

“Sure,” Rosalina said with a shrug. “It’s your house.”

“That it is,” Magda said, and she smacked her lips, grabbed a book off the coffee table and slipped outside.

Rosalina resumed the film and the Huffing Man relaxed into the couch. He watched the movie as its bizarreness unfolded and even though the pictures on the screen were mesmerizing, he couldn’t help that his mind drifted away to his own inner turmoil. He tried to turn his head and look at the girl beside him, but his neck seemed inoperable, he seemed frozen, felt dead almost. He wondered if he had finally done enough damage with all that gas huffing.

The film was long and when it was over, the Huffing Man got up off the couch and stretched. He glanced out through the glass of the veranda door and saw that Magda had migrated to a short dune on the beach. He looked at Rosalina. “I think I’m going to go take a walk… In the other direction.”

“Okay,” she said, as she skimmed through channels in search of something new to watch.

“Would you like to join me? I mean, you can’t just watch the television all day. Maybe we can find something to eat.”

Rosalina pressed the power button on the remote and looked up at him. “You’re right. And I should come with you… To keep you on the straight and narrow. Because, I hope you weren’t planning on running off to huff some gas.”

“No. But it doesn’t feel good not to huff.”

“I’m sure it sucks, but you’ll feel better,” the girl said. “I’ll help you ride the rough waves out.”

“That’s awful kind of you,” he said with a genuine smile. “Shall we?” He reached out to grasp her hand at the door and she took it.


The Dreamers of Fortune Street

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

Is it me causing all the ruckuses?

Is it me blowing down all the brick walls?

I went to the Centrifugal Theatre downtown because I wanted to watch a movie that made me spin. Halfway through the picture, an old black and white, the usher came up to me in his red uniform and monkey hat. He pointed his flashlight right in my face and inquired if I was a doctor.

“What kind of doctor are you looking for?” I asked.

“A doctor that can deliver a box of popcorn to that young lady right over there.” He nodded with his head and smiled. “Isn’t she just dreamy?”

“Why do you need a doctor for…”

And then I realized I was mixing reality with what was happening up on the movie screen. The usher was really telling me to get my feet off the seat in front of me. The movie scene had a guy buying popcorn for his date. It was a centrifugal mixing of the thoughts in and out of my head. Then I looked around the theatre and I was the only one there. Then the projector started acting up and the film became all tangled and warbled. I got up and walked out. It had been a decent piece of cinny up to that point though.

The next thing I did was walk out into the night air of Fortune Street and that made me think of fortune cookies and then I became incredibly hungry for some good Chinese food. So, I walked and walked and walked along the dirty sidewalk of the big, big city until I came upon a place called the Alabaster Wok. I went inside and the host, a small man in a red uniform, seated me at a round table covered in a red tablecloth. Everything seemed to be red and golden. There was a Buddha shaped candle jar in the center of the table. The flame inside flicked like a fiery tongue being unfurled from the mouth of the Egyptian sun god Ra. It was mesmerizing to someone like me.

A waiter brought me a menu the size of a small book and I flipped through the sticky, plastic pages. There must have been a thousand items to choose from. I noticed a lot of misspelled words. I suddenly had to go to the bathroom and got up and went to find the restroom.

The entire restaurant was bathed in a dim, yellow light, and the same went for the bathroom. I stepped up to the urinal and started to make pee when suddenly, a man came bursting out of one of the stalls and he made a wicked Kung Fu stance and then started wildly chopping and kicking at the air. He did spins and jumps and flips while he jabbed at the space around him, and the whole time he was shrieking at the top of his lungs: “Hiiiiiiiii Yahhhh!” repeatedly.

I jumped back out of his way, and I was pressed up against a cold tiled wall when one of his feet came bolting toward me in a high kick and smashed into the area right next to my ear. “Don’t fuck with me, bro!” he hollered. Debris crumbled down to the floor. “My name is Hai Chin and I’m a badass Kung Fu master.”

I was shaking at this point, and my heart was pounding so hard I half expected it to burst right out of my chest cavity. “Jesus, man,” I said. “You scared the shit out of me!”

He took great pride in that and grinned wide. He slapped me on the shoulder. “Sorry about that. I was just practicing for an upcoming territorial gang rumble… But hey, I’ve got to get back to work. I’m the dishwasher.”

With that, he slammed his way out of the restroom chanting some crazy battle tune.

I braced myself at the sink and tried to regain my composure. After a few calming breaths, the door to the restroom burst open and Hai Chin was now soaring through the air, and he planted both feet into my back. The blow was intense and caused me to violently jerk forward and my face smashed right into the mirror and broke the glass. I fell to the floor with a thud and my hands went immediately to my face to assess the situation. When I pulled them away to look at them, there was blood.

Hai Chin was standing above me, hands on his hips and he had the biggest smile on his face. “Gotcha mo’ beans!” he said, and he laughed out loud.

I yelled at him. “Dude! What is your fucking problem? I’m really hurt here. Give me something to press against my face.”

“Huh? Like what?”

“Like a warm, wet towel!”

“Okay… Be right back!” And with that, he ran out of the restroom again, but quickly popped his head back in just to say, “Don’t forget to jiggle the handle!”

I got up and steadied myself against the sink. I looked into the busted mirror and the jagged reflection made me look like a cut up monster. It wasn’t long before Hai Chin returned with the warm wet towel. He handed it to me, and I put it to my face. “Thanks,” I said.

“You are welcome, sir. Welcome to the Alabaster Wok. Can I get you something to drink and perhaps an appetizer?”

I turned my aching face toward him. “We’re in the bathroom. Can I at least get back to my table before you take my order… And I thought you said you were the dishwasher.”

“I am the dishwasher… But on slow nights like this, waiter go home, and I take over for him. I’m what you say—multi-tasking. And the boss man cheap.”

“Right. I’m going to go sit down at my table now. I haven’t even had a chance to look at the whole menu yet.”

“It’s big, like my woman whopper… Ha ha!”

I just shook my head and brushed by him. I was hurting and very hungry and in no mood for his bullshit outlandish behavior.

When I returned to the table, there was a bag of frozen stir fry vegetables there with a note attached: Sorry for the brutal attack. You can use this to relieve any swelling. No charge. Hai Chin.

I looked up and saw him peeking at me from behind a red curtain on the other side of the restaurant. But I was hungry and so I gently pressed the bag of frozen vegetables against my now swelling face and looked over the menu once more. What was I thinking? I had made my mind up long ago, before I even got here. Orange chicken with a side of fried rice. Why don’t I ever just trust my own gut? Why do I always second guess myself? Sometimes I could just throw myself out of a window, or in front of a speeding train, or into a flock of doves.

And that’s when Hai Chin suddenly appeared behind me like a flash of lightning. He just seemingly popped up from some portal beneath the floor. “It’s because you lack confidence in yourself,” he told me. “You need to explore your spirit. You need training.”

My head whipped around. “How did you…”

“It no matter,” Hai Chin said, and he raised his little notepad and pencil. “Are you ready to order?”

“I’ll have the orange chicken with fried rice… And throw in a side of the crab Rangoon with some sweet and sour sauce.”

“Something to drink?”

“How about an oolong tea.”

“Yes, sir. Anything else for you?”

“No. That should do it.”

He bowed and scampered away. A moment later I heard him shouting my order to someone in the invisible back.

The food arrived quickly. The chicken was steaming, the rice was steaming, the tea was steaming. I moved the plastic broccoli aside for it was an unnecessary addition to the plate. The crab Rangoon called to me, and I took one of the starfish shaped treats and dipped it in the sweet and sour sauce. I took a bite. It was glorious Heaven upon glorious Heaven, oh my friends. It too, was hot. But sometimes a craving overtakes a burn.

I ate as much of my dinner as I could. There was still a mountain of food left. Hai Chin came to the table and bowed. “Everything fine then?”

“It was delicious. May I get a to-go box?”


Hai Chin went away and quickly returned with the box, check, and a fortune cookie. “You pay up front,” he said. “Thank you for dining at the Alabaster Wok… And I hope your face is better. You can keep the vegetables.” He bowed again and walked off.

I was too full to even eat the fortune cookie, so I put it in my pocket for later. I went to pay and was soon out on the gory gloryhole of neon Fortune Street again. The lights sparkled, the air was cool, a breeze cautiously touched the city. Other people moved by me like in a dream. I heard their voices, their laughter—as if it were coming from another realm. I felt like Ichiban Kasuga in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve. (Even though he was Japanese, not Chinese Yes, Karen. There is a difference). My stomach was stretched, my face still hurt. I walked toward home.

I decided to cut through the park and sat down on a bench to rest. I placed my bag with the leftovers beside me. The stars above managed to squeak a bit of their ancient light in through the treetops. The moon breathed through the veil of backlit moving clouds. I reached into my pocket and retrieved the fortune cookie. I unwrapped it and pulled out the small slip of paper inside. It read: You’ve got a big surprise coming to you, Wendy. A very big surprise.

“Who the hell is Wendy?” I thought aloud to myself.

And that’s when Hai Chin, the dishwasher and fill-in waiter from the Alabaster Wok, came dropping down from out of the trees above me like a runaway elevator heading toward the ground floor. He was suddenly right in front of me on the walkway, and he was furiously whipping around a set of nunchakus, and he cried out “Hiiiiiiiii Yahhhh!” The end of one of the sticks grazed the tip of my nose.

I leapt up and backpedaled away from him. “What the hell are you doing!?” I screamed. “Are you trying to kill me? I sort of thought we were friends.”

He suddenly stopped whipping the nunchakus about and tucked them neatly under his arm in one svelte move. “Friends?” he said.

“I mean, yeah you kicked my butt, but you were still kind enough to give me that sack of frozen stir fry vegetables.”

He bowed to me. “It was the honorable thing to do.”

There was moment of uncomfortable silence before I said, “That thing you were saying about my spirit and training… I think I need that. I need to get out of this damn city and away from all these idiotic fools and clear my head and cleanse my soul. Where shall I go?”

Hai Chin put a finger to his own chin and thought about it. “You will come with me to the great mystical mountain in the clouds and there I will teach you the ways of Kung Fu.”

“For real. You’re not fooling with me, are you?”

Hai Chin became dejected and sat down on the nearby bench. His usual Wisconsin bubbler-like personality drooped. “I only wish I could. But the truth is, I really am just a damn dishwasher. I’ve never been able to fulfill my dreams of being a Kung Fu master. I’m a fraud.”

I sat down beside him. “I know what you mean. I wanted to be a million other things than what I turned out to be. It sucks, but society presses it into us. Society strips of us our dreams in exchange for meaningless work. We’re all just loaded into the boxcar and shipped off to Doldrums City, merely pieces of a machine.”

He nodded his head in agreement. Then his face suddenly brightened. “What if we just say, ‘fuck it,’ and do it anyway. Let’s not let society tell us what to be and how to act. Let’s go be Kung Fu masters. Let’s go to—Bhutan, Nepal, or Tibet. Let’s find a new way to live. Let’s find our true selves… I’m sorry, what’s your name?”

“David. David Pearce Goliath.”

“Let’s just do it, David Pearce Goliath.”

We both paused and thought about it, and then I asked the ever deciding question, “Do you have money?”

“Money,” he repeated bitterly. “No.”

I shook my head. “Neither do I. You got to rob a bank to have a dream come true in this fucking world.” I looked up to the sky and some green comet or spaceship arched over us and across the banner of night. “Can you imagine what the world would be like if we could all just be what we really wanted to be?”

“But instead, we putter away at mostly pointless things. It will never change,” Hai Chin said. He started to get up. “I must get back to the restaurant. Boss man want me to clean kitchen.”

I looked up at him. “Why don’t you just say, ‘fuck it’ and come over to my apartment and we’ll have a few beers, maybe watch a documentary about monks.”

He nodded his head in excited agreement. “Right, right mo’ beans! Let’s do it. Let’s get what we can get while we can get it.”

I grabbed my sack of leftovers and stood up. We started walking to the other side of the park and across the wide avenue and to where my apartment was in a low-key high-rise called Vandenburg Arms. What arms are those? The arms that squeeze us tight and hold us against our will. The arms that keep us cold and make us tired and ready for another day as small brass gadgets in a big and ferocious world of dreaming saints and sinners.


The Moon Scars of Elysium (2)

Photo by Aaron Echoes August /

Algernon Wasp had been sitting in a Big Boy restaurant in Manistique, Michigan when the big blue bomb blew. He had been eating a hamburger and a house salad with Thousand Island dressing when the shaking began and there was the sound of a great howling wind and a deep rumbling thunder. People screamed when all the windows shattered. Algernon had ducked under the table as the debris rained down like real rain. When the dust finally settled, Algernon crawled out and wandered outside among the rubble and the moans and the cries.

A cluster of people, a church group he guessed, were on their knees in a semi-circle, and they had their folded hands thrust up toward the heavens. They were begging God for mercy. They were inviting the Son to finally come down and roam among them, to save them, to lift them up to the Promised Land. They called upon the Holy Spirit to cleanse the world of wickedness. But wickedness had already come and gone.

Algernon groaned in despair as he looked around at the state of the new world… And like Charlton Heston in the Planet of the Apes when he came upon the ruined Statue of Liberty, he too fell to his knees and he screamed out as he slammed his fist against the pavement, “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

He later wandered the few blocks back to his hotel, The Happy Hole Inn, and guests were gathered outside, and they were looking up at the sky and pointing and were amazed by how it had taken on such a bruise-blue hue. Like technological sheep, they all had their cell phones in salute position, and they were recording the end event to later post on their social media sites of choice. He scoffed at them. “What are you all looking at!? How many likes are you fools hoping to get!? You idiots! This all your fault…” And he went around pointing to each of them. “And yours, and yours, and yours. You’re all too stupid to live!”

He waved them away in disgust and went inside the hotel and to his room. The roof was gone and when he looked up, the sky was churning like sick guts. He gathered his things, checked out, and began walking to wherever his feet would take him.

And where his feet took him was an amber colored bar in downtown Manistique. It was quiet inside except for the television that blurped in and out with news of the end of days. Two other men sat at the bar and watched along with the bartender. He finally noticed Algernon and asked him, “What are you doing here, mister?”

“I need a drink,” Algernon answered. He tapped a finger against the bar top as he sat down. “Suds.”

The bartender poured him a beer and set it before him. “No charge, mister. It looks like we’re all in for a rough time.” He motioned with his thumb. “Listen to these two idiots.” He shook his head.

“This is all because of the god damn liberals,” one of the men at the bar grumbled.

The other man nodded in agreement. “That’s right. If it weren’t for all these sissies and all their gay stuff, we’d be eating apple pie and living our best lives right about now… Not watching the world come to an end on CNN.” He motioned abruptly with his hand. “Come on, Wilbur. Can you ate least put it on Fox News so we can get the truth.”

Algernon laughed out loud. He finished his beer and tapped his fingers on the bar to indicate his desire for another.

The two men turned to look at him. “You got a problem, mister?” one of them asked.

“I have all sorts of problems,” Algernon added. “Try not to be another.”

The man that lastly spoke to him got up off his bar stool and walked right on over to where Algernon was. He took his hand and slapped at Algernon’s beer mug and knocked it over. “You wanna fight me or something?” He was close to his face when he spoke and his breath was annoying.

Algernon sighed as the barkeep cleaned up the spill and gave Algernon a fresh beer. “You start something, Lloyd, and I’ll throw you out. Then you’ll have to go home to that ugly wife of yours.”

Algernon chuckled. “He’s lucky to get that.”

The man put a rough hand on Algernon’s shoulder and Algernon reacted immediately with a rigid brush of his arm to knock the man away. “Don’t touch me!”

“Well, you look pretty gay to me. I figured you’d like it.” He laughed. His friend laughed and came over as well. “Kick his ass, Lloyd,” the friend said.

“You’re the one here with another man,” Algernon replied. “I’m flying Han Solo.”

The two men made faces of confusion and backed away. “Let’s just leave this one alone,” one of them said. “Han Solo my ass.”

After the two men settled back in their seats, the bartender brought Algernon a bowl of hot beef and noodle soup. “Here you go. I didn’t want it to go to waste and you look like you could use it.”

“Thanks,” Algernon said, and he smiled. “I appreciate it.”

“So, did you use the Jedi mind trick on those two buffoons?” He laughed.

Algernon chuckled. “You got to have a mind first.”


Just then the power went out and the only remaining light was the blue hue of the day coming in through the windows at the front of the bar.

“Sure as hell is eerie,” the bartender said. “What you plan on doing?”

“I don’t know. My wife recently passed, and I was on a sabbatical. I wanted to see all the places I’d never seen but wanted to… And now this happens. Nuclear war.”

“Where’s home?”

“Buena Vista, Colorado.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a wonderful place, mostly.”

“Well, I hope you can get back there.”

“Me, too.”


The Harmonious Calliope Fortune Machine

Photo by Fernando Paleta on

Midnight moon plus 33 is the title of his latest thought. A man named Lance Birmingham and nearing the end of the road sits in a chair near an open window and listens to the rain and the emperor sighs of summer cicadas. Someone’s playing Monopoly out on the lighted screened-in porch across the way. He can see how it juts out the end of the neighbor’s house that sits too close by.

Three kids in pajamas. They can’t sit still. He can hear their bare feet slap against the plank flooring when they run around. Who runs around when they play Monopoly? Maybe not kids—preteens, full teens, adults who act like children. What’s the difference, he wonders. Unlike him, they have all the time in the world. Or do they? What about a lightning strike, or what if an alligator gets up in the yard and sucks one into its powerful jaws during a lightning bug hunt.

He can hear their squeals, laughter, taunts upon one another that float out through the thin mosquito netting in the window frames. One of them just landed on Park Place and it’s breaking them to pieces. A girl complains loudly of going bankrupt. Maybe she’ll jump off the ledge of a tall building. But then again, maybe she’ll just go to bed, wake up in the morning and go to school. But then again, maybe she’ll get gunned down in the cafeteria just as she’s about to dig into her fruit cup. Where are the peaches for justice?

The tumbling dice scurry like mice and helicopters now fill the air above our playgrounds.

You bastards don’t want to save anything. You just want to corrupt your own corruption. Those were Lance Birmingham’s last thoughts as he crawled into bed and turned off the lamp on the table beside him. Click. Quiet. Dark. Mostly dark save for the glow coming from his harmonious calliope fortune machine that sat atop a well-polished dresser of deep-veined oak.

The very first thing Lance Birmingham would do every morning is go to the harmonious calliope fortune machine and pull out the white slip of paper from the dispenser and read it. Sometimes it gave medical annotations, like it did yesterday when it spit out: Your heart will not stop today. Good. Other days the little white slip of paper will show something completely random and mostly of little concern. Like the day it coughed up: There will be no newspaper on the front walk today because the industry as a whole is collapsing. But so what? Just get on your computer, Lance. The entire world exists in an electrified vapor.

Yes, the harmonious calliope fortune machine knew his name somehow even though he had never programmed it to do so.

“Well, someone did,” he told his invisible wife. Well, she wasn’t really invisible. He spoke to her picture. He carried it with him all around the house. It was in a silver frame, and she had the prettiest smile. He missed her.  

On the most recent of his days, Lance Birmingham shuffles out the front door and looks around the yard. It’s about 6:30 in the morning and the day is just beginning to yawn and the grass is wet with dew. No newspaper once again even though the harmonious calliope fortune machine said nothing about it this time. He forgot what it had said. He tries to remember but it just isn’t getting through the thick walls of his corroding brain.

He goes inside to make himself a cup of coffee. He sits at the table in the mostly quiet kitchen and waits. The sound of the coffee maker dribbling the juice of the gods into a red cup is the exception to the silence. The cup had belonged to his wife. It has her name on it: Monika. He gets up, retrieves the cup, and sits back down. He drops in some artificial sweetener and a couple glops of flavored creamer. An egg yolk-colored glow fills the room as the sunlight outside stands taller, a nuclear soldier. He takes a sip of the coffee. Now it is very quiet.

He notices the slip of paper from the harmonious calliope fortune machine. He must have set it down on the kitchen table in his aimless wandering to get to the morning newspaper that never came. He picks it up with a shaking hand and looks at it. It’s blank. No words at all, just an empty white space. He hears a whisper fall upon his ear. He suddenly turns around and sees his wife standing there. It’s Monika, young and golden. She smiles and holds out her arms. She isn’t inside a picture anymore.