Hello Danny, come and have some fruit cocktail with us

I’m not a huge horror movie fan or expert on the genre by any means, but I will confess that one of my favorite movies is Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King. I remember reading the book when I lived in the clotted realm of Los Angeles way back. The book freaked me out so much that for a while I had to leave a light on when I went to sleep. True story.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve watched the film, but it’s been a lot. Sometimes I just get a craving for something classic and freakish and weird and with downright good cinematography. From the eerie music that descends upon viewers during the opening credits to the finale where poor Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) succumbs to extremely severe frostbite in the maze, the film is a visual and auditory treat. For me, at least.

I watched it again a few days ago and there was a scene that struck me as odd and that I hadn’t particularly paid much attention to in the past. It’s the part in the film where Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) is in the big creepy kitchen and she’s preparing a meal for her family while sucking on a cigarette and watching the news on a portable television. In this scene, she’s using a countertop crank opener on a huge can of fruit cocktail. I mean huge. It takes her two hands to cradle the thing, like a ten-pound baby, and once she has it open, she proceeds to pour the contents into a large serving bowl.

This is the part that got me scratching my head. I suddenly thought to myself: “How the hell are three people going to eat that much fruit cocktail?” (That being Jack, Wendy, and their little boy, Danny). I know there are a lot more menacing things going on at the Overlook Hotel at this point, but I was just kind of obsessed about all that fruit cocktail.

Then I started to wonder if Wendy was subconsciously considering the other occupants of the hotel that may or may not really be there. I mean, surely the creepy twin girls probably like fruit cocktail. Then there’s the girls’ father, the previous caretaker known as Delbert Grady. He surely seems like the fruit cocktail type. Then there’s also Lloyd the bartender. I bet he could put back some fruit cocktail while pouring a few drinks. And what about the decaying, cackling woman in room 237, Delbert Grady’s wife. By the looks of her as she came up out of that bathtub, she could probably use some fruit cocktail purely for the nutrients.

Interesting side note on the actor who plays Delbert Grady, Philip Stone. He played the part of Alex DeLarge’s father in another one of my favorite Stanley Kubrick films, A Clockwork Orange from 1971.

I told my wife about these concerns of mine and she just kind of looked at me and explained it all away by reminding me they were in a big hotel that was accustomed to feeding large amounts of people — so of course they are going to have mass quantities of things like fruit cocktail. Duh. She’s always right.

But in a film like The Shining, or in any Kubrick film for that matter, I am always looking for and trying to decipher the subtle details. Things like that intrigue me and keep my attention. I like films that do that rather than trying to show and explain everything to me like I’m dumb. I need a film to challenge my brain at the same time I want it to entertain and engage me, to keep the world at bay for a couple of hours.

I think if I was directing a remake of the film, which I guess has been done (with one of the guys from the old TV show Wings playing Jack Torrance. Really?) I think I watched it but it left no measurable or lasting impression on me, even though it was supposedly truer to the book. I’ll tell you what, though. I’d like to see a remake with Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role. Hell, yeah. Oh well.

Like I was saying, if I was directing the remake, I’d throw in a scene where young Danny comes to the table, sees the fruit cocktail, and then raises his one finger and in that creepy Tony voice says: “Danny doesn’t like fruit cocktail, Mrs. Torrance.”

Then maybe Wendy looks down at him and says in her meek, soothing, motherly voice, “Well, you’re going to have to learn to like it Doc, because this hotel sure does have a whole lot of cans of fruit cocktail. I’ve never seen so much fruit cocktail in my whole life.”

And then maybe Jack comes grumbling in, knocking metal things off counters and they scatter and make a whole lot of annoying racket. Then he sits down, wipes his crazy hair back and smiles really sinister like as he looks at the monstrous bowl. “Fruit cocktail again, Wendy!?”

“I thought you liked fruit cocktail, honey?” she whimpers.

He grits his teeth and shakes his head at her. “When have I ever liked fruit cocktail, Wendy!?”

“I, I, I just thought you did.”

He mocks her with a whiny voice, “I just thought you did… Well, I don’t and if you ever serve me fruit cocktail again, there’s going to be hell to pay!”

I kind of like that idea.


The King of Genitalia Street (END)

The next day was Sunday and my mother had planned an informal yet twatty brunch for a gathering of friends and neighbors. It was destined to be another highfalutin affair as they always are. From the top of the stairs where I perched like a looming owl and looked down upon them, neck twisting to perfectly position the ears, eyes wide in a pretend dream of love set to be unwheeled by my devious plan. But I did not feel guilty as I listened to the clinking of sangria glasses and the pretentious chortles while the vibrating hive chatted down in the foyer, some of the rich bodies floating off into other rooms and spaces of the house, dropping crumbs and sloshing drinks along the way without a shred of concern.

I could hear my father drunkenly laugh out loud as he talked with Frost and his own father, the rich and bloated Mr. Claude Bennington, the infamous balding, icy-hearted architect, about the depravity of the working-class poor and their blue-collar, fast-food lifestyles, along with their lack of appreciation for the finer details found in the engineering of buildings.

“Their eyes just can’t comprehend it,” the elder Bennington began, his stuffy and snobby voice, like a pretentious professor, rising like black smoke to scrape against and discolor the ceilings. “It just doesn’t reach their polluted brains. They don’t get that it takes a very great man, such as me, to envision the bending of steel and the precise placement of glass and to breathe life into the soul of a space. You could almost say I’m responsible for creating life itself, in an ethereal sense, of course. I take an empty place, a voided realm, and I plant a seed and a complex structure grows like a magical beanstalk. Do you see what I’m getting at…?”

His voice trailed off and I couldn’t stand the taste of the factual moment, this slice of time where my father was carrying on with this architect Bennington and his gross offspring, the one begotten in thrusting grunts upon a drafting table, this young man, the ever-prickish Frost Bennington, standing right there beside him like he was as Jesus is to God, my holy father touching his sweatered, collegiate back with one time-worn hand, holding a glass of strong drink in the other. My father treated Frost as if he were his own flesh and blood, but little did he realize it was that very same flesh, younger, meatier flesh, that had been pressed to his wife’s lust-tingled skin the two nights before, and it was the very same blood that had pumped through his veins and rushed to his rocketing organ that he continually rammed into my mother’s begging body until he shot off like a plasmatic light storm locked in a glass ball. My poor blind fool of a father, I thought.

Yes, I am guilty of envy. Yes, it hurts my insides. Yes, I am capable of revenge. I was extremely jealous that Frost Bennington basked in the drunken glow of my father’s attention and love. That should be me beside him I stomped aloud in my own spinning head. I should be the son he is proud of. I should be the son he admires. But I am not, I am the ever-alert owl at the top of the stairs looking down on this charade of fools, cleaning my feathers with precision, and knowing this is the day they will all become cognizant of the lies of their loves. This is the day they will be shocked and disheartened. Even my sweet sister Emily will be, as she twirls about the crowd with my bastard baby Maine, showing him off, making up some lie about who he is and where he came from so suddenly… “Babysitting for a friend,” she tells them as she spins around like Mary Poppins suffering through an aching period.

And then there’s my mother, the victorious Queen Victoria of the room, head so high in the air her chin scrapes against the soles of God’s sore feet. She dressed herself in long sleeves, not for fashion sense but merely to hide the fingerprint bruises of climax Frost left indented in her arms when she went down on him. She wore too much makeup on her face, her brassy hair was too twirled and high, she over smiled, and she over laughed in her showtime presentation to the bubbling leeching crowd. It’s all about the look of it for her, like I already mentioned a long time ago. It’s all about the presentation and appearance. It’s all about the vigorously buffed outside to hide the scratches, and never to reveal the blackened, tarnished inside. Little does she know of the patina that is about to be unveiled as she sips and smiles so sourly among her guests.

And then my father happily appeared from somewhere invisible, and he went to my mother and he just up and kissed her right there in front of everyone, dipping her a bit, nearly causing the spill of a drink, and they all cheered and laughed and some whistled and I wanted to swoop down from my perch atop the stairs and rip both of their eyes out with my razor-sharp talons. And then I’d pick them up from the fluid floor and carry them over the entire scene and show them, yes, with their very own eyes clutched in my beak and talons, how void of life their lives really were, and then I would drop their screaming stretched-wide eyes in the crystal punch bowl and the last thing they would see would be their own selves drowning in a sangria blood pool alongside bobbing orange slices and edible pink flowers.

I wanted to run down and tell my father to spit her kiss from his mouth. I wanted to tell him that she had Frost’s seed lingering beyond her lips, still dripping from her dangling uvula, and that she would eventually kill him with her betrayal. And it would be just the same with his polished protégé — Frost creeping up behind him to thrust a knife in his back while huffing my mother’s silky French deshabille like gasoline in a rag. But now I was destined to make all that reveal itself quickly, and in consequence my position in this place, this so-called family would be forever altered — I would be exiled to the big, big city of glittery and soiled solitude to live out my days broke and alone with no place to really call home, at least not a home built by Kings.


When it came time for me to make my appearance to trigger the utter derailment, I felt little nervousness. I was quite calm as I began to slowly descend the stairs toward the gyrating pond of scum and gloss. I hoisted my old boombox high above my head and I must have looked like Lloyd Dobler expressing his love and desires for Diane Court outside her house in that movie Say Anything. But instead of a Peter Gabriel love song pouring out of the speakers, it was a song of human sex. It was lustful noises that cascaded down those stairs and into the air above their bobbleheads. What blurped out, at the highest volume allowed and for all to clearly hear, were the sounds of my mother breathlessly moaning as Frost worked himself in and out of her. Then came her dirty utterances, filthy things she probably never had said to my father in all their years together. Then came the sounds of her crying out Frost’s stupid name as he slapped himself harder against her, and even that could be heard, that whap whap of flesh smacking against flesh. And then it was sounds of their sloppy and heated kissing, the biting, the clawing, the gnawing of the static air itself. And then came Frost’s divine and ultimate thrust that forced his very own DNA inside her worked-up guts, and he howled like a wounded animal, his joyful release dripping through clenched fangs reminiscent of that exuberant feeling one got on that last day of school before summer vacation, and Frost let out a high as a tidal wave wet crashing rip and boom of “Oh Evelyn! Evelyn! My God, Evelyn!”

The next thing I knew, I was standing on the third step from the bottom and the crowd before me was aghast and with glazed over shocked eyes that stared right at me in horrid disbelief. I looked over at my mother, her jaw dropped first, followed by her glass of iced sangria punch that shattered on the angelic tile of the foyer. A misshapen circle of reddish orange liquid spread. “Everett!” she screamed out. Then she suddenly fell to the floor and people surrounded her and then it was my sister, handing Maine off to another set of arms and then rushing to my mother, her face cocking in my direction for just a moment, and she had a look of dead grimace and horrible pain upon her.

Then I saw him through the small but frantic crowd, and he was coming at me in seemingly slow motion. Frost, like a raging bull. And he quickly got on me and he pulled me down with his claws like a lion on a gazelle. He went for the boombox and did everything he could to turn it off, but it was relentless in it’s spilling of the songs of his sins he himself had birthed, and he had to struggle with it before finding the right thing to do, which was to dismantle it by smashing it upon me. And that’s exactly what he did. I can see a perfect picture of it when I look back on it, Frost Bennington howling crazy above me like Alex DeLarge in a Clockwork rage as he brought it down hard, the sounds of their sex becoming eerily warbled and finally dislodged and then shredded by his menacing anger. I remember how my face got caved in, my nose broken, and my mouth bloodied despite my efforts to shield myself from the blows. Then it was my father who came to my rescue, and he pulled Frost off me and tossed him to the side and there was insane screaming all around me, a distorted roar like an unrestful ocean, but then the sounds all began to fade, and my vision got bloody and blurry, like I was walking around cloudy red Heaven or something. And I recall people saying my name over and over and over again, and the last thing I heard was, “What have you done!?”


The next thing I remember is I woke up in the hospital and my sister was in the room sitting in a chair.

Her head was hung low like she was sleeping or very sad. “Emily?” I managed to say. I smacked at my own mouth. It tasted like old blood. “Emily? Are you dreaming?”

She wasn’t dreaming because her head slowly came up and her eyes were open to look at me. She blinked slowly. Her face was red, puffy, and wet with tears. “How are you feeling?” was the first thing she said to me, sniffling.

“Torturous,” I answered.

“Seems about right.”

“And what of mother?” I asked, quickly wanting the news.

“Mortified but resting.”

“And father?”

“Dark. Brooding. Deep inside himself… They’re talking about divorce, Everett.”

“I suppose they should be.”

“I doubt they will go through with it,” Emily decided for herself. “The financial implications would be too much for them at this point.”

“So, I suppose they will continue to live together in the shadows like jackals?”

“Most likely,” Emily said, and she stretched herself in the chair. “Just darker, junglier shadows.”

I paused and reached for some water in a plastic cup that sat on the bedside table on wheels. I sipped. I looked at Emily and she was far away. “What about you and Frost?”

She quickly snapped out of her self-imposed trance. “I broke it off, of course. He didn’t take it well. He didn’t take any of this well.”

“They only have themselves to blame, Emily. They brought this avalanche to the mountain. It was the noise that finally buried them.”

She looked at me like I was evil. “You set a lot of fires yourself. The neighborhood is abuzz with uncontrollable gossip and brimstone. Mother is convinced they will have to move now. Why such a show?”

“I tried to tell you. You didn’t believe me.”

“It seemed so fucking preposterous at the time,” Emily said, and she got out of the chair and went to the window to look out at nothing but our own reflections in the hospital room. It was the way the light was. “I’m sorry I slapped you.”

“I probably deserved it… What do you plan to do now?”

“Get my own place. Carry on with school.”

“You can come live with me, if you want.”

She laughed a little. “No thanks.” She turned from the window and came to the side of the bed and looked at my busted-up face. She reached out to touch me. “Does it hurt?”

“Yes. It hurts.”

She smiled. “I may not be seeing much of you anymore,” she said.

I thought that was a strange way to put it, and then she pulled away from me and left the room.


It was a few weeks later I suppose, and I was sitting in my lonely apartment in the city eating a bowl of cereal and looking out a window. The world was a dirty white and it was Valentine’s Day and I had no heart to share.

It was funny what happened next because there was a knock on my door and when I went to open it, there was my mother standing there holding a big cardboard heart of chocolates wrapped in shiny plastic. She looked cold and sad. “Hello, Everett,” she said, and she sounded like how a radish tastes. “May I come in?”

I stepped away from the doorway to allow her space to come inside. She handed me the heart of chocolates. “I got you this. I figured you’d be alone today. I suppose I just didn’t want you to go without… Something.” She shed her coat, played with her hair, and sat down on my couch. She looked around my ill apartment. “I really wish you’d try to better your living conditions.”

I sat down in my chair across from her. I tore the plastic off the heart-shaped box and lifted the lid off. It smelled like a fancy candy store inside. I reached in for a round one with a delicate swirl etched across the top of it. I bit into it, closed my eyes, savored every little part of it. “Maple cream,” I said with a dreamy satisfaction.

“I’m glad you like it,” my mother said with a forced smile. “Have another.”

I looked around at the different shapes and colors and plucked a rectangular dark chocolate one out. I popped that in my mouth. I tried to decipher the flavor as I chewed it, my mother strangely staring at me. “Some kind of caramel,” I said.

“Caramel is caramel,” my mother replied with a disappointed scoff.

“I suppose you’re right,” I answered. “I still like the maple cream the best. Thank you. You didn’t have to. I know that what you really think is that I don’t deserve it.”

We just sat there and looked at each other in an awkward silence for a while. “Mother?” I finally said.

She looked at me achingly, coldly. “We’re not going to talk about it,” she sternly said. “We’re never going to talk about it.”

And that’s when she stood up and reached for the gun she had hidden away in her coat. She raised the small silver pistol out in front of her and then she put it to her head, wide-eyed and like she was saluting someone grand and mighty. I saw her fragile finger move against the trigger and then there was a bang and a flash and the wall behind her was suddenly dappled red and gray, and I could feel the warmth of my own mother’s blood against my face. The gun dropped. Her body dropped. The entire world dropped.

I crawled over to her body, and I tried to hold her deadness aloft in my arms but I just couldn’t do it so I let her back down so she could just rest on the floor; that floor now stained crimson and with the smell of human iron coming up from it like summer steam after a rainstorm. And I just sat there beside her for the rest of that Valentine’s Day, even into the darkness of night, and when I slowly moved my head toward the unshaded window, I saw that great ivory eye the moon and the man living there in his blue suit was screaming out to me, “Look what you have done! Look what you have done!”

END

You can read the previous part of this story HERE.


The Egg Girl of Earth

Morgan Jane Solvent was clad in all creamy, sparkling blue, like a cornflower in the hot rain, that day I stepped into the restaurant and ordered a big bushel of breakfast because it was time to do such a thing.

Morgan Jane Solvent was the egg girl. Her fame came in the form of eggs on plates, plates cradled in spindly arms, plates delivered to tables uneventful. Her dirty-blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail and it flopped around wildly, left to right, as she walked and bee-bopped about the place. Her face was small and cradled fractured features — evidence of meth abuse sprinkled about: darting brown eyes sparkling like dying stars; a pointed, English nose; lips the color of bruised blood; a broken porcelain chin of delicate doll stature; skin like whitewashed buttermilk.

She resembled a puppet — a devotchka Pinocchio subtly panting to be split in two — as I could tell, as she talked rapidly, nervously about her favorite sexual positions and needing snow tires for her groovy love van because she was planning a drive to Albuquerque for the luscious holidays — she was nervous about that, it weighed heavy on her mind — the great pass, the snow, the ice, the treacherous conditions that could send her reeling over a cliff to crash and burn.

Even so, Morgan Jane Solvent was always giddy — somewhat too giddy, like huffing gas giddy. She smelled of perfumed sweat and steamy eggiwegg breakfast because the Yokester Café of Elicott West was always booming and banging, and Morgan Jane Solvent was always moving; swinging and swaying she was, as I watched her all along as I ate a Belgium waffle and a cup of mixed fruit — mind remnants of the olden days Oasis gig in Atlanta and the long, hungover crawl home to Oceanside bungalow and deep, disturbing sleep.

Sweet n Sour Chicken Morgan Jane Solvent would always try to make tippy conversation as she poured more coffee and nervously smiled, those not so sparkling lady choppers gleaming with too much spit when she talked through all the brokenness.

That particular sunrise spreading, some grand duke of douche at another table grabbed her hand like in a dream and yanked the wee jewel she had there on her ring finger. He dropped it into a cup of coffee — kerplunk. She looked at him all wild-eyed with passionate mouth gaping wide with luscious glory and wonder.

“What the fuck, man!? That’s my wedding ring, asshole!” The restaurant went to dead silence for a moment. Even the coffee was stunned.

I never heard Morgan Jane Solvent curse before; she had always been so polite, like fine pie; nothing like the dirty mouth that now spewed horrific ash at the customer who went too far.

Then the man blatantly used the Q-Town love van mind trick on her small brain with a slight wave of his hand.

“You don’t need to be married anymore. He’s a bolshy bastard and a twit,” he sneered then laughed. He reminded me of Bluto from Popeye. He even dressed the same — a tight navy-blue T-shirt, a sailor’s cap atop his head — and his black beard was wild and scraggly just like the cold seas he sailed upon in his fat boat.

He slurped at his coffee like a dime store hooker and sucked the hard ring into his mouth, swirled it around a bit, chewed on it, like a piece of sexy hard candy. Then he spit it back out on the table, it spun across the faux Formica like a toy top, shooting off shards of shine into the eyes of all that wandered there in the den of eggs.

“What time do you get off work?” he boldly asked Morgan Jane Solvent.

“Umm, 2, no 2:30 … why? What are you doing to me?” she said, suddenly pressing a hand to her forehead and swirling around in a panic attack.

A sweaty fry cook back in the kitchen was madly pounding on one of those little silver bells with his greasy spatula because some other order was steaming away beneath the red, radiant glow of the heat lamps that sat atop a shelf there.

“Morgan! Pick up!” the obnoxious prick yelled from the hectic back of the house.

She rushed away from the Bluto redux, and I relaxed in my place at the booth. I looked at my favorite Christmas watch — it was 122 after 112 — and then looked out the big, big window at the town and the city, the steaming, vibrating wreck of it all with a few squirts here and there of some decent stuff, but mostly slutty strips of shops, the fast-paced flickering neon, glass, cement, brick, asphalt, autos, traffic lights, billboards — too much mad rushing and shoving of petty shit in the faces of all the peoples that live here with I and the Egg Girl and all the other inhabitants — her now buttering warm toast with a big, oily broom back in the back all laughing out loud and groveeting with her co-workers, touching everyone with her fingers and her face like some needy drug fiend, shoving her awkward, wooden ass into everyone’s crotch and blowing kisses like a real piece of work. She was a social butterfly when she wasn’t being insane, and every damp crotch was a gas lamp, every smile a torch, every warm hunk of human flesh a bonfire for her to swarm and spit and spread.

Some Fiona Apple song started blurping out of the speakers wired invisible inside the ceilings they had there. It was that familiar sound of soft anger. I bit into a mushy grape and then a piece of unsavory honeydew melon as I listened to Apple, me then grasping a pen in the free hand, holding it to my jugular real careful, like a tattooed Picasso all hopped down on the fringe of drink ready to fill the veins with octopus ink so that I could write a novel all mad with eight tentacles and suction cups to keep the pages in distinct order on the walls of my place uptown that was now burning to the ground. Ass and ash, such is life.

Morgan Jane Solvent snuck up on my daydream and smecked some question like “More coffee, more anything?” her breath radiating like a dragon, all boozy with the scent of grape bubblegum and powdery drugs, and she held the jostling coffee cup and poured, and she poured too much, and some was spilling over the rim and the pointy pen was uncontrollably doodling all over the skin of my neck.

“Morgan Jane Solvent,” I politely, yet sternly, said. “You’re spilling coffee all over my new shirt and this pen is about to pierce my throat.”

She looked at me kind of funny.

“What’s the matter, you don’t like how I do my job?” she said with an innocent, smile and the fluttering of dumb midnight falsehood eyelashes.

“You’re doing your job just fine, but don’t you know that coffee burns. Coffee burns baby, coffee burns baby. You know, like that movie Rain Man.”

Some guy butted in, shaking his head at me like I was stupid. “No, no, no. You got it all wrong. It wasn’t coffee, it was hot water in the bathtub. He was burned by hot water because Tom Cruise was too busy thinking about chicks. He was being irresponsible.”

“Who in their right mind takes a bath?” I replied, turned away, not caring to hear his stupid answer.

“I love this song,” Morgan Jane Solvent said, looking up at the ceiling suddenly as if Fiona was right there singing from inside the light bulbs. “It makes me want to get in the back of my love van and do all sorts of dirty and animalistic things.”

“I’ll be on my way soon,” I warned. “Do you want to drop the eggs and go to the Green Head Storm with me and look out at the lonely sea?”

“I don’t know what that is. You make so little sense… But you don’t want to do dirty and animalistic things to me in the back of my love van?”

“We’ll find someone to pump you full of lead and then some later. You’re not my type. Besides, a zodiac-painted psychic told me that some beautiful angel with ocean water eyes will be crash landing into my life any day now, and I must put my faith in only that. Right now, I just want to get out of here, walk around a bit, get some fresh air for once. It’s all noisy and congested and hot in here. It’s bugging me, man, like that old guy Bono says. And I think you need to get away from this chaotic scene for a while.”


It was brisk outside and Morgan Jane Solvent clutched at herself tight inside her puffy pink jacket as we walked through a tempest of crinkled leaves and ice chips toward the Green Head Storm shore and the abandoned seaside piccadilly arcade there. It was one of my favorite places to just go and get lost for minutes or hours or days, the white brick tunnels cold and wet and hollow — the glass like broken mirrors, broken teeth, and beyond the cold sand leading up to the ferocious ocean with its lullaby churning making life lonely and sad or maybe even perfect for someone like me who longs to be alone in the mist, but then again, on this day down at Green Head Storm shore, a human calliope of piped espresso encased in uptight skin trailing behind in the blustery 100-acre wood wind and part of me just wanted to run, run, run mad like Tarzan swinging on the last thread of life and not really giving a damn about anything anymore in the boiling jungle down below.

Inside the old buildings that sat like the unworn clothes of a dead life, full of holes and hanging in a closet untouched for eons, with the cracking cement, the creaking floors and steps, and there were the musty smells of old wood and old time and old paper and old carnival food and the stale perfume of ghosts all mixed together in a burnt dead electric orgy of flashing memories inside someone’s fading mind and it made my bones and soul feel good and sick at the same time, made me feel like home where I didn’t live, made me feel like time standing still for once, the cuckoo all fluid nonsense in reverse now, not like all that constant rushing about in the hateful real world where sucking is success and slime ball stupidity gets you a ticket to a platform to rally the idiot masses, and for some reason not unlike fear I keep going just to get nowhere but the present-tense spinning and spilling in big, boring circles, merely catering to the flighty and ungrateful souls of chaos.

Once inside the lifeless caravan of once great architecture, Morgan Jane Solvent wandered about with wild-eyed wonder. She looked all strung-out and overdose blue and with a flair of elegant fail, all cracked bedazzled and full of dream flashbacks as her distorted face scanned the places we strolled along.

“Wow. I’ve never been to such a lonely and forgotten place such as this,” she said to me, spinning around slowly, and then nearly toppling over. “I don’t understand your attraction to this place… It’s so broken.”

“There is something great and peaceful about abandoned history,” I told her. “I know it sounds crazy, but what the hell, I’ve never been anything but crazy. It’s like a time machine for me. That’s my favorite movie by the way — The Time Machine — the one from 1960. It’s about a man who wants to escape his own time because the slice of it he has been forced to live in has gone completely awry.”

I looked over at her and she hadn’t been listening to me at all. There’s yet another reason for me to seek another time… No one ever listens to me. She was just taking it all in and I was invisible and then she cupped her small hands around her small mouth and shouted out “Hello! …” and her voice bounced and echoed throughout the place, for it was indeed empty, long abandoned like I had made clear earlier, dust covered and legitimately raped and ravaged by time. And I had the skeleton key that fit perfectly inside the hole buried inside my very own head.

Morgan Jane Solvent screamed loud like a lunatic and then laughed; then some great seashore bird flew from its perch somewhere in the shadowy ceiling like a molasses dappled spaceship, startled by her slaughtering, murderous voice, and out it went through a hole in a dome of broken glass above us, out to that aluminum sky rolled in bruise-colored sugar.

I leaned against a cold wall, and I was down, down, down, all of a sudden, like a light switch, like magic, like the snap of old, broken fingers.

Morgan Jane Solvent took notice of my despondence, and she then came closer to me and looked at me like was some freak in a human zoo surrounded by scarecrows with cabbages for brains.

“Why do you look so dark sky bleak all of a sudden?” she asked.

“Maybe I really do need a doctor to cut into me.”

“Why?”

“Something is not quite right.”

“What? What is it?”

I clasped my hands to my own swimming, tortured head. “This whole end of the world thing… I don’t think I can take it. It’s really gnawing on my root bitter nerves.”

“None of us can take it. It just is the way it is. But I do believe you are being a bit overdramatic. Time machines… What a silly notion. It doesn’t work,” she grudgingly scoffed.

I looked up at an old clock hanging down from an upside-down post. It probably stopped 43 years ago. “Tell that to time,” I said.

And a wave of something all broken then washed over me like the sea gurgling all bitter out there in the beyond of us and the old, ravaged arcade and its once bustling adjoining café and trinkets parade. I thought about all the ones I knew; the ones I loved, laughed with, held, kissed, wiped tears away from their faces, and I could taste the salt of their own broken hearts running down my soul and mingling with my own sovereign eternal ache and there was nothing left to do about it, but swallow and spit the blood. Love and joy all misguided. Love and peace a wayward missile. Love of life, a moment under street lamps at midnight, cigarette ash smiles caught in a wind tunnel, all that electricity will soon come to an end, like the last drop of water in the Dead Sea — and we just had to kill it all then, eh? — you baboons, you bastards and all your wayward ways — too hot to heal, too cold to kill, but kill it all you do, and now this, time takes its final breath in one cacophonous inhalation, like colored bulbs popping out one by one at a carnival, finally, the ride ends. No more puking, no more cheating, no more under-the-weather comas and promises coated in blood strawberry lies.

I finally looked up at her concerned face — that raspberry mouth made raw by the kiss of a winter’s invisible bludgeon twisted in sheer puzzlement.

“Oh, by the way,” and I had nothing else to say but this, “There was a big hunk of shell in my plate of eggs this morning. I hate that.”

“Really? I’m so sorry,” Morgan Jane Solvent, the egg girl of Earth said with real concern. “Well, next time you…”

And she stopped in mid-sentence.

I looked at my beautiful Christmas watch. It snowed in seconds and minutes. “There will be no next time for me,” I said, and that’s when everything began to move and fall as the Earth suddenly decided to flip over on its side, it wigged out, and then like in an instant, there I was swimming through the stars with everyone else, like drunken angelfish dizzily soaring through the wet womb of endless space with swords clamped in our mouths; it was the transition from this world to the next. We were relocating, on our way to a new home, way out there, with new bodies and minds, with new reasons to live and without these bullet-holed hearts — all of us now, on our way to a place with peace and quiet and a better breakfast.

END


BumBuna O’Brien and the Evolution Oven (1)

It was morning and the sun was creeping through the blinds like a ghostly brushstroke of boiled lemon-yellow light. BumBuna O’Brien sat up in bed, put on his glam glasses, and looked at his collection of Easter eggs from outer space. They were arranged neatly on tiny individual egg easels inside a glass cabinet hewn from a dark wood. He appreciated their outlandish colors and designs, and for the fact their origins were completely extraterrestrial.

BumBuna O’Brien often dreamt of living somewhere else, out in space, on some different planet that wasn’t so sore and ravaged by hate and greed. He sighed and crawled out of bed. He walked down the narrow hall to the kitchen. He tugged on a string to open the blinds covering the window above the sink. Carrot shavings lay there, now drying and sticking to the stainless steel. He turned on the water and flushed them down the drain. He put on a kettle of water for some hot tea and looked out the window. Bag worms hung heavy and grotesque in some of the tree limbs, and the heat bugs were already shimmering and screeching. He watched ruby red cardinals fly through the leaves. The kettle began to whistle. He carefully poured the hot water over the tea bag in a cup and watched it steam. He carefully carried it to his table and sat down. He sipped too soon, and it burnt his bunny beard.

“Damn it all to hell!” he screamed, and then with one swift swipe of his paw, the cup of hot tea flew across the room and crashed onto the floor.

“Can’t I even allow myself one cup of tea without being all wumbly bumbly about it!?”

He slammed his head against the top of the table repeatedly until it really hurt — then the old green phone on a table began to ring. Once, twice, three times, four.

“Hello.”

“What’s wrong? You sound grumpy.”

“Caroline?”

“Yes. It’s me. Who would you think it was?”

“Where in the hell have you been? I haven’t heard from you in three days.”

“I’ve been away.”

“What’s going on with you? You sound strange, Caroline.”

She paused for a long time. “I’ve been thinking.”

“Well?”

 “I’ve been thinking that maybe we should start seeing other rabbits.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means exactly what it sounds like, exactly what I said.”

“No. It means you want to start seeing other rabbits.”

“Yes. We’re getting stale.”

Sarcastically he breathed, “Are we bread?”

“Of course, we’re not bread, you dumb bunny! But I think it’s time to explore other meadows.”

BumBuna O’Brien could feel the venom boiling in his guts and it was crawling up and stinging his throat like acid.

“So, what you’re really saying is that you’ve already started seeing another rabbit.”

There was some silence and maybe even a little whimper on the other end of the line.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re not!”

“Things happen. Rabbits change. You’ve changed. You’re not the same silly little bunny I used to know.”

“Who is he?”

He could hear her swallow.

“Carlos.”

“Carlos!? Carlos is a douchebag! And he’s Cuban.”

“You’re a douchebag! And a racist pig! I hate you!”

“Fuck you, Caroline! Just fuck off!… And I’m a rabbit, not a pig.”

“Don’t talk to me that way! Don’t ever talk to me that way again! Maybe if you weren’t such a bum and maybe if you knew how to satisfy me — then maybe I’d still love you.”

“I’ve satisfied you plenty of times, Caroline — don’t lie to yourself for the sake of that over the ocean Caribbean hack.”

“You’ve never satisfied me the way Carlos satisfies me. I don’t have to fake it with him. You’re not even a real rabbit.”

“I never thought I’d say this, Caroline. But I really hate you right now. I hate you to the end of the universe and then some! Don’t ever talk to me again. Enjoy your future life running to the sun in your silver rum truck!”

BumBuna O’Brien slammed the phone down on the table repeatedly until it was in pieces and then ripped its wire completely out of the wall. He screamed out a whole belly full of bunny pain. He was dripping and panting, and his heart was racing with fury. His head drooped and he began to weep softly in the sparkling sun fuzz of a new day, a day which he already hated.


BumBuna O’Brien stretched out on his bed, smoked some high-grade grass, and stared at the ceiling. He felt really goopy inside. He felt used up and spit out. He felt like that old bottle of ketchup that was almost empty, inverted in the refrigerator, the cap all sticky and crusted up. His stomach could barely take what his mind was feeding it.

“I’ll never fall in love with another rabbit ever again. Yarbles to you, Caroline. Big bolshy yarbles to you!” as Alex DeLarge would surely say.

He laid on his bed for a very long time and then he fell asleep, roughly, and he dreamed brutal dreams of betrayal.

It was a while later, perhaps a different day, when BumBuna O’Brien’s eyes flickered open as he awoke to the sound of someone furiously pounding on his front door.

“Hold on a minute! Jesus effin’ Christ! Who’s there?”

“It’s Caroline.”

“Caroline?” he wondered, and he pressed his face against the door. “What the hell do you want?”

“I’ve left some things here and I would like to pick them up.”

“Tough shit! I’m busy right now. I’ll set them outside for you later.”

“I have a right to get my things. I can call the Rabbit Patrol and then you’ll have to let me in.”

“You’re being a real pain in the ass, Caroline. A real pain in the ass!”

BumBuna O’Brien reluctantly unlocked the door and slowly pulled it open. He peered out at her. He could smell her recent sex with Carlos. It drove him mad.

“Come in but make it quick. I’d rather not look at you more than I have to.”

“I won’t be long. Just a few things in the bathroom — and my records. Where are my records?”

BumBuna O’Brien pointed to the cabinet where the stereo sat.

“Right there. Where else would they be?”

“You don’t have to be snotty.”

“Excuse me. I suppose I should just hop up and down with joyful glee. Perhaps if I were sunbathing nude on a Cuban beach and sipping carrot juice with my lover, maybe then I’d be a bit more cheerful.”

“Grow up.”

“Shut up.”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck you, too!”

Caroline Bunny quickly gathered the rest of her things and made toward the door.

BumBuna O’Brien stopped her. “Hey wait. That one’s mine.”

“What?”

“INXS — Greatest Hits. That’s my record.”

Caroline was flustered. “Here. It’s a lousy record anyways. I always hated it when you played it.”

“I thought you liked it.”

“I lied.”

“Good grief, Caroline. You’re a real piece of work.”

“He killed himself.”

“Who did?”

“The singer of that crappy band you like.”

“Yeah. Everyone knows that.”

“Well, maybe you should do the world a favor and do the same thing.”

“You have a hunk of dirty coal for a heart. Do you know that Caroline?”

Her tearing eyes darted away.

“Goodbye forever,” she whimpered.

“Adios, trampola,” BumBuna O’Brien said, and he slammed the door so hard that the entire house rattled.

BumBuna O’Brien suddenly felt all alone in the world. He even felt bad about the way he spoke to Caroline. He took a framed photograph of them together at the Deer Park Carrot Farm and dropped it into the trash can. Then he stomped it down. The glass cracked. He poured the trash can onto the living room carpet and kicked at the pieces madly. He didn’t care. It was over. It was over forever, and his stomach suddenly pained him. He lit a scented candle and sat on the couch. He wanted to call a friend, but his phone was all smashed up and its connection to the world dismantled. He smoked some more of that high-grade grass and disappeared into another dimension.

This time it was an empty, cold beach, not a tropical one. The water was gray and smashing hard against the shore. The cloud ceiling was thick and hung low. The horn of some invisible lighthouse groaned in the distance. He thought he saw someone rowing a boat in the water. He moved closer to the water’s edge and realized it was someone rowing a boat in the water.

“Hey there!” someone called out. “Can you help me pull it ashore?”

“All right!” BumBuna O’Brien called out. “Where did you come from?”

“Hold on. That’s right. Reel me in like a big fat fish.”

The boat hit the shore, the stranger jumped off, and together the two pulled it in until it fit snugly in the growling sand.

“Thanks,” the stranger said. “Who are you?”

“My name is BumBuna O’Brien. I’m a rabbit. Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Pierre Moose. It’s very nice to know you.”

“So, where did you come from? All I see is water.”

“All in good time, my strange little friend. Why don’t we build a little fire? I’m quite cold from being out there so long. Then we can talk.”

“I don’t have any matches.”

“I do. A good seaman always has matches.”

“Why?”

“Well, for situations just like this.”


Pierre Moose was a tall, lean man with a face chiseled by the salty air. His hair was long and gray and now soaked by the sea spray. The hair matched the color of his speckled beard that was kept cropped close to the skin of his face — it surely felt like sandpaper. His eyes, stone gray and constantly scanning the horizon, looked weary and full of ghost stories. He wore a black raincoat, unbuttoned, and beneath it a heavy cable-knit sweater with a turtle-neck collar. His dark pants were puffy and dirty, and he wore rubber boots that went up to just below his knees.

“Have you been fishing?” BumBuna O’Brien wondered aloud.

“Fishing? Oh no. I’m not a fisherman. I am an adventurer.”

“What kind of adventures?”

“Ah, too many to mention. Why don’t you gather some wood before I freeze to death,” he instructed.

BumBuna O’Brien went off toward a cluster of trees and brambles that grew away from the shore. He turned to look back at the man, now kneeling in the sand, and he was rubbing his hands together in the cold and making colors float off from the tips of his fingers, like an emergency flare or maybe birthday candle sparkles for a circus clown. It was strange, really kind of eerie and hallucinatory, BumBuna O’Brien thought, and he wondered if he had stumbled upon some sort of magician or old sea warlock.

“What the hell does he need matches for if he can do that?” BumBuna O’Brien asked himself. “And I wonder if he knows anything about sailing to Cuba — I’d sure like to kill that Carlos bastard.”

BumBuna O’Brien gathered what wood he could and returned toward the spot on the beach where Pierre had decided to build the fire. He was staring off into the waters, smoking an old pipe, and thinking deeply so it seemed. BumBuna O’Brien dropped the paltry amount of wood onto the ground and the man looked at it and then up at him.

“I suppose I should have gathered the wood. I didn’t consider your small arms.”

“I can get more.”

“It’s enough for now.”

Pierre Moose arranged the sticks like an inverted cone and stuffed kindling at the bottom. He fumbled in his pockets for a box of matches and pulled one out and struck it against the side.

“They’re a little damp,” he said, continuing to strike until it lit. He cupped the flame with his bony hand and set it to the kindling. It took right away and soon the flames rose and the sticks took to it and there was fire.

BumBuna O’Brien felt the heat wash over him and it gave him some peace in the growing darkness.

The man stood up tall and he was somewhat menacing in the light of the fire.

“Stay here. I’m going to gather more wood.”

BumBuna O’Brien watched the lanky stranger stroll off in the direction of the wooded area. He seemed like some lost soul or phantom searching for good in a world with so little. He watched the fire and listened to the waves crash. He felt alone, wayward, and unsettled. He missed Caroline. Yes, she was unsavory and cruel, he thought, but the good memories soiled the bad ones. The thought of her with Carlos made his guts hurt. He saw some blinking lights in the distance. A ship was passing. Then Pierre appeared without warning and dropped a pile of sticks at his side. It startled him.

“You can start feeding the fire,” Pierre told him.

BumBuna O’Brien added the sticks, and the flames grew. Then he set on a larger log. Then another. It was roaring and warm and Pierre settled into the sand and lit up his pipe again.

“You’re welcome to stay on the beach with me tonight if you like. Then in the morning I can take you to my island.”

“An island? Is that where you live?”

“I suppose you could say that. It’s not much living really. But it’s peaceful. No one bothers me out there.”

“Do you like being alone?”

“Yes. People have it all wrong nowadays. They’re all screwed up. I don’t want to be a part of that. And you? What brings you wandering to this place?”

“I’m not really sure. I got a little high.”

“You don’t know how you got here?”

“Or isn’t this just a dream?”

“Not to me.”

“I thought I was dreaming.”

“You also seem to think you’re a rabbit.”

“But I am a rabbit.”

“No. You’re just a man who thinks he’s a rabbit.”

“Why would any man want to think he was a rabbit?”

“I haven’t figured that out about you yet.”

“But just look at me. Don’t I look like a rabbit?”

Pierre Moose studied him as if he were a fine piece of art.

“Well, it is true that you’re small and you have larger than normal ears and an unruly beard. So, yes, I suppose it is possible one could mistake you for an animal, and yes, possibly a rabbit. But I assure you, friend, you are a man.”

“How can that be?” BumBuna O’Brien wondered aloud. “How can that possibly be? How have I managed to live within such a charade?”

Pierre pointed his pipe and with straightforward honesty said, “You must be severely delusional.” 

“So, then Caroline must be a real woman?”

“Caroline?”

“My girlfriend. I mean my ex-girlfriend.”

“Well, she must be a real woman. I seriously doubt any sane dame in the world would date a rabbit.”

BumBuna O’Brien dipped his head and thought about it. His mind was a gigantic jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing.

“Don’t worry about it so much,” Pierre Moose reassured him. “Tomorrow, I will take you to my island and you can be a man and even live there if you want. There’s plenty of room.”

“I’m not really sure what’s going on, Pierre. I think I need to speak to a priest.”

“A priest?”

“Yes. Do you know any?”

“Well, I think there’s an old minister who lives out on Rocky Point. A Reverend Abrams, I believe. It’s on the way. Maybe he can help you readjust your marbles. I have to stop for supplies anyway.”

“I would like to do that. Thank you.”

Pierre tapped his pipe out on the bottom of his sea boot, set more large logs on the fire, and then laid out flat on his back and folded his arms.

“I’m going to try to meditate for a while before going to sleep,” he said. “Stay close to the fire. It’s going to be cold.”

TO BE CONTINUED. FIRST OF THREE PARTS.


Bucky the Horse and the Gods of Radiation (6)

Linnifrid darted to him and wrapped her arms around his large neck. “Oh, Bucky. I was so worried about you. Wherever did you go?”

“I’ve been to a very magical place, beyond the veil of the forest’s edge. It’s a wonderful place full of wonderful things. I know you’ll love it.”

“What forever do you mean, my dear horse?”

“I’m going to take you there and we can live together, forever and ever and ever. Won’t you like that?”

“No. No, Bucky. I’m going to take you home.”

“But that is my home now. It’s where I belong. I have value and purpose there,” Bucky asserted.

“No. You belong on the farm with me. I think you are confused. Maybe you are dehydrated. We’ll make a torch and I’ll lead you to the water.”

Bucky grew stern. “You can lead me to water, but you cannot make me drink. Now climb on and I will take you to the special place.”

Linnifrid backed away from him slowly. “There’s something different about you, Bucky. You’ve never been a mean horse, or a pushy horse, not ever in your whole life. You seem so jittery. What happened to you out here?”

Bucky scraped at the ground with a hoof. “I’ve found a new way for me, a better way.”

“I don’t understand what you are talking about. What’s this about a new way? There’s been some rather large thoughts going through that head of yours, hasn’t there? Hmm. And behind my back, too.”  

“Come with me and you’ll find out. If you don’t like it, you can go back home. I swear to you on a big bucket of oats.”

“I can’t come with you, Bucky. It’s Papa. He’s passed. I have to go back for a proper burial. I have to!”

Bucky paused in the dim light and the girl could feel his warm breath lightly glance her face. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” Bucky said. “He was a nice enough man, I suppose, but he will turn to dust one way or another. Your life must go on. Come with me.”

“That’s a terrible thing to say, and I’m not coming with you. I’m going home!”

It was when Linnifrid turned to gather her things that the shrunken and deformed people came out of the darkness and formed a ring around her in the firelight. They pressed the tips of their walking sticks firmly into the ground and gazed at her with psychotic purpose. There were about ten of them, dressed in rags, burned by fire, beaten down by a world of greed and war. Some were bald, or half bald, and others were full of wild hair, but they were all dirty and grumbly, and somewhat cold of heart. They studied the girl with great interest as she fell silent and afraid before them.

One of them stepped forward and grunted. “Is this the one? Is this the girl you were talking about?”

“It is her,” Bucky answered. “I’m afraid she is refusing to come with us. You’ll have to… Persuade her.”

The one that came forward moved closer to the girl, looked her up and down, and sniffed. “You haven’t bathed recently, have you?” he wanted to know.

Linnifrid looked at his grossness and made a face. “And I wonder if you even know what a bath is.”

The turnip-like little man made a commanding gesture in the air, and Linnifrid cried out as they came at her — all of them, sticks hoisted high and then down hard upon her. The girl struggled. She did her best to shield their blows. But it was too much, too furious, too violent of an attack, and so the girl fell into a deep and dark unconsciousness that lasted for a seemingly long time.


When Linnifrid awoke, she was on her back and looking up at fresh splashes of morning sunlight soaking a green forest. There was rope tied around her hands and ankles and she was being dragged along the floor of the woods in something like a tarp. She was sore and dirty, and her dress was torn and her once perfectly beautiful hair of raven black was now caked with wet dirt and leaves. The girl tried to cry out, but she was too sore. She craned her neck and saw that the little people were the ones hauling her along like a pack of sled dogs; Bucky was out front and leading the way. She tried again to speak, and the words came out scraggly. “Hey! What are you doing to me!?”

The ten small people stopped, all were men she thought, but there might have been a woman or two, it was hard to tell because they were all so caked over with grime and burns. “Where are you taking me?” Linnifrid demanded to know. They said nothing to her but simply grumbled and turned to Bucky for an answer. The horse turned around and came back to where she was lying on the ground. He put his long face close to her and butted at her shoulder with his nose. He sniffed at her. “We’re taking you to sanctuary,” Bucky said. “The world is no longer a safe place for you to live as you once did. It’s over. Your old life is over, and you must come with us now. There is no alternative.”

Linnifrid looked up at him and licked at her dry lips. “But must you tie me up and drag me along the ground like an animal? I’ve done nothing wrong and yet you treat me like this. I don’t understand.”

“You’re an animal just like me.”

“Yes, but …”

“Will you walk peacefully?” Bucky suddenly sympathized.

“Yes.”

“If you try to run away, I will tell them to kill you. Do you know that? I have no problem with doing it.”

“I understand… But at the same time, I don’t. Bucky? Did you join a cult?”

The horse looked at her and was hesitant to answer the question. Then he ignored it all together and ordered some of the small people to untie her and help her to her feet.

“Are you cold?” the horse asked her.

“Yes… But…”

“Bring her a cover,” Bucky ordered, and one of the small people came over and gave her a smelly blanket and patted her arms. Linnifrid was convinced it was a female. She had a sweet look beyond the scared gray eyes, and she may have even been a mother to someone in the past. “Thank you,” Linnifrid said softly.

Bucky moved to the front of the line again and everyone started marching along once more. Linnifrid was glad to be up off the ground and walking by her own will. The horse had ordered two of the small people to walk closely behind her, to watch her and make sure she didn’t try to get away.

They made their way through the long and endless forest at a steady pace. Linnifrid was tired and thirsty. She wanted to stop and rest but they would not let her.

“Almost there,” one of the tubby ones grumbled. “Almost there, and you will be free at last.”

TO BE CONTINUED


BURNING MAN

Internet Archive Book Image / Saturday Evening Post (1839)

My apple polly logies
for not being a lime with a twist
perhaps a good hard rain
washed away all my wit
maybe a black cloud scoured me clean
maybe all that’s vanished
will never be seen
I’m just a monopod
bolted to the gravel
peering out over the shiny edge
a bruised leaf wilting in my chest
and a dime-a-dozen mind
begging to be put to rest
the underskin packed tight with tears
where have I been all these tragic years

My apple polly logies
for not being a fashion faglette
a primrose medallion
strung about my perfect pink neck
white suit and perfect pants
not an inch to squeeze about my middleland
Hollywood breeze and the smell of margaritas
dreamlanding me up good
to a Manhattan Beach boardwalk
and the need to swim slow
from here to there and back again
the potion transforms her
from a widow’s walk walker
to a barfly talker,
a sex stalker,
a need to breather
in a better place
where are you going…?

The barn door was cold
the red paint peeled off like dust
as I ran my worn hand across it
the souls have all been put to rest
the wind whispers hollow through the trees
no fashion fags on the farm
they’re milking elsewhere
Frisco and the Moonies by the Bay
my favorite lamp burns the light of a soft heart
from behind the thin curtain
veiling my living room chair
where he drains another lager
and remains illogical
in his attempts to believe in the world,
a world, any world, a hurtless world —
unkempt by the savage graces of the girl

My magazine caught fire
whilst I was drinking the gasoline
the cigarette ignited badly
and I sat down on the porch in a blaze
a temperature rising conflagration
a hot hot tick tock world
the cuckoo nest crying
over the deception of golden eyes —

And all that remained
in the misty morning cold
was I and my burned-out lawn chair
sipping burned out fireflies
and monotonously stirring the pain
with a rosy crucifixion swizzle stick

Church bells tolled God-like in the distance
the hammer tapping the gong on contact
rained down peace and prayer
and the memories of the burn
I rolled in the wet grass
leaving charcoal marks on the blades
a smokestack coffin
pierced the land like a needle
calling, calling, calling…
calling for the burning man
step inside the barrel of the cannon
slide on down the sooty vein

The chocolate bar in Paris was good
as I admired the disheveled traffic
winding like a snake through the streets,
car horns honking
disrupting the calm of a crisp blue sky
it came special delivery, the chocolate that is
He said: “Candygram for burning man,
candygram for burning man…”
Like a raven with a yellow beak
mocking my newfound pleasure in Paris —
candy and wine, streetlights and noise,
cafes frothing over with people
my bandages bleached white like some distant savior

And when I came up from the street slush
I stretched myself out long on the big bed
and as I laid there
mesmerized by the clinical softness of it all
I thought to myself:
This is it, this is life
the apple blossom brutes wailing on the floorboards
etching out some mystic rhythm with their fists
howling at the skirts
pounding down another round
then I felt the cold hand
pressed against my junk
she had just come in
from the lucky charms and the din of the crowd
to say goodnight, goodnight
and to let me know
she was headed out on a flight
to save vanishing self
from the dependence of an emotional cripple.


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Bring Back the Ludovico Treatment

There was a beheading in Moore, Oklahoma. That’s all the message said. I questioned if this was becoming a common practice, for just the other night someone down the hall in my shoddy apartment complex was beheaded, and the night before that, right down on my shoddy street, a hot dog vendor was beheaded just as he was slathering someone’s steaming wiener with relish — I don’t like relish. Then there was that incident down at the public library just about a week ago when a circulation clerk was beheaded after telling a patron he owed $1.25 in overdue book fines.

Machetes and firearms line every rubber raincoat now — as does madness in the minds of men.

“Thank God someone had a gun.” Someone said, in the Land of Violence.

And violence stirs violence until the only solution is more violence — more guns, more bombs, more tanks, more jets, more ships, more drones, more senseless destruction.

And the money we spend to kill and maim and rape countless cultures, could cure illness and starvation and homelessness ten million times over and more. We could actually nurture humanity.

On my way back the other day from the ice cream shoppe, I saw a campaign sign for a death cult touting the joys of the Space Force. Why!? Why do we have to militarize space? And to think we would have any chance against them up there. Dimwitted buffoonery.  

And the Annunaki looked down from Orion and wondered what they had done.

Lord Femfatuntin turned to his lead galactic centurion and ordered, “Send down the chariots of fire, these idiots are destroying all my hard work… And Tome, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind bringing me back a box of Count Chocula? On second thought, you better make it two.”

Tome the galactic centurion bowed with respect. “As you wish, my lord.”


I was sitting alone in my shoddy apartment eating a bowl of cereal and watching COPS when there was a knock at the door. I stuck my eye in the peephole but all I saw was a thick neck, some broad shoulders and a name patch that read TOME across the breast portion of a shiny space uniform.

I pressed my face to the door. “Who’s there? What do you want?”

“It’s Tome. I come to you from the planet Placitas.”

“I don’t know any Tomes and there’s no planet named Placitas. Away with you!”

“Please, Phil Paradise. It’s very important that I speak with you.”

“How did you know my name?”

“You are the spawn of my history — a child of Femfatuntin,” the stranger said.

I looked through the peephole again and shook my head.

“Look,” I said. “I think you may be on drugs, and I don’t want to talk to you. Please go away.”

“I can’t do that, Phil. The future of your very own existence and possibly that of the universe depends entirely on me speaking with you.”

“I don’t open the door to strangers.”

“I’m a lot bigger than you and I can break this door down,” Tome from Placitas threatened.

“Go away or I’ll call the police.”

The aliens in the hallway began to laugh among themselves.

“Oh no! Are they going to come arrest me for possessing a medicinal herb that comes from the ground?!” one of them said.

“They’ll arrest you for harassment and trespassing! That’s what they’ll do. You can count on it!” I called out.

“Your laws are pathetic and ludicrous,” Tome from Placitas said.

There was more laughter in the hallway and then the door opened, and they just walked in — Tome and his two alien sidekicks.

“How did you do that?”

“I’m an advanced being, Phil. It’s pretty easy.”

“You guys are very tall and shiny, but you look absolutely human,” I said in utter amazement as I looked them over.

“And you are very short and dull. We made you that way so you could never be a threat while you work, work, work.”

“I must be dreaming. Did I eat acid?” I wondered.

“Let’s sit down and talk,” Tome said.

“I thought you might smell bad, but you don’t,” I quickly pointed out.

Tome sighed an alien sigh. “Why is it that you Earth people always consider yourselves as the most superior creatures in the universe? You just assume that surely every other living thing out there must smell worse — I don’t understand where you get this false ego. I mean, you haven’t even mastered intergalactic space travel yet. The truth of the matter is… You’re just an animal who requires the use of hand sanitizer in a world that has gone horribly wrong.”

“Well, if I’m just a filthy animal why did you come to me?”

Tome quickly looked over his shoulder at his comrades and then back at me.

“You’re one of the few reasonable individuals we’ve been able to locate down here.” He put a large hand on my shoulder and awkwardly smiled. “Phil, we’re destroying the planet, and we want you to come back with us before we do.”

 “Why!?” I yelled in defiance. “There’s no need for that! You’re talking about billions of lives!”

“You mean billions of morons, Phil! Absolute dashboard bobbleheads on the road to self annihalation.”

“You can’t do this! I won’t let you!”

“There’s nothing you can do about it Phil Paradise. Nothing,” Tome said to me with authority.

I scratched at my head and looked about my shoddy apartment.

“What about my things?”

“You won’t need any of it.”

“But, I have asthma. What about my asthma medication?”

“You won’t have asthma anymore where we’re going, Phil. Just close the door and come along,” Tome ordered.


There were some nice people on the spaceship, and I was well fed at a mile-long buffet. When the total annihilation of Earth came it was quick and clean, like laser surgery. They let me join them to watch on a huge monitor as Earth was vaporized — one second it was there and then it was not. There was some low-key clapping and some cheers and whistles, and then we all ate some delicious cake and drank the best milk I ever had.

Awhile later, I was sitting on a spaceship bench and was looking out a window as the galaxy rushed by. Tome came over and stood tall beside me and we looked at space together.

“You’re doing pretty well for your first intergalactic flight,” he said.

“How fast are we going?”

“Faster than you can even comprehend.”

I looked up at him. “There are others like me — sensible like you say — what about them? Why did you leave them behind?”

“We didn’t. We already have them, Phil Paradise. We’ve been collecting them for a long time — babies to octogenarians and beyond. I’m sure you have heard of alien abduction?”

“Yes, absolutely. I’ve always enjoyed stuff about aliens and space. I used to be Catholic but once the priests started ass-grabbing kids, I kind of settled on the idea that organized religion was a bunch of bullshit. Now I subscribe to ancient alien theology.”

Tome nodded his head, seemingly satisfied with my personal confession. “That’s good, Phil, and just so you know, you won’t be alone on planet Placitas, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I was wondering what it will be like,” I said.


Then something shifted in him, and Tome suddenly clamped his big hands to his head and groaned with agitation and stomped a foot.

“Oh shit! I forgot my lord’s Count Chocula!”

“He likes Count Chocula? The cereal?”

“Yes! It’s his favorite thing for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. Damn it! And Earth is already destroyed. That’s just great! Bad shit like this always happens to me.”

“Calm down, Tome. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“Oh, but you don’t know Lord Femfatuntin. He has anger issues.”

“But, can’t you just make your own Count Chocula here on the spaceship?” I suggested.

“We’ve tried that, but it just came out tasting like generic Count Chocula and he knew right away it wasn’t the real deal. He’ll only eat real Count Chocula made on Earth.”

“I guess you’re screwed then, Tome.”

“Thanks, Phil.”

“When will I get to meet him?”

“Maybe in about 400 years.”

After that, I didn’t see Tome the Galactic Centurion for a very long time.


They gave me a very nice apartment overlooking a tranquil sea of clouds. Maybe I was dead and there really was a Heaven, but I didn’t know for sure.

I felt alive enough when I went to the market on Tuesdays, and they gave me food. For free. Everyone got as much food as they wanted any time they wanted it. No one on the entire planet ever went hungry.

I had no soul-sucking job in the sense of having a job. I was merely allowed to have a satisfying task of my choosing, and that task was to read to wayward dogs and cats at Space Kennel No. 99. They enjoyed it immensely, evidenced by the plethora of wagging tails and gentle purrs every time I cracked open a new book. Dr. Seuss was their absolute favorite. I asked the animal handler, the odd Susan O’Neil, about it one day.

“How did you get Dr. Seuss books?”

She looked at me and smiled a tight-lipped smile and adjusted her spectacles.

“He’s here.”

“He’s here? Dr. Seuss is here?”

“He prefers to be called Theodor.”

“Well, where is he? I’d like to meet him.”

“He’s incredibly reclusive, but I do think he plays squash at the Stellar Sports Open Air Plaza every other Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m., but only if it’s cloudy outside and there’s a chance for rain.”

“He plays squash in the rain?”

“So the story goes.”

“I wonder if he really eats green eggs and ham.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“Hey Susan O’Neil, can I ask you a question?”

“Of course. You can ask me anything, former Earthling.”

“Does anyone ever get beheaded up here?”

“Beheaded? Do you mean like …” And she rolled her eyes and made a hand motion across her throat like it was getting sliced.

“Yes. Exactly.”

“Of course not. We’re not bloody asinine savages like they were!” she wickedly asserted, shakily pointing the tip of her finger toward that spot in the universe where Earth used to be. “This is Shangri-La compared to your own little version of a spinning blue hell. How on — what used to be Earth — could a species allow its own offspring to be cut down by a gutless murder machine, and accept it repeatedly?” She shook her bookish head in disgust. I must admit that Susan O’Neil was quite attractive for a Placitan. That’s what the originals were called — Placitans. And I suddenly was taken over by the desire to ask her out on a date.

But just as I was about to speak, we heard the haunting sound of the great gongs of Placitas reverberate all around us followed by the heavy march of the centurions and their steeds. I rushed out into the path lined by rubber trees and there I saw Tome the galactic centurion leading his troops to whatever trouble there was. I ran beside him as hard and as fast as I could.

“Tome! What on Placitas is happening!?”

He reached his arm down, snatched me up and threw me behind him on the horse.

“I couldn’t hear a word you were saying!”

“I wanted to know what the situation is. What’s with all the menacing war stuff?”

“They’ve come. We didn’t think their ship could make such a long journey. Somehow, they escaped before the annihilation, and now they’ve finally arrived, and we must stop them.”

“Is it something terrible? I don’t want it to be something terrible,” I cried out.

“Of course it’s terrible. Why else would we be going to war?” Tome answered.

“But you hate war. You’ve learned to put it away and live in peace.”

“Some things are worth fighting for when the enemy decides to impose its beliefs. Hold on Phil Paradise.”

“What is it!?”

“They’re trying to open a WalMart here!”

And that’s when the dusts of war raged, and Tome lit a fire beneath his troops, and I could barely hold on.

“But… Tome… Wait!”

“What is it, Phil!? I’m trying to lead the charge.”

“Wouldn’t the WalMart have Count Chocula?”

END