There is an old saying, the source of which now eludes me, a stray line in an old and musty book, the grizzled quip of a day laborer, or even the off-handed truism of a hermetic philosopher, which, as I have ventured this charred and dying Earth, alas, appears to be the very essence of existence, the very pin holding the loose and poorly stitched clothes together as they droop, barely covering the many pustules, boils, and lacerations that pock all of human life: “Oftentimes, that’s what the fuck life is: one vile fucking task after another”.
An oppressive and bleak notion, indeed. Yet, hitherto we have been less than forthright in it’s all encompassing despotism. For there exists a land which servers as counter balance, an idyll and verdant paradise filled with splendor, good tidings, magic, hidden so long for reasons surely valid when they were first writ in stone and proclaimed to those who had been able to dwell there – but this is selfish, says I!
Rather, the gates should be thrown open, arms unfolded and opened up for hearty embraces! The glasses shall clinkle, eyes shall twinkle, and a great merry reverie shall be ours this day! A great and happy song shall arise like the mist of the morning dew, waft down the mountain side and inveigh all those who toil without to journey here and find their respite within.
Yes, indeed! Let us all mingle together in a choragus and laugh away tragedy! Let us pierce the dreary grey clouds with the ardent light of our collective soul! Let us all dine and cavort among one another in a splendid banquet, bounteous and bully!
Let us venture to that glorious and perfect place, transcending this and other phenomenological and imaginal planes, that pristine and marvelous expanse of greenery and sublime vistas, that endless well of spiritual rejuvenation and unceasing dynamo of love. Let us go to RealCanada!
Fred sat mutely in the plush chair of his boss’s office, distracted by the overabundance of nick-nacks, family photos, day calendars, motivational posters, most of all by the strange smell hanging over the room, a mixture of lacquer and bug deterrent.
Bossman was staring daggers at him, his wrinkly forehead tensing and contracting as though it had a pulse, his cologne mixing with the room’s more prominent odors. His face was taut, crumpled into a quivering and angry mishmash of upper and lower lip. A tiny node of sweat was forming near the ever-receding boundary of his chemically altered hair.
“Either you’ve got the biggest balls on Earth or you’re smoking something bad, Wilson.” He growled, hands clasped together, almost as in communion; the angriest monk Fred had ever seen.
“I’m sorry, sir?” whisped Fred, lightly intrigued by a hitherto unnoticed scab on his left hand. A fly hovered near the windowsill.
“You seriously gonna give me that bullshit right now?”
“I guess I’m not sure what’s wrong”
“The demo for the ad, Fred! You think this is a game! This is how we make our money, Fred!” Bossman pointed to the ground with each word, providing a rickety and disheveled emphasis.
Howard couldn’t help but think: The floor? We make our money with the floor? But that was unproductive. Though to be fair, he wasn’t entirely sure why he’d been called up to the office in the first place. By all accounts the demo for “CreditReview.com” was a resounding success: finished on time, under budget, perhaps the ad itself ran a little long, but it was redeemed, in Fred’s opinion, by being quite innovative; a meta-textual piece that not only conveyed the dangers of the profligate and reckless use of credit but also subtly satirized the ad agency itself, its overbearing aesthetics, its use of jumbled and random clichés and spurious cultural references; Fred hoped this could lead to a new style in television advertisements.
They would be honest advertisements, or better put, advertisements that weren’t dishonest. Because why bother with all the silly sleight of hands, the disorientating slurry of disjunctive images, anthropomorphic yuck yuck animal gags, the ‘quirky’ bon mots, when at the end of the day its always a hard sell? Better to be upfront, he thought, and tell those dumb motherfuckers that you think they’re dumb motherfuckers to their faces (metaphorically speaking).
“I’m confused as to what’s wrong with it?”
Bossman leapt from his chair with a growl, pulling down hard on his tie. He grabbed an unmarked DVD and rammed it into the player; the screen behind his desk flickered to life:
[Open to couple sitting on sofa, looking at a laptop. Cut to laptop set to CreditReview.com with credit slider and guacamole slider displayed. Wife: “With CreditReviewer’s patented crdedit slider, we can see exactly what effect our credit score has on our purchasing abilities!” Husband: “Cool! But what’s the ‘guacamole slider’ do?”. Slider is moved all the way to the right, heading reading ‘full guac’.
Camera pans out to the couple sitting on their sofa. Suddenly there is a loud, guttural, ‘ahem!’ type of grunt: camera swivels to the left, revealing four very tall, muscle-bound, mustachioed men of varying ethnicities dressed in full-body Mexican-style wrestling costumes, lime green and neon yellow and electric orange and sky blue, each costume complete with elaborately sequined gauntlets and masks evoking dragons and large bats; each man stands aggressively, leaning forward, leering, clutching large tubs of guacamole and a metallic spatula.
Cut to the couple, startled but somehow amused at the motley gang of ‘roiding freaks. The man begins to ask, “what are doing here?” but is interrupted by the largest of the bloated muscle blimps who says in a commanding voice:
“You’re going to eat some guac”.
The other three nod in an intimidating and threating fashion behind him, rapping their spatulas against the tubs of guac.
Woman on couch: “Oh, well, but, we’re not really hungry and-“
“I said: you’re going to eat. Some. Guac.”
Man on couch, standing up: “Hey, buddy. You can’t just barge in here and talk to my wife like that-“
Suddenly, with a sickly ‘thwack’, the wrestler in sky blue strikes him across the head with the spatula. He falls to the ground, clutching his head, writhing, calling out in pain. His wife screams: ‘thwack’. She falls to the couch, dazed then in shock as the four wrestlers rush to her husband, their latex costumes squeaking with a plastic rubbing noise vaguely akin to basketball shoes on hardwood. The wrestlers proceed to attempt comically over-the-top wrestling moves: back handed slaps; arm bars; suplexes; DDTs; a Piledriver; The People’s Elbow. After pinning the man for a three-count, the orange and green bedecked wrestlers grapple him, holding him firmly and roughly; the neon yellow clad lump of meat forces the man’s mouth open as the enormous and irregularly proportioned sky blue wrestler begins force-feeding him guacamole.
Several seconds of the man writhing against his captors, each thrash of his arms eliciting an elbow to the stomach; the man attempting to spit out the guacamole, the force and frequency of its entering his throat causing him to gag, each bit of spittle scooped up by the spatula and thrust harder and farther in; his wife screaming to the side, her left hand covering her mouth, her right nervously fidgeting and rubbing against the gash across her forehead; the wrestlers laughing all the while with deep, hearty laughter.
“mmm ach! Aaaaugh! MM RRRHAOGH FFMMRRGH ACK ACK ACK! MMMLEEUUUGGH”
“What are you doing to him!”
“He needs to eat some guac, damnit!”
Cut to a similar scene: the man held against his will and being force-fed guacamole- three empty tubs and fourth half consumed. Exhausted, drenched in sweat, he can barely move, now completely supported by the two meat-heads who flank him; the wrestlers look tired as well, the vigor and zest with which they’ve been ramming handfuls of guac down this man’s throat now replaced by a fatigued and workmanlike pace, bored even. A clock in the background indicates that it is ten pm; it is dark outside, an eerie high-pitched noise emanating from the night, some grotesque hybrid of an owl and a rabid possum. The woman rests crumpled on the hardwood floor, three slight streaks of red listing down the side of her right cheek, eyes bleary and raw and tear-drenched, breathless heaving sobs jittering from her, making her quiver like a small puppy.
The man begins to projectile vomit. The first bit of vomitus erupts and splatters like a rushing water breaking against rocks, dousing the sky blue wrestler in the face, forming little pale green droplets in his mustache; he is unperturbed. The man now cannot physically stop vomiting, a steady stream of avocado and tomato chunks dribbling and popping out of his mouth. The wrestlers drop him to the floor as howls and moans, the exodus of guacamole slowed but much more sputtered.
Cut to the man lying on his side, clutching his stomach, his shirt stained all down the front, a splotchy puddle of puke around him, tendrils creeping out in all directions, his wife huddling over him as a low and pitiful whimper barely makes it past the man’s pursed, buzzing lips, she quietly sobbing and patting his head and gently squeezing his shoulders. Another loud ‘ahem!’ grunt: the couple looks up.
Cut to the wrestlers, each with significant amounts of vomit on their costumes, looking down at the camera, arms folded triumphantly, their lips tight in a job-well-done pucker:
“That’ll be $25.95. No checks, please”.
Cut to logo; voiceover:
“Score Planner applies to everyone; guacamole slider still in beta. CreditReviewer.com” ]
The screen turned blue. Bossman stood behind his desk, tapping his foot in a rapid and un-rhythmic cadence, a glare of utter malice contorting his face. Fred noticed considerable patches of sweat on Bossman’s egg-white shirt. The fly was now buzzing with much more esprit, banging against the windowpane in disjointed syncopation with Bossman’s right foot.
Fred really had no idea how he’d gotten the scab, no recollection of accidental collisions with anything recently that would cause a break in his skin. It was a somewhat unnerving feeling, eliciting a string of wild theories involving sleepwalking and/or narcolepsy. He became aware that his left shoelace was untied; Good God, he chuckled inwardly, the verge of catastrophe. I knew something was amiss.
Hearing heavy and damp gulps of breath near his face, he looked up to see Bossman leaning over his desk, eyes wild and pulsing with the same weird surging throb as his glazed forehead; a minute puddle of sweat was forming on the slick, lacquered mahogany.
“Listen to me, you smart ass little shit,” hissed Bossman, his teeth grinding together, gums raw and flaky, “Rewrite and re-shoot it by the end of the week or youre fired, Wilson!” He was almost bobbing with anger, his belly curtly swaying side to side in his shirt.
Fred blinked, looked to his scab, pondered, and replied:
“In that case, I must immediately tender my resignation, sir.”
“This is the greatest thing I’ve ever produced, I do not feel that I can ever surpass it, and for you to denigrate it makes me loose my vigor for the business”.
Fred stood up, and striding briskly to the window, caught the fly, ate it, thrust open the window, and leapt to his death.
[Excerpted from “Young and Hemiballismic: Your Life as I see It” by Fellipe Zombacaliptico]
“Chapter 237. Thus it was such that the day after Labor Day in 1995 you attended your first day of Grade school. You awoke that morning to the chimes of your brand new alarm clock, the repetitive, cacophonous, screeching high D thrusting you awake from your pleasant dreams, dreams that in that gentle and innocent epoch of your life tended to center around the gift of flight (although you could never tell in these dreams if you weren’t just falling from a great height), simple, serene, the sensation of wind in your face only the more wondrous in reflection once brutally interrupted by this dying-cat alarm of yours, an alarm clock that would wrest you from idyllic fancies of slumber but also save you from the uncanny and disturbing nightmares of your ever more tumultuous subconscious, beginning on this day, for the rest of your childhood through college; this particular note, an unturned and garrulous D two octaves above middle C, forever associated in your mind with that gap between awake and asleep, a limbo of consciousness, defibrillating you back to the phenomenological world, leaving you with the unsettling feeling that you’d died in your sleep a second before your were to awaken.
How nervous you were! Standing in lines in front of the simple piece of blue paper, the roll for your class that year, hoping that your new best friend, Nick C, easily confused with Nick D but never with Nick B, was in your class (he wasn’t; he was in Ms Knowles class); again, these new feelings of unease bubbling up within you, as though behind the doors to Banbury Heights Elementary School was some vast conspiratorial cabal of evil men who intended to enslave you or sell you to aliens. Yet, there you were: the first day of the next 16 years of your life, no?”
He wasn’t sure that he’d been dreaming at all; he could only vaguely recall muffled voices. But his alarm started sawing into his ears, and he was defibrillated back into his own mind. He didn’t remember going to bed. For about half a second he couldn’t remember anything at all- where he was, what time it was, what he was doing here; for an even shorter while (a stuttering and confused blink) he was slightly unsure even of whom he was. In the next instance, this data fizzed back into memory: I am Howard; I am in my underpants, in bed, in my apartment, which is in Iowa; it is Sunday morning; I have to work this morning; I’m still pretty fucked up.
He was very drunk, he could tell. The periphery of his vision blurred in and out of focus, a lens becoming smudged then clean, with each surge of his pulse. He felt his forehead stretching upwards from his skull, which, he half-imagined, was rattling around his brain, battering and bruising it. As he sat up, it seemed as though his vision adjusted to his body half a second too late: horrid nausea. He brought his knees to his chest and lay his head down for a moment to stay the urge to vomit even though he knew it didn’t matter: he was clearly going to puke a lot today.
He leaned back on his arms and looked to his alarm clock, still making that disgusting dead-cat chime: 7:47. He wondered briefly why setting alarms for times like 8:02 or 7:24 felt better to him than on the hour, but he knew there was no clear answer. Thinking too hard made him feel that his oscillating skull was being whipped into a paste. And, anyway, the only thing to think about was getting to work.
He stood up and noticed a dull searing in his right foot. He’d fucked shit up last night big time (as Wes would say), probably kicked a door or something: actually, he probably just tripped up the stairs to his apartment. The washroom light was still on, a pale lighthouse in the hall, and in his semi-conscious stupor he felt the lighting in there would be superior for investigating foot injuries. His bedroom was covered in clothes, books, and paper, his demented and silly writings crackling under his limped and drunken shuffle. He left the alarm babbling to itself.
He looked down in the washroom doorway and examined his feet: right foot very fucked up: middle toe colored like a rotten plumb and bloodied, the nail cracked: couldn’t move it for the pain and because it had stiffened up as though in a splint. He raised his gaze towards the toilet; he had already puked, it seemed. Long streams of a frothy orange had streaked and dried down the side of the bowl, little chunks of what he had to assume were tomatoes speckled among the filth; the seat was similarly dirtied. Crumpled streamers of toilet paper hung from the lip of the wastebasket like the mangled limbs of strangled animals. A haze wafted up his nose, pushed by the washroom fan in clunky gusts, as though it were attempting to hold its breath: bonk and piss.
He looked to the mirror on his right and saw his slobbering, bedraggled mushy form leering back at him. His hair burst out from his head in uneven clumps, a botched attempt at pigtails with glue, perhaps; his straggly beard had little bits of the same orange gunk around his chin. It was definitely his bonk, then. His bare upper body looked haggard, chest hair resembling to him soot and ash, his skin uneven on his frame, like a shirt that doesn’t seem to fit quite right. Poking in his belly button yielded magenta coloured lint.
“Jesus,” he slurred to his reflection, “look at you, huh? Look at you: eyes all raw and bleary: weeping in front of your friends again, I suppose. Fucking hell”. A burp followed.
He splashed hot water into his face, cursed, then batted himself with an orange hand towel. This was the surest sign to him that he was still fairly intoxicated: he and Wesley and Allen had developed certain irrational beliefs while drunk, one of the more foolish being that dousing their faces with warm water would have some affect of sobriety. Of course, being drunk enough to think that usually entails a certain lack of coordination, warm water more often than not becoming scalding water, making them look decidedly un-sober, three lobsters fresh from a boiling bisque.
The alarm continued to harry him; it would do so all day if he left it. But it was correct in being so insistent: 7:57; he had to open the store at 8: no time to pause and feel lowly- move on. He lurched back into his room and silenced it. Yes, just get the fuck out of here and get to work.
He had done this before, was all but without the crushing and all encapsulating dread of the first few times an evening had gotten away from him and stayed with him into the next day. Besides being downtown at the Deadwood, drinking whiskey with Jenny and Allen, he had no memories at all of the evening: he had no idea how he’d gotten home. But he trusted himself to have been responsible, even if he blacked out, so as he stumbled into his living room, loafing through without a glance or a thought, past his rumpled up clothes from the night before, past a pyramid of glasses in his sink, past the grey and tattered chair where Wesley used to pass out, and past the old blue, lumpy couch where, for a brief and lovely time, he and Jenny would spend nights laying together, entwined in arms and kisses and imaging their future lives, he remained grittily calm and was rewarded for it by finding his work clothes in a lump by the door, atop which rested his wallet, keys, and phone: never worry, never panic. After taking a moment to fight off more horrid nausea brought on by bending over to tie his shoes, he flung open the door and shambled into the damp and murky world outside.
I took up jogging. I’m not sure exactly when I got the idea, but I put it to practice the week after my twentieth birthday. It marked roughly the fifth time in my life that I’d ‘took up jogging’, and if I lasted more than three weeks this time I’d consider it a major victory for my resolve. Somehow I have conquered my natural inclination to sit around and do nothing. The biggest factor in this un-Jesse-like behavior is that the most sublime of joys is mine: I run in the cold.
Perchance, for which, might a Zombie sleep?
The sky darkens above the Zombie’s head, too.
Perhaps it always a sunset on the hopes of the Zombie,
Dragging around his foot, perhaps trying to place his eyeball back into its socket,
If his eyeball is even salvageable.
Is it eternal darkness, is it always night, is it the Dark Side of the Zombie moon at all times, Man? Well, I don’t know. Do you?
Have you seen the Zombie sleep? Better question: have you seen the Zombie dream, Man? Have you seen that glazed look in his eye, as he looks up at a tree and sees a squirrel?
Or, per chance, on a particularly beautiful dewey morning, Do you see the Zombie contemplate his own reflection in the waters, The gentle twinkle of those millions of dewey diamonds, Does a Zombie dream!
Can a Zombie feel emotions? Or do you even care? Oh yeah, it’s easy to rag on the Zombie, easy to throw garbage on that which already lives in muck, It’s easy to just point and say, “Run away, he’s going to eat you!”
But if you look close, if you split the hairs,
Crack open the skull, dig through his brain matter,
I think you’ll be surprised at what you find.
Well, you’ll see rotting brains, But you’ll also see the seedling of a beautiful, marvelous, tall tree, A tree that could grow so high, reach to the sky, sky high, And bear unimaginable, wonderful fruits.
Can a Zombie create art? Can a Zombie sculpt? If Michelangelo had been bitten by a zombie,
Do you think the Sistine Chapel would still be as marvelous and beautiful as it is today?
Can a Zombie dream?
And if he can dream, of what does he dream?
Well, he probably just dreams about brains.
It had never been about Jackson at all, this drive; it had always been revenge, vindication, somehow, in having not fallen ill, not being bed ridden and on the verge of a slow, inglorious end. Some petty triumph in being able to stand tall over his smug, self-righteous brother, finally, even if it would require the aid of a chair. And it was precisely this, he reckoned, given his current circumstances, that had surely led to his own demise.
Not that Peter Wright had ever allowed the vitriol and bloodlust that gnawed away at his innards to manifest on his person. No, indeed, he was a perfectly dutiful and reasonable fellow in Butte, residing at home with mother. But knowing that Jackson was running free and living large, while he was relegated to a life indoors, due to those bizarre and morbid fates that that one becomes enslaved to because of their genes, was too much to bear.
Too much entirely because Jackson’s incessant teasing. Yes, Peter was all of six inches tall. Patently obvious, and like any other unfortunate condition, not something that needed to be mentioned at every possible moment that the limitations imposed by such a condition made themselves manifest. Yes, a kids meal at McDonald’s was like a normal sized meal to him. Yes, a bathtub full of water was the size of a normal pool. Yes, he did need help getting on the sofa at mother’s house.
No, he couldn’t every be legally able to drive a car, much less a convertable. Thank you, Jackson, it wasn’t totally obvious already.
“At least that means I can’t also get in an accident, either, Jackson. Dick head”
“Peter Anthony Wright! What on Earth did you just say!”
Oh God, he was talking aloud again.
“Oh nothing, Mother. You must’ve misheard me”.
“I should hope so!”
It had become so hard to maintain, lately. Jackson was always bombarding his Facebook with stupid links to things that Peter was incapable of doing, snide comments included. Drunken phone calls at preposterous hours, just to crack wise. A gyrating rage had bellowed within him for so long, growing more fierce and pronounced that it threatened to overcome him. Utterances leapt from him like the forked tongue of a serpent before he knew he’d made them. An endless tide of bile and hatred rose up with every moment, one thought occupying his mind: Revenge.
When he first heard of Jackson’s accident, though he would never let the thought take form outside of his now blackened heart, his immediate reaction was an uncanny joy: poetic justice, the most pronounced and tangible expression of these feelings. But of course high flying Jackson, stark leather jacket bound to his shoulders as always, Icarus on wheels, of course Jackson’s stupid cockiness would do him in. A turn taken too fast, a break pressed too late – who cared.
But here he was, after a wrong turn in the hallways of the hospital, victim of the very same hubris: trapped, hostage, doomed…..