Tuesday, January 23, 2007

based on a true story, in 3 parts.

Pt. 1 (sophie)

Hey, I agree, it was a terrible thing to do. It was awful. But consider my situation.

Seventeen years old, in college, with about four bucks to my name. I had a dead dog, a very LARGE dead dog I might add, and I had to get it across the city to the vet so they could dispose of the body.

Since I didn’t have any money, I had to take the train. And since I had to take the train, I had to put the dog's dead body in something.

Okay, listen. YOU look around your home and tell me what YOU find that can hold a dead great dane.

All I could find was a great big suitcase. So that’s what I used. Thank goodness it had wheels because I know that dog weighed like 70 pounds.

Pt. 2 (nic)

So the first thing I noticed about her was that she was, like, total prime target. She was so freaked out about getting this suitcase up the steps that her purse was flopping around and she wasn’t even paying attention. One of those hippie looking Mexican purses that college girls carry around. Ugly college girls. You know, not the hot ones.

Then I start thinking, maybe there’s more here than just her purse, and I decide to help see what I can find out. I can always grab the purse later. So I carry the suitcase up the steps for her to the train platform – holy Jesus that thing weighed a ton. I asked her what was in there, you know, just making conversation. She looked kind of funny for a minute (I guess she isn’t used to guys talking to her) and then said she was a computer sciences major and it was stuff for school.

Oh shit. Bingo.

So I switch into drive. Headed north, huh? What stop are you getting off at? Oh, me too. Hey maybe I can help you carry it downstairs. No, it’s no problem for a pretty girl like you. You remind me of my sister or some shit like that.

And that is just what I did, my friend. Carried it downstairs, passed through the turnstiles with that ten-ton suitcase loaded up full of computer parts to sell on eBay or unload out west of town. I hit the sidewalk and took off running before she could even start yelling at me to stop. I ran 4 or 5 blocks, then swerved into an alley to open up the suitcase and check out the goods.

Pt. 3 (mark)

I’ll tell you what made me move away from the city. The day I went out back to take out the trash and there was a half-open suitcase –and pardon me, this is a little disgusting- a half-open suitcase lying in the alley with a dead great dane in it. Holy Mary, I thought I was going to throw up. The way people treat their pets in this city. I went back inside, I said Annie, that’s it, we’re moving back to Kentucky, I don’t care. People here, their pets die and they shove ‘em in a suitcase and leave ‘em for the dumpster. We’re done. Start packing.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thank You Statue

Only the widow caretaker had noticed, and she – just as angry as the statue – didn’t warn anyone.

The temperature of the statue had been rising for several weeks. In early November, it was a perfectly normal 14 degrees, same as the awful icy winds. But soon after, it began a slow, deliberate climb.

By December, the statue’s skin was at 60 degrees, and the flat, ashy mint covering her face, arms, and robes began to take on a richer, more living tone.

As if replaced by chlorophyll.

By Christmas it was in the mid nineties, and the apples of her cheeks were gently flushed.

On the morning of new years eve, the widow caretaker bundled up and trotted numbly through the wind to the weather station on the East side of the statue. She brushed the frost off the row of thermometers, then smiled in malicious anticipation.

The statue’s skin measured a precise 98.7 degrees.

She trotted back to her flat over the gift shop to make a pot of tea. This was going to be good.



That’s all it was: his fingertips touching mine.

But it was in the dark, and it was secret, and it froze my entire body with shock at my incredible luck. It iced my stomach, chopped up my breath, and when I worked up the courage to turn to him breathlessly for just one second, it was enough to make me pray right then and there.

O God, I thought. I, who don’t pray for little things. O God, I know I’ll get old and I know I’ll forget a million things. Don’t ever, ever let this be one of them. Don’t ever let me forget the way he is looking at me right now.

It would not have meant so much if it were not for the two years spent longing for the man attached to those perfect fingertips. Two years spent swimming in an intense teenage crush that kills your appetite, fills entire notebooks with hopeless poems, and makes you buy strange sweaters on the off chance that you will suddenly become astonishingly attractive.

And the answer to it all is this one young man, except he seems to sense all this and he wisely avoids it, like a deer and human urine. He keeps a wide berth. He maintains a very careful distance at all times.

Except, for some reason, this one night.

And his fingertips and my fingertips, were touching. Secretly. In the dark.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Every day the lion wanted to speak, to tell her who he really was. His tongue (which was, incidentally, the size of her arm) and jaws ached with the information.

He thought once of writing his name in the dirt. He leapt up and breathlessly brushed clean a patch of sand, only to realize that he no longer remembered all the letters and symbols to form the right sounds. He panicked. He concentrated. He made a circle, then a line, but it was no use. The code had vanished from his brain. He collapsed onto the dirt and moaned. He missed tears. Being able to cry had been nice.

Instead, he came to content himself by hugging her small, soft human frame every time she would let him, carefully cradling her head in one of his enormous paws.

She would laugh and wrap her arms around his neck, losing them in his mane. Spectators gaped at this ridiculous embrace: the lady and the lion. News crews came and interviewed her. She always smiled as he delicately sniffed in her face, never once guessing who he was and that, in the end, he was with her every day.

Monday, December 18, 2006


When the truck first hits the mud, it feels like the direction of the earth changes. Like your whole life you’ve been going forward, just straight ahead, but then the wheels find that patch of dirt so soaked through with rain that there’s nothing for the tread to grab on to.

And that’s when it starts.

The tires spin and the engine screams and you aren’t driving anymore, you’re floating. And you’re going sideways – or backwards – or in a circle – and it doesn’t matter how you turn the wheel or stomp on the pedals, you and your friends are crammed into the tiny cab of your stepdad’s F-150 and you’re shrieking and giggling and holding on to each other, praying that the truck won’t flip and loving every second of it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


We lived so close to the border that THE thing to do, if you were a total badass, was to sneak out in the middle of the night and go to this tiny little town in Mexico, Sangre de Cristo. And once you made it there, you had to get your picture taken in the cantina with Fernando.

Everyone knew who Fernando was – they had all seen his picture and heard stories about him. He had dark eyes that had sunken back into his skull, a wide lipless smile, and a skinny face like a horse. He was a legend. Everyone who came back from Sangre de Cristo had a Fernando story and a photo to go with it.

And, of course, everyone had a story about who he really was. He was a CIA operative. He was a former revolutionary. He was a rapist and a murderer, he was a drug lord, he was the guy who originally wrote La Bamba.

No one talked about the other possibility: that Fernando was some guy who drank at the local bar every night, hoping for one of those nights when a gaggle of giddy, elated American teenagers would swagger in, breathless with their own stupidity and daring, their pockets bulging with beer money and disposable cameras.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


He needed a job. An occupation with a title. Something distinguished. Matthew Campbell, Boy ________.

Matthew Campbell, Boy Detective hadn’t lasted long. For his first case, Matthew had selected The Case of the Sobbing Sibling to find out why his sister Anne, who was in 9th grade, cried so much. Matthew’s dad looked at the notebook where Matthew had begun charting his surveillance and interview prospects. He whistled. “Boy, you’re tackling the heavy hitters, there,” he said. “Listen, buddy, good luck with that one.”

As it turns out, boy detectives got told too often to mind their own business. So that was done.

Matthew Campbell, Boy Scientist was axed when his microscope broke, and Matthew’s brother Andy advised him that if he was really set on being Matthew Campbell, Boy Dancer, he had better not let anyone at school know about it.

That’s when Matthew Campbell, Boy Narcotics Officer made his debut, but the 4th grade didn’t really seem to need a Narc. He tried expanding to the high school, but that ended badly.

It just… ended badly. Matthew would not care to elaborate, thank you.

But this one – this one would be different. This was the one. Matthew Campbell, Boy Chef. This was going to be IT.

Monday, December 04, 2006

No I Will Not Be Your Friend

All I know is that I came home, turned on my computer, and I get this message telling me that 47 users have removed me from their Friends list, and I am blocked from viewing their pages. Just like that. The only 2 left were a girl I met at camp and my cousin, who lives in Wichita Falls. At first I thought something was just wrong with MySpace, so I blew it off. I told myself it would go back to normal any second. Whatever. Not a big deal.

But it didn’t change. All night.

I went to bed feeling terrible. I even got up once in the middle of the night and checked.

And the next morning it was still like that.

I kept reloading the page, my stomach churning. I didn’t want to go to school. This hadn’t ever happened to anyone before.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


There will be a straw hut built over the ocean, small (but comfortable) and round. That’s where we will sleep. It is only accessible by a footbridge, 50 yards over the water from land. You can sit on a little porch outside and watch the fish in the water, but only nice harmless fish. All the terrifying ones will swim in another part of the ocean and you won't even have to look at them.

The people who live there will be grateful for the commerce, but able to continue their culture and lifestyle without having to alter it to accommodate the tourism industry. They won’t resent our presence in the least, but will regard us as pleasant curiosities.

I will wear unusual but highly flattering dresses. My relaxed demeanor will alter my facial features to make me look serene and filled with love and peace at all times. I will not be jumpy. I will forget all insecurities. I will devote a significant part of my day to meditation and prayer and, as a result, be filled with tolerance, patience, and a gentle nature.


Midwestern winters breed this type of lunacy. French Polynesia mocks you, beckoning; a grass skirt that hints at wonders below. Damn you, Tahiti. Damn you, Bora Bora. Damn you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

desperate times call

The second I realized it I wanted to shoot myself.

Wait. Poor choice of words.

Let me start over: Anthony and I were walking back to the car from the mall. He was hugging the big plastic bag with half water, half air, and his brand new pet goldfish, grinning like a 7-year-old boy is supposed to grin. This is great, I thought. Getting him a goldfish was a great idea. He hasn’t smiled like this since the funeral.

That’s when I realized it. The idea poured into my slow dumb brain like molasses.

You don’t cheer up a little boy whose mother just died by getting him a pet with a life expectancy of five days.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Gainesville, TX

“Right over there at that rest stop, a boy killed himself. Oh, it was a long time ago. He had just come back from the War and after about two or three months he just went and shot himself. Well. At first, his mama and daddy didn’t want nothing to do with him.”


“Well, they was embarrassed. Then, after a while, they said alright, they’d have a funeral. And we went, and that preacher stood up there in front of that boy’s parents –they was Baptist- and said, your boy is going to HELL, the Lord hates suicide, and all. Well I wanted to get up but your grandfather kept holding my arm, saying sit still, sit still. I just was never so mad in all my life. Oh! To do that boy’s parents that a way.”

Sunday, November 05, 2006


What made William a real asshole (even at age 9) wasn’t just that he dared Jeremy Flemmons to find a way to stick a quarter in his brother’s crack without Gary realizing it. It was that he told the entire school that, when Gary got home and went to the bathroom, he shrieked, “Mom, I pooped a quarter!” at the top of his lungs.

At lunch, William did impressions of his brother nonstop while the whole table just roared. Allison Gilbert laughed so hard she spit out her sandwich, and that made everyone laugh even harder. William loved it. “Mooooooom,” he kept howling. He could do his brother's voice perfect. “Ah pooped a QUAH-TAH! It’s a QUAH-TAH, Momma!” Holy lord, I know it was mean, but was it funny. “And it didn’t even HURT!!!”

Now, as far as any of us can remember, it was right after that when Gary started acting different.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Oblong Box

Alice knelt in front of the biggest pyramid, the hot sand cutting into her knee where she had fallen scrambling through the marketplace the day before. She swept the rocks away and set the box down. After a year of living with it constantly by her side, every inch of its splintered frame had become completely familiar. Suddenly she gasped. All the air flew out of her lungs. It was as if she had been punched in the gut – there was a dark, heavy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Alice concentrated. She had been warned about this part. She tightened her lips, grasped the handle firmly, and for the first time in over a thousand years, the crank to the oblong wooden box turned.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Manny nearly choked on his coffee when he walked into his office and saw the book lying on his desk. He shut the door behind him quickly, checking desperately to make sure no one had seen it. The venetian blinds swung and smacked against the door where his name was carefully stenciled on the glass.

Manny’s hands shook, spilling coffee on the checkered floor as he gaped at the book that had been mysteriously left on his desk after last night’s violent struggle. Holeyman. It could only mean one thing: His secret identity had been discovered.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


After thirteen years of training in Noh theater, the night before his first professional appearance he accepted a job as a software engineer at Samsung. The dealbreaker was all that damn stomping - it absolutely murdered the feet.

Years later, he continued to incorporate elements of bunraku into the handsets which few people noticed, but those who did, greatly appreciated it.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Eileen pounded her fist against the bathroom countertop, making all the little amber pill bottles jump in surprise. "BLAST!" she muttered fiercely. It was the inconvenience on top of humiliation, that's what made it so damn aggravating. Age. It absolutely killed you until …well… it killed you.

She glared at the counter again through a different level on her trifocals. There was the collection of pill bottles, the denture paste and the kleenex and the tall can of aquanet. What was NOT there were her teeth. She had to get her drivers license renewed in half an hour and she’d be damned if she’d be a toothless little old lady in her picture.

However, seeing no other option, she knotted a blue scarf over her white hair, set and curled, and was locking the back door on her way out when she saw something small and white on the pavement where her great-grandkids had been playing the evening before. With further inconvenience and humiliation, Eileen bent over enough to pick it up, and even managed to straighten back up to inspect the thing.

They were pointy. They were plastic. They had been sitting on the filthy ground all night and half the morning.

They were better than no teeth.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Plastic Pipe

So complete, so widespread, and so disarming were his charms, that he could not pass a lady on the street without flushing her face and stealing her breath, could not touch a flower without it exploding into a cloud of dizzy pollen, and could not put a pipe to his lips without it shivering, then curling itself into a tight knot with sheer ecstasy.

Plastic Pipe II

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Levitationism was a popular vaudeville act in the early 1900s, involving the illusion of causing items to float by use of concealed or transparent string. Levitationists would often levitate solicited items from the audience, such as gloves, snuff boxes, or cravats.

The illusion was famously exposed when noted French levitationist Josephe Pujol was asked to perform for the Archbishop of Ste. Rouen-Caste. The archbishop, who was drinking heavily, was so delighted with Pujol’s skill that he demanded Pujol repeat the entire act several times. After a few hours, Pujol ran out of the necessary transparent twine and was forced to levitate the final object of the evening (an unusually shaped pipe belonging to the archbishop’s father) with plain white thread. The thread was easily visible and the enraged archbishop expelled the entertainer from the manor abruptly and with some violence (by many accounts grotesque).

Shortly thereafter, the archbishop pronounced the infamous Magicians Excommunication of 1909, which was eventually repealed by Pope Auguste XI in 1972.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The egg now looked like a surgeon, no two ways around it. Everyone said so. Marla sat, fuming, crushing her first place ribbon for Best Egg Decorating in her fist. "I specifically wrote ‘censored’ on the mask that is gagging him," she spat furiously at the judges, who smiled in polite confusion, then swiftly moved on to the second place recipient. "GAGGING!" she called after them, to make sure they heard right.

Marla’s parents were unable to attend the contest that day, so Mrs. Chapel was unable to explain why she had first asked Marla not to write "I Am The Iraqi War Dead" on her egg.

Friday, September 29, 2006


The day that Anna sold her father's dairy was the first day without rain in nearly a year. A rare, one-day respite from the rains that had mysteriously moved in seven years ago and completely transformed the climate. Scientists suggested that it was global warming, or even just natural atmospheric pressure shifts, but the result was the same: it rained. All the time.

Jason drove them home from the courthouse in the pickup, passing the familiar turnoff to the dairy on their way to the new house overlooking Lake Guilin. It was on a hill, where they would be safe from the floods: this new home where Anna tried to get used to the watery, store-bought milk – an insulting change to the fresh milk she’d drank all her life.

She closed her eyes and thought about how after death, loved ones become even more of our own. The hitches and snags of a real human being, one with head colds and unpredictable moods, become lovingly blurred. Her father, as he lived in her memory, understood her decision to sell. He understood the seven years of floods, the two roof collapses in the main barn, the endless rusting of the equipment, the sores and broken limbs the mud brought on the cattle. He understood all of it. He didn’t want her to have to fight so hard. He would hug her and tell her she did the right thing and pour her a glass of fresh milk.

That night the rain returned as Anna slept. She dreamed she rose in the middle of the night and saw that her father had filled Lake Guilin with fresh creamy milk, but the rain was pouring in and watering it all down.

From a factory somewhere? A factory?! Don’t make me laugh. No, no, they live in the wild. Some region of Greenland, I think. Guillen or Guidalan or Guilder or something like that. They roam in flocks, across these huge, snow-white fields. Well – I’m talking about the white tips, of course, not the little blue sticks between them. Those little blue sticks are from some factory, sure. But not the white fuzzy parts.

There’s a very special way of catching them. See, they’re very skittish, but you can always catch the slower ones. All you have to do is jab them with one of those little blue sticks. You only have to get one fuzzy for each little stick. I’ll tell you why later. Just focus on one little white fuzzy tip per stick - it shouldn’t take you long. Make sure it’s on there good and snug so it can’t run away, and then –this is important- leave them there overnight.

See, those little white fuzzies are very loving, social creatures, and as soon as they see that one of their kind has gotten stuck, they’ll feel terrible. The thought that it will be stuck on there all by itself – well, it completely horrifies them. By the time you come back in the morning, every single white fuzzy will have a partner stuck to the opposite end of their stick. The tips just love each other too much to let one go off on his own.

And that’s why, on every q-tip, there's one end that was too sluggish and slow to get away from the tiny blue stick, and there's one end that just wanted to make sure the first didn’t get too lonely. Can you tell which end is which?

Oh, and never ever stick one in your ear. You'll damage your brain and go deaf.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Untitled Tunnel

FIRST OF ALL, ELLIOTT DID NOT LIKE TALKING ABOUT IT and he avoided doing so at all costs. He didn’t know how long the ‘business,’ as he furiously referred to it, with Untitled Tunnel (mixed media, Yasumoto, 2001) been going on. One morning, as he had clipped past the installment, he felt something was different. Something in the careful rhythm of the Hopson Gallery, where he had so lovingly hung each painting himself, waving off anxious packs of assistants, where he had fretted over pedestal heights and light sources, something was off. He slowed his machine gun steps and stood there, staring at the piece like a puzzle.

Then, he saw it.

Two buildings in the skyline were taller than they had been. They were quietly, but undeniably, higher than the rest of the skyline, like little towers. Two identical towers, to be precise.


He shook it off but a week later the scene repeated itself. Again he blinked, thought, focused, concentrated. No. Judging by perspective, they were at least ten stories taller. He was sure of it. They were growing.

He was positive that they had not been there before. The piece was created by a Japanese artist and donated to the museum in early 2002 as a part of an international arts condolence group. The towers had been deliberately omitted. Yet here they were. Defiantly, mysteriously growing and completely annihilating the balance of the Hopson Gallery that Elliott Letscher had worked very, very hard to create.

It was, in a word, inconvenient.